Friday, March 31, 2006

What's in a blog?

Rosenbeans asks, "Why blog?" The subject of blogging is all over the place in the media right now. Even the recent issue of my alumnae magazine has a feature article about six alums who blog. I immediately felt slighted when I saw that my blog wasn't among those featured, and then I was pissed that my entire decade was overlooked. The article spotlights blogs by alumnae from classes of the 60s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. I'd always thought that those of us who came of age in the 70s were a pretty interesting group -- certainly much more so than those born in the 80s and raised under Reagan. And we have much more to blog about than driving around listening to the Indigo Girls (00s) or hot flashes and widowhood (60s). I digress. Rant over.

Why am I so attracted to blogs and blogging? In part, it's because of the technology (see my first post about my former aversion to WYSIWYG). It's so easy and accessible (and free). While the same essential technology is used across a variety of venues -- Blogspot, Typepad, LiveJournal, MySpace (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and its evil Microsoft twin MSN Spaces -- people seem to separate themselves into different venues based on form and content, some of which I find more compelling than others. When I talk about blogs, I generally mean the sort on Blogspot or Typepad -- written for a public audience, usually centered around some sort of theme or purpose, aimed at attracting the attention of others who share those interests or appreciate the writer's craft. Private writing tends to be on LiveJournal. This genre seems narcissistic to me, and voyeuristic for those who the journaler chooses to allow to read the journal. Not that there's anything wrong with private writing -- it's just Not For Me. Those Space places are just about self-promotion and aren't worth discussing. These distinctions probably aren't as rigid as I've laid them out, but ask yourself this: Would Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris (or anyone else whose writing you like) have a blog, a LiveJournal or a Space. I think blog. (Do they?)

I went to part of a symposium on women's public voices the other day. I knew that women's voices, and women as subjects, are in slim supply in the media, but the stats are really dismal (see Global Media Monitoring Project). So, I'm all for using the technology as a means of getting more women's voices into the critical discourse. Blogging is a great way to do this, but so much of what's in the blogosphere isn't worth the bandwidth it's written on. But maybe everyone has to start somewhere, and those who post drivel today will go on to be tomorrow's Katha Pollitt.

To answer Rosenbean's question, I blog as a way of getting my creative juices flowing, to keep my pals informed on what I'm doing and thinking without having to write the same e-mail message over and over, and with the fantasy that I'm guessing many bloggers share: that some day my writing or my photos will find appreciation or acknowledgement in a larger arena.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Portable Applications

Portable applications are little programs that you can run directly from your flash drive without actually installing them onto a computer. They are a great addition to the files you carry around on your flash drive as you go from home to work, internet cafes, computer labs, business centers, etc. The great thing about having your own portable apps is that you can see and use your files your way, without having to worry if the host computer has the program you want or the setting you prefer. Here's a short list of the apps I've recently tried and like:

  • Portable Firefox - This is a stripped-down version of the browser that lets you carry your bookmarks and passwords with you without worry about leaving a trail of your info behind on a host computer. The cache and history are set at 0 so that you don't write a lot of web pages to your flash drive.
  • Portable Sunbird - Mozilla's little calendar application. This is a stand-alone version; there's also a version that installs inside Firefox.
  • Coolplayer - A very small mp3 player. The default skin is really ugly, but there are other skins you can download.
  • Xnview - Lets you view, convert and do some editing of graphics files. It supports many, many graphic file formats.
  • PStart - A launcher program that doesn't have to be installed on your hard drive (follow the directions for portable installation). Allows you to set up a handy launcher panel for all your portable apps and favorite files.
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Monday, March 13, 2006

Photo shoot

Factory Wall
Originally uploaded by trailerfullofpix.

I'm taking a four-week digital photo class with a pal. The best thing about it so far is that it's given me the kick in the butt that I needed to take my camera off AUTO and play around with the manual settings. On Saturday, JJ and I went out to take pictures for our first assignment in which we were supposed to choose a composition and photograph it at three different f-stops to show how the depth of field increases as you stop down the lens. But the experiment was a big bust. I'm not exactly sure what we did wrong, but all of our pictures in the sets of three looked essentially the same, so we'll need to go out and do the assignment over again. In the meantime, I took this shot of the brick wall of a factory in Easthampton.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Knitting Project #3

This really didn't start out to be a knitting blog, but here I am posting another one of my projects. I just finished knitting this sweater for a pal's baby's first birthday. This morning I sewed the buttons on, picked as much of the cat fur off it as possible, put it in a gift box and was about to wrap it when I remembered -- just in the nick of time -- to take a picture for the blog. It was a really fun sweater to knit. It's done by knitting back and forth on circular needles, starting from the collar and working down. At the bottom of the yoke, you put the first sleeve onto double-point needles and knit down to the cuff. Then you knit across the back and do the second sleeve on dps. When the sleeves are done, you knit the rest of the body, so it's all in one piece when you're finished. Brilliant. I want one in my size!
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