• 2014
  • Jan
  • 1

Time to break…I mean make…some new resolutions for 2014

It’s that time again! Time for all of us to make promises for the new year that we hope to keep, but know we probably won’t. Still, 2014 might be the year we stick to at least one resolution and turn our lives around. It’s worth a shot.

I began this site two years ago with a rambling set of vague resolutions that I said weren’t really New Year’s resolutions. And having reread that post, one of my resolutions should be to write briefer and more coherent blog posts. Last year, my resolution was to play more video games. I wanted one I could keep for once. And I did.

So having tasted success, this year I want to go for real self-improvement. Forget what I said before about specificity killing something or other. Here are some very specific resolutions that I plan to keep:

  • Finish all of the nearly complete but unfinished works of fiction on my plate within the first six months of 2014. I have several in second or third draft limbo. It would be cruel to leave them there.
  • Learn to speak French. I’ve forgotten most of my college French, but a couple of years ago, I started watching the wonderful “French in Action” videos, and found the books on eBay. I recently signed up for Rocket French, and just last week purchased the coveted Rosetta Stone French Level 1-5 CD set. So I have the resources. I just have to make the time to use them.
  • Follow Dr. Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” as faithfully as possible. I recommend that everyone read it, or its less strictly vegan but longer cousin, “Eat For Health.” Both of them helped me add lots more veggies into my diet over the past couple of years, and I feel much better than I used to. Now it’s time to dive into the diet full-bore for even more health benefits. Greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds for all!
  • Take up at least one exercise besides walking, and run more often. I want my annual 5K to be a breeze rather than a wheeze this year. For anyone who wants running incentive, I recommend the Zombies, Run! app. It’s a lot of fun.
  • Sew some everyday clothing. I’ve made a bunch of costumes that I’ve only worn once or twice each. If I can construct a wearable corset, I should be able to make a pair of pants.
  • Pay off a credit card. Any credit card. It will be a jumping off point for improving our finances.
  • Stop playing Candy Crush so much. I added that “so much” because I can’t bring myself to say I’ll quit entirely. I have a problem.
  • Make a new (original) site theme. This one is nice, but it’s just not me.

There. If I can but make a little headway in each one, I’ll be better off. If anyone reads this, what are your resolutions?

Whatever they are, have a happy New Year! Bonne année! Damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead into 2014!

  • 2013
  • Sep
  • 8

Data-Driven Journalism MOOC

Around four weeks ago, I started the Data-Driven Journalism: The Basics five-week MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, and it has been quite informative and inspirational.

The first four weeks have been a great overview of what data-driven journalism is, how to find and massage data sets, and what you can do with the data as far as online news apps and data visualizations. It has also introduced me to a lot of tools I’ve never looked into, like Google My Maps, Google Fusion Tables, and the Django web framework.

Since writing and IT are two things that I do on a near daily basis, it’s giving me some good insight into at least one way I can combine the two. I think you can still sign up and play catch up, although I’m not sure how long it will remain up past the last week (which is next week). The required material isn’t terribly time consuming, although I’m sure it would be more so if I were doing it right. I will be checking out the supplemental materials at a later date as my schedule allows.

But in case you are curious as to what the heck news apps, data visualizations and other data-driven journalism projects might be, here are some examples.

previously, on arrested development, NPR’s guide to the running gags from the show.
Timelines - Time travel in popular film and TV data visualization.
Dollars for Docs - How Industry Dollars Reach Your Doctors, ProPublica’s searchable online database of payments from drug companies to doctors all over the U.S.

Definitely check out the first if you are a fan of the TV show Arrested Development. And check out the MOOC if you have a chance and it is still up. It is definitely worth a look from any aspiring journalists out there. Data-driven news projects are certainly the next big thing in journalism.

  • 2013
  • Aug
  • 23

My Scariest Article to Date (or What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging)

Well, I certainly haven’t been a prolific blogger. My last entry was just over a year ago.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve turned in over a dozen articles in that time. One of the most recent was kind of frightening:

How can I find out what information exists about me online?

Researching it was an eye opener. I used to make every effort to keep personal information about myself offline, and even hesitated before jumping on the social media bandwagon. But, not wanting to be a total recluse, I succumbed and signed up for one, then another, then another. I don’t post too much super personal stuff even now.

But my caution was for naught. The first people-finder website I perused had tons of stuff about me I wouldn’t have thought could be connected, all together on a single page. The sites I looked at did pepper my profiles with a few inaccuracies. Hopefully that’ll throw any would-be villains off the trail.

I’ll try to fit in some blogging between deadline-driven writing, a journalism MOOC that I’m taking (I’ll talk about that soon) and HBO binge watching. The one that is least productive is the one I’m doing most. I’ll leave it to you to guess which it is.

  • 2012
  • Aug
  • 18

Tech Article: The Roku Streaming Stick (and how non-fiction can improve your writing)

Instead of writing fiction, I’ve been trying my hand at tech related articles for How Stuff Works. Here’s the first to make it to print (or screen, in this case):

How the Roku Streaming Stick Works

I have a couple of others in the works, too. The downside is that everything I write about, I immediately want to buy, so I should probably stick my credit cards in the freezer right now to avert bankruptcy.

There are some major upsides, though. I am a technology addict, and I work in IT, but I’ve always been more of a code monkey than a hardware person. I’ve only twice opened up my computer - a fact that fills me with shame, but that is mostly fear-driven. I think about accidentally frying the boards with static electricity and chicken out. Each article is giving me a better understanding of what’s inside the black boxes that are my computing devices, and now I have a strong urge to crack open my laptop and replace most of its innards. After backing up all the data, of course.

The work is also reviving and improving my research skills, and giving me all sorts of writing ideas. So the lesson in all of this is to research something about which you are not an absolute expert and then write about it. At best, you’ll learn something new and become an accomplished researcher. At worst, at least you’ll be writing.

Now I need to go try out my newly honed research skills on a couple of stalled story projects.

  • 2012
  • Jul
  • 1

Un-breaking Resolutions

Well, I broke my writing resolution in record time. Not long after starting this blog, I wrote my third post, advising writers to read as much as possible outside of their normal genres. I did one revision, and let it sit there, waiting to be revised again. To be “perfected” enough to post. You know, that thing I said I wasn’t going to do anymore in my very first entry. And then five or so months passed.

This week, someone sent me a Warren Ellis post where he said it better, anyway. So go ahead and read that instead:
http://warrenellis.c … EDBE6E86459A008B4B98

To be fair (and not make myself sound like even more of a slacker than I am), I have done some intermittent fiction writing, and I completed and submitted a technical article that might appear on the web soon (I’ll post the link if/when it does). But I certainly haven’t done a very good job of writing consistently and putting my work out there.

So I’ll restart my resolution…now.