Archive for September, 2007

I’ve got a good thing going…

…and you’re looking at it. I’ve put in a bit of hard work into making this blog all that it is right now, but there is a lot of work still to come.

When I started the blog, I kind of figured it’d be like my previous attempts at blogging - I’d be interested in it for a while, but then I’d get distracted by some random shiny object and give up on the blog. However, and a lot of thanks has to go to Snoskred for this, I have stuck it out and here I am today, posting every day and getting comments on almost every post I make now.

One of the areas that I’ve made the biggest progress in is getting out there into the blogging community. While I’m not the best participant in the community - I still have the tendency to be a lurker on blogs, and not make too many comments - it is a far cry from when I would only read blogs if I found them on the “next blog” button or in the unlikely chance that I had actually bookmarked them.

The biggest change in my participation in the blogging community came in November of last year when the NaBloPoMo challenge was going on. Between Snoskred and I, we had set ourselves the goal of commenting on every participating blog.

While we didn’t quite get to all of the blogs in the list, we did get through a large chunk of them and through it found some great blogs that are still read today. I am looking forward to getting the details of this year’s event, but so far there has been noting mentioned about it yet.

After NaBloPoMo, the blogging went along well until I actually did get distracted by shiny objects - mostly getting back into scambaiting and other things involved with that, which led me to forget about the blog almost completely. In fact, I went almost a whole month without posting anything because it wasn’t a focus for me at the time.

Then, in May, I started to get back into the blogging and really got into the community aspect of blogging by joining up with Bumpzee and creating the US Blogs Community. I’ve also, as I’d mentioned previously, gotten involved in commenting on more blogs regularly now than I had in the past.

However, the next change is coming soon, with moving this blog over from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve been doing some learning on the platform over the last few weeks, and over the next week, I’m going to focus on getting the whole system down pat and transitioning this blog over to there.

What you’ll need to know about the transition is this - if you are subscribed to my FeedBurner feed, then there should be nothing in the change. Similarly, if you had subscribed to my feed when it was still on the blogspot address, that will remain forwarded to the FeedBurner address and not be an issue. If you have subscribed to my feed via this domain, then you will likely lose the feed (unless I can sort out a way to ensure that the address of the feed is properly forwarded).

During the transition, I will turn the publishing of this blog back to the Blogspot address and depending on how long it takes for your ISP to recognize the new location of the domain, the site will not be available for upwards of one to two days.

After the transition is complete, and dependent upon other factors (such as the possibility of me getting a job out of the house, I’ve not gotten any offers from anyone, but I’m keeping my options open and getting my name out there), I’ll be becoming more active within the blog community. I’ll also get my act together and get posts pre-written; I’ve already got ideas for posts for every day through next week Saturday with the exception of two days.

This week’s Hump Day Hmm.. is about A Good Thing Going. If you’ve not participated in the Hmm yet, next week’s topic is: “A challenge in my life and how it affected and affects me”. Of course, you can still get in on this week’s topic as well.

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Improving your Google Reader Experience

Over the last few weeks, one thing that would keep me from actually reading blogs was the way I was reading them. For as long as I can remember, my Google Reader just read “100+” for the number of unread items (note that this was before they started counting to 1,000). To make matters worse, I’d add feeds left, right and center, and just dump them into the main list of feeds.

Sure, I did have some folders, such as one for feeds from the newspaper, one called “new-nablopomo”, and one called new-blogz. The trend would be that I’d read the items in the folder, and then get further down the list, only reading one or two of the blogs from down there.

I had reached, as Meg puts it, “feed bankruptcy,” something she’s had to redeclare recently. I was missing lots of items in my feeds, and I would get bogged down in the knowledge that there were all these feeds needing to be read.

However, there were a few problems with how I was reading feeds in my Google Reader. The first of which is that I just had way too many feeds in there - before I started paring it down, I was at 141 feeds, almost all of them not in any folders whatsoever. Among those feeds, I had five in particular - feeds from scam sites - which were giving me an average of over 200 new posts a day.

If you add in the fact that the Bumpzee feeds I subscribe to - Australian Blogs, No Nofollow, and US Blogs - provide nearly 300 new posts a day on their own, I had over 500 new posts a day. I also felt that I had to read every last post in a feed, which contributed to me feeling snowed in with the feeds.

What did I do?

There are three things that I did to improve my use of Google Reader - unsubscribing, using folders, and changing how I read.

Unsubscribing

As I had mentioned, before I started on this, I had 141 feeds, which was way too many. I had to unsubscribe from quite a few blogs. Most of the feeds that I unsubscribed from are ones that I hadn’t been reading, for a variety of reasons - either they didn’t update anymore, they’ve moved, or I’ve just lost touch with them. A great guide to some of the reasons why I unsubscribed from a lot of blogs can be found in Snoskred’s 14 reasons readers unsubscribe.

I’m now down to (after adding some new feeds over the last few weeks) 113 feeds. I’m also taking it easy on adding every single blog I come across that I like now. ;)

Using folders

I also started to make use of the folder option. Up until I did this, there were only a few feeds separated from the rest - job site feeds, feeds from my newspaper, and newer blogs that I was reading. Now, having finally finished sorting the rest of my feeds into folders, I have 16 separate folders with anywhere from two feeds up to about 15 feeds in them.

I have folders for Aussie blogs that I read, blogs about Blogging, foodie blogs, life improvement blogs, sport blogs, photoblogs, and a couple of special folders.

The first special folder that I made is called “Frequently-updated” - that folder is for the feeds that have a lot of posts every day; in my case - Lifehacker, Neatorama, Mashable! and English Russia. I’ve also set aside a folder specifically for the bumpzee feeds so that they don’t get forgotten and that I don’t get bogged down by seeing one single folder with a lot of unread posts. The last special folder is called Zzz-iftime, which is for blogs that I read, but aren’t updated too often or are blogs I tend to leave go for a variety of reasons.

Changing my reading habits

The biggest thing that I’ve done to improve my use of Reader is by simply changing how I read through feeds. It used to be that I read every single post in what is known as “expanded” view - viewing every item in its entirety. This is a strategy that does not work at all when you have feeds that give you dozens of new posts a day.

The contents of my “frequently-updated” folder in list view.

I made the decision one day to start using list view to view the really busy folders - frequently-updated and bumpzee. That way, I can simply have a look at each item’s headline and, if it piques my interest, I just click on the headline to view that article. When I’m done reading that folder, I just hit Shift+a to mark the whole folder read, and that’s that.

Viewing an item in its native environment thanks to GPE.

One of the best tools that I have found that helps my reading is a script for Greasemonkey called GPE - Google Reader Preview Enhanced (I haven’t been able to get to the site, so you may have issues as well). What this script does is lets you open the actual entry right in Google Reader. This is great for the blogs where the owner has chosen to only allow a partial feed of their site; it’s also great if you want to comment on a blog post you like.

The biggest drawback that I’ve had with this script is that it keeps breaking down so that the keyboard shortcut doesn’t work; otherwise, I’d be able to use shift+v to open the post. In fact, the script was just updated so that it works again. Yay! Hmm…or not…there’s a new version on the way though, so hopefully it will stick (or I just need to restart my firefox… :))

The last secret…

There is one more secret that I’ve been using for quite a while now to help me be a more efficient reader in Reader. It’s a secret that is, for most of us, right under our fingertips most of the time.

Keyboard Shortcuts.


Google Reader keyboard shortcuts, visible anytime by typing in a question-mark.

I’m a convert to using keyboard shortcuts. It was one of those extra features in Gmail that I said, well, that’s nice, but not for me (and honestly I’m still lukewarm to Gmail keyboard shortcuts). However, with Reader, I find that it’s a lot more efficient to flip through a list of items by using N and P (if you don’t want to open them), or by using J and K (if you do want to open them).

Part of that comes from the fact that I am a big user of keyboard shortcuts in Thunderbird - most often it’s using N & P (for unread messages) or B & F (for messages that are read), or one of the number keys to assign an item a color.

Another really handy thing that I can do with the shortcuts is make tagging posts easier. Say, for example, I saw a recipe that I wanted to try. Normally, I’d have to star it and leave it unread in order for it to get my attention. Now, all I do is type in the following - L , F, U, enter, enter. This generates the keyword fud2try and places that recipe into my own virtual recipe box, for me to try when I can scrape together the ingredients. Total amount of time taken - about 3 seconds.

I know that keyboard shortcuts won’t be for all of you, but I suggest you take them for a spin before rejecting them out of hand. You might be surprised. :)

Further Reading

Pearl has posted some great links about Google Reader with Google Reader hacks-repository.
Alex Ionut. Chitu shares some of the numbers behind Google Reader
In the companion post to this, Snoskred takes up the techy side of Reader and shows how it can make your life easier.

Previously in the Tuesday Think Tank
21st August: RSS
14 Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Blog
Tuesday Think Tank: All About RSS

28th August: Blog Templates
Blog Design - Open Your Eyes.
Demystifying Blogger Template Editing

4th September: Nofollow
Spam, Spiders And Do Follow, Oh My!
Say No! to Nofollow

11th September: Site Meters
Do NOT Rely On Your Site Meter.
Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics

18th September: Technorati
Technorati - Sending Out An SOS
The Ups (and Downs) of Technorati

Over to you
Do you have any tips that for making the Google Reader experience more efficient? What do you think should be added to Reader that isn’t there already? I know that having the actual post time showing would be really handy. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Don’t forget that if there is something you’d like to have covered in a future Tuesday Think Tank, feel free to contact either myself or Snoskred via the email links on our sites, or leave a comment with your request.

Lastly, if you like what you’ve read, feel free to stumble it using the links below or by using the toolbar. :)

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This was the Week that Was, Vol. 14

It’s been another busy week for me around the blog, and an important note for US Blog Community members - there is an important change coming. Be sure to read about it further down.

Posts I liked -

New Blogs I’m reading in Google Reader

  • Interesting Observations - another of those blogs I’d been reading off and on, finally getting a fulltime spot on my list ;)

Great Stumbles:

To get started stumbling, go to StumbleUpon and download the toolbar. Click here to check out my Stumbles.

New blogs this week in the US Blogs community at BumpZEE -

Important note: The address of the US blogs buttons will be changing shortly. I’ll post the full details later, but please know that from approximately next Monday, if you have the old link to the image, it may not work anymore! I’ll also post a note about this on the community page when I do change over the image’s location.

This week around the blog, Think Tank Tuesday was about Technorati, and I talked about The Ups (and Downs) of it, Snoskred sent them an SOS - we both got replies from an official representative of Technorati. Now, that’s service! ;)

The Hump Day Hmm this week was about how I matter, and I talked about the helpful person that I am. I also discussed an album I love but you probably haven’t heard, and showed off my baking skills with some zucchini bread.

Coming up, tomorrow we’ll be talking about Google Reader in the Tuesday Think Tank; Snos will be handling the technical side of matters, giving you some great tips on reading, and I’ll discuss some changes I’ve made in my reading habits. The topic for this week’s Hump Day Hmm hasn’t been announced yet, so keep your ears open to see what that’ll be about. ;)

I’ve also been tagged for some blogging advice, more about that later in the week.

Til next week y’all :)

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Track your weight loss progress

Note: This post is a sponsored post.

As you may know, I’ve been working on changing my diet and exercising more. The main way that I am dieting is to just cut back on how much I’m eating. I have tried to count calories in the past, but it can be a frustrating experience when you don’t eat the exact amount that is listed for a serving, or don’t know exactly what the nutritional information is for a product.

That’s where a site like MyFitnessPal comes in - they have a lot of completely free tools, such as a calorie counter that will keep track of what you are eating. They also offer ways to lose weight in a safe manner - by spending more calories than you take in. If you decide to join, you’ll also have access to a diet journal to watch your progress as you do lose the weight.

The best feature of the site, however, is the calorie chart, which has the nutritional information available for a wide variety of foods, including selections from some of the more popular fast food restaurants including McDonald’s. It’s not a complete service, but considering that you don’t pay a single cent for it, you’re getting a great deal. :)

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The Week in Walks, etc. Vol 9

Just a note - I’m posting this before walking today as I have a function to attend this afternoon and didn’t want to delay the posting of this. Be sure to check back later tonight after I have walked for today’s picture and the write-up of the walk.

Update: I’ve now posted today’s walk. ;)

Monday, 17th September

One of the younger trees in the park, picture taken just as the rain was starting; I put the camera away shortly after.

Well, it worked out well to walk when I did. Never minding that it was warmer so the mosquitoes are out in force (again!), right in the middle of my walk, it started to rain. However, I was not deterred, and kept on walking. As it turns out, I went the farthest that I had in a walk up to now.

Total distance - 9996 steps, 7.99km

When I took the pedometer off and saw that, I was tempted to put it back on and make the four more steps to make up the full 10,000, but I figured that’s be cheating ;)

Tuesday, 18th September

An interestingly placed penny in the park’s shelter. I don’t know why someone nailed it there, but it’s there so I took a picture… ;)

I decided to do some exploring by heading furhter down the road I walk along before heading into the park. I did find the remnants of a guardrail that was there at one point in time, but went away for some reason. I also found an alternate path, but that had a no tresspassing sign, so I made the wise decision to just turn around and head back to the park. I followed the mostly usual trail around the park and the soccer fields, then headed toward the parking lot to check in on the trees, which are still there.

I then headed back via the disc golf course and cutting between a couple of the holes in the high grass that is there. When I got back, I checked the pedometer and saw that I was close to 10,000, so I decided to walk around the house, and that worked. ;)

Total distance -10017 steps, 8.01km

Wednesday, 19th September

This is one of the stands of trees - you can see the colors starting to come; they’re a bit early (thanks to it being kinda dry in this area), and not very colorful…yet…

I tried a different route today, by going up the old “longer” route, and wound up actually doing less steps for what seemed to be a longer distance (go figure eh? ;)). It was quite warm again, but the mosquitoes were actually tolerable (I think they’re naturally sorting themselves out).

On my way back, it turned into a race, which I won ;)

total distance - 9566 steps, 7.65 km

Thursday, 20th September

A hint of color here, thanks to a red oak(? - it might be a maple leaf) leaf lying in the middle of the path

I started out walking thinking that I’d make it a bit of a shorter walk because my ankle had been giving me grief all day long, but as I started to walk, I got into my rhythm and started to just “do my thing”. I went and explored another part of the park that I hadn’t in the past, which led me into a couple of swarms of mosquitoes - aside from the general annoyance they cause, it was not that big of a deal.

I then did a couple of laps around the parking lot, swerving between sides of the aisle to increase the distance I was walking. While on the stretch run, I can tell that I am getting tired when I walk as I was barely feeling like I was moving, even though my feet were going one in front of the other.

Total distance - 10658 steps, 8.52km

Friday, 21st september

One of the kites that were up flying in the park

A bit of an experiment, I’ve had the pedometer on all day. I’ve kept track of the steps at various points of the day, just to see how much walking I’d done while I was volunteering. The only estimated reading is the end of day one, as I had taken the meter off after getting back from my walk (yeah, I know, lazy!).

The walk was done straight after getting back from volunteering so that I didn’t walk into the night like I did the last time I went volunteering. While out, I saw some folks with kites launching them in the decent conditions for flying - it was quite windy.

Here’s the progression of the distance -
7.55AM (after arriving at volunteering after a short walk from my drop-off point) - 1152 steps, 0.92km
3.30PM (after volunteering, before walking back to the pickup point) - 1896 steps, 1.51km
4.30PM (before heading out to do my “daily” walk - 2923 seps, 2.34km
5.02PM (after putting bugspray on for the second time and on entry to the park) - 4673 steps, ~3.74km
5.25PM (in the park, after going through the forest and around one of the soccer areas) - 6506 steps, ~5.20km
5.53PM (still in the park, after going around the main area of the park) - 8011 steps, ~6.41km
6.23PM (after leaving the park, on the way back to the house) - 9942 steps, ~7.95km
6.50PM (after getting back in the house) - 11727 steps, 9.38km
bedtime - approx. 12000 steps, 9.60km

Saturday, 22nd September

Three hot air balloons fly to the south of the park. There wasn’t much wind today, so they didn’t last too long up there.

I went walking later in the day again, but it wasn’t too bad, even if the mosquitoes were almost as bad as they were in the beginning of the month (they’ve gone away quite a bit, but are still there). I finally had to resort to taking out a notebook I have in my bag (a decent sized one, which I’m using to draw up my desk plans in) to try to swat at them. It wasn’t the most effective thing, but it did work as temporary relief.

While out, I saw two groups of people playing disc golf; the only thought (aside from shut the f–k up for the one group who were screaming like crazy - ok, they’re having fun I know ;)) was that these are the people responsible for leaving junk everywhere. Yeah, it still bugs me, even though the amount of trash isn’t as bad as it had been at other times. Other than that, I have started to do a trick of walking back and forth in the parking lot of the park, just to build the distance.

total distance - 10670 steps, 8.53km

Sunday, 23rd September

I haven’t gone walking yet, so I’ll update the post later on in the day when I have gone out to walk. I have to go to an anniversary party and have to head out to my bank to put in a check I received, so time management is still an issue for me, obviously. ;)

It’s a reflective sign, lit up by my head! ;)

I’ve come back from walking - I gave myself permission to do a shorter walk since I had first gotten out to start walking at 7PM. I have a new toy after getting a mention that it’s hard to see me - this little head light. It works really good, and I prefer to use the “traditional” flashlight lamp.

Total distance - 9073 steps, 7.25km

In other news, my desk plans are going somewhat slowly, mostly because I’m having a hard time coming up with a design I’d like. All I know right now is that it’s going to be a corner desk, and somewhat large (I’m thinking like 11×11 feet, but that’s just a first draft in which the feasibility hasn’t even been tested with rulers yet). As far as my time management planning has been going, it starts good, but then I get off track, usually by finding something that will distract me.

I’ve made up the list of daily tasks, all I have to do now is actually put together the little sheet where I check off after I get the task done each day. As far as getting things together to make some spare cash, I’ve managed to get 4 items listed on ebay to sell; I’d share the information on that, but that would reveal my true identity; something I’d prefer not to do here. I’ve also gotten a reply on a bid I made on Sponsoredreviews, and you’ll be seeing that coming later today or tomorrow.

Here’s the GYST update for this week -

This week, I’ve gotten myself over 9500 steps every day, and over 10,000 steps on four days (so far, I’ll update this after I walk today). I’ve also been better with getting tasks set for myself, but time management is still an issue for me as I tend to get distracted by random things like videos on youtube. I’ve also been keeping good with eating less, and have noticed that if I want something at night for a snack (bad, I know!), I usually just open the refrigerator and close it without taking anything out of it.

My goals for the upcoming final week are to work on the time I take to walk, by speeding up my pace I walk at, with the goal to get the time I’m walking down to between 1:30 to 1:45 from the current 2 hours. I’m also going to work on eliminating distractions from my work in order to improve my use of time. Also, I’m going to keep on making to-do lists for every day and making sure that I do reward myself for a job well done.

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