Friday News Roundup… sort of.

I haven’t been able to keep up with the news over the past week as much as I normally do. If anything, in trying to catch up on the podcasts that I missed last week while I was away I’ve been getting a mix of bits and pieces of the past two weeks. So I’ll address those bits and pieces this time. Considering that I’m still fighting jet lag that’s probably all I can do this time.

I guess the most current news is that the opening ceremonies for the Olympics in Rio is tonight. I haven’t been watching Olympics over the past decade as I don’t have even basic cable. I always used enjoy at least the opening ceremonies and their pageantry. With so much conflict in the world, even an illusion of everybody coming together in friendly competition is both hopeful and useful. I know there’s been a lot of controversy in recent years around Rio hosting these games, Russia’s involvement, the refugee team and so on. But in the end that illusion keeps drawing me back (when I’m able to view it).

All over the news in the last couple of weeks were the Republican and Democratic conventions. I already made my decision who to vote for months ago so I didn’t care. But it’s entertaining to hear about how much of a shit show the Republican National Convention was and how the party is continuing to fall apart. The Democratic National Convention has some strife coming from the Bernie Sanders supporters (I agree with Sarah Silverman: you’re being ridiculous) and others but largely seems to have held together more. I suppose it does have the benefit of going second—the organizers saw how bad the Republican convention went, and they can put together a more coherent, if less amusing, event. That could be reading too much into it, though. It could just be that the Republican convention really was just a shit show.

There’s three new “nerdy” movies that have come out recently: the Ghostbusters remake, Suicide Squad, and Star Trek: Beyond. I’ll wait for Ghostbusters to come out on DVD. I didn’t want to spend the money on that one but it does look amusing enough. I’m holding off on Star Trek as I’m going out with a fellow fan on Sunday. We might see it then, we might now. And I have no interest in Suicide Squad. The trailers look horrible. I’ve heard it’s even worse than Batman v. Superman, which I also haven’t seen but have heard terrible things about. I’m a fan of the Joker and was excited to finally see Harley Quinn on the big screen—which is particularly is why I’m not going to see this one. If it really treats these characters as badly as I’m hearing I don’t want to risk it. I don’t know, maybe someday. But I’m sick of hearing about it.

Yeah, I told you I really didn’t follow the news that much this week. I’ll be more focused next week. And for those interested, I do have a book to review for Monday. I’m a little nervous about my first book review, but I’m not going to apologize for it at the beginning of that blog post like I did with this one.

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Friday News Roundup. #turkey #nice #pokemongo

In which I offer my take on some of the week’s news. I can’t promise I’ll hit everything.

  • I’m writing this as news is pouring in at the coup attempt in Turkey. It’s really too early to offer any comment, but I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised. From what little I know of Turkey it doesn’t seem like the government has a high level of support from multiple sides. Turkey is often hailed for it’s mix of both old and new and of both Eastern and Western cultures. Just recently I read a book that challenges the traditional point of view that Western is Modern, and that several different modernities are possible—using Turkey as a case study. While that can lead to a lot of cultural diversity I have to wonder how strong a system has to be to maintain stability in such an area. It’s only a general impression but like I said, it’s too early to really make any real remarks about what’s happening now.
  • The biggest story of the week so far appears to be the attack in Nice. Obviously I condemn such violence and terror and I’m morally disgusted at all of the lives that were taken. But given all of that, I have to wonder if there’s any footage of the attack. I don’t ask for my own entertainment. There’s action movies for that. But given the novelty of the attack, it would be interesting to study what happens to crowds of humans when a truck plows through them in such a way.
    But that thought aside, how many more attacks is France going to take? How many attacks is Europe going to take? I wish I had the answers to what could be done. As a pacifist I have  hard time coming up with peaceful solutions. Even if there is violent retaliation against terrorists, is there an endpoint to all of this? Or are we just in a perpetual state of violence and terror as human beings?
  • Up until the attack in Nice, the biggest news story this week seemed to revolve around the game Pokémon Go. It’s a neat premise but one that I’m not going to involve myself with. My primary reason, as always, is because everybody else is doing it. However, I don’t need yet another company tracking my movements so they can learn what kind of consumer I am. That information is out there. They don’t need to research me directly. I could go on about them selling that information to the government but it’s really too late to worry about something that now.
  • Speaking of video games, Nintendo announced the release the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition. Here’s yet another thing made out of plastic to tempt you to waste your hard-earned paycheck. I want one.
  • A big American news story this week, one which happened locally to me, is that Bernie Sanders officially gave his support to Hillary Clinton. I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming months ago. As I have said, I like his rhetoric better but I don’t trust him any more than the others. Which ever of the two leading Democratic nominees wins, I’m voting for in November. None of this has anything to do with what I think of Hillary Clinton. In this case, voting for the lesser of two evils really is voting based on my conscience.

“Sunday” List: Ten potential themes for this blog. #blog #writing

I recently mentioned on this blog that I was thinking about taking it in another direction. I’m toying with the idea of making this more of a themed blog, instead of picking a new theme to write about each day. I don’t know if that would restrict me so much that I wouldn’t be able to write enough every day, or if it would be the right amount of limitations that would help direct my creativity. I’m also considering the possibility of changing the theme every week, but other than some sort of exercise I’m not sure what I would gain from that. Overall, this could win me some readers, but I might lose some as well.

I haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to do, but with this list I thought I could throw out some ideas for possible themes for this blog. I’m not saying that I’m an expert in any of these fields. I’m saying that these are themes that I’ve seen elsewhere on the Internet and might be worth considering. Well, they would be for somebody, anyway.

  1. Diet Tips. People want to lose weight. I’ve lost weight. Wouldn’t I be helpful if I passed on my knowledge to others? However, as I’m not a medical professional, nor did I consult one for my own needs, I could run a great risk if I try offering medical advice to others. Aside from “eat better and jog every other day” I don’t know how specific I can get.
  2. Inspirational messages. I could come up with quotes, sure. But I think the real fun would be trying to write motivational blog posts. However, I would rather do the opposite and encourage over-achievers to do less. What would the opposite of motivational be?
  3. Life management. I could do this, although I’m not sure if I could write this with enough regularity. I probably would have to include more pictures, too, which is something I’ve always been adverse to do (not for any real reason other than I usually don’t want to make the effort). I also don’t have as busy a schedule as a lot of people. I don’t have a family to take care of nor do I engage in many activities outside of work (although I want to change that). Really, I don’t have much of a life to manage.
  4. Something “nerdy” like comic books, video games, cartoons, etc. Well, I’ve certainly done my share of such posts. But I always hesitated writing about this stuff too much. I felt like nobody would take my blog seriously if I did. I don’t like having that bias against myself but there you go. (Side note: as I was writing this paragraph, what I consider to be a pretty good idea entered my head: why don’t I just keep up with the idea of making each day a different theme? I could keep Tuesday as Random Thoughts and Sunday as Lists, but then add something like “Nerdy Saturday” or “World News Roundup Friday.” You get the idea.)
  5. Metal. I only include this because I tried it once. I used to have a separate blog from this one for metal. But aside from concert and album reviews, I didn’t do much with it. Of course, I could keep going with that idea but my metal consumption has been decreasing steadily these days. That’s not to say that I’m not still a fan, but I’m more picky (and cheap).
  6. Books. I certainly read a lot. But there’s not rhyme or reason to my book selection. Could I really try reviewing new releases all the time? I have the potential there, but the question is knowing what books to buy. I read quickly but even I can’t read (or afford) all of the new books off of the shelf. (Again, this would work as a separate day: Book review Monday, perhaps?)
  7. Lists. What the hell, why not make every blog post a list? They certainly seem to be popular on the Internet these days. And they do help keep me productive. Just look at the word count on my lists versus my other blog posts. But I think I would get annoyed with doing that after a while. Besides, I still maintain that this blog is primarily my writing exercise above everything else. I don’t want to become a professional list-maker. But they do help at least once a week.
  8. Parenting tips. That’s a popular topic. But I’m not a parent. I don’t even like kids. I’m all for letting them be kids, just not near me. But wouldn’t that be fun? If I started offering parenting tips with no idea what I’m talking about? That could be a laugh for a while but I think I might get in trouble.
  9. Humor. I like to think that the humor in my writing is improving these days but I don’t think it’s quite there yet to devote an entire blog to it. But it’s certainly something to strive for.
  10. Travel. By “travel” I mean people who might be interested in coming here. I don’t get out much. I might write about my trip out to Seattle in a couple of weeks but I’m not sure yet if I’m taking my laptop or not. But as I don’t usually spend a lot of time researching for this blog post I don’t know if I really want to go out and conduct interviews and such. But a local story now and then wouldn’t hurt, I suppose.

So I have Sunday Lists, Monday Book Reviews, Tuesday Random Thoughts, News Roundup Fridays, Nerdy Saturdays… and then I only need two ideas for Wednesdays and Thursdays. Hey, I formulated this idea while writing this blog. I have to admit that makes me feel good somehow. Writing this thing out actually helped with brainstorming. So, I just need to come up with two more ideas. I’ll probably do something musical, although not strictly metal. What else? What am I missing? Does anybody have any thoughts?

Searching out news with the intent of getting angry.

When I first switched my blog from “daily journal” to writing posts about specific topics, I often wrote responses to news stories and articles regarding politics and religion. I sought out these stories in order to have something to write about. But over time I stopped getting so riled up when reading them. That’s not to say that when pushed I couldn’t come up with something. But after coming across so many articles about things I find objectionable I no longer became angry at them.

At the same time I stopped seeking out news stories on specific topics. I don’t bother searching for “Westboro Baptist Church” or “Atheism” in news search bars anymore. I realize now that my response articles were a result of me trying to find things to respond to rather than just naturally coming across it in my own life.

To that end, I don’t really come across such adversity in my own life. Sure, that could mean that I live in a safe bubble in the area of the world I live. I don’t have any co-workers at the moment that are trying to shove their religion down my throat (although that has happened in the past). There are some politically conservative people at work but politics largely doesn’t enter conversation, at least not when I’m around.

So, am I purposely avoiding controversial topics because I don’t want to make myself angry anymore, or am I purposely not seeking out such topics with the sole in tent on making me angry when they really have nothing to do with me? I don’t believe that ignorance is bliss, but at what point does one cross the line?

Then again, considering my general lack of output on this blog lately, should it matter? Perhaps if the larger goal is to have something to write about, seeking out these topics that make me angry would be considered acceptable. I don’t want to spend too much time researching for this blog as I have other writing projects I want to focus on (something else that I’ve slacking off with, but that’s a topic for another day). But if I sit down and decide on a series of topics ahead of time, it wouldn’t take much effort to customize some sort of news reader to automatically search those topics for me. That might sound limiting but I like to think that I wouldn’t restrict myself to just that one news source.

Of course, every once in a while I have to write a blog post in which I detail how I need to get back to some older habits with this blog and/or my lifestyle. These types of blog post, including this one today, help with my daily word count but they annoy me. They feel too cheap. I guess I brought up some new points in this one but I still wish I came up with a less whinier post. Maybe if I put the above ideas into practice I can change that.

Viewing the news on my desktop. #rssfeed #news

What’s the best way these days to keep up-to-date on news? I’m not asking what news sources are the best. For the sake of this blog post, I’m only addressing the means of attaining this information as opposed to where the information comes from. Yes, I am fully aware of Marshal McLuhan’s “The Meaning is the Message” philosophy. I couldn’t have a degree in Media Studies without learning about it at least once. But let’s say that for the sake of what I’m getting at here today all of the information is on equal terms, and I’m trying to get information as thoroughly as possible.

I recently tried a news ticker program that displayed headlines from RSS feeds scrolling across my desktop. I am still amazed that such an obvious type of program is so hard to find. I can find plenty of scripts to put RSS tickers across a webpage, but I’m not designing a webpage. I’m trying to keep myself informed. After I had downloaded this program, my taskbar froze. This is a common problem in Windows 10 which was probably unconnected to the program. However, once I restored my system to an earlier save point the news ticker was gone. Again, that was probably unconnected. But I’m still dubious about downloading the program again.

For a long time I subscribed to several news sources’ Twitter accounts. That wasn’t such a bad idea except my Twitter feed was getting cluttered and I feared that I was missing information. I didn’t want to develop the habit of obsessively scrolling down through the feed to find out what I had missed.

I also had the Twitter app off to the side of the screen at all times. However, once I did the system restore, every time I try to put the app in its old place it automatically closes. I’m going to try to uninstall it and try again to see if that helps. If I can get it to work as well as the desktop ticker program, I’m good. That doesn’t solve the problem that not all of the RSS feeds would load all of the time, but I think that has to do with the feeds themselves and not the program. As I have said at the beginning of this post, I’m not going to discuss the sources. If worse comes to worse, I can just subscribe to those Twitter accounts again.

By the way, I’m interested in find out if I can somehow convert my Twitter feed into an RSS feed. I seem to remember that there was a way to do this years ago. Then I could just put that feed into the desktop ticker and free up more space for my web browser.

I miss Yoono. Unfortunately it stopped connecting to my Facebook account a long time ago and it doesn’t look like the developers are working on it anymore. I loved having both my Facebook and Twitter feeds in one place off to the side of my screen. Yes, that doesn’t address the clutter by subscribing to so much but if I combine that with the news ticker program, then I wouldn’t have that problem. Yoono was great with the Facebook feed in that it only showed updates in chronological order, so I only got a few updates at a time. The way that Facebook does it on their own page is messy. Then again, Yoono never let me know about my notifications so I would still have to open a Facebook page now and then, unless I kept my phone by my side.

Speaking of my phone, I’ve tried some apps that work well for what I’m looking for. However, I don’t check my phone that often. Besides, the battery in it doesn’t hold a charge very well. What I’m looking for is a constant, self-updating news feed on my computer’s desktop. Is that really too much to ask?

Too much information?

I’ve come to think of how I consume information in the same way that I get concerned sometimes about my sodium intake. Overall my levels might get a little high sometimes but I’m probably doing more harm to myself worrying about it than anything else. Just like I would be worried about the health of my heart when it comes to how much sodium I consume, I worry my brain is going to explode with all of the news feeds, blogs, and articles I read and all of the podcasts I listen to. Of course I don’t mean that I actually worry about it literally exploding. But I do sometimes wonder if there are in fact any physiological effects to the brain that can be caused by over-stimulating it.

I’m not referring to multi-tasking. Some people swear they can exceed at it while some studies say that they can’t. I don’t try it that much aside from playing music in the background while reading or writing. I indulge my habits in rapid succession. Nearly every day I have RSS feeds from news sources and blogs fed into my Kindle, which I read mostly at work. I get through each piece as fast as I can. When I’m done, which is usually about ten minutes into my lunch break, I switch over to that week’s issue of The New Yorker. As it is I downloaded this week’s issue yesterday morning before I left for work, and as I write this I only have one article and the short story left.

Even in writing this article I had to stop to go to the bathroom, so I took my Kindle in with me. I finished an article on the current relations between the U.S. and Iran. Having gone through that article so quickly without taking notes I can’t say that I remember many names or other details, but I got the general gist of the article that relations between the two countries are better than they have in the past. The article placed special emphasis on Iran’s possible nuclear program and how that may affect those relations. So while I can’t get down every fact I can get the general idea and now where to go if in the future I do need those details.

Also in the morning I download podcasts for the day, including short newscasts for the drive to work. Every chance that I get that listening to podcasts isn’t in the way of something else I’m trying to catch up. I think that by listening to people relay information I’m able to take a bit more in than reading a bunch of articles at once. By listening to people I’m catching their emotion as they’re saying something, which makes that information stick. I’ve said the same for poetry. By giving a piece of writing that fuller experience I’m able to comprehend it more.

Maybe I’m short-changing myself by how much I retain. After all, I’m no idiot, and I wouldn’t do all of this if I didn’t think I was getting enough out of it. When I read a news story that references events from two days prior I’ll usually remember what I read before. I get worried sometimes because cramming has always had a bad reputation. It could be that I’m able to take in all of this extra information because I’m not stressing over deadlines. Or I could just be super-intelligent and I just don’t know it. I think I’ll go with that one.