why I love the Internet

“One Lovely Blog” Award Nomination!

lovely-blog

I have been honored to be nominated for the “One Lovely Blog” award by margaretdj —  I thank her so much and sincerely recommend you check out her great blog!

This award recognizes blogs considered to be “lovely” by fellow bloggers and is focused on helping them attract more readers. There are a few simple rules to follow to accept this nomination:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

Having already done the first two, now I’ll share 7 facts about myself. Coming up with these was a bit tricky — here is what I think might be entertaining to read (I hope!):

  1. I love purple. Anything purple calls to me…and I was thrilled to find out in recent years that I’m not alone in my purple obsession. There are even stores and websites devoted to selling purple things exclusively. I found myself in such a store during a trip to San Antonio, Texas a few years back, and couldn’t believe it. I was like a kid set loose in a toy store; let’s just say my luggage was much more full on my return trip home!
  1. Having grown up in New York City, I love city life. A noisy city is more calming to me than an eerily quiet suburb. “Where are the car horns?” I’ll think as I try to fall asleep whenever I’m visiting a more rural area.
  1. I studied French and Spanish from my junior high years up through college. However, I still get frustrated with my struggles to break past basic-level communication in each language: While I can read both fairly decently, I understand spoken Spanish better than I do spoken French, and I struggle to write or speak either one myself. So I keep working on both…
  1. This is somewhat embarrassing for me to share, but I never learned to ride a bike. And since I don’t really need to, I still haven’t — plus I would dread being seen learning now as a fully-grown adult. I know I shouldn’t care about that, but nonetheless I would feel funny if people witnessed me learning like a six-year-old; most areas near me are not isolated enough for me to feel comfortable trying!
  1. I also can’t swim — but I love being on boats. I never got around to learning to swim, being a city kid and not having easy access to pools or official lessons during my childhood. It was just one of those things that never happened. Occasionally I think about maybe trying to learn now, but somehow I never get around to it. One day…!
  1. I love cats and dogs. I often wonder why so many people still feel inclined to pigeonhole people like me into one or the other?! I’m a cat person and a dog person; I have a cat now and would love to have a dog too, but my building doesn’t allow them. I once took a side job as a dog-walker years ago specifically to have some access to dogs, and even dog-sat for friends recently. If I could have one of each right now, I would!
  1. I love flying on airplanes. Minus travel hassles like lost luggage and long lines, of course. But aside from that, being in the air thrills me, and I try to get a window seat whenever possible; as other people sleep, read or watch TV, I tend to stare out the window most of the time. You’d think it was my first flight ever, but no. I’ve flown many times, yet each time I’m just as obsessed with how beautiful everything looks from the sky and have to admire it all for as long as possible. If you check out my Twitter page, you’ll see a photo I took from one of my flights at the top. I’m a shameless sky tourist every time I’m on a plane!

And now, the best for last — here are the 15 bloggers I admire, and why:

  1. Get Fuzzy! – This blog is written by Craig Blower, who’s been battling stage IV lung cancer since 2012. His blog is so well done — first of all, it’s informative. For example, he shares lots of details about lung cancer, such as this fact, written on his “Why This Blog” link: “it’s important to get the word out that lots of lung cancer victims are non-smokers.” Plus he skillfully balances sharing the realities and emotions of his experience with lots of humor. I think everyone should read it, whether you have a connection to cancer or not.
  2. Touched by the Page – Although this blog is described as “a blog about books,” which is great, it’s also so much more than that. Yes, there are a variety of insightful book reviews like this recent one (written carefully so as to avoid major spoilers, a real plus!) — but Fien, the writer behind the blog, also writes about personal issues such as her mother’s lung cancer battle with such heartfelt honesty and grace. Definitely check it out.
  3. What The Eff? – I am lucky enough to know this blogger in “real life” and I find her to be as dynamic as her blog, which features a wide range of topics ranging from shrewd movie reviews and TV show critiques to tasty recipes and much more. Well worth a read!
  4. Words I Wheel By – This blog is written by Emily Ladau, who writes that her blog is committed to “exploring disability in society and my experiences living with a disability.” The blog does such a great job at writing on such an important topic in a way that informs and motivates the reader. In addition to Emily’s well-written pieces, her blog also features articles by other writers and links to news sources focusing on disability issues — a wealth of resources can be found here.
  5. Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – I love this blog’s “recipes for healthy living,” since they’re also tasty and aesthetically-pleasing, complete with easy-to-follow instructions and high-quality pictures.
  6. Jay Dee in Japan – This is one of many blogs written by Jay Dee Archer, a Canadian man who moved to Japan in 2005 and plans to stay for the foreseeable future. This blog is another favorite of mine since I love reading about life in other parts of the world and am particularly drawn to Japan. You can also find links to his other blogs here.
  7. People, Places, and Perspectives – Alexis, the writer behind this blog, publishes a wide range of inspirational, positive posts including lovely haiku poems and stream-of-consciousness pieces. Her writing is very engaging and warm, which likely has to do with her view of blogging as a way to, as she writes on her “About” page, “learn from and be inspired by my fellow dreamers.”
  8. Joeyfully Stated –I really enjoy the writing style and humor of this blog, which is described as “narratives of a neurotic and other nonsense.” It features an entertaining approach to a wide range of topics ranging from introversion to true (yogurt) love.
  9. My Life at the Big D (Dillard’s) – I get a kick out of this blogger’s true-life accounts from her job at Dillard’s department stores, complete with funny stories not just about the store’s customers but its employees as well. You don’t have to work in retail to relate to the incidents described, like in this post which touches on staff members who are supposed to be on vacation but are constantly in touch and assigning work to employees…
  10. Silver Threading – This blogger writes about her “journey into retirement.” I admire how she went back to college a few years ago, and I enjoy her accounts from her personal life, complete with great photos like these of her “neighbors!”
  11. Joatmon14 – This blog is written by Mark Eaves; I like his mix of posts ranging from funny family stories to introspective pieces about life. His reason for writing is also something I feel many of us can appreciate and relate to — as he says on his “About” page, “at the age of 49, I am trying to find my voice. Maybe starting a little late, but better late than never.” So true!
  12. Good Lifestyler – I appreciate this blog’s diverse range of topics covered: recent posts have dealt with how alcohol affects our emotions as well as the importance of letting go of the past.
  13. Top of JC’s Mind – I value this blog a lot. Its writer, Joanne Corey, can address painful/poignant topics, share honest assessments of herself and recount interesting accounts and photos from her daily life — all equally well. I admire her versatility and enjoy seeing what she’ll post next.
  14. irenedesign2011 – This blog is devoted to the “creative jewelling” done by its writer, Irene. I am impressed by her dedication to blogging in English even though it isn’t her first language — how I wish I could get to that level with the languages I’ve studied! — as well as her craftsmanship: to get an idea of her work, take a look at this post about a recent piece of jewelry she made. Lovely, isn’t it?
  15. Taste of Japan – Again, my interest in Japan led me to this blog, and I enjoyed it the minute I found it. It features a very attractive layout, as well as in-depth cultural information and a wide range of eye-catching photo galleries like this one.
  • And an honorary mention goes to LindaGHill’s blog — the only reason she’s not on the official list above is because she was already nominated for this award this year. But I couldn’t leave her off my list in some way; Linda writes such great posts, ranging from poetry to pieces on parenting and so much more. I recently enjoyed this amusing one which was both funny and thought-provoking! She also does so much to connect bloggers with one another. A perfect example of this is her Stream of Consciousness Saturday posts, in which she shares a writing prompt for bloggers to use in a free-flowing post, with minimal editing beyond typos and whatnot. She also does One-Liner Wednesday posts, in which bloggers share funny or inspirational sentences — they can be original creations or quotes from other sources, as long as they’re one line. One of her guidelines for both series is checking out everyone else’s posts for that week, which helps new bloggers gain some exposure and creates a great community among bloggers. For all that, I had to include her even though she was already nominated once this year!

So that’s my list of blogs I find to be lovely and also deserving of the “One Lovely Blog” award! Although at first choosing 15 sounded like a lot, once I got started and listed all the blogs I follow and enjoy, it was actually hard to choose only 15! It helped that some blogs I like have elected to be no-awards blogs — if that hadn’t been the case, I’d have had an even harder time choosing just 15! Anyway, hope you find a few new favorites in this list. 🙂

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Why I Love the Internet — Videogame Walkthrough Edition

In the past I’ve written about specific reasons I love the Internet (here and here, if you’re curious) and tonight another one occurred to me; it involves something that may seem small to some, but I find myself really appreciative of its existence online whenever I’m in need of it. I’m talking about…

VIDEOGAME WALKTHROUGHS!

For those of you who don’t play videogames — you shouldn’t rule them out! There are so many great games, and they’re not all Mario-type games like you may think, or only for kids! No; there are also suspenseful mysteries, interactive novels, language-learning options and so much more!

Sorry, I digress…I meant to say, let me share what a wonderful thing a walkthrough is for those of you who don’t play videogames, or somehow haven’t used this wonderful resource.

A walkthrough is, essentially, a step-by-step outline or video posted online which shows you how to play a specific videogame. So, players who are stuck in a game and don’t know what to do next or how to beat a particularly difficult challenge or puzzle don’t have to do what I did back in the day before the Internet — stay stuck and frustrated until you either give up on the game, or wait to find someone who knows the game you’re playing, if you’re lucky.

To be fair, in those dark days, there were special videogame guidebooks and magazines which often offered tips on unlocking hidden modes or figuring out certain aspects of the game you might be struggling with. But, at least for me, those resources weren’t always that easy to come by — either the newsstands near me didn’t carry them or were out of stock when I needed one, or the issue just didn’t contain the specific information I was looking for. Plus, it could be pricey to buy them on a regular basis, especially since each issue would cover multiple games yet I might only be interested in a particular one. Besides, sometimes I was playing an older game that the magazines were no longer actively covering anyway.

If I owned the game I was playing, I did have a basic manual — but that just included general information on the game’s premise, what the console’s buttons did for that specific game, etc. No inside tips or solutions to hard-to-get-past challenges. And I had no access to a manual at all when I rented a game from the local video store (ah, remember those?!). While many games are easy enough to pick up and start playing, some are not — so some of those rentals that looked good at the store would be really frustrating once I got it home and got stuck, with absolutely no information to help!

Today, that’s no longer a problem for kids (and adult players, ahem), thanks to the ability to share tips and gameplay videos online! Here are a few examples of the kind of resources I’m talking about; as an example, I’m using a game I played some time back called The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks:

And here’s a list of video walkthrough results that pop up for this Zelda game when you search for it in YouTube.

Obviously, there’s a wealth of resources out there compared to the “old” days!

What also stands out to me about these helpful resources are the people behind them. While some may be from commercial ventures which benefit from advertising and other incentives, I often come across others which seem to be posted by players who just want to help other players, with no obvious benefit to themselves besides perhaps being seen as an expert in the industry. I have to say I find this pretty impressive, considering typing up an in-depth guide or playing the game in full just to demonstrate it for others via a video is a very time-consuming process (especially since most of the videos I’ve seen are from people replaying the game, once they’ve figured it all out). And I’d suspect this is a thankless effort a lot of the time — yet there’s still no lack of people posting these tips and videos!

So, this is just another reason I love the Internet!

Neurotic note: My initial instinct here was to write “videogames” as one word. But as I was writing, I started wondering if it should be two words; I checked online (more love for the Internet) and learned that there’s actually a debate about this, but the industry itself seems to lean towards “videogame.” Bet you didn’t know that was such an issue, huh? I know I didn’t! If you like debates on words and grammar as much as I geekily do, you can read a bit more on this here.

Why I Love the Internet: E-Learning Edition

We’re so lucky to live in this era, what with the vast array of technological gadgets that exist, our access to the Internet, and the ability to watch a live feed of a spacecraft launch by NASA online.

While most of us recognize this on an abstract level, it can be hard to fully appreciate and make use of these advantages to improve our personal lives in the long run, beyond sending emails and using social media.

See, sometimes I’ll fall into a pouty mood and wish I’d learned more practical skills in college and grad school; the programs and courses I was in were more theoretical, focused on the history of communications or the evolution of higher education. Why didn’t I take courses in business or computer programming? I sometimes wonder regretfully. (You see, writers and educators don’t make a lot of money. Ahem.)

But then I have to remind myself that I really have no excuse not to learn about any one of these subjects right now. It doesn’t even have to cost me a cent, thanks to the wide range of courses we can take online for free.

So, in researching some of the options out there, I thought it might help others to share the information I found. You may know about some or all of these resources, but if not, take a look — especially if you’re contemplating a job/career change. As an advocate of finding work that fulfills you, I wholeheartedly encourage this; it’s never too late to learn something new or add to your skillset.

If you did already know about these options, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Or if you knew but haven’t used them yet — what are you waiting for?! Let’s do this!

Coursera

I love Coursera’s description of itself and its mission on its website:

“Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”

What I like most so far about Coursera is its eye-catching, user-friendly layout. Right on the home page you’re asked, “What would you like to learn about?” I did a test search for “computer programming” and got many matches, which I could then further refine by language, institution, certification eligibility, and more. From my initial look at it, Coursera looks like a great option.

edX

According to the edX website:

“EdX offers interactive online classes and MOOCs from the world’s best universities. Online courses from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, UTx and many other universities. Topics include biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT.”

Note: MOOC stands for Massive Online Open Courses. Taking part in one as an auditor means you have access to the same information and resources as official students in the class from the host institution do — the upside? As the edX site states, “You decide what and how much you want to do.”

I find edX’s interface to be similar to Coursera’s in terms of its visually-appealing design and user-friendly interface. On the home page, you can use a drop-down menu to search for the topic you’re interested in, or you can browse through icons with descriptions of courses.

Open Culture  

Here’s how Open Culture describes itself on its website:

“Get 1000 free online courses from the world’s leading universities — Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford and more. You can download these audio & visual courses (often from iTunes, YouTube, or university web sites) straight to your computer or mp3 player. Over 30,000 hours of free audio & video lectures, await you now.”

While I found Open Culture’s website layout a little less visually appealing and easy to navigate than the others, it still seems to offer a lot of decent options from which to choose. Definitely worth a look.

Udacity

The mission statement on Udacity’s website is very compelling:

“Education is no longer a one-time event but a lifelong experience. Education should be less passive listening (no long lectures) and more active doing. Education should empower students to succeed not just in school but in life. We are reinventing education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment. Our students will be fluent in new technology, modern mathematics, science, and critical thinking. They will marry skills with creativity and humanity to learn, think, and do. Udacians are curious and engaged world citizens.”

I’m a total believer in this kinds of hands-on, experiential education.

What also really stood out to me about Udacity was the fact that their courses are “taught by industry leaders excited to share their expertise from companies such as Google, Facebook, Cloudera, and MongoDB,” according to its website. While I’m all for university courses, I also like to learn from current professionals in the field, so I think it’s great that Udacity does this.

I did a quick search for computer programming again, and found many matches; it helps that Udacity is focused on technology. The results even indicated which courses are appropriate for each student level, from “new to tech” through “advanced.”

From what I saw, though, some courses are only free for a two-week trial period; the one I looked at would cost $199 a month otherwise, but also includes services such as verified certificates as well as feedback and guidance from coaches.

However, a little digging can produce free courses such as an “Intro to Java Programming” course I found on the site, offered in partnership with San José State University.

I think I might start my e-learning adventure with Udacity — especially because I like how they refer to their students as “Udacians,” which to me sounds like a term referring to the residents of a recently discovered planet with a thriving civilization.

Getting to learn online and sound cool and science-fictiony at the same? Just another reason why I love the Internet.

Why I Love the Internet: NASA Edition

I follow NASA on Twitter and happened to see a Tweet from them this morning about a launch happening just a few minutes later, which was going to be broadcast online via NASA TV.

Now, I must admit I had no idea about any launch until I read that Tweet. I only recently began following NASA on Twitter and although I wanted to be an astronomer as a kid, sadly I have not been staying on top of current happenings with them like I should. But boy was I excited to read that a live broadcast of a launch was about to happen within a matter of minutes! I quickly went to the NASA TV website, figuring I could learn more about the launch as I watched it and after it was done (and I did, which you’ll see in a bit).

Here are a few screenshots of the live feed:

The spacecraft awaiting its 5:56am launch.

The spacecraft awaiting its 5:56am EST launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NASA employees preparing for the launch. I wish I had a job that was half as cool as theirs.

NASA employees preparing for the launch. I wish I had a job that was half as cool as theirs.

Another shot of NASA staff hard at work pre-launch. Doesn’t it all look so cool and important? Like the set of 24, only REAL!

Another shot of NASA staff hard at work pre-launch. Doesn’t it all look so cool and important? Like the set of 24, only REAL!

LIFT-OFF!

LIFT-OFF!

The spacecraft’s path (which was narrated by NASA Flight Commentator Steve Agid).

The spacecraft’s path details (narrated by NASA Flight Commentator Steve Agid).

Another computerized depiction of the spacecraft’s progress and status (all was reported as good and close to schedule).

Another computerized depiction of the spacecraft’s progress and status (all was reported as good and close to schedule).

Wow, look at that view!

Wow, look at that view!

The spacecraft separates successfully and begins flying on its own!

The spacecraft separates successfully and begins flying on its own!

NASA staff members congratulating one another once the spacecraft had separated successfully and had begun flying on its own.

NASA employees congratulating one another once the spacecraft had separated successfully and begun flying on its own.

More post-launch congratulations between NASA staff members.

More post-launch congratulations between NASA employees. I was happy, too!

I really enjoyed seeing all of this, from the launch itself to the NASA computer screen with all its technical-looking info on the side. I felt like I had a secret peek into their operations, offices and equipment (along with countless others who were watching, of course).

During the live feed, I also got a kick out of hearing all kinds of official NASA-speak, complete with them activating different systems on the spacecraft and saying “roger” this and “roger” that. Couple that with the ongoing countdown to launch time and I was as excited as if I were at a geeky New Year’s Eve party — and I mean that as a compliment, because this is exactly my kind of party!

By the way, throughout all of this, I did learn about the launch itself: it’s called OCO-2, which is NASA’s first dedicated mission to provide scientific data regarding greenhouse gases in search of clues to climate change, according to NASA’s narration of the launch. (More information on it can be found on NASA’s website here.)

Overall, watching the live feed and hearing all the commentary made me feel like I was really part of the event, as opposed to just watching a short rebroadcast of the launch on the news without all of these added extras. Being able to hear about, and then witness, the full launch online was oddly thrilling.

And so, this is just another reason why I love the Internet.