Category: Archived

How to Blog Like Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow at work

photo by Jonathan Worth, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

For the past week I’ve been following sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow as he posts on BoingBoing. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Be prolific. Doctorow posts anywhere from eight to sixteen posts a day.
2. Use pictures. Doctorow almost always includes a picture and he’s meticulous about the attribution.
3. Quote the material. A fair use snippet of text lets you provide an overview of the material in the original author’s words.
4. Be diverse. Doctorow’s subjects include intellectual property rights, copyright, privacy, science fiction, comics, toys and anything Cthulhu-related.
5. Use many sources. Neatorama and Super Punch appear to be a couple of Doctorow’s favorite sources, but he gets a lot of referrals and appears to have a robust set of feeds for gathering primary source material.
6. Take the weekends off. I don’t know if Doctorow ever posts on weekends but from my one-week sample it looks like his peak hours are Monday to Friday in the morning.

Netflix Gets Interesting: John Cassavettes’ Shadows

A couple of months ago we cut the cable and bought a Roku box, relying on Netflix Watch Instantly. To our huge disappointment we found that most of the movies we wanted to watch were not available for streaming. Moreover, Netflix’ recommendations were terrible. Mostly trashy adolescent comedies and B action movies.

Then by some magic combination of my viewing combined with my wife’s viewing and diligent use of the ratings feature, suddenly the recommendations got really interesting.

Last night I watched John Cassavettes’ Shadows, a movie that virtually invented the independent film category. Most striking is the completely natural and unforced way the movie presents its characters. It’s like you’re experiencing a slice of bebop culture from the 50s. There’s no storyline to speak of, the script was completely improvised. But the characters are so compelling that you almost feel like you know them. The film is essentially a film about race, but it does this by inviting you inside the main characters and making you feel that race isn’t even an issue. Until suddenly it does become an issue, like a cold slap in the face.

On Netflix

Blog Experiment #53: Shadow-Blogging

I am amazed, baffled and tremendously envious of people who can make even a fraction of their living by blogging. So I decided to do something about it.

Starting this week I am going to try my hand at shadowing another blogger and learning what exactly it is that they do. What are their topics? How often do they post? What are their sources? What can I learn from all this?

We’ll see how it goes. Then I’ll post about that.

Who should I shadow first? First up: science fiction writer Cory Doctorow.

[Photo by Cornava]

Micoach the App – a Better Way to Run

The problem I have with running is that my brain still belongs to a high school athlete but my body is ancient. Consequently I wind up pushing myself too hard. After three weeks it’s simply too painful to continue.

This changed when I started using the free Adidas Micoach app (pronounced My Coach). The core concept of this app is to give you interval training using four “zones,” Blue, Green, Yellow and Red. The zones are based on pace or heart rate, your choice depending on your equipment.

Micoach starts with an assessment workout that calculates the pace for each of your zones. You choose a workout plan and then work your way through a schedule of 30-some workouts.

I started with “Be Fit,” a beginner’s workout. Micoach would start me in the Blue Zone (15 minute mile) and then coach me when to pick up the pace to the Green Zone (13 minute mile). The user interface is clear, easy to read on the run and easy to use.

So far I’ve kept up with running three times a week for two months now. A personal best. One of the reasons Micoach works for me so far is because the workouts are so easy. No matter how rotten I feel in the morning I get a sense of “OK, I can do that” when I check in with Micoach.

The Adidas branded app keeps track of distance, pace, routes and calories burned. It also has a shoe log that I don’t use, seeing that I run barefoot-ish (Vibram Five Fingers). The interface for the Explore options looks very amateurish, as if it was tacked on as an afterthought which is too bad in such otherwise nice package.

Adventure on My Doorstep, Small Adventures

In the quest for small adventure I asked myself what’s the smallest adventure a person could have? I think it starts with discovering what’s going on right outside your front door.

I decided to take a peek at what’s taking place on my doorstep and was a little surprised to see that the concrete steps are riddled with stress fractures. I’ve never thought much about this – it’s the Evil Home Owner Association’s problem, not mine. But this fractured concrete signals a very profound level of activity taking place outside my general level of awareness.

The earth is settling. Our condominiums are apparently built on an old arroyo that was filled with dirt, boulders, and (legend has it) old wrecked cars.

I tend to think of Home as being a place somehow separate from Nature. A neutral place, a kind of default location. But the cracked cement steps outside my front door suggest otherwise. Everything is part of a great swirling drama of entropy and change. Some adventures are taking place on a different time scale is all.

How to Explore the Suburban Frontier: Start with a Calendar

Let’s say that you want to become a Suburban Frontiersman…like Yours Truly. Where would you start? Perhaps you think you might need some gear, a pair of sturdy boots, a handy knife, a trustworthy haversack. But you’d be wrong.

What you need is time.

The Suburban Frontiersman’s life is chopped up until it’s a pizza pie of work, appointments, soccer matches, church, chores and errands. If you want to have any hope of having an adventure in the coming year you’re going to need to put it on the schedule.

What works best for me is to have a rolling schedule with one weekend blocked off for work around the Homestead and the next scheduled for adventure. You can’t be too rigid about this: sometimes you have to flip weekends to attend Cousin Maggie’s wedding and sometimes a group hike will come up on a Homestead Weekend.

Your calendar, whether it’s on your phone, wall or a Google Calendar (which you can share with your family) will help you navigate the wilds of time commitments, golf dates and youngster’s birthday parties to ensure that you have a chance to whet your taste for adventure.

BONUS GEEK LINK – If your idea of frontier is on the world wild web, check out the HTML 5 Adventure Calendar.

2010: The Lost Year

This past year feels like it slipped away. I had big plans in mind, got off the track and then simply reacted to events for the next 11 months. Pages peeled off the calendar and drifted away, carried on the wind to the landfill of memory.


Looking back at 2010 I see that my posts were all over the place. Still, I’ve found people using this blog, particularly when it comes to finding the trail to Two Trees. Perhaps it’s worth making a go for another year. Only this time with more zest and vigor.

You know what would help? Comments. Your input can make a huge difference. Even if you don’t really have anything to say. And I promise I’ll be better with the comments you do post.

Here’s to a Comment-abulous 2011, a year of Suburban Adventure and new frontiers on the edge of the ordinary!

Assignments from the Subconscious: Project Dreamboat

Gestalt dreamwork presumes that dreams are a message from the subconscious and that every element in the dream is a projection is an aspect of the person’s self. The dreamwork involves identifying these various elements and opening channels of communication between them. The course of therapy simply involves the facilitation of the conversation. The conversation itself serves to reintegrate disowned parts of one’s psyche.

But is conversation enough? Some researchers are working on the idea that dreams are a built-in simulation game, teaching us ways to avoid danger. If that’s true, or even partly true, then dreams contain actionable information about things that we need to be working on in real life.

A couple of weeks ago I had a dream about a Chris Craft runabout, similar to the one pictured above. The boat was moored under the Ventura pier and it had quite a bit of rot and damage. For a moment I contemplated getting ahold of this boat and restoring it. But as I thought about it, it seemed like the project would be too expensive…it could easily end up costing more than a boat in restored condition was worth. Essentially the boat was beyond repair. In Gestalt-speak this suggests that there’s a part of me that feels rotten and beyond repair.

For some reason I feel compelled to go a little further with this discovery than acknowledging this hithertofore unknown part of myself. What if I actually did the work of restoring my subconscious “dream boat?” Or to put it differently, what if I was to take specific actions on the dilemmas and choices that my subconscious coughs up?

Maybe I’ll travel a little way down this road and see what turns up.

[Photo from Antique and Classic Boat Society, classifieds]

Apparently I Stink at Blogging

Six months ago I signed up for the Agion “Stink at Nothing” challenge – getting a free t-shirt in the mail that I was supposed to put through a series of rigorous BO experiments.

I’ve worn the shirt repeatedly during exercise and expeditions but I’ve failed to put it to anything I’d call a test – despite repeated nudging from the Agion folks.

For one thing I’m olfactorily-challenged and can’t perform the tests myself. My family is averse to putting their collective nose to anything I shove in their faces.

But I like to honor my commitments so here goes. I promise to stink less at blogging (and more at everything else).

Coyote Encounter of the Third Kind

So yesterday I took Mr. Moose out for our weekly run in the lemon orchard. Typically we go about a mile and a half, I take the tennis ball launcher and Moose gets double or triple the mileage out of the deal. Very rarely we might see a runner or another dog walker on these adventures. The solitude is the key ingredient here – Moose is a hand grenade on a string. He sees another dog, even at a good distance, and he explodes in a twisting foam-flecked frenzy of flashing teeth and murderous barking.

Midway through our walk I spotted a canine shape move into the road about a half mile ahead of us. It seemed more dog-like than coyote-like and it watched us approaching. Mr. Moose was focused on the tennis ball and did not seem to notice the watcher in the road.

Eventually the animal ahead slipped off into the orchard. When we passed the point in the road where I saw the creature, I looked over my shoulder and noticed that there was in fact a coyote shadowing us about a quarter mile back. Mr. Moose was still oblivious at this point.

But on our return, right after I chucked the tennis ball and sent Moose a-running down the dirt road, I saw a coyote dart into the road not more than fifty feet away from me. It ran straight for me so I yelled at it and chased it back into the orchard.

Unfortunately, by this time Mr. Moose had spotted the coyote and he ran off in hot pursuit. I lost sight of both animals as they raced off down the rows of lemon trees.

For about fifteen minutes I went up and down the road whistling and calling but I could hear nothing. So I decided to head back home figuring that one of a couple things might happen. Moose might catch the coyote and fight the animal. My money would be on the 70 lb. very muscular dog. Or the coyote might lure Moose to its pack, in which case I might put odds on the coyotes. Or the coyote might elude the dog, and a tired and beaten Moose would eventually find his way home.

What I did not expect to find was that the dog and the coyote would be enjoying each other’s company at the bottom of the hill near our house. I’m still not sure what the interaction was. I came across the coyote standing in a clearing, barking madly at the sky. Moose was a short way off. The coyote saw me and started to run – Moose chased after. But when I called Moose to my side, the coyote followed. And the coyote continued to follow us up the hill after I put the leash on the dog and started heading home.

It looked to be a young, and very thin coyote. And maybe it was just looking for a good time. Or maybe this is part of a coyote’s sly and tricky way of finding a meal. But toward the end of the adventure I wasn’t more than twenty feet away from the animal, making it the most unusual coyote encounter I’ve had to date.

Playing a New Game

This is just a quick update my regular readers know that I’ve started a new blog, specifically oriented to games, play, and fun in a youth ministry context. If you’re interested please feel free to hop over to Mud Pie Games and join the fun!

Project Trail Dog: Kentucky Fried Hands

It smarts worse than it looks

I guess I didn’t think this through all the way. When a 75 lb. dog hits the end of a 50 foot yellow plastic rope at a full flat-out run, guess what happens? The force of the jerk knocks him off his feet and he tumbles in the grass. This isn’t as bad as it sounds…fortunately I had enough foresight to clip the lead to his harness and not his collar. The result reinforces a natural consequence. I yell “halt!” and if the dog doesn’t halt he’s going to go for a tumble.

No, the bad thing is what happens on the other end of the rope – the end I’m holding with my bare hands. About two feet of rough plastic rope played through my fingers so fast I could smell the flesh burn. And because I didn’t my dog attacking the Schnauzer that entered his field of vision I didn’t dare let go. So that last jerk, the accelerated force of a muscle-bound moose of a dog, was a real screamer.

But I guess we both learned our lesson. Mr. Moose learned pretty quickly to listen to me whenever the sight of a dog made him go flipping berserk. And I learned that I need a decent pair of roping gloves.

Tinderbox: Mapping the Interior

Chart your entire mind

In his book The Size of Thoughts, Nicholson Baker talks about some of the unexpected advantages of library card catalogs over databases: fingerprints for instance. Dark smudges of body oil can tell you at a glance which topics in the catalog are the most popular, something that would take a complex structured query to achieve in today’s online systems. If you could get at the data.

Baker proposed a digital equivalent of fingerprints. “The accumulation of random ‘grime pixels’ in the top margin – though never so dark that they would interfere with legibility, of course, and every tenth retrieval might remove one grime dot rather than add one, since handling wears away previous deposits too.”

When I discovered that Tinderbox notes yellow with age, I decided then and there that this was the personal information manager I had been seeking for many years. In particular I wanted an application that would help me see who I should be talking to as much as what I should be doing next. I demo’d every Contact Manager app I could get my hands on and was quickly reaching the point of settling for an old-fashioned paper Rolodex file.

Virtually all Contact Managers follow an address-book, calendar, task list metaphor. I liked Market Circle’s Daylite and felt that it almost met my needs, but still found myself working against the structure built into the app. Tinderbox, on the other hand, has virtually no structure to start off with. You begin by creating notes and defining relationships.

At the moment I have a hodge-podge of ideas, structured personal narratives and future scenarios. But every day it is shaping up into a map that reflects my own unique way of thinking.

I’ll keep you posted as I go.