The Monday Mess – 15 Oct 2012

Boom! This Monday, “My week in Haiku” is taking a break in favour of a this similar but new thing which I shall call for now “The Monday mess“. I’m calling it this so I can chuck a bit of whatever in. Why the change? Because I am a bit bored of the other thing and I fancied a change. “The Monday mess” can be a bit of whatever I want to throw in, and nothing specific. Writing without boundaries? Yeah right, so in the spirit of the old thing, let’s start with a bit of news:

Umm, cannot think of much actually… Umm I got a new iPad cover with bluetooth keyboard. It is fab for typing stuff with, or quicker than me on the screen anyway, and um….

moving swiftly on then…

Three things that ought to be simple, but are actually difficult to explain:

  1. There is a couple who live further up our street who share the same first name. Not literally of course, one doesn’t borrow it when a friend pops round and wants to address them. It is merely the same first name. That must have made it easy to remember when they met. The name could be Lesley. It isn’t, but for these purposes let’s assume it is. The question is, how come when we’re in our house and I see them walking down the street, I can only remember one of their names? I say to my wife, “there is Lesley and whatever his wife’s called”. She replies “That’s Lesley. They are both called Lesley. I wonder if they call each other Les and Lesley?”. I go get a snack instead of replying, and forget about it until next time.
  2. How is it that when I type on the ipad screen, I seem to grow an extra pair of thumbs? They’re not even any use. I can’t climb trees of anything with them. They just stop me typing quickly. I had to get a bluetooth keyboard for typing blog stuff. What is the point of those? And why does the width of my fingers increase when typing on the iPhone screen?
  3. White socks. Um why do far two many American men wear white socks with, you know, everything. Black trousers, great. White socks, check. Why do it? Who knows. Do their women not tell them they are not color coordinated like mine does. Or do they ignore them? – Sunny day, lets wear some shorts. How about some nice white socks to cover your legs with. Oh man, what is this country coming to?

If you see this thing, avoid it…
(image from morgueFile – click to be taken there)

Without Haiku there is instead “Nonet”:

Which I borrowed for an attempt from my good friend Writers Digest. Nine lines, first line with nine syllables and dropping a syllable each line until the final ninth line has only one. Well it has got to be worth a go. And for that I need a prompt. In a stupid attempt to look clever, I am going to use the three things mentioned above. Ho hum, so here we go:

I see, but do not know, two Leslies

as I thumb at my ipad’s keys

What is his name? What is hers?

Why can I not type it?

or decipher it?

Perhaps the shorts

Green. But socks

they are

white!

Yup, and that is it. Have a nice week, and tune in somewhen further down it for the next brainsplats blog post.

Lexicon word of the day: Is taking the day off. No it isn’t try – roustabout.

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My week in haiku and other assorted nonsense – 01 Oct 2012

(click to view on Amazon)

This weeks bit of news to begin with:

I got some blogging time in last week. Maybe not masses of reading time with it, and not much project time either, but it is a start. Also the boy recovered well last week and is back to normal now. That is one fun thing at the moment, the time we spend together when I get home from work (and of course with my wife after that).

So, this Mondays “review of the week” prompts are:

  • Little blue Truck– At my boys bed time we usually read him some books. Toddler books are not the longest, so four a night in 10 minutes plus, is an easy target to hit. one of my favorites is “The little blue truck”.We bought our boy the follow up this weekend, (Little blue truck visits the city) along with a bunch of other books.
  • Fifa 13 (Haiku) – I’m not someone who plays a lot of console games, but I do like Fifa when I do. This week I got the new Fifa 13 (which was out on tuesday here in the US, and on friday in the UK). I think it added over 40% to its opening days sales in the US. Anyway, from what I have played so far, and it isn’t a lot, a lot more of the subtleties have been worked on and improved. It is more fluid, players make more mistakes with control, but not to the level where it is annoying, it actually adds to it. The more skilful players can get more of those moments over a second or two where they can do something a little extra to open a game up, but again not to the extent where it is too unrealistic and detracts. The physical system is improved and affects goalkeepers too. Player movements (the runs they make) are more intelligent. So far it seems a very good game.
  • Photo Stream (Tanka) – For those with an IOS device, iPhone, iPad, Mac, photostream is the cloud saving device to share photos over your ios devices. the new update brought sharing so you can easily share streams with family or friends. It is great, I can take a few pictures of my son, share the photostream with my mum, and when she wants, she can take the pictures. No hassles with file sizes such as when emailing of texting. A good service.

So here we go:

Daddy likes it best

but does the boy, not enjoy

the little blue truck?

For me I like the little rhymes and I love the style of the imagery.

Goal, Fifa 13

Not on my watch, or is it

fun and frustration

Seriously, or not? I do like playing this game, perhaps because I only sporadically get to do it.

How is it that we

see the world and that in it?

With what do you share

all the things that you can see?

made easy with photo stream

ok, that one sounds like an Apple commercial or sorts. Photo Stream is good, and references my post a week ago, where I mentioned using tech in lots of useful ways.

This section is going to sometimes be “Bonus Haiku” (see last mondays post) i.e. A bit ruder or more adult haiku, OR a rant about something, or maybe an amusing video.

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A short video for this week. In the spirit of the Wheel of Fortune one from last week, this one not as funny, but still good. If you do like to laugh at someone placing their foot in mouth, feel free to watch:

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What I learned this weekend

  • I was right about the LFC play coming together. They won midweek in the cup, and got their first league win of the season in a comfortable and not even flattering 5 – 2 win.
  • Thoughts are turning to replacing the car I use to get to work in, now I’m in it a lot more, and even though I likely won’t change it until the end of the year, or early next.
  • I feel like I’m in a non creative phase at the moment.
  • My son likes the show “In the night garden“, but it sure is annoying to listen to as an adult.

The next post will likely be friday. Have a nice week.

Lexicon word of the day: subterranean.

My week in haiku and other assorted nonsense – 24 Sep 2012

(Image Source: Microsoft Clip art)

This weeks bit of news to begin with:

So I am back. Back to the blog, in some capacity at least. In what capacity, only time (and experience, so er, two things then) will tell. I’m now with shiny new iPad, which is useful now I am not at home as much. It is a fine thing.

 At the time of writing (Sunday) I am debating whether to start back up posting again or leave it another week. If you are reading this then I guess I went for the post. The real debate is not to continue blogging, as I enjoy the blog, but how much. At the moment despite the new tech, I still have less time, and some of it needs to go on project work. For the moment that needs to be priority over the blog. So I think I shall aim for two posts a week, with maybe more depending on time and what I have in the “library”.

So, this Mondays “review of the week” prompts are:

  • The Virus (Haiku)– also returning (for my son anyway). Little guy seems to have susceptibility to colds / coughs settling on his chest. Potential asthma problem? Don’t know yet, but hopefully not.
  • Hot, hot heat (Haiku) – Not the band but the ongoing summer. Nearly the end of September and still it is hot in these parts.
  •  iPad and iPhone 5 (Tanka)– ok from time to time I am a tech geek. Not only a new iPad but the “blisteringly fast” 4g/lte on the iphone5. Where I live, the lte coverage is good, so the thing is pretty fast. On pre-order day for the latter, my son usefully woke me up early that morning, so with free time…

So here we go:

Cough, wheezy virus

making a home in his chest

better move out soon

He is in good spirits though and his loss of appetite was only a day or two.

Oh for rain showers

Let garden grow, cool us down

just small bit cooler

Seriously, a bit cooler will still be warm, and shorts weather, it doesn’t need to be this hot. On the other hand, check out that smog. Hmm…

Technology man

do you need all those gadgets?

do they rule your life?

they make you the man you are?

these days the answer is … yes

they are certainly an integral way to the way I run my life right now, and truth be told, to the job I do, to some extent anyway.

This section is going to sometimes be “Bonus Haiku” (see last mondays post) i.e. A bit ruder or more adult haiku, OR a rant about something, or maybe an amusing video.

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A short video for this week. Not a new one, but don’t worry, it is a short one (18 seconds), and a funny, but toe cringing one, from the “Wheel of Fortune” in the US:

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What I learned this weekend

  • LFC still haven’t won in the league having their worst start in “oh a long, long, time”. But they are playing some good stuff, and the results will only be a matter of time. The effort against Man Utd on sunday was immense.
  • I use technology a lot, and in many ways I would not have thought of even five years ago.

The next post may be wednesday, or maybe friday, check back and see. Have a nice week.

Lexicon word of the day: Loquacious.

The “search phrase” experiment and what makes a popular blog post

Part 1: What makes a popular post?

Fellow bloggers, humour me for a moment and consider the following: Which posts are your most popular? Which posts are your most searched? Which of your posts draw in the most comments and likes? If the answer to these questions is usually the posts that you don’t expect, then you likely blog for yourself first, and the audience second.

Do you find that you write a more personal piece, and it is barely read, or commented on? Yet you write a light hearted piece on a men’s magazine that contained the headline “Tina Fey is hot” and it pulls in more views, likes and comments than you ever considered. Why is this? Perhaps in one sense you don’t know your audience, or perhaps you might just be discovering it. Blogging is a learning game after all.

In my brief experience of blogging (about four months now), I’ve noticed the following:

  • If you gain some regular readers, the more personal posts will invite comments and likes from them. They have gotten to know you a bit through your posts, so the personal ones are giving them a bit more, rewarding them a little in that way, and building on that relationship.
  • On the other hand, the personal posts will generally not draw in many readers as they don’t have the personal connection, aside from the odd passing “tourist” who may have a connection in some way, and will therefore be drawn in.
  • Posts which are on a specific subject, e.g. writing tips, will draw in readers looking for the specific thing. Or they may have some experiences of it, that they may wish to share or can contribute to the subject.
  • Posts which are a bit more general e.g. about blogging, provide a common experience for all sorts of bloggers, so it will be easier for them to interact with your post, and be more enticing to new readers.
  • Posts which are more general still, e.g. The Rolling Stone top 500 albums ever, might draw in more views via search engines, but not the interactivity. This is also to say that the searcher may be after one thing, and not the thing the way you have written about it, which by the way, is not a criticism. Or a reader might like it, but have no wish to comment or press “like” (see the next point).
  • The “comments” and “like” functions are the tools of the reader from the blog community, but not necessarily everyone else. You may have some RSS readers, or readers via search sites who read some of your posts then leave. I know I do this when looking up certain subjects via google, but I don’t want to sign up to whatever web community it might be, and make a comment on it. I just want the written info.
  • If you are lucky enough to write a personal piece, but on a subject which many people are interested in, then this will be likely be the one which draws in “comments” and “likes”, but also a lot of views.
  • If you join some sort of competition, or writing group type challenge, e.g. monthly ROW80, you will get other like minded individuals who have also joined, as readers, and perhaps a few more additional interested ones (not that I would know having not joined one, but I was informed this was the case).

Part 2: The “experiment” in viewing figures

In some separate posts by myself and by blogging friends, the subject of popular search terms has cropped up. Terms that frequently appear in your stats, but seem to have little in common, other than a phrase, with the subject posted about. Plus there is a few odd ones which seem to have nothing in common at all other than two or three words occurred in a post, often paragraphs apart. On this blog “soft splats” is one example. So we discussed whether including a bunch of popular or odd search things would boost the viewings on a post, or indeed whether it would have any impact at all.

So let us assume for a moment that I want to be a blog whore. I want to put it out there, I want the viewers, I want the readers. Generally, I don’t, I’m ok with the amount of readers and views I have, but for this post I want to be different. I want it, and all of it. I want to put it about. Mmm, I hope this isn’t a choice I come to regret, but I digress. Sure there are many ways to help build an audience for your blog, WordPress themselves did a posting on this, see how to get more views, and how to get more comments. I see no reason to cover that ground again and that is not what I’m after here. I want the viewings first, and any new readers, “comments” and “likes” are a good bonus. So the experiment is thus, add in to this post, some commonly used web browser search phrases or other things that I’m guessing may turn up, and see what it does to the views on this post. See what crops up in the search terms in the stats. It will be an artificial boost somewhat, and it is not to say that part 1 above may also draw in some additional readers. But let us see what happens, so let us cover some search terms with added brainsplats nonsense here:

Some random popular search terms

  • Harry Potter is about being a nerd. I never read the books but I saw some of the films. School appears to have changed since I was there.
  • You can check some popular trends here: http://www.google.com/trends/hottrends  – I decided to pinch (and add):
    • Kate Upton is popular. I have no idea who she is
    • Rodney King sadly took one beating too many.
    • The NBA finals have just finished with Miami winning. Sports channels like to talk about LeBron James especially now he has his first championship. I would not have mentioned him but he has a minor share in LFC.
    • The European championships (Euro 2012) are on. Steven Gerrard (LFC captain), is the England captain. Roy Hodgson (ex Liverpool manager) is the England manager. England have thus far done better than expected (we all thought they were crap).
    • What do Lindsay Lohan, the returning TV show Dallas, Miley Cyrus, and Kim Kardashian have in common? – Nothing that I am aware of.
    • Wimbledon Tennis starts soon and True Blood is back on. Both feature pasty looking people knocking things around a bit.
    • Pacquiao got robbed against Bradley meaning the fight against Floyd Mayweather will likely never happen. If this was the UFC, they would have faced off when they were at their respective peaks, a few years ago.
    • Tina Turner is still alive apparently, where as Henry Hill (of Goodfellas fame), is not.
    • Game of Thrones and Mad Men, are great sunday night shows that have ended their current seasons. The returning Falling Skies is a big slab of cheese in comparison.

Some random nonsense (assuming the above isn’t)

  • Purple Bananas wibble and wobble their way to squiggle and squelch land of the springs, where beds and fresh water run hand in hand.
  • I like random writing terms like paragraph, full stop, blog post, words to avoid, number of words, writing inspiration, writing prompt, author, artist, writer, and notepad.
  • Is it more fun to insult people from Belgium or Germany (in a non racist way of course)? Or come to think or it, the Irish or the Welsh?
  • I ought to mention Apple, ipod, ipad 2 and ipad 3, and the new iPhone 5. Plus I want a new Macbook Pro retina screen model. Well it is Apple isn’t it?
  • Add to that these random things – Disney, Pixar, Toy Story, DVD, downloads, MP3, Music, dance, jiggly, underwear, jockstrap and monkey.

Part 3. The mini conclusion

So I have a post of two parts. Hopefully part 1 will be of interest to many bloggers and blog readers. These are simply my thoughts on blogs posts, I make no comment about whether writing for yourself or an audience is better other than to say as far as I’m concerned either approach is fine, it depends what you want out of your blog.

Part 2 may be of interest to no-one other than me, or people who want to know what daft search terms crop up, if any. I shall monitor the stats of this post, and do an update in a week or two. Does all this nonsense boost the viewing figures, if only for a day or two? Does it do nothing? I shall find out. Feel free to enter your thoughts in the box below on either part.

Lexicon word of the day: incommutable.

The battery issue

A little short on time today as the battery on my laptop is about to die soon, and I’m not in a place to plug in and write. It’s amazing these days how much of our lives is reliant on electrical items that require batteries or rechargeable batteries. Just a quick glance around my home gives, iPhone, iPod, Sat Nav, laptop, Baby Monitor. PS3 controller, Radio control helicopter (don’t ask, it was a gift), toddler quad bike battery. If the apocalypse comes, I’m screwed. I’d hazard a guess that you are as well.

So much of these items are incredibly useful. We could not be here now in the blog or twitter sphere without them. It is how we can communicate with anyone almost anywhere in the world within seconds. Well that and a few satellites, but you know what I mean. So as much as having these electrical items is useful, fun. or just generally adding something to our lives, we are in return securely attached to providing them with the source of their power. Where ever we go we need to have one eye on a charger. Day to day it might not be a problem, you might for example charge your phone at night. Or you might have invested in an extra charger to use at work. But take a longer trip, then several chargers need to go with you. When you get to your destination you need to find somewhere to use the charger. In a sense this is no big deal to our current generation. Places are built and maintained with this in mind. But we still need to think about it. Probably a minor inconvenience considering the convenience they add to the rest of our lives.

Currently we’re trying to get our TomTom replaced as the battery will not hold a charge. That’s the other downside of rechargeable batteries. You can use them sensibly, and charge them only when fully discharged to get a longer life, but they don’t live forever. Better than throwing dead batteries away, as we do with non rechargeable. Well this TomTom battery never held a charge, so that was another issue in itself.

Still it is scary how many items use them and what little skills we have to deal with life without them. That is not even considering the environmental issue of the power needed to charge them. Yes, electricity is generated, so in theory there is as much of it as we need. The problem is what is used as fuel for the generators that provide it. Renewable energy sources are the ideal way, but they create little energy compared to coal and nuclear fired generators. We better hope that someone can come up with some better ways of doing it soon. If we cannot live without it, what will our children do?

This really ought to be an expanded essay, rather than a writing exercise on a blog post. One thing clear about doing this blog is that the majority of it is “top of the head” i.e. whatever springs to mind. It is largely so far, not about researching and filling up with references. On the other hand, that is the point of this blog, it is a writing exercise. In order to improve some more, I shall have to set some boundaries, or exercises within the exercise if you will. – I’ll save that for another day. This morning I’m watching my son. It’s a little hard to write here when constantly chasing him from the fireplace. At the moment he thinks it is some kind of game, the little whatsit.

Lexicon word of the day: gaucherie.

Disney Land, the happiest place on earth?

Disney Land, the happiest place on earth, or just more marketing nonsense? Yesterday my wife and I took our 14 month old son to Disney Land. We live not too far away and we have annual tickets or passes or whatever daft name they go by. We can use these to, a few black-out days withstanding, to come and go as we please. It’s like free, albeit with the price of an annual ticket and a $15 parking charge each time, unless we park in downtown Disney, and then we only get a max of three hours. Oh and plus any money we spend inside.

Sarcasm aside, we all know Disney is a big cash cow, it’s not like it’s doing this to donate all proceeds to charity, so why do we go there. Well it’s Disney isn’t it? It means a library of well known characters, and yes some of these are from some genuinely classic films. Really Disney land is a just a big budget fairground, filled out with these characters. There are plenty of well thought out well designed rides, which arguably vary in quality, and of course there is a lot of personal preference in this. If you have children who know some of the Disney characters (really what Disney is counting on), then for the children it genuinely is a magical place. A magical place which makes you stand around a lot, waiting.

There are big queues at Disney. The benefit, well one of, having an annual pass is that you have more options of choosing when to go in. My wife and I like to go on the less busy days primarily to avoid the bigger queues. We use an iPhone app that predicts park capacity, and choose when to go that way. The same app also usefully contains “live” updated stats on the queuing times for each ride. When in the park we can navigate using this, choosing the rides with the shorter queue times. It is really useful. I hate queuing. I hate queuing on a hot day in the California sun even less.

Still compare this to a regular fair and this is a whole lot larger and potentially more fun, albeit fun that tries to sell you merchandise at every turn. On they other hand, the toilet facilities are clean and well run, and the park itself is clean with plenty of bins. I’m not sure where I’m going with these points

As mentioned above, my boy is only 14 months so he is still some way off going getting the best of the park / rides. Still it is good for some visual stimulation and to give him some different experiences, if you like. With that in mind some favourite rides are:

  • It’s a Small World – It is slow with plenty of things for him to look at, he likes that one.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – He was a bit unsure about the drops (not sure what was happening), but he loved the cannon explosions, and the talking parrot.
  • Dumbo – He likes to see what is going on.
  • Winnie the Pooh – Little fast this one but he likes all the bright imagery.
Me I like Splash mountain but he is far too small for that. I’m not that keen on the rides that are supposed to tell a story but fire you around too fast to get with it. I’m talking about you, “Toad’s wild ride”, “Peter Pan” and similar. I think you may be able to tell I’m a bit of a cynic here. I always feel a little bit uneasy going there too often, especially when I see some of the adults going there without children, who have clearly been a lot themselves. – So happiest place on earth? I doubt it, too much queuing in the sun may put paid to that. But, on the other hand, plenty of children really enjoy the rides, characters, general things to see, and so on. Plenty of parents enjoy seeing their children, enjoy experiences, so I guess there is a lot of happy people in one place. It can be happy, it can be fun, there can be plenty of good things to do. There can be too much money to spend, too much time standing around, and too much junk to eat. It is a bit of a balance. We’ll probably be going back again soon.
N.B. Small 19th Feb update: Someone pointed out to me it was spelt DisneyLand, i.e. one word. Oh well, not to worry.

Lexicon word of the day: Niggardly (I would suggest you look up the meaning in the Lexicon list from the menu).