Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Google is crafty. I am not. Even so...

Search Engine. Analytics. Feed Reader. News. Images. Chat. VoIP. YouTube. Blogger. Is there anything Google doesn't do and doesn't do pretty well?

Sometimes (always) I'm pretty sure Google is (way) smarter than I am. For instance, you know when you accidentally misspell a search term:

How does it know that's what you meant? My old coworker Wes wrote about this phenomenon much more intelligently than I ever could here.

But Google doesn't just stop there. When Riley and I were in Cambridge last year, I was shooting off a quick email for school when Google gave me this error message:

If you can't read it, it says, "You wrote 'I've attached' in your message but there are no files attached. Send anyway?"

I forgot to attach the file and Google knew it. Besides the kind of creepy Big Brother undertones of a search engine reading my mail, how cool is that? I was totally blown away (ask Riley) and I didn't think I'd ever be more surprised by Google.

But I was wrong.

Maybe you've seen those Facebook statuses or blog posts going around saying something like this:

"I promise to send something hand-made to the first five people who leave a comment here. You must in turn post this on your blog and send something that YOU make to the first five people that comment on your blog! The rules are the item has to be HANDMADE by YOU and sent sometime in 2011! How fun it that!"

Well, you only need to look at my sad history of glue-smeared, paint-spattered, ink-stained, over-sized t shirts to know that crafty I am not.

However, Adriane posted one of these challenges, and she always makes the cutest things. So I had, had, had, to sign up. And now I have to pay it forward...

But, before I made the same offer, I decided to do a little research. So in preparation for this behemoth task, I sat down one Saturday morning to look for some crafty ideas. And what better place to look for a lot of ideas in one place than Etsy? So I typed the URL into my browser and this is what I got:

Just kidding.

But I kind of wish I weren't. Wouldn't it be great if Google warned you when you were about to do something crazy? Imagine:
  • Google says, "If we send you to this shopping website, you will spend all of your discretionary income for the year in one fell swoop. Send anyway?"
  • Google says, "If we send you to Facebook now, you will waste your entire lunch hour stalking your latest 24-hour crush only to find out he has a girlfriend and she's gorgeous. Send anyway?"
  • Google says, "If we send you to this YouTube Video you'll end up staying up until 3 a.m. watching literal music videos and you'll wake up exhausted with really sore abs. Send anyway?"
I probably wouldn't listen, but forewarned is forearmed, right?

Anyway, it was in fact my first time ever logging onto Esty (I know, I'm totally nebbish.) And nearly two hours later it was one rabbit hole I'm still not sure I should have gone down...

However, I think I'm ready to get crafty. And I think it's time I go big or go home.

So I'm paying it forward on Top 10 Tuesday. This means that I'll make something for the first ten people who comment and I won't make you turn around and do the same (unless you want to).

So, enter at your own risk.

And incidentally, if you enter, can you please let me know if you have a favorite quote, poem, song, or book? Awesome.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Characters That Make My Family Look Like Saints

This week's topic is another post I did for The Blue Bookcase.

The original idea was to list ten fictional characters I'd like to have in my family, but I answered a question about my favorite fictional best friends a few weeks ago and felt like I would be reinventing the wheel. So instead I wrote about some of the worst characters I could think of. I wrote this post sometime between 1 and 2 this morning, and by the end I was so angry it took my about an hour to calm down and get to sleep. During which hour I had an epiphany: We've all heard the warning to not go to bed angry, so if it's ever a family member that's got you resentfully counting sheep (and let's be honest, it almost always is, just mentally compose your own nasty character list. You'll be hugging the annoying right out of your relations in no time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Going Native

Having the worst lungs on the planet isn't easy, but I somehow manage to live what feels like half my life with some kind of chest congestion or another. However, earlier this year I had a cough that just would not quit. We're talking weeks and weeks and weeks. Since none of my usual coping methods were working, I finally I decided to go to the doctor. I've had pneumonia no less than five times, bronchitis pretty much every year I can remember, and smoke-induced asthma since the 2003 Control Burn Debacle of Provo Canyon, so I was expecting that it might be something along those lines.

Nope. Diagnosis: Pertussis.

You know, Pertussis? A.k.a. whooping cough. That disease that like consumption and cholera was pretty much eradicated in developed countries by the end of the 19th century? Yep, I had that.

Lucky me.

Luckier me that there's an app for that. Skipping the part about how I was allergic to the first round of medication with disastrous results, I was eventually quickly cured of the worst of it and have lived to see another day.

Friends and family were often shocked and surprised as to how I developed such an archaic illness, so I took to joking that after having spent several months researching 19th century British social history I had simply gone native. My interest in graduate school was history from below, or the history of the common people. I read about their customs and traditions, I guess I just got a little too into their common complaints (: The idea added a bit of humor to a not-so-fun situation.

So fast forward a couple months to my annual physical. I got a call this morning from my doctor to go over the results of my blood work. The pertussis is all gone and everything else looks good except for one thing: I have ridiculously low levels of Vitamin D.

You know, Vitamin D? That thing you get mostly from the sun that makes your bones strong? Yep, I'm lacking that in a big way. Kind of like most of those 19th century British common people I was researching not too long ago. And given my apparent propensity to take things a little too far I think I can see where this is heading.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Thee lift me and I'll lift thee and we'll ascend together. -Quaker Proverb

I know I've talked about it a little bit before, but I really am a complete failure at keeping a journal. The sum total of records I've made in my life is paltry, and each of the few entries is usually headed with a variation on a common theme: I'm sorry I haven't written in so long but I promise to do better...

Usually I am frustrated when I flip through these few pages. I often do in fact do better, but for such a laughably short time I sometimes feel I shouldn't have bothered to make the effort at all.

But that is where I've been wrong.

I'm learning with my journaling efforts, as in practically every other area of my life, that as long as I keep trying, every single step is worth it. Even if I feel I'm taking two steps forward and one step back.

In a syzygy of events over the recent days I've come to realize that my life has reached a point equatable to most of my journal entries: I haven't been doing what I should for a long time. But this is me promising to do better.

I don't find it necessary or appropriate to air my dirty laundry over the interwebs, but I also think I can be more successful if I have someone more than myself holding me accountable to sustained change.

So, this is the syzygy of epiphanies I had this weekend:

1. The Temple: I went to the Provo Temple on Friday for the first time in far too long. I was blessed to attend a session that was bursting with missionaries on a field trip from the MTC. I was shocked at how young most of them looked (which was compounded by the realization that my baby brother will be joining them in just a few short months). But despite their youth, I can't describe the feeling of sitting with over fifty elders in and sisters in the celestial room and seeing them gather the strength from the House of the Lord that they would need to sustain them all over the world as they worked to preach the gospel. I am not making anywhere near the sacrifice they are making, but I can be better about attending the temple, especially when there are so many so close to me, and taking the strength I receive there to work in my own little corner of the field.

2. Financial Planning: We had a combined Sunday School class this Sunday. The speaker was a senior in the BYU business school and will soon graduate with a degree in accounting. He talked to us about the importance of financial planning. This is something I've been almost as successful at doing as I have been at writing journals. I need to be better.

3. CES Fireside: Elder Perry has been one of my favorite speakers ever since the time I was weeding in the front garden and heard a voice behind me asking if I could use a hand. It was Elder Perry and he was kind enough to not notice the dirt on my face when my jaw literally hit the ground. His talk tonight was inspired and I need to do much much better at prayer. At scripture study. At temple worthiness. And at service.

I'm committing to make time this week to come up with concrete goals in each of these areas which I may or may not share, but please know that I truly would appreciate any suggestions for success, calls to repentance, and requests for progress reports.

Every time I try develop a journaling habit, I feel confident that this will be the time it sticks. But I know that no matter how good my intentions are, it is so easy to falter, fall, and fail. I also know that it is just as easy for us to lend a hand to guide, steady, or even pick each other up in those circumstances.

I promise to help you if you'll do the same.