Posts filed under ‘Really useful sites’
Tumblr always seemed interesting but still essentially pointless. Twitter had miniblogging covered, especially since you could get instant feedback for whatever you posted (since Tumblr lacks comments unless you add Disqus) and for anything more involved, there were blogs.
However, since the advent of the iPhone and a fantastic app called Tumblrette, tumblogging is appealing again because now (with the exception of video from the iPhone) it’s truly mobile. I mean you don’t have to fight with it. Tumblrette makes it fast and simple. It’s lifeblogging, scrapbook-style, not necessarily to inundate your friends with or to cover absolutely everything, but just the choicest bits, a kind of stream-of-consciousness flow of the best scraps of your ideas and inspirations without demanding or expecting a response from anyone, that may make sense as a whole only to yourself.
Of course you can assemble your tumblog for an audience as well, and turn it into “blogging lite” by adding all sorts of categories, feeds, and hacks. But that seems to make its purpose somewhat moot again, and the question arises, if you’re filling your tumblog with all your feeds from everywhere, aren’t you just fluffing up your meager content, the online equivalent of padding an essay with fat margins and triple spacing? I say keep tumblogs lean and meaty in order to retain their potential use and impact. This also allows you to feed them into other services without annoying repeats of other feeds.
In any case, I’ll be trying this for a while. We’ll see how it goes.
Even if you’re not hooked into the ADD world of Twitter/Pownce/Jaiku, you’ve got email, web, and probably a dozen open windows and applications all screaming for your attention while you’re trying to get work done. Here are some apps that will tell them all to shut up and try talking one at a time:
Think by Freeverse: Hides everything except your one chosen app behind a dark translucent backdrop. Free.
Spirited away by drinkin.com: Hides windows if they’ve been unused for a certain period of time.
Writeroom by HogBaySoftware: A text editor that fills your entire screen, including the menu, black, and leaves you with nothing but a blinking cursor. Criticized by Niko for cashing in on retro nostalgia, but, well, it twangs the right heartstrings for me.
The web is filled with more tools than anyone can bear to shuffle through. Unless you’re glued to the web like me. So for all of my friends out there who keep asking me what’s good, this is what I suggest right now:
- Photos: Store and share them on www.flickr.com
- Your desktop on the web: www.netvibes.com
- Organizing your life, simple project management: www.backpackit.com
- IM/Presence: Adium(OSX) / www.jaiku.com
- Blogging: www.wordpress.com
- Mini-blogging: www.tumblr.com
- Commercial blogging: www.squarespace.com
- Music: www.last.fm
- Recipe inspiration: www.opensourcefood.com
- Shopping inspiration: www.productdose.com
- Simple online strategy gaming: www.weewar.com
If I missed something, or if there’s something you’re looking for, let me know–I’ve probably already found it. Now go play outside.
Twitter is like standing in a room with all your friends in it, screaming out what you’re doing every now and then so everyone can hear it. Sometimes it’s useful, as in “Beer, anyone?” and sometimes it’s annoying, as in “I just fed my cat!”.
You can also hear your friends’ side of conversations they are having with other friends, which is like sitting beside someone while they talk on the phone. So in addition to the above, you get messages like “Wednesday is fine” with no context, or even “Beer, anyone?” not directed at you, but still landing in your SMS inbox.
This falls into a category my friend calls social noise. Like zoning out in a crowded restaurant, you hear lots of people talking, but without context it’s just buzz. You might as well be at home alone–it doesn’t make me feel connected, it makes me feel like I’m missing things all the time. Compound this with the fact that each above message represents an SMS to be deleted, and it quickly becomes a chore.
Twitter SMS messages all have the same level of importance, and they are relentless. You can’t tell from the beep in your pocket whether it’s your girlfriend asking you to pick up some milk before you come home(useful), or Joe telling some stranger he’ll be “there” soon(pointless). And the beeps just keep coming.
My text message inbox also serves as a loose to-do list, so general statements of la-la are somewhat unwelcome in bulk quantities. I like knowing what my friends are up to though. What next?
Enter Jaiku. Jaiku is developing passive presence. I only see what my friends are doing if I feel like it. And I don’t have to tell them what I’m doing all the time–my phone does that for me, automatically reporting my general location as I move around. My friends can go look at my “presence” in a kind of address book on my phone, but my status reports won’t be filling their inbox.
After noting several posts on Gizmodo wondering about what gadgets will appeal to women, it occurred to me that there are, in fact, gadgets for women–but they might not be quite what you’d expect. Over the years, I’ve come across a group of products that women talk about among themselves and use, but aren’t advertised anywhere. So as a public service, I’m listing them here:
The menstrual cup: A bunch of companies sell this alternative to tampons. Among them: Keeper (natural rubber), Diva cup, Mooncup, and Lunette (silicone). (Plug: Lunette is made in Finland!) You only have to buy one at a time, and one will last you years. Aside from the financial benefit, this also means you don’t have to lug around a box of tampons everywhere you go, which can be annoying on camping trips in particular. I’ve even used one of these camping out in the African savannah among a bunch of men who definitely did not want to find pad and tampon residue around the campsite–it was weird enough for them to have a woman present to begin with. It works like this: You fold it up and stick it in like a tampon. It lasts about as long, sometimes longer. Every now and then you empty it–some bathrooms have sinks, and if they don’t, just wipe it clean with paper and off you go. If you can’t stand the idea of coming into contact with your own bodily fluids, however, this is not for you.
The P-Mate: By a Canadian company called Female Freedom, this lightly waxed recycled paper funnel allows women to pee standing up. Why would they want to? You’ve obviously never agonized with a full bladder in the woods, facing the prospect of either undoing fifteen layers of clothing and baring your ass to -25ºC , or presenting it as a all-you-can-eat buffet to clouds of eager bloodsuckers. Not to mention standing in the endless lines to the Port-a-Potty while men dash past to have a quick pee in the urinal around the back. So. If this is penis envy, so be it. The plastic version of this is sold by TravelMate.
UPDATE: I was reading a book called The Pirate Queen by Barbara Sjoholm(too personal-narrative for my taste, was hoping for more historical info) and randomly stumbled across a story about a Sami woman called Buks-Beret, who would go out fishing with the men, and had with her a “tissehornet” or hollowed out reindeer horn for peeing over the side of the boat on longer trips. So this is nothing new…
A TENS machine: Speaking of Technology Marching On, I can personally vouch for the use of a TENS machine during childbirth. It sends electrical pulses (which feel a lot like intense pins and needles) to your skin via electrodes stuck to your lower back during labor, which confuse the pain messages sent to your brain, which makes it easier to handle the pain overall.
Plus, if you get a model like the one I had, the Elle Tens, you get lots of buttons to fiddle with to regulate the kind of pulses it sends out, their rhythms and intensity, which for me at least gave an added sense of control, which helped immensely.
A friend of mine who knows a bit about neurology claims there is solid science to back up the claim that it works–I’d say that it could have been a placebo effect, something to have faith in and hang on to, but in the end that worked pretty damn well. And considering that if it doesn’t work, you can switch it off and immediately try something else with no ill effects, I’d say it’s a win-win deal. Other than the cost, of course. Available for rent and purchase from the UK here.
The Feeldoe: Designed for women, by a female engineer, although enterprising men may find uses for it as well. No harness needed if your PC muscles are strong enough. Happy sensation potential for both partners. This swiss army knife of dildoes comes in three sizes, with vibe and without, and has gotten rave reviews.
The Epi-No: Apparently this device helps you train for childbirth. In their words:
German medical innovation is reducing the risk of tearing and episiotomy (‘stitches’) in…women wanting a natural vaginal birth.
That sounds like a good idea to me, don’t know if it works or not, but it seems at the very least unlikely to do harm. I’ve had some friends sneer, Women have been birthing babies for millennia without anything like this.
Maybe so, although the epi-no is apparently based on an African custom of using gourds to gently stretch the perineum just before birth, and also I find the argument of “We’ve always managed without” to be rather silly: “Humans have lived for millennia without the internet/central heating/toilet paper, so there’s no need to use those things now.” There may not be a need, but these things certainly make life a bit more comfortable. Why should birth be any different? In fact, episiotomy itself is a rather new invention, and a rather unpleasant one at that, yet many women don’t give that a second thought.
Have been looking for horror stories related to this device, accusations of fraud, danger, etc, and have found none. I’ve found various references to it on midwives’ blogs and the like, though. At worst, people have said it doesn’t help/is a waste of money. At best, women have reported greater confidence going into childbirth and maybe an easier delivery. What can I say? Technology marches on. Available in the UK here.
If you know of products you think should be added to this list, let me know, I’ll add them to the post.
I’ve been reading David Plotz’ Blogging the Bible series on Slate. He’s a Jewish guy reading the Bible from cover to cover for the first time, writing down his own synopsis with comments, analysis, and personal associations. Fascinating stuff, and lots of details that I missed when I was a kid reading the kiddie versions. For example, those of us who grew up explicitly Christian or Jewish (or watched Charleton Heston in the Ten Commandments) all learned that Pharaoh gets punished with plagues and deaths of all firstborns in Egypt, etc, for refusing to let the Israelites go. What I didn’t know was this: