Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Google Reader

I've only been using Google Reader for a few months. My friend Rain was the first one to tell me about RSS, but I never really paid attention to it. I figured that if I had a site I wished to read on a regular basis, I could just bookmark it and visit it whenever I feel like it.

However, I didn't count on the evolution of sites... or on my rather fickle and very easily distracted interest in these sites or blogs. Well, perhaps I shouldn't say fickle, as I do still read them. It's just that as I get to see more and more blogs I want to read, the older ones get covered by the newer, to the point that I sometimes forget about them.

I wasn't too keen on using RSS readers either. Back when I first began to blog, RSS were mostly text and often truncated versions of the actual posts. It wasn't until I became aware of Google's Reader did I truly began to appreciate RSS feeds.

I'm not here to promote it, as there are many readers out there ad GR may not be the first choice for people, especially those who have been using RSS feeds for a while now. I do, however, find it very convenient and easy to use, thus it's my primary reader. I like how I can create folders to organize my feeds (the downside is if I want to categorize them under more than one labels, the feed is repeated). It's also cool how I can "star" an entry that I find interesting, and even share it with others who are on my friends list in GR. And even if you don't have GR, all my shared items can be seen in my profile page, so you can view that too.

The image

Plus, GR actually shows you the pictures and embedded videos the post has (if any). It's laid out as exactly as it would be on the site itself. That, for me, was the huge selling point of Google Reader as opposed to the others I've tried.

Adding a feed to the reader is easy too. You know how some readers need you to input the feed url itself in order to subscribe (that's for the sites that don't have a subscribe option, but then, that's a rarity)? Just click on "Add subscription", paste the URL and the reader looks for the feed link for you. Neat. (Note: As I haven't really used any other reader aside from this, I can't say if other readers have a similar feature. If you know that they do, let me know.).

I mostly have my friends' blogs added to GR, along with the blogs of people whose works I admire. I also noticed that I have plenty of design blogs added, as well as art blogs and sites. Like in most tech things, when I figure out how to use something that fulfills my basic need, I rarely explore it. Suffice to say, I know I haven't maximized GR just yet, but for now, I'm a happy camper.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Browse: Dogs of War

Browsing through Drawn! today, I came across a link to a blog that showed different satirical illustrations of European maps during World War I. The maps are amazing, both from the historical and artistic point of view. Take a look at them and refresh your knowledge a bit.

You can visit Bibliodessy for more details about these drawings. The picture is linked from their Flickr account.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

29th Metro Manila International Book Fair

Books lovers have another reason to rejoice. The 29th Metro Manila International Book Fair is once again upon us.

The 29th Manila International Book Fair celebrates the power of literature to cross boundaries of time, place and culture, Through books, through language, we can live in a world without borders. In five extraordinary days, we present you with a series of events that expand your horizons, and enrich your ideas, each one carefully crafted and programmed.

Our celebration of books and all that it contains is one of the longest-running in Asia. It is also one of the most accessible and affordable, Through the years, we have welcomed millions of Filipinos to the Manila International Book Fair, which is for everyone of all ages, of all tastes and means and dreams. This year, we are happy to announce that the Book Fair becomes ever more international opening up to other cultures while continuing to champion the best of what Philippine publishing has to offer.

Hmm, hopefully I have enough money for that. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Spreading the book love

A few months ago, my best friends and I were talking about our books. It's a big common love we share, and between the three of us, I guess we've amassed enough books to start our own private library. Our tastes are pretty eclectic, but we all love a good romance novel.

I took stock of my collection and realized that I have a lot! I also realised that as time passes, I add more and more to my collection to the point that I don't know where to put them in anymore! My books are spilling over from the bookshelves, from my closet onto the floor. I hate seeing them in a jumble, especially since I try to take extreme care of my books.

With that dilemma and a heavy heart, I sorted my books and decided to let go of a few of them. Believe me, letting any book go is hard! I can't help but look at them fondly and remember the happiness I felt when reading them, and all of a sudden, I don't want to let them go. But I have to.

If you're interested in getting something new to read at a lesser price, you can check out our store over at Multiply. It's called Books and Baubles, and is a collective project between my best friends and myself. We've already let go of several books, and still have some in our inventory. I'm currently sorting out my books again, as I've gotten some new ones and again need the space.

I can guarantee that the books are in good condition, although some may be a bit older, with a few yellowing pages, they were all taken care of by their previous owners. Very few of them are a bit tattered, but we'll tell you up front which ones are. The pictures you'll see are of the actual books, so you can see their actual condition.

For more info, you can look at our FAQ. Happy browsing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy birthday Miss Write!

The Internet is such an amazing thing/place (whichever you want to call it). It has considerably freed up a lot of things, as well as making opportunities available to people that normally would be a bit difficult IRL.

One thing that I find fascinating is meeting people. Browsing and blogging has brought me in contact with people I probably won't meet in my everyday life, being a bit of a hermit and all :p Quite a bit of the people I know now and enjoy talking to, I met online. And being online also helps me keep in touch with friends who live in other places.

One person I met through LiveJournal (though how, I still can't figure out) is Miss Write. I suppose we had common friends in LJ, and one thing led to another until we added each other up to our flists. Oddly enough, I met her sister in a seminar, but I've yet to meet MW in person.

August is her birthday month, and to celebrate, she's holding a contest. Drop by her blog and check out the mechanics. It's pretty easy, and there are great prizes at stake. Join now and give her a great birthday gift, and who knows, you just might wn the prize! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Weekend tripping

It was a pretty good weekend. Three days of no work, for for the lucky residents of Quezon City. :D

I went home to the province and got to spend time with my dad, my sister and my youngest brother. Hopefully we can all spend more time together in the future.

I got some new books too, mostly e-books though. I did get some of my old books out of the storage and brought them here to Manila to re-read. Looking forward to doing so.

How was your weekend? :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Five

My last post was all about memes, and here we have another one. Friday Five is a long running meme that, you guessed it, comes out on Fridays and as the name implies, comes with five questions. Topics vary, and is also suggested by many of the participants. You have the option to answer questions individually, or in paragraph form. You can even use pictures or illustration to make it more attractive.

For mine, I decided to use the good ol' question and answer kind.

1. What did you last replace batteries for?
Let's see, I gave my brother a few AAA batteries for his mp3 player, but the last thing I remember replacing batteries for was the wallclock (which doesn't work anymore)

2. What have you thrown away that you probably could have had repaired?
The lock for one of the electric fans. Probably could have saved it with super glue, but my mom decided we could make do with something else. So we threw it away.

3. Among items in your line of sight right now, what should probably be put in the trash?
The plastic cover for the straw of the drink my brother drank.

4. When did you last use disposable cutlery while dining in your house?
A few weeks ago, I think, when we got take-out from McDonald's.

5. Whose actions cause you to waste time you otherwise wouldn’t waste?
My own, I think hehe.

Give it a whirl! Visit Friday Five.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

We all do memes. It's a great way to pass time, and if you're stuck with no idea for a blog post, a meme will help you jumpstart.

A weekly meme that I've been doing for a while now is with Booking Through Thursday. As the title suggests, it's a book meme whose question usually is posted on Thursday. It's up to you when you want to answer it (usually before the next Thursday), but being on the +8 GMT timezone, I'm usually one of the few early ones to answer it.

It's not purely about books though. Once in a while, the questions branch out to encompass other fields, but it will more or less circle back to books. Everyone is welcome to join. All you have to do is copy and paste the week's question to your blog, answer it and leave a comment to BTT's entry where other visitors can see it and visit. I usually visit a few of the blogs and make a comment. It's a great way to "meet" people as well as picking up new books to read.

Give it a try! Here's my answer to this week's question: Gold Medal Reading. Or you can read my answers to past questions too. Have fun!

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tags: All About Shoes

{Start Copy}

What’s your shoe size? Are your feet the same size as your mom’s feet? How about your sister’s feet? Can you borrow shoes from each other?

Post a picture of your latest shoe buy. Tag the number of women of your shoe size, i.e. size 5 = tag 5 friends. Don’t forget to drop a line in this blog when you’re done.
{End Copy}

At the risk of being ridiculed by my fellow females, I have to admit that I don't really like shopping.

Unless it's for gadgets, books, toys or food, I would much rather stick with what I have and venture out to buy something when I need it. At the times when I do need to buy a dress or any clothing article, I usually have something in mind that I want. When I go to the mall, I look for it, find my size then go home. All done in less than an hour. Browsing a bookstore takes longer for me, I tell you.

Shoe shopping is something I'd rather not do either, unless it's an athletic shoe, sneakers or tsinelas. I remember when I was a kid and we'd be buying shoes for school, I always stick to the same brand and same design until they phased it out. My mother finally convinced me to try Gregg shoes and I was happy that it lasted three years. For my JS Prom, my mom made the unfortunate decision to ask my dad to go along with me. We ended up buying charol for my CAT uniform (picked it out in twenty minutes) before finally deciding on a pair of dress shoes (took us more than an hour).

Oddly enough, I am picky about shoes. Obviously, it shouldn't be small. I don't want it to be exactly the size of my foot either because I know it will still pinch. I usually like to have my shoes one size larger. Besides, it's a lot easier to remedy a big shoe than a small shoe. For work shoes, it has to be flats. No heels, not even half an inch. Believe me, my feet know the difference.

I also walk a lot, that's why I prefer flats to heels; sneakers to pumps or whatever you call them; tsinelas to any sandal that isn't meant for the beach. Once, I borrowed a pair of shoes for a wedding from my best friend, she lent me a glittery, strappy thing with three inch heels. I took one look at it and promptly decided to buy my own pair of slip-on dress sandals that had half-an-inch heels. Still, my feet weren't comfortable.

The kind of shoes I like are usually the athletic wear or casual type. I love the Converse Chuck Taylor ones, or comfy slip on ballet style/kung-fu shoes. Sneakers like Keds are very comfortable, not to mention the ones from Rockport or Naturalizer (if I could afford them, I'd buy a few fancy ones).

I currently have a total of six footwears: two pairs of slippers, one pair of sneakers, one pair of dress shoes and two pairs of for work. The last time I bought one was January, I think. My brothers have more shoes between them than I do, and they get a new pair every few months. One of them even commented that I should go out and buy something. I can't really borrow from my mom because although our feet are close in size, her feet is wider than mine, and when I wear them, they pinch my toes. I can't borrow my sisters because her feet are big (she'll have a better time borrowing from my brothers if she wants to wear their sneakers and rubber shoes).

Picture? Let's just say my shoes look very well worn to be shown in its glory. :)

Tagging: Yvie, Kat A., Krysty, Den, Ching, Jennie, Grace

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Year of Acheron

A year ago, my good friend Den introduced me to Sherrilyn Kenyon's series, Dark Hunters. It is a romance novle series, but a supernatural one at that.

So who are the Dark Hunters?

Dark-Hunters are warriors who have made a bargain with the goddess Artemis: their soul and an eternity of service in exchange for one act of vengeance against the person who caused their untimely death. Their job: to protect humans from Daimons—creatures who live by devouring human souls. Without souls themselves, Dark-Hunters are able to hunt the Daimons undetected, but they must avoid the touch of daylight. Dangerous predators, they walk forever in the night, seeking out the evil that lurks in the shadows. However eternity is a long time and if a Dark-Hunter can pass Artemis’s test, they can return to a normal life (normal being a relative term). Yet if a Dark-Hunter should choose wrongly, something far worse than death awaits him or her... But don’t feel badly for them because these warriors love being the scary things that go bump in the night.

Their backstories can be really more complicated than that, so desribing them in detail may take more time. But in a nutshell, that's what they are.

So, after reading the first book in the series ("Fantasy Lover" which technically isn't really a part of the DH continuity but crosses over to that world. Told you it was complicated), I got hooked. Oh there's the romance, yes, but I enjoyed the fight scenes and the action that you get as the story progresses. Not to mention the fact that Ms. Kenyon describes her characters as... well, I can just imagine them as a lucious chocolate dessert.

What's interesting with the series is that you'll meet characters that you will encounter in future books. Even the "bad" guys get their turn in the spotlight, and you'll be amused at how good they become.

One character you'll encounter in the series is Acheron. His story is so much more complicated than everyone else's, and he's know to hold the Fates (both of the world and of the goddesses themselves) in his hands. Acheron is currently the "boss" of all the Dark Hunters, but very little is known about him.

This month marks the release of Acheron's story.

I finally got my hands on a copy and sped-read like crazy. The Acheron story is done in two parts. The first tells of his past: his birth, his life growing up, his heritage, and how he became to be who he is now. The second part tells of Acheron's new life, how he discovers that he isn't as worthless as he thinks he is, even if people find out who he really is.

And that is all I can say without giving any spoilers. I have to admit that I skipped out so much of the first part. One, because it was too painful to read about Acheron's past (you would really feel sorry for the guy), and two, I really wanted to know who Acheron's partner is, and if she meets the expectations I have (not that I really have any, but due to Acheron's appearance in the past books, it's kind of hard to imagine who will make him a good partner). Lastly, some of the information about Ash was already revealed in the previous books, so delving deeper into his past wasn't something I wanted to do.

I enjoyed this book, as much as I enjoyed the others in this series. Ash acts more human that he has ever had, partly because he finally realized that he was worth something to someone, and that he truly had friends he can count on. I found plenty of funny scenes, especially when Ash, who is normally a very graceful guy, acts really clumsy and so out of character.

Ash's story isn't the end of the series. I don't think Ms. Kenyon will write about all the Dark Hunters and Dream Hunters, but there's still plenty of unresolved conflicts, especially with Ash. So there's still that to look forward to.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Visitation rights

Ever since I put up an Entrecard widget on my other blog, my visits have increased, but only a bit. At first, it was great to see the numbers rising, but after months of that and seeing no comments except for "Dropped here. Hope you can do the same", I realized that people were more interested in the following things:

- Getting more droppers (for the points, I suppose)
- Getting more visitors
- Getting a higher page rank
- Getting more ad revenue

Which isn't bad, especially if you are using your blog as a source of income. I myself have been trying to let the world know about this blog to get those, but not getting any comments on your blog except for exchange links and drop exchange makes me feel that people are more concerned about the numbers game (visits, points, etc) rather than the simple pleasure of writing.

A caller on a radio morning show I listen to said that blogging has changed in the last year or so. The focus nowadays of many who sign up for blogs is now about earning money, wheras before it was just sort of like a personal journal online.

Indeed. When I started blogging in 2003, I was a serial blogger; posting about three to five posts in a day, about anything that pops into mind. My friends from work often visit and once in a while I'd get a note from someone I don't know who has read something I wrote and liked/hated it. It was fun. I don't think I've mellowed over the years, but the purpose is still there: I have something to say, and I want to say it. If you want to react fine. If not, that's ok too.

It just gets to me that there are many visitors who drop by various blogs to drop Entrecards and automatically expect you to do the same... and that's it. Just card drop and goodbye! I check my blog stats and see that the bounce rate is between 75-80% (Google Analytics define bounce rate as "the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page) and is measure of visit quality. A high Bounce Rate generally indicates that site entrance (landing) pages aren't relevant to your visitors") and visitors often stay for about 2-3 minutes tops. And where are the comments? Zip.

I do Entre-drop, but I do try to read the blogs I pass by. If I find nothing of interest, I just drop and move on. If I see something funny or interesting, then I try to leave a comment. If the blog is good (content, well written etc) then I bookmark it or add it to my RSS reader.

So, what can you do?

When you visit a blog, do take a look through it. If you are using Entrecard, your browser has a link you can click on so the blog opens in a new tab or window. You can find that underneath the navigation buttons.

Browse through the blog and read its contents. Don't just look for the Entrecard widget and drop then leave. Try and see if there's anything interesting to read in that blog. When you do find something, take time to comment. Don't just say, "Hi. Dropped EC, hope you do too," but actually try to say something about the post which caught your interest. Trust me, a nice comment will make the blogger's day and may even score you a higher rate of a visit back, not to mention possible blog readership loyalty.

If the entire blog is interesting, bookmark it or add it to your RSS feeds. Let the owner know how you like it. Visit often and comment as much as you can. You'll not only gain a regular visitor, but you may also get a new friend. I've met several wonderful people via blogs and they're among the nicest people I could ever know. I even met some of them IRL, and that was fun.

Add them to your social media sites like Plurk or Twitter or what-have-you. You don't have to restrict communication via blogs.

Plus, leaving comments will help the blog owner know how to improve the content of his/her blog. Anyone who just gets visits and no comments will wonder and think about ways to get visitors. Tagging people to do a meme gets old, and posting nothing but sponsored posts is liable to turn off more than to attract.

Then again, if truly nothing interests you, move on. No one is forcing you to comment, but don't expect them to visit you back just because you dropped by. Chances are, the same thing will happen. People will visit, stay for a minute or two, then leave.

Happy blog hopping and commenting!

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mobile reading

I obviously am a bookworm, and I try to read at any chance I can get. However, due to the rising costs of expenses and the lack of financial resources, I don't get to buy the latest releases. A cheaper alternative such as second hand bookstores or swapping my old books is the way to go. Sadly, public libraries are a scarcity here, so that is an option that I haven't really explored yet.

One alternative is ebooks. I have to admit that I am somewhat of a purist, prefering the actual printed and bound book to an electronic one. For one, I like the feel and smell of book. For another, I didn't really have a portable reader so I couldn't carry it around. I still would have to read the books via a computer.

I did have a Sony Ericsson P800, but it could only read text files, which meant a whole lot of converting and editing before I could read one book. HTML was also possible, but sometimes the viewer just won't open.

Since I got my Nokia smartphone, the option for ebooks has expanded considerably. I recently installed Mobipocket ebook reader and loaded the ebooks I had in my digital library. I can now read while on the train, or while waiting in line without the extra weight of a book in my bag.

The Mobipocket reader is easy to use. It is recommended that the Desktop Reader be installed in your PC. This will help you organize and copy ebooks to your mobile phone, where the Mobipocket reader is also installed. The Desktop Reader will detect your phone once it's plugged in and will ask you if you want to tranfer any of the new books you have from PC to phone. It will also convert your files to the mobile format.

The Mobipocket reader responds pretty fast. My settings are at default and I haven't tried tweaking them yey. I like how the software works. Say I was reading something earlier, but had to close it. Or maybe I decided to read a different book for the meantime. When I open the previous book, it will automatically go to the page that I was was in. Neat huh?

The software is free, and the site also offers some free ebooks for download. However, for more mainstream and popular titles from well-known authors, you would have to buy them. Mobipocket's site offers these books, as well as sites like Amazon.

I still prefer actual books, but having this software in my phone is still a big convenience.


Blog browsing: Word Grrls

I was looking through my Entrecard droppers when I came across a blog calld Word Grrls.

As the name suggests, it's a blog that has something to do with words and writing. The label with the most entries is the "writing prompts", where the blog owner, Laura, will give you a scenario or story idea and you can expand on that by providing the dialogue and the ending.

I haven't fully browsed it yet, but with what I've seen so far, it's a pretty good blog to explore. Some of the writing prompts are rather provocative, while a few others are funny and rather cheeky. Methinks I'll give it a try one of these days.

Do check out Word Grrls and try your hand in some creative writing.