Recent Musical Obsessions

Here are some songs I have been obsessed with lately. For one reason or another these tunes have been on repeat in my brain and in my iPod consistently the last several weeks.

“Baby Blue” by Badfinger

Ever since the final episode of Breaking Bad, like millions of other folks, I’ve been obsessed with this catchy tune by ’70s power pop rockers Badfinger. This track was the perfect music for the final moments of one of the best shows on television.

“Headache” by Frank Black

I first heard this song in the ’90s after Black’s band, The Pixies, broke up (now back together and touring), and I enjoyed the retro look of the video of the time. Little did I know, for some reason, I would want to hear the song over and over a decade later.

“In the Garage” by Weezer

I like the simple sing-song melody and declarations of what’s important: a 12-sided die, posters of KISS, and the safety a space like a garage can offer a creative spirit, something no doubt familiar to the members of Weezer, one of my favorite bands.

What do you think? What are some songs that have been in your head lately? Where do you go to discover new music? Let us hear from you in the comments.

How to Automate Tweets

For the past several weeks I’ve been experimenting with auto-populating my Twitter stream through RSS feeds and automatically tweeting updates. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.”

Automated TweetsYes, I know social media is about interaction and connections, but here’s why I’m OK, philosophically, with this approach: I normally share news items I find interesting all the time. I’ve just set up a way for that a happen automatically, and with more frequency than would be happening if I were doing so manually, and I love it.

I still manually tweet, retweet and reply to tweets, of course, but now I’ve also set up a way for other things to come in that I wouldn’t ordinarily have the time to share.

In fact, I’ve noticed that engagement is on the rise for me using this approach. I’m getting more favorites and retweets, as well as comments and conversations. I feel this is just as good, if not better than if I were scouring my sources for this content by hand.

Automate your Twitter content

This is possible through the magic of IFTTT.com — which stands for “If This Then That.” Here’s how to make it happen:

  1. Sign up with IFTTT.com
  2. Find some RSS feeds of sites with content you would like to share. For example, here are some I use from The New York Times, The Atlantic and CNN Tech.
  3. Set up an IFTTT recipe that posts a tweet each time there’s a new item in the feed. It should look like so:
  4. iftttRepeat this for as few or as many RSS feeds you like. In my case, many of the blogs I follow automatically provide links to their feeds, which are generally in the format of http://nameofblog/feed.

That’s it! Your Twitter stream is about to be hopping, with all the news you see to include from the sources you select. Just don’t let it replace your actual interaction on the site.

Curated Content? Curated Sources.

The stories I share are of interest to me, covering such topics as art, photography, technology, and humor – all things that I would be sharing anyway. So it’s still curated content, since I’m in effect curating the sources.

And I’m on Twitter as much as I was before experimenting with automation. I still respond to mentions, and converse with other Twitter users just as I always have. The only difference now is that instead of five tweets a day, my stream has about 50, many of which I never would have discovered Just in my own web browsing, so it’s also a reading list generation for myself.

This is not to say this approach will work for everyone. Or that flooding your Twitter stream with the same exact headlines as BuzzFeed will make you a Twitter superstar. I’ve just found something that meets my goals of expanding what I would already be doing, which includes more interaction — and isn’t that the point, after all?

What do you think? Have you experimented with automating content before? Have you followed the above steps, and if so, what have your results been? Let us hear from you in the comments.

How Do I Print My Screen?

Press the Print Screen button (PrtSc).

The Print Screen button

The Print Screen button, located in the upper right corner.

On a Windows PC this captures what’s on your screen, ready for Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, or anywhere you can paste an image. After pressing “PrtSc,” go to your document and click “Ctrl+V” or go File > Paste to place the image. You can then click & drag the picture’s corners to resize it.

If using a Mac, hold the Shift, Command and number “3” keys at the same time. An image file appears on your desktop automatically upon release.

How do I save my screen as a jpg image?

On a PC, the fastest way is via MS Paint after hitting Print Screen.

Just go: Start > type “paint” > click to open, then paste & save.

Steps to saving your screen as an image

How to save your screen as an image using MS Paint

That’s it!

A colleague asked me to do this for him recently, and instead I showed him how so he would know forever. So I thought I’d see how directly I could write a blog post illustrating the process. I hope you found this useful.

What do you think? If you already knew how to get a screen grab (or “screen shot,” or “screen capture”), how did you learn to do this? Let us hear from you in the comments.

International Literacy Day

Can you read this? Not everyone can. My own father was an educator for over three decades, many of which specifically involved helping grade school students improve their reading skills. He positively affected many lives this way, something I’m proud to have a tradition of myself, having tutored English as a second language and grammar in college. In that spirit, check out this infographic on international literacy from Grammarly:

Literacy Day

What do you think? Ever worked or volunteered in a reading program? Do you read to your children, or remember being read to as a child? Is there a teacher who impacted your literary/reading interests? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Music of 1984

princeI’ve often thought 1984 was an incredible year for music. So many iconic releases. Such an exciting time for entertainment: movie soundtracks, MTV… break-dancing. So I was very happy to see this list of the 100 best singles of 1984, complete with YouTube links to each track (where available). And the writing accompanying each track is exceptional. My favorite has to be this brilliant characterization of “When Doves Cry” by Prince:

After the shrapnel of Prince’s introductory guitar volley settles, a hypnotic Linn drum pattern syncs with a synth figure courtly enough for a minuet. Vocals of cold menace and desperate abandon vie for preeminence until climatic screeches of pain carry the day.

Check out the entire list at Rolling Stone100 Best Singles of 1984: Pop’s Greatest Year

Top 25 Mobile Photos of 2014 at Flickr

My photo, “Summer’s Requiem” is one of the
5 best black & white mobile images of the year at Flickr – woohoo!

Well, this is quite an honor. Of the billion+ photos uploaded to Flickr in 2014, one of mine was in the mobile top 25 according to the Flickr blog (#14, shown below), along with 24 other really great images — and one of only 5 black and whites. Thanks, Flickr!

flickr2014topmobile25Here’s what I say about this image at its page:

On the first day of fall, I was headed into a building for an early morning appointment. I looked down and noticed this leaf with the morning dew when walking in, but did not get a shot. After the appointment, it was still there with the glistening morning dew, and I stopped in my tracks so as not to miss it. The heart-shaped leaf and tear-like droplets framed by the concrete sidewalk all made the perfect metaphor at the changing of the seasons: happy reflections on the season past… maybe even sadness at its passing. But ahead of that: lovely things to come. To me, the best compositions are musical; you can almost hear them hum when you study them. So naturally, this would be a requiem. I converted to grayscale, added a slight vignette at the top and sharpened just a bit to highlight the macro-vision detail of the leaf’s veins, amplified by the water.

Thanks again for this incredible honor. Go follow me there and follow the Flickr Blog for a regular curated stream of consistently cool imagery.

We Can Land A Probe on a Comet, But…

We can’t seem to get the hang of text transcription.

WSJ2

In a mind-blowing feat of scientific achievement, the European Space Agency successfully landed a probe on a comet this week. That’s amazing. In its video coverage, the Wall Street Journal assembled a video wrap-up with a transcription that was well, interesting…

WSJ1The transcribing robot is clearly on something and needs to go home. I picture its voice like that of Slater from the film Dazed and Confused in a finer moment.

Here’s a summary of the event at the official Flickr blog, which links to the ESA’s Flickr stream which, as you might guess, is full of some dazzling imagery and updates from the Rosetta probe these days.

esa

And here’s the full text of the Wall Street Journal transcription. Remember to picture it read in stoner voice:

a tiny robot called feline meet St day … this means to buy a few that … shows the man to just three km above the surface of the call for many of the scientists who work there has been a ticking along with another crucial moment has finally come … feel that has landed … it is the first time in history … as a spacecraft landed … on the alien landscape awful cough the the the uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh the the who believe that most of whom the YouTube is … nobody looks great it and as of this of this … sickness who looked as though one more crucial with the head … up to seven not descend from its mother ship present or … feel a let’s get to work … the job is to learn as much as it can about the comic and as quickly as possible its ten instruments will be taken back to that the errors that … feel as cameras will take high resolution images of its new home into a … the lender will analyze the composition and structure of the comments of this material … has also driven system that will be the material for twenty centimeters below the surface … there will also analyze the water and comic be sixty seven to see if it’s the same chemical flavor as that found on a … if this is confirmed … it would bolster the theory that the sum of its Walker … could have been brought him back on its … beelining also collects valuable data as the sixty seven was closer to the sun … in particular the question of dimensions of life … why has the right to marriage on the ears … oh … and the process by which like the marriage … of a generic in the mirror so specific thrust on us to send … the speedo mammal these critical questions and luckily in the comments have the … the way to offer a clue statistic for that … whatever happens to the land … was at the will continue to travel alongside the comic and take measurements … for Keystone of eighteen months …

Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2014

What do you think? Ever had any funny experiences with text-to-speech software? What are your thoughts on human beings being able to successfully send photos from the surface of a comet? Let us hear from you in the comments.