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Archive for the ‘Off Topic’ Category

When Courage Takes Flight

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 5, 2010

“I admire anyone who has the guts to write anything at all”, said admired writer and novelist E.B White.

Randy’s This Year You Write Your Novel reminded me to pull Ralph Keyes’ The Courage To Write off my bookshelf. I’m not a huge fan of books on writing. It’s too easy to think ABOUT writing, than to actually sit down and write. Nevertheless, this book is exactly what I need when I want to be distracted. It inspires me.

Keyes contends that writing is an act of courage. Check out what these other not-so-obscure authors have to say:

“All my life, I’ve been frightened at the moment I sit down to write” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“I suffer as always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amazing the terrors, the magics, the prayers, the straightening shyness that assails one” – John Steinbeck

“Blank pages inspire me with terror” – Margaret Atwood

Keyes says,

We like to imagine White on his New England farm dashing off lighthearted essays and charming books for children when he wasn’t slopping hogs or chopping wood. In fact, White worried over every word. He rewrote pieces twenty times or more and sometimes pleaded with the post-master to return a just-mailed manuscript so he could punch up its ending or rewrite the lead.

In addition to being a consummate rewriter, White was a gifted procrastinator.

Procrastination is the sap that drips from the gnarled branch of anxiety. I think the tree is rooted in fear. Recently I linked anxiety to my periodic depressions. This is a good thing as my therapist and I are going to have a field day, and it may yield results in my writing. If I can gain insight and lick this, I hope the days when I want to complete that assignment but decide to “just give the kitchen sink one last polish” will be fewer. We are not alone. Procrastination, anxiety and fear are much more common to writers than I realised.

So when the blank page is staring at you, what to do? William Moon once advised a group of aspiring writers, “Anything you can do to trick yourself out of panicking, do it”. When you’re afraid to write try some of these:

* Give yourself permission to just do one small part.
Tell yourself you’ll just write one sentence and then give up. You might be surprised to find yourself achieving just a little more.

* Give yourself guilt-free time out.
At university my friend Nathan “knew” when he just wasn’t going to sit down and study. Rather than mope about the house in a miasma of guilt, he gave himself permission to go to the cinema – and not to feel guilty. He reasoned it was a better use of his time to enjoy a movie than to feel guilty all afternoon and achieve nothing.

* Develop the space where you write so it works for you.
Do you like to sit in your kitchen and write in pencil? Do you like to write with a glass of wine? Do you like to write naked? Whatever works for you will help lower anxiety.

* Do something different.
This is a foil to the previous point. If you sit to write, try standing for a change. Or lying in bed. Or writing on the back of envelopes, if you normally type at a keyboard.

* Use fear as an ally.
Anxiety can give a heightened perception that can yield great insight and great writing. Bad days are sometimes easier to write about than good days.

* Try prayer or meditation. If you’re spiritual, starting with a period of unburdening and relaxation may help. Many studies have shown this can calm practitioners.

* Acquire Ralph Keyes’ book.
He suggests solutions as well as detailing the foibles of the great and the lowly. If you’re going to read a book about how to write, it might as well be a good one. (I’ll take that kickback now, Ralph.)

Above all, take heart: “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted”, according to Martin Luther King Jr. If salvation is in the hands of such as these, surely we can handle a mere pencil and paper? The comments are waiting: Go, write now.

Jonathan Elliot writes at Spritzophrenia where he mangles the interface between spirituality, personal development and humor.

First published as a guest post on Randy Murray’s blog. Thanks Randy!

Posted in Off Topic, writing | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Miracles Do Happen

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 22, 2010

Here in little ole New Zealand, the big news – no, HUGE news – is the local football team the “All Whites”. That’s a “soccer” team for you non-European sports fans.

We’re a small country, football isn’t the top sport here, and it’s the first time we’ve had a team qualify for the tournament in 30 years. Not only did the All Whites draw with Slovakia, but they drew 1-1 with current world champions Italy.

This is so unexpected I think it really does qualify as a miracle. After all, sport is a religion for many people.

This post comes complete with eye candy. I thought some of you might appreciate pictures of shirtless men.

The All Whites thank the gods of football (www.stuff.co.nz).

By the way, if g0d exists and people on each side of a sports match pray, who does g0d listen to? I have my theory on this. What’s yours?

[Edit]Not original to me, but I tweeted the other day: The England team went to visit an orphanage in South Africa this morning. “It’s good to put a smile on the faces of people with no hope, constantly struggling and facing the impossible” said Jamal Umboto aged 6

Posted in humor, humour, Off Topic | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

BunnyKitteh is Watching You!

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 20, 2010



A GMO, caused by mating these under mild radiation:

Bunny Kitten Sex!

Apparently bunnykittens cause your blog to explode, which attracts an audience. So I did some genetic experiments to create them*. This very silly concept was developed in Twitter discussion with Pribbiblity (his blog) and exis10s. Hi guys 🙂

Now the only remaining question is: Can we eat them?

*I confess my photoshred skillzors are not quite up to scratch. I yoinked them from here (pic not credited) and

Posted in humor, humour, Off Topic | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My Favorite Free Twitter Applications

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 7, 2010

Cool Twitter applications: It’s a topic I don’t often blog about, but I’ve been doing some research and I want to share my conclusions with you. Perhaps the title should be “My Favourite Twitter Applications – SO FAR”. [Update: I’m still testing more apps so I’ll no doubt add another blog on this soon.] This post will mainly benefit those who have more than 50 Twitter followers or who want to engage in “twitter marketing”. By the way, I’m not a “social media guru” and with a few exceptions I never follow someone who touts themselves as a “twitter marketing expert”. They’re a dime a dozen now, and largely as repetitive as a whining kid.

Anyway, I’ve been playing with Twitter for a couple of days, testing out different applications. So far, I’ve concluded that I need two separate tools. One to manage mass sending of tweets and following people, and one to actually view and post tweets. I wish there was a single program that did everything, but the killer app is not not there yet.

My Current Favorite – Twitter Karma
Let’s cut to the chase: Want to know my favourite Twitter tool right now? Twitter Karma. If you have more than 50 or so followers, you’ll already know the Twitter website is a pain in the butt to manage them. What if you want to sort them in alphabetical order to find someone? Can’t be done. What if you’re looking at people you follow, and want to see if they also follow you? Can’t be done. Twitter Karma puts sorting and finding followers so easy. And it’s free.

Tools for Scheduled Tweets
I want to be able to send tweets while I’m offline. Why? Simply to connect with those who are online when I’m asleep. Currently, a large amount of the northern hemisphere is online when I’m in my bed. There are other reasons you might want to schedule tweets.

Twitter humor

If you only want to schedule tweets occasionally, here’s a list of 15 Free Services to Schedule Tweets on Twitter. However, if you want to schedule a lot of tweets, most of these won’t cut it for you. Hootsuite, for example, is just too time consuming to set more than a few scheduled tweets as it involves too much manual work. (Thanks to Hootsuite power user @Monicks for answering my question.) More on Hootsuite below.

To automate large numbers of scheduled tweets properly, one good tool I’ve found is TweetAdder. The key thing Tweetadder does which free apps don’t is allow quick and easy uploading of large lists of scheduled tweets. There’s a free trial for download on the website. To add followers TweetAdder also allows quick searching, following and unfollowing, however there are plenty of free apps that will do that for you. Its only downside is it’s $US55 for a single twitter account. I accept someone wanting a serious twitter prescence will likely have to spend some money, but by comparison the web-based app Autotweeting is US$7 for a single Twitter account. However I was not able to trial its features. There are plenty of other tools you might look into. Is there something else you think is better? Please comment.

CAUTION: It’s all too easy to start using a tool like this to spam people. This is a swift way to lose followers or even be banned from Twitter. Not only that, badly used it can be boring. I used to follow a guy who I suspect uses a scheduling tool, and he never says anything original. He has about twenty tweets that endlessly rotate. He’s a real person, I just don’t think he monitors his tweeting much. As always, the best way to get followers on twitter is to tweet quality content. I wholeheartedly agree with this list of 8 reasons to unfollow someone on Twitter. I followed a well-known celeb for a short while. He was interesting and entertaining, but he simply could not shut up. If you tweet every time you sneeze, I’m not interested. My time is more valuable than that.

Hence, be very careful using such a tool. Keep it varied, interesting and relevant. Above all, keep interacting with people as normal. But you’d never use TweetAd for this kind of day to day interaction, it’s ugly and clunky. For that, you’ll want…

Tools for Viewing And Posting Tweets
Currently I’m using Echofon, available for Firefox and Chrome (why would anyone use Internet Exploder?) and I have to say I love it. It’s free, simple and unobtrusive, hiding away handily down the bottom of my web browser. One feature I’d love is the ability to only view tweets from one list. Apart from that, it’s pretty good.

A tool that’s new to me is Hootsuite. It has a nice column interface for viewing all tweets, mentions and direct messages which is superior to Echofon in many ways. But again, I can’t view only the tweets from one list through it. In fact, so far the only way to restrict my viewing to just one list seems to be the Twitter website itself. Hootsuite also doesn’t have Echofon’s really useful “retweet with comment” and “copy tweet” features. And unlike Twitter Karma, you can’t easily sort followers into alphabetical order. Hootsuite does allow you to manage Facebook, MySpace and several other social networks all from the same screen which might be useful for some.

I wish there was a single application that combined all my favorite features, but I haven’t found it yet. So for now, Echofon is still the most handy in most respects. Have you got another app you think I should try?

Speaking of Twitter – why not follow me? 🙂

Posted in Off Topic | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Why The Kendra Wilkinson Sex Tape Should Make You Angry

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 1, 2010

Friend Hazey linked me to this, and it adds useful comment to my last post. Warning, it describes sex acts.

Here’s the main point the article makes:

This isn’t a sex tape, really. It’s that thing we talk about that happens to our young women. That thing that we, as grown-ups, write about and research incessantly and condemn broadly, but don’t remember so vividly. It’s right here on video.

…It’s that space where young women have discovered and perfected their sexuality and its value, but haven’t yet figured out how it’s empowering. They just know that it’s something people want from them; it’s something people expect from them. Something young men expect from them; something, perhaps, that young men haven’t learned how to ask for politely. It’s uncomfortable and new and everybody’s learning, and what happens, more often than not, is that the male partner’s desires come first and more forcefully, and the young woman is disrespected and disempowered and left with a sense that she’s less valuable and less capable of demanding respect and control than her male counterpart – a sense than lingers into her twenties and beyond, even though she might not recognize it as such.

This isn’t rape – not even close. And Kendra’s not even unhappy the whole time. But you can tell who’s in charge; you can tell who’s in control. It’s made clear. Kendra’s requests are completely ignored; she’s totally disrespected here, naked and exposed.

Kendra Wilkinson Sex Tape

On a lighter note, today’s TFUL*: Vocal group covers “Battery” by Metallica.
* Today’s Fun Unrelated Link.

Posted in ethics, ethics, Off Topic, Sociology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Should I Stop My Son From Watching Porn?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 26, 2010

*Warning: This post mentions a variety of sex acts. It’s your choice whether you read further*

I remember the first time I saw pornography. I was perhaps nine and a friend had got hold of some kind of magazine. There was a field of long grass next our school, and at lunchtime the three of us headed in there to peruse. The pictures were black and white, and not particularly explicit. I think I remember breasts. It was possibly a sex manual, or what is called soft porn these days. At that age I knew looking at these pictures was somehow exciting, titillating and forbidden, but I don’t think it scarred me for life.

In the 1980’s, my teen years, pornography was only available as magazines (and later, videos) and was hard to get hold of. Boys had to have the courage to purchase a magazine in person, and if you were obviously under age you’d be refused. It was just too embarassing, and I never tried. I did manage to view a few Playboys and Penthouses at a friend’s house when I was about 15. Playboy was generally soft-ish porn. Penthouse was more gynaecological and would sometimes show copulating couples, but it wasn’t extreme. Nevertheless, I made it into my 20’s having seen very few naked ladies, and what I did see was relatively tame compared to what one can now easily view online.

Now it’s 2010 and I have a twelve year-old son. These days, vast quantities of online porn are so very easy to find. It’s even possible to encounter porn without intentionally seeking it out. So far he’s still fixated on games, but it won’t be many more years before my young man takes more of an interest in girlies. I’m not a prude. I’m not against porn as such. But should I prevent my son from seeing it? I think so.


Here’s how I came to that conclusion

Is Porn Immoral?
Like I said, I’m not against porn in itself. That said, I do want to make a couple of caveats: I think some porn exploits some women and men, I don’t think the industry is squeaky clean. However, if the models and actors are paid and go into it of their own free will I think it could be an acceptable choice. For some people, pornography can become addictive, and it’s worth keeping that in mind. Some porn also contributes to sexism by teaching unrealistic ideas about sex and about women and men. See this post, and more on this below. These reservations noted, I don’t think porn is automatically wrong in every case. Also note I’m writing from a hetero perspective, but I’m sure similar ideas apply to gay teenagers and gay porn.

Porn is Fantasty
All porn is fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with fantasy, but particularly for someone inexperienced it gives an unrealistic idea of sex. In stereotypical “professional” porn everyone’s happy, overendowed, always orgasms and are eager to perform sexual acts that many of us would not find appealing. More on this in the next section. Then there’s the so-called “amateur” porn, which is still fantasy and often contains staged acts by paid models. Come on, how “amateur” are you if you’re a model with your own pay-per-view website containing hundreds of pictures and videos?

Porn gives some people an outlet to explore acts and situations they may never wish to enact in real life. But there’s really not a lot of discrimination on the average free porn site, which is potentially misleading for someone at an early stage in their sexuality.

The Quantity
I’m not against my son seeing pictures of naked women occasionally. I think it might even be good for him; once he’s sexually active he’ll know what girl bits look like. But there is so *much* porn out there. Does he really need to see thousands of images before he sees the real thing? Surely just a few is sufficient.

The Range
Tied in with the quantity is the range of material available. Several free porn websites I visited have categories like “Bizarre Porn” or “Torture Porn” right beside what one might call “vanilla”. Take your imagination, double it, and you’ll still find yourself surprised. Not everything is extreme kink or abuse, but it’s there. In addition, what seems to be common are activities that many couples would not engage in until they are older and more confident, if at all. From its frequency on porn sites, it appears that even in ‘ordinary’ sex, every copulation includes anal sex, and the man ejaculating on the woman’s face.

I’m not saying these acts are aberrant or wrong, simply that I don’t think they benefit a young mind. There is possibly an argument that it’s good to celebrate the full range of possible sexual expression. Perhaps promoting acts that many people haven’t tried may benefit a mature person’s sex life. However, I think it would only distort the view of someone younger.

Good sex involves consideration of your partner and mutuality. Most porn doesn’t explore this reality. “No thanks, i’m not into that” aren’t words commonly found in porn.

For all these reasons I think I’ll have to acquire some software to block porn sites. But there’s one more thing:

The Porn Talk
Even if I block porn sites on his home computer, it’s pretty much a given that my son will see some pornography, perhaps at friends’ houses. I’ve had the “sex talk” with him since he was young, he’s as educated about the birds and the bees as I think he needs to be for his age. However, I now think I need to have a “pornography talk”. I want to explain the points above, and that I really don’t think it will help his first sexual experiences to have a lot of those images in his head. In general, prohibition doesn’t prevent interest, therefore I have to talk to him as well.

As I concluded above I’ll have to acquire some software to block porn sites. I’m encouraged that a couple of other people I’ve talked to agree with me.


What do you think? If you enjoyed this, why not read my If You See the Buddha on the Road, Kiss Him.

Edit: I’ve been asked what software can be used to to filter the internet. I am not an expert, but here are my opinons:

* WOT is free and useful. It doesn’t catch everything, or actually stop you going to the site if you choose to override it. http://www.mywot.com

* There’s a useful list of porn-blocking software here

My research so far seems to indicate Net Nanny is the best, but I have not tried it. There are several other good ones too. I haven’t yet installed something on my system apart from WOT.

Berlin | Sex. (Good song, lewd lyrics.)

Please share this article:

Posted in ethics, Off Topic, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Google Fails Evil Test?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 16, 2010

Google’s company motto is “Don’t be evil” but yet again they’ve been caught fluffing privacy issues. The latest incident was exposed in Germany, but has been going on for years and no doubt occurs everywhere.

Google Inc. issued an apology Friday, acknowledging it has been vacuuming up fragments of people’s online activities broadcast over public Wi-Fi networks for the past four years while expanding a mapping feature called “Street View.”

[German] Minister Ilse Aigner said the “alarming incident” showed that Google still lacks an understanding of the need for privacy.

“According to the information available to us so far, Google has for years penetrated private networks, apparently illegally,” her office said in a statement Saturday.

The ministry also accuses Google of withholding information requested by German regulators.

I have for years had a “Small is Beautiful” theory about organisations – the larger they get, the more inhumane they become. Don’t be evil? Sorry guys, it’s too late.

I also posted about google here.

Posted in Off Topic | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Google Fails Evil Test?

The Vintner’s Luck is Mud

Posted by spritzophrenia on April 29, 2010

Sometimes books lauded by the critics aren’t actually that good.

For example, a couple of friends have told me that “The Shipping News” is a dull, depressing book. I also had that impression from my brief skim of it. The reading public don’t always get it right either. Not many people think Dan Brown is a good writer, even if his conspiracy thrillers are diverting. I think he’s a good screenwriter, he writes well enough to sketch a framework upon which a skilled director can create an entertaining film. But his books are pop pulp.

The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox is another such emperor with no clothes, in my opinion. I’m about halfway through and I’m still waiting to be wowed. One of the most frustrating things is the poor writing. At numerous points it seems the author has confused subject and object, or similar kinds of errors. For example, she’ll use the word “that” and leave me wondering what the “that” is referring to. This results in clunky confused sentences. Sure, it’s not every sentence, but every few pages is enough to warrant better editing. Yes, the characters are vaguely interesting but There’s not really a lot of story to be had, beyond the bare bones of the life of an 18th Century French winemaker. The addition of an angel and a murder mystery seem almost artificial devices trying to lift a dull plot.

I read a lot, and I like to think I know something about good writing.
At least, I know what I like.

How about you? Any “famous” books that you haven’t been impressed with?

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Google Does Not Find Everything

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 11, 2010

And neither does any other search engine. Interesting:

Focus group and survey research indicates that undergraduate students typically turn to popular Web search engines when they need to find information. These search engines index only the “surface Web,” where less than 7% of the information is appropriate for educational or scholarly purposes.

No single Web search engine indexes more than 16% of the surface Web, yet we have no evidence that students use more than one search engine when they look for information. According to BrightPlanet, the “deep Web” is 500 times larger and growing faster than the surface Web. The deep Web provides information in all disciplines, for all constituencies, that is 1,000-2,000 times better in quality than the surface Web.

Approximately 95% of deep Web content is publicly accessible without fees or subscriptions, but deep Web content, like scholarly commercial resources licensed by the library, is not indexed and therefore not accessible using popular Web search engines. The growing concern is that many undergraduate students may be searching only 0.03% of the Web to complete their assignments, ignoring entirely the books, journals, databases, full-text digital resources and other scholarly materials provided by the library. Because of easy access to the Web, undergraduates are using library collections and services less than in the past and, in the absence of quality information and tools on the surface, this may imperil the quality of student learning. For this reason, some faculty members do not allow their students to use Web resources in class projects.

From Troll, Denise A. “How and Why are Libraries Changing?” Digital Library Federation. Library Information Technology- Carnegie Melon, 9 Jan. 2001. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. http://www.diglib.org/use/whitepaper.htm

A commentator suggests the numbers may be slightly old and inflated, but nevertheless.

Also: Google Fails Evil Test

Posted in meta, Off Topic | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »