I hate my blog

15 10 2010

I really hate my blog. I’ve always struggled with my online identity. Should I be funny? Should I be serious? Who knows. Guess it’s a little bit like real life.

Not that I don’t like blogging. No, on the contrary, one thing I can tell you is that blogging can really help you out.

The best advice I’ve ever heard is to try to take your feelings and put them into words. Whether you share them publicly is your choice or not, but it’s nice to struggle through a complicated thought and come out on the other side with a better sense of clarity. A blog can be your ally in doing that. Depending on your situation, it can really help you solve a difficult issue. I’m a firm believer in the format. It’s good promotion, too, assuming you are careful about what you express.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’d like a real bona fide thing that says, “this is who I am,” that isn’t vulnerable to some opportunistic rant that could show up in the Google cache some years later.

The age of the homepage seems to have died. It used to be you’d get an angelfire or geocities account and build some crappy circa-1994 thing and push it out there and tell people that’s your homepage. Now it’s blog, blog, blog, which is cool, but doesn’t provide that biographical feeling (and can really catch you at an awkward moment without the context of who you are).

After working 11 days in a row (mostly by my own choice), through my somewhat bleary eyes and short-tempered stupor, I feel like maybe this is a good time to give it some thought. What would my ideal online home look like? What would it have?

Would there be a text area? Video? News? Something interactive? What would I want to put there?

I almost feel like my ideal blogging situation would be a bit like Twitter or the Facebook feed … you know, there’s various kinds of activities. There’s the things you’re reading, the things you take pictures of, the things you write in 140 characters or less … oh, hey, there’s Tumblr for that. I think my big gripe with Facebook is it’s kind of ugly. It is, however, highly reliable. No fail whales there, Zuck.

So look for some updates to come as I hash out my thoughts. Chances are, I’ll be putting them into words right here.

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Virtual vacations

22 05 2010

As I type this, my cable Internet access is down for the count. Unfortunately my former backup ISP has wised up and password-protected their router, so I’m pecking my post into the notes field of a fake address book entry so I can sync it up on my iPhone.

Besides sucking, this also cuts me off from what I viewed as my last “resort,” if you will: the Virtual Vacation. Call me pathetic, call me what you will. But when I feel the need to travel and can’t, jumping on Google Maps and streetview is probably the closest I’ll get.

You might wonder why I don’t, you know, just go somewhere. Or, just learn to wallow happily in my faux-misery mudhole. The answer is, I have a vacation planned in early June and, well, life is too short to let it slide by. I also just bought a fairly expensive camera to take on future trips. I’m happy about this investment but also have to be prudent about my dollars. And, I have activities planned this weekend, and some fairly ambitious travel plans later in the year, and some anxiety about anything but the minimal amount of planning (due to the unpredictable nature of my job and lifestyle). So I’m not necessarily complaining or anything, I just want to be able to sample all that life has to offer.

When you’ve got gadget lust and wanderlust at the same time, sometimes you have to make compromises. And so, the geography major in me jumps at the opportunity to take an interdisciplinary approach to escapism. That is, using my computer and other modern technology to experience the highways and byways of my country, as well as the cultures of the world. It’s kind of exciting, and has the benefit of plenty of context and never really getting lost. You are truly free to go places you wouldn’t otherwise go and discover dream destinations you never knew you wanted to see.

It’s comforting to know that I’m actually not the only person who does this. I read a story in the New York Times detailing how two friends — caught in the throes of wanderlust — got together and pretended their mice and keyboards were the dashboard of a car. Streetview became the vehicle by which they took a road trip on their screens. They actually made a viral video bloggy-thingy about it that includes their dialogue and observations of the “roadside attractions” seen via streetview, which, the article wisely observes, aren’t that much different from what you might say on a real road trip.

My mind was a little blown in that moment, not so much in the earth-shattering way, but more in the synchronous way. I totally *get* what they are trying to accomplish, as well as the implications of it all. That and the interesting phenomenon of one-minute online sensory vacations, kind of got the wheels spinning in my brainz.

To what degree can you experience a place without actually going there? And how accurate is your research versus the reality? I’m trying not to *go there* in terms of virtual reality and holodecks and simulations, but that’s somewhere in there, too. I propose an exercise: Plan a virtual vacation in as much detail as possible before an actual visit, and then actually go there and see how it stacks up.

Just to get a little weirder on you: There’s a possibility that taking a virtual vacation before a real visit could have profound implications on your actual viewpoint when you go. And there’s also the possibility that taking a virtual vacation could be just as fulfilling as a real vacation, since one could argue that even “reality” as we know it is constructed from perceptions. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard explored the simulated nature of perceived reality in his diatribe, er, treatise, Simulacra and Simulation. He basically argues that reality as we know it is to some degree symbolic, and that the simulacrum (symbol) is increasingly trumping that which it symbolizes — and I know that’s oversimplifying things.

From a scientific perspective, I can’t help but think we’re just a mass of atoms and particles and whatnot, organized somehow via energy and sculpted by the hands of the deity of your choice. What purpose does travel serve then? And is going somewhere — an inherently symbolic experience — truly different than simulating it? Well *of course* you say, traveling to another place is a fulfilling experience for the sights, smells, activities and interactions with other human beings. Is it? I would tend to agree with you, but I think it’s something interesting to think about, particularly when life gets in the way.

Back to earth now. The takeaway from all this early-morning thinking I’m doing is that there is a ton of value in trying to construct an image of a place, only to tear it down by actually going there. You get more out of the whole experience than the sum of the two stages of analysis, because there is a certain synthesis that takes place during the transition. And even if you don’t ultimately end up visiting a place — perhaps the virtual vacation helped you avert disaster, or you just can’t get around to visiting this place, ever — these short escapist journeys undertaken with mouse and keyboard can be quite valuable. Regardless of their accuracy and depth, they’re their own kind of vacation in and of themselves and can let you go places that you would never get to go otherwise.

Back to earth now. The takeaway from all this early-morning thinking I’m doing is that there is a ton of value in trying to construct an image of a place, only to tear it down by actually going there. You get more out of the whole experience than the sum of the two stages of analysis, because there is a certain synthesis that takes place during the transition. And even if you don’t ultimately end up visiting a place — perhaps the virtual vacation helped you avert disaster, or you just can’t get around to visiting this place, ever — these short escapist journeys undertaken with mouse and keyboard can be quite valuable. Regardless of their accuracy and depth, they’re their own kind of vacation in and of themselves and can let you go places that you would never get to go otherwise.





365 Hats Trailer!

6 02 2010


365 Hats Trailer

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I’ve just put out the trailer for the 365 Hats project. Going through this process has been lots of fun. As you may gather, this project has been more about being creative than adhering to strict rules. I’ve violated pretty much every principle I started with, but at the same time, I’ve also stuck better to the plan than I expected I would. A few notes/lessons learned through the process:

  • This is nutz, baby. Nutz. But so much fun.
  • My definition of a “hat” is somewhat loose in many cases, but that’s OK. It’s all creativity.
  • I don’t need to OWN the hat. A few of these were “found” in the environment.
  • Some of the hats are handmade or improvised.
  • The vast majority of the hats are actual hats that I own.
  • Headbands, bows and the like count as hats for the sake of simplicity.
  • I got a late start at dailymugshot. I’ll be posting a link to that soon, thanks to a pointer from a coworker.
  • Currently the images are stored in a Picasa Web Album, which allows me a lot of freedom to upload in batches and change photos in and out.
  • In some cases I’ve had to bend or break the time interval rules due to breaking news at my day job (Haiti coverage for example).
  • The only strict rule I’m setting is that I must upload at once per week (multiple images from that week are OK, individual daily posts are ideal) and that I must have 365 different hat or headgear arrangements by the end of 2010.
  • Multiple poses/shots with the same hat are ideal because it allows me to animate the scene. I may do some videos, too, just to mix things up a bit.
  • Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually a few days ahead in my photo-taking. I’m trying to stash those aside and stay in pace.
  • It’s super-awesomer if the hat has some meaning for the events of that day.

Overally, I’m surprised at how fun and not-tedious this process has been. While I haven’t been able to do updates every single day that I’ve been doing this, I’ve stuck with it through most of the thick and thin moments that have come along, and there’s been quite a bit to distract from my resolve. In many cases my hats or headgear match up with current events so that helps. I can document the day by showing what hat I am wearing.

View high-quality version on YouTube if you like. The video clip here is from Flickr.

So the big question is, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? ARE YOU INSANE? Well I’m doing it mainly because it’s fun and because it will be something I can look back on at the end of the year. It will be something simply awesome and fun. And, it gives me a chance to play around and experiment with new ideas and technology and software. In short, it’s just a lot of awesome. I do wear a lot of hats in this world and sometimes it’s nice to just do something fun.

PRODUCTION NOTES: All the photos shown here were taken with an iPhone or with Photo Booth on my MacBook. Visual arrangement for this piece was done on free video editor HyperEngine-AV v. 1.5. I experimented with iMovie but found it too limiting in some respects and far superior in other ways. Overall, I’m finding that a combined approach of HyperEngine-AV and iMovie may be the way to go unless I spring for Final Cut at home. More to come on that. The music is an exported GarageBand sound clip.





Wow, that sucked: A look back at the “naughty oughties”

31 12 2009


Unopened bag of 2004

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This is a year-by-year look at the decade that saw me becoming a journalist and solidifying my identity, as well as blossoming from an awkward teenager into an semi-awkward adult-ish being.

There is a lot to go into here, but I will start out just going year by year. And, a look at my love of beer. It changed, you’ll see here.

I hope you enjoy this look at history through the lens of me. I mean think about all the politics, the economy, it’s all interrelated. I mean we started out with the attack, then the war, then the cycles of optimism and fear. Interesting decade.

  • 2000: Wrote for the school paper. Was the assistant fine arts editor, and then became entertainment editor. Was known as “Slim Saidi.” Dreamed about graduating from high school and hitting the big time, going all over the place, rocking the world. But first, settled on ASU.
  • 2001: Went to Office Max for Senior Ditch Day, a momentous milestone in my life (and the day I purchased Incubus’ Make Yourself at a Sam Goody-type establishment). Actually graduated from high school. Went to ASU, majored in computer science. 9/11 happened. I found out about it by overhearing conversations in the dorm restroom — about cars on fire, the world burning up, explosions everywhere, they said, and it was simply terrifying. It took a while for classes to be canceled, and I remember everything was so quiet.
  • 2002: My kitty-corner downstairs neighbor in the dorm died and it took three days to find him there — it was really sad. He had the room to himself. There was a burglary and ID theft at the family house while I was away at school, but reality didn’t hit until I was home for the summer. Had major ID theft problems for the rest of the year. Got my first real-ish job, by becoming a road service phone schlock at U-Haul HQ. Lasted a whole two months, but learned a lot and met some cool people. This experience convinced me that I was capable of holding down a job at a national company.
  • 2003: Snuck in through the back door of The State Press over winter break (figuratively speaking) and became the associate Web Devil editor. Decided I no longer wanted to be a computer scientist, and instead wanted to be a journalist, a humanities major, a geographer, a cartographer, a computer geek, maybe an engineer or scientist, really I couldn’t decide. Identity crisis a-go-go. Interned for the media office at the Desert Botanical Garden. Had my first beer this year, thankfully not around any cacti. Somehow I’d avoided it that long.
  • 2004: Became one of two “campus and administration” reporters for The State Press, and discovered I was obsessed with reporting. Worked at the City of Chandler a couple days a week, which created an insane schedule for me given everything I was doing. Turned 21 just before summer and right in the nick of time: Over the summer, traveled to Washington, D.C., and interned for Common Cause’s press office. Learned a lot, had a great time, decided that Budweiser was my Beer. (Not Bud Light) The third presidential debate was held at ASU in October of this year and I got to report on it, and even interview Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for the Web Devil.
  • 2005: The economy was still booming and ASU had ideas and new buildings practically coming out of its orifices. Got a reporting internship at the not-quite-defunct East Valley Tribune and then became Web Devil editor. Couldn’t find ONE job, so I got TWO jobs instead: Media specialist at Pan-American Initiatives at ASU, and also as a writing intern for Choice Hotels International. Drank.
  • 2006: Continued with my jobs but then at some point decided that the current situation was OK, but it was time to move forward. I somehow stumbled on CNN.com, applied on a whim, was accepted, freaked out, grabbed my father and four suitcases, flew out to Atlanta, found a lot of bad apartments, found a good apartment, said goodbye to my Dad, cried a lot, grew up and became a multimedia journalist in Atlanta! Drank a little, here and there.
  • 2007: Moved to a new user participation group that did mysterious things with “iReports” and “Exchange.” Got hired on full-time, and then became the first associate producer (full-time) for the budding User Participation group. Got my first taste of gourmet beer, in the form of a Blue Moon served at a going-away party for a colleague. A coworker explained to me that it was a “Belgian White” and I nodded and said mmm-hmmm-wow-awesome and then went home and did some research. Tried the Sweetwater Georgia Brown as well as the Hummer, and I was well on my way to beer snobbery.
  • 2008: The economy had been teetering a bit, but this is the year it really started going into the pooper. On the plus side, iReport started coming into its own, and I became a Senior Associate Producer. Moved out of my apartment in Dunwoody to a convenient place in midtown. Dealt with serious cockroach problems, moved to a less-convenient and more-expensive place and then went to Los Angeles to chill with the Murray scholars. While there, I met Kato Kaelin. He was pretty chill. Right after that, President Barack Obama was elected on a historic election night. Meanwhile, my taste in beer became increasingly snobby. Phoenix light rail launched December 27.
  • 2009: President Obama was inaugurated and the whole event was a big global Thingy that seemed unprecedented. The economy was much further into the pooper and we called it a recession. I didn’t seem to notice, as I single-handedly held up the country’s gross domestic product by traveling a ton and visiting San Francisco, Paris and London for the first time. Saw Cousin Julie get married in Wisconsin and was reunited with the family, most of whom I see maybe once every five years. Saw the World’s Largest Six-Pack in La Crosse. (Well I mean, just look at the Year in Review. You’ll see what I did in 2009.) My circle of friends practically doubled. Beer snobbery got even worse and maybe a tad pretentious, and the beers got darker and darker. Light rail celebrated its second birthday.
  • 2010: Let’s see what happens!




All that year in review stuff

31 12 2009

Wow, wasn’t 2009 awesome? Crickets.

OK — So I’m busy getting ready for a road trip tomorrow, so I don’t have as much time as I thought I would to crank out this Year in Review thingy. Nonetheless, here’s the basics, month-by-month, followed by a roundup of the factoids and numbers that you can’t get enough of.

Month-by-month, blow-by-blow:

  • January: Inauguration madness defined the month.
  • February: I can’t remember much from this month, but I remember I went to Phoenix and we took Grams to the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • March: God only knows what I did. The economy was going down the pooper, I know that for sure.
  • April: Uh… I turned 26, on my birthday.
  • May: The weather was getting warmer…
  • June: Wisconsin to see my cousin get married. And just to dink around in Wisconsin.
  • July: San Diego Comic-Con! And my first-ever trip to San Francisco.
  • August: No clue what I did. For all I know, I might have done nothing. Well I know my parents visited and we went to Chattanooga and looked at fish and met a gnome and bought a tiny SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse for my soul.
  • September: Went to Paris and London.
  • Some time in the fall: Road tripping, river rafting, corn mazing, etc.
  • October: Wild Halloween partying!
  • November: You know that band Soul Coughing? Well yeah, that’s my band for November. For you see, Coughing was a major pastime after catching some sort of flu-like-symptom-causing illness. And then, Thanksgiving at work.
  • December: Two-week treep to Phoenix! Lots of stories written.

Yeah, so anyway, seeing as that was oh-so-insightful, here are the vitals:

  • Total flight itineraries flown: 12 (not including 2010 return flight)
  • Major car trips: 5 — Rafting, corn maze/hike, Chattanooga, Helen GA, upcoming New Year trip (excludes drive from Minneapolis to La Crosse)
  • States/countries visited: 8 — Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona (3+jump-off to WI), California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, France, England.
  • Aquariums visited: 4 — Tennessee Aquarium, aquarium under the Mall of America, carpy aquarium at Wisconsin Dells, Georgia Aquarium (parents mostly).
  • Major offbeat tourist attractions seen: Approximately 8 — Babyland Cabbage Patch Hospital, Upside-down White House, World’s Largest Six-Pack, World’s Largest High-Wheel Bicycle, Ruby Falls, Rock City gardens, San Francisco sea lions, Coit Tower.
  • Major must-see landmarks/attractions: About 6 — Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, London Bridge, Big Ben, Golden Gate Bridge, Mall of America
  • New cities discovered: 5 — Paris FR, London EN, San Francisco CA, Chattanooga TN, Helen GA
  • Sci-fi/fantasy conventions: 3 — San Diego Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, that new ‘con that is being held at the Renaissance Hotel in midtown.
  • Electronic devices purchased: 2 — Apple iPhone, Nikon point and shoot.
  • Social/media networks joined: 7 — Foursquare, Tumblr, Plurk, 12 Seconds, last.fm, Pandora, blip.fm
  • Phrases coined: “Rubber babushka”
  • Major music performances attended: 7 — Bob Dylan, U2/Muse, Yo La Tengo, Death Cab for Cutie, NIN/Jane’s Addiction, Guster, and yes, Captured! by Robots.
  • Music download volume: Approximately 20 GB (all-time high)
  • Job positions held: 1 (first-time result)
  • On-camera appearances: About 10
  • Hair growth: Approximately 6 inches
  • Major hats accumulated: 10 — Green Knit Hat, Bison Horns, Bunny Ears, Blue San Francisco Hat, Moose Antlers, Christmas Tree, Pink Cap, Purple Cap, Varsity Hat, Atlanta Braves Hat.
  • Photos uploaded to Flickr: Approximately 3,000 (not all public)
  • Tweets on Twitter: 1174, as of 12 a.m. December 31 (not the tweets after this post) — via TweetStats
  • Total tweets: 1,976
  • Average tweets per day (all-time): 2.6
  • Former desk number: 26
  • Age: 26
  • (Withheld): 26
  • Lucky number: 26




Now you go chase that dream

14 11 2009

I have had a case of the flu for the past few days and it’s gotten me down a bit, but it’s also given me a chance to think about things that are awesome. In particular, I was feeling Star Trekky the other morning (jotting down Captain’s Logs and calculating the actual stardate) when I saw the story of how infamous “last lecture” professor Randy Pausch loved the Trek universe. He got a cameo in the latest movie, even, as well as a small clip of his voice in the film.

Pausch got a signed photo and momentous quote from William Shatner, the prototypical edition of the elder James Tiberius Kirk:

Over the years, some of my sophisticated academic colleagues have turned up their noses at my Star Trek infatuation. But from the start, it has never failed to stand me in good stead.

After Shatner learned of my diagnosis, he sent me a photo of himself as Kirk. On it he wrote: “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

I got to thinking about this guy who dealt with a terminal illness with so much courage and how I was sitting here miserable, thinking that this flu (probably H1N1, let’s not beat around the bush) may never go away. Paush did push-ups and all sorts of demonstrations of his strength during his 2007 speech. He was dead just a few months later. But he took that time in stride, carefully analyzing all the things he’d dreamed about doing as a child. He succeeded at a lot of things and would never get a chance to do others.

So, at the risk of sounding a bit dreary and morbid, I’d say let’s use every minute that we have healthy and alive. If I do sound a bit melancholy, blame this mysterious flu.





Sweet, the embed code works…

5 01 2009