Archived entries for digital lifestyle

How time flies

Watching the timeThis Penny Arcade comic made me feel kinda sad, reason being, after spending an inordinate amount of time getting every single coin in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I’m playing Super Mario Galaxy again after discovering that having achieved 120 stars with Mario, doing it all over again with Luigi will earn me the opportunity to play a secret 121st level. Then on the PC, I’m playing through Prince of Persia a second time even though I recently finished it. My excuse is that I wanted to give my new graphics card a good run, but really, I’m trying to collect all 900 “light seeds” to unlock bonus material (character costumes).

I always feel guilty for not making better use of my time – what exactly have I achieved in my obsessive-compulsive pursuit of the above goals? Was I truly more entertained in having achieved everything, or am I only doing it so that I can brag about it on Facebook? Instead, I could / should be writing, increasing my proficiency in cello/violin/piano through practise, learning the skills required to turn my ideas into reality, etc. It may just be that gaming creates the delusion of achieving something because of its interactive nature.

I never wanted us to be one of those couples that do nothing but sit and watch TV every night. Yet by denying myself, I end up sitting around angsting over what to do instead – and achieving just as little – probably less – than if I’d just let myself watch Top Gear or something. (On the other hand, Jenny’s perfectly fine because she’s busy studying for her Master of Counselling degree.)

Let me put the question out there: what do you do to pass the time, and do you ever feel the need to justify it?

Goog or bad?

Is Google evil?Nobody likes advertising. Don’t get me wrong, some ads are very artistically creative, and others are entertaining. But as a whole, we find advertising intrusive – that’s its nature: to inform you about something that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

There is a flood of information out there, and part of our lives involves wading through and picking out the bits that are relevant to us. We’ve essentially reverted back to a hunter/gatherer species, except with abstract needs such as information and entertainment instead of the basic needs of food and shelter.

The Internet is one such morass of information, and Google purportedly came along to help us sift through it to find what we want. Hooray! we think, under the delusion that this would slowly push back the ever-increasing encroachment of advertising into our lives. Oh how wrong we were… Google is now probably the world’s largest advertising company. It’s entire revenue model is based on the selling of ads, and the total volume of ads that we now see on a daily basis has increased, not decreased.

Will we ever arrive at the stage where we can be rid of advertising? Not if Google has anything to do with it. Their overarching mission is to dominate platforms where they can flog a product, or if that’s not possible, use it to increase the leverage of their other products that can (usually Search). The company rarely innovates or invents, and simply refines and improves what already exists: Yahoo, Altavista and many other search engines existed before Google, Cloud-based applications were available long before Google Apps, and surely nobody is deluded enough to think that mobile telephones didn’t exist before the Nexus One (iPhone, anyone?)

That’s not to say what they do is without merit, but look at their business strategy: identify a technological category which could be monetised by advertising, assimilate it into the Google family, crush the opposition, and move on. It might seem benevolent for them to offer something that previously cost money for free, but in doing so they’re making the true costs opaque. Users of Google AdWords simply trust that the cost of bidding on a keyword is driven by “market forces” but how do we know that Google isn’t taking a bigger cut than they deserve?

Even more scary is their recent foray into the political realm, provoking China over the issue of censorship. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on in regards to the Great Firewall, Google’s actions should be troubling: they are leveraging moral issues for financial gain, turning their corporate mantra of “don’t be evil” into a mission statement.

With its superpowers, will Google don a metaphoric cape and start fighting against what it perceives to be “evil” – i.e. countries, religions and political systems that stand in the way of its financial gain?

Too much awesome

Who's awesome? Your awesomeThe Internet is a veritable goldmine of information – between LOLcats, Youtube, Wikipedia and TV Tropes, you’d be hard pressed not to be able to find something to amuse you for hours – that’s why I haven’t sat in front of a TV for any extended periods of time in years.

This recent weekend though, I sat in front of the TV for a lot longer than I can remember doing for ages, watching both the men’s and women’s finals of the Australian Open. The match between Serena Williams and Justine Henin, despite being Henin’s big comeback after having a child, was largely uninspiring. Andy Murray however, put up a great fight in the 3rd set against Roger Federer, making for some truly riveting moments. While still not back to level of the glory days of Edberg, Agassi, et al, men’s tennis hasn’t been this good for a long time – thank God that the era of the ridiculous serving machines and baseline bashers is over (women’s tennis is still there though, no thanks to the Williams sisters).

Getting to the point, I experienced an epiphany while watching a sport that I used to enjoy. I found myself getting bored (Jenny quit watching as soon as Federer started winning). My mind started wandering during the longer rallies, and I was itching to go Google something in between every point (15-0: the recipe for green onion pancakes! 30-0: did anybody respond to my Facebook status? 30-15: am I missing out on a deal at OzBargain? etc.)

Non-existent attention span aside, my point is that the Internet has ruined me for the mundane. A daily dose of awesome, served up fresh to my browser via RSS at my every beck and call, has skewed my sense of the ordinary towards the extremes of FTW and Epic Fail. Think about it the next time you Twitter or update your Facebook status: are you self-censoring by only posting things that meet some kind of criteria of what you feel is worth your friends’ time? Against this tide of vanity, how can you not start to feel that your own life is inadequate?

I realised that this affects my writing too. I couldn’t marr my blog with any old crazy thought that graced my mind – each post has to inspire, demonstrate my clearly superior intellect, and impart knowledge that transcends mortal understanding. Likewise my poetry was for naught if it didn’t tear at the very foundations of your soul… you get the idea.

I resolve in 2010 to be more mediocre. Next time you see a boring blog post or status from me, you’ll know that I’m doing it for you.


btw, I still haven’t found a good recipe for Green Onion Pancakes yet. Do share…

Beating the ol’ drum

My blogs have heart... and a pulse. Yeah, needs work.Things never quite go the way you think, do they? Last year I started a couple of new blogs to complement this one: GeekReads, supposed to be a blog about books that I enjoyed reading, ended up reviewing more movies than books; and THRIFTerrific, which started out as a place for me to show everybody how to be a tight-ass, ended up as more of a general Internet lifestyle blog. This left cyberseraphic free for me to use to focus on the art of writing, but amounted to not much more than a couple of depressing poems and some pictures of Transformers.

Reflecting upon the stats from Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, it seems that the thing I do best is choosing and tagging images. My blogs rank consistently high in image-related searches, and visits are almost entirely from people looking for various pictures. If image clicks paid like pay-per-click ads, I’d probably be turning a buck from my efforts.

Notable (blogging) achievements from last year include the redesign, which I’m pretty happy with. I’m greatly indebted to my friend Jan for the logo execution – I’ll get around to putting it on a t-shirt one day, mate – as well as Rodrigo Galindez for the theme, and also for popping by to leave a comment. I’m very happy with the result, and glad to have moved on from the dull grey/black theme that I was previously using.

One other thing that I’m proud is my post rate. If blog posts were heartbeats then you could say that my blogs were barely alive in 2009. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to turn that into a pulse. A fitting analogy, since Jenny always encourages me to post more from my heart than from my mind. Har har.

At any rate (ah! I crack myself up), I hope you’ve been enjoying my various ramblings and look forward to more, because the words, they are a-flowing :-)


LOL, I managed to crack the top 20 in the Twitter game Artwiculate:

I won artwiculate and all I got was this lousy badge, internet fame and a lovely certificate.

Each day they post a word to Twitter, and it’s up to contestants to use that word in a Tweet. Points are awarded based on the number of retweets and votes that your tweet receives, and the winner is the tweeter with the highest score at the end of the day.

I received the award for “tautology”, with the tweet: “I adjure the cacaphony of #artwiculate mavens, in my mellifluous voice, to consider my previous assertion that sempiturnal is a tautology“. (Adjure, cacaphony, maven, mellifluous and sempiturnal were the previous days’ words, so I was basically being a smartass.)

It’s a nice little combination of Social Media, vocabulary building and gaming. Check it out:

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