life hacks for sad sacks

As a college student struggling to get by in my day to day life, I usually turn to the internet to help me find my way through all the chaos. Whether I’m Googling how to properly cook a chicken or how to unclog a toilet, I’m always looking for help. Luckily, I’ve found a blog that can help with any of that. It’s called lifehacker.com and it is a Life for Dummies handbook for anything.

For example… I am a Netflix junkie. I spend more time on Netflix than I probably do anything else (it’s pretty bad). So I’m always searching for new things to watch, old things to rewatch, and what not. But sometimes Netflix’s selection just isn’t cutting it. But LIFEHACKS sends help! They have an article spelling out all the things that will be arriving to and leaving Netflix in 2016

You can pretty much find hacks for anything on this site, especially easy ways to save money, food, and time. Turn leftover food into a breakfast dish, how to figure out what your real bra size is, form better spending habits with these steps… it’s AH-mazing.

I also really love the layout of this blog. Although it’s simple, it’s easy to navigate and everything is really clear. There are no surprises about what you’ll be reading, all the titles skip right to the punch. They post their newest or most popular articles right at the top, and post the rest down throughout the page. There are no annoying ads that pop up and block you from getting to the content you actually want to see… it’s all very clear and concise. Just like most of their hacks.

Also, once you click on an article in LifeHacks, it recommends you another one you may like. I could sit at my computer for hours clicking and reading, scrolling and going “no way.” There’s so many cheats in life that I never knew about, and now I do thanks to this blog.

You can also comment on the articles and respond to other comments which creates a forum-like environment on the bottom of each post, allowing you and others to post your own life hacks, or sharing if these did or did not work for you.

They suggest related blogs and blogs you may like, which have landed me to finding even more blogs I find interesting linked here.

It’s amazing what you can find with a little search on the Googs. For me, I’ve found 90 ways to save half my paycheck. What will you find?

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life hacks for sad sacks

Radio vs. Podcast: aren’t they the same?

Adam Ragusea’s piece, “Three ways podcast and radio actually aren’t quite the same” was very interesting to read after creating a podcast of my own for class. Podcasts are a whole world that I know nothing about, like a community or club you have to be invited into, and if you’re not, you’re just an outsider staring in. It’s like when I talk to my theatre friends about theatre, and then one of my work friends joins in with the “whatcha guys talking about?” It feels uncomfortable because it is – trying to talk about something (or even more so, CREATE something) that you know nothing about.

That’s how I felt when making my podcast for my blogging class. I felt like a fish out of water. What am I doing here? I have no idea… I initially thought about modeling it after a radio show and had planned the whole thing around that idea. Once I sat down to do it, I decided to research a bit about podcasts. After doing that, my whole plan was scratched since I could see that they were considered totally different things. How could I know that? For all I knew, they were the same thing. But like anything else, there’s an imaginary set of rules that you must follow and although no one may tell them to you directly you better know they’re there.

Some things that Regusea said about podcasts, I had no idea were an actual thing! “Nobody tunes in to the middle of a podcast.” I mean, it makes perfect sense, why would they? They’d have no idea what the speakers were talking about…but it was just another one of those unwritten rules I didn’t know about.

It made me think about other aspects of my life – were there rules I was abiding by that I didn’t even realize?

Most of the ones I could think of had to do with writing fiction, and all those rules took years and years of studying and mistakes to learn, so it wasn’t quite the same thing.

But besides those unwritten rules, even after reading Regusea’s article, I couldn’t really figure out the difference between podcast and radio besides a few minor things. I mean, yeah, radio is way more AHHHHHH and podcasts are much more hmmmmm. If that makes sense… and all the obvious things like: radio plays music, podcasts are people talking or storytelling. Radio has commercials, podcasts don…wait, do podcasts have commercials?

Although I appreciate the art and the “differences” of each, I still can’t really tell the difference. Maybe it’s because I hate radio and I’ve never really had an ear for podcasts. Or maybe it’s because my boyfriend from high school listened to podcasts on the radio and that threw me off for life. Who knows…

Radio vs. Podcast: aren’t they the same?

Tell me a story, mom

When we think of oral history, most of us immediately think of people sitting around a fire telling stories of the past, or spiritual songs sung during times of trouble, but most importantly, we most likely think of people hundreds of years ago. What we don’t think about is how much oral history affects us today, and how we are contributors to spreading the next generation of oral history.

Paul Thompson writes on page 29 of his book, “In some fields, oral history can result not merely in a shift of focus, but also in the opening up of important new areas of inquiry.” This is a good explanation to something I’ve been noticing a lot recently.

As a frequent social media user – Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc – During the hype of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve noticed a lot of talk about Black histories we never learned about and how only “the white man’s history” has been included in our textbooks and that’s all we were taught in school growing up. This was a quite shocking revelation for me, to think that there was a whole other side of history I never even knew about, and never even thought to know about because I thought I was being taught all there was – After all, I’m white, and I was being taught the history of other white people, I never even considered anyone else. What an eye opener. This oral history of my own generation has taught me so much I never knew, and has inspired me to learn more for myself.

When researching further, I found that there was an entire tag on Tumblr dedicated to “Black history you didn’t learn in school.” Most of it consisted of screen shots of tweets from people who were posting about this history.

This showed me that there were entire twitter pages and feeds dedicated to just this! It was incredible. Instead of seeing people my age bitching or fighting on social media, I saw people making a change and trying to learn and inform each other for the better.

I even found some articles about this issue – here.

Just like Thompson said, “Where no history is readily at hand, it will be created.” My generation is creating its own oral history. It is making sure that kids in future generations know about both sides of history, not just the white side. We are making sure to tell the truth. Black men and women of my generation want to be heard and understood and seen in history as more than what we typically learn about (slavery). There are more sides to history than you think or than you’re told. Make sure you’re willing to listen.

Tell me a story, mom

Living in an uncoded world

The video “What Most Schools Don’t Teach” was really interesting to me in many aspects. It’s interesting to me mainly because everything they’re talking about makes absolutely no sense to me!

These people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Chris Bosh, etc. who are known for their ability to make these amazing technologies and social websites are telling me “you can do this,” and that’s amazing. It’s hard enough for me to maneuver my blogspot layout, let alone code an entire website!

What struck me the most, though, was how I never even got the opportunity to learn, or try to learn, how to code websites or create them. I’ve been in school for about 16 years and not once have I even heard of a class that offered students the ability to learn how to create these types of media.

About two minutes into the video, one of the women points out that “computers are everywhere. Do you want to work in agriculture, do you want to work in entertainment? Do you want to work in manufacturing? It’s just all over.” That was eye opening, that all these jobs that no one would have thought required these skills does! And as an aspiring author, it’s probably important for me to learn how to code my own website or handle my own social media properly.

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I think it’s important for us to note how unavailable this knowledge is to students these days. For something that surrounds us fully and engulfs our lives as much as technology and social media, why aren’t we given the opportunity to learn how it works and how to create it? It seems a bit odd to me. It’s like giving scientists chemicals and experiments and physics stuff (clearly, I’m not a scientist) but not teaching them how to do math.

It was even stated in the video that it’s not rocket science, you don’t have to be a genius to do this stuff, it’s as simple as reading, or learning how to read.

Maybe it’s time that we millennials learn where our social media comes from, how it’s made, and how to use it to our advantage.

Living in an uncoded world

Blogging in the first person

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I felt very personally connected to Andrew Sullivan’s article about blogging. I have been using the medium since middle school as a way to post my writing, whether it be a mindless rant about the day, a short story I had written, or a review of a book or movie. I always knew I wanted to do something with writing, but I was never sure what. After years spent blogging on my page, I realized I wanted to be an author. Write fiction stories and encapsulate audiences with my books in ways that I wished I could via my blog.

Since then, I have neglected my blog, placing more emphasis on my personal writing in hopes of furthering my novel. I’ve struggled with techniques on writing; how to write anything longer than a short story, how to capture an audience’s attention, how to write about something that matters. All along, I never realized I needed to do the same thing with my blog, and I was, without noticing.

Sullivan writes, “A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now.” This is totally true and the very reason why blogging should be considered a modernized journalism. For my first year of college (before I realized I wanted to be an author for a living) I majored in journalism in hopes of becoming one, writing breaking news stories and being in magazines and newspapers across the world one day. But isn’t that exactly what we as bloggers wish to accomplish as well? Get people to choose our blog over someone else’s to get their news or the latest scoop on the media. We have no choice to wait or write about something now, because if we don’t hop on it right away, viewers will find the information on someone else’s blog.

This wasn’t a concept I dealt with growing up on my blog, because it was always more self-centered rather than centered from the outside-in. Reading this from Sullivan made me wonder whether I had been doing it wrong the whole time… but then he told me! “You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world.” Isn’t that what makes blogging different and unique from any other journalistic medium? The fact that it’s not just a regurgitation of straight facts, but instead incorporates the writer’s view on the issues and the world. Without me, what would my blog be after all?

I think that was the point that really hit home for me – that I am allowed to put myself into my blog. I am allowed to have opinions and arguments and ideologies and express them out in public for others to see. Blogging is the closest thing to a diary, like Sullivan says, except instead of confining our thoughts, feelings, and ideas to ourselves to dwell on, we’re putting them out into the open for people to connect with us and hear our voices.

Who says social media is the death of all human interaction? Maybe it’s just the start of another level of it.

Blogging in the first person

Are we stealing each other’s creativity?

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The issue of plagiarism is something we college students struggle with every day, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to avoid as the years go by. We are taught growing up that plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas as your own without giving them any credit for it. Now, the lines of what is and is not plagiarism have become a bit blurred, and it’s hard to do anything you think is original without the fear that it may be copying someone else.

For example, I’m sure we’ve all heard about the lawsuits involving Taylor Swift, America’s most beloved pop star (or is she country now, who knows?). Even though Taylor has to be raking in billions of dollars, it was leaked that she was suing her own fans for “illegally” using titles of her songs and phrases she had “coined” herself on merchandise being sold online. Read the article here! What, Taylor? It’s okay for people to watch your music videos on YouTube billions of times in any way possible in order for you to get those views, but someone can’t write “Shake it off” on a mug without you getting offended? Let’s get real.

The best part, though, was the OTHER lawsuits being filed by Jesse Braham for supposedly stealing his lyrics in order to write “Shake it Off.” Here’s that one, too. Apparently, one can’t use simple phrases that are spoken every day like “Haters gonna hate” without being accused of stealing. What’s next? No one can call their significant other “baby” anymore since Justin Bieber wrote a song about it?

What’s most important, though, is not the petty lawsuits being thrown at each other by already-millionaires, it’s that college students and students in general are struggling to find reliable topics, sources, and issues to write about without the fear of plagiarism.

I, for example, am an English major in the process of earning a creative writing certificate. I want to write books for a living, mainly fiction novels, and give young (or possibly even older) readers the thrills I get from reading my favorite books. I have a lot of hesitations, however, since the fear of plagiarizing or stealing from someone else is so relevant these days.

Let’s think about this for a second, though. Jonathan Lethem goes into great detail in his article about plagiarism, with dozens of examples of what could be considered as such. “Literature has always been a crucible in which familiar themes are continually recast,” he writes. What does this mean? It means that just because Jane Austen wrote about the struggles of love and finding one’s identity in Sense and Sensibility back in the 1800s, doesn’t mean that Nicholas Sparks can’t write romance novels in the 21st century because “Love has already been written about” or some bullsh*t like that.

The point is, Lethem says it best: “If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.” Some of the greatest works of all time would not have been written if certain ideas could not be shared and recreated. Ever notice how similar Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Lion King are? Or Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story? There is a fine line between plagiarism and a recreation of themes and ideas. Instead of being so uptight about someone stealing your lyrics or plagiarizing your poem, just remember this: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Besides, if we keep going down this road of being over-sensitive Sally’s when it comes to plagiarism, what’s next? We can no longer take selfies because someone else has already done it? “The photographer should be free to capture an image without compensating the source,” Lethem says. Let’s all try to focus on what’s important. Stop peeking over your shoulder at your neighbor’s art and focus on your own!

Written by Meg Murray.

Are we stealing each other’s creativity?

Making technology more human, or humans into technology?

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.31.59 pm

I must preface this post with a simple fact: I have not seen the movie Her, nor did I really know what it was about any more than a man falling in love with a computer before I read this article. However, Kyle Vanhemert has really shone a good light on more than just the romantic aspects of this movie, and has made it sound awfully appealing.

Anyway, Vanhemert brings up some great points that are totally valid and important in today’s technological society that just increasingly becomes more and more technological, and less and less human. Or does it?

Director Spike Jonze is quoted in the first few paragraphs of the article, “Her, he realized, isn’t a movie about technology. It’s a movie about people.” This struck me, seeing as the only thing I knew about the movie prior to this article was the simple fact that a man falls in love with a computer, meaning: the movie’s about a computer. But, this was definitely a more interesting way to think about the movie, and even about society as a whole.

Jonze goes on to explain what I think is the heart of the article: “[what the movie] is really concerned with are human relationships, as fragile and complicated as they’ve been from the start.” Start of what, you may ask. Time? Technology? Who knows? What’s important to focus on is the point that even in a world drowning in new technologies (even a world set in the future), what is important is not all these advances, but human interaction and how it adapts with us.

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It is clear that one could easily make the argument that technology gets in the way of human interaction, but maybe this film sets off to prove just the opposite. Maybe we crave all this new technology because we crave intimacy and interactions that we can’t find in daily life, and instead can find them through a screen, speaker, keyboard, etc.

Let’s think about some of the main types of technologies or social media we use nowadays:

fb_icon_325x325 Facebook. The perfect way to put up a whiney status about your day as a subtle cry for attention in order for people to message you and ask, “hey, are you okay?” Maybe you couldn’t reach out for help in real life, but over the internet you feel more at ease, and it gives you a way to express your feelings. Boom. Now maybe you’re talking to someone you’ve never spoken to before. Progress!

carousel-apple-iphone-6-silver-380x380-1iPhones. iMessaging that sends as quickly as in-person conversation, just to give you the illusion that you’re not totally alone, even when you are. Maybe you feel more comfortable participating in conversation over the phone via text so you can ugly-laugh at that silly text, or goofy-smile at that cute emoji. Whatever it is, you’re happy. Progress? I think so.

facetime-logo FaceTime/Skype/Oovoo/whatever video service you use. A more interactive way to speak to another person than iMessaging or texting, but you can still control exactly what you look like on screen to the other person. Or maybe you can cover your face and just watch the other person talk instead. You’re comfortable in conversation, but don’t have to worry about the pressures of being face to face. P R O G R E S S .

It’s hard to feel like we’re not transforming into robots with all the technology being thrust upon us at every moment of the day; you can’t walk down a street without almost bumping into someone from both of your noses shoved down into your phone screen instead of facing up and being alert at what’s around you. Everyone is always Twittering, Instagramming, iPhoning, laptopping, iPodding, etc. all the time, how is it even possible to have true human interaction anymore, right? But maybe it’s as simple as the underlying motive of Her. Maybe instead of us becoming robots, we should continue to make “technology more human,” and continue to find new interactions, intimacies, and relationships in places we never would have thought before.

Written by Meg Murray.

Making technology more human, or humans into technology?