A Day in Google Reader

There’s a lot of great content on the internet. Unfortunately, it might take a long time to seek out and trudge through, except for the invention of feed readers. I started on Bloglines a couple years ago, but when they started having severe problems, I switched over to Google Reader. It seems important enough that I thought I take a look at what I have in here:

Personal Blogs – I have 19 blogs of personal friends, most of which are inactive. I’m sad that Facebook has supplanted Xanga, as it means that there’s not as much written content from others, but there are still a few people who are writing. The shoutouts for people who I’m hoping are reciprocating readers and who still update from time to time are Albert, Chelsea, Charlton, Dan, David, Devin, Jeff, my Uncle David, and my cousin Eric. If you have a blog, drop a line, and I’d be happy to read your blog as well.

Big Blogs – My next folder is a slew of more popular blogs of real people, most of whom I’ve never met. Some are good, some are bad, but most are interesting. Some of the better ones include Scott Adams’ Dilbert Blog about his crazy ideas, Lawrence Lessig’s Blog where he (a Stanford law professor) writes about “the issues”, and Freakonomics, which is random.

Gaming – It’s a hobby, and I enjoy reading about what’s going on with various game development studios. The Team Fortress 2 and Bioware blogs are particularly fun. I, however, get most of my daily game news from

Kotaku – This is my first high output blog (having more than 2-3 posts a day). Over just today, there are 75 posts. Most of it isn’t particularly interesting to me, but occasionally, there will be a good trailer or bizarre news story.

Magic – I have a couple feeds to Magic blogs. It’s important

Psychology – My academic interests lie somewhere between Computer Science and Psychology, but if you’ve ever looked at my delicious, you’ll notice that I’m heavily skewed towards tagging psychology articles and pages. There are a couple forces at work here, but I think it’s mostly two factors. One, technology tends to just “happen” more, while psychology will often get interesting articles published about it. Two, psychology is consistenly more surprising and noteworthy to me. I will often remember some study I read about while talking to people, and have to dredge through old bookmarks to find it. With new products, they often become items in themselves that I can easily find. Anyways, I have about 20 different psychology blogs. Probably my two favorite ones are Neuromarketing, which just finds amazing applications for all these studies, and Mind Hacks, which does a great job being a filter in itself to find all the articles on NewSci and NYT that I wouldn’t find myself.

The Daily WTF – They post maybe twice a day, one with a story about incompetence in corporate programming, and another with pictures of mistakes in technology. It’s very entertaining, and a good reminder about how poor design decisions and style can result in awful code. I was talking about it to a programmer once, and he mentioned that reading it felt like “laughing at a toddler” since a lot of these people are legitimately trying. It’s probably okay, though, because this isn’t the worst thing on my feeds.

Hacker News – This is my last 100+ post feed left. I used to subscribe to digg, but I realized that most of it wasn’t making me a more informed or amused person. Hacker News is just a place where people post links to blog entries, questions, and articles related to programming. There’s a lot of trash, but it gives me a chance to find new blogs and interesting takes on issues

Lifehacker – The #6 most popular blog, according to Technorati. It’s very good. Posts range from cooking tips to new mac apps, but of the 30-40 posts a day, a lot of it ends up being very interesting.

Apple News – I have MacRumors and The Unofficial Apple Weblog as my 2 sources of mac news. THere are a lot of good ones out there, but Apple news tends to be relatively thin, and they all cover each other anyways, so I can usually keep up on updates and rumors with just hese two.

Company News – Blogs for various tech companies, like Google and Facebook. Most posts are about new features in their products that I don’t care about, but sometimes, there’s something good.

Technology/Programming Blogs – There are some famous programmers. There aren’t a lot, but there are some, so I have about 10 different blogs for those guys, like Paul Buchheit (creator of GMail) and Coding Horror.

Sports – And by sports, I mostly mean baseball. I actually found most of them in bizarre links from unrelated places, but I have a few sports feeds. Curt Schilling does a lot of techy sort of stuff, and the Hardball Times keeps me on top of MLB news.

TechCrunch and All Things Digital – Two blogs all about what’s going on in Silicon Valley and internet news. These are why I was so excited when I came to the Bay Area and discovered that the people making news were all around here. I find it somewhat funny how powerful TechCrunch has become, to boost the popularity of a new startup or ridicule one into oblivion. I usually flip through these very quickly, but sometimes, something catches my eye.

TechDirt – My first catch-all. It’s just general tech news, so I’ll usually quickly scroll through it. Most of it, I will have already seen on another feed, but sometimes, I’ll have to take a second look at something that I only glanced at the first time, and now realize is actually semi-important.

Anandtech and ExtremeTech – My senior year, I got really interested in computer hardware and was all over the benchmarks and specs for new video cards and processors. Nowadays, not so much, with these being my last opportunity to at least know what these things are called. Sometimes I’ll take a look at a new video card, but I’m thinking all of my future computers will be laptops, and the hardware doesn’t vary that much.

MIT Research News and SciAm – Just because I said I would never take a bio, chem, or physics class in college (other than neurobiology) doesn’t mean I don’t care; I just don’t care enough to understand. It’s always interesting to hear about new things in research, whether about why teenage girls are “socially aggressive” or why the LHC is broken

HowStuffWorks – I love this website. Often, google searches about random topics of interest return obscure, jargony pages incomprehensible to those who aren’t domain experts. But HowStuffWorks can make me feel really smart about things I don’t understand with pretty easy explanations. They also have a great podcast.

Slashdot – My final catch-all. It’s all geek news, whether programming, science, or Star Trek. Definitely one of the best feeds I get, even if I see most of the news by the time I get here

Webcomics – I like to think I’m fairly selective, but I realize I have a whole 10 comics that i follow. Dilbert and Sheldon probably don’t really count as webcomics because they follow the typical 3-panel scheme from the newspapers, but the others are definitely dorky. My two favorites are actually both related to pen-and-paper RPGs. Order of the Stick is a great, great one about an adventuring group inside a Dungeons & Dragons world. Darth & Droids takes frames from the Star Wars movies and imagines how they would’ve gone if the characters were controlled by roleplayers. I think you have to have played D&D or some other RPG to get it, but they’re absolutely spot-on

Failblog – I mentioned above that the Daily WTF wasn’t the worst. This is the worst. Because of it, I think my perspective of the world has changed drastically. I’m definitely not a better person for it. But it’s so funny sometimes…

Columnists – I’m not really familiar with a lot of journalism, but I do enjoy the work of a couple writers. Right now, I’ve got Leon Hale, Dave Barry, and Gail Collins, but I’m definitely on the look-out for more. I mentioned I got stranded at Borders the other day; that motivated me to seek out good writing, so I added this section. If you have any favorites, let me know

The Best Article Every Day – This is also a recent addition. I like to try out new blogs, and this one is looking like  it’ll take a permanent spot. The content isn’t always amazing, but it’s one post a day, and I can afford that.

So that’s the run-down. Over the course of today, I have 659 unread items. That sounds like a lot, but honestly, I probably don’t actually read more than 30 posts a day. If you have any tips to any particularly good blogs or feeds, I’m always looking for quality content.

Third Times a Charm

(Brownie points if you know what I’m going to write about already, though it only gets second billing)

First, thanks tons to everyone who came to the surprise birthday party for me, but Willie in particular. While not mind-blowingly surprising, it was still more than just the moobie I was expecting, and a lot of fun overall. While not good as a habit, I’ve come to appreciate the birthday, an intrinsically worthless marker, but a good reason to appreciate or be appreciated for one day in a year. It’s a good boost for anyone. Thanks again. It was great.

So for the rest of you who want to get to the “juicy” part of this post, yes, it did take me less than 48 hours, but I am now in the honored group of people to have read all 7 Harry Potter books. The last one was okay.

**********AND YES, SPOILER ALERT***************

It was familiar. The plot was compelling, as I chomped through all 700ish pages in the equivalent of about three sittings. The writing style was plentiful, and it only felt like anything happened at the very end. All the details were cleaned up in what, in retrospect, seemed to be an obvious way (somewhat related article about psychology being “obvious”), and things seemed very convenient.

Perhaps I’m not in the series as deep as most, but I wasn’t affected by the story at all. When George got his ear blown off, it wasn’t a tragedy. Three minor characters die at the end, but even that felt meaningless. Perhaps it was relatively trivial in the scope of Harry’s plot, but I didn’t develop a strong connection to the characters. I’m not the sort who would cry over it or anything, but I like to be gripped by a story. I want to pull for the good guys, feel the injustice, hope for magical/plot intervention against death,
but I didn’t get any of that.

I guess if you were affected by the deaths, it wouldn’t feel this way, but I thought the end was very, very tidy. Which isn’t directly tied to Harry living or dying. I couldn’t care less if it was powerful, but I didn’t get even that. There was a message, and I thought the scene in his head with Dumbledore was clever, but it still felt gimmicky. But I wasn’t disgusted with the end, so I guess it was okay.

More than any other novel, though, it definitely felt kiddish to me. In theory, yes, it should be the darkest and most removed from that, and it likely was, but as I’m (also in theory; many of you would likely refute this) maturing at the same time, I recognize factors I guess I wouldn’t otherwise. And I’m viciously trying to think of an example, but like the other novels, the details of it have escaped me 24 hours after reading it. Or maybe that’s a cop-out by me. Your call.

I came across this on Digg or something, I think. It’s some web chat with Rowling about other details the community, so if you haven’t seen it and have read the book, it’s interesting. Of course, if anyone finds something better, I’d be curious enough to read more.

It feels like I’ve been doing a lot of literary/cinematic review, recently. Well, the next one, probably soon, is going to be on the Bourne Ultimatum, so it’s not stopping.

Harry Potter… again?

I guess I just kind of go with the flow.

No, I haven’t read it yet, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers in here. Surprisingly, people seem to be incredible respectful about this last Harry Potter book. Perhaps my memory has inflated my memory of flagrant spoilers for previous ones and “Revenge of the Sith” floating around the internet. Not so, this time. Of course, they’re there if you’re looking for them. I heard a .pdf is floating around, and I’m sure there are lots across the peer-to-peer networks of varying authenticity.

But no, I haven’t read it yet. My plan was to wait till the following Monday (today) and then start asking around for a copy. Most people who got it on opening day are done by now, right?

It’ll be interesting to see if this really is the end. Since I haven’t read the book, I’m uncertain as to whether more are possible, but I certainly hope that it is. I enjoy the books—though perhaps not to the same level as others—and would probably read the next one as well. Even so, planning ahead for the end seems best.

This summer started with many big sequels: Pirates 3, Shrek 3, Spiderman 3, Fantastic Four 2 (read below for my opinion on that one). It’s inevitable that with any series, it’s going to go down-hill at some point. After so many, the sequels just “go Rocky”, and in the end, are just a disappointment. The sequels are financially successful, but often, that’s about their only success.

Seven is a lot. Seven is having first heard about them in elementary school and now going to college. Seven is enough to carry kids through their childhood reading and, theoretically, slowing the domination of TV. Seven is a rich, developed universe with great depth. Seven is quitting while still ahead.