Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Draught, Bottled, and Canned

You know, it's funny... I felt an indescribable urge to blog yesterday, absolutely irresistible, and had no idea why.  I had essentially lost interest in blogging, yet somehow I felt compelled to write yesterday's post.

As it turns out, yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of Conceit and Sociopathy.  That's right, kids, I've been posting this crap for eight bloody years!  That's like fifty-seven in blog-years!

Looking back, I've outlasted a number of other, more popular (and probably better written) Winnipeg blogs, some of whom served as my inspiration to start a blog in the first place.  Then again, I never did know when to quit...

So, on that note, I'm soldiering on.  Our tenth anniversary is less than two years away!

The first thing I did this morning was purge the blog of the dozens upon dozens of drafts sitting in my posts queue.  Canned the lot of them.  Some were articles I'd started writing years ago whose intent was long forgotten; others were organized outlines of posts, others were notes I'd jotted down about something I was thinking of posting, some were pictures whose context was lost, and some were rants that I'm glad I never posted.  I've kept them around all this time, thinking I'd eventually salvage the majority of them, but after careful consideration, decided it was time to begin anew.  I've changed a lot and grown as a person in the intervening years, and doubt I could ever do the original intent justice.

Besides, like Welcome to the Darkest Corners of my Mind (aka Conceited Jerk Dot Com) before it, this blog was started on a whim, without formal plan or direction.  It wasn't about anything, it was just me being me, taking advantage of the internet as a publishing medium, usually while drunk.

So, raise a glass and let loose your cheers, and let's drag this out another few years!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Never Let Your Magazine Run Dry (part two): The Digital Age

Where's part one?  Where else but here?

It's taken me until now, but I've finally entered the Digital Age, insofar as magazines are concerned.  Parenthood leaves us with little free time/cash to run out and buy my monthly fix, and now that Canada Post has stopped home delivery to our neighbourhood, I am loathe to subscribe to physical media.  So, to say I've not been keeping up with developments in certain areas of interest would be both an understatement and an awkwardly-worded sentence.

I thought to myself, "CJ, this is a new era of information distribution.  Are magazines even a thing anymore?"

"If by a thing you mean tangible, viable method of delivery and presentation," I answered, "then yes, they are.  If you take a thing to be a way of saying something still in fashion with the public at large, give your head a shake and stop using millenial slang."

Semantics notwithstanding, I had a point (as I usually do).  This is indeed a new era of distribution, so in theory the Internet should be able to serve as a suitable replacement drug for my magazine dependence.  After all, most (if not all) the magazines I read have a presence on both the Web and social media, and through social media I'm also able to follow the writers, designers, architects, and commentators who write for these magazines.

After a year of following along on the web and various social media platforms, I'm both over- and underwhelmed.

As most of my friends and longtime readers know, I have a wide variety of interests, and accordingly  have social media feeds that are large and diverse... so large and diverse that it's overwhelming.  Total information overload, and totally unorganized.  If a particular topic is trending on Twitter, minor unrelated topics and posts get lost in the flood!  Facebook isn't much better, with occasional bits of interest lost in the deluge of memes, quizzes, and related crap.

I find Google+ to be the best social media platform for organizational purposes, as I have everything organized into "circles" which I can turn on and off at will.  It certainly helps cut down on clutter and helps keep things readable, but is sometimes lacking in content... of the magazines/writers I follow, I estimate only 60% have Google+ accounts.  It's really too bad, as I (personally) find Google+ to be a superior product all around.  (CJ's note:  No, I'm not a shill for Google.  Money could change that, however... hint hint!)

Once I got a handle on my feeds, things went smoothly... but even with things under control, browsing social media feeds just wasn't the same as sitting back in my easy chair & thumbing through a magazine.  Call me old-fashioned, but the social media experience left me wanting.

So, being the proud owner of an Android-powered e-reader (my old Kobo Vox) and a relatively recent Android Smartphone, I decided to take the plunge and try one o' them new-fangled magazine subscription apps.  I started with Zinio.

I like Zinio. I really like it.  In fact, it might become my platform of choice.  Their magazine selection is good (they carry all but two of the design magazines I buy), the pricing is decent, they offer daily subscription deals, their Android app is good, and most importantly, they carry offshore/foreign magazines as well.  I've been using Zinio for a couple of months now, and have no serious complaints.  I receive notification as soon as my next issues are ready for download, and it's pretty seamless.  My only real complaint is that the Zinio app is a bit slow on my Kobo Vox... but then the Vox is about six years old and a bit slow-running at the best of times.  When my Vox crashed last week and took all my content with it, I was able to re-download all my old purchases without issue.

Another app I've tried is Issuu, whose website I discovered whilst searching for urban cycling magazines.  The thing I love about Issuu is that they have a number of free, self-produced/published 'zines (with the means to publish and distribute your own!) in addition to their commercial paid content.  I've only been a "customer" for six days, and so far I am impressed with what they offer.

There's also Next Issue (which has been promoted heavily on TV), but I haven't seriously checked it out yet.  Content-wise, they mostly have on offer magazines distributed by Rogers Media in Canada, some of which I've subscribed to in the past via their door-to-door package promotions.  You pay a monthly "subscription" fee ($9.99 regular, $14.99 for magazines deemed premium) but get to read an unlimited amount of magazines.  Reading their FAQ, magazines can be saved permanently to your device for later (offline) reading, but no word on whether or not you can re-download older content should your device crash and you lose everything.  I might give their 30-day free trial a whirl and report back in the next installment.

Reading on my Kobo Vox is acceptable but not great; it's 7-1/2" screen is better suited for e-books than full-size, full-colour magazines.  The zoom feature in the Zinio app is good (although slow on the Vox).  Reading on my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S4) is faster but the experience suffers because of the phone's smaller screen size.  However, I'm looking to upgrade to a full-size Android tablet in the coming months, so that won't be an issue much longer.

So, I've found my solution in the magazine app.  With a full-size tablet, the experience will be almost like reading a real, proper magazine... minus the papercuts and dozens of subscription cards/product information cards falling out.

The downside is that digital magazines are less suitable for killing bugs or lining a bird cage...


On another note, it's great to be blogging again.  I've really missed it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Beginning of the Endgame (part one)

It's official.  We're finally planning for our retirement.

No, not the retirement from blogging that I routinely announce every few months, but our actual retirement from work, etc.

Granted, I have twenty-four twenty-six years to go until I reach the magic age of sixty-five sixty-seven, but that leaves plenty of time to sock away whatever spare money we can.  And we're going to need it, every penny nickel of it.

It's not because we're doubting our government pension will still exist in 2038 2040 (ok, not just that), it's also because we're planning on retiring abroad and will likely need to prove some sort of self-sufficience.  Right now, we're looking at the south of France.

Of course, that's also assuming France is still around in 2038 2040... or at least accepting immigrants.  I have no doubt that France will still exist as a country, however I'm not so certain we'd be welcomed with open arms.  The French government has, on occasion, threatened to pull out of the Schengen Agreement (which would only apply to us if we were citizens of the EU, which we aren't), or limiting immigration altogether.  Guess that's something we'll need to watch, the world seems to become more and more xenophobic and paranoid each day...

Join me for next installment, where I answer the question Why France?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Disney Junior is Further Warping My Mind

Astrid's cartoons are getting inside my head.

Granted, I'm already a bit unbalanced, but Disney Junior is sending me further down the spiral.

Yesterday, shortly before dinner, the three of us were watching cartoons.  A few minutes into The Little Mermaid tv series, my wife Jillian wondered aloud, "Whatever happened to Ariel's mother?"

"Probably got caught up in a tuna net," I theorized.

Apparently, that wasn't a good answer.

While we were sitting down to dinner (and when my phone should have been put away), I hit Wikipedia to research the final fate of the mermaid queen.  Apparently, Ariel's mother, Queen Athena, was crushed to death by a pirate ship.

A horrible end, to be sure, but one that amused me immediately...

CJ: It'd be hilarious if the last thing she heard was "Blast it, Smee!" In that cartoony bubbly underwater voice.

Jill: (laughs)

Which made me think of a potential crossover between the Little Mermaid-Peter Pan/Jake & the Neverland Pirates universes.

Cubby:  Oh, coconuts!  We just sunk Captain Hook and killed the Atlantican Queen!

Izzy:  And we got five gold doubloons!  Let's grab 'em and go!

Which illicited a giggle from Jillian, who says I get far too involved in our daughter's cartoons.

She's probably right.

Join me next time as I examine the plight of Makkapakka and the racism inherent in the show In the Night Garden.

Monday, May 26, 2014

History From That Era is Spotty At Best

I was feeling a little nostalgic this morning, so I surfed on over to the Internet Archive and looked up my old website, so I could read my old commentary section.

Unfortunately for me, the archive was only able to find nine of the articles I had in the Commentary section.  This is probably due to my constant shuffling of directories, tweaking of the site, deleting files, changing filenames, etc, which I did constantly in previous years as I learned HTML and website design.

As luck would have it, the articles the Wayback Machine did save were some of my favourites, as well as some of my most depressing.  It was interesting reading, and really took me back to a period of my life (2003-2004) that could only be described as turbulent.  I'd climbed to great personal heights, and I also hit rock-bottom a few times.  I was frequently depressed, withdrew from the social scene for months at a time, drank heavily, was getting increasingly paranoid (now apparently justifiably so) about government spying on the Internet, and engaged in really destructive (and self-destructive) behaviour.  Thankfully, things have really come together in the decade or so since!

I've integrated the nine articles from the old Commentary section into this blog, to serve as a bit of a history lesson.  Look for posts from 2002 - 2004 in the Blog Archive on the left side-bar.  I'm going to go through the Internet Archive's backup of my old site to see what else I can salvage in the days to come, after which I'll integrate whatever I can into either this blog or into Archaic Online (for computer-related stuff).

I am also going through my lab computers in the coming weeks as I prepare to sell most of them off.  Before I do that, I'll be going through them to see if any of my old writing/web pages are on them, and archiving what I can.  It'll be interesting to see how much I've grown in the last 12 years...

Friday, March 21, 2014

My Arm Can Only Twist So Far: Welcome to Conceit and Sociopathy 5.0

In an attempt to undermine my already diminished credibility, I begin the latest chapter in what appears to be a blog cursed with immortality.

Today marks the beginning of the sixth incarnation of Conceit and Sociopathy (my return from Tripod Blogs was version 2.5) and so far it seems to be more-of-the-same. So far.  There are going to be a few changes made in terms of content and delivery, but those will happen when they happen.

If you're wondering why I'm reopening the book after closing it only a few weeks ago, it's because the next chapter is aching to be written.  You see, I'd meant to take a loooong vacation from blogging.  The well had run dry, and frankly I'd gotten bored.

Of course, not two days after I posted my most recent "final post", ideas started flooding into my head.  Some funny, some painful, some inspirational.  I tried to stave off the blogging bug, but when a longtime reader asked me how long this hiatus was going to last, I caved.  Some people know me too well, and my arm can only twist so far...

So, I've updated the FAQ to reflect this newest revision:

"Q. Why does the title of your blog include a version number (4.0, 5.0, etc)?
A1.  I have a nasty habit of becoming bored and/or disenchanted with blogging (and the internet in general) from time to time.  When this happens, I either go on a hiatus or end the blog entirely.  I invariably end up regretting this decision and start it up again.  The version number indicates the number of times I've done this.
A2.  Someone (likely a self-appointed blogging expert) once told me that the average "readable" lifespan of a blog is only a couple of years.  I tend to enjoy mocking convention, so each revision marks the end of one lifecycle, and the beginning of the next.
A3.  Each revision is a chapter in my life.  As this is largely a personal diary I've posted to the web, if you were to read my blog from the beginning to the end, you'll notice that I've changed a number of times since 2006 (or 2002 if you read my old website www.conceitedjerk.com before I started here).
A4.  I switched to a different site/blogging system (Tripod, Blogger) or changed its format, and revised accordingly.
A5.  All of the above."

As for what C&S 5.0 will bring, there will be a slight change in content as I focus less on computers and technology, and more on life, Winnipeg, neighbourhoods, walkability, and how it all relates to me.

Conceit and Sociopathy 5.0:  Same functionality, more software bloat.

Monday, March 3, 2014

This Chapter is Finished, the Future Is Yet to Be Written. (UPDATED THRICE)

Well folks, today marks the end of Conceit and Sociopathy 4.0.

I'm closing the book, so to speak, on this blog.  However, I'm not putting the book back on the bookshelf just yet, there may or may not be a Conceit and Sociopathy 5.0 in the future.  Time will tell.

Truth told, I really don't have the passion for it anymore.  Haven't for the last couple of years.  Perhaps I've settled down since I got married and had a child.  Perhaps, since my conversion, my antisocial tendencies and anger issues have largely subsided.  Perhaps hipsters really did ruin alcoholism for me*.  Perhaps it's all of the above?

Or maybe, despite my best efforts, I've finally grown up.

Yup.  That's it.

So that's that. The end of an era.  Will I be missed?  Maybe by the spambots and aggregators.  My social media presence will also diminish in the coming days, as I focus on older protocols no longer in fashion.

While I'm largely immune to the blogging bug by this point, new strains are emerging every day, ones that are resistant to vaccines or antibiotics.  You never know... I may be back.

Until then,

*Hipsters Ruined Alcoholism For Me was an article I wrote recently but never posted.  It's still in my drafts folder, never to see the light of day.  It dealt with me trying to find (online) an old Sazerac recipe I liked, only to find most Sazerac drinkers are an elitist, fussy bunch of cocksuckers, at a level rivalling most Martini drinkers.  I eventually gave up and went back to drinking straight bourbon until ulcer # 4 hit.

You know what else you'll miss?  If You Meet the Buddha, Kill the Buddha, another draft article detailing the time when I finally met a certain local blogger whom I respected (name withheld), and whom I came to discover, after some conversation, was a lousy human being... and our brief physical altercation (which I duly won).  Never posted for legal reasons.