Johnathan.org

January 25, 2015

Never Gonna Give You Up, Never Gonna Put You Down. Sometimes.

As much as I try to stay current with technology, there’s a part of me that just doesn’t care if I check my phone all the time, or am constantly reading emails on the weekend. I know a lot of people keep up to date on the latest everything with every device they have and that’s awesome. I just can’t do that. However, there’s one device that I really can’t live without because it’s become a gateway to the “Quick-Check-to-See-if-the-World-Has-Burned-Down” reality: my iPhone.

I’m quite sure the list of people that say they couldn’t live without their phone is staggering. Hell, Instagram is a phone-only thing and look at how many people share what they’re eating on regular basis! If people stopped caring so much about their phones and making sure everything that was going on was going through their phone, Instagram would shut down. It’s likely that twitter would take a big hit, too. Facebook… meh. People are still butthurt about the unbundling of services that Facebook did recently, because they don’t have anything else to be upset about. They’re rebelling against the system by using their browser or their computer as if that’ll do anything. You go guys… way to stick it to the man.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having my phone around with me all the time, but it’s more of a just-in-case-something-happens kind of need. I might be listening to podcasts while I travel to and from work every day, but we’ve been able to do that for quite some time, before smartphones were a thing (remember the iPod?) so that doesn’t count as a dire need. I listen to music, too, but that also falls under what I just described. I might check twitter every now and then or watch Facebook all morning but that just drains me. Have you ever sat on twitter reading people’s 140-character-or-less thoughts and NOT felt drained or depressed afterwards? The world sucks nuts and I can only read about it for a little bit.

The world used to be a simpler place. Cats used to sit inside cannons like it’s no big deal. You can tell a lot about a time period by whether you have a cat that’s willing to loiter around artillery. Those days were nice.

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For all I don’t use my iPhone for, though, if I didn’t have it with me, I’d feel disconnected, I’ll admit. It’s become more of a security blanket when I’m moving between point A and point B. I, and likely society as a whole, have been trained to think that if I leave my house without my phone, something bad might happen and I won’t be able to call for help! I wonder how people in the 90s even survived.

I think if I absolutely had to, could resort to a dumb phone. Apple still makes iPods, so all my smart tools could just migrate to that device. I’d have iMessage wherever I had wifi and text messaging on my dumb phone. Turns out, though, that I’d still end up paying an arm and a leg for service. The difference of $20 for data isn’t worth the downgrade. On the flip side, the uncharge of $20 for data to have a smartphone is paltry.

Perhaps one day I’ll see if I can go a whole day without my smartphone. I have a ton of technology around me at home, and a ton more at work, so really there’ll only be roughly three hours out of the day where I’m in that disconnected state that won’t allow me to get the latest tweets that I hate or read emails the bleeding freaking second they arrive.

But that’s unlikely.

January 24, 2015

How to Set up Automatic WordPress Blog Post Scheduling with IFT.TT, and Buffer

Let’s be honest. The year is 2015 and nobody wants to do things by hand or manually if they can help it. Companies are hiring people to automate the hell out of everything because like M.I.A (sort of, not really) [famously rapped][1]:

live fast, die young, robots do it well.

I’ll admit, I like speeding up the process of sharing what I’ve written but I like controlling it a bit more than some. Here’s how I do it. You’ll want to create an account with IFT.TT and Buffer if you haven’t already. IFT.TT stands for IF This, Then That. The premise is that you can take data being expelled from one service, and based on certain criteria, do something with it via another. Things like “Text me with the daily weather report at 5AM” are easy and, well, kind of cheesy. If you become a power user of IFT.TT or already are, you’ll know that there’s so much more you can do with the service like auto-tweet breaking news stories from news sources or trigger your Philips Hue home lighting to change color when a storm warning comes into effect. In my case, I want to sync IFTTT with my WordPress install. To start, I’ll need to create a new recipe and click on the blue this link (A) and choose the WordPress trigger channel (B). This will be the source for the data that IFTT uses.

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Once I have that set, I can choose whether I want this action to be triggered by any new post from WordPress, or just when the post has a particular tag or category. In my case, I choose the former, because I want to share all posts.

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We can skip Step 3 as there’s nothing else to set for these triggers and move on to step four. Click Create Trigger. So at this point we’ve established that if there’s any new post on WordPress Blog then we’ll do something. Now we establish what that something is. Click the blue that link. In my case, I want to share to Buffer.

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I will want to choose the “Add to Buffer” option since I won’t be pushing photos from my source. My final step is to set up how I want my shares to look and then I create my action. Note: If this is your first time, you’ll have to set up what account you want Buffer to schedule this IFTTT-pushed content on.

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There are a couple things to keep in mind when setting this up. Anything pushed from IFTTT to Buffer: 1) will be set to whatever schedules you have created and 2), will only be pushed to whatever social media account you have set up for this channel. You can only have one social media account chosen for this type of setup. If you want to use more than just one social media account to share you content, I recommend creating separate recipes for each. Granted, only one of them will be scheduled via Buffer, so keep that in mind. In my situation, I don’t really mind, and I use Buffer so much already that I like having the ability to manually schedule for other social media accounts that don’t get as much regular pushing of content.

All Done!

It’s that simple. If you have account with IFTTT and Buffer already set up, this will take you thirty seconds to do. You’ll find this thirty seconds will save you time in the long run and will become something that you don’t even think about at the end of the day. Sure you could use WordPress plugins, too, and that’s all fine and dandy. I’m not stopping you! This is how I like to do it and I figured someone out there might like to know. Thanks for stopping by, have a good one!

Ghostly Sharing to Twitter from Jetpack’s Publicize Plugin

A rather odd thing started happening shortly after I implemented Jetpack on this site. I was seeing my posts show up on twitter, which is nice and all, but not through the method I had set up. I describe how I set up automatic post scheduling for the various social networks in this past. These tweets were being written without a fancy permalink, which seemed odd and told me that it wasn’t something of my intentional doing. After doing some research, I discovered someone having an issue with the Publicize plugin not removing a social media account properly. In order to fix their issue, they re-added their account and removed it again.

I figured it would be a stretch but I knew it couldn’t hurt anything so I tried that myself just to see what would happen. I Added my Facebook page, and after authorization, lo and behold, my twitter account showed up, too. It wasn’t previously authorized so I had a pretty good idea this ghost authorization was what was causing these unwanted shares. Un-linking my twitter account immediately solved the problem, and I was on my way to sharing the way I want to: WordPress => IFTTT => Buffer.

January 21, 2015

There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy. For Everything Else, There’s a Cat in a Box.

Sometimes I wonder about cats. Who invented them? Why are they here? Are those whiskers really just antennae they use to communicate with their alien space ships? All these things are valid questions if you are like me, because obviously my brain isn’t stimulated enough as it is. Of all cat-related questions out there, the one that keeps me the most interested and stumped is: what’s with the boxlust?

Yes, that’s a word I just came up with. Boxlust. Noun. The unreasonable and indescribable urge to be in, on, or around boxes as much as possible, for particular reason. I’ve witnessed my cat enjoy cardboard boxes like none other. Even as a kid, I enjoyed boxes, but not to the extent my feline friend does.

So that got me wondering: perhaps someone’s looked into this already! I look to the ever trusting Internet to find out the who, what, where, why, and how of cats and their desires for cardboard containers with eight right-angled corners.

The first thing I came up with was a quote from Stephen Zawistowski from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA). He said “Cats like boxes because they are cryptic animals; they like to hide…[it] gives them a place of safety and security.” That explains a lot. When my cat enters his corrugated fortress, I’ll find he’s dug a mote around his encampment and at some point in the day found alligators to fill it. I’m still trying to figure out where he was able to procure alligators, as I can’t even seem to procure the right kind of accessories for my Playstation 4 on Amazon.

Live Science tells us that seeking out confined spaces is an instinctual behavior for cats. That makes sense, just like it’s an instinctual behavior for me to seek out a couch to veg on all weekend, every weekend. It’s a fire that burns deep in my core, and I suspect my cat lusts after the four-walled brown structure of an Amazon.com shipping box like a heroin addict lusts after crank: with the burning intensity of a thousand suns.

Although this all sounds like good information, I wasn’t satisfied with such normal and structured answers, so I took to reddit because why not? if the Internet has something to say about something, they’ll be saying it on reddit. Reddit User OookOok says it has something to do with trees, wood pulp, and the similarity. I’m trying to think of what wild cat fits inside a tree and can’t seem to come up with anything. Oh well, perhaps I’m missing a crucial demographic of the wild cat species: the one that’s like my house cat but somehow feral or wild? I didn’t know that was such a thing.

But then I got to thinking: in my obviously non-scientific accidental experiments, our cat seems to enjoy sitting on paper more than anything else. If my cat knew how to pay the child came “Hot Lava,” he’s a freaking expert. I feel like if my carpet ever became poisonous, he’d survive longer than I would. Perhaps he’s giving his kitty stamp of approval?

Whatever the reason is, I find it incredibly amusing. I’ve given up on buying cat trees, beds, houses, or other expensive toys. He’s resorted to several $1 rattling mice, pens, and paper products. I really should see if Staples is selling cat toys now. I feel like they’d have a great new product line and niche covered in a heartbeat. Either that or just get him a job with UPS. All those boxes? Yeah, he’d dig that.

January 20, 2015

Extending My Writing Goals to Photography

When I’m not working, writing, or studying, I’m (ideally) shooting. I’m a landscape photographer and by shooting I mean “taking photos of.” One of the things I struggled with in 2014 was my motivation to shoot more. I’ve always had a small inkling in the back of my mind that I’d like to live out a career at my desk writing and taking photos. With my start to writing underway (and so far going relatively smoothly), the next half of that is creating more photos.

A lot of photographers will tell you that the gear doesn’t make the photographer. While I find that to be true, the gear does make the photographer more motivated if the gear they just bought is exponentially better than what they used to own. See, up until the end of last year, I owned a four year old camera body—the Canon 60D—and a couple of lenses. Unfortunately, the 60D wasn’t the best for landscape photography for two reasons:

  1. Crop-Sensor: While create for getting extra range when using a telephoto lens, the smaller sensor leads to more noise on the image because each individual pixel is much smaller. This became unbearable at a larger print sizes, which I love doing. I have a 30×20” photo in my dining room I took at Mt. Rainier that I would love to re-shoot with my new equipment. I know I’d get much better results.

  2. Lens Selection: While I could pick out awesome, expensive glass, it wouldn’t be worth it. With a crop sensor body, I’d have to multiply the focal length of the lens by 1.6, which takes an amazing landscape photography lens such as the Canon 16-35mm and turns it into a 25.6-56mm lens. While that sounds nice, that’s a bit too narrow for me. So I settled with a 3rd-party brand lens that gave me 10-20mm of range, which equated to 16-36mm, exactly where I wanted, but with a trade-off. It wasn’t super sharp.

With those two elements combined, I had a setup that I didn’t really appreciate so I stopped using it a lot. When I had the opportunity to replace my gear, I jumped on the idea, and ordered a new body—the Canon 6D—and the Canon 16-35mm F/4 lens. For what I want to shoot, it’s an amazing combination and so far I’ve had nothing but awesome luck and experiences with the combination. The setup is light and agile but not flimsy. The field of view is spectacular and the quality of imagery on the sharpness and clarity fronts are epic. Well worth the purchase.

For those who say that new gear won’t help you take better photos, they might be wrong if the old gear was of retiring age.

When it comes to actually taking photos, however, there’s no amount of gear that will make me get out and shoot. I have to want to. With the gear half of my desire out of the way, all I have left is myself to fight with. For 2015, I’m attempting to apply the same goals I set up for my writing to my photography and have broken them down as such:

  1. Shoot at least twice a week

  2. Different locations each time, not coming back for at least a month

  3. Share at least one image from each shoot.

  4. Stay at the location for as long as I deem necessary so as to not feel rushed.

  5. Start taking my camera more places, intentionally, in case an opportunity appears.

These are rougher goals and guidelines than what I established for my wordsmith self, and that’s ok. I have a running list of places I want to shoot and each location requires different coordination in terms of time of day, weather, how long I’m there, how long it takes to get to my final destination, etc. I can’t reasonably expect it to take an hour to shoot at a beach at sunset and take the same amount of time while I hike two miles each way to a waterfall while raining. That’s unrealistic.

I think a lot of my shooting will end up on the weekends, as during the week, I am working a day job so my possible options will typically be limited to sunsets and night-time photography such as shooting the stars. I’m all right with that. I shoot over the weekend while I was in California and got some great photos. After work yesterday, I ran out and shot a sunset at the beach and got more great photos. I could have just as easily stayed home after work because I was certainly tired, but I knew that it wouldn’t take that long, and I really just need to do it and stop complaining.

If I ever want to make this something I do more regularly and possibly make money from, I need to work at it more. Same with writing. If I ever want to make something of it, I need to keep at it. No one becomes famous overnight (unless you go viral on the Internet, but even then that’s not really fame).

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography