TIme to Smarten Up: Day 8 (Pretzels & Books)


One week in, and I’ve only narrowly missed failing the challenge already. Technically it was a day late, but who’s counting?

My desire to stop sitting on the couch all day inspired me to do 2 things this week: 

  1. Bake soft pretzels
  2. Go on a hunt for a used book store.

Pretzels

I’m not exactly a fan of cooking, baking, or anything of the sort.

Flashback to 8th grade in Family Studies class. The teacher had been hyping us up for the ‘Cooking and Baking’ lesson for a few weeks, and I had a strong urge to become a master chef at this point in my life. In groups of 5, we followed our teacher’s recipe and baked some pretzels. The pretzels, products of 5 teenagers who have never been in a kitchen before, were disgusting; mushy and dry, with patches of raw flour throughout. Nonetheless, I begged my Mom to buy me some yeast and flour as soon as I got home. She warned me that she was going to be angry if I wasted the yeast, but I promised that I wouldn’t stop baking until there was nothing left to waste.

When it came down to it, I decided that I didn’t even like baking. I made one batch of pretzels for my family, and then called it quits. My Mom, who could see this coming from miles away, scolded me for letting the yeast go bad, and promised to never buy it for me again. Today, I know that she would have bought me more if I really wanted it, but at the time it seemed like my destiny as a culinary artist had been crushed. 

(I should also mention that I was so bad with food that I was banned from using the stove for a few years because I burnt eggs so often)

Flash forward to this weekend: I decided that it was time to make some more soft pretzels. 

  • Use the first recipe displayed on Google? CHECK. (Here it is if you want it!)
  • Buy ingredients? CHECK.
  • Assume that they’re going to be awful? CHECK!!!!

The process was much more relaxing than I remember. First, mix some stuff in a bowl; second, knead it until your whole upper body hurts; third, go watch an episode of Breaking Bad while the dough rises for an hour; finally, shape them into something that might look like a pretzel, and bake it until it just looks like a pile of bread. Easy!

Jokes aside, they ended up tasting amazing. All 12 of them were demolished within hours, between 2 people. I made a 2nd batch, and they tasted even better; they were demolished even more quickly. Pretzels

 

Verdict: Success. I never would have tried out this ‘baking’ thing if it wasn’t for the challenge. Definitely going to look up some recipes for other ways to fulfill my carb-binging needs.

Book Store

This adventure wasn’t quite as exciting, nor did it have any type of backstory. I just wanted to find a cheap place for books.

I haven’t been in a bookstore in a while. I’ve been hooked on my e-reader for the past year, but last month I went to the library and picked up a physical book. It’s easy to forget the novelty of holding a book when you get used to simply downloading a digital copy. 

Instead of doing the smart thing (i.e.: Googling ‘Book Stores in Halifax’), I decided to walk Downtown and hunt for some used books the ol’fashioned way. By some stroke of luck, I found United Bookstore on Barrington Street. Cheap books (paperbacks were 1/2 off cover price!!), and they had exactly what I was looking for – Stephen King, Stephen King, and more Stephen King.

Verdict: Half success? Okay, I don’t think walking to a book store fully counts as meeting my challenge, but at least I know where to get cheap books now. That being said, the likely alternative would have been to just sit on my couch and lurk Reddit. 

Time to Smarten Up: Day 0 (Journalism: Reinvented)


A few hours after I had officially made my plan to smarten the hell up, my Twitter feed came in like a wrecking ball and suggested that I attend a lecture at King’s titled Journalism: Reinvented.

I came across the description of the event just 2 hours before it was supposed to start. In a moment of predictable weakness, my knee-jerk reaction was to think ‘nah, I shouldn’t go. I have some school work to do, I’ll stay home and finish it.” I knew that this train of thought was a) an excuse; and b) the exact reason I decided to start this challenge in the first place.

So I went.

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I’m by no means a ‘journalist’; aside from half of an introductory journalism course, a spontaneous attempt at a news story for the Dal Gazette earlier this year, and a brief obsession with HBO’s The Newsroom, I’m a newbie (until the day that live tweeting Big Brother counts as journalism). For these reasons, I’m going to safely assume that this event qualifies for my challenge.

I left my apartment and headed towards the bus stop.  In the spirit of maintaining my new found spontaneity, I decided to wait at a different bus stop than I normally do. I should mention that this ‘bus stop’ wasn’t actually bus stop at all, and I failed to realize that until my bus drove past me. You would be surprised at the number of times I’ve done this in recent memory, but at least this time I realized my mistake before I started flipping the bird at the driver. Hell hath no fury like a skinny gay man who thinks that a bus driver just snubbed him.

I hopped on a different bus (at a real bus stop this time) and arrived at King’s. The lecture was great, but I’m not going to bore you with specifics. If you’re interested in the themes of creativity, experimentation, and entrepreneurship in terms of journalism, you can view the entire presentation here! I wouldn’t say that I took a lot from the content of the presentation itself, but it did help me understand how my career interests fit in with journalism. That’s good enough for me.

Verdict: Day 0: Success! I got off the couch and did something that I would not normally do otherwise. Now I’m trying to think of some ideas for future excursions and events. Any suggestions?

The ‘Time to Smarten Up’ Challenge


I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing lately, and it doesn’t feel very good. I’ve been spending almost all my time in my apartment; this usually consists of sleeping and dreading upcoming homework. I should add that I spend more time ‘dreading’ the homework than I do ‘doing’ the homework.

I’m tired of it, so I’m going to change it. I hereby challenge myself to smarten the hell up. I’m going to force myself to step outside of my comfort zone.

The Rules:

  1. At least once a week, I must do an activity that I would not normally do otherwise. This can include something tame and relaxing (i.e.: knitting) or wild and adventurous (i.e. …skydiving? maybe not), but it has to be something outside of my normal life. This should be easy, since my current daily events usually don’t stray from eating, sleeping, doing school work, and watching reality TV). *Bonus points for doing more than one activity a week, but doing two in one week doesn’t excuse me from the following week.
  2. I must write about each of the events.
  3. I will start on March 22nd and finish no sooner than June 22nd. I will have a minimum of 12 activities to write about.

I welcome others to join me on my quest to stop being so lazy. I also welcome ideas for my adventures!

Covers are underrated


I’ve always had an affinity for cover songs, especially when the cover artist takes a new spin on the song. My friend showed me a few of his covers today and I have to say, they’re amazing.

His name is Doug, and you can find him on YouTube HERE.

It takes a special kind of talent to make a cover worth listening to, I always respect it.

CBS (selectively) addresses racial and homophobic controversy


On Sunday’s episode of Big Brother, CBS finally addresses the controversial and homophobic remarks…kind of.

Interestingly, the ‘shit-on-Aaryn‘ segment completely ignored many of the hateful comments, namely from Spencer, Gina Marie, and Kaitlin. To top it all off, Jeremy‘s misogyny was left under the table.

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I’ll admit, this is more than I expected. But why address the feeders’ outrage in a half-assed manner? Maybe they’re just testing the waters? Hopefully there will be more to come.

Good job, CBS!...kind of. See more at Big Brother Blunders

Toronto: Pride, Sushi, Walking, and Fevers


I’ve just returned home to Nova Scotia after a week in Toronto. I enjoyed myself so much that I spent a few hours trying to think of ways that I could just stay forever, but I don’t think my family would appreciate that much. 😉

I happened to be in the city for the tail end of the Pride celebrations. I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with my boyfriend’s family, who were staying right beside the CN Tower, which had been lit up in a rainbow attire.

2013-06-30 21.34.00

It was such a great experience to see so much energy and happiness floating around. It was contagious, and one of the best weekends of my life. I need to go back next year, especially since Toronto will be hosting World Pride, which is expected to draw ~5 million people (holy SHIT!), compared to this years’ 1.22 million. I’m getting butterflies just thinking about it.

After the Pride celebrations had come to a close, I spent the next few days walking around the city for hours on end (with almost no sense of direction) to the point where my legs are now sprouting muscles in places that I didn’t know was possible. We were now staying just outside of Korea Town, so many meals consisted of cheap sushi and questionable bottled drinks.

I went to a Blue Jays’ game. Having little interest in sports, and extremely basic knowledge of baseball, I felt a bit out of place, but I can’t deny that it was fun. I’m still mad that the Beer guy tried to tell me that my ID was fake, though…He even stole 3$ from me! The Jays’ lost, but it was a close game.

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If you’re ever looking for some GREAT food while in TO, check out North of Brooklyn Pizza. Their white pizza is life changing. Seven Lives is great too, if you’re looking for some tacos around Kensington Market.

I spent the rest of the week periodically laying in bed with a fever. I guess I was dehydrated or exhausted or something, but MAN it sucked. Then again, I’d rather be in Toronto with a fever than be in Nova Scotia with this agressive heat.

Excuse me, I’m melting.

Josh

The grass is most definitely always greener on the other side.


Step 1: Start the school semester.

Step 2: Wish that time would speed up so that the semester is over.

Step 3: WIsh that the break was over so that I can go back to school.

Step 4: Repeat Step 1.

This has been the vicious cycle ever since I began my first year. In a perfect world, I’d just start being happy with living in the present, but it always seems more convenient to yearn for the future. I’m laying here playing a Big Brother online simulator (lol, I’m not joking. Addicted, see for yourself here) and reading about Rob Ford’s crack cocaine escapades, among other things that have absolutely nothing to do with my 100000000 things due for school.

Goal: smarten up.

Facebook: Thriving on your frustration


Brace yourself, folks. Facebook is changing.

Remember how much we hated the concept of Timeline in its early days? How about the ‘burden’ of learning how to navigate the updated News Feed after its 2009 installment? If the past is any indication, we can be sure to expect an horde of whining social media junkies in the coming weeks.

We’ll see it happen again and again. Facebook changes their layout or functionality, followed by complaints from the masses. It’s inevitable that Zuckerburg and co. are aware of the anti-change attitudes of their customers, yet apparently is not a concern.

Ignoring negative customer feedback for the sake of offering a product that the company assumes is better is a major faux-pas according to Marketing 101, yet Facebook remains the top dog in social media.

How do you do it, Zuckerburg?

Facebook-hoax

How does Facebook justify these generally unwanted changes, especially when many associate these updates with frustration? Some will be quick to point out that they have to keep up with the competition, but how is change helping if it’s always previously been met with backlash? On the surface, it doesn’t seem logical. Could there be a lurking variable that might explain these rebellious changes?

I think I have an explanation.

First, let’s break down into 4 stages based on my understanding of how a Facebook user generally reacts to a major Facebook update (assuming that they’re a culprit of complaining.)

  • 1. Curiosity

You find out that Facebook has undergone a major change.

‘Hmmm, I wonder what’s been changed?’ you ask yourself, ‘What does it look like? Can it be as bad as I’ve heard?’

Let’s log in and find out.

  • 2. First Impression

You’ve logged in and you’re exploring the changes.

‘Ugh, this update sucks! How dare they change this free service in a way that I don’t like!’

What do we tend do when we’re unsatisfied with trivial matters? Complain!

  • 3. Expression

You may feel compelled to express your frustration to others.

Update your Facebook status! Tweet the world! Text your Mom! Let everyone know that Facebook has betrayed you!

  • 4. Acceptance

Eventually, you should become accustomed to the change and you might even forget what Facebook looked like beforehand.

Alternatively, you’ll lose interest in complaining. Finding reasons to hate things is hard work!

Equilibrium is restored and the social media world is at peace.

Facebook goes back to the drawing boards with dreams of new and exciting ways to get you worked up.

I’d like to direct your attention away from the sarcastic overtones and towards the Expression stage, which is the basis of my whole theory. Personally, I could list many people on my feed that have incessantly complained about Facebook updates, and I’d be willing to bet that the same is true for many others.

What if each time someone publicly complained about a change to Facebook, two observers became curious enough to look for themselves? They’d open up their News Feed to make their own judgement. They may choose to jump on the bandwagon of complainers, enabling the cycle to live on. As a result, more and more people to run to their nearest computer to see what the fuss is all about.

It seems to me that Zuckerburg is taking the ‘all publicity is good publicity’ concept to a new level.

If there is any real substance to my theory, Facebook is a marketing genius. If not, just remember me when the News Feed update goes live in the coming weeks.

I dare you not to complain.

– Josh

P.S.: Heard of Twitter’s new secret weapon? Instagram might be in trouble… More info here.

Vine – Twitter’s response to a social media merger


In an already cluttered social media battlefield dominated by Facebook, Twitter unleashes their latest weapon: Vine, a mobile app that enables users to create and share short videos.

Emphasizing on simplicity, videos are capped at a 6 second maximum. This forces users to conform to the same ‘micro-blogging’ mentality made familiar by Twitter. Vine, naturally following in the footsteps of the creators’ main project, uses the tried and true ‘follower’ system, allowing you to view the visual micro-blogs of anyone you choose. The app also incorporates a search function, providing gif-like videos relating to everything from magic tricks, cute dogs, and other things that we shouldn’t (but do!) care about.

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  • Has Instagram Met Its Match?

Naturally, many comparisons have been drawn between Vine and Instagram on account of the visual and artistic emphasis put on both services. A quick Google search will show you that many consider Vine as ‘Instagram for videos’. Interestingly enough, Vine’s blog is attempting to position the app away from the Facebook-owned photo sharing service.

Vine is a video service without a play button. This was intentional. Old things are beautiful, but new things should look, well… new. That’s why Vine doesn’t have a play button. It also doesn’t have a pause button, a timeline scrubber, a blinking red light, or dials and a brushed-metal finish to give you the impression that you’re using a dusty video camera.

Posted by Rus Yusupov (@rus)
Co-founder & Creative Director, Vine

Notice the subtle shots at Instagram’s focus on vintage style photos with an old school feel? Vine is not simply trying to be better than Insta, but is rather trying to set itself apart.

  • The Bottom Line: Facebook vs. Twitter

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in mid-2012 resulted in an unpopular move by Twitter: disabling the function to share and view Instagram photos directly on to your Twitter feed.

Was denying support to their primary competition simply Twitter’s natural reaction to the aquisition, or was this Twitter’s first step in paving the way for their own visual blogging tool?

Regardless of their intentions, the Instagram/Vine feud will be largely decided by the corporations to which they belong.

When it comes down to it, the success of Vine will be dependent on Twitter’s ability to fully integrate it into their consumer’s everyday lives. In this respect, Instagram has had success with a staggering number of active users. With only just over a month since its release, Vine is still too young to assess on the same level.

You can find Vine’s website here. The app is currently available on iOS, and expansion to Android is expected soon.

Let the visually-centered social media battle begin,

Josh

For more written by Josh, click here.