Thursday, June 27, 2013

Goodbye, Google Reader, Hello Bloglovin' - or Feedly?

Or...? Yep, those aren't the only choices.

There are the early adopters - those eager beavers who will stand in line all night for the newest, shiniest, piece of i-Whatever, all proud of themselves (and shocked, shocked, that the beta and first generations of iShiny generally turn out to be iBuggy).

Then there are the procrastinators, always finding just one more perfect line to add to their manuscripts as they are ready to click Send, putting a stamp on their tax return at 11:30 pm on April 15, the technophobes who are contemplating maybe getting one of those smartphone thingies. Later.

Google Reader Sinks into Oblivion on July 1

Which means, if you read blogs, and you have been using Google Reader to do so, you will need a new Reader, if you want to keep on reading blogs. Like, setting it up this weekend.

If you are a blogger, you might want to be able to recommend a blog reader to your followers, so they don't end up stranded like the steerage passengers on the deck of the Titanic.

(Yes, this painting is full of factual errors, but it's free. And it did suck being left on the ship.)
via Wikimedia Commons
The awesome Sierra Godfrey wrote an excellent piece here, summarizing the different features of:

  • Feedly
  • NetVibes
  • The Old Reader 
  • Flipboard (tablet users only)
  • Pulse
  • Newsblur
Theoretically, Google+ is supposed to be the hot new thing. In practical terms, I have yet to hear or see anyone talk about using Google+ specifically to read and follow blogs. Like FaceBook, yes, you can click on and read links to posts as they pass by in your media stream, but will you see all the blogs you are following and would like to read? Probably not.

Google Friend Connect is not Going Away... YET

For those like me who have a Blogger blog, and a fair number of followers, this was (somewhat) reassuring. However, there are always rumors Google is going to discontinue it. Besides, people who didn't have their own blogs via Blogger couldn't use Google Friend Connect anyway (which doesn't seem very friendly to me). Where's the love for all the WordPress and TypePad bloggers, plus all the wonderful, wonderful people who only read, don't blog?

I decided to go ahead and change over the box that showed my Google Friend Connect faces to the one that shows my Google+ faces, but you don't have to do that. And you can still access your blog Reading List through the big dogpile on the Blogger home page, which brings them up, most recent posts first, or choose one from the left.

Bloglovin', and the Reading is easy...

I have to admit, right away I leaned towards Bloglovin', because how can anyone not love lovin'?

Also to be honest, I signed up for Bloglovin' lo these many moons ago, but I never bothered to put a subscribe button on my page, I sorted some of the blogs I followed into nice neat categories, and I left a huge number still dogpiled together, get to those later.

Yep, I'm one of those procrastinators. *self-eye-roll*

My home screen, with the drop-down menu activated.

What I Like About Bloglovin':

  • Import of Google Reader blogs was seamless.
  • Easy and uncomplicated interface (see above).
  • You don't need to know the RSS code of a blog to add it. Just paste in the url and hit the Search icon. If you're already following that blog via Bloglovin', it'll let you know.
  • Bloglovin' generates traffic for the blog owner.
  • I can "like" a blog from the preview by clicking on their heart. You can also share to FaceBook and Twitter directly from the preview without reading the whole thing.
  • You can hide selected blog you're following from public view, so no one knows you are following both Vegetarian Daily and Meat Bingers Anonymous.
  • I really, really like their "Scroll to Top" button like on Pinterest.
  • I can mark off blogs as read (even if I haven't read them, or read them elsewhere than through Bloglovin').
  • Once you have an account, you just go to Bloglovin' and sign in - home 'puter, work 'puter, library 'puter, where ever you happen to be, you don't have to add or install anything.

Fetch Me My Blogs!

Bloglovin' offers the option of selecting no emails, or a daily email with clickable links for blog reading pleasure. Because I am lazy super-busy, I like the option of having my blog reading delivered right to my inbox, where I can scroll down and click on links. It shows Title, photo if there is one, a snippet of text, and the blog name. (That little number next to the blog name lets me add it to my Google calendar, though why I would do such a thing, I dunno.)
Of course I clicked through to read about the UK politician making alien babies.
What I Dislike About Bloglovin' (so far):
  • You can only put a blog in one group at a time. So I can't put Roni Loren, for example in the category I set for "Writer Help" and "Sexy Writers" or Fav's though she certainly belongs in all three.
  • Nor are there subgroups. You can't have "Writers I Like" and then subgroups for Romance, YA, and Sci-Fi, for example.

What if you're not "on" Bloglovin'? You should probably set up your account, check to see if your blog is listed, and "Claim" it. If you have Followers (like me) who are choosing to use Bloglovin', and there's a problem, that way the Bloglovin' techs can help you iron it out.  And for your own future reference, you just might want to know how many people are following you that way.

Feedly, You Scared Me

I'm not a techie type person. From many reports, Feedly is (currently) the bigger, better, more flexible program.

But I wanted to check it out, too, and, if possible, offer a easy-peasy Feedly subscribe button as available to my readers, too. (Which I managed, yeah, me!)

My first look at my Feedly via Chrome.

Here's a nice Feedly Tutorial from 9 Ways to Personalize Your Feedly

What I Like About Feedly:
  • Import of Google Reader blogs was seamless.
  • More users, so (theoretically, at least) more techs and troubleshooting. 
  • Easy "feedly mini" widget to add new blogs.
  • I can mark off blogs as read (even if I haven't read them, or read them elsewhere than through Feedly). 
  • I believe, though I could not confirm, that reads via feedly also count as pageviews for the blogger.
  • If you delete a blog you no longer wish to follow, it also gets deleted in the Google Reader side. 
  • If you change categories in a blog you follow, that change also gets made on the Google Reader side.
  • You can add tags in feedly, and also mark posts to read later. 
  • Lots of places to offer suggestions, wish lists, and feedback.
  • [Updated to add] You can select options to show Titles & Text only, no pictures, for those who don't like the space that showing pictures consumes.

What I Dislike about Feedly (so far):
  • Each device has to be set up independently, so if you use a desktop 'puter, a laptop, and a smartphone, that's three separate installations.
  • Just like Bloglovin, a blog can only "live" in one category at a time.
  • No home delivery (email) option.
  • Appearance felt "busier" and colder to me, despite more viewing options .
  • If, like me, you never had categories set up in Google Reader (see procrastination, above), sorting them into categories for the first time via Feedly is laborious and complicated.
  • Unreadable YELLOW font used for major links. I was able to change some of the default font link colors (though I had to KNOW and fill in the color numbers. There wasn't simply a dropdown box to choose blue, purple, etc. Who besides a techno-geek knows that they want a font to be #183c7f off the top of their head?), but I could not find where/how to change this.

I don't care how cute and daisy-fresh your site is, yellow links on a light background are always evil.

Where's My Flyswatter?

When I installed Feedly on 6-18-13, I clicked around and found these messages:

Here are a few known bugs. The iOS ones are going to take 7-10 days to fix because of the Apple approval. 
  • If you have a category which is using the “Magazine” view, it will load a black screen. Reported by Anthony Scundi. Fixed in 16.0.512
  • A couple of users have reported clicking on a category and not seeing articles displayed despite the unread count being > 0. If you have this problem, please email us using the bug report section, we are trying to understand this issue. Fixed in 16.0.512
  • Feedly integration with twitter is broken. This was due to the recent twitter API upgrade. Fixed on desktop 16.0.512 and Android 16.0.5. Still broken on iOS. Use buffer as a work around.
  • When you have more than 10 tags, the tags popup shows a scroll bar but scrolling makes the popup disappear. We are able to reproduce this problem and are working on a fix. Fixed in 16.0.513
  • Keep unread is broken on the desktop. We understand this problem. Working on a fix. Fixed in 16.0.513
  • <snip>
  • Feedly does not work on Safari 6.1 beta and Safari 7.0 beta. We are aware of this and are working on a fix. Coming soon.
There were tons more messages about bugs. While on the one hand, I was really glad they were so upfront about: "Here's the problem, here's how we fixed it," on the other hand my eyes glazed over and I kind of freaked out by how many bugs were being reported. Now, for all I know, Bloglovin' and the other feed readers have just as many bugs or more, they're just not as upfront in sharing about them.

But because it rides on each device, every time they fix some bug, means you're going to have to download & install that patch on your device. Maybe that doesn't bother you (Adobe, anyone?) because you can do it while in a meeting or in the shower, whatever, but some people loathe constant patch updating..

What I Don't Know

Lots! Primarily, how these readers work on mobile devices, because I am old school. I read blogs via a desktop PC, the way God and Mother Nature intended.

Some of these alternate feed readers listed by Sierra on her post work well with Macs; some work well with iPhones and iPads, or Androids, and some will not play with mobile devices at all. Others won't play with desktop 'puters (snobs!).

I found that I invested about twice as much time trying to learn Feedly, and came out frustrated and confused. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). I will probably be using Bloglovin' for my personal blog reading, but encourage you to use what works best for you.

If you are using something other than Google Reader now, please leave a comment.
What (hardware) device are you using, and how well is your blog reader playing with it?
What do you like, what do you hate?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lakely, Baby - Crater Lake, That Is

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever

Unfortunately, on the only day (May 21) my son and I had available to head up to Crater Lake, Oregon, it did not turn out to be a clear day. In the early morning, from the lake webcam, it looked pretty good, a few rainshowers, perhaps, and it was not supposed to snow until later in the evening.


Well, not really. I knew that the weather there is highly changeable.And it was.

Note my son's body language - not what he was expecting.
Rim Village. Very light flurries, not "sticking" at the time we arrived.
Know why the road marker poles are so tall? Because they need to be.

Snowing. Definitely big fatty flakes coming down. And wind blowing already snowed layers around.
From the Lodge main hall. You will not be shocked to find it is a non-smoking facility.
From the little mini-museum on site, we learned that, opening in 1915, the original Crater Lake Lodge was a hellhole somewhat rustic. Narrow iron bedsteads that dumped their occupants onto the floor, limited water supplies, not seismically sound (you kind of want that when you're built on a major fault line), and no heat in the rooms.

Yep, with an annual snowfall of 530 inches, you really want heat in your rooms, even if the Lodge is only open from mid-May through October. Weather permitting.

The Lodge went through a major retrofitting in 1995 and all rooms currently have heat (if not showers - some rooms only have a bathtub); some are handicapped accessible, and the entire Lodge is now built with seismic reinforcements. It looks like a very cozy place to spend a few days.

There was a fire burning in the smaller lobby, but this one had yet to be lit.
One of the staff made sure I captured the squirrel andirons.
Even though we were not Lodge guests, we were welcomed to look around as we escaped the snow.

The smoking/viewing section. The blue haze almost obscured by the railing? That's the lake.

Back view of the Lodge from a walkway.
There are signs everywhere cautioning idiots from climbing onto/into the caldera.
It would be one swift sled ride to the bottom; no sled necessary.

The slope from the Lodge continues.
See the boats and helipad ready to rescue dumbass tourists from the water?
That's right - there aren't any. Fall in, you're on your own. So don't be a dumbass.
This was as close as we decided to go for this vantage point.
Granted, if you fell off the edge, you might not reach the water.
You might get "lucky" and hit a tree.

We did reach a lookout trail that was not too inaccessible or unsafe to navigate, provided we didn't mind walking on top of the snow.

Looking left (north?) from the lookout point, the round sheltered structure is called Sinnott Memorial Outlook.
Totally inaccessible that day.
You can see on the left side floor of this outlook, several inches of standing water.
There were moments of almost-clear, when the lake color was visible, though snow was still blowing.

Victory! That is definitely blue water, with ripples on it.
Because it would have been sad to come all that way and not see the lake.
Though other travelers have come farther and seen less.

By the time I got the camera pointed at it, it had almost disappeared again.

In the places where the snow was not hard-packed, here's the depth.

Instead of sporadic light flurries and mostly wind, next the snow seriously started to come down. On the way out, we stopped at the Steel Visitor Center. They show a short film there on the history of Crater Lake, but I was concerned about stopping even for the 10 minutes or so to the next viewing, plus the 20 minute film, lest the roads close (which they did a few hours after we left).

My poor SoCal car was all, WTF is this stuff?

From inside the car, after only ten minutes inside the Visitors' Center.

 Here's a short clip I took showing the snow activity from a covered walkway at the Visitor Center.

For your reference, here is what Crater Lake would have looked like if it had been clear that day. (And if we were in a helicopter.)

English: Crater Lake is a caldera lake in the ...
English: Crater Lake is a caldera lake in the U.S. state of Oregon. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The lake partly fills a nearly 4,000 feet (1,220 m) deep caldera that was formed around 5,677 (± 150) BC by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if it had been clear and if we were in a boat, we might have seen The Old Man of the Lake, if we were lucky. This is an ancient tree stump recording floating (and traveling) in Crater Lake since at least 1896.

via Wikimedia Commons
It's a very interesting place, and I'd like to return, deeper into the summer. Since it's only about 90 minutes from my son's home base, the Medford area, I will probably have another opportunity on my next visit or three.

Have you been to Crater Lake?
Your experiences?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Go See It On the Mountain #mountshasta

From the B & B, at dusk
There's always an "oooh" in people's voices when they talk about Mount Shasta. Other mountains have their admirers (and climbers), but this one has a mystical and mythical draw.

via Wikipedia
California's Mount Shasta has been the subject of an unusually large number of myths and legends. In particular, it is often said to hide a secret city beneath its peaks. In some stories the city is no longer inhabited, while in others it is inhabited by a technological advanced society of human beings or mythical creatures.

According to local Indian tribes, Mount Shasta is inhabited by the spirit chief Skell who descended from heaven to the mountain's summit. Skell fought with the Spirit of Below-World, Llao, who resided at Mount Mazama by throwing hot rocks and lava, probably representing volcanic eruptions at both mountains.
Even in more modern times:
In August 1987, believers in the spiritual significance of the Harmonic Convergence described Mount Shasta as one of a small number of global "power centers." Mount Shasta remains a focus of "New Age" attention.
My first introduction to Mount Shasta as a magical place was via the 1941 Robert Heinlein short story Lost Legacy, included in his Assignment in Eternity (1953/1981) collection. (No, not the earliest edition!)

In the story, Phil Huxley, a psychology doctoral candidate, Ben Coburn, a surgeon,  and Joan Freeman, a ?? (not quite sure what Joan is, besides a woman who scandalously lives alone and wears pants, the horror!), develop a theory that psychic abilities have a physical location in the brain. They work to develop said activities, and take a jaunt up Mount Shasta where they meet up with a group of super-psychic people hidden in an interior, well, it's more like a village than a city. Or a commune.

I developed an intense yearning to hike up on Mount Shasta, have a mystical experience, and come down able to levitate, perform telekinesis, and telepathy, too.

Here's a link to read more about Mount Shasta in literature, plays, and novels.

From the B & B, dawn

Shasta MountINN. Such a gorgeous, welcoming, and wonderful place to stay!

Black Butte from the driveway of the B & B
It's also visible from two of the rooms.

My fellow B & B guests,  Woody and Becky from Virginia, recommended over breakfast that I drive up to Bunny Flat, for a more up-close-and-personal visit with Mt. Shasta. And I thought, yes, if I could only plant my feet on it, then maybe... So shortly I was on my way.

The drive itself was very pleasant, fairly short, and wound gradually through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Drove up this far, paid my day permit ($1) and I barely seemed any closer to the mountain.
Technically, I was already on it.

Still many patches of snow on the ground from about 5500 feet and up. And the birds, singing!

View of the forest to my right, peek of Mt. Shasta on the left.

There were several groups of hikers, and (mountain) bikers at Bunny Flat and elsewhere in the forest

Shasta herself chose to flirt with the clouds that fine May morning, like a belly dancer with her veils. She would reveal this bit, and conceal that one, then reveal that, and hide something else.

Probably the most Shasta revealed to me that morning, from Bunny Flat.

This map from inside the town of Mt. Shasta indicates the major landmarks of the mountain.

Summit? Just a tease.

Is that a hint of Shastina on the left?

Thumb Rock? Sargents' Ridge?

Mostly I sat on the dedicated bench, below, which had been perfectly positioned to enjoy the dance of clouds, sky, and mountain.

I didn't know whether to celebrate or mourn these two young men.
Mountaineering and canyoneering are dangerous and uncertain sports,
even when you are strong, fit, and well-equipped. But they did climb the mountain.

Some of the other mountains in the Cascadia Range.

Another view of Black Butte.
Was that a tingling in my feet?  Yes, but also, I wore sandals, and there was snow on the ground, hello?!

Sadly, I came down from Mount Shasta no more psychic than I was when I went up on it.

I assuaged my disappointment with a visit to the town of Mt. Shasta, and (say it with me like Oprah would)  Shopping!

That's pure WATER, not Hater. I ran into no haters during my time there.

Mount Shasta City (population of almost 3,400, during non-tourist season) could not have been more adorable.  Flowers in front of all the businesses, clean, well-kept buildings. Friendly shopkeepers.

There's City Hall. Don't you just want to eat it up?

Because I was there on a weekday, and before Memorial Day, the pace there seemed charmingly relaxed, and I was often the only tourist in the shops. I am given to understand that both in the summer and in the winter, when people come for the skiing and snowboarding, it gets much busier.

I couldn't stop in everywhere, but I got great service and knicknacks in It's All That... & More, and couldn't resist some specialty T-shirts in The Shirt Gallery.

The main street is only about two blocks long, maybe three. With TWO bookstores.

How can you not love a town with TWO bookstores?

I needed more books like I need to run up more credit card debt.
I managed to leave this place having done both. Yeah, a twofer!

I also stopped in, as previously blogged, at The Crystal Room(s) where I did not get away empty handed. (Still not feeling particularly psychic or harmonically converged).

On my way back to Los Angeles, this time I approached Mount Shasta from the other side. Could I pick up the magic power from a distance?

Maybe the next time I go up on Mount Shasta I'll get lucky.

Maybe I already did.

This has been added to the GenFab BlogHop on the theme of Transformative Travel.

Are you psychic?
Ever visited Mount Shasta?
Your thoughts?

Enhanced by Zemanta