If you (don’t) read one book this year. . .

make it The Mermaid Chair. This was the first book that our Online Book Discussion Group read, and I only finished it because I didn’t want to be the kid in English class that didn’t read the book. I did that enough in high school (sorry, mom).

While I’ll spare you the gory details and plot spoilers, my biggest problem was the main character. How the reader was supposed to sympathize with this person, I’ll never know. She was the most vapid and egomaniacal character I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about.

So if you can at all manage it, do not read this book. I’m already off to the races with Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, and after about 20 pages of her anti-Bush, “I don’t believe in God”-laden diatribe, I’m enjoying it FAR MORE than I did The Mermaid Chair. That should tell you something.

Google Calendar Released

I’m really not a shill for Google. Really I’m not. But I find myself using their Web applications more and more often. In fact, I’m using one right now to compose this post. Here’s a quick list of google products that I use on a regular basis:

  • Search – Naturally
  • Email – Gmail blew Hotmail away and I’ve never looked back.
  • IM/chat – AIM’s most recent update is so wretched that I wish everybody were on Google Talk. I reluctantly use both. Google Talk’s smooth integration into Gmail is also really nice.
  • Blogger – Owned by Google. Simple and yet feature-filled. Not as filled with features as I’d like, but it has more than enough to keep me coming back.
  • Google Reader – Yeah, I realize this is cheating because it’s been momentarily supplanted by Bloglines, but I’ll continue to keep an eye on it.
  • Picasa – For red-eye removal only. Sad, huh? If it integrated with Flickr I’d be sooooo happy. But Flickr is Yahoo’s baby. So no-go.

A Portion of the Google CalendarGoogle Calendar offers what promises to be a responsive and intuitive calendar. Being just released to the general public last night, there are still the occasional hiccups. But I noticed small problems with the release of Gmail and the integration of Google Talk into Gmail too, and they were resolved fairly quickly. I won’t talk too much about the interface. I already used both “responsive” and “intuitive”, and I really don’t have anything to say about it beyond that.

The feature that I’m most interested in is the ability to share and display multiple calendars between users. You can see from the picture that I’m currently displaying four of “my” calendars in Google Calendar. In addition to my default calendar, there is Kate’s calendar (which I can see but not update) and two fully shared calendars that both of us can update. I’m hoping that I can continue to use the Internet to supplement my woefully inadequate memory and actually keep my busy (ha!) social life in order.

Google Calendar also allows users to add “public” calendars. Right now I’m using two of these. Knowing all the US holidays is a nice addition. And since I’m a big geek I added a public calendar that automatically shows new episodes of Lost. Say it with me: Big. Geek.

Baby Puke: Always a Fun Way to Start the Day

So I was rolling out of bed this morning for the second time (the first was to bring Simon to Kate so he could nurse), and Kate was playing with Simon on her belly. She had just finished feeding him, and was looking at him admiring how cute he was. And he, in turn was looking at her and thinking “Wow, I’m really full”.

As I walked away from the bed, I heard what I can only describe as the sound of a small wave crashing against the shore. The shore, in this case, was Kate’s face, hair, pillow, and a good portion of her side of the bed. The wave consisted of a quantity of baby puke that we, until this point, did not think could possibly come out of a person that small.

Kate managed to sputter out some sort of appropriately shocked reaction. I fetched a towel to help her clean herself up, while expressing the appropriate level of concern for our vomiting baby. What I really wanted to do was laugh, because it was pretty freaking funny. Mostly because it wasn’t me on the receiving end of the vomit wave. Is that wrong?

The beauty of site feeds.

BloglinesAfter a burst of posts over a three day span that had me thinking I would be posting more regularly, it’s now been over a week since that last post. I have a very good reason for this. You see, this post is being typed with one hand, as the other is currently being occupied by a sleeping baby.

Okay, so that’s not really the reason, but you would think that my temporary typing handicap would make me somewhat less long-winded. No such luck! The real reason that I’m updating is to talk a bit about newsreaders, which I discovered quite a while ago, but have selfishly kept to myself this whole time.

For me, the term “newsreader” is somewhat inaccurate, as I don’t really use them to read “news” at all. I use them to keep up with my circle of friends who have web sites, and read other blogs of interest to me (like Dooce and the Flickr blog). The benefit behind these things is that you don’t have to click on all of your various bookmarks to see who has updated recently. I know that some of you use Kevin’s list of links for precisely this purpose (that list is darn handy, Kev). A newsreader allows you to check those and any other site you may read that publishes a feed.

What is a “feed”, you ask? In laymans (my) terms: a feed is basically all the content of your site published to a file in a format that can be read by any number of programs. So my feed consists essentially of each title, post, date, time, etc. No links, no navigation, no pretty formatting. Those are all (or should be) secondary to the point of this (and every) site: the content you want to read. Sites that publish a feed allow you read all or a portion of their content (with a link to the full article) in a newsreader.

Until recently, I had been using Google Reader, which I like. I’m going to continue to keep an eye on it as they add features and turn it into a better tool. But after seeing that someone was viewing my site using a tool called Bloglines, I decided to give that a try. I’m a big fan. There’s any number of different newsreaders out there, and they make your surfing life a lot simpler. Give them a try sometime.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t currently publish a site feed, consider doing so. Because I’m lazy. And don’t you just want to encourage that?