Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Old Reader

I don't remember when the news broke- I'm thinking early April, but not sure- that Google was shutting down its RSS service, Google Reader (GR). That was shocking, angering and depressing to the many of us who have come to use that service, not as a major "source" of news and other internet information, but as the (in my case, THE) major conduit that tied all the sources we follow into one manageable page. Rather than visiting 500+ pages a day, I need visit only one with all those sources displayed.

Immediately the scramble was on: what alternates were available? What sorts of formats did they come in? (I don't care for photo or "magazine" formats, most often a thumbnail accompanied with a snippet of text- what I am after is the text, and if I have to click through on every article to get it, it completely defeats the whole benefit of the manner in which I use RSS.) Were various alternatives ready to deal with the enormous flood of new users abandoning the sinking ship of Google Reader?

While many people scrambled, I chose to sit back and wait a bit. I wanted to see feedback from others on their experiences, and the strengths and weaknesses of other RSS services. Within 2-3 weeks, the one I'd heard the best commentary on was The Old Reader. However, and this was a major concern, one of the comments I saw about that time was from a newly registered user who said they were somewhere around 14,000 in the queue to get their subscriptions/feed lists loaded. That would have been sometime back around the later part of April- again, if memory serves.

So yesterday, with some free time on my hands, I decided to see if I could figure out the whole process. I logged in to The Old Reader (TOR) using my Google account (you can also use Facebook, but it's not clear whether there are other ways or avenues to log in), and was told I needed to export my GR feeds as an OPML file. I don't know what that designation means, but as I'll describe in a moment, it doesn't matter. So you go the the gear icon on the upper right of the GR page, select settings, then "import/export," and under export choose "Download your data through Takeout." It takes a few minutes to get everything in shape to actually create the export files. When it's at "100%" continue. This is by far and away the most time-consuming part of the process. Be patient. It was easy to wander around to Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, and GR in the meantime. Creating your archive files runs easily in the background, and does not monopolize your computer or browser. This was where I got confused, and wasted a bunch of time. I was expecting to see at least one of those files with a .opml suffix, or some shortened equivalent. None of them will. (I made the mistake of quitting out after 30-40 minutes because I thought I was doing something wrong, then having to start all over again.) You end up with 8 files, one of them, Subscriptions, with a .xml suffix.

Once you have those 8 files (mine showed up zipped, but I just opened the zipped folder and copied the files to a similarly titled folder in an unzipped format), return to TOR, select import, and choose "Subscriptions.xml" as the target file. Loading my subscriptions took maybe 20 minutes or a bit longer, and when it completed, it sent me an email saying so.

So all in all, even though I had never done *any* of those things before, it was relatively quick and simple, with the exception of one mistake on my part that wasted somewhat more than half an hour. I was expecting the transition process to be much more complicated and time-consuming. If this is a concern of yours as well, it needn't be.

About the TOR service itself: the interface is almost a clone of the GR interface with some changes in color, fonts and font sizes. The only significant difference I've spotted so far is that my individual feed subscriptions that I haven't categorized into topical folders are all bound in a single generic folder called "Subscriptions," but given the manner in which I consume my RSS info, that makes no difference whatsoever. I've only had TOR for about a day now, and relatively little time (maybe 2 hours total) spent there, so consider this a preliminary report. As such, I'll just make some bulletted comments:
  • All hail the return of the "Share" button! I have only one shared item so far, mostly as a test, but as I understand it (h/t @, this link should take you to a page of my shared items.
  • I was worried that I might have a limited number of subscriptions, but it took all 528 of mine without a quibble. I suspect that's an unusually high number, and that most people will have many fewer.
  • One thing I noticed immediately and really appreciated was that TOR "Home" page lists dead feeds- that is, subscriptions that have been inactive for a long period of time. I've been aware of deadwood accumulating for some time, but other than occasionally coming across one and deleting it, have had no way of systematically pruning these out.
  • The response time (i.e., switching from one folder to another, reloading, etc.) is noticeably slower than in GR, but not enough to be onerous. And given the enormous influx of users over the last months, this is something I suspect will improve- even though it'll matter little to me if it doesn't.
  • You can reverse the read order from newest->oldest, to oldest->newest. This is a feature I've wanted from time to time, though at the moment I don't recall why.
  • A feature/app I'm particularly intrigued by is called "Pocket," "a handy app that allows you to arrange, sort, and tag content that you intend to access later." (available at the bottom of the "settings" window) This could be very useful (and if what I envision, something I've really jonesed for in GR) as a way to save and organize things for link lists- Sunday Funnies, geology news, and so on. GR's current set-up basically allows me to star things, or like them, but no way to sort into separate categories.
  • Want basic instructions? See "Howto" under your profile name, but it's pretty much just like old-school GR.
In short, I'm pretty darned impressed, and while I expect I'll keep using GR right up to the end (currently the easiest way to accumulate the funnies, and the 30th falls on a Sunday), I'm relieved, pleased, and much more relaxed in having a ready-to-go replacement for that service.

Saturd80's: The Who Sell Out Edition

"The Who Sell Out" was released in 1967, and I don't think it came to my attention until the later of my high school years (75-77), but I really spent most of my listening time with this album after I moved to Corvallis. Satirizing our then trivial and amateurish advertising culture (compared to now) it was and remains brilliant. Odorono:

Heinz Baked Beans:

These are certainly not the most popular or well-known cuts off the album, but despite having heard them countless times, remain among my favorites. (I suspect the most popular and well-known tracks are Mary Anne with the Shaky Hands, and I Can See For Miles.)

Geo 365: June 8, Day 159: A Different Perspective

The same flow banding as shown yesterday, from a different perspective. I think I was trying to get closer to the fold axes, but at the scale I'm seeing here, it's still a bit of a muddle. This is one that definitely benefits from a full-size view.

Photo unmodified. August 21, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Geo 365: June 7, Day 158: Contorted Flow Banding

Contorted flow banding, as we saw yesterday, with relatively thin and sparse vitreous phase layers within the more dominant pumiceous phase. It looks as if the dark open area above and to the right of the lens cap was a single large vesicle.

Photo unmodified. August 21, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Geo 365: June 6, Day 157: Squiggle

So far, I've mainly emphasized that at the lower-pressure, cooler, near-surface of the flow, the obsidian seems to have deformed mostly brittley- that is, by breaking. I'm going to run a few photos over the next few days that clearly show it deforming either as a plastic or a liquid. Above is a very convoluted set of flow bands. The pumiceous phase is layered with relatively narrow and sparse vitreous bands. This is a situation where I kinda sorta think I see what's happening- a reversal of shear direction- but I'm not that confident, and I don't even know how to begin to explain. So I'll just say, "Ooo, look! Squiggle!"

Photo unmodified. August 21, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Geo 365: June 5, Day 156: Walking on Broken Glass

Dana appraises the landscape as we walk the loop trail on top of the Big Obsidian Flow. I have never had a good idea what causes those obvious little hillocks of obsidian blocks. They are clearly broken, not contiguous blobs of lava squeezed up through holes. There may be more than one process at work. For example, the two on the right horizon look like they might possibly have been formed in the same way as the "lava balls" at Lava Butte. Others look too angular. This is a situation where reckless arm-waving and speculation is harmless and fun, as long as at the end of it, you remind yourself you just don't know.

Photo run through Paint.Net's autolevel routine. August 21, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Incidentally, my ER visit confirmed it was a urinary tract infection, which is now being eradicated. My diabetes is still detectable, but nowhere near as bad as it was seven years ago. My BP was terrifyingly high (210 systolic), but simply lying there relaxed for a couple hours brought it down to 160, then they gave me a pill that brought it down to 117 within another hour and a half. The odd and amusing finding is that I'm sodium deficient, so I'm supposed to eat more salt and drink less water, while at the same time, drinking more water to flush the UTI, AND consume less salt due to high BP. I Suspect the latter is a fluke, not a chronic condition with me. I *have* been drinking a lot of water the last couple weeks, due both to the suspicion of a UTI and because we've switched over to hot weather mode. Add to that a general lack of appetite over the last few days, and there's an explanation. I do avoid overly salted food, but as one who largely eats processed food and at restaurants, I'm pretty confident I generally get plenty of salt in my diet.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Geo 365: June 4, Day 155: Broken Glass

A view of the margin of the path atop the Big Obsidian Flow at Newberry Volcano National Monument. Scale is not terribly obvious, but the path width is generally about a meter.

Hiatus warning: I've been experiencing symptoms of a urinary tract infection for twelve (Week ago Thurs.) days now. A week ago Sunday, they suddenly improved after an exceptionally bloody urination; I thought I'd passed a very small stone. For several days the symptoms seemed to be in remission. They've gotten worse again, though not as bad as over the previous weekend. However, the last couple of days I've felt feverish and foggy, my appetite is a total loss- I hate having to force food down when I don't want it- and I've been sleeping very poorly, spending hours hovering right near the edge of unconsciousness, but not quite getting there. So after a cup of coffee, and some quick reading, I'll be begging a ride to the ER. Hopefully, it ends up being a shot and prescribed antibiotics, but this thing has gotten too out of hand to simply hope it goes away any longer. Long and short, there may be a hiatus of a day or two, but it'll be pretty easy to catch up if that's the case. And hopefully I'll be lucid enough to say something beyond, "Hey, look! Broken Glass!"

Photo unmodified. August 21, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Geo 365: June 3, Day 154: More "Pumice," Up Close

Again, I take issue with calling this "pumice-" I'd prefer "pumiceous obsidian," but in this setting, it's a pretty trivial concern. Unlike pumice, it's quite dense. Also unlike pumice, it's quite tough. Most "real" pumice is weak enough to pull apart or crush with one's bare hands; this sample would turn them to handburger. Still, the commonalities are more important than the differences: rhyolitic, vitreous, and very, very foamy. Also like true pumice (in many/most cases) there is a distinct fabric: the threads of glass tend to be oriented horizontally in this view. Likewise, the long axes of the vesicles are dominantly horizontal. I presume this reflects the strain/flow regime as this block finally "set" and cooled into solid form.

This is not the same block as yesterday's example, but a bit farther along the path. Lens cap is 52 mm in diameter.

Photo unmodified. August 21, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday Funnies: Use as Directed Edition

"Use as Directed" Bits and Pieces
Funny to Me
Cyanide and Happiness
Bits and Pieces
Sober in a Nightclub
"The Mitch McConnell Legislative LOLcat!" Blue Gal
"Reading comments from reviewer two" What Should We Call Grad School?
Eat More Bikes
Clay Bennett
 "The Beatles" Sober in a Nightclub
Sober in a Nightclub
Bits and Pieces
Fake Science
Funny to Me
The Gentleman's Armchair
The Far Left Side
What Would Jack Do?
Chaos Life
Tastefully Offensive
Maximumble- also, the backstory/inspiration for this comic is delightful. Click over to read it; it's short and sweet.
Funny to Me
Bits and Pieces
Bits and Pieces
"After my first week as a TA" What Should We Call Grad School?
"When my advisor tells me TA-ing Mineralogy won't be "too much work'" Geology is Hard
Jen Sorensen
Fake Science
I Hate My Parents
Are You Talking to Meme?
Berkeley Mews
Old joke, brilliant animation. The toast alone is fantastic. "Perpetual Motion" Senor Gif
Wrong Hands
"Ferret Party Time" Senor Gif
Bits and Pieces
I Effing Love Science
"When the new kid finds out we have to hike to the top of the outcrop for our mapping project" Geology is Hard
 Funny to Me