{Review} The Elements of Blogging

It’s 2014 and everyone knows what a blog is. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your first blog, a common question is, “Where do I start?”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books about how to blog: tips about things like creating a domain, SEO, choosing a theme (or designing your own), etc. All of these are important but what if you don’t care about generating thousands of hits to your site or are overwhelmed by all this stuff you have to apparently learn to run a successful blog? Then look no further than The Elements of Blogging by Jacob Miller (kineticbear.com).

In The Elements of Blogging, blogging is boiled down to the basics – content. From tips for coming up with ideas, harnessing creativity and imagination, and most of all the motivation to keep up blogging, Jacob’s book will endlessly inspire. Interspersed throughout the book are stories from fellow bloggers (including yours truly*) about how they got started blogging.

True to Jacob’s style on his blog, Kinetic Bear, the ideas in this book are presented as suggestions and guidelines rather than rules and can be a helpful, refreshing reminder for bloggers who might feel as if blogging (and successful blogging) has become determined by traffic and numbers, not quality and content. If there was a self-help book for bloggers, this is it.

You can buy The Elements of Blogging on iBooks and Amazon, or download it as a pay-what-you-want PDF. Learn more about Jacob’s book here.

*I was one of the first readers of The Elements of Blogging, as well as one of the people who helped edit it and contributed my story. I am not paid to write this review. I am simply sharing a great book by a friend.

Written and published with Desk Publishing Machine.

Origami Blue Lotus

My first origami lotus!

I followed these instructions on Sherlockology. This dark blue was the closest I had to black paper. Lotuses are easy to make – with bigger paper. The origami paper I’m using is 7.5 by 7.5 centimeters and once it got to the third fold, it was difficult to bend the paper without crushing it, let alone making the petals.

This one here I only did two folds, which is why the white side is visible.

Published via Pressgram

Polyphemus

Late last week I spotted this moth on a bush. It was the largest I’ve ever seen with my own eyes and after doing some research later, learned that it is a Polyphemus moth, named after the man-eating cyclops in “The Odyssey” but despite the name, are quite harmless. (Odysseus said his name was “Nobody”, tricking the cyclops before blinding him, so that his men could escape.)

The mouth of the Polyphemus moth is too small, so it can’t eat and thus only lives for one week.

Two days ago, I checked to see if it was still there after some heavy rain we had and was surprised to see that there were two!

Now they’re both gone, only the cocoon remains.

Published via Pressgram

Zoe – Foodie and Photog

Zoe:

I guest posted today on the website 27 Good Things, where I share three things good to read, watch, and use. It was tough to narrow down since there are so many things that I like and love, but I think I managed. The books I listed are very much reflective of my recent reading material.

I was asked if I was interested in being a guest after I tweeted about one of the books I list, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield and thanked John Saddington (@saddington) for recommending it. (He didn’t directly recommend it to me, but he did mention it as a book he tells everyone to read in a link that he had tweeted before.) Next thing I knew, I was tweeted by Mike, who runs 27 Good Things, and after a few more tweets, he asked me if I would like to do a guest post and here we are!

I first came across 27 Good Things when I read a post with John sharing his good things, which was when I learned about Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and shortly afterward borrowed it from the library. In that vein, I’m glad to have shared these three things to read, watch, and use and it is my hope that readers will find them useful, inspiring, informative, and entertaining, while maybe also discovering something new to them.

Originally posted on Three things to read, watch, and use:

Zoe blogs at Z’s Cup of Tea where she writes about gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free foods in addition to Trend & chic and Writer’s Bone. She also does work with Pressgram; as a community manager, in Google+, and on Flipboard. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield ­ I’ve just read this book and it’s a definite keeper. Without putting it lightly, it is one of those books that does change your life. The basic principle of battling Resistance, as described in the book, can be applied to all parts of life, it isn’t just for  artists. It’s for everybody who’s ever had a dream of doing something but hasn’t for a variety of reasons, whether it was something in their life that happened or they rationalized themselves out of it. My favorite example is early in the book, when Pressfield describes, as a way of illustrating the power of Resistance, Odysseus sailing home and, with Ithaca in sight, decides to have a nap when he falls asleep, his men cut open a sack in which they believed there was gold but instead contained the adverse Winds, which proceeded to drive back Odysseus’s ships and therefore delayed his homecoming for years. As well, the book is full of passages that can be highlighted for reference. Afterward, I chanced across this post about how The War of Art came to be and it’s a very cool story!

The Element by Ken Robinson ­ This is a book about people discovering their passion, what
makes them tick, which is what Ken Robinson calls “the Element”. Full of stories about people,
famous and everyday, who found their Element, it is an inspiring and uplifting read and it’s a book I recommend to everyone. Many people who read this book were so inspired that they wanted to find their own Element and that eventually resulted in the sequel, Finding Your Element (which I’ve also read and recommend).

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden ­ Easy to read
with lots of graphics and short, succinct passages that drive the point home, Paul Arden’s book
is a great pick­me­up that can be read within a single sitting or read in small bites at a time.
There isn’t a single page that isn’t brilliant. It’s also great paired with his other book, and that I
think is considered a sequel, Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite.

Good things to watch.

RMR: The Rick Mercer Report. ­ Rick Mercer is a Canadian comedian, television personality,
political satirist, author, and host of the Rick Mercer Report, a show where he takes viewers to
different parts of Canada and explores all kinds of aspects of Canadian culture, often with a
hans­ome approach and always entertaining. You can watch clips from his show on YouTube
and he has also written two books based on his show.

BBC’s Sherlock. ­ I can easily create a list of British shows I watch, so I’ll keep it to just
one.Sherlock is a brilliant show and one that I’ve been watching since it started, so…long­term
fan here! While it would be easy to say I like it because of the two leads, that is only partially true
as I like ­ love ­ everything about its production, including its writing and cinematography (the
floating text on the screen was a stroke of genius and anything I watched afterward that showed
a cut to a phone’s screen so that the audience could read it seemed dated) and the production
design. I pretty much read/watch/listen to just about everything officially related to the show. Now eagerly awaiting series four….!

Unsung Hero.­ Spoken in Thai,with English subtitles, this video is so beautiful! Short but packs a punch: following a man who commits random acts of kindness for mere strangers, watching it, particularly the conclusion, has shed a tear or two. You wouldn’t even know it’s an insurance ad unless it said so at the end.

Good things to use.

Pressgram. ­ An iOS photo publishing app, version 2.0 was recently released that gives more
publishing options (no longer just WordPress) and features, including paid. I am a community
leader for the app, so I might be biased but I think it’s great and I use it for my own blogging with
ease.

Sleep Genius. ­ The first and only sleep app I really tried was the Sleep Genius app (available for
iOS and Android), developed by sleep experts for NASA to help astronauts sleep. Unlike the
majority of sleep apps available, this app is based on scientific research and, based on my own
personal experience, it does work. There are three different tracks (one comes free with the app,
the other two are in­ app purchases) to help you reach a deep level of sleep as well as one
specifically for a 29­minute power nap and you can eventually train yourself with the app to wake
up naturally and peacefully rather than jerking yourself out of sleep with the jangling of an alarm
clock.

SuperBetter­. This is an app (iOS) I’ve just started to use and that’s newer to me. Most of my
family downloaded it after watching Jane McGonigal’s inspiring and informative TED talk about
videogames and how playing a game, which became SuperBetter, saved her life. People with
health issues and life­threatening illnesses have used this app to get better, but you don’t need to
have a health problem in order to use it. You can use it to get better at anything, whether it’s
taking walks more often or even just practicing being grateful. It’s free to play online on their
website (https://www.superbetter.com), or you can purchase the app for $4.99 in the App Store.

Connect with Zoe on Twitter, @ZsCupofTea.

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The Turk

Despite being an antique technology, automatons still manage to enchant us to this day. Considered the ancestors of our modern technology, automatons have been an object of fascination since they were first invented and remain a popular subject in fiction as well, such as Hugo by Brian Selznick. There is one automaton that perhaps inspires the most fascination of all: the Turk, a chess-playing automaton that was invented in eighteenth century Austria-Hungary by Wolfgang von Kempelen.

The Turk by Tom Standage is a biography of this remarkable machine that managed to astound – and confound – millions, playing against several famous figures in history including Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. Invented by Kempelen to impress Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria-Hungary, it was an immediate sensation and he would tour Europe showing off the Turk as it would play live chess games in front of crowds. The period in which it was invented was ripe for possibility: civilization was between the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution and the Turk was seen as an example of the kind of possibility that could be made with technology, inspiring inventions beyond its automaton and chess-playing origins, such as the power loom.

After Kempelen’s death, the Turk was nearly forgotten as  it was put in storage until it found a new owner and once again its beguiling magic mesmerized the world.

Despite being eventually revealed as an elaborate hoax, which is explained in Tom Standage’s book, it’s still a marvelous invention and still amazing to watch in action, even almost eerie, in this 15-minute video, below. The video seems to be from a documentary that sounds like it’s narrated by Morgan Freeman and also includes the author being interviewed. I’m afraid I don’t know what documentary this is from, so if someone knows, please let me know in a comment.

As I read The Turk and after I’d finished reading it, I was inspired to play chess again. Each chapter is introduced with a fun piece of chess trivia, whether an opening move, endgame, or puzzle (some of the names are especially enjoyable, such as one puzzle named after Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign) and epitaph from a well-known chess player as well as diagrams of particular chess moves.

Whether you like history, automatons, or chess – or all three! – The Turk is an enjoyable and engaging read. For those of you who like web comics, Sydney Padua (of Lovelace and Babbage comic fame) pointed me in the direction of this web comic about the Turk called Clockwork Game.