How to set up a RSS Reader

This morning I was at the coffee shop with my mom (again), and as we sat there drinking our drinks (me: green tea, she: soy-milk latte) the conversation rolled around to blogs, facebook, and social media in general. You see, my mom often mentions that she’d like to do more with the internet, but having so many projects on the go, time is not always available.

(Never mind that we spent our morning at a coffee shop, because tea with people you care about is, in my opinion, a valuable use of time. It offers connection, reflection, and stillness. Something everyone can use.  . . even my husband, Zsolt, though he 100% believes it’s ridiculous to pay for a cup of tea when we could brew and entire pot at home. But he’s a man, and that’s just man logic.)

So, anyhow, I suggested, once again, she learn the wonderful world of the RSS Reader.

Have you heard of a RSS Reader? Because for ages I had no clue what this was, but heard it mentioned occasionally  . . . some pro blogging site had been discussing those ‘share’ links at the bottom of posts, and mentioned that a really good blog will always have a ‘RSS Reader’ option.

(Unfortunately this blog doesn’t have that link. I’m no WordPress Wizard, and haven’t a clue how to add one. But thankfully wordpress works in RSS easily, all you need to do is add the website address.  And I guess it’s likely you didn’t understand that last sentence. But hey, if you keep reading this post, you will by the end! Exciting prospect, no?)

Okay – because I’m such a huge fan of online ideas, and online community, and learning through experience, and keeping up on local happenings, and having my interests targeted . . . I ‘heart’ my RSS Reader, and think you might as well. So here is a very short introduction. There are tons of options online for getting a reader, but I use Google Reader and it’s damn convenient, therefore that’s what I’ll be sharing.

Right. . .

RSS Reader: A page that groups your favourite blogs, and presents new posts collectively on one page. This basically means you don’t need to bookmark a blog or subscribe by email. (Unless you want to, ’cause that works better for some.) Just add your blog of choice to the reader, and all notification of updates will arrive to this page.

Pros: Eliminates email clutter. Cuts down on browsing time. Allows you to preview a post before deciding if it’s worth the read.

Cons: Well, you actually need to set it up. I guess that’s half the battle. The other half is using it – but I check mine every morning like I check the news.

Steps:

1. Go to Google’s RSS Reader sign in page. If you have a gmail account, sign in using that username and password. If you don’t, then create an account.

2. You’ll be taken to a page that welcomes you to the reader. If you love reading detailed instructions – go nuts! Otherwise, hover over that red button that says ‘subscribe’ and click it. Here is a picture, I’ve drawn in an arrow, which won’t appear on your screen.

3. After clicking subscribe, a little box will appear below the button. Here’s what you do with that box:

  • Open your blog of choice in a new window.
  • Copy the entire web address of that blog.
  • Paste it into the little box on the Google Reader page.
  • Click Add.

You have now added a blog to your reader. This can be done with nearly any blog online – so whether you like to follow someone’s cooking page, comics, breast cancer journeys, inspirational people, news sites, TED, local event blogs – whatever, just cut, paste and add them to your reader. (And if that doesn’t work try a CNTRL + F with the phrase ‘RSS’ to see if they have a reader friendly version.)

4. Choose the settings you prefer. I like to have a list of blog titles when opening my reader (for quick scanning), other people might prefer the title and the first paragraph of text. Just play around with the ‘View settings’ button and find your preference.

If you click on a title, it will open a preview. If you click the title again, it will open the actual blog page.

5. Now that your reader is set up, you can keep abreast with all  the latest posts very easily. It’s like a miracle if you are involved in social networking, or enjoy getting your news online. Loads of wonderful people have blogs, and it’s fantastic to follow their stories – pick people you admire, choose topics that interest you – the great thing about a reader is it’s completely tailored to you, by you.

And this is what I do, because I hate online clutter. Every time I scroll the page of new posts, and read/skip whatever appeals or doesn’t, I then click “Mark all as read” – and ‘poof!’ they are eliminated from the screen. All cleaned up.

 Okay – so this post isn’t for everyone, I get that. But sometimes there are tools that are simply so worthwhile, I have to write about them. Of course, for many people setting up this reader isn’t worth the time (cause you only read a few things online, and I’m totally honoured to be one of them). But if you follow more than, say, three blogs – try the RSS Reader and see how it feels.

I’m sold, even though it’s free.

And that’s what I told my mother this morning. I even put an app on her tablet so she can quickly access the posts . . . whether she uses it is another issue. But I’ve tried. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

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Onto better things

Whew, good morning and good day. Yesterday I couldn’t bear to write a post for this blog – it wasn’t for a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of BRAIN power. That is it say, I was tired.

Ho Crap! Have only just checked the clock. It’s 7.58 am, which means I have woken up abnormally early considering I was so incredibly tired yesterday. But that is what writing does to me : I get these ideas inside my head, and sooner than later they turn into running narratives . . . almost like a dictation .  . . and if I don’t write it all down, the words will keep circling around and prodding me. This may sound crazy (maybe?), however, it is also the truth. But it’s no wonder Zsolt is still in bed. Normally he’s first up and out, so this morning when I rolled away from the covers and he was still totally asleep, I just thought it was because the poor man stayed up till like 2am last night with his thesis.  Nope. It’s just crazy early here.

At least, in the student world it’s crazy early. For normal 9-5ivers to wake up at eight must be equivalent to sleeping in. Anyhow…

Right! Went to London last Wednesday and believe this is a city not to be eaten in small bites. Yes, you get a taste – but really, a visit in the afternoon isn’t enough time to soak up everything the capital offers. It’s easy to understand why people take a 2m x 2m apartment just to stay in the city; with all those shops and pubs and restaurants and BOOK LAUNCHES and shows and incredible neighbourhoods, what’s so wrong with living in a closet? Not a darn thing.

Anyhow, we navigated the subway system and found our way to Holland Park. First things first (and being about 2 hours early), we stopped in at a French Patisserie named Paul. This place was lovely, and all the servers with their white cook hats had French accents. Are they really French? Quite possibly. Anyhow – they had all sorts of gluten-filled goodies, so I abstained and ordered a large mug of tea instead.

One hour later it was onto the pub for dinner with friends (and a twenty meter walk down from the bakery). Funny, I’d arrive for the evening with black stockings on, but my built-in slip did not extend to the actual bottom of the dress. This is inconvenient,  becausewhile walkin the bottom strip of fabric would start to inch-inch-inch-up with every freaking step. Anyhow, I made the executive decision to remove the stockings and just wear my knee high socks – thus flashing a lot of bare legged thigh, and ended up looking like an Asian-fusion stewardess/school girl with my combo of dress and socks, all wrapped up in a polka dot jacket that also cuts at the thigh (thus giving no help to the rising skirt situation) – but then throw on top of everything my incredibly short hair and I really must have come off as eccentric (or as a breast cancer warrior, maybe I should have pinned a ribbon for clarity). But if there’s anything chemo has taught me it’s that even when you feel/look like shit, it always pays to stand up straight. So on Wednesday night when I doubted my outfit (though it was fine, not chemo-bad at all), I at least tried to stand up straight.

Did you know that London, or at least Holland Park Avenue, is chalk full of late twenty and thirty-somethings? This is a mecca for the post-uni, pre-middle age crowd. I loved it.

Anyhow – finally we arrived for the launch of The Cloud Messenger, held at Daunt Books. It’s strange going to someone else’s party; I always wonder, ‘who the heck will I speak to?’ And indeed there were moments of awkward milling (And nerves! I’m just terrible in new situations), but thanks to social lubrication (wine) and a friend graciously making introductions, it was an interesting evening of chatter, new people, listening to Aamer read his lovely passage, and essentially enjoying that bookish buzz. Great stuff.

Fast forward to the train ride home, then a crash into bed. Best part of the evening : snuggling with Zsolt and talking about the party. Followed by sleeping, which is always wonderful.

And speaking of which, Zsolt has just woken up. I’m going to go and jump on him. (this poor man is spiriting to the finish line and banging his head against a wall simultaneously; PhD theses are not for the weak-willed, that’s for sure. But he’s almost there. Almost there! All I can do is make him tea.)

Signing off!

PS- it’s so nice to write about a day that has NOTHING to do with cancer. Okay, talking about cancer now kind of ruins it, but really, I have to say how wonderful it feels. The entirety of Wednesday was dedicated to things other than cancer. Awesome x 20.

Sunshine sketches of a little town

Last night I savoured nostalgia the way you would a chocolate truffle that melts in your mouth. Taken from a box tied with a ribbon, made from butter thick cream and the darkest coco; it flowed over me.

I have never been so impressed with a final chapter. Stephen Leacock’s thin novel Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town stirs up memories of a home that I never had – Mariposa –  but can entirely relate to, even having been raised in the suburbs instead of a small town off a dirt road along winding river.

It’s deeply satisfying to read a well written piece of work. And just as he began to talk about home, and Home, and the place that is buried in the past, I knew this was going to something about which to write. He has you see the train that everyone has forgotten, the train that carries you back to that place you grew up, the place with all those sunny memories . . . and he has you take that train and watch it transform into everything good you know about those times.

It made me think of my home – not exactly the one in Kanata 2010, but more the one in my mind, the one I visit to watch giant snowflakes drift through the air, or the maple leaves turn yellow, or the sun that streaks with redness across the field, and I grew up in the suburbs, far less sentimental than a small town where everyone knows everyone, but nostalgia is a strong cocktail, I figure, no matter where you grew up.

Anyhow, having slowly plucked my way through the pages of this book and laughed along with the ridiculousness of the narrator and characters, it was a disarming to read Leacock sober up and take us on this sad journey into a place to which we can’t actually return.

I long for Christmas because it’s what I knew back when things were far, far easier. And I miss Canada because not only is it an excellent country, but it is Home, no matter where else I live – no matter where else I may go – it will always be Home. And funnily enough, I know that those feelings are placed back in time. This is now, this is my life now and it is a good one (a very good one).  Ten years into the future I’ll probably long for the time Zsolt and I lived in a one bedroom apartment along a busy street filled with students, and we’d walk to the green grocers to buy our vegetables.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Being emotional lately I think it catches me more often, and yesterday’s final chapter (L’Envoi. The Train to Mariposa) caught me right up, wrapped me right up, and sent me to bed with dreams full of Young ponds, and popsicle outings, and sitting under my maple.

Nostalgia is a nice place to visit, though I certainly couldn’t live there. That would be too hard.  Instead I’ll go and give Zsolt a kiss on the cheek, make a cup of tea, and look out the window for something interesting. I love my life now: my independence, my husband, my friends, my family, my writing, my adventures – all despite this breast cancer blip. But it was nice to ride Leacock’s train, if only for the night. He is a talented writer, which is always a pleasure.