In My Pocket

true tales as told by Noelle

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Archive of ‘Rants & Raves’ category

Ghostwriter

As a writer, the byline is important because it’s what formally tells the reader who authored the work they are reading. When you create something and are especially proud of it, you want people to know that it was you who created it that work of art — because as a writer you know it takes just as much creativity and passion to weave words as it does to craft sculptures or paintings.

As a writer, though, you know writing isn’t a highly-lucrative profession especially if you’re working freelance or per assignment or project. For some of us, we give up our right to a byline in exchange for a regular writing gig that pays out.

Yep, I’ve gone and turned ghostwriter, like many of my peers who love writing and express ourselves best through the pen but aren’t famous enough to be granted a column in a major broadsheet or glossy magazine. It feels just like any writing project: you write the outline, you fill it in and get creative. But someone else takes the credit for what you’ve done.

I thought it would be much harder to let go of that byline because I know that’s how big my ego is, and that’s how proud I am of what I write. But after a few months of it, I’ve learned to take pride in how well-crafted my work is, byline or no byline. I also believe in what I’m writing for, which is why it’s no big deal when someone else gets the credit. And whenever I see the impact of what I’ve written on another person, it gives me a strange sense of fulfillment.

Of course I can’t tell you who or what I’m writing for; that would take away some of the magic and mystique. But let’s just say I’m glad I have places like this where I can still write as myself. =)

Of Cruelty and Kindness

“That’s a nasty rumor,” she said quietly.

He replied matter-of-factly, “Didn’t really put much stock in it when I heard others talking.” He shrugged, “I mean, I’ve always liked you as a person.”

If there’s one thing I have experienced all my life, it’s that people are cruel. Unconscious cruelty I can take, when they’re just not self-aware enough to know that what they say or do hurts others. It’s when they gleefully and wilfully engage in behavior and talk that tears another person down that I wish the earth would swallow them up whole.

I’ve been on this planet 30 years and I still am amazed at our rapacious appetite for gossip, whether it’s about a celebrity or a nobody who just happens to be in our social circle. “Did you hear about…?” is a surefire conversational kickstarter. So who cares if what we talk about happens to paint someone in a bad light? As a matter of fact, bad news is even more enjoyable to share with others. It sticks longer in our memories, too.

Maybe it’s because we want to feel better about our own lives — that’s why we tell stories of other people failing at theirs. In an effort to make ourselves feel more significant, we attempt to make others look insignificant. Cruelty is a sign that there’s a deficit. When we are cruel, we are attempting to take from others what we feel we lack.

Notice that I’ve used “our” and “we”; I see this capacity for cruelty in myself, too.

And then I experience kindness, and all is not lost. I store up these moments in my heart. Our capacity for kindness is determined by our own experience of it.

When you can choose to be kind instead of being cruel, you can count yourself blessed that someone cared for you, so you can care for others. You overflow, so instead of taking, you are able to give.

I remind myself of the greatest kindness I’ve received and continually receive every day: John 3:16.

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. — John Watson

Braven BRV-1: A Wireless Speaker for the Klutzy

Just this morning, I dropped my new BlackBerry Z10 in a parking lot. On the hard, rough cement. It’s a little the worse for wear. Anyway, that story has almost nothing to do with the Braven BRV-1 I’m about to review — except to show you how clumsy I am, which is a bad thing when you’re as mobile and traveling around all the time like I am. Inevitably, you’ll drop something you shouldn’t. It’s why I’ve always bought protective cases and shockproof, waterproof stuff.

Well, the Braven BRV-1 wireless speaker is touted as a hardy little companion designed to play your music wherever you are. I have to tell you, getting this in the mail for review made me want to book a trip to the beach the very next day! It’s lightweight enough not to be a burden inside a backpack, and it looks so much like a pair of high-tech binoculars so it won’t stick out like a sore thumb among other travel essentials.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Braven BRV-01 Wireless HD Speaker

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Slick packaging for this tough-as-mud piece of equipment.

The BRV-1 was a breeze to pair with my iPod Touch. All I needed to do was turn the unit on by a long press on the Power button, then a long press on the Play button so it could start searching for Bluetooth devices. Approve the connection on your music device, and it’s ready to go.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Power and Play buttons

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

volume control

There are also volume buttons on the side so you can turn it up or down without having to fiddle with your iPod. You can also pair the BRV-1 with a Bluetooth-enabled phone and use it as a speakerphone to answer calls.

It’s also not just a Bluetooth speaker. The rear compartment contains an audio-in jack for devices that don’t have Bluetooth capabilities, like the iPod Classic . There’s also a USB port which enables you to charge other devices from the BRV-1′s battery. Unfortunately it only has about 1400 mAh, which might be enough to give you a full charge on a BlackBerry 9360, but not on phones with higher-capacity batteries. Still, it could come in pretty useful in a wilderness survival situation, like running out of phone juice while camping.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

rear compartment

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Why I No Longer Use Creative Commons on My Blog

Recently, I’ve started to question the wisdom of offering my written works under Creative Commons. A long time ago I started using Creative Commons licenses for my blogs. I was inspired by my editing on Wikipedia (which asks you to license with Creative Commons everything you create on that website) and thought it was a great way to allow people to quote freely from my blog. “Hey, this will get the word out about my blog!” were my thoughts.

When I began optimizing my other blog Kikay Runner for better placement in search engine results, I also checked on the RSS feed I provide via FeedBurner and noticed that a website was listed under “Uncommon Uses”. RSS feeds are commonly used to bring your blog posts directly into email clients, web-based feed aggregators, news filters, and more. An Uncommon Use could be “a neat little news filter somebody wrote, a blog somebody assembled from feeds, or even blog spam.”

So I went and checked it out and found dozens of my posts from the RSS feed auto-reposted on another blog (what is called a “scraper site“). Worse, there were no links back to my blog and aside from the short footer appended by Feedburner to each post on the RSS feed, there was no attribution.

If there’s anything I could be thankful for, it’s that I had the foresight to offer only a summarized feed. Google penalizes websites with duplicate content, but sometimes it can’t distinguish between the original source and the copy (so both source and copy are punished by lower ranking in search results). Because I’d only put a portion of each blog post in the RSS feed, a large amount of my blog’s content remained unique. This means if people search on Google for a topic I’ve written about with my own spin, they’re still more likely to find my blog instead of the scraper site.

Aside from reporting the copyright infringement to Google so that the scraper site would not appear in search results, I also changed my RSS feed settings to be even more stringent. Instead of 400 characters in the summary I limited it to 200 characters, and worded the post footer more strongly by saying “If you see this on a website that is not KikayRunner.com, it may have been used without permission.”

Scraper sites have justified their actions in the past because of a notion that RSS feeds are free for syndication anywhere. The Creative Commons license also allows for copying with attribution (even without permission).

My words are precious to me; they’re an extension of how I express myself, so they’re an extension of me. So when another site reposts my blog posts without attribution, without my knowledge, without my permission, I feel violated.

I realized that I needed to retain more control of how my work is used online. People still have fair use rights when they want to quote me, but if they want to use my words for anything else (like creating an entirely new website!) they will need to get in touch with me.

I Love My Job!

BODYJAM 46 Megamall launch

Let’s dance!

I used to post a lot about Les Mills group fitness classes here, but haven’t in the last few years. This is strange because they’re a huge part of what I do weekly and a huge part of who I am, too. I know thousands of people worldwide attend Les Mills programs in order to get fit and stay fit, and they’re passionate about it.

So I’m going to come out and say I LOVE MY JOB! I love being part of a life-changing experience for my participants — the calm serenity and strength of BODYBALANCE or the madness and euphoria of BODYJAM. I love that by delivering these two group fitness programs in their essence, I’m able to help my participants get the most from their time at the gym. Everyone knows the saying mens sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body. When someone takes care of their body, the benefits translate to other aspects of their lives. The mature find functional fitness, so they are able to fend for themselves even in their age. Parents have more energy and can give more attention to their children. Yuppies feel empowered and able, so they can make the most of their prime years. Etcetera, etcetera.

These two programs have also contributed to my personal development and I don’t think I’d be who I am without them. And in my effort to become a better instructor, last year I invested in the Advanced Instructor Modules for BODYBALANCE and BODYJAM. They’re meant to help us go deeper into what each program really is and how to give our participants a great experience more consistently.

BODYBALANCE AIM1 w/ trainer Riyo Fukunaga

BODYBALANCE AIM1 w/ trainer Riyo Fukunaga

BODYJAM AIM1 w/ trainer Arnold Warren

BODYJAM AIM1 w/ trainer Arnold Warren

This year I’m taking a big step. I’m going to Kuala Lumpur to attend my first international Les Mills Quarterly Workshop! Workshops are where instructors like myself experience the new choreography and music for the first time. It’s where we also see our trainers (who are kind of like our fitness rockstars) in action so that we can learn from their example.

If you think of group fitness programs as coffee shops, Les Mills is like Starbucks: you go anywhere in the world and the experience and taste are the same. Although the instructor may vary, you get the same high-quality music and choreography (that’s been vetted by movement experts) within a scientifically-designed class structure meant to build your cardiovascular and muscular fitness effectively and efficiently. Workshops and the quarterly instructor’s DVDs are a way to standardize our individual performance to meet that expectation.

In a few weeks I’ll be reporting back from KL on what you can expect next quarter from the Les Mills programs. I’m so excited!