On My Messy and Organized Information Consumption

For a few years now, I’ve been on an information limbo with my Internet content consumption. I love falling into the rabbit hole of the Internet abyss to read content and stories, in an effort to be well-read in almost everything and anything. I’ve always wondered how Internet curators, like the awesome Brain Pickings managed to read through so much content to find the most interesting things and ‘cross-pollinate‘ ideas creatively to process it to ideas and concepts.

It’s taken me a few years and I’m just a beginner. But I think I have a system.

Back when Google Reader was still alive, I categorized RSS feeds to how I’d like to ideally read. Sometimes I get through them, often I don’t. I would go for months having more than 100,000 articles unread.

When Google Reader stopped, I was partly relieved because let’s be honest, I will never be able to finish reading all that. But there was Feedly, so after filtering out sites I rarely visit, I shifted to Feedly. The design and keyboard shortcuts were a plus to lessening the unread article counts.

Having an iPad and an Android phone was an advantage too, it proved easier to read during my downtime or when I wanted be away from my laptop. I say so, because at the moment, I’m really enjoying Flipboard.

I love its magazine-like experience and the topics aren’t bad as well. It’s quite interesting to see what others curate to their own ‘magazines’ too. My only peeve is not being able to add personal preferences of websites in the topics. I’m not quite sure how the algorithms of how a website gets chosen to appear in a topic gets chosen, but I’m a bit skeptic that I might be influenced.

I love the feature of being able to add feeds from Google Reader, Twitter and other social accounts though, especially since I have the tendency to favorite articles on Twitter I’d like to read later.

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“An ideal state far in the horizon to where I put stories and ideas and information for me to consume and synthesize to make myself a better, more informed person.”

-  Cheri Lucas from Writing Through to the Fog.

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My reading year, in 2013

Looking back to the books I’ve read in 2013 is kind of embarrassing. Much like the stuck phase of what my life was/is, it reflected on my reading habits as well. I’ve learnt that reading books for me is an experience. Maybe even a phase in my life. The books I’ve read got me so emotionally attached that with every book I finished, I felt like I was ending a wonderful relationship.

That said, it was hard to choose only a few selected ones, but here are my 10 favorite books of 2013:

Mindy KalingIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

If Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were comedy writers and inspiring women I look up to, Mindy Kaling would be the best friend I wish I had. Honestly, after reading this book, I wish she was a friend I had in school.  I could relate to her on having few friends, pleasing her immigrant parents, being a late bloomer, not understanding one night stands, believing/hoping on long-lasting relationships.

Mindy gets away with talking about race, self-love and comedy in such an easygoing and engaging way. For a few weeks, this was the book I would read on the way home in the metro from a hard day in university. Perfect for college-aged women. It is also partly the reason why I love the TV show, The Mindy Project.

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

I finally get around to finishing the Narnia chronicles and as much as I loved the others, nothing can still beat this one. Who wouldn’t want a find a whole new world in the back racks of a closet? Here, I love the themes of forgiveness and family.

I never really noticed the Christianity symbolism but I’ve found Aslan heartwarming, and I thought The White Witch was fierce and always hoped she would have goodness in her in the end. It’s a good classic read.

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman’s prose is a combination of creepy and sweet elements, a trait that makes it appealing for children and adults. It’s an interesting plot for a graveyard of ghosts and spirits to raise a baby.

Somehow, the world looks better through Nobody’s (I love that this was his name as well, quite metaphorical) naive eyes. The parents who adopted him and his guardian are endearing. I loved this part the most:

You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’m not a runner but a lover of his books and I must say, I definitely enjoyed this open-ended memoir-esque book by the great Murakami. For a while, it inspired me to start running.

It’s wonderful insight to his thoughts on running, creativity, writing and general pleasant outlook on life. His dedication, consistency, perseverance and struggles to his work, whether it was running his jazz bar or writing, or keeping fit, is impressive.

Chetan Bhagat, 2 States: The Story of My Marriage

This was an enjoyable and enlightening read. Perhaps it was because I have strict Asian parents too and I understand the pressure someone can get from parents with high expectations. Plus the woes of ‘marrying’ each other’s families accepted by our culture’s society.

Also, though I have Indian friends, it’s quite interesting to know new things about their cultural quirks. (more…)

This Is How You Keep Her

During a bus ride, you gave her two pieces of paper. One, with a short Japanese phrase. The other with the Japanese phrase and an English translation below it that goes, “Hi, I really, really, really, like you.

She was puzzled and suspicious why you liked her. So one day, you filled a room with 100-something handmade origami tulips (because that was her favorite) and showed her a cheesy video listing reasons after reasons why he’s fallen for you.

During the second date, you ordered stir fried noodles with vegetables. You remembered she doesn’t like vegetables. In 20 minutes, you scrutinized it, fishing out the vegetables, so she could eat the noodles.

She is hesitant of surprises, but you surprise her anyways. (more…)

10 Things I’ve Learnt From College The Hard Way

I wrote this a few months ago and just saw it on my drafts awhile ago, so before it’s too late, here it is.

After 4 years, I present the lessons I’m glad to have learnt (albeit, painfully and wished I realized earlier) through college.

10. You are broke because you’ve spent your money on ‘going-out’ dinners or expensive campus food court instead of staying in for home-cooked lunch/dinner and learning to cook. Or by taking a taxi cab because it’s too hot to wait for a bus and less stressful to commute. Use meal coupons/discounts and student metro cards – they’re the students’ Holy Grail.

9. If you never speak up about the little things – e.g. not wanting to be part of a group you know that will eventually make you do all the work, being too shy to raise interesting topics and issues in class for participation grade, brushing off snarky remarks, not asking for help or a second look for feedback from a professor – the world will walk all over you. The universe doesn’t give everything on a silver platter.

8. But of course, be grateful. For the extra minute you’re given when it’s time to collect the exam papers, to the kindness of strangers, for the understanding of friends and for the support of parents and mentors. Take victories whenever and wherever you can, as my professor would always remind me. (more…)

The Week I Started Using a Flip Phone

On November 11, my Blackberry had completely died and given up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never liked it that much. It’s always been a crappy phone, albeit cheap and allowed me to contact anyone on my BBM, Whatsapp and other social accounts easily, thanks to Etisalat’s AED49/month package. But yes, it was slow and it drove me insane to the point where I want to smash it to pieces through a wall. I was alright with its imminent demise.

I was about to succumb to another cheap Blackberry or maybe an Android if I can scrounge up some more. And then, I remembered a part social experiment, part self-seeking journey and story of how a Verge tech journalist left the internet for a year. I could understand his reasons: wanting more ‘real’ social interactions, reduce reliance on internet and so forth. It was brave, crazy and funny, and I really admired it.

Inspired by his accounts, since I don’t think I can last without internet, I decided to forgo an easier level: by ditching my smart phone and going back to a dumb phone, like my dad’s old Samsung flip phone.

It’s been equal amounts of frustration and freedom. (more…)

Travel Diary: The Vineyard Experience – Lancaster Wines, Swan Valley

My parents, sister and I visited Western Australia for a bit last September and it was our first time in a vineyard. Although it wasn’t in season, it was still open for visitors, so we thought, why not?

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Artists’ process and Murakami On Running And Writing

Perhaps it’s the voyeur in us, but I’ve always been interested to know an artist’s process – whether they’re a musician, painter, writer, graphic designer, curator, or filmmaker.

There’s just something about it. Knowing their habits, finding out about their work ethic, routines, seeing their tools and workspace.  Post modernism theory states that our identity is a fragmented collection of our habits, routines, interests, family upbringing, and cultural background, among other things. For me, it’s really exciting to know how a favorite author or in fact, any artist, turned out the way their content are because of their quirks and rituals.

I got excited when Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist showed how he used index cards and lovingly used-and-worn-out Moleskine notebooks for drafts of his books. (more…)