Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of being one of the WRAC department’s Communication interns. I had the chance to work with an amazing group of people in this wonderful department, and I’ve expanded my experience in writing and working across several mediums so much that I don’t know what my skill set would look like now had I not applied for this internship last April. I’ve felt myself improve as a writer and even improve in my skills and knowledge working in the back end of a website or blog (here’s to you, WordPress).
One of my favorite websites is Thought Catalog. I can literally go on there and get lost for hours, sucked into the Thought Catalog Black Hole (as I call it) where I’ll read one article and then go down to the “More From Thought Catalog” (past the “From the Web” ads telling you to click the link to find more about what Kate Upton does in her free time. This is not a joke) and read something similar to what I just read. I save articles that I find inspiring or especially thought provoking; this list has expanded a lot in the past few months. An article I came across recently, though, I thought was appropriate subject material for my last post as a WRAC intern. Titled, “Black on White: Why We Write,” the author discusses why people keep writing, what’s happening to writing now in the 21st century (“The West is burning – the dream is gone. Or so they say. We’re all idiots. Sound bytes, sound bytes, everywhere, and no one stops to think.”), and some cynical advice he received, but how he doesn’t believe any of it.
Writers write because they love to write. I write because I love the idea of creating something new or different or something I hope might be thought provoking enough to have an impact on someone. I’ve done it since I was young, and I will most likely keep doing it throughout the rest of my college career and beyond. Even if I’m not working on some huge, mind-blowing project right now, I still find time to write because that’s who I am.
One of the last things the author says in his article is my favorite part:
“It’s a funny thing putting words on paper. So many jumbled thoughts. So many emotions and whims and desires and stories to tell and things you want people to know – maybe things they need to know. But that’s the writer’s art. You get a desk and a machine and 26 keys to do it – to make something. To put words down; words which will, strange at it seems, outlive you. We will die. Our shadows and dust will pass. But the words – the creations and works of our hands – they will remain, at least for a little while.”
These last lines are undeniably true. Whether we’re writing for the web, work, print, or pleasure, we’re always leaving some part of us behind, even for a little while. Isn’t that another reason we write? So my advice to you is keep reading, keep listening to everything, and keep writing because you never know when something like that will come in handy.
Ever wanted to create your own typeface, but you’re not exactly sure where to start? Creative Bloq helps you design your own typeface in eighteen steps. Some tips include figuring out some choices you have to make first: do you want sans serif or serif typeface? How will it look in long documents versus larger font? Also, don’t be afraid to “use your hands.” Draw it out before making it more precise digitally. That way you can see exactly what you want it to look like before it’s on the screen. The article also gives tips on what software to use and why it’s not just about the letters “A-Z.”
Because of the immense amount of information and data in this digital age, new ways of presenting and organizing information have developed in the past few years. This has been dubbed, “data visualization.” A new PBS series has turned attention to this form of presenting information, exploring how good design – from “scientific visualization to pop infographics – is more important than ever. The goal of creating information we can visualize is to help designers – and even those without a mind for design – conceptualize what they’re looking at and interpreting. The overall message to take from the video is: the simpler the better.
“Lolita is about obsession and narcissistic appetite, misogyny and contemptuous rejection, not only of women, but of humanity itself. And yet. It is also about love; if it were not, the book would not be so heart-stoppingly beautiful.”
Check out more of the covers and read excerpts from the book.
Starting November 1st, all peer-reviewed work published by scholars working within The University of California system will be available for free on the university’s eScholarship website. This is a big move toward open access publishing, and comes in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s death as he was on trial for “illegally” attempting to do exactly what UC is starting. An interesting caveat to this move is that scholars can opt-out on a per paper basis. Read more at The Verge.
For all you organization geeks (like myself), go-getters who like to plan ahead, frequent group collaborators, and anybody who just appreciates the beauty of a Gantt chart, I give you TeamWeek, a web and iOS interactive Gantt chart. TeamWeek has a pretty simple interface, yet it’s not so simple that it’s boring. Think the colorful drag-and-drop interface of Google Calendar, or even iCal, yet flipped so time stretches horizontally rather than vertically; and tasks are arranged by team member instead of day. And for my Gantt chart geeks, imagine a chart where you can move dates and times without having to redo the whole dang thing!! Whew I think I need a cigarette.
Latte art from my local coffee shop, GrandRiver Coffee in East Lansing.
Lifehacker recently reminded it’s readers that working near others can boost your productivity, which resonated with me. I’m a coffee shop fanatic. When I travel, especially for work and school, I don’t look for the coolest bar or world-renowned restaurants, I look for independent coffee shops. Places where the locals go to get some work done while sipping a hopefully fair-trade latte. One of the reasons I love coffee shops so much is that I tend to get a good amount of work done. I’m by myself, but not alone. Check out LifeHacker’s piece about why this is true, then peruse their suggestions for staying productive while working at your local coffee shop.
The Oregon Trail, classic computer game of yesteryear, started in 1971 as three student teachers struggled to get their students engaged. Hello, pedagogy. The game started on a teletype machine available in a janitor’s closet in a junior high school. Interestingly enough, the cold war inspired the US to create grants to out-pace Russian technological innovation. As such there was a boon in PC manufacturing, leading Minnesota public schools to be one of Apple’s first large-scale commercial customers, putting 500 Apple II’s in classrooms across the state. And since the game came on a diskette it was shared easily.
The game came to be the cult classic it is now when programmers who’d played the game as kids added graphics and retooled the plot a bit, coining the phrase, “You have died of dysentery.” The educational innovation of The Oregon Trail is that it gave students instant feedback, which served to keep students engaged and more importantly learning.
While The Oregon Trail started in a history classroom, it’s effect on getting millions of students using computers is the genius. In fact, you can now relive the magic with an app. In 2009 an iOS version of the game was launched, with already over 3 million downloads. Mental Floss does a lovely job recounting the legend of The Oregon Trail. Hop over to their post for the rest of the story.