An Info-Junkie Marriage: Zite and Pocket

I love reading news on the ‘net, whether it’s local news, international news, or just an interesting article about a movie, TV show, new gadget, or a metal that’s 100 times lighter than styrofoam. I came across Zite when it was first released last year, and I instantly fell in love with it. The app, which is available on iOS and Android, allows you to select subjects that interest you from their list, or add your own topics. Then it pulls in articles relating to those topics, and presents them in a “magazine” format. Click on an article and it’ll open up, allowing you to read the entire thing. I’ve come across a ton of interesting articles on sites I’ve never heard of before, or rarely visit. This sets it apart from RSS readers, which allow you to easily read articles for sites you frequent. Zite also uses a “thumbs up, thumbs down” way to rate what you enjoy, and then it factors that into what it’ll display for you. My “Technology” section in Zite will look different than yours because of the way we use Zite, and the articles we’ve given a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to in the past. That personalization is something that sets Zite apart from other apps that do similar things, like Flipboard. The Zite magazine that it creates for you is always changing, so an interesting article you read may not be there the next time you open the app. That leads me to my next app that completes the Info-Junkie Marriage, Pocket…

Pocket used to be known as “Read it Later,” a name which describes what it does; it allows you to save an article for reading later. There are apps for iOS, Android, the Amazon Fire, Mac OS, browsers… it’s all over the place, allowing you to save articles, and read them later, on pretty much any device. If I find an interesting article in Zite I’ll use the “Save to Pocket” feature so I can read it at a better time, or so I can refer to it later. I use the browser plugin for FireFox to save articles as well, because some times I just don’t have a chance to get through a 5 page article about an interesting topic, and I know I’ll forget to read it later. Pocket also allows you to read articles when offline, you just have to download the article to the app when you have a connection. That’s a great feature if you’re boarding a long flight and want to catch up on some news.

If you’re an info-junkie like me, download both these apps (they’re free). Zite and Pocket were made for each other…

Neighbours – You Can’t Choose Them…

People will search long and hard for the perfect property to buy, whether it’s a condo, or a house, but there’s always one thing you can’t control, and that’s who your neighbours are.

I remember having great neighbours when I was a kid growing up in Ottewell, in the East part of  Edmonton. The neighbours to our South would give us apples from their tree, and we’d laugh and play with their dog across our front lawns. The neighbours to the North were 3 boys and 1 girl, all older than us, but all very “cool.” They were a hockey family, with all 3 of the boys playing professionally, and the youngest was drafted second overall in one of the NHL drafts (he went after Mats Sundin, and before Scott Thornton, but sadly didn’t have a long career). The three boys across the alley would babysit us (my brother and I put them through hell). We also knew most of the people up and down the block, and my parents still keep in touch with some of them. They were all great neighbours.

Our next long-term house was out in the suburbs, and it was a drastic change from our house in Ottewell. Our next-door neighbours were a pain-in-the-butt; they called bylaw on us for having gravel that was partially on the road (it was dropped off for landscaping, and was there for 2 days before being used), and reported us because we pushed some snow onto the road. Seriously? Neither of those impacted the ability to enjoy their property at all, and since it was a cul-de-sac, it didn’t impede the flow of traffic. We hardly knew our other neighbours; people would get into their cars in their attached garages and leave. People didn’t go out walking because there was nothing around to walk to except the mailbox. We were living in bubbles that happened to be near other bubbles.

Moving to my apartment, and then condo, was a new experience as well. I found that I hardly knew anyone in either of my buildings. There were 120+ suites, so probably over 200 people living in the building. I think I knew 2 people in my apartment building, and maybe 10 in my condo building. People would ride the elevator together, get off on the same floor, and yet never speak. It’s almost as though being closer to our neighbours made us want to be more insulated from them. The people above me in my condo drove me insane; they had hardwood floors and little kids that liked to run around a lot, and they brought a piano into the building. For half an hour every day I’d have to listen to the worst rendition of “Old MacDonald” I’ve ever heard. I finally had enough and reported it to the condo board (musical instruments were banned in the condo bylaws). I didn’t want them to get rid of it, just put a dampener on the thing so I didn’t have to listen to it. The guy below me would crank his stereo and watch kung fu flicks at extremely loud levels. A few times a month I’d have to go downstairs and bang on his door for a few minutes before he’d realize there was someone knocking, then ask him to turn it down. There are things I miss about the condo, but I certainly don’t miss my neighbours.

When we bought our house in Strathcona the sellers told us the neighbours were awesome, so when I picked up the keys I said, “So, now that the deal is done, really, how are the neighbours?” Ron, the seller, assured me the neighbours were awesome; it wasn’t just something he said to sell the house. We stepped outside and one of the neighbours, John, came outside to greet me. “So, you’re the new guy?” he asked. I knew we’d get along well.

All our neighbours are awesome. John, and his daughter Camilla, are always playing with their push-scooters out in the alley, often with the kids from across the lane. The family across the lane actually lived in our house for awhile; Charlie is a builder, and he built the house, then they lived in it for 4 years before selling it to the family we bought it from. I tell ya, it’s pretty handy to have the person that built your house living across the alley! We don’t see our other neighbours too often, as they’re extremely busy with various sports year-round, but they’re quite nice, and their kids are great. Their neighbours are a single dad, Al, and his two kids; a boy and a girl (twins). There are other neighbourhood kids as well, and all the kids seem to get along. When we first moved into the house there was a soccer field that spanned our yard and the two beside it, and I was told if I didn’t want the kids playing on our yard, just tell them to stay off. No way, I think it’s great! Some of them will hang out on our steps and porch, reading a book, or sitting around chatting with each other. They used to ask us every time if they could sit there, but Kat and I told them they can hang out whenever they want, so it’s not uncommon to hear little voices coming from our porch.

The neighbourhood is really diverse, and it’s nice to know Brody will grow up being exposed to different ideas and cultural backgrounds. There’s a family where the husband is from Russia, and the wife is from France (they also have a new baby), an Asian family, a Jewish Family, a gay couple, a homeschooled family, a French-speaking family, someone with special needs, plus our Canadian/Ukrainian household. There are families with 1 kid, 2 kids, and 3 kids. Two families have twins (fraternal, and paternal), and it’s a nice mix of boys and girls. The best part is that everyone seems to get along well. People are always borrowing things from each other, knocking on doors to deliver freshly baked treats, or hanging out chatting in the alley (Kat calls it the “man meeting,” because it’s usually the guys out there).

Every time I wake up to fresh snow on the ground and see my walks have been shovelled, there’s a knock at the door with some freshly baked treat, or I get a little wave as I walk down the street, I’m thankful for the neighbours I have. I was able to choose a lovely house, and I’m so thankful it came with great neighbours.

Have any neighbour stories (good or bad)? Toss them in the comments below…

P.S. Avenue Edmonton has named my neighbourhood (Strathcona), the best neighbourhood in Edmonton. The best neighbourhood with the best neighbours… awesome!

Reading TV and Movies

I’ve been reading a lot of TV and movies lately. Well, watching them, but reading the subtitles. Movies and shows from France, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, and I have lots more to go.
When I was a kid I HATED subtitles. Why would you want to watch a movie in another language in the first place? Everything should be in English, because that’s the language I speak. Just dub everything!

I don’t recall when it was, but sometime over the last 15 years my opinion on subtitles changed. I realized that dubbing removes part of the performance the actor is giving. Instead of listening to the person on the screen, you’re listening to someone in a recording booth that has absolutely no connection to what’s happening on the screen. You miss the delivery of the lines as they were intended. Sure, subtitles can be a bit difficult at the start, but I find that after watching something for a few minutes I forget that I’m reading the screen at all.
I’ve also discovered that there are a TON of awesome foreign-language shows and movies out there, and I’d really be missing out if I refused to watch anything with subtitles. I’ve discovered a few really good crime dramas from Sweden (Wallander), and Norway (Varg Veum), as well as an increible cop show from France (Braquo). I have a few Danish shows to watch, as well as movies from Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Norway, France, and Russia. It’s awesome.

P.S. Woohoo, I blogged.

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