Tag Archives: blogging

Using the Pulse app to follow your favorite blogs

There was a time not so long ago when sitting down at the end of the day with a newspaper to catch up with world events was relatively normal. If you then watched a 30-minute new broadcast on TV, you were pretty much up to date.

In the 21st century, there are now more sources of information than you can shake the proverbial stick at, and there is no way to keep up with everything if you want to lead anything resembling a Life. So one way that technology can help you is to use a piece of software called an aggregator [1]. This is a single program that collects and displays in one location all the different sources of internet-based information that you might normally have to skip through to get you daily dose of news.

The one I use as my personal daily newspaper is Pulse, a multi-platform software that gathers up the latest information from a variety of media sources and pops them on-screen in an easy-to-view form.

Pulse icon


A great feature is that you can set up different pages (or tabs) for different sources, and this means it’s easy to have a simple BLOGS page just so you can follow your favorites. For those of you with iPads, here is a step-by-step guide to how to add a BLOGS page to Pulse.

1. Download Pulse for iPad/iPod.

2. When you first download Pulse, it takes you through setting up your first page and gives you lots of pre-chosen selections, such as Reuters News, BBC News, Lifehacker, GQ, and many, many others. Just choose a bunch so you can get up and running quickly and get a feel for the interface.

3. Once you are up and running, you can start adding your BLOGS tab by selecting the Cog icon for iOS app or the Stack icon icon at the top left [2].

Pulse home

Choose Settings Button

4. Select the ADD A PAGE option from the screen that pops up.

Add a new page

Add new page

5. Now touch the button for BROWSE THE CATALOG.

Bowse catalog


6. From the pop-up window that appears, click on the Search Box.

Search box

Click the Search box

7. Now type in either the name of the blog you want to add or the actual blog address. HINT: If you type a blog address then add “/feed” that can work better than just the address alone.

Type in the name of the blog you want to add

Type in the blog

8. When you see the blog appear below the Search window, touch the blue + sign and it will change to a check mark.

Checked blog

Checked blog

9. Your chosen blog is now on your new page, which you can see if you look behind the “What’s New” window.

Blog is added

Blog is added

10. Click on the X to close the window and you will end up on your Home page but now have a new tab next to HOME.

Blog added

Blog added

11. The final touch is to press and hold on the tab where is says “Page 2” and yo can then edit it and type in BLOGS (or whatever). You now have a dedicated blog page where you can go ahead and add as many as you like.

Signing up with Pulse

If you want to go the whole hog and have your Pulse data available to you on any device, you should sign up for a Pulse account. This is incredibly painless as all they ask for is your e-mail and a password. That’s really it!

1. Click on the Pulse ME button button to get to the sign-up/login screen.

2. Choose Sign Up to create a new account with Pulse.

Sign up screen for Pulse

Sign up

Once you are signed up, you can now access Pulse from any platform for which there is software. Other than the iPad, I have tested it on a Droid 3, Samsung 7″ Tab, Samsung 10″ Tab, and the on-line version at the company’s pulse.me website [3]. Although there may be some difference in the interface, which is essentially because of scree size, it is pretty slick to be able to access all the same information regardless of platform.

And a final word: thanks to Speech Dudes follower @abbiem (Abbie Moran) for prompting us to produce this article! You can check out her new blog at Thinking about Language.

[1] The use of the word aggregator as a collector of information from various sites dates back to 1995. However, in the 16th century, it referred to “a collector or compiler of medical remedies.” It comes from post-classical Latin aggregator meaning “compiler,” which in turn derives from the Latin verb aggregare, “to cause to flock together, or join together.” The prefix ag– is really just a variant of the common prefix ad– meaning “toward or to,” and the root element is the Latin grex meaning “a flock.” Speechies will recognize the process whereby the /d/ at the end of the prefix /æd/ becomes a /g/ when followed by /grɛks/ – assimilation. Non-speechies might like to try saying “adgregate” and you’ll see why “aggregate” is much easier!

[2] At the time of writing, Pulse is moving to its 3.0 version. The cog icon is being changed to the “stack of papers” icon (it’s impossible to find the name of a picture if you don’t know what it is!) so if you have a pre-3.0 version you will see the cog.

[3]  It works on Windows XP with Firefox (v. 18.0.1), Opera (v. 12.14), Chrome (24.0.1312.57), but I had problems with Internet Explorer 8 (v. 8.0.6001). Internet Explorer 9 (v. 9.0.8112) on Vista works fine.

Would Zorba the Greek Have Written a Blog?

Alexis Zorba would never have been a blogger. Alexis Zorba would never have had a cell phone. And Alexia Zorba would have been a global nobody like the rest of us – and happy about it.

It’s possible, just possible, that some of you reading this article have never heard of Alexis Zorba, especially if you’re part of the generation that has always had more access to “media” than those of us who remember having to actually walk to libraries and take books of shelves rather than tap “Nikos Kazantzakis” into a Kindle search box. There’s nothing wrong with having fingertip access to books, games, TV shows, YouTube, magazines, Facebook, Amazon, music, and the whole catastrophe that is accessible media, it’s just that too much of a good thing can easily end up making choices more difficult, not simpler [1].

Zorba the Greek book cover

Zorba the Greek cover

Of course, yearning for “simpler times” is a symptom of old age and often biased in favor of an imagined “Golden Age,” where we remember all the great things about when we were younger and forget all the bad stuff. The rose-tinted spectacles of retrospection along with the bias of hindsight often make the past look brighter than it was. But the sin of living in the past can be compounded by the iniquity of failing to live in the present. At what stage does our opportunity to engage in a world of seemingly endless media offerings become an escape from a more visceral experience of existence?

The Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) created his most famous character, Alexis Zorba, in order to examine this – and many other issues – in his classic 1946 novel, Zorba the Greek. Don’t be put off by the age of the book because the character and themes are as relevent today as they were in those post-war days when Europe was struggling back from a four-year period of horrific death and destruction.

If you have never read the book, then it’s one of the few “wastes of time” that will turn out not to have been a waste of time. If you have read the book, what on earth are you doing reading this article?

You see, in an almost post-modernist twist, one of the fundamental messages you get from reading the book is that you shouldn’t be reading the book! The mere act of enjoying the narrative is paradoxically counter to what the character of Alexis Zorba stands for; the celebration of an earthy, gritty, hands-on kind of life. Consider this quote from Zorba;

All those who actually live the mysteries of life haven’t the time to write, and all those who have the time don’t live them! D’you see?

All of us who spend time writing really need to think about the implications of this comment. Kazantzakis himself was a prolific writer and constantly searching for spiritual meaning, whether through Buddhism, Communism, Christianity, or pagan beliefs. All of his writings at some level reflect his troubled struggle for understanding of what life is about. Yet Zorba could have told him that easily;

Live is trouble,” Zorba continued. ‘Death, no. To live—do you know what I mean? To undo your belt and look for trouble!”

This isn’t to say that life has to be a quest for “trouble.” There’s no suggestion that we need to go rock climbing, sky diving, getting into drunken fights after a night at the pub, or any other potentially self-injurious behaviors, rather that the everyday events of life can bring us trouble in many forms – and that is the norm, not the exception.

Zorba’s world-view is contrasted with that of the book’s narrator, who is an unnamed academic intent of reviving an old lignite mine on the island of Crete. The narrator represents the rational, ordered, Apollonian perspective on life whereas Zorba makes the case for the spontaneous, chaotic, free-wheeling, Dionysian view [2]. Throughout the novel, Zorba expounds his philosophy of life and it’s no exaggeration to say that there are quotable aphorisms on almost every page. For example, one of my favorites is always worth considering when things are not going to plan:

When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! An invisible and all-powerful enemy—some call him God, others the Devil, seem to rush upon us to destroy us; but we are not destroyed.

By the end of the book, it’s not difficult to side with Zorba and realize that “doing” is better than “thinking about doing,” and that being the best, the top dog, the winner, the most famous, or most successful is not what it’s all about.

This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.

It’s also a very spiritual book although not necessarily “godly.” You can read Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ or St. Francis for a more intense religious discussion but Zorba appeals to theists and atheists alike. In fact, it’s probably true to say that I find the works of Kazantzakis as a whole spiritually interesting – even though I am a devote atheist. And the reason for this is that he is able to talk about religion as a deeply psychological phenomenon, and as such, it is of importance and interest to anyone.

Zorba movie poster

1964 movie poster

For those who are still unconvinced that the book is worth reading, then you might want to consider getting hold of the 1964 film version starring Anthony Quinn [3] and Alan Bates. Quinn plays the role of the eponymous hero so well that many critics have considered it his best performance. He was an Oscar nominee for Best Actor but lost out to Rex Harrison, which, in retrospect, seems a little unfair. Bates plays the narrator but is cast as an English writer rather than the anonymous Greek intellectual. It’s a wonderful adaptation of the book although not really a substitute.

Yet should you decide neither read the book nor watch the movie but rather go out and spend a riotous night with friends, visit your family across the country, hang glide from a mountain top, or just ride your motorcycle with no particular destination in mind, that’s perhaps a better idea. As Zorba said;

Once more there sounded within me the terrible warning that there is only one life for all men, that there is no other, and that all that can be enjoyed must be enjoyed here.

[1] Barry Schwarz’s The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (2005) discusses how the growth of the present consumer market has reached a point where there is too much choice, which in turn makes life more difficult and not easier. At one time, the most complicated choice to make when ordering a cup of coffee was whether to add cream or sugar. Now, a trip to Starbucks practically requires a degree in Italian and the ability to handle hundreds of potential combinations of ingredients. And the biggest problem in the current tablet-orientated world isn’t the availability of apps but the difficulty of choosing the right one when every app seller says theirs is the best!

[2] For a more detailed, and entertaining, exposition of the Dionysian versus the Apollonian, a reader could do worse than grabbing a copy of Camille Paglia’s 1991 Sexual Persona: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. It’s a rollicking romp through Art and Sexuality that draws heavily from psychoanalysis and popular culture. With examples from such diverse writers as Shakespeare, Coleridge, Henry James, and even the Marquis de Sade, Paglia explains how sexuality remains a powerful force in cultural development. At over 750 pages, it’s not a quick read, but it is splendidly entertaining and one of a kind.

[3] When reading Zorba, I admit to having the image of Anthony Quinn in my head. I hear his voice as I scan the text, and I inevitably associate him with “Greekness.” So it came as a shock to me many years ago to discover that Quinn was, in fact, not Greek but Mexican, having been born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915. The choice of Quinn to play Zorba turned out to be ideal because his real life was very much in the style of that character. At one point, Quinn himself admitted, “I am Zorba.”