Saturday, July 26, 2014

The summer blahs

I'm morally opposed to the common advice that you shouldn't shop for groceries on an empty stomach. When I'm at the grocery store, if I'm hungry I'll buy all the things I will want when I'm back at home and crave something. It's a win-win system.

But lately, I've been in a bit of a dip. There have been many things pressing for my attention, both at home and at work, including a number of distractions that seem to be the easiest to attend to. Given all the things that are vying for my time, eating is one of the ones that has fallen far down the list.

I've written before about forgetting to eat, but that's primarily about when I'm engrossed in a task and lose track of time. This is a bit different. Eating has fallen from a reward to a chore (in which I rarely find myself engrossed). In other words, it's gone from "ooh, I can't wait until the next time I eat at..." to "what, I have to eat again? But I just did that yesterday!"

I know that if I don't floss often enough, I'll get cavities, but that doesn't mean I'm keen on flossing. It takes a conscious effort to remember to do it. That's how I feel about eating right now. "Sigh, I guess I'll go out for lunch before I pass out or get a headache." Or, "I'm meeting someone for dinner in three hours, I should grab some lunch soon."

And then, once I've decided to go eat something, I can't decide what (well, not yogourt). I work in downtown Ottawa and there are plenty of great places to grab lunch, but nothing really sticks out in my mind as "hey, I like going there! How about I just go there!" particularly not among healthier options. It doesn't help that I'm a picky eater who doesn't like most things that make food "interesting" (spices, curry, tomatoes, mushrooms and more...), and that food I do like doesn't like me (the many many things derived from dairy, because they put cheese in everything).

My nocturnal lifestyle doesn't help. My workday is time-shifted so I can avoid morning and afternoon rush hours, as well as the lunch rush. Before the Mayflower closed I enjoyed eating lunch there, where I could take an entire booth to myself in the early afternoon instead of cramming into a tiny seat at noon with everyone else. (Side note: I miss the Mayflower! A photo I took from there was the main image on the Wikipedia entry for OC Transpo for over three years) Similarly for fast-food places: when you only have a limited time for lunch, why take it at a time where you'll have to spend much of it waiting in line?

The downside to this is that lots of lunch options dry up after a certain time in the afternoon, and similar problems exist for late night dining. Maybe if I had a lunch buddy I'd be more adventurous.

I avoid cooking mainly because when I do cook it's hard for me to start early enough to be done eating at a reasonable hour. The time I spend cooking can be spent catching up on other errands that I can't outsource to any of zillions of local establishments.

Also, I'm very fickle about what I eat. I am fortunate that I can afford to eat out for most meals, and that's important because I never know in advance what I want to eat. If I were to put a frozen item in the fridge in the morning to defrost it for dinner that night, I wouldn't see it again until days or weeks later, when its colonists make first contact with me declaring their shelf of the fridge to be an independent republic.

This indecision has been worsened with my recent lack of interest in food, since I don't even have last-minute cravings to pounce on. I remember incredulously seeing "lack of interest in food" in a list of symptoms for something at some point, and now I know what it means (hm, come to think of it I wonder if it's a side effect of my pills...). In his 2006 Ted Talk, Sir Ken Robinson talked derisively about how intellectuals consider their bodies as mere vessels to carry around their heads, and I have to admit that's a paradigm that fits me. My body will only cooperate with me if I give it food, and my brain wants to spend as little time and energy as possible doing so unless it's fun so let's just get it out of the way and read a newspaper or watch the latest Daily Show episode so I don't have to pay attention to the fact that I'm eating.

Which takes me back to grocery shopping.

I was at the supermarket the other day, and I did have few items on my shopping list so I wouldn't forget them. But when it came to picking out food to eat for the coming week (mostly prepared meals, since I try to buy produce from smaller shops instead of the big stores), I wasn't interested in any of it. I had a vague sense that I had bought certain items before and enjoyed them, but couldn't at all gauge whether I'd be likely to want to eat any particular one in the coming week.

You think shopping for groceries on an empty stomach is bad? Try doing it when you're not interested in food at all!

(And yes, I do give generously to the food bank. Hunger is a terrible thing.)

- RG>

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Internet radio goes to shit

I received a notification from that they were killing their streaming radio service as of the end of April (for which I was paying a whopping $3/month). The notification was actually very useful, with clear links to useful pages such as how to cancel the auto-renewal on my subscription, etc.

They have a beta version of their new player, which I tried... briefly. It appears to embed Youtube videos of copyrighted songs into a player, ads and all. One of these ads was over 2 minutes long, which doesn't work for me because I like to go into another room and let the songs play, with my cursor over the "skip song" button if I don't feel like listening to one. Yes, you can click to skip the ad after five seconds, but then I'd have to fiddle with the cursor and that's not worth a paid service.

Also, the sound quality sucks. I'm not talking a snooty "mp3s have compressed audio and you don't get the same experience" type thing. This sounded like they were running the audio through a telephone line and recording it on a wax cylinder.

So time to find a new online radio service.

I looked around at a few. There are a couple that don't work in Canada.

I'd heard the name Grooveshark thrown around and I'd thought I'd check it out. Naturally, to do this, I typed "" into my browser and got to their homepage.

The homepage appears to be the service itself. No introductory text or even a brief description of what type of service it is. Just a bunch of buttons and click-draggy things and tools for using it. After a few seconds of staring at the incomprehensible interface looking for a link for "About", "What is Grooveshark?", or "Start here" (of which there isn't), my screen was greyed out and replaced with a "you have flash disabled" warning that I couldn't dismiss without closing the page.

Eventually, I made my way to the help page, of which there were no useful options either to describing what the service is. The closest I could find was "how to use the service after setting up your account." Why the hell should I set up an account if I don't even know whether this service even remotely resembles what I want??

I know what you're thinking: JFGI. Go to the Wikipedia entry for Grooveshark.

But do I really want to use a service that can't even describe itself (or at lest can't be bothered to)?

As a courtesy, I thought I'd let them know that their website does a shit-poor job of turning interested visitors into users and customers, through a support form on their help section (I think I filed it under "bug report"):
Looking for replacements for and someone sent me to Grooveshark. Trying to figure out what it is or how it works but there's no "about" or description anywhere, not even on the help page. wth? (Not to mention that I couldn't even look around at it because I couldn't dismiss the "flash player blocked" popup).

Could Grooveshark serve as a replacement for my needs? Maybe, but I'll never know!

Perhaps not the clearest, but I think I got the point across.

To their credit, they responded relatively quickly, but that's about the only credit they'll get. The response itself was so spectacularly obtuse I feel compelled to share it with you:
Hello. Thank you so much for your patience and please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience. Will you please complete the steps below in Internet Explorer OR test Grooveshark from a different web browser (preferably Google Chrome

**Please note the steps below will reset IE to default settings. Your bookmarks, extensions, plugins will be removed.**

1. Open Internet Explorer
2. Go to
3. Follow the instructions on the page

Here's the Getting Started Help article for Grooveshark as well.

Please let me know how it goes. I would like to help.
So to sum up:
  • I asked them for a general description of their service (or more specifically, I pointed out that they do not make such a description easy to find)
  • They sent me instructions to wipe my Internet Explorer (which obviously wasn't the browser I was attempting to use because it doesn't even have the ability to block Flash!)

I don't know why I even try sometimes.

Oh, and if I've given Grooveshark a pass, where am I now? I'm looking at Deezer. Haven't looked hard yet (I still have a month of left), but it's got a clear yet unobtrusive "What is Deezer" link on the sticky bar, and the description one finds there is clear and clean.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Have your Google Analytics stats fell since Blogger started the country code TLD redirect?

[Edit: This did not work. Now my analytics are showing even fewer results. Apparently you're supposed to enter the code in Blogger under Settings > Other > Analytics Web Property ID. We'll see if that recaptures both the .com and .ca traffic...]

A couple years ago, Blogger started redirecting all of their users' blogs from to blogname.blogspot.xx, where xx is the country code top-level domain (TLD) for the country that the user blogs from.

I noticed this at the time and was skeptical that this wouldn't have unintended consequences, but I didn't particularly care because at the end of the day I'd rather have a .ca blog address anyway (though I could certainly see issues for people who blog while abroad or blogs published by various international collaborators). Other people did care and they found ways around the redirect.

But tonight while checking my blog stats, I noticed something strange. My stats had been down for the last couple years, and this is normal given how godawfully rarely I post, and how minimally relevant my posts tend to be. I also figured that when Google Analytics fucked up their interface and got rid of the old dashboard that gave me the most useful information all in one place, they also fucked around with whether pageviews or visits or visitors was the key statistic, and how this was counted.

It turns out that my skepticism was indeed accurate: it was only counting hits on, and missing most of the visitors who are coming to!


In Blogger's built-in stats, it says I had 846 pageviews in December 2013:

Meanwhile in Google Analytics, only 146 pageviews were reported for that month, less than 20% of the traffic that Blogger was getting! And it should know, since it was serving up the pages!

The fix is not difficult, but it's also not the most obvious. It also isn't retroactive. In Google Analytics, click on the Admin button at the top right, select the relevant 'property' (i.e. your blog), and select "tracking info". Then turn on "Multiple top-level domains of [blogname]." The multiple subdomain option will also turn on automatically if it isn't already. The code in the text area below will change:

Then go into your Blogger admin page, click on the Template settings, open the HTML view and replace the old Google Analytics code with your new code. One of the articles I skimmed over while looking for solutions suggested you should put it in the <head> tag because the script might not get run if it's at the end of the page body and there are other scripts that mess with visitors' browsers.

I couldn't find any articles that specifically identified the Blogger problem and connected it to this solution, which is why I'm blogging this now, even if it is a couple years late. However, I won't necessarily be able to tell if doing so increases my blog traffic because I should be expecting an increase anyway after this fix. I guess I'll just do it for the good of humanity.

- RG>