silvery strands of thought

How to Get Started with Google+

Google+ is the latest entry to the social networking race. I’m going to stay out of the “Is it better than Facebook or Twitter or Orkut?” game and just stick to the basics: How does it work? What does that mean for you, the beginner who wants to check it out? How should you precede? Because you should tread carefully as you begin, like with any new website that puts You online, I’m going to give you some strategies for getting started efficiently.

How Does Google+ Work?

Google+ is an interesting mix of Facebook and Twitter. Like Twitter, there are no mutual follows required. You can add someone to a circle (more about that new bit of terminology in a little) and they will receive a notification, but they don’t have to add you back.

However, like Facebook, no one can see your posts unless you let them. You can either make your posts Public so anyone can see them, or they are only visible to people you have added to a circle.

So that’s it: add people you want to follow to your circles. When people follow you, add them to a circle or ignore the notification.

One final word about how Google+ works: each time you post, you can choose–among the other requisite options, like adding an image or location–in a couple clicks, which circles you want to share each status update with. It’s very easy.

How to Start with Google+

The circle is the main social unit in Google+. I started off haphazardly creating circles, but then it got too wild. I had to stop, re-think how I would be sharing, and change my circles around. So before you get dive into Google+, take a few minutes and list the groups of people you want to share  things with. Try to think generally at this point. Here’s what I did, for inspiration.

  • Following: these are people who post really interesting updates, famous people, influential people. I want to get their updates, but I probably won’t share a lot with them.
  • Family: I think this one is self-explanatory. I have all of my family in one circle right now, but as more of them join, I will consider splitting family into family groups.
  • Outer Circle: Everyone I follow that isn’t in the Following circle is either in this group or the Inner Circle group. This is for people I want to share things with, but not personal things. These are definitely people I know.
  • Inner Circle: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory too, but there are often posts that I want to share only with people I’m close to, so I have this circle.

I have several other circles, too, like for the Springfield Bloggers Association members and students, but to cut down on how many circles I need to select each time I post a status update, every one I add on Google+ goes into either my Following circle, my Outer Circle , or my Inner Circle. Putting your connections into too many circles quickly becomes overwhelming, trust me.

How does Instant Upload work, and why is it better?

For Android phones, Google+ makes it about as easy as it can be to share pictures. All of the other apps make you leave their app to select pictures. And if you want to upload pictures that you took on your phone when you’re on the computer, too bad, go find your phone. But Google+ will, if you allow it, upload pictures you take on your phone to your Google account so that you can upload pictures from anywhere.

Dead simple photo sharing. I love it.

What is a Hangout?

This is a really cool feature of Google+! A hangout is a voice and video chat with anyone on Google+, as many people as you want! I haven’t actually had a Hangout yet… anyone want to play around with Hangouts with me?

I think that’s enough to get you started. Go, explore Google+ and add me to one of your circles! If you have questions, post them in the comments and maybe you’ll inspire a future post!

2 Great Services for Monitoring Twitter Follows and Unfollows

If you’re a stats person* like me, you’ll love these tools, which help you find out who unfollowed you, who is or isn’t following you (more targeted), and track favorites.

Who.Unfollowed.Me

This is a free service with a $4.99 Pro version that tells you who you’re following that doesn’t follow you back, who is following you but you do not follow, and it let’s you follow/unfollow from within the service (Pro). After playing around with Who.Unfollowed.Me Lite, I was impressed enough to pay the 5 bucks to support the developer and get some extra features. You should try this service out if you suddenly suspect that someone you thought would follow you through thick and thin might have stopped following you. If you want to maintain a good following/follower ratio**, then you’ve gotta try this, and then you’ll probably want to spring for the Pro account.

DoesFollow

The only big difference between DoesFollow and Who.Unfollowed.Me is that DoesFollow will check if one specific person is following another specific person or not. You can use this to check if someone is following you without wading through their following list, or you can check to see if your niece is following Justin Bieber.

This site has a nice short cut. You can type doesfollow.com/user1/user2 into the navigation bar and load the result without loading the page first. You’ll want to make sure you fill in the blanks this way to see who is following who: “Does USER1 follow USER2?” I got the order wrong the first time I used it, but there is a “swap” option to see the reverse relationship with a single click.

What tools do you use to make the most of your Twitter? Share them in the comments.

Notes

* By “stats person,” I mean that I enjoy knowing things about stuff. I don’t know much about standard deviation or… or… well, “standard deviation” is the only Stats phrase I know, so I think that makes my point clear.
** Following lots of people without having many of them follow you back looks spammy, and it might also make Twitter think you’re gaming the system. As to the perfect ratio? You should have more followers than people you are following, ideally. Here are two good article on the Twitter Golden Ratio and a great, simple explanation of this concept.

Ain’t Workin in My PJs No More

That’s right, I’ve got a new job! I am no longer working only out of my home office (and I didn’t always work in my PJs…); now, I am one of three Executive Assistants supporting our executive, Jean, at Club Management Services. We provide comprehensive administrative services for clubs and their boards. So far, I am loving it.

Monday

Typical first day. I got trained on answering phones and finding answers for the most common questions. Then, in the afternoon, I alphabetized name tags. Bor-ing! But I’d rmust ather do something productive like this than sit around doing nothing, that’s for sure! And hey, I got some quiet time to myself too; no phones or walk-ins to disrupt me. Not a bad first day at all.

Tuesday

I took the morning off to maintain some previous responsibilities, then spent the afternoon learning QuickBooks and making sure Jean had what she needed for a meeting that evening.

Wednesday

Attended my first board meeting and helped Jean take minutes. Very interesting discussion in this meeting about an issue plaguing Springfield! I can’t say more than that, but I can tell you that I am excited about the prospect of learning more about what is going on in Springfield and what the leaders of various sectors are doing to solve those problems in a smart way.

Thursday

I learned more about QuickBooks and the ins and outs of another club’s special organizational idiosyncrasies. Then I attended their board meeting. More inspiration about the good stuff going on in my little neck of the woods. I’m proud of how this particular organization is working to shield the ones it was formed to support from the ups and downs of the economy.

Friday

Quiet day, but productive. Our office is typically closed on Fridays, but I was hired to help with that. So I manned the office and even managed to help a few people who called and stopped by. Imagine that, at the end of my first week! Felt pretty good.

So here’s a few things I did this week that I either have never done or haven’t done on a regular basis in a long time.

  1. I wore make up. Every day.
  2. I was up before 7:45 am every day.
  3. I walked to work on Monday, and loved it. Unfortunately, it aggravated my knee and caused my ankle to swell up. Didn’t love that.
  4. I took short lunch breaks to go home and play with Rowdy.
  5. I have started making some new habits to go with this new schedule and routine. I’m trying to incorporate FlyLady cleaning routines with the healthy eating habits I started while working with Pamela. They aren’t prefect yet, but I’ll keep at it. And I will succeed.

…so what’s new in your life?

The Great Fitness Blogging Experiment: Week 11

Well, this is it, the last post of the Great Fitness Blogging Experiment. Sad, huh? It makes me a little scared too. Now I’m on my own! No twice weekly sessions with Pamela to keep me honest. And I can’t currently run, either, which means my favorite cardio is off the table.

But you know what? I ended this experiment down 13.4 pounds and 2.5% body fat. I lost 3 inches from my waist and 1 from my hips. I actually made progress. I didn’t think I would do anywhere near that well. I think I had stopped believing in my ability to work out and control my eating. Now I know that I can! I’m still a little scared, but I think I can do this, I think I can meet the goals Pamela and I set. I’ll keep you posted…

#lam30 Tweets


The Great Fitness Blogging Experiment: Weeks 7, 8, and 9

Yeesh, I am behind on sharing these posts with you! You’d think being down and out with this knee injury that I’d have more time to blog. I sure did. :) Anyway, here are brief descriptions to the posts, along with links. Enjoy!

How to Eat Your Veggies

This is one of the goals that Pamela and I set early on in our journey. It was hard! Not because I don’t like veggies–I do!–but because they are not a part of my routine. But I’m learning how to make them a part of my routine, and I share some of my secrets in this post.

What to Expect in a Workout

I have gymnaphobia. I just made up that word, but it means that I get scared and self-conscious when I work out at the gym… all the beautiful people and complicated machines, not to mention whether or not I know the right way to build muscle and burn fat (do I do high reps with low weight or low reps with high weight or something in between?!). But when I’m working with Pamela, I don’t have to worry about any of that. Read what a workout session is like with her in this post.

On My Own

Lucky Pamela and her husband Brian got to go to Paris during October–and they didn’t take me! ;) So I had to work out on my own. No, she didn’t make me go to the gym… it was actually a really great, eye-opening experience. Read all about it in this post.

Today Had Better Not Be That Day

It was a beautiful night at Cruse Dog Park. Rowdy was having a blast with get best doggie friend, Ellie. I was having an interesting conversation with Ellie’s owner, Julie, about career, traveling, and anal glands. All of a sudden, I was on the ground.

When Rowdy and some of her favorite dog park buddies play, they do this half-wrestling, half-chasing thing. When Rowdy and Ellie ran into the outside of my right knee, they were doing just that, and at full speed. When I hit the ground, I knew something was wrong with my knee.

The dog park is really a special community, because we all have at least one thing in common: we love our furbabies enough to pay the yearly fee and spend hours there, letting the dogs run and socialize with all sorts of other dogs and humans. It’s selfless to choose standing out in that field so your dog can get the exercise she needs 4, 5, 7 nights a week. These are special people. And last night, they proved it in another way.

Julie helped me up, then went to the Walgreens which is right next to the dog park. Lane, whose dog Allie is another of Rowdy’s best buddies, walked around with me as I tried to walk it off. I decided to sit down as Julie came back with some frozen pasta (it was that or a 20-pound bag of ice), Advil, and water. I rested my leg on a bench and iced it–boy, did that feel good. When it was time to leave, Julie and Lane offered to drive me home, but in the end, I decided I could probably manage the stick shift okay, since it was right leg that was injured. Allie’s owner walked Rowdy out while another man helped me walk to my car.

I made it home in relatively little pain by keeping the frozen pasta on my knee and flexing only my ankle.

And when I got home, I lost it.

One of my favorite, inspirational running quotes is “Some day, you will no longer be able to run. Today is not that day.” It is supposed to remind me that even if I don’t feel like running, I should do it because some day, I won’t even have that option. That quote kept running through my head, but slightly changed: “Today might be That Day.”

Even if I am able to run again, I definitely won’t be running the St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon next Saturday. No way. I’ve been working so hard, for myself and with Pamela and Sarah. I’ll never have the chance to kick a half marathon’s butt the day before my 30th birthday again. I am so angry!

I’m mad at the situation. Mad at the fact that it now takes me a full 10 seconds to climb 8 stairs that used to take me about 3 seconds. I’m mad that I don’t know if this is going to cause a lingering injury that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’m mad that I have always tried so hard to stay injury-free and that a complete accident might screw me over. I’m even mad that I will be spending next Sunday morning in bed asleep instead of pounding out 13.1 miles in St. Louis.

So I’ve spent the afternoon on the couch, knee wrapped, raised, and iced. I’ll see a doctor on Monday, and while I don’t think he’ll find that I need surgery or crutches, I do hope I’ll get a slightly stronger pain pill. Because that’s something else I’m mad about: I’m not typically a back sleeper, so it’s uncomfortable to fall asleep, and last night I woke up at 5:30 in pain. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t time for another dose of Aleeve, but I took some anyway.

We’ll see how it goes. *sigh* Despite how bummed out I am in this post, I’m going to cross my T’s and dot my I’s and be careful not to injure my knee further or start training again too soon. I’m hopeful, but there’s no denying that it still really sucks.

Edit: After an MRI in December, I found out that those sweet, energetic pups gave me a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bruised tibia.

Race Report: 2011 Sunshine Run 10k

Time*: 1:11:54 (11:36 pace)

If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, I had some high expectations for this race. I didn’t meet any of them, but now that I’ve had about 15 hours to reflect, I’m happy with my showing in today’s race. Let me give you a brief run down–pun intended–of the race first.

Sarah and I started off strong, pacing between 10:30 and 11:00 minutes per mile. We walked at regular intervals, as planned. But pretty quickly I knew something was wrong in the calf department, and I ain’t talking bout no baby cows neither.

My calves felt like concrete, solid and hard. On a good day, my calves feel powerful. Hamstrings work really hard too, but I feel the power pushing out of my calves. Today, I felt solid, heavy, unforgiving.

I kept plodding ahead, though, taking a GU Chomps every mile as planned, walking when my watch said it was time. But I got dispirited.

Sarah and I always run races on our own. It’s only fair. I would hate to hold her back if she felt On at a race, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. So I ran at a pace that felt comfortable to me, but I needed her! At one point as we were passing Phelps Grove Park on the far side, I got selfish, stopped running, waited for get, told her what was going on and planned to run with her or keep as close as I could so that I could still get advice, inspiration, and companionship, but I felt bad almost immediately. I couldn’t ask her to stick back with me!

She pushed ahead and I kept at it, running as far as I could, walking a tenth of a mile, running some more, all the while trying not to think about how far I still had to go. I made running buddies with a local chiropractor who was also struggling and we pushed each other on, challenging things like, “Let’s run to that stoplight. You can do that, right?”

Right in front of Hammons Field, my new running buddy needed to walk, but I had to keep going, being so close to the finish line. I pushed myself some more to keep running, but that somehow gets easier and easier as the finish line gets closer.

And this finish line is a good one! It’s home plate at Hammons Field, and they read your name over the loud speaker add you get close to the finish line. What a rush!

Summary

So what is up with my calves? I’m sure part of the problem is that I’ve switched to Vibram Five Fingers full time. Proper use of them forces you to change your gait, which uses different muscles, namely, the calves. But I also stayed up later than I should have last night with race day jitters.

I’m two weeks out from my half marathon, so not much time to fix whatever is going in my calves and still complete the training runs I need to do. I have a strategy in my head, but I need to put it into a calendar and run it by my trusted advisers, Sarah and Pamela.

Any runners out there with any advice I should consider?

Before I end, I have to give a shout out to my Barnes Noble buddy, Keri, who took second in her age group with a time of 49:43! Way to go, Keri!

*According to my Garmin, my chip time is 1:11:54, but I haven’t seen the official time yet.

Race Tomorrow, Running Mind Tonight

The big variables are already set in stone: how will I fuel up in the days leading up to race day? How much muscle-building, body-rejuvenating sleep will I allow myself? How serious did I take my training?

Those factors get checked off before my toes get anywhere near the starting line. All these little things I’m worrying about now will only rob me of rest, so I’m just going to write ‘em out.

How hard will I be able to push myself tomorrow? I’ve just finished reading the most inspiring running book probably ever written, Born to Run by Chris McDougall. If the finale 50-mile race pitting the Tarahumara against the world’s best ultra runners, run in the Copper Canyon in 100° desert weather, doesn’t inspire me to give a measly 10k in beautiful Missouri fall weather my best, I don’t know what will.

How should I fuel? If I eat one Gu Chomp per mile in the St. Louis Half Mary, that’s more than two packets I’ll have to carry. Maybe I should try one every 1.5 miles? But is a perfect pre-race race day the best time to try out a new fueling strategy? Probably not, but then again, maybe so?

Should I go for the shirt-jacket combo, or just the long-sleeved shirt by itself? Hat or visor? The hat will keep my head warmer than the visor, but if I go shirt-jacket, maybe the visor will be okay?

Should I try for a negative split or a steady pace? There’s a small incline–enough to be a thorn in my side–just before the finish line. Do I meet it with speed or take it steady?

And then, the big question. Rob thinks I could do a sub-hour 10k tomorrow if I push myself. I’d emreally/em love to do that, but is it smart to push now, so close to the big race? My real goal is 11-minute miles, and I definitely think that’s possible, because training has gone really well…

And now I really have to go to sleep. Thanks for listening. And, Sarah? Sorry I told you to close emThe Help/em do you could get some sleep and then stayed up myself… Can I repay you in Gu? /p