Archive for the 'internet' Category


Life update

Being: Mindful.

Remembering: Mister Rogers. Seriously, he was a truly awesome individual—definitely on my list of fantasy dinner-party guests. Lots of interesting stories about him (and a link to a great article-length profile of him), such as this one:

Once while rushing to a New York meeting, there were no cabs available, so Rogers and one of his colleagues hopped on the subway. Esquire reported that the car was filled with people, and they assumed they wouldn’t be noticed. But when the crowd spotted Rogers, they all simultaneously burst into song, chanting “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” The result made Rogers smile wide.

Chuckling: Over another way to remember Mister Rogers.

Wondering: Just how evil the Girl Scouts really are.

Contemplating: The paradox of satisfaction, and how it may be harder to be satisfied in a world that is producing an increasing amount of “good stuff.” The forecast is for a world in which we have access to all information but services (Amazon, Google, whoever) provide recommendations for us. What do you think?

Also contemplating: The Filter Bubble, in which Eli Pariser notes that the world we see is increasingly (and alarmingly) shaped by filters (again, Amazon, Google, whoever) that determine what we see (or don’t) based on assumptions and predictions (in turn based on Internet habits) about us. Want to pop your bubble? Here’s how to start.


Looking for culinary inspiration?

Look no further! (FYI: Probably NSFW. Well, it depends on where you work, of course.)


Tech talk

Around the end of June, my tech life changed dramatically in two ways.

First, I became the owner of an iPhone 3G. Jan bought this two years ago and has used it pretty much nonstop every since. (We joke that it is his “auxiliary brain.”) When the iPhone 4 came out last month, he preordered one; it arrived (and was immediately activated) the day before it would have been available in stores.

Then the 3G became mine. I’m not using it as a phone, though. My cell phone use doesn’t justify this expensive; it currently amounts to about 400 minutes per year–so I use T-Mobile’s prepaid 1000 minutes good for one year for $100 deal. So the old iPhone is functioning as an iPod Touch*, which means I have Internet access whenever I have a WiFi connection.

So what am I doing with the 3G? Mostly gaming. It’s very handy for playing an asynchronous Scrabble-like game with friends, as well as Carcassonne. (If Settlers of Catan ever comes out for the iPhone, I will probably disappear for a while…) I’m also having loads of fun with Plants versus Zombies, which is exactly what it sounds like (and available for many platforms, for non-iPhone users out there).

The other big change is that I have pretty much stopped using Facebook in the past few weeks. I ranted here about Facebook several months ago, but ultimately still found it a useful place to keep in touch with people. But lately, I find that reading Facebook just annoys me: too much passive-aggression, too many “let me say something vague and negative so lots of people will ask me ‘what’s wrong?'” status updates, too much inanity. I started hiding people from my feed, and when I realized that I was hiding most people, I knew it was time to go. Oh, and there’s also that whole thing about how Facebook completely ignores any privacy concerns and aggressive markets users’ information to other vendors. Yeah, that.

(I haven’t nuked my Facebook account–still on the fence about that–but I’ve removed most of my personal information from there.)

So, aside from the blogosphere, where am I hanging out these days online? Believe it or not, Twitter, where I’m First Things; you can find me here. I’ve been active there only for a couple of weeks now, and so far it’s been…interesting. More on that later, though.


*What a lame name. Seriously, Steve Jobs: Apple has excelled in the design and marketing department for some time now. This was the best you guys could come up with?


Home again, home again, jiggity jig

I last posted here about three weeks ago, shortly before we headed out of town and up to Vermont for our annual two-week stay in a little cabin next to a little lake. We got home yesterday afternoon, unloaded the car (which resulted in the living room looking like a laundromat exploded in the middle of it), and spent the evening settling back into being home. And recovering from the drive, too. In an attempt to avoid the hell known as The New Jersey Turnpike on the Weekend, we decided to take a slightly longer (in miles, but not usually in time) and decidedly more scenic route through the charmingly named Delaware Water Gap. Unfortunately, one construction zones and several accident sites delayed us considerably.

During our vacation, I was completely Internet-free. The cottage has a (glacially slow) dial-up connection that I’ve used in past years, but crawling the Internet when you’re used to surfing it Point Break style is just too painful. So this year I opted to stay away from it entirely while in Vermont. This also served as an experiment of sorts to see what it would be like to avoid the constantly flowing river of information in which I usually dip my toes a few times daily. The result? Well, I didn’t go insane. So that’s a good sign.

Ultimately I found that I didn’t really miss the Internet–not in the short term, at least. I’m glad to have it in my life and happy it’s here to help me keep in touch with old friends, meet new friends, learn new things, and generally keep my brain from turning into mush. But the Internet hasn’t always been around, and sometimes it’s nice to step back from it and pay more attention to what’s going on around you. And when what’s going on around you is Vermont in August, well, then paying attention to it isn’t really that hard.


A bit more about Facebook

A recent Facebook meme (and the one that prompted the article I mentioned before) is the “25 Random Things” meme. It’s almost exactly the same as the “100 Things About Me” meme that a lot of bloggers have done except, well, the lists have twenty-five items instead of one hundred.

Apparently the Bard was an early participant in this meme. Yup, Shakespeare had compiled his own list of “Five and Twenty Random Things Abovt Me.

And here’s a depiction—a frighteningly on-the-nose one, I might add—of what some Facebook interactions might look like if they took place in a face-to-face real life:



Children’s music for grown-ups

Ze Frank is one of the most creative and interesting people I’ve ever come across. I first came across his website in 2000, I think, when this creation of his swept across the Internet.

He has all sorts of projects on his page. (This one and this one are two of my favorites.) Last month he wrote:

Laura wrote to ask if i could write a song to remind her to chill out when she got anxious. I asked people to sing along to a basic track and send me the results as audio files. After I had about 20 in total I mixed the results together to create the chorus of the tune (special thanks to everyone that sent in audio)

Here’s what he came up with.


Useful things

It’s about time someone came up with a way to make the weather report this simple. Because really, isn’t that all we need to know?

There’s a theory that any movie could be improved by adding ninjas to it—even movies that already have ninjas. I’d like to add this corollary: there’s no song that can’t be improved by adding cowbells and Christopher Walken to it.



Via a random knitting blog I stumbled across (I love exploring on the Internet!), I came across KnitMap, a yarn-store finder. There are several yarn-store lists online in various places, but they always seem complete or (more often) out of date. KnitMap lets users (that’s you and me) create entries for yarn stores in the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe, and include such information as a shop’s address, telephone number, website, and store hours; what sorts of supplies a shop carries; and even a map that you can use to get directions (thank you, Google Maps!). Users can rate shops in the categories of atmosphere, selection, and service.

I think this is a great idea! When I was in Vermont last month, I did some online poking around to find local yarn shops we could visit. Google is great, but it does take some time to wade through search results. KnitMap looks like a great resource in those situations–and even when you’re at home and just wanting to see if there are any new fiber purveyors in your neighborhood!


Happy news indeed

A few days ago, the New York Times decided to get rid of TimesSelect, making all of its current content free. (And archives back to 1987 are free, too.) This delights me for many of reasons, not the least of which is I can once again read Paul Krugman’s op-ed column, which had been a for-fee item under TimesSelect.

And now, I just found out (thanks, Jan) that Krugman has a blog.

My cup runneth over…


Um, okay…

I set up an e-mail account at Yahoo many, many years ago. It became thoroughly spamified not many years later, so you can imagine my joy when a friend who worked at HP sent me an invite for Gmail account right after Gmail launched. I moved all my personal and professional correspondence there and let my poor Yahoo account serve as my “when you have to register to buy/read/whatever someone online” place.

(Let me just take this opportunity to say that I lurve my Gmail. It’s right up there with sliced bread and flush toilets. Okay, flush toilets still win, but just barely.)

Unless I’ve ordered something online, I rarely check that Yahoo address. I pop in there once in a while to take a look around. Occasionally, I find an e-mail from someone I haven’t heard from in ages and who doesn’t know my current address. Today, when the My Yahoo page loaded, I was amused to see that #4 on the top-ten list of “Today’s Top Searches” is Cats That Look Like Hitler. This came in ahead of “Harry Potter News,” mind you–which astonished me tremendously, since that’s all everyone seems to be talking about. (In fact, yesterday I read about some moderated blogs and forums deciding to shut down temporarily for the week after the new book’s release, just so no trolls could post spoilers. I am not a Harry Potter fan. In fact, I am pretty unimpressed with the books. So all of this prepublication excitement is sociologically fascinating to me, but doesn’t really elicit more than a “Meh.”)

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the first link in the Yahoo search list: To date, there are 1231 “Kitlers” with little Hitler ‘taches. Wow.