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Friday, July 31, 2009

Classic SNL: Devil on People's Court

This is not new. It's irrelevant to everything happening in the world today. It is also hilarious and one of the few SNL bits in history that is truly funny from beginning to end. (Disclaimer: the views and opinions of the devil expressed herein are not espoused or supported by this blog or its authors.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ten Things to Like about Twitter

It's been so long since I started making this list of 10 Things to Like about Twitter, I forgot to list them all in one top ten list. But to call this a top ten is a misnomer. It's hardly the definitive 10 best things about Twitter. I haven't even touched on the commercial possibilities Twitter presents, the potential for social change, or anything all that much bigger than my own private Twittersphere.

That's the point, really. This is my list. These are 10 things you should like because I like them. If you're an experienced tweetist, you may hate some of them. If you're new to Twitter . . . you might hate some of them. But I like 'em. Humor me.

I guess I should also preface this with a brief tutorial. If you want to partake in the Twitterfest, it's really not hard, far simpler than Facebook or just about anything else you could do online. Twitter is a place (or a method) for updating and getting updates on anything or anyone. To get started, just go to, browse, sign up, go to my page, and click "Follow." Alright, this is a long preface. Here's the 10 Things I Like about Twitter:

10. Trends. When a topic gets tweeted a lot, the keywords show up at various places on Twitter (the home page, the sidebar). You can find out what people are talking about almost as soon as they start talking about them.

9. Hashtags. That's Twitterese for putting a # in front of your update's (or tweet's) keyword, so you can easily find tweets about the same thing. It's more useful (and less confusing) than it sounds.

8. No Commitment. You don't have to read everything your friends, followers, or followees post. You don't have to join groups, causes, or drawn-out comment threads. It's light, casual . . . we're just friends with twitterfits. That was terrible.

7. The Return of Editing. You only have 140 characters, and everybody can read it. You best clean up your spelling and grammar, there, kid.

6. And other easily postable links to the music of the moment. If a song is stuck in your head, why shouldn't you lure some unsuspecting soul to wallow/revel in it.

5. No Computer Necessary. Most Internet experiences get a serious downgrade when you switch to mobile. Twitter was made for mobile. You don't have to live like a nerd to get your geek on.

4. Anyone Can Do It. Kelso from That 70's Show is the Twitter king. If you can't at least get started . . . okay, there's no then statement. You can at least get started.

3. We, Not They. Twitter users determine what reigns on Twitter. Not The Media. Not The Government. Not The Corporate World. It's ours, people. We have no one to blame but us.

2. Conversation. I like to think Twitter is just one big conversation. It's in the moment. Blogging is more of a journal for posterity. Twitter doesn't wait around that long. Twitter is now. Twitter is a party to which everyone is invited, everyone can hear (almost) everything anyone is saying, and it's real easy to sneak away.

1. Words. In a world of video, images, CGI wizardry, Twitter is governed by the almighty word. Thank God.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some Children's Vitamins Aren't What They Seem

How upset should I be about this?

We brought home a bottle of Transformers gummy vitamins. Complaint 1) Addison thought they tasted like feet. Complaint 2) They aren't Transformers gummy vitamins. As the pictures here somewhat clearly show (how clear an image can gummy vitamins really portray?) the vitamins are Thomas the Tank Engine gummy vitamins.

For what it's worth, Addison seemed more inclined to consume these homogenized globs of fortified corn syrup when he found out they were Thomas. I really don't know what to make of that. But I wasn't going to let that happen.

The good sign, I guess, is that Health Science Labs does sell Thomas the Tank Engine gummy vitamins. But that's small comfort to the fact that this bottle of children's vitamins is mislabeled. Health Science Labs also sells gummy vitamins for adults (yeah . . . go figure) concocted to combat osteoporosis, heart disease, and irregularity.

Would the adult gummies, Infinity8, be harmful to my kid? The nutritional info says it can be taken by children over the age of 2. But here's the problem: the dosage for Infinity8 is one gummy; the dosage for the children's vitamins is two gummies. So if Health Science Labs is in the habit of putting their vitamins into the wrong bottles, some other poor kid could be chowing down on two black-cherry Regul8 gummies with 6 grams of fiber when he thinks he's getting a balanced blend of vitamins and nutrients.

I am fairly upset about this. For me, the bottom line is that this company doesn't know precisely what they're putting into their bottles. I've emailed their customer service department, and I'll update this if and when I hear back from them. But I've seen nothing on their site in the way of an announcement of any kind.

Am I being silly? Wouldn't be the first time. I'm just curious what people's various states of alarm would be if a bottle of something dangerous enough to require a child-proof cap—something intended for your child's health—didn't contain what it said it did.


Poppy the Puppy Song

Colin: Sing "Poppy the Puppy" song!

Me: (thinking) There is no "Poppy the Puppy" song. It's a lift-the-flap book you turned into a rip-the-flap book.

Me: (out loud) Addison, make up a "Poppy the Puppy" song.

Addison: (3 seconds later, to the tune of "Five Little Ducks") Poppy the Puppy loved to play / all, all, all, all, all, all day. / He didn't know a lot of stuff / but he liked to say, "Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff."

Colin: Good song, Addison!

Good song indeed.

William Shatner Turns Palin into Poetry

I don't want to ruin this with a lot of talk, but I was wrong. This video will change your life. William Shatner reads Sarah Palin's resignation speech . . . to bongos. Live on Conan.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This Video Will Change Your Life

Especially if you live in a house made entirely of privacy Plexiglas.

I love science experiments that consist of revealing strange phenomena by playing with everyday stuff. This is just one of those things.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Missed This

Last night, I went to play in a softball game while Heather and the boys went to the beach. It looks like I missed a lot of fun. So much fun, in fact, that Colin had absolutely no interest in ever looking at the camera. I can understand that one.

I'm glad Heather saved some glimpses of those moments, but it strikes me how pictures almost always fail to tell the whole story. Life tends to seem a bit cleaner in pictures.

For example: None of these photos accurately portray how Heather had to hose the boys off
before they could set foot in our house because they had sand caked everywhere. Or how they then had to take baths because, for real, the sand was everywhere.

The pictures don't show how frustrating it is when the batteries go out on your camera and the back-ups are nowhere to be found.

The shots also don't quite capture what it's like not to be there. That's why God gave us words like dookie.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Investment Insurance = Crappy Health Care

If you want to read more than just my vast oversimplification of the national health care insurance crock, you can find an in depth look at the latest confession from within the health insurance industry at the Daily Kos. Here's my take:

The health insurance industry is owned by investors. Investors will invest in only those insurance providers who can insure a low medical loss ratio (aka no more than 80% of health insurance premiums being used to, you know, pay actual medical bills). Insurance companies start covering too many of their customers, investors will find other suitors, stock prices go in the tank, and health care insurance providers that insure customer health instead of investor profits get penalized for being who they say they are.

I like to think of myself as a conservative, but if wanting to completely overhaul the corrupt health care system makes me a radical, so be it. Is it that radical to think any industry that lives or dies on its ability to satisfy the snakes on Wall Street is inherently evil and crippled and doomed to become a complete sham?

I guess it's the fear of being viewed as a radical, socialist, communist that makes most people wary of national health insurance. So it's pretty fascinating to hear someone from within the industry admit that the aforementioned fear is the industry's only hope.

In the video below, former CIGNA PR head honcho Wendell Potter admits that Michael Moore (and Canada and a lot of Europe) was on to something. He knows it. The insurance giants know it. Government involvement in the health care system is a good idea for everyone except the people getting rich off of the current scheme.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #1 Words

Yes, there are links and myriad technological innovations. Yes, there are avatars and background wallpaper images. But the main course at the Twitter table is the written (or typed or texted or however it arrives on screen) word.

It's kind of fun to track how the evolution of communication technology brought us to the age of Twitter. The Phoenician alphabet, the Chinese invention of paper, Gutenberg's printing press all collaborated in the industry of putting words on paper for the masses to read in portable, reproducible fashion. Then people found ways to reproduce and record more than just words. With the photograph, the microphone, the telegraph, Morse code, the typewriter, the phonograph, the camera, the telephone, radio, motion pictures, television, tape recorders, and transistor radios, electronic media could capture and deliver codes, sounds, and images. We could communicate with color and volume and inflection. Words were just one weapon in an arsenal of long-distance, timeless messaging. Then computers, the Internet, email, cell phones, and the ability to shrink infinite data into infinitesimal compartments opened up an entirely new world of communication.

The cell phone became a mass media world of its own. In a box the size and weight of a deck of cards, we hold our photos, music, telephone, television, movies, Internet, email, cameras, video cameras, planners, news sources, calculators, athletic trainers, video games, GPS navigators, road maps, restaurant finders, sniper rifle cross-hairs, fashion statements, and who knows what else.

And with all that—given the world of entertainment, diversions, and applications with which our cell phones are equipped to delight us—the grandest sensation that is blowing everybody away consists essentially of sending and receiving strings of 140 letters, numbers, and symbols.

We could be stimulated, intoxicated, or carried adrift by the tumult of mindblowing displays of technological genius. But millions of people are captivated instead, once again, by the mere exchange of words.

Twitter is ticker tape on steroids, the telegraph for dummies. It's a bunch of words flying around the world, getting caught in the Internets, and I absolutely love it for that.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #2 Conversation

Twitter is basically a bunch of people talking on the Internet. That's it. Ignore the hooey about the question, "What are you doing?" Tweets do occasionally take that form, but people type whatever they want into their 140-character containers. Twitter is really just one gigantic conversation.

That's the beautiful simplicity of it. Whether by phone, by Web, by Twitter app, or by the plain old Twitter home page, Twitter is just a single silo of tweets. The gross complexity of it is that it's also a billion random tiny conversations that can be categorized, searched, hash-tagged, nested (on Tweetboards), replied to, sent privately and directly, posted for all the world to see, linked through, linked to, deleted, and retweeted (RT). It is equal parts organized and chaotic.

It's like a party where all the Jesus people, atheists, anal-retentives, pack rats, control freaks, free-thinking hippies, slobs, nerds, geeks, preps, righteous dudes, Ferris lovers, school administrators, Scrabble lovers, Harley riders, sellers, buyers, poets, dreamers, hummers, and screamers are all invited. You can get advice, inspiration, laughs, alerts, pictures, stories, summaries, games, tech news, good news, bad news, fake news, and stuff you didn't know about Argentinian airlines.

Or, you can just check in on how your friends are doing.

This is a big revelation, especially for Facebook users who try to read all their friends' updates and are expecting more of the same from Twitter. Like any place where conversations are being held, you can listen in, speak up, and/or ignore to your heart's content. You can catch up on practically any thread you please, but you needn't.

On the other hand, if you are planning on revealing the deepest, most guarded treasures of your very soul to everyone you hold dear as a kindred spirit . . . Twitter might not be the way to go. I mean, feel free to tweet your heart out, but recognize that you're probably talking with only those people who are listening at the time; you can't expect everyone who has ever heard your voice to hang on your every word.

Still, the twitting and tweeting has more permanence than a normal chat at a dinner party. People in Iran can actually hear you talking about Iran. You can selectively eavesdrop on almost anything. You can bend your ear toward whatever whispers you want.

But when it comes right down to it, it's just a lot of people talking.