April

April Heath Pastis is co-owner of H and P Publications, a publishing/marketing company that provides marketing solutions to corporations, city governments, individuals and non-profit organizations. The company publishes special-interest newspapers and magazines, as well as providing internet hosting and web design. Working with computers since 1985 she has become an authority in Macintosh publishing, internet design, and corporate identity creation. Prior to her current position, she worked as a journalist for weekly and daily newspapers. Raised in Southern California, April now lives with her husband and son in Central California. She enjoys genealogy in her spare time, heading up the Heycuz newsgroup, a resource for genealogists all connected to each other in some degree. She also founded Geekesse, a network for intelligent women and the men who worship them. The group is working on revamping their networking website.

Shout Out To My Heros: Help Boards

Today, I’d like to do a shout out to the unsung heros, help boards. Most of the time, these over-worked administrators and moderators only hear the rants and ravings of an unhappy poster. But, you can bet if you’ve got a problem that you need solved, there’s a help board with the resources you need to solve it.  I want to say thank you! You’ve saved my butt on numerous occasions.

Like the time I needed to hook up a Plasma TV to a LCD 15 minutes before a speaker was to go on–Thank you High Def Forum!

Or the time an app was preventing my computer from booting–Thank you Mac Community Forums

Or the time a software update crashed my site-thank you Stack Ideas forum. and Red Component Forum.

Sure, there are some boards I’d rather not visit at all for various reasons: too hard to search; bad attitudes; flamers; or its just not a topic I’m interested in, but most of the time I came to that forum searching for the answer for a very specific problem or area of interest.
When you are looking for assistance on a forum, its best to narrow down the forum to the exact product or question rather than go to a general topic forum. It’s a real time saver because you’re all speaking the same language so to speak. If you don’t understand the conversations, then be honest and confess that you’re a newbie and need the instructions as simple as possible. 
Some of the best forums out there are forums supporting open-source software. Open-source makes it’s code available to everyone and so their support forums, because of its very nature,  creates the free exchange of ideas. One of my favorites is the Joomla Community Forum because there are many helpful, knowledgeable people.
The key to a good forum, I’ve found, is the tone of the community and the knowledge of its users. The key to getting answers to your questions is to know the guidelines of the forum you’re posting which can usually be found at the top or bottom of the front page of the forum. Check it out before your first post. 
The second way to get your question answered quickly is including all the specifics around the item that is in question. For instance, if you’re asking about a TV connection problem: give the product number, and the exact name of the unit you’re trying to connect it to. Try not to voice your frustration too much or be too sarcastic. We all know you paid good money for what ever it is, so there’s no need to re-state it. You can never say too much about what the product is because the more information they have, the better your chance of getting an answer.
Also, if you run across a forum post where you know the answer, it’ll increase your Karma by sharing your knowledge. If you kinda, maybe, somehow have a hunch you have the answer, hold back posting until you can be more sure. There’s nothing more frustrating than following bad advice.
And, the next time someone helps you in a forum, please respond to their good deed. Let them know that it solved the problem for you. That way they can mark the problem solved and others with similar problems can also benefit from the answer to your question.
Finally, remember to thank them.
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I means what I means

If you could hear me when I’m using Google Search lately, you might think I was doing a Popeye impression; I mumble a lot. Ever since Google changed its search algorithm in March, I’m having to reteach myself to surf. I go to Google and type something, say “”Monkees” like ice cream” and I’m half way down the results page when I realize that Google’s suggested a different search for me:

“showing results for Monkeys like ice cream
search instead for “Monkees” like ice cream

“I means what I means,” I mutter and click on the link to search for what I originally typed.
I really do like change. Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is life, and all that hyperbole. But, come on! I’ve been searching this way since way back when AltaVista still existed. My head knows it’s time for a change, but my fingers still do the walking, er typing, and they want to put phrases within quotes.
It seems in Google’s attempt to assist us, they have started ignoring power users by over riding what we search for. Their own help files tell us that a phrase search works like this:

Phrase search (“”)
By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ “Alexander Bell” ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.”

However, they may need to update their help site as they is no longer an absolute. It used to be preferable to use the double quote boolean term to get exactly the phrase you were looking for within Google, but now its hit or miss.
According to About.com, “Boolean searching is built on a method of symbolic logic developed by George Boole, a 19th century English mathematician. Most online databases and search engines support Boolean searches. Boolean search techniques can be used to carry out effective searches, cutting out many unrelated documents. “
There are tons of search strings available, but here are the terms I find most useful when searching on Google:

  • “Exact Phrase Here” — If it’s in quotes, Google is supposed to look for those words in the exact order.
  • +Exact+Phrase+Here — The + before a word tells Google that each of these words must be in the results.
  • +Word -other — Using the – sign, tells Google not to return any webpages with that word in it. In other words if you want to find Justin but not Timberlake you’d type +Justin -Timberlake
  • word site:weburlgoeshere — If you want to find something within a specific website use this. For example, if I want to find singer Pink’s videos on Youtube I would type this: Pink site:youtube.com

Currently the results of my search seems to change by the hour. I’m guessing it all depends on how much Google likes me at the moment of the search.
It’s hard enough when Google’s autocomplete, Google Instant, starts filling in my words before I get to the fifth letter. I surf using my keyboard, hitting return after typing in my text, which most times means that Google Instant has replaced what I typed or filled in more than I typed milliseconds before I hit the return key sending me to ridiculous results. Type in “do m” and get:

  • do midgets have night vision?
  • do men like virgins
  • do my thang lyrics

You can stop Google from using instant search. According to Google’s help files:

“If you don’t want to see results as you type, you can opt out by accessing your search settings under the  gear icon on any search results page. When you opt out, we’ll save that preference on a cookie, so you’ll stayed opted out until the cookie is cleared. Note that the preference will only apply to that particular computer and Internet browser, and it is not tied to your Google Account.”

To turn it off, go to your Google preferences. At the bottom of the page is the Google Instant options. Simply click the button next to “Do Not use Google Instant”
I like Google Instant, but if you don’t use it, you get the added benefit of being able to increase the number of results given on each page of a search. With Google Instant turned on you only get 10 results per page. With it off, you can choose 20, 30, 50 or 100 results per page.
While you’re in your preferences, you might want to reset your SafeSearch filter. If children are using the computer, you can have it filter out adult content. The default is set to moderate filtering. For me, I don’t want to be filtered at all so I click “Do not filter my search results.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a perv, I just don’t want something computer program telling me what it thinks is appropriate for me to see. I can make my own decisions, thank you. I’m a big girl now.

INSTANT PREVIEW
On September 22nd, Google changed its Instant Preview feature so that you no longer have to click on the magnifying glass to view what a website looks like before you click its link. You can now simply hover your mouse over to the right side of one of the results. When you do, two arrows ” >> ” appear, hover over that and a a preview of the site appears. This is very handy if you’re looking for a specific site but can’t remember it by name. One glimpse tells you whether you’re in the right place or not. If it’s not the specific site you want, hit the down arrow key on your computer keyboard, to view a preview of the next result.
I’m not getting too attached to any of the new changes though, because Google made an announcement yesterday that they’ll be rolling out even more changes soon. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just cross my fingers while surfing.

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Cheating is the symptom of educational woes

I’m saddened by the news today that five children paid someone to take the SATs for them and as a result they could face serious time.

“Colleges look for the best and brightest students, yet these six defendants tried to cheat the system and may have kept honest and qualified students from getting into their dream school,” DA Kathleen Rice said. “These arrests should serve as a warning to those taking the SAT this Saturday that if you cheat, you can face serious criminal consequences.

I’ve heard a lot of teachers complain how rampant cheating has gotten, but we need to start asking why. What’s going on that our students have thrown morality out the window? If you look at the very basics of our humanity, you will see that people cheat based upon our survival instinct. Let me explain with a scenario:
A man is caught stealing at a grocery store. He’s guilty of theft and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But, what if, you learn that this man stole a sandwich because he was starving? Or, what if he stole a loaf of bread to feed his children? You would be a monster if you ignored his reasoning and sent him to prison and left the starving family to fend for themselves.
When anything threatens a person’s livelihood, income or social status, they enter survival mode. I believe that the system itself lead the students to their moral breaking point.
During the economic downturn, the biggest losers have been our educators and students. Every time I turn around I read about another cut to funding in education.
Due to the drop in funding, colleges have increase their fees, limited enrollment, and increased their entrance requirements. The result is that students are doing what ever it takes to get what they feel they need to survive.
Children are told from day one, that the only way to make it in this world is to get a good education, to get into the best schools. In California, we took pride in guaranteeing a higher education for all, but now even community colleges are feeling the burn.
I am not condoning cheating. It’s wrong. But, I’m saying cheating is the symptom of a much bigger problem. We’ve got to take a look at what’s really going on. We’ve got to stop our politicians from taking money away from our schools.

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What responsibility do we have to our followers?

This past week, I’ve gotten quite a few (hundreds actually) new followers on Twitter and Google+. What’s going on? Does this have anything to do with the new changes on Facebook? Do people hate it that much? Or, does it have anything to do with Farmville changes? 
It’s nice to have all the new followers, but with new followers I feel a bit of responsibility to come up with good tweets and links. 
I tried to find some great quotes by joining  quotesdaddy.com. It is pretty good, but, still it doesn’t seem to be enough. So, I’ve been retweeting a lot. 
Oh sure, I know that the marketing gurus are saying to themselves that they’d be doing a lot more than just repeating quotes. But I don’t feel its right to blanket people with ads. Don’t we have some responsibility to our followers?
I think my responsibility is to only share stuff that I find interesting enough to read. So my question is: What responsibility do we have to our followers? Please tweet me @geekesse.

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The Best Things in Facebook Are Free (for six months, anyway)

Spotify is a streaming music server that saves your play lists, of any music, not just what you’ve purchased, and you can replay that music from anywhere. Recently, that anywhere has included Facebook
How do you add music on Facebook? When you are logged into Facebook on the front page, in the left column, you’ll find an icon with the words “Music” next to it. It’s located right under “Apps.”
When you click on Music, you’ll be asked to download an application called “Spotify.” After installing it, you will be asked to login with Facebook. Or, you can set up an account on their website, without logging into Facebook.
When you do, you can see what music your friends are listening to; subscribe to their playlists; send recommended songs to friends; and just enjoy free unlimited music to your heart’s content. 
If you don’t want to share your playlists you can turn it off. Within Spotify click on your preferences, then uncheck automatically share my playlists. It appears that its an all or nothing feature.
You can also disconnect Spotify while you’re in the program so that the music you’re listening to doesn’t get played. To do that within Spotify, go to File, to Disconnect from Facebook.
Spotify is free. From what I can tell from this blog post on Spotify, the service will only be free for six months.
Spotify pays for the free music by running ads between every few songs and display ads from within the software. They also charge for subscriptions. In fact, every time you open the app, you are asked if you want to upgrade from the free account.  It says you can upgrade for a monthly fee. Unfortunately,  the form asks for my credit card information before it gives me the price, so I didn’t complete it. Wikipedia lists that the Unlimited Subscription is 4.99 per month and Premium (includes mobile) is 9.99  a month. If you spend a lot on music in iTunes this option might be worth it. I’m just a little concerned that it seems to be luring people in with misinformation. You sign up and get all you’re play lists created, then after six months, you’re told you can only play 10 hours of music. Of course, this may have changed with the Facebook deal. 
I’m sure there will be a huge uproar from the Facebook friends who, just having gotten used to the music part, are suddenly told that they are going to have to pay for the right to listen to music, but not own it. 

“Abandon ship!”
“Hit the brakes!”
“I’d expand my farm before I’d pay that!”

I don’t want to stop people from enjoying their free membership on Spotify. Go ahead and enjoy it for six months. The Software is pretty cool and I’m really enjoying the ability to hear almost about every song I can think of. In fact, I’ve put some songs in that I would have sworn wouldn’t be in there and they were. 
As always, I have a couple of tips. First, when you search for a song or name and it says not found, try a different way to put it in the search bar. For instance, I searched for She said Plan B, and no results appeared. But when I tried Plan B She said, it came up. Other times I put the artist last and it had the same problem. 
Also, I was disappointed when I added the Bob Seger song Turn the Page to my play list, but it turned out that it was only a cover, cause I know that wasn’t Seger, not even close. At least when I tried to play Peace Sells, it was listed correctly as a cover song (as made famous by Megadeath). So, just make sure you listen to the song before adding it to your play list.
Apparently, not many people are using the service yet. I have only one friend among hundreds who has a published playlist. So, if you’d like to share your playlists (as long as its not country) please add me.
Finally, if you find yourself getting attached to your playlists, and have no intension of subscribing at some time, keep a separate note of when you signed up and what’s in your playlists.

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Mind Over Mouse?

To catch a mouse diary
Day one: Received the Riddex Sonic Pest Repeller and plugged them in. These were on sale real cheap at Amazon so I thought I’d give it a try before doing something more drastic. It was only a tiny field mouse after all. My family thought I was being over sensitive. But, the idea of something crawling around my living room is just too much. There were a lot of positive reviews. After I ordered them, however, I did more research and found that the FTC had a file on them for “unsubstantiated claims.” Oh well, since I already ordered them I’d give it a try. The instructions said that it would take up to seven days. I  followed the instructions to the letter, and plugged them in. I  plugged it in two places on the first floor and in the hallway upstairs. I thought I noticed a bit of a ruckus in a corner, but I may have just imagined it. 

Day two: No activity except the constant clicking of the device. I kept the television off all day, hoping to increase the effect of the noise and I’d be able to hear them better. My son was concerned about the possibility of brain damage caused by sonic sounds. I told him it was supposed to be safe for pets. He didn’t seem convinced and gave a shrug that indicated it wasn’t that big a deal and it was just another of mom’s kicks.
Day three: Early morning, thought I saw some mouse droppings on the floor. Still it could’ve been that we’d had tacos the night before and it could have been crumbs. I  swept and mopped just in case. On my trip to the store that afternoon, I couldn’t resist the temptation and bought a mouse trap. When I got home, I thought better of it. I didn’t want to handle the mess of a trap. So, I put it under the sink.
Day four: I’m haunted by shadows. I know its just my imagination cause I even see shadows of a mouse on the ceiling. It’s too quiet. I can’t believe a mouse has made me so paranoid.
Day five: Haven’t heard anything but the click click click of the sonic mouse device. It sounds like a dripping faucet. Its enough to drive a person crazy. Reviewers said that they couldn’t stand the noise. They said they heard a whirring. I’m not sure if I’m just used to having a lot of electronic noise or if it just blends in with the rest of the noise of the home but all I know is that its very, very quiet except for the clicking dripping noise that occurs at random intervals. It can get on a person’s never. But, its worth it. I can put up with the clicking cause I  haven’t seen any mouse. Did I accidentally block him in behind something? Is he still lurking somewhere? 
Day six: I dare not call it a success yet, knock on wood. The floor’s clean, there’s no more shadows. I’ve turned off everything, but I know I won’t hear him even if he shows up. There’s a reason why they say “as quiet as a mouse.” They can be running circles around your feet but you can’t see them. Thinking about that, gives me the heebie-jeebies. The reviewers said that after the third or fourth day they’d noticed an increase in activity, with the mice running around in circles trying to get out. But, I haven’t heard anything. Like I said. It’s too quiet. Where’d “he” go? Just to be safe, I’m going to vacuum again. 
Day seven: Yep, it says its most effective in the first seven days. It’s actually longer than that since I put it in early and here it is 11 at night. Does that mean he’s gone? I hope so. I’m going to leave the things plugged in for another week just to be safe. But, I think it worked. 

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Are you in a browser rut?

Since this website is about surfing the internet, I thought I’d talk about the tools of the trade today. I’m surprised at the many people who still use Internet Explorer. Are you one of them? I have a number of customers who were, but I’ve released them from their shackles and I want to set you free, too! You’re not stuck with Internet Explorer. There’s a favorite saying among web surfers: “Friends don’t let friends use Internet explorer.” 
Even if you’re using another browser, you might want to try something else to see what you’re missing.  Every day, you go to the same web sites, interact with the same groups, and kid yourself that you’re on the cutting edge. You’re not. Did you know that websites appear differently when viewed with different browsers? Sometimes, it can be quite dramatic. Did you know that some tools may be available in one browser but not another? Even if you prefer to remain in your comfort zone, you should have a secondary browser installed.
There are a number of browsers available these days. The other top browsers, besides Internet Explorer, are Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. Each of these browsers offer add-on support, multiple tabs, security, and other similar attributes, however there are some major differences in all of them.
Sure, it comes pre-installed with Windows, but there are only two reasons I ever use the application. The first, is to download another browser, the second is to see how badly IE renders my website designs. Yes, it mangles the designs. Most designers have to write in a special code to accommodate those clinging to IE, just so it will render the pages into something that looks close to what they want it to look like. Some just throw up their hands and put a popup advising the web visitor to install a different browser. Microsoft has been making some in-roads toward improving the browser such as adding extension capabilities, and improving the interface, but it still gives much to be desired.
If you’re using a Mac. Apple’s Safari comes pre-installed. However, you don’t have to be a Mac user to run Safari. This visually appealing browser is fast, customizable, and has built in pop-up blockers. It rarely, if ever, crashes.  On the Mac, it is set to the default and I have never changed this. I usually keep it open to read my news subscriptions and mail because I find this browser renders text very cleanly and is the easiest on the eyes. Safari does not come with developer extensions enabled. You have to enable it in preferences. Once enabled there are quite a few extensions available. To find them go to
https://extensions.apple.com/. These are the extensions I have installed: The New York Times Browser toolbar, Better Facebook, Builtwith Analysis, Scribe Fire, LastPass, Buffer, Twitter for Safari, and Safari Restore.
Many of my friends claim that Chrome is blazing fast. I haven’t noticed any difference, but I haven’t played around with the settings much. The reason, Chrome is supposed to be so much faster is that you can have gadzillions of tabs open, but they are not drawing away any load time from the active tab. Each operates in its own world, so that you can be doing some work in one tab, and won’t lose any speed in another. Or, if one tab crashes, you don’t have to restart the whole browser, just reopen the crashed tab. One of the features tI also like is that Chrome has is the ability to set the startup to open all of the websites I’ve added in preferences. It eliminates an extra step. I have all of my clients’ websites, plus my own personal links (google plus, my blog, twitter, and iGoogle) as the default start up. I’ve only installed what I consider basic extensions. They are: Last Pass, G+ Tweet, Google +1 Button, ScribeFire, Shareaholic, Xmarks Bookmark Sync and Zemanta.
The name of this browser alone, tells you that it dances to its own tune. It’s a completely different browsing experience. Try out this browser and you’ll be suddenly aware that there’s a whole new world out there, especially if you are visually oriented. Like other browsers, its appearance is customizable, so I don’t mean visually oriented in that way. Everything about the browser has a “feel” and look. Take for instance, its rendering of rss feeds (your newsgroup feeds) which appear like magazine pages.  It allows you to browse with your voice or by flicking your mouse. The browser takes some getting used to, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The first thing, you’re tempted to do when installing Opera is to go to their extensions page and start loading it up with your standby Firefox extensions. Try to change your method of thinking when you use this browser. Why? Well, first the extensions library is nothing to write home about and some of the Firefox favorites don’t work, such as Xmarks sync feature (don’t worry, you can still import your bookmarks the old-fashioned way). The second reason is that Opera is more about multi-media. It allows you to stream your photos, music, videos, and phone all together under a program it calls Opera Unite.  Opera Unite bypasses the need for servers so that you interact directly with another person. This is excellent if you’re working on a project with another person, because you can work and chat in real time, exchange files, and it does it seamlessly.
Firefox is the browser I use to get my work done. There’s a reason why its the browser of choice among web developers: its completely customizable. With the millions of add-ons available, there’s practically nothing you can’t get done in Firefox. Before I talk about extensions, I wanted to mention the great features available in Firefox. One of the best newer features is what Mozilla calls App Tabs, instead of using up valuable real estate on your tool bar, you can move the sites like your mail or twitter page, up to the tab bar where they are always accessible. You can also have tabs in groups. For instance you can have all of your social media sites open in one group; then switch to another group such as Netflix or anything. There’s also session restore, which comes built in with Firefox. If, for some reason, Firefox crashes, when you reopen it all of your tabs are restored just the way you left them. And, even if Firefox lost track of the tabs, it pops up a humorous apology “Well this is embarrassing, firefox is having trouble recovering your windows and tabs and this is usually caused by a recently opened page.” And lists the pages so you can check off the ones you want to reopen. 
Extensions (aka add-ons):
All of the browsers offer add-ons in one way or another, but Firefox is the king of add-ons with a huge community of developers adding dozens of new add-ons per minute. Don’t let the idea of having too many choices deter you from checking out the add-ons. Here’s how to find the right ones for you. There’s a place called Firefox Collections, which is like Youtube playlists. Say you’re interested in Jazz on youtube and you can see the recommended lists of songs that people have compiled. Firefox Collections is the same. Say you enjoy blogging, wouldn’t it interest you to see the favorite extensions of Problogger
Then you can pick and chose the ones that sound appealing, and if you end up not liking one you can just disable it or uninstall it all together. (A word of caution, I just noticed that the most popular add-on listed in Firefox Extensions is currently AdBlocker. I would not recommend installing it because I’ve had nothing but bad luck with it. You can try it out, but it’s notorious for causing crashes, especially when you go to flash heavy websites.)
I usually end up adding extensions based on need. I need to do some repetitive task and so I search for an add-on that will do it for me automatically. For instance, one of the scripts available is the GreaseMonkey Extension Facebook Mass Accept which allows me to click one time to accept all of my Facebook gift requests and send a gift back. Now, what used to take an hour takes a second. I click on the mouse and get back to my work, but my friends get their gifts. GreaseMonkey is an extension that offers a wide variety of tasks by adding scripts to it. You can get these scripts after you install the extension.
In addition to GreaseMonkey, these are the extensions I have installed on my Firefox browser: Add-on Compatibility Reporter, Buffer, DownloadHelper, Evernote Web Clipper, Fasterfox, Feed Sidebar, Integrated GMail, LastPass, MultiLinks, PowerTwitter, ScribeFire, Smartest Bookmarks Bar, StumbleUpon, Web Developer, WiseStamp, Youno, and Zemanta.
Of course you can over do your add-ons and I’m getting close. But, that’s OK. If you’re not using an add-on, you can disable and re-enable them at will which I often do. Disabled extensions don’t slow down Firefox. If you do notice that Firefox has become sluggish, you might want to check out your addons. One of them might be a power-drainer. To check if a add-on is causing the problem, you can restart Firefox in safemode by going to the help menu and selecting “restart with add-ons disabled.” If you notice a significant difference, its due to one of your addons. To find the culprit, disable the extensions one-by-one to find it. Of course, If you recently installed an add-on and then your troubles started then you should start with that one first.
These are the top web browsers, but there are many more available. I encourage you to check them out because you really don’t know what you’re missing til you’ve tried it.

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All apologies to Irvine

I’m a pretty positive person and normally don’t post rants against anyone, so I apologize in advance for this one, but I just have to get this off my chest.
I was watching CNN during lunch and they announced that Irvine, California has been named, again, as one of the places people would most like to live. All apologies for the people who live there, but I don’t see it. Let me rephrase that, if want to live with the feeling that “big brother is watching” then OK, then I can understand why people voted that way.
Perhaps, the vote came from people who happened to drive through Irvine and thought how nice it looked. Sure, the city is clean, but all of the houses look the same…on purpose! Irvine is a planned city where everything, I mean everything, is controlled. If it’s fun, there’s a city ordinance banning it.
Sure, there are beautiful parks and swimming pools, but they’re all members-only.
Sure, they have a lower crime rate, but that’s because you’re too scared to piss off the home-owners association or get another ticket for going past the curfew or j-walking.

Freeway onramp to the 405 North at Jamboree Ro...
This photo shows a rare moment
when the traffic isn’t too bad.

Sure, its minutes from the beach and mountains, if you’re a bird and can fly, otherwise you’ll be stuck in traffic for hours in what would take minutes in other cities.
U-turns are illegal. Well not illegal, just non-existant. If you’ve missed your turn, you’re out of luck!
Like your neighbors? I hope so, you can reach out, literally, and hug them because houses are a foot apart.
Sure the crime rate is low. That’s because there’s nothing happening. Everything is closed by 10, some places much earlier. You have to go out of the city to do anything. If you want to drink you’ll have to leave the city. There are no bars.
You have to pay a fee just to “request” painting your own home and if the color isn’t some form of beige don’t bother filing the request.
Not that I have pets, but dogs over 50 pounds are not allowed.
I realize that the residents of Irvine pay a lot of money for the “right” to live there so its not my desire to bash their beloved home. I didn’t set out to bash the city, but I really question the results of the poll. I’m sure I’ll probably end up getting lots of nasty comments about this, but something’s just wrong here. I simply can’t believe that people voted for control over freedom. Are we so fed up with rising crime rates that we’re willing to let groups of people tell us what kind of flowers (the number of flowers, the position of flowers, etc.) we can plant in our gardens? If you want to live in Orange County, why not pick a place like LaJolla, Laguna, or Newport?

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Are we getting nastier?

I recently set up a blog for a customer and was encouraging him to integrate it with social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook. He wasn’t in favor of the idea because, he said, Twitter had become so “nasty.” The tweets he’d seen lately were nothing but nasty attacks. Earlier this year, a poll on civility showed that 85 percent of Americans think that politics had become increasingly uncivil. In “We’re getting meaner! What’s it to yah?” NPR interviewed satirist Andy Borowitz the author of The Borowitz Report,. who said we have to put it in historical perspective. But overall comments seemed to indicate that meanness was growing. In August, USA Today published an article on the American Psychological Association’s findings that the workplace had become uncivil.

In 2008 I wrote a Nettiquete post for members of my newsgroup, but I think a lot of it is still good advice. These tips are really just a friendly reminder of how we should treat other people. You can start by taking all of the “manners” that your mama taught you and apply it to your online communication. That said, here are the most important “rules” to ensure a happier and more successful time online:

  1. 1. BE CONSIDERATE. The first, and most important thing to remember is the golden rule. Remember that there’s another person(s) on the receiving end of your post or email. It sounds obvious, but sometimes when you’re looking at an electronic monitor, its easy to forget. Also remember that your “humor” may not be recognized because we cannot write voice in-fluctuations, etc, as well as we can hear them.
  2. 2. “IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE…” One of the shortcomings of schools is that they don’t spend more time teaching people how to argue. How many times have you had to figure out the ratio of a circle in contrast to the number of times you had an argument? I’m just saying, they should re-prioritize the educational requirements proportionately to life’s requirements. If you disagree with someone don’t, ever, make it personal. Not only is it hurtful, but it doesn’t work in swaying others to your side of the argument. I remember once when I was a child, my sis and I were having an argument and she realized she was losing. At the end of her rope, she appealed to my mother with “MOM! APRIL’S STUPID!” The result was that everyone, my mother included, erupted in uproarious laughter. 

A side note: A lot of boards and newsgroups tell you to continue the argument off the list. I’m not going to tell you that because people come away with a false sense of anonymity. There is none. Some think that there’s only two people reading a so-called “private” email and so they can say the darndest things. But remember you have no control over what the receiver does with your email and now with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or rather the current abuse of the act, a server can be ordered to hand over all of your correspondence as well. In addition, I have my email backed up from 1987/8 til now. At any time, I can pull up the correspondence from others and blast it across the internet for all to see. I’m telling you right now, give up the idea that there’s any privacy involved in the internet. Any lawyer will tell you, “Never put it and writing.” And, speaking of privacy, I want to politely decline any further correspondence that include the words “for your eyes only” or “not for publication.” What do I do with that? Are you implying I like gossip?

3. DON’T WASTE OTHER’S TIME: Realize also that others might not want to hear you drone on about the same thing (especially if it has nothing to do with the group topic or repeated tweets to your friends only but we’re all in on the conversation. This coincides with one of my biggest pet peeves, the email forward button. Don’t use it. OK, you might use it once or twice, but only use it if you add some information or some comment or any text at all. Otherwise, consider taking the forward button off your menu bar. You can still find it, if you need to, in the “message” part of the menu. If it says “Pass it On,” don’t. My filters already put those emails right where they belong, directly in the trash. I belong to a lot of boards and newsgroups, so I get thousands of emails a day and it makes me feel like a heel when I get messages titled, “I better get this back.” If I spent my time responding to those I wouldn’t have the time to answer all the legitimate queries I get. In that same vein, never post “dittos.” If you have nothing more to add and you’re not answering a survey, a “me too” is useless.

4. ANSWER YOUR PERSONAL EMAIL: If someone has taken the time to write to you personally, answer them. Even if all you can write is, “I’m busy right now, I’ll try to write more later.” And with that I add be patient for a reply and if you don’t get an answer within a reasonable time period, like say 14 days, then send a gentle reminder. Perhaps, a “did you get this?” and repost your message. Many times, it can take me weeks to write an answer, though I try to keep the time down to a couple of days. 

5. ALWAYS SIGN YOUR POST: especially if you’re giving information. In genealogy this is SO important. Facts are irrelevant if they have no source. If you’re not willing to leave your name, then you’re just a lurker who has nothing to add. Sorry to be so crass, I’m pointing out how others view your posts.

6. QUOTE: Give me some idea of what you’re responding to or talking about. Familiarize yourself with the copy and paste keys on your keyboard. It’s really exciting when I get an email responding to a post that I put up on a board 10 years ago. But, realize my memory’s not that great! I need to know what my question was that you so kindly are responding to. This applies to emails also. Figure out how your email software or email website handles quoting. Sometimes you have to highlight the person’s message, sometimes you have to set your program to do that. If the message was long, remember you can just “quote” the part you’re responding to and delete the rest, but at least quote something. If you are talking about a web page, give the url. I really, really, and I mean, really!, appreciate people letting me know about a broken link or a error on one of my websites. However, please understand, that I have no way of knowing what site or what page you are talking about unless you give me the url.. Help! (To give the url, highlight the text in the url box at the top of your browser go to edit, go to copy. Now, when you go to your email, go back up to edit then to paste.)

7. CHANGE THE SUBJECT LINE. This is especially true on web boards because many times the search engine crawlers only search by subject line. You took the time to respond, now take the time to make sure the right people see your message. On yahoo groups, it seems to only search by subject or email addresses. So, if a person is looking for a particular subject, and the subject hasn’t been changed, those emails are missed. Changing the subject line is an easy thing to do. When you click reply, pop back up one line and write a short description of what you’re writing. 

8. BREATHE! Before you hit the send button, look over your reply. Seriously consider whether you’d want to receive the message you’re sending. Are you clear? Would you talk like that to someone if they were standing in front of you? We get all caught up in the speed of this new internet thingy, or the thrill and excitement that we have a great come back, that we don’t realize the web doesn’t have to dictate the speed of our reply. Recently, some college did a study they called The Good Samaritan. In it, they discovered that the one thing that dictated how “good” people acted toward each other was related to how much time pressure the person was feeling. Those who were rude or unhelpful felt rushed. So, remember to breathe. You’re not rushed. We can wait for your words of wisdom. If you’re a Twitter user, you might want to install the Buffer app on your browser. It allows you to buffer your tweets which will put some space between your reaction and your posts and, at the same time, eliminates appearing as a spammer with 10 tweets in a row.

This blog is probably way too long, and gives too much emphasis on the negatives. The last thing I want to do is scare away newcomers from participating in the two-way street that the internet has become. Honestly, I haven’t seen a lot of negative attacks. Perhaps I don’t recognize when someone is attacking me because a lot of what I read strikes me as funny. I’ve been blessed with a great group of followers. If you follow me, I promise I won’t get nasty and if I do, throw this back in my face.

Is a quote still a quote if it is never quoted?

What do you use for your profile quote? Every time I join a new site, this question stumps me. It leaves me asking more questions:

  1. If its for my profile page, shouldn’t the quote be mine?
  2. What quote reflects who I am?
  3. Should it be funny, cause I appreciate a good laugh?
  4. Should it be a phrase I always say?
  5. Do I have to go back and change it every day to reflect my current mood?
  6. Are great quotes constructed or do they just happen?
  7. If I quote someone else, does that reflect that I’m a fan of the person who said it?
  8. Do I want to start browsing for websites that offer quotes for a good one or just fill it in with the first thing that crosses my mind?
  9. Are people actually going to read this?
  10. What kind of people are going to read this? My friends who already know me? Strangers who might want to follow me? Clients who might be bothered by a tasteless quote?
  11. Should the quote be a question?
  12. I don’t want to quote a person that everyone quotes, do I?
  13. Is the quote a real quote and not a misquoted quote?
  14. Is a quote still a quote if it is never quoted?
  15. Am I going to be able to change this in case I regret the quote?
  16. What did that one guy say that one time? That was great! Why can’t I remember that quote?
  17. Did Yogi Berri know he was creating Yogiisms?
  18. Can I just skip this part of the form?
  19. Do I understand the quote or am I just picking it cause it “sounds” clever?
  20. If I make up something clever will other people quote me?

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