Notes while surfing

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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Will a Major University Please Stand Up?

The dryer had stopped. iTunes was blaring. My coffee had gone cold. The phone rang. I was oblivious to it all. I was in “my happy place.” Others call it “being in the zone.” Do you ever get that? I get it when I’m engrossed in a design project. One that offers a bit of a challenge, a bit of creativity, a bit of fun, and a lot of brain power. When I get in this zone, the whole world fades away and it takes a lot to pull me out. Once, when I was in this zone my son came up to me at 11 at night asking if I was going to be cooking dinner that night or if he should just heat up something. I’m telling you, nothing, not even hunger distracts me. But this morning, while I was happily working away. I was yanked out of my happy place by a Sensa infomercial.
Great. That’s all I need! Don’t you find it frustrating that all these companies are making money off our desperate need to look like what other people have told us to look like? Maybe I’m angry because I was pulled out of my zone, but I really think I’m angry with my own weight. I’ve had a weight problem for most of my life. I’ve been on every diet from Jenny Craig, to Lindora, to Ultrametabolism. I have probably spent thousands on attempts to lose weight. Heck, I even tried some inane Celery Soup Diet until I nearly put myself in the hospital. In the end, it all comes down to me paying a lot of money to be told what I already know. Eat less, exercise more.
That’s the solution, easy enough. But nothing works and again I start some silly fad believing the ridiculous claims all over again. So I get mad. Mad at myself for being so stupid, mad at myself for not losing weight, mad at myself for not having the willpower to lose weight, then when I’m tired of being mad at myself I turn in outward. I get mad at Jack LaLane for starting the whole damn health craze; mad at the infomercials; mad at my friends for not telling me how bad I look. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! So, I quit. I decide there’s nothing I can do and forget about it. Until, someone takes a picture of me; my mother-in-law asks how my diet’s coming; I catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror or reflection in a window; and the search for a solution begins all over again.

So there goes Sensa, blabbing on about having results from a “major university” to prove their claims. Have you every noticed that all of these programs say the results have been proven by a “major university” study?
Lipozene claims its  been “clinically proven in a recent major university double-blind study.” OptiGen says it developed its program based on a “clinical study conducted by a major university.” Isagenix claims its shakes were part of a “major university study.” Zenadrine says “one major university study…” NuLean says its weight loss cleanse was “tested at a major university.” Sheesh, even Sublimal Music claims “clinical data from a major university” has proven that their tapes help weight loss.
Yet, no matter how I search on Google, I’ve never been able to actually find any university study, let alone a “major university” study using a specific product. Don’t you think that if a major university had discovered the cure for obesity they’d let everyone know?
In fact, the only published study I could find online was not published by a “major university.” It was in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and, though fascinating, was conducted by nutritional centers in various countries. Which basically concluded that it didn’t matter how much a woman paid for a weight loss program, its effectiveness was the same.”
Shouldn’t these companies be held accountable for their claims? Uh, isn’t that the Food and Drug Administration’s job? Before you claim anything don’t you have to show where you got the info? Even if you put the information in 3-pt script font. At least there’d be something to actually name the “major university.” I have the Lipozene (yep, fell for that too) informational paper and no where in it is there a reference about the university or where we can see the study. Over at Diet Fraud, who has its fingers on the pulse of the diet industry, they have yet to identify the major university studies.
I refuse, I absolutely refuse to plop another dime down on any product that makes such a claim without giving me the documentation to back it up. I’m pleading with my fellow weight-challenged friends to join me and just stop buying this stuff.
For an alternative, you can find a lot of free weight loss advice online. Calorie Count is a completely free solution for developing a healthy lifestyle. Run by About.com it is a free solution with a lot of benefits: They have tons of articles about weight loss. Their program also includes an iphone app to record your calorie intake, exercise, and they have a support network program where you can enlist your friends’ help, either through Facebook or on their website.

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Will a Major University Please Stand Up?

The dryer had stopped. iTunes was blaring. My coffee had gone cold. The phone rang. I was oblivious to it all. I was in “my happy place.” Others call it “being in the zone.” Do you ever get that? I get it when I’m engrossed in a design project. One that offers a bit of a challenge, a bit of creativity, a bit of fun, and a lot of brain power. When I get in this zone, the whole world fades away and it takes a lot to pull me out. Once, when I was in this zone my son came up to me at 11 at night asking if I was going to be cooking dinner that night or if he should just heat up something. I’m telling you, nothing, not even hunger distracts me. But this morning, while I was happily working away. I was yanked out of my happy place by a Sensa infomercial.
Great. That’s all I need! Don’t you find it frustrating that all these companies are making money off our desperate need to look like what other people have told us to look like? Maybe I’m angry because I was pulled out of my zone, but I really think I’m angry with my own weight. I’ve had a weight problem for most of my life. I’ve been on every diet from Jenny Craig, to Lindora, to Ultrametabolism. I have probably spent thousands on attempts to lose weight. Heck, I even tried some inane Celery Soup Diet until I nearly put myself in the hospital. In the end, it all comes down to me paying a lot of money to be told what I already know. Eat less, exercise more.
That’s the solution, easy enough. But nothing works and again I start some silly fad believing the ridiculous claims all over again. So I get mad. Mad at myself for being so stupid, mad at myself for not losing weight, mad at myself for not having the willpower to lose weight, then when I’m tired of being mad at myself I turn in outward. I get mad at Jack LaLane for starting the whole damn health craze; mad at the infomercials; mad at my friends for not telling me how bad I look. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! So, I quit. I decide there’s nothing I can do and forget about it. Until, someone takes a picture of me; my mother-in-law asks how my diet’s coming; I catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror or reflection in a window; and the search for a solution begins all over again.
So there goes Sensa, blabbing on about having results from a “major university” to prove their claims. Have you every noticed that all of these programs say the results have been proven by a “major university” study?
Lipozene claims its  been “clinically proven in a recent major university double-blind study.” OptiGen says it developed its program based on a “clinical study conducted by a major university.” Isagenix claims its shakes were part of a “major university study.” Zenadrine says “one major university study…” NuLean says its weight loss cleanse was “tested at a major university.” Hell, even Sublimal Music claims “clinical data from a major university” has proven that their tapes help weight loss.”

Yet, no matter how I search on Google, I’ve never been able to actually read any university study, let alone a “major university” study using a specific product.

In fact, the only published study I could find online was not published by a “major university.” It was in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and, though fascinating, was conducted by nutritional centers in various countries. Which basically concluded that it didn’t matter how much a woman paid for a weight loss program, its effectiveness was the same.”

Shouldn’t these companies be held accountable for their claims? Uh, isn’t that the Food and Drug Administration’s job? Before you claim anything don’t you have to show where you got the info? Even if you put the information in 3-pt script font. At least there’d be something to actually name the “major university.” Over at Diet Fraud, who has its fingers on the pulse of the diet industry, they have yet to identify the major university studies.

I refuse, I absolutely refuse to plop another dime down on any product that makes such a claim without giving me the documentation to back it up. I’m pleading with my fellow weight-challenged friends to join me and just stop buying this stuff.

For an alternative, you can find a lot of free weight loss advice online. Calorie count is a completely free solution for developing a healthy lifestyle. Run by About.com it is a free solution with a lot of benefits: They have tons of articles about weight loss. Their program also includes an iphone app to record your calorie intake, exercise, and they have a support network program where you can enlist your friends’ help, either through Facebook or on their website.

Surfing to Improve Your Brain

brainImage by TZA via Flickr
Ready to exercise your brain cells? If recent news reports are accurate, I’d say the answer is yes. Apparently, millions of people are taking advantage of free classes online.
According to Apple, its online store’s educational section has hit more than 300 million downloads. Currently, more than 800 universities have iTunes U sites, and almost half of those schools, including Harvard University and Oxford University, offer content through the iTunes Store. Apple said that users can now access “over 350,000 audio and video files” through iTunes U. (Read more)
I’ve been enjoying the free online classes in iTunes for quite some time. So far, I’ve taken classes on astrophysics, algebra, calculus, introduction to music, European art, writing, reasoning, and more. It’s FREE folks, and you all know how I love a good freebie.
But if you’re not a fan of iTunes, fear not! There are many other ways to expand your mind with free online classes.

You probably think of Youtube as the place to watch stupid videos of cats playing the piano, but there are actually a lot of opportunities to expand your mind. A lot of professors are recording their lectures and making them available on the site. For instance, Professor Marc Davis, UC Berkley, gives an excellent course on Introduction to Astronomy.
Many of the colleges have sites that let you participate in complete courses by linking the lectures to a choice of mediums. You can select whether you want to subscribe to the broadcast on itunes, youtube, or in some cased just download the entire series. Wanna brag that you took a class at Yale? One really cool one for the geeks out there is Game Theory with Yale professor Ben Polak. This course is an introduction to game theory and strategic thinking. Ideas such as dominance, backward induction, Nash equilibrium, evolutionary stability, commitment, credibility, asymmetric information, adverse selection, and signaling are discussed and applied to games played in class and to examples drawn from economics, politics, the movies, and elsewhere. The course is taught on the Yale campus twice a week, but you don’t have to go there to enjoy it. You don’t even have to download the video to benefit from the class. If you’re taking a long trip, you can just save the audio casts to your cell and learn something on the long drive.
If you have a hobby, a great way to learn more about your subject or hear what others are doing is to subscribe to podcasts. One of my absolute favorites is “The Genealogy Guys” podcast, which covers a vast range of topics of interest to genealogists. However, with the huge number of podcasts, it would be more helpful to send you to their website at genealogyguys.com, so you can pick among the specific podcast titles by using their handy search tool.
You don’t have to take online courses to expand your mind. Experts say that keeping our minds active can greatly improve the quality of life in later years. You can do that by playing mind games. No, I’m not talking about playing some mean trick on someone. I’m talking about brain teasers, puzzles, quizzes and other online games that exercise your brain muscles. There are tons of brain-expanding sites to help you. A few of my favorites are:

And, believe-it-or-not, you can exercise your brain at Facebook. Challenge your friends to a game of Scrabble with Words with Friends. OK. I know, it know. Its by the dreaded folks at Zynga. But, the great thing about the game is that you can play it anywhere. On FB or on your iphone or Droid. Or, if you prefer Chess, there’s also Chess with Friends. Believe me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how intelligent your Facebook friends really are.
You can also exercise your brain and benefit your overall health by learning a new activity, such as a new dance. My friends over at Thrill Visalia! are planning a group Thriller dance in October. In it, they give free lessons on learning the 3-minute version of Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller video. Their event is part of the world-wide Thrill the World event, so even if you’re not in the area, you can find participating groups near you or just view their videos and learn at home.
I hope that this post gave you some food for thought, but I don’t want to leave you feeling frustrated with brain overload. While it’s important to exercise our brains, it is also very important to learn to relax them. Our world is so full of stress these days so it’s more important than ever to take a little time to relax. There are a number of ways to do this and if you go to mind-energy, you can learn specific techniques to quickly calm over-tired brain muscles.

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The greatest blog post ever written

I’m really bummed. Yesterday, I was away from my computer so I used the new Blogger app and wrote the best post ever written by anyone on the world wide web to date. 

Image representing Blogger as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

Seriously! I’d show you, but apparently it disappeared. Or, perhaps it appeared on somebody else’s blog. I’ll never know. I was just double checking my blogger log, and it’s not there. It’s as if the post never existed at all. 
I was able to successfully post from the app one other time, so I know it was working correctly. Blogger has, however, recently been making changes to their website. The new features include a sleek look, an improved editor, access to analytics, and many more widgets. They have been slowly rolling out changes with something new every time I log in,  so perhaps I just happened to hit the publish button at the wrong time. I’m crossing my fingers that this was the case and it was a temporary glitch. Still, being leery now, I’ll probably use the Evernote app or MacJournal app and write my blogs on there from now on. Both of those allow you to save your post as well as synch it with your computer.
Another reason I’m bummed is because I’d made a commitment to myself and to NaBloPoMo that I would post once a day for the month of September and have made it through all the way until now. I’m still going to count it as if I’d posted, using this post in place of the one that disappeared.
So? What was the greatest blog post ever written? Alas, that seems to have disappeared.
Note: This is the 17th post toward my commitment to writing a post a day. Have you joined NaBloPoMo yet?

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Stumbleupon: ‘You Have Reached the End of the Internet’

Yesterday, I was informed by Stumbleupon that I had reached the end of the internet. I backed away to reread it. My eyes not being what they used to be I was sure I was mistaken. Apparently I had already gone through all the links in my interests list and there were no more interests to select from. 
I looked at the URL. Being a savvy websurfer, I’d heard about the trick of adding  .ro.ro at the end of any link to get you to the end of the internet. For instance if I changed my website url from pastisenterprises.com to pastisenterprises.ro.ro/ I would end up at the end of the internet — but it didn’t have that suffix. It wasn’t a joke. 
Restaurant at the End of the Universe
I paused for a much needed drink at a hip hotspot called The Restaurant at the End of The Universe with a couple of old friends who always happen to be there. Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian were working on some math problem. “How can it be 42?!” Arthur was yelling over the roar of the band.  As they droned on, my mind went over my options:
  • I could start over
  • I could start recommending more sites to Stumbleupon. 
  • I could look at the Stubleupon alternatives.

StumbleUponImage via WikipediaStumbleupon is a website surfer’s dream. You click on the Stumbleupon add-on icon in your browser’s toolbar and it whisks you away to a random website. The more you click “like” the more options it has to take you to the next time. And, if you find a really cool site, you can click on Stumbleupon’s share button to show others your great new find. When I’m having a stressful moment, or need to take a break from a project I’m working on, I use Stumbleupon to change my mood, lighten up, or just to distract me. Unfortunately, Stumbleupon had decided that I was done. That’s ok, maybe I do need a change. There are tons (hundreds) of other sites that allow you to bring up random websites. Here are a couple:

First. there’s always Google’s Feeling Lucky button. I say, first, because Google is set to be my home page on all of the browsers I use. You put in a topic and click on the “I’m feeling lucky” button, instead of getting a selection of search results, Google pulls up the top rated website that has to do with that search. Usually the top rated website tends to be someone who paid for that spot. So, I’ve never been a big fan.
Spinsnap describes itself as a channel surfing tool for the internet. You pick your favorite channels and when you click “spin again” you are taken to a website involving a completely different topic. Spinsnap offers some very small niches that others don’t offer, including genealogy. Need a little more structure? That’s there too. Spinsnap has a lit of the most “liked” sites in each category.
If you join Yoono you won’t ever miss one of your friends’ shared links again. Yonoo allows you to view all the tweets and status updates while you continue to browse the web. Share and view links among the friends in your various social networking accounts including Twitter, Facebook, Linked in, and some others. It doesn’t, however, have google plus yet.  A word of warning though. It can be quite distracting. If you use the Firefox plugin, unless you collapse it, it takes up about one-quarter of your browser. I usually surf on my 14-inch MacBook pro and need all the viewing space I can get. So I usually collapse the sidebar. The sidebar contains all your connected friends posts and a popup appears on the right corner every time one of your friends updates their “status” either by tweeting, or posting on Facebook. It also notifies you of any new posts with this annoying “boing” sound. One of the first things I did, was try to figure out how to stop all the Farmville posts from appearing in the links without eliminating Facebook posts all together. I couldn’t find a way to apply filters to the Facebook feed. What I really like about Youno, though, is they have a lot of different ways to use it. You can use it in with addons in Firefox or Chrome browsers; you can use it on a mobile app; or there’s the desktop app for PC and Mac.  When I first used it, they only allowed one account for each of the social networks, but I believe they’ve extended it to other accounts. When I click on share, it tells me what account I’m sharing it with, so I’m assuming that means that you can add other accounts. Its easy to setup accounts, just by going to the website and clicking on “connections” but that’s another item on my to-do list. 

Open Share IconImage by Si1very via Flickr

This isn’t really like Stumbleupon, in that you don’t click on something and it takes you to a random place, but it does allow you to share your links on Stumbleupon, as well as a gazillion other social networking sites. You connect your accounts and click on the icon in browser toolbar (you have to install the add-on first) and it shares it to the site(s) you select. What’s great is you can see what your friends are sharing and so in that way you can find some new sites that you would have never thought to go to.
If you’re a fan of wikipedia, then you’ll love this one. Paste this link in your browser bar and get a random topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random You can also add it as a button in your browser toolbar and the next time you’re bored click on it and be taken away to a whole new world. I usually end up on some topic I never would have gotten to on my own. For instance, I was just taken to a page John Garrison Marks, a retired hockey player. I have never had a repeat, so this can go on for a long time.
Delicious is a social bookmarking service, which means you can save all your bookmarks online, share them with other people, and see what other people are bookmarking. But, did you also know you can find some great random websites? The best way of finding random links is to go to the most popular bookmarks being saved at any given moment. Because there are a lot of people using delicious, it tends to change from minute to minute. So, just refresh your browser and get a whole new list. It’s a great way to stay in the loop because it lets you know what people are doing this very second.
In the mood for a little less reading and more viewing? See random Twitter Pics being shared by going to http://twicsy.com/top/hour. There are some very funny, really inspiring, and/or really disturbing photographs being shared on Twitter. Twicsy lets you see the top retreeted images. And, when breaking news is happening this is the place to be as you see photos being taken of the event as its occurring, rather than what’s shown on the 6 o’clock news.

42, The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Lif...Image via Wikipedia

There are so many more random website servers that I’d like to share with you but right now, my friends at Milliways have finished their argument and agreed that the answer is indeed 42, and Zaphod has offered me a lift back home in his Infinite Improbability Drive, so I gotta run.
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How Not to Run a Webinar

I attended a webinar this morning and I learned a lot. I learned how NOT to run a webinar.

It was obvious that the presenter was familiar with the topic of his presentation. In fact, all things considered the topic was interesting, the graphics were fine, and the guest list was superb. It wasn’t one of those snoozinars I’ve attended one time or another. I’d say that it would have been a great success, if only…

If only… the presenters had been familiar with the webinar interface. This webinar was put on by a marketing partnership who used the Webex server. For those not familiar with webex.com, it’s the software that lets people hold virtual meetings all over the world. There are other webinar servers such as gotomeeting.com, glance.net and freeconference.com. It’s a great idea, in theory. But, webex meetings always leave me with a distaste in my mouth. It was the first time that they’d ever tried webex.com Gee, thank you for letting me be your guinea pig. I really learned a lot.

If only…the promoters who sent out the invitation for the webinar had correct information on the invitation. I have a feeling that the less technically inclined just gave up after the third try. But give me a challenge and I’m going to figure out how to solve it, or die trying. This information said to “follow the prompts” which in the end, turned out to be incorrect. You either didn’t have audio or didn’t have visual, its supposed to be both. Finally, I got the correct information to put in so that I could have both audio and visual connection and passed that number on to as many people as I could reach through the chat side bar as I could so that they could also get in.

If only...the presenters did a run-through with people who weren’t their clients or potential clients before holding a webinar . Get to know the software. I knew the presenter had never used the software before as he said so and because he had to load it onto a different computer because it wouldn’t even work on his computer. That tells you something right there. If the presenter couldn’t even get it working, doesn’t that tell you that the rest of us were going to have trouble?

If only…they opened up the “room” at least 15 minutes before a session began so that the participants could familiarize themselves with the interface, introduce themselves and resolve any problems if there were any. The session started exactly at the time that the “room” opened and that left those of us who were still pounding on the virtual door feeling left behind.

If only… the presenter contacted each person to make sure everyone was on board before he started his presentation. For some reason there was a group of us on the outside of the meeting that could talk amongst each other but could not hear the presenter.

If only…there weren’t so many distractions. Every time someone came and went there were beeps. There was also a lot of back ground noise. If only they’d turned off the alerts and muted everyone during the main presentation. One person disrupted the whole conference when they answered another phone call and didn’t realize it was being broadcast live. The presenter didn’t realize, again not familiar with the software, that all he had to do was hit the mute button, but instead we were treated to a five minute conversation from one of her unhappy customers about some order that never arrived.

If only…the attendees had been told in advance how to ask a question. Likewise, the presenter should also know how to answer a question. I saw about 10 virtual hands up and the presenter never recognized them so I think he didn’t realize it.

If only…the webinar presenters had read Flyte President Rich Brooks’ blog post on planning, promoting and producing effective webinars.

I Think Accordions Are Following Me!

Al YankovicImage via Wikipedia
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at the traffic light waiting patiently for it to change and someone decides that the song on their radio is so good they want to share it with everyone around them by increasing the decibel volume until your fingers tickle as they grasp the vibrating steering wheel.
This morning, I couldn’t appreciate the fellow motorist’s gift and it wasn’t because the lyrics were in Spanish. No. All apologies to Weird Al, but I have to admit it. I don’t care for accordions. OK, OK, the truth? I HATE accordions. There I said it.
Come closer, I’ve got a secret to share. I think the accordion hates me too. Call me paranoid if you want, but the accordion shows up in random places just to piss me off.
I mean, my son comes asks me to play some Katy Perry tune he just heard so I search Youtube and instead of some great video, bam, there’s a band of accordion players knocking out her latest hit on the street…
I decide I wanna read a good book, so I go to the Kindle Store, and there on the front page is Annie Prouix’s bestseller, “Accordion Crimes.” At least there’s a happy ending. According to the review, the instrument is flattened by a truck.
I go on Facebook, and “The Creepy Accordion Woman on Buchanan Street” even has her own business page.
The driver this morning was playing a Mexican radio station that features a healthy dose of Tejano music which widely uses the accordion. Tejano music is huge here. It was popularized by Selena and more recently Elida Reyna and A.J. Castillo who’ve transformed it into its own genre. They even have their own awards show.
The history of Tejano music is strange enough. Sometime in the late 1800s, Germans and Poles exited Europe and ended up in Mexico bringing with them the dreaded accordion to play their waltzes and polkas. Then during the Mexican Revolution, many of these immigrants fled to Texas. Most of these immigrants were typical of the day, ranchers and farmers and their musical instruments were similar to others. Why couldn’t they leave their accordions behind? They are heavy after all. Some weighing in as much as 25 pounds. Not to mention all the air it takes to fill the reeds. The accordion is an exhausting instrument. Why couldn’t they leave it on the side of the road and get back in their wagons? An accordion graveyard, now that’s something I’d go see.
If you like folk music, Tejano music is in itself of very high quality. But, every time the accordion blows its ugly tune, my ears shut down. Seriously. It makes me shudder. I have no idea why. Maybe its cause its so Laurence Welk? Maybe because visions of “The Chicken Dance” pop into my head.
In Far Side, even cartoonist Gary Larson agrees:



“Welcome to Heaven, here’s your harp. Welcome to Hell, here’s your accordion.”

Looking at the bright side, I guess its good that I’m not of Polish descent where the accordion is the center of the music played at every wedding, Christmas, Easter, birthday and graduation event. I’m Scotts-Irish, and we have our own dreaded instrument. The accordion is a screeching bag of hot air with piano keys stuck to it and sounds almost as bad as bagpipes. Bagpipes! Don’t get me started. The shrill and penetrating notes of the bagpipes were used because, even with the roar of the battle, they could be heard 10 miles away. Bagpipes was a call to war by the Scottish and Irish fighters and NOT romantic in any way. Read your history folks or at least watch the Highlanders and then tell me you still think you want to start your married life with the bagpipes at your wedding. If you’re going to have bagpipes or accordions at your wedding, please don’t invite me.
I don’t find accordions sexy, either. In Squeezebox, The Who seems to imply that they’re somehow sexy. Believe me, its not a double-meaning. Its not because they are having a great time in the sack. It’s cause the accordion sucks! If you’re not familiar with The Who’s tune, its about a woman who’s so moved by the music that she can’t sleep at night. They even write, “the music’s alright” but follow it with “daddy doesn’t sleep at night.” Actually, I don’t even hear the accordion on the song. Is it there? Perhaps the band didn’t care for the sound either. Love the song though.
If you hate accordions too meet me over at the I Hate Accordions Facebook Fan page, of which I’m not affiliated, but I’m heading there right now to join.

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