26 February 2010

This video made my day

I worked customer service for some years, dabbling in technical support as required. Sometimes you have to ask the "dumb" questions and get surprising results. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

25 February 2010

Is it the end of the "personal" internet?

Have you all been reading the news articles about the three Google executives convicted of violating Italian privacy laws? This is one odd ball ruling that will hopefully be overturned on appeal.

Here’s a snippet from the New York Times.

“In Milan, Judge Oscar Magi sentenced the Google executives in absentia to six-month suspended sentences for violation of privacy. Prosecutors said Google did not act fast enough to remove from the site a widely viewed video posted in 2006 showing a group of teenage boys harassing an autistic boy.”

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice, and an MBA with an emphasis in criminal justice management. Let me just say that when journalists say things like, “The verdict, though subject to appeal, could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom.” They are not kidding in the least.

Everything posted on the internet would be subject to preemptive review. Rather than holding individual users responsible for what they post on “public” sites like Google, Facebook, MySpace, etc. we would be saying there is a criminal liability attached to the hosting company to ensure nothing derogatory, inflammatory, lewd, etc. is ever posted. Currently, companies can only get in trouble if they are made aware of a violation and do nothing about it or are too slow to act. In the case of Google, they had the material removed within two hours after police notified them about its existence. That’s a very reasonable amount of time.

I personally do not think the ruling will hold. It would truly be the end of an era. Goodbye to personal blogs, free website hosting, and any sort of timely internet-based communication. There is a slippery slope argument too. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine email getting regulated next, with every email having to be filtered and reviewed before being sent to the intended recipient(s).

I’m going to keep an eye on this one if for no other reason than to see what we learn about the judge who sentenced the Google executives (Judge Oscar Magi). Is he planning to get into politics and just looking for some free PR? It’ll be interesting to find out.

23 February 2010

How to save the world in 7 steps

Face it, email is a central part of your life. Indeed, life as we know it would end should all email servers die simultaneously. The Earth would even stop rotating on its axis. Probably anyway. Consequently, it is your civic duty, nay, your moral obligation to understand and abide by proper email checking technique. Fortunately, I have provided you with a foolproof checklist.

1. Log in to e-mail account or open email program such as MS Outlook or Eudora

2. Look for that one email you’ve been anxiously anticipating

3. Disappointedly peruse the subject lines of emails you did receive

4. Empty the spam folder after checking for wayward legitimate correspondence among the offers to collect your personal information in exchange for millions in unclaimed inheritance and advertisements to enhance your… ahem, personal life in some very specific ways

5. Read the remaining unopened emails

6. Run any suspect emails by

7. Repeat steps 1-6 as necessary

Many individuals inappropriately skip the very important step 6. As a result they fall for email scams or forward on amazing stories or unbelievable deals that turn out to be nothing more than internet rumors or worse. Fortunately, now that you have the complete approved checklist you can help break the chain simply by navigating to and typing a few key words into their search engine.

Additionally, if you are bored or just curious you can always peruse the archives and will likely learn that a few things you have believed for years turn out to be entirely false. works for me.


This article is linked at

20 February 2010

The End of the World

You knew it had to come sooner or later. Well, it’s here, and this is what it looks like.

...the only question that remains is, "which end is it?"

14 February 2010

Daily dose of truth...

Clowns and sharks are both scary, just for different reasons.

11 February 2010

Let me paint you a mental picture

I’m sitting next to a Squdge, feeding the hungry 5-month-old a bottle. I look down at his smiling face as he gurgles a happy “thank you” and smile a “you’re welcome” his direction. One of the other children asks me a question so I turn and talk to them for a moment. I look back down at Squdge and notice something that wasn’t there before – something on the bottle. It’s on the ring right next to the nipple, right next to my infant’s mouth. Wait a second, did it just MOVE?!

…time to perform an immediate close-up inspection…

Foreign object identified.

My exact words, “Are you kidding me?! There is a slug on my baby’s bottle! Right next to his mouth!”

In my house. It wasn’t there five seconds ago. What is this, the Twilight Zone?

06 February 2010

How to write breaking news stories about completely mundane events

Sensationalism is all the rage on the internet today. In truth, it likely has been since the advent of language (no, not necessarily on the internet, just in general). Young children use it; “There were like a zillion mosquitoes!” Parents use it; “For the hundredth time, come to the table for dinner or you will have to starve tonight!” But most interestingly, journalists from amateur to professional use it. It’s what sells the story even if there isn’t really a story to sell. So how, you ask, do you use sensationalism to your advantage? How can you write a breaking news story about completely mundane events? Just follow the simple steps below and you will soon experience the thrill of reeling in readers with the most commonplace events… sensationalized!

Your first objective is to select a subject that no one would care about unless they read it in the newspaper, online, or saw it on television. For example, consider the following topics:

  • A child is a few minutes late for dinner
  • The pet cat disappears for a few days then returns
  • The moon is bright at night
  • The sun rises in the morning

Now let’s face it, no one wants to read about any of these things… or do they? Of course they do. I mean, think about it, the average internet surfer is so bored with their life that they willingly subject themselves to article after article about what this celebrity said about global warming, or what that one wore to take their dog out for a walk, or even what their dog did when it saw a stray cat down the road. After all, this is big news. We even have an official sounding category for it: arts and entertainment. It sounds all legitimate that way. The ARTS – it makes you think of things like the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David and the works of Shakespeare and Mark Twain all rolled into one.

Trust me, these folks need you to write something for them to read. They don’t care what it’s about; it just has to sound like earth-shattering, life-changing news. It is your social duty to regularly output some exciting mindless drivel on which the internet zombies can feed.

But I digress; back to our examples listed above. You need to spin them in such a way as to make the humdrum outcome seem miraculous. Additionally, you will have to add drama – lots of drama. The outcome, however probable or even inevitable must seem elusive and fraught with doubt. Finally, you must make it personal. Use names and circumstances, and lots of present tense. Using these three interrelated techniques, the article should now read something like this:

Three year old Randy Jenkins was missing. Mrs. Jenkins, feared the worst. She had lost her husband to a tragic work commute seven hours earlier, and having misplaced her cell phone, was now for all intensive purposes a single mother; isolated from the world. She didn’t know how she would make it through the next few hours. It seemed as though grief would tear her apart.

Mrs. Jenkins had slaved over microwave macaroni and cheese for part of the entire evening. Macaroni and cheese was Randy’s favorite. Of course, Mrs. Jenkins tearfully reminisced, Randy didn’t call it by its proper name. You see, Randy suffered from a severe case of underdeveloped adulthood, one of the more noticeable symptoms being a pronounced difficulty enunciating. In his words, his favorite dish was “marronee sheeze.” He was usually never late for marronee sheeze, Mrs. Jenkins sobbed.

Just when it seemed all hope was lost, and it looked as though she might have to call him to the table a second time, a miracle happened. Mrs. Jenkins heard a quiet voice coming from down the hall – Randy’s voice. His voice grew louder and louder until finally his small form rounded the corner and he ran into the dining room. Randy was alive! A full three minutes after first being summoned he had somehow managed against all odds to make it to the table intact. Amazingly he bore no visible physical scars from the ordeal. Mrs. Jenkins cried tears of joy as she wrapped her son in her loving embrace. She watched his easy smile which she knew must be hiding the pain he subconsciously repressed inside. Holding him once again she knew that together somehow, someday, they would be able to work past the emotional damage and be a real family again. Of that she was certain.

Now comes the test. Use the techniques you have learned today and write an article for one of the other three headlines. Come on, sensationalize! Without it we would all have to go and do something drastic like live our own lives. You don’t want to have that on your conscience, do you?

02 February 2010

Words that are just plain, well… weird

Ma’am is one weird word. Ma’am – you spell it how? What does that even mean?! Is there a glottal stop in there? Is it a contraction? If so, what are the two original words? Okay, I just Googled it. It is in fact a contraction for the word madam. Since when do we use contractions for one word? Why lose just one letter if we’re going to do that? It takes just as long to type the apostrophe as the letter “d.” And why waste it on such a small word? If we’re opening the door to contracting single words, why not try it out on something more worthwhile, like say “mortuary.” It could be shortened to mo’ry (which would definitely save us some time and effort). It even sounds less creepy that way... mo’ry …yep, definitely less creepy. Just read the two passages below and you’ll see what I mean.


Passage 1: MORTUARY

It was a dark and sinister night. It was stormy too – unusual for the time of year. Yes, it was an abnormally dark and stormy sinister night. The young woman held tightly to her umbrella, waiting for the bus to come; willing it to arrive sooner than its scheduled stop at 10:30, fifteen minutes away. Five minutes was a lifetime in this part of town at night. Fifteen was an eternity. A lone stray dog wandered the otherwise abandoned street in search of the rotting scraps that somehow found their way to the gutters outside the butcher houses lining either side of the street. A street lined entirely by buildings dedicated to the bloody slaughter and dismemberment of some of Earth’s gentler creatures. How odd such a place existed. How unfortunate the circumstances that had left her stranded here, waiting an eternity for a bus she hoped would come. The thin rain continued to fall, depressing her spirits even further. In the shadows it was easy to imagine the languid rivulets of water slipping past to be blood oozing from the streets themselves and draining through blackened grates like great gaping mouths with rotting teeth, hungrily lapping at the liquid. The quiet gurgling sounded almost intelligible. If she listened hard and long enough she was sure she could make out what it said. It sounded like a warning… or a threat.

She feared what she might hear, but listened anyway. As she strained she heard the footstep. The wet thump, thump, thump of someone behind her; close behind her. Panicked she whirled around, the dog and streets and blood and gutters and mouths and words forgotten as her heart tried to pound through her chest. Before her stood a man in a black coat, without hat or umbrella to shield his mottled hair from the rain. He grinned a twisted grin and as he reached for her said in a greasy voice, “Evening ma’am, I’m on my way to the mortuary, perhaps you can be of assistance to me.”



Passage 2: Mo’ry

It was a beautiful spring morning. The day was crisp, but not cold. In fact, it was pleasantly warm for the time of year. Yes, it was a beautifully pleasant warm spring morning. The young woman swung her umbrella idly – while the weatherman had promised a sunny cloudless day, she liked to be prepared. She quietly waited for the bus, scheduled to arrive in fifteen minutes or so. Breathing in deeply she almost wished the bus would be late, giving her a few extra minutes to just enjoy being outdoors. Time seemed to pass too quickly at times like these. There was even a dog happily sniffing around down the street to keep her company. He was likely searching for a scrap or two of the delicious bread produced by the various bakeries that lined the street on either side. A street lined entirely by buildings dedicated to the art of perfectly browned loaves and pastries of every kind imaginable. It was a place wondrous enough to put a smile on any child’s face. How fortunate the circumstances that had allowed her to spend a short time here, luxuriating in the smells while she waited for a bus she almost hoped wouldn’t come at all. A pleasant breeze languidly coursed down the street, invigorating her senses further. Closing her eyes, it was easy to imagine herself completely alone without a care in the world, the breeze carrying all her worries away, taking them to the sky where they would evaporate in the welcoming rays of the sun. The sun was so bright and warm but not the slightest bit harsh. It comforted her and seemed like an old friend who had come to visit. If she listened long and hard enough she was sure she would hear it greeting her – calling her by name.

She was amused by the thought and listened intently for what it might say. Instead of the sun, she heard only the rhythmic thump, thump, thump of someone walking her direction. Intrigued, she turned toward the sound, the bread and sun and breeze and old friends momentarily forgotten as she quickly checked herself over to make sure she was presentable. Before her stood a gentleman in a charcoal grey suit, tailored perfectly so as not to hide his athletic figure. He grinned a boyish grin, and in a slightly apologetic voice said, “Excuse me ma’am, I’m on my way to the mo’ry, perhaps you can be of assistance to me?”


You see how such a simple change in one word can dramatically alter the feel of an entire passage? But I digress. Back to my original statement – ma’am is one weird word.


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