Google is Great, Except for One Thing

I love Google. I wish I went to high school and college when Google was around; my writing assignments would have been so much better. I wouldn't have been at the mercy of the local library for information. Google (and the internet) is like having a reference library right at your finger tips. I use it on many occasions:
  • Checking out companies before I purchase from them
  • Looking up news stories
  • Looking up definitions for words
  • Searching for templates for reports for work
  • Looking for links for topics of interest
  • Helping my son look up things for homework assignments
  • Looking for links to solve vexing problems

The list could go on and on. That is the problem. I think I rely on it too much. In the era before Google I would actually try to solve problems myself. Now, if I don't know how to do something, or have a problem to solve, I just logon and type some search words into my friendly Google toolbar, and voila, answers. I'm concerned that my brain may atrophy, I apply it to fewer problems than I used too. I'm a very pragmatic person, inclined to think that I shouldn't knock myself out over something if help is a click away. The issue here is that I'm starting to feel as if I have a plagiarized life, original ideas are a less frequent occurrence. I wonder if anyone else has this problem. Hmmm, what search words should I use?



I'm a Miserable Blogging Failure, Are You?

I've been blogging for about a month and a half now. However, I do more reading about blogging than actual blogging, which is the modus operandi I usually employ with any new project. As I was surfing around looking for ways to make my blog better, I found this : Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. This is an excellent article and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately I make almost every one of the mistakes. I'm going to borrow the headings from Jakob Neilsen's article above to show you how miserably bad I am:

Following are the Top 10 mistakes, I'm going to give myself a point for everyone one I'm guilty of:

1. No Author Biographies
Guilty of this one, go ahead, check my user profile, pretty sparse.
UPDATE: 10/27/05 - 1/2 point - I've added some info

2. No Author Photo
I'm not really a cartoon character, guess I should haul out an actual photo of myself.
UPDATE: 10/27/05 (- 1) point - Added a photo

3. Nondescript Posting Titles
My titles probably aren't the most search engine worthy, but they aren't horrible, I'm knocking off 1/2 point.

4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
Here's one that I think I can legitimately give myself a goose egg on.

5. Classic Hits are Buried
Guilty. I'm letting my best posts (all 3 of them) roll right off the page. I have, however, done a good job of advertising my son's blog. (Take a peek)

UPDATE: 11/04/05 - added Memoirs section - 1/2 point off
UPDATE: 12/26/05 - added Reader's Favorites section - 1/2 point off

6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
Yep, my posts are in reverse chronological order. I'm going to start to cry soon.
UPDATE: 12/26/05 - Some posts link to other similar posts - 1/2 point off

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
Yay, 1/2 point off! I publish almost every day.
UPDATE: 12/26/05 - posting every day during Holodailies - 1/2 point off

8. Mixing Topics
Uh-oh, eating bugs and stories about my mother aren't exactly similar.

9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
Oh well, one point here.
My Work Rant

10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
Okay, so I don't own the domain blogspot.com, another strike.

My score is 8 out of 10, a miserable blogging failure.
UPDATE: 10/27/05 - 6.5 now! Getting better!
UPDATE: 11/04/05 - 6 points
UPDATE: 12/26/o5 - 4.5 points - Still improving!
You know what - I have lots of room for improvement!

Read the article to learn more on this topic.


Labels: ,

Boy Scout Popcorn

Well, I ordered our third batch of popcorn from the boy scouts tonight. We rarely eat popcorn, I think we are still working on some boy scout popcorn from a couple years ago. Why is it that I feel compelled to buy popcorn from every scout that shows up at my door? Do I really need $50 worth of popcorn? The scout who rang my doorbell tonight I have never met before, but there he was, out in the rain, selling popcorn. He looked so cute with his kerchief and ready smile. He's working on selling $1500 dollars worth of popcorn. Somehow, my mind tells me that it is my duty and obligation to help him achieve his goals. Somehow, thoughts of blowing half the grocery budget on popcorn doesn't enter my brain. I better think up some good popcorn recipes, and let someone else answer the door.



The Flute

Last year my son had the opportunity to begin instrumental music lessons and band at school. He chose saxophone and seems to be enjoying the experience, most of the time.

Last year, when all the parents were called to the band-room at school to learn about the school's instrumental program, I was eager to go. When I walked into the room with all the chairs arranged for band practice, the music stands poised in front of the chairs, a rush of nostalgia swept over me. It was such a long time since my days of playing flute in the band at school. I, like my son, started playing an instrument in the fourth grade. I remember the first day of lessons, twelve girls sitting nervously with their flutes. The music teacher was trying to teach us the embouchure. He told us to make believe we were kissing our boyfriends; waves of giggles filled the air. By fifth grade six of us were left, by sixth grade only four. Eventually, I was the lone flute player in my grade.

My mother never missed a band concert, quite a feat for a mother of five children. Band was when I would spend time with my friends Julie and Karen. They were one grade ahead of me, but sat right next to me in band, they were flute players too. We were all in the marching band together too. Every high school football game that was played at another school, the marching band had a school bus bring us to the game. We would spend the time on the bus singing cheers for the football team, or any song at all, a snare drum keeping time for us. At the games, one of the cheerleaders became our cheerleader, often directing us when to cheer with our instruments, it was so much fun.

Our band director took the marching band seriously, no rings or jewelry while in uniform, no gloves in cold weather. We practiced every night after school, sometimes for two hours. We weren't allowed to read music as we marched; we were to memorize it all. He had us practice elaborate formations for our half-time shows, we were good. A couple of years I played piccolo in the band, I liked that too. The director was a stern man. Julie, Karen and I took delight in small acts of defiance, we were never his favorites, but we had each other.

I played the flute for many years, but I was never a stellar flute player, fair at best. I was not interested in practicing very much. My parents rented my flute from the fourth grade until the end of school. Then my flute was gone, given back to the school, I haven't played since.

As my son practices his saxophone, I wish I were playing along at his side. My friend Julie, who is now a band director at a school, told us that the fingerings on a saxophone are similar to a flute. I tried playing my son's sax once; it was very different to me. I find myself skimming the classified ads, seeing if anyone is selling a flute. I wouldn't dream of buying a new one because I'm not convinced I would actually play it much. I rarely practiced when I had one.

I accompanied my son to his saxophone lesson tonight. His instructor had a flute displayed in his studio for the first time. I just stared at it from across the room, then my son asked him to play it. I listened to the lyrical, clear tone of the instrument, and once again I was taken back to my youth. I believe it is only a matter of time before a flute and I find each other, and this time there will be no letting it go.


Labels: , ,


Public Service Announcement

You've all probably seen this before, it was new to me. I feel compelled to share this with my wonderful blog friends. You can find out where the sex offenders in your neighborhood live. My town wasn't included, however, my parents live a stone's throw from one. Pretty scary. I hope this keeps you and your family safe. http://www.mapsexoffenders.com/


Trains and Blogging

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to vote on his or her favorite model train on my son's blog. He has had a fascination with all things wheels since he was a baby. When he was a one, he would stand in his crib first thing in the morning (6:00 am.) and yell “ide, ide”. This meant he wanted to go outside and get pushed in his stroller, the whole time he would watch the wheels on his stroller spinning. When he was four he stood transfixed for twenty minutes and watched our next-door neighbor mow the lawn. When he was six he knew which car belonged to which neighbor.

We purchased a new car when he was six, the first new car of his young life. It was a silver Honda Odyssey. It was thee topic of conversation for about four months. How he could keep a conversation going that long on one topic is amazing. “Mom, do you like the cup holders? Isn’t the carpeting cool? Did you see the pocket on the back of the seat?” Every time we passed another Odyssey, he would yell out “Oooh, Honda Odyssey!” He nearly caused a few accidents in the middle of intersections when other Honda Odysseys were near! He personified the Odyssey, and all the other Odysseys. The blue ones were the father Odysseys; the white ones were mother Odysseys. Every color Odyssey had a familial relationship with ours.

We began using his love of transportation as a teaching aid. If you have 3 red Matchbox cars, and two yellow Matchbox cars, how many cars do you have in all? This technique made learning much more fun. One day, while channel surfing, the TV rested ever so briefly on a Nascar race. My son yelled “Go back, go back.” We are now a family of Nascar fans, thanks to him.

No mode of transportation has caught his attention like trains. A local garden center has a huge Christmas display of model railroad trains every year. My son spends hours just watching them. His favorite TV show when he was younger was Thomas the Tank Engine. He has subscriptions to model train magazines, his favorite website is discount trains online. He saves his allowance to buy model trains; the basement is slowly becoming Train-world. We try to incorporate a train ride or train store into every vacation.

Since I started blogging about a month ago, my enthusiasm for blogging has intruded on some of my family time. I decided a perfect way to spend more time with my son is to get him to blog too! Well, things didn’t work out exactly as planned. My son turned the tables on me and now I spend my time in the basement with him. He decided to write a blog about trains. He needs a digital picture of all his trains on his blog, and I have to take the pictures. He takes forever getting the trains out of their yards and over to the picture taking area. He runs them slowly because it isn’t a good idea to run them fast. He positions the trains just so for the pictures. The only reason I don’t run away screaming that model trains are the most boring hobby ever created is because I try to be a kind and loving parent. I do try to steer him back to the computer by telling him that he needs to save some pictures for future postings. When we finish photographing all the engines, we will move on to the rolling stock, they are the train cars for those of you who aren’t familiar with the lexicon of model railroading. I finally got him upstairs, and posted the pictures for him. Then my son, who thinks two word sentences are perfectly acceptable homework for using his spelling words in a sentence, wants to write in his blog about his trains! He is so excited about it that we could barely get him in bed. He didn’t finish the first night, so he couldn’t wait to get home from school to finish it the next day. Every five minutes he checks his blog to see if anyone has commented on it. He wants to see which engine everyone likes the best; he’s keeping a tally. Every time a comment appears he does a little jig. Thank you to all of you who have voted, he is encouraging multiple votes per customer. Seeing him do his little “comment jig” makes my day.


Labels: , ,


Trains - Which One is Your Favorite?

My 10 year old son has a new blog: Train- Guys Vote. He would really appreciate it if you popped on over and voted on your favorite train. He has pictures of several of his favorite model trains. It will only take a second to vote. Just leave a comment saying which one is your favorite. Thank you very very much!


Pumpkin Chunkin

I have a better appreciation for autumn since becoming a parent. There are so many fun family events to choose from. We went today with some friends to our second annual trip to Grossman's Country Nursery. If you’ve never been pumpkin chunkin then you are missing out! A large catapult, called a trebuchet, flings a pumpkin across a field into a target. You buy a pumpkin and then get to pull a rope to launch it into the air and try to hit the targets. Grossman’s put three old cars at varying distances for the pumpkin chunkers to aim at today. Bleachers are set up along side the landing area because this is a very popular event; teachers even take their students on educational school field trips to see this fall wonder. There is something sublime about seeing a pumpkin fly through the air and smash down on the windshield of a car. Free parking.




National Sarcastic Awareness Month

October is National Sarcastic Awareness Month. Since sarcasm is a fine art, and some find it difficult, here is a primer: How To Be Sarcastic - Sarcasm Society.

Awareness of sarcasm is even harder in written form because the reader can’t hear the snarky tone of voice. Josh Greenman thinks something ought to be done about that. A Giant Step Forward for Punctuation¡ - Introducing the long-awaited sarcasm point. By Josh Greenman

Dan seems to have mastered sarcasm at the Center for Advanced Sarcasm: FBI: We'll Arrest You, Then Hire You. Does the FBI really want to hire potheads? If they’re good enough to be president, I guess they’re good enough for the FBI.

Are you aware that JD is Dripping with sarcasm.... when he blogs about the quality of Microsoft products.

Be aware that Anita has a fine grasp of sarcasm, so don’t even bother writing the editor about her letter to the editor: Fighting Inertia: Now Here's the Type of Slam I Expect

And this, from the Queen of Sarcasm: Rita Rudner: "I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life."



Can eating insects help fight hunger and promote biodiversity? According to this article the answer is yes. Did you know that us pesky westerners are actually hurting this cause? The TV programs Fear Factor and Survivor are testimony that Americans find eating bugs icky. Our views are rubbing off on the rest of the world. Perfectly happy insect eaters are now shunning the little buggers. Talk about the law of unintended consequences! I, myself, am contributing to world hunger because I get the heebie-jeebies at the mere notion of eating an insect.

Apparently bugs are good for you! Then let Mikey eat them, he’ll eat anything!

From Insects as Human Food, HYG-2160-96

Today is National Chocolate Covered Insect Day. In honor we should all buy some Chocolate-Covered Insects. Let me know how they taste.



Happiness is a Choice

In the U.S. we have the right to “the pursuit of happiness”. This conjures up an image in my mind of people chasing around trying to find happiness. That is way too much work for me. I like to find the easy way out of things, and there is an easy way to be happy, just choose to be happy.

Stuck in a traffic jam? Start singing!

Put on two different colored shoes by mistake? Tell everyone it’s National Mix Up Your Shoes Day, and you love to celebrate.

Studies have shown that happy and unhappy people have similar life experiences, it is their outlooks that are different.

Choose to be in the happy bunch. What will you get out of it? A happy life, good enough for me.

Happiness is a Choice Ring of Happiness




100 Things About Me

Hello! I love reading other people’s “100 Things About Me” lists. I want to build a list and I need your help, and it won’t hurt a bit.

I want to build my list by copying out of your “100 Things About Me” whatever is also true for me.

I will include a link to your blog along with the matches I find.

It will look like this:

From: Betsy Blogger of My Everyday Blog 37. I love chocalate 64. My favorite color is yellow

Find it here: 100 Things I Share With Others

Please let me know in the comments section if you will play along! Thank you!

100 Things I Share With Others

This is what I share with Pearl at Humanyms 21. I love irreverant laughter. 22 (And tender chuckles.) 23. And I love unique clothes. 24. I don’t like tyranny in any form. 28. I like men 32. I like ‘live and let live’. 33. But I prefer ‘live, and celebrate difference and similarities’. 34. I like to appreciate underlying reasons for both. 35. I am entirely too intense and serious for my own good. 51 a.. I don’t have a book or product to sell. 56. I am not a high school nor first term university kid writing to mom and old friends 58. I am not just on either side of a divorce, not terminally ill, nor in mid-life crisis, nor am I at any pivotal Crisis Point. Shockingly dissident that way. 61. I generally succeed at whatever I try. 62. Not that I’m soft on myself; I generally raise the bar. 63. But not belly up to one; 64. I don’t “get” alcohol. 76. a. I like spoken word, print poetry, performance, advertizing, lyrics, whatever. 76. b. It’s not the form or forumula. It is the message meeting me and leaving me better than before it arrived. 88. privileged enough to be literate, online and able to access and interact with a variety of worlds thru websites 96. getting more organized and less attached to things

This what I share with Shannon at Second Starr To The Right · 16. i have never had to change a tire. · 20. i have a Diet Coke addiction. · 31. i like coloring books. · 32. i used to like rollercoasters, can't ride them after having babies. · 49. I cant wait til christmas. · 64. I love to take pictures. · 82. i have had the same hairdresser for 16 years. · 88. I am a night owl.

This what I share with Colleen at Loose Leaf: Notes from a Writer's Journal · 21. Secret pleasure: popping bubble wrap. · 40. I’d rather be stuck in traffic than drive on the Autobahn in Germany · 53. I tried out for cheerleading but didn’t make the team. · 76. I like to people watch. · 77. I like to thrift shop. · 78. I come from a blue collar working class background, and I’m proud of it. · 88. I like blogging because it helps me break down my life and my writing into bite size digestible pieces.

This is what I share with Lucinda at Suburban Turmoil · 8. I love to read. · 21. I'm a good drawer. · 56. I worry too much about what others think of me. · 59. And I'm ordering Marie Claire. · 73. Since I've had my baby, I'm somewhat forgetful for the first time in my life. Scattered is a better word for it. I think I just have too much going on. · 77. I fantasize about having free time again when the kids are out of the house. · 78. I fantasize about being a famous writer. · 91. Although we had a strict budget for Christmas last year, it literally took us three full hours to open all our presents. I guess we go a little overboard... · 96. I will watch anything starring Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts because I know I'll think it's at least pretty good. · 100. I know unequivocally that family and service to others are far more important and more affirming than fame and fortune.

This is what I share with Carol at A Revision · 2. married to a good man since 1986. He has a gentle and kind spirit. · 3. a Mommy. I enjoy this role of watching out for the family. · 24. taking care of my children well. · 28. articulate at times. · 32.enjoying the writing experience. · 37. humorous sometimes. · 42. and a reader of books. · 61. a cat person. · 63. a thinker. · 76. logical. · 77. not living in a war torn country. · 78. enjoying a great life. · 80. not above being wrong, although it usually takes awhile to admit it. · 84. able to forgive others · 86. serious. · 88. appreciative of what I have been given. · 89. artistically inclined. · 91. a daydreamer. · 92. a second hand shopper. · 97. capable of seeing the meaning underneath the surface.

This is what I share with Mar at bolets have an only son 12. I have no pets 13. Small is beautiful. I am 5’2/1.62m. Home



Thurman Munson Gives a Sign

My husband is a die-hard Yankee fan, always has been, probably always will be. I’m a Yankees fan also, though parental duties limit the time I can devote to watching games. When I first met my husband I was big into the Yankees, watching nearly every game. During the first part of our relationship, he worked long hours, often times missing the televised Yankee games. It was years before Al Gore invented the Internet, so the only way to get live updates on the game was to call me up. It was a good bet that I was watching the game. He was happy that I could share in this part of his life, but he always seemed skeptical, looking for a sign that I was really, truly a Yankees fan.

One day it happened, we were watching a Yankees game on TV. Suddenly the face of Thurman Munson, famed Yankee catcher appeared on the screen. Thurman died in a tragic plane accident years before we met. My husband, boyfriend at the time, quickly asked me “Do you know who that is?” The answer was simple, of course I knew who it was. I replied simply “Thurman.” I passed the test. He looked at me, a smile appearing broadly across his face. I think he realized at that moment, that I was the one.

Thank you Thurman Munson, may you rest in peace.

Thurman Major League Fantasy - Heartwarming baseball stories that hit a home run to your heart. Home

Labels: ,


Fifth Grade Homework

The homework my 10 year old son gets is so much more fun than the homework when I was in school. My homework basically consisted of dittos, handwritten worksheets duplicated on the ditto machine. If you were lucky you got one of the first sheets off the roll and could actually make out a few of the words. Luckier still if you weren’t passed-out from the fumes it emitted. My son gets professional looking, legible, nice smelling worksheets created on a copy machine. There are word searches, crossword puzzles, even pictures on his homework! Legible print and clip art doesn’t really pack a powerful enough punch to make social studies fun, it’s the projects the teacher assigns that are fun. His recent assignment involves creating a board game themed around a famous explorer. He must build the board, make the pieces and make up the rules.

The teacher assigned Spanish explorer and conquistador Fernando de Soto to our son. What a nice euphemism conquistador is! In 1539 this guy and his merry band began a field trip to Florida and southeast America that included pillaging, enslavement and particularly brutal attacks on the native people. The noble conquistadors also spread diseases that wiped out whole communities. One of de Soto’s greatest legacies is the genesis of hostile relations between Europeans and Native Americans. If Fernando did today what he did in 1539, he would be in prison charged with war crimes. Luckily for Fernando, conquistador and explorer, he lived several hundred years ago, so he is the theme for a fun fifth grade board game.

One part of the assignment said that the game must have simple rules. My son’s idea of a simple rule goes something like this:

If you land on a ship and answer the question correctly you get to go ahead two spaces if you answered right away, one space if it took longer than ten seconds to answer with the correct answer, if you get the wrong answer you must go back three spaces, except if your conquistador is red. If your conquistador is red, and you get the answer right, you take the boat to Cuba, otherwise you sail to Spain and roll again. Got that? He was just getting started.

My husband and I very gently and tactfully suggest that the rules are a just a tad bit complicated. Our advice is seen as a vicious attack on his abilities, de Soto-esque in nature, and deflates his enthusiasm for the entire project. He’s convinced that no one wants to play a game where you just roll a die and advance spaces.

My husband, the ingenious cheerer-upper, switches gears and suggests that our son think up a name for the game. After much laughing and jocularity a decision is made, Cruising and Bruising with de Soto. Our son’s spirits lifted and enthusiasm restored, my husband whispers to me “Every kid in the fifth grade will know that title by 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.” I’m sure the children will be amused, I’m not so sure about the teacher.


Labels: ,


Desperate Housewives Reminded Me of Something

Last night on Desperate Housewives Lynette let a rat loose in her house so her stay-at-home husband would be inspired to clean the house more thoroughly. This reminded me of a dilemma I faced recently.

I’ll begin with our kitchen floor. The original flooring was so old and unattractive I was embarrassed to have people over. Our son was past the stage where the floor needed mopping under his chair after every meal, so we decided to get hard wood flooring. It looks beautiful, but my husband freaks out when a drop of water hits the floor. He has it in his head that water will destroy the floor, and must be removed immediately. Now, whenever we find a liquid substance on the floor, my son and I exclaim in mock horror, “Call the police, call the fire department, there’s water on the floor! Ahhhhhh!!” Then we rush for paper towels and valiantly save the floor from it’s near certain demise.

Let’s move on to the dishwasher that runs so loudly you can’t hear yourself think. Occasionally, my husband will have it running on Sunday mornings when I come downstairs for breakfast. On Sundays I like to read the paper at the kitchen table, then continue reading it in the family room when breakfast is done. When that dishwasher is doing its impersonation of a jumbo jet, there is no way I can enjoy being in the kitchen or family room. I end up walking off in a snit with a bowl of cereal into the office with the door closed until it is safe to come out. I spend the time plotting revenge on my husband for washing the dishes! Clearly this dishwasher must go to restore matrimonial happiness. It is 16 years old; it was only supposed to last for 9 or 10 years. My husband doesn’t think we need a new one because it works perfectly well. Whenever I’m in the appliance section of a store, I look longingly at the silent dishwashers. I imagine myself cheerfully running it whenever I please, during breakfast, homework, even Sunday mornings.

About a month ago, much like Lynette devised her plan for the rat, a wonderful awful idea entered my head. Someday, while the dishwasher is running, I will surreptitiously spill a small amount of soapy water on the floor near the dishwasher. I’ll make sure that either my son or husband discovers it, to deflect suspicion from myself. If my husband thinks for even one moment, that the dishwasher leaked water onto the floor, it will be ripped from the wall so fast our heads will spin. Then we will have to get a new one, problem solved.

So far, I’ve not acted on this plan. I feel it is a little underhanded and I forgot about it, until last night, when Lynette's plan worked so well. Should I go for it? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

P.S. You are now sworn to secrecy if you know me in real life.





About a month ago our ten year old announced that he sees double. We promptly made him an appointment with the optometrist. The doctor began doing a thorough check on his eyes, he passed test after test, perfect vision. She tried to trick him by inducing double vision; he announces, “I see four of them!” I began sniggering in the corner of the room. Then the doctor did something my mother could never master, she wiped that smirk right off my face. She said “I don’t know whether to send him to an ophthalmologist, or to his pediatrician to get an MRI.” She set an appointment up with an ophthalmologist for three weeks later.

In the next few weeks our son complains that his double vision is getting worse. I was busy googling "pediatric double vision" during the intervening weeks. What I found I didn’t like. There were a myriad of ominous explanations; it was a long three weeks.

A few days ago, both my husband and I took our son to the ophthalmologist; neither of us could wait to hear what the doctor had to say. This doctor performed even more tests, each more medieval looking than the one preceding it. My husband and I sat silent throughout. He put drops in our son’s eyes, we wait a half hour, and then more tests are done. Finally, the doctor speaks; he said that our son would grow out of this condition. My husband and I are confused, what condition? We press for answers. The ophthalmologist gave us a very long eloquent answer, which I can boil down to one short sentence: He sees double when he crosses his eyes. My husband paid the doctor’s fee on the way out of the office. I didn’t ask him how much it was, I don’t even want to know.


Labels: ,