Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Collection of Disaster Preparedness Items

Emergency Items

  • Mini-pry bar
  • Respiratory Protection (particulate protection)
  • Nuke Alert radiation detector
  • Bicycle
  • First Aid Kit
  • Solar Powered Lantern/Power Source
  • Grab and Go Bag
  • Non-Incendive Flashlight (LED Flashlight)
  • Multitool
  • Portable Water Filtration Unit
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.
    • Pack a manual can opener and eating utensils.
    • Avoid salty foods, as they will make you thirsty.
    • Choose foods your family will eat.
    • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
    • Protein or fruit bars
    • Dry cereal or granola
    • Peanut butter
    • Dried fruit
    • Nuts
    • Crackers
    • Canned juices
    • Non-perishable pasteurized milk
    • High energy foods
    • Vitamins
    • Food for infants
    • Comfort/stress foods

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
    • Two pairs of Latex, or other sterile gloves (if you are allergic to Latex).
    • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding.
    • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect.
    • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
    • Burn ointment to prevent infection.
    • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes.
    • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant.
    • Thermometer (Read more: Biological Threat)
    • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
    • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies.
    • Scissors
    • Tweezers
    • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
    • Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
    • Anti-diarrhea medication
    • Antacid (for upset stomach)
    • Laxative

  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Prescription medications and glass
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Friday, October 12, 2007

Top 5 Random Generators at

Top 5 Random Generators at
  1. The Willy Name Generator

    We didn't realize how much people want a name for their penis or the penis of a friend, but we're glad they do. The Willy Name Generator is the ahead of the pack by a large margin.

  2. The Froo Froo Menu Generator

    People have come out in droves to build their own fancy restaurant menus full of ridiculous dishes. We're just hoping no one actually tries to cook any of them.

  3. The Horoscope Generator

    The least "random" of our random generators seems to be a hit. Unlike most of our other stuff, the Horoscope Generator relies more on the wit of our contributors than the random yoking together of language.

  4. The Death Metal Band Namer

    A suggestion from one of our users that seems to have hit a high, shrieking note with everyone. Rock on.

  5. The TV Show Pitch Generator

    Our first success story continues to churn out bizarre TV show ideas by the thousands.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Good Article Tools

I continue to love article tools. We've evolved beyond simple "Email this Article" and "Printer Friendly Version" to article tools that change the way we read, share, and manage articles. I ran across this nice little Article Tool bar on the Chicago Tribune's site. It's not visible in my image, but the "Share" link actually includes Digg,, Furl, MyYahoo, and other bookmark sharing tools (the little animation just stopped on Digg when I screen captured it). When you click on it the link expands to show all the bookmark sites. Very nice.

"Single Page View" hides the side columns while the "Print" view strips the page down to one of the more bare bones printer views I've seen. I'm a little disappointed with the "Reprints" link though. I expected to take me to a form for ordering reprints of that specific article, but instead it took me to a generic form and FAQ about reprints. Something to work on there I guess.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Defense Against Butt Dialing

This morning I "butt dialed" my parents' house 20 times on my walk into work. I imagine they were crazy with rage by the time I realized it. I got to thinking why don't mobile phones have a built in "Butt Dial Defense System?" (BDDS). Sure, I could have turned off the phone or locked the screen before I threw it in my pocket, but that requires some action on my part.

Why can't a phone be programmed to recognize when it's dialing a number accidentally. If the same number is dialed more than 3 times in the span of a minute and there is no direct voice input on the caller's end how about the screen locks with a message saying "Accidental Call Suspected" or something to that effect?

Also, I wonder how much cell phone companies make each year on butt dialed calls. Someone should do a study.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Wondering if I Should Continue Blogging

I suspect most bloggers come to a point where they try to decide if they should keep up their blog or move on. Life gets in the way, jobs get in the way, hobbies change. Blogging isn't the hardest work in the world, probably not even close. But it is almost always something people do in addition to doing bigger things. That's certainly true in my case. I work full time in a Web Team for a large association and my fiancee and I just bought our first house, which is one of the more stressful and time consuming things I've ever done.

I love writing a blog and reading other blogs and I also love working on, which continues to roll on unabated. However, at some point I realized that I needed to sleep and that we all need a little break from the Internet once in a while to smell the roses, or, in my case now, to fight common yard pests.

So I haven't posted in a while and I guess that's OK. I'm sure most of my readers have wandered off to other blogs or sites and there's a good chance there are few around to read this post, which is cool too. As much as I'd like to connect with great, random people around the blogosphere, this blog has always been as much a place for me to deposit my thoughts and discoveries as it has been a place to interact with an audience.

So with all that in mind I'm wondering if I should continue blogging. I have some thoughts on how I might better organize my Web/free time to ensure I can make regular posts, but then I'm not sure if I necessarily should. If you have an opinion I'd certainly be interested in hearing it, but ultimately I guess I'll just have to decide if I still need a blog as an outlet. Maybe a blog about owning your first home...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

MySpace erases 29,000 sex offenders

This is good news, but I'm curious how they determined who the sex offenders were since phony names are so common on the Web. Were there really 29,000 sex offenders dumb enough to use their real names?

MySpace erases 29,000 sex offenders | The Register

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Host is Pissing Me Off

Most of the time I'm pretty happy with the host for, which is 1&1. I'd heard some horror stories about them, but I gave them a try. Up until now things were fine. Today I got home from work and tried to launch my FTP to work on the site and it couldn't connect. I went out to make sure the site was OK and it was down. OK, little panic. Refresh. Refresh. OK, site's down.

It's late, but 1&1 has a 24-hour support number. I call it and about 15 minutes later I'm on the line with someone I assume is in India. I give them my customer ID and tell them my site's down. They tell me that due to technical problems the server my site is on is currently down. OK, I ask, how long has it been down? They don't know. When will it be back up? They don't know.
The server administrator hasn't told them anything. They ask me to call back tomorrow if it's still down. I ask if they'll alert me when the site is back up. No, they won't, just call back tomorrow if it's still down and maybe if they get enough calls the server administrator will know this is really a problem(!).

Now it's not like I'm raking in the big bucks with the site, but it's getting good traffic and building a loyal audience. The last traffic I can see from Google Analytics is from 4pm today, which was about 7 hours ago. That means anyone referred to my site in the last seven hours now thinks the site is gone. They may not come back. 1&1 is losing my audience every minute that goes by. This should be important to them and they should be proactive with me in handling the situation. They aren't. I had to call them to tell them their server was down and now they want me to call them again to tell them if it's still down tomorrow. What?

Meanwhile our users suffer, I suffer, and no one is happy. Come on 1&1, get your heads out of your asses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Runaway wrecking ball causes chaos, accident -

And how was YOUR day?

Runaway wrecking ball causes chaos, accident -

On The Go: Googlify your cell phone - Lifehacker

Google's been doing some great things for mobile devices. I was particularly blown away last night when I downloaded Google Maps for Palm. Over a wi-fi network it's really impressive. Google Blogoscoped has more (via Lifehacker).

On The Go: Googlify your cell phone - Lifehacker

CSS Rounded Corners Tool

I ran across a nice little tool for building rounded CSS corners. If you don't know how (and I didn't) it's also easy to see how the results are achieved. Check out "Spiffy Corners". You just tweak a few settings, click a "roundness" level (3px, 5px, 9px) and the code spits out below.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Generatin' Fools

We've added three new homegrown generators since last we mentioned it:

The Sick Clown Name Generator
If you've decided to slap on the makeup, pop on the nose, and unleash your inner clown on an unsuspecting world, we're here to help you get off on the right (giant) foot with a good, sick clown name.

The Horoscope Generator
Your future may be written in the stars, but more likely it's just a bunch of random crap. To that end, we present The Horoscope Generator which creates a personalized horoscope just for you. Probably.

The TV Show Title Mashup
What happens when you randomly mash up TV Show Titles? You get things like "Hardy Strokes" and "The Wind in the Mother." Help us find more ridiculous TV Show Title Mashups.

So far, with little fanfare, the Horoscope Generator is taking off like wildfire, especially throughout Europe. We welcome our European friends with open arms and offer Philly cheesesteaks.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Invention Illustrations

I ran across these sites via the afore-mentioned and thought they were worth sharing. All three are collected invention illustrations by some talented halfbakery users:

We're looking to add illustrations to our Super Hero Generator at Generator Land as well (although frankly we're a little concerned about what a hero called "The Electric Placenta" might look like).

The Half Bakery: Sharing Your Half-Baked Ideas Publicly

I wanted to build a site like this a while back, but, similar to many of the ideas on "The Half Bakery," my idea remained unfulfilled. The idea for the site is simple: people post half-baked ideas and the rest of the community members vote on it. Non-members can browse around as much as they want, members can post, comment, etc.

Some of the ideas are truly stupid, but if you search by "best" you'll see some really good ideas. The site is entirely text-based and very easy on the eyes. The navigation is a bit odd, but not confusing. My only complaint is the registration process, which requires you to send an email to request membership. I'll write more when I hear back from them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Under the Nav Bar: Focusing on the Web Team

I got a nice note from Lucy Spence in reaction to a post I made about Web teams a while back. She's started up a blog called "Under the Nav Bar" that will focus on aspects of a Web team. How it should work, who should do what, what skills the team should have, how the team fits in the organization, etc.

I offer my humble support for Lucy's endeavor, I think it will be a great resource.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Generator Land Enhancements

We've added a new feature to Generatorland that lets you submit a particularly amusing result to the Generator Land Hall of Fame. For quality control purposes, we are currently monitoring the submissions and approving/axing where appropriate. Based on what's come in so far, this was probably a wise decision, however, we expect to be switching to a user rating system at some point.

In the meantime, check out what got through the Mike & Joe filter here:

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Willy Name Generator

The Generator Land team apologizes in advance for our latest generator. Generate a random nickname for your willy with the click of a button.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This is Generator Land: On a Blog Spree

The last two generators we built on Generator Land got some shout outs. The Joke Opener Generator was posted on The Generator Blog and, lo and behold, The TV Show Pitch Generator appeared on AOL Television's TV Squad. Props to both blogs for the mentions!

We're working on some new features for Generator Land, as well as the next top secret generator (which is only top secret because we can't make up our minds which one to release next).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Web Worker Daily: So Your Co-Worker Isn't Your Best Friend. Now What? �

I thought this was a pretty good article about dealing with bastards at work. I've been in the "working with a jerk" situation quite a bit and I've found a lot of these techniques really do help, especially this one that they suggest:

"Get perspective. What you’re reading as a big personal insult in an email might not be the case at all. Ask a friend who will be honest with you what they think of the email you’re sending and receiving. Do they read the same negative tone from your co-worker? Do they think you’re being particularly biting when you don’t need to be? Try and see the situation from different eyes."

Of course you could also stay late and mess with their stuff, but that wouldn't be a real mature release would it?

Web Worker Daily: So Your Co-Worker Isn't Your Best Friend. Now What?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Avoid Your Neighbors, They Might Be Sick

In case you were wondering if the ailment you're faking to get out of work is rampant in your neighborhood, visit The site allows you enter your symptoms (stomach ache, runny nose, severe malaise) and then see if anyone else around you has those or any other symptoms. Or you can simply browse with morbid fascination.

You can narrow your search by symptoms, age, sex, and time period. There's also the saddest little tag cloud I've ever seen (see image above). I imagine that's what the brain of a hypochondriac looks like.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cameroid: Best Interface I've Seen in a While

If you have a Web cam, check out Cameroid. If you're a Web interface or application developer you should check it out too. While the site's intended use is harmless fun (taking photos with effects and sharing them), the beauty lies in the drop-dead simple interface.

When you visit the site you get some intro text and a button that says "Ready? Click Here." You will likely get a security prompt as the site connects with your Web cam and then that's it. Your ugly mug appears onscreen and you get a bunch of effects to try using a simple tabbed system.

The effects are nice, but not earth shattering. Applying them is simple and the changes happen in real time. You can move around to see how the effect will look from different angles. Then you click the camera button to take the picture immediately or with a 3 second delay. All this is handled in a way simple enough to pass the "my mom could do it" test.

When you're done, you can save the image or link to it using a URL provided. You can also use it as an instant messaging avatar, email it, or add it to your blog. If you just want to download it you don't have to provide an email address.

It's a shame more Web 2.0 apps aren't this simple.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How Much is Your Blog Worth | Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Weblog

If you're a blogger and want to make yourself sad (and really, why wouldn't you?) check out how much your blog is worth at Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Weblog.

You just type in your blog 's URL and hit submit. Within seconds you'll find out that blogging is easy, but blogging professionally is not. Fortunatley most bloggers are in it for the fun and attention. Technogeekboy is worth something, but not much (see below).

For some real fun check out what blogs like Lifehacker and TechCrunch are worth. Zoinks!

How Much is Your Blog Worth Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Weblog

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Brainstorming the Web Way

I just found a terrfic brainstorming site that I'm becoming quickly addicted to. It's called BrainReactions and it's a community of people who post questions like "What should newspapers be doing if they want to survive?" and "How can I communicate better to a large audience?" and then wait for responses from other users.

The addictive part of it is that you can scan through the list of questions and quickly post an idea in a matter of seconds. There is a truly diverse bunch of ideas to brainstorm about so you're bound to have something you can expound on. Posting your own question is just as easy.

While traditional group brainstorming is a mixed bag that's usually not worth the effort, BrainReactions is low maintenance and quick. If you don't get any good ideas from the community, it's not like you had to book a conference room, buy a bunch of doughnuts and spend hours getting nowhere. Online Brainstorming and Idea Management Software - Open Brainstorms

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Walk to Work then Walk at Work then Walk Home

I saw this on Reuters and had to laugh. In theory I suppose it makes sense. People walk all day on a treadmill instead of sitting in a chair. Miraculously, they lose weight!

I actually have a setup just like this at home. I secured a large Elfa shelf to the handles of our treadmill and set my laptop up on it. There's plenty of room and it works very well. However, working, even at a slow walk, is not exactly a sustainable activity. An hour is about all I can handle before the bouncing and movement begin to wear on my eyes and posture.

So, interesting concept. Not practical.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Generator Blog Gives Us a Mention

We got a mention from The Generator Blog, which we appreciate. They featured our Froo Froo Menu Generator and drove us some nice traffic.

The Generator Blog features a crapload of generators so be sure to check them out. Especially if you're into those generators that create images with your text like the Beer Label Generator or the Bling Necklace Generator.

The Local Headline Generator

We're getting into a regular rhythm at Generator Land with a new generator launching today which I'll get to in a moment. We've also made some other changes to the site including adding a Top Rated Generators area, an RSS feed, an archive, and a few minor tweaks to cinch it up and hunker down.

The latest addition to our growing family is The Local Headline Generator. Given the similarity of small town newspaper headlines it seemed a natural to randomize. We took a list of odd small town names and mixed them with a common headline format and hit the random button. You can check out the results at
Generator Land right this second.

Traffic is quickly building at the site and we thank you all for your support!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Alan Graham Seems to Agree About Subscription Music

I said this a few days ago, and it seems ZDNet's Alan Graham agrees. From Alan:

"You see, when Sonos started to support Rhapsody, I fell in love with the subscription model. In fact, since I became a Rhapsody subscriber 8 months ago, I haven't purchased a single iTunes track. Amazingly, I haven't even played a single track of music from my own music library (which includes a lot of tracks I bought from iTunes). Not once…in 8 months! My NAS drive just sits there on the shelf…lonely…and pointless. I just can't bring myself to purchase albums based on 30-second samples, when I can go on Rhapsody and listen to the entire album anytime I like."

Read Alan's Whole Post

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ridiculous Restaurant Menus in Seconds

Our latest generator at Generator Land is the "Froo Froo Menu Generator." It randomly produces a hoity toity-sounding dinner menu that, upon closer inspection is usually a bit disgusting (for instance "Jerked Mongoose with a Cask-Conditioned Mayonnaise.")
Please check it out and leave a rating and comment either positive or negative. Unfortunately, because we just finished building our own rating system, we had to start from scratch with the comments and ratings. Growing pains I guess!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Commenting on More YouTube Lawsuits

(Note: This is from a comment I made about YouTube on And don't worry, I have my own permission to re-use it.)

I think netizens have been spoiled by free content into thinking that they have an inherent right to get whatever they want whenever they want it. It’s certainly an easy state of mind to fall into. Copyrighted music and movie sharing on P2P networks is stealing and so is substantive re-use and gain from copyrighted content without the copyright-holder’s permission. I can’t strictly define “substanative” other than to say that showing a thumbnail image of a video wouldn’t be “substanative” but showing a certain amount of the video itself would be. Copyright holders get to make the call on if it’s fair use. Some might like the attention/marketing aspect of it, but some might not. Lately, not so much.

It seems that a site that simply aggregates links and information about videos on other sites in a user-centric way would be a smarter model than simply showing the videos directly. I assume those sites are out there. These sites can drive traffic to the copyright holders’ sites, which is what they want, and could provide the centralized hub that users want. Do we need to see it directly on the “hub” itself? Not really. Content sites just need to get their collective act together and create better, more user-centric sites while working with these hubs as much as possible.

YouTube should continue to aggregate user-generated content and video provided to them directly by copyright holders, but they need to get some common sense and quit acting like what they’re allowing on their site is something other than copyright infringement. Just because people want it doesn’t mean you should do it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Steve Jobs is Back to Being an Idiot

I'm not sure what Steve Jobs was basing his comments on, but he seems to think that no one is interested in subscription music. Regardless of the fact that I am a huge fan of subscription music in and of itself, I think he's missing the point.

Subscription music services like Rhapsody don't JUST "rent" music, you can also purchase it forever if you want to. I burn a few CDs a month from Rhapsody and the per song cost is cheaper than iTunes. Subscribing doesn't mean you can't own whatever music you want, it means you get more music. Who wouldn't want that?

So while I do buy songs outright sometimes, mostly I just load up my MP3 player with as much music as I want, I stream as much music as I want, etc. I can listen to any album or song anytime in its entirety. I probably listen to music an average of six hours a day between my commute, the office, and on weekends and I never run out of new stuff to listen to. The thought of using a service where I have to buy every song I listen to for .99 cents seems ludicrous to me now.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Super Hero Name Generator

Things are moving along at Generator Land. We just created and posted our first homegrown generator called "The Super Hero Name Generator." I think it turned out pretty well. It's a good waste of at least 15 minutes of your valuable time.

We've got a few more in the works and our goal is to add at least one new generator each day. If you visit, feel free to rate and comment on what we post. You can also submit good generators you've come across. Everyone seems to know of at least one.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Map Your Site the Web 2.0 Way

WriteMaps is a basic Web sitemap outlining tool. It's low-frills but produces nice-looking sitemaps, good for planning out the architecture of your site. You start with a single page and build on it using the plus or minus icons on each new page. Branches can be collapsed easily. You can switch to an outline view instead of the icon-based view and zoom in and out with a slider bar.

And that's about it. Sitemaps can't be exported to any format (XML would be nice) and can't be downloaded. You can only print. In theory this might be a nice way to share sitemaps among team members, but there aren't any annotation or markup tools. This is clearly aimed at less technical users as developers, who are used to more complex tools like Visio, may feel limited. However, less technical users may enjoy the straightforward functionality.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Generator Land: Le Randomness Rule

After seeing how popular random generators are on the Web I felt it was my duty to create a site that brings them all together. I'm calling it "Generator Land." I'll be collecting all the sites that create fake band names, game characters, business speak, haikus, biblical curses, etc. and putting them under one roof so they can fight amongst themselves about who left the dirty dishes in the fishtank and who saw who's girlfriend getting out of the shower "by mistake."

In addition I'll let users rate them and comment on them so my opinion won't be the only one that matters. Don't expect too much right off as I begin collecting, but I hope to eventually collect enough random generators to make repeated visits a must.

If you know of any random generators, let me know on the blog here or submit them at Generator Land. I can't pay you, but I will say a prayer for your immortal soul. Or I'll at least generate a prayer with the Random Prayer Generator (if I can find one).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Flash Earth: Keeping it Simple

Flash Earth is a very straightforward and fast satellite image maps with one-click switching between the various map service images. It's actually a good way to see the differences in quality between them (Google wins). Easy navigation, zoom and rotation. It has a location finder, but I couldn't seem to get it to find any street addresses. Zip codes worked fine.

Flash Earth ...satellite and aerial imagery of the Earth in Flash

Monday, April 23, 2007

Virtual desktop trifecta at Web 2.0 Expo | Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone

As a follow-up to my post about Desktoptwo, I just ran across a week-old post at WebWare reviewing three similar services: Zcubes,, and Sparc. I seem to remember looking at Zcubes a while back and finding it a bit sloppy, but perhaps I'll go back and have a look.

Virtual desktop trifecta at Web 2.0 Expo Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone

MiniBoxs Misses "E" and the Mark

Another competitor for the likes of OriginalSignal and PopURLs is MiniBoxs (what happened to the "e?") which is an RSS aggregator billing itself as the "Net's first RSS magazine." If that's what this is, then I don't think they're the first.

It's a nice-looking site and the editors do a good job of choosing feeds to include. I like the
Buzz! page, which aggregates the most popular items from many social news sites like Digg, Reddit,, Furl, TailRank, etc. This is similar to other sites of this type, but they have a pretty comprehensive list here.

All in all, I prefer PopURLs and OriginalSignal, but my true preference will likely always be rolling my own.

MiniBoxs Buzz!

Saturday, April 21, 2007 Maps Smooth Like Buttah

If you haven't already noticed, has a new weather map in beta and it's very slick. Imagine GoogleMaps, with all its click-and-drag/scrollwheel zoom goodness with weather overlayed.

You can choose clouds and/or RADAR images with transparency, add roads, and animate. The interface is smooth like butter. I still prefer
Accuweather overall, but scores points here.

Weather Radar and Weather Maps -

Friday, April 20, 2007

Curse Your Enemies with Biblical Authority

Insults with pious panache, courtesy of Ship of Fools. My current favorite:

"Take heed, O ye of little faith, for you will be pursued into the mountains by sex-mad baboons!"

Ship of Fools: Biblical curse generator

Top 10 Reasons as to why I still need to be convinced about marketing on Second Life

HP's Eric Kintz makes some great points about Second Life here, some of which I echoed a while back. I agree that the potential for marketing may still be there and, more importantly, a sustainable user environment may still be there, but I think SecondLife 3.0 needs a lot of work.

Top 10 Reasons as to why I still need to be convinced about marketing on Second Life

Microsoft entices beta testers with Windows Media Center update

Microsoft entices beta testers with Windows Media Center update
4/19/2007 7:30:00 pm

Filed under: , , ,

It was but three months ago that Microsoft opened the flood gates to beta signups for Windows Live for TV, and now the mega-corp is soliciting the help of free laborers yet again to test out a potentially buggy and likely frustrating piece of forthcoming software. If you're still intrigued, Microsoft is holding an open signup to beta test Windows Media Center update for Vista, but we certainly hope you weren't counting on even a partial list of features, as the curiously bland signup page doesn't relinquish much of anything beyond procedural instructions. So if you're hankering for something new to try out, and don't mind replying to Microsoft's "surveys, bug reports, and other means as required," feel free to hit the read link and toss your name in the hat.

[Via BoyGeniusReport]


Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments

BOLD MOVES: THE FUTURE OF FORD A new documentary series. Be part of the transformation as it happens in real-time

Office Depot Featured Gadget: Xbox 360 Platinum System Packs the power to bring games to life!

Ugh, how bad will the new Windows Media Center be? I switched to BeyondTV after about a month of wrestling with Media Center and I haven't looked back.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

PopURLs Let's You Have It Yor Way

Since I was on the subject of "article tools" a few weeks back I thought I'd mention a similar concept alive and well at news aggregator, The site lets you basically take over and transform it however you want. The menu bar (shown on the right) lets you easily:
  • Switch to a black background
  • Switch to popflow (a one column format)
  • Switch to big text
  • Switch to Buzzmania (more news items)
  • Turn off story previews
  • Turn off video/audio feeds
  • Open links in the same window
  • Customize feed arrangement
  • Open scrapbook

I am impressed anytime a Web site's designers let you mess with their work to suit your needs and it would be nice if more did. Thanks to CSS and AJAX these kind of user-focused controls are easier to build and thanks to the Time Person of the year (you) there are more sites taking it seriously.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Drag and Drop: Turning an Outlook Email into a Task

With software as complex and feature-heavy as Microsoft Outlook, it's easy to remain unaware of everything it can do. One of the Outlook features people still seem surprised about when I tell them is the fact that you can drag and drop an email to transform it into a task or meeting request. I use this feature many times each day and while Outlook's Tasks program isn't the greatest in the world (that honor goes to TaskPilot), it's fairly powerful and awfully convenient if you already use Outlook most of the time.

Since most of the tasks I perform arrive via email, using the drag and drop method saves me from having to re-type information and, more importantly, because it's so easy I'm highly motivated to use it. This makes it almost impossible for me to forget to do something. A sidenote here: When someone calls me and asks me to do something, I will often ask them to send me an email about it instead. This might seem a little rude to people who prefer the phone, but it's really the best way to ensure everyone ends up getting what they want.

To use this feature, just select the email that has all the information you need, drag it over to the navigation pane (probably on the left of the Outlook interface) and drop it onto the "Task" button (click the image over there to see what I mean). A new task will pop up with the same subject as the email and the contents of the email in the task's body. The due date and start date of the task will default to today, the status to "Not Started," and the priority to "Normal." You can edit all this, as well as the Subject, save it and you're done.

The same thing can be done with the
Calendar, however it will usually require more cleanup since it's likely you'll be sharing the meeting with other people.

The only real problem with this method is that attachments to the email don't automatically get attached to the task. However, I found a workaround for this using macros. I won't get into all of it because someone else already has here. If you know a little VBScript or are willing to get your hands a little dirty to figure it out, you can customize that macro to your heart's content. Then you just add the macro to your Outlook toolbar and any time you get an email with attachments relevant to the task, click the button and voila, the attachments automatically show up in the task!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Desktoptwo, three, four!

Desktoptwo is a web-based "operating system" manifested in a desktop that you can access from anywhere. Unlike sites like Netvibes and Protopage, which serve up RSS feeds and widgets as panels, Desktoptwo mimics your PC's desktop, complete with programs like office applications (OpenOffice), chat and email clients, calendar, contacts, and even 1GB of free hard drive space. This is more of a workspace than a startpage. It's all driven by some slick Flash.

OpenOffice can open Microsoft Excel and Word documents fairly well so even if you're tied to Microsoft Office, you can still get work done. Files can be uploaded and downloaded from the "Hard Drive" program, which acts like Explorer.

If you upload a bunch of MP3s to Desktoptwo, you can play them from the interface using the MP3 Player. A nice way to keep your music handy. The player's pretty bare bones, but sounds fine.

There are some social features like a blog and a message board available if you share your desktop with others. Not sure I'd use this, it would be like sharing your PC with a bunch of people, but I imagine, like most online social things, the kids would like it.

The rest of the apps are basic and functional. Performance is excellent and I saw no delays or hiccups. I suspect more applications will be added before it gets out of beta. All in all it's a pretty slick program that I suspect will appeal to anyone switching PCs frequently.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How Should a Web Team Work?

Try as I might I've found little research on how a corporate Web team should be structured. Should developers work directly with front-end designers? Should content producers be involved in architecture? Should anyone other than IT know what's going on with the servers? I work in an environment where each element of the Web site is handled by different departments:
  • Server maintenance
  • Hard-core development (applications, eCommerce, etc)
  • Database maintenance and development
  • Front-end design and architecture
  • Content development
  • E-mail marketing
  • Enterprise applications

These separate departments don't necessarily play well together and are rarely looped in on each others' plans or projects, operating largely in their own silos. Is this how it should be or should they all be under one, centrally-managed group?

How are other "Web Teams" structured? Bear in mind I'm not talking about agency Web teams, I mean Web teams internal to a corporation or association. These teams work together over the long haul and may evolve over time. They're not the streamlined, project-focused teams you'd find in agency and members may wear several hats and manage several different Web sites like intranets, extranets, external sites, enterprise applications, etc. They may be called on to handle the minutiae and whims of departments throughout the enterprise.

I've yet to see an optimal model for this kind of team, but I will keep looking.

12 Breeds of Client and How to Work with Them

Great list of client types and how to work with them. This is written for a Web design/tech audience, but can be applied elsewhere. Also, a commenter points to a similar article (in cartoon form even!)

12 Breeds of Client and How to Work with Them

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Gyroball

It's been a while since I've seen a new pitch introduced in baseball. Now, Daisuke Matsuzaka (aka "Dice-K"), a recent Japanese import for the Boston Red Sox has introduced American baseball to "The Gyroball." He's apparently one of the few players who can throw the pitch well enough to strike out professional hitters. Because of the arm motion required to get the proper spin, most pitchers can't throw it fast enough to get it by hitters. Apparently "Dice-K" is a rare talent.

For a complete scientific look at the pitch check out Bill Nye's article and to see it in action watch the video below. Very cool. Also, for a great guide to pitching check out "The Complete Pitcher."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Mind Map Never Seems to Fold Properly

Since I'm in the process of taking a seminar on "Critical Thinking" which includes things like the Socratic Method and Mind Mapping, I thought I'd share a great Mind Mapping tool that I've discovered. It's called and it's a free online tool that helps you brainstorm ideas and build very snazzy Mind Map charts.

To see an example of a Mind Map, click on the image to the right, which is a map for building a tree house (and also proof that I have no idea how to build a tree house).

The interface is intuitive and Web 2.0ish so can get up and creating within a few seconds. The keyboard strokes are simple and brilliant. Don't expect a whole lot of customization like adding pictures or special icons, just really clean, attractive shapes.

If you want to save your work of mind art, you can register (name, email, password) and then not only save it, but collaborate with others on it. Mind Maps are probably best created in a room with everyone sitting around a screen or whiteboard, but I'm curious to see how this concept translates to individuals collaborating in non-real time.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Merlin Mann: Won't You Listen What the Mann Says

I think Merlin Mann will eventually, and perhaps begrudgingly become a star. Mann does 43 Folders, 5ives, and now The Merlin Show which so far has featured interviews with talented musicians floating just below the RADAR. He has a natural interview style and is genuinely funny and humble. Merlin also appears on the This Week in Tech fairly often and offers a witty yet usually positive counterpoint to the regulars.

Who Says There's No Free Lunch, or Free Books?

Friedbeef's Tech offers up the best places to get free books.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Art of Article Tools

A great trend we've seen on online newspaper and magazine sites, as well as many other sites that feature article content is the increased use of "Article Tools." Article tools include links or buttons like "Print This, " "Email This," "Increase/Decrease Font Size," etc. Some sites only include one or two (usually "Print" or "Send") while some like the excellent news site The International Herald Tribune go crazy with the concept, including things like "Clip This" for saving articles to your own private area.

I've put together a bunch of examples, which you can see by clicking on the image on the right there. As I mentioned recently regarding, I have no problem with "clutter" and the more article tools I see the more I think the publisher wants to empower me to read the content the way I want.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yahoo! Widgets: More of the Best

In a previous post that has easily been the most popular I've written, I mentioned some of the Yahoo! Widgets I've been using regularly. With the advent of Yahoo! Widgets 4.0 (which I'll look at more closely later) I've decided to mention a few more of the widgets I use regularly:

TachClock: A slickly designed and deceptively simple clock that pops up unobtrusively on the hour and/or half hour. No numbers, just tick-marks for the hours, minute and second.

PowerX: Another simple but elegant widget that allows easy one-click access to log off, shutdown, and restart. I use it every time I reboot.

ClipDrop: A handy clipboard tool that saves and displays as many clipboard items as you want. Click a copied snippet from the list and it's ready to paste.

Yahoo! Maps: I prefer Yahoo! Maps over Google Maps these days and this widget makes looking up locations and directions a snap. I just wish it connected directly to the "Broadband" version of Yahoo! Maps by default.

AfterVote (a.k.a. Younanimous), The Hardest Working Engine in the Search Business

I've been holding off on mentioning because it was early, but now they've changed their name to "AfterVote" (which I just can't seem to like) and have been adding features every few seconds, so I guess now's as good a time as any.

AfterVote is a social search engine, which I've already voiced my concerns about, but after talking to the guys at AfterVote, I think it just might work. I guess I was thinking a bit simplistically about the concept of voting search results up and down. With AfterVote, rankings will be based on more than the simple + or - voting system and they plan to adapt the alorithms as needed.

For instance, if you click on a result and don't like it, you will probably return to the results and click on another. The system logs that behavior and uses it to "passively" tally votes for or against the results. If you really like or hate the result, you can also vote with the + or - buttons. While they didn't elaborate further on how else they'll police the system, I'm sure they'll look for the same things sites like Digg look for.

In addition to the social ranking aspect, AfterVote includes a plethora of social Web widgets (this link is already out of date, but shows many of them) for sharing results via, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. and seeing where the result ranks on Alexa, Compete, Google PageRank, etc. These widgets can all be turned on and off as preferences dictate. Personally I like to leave all of it on because I have no issue with clutter.

Did I mention it's actually a metasearch engine pulling from Google, Yahoo!, and MSN and that it has links to cached sites for all three? There's also a widget for the Trust level of the site. I haven't figured out where that comes from yet, but then, at the rate they're adding features I may never have a complete grasp of what's going on.

The question becomes "How much is too much for the average user?" I think AfterVote, in its current form is extremely appealing to people like me who can't get enough "stuff" when it comes to search and the social Web. However, if this stuff is all turned on by default when they get out of beta, I'm a little worried more casual Web users might feel a bit overwhelmed and confused. And I would think that to take best advantage of the voting system mass appeal will be key. Perhaps there are enough people like me to make this a success. I'm hoping so, because I think this is a terrific tool.

Switching Startpages Part One

I'm considering a switch from Protopage to Netvibes as my start page mostly because of the dearth of snappy widgets available for Protopage. While Protopage has been adding them since the latest version went live, I generally don't find them very polished or useful. However, I've always preferred Protopage's highly configurable layout and, even more importantly, the ability to create custom mini HTML pages. I primarily use this feature to create link pages and I have them scattered all over my start page. Some examples are over there on the right.

Netvibes doesn't have a widget for creating mini HTML pages, which is part of the reason I haven't considered it. However, their Bookmarks widget is very cool and uses a tag system. So I figured out how to import my HTML link pages into the Netvibes Bookmarks widget (which was a pain in the ass!) and then tagged them all. The result means I have to click a tag and then the link, but it's not too bad and will just take some getting used to.
However, I've come to realize a major flaw in using Netvibes: page load time. Admittedly, I have a lot of stuff on my Netvibes start page, but it's no more than I have on Protopage. Individual RSS panels, for instance take twice as long to load on Netvibes. This means that every time I launch my browser I'll have to sit and wait before I can do anything. I'm going to try to slim down what I have on the page and see if that helps, but it could be a dealbreaker. Netvibes, I'm sure gets loads more traffic than Protopage, so the problem may not go away anytime soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Big Reason Most TV Shows and Movies Suck

We went to see "The Last Mimzy" over the weekend and before you ask "Why?" I'll only say my fiancee and I were taken in by the trailers which hinted at an "E.T."-like classic story with novel special effects and neither of us felt like being intellectually challenged on a Sunday. Needless to say, we probably should have Tivo'ed the trailer and watched it over and over 120 times instead of seeing the actual movie. I think the most entertaining thing about it was playing "Count the Product Placements!" In fact "Mimzy" featured the most blatant non-joke product placement possibly in the history of cinema. Way to go Intel. I think ticket prices should be discounted based on the number of product placements. In the case of "Mimzy" the theater should just send us a check for $32.50.

Anyway, my point wasn't about product placement or how execrable "The Last Mimzy" was. Mimzy, like most movies and TV shows suffered from the "stereotype of running time." That is to say, "this is a movie and therefore it should run about this long." Or "this is a TV show and therefore it should run this long." Unfortunately, many stories need a lot more than 90 minutes to unravel their plots and characters. By the same token, many films need only a few minutes. I suspect "Norbit" might have been better as a five minute YouTube clip. We'll watch as long as we're entertained and engrossed.

While lately TV shows have become serialized in their approach to storytelling ("Heroes," "24," "Lost," etc.), they're still missing the point. TV shows like these run as long as the network can suck money from them. Most of today's serial shows have a central mystery and this lack of a known run length must drive writers crazy. Will it end this year, next year, or five years from now? How much filler do we need to add? How much can we flatten this story arc? Alias seemed to suffer from this. The first two seasons hinged on discovering a lost artifact. When they found the lost artifact there was really nowhere to go except off the air. "Lost" is a good show but it's heavily padded. Some scenes just lay there, bereft of plot or meaning, but they help stretch the series out.

The last example I'll share is local TV News. Some nights there is truly not enough news to fill the 30 minutes. This means we get fluff stories about colorful senior citizens and pets that can sing. How about we make a rule that local TV news is as long as it has to be. No more real news 15 minutes into the broadcast? Well, then sign off and let's move on to the next thing.

Zillow Real Estate Wiki: Why We Need Editors

The Zillow Real Estate Wiki is a good idea. But it's also an example of why a wiki might work best in a closed system. Zillow's intent is to create a comprehensive resource for home buyers by letting everyone contribute, but the result is more like a combination resource guide/marketing tool/crap sandbox. They need professional, dedicated editors.

Looking through the A-Z list there are many entries that are simply place names, for instance "Illinois." Click on it and at present you get nothing. I'm not sure what I'd expect to find by clicking on "Illinois" but I would expect to find something. Someone obviously created an entry and then got bored or wasn't sure what to do next.

Another entry is called "Az Realtor." As you might guess, some realtor in Arizona decided to get some free marketing. Very altruistic of them.

So while I am a fan of wikis in general, I am also a fan of good editing and content approval. Wikipedia has a strong editorial component, which I've encountered when attempting to change my company's listing. It was annoying, but I ultimately respected the fact that the editor wanted to make sure everything was kosher. Zillow needs that kind of editorial commitment and then the might have something.

Sad, Disgusting, and Intolerable

I have been reading Kathy Sierra's "Creating Passionate Users" blog for a while now and have always enjoyed their unique and insightful content. Recently Kathy was threatened by some people who I hope are simply harmless, immature, misogynistic losers who think they're being funny (they're not). Needless to say the anonymity of the Web allows them to remain unknown and to this point, unfound.

In the meantime Kathy has understandably cancelled speaking engagements and remained locked in her home since there's no way for her to know how real these threats against her are. You can read the whole story on her blog, which has (hopefully) temporarily been put on hold.

I hope these idiots are found and charged appropriately for threatening Kathy's life. This kind of behavior should never be tolerated.

Warren G. Harding Invented the Internet: The 20 Greatest Historical Myths

An interesting list of The 20 Greatest Historical Myths. My favorite:

Edison invented the electric light
Thomas Edison is known as the world's greatest inventor. His record output - 1,093 patents - still amazes us, over a century later. Astonishing, except for one thing: he didn't invent most of them. Most Edison inventions were the work of his unsung technicians - and his most famous invention, the electric light, didn't even belong to his laboratory. Four decades before Edison was born, English scientist Sir Humphry Davy invented arc lighting (using a carbon filament). For many years, numerous innovators would improve on Davy's model. The only problem: none could glow for more than twelve hours before the filament broke. The achievement of Edison's lab was to find the right filament that would burn for days on end. A major achievement, but not the first.

If you want to see Edison in an even worse light, see the excellent movie, "The Prestige" in which Edison acts as the film's heavy.

The 20 Greatest Historical Myths

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What's Better than Cleaning up Dog Poop? Cleaning up Fake Dog Poop!

I admit I'm a bit out of touch in the world of dolls, but I just saw a commercial for a doll that has me at a bit of a loss. Apparently it's a Barbie product from Mattel that's been out for a while called "Barbie Doll with Tanner the Dog." Tanner is a a cheerful little pup who Barbie has to take care of.

Now, I will set aside the banality of playing with a toy that is responsible for another toy for a moment so I can address an even more ridiculous scenario. You feed Tanner pellets and then when you press down on Tanner's tail, he poops. That's right, he poops and then Barbie has to clean it up.

Admittedly I'm not a pet owner and probably never will be because I think it's silly. Part of the reason I think it's silly is that people claim to own pets and then walk around cleaning up their excrement. I don't see that as ownership so much as a really lousy part-time job. To design a toy based on this notion may be the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.

See this brilliant feat of engineering in action below:

Tracking Buzz Around the World

Buzztracker has been around for a while, developed originally in 2002 by Craig Mod, but I just discovered it through the Yahoo! Buzztracker widget. The goal of the site is to show the interconnectedness of news from around the world. It's a pretty simple concept that's very nicely executed (abridged from the the About):

"Buzztracker consists of two types of pages. Daily Indexes and Individual Location Indexes. On the daily index page, you see a list of cities with percentages next to them. The number represents the percentage of news stories that city is associated with for that day.

Locations that appear more often are represented by red circles on the map. The more frequently the cities appear, the larger the circle. Connections between locations are determined by intercontextual referencing in news articles. These connections are represented by lines between locations. The stronger the connection, the darker the line."

Just go check it out. It's cool.


Beer Launcher: Ugly and Accurate, Like Randy Johnson

While I think the beer launcher created by a Duke University engineering student is well-designed and pretty cool, I have to assume the final product will be a little more attractive. This thing wouldn't look appropriate anywhere but in a Duke University engineering student's dorm.

Also, I think he might want to add a laser site to it since though it may be accurate once it's aimed properly, the trial and error required for aiming it might get messy and, potentially kill a pet. Watch it in action here:

Unrelated to the beer launcher, perhaps I just hadn't noticed, but Metacafe inserts two ad links after a video ends. I think that's a good strategy, but A) the links should be relevant to the video just played b) if they don't already, they should offer the video producer ad space there, and c) they should include space for the "Replay Video" link within the video space as well as "Related Videos."

I also think it's a great idea to show how much the video producer has earned by posting their video. What a great incentive to get others to post quality content instead of the stupid crap.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

TechCrunch Compares Article Link Ranking Sites

Great comparison of the article link ranking sites. Such a seemingly simple concept has spawned so many sites. TechCrunch points out the key differences under the auspices of how Digg can improve itself. I think the real result will instead be these alternative sites getting a lot more traffic.

Toward a Better Digg

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sustainable is Good : Makers of Splenda buy Hundreds of Negative Domain Names

I knew I should have bought!

Sustainable is Good : Makers of Splenda buy Hundreds of Negative Domain Names

Inviting Metrics to Someone Else's Party

Have you ever brought along an uninvited guest to a party? Maybe he's a great guy who will be a real asset to the festivities and frankly the last few of these parties you've been to have needed the help. Or maybe you just didn't know it was invite-only. When the host admonishes you for being so thoughtless and rude, who tends to look bad, you or the petulant host?

This is sometimes how it feels to bring Web and email metrics to people in your company. They didn't ask for them, they don't want them, and, frankly you're a little rude for bringing them up. Things are going fine in their division and they only invited you to the meeting because they have some more "great ideas" for the Web. But you showed up with metrics and a few questions about their business goals and they don't appreciate it.

A common misconception among business people who have Web property is that Web Analysts are out to get them and take away their Web activities and, sometimes, some of their budget. What Web Analysts are out to get is the truth about Web activity. If the truth leads to initiatives being cut back or eliminated, it's not because the Web Analyst was out to get someone, it's because the initiative was a failure and no one had noticed yet.

However often the initiative simply needs some help and focus to get back on track. Perhaps the audience has shifted. In the case of content sites, perhaps the writing has gotten away from its sweet spot. Whatever the reason, analytics and testing can only help.

Why I Don't Wear a Watch

As I passed the Garmin store on Michigan Avenue this morning a window display for their new Forerunner 205 watch caught my eye. It's a sleek but bulky watch for runners that monitors heart rate and tracks your route with GPS among other exercise-related things. I had seen a positive review of it in Wired Magazine which praised the features but gave it a little ding on the bulk factor. Overall it seems like a pretty nifty watch which I have no intention of ever buying.

I started thinking about the fact that I haven't worn a watch in over a decade and when I did I didn't really like it. I didn't feel it was worth the annoyance of having something strapped to my wrist when there are already so many clocks around. I, like many people, use my mobile phone, currently a Cingular 8125, to tell time. Someone asks if I have the time and I reach into my coat or pants pocket, fish out my phone, turn on the screen, and tell them the time. Of course by then they've probably asked someone else who's wearing a watch.

Every now and then, like this morning, I check out the latest in watch technology and each time I invariably I come to the same conclusion: Watches never do enough. I realize this is insane. A watch is supposed to tell time. But whenever I look at a watch online or in a store I feel like simply telling the time is a waste of technology. Sure you can buy watches that give news headlines or scores, but that requires a monthly fee. And usually they look kind of hard to read and interact with. This Garmin Forerunner watch does all kinds of things but it's limited to fitness. What about when I'm not exercising? Then it's just a little clock again.

I like the idea of a Web-enabled watch but, like I said I don't want another monthly fee. A wi-fi watch would only be helpful when you were near a connection and there just aren't enough free wi-fi spots. Maybe a bluetooth watch that could use your mobile phone's signal. Hmmm. Of course the interface would have to be really good for a screen that size and they almost never are. Usually data watches have big low-resolution icons and fonts, horrible for reading anything more than a phone number, much less a news headline.

Anyway I've decided that in order to get all the functionality I want in a slick, stylish package I will have to do something I never do. I will have to beg Apple. Please release an iWatch. Sigh.