Friday, October 30, 2009

Culture Lesson: Juggalo

A juggalo is a fan of, or fanatic, "hip-hop" group Insane Clown Posse (who probably deserve an entry of their own; please note the deliberate use of quotation marks, as I would never want to taint my beloved hip-hop with the likes of ICP).

Abbreviated by their fans as ICP, Insane Clown Posse is a two person group from Detroit. The members are dressed like "evil clowns."

The history of the term, gleefully taken from Wikipedia:
The term originated during a live performance by Insane Clown Posse. During the song "The Juggla", Joseph Bruce addressed the audience as Juggalos, and the positive response resulted in Bruce and Joseph Utsler using the word thereafter to refer to themselves and their friends, family, and fans, including other Psychopathic Records artists.[2] Juggalos have compared themselves to a family.[3][4] Common characteristics include drinking the inexpensive soft drink Faygo, wearing face paint[3], and displaying the 'running hatchetman' logo. They view the lyrics of Psychopathic Records artists, which are often violent in nature, as a catharsis and/or inspiration for aggression.[5][6] Several well known figures have identified themselves as Juggalos. These include actor Kane Hodder,[7] professional wrestlers Kazushige Nosawa[8] and Vampiro,[9] and rappers Chuck D,[10] MURS, [11] Jett Travolta and Vanilla Ice.[12]
ICP has, perhaps diplomatically, refrained from defining what makes a juggalo, stating money spent, Faygo consumed, or lyrics memorized can not count, or discount a fan.

Media outlets, on the other hand, have happily taken the issue to task. Juggalos are popularly considered extremely devoted, devoting funds to ICP merchandise. (If you find this questionable, your local Hot Topic has the group's logo imprinted on a wide variety of items. Flash? Wallet? Underwear? Lunchbox? Fleece blanket? Check, check, check, check, check!) They're also generally thought of as dumb and overweight. (Spin referred to juggalos as overweight suburbanites in 1998.)

My favorite description is from Rob Dobi's Your Scene Sucks:

are you “down with the clown”? his taste in music is about as painful to listen to as it is to get powerbombed off a bus by mike awesome (youtube it!), but the poor juggalo is too deluded to realize it.

he blindly follows two middle-aged, talentless hacks who like to play dress up- so he follows suit! buying into a merchandise empire bigger and more self-indulgent than that of hannah montana, the sad clown mindlessly purchases whatever icp sells… keychains, faygo soda, flags, purses, lighters, and athletic gear that will never be put to use. with his facepaint, lice-ridden goatee, coolio haircut, and outdated jnco jeans, the juggalo often finds employment at gas stations and carnivals.

he spends his minimum wages without a second thought at the annual gathering of the juggalos. this is the only place he can find true happiness amongst his brethren, whether it be at a psychopathic records concert lineup or a jcw wrestling event. just watch out for the broken light tubes and barbed wire.
It's mean, but sort of true. I mean, I wouldn't make eye contact with someone who appreciated a group known for its violent misogyny and homophobia.

Additional Resources:
Juggalo Wikipedia article
Juggalo Clown, Your Scene Sucks
Misogynist Clowns Wreak Havoc in Heartland, The Bygone Bureau
Four alleged juggalos to face trial in fatal beating, The Morning Call

The Insane Clown Posse Posse Why we can't get enough of Juggalo/Juggalette culture, Baltimore City Paper, Dec. 2, 2009. Michael Byrne covers a lot of ground here, including profit ($10 mil), links to Christianity, and head-scratching popularity. He also notes that a paper won't review an album, but will review a show.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Technology + Culture Lesson: NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, is a NaNoWriMo-like blogging marathon in the month of November.

Founded by Eden "Mrs." Kennedy, NaBloPoMo is a "goof" wherein the goal is to post every day in the month of November. I'll let Mrs. Kennedy explain, as taken from the FAQ page:
0. Why is this called National Blog Posting Month if it happens every month?

The whole thing started off as a goof based on National Novel Writing Month, the challenge of which is to try to write an entire novel during the month November. Not everyone can commit to an endeavor of such magnitude, though, and so National Blog Posting Month was born. However, after doing NaBlo for a couple of years in a row it seemed that a lot of people had found their momentum and wanted to keep going into December and beyond. So now NaBloPoMo is something you can drop into any month of the year, though November is still the biggest month, and is the only month when members donate prizes that are then given out randomly to other members who posted every day in November.
Anyone can join, and anyone can win the fabulous prizes.

For me, the benefit is unabashed daily blogging from my favorite bloggers. For bloggers, its participating in a fun, community-supported Internet "event," plus additional exposure. It's hard work, but definitely worth it

I want to fill up the archives, so count yourself lucky if you enjoy Lessons for Old People: This blog is joining! (I did it last year on my personal blog, too.)

Additional Resources:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Culture Lesson: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo ("Naah-No-Wree-Moe"): National Writing Month; thirty days of steadily writing one 75 page, 50,000 word novel and also dedicating one's whining to the singular topic and stress of completing the committed task.
(I kid about the whining. Maybe.) From November 1 through 30, committed professional and amateur writers commit their time to accomplishing the draft for one 75 page novel. Participants can sign up online and participate and network with other devotees while tracking the project's progress.

The idea is to write a novel and worry about edits later. Rather than agonize over worthiness of content and plot, writers must focus on flying over literary hurdles, trudging through plot points, and suffering to the very end of exposition. (I suppose the month of December is for proper editing, and January is for submitting.)

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
The history, as lifted without shame from Wikipedia:

Chris Baty started the project in July 1999 with 21 participants in the San Francisco Bay area. Since then, the event has been held in November "to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather."[1] 2000 was the first year NaNoWriMo had a website; participants joined a Yahoo! group in the absence of official forums. It was also the year that many of NaNoWriMo's ground rules were laid out, such as disallowing works in progress or co-authored books. 140 participants attempted the challenge, and 21 wrote 50,000 words.

Using the project to combat the onset of winter is actually a pretty good idea! By the way: There are prizes.

Naturally, the popularity of NaNoWriMo has given way to imitators. Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti reads a book over the course of the month, hosting a digital book club at his blog, and Eden (Mrs.) Kennedy at Fussy founded NaBloShoeMo (30 Days of Shoes) and NaBloPoMo, the NaNoWriMo of blogging. We'll talk about one of those tomorrow!

National Novel Writing Month starts Sunday, so get to it!

Additional Resources:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Culture Lesson: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

(The above clip is my favorite song and you can see Act I, in full, on Hulu here.)

As the Internet may, or may not, know, I have very very savvy parents. They are hip to technology! They do not jive to Dr. Phil's genderist ways! They are not swayed by Sarah Palin's folksy catchphrases! And they know how to fix things!

Unfortunately, they do not know about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and practically laughed me out of their home during dinner, post-Emmys, when I tried to explain that a project could be written and developed, filmed, edited, produced, and broadcast online for free, and result in a lucrative and critical success.

The three-episode Internet serial Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was just that: imagined, created, written, and developed during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America Strike. Maurissa Tancharoen's and Joss, Zack, and Jed Whedon's Web series was aired online, for free, in July 2008.

Whedon explained online:

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.

The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.

Each episode was approximately 14 minutes in length, and followed Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), a bumbling would-be, wanna be, villain over his quest to commit an evil deed to gain acceptance to the Evil League of Evil. If the plot sounds silly, it's because it is, but I thought it was also warm, fuzzy, and funny. And if it sounds nerdy, Joss Whedon is credited with creating Buff the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Serenity, and Dollhouse.

Whedon's regular standbys, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day also had lead roles as Horrible's nemesis, Captain Hammer, and love interest, respectively.

So the whole thing was streamed online, and since it was in the Internet, there wasn't any money to be had, right? Ha!

Self-funded with $200,000, Whedon had to wait to pay the cast and crew. But the following November, Whedon wrote that he had successfully paid the cast and crew, and Forbes reported this August that the series made $2.5 million. (So, Dad, it's no Transformers, but it's far from a flop.)

After airing the episodes online free for three days, viewers could purchase the episodes through iTunes for $4.99. Two weeks later, the episodes were available on Hulu for free, with advertisements. And finally, in December, the episodes were packaged in a DVD for $14.99 through Amazon. The DVDs sold so well that Dr. Horrible was the No. 2 seller in the first week of 2009, and the No. 1 selling musical. Naturally, the DVD had extras, including musical commentary, three easter eggs, and video entries from Evil League of Evil applicants.

So, the streaming joke from this year's Emmys makes more sense now, right? And you can concede you were wrong about making money from the Internet? It's not easy, but if the quality doesn't suck, maybe there's hope for both of the industries I have degrees in, right? (RIGHT?!)

Here's the clip from this year's Emmys, which Harris dutifully, and brilliantly, hosted:

Oh, and the series won an Emmy too. Plus a Hugo! And it was nominated for a Constellation award!

Additional Resources:
Offical Web site
IMDB entry
The Web Auteur, Forbes
Horrible Pirate Signal Interrupts The Emmys, Blast-O-Rama
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Wiki article

Monday, October 26, 2009

Technology + Culture Lesson: A Brief Overview of Social Networks

A social network is an online community where people can gather, communicate, network, and keep in touch. Two of the most well known communities are Facebook and MySpace. There are many networks on the Web today and they are wildly popular with both Young People and Old People.

Most communities follow the same structure. A user signs up, creates a profile, and adds friends and joins smaller communities. A person can add anyone he or she desires, and another user must confirm or deny his or her request. Many people use these communities to make new friends, find people with similar interests, and lurk persons of interest.

At some point, in my hope to explain and encourage my mother into joining the social networking scene with more vigor, I plan to post in-depth articles examining the specific details regarding social networking sites.

But first, a brief overview over what's out there.

Bebo – Founded in 2005, the name stands for "blog early, blog often." The service is available in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, New Zealand, and Australia. Bebo is owned by AOL, who purchased the site in 2008 for $850 million.

Facebook – Privately owned and launched in 2004, Facebook is one of the most notable networks today. The site was set to mirror the tangible campus facebook, and, initially, was only available to college students. Users were required to attend a school Facebook chose to add to its network (I remember waiting, desperately, for it to come to Towson University in fall '04) and needed to provide a campus e-mail, which then needed to be verified. Today the site is available to anyone. And Old People are on it! Hooray for Old People! A film is currently in development detailing the site's creation and subsequent explosion in popularity. Until then, check out Wikipedia for Facebook's long, boring history.

Friendster – Founded in 2002, Friendster is largely regarded as the original modern social network. In the U.S., Friendster has fallen out of favor in the wake of Facebook and MySpace's personality. That said, the service has expanded globally in the last year and continues to thrive. Friendster currently owns four patents related to its services. From VentureBeat:

The patent in question concerns the “compatibility scoring of users in a social network,” or a method for determining how similar social-network users are to each other (abstract below). San Francisco-based Friendster has apparently been granted these patents because it grew big before major rivals and offered many standard social networking features before them too. The previous three patents cover: how people are connected on a social network, the process of friends encouraging each other to upload content, and ways for users to manage social-network friendships.

LinkedIn –LinkedIn is like MySpace for career networking, but without teenage drama, n00dz, animated GIFs, and obscene comments. LinkedIn features a point/percentage system, encouraging its users to complete tasks to meet completion (uploading a photograph, filling in work information, adding friends, uploading resumes, and writing reviews for current and past colleagues). It's considered bad form to add everyone you know to your profile, which, oops, I did when I signed up. Unlike other sites, LinkedIn will show you who looked at your profile and other profiles visitors viewed in addition to yours. (Makes lurking hard!)

MakeOutClub – A hot bed of early ‘00s angst, the site was founded in 2000 to "form bands, start zines, find roommates and to submit user records, photographs and art to the site for everyone to see." The site has declined in popularity, in part to the implosion of newer networks, and possibly of jokes aimed solely at "emo kids."

MySpace – MySpace is Friendster, but more popular, and with young people. Or, that's how it started. Founded by Tom, a default buddy for new users, MySpace has imploded since its start in 2003. The site is especially popular with young people, and has, to my great sadness, founded the demise of band Web sites. MySpace hosts pages for music and other forms of media in addition to individuals. MySpace has fallen under criticism for its safety and appropriation of personal information. (See this section of Wikipedia for more.)

Twitter – Oh, please. We know what Twitter is at this blog! And if not, well, crap, next week's post are mostly Twitter How Tos.

XING – Founded in 2006 as Open Business Club, XING is a global network for professionals.

Additional Resources:
Facebook Wikipedia article
Friendster nabs fourth social-networking patent, dozen more pending, VentureBeat

Friday, October 23, 2009

Things You Can Do With Twitter

Following Tuesday's Reasons to Consider Twitter, I'd like to present all of the things you can do with Twitter:

Share photos – Send photos from your phone or media device without having to upload the file through TwitPic. If you have Twitter, you'll already have an account.

Share music – Talking about music? Provide a sample with (Just like TwitPic, if you have a Twitter account, you already have a account.)

Monitor Amazon BuyLater will e-mail and/or Tweet you when an item's price changes or is in stock.

Micromanage Your ResponsibilitiesRemember the Milk is a Web-based tool designed to manage tasks. The service is available through a GMail application and iPhone, and now it's on Twitter too. Using the tool's Twitter service, you can DM tasks for your ongoing, ever growing to do list. TwitterCal works the same way and syncs your messages with your Google Calendar.

Share Flickr Images and Video – Using Flickr's integration, or SnapTweet, share your Flickr work with your Twitter friends.

Update Your Facebook Status and Facebook Your Twitter Feed – Using the Twitter application on Facebook this tool integrates your status updates. You can also use HelloTxt and to update all of your networks at once.

Send Money – Using TwitPay, you can wire money.

Make Phone Calls – Use Phweet to phone your Twitter friends!

There's more, of course. Is there something you love to do with or through Twitter? Leave a comment!

Additional Resources:
Remember the Milk
Twitter your Flickr, Flickr Blog
Twitter on Facebook
The 100 Most Popular Twitter Applications, Blending the Mix
99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications, Smashing Magazine

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Technology Lesson: Emoticons

Emoticons have a history pre-dating the Internet, but it's the Internet's symbols that confuse Old People, so in the interest of ease, we'll focus on the emoticons a person may use and experience in an e-mail.

If these symbols look like a series of misused punctuation, tilt your head counterclockwise.

:) – happy
:D – happy, with full teeth
D: – displeasure
:( – unhappy
;) – winking
:p – sticking your tongue out, teasing
:/ – bored, or "ehhhhh"
:? – confused
:0 – surprise
:x – sealed lips, embarrassment
:-* – kiss
<3 – a heart

Please note that the parentheses is sometimes replaced with brackets ([, ], }, {) or the colon may be replaced by an equal sign, and many emoticons may use a dash for a nose. Here are some examples:


Additional Resources:
List of Emoticons Wikipedia article

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Safety Lesson: Locking Your Doors

This is an almost irrelevant lesson, but because listing the myriad of reasons why I obsessively lock the door behind me when I come home, I thought I would publicly post my reasons for future reference in hopes of staving off the merciless teasing.

I started to obsessively lock the front door behind me when I moved into my first apartment. Each apartment had its own independent entrance, and we were somewhat remove, but when I was alone I felt safer knowing any drunk attempts to stumble into the wrong apartment by my neighbors' guests would be unsuccessful. And before you laugh, it happened all the time. That won't happen to my parents' house, but that is not the point, oh my God, if you want to die in your sleep be my guest. Actually, that's not even true, because I don't want my stuff stolen. Please note, before you get up in arms, I admit to being "totally paranoid," and that I was in college from 2004 through 2008, which really enhanced my dire need for locked doors.

So I present to you, events that have scared me, perhaps irrationally even, into locking the door behind me.

November 15, 1959: Richard Hickcock and Perry Smith enter Herb Clutter's house in rural and remote Kansas, killing Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and his children Kenyon and Nancy. The murders will be novelized as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. In defense of my parents and naysayers, Hickcock and Smith were motivated by a false tip that Clutter kept a ton of cash in a safe, so they would have probably broken in anyway, having made a long drive to the home. He had neither. This is my single proof against the argument that it's "different" in the suburbs. (It's not.)

January 1978: Serial killer Richard Chase attempts to enter a home. Finding the door locked, he walks away. He enters another home through an unlocked door where he vandalizes the home. The homeowners return and chase him away. He enters yet another home on January 21, where he murders Theresa Wallin. And again, on Jaunary 27, he enters a home and kills Evelyn Miroth, Danny Meredith, Miroth's son Jason, and her nephew, David. When police finally catch Chase, he says he interprets unlocked doors as an invitation to enter, and locked doors as a sign that he is not welcome inside. How very polite.

April 17, 2004: Chris Elser, a Johns Hopkins University student, is stabbed and killed in a burglarly. The murderer entered through an unlocked door belonging to Elser's frat house.

January 1, 2006: The Harvey Family is murdered in their home, in Richmond, Va. at the hands of Ray Joseph Dandridge and Ricky Javon Gray during a vicious crime spree. Investigators think an unlocked front door was a contributing factor to the crime. Dandridge and Gray's spree include Treva Terrell Gray, Gray's wife, who was found murdered on November 5, 2005, and the Basker-Tuckerville family: Percyell Tucker, Mary Baskerville-Tucker, and suspected Harvey family accomplice Ashley Baskerville. Baskerville was Gray's girlfriend.

July 30, 2007: An April 2009 article from The L.A. Times:

Adam Leroy Lane, parked his rig in a suburban Boston neighborhood and slipped through an unlocked door into the home of Kevin and Jeannie McDonough.

The McDonoughs were lying in bed when they heard a whimper from the adjacent bedroom where their 15-year-old daughter, Shea, had been sleeping. They went to see what was wrong and found a masked figure holding a knife to their daughter's throat. Kevin McDonough, a slight but muscular utility contractor, grabbed the intruder, applied a chokehold and wrestled him to the floor. His wife grabbed the knife.

When police arrived, they discovered Lane was armed with three knives, a length of wire and a martial arts throwing star. In the cab of his truck was a DVD titled "Hunting Humans," about a serial killer.
January 2008–? A man, known colloquially (and nauseatingly) as "The Georgetown Cuddler" enters the rooms of women, often through unlocked doors, climbs into their beds, and sexually assaults them.

January 20, 2008: Brianna Denison is abducted from a friend's apartment. Denison's body was found February 16, 2008 and serial rapist James Michael Biela was arrested the following November. Investigators found Denison's blood on a pillow in the apartment where she had been sleeping, and also found that a sliding glass door was unlocked. Biela is currently awaiting trial.

September 29, 2009: From Mountain View Voice: "Early Tuesday morning a 37-year-old woman was awakened from her sleep by a burglar who proceeded to restrain her before robbing her home."

October 9, 2009: George Washington University police arrest a male student suspected of sexually assaulting female students. After getting access to the building from another student, he entered dorm rooms through unlocked doors. I'll be honest: I forgot to lock my dorm room door in college more than once.

October 11, 2009: A man enters by way of an unlocked door and steals "numerous items including textbooks, musical equipment and electronics" in St. Cloud, Minn.

October 14, 2009: Dominique Parrott, 13, is arrested. Parrott is suspected of robbing apartments. He gained access through unlocked windows.

In your defense: 1) Serial killer Richard Ramirez unlocked doors to enter them, and was undone when he hopped into an unlocked Ford Mustang. Owner Faustino Pinon was under the car (!) but managed to stand up, reached through the window, and grab Ramirez around the neck (!). The struggle led to a pursuit and eventual capture. 2) People break into homes all the time! 3) The doors in Elizabeth Smart's home were all locked. 4) You're more likely to be harmed by someone you know!

Note: I found a lot of crazy, hateful, racist Web sites devoted to "following" crime committed by non-white people. If you link to any of those sites in the comments I will delete your comment. I don't think you will, of course, but it's always good to put that out there, right?

Additional Resources:
2006 Richmond spree murders Wikipedia article

Richard Chase Wikipedia article
Hopkins Community Grieves Student Murder, Johns Hopkins Magazine
FBI makes a connection between long-haul truckers, serial killings, The L.A. Times
Georgetown "Cuddler" Does More Than Cuddle, The Sexist
Burglar enters through unlocked door
, St. Cloud Times
Murder of Brianna Denison Wikipedia article
Kidnapped While She Slept
, People
Unlocked door lets burglar in, Mountain View Voice
Downtown Manhattan Pillaged By Pint-Sized Perps, Gothamist
G.W. Catches Dorm Sexual Assailant Suspect, The Sexist

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reasons to Consider Twitter

Twitter is a touchy subject. I love it and think the service is great, but I find I'm often presented with people violently opposed to a service they have never tried. My mom Tweets, but I'd like to see her Tweet more, and I knew when I started Lessons for Old People that Twitter was something I would need to cover extensively. But with the anti-Twitter people out there, I thought diving into the topic was something I would do slowly. So today we'll just dip our toe slowly.
  1. There are Old People on it. I know this seems odd—studies have found Twitter is becoming wildly popular with the young people—there are a lot of Twitter users over 55. but of the demographics available to me (young college students, young professionals, adults, Old People) my audience and followers are overwhelmingly Old People, despite drawing friends from college students and young professionals. Resistant Old People will find that they are not alone.
  2. It's easy to use. You can post through Twitter's home page, your cellphone or PDA, iTouch/iPhone, desktop, and a variety of plug-ins for your Web browser.
  3. Some 140 character updates are worth knowing. You know that friend you look forward to talking to at cocktail parties? He always has something great to share: a new Web site he found on the Internet, a witty quip regarding current events, a great comeback for just about anything. And you know that lifelong friend who sends the best Christmas letters? They're on Twitter! And they're just as engaging in 140 characters as they are by letter and in person.
  4. You can follow anyone without letting them follow you. Unlike most social networking sites, you can choose who can read what you Tweet when you protect your updates. So if you protect your Tweets, and you want to follow someone without allowing them to follow you, you can!
  5. You're savvy. Follow me on this one. Not only are you "one fascinating SOB," you're an Old Person capable of learning new things. And you're yearning to show your family and friends how brilliant you are. How great would it be to revel in the glory of everyone's attention when you sign up for an account and add your beloved friends and family? That's the last time your family calls you Prehistoric at the annual holiday meal.
  6. The Mormon Church is not a fan. The link explains the controversy, but is there anything more exciting than breaking Church doctrine while maintaining a standard of morals?
  7. Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers have also been forbidden to Tweet! In this way it's something you can do that they can't!
If you're interested in following me, I tweet under @parapluiesdoux.

Post-Script: After writing this post for future publication, I read Neil Gaiman's (@neilhimself) tweets (1, 2, 3), wherein he drunkenly shares loving good nights to his two daughters and girlfriend. His play-by-play of too much to eat and too much to drink makes me think I should campaign harder for both parents to join Twitter. Not because my father would have drunken revelry to share, but because hilarious things could still come. Help me, Internet! My father is armed with a dangerous, hilarious dry wit.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vocabulary Lesson: Web Jargon and Internet Slang (Abbreviations)

The Web has given way to a short-handed language. A language of abbreviations and capital letters to express emotions, thoughts, and feelings. In this world of abbreviated communication, what do they mean?

Here's a list of acronyms and abbreviations:

AFK Away From Keyboard (This is more common in chat and gameplay.)
B/C Because
BBL Be Back Later
BFN Bye For Now
BRB Be Right Back
DWT Driving While Texting
FWIW For What It's Worth
GTFO Get The [Expletive] Out
GTH Go To Hell
IAWTC I Agree With This Comment
ICWYDT, OICWYDT Oh, I See What You Did There
IDK I Don't Know
IKWYM I Know What You Mean
ILY I Love You
IM Instant Message
IMHO In My Humble Opinion
J/K, JK Just Kidding
JSYK Just So You Know
LMAO Laugh My Ass Off
LOL Laugh Out Loud
NM Nothing Much
NP No Problem
NSFW Not Safe For Work
Oh My God
OP Original Poster
O RLY Oh, Really? (This is often accompanied by a photograph of a Snowy Owl.)
OT Off Topic
PLS, PLZ Please
POS Piece of [Expletive]
PPL People
QT Cutie
ROFL Rolling On the Floor Laughing
STFU Shut The [Expletive] Up
TBH To Be Honest
TIA Thanks In Advance
, THNX Thanks
TOS Terms Of Service
TTYL Talk To You Later
TTFN Ta Ta For Now
W/E Whatever
WTF What The [Expletive]
WYSIWYG What You See Is What You Get

Additional Resources:
Internet Slang wiki article
25 Slang Terms Parents Should Know, (I thought the list was both hilarious and informative!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Culture Lesson: Chopsticks Etiquette

Friends, family, strangers, I have a secret: I'm a snob regarding chopsticks etiquette. I'm not Miss Manners, but when I'm done with you, you'll (hopefully) never rub your chopsticks ever again. And if you do—and my goodness you had better not—I take every right to tell you to knock it off.

Chopsticks are a funny thing to Westerners. For Asian countries, chopsticks are utensils, and no matter where you're using them, that is how they should be treated. You wouldn't commit these faux pas with a fork, knife, or spoon, and a pair of chopsticks is off limits too.

With that reminder, let's get to a bulleted list of faux pas and general advice.

General Use
Most of these notes are because the actions are considered crass, insensitive, and rude. Before you start, ask yourself if you would do with this another utensil of object at home or in another restaurant. Please note that some rules vary by country and/or region, and that this is a general guide.

  • The chopsticks you receive in the restaurant are probably wood. Chopsticks may be made out of a more durable material, such as bone, bamboo, or plastic. If your pair is wood, pull the chopsticks apart carefully. Do NOT treat the chopsticks like a wish bone. If you bungle your pull-apart, politely ask for a new pair.

  • Do NOT rub the chopsticks together. Do not point, drum on the table, impersonate a walrus, or otherwise abuse the chopsticks in any "comical" way.

  • Do NOT deliberately chew or bite your chopsticks.

  • Do NOT stab or impale your food.

  • Do NOT stick your chopsticks in your food, plate, or bowl upright. (The chopsticks now resemble funeral rites.)

  • When reaching for food from a communal bowl or plate, DO use the opposite ends of your chopsticks to obtain the food. It's bad etiquette to let the saliva end of your chopsticks to touch or engage in activity with something that will be eaten by someone else. And Buddhist ceremonies transfer bones from narrow end to narrow end. (Sometimes serving chopsticks are provided. These are a different color to distinguish their purpose.)

  • DO take food from the top.

  • DO rest your chopsticks appropriately:

  • If the restaurant does not provide the utensils you are accustomed to, and you feel uncomfortable with chop sticks, politely inquire if you may have a fork.
  • Just Hungry notes that many cultures consider left-handed eating to be very rude. I'm left-handed and though flexible, more apt to drop and spill using my right I'll happily give you a pass here and hope that in America at least, other diners will too. (I promise to eat at a snail's pace abroad. Friends, let the shame begin in the comments.)

Chopsticks and Sushi

Please refer to the gorgeous illustration above from the September 2005 issue of Food & Wine, reprinted without permission from publication, publisher, or illustrator Peter Arkle. Please note the rule regarding mixing wasabi and soy sauce. Please, if you must be so uncouth, paint the two on your sushi with ginger or gently dip your sushi in the condiments.

Have any questions? Leave a comment. Feel lost? Let's go get sushi!

Update: Washington Post Magazine had a great graphic in its Dec. 6 issue. Have a look@

Additional Resources:
Sushi in America, Food & Wine (September 2005)
Sushi Bar Tutorial & Etiquette, Sushi Secrets
Your guide to better chopstick etiquette (mostly Japanese), Just Hungry (When I read Maki's post last January I cheered!)
The Breakdown: Sushi Secrets, Washington Post Magazine

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Technology Lesson: Web Aggregators

Aggregate (ag.gre.gate): adj. total — n. a mass of distinct things gathered together, total; total — vt. 1. to gather into a mass. 2. amount to; total (Webster's New World Dictionary, 1977)
Example: Aggregate your belongings, young lady!

So what does that mean on the Internet? Well, in some ways, that's what the Internet does. It brings a group of like items together. Some people browse the Web relying, solely, on aggregators.

And what sites may aggregate like items? Google News, TweetDeck, Hype Machine (to a lesser extent), and Google Reader are examples, while some site may choose to aggregate data to its site. Google News pulls headlines and news articles to its page, separated by genre, while Hype Machine pulls entries and MP3s to its site so that users may use the site as a "one-stop shopping" resource. (This blog and this author does not authorize downloading.) TweetDeck pulls your Twitter feed and direct messages, plus any tweets that mention your name from Twitter's arsenal of tweets. And Google Reader collates and presents blog posts by aggregating RSS feeds.

And if you're scratching your head over the combined confusion of pairing "RSS feeds" with "aggregate," Unclutterer explains:
RSS is an abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication. It is a useful way for internet users to compile loads of information all in one place.

The advantage of using RSS feeds is that they are updated in real time so you know when a site you regularly visit is updated with new content. If you find yourself visiting the same sites over and over again, you may want to add those sites to your RSS aggregator. An RSS aggregator is an online tool that keeps track of all of the websites that you want to read.

This is how I explained it to my mom, “An RSS feed aggregator is kind of like an email inbox for your favorite websites. When a website you’d like to follow is updated, you receive a notice in your ‘inbox.’”

So how do you go about tracking your favorite sites via RSS feeds? Well, step one is to choose an RSS feed reader.
Here is a screencap of my Reader:

You can see my categories on the left and the posts on the right. See how it looks like an inbox?

Don't worry, in due time, RSS will be explained in its own post.

But don't you feel better now that you understand aggregating and the Web?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Technology Lesson: Using the Internet to Find Things

My mom and I saw Whip It last week. (It was great! I "reviewed" it on my personal blog here.) My mom loved a song performed in the credits, and after her two-day estimate searching for the song online, she put me to task. In less than 20 minutes I found the song and purchased it for her iPod.

I thought I would walk through the process that led me to the song, which, was not part of the Whip It soundtrack or listed on the movie's Web site or Wikipedia article when I performed the search. (It's in the Wikipedia article now, much to my exasperation.)

An Internet search should be easy. It usually is! But because a swift, successful Internet search is part of my career, and my position as your humble author, I tend forget that things are often more complicated. Not this thing, oh my, no way.

OK! Let's do this!

The first, logical step, is to look at the soundtrack online. The above screenshot is of the soundtrack in iTunes (and playing the first song, "Pot Kettle Black" by Tilly and the Wall), but Amazon is OK too. Having located the soundtrack, listen to the provided samples of the songs to see if the song is on the soundtrack. Unfortunately, the song is not part of the soundtrack.

After this I checked Wikipedia to see if anything was available. I don't necessarily recommend Wikipedia as a fail-safe resource for Old People. (This is a big topic I hope to cover soon.)

The next step was searching for the song using Google. (Any search engine will do.) You can see I typed "whip it" end credits, using quotes around the film's title to narrow the search to whip it+end+credits instead of whip+it+end+credits.

The first result is a review from Variety. You can see text from the article beneath the link. The bold text indicates my search terms. The text indicates the end credits discussion is about the the visual imagery during the end credits.

The second result is an article from Movie Moron. The text here mentions a song in the end credits. The information provided is worth a click, and the article certain promises good news! The post is about the music used in the film! The post itself doesn't discuss the credits, but the comments do:
(Note: The above image is a composite of two screen shots. I was working on a tiny monitor.)
Poster DoubleD asks, "Who sings the song 28 at the end of the movie when they are showing the credits?" And two days later Karyn wrote, "Lorene Scafaria sings the song 28 whcih is featured in the end credits."

Scafaria is a screenwriter, actress, and singer who wrote an album during the Writer's Guild of America Strike.

That sounds promising! Let's look up Lorene Scafaria on iTunes (or similar service).

Wow. What a bummer. Let's try an Internet search:
That's better! The first result is Scafaria's IMDB page. The next is her Wikipedia page. But neither will ultimately provide music. Maybe she has a MySpace page with her music on it?

Perhaps she does!

And here is Scafaria's MySpace page. Note that the song "28" is playing on the right, and her quote, on the left, to the right of her photograph notes the use of "28" in Whip It.

Let's scroll through her page to see if Scafaria has any links to a store. Oh, look! She does, above to the left. Here's what happens if you click the grey iTunes icon:

Oh my! That's the song you heard on Scafaria's MySpace page, which was, indeed, the song in question! Now the power to purchase the song is in your hands!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Technology Lesson: Backing Up Your Blog(s)

Jeffrey Rowland, the mastermind behind webcomics (and novelizations thereof) Wigu and Overcompensating, and merchandise company TopatoCo lost his LiveJournal this weekend. He disseminated the news that his account had been hacked through a volley of tweets (@wigu, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Poor Jeffrey! If you're worried about years—or a handful of entries—disappearing into oblivion, it might be a good idea to back up your work. (This is something I worry about a lot, and a topic I expect to return with frequency. Nothing lobs me into a panic like imagining my life's work (35 mm film, mostly) obliterated forever.) You should protected you work if not because of malicious password theft, but for sudden server crashes, weather-based tragedies, a few misguided keystrokes, or a host's sudden goodbye.

After a Lifehacker column last January pointed out the virtues of backing up your work, I set out to back up my own blogs. (I did it that day, because of, or in spite of a long, housebound winter.) I think you should do the same, and here's how:

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)
Admittedly not a blog, AIM will log you conversations for you. I've been doing this since middle school, with the fear of Mean Girls activity. I'm glad I still do because I've accidentally closed IM windows or suffered a sudden at-work crash and found myself with directions, addresses, or crucial information I'm too embarrassed to ask for again. (What time was that party again?)

To log conversations amend your Settings. In the new AIM client for Windows, click EDIT in your buddy list and choose SETTINGS. Or right click SETTINGS from the toolbar.

Click IM ARCHIVES, the fifth option in the left sidebar. Check ARCHIVE IMS (and ARCHIVE CHAT if you feel inclined). The space below will choose a default folder for IM logging on your hard drive. If you want to set your logging to an external drive or another location, click BROWSE… and choose a location to save your IMs. Click SAVE when you're done.

You can export your whole blog (whole! blog!) as an .xml file to your computer to restore the files in the future (or to another blog). Blogger Help has the instructions here. (The export will not include photographs or widgets.)

See FAQ #8, How do I download all of my journal entries? I admit to backing up my journal from high school plus the first half of college, and my journal from the second half of college through last summer. Yes. I had a LiveJournal. I also confess to saving each web page (File < Save Page As…) for both entries. (Did I mention that last January I was on long-term disability and had a lot of time on my hands? I usually had the energy to do little more than watch TV, but one day I did it.) I'm also in the process of printing each page, but that's a little slow since it takes so much time and paper. I'm maybe halfway through journal one, and like any good teenager, I posted at least once a day.

I don't use Tumblr, and was surprised when I didn't find any support for backing up files, since the platform is supposed to be easy and user-friendly. The best I could get out of Tumble was this:

Can I import an archive file of old posts from another blogging platform to my Tumblr blog? Can I export my Tumblr blog posts to a file?

Tumblr doesn't have the ability to import or export blog archives at this time. You can import posts that are two days old and newer from other blog platforms using the Services tab on the Customize page.

Not what I'd call encouraging. (Personally, I don't think you should use Tumblr, and this reaffirms my belief.)

TypePad has articles to help you back up your blog. See Exporting Your Weblog Content and Backing Up Your Content.

Start here:

Your WordPress database contains every post, every comment and every link you have on your blog. If your database gets erased or corrupted, you stand to lose everything you have written. There are many reasons why this could happen and not all are things you can control. But what you can do is back up your data. After all, it is important. Right?

Right! From there, WordPress guides you through backing up your site and your database.

Other Hot Tips

  • LJBook and BlogBooker will convert your LJ or WordPress into a PDF for you. The service is free.

  • Always back up your backups. My external hard drive crashed this year and I almost lost everything, apropos of nothing. (It was saved by my brother-in-law.) It's a good idea to burn your work to CDs and DVDs, which seem unstylish (MacBook Air has zero optical support) but they last a long time. The Library of Congress used to (and may still) back up its files to compact disc!

  • It doesn't hurt to store your second back up in an offsite location. For example, I store my negatives, sensitive photographic prints, and hard drive(s) in a fireproof, waterproof safe. In theory, I should have another backup in a friend or family member's home. (I had a professor who kept his work in his office, at home, and offsite in a friend's home. He lost his work in a fire and had to retrieve the third back up!)

  • Apple released Time Machine in October 2007 with its release for OS X 10.5. The program saves back ups so you can restore your files later. Time Machine will save new files over old files (name.doc saved on September 30 will be overwritten by name.doc saved on October 1). The program is so ridiculously easy that it makes me wary.

  • If you use a full RSS, and subscribe to your own feeds, you can recover the files through your RSS reader. It's not perfect, but it's a decent last ditch effort. (Lifehacker recommended this for tweets too.) Here's a screenshot I took of Rowland's LiveJournal in my Google Reader:

  • Consider printing and archiving your work. If you save your work as you go, you'll have copies and drafts without having to back up your work. A paper back up isn't easy to restore digitally, but you'd hold onto your print copy, wouldn't you? I like to fantasize about having my angst-fueled missives bound into volumes. (I'm actually thinking of putting together a book on Blurb as a “best of” for the zine, but it seems a little self-absorbed.) But if you have your love letters and important documents on file, shouldn't the digital-only version gets a space on your bookshelf and in your file cabinet too? (Mom, are you getting the point?)
Additional Resources:
HOW TO: Back Up Your Tweets, Mashable

Friday, October 9, 2009

Culture Lesson: Nobel Prize Qualifications

Asher Roths of the world, are you confused regarding today's news and questioning President Barack Obama's right to the Nobel Peace Prize? Good news for you! The AP has taken your doubts to task with "Common misconceptions about the Nobel Peace Prize", which includes the following (via Feministe):

_ Myth: The prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights and democracy only after they have proven successful.

More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.

Note that should the U.S. fall into war and destruction, the Prize can be revoked.

Asher Roth, often the center of my ire* tweeted, "Didn't know you could win the peace prize by just talking shit..." Except, it turns out, you can! So remember, Asher Roths of the world, knowledge is power!

(Special thanks to @jsmooth995, swoon-worthy Jay Smooth, for taking the jerk to task.)

*My mother has no idea who Asher Roth is, other than "a person who is mentioned only between gritted teeth," so I guess some lessons in hip hop and gender are forthcoming.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Culture Lesson: The Streisand Effect

Named for, and inspired by, superstar Barbara Streisand, the Streisand Effect is what happens to jerks when they throw a fit over fair publication, demand removal, and find a hearty backlash on the Internet.

Streisand's inspiring uproar was over the 2003 publication of her California home. (Streisand, an intensely private woman, felt that her privacy had been violated.) Streisand's home was one of thousands. She sued photographer Kenneth Adelman, and Web site Pictopia, for $50 million.

The combined result of curiosity and generic outrage resulted in a swift distribution of the photograph. Streisand's case was dismissed. Oops?

The Internet is picky and sensitive, and doesn't like to be told what to do. Today, such retaliation is common in the no-holds-barred digital world. Here are some examples, including the one that inspired this post:

  • Nikki Catsouras died in a horrific car accident in 2006. Two California Highway Patrol officers photographed the scene and e-mailed the photographs, which were soon posted on various Web sites. Naturally, the family fought the state, and the Internet, motivated by grief and the fear that Catsouras' three sisters would stumble on the photographs. The state offered a weak apology, but did not side with the family. This is the one example (I can think of) where I don't side with the Internet. DO. NOT. SEARCH. FOR. THESE. PHOTOS. (You'll wish you didn't.)

  • In 2008, the Church of Scientology demanded the deletion and removal of a video of a manic Tom Cruise discussing Scientology. This did not go well. Gawker posted the video and refused to remove the video after receiving a cease and desist letter. Many Web sites—including news organizations—posted the full video. The Church of Scientology was not successful in its petition to remove the video.

  • Ralph Lauren threatened Web sites Boing Boing and Photoshop Disasters this week with cease and desist letters following fair comment and criticism regarding a gruesomely Photoshopped advertisement. (See Resources for rebuttal, advertisement, and additional information.) Photoshop Disasters' original posting has been removed, following Blogger's policy, but Boing Boing's post has not—instead, Internet hero Cory Doctorow addressed the issue with a scathing post, and at post date, the Internet has agreed and taken to sharing the advertisement blogoshperewide.

Oh, Internet! How I love you so, you buncha troublemakers and vigilantes. (When you're not destroying a family.)

Additional Resources:
Wikipedia article
Streisand Suing Over Environmentalist's Aerial Shots Of Her Home, Tech Dirt (2003)
Photo Of Streisand Home Becomes An Internet Hit, Tech Dirt (2003)
The Streisand Effect, Forbes (2007)
A Tragedy That Won't Fade Away, Newsweek (2009)
Ralph Lauren: We Are Determined To Outdo The Gap, Photoshop Disasters, cached (2009)
Ralph Lauren's Ridiculous Photoshop; More Ridiculous Rage, Jezebel (2009)
Ralph Lauren opens new store in Uncanny Valley, Boing Boing (2009)
The criticism that Ralph Lauren doesn't want you to see!, Boing Boing (2009)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lesson for Young and Forgetful People: Put your stuff in the fridge

I know I link to Lifehacker frequently, but it's with good reason! The site is making me a more efficient person. (Really!) Today the site shared a tip from Parent Hacks (highly recommended to parents):

You won't forget items stored in a friend's fridge if you toss your keys in as well

BRILLIANT. From Shivani:

When my sister and I were younger, sometimes my parents would have to store items in the fridge at someone's house when we went to visit (such as medicines or milk). To keep from forgetting these items when they left, my dad would leave his keys in the fridge next to the item. That way, wouldn't forget the items in the fridge as he needed his keys to drive home. You probably could do the same at work or school to make sure you don't leave leftovers overnight in the fridge.

Thanks blogs! I used to leave things at my friends' homes in college all the time. One year I left my contact case and my eye glasses at my friend's house in Chicago. Her mom sent them to my dorm room with a giant bag of Whoppers. I can't store my eye glasses in her mom's refrigerator, but it's still a worthy tip. I guess that's common sense, but even I lack that sometimes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lesson: How to Eject Your External Hard Drive

How to External Hard Drive (And Other Media)

1. Locate this small icon in your taskbar. If it isn't immediately visible, click the small arrow in the round sphere to expand the icons.

2. Pick your drive!
3. Click Stop.
4. Confirm your drive again and click OK.
5. Remove your drive by carefully removing the USB cord from the computer.

About comments

My mom receives an e-mail when a post goes live. (Most of the posts have been written on the weekend and set to post at a pre-determined time. Usually in the afternoon when people are likely to catch up with their blogs because they're goofing off at work.)

She's been replying to the e-mails directly, so I thought I would remind readers that they can comment on an individual blog post without drafting an e-mail or sending an instant message. Instructions are here, and the comment policy is here.

Also, this way I can brag that I'm "getting" comments, even if the count is zero and it's from my mom.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

You and Your External Hard Drive

Connecting your external hard drive to your computer (Note: This hard drive does not require an output supply for power.)
1. Turn on your computer.
2. Let it start.

3. This is your external hard drive, in its case, with its USB cord.
This is your external hard drive. You can see where the USB cord plugs into the hard drive.
Note the shape of the USB cord and the outlet where the two items connect.
4. Connect the USB cord to the hard drive.
5. Plug the USB cord into the computer. 6. A menu may pop up when the external hard drive is connected:
6. Do whatever you planned on with your incredibly awesome, daughter-gifted, birthday present, Mom.