Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Technology Lesson: Importing You iTunes Purchases

We had a computer switcheroo this summer, and because my mom has an iPod Shuffle, there was some anxiety in getting the music all back. (If you don't own a Shuffle you might not know that the device is assigned to one computer at a time. Other devices are able to use up to five computers.) I imported her purchased material to the new computer (which we authorized).

If you want all of your purchases on one place, this is how. You'll need your iPod, and it will need to have all of the content you want to transfer.

1. Open iTunes. If you don't have iTunes, install it. (You'll need to visit apple.com/itunes.)
2. Make sure your computer is authorized. If you've already made a purchase from the iTunes store your computer is authorized. If you haven't click the ADVANCED tab. Click AUTHORIZE computer.
3. If your device is synced with another computer, or is an iPod Shuffle, plug it in to your computer. Click TRANSFER PURCHASES when the dialogue box pops up.

I don't sync my iPod and I manually manage my content. If you do this, plug it in to your computer. When the device appears in iTunes click FILE. Then click TRANSFER PURCHASES FROM [device].

4. Wait for the transfer to complete before ejecting your device.

Additional Resources:
iTunes How To

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Culture Lesson: Monster Trucks

I love monster trucks! Giant trucks painted and bestowed a persona and designed to drive over large mounds of dirt and junked cars. At its core, monster trucks make the games I played as a child a reality. My love is primal, and it is mocked, but it is true.

At press time, I have been to two monster truck shows. The first was in an indoor arena and satisfied my need to see large cars race each other and destroy smaller ones. The second was in an outdoor arena on a hot night and was a bit of a let down, but still provided the thrills, chills, and spills I was promised. Both shows were presented by Monster Jam, a live touring motorsport event. Monster Jam goes all over the United States (and sometimes tours Europe and other areas—to be clear, many things about Monster Jam are inherently American) with its cavalcade of trucks. The trucks compete in a variety of races, times events, and usually end with a "freestyle" event.

The tour also includes a half time event. At my first show, BMX and motocross athletes displayed their skills in the arena. (It was awesome. If a sport is "extreme" or part of the X Games, I'm going to love it.) When I was little, shows were advertised as featuring dinosaurs made out of cars. So additional entertainment may vary.

Here are a few examples of commercials:

And here's Megasaurus. Megasaurus was featured at a 2007 Ohio county fair, but the general idea is similar:

But it's serious business! There are scores and results, and a long history for each truck. It's more than a Southern guy driving a big truck. (And actually, the driver I saw last month behind the wheel of HOT TAMALE was from Mexico. AWESOME!)

The most beloved truck is GRAVE DIGGER, 29-year-old truck from North Carolina. Built from discarded parts, the truck was "supported by the corroded chassis of a 1952 Ford pickup and ran on the innards of a high-performance Chevy engine." Built by Dennis Anderson in 1981, the truck has seen several updates over its lifespan:

The most recent Grave Digger, Grave Digger XIX, is a colossal improvement on the original monster. Bearing the ghostly image created by painter Fred Bumann, it is a machine to be reckoned with. To help Grave Digger absorb the landing after a 100-foot jump, it has nitrogen shock absorbers, creating a massive 26 inches of travel. In order to take flight, Grave Digger has a 540 cubic inch blown alcohol injected Chevrolet Big Block engine, which produces approximately 1500 horsepower. This engine is the same that you would see in the top NHRA drag racing vehicles. The drive train is also composed of a custom built transmission that is literally bulletproof. The 10,000 pound monster crushes cars like ants with 66 inch Goodyear "Terra Tires".
To maintain a truck like this is no easy task, especially if you have seen Grave Digger in action. The cost of one truck is nearly $250,000 including over $100,000 in spare parts such as engines and transmissions. The engine alone costs $50,000. The sport of monster truck racing is brutal on the trucks and demands constant repairs, which keeps the Grave Digger team working around the clock.
This is what the truck looks like:

Day Forty-Eight

And here it is in action:

The truck has had a total of seven drivers. The truck above is driven by Gary Porter. Porter built his first truck for $11,000 and dreamt of being a farmer. (He lives in North Carolina with his wife on a 117-acre farm.) He signed with Anderson in 2001 and has been driving since. In addition to Grave Digger, Porter has driven Pure Adrenaline, Spiderman, Ragin Steel, and his own truck, Carolina Crusher.

In addition to stereotypical (Southern, extremely masculine) personas, many trucks are inspired by licensed characters. In addition to Spiderman, these include the following: Batman, Donkey Kong, Iron Man (I've also seen an Iron Man that wasn't related to the superhero), Hot Wheels, Superman, Taz (Tasmanian Devil), Tonka, Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and Wolverine. You can see a list of the Monster Jam trucks here.

Most of the trucks are driven by men. In fact, this is almost an entirely male-dominated sport. When I was little, the commercials were almost exclusively directed at boys, and the commercials featured little boys during the "fun for the whole family" voice over. At one event, the only female presence outside the crowd were scantily dressed women using a t-shirt cannon.

Thanks to the Internet, I've found that there are female drivers out there! Debra Miceli, former professional wrestler, drives for Anderson and co-won the championship in 2004. She beat Anderson in 2005, still drives, and is the vice president of the Major League of Monster Trucks. But there's more! Jocelyn Perrin, Pamela Vaters, Kathy Winston, Dawn Creten, Jill Canuso, Marilyn Chandler, Debbie Rhoden, and dozens more have taken the wheel!

Monster Jam is on tour now, and other tours are a regular part of local carnivals. If you go to one, make sure you bring ear plugs! It's a very loud event.

Additional Resources:
Monster Jam
Monster Jam, Wikipedia
Grave Digger
Profile: Monster truck driver Jocelyn Perrin, mlive.com,
Pamela Vaters, menstuff.org

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Culture Lesson: Krumping

Krumping is a two decade-old style of street dancing. The freestyle dancing is frenetic, and involves swinging arms, chest pops, and stomping. Krumping is a product of South Central Los Angeles, and has been gaining popularity in recent years.

Some may consider it a result of clowning, a similar style of dance. However, many dispute the two styles of dancing, so tread carefully in this area. (I'm personally annoyed that Tyra Banks lumped the two for an episode of America's Next Top Model.)

Clowning is less competitive in origin, whereas krumping has always been competitive and been tied closely to dance battles. (And you laughed when Britney and Justin had a dance off after they broke up!) Founded by Thomas Johnson/Tommy the Clown, of Compton, in 1992, clowning was a similar style of dance performed for spectators. Yes, the dancers dressed like clowns. The founders of krumping were originally proteges of Tommy and broke off to dance in their preferred style, which was considered more manic, frantic, and improvisational than clowning. Both styles of dance are supposed to invoke a positive influence on the dancers and spectators' lives and provide an alternative to a negative lifestyle that is hard to avoid in the low income areas of Los Angeles.

Here's a clip from the aforementioned episode of America's Next Top Model. The girls have to pose and dance for their shoot for Payless Shoes. In the show's defense, this episode did encourage me to do a little extra research, and it probably had a similar affect on others, too.

Krumpers usually gather in teams, just as the clowns are grouped in the video above, and compete in "Battle Zones." Organized by Tommy, the two groups compete for a large audience. Ideally, these competitions serve as a positive influence in the community, and give young people something to focus on.

Krumping became more popular and well known following the 2005 film Rize. Directed by artist David LaChapelle (not the comedian, that's Dave Chapelle), the film explores the origins and competitions of krumping (and clowning):

I don't think my body knows how to do that.

Krumping has become a part of the pop culture landscape. (See above Simpsons video as evidence.) Lil' C, one of the credited founders of krumping, is a judge and choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance (the sixth season winner was a krumper!), a popular reality program. He was also a guest judge on Dance Your Ass Off

Here's a video of So You Think You Can Dance winner Russell Ferguson:

Krumping has also been included in film (Bring It On: All Or Nothing) and various music videos, from Madonna to Christina Aguilera. (Her videos were directed by LaChapelle.) The popular Black Eye Peas song "Hey Mama" features the style of dancing in its video.

Way cooler than the foxtrot, right?

Additional Resources:
Krumping, Wikipedia
Tommy the Clown
Krump Kings

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Disable Facebook Places

Lifehacker explains how to disable Facebook Places. Places was unveiled yesterday, and may compromise your privacy. (OLD PEOPLE, HEED MY CALL AND DISABLE THIS.)

Vocabulary Lesson: "In the Hat"

This is a brief lesson because I could find almost zero additional resources. (I'm not used to that!)

In the prison, when a person (prisoner) is "in the hat" it means he or she is marked for death. This is usually for suspected narc-like behavior.

A commenter on GoodReads.com defines the phrase: " In the Hat refers to a notorious practice in prison where drawing a name out of a "hat" almost means certain death."

But Gangland on the History Channel didn't mention drawing names, just the phrase as "code" for a plan to kill a fellow prisoner. (This isn't Harry Potter!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Culture Lesson: LARP

LARP stands for Live Action-Role Playing, and it's when nerds dress up and play pretend.

...I say that with great affection.

Generally, when people discuss LARPing, the game is fantasy or science fiction based. I think one could argue that historical reenactments are also LARPing, since both groups refuse to break character and get on my nerves. (Also said with great affection!)

LARPing is popular at comic conventions, where people are known for dressing up as famous comic or pop culture characters. LARPing was part of the plot of the film Role Models. These clips should help you out:

Additional Resources:
Live action role-playing game, Wikipedia
How LARP Works, How Stuff Works

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Technology Lesson: Using Skype

I introduced Skype in a previous lesson. Today we'll look at using Skype in an effort to encourage my family members to use it.

You'll want to download and install Skype on your computer first. (Or your smartphone. There's an app for iPhone and an app for BlackBerry. I won't include the tutorial here, because if you have a smartphone you probably know how, right?) Go to www.skype.com and make sure you have all your need to use the service. (Remember, you can use a digital camera if you don't have a webcam.) There are also videos on the main page explaining how the service works. (Watch those!)

When you're ready, click GET SKYPE.

Great! This is what Skype looks like on my Mac. If you're not my mom's generation, it probably looks a lot like AOL Instant Messenger to you.
(I removed two contact for privacy.) I did a test call for screenshots.

You can click the grey button when you choose a contact to make a call, send a file, or start a chat. (Or more, obviously.) I clicked call...

The whole affair is very easy.

You can add a contact my clicking on the plus sign in the program. This box will pop up, and all you do is fill in the information. (Usually, if it's another Skype user, all you need is his or her e-mail address.)

Finally, here is Skype's one minute video tutorial:

Technology Lesson: Introduction to Skype

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Technology Lesson: Introduction to Skype

Old People, do you have relatives living in another country (or on the opposite side of your own)? Do you have a limited calling plan? Do you wish you could video chat with someone but lack an iPhone or web cam? I have good news! It's called Skype.

Skype is a software application (a program you download to your computer, iPhone, or BlackBerry, or other smartphone) that lets you make calls over the Internet. Skype also lets users instant message, conduct video conferencing, and transfer files for free. (I video chatted an interview with someone in across the country and conducted an interview someone in another country! My friend used the Skype app on her smartphone to save money on long distance calls. Calling and connecting user to user is always free and calling a land line or cell phone is $0.17 per minute. (Some rates may vary, and you can sign up for a subscription and save money.) You can find out more about Skype's features here.

Downloading Skype is free. If you have a web cam, you can video chat easily. If you don't have a web cam, but have a digital camera, you can connect your camera to your computer and use that. Skype's Web site encourages you to buy a webcam, but my introduction to Skype in college used a PC and a digital camera to talk to a New York Times reporter (and former student). There's a how-to here.

In our next lesson we'll look at Skype's interface and how to use it.

Additional Resources:
How to use a digital camera as a webcam for Skype, WonderHowTo

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Culture Lesson: Off-the-Grid

Living "off-the-grid" is when a person (or people) live self-sufficiently without relying on public utilities. (The utilities would be the "grid.")

Typically, these homes operate without municipal water, sewer, natural gas, or electrical power. Many homes rely on renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, or stand-alone), and use rain water or water from a lake or stream to provide water.

These homes are often built for economic and/or environmental consideration. In theory, it's cheaper to provide water and power without "the grid."

The term "off-the-grid" should never be confused for "off his rocker" or "out of her mind." The phrase is not synonymous for "absolutely batshit crazy" even if you think this phrase is applicable for "complete wingnut." (Even if Daryl Hannah, and Ed Begley Jr., who promote this style of living, do seem a little "nutso."*)

*I'm not saying anyone is nutso. But you might.

Additional Resources:
Off the Grid
Living Off the Grid
How Living Off the Grid Works, How Stuff Works
Stand-alone power system, Wikipedia
Off-the-Grid Homes, Design Sponge

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Technology Lesson: How to Get Facebook Notifications

Are you wondering why you did or did not get an e-mail, to your regular inbox, the one you use to e-mail your children every night, regarding your Facebook activity? Let me help!

Please note these reasons are based on standard (and default) settings. For more information and control, please tweak your Facebook settings.

You Received Mail Because ("status" is interchangeable for photo, video, and event)
-Someone mentioned you in a status update. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] tagged you in a post." The e-mail will contain the status update.
-Someone commented on your status update. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] commented on your status:" The e-mail will contain his or her comment.
-Someone commented on his or her status after you liked or commented on the aforementioned status. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] commented on her status:" The e-mail will contain his or her comment.
-Someone commented on a status update you previously liked or commented on. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Person 2] commented on [Person 1]'s status:" The e-mail will contain Person 2's comment.
-Someone wrote on your wall. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] posted something on your Wall and wrote:"

 -Someone sent you a message. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] sent you a message." The e-mail will include a link to your Facebook inbox and all or part of the message.
-Someone responded to a message sent by or to you. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] sent a message in reply to a thread." The e-mail will include a link to your Facebook inbox and all or part of the message.
-Someone suggested something--a friend or page to like--to you. The e-mail sent to you says, "[Name] liked(/is friends) with [thing] on Facebook and suggested you like it (friend them) too."
-You were tagged in a photo or video.
-You were invited to an event.

If it involves you, you'll receive an e-mail.

You Won't Receive Mail Because
-Someone "liked" your status update (I think this can be tweaked in your settings).
-Someone posted a status update without mentioning you. (Likewise, no one will receive a message when you do the same.)
-Someone commented on someone else's wall. Someone you know or don't know.
-Someone added a new friend.
-Someone edited his or her profile.

If it's not about you, you won't recieve an e-mail.

About Mentioning People
You can type any name in your status, but if you want to mention someone, you will need to do it formally, the Facebook way. To mention someone, type the "@" sign. A list of names, people you are friends with, will appear in a drop down menu. You can find the name manually, of you can scroll through the list until you find a name.

Facebook lessons