Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: HAM

HAM is an acronym and Young Person term. It is meant to explain the degree of one person's hardness. Generally it is meant positively and with great enthusiasm. HAM can be used to display a level of physical activity, or just a means of saying "I overdid it."

It stands for "Hard As A Motherfucker." HAM can be a noun or a verb—sort of. It is not entirely grammatically correct.

HAM's origin is from the 2011 Kanye West and Jay-Z single "H•A•M." It appeared on their joint album Watch the Throne.

Here are some examples:

"Sorry about those drunk phone calls. I HAMmed last night."
"Let's get the party started! I'm going full on HAM."
"Let's get HAM!"
"I'm going HAM on the yard later, so I bought us victory beers."*

*This is the least cool example, but it's not ironic. I go hard on everything.

I know people who have extended the word to "Hamilton," which is my favorite usage, as Hamilton is a Baltimore neighborhood. (And, if I recall correctly, the setting for 2004's A Dirty Shame—seems appropriate, no?) I also like it because "going HAM" reminds me of the irritating phrase "went missing." (UGH.) In this sense you would say, "I went to Hamilton last night." Just imagine the debauchery on Harford Road!

Additional Resources:
HAM, Urban Dictionary
What does the slang word "ham" mean? Yahoo! Answers

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Brief Tablets/E-readers Overview

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us, I thought a brief overview of tablets and e-readers might be in order. Keep in mind that Apple is notoriously stingy on sales, so you probably won't find any doorbusters on the iPad. (Because we'll pay full price, like suckers!)

Manufacturer: Apple
Price Range: $299-529
Description: Apple's tablet was meant to compete with the Kindle. None of its models have e-ink; all operate as larger iPhones. iPad Air ("iPad 5," starts at $499) is the newest model, released November 1, it is thinner but also taller than the iPad Mini (starts at $299, $399 for retina display). Finally, the biggest of them all, is the iPad 2 ($399, $529 with a data plan). All models have an LED backlit LCD screen. Generally, they connect to the 3G network (with a plan). I can not stress this enough: iPads are bigger iPhones. So the idea is that you read news articles on a computer screen, use the same apps, and play the same games. (Occasionally there's an app on the iPad you can't get on the iPhone, and vice versa.) All models have cameras.

Manufacturer: Amazon
Price Range: $69-$89
Description: The first major e-reader on the market, the Kindle now has wifi but still has e-ink. Reading without ads will cost more money. It is a thin, app-free, digital reader. Users buy or download material to read, and carry it around.

Kindle Fire
Manufacturer: Amazon
Price Range: $139-$379
Description: Not to be outdone by Apple's shining screens, Amazon has its own tablet/e-reader. The Kindle Fire does not use e-ink. (Though you can download books and magazines.) This model has video, HD-ness, and all the stuff the iPad has. Apps! Movies! Video! A bright screen!

Kindle Paperwhite
Manufacturer: Amazon
Price Range: $119-$199
Description: A genuine e-reader, Paperwhite is the wifi- and/or 3G-enabled model of the regular Kindle. It also has an ads and no-ads version. It has a built-in light.

Manufacturer: Kobo
Price Range: $98-$196
Description: It uses e-ink! Sometimes. The Glo has a touch screen (with e-ink), the Aura HD also uses e-ink (incredible!), and reads PDFs and HTML.

Nook GlowLight
Manufacturer: Barnes & Noble
Price Range: $119
Description: A touch screen, wifi-only, e-ink reader.

Nook HD (and HD+)
Manufacturer: Barnes & Noble
Price Range: $129-$149
Description: A tablet without e-ink, the color, HD tablet is the Nook's response to the iPad and Kindle Fire. (It is app-capable.) It uses Android.

*This lesson was not endorsed in any way. I mean. Seriously, you didn't need me to tell you that, did I?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: BAMF

Today's brief lesson is R-rated!


BAMF is an initialism. It stands for Bad Ass Mother Fucker. (Unless you're not my mom, aren't you glad that I told you, and not your son, the senior in college?)

BAMF is pronounced "bam-fph" or " It is not offensive to any specific groups of people, though it is probably not grandparents-approved. Like many inappropriate words, it is satisfying to say.

This is a term you use in earnest (as opposed to my ironic usage of YOLO). When you are feeling especially bad ass, feel free to call yourself a BAMF. You have my permission, Old People.

For reasons that are both untrue and unclear, Googling "BAMF" will lead you to articles about Dane Cook. I can not conclusively prove the levels of Cook's bad-assery.

Additional Resources:
BAMF, Urban Dictionary
BAMF, Wiktionary

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: Ratchet


This post was written last night, when I had wished I was already asleep, so let's jump to it: Ratchet is a word Young People were using. It's been used in a few primetime shows (2 Broke Girls, Super Fun Night), and thus might be on its way out of the Young People Lexicon.

The nicest definition for "ratchet" is "Undesirable, coarse woman."

It has been used in a large number of hit hip-hop songs this year. A little history, from New York Magazine will provide further insight:
Ratchet can be traced back to the neighborhood of Cedar Grove in Shreveport, Louisiana. “You talk to working class black people [down there],” says Dr. Brittney Cooper, a co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective. “Ratchedness comes out of that. And some of that particularity gets lost when it travels.” The first appearance of ratchet in a published song was in 1999, when Anthony Mandigo released “Do the Ratchet” on his Ratchet Fight in the Ghetto album. “Mandigo introduced me to the word, He got it from his grandmother,” remembers Angela Nichols, who goes by Angie Locc and rapped on the track. In 2004, Earl Williams, a producer known as Phunk Dawg, recorded a new version of the song, featuring the better-known Lil Boosie (currently incarcerated), from Baton Rouge, as well as Mandigo and another Shreveport rapper named Untamed Mayne. This version, and the associated dance, caught on and Mandigo’s Lava House Records began making a name for itself.
From the same article, a modern definition:
In it, the Atlanta brothers pretend to be ratchet women describing their ilk: They carry outdated flip phones, go clubbing while pregnant, and try to punch other women in the face. “Ratchet is basically a lack of home training — being out in public and acting like you don’t have any sense,” Philip Houston told the Cut. “Putting a weave in the microwave just to curl it, that’s ratchet.”
Some women have "taken back" the word as a means of ownership. That does not make it OK for an Old Person to use. It's a loaded, unkind word, rooted in socioeconomic disparity. Don't use it.

The word has a nasty connotation. It's only used for vocal, outspoken, Black women. As an insult, it says that women must be demure, "well behaved," and exceedingly "classy;" women that are not ratchet have, apparently, gone to great lengths to earn respect.

Old People respect all types of people, regardless of gender, race, or social class. 

Additional Resources:

Ratchet, Internetslang.com
Ratchet: The Rap Insult That Became A Compliment, New York (read the whole thing)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vocabulary Lessons: Squee

This month's lessons are dedicated to the words recently added to the Oxford Dictionary.

Today's word is squee.

It's an Internet-heavy word, meant to indicate excitement and cuteness.

It can be an interjection, like a squeal ("Did you see that puppy?! Squee!"), a verb ("I squeed with anticipation while I waited for One Directions to take the stage,"), or a noun ("She let out a squee when she opened her present").

Oxford suggests that the word has origins in the '90s and is derived from the word "squeal."

Additional Resources 
Buzzworthy words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online – squee!, Oxford Dictionaries
Squee, Oxford dictionaries

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: Buzzworthy

This month's lessons are dedicated to the words recently added to the Oxford Dictionary.

Today's word is buzzworthy.

The word is an adjective, and used to describe or quantify whether or not an idea or thing has the qualities of being buzzworthiness. It's not correct to define a word with its root, so here's the dictionary definition:
likely to arouse the interest and attention of the public, either by media coverage or word of mouth
The blog Buzzfeed operated entirely on this concept. Generally speaking, viral videos and cultural hot topics are buzzworthy.

It's sort of a silly word, and I think it will be outdated in a few years, so be careful how you use it.

Additional Resources 
Buzzworthy words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online – squee!, Oxford Dictionaries
Buzzworthy, Oxford definition

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: Selfie

This month's lessons are about the words recently added to the Oxford Dictionary.

Today's word is selfie. It's short-hand for "self-portrait." The term is generally reserved for instances when the photograph is taken with a smartphone or similar device, and the photo is uploaded online, usually to a social media site, like Facebook or Instagram. The word can be used in a sentence or as a hashtag.

Its inclusion in the dictionary has an interesting backstory. From the Dictionary's blog:

This colloquial term for a photographic self-portrait has thus far appeared primarily in social media contexts. In fact, we see more evidence for it on the Oxford Twitter Corpus than in the much larger Oxford English Corpus or the Nexis database. However, selfie attracted mainstream notice when it appeared in US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to a humorous Tumblr dedicated to an image of her texting. Many commentators doubted that she had penned the riposte herself, saying such a Facebook-generation word was unlikely to be in her vocabulary.
Thanks, Hill!

Additional Resources 
Buzzworthy words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online – squee!, Oxford Dictionaries
Words on the radar: June 2012, Oxford Dictionary
Selfie, Oxford Dictionary

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: vom

This month's lessons are dedicated to the words recently added to the Oxford Dictionary.

Today's word is vom.

It's gross. It's a shortened version of vomit.

Generally, it's used to end a sentence (or is its own one-word sentence) to show displeasure. For example, "And then the weird guy started clipping his toenails on the train! Vom." (Usually, the circumstances are less nauseating.)

Oxford defines the word as an informal verb or noun for vomit.

Don't say it out loud. It's silly.

Additional Resources 
Buzzworthy words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online – squee!, Oxford Dictionaries
Vom, Oxford Dictionary

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: FOMO

October's lessons are strictly vocabulary. We'll explore some of the new words added to the Oxford dictionary.

Today's "word" is an acronym: FOMO.

I have to concede that I didn't know this word before. It's perfect for me! FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. Oxford has chosen this as its definition:
anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.

Here is an example of the acronym in a sentence, via Urban Dictionary:
Even though he was exhausted, John's fomo got the best of him and he went to the party.
In the event that you speak this term, it is pronounced "Foe moe." It rhymes with bobo.

Additional Resources 
Buzzworthy words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online – squee!, Oxford Dictionaries
FOMO, Oxford Dictionary
FOMO, Urban Dictionary

The GQ Guide to Getting Over #FOMO, GQ

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Culture Lesson: Twerking

Twerking was a spring fad that will not die. (I wrote this lesson over the summer and had t edit it several times.) It is a semi-suggestive, wild dance. It is usually very sexual.

I'm going to liberally copy from Wikipedia. Because it saves time, and I've been an unexpectedly busy lady this year:

Twerking is a dance move that involves a person shaking their upper hips and lower hips in an up and down bouncing motion, causing them to shake, 'wobble' and 'jiggle.'"[1] To "twerk" means to "dance in a sexually suggestive fashion by twisting the hips."[2]


The word "twerking" may be derived from one of three sources:
  1. a portmanteau of twat and work. Work in reference to Work It.
  2. a contraction of "footwork", or[1]
  3. a portmanteau of twist and jerk.[1]
Ties have been made to many traditional African dances.[3] An example of such traditional dances is Mapouka.
Was that too long? According to Mental Floss, "To twerk, essentially, is to shake one’s butt." But (ha!) the behind must gyrate in a specific way. Simply shaking your booty will not suffice. For example, I can shake my rumpus, but my behind will likely never twerk. The Young People love to twerk.

I think this article from New York Magazine is informative.

Did you need a history, to impress the Young Person in your life, born after 1994? From that same Mental Floss article:
In the early 90s, New Orleans was home “bounce” music, a form of hip hop that relied heavily on call-and-response chanting. A popular artist at the time, DJ Jubilee, recorded a song called “Do the Jubilee All.” When the accompanying video featured young people furiously shaking their fessiers alongside the lyrics “twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk”—the word “twerk” a combination of the words twist and jerk—the new dance craze had arrived with a new name.
Who doesn't love New Orleans? Make sure to talk about bounce confidently when educating the 19-year-old. 

Diplo's "Express Yourself" (released last year) brought twerking hurtling into the present. Diplo is an American DJ, and his New Orleans-based video displays a more sexualized, dramatic twerk than that of the '90s. The video is below, but modest Old People should steel themselves, as Diplo's music is not for every Old Person, and shaking behinds are not for most of them:

The fad further catapulted further when Miley Cyrus shared a video of her twerking in a unicorn costume. Unfortunately, she also brought to light that young, white people of privilege see twerking as another way to use black women as their puppets.

Cyrus's video "We Can't Stop" was largely about her young, slender, pretty, white friends doing "wild things," but she also trotted out a handful of adult black women to twerk for her. As if to say, "Look at these funny black women!"

To quote Shae Collins, in a guest post for Racialicious:
Type “twerk” into youtube and you’ll find several young women accepting the sex-object role that the music demands of them. These demands become increasingly problematic when they involve race and gender. Notice that no expectations are placed on men or women of other ethnicities to twerk. People are often shocked when white women do it.
Miley Cyrus followed this up last month with what New York Magazine called a "minstrel show" (HEAR, HEAR):
Cyrus has spent a lot of time recently toying with racial imagery. We’ve seen Cyrus twerking her way through the video for her big hit “We Can’t Stop,” professing her love for “hood music,” and claiming spiritual affinity with Lil’ Kim. Last night, as Cyrus stalked the stage, mugging and twerking, and paused to spank and simulate analingus upon the ass of a thickly set African-American backup dancer, her act tipped over into what we may as well just call racism: a minstrel show routine whose ghoulishness was heightened by Cyrus’s madcap charisma, and by the dark beauty of “We Can’t Stop” — by a good distance, the most powerful pop hit of 2013.
So... Miley can't stop being racist? (Miley, who said she never listened to Jay-Z suddenly listens to "hood music"? Seriously?)

So keep that in mind, Old People, as you broach the conversation about twerking.

Additional Resources:

What is the Origin of Twerking?, Mental Floss 
Is Miley Cyrus' twerking racist?, Slate
Let's Get Ratchet! Check Your Privilege At The Door, Racialicious
Sorority Girls Must Twerk: Cultural Demands on Black Women, Racialicious
A User's Guide to Twerking, New York Magazine 
Rosen on the 2013 VMAs and Miley's Minstrel Show, New York Magazine 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Technology Lesson: A Gmail Tour

I still think Gmail is the greatest. It offers a lot of storage, is easy to organize, and provides plug-ins and features to make sure your experience is pleasant.

Gmail had recently changed its interface before my summer hiatus. I'll let Google start:

Of course, these tabs are a little vexing for me. If you feel that way (if a job application is listed as social, because it was sent to a social media company) you can fix that in your settings.

Let's look at Gmail's new compose window. This video was published on October 30, 2012. I'm embarrassed.

You can also customize the appearance of your inbox. Maybe you want it purple? I'll let Google explain that too. I know I said I wouldn't phone it in anymore, but you try to explain Gmail while the neighborhood rages for Labor Day!

Additional Information:
Tour, from Google
Interactive Tour

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

All About Screen Savers

Screen Savers were a ubiquitous part of technology long, long ago, but are no longer a mandatory component to computer ownership. It's possible that, as an Old Person, you haven't realized that you don't need it anymore.

Screen savers were necessary as they prevented screen burn (or "burn-in"). The prolonged display of non-moving images would ruin the monitor, sometimes permanently. This is not a problem with today's technology, so today's screen savers are used for entertainment or information—for example, it might provide time, date, and temperature.

Personally, keeping a screensaver on your PC or laptop seems like a waste of battery life or electricity.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Technology Lesson: The New Pinterest

Pinterest's look has changed since I introduced the site here. So as I try to get back into the swing of things, we'll take a quick look at Pinterest.

Here's what Pinterest looks like now when you log in. These were my pins last Wednesday:

You can see that Pinterest is using large pictures, arranged in a collage-like fashion.

If you hover over an image a few icons will appear. The heart will allow you to like a pin. The "SEND" icon, with the paper plane, will allow you to send the pin to someone. And the red "PIN" icon will allow you to re-pin the post.

A list of suggested friends are in the top left corner. You can access your profile in the top right corner. Your notifications--of repins, likes, follows, etc. are also in this area. You'll see that last week I had a whopping total of five.

Or you can click the image for these same options. You'll notice the column on the right displays the board from where the pin originated, and you can follow (or unfollow) the board from here. Beneath the board are other pins from the user.

The "X" in the top right corner will let you go back to your feed, and "close out" (if you will) of the pin. The arrow next to "SEND" will let you post or embed the pin.

If you click the picture again it will open the pinned article, likely in a new window or tab in your browser.

If you find that you've been scrolling through your feed, and you want to return to the top, click "SCROLL TO TOP" at the bottom right of your feed.

That's the gist! Fingers crossed it won't all change next week. See you Tuesday!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Technology Lesson: Switching to Feedly

Last week I told you that Google Reader was shutting down. Today I'll bypass importing last week's data in favor of using Feedly. Feedly will import your feeds directly from Google Reader, and can display Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest updates. It also has a free app, that can be used on iTouch, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and Android.

You don't have to use Feedly, and there are articles at the end of this post with suggestions for alternative services. There is also an article from Whoorl, which walks readers through using Feedly.

Over three million users have transferred from Google to Feedly, and more are expected to follow suit. Joining is very easy, and the site has a simple and customizable interface.

Head to www.feedly.com to get started. There will be a message for Google Reader users, and after you click the link to connect your account, you will be asked to authorize. Say yes.

You'll find that your blogs are imported and ready to go:

Older posts from your Reader will be available too, but you should still hold on to last week's downloaded data. (It's just a good idea.) Feedly uses Google's technology to import and display feeds. What Feedly will be doing after Google Reader shuts down is unclear, but I have confidence that everything will be OK.

After your super simple transition to Feedly, take some time to explore. (If you need help, I again recommend the Whoorl article at the end of this post.) You can change the format in which your blogs are displayed, and how your navigate Feedly.

Good luck, and enjoy!

This is the last Lessons for Old People post until September. Per tradition, and New York City's unbearable heat, I like to take the summer off to attempt to accomplish other projects. In reality, I'm probably more easily found perched reading a book on a barstool in an air-conditioned bar, but getting through these library books are not an ignoble challenge either! When I return, I'll get back to talking about Pinterest too much. If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a topic, please e-mail me: hill.katherinem[at]gmail.com.

Additional Resources:
RSS isn't read: the best Google Reader alternatives, The Verge
The Best RSS Readers To Use Now That Google Reader Is Dead, PopSci
Google’s Aggregator Gives Way to an Heir, The New York Times
How To Use Feedly, Whoorl

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Technology Lesson: Google Reader Is Closing Down

Google Reader, Googe's RSS feed reader is closing on July 1. Users will no longer be able scroll through subscribed blog posts.

Users are understandably upset. In a post on the Official Google Reader Blog, Google explained:
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
Boooo. The good news is that you and export your data so that it can be transferred to another service. (For additional options that won't be covered here, see the links below.) 
To do that...
Log in to Google Reader.
Go to your Settings

Click the Import/Export tab.

Under "Import your subscriptions" you'll see "Export your information." Click "Download your data through takeout."

Google will estimate the size of your data. When you see 100% under the squares, click CREATE ARCHIVE.

It may take some time. When it's complete, click DOWNLOAD. The file will save to your computer (or external hard drive).

After the file is saved to your computer, you'll need it to upload to your next RSS service, so remember where it is stored!

Technology Lesson: Web Aggregators
Technology Lesson: What To Do With RSS
Technology Lesson: RSS

Additional Resources:
Powering Down Google Reader, Official Google Reader Blog
A second spring of cleaning, Official Google blog

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Technology Lesson: How To Reset Your Home Page In Firefox

Your home page is the first page your browser loads when you open it. (Unless your browser is set to load the last page(s) you had open when you closed the browser. That is discussed below.)

Some browsers are pre-set to certain pages. Your browser may be set to Google, your Internet provider, or the developer of your browser. (For example, you would find Mozilla for the Firefox page.) But you might want a page that is more convenient for your needs. You might want to open with your inbox, a news page, your bank, or your blog's host.

To change your home page, open your browser. I used Firefox in this example. In Mac, I clicked FIREFOX:

In Window, you would click TOOLS. Click PREFERENCES... (in Windows, click OPTIONS).

Click the GENERAL tab (in Mac and Windows):

Under STARTUP you'll see "When Firefox starts:" There will be a pull down box. You'll see that mine says "Show my windows and tabs from last time." This allows me to continue the work I had when I closed the application previously. It lets the user continue to browse.

Another option is "SHOW A BLANK PAGE." If you want a BLANK PAGE when you open your browser, choose that.

If you want to open to the same page every time, choose "SHOW MY HOME PAGE" from the drop down menu.

Beneath the menu is "HOME PAGE." You can type the address in the box. If you are already on that page, click "USE CURRENT PAGE" (and save yourself some time!) If you click to RESTORE TO DEFAULT, the home page will be Mozilla's site.

You'll notice there is no SAVE or OK button for the Mac version of this lesson. The changes will save automatically. If you use Windows, click OK.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Technology Lesson: Vine

Vine is a newish app that allows users to share 6-second video clips. The clips include sound, and the video-sharing network was acquired by Twitter last year. (Clips and be embedded online almost anywhere, including Facebook.)

The app is free! It's very popular right now, and easy to use.

The clips play automatically on a continuous loop. Users sometimes make stop motion videos, like the one I've embedded below. (I really like toast.) You can see how the video plays, and loops, automatically. Note that the video has sound but, by default, is muted:

Vine is one of the most popular apps available right now. Because it is easy to use, I recommend you try it out and join in on the fun!

Additional Resources:
Twitter takes aim at video, acquires video clip service, Venture Beat
How To Make Great Vines, Business Insider

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Technology Lesson: Facebook's Other Folder

I think it's time we discussed Facebook's "Other" folder. Introduced in 2011, the folder holds your spam messages, or what Facebook determines is spam. Per Facebook, it is, "where you'll find messages and emails that have been filtered out of your inbox."

You can access the folder by going to your messages—either on its own page, or directly from your news feed in the taskbar—and clicking "other." It is next to the inbox title on both pages. You can change what gets through to your inbox, and what gets sorted into your other folder, by adjusting your filter preferences.

These are your options:

It's a good idea to keep an eye on your other folder. While messages that are sent to your Facebook inbox will likely come to your e-mail's inbox as well, your other messages will not. There will not be notifications, and the messages will be lonely and dormant.

This has also been, from my perspective, an opportunity for Facebook to plunder your dollars. Sending messages to the inbox of people who are not your friends will cost $1. Again: to send the messages to the non-friend's inbox, you'll have to pay $1. Sending the message for free will dump your missive into the other folder. Here is evidence, because I find the affair shocking:
Facebook tested this "feature" last year, and apparently deemed it successful.

Additional Resources:
What is the "Other" folder in my messages?, Facebook help Facebook tests $1 fee for messages for non-friends, Yahoo News
The "Other" Facebook inbox you didn't know you had, PC World

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Culture Lesson: Cinnamon Challenge

The Cinnamon Challenge is the semi-recent addition to the list of dumb, dangerous things Young People do. The challenge is not new, but it has been in the news in the last few weeks, and has more lasting power than soaking gummy bears in vodka, or drinking hand sanitizer.

To be fair, adults do this as well. Here, I'll have the grown-ups at Mythbusters attempt the phenomenon and explain the challenge (spoiler: swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in a minute without water) and its dangers:

No one has died, yet.  It does seem like a joke, or a farce, even following in the footsteps of the milk challenge (chug a gallon without puking) or the Saltine challenge (yep).

From The Los Angeles Times:
In the first three months of 2012, the nation's poison centers have had 139 calls -- close to three times as many as were received in all of 2011 -- seeking help and information about the intentional misuse of cinnamon. At least 122 of those calls arose from something called the "cinnamon challenge" -- a game growing in popularity among teens in which a child is dared to swallow a spoonful of ground or powdered cinnamon without drinking any water.
Of the 139 calls, 30 required medical attention. (So that's, good, but the pneumonia rish is not good.) By June 2012 there 178 calls.

An ER doctor weighed in for Forbes last month:
Parents need to have a serious discussion with their children about the dangers associated with this stunt to prevent them from ever attempting this.
Because, per this copy and paste job from The New York Times's Well blog:
A report published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday found that the stunt has led to a growing number of calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms. Some teenagers have suffered collapsed lungs and ended up on ventilators. 
So don't take the challenge, Old People, and don't let your Young People, either!

Additional Information:
Teens' 'cinnamon challenge': pneumonia risk, The Los Angeles Times
An ER Doctor's Perspective on "The Cinnamon Challenge": Don't Even Think of Doing It, Forbes
Consequences of the Cinnamon Challenge, NYT

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Technology Lesson: Bitcoin

Bitcoin is "an experimental, decentralized digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world." (Old People may recognize Bitcoin from The Good Wife.) It is taking the world by storm, but because I care about Old People, I'll cut the the most important part: Think carefully before using it.

In short, you convert your actual money into a digital currency, and can then transfer it using your smartphone or computer to transfer the funds. Bitcoin does not use a bank and depends on a peer-to-peer network. 

From a Washington Post article last month:
The coin in question now has a global circulation worth more than $1.4 billion on paper. Yet almost no one, it seems, knows the true identity of its creator. In the United States, this mysterious money has become the darling of antigovernment libertarians and computer wizards prospecting in the virtual mines of cyberspace. In Europe, meanwhile, it has found its niche as the coinage of anarchic youth.
And, from Lifehacker:
You can obtain Bitcoin's either by trading other money, goods, or services with people who have them or through mining. The mining process involves running software that performs complex mathematical equations for which you're rewarded a very small portion of a Bitcoin. When you actually have some of the currency, you can then use it to purchase anything that accepts it.
The anonymous transfer of money can be good for privacy, but authorities are worried about its use for money laundering and the buying and selling of illegal items. ("The FBI, for example, says that 'the way it creates, operates and distributes bitcoins makes it distinctively susceptible to illicit money transfers.'")

Finally, the last word from a different Washington Post article:
But Bitcoin still makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Regulators and law enforcement officials by and large view Bitcoin as a dangerous tool for money laundering. Others refer to Bitcoin as an underground banking system or the currency of those who seek to engage in more controversial activities — such as financing the development of 3D-printed guns. And Bitcoin may not be as safe as its supporters would like to think, no matter how strong the encryption, given the Bitcoin heists and hacks of the past 18 months.

Additional Resources:
The rise of the bitcoin: Virtual gold or cyber-bubble?, The Washington Post
Trojan Turns Your PC Into Bitcoin Mining Slave, Wired
Bitcoin And The End Of Money, TechCrunch What Is Bitcoin and What Can I Do With It?, Lifehacker Man Wants To Be The First To Sell A House For Bitcoins Because Real Money Is So 2008, Consumerist
What Is A Bitcoin?, Washington Post
Why reports of Bitcoin’s death may have been greatly exaggerated, The Washington Post

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Culture Lesson: Hadouken

Hadouken is one of the latest memes-slash-photography crazes. You can see a sample above. The word is a Japenese neologism that roughly translates to "surge fist." The pose is from the game Street Fighter, a popular title in the 1980s.

In Japan, hadouken is called "makankosappo." (In translation it means "demonic piercing light murder gun.") Though the makankosappo is derived from a pose from Dragon Ball-Z. In the US, both moves, and other videogame derived stunts, are called hadouken.

Since I feel like I'm not being clear (and I love that this was started by girls!) I'll let Mashable explain, too:
The meme's spark was kindled in Japan when schoolgirls started posting pictures of themselves throwing balls of lightning at each other, Street Fighter-style. And that's all there is to it. Imgur user grimlockt then kindly pointed it out to the rest of us so we could all beneofit from a new photo trend. 
Seems safer than planking!

Additional Resources:
Makankosappo, Wikipedia
Hadouken, Flickr blog
Hadouken Meme Strikes Internet Like Lighting, Mashable

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Technology Lesson: Good Reads

Goodreads is a website that lets users catalog the books they are reading, want to read, and have read. Users can rank books, submit reviews, and get recommendations. It was recently purchased by Amazon.

Goodreads launched in early 2007. And in 2001, per Wikipedia:
In 2011, Goodreads acquired Discovereads, a book recommendation engine that employs "machine learning algorithms to analyze which books people might like, based on books they've liked in the past and books that people with similar tastes have liked."[10][11] After a user has rated twenty books on its five star scale, the site will begin making recommendations.
Users can interact with their friends. The site or app will search through your address book and social media sites to find friends on Goodreads, allowing you to see what your friends are reading, rating, and reviewing. (Is it not an anomaly, but it's more fun for a dork like me.)

Goodreads is also available as an app. It can be used through most devices and Facebook.

Some other similar services are LibraryThing and Shelfari. I have Goodreads on my iPod and enjoy it, so at minimum, I have a tool to collect ISBNs and titles I want to put on hold when I'm on the go. (The Brooklyn Public library did finally release an app this year.) I haven't used LibraryThing or Shelfari, if anyone wants to chime in, I'm all ears (and eyes)!

Additional Resources:
Goodreads Amazon To Buy Goodreads, And Owns Part Or All Of Its Competitors, Too, Consumerist

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's That Facebook Flag?

Hello tech savvy Old People! I'm writing this post a full week ahead of schedule. Though I usually write several weeks in advance, I do not often cover current events. (Not like I used to!) So be patient with my sense of tense, please!

You may have seen this logo on Facebook in the last week and wondered what it was:

This is a red and pink flag meant to show support of last week's Supreme Court hearings about same-sex marriage and possible DOMA and Prop 8 repeal. (The cases are Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor.) The flag is a red and pink version of the Human Rights Campaign's logo, which is blue with a yellow equal sign:

The Equality Flag was designed by Stone/Yamashita in 1995.

Naturally, the Internet went forth and modified (with the HRC's Facebook's permission, even if the HRC was itself a little wary), providing some variation in a sea of red and pink on Facebook. Mine for example, is a version of the Black Flag logo. The original logo is on the right:

Of course, I think I am clever by using this, since the seminal 1980s hardcore band's 1977 Raymond Pettibone-designed logo is meant to evoke a waving black flag. I know Old People are rolling their eyes with the knowledge that a black flag means anarchy. Sometimes some kind, web-savvy adults are 19-years-old forever. 

Additional Resources:
Human Rights Campaign on Facebook
About Our Logo, Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign had no idea this was going to happen, Ad Week
The Gay Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why the HRC Flag and Other Social Justice Memes Matter, Policymic

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: Swole

Swole is an adjective, and it means someone is especially buff and muscular.  It is derived from the word swollen.

This word is generally male-only and is usually used in a complimentary sense.

Sometimes the word can be used with "up." For example, "He swolled up over the summer." (Urban Dictionary suggested prison, but I prefer to think of summer vacation.) In this sense, the word is not an adjective. However, the word is not usually translated to "swoles."

I've never heard "swoleness" either, but I'm ready to accept it. 

Swole has been part of the pop culture lexicon for over a decade. From Know Your Meme:
The earliest known usage of the term in hip hop lyrics comes from the song “When I Get Free,” which was released posthumously on the album Until the End of Time for the late rapper by Tupac Shakur on March 27th, 2001 (shown below, left). The song includes the lyrics “did push ups till I swole up” in reference to time Shakur had spent exercising in prison.

Additional Resources:
Swole, Urban Dictionary
Swole, Know Your Meme

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: Throw Shade

Throw shade is a popular phrase that means to talk trash or show disrespect. Per Ru Paul, the act requires creativity.

Generally speaking, one throws shade publicly, not privately. Whether or not this is cruel and totally not cool is a divided opinion of the Internet, but now news headlines are easier to understand.

Additional Resources:
Throw Shade, Urban Dictionary
RuPaul Explains the Difference Between Throwing Shade and Being a Straight Up Bitch, Jezebel

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Technology Lesson: Exploring the new Flickr Uploadr

Flickr unveiled a new Uploadr several months ago, and I've finally sat down to walk you through it! Flickr will do that too of course, because Flickr cares about you.

Assuming you have an account and images (henceforth assumed to be photography) to upload, let's get started!

Log in and get your digital work ready.

Go to www.flickr.com and click UPLOAD. It is at the top of the screen, and when you hover over the word it will turn BLUE.

Alternatively, you can go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/upload

You can click "CHOOSE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS TO UPLOAD" or drag and drop your files.

Then you can edit your photos before you upload:
  • To rotate, hover your mouse over the photo. There will be a semi-circle arrow. Click that until the photograph is oriented to your specification.

  • To remove a photo from the upload batch, hover your mouse and click the "X" in the top-right corner. It will turn red when your mouse is over the X. Flickr will ask if you are sure: "REMOVED SELECTED ITEM?" Click REMOVE to confirm, or DENY if you've changed your name or made this decision erroneously.
You can edit more than one photo at once. To do this, click CTRL (on a Windows computer) or COMMAND (on an Apple computer) and while holding the button, click on the photos you want to edit.

To add tags, to multiple or single photos, click ADD TAGS in the LEFT column. Start typing in the bar below. Previous tags will appear as you type. Click ENTER when you have finished typing, or click the tag provided when it appears. If you wanted to enter "Crown Heights" as a tag, Flickr would accept the tag as two, as "Crown" and "Heights." For the neighborhood to appear as ONE tag, you would type "Crownheights."

To add to a group, click ADD TO SETS in the LEFT column. Then select the group from the list provided. (To make a new set, click CREATE SET.) You can add your photo to multiple sets, so click DONE when you are satisfied with the sets selected.

When you are ready, click UPLOAD PHOTOS at the top right of the screen. The button will be bright blue.

Flickr will confirm the number of photos and changes you have made since selecting the photos from your computer or hard drive. If you're not ready, click CONTINUE EDITING. If you're ready to roll, click UPLOAD TO PHOTOSTREAM.

When the photos have uploaded, you'll be taken to Your Photostream, with a congratulatory message from Flickr. 

Good job, you!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Culture Lesson: The Harlem Shake

The Harlem Shake is a meme that swept the Internet with a fervency last month and continues its pop culture domination unabated.

In short, the meme is a video of a group of people performing a skit to the 2012 song "Harlem Shake." The video is very short, about 30 seconds, and uses only a snippet of the song. Generally, one person, or a small group (often with someone wearing a helmet), dances to the song. Then, when the bass "drops" the video cuts to many people dancing. The Baauer song samples (and is named for) a song which mentions the 1980s dance moves popularized by Al B.

Here's an explanation from Chicagoist:
In a nutshell, a typical Harlem Shake video features about 30 seconds of Baauer’s song “Harlem Shake,” with one person in a group, usually wearing a mask, dancing awkwardly. When the break drops and the song says “Do the Harlem Shake” at about the 15 second mark, everybody flips out and starts doing the dance, which was actually popularized in 1981. This appearance of this zeitgeist can be traced all the way back to the last day of January, when a YouTuber called Filthy Frank posted a video of four dudes in spandex doing the Harlem Shake. Within days people were posting their own take on his video, and this century’s latest dance craze was born.

The original video does not have a crowd increase.

Here are some examples:

The people of Harlem, by the way, are not impressed. NPR's Ann Powers has strong words too:
"The deracination of the Harlem Shake has offended some who value the dance's origins in Harlem itself, where it's been done on the street since 1981, and its prevalence in hip-hop videos by the likes of Diddy and Jadakiss."
Something important to remember before you blindly sign up for your office's rendition.

Additional Resources:
Harlem Shake (meme), Wikipedia
Why We Love Harlem Shake, Chicagoist
Harlem Reacts to 'Harlem Shake', YouTube (Uploaded by Schlepp Films)
Long Before The Harlem Shake, We Did The Shimmy, NPR
Behind 'Harlem Shake' Craze, a Dance That's Decades Old, The New York Times
Harlem Shake: One Name, Two Separate Dances, The New York Times (Video feature)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Technology Lesson: Emoji

Emoji is a system of emoticons that is currently very proliferate and popular with smartphones. Old People with iPhones are probably already familiar with emoji, or have received texts displaying the small adorable graphics.

Here is a description from New York magazine, which interviewed William Van Lacker, who helped bring emoji to the iPhone in America: "This visual alphabet, which includes much of the animal kingdom, the produce aisle, and the range of human emotions (plus a pile of feces with a face), now comes preloaded on the iPhone and presents a new frontier in texting, equally enticing to small children and slow-typing septuagenarians."

(New York's Joe Coscarelli received a text from his mother, which was, simply a birthday cake.) Van Lacker told NY Mag that Japanese texters used the emoji keyboard to communicate full sentences because it was easier than the regular keyboard, and I am willing to respect emoji for that reason alone. It is, however, not as efficient in the Western world.

Ipod Touches (iTouches), iPhones, and iPads are emoji enabled, provided the operating system is up-to-date. To get emoji on your iDevice:

Open SETTINGS. (It's the grey icon with the cogs on it.)
Click GENERAL. (It has the same icon.)
Click KEYBOARD. It is under DATE & TIME on my iTouch; you may need to scroll to find it.
Scroll to EMOJI. Press EMOJI.

You'll access the emoji keyboard in iMessage by pressing the globe icon next to the space bar. Here is a message you'll get on your Apple device the first time: "Tap the globe keyboard once to switch to the last used keyboard. Continue tapping to access other enabled keyboards. Tap and hold to show all enabled keyboards."

The clock at the bottom of the emoji keyboard will display your most recently used characters. You'll need to click the other icons to access all of the characters, which include animals, flowers, faces, hand symbols, miscellaneous symbols, and more.

You might knock the socks off your savvy children.

Additional Resources:
The Proliferation of Emoji, NY Mag
Emoji, Wikipedia 
iOS: Understanding emoji, Apple support 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Technology Lesson: Downloading Purchased Material WITHOUT Your USB Cable

We live in the future! If you have a wi-fi capable iPod, you can transfer files without your USB cable. I realized this the day after I bought the Nashville soundtrack on iTunes, and left my USB cable at the office. (This should have occurred to me, I download via wi-fi all the time!) If this happens to you, here's how to retrieve your iTunes purchases with the iTunes app and your wi-fi connection.

Turn on your iPod. If your wi-fi is not turned on, or you're not connected to a network, do that.

Launch iTunes via the iTunes app on your iPod.

Go to PURCHASED. It is the bar of icons at the bottom of your touchscreen.

Click MUSIC, the top bar on your touchscreen. It is followed by MOVIES and TV SHOWS. (These instructions will work with other media too. If you bought an episode of Justified, and wanted to download that, and not the Nashville soundtrack, then by all means, click TV SHOWS.)

You have some options. You can click RECENT PURCHASES if you just bought something.

The default listing is ALL.

I have 234 song purchases (this seems obscene, but the bulk of it is free playlists from hipster boutiques, thankfully), so the alternatives are faster. I know Old People are savvy, and expect your list is probably quite lengthy as well.

Another option is NOT ON THIS IPOD. Since your purchase is obviously not on your iPod, this is a very good choice.

Find the desired purchase. Click DOWNLOAD ALL in the top right corner.

You'll see a small red number at the bottom right corner on your touch screen, where it says DOWNLOADS.

You can press DOWNLOADS if you want to watch the transfer.

When the download ends, you'll find the music (TV show, or movie) in your iPod.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Technology Briefing: Kobo

Kobo is an e-reader. I don't own one, and am not affiliated with Kobo Inc., but a Brooklyn Based e-mail made me feel like I should shared with the well-informed, highly literate Old People.

You're probably already familiar with e-readers, which include the Kindle and Nook. (You probably already one one!)

What I wanted to share about Kobo is that it's partnered with independent booksellers and Indiebound. You can buy Kobo at independent book stores and support those stores when you read:
The bookstores keep a small percentage of each Kobo title you purchase for the life of your device, and on any Kobo e-book sold on their site or directly through Kobo; you just need to register your Kobo account with either Word or Greenlight first, for the store to get credit for your e-books.
(WORD and Greenlight are two Brooklyn book stores.)

It's a nice idea, right? (I'm feeling overly positive in 2013.)

Additional Resources:
Indiebound/Kobo program

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vocab lesson: Streaming Media

Streaming media ("streaming," I stream, you stream, we all scream for streaming), is when media is transferred continuously; a more technical definition is when data is "received as it is delivered." The affect is similar to watching something live, and is often considered an alternative to downloading media. In theory, this should cut down on buffering, but not always.

A more jargon-laded, and complete explanation, from Webopedia:
For streaming to work, the client side receiving the data must be able to collect the data and send it as a steady stream to the application that is processing the data and converting it to sound or pictures. This means that if the streaming client receives the data more quickly than required, it needs to save the excess data in a buffer. If the data doesn't come quickly enough, however, the presentation of the data will not be smooth.
Some examples of this are:
  • Watching videos on Youtube
  • Listening to NPR, live, on an app on your iPhone or your web browser
  • Watching Netflix on your computer or television
  • Watching a presentation online
(Skype is also sort of streaming.)

Additional Sources:What is streaming (streaming media)?, Webopedia