My recent visit with our grandchildren reminded me of why I don't like video/computer games. I don't mean I don't like to play them; I know all too well how addicted I can get if I allow myself to get started.

It began, of course, with television.  When the technological wonder entered my home when I was seven, I was already familiar with its delights, thanks to the generosity of our neighbors.  We matured together, television and I, and with such a sibling it's no wonder we bonded strongly as the years passed.  It was not a healthy bond, and I'm thankful that I went to college before televisions were ubiquitous in the dormitories, because those four years of abstention were the beginning of my liberation.  It would be many years and much struggle before I could declare myself free, but never again would the glowing opium box control my life. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 9:15 am | Edit
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Like many people, I have mixed feelings about Facebook, finding it simultaneously useful and annoying.  But here's a funny thing about Facebook, as reported by Eric Schultz, who is the Chairman of the Board of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and writer of The Occasional CEO. (The NEHGS library, both online and in person, is one of my favorite and most helpful resources for genealogical research.)

This last summer, in the midst of its 164th year, NEHGS had the single greatest month of membership growth ever.  Ever.

The reason?   Facebook.

Yep, that surprised the board, too.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Edit
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I'm sure there must be a legitimate reason behind the new Federal Trade Commission rules for bloggers, but it looks pretty nonsensical from my perspective, another example of one-size-fits-all rules that inconvenience millions in an attempt to collar a few offenders.  It invites comparisons with the TSA's airport screening, except that I'm a lot more worried about terrorists than about those "I lost 300 pounds on this simple diet" ads.

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday took steps to make product information and online reviews more accurate for consumers, regulating blogging for the first time and mandating that testimonials reflect typical results.  Under the new rules, which take effect Dec. 1, writers on the Web must clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.  Testimonials will have to spell out what consumers should expect to experience with their products.  [From the Hartford Courant, October 6, 2009]

So here goes.  I suppose I'll have to put it in my About link, too.

I have no idea what others should expect from anything I review or comment on.  I'm one person, not a research laboratory.  You may love a book I find objectionable; you may dislike the recipe I say is fabulous.  Such is life.  Sometimes I get books for free, from publishers, which I'll acknowledge in the review, but no small tip is going to make me say I liked a book when I didn't.  (So far, I've received all of one book this way, and I haven't read it yet, which is why you haven't seen any such acknowledgement.)  I also get incalculable return from Lime Daley, but I like to think that's because of my familial relationship with the owners, not because of any endorsements I make on this blog.

I don't mean to pick on the FTC; they have a tough job.  But I'm much more interested in disclosures, say, of gifts given by textbook publishers to school boards, or from pharmaceutical companies to doctors.  When Internet bloggers attain the respect, authority, and power of doctors and school boards, when it takes more than common sense to realize their reviews might not have universal applicability, then I may be convinced of the need for regulation.  I won't be in that category anyway.  Smile
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 8:45 am | Edit
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Many years ago, Porter attended a course taught by Bill Oncken, which added at least two phrases to his vocabulary:  "Don't be a monkey-picker-upper," and "Feed it, or shoot it, but don't let it starve to death."  The first advises against meddling in tasks (monkeys) that don't belong to you, especially after you've delegated them.  The second requires you to work on tasks, or scrub them, but never let them languish.

I have a backblog of over 100 items about which I want to write—and that's only the ones in my bookmark list, which are less important than those on my mental list.  Flush from success with whacking my e-mail inbox from over 200 down to less than 30, I feel Bill Oncken's ghost hovering over my shoulder and challenging me to take on the backblog.

If these were real monkeys, the ASPCA would have had me arrested months ago.  Some of them have already died of starvation; all I must do is dispose of the bodies.  Some intrigued me at one time, but I now don't find them worth the time and effort; these I will happily execute with a click of the delete key.  Some remain healthy enough to go into a "priority pen" until they can be tended to properly...after I extend Oncken's options a step further:  I intend to take most of these monkeys and turn them loose to forage on their own.

Thus I am reviving my "Casting the Net" series, and you will see, in the coming days, posts with several short comments and associated links.  I hope to put in enough detail to enable readers to decide quickly whether it's a subject worth pursuing or ignoring, but you won't get the detailed commentary and quotations I normally like to include.

It's either that, or declare blog bankruptcy.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Edit
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Google Fast Flip seemed like just another gimmick, but having given it a test drive I'm already hooked.  Pick a newspaper, say the New York Times.  Or a topic, such as Health.  You're presented with an eye-catching snapshot of the beginning of the first article.  You can see the headline, the first several paragraphs of text, and probably a graphic, pull-quote, or summary.  Oh, and also some ads—but (shhh, don't tell Google) the ads are blessedly easy to ignore.

If you like what you see in the article, you can click on it to read the rest.  Or you can hit your computer's arrow key and move quickly on to the next article.  Did I say quickly?  That's why I'm so excited about this.  No point-and-click, no waiting for a page to load, just one keystroke and you're there.  In a flash.  It takes me about a second per article to determine whether or not I want to know more—usually not, it doesn't take much time to scan a lot.

This is far more satisfying than scanning news headlines in a feed reader.   The headline itself does not usually give enough detail, and I find myself wasting too much time clicking on links that might have been interesting but are not.  With Fast Flip I can take most stories with a single glance, while for many others I find that reading the first several paragraphs tells me what I want to know without having to bother to click through to the whole article. When I want more detail, it's there—but doesn't intrude unless I seek it out.

What will Google think of next?  I hope this catches on in a big way; as yet there is not a great choice of sources.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Edit
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I know enough about my computer's software to get by; in fact, I know enough to do many wonderful things.  But what I don't know exceeds what I do to a depressing degree.  Only today did I stumble upon the fact that with Office 2007 I can publish documents in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format.

It's not obvious, because there's an add-on required, but the add-on is free and available from Microsoft.  It's a quick and very easy download and installation process; it would have taken less than a minute had I not bothered to read the directions and the license agreement.   :)

I don't know what I'll use this new-found ability for, but now that I know about it, I'm sure I'll think of something.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Edit
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In case anyone got excited by seeing what might have been an new comment appear, only to be led to a couple of old posts, I apologize.  I've been finding and fixing some broken links and trackbacks, and my efforts to make them appear old rather than new failed.  Just maintenence, nothing new, sorry.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 9:31 am | Edit
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James Burke's first Connections series drove home the idea that change in one area can have unexpected impact in far different fields.  The Butterfly Effect reminds us that the tiniest difference may lead to great changes.  The invention of the automobile was one event that led to vast societal changes no one could have predicted.  Television was another.  Then the Internet.  Within the Internet, there was Google, which may be the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in our time, who knows?  And now there is Wolfram|Alpha(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 10:30 am | Edit
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Is anyone else as frustrated as I am with Word's so-called Title Case (called "Capitalize Each Word" in Word 2007)?  I haven't actually found any use for that option; in general, only the more important words of a title should begin with uppercase letters.

But ta-da!  The Internet comes to the rescue, again.  Allen Wyatt's WordTips has a macro that will do what is needed.  Here it is, modified slightly—I added "an" and "and" to the list of words that should not be capitalized, and removed "is"; I was taught that all verbs, even small ones, are important enough to be capitalized.  It's easy to change the list to suit your needs, and I may modify it further through time.  If the excluded words occur at the beginning of the title, they are left in uppercase. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 13, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Edit
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As I try to steer a course between providing too much information and too little, let me attempt to explain what I plan to institute as a general policy with regard to links in my posts.  I provide links to other sites for various purposes:  to give credit where it is due, to provide resources for further exploration of a subject, and/or because I think I can't do justice to the source with a few excerpts.  At the request of several of my readers, what I will try to do is provide enough information within my own post to make it informative and perhaps interesting, providing links for the above-mentioned purposes but not expecting the majority of my readers to follow them.  When I do think a link is particuarly important, I'll make that clear.

I've been thinking about the subject recently, as the amount of information that comes my way continues to expand exponentially.  I like to think of myself as an aggregator for my friends and family, passing on important ideas, worrisome trends, and interesting stories that others might not find; I know that I am grateful to people who provide that service for me.  But I also know that merely being sent a link is no longer particularly helpful.  If I don't know something about the subject, and what's more important, what the sender himself thinks about the link he has sent, I find I'm less and less likely to check it out.  Too much information, too little time.  Since many of my readers have less time than I do, I'll try to provide better service here.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 11:27 am | Edit
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Feeling the relief of the immediate pressure of travel/Christmas/wedding, I decided to make some long-overdue blog modifications.  Some were easy, and some...well, let's just say that—as with much system maintenance—it started by breaking more than it fixed.  Specifically, links.  And because this particular change was system-wide, it messed up Janet's links as well as mine.  Not all of them, but some, and finding out which ones is part of the fun.  :)  So please be patient as I continue to work on this, all the while trying not to let it consume too much of the time that should be spent on laundry, etc.

Your Webmaster.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 11:50 am | Edit
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Please be patient, those of you who sent me the innundation of e-mails that awaited me tonight.  You know the stories you hear about people in a coma who can understand all that is going on around them but can't respond?  It's something like that.  At the moment I can receive e-mail but not send it.  I have no idea why, but I'll be working on it soon.

Maybe after the Scattergories game that is calling me right now....
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 1, 2008 at 6:59 pm | Edit
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I think maybe I know why no one has commented on my new bookshelves.  They're currently located under "Welcome" in the side panel.  They are on my machine, anyway.  But I just discovered that not everyone can see them.  My question is, can anyone?
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, August 17, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Edit
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During the 18 months we lived in the Boston area, we experienced three deaths in our immediate family.  This, as I realized how much vital information was being lost, was half the reason I developed an unexpected and almost obsessive interest in genealogical research.  The other half was inspired by the proximity of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) library on Newbury Street.  Although I am now over 1200 miles away from that treasure trove of information, I maintain my membership in the Society, and their eNews letter arrived at my inbox this morning.

Normally I can skim the newsletter quickly, maybe click on a link or two and read associated articles, bookmark an occasional new resource, then liberate my inbox.  This time, however, the missive included a link to a new (to me) blog that is only tangentially connected with genealogy.  Over an hour has since elapsed and I am still on the course begun when I opened that e-mail, now making my own post about The Occasional CEO(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 6:27 am | Edit
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Thanks to Andy B.'s suggestion, I just installed the latest version of Firefox.  No verdict on it as yet—it was an easy install, and some of it is seamless, some really cool (such as the security information you can get by clicking on the title bar icon, though the number of websites that identify themselves has been disappointing), and some annoying (changed appearance of some of the icons, which will take some getting used to for someone with the kind of visual memory I have).  Some of the big new features include lots of things you can do from the title bar, and I see that how bookmarks are organized has changed; also, security has supposedly been significantly enhanced.

So far I've liked the evolution of Firefox, unlike Netscape which got more and more annoying with each new version, as they added features I didn't want and which ate up more and more memory and disk space.  Time will tell with 3.0.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 7:22 am | Edit
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