Here's a scary article for you:  Emily Gould's Exposed, from the May 25, 2008 New York Times Magazine.  Andrew Keen (The Cult of the Amateur) would definitely appreciate this story of one woman's venture into a world of publishing unfettered by editorial oversight and subsequent free-fall into the Dark Side of Blogging.

I slumped to the kitchen floor and lay there in the fetal position. I didn’t want to exist. I had made my existence so public in such a strange way, and I wanted to take it all back, but in order to do that I’d have to destroy the entire Internet. If only I could! Google, YouTube, Gawker, Facebook, WordPress, all gone. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for an electromagnetic storm that would cancel out every mistake I’d ever made.

Another sad story about a naïve teenaged girl molested by someone she met on MySpace? Not at all. Just an imprudent adult woman seduced by the delights of seeing her thoughts in print.  Scary.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Edit
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The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen (Doubleday, 2007)

I'm finally reading the book I first wrote about a month an a half ago.  This post is no more a proper book review than the earlier one, since I'm only through the introduction and 3/4 of Chapter One.  I can feel Mr. Keen's keenly disapproving I Told You So look: yet another example of amateurs doing things badly.  So be it.  I just experienced a perfect example of why I have a problem with some of his assertions, and want to share it with you, my minuscule but beloved audience.   Otherwise, distracted amateur that I am, I'd probably forget the illustration before finishing the book.

While I am reading The Cult of the Amateur, Porter is enjoying a G. A. Henty novel, In the Reign of Terror, and tonight he came upon a word with which he was unfamiliar:  louvetier.  Naturally, he asked me about it, since for years I have been the family's reference-book-of-choice.  If Mom doesn't know, she'll look it up and save the rest of us the trouble.  Well, I didn't know, so I went to my handy dictionary.  This is no pocket-sized or student edition, but a thick, heavy Webster's with its own dictionary stand—but it failed me.  On to the next room, and my online references.  BabelFish: No. No.  Merriam-Webster:  No.  Encyclopedia Britannica, surely:  Not at all.  Yet the combination of Google and Wikipedia, very much maligned in that first chapter I had been reading when Porter's question interrupted me, gave me the answer in a matter of seconds.  I should have tried them first, but I was under the influence of the book.  A louvetier, for those of you who are panting to know, is a French wolfcatcher, master of the wolfhounds and responsible for organizing the wolf hunts.  Wikipedia may indeed be amateurish and prone to bias and error, but it answered the question swiftly and—confirmed by Porter from the context of the book—accurately.

More to come.  I can see there is more to appreciate about Keen's insights than I was expecting, as well as plenty with which to disagree.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm | Edit
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Okay, so it may not generate any cash income, but my status as a blogger has earned me a free, one-year subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica online!  Many thanks to Groshlink for the alert.  I'm grateful for the existence of Wikipedia, the hare in the online encyclopedia race, because of its wide-ranging, rapid-response (if not necessarily dependable) fluidity, but the opportunity to be able to access, and link to, a steady, reliable tortoise like the Britannica is not to be missed.

The application site has been swamped, it is claimed, but my blog was approved for the free account in less than 24 hours.  Try it with your blog, before they change their minds!
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm | Edit
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Our spam filter usually works really, really well, but the stupid spammers are getting more and more clever, and there were two when I awoke this morning.  I deleted them, but those of you who use feedreaders will no doubt see them.  In case you were wondering, my posts were shanghaied—the spam came from Shanghai, China.  (Thanks, Feedjit!)

More disturbing, however, was that in the process of deleting them I discovered two legitimate comments that had been marked as spam.  I fixed that, but one was in made January and the other in February, so they don't show up in the Recent Comments list.  My apologies to Peter V and Stephan; click on their names to see the posts and their comments.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 17, 2008 at 6:22 am | Edit
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I've known the Agony of Defeat often enough when it comes to the sport of e-mail balancing, but today I glory in a victory:  My Inbox is empty.

That's rare enough, but not enough to merit a blog post.  Although it seems to balloon to over 100 e-mails with unconscionable ease, and sad to say even 300 if I blink, I can usually whack it down to manageable size, even briefly zero, with a little sustained effort.  And some cheating. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 8:07 am | Edit
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For those of you who don't read Heather and Jon's blog, I can't resist posting this view of life through the eyes of a four-year-old living in a geek house in this new century:

We happened to get two pictures in the mail, and Jonathan was holding them and looking at them. Then he piped up, "How do you get pictures to look like this?" Like what? This is a 21st century boy—he meant how do they get on paper.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 9:04 am | Edit
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It's another one of those things I lived without just fine, thank you, though now I wonder why I waited so long.  Blame an outdated sense of the cost of webcams; I never imagined I could buy one for under $100, much less under $30.  But thanks to Stephan, Janet, and Best Buy, I'm all set.

It has been great to be able to see Janet when I talk with her, as well as for her to be able to initiate phone calls.  Now I'm having double the fun (or five times as much, depending on how you calculate it) because another of my favorite families has joined the video Skype crowd.  I'm sure the excitement will wear off after a while, but for now I'm enjoying lots of smiles, hugs, I-love-yous, what's-happening-now, and best of all those dear faces and voices.  I love to get those quick little text messages that say things like "Hi! I finished my math and am now going to do writing," with plenty of music note and hugging teddy bear emoticons.

And this morning?  This morning I was the delighted one-person, long-distance audience for a cello concert!
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 7:46 am | Edit
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Having discovered FEEDJIT on Stephanie's blog, I had to try it myself. (That's the "Recent Visitors" map in the panel to the right.) It's a graphical (and geographical) peek at who my faithful readers are, and who has wandered in via a random search.  Don't worry, I don't really know who you are, just where you're coming from (which allows me to guess who you might be).  Even that isn't always accurate; I'm certain that all those Portsmouth, Rhode Island hits are actually from Hartford, Connecticut.  And my Swiss fan has only once showed up as from Basel—the rest are all over the map, and I'm certain I don't have a following at the Château de Chillon, despite the hits from Montreux. The greatest problem is that I won't see you if you hide behind a feedreader; until Heather posted a comment, one would have thought I had no readers in Pittsburgh at all.

Still, it's been both entertaining and enlightening.  I'm certain of the identity of those who show up on the map as Oswego and Schenectady, and am delighted to know you read much more than you comment.  :)  I can identify most of my known readers, but am totally mystified by someone in Tempe, Arizona, who read some 20 posts.  Most who find me via a search read the one post and then leave. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 10:30 am | Edit
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A long time ago (in computer years), we were told that the best way to extend laptop battery life was

  • Always do a full, complete charge/discharge cycle; never do partial charges/discharges.
  • Always charge the battery with the computer off.
  • Take the battery out of the laptop when running on A/C power.

There must have been something valuable about this advice, because our IBM Thinkpad R31 battery is six years old, and only recently has shown signs of deteriorating—and that after we had begun being a little careless with the above procedure, though at that age it may have been coincidence.  Searching around on the Internet I find that people even today seem to be happy with a three-year battery life.

However, I'm sure technology has changed, and I'm wondering if the recommendations have.  The instructions that came with my new computer recommend the full charge/discharge cycle, but say nothing about keeping the machine off while charging.  Although they don't deal with the issue directly, they seem to assume the battery will be in at all times, even when using A/C power.  They do suggest removing the battery if the computer will be off "for an extended period of time" (whatever that is) when on the road, to prevent battery power from draining.

Looking online, I can find (as one might expect) every possible variation on (1) the original advice, above; (2) everything has changed and you don't need to do any of that anymore; and (3) some of it is still helpful, but not enough so to be worth the hassle.  One piece of information I didn't know is that there is a power meter in the battery itself, which is calibrated by full charge—full discharge—full charge, which is why it's important to do that when the battery is new, and perhaps every 30 days thereafter.

With this new machine, I'm inclined to leave the battery in most of the time and not worry about it, after the initial calibration, but anyone else's experience, knowledge, and suggestions would be appreciated.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 7, 2008 at 7:51 am | Edit
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I'll write in further detail about my wonderful Christmas present from Porter, the outcome of the debate detailed in this post.  But while reading the Safety and Warranty Guide for my Smilenew computerSmile, I came upon this admonition and could go no further without reporting it:

Do not operate your computer inside furniture, as this might increase the risk of overheating. 

My mind boggled trying to imagine what piece of furniture I might wish to be inside, even if I could imagine how to get there.  I finally decided this must be a very generic booklet that doesn't realize this is a laptop computer—after all, it did also tell me to keep the cover closed whenever the computer is plugged in. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Edit
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They say trying new things keeps your mind young.  I should be in good shape, having recently ventured into two areas I was sure I'd never touch, finding them useless at best.  One is Facebook, which I had classed—along with MySpace and LifeJournal—as boring, yet time-wasting websites for teenaged girls to gossip and bully each other, and for sexual predators to troll for victims.  But Janet was invited to join by her oboe professor, so how could she say no?  Then she had so much fun finding people with whom she'd lost contact that I decided to see what it was all about.

No doubt it is a good place for teenaged bullying and dangerous liasons, but it doesn't have to be, and I've been surprised at how many friends I've found or been found by already.  I love sending Christmas letters, because it keeps us in contact with friends whose lives for the most part no longer intersect with ours.  I sense that this logic has no appeal to the Facebook generation, which may never lose that contact.  Perhaps the greatest danger (predators and bullies aside) is in being overwhelmed by trivial, shallow contact.  The signal-to-noise ratio is rather poor.  At least in a Christmas letter one is forced by space limitations to keep to the more important issues. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 7:02 am | Edit
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I found this great site while procrastinating doing research for our Christmas letter and want to share it.  Did you ever want to know how far it really is from Orlando to Basel?  Or the path your airplane would probably take from New York to Paris?  Check out Great Circle Mapper!

Great Circle route MCO-BSL


Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at 2:17 pm | Edit
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Today our computer network stopped working.

I needed to access a file on our laptop from our Windows 98 machine.  Nothing.  Nada.  The helpful message from Windows told me the nework was unavailable and I should contact my network administrator.  Hello, that's me, and neither I nor me had any clue.  Even more helpfully it told me to start the network troubleshooter, which then presented me with a totally blank screen.  Apparently it had no more clue than me or I.  For the record, Porter was equally stumped, though he manfully plowed through our home networking book for a while. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Edit
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How many times do I have to be taught that technology, while useful, even delightful at times, is not to be depended on?  I wonder if electronic equipment works better in Switzerland, where trains and trams are so dependable that a three-minute deviation from schedule is a notable occurrence?

Once again, I picked up my PDA to find it had lost everything.  This is the third time that has happened in about a year an a half, and I think it's related to alarms going off repeatedly when I'm not aware of them.  I'd love to shut off the alarms on the handheld device, but I can't do that without removing them from the desktop, which is where I really need them.  But this time surprised me, because last I knew there was still plenty of life in the batteries.

Oh, well—I had a backup and only lost a couple of pieces of data.  It would be helpful if I knew which data I'd lost, but I'll manage.  At least this time I was home and could restore the data quickly—the first time I was on vacation and could do nothing till my return.  That's when I learned to keep key information on paper when I travel!

Our nifty electronic devices are still too useful for me to give them up altogether, but it's good to be reminded now and then of the importance of backups and of Plans B.  Of more concern is our similar dependence on fallible sources of heat, light, water, food, transportation, and other basic necessities, but that's another issue and much harder to resolve.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 3:05 pm | Edit
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This morning I did as I usually do several times a day—I went to Google to perform an Internet search.  This time the front page informed me that Google is now celebrating its ninth birthday.

I'm not sure what to think about that.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. 

If you think about that too much, you can find yourself ranking it among the world's most terrifying statements.  Not that it in any way diminishes the value Google and other search engines have added to our lives.  But whether for good or for ill, the Internet and Google have wrought radical changes.  I'm old enough for nine years to seem but an instant, and find it hard to believe the pre-Google world was less than a decade ago.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 10:05 am | Edit
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