Shuffling Along

Apple is the only company I know that can consistently get buzz from crippled (yet stylish) products. Need an example? Take the iPod Shuffle (please… ba-dum-tish). Looking to capture the low-end media player market, Apple introduced the flash-based Shuffle without a display.

Like Apple’s one-button mouse, using the Shuffle is simple. Want to know what song is playing? Just listen. Want to know what song will be playing next? Wait and listen. Want to select a different song? Push the buttons and listen. It’s the MP3 player equivalent of the weather rock.

Rather than be embarrassed, Apple is increasing the lack of control and calling it a feature. Apple brags that iTunes can randomly load songs from your library onto your Shuffle. After all, why be surprised merely by the order of songs when you can also be surprised by what songs are on your Shuffle?

With the Shuffle’s 240-song capacity, random music programming could make sense for a generation that’s been trained to thumb its way from one crappy reality show to the next six-pack ab-exerciser infomercial. Don’t like the song Shuffle chose for you? Click!

So, do I hate iPods? No, as I wrote earlier, I received a 20-GB iPod for Christmas and still love it. I’ve been cruising the iPod sites looking for ways to integrate the iPod even more into my life. Necessary additions seem to be some way to connect to my home and car sound systems. I’m not concerned whether I should have waited for Apple’s next insanely-great product. Should I ever have Shuffle-envy, Mark Husson has lobotomy instructions.

The Power of Small

Rolled eyes. Slammed doors. Heavy sighs. Shaking heads. Stomping off.

What we do is louder than what we say–it’s common knowledge. Yet when challenged, we don’t admit to our nonverbal messages. “What?! What did I say? I didn’t say that.”

Not all nonverbals are negative. We wink, nod, smile, lean forward, gesture, and make eye contact. All of these behaviors, both positive and negative, are “micromessages” with real, immediate impacts on their recipients.

This morning I attended MicroInequities: The Power of Small taught by Stephen Young of Insight Education Systems. The four-hour class considered the power of micromessages. It was billed as “diversity training,” but that classification limits the course’s true scope. Although micromessages expose our attitudes, those attitudes can be based on more than diversity issues. Witness our microinequity problems with our spouses, with our children.

The class introduces the concept of micromessages and gives a less emotionally charged vocabulary to discuss them than the old standby, “I don’t like your tone, young man.” Young should be an actor; he’s able to entertainingly demonstrate multiple micromessages in a single sentence or transition from unspoken “hi” to full-body leer.

Young concludes the training with the proposition that as observers of microinequities, we have the power and the responsibility change our behavior and attempt to influence the behavior of those around us.

If MicroInequities is available to you, I recommend your attending. According to Young, a book having the same title will be available this April.

The State of Blogging

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released a report on the state of blogging.

By the end of 2004 blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture. Two surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November established new contours for the blogosphere: 8 million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users; 5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online; and 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs. Still, 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is.

8,000,000 blogs. If you had asked a month ago (before I started this blog), even I could have said I had created a blog and had posted comments. Some time ago, I was curious about blogs so I created a Blogger blog and posted a couple of experimental comments. I suspect quite a few other people did the same when they downloaded Google’s toolbar. However, even a lot of people doing something once doesn’t a movement make. Attempting to extrapolate from “at least once in a lifetime” events is risky and likely to result in statistical nonsense.

58% readership jump. Only a 58% readership jump in 2004?! In other words, blog readership did not even double during a year when blogs played a major role in Rathergate/memogate, Christmas in Cambodia, and even Dean’s early success? Doesn’t seem likely.

62% of internet users do not know what a blog is. This statistic is believable. Even at the high-tech company where I work, many people don’t know what a blog is (though that statistic is rapidly changing as the president/COO has recently started an internal blog).

The internet is filled with excitement like the mid ’90’s, when people were creating their own web pages. The difference is, blog content is dynamic. Although many have tried blogging and read blogs, the potential for growth is amazing.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

As I start to write it’s a little more than two hours until next year. It’s been nearly a week since my last posting. Let’s recap.

On Sunday, I officially entered the world of iPod. After ripping and transferring all of my CD’s, I have a 20-GB iPod that’s twice as big as necessary. Time to get some more music… I enjoy having all my music at my fingertips. Not having mastered the skill of creating multiple play lists, I’m enjoying listening to my entire library in shuffle mode. Never know what’s coming next. Quick tip: if you have an iPod, you need Anapod Explorer from Red Chair Software. Anapod makes it easy to have more songs on your iPod than on your PC. This won’t be a problem if you can dedicate 20 GB to your music library; I can’t.

Just a few days after my first post on earthquakes, the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami struck south Asia. The current death toll is 124,000 and expected to rise. The earthquake still shows as a large circle on the IRIS seismic monitor, but it will soon be replaced with a purple dot, indistinguishable from the many already showing. The earthquake doesn’t yet show on the USGS list of significant earthquakes, but when it does, it will not be the earthquake with the most loss of life. That horrific honor goes to a quake on January 23, 1556, in Shensi, China. Amazingly, there are a few more with at least 200,000 fatalities.

Ironically, on Wednesday, we went to the OMNIMAX theater at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon, and saw Forces of Nature.

Just yesterday, Suzi and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Only those who have never made it beyond their honeymoon would believe me if I claimed the last 20 years have been without trouble. Nonetheless, the years have been much better than I deserved. Thank you, Suzi. Here’s looking forward to 20 more!

I haven’t written New Year’s resolutions for years. This year won’t be different. Meet you in 2005!

Merry Christmas

The day is nearly a over, and what a day it has been. My alarm went off at 6:00 a.m., reminding me that stockings still needed to be hung with care over the fireplace. Grabbing all four, I headed downstairs and carefully stepped over my four offspring sleeping (closer to truth: faking sleep) in front of the Christmas tree. I learned with the first stocking that the mantel hangers were not heavy enough to suspend a stocking without falling to the hearth. Not wanting to be caught, I propped the overstuffed stockings on a padded chair by the tree and headed back upstairs for another half hour of needed sleep. Already, the sounds of happy discovery were floating up the stairs. After stockings, each opened one present: books to read in the afternoon.

We made ready and left for early church. As we neared our destination, we recognized a familiar blue, 15-passenger van parked on the edge of the road with steam billowing out from under its hood. Another friend had pulled in behind to offer help. We offered transportation and learned that ten people can fit in a Honda Odyssey, if only for a short distance.

Church was uneventful, which was good because Ashley was the pianist. As scheduled, I attempted to teach the early-teen class, and succeeded for most of the hour. With about 15 minutes to go, it was clear I had lost their interest, so we ended by singing Christmas carols. Maybe not the best way to end when the topic is proper stewardship of time, but then again, maybe it was…

Our supply of Russian tea cakes, fudge, and rice crispy treats is dwindling. The puzzle started last night is completed, along with another started and finished this afternoon. We watched the old, black-and-white version of Miracle of 34th Street, judging it to be better than the more recent, colorful version.

Suzi had to work evening shift so we went in to have supper with her. Nothing looked particularly good (plus, as we had been eating Russian tea cakes, fudge, and rice crispy treats all afternoon, we weren’t that hungry), so we had pumpkin pie with whipped cream and called it good.

Christmas will take three days this year, with the few presents Christmas eve, the stockings and present on Christmas day, and the rest to be opened tomorrow when Suzi will be home.

Christmas is a good time of year. Even with the commercialization, we can remember Jesus’ birth as the true reason to celebrate. Our gifts to each other are symbols of the gift Jesus gave to us. I hope the true Spirit of Christmas is in your heart.

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve!

Everyone is home and the Christmas music is playing. Suzi and I finished the last of our shopping this afternoon and most of the day’s purchases are already wrapped and under the tree. The rest are arrayed on our bed, surrounded by boxes and wrapping paper.

Suzi and the girls made goodies this afternoon. Jamison makes sure the candles are always burning. We have more fudge, Russian tea cakes, and rice crispy treats than we should attempt to eat (but we will).

Suzi’s parents are coming over for supper and a quiet evening. The food is simmering on the stove and the house smells nice. We have a 500-piece puzzle picked out.

All of us will open one present tonight and then the kids will sleep under the tree.

I love Christmas!

Has Been — NOT!

Has Been album cover

Earlier this week, I was at Borders buying a couple of gift certificates for people at work. Whenever I’m there, I have to check out the CDs that they have in the players to see if there’s anything I like. There in the middle of one of the groups of five CDs was William Shatner’s new album, Has Been. I’d read a favorable review of in Guitar Player magazine, so I gave it a listen. I’m not sure, but I think I was laughing out loud a couple of times listening to it on the headphones. Pity the other shoppers.

Shatner doesn’t do much singing (at least not on the songs I previewed). Instead, Shatner talks over music, but it’s good. The lyrics are strangely relevant and shockingly blunt. Here’s a sampling from “It Hasn’t Happened Yet”:

I dreamt of success
I would be the best
I would make my folks proud
I would be happy
It hasn’t happened yet
It hasn’t happened yet
It hasn’t happened

Or how about from “You’ll Have Time”:

Live Life
Life life like you’re gonna die
Because you’re going to
Oh yes
I hate to be the bearer of bad news
But you’re gonna die

Maybe not today or even next year
But before you know it you’ll be saying
“Is this all there was?
What was all the fuss?
Why did I bother?
Why did I waste it?
Why didn’t I taste it?”
You’ll have time, baby
You’ll have time
‘Cause you’re gonna die
You are gonna die
Oh yeah

I was back at Borders last night, Christmas shopping with my middle daughter. I had her listen to “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” and “You’ll Have Time.” When we saw they were sold out, she was disappointed that I hadn’t bought one when I was there earlier.

I don’t know whether it’s worth a purchase. It’s a lot of fun to hear the first time or two, but will it get old fast?

Is it just me, or does William Shatner have fun with everything he does? Maybe it’s that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. has re-hired Shatner to be its spokesman and is offering a bobble-head doll. Check it out.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

To read the MSM, the only war worth reporting is America’s “illegal” attack on Iraq. The actual case, as documented by is very different.

The United Nations defines “major wars” as military conflicts inflicting 1,000 battlefield deaths per year. In 1965, there were 10 major wars under way. The millennium ended with much of the world consumed in armed conflict or cultivating an uncertain peace. At the end of 2003, there were 15 Major Wars under way, with at least 20 “lesser” conflicts ongoing.

The list of international disputes is much longer.