Archive for the 'blogging' Category

Creepy advertising

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and for many people that means outdoor cookouts with hot dogs, burgers, Bar-B-Q, and other typical “American” food. Coincidentally, today’s post from blog-buddy Supacoo (whose job has relocated her to Germany for the next two years) features a link to the European discount chain ALDI, and offers an entertaining look at how “American” products (and by extension, Americans themselves) are perceived over in Deutchland. Hot dogs in a jar, anyone?

Here is your typical American Housewife, as presented in the German ad:

I don’t know about you, but this woman scares the shit out of me. Look at that evil grin and those demon eyes, not to mention that she’s squeezing something out of a tube onto my sandwich that appears to be silicone drain sealant. After I choke to death on it, she’s going to cook ME for dinner.

Psycho-Wife joins a long and storied history of advertising models who look like they’ve just stepped out of a horror movie. For example, this kid is either eating a plate of spaghetti, or it could be brains. I’m not sure.

Next, the look on the little girl’s face below seems to indicate that she has apparently forced her mother to chop up the family dog in a meat grinder and spread the bloody offal on a sandwich for her:

Whereas there is absolutely no mistaking that this next child is, indeed, the Daughter of Satan:

Mmmm, human hearts on a plate. Bon appetit!

More people who do stuff better than I do

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Which would include roughly 99.97% of the Earth’s population, but never mind that now. If you are a fan of both photography and music, as I am, you will enjoy visiting Steve is an affable English bloke who built a beautiful house on a loch in the Scottish highlands where he lives with his family, including Charlie, a Bearded Collie whom he describes as “somewhat mad”. Steve kept a blog to document the construction of his home, which must be seen to be believed. If I ever had a “dream house”, it would look very much like the 5-bedroom eco-friendly Finnish log home (with integrated recording studio) that Steve designed and built on 200 yards of coastline in a Caledonian pine forest, with views to die for.

Steve’s music is very orchestral in nature; he now composes mainly production soundtracks for film, television, and documentaries after spending many years as a session player in London. Unlike me, he takes stunning photos, which can be seen in great detail (some can be downloaded as wallpaper) on his site. Like me, however, he is an aficionado of Bad Album Cover Art, including this delightfully tacky sample from his collection which has now become one of my favorites:

I’m sure there’s an inspirational message here, but I have no idea what it might be, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to know, as somehow this cover suggests the disturbing possibility that Freddie Gage is a mass murderer who has killed and dismembered his entire family and all his friends. At least he was careful not to get any blood on those white boots.

Words on a page

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

You should read this blog. No, not this blog … this blog. Here’s a few random quotes:

I’ve never been a fan of those “Love Is” comics (you know, with the naked children with the big methed-out eyes and scary lack of genitalia), but I’m pretty sure they never published one that read: “Love is… giving him sponge baths and cleaning up his poop as he waits for the sweet release of death.”


When you live in the same place for too long, the weird stuff starts to blend into the background. I doubt if a farmer has ever looked out on his back yard and thought, “Holy shit, look at all those fucking cows! How the hell did I end up here? Have I seriously not had a friend in the last decade who I haven’t milked?”


At some point during the evening, they casually mentioned, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, that their home is haunted by a ghost who likes to play pranks on them.

“At least once a month, we’ll wake up under our bed,” the husband told us.

“Excuse me?” I asked. “Under the bed? As in… on the floor?”

“That’s right,” he said with a giggle. “We’ll open our eyes and we’re staring up at the bed frame, wondering how the heck we got there. It was kinda spooky the first time it happened, but after awhile we just got used to it.”

Check it out. Seriously. Good. Shit.

I must admit that it intimidates me a bit to read the work of someone who blogs this well. I know it’s stupid and pointless to compare my feeble scribblings to a professional writer with many magazine credits and no less than six published books, any more than it is to judge my crappy 80′s songwriting attempts by, say, Lennon/McCartney standards. But even though there’s no way in hell I can measure up (nor should I expect to), the same thought nevertheless occurs to me that I had back then, when I thought there might be a chance I could actually become some sort of musical “artist”: I am merely average; not terrible, but not great, and certainly not good “enough”.

I have long believed that every single person on the planet has emotions and thoughts bubbling around in our brains that can be expressed in some creative way if given the opportunity — whether it be painting, photography, writing music, poetry, or any other art form. But to me, two primary qualities distinguish “average” from “great”; one, of course, being the quality of the work, but the other being sustainability. For most of us, once we get those few burning thoughts out of our systems and are reasonably pleased with our efforts, we’re spent. Done. Pack it up, that’s all she wrote. We quickly realize that while we might have a modicum of talent or ability, we have no original thoughts or emotions that haven’t already been better expressed by someone else previously.* “Why re-invent the wheel?”, a potential artist might logically ask. If I can’t be “great”, then why bother at all?

Thank God everyone doesn’t think like this, however, otherwise there would have been no words written after Shakespeare, nor would anyone have attempted to compose music after hearing Mozart. Much of what’s called “the creative process” involves some form of imitation; after all, there are only so many human emotions. How many songs throughout history (or at least within the last 50-60 years) can be distilled, at their most basic expression, down to “I love my baby”?

Nope; I’ll keep on blogging, even though so many others do it better. Millions of average writers like myself will continue to spill our average words on the page/screen, in the hope that eventually one of us will create something truly original and noteworthy that stands the test of time. It’s human nature, and if we don’t strive for it, we’ll never achieve it. Thankfully, blogs like the one I discovered today inspire me to keep trying.

*Musically speaking, to a certain extent this explains the “sophomore jinx” that many bands experience; their second effort being vastly inferior to their first, because they’ve already said whatever it was they had to say and failed to deliver on their initial promise. It is also for this reason that I think the whole idea of a “cover” recording of a signature song already well-done by a famous artist is patently absurd.

Woot me!

Monday, May 12th, 2008

I’ve discovered a new obsession fun diversion: the deal-a-day site known as Woot. Every day at midnight, they put up one item for sale at a ridiculously low price, and when they’re gone, they’re gone; it could be minutes, it could be hours. You never know what they’re going to have for sale in advance, or when an item might sell out, so the only thing to do is go there and check it out every day as soon after midnight as possible, in case it’s something you might actually want. For example, just the other day I snagged this lovely Mr. Toast T-Shirt for a mere five bucks:

Uber-fashionable, eh? Of course, I think this one would have been much more appropriate:

Eet mor chikken, use mor kompewter

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

So I’m in Houston today, having another round of pulmonary function tests. There’s great news to report: my numbers are UP since last time — woo hoo! My FVC (or Forced Vital Capacity, a primary measurement of lung health) has gone from 56% in October to 60% today. I will therefore dodge the transplant bullet for at least another three months.

What does this have to do with “chikin”, you ask? After leaving the hospital this afternoon and before beginning the long 3-hour drive home, I was hungry and decided to stop at a nearby Chick-fil-A for supper. While dining, I noticed that a number of folks had their laptops out and realized this particular restaurant had Wi-Fi, as is the growing trend these days — even at fast-food joints like Micky Dee’s. I had left mine in the car, but I was parked right next to the entrance and figured I would be close enough to still be in range, and might check e-mail from the parking lot before heading down the road. However, some public hot spots require a password, or a register receipt number, or something similar for access. So, as one of the friendly employees walked past me, I caught his eye and asked, “Excuse me, do I need to do anything special for Wi-Fi access here?”

He looked at my table (which at that moment contained only my Original Chicken Sandwich and an order of Waffle Fries) and hesitated only momentarily before replying:

“Well, yeah, you need a computer.”

Duh. Do I really look that stupid? Have they actually had customers who needed to be told this?

But I just laughed, and found that I indeed had to register first but could do so online once I connected to their network. I got the laptop from the car, and that’s what I’ve done. Since traffic in Houston is so god-awful at this time of day, I may linger here for a while to let it clear out a bit, and have a slice of pie and some coffee before doing battle with the freeway crowd.

In any case, this post represents a landmark of sorts, being the first time I have actually blogged from a public place. Other customers occasionally are staring at me; I wonder if they think I’m downloading porn or something. Maybe I look like that sort of a guy.

Nope. Only a low-life Blogging Degenerate. That’s better, right?

The Legend of Nablopomo

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

A lot of my blogger friends have been very prolific recently, having decided to write an entry in their online journals every single day for the next month. I am very happy for them, and look forward to reading their posts with great anticipation. Last year I participated in the blogging frenzy myself, but after much reflection and gnashing of teeth, I have decided not to join in again this year. For one thing, my output lately has been pathetic — only a paltry few posts during the month of October, and this is the first one for November — so I have very little faith in my ability to come up with a post each day this month. And even if I did, they would be truly horrible. To give you a perfect example of this, a friend in the UK (whom I refer to as “The Madman Across The Water”) recently sent me a spot of British Humour (hah!) that goes like this:

“Council tax re-valuers want to charge us more if we live in a nice area. So, that ought to mean discounts for those of us who live in rough areas. We have a huge council house at the end of our street. The extended family who live there is run by a grumpy old woman with a pack of fierce dogs. Her car isn’t taxed or insured, and doesn’t even have a number plate, but the police still do nothing. Her bad tempered old man is famous for upsetting foreigners with his racist comments. A shopkeeper blames him for ordering the murder of his son and his son’s girlfriend, but nothing has been proved yet. All the kids have broken marriages except the youngest, who everyone thought was gay. Two grandsons are meant to be in the Army but are always seen out in nightclubs. The family’s odd antics are always in the papers. They are out of control. I mean, honestly – who would want to live near Windsor Castle?”

Now keep in mind that had I been participating in the Big Blog-athon this month, that bit of piffle you just read above would have taken up an entire post, people. Worse yet, since groaning about Nablopomo is one of the most popular topics to write about during Nablopomo, there would be at the very least several entries expressing the general theme “I have nothing to write about, but I’m posting anyway”, as I did ad nauseum last year. I might even be reduced to posting full-color photos of my big toe. There would be a great hue and cry in the comments of “For the love of God, someone stop him before he posts again!”

No my friends, it would not be pretty, and you should thank me for not writing every day. I am doing you a favor, honestly.

However, since Nablopomo is a hot topic in the Blogosphere right now and thousands of people are participating, I thought I would write at least one post about it as there seems to be a lot of confusion about what “Nablopomo” means and how it got started. While many people think it stands for “National Blog Posting Month”, I know the true story.

In reality, NaBloPoMo was the name of the wise chief of a small, relatively obscure group of Indians who lived in upstate New York in the early 1800′s. NaBloPoMo of The PoCoNos, as he was known, was different from most other Indians of his day who were warlike and uncommunicative; instead, Nablopomo was well-educated and had traveled extensively, and taught his people advanced language skills which they would use in creative, often sarcastically humorous ways.

One day in the late fall of 1807, the Pocono Tribal Council had gathered for one of their big pow-wows. There was an exchange that went something like this:

Indian #1: “All hail Nablopomo, our wise and well-educated Chief!”

Rest of Indians (in unison): “Huzzah!”

Nablopomo: “Thank you my brothers.”

Indian #2: “Tell us, oh wise Nablopomo. The sun sinks low in the sky and the days are becoming short. Our people are bored and restless and in need of an activity which will bring them together in peace and harmony. What shall we do?”

Nablopomo: “I have a vision. I want all the tribe to go into the forest and gather tree bark and berries. We will grind up the tree bark with water, pound it into a paste and press it into thin sheets. After it dries into parchment, we will mix the berry juice with animal tallow and make it into ink. Then, every day for a month, we will use chicken feathers dipped in this ink to record every detail of our lives. We will write down all of our thoughts about every thing that happens to us or anyone we know, and then attach these writings to the log of a big tree in the center of camp. Each day, the tribe will gather at this big log, or “b’log” as I will call it for short, to read these writings.”

(Indians look confused and murmur nervously amongst themselves. Finally one speaks up.)

Indian #3: “But Nablopomo, the cold of winter approaches and this is surely much work and effort to do these things you ask. How will it benefit the tribe?”

Nablopomo: “We will all feel really good about ourselves and have a great sense of accomplishment.”


Nablopomo: “And maybe we’ll bake cookies.”

Rest of Indians (in unison): “Huzzah!”

Nablopomo: “Hey, don’t bogart that peace pipe.”

And so it came to pass that every day for the next month, Nablopomo and his tribe indeed wrote down everything that crossed their minds, and posted their thoughts on the big log for all to see. They posted recipes for pemmican and caribou, and drew pictures of their family and pets.

There was also much gossip about members of other tribes. For example, among the nearby Buffalo-Spear clan was a young squaw who was said to have been able to calm savage beasts with her lovely singing voice, and mesmerize young braves with her lithe movements. But then her singing became mostly just grunts and moans, and when she tried to dance she stumbled about clumsily and nearly fell over. She began wearing skimpy buckskin outfits and staying up all night. Finally, tribal elders were forced to take her two young papooses away from her. It was just embarrassing, really, but for some reason all the tribes were fascinated by her erratic actions and wanted to write about them.

We know about all of this today because the writings of Nablopomo and The Poconos are all that survived of the tribe. Sadly, because they were so busy making parchment and ink, and writing and posting for the entire month, they neglected to gather food and supplies or to insulate their teepees in advance of the rapidly approaching harsh winter, and the entire tribe perished of cold and starvation during a terrible blizzard in early 1808.

There is a great lesson to be learned here, and that lesson is this: “Nablopomo and The Poconos” would make a excellent name for a rock and roll band.

NBC’s Brian Williams on new media

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

The NBC news anchor and managing editor spoke before a crowd of NYU journalism students last month on the challenges that traditional journalism faces from online media. The following quotes from his speech have been widely circulated since then, but in case you missed them:

On bloggers:

“You’re going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I’m up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn’t left the efficiency apartment in two years.”

On YouTube:

“If we’re all watching cats flushing toilets, what aren’t we reading? What great writer are we missing? What great story are we ignoring? This is societal, it’s cultural, I can’t change it. We should maybe pause to think about it. Because like everybody else, I can burn an hour on YouTube or Perez Hilton without breaking a sweat. And what have I just not paid attention to that 10 years ago I would’ve just consumed?”

More details here. Not surprisingly, Williams has been roundly criticized for these remarks in the blogosphere for coming off as “self-important” and a “knucklehead“, but I’m not so sure that he doesn’t have a good point. Remember that he was addressing journalism students, not the general public. These folks will graduate from college trained to become our next generation of professional newspaper, magazine, radio, and TV reporters, and the landscape today is vastly different than 10 years ago when people like Williams were learning the craft. We now have an army of “citizen journalists” who, armed with their cell-phone video cameras and blogs, have the ability to reach a potential audience of millions.

But in any creative field, whether it be music, art, or journalism, there will always be tons of chaff for every few kernels of wheat. It’s up to the consumer to sort it out for themselves and choose what they think is most valuable, whether it’s NBC, Fox News, the Daily Kos, Michelle Malkin, the New York Times, or any other source. I think Williams was simply saying that there are a lot more choices available these days, and the value of that information can be difficult to determine when everyone writing on the Internet presents themselves as an “expert”.

“On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

ABC “hate radio” blog war

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

As someone very interested in both blogging and broadcasting, a developing story out of San Francisco has caught my attention today. ABC’s KSFO-AM 560 is one of those “conservative” talk-radio stations that have taken over the AM dial in recent years. The station features the typical right-wing rubbish of syndicated blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Dr. Laura, but the station’s own local morning team of Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan is especially offensive; in recent days they’ve made headlines not only by insulting Muslims, but have also hinted at the assassination of new liberal Democratic house speaker Nancy Pelosi by saying “we’ve got a bulls-eye painted on her big wide laughing eyes”. This is just the latest in a long spew of venom from Morgan and Rodger’s “Morning Show” which has earned the station the nickname of “Hate Radio”; among other things, the pair have advocated stomping war protesters to death, the public execution of liberals, clamping the electrodes of a Sears Diehard battery onto the testicles of a black man, and burning down the New York Times for revealing the government’s illegal domestic wiretap program. Last week, one local blogger known as “Spocko” decided he had finally heard enough of this garbage: he posted audio clips from the station on his site, and asked his readers to write the station’s advertisers to make them aware of exactly what was being said under their sponsorship. As a result, some high-profile sponsors such as Netflix and Bank of America pulled their ads from the station.

Before long the Mouse roared back: Disney Co. (parent company of ABC and the station) brought out their big legal guns, first issuing cease-and-desist orders to pull the clips from the blog, then persuading Spocko’s Internet Service Provider to kill his web site altogether. Morgan and Rodgers also attacked Spocko on their program almost daily after the incident, calling him a “coward” and claiming the station was a “victim” of an “anonymous internet smear campaign”.

The next salvo in this skirmish has been fired by bloggers, demonstrating the truth of a new adage: “Don’t Fuck With The Blogosphere”. Spocko’s Brain is back with a vengeance at a new site, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of “little blogs” like mine are spreading the word far and wide that we’re fed up with this crap polluting our airwaves. The story was also picked up by the mainstream media, including the Bay Area’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV channel 5, as well as this article in the S.F. Chronicle.

If you’re interested in helping out, visit Spocko’s Brain and leave an encouraging comment. If you really want to get involved, support organizations like the Electronic Freedom Foundation, who are working to protect the digital rights of “little guys” such as Spocko (as well as you and I) from censorship and legal harassment by big media conglomerates like Disney. But the most important thing you can do is to simply remain vigilant: as Spocko says on his site, “Bloggers on the left want journalists to do their jobs because it is important, on the right they want them hanged. That is a fundamental difference and one you should all notice.”

Blog weather: Mostly cloudy

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Blog “Word Clouds” are popular items these days, here’s mine:

Get yours here.

We have boring statistics!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Those of you who love data analysis, sets, trends, samples, arrays, and other statistical trivia will be thrilled by today’s post. The other 97% of you, feel free to go have a sandwich or something while we ponder the effect of NaBloPoMo on the readership of this here Blog. Not only do I have raw numbers, I’ve got fancy graphs! I mean, just look at this shit!

No doubt this brings to mind the famous Mark Twain quote, “There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the first few days of November started off slowly with less than 20 visitors per day, which has been typical of the last several months around here. But then the effects of NaBloPoMo started kicking in as new readers began stopping by around the 6th; and other than for that mysterious plunge on Saturday the 11th, whoa Nellie … we were off to the races, peaking up around 90 hits on a few days. This is very exciting for me, and once again please let me thank everyone who visited during the month.

Of course, my ability to sustain this level of growth is highly doubtful. I pulled out all the stops for NaBloPoMo, folks: surveys, humor, pathos, thoughtful commentary, not to mention the cute cat pictures. However, that ship may have sailed, as they say, as my first few posts so far this month will attest. But I’ll keep plugging anyway, and hope that some of y’all will stick around for whatever pithy banter I might come up with next. If that doesn’t work, I may steal David Letterman’s old schtick and start giving away canned hams. Whatever works.

This says it all

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

But even if I didn’t win any of the swag, the accomplishment thing is still not too shabby.

Thank you, NaBloPoMo

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

We made it!

Thirty-one posts later (one a day, plus a spare), this blog has successfully reached the end of National Blog Posting Month, more affectionately known as “NaBloPoMo”. Even better than that, not all of my entries sucked. I’m not sure what the final statistics are regarding the percentage of original participants who managed to complete the month without missing a single post; I suspect I am in the minority. But that’s not really important.

When I began this particular post this morning, somewhere in the back of my mind I had thought I would write about how difficult it had been to come up with fresh material every day, and whine about how tired I was and how much I was looking forward to a day of not having to post. Then I stopped and realized I was missing the point entirely. NaBloPoMo is about stimulating creativity, sharing, and building community; it’s not supposed to be a forced death march (the “post or die” logo notwithstanding). Yes, there has to be a focus, and the post-a-day mandate is a tangible way of encouraging folks to update their blogs regularly without merely saying “you know, you ought to write more often”. But even if we didn’t post every single day, it doesn’t mean we failed. We made the effort; we contributed, and had fun with it, and if we missed a day here and there because it stopped being fun, then that is as it should be.

I began to realize something about halfway through the month: for a while I was struggling with writing (as I often do), not knowing what to say or thinking that it wasn’t “good” enough. But at some point I said to myself “what the hell, just do it”, and when I did, I found that the words started to flow more easily, sometimes becoming a stream of consciousness that bounced nearly effortlessly out of my head, off my fingers, and onto the keyboard as fast as I could type them. To any writer, amateur or professional, this is a feeling of pure, ultimate joy … the writer’s reason d’etre. I believe this is what NaBloPoMo celebrates as much as anything, and I am grateful to have had that experience.

I also want to thank all the new folks who have stopped by here this month; you may notice I have added a number of new sites to my Blogrolling list, and I feel like I’ve made some cool new friends as well. I’ve also enjoyed visiting the other participants and reading what they have to say. There are a lot of talented, interesting people out there that I probably would never have discovered had it not been for NaBloPoMo. I hope the Randomizer sticks around, as I’d like to continue to keep up with those on the list after this month is over. Finally, let me express my appreciation to M. Kennedy and all the other folks who put the considerable effort into organizing this affair; you guys have done a great job. (Hey, I started this thing off with a grovel, and by Grabthar’s hammer, I’m gonna end it with one too.)

So Thank You NaBloPoMo, and I hope everyone reading Wind In The Wire has a great holiday season and will come back and visit me again soon.

By the way: in case you’re wondering, this does not mean that tomorrow I won’t totally be observing “NaNoMoFoBloPo”.

A light at the end of the tunnel

Monday, November 20th, 2006

The final day of November will mark the end of NaBloPoMo, or “National Blog Posting Month”. Those who have been posting religiously all month will testify that coming up with fresh content every single day has been more difficult than we first thought it would be. About one-third of the original participants have had to back out due to missing at least one post; some have given up entirely. Therefore, for those of us still running in this marathon, I hereby designate — in no official capacity whatsoever — that Friday, December first, shall be known as NaNoMoFoBloPo, or “National No More Forced Blog Posting” day. It will be mandatory for all bloggers not to post anything on this day to finally give our poor overtaxed brains a day off. Here’s the countdown ticker to the big day of rest:

Yo, NaBloPoMo! Whatup, mofo?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

I’d like to send a special hello to any NaBloPoMo readers that may be dropping by, or hitting this page from the Randomizer.* Welcome to my toasted little corner of cyberspace. Those of you who, like me, are trying to post every single day during the month of November can take some solace in the fact that we’re half-way there! Whoo hoo! We can do it you guys, let’s not stop now! This sort of reminds me of a dance marathon, or one of those crazy contests that auto dealerships have occasionally where they get a bunch of people to put their hands on a new truck, and the last person still touching the truck gets to drive it home. Fortunately for us, we’re allowed to eat, sleep and take occasional bathroom breaks during this particular blogathon, but coming up with a post-a-day is more of a challenge than one might think at first. As I’ve surfed through the list of participants, I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme: a few folks who have given up, or just forgot to post one day, or are running out of ideas to post about, are stressing about it. For example, To Whom It May Concern says today, “Dear NaBloPoMo: I’m tired. Can we just stop now?”

I understand this. I think I’m getting close to the bottom of the barrel myself, although I still have a few ideas up my sleeve that I’m saving for down the line. But let’s remember, this is supposed to be FUN! We’re not going to get a public flogging if we skip a day here and there. I think the point of NaBloPoMo is two-fold: first and most obvious, to get the old creative juices flowing … but just as important seems to be to widen our blogging circle and make some new friends. So those of you who are new here, please let me invite you to visit some of my “regulars” like April, Janelle, Chandira, Meander, Moose, Schnozz, and Dogma. They’d love to have you stop by and visit; please tell ‘em Mr. Toast says “hi”.

Also, if you are new to Wind In The Wire and by some incredible stretch of the imagination actually like what you see here, let me suggest professional help. Ha ha! No seriously, for a crash-course review of some of the less boring stuff I’ve written in the last year, see this post. And come to think of it, the professional help, or at least some serious medication, might not be such a bad idea after all.

Incidentally, is it just me or does anyone else notice that maybe 80-90% of all blogs out there are written by women? What’s up with that? Do women, by and large, have more time for extracurricular activities like blogging, or are they able to express themselves better than men? I would enjoy hearing your comments on this alleged phenomenon. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

*I love the randomizer, BTW … it’s just like Blogger’s “next blog” button except that it always pops up something interesting and readable. When I use the Blogger button to browse, it seems that at least half the time I either get some 13-year-old girl whose idea of a cool blog is a dewy, wide-eyed cartoon pixie princess and a tag board with messages like “OMG!!! That’s so kewwwwel!!!”, or a blog in Spanish, Chinese , or Arabic. Not that I have anything against foreign languages, mind you, I just can’t freaking read them. But check out the randomizer if you haven’t tried it, I guarantee you’ll discover a fresh new, enjoyable read.

Word Art

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

I recently discovered an interesting web site that creates posters from images and text. First type in a word or phrase; the generator searches the web for random images based on your words and creates a background from them. Then it places the text, applying random effects to the whole thing. The results don’t make any real sense, but they do look way cool. Here are a few samples I made from the words “Wind In The Wire”:

The site is called “TypoGenerator” – make your own word art here.

ZoHoHo and a Google of rum

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

I’ve been playing a bit lately with online tools that can be used for blogging or collaborative document creation, and am very impressed with two of the front-runners in this nascent category: Google Docs (formerly known as “Writely”) and ZoHo Writer. Both are free, and allow you to use a full suite of Office-like applications with nothing more than a web browser. This post is being created with ZoHo now.

A buzzword within the computer industry these days is “Software as Service”, a sales model where you “subscribe” to an application which is used over an Internet connection, as opposed to buying it outright as a CD (or download) to install on your home computer. Many people, including myself, are justifiably skeptical of this concept, believing that it’s one more way for giants like Microsoft to get their hooks into you and ultimately force you to cough up more money. This is a big concern, but there are some advantages as well: you’re always using the latest version of the software, and you can use it from any computer anywhere you happen to be. Files and documents are always available, and several people can contribute to a document jointly without the hassle of having to e-mail it back and forth. In certain business situations this makes a lot of sense.

But for the typical home user who uses a word processor and spreadsheet primarily for simple tasks like writing letters and keeping a budget, there may not be the same compelling reasons to use an online suite like ZoHo. For one thing, a broadband connection is mandatory; dialup will make the service so slow and unreliable as to be unusable. And while the online suites have lots of nice features, they’re still outclassed by stand-alone applications like Word and Excel.

However, bloggers may find that these tools are very useful for post creation. Most of the major blogging engines such as Blogger and WordPress have rather featureless post editors, and formatting an entry as anything other than plain-vanilla text can be tricky. WordPress in particular has a clunky WYSIWYG interface which is fond of inserting paragraphs where you only want a line break, and lacks an easy way to format text without tweaking the html code for your entry. But both Google Docs and ZoHo have a nice selection of rich formatting tools that simplify the task of changing text attributes like size, color, and placement. You can also easily spell-check, add hyperlinks and Technorati tags, and import images. Then, once you set up the service to be able to access your blog’s API (the programming interface that allows outside applications to “talk” to your blog) all you have to do is hit the “publish” button from within ZoHo or Google to create or update your post.

After experimenting extensively with both, I have to say I like ZoHo the better of the two. Google may be better integrated, allowing you to switch between spreadsheets, documents, and email service more easily, but ZoHo’s word processor just blows Google away. It’s intuitive and easy to use, and lets you tweak your post to a finer degree than any of the other text tools can do. Plus, I had trouble getting Google to automatically accept the title of the document as the post title, which ZoHo did seamlessly. If you’re tired of your blog’s spartan interface, check out ZoHo Writer and Google Docs. I think they’re pretty cool.

I post, therefore I am

Monday, November 6th, 2006

I learned over the weekend that there’s an “official list” for NaBloPoMo at … and Wind In The Wire is now on there, babies! In case you missed it, National Blog Posting Month is a group of bloggers who have committed to posting every single day during the month of November. I heard about this informally from someone else’s blog, but it’s evidently more of an organized affair than I had realized. As a bonus, in addition to the satisfaction of stretching my brain by contributing to the collective Blogosphere on a daily basis, getting on the list also qualifies me to possibly win cash and prizes! w00t! It’s all good!

But this achievement did not come without effort. The official deadline to be included in the list was November 1st, and since I did not find out about it until the 3rd, I had to send the following email to the list’s administrator begging to be included:

Hello – my name is Mr. Toast and I just found out about NaBloPoMo. I started posting on Nov. 1st, — honest — and I am determined to keep sloggin’ and bloggin’ all month!! However, what I didn’t realize until just now is that you have this list of participants on your site, and if it’s not too late, I’d like to have my blog at included. I don’t even care if I’m not eligible to win any of the swag, I’d just like to maybe get a few new visitors. If you could put me on the list I would be eternally grateful. Bless you, your house and children. You are a fine and decent human being. Thank you thank you, thank you ohmygodthankyou. (I can grovel some more if that would help.)

To which she replied:

“Excellent groveling! You’re in!”

Anyway, if you’re looking for some interesting new blogs to read, check out the list of participants on her site and visit some of the other folks who will be posting every day; you’re guaranteed to find some fresh content. Or try out the NaBloPoMo Randomizer. (It’s like Blogger’s “Next Blog” button, but will display a random blog only from those on the list.) You might even encourage them by leaving a comment — after all, we bloggers do love us some comments. Please do this. I mean really, I want you to, please, pleasepleaseohmygodplease.

Hey, if there’s one thing I can do well, it’s grovel.

Welcome to NaBloPoMo

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

You are saying … “Huh?”

NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, is a grassroots effort launched by a collective of bloggers to celebrate the month of November by agreeing to post something, anything, every single day during the month … even (gasp!) on weekends. The point is to stimulate one’s writing chops and perhaps kick the blogging butt into gear for those who, like me, have been somewhat less than creative lately. Of course, on the surface it seems to me that it may do just the opposite … that I may wind up posting some throwaway crap that would otherwise never see the light of day just so that I can truthfully state, “yes, I put something up today.”

Like this post.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided to toss my hat into the ring for NaBloPoMo and see what happens. I should mention that I learned of this blog-a-thon from my friend Schnozz, a gifted and extremely prolific writer who will have no trouble posting every day this month, even if she never writes about anything other than her rabbits. My cats are not nearly as cute or entertaining, however I should still find lots of other stuff to write about this month, what with the mid-term elections coming up next week, as well as The Holiday Season bearing down upon us with full force. Plus, I’m always discovering oddball items in the news to blog about, like this one about talking urinals, or this one about sternomancy, the art of telling fortunes by the shape of the female breast. (I stop at nothing to keep my readers informed!) So this could be interesting.

Happy NaBloPoMo, y’all!!

I’ll take that in 20′s, please

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

After nearly a year of being worth squat — exactly $0.00 — I can now say that this blog actually has value:

My blog is worth $5,645.40.
How much is your blog worth?

This is a popular little applet which can be found plastered all over the Blogosphere. How the exact amount is calculated is unclear, at least to me, but apparently it has something to do with the “same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal.” Whatever that means. In any case, I could use some extra cash to pay off all those credit card bills from the Toasted Tour 2006 Road Trip that are now just starting to come in, so I’ll be contacting Dane Carlson (right) at the Technorati Business Opportunities website to tell him where to send my check, ha ha.

I’m sure he’s never heard that one before.

Loose Moose

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

For the benefit of fellow blogger Moose in the Kitchen, Mrs. Toast is shown here modeling the latest in Vermont fashions (click the photo for a larger version). Moose (Mooses? Meese?) are quite popular critters in this part of the country. “Caution: Moose Crossing” signs can be seen every few miles or so on the highway, and many moose-themed shops and restaurants are also featured, such as The Cool Moose Creamery where we stopped in Concord, NH. (Ms. Moose, if you ever consider replacing your car, I think you should call this place and make them an offer on the Moose Wagon.) We also picked up maple sugar candy in the shape of moose antlers, as well as other tasty treats. Fortunately, the store has a web site for anyone who absolutely must have similar moose-logo’d items.

You want them. You know you do.