Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's a travesty!

I spotted a photocopied sign posted around campus yesterday and for the first time I truly wished my cell phone could take pictures. The sign was posted by a (presumably undergrad) student and read as follows:

Please return this book. I need it. If you seen or stole it please call 978-###-#### so I can come get it.

After the word "you" someone wrote" 've." After the word "stole" they wrote "n."

The sign ended with typed all caps exclaiming "I NEED THIS BOOK!!!" I had an evil urge to write in "Obviously!" but I took the high road and walked away.


Lately I've noticed a lot of bloggers and forum posters are using the word "loose" in place of "lose" and "loosing" in place of "losing." For example: "What do you do when you loose one of your knitting needles?" Feeling obnoxious and superior to these people, I would secretly chuckle at their misguided use of language. But the more I encounted the mistake the more paranoid I became. The final straw was when I saw the word used in this headline in the NY Daily News online the other day. Is something happening within our linguistic conventions in which this is a now an acceptable practice? I was beginning to fear for my academic sanity when, while googling the link for the Daily News article, I spotted this little nugget from the Columbia Journalism Review. Thank you Merrill Perlman!!

While I'm on the subject, when did "addicting"--as in "I can't stop playing this video game, it's very addicting"--become a word?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wiki cool! Or, Adventures In Wikipedia

Wikis are the topic of this week's second post. Before I started this class the only wiki I had ever contributed to was, of course, Wikipedia and that was only a minor one-time contribution. If you must know, I contributed a vital piece of information regarding the British cult sci-fi TV show Doctor Who. Specifically, that he has tried and failed to get to two 20th-century rock concerts that we know of--Elvis Presley in the 1950s and Ian Dury and the Blockheads in 1979--before intergalactic evildoers diverted the good Doctor and his time machine. Pretty useless I know. So this leads me to wonder where exactly Wikipedia's true value lies. Is it in providing complete and accurate research information on relevant social, political and academic topics? Or is it merely a wonderland in which every detail-obsessed fanboy or -girl can go nuts over their favorite TV show/superhero/rock band? The amount of detailed information collected on Star Wars alone is staggering.

For me Wikipedia is my go-to source for all things pop culture. Has a celebrity just died? I head over to Wikipedia. Have I just discovered a new band? I'll look them up on Wikipedia. Did my current celebrity crush just break up with his girlfriend? Sweet. He did. I never use Wikipedia for serious academic purposes due to the potential for misinformation, although I did consult it briefly once to see how The Merchant of Venice ends in order to make a minor point in a short essay. Wikipedia is a lot of fun, but I approach it with a constant underlying mistrust of the information it contains. Because that information can come from anybody sitting at home in front of their computer.

Wikis in a controlled academic setting can be very valuable indeed. I believe that, despite the best intentions, when the information-gathering forum is opened up to include anyone and everyone--that's when you have to take everything you read with a grain of salt. Because Wikipedia is written by human beings. And human beings can be jerks. They can also be wrong on a number of occasions. There's something irresistible about seeing one's contribution in print or online; this brings the potential for someone to rush to post information. Perhaps a date is wrong or some other piece of information wasn't researched. Wiki's innovation is the ability to remove or correct data as well as add it. But who's watching the watchers? I have a very cynical outlook at times, and I often wonder if celebrities are writing/adding to their own Wikipedia entries. I keep thinking of the Simpsons episode where Snake the criminal is outraged because someone edited his Wikipedia entry. As a result he wants them eliminated.

Here is a list of some of my recent Wikipedia searches, just as a matter of interest:

Michael Crichton. He was married six times. Who knew?
Hellboy. The comic book/movie franchise. As a newcomer, it was a good place to get an overview of what's going on.
Manhasset, NY. This is my hometown. I just wanted to see what Wiki had to say about it.

I did one other search recently to see just how all-encompassing Wikipedia is. I have a friend in Scotland who is what I'll refer to as a minor regional celebrity. He's a DJ for a radio station that broadcasts all over the North of Scotland. Just out of curiosity one day, I typed in his name to see if he has a Wikipedia entry. He does.. I haven't asked him yet if he wrote his own entry, but i just might.

Should I help Wikipedia by expanding it?

I think not.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blogger Down.

Not Blogger the site, me, the, uh, blogger of this blog. Thanks to a nasty cold that i suspect may in fact be the flu, I've been down for the count since Saturday. I managed to make it into work on Monday, but by Tuesday I was feeling a lot worse. I called out sick from work the entire rest of this week and spent it hopping between my armchair in front of the TV to my bed. my schedule is basically the same every day: get up at 1:00 PM, eat some toast. Go back to bed at 4:30. Get up at 7:00 or maybe 8:00, eat some soup, go back to bed. Needless to say, homework, housework and the major apartment tidying I need to do before Thanksgiving guests arrive did not get done. This really annoyed me because I have so many things I need to get done that I could almost cry. Rather than improve from one day to the next, I'm actually getting sicker. I have a new computer and some new gadgets i need to learn how to use, and all I did this week was sleep. Last night I had what I'm convinced was a Nyquil-inspired nightmare. In this dream I received an invitation to a former co-worker's Christmas party. I hadn't worked with him for a couple of years so I thought it was weird, but in a rare moment of "gee, I'll go out and have some fun," I went to the party, (Note: co-worker in the dream is in fact someone that didn't exist in real life.) When i got to the party he looked at me in surprise and asked me what I was doing there.
Me: You sent me an invitation.
Host: *awkward pause*I did? Oh. I must not have updated my email address list for a couple of years.
Me: . . .
Host: Well, since you're here, its' good to see you. You can stay if you want.

Why am I bothering you with this when I should be ruminating on Instant Messaging and its role in either the enhancement or destruction of society as we know it? This story brings me to one of the great mysteries of our time: the flu shot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't take. Sometimes the doctors prepare the wrong flu shot and everyone that got that shot is at risk anyway. And how come people who get the flu shot are protected from the flu, but they can still get a seriously nasty cold? I got my flu shot three weeks ago, and by Sunday I had to make an emergency trip for cold supplies and ended up at Walmart, where you can buy Dayquil and Nyquil without having to sign a form promising that you won't use the medication as part of a home meth lab. If I'm not actually suffering from the flu, then this is one seriously grotesque cold. If it is the flu, I'm majorly annoyed. It wouldn't be the first time I got the flu after receiving the flu shot. A manager in my office got her flu shot last week at work. I and some other co-workers were surprised because we didn't see another email about it. "The executives get the real flu shot," I quipped. Maybe I was closer to the truth than I could have guessed? ;-)

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Technology hates me. So does freakin' Apple! is it too much to ask to have a working computer and reliable internet access? You know the new laptop I wrote about earlier this week? I tried to go online on Friday and I kept getting a message telling me that Safari could not find any servers or websites. I was connected to the internet but Safari couldn't find anything. So I had to call in a state of panic last night. I had to lug my new laptop back to the Apple store. I explained that the internet worked for one day and now it didn't. And you know what? The guy was truly stumped. He tried a lot of different things I confess I don't understand. Using Airport, Safari worked fine. But I've heard a lot of things about its susceptibility to hacking so I wasn't eager to switch. It took him an hour to fix it. he finally reconfigured the network access information, or whatever, and got it working on dial up. He told me that Airport isn't as vulnerable as I'd heard, so I asked him what I would do if I wanted to use it. He showed me the "taco" icon at the top of my screen and gave me a quick lesson.

When i got home I was anxious to make sure the computer worked. I found that the technician had not only left the computer on, thus draining the battery, he left the setting on Airport. I switched it back to the modem, logged on...and got nowhere. Safari was once again not working. After a few choice curse words I noticed there was a choice for configuring the network. I had nothing to lose, so for the name I just typed in Earthlink, typed in the access phone number and my account information and hit apply. Thank God, it worked! Was this all I had to do in the first place, or did the technician fix something that would have prevented me from doing this? And why did the Earthlink helpdesk guy in India not tell me to do this? I am SO over Earthlink at this point. I'll save the outsourcing lecture for another time...

Buying a new computer was supposed to end my problems and, to be honest, it's fun being able to buy a new toy. But I'm annoyed and tired, and behind on work for this class because i couldn't do everything I needed to on the library and computer lab machines.

I brought my 2nd generation iPod to the store because I had stored all my fonts on it so I could just copy the fancy ones I'd installed over the years over to my new machine. Easy, right? Apple had other ideas. The Macbook just can't recognize the older iPod. My sister has an iBook and an older iPod that my new computer does recognize (she transferred some music videos onto it so I know it works). maybe i can plug the older iPod into her iBook, copy the fonts onto her slightly-less-older iPod, then plug it into my computer. I could install all my fonts, disk-by-disk if I have to but honestly, this process should not be this difficult. It's been a hassle. And I'm not a technological idiot! I know my way fairly well around a computer.

I've cleared off my computer desk, rearranged it with my new stuff, and added some decor to the wall in that area. I'm going to relax, turn this computer off now, and starting tomorrow, with a new week, I'm going to enjoy my new stuff, get caught up, and go forward. Sorry to rant on and on about all my techno-problems! Thanks for reading. :-)