Monthly Archives: March 2005

Happy Easter

My young friend, Alan Kegley, sent me this electronic Easter greeting card that I thought I’d share with the rest of you as an excuse to wish you all a Happy Easter. Hope your day and your celebration are joyous family occasions. And to Alan, let me say “thanks” publicly, and I hope you have a happy Easter too.


Yahoo acquires Flickr

The Flickr Blog reported on Sunday that Flickr had been acquired by Yahoo. This phenomenally successful photo storage service promises its users that rather than being transformed by Yahoo it will instead “Flickrize” Yahoo. That, I think, remains to be seen. But no one can begrudge an upstart company capitalizing on its success, and it is often true that the infusion of capital makes things possible that limited capital would otherwise have prevented. I am just hopeful that the good things that come from this acquisition outweigh the bad.

Acronyms, the Internet, and the language

Except for the so-called dead languages, like Latin for instance, any continuously-spoken language is a living thing, evolving constantly because people use it in creative and non-standard ways. Language purists decry the dumbing-down or contamination of the language by the common man, while the common man, because of his superior numbers, always wins out in the end, leaving the purists to bemoan their view that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. So words that come into common usage eventually make their way into the “official” books that define the language, the dictionaries, and thus the language grows and changes.

Last year saw the word “blog” make its migration into respectable usage, and now television news programs and sometimes even talk shows discuss what’s going on in the blogosphere (another newly acceptable word, meaning the collective world of blogs). A few influential bloggers (those who blog) were invited to participate in both the national political conventions during last year’s Presidential Nomination cycle. And bloggers had a major impact on causing CBS’ Dan Rather to retract the story he reported about President Bush’s National Guard service back in the 1970’s. Drunk with their new influence, bloggers have since engaged in a self-referential debate about their power versus that of the MSM, i.e. the main stream media such as TV News and Newspapers.

It’s hard to dispute that the Internet has influenced the language. As people all over the world connect via this medium, we influence each other in the way we talk and how we spell. And English, the de-facto lingua franca of the Internet, has been influenced the most by this new connectivity.

Since email has largely replaced hand-written letters as the predominant means of written communication, the shortcuts that people take in email have made their way into all our writing. Because I confess to having a bit of the purist in me, I continue to resist the tendency to use the email shortcuts in my writing, but I acknowledge that I am tempted to type btw rather than “by the way” or afaik rather than “as far as I know.” But still I resist because I realize that it is the digital record of our writings that is most likely to provide the record of our times, much more so than what has appeared in print or what we have communicated to each other in belles letters.

And all this brings me to the main point of this post — acronyms. As with any specialized endeavor, the Internet has a slew of acronyms that people throw around, sometimes without even knowing that they mean. I believe that if we’re going to use these things we should know what they mean. I’d like to address a few of them in this post.

One of the most significant of such acronyms is HTML. It stands for HyperText Markup Language. And it is the authoring language by which we create web pages that display links and other formatting conventions in web browsers. By placing a starting tag in front of a word or phrase and an ending tag at the end of it, we cause the text to display, when viewed in a browser, as we intend it, whether that be as a link to another URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) or as a formatting convention such as italics or bold. A particular kind of URI is the URL, which provides the location or address on the Internet of a particular document or resource.

To return to HTML for a moment, it was Ted Nelson (no relation) who coined the term hypertext in the mid 1970s in a project he called Xanadu. You can learn more about him and his project at this link. A real pioneer, he is legendary for his contribution to what we now know as the World Wide Web, though it remained for Tim Berners-Lee to actually create the web in 1989.

Another recent acronym that is taking on increasing significance is XML, which stands for Extensible Markup Language. This site, W3 Schools, is an invaluable link to know about and to visit if one has any interest in learning about the mystery that is the Internet.

Finally, I’d like to refer once again to RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. Though many Internet users have yet to appreciate the value of RSS and to begin to use RSS Aggregators, in combination RSS and RSS Aggregators make following what is happening on the Internet infinitely more feasible and easier. As I’ve done many times, I’ll plug the aggregator that I use, FeedDemon. Though it is merely one of the many options available for following many different sites, it is one of those tools that once you have begun to use it make it difficult to return to just browsing sites sequentially as many people do when they surf the Internet.

Although this discussion of the significant acronyms commonly used on the Internet is woefully brief and inadequate, it should provide you some food for thought, particularly if you follow the links I’ve provided and read the links found at those links. One of the great things about the Internet is that if you have the interest in doing so, you can begin at one link and from there spend your entire day learning many wonderful things as you follow link after link, or maybe it is one of the not-so-wonderful things about the Internet in that you never seem to get to the end because there is always one more thing to learn. But then that is a lot like life, isn’t it? Just when you think you know something, there is always something else to learn. Education never ends as long as you are still breathing.

Shamed into another post

This morning, Debra Anderson who is Alan Kegley’s teacher at Lenoir City High School, posted a very nice and complimentary comment to this weblog that has literally shamed me into getting my act in gear and making this post. She said:

“We wanted to thank you for your articles and all the extended information you provide. Alan Kegley had introduced us to your weblog. The entire class views it daily. Thank you for your insight.”

So I decided to post my response to a regular blog entry rather than posting it, as would be the usual custom, in a comment of my own. First, I have to say “thank you” to Alan for his interest and for taking the initiative to share this site with his fellow classmates. And secondly, I’d like to send out a “hello” to all the class members. I’m pleased that you visit the site daily. Finally, I want to thank Ms. Anderson for her kind words.

Now I need to point out to all of you something that I presume has become obvious to you. Blogging for me has of late turned into a weekly, not a daily, activity, so the fact that you check this site daily must be a disappointment for which I humbly apologize. My new schedule of working from 2 PM till 11 PM at U.S. Cellular has disrupted not only my blogging regularity but also my sleeping schedule. Getting home at 11:30 PM means that I don’t usually get into bed until around 2:00 AM, and I am still adjusting to that routine. Maybe I’ll soon become accustomed to it and get back on a more regular posting schedule here on the blog and your visits won’t be quite as much a disappointment as they may have been up until now.

With that apology out of the way, I would also assert that I maintain this blog mostly for myself so if I am absent from posts for a while that’s just the way it is. I’m not a newspaper columnist who commits to his publisher that he’ll have a column every day. Therefore since I’m my own publisher, I tend to be forgiving to myself when it comes to my occasional absences from activity. There was, of course, no hint of intentional shaming on Ms. Anderson’s part in the comment she made, and I am aware of that, but I wanted to make it clear to the class and to any of the rest of you who visit here regularly that I too occasionally find it disappointing when I visit a favorite blog and find nothing new there. So I know how that feels and hope I’ll do a better job in the future of keeping you informed.

Blogging, as with any writing, is an interesting activity. On April 12th of this year, I’ll have completed 3 years of keeping this blog. In that time, I’ve wandered all over the field in trying to determine what the primary focus of this blog is. At times it is a personal journal of activities and events in my family’s life. At times it attempts to comment on various aspects of technology that capture my attention. And at other times it is merely a hodge-podge of random thoughts and ideas. But like a homely baby, it is mine so I love it regardless of what others think of it.

And speaking of blogging, Shel Israel has an interesting post from March 14th in which he indicates that “Technorati is now tracking over 7.8 million weblogs, and 937 million links. ” The growth in this phenomenon has been nothing short of spectacular. In the last 5 months alone, the number of blogs has almost doubled. Anyone can do it, including a school class such as yours Ms. Anderson, and they can do it without any cost. Blogger offers the tools and the hosting space for blogs such as mine for free and is a great place for the new blogger to get into the game without anything more than a willingness to learn and the audacity to think he has something to say. So this is an invitation from me to anyone who meets those criteria to join the ranks and have a go at it. Just follow this link and you too can begin to contribute to the discussion on the Internet. But be warned, creating a blog is like planting a garden. If you don’t tend it often, your neighbors (and on the Internet, the whole world is your neighbor) will walk by it and will see whether you are a good steward of the land or not.

I am hopeful that within the next month or so I’ll soon have a new and for me exciting addition to this blog. I’ve been developing the tools and the skills necessary to start posting an occasional podcast to this blog. So you’ll be able to hear what I have to say rather than just read it. Podcasting is growing on the Internet, if anything, faster than blogging. So because I enjoy playing with these online tools, if for no other reason to see if I can, I’ll soon begin having a podcast for you to listen to. What I am waiting for is for James Prudente, the author of MixCast Live, to announce the availability of his hosting service for users of MCL. As soon as that comes available, I’ll be speaking to you with my very own podcast. So hang in there everybody, there’s more to come.

Tivo for the calendar

Tivo, the innovation that permits one to time-shift television shows to a more appropriate moment when you have the time to watch them, has, for me, come to the calendar.

My new work schedule, from 2:30 PM until 11:00 PM with days off on Tuesday and Wednesday, means that my calendar has been time-shifted, and I am out of phase with the rest of the world. I work on your weekends and I’m off in the midst of your work week. I go into work in the midst of your mid-afternoon workday, and I come home as you are catching up on the late night news programs.

This second-shift existence has its rewards as well as its drawbacks. One reward is that travel to and from work is unimpaired by the traffic that most of you must deal with when going to and from work. I don’t miss traffic jams a bit. Another is that I have most of my day to accomplish things here at home before I must leave for work.

One of the drawbacks is that the time for socializing with others is minimal. Few people care to do anything in the evenings on Tuesday and Wednesday, because those days are smack in the middle of their work week, despite the fact that they are my weekend days. Fortunately for me, “nothing from nothing leaves nothing.” I didn’t have a heavy social life anyway, so I really haven’t missed getting together with others too much.

The other drawback that I’ve noticed is that my TV watching has suffered. The prime time shows all occur while I am at work, so this past week I called Comcast, my cable provider, and added the DVR (digital video recording) capability to my system. And I’ve now eliminated the problem of missing my favorite TV programs. As any of you who know me are aware, I am a very big fan of Braves’ baseball. When possible I watch all the games that are televised, which in recent years has been upwards of 85 to 95 percent of all their games. With this new capability, I’ll be able to record the games and then watch them at my convenience. My only remaining problem with that is avoiding knowing the score before I get a chance to watch the game.

Living on the other side of the clock from the rest of the world isn’t really a problem for me. But it does underscore how different everybody’s world is from that of his fellow inhabitants of the planet. We all live in different worlds together, I guess. It’s amazing that we understand each other at all.

US Cellular’s All-Employee Meeting

Jack Rooney at center stage
Originally uploaded by CaptQuirk.

On Wednesday, March 2, our company held its annual All-Employee Meeting, with the theme “Catch the Wave of Success,” at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Intended to celebrate the achievements of 2004 and inspire us to reach even greater heights in 2005, the event was a big deal and was broadcast by satellite to three other cities in the East Region. All the executives of the company, which is headquartered in Chicago, came down for the meeting.

This link leads to a group of the photos I’ve posted about the event and there is a link there where you can see them in a slide show format.

All in all, I was quite impressed with the degree to which the company goes to inspire its employees to continue to give our customers the best possible service we can, because they recognize that it isn’t the technology we have that helps us maintain the lowest churn rate in the industry but rather the way we treat our customers.

As I think I’ve said here before, I believe I’ve really been very lucky to land a job with this company after the recent end to my previous job back in January.