I read the news today, oh boy

Monday, January 26, 2009

iPhone alarm wakes me with “Sonar”. I get out of bed, put on yesterday’s clothes and check Thomas’ room. His alarm clock is rumbling but he is not in his room. I wander around the house looking for him until I find him in bed with his Grandma. I wake him. I take my iPhone into the Big TV Room where I check mail, Twitter and Facebook.

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People come from all around to watch the magic boy

This week both of our boys had holiday concerts at school. Graham is playing the cello now in the fourth grade orchestra and Thomas plays the double bass for his middle school chamber orchestra. Graham was very nervous before his concert appearance but I think it was all over so fast that he didn’t have time to think about it too much. The chamber orchestra was great (as always) and Thomas was even featured on a song from Lost called “Mist”. We’re very proud of both our boys and their musical ability. I’m glad for them because I’ve never really had the ability to play music except in the most robotic sense.

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A Few Disparate Links

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Happy Mother’s Day

Graham quietly woke me shortly after 7:00 this morning so I could help him prepare our annual “surprise” Mother’s Day breakfast. We made our plan and I advised him that we should wait until at least 8:00 before starting it. Graham watched TV while I napped on the couch until Tina came out at 7:45 asking where everybody had gone. I emphatically told her that she should go back to bed and she eventually understood. Graham and I then went to work making french toast, warm syrup and with orange slices on the side. We served it to Tina in bed but she decided to bring it out to the kitchen since we don’t have a good tray for eating in bed anymore.

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Tools for Twitterers

The popularity of Twitter has led to the creation of some great services that work with the “social networking” website. Because Twitter has a public API and makes the “tweets” (Twitter-speak for a message posted on Twitter) available to anyone, it’s easy for web developers to tap into this resource. Here are a few that I’ve found useful:

  • Twitterholic ranks twitter users according to the number of followers each user has. I follow several people on that list include Barack Obama, John Gruber, Wil Wheaton and Warren Ellis. You can also use Twitterholic to view your own history of people following you. Here’s mine.
  • TwitterLocal lets you find Twitter users in your geographical area. You can view the list of local users on the Twitterlocal website or you can subscribe to an RSS feed. They also track the top 30 locations for Twitter users in the world. Portland is currently ranked 15th only 6 spots below “Right here.”
  • TweetClouds processes all the tweets for a given user and then creates a tag cloud for that user. If you’ve tweeted for as long as I have, it takes awhile for TweetClouds to process all your tweets, but they provide you with a static link that you can pass around to people afterwards that allows for delay-free viewing of your tweeting psyche. Here’s one I generated as I wrote this. I am evidently obsessed with “time” and “watching”.
  • Quotably provides context for Twitter conversations by showing them as threaded discussions. If you glance at the Quotably page for my tweets, you’ll see people who reply to me as well as anybody to whom I might have replied. I use this when I see people I follow replying to people whom I don’t follow.
  • Twitter itself provides a range of “badges” that let you display your tweets on your web page, Facebook account, Myspace account and others. If you look on the left of this page, you’ll see that mine displays my three most recent tweets.
That’s just a few of the tools that are available. Googling “twitter tools” reveals that there are many, many more out there. This article has a pretty good list.

More days to come, new places to go

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted family news here mostly because I do that on Twitter several times a day. For more on that, you can read this and then join here. It’s free and easy and you’ll like it. I promise.

And now, the news:

  • Since the end of October, we’ve been mad for Guitar Hero III. Although playing the game is a blast, equally cool is watching my boys groove and sing to some of my favorite bands. Right now they both like “Even Flow” and “Holiday in Cambodia“. Thomas is the house champion in career mode, but we still only have one guitar so we haven’t settled on a true champion.
  • Thomas’ video game time has been limited, though, due to poor scholastic performance in the first half of this semester. He has been having problems getting his homework done and is easily distracted when he’s supposed to be doing homework. We suspended gaming privileges until he got his grades back up and his computer has been disconnected from the internet. With Tina’s help he’s been able to get his grades up closer to where they should be but he’s still got a lot to learn about managing his time.
  • Graham had a chess tournament yesterday in which he recorded two draws and a win for his team. He’s also become a pretty good Medium-level Guitar Hero player. He’s so fun to watch play because the guitar is a better size for him than the rest of us. He really looks like a rockin’ dude when he plays! He and Rory, our little girl kitten, have become good buddies and she sleeps by his head at night.
  • The kittens are doing great and Ming has grown used to their eager presence. Tina took them to the vet to get them neutered last week. The boys were as rambunctious as ever that night but poor little Rory has been sluggish until today. Because she has stitches, she has to wear one of those funnel collars to keep her from ripping the stitches out. She spent much of the weekend on my lap trying to lick through that damn collar. Funny but sad. We’ll take it off Tuesday morning.
  • Yesterday morning we received our Oregon kicker check in the mail. The kicker law says that the government has to give back money when their income is more than they estimated. This results in a “surprise” tax refund every few years. The average kicker check this year was supposed to be around $600 and we did a little better than average.
  • The boys’ last day of school is on December 21st. Sometime soon after that, we’re hitting the road for Phoenix, Arizona, by way of San Francisco and Moreno Valley. We’re looking forward to the trip since the boys haven’t seen their cousins Wil and Xander in so long. The drive shouldn’t be bad since we’ve broken it up into three days with visits of friends and family on the way.

Join Twitter

The term social networking gets bandied about a bit too often these days. Most internet veterans probably cringe at the mention of websites like FaceBook or MySpace, two of the pioneers of the genre. Although it’s likely that those sites are so disregarded amongst the professional class of internet users simply because they consider such sites to be “beneath them,” most of these users simply cannot find a legitimate use for social networking.

Personally, I belong to MySpace and FaceBook purely because my friends and family have chosen those sites as their point of contact to keep me (and others) apprised of what is going on in their lives. Since I’ve long used this website (rynosoft.com) for updating everyone on what goes on in my life, I obviously don’t need any other website to do so. Consequently, social networking websites have always been a strictly one-way affair for me. Until Rob introduced me to Twitter last year.

It’s difficult to describe what Twitter does because it lacks a close analog in the “real” world. And so there was a period of time after I signed up that I really didn’t “get” what it was all about. I pestered Rob via instant message asking, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?” Do what it says: answer the question “What are you doing?”

Previous to Twitter, I was prone to changing my AIM status to reflect what I might be doing at work or perhaps to make a private joke to those that had me in their buddy list. Twitter provides a better outlet for that instinct and has been described by many as “micro-blogging”. Although that’s a fair description, I think it may discourage those who are not interested in or are intimidated by the prospect of blogging. Most bloggers have a theme or specific subject matter that they tend to write about, but the only theme for most Twitterers is the triviality of day-to-day life.

Don’t let that description deceive you, though. Life is mostly made up of a series of trivial events which, when taken together, provide a bigger picture. When you have access to occasional blow-by-blow descriptions, you become more involved in someone’s life in a very immediate way. Sometimes I’ll just passively digest these tidbits as they pass by while other times my curiosity will be piqued and I’ll seek more information via email and/or instant message. The end result is that Twitter brings people closer together even though physical distance may separate you.

You may have noticed the addition of a Twitter status on the right side of this blog several months ago. Twitter provides the web code necessary to display your most recent “tweet” (Twitter’s term for a single entry), so it’s very easy to share your Twitter status on web pages and blogs. Twitter also has SMS (i.e. text message) and instant message features which let you tweet even when you don’t have a web browser in front of you. For example, if you’re at a concert you might like to share that your favorite song had just been performed. Since I don’t have a mobile phone, that’s not a feature that I use.

More information on Twitter: