Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Add to the "This I Believe" series

I believe one should never miss the opportunity to shout “Woooo!”

Let me explain.

Some months ago, my overcomplicated brain was busily chugging along trying to think of new ways to overcomplicate my world and the world of those around me while I was driving my kids to some kid-thing or another. I love to find difficult answers to easy questions. And of course difficult answers to difficult questions really make me happy. And so I obfuscate and create twists of logic that mirror the path of a rollercoaster.

This, to me, is fun.

So as I’m undergoing this current round of cerebral gymnastics, I approach a cloverleaf exit from the freeway. I’m a pretty tame driver, and I take the sharp curve at a slow approach in my sports car (which is how my wife refers to the minivan that is our family vehicle). From the back seat, I hear a mild - but nevertheless declarative - “wooooo!”

My daughter, 11 years old at the time, had her hands in the air as if my mental rollercoaster had somehow taken shape in the real world and my most recent 100 foot drop impacted my daughter’s stomach as much as my brain. I gave her a slight raise of one eyebrow through the rearview mirror, which said “Really, now?” as much as it was an inquiry. And she gave me back this amazing piece of wisdom:

You should never miss a chance to go “woooo!”

So it wasn’t the fastest she’s ever ridden. It wasn’t the most amazing slope. It wasn’t a lot of things. But it was a lot more fun than just going straight on a freeway. So why not?

Why not, indeed.

My daughter isn’t the first person to make this observation; she was just the one who got it into my head again despite my Rube Goldberg mind. You’ve heard others say Stop and Smell the Roses, or similar stuff. I think it’s better to boil it down to having fun, even a little bit of fun, when there is fun to be had.

Never miss a chance to shout woooo.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The new Face(book) of business

I love Facebook.

I know, truly an unoriginal, if honest, sentiment. I chew up a lot of time on the world's largest social networking platform, and I enjoy it. But it isn't just social, anymore. Now, it's also business. Big business. And maybe I don't want all of my business and social stuff mixed-up.

I started using Facebook a couple of years ago as it was intended - a place to catch up with friends online. But something about the newsfeed kept itching in the back of my mind. There was something more there - something about the serendipitous discovery of new information that wasn't really serendipity. It was a small group of people providing me with links and videos and thoughts that were sort of pre-screened to be of interest to me. After all, I was friends with these people. I had a connection. Things they found of interest were usually kinda cool. There has to be a broader use for this feed.


So I went merrily on my way, adding content to share with friends, posting links to share with friends, writing silly notes to share with friends, writing politically-provocative things to share with friends. And as the site got busier, and more people joined, I started getting more friend requests from people that were more colleagues and comrades then friends. People that had a work connection, but with whom I didn't necessarily want to share my vacation photos.


We've all been there. What do you do when you get a Facebook request from someone like that? Or, and this has happened a lot to me, from people I haven't actually ever met but who are friends of friends or allies in my work field that just want to network? Do I really want to share a new picture of my kids at the State Fair with absolutely everyone? I decided no. So, I double checked my privacy settings, and blocked my Facebook content to be just friends of mine, not networks beyond that. I politely declined to friend people I haven't met, and awkardly accepted some that I wasn't sure about, but felt too Minnnesota-nice to turn down. And it's been a struggle as the site grows in popularity.

So, I felt a schism was in order. Not a great split of old (I don't have anything nailed to church doors) but I like using the word schism and here's my chance. I split myself into two. My personal Facebook can still be personal and a closed system, but now I have to connect with colleagues and comrades. This system is wide open, thank you very much. All comers are welcome, and it is searchable on the web. I can use those cute little Facebook badges on my personal site now, where I really couldn't before.

The business me, and forgive me for getting all jargon on you, has some brand value. I've worked hard for a lot of years to build relationships with people, and me making some off-hand comment on a quiz can detract from that value. The flip side of this is also true. I have friends - and you know who you are - that are not interested in me going on and on in Facebook about my work. I have things to share in a Facebook newsfeed that are cool, but not to everyone I went to high school with, fer Pete's sake.

Now, the messy part. I have to put some principles into practice to make this work. I've been slowly working my way through the 300 some friends I have on Facebook now, and sending new friend requests to some from my new work account. Some can and maybe will be both personal and work friends, but not everyone wants both. I've got to clean up the lists I have, and the maybe I can start adding a few more in that I have declined in the past. My suggestions on this:

  1. The "you have been to my house" test. If at some point in your life you have actually been in the place I have lived (not necessarily my current house, but one of my addresses over time), then you are a friend of mine. I have people I am friendly with, whom I like and all, but I only see in public contexts. If you've been to my house, you're on my personal account.
  2. The "we have actually met in life" test. I have many people I have met in my career, and I like a great many of them. But I am also getting friend requests from people I have never met in the real world. Most of the folks I have met but not seen socially are going to be in my work account, but some of them I have a real connection with and will see if they want to stay in both worlds.
  3. The "sure connect, but I reserve the right to Hide you" fail-safe. Okay, those of you wanting to connect on Facebook that I have never actually met, let's give it a try on this work thing. But be forewarned: spend your time trying to get me to join your Mafia, and I'm likely to quietly Hide your posts.
Two tactical tips for those considering trying this at home.
  1. You will, of course, need more than one email account. I have seven at last count, so this wasn't much of an issue for me, but for anyone else, perhaps you should just use the work account for work, and the personal account for personal. I've blurred that line too often now, so I'm just going to have to sort it out and I'm using my blog account to start the new one.
  2. Use two browsers. If you use one browser, you will have to log off and log on periodically to check the feed on the two accounts. My primary browser, Firefox, is my personal account. My secondary browser, Chrome, is my work account. Internet Explorer can just go sit in a corner and think about what it has done. This way, I can keep logged in on both and easily update or check either.
If I learn anything cool, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting schooled on health insurance

Here's my health care horror story to add to the list of millions more out there. Mine has a surprise twist, so maybe it's a mystery/horror story. (Many of you have already tuned out, not getting to the third sentence in this carefully crafted credo created to craze contented crowds. Yeah, another health insurance tale of woe. Yep, I'm with you! Except I got mine, so I don't need to read yours. Well, if you did get this far, bear with me a little more.) It's fun with math time!

First, a little background. For the vast majority of my life I've had employer-based health coverage. It got more expensive and it covered less over time, but I had coverage. Just over two years ago my wife and I found ourselves without employer based coverage. We got an individual plan - paying a lot more and getting a lot less.

One more, seemingly unrelated, piece of information. I applied for and was accepted to a graduate program at Hamline University. I am pursuing my Master of Nonprofit Management degree over the next two years, giving up my Thursday nights in exchange for some structured study of what the heck I have been doing the last twenty years of my life.

So, let me weave Chapter One and Chapter Two into a strangely united Chapter Three. Quentin Tarantino won't have anything to worry about from me. However, the story shows just how messed up we have become on this health insurance thing.

Earlier this summer, after getting the happy news I was accepted to Hamline's program, I busied myself in the online universe of Forms to Fill Out. Submit your vaccination history here! (Check.) Complete your financial aid loan package here! (Check.) Register for fall here! (You get the idea.)

Then, amidst the cacophony of links, there was a small glimmer of incongruence. A link that caught my eye, given the painfully large checks our family writes for what is often referred to as health insurance and what I usually refer to as protection money. (An aside: Think of it this way - I would have spent less money on medical care if I just paid cash out of pocket and didn't carry any coverage. But of course, the Insurance Industry is there in my ear saying "Nice house you got there. It'd be a shame if you got into a major trauma and went bankrupt without us, wouldn't it? " And so I pay on the off-chance that anyone in my family gets hit by a bus.)

So I click over to this link. It says, rather unpretentiously, Waive Health Insurance. A few clicks later, a different links says Request Health Insurance.

Hmmmmm.... Click. Click. Click.

Turns out, as a graduate student at Hamline, I can waive health insurance if I am of the privileged class with good employer-based coverage. Or, I can opt in to their group plan if I don't have better options. Click, click, click. Turns out, I can cover my family too, at a less-subsidized rate, but they will allow me to buy them in. Huh. Turns out, this is all strikingly less than I am paying now.

I now really love Hamline.

OK, fun with math time! Fire up your favorite spreadsheet program (I personally favor the old stand-by Excel 2007, but this is a matter of taste. Any good tabulator will do). Take what the health-insurance community calls a good rate for really bad coverage. Add to that the annual deductible ($1,000 per person in our case! And that was the good deal. *sigh*). Now, subtract from that very, very large dollar amount the new, more reasonable price for group coverage of the same family. Also subtract the new annual deductible ($50 per person. Yes, five percent of what I had to pay under individual coverage).

That's a big number on that line. In fact, that number is greater than the total I am paying in tuition and fees as a graduate student in the Master of Nonprofit Management program. In fact, I am saving my family money by going to graduate school.

Yes, you read that right. Check your spreadsheet, call your health insurance broker (and I've called more than one looking for a better deal) and, if necessary, check your eyeglasses prescription. I am making a profit by going to graduate school over what I would have to pay for bad health insurance coverage.

Joseph Heller would be so proud. And yet would likely have a hard time believing it.

So, if anyone is wondering if our system is broken, maybe they need to get a little education. If our President has been unable to get this system fixed in two years, my wife will be enrolling next. She gets her MFA, we save money on health insurance. Let's hope our Members of Congress can get schooled as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kindles and libraries and sharing, oh my!

Must... resist... Kindle... don't... need.... toy.....

I love technology for technology's sake. I really do. I will run to an overcomplicated solution to a simple problem every time. Well, everytime it doesn't cost me money. As it turns out, I am a cheap son-of-a-gun. So, I get slowed in my purchasing - if not my lust - for new gizmos and gadgets gleaming with gears and glowing with green gases.

As of yet, I don't own an iPhone. I don't have a Roku box for my TV (although I do have a Soundbridge for music in my kitchen). And I don't own a Kindle.

It's not that I don't look longingly at these pretty pieces of processing power. But to really make use of any of these devices, you have to spend money regularly. The Kindle is (almost) completely replacable - for free - at your local public library.

I should state for the record that I am a little fanatical about libraries, much as am I with technology. So take this fan-boy post for what it is. I started working in a library when I was in high school, and I got to see what people were checking out. I found more interesting books by re-shelving someone else's interesting books than by looking for cool stuff on my own. I love the idea of sharing a book. After all, how often do I really go back and re-read a book? In my case, pretty rarely. There are too many new ones stacked on my nightstand, thank you very much. So, what happened to all the books I paid for rather than borrowed from a library?

They became trophies.

I had conquered them and put their carcasses on a shelf for visitors to my home to inspect. Sometimes I'd lend them out. Mostly, they collected dust, like the trophy I got from the American Legion in 1984.

Seems like a waste, really.

When I got married and moved in 2004, my wife and I had to take a look at what books were coming along for the ride to our new home. How much stuff were we going to move with us, and what could go? Well, the paperbacks mostly went to books for prisons projects. The hardcovers that were worthwhile went to Books for Africa, some stuff went to the library as donations, and a select few we kept. Some we do go back to, and some have such deep meaning that keeping that particular momento seemed worth it.

None of the sharing things can happen to books purchased for the Kindle.

You can't give them to friends, you can't donate them to the library, you can't send them to prisons or to Africa. You can pay your $10 and have it forever, but the next person to enjoy that book is going to have to pay $10.

Unless they go get a copy from their library.

I go to the library with my kids at least once a week, more faithfully than we go to church (mostly because the kids never complain about going to the library). The kids still have books they own, but I like passing on the message that we should be sharing materials. Not just for the cost factor, although that counts (did I mention I'm cheap?). It's a good ethic. When my son needed the next book in a series the moment it came out (and library wait lists can be long - I'm still waiting for Slumdog Millionaire), we bought the book so he could enjoy it, and when he was done, he donated his copy to the library so the next kid won't have to wait so long to get a copy.

And he'll always know where his copy is if he needs it again. In the interim, it won't be a trophy on a shelf, it will be spreading the joy to the next person.

We don't have to limit ourselves to libraries to share media. I like that route, but there are sites like or I hope to hear about a new feature on the next generation Kindle that let's you check e-books out of libraries and share books with friends. Then I'll be a little closer to giving in to my techie side and joining the Kindle army. For today, I'm back to logging into my library account and seeing what's due back for the next patron to enjoy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Republican Hair Man

I met my wife, Elen, in 2003. She liked my hair, and still does. Then in my 30s, I had a full head of hair that had a good wave to it and was just starting to show a little silver. I often said I had Newscaster Hair, as if someone from the local TV news had injection-molded a template and I ordered one off the shelf. Now into my 40s, there is a lot more of the silver, but still lots of hair which makes me happy and angers my friend Shawn, who is not so fortunate and who feels the universe has been unkind to him.

But I digress.

So I have what I called Newscaster Hair, but what Elen's good friend Jesse and she called Republican Hair. As Elen and I continued to date, I was referred to as Republican Hair Man. We all found this rather funny, cuz ya see - I'm not a Republican. Get it? It's the whole facetious/irony thing! We slay us.

But I digress.

This all came back to mind recently as I was completing yet another Facebook quiz of some kind. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you obviously have interesting things to do with your life. Good for you!) The quiz asked about a pet peeve or something, and it just came to me that I get a little irked that people that don't know me assume things about my values based on how I look, and those things are never assumed the way I would like them to be. I look like Republican Hair Man. I'm a tall, well-spoken, sober, white guy. Ergo: I think it's funny that women shop too much and married people are in shackles and we're really doing gay people a favor by keeping them out of state-recognized marriages because marriage is just heck anyway! Get it? Cuz ya see, a tall straight white guy with good hair must think that's funny!

Or not.

When I was young, I wore my hair longer and I had in-your-face political buttons on my jacket and backpack. I had "Dump Reagan" bumper stickers on my beat-up car. (Side note: Many law enforcement officers misread "Dump Reagan" for "Ticket this uppity little hippie in the junker"). It was only later in life that I gave up on looking angry, and accepted the Irish salt-and-pepper mop that defines me to some as a Friendly. As someone you can tell off-color jokes to and not get in trouble. C'mon, he's one of us. Can't you just see it?

So this begs a question. It makes me think about the assumptions that come into my head when I see how people look. Which ones do I act on and which ones do I not notice? I am aware of my own Republican Hair Man bias - where I sometimes get cautious about stating my values in front of people who look like I apparently do. It's silly, I know, but I do catch myself wondering if people that look like me are going to start railing against a socialist take over of the health care system or some equally absurd idea. I may even be more careful about bringing up my support for a government-sponsored health care option. Or not.

The flip-side of this is also a trap for me. I see people in dreadlocks and hemp clothing, I make an assumption about their values. I see people that don't have much money and are loudly shouting on the bus about the evils of government, and I'm taken aback that their values don't match what I expect them to be.

I'm an unabashed leftist trapped in a right-of-center body. I've come to accept my transpolitical identity. Sometimes it's even fun to shock the heck out of someone who, with a smirk of knowing, jokes with me about how Government Interference is Ruining Our Lives. I then, sometimes, calmly mention that I think it is wrong that government policy perpetuates oligarchy - to transmit wealth (via the tax code) to some based solely on their birth and start others with zero for the same reason. That has taken the wink out of an eye or two in my time.

I probably shouldn't think that is fun. Oh well, one more thing I can't assume about me from looking in a mirror.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Garbage isn't healthy - but health care can be garbage-y

We have a private trash hauler system in Saint Paul. I understand those haulers have regulations on them, and taxes (solid waste fees - whatever) they pay to dispose of my non-recyclables. From what I read in the papers, there are more than a dozen residential trash haulers barreling down the streets of Our Fair City to remove the unusable stuff in our lives. Civilized places tend to have one truck doing this work, but I digress.

The Saint Paul City Council is considering maybe doing a study to maybe think about whether there is a better way to do this. Here's where some interesting parallels to health care can be uncovered - and I use the word "covered" intentionally here.
  1. People with money have coverage. If you are well off, you have health insurance and maybe think of the rest of us as annoying for whining all the time that we either pay *way* too much for it (as in the case of my family with no employer-based coverage and with people who actually have to see a doctor on occasion) or we just can't get it at all. Same thing with garbage collection. When the system is voluntary and based on private haulers, people with money call someone and get it taken care of, and can't imagine why some people who don't have money don't have a private hauler taking away their unnecessary items.
  2. People without coverage hurt the rest of the system. So, let's assume you are one of those folks who can't (or yes, in some cases won't) pay for private garbage hauling. Maybe you've spent every last dime on medical bills. Who knows. In any case, you don't have $20/month or more to pay for hauling. So, you maybe slip your garbage in with your neighbor's and hope they don't notice. Perhaps you take a bag with you when leave the house and walk by the dumpster at the local church and pitch it in (after all - it's a church - aren't they supposed to relieve you of your sins?). Maybe, just maybe, it gets real bad and you simply leave the stuff in the alley and hope for the best. If so, feral cats or squirrels or whatever are going to open the bags and now your old garbage is floating on the breeze into your neighbors yard, the public streets, or into our storm water run off systems and so into the Mississippi. Those of you thinking back to the "free rider" problem from PoliSci 101, you get a gold star.
  3. Private interests are vested in making money off the current system, so we don't get change. Yes, some of these people making money off the current system are very nice people. They are family businesses and they smile at you and they are not vampires. I get it. However, is the benefit those people get a good trade-off for the problems we have in the current system? This question is not rhetorical. If you really think so, please help me understand and perhaps I'll get on your side.
  4. People wanting to solve the problem are labeled as promoters of "big government" taking away "our freedoms". Me, personally, don't much care about the freedom to pick a garbage hauler. But sure, some people will lose some choice here. Is it enough of an issue to derail solving the problem? See number 3 again. I'm teachable (I hope). Tell me why this is more important than stopping free-riders from making churches pay for dumping and for having trash blowing in our streets.
  5. People without money need more from the system than those with money. I've been poor. Not abject poverty, and not for long periods, but I've maxed out a gas-station credit-card (the only card I had then) just so I could eat. Yes, I charged groceries at an Amoco station because that was the only way I was going to get them. Again, I digress.

    My point is when you are poor, you work with what you got. You take donated furniture and electronics. You buy second-hand clothes. If you buy new you're buying cheap, fiber-board stuff from discount stores. You know what happens to this stuff? It wears out. Fast. Then you have to dispose of it. And guess what? That costs money. Sorta like people without health insurance try to get by on the cheap until their bodies break down, and then it gets expensive. Fast.
So, City Councilmembers and my fellow Saint Paulites, let's consider these issues and get some more facts. Then perhaps we'll see if universal coverage makes sense in a much smaller universe than just health care.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pirate: reformed

How we frame a debate can impact the outcome. George Lakoff's book on the subject presents the arguments well, so I won't repeat them here. I got to thinking of this recently at an MPR News Q question of the day popped about whether "illegally sharing music" is moral.

Okay, a few things on this.
  1. "Illegally sharing" is a very specific frame to this debate. After all - why would anyone make sharing illegal? Isn't this the golden rule we were all told to obey in kindergarten? Sharing is nice! So, whatever this "illegal" part is must be some mistake, I'm sure.
  2. "Facilitating theft" is another frame one could use. Maybe you don't actually download other people's music files when you use peer to peer networks (but honestly - when was the last time you got something legal from a BitTorrent?). Maybe you just log in to peer-to-peer networks and you happen to share your music files folder. In this case, you really aren't stealing anything yourself, after all. But what legal purpose could you have for sharing that folder? The only real reason - c'mon people - is to let other people steal a file.
  3. Yes, copyright law is broken. It is insanely corrupted, written by people who make money on the status quo. I mean really, life of the author plus 75 years? The only possible justification for this is to make corporations - not people - rich, and to perpetuate an oligarchy by making sure family members of really rich people stay really rich. Meritocracy? Not under this system.
  4. Yes, copyright law can be fixed. We have a perfectly good alternative in the Creative Commons license. Already working and tested, thank you very much. So, why don't we just move the whole system and remove greater-than-lifetime protection? See above references to who is getting rich, here. Sony and Disney like their money, thank you very much. They've contacted Congress on this. Heck, they wrote the last bill.
  5. Many consumers would rather take the easy way out, thank you very much. Changing laws is hard, especially when you have to compete against Sony and Disney. "Illegally sharing" is so much more convenient. We consumers have gotten really good at rationalizations, as well. Such as:
    a. The artists don't make the money, anyway. (True, often enough).
    b. The corporations have been screwing us for years. (Again, often true).
    c. I can't buy this song anyway, it's out of print, so I can get a copy peer-to-peer. (Many songs have never been made available on CD/digital version - but many very clever people have made their own digital copies from other media).
    d. My few songs won't make any difference to anyone (hmmmm, now we're getting lame).
    e. It doesn't cost the company single cent - it's not like I took something they duplicated and put in a store. (Ditto on the lameness).
    f. I wouldn't have bought this song if I had to pay money, so it's not like they are losing any sales. (Lamer, still.)
You may wonder at point 5 here, just how do I know so much about rationalizations to steal digital work? Yes, I used to pirate stuff from the comfort of my own home, oh those many years ago now. First, I worked up all my rationalizations, then I made a puzzle out of finding the right software, hunting down files, and all the rest.

Then, I had to get honest with myself. (Note to self: blog sometime about getting honest).

I wasn't stealing in order to change a broken system, or to pay artists for their time, or to sock it to the Man, whoever this Man may be. I was stealing to gratify a fairly unnecessary desire for more.

Even then, I had a great deal of legally purchased music and movies. I didn't really *need* more. I wanted more. And taking more because I wanted more wasn't really good for me as it turns out, I have a problem with *more*. So I stopped. I purged any file that I didn't have license to, and made a list of files I liked enough to actually buy. And I started a very slow, methodical campaign to own the songs I wanted to own and to deal with my own gluttony and lust (yes, I was raised Catholic) for the rest.

So this may come off as holier than thou, but I have been way less holy than most, so I cast no stones at anyone lest I get a boulder or two lobbed my way (did I mention I was raised Catholic?). I will urge you to think about the real problem, here. Most people are willing to pay for their stuff. After all, I don't know anyone who steals groceries. The major music sellers are all DRM free now, so you can buy digital copies of your music (a lot if it, anyway) and actually play the stuff. Now, we have to have the will power to expect some change from Congress.


So, let's buckle down, and be honest with ourselves and with them. And if you really want to call attention to a broken system, organize a group of pirates who admit they are stealing and accept the consequences. Go to jail over it. I won't be joining you, but if you get a thousand people arrested for breaking copyright, I bet you'll get some change.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A plethora of podcasts

My life was missing something subtle.

Mostly, I'm a pretty happy guy. I've had some crazy stuff to deal with in my past (note to self: blog about dealing with crazy stuff), but on the whole, I'm grateful for the good things in life and try to let the rest just be what it is. This is easier to do with big-picture stuff, like death and taxes. Sometimes, the little things find a wedge into my brain and poke in like a very small splinter under the skin. I can't see it, but something there is bugging me.

It turns out it was subconscious recognition of the need for spoken word entertainment in my life. I'm an American - I get a lot of television. I watch a lot of movies. Recently, I've even started kicking it old school with those book thingies I used to use all the time. I started slowly. I caught "This American Life" on the radio now and then. Eventually I tracked down episodes on the Web and was amazed by how compelled I could be by a story without pictures. Not a book, just voices. I could stream the old shows, so I started dragging my laptop computer around the house as I did chores. I had my wireless connection so I could listen to the show while I cleaned the bathroom. My advice to you if you don't like to clean: treat yourself to some good stories, and you'll find yourself looking forward to scrubbing the bathtub because it means you can enjoy this more.

I started adding other shows. I streamed "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and Leo Laporte's TWIT broadcasts. Locally, I got into "In the Loop". It was a slow progression at first. Eventually, this content became available for download, and I didn't have to stream it all the time. It all sped up when Selby joined the family.

Selby is my dog. He's a four-ish something beagle that came to live with us in 2007. He is the best dog on the planet and anyone wishing to challenge that assumption just ain't right in the head. So there.

Selby does have some needs that changed by life. For one, he potties outside. For this, I am grateful. Mostly. There are times when he needs to go out at 5 AM in January that I wish he wasn't housebroken. Ah well, the sacrifices we make. The other big one is he has to get some exercise, and someone has to go with him. Most often, that's me.

Now, Selby is cute as heck, but he is not a witty conversationalist. He needs a good 2-3 miles in the morning if we are going to prevent him from trying to taste the tantalizing tidbits tucked in our tasteful turf. I grab some poop-bags (yes, fully biodegradable from the fine folks at - I love the Interwebs) and off we go for a walk each morning about 5:30. My feet are moving, but my brain is in low gear. I enjoy the sights of the cathedral, downtown, Crocus hill and all the rest, but mostly, this is downtime. So I plug in the headphones and let someone else do the thinking.

All of this in the way of saying I have some recommendations for you. In a particular order:

1. RadioLab. Please visit and listen. I recommend starting with the episode on musical language, but hey - you really can't go wrong.
2. This American Life. No, they haven't even begun to lose it after all these years.
3. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Just silly, but in a clever way. I was a contestant once. I lost.
4. Gadgettes. Molly Wood in particular just rocks. Kelly and Jason, you're great, but Molly just gets me. She does great video podcasts for C/NET as well, but today we're talking audio.
5. Windows Weekly. Yes, way geeky, but unlike some of the other TWIT podcasts, this is likely to stay on topic. Paul Thurrott is wry, and I love the depth to which we reluctant Microsoft minions are willing to delve to feel like we made the right choice.
6. This Week in Tech. When Leo Laporte doesn't totally derail the train on some completely untech tangent for fifteen minutes (really - I did *not* tune in to listen to you and your friends drink scotch. Really. No, for real.) this show can be very entertaining.
7. Planet Money. Kinda hit and miss, but still finding its footing. A podcast about the depression we are in, while no one calls it that.

I have more, but they are not the ones I make sure to get through each week. I listen to every episode of these, and I encourage you to check them out. If you need a test dog to walk while giving them a spin, I have a beagle that is happy to show you where all the rabbits in the neighborhood hang out.

Monitize is a word

Oh fer Pete's sake - another blogger.

I just need some place to dump some thoughts. You're welcome to read them, or not. Take what you like, leave the rest. Or not. Really.

I have a few things to say about a few things, but before we get into any of that, a quick comment from me about setting up this page in Blogger.

There is a "Monetize" tag in the control panel and setting box. Now, I listen to a fair number of podcasts (note to self: must blog later on podcasts....) and many of them ponder the perturbing problems of paying the piper. However, I've never seen the darn word in print before.

So, I clicked the link.

If I get rich, I'll let you know.

The point being, I was sort of slapped in the face by the realization that our amazing Interwebs - our space where billions of pages of data and more are just waiting for our playful fingers to hit the right sequence of keys to breath life into dynamically-generated content - may need to be Monitized by random schmucks in their living rooms typing on less-than accurate keyboards while their adopted beagles sigh in the corner by the fireplace as if to say "are you still tapping on that thing?"

*whew*. I feel better. That was a long sentence, but it needed to come out in one crazed, cathartic, careening crash of chaos. Trying to structure that particular piece of penmanship would have pulled the literary equivalent of a hamstring. I'd be virtually limping for months.

So, our living language leaps left, and Monitize is a mouse-click away. I smile. My dog sighs again. We move on.