Friday, December 30

I'm still here

Forgive me readers (yeah, all three of you), for I have slacked. It's been eight days since my last post.

No excuses really. Just been enjoying my vacation.

If you're looking for some help on setting and sticking to New Year resolutions, here are a couple of LifeHacker posts I saw recently that could help:
Ten commandments of goal-setting
Hack Attack: New Year's to-do's

Hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year!! I'll be posting a recap of 2005 soon as well as some 2006 predictions for Billwildered. Peace!

Wednesday, December 21

Hangover cures

'Tis the season to get to get tipsy. Fa la la la la, la la la...ouch, my freakin' head. Between office parties, social events, family get-togethers, and the customary rounds of Beer-Who, you're bound to toss a few back this time of year. Well, here's a post on Lifehacker that shares some tips on ways to bounce back - Ask Lifehacker: Hangover cures?. Just as interesting are some of the reader comments.

I also saw this recent article in Business 2.0 titled, "The Upside of Hangovers." It mentions a few of the remedies you can pick up at your local drugstore, of which Chaser is the best-selling and apparently has some actual scientific proof it works.

Or you could do what I did in college...start drinking again. Hey, it got me through four--ahem--five years of college.

In any case, enjoy and remember to drink responsibly.

Tuesday, December 20

These guys are way funny

You may have already seen the hilarious talent that is The Lonely Island. If you watch SNL, then you've seen Andy Samberg who joined the cast this season. And if your sense of humor is anything like mine, you've most likely spewed whatever your Saturday late-night beverage of choice is from your nose due to the writing of his cronies, Jorma Taccone and Akiva "Kiv" Schaffer.

Collectively known as "The Dudes," these guys have been putting together shorts, spoof music videos, and even a pilot for Fox (wasn't picked up) and releasing them online under a Creative Commons license since late 2004.

Their latest creation, The Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia, is all over the blogs. I found it through this post on Boing Boing. If you prefer, you can go straight to a flash video of the short available on YouTube (see my earlier post on Online video-sharing services).

Tips for remembering to send in rebate forms

Consumerist is a relatively new blog targeted at empowering consumers. In addition to pointing out when retail stores and service providers screw up customer service, it also highlights consumer tips, great deals, and examples of exemplary service. This post (Consumerist: Never forget to claim your rebate again), in particular, provides a great tip for remembering to submit those "pain-in-the-butt" rebates.

Sunday, December 18

Can you Riff it?

I learned about Riffs from this post on Lifehacker a few weeks ago. It basically takes tagging and ratings beyond just websites. It allows you to "Riff" on pretty much anything you want--Music, Books, Movies, Cars, People, Places, Events, TV, Sports, Restaurants, Games, Software, Websites, etc.

Friday, December 16

When did "competition" become a bad word?

I can't get enough of The Apprentice. I'll admit it. I've been hooked all four seasons. (I'll qualify that by saying I've never once watched the faux-Apprentice by ex-con Martha). And Kerry and I called it at about week 5 that Randal would win. Although you might not think so from watching the show, all the candidates have pretty impressive bios. If you're interested, check them out and start with Randal's.

I don't agree with any of this rubbish about the so-called "controversy" when Randal told the Don that he should only hire one apprentice. I agree with Randal. He shouldn't have to share the spotlight with Rebecca. It's a competition. There's only been one winner every other season. Why should this be different? If anything, I think that Bill and Kwami from the first season were a harder choice than these two, and yet, there was still just one winner. It was wrong for Trump to even put Randal in that position.

I'm not sure when it changed, but it seems that "competition" has become a dirty word. And that the premise of having a "loser" is just too much for people. To me, I think there's no better example than the vanilla-ization of school events and youth recreational sports. The idea that "everybody" wins, ergo, nobody loses. Sounds to me like new-age fluff--the brainchild of a committee chock-full of over-protective parents who spent their formative years getting picked last in gym class.

While I agree with the underlying lesson of "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but how you play the game," we can't shelter kids from the fact that do lose. Not everyone can be in the top half of the class. Not everyone can be the lead in the school play.

And what about the business world? When you sell a big contract, it means someone else didn't. If you're awarded the Baker account, someone else wasn't. When you get promoted, someone else wasn't. And while you won't always know who that someone else is, it doesn't change the fact that they lost.

Aren't we better served preparing our kids for the times when they are the someone else? Shouldn't we be teaching them how to pick themselves up, learn from the defeat no matter how small, and move on while handling themselves with integrity? It's a lot better than sugarcoating their competitions and filling their heads with the idea that they'll never lose.

Thursday, December 15

A little something for everyone

Just two sites that I figured I'd share that you might find amusing. The first is a blog called Cute Overload that has all sorts of cute pictures of animals in various settings. I saw it at this post on Boing Boing: Cute Overload. It's a no brainer for scoring points with little kids and female co-workers. Even the biggest tough guys can't help but smile at some of these.

But, in case that's a little too cutesy for you, here's an amusing site that talks about the ins and outs (absolutely no pun intended) of
pooing at work.

Tuesday, December 13

Feeling masochistic? There's a financial calculator for that

Feeling good about yourself? Need a reason to get depressed? Holidays getting you so joyful you're irritating the fam? Well, this always seems to work for me. Just take a stroll down "I can't believe I'm in so much f-ing debt" Lane with me. Come on, you know you've been there. Maybe not in a while, but don't worry, it looks the same just with deeper potholes.

Seriously, if you've got any money questions, concerns, etc., can most likely help you calculate it.

It has over 80 financial calculators addressing pretty much every situation--calculating how much house you can afford (or here in Dutchess County, how little), calculating the true cost of paying the minimum on your credit card, and basically everything in between. But I didn't see the "How do I buy a new car, bigger house, and plasma TV while saving for retirement and education and paying down my debt on a single income" calculator. That one would be the shiznit!!

In any case, Bankrate's financial calculators are worth checking out. You may even come across one or two you should do, but never thought of. You just might want to wait till after the holidays.

Monday, December 12

How to talk to a real human?

Don't you just hate calling 800#s and being stuck in IVR hell? Nothing gets my panties boxer briefs in a bunch more than being stuck listening to an automated voice when trying to reach a real LIVE person.

With all the purchases made during the holidays and the inevitable calls to customer service that come after, I've got something that will hopefully make the season merry for you. Well, at least as merry as enduring the crowds, snow, family squabbles, and fruitcakes can be.

Paul English, a seasoned blogger and entrepreneur, has posted his IVR Cheat Sheet, which lists the 800 #s and steps required to talk to a real, LIVE human being at 108 different companies.

Unique gift sites

Looking for unique gifts? Here are two sites that offer stuff you won't find at the mall.

If you are looking for something really unique, Modern Artisans specializes in unique, handcrafted products for your home. Some of their items are even one-of-a-kind.

T-shirts are in. T-Shirt Countdown not only gives you access to tons of unique t-shirts ranging from downright offensive (you've been warned) to political to even religious (gotta get my "Satan is a nerd" shirt), but it also lets you chime in with your anonymous votes on the Top 100 (I know, more lists). The site is set up like a portal and will send you to the individual t-shirt merchant sites.

Good shopping!

Still not sure what a Blog is?

If you're still not sure what a blog is or why you should care, check out this two and a half minute video tutorial - What Is A Blog?

Sunday, December 11

Online classifieds, etc.

There's been some movement in the online classifieds space recently with the addition of Google Base last month and Microsoft announcing its entry, currently code-named "Fremont," a few weeks ago. Both of these services are meant to compete with sites like craigslist. And why not? More and more people are using these types of services. In fact, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than 26 million people visited the top 15 classified sites in September 2005--80% more than the same period last year.

Those of you unfamiliar with these person-to-person marketplaces, the easiest way for me to describe them is that they are FREE online versions of the classifieds section of your local newspaper. Craigslist is the most notable. Started in 1995 by Craig Newmark, a former IBMer, craigslist has been successful at rendering newspaper classifieds as unnecessary, if not obsolete. Friends of mine have used the site, for example, to buy and sell furniture and cars. Another rented out his Manhattan apartment for the Christmas season, and one friend even found his first house there.

Google Base was originally positioned as simply a database, into which any sort of information can be uploaded--from apartment or job listings to recipes for your mom's Vietnamese egg rolls. But don't be fooled, many of the fields in the database and forms relate to major classifieds categories: number of bedrooms for apartment listings, or education required for job postings, for example. Nevertheless, it's unclear as to how it will ultimately evolve.

Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be clearly positioning their service as a classifieds play, but with more. They are integrating with their other services like MSN Spaces, MSN Messenger, and MapPoint as well as adding a flavor of social networking to the offering by giving users the option of allowing only friends, family, or co-workers to view ads. It's not available to the public yet (see the landing page here), but keep your eyes peeled for the spring, most likely as part of its initiative and probably renamed Microsoft Live Classifieds.

So, next time you're thinking of buying or selling something, I encourage you to take a look at these sites.

And for those of you looking to just get rid of stuff, you can advertise things you want to give away for free on Freecycle, where nothing, apparently, is too old or damaged or useless to try to unload. Just identify the freecycle group in your area (there are over 3,200 worldwide), join the e-mail list, agree to some rules, and you're good to go.

Friday, December 9

What's the deal with lists?

They pull us in. We can't look away. Why do we love them? Is it our thirst to just get a small bit of organization and sense in an otherwise insane world? Not such an easy question to answer, is it?

Let's face it, lists have been a part of our entire lives--10 Commandments, 8 Wonders of the World, 7 Deadly Sins, 6 Articles of Belief, 13 Principles of Faith, 4 Objectives of Life, 4 Noble Truths, 12 Steps, 50 Sexiest People, 7 Places to Touch Her to Make Her go Ooaaaoooh...or is it 13 places? Umm, well, you get the idea.

I mean it's easy to understand why writers love them. They're easy to write, can take up a lot or a little space, and create the illusion that the author has some sort of mystical and elusive wisdom to hand down to their dim-witted, media-overloaded readers.

Well, if you can't get enough, apparently this guy compiles all the top lists of the year from all sorts of different sources and, naturally, lists them. He's got it all: books, music, movies, toys, people, gadgets, games, food, you name it. You can see his list of lists here.

If there isn't enough list mojo at that site for you get your fix, check out Wiki's List of Lists for all manner of nonsensical hooey.

If you think of any others, just let me know. I'll be sure to list them.

Thursday, December 8

Tagger by MusicBrainz

I recently discovered Tagger by MusicBrainz. MusicBrainz is a user-maintained community music metadatabase that's been around for a while now. It's a mammoth collection of music metadata--information like artist name, album title, list of tracks on a CD, year, etc for over 338,000 albums.

Tagger is their free downloadable app (they accept donations) that can help you out with the poorly labeled tracks that we all have in our ripped and downloaded music libraries. Tagger cross-references the acoustic fingerprint of each untitled tune with the MusicBrainz metadatabase, then fills in the missing info for you. On the first pass through the mp3's on my PC (only about 530), it correctly identified a little more than 80% of them. Not too shabby.

So, if you're a little anal about having the correct metadata on all your mp3 files--like me--then you should try it out.

Wednesday, December 7

Custom M&M's

Saw this on BoingBoing last week. You can customize your own M&M's. You can choose 2 of 21 available colors and have a different two-lined message on one side of each with classic 'm' on the other side. Apparently there are multiple restrictions on what you can say (the BB post gets into more detail on this).

Sorry I didn't post this sooner though, it looks like they've had so many orders that they can't guarantee delivery in time for Christmas anymore. I believe they're saying Dec 28th right now.

If you're interested, check out the site -

Get ready for Zubbles

Well they finally did it. Or, I guess I should say that Tim Kehoe finally did it. I saw this post on BoingBoing last month about this guy's 11 year quest to invent a colored bubble. According to the original story in Popular Science (The 11-Year Quest to Create Disappearing Colored Bubbles, they should be available around February at Toys 'r Us.

You can even pre-order them or get on the mailing list at Zubbles.

How cool are these?

Tuesday, December 6

10 things my five-year-old needs to unlearn from watching Rudolph

Perhaps I'm just hyper-sensitive having sat through mandatory harassment training at work yesterday, but watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on DVD with my five-year-old, I couldn't help but think that, unless I intervene post-haste, some of the so-called lessons it espouses will one day either get my son pummeled in the schoolyard or escorted from his workplace by armed-guard.

Not for nothing, but much of what you can learn from Rudolph's tale, especially to a precocious five-year old, is just plain dumb.

So, for your enjoyment (or maybe displeasure), here are my 10 Rudolph takeaways (not in any particular order):

  1. No matter how stupid their rules, you should do whatever your parents tell you to do, if it means fitting in.

  2. It's perfectly acceptable to refer to a woman as "momma," at least around the holidays.

  3. Dentists are gay.

  4. When a girl says "I think you're cute," it's SOP to jump around in tickled elation and immediately follow it with a bout of playground grab-ass with your pals.

  5. A carnivorous sasquatch whose had its teeth violently removed without the benefit of anesthesia is not a threat to you.

  6. In fact, said sasquatch can now be easily terrorized by a gaggle of toy dogs.

  7. Any person can get fat in just one day.

  8. The fatter you get, the jollier you become.

  9. You should only accept a misfit with open arms after you've figured out a way to use their disability.

  10. The best way to tame a mean-spirited boss is to skip out on work for a few days and return having saved a few locals from certain consumption.
If I can correct the damage of these anti-lessons (with the exception of maybe #4 - some things a guy's gotta learn for himself), then I will have succeeded as a father.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 5

Got games?

...on your blog or website, that is? If your interested in having a FREE casual game arcade, then check out LaunchNow by Game Trust. LaunchNow guides you through the process of customizing the look of your arcade and then generates the HTML for easy copying and pasting.

The only downsides are that there currently aren't many games to choose from and that users who want to play are required to register with Game Trust.

I have it on the main page of my blog for now to see how it goes (at bottom of sidebar).

Sunday, December 4

Create your own search engine

Do you find yourself going back to the same source for results whenever you do a web search? Well, then is for you. Still in beta, Rollyo enables you to cut through the noise you often get when trying to get organic search results by creating your own custom search engine, dubbed searchrolls, using your own list of trusted sources. It even has features such as a Firefox Plugin, importing your bookmarks, a desktop widget, and adding your searchroll searchbox to your website or blog.

Posted by Picasa

This site also takes the social bookmarking concept of sites like one step further by allowing you to share your searchrolls. You have the option of sharing any of your searchrolls and tagging them with keywords.

Great for research or just filtering results. Check it out.

One caveat, I'm a firm believer that true organic search is a great way to find websites you may not have been aware of and therefore, potential new sources of information. If you do decide to use Rollyo, I would encourage you to broaden your searches occasionally so that you don't shelter yourself from something new.

Saturday, December 3

Most comprehensive "How-to" site I've seen is by far the most extensive "how to" manual site I've come across. The site was started in 1999 and is fully categorized as well as searchable.

I entered a quick search using the keyword "dog" and got over 3,700 how-to's back. The first page results ranged from straightforward advice like "How to Give a Small Dog a Bath" to a little more out of the ordinary like "How to Treat Your Dog's Separation Anxiety."

What's also cool about eHow is that they've jumped on the Wiki bandwagon by starting wikiHow back in January.

"wikiHow is collaborative writing project to build the world's largest how-to manual. With your contributions, we can create a free resource that helps people by offering clear, concise solutions to the problems of everyday life. wikiHow currently contains 3755 articles written, edited, and maintained primarily by volunteers."

So just like Wikipedia, any user can modify or add to any how to manual.

Check it out.

Friday, December 2

One-stop shop for entertainment reviews

If you're looking for one place to go on the web to get reviews of the latest movie, DVD, TV Series, CD, book, or video game release, then look no further. let's you see what all the critics are saying about it. Every entertainment piece is given a "Metascore" that shows the critical consensus at a glance; they are a weighted average of all the critics' grades.

So, if you haven't yet bought into the grassroots community review being done by every Tom, Dick, and wannabe Siskel on the blogosphere, then this site's for you. But then again, if you aren't just a little bought in, you wouldn't be listening to me then, would you?

Hmmm, conundrum.

Cool idea for kid's room or home office

I thought this was a pretty cool idea. Kevin Kelly, the current Editor-at-Large for Wired Magazine (one of the few I read cover to cover) shares a couple ideas about how to turn an entire wall into a dry erase board. Ethan has a little one on his door where he practices his writing. So, I'm thinking of doing it on one of the walls in the playroom.

Marker Board Walls

Check it out.

Thursday, December 1

A Photo for Every Minute of the Day

Check this site out. It shows your current time through a photo.
The Human Clock

Someone's got a lot of time on his hands. Ugh, bad pun. Sorry.