Monday, January 30

Reader Zen

I love to read. I read on the train. I read on the couch. I read in bed. I read on the can.

If you're a fellow consumer of the written word, then you'll definitely be interested in these two products I ran across in recent Boing Boing posts (
Product #1 and Product #2).

The first is the Slanket. It's dubiously dubbed as "The best blanket ever." It is a cozy, fleece blanket that has built-in arms. So you can channel surf, read, type on a laptop, etc. etc.--all while staying nice and warm. (It looks like they're currently backordered on all colors though. Sorry).

The second is the Thumb Thing. It's a plastic doohickey that you slip on your thumb like a ring. It fits snugly in your book to keep the pages spread open. Perfect to use with your Slanket.

Picture it now. A chilly winter night, sitting wrapped in your Slanket. Thumb Thing on your thumb and wedged into the latest Dan Brown page-turner. What to do with that free hand? The possibilities are endless--drink your cocktail, hold the remote, write notes, dial the phone, practice one-handed origami, pick nose, scratch my b-- You get the picture.

Tuesday, January 24

Trade CDs for an iPod

I know I've already professed my love for my iPod. Well, if you're itchin' to get one but are having a tough time justifying the cost, I saw this alternative on a Boing Boing post.

Apparently, there's a used CD shop in Charleston called Millenium Music that's promoting an iPod trade. So, comb through your collection and burn CDs, rip them to your computers, or event get rid of the duds and one-hit wonders. You know they're in there.

45 CDs = 512 MB iPod Shuffle
65 CDs = 1 GB iPod Shuffle
85 CDs = 2 GB iPod Nano
110 CDs = 4 GB Nano
130 CDs = 30 GB iPod
175 CDs = 60 GB iPod
The only catch is that unless you'll be in Charleston any time soon, you'll need to mail them on your dime and the CDs need to be in good condition.

Check it out at
Millennium Music iPod Trade.

Wednesday, January 18

The every-man's stunt man

I saw this site that shows this new ad campaign for Bud Light - Ted Ferguson - Bud Light Daredevil. This campaign is a perfect example of the trend of TV ads beginning to mirror the look and feel of the DIY videos that have been propagating the net on many of the video file-sharing sites like YouTube and ClipShack (see previous post - Online video-sharing services). Funny stuff and pretty much right on target with the 21-45 male demographic.

Sunday, January 15

Cheerios Idol?

I saw an ad for this promotion that Cheerios is running and instantly thought of one of my very good friends at work who loves karaoke. Basically, to promote their new Yogurt Burst Cheerios cereal, Cheerios has launched a viral marketing website called When you visit the site, you are prompted to create a custom avatar that will lip sync to your voice and then choose one of three songs to sing along to. When you're finished, you can email your Cheerioke recording to your friends, family, or--depending on your singing--worst enemies. I'm assuming that the email will also include some sort of promotion about the new cereal, and I'm not really sure what Yogurt Burst Cheerios have to do with a Japanese pastime. But what the heck? It still sounds like good clean fun. Check it out.

Thursday, January 12

I love Channel Frederator

I got an iPod Nano for Christmas. How psyched was I? But my bubble burst soon after when I realized it had a faulty battery. To make things worse, the only Apple Store within a 50 mile radius was sold out. All is well though, as I was able to upgrade to the Video iPod. And I must say, I LOVE IT!!

It's not even the cool factor (while Apple's design is undoubtedly slick), or even the fact that I'm allowed to sit at the cool table at the office lunchroom again. It is the vast amounts of free and fresh content that it's opened me up to, mainly Podcasts. And what's more, Video Podcasts.

My absolute favorite so far is
Channel Frederator. They do a weekly episode of ultra-hip animated shorts submitted by animation artists from all over the world. The toons are funny, cool, sometimes raunchy, and other times downright disturbing. And the writing is hilarious--a bit of schoolyard bravado blended with a "we're witty and we know it" attitude. (BTW - if you're interested in this space, read this recent article from FastCompany magazine, Attack of the Baby Pixars).

Why should you care fine readers? The great thing is that you don't even need a Video iPod to enjoy them (only if you want to be cool like me). You can view and download each episode on their site. Even better, you can subscribe to their RSS feed.

So, thank you iPod. Thank you Channel Frederator. And most of all, thank you Barb and Buz for the great gift that lets me enjoy my tunes AND my toons.

Wednesday, January 11

Maybe next year Giants fans

Too bad about Sunday, but if you're thinking the Giants have a shot next year and are willing to put a little money where your heart is, you should check out The Ticket Reserve.

I read about this site in Wired (Link: The Ticket Option Market). It basically lets you buy, bid, sell, and trade "options," or Fan Forwards, for tickets to championship games on any team. The company has struck partnerships with all the leagues and teams and guarantees ticket availability. It's professional sports meets the futures market while sticking it to the scalpers.

So, how much faith do you have in your team? I don't know about you Giants fans, but as a Bills fan, I think I'll be holding onto my greenbacks (and breath) for a few seasons.

Tuesday, January 10

Why are gamers so fun to laugh at?

I read about this online comic strip in Wired magazine this month. I had heard about it a few years ago. It pokes fun at video games and the gamer geeks who play them. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik have been writing it since 1998 and have just published a book of the first two years called Penny Arcade Volume 1: Attack of the Bacon Robots!

Take a look at the site
Penny Arcade! I didn't know, but apparently, the site is the most visited online comic strip and gets over 45 million pageviews a month. Just click on the Comic link to see the strip.

If that's not enough for you, take a look at this machinima clip that's been getting around. It kills two birds with one stone by making fun of both video gamers and traditional role-playing gamers. You can see it on (Link:
Geeked Out Machinima). Just be forewarned that there's some racy stuff on the site if you're going to nose around.

In any case, I thought it was hilarious, but I can't laugh too hard since it kinda hits close to home. Ah, those carefree D&D days circa 1982. Umm, any negative comments, and I'll sick my Level 17 Wizard on you!


Sunday, January 8

Looking for an alternate reality?

There's a unique take on an alternate reality game (ARG) that has launched this month. I read about it in Wired a few months ago (Link: Hey! What's That On Your Shirt?). Basically, to promote their clothing line, Edoc Laundry has created a fictitious band called Poor Richard. The band has lost its manager, and the clues to solve the mystery are hidden in the clothes. Pretty neat idea. No word yet whether it's been successful for them.

If you're unfamiliar with ARGs, they are mostly used as a form of viral or buzz marketing. The basic gist of these campaigns is that people talk about them, forward emails, share links, etc.

Many examples can be found in the video game world. Halo 2 had its ARG that started when at the end of its trailer, viewers saw an obscure website address ( come onto the screen as if there were a problem with the ad. Gamespot had a good story on the ARG when it launched (Link: Halo 2 hype hoax).

A recent ARG for the Xbox 360 title,
Perfect Dark Zero, also integrated the mobile world. Basically, you could have Joanna Dark, the central character of the game, "whack" a friend by putting out a "hit" on them. The target would receive an email with a link to a video that ends with them seeing their name on the toe tag of a deceased patient. When the job is done, you get a call on your mobile phone with a message saying so. Here's an article on that campaign - (Send Joanna After Your Friends).

Another form of buzz marketing comes in the form of viral email campaigns such as Burger King's
Subservient Chicken campaign. While quite bizarre, it was strangely effective.

If you know of others, let me know.

Friday, January 6

What do you get when you mix

I saw this Boing Boing post - Best mashups of 2005 - about a top 10 list of mashups on a blog called Culture Bully. If you aren't familiar with mashups (also referred to as bastard pop or cutups), these are great examples of what's being done with digital audio by amateurs and professionals.

You can listen to or download them by following the link at the bottom of the Boing Boing post. I like #1 (Flaming Lips vs Snoop Dogg vs Will Farrell), #3 (Rolling Stones vs Biz Markie) , and #10 (The Who vs Beastie Boys) myself.

I know. I know. Sampling has been around for decades, and DJs have been mixing since the days of disco. NPR even did a story on mashups back in 2002 on All Things Considered. You can listen to it by clicking here and then clicking the "Listen" button.

Regardless, never has it been so easy for anyone to experiment or distribute their creations. And that's really what's at the root of this Web 2.0 thing - the advent of community-created content.
So, while not a really new trend, the availability of more advanced--often free--digital audio editing software and P2P networks has really made this stuff catch on.


Thursday, January 5

Steve Martin now contributing to a blog

If you're a Steve Martin fan, as am I, you might like to know that he is now contributing to the Check out his first blog post -- titled Leap Second Lovers Are Traitors Says Bill O'Reilly.

Wednesday, January 4

What is your dangerous idea?

That's the world question of 2006. "Huh?," you ask. Well, apparently John Brockman at asks some of the world's biggest smartypants to answer just one very thought-provoking question each year. For 2006: What is your dangerous idea?
"The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?"
Contributor's include Kevin Kelly from Wired and J. Craig Venter, the genomics pioneer who mapped the human genome (as an aside - I met his wife who's also a genome researcher a few years back - nice lady).

Past questions have included questions such as "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" and "What questions have disappeared?"

Check out the answers to this year's question at The World Question Center 2006.

Cool video of the seasons in Norway

I saw this and just thought it was really cool. Erik Solheim from Norway took multiple still photos outside his window over the course of a year and then made them into this video.

You can check out his original blog post at
The video of the seasons in Norway.

Monday, January 2

2005: The year in review

What a year for the Billwildered clan! This year had lots of change for us. As a year-end bonus for you loyal readers, I asked none other than Baba Wawa to guest interview the fam to cover 2005's highlights.

Baba: Hewwo, Biww. Thank you for asking me to join you in your walk down memowy wane. It's a reaw pweasure to be here. What do you say we get started? So, what makes the Biwwwiwdewed cwan tick?

Bill: Well, Babs, that's a tough one. Do we really tick or is it more like a sputter? We take it day by day. I mean, let's face it we all know who rules the roost.

Baba: Kewwy?

Bill: No, dummy. The kids.

Baba: Ahh, yes. The kids. Ethan who is five and Sophia now one. And how is it that they ruwe?

Bill: Like most parents we know, Kerry and I have little control over our schedule. Neither of the kids are very good sleepers. Ethan has gotten better recently after taking a step back last year when Sophia was born. But he still has the occasional 3-4am nightmare or deadarm "pins & needles" alarm.

Baba: And Sophia?

Bill: Well, Sophia hasn't really mastered the whole "sleeping through the night" thing yet. She's teased us a few times this year. She once slept through the night three nights in a row back in September, but then she got sick and just hasn't gotten back on track. She still wakes up sometime between 1-3am almost every night. We're hoping the four teeth she'll be cutting in the next few weeks will help her get through the night. Oh, and the Nyquil we've been mixing with her soy milk.

Baba: Ugh, that must be tough.

Bill: Well, Babs, it's a killer on the energy level, but we get by. Since Kerry left her job before Thanksgiving, she's taken the vast majority of the wake-up calls, God bless her.

Baba: So, you bewieve in God?

Bill: Hey now, ask me something easier like, "Am I gay?" or something.

Baba: Are you?

Bill: Am I what?

Baba: Gay.

Bill: No. Are you? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Baba: Let's stick to me asking the questions, shall we? OK. I don't want to make you cwy, which they used to think was my speciawty, but what was the worst time in 2005 and what's the best?

Bill: Well, the worst wasn't anything too terrible. But was easily those first few weeks when Kerry returned to work from maternity leave. Both of us sleep deprived. We couldn't get Sophia into the daycare center that Ethan was in. So, our sister-in-law was watching her along with her youngest. So we had two separate drop-offs. Kerry was returning to a job she wasn't thrilled with. I was in a job that I was growing increasingly unhappy with. And between formula, diapers, and daycare, money was tight. Just a big adjustment for us.

Baba: Anything else?

Bill: Well, with the sleep deprivation, new schedules, new job, etc., I haven't been able to exercise or workout consistently. I was right in the middle of working on "Buff Bill" when Sophia was born. It's not like I had a six-pack or anything. More like a four-pack really. But now, while I've still been able to maintain my weight, I can see and feel it moving away from the places I want it.

Baba: And the best?

Bill: That's harder. Lot's of great things happened this year. The best was just seeing the kids grow. Ethan graduating from pre-school, learning to read, and going to kindergarten. Sophia taking her first steps and knowing to laugh when she farts.

Baba: Excuse me?

Bill: Oh, did you toot, too?

Baba: No [blushes], I just wasn't sure I heard you wight.

Bill: Yeah, well about a month ago. Sophia just started laughing every time she rips one. I mean, how do kids know that it's funny?

Baba: Well, I don't think it's funny.

Bill: Lighten up, Babs. The country needs to be able to laugh at a few farts and not feel ashamed. Do you smell something?

Baba: What?

Bill: Nevermind.

Baba: Back to the question. You said there are many "bests" this year. What else?

Bill: Well, the new job I started at the end of August kicks ass. I love it. Love the people, the company, and the work. The only downside is the commute--hour on the train in the morning and an hour and a half at night. What else? My cousin is doing a brief stint here in Po-town on a co-op at IBM, so I get to see some of my family. Still not as much as I'd like, but more than I would otherwise. Umm, let's see. Oh, got an Xbox in March. I love that thing! And of course, the launch of Billwildered.

Baba: Ahh, yes. Your bwog. What made you decide to start your own bwog?

Bill: Well, I started it just as a way to share some of the things I see at work and at play with my friends and family. While many are online, some aren't the most tech savvy and most aren't what would be considered "early adopters." And I guess I kinda look at myself that way. I'm a techie nerd at heart. I like to learn about new technologies and envision how they might impact or help us ordinary people in our everyday lives. It's a curiosity thing. And it occurred to me at a family gathering this summer that no one really knew what I did. At the time, I had been at my last employer for almost four years. That no one knew what I did just didn't sit well with me, and I figured a blog was the easiest way for me to share what I'm doing, seeing, learning, and thinking about.

Baba: And how is it working out?

Bill: Well, it's hard to say. I'm not sure how many have embraced Billwildered. I've put up over 50 posts and yet have had only about four or five people comment on any of them. And two of those were on the very first post and another was by a racist half-wit. I guess what I'm saying is that some feedback would be greatly appreciated. Even if it were offline.

Baba: Are you weawwy bewiwdewed though?

Bill: You bet your ass I am, Babs. Not bewildered at what's happening or how the internet and my life are evolving, but bewildered by the possibilities.

Baba: When you put on your bwogging hat, who is your gweatest inspiration?

Bill: I'd have to say the "Other brother, Darryl." That guy was a comical genius. He really taught me to know when to shut the hell up. Or was it how to channel a lack of hygiene into the creative process? I forget.

Baba: Well, thank you, Bill. It's been a pleasure. Since we have a few moments, I'd like to ask Kerry and the kids a few questions.

Bill: Sure, umm, but what happened to your speech impediment?

Baba: What impediment?

Bill: Nevewmind.

Baba: So, Kerry. I understand you've stopped working outside the home. How's that going?

Kerry: It's great, so far. To be honest, I had some doubts about my decision the first few weeks, but I think we're getting into a routine now. And I definitely see improvements in the kid. Ethan and Sophia, too. Ethan is happier when he gets home from school since he can play with Mommy, and Sophia is beginning to really open up to people. And I love just being able to be there for them and not have work in the back of my mind. I just wish I could get Bill to get off the damn Xbox and computer to, I don't know, maybe wash the dishes or do a load of laundry once in a while.

Baba: And Ethan, how was youw yeaw?

Ethan: You talk funny.

Kerry: [through gritted teeth] Answer the question, honey.

Ethan: Good. Wanna see my Lightsabre Battle game?

Baba: Umm, not right now, dear. Maybe after the interview. What was your favorite part of the year, Ethan?

Ethan: Umm, when Daddy got the Xbox and when I saw Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Wanna play LEGO Star Wars on the Xbox?

Baba: You like Star Wars, huh, Ethan?

Ethan: Uh huh, and Teen Titans and Pokemon and LEGOs and...

Baba: Whoa, whoa, whoa. OK, I get it. Here, have some Skittles. Now skidaddle so I can talk to your sister. Sophia, sweetie, what was the best part of your 2005?

Sophia: [red-faced] pffffffffff-fluh-fluh-ffffftt. Tee hee hee hee.

Happy New Year!!