Saturday, July 29

My unforgettable dancing queen

Memory is a funny thing. It can be fleeting at times. Things that just go in one ear and out the other. I have my share. Just ask Kerry, my wife. I've also had my share of experiences that no matter how much you try to forget, you just can't shake them. I remember the night of my father's suicide almost 19 years ago so vividly; it's as if it took place yesterday. I remember the knot in my stomach as I got down on my knee in front of Kerry over nine years ago and pulled the ring out of my pocket. I remember the excitement and anxiety as I sat in the delivery room waiting--for what seemed like an eternity--to hear Ethan's first cry while trying to keep Kerry calm. While some of the details get fuzzy over time, the big events, they stay with you.

But other times, little everyday moments occur, and just something about them--something I can't quite put my finger on--tells me with every bone in my body, I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life.

I had one of those moments tonight with Sophia.

She had just had her tubby time with Kerry, and I was getting her dry and into her pajamas. I had the High School Musical Soundtrack playing for Ethan. Sophia was getting a little fussy, so I just started dancing with her in my arms. And she was giving me some great big belly laughs. So I kept on dancing with her, and after about 15 minutes of me doing the white-man's overbite with her, she put her head on my shoulder. A few more songs played, and she just faded off to sleep as I danced away. She gave a couple of soft moans and nuzzled into my neck a few times. And as I lay her in her crib, she gave a soft dreamy giggle.

Now I've danced with her a hundred times, and she's even fallen asleep on my shoulder a bunch of times, but this...this time I'll remember forever.

Monday, July 24

Liar, liar, transformers are on fire!

We were driving home from Kerry's Aunt's house on Saturday night when a big thunder and lightning storm hit. Well, OK, when I say storm, I mean maelstrom. My six-year-old, Ethan, was getting scared in the back of the minivan. OK, when I say scared, I mean just a basket case.

On a good day, he's frightened of thunder and lightning when well within the confines of our house. On Saturday, he was beside himself in shear terror and no amount of soothing voices or reassurances would calm him.

Thankfully, the storm started to slow down, and we were able to calm Ethan's nerves by explaining to him that the storm was moving away. We were doing the whole counting off between the lightning and thunder thing. Well, the words hadn't even completely escaped my mouth when the biggest, brightest, most vivid bolt of lightning hit a transformer on a pole less than 40 yards from our car.

I jumped. Kerry gasped. Ethan squealed. Sophia (log that she is) snored. Hell, the minivan even shook. I had never seen anything like it. And definitely not so close.

And as we drove by the pole and sparks were showering down onto the ground, a hurt little voice from the back said, "You said the storm was moving away, Daddy."

Thanks, Mother Nature.

Thursday, July 20

Social Commerce - Part 1

While I've written about shopping- and product recommendation-related sites and applications that are attempting to leverage social networking and bookmarking here and here, several new ones have recently launched that I thought I'd share.

It should be no surprise that most "shopping" on the internet is really just research or window shopping and either leads to a purchase made offline at a retail site or never leads to one at all. Some of the sites in this new wave leverage this fact by helping users with product research and recommendations. Others just attempt to provide simple tools that address one aspect of the shopping experience.

Gifttagging attempts to address one simple need--the universal wishlist--and while it's fairly straightforward, it just doesn't seem to do it that well.

Gifttagging basically allows you to manage and share lists of items that you would like and those that you already have. After adding a link to your bookmarks bar (only seems to work in Firefox), you can add items you find while browser-window shopping to your gifttagging lists with a simple click. You still have to manually enter the item's name, price, and description unlike other sites like Baggle (which I write about here).

You can tag the items with keywords, search other people's lists based on similar tags, and then share your lists either by emailing a link to it or by adding a Linkroll onto your website. Although it looks like the code they provide includes JavaScript, so don't expect it to work with social networking sites like MySpace which strip JavaScript out.

All in all, I'm not particularly impressed with this website. When I tried to add items to my "Things I Have" list, they ended up on my "Things I Would Like" list. Roughly 40% of the time I tried to add something to one of my lists, I'd get a blank window stating "Application Error." The fact that it doesn't seem to integrate well with Internet Explorer is a big strike against its chances for catching on with the mainstream. The site is in Beta, so I hope for their sake it improves.

Regardless, there's no apparent business model here. How this site is going to make money is a mystery. And if it's not obvious that it's the least bit sustainable, why should you invest the time to build a wishlist or add Linkrolls to your sites? Simple, you shouldn't.

Stay tuned for upcoming write ups on other sites such as MyPickList, Stylehive, Wists, Kaboodle, Nabbr, and Yub.

Wednesday, July 19

Social Browsing

I spend so much of my time trying to stay plugged into what the latest websites are that you'd think I'd get bored with it.

Well, I don't. In fact, I love discovering new sites, and it never ceases to amaze me that there are so many innovative, creative, and useful ones out there. On the flip side, I come across a lot of crap. Well, StumbleUpon is a fun application that I have used for random discovery.

StumbleUpon is a downloadable browser-extension that allows you to discover new sites based on categories you choose and rate them. Once installed, you can access StumbleUpon through a toolbar in your browser. Your ratings--a simple thumbs up or thumbs down--then help determine future sites you see as well as how often sites you've rated are shown to other StumbleUpon users.

In addition, StumbleUpon also has the typical Web 2.0 features that most every site touting social networking offers. You can set up a profile, add or make friends, share the sites you like, and tag different pages.

Until just this week, StumbleUpon has only been available to Firefox users, yet they've been able to reach the one million user mark. Well, it's about to hit the mainstream because they've just released a version for Internet Explorer. Check it out, explore, have fun, and let me know if you stumble upon anything interesting.

Tuesday, July 18

10 Cool Websites You Want to Share

Figured I'd try a meme for today's post. I got this one at Yanowhatimean by way of The Daily Meme.

My 10 sites (not in any particular order):
Lifehacker - great tips for getting the most out of the Interweb
Pandora - create your own web radio station, great for discovering new music and bands
YouTube - it's becoming cliche, but can be great fun when you have some time to kill
Listible - good lists for almost any topic
Wikipedia - while I would never swear by it, it's a quick source to learn about almost any subject
Bloglines - great web-based RSS reader to manage all your feeds
Springwise - new business ideas for entrepreneurial people
FatWallet - decent deals and coupon codes, got me a better discount on a PC than I could get through my employer
Streamload - 25GB of FREE online file storage
Technorati - great for searching the blogosphere

Please share your sites in the comments.

Monday, July 17

Dry spells

I hate dry spells, and I've had a long one. I know.

It's not that I haven't had much to write about. I have.

And it's not as if I don't want to share. I do.

I was back home in the Roch over the long 4th of July weekend and not one relative, but two, asked why I haven't blogged in so long. Good answers? I had none.

It's just...well, I'm tired.

But leave it to family to kick your butt into gear. So here goes...

I'm actually terrified of dry spells. Whether they come in the form writer's block, lack of creativity, or losing streaks or if they occur at work, home, on the field, or in the bedroom, dry spells basically suck.

Those who know me, know that I am a HUGE consumer of media. All types. Each day, I skim at least a dozen blogs via my Bloglines feed and listen to three podcasts and watch a half a dozen video podcasts during my train commute. And any given week, I watch way too many hours of TV, play far too many hours of PC and/or Xbox games, and try to keep up with about five monthly magazine subscriptions. All this, to stay current, to be "in the know," to keep the creative juices ward off obsolescence.

So one of my biggest challenges--besides making time to sleep--is how to organize all that "knowledge" into something I can work with, how to use it all to make my personal and professional life, well, better.

Well, I just re-read a post I found a few months ago via 43 Folders that has helped, and I thought it would be good to share since it's pretty appropriate. While we don't always have or make time for big brainstorm sessions, there's always time for a little "brain rain" to get you out of life's dry spells. Stay wet.