You Just Lost A Customer

News today that some businesses have begun disabling the NFC readers in their retail locations so as block customers from using Apple Pay. When I read this, I have to say it filled me with rage. I don’t yet own an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, but I will soon and one of the reasons why I’ve been looking forward to owning one is the secure, easy transactions that Apple Pay represents. Now we learn that a group of merchants wants to introduce their own payment processing system, one that favors the merchants by eliminating credit card fees, but is most likely far less secure, and most certainly more difficult or confusing to use.

If you’re an iPhone owner who’s as upset as I am, I’ve designed this helpful flyer that you can print a stack of and hand to the clerk at CVS, Rite Aid or anywhere else that refuses to accept Apple Pay. Simply put, you’re telling them that you’re going to take your business elsewhere until they come to their senses and accept your money via Apple Pay. Why any business owner would actually refuse a customer’s money in this economy is bewildering to say the least, but we need to let the corporate owners know we have choices and we chose not to give them our money.

Download the PDF version. If you want, sign your name at the bottom and then see they get into the hands of businesses in your area that insist on doing what’s better for them, instead of what’s best for the consumer.

You can also contact CVS and Rite Aid electronically and tell them that they need to support Apple Pay or risk alienating millions of iPhone users. The more our voices are heard, the harder it will be for them to ignore us.

Stop Procrastinating: A Step by Step Guide

Like many people, I have a habit of procrastinating. I sometimes tend to put off completing tasks until the guilt simply becomes too much to bare and I get off my butt and get moving. Judging from the immense popularity of productivity apps that specialize in reminding you to get your stuff done, I think it’s safe to say I’m in good and numerous company.

Procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if it helps you to sort through your emotions or gather a particular plan of attack before barreling ahead. Putting off writing an email you’d have regretted if you had sent it off in the heat of the moment is a good thing, not bad. But more often than not, procrastination can freeze us from action for extended periods of time and even interfere with important work. Personally, I have a bad tendency to stall when starting a new, large intimidating project at work. I find it can be extremely difficult to get motivated especially when the work involves creation of something from scratch. If you’ve ever written anything and put off starting because you were intimidated by the “blank page” before you, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The good news is over the years I’ve come up with a small but effective method to help get myself started on projects faster and it is simply this: take baby steps. Part of the problem with starting on a task is that often it can seem insurmountable and so why bother even trying? The trick is to pick one small part of the task and start there, slowly chipping away, piece by piece on what has to be done until there is nothing left to do. I’m reminded of the Winter Warlock from Rankin & Bass’ classic TV special Santa Claus is Coming to Town. In the story, the evil wizard wants to change his outlook on life from bad to good, but he doesn’t know how to start. The young Kris Kringle sings to him to “put one foot in front of the other and soon you are walkin’ across the floor!” It sounds completely hokey and cheesy, but I swear it’s the truth!

Say you’ve got a pile of dirty dishes starting at you in the sink. You don’t wanna wash them because doing so is going to be time consuming and a complete mess. When something like this comes up for me I think to myself, “Okay, I’ll just wash the silverware for now.” So I’ll start cleaning maybe just the forks first and then the spoons and so on. That naturally leads to glasses and then to plates which leads to pots and pans and then before I know it I’m done. The technique can be applied to just about anything. Have a report or blog post to write? Don’t try and write the whole thing, start by drafting an outline and go from there. Need to clean the entire house? Break it down and start with just one room. Over time, things will be nice and shiny. Bags and bags of laundry to do? Start with just the whites. Starting a massive new project at work? Don’t despair, figure out what the first step is and once that is done, move onto the next and then the next.

By breaking big tasks down into a bunch of smaller, less time consuming ones, you trick yourself into lowering the barrier to entry. Like most people, I find that I’m fine once I get going on a project, it’s just the getting started part that is really difficult. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, baby steps are a great way to jump that first hurdle and get moving. Give it a try and I bet before you know it you’ll be walking out the door!

Why I’m Buying an iPhone 5c

I’ve owned an iPhone 4s for almost 2 years now and had been patiently awaiting the successor to the iPhone 5 until this week. When the 5 was first introduced, I was off-cycle for a discounted upgrade from AT&T and when I finally was eligible I thought I might as well just wait and see. I was hoping the increasing popularity of larger-screened smartphones would encourage Apple to release at least an iPhone with a 4.6″ screen in their next rev, but as I tweeted this past week, it seems Tim Cook’s pigs have yet to fly.

Now I have a choice to make. I can go with the fancy new iPhone 5s, complete with 64-bit hardware, a greatly improved camera and a cool fingerprint scanner, or I can “settle” for a 5 wrapped in a lickable, candy-coated plastic shell, the iPhone 5c. The gadget freak in me says to go with the snazzy 5s. After all, its increased speed would hold up better over the next 1.5-2 years and the pictures I took would no doubt be greatly improved from those I snap now. The 5s is more expensive, but that wasn’t the deciding factor, at least not for me.

I’ve chosen to go with the iPhone 5c for a couple reasons, but mainly because of comfort. For my money, the most comfortable smartphone to hold and use was the iPhone 3GS. Its slightly rounded back, smooth plastic construction and tight edges made it a joy to hold and use. When the iPhone 4 was introduced, I really didn’t like the device’s form factor. The metal band creates sharp edges that fatigue the fingers and collect dirt. In addition, to me the device is *too* thin to hold safely without a case. The new iPhone 5c’s smooth curves, and seamless sides call out to the scifi geek in me and the colors, oh the colors! It’s much more streamlined, minimal in appearance and seems easier to pick up off the table. I must admit however, if I could have the 5s’ guts inside the smooth, plastic shell of the 5c, I’d opt for that in a plastic heartbeat.

I know that no matter which model I pick, either will be a great upgrade from my 4s. Although it’s served me well these last two years, I’m more than ready for the increased screen size, faster processor power and increased battery life of a new iPhone. With any luck, around this time next year Apple will be introducing a 4.6″ iPhone that will sport an all new form-factor as well as all the neat-o gadgets that are sure to make the iPhone 5s a huge success. In the meantime, unlike Kermit, it’s easy being green.

PS – iOS 7 is awesome, you’re gonna love it!

Finding Bigfoot. Stuff.

Being the huge Bigfoot freak that I am, I recently went on an expedition of discovery. This sojourn wasn’t to traverse the American Northwest in search of Sasquatch, (I would love to do that someday BTW) but to find the latest and greatest Bigfoot bling. I know there have got to be geeks like myself out there that can’t get enough of the huge, mythic ape-man and so I fired up Google and trekked off into the digital wilderness. If you have a Bigfoot fan in your life, maybe some of these items will come in handy as a future birthday, Christmas or bar mitzvah present.

Bigfoot Air Freshener – Patterned after the big guy in the famous Patterson-Gimlin film. Personally I think it would have been much cooler to go all authentic and replicate the infamous Bigfoot stench for this one, but I guess the scent of pine trees goes over better with the ladies. [$6.95 via Amazon]

Bigfoot Garden Yeti Statue – The promotional text for this resin garden statue of the legendary Sasquatch says visitors will do a “double take” it’s so life-like. Yes, because everyone knows Bigfoot isn’t 8-12 feet tall, he’s really just 2. Still, it’s kinda cute. One thing PR dudes, he’s either a Bigfoot OR a Yeti, not both! [ONLY $125 via Design Toscano]

Bigfoot, the Bashful Yeti Tree Sculpture – Our friends at Design Toscano are at it again, this time with a resin sculpt “Painstakingly hand-painted to make passers-by look twice” that you can hang in your favorite tree. This one looks a bit too “Planet of the Apes” for my tastes but your Bigfoot buddy will probably love it. Probably. [$69.95 via Design Toscano]

Fisher-Price Imaginext Big Foot The Monster – What kid wouldn’t want a 14″ animatronic robot of a creature that has been known to break into houses, kill hogs and scare kitty cats to death? This adorable toy may not come with livestock accessories but he can pound his fists, walk forward and back and even does somersaults! [$74.99 via Amazon]

Sasquatch’s Big, Hairy Drawing Book – How do we market a notepad of 120 almost blank pages to kids and parents? Easy! We’ll slap Sasquatch on the cover and watch the money roll in! Featuring “page after page of off-the-wall gags and fillin doodle prompts” Sasquatch’s Big, Hairy Drawing Book could be the ultimate discovery for that Bigfoot lover in your life, or it could be the biggest fun-time hoax of all time. Your call. [$12.95 via Amazon]

‘Gone Sasquatchin’ Gear – Nothing says “Hey, I’m a huge, hairy nerd!” like Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot t-shirts, hoodies and baseball caps. If you order within the next 24 hours, they’ll also throw in their Backyard Bigfoot Recipe Book. Perfect for all those redneck BBQ’s down at the ol’ swamp. [Assorted prices via DiscoveryStore.com]

And finally…

Patterson-Gimlin Film Site Track Cast – Okay, call off the hunt! If you’re looking for the perfect gift for that Bigfoot fan in your life, it doesn’t get any better than this plaster replica of a Sasquatch track from Bluff Creek. Taken from one of the footprints left at the 1967 Patterson Gimlin film site, it even comes with a certificate of authenticity. I bet it’s even notarized. Seriously, who’s buying me this? [$40 via BigfootSurplus.com]

Favorite Film Funnies

I’ve been seeing quite a few of these “Best Movie Lines” videos on YouTube and so I thought I would take a shot at making my own. It took some work to grab all of the clips, but the result was worth it. Editing this short ode to silver screen silliness was really fun. Next up, my favorite dramatic lines. Enjoy!

The Tiny Stuff of Nightmares

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my parents took me for vacation to Hawaii. It was the first time I remember going someplace other than Disney World and the whole trip is full of wonderful memories, except for one fateful encounter that happened on Oahu. While playing on the beach, I strayed from my parents for just a few moments and happened to come across an amazing discovery. There, being washed in from the ocean was a beautiful iridescent balloon that looked like it was made from glass. I ventured closer to claim the fascinating treasure for my mom & dad and when I reached down to pick it up, my nightmare began.

Of course the balloon was nothing of the kind, but was in fact a Portuguese Man o’ War which had washed up on the beach. When I touched it I was immediately stung and ran screaming for my parents. I don’t remember much after that, but my parents tell the tale of how they rushed me to the local hospital where they spent the rest of the day in the emergency ward with their frightened son, in great pain as I dealt with being stung by one of the scariest creatures in nature.

That is unless you’ve encountered the tiny Irukandji jellyfish (pictured here) as did a man from north-east Queensland, Australia last week. The man thought he had taken the proper precautions by donning a full-length “stinger suit” which covers everything except the hands and face to protect against jellyfish stings. As fate would have it, he dove head first into the water and was immediately stung in the face. Since there is no antivenom, victims must endure excruciating pain, muscle spasms, vomiting and in some cases, death. Blood pressure can rise as high as 280 over 180. The little creatures are so deadly in fact that in 2002, two tourists were killed in two separate incidents of the coast of northeast Australia. All this from an animal no bigger than your thumb.

At last report the man was in serious condition at Mackay Base Hospital, 600 miles north of Queensland. I can only imagine what he’s going through right now and I wish him and his family well. Sitting at our computers, playing with our cell phones and watching TV, it’s sometimes easy to forget the awesome power of nature. We watch the Discovery Channel in HD and sometimes they even show us the amazing life cycles of these creatures, but few of us ever actually encounter them. Speaking from experience, I can honestly say I’d like to keep it that way.

What’s Wrong with the Radish?

Something’s wrong with the humble radish. When I was a kid I remember these funny little root vegetables burning my face off from just a single bite, but lately I’ve found they have no more kick than a cramped kangaroo. Part of me suspects that the heat of the modern day radish has somehow been bred out of it for a wider appeal to mainstream American consumers. A quick check of Wikipedia reveals that there are no less than 10 common varieties of radishes. The Cherry Belle is the version most often purchased in North American grocery stores. From the taste and smell of them they must be some of the blandest radishes on the block.

I first became addicted to radishes when I was very young. My aunt grew them in her garden and would often give them to me and my cousins to chomp on along with freshly dug carrots. Aunt Lorraine’s radishes were strong enough to put hair on your chest and I loved them to death. I also remember the veggie from the Passover celebrations in my church. Part of the ritual involved eating “bitter herbs” and although radishes were probably not historically accurate, I distinctly remember eating slices of radish on pita bread while listening to Fiddler on the Roof. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why our Catholic parish ever celebrated a Jewish event, but I’m glad we did because that’s where I learned to love radishes.

These days radishes might as well be turnips or potatoes because they have about as much flavor. I’ve searched high and low for radishes with heat and not found any in years. The topic came up at lunch today with the guys from work and David suggested checking out the locally grown radishes of the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. I’ll be heading there this weekend to do some research and hopefully return home with my hot-headed pearls. If all else fails, you can be sure I’ll be sending away for my own super-hot radish seeds next spring. By hook or by crook, the heat will be on!

Rebutting “Obama’s 1st QTR Report”

I love my family (on both sides) very much, but unlike myself, they are all very conservative. I’m not exactly sure how I eventually came to lean so far left, but I like to think it’s because my parents always taught me to “do unto others” and that no one was better than anyone else.

So when I recently received the “Obama First Quarter Report” chain email that has been going around from my family, I was compelled to respond to it. Many of the items here are outright falsehoods. Some make some good points. Most are too biased to even be considered seriously. If this post helps you to respond to your own family, or just helps stop the spread of lies about the 44th President of the United States, then I’ve done my duty.

• • •

Do you have any questions on the below? Agree or Disagree. How about health care?

My parents have Medicare and my father has veteran’s health care. Both government run health care systems. They love them and think they are much better than their privately run HMO’s.

My company’s biggest expense after salary is health care. One year rates from our private insurance company rose 15% the next year 33%. And you’re telling me that conservatives are content to sit and do nothing to reform health care in this country, let alone try and cover the now over 50 million people who don’t have any coverage what-so-ever?

It is estimated that some 1.5 million people will go bankrupt in the United States in 2010 due to illness thanks to insurance companies who are unwilling to cover them. Is that the kind of health care you want for you and your children?

Some facts vs right-wing claims on health care reform.

Observations on YOUR President’s Early Days:

1.  Offended the Queen of England.

The only ones “offended” were right-wingers. Obama gave the Queen of England the gift *she requested*. An Apple iPod filled with Broadway musical numbers, and video of her previous trip to the US. In addition, she also received a signed, rare edition of a Rogers and Hammerstein manuscript. The queen was not offended, she was actually quite pleased.

2.  Bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Is that better or worse than Bush kissing him and holding his hand whenever they met? I forget.

3.  Praised the Marxist Daniel Ortega.

If by “praise” you mean cutting $64 million in aid to his country because of his posture and remarks, then yes, Obama praised him. Obama knows the difference between words and actions. In addition, at a speech given by Ortega in Spain in April, Obama is reported to have “endured” it. He didn’t praise Ortega, nor did he rebuke him.

4.  Kissed Hugo Chavez on the cheek.

Obama and Chavez shook hands (as did George W. Bush) and had a joking conversation.

5.  Endorsed the Socialist Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Obama initially pledged co-operation with Boliva because of long-standing trade agreements with the country. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t always get to pick and choose the leaders of various nations (that doesn’t go for Iraq and Afghanistan obviously).

But on July 1st, the US halted $25 million in annual trade benefits to Bolivia, prompting Morales to say “Obama “lied” about cooperation”. So much for that so-called praise:

6.  Announced we would meet with Iranians with no pre-conditions.

Yes, you’re absolutely correct. I happen to think the President is right for doing so. You may disagree, but we tried it your way (not talking to Iran) for over 8 years and it got the USA no where. You’re guy lost, it’s time to give a carrot a try instead of a stick.

7.  Gave away billions to AIG also without pre-conditions.

Actually there are many measures in place to protect tax payer money with the bank bailout, but I agree there could be more accountability in this area.

8.  Massively Expanded the bailouts.

What was the alternative? Let unemployment drop at an even faster rate? Sink even deeper into recession faster? Would you have not attempted to stimulate the economy at all and just “stuffed money under your mattress”?

Again, this was tried for 8 years. Tax cuts for the rich, huge spending in Iran and Afghanistan (foreign nations, not the US). Didn’t work. I’d rather go into debt for money spent in our own country than giving away billions to other countries to wage war.

9.  Insulted everyone who has ever loved a Special Olympian.

Wow, the President is human being who makes mistakes! Imagine him making an in-appropriate remark about the Special Olympics! Was it bad, sure. Did it offend everyone associated with the Special Olympics? No. Plus, unlike Bush who could not, EVER admit a mistake, Obama later apologized for the remark

10.  Tripled our national debt in his first 100 days in office.

Completely untrue and a lie. Most of the current debt (over 80%) is due to Bush policies and bailouts that was started BY HIM. In addition, Obama removed the traditional “let’s hide all the debt” accounting used by presidents in the past to give the American people a true picture of the federal budget. Sometimes reality is a tough pill to swallow.

Conservatives seemed fine with it for 8 years while the country was going deeper and deeper into debt fighting 2 wars and cutting taxes. Now, that money is being spent on America and American programs, you have a problem?

I suggest you go read this excellent piece by the NYT and then reconsider this unfounded accusation.

11.  Announced a termination of the space defense system the day after the North Koreans launched an ICBM.

Everyone agrees that missile defense is important, but not when it doesn’t work. The so-called missile defense shield has been plagued with problems from day one.

In addition, other, newer systems are now being tested.

12.  Despite the urgings of his own CIA director and the prior 4 CIA directors, released information on intelligence gathering.

Sometimes transparency can be a good thing. That being said, I don’t know enough about the subject to speak with any authority regarding if the United States should or should not be announcing how intelligence is gathered.

13.  Accepted without public comment the fact that five of his cabinet members cheated on their taxes and two others withdrew after they couldn’t take the heat.

I never agreed with Obama’s willingness to post people who hadn’t completed their taxes correctly. He should never have appointed those people in the first place. I agree with this point.

14.  Appointed a Homeland Security Chief who quickly identified as “dangers to the  nation”, groups including veterans of the military, and opponents to abortion on demand….and who ordered that the word “terrorism” no longer be used but instead referred to such acts as “man made disasters”.

Like it or not, the department of Homeland Securities report on disgruntled veterans is right on the money. Levels of extremism have been rising in this country since Obama’s election and some of them have to do with ex-military people who seem to think it’s their right to take up arms against the President of the United States.

Two Atlanta area police officers were even suspended for doing an unauthorized “background check” on the President.

Gun owners have been stockpiling weapons and ammo for fear that Obama is “about to take away their guns” although, historically speaking gun owners enjoy more rights now than they did under President Clinton. Not only that, but Obama recently signed a bill that makes it EASIER for people to carry guns in National Parks. Reagan opposed such a measure. Obama backed it.

15.  Circled the globe so he could openly apologize for America greatness.

This one is soooo slanted it’s difficult to reply to with a straight face. The right pulled what they wanted to out of Obama’s trip around the world, regardless of context, tone or actual words spoken. If you want to believe that Obama put down the US at every stop, that’s your right. I actually listened to the speeches and heard a fair, even handed assessment of the history of this country’s actions abroad. Like it or not, we’ve done some bad things over the years. You can bury your head in the sand and try to ignore this fact, or you can try and rebuild relationships with other nations that was destroyed by George W. Bush. Take your pick.

16.  Told the Mexican President that the violence in their country was because of us.

It partly is. If America didn’t have such a demand for illegal drugs, the violence in Mexico wouldn’t be at the levels it is at today. I find the President’s honesty in these matters to the leaders of other nations, refreshing.

17.  Politicized the census by moving it into the White House from its Department of Commerce origins.

Robert Groves, Obama’s nominee to head the US Census Bureau has said on several occasions that he is opposed to sampling or so-called “politicizing” the 2010 census. Until there is actual evidence of this happening (like the massive politicizing that happened under Bush with the Attorney General’s department), simply moving its organizational structure isn’t setting off alarm bells for those of us not wearing tin-foil hats.

18.  Appointed as Attorney General the man who orchestrated the forced removal and expulsion (from America to Cuba ) of a nine-year old whose mother died trying to bring him to a life of freedom in the United States.

A wonderful example of the right’s “situational outrage”. Elian Gonzalez was just a boy looking to escape economic and political oppression and so he should be allowed to stay in the US. At the same time, the thousands of aliens that cross our borders every day looking for the same exact thing as Gonzalez are “destroying the country”. Which is it? Is the United States a nation of laws or not? Why is one boy allowed to stay but not those who cross the border to try and help feed their families or who need health care?

19.  Salutes as heroes three Navy SEALS who took down three terrorists who threatened one American life… and the next day announces members of the Bush administration will likely stand trial for “torturing” a terrorist who had played a part in killing 3000 Americans by  pouring water up their nose.

Yes yes, these two instances are exactly alike. Let’s compare the systematic deconstruction of the Constitution and rule of law that was issued by Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney over a period of 5 years to the necessary killing of 3 pirates.

I’m sorry that we disagree about water boarding, but anyone who has experience with it, John McCain included, has called it torture. The United States doesn’t torture. That’s what George W. Bush said. And yet we did. On multiple occasions and for purposes that had nothing to do with “ticking bombs”, but to justify the illegal invasion of foreign nations.

20.  Air Force One over New York City with a fighter close behind.

Equating this as the work of President Obama is offensive. Obama knew nothing about the flyover and was “furious” about it when he learned of it. People in the defense department will likely lose their jobs because of it.

21.  Sent his National Defense Advisor to Europe to assure Europe that the US will no longer treat Israel in a special manner and they might be on their own with the Muslims.

It is true that Obama has been more heavy handed with Israel than any President in recent memory. It is also true that Israel likes to think they are the only “valid” nation in the region. They are not.

Israel also has one of the strongest, most well run militaries and can handle themselves more than well when it comes to their conflict with Palestine. That being said, I don’t doubt for a second that if Iran were to become involved, the United States would back Israel up to the very end. They have been, and will always be an ally of the United States, no matter what right-wingers would like us to believe about the President.

22.  Began the process of nationalizing the Auto Industry and the Insurance industry.

The auto industry hasn’t been nationalized. Like many other industries in this country, the government has been forced to take a stake in its survival so that you don’t end up eating tuna fish for dinner every night and heating your house with kerosene. The government doesn’t own the auto industry, it doesn’t even have a controlling portion of it. Same goes for the insurance industry although I’d say that I wouldn’t mind some government control of them. They are crooks and unfeeling liars who refuse health care for things like acne and foot odor.

23.  Announced that for intents and purposes the Health Insurance Industry will be nationalized, despite the fact that such a thing is a miserable failure everywhere it’s been put in place.

Everywhere except in the 36 countries that rank higher than the United States in world heath coverage.

Or in the national programs of Medicare and Veteran benefits (US government run programs) that conservative columnist William Kristol recently admitted are “the best” in the world.

And people are paying more attention to Michael Jackson than to defending their own liberties.

The same was true while Bush was passing the Patriot Act and setting up “free speech zones” during his presidency. Wire tapping American’s phones, bank and medical records. Letting thousands drown in New Orleans, letting the drug companies screw over senior citizens time and time again, turning a huge surpluses into massive deficits and appointing crony after crony to government run positions.

1360 more days to go… God help us all!

Yes God help us because Obama seems to be doing okay for a new President 6 months into his position. So let’s not forget all the good things that the President has either succeeded in passing or is in the process of passing while we’re at it. Things like:

• Direct military leaders to end war in Iraq
• Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners
• Establish a credit card bill of rights
• Expand loan programs for small businesses
• Expand eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP)
• Expand funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners
• Extend unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits
• Reverse restrictions on stem cell research
• Appoint at least one Republican to his cabinet
• Signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
• Grant Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba
• Release presidential records
• Create a $60 billion bank to fund roads and bridges
• Close the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug plan
• Create a small business tax credit to help with health premiums
• Push for enactment of Matthew Shepard Act, which expands hate crime law to include sexual orientation and other factors
• Create a White House Office on Urban Policy
• Support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
• Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
• Work to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear (equal pay for women & minorities)
• Weatherize 1 million homes per year
• Enact tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars
• Provide grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes
• Enact the single most successful stimulus program “Cash for clunkers” which has helped sell an estimated 220,000 cars in a little over a week

Losing Control

Anyone who’s worked for themselves knows the satisfaction of being in control of your own destiny. The perception that by sheer force of will and hard work, you can be successful at what you do. Those who take on the challenge of owning their own business are often considered “control freaks” and more often than not, perfectionists. I never really realized just how much of a control freak I was until this past weekend when, completely without warning, I had none.

Last Friday, the Iconfactory’s popular Twitter client, Twitterrific, fell victim to the so-called Twitpocalypse bug, which caused the mobile version of our application to suddenly stop working. Thanks to the efforts of our talented engineer, Craig Hockenberry, a fix for both versions of the client was submitted to the App Store within a day. To Apple’s credit, the free version of the fix was approved swiftly and allowed the majority of our users to continue tweeting with minimal interruption. And although the Premium version of the application was also approved in record time, the displeasure from our user base, not surprisingly, came even quicker.

From the moment the bug hit, both Talos and I had begun monitoring tweets of users mentioning Twitterrific in their posts. What started as a trickle, soon turned into a deluge of upset and frustrated users. We began responding to individual tweets and Travis, our project manager, responded to support emails. The Iconfactory is a small company, we’re not Adobe or Google or even the Omni Group. All three of us did our best to let users know what was going on, and thanks to hundreds of RTs, word started to spread about the bug and our efforts to combat it. Unfortunately, Twitter is a very big community and it was impossible to personally respond to everyone. Even now, there are many people on Twitter who don’t know why their copy of Twitterrific isn’t functioning and there is very little I can do about it.

The best we could hope for was that the majority of users followed @twitterrific and would eventually receive news about the fixes. The troublesome part is that although I know the majority of users now have a working version, I still feel uneasy knowing there are potentially thousands that don’t even know about the fix. Part of this is due to the lack of communication channels, and part is due to the nature of the App Store approval process. As developers, we must turn control of our applications over to Apple to have our iPhone software published. This process can take days or weeks and until it runs its course, our hands are quite literally tied. By the time updates are published it may already be too late.

All of us at the Iconfactory count ourselves lucky that Apple recognized the seriousness of the bug we were facing and pushed through the Twitterrific updates as quickly as they did. We know we messed up and we thank the App Store team for helping to pick us back up off the floor. That being said, I didn’t sleep much in the days after the bug hit because there was a part of me that knew hundreds of tweets were flying by every hour from Twitterrific users I was powerless to help. As with most control freaks this usually means even more work, more testing and more diligence to guard against these kinds of catastrophic failures in the future. But that’s okay with me since I’m not anxious to give up this level of control, or sleep, ever again.

Take My Hand

Last night I watched our new President-Elect, Barack Obama, give his acceptance speech to a crowd of over 150,000 people gathered in Grant Park and millions more around the globe. I’ve been a strong Obama supporter from day one, but I really didn’t think I’d actually break down and cry. As Barack spoke to all of us, my mind raced and my heart slowed. I could feel the fear and anxiety that have been my constant companion for the last 20 months melt away.

Earlier in the evening I and a few friends exchanged tweets regarding just how nervous we were for Obama. When the news came that media outlets were calling the election in favor of Barack, I rejoiced but part of me didn’t believe it. The specter of loss sat next to me right up until John McCain gave his concession speech and quelled the boos of his supporters. In that moment McCain reclaimed much of what he had lost. I saw the man I had respected and admired break through the fear, uncertainty and doubt he and Palin had helped to sow. When McCain left the stage to return to his former life as an elder statesman from Arizona, it was then that I felt a wave of peace wash over me.

Like so many other Americans, I’ve been worried about Barack. Worried that harm would come to him. Worried that America wouldn’t step up and make the right choice. Worried that we would again choose the politics of fear instead of hope. All that worry had washed away as Obama took the stage in Chicago. Despite speaking from behind walls of 2 inch thick bulletproof glass, all I could see was the man. All I could hear were his words. He appealed to the “better angels of our nature” and reminded us that we have a steep climb in the days and years ahead.

Through all this I sat and listened. At the very end, after the on-stage goodbyes had finished, you could see Michelle hanging way back waiting for Barack. She was proud, but also calm. I saw myself in her and knew that her fear and anxiety had dissolved just as mine had. In this moment, she was all of us, waiting for him to take our hand. Barack walked to her and just then Michelle touched his face, gave him a kiss and they walked hand in hand into a new and hopeful future together.

That’s when I started crying.

I Voted for Barack Obama Today

I took off from work today to head to the early voting location near the Iconfactory. I arrived at the Leonard Recreation Center on Ballinger Rd. around 4pm. I went inside to find a line of about 100 people stretching from the voting room to the gymnasium, and so I took my place at the end of the line. As I settled in, I started the chronometer on my iPhone to see just how long it would take to get to the front. Although the line was long, it did seem to move right along. People were in good spirits and I saw many young and African American voters come into the gym and head to the back of the line.

While in the gym, I was able to check my tweets and email and generally stay busy playing games and surfing the web. As I got near the front of the line more and more people started to come in, presumably trying to beat the rush before 5pm. When I reached the voting room, the nice volunteers took my name, printed my voting confirmation sheet and then asked me to wait for a free machine. To my surprise, the gentleman who showed me to my station recognized me and said “I know you, you’re the “icon man!” I’m not sure if he recognized me from past years voting in Greensboro or from the Fox 8 piece that aired a few months back. Either way it was a pleasant surprise and he and I chatted for a bit before I actually set about the business of voting. He explained to me that the rec center had been processing about 900-1100 voters per day for the last week and a half.

He gave me my instructions and warned me about voting separately for the presidential candidates if I chose to do a straight ticket and then we parted ways. I was very proud to press the button that was labeled Barack Obama / Joe Biden for President and Vice President of the United States. I double, then tripled checked it was correct and then set about voting on the rest of the ballot. I skipped many of the local judges since I wasn’t familiar with them.

When I confirmed my choices and stepped out the exit, I looked at my iPhone’s chronometer and it read 38 minutes. Time had really flown by there in line and the poll workers knew their job very well so all in all I had no problems. I was pleased to see so many of my fellow North Carolinians voting early. But most of all, I was happy that for the first time in recent memory, I actually had a candidate that I was proud to cast my vote for as President. Many people in line were smiling while they waited, I could tell the mood was upbeat and positive. I think many of them were voting for Obama too.

Apple Freak

Lately I’ve found myself addicted to apples. No, not the kind that I usually write about, but an actual piece of fruit. You know, the kind you eat? I only recently discovered Gala apples and ever since I first had one at Panera Bread a few months ago, I can’t get enough of them. Ask any of my friends if I’m the type of guy that can be seen with a heart healthy snack in his hands and they would likely belly-laugh and tell you to go away.

Lately I’ve been warming up to the idea of eating more fruits and vegetables and the unassuming Gala apple has been leading the charge. If you’ve never had one, next time you’re in the produce section try and pick one up. They are softer than most apples with a thinner skin and a slightly sweeter taste than most. Developed in New Zealand in the 1920s by orchardist J.H. Kidd, Gala apples are a cross between a Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red. They resist bruising and are quite easy to eat. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy apples give them a try. They’ve easily become my new favorite snack and they could become yours too.

Yaz and I

They say kids can be cruel and that’s never more true than when you have an unusual name. Growing up, I knew my parents had named me after my grandfather, Gedeon Oliver Maheux. That being said, it was a little tough for me to appreciate my family heritage when neighborhood kids would call me all manor of strange and hurtful names. At some point in our lives we all get called mean things and if we’re lucky, it ends up building character instead of warping our “fragile little minds”.

But by the time I was seven, I disliked my name so much that when my mom and dad sent me off to 2 weeks of Catholic summer camp, I insisted they register me with my middle name of Paul instead of Gedeon. I had the brilliant idea that I would hide behind my dad’s name to avoid the inevitable onslaught of ridicule that would come with a cabin full of strange, new kids. All our clothes had to have name tags sewn on them for laundry identification, so for two weeks both my clothes and I were known as “Paul Maheux”. The clever charade worked great except that camp councilors thought I was going deaf since they’d call out “Paul!” and I wouldn’t even so much as turn my head in response.

Then when I was eleven years old, my father took me to my first big league baseball game. Living in New Hampshire, naturally it was the Boston Red Sox I saw that fateful day in 1980. Like most children, I can easily remember the first time I emerged from the concession tunnel to see the Green Monster. Although I had played baseball a bit at school, this was the first time I can honestly say I became interested in it. I sat with my father and watched the game unfold in unassuming fashion until a strange man took the field and the place went positively nuts.

Not being familiar with the players or the history of the Red Sox, I couldn’t understand why this scrawny guy was being greeted with such thunderous applause. Who was this man? What had he done to deserve this? Then the PA system blasted his name and quite literally changed my life. The announcer simply said one word as the scoreboard brightly flashed it over and over – “Yaz!”. Every fan in Fenway knew him to be Carl Yastrzemski, the legendary hitter and outfielder that fans lovingly referred to as Yaz. By the time I saw him that night, his profesional career was winding down, but I didn’t know that. All I knew was this man was loved and respected by thousands of people and to top it off he had a strange name, just like me.

After that fateful game, you couldn’t call me Paul if you wanted to. I was proud to be called Gedeon, but my smile grew if you called me simply Ged. I realized that it wasn’t a bad thing to have a unique name, in fact, just the opposite. Try a Google search for “Paul” and then one for “Gedeon” and you’ll know exactly what I mean. As I grew older I wore my name with pride and thanked my parents for setting me apart from the crowd. Today, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I have my family and a player named Yaz to thank for it.

Top Ten Things I Learned in NYC

David Lanham and I traveled to New York over the 4th of July weekend, 2008. We were invited by our friend Von Glitschka as guest speakers at the ICON5 Illustration conference. I had not been to NYC in years and it was great to meet talented artists, designers and see the city. While there I learned some important facts about the Big Apple that I thought I would share with all of my loyal readers.

• • •

10. Everyone either listens to an iPod or talks on a cell phone.

9. If I lived in NYC, I think I’d like to live in Greenwich Village.

8. Yankees fans get really upset when you tell them “Go Sox!”

7. No one in NYC bothers to read signs.

6. The line for the Empire State Building is really, really long.

5. There is a place to eat every few feet.

4. I need to buy more Apple stock.

3. Tell your traveling companion to call if he’ll be out after 2am.

2. Despite what you see in movies and TV, the people are friendly.

1. A cab ride through the heart of Manhattan is just as thrilling, nerve-wracking and expensive as a trip on Space Mountain.

Serenity Now!

To say things have been a little hectic at work lately would be an understatement. For the past several months, we’ve all been working hard to get you-know-what for the iPhone in ship shape. With the impending launch of the App Store, all of us have had our hands full and then some. In the midst of this massive effort, this 4th of July weekend, David and I travel to New York City to give a talk at the ICON5 Illustration Conference at the invitation of our friend and fellow artist, Von Glitschka. I can’t remember the last time I flew on a holiday and I can only imagine the travel nightmares that await us. My iPhone will be good and charged and packed with plenty of episodes of Futurama and Deep Space Nine.

Then there’s the little matter of day-to-day work at the factory. We’ve been snowed under at the office for months with a huge project that has kept us all busy every minute of every day. Having constant work is great, but it also makes it difficult to focus on internal projects like [REDACTED] and certain freeware releases that were only supposed to go on for a month, but due to forces outside our control, inevitably stretched into the future. If we could just get the R&D lab to perfect that cloning machine they’ve been teasing us with, everything would be peachy. However, as of this writing, there’s no word yet. Those bastards.

Somehow in the middle of all this madness, the gang at the Iconfactory managed to pull off an elegant punking of our dear friend and co-worker, Craig Hockenberry. See, back at WWDC Mr. Hockenberry came away with an ADA for his incredible work on Twitterrific for the iPhone and being the gracious man he is, he let Corey bring it back to North Carolina so the rest of us could get a fleeting glimpse of the “cube” before its return to Laguna Beach. Well, we thought it would be fun to create our own DIY ADA and mail that back to him just for kicks. We documented the creation process which you can find on the Iconfactory’s Flickr page. Needless to say the prank succeeded in putting a big smile on Craig’s face while relieving some stress around the office.

The good part of all this mayhem is that it keeps life interesting. There’s always a new challenge on the horizon, be it software, freeware or paying projects. Believe it or not, client work can sometimes provide a respite every now and then from the pressures we end up imposing on ourselves. Personally, if I can just get through July, I think I’l be just fine. Serenity now! Serenity now!

My Home Away From Home

It always fascinates me to see what people’s workspaces are like. I love getting an inside look at how artists, programmers and designers organize their desktops and select the tools they need to do their job. Some workspaces border on zen-like art, while others take on an air of controlled chaos. Some of us work in our homes like my friends Wolfgang Ante or Craig Hockenberry. But most of us spend the majority of our weekdays at “the office”.

And so, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring and give you a small peek at my workspace. My desk at the Iconfactory in Greensboro is where I do much of the pixel-pushing, writing, designing and illustrating that helps keep the bills paid and clients happy. Each and every day, I’m fortunate to work in a creative atmosphere surrounded by talented and dedicated people. Like many of us these days, I’ve tried working at home for extended periods, but it just doesn’t suit me. I love the bustle of the Iconfactory and the creativity our “open plan” offers the group (except when more than 3 of us are on the phone at the same time). I hope you enjoy this small behind-the-scenes look where I spend my days. Head on over to Flickr to check it out. Enjoy!

Embarrassing Auditory Confessions

They say confession is good for the soul, and since I’ve never had any problem with revealing my inner likes and dislikes, I jumped at the chance to join in on the fun of the latest group blog proposed by my friend Dave Caolo. This time around are songs that for one reason or another, you would be embarrassed to admit to liking in mixed company. I must say however that part of the reason I decided to throw my hat in the ring, was that it gave me the excuse to create the image you see above. What do Britney Spears and Bigfoot have in common? Well, read on my friends and find out!

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Merry Go Round

The Brady Bunch

I’m not ashamed to say that I have an entire iTunes playlist devoted exclusively to the perky tunes of those crazy Brady kids from my youth. Back in the 70′s the TV network suits figured the child actors of The Brady Bunch needed to compete with The Partridge Family and the Brady Six was born. Who among us can forget classics like Time to Change or Sunshine Day? Good times. Of all the Brady tracks I have however, Merry Go Round has to be the most sugar-coated piece of hippy jerky in the entire lot, and I love it! For some reason I can listen to Eve Plumb hit off-key notes until the cows come home and I just don’t care. Take a listen, but beware, the song is a total ear worm. Once I hear it, I usually can’t get it out of my head for days.

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You Drive Me Crazy

Britney Spears

Ah Britney! Back in the day, this familiar teen-pop queen commanded respect and actually worked her ass off to become successful. One day I broke down and bought You Drive Me Crazy for no apparent reason other than it was stuck in my head. To me, all of Britney’s songs sound somewhat the same (beat, rhythm, breathy lyrics), so I only own one… and this is it. I’m kinda ashamed to even have the one track in iTunes, but every time it comes up on random play, I relive a little part of 1999 and think back fondly on what Britney used to be. Ah Britney!

• • •

Wannabe

The Spice Girls

Everyone says they hate the Spice Girls, but I think secretly, everyone really loves them. I find the bulk of their songs incredibly infectious, bubbly and the perfect pick-me-up when I’m down. Their music is like watching a summer popcorn flick – a meaningless plot combined with a pulse-pounding soundtrack and dazzling special effects. It’s not academy award winning material, but it’s still a great time. I mean, how much more fun can it get than this:

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really
really really wanna zigazig ha.”

• • •

America

Neil Diamond

If there is a more idealistic, or emotionally manipulative song in this world, I can’t think of one. I first heard America when I was 11, right around the time the classic Saturday morning cartoon School House Rock became popular. I think the SHR connection helps explain why I find this song so darned great. After all, it was SHR that taught me to love catchy songs about history like The Great American Melting Pot and The Preamble. Diamond’s America is like a top 40 School House Rock song on steroids. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

• • •

Love Theme from Boggy Creek

Charles B. Pierce

Ask any of the guys at the Iconfactory and they’ll tell you I’m obsessed with bigfoot/sasquatch/yeti and have been ever since I was a child. This embarrassing music track is one of my own making since it was impossible to purchase the soundtrack to the movie from which it came – The Legend of Boggy Creek. The song tells the funky tale of the Fouke Monster (bigfoot) and his lonely plight among the other creatures of the swamp. The song, like the movie, is cheesy, low-budget and so bad it’s good. I bust it out every year around Halloween, much to the dismay of my patience-filled wife. And now you know what Britney Spears and Bigfoot have in common – my twisted sense of musical tastes.

• • •

Other blogger’s musical confessions:

1. Living in the Now – Get the Funk Up!
2. Sharp Corners – Sing a Song of Sixpence
3. Hardcore Geek – The songs I hate to love

Those 70′s Photos

My mom recently sent me a bunch of photos from our family album taken when I was just a kid. I’ve posted a few of them up on Flickr and will keep adding to the set as I find time to process them. This particular one of me stood out for a bunch of reasons, but mainly I’m drawn to the big pea green chair and matching phone receiver. I remember my parents loved this color when I was a kid and it was all over our house. This could be why I have an aversion to peas today. Also note the big sticker on the phone’s handset. You might remember this from your childhood as well. People used to apply these on their phones so they could quickly reference important numbers like the police, fire department and poison control. Ah, the days before speed dialing and 9-1-1. Gets me all choked up sometimes. Watch for more Maheux family photos soon.

The Best of 2007

I’ve been into writing “listposts recently, so I thought a year-ending ‘Best of 2007′ post seemed appropriate. The following list are simply things that for no other reason, brought me joy over the past twelve months. You may be familiar with some of the items on the list, and others you may never even heard of. Either way, I promise you they are all worth checking out. If this post lets people know there is a better way to clean their toilet or helps you find new friends, then I can die a happy man. Well, that’s not really true, but at least it gave you a legitimate excuse to put off paying those online bills or jumping on the treadmill for another few minutes. I do what I can.

• • •

Kaboom

Consumer Product

When my wife handed me a brush and a bottle of Kaboom Bowl Blaster a few months back and told me to get scrubbing, I did so begrudgingly. See, our toilets were dirty. I mean really dirty. Now before you go getting that look on your face, I don’t mean dirty like that, I mean dirty from hard water stains. Living in the country means that we’re on well water out here and don’t have the luxury of being hooked up to city water supplies. Our water is full of compounds and minerals like sulfur dioxide, zinc and calcium and it plays endless havoc on all of our plumbing fixtures.

I’ve scrubbed our toilets before with everything from Soft Soap and Comet to CLR and huge amounts of elbow grease and nothing, nothing has ever gotten the hard water stains 100% gone. That is until Kaboom came along. I’m not exaggerating or earning kickbacks when I say that, with only a minimal amount of scrubbing, Kaboom banished these unsightly stains to the infomercial netherworld from which they came. I’m not one who falls for late night commercial pitches, but I swear that this stuff works. If you have not tried it, next time you head to the grocery store, check it out. Your significant other will thank you.

• • •

Kid Nation

Television

Even before a single minute of the first episode aired on CBS, TV critics, child welfare workers and over-protective parents were all doing everything in their power to make sure Kid Nation failed. The audience disagreed however and this unassuming little show about 40 kids unleashed on a New Mexico ghost town became an instant family hit and gave kids and parents everywhere a reason to cheer.

Each week kids like Sophia, Anjay, Greg and yes, even Taylor, gave us new insight into how children think, their resourcefulness and how much respect they deserve. I’ve written about Kid Nation before and with good reason. The show single-handedly reaffirmed my faith in television. Kid Nation proved that a reality show could succeed without all the back-stabbing, elimination voting that made shows like Survivor and Big Brother household names. Producers smartly structured the series around rewards rather than punishments and the result was a breath of fresh air for all of us watching at home. I sincerely hope there is a second season of Kid Nation, but if you missed it the first time, you can wait for the DVDs or check out the free downloadable episodes available from the Kid Nation website.

• • •

Super Mario Galaxy

Video Game

I’ve only been playing Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii for a short time. I can already say that it’s become my favorite video game of 2007, and that’s coming from a certifiable Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess freak.

It never ceases to amaze me how Nintendo can continually make video games feel original and fresh as Super Mario Galaxy does. The story is the usual “Save Peach from Bowser!” narrative that we’ve come to know and expect. Just about everything else feels new. Game mechanics, play style and some of the best music ever written for a video game, all combine into another fun and surprisingly addictive winner from Shigeru Miyamoto. SMG is another feather in the cap of the Wii platform that some incorrectly predicted would be trounced by both the PS3 and XBOX 360. A year after launch, the Wii platform is still in high demand, and Super Mario Galaxy has helped me rediscover my love of video games. To top it all off, Mario is set to mark his 30th anniversary in just a few years. Not bad for a plumber who couldn’t tell a monkey from a donkey.

• • •

No Country for Old Men

Movie

No Country for Old Men is an odd tale that centers around a case of $2 million dollars that goes missing after a drug deal gone bad. Tommy Lee Jones plays Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who, on the eve of his retirement, has the task of tracking down not only the money, but one of the scariest villains ever to hit the big screen. As is the case in most of the Coen brother’s films, location becomes an integral part of the story, so much so it’s almost like another character. The brother’s attention to detail and skill in building suspense, weaves a story that completely pulls us in and never lets go. The writing is sharp, the dialog is poetic and the cinematography is simply gorgeous. Take all of this, add mesmerizing performances from Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh and Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss and you have yourself the best picture of 2007.

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AmeriCone Dream

Consumer Product

You really have to hand it to Steven Colbert. One minute your one of Jon Stewart’s flunkies reporting from the green screen version of Iraq, and the next you’ve got Captain America’s shield hanging on your wall and an ice cream flavor named after you. Colbert’s meteoric rise hasn’t really come as a surprise to those of us who admired his hilarious nightly performances on The Daily Show, but I never would have guessed he had such a fantastic sweet tooth.

Ben & Jerry’s AmeriCone Dream ice cream features bits of waffle cone dipped in fudge, surrounded by a creamy, but conservative vanilla ice cream and swirls of all-American caramel. To top it all off, proceeds from Steven’s product go to The Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream Fund, which supports causes like aid to disadvantaged children, veterans, and the environment. About the only way it could get better would be if they managed to get the carton to make that shrieking bald eagle sound every time you opened it.

• • •

Apple iPhone

Hardware

I bet you thought the iPhone was going to be number one on my list didn’t you? Well guess again all-knowing swami! While it may not be my very favorite thing of 2007, it only lost out by a few ill-timed Mobile Safari crashes and a badly needed clipboard app. To say that my iPhone has improved my life might sound like the meaningless drivel of an Apple fanboy, but as someone famous once said “I cannot tell a lie.”

Before my iPhone, I never wanted to check my email on the go, or was able to effortlessly look up a destination in Google Maps after getting lost in some obscure corner of Greensboro. I can instantly add people and businesses to my phone’s address book with the press of a single button and browse my favorite websites just as they appear on my desktop computer. Before, I never could figure out how to use custom ring tones or have wallpapers I didn’t have to pay a monthly fee for. The iPhone opened the door to all of these small, but fun things for me.

Perhaps most important of all, it makes me feel good about carrying my phone all over the place. Before, my cell was just something I had to have in case I needed to call my wife or had an emergency. Now, I’m connected and able to look for information, tweet thoughts at random and have my iPod with me all the time. Anyone who tells you the iPhone is “just another cell phone” doesn’t have the first clue about what it represents or what its potential is. It changed the face of the cell phone industry for the better, forced cell carriers to “think different” about their business models and captured a big slice of the U.S. smartphone market in the process. Pretty good for a company that never made a cell phone before.

• • •

Twitter.com

Social Networking Service

When it comes to Twitter, people invariably seem to be divided into two groups. The first group, let’s call them the “Eloi”, embraces the free and fascinating microblogging service. They make friends, send tweets about what they are eating, make interesting observations and find people with similar online interests as themselves. They live in the daylight and take Twitter for what it is, a place to feel connected with those around them, enjoy the fruits of the digital age and generally co-exist with others in virtual harmony.

Then there are the Twitter “Morlocks” who shun the technology, lash out against it and write blog posts saying things like “what’s the point?”, and “who in their right mind would use this stupid thing?”. They have Twitter friend lists of anywhere between 2 and 5 people, never venture out of their cave and prefer to dine on the recycled entrails of Blogger.com or Facebook. Poor, lost souls.

I count myself firmly in the Eloi camp and my life is far better for it. Twitter has allowed me to stay in touch with dear friends from college that have long since moved away. Twitter gives me a sounding board to bounce ideas off peers, is a reliable source for general knowledge, and lets me stay on top of the latest breaking news from around the world. But perhaps more than anything, it allows me to connect with like-mined individuals. For example, watching the World Series in 2007 was an amazing experience thanks to Twitter. Fellow Red Sox fans were able to joke and share thoughts and feelings with each other like we were in the same room. I’ve also expanded my network of designer and developer friends significantly. I feel like I know many of these people first hand and I look forward to meeting them at MacWorld at some point in the future.

Twitter has given us a way of interacting that is new, unique and intimate. It provides a glimpse into the lives of people that, for one reason or another, you find interesting. In a world where we are all becoming more and more like those isolated, underground dwellers the Morlocks, Twitter lets in just a touch of the much-needed sunlight.

My Christmas Card to You

When I was a child, one of my very favorite Christmas albums was A Partridge Family Christmas Card. My mom bought it for me when I was five and I just loved it to death. Even now, I can remember lying on the floor of my room and listening to that LP over and over. I always imagined that the Partridge kids were singing their jazzy carols to me and my family.

Every year at Christmas I load up the iPod with my copy of this album and listen to it when I’m out and about Christmas shopping, or just commuting to and from work. Mindy looks at me like I’m crazy whenever these songs come on our car stereo, and in a small way I don’t really blame her. By today’s standards, the tracks are somewhat cheesy and overly sentimental. She grins and bears the dulcet tones of David Cassidy crooning “Frosty the Snowman” because she knows how much it means to me.

When we’re kids, we never know what kinds of memories are going to stick with us throughout our lives. For me, A Partridge Family Christmas Card is an album that instantly takes me back to the home, and Christmases of my youth. I don’t think there could ever be a better present than one that helps keep you young at heart, and for that, I am grateful. So taking a cue from the Partridge clan, here is my Christmas wish to you:

“To you and all your family, your neighbors and your friends, may all your days be happy with a joy that never ends. May peace and love surround you at Christmas time and all the whole year through.”

I wish you and all of yours a joyous and peaceful holiday season. Merry Christmas!