Tuesday, July 31, 2007


A few days ago, I read about Picnik in a recent Mossberg column (sub req'd). It's an uncharacteristically glowing review with nary a negative word:

Picnik has a beautiful and responsive user interface .... If you want to see how good a Web application can be, take Picnik for a spin.
Intrigued, I hastened to check it out for myself. It didn't take me long to acquiesce (always loved that word) to Mossberg's assessment. It is indeed a beaut. And there's a fetching sense of humor sprinkled throughout, like in the loading screen (pictured above) -- "floating kites .... laying a blanket... warming breeze..."

Oh, so what Picnik actually does? (Guess I haven't mentioned that yet.) It's a web-based photo-editing program. It does the simple stuff -- crops, resizings, etc -- quickly and painlessly. I definitely recommend giving it a spin.

Check out their blog, too -- in a fun touch, they ask folks to help them come up with a name for the premium version, which is coming soon.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Mysteries of the bus

As I boarded the bus the other morning, I saw the scene at left: a woman seated with a "Congrats!" balloon so large that she had to turn her face to the side to make room for it.

I wondered: did someone give her this balloon -- was this burdensome prize hers? Or was she bringing it to work, to give to someone else?

What do you think?
She gave the balloon to someone else, after the bus ride.
Someone (husband?) gave it to her that morning.
A stranger randomly gave her the balloon as she boarded the bus.
It's hers; she just carries it around as an accessory.
pollcode.com free polls

Speaking of the bus, as the Seattle Weekly has recently pointed out, bus drivers have a tough job.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Can The Simpsons improve your mental health?

I was researching connections between The Simpsons and health for today's blog post on The Healia Blog, and I ran across this story:

Simply acknowledging mental health on such a popular television show might help 'normalise' the illnesses, say Australian trainee psychiatrist Dr Hannah Mendelson and director/cinematographer Gil Poznanski from Melbourne.
This idea is not without its detractors, however.

I'm not sure what to think about this question. On the one hand, if something is suppressed and kept under the carpet, there's an argument for bringing it out into the light. On the other hand, it's possible to go too far and make people feel belittled. Has The Simpsons done that? I don't think so.

After reading about the brilliant marketing campaign over the past few weeks (The Seattle Kwik-E-Mart is a sight to behold), I'm looking forward to watching the movie and seeing if it lives up to the hype.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Children of the 70s

children of the 70sBorn in '74 (me) and '76 (her), my sister Katy and I are children of the 70s. We wore the funny clothes. Everything was orange and brown and hazy and bellbottom-y.

In honor of the strange decade of our birth, Katy has started writing The RollerBlog. In her words:

This blog chronicles my journey into the decade of my birth, in which I will immerse myself in all things seventies. Movies, books, music, television, pop culture, and more await.

children of the 70sDefinitely take a look; her blog is a lot of fun. She's posted reviews of the film Silent Running, the discography of Yes, and a very...interesting...book called Half Past Human.

Katy, I bid you a warm welcome to the world of blogging. :)

A few more photos of us from the 70s:


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I've been laughing (silently to myself) at overheard snippets of conversation for years, so I was immediately charmed by a blog I happened upon via BlogExplosion the other day: Eavesdroppers. Here, you can find a compendium of eavesdropped bits of conversation, compiled by three bloggers.

One example:

[Two middle-aged women are discussing their mothers.]

Woman 1: I'm really thankful that my mother's mind is still good like it is.
Woman 2: Yeah, that's great.
Woman 1: She's still sharp for 78, aren't you Mom? Aren't you 78?
"Mom": Umm... I don't know, I guess so.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Harry Potter weekend

Requisite note: no spoilers here!

Prior to this past weekend -- Harry Potter Weekend, truly an international event -- I hadn't read any of the Harry Potter books.

Now that the weekend's over, I've read fifty or so pages from the latest Harry Potter book. I was reading over the shoulder of a friend of mine, and I began to get a sense of what all the fuss is about. It's definitely an enjoyable read.

My friend and I had been at the Harry Potter release party at University Bookstore on Friday night. I wasn't surprised by the throngs of kids in costume -- no, it was all the costumed adults, all quite earnest, who threw me for a loop. There was even a band there, playing Harry Potter-themed music and shouting out the countdown to midnight after every song. We'd had a few drinks beforehand, so it was all pretty amusing.

Is this the biggest book event ever? Perhaps. I heard on a recent WSJ podcast that this was the biggest single product distribution for Amazon.com. Certainly, a whole lot of trees went into this. Yesterday evening, it seemed like half the people in my bus were intently perusing their copies.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Your password: not a secret to Sprint customer service

If you want to change your password at the Sprint Wireless site, you're informed of the following password stipulations:

  • Must be 6 to 8 letters or numbers (A-Z and 0-9)
  • Cannot include more than 3 repetitive digits (e.g. 111)
  • Cannot be all or part of your social security number or Sprint PCS phone number
  • Should not be something easy to guess, such as your birthdate.
Such extensive precautions should be reassuring. But when you call Sprint to resolve a billing issue, as I did recently (they have not yet received the check I sent two weeks ago), you are asked to give your password for verification purposes.

And all those privacy precautions go out the window.

When I called earlier today and the representative asked for my password, I said I'm uncomfortable giving that information and asked if there is another way to confirm my identity. She responded: "I'm looking at it anyway, so you might as well just tell me."

Do you know of any other companies that routinely ask for your password? I don't. When I worked for Amazon.com customer service back in 1999-2000, we simply did not have access to customers' passwords. Sometimes customers would call and ask us to tell them their password, and the best we could do was reset their password -- because we didn't have access to this information. And that's the way it should be.

I'm beginning to understand why Sprint received the dubious honor of last place in call center satisfaction. Add to this the recent fallout from their mass dumping of customers, and it's clear that Sprint has a rather serious PR situation to attend to.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cranes aplenty

I snapped the photo at right with my phone as I walked across the I-405 overpass this evening. I was on my daily walk from work to the Bellevue Transit Center.

As the profusion of cranes attest, construction is on a tear in Bellevue, WA, and has been for a while. There was even a tragic accident involving a crane last November.

I'm reminded of all the cranes poking out of downtown Seattle during the Internet boom, eight years ago. At the time, friends and I jokingly envisioned "crane wars" wherein the slumbering mechanical giants would suddenly come to life and battle each other, a la Transformers.

geese on the sidewalkAlthough I confess the walk over the I-405 overpass is not in the least enjoyable -- motorists on the on-ramps actually seem to purposefully accelerate in an attempt to run over my fleeing pedestrian self -- I do sometimes see fun things nearby, like the geese on the sidewalk on Monday morning.


Why phone books will probably keep getting printed

I recently mused about phone books and why they seem to stack up unnecessarily in my apartment building lobby.

Coincidentally enough, the Wall Street Journal printed an article about the businesses that publish phone books (sub req'd): R.H. Donnelley Corp. and Idearc Inc. These companies have an Internet presence, but that's not where they make their money:

Donnelley, which operates dexknows.com, receives less than 2% of its revenue from the Internet, while Idearc, which owns superpages.com, receives about 9%.
So despite the waste and the fact that so many people don't even crack them open, and despite the fact that Bill Gates recently said "yellow-page usage amongst people,...say, below 50, will drop to near zero over the next five years," physical phone books will probably continue to be printed for the forseeable future.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Phone books: does anyone actually use them anymore?

How many phone books end up getting recycled (one hopes that's what's happening to them) immediately, without ever even getting cracked open?

In my apartment building lobby, there is a stack of new phone books. Each sits in its own plastic wrapper. So far, the stack appears to be untouched. I'm assuming the vast majority of my fellow apartment dwellers use the Internet to look up phone numbers...so most of the phone books are wholly unnecessary. It was a complete waste to print them and package them.

I wish there were an opt-out program for phone books. What do you think? Do you use physical phone books anymore? If so ... why?


The Healia Blog

We just launched a company blog at Healia. It will discuss health news, emerging health technologies, and new Healia developments. Take a look here:



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The 00's: the lost decade

How do you refer to the current decade, if you refer to it at all? Recently I heard someone confidently say "zero zeroes," as if this term were in the general parlance. But I don't recall having heard that before.

Consider the term "the eighties." It's absolutely soaking with cultural significance. The decade 1980-1989, which I experienced from age 6 through 15, is, in my mind, firmly attached to the term "the eighties."

But what of this current decade? How will today's children refer to it? Will they say: "I grew up in the zero zeroes"? Looking back one hundred years, people called the period after 1900 "the turn of the century." So will this decade be known as "the turn of the millenium"?

I suppose I sometimes hear "the post-911 era," but that's a considerably bleak way to refer to this decade.

Is a decade more puzzling, more disturbing, somehow, if we don't have an easy label for it?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Social Networking: all over the news

Perhaps it's just the news I follow, but it seems that social networking developments are popping up everywhere in the last few days.


Monday, July 09, 2007

The iPhone: a head-turner

On the morning of June 30, the day after iPhones were released to the ravenous public, I was having some breakfast at The Globe Cafe and noticed, a few booths away, three guys gingerly passing a gleaming new iPhone back and forth. I couldn't help it: I had to walk up and get a closer look, and the owner was gracious enough to let me touch it.

The other day at work, one of my coworkers brought in his new iPhone and we all gathered round for a demo. Impressive? Yes, quite. I won't go on about its features, as they have been discussed in painstaking detail throughout the blogosphere.

People are impressed with other people's iPhones. So I predict that this summer, a sizeable number of people will successfully use their iPhones to successfully woo romantic partners. Just by flashing their iPhones as they walk down the street. It will happen. I'm sure.


Friday, July 06, 2007

The next YouTube?

Interesting statistics today on Dailymotion, leading to speculation:

"There's been a great deal of speculation in the marketplace about which site is the next YouTube, and each of these next-tier sites has a particular draw...Dailymotion.com is stating the strongest case at the moment, both domestically and internationally."


Giant red pushpins in Seattle

I was walking by B&O Espresso recently -- a spot I've been going to for almost 15 years now (the foul is excellent). I couldn't help but notice the giant red thing protruding from the roof. I thought it was some sort of ominous symbol portending B&O's impending close (which may or may not be happening). Actually, it's part of a rather interesting marketing campaign by Microsoft to promote Live Search Maps. It's called The Pushpin Project. The giant pins can also be found sticking out of Mama's Mexican Kitchen and Garage Billiards.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Linkalicious: 7/2/07

A few stories have piqued my interest over the past few days...

  • LinkedIn is hiring new staff and preparing for its upcoming IPO. Should it be worried about Facebook encroaching on its territory? I think not. Sure, you can do your professional networking on Facebook, too, but there are all those random applications littering your profile, and the not-so-professional photos. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is the online equivalent of the events you wear your suit to.
  • Is there any connection between Neanderthals and modern humans? Perhaps we'll find out!
  • Chronic disease has quadrupled among children.
    We will see much greater expenditures for people in their 20s than we ever saw before, and no one is thinking how we should prepare for that....We call it an epidemic.
  • You should drink coffee instead of soda in the morning.