Monthly Archives: February 2009

Top 10 Twitter Tips for Beginners

Written by Sean Ludwig

Ready to jump into Twitter, but don’t know how to get started? Follow these 10 tips and you’ll fit right in.

Is it finally time to take the Twitter plunge? The free service that lets users micro-blog 140 characters at a time had accumulated around 1.9 million users as of December 2008, according to comScore. If you are just now jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, or are intimidated by your inexperience with Twitter etiquette and acronyms, allow us to share some Twittery tips that will make your experience easier and more enjoyable.

1. Shrink Your URLs

One of the most common uses of Twitter is sharing links. But you only have 140 characters to work with, so instead of sharing a long URL, use one of several URL-shortening services to shrink that link. Some of our favorites include,,, and

2. RT = Retweet

If you want to copy and paste someone else’s tweet, that’s totally accepted and appreciated, as long as you give the original tweeter credit for it. Just put “RT @name” in front of their tweet and post it yourself.

3. Direct Messaging

With Twitter’s direct-messaging (DM) function, you can send a private 140-character message to another user, kind of like abbreviated e-mail. However, you can only direct message Twitter users that are following you.

4. Use the @ Sign

To create a reply or to give someone props on Twitter, simply place an @ sign in front of their Twitter name. If it is a reply, the @ sign must be the first character of the tweet. To see replies to your own tweets, click on @Replies from your profile page.

5. Search For Your Friends works well for finding your friends, celebrities, or organizations, or for searching for specific topics you’re interested in.

-next: Twitter Tips 6-10 >

6. Categorize Your Tweets for Added Visibility

If you’re tweeting about a popular subject (Obama, Lost, etc) putting a # in front of the subject makes it easy for others to find your tweet, and perhaps they will want to follow you. For example, when the plane crashed into the Hudson River in January, #flight1549 became a popular tag and search term.

7. Share Pictures

People love sharing their photos with the world, and some even break news with them, like Janis Krums, who used TwitPic to post one of the first up-close photos of Flight 1549 on his Twitter feed. Services like TwitPic let users easily upload their photos and post them directly to Twitter.

8. Tweet from Your Phone

Twitter allows you to update your status and receive updates via text message. Under Settings, go to the Devices tab and enter your phone number to start sending and receiving mobile tweets. If your incoming tweets/texts are overwhelming you, disable this option by going back to the same panel and following the instructions.

9. Pick a Good Desktop Client

With desktop clients such as TweetDeck, Twhirl, and TwitterFox, you can receive tweets in a much more manageable fashion, especially if you follow a lot of people, respond often, and use direct messages a lot. TweetDeck, for example, allows you to create specific groups, if you want to split your feed into individual columns.

10. Download a Mobile Client

If you have a BlackBerry, an iPhone, or another smartphone with Wi-Fi or 3G access, a mobile client might be a better option than using text messages. Mobile Twitter clients worth checking out include Twitterific, TwitterBerry, PocketTweets, and Twidroid.

7 Dumb Things We Do And 8 Tricks To Keep Errors at Bay

Written by Joseph T. Hallinan

Use these tips to learn from your mistakes.

We all know the expression “To err is human.” And this is true enough. When something goes wrong, the cause is overwhelmingly attributable to human error: airplane crashes (70 percent), car wrecks (90 percent), workplace accidents (90 percent). Once a human is blamed, the inquiry usually stops there. But it shouldn’t-not if we want to eliminate the mistake.

We’re all affected by certain biases in the way we see, remember, and perceive the world, and these biases make us prone to commit certain types of errors. As a journalist who’s spent years studying the science of human error, I’ve identified common mistakes that afflict us all. Here are seven, along with ways to avoid making them in the first place.

1. We make slips of the tongue.
There is a mistake committed by people of all ages and cultures: We fail to come up with the name of a person we know or, even more embarrassing, we call the person by the wrong name. Researchers call these gaffes slip-of-the-tongue or tip-of-the-tongue errors, or TOTs, for short. For most people, they occur about once a week.

One of the more infamous slips occurred just before the 1992 Super Bowl. Joe Theismann, a former quarterback for the Washington Redskins, was interviewed by two reporters about Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. Gibbs was, and still is, considered one of the finest offensive strategists. The reporters wanted to know whether Theismann thought Gibbs was a genius.

Theismann didn’t think so. In the first place, he said, the word genius isn’t applicable to a sport like football. Added Theismann, “A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”

Norman Einstein? Clearly Theismann meant to say Albert Einstein. Too late. His slip made national news, and Theismann became the poster child for dumb jocks everywhere. But his remark really wasn’t as dumb as it first appeared to be.

Research shows that most TOTs involve the unique names of people or places. If you’re searching for a common noun-such as the name of the computer part that displays text-you can say monitor or screen. But for a proper name, only one word will do.

When a proper name is on the tip of our tongues, we can usually recall some of the information we need. For instance, people can often guess the right number of syllables in the name, even the name’s first letter. In one study, a participant tried to identify a picture of the actress Liza Minnelli. The person couldn’t produce her name but wrote out names that came tantalizingly close: Monetti, Mona, Magetti, Spaghetti, Bogette.

Another clue to the TOTs riddle is that recall of the right name is often blocked by a wrong name. But not just any wrong name. The wrong name typically has the same meaning as the right name. If you’re thinking about a smart person like Albert Einstein, for instance, the wrong name will likely be that of another person you also consider very smart. This is where the Theismann story gets interesting.

There really is a Norman Einstein. He’s an emergency room physician at Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, North Carolina. He and Joe Theismann were classmates at South River High School in New Jersey.

“I was a senior when he was a sophomore,” Dr. Einstein said. As boys, they lived just blocks apart. “We played a little bit of basketball, touch football-that kind of stuff.” But they weren’t close friends: Theismann was a jock, Einstein a brain. Einstein graduated in 1965 and was the class valedictorian. He attended Rutgers University and then medical school at Tufts University. Theismann headed to the NFL. Twenty-seven years later, in a corner of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Norman Einstein’s name popped back into Joe Theismann’s head.

In Theismann’s mind, the surface details regarding Norman Einstein and Albert Einstein may have faded, but their common meaning had not: Both were very smart guys.

2. We wear rose-colored glasses.
Without intentionally trying to distort the record, we’re all prone to recalling our own words and deeds in a more favorable light than others may recall. To demonstrate, answer this question objectively (but only if you kept all your old report cards): How did you do in high school?
The answer: probably not as well as you remember-at least not if students at Ohio Wesleyan University are any guide. In one study, they were asked to recall their high school grades. Researchers checked the students’ responses against the actual transcripts. No less than 29 percent of the recalled grades were wrong. This was not ancient history; the students were college freshmen and sophomores being asked about their grades just a few years earlier.

What’s more, the errors weren’t neutral. Far more grades were shifted upward (recalling an A rather than a B) than downward. Students also had a better memory for good grades than for bad. The recall accuracy for A’s was 89 percent; for D’s, it was 29 percent (researchers threw out the F’s). Overall, 79 percent of students inflated their grades.

Time and again, people have been shown to reconstruct their memories in positive, self-flattering ways. Parents have been shown to remember their parenting methods as being far closer to what expert opinion would prescribe than they actually were. And gamblers remember their wins more keenly than their losses.

This inclination is so powerful that, according to researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, we also recognize our own faces as being more physically attractive than others judge them to be.

3. When we multitask, we get stupid.
The brain slows down when it has to juggle tasks.

In one experiment, researchers asked adults between the ages of 18 and 32 to identify two images: colored crosses and geometric shapes, such as triangles. Seems simple enough, right? But when the participants saw colored crosses and shapes at the same time, they needed almost a full second of reaction time to press a button. Even then, they often made mistakes. If the participants were asked to identify the images one at a time-crosses first, then shapes-the process went almost twice as quickly.

Switching from task to task creates other problems. We can forget what we were doing or planned to do. The to-do list in our brains is known as working memory, and it keeps track of all the short-term stuff we need to remember, like an e-mail address someone just gave us.

But the contents of our working memory can evaporate like water in a desert; after only about two seconds, things begin to disappear. Within 15 seconds of considering a new problem, you’ll have forgotten the old problem. In some cases, the forgetting rate can be as high as 40 percent. Workplace studies have found that it takes up to 15 minutes to regain a deep state of concentration after a distraction.

This squares with what researchers found when they looked at the work habits of Microsoft employees. A group of them took, on average, 15 minutes to get back to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer codes, after they responded to incoming e-mails. Why so long? Typically, the employees strayed off to reply to other messages or browse the Web.

In workplace cubicles, we’re safe (most of the time). But out in the real world, multitasking can be dangerous. In 1999, the U.S. Army studied the effect talking on a cell phone had on driving ability. Its conclusion? “All forms of cellular phone usage lead to significant decreases in abilities to respond to highway traffic situations.”

This was especially true for older drivers. The older we are, the harder it becomes to screen out distractions. The decline is noticeable after age 40.

4. We see, but we don’t see.
Sometimes a person can look directly at something and still not see it. In experiments done in the early 1990s, researchers found that a surprising number of participants were unaware of certain objects that were presented to them in visual tests. This tendency held true not only when the presented objects were small but when they were large and quite obvious. (Consider, also, how eyewitness testimony persistently fails.)

A real-life demonstration of the “we see, but we don’t see” mistake occurred in 2004 near Washington, D.C. On November 14, a 44-year-old charter bus driver picked up a group of students at the Baltimore/Washington airport for a trip to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. By all accounts, the driver was in a bad mood that day. He was upset about the way another driver in the entourage was treating him. So he got on the phone and vented about it.

The students’ route that morning took them along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The parkway passes through rolling hills and beneath arched overpasses, including a stone bridge. About a quarter of a mile before it, a large yellow sign warns that the arched overpass ahead has a clearance of just over ten feet in the right-hand lane.

For cars, this is no problem. But the charter bus was 12 feet tall. The driver needed to move toward the center lane, under the peak of the arch, where the clearance is well over 13 feet. This is what the lead bus did.

Yet the second bus never changed lanes. The driver continued talking on the phone. The bus slammed into the bridge, and the collision sheared off the right side of the bus’s roof, exposing a gaping hole. One student was seriously injured.

After the accident, the driver was interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board. His statement shows the power of inattentional blindness. He told investigators that not only did he fail to see the yellow warning sign, he failed to see the bridge itself.

5. We notice on a need-to-know basis.
Often we fail to pick up major changes to scenes even while we’re actually viewing them.

The profound impact of this “change blindness” was demonstrated a decade ago in an experiment by Daniel Simons and Daniel Levin, then at Cornell University. The experiment was simple: The researchers had strangers on a college campus ask pedestrians for directions. But there was a twist. As the stranger and the pedestrian talk, they’re interrupted by two men who pass between them while carrying a door. The interruption is brief-it only lasts a second-but something important happens. One of the men carrying the door trades places with the stranger. When the door is gone, the pedestrian is confronted with a different person, who continues the conversation as if nothing had happened.

Would the pedestrians notice the change?

In more than half of the cases, the answer was no. Only seven of the 15 pedestrians reported noticing.

You may think, I would have noticed a change like that. And maybe you would have. But consider that you’ve probably seen countless similar changes and not noticed them-in the movies. Movie scenes, of course, are not filmed sequentially but shot in a different order than they appear in the film, usually months apart. This process often results in embarrassing mistakes known in the industry as continuity errors.

One of the most famous of these comes in the chariot scene in the 1959 Hollywood epic Ben-Hur, which lasts for 11 minutes but took three months to film. During the race, Messala damages Ben-Hur’s chariot with his saw-toothed wheel hubs. But at the end of the race, if you look closely, you will see that Ben-Hur’s chariot appears undamaged.

There’s also a mix-up in the number of chariots. The race begins with nine; during the race, six crash. That should leave three at the end, but there are four.

Even experts cannot catch every mistake. “It’s not humanly possible,” says Claire Hewitt, who has supervised scripts on a variety of movies over the years. The best you can do, she says, is to try to spot the most important things.

6. We skim when we shouldn’t.
Few industries make a habit of confessing their errors. But one does on a daily basis: newspapers. Their correction columns often make such delicious reading that in 2004 Craig Silverman, a freelance writer in Montreal, launched a website devoted to them, Each year, he compiles the industry’s greatest hits, as it were, into a book of the same name. A favorite was published a few years ago in the Wall Street Journal: “Some jesters in a British competition described in a page-one article last Monday ride on unicycles. The article incorrectly said that they ride on unicorns.” How could the editors have missed that? While it’s tempting to attribute mistakes like this to simple carelessness, the explanation is more complicated.

When we read an article, odds are, we don’t read every single letter in every single word in every single sentence. We’ve read enough words and sentences that we can recognize patterns. If the sentence begins, “The thirsty man licked his …,” the final word is probably lips. Likewise, if our eyes pick up a short word that begins with th-, we will probably assume that the final letter is e.

Human perception is, above all, economical; we notice some things and not others. And the better we are at something, the more likely we are to skim. Good sight readers of music don’t read music note by note; they scan for familiar patterns and cues. This lets them play with the fluidity that other musicians must practice to achieve.

But with this ability comes a trade-off: Details are overlooked. Decades ago, a distinguished piano teacher, Boris Goldovsky, discovered a misprint in a much-used edition of a Brahms capriccio after a student played the note at a lesson. Goldovsky stopped the pupil and told her to fix her mistake. She looked confused; she had played what was written. To Goldovsky’s surprise, there was an apparent misprint in the music. Why, he wondered, had no one-the composer, the publisher, the proofreader, other pianists-noticed the error? They had all misread the music and misread it in the same way. They had inferred a sharp sign in front of the note because in the musical context, it had to be a G-sharp, not a G-natural.

Goldovsky conducted his own experiment. He told skilled pianists that there was a misprint in the piece and asked them to find it. He allowed them to play the piece as many times as they liked. Not one musician found the error. (For music fans, the piece is Brahms’s op. 76, no. 2. The mistake occurs in bar 78.)

7. We think we’re better than we are.
When a Princeton University research team asked people to estimate how susceptible they and the “average person” were to judgmental biases, most people claimed to be less biased than others. Which should come as no surprise. Most of us hate to think of ourselves as average or, heaven forbid, below average. So we walk around with this private conceit that we’re above average, and therein lies the seed of many of our mistakes. “Overconfidence is, we think, a very general feature of human psychology,” says Stefano DellaVigna, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

He’s studied the ways in which overconfidence induces us to commit everyday errors of judgment, from signing up for gym memberships we’ll never use to buying time-shares in a condo (which we also won’t use, at least not as much as we think we will). “Nearly everyone is overconfident,” he says, “except the people who are depressed. They tend to be realists.”

Oddly, as tasks get harder, overconfidence tends to go up, not down. Even when given a nearly impossible job-like telling the difference between drawings by Asian children and those by European children-people think they’ll perform better than they do.

So strong is our belief in our own abilities that we often believe we can control even chance events, such as flipping a coin or cutting a deck of cards. But it’s an illusion of control. And it’s not limited to those who make a living at the racetrack or in other high-stakes endeavors.

Corporate executives often display overconfidence in their judgments about the thing they think they know best: their businesses. In a well-known series of tests, managers were quizzed about their knowledge of their own industries; 99 percent proved overconfident.

Mistake-Proof Your Life
1. Think small. Each year in the United States, some 7,000 people die from medication errors-and many of them are made because of doctors’ sloppy handwriting. Little things do mean a lot.

2.Think negatively. When you have a major decision to make, ask, What could go wrong? While putting a positive spin on things can influence their outcome, positive thinking also blinds us to pitfalls. So look for and even expect failure. It’s “the power of negative thinking,” says Atul Gawande, MD, of Harvard Medical School.

3. Think differently. Habit is a great friend, saving us time and mental effort. But it can kill our ability to perceive novel situations. After a while, we see only what we expect to see.

4. Slow down. Multitasking can cause our error rate to go up, as our attention becomes divided. It makes sense to slow down and do things one at a time. The slower approach may actually be more efficient in the long run.

5. Get more sleep. Sleepy people make mistakes, and there are staggering numbers of sleep-deprived people out there.

6. Beware anecdotes. When making decisions, we often give vivid bits of information-like diet testimonials-more credence than they deserve. The power of anecdotes to lead us astray is so strong that an influential CIA study advises intelligence analysts not to rely on them. Ask for averages, not testimonials.

7. Put off decisions until you’re in a better mood. Good feelings increase the tendency to combine material in new ways and see relatedness between things. Happy people tend to be more creative and less prone to errors.

8. Use constraints. Simple mental aids keep us on the right track. The color red works well because this extreme and powerful color signifies “stop.” A song’s melody can be a constraint against forgetting; it’s why jingles stay with us long after commercials do.

Why We Make Mistakes, Copyright © 2009 By Joseph T. Hallinan, is published at $24.95 by Broadway Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019

What Programming Language Should I Learn?

Written by robdiana

As I do my professional and personal work, I am always looking for the best tool for the job. In software development, there are several programming languages that can be used for a wide variety of reasons. I am often asked by people new to software development what is the best language to learn. They get confused when I ask them what they plan on doing. The reason is that people think there is going to be a best language for everything. However, everyone knows that there is no silver bullet. On the other hand, there are some languages which are better suited or more widely used in specific areas. So, given that idea, I came up with a list.

Enterprise Software DevelopmentJava is typically used in this space as people are moving many administrative applications to an intranet.

Windows DevelopmentC# should be used for any Windows development, this includes anything interface with the Microsoft Office Suite. Don’t tell me about POI for Java, I have used it, but the native libraries kick POI’s ass.

Rapid web prototyping and anything WordPressPHP is really good for rapid prototyping what a web site should act like. It may even qualify as v1.0 for your site. It may not be a good long term solution and there are better options for large-scale development. It is also the main language for anything related to WordPress.

Web Prototype with a backbonePython has quickly gained acceptance as the “next step” after PHP. Many current web applications use Python extensively. Adoption will continue as more services natively support Python like Google’s AppEngine.

General Web Development(X)HTML, CSS and Javascript must be in your toolbox for any significant web development. If you try to remain standards compliant (which you should) then you need to look at the XHTML standards.

Data IntegrationXML and JSON are the main data interchange formats on the web and in corporate development. With XML, there are various syndication formats (likely the subject of another post) and other business format standards to review.

DatabasesSQL is critical to almost any application. If you learn standard SQL, then you can translate this to almost any database product on the market especially the popular engines like Microsoft SQLServer, Oracle, DB2, MySQL.

Toolbox – Every programmer should be able to do more than just program in one language. In addition, there are many scripting tools that can be part of your toolbox which can make you extra productive. Cygwin is a Unix shell that you can install on Windows, and I can not live without it. Unix scripting is very powerful when dealing with batch processing of files or even just interacting with the file system. Perl, the Pathetically Eclectic Rubbish Lister, is another language that can be used for web development, but it really shines when dealing with file and text processing.

I know I have ignored various tools and languages, but this is really just a starting point. In software development, it is always helpful to keep learning new things and new concepts. If you really want to stretch your mind, start working in Artificial Intelligence and programming in LISP, or do some logic programming in Prolog. If you feel really adventurous take a look at Standard ML. I am not sure what it is really useful for, but it is a completely different language than most.

150 songs for sobbing on Valentine’s Day

Collected by latimesblogs

OpenheartchestscarValentine’s Day is almost here, and as everyone from your bubbe to your Facebook status won’t stop reminding you: You are alone. All alone.

Profound sadness is not for the faint of heart. And sometimes the best place to be is right in the middle of it.

Because that’s just the kind of mood we’re in. Honest. We’re not one of those toothy, gleaming motivational speakers. We’re not here to sell you a bill of goods about positive thinking and self-esteem and controlling your destiny by visualizing your chakras.

Instead, we offer 150 of the saddest songs in the world, subjectively selected and specially arranged for maximum depressive potential. And please, feel free to wallow in more anti-romance with our buddy Jason Gelt’s “Valentine’s Day songs for haters” list or recommend your own teary tunes in the comments.

1. “One More Chance” — Fairport Convention
2. “Laser Beam” — Low (or anything by Low)
3. “Drowned in My Own Tears” — Mitty Collier
4. “I See a Darkness” — Bonnie “Prince” Billy
5. “The White Lady” — Elliott Smith
6. “Down From Dover” — Dolly Parton (alternates: “Me and Little Andy” or “Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark”)
7. “Not Gon’ Cry” — Mary J. Blige
8. “Don’t Take the Girl” — Tim McGraw
9. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” — Bonnie Tyler
10. “Casimir Pulaski Day” — Sufjan Stevens
11. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” — Frank Sinatra
12. “Lost Cause” — Beck (or anything off “Sea Change”)
13. “Through My Sails” — Neil Young (alternates: “After the Gold Rush,” “Needle and the Damage Done”)
14. “The Weeping Song” — Nick Cave
15. “Kern River” — Merle Haggard (alternate: “If We Make it Through December”)
16. “She’s Out of My Life” — Michael Jackson (alternate: “Ben”)
17. “Against All Odds” — Phil Collins
18. “Gloomy Sunday” — Billie Holiday
19. “Time After Time” — Cyndi Lauper
20. “Origin of Love” — “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” soundtrack
21. “Llorando” (Crying) — Rebekah Del Rio
22. “Only You” — the Flying Pickets
23. “Nothing Compares 2 U” — Sinéad O’Connor
24. “Forever Young” — Alphaville
25. “Mad World” — Gary Jules
26. “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” — Gladys Knight & the Pips
27. “Polaroids” — Shawn Colvin
28. “Hurt” — Johnny Cash
29. “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)” — Randy Newman
30. “The Best I Ever Had” — Gary Allan (covering Vertical Horizon)
31. “Sharin’ a Hole” — Carissa’s Weird
32. “Wish Someone Would Care” — Irma Thomas
33. “Wandering Star” — Portishead
34. “Seasons in the Sun” — Terry Jacks
35. “I Who Have Nothing” — Shirley Bassey
36. “On a Bus to St. Cloud” — Trisha Yearwood
37. “Busby Berkeley Dreams” — the Magnetic Fields
38. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” — Poison
39. “Fake Plastic Trees” — Radiohead
40. “Thank You” — Led Zeppelin
41. “Is That All There Is?” — Peggy Lee
42. “Being in Love” — Songs: Ohia
43. “Hallelujah” — Jeff Buckley
44. “Lilac Wine” — Nina Simone
45. “If You Knew” — Neko Case
46. “Crown of Love” — the Arcade Fire
47. “Say” — Cat Power (or anything by Cat Power)
48. “Cucurrucucú Paloma” — Caetano Veloso
49. “Lonelier Than This” — Steve Earle (alternates: “Ellis Unit One” or “Over Yonder”)
50. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” — Otis Redding
51. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” — Tammy Wynette
52. “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” — Entrance
53. “A New England” — Billy Bragg
54. “My Fair, My Dark” — Ida (covering David Schickele)
55. “November” — Tom Waits
56. “Sleep” — the Smiths
57. “Ghost” — Indigo Girls
58. “Fairytale of New York” — the Pogues
59. “Somebody” — Depeche Mode
60. “She’s Got You” — Patsy Cline
61. “Devil on my Shoulder” — Sodastream
62. “Revelator” — Gillian Welch
63. “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” — Al Green
64. “A Cottage for Sale” — Judy Garland
65. “This Perfect World” — Freedy Johnston
66. “Untouchable Face” — Ani Difranco
67. “Goodbye” — Emmylou Harris (covering Steve Earle)
68. “Set Me Free” — Esther Phillips
69. “Tears in the Morning” — the Beach Boys (alternate: “In My Room”)
70. “Explain It to Me” — Liz Phair
71. “Why” — Annie Lennox
72. “November Rain” — Guns ‘N Roses
73. “Come Pick Me Up” — Ryan Adams
74. “In the Middle of It All” — Arthur Alexander
75. “Cats in the Cradle” — Harry Chapin
76. “So Long” — Perry Blake
77. “Verdi Cries” — 10,000 Maniacs
78. “Alone” — Heart
79. “Something I Can Never Have” — Nine Inch Nails
80. “I Can’t Hear the Music” — Loretta Lynn
81. “When a Man Loves a Woman” — Percy Sledge
82. “It’s Raining” — Quasi
83. “Can You Hear Me?” (tribute to Aaliyah & Left Eye) — Missy Elliott featuring TLC
84. “At Seventeen” — Janis Ian
85. “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” — Stevie Wonder
86. “Two-Headed Boy” — Neutral Milk Hotel
87. “The Dance” — Garth Brooks
88. “You Were Always on My Mind” — Willie Nelson
89. “Desperado” — the Langley Schools Music Project (covering the Eagles)
90. “Everybody Hurts” — R.E.M
91. “Unbreak My Heart” — Toni Braxton
92. “All I Could Do Is Cry” — Etta James
93. “Winter” — Tori Amos
94. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” — Sandy Denny
95. “Sacrifice” — Sinead O’Connor (covering Elton John)
96. “Yesterday” — the Beatles
97. “River Man” — Nick Drake
98. “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” — Bessie Smith
99. “Wuthering Heights” — Kate Bush
100. “After You Left” — Mirah
101. “Dear Mama” — 2Pac
102. “World Without Tears” — Lucinda Williams
103. “The River” — Bruce Springsteen
104. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” — Bonnie Raitt
105. “Last Time I Saw Richard” — Joni Mitchell
106. “Just a Dream” — Carrie Underwood
107. “The Boxer” — Simon & Garfunkel
108. “Two Steps From the Blues” — Bobby Blue Bland
109. “It’s a Mother***er” — Eels
110. “I’ll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me” — Exposé
111. “To Love Is to Bury” — Cowboy Junkies
112. “The End of the Road” — Boyz II Men
113. “Lion’s Mane” — Iron & Wine
114. “Black” — Pearl Jam
115. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” — George Jones
116. “Prayers for Rain” — the Cure
117. “Dance With My Father” — Luther Vandross
118. “Sara” — Bob Dylan
119. “Tears Are in Your Eyes” — Yo La Tengo
120. “Fistful of Love” — Antony and the Johnsons
121. “$1,000 Wedding” — Gram Parsons
122. “Rainbow Connection” — Kermit the Frog
123. “Where Do You Go to (My Lovely)” — Peter Sarstedt
124. “Atmosphere” — Joy pision
125. “The Sky Is Crying’ — Elmore James
126. “Send in the Clowns” — Judy Collins
127. “Alfie” — Dionne Warwick
128. “Five String Serenade” — Mazzy Star
129. “Beautiful” — Belle and Sebastian
130. “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore” — Dusty Springfield
131. “Alone Again” — Jay-Jay Johanson
132. “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” — Otis Redding
133. “NYC” — Interpol
134. “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” — John Denver
135. “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” — Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris
136. “Streets of London” — Ralph McTell
137. “(Where Are You) Now That I Need You” — Don Covay
138. “Modern Romance” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
139. “One Way Street” — Ann Peebles (“I’ve Been There Before”)
140. “Fast Car” — Tracy Chapman
141. “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)” — Sarah Polley (covering Tragically Hip)
142. “Don’t Speak” — No Doubt
143. “Joey” — Concrete Blonde
144. “Kiss and Say Goodbye” — Manhattan
145. “Andalucia” — Mary Lou Lord (covering John Cale)
146. “Entire” — the Spinanes
147. “Till The Real Thing Comes Along” — Judy Henske
148. “I’m Not in Love” — 10cc
149. “Mercy” — Mojave 3
150. “In the Real World” — Roy Orbison

Honorable Mention
“Viva la Tristeza!” – Pedro Almodovar’s mix of songs he listened to while writing “Talk to Her”

–Elina Shatkin

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this list: Ann Powers, August Brown, Charlie Amter, Chris Barton, Geoff Boucher, Guelda Voien, Jessica Gelt, Margaret Wappler and others.

Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

You respect my rights and I’ll respect yours

Written by J.D. Tuccille

Keep arguing folks. The people in power live to keep us at each others’ throats.

(Photo by David Shankbone, Gnu Free Documentation License)

In the comments to yesterday’s jury nullification piece (yes, I read your comments) Smitty was especially on-point when he said, “The real problem might be toleration, or more accurately, the lack of it. We wish our preferred freedoms to be respected, while applauding governmental crackdowns upon those freedoms we dislike or are indifferent to.” Frankly that’s been an ongoing hurdle in the effort to preserve and extend liberty. Until pot-smokers and gun owners and low-taxers and sexual minorities recognize that liberty is indivisible and that we’re all in this together, we’re going to be picked off piecemeal by government officials all too happy to exploit our mutual antagonisms.

After World War II, Pastor Martin Niemöller voiced several variants of the following sentiments in his public speeches:

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

Along the same lines, Benjamin Franklin once commented, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

It comes down to the same thing: When liberty is under attack, everybody is at risk. But that’s not what the politicians and inspectors and tax collectors and police officers say, of course. No, they’re all too happy to tell you that the queers next door are a threat to your way of life, or that the gun nuts are a public danger, or that the tax dodgers are greedy and not doing their fair share, or the store keepers are running amuck without entangling red tape, or that the pot heads are lazy parasites who will corrupt your kids.

But once the politicians and inspectors and tax collectors and police officers are done with the queers, they’ll happily shift their sights to the gun nuts, then to the tax dodgers, the store keepers, and then the pot heads, and …

Where were you planning to hide? Forget about it. Because you’re some kind of menace, too, and you’ll be fresh out of allies if you don’t realize that the freedom of people you don’t care very much about is just as important as your own.

The sort of people who make up the political class — the control freaks of the world — are experts at divide and conquer. They have all sorts of reasons why you should be glad that somebody else is being hemmed in by laws and threatened with prison. Those people are bad — until it’s you who’s so bad. What the control freaks will never tell you is that they’d be entirely unable to impose those draconian laws and threats if you’d ally yourselves with those different folks and their peculiar interests to protect their liberty and your own at the same time.

You don’t care about your neighbor’s gun collection and he doesn’t give a damn about your pot farm? So what? If you help each other out, everybody wins. If you don’t, you’ll both end up losing something you want, or else hiding it in the shadows and hoping for the best.

Keep that in mind the next time a politician promises to protect you from bogeymen who look an awful lot like the pleasant couple who live down the street. Maybe it’s time to knock on their door and talk about an alliance of convenience.

Because you’re not going to stay free if the only liberty you care about is your own.

7 Sci-Fi Inventions That Are Way Past Due

Written by G. Martin

For those of a certain age, the phrase “the year 2000” still sounds futuristic even though it was nine whole years ago (as usual, Conan O’Brien knows what he’s talking about). But now that we’ve lived through almost an entire decade of the “Oughts,” one can’t help but wonder, “Where the fuck is the future?!” Certain technological developments should have occurred by this point in history and we are still waiting. Cars are still miserably earthbound. Fashion has not been whittled down to the one-piece jumpsuit. And rednecks and drifters still seem to be the only ones who are able to make extraterrestrial contact. Even though we live in an era of unprecedented gadget geekery, from iPods and iPhones to Xboxes and Fleshlights, today’s so-called cutting edge devices don’t come close to the promised innovations of science fiction’s recent past. The “not too distant future” is now and these are the 7 inventions we should have had already.

7) Exo-Suits, due 2005 from Transformers: The Movie

Putting aside for a second the fact that we were supposed to be acquainted with an entire civilization of sentient robots by now, the one thing that would really come in handy at this point is that transforming exo-suit. A thought-controlled mechanical outfit that not only converts into an armed mini car, it also allows you to breathe in space while enhancing your strength and agility. For scores of 80?s kids, the very sight of this contraption instantly made the idea of riding around in Bumblebee a lot less exciting. Merely hanging out with a Transformer isn?t nearly as good as actually being a Transformer. Although Michael Bay has done a fantastic job at remaking Transformers, the original cartoons will always be classics.

6) Time Travel, due 2004 from Timecop

Before he was getting all weepy and sensitive in JCVD, the Muscles from Brussels was doing all kinds of Van damage throughout the space-time continuum, all while resident villain Ron Silver taught us that touching “yourself” is never a good idea, no matter what year it is. From The Time Machine to the Back to the Future series, movies about time travel usually tread the thin line between fascination and exasperation, with plot lines (and timelines) that would make your head implode if you thought about them too hard. But the underlying allure of these stories is always the same: the ever-tempting ability to go back and change things for the better. Although set in the groundbreaking year that gave birth to such miraculous events as The Passion of the Christ, the Red Sox championship and Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, Timecop‘s technology could not be replicated in the real 2004. Someday, somebody should go back and change that.

5) 360 Degree Running Tracks, due 2001 from 2001

One of the main reasons why most people don’t workout (aside from the fact that it’s strenuous, painful and often inconvenient) is because it’s boring. Example 1A: running on a treadmill. Has there ever been a more brutally monotonous activity known to man? Now imagine if you could soup up this outdated torture device with the verve of an upside-down rollercoaster and the action of a giant gyroscope. Way more interesting, right? Although it probably still wouldn’t get your lazy ass off the couch, one has to admit that a spinning 360 degree track would be a lot more enticing than the ground model ever could be. Then again, it still wouldn’t be as much fun as getting the little exercise you do get from playing the Wii.

4) Full-Blown Virtual Reality, due 1999 from Strange Days

Although the technological events of Y2K seem as quaint and archaic as the Salem witch trials in hindsight, the realm of virtual reality hasn’t changed all that much since then. To this day, it is still pretty much defined by videogame role-playing and that Star Wars attraction at Disneyland. Psychedelic drugs have not evolved much either. LSD and ecstasy are the same as they ever were, just strong enough to give you a ride, but too weak to leave any sort of lasting, otherworldly impressions. Honest to goodness head trips haven’t made any real progress since The Monkees were getting Head. If Ralph Fiennes’ Lenny Nero, the “Santa Claus of the subconscious,” had his way, the symbiosis of biology and technology would have been a reality ten years ago. Using tricked-out hairnets called SQUIDs (Super Conducting Quantum Interference Devices) which allow “wireheads” to jack into and experience full sensory moments of other peoples’ lives, Fiennes slings prerecorded mini-DVDs packing pure vicarious entertainment taken straight from the cerebral cortex. Until somebody actually comes up with this bit of biotech, kicks will just keep getting harder to find.

3) Walled-Off Cities as Prisons, due 1997 from Escape from New York

New York Maximum Security Penitentiary has it all: total isolation from society, a fully equipped surveillance station, paramilitary guards armed to the teeth and a badass warden who doesn’t take crap from anyone, be it Kurt Russell or Clint Eastwood. If they had this kind of lockdown security in Oz or on Prison Break, none of that horseshit would have gone down. With more than one in 100 American adults behind bars and the average cost of keeping someone incarcerated surpassing the amount of most college tuitions, it might be high time to take a page out of John Carpenter’s playbook and give this idea a whirl. Build a wall around North Dakota, ship every last criminal over there and let God sort ’em out. It just might be crazy enough to work.

2) Self-Aware Machinery, due 1997 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Let’s forget all this post-Cameron nonsense for a moment and get back to basics, shall we? Skynet, the program in charge of the country’s military computers, was supposed to remove all human decisions from strategic defense and become self-aware on August 29, 1997. That was almost 12 years ago. What’s the fucking hold up? With cell phones that malfunction at the slightest hint of rain, laptops possessing fruit fly life spans and misbehaving Blackberries that make emails disappear faster than mob informants, we could all use some of that super advanced Cyberdyne technology right about now. Damn the consequences, we’ll cross the whole “end of the human race” bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, just make our artificially unintelligent computers work.

1) Telescreens, due 1984 from 1984

This year was meant to be more than just the title of Van Halen’s greatest album. This was supposed to be the year of complete governmental control, the year of the thoughtcrime, the year of the telescreen. It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, yet in spite of our nation’s recent flirtation with Big Brother-style tactics, the need for round-the-clock surveillance televisions that simultaneously receive and transmit information from within every home has not arisen. Although Kiana’s Flex Appeal would definitely be more titillating if it was totally interactive, it’s probably better for society at large that the Orwellian telescreen hasn’t come to fruition. Let’s hope that it never does.

13 Things Your Grocer Won’t Tell You

Written by Adam Bluestein and Lauren Gniazdowski

Get smarter about grocery shopping. These tips could change your family eating habits.

1. If you hate crowds and lines, shop at dinnertime (5 to 9 p.m.) or even later. Only 4 percent of shoppers hit the aisles between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. Least-crowded day of the week? Wednesday.

2. Go ahead and reach way back for the fresh milk. Everybody does.

3. Coupons with a bar code are easy to scan. The other ones take an eternity. But if you’re willing to wait … 4. That star fruit has been here a lot longer than the broccoli. Familiar produce turns over more quickly than exotic things.

5. “The more products you see, the more you are likely to buy,” says Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat. “That’s why the aisles are so long and the milk is usually in the far corner.”

6. Like employees with a good attitude? Shop at chains that are employee-owned, suggest customer-satisfaction surveys. When employees have a stake in the profits, it shows in their attitude.

7. The “grazers” order food at the deli, eat it as they’re shopping, and get rid of the wrappers before they check out. We also call that stealing.
8. I’m not just selling groceries, I’m selling real estate. Look high and low-literally-for good values from smaller manufacturers who can’t afford to stock their products in the eye-level sweet spot.

9. We’re marketing to your kids too. That’s why we put the rainbow-colored cereals and other kiddie catnip at their eye level.

10. Be wary of “specials.” When people see signs with numbers-“8 for $10!” “Limit: 5 per customer”-they buy 30 to 100 percent more than they otherwise might have.

11. The baby formula is locked up because thieves resell it on the black market. Ditto for the cough and cold medications, smoking-cessation products, razor blades, and batteries.

12. Driving your Ferrari to the Piggly Wiggly and want to avoid shopping-cart dents? Park far, far away.

13. You’ll end up tossing 12 percent of what you buy.

Sources: Maurice Nizzardo, former supermarket executive in Connecticut; David J. Livingston, an industry consultant; Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating; and others. Interviews by Adam Bluestein and Lauren J. Gniazdowski.

9 Recession-Proof Careers & Why They are Secure

Written by Cathie Gandel and Hilary Sterne Additional reporting by Neena Samuel and Kathryn M. Tyranski

Despite the economic downturn, these careers are still growing.

These industries project promise-and jobs-for the future, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Information Network database.

1. Education
Math and science teachers will be in demand as the U.S. struggles to compete with other countries in engineering, technology, and medicine. A growing immigrant population means more English-as-a-second-language classes will be needed.

  • Postsecondary teachers – Median salary: $56,120 Education: bachelor’s degree and often a master’s or doctorate
  • Teacher assistants – Median salary: $21,580 Education: some post-secondary education or vocational training
  • Educational, vocational, and school counselors – Median salary: $49,450 Education: secondary education, associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s

2. Energy
Some of the jobs in this field are the result of projects started a year or more ago. But the real boost will come from the new administration’s commitment to a more efficient national energy system. “Growth of energy consumption around the world will keep this sector strong,” says Laurence Shatkin, coauthor of 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs.

  • Power plant operators – Median salary: $56,640 Education: vocational training and several years of on-the-job training
  • Insulation workers – Median salary: $31,280 Education: secondary education and vocational training
  • Electrical power-line installers and repairers – Median salary: $52,570 Education: vocational training and several years of on-the-job training

3. Environment
Green is getting the green light in a nationwide push to make homes and office buildings more energy-efficient and to develop alternative energy sources (solar, wind, nuclear) as well as fuel cell technology. “Anything involved with wind power, either the design or related products, will be big,” says Laurence Stybel.

  • Environmental scientists – Median salary: $58,380 Education: master’s

  • Environmental engineers – Median salary: $72,350 Education: bachelor’s

  • Hydrologists – Median salary: $68,140 Education: master’s

4. Financial Services
Rising from the ashes of a very bad year, financial services have a bright future. Corporate America’s wretched excesses mean more government regulation. Workers who are retiring will need advice on how to make their money last. Small businesses may outsource accounting services. As we get to the middle of the recession, there will be a wave of mergers and acquisitions, Stybel predicts. “People with experience in managing the process-corporate attorneys, investment bankers, and accountants-will be in demand.”

  • Financial advisers – Median salary: $67,660 Education: bachelor’s
  • Accountants and auditors – Median salary: $57,060 Education: bachelor’s
  • Sales agents (securities and commodities) – Median salary: $68,430Education: bachelor’s

5. Government
More than half a million federal employees will retire by 2016, leaving open positions at agencies from the CIA to AmeriCorps to NASA. There will also be opportunities at the state and local levels. “In addition to police work and homeland security, government inspects and regulates many industries,” says Shatkin. “Workers can sometimes capitalize on their experience in an industry by moving into a regulatory job.”

  • Government property inspectors – Median salary: $48,400 Education: vocational training, associate’s or bachelor’s

  • Immigration and customs inspectors – Median salary: $59,930 Education: bachelor’s
  • Urban and regional planners – Median salary: $57,970Education: master’s

6. Health Care
Health care pops up at the top of just about every list of hot careers. All of us are getting older and living longer, sometimes with chronic health conditions. What’s more, health insurance practices may undergo a radical revision during the Obama administration, which has announced plans to address three central issues: coverage, cost, and quality of care. “Health care is a growing industry,” says Bettina Seidman, “and not just for health care professionals. There will also be jobs for secretaries, accountants, and administrators.”

  • Registered nurses – Median salary: $60,010Education: associate’s or bachelor’s
  • Dental assistants – Median salary: $31,550Education: secondary education, plus a few months to one year of on-the-job training
  • Medical records and health information technicians – Median salary: $29,290 Education: associate’s

7. International Business
Corporations, consulting firms, nonprofits, and even governments are going after global markets. People with international expertise, foreign-language skills, or a willingness to move abroad will be in demand. “The global economy is only going to grow,” says John Challenger. “U.S. involvement will expand, short and long term.”

  • Interpreters and translators – Median salary: $37,490 Education: bachelor’s

  • International management analysts – Median salary: $71,150 Education: bachelor’s or master’s
  • Market research analysts – Median salary: $60,300 Education: bachelor’s or master’s

8. Law Enforcment
International terrorism makes daily headlines, and fear of financial insecurity is matched only by concern for our physical safety. “Crime doesn’t go down in a recession,” says Shatkin. “It may even increase.”

  • Probation officers – Median salary: $44,510 Education: bachelor’s

  • Court reporters – Median salary: $45,330 Education: postsecondary vocational training
  • Paralegals – Median salary: $44,990Education: associate’s degree in paralegal studies

9. Technology
New uses of technology in services and products like electronic health records mean that this sector will continue to be strong. “We have just begun to use the Internet as an entertainment medium in publishing, music, and film,” says Peter Weddle.

  • Computer systems analysts – Median salary: $73,090 Education: bachelor’s
  • Network systems and data communications analysts – Median salary: $64,600 Education: bachelor’s
  • Computer, ATM, and office machine repairers – Median salary: $37,100 Education: high school or vocational training

And We’ll Always Be Looking For…
“Think of basic human needs, the things we can’t do without,” says Shatkin. They provide what he calls “little islands” of employment in this economy. For example, he says, we will always need sewage and water treatment. Challenger says the food industry is a core area: “People have to eat, and the global population is increasing.”

In a down economy, people don’t buy new cars-they repair their old ones. People turn to their clergy for comfort. Funeral directors will always have jobs. And since pets are very much a part of the family, veterinarians and veterinary technicians will continue to be in demand.