Monthly Archives: March 2010

Top 10 Endearing Habits of a Geeky Spouse

Written by Matt Blum

What is it about us geeks that makes us such great catches for non-geeks? It’s easy to see how geeks would find partners within the world of geekdom, provided they had compatible geek interests. But many of us have managed to find spouses or significant others who are if not completely “normal,” then at least significantly less geeky than ourselves.

So, how did we do it? Here, as a complementary piece to the Top 10 Annoying Habits of a Geeky Spouse list I wrote in March, here are 10 endearing habits:

10. Always having access to caffeine. And knowing all the various sources, relative amounts and prices. If you’re not a morning person, or need a pick-me-up in the afternoon, you can be sure the geek in your life will be able to find you some caffeine, even if it’s Sunkist or Barq’s.

image: ThinkGeek

image: ThinkGeek

9. Being romantic in unusual ways. Because who wouldn’t love to be wooed with Shakespeare in the original Klingon or a poem written in Elvish? Red roses are nice, sure, but they’re so … mainstream. When was the last time someone gave you a flashing LED heart?

8.Finding the best deals in grocery stores. Not everyone will notice that, even though the 12-pack of Coke cans is on sale for $3, it’s still not as good a deal per unit as the 2-liter bottle at its regular price of $1.29. But a geek will — we knew math skills would come in handy one day, even if nobody else thought so!

7. Watching, quoting and generally loving the Muppets. Even if the person we’re courting isn’t a huge Muppets fan, there’s no decent person who doesn’t like them at least a bit, right? I can speak from personal experience here: My wife freely admits that one of the things that she found particularly attractive about me was when, on our first date, I knew the punch line to “Good grief, the comedian’s a bear!” (The circumstances under which this fact was revealed are less interesting than you may imagine.)

6. Not being glued to the TV when a sports event is on. Now, I realize that plenty of geeks love sports (I’m a baseball fan myself). But as a general rule, the typical geek is much less inclined than the typical non-geek (particularly the male variety thereof) to insist on watching every minute of every game their favorite team plays in a season.

5. Having a lot of hand-me-down gadgets that are still perfectly good. While I can see how it might not always be endearing that we love to get the latest technology the moment it hits the street, if not sooner, this habit does have a fortunate side effect. “Why do I need to upgrade to the iPhone 3GS? Well … because I know you want an iPhone, too, and this way you can have my 3G!”

image: Tolkien Library

image: Tolkien Library

4. Owning lots of really good, though not mainstream, books. We geeks tend to read a lot, and we tend to be pretty picky about the books we buy. For instance, it’s only in the past eight years, since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, that Tolkien has become more mainstream. My wife had never read any Tolkien until we met, so after I pushed her for a while, we read The Hobbit together; she became a fan quickly.

3. Being really good at finding things that go missing. This is an especially important skill in any household with children, since, as every parent knows, nobody is quite so good at losing things that ought not to be lost as is a small child. Geeks, at least in my experience, tend to have a good, methodical approach to finding lost items, and one that usually produces results with less fuss than would likely have ensued otherwise.

2. Providing technical support to friends and family. We may grumble and sigh about doing it so often, and we may get frustrated when our in-laws don’t know the difference between WEP and WPA. But don’t be fooled: We actually enjoy this on some level. Everyone — geeks included — likes to be needed, and geeks also love few things more than to look like an expert. So this is really a win-win: The non-geeks get their computers and gadgets fixed, and the geeks get to look like geniuses for doing things that wouldn’t impress a single one of their geek friends.

1. Cooking. I’m sure there are lots of geeks who don’t like to cook, or don’t think they do, but if you’re one such, I humbly suggest you give it another few tries. Cooking has so much geek potential it’s a wonder it’s not considered a “typical” geek activity: you’ve got lots of different ingredients to pick from, measuring implements, heat, chemical reactions, gadgets galore and a great deal of nuance. Plus, it’s like doing scientific experiments where you get to eat the results! And there are few things more endearing to potential life partners than being able to cook well (and not just on a grill).

So, what do you think — any more good ones? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

 

Bonus: Science Vs. Religion

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The 10 Best Stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe

Written by Adam Pawlus

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Since 1977, George Lucas licensed companies like Del-Rey, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Bantam Publishing to sell you paper with the words “Star Wars” somewhere on the cover. He’s also allowed several companies to make videogames with “Star Wars” on the title screen, and then created LucasArts to churn them out more efficiently. And it was only a year later that the first Star Wars cartoon came out, although they got significantly better after 2002. In all of these, we’ve seen epic tales of bravery, joke stories about the droids, and some truly wonderful little tales that, for one reason or another, you might have missed (shame on you). The good news is that there’s a lot of badassery there, and in this age of trade paperbacks and DVD sets, you can catch pretty much all of the best ones. For the purposes of the article, we’re sticking to the eras of the movies; surely you can find other nerds who can  direct you to Kinghts of the Old Republic if you’re looking for a Star Wars adventure minus anyone from the movies. This way, we get to show more really awesome stories about Boba Fett.

10) The Story of the Faithful Wookiee, The Star Wars Holiday Special

While its greatness may be debatable, this segment is easily the most legendary non-movie Star Wars story. In it, we see the first Nelvana-animated adventure in a galaxy far, far away, and the designs would be later modified for the Droids Saturday morning cartoon series. However, this special was particularly notable in that it gave most of the world its very first glimpse of the bounty hunter Boba Fett in 1978.

It’s also the only non-movie Star Wars project to feature the entire cast of the original Star Wars film, even though it was only in a voiceover role. The story itself is pretty simple: the Rebels crash on some weird planet with water dragons, Han and Luke fall asleep for some reason, and it’s up to Chewbacca and the droids to save the day with the help of their new mysterious friend, Boba Fett. You can probably guess the twist in this one, but it was one of the first glimpses into the future of Star Wars and the beginning of Lucasfilm’s on again/off again love affair with television.

Trivia note: Boba Fett was played by Don Franks. His daughter, Cree Summer, would voice bazillions of female cartoon characters in the future including Princess Kneesa on Ewoks in 1985. The animated model for Boba Fett would eventually be reused in the Droids episode “A Race to the Finish” which, in 1985, gave us the above look at Boonta races.

9) Shadows of the Empire

In 1996 Lucasfilm (and its licensees) hit the ground running with a merchandising dry run– they managed to do everything you might do for a movie, but without a movie. Shadows of the Empire was essentially required viewing of sorts at the time, because nearly everything Star Wars would refer to it for a while. Vehicles and droids from it would appear in the Star Wars: Special Edition, and to this day fans still request new versions of action figures from the stories. The Nintendo 64 game based on it was, to a great extent, a system-seller to the many fans who didn’t find Mario 64 to their liking.

Each medium would tell the story slightly differently. The novel focused mostly on the Rebels, specifically Luke, Leia, and Lando as they tried to track down their friend, the Hansicle. Luke developed his Jedi skills, built a lightsaber in a sequence reminiscent of a deleted Return of the Jedi scene, and ran from bikers. All the while Darth Vader was given some rarely seen hero time as the bad guy you might root for against Prince Xizor (that’s “She-zor,” like “She-Ra”). And what is this Xizor? A criminal mastermind and shipping kingpin. The comic books focused largely on Boba Fett and the bounty hunters who tried to intercept him on the way to Jabba the Hutt as well as some of Jabba’s other thugs, while the video game put the player in control of Han Faux-lo, otherwise known as Dash Rendar. Even Dash’s ship was stunningly similar to the Millennium Falcon in its design, so if you need a roguish hero, he’s your stand-in here.

Trivia note: early in its development Lucasfilm considered placing this story between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back rather than between Empire and Return of the Jedi. It was reasoned that there weren’t many stories between the latter two films. Shadows‘ movie-less marketing campaign was given a false start with Jedi Quest in 2000, and was successfully rolled out again with the first incarnation of the Clone Wars in 2003-2005.

8) Riders in the Void, Marvel Star Wars #38

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The word “weird” is overused in fan circles these days but it really applies to “Riders in the Void,” the final pre-Empire Strikes Back comic book made in 1980. Luke and Leia somehow get bolted out to the middle of nowhere in this uniquely drawn comic, into a part of the galaxy where there aren’t any visible stars, ships, or anything. The ship they eventually come across is this weird biological entity that merged with its pilot after winning some ancient war, and initially mistakes our heroes for a computer simulation. There’s nothing particularly quirky about it, and it has a hard to describe and adventurous look and feel that’s sorely missing from a lot of modern Star Wars stories. As one-offs featuring the original movie’s cast goes, you can’t do much better than this one. It would have made a wonderful animated program.

Trivia note: Star Wars #38 was supposed to be the first issue of Marvel’s The Empire Strikes Back adaptation. They got a lot of hate mail for the bait-and-switch, which you can see in the letter columns of the original editions of these books.

7) Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars

In some interviews George Lucas said that his Star Wars films are something of a latter-day silent movie, which seems like a bit of hooey. The Cartoon Network hand-drawn Clone Wars episodes– made in 2003 and 2005 by Genndy Tartakovsky of Samurai Jack fame– managed to pull off some of the most action-packed Star Wars adventures with nearly no dialogue and in a disgustingly short 3-minute runtime.

The first season was essentially the most awesome marketing device ever. These shorts would act as a way to sell toys, books, games, and more in less time than it takes to make a bag of microwave popcorn. In the first batch of episodes we get to see specialized ARC Troopers bring down a planet of bankers and jousting droids, we see Kit Fisto swim through a war with the Mon Calamari (“It’s a Trap!”) against the Quarren, and yes, even see the very first appearance on TV of Asajj Ventress.

It’s not entirely clear if the events of this story are being held to or thrown out with the current The Clone Wars series, but the show has everything you’d want to see from the prequels minus the prequels. Heck, you even get to see the lights go out on the conception of Luke and Leia and a cameo appearance by a Dulok. What else could you possibly want from two of the best hours of Star Wars on television? Trivia note: George Lucas reportedly pitched the idea that the episodes should only be one minute at first.

6) The Mandalore Plot/Voyage of Temptation/Duchess of Mandalore, The Clone Wars

Are things boring? Call in the Mandalorians, they bring out the best in everyone! In 2009 fans got another dose of bucket-headed fun on the small screen with the introduction of the Death Watch into season two of The Clone Wars (episode 12-14, specifically). Lead by Pre Vizsla (get it?) these troopers were heavily armed rebels to the peaceful Mandalorian government, bringing in yet another interpretation of life on the planet Mandalore. (For those keeping track, there are several involving such diverse elements as dinosaur skeletons and nomadic tribes.) These stories try to stitch together many of the existing story elements, and for the most part, it does a pretty good job if you weren’t too hung up on any one specific origin story of this warrior race. (Our notes show that you were, in fact, very hung up on one version.)

So, what makes this story so awesome? You get a Mandalorian dude armed with a black light lightsaber, you meet Obi-Wan’s almost-a-girlfriend, and you get what may end up being one of the top defining moments of Anakin Skywalker of all time in which he takes a stab at saving a life. Because he stabs someone. Through the chest. (Get it?) As small-screen action goes, these episodes were peppered with fan wanks, awesome future toy designs, and combat galore. The animation team at Lucasfilm actually made the Mandalorians tough enough to put up a good fight against the Jedi, but, as often happens in Star Wars these days, much of the real combat is largely political. Thankfully, there’s a lot of explosions to more than make up for that.

5) The Force Unleashed

We might not put this one on the list in a few years, but right now, this 2008 videogame (and accompanying novel, comic and toyline) resonates nicely. As an attempt to bridge trilogies — really, it’s more of a pre-Star Wars tale than a post-Revenge of the Sith one — we get to meet the inspiration for the organized Rebellion while zapping stuff with Force lightning and throwing Stormtroopers into AT-STs. While it doesn’t involve the main cast in the bulk of the primary story, it does bring in a lot of fun characters and familiar locations in an era that we don’t get to see enough of off-screen.

A nameless “secret apprentice” of Darth Vader (named Galen Marek in the novel) goes out killing Jedi for Darth Vader until the inevitable betrayal, after which we’re not entirely sure who he’s working for. One of the neater aspects of the game is that it included an alternate ending so you can either follow the continuity set by the films, or a separate one in which you can become a sort of alternate Darth Vader and carve out your own destiny. Much of the Star Wars game Expanded universe’s popularity comes from a much more personal relationship with the characters– after all, you’re spending tons of hours and/or pages with these people– and this game is no exception. Want to meet a drunken master of the Force? A crazed mechanical-enhanced Jedi warrior? Sexy dark side ladies in tube tops? They’re pretty much all here.

The Force Unleashed is sort of the ultimate Star Wars pastiche, throwing a lot of stuff fans like into a fairly entertaining whole. The game itself isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but the story is entertaining, the voice acting is pretty good, and if you just want to read the comic on the toilet you can pretty much get most of the important stuff. Oh, and Jimmy Smits does a voice in it, which is pretty cool. If you don’t want to do a lot of homework, this is a fun story that adds a little more fun to the saga even if it really isn’t essential– few of these stories are, anyway.

4) Apocalypse Endor, Star Wars Tales #14

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For quite some time it was extremely fashionable to hate Ewoks. But why? Well, the retired Stormtrooper in this tale relays the story to you by letting you know that they weren’t adorable little bipedal guinea pigs so much as they were evil, calculating, and vicious killers. This 2002 tale opens up with the Endor natives greeting Stormtroopers with flowers and open arms, and well, Hell hath no fury like an Ewok scorned. The story shows terrified Stormtroopers on the run, begging to be captured by the Rebels so as not to be the next one picked off. Goofy? Sure. But also awesome.

Also worth noting in the too-short Tales series: Indiana Jones finds the crashed Millennium Falcon in “Into the Great Unknown”, Quinlan Vos stumbles on a young Han Solo in “Ghost,” and an original trilogy twist is placed on C-3PO’s origin story (with freaking awesome art by Kilian Plunkett) in “Thank the Maker.”

3) Rookies, The Clone Wars Ep. 5

The fifth episode of the first season of Clone Wars is the brightest point of Star Wars on television so far. A bunch of basically faceless clones are stuck on a remote outpost of supposedly little importance, and after the separatist Droid Army decides their location is of strategic importance, things heat up fast. The bulk of this 2008, season one Clone Wars episode is essentially a bunch of fairly green troopers trying to cope with actually having to deal with a very real threat rather than sitting around all day listening to the radio and admiring the holographic company of the Bettie-Bot (yes, named for/inspired by Bettie Page, that’s how awesome this episode is).

There are no Jedi to help, and a routine inspection from troopers Rex and Cody are really the only help these younger clones have against new superior Commando Droids and the giant freakishly sized eels on the Rishi moon that can swallow a man in a single bite. This is one of those few episodes that really captures the scope of a 2-hour film and boils it down to about 23 minutes. You can’t not love this one. The only bad thing about this episode is that there aren’t more just like it.

2) The Thrawn Triology

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While Timothy Zahn’s novels Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command didn’t coin the term “Expanded Universe” — that originated with Kenner’s 1998 action figure assortment based on these stories — these stories certainly kicked it off nicely. So nicely, in fact, that as far as the fan consciousness goes nothing seems to be as well-known as this book trilogy (published between 1991 and 1993), which introduced Jaina and Jacen Solo, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Coruscant (as named “Coruscant”) and all sorts of things that are significant parts of Star Wars today.

Basically, it goes like this: Obi-Wan contacts Luke through the Force, five years after Return of the Jedi, saying he can’t really talk to him any more. Presumably it has something to do with reception on Coruscant. After this, this Imperial Warlord/Art Critic named Grand Admiral Thrawn (who was blue before the Na’vi brought it back in vogue) goes around the galaxy scouting out clones of Jedi masters, anti-Force bubble creating rodents, and “clone wars” cloning cylinders in a last-ditch effort to rebuild the Empire. Yet another faction, smugglers, are also going crazy while trying to work with the New Republic while one of its agents is actually a former employee of one Mr. Palpatine, and she has to follow his Last Command (get it?) to kill Luke Skywalker. That’s the short version, but in the process you get to meet Han & Leia’s kids, visit Chewbacca’s homeworld, and find Darth Vader’s secret short assassin alien buddies who, as it turn out, eventually serve Leia.

There’s probably more going on here than in the original trilogy, and these books shaped the entire perception of Star Wars beyond the film for most of your lives. (Unless you’re a big fan of the 1977-1987 material, which, our statistics show, you probably aren’t.) Even if you don’t find the premise of these stories awesome, they’re required reading to get the most out of all things Star Wars.

1) Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction, Star Wars Galaxy Magazine

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This may be the single best treatment of Boba Fett outside the films ever. Writer Andy Mangels isn’t just a Star Wars fan, but a fan first-class. The guy knows his stuff and, most importantly, he knows when not to lay on the cheese. This 1995 tale involves Boba Fett tracking down and killing imposter Jodo Kast, who was originally introduced as a character in Mandalorian armor for the original Star Wars role-playing game. Basically what you get here is a tale of revenge. Boba Fett doesn’t talk too much, you don’t see Dengar’s crazy-hot girlfriend, and this all came out during the peak season of Star Wars‘ return to popular culture.

Jodo Kast is flying around in a modified Imperial Shuttle, and Boba Fett gives us a glimpse into the wide world of bounty hunting– taking out bounties as well as shelling out the beatings. While it doesn’t introduce much new to the mythos, it does show us our favorite cold-blooded hunter without a hint of compassion or any flashbacks to his time as a youngster. It’s just 32 pages of good times. Heck, the author even figured out how to unmask Boba Fett without giving anything away. That’s genius.

Having debuted around the same time as the 1990s Star Wars action figure line at retail, they also inspired some of the earliest (and best) custom toys. If you’ve never seen Gary Weaver’s toy gallery, you missed something special. It is a crying shame that Hasbro has ended its Star Wars comic pack collection– which included a comic book and two action figures– before this tale graced the assortment. Sadly, the author has never been asked to pen any other fictional Star Wars tales, and hopefully someone corrects this error in the near future.

Bonus! The B Button: A poem about Mario

10 Ways Women Turn Men Off

Written by Brendan Tapley

Find out which female habits drive guys crazy…and not in a good way

It’s not easy for a man to tell his wife or girlfriend what she does to irritate him. In my experience, confessions like that tend to lodge themselves deep inside a woman’s subconscious, never to be forgotten…ever. More than that, women tend to focus so much on their so-called “faults” that it can feel excessive to give you more reasons to be critical of yourselves. But in the name of healthy communication, sometimes it’s important for couples to air their grievances. So let’s take a different approach: Don’t think of this list as the 10 things we dislike about you. Think of it more as the 10 things that will bring us closer together…by you not doing them.

1. Second-Guessing Your Instincts

You know that colleague who you think is deceitful? Or that girlfriend of yours who can be condescending? Well, let us save you some time: Your colleague is deceitful, and your friend is condescending. Plain and simple. Sometimes face value is, well, valuable. While it’s true that men can have knee-jerk reactions, women tend to overdo it when it comes to giving people the benefit of the doubt. Yes, you could chalk your coworker’s attitude up to his insecurities or blame your friend’s tone on her manipulative mother, but instead, why not look out for your own feelings first? That’s what men are doing when we offer a simple opinion on your dilemmas—we’re trying to take your side. It would be nice if you did the same.

2. Assuming We Know What You Want Us to Do

One of the reasons men can be squeamish about women’s emotions is because they often belie the exact opposite feeling. For example: If you have plans for the day, please don’t tell us to enjoy ourselves at home if you really want us to address items 1 through 5 on the honey-do list. It’s more than a little irksome to have you return, hug us, look around the house, and then say with that pinched smile, “Did you have a nice, relaxing day?”

3. Smothering Instead of Mothering

Women can confuse these two impulses––knowing the difference is crucial. One elicits gratitude in men; the other, orneriness. Like when we’re sick. Mothering is a source of comfort that understands our flu is a temporary flaw in an otherwise heroic, virile and even studly constitution. Smothering, on the other hand, calls all of that into question. Smothering says we’re 5-year-old boys who have no idea how to take care of ourselves. And that bugs us more than the bug in us. One way to differentiate between the two: Ask yourself if you’re making a gesture to ease our suffering or to show how much we should appreciate you. The first is genuine; the second is manipulative.

4. Having a Superiority Complex

We’re not sure if you’re aware of this, but there appears to be an increasing trend among women to equate being male with being dumb. For instance, when we’re at a dinner party and you recount a story about us that ends with this punch line: “Well, you know [insert name of your dim husband here], he was just being a typical man.” Sure, every guy has his off moments––even blunders worth lampooning––but making us the hapless straight man in an ongoing comedy routine is disrespectful. And we think you’d hate it if we did the same to you.

5. Over-Sharing

We’re aware of the stereotype that says men never open up about their feelings. Thing is, sometimes opening up to you also means opening up to your sister, your mother or even your college roommate. Men value loyalty and confidentiality. Keeping the things we share between us––and only us––builds trust and will encourage even more communication. A win-win situation for everyone.

6. Not Really Listening to Us

Along those lines, many women believe that their interior lives deserve a singular spotlight and an endless theatrical run. And the fact that many men go along with this shouldn’t be construed as a license to spill. Our emotional lives are often as turbulent as yours, but whenever we talk about the tough stuff, we measure the changes in your face or shifts in your intonation to gauge when you start to judge us. It may be cowardly, but men will stop talking rather than risk a woman’s passive or outright wrath. So, by taking a backseat and letting your guy unburden himself—even if the subject is controversial or delivered in halting fashion—you create space for a more candid, and therefore truer, intimacy.

7. RSVPing for Us

Any man can relate to this moment: You’re on your way home from work, imagining the weekend ahead…the relaxation, the freedom. Then you arrive home, only to learn that you have plans. Magical plans, it seems, since they appeared out of nowhere. OK, not nowhere exactly—they were conceived with the stroke of the wifely wand that says “You’re in too, bub!” Here’s the deal: If you’re determined to make plans that include your husband or boyfriend, ask him first. And be prepared to hear that he might be too tired or would prefer to have a quiet weekend. Honoring his preferences from time to time will not go unnoticed.

8. Fast-forwarding to the Future

Women enjoy imagining the future. The story as it will be as opposed to the story that is right now. That can be a wonderful, romantic quality. It can also be an irritating, annoying quality. Having dinner together this Valentine’s Day is beautiful enough without scripting the Valentine’s Day we’ll have when we’re both 75. Enjoying the new sofa that we just bought is great without having to obsess over all of the other things that we “need” to make the living room look complete. Living in the moment provides its own vitality, which is more than enough to sustain our future together.

9. Overlooking Our Quiet Acts of Thoughtfulness

We know it’s disappointing that we men aren’t great at expressing ourselves verbally. (And we’re working on that.) But in the same vein, we’re disappointed that you can’t seem to acknowledge the nonverbal acts of caring that we perform. Like changing the oil in your car, for example, or staying up late to make sure you arrived home safely from your business trip. Chivalry also falls into this category. The art of being a gentleman doesn’t have to mean the end of feminism. Paying for dinner, holding the door open, standing up when you walk into a room…these are all gestures that demonstrate our awareness of others. Our awareness of you, specifically. While courtesy isn’t the sum total of love, it’s often how we show our feelings day to day. Women shouldn’t be so quick to rebuff that.

10. Devaluing Our Friendships

Friendships were once considered a formative presence in a man’s life. Older men were role models who helped develop character, while peers provided a level of camaraderie and acceptance that allowed us to forgo the machismo and be our truest selves––be that a poet, outdoorsman or both. While the value of sisterhood is extolled for women, the male equivalent is often vilified, and much of that is because women regard male friendships as being at odds with their romantic relationships. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive—and encouraging rather than discouraging our time with our buddies would be a welcome change.

All photos by Shutterstock.

Bonus:I Like My Women Like My Coffee

6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises ***** As Fact

Written by C. Coville

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As anybody who has ever wistfully imagined Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly fighting to the death over a pit of lava knows, most media outlets are biased. Usually it’s not part of anybody’s grand scheme to brainwash you, but rather just the result of newsrooms being staffed by fallible, opinionated humans.

The problem is they’re generally not allowed to come right out and say they think the subject of their news story is a flaming douchebag, so they have to rely on subtle and sometimes downright dishonest methods to gently sway you one way or the other.

When you browse through the news today, keep an eye out for…

#6.Weasel Words

When someone uses language that implies a definite fact without stating it outright, they’re using weasel words. The most common are when you attribute opinions to unnamed strangers. Ads include statements like, “Combined with diet and exercise, many experts agree that this pill could drastically increase the size of your penis and raise your credit card score.” The “many experts agree” are the weasel words there.

How Can This Be Used For Evil?

If you’re writing a news story, and want to insert your own opinion, you simply attribute the opinion to some unnamed person or group. Such as “many people”:

…or “some”:

The writers do not explain who is saying, asking or arguing. Their friends? God? The homeless man outside ranting about the government stealing his thoughts? Who are these people and how numerous are they? What are their qualifications?

We don’t know, and in their own mind the reporter can always rationalize it with, “Well, surely there’s somebody on planet Earth making that point. Why waste time actually finding them?”

Weasel words can also be used in another way, similar to the way a Straw Man is used in a debate: to introduce an anonymous but supposed common opposing argument which the writer can then rail against, as we have here:

Dude, that is not the reason we’re against letting robots operate on us. It’s because they’ll rewire our brains and turn us into slaves, as we have plainly stated many times.

#5.Implying Without Saying

As humans, we want to know the “why” behind everything, and we get frustrated when we don’t have it. We see two things–a good harvest after we’ve sacrificed a virgin to the gods, or our luck changing for the worse after that strange man gave us a monkey paw–and we naturally think they’re connected. Where there’s correlation, we want causation.

This is particularly the case with bad news, which we are usually desperate to find a simple explanation for so that we don’t wind up thinking that we live in a random, Godless universe full of cursed monkeys. This can be used against you, however, since a lot of persuasion techniques involve letting you fill in that gap yourself.

How Can This Be Used For Evil?

If you play video games, headlines like this drive you nuts: “Boy, 13, Fired Shotgun Into Cousin’s Face After Playing Gangster Game”. The “Gangster Game” of course being one of the Grand Theft Auto games. Or perhaps it’s, “Teenager Stabbed at Midnight Launch of Violent Video Game Grand Theft Auto IV.”

Clearly influencing reality.

Nothing in these headlines is technically untrue, but in both cases you find out from the story that there is absolutely no indication that the video game had anything to do with the crime.

In the first one, you can replace “playing gangster game” with anything the kid did that morning. “Boy Fired Shotgun Into Cousin’s Face After Eating Cheeseburger.” “Boy Fired Shotgun Into Cousin’s Face After Watching Spongebob Rerun.” Oh, they’re not saying the game caused the crime–they have absolutely no way of knowing or proving that. They’re just wording it in a way so that you have no choice but to make that connection yourself.

Never mind that the majority of young males play video games on a regular basis. If the attacker had even one edition of the GTA series sitting out at home, that shit goes right in the headline, baby! Otherwise you get a generic headline like “Teenager Arrested Over Stabbing Death,” because we fall back to the normal rule that what that teenager did in his spare time is utterly irrelevant to the story.

It’s not that the news media necessarily hates video games, by the way. It’s far more likely they just threw the video game aspect into the headline to grab attention, since it’s just a random, boring crime story otherwise. Like when you see the headline, “Ex-prostitute ‘still loves’ Becks” (“Becks” being the cute tabloid nickname of soccer superstar David Beckham) you say, “Holy shit! Superstar athlete! Prostitute! Scandal!”

Only when you read the very, very end of the story do you realize that 1) only the woman claims to have had a relationship with him; 2) she wasn’t a prostitute at the time and in fact; 3) had only been a prostitute once, for a couple of months, years earlier.

Not many people will read that far, which by the way brings us to another common technique…

#4.Burying Inconvenient Facts

Let’s face it, most of us don’t have much time to read. If you get your morning headlines on Drudge or Yahoo! News, you almost certainly don’t devour every word of every link. You browse headlines, you skim stories, you get the gist of what’s going on in the world.

For that reason, journalism schools teach writers to format articles like a backwards version of an M. Night Shyamalan movie: The only part worth seeing comes first. So, you have the headline which is written to grab you, even if it’s mildly confusing (see “US Court Rules ‘Zombies Have Free Speech Rights'”). And after that comes the first sentence or lede, which summarizes all the important facts of the story that follows (“A court has allowed a group of protesters dressed as zombies to continue with a lawsuit against police who arrested them for disorderly conduct.”)

When there is no more room in hell, the protestors will walk the Earth.

As the story goes on, the information supplied becomes steadily less and less important, a style some call the “inverted pyramid.” They used to do this for stories appearing in physical newspapers where space was limited, because editors know it’s safe to cut from the end without losing anything crucial.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work, anyway.

How Can This Be Used For Evil?

Obviously if you’re a reporter and you have a certain bias one way or the other, the method is simple: Just make sure that whatever facts contradict your point are buried. Nobody can claim you left the facts out, yet you know that most of the readers won’t see them.

Can you prove this isn’t true?

The most blatant, yet frequent, use of this is just flat out doing a headline that doesn’t match the story. After all, people who surf portal sites like Digg or Reddit often read the headline and nothing else. So for example: A news outlet runs the headline, “The Internet Will Make You Smarter, Claims Study.”

Most readers will simply scan the headline, and miss the fact that 1) the “study” was just a survey of random people and 2) it was an “online” survey at that. That makes the study about as reliable as a poll on nuclear physics conducted via Tila Tequila’s Twitter feed.

Not a physicist, possibly a ninja…

But at least the part that gives it away is near the top. That’s opposed to this article from a Seattle newspaper with the provocative headline, “Police Insist: When Huskies Win, There’s More Trouble.” The “Huskies” here are the local college football team, if you were wondering, and headline seems to say that when they win, crime goes up. Holy shit! Better put a stop to that!

The first hint that the headline might not be accurate comes in paragraph four (that “the stats may not necessarily bear it out”) and the information that actually completely contradicts the headline’s claim doesn’t pop up until freaking paragraph eight (that this very paper did an analysis that showed no increase in police calls on game day, whether the team wins or not).

That’s right; without changing a word of the article, the paper could just as easily have run the headline as, “Study Shows No Increase In Huskies Violence.”

Keep that in mind as you browse headlines today.

#3.Biased Photos

Some historians say that one of the big reasons Americans were solidly behind World War II but opposed to Vietnam is the pictures the public saw: During WWII we were fed photos of heroes raising flags over liberated territory, in Vietnam we got innocent Vietnamese children running from napalm.

Whether you agree with that or not (there were certainly other factors) you have to admit that appearances matter. A lot. We like to think we base most of our decisions purely on logic, but the dearth of non-manipulated personal photos on Internet forums and Facebook suggests that at least a lot of the time, we don’t.

How Can This Be Used For Evil?

This isn’t about the news media outright faking images with Photoshop (though that certainly has happened before). This is about the everyday choices editors make about which photo to run with a story, and where they choose to crop it.

For example, here’s a photo of a politician helping prepare a meal for his loving family:

Here’s a violent madman stabbing a butcher knife into something, probably human flesh.

Meanwhile, camera angles can be used to make a person look like Batman, or like Aquaman’s smaller, pussier cousin. A lower angle makes a person look taller, while a wider, higher angle makes them look small and insignificant. This president will come to rescue you from zombies, and then steal your lady. And you won’t even mind.

But this guy…

…is that one dude who always wants to borrow your stapler and then loses it. Also notice that the decision of which facial expression to capture is huge. Once again, no actual trickery or fraud is required; you just shuffle through the thousands of pictures available of a famous person on any given day, and pick the one that suits you.

Female politicians may get the worst of this, since you can add or subtract 20 years based on the facial expression and lighting:

#2.The Active Voice

As you hopefully know already, the English language contains two ways of describing an action, the active and the passive voice. For example:

An angry stripper suffocated John. (Active) John was suffocated by an angry stripper. (Passive)

Either way, John is boned.

You’re technically saying the same thing, but the emphasis is different (the stripper in the first, her victim in the second). And in fact, in the passive voice you don’t actually have to name the attacker at all. The second could have read simply “John was suffocated.” You can totally let the stripper off the hook because your wording implies it could have been anyone–or no one at all. Dude could have passed out in a bowl of pudding.

We’re not saying it was Cosby, but do the math.

How Can This Be Used For Evil?

It all depends on how you want the audience to feel about the stripper. Take the headline “Man Shoots Daughter’s Boyfriend in Groin.” The active headline makes clear to the reader that the man shot his daughter’s boyfriend in a crotch-splattering rage, presumably deliberately and in cold blood. If they had run it as, “Man Shot in Groin Over Teen Girlfriend,” it takes the dad out of the equation and makes it sound more like his own actions naturally led to the shooting, like, “Car Explodes After Running Off Cliff.”

Or: Gold Pants Expose Gayness.

For that reason, when the shooting is done by law enforcement or somebody else who is allowed to shoot people on occasion, you tend to get passive headlines like “Men in Stolen Car Shot on AF Base.” Hell, that almost makes it sound like the shooting is an unsolved mystery. It might have been the base security guards that killed them, or a wildly off-target shot from a local archery club (it was the first one). But when it’s a bad guy doing the shooting, you get the active, “Man Shoots at Deputies, Ends Up Dead.” You especially have to love the “Ends Up Dead” there. What, did he have a guilt-induced heart attack? Nope. The cops shot his ass. But you wouldn’t know from the headline.

Watch for this in war coverage. Often the difference between the headlines:

“Dozens Killed in Bombing.”

and

“Canadian Bombers Kill Dozens.”

…depends entirely on how you want the reader to feel about Canada.

#1.Guessing the Motives Instead of Reporting the Facts

You’ve probably done this one in your everyday conversation just within the last 24 hours. Rather than just say what happened, you give yourself the freedom to speculate about what the other person was thinking. We could just give a short and accurate description of how some dude backed into our car at the supermarket, but usually we add details about how the guy probably wasn’t paying attention because he was too busy thinking about his child-porn ring and how quickly he could get home to beat his wife.

But enough about Jay Leno. Zing!

How Can This Be Used For Evil?

Let’s take a look at the same event, as reported in two different outlets:

“Obama Pledges to Press Ahead on Goals.”

You know, upstanding President stuff.

“Obama Tries to Boost Beleaguered Democratic National Committee.”

The first headline presents what Obama actually did. It’s factually true; Obama did in fact pledge to press ahead on goals. Then you have the second, which gives him a motive and adds a backstory: the Democrat party is “beleaguered” and his supposed pledge to press ahead on goals is just an attempt to boost a political party.

Boring world stuff.

Now, some may say that the first one is just blindly repeating the politician’s talking points, but the second is flat out mind reading. For a more ridiculous example, a newspaper in California sent a Freedom of Information Act Request to several tech companies to find out how many minorities they have working there. A few companies (including giants like Apple, Google and Yahoo!) refused the request. Headline?

“Steve Jobs Tries to Cover Up Apple’s Racial Profile.”

Damn! When’s the next Klan meeting, Steve Jobs?

You can read more from C. Coville at her site Bloodslides.Livejournal.com.

Bonus: Walking My Pet

Amazing Piano Freestyle on ChatRoulette

Collected by Dahlia Rideout

ChatRoulette.com has brought out the creativity in some very talented folks. This hooded piano player reacts to his victims in real time, always bringing out a smile.

Not familiar with ChatRoulette.com? Have a look at this video by Casey Neistat to get a sense of what you may be missing.


I’m not sure how many of these are staged, but here are a few hilarious screen grabs from chat sessions:

And finally, a very concerning video of an awesome Chat Roulette prank:

Update: Ben Folds does live ode to Chatroulette piano guy

Update: Chat Roulette Funny Piano Improv #2

Update: Lady Gaga on Chatroulette for “Telephone”

Update: Catroulette


Catroulette – Watch more Funny Videos

Update: Epic Omegle trolling. People can’t believe I’m not a girl… until I turn around!

15 Noteworthy Websites That Changed the Internet

Written by Cameron Chapman

There are millions of websites out there. Many of them are unique, either in small ways or in large ones. But the individual impact of any particular site on the overall Internet is generally negligible, if there’s any impact at all.

Not so with the fifteen sites here. These sites changed the Internet, mostly for good, in substantial ways. Included here is everything from Geocities (which could probably be blamed entirely, either directly or indirectly, for every ugly web design “trend” that’s ever been) to Wikipedia (which has made information almost universally accessible) to Google (which has changed or influenced virtually everything online).

1. Wikipedia

Changed the way we find information. Before Wikipedia, most online encyclopedias were either sorely lacking in information, or required you to have a paid subscription to access their content. Wikipedia changed all that by not only allowing anyone to view the content for free, but also by allowing individual users to review and update content, making it more complete and accurate overall. Wikipedia also brought crowdsourcing and user-generated content to the mainstream online, making both much more viable and valuable.

2. Amazon.com

Changed the way we shop. Prior to Amazon.com, online shopping wasn’t much different than shopping out of a mail-order catalog, except it wasn’t nearly as popular. While Amazon started out selling just books and related items, it has expanded to sell virtually anything you can think of, either directly or through partner sites large and small. Amazon also made free shipping a standard on orders over a certain dollar value, which has impacted the shipping rates and policies of many other online retailers.

Save big on College Textbooks when you rent textbooks at BookRenter.com

3. Hotmail

Changed the way we use email. Before Hotmail came along, email was basically tethered to a single computer. When you checked your email, it was pulled and deleted from the remote server, meaning the only place you could view it was at your computer. Need an email at home that you received at work? Too bad. There was no way to access it unless you went back to the office. Hotmail changed all that by providing webmail that could be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. Now, web-based email is widely used and provided by a huge variety of providers. Even though Hotmail is no longer the primary provider of webmail (and is now owned by Microsoft), they were still pioneers in the technology.

4. Facebook

Changed the way friends connected. While Facebook wasn’t the first social network, it has definitely become the most popular and has really changed the way friends interact with one another. Sure, people use FB to talk online, but they’re also increasingly using it as a way to plan get-togethers offline. They’re using it to follow and interact with their favorite bands, actors, and other personalities. People use it to keep in touch with business contacts, friends, family, and acquaintances. Facebook has made social networking mainstream, across a variety of demographics and virtually worldwide.

5. Project Gutenberg

Changed the way we read. Project Gutenberg has a much longer history than most people realize. They created the first ebooks, and gave them away for free. You can now read virtually every major book in the public domain, sometimes in multiple languages on their site. Without the pioneering steps the founders of Project Gutenberg took, ebooks would not be where they are today.

6. Twitter

Changed the way we communicate. Twitter has made one of the biggest impacts on the Internet in recent memory. The idea that 140-character messages, broadcast publicly (for the most part), would change the way people communicate with one another would have been hard to believe ten years ago. But Twitter has become not just a powerhouse in the way individual communicate with one another, but also in the way businesses communicate with their customers. Complaining about poor customer service on Twitter can often result in almost instant messages from the company in question, and often results in a satisfactory resolution. Twitter has also made celebrities more accessible, with hundreds of celebs now using the service to interact with their fans.

7. Pandora

Changed the way we find new music. Before Pandora, if you wanted to listen to music online, you usually turned to a streaming radio station with pre-programmed content. Sure, you might get lucky and find a station that had mostly music you liked, but maybe it wasn’t diverse enough, or it still kept playing that one song you HATED. Pandora changed all that. Now, you can program your own radio station by just entering the name or a song or artist and then giving the thumbs up or down to music played. With a minimal amount of user input, Pandora has gotten surprisingly good at creating playlists that reflect one’s musical taste. The bonus is that songs or artists you might not have heard of are often thrown into the mix, based on what you already like.

8. Apple

Made minimalist web design cool. Apple had one of the first corporate websites designed with a minimalist aesthetic. As far back as the late 90s, Apple was starting to show a more minimalist take on web design than many other corporate sites, and by early 2000, they’d adopted the white and gray color scheme and top navigation they still employ today.

9. YouTube

Changed entertainment. Before YouTube, there weren’t many options if you wanted to watch a video online. You could sometimes find a video here or there, but with bandwidth costs, they were few and far between. Website owners just didn’t want to pay the extra costs associated with video content. Then YouTube came along and made it free to post any video you wanted (as long as it wasn’t copyrighted or over ten minutes long). Web users now had a centralized place to go to watch video online. And because of YouTube’s pioneering effort, online video is now enjoyed by millions every day.

10. Craigslist

Changed classifieds. Online classified sites used to be nearly unusable. Between the huge number of spam postings and the fact there were few if any local listings in most areas, there wasn’t much point in using them. But then Craigslist caught on and suddenly there was an online classifieds site that rivaled most local newspaper classifieds. Now you can use Craigslist to find almost anything, no matter where you live.

11. The Drudge Report

Changed the stature of online news. When the Monica Lewinsky/President Clinton story broke in 1998, it wasn’t a mainstream news source that first reported it. Instead, The Drudge Report held those honors, forever changing the standing of online news sources. Now, online news sources break stories on a regular basis, and are considered by most to be just as reliable as television or print news sources.

12. GeoCities

geocities

Made the web more accessible. In the early days of the Internet, the only people online (for the most part) were scientists, academics, and those involved in technology. It wasn’t a very exciting place. Then came GeoCities, and suddenly anyone could set up their own webpage for free. Sure, GeoCities spawned a legion of horrifically ugly websites, but it also got a lot of regular people involved in the Internet for the first time and was likely the first design experience of many early web designers.

13. Digg

Changed the way we find and share news. Digg was originally set up as an experiment, but it has completely changed the way many people find news online. The idea of users determining which news was important, relevant, and interesting rather than editors or executives at big news organizations was revolutionary. Now, user-generated news sites are all over the place, both for mainstream news and for individual industries and niches.

14. LiveJournal

Hooked millions on blogging. Blogging wasn’t invented by LiveJournal, but they were the first site to offer free blogs to their members. Millions now use LiveJournal, and tens of millions more blog elsewhere, either through other blog hosts or on their own websites. If it weren’t for LiveJournal and similar free blogs hosts that came later, blogging might not have caught on as the global phenomenon it has become.

15. Google

Changed everything. This one might seem a bit dramatic, but it really is true. Google has invaded virtually every aspect of the Internet. No matter what you do online, you probably interact with one Google service or another multiple times every day. And most people use at least one Google product or service one a regular basis personally. Whether it’s a Blogger blog, a Picasa photo album, a Google search, or even a YouTube video (or any of the dozens of other services Google owns), Google-controlled sites are everywhere.

About AuthorCameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with over 7 years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

Bonus: Really, ladies?…Really?!

13 Candies From Our Childhood

Written by Shyla Batliwalla

Whenever I smell a cold rectangular pizza or tater tots defrosting in an oven, I’m immediately thrown back to third grade. In those days, Kindles and iPhones were not necessary to keep kids entertained; a mere bubble gum cigarette or Abba-Zaba was all we ever needed. As an eight-year-old, I got more excited about those treats than I ever could have about some new app.


Bubble Gum Cigarettes

I remember hiding under the bridge, blowing on these babies, and feeling very “Greased Lightning” at the tender age of ten—so wrong, yet so right.

Jawbreakers

I once had a jawbreaker the size of my fist. I used to wrap it in a lunch baggie and put it on my bedside table every night. I’d wake up the next morning and keep sucking. Gross.

Dip N’ Lik

Now called Fun Dip and once called Lik-m-Aid, this colored sugar–filled pouch was one of the most popular kids’ treats—but in the good old days we used our fingers, not the enclosed candy stick, to get our licks.

Abba-Zaba

Thurgood Jenkins, Dave Chappelle’s character in Half Baked, made sales of Abba-Zaba skyrocket with these six little words: “Abba-Zaba, you my only friend,” as he bit into his lonely candy bar.

Big League Chew

According to Wrigley.com, “While sitting in a bullpen one night, pitcher Rob Nelson and former N.Y. Yankee all-star Jim Bouton came up with the idea for something different and fun to chew—shredded bubble gum in a pouch.” The rest is history.

Whatchamacallit

“Chewity, chocolatey, crunchity flavor. Whatchamacallit ahh … ahh …” Am I the only one who still manages to get this jingle stuck in her head fifteen years later?

Candy Buttons

These sugary dots were perfect for a game of Doctor. We used to use toilet paper to wrap up wounds and stuff patients’ faces with these “pills.

Ring Pops

True, the first few licks of a ring pop do leave you feeling like royalty with a big gem on your finger. But after lick ten, your hands up covered in sugary drool and you feel a bit more like a bum.

Pixy Stix

Originally a drink mix made in the 1930s, Pixy Stix are a powdered candy packaged to resemble drinking straws. The sugar inside can be enjoyed straight from the package while being poured into the lucky recipient’s mouth. (And parents wondered why their children were so hyper?)

Bubble Tape

Why buy gum in a pack when you can have it in a six-foot-long strand? I distinctly recall having competitions to see who could fit the longest strand into her mouth at one time. I generally lost.

Lemonheads

Sisters to Appleheads, Orangeheads, Grapeheads, and Cherryheads, Lemonheads are deliciously sour, then sweet. They claim to be fat free and made with real lemon juice. It’s good to know at least some children were eating healthy back in the 1980s.

Pez

I never understood the fascination with Pez—they taste like medicine. Sure, the containers are pretty kick-butt, but that’s where it all ends, as far as I’m concerned. By the way, the Museum of Pez Memorabilia is two miles from my house in Burlingame, California. Jealous?

Nerds

Nerds are small, irregularly shaped sweets that come in a variety of flavors and are usually sold in a box containing two separate compartments for two different varieties, each with a separate opening. Nerds—not just for nerds.


Bonus: Invasion Of The Teddy Bears

Top 10 Google Apps Marketplace Apps

Written by Kevin Purdy

Google’s Apps suite for domain owners and businesses has finally received some star treatment with the launch of the Apps Marketplace. Which Google-friendly apps are free, worth the cost, and entirely useful? These 10 are definitely worth a look.

10. Box.net

Box.net is one of many online file storage sites, but from its launch, it’s been focused on adding features that business and enterprise customers can use. Attached to your own web storage, Box.net’s features shine through. The service has many webapp partners that can fax, print, secure, edit, and otherwise handle all kinds of documents, and Box.net itself can integrate into many enterprise software packages, set up conference calls and web conferences centered around documents, and otherwise link together the files you’ve stashed away and the people who work on them. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: free for Box.net business users, $15 per user per month for new users.

9. SurveyMonkey

It’s an established tool that a lot of organizations are using to collect data on all kinds of topics. Better still, crafting a poll or questionnaire in SurveyMonkey will save you a good deal of time over crafting a spreadsheet and form in Google Docs and manipulating the results. If you needed more incentive, the “Basic” plan is free for groups looking to just do a little smart polling, and “Basic” covers a whole lot of data-swapping goodness. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: Free for basic version, $16.67 and up for advanced features.

8. SlideRocket

Google’s own Presentation app is one of those “Hey, it works” tools, and if you needed to write something up in a pinch, it’s there. SlideRocket, on the other hand, is a surprisingly full-featured presentation editor that doesn’t require a Microsoft license and can be pulled up wherever you or your team have web access. Like the Aviary photo editor (below), installing SlideRocket in your Apps space puts everyone on the same page and centralizes where those presentations get stored. Alas, SlideRocket doesn’t sing in every browser—it doesn’t play well with Firefox in Snow Leopard, for instance—but when it works, it’s pretty wow-inducing. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: 30-day free trial, $12 per user per month after that; Education and “lite” versions available.

7. Google Short Links

Why would you use Google’s own link shortening service for your Apps account over popular, free options like bit.ly or is.gd? Primarily because the links you can provide clients and partners—like GlobexIndustries.com/B2B—are more stately, feel safer, and haven’t already been snapped up on the major shortening servers. It also helps that you can make them far easier to remember than a random assortment of letters and numbers. It’s free, too, and that’s a pretty good selling point. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: Free.

6. Shared Contacts

It’s unfortunate that Google’s contacts manager doesn’t make it easy for people and businesses to create and update common sets of contacts—perhaps they consider that the stuff of big enterprise packages. Their loss is Shared Contacts’ gain. With the package installed, Apps domains can create new groups of contacts, set their read/write permissions, and have them show up for everybody in that group. It’s not a one-click process, it would appear, but once Shared Contacts is installed, you’ll likely never have to see or send email with “Phone #?” in the subject line. Apps Marketplace link] Price: free trial available, $50 per year after that.

5. Gbridge

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great thing to have. Having it free, and connected through your Google Apps’ chat service to your other computers and project partners, is way better. By hooking up Gbridge, on-the-go Apps users have access to shared files, backup through their own computers or those of others in their group, screen sharing and control for tech support or demonstration, and the kind of basic VPN access that can be oh so helpful. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: Free.

4. TripIt

Traveling is taxing enough on its own. Frantic text messages asking “When do u land?” and the like should be unnecessary. Implementing TripIt for your site or group will win you fans, because it’s like having an employee whose only job is to organize trips and keep everybody in the loop. As an individual app, TripIt does a great job turning travel confirmation emails into organized, mapped, linked-up itineraries. Installed on Apps, it enables Ted to see when Lisa is leaving and arriving, tells Bob when to pick her up at the airport and provides directions, and lets everyone know if the flight is delayed. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: free.

3. ManyMoon or Zoho Projects

For very small businesses, personal sites, and less goal-oriented groups, the free, socially adept ManyMoon may fit the bill for your project management needs. Group task management, tagging, micro-blogging for teams, and time tracking come with the free price tag. For larger organizations and those with a real need for deadlines, nested goals and tasks, and constant contact, Zoho Projects is a more robust and agile solution, one that integrates well into Google’s own app offerings—project deadlines and events, for instance, can be automatically added to team member’s calendars. Zoho can also serve as a kind of “project intranet,” providing wikis, shared file spaces, and even public web pages. [Apps Marketplace link: ManyMoon, Zoho Projects] Price: ManyMoon free; Zoho Projects free for one project, $12/month and up for unlimited users.

2. Aviary

At its own web site, Aviary hosts a very capable image editing suite that runs entirely inside a browser. Hooked into the files you’re already hosting and using on your site or in your group, it gives everybody a kind of Photoshop lite to work with, and avoids the worries of losing that one version of a graphic your client liked better. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: free.

1. OffiSync

It’s not for lack of trying, but Google’s web-based Docs app can’t do everything that Microsoft’s desktop Office suite can pull. Whether it’s revision tracking, macro recording, or database integration, you can skip the back-and-forth file swapping with the Apps version of OffiSync, a utility that does just what you might think. Save a file in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and with OffiSync set up, it will save simultaneously to your Google Apps space. You get the feature-rich editing services of Office and the easy sharing and peace-of-mind storage of Google, all at once. [Apps Marketplace link] Price: free.


If you’re a Google Apps user who’s found something great in the Marketplace, or you’re looking for something that’s not there yet, we want to hear about it in the comments.

The Last Person on Earth–What Would You Do?

Collected by John Hudson

visulogik/Flickr under a CC license For those who have misguidedly failed to develop an Armageddon plan, it’s not too late. Eschuk, a user on the social media site Reddit, has created a detailed, eight-phase, 1600-word survival plan in response to the question, “If you became the last person on Earth, what would you do? Realistically.” Eschuk’s vision is nothing if not realistic. We owe Web sites like Kottke for salvaging this nugget from the dustbin of Internet history. Here’s an abridged look at what this inventive, earnest dreamer would do. For the full version, see here.
“Pre-Phase Phase: Before Anything: Eat Exotic Fresh Fruits while they are around. They come from so far away that, odds are depending where you live, you will never ever get to have Banana, Pomegranite, Starfruit or Mango again in your life. Savor every bite. Make Fruit Leathers and Freeze what you cannot stomach to consume.You will also need to bone up on Vitamin C while you’re doing the most work.

[…]

Phase 2 – Secure your Food: There’s a ton of food still around in the world that’ll be good for the next decade. Rice and Beans, Canned Fruits and Veggies. The Average Domesticated Human relies on these foods and cannot subsist “off of the land.” …

  • Sysco Trucks are refrigerated and can probably stay cool a week or two, and are likely chock full of the meals you’d otherwise be served after they’ve been microwaved at Olive Garden, Johnny Carino’s, Applebees, TGIFridays, McDonalds, etcetc. If they haven’t been looted already, they’re a great solution to a “freezer farm.” Now that you have all the time in the world, figure out how to use RV Propane Freezers to keep these trucks cool. Move them to your home, reinforce them in concrete and keep them free of bugs and animals.

Phase 3 – Home Compound: Insects and animals will grow plentifully without humans now. Wild Dogs, Bears, Coyotes, Mountain Lions, Feral Cats are all now the enemy. Malaria, Lymes Disease, Bebesia can be carried by insects and with Rabies, will likely grow out of control without human intervention.

  • Secure an area, preferably within a high-walled region to keep bears and other predators away. Chain Link Fences need to be painted to prevent rusting. Paint them with motor oil a couple of times in the summer (if you don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment now)
  • Drive Vehicles over to your Compound while they still work. Mobile Homes, School Buses, Fire Engine Tankers & Ladders, Electrical Contractor Cherry Pickers (for Hunting Blinds), Flatbeds, Box Trucks.

[…]

Phase 5 – Recreation

  • Find the closest highway and burn all the gasoline you can syphon out of all the cars around in a Maserati, Ferrari or Ford Focus by risking your fucking life. This insane maneuver might help you keep some sanity… but in 2-years-time gasoline will have gone stale and most cars will sit where they were.
  • There are some propane based cars and Go-Karts. Offhand, I don’t know where I’d find one around here so I’m in a bad position… the internet will be down and “propane go-karts” won’t be found in phone books.

[…]

Final Phase – Seal your fate.

You are the last of your kind. Evolution may replace humans with another Sentient Creature capable of interpreting the past, but for now, this is it. As representative for humanity, you do not want to suffer. No sense in bleeding to death over the course of several days pinned underneath a mountain of rubble.

  • Always have the ability to kill yourself nearby. Holster a classy 6-shooter in your shoulder, at your ankle or your hip at all times.

The Debate