Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 Word Of Jeff Posts For 2008

I thought it might be fun to review my blog statistics and see what the top posts were for 2008, in terms of page hits. In case you may have missed them or are a new reader, here are the Top 10 Word Of Jeff Posts For 2008:

10. By Grabthar's Hammer

9. Top 10 Science Fiction Authors

8. Top 10 Movie Theme Songs

7. Sunny 105.9

6. Saying Goodbye To Missouri

5. The Facebook/YouTube Virus

4. The 100 Worst Christmas Songs

3. Angel At The Fence - A Hoax

2. What Does "Des Moines" Mean?

And the Number One Word Of Jeff Post For 2008...

1. Cindy Hard At Work

Correct Spelling Is Always Important!

No matter what you are writing, no matter what your political views...correct spelling is ALWAYS important!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Twitter Tools

I started using Twitter more than a year ago on my laptop and aside from adding it to my BlackBerry this past March and having my blog posts automatically tweeted when published, I've confined myself to simply using the basic and original Twitter service. In the meantime several third party applications have arrived on the scene to complement and even expand Twitter beyond a micro-blogging tool to a major social media application. Several friends of mine have been coaxing me to try some of the other available programs, but I've been too busy to take the time to explore them.

Until now.

Over the weekend I began investigating the other various Twitter applications, then downloading and using some to get a feel for them and to decide if they might be useful additions to the basic Twitter. Here are the ones I have chosen to keep.

TwitterBerry - A mobile client application for posting updates to Twitter designed for BlackBerry users that doesn't require opening up the mobile browser. I rely heavily on my BlackBerry to keep me connected when I don't have access to my laptop. Though I have Twitter set up to send tweets from those I follow (and have chosen to turn my "device on" for their tweets, something I DON'T do for all those I follow) and I can post my own tweets or reply to theirs using the BlackBerry, TwitterBerry is an application that offers two distinct advantages:

1. All of my replies go over the data network instead of the SMS text service. I have an unlimited data plan with my mobile provider, but text messages are extra after a certain count. Shifting my replies to the data network saves me some cash on the text side.

2. When I reply to a tweet, it automatically places the "@nameoftweeter" in my reply, something I had to type in manually using the SMS text feature. Not a huge deal, but sometimes I forget and sometimes I'm just plain lazy. And it allows "Direct Messaging" so that, if I choose, the reply or the initial tweet is not broadcast to everyone but only to the specified user.

TweetDeck - A desktop application (for my laptop), Tweetdeck allows users to take their entire feed of tweets and split them up into manageable groups, as well as allowing for posting, replying, direct messaging and re-tweeting of a poster's tweet, all without accessing the Twitter webpage. And speaking of webpages, it will automatically shorten any webpage you include, using the TinyURL feature. True to it's name, any time you receive a tweet, the application sounds a "tweet" to notify you. Since I currently only follow about two dozen fellow twits, I have my TweetDeck divided into just three sections; "All Friends", "Replies" and "Direct Messages", but if I add more friends then I can divide their tweets into more descriptive groups.

TwitterLocal - A desktop application (for my laptop), TwitterLocal allows users to enter a state, city or zip code and a range of miles to identify all the Twitter users within that range. I currently have mine set for a radius of 20 miles from Orlando and it has allowed me to add a few interesting Twits to those I follow. I think that when I'm traveling around the country, it will allow me to get hyper-local information on the city I'm in and identify some good places to visit or tour during my down time.

TwitPic - An online service that allows you to send photos with your tweets. Twitter, in its basic form, is a text only post limited to 140 characters, but there are times when you'd like to send along a graphic and TwitPic lets you do that from your phone or from the website. I haven't used it yet, but it's ready to go on my BlackBerry.

SnapTweet - An online service that allows you to send your Flickr photos out as tweets. Haven't used this one yet either, but looking forward to trying SnapTweet.

Twitscoop - Their tagline is "What's Hot On Twitter Right Now" and that's exactly the information they provide. Through the graphical representation of a Tag Cloud you can discover what's popular in the "Twitterverse" at any given moment in time. Twitscoop allows you to stay on top of developing news, sometimes before it hits network or mainstream media, and to examine what is being talked about, big or small, by Twits everywhere. I've installed their widget over on my right hand column for a while

So, those are the Twitter applications or services I'm using or going to use. I still stay pretty limited (compared to some, lol) in my usage of Twitter because I just don't have an availability of free time to spend on it, but I do find it fun and useful when employed with moderation.

If you've got a favorite Twitter application or services you use and would recommend, I hope you'll leave a comment about it.

Angel At The Fence - A Hoax

Another memoir due to be published in February of 2009 and in line to be chosen by Oprah Winfrey as a future Oprah Book Club choice has turned out to be a hoax. "Angel At The Fence - The True Story Of A Love That Survived" is not a true story after all, according to the author who was forced to admit his duplicity after investigative reporters did fact-checking (which most agree should have been done by the publisher) and family members denounced the tale as fiction.

This is a second literary disappointment for Ms. Winfrey, who in earlier on-air interviews with the author reportedly called this "...the single greatest love story ... we've ever told on the air.", following the January 2006 revelation that James Frey's memoir (one of her Book Club choices) was a lie.

Berkley Books has canceled plans to publish the supposed holocaust memoir and author Herman Rosenblat will be required to return the advance he received.

I know publishers love the heck out of these "memoir" books because they usually sell much better than fiction, but, really, they're going to have to start vetting supposed memoir submissions with more diligence than they have displayed in the past.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why Proper Phrasing Is Important

The order in which writers and editors place words is of paramount importance. That's something I've been taught by English and journalism teachers as far back as junior high school and by writing instructors and editors over the years. Word placement and word choice can radically change the meaning of a sentence, phrase or paragraph. Or, in this case, a headline.

NC Man Turns Himself In After Beating Death

Now, maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking this NC man has just gained immortality so I'm confused as to why he is turning himself in as opposed to grabbing some champagne and celebrating like it's 9999.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reading For Pleasure

One of the nice things about being home for a few days is the opportunity to indulge in some reading for pleasure. Nothing work-related, nothing writing-related and no "how to" books or magazines, just pure, undiluted, unadulterated pleasure reading.

Of course, the writer in me still pays attention to plot, character, phrasing...and all those other things that go into constructing an enjoyable work of fiction, because that is something I just can't turn off. But I can mute it somewhat. :)

So last Sunday I spent an hour or so in the downtown library picking up some pleasure reading material,

First I read Dean Koontz's "Your Heart Belongs To Me", his latest novel. I've been reading Mr. Koontz's work for 20 years, beginning with "Lightning" when it was first published in 1988. There was a time when I stopped reading his books because they had grown stale. Plots, characters and even his famous overly-described scenes were being rehashed to the point that one story read just like another. Then a few years ago I picked up one of his latest books and found a slightly different style; still the familiar Koontz but with a fresh feel. So I started reading his stories again.

Now a certain staleness and sameness has returned, especially as it regards a seeming inescapable plot point that requires the main character of each tale to pledge his life in service to "God" at the conclusion of each story. It happened again in "Your Heart Belongs To Me" and I am afraid that Koontz's overt and obvious "faith" (which he is entirely entitled to) has become something I have no desire to subject myself to any longer. I think this may be the last book of his that I read.

Next up was Alex Kava's latest Maggie O'Dell tale, "Exposed." I enjoy the Maggie O'Dell character, having first read her in the 2001 novel "Split Second" and Ms. Kava is an accomplished writer in the crime genre, always weaving excellent characterization into her novels while holding your attention in solving the mystery.

Currently I'm halfway through a book I've been wanting to read since earlier this year, Brad Metzler's "The Book of Lies" which has as it's main plot point the mystery of what weapon Cain used to kill Abel and the murder in 1932 of Mitchell Siegel. That name may not be familiar to you, but perhaps you recognize the name of his son Jerry Siegel. Jerry Siegel's father Mitchell was shot point blank in the chest, so it may come as no surprise that Jerry created a bulletproof man known as the first superhero, Superman.

It's been nice to just sit and read and relax inside some good stories. My mind has appreciated the break.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

After the festivities on Christmas Eve, Cindy and I were up at 5am and over at Jeremy and Wendy's by 6. When Amber and Shawn arrived, we exchanged gifts and then jumped in our cars for the drive to Deltona for breakfast and Christmas morning gift-opening with AnnMarie, Jason, Mikey and Heather. The best part of Christmas is watching the grandkids open their presents. I think both Mikey and Heather got a lot of gifts and toys that they will enjoy for a while (at least a week). Heather loved her toy kitty that purrs and stretches its paws and the Dora the Explorer tricycle, while Mikey, our 7-year old budding computer programmer, was intensely excited when he opened his "How to" programming book and his Bill Gates biography.

Photos from both those fun gatherings are up on Flickr.

Cindy and I left Deltona and drove to Downtown Disney where we enjoyed a nice stroll, had lunch at the Earl of Sandwich and then went to the AMC theater to watch "The Day The Earth Stood Still", starring Keanu Reeves in a role he was born to alien in the form of a human that displays no facial expression and speaks in a monotone. Talk about owning a role!

The rest of the afternoon and evening we spent relaxing at home. All in all, a nice, enjoyable day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Cheese Grater Slide

It's back for today. Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Season's Greetings

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Family Dinner

Tonight was our annual Christmas Eve Family Dinner and altogether I think I counted 30 people and 3 dogs in the house for a few hours of food, fun, visiting and gift-giving. I'm especially glad I was able to be home off the road to be a part of the celebration.

Here's a photo of my granddaughter Heather, who seemed to be having a wonderful time tonight and looked so beautiful in the dress that Cindy bought for her.

More photos are up on Flickr.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Leave A Comment And Disney Will Donate A Book To A Child In Need

For quite a while now one of the links on the right side column of this blog has been to First Book, "a nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books."

As a child I was (and still am today) a voracious reader. Books were (and still are) some of my most treasured possessions. Reading and books expand the mind and the imagination, something every child needs as they are growing up.

Over at First Book they have a blog called Bookmark and they have partnered with the Walt Disney Company in a special promotion involving the new movie, "Bedtime Stories" which opens Christmas Day. For every comment about your favorite bedtime story left on this Bookmark blog post, Disney will donate a book for a child in need to First Book, up to 250,000 books.

My comment was number 322, so still lots of comments needed before the promotion ends on December 25th. It's an easy, painless and even fun way to help see that books get into the hands of children who could not otherwise have such an opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of reading.

While you're commenting, look for my comment to see what my favorite bedtime story was as a child.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Arabian Nights

I arrived back in Orlando Saturday afternoon around 12:30, an hour late due to an electrical problem on the plane that was, thankfully, discovered before we left the gate in St. Louis.

Four hours later Cindy and I and her parents were meeting AnnMarie, Jason, Mikey, Heather, Amber, Shawn, Wendy and Jeremy at Arabian Nights for a dinner and show compliments of Jeremy and Wendy. Thanks so much, guys.

We had a wonderful meal and enjoyed a delightful holiday-themed Arabian Nights presentation. Below is a photo of everyone but yours truly (someone has to take the picture) before the show. A "few" other photos are up at Flickr.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

You Know What This Means

If you don't, the explanation is here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Home Again

With apologies to Carole King, but this song is SO appropriate considering the cold, snow, sleet and ice I've been "enjoying" here in Missouri.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again
It's so far and out of sight
I really need someone to talk to, and nobody else
Knows how to comfort me tonight

Snow is cold, rain is wet
Chills my soul right to the marrow
I won't be happy till I see you alone again
Till I'm home again and feeling right

Snow is cold, rain is wet
Chills my soul right to the marrow
I won't be happy till I see you alone again
Till I'm home again and feeling right
Till I'm home again and feeling right

I wanna be home again and feeling right

See you later today, baby.

Saying Goodbye to Missouri

I'll be boarding my flight at 8am this morning (barring any weather-related issues) to wing my way non-stop to Orlando. I enjoyed my time here, as far as work goes. Did some new stuff, got an excellent evaluation, saw some old co-workers and made some new contacts.

The weather was another matter. Cold, snow, sleet, and ice are fun...from the inside of a warm hotel or office. I must be getting more careful in my old age because I didn't slip on ice the entire trip, unlike my less-fortunate co-worker who slipped on ice yesterday morning at the airport and injured her arm. And as I twittered one morning sitting in my freezing car waiting for the heater to warm it up, "I am SO over having to scrape ice and snow off my car every day!!" lol. But of course that doesn't mean I wouldn't come back if called. I would just be sure to bring woolen long underwear and insulated gloves like Cindy encouraged me to do when I left Florida.

I'll hit the ground running when I arrive in Mickeyville. Lunch, a haircut, a short nap and off to Arabian Nights for a dinner show compliments of my step-son. I'll post photos later. After that our days are filled right up to Santa's Big Day, but we're hoping to squeeze a little time to ourselves in somewhere during those days.

In the meantime; goodbye cold, snow, sleet, ice and Missouri.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who Is Your Celebrity Best Friend?

As it is wont to do, my mind was wandering the other day and it wandered upon this little question lying in the overgrown weeds and wildflowers growing next to the tracks of my train of thought; Which celebrity would you like to have as a best friend?

These days we all know a lot more about the lives of celebrities than we probably need to know. Between People Magazine (and all its clones), newspapers, websites and TV shows galore, there's a pretty good chance that, with a little thought and research, we could come up with enough information about a particular celebrity to make a decision as to whether we would want him or her as a best friend. I say that with the caveat that, obviously, none of us can ever really know what another person is like on the inside or what their life will ultimately consist of until it is ended.

But let's try it anyway - shall we?

For the purposes of this little question, "celebrity" will mean:

A. An actor, TV personality, sportsperson, athlete, musician, corporate leader, author or politician of either gender. It will not mean "flash in the pan, trying to get more than their allotted 15 minutes of fame" people like "Joe the plumber." types. And I don't have anything against "Joe the plumber" (other than his political stand, and his actions, and his thoughts, and his words), but that is not the type of celebrity I'm referring to in my question.

B. Also, unless you typically base your best friend choices on only one aspect of their being, such as looks, political view, philosophy, vocabulary, etc. please try to make your choice based on an informed decision about the person, in other words knowing a broad range of information about the person and how they think, behave, treat other people, etc.

C. Not a dead or historical person. Unless you're into necrophilia, please confine your choice to those who are among the living. Otherwise, I might have considered Randy Pausch, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln or Aristotle.

D. Finally, not your current best friend, spouse, parent or sibling, unless they happen to be a celebrity.

While you think about your choice, let me share with you some who fell into my consideration (in no particular order, so don't try and draw anything from that) and then who my final choice ended up being.

10. Bill Clinton - Yeah, he's one of those guys you either love or hate, I happen to think he is a great leader and politician; tarnished (like most of us are), but great. Intelligent, compassionate and passionate about what he believes in.

9. Neil Gaiman - comic book writer, author and screenplay writer; from his blog and interviews he seems to be kind, friendly, intelligent and a person who would be a fantastic conversationalist. I love his writing. Plus, he wears all black, something I hope to do when I'm retired.

8. Harrison Ford - If he were my best friend, my daughter would spend more time around me because she thinks he's great. Ok, that's only part of the reason. He's always seemed to be level-headed in spite of the chance he had to get a big head from all the publicity of Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies. He's quiet-spoken (like I try to be) and gives thought to answers without blurting out something. He seems genuinely nice. Plus, If he were my best friend, my daughter would spend more time around me.

7. John Walsh - Father of murdered 6 year-old Adam Walsh. My own children were 6 and 3 1/2 when Adam Walsh was abducted and decapitated in 1981. If I contemplated such a heinous thing happening to one of them, I believe I would have gone insane. Mr. Walsh took that agony that any loving parent would have felt and turned it into something immeasurably good and lasting. His actions changed laws and procedures dealing with missing children, and his show "America's Most Wanted" has been responsible for the capture of over 1,000 felons. I'm not sure I would have had the strength of character to move beyond such a horrific event and make something so positive out of it like he has done. He is a great inspiration to me, and no doubt to others.

6. Al Gore - He was robbed of the Presidency in 2000; but instead of going off and hiding, he returned to his first love of ecology and the environment to make an even greater impact on our country and the world. I admire his intelligence, passion and dedication.

5. George Clooney - I like the way he thinks, talks and comports himself. I like his quiet philanthropy and his charitable work. And I like to watch him act.

4. Bruce Willis - He's a man of few words (like me), seems to treat people well and is an action-movie hero (unlike me). Anyone who can take some of the outlandish scenes in "live Free or Die hard" and make them almost believable has my admiration as an actor. He seems like the kind of guy who is never ruffled by anything, including having his gorgeous ex-wife being in a relationship with a guy almost young enough to be her son.

3. Oprah Winfrey - she's intelligent, caring, capable, principled and seems to be very loyal to her friends. And she's the richest woman in America. How could you go wrong with that?

2. Ellen Degeneres - she's incredibly funny in a low-key manner, intelligent, seems to treat people well and has a kind of self-deprecating humor that appeals to me.

BONUS CONSIDERATION. Brad Pitt - An excellent actor, a very cool guy who is a friend of one of my other choices (George Clooney) and has my great admiration for his charitable housing work in New Orleans. PLUS he's set up house with the incredible Angelina Jolie!

And my top choice of a celebrity to be my best friend...

1. Will Smith - Admittedly, I never cared for Mr. Smith's early career persona of musician The Fresh Prince portion of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, or his role as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the TV sitcom of the same name (but in all fairness I'm not a huge fan of many sitcoms). In fact, his first few movie roles such as Made in America, Six Degrees of Separation and Bad Boys left me with the impression that Smith was just another mediocre musician trying to make the crossover into film without any real talent to justify his casting. In other words, the only reason he was cast was because he was part of a "hot" musical act. And that may have been the case back then, but Mr. Smith made sure he took it even further to prove he was not going to be some "flash in the pan" whose name would be quickly forgotten.

Today, I would happily watch ANY production in which Will Smith is the star. Movies like Independence Day, Enemy of the State, I, Robot and I Am Legend are among my favorite films, but my choice of him for my celebrity best friend is not limited to his obvious mastering of the craft of acting.

I cannot recall a single interview with Will Smith that I have ever seen or read in which he was not courteous, funny, thoughtful and just plain nice; a niceness that comes through in every red carpet photo op, interview, press conference and outtake or deleted scene from any of his blockbuster movies on DVD. And it was actually an interview I read this past week that revealed the secret behind that attitude and clearly explains why he is the overall nice person that he is:

"I learned to live by a principle that my grandmother taught me. I once asked her why she was always smiling, and she said it was because she knew what she was here for, which was to make everything she touched a little better. And then she touched me."

What a fantastic attitude and life philosophy! There is no doubt that Mr. Smith has learned to live by that principle and thus he helps to pass it along to those he comes in contact with. So, if I had to pick, Will Smith would be my choice to be my Celebrity Best Friend.

And just think, if he was, we could re-form DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince!

Who Is Your Celebrity Best Friend?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Burger King Cologne

I've GOT to wonder; how many women are truly attracted to a man who smells like a flame-broiled burger?

I mean, truly?

But they do have an amusing site.

Missouri Winter II

The Auto Industry Bailout

Look, I'm as confounded as most people about the need/propriety of the proposed auto industry bailout, but this "ad" is a hilarious look at one side of the argument.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 100 Worst Christmas Songs

Entertainment Weekly has put up their list of The 100 Greatest Down-and-Out-on-Christmas Songs and I felt vindicated to see that the Christmas song I hate to hear the most was listed in the number one position.

Granted, I used to enjoy "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" but that all changed during the holiday season of 1999 when my grandmother and father, respectively, passed away. After that, the words "Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow" never failed to cause me to choke up and when that didn't change after two subsequent holiday seasons, I decided to never voluntarily listen to the song again. If it comes on the radio, I change the station or turn it off; if it is played over a store Muzak system while I'm shopping, I hum something different and if someone around me starts singing it, I punch them out to shut their mouth. Ok, I don't really do that last one.

Is there a Christmas song YOU consider to be the worst?

Missouri Winter

Here are a few shots I took the other day before the latest onslaught of snow and sleet arrived. Everything is cold, gray and barren.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Kids Only (and big kids like yours truly)

My friend Royda sent me this site a few days ago, and I didn't want to delay any longer in getting it posted so that parents have plenty of time to look it over and their children can enjoy it. It's a great holiday site for kids celebrating Santa's big night with lots of activities they can do with their parents or by themselves.

And, most important of all, there is a link to NORAD's Santa Tracker. It's a lot of fun to watch the progress of St. Nick as he travels around the world delivering presents to homes across the globe.


Although, for the most part, I was a good kid in school, I did get my share of detentions. Sometimes the teacher who gave you detention was not going to be able to stay after school to preside over it, so they would have you serve your detention in the school library and let the librarian act as your "jailer."

Most kids would sleep, or write notes or even sneak out the first time the librarian turned her head, but I always felt a little different about it. It was not surprising to find me in the library before school, during the day and sometimes after school anyway, so being "sentenced" to serve detention in one of my favorite places was more of a pleasure than a punishment. How could it be otherwise when you were in a room filled with books, each one waiting to take you to another world, inform you and teach you or entertain you?

Today, the Internet functions as a sort of world-wide library, providing access to much more than my school libraries ever did. I use it extensively. But there is still something about walking into a library that, don't laugh now, causes a tingle inside me, just like it did the very first time I entered one and saw the possibilities before me.

An unending room full of books containing entertainment and information would be, if I believed in such a thing, heaven to me.
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