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Archive for the month “February, 2012”

At least he didn’t say “Get off my lawn” (technology of the aged)

I still have to write the follow-up to the Empoprise-BI business blog Jitterbug post from 2010, and the February 21 tymshft post that mentioned the Jitterbug in passing.

But while looking for material for a Jitterbug post, I ran across this rant from Vancouver’s “Steve in the KT” about the various types of people who call sports talk radio. One of Steve’s pet peeves is the caller who complains that sports aren’t what they used to be.

And Steve ends up complaining…about the technology used by such callers. Here’s the relevant section of the rant:

Halcyon Days of Yore Guy – You like to call in on your Jitterbug or corded phone to let us all know how sports were when you were a kid.

Phone attached to the wall? Ouch.

“These guys don’t know how good they got it. In my day, the players were always dying of the consumption and the Kaiser was constantly drafting us into service.” You scoff at things like visors and kevlar neck guards. When you watched hockey, sometimes a Bengal tiger would get loose on the ice and kill 3 or four of the players. You’re obviously, confused, alone, possibly under the impression you were calling a Bea Arthur sex line. Either way, your grandkids need reminding of how you fought for their right to get lower back tattoos.

More here.

And as for me, I need to check out a page with a Bea Arthur picture.

Use technology correctly to make friends (unless they’re Commies)

I realize that the word “friends” is overused when talking about social media, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be friendly. When mastering a new social media platform, it’s important to not only understand how the platform operates, but also the conventions that are associated with the platform.

It’s especially important to remember that communicating via a social media platform is NOT like communicating to someone standing next to you. I don’t care what social media platform you’re using – if the person is distant from you, then the person isn’t getting all of the communication that you’re providing.

That’s why, when using these newfangled social media techniques, it’s important to do things such as placing the receiver close to your mouth. Oh, and don’t slam the receiver down when you are done.

What, did you think I was talking about Pinterest?

Contact Sheet has shared a digital copy of a booklet entitled “How to make friends by Telephone.” Yes, the Bell System even used the word “friend” that Pinterest and Facebook and Google and just about everyone else is using.

When reviewing the book, Richard Darrell observed:

[I]t seems no matter how advanced we make things, the format for making friends will always leapfrog into whatever we create.

The same thing happened back in the 1940s. When the phone first became a household item, people started to question if we would even need to get out of the house anymore (just like we did when the television and the Internet became household names). However, history has shown us that we still need that physical interaction. We want to keep all our friends and still go out for a coffee or a movie every once in a while.

And of course the Bell System wanted to help. Certainly they had self interest in mind, since they wanted to encourage people to use telephones – especially for long distance calls. (Well, as long as you don’t call those Commie places like Russia.)

But the tips were certainly helpful, and despite the vast changes in the technology landscape, some of the tips are still helpful today. For example:

Shouting distorts your voice and is not pleasant.

And the existence of the book reminds us that social networking didn’t start with Twitter. Steven Hodson goes as far to refer to the telephone as “the original social network.”

Although frankly I’d hand that title to the old U.S. Post Office.

Generation gap? How about decade gap?

I think that most people realize that there are clearly generation gaps, and that things that make perfect sense to an older generation are complete nonsense to another generation, and vice versa.

But now I’m wondering if the gap is narrowing.

The much-talked-about blog When Parents Text recently published a post entitled Collectables. In the series of texts, a father offering something for an auction that his son/daughter was holding. The reaction: “Who would buy those?”

No, the father didn’t offer a John Denver 8-track tape.

And no, he didn’t offer a Betamax tape of The Breakfast Club.

Dad offered a set of personality identification playing cards that became the rage when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. This isn’t ancient history to the son/daughter in question. since the invasion occurred nine years ago, the Ace of Spades (Saddam Hussein) was executed in 2006, and U.S. forces only left Iraq a few months ago.

Yet to this person, the invasion of Iraq appears to be about as relevant as the completion of the Erie Canal.

That tweet came back to haunt Abraham Lincoln

The Washington Post has embarked upon an interesting enterprise – taking statements of Abraham Lincoln and reprinting them 150 years later – via Twitter.

For example, on November 1, 2011, @AbeLincolnWP tweeted this statement:

“The President is pleased to direct that Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan assume the command of the Army of the United States”

Of course, by 2014 @AbeLincolnWP will presumably be tweeting a different tune.

This project will presumably end in 2015. However, back in 2009, competitor TIME Magazine reprinted something from Historical Tweets, who jumped the gun:

Gr8 show tonite. Ford is the perfect venue for AAAAARRGH!!

Making toast, from fireplace to microwave – the evolution of Toastmasters communications

If you also read my Empoprise-BI business blog, you’ll see a post in a few days that discusses the software used by many Toastmasters clubs to manage their websites.

But the Toastmasters didn’t always publicize themselves on websites. After all, the Internet didn’t exist when the first Toastmasters meeting was held in Santa Ana, California in 1924.

The Toastmasters timeline records that the organization began publishing a Toastmasters magazine in December 1932. I don’t know whether they sent it to individual members via the U.S. Post Office (there was no U.S. Postal Service back then), or if they sent it in bulk to individual clubs for distribution.

In 1973, the magazine expanded to a larger 8 1/2″ x 11″ size.

By 1995, the organization had launched its website, toastmasters.org.

In 2002, they began “assisting members via email.”

In May 2009, the @toastmasters Twitter account was established.

Two months later, the organization began an e-learning program (Toastmasters Learning Connection).

By 2011, the magazine was available in digital form. Now THAT’S not exactly like the first Toastmasters book that Ralph Smedley wrote in 1928.

Then again, perhaps it is.

Speaking of printed books…

2012 January
The Chart of Motions is the last product printed on World Headquarters printing presses.

Changes in acceptable advertising, 1960 – 1980

In the United States in 1960, you could see cigarette advertisements all over the place, but you would never see a lawyer advertising.

Within twenty years, that would change.

Beginning January 1, 1971, cigarette advertising was banned on U.S. television and radio stations. Initially the ban would have started one day earlier:

“In a final concession to the broadcasters, the conferees agreed to delay for one day the blackout of cigarette commercials from December 31, 1970, to midnight January 1, 1971. That would give them a last shower of cash from the New Year’s Day football bowl games” (Wagner, 1971: 216).

As for lawyers, their State Bar Associations banned advertising until two lawyers, John Bates and Van O’Steen, challenged Arizona’s position. In 1977, the. U.S. Supreme Court ruled that outright bans on legal advertising violated the First Amendment.

So in the brief space of twenty years, the Marlboro Man left the airwaves, to be replaced by Jacoby and Meyers.

Outrun anything

If you are interesting in the topics covered in this blog, you will DEFINITELY be interested in my friend Jim Ulvog’s blog Outrun Change.

But I’m not going to talk about Ulvog’s blog right now (although I expect I’ll be touching on it in future posts here).

I’m going to talk about its title – specifically the first word in its title.

Since Ulvog is talking about change, he could have chosen a different word to use in his title. After all, running is relatively slow compared to some other transportation methods today. He could have said “Outformulaoneing change” or “Outconcordeing change.”

The word “outrun” is old – my (20+ year old) Merriam-Webster dictionary says that it’s been used since the year 1526 – but the concept of outrunning is even older. If you look at 2 Samuel 18:19-33, you can find a 3,000-year old story about Ahimaaz, who outran a Cushite so that he could be the first person to bring news to King David about a battle victory over David’s son Absalom. (Incidentally, this was several hundred years before Pheidippides’ famous run from the Battle of Marathon.)

But the benefit of the word “outrun” is that people can always understand it. Take my example “Outconcordeing.” Back in 1976, the word “Concorde” would be easily understood by people to mean “fast.” But a mere 24 years later, the word symbolized crashing. Today, the Concorde no longer exists.

All of these amazingly fast technologies – horses, buggies, Model T Fords, trains, planes, faster planes, rockets – are eventually surpassed. Today when you see a buggy in Amish country, or a Model T Ford on your local street, you think of them as quaint.

But despite these technological advances, the idea of running and outrunning still resonates. Most of us have legs, and many of us can run, and we can all find someone who can run faster than us. Therefore, “outrunning” is something that we all instinctively understand. We understood it 3,000 years ago, and (if we’re still around) we’ll understand it 3,000 years from now.

When a city unintentionally lies about its age

David Allen is a columnist with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, and he recently shared a story in his blog.

One of his readers, Rubio R. Gonzalez, happened to be looking at his water bill from the city of Pomona, California. He then noticed that the city seal on the water bill listed a founding date of 1988 for the city.

The only problem? The city was actually founded in 1888, not 1988.

Is it possible that the goddess Pomona was lying about her age?

As Allen’s post notes, the mistake had eluded everyone until Gonzalez found it.

Do you own a radio?

So anyways, I have this whole new blog that I have to write stuff for, so I began conceiving a post about the history of music distribution. I was beginning to visualize it in my brain. First you started with sheet music, and then you had 78 rpm records, followed by 45 rpm records. followed by 33 1/3 rpm records. 8-track tapes fall somewhere in there. Then you moved from 33 1/3 rpm records to cassette tapes, and from there to compact discs, and from there to digital downloads.

It was all a nice neat progression, except for the 8-track tapes part. But then I realized that I had left something out.


After all, radio has been a major music distribution service for about a century. It has had a profound influence on the other distribution media. Services such as Billboard use radio airplay as one of their major determinants of song popularity. Plus, it’s a potential revenue source for the recording companies.

“But,” you may argue, “radio is different from the other media. You can own a CD, but you can’t own something you hear on the radio.”

Well, CAN you own a CD? The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that Section 109 of the U.S. Copyright Act gives you ownership privileges, but the major record companies have consistently fought this over time.

For example, at the turn of the 20th century, book publishers tried to impose a minimum resale price on books by putting a notice in every copy. In the 1930s, record labels put “private use only, not for broadcast” notices on records in an attempt to block radio stations from playing their records without additional payment. In the 1980s, movie studios tried the same thing with video cassettes, trying to control the video rental business. Congress, the courts, and free markets have consistently rejected these efforts to undermine the first sale principle.

But that hasn’t stopped Universal Music Group (UMG). In May, UMG sued Roast Beast Music for auctioning “promo CDs” on eBay, CDs which Roast Beast Music had itself purchased from used record stores around Los Angeles.

And even if you believe that Section 109 of the U.S. Copyright Act gives you ownership of those CDs, it doesn’t necessarily allow you to own those digital downloads that you’ve purchased. Back in January 2011, Ed Bott spent some time looking over some legalese at the iTunes store. Here’s part of what he found:

You agree that the Service and certain Products include security technology that limits your use of Products and that, whether or not Products are limited by security technology, you shall use Products in compliance with the applicable usage rules established by Apple and its licensors (“Usage Rules”), and that any other use of the Products may constitute a copyright infringement. Any security technology is an inseparable part of the Products. Apple reserves the right to modify the Usage Rules at any time.

Now I will grant that there are also “usage rules” to a CD – I can’t wipe Whitney Houston’s vocal off a song, replace it with my own vocal, and sell it – but it looks like this whole idea of “ownership” is just an idea, with little basis in fact.

So your “ownership” of a digital download might be equivalent to your “ownership” of something you hear on the radio.

And if you want to test this theory, try to sell either of them.

The wealth of George Washington

Happy Washington’s Birthday! Although, as every good Virginian knows, Washington was actually born on February 11, not February 22. But that was under the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian calendar, so it’s kinda sorta on February 22 on our current calendar.

Anyway, President Washington didn’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars of salary every year that he was President. According to Fox Business, Washington’s salary was more along the lines of $25,000. However, the values of things have changed in the intervening centuries. According to 24/7 Wall St, if you were to state Washington’s net worth in today’s dollars, his net worth would be $525 million.

His Virginia plantation, “Mount Vernon,” consisted of five separate farms on 8,000 acres of prime farmland, run by over 300 slaves.

24/7 Wall St didn’t specify whether the 300 slaves were counted as part of Washington’s net worth. After all, in the laws that existed at that time, slaves were considered property, just like Washington’s carriages and wigs.

As I said before, the values of things have changed in the intervening centuries.

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