Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Web Secret 416: Intermezzo

By the time you will be reading this post, I will be in Italy.

So it seems especially à propos to offer an intermezzo.

In the culinary world, an intermezzo is a small dish of sorbet offered as a palate cleanser between courses during a fancy meal.

This is my attempt at a blog equivalent.

Most everyone in the US has seen "The Wizard of Oz," the great 1939 film based on a book by L. Frank Baum - most of us more than once.

But the true Baum aficionado has also read his other Oz books, the most remarkable of which is "The Marvelous Land of Oz."

The basic plot of the novel is as follows:

A little boy, Tip, escapes from his evil guardian, the witch Mombi, with the help of a walking wooden figure with a jack-o'-lantern head named Jack Pumpkinhead (brought to life with the magic Powder of Life Tip stole from Mombi), as well as a living Sawhorse (created from the same powder). Tip ends up on an adventure with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman to help Scarecrow recapture his throne from General Jinjur's army of girls.

As an elementary school aged child, I devoured the book - until the end, when I was astonished to learn that Tip was actually a girl - the Princess Ozma and the true ruler of Oz. Tip was transformed into a boy to prevent him (her?) from exercising his power.

At first, Tip (and the reader) is utterly shocked to learn this, but his friends help him accept his destiny, and a spell is performed which restores him to her true self and to her rightful position as the child Queen of Oz.

As a 10 year old, I spent hours trying to wrap my mind around this stunning turn of events.

But as a 21st century adult, I think this is the first children's book ever written about a transgender person - and a metaphor for transformation.

Who knows the true intent of the author, but Baum was an ardent support of women's suffrage, and a friend of Susan B. Anthony.

A girl (Dorothy) was the hero of his first novel. And the Land of Oz features a female General - Jinjur - who leads the women of Oz in a revolt, armed with knitting needles. They succeed and make the men do the household chores. Jinjur proves to be an incompetent ruler, but Ozma, a female advocating gender equality, is ultimately placed on the throne.

Shouldn't "The Land of Oz" be made into a movie, and tout de suite?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Web Secret 415: Social Media Facts version 2016

Pretty much every year, I post the latest social media stats.

These posts have a sameness to them: "Look, billions of people are using Facebook!"

It gets boring after a while, so it was refreshing to see a more thoughtful approach. Thank you Joel Lee, for 12 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2016

You know the drill - here is my condensed version of that article.

1. Over 75% of all Internet users use social media. These kinds of sites are now the bread and butter of modern Web activity.

2. For younger users, Instagram is more important than Facebook and Twitter. The younger generation considers Facebook and Twitter "old school".

3. LinkedIn is the most important social network for professionals. Period.

4. Most social networks are evenly split between males and females… except Pinterest.

5. For the 18-49 age group, YouTube has greater reach than any cable network. Read that again. Process.

6. YouTube is massive, but Facebook is still bigger. "Look, billions of people are using Facebook!" Can't escape Facebook.

7. The largest online dating site is actually a social network: Badoo. And I have never heard of it. Then again, I'm not in the dating business.

8. Reddit is the best social network for large-scale communities. Reddit looks like a website from the 1990s. I don't get Reddit.

9. Social media encourages the development of more extreme viewpoints. It’s called the echo chamber effect and it arises when social media users are allowed to “follow” things that they already believe and “block” anything that might dissent from those beliefs.

10. Teens need to be made more aware of privacy and security issues. Only 9% of teenaged social media users even have concerns about the privacy of their data.

11. One wrong social media post can ruin your life for good. Read that again. Process.

12. Revenge porn and accidental leaks are growing threats. See number 11.

PS: Do not use Facebook for professional purposes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Web Secret 414: old technology never dies

You weren't there, a couple of months ago, when I read a New York Times article "Disruptions: The Lure of Technologies Past".

But I was smirking.

In that article, reporter Nick Bilton wrote about a Venice, CA store called Vnyl:

"The store sells vinyl records, and the kids who gather there are often in awe."

I’d say half of the teens who hang out in my store have never seen a record player before,”

“They will walk up to the turntable, and they have no concept where to put the needle.” But once they figure out that the needle goes into the outermost groove, ...[they]... are hooked."

"Whenever a new technology comes out, we often believe it will make an older technology obsolete."

Surprise, people still take photographs using film. And they still use newspapers and books. Records. USB thumb drives. Flip phones. And pagers.

The reason I was smirking is that I had posted about this as far back as 2011, "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

And in May 2014, I wrote "...the Internet has made possible a heightened connection to the past, and much that is retro, vintage or even obsolete. A chance Google search led me to the wonderful, a blog that will help you remember, and sometimes find, objects from the past."

So you read it here first.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Web Secret 413: Square Mouth

Later this month, I am going on a trip abroad with my spouse and semi-adult children.

This is not a frequent occurrence and involved planning on the scale of Operation Overlord and travel via trains, planes and automobiles.

One of my brothers reminded me to buy travel insurance. Being a cautious sort, he recommended trip cancellation, medical coverage, repatriation (ie medevac), and lost baggage.

I hate buying travel insurance.

I always feel inept and ripped off. Am I buying too much? Too little? Is the company red flagged by the Better Business Bureau?

I prepared for a torturous experience.

And then I lucked out, my brother told me to use

Square Mouth does one thing, and one thing only: travel insurance.

You go onto the site and they walk you through a series of simple questions (names and ages of travelers, cost of trip, etc.) This takes a couple of minutes.

Then with a click of the mouse you get a list of 25 different options for coverage from different companies at different price points. Everything is clearly and simply explained.

You can select offers for comparison of cost and benefits.

You pick your coverage and pay.

You are offered a one sheet summary of your choice to take along on the vacation.

And that's it - start to finish - 15 minutes.

I wish everything in my life worked half as well.