Thursday, December 06, 2007

Insurance Woes

Wow, two posts in a day!

I've needed to rant about insurance for quite some time, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Mostly the rant is about health insurance. Car insurance and Home insurance, for the most part, I don't have a problem with. Life insurance also seems okay, if not quite the investment now that it used to be.

But health insurance is another matter.

We're generally healthy, but we keep insurance against some catastrophe happening that would require extensive hospitalization. Along with that insurance comes a wide variety of services that are covered. It sounds great when you read the policy.

We're pretty picky when it comes to doctors, so it takes us a while to find a doctor we like. We'd found one in Columbus we went to once a year or two, for a physical. The doctor was in our insurance network, so we figured everything would be covered.


The visit to the doctor's was covered, but lab work that the doctor sent out to an out of network lab (the only lab that doctor used) was not covered. Even though that lab work was required by the in-network doctor.

We've also had doctors we liked stop taking health insurance at all, because of what the hoops the insurance companies make them go through, and the effect on the cost of services. This seems to be a growing trend.

I'd love to see some sort of change in the way health insurance works. We'd be happy if, for a fraction of what we're paying now, we could get only catastrophic health insurance. We'd gladly pay for doctor's visits, which happen infrequently and often aren't covered anyway, ourselves.

Let's hope that this becomes one of the election year issues here in the United States.

End of the Semester

It's nearing the end of the semester here, so my schedule has shifted into "hurry hurry" mode.

I'd caught up on my grading a few weeks ago, so I don't have that much of a backlog to get through, but there is some. I also have to print and copy exams, make sure that I've put review notes up, verify when all the exams are to be held, etc, etc.

Next week are the actual final exams, so I'll have a lot of grading to do then. Luckily, my exams are mostly spread out through the week, so I'll try to grade Tuesday's exam while the Wednesday crowd is taking theirs, and so on. Hopefully by the weekend I'll only have one set of exams to grade.

Grades are due Tuesday the 18th, so everything has to be done by then, regardless. No matter what, it always seems that I'm rushing around that Monday trying to put the finishing touches on grades, and last minute emails with students who aren't happy about their grade or want to make up an assignment they missed.

After Tuesday, though, the semester is officially done for me. Then I get to start preparing for the next one!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gaming, Gaming, Gaming!

I spent part of last weekend at a gaming convention.

I normally go to this convention every year to run some games and to play in some games, but this year I had something else to do part of the weekend, so I was only able to run a couple of games.

One, Saturday night, was a Wild Western horror game. I got to the convention about 6pm on Saturday, and my game was at 8pm. They have signup sheets pasted on the walls, and I could see that only one person was signed up. I needed at least four people, and could take up to six. So things weren't looking good.

I spent an hour or so trying to convince people to play, only to have them go into other games. I also hadn't realized when I scheduled the game at 8pm that the convention was having a couple of parties at the same time. Only hardcore gamers pass up parties for gaming, so it definitely didn't look good.

I went down at about a quarter till eight, and saw three people signed up for the game. I could work with three. Unfortunately, those three never showed up!

While I was waiting for them, a group of people started eating at the table I was supposed to use for the game. I got to talking a bit with them, only to find out that they were big fans of the game system I was using to run the game. When 8pm came and went without the other players showing up, those six played in it instead.

So it all worked out.

The game Sunday was a straight Wild Western murder mystery game, no horror involved. I ended up with 12 people playing it it, which is a good number. We got started a bit late, and had to end early, so the game was a little rushed in spots, but I think everyone had a good time.

I was pretty beat by the time I got home Sunday, though!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How Much To Tip

I've always tipped people based on how much I enjoyed their service. Friendly people get bigger tips from me. I'm a sucker for someone who makes it seem like they're actually enjoying their job, too.

I took a recent survey on tipping, which is why this subject came up. Here are my answers to the survey:

What about you? How much do you tip, and why?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Well, I've moved to the town where I teach college.

This move has been over a year in the making, if you count from when we started looking for a house. We finally bought one in May, but it needed a lot of work. The previous owners hadn't really taken care of the place, so there was lots of fixing up. Plus, we wanted a few new bits and pieces added, like a screened in deck. Construction is still going on, but we moved in anyway so we could get our old house on the market before the holidays.

Moving was a mess! My daughter was car sick driving to the new house the day the movers were bringing all the furniture. She wasn't able to keep down any food until late afternoon, after the movers were finished. After that she's been adjusting well, but she still has little tantrums now and then. The move has been a big stress for her, so hopefully she'll relax more and more as we get settled into the new house.

It's been great being able to walk to school, instead of driving over an hour. But I have loads of grading to catch up on that I wasn't able to do the week of the move, so I'm using all that extra time grading and unpacking!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Being Sick

I didn't manage to miss the usual round of flu that hits a college when students come back together after the summer this year.

My daughter came down with it first, and only had a couple of days of being sick. So when my wife and I started showing symptoms, we figured we'd have a couple of days of feeling bad and that'd be that.

Apparently my daughter's immune system kicks butt. So far we've been sick for about a week, and have only just started feeling better. It'll probably be another week before we're back to 100%.

It's interesting being feel like you're going to die, even though you know you won't. You can't manage to get motivated to do any of the things you really need to do (after all, if you're going to die, what use is grading papers?)

Getting better is almost as bad as getting sick. You have to make the transition from laying around resting to resuming your normal responsibilities. It's a big stress on your body, since you usually have to do this before you're 100%. So you end up feeling even more exhausted at the end of the day than you did when you were sick.

Maybe I'm still running a fever? Or does anyone else think about things like this?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Language Is So Limiting!

My daughter is just a bit over two-years old and isn't saying many words yet. The words she does say are generally announcements, very deliberately pronounced and used for a specific purpose.

When she really wants to communicate, she uses a combination of sign language and vocalizations. I have to say, she does a much better job of getting her point across like this than most people do with words.

For example, using words I might say "That was huge!" and someone would understand that I meant something was larger than normal. But my daughter would use her vocalization that means "big", and exaggerate it quite a bit, and you'd know for certain the she was talking about something HUGE!

We tend to leave out the emotional aspect of communication when we use words, and that's such a big part of communication anything effectively.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

MDA Jail & Bail

I participated in the Muscular Dystrophy Association's local Jail and Bail fundraiser today.

They're supposed to choose prominent people from the community, the sorts of people who have large networks and can raise a lot of money for the cause.

Somehow they ended up with me.

They actually pick a lot of people from the community, so there were many people who weren't highly placed executives. I raised about $400, mostly by sending emails to nearly everyone I knew (if I missed you, sorry!)

I included a lot of my ex-students from Franklin University in the list, many of whom are international students. I had some of them contact me, worried that I really was going to jail. I hadn't stopped to think that they wouldn't have heard about this sort of fundraiser before!

The event was a lot of fun. For every so many dollars you raised they gave you poker chips, and then they had an organization there running casino games. I played blackjack and actually won, which never happens when I'm playing with real money. I learned to play craps...I did well, but I'm glad I wasn't using real money. There's a lot to keep track of in that game.

All in all, it was the most fun I've ever had in jail!

They'll leave the web page for donations up for another month, so if you feel like you want to donate to a worthy cause, you can go to my donation page.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Starting Out With Pay Per Post

I've recently joined payperpost, a marketplace where you can get paid to write blog posts.

Before you start to worry, I don't intend to have every post I write here be a paid post, and I don't intend to start writing reviews for fishing lures. All the paid posts I write will be posts I would have written anyway, with the only difference being that I now get paid for it.

It was a bit of a pain to get approved by, so if you decide you want to do it here are the requirements I got hung up on as I went along:
  • Your blog must be at least 90 days old
  • Your blog must have at least 20 posts in the last 90 days
  • Your blog must display multiple posts on your front page
Not a big deal, but if you submit your blog and it isn't just right, they'll let you know what's wrong and you have to resubmit.

The marketplace on is pretty nice. Advertisers post opportunities and can restrict them to blogs with specific topics, minimum page rank, etc. The opportunities your blog qualifies for are colored differently from the ones you don't qualify for, so you can easily tell which ones to look at further.

One of the best features of is that I can now display their Review This Post badge. This allows you, if you are not currently a member of, to get paid to review one of my blog posts. You have to have a blog, of course, and it has to get approved by, but you can get paid $7.50 for reviewing on of my posts on your blog.

To take advantage of this, you click the Get Paid To Review My Post graphic in the sidebar, and then signup for Once you're a member and your blog gets approved, you'll have an opportunity that pays you to review my post. You can also provide the same deal to your readers. You can review any post, not just the ones that I was paid to write. won't make you rich, but a few extra dollars never hurts. In fact, I was paid to write this post!

Mvelopes Update

The latest word on my trouble ticket with Mvelopes, concerning their problems getting my transactions automatically from my credit union, is that they've given up.

This is really disappointing! The software looks great, and it would save loads of time over using Quicken for envelop budgeting. But just as I'd gotten into the idea of never entering another transaction again, I find out I'm going to have to manually enter all my checks.

Objectively, this isn't that big a deal. I'm already manually entering checks, and credit card, and PayPal transactions. With Mvelopes I'll only be entering checks.

Subjectively, though, it sucks. I'm yanked out of the rosy world of no data entry, back into the world where it takes time to manage my finances.

I'll get over it, I'm sure.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mvelopes First Look

I wrote before about, online budgeting software that uses the envelope budgeting concept.

I signed up for the free trial to see if it looked like I could easily switch over from Quicken. Doing envelope budgeting in Quicken is possible, but you have to jump through a number of hoops. And envelope budgeting is the absolute best way to manage your money, so I'd love to have a system that supported it directly.

Initially, Mvelopes looked great. I hit a snag when I tried to hook it up with my online banking account. Mvelopes will automatically pull recent transactions from online accounts, and it worked fine for my credit card and PayPal accounts. But it couldn't get into my online banking, because of security questions the bank forced you to answer.

I contacted Mvelopes support, and they submitted a trouble ticket. That ticket has been automatically escalated several times, and still no sign of a solution.

It's too bad. From what I saw of the software, it worked exactly the way I wanted it to work. I suppose I could use it by manually entering my banking transactions, since I have to do that in Quicken anyway, but I'd hate to start doing that and then have to adjust somehow when they get the automatic import working.

So, Mvelopes looks good, but I haven't been able to give it a good workout yet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Origins Recap

It's been about a week since Origins, and I'm just about recovered.

I played a variety of roleplaying games, both tabletop and live action. The most fun of the live action games was a Wild West game that used rubber band guns as firearms. There was one section of the adventure where we had to do the traditional shootout storming bandits in the rocks that was a lot of fun. Rubber bands don't shoot straight, though!

The Osiris Sanction was another new live action game that put you as part of a team infiltrating a computer system in virtual reality. You had to avoid the guards, hack into computer systems, pick locks, disarm bombs, and the like. It was fun, although not quite what I'm used to in live action roleplaying games. In particular, it was entirely based on the mission, there wasn't any roleplaying about it.

I also played in a couple of Call of Cthulhu games, including one live action game. Those are always a lot of fun. I normally run Call of Cthulhu games, so it's fun to play in them at conventions. If you've never played, Call of Cthulhu games are basically like a cheesy horror film where you're the star. Your character will probably go insane by the end of the game, and might even get killed. The object isn't to avoid these outcomes, but to have fun playing in the horror genre.

Finally, I played in several Quick Ass Game System games. This is a nice light roleplaying system that is suitable for pretty much any genre. The Hex Games folks who run the games at Origins are guaranteed to show you a good time, and no experience is necessary. I always try to play in as many of their games as possible.

I had the hardest time finding anything to spend money on in the dealer's room this year, which is unusual. Normally it's hard for me to not come home laden with new board games. I went with a list of games I wanted to buy, and wasn't able to find any of them there! I finally had to resort to ordering them online after the convention.

If you're in the Ohio area, check out Origins next year. It's a great time, and plenty of the games welcome complete newcomers to roleplaying. There are also tons of board games to play, and free movies pretty much constantly throughout the convention.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Well, Origins, the big gaming convention here in town, is over.

I'm exhausted! I had my best day Saturday, with three live action roleplaying games that were absolute blasts. Unfortunately, by the time I drug myself home at about one in the morning, I was so wired from the excitement of the day I couldn't get to sleep until about 7:00am.

Then it was up at 10:00am to get back in time for some afternoon games. So I'm dragging now, and will leave this post as it is. I'll write more later in the week about the games.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Painting with Child

Our basement is finished, but we had water problems and needed to replace most of the drywall. It was going to cost a couple of thousand to paint, so we had the bright idea to paint it ourselves to save some money.

I've never painted anything outside of middle-school art class.

My Mom came for a visit to help us out by playing with Amelia, our two-year old. Amelia isn't one to sit idly by while there's work to be done, though, so when she learned we were painting she kept making two signs over and over. One was her sign for "work", and the other was her sign for "everybody".

So she ended up downstairs with a brush in one hand and a roller in the other. She did great, and learned how to scrape the brush on the side of the paint can to get the excess paint off it, and how to get the excess paint off the roller. If she was a bit haphazard in where she painted, well, it was all a new and exciting experience for her.

She ended up not quite as covered in paint as I'd expected. She's really pretty good about not deliberately making a mess, but painting is messy. And she had a great time helping out.

I'm sure we violated every child labor law in the book, though. So keep it to yourself, okay?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Origins gaming convention is coming up very shortly.

For anyone who enjoys roleplaying, board gaming, card games, or pretty much any sort of game, Origins is a great place to spend three or four days playing old favorites and trying out new games. It's been our favorite summer vacation for years. Typically we're registered by January, and have our weekend gaming schedule set by May.

With a two year old in the house, we haven't even registered yet this year. We'll get there, but it's hard to say how much gaming we'll do. I do want Amelia to experience it this year, though. She loves to people watch, and a big gaming convention is great for people watching.

I'm sure we'll get some gaming in, too. It's a bit odd to be going to the convention and not have the schedule planned out in advance. We'll see what's available and what strikes our fancy, and go from there.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Envelope Budgeting Goes Online

I've been a proponent of envelope budgeting for a long time, and have run weekend courses to teach others how powerful a concept it can be. I even had a trademark on the term for a while, before letting it lapse.

The basic idea is that you put away money from your paycheck for future bills. When the bill comes due (like an insurance policy you pay yearly) you already have the money for it in the envelope and don't have to scramble for the money.

I've had on my to-do-list for years to write software to make this easier. I currently use Quicken, which is cumbersome since Quicken's savings goals don't match the concept of an envelope. As usual, when I have a great idea that I sit on for more than a year, someone else does it. To be fair, they may have had the service back then, too. It's tough finding good resources on the Internet, even with Google. is an online site for managing personal finances using the envelope system. I haven't tried it yet, since I still need to plan how to migrate over my Quicken data (or even if I need to).

While I would have created a standalone application, I can understand the reasons behind having an online system. Convenience is great for the users, and an online system can charge a monthly fee instead of a one-time payment for software.

Their fee can be as low at $7.90 a month if you prepay for 2 years. Given how much money envelope budgeting (and other aspects of improving your relationship with money) can save you, $7.90 is fairly trivial.

Getting started with envelope budgeting does require some discipline, and a willingness to really look at what you're spending. I've mentored people on this in the past, and some have run screaming (not really, but it was close) when we started to examine what they spent. The realization that you're spending more than you earn is a hard one for some people, as is the realization that a fair amount of that spending is entirely frivolous and not contributing to your quality of life.

If you're already an envelope budgeting devotee, or just looking for a great way to take charge of your personal finances, give a try.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Credit Card Rewards

While it's always been possible to apply for credit cards online, I've had the devil of a time finding cards that matched my needs. For the longest time now I've been looking for one that had the best rewards program, because we use our card for pretty much everything (we also pay it off every month, which I highly recommend...if you can't do that, stick with cash). We've been getting a gas rebate, which has been nice with gas prices lately, but there's still a lot of things we use the card for that we aren't getting any reward for.

Think about the amount of money you spend each month. Now thing about channeling that money through a credit card that gives you something back in return. It's like free money. At least that's the idea, but finding a suitable card is tough.

I recently ran across , a web site that categorizes credit cards based on different characteristics, including the type of rewards offered. I discovered that 5% cash back was the most you could get, and that only for limited categories of spending. 1% was more likely if you wanted it to apply to all your spending. The Blue Cash card seems like the one I'll go with, since it has 5% back on selected spending (including groceries, a big one for us) and 1.5% back on everything else.

I have to stress that if you're going to use a credit card for the rewards, it only makes sense if you can pay the card off every month. Otherwise you're spending more in interest than you're getting back from the card.

This is one of the techniques we've used after our debts were paid off. If you're still in debt, read through the articles at for ideas on getting out of debt, and put off the new credit card for now.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Birthday Cake

There's something about the tradition of having cake on your birthday that seems really important to some people.

My daughter had her second birthday party yesterday. My Mom seemed to really want Amelia to have cake for her birthday. On her first birthday, we gave her a birthday pear, because that was what she really was enjoying those days. Plus, she'd had reactions to wheat, so cake was out that first year.

This year we'd planned on having cake anyway, but it was funny how important it was to everyone else. So we put a couple of candles on the cake and Amelia blew them out (we'd had her practicing lately by blowing bubbles through the little bubble wands, so she had some good lung capacity).

Amelia loved the cake, and didn't bother with a fork. She just used her hands to eat it, leaving crumbs all over the place.

We've been called health food nuts before, so it won't be any surprise to those of you who know us that the cake was an applesauce cake made with a mix of rice and wheat flour. Very healthy for you! We weren't about to give Amelia a typical sugar laden cake, regardless of what everyone else wanted.

Amelia had a great time during her party, and showed everyone how she could blow bubbles, and carried her geranium she's taking care of over to show them, too. She's quite the social girl once she gets used to the crowd.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Culture of Giving

It's Memorial Day weekend, which means we spend a lot of time at Native American pow-wows.

We enjoy the drumming, the dancing, and the relaxed atmosphere. This year, I was reminded of something I'd noticed in previous years. One of the families there had lost a member, and as a way of celebrating the life of their loved one, they gave everyone at the pow-wow a small gift. They also donated half a dozen of the canvas tents used by the pow-wow to the fairgrounds hosting the event.

Whatever else you might say about Native Americans, they have a firmly ingrained culture of giving. They give to celebrate, to mourn, and as a matter of course.

That's something I need to be better at (although, if my students are reading this, that doesn't translate to giving A's in classes).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Social Networking

Social networking is all the craze these days.

In fact, that's really what web 2.0 is all about, letting people network online in varied and interesting ways.

For example, I recently started using MyBlogLog. I don't have the widget with the faces installed yet, but I do have the tracking code so I can know how many people are reading this blog, and what links they clicked when they left the blog. Not particularly useful information for a personal blog, but MyBlogLog is also about communities. There's a sense of encouragement to view other people's blogs and comment on them.

Another social networking site I've joined recently is This is specifically a social networking site for online marketers (e.g. people who want to make money online). The emphasis is on building a network of contacts for support and advice. Most problems you'll come across have already been solved by someone, and it helps if you have a place to go to ask for help.

I'm not sure what the next big thing will be for the web. If web 1.0 was about people doing their own thing individually on the web, and web 2.0 is about enabling collaboration, what will web 3.0 be about?

Maybe an extension of the crowdsourcing mentality over at Cambrian House? Predicting the stock market by the collective wisdom of communities?

I don't know, but it's entirely possible one of my students in the next few years will be the one to make it happen.

That's a fun thought!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good Intentions & More Squidoo

As a college professor, typically during summer I spend until the first of August or so doing non-school related projects (e.g. I goof off). This summer, I have the best of intentions. I want to prepare all of my material for my fall classes before I goof off for the summer.

We'll see how it goes. I've had some excuses to slack off a bit recently, since I have to order textbooks to review and they haven't arrived yet. But I have one class I want to take a completely different approach with than in the past, so there will be a significant amount of work preparing for that one.

Another intention is that I don't spend the entire summer creating new Squidoo pages. I'm not sure how I'll do at that one. I've already, since the Roleplaying With Kids lens was nominated lens of the day, written a couple more (one on Murder Mystery Party Ideas, and one on a review of a particular murder mystery party scenario, Curse of the Pharoah).

And may I just say, "Holy crap!" I just went over to Squidoo to get the links for the lenses I mentioned above, and found that Roleplaying With Kids is now ranked #25 out of over 100,000 lenses.

This is a big deal, because the lens was ranked #2,184 before being named lens of the day. It jumped to #105, then to #57, and now to #25. I know that this sort of trend cannot continue, because the lens simply doesn't get the traffic needed to sustain a high ranking (not that many people care about roleplaying with kids). Right now it's riding the lens of the day traffic. In fact, that traffic has dropped off considerably, so I can only imagine that lens rank takes the traffic in the last 7 days into account (that's a statistic shown prominently in your Squidoo dashboard).

As soon as the lens of the day traffic drops off the end of the 7 day period, the lens will start falling in rank.

But it's really cool to have one that close to #1, even if it's more or less a fluke. I'll have to resist the urge to keep writing more in the hopes of getting another one up that high.

Just as soon as I finish off the murder mystery party reviews for the other three or four scenarios I've run. ;-)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Squidoo Lens of the Day!

I've created almost a dozen lenses (web pages) at Squidoo. Some are about topics I'm passionate about, some are experiments in affiliate marketing, some are mostly placeholders I want to expand someday.

The very first lens I created was about roleplaying with kids. This is one of those subjects I'm passionate about. I firmly believe in spending quality time with your kids, and encouraging them to be creative and imaginative. Roleplaying does all that.

The lens initially was quite popular, going up to about 500 in lensrank (a mysterious quality rating that factors in the amount of traffic your lens gets, the ratings it gets, the phases of the moon, and many other things to rank each lens in order, from 1 to over 100,000). Then it started dropping steadily, going down to about 4,000.

I worked with it a bit more, getting it back up to 2,000, and pretty much figured it would stay there. When lensrank was updated last night, it was at 2,184.

Now and then, the Squidoo team picks a Lens of the Day to feature in an email sent out to all the lensmasters. Imagine my surprise when today's email featured my lens about roleplaying with kids! It's a bit like opening your daily paper to find a photo of yourself on the front page.

My lens, which typically averaged one or two visitors a day, has gotten 68 visitors in the hour or so since the email was sent (no, wait, while I was typing this post it got another 10 visitors). I'm not quite sure how to react to this. I feel like someone who was talking to himself and suddenly discovered other people were listening.

Anyway, it's a strange feeling, but I'm enjoying it. I'm glad that the lens that's getting the attention is the one I'm most proud of.

I'd encourage everyone to go over to Squidoo and create a lens or two on a topic you're passionate about. You never know who might read it!

(Another 5 people visited my lens in the last two paragraphs...where will it end?)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Surprising Find!

I did a search on myself on Google today, as a belated part of my last post (Who's Looking For You?), and found all the usual places I tend to turn up.

Except for This was the first time I'd found myself there, in fact the first time I'd heard about it. You can see my entry here.

This rating was left a few years ago (2/26/03), when I was teaching face to face at Franklin University. I was gratified to find that I'm considered to be helpful (5.0) and clear (4.0). The 3.0 in easiness is to be expected...I tend to expect a lot out of my students, and don't offer a lot of help unless they ask for it (I see value in the struggle to learn difficult topics).

I'm not sure whether I should be insulted or not that the hotness rating was a 0. I could understand a more recent rating like that (I've been teaching exclusively online at Franklin lately, so students don't get to meet me).

Ah well, I guess you can't have everything. Clarity and hotness are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum, and in a teacher clarity's more important.

At least, that's what I'll tell myself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who's Looking for You?

When I was in high school, a friend of mine was interested in making horror movies. So he'd recruit people to play zombies and record the action on an old 8mm camera. Eventually he got more and more skilled through all this, and managed to get some funding from a famous horror movie producer to make his own movie.

Before he was funded by the famous producer, I believed enough in him to lend him some money. I paid off a debt he'd owed to another person, and fronted him the money for an 8mm viewer editor. By the time the famous producer funded him, he'd apparently forgotten about my loan because I never did see any of that money.

Granted, it was only about $400, but in those days that was a lot. Recently I wondered how he'd done after we lost track of each other, and did some online searches. Turns out he's still directing horror movies and has founded his own studio (more about him at ). I was pleased to see that I had a mention in the credits of the movie he'd worked on while we were in high school.

But I still haven't seen any of the $400.

All this got me to thinking. How do you know who's looking for you? What sort of information will someone find out about you if they do an online search?

Up until now, it's been fairly hard to know who is searching for you. Unless you're famous, the chances are good that nobody searches for you often enough for the search engines to take notice. Generally you need at least one search a month for the search engines to be able to report the search in a keyword tool.

There is, however, an option. There's a website called Squidoo, where you can easily create a web page about any topic you like. Including yourself! The great thing about Squidoo is that web pages on Squidoo rank quite highly on Google. So a web page about yourself on Squidoo is probably going to be one of the first results if someone searches for you on Google.

This way you can help shape the sort of information people find about you when they search for you. You can take it a step farther, too, and find out where those people are located by using and tracking your visitors to your Squidoo page. Or you can put a form on your Squidoo page that will allow people to contact you.

Squidoo also gives you a little money back each month for creating web pages, so you'll probably find yourself creating more than just a page about yourself. Create pages about your hobbies, your likes and your dislikes, etc.

To get started with Squidoo, sign up here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Adults and Babies

I've ranted a bit about this before, but it never ceases to amaze me.

My daughter is just about two years old now. Over the past couple of years I've watched various adults interact with her on their first meetings, and generally the fall into one of two categories.

Some people treat her with the same respect they treat other adults. They talk to her like an intelligent person, they respect her personal space, and generally seem like they see who she is.

The other group assumes that since she's a baby (well, toddler now...two years went by so fast!) they have an automatic license to interact with her on an intimate level. Touching her feet, caressing her cheek, holding her, not acknowledging the boundaries that she is clearly setting, that sort of thing. And all of this without ever once asking her permission.

I just don't get it. If they treated any adult stranger like this, they'd have every right to expect an indignant response. But there seems to be this need for adults to bond with every baby they see. I'm not quite sure what the root cause is, but I know that the second category of people far outnumbers the people who instantly treat her with respect.

Well, that's enough of a rant for now. It'll be interesting to see how old she has to be before the second category starts treating her differently.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Yahoo Answers

I've recently discovered Yahoo Answers.

Yes, I know it's been around forever, and as a self-respecting computer geek I really should have known about it before. I actually did know about it, but had never taken a look at it. I finally took a look at it, and saw a question I knew how to answer. So I answered it.

Now I'm hooked. I think it's worse than an online game, because when you get hooked on an online game you get to feel bad for being hooked on a game. Eventually the self-loathing gets to the point where you can break away from the game and do something else. But with Yahoo Answers, you're actually helping people.

It's hard to feel bad about helping people. Even if you're doing it online. A lot.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lost Your Password?

I teach at a local college, and one of the courses I teach is the Intro to Computers course. We cover a lot of material, including the Microsoft Office tools.

If there's one thing that I want students to remember about Microsoft Office, it's this: Don't forget your password!

Here's the scenario. You have an Excel spreadsheet that contains confidential information, so you protect it with a password. This is a feature built into Excel. When you do a File->Save As, go to the Tools->General Options menu (the Tools menu on the Save As dialog, not the main one). You can enter a password. Thereafter, if someone wants to open the file, they need the password.

This is great from a confidentiality perspective. The problem is, people are always forgetting their passwords. This is apparently a big enough business that programs are sold for the sole purpose of recovering these passwords. And it's not only Excel and Word, but zip files, Quicken files, etc etc. If you can password protect it, you'll eventually lose the password.

Password Recovery Solutions is where I usually send people who've forgotten a password. The chance are good they'll have a product that'll recover the password for you. You'll pay for the product of course, but that's the cost of forgetting the password in the first place.

My advice? Don't use passwords on files unless it's absolutely positively necessary.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Does Your Writing Tell Your Gender?

The Gender Genie website says it can tell your gender based on a sample of your writing.

I tried it with some old posts from this blog, and they all came out male, which is right. Then I tried it with some newer posts from another blog I write, and they all came out female. Seems like it has more to do with writing style than gender. In particular, there are certain words that they say are "female" words, and certain words are "male" words.

And they're not talking about "flowers" and "cars", but words like "if" and "a". Yes, strangely enough, the use of proper grammar and including all the articles of speech can affect your gender. At least, it can affect what gender Gender Genie thinks you are.

Part of the problem with systems like this is that the words chosen as "female" and "male" were made by analyzing the writing of men and women, and then running the words they use through a magic computer blender to see which words were gender specific.

But that sort of technique doesn't cross educational and cultural divides well, or even deal well with people who are into different hobbies than the original population.

The Gender Genie would be a lot more useful if they had the option to correct the system's prediction and feed that back into the calculations, so it could become more accurate over time and adjust to changing cultural and societal influences.

Or maybe it's just an interesting waste of a few minutes. Either way, have fun with it!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Another Game

A quick update to yesterday's post. I came across another real time online game, Human Age. In this one you try to keep a caveman alive and help him (or her) to evolve through various ages of history.

Somehow, cavemen have jobs and markets and money, but other than that it's an interesting enough game. Each age is supposedly different, so by the time you figure out prehistory and start to get bored with it, you'll be able to move onto the next age. Each age has certain requirements for moving on...for cavemen, one of the requirements is learning how to make fires.

It's real time in the sense that once every day you get some benefit from what you're doing, so you should expect to check back in daily to adjust what's happening with your caveman.

Virtual human development game

free human development game

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Online Games

There's a new breed of online games out there since the last time I was looking.

Normally, the term "real time" means something fast paced that doesn't wait for you to think about what you want to do. These days, on the web, "real time" means just that...actions take minutes or hours to complete.

Take Knight Fight, for example. You take on the role of a knight, and can choose to be good or evil, or somewhere in between. You go on missions, you can attack or be attacked by other knights, get better at your skills and buy better equipment. Missions take a certain amount of real time. You get one hour a day of missions that gain you experience (experience is what you'll use to improve skills), and the rest of the time can be spent on missions that gain you gold (which can be used to buy new equipment, and for other things). You want to spend your gold when you get it, since if you're defeated by another knight they'll steal part of your gold.

Tribal Wars is another example of the new breed of online real time games. It's a basic resource management game, with the option of attacking other villages or teaming up with other villages for protection. All actions take a certain amount of real time. Tribal Wars is nice in that when an action is complete they send you an email letting you know. The email contains a link that takes you right to your village so you can plan your next action.

Various other games limit you on the number of actions you can take each day (e.g. Kingdom of Loathing), but the new games are more tied to each action taking a certain amount of real time. And from the standpoint of a website trying to get repeat traffic, that makes a lot of sense. Visitors return on a regular basis to take their next actions in the game.

These games are all free to play. Presumably they're supported by advertising, although most of the advertisements seem to be for other free games of the same type.

In any case, they're a nice diversion every now and then during the day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Back again

Wow, it's been some time since my last post here!

That's what having a baby will do for you. Amelia's just about two years old now, and keeping me quite busy!

I thought I'd make a quick post carrying on with the topic of the last one. Cambrian House is alive and well, and still working to help their community create and implement business ideas. It's well worth a look, and now you even get a share of stock in Cambrian House just for signing up for their community.

I've also started another blog called Online Opportunity, where I talk about how to make money online (or sometimes, how to not make money online). That's been a hobby of mine for years, so I figured I'd blog about it to help others who are just starting out.

I'll try to keep this blog updated, too.