Archive for March, 2010

Reality Check: The “Fast Lane” doesn’t exist

March 30, 2010

The United States does not "legally" have a fast lane, even though drivers may consider the carpool lane or traffic lanes not assigned a truck lane to be a fast lane.I have some bad news for the drivers of the United States, including myself: we don’t have “fast lane”.  The left lane of the freeway or highway is, in the minds of drivers, a fast lane if the state designates the rightmost lane a truck lane with a lower speed limit and, therefore, the “slow lane”.  Some drivers even consider the carpool, or high occupancy vehicle (HOV), lane as a fast lane because they can maintain a faster average speed on that lane, even in traffic.  Unfortunately, despite our relative speed to slower, trailer-pulling semi trucks or sole occupants in their vehicles, the idea of a fast lane is an illusion.  No jurisdiction in the United States assigns the leftmost lane of the highway a higher speed than the highway or city speed designated by the state.  In fact, the rightmost lane is usually assigned a slower speed limit for trucks.

Where does this misconception about the fast lane come from?  We must look to Germany, home of the autobahn.  Speed limits do apply on the autobahn in inclement weather or during construction.  Otherwise, speed limits do not apply in most places.  There are also no restrictions on overtaking.  Drivers must, as much as possible, use the right lane for general driving and use the lane on their left to pass other cars.  This suggests, then, that each lane is progressively faster when viewing highway traffic from the rightmost lane towards the left.  However, this also suggests that Germany, itself, doesn’t assign the leftmost lane as the fast lane.

Should we continue referring to the leftmost lane as the fast lane?  It’s certainly nice to think that, when traffic gets too heavy in the right lanes, we have the leftmost fast lane to retreat to and get away from it all.  However, what we consider faster moving traffic is our quicker relative speed to the slower traffic.  If we want to drive in that proverbial fast lane, we must move to Germany.

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Francis M. Unson

Summer Vacation (and other breaks)

March 29, 2010

While Winter Break and Spring Break were opportunities to get away for a few days or have a stay-cation, Summer Vacation was a time to learn.From childhood until our teen years, school was one of the constants in our lives.  Our parents or guardians would enroll us in kindergarten and we would begin school in August or September.  In some parts of the United States (but not here in California), Fall Break may be observed in October.  Of course, Winter Break was always observed during the second half of December.  Spring Break would start in March or April.  The school year would end in May or June, beginning a Summer vacation that lasted two or three months.  By August or September, we found ourselves one grade higher than the year before.  The cycle repeated for the next 12 years of our young lives.

Winter Break was a time for families to get together and lasted at least two weeks.  Fall and Spring Breaks were chances for a few days to get away or have a stay-cation and may last a week or two.  Families made the most of these relatively short breaks.  Summer vacation, however, was quite longer and, as such, parents could not spend the whole time with their kids.  After all, they have bills to pay, a concept most kids are oblivious to, such as mortgage, insurance, and car payments.  They must also be able to fund the vacation they may eventually take.  However, a summer vacation to a faraway location may not be feasible for a year or two, or more.  What, then, could parents do to ease the boredom of their kids during the summer?

Fortunately, Santa Clarita’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department came to the rescue.  From what I can remember during my childhood, my parents made sure that I took part in one activity per summer, sometimes more.  The offerings were somewhat more limited during the rest of the year, and others were even seasonal, but during the summer, I was spoiled for choice.  Therefore, at one point or another, I ended up taking up swimming, Kali (Filipino stick fighting), and a CPR class.  I believe there were other classes, but they escape me at the moment.

When I look back, I’m glad I had taken those classes.  I had my video game systems, of course, but even I grew tired of them.  My parents made sure that, despite Summer Vacation, I was still learning something new.

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Francis M. Unson

Retweeting: A Matter of Style

March 29, 2010

I have retweeted (RT) many worthy tweets, and what I considered worthy varied greatly: literary and humorous quotes; news articles; #FollowFriday recommendations; Twitter Tips; “Top” lists of various sizes (usually 10); and Twitter Tips, among many others. Given the nature of Twitter “standards”, which are set in sand at high tide rather than stone, I have concluded that there is no right or wrong way to retweet.

Twitter: Is there a right or wrong way to retweet a tweet?  Twitter applications such as HootSuite and Seesmic have RT functions based on how people retweet.  How do YOU retweet?  It's up to you.As an example, I will take a tweet from @TweetSmarter and show you the number of ways I would find myself retweeting it. If you want to read the original tweet, click here.

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

If I retweeted that through my web browser or my cell phone, it would look like this:

RT @TweetSmarter How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

I would type out the entire tweet and, as a result, forget the colon (:) after @TweetSmarter. Using the retweet function in HootSuite or Seesmic, where the colon is duly added, the retweet would look like this:

RT @TweetSmarter: How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

Some Tweeps are very conscious of making sure that the original headline remains in front of the tweet. Therefore, the retweet would look like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I RT @TweetSmarter

The tweet, as of this writing, has been retweeted nine times (albeit through Twitter’s Retweet link on its web interface). When many people retweet a tweet many times over, it looks something like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I RT @TweetSmarter @SarahJL @QuantumGood @TwitterHelper

I have read the ongoing debate about the usefulness of “via“. I have seen via used a number of ways. One of my followers, it seems, refuses to use RT at all, so their retweets would look something like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I /via @TweetSmarter

Other users use RT for unique tweets, as shown earlier, and “via” when retweeting a popular tweet. Their retweets would look this this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I /via @TweetSmarter @SarahJL @QuantumGood @TwitterHelper

I consider using “via” in the event that I come across a tweet that has been retweeted multiple times, as well. However, I would still use RT for the user from whom I received the tweet directly. Therefore, my retweet would look like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I RT @TweetSmarter /via @SarahJL @QuantumGood @TwitterHelper

Ironically, my first encounter with Twitter was at Barnes and Noble, the brick-and-mortar bookstore, where I read all about it. One of the books described the use of “via” as a way of dealing with a multi-generation retweet as shown above. However, “via” can also be used to cite offline sources such as out-of-print books, non-digitized resources, and people who are not on Twitter. The following examples are hyperbolic in nature, but please bear with me:

The debate of the best way to retweet will go on, but what matters most is that you find a retweet style with which you are most comfortable.

***EDIT***

Since the time of this writing, a few more ways to retweet have emerged.  For example, when you place the cursor over a tweet, you will see the following options at the upper right corner:

Is there a right or wrong way to retweet a tweet?  Twitter applications such as HootSuite and Seesmic have RT functions based on how people retweet.  How do YOU retweet?  It's up to you.

When you click on the Retweet link, you will get a confirmation window asking if you would like to retweet to your followers.  When you click on the Retweet button, the tweet on that user’s personal and public timeline will look like this.  Notice the green arrow at the upper right corner and that the blue Retweet link has changed to a green Retweeted link:

Is there a right or wrong way to retweet a tweet?  Twitter applications such as HootSuite and Seesmic have RT functions based on how people retweet.  How do YOU retweet?  It's up to you.

For years, the design and usage of Twitter was shaped by we, the users, but over time, Twitter decided to make it easier for newer users to retweet a user’s tweet.  While I certainly use the built-in retweet function as a matter of convenience, I still prefer using the older methods outlined earlier in this blog since it allows me to share retweet credit, especially of a tweet that was popular or highly retweeted.

Speaking of older forms of retweeting, I have seen a twist these types of RTs, typically from mobile phone Twitter clients:

@TweetSmarter Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC] http://on.mash.to/GJCYC8

RT @TweetSmarter Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC] http://on.mash.to/GJCYC8

“RT @TweetSmarter: Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC] http://on.mash.to/GJCYC8

In the first example, the Twitter client has encapsulated @TweetSmarter and the original tweet in “smart quotes”; the second tweet encapsulates the RT at the very beginning, sans colon (:); and the third tweet includes the (:) after the username.  I can see how the use of quotation marks help make very explicit the contents of the original tweet, especially if a tweet is cited in an academic paper.  Furthermore, any comments, remarks, or replies would be made outside the quoted tweet.  I highly recommend this form of retweeting as it mimics printed language.

The final method of retweeting that I have come across is a retweet of sorts.  While I have not used it very much, it has been around for some time.  It is called the “modified tweet”, or MT for short.  I have seen tweets labeled as such and it typically happens when a tweet is almost 140 characters in length but the addition of, say, RT @username, causes the tweet to exceed the limit.  Should a person endeavor to make the tweet shorter with shortcuts (e.g. change “late” to “l8″, “to” or “too” to “2”, etc), the resulting retweet is, character for character, not the same tweet anymore although, when read, it is the same as the original tweet in content, context, and meaning.  Let’s take a look at the following tweet (this is the original):

Interesting to hear how @WSJ taps into different demographics by leveraging platforms such as #pinterest #instagram & #YouTube #bdi1

The original tweet had eight characters to spare. When I tried to retweet it:

RT @socialmedia2day: Interesting to hear how @WSJ taps into different demographics by leveraging platforms such as #pinterest #instagram & #YouTube #bdi1

I went over by 13 characters.  I went to the website, 140it, which “makes your tweet less than 140 characters” but, unfortunately, it managed to shrink the tweet by just two characters:

MT @socialmedia2day: Interesting 2 hear how @WSJ taps in2 different demographics by leveraging platforms such as #pinterest #instagram & #YouTube #bdi1S

It is worth mentioning that any tweet you shrink down, manually or by a website, will turn any tweet into a modified tweet, and the previous example would count as an MT.  Despite using the website, however, the MT was still 151 characters in length.  In order to create a 140-character MT, this is what I did, without mercy:

MT @socialmedia2day: Intrstng 2 hear hw @WSJ taps in2 dffrnt dmografx by leveraging platforms such as #Pinterest #Instagram & #YouTube #bdi1

I believe I have seen a line drawn in the sand regarding how to retweet.  Users who have been on Twitter for a few years such as myself tend to retweet with the methods I outlined when I first published this blog in 2010, while newer users tend to use the built-in Retweet link.  However method you choose to retweet other users’ tweets, what you’re trying to achieve when you retweet is engaging that user, talking to and following them.  If they thank you for retweeting, reply in kind, because sooner or later, another user will retweet something you post, and thanking them for doing so will create a new chance to meet and engage new people.

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Francis M. Unson

Social Media Myths

March 26, 2010

Social media myths that make small business owners think twice about adopting it as part of their daily operations.

Has your small business taken the plunge and adopted social media for your operations?  If not, you’re not alone.  Small businesses have slowly adopted social media to some degree or another.  Only about 1% of small businesses in the United States and Canada use social media.

Why the slow transition?  Small business owners’ perspectives about social media differ from the typical consumer who merely uses social media casually.

Here are some sobering social media myths that make small business owners think twice about adopting it as part of their daily operations.

Social media is (almost) free

Photo-sharing websites such as Photobucket and Flickr; video-sharing websites such as YouTube and Revver; content aggregators such as Digg, Delicious, and Technorati; blogging websites such as WordPress and Blogger; and microblogging websites such as Twitter are free to use.

However, when business owners factor in the time, skill, expertise, and money involved developing a corporate marketing program that incorporates interactivity, allows user-generated content and, possibly, e-commerce, the price tag of at least $50,000 per quarter makes social media nearly impractical.

Anybody can (say they can) do it

Most people can upload pictures or videos, submit the URL of their website or blog to a website search engine submission site, write a blog, Tweet, or do any combination of these things.  However, experienced social media marketers would have the savvy to incorporate interactivity throughout all of this into an effective online marketing campaign.

Read about the rest of the social media myths.

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Francis M. Unson

Before you buy anything that costs more than $20…

March 26, 2010

Ask yourself these four questions:

  • Do I really need it?
  • If yes, can I afford to pay for it with cash?
  • If so, do I already own an equivalent item?
  • If I don’t own any such item, have I shopped around for the lowest priced item?

Before you buy anything that costs more than $20, ask yourself the questions in the blog.If you have a satisfactory answer for all questions, give yourself another 24 hours before making the purchase.  You may end up not making the purchase at all and, thus, save yourself some money.  Try asking yourself these questions on your next shopping trip.  The more you can prevent instances of impulse shopping, the more money you will find in your wallet over time.

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Francis M. Unson

Spelling: A Test of Communications

March 25, 2010

The Twitter Spelling Test

Quiz created by Oatmeal

I took the “Twitter Spelling Test” that came to me through a link that Marc Parent (@mparent77772) re-tweeted from another Tweep.  The spelling test consisted of 20 questions, consisting of words that amounted to just a handful of the most misspelled words in the English language.  I took the test and answered all 20 questions correctly.

That made me wonder about a particular group of people who I don’t really identify with: linguistic purists.  People classified as such are very pedantic about the spelling and grammar of themselves as well as others  They are quick to point out others’ mistakes and fix their own, downplaying the latter as though it never happened.  These people have strong language skills and may have gone to college.  While their true calling is along the lines of author, journalist, or editor, their encounters with the less educated in the blogosphere, Craigslist, or Twitter are often contentious.  In short, they maintain what they perceive is standard language.

Why is linguistic purism ultimately a lost cause?  Language evolution is an unstoppable process, especially as a culture develops and must give new words to the developments, discoveries, and inventions therein.  This aspect of language evolution involves vocabulary.  Grammar changes over time, as well.  A millennium ago, for example, English was much more inflected, in the same way that standard German is today.  Even the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, written in Middle English, would be rife with what a modern spell checker would consider spelling mistakes.

Are the spelling errors of today going to become the correct way to spell the words in the future?  Not likely, especially with language standardization.  However, spelling tests should make people more aware of spelling standards where they live.  (The spelling test was careful not to include “regionalisms“.)  Poor spelling in one’s Tweet, essay, or blog does, after all, amount to communicating poorly.  Unfortunately, we continue to accept the excuse that “[they] got [their] point across” or “You know what I mean”.  Since poor spelling is poor communications, when are you going to start telling people, “No, I don’t know what you mean.  Please make the following spelling corrections”?

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Francis M. Unson

Wii Sports Warm-Ups, Part 5: Boxing

March 23, 2010

The fifth and final blog in the Wii Sports Warm-Ups series involves Wii Boxing and the muscles involved in real-life boxing.  The physically demanding sport requires warming up and exercising a considerable array of muscle groups spanning almost the entire length of the person’s body, from the shoulder and neck muscles to the upper leg muscles.  Three-minute rounds of fighting, interrupted by 30 or 60-second rest breaks between rounds, demands aerobic and anaerobic conditioning so that boxers could last 12 or 15 rounds.  Body conditioning involves developing upper and lower body strength as well as good hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

The fifth and final blog in the Wii Sports Warm-Ups series involves Wii Boxing and the muscles involved in real-life boxing.Much of the wear and tear that takes place on the body during boxing occurs in the upper torso area, so boxers focus on strengthening the core muscles in order to absorb punches to the body.

Target muscle groups

Core muscles

Offensively, the act of punching and the subsequent impact requires conditioning the shoulder, neck, arm, and hand muscles.

Shoulder and neck muscles

Deltoids

Latissimus dorsi

Pectoralis Major

Sternocleidomastoid

Trapezius

Teres major and minor

Arm muscles

Biceps brachii and Triceps brachii

Hand muscles

  • Palmaris longus
  • Abductor pollicis brevis
  • Flexor pollicis brevis

The following video contains a series hand, finger, and forearm exercises for martial artists, and boxing, as a martial art, is no exception.  The exercises highlighted in the video strengthens the hand muscles listed above.

Why work out the legs in a sport that seems not to use them?  A good amount of the power in a boxer’s punch comes from their lower body.  Working out the upper leg muscles and hips helps boxers develop more explosive punches.

Upper leg muscles and hips

Quadriceps

Hamstrings

First-time players of Wii Boxing found themselves the most sore (and out-of-shape) out of all five sports available in Wii Sports.  Whether you’re a virtual Wii boxer or a real boxer, warming up the muscle groups outlined in this blog will help you reduce injuries, increase your endurance, and get the most out of the athleticism that virtual and real boxing needs.

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Francis M. Unson

MagicJack: How to Call Internationally for Free

March 22, 2010

Why didn’t I call this blog,

“MagicJack: How to Make International Calls for Free”?

I consider making an international call the following: picking up the phone, dialing 011, and then the rest of the phone number.  I have some bad news: it is nigh impossible to make free international calls this way, with any telephone device.

If you want to call your friends or family overseas for free, using a MagicJack can help you make calling internationally for free.However, there is a way to call internationally for free.  For example, if you’ve called customer service of, say, your cable or credit card company, some of those calls reached India, the Philippines, or even Argentina.  Even though your call to customer service started with a toll-free 800 number, the call to the call centers in different countries were, no doubt, international.

How do you call internationally for free?  First, a list of items you need:

  • MagicJack
  • Computer
  • Internet Connection, preferably high-speed or broadband
  • A regular phone

Here are the instructions for account setup:

  1. Purchase a MagicJack.  They are available in many places such as department stores, office supply stores, and even gas station mini marts.  Trust me, I saw the MagicJack being sold side-by-side with cigarettes at 7-11.  They retail between US$20-$40 but are worth the initial investment.
  2. Turn on your computer.  Install the MagicJack in an open USB port.  The device will connect to the company’s main server, download additional files and begin setup.  Do not install the regular phone into the MagicJack at this time.
  3. If you are so inclined during setup, you may choose to register a second MagicJack, opt to start with a five-year contract immediately for additional savings, or order vanity phone numbers.  For the sake of these instructions, decline these offers.  You will also be offered pre-paid minutes for international calls.  Decline this offer.
  4. When choosing a phone number, provide your city, state, and area code.  A phone number will be assigned and will become the phone number local to your area.
  5. Once setup is complete, plug the phone into the MagicJack.  Incoming calls test: Call the new phone number from your landline or cell phone.  Outgoing calls test: Call your landline or cell phone from the phone connected to the MagicJack.
  6. This is the most important stepMail the MagicJack and phone to your friend or family member overseas.  All they have to do is connect the MagicJack to a USB port in their computer.  Once the software is installed, they can make their own calls back home using the log in information you provided during setup, and all calls will appear local.

The MagicJack can save you a lot of money, especially if you call friends or relatives in different countries very frequently.  You must setup MagicJack correctly, however, so that you and your friends and relatives can call and receive calls internationally for free.  The MagicJack may even provide you with new ways to connect with parts of the world where the cost of telecommunications is very high.  Calling internationally for free with the MagicJack couldn’t be more simple.

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Francis M. Unson

Space Exploration’s New Frontier: Social Media

March 19, 2010

Space Exploration's New Frontier: Social MediaSocial media, seemingly the domain of earth-bound people such as myself, has had many enthusiasts in the U.S. space program since 2008.  Veronica McGregor of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other panelists addressed the topic of space exploration as a social experience at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival.  In fact, a number of astronauts live Tweet from space such as @Astro_mike, @Astro_soichi, and @Astro_Jeff.  (By all means, follow them on Twitter!)

Panelist Nick Skytland, co-founder of openNasa.com, a collaborative experiment in open, transparent and direct communication about the U.S. space program, has recognized the benefits of bringing discussions about space exploration into the channels of public conversation such as Facebook.com/NASA.gov, @NASA, and their OpenNASA.com blog.  Skytland’s current push across channels encourages participation in President Barack Obama’s open government initiative, which urges citizens to communicate directly with lawmakers about issues and programs that matter to them.

Panelist Amanda Stiles, online community manager and Google Liaison for the Google Lunar X Prize, stressed making today’s generation excited about space exploration.  Dave Masten, private entrepreneur, discussed working on a more sustainable way to make trips to the moon and encouraged this generation to become scientists and engineers so that the U.S. stays on the space exploration forefront.  Read more

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Francis M. Unson


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