Neil Armstrong, first to walk on the moon dies

Decades after his walk, Armstrong remained an iconic figure. Which in itself is amazing.

Back around the 1960s Andy Warhol famously said that everyone is famous for 15 minutes. Now in the accelerated 2010s, that time factor has collapsed to about 90 seconds or so.

What tells volumes is that the first I heard of Armstrong’s passing from a social-media friend who isn’t quite 20 years old. In other words, his parents probably are not old enough to have seen the grainy black-and-white coverage of the moon landing as it happened. That’s part of being a pioneer.


Facebook IPO brings memories of coulda-been contenders

Myspace's strength is in music promotion, but its social media model fell apart.

Of course it’s interesting watching some social media service that some college student dreamed up in his dorm become a multi-gazillion-dollar company with stock and everything. But with Facebook’s usage near the billions and other online companies hitting Big Casino on Wall Street, it was bound to happen.

Facebook didn’t popularize the Internet, and it wasn’t even the first social media site to show up. Half a decade ago it was trying to catch some crumbs dropped by Myspace. It was just another Web presence.

But Facebook, despite its security holes, privacy issues and the creep-azoid aspects of friending and poking other people, must be doing something right. Whether that sticks now that it’s gone public, well, that question won’t be answered for another few years.

While Facebook was negotiating out its initial public offering (IPO), an article came out in Mashable! about some of the other Next Big Things on the Internet. These are companies that had a great deal of popularity, broke some new ground, and fizzled. These are the companies that, if this was a boxing movie, would be telling you “I coulda been a contender.”

America Online: AOL is still around, though it’s hard to tell sometimes. The days of the free AOL demo CDs that will hook you up to the Internet for free as long as you give them a credit card number are gone. AOL was huge during the dialup days, but couldn’t gain traction as DSL, broadband and Wi-fi took over. But AOL was more than just a way to get online and drain your bank account; they were a community. The first real “walled garden” in Internet parlance. Members could get into various chat rooms and read news that was unavailable to everyone else. AOL’s Instant Messenger was revolutionary in itself, and a lady friend even considered having the (now defunct) AIM logo tattooed on her butt. Despite a disastrous merger with Time-Warner, AOL stayed alive by shifting gears. It’s now in the news business, with national (Huffington Post) and hyperlocal (Patch) up front. AOL is now in the content generation business and finding new ways to lose money.

Friendster: We’re talking late 1990s, early 2000s here. Friendster was one of the first social media sites and for a while, the biggest. I understand they still exist as a social gaming site, although I’m not sure anyone really cares.

Myspace: This was the first truly successful social media site until it collapsed under its own weight. Literally. Users were encouraged to load their pages with all sorts of gingerbread, and it often took forever for a page to load. Facebook, with its slimmer, one-size-fits-all design, ate Myspace for lunch. Myspace is still a favorite site for bands because it’s easy to upload music files, and the thing that may save the company’s butt would be to specialize in that. It’s changed hands several times and the purchase price reflects its fortunes; NewsCorp bought it out for $580 million in 2006, and later Specific Media purchased it for $35 million. Ouch.

GeoCities: Back in the early 21st Century there were several online companies that allowed you to build your own Web page to a pattern. GeoCities’ social aspect allowed users to link their Web pages by interest, so in effect writers could get together under the GeoCities network. GeoCities no longer exists, which probably means the experimental web site I threw together under its banner probably doesn’t either. A short-lived social site tracing the I-know-someone-who-knows-someone thing. Is it true everyone’s only six degrees (layers of friendship) from Kevin Bacon? The web site is still there, open to members only. I never bothered with it.

Second Life: Fantasy meets technology. Caught virtual fire when folks realized you can be anyone you want online. I’m sure Second Life got as much blame for divorces as Facebook does now. Second Life currency became as good as the real thing in some circles, and somehow dealing in stolen Second Life credits became a cottage industry for some unlawful types. Some of these Second-Life-based businesses kicked off its decline, along with issues with unstable servers. It still exists, if you’re interested.

Orkut: This Google company now has 66 million users, but you’d have to go to Brazil to find them. But back in the day Orkut was a social networking site with serious Google gravitas behind it. But Google does have a history of trying new things and abandoning them when they don’t pan out (see: Buzz, Wave), and the search giant is proving once again with Google+ that social media isn’t as easy as it looks.

Coulda been.


Remembering old word processors, forgetting the new

… I found out the hard way that when you import an MS Word document into a pagination program like PageMaker, you need to strip out the formatting, the so-called “garbage characters.” Again, straight ASCII — saving it in a .txt format — is the best bet here. Plus, when you send a word-processing document by email, you’d better hope the recipient uses the same software as you …”

Check out more details in Hubpages, including my first time.





Does anybody still use snail mail?

My old pal Mr. Zip, from 1963. Does this postal veteran have long to live?

There’s talk about the U.S. Postal service cutting back, as the agency is bleeding money even faster than ever — as if anyone really expects a quasi-government function to pay its own way or something.

It wasn’t too long ago that the postal service was the only real way to send written communications, to transfer money, to receive a package. Maybe it’s creeping geezerhood, but I actually remember those days.

But now some cutbacks are under consideration. Possible scenarios include shutting down some 4,000 post offices or trimming the delivery schedule to just a few days a week. Shoot, if the postal service cuts back, none of the big-name, blue-chip companies are safe. Next we’ll be hearing that Kodak is going Tango Uniform …

… whoops, I forgot.

Like Kodak, the postal service provides a function that, while valued and appreciated, is losing ground to technology. Just as fewer people use film in their cameras these days (or develop that film like I used to), fewer people are really using mail delivery than before.

I’m hardly an example here. I’m one of those folks who will embrace technology but look longingly at the good old days. A high-tech Luddite. But as I examine my own use of the postal service, I can see why it’s losing its hiney.
In a few days I’ll need to swing by the post office and get a booklet of stamps. I usually get a dozen or 15 at a time, and that likely will last a year.

Most months I’ll send one item by mail: My rent check, and that’s only because my landlady is an even bigger Luddite than I am. Hard as I try, I can’t picture her huddled over a computer.

I might send a check to my business bank account via mail, but that’s only because I haven’t mastered the art of online bank transfers yet. Ironically, those instances where I use the postal service are the only times I’ll write a check — some archaic practices belong together.

As far as my other bills — electric, phone, Internet services — those are done online.

Strangely enough, it’s high tech that has me using the postal service more than I’d expect. Whan I order a book through Amazon, it still has to be shipped to me somehow. The cheapest, surest option is still the postal service.

A generation ago, doomsayers predicted the UPS/FedEx mix would kill the postal service, along with some of the vest-pocket courier outfits running around. Didn’t happen, but it didn’t help the mail system any. Further innovations like the FAX machine (does anybody still use those things) and email were likewise seen as a threat to USPS. Didn’t happen, but again didn’t help either.

In a bullfight, one can stick only so many swords, meat forks and Buck knives into the bull’s hide before it weakens and collapses.

Which begs the question: Who will get the ears of the USPS bull?

Or, would anybody really care once we adjust to the loss?


Talk to me: Do you still use snail mail? If the postal service was cut back like they’re talking, would you care? Use the comments section below.

Update: John Wooden dies at 99

Like the man said:
“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books — especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.
Other Woodenisms:
“Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.

Those 10 NCAA basketball championships with UCLA seem to be a mere footnote to the man’s life.
The sports scene needs more guys like this. Shoot, the whole world at large needs more guys like this.

Art Linkletter dead at 97

Another legend gone … but overcoming some rough spots in his life, making it to 97, dying at home … you can’t beat that.

Art Linkletter Dead at 97: “Art Linkletter, whose People Are Funny and House Party shows entertained millions of TV viewers in the 1950s and ’60s and who remained active as a writer and speaker through his ninth decade, died today at age 97. Linkletter was known on TV for his funny interviews with children and…”

In case you’re wondering, yes, I remember watching him on the tube (black and white, of course) when I was a young’un. As did the rest of the Baby Boom generation. And yes, kids do say the darnedest things; that part hasn’t changed much.

(NBC photo shows Art Linkletter in 1969.)


Vicar’s shoplifting advice a symptom of the times

A Church of England vicar said earlier this week that if you’re down and out, shoplifting may be the answer.

Father Tim Jones, the parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York across the pond, raised eyebrows worldwide when he suggested this course of action.

“My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,” he said. “I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.”

It’s better, he said, to steal from a large company that can better absorb the loss than a mom-and-pop operation, and to only take what you need.

The Venerable Richard Seed, Archdeacon of York, says the church does not endorse Fr. Jones’ suggestion. “The Church of England does not advise anyone to shoplift, or break the law in any way,” he said. “Father Tim Jones is raising important issues about the difficulties people face when benefits are not forthcoming, but shoplifting is not the way to overcome these difficulties.”

There’s a name for this mindset Fr. Jones seems to subscribe to. It’s called “situational ethics,” and if there’s anything that explains why our society is on a fast train to nowhere, that’s it.

With situational ethics, a person is constantly looking for a justification for his wrong actions, covering his butt with slick semantics, or couching his choices in lawyer-proof language. It could be someone saying he steals because he’s poor, a politician who sells his vote for pork and calls it “compromise,” or an adulterous president quibbling over the definition of “is,” but it’s all the same. Situational ethics puts us on the slippery slope to no ethics at all.

Hate to sound all intellectual and stuff, but some things are meant to be in black and white. Either something’s right or it’s not. Either something’s true or it’s not.

Now what’s so difficult about that?


Wrestler had nice second career – in music videos

Pro wrestler Capt. Lou Albano, who found a nice second career with 80s pop singer Cyndi Lauper, diedWednesday at 76.
According to CNN:

He started as a tag team wrestler in the 1950s but became a successful manager of champion wrestlers in the 1970s, according to a biography on the WWE Web site … Albano was recognizable by his penchant for unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts and a trademark beard, which was usually bound by a rubber band … his persona earned him the distinction of “one of the most hated men” in wrestling for 15 years, the WWE biography said … Albano’s image evolved in the 1980s, when he teamed with Lauper on several music videos, such as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and wrestling appearances.

So of course, I must include a link to the “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” video. It’s classic stuff. Remember when MTV did videos?

(And who’d think I’d start feeling nostalgic for the 80s?)

Bird-borne parasite may have felled Tyrannosaurus

Remember that T-rex that scared you silly in Jurassic Park? The one that even ate lawyers?
Scientists are now suggesting one specimen, a 7-ton monster now on display in Chicago, may have been killed by something you’d need a microscope to find.
This is from Yahoo! News:
… the remains of Sue, a star attraction of the Field Museum in Chicago, possess holes in her jaw that some believed were battle scars, the result of bloody combat with another dinosaur, possibly another T. rex … Now researchers suggest these scars did not result from a clash of titans, but rather from a lowly parasite. The infection in Sue’s throat and mouth may have been so severe that the 42-foot-long, 7-ton dinosaur starved to death…. the ailment the scientists propose felled Sue and other T. rexes is trichomonosis, also known as trichomoniasis. In birds, the disease is caused by Trichomonas gallinae, a single-celled protozoan. Although some birds, such as pigeons, commonly host the parasite but suffer few ill effects, in birds of prey such as falcons and hawks, the germ causes a pattern of serious lesions in the lower beak that closely matches the holes in the jaws of Sue and occurs in the same anatomical location … “It’s ironic to think that an animal as mighty as ‘Sue’ probably died as a result of a parasitic infection. I’ll never look at a feral pigeon the same way again,” said researcher Steven Salisbury at the University of Queensland in Australia …
I just had to include this scene. For me, it was one of those rare uplifting moments in cinematic history. Folks in the movie house thought I was crazy when I gave it a standing ovation. OK. That’s another story.
Video: From Jurassic Park, Universal Pictures.

Medical mixup wipes out wild jaguar population

This medical mixup proved to be costly, as the last wild jaguar in the United States was extinguished.
I can hear the Game And Fish people in Arizona right now: “Whoops, clumsy me!”
This is from New Times, an alternative newspaper in Phoenix:
In February, Game and Fish trapped and tagged a jaguar named “Macho B,” as part of an effort to track the migration patterns of mountain lions and other animals near the Mexico-Arizona border … it was released back into the wild until March, when they recaptured the jaguar and determined it was suffering kidney failure … that was the end of the road for “Macho” and he was euthanized … as medical records later showed, “Macho B,” who happened to be the last known wild Jaguar in the United States, was more likely dehydrated than suffering kidney failure, and giving the animal a little water probably would have done the trick … oops.

Now, that’s an error that’s a little hard to fix, yes?

Photo: Well, that’s the last of ’em. “Macho B,” in healthier times. Photo by the Arizona Fish And Game Department.