Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3

We finally went to see Spiderman 3 today and it was awesome!   I think it is my favorite Spiderman so far (Rob still likes 2 the best) but this one just had it all for me:   A great story line with the continuation of the Peter / M.J. relationship along with 4 villians — and another one of those sexy upside-down kisses!

We’ve become so spoiled from watching movies at home that we rarely go to the theater anymore.   It takes a movie like this – one that has to be experienced on a large screen – to entice us to go.   As soon as we arrived, we were reminded of the downside of movie theaters.

First, there’s the line to get tickets.   Next, there’s the line at the snackbar (we gave up on that line since there was no way we were going to get through it before the movie started).   After the movie began, the cell phone issues began.   One behind us started ringing and the guy let it ring a few times and then answered it and then finally got up and walked out of the theater – still talking as he went down the aisle.   A couple of rows in front of us was some guy who was too busy text messaging to be bothered with watching the movie.   Naturally, every time he received or sent a text message, the cell phone screen lit up like a torch, which was really annoying.

I mean, c’mon, I realize people need their cell phones for emergencies but can’t they a least break free of them during a movie or, better yet, just stay at home to be entertained by their gadgets instead of annoying others who’ve paid for movie entertainment at the theatre?

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to the point of this post…   If you haven’t seen Spiderman 3 yet, I highly recommend it!   Next on our Summer movie list is probably Shrek 3.

Portable Power Pains

car with power cordsCars are transit, sure.   But increasingly, with all of our cell phones, notebook PCs, MP3 players, & other electronics gear, they’re also serving as mobile office & entertainment hubs.   Given that, why are we still stuck with these lousy 12-volt power ports (formally, ANSI/SAE J563) in our cars?

The Toyota Matrix (a.k.a. Pontiac Vibe) has had on-board standard 115V power outlets for several years.   Mercury Hybrid Mariner, Volkswagen Touareg, & Honda Odyssey van all have AC outlets now.   So it’s high time the other automakers get on-board with this idea.   As our dependance upon gadgets & mobility continues to exponentially increase, automakers should be adapting to meet these new needs by making power outlets a standard on all cars.   Considering that you can buy a top-notch power inverter for less than $30, surely the added expense for automakers to build that functionality right in at the factory (beginning at the drawing-board stage) would have to be nominal.

And y’know, there’s a little "Oliver Stone-esqe" part lodged deep in my primative monkey brain that wonders if there might just be some minor conspiracy at work here.   Manufacturing & marketing all those assorted power inverters & "cigarette lighter" chargers for every gizmo known to man is probably quite a profitable business, after all.   Maybe "big electronics" is in cahoots with "big oil" in a dastardly & insidious plot to keep us all hopelessly strung-out on all those annoying, blister-pack-bound, cheap whatzits & doodads for the obsolete car power port.

What do you think?   Isn’t it time for the old 12-volt power port to go away?

Lose Weight With RSS

RSS LessonOkay, okay, even as great as it is, RSS probably can’t actually help you lose weight.   That was just a catchy tabloid-style title for this post and, hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?   What RSS can help you lose, however, is WAIT.

Yup, RSS will save you time and open you up to a vast array of new content on the Internet.

What’s This RSS Stuff?

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a format for delivering regularly-changing web content.   RSS isn’t new, having begun at Netscape back in 1999, but it has really taken off in the last couple of years.   A rapidly-growing number of websites (online newspapers, weblogs, and such) now offer their content in this format – known as RSS feeds – to make keeping up with your favorites sites much easier.   RSS allows you to easily stay on top of the latest web content and saves you loads of time since you no longer need to visit your favorite sites individually.

In addition to scouring the Internet for new content, RSS also takes care of presenting that information in a standardized, easily readable format arranged in a convenient organized list, very similar to your email in-box.   You can easily scan headlines & brief article descriptions, and decide whether you want to read the article right there, mark the article read & skip it, or tag the article for later reading.

What Can RSS Do For You?

Using RSS, content from web sites delivered & constantly updated via an aggregator or feed reader application.   You simply subscribe to a site’s feed and the RSS reader automatically monitors to see when updated content has been posted.   And RSS content distribution has been further adapted to reach far beyond the original basic purposes envisioned by it’s designers.   You can subscribe to RSS feeds to monitor eBay auctions, track FedEx or U.S.P.S. packages, and even get weather updates.

The clever guys at Common Craft created an excellent 3½ minute video called “RSS in Plain English” that does a fantastic job of explaining RSS:

Getting Started With RSS

A variety of RSS readers are available but to be honest, ever since Dede nudged me into trying the browser-based Google Reader, I’ve never looked back.   Among the numerous beauties of Google Reader is that it stores your settings with your Gmail account.   So anywhere you can get to an Internet connection (at home, work, library, Starbucks, or even the lobby of a salon where your wife is getting a pedicure), your feeds travel with you, right there, ready to pick up where you left off reading.

Google Reader logo

As you surf your favorite websites, you’ll notice that many sites feature an orange button labeled “RSS” or “XML” or the now-standard RSS feed icon RSS icon.   This indicates that the site is setup with feed capabilities and be subscribed to for viewing and constant updating.

Wrapping Up & Shameless Plugs

I certainly don’t claim to be an authority – this RSS stuff is still a little new to me too – so some of you more savvy surfers may be able to add more to this, or correct me where I’m wrong.   But what I do know is that using a RSS feed reader can really boost your productivity on the Internet and I am sure that you’ll end up keeping tabs on many more websites, but in far less time than before.

Another great feature of Google Reader is that you can share feed posts with others.   Here’s a sample of shared items from my account.   Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can subscribe to the 2Dolphins RSS feed or subscribe to our Russian Adoption Journal RSS feed to stay current with our new posts.   And be sure to leave a comment if you know of other RSS feeds that’d be worthy additions to our Google Readers.

Smooth Moves

As Dede mentioned in her previous post, we were in Kansas City over the weekend to see Bryan "Tato" P. graduate from Truman High School.   The ceremony was nice and the grad was a great sport about posing for the endless barrage of photos.   Hey, these things only come around once, y’know…   Congrats, Tato!

Also while there, (thanks to Dede!) I finally had a chance to try something that’s been on my "to do" list for quite awhile – to ride a Segway.   Thanks to Segway Experience of Kansas City, and guides Melissa & Cassie, I toured some of KC’s many fountains, ornate sculptures, & Spanish-inspired architecture in the Plaza area.   Riding the Segway was truly a kick!   And I learned enough about KC to know that we need to go back to see lots more of the downtown areas – one weekend is just not enough…

Tato the Grad!   Rob riding a Segway

DD in KC

We’re in Kansas City right now for our little Tato’s graduation.   So far, we’ve relived the first 6 Tato years via DVD;   he wasn’t too much into it but we really enjoyed it!   Seems there’s nothing quite like seeing a naked 2 year-old version of yourself to dampen a 17 (almost 18) year-old boy’s spirits.   He did finally break free from his Socom game to have a meal with us at Chili’s.   Here’s me & my little Tato:

Tato and Dede at Chili’s

BlogCatalog Buzz

Back in February, I wrote "Getting Noticed" about some of the website promotion efforts I’ve been trying here on 2Dolphins.   I’ve found another social networking directory site called BlogCatalog that’s a relatively new site making some big ripples in the blogosphere, thanks in no small part, to Mona Weathers’ BlogCatalog Buzz Experiment.   While similar to MyBlogLog, it offers a cleaner user interface, better navigation, & seems to be targeted less at MySpace types and more towards bloggers.   Give it a look and let me know what you think!

Pondering Postage

U.S.P.S. rolls out the new Forever StampAs of today, May 14th, the U.S.P.S. has raised postage rates again.   Now it’ll cost you 41¢ each – an increase of 5% – to mail standard letters.   What’s more, a new law signed by President Bush back in December ’06 ties postage increases to the Consumer Price Index (a measure that tracks inflation in consumer goods & services) starting in 2008.   This means that future bumps will be even more predictable.   And the U.S.P.S. can apply for one more rate hike before the new law takes effect.

As was the case with the previous postage rate increase, this latest round of price hikes on stamps leaves me wondering…

How much does this really matter anymore?   Undoubtedly, many small businesses & non-profits will be feeling some financial squeeze from this.   But aside from the sheer frustration of inflation in general, how much does this affect us average people?

With the use of virtual forms of money (online banking, e-payments, direct account drafts, & money transfer services like PayPal) continually on the rise, I suspect that we’re rapidly approaching a time when the Internet renders postage stamps entirely irrelevant.   I mean, c’mon, just how often do you actually stick a stamp on an envelope anymore?

By the way, those new Forever Stamps aren’t necessarily a very good investment.   Sure, once you’ve bought Forever Stamps and postage rates go up, their value has increased.   But given that postage rates typically rise an average of 3% annually and that even a basic savings account offers a better return than that nowadays, this investment doesn’t seem so sound.   So it appears that the U.S.P.S. is counting on cashing in on consumers’ iffy math skills — they’ve already printed five billion Forever Stamps and are poised to quickly print more if there’s sufficient demand.   In essence then, isn’t the Post Office trying to con us out of an interest-free loan?

Happy Mother’s Day

Rob & I took our Moms to Furr’s Cafeteria for Mother’s Day lunch. This is far from our favorite place to eat but they sure like it. They passed out long-stemmed carnations to all the moms but mine got taken away when they discovered that I was not a mom yet.

Barbara & Jinx enjoying Mother's Day lunch


Low-Tech Learning Leaps Ahead

Baby & notebook PCOn The Bamboo Project Blog, Michele Martin recently noted an article Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops from The New York Times.   Although she cited this as a prime example of how technology cannot create change if culture remains unchanged, but there’s also an underlying theme that echoes one of my chief arguments against MIT’s OLPC project.   The article observes that many schools that had launched programs to provide laptop computers are now reconsidering because they seem to have no impact on student achievement.

Author Winnie Hu referenced studies showing no real difference on state test scores in schools with laptops – although some data suggest better math class performance from high-achieving students with laptops than those without.

Diehard proponents insist these programs are failing simply because teachers haven’t been trained to integrate the use of this technology into their classes.   But when 6 of one of the study’s control group schools (ones whose students didn’t have laptops) were offered computers this year, they opted not to accept them.

As I’ve commented before, I worry about making computer-use skills a priority for kids.   Could computers, in fact, be a barrier to kids learning to think creatively and solve problems?   Are we naive to assume that technology will magically equate to a more efficient learning environment for children?   Does this concern anyone else?   Post a comment!