OMG, You’re Still Using AOL? Marketplace’s most popular story today

… and I’ll be passing this along to my sister, who’s still using AOL and probably always will.

OMG, you’re still using AOL for e-mail? | Marketplace From American Public Media

Dalaise Michaelis: As soon as somebody says they are, you know, so-and-so at or, really it’s an “Oh My God” moment. Do you know what the Internet is? Yahoo is like, OK. And then if you’re G-mail, you’re like, I can take you seriously.

Vanek-Smith: What about AOL?

Michaelis: You said AOL? Oh wow, is it still around? I mean, Ican’t believe it’s still around.

Burt Flickinger: Had my AOL e-mail account for a little over 15 years.

Burt Flickinger is the managing director of the Strategic Resource Group. He tells retailers how to market things to young shoppers. What do clients say when he gives them his e-mail?

Burt Flickinger: When I give them an AOL email address, they say, I can’t believe you’re still on AOL. I say well, it’s simple, I have one of the original addresses with no numbers so it’s easier for you to type.

Endlessly Seeking The New New

We are a globeful of dopamine addicts. We endlessly seek and never find the newest new thing.

Slate: Seeking

Seeking. You can’t stop doing it. Sometimes it feels as if the basic drives for food, sex, and sleep have been overridden by a new need for endless nuggets of electronic information. We are so insatiably curious that we gather data even if it gets us in trouble. Google searches are becoming a cause of mistrials as jurors, after hearing testimony, ignore judges’ instructions and go look up facts for themselves. We search for information we don’t even care about. Nina Shen Rastogi confessed in Double X, “My boyfriend has threatened to break up with me if I keep whipping out my iPhone to look up random facts about celebrities when we’re out to dinner.” We reach the point that we wonder about our sanity. Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times said she became so obsessed with Twitter posts about the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest that she spent days “refreshing my search like a drugged monkey.”

We actually resemble nothing so much as those legendary lab rats that endlessly pressed a lever to give themselves a little electrical jolt to the brain. While we tap, tap away at our search engines, it appears we are stimulating the same system in our brains that scientists accidentally discovered more than 50 years ago when probing rat skulls.

After mulling that over from yesterday, as I trudged upstairs scrolling through my Google Reader feed and Twitter feeds (real, virtual, and feline) on the iPhone 3GS that’s become grafted to my body, I thought about how I’d spent the evening. I was in Second Life, watching a live webcast from the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh in a separate screen as I sat “inworld” chatting with fellow travelers in both open and private channels. At the same time, I was going through some recent images I took on SL, deleting the culls and uploading the keepers to my avatar’s Flickr stream (which I keep separate from “real” photos on my “real” Flickr stream). Also simultaneously with this, while waiting for former Pres. Clinton to make the keynote address, I was listening to a music channel in the background, while listening to other speakers make their points for progressive change from the “netroots.” This music was either Internet radio playing in WinAmp, or a live musician singing blues standards “inworld” before somebody else was supposed to appear in a streamed audio chat (this was supposed to be the founder of Daily Kos, but there were technical issues).

As I noted all the things I was multitasking in public chat, I quipped “…too much?”

Came back the reply, “Not until you crash.”

So I thought about that after Second Life inevitably crashed on me, probably due to so many people then in attendance at both Netroots in Second Life, and SL’s own annual conference in San Francisco logging in to tell all their friends what well-known “avatarbrities” (I just totally made that up) look like in real life after the panel discussions were over.

Then, after work was over, I walked to the elevator reading my feed, read it on the way down, read it in a downstairs loo, read it walking out to the car, and read it in the car waiting for the air conditioning to cool off the interior. And shared, and shared, and shared. Because I had stuff, you see, stuff that I had read and approved of that other people might like to see, because it was new stuff to them. And then I ran across something that made me stop and actually slow down and think about what I was reading, rather than merely consuming in “speed-read” mode (I am a fast reader, and also I have always had a tendency towards hyperfocus).

As a recovering former Utahn, I keep an eye on anything counter-cultural coming out of Zion, which is why I happen to have Salt Lake’s entertaining City Weekly blog in my feed:

Exurbia Recast

A design competition tries to reinvent the suburban wasteland with flying ships and big box gardens. What they really need is as simple as a gin and tonic.

Big house. Vinyl siding. Manicured lawn. Two-car garage, maybe three. Backyards to hide from neighbors. Faux brick front.

Pavement for miles. Parking lots. Stores with acreage of stuff. Stuff to eat, stuff to build, stuff to consume, stuff to waste.

Work in the city. Drive on the interstate. Eat in the chain. Home. Rinse. Repeat.

Suburbia spreads like bindweed, one interconnected, land-swallowing swath of humanity. Beige blooms in the brown desert while its denizens stare at high-definition television shows about life in paradise. They bought their homes to live the American Dream, and spend the rest of their lives dreaming of escape.

Escape they will, fleeing to the latest and newest refuge. Maybe it’s the “green” subdivision with colorful houses, maybe it’s the high-rise condominiums with restaurants on the ground floor and a freeway entrance within walking distance. Maybe it’s a boat, a cabin, an RV. Or maybe it’s similar more of the same, super-sized.

America is a very young country, as anybody who has ever visited Europe can attest. Many Europeans have houses that are older than America, yet we as Americans search for everything new. We created a democratic civilization built with the most adaptable legal document ever created, yet we cannot adapt as a people to minor nuisances. Need four outlets in every room instead of the one in that 50-year old house? Buy a new house. Ipod adapter in the car because you cannot listen to the radio? Buy a new car? Bored with the long-standing cafe run by your neighbor? Hey, there’s an In N’ Out burger opening!

This ceaseless need to fulfill every want and desire has a number of negative impacts, most of them on a person’s soul. But there are also smaller ones, such as the eventual desertion of the existing new for the New New. That leaves behind empty homes, deserted lots, and discarded shopping malls. Eventually, something will have to be done with them.


Well, that was exactly what I didn’t want when we were buying this house, and that is exactly what we ended up with given our budget and our geographic location, jobs, and so on. I live that life, schlepping through grey suburbia all year and consuming images of more attractive, scenic or inspiring locales via television, movies, photographs, or total online immersion.  We don’t regret our decision buying our home, but I do regret that we’re not in a tree-lined, charmingly old-fashioned small-town looking suburb with rail service and bike paths within walking distance — that ws completely out of the question in our price range. We made a good decision after really looking hard for a long time.

A week ago, my husband David and I went looking for a new desktop computer for me. I had expressed a vague desire to have a better Second Life experience, and we thought we had grabbed a system off the shelf that had the right hardware for such things… but in a fit of consumerist confusion, I said (stupidly) that I thought a computer with an Intel logo would do fine, because it’s a brand name.

::facepalm:: Jesus.

So we grabbed this one box, after almost grabbing some other box. Which would have had a more powerful video graphics card tailor made for the online 3D experience, actually (not a hardcore gaming system, still pretty low-end). We took this one box home and loaded it up with a few programs that I like or use and got bookmarks set up and cleaned my desk and vacuumed and all that, and then I logged in to Second Life and realized my error. David had noticed as we opened the box that it wasn’t quite the right computer we’d started to buy, but oh, I just had to get it started up, so… yeah. And what with one thing and another, it’s now pretty much impossible (and embarassing) to return because I took a few days to realize that I’d have to leave my SL settings on “minimum quality” for pretty much ever if I didn’t want my experience to slow to the speed of an old-fashioned travelogue with slides, or a film strip, and in the meantime I’d gotten it all set up nice and pretty and bonded with it over the pretty, pretty Aero (glassy, flashy graphics). All because I didn’t print out the system requirements page and take it with me…

And yet on the other hand, for everything else I do with it other than Second Life, it’s fast, and powerful, and makes 2D images and videos look gorgeous. Games are gorgeous as long as the action is flat. It looks and feels great, and it happened to get a great review at C/NET, a site we’ve both come to trust because of their little “Hello, TiVo people” tech gadgetry review show. I’ll be able to take a lot of photos, and slide the compact flash card or one of several different kinds of storage media or cables into a handy little port right on the front, hidden under a little door when not in use. It’ll really be great, for everything other than Second Life. For that, it’ll be adequate, but not visually stunning.  A previous post about the new computer got automatically reposted on Facebook, and a friend immediately commented “Upgrade to Windows 7 NOW!!!”

So then I started looking into fixing my error by perhaps upgrading the video on the new machine, which turned into a big mess because this thing on my desk is a sleek, slim little beast, and there are very, very few options for what’s called a “small form factor (SFF)” system, especially one that has a very low power profile. I’d have to crack open a brand new computer just to add an itty bitty viddy card (only $59.99 after rebate!), and upgrade the power supply (only $29.99) literally “to boot.”

Unless… hey, wait, this guy has the same computer, and he got an nVdia 9500 GT PCIe low profile card to run… after a ridiculous amount of swapping to save on power demands.

Good God, brand new machine and I’m still endlessly seeking the new new gadget to make it into what I should have bought in the first place.

But enough about that, time to play Mahjong Titans, it looks and sounds so purdy… after making sure the title and first few lines of this post are under Twitter’s 140-character limit, that is.


does WXRT know who funds the Foundation for a Better Life? Just heard a PSA about Abraham Lincoln, sounds like a burnish job for the Grumpy Old Party. Just so you know, Philip Anschutz‘s family values are not my family values.

I just happened to hear it on WXRT’s webstream featuring the perseverance and admirable qualities of Abraham Lincoln, and was curious, because it reminded me of Crooks and Liars’ post about the Oregon GOP being linked to some very classy proposed public service announcements.

Whan That Aprille With His Shoures Soote

NPR’s 5 part program “The New Canterbury Tales” is excellent, catching up on them at
The New Canterbury Tales : NPR. Long ago I studied Chaucer’s long travelogue in the original Middle English, and the reading I heard today was so familiar. I actually had memorized the opening lines, years ago, because Mom boasted that she could still recite the Prologue some 50 years or so after graduating high school. So I had to give it a shot just so I could come home from my fancy college education one spring break and spout off about

I can get as far as

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

and can patter on a bit after that with prompting, before giving up about when the “tendre croppes” appear.

Yes, of course I get what it means. Don’t you?

When you hear it pronounced, it sounds very Scandanavian and sing-songy, but with a lot of quasi-English sounding words pronounced oddly (hint: silent E was not silent in Chaucer’s day). I even remember learning about The Great Vowel Shift in that long-ago class. Just now, I read on and on, struggling to remember how to pronounce the words, and achieved a fairly consistent cadence. I’ll have to check it later against a sound file NPR will upload later, recorded by a man that has memorized the entire saga who performs for schools and theater groups.

The thing is, if you carry on reading it, IT’S PORN. At least, some of the tales are HIGHLY UNSAFE FOR WORK if you were to read it outloud in modern English… but if you’re reading it in the Middle English, you’re quite safe.

The other thing is, IT’S A BLOG POST. A medieval trip report. A dishy smorgasbord of pre-Reformation celebrity gossip.

The NPR pieces are enjoyable, because Rob Gifford literally goes out of his way to find interesting people to talk with. Even though as an Episcopalian, it’s disappointing to hear how the importance of church-going has slipped badly in Britain, part 3 is really fascinating. It starts with a visit to Charles Darwin’s home. It goes from there to touch on the tension between the different kinds of Christianity represented by the Anglican church – the moderate, intellectual kind that’s more to my taste is derided as “wishy-washy” by the evangelical/fundamentalist wing. And Gifford goes on to talk to some decidedly unchurched British youth, out for an evening’s pub crawl before ending up in a cab, talking to the driver about how rude and uncivilized his passengers sometimes are.

Great Britain has changed substantially since the time of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which described life in late 14th century England. For this five-part series, Rob Gifford retraced Chaucer’s steps, walking the 60 miles from London to Canterbury, to give a snapshot of Britain in the early 21st century.

Once upon a time, England was very Christian. One can tell just from the number of church men and women whose tales grace the pages of The Canterbury Tales.

The parson, the pardoner, the nun’s priest — the list goes on. But the church was just starting to change at the time, as the early stirrings of the Reformation were just beginning. Fast forward several centuries beyond that Reformation, and there has been plenty of change in the church in Britain in recent decades, too.

Today’s installment will be up on the site later, and delves more into the racier, bawdier aspects of life in Britain in Chaucer’s day, and in our own time. It features fox hunting without foxes, and pole-dancing lessons. It’s also the one that features the long readings from the original poems. Huzzah!

UPDATE: Today’s installment is now online.

WWDTM: Listening intently for angry knitters

Today’s episode of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! was previewed by @WBEZ as one where a bunch of people had their knitting needles out for Mo Rocca, right in the front row. It may be possible to hear the clicking as they knit (not all that angrily, really). Chicago Public Radio Blog » Backstage Buzz at Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! | News and Notes from WBEZ

A couple of weeks ago, Mo Rocca made an off-hand comment that handmade sweaters were “itchy.” A fairly innocuous thing to say one would think.

Following the broadcast, Mo received tons of angry emails from a nationwide group of knitters. Yes. Knitters. People who knit. And they were smoking mad.

The first attempt at assuaging the burbling rage of the yarn spinners was a phone-in apology by Mo during a broadcast. Apparently, it was not enough. The bruised egos of those who crochet would not be salved by a mere apology. There had to be face-to-face confrontation.

Sunday: Radio Daze

We returned home from Kona to Chicago yesterday, taking an overnight flight so that we arrived yesterday morning at about 530AM. The last time I took a red-eye, I went straight to bed and was wide awake all night, so David advised me to stay up all day and not even nap until 9PM.

Well, I made it to about noon, kept sliding sideways on the couch, and finally gave up and went upstairs. I did turn on the radio, though, thinking that I’d only “nap” for a couple of hours and “listen” to WBEZ’s Sunday programming.

Hah. Well, I was kind of in a pleasant daze all afternoon. I was definitely out like a light bulb from noon until about 2pm, when I heard the jazzy signature tune for “On the Media.” I pretty much listened with half an ear (and about a quarter of a brain” until David came upstairs with a little something to eat.


2:00pm On the Media
A probing look at media issues of the day.
3:00pm Speaking of Faith
A thoughtful exploration of religion and spirituality.
4:00pm All Things Considered
An afternoon newsmagazine featuring a mix of interviews, commentaries, reviews and offbeat features–from around the world, and in and around Chicago.
5:00pm Fresh Air
Interviews with fascinating people about contemporary arts and issues.
6:00pm Latino USA
News, public affairs and trends with a Latino perspective.
6:30pm BBC Science in Action
A weekly look at science stories in and behind the news from around the world.
7:00pm To the Best of Our Knowledge
An audio magazine of ideas and stories

The BBC Science show was particularly nice to “listen” to, as the announcer had a pleasant, soothing accent and I could kid myself that it was Science and therefore not Nap Background Noise. I have no idea what it was about, but it seemed interesting at the time.

The funny thing is, I remember hearing bits and pieces of all these programs, perhaps because the transitions brought me closer to full consciousness.

Yeah, right.

But I got a good night’s sleep (in spite of Riley’s insistent head-butting, as he was busy welcoming us home all night). He’s still rapturously affectionate this evening; I expect the real Cat Punishment happens tonight.

Listening Post |

This Internet radio station is a real find; it’s artist-to-artist CD swapping at its finest. Eclectic and fun.

CD Baby: THE POLYJESTERS: Kitchen Radio
Jason runs a radio station out of his home in Carstairs and internet station that feature other indie artists they have met on the road. Some of whom are guest hosts. iTunes recently added Kitchen Radio as a station preset under two categories: Eclectic and International.

Zenith | Well, that’s where they make ’em

Chicago Public Radio just broadcast an amazing documentary about the old Zenith manufacturing plant, which closed 10 years ago. They interviewed several former employees and intercut them in a really compelling, evocative way. I was transported to another time and place as I listened. Somehow, I managed to keep enough attention on the road to get home safely. You’ve got to hear this, because it’s not just people talking about where they used to work. They’re talking about who they used to be, and what this country used to do.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of a historic plant closure in Chicago’s western suburbs. For more than 3 decades the Zenith plant in Melrose Park turned out millions of picture tubes. Those tubes were installed in televisions and sent around the world under the slogan “the quality goes in before the name goes on.” But after years of struggle, the company decided to close the plant and lay off the last 1,200 workers making a living there. 10 years ago to the day, employees at the Zenith plant worked their last shift and said goodbye to the massive facility.

This is a documentary produced by Chicago Public Radio’s Ben Calhoun. He spoke to three Zenith employees about their time at the plant, what it meant to them, and their feelings about the decline of American manufacturing.

A few years ago Chicago photographer Ken Burkhart was asked to document the Zenith facility before it was demolished. He spent days exploring the plant with little more than floor plans and a spotlight. He found parts of the enormous building in disrepair and some rooms so intact they looked like they were still in use.

Via City Roomâ„¢ – Metro – A Big Time Hurt: Zenith Closing 10 Years Later

30 years ago or more, I came to Chicago as a wide-eyed teenager by train from Utah with the rest of my high-school church youth group. We were from First Congregational Church in Salt Lake, and we were headed to Waukesha, Wisconsin for an annual meeting called NAPF. The organizers of the trip (youth leaders and so on) had arranged for us to spend the night in suburban Naperville after taking an overnight train to Chicago’s Union Station, and the pastor of the local Congregational church would pick us up, show us around a little, and then take us to the church for a sleepover. The next day, they put us on commuter trains to get into Union Station and then on up to Waukesha.

I don’t remember anything about Naperville, or the church. All I remember was a kind of giddy hysteria; none of us had slept, the train was hours late, and the pastor was unintentially hilarious. As he showed us around downtown Chicago, on foot, and then in his big old station wagon, he’d point at large buildings or industrial plants and declaim loudly “Hey! Have you ever heard of Florsheim Shoes? Well, that’s where they make ’em!” or “Kids! Do you ride a Schwinn bike? Well, that’s where they make ’em!”

We drove endlessly. The pastor was one of those “leadfoot stompers,” the kind of driver that’s always tromping on the gas or punching the brakes, sometimes in quickly alternating succession. We were so tired of traveling, we just leaned against each other in the back like sacks of potatoes, trying not to think about carsickness. Some of the boys leaned more purposefully and furtively on “their” girls. It had been a long night on the train.

At some point, giggling helplessly, we all looked dutifully as yet another large factory building was triumphantly pointed out. I remember seeing a big, familiar lightning-bolt logo. We all chanted along in the infuriating way that only teenagers can, when they think the adult in the car isn’t bright enough to know when they’re being mocked.

“Hey, kids, have you ever heard of Zenith Televisions? Well, that’s where they make ’em!!”

Studs Terkel on This American Life: Hard Times

Last Saturday, I happened to catch the repeat of This American Life on WBEZ; the last 30 minutes or so is a Studs Terkel piece that seemed particularly appropriate. Terkel died a few weeks ago, we’re in the midst of an economic downturn that ought to be described as a “freefall,” and we’ve just elected a mixed race, self-identified black man as our President.

The Terkel segment is a collection of pieces from his Hard Times radio series, with people talking about life in the Depression. There are some surprising revelations from a woman who realized that as a poor white migrant worker, she had far more in common with poor black people than she did with rich white people. I found myself thinking how far we’ve come, and how nearly we may be returning full circle if the economy keeps slipping.

And the whole thing set off all kinds of resonances and associations for me, as Mom was a Depression kid, and I remember her stories. The radio piece is a reminder of how resilient and graceful Americans can be under pressure.

NPR: Floss Is Forever A Dirty Word At Our House

On Monday November 3rd, NPR did a carefully worded interview with a book author as background on an upcoming Supreme Court case on something called “transitory vulgarity,” or the use of a naughty word on live broadcasts, and whether broadcasters should be fined if a celebrity occasionally drops the “F-bomb” in an unscripted moment of emotionally charged candor.

As Court Weighs ‘F’ Word Case, Context Examined : NPR

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday about the F-word. The case, FCC v. FOX TV, stems from some stunning moments of live television. Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, and author of The F-Word, says the F-word has ceased being used exclusively in reference to sex.

To avoid repetition and to avoid promoting the book by its title, host Robert Siegel suggests substituting another word… “floss.” The discussion goes on, with only a few slips and use of the “F-word” euphemism. The word “floss” is conjugated in various ways. This was amusing in itself, and resulted in a number of listener letters and emails a few days later. But Tuesday night it resulted in some hilarious moments as we gathered with friends to eat and watch the election returns together.

It started when one of the other guests at the party commented out of the blue, “I will never be able to look my dentist in the eye again. I just won’t be able to keep a straight face when he talks about floss.”

She got an immediate laugh; apparently a lot of the others were fellow NPR/WBEZ listeners. I quipped, in a suitably chiding dental assistant’s voice, “Have you been FLOSSING regularly?”

Hilarity ensued. Various highly improper suggestions, having nothing to do with dental hygiene, were offered in quick succession by everyone in that part of the room:

“Do you floss morning and night?”

“Do you floss at work?”

“Here is some complimentary floss and mouthwash.”

“Flossing is important for dental health AND it’s good for your heart!”

“Would you prefer a minty fresh floss, or a waxed one?”

For a few minutes, about 6 people waxed hysterical about floss. And then when we tried to explain it to someone who hadn’t heard the piece, it fell flat. So listen to the piece on the website, and then see if you can keep a straight face at the dentist when they offer to floss you.