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The New Age Soap Opera: Reality Web

Let’s see what’s going on in my world this morning. Lucy’s sick and was up all night over a toilet.  Bummer!  Violet is excited to do some shopping today.  You Go Girl!  One of my old friends is requesting to be friends.  (dramatic music.)  fight-club

I can see all of these events, masked in costumes and dramatics, as a reflection of a 20th century soap opera. Suddenly, it dawns on me.  The fall of the daytime tv soap operas is far more than just people’s choice for Reality TV.  Reality Web is your new form of entertainment.  Its your own social network or community giving you constant updates to their lives.  With the help of online media, journals, and time-based updates, Reality Web is your real life drama playing out right before your eyes.

My favorite part about daytime soap operas are the familiarity with the characters.  They grow old with you.  Sometimes super fast aging, but that’s besides the point.

The characters experienced their own ups and downs which sometimes reflected your own life. This interpersonal bond is what makes soap operas addicting.  The same holds true for social networks, with an added bonus:  you care about everyone on your list.  Even if you aren’t exactly fond of them, or they are just acquaintance, you at least have some interest in their life or else you would have de-friended them years ago.

With the advent of my driver’s license, I was able to go home for lunch during my senior year.  Coincidently, my soap opera started during my lunch.  This is pre-dvr age.  If you didn’t have a VHS available, you would just have to read about it in tomorrow’s newspaper.  Harsh reality of the 1990s.

The idea that your drama was available at the very same moment every day is comforting.  Its a routine you use to Zen through your day.  Reality Web thus holds the same power, yet it is instantaneous.  Hundreds of devices now give you the comforting knowledge that your world is only a click away.

You decide your own level of involvement. Tyler Durden, Fight Club  Tyler lived a life of drama and made and sold soap out of lipsuction left-overs.  Btw,  Brad Pitt got his start on Another World. 

I would take a long break from my soap and then come back.  The characters remained mostly the same, with some significant changes, but usually a friend could completely catch you up with back story.The idea that I could even take a break, just to live an actual life away from the tv, but still come back for entertainment kept me on this cycle. 

With advances in internet technology, I completed stopped the cycle and switched to Reality Web.  I still get a small soap update from a friend every now and then, but its always out of jest and humor.  They could never resolve any problems.  It took weeks to find some sort of resolution.  At least in Reality Web, everyone ends up with a happy ending.  Most of my facebook friends, including myself, have perfect abs, a yacht and an amazingly joyful life. (Dramatic Music.)

Switch to the New Gmail Look

Google announced an upgrade to its current Gmail interface.  Users may preview the new interface by selecting “Switch to the new look” from their Gmail homepage.  The design is a stripped down version of Gmail, as Google is famous for their simple GUIs. The new design doesn’t offer any new features, just a new layout.

Before

After

New Customizations

You can customize how the email fits to your screen.  Choose cozy, comfortable or compact options.

New Themes

The new Gmail look also comes with new themes. You can access the new color options by clicking on the Gears icon, then Themes.

Chat Window

You can now modify the size of your chat window.

Better Search

The search box has been enhanced to include more filters.  You can now search throughout your email and conversations with more granular options.

Revert Back

If you aren’t ready to use the new look, you can revert back to your old Gmail look temporarily.  Click on the Gears icon, then choose Revert to old look temporarily.  Eventually, Gmail will make the switch for you.

Million Moms Challenge

The Million Moms Challenge is sponsored in part by ABC News, the UN Foundation, BabyCenter and Johnson & Johnson, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Their goal is to build awareness of children and women’s health around the world.

By engaging a million Americans with millions of mothers in the developing world around issues that directly impact pregnancy, childbirth and children’s health, the Million Moms Challenge will raise awareness and funds to help women and children everywhere survive and thrive.

The Million Moms Challenge brings together a coalition of more than a dozen world-class partners working around the globe to improve the lives of women and children. The Million Moms Challenge will focus on crucial issues that are a priority for all mothers, including access to proper nutrition to support healthy pregnancies, trained midwives to assist in safe deliveries, and vaccines that enable children to survive to their first birthdays and beyond.

Take the challenge!

Picking on Spongebob

A new study published by “Pediatrics” suggest that SpongeBob SquarePants may be bad for kids’ brains. Preschoolers who watch fast-paced shows like Spongebob have more trouble concentrating than other children. Researchers assigned 4 year olds to watch Spongebob or the slower-paced educational cartoon Caillou for nine minutes, or to draw freely with markers. Immediately after, the kids took mental function tests to see how well they solved problems, followed rules, and remembered what they were told, for example. SpongeBob viewers performed significantly worse than their peers. Only 15 percent passed the problem-solving task, for example, compared with 35 percent of Caillou viewers and 70 percent of those who spent time drawing. Fast-paced shows revolving around unrealistic events are likely detrimental because they overstimulate the brain, making it harder to maintain focus, plan, organize, and control inappropriate behaviors, the researchers speculate. "We don’t know how long this effect lasts," study author Angeline Lillard, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, told Bloomberg. "It may be that children recover quickly. Certainly, immediately after, there was a strong impact particularly on the most challenging tasks."

Nickelodeon disputed the study, saying the cartoon is geared towards 6 to 11 year old viewers.  The researchers did not test the children prior to the study, although they claim none of the children were diagnosed with attention problems. 

The message they are trying to make parents aware of is that viewing of content matters.  Watching television in the car on the way to school is probably not a good way to get them prepared for the day.

It seems logical that television viewing of any kind should be limited to small children.  The television has become a babysitter to a lot of parents, but as people become more aware of the adverse effects, this will change. 

Researchers should leave Spongebob alone.  Parents should limit all TV viewing, no matter what cartoon.

Check out Duck Carnage for Android

A friend of mine released a new Android game entitled Duck Carnage.  The game is similar to the old school Duck Hunt, but a lot more fun!  The game is a great stress reliever!  I’m not usually a shoot-em-up type of gal, but I enjoy taking these ducks out of the sky!  As you progress through the levels, the backgrounds become more realistic and you are able to purchase new weapons. 

A bonus for this game is your young boys and girls will really enjoy it.  I’ve had a hard time finding games that are simple and straight to the point for my young son.  When we are on a road trip, he’s constantly asking if he can play “shooting games” or “boy games.”  Duck Carnage has been a life saver for those trips!  The game also helps develop motor skills as they have to follow the ducks on the screen and press quickly in order to shoot them.  The sound effects are easy on the ears, but if you are really in a quiet spot, there are options to disable sound effects.

The name of the game is a little misleading – no real carnage takes place.  No blood or excessive violence, just fun cartoony play time.  Check out Duck Carnage now in the Android market.

Unlimited Instant Videos with a Free Trial of Amazon Prime

image Amazon is offering unlimited instant online videos if you sign up for Amazon Prime.  Amazon Prime is a subscription service which gives you discounts on shipping and even free shipping options when you make purchases from Amazon.com.  This comes in very handy when Christmas rolls around!

It looks like Amazon is stepping up the ball in the online video streaming market share.  Hulu and Netflix are the other two big players.  Amazon is a versatile company, and it appears they are spreading their wings and keeping up with consumer demand. 

Give Amazon’s service a try and prepare to disconnect your cable/satellite service! 

Is Facebook Unhealthy for Your Children?

Is Facebook unhealthy for your children?  Larry Rosen, a psychologist at Cal State Dominguez Hills, thinks so.  He’s been studying the effects of technology on people for the past 25 years.  This time he’s turned to social networking and gaming among teenagers and children.  On Saturday, he made his case at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

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Raising Gamers

world-of-warcraft-logo My teenage son went through a short phase (although it seemed to last forever) of gaming for long hours, avoiding showers for days, taking his food back to his room, and avoiding contact with us at much as possible.  Yes, he was in the throws of World of Warcraft, and the sudden emersion into this multiplayer fun-fest took him off his feet.  I could hear him laughing at all hours of the night, even though he would insist the next day that he was in bed by 10 p.m. 

My nagging for him to stop playing felt quite similar to the nag I used to give my husband when he was in the throws of yet another MMORPG.  I stopped nagging my husband years ago, when I realized that all that energy could be put into my own quality time.  If he was so involved in this hobby of his, then I decided to focus on my own hobbies and build my own life.  This is probably the most healthy approach for any relationship, although your marriage tends to grow in different directions. 

Yet, the focus away from the nagging worked.  I made sure to appreciate the times they did spend with me, and realized that they will grow tired of the newness of their current game, and will come back to the ‘real’ world.  My husband realized one day that he was missing a lot of my life, and didn’t really like the fact that I didn’t nag at him anymore.  The nagging meant he had some control over my feelings.  With that power gone, he couldn’t wait to get it back!  The entire experience evolved into a great lesson for me.  My happiness was no longer bound to what the people in my life said or did.  My happiness was under my control.

 

With this lesson being learned, I decided not to nag at my teenager, but use a different approach.  As a growing boy, I didn’t want him to subject himself to living a life of reclusion at a computer.  The thought of him growing into one of those pale, smelly gamers who only comes up from the basement briefly, was not a nice picture.  Here are some methods I used to help him transition out of this period nicely:

1.  He has to feed himself. I would not serve him food while he was playing.  If he couldn’t eat dinner at the same time as us, he would have to come up and heat up his own food.

2.  Emailed or texted him notes of appreciation or love.

3.  Watched him play.  There were times that I would go into his room, sit back on his bed, and chill out.  I tried to maintain a good conversation, but there were times where he was so far gone into a raid, that he would barely say anything.  But, even so, I enjoyed bothering him.

4.  Encouraged him to attend family outings.  Sometimes, I MADE him to do this, which involved threatening WoW account closure.

5.  Chore completion for monthly subscription fees.  I will admit I balked on this sometimes, as I’m not very good at insisting on chores.  As time wore on, I did get better and more of a stickler on this.

6.  Family vacations to the outdoors.  There is no better way to get your kids attention, than by taking them away from technology.  Camping is especially a great way to get them involved with the family. 

7.  Make it clear they know where you stand.  I told my son specifically that playing games exclusively in life will not bring him fulfillment.  I also told him that he would grow out of it, and when he does I’ll still be there, but in the meantime he still needs to be responsible for taking care of himself.  Bathing, eating and sleeping are basic life necessities.  If his gaming interrupts those, then he should take a break.

Overall, he listened.  He has since passed the obsessive gaming, and is more active in our family life.  He still uses his computer and phone a lot, but it has been a more positive experience than negative.  He has grown to be an amazing teenager, and I even think WoW helped him grow out of his cocoon.  He met some great friends during that time period, friends that he’ll probably know at least ‘virtually’ his entire life.

The great news is that I didn’t freak out about the whole thing.  I was able to continue living and raising him as I wanted.  Nagging has lost its luster for good.

Wikipedia Needs Contributors

Wikipedia, the virtual encyclopedia that is built on volunteer submissions, says it is losing contributors.

Founder Jimmy Wales says administrators are busy simplifying what he called "convoluted" editing templates that may be discouraging people from writing and editing Wikipedia’s entries. He was speaking to the Associated Press on Thursday Haifa, Israel where the the website’s annual conference is being held.

In another effort to encourage volunteers to stay active, Wales says the site has introduced a new feature called WikiLove that lets users post positive feedback.

The nonprofit organization that runs Wikipedia announced it is encouraging professors in India, Brazil and Europe to assign the editing and writing of Wikipedia entries to students.

Shake Your Desktop

windows7 Do you run multiple programs simultaneously on Windows 7?  If so, you’ve probably noticed how cluttered your desktop can get.  In Windows XP, to minimize every window on the screen, the quick launch menu had a nice little button called “Show Desktop.”  This instantly minimized every window.  With Windows 7, this is much more fun!

Windows 7’s Aero Shake feature allows you to minimize every window except the one in which you’re currently working in a single step. 

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