Tag Archives: the internet


I don’t much like modern pop music. I’d never actually heard a Katy Perry song until today when I watched a video that Walt Whitman High School students put together (that’s the school my two kids attended). The video is for a contest through Good Morning America who teamed with Ms Perry and asked high schools to put together a video to her song “Roar”. The school not only put the video together in 7 days, it featured most, if not all, of the student body and many faculty members. In addition to the song, the school featured last year’s campaign in which they raised $91,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the video several students and faculty members hold signs that read, “I beat cancer”. I love the whole video, but of course my favorite bit is the small wrestling segment featuring Harriet, a former teammate of my son. (:36 – :39 or so in the video — also to the right of the viking in the cover shot)

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Even if they don’t win the contest (and of course I think they should) they should be very proud of themselves.

Google Maps 8-bit quest

My house in 8-bit
No monsters or dragons here

Quick. Go to Google Maps and look up an address then click Quest in the top right-hand corner.

Try looking up Googleplex. Or The White House. (you may need to zoom in or out to see things)

An explanation is on the Google Maps Blog


Let me know if you found any other cool things at other addresses.

Update: Danny Goodwin over at Search Engine Watch has screen shots of many of the landmarks found on the 8-bit maps.

Ask the Internet – Orphan Socks

It’s time for… Ask the Internet!

Today’s question: How do you deal with orphan socks?

A pile of orphan socks When you do your laundry and one of a pair of socks is missing – what do you do? How long do you keep orphan socks before realizing you’ll never find its mate? Where do you store orphan socks?

I used to put everyone’s socks together when I folded laundry, but that became a real chore. I’d throw socks into a special basket and plan to sort them when I was done with the laundry. By the time I’d finished the laundry, however, I was in no mood to sort socks and the basket of unsorted socks turned into two, then three, before I finally sat down to sort them.

A couple of years ago I decided to just toss the unmatched socks into the basket of the owner (each family member has a basket that I fill with clean clothes and they’re responsible for putting their own clothes away – although the kids do most of their own laundry these days).

I still end up with a pile of my own orphan socks, however. It grows each week, it seems. I’m worried that as soon as I throw away one of the socks I’ll find its mate.

So, I ask you – how do you deal with orphan socks?

The Girl who Stalked a Tree*

Monkey puzzle tree in Ireland
Monkey Puzzle Tree in Ireland


Summer 1976. Near Leeds, England. She stood staring at the absurdly strange-looking tree, unable to believe it could possibly survive outside a fantasy world. She didn’t like breaking rules, but she wanted to trespass on the lawn that hosted this tree and touch it to make sure it was real. The tree was quite tall and shaped somewhat like a fir tree and, from a distance, seemed to have needles similar to that of a fir. But that was as far as the similarity went. The only tree she could think of that looked at all like this tree in front of her, was a Norfolk Island Pine.

This tree looked like it might have been around when the dinosaurs were top dog.

Her companion told her that the tree was a monkey puzzle tree. He added that it was thought to be  impossible for a monkey to climb a Monkey Puzzle Tree, hence the name.

Summer 1987 or so. Berkley, California. She and her husband, strolled leisurely around the neighborhood where her husband’s cousin lived. Something about the houses or the streets or the lawns that looked more like gardens reminded her of England and being reminded of English gardens reminded of the long ago monkey puzzle tree.  To her surprise, shortly after thinking about monkey puzzle trees, she saw a one  in front of one of the houses in the neighborhood and pointed it out to her husband, repeating what her companion had said about the tree eleven years earlier.

July 9, 2008. Killarney, Republic of Ireland. Driving around the roundabout that led out of Killarney and onto the Ring of Kerry, she shouted, “A Monkey Puzzle Tree!” and pointed out the passenger’s side window. Everyone in the car got a good look at the tree, and she made a note to take a photo on the way back.

Later that day, after visiting waterfalls, a stone circle and a town called Sneem, the driver pulled the rental car into a parking lot and let her out so she could snap a few photos of the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Chapter 1
July 25 – August 15, 2008

Upon arriving back from her wonderful trip to Ireland, Dona turned on her Dell Dimension 8400 and began uploading her many photographs of the trip to the photo sharing site, Flickr. She’d kept a journal of her adventures and planned to transcribe the journal to a blog she started on the online blogging site, WordPress.com. She set up the blog and began to type.

Days later, after many cups of coffee, Dona came across the photograph of the monkey puzzle tree. Dona took another sip of coffee and opened up a new tab in her Firefox browser and, into the search field of the browser, typed

"monkey puzzle tree"

The first result on the Google search page was for the Wikipedia article about the Araucanria araucana, more commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree. After reading the article and saving it as a bookmark (Dona does not have a photographic memory, unlike some fictional characters), Dona wondered if it was possible to grow a monkey puzzle tree in her town of Bethesda. Through numerous searches, and cups of coffee, Dona discovered that where she lived in Maryland was in zone 5 for plant hardiness and that the monkey puzzle tree could grow in zone 5. She also read some bulletin boards after searching

"monkey puzzle tree" maryland

and discovered that there was a monkey puzzle tree in Gaithersburg, a town not far from Bethesda. She wondered where it was, but could find no clue even after many searches.

Chapter 2
Months later

Dona needed to make a Christmas list and had lately been thinking about monkey puzzle trees. She wondered if one could purchase a monkey puzzle tree nearby so she typed

"monkey puzzle tree" bethesda

into the search field on her browser. She didn’t find any for sale at the local nurseries, but did discover that a 30 ft. monkey puzzle tree graced the lawn of someone in Bethesda. The listing gave the name of a couple, but no address. Dona’s first thought was to use low technology. She got out the white pages of the phone book, but the name of the owner of the property on which the monkey puzzle tree stood was not listed. Then she searched online, but still could not find the couple who owned the monkey puzzle tree.

Chapter 3
More Months Later

Once again Dona thought about the Bethesda monkey puzzle tree and wondered if she could find more information by searching for the owner’s names separately.  Somehow she was led to an Internet link that led her to believe the monkey puzzle tree was in the neighborhood across from her son and daughter’s high school. She opened Google Maps and tried to see if she could see the monkey puzzle tree from the satellite view. No luck; but then she’d never seen a birds’ eye view of a monkey puzzle tree. The next day she drove around the school neighborhood intently at the trees in people’s yards, trying to find the monkey puzzle tree, but had no luck except that the cops didn’t come and ask her what she was doing staring in people’s back yards.

Chapter 4

Dona opened her RSS reader and noticed that Mali posted a blog post, listing things that made her smile that morning. One of the things was a cabbage tree and Mali conveniently provided a link to a photo of a cabbage tree for readers that had never heard of one. Dona followed the link and then began thinking about the monkey puzzle tree in Bethesda once again.

She searched Google, using various search terms including, again, each name of the owners of the tree. She found a few results that she’d not seen before. One was to an entry in an online guest book for a funeral home signed by one of the owners of the house that hosted the monkey puzzle tree, but it listed her city as Rockville** and her husband’s name was the short version of his full name.  Another result was to a home that sold in 2007. Dona hadn’t thought that they might have moved — and give up ownership of a monkey puzzle tree? What were they thinking? A third (using the husband’s shortened name) was to another online guest book for a funeral home in which the husband mentioned being a neighbor of the deceased and mentioned a name of a street which was adjacent to the one the house that was sold.


Dona hopped in her black Camry and drove past the house. There, in the front yard, was a 30 foot tall monkey puzzle tree.

*with apologies to the late Stieg Larsson

**The house is technically in Rockville, but is listed as North Bethesda some places

Google Street View Clues

I’ve been waiting for Google Street View to arrive in our neighborhood for quite a while. It was close-by — in the business area of Bethesda, but it had not made it to our immediate neighborhood until very recently. I discovered it had when I tried to figure out where the neighbor who needed a tutorial in how to delete unwanted emails lived. I noticed that Pegman made the neighborhood streets turn blue when I lifted him off his little tower — the universal sign that we were now on street view.

When I told Dean about it we spent an hour or so trying to figure out when the Google street view camera came through the neighborhood. It was like a mystery. We first looked at our house, of course, and found some clues:

It was warm, but not hot outside because our bedroom window was open (but we had the air conditioning off and the windows open most of the summer, so this is not really a clue):

Window Clue
Window Clue

It was this past summer because our new neighbors’ cars were parked in front of their house:

Neighbor Car Clue
Neighbor Car Clue

It was a few weeks after the 4th of July because we found this flag, but no others (the local real estate agent puts flags in front of each home for the 4th of July):

Flag Clue
Flag Clue

It was early in the morning because of the way the sun was shining:

Sun Clue
Sun Clue

It was not a Friday because the Fish Guys were not at Bethesda Community Store:

No Fish Guys Clue
No Fish Guys Clue

It was not a regular weekday because the entrance at NIH was barricaded:

NIH Clue
NIH Clue

It was probably not a Sunday because this construction worker is getting ready to work on a house:

Construction Worker Clue
Construction Worker Clue

It was probably sometime in August. The leaves on the tulip poplars started to drop early this year, and I saw several yards with yellow tulip poplar leaves in them. I cannot tell if our house repairs were completed — the basement windows, with one blurry exception, are not visible in the photos and the back porch is too far away to tell if it had been repaired. The one big clue for me is the branch on our across-the-street neighbor’s curb — I remember seeing a fallen branch in the street, thinking that I should move it, getting distracted by something else, then seeing the neighbor had moved it. I asked her about it the next day at a neighborhood coffee get-together and she said she thought it came from her tree.

Branch Clue
Branch Clue

I checked my emails and found reference to the neighborhood coffee get-together. It took place on August 1st, 2009. So, I’m thinking now that the Google Street View camera car came through on Saturday August 1st.

Here is a bonus picture, although not a clue:



There have been times in my life when I’m somewhere and think, “oh my gosh. I’m here. How did this happen? Do I really want to be here?” Usually they turn out fine — and sometimes better than fine.

I suspect tomorrow will be one of those times. I’m going to a BarCamp event in DC. From what I understand it is an event where people go to learn from each other. People suggest topics and then groups of people brainstorm about them. Or something.

I’ve got a few worries about the day. First of all, it looks like the majority of BarCamp goers are young. Like really young. And smart. They all know much more than I do about anything I know anything about. And there will be A LOT of them. 441 according to the list of attendees. I recognize three names from the list of 441 attendees. And one of the three names is mine.

According to the directions, I’m to show up at 9:00 am and go to a basement. Then wait for an agenda to be made. Then go to sessions. PowerPoint is banned in order to make the sessions more interactive. Then eat lunch. Attend more sessions. Then go drink beer.

So, if I were several years younger, much brighter, not introverted, possibly male I might be really looking forward to this, instead of dreading it.

Oh wait! I see a session suggestion on accessibility. Ok, maybe this will be more fun than I thought!

Wish me luck.

My Life Online

I had an interesting conversation, a number of months ago, with another wrestling mom, about the virtues and drawbacks of living in a digital age. She asked me if I thought that technology (blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.) encouraged community or discouraged it. This is something I have thought about quite a bit because I spend a fair amount of time online, interacting with folks all over the world and have been doing so since 1998 or earlier.

I’ve discussed my life online in my about page, so I needn’t write about it again. To sum it up, I’ve been online since 1995 and have formed connections with folks from all over the world. Some of these connections were lasting, some were not. In so-called real-life, I’ve also made connections with folks from many different backrounds and places. Few of them have lasted.

I am a different person, in some ways, online and off-line. I’m much shyer in person than I am online, although being online helped me become less awkward in social situations. Back in the late 1990’s I used to visit chat rooms and learned how to join an ongoing conversation. I was able to take that to off-line situations where, instead of standing in a corner of a room at a party waiting for someone to approach me, I was able to approach people and join in conversations without feeling too embarrassed. I also learned the art of “small talk” something that had eluded me all my life.

As much as I think that social media (including texting) can be a good thing, I also think that it can take away from real-life community. I’m as guilty of the next person in that I check my email, text messages and even twitter &  facebook updates while in the presence of others. Not so much friends, as my husband & family, but I have been known to be rude to friends that way too.

Once, shortly after getting a new smart phone, I spent most of the time IMing another friend while out with my friend, Joan. I think I was mostly showing off my shiny new phone, but I was completely out of line. The other day at book group I was checking email as I waited for my ride to get her coat, but I ignored the host while doing so.

I also have missed visits from neighbors during the day while working in my attic office. I cannot hear the doorbell up there, and although I am usually working — and 20 years ago would have had to be in an office instead of at home — I should interact with people during the day — especially if they take the time to knock on my door.

I think that most people can balance their online / offline time better than I can. It is something I need to work on.

So now, I’ll sign off and spend some time with my husband. After all here we are in a motel in the Hudson River Valley and I’m blogging and he’s reading while we wait for our daughter to be ready to meet for brunch.