Posts Tagged ‘Michele’

Happy Birthday Willow!

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

This is a personal post, unrelated to the Internet, and I don’t often write this type of post on this blog, but I thought I would make an exception. Today is my niece Willow’s first birthday. It’s practically a national holiday in my family as grandparents from both sides of the family are driving and flying into town for the party. I can’t believe a year has passed, and I just wanted to take a quick minute to say Happy Birthday to my first niece, who I love to pieces. Willow, you make everyone HGH around you so happy. You are so cute the way you laugh when your mom’s hair tickles your face, the way that you wave your hands around when you get excited to see someone or something that you like, and the way that when you’re really concentrating, that tongue that your daddy passed down comes out to play. You were such a good baby, and you’re such a fun one-year-old. I can’t wait until you grow up and read this and know that everyone loved you from the start. Happy Birthday! xoxoxo

Melissa and Willow

How Facebook is changing the world

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I realize that the title of this post might sound a little dramatic. But I entirely, whole-heartedly believe that it’s true. Facebook is changing the world.

First of all, the number of people who are joining is skyrocketing. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has 150 million active users. This means that if Facebook was a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world. And this isn’t just a group of passive users; almost half of Facebook’s members use the service every day. On Christmas day, Facebook accounted for 1 in every 22 online visits. This participation is staggering. Tons of new people are signing up to use the site daily – and Facebook is a service that gets more fun to use as more people join, so it’s doubtful that this participation will slow.

Facebook logo

But large numbers alone won’t change the world – it’s what Facebook is doing with those numbers that’s so exciting. Here are just a few things that I’ve observed:

Facebook is helping non-technical Web users begin to understand other Web services. I first noticed this because of Facebook’s “Status updates.” I have been promoting Twitter for about a year, but it wasn’t until Facebook’s Status Updates started getting popular that I was able to find a good way to describe Twitter to non-users. Now I just say “Twitter is like Facebook’s status updates, but that’s all it is, so you can update more frequently.” In another example, my cousin is organizing his 15th high school reunion using Facebook, and he wanted his event to be picked up by Google. This allowed me to give him a quick rundown on SEO and how search engines work. There are also reports that Facebook is gearing up to launch a “like” feature that will replicate a popular FriendFeed functionality. This not only will be incredibly popular with Facebook’s members, but will allow them a better understanding of FriendFeed. Facebook’s popularity and excellent user interface is helping to make Web use more mainstream and less frightening to Internet novices. This alone is a major game-changer.

Facebook is changing professional networks. I am currently looking to hire a part-time, contract Web developer to help out with my business. I am actively looking through my Facebook contacts to see if anyone in my network is a developer and might be interested in the job. I can recruit through Craigslist and Boston.com (and will likely pursue those routes, too); but if I can find someone I know – even if it’s someone who I haven’t worked with, seen or talked to in years – I am pre-disposed to hiring that person. Of course the decision will ultimately come down to experience and qualifications, but a network is very important in finding a job, and Facebook is suddenly adding people to my network who I haven’t spoken to in a decade.

Facebook is bringing friends closer. In the spectrum of being able to keep up with friends and staying in touch with people, I am pretty good. I would say slightly above average. Even so, I only have about 3 people who I talk to every day (my husband, my bf/co-worker, my business partner). Then there are about 6 other people who I talk to multiple times a week (my brother & sister-in-law, my neighbors who live downstairs and a few local friends). As my circle gets wider, the frequency of communication drops. Facebook is changing this, by facilitating daily communication with a much wider circle of friends. These are friends who I love dearly, but who just don’t live close to me and neither of us have the time to call and check in every day. But we can read each other’s status updates, look at the photos that we’ve posted and have at least an idea of what is going on in each other’s lives on a daily basis.

Facebook is connecting & creating communities. It would be pretty interesting to see the connections between friends in Facebook charted out, but it seems that most of the connections would be concentrated locally or with specific groups – work friends, high school and college friends, church buddies, soccer teammates, etc. But the really powerful thing is that each person’s connections make up a community of people who share at least one thing (or person) in common. If you expanded out even just one level of separation and looked at all of the connections of my connections, there would be a substantial community of people who likely share at least some commonalities. And when communities of people hook up and unite, it’s amazing what they accomplish.

- Facebook is starting to take a chunk out of my email inbox – in a way. I am getting a ton of messages from friends via Facebook now – both through Facebook’s inbox and the Wall-to-wall features. It seems that as people are spending time using Facebook, they just use the service to drop me a quick note to say hi, ask me a question, or just to connect. (This is only taking a chunk out of my email inbox in a way because a notification is sent to my email anytime someone comments on something that I’ve done or writes me a note.)

It’s becoming a verb. Chris’ new favorite expression is “I’m Facebooking.” The last major service that went from noun to verb was Google. Perhaps that is enough said.

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

When times are tough, one of the hardest things to do is stay positive. But being positive is important for every aspect of our lives. It improves our health. It improves our outlook on work and family. And it makes us more pleasant to be around.

Right now, the economic news is bad. Lots of companies are laying off employees. The housing market in the U.S. is continuing its slump. These definitely qualify as “tough times.”

I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.

But the optimist in me has been fighting to the top. So instead of dwelling on the bad, I came up with this list of 10 ways to stay positive, even when times are tough. Here are the first three tips; I’ll be posting the rest throughout the week.

1) Spend time doing something that makes you happy. What do you love to do? What is something that makes you happy just because you like doing it so much? Anything that has an ulterior motive attached doesn’t count. For example, I am happy when I go jogging because I know that it will help me get in shape, but I don’t really like jogging, and I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t have positive health benefits.

I usually would cite playing basketball as something that I love doing just for the sake of it. When I play, I get to hang out with friends, be competitive, exercise, and be social. It also takes my mind off everything else.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I got an even better example to use. My brother Matt and his wife Michele had their first daughter – my first niece – Willow. The only way that I can describe her birth is complete joy. Focusing my attention on her and my family is something that helps keep me optimistic and positive in a way that few other things ever have. Figure out what it is that you love, and spend some time doing it.

2) Vote! Living in the United States, the election is top of mind for me and most other Americans today. Being part of a larger movement of people who are all doing the same thing on the same day is empowering and gives you a sense of belonging. Today, a record number of voters are heading to the polls, and we will end the day with either a black President-elect or a woman Vice President-elect. History will be made either way.

voting in the United States

Get out to the polls and you’ll feel the energy and optimism there that is inherent in the voting process. Voting will give you a sense of optimism and hope for the future.

3) Volunteer. There are always opportunities to help people, especially in a time of economic uncertainty. There are volunteer opportunities for every personality type and skill level. My sister-in-law has donated her time to helping non-profits put together professional business plans. A co-worker is part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. A friend and his family have donated their time in helping to raise Great Danes that are used for rehabilitation. Not only does helping others help you feel better about yourself, but it also reminds you to look outside yourself to put the needs of others first.

Up tomorrow on 16thLetter – reasons 4-6 to stay positive when times are tough.

*UPDATE: I obviously missed the “tomorrow” deadline! I should have said “Up next week…*

Photo by mudpig

The yellow first down lines in football games

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Every time I watch a football game, someone asks “How do they make those yellow lines on the field that mark the first down?” And no one ever knows the answer. Yesterday, watching the (disappointing) Super Bowl, my sister-in-law asked the question and suggested that I write about it, so I thought I would oblige.

Sportvision LogoIt turns out that the “First and 10″ lines have been appearing on your screen since 1998 and are the invention of a company called Sportvision. The simplicity of the yellow lines, which show up on the ground to mark the first down line, and appear to be painted on the ground, with players and refs and the football able to walk over the lines, belies how complicated it actually is to create them on your television screen. I would love to simplify this for you, but it’s beyond me – so here’s the description from the Sportvision Web site:

“A laser placed in the center of the field is used to collect data on elevation points. That information is used to draw a computer map of the contours of the field, and the map is adjusted and overlaid onto the camera’s view of the actual field. Anywhere from three to five separate broadcast cameras are outfitted with custom Sportvision sensors and encoders to capture camera data so that the 1st and Ten Computers can enhance one camera “live” with the yellow line, and any of the others for use in replay. As cameras pan, tilt and zoom, this data enables the virtual line to follow suit, staying in perspective and getting larger and smaller, as needed.

“Drawing the yellow line so that it appears to be painted on field underneath the players is accomplished through a sophisticated process of color keying that allows the operators to tell the computers what colors to draw on (grass, dirt) and what not to draw on (skin, uniforms). And finally, after adding the precise location of the first down marker to the system and… voila … The Yellow Line appears like magic on your TV screen.”

It also turns out that we aren’t the only ones who think that the yellow lines are cool – they have a 98% approval rating from fans, and the company has won multiple Emmy’s for the technology. Sportvision also has other technology solutions that are used in baseball, basketball, golf, horseracing and motorsports, among others.

Holidays and family history

Friday, December 28th, 2007

I’ve spent much of the last week traveling to Binghamton, spending time with my friends and family celebrating Christmas. It was a really nice break and I enjoyed all of it – the food, the parties, the presents – with the exception of missing my brother and Michele (who spent Christmas in Switzerland this year) and my cousin Jeff and his fiance (who were in Ohio).

Each year, it seems like there are a few truly memorable gifts that are given or received. Last year, Chris and I made “Fix-it-Club” hats for my dad, Carol & DJ, as part of the “club” that was founded based around DJ’s propensity to break things, and my dad’s skill at fixing them. And last year, Michele gave all the women in my family bracelets in support of Breast Cancer Research, in memory of my grandma – it was our first Christmas without her, and the first Christmas Eve that we celebrated in my lifetime that wasn’t at her house.

Vintage Christmas Postcard

This year, three gifts top my list. Chris gave me two of them – a flute, which I mentioned to him in passing that I would like to start playing again; and tickets to see the Nutcracker in Boston. We went to the show last night, and it was fun and magical, just like it is every time I see it. If you live in Boston, go next year! It is worth it.

The other gift was something that I got from my Aunt Mary, and is incredibly special. The back story is that when my grandma was alive, she used to have a collection of about 50-100 old postcards that she would pull out from time to time to show people. My grandma had a ton of information bits like this – she would clip articles from the newspaper or find old photos and she would keep them in a drawer in her living room and would show us various things when we came to visit. She also would write all over these pieces of paper in her cursive scrawl, I think to try to make sure that she remembered the names of the people in the photos for when she was telling the stories about them.

Vintage Thanksgiving Postcard

So for Christmas, my Aunt Mary framed this collection of holiday postcards and gave a bunch to all the people in my family. SO COOL! I love these things. She knew that I would love them so she gave me six – I’m still trying to decide how best to display them. My favorite three are pictured in this post.

Vintage Valentine's Day Postcard

The coolest thing about the postcards, though, is that you can still read the backs of them. All of these were sent to someone (an ancestor of mine, possibly?) named Miss Frances Jennings from Candor, N.Y. That’s all that can be found in the address line – I guess you didn’t need too much information to get the postcards to the right house back in 1909, when sending a postcard cost only 1 cent.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to do a bit of research on the people who sent and received the postcards. This is all speculative, because I can’t be sure that any of the people in the postcards are 100% definitely the people who I found on the Internet, but it’s interesting either way!

Back of Christmas postcard

The back of the first postcard (pictured above) provides a huge hint – which is that J. Herbert Jennings, Jr. was somehow associated with Miss Frances Jennings (likely her father). And I managed to find out some information about a J.H. Jennings Sr., namely that he was the local druggist at Candor Corners in 189? (random fact: at some point, the store burned down). It appears that he may have also been the town supervisor, the chief office in town, from 1894-1896. He married Matie Wells on December 21, 1871, in Oneonta, N.Y. I think that this is the father of J.H. Jennings, Jr. and the grandfather of Frances Jennings.

Some sad news for the Jennings family on September 29, 1904, when Mary Augusta Wells (the proper name of Matie?), wife of J.H. Jennings, passed away. In 1933, it appears that the Jennings were still in business and that both J.H. Jennings Sr. and Jr. were still living in Candor, based on the information in this old phone book.

Thanksgiving postcard back

The postcards were all sent by different people, but at least two of them seem to be from family members in Seattle, Washington – one from Auntie Ric (pictured above) and the other from Cousin Mable. They are postmarked with a stamp from the World’s Fair Seattle 1909, which appears to be the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a fair that was put on to publicize the development of the Pacific Northwest. I have no idea if the relatives were involved in that World’s Fair, but it’s wild to think that they were in Seattle in the early 1900’s when Seattle still looked like this and there were no airliners to take you there from New York:

World's Fair Seattle

One of the most interesting people in the Jennings family line is Eleanor Jennings, whose obituary says that she was born on May 1, 1924, to J.H. Jennings Jr. and Daisy Wales Hunt Jennings. Eleanor graduated from Candor High School in 1941 and in 1944 magna cum laude from William Smith College. She wrote a book about her family and their role in Candor called Echoes from Yesterday. (I am trying to get a copy.) She also taught and travelled extensively, and published both prose and poetry. She had a half sister named Frances Mary Jennings, who I believe is the Frances from the postcards.

There was also an Eleanor Jennings from Candor, N.Y., who served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1928, but this must have been a different Eleanor – maybe another family member? This is still amazing to me, however, as the first woman didn’t get elected to the Senate until 1932. (The first woman went to the Republican National Convention as a delegate in 1900.)

I realize that this is just a lot of rambling about the possible history of some people that may or may not be my ancestors, but it’s very cool how much of the past the Internet has opened to us now that many old documents have been scanned and indexed. I hope that one day all of the books and documents that we have stored in warehouses and libraries are archived digitally.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

St. Nicholas SwitzerlandLast night I had a delicious fondue dinner with Matt and Michele (my brother and sister-in-law) in honor of St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated in Switzerland on December 6. Michele’s family is Swiss, and I lucked out in getting to partake of this year’s festivities.

Contrary to what I thought before I knew any better, in Switzerland, St. Nicholas Day is different than Christmas. On St. Nicholas Eve, children in Switzerland leave out a boot, and hopefully wake up on Dec. 6 to find it filled with chocolates, nuts and oranges. St. Nicholas – or Samichlaus – is accompanied on his journeys by a dark and scary friend Schmutzli and a donkey. Rumor has it that the bad kids get coal and a beating from Schmutzli’s switch. Lucky for me, I got a Lindt chocolate snowman instead. Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Photo from the Switzerland Traveler

Halloween and the Internet

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

For some reason, people love Halloween. I’m not sure if it’s just that creative people like Halloween because they can let their inspiration flow, or if it’s something else, but I know a lot of people who LOVE LOVE LOVE the holiday. It’s not my favorite, personally. But my sister-in-law Michele loves it. And she and my brother Matt throw the best Halloween party every year. I dressed up this year as Princess Fiona, the wife of Shrek. I picked the costume purposely because I have a Halloween day event that a lot of little kids will be at, and I wanted them to be able to recognize who I was and not run away. I’m not sure if I will be successful because I scared Matt and Cara with my green makeup – Matt kept looking at me and saying that I was freaking him out because I didn’t look like myself.

Anyway, I didn’t really know exactly what Fiona looked like before I dressed up, so I found pictures on the Internet to model my costume after. A good way to find image of the person or thing that you’re dressing up as is to use Google image search. That’s how I found my model. But there are a lot of other tools that you can use if you’re looking to create a last-minute Halloween costume. This post from Lifehacker gives a list of places that you can go to print your own mask. If you have the clothes that your character would wear, but just can’t make yourself look like that person, it’s an easy (and low-cost) way to “disguise” yourself. There are also a number of sites that help with inspiration if yours is lacking – two that I came across are Costumzee and Costume Idea Zone, which also provides some handy idea for the reluctant party-goer.

Blacksmiths & the Internet

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Blacksmith

This past weekend I went to Stow, Ohio, for my cousin Jay’s wedding, and we had some down time on Saturday so my husband, brother and sister-in-law all headed to Hale Farm & Village. Along with square dancing (which Chris and Michele participated in), and kettle corn (different from the sweet version that New Englanders are used to but even more delicious, in my opinion), there was a working forge with a couple of blacksmiths demonstrating their craft. I could stand and watch them make their products for hours. I figured it would be a stretch to figure out a way to connect this traditional craft with the Internet, but a quick search online turned up a whole host of resources for blacksmiths, including AnvilFire.com, which features a number of online chats and discussion boards, step-by-step guides to metalworking, a glossary of terms, and a store to buy products.

Working on metal