Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools Best Of The Web 2011

Over the last couple of years the Internet has been an awesome place to pull fun and harmless jokes on people. Major companies and websites have been getting in to the act and this year has been no exception. Here's a run down of the best April Fools jokes I've seen this year.

Youtube 1911
In the past Youtube has played a couple of hilarious pranks before. My favorite being the year they linked all of the videos on their home page to Rick Astley's video for Never Gonna Give You Up. This year, all of their videos have a sepia tint as a throwback to their roots 100 years ago in 1922

Blizzard: Crabby The Dungeon Helper
Blizzard is famous for releasing a prank or two on April fools. The most famous being the announcement of the Pandaren race which turned out to be so popular a hero was introduced into an expansion of Warcraft III. This year they've "announced" a new addition to their popular game World of Warcraft. Crabby the Dungeon helper looks about as annoying as Microsoft's paperclip. Very funny and good job Blizz.

Google Motion
I'm not even sure I have to write about this as I'm sure you've already seen this today. However, Google's satire of all the motion control devices and game systems we keep hearing about is quite funny. Have a look.

Kodak Relationshiffft
Have a great picture of yourself but can't use it because your Ex is in it too? Kodak has a hilarious solution.

NPR 3D Eye Surgery
For the first few minutes, I fell for this one. On my way to a client's office today I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and yelled "WHAT?" when this minute and a half long story aired. This prank was REALLY well done. Have a listen on NPR's page.

Did you see any good pranks or jokes on the web today? Post links below!

Favorite Things: Podcasts

Podcasts are one of those bits of popular tech that I jumped into late in the game. I remember hearing about them a year or two after iPods really hit the scene but never bothered to check them out. I'm not the only one to have hesitated because its still an evolving medium. Lately, I've started hearing about more and more people subscribing to their favorite shows and enjoying all that the collective web has to offer.

Podcasts exist in the brave new world of media on demand. "I want to listen to this and I want to have it right now!" What we know as television programing is moving in much the same direction. Cable companies are trying to make on-demand programing a viable option all while people are canceling their cable subscriptions in mass numbers. The public has turned to the Internet for its own flavor of on-demand media. What was once a weird byproduct of the iPod coming into existence now fits very well into today's alternative way of getting what you want, when you want it.

Why Bother?
To answer that question you need to have some understanding of what a podcast actually is. Think about it as a radio show that gets delivered to you in episode form that you can listen to whenever you want. I think we can all agree that commercial radio has almost nothing to offer anymore. Each station plays the same songs and they all take exhausting commercial breaks at the same time. The real question is, why bother with that?

How To Listen To Podcasts
You don't even have to have an iPod to listen to a podcast. In fact I rarely even sync podcasts to my iPod. Instead I use iTunes to listen to podcasts in the background while I work from home. However, putting podcasts on your iPod and listening through your car is a great way to keep up with your favorite shows. For commuters, podcasts can vastly improve your quality of life. How much better would you feel listening to a podcast about your favorite subjects rather than fighting with the radio knob to find something halfway decent?

Whenever you think of "talk radio" images of left and right wing windbags spewing endless garbage about politics probably comes to mind. Its sad that such an awesome format on radio is dominated by this type of content. The world of podcasts has that (if you're interested) and a whole lot more. Whatever interests you have, you're almost guaranteed to find a podcast that talks about that subject.

What I Listen To (links open iTunes)

  • The Instance (Frogpants Studios) - The #1 rated podcast about World of Warcraft. Its so good that I still listen to it even when I'm not actively playing. The hosts have created a giant following of people from the WoW community as well as from people who have never even seen the game. While the news and topics are definitely for a specific audience, they've managed to create a show entertaining enough to keep listeners engaged and laughing for years now.
  • This American Life (Chicago Public Media) - A staple of NPR programing across the country, Ira Glass and crew have a show worthy of their long running spot in the top 10 podcasts by download list. This show has a different theme each episode and dives into serious, humorous and touching subjects. 
  • BBC World News (BBC) - Still the standard by which I compare all news outfits against. The BBC World News team consistently reports on the top stories from around the world. Where local news disappoints with stories about the latest celebrity scandal or how oxygen might cause cancer if you jump on one foot for 36 straight hours, the BBC reports on things that actually matter. Its amazing to listen to this podcast and hear about things going on in the rest of the world that we just never hear about on American news programs.
  • Film Sack (Frogpants Studios) - Another awesome podcast from Scott Johnson and the Frogpants studios team. Remember movies like Time Cop, John Mnemonic, Predator 2 and Street Fighter? They watch them again and do a show about each movie with hilarious observations and comments. Even if you haven't seen the movies they review, its definitely an awesome listen.
I listen to a bunch of other podcasts and sometimes I don't have time to listen to them all. What a great problem to have. I can't get to all that great stuff I've downloaded where before, I struggled to find anything worthwhile to listen to.

I mentioned before about how a podcast might improve your life if you are a commuter. I think thats true for anyone though. What if you had hours upon hours of good, quality programing at your fingertips? How would you feel as you went about your daily grind with something great to listen to instead of the same old junk? For me, the transition to podcasts has opened up a whole new world of great content. My only problem is not having enough time to listen to it all.

Do you subscribe to any podcasts? Which ones do you like? Post up below!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wisdom Teeth Removal As An Adult

Wisdom Teeth

Yep, that's me about an hour after my wisdom teeth removal at the age of 28. Sarah and I hadn't had our wisdom teeth removed as teenagers which means our teeth had about a decade to grow, extend their roots, and anchor down in our heads. We decided to get our wisdom teeth removed in the same month, three weeks apart from each other. There's a lot of information to be found on the Internet and from your friends about the surgery and the couple days afterward. What you don't often find is stories about adults getting their teeth removed and what that recovery process is like. If you're considering getting your wisdom teeth extracted as an adult, here are a few tips and pointers to help you out.

The real pain doesn't come until about three or four days after the surgery. Both of us were surprised by how little pain we felt the day after the surgery, but were caught off guard by the lingering pain that reared its ugly head half a week later. Advil was enough to stem the pain for us but it was something we were definitely not prepared for.

We ate a lot of Jello, mashed potatoes and chocolate pudding the first day or two. Any food that is near-liquid will work for those first 48 hours. Now I love mashed potatoes just as much as anyone, but even I started getting sick of them. Eventually I was able to move up to some chicken dino-nuggets which were soft but provided some decent protein. My biggest piece of advice is to plan ahead and stock your kitchen full of REALLY soft food that will get you through that first day or two.

Another thing I definitely did not plan for was the gross feeling that developed quickly after the surgery. Its gross I know, but the mixture of healing wounds and food getting stuck in holes creates a nasty combo of smell and taste. Brushing your teeth the first few days is nearly impossible and you basically have to fight through that time period. When you're able to, utilize a plastic syringe filled with warn salt water to lightly blast some food out of your holes. Swishing hot salt water in your mouth is also a good idea as it helps the healing process and makes your mouth feel cleaner. After a week or two, you'll be able to clean a bit more aggressively and hopefully your stitches have come out by this point. We picked up a Waterpik and set it on its lowest setting to help clean out the crevices the surgery had temporarily created.

The best piece of advice we can give you for the post oral surgery time period is to have some help. For a brief second we had considered getting our teeth removed on the same day. Had we done this, we would have been in way over our heads and needed someone to help care for us. It was good that we rethought this plan and staggered our surgeries so we could take care of each other. Sarah wasn't too bad after her surgery due to the light sedation she was put under. I, on the other hand, was heavily sedated and was quite the handful after I regained consciousness. We definitely advise having a family member or friend around to help you out.

So do you still have your wisdom teeth? Put off getting them out? Have you gone through this surgery as an adult with full grown wisdom teeth? Interested to hear what your experience was like.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How To Support Your Unemployed Spouse

Rainy Day

What do you do when your spouse has just been laid off from a job they love? How do you make them feel good about themselves? How do you keep their spirits up? I wish I could say I knew exactly what I was doing and was the perfect supportive wife when Thomas was laid off, but I wasn't. I was swimming in my own depression from his job loss and there were many wrong steps on my part as we went down this road. This is what I learned.

Remind them how wonderful they are
Getting laid off can be a real kick to the ego, especially for a man. I tried to remind Thomas all the time how much he meant to me and to others so that he could remember that his job was not the only thing he was good at in life. He may not have always heard me, but I tried to say it anyway.

Keep them busy
I knew that if I left Thomas to his own devices, he could very quickly and easily fall into a bad depression. I tried my best to keep him busy with things around the house so that he felt like he had something to get up for every morning. I would then come home and try to show my appreciation at having done those activities (cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, etc).

Get them out of the house
I got to leave the house every day because I had a job to go to. Thomas did not, and so I tried to find ways to get him out of the house during the day as well. Suggest they go to a coffee shop to look for jobs on the free wireless Internet. Ask them to join you for lunch at your job. Suggest they start working out at the gym. Anything to get them out that door each day helps.

Be emotionally supportive
I had no clue what Thomas was going through when he was laid off. I could pretend I knew and I could watch it happen, but I never knew exactly how he felt or the exact mental struggles he went through each day. Things may not make sense, and you might even be upset (we had our fair share of arguments because of this) but you have to remember that no matter what, your spouse needs you to be that strength, holding them up in their time of need.

Know when its too much 
At some point, you may notice your spouse not getting better. Know when its time to seek professional help for them and yourself, separately and as a couple. I got on antidepressants almost immediately after Thomas was laid off, but I didn't bring him to the doctor until almost a year after he was laid off. He was in the middle of his deep depression and I should have brought him in a lot sooner. It was more than he and I could solve on our own and since then, we have both been helped out of depression and moved down a road of healing. There is help out there, and there is no reason not to take advantage of that.

Have you ever been in this position? What did you find helpful for your spouse?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LEGO Project: Jabba's Message

LEGO Star Wars Jabba's Message

The LEGO Project series is a look through the Second Snack collection of LEGO sets from Thomas’ childhood as well as some modern sets. For years these LEGO bricks and pieces have been laying dormant in plastic bins but with the pooled resources of the Internet, reassembling sets is now a reality.

In my continuing mini series of small LEGO sets, today we're taking a look at the LEGO Star Wars set, "Jabba's Message." You probably remember the scene from the original movies. R2-D2 and C-3PO arrive at Jabba the Hutt's palace to deliver a message. They are greeted at the door by a strange robot eye that examines them.

This set is really small and doesn't have many pieces but the mini-figs are incredible! R2-D2 and C-3PO look great but I think the Bib Fortuna mini-fig might be one of my favorites. He was an incredibly creepy looking dude in the movies so the LEGO version is a little less weird since he's got a big smile on his face and you can't see any pointy teeth. His strange head tentacle is carried over an a really cool headpiece that snaps on to the mini-fig's head.

Questions or comments? Post them below!

Monday, March 28, 2011

How To Peel A Beer Label Off The Bottle

peel beer label

Our post about beer and wine bottle inspired art is currently the top post on our site. A lot of people want to turn their old beer labels into something useful and fun. While our first post was about the art itself, we never mentioned how to get the labels off in the first place. In this post, we wanted to explain the way that's worked for us so far.

Soak The Bottles
The first time we got our beer labels to slide off the bottle was by accident. A couple unopened bottles of beer were sitting in a bucket full of ice and water for a few hours. When I went to retrieve one, I noticed all of the labels were floating on the surface of the water. We started using this technique to remove the beer bottle labels ever since. You'll want to use very cold water rather than warm water. We tried warm water a few times but it made the labels too soft and they tore during removal.

Peeling The Labels
Be very careful when peeling the beer bottle labels off. Be prepared for some to get destroyed in the process. Most of the time, you just have to get lucky to peel the label off in one piece. As you get familiar with the different brands of beer and how their labels behave after a good soaking, you can start peeling differently for each bottle. For example, we noticed that the very thin paper-like labels on Newcastle bottles are almost impossible to remove. However the waxy paper labels on bottles of Duvel almost always come off by themselves without any peeling necessary.

Drying The Labels
Before you can do anything with the beer labels, you'll need to dry them after their soak. We lay our labels out on a towel face down. There is a small amount of glue on the back of the labels and they tend to curl during the drying process. If the label is face down, they'll curl  as if they were still around the bottle. We found this to be better than a reverse curl where the label ended up looking convex.

No matter what you decide to do with your old beer labels, these steps above should help you get them removed from their bottles in one piece. We'd love to see what other things you guys can come up with besides our simple canvas. Email us some pictures and we'll be happy to showcase them here on the blog.

Meme Monday: Moving Tips

Packing Tips

Meme Monday brings you a weekly Internet Meme that we have found. Internet Memes are described as something that catches on like wildfire with Internet communities with no outside source of promotion. They exist purely for enjoyment and laughs.