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    27 September 2010

    Forget "Pre-Teens" - What About Younger Kids?

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's been awhile since I posted, I know.  Today's going to be a good one though.  It's not really about a gadget, but it's a rant on something that needs to be addressed by the world, like NOW, because wake up people!

    I have two boys, ages 6 and 8.  Believe it or not, they can read!  And even worse, they can write!  Oh my God, can you believe it?  Guess what else?  They have their own computers!  I realise that last part may not be completely mainstream yet, but as life and technology have evolved, more and more children - and I mean really young ones - will have their own computers, or at least access to them all the time.  Mine have had their own computers since they were roughly two years old (both my husband and I are software developers, and when you get a new computer every two years, you tend to accumulate them - may as well put them to good use).

    Both of their machines are set up in a "public" area of the house - namely the family room.  They have no privacy while surfing the Internet.  But that doesn't mean that I'm sitting right there with them, either.  They are old enough to type in their own searches and look for and view whatever they want to on the Internet at their leisure.

    Now, before you misunderstand and think I feel there should be parental controls on everything, please finish reading.  I know there are plenty of parental-type controls to install (remember what I do for a living?  I spend much of my time on the Internet myself).  I also know that a lot of those controls are all-encompassing for your household (if you block a site at your router, you're screwed; using online family tools requires everyone to sign up (sometimes); it's a hassle because frankly, there are plenty of sites that have perfectly suitable content for my children as well as things that are completely unsuitable for the entire world to see).  So, basically, I'm not talking about a children's browser or parental controls.

    For instance, my kids adore YouTube.  There are plenty of child-friendly videos on YouTube that I let them enjoy, that's perfectly suitable for them to watch (and gasp! even age appropriate!).  The rub is that while they are searching for Harry Potter, they may stumble upon something that isn't really Harry Potter related, despite being tagged as such (for instance, a teenager home-made movie with lots of blood and gore in it and one of the characters is dressed up like Harry Potter).  I have no problem with those types of videos per se, and I certainly don't think they should be banned.  What I do think is that if you're going to have parental controls on your web site, they need to address the fact that people under the age of 13 are viewing it.

    Now, I'm picking on YouTube because they are the flavour of the day (and the current problem in our house).  However, to their credit, they do mention that only people 13 and older are allowed to create an account.  I also have no problem with this; it's their business and they have the right to do that.  I just wish there were a way to convince them that really, just because a six year old has an account, they can still read and write, and they can type their own stuff in - and wouldn't it be nice to treat them as the (somewhat) responsible children they are and flag the material that's appropriate for them, just like the pre-teens?  What a concept!  It's what, one more record in a lookup table, right?  If the content is being flagged by the parents anyway, why not allow younger kids to sign up and be protected?  What about something like Fred?  My kids adore him, and he's perfectly safe for them to watch.  Why not let them?  Because if they type in "Fred" as a search item, they are also likely to get "Fred Kruger" of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame, which I don't want them watching.  If they were 13, I wouldn't care so much, or at least they would be better able to understand that the boogeyman isn't real.

    And yes, I know there are plenty of sites out there for kids.  My boys actually spend a lot of their online time on Webkinz.  They've tried Club Penguin but my oldest found it boring.  We've checked out a few of the other online things for kids but they are either too new when we check them out (read: there are no friends to play with there) or it's made for kids five and under.

    No, I'm not trying to absolve myself of any responsibility of protecting them.  I'm just saying, if you're going to have a policy for protecting children, it's time to go younger than 13, or even 10.  There are a whole bunch of kids on the Internet that are under that age, and who's to say there's nothing on YouTube for them to watch?  Maybe it's a better policy to opt-in on things like that, rather than opt-out?

    I'm not saying I have all the answers, because I really don't.  I'm just sick of "everyone" assuming that "Internet safety" applies to ages 10 and up.  It doesn't - it actually applies to everyone, including the youngsters.

    End of rant, thanks and have a great day.

    13 August 2010

    Blood Pressure Tracking - Online!

    If you're like me and you have blood pressure issues (mine is very low), you have to keep track of what your readings are.  Maybe not compulsively so, but you know, on a fairly regular basis.  Last year I had to do this four times a day, every day, and I kept a log on a spreadsheet I had saved in Google Docs.  It worked great, since I had access to it wherever I went (more or less).

    I'm sure there are a few of these, but I read on MedGadget about a new BP monitoring app on the web called BP-Chart.  You can log and track your blood pressure, make the information public or private, share it on social media outlets, and even roll it up and send it to your doctor.  I haven't tried it out yet, but I'm planning to. 

    And no, I'm not going to make mine public; it will make some of you wonder whether I'm actually alive. :)

    21 July 2010

    The Future is Now

    I'm really interested in BioTech for a lot of reasons (I once wanted to be a neurosurgeon and it was laziness that kept me from doing it).  Both of my parents were/are in medicine and the human body just fascinates me.  And now that I'm into computers, it just seems like a great marriage of interests.

    Today on Read Write Web there is an article about brain sensors and using them to communicate with your computer.  We've all seen things on TV about people with disabilities being able to communicate by thinking, and this is not really a new thing.  But, it's not ever been mainstream and it's quickly becoming so.

    I've seen games in a few places where you wear a headset and control different objects (one or two of which are mentioned in the RWW article), but apparently it's becoming hip to hack those and do all kinds of interesting things, although not necessarily medical in nature.

    I'm not really into having electrodes implanted anywhere in my body (microchips included).  Hell, I don't even have a real tattoo!  But if it's somehting like slipping on a headset and thinking about things, imagine how much faster I can get my programming done?  I can be thinking about a program while running, saving tons of time.

    Say goodbye to the office, right? :)

    19 May 2010

    Social Networks for Small Children

    I am no longer a Facebookuser.  I've had "issues" with Facebook since the beginning; not what it was, but how it was done.  Facebook does not respect my privacy, and I got sick of only hearing about what games everyone was playing, and I used it more like Classmates than I care to admit.

    For those not in the know, I have two boys, ages 5 and 7.  They are both pretty computer savvy (despite the 5-year-old not yet being in Kindergarten or being able to really read).  They can navigate their way around just about any website, once they've seen it a time or two.  Lil P, the 5-year-old, knows his letters so we can actually call out letters to spell things for him and he can navigate that way as well.  They are YouTube fanatics, although we have to constantly monitor what they're watching on that (their computers are in the family room; there is no private surfing for them until they are 18!).

    I've been debating how to get them involved in social networking, but everything just seemed so overwhelming.  And of course none of their friends are on anything yet, so I didn't see how it could be any kind of good thing to sign them up for Facebook (although I think Little E would love the hell out of Twitter - and I'm still thinking about that one).

    Today I discovered (via ReadWriteWeb) a new site called Togetherville.  To sum it up, it's "Facebook for Kids" and it even links to the parents' Facebook accounts to allow for certain friends to be grandfathered.  Which I find interesting, because just because I'm friends with someone on Facebook does NOT mean I want them talking to my child online (see my Classmates reference above).  For some reason, that strikes me as a bit creepy.  But, nonetheless, I can't keep them from climbing the social ladder forever, so maybe I'll let them try it out.  It does have a parent-controlled friends list, so that's a plus.  Oh, and the parents have a separate login, which is nice for the child; it gives them some sense of privacy.  The downside is that they have to use their real names and a real photo.  They are touting security here but you never know...

    Some things that make it safe:

    • no private chat
    • all friends approved by parent(s)
    • no uploads
    • drop-down, pre-set messaging (wow, so they can't say "I got in a fight with my bro and beat him up"?  Frankly, that sucks)

    If you don't have a Facebook account (or, like me, you've deactivated it), you are shit out of luck for this one until further notice.  They do have a way to sign up for them to notify you when it's available for non-FB users though.  I dunno, maybe I'll reactivate my FB account and let Lil E sign up.  Sigh, the sacrifices we make for our children!  That doesn't mean I have to post anything though, right?  Right?

    The trick will be getting Little E's friends involved.  I don't think many of their parents are very tech savvy, and it won't be any fun to do it without people he knows.  And since the school year is drawing to a close, there's not a lot of time to get the word out.

    If we sign up, I'll let you know what I think.

    **Update: I reactivated my FB account and I'll sign Lil E up later.  So, now I'm back on FB. They've really wormed their way into life, haven't they?  UGH.

    14 May 2010

    Another Wicked Cool Prosthesis

    This is some of the coolest technology out there, if you ask me.

    I am not a fan of calling someone "disabled" when they aren't.  It's great to see that technology is making its way into making the lives of people who are missing limbs easier to do...everything!

    In case you're too lazy to hit the link, MedGadget reports that an Austrian man (Christian Kandlebauer), who lost both arms when he was electrocuted, has two prostheses that allow him to drive, have a job, and I assume pretty much everything else "normal" people do.  They transplanted nerve receptors to do it (this is called targeted muscle reinnervation).

    If that's not awesome, I don't know what is.

    12 May 2010

    Do No Work (not a gadget)

    Simon Sinek has an awesome post/video up about not working.  In the video, he is talking with Mike Michalowiz, author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.

    If you're an entrepreneur, you know that although sometimes your business seems like all you do, it still usually doesn't feel like "work" - you enjoy almost every minute of it.  If you go to a job every day, it may often feel like work - the bad kind. 

    Some of my own input about whether you are "working":

    • it's hard to get out of bed and face the day on work days
    • you spend more time "looking busy" than actually "being busy"
    • you don't wonder where the time has gone, but you look at the clock constantly and say, "It's only 9:30!  Why is this day creeping along so sowly???"
    • there is no excitement for your job.  Ever.

    OK, those are a bit sarcastic, but that's pretty much where I'm at.  I have a job, but I do my startup thing as well.  My startup definitely suffers for it, too.  I'm not a complete slave to my paycheck, but our family has become accostomed to our existing lifestyle and it's scary to give that up.

    I am officially on the 6-month plan.  I will be out of here before the end of the calendar year, mark my words.  Until then, I will continue to warm the chair, but not really do any work.

    Note: yes, I know that's not exactly what Simon is saying, but I've extrapolated a little. :)

    30 April 2010

    Hello! Anybody Out There?

    Yeah, I'm still alive, believe it or not.  Just been hiding under a rock lately because, well, nothing has been going on.  And yes, I've fallen down on the job on getting one photo every day; I need to get back on that and I will, eventually.  Too much crap going on in my world right now.

    But, I came across something today that I couldn't pass up writing about, so here you go:

    Blood bath shower gel.  Yep, it's red, looks like blood (well, sort of), and it even comes in a blood bag.  Totally awesome if you're "into" blood (that's a family joke, if you knew my father you would understand).  At any rate, it smells like cherry (which is not my first choice, but oh well) and you can hang it in the shower.

    The shower gel is available at Think Geek for $8.99.