Thursday, August 6, 2009

10 Reasons I'll Unfollow You on Twitter

Since I started using Twitter many months ago, I've always endeavored to follow anyone who followed me. This seems polite, is a great way to meet interesting "Tweeps," and broadens my horizons to take in different perspectives. I used to follow my followers automatically, but then, as the number of followers grew and the number of twitter spam, scam, and get-rich-quick schemes exploded, I was unable to do that. So now I vet all of my new followers (using TweetLater). This would seem time consuming, and it is, except that Twitters who I'll not follow, or who I'll unfollow if they somehow fell through the cracks, tend to fall into certain categories. Here then, is my list of 10 reasons (in no particular order) that I'll unfollow you on twitter.

  1. If you are naked in your profile picture, I will unfollow you.
  2. If you tweet a link to where I can find naked pics of you, or to your webcam, bye-bye.
  3. If you tweet about how I can make my teeth whiter. See ya.
  4. If you tweet about how I can gain millions, billions, gazillions of followers, you just lost one.
  5. If your tweet contains any form of the phrase "multi level marketing," you're outta here.
  6. If you only tweet retweets, unless they're really good, you're gone. I suspect you're a bot.
  7. If you only tweet quotations, and I LOVE quotations, you're most likely a bot and you're gone.
  8. If you never tweet anything more interesting than "had grilled cheese for lunch," I'm sorry, but eBay has a 10% rule about the proportion of following to followers and your slot could be taken up with somebody more interesting.
  9. If your tweets are all about finding dates for yourself or others, sorry. I have my date for life and I'm happy. B-bye.
  10. If all of your tweets try to sell something, you're boring. It's OK with me if an occasional tweet is a sales pitch. Hell, I do that myself, but if that's the only thing you have to offer, no sale.
Wow. That was quick. I'm sure there are others I could think of that I use, and I'm sure everyone else's experience is at least a little different, so, add to my list. What rates an "unfollow" in your book?

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Morning Paper: The TeleGlobTimesHuffBeast

For many years, in addition to my Cheerios and bananas, I consumed two newspapers at my morning breakfast table: my local paper, the Nashua Telegraph; and the only "world class" paper in my part of the country, the Boston Globe. Alas, what with the Great Depression of 2009 and the subsequent search for budget cuts in our household, the newspapers were an easy cut. First one paper, and then another, stopped arriving.

That might cause you to think my wife and I are wandering the world uninformed, glazed eyes, spouting uninformed opinions, with just a touch of spittle at the mouth corner, but no dear reader. Actual dead trees have been replaced by laptop computers at our breakfast table. Truthfully, since we reached the one laptop per family member threshold a couple of years ago, it's rare that a computer isn't on any time someone is sitting down in our house, but I guess that's a story for another post. Here, though, are the online news sources I consume each morning:

  1. NashuaTelegraph - Need to peruse the local paper of record to see what the townfolk are doing, and keep up on where to bring the torches and pitchforks. Unfortunately, I've also reached that tell-tale age where one needs to keep up with the local obituaries as well.
  2. Boston Globe - We fail to appreciate our good fortune in having a regional paper that originates stories that are picked up by other media; that has genuinely talented writers who can approach a story above the 8th grade level. I fear I'm contributing to the demise of this venerable old journal with my canceled subscription, but then I remember the shell game they play with subscription pricing, and how they only offer you their best price after you've canceled. Still, when the budget is better I hope the Globe is still around for me to resubscribe.
  3. New York Times - Call it a liberal rag if you will, but it really is still the paper of record in the U.S. I look here for intelligent reporting of world and national news, plus I do have a number of columnists I enjoy.
  4. Huffington Post - Left slanted view of the news with some fabulous regular contributors. Look here for at least part of what news coverage after newspapers will look like
  5. Daily Beast - A short headline list of story-behind-the-story articles, also from a left perspective
  6. Others - My iGoogle and AllTop pages are setup to give me the latest headlines from CNN, MSNBC, Newsweek, among others. I usually scan these to see if there's a story I missed, or, in the case of Newsweek, a story I'd like more depth on.
I do love the feel of newsprint in my hands, and the format of (at least some) newspapers, but there are definite advantages to consuming news in this fashion. Possibly the most obvious is that I could not physically scan this much news material in print form in the same amount of time. Online sources are organized by headlines, for the most part, and you develop a system of scanning a list of headlines noting articles of interest, eliminating duplicate stories, and sorting into an order in which you'd like to read. For me, at least, this is a much more efficient system of staying informed.

So starts the day of one left-leaning news junkie, later to be followed over the course of the day by periodic glances at Twitter (best place for breaking news), only to settle in with the MSNBC lineup around dinner time. Oh yes, in between, I do manage to get some work done.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

5 Favorite Types of Tweets

Now a confirmed Twitter addict, I feel qualified to weigh in on the now age old question of, "What kind of Tweets are appropriate on Twitter and which are just messin' up the place?" (Note: I assume a Twitter "age" to be 140 days, so "age old" is appropriate.) The answer is, "Everything is appropriate!"

The geniuses at Twitter, who I'm convinced built the thing as a joke figuring it would never catch on, put in the ultimate content justifier. If you don't like what somebody tweets, then don't follow them! As a venue where a Twitter account hooked up to an office chair that measures flatulence has 3615 followers, there is obviously something for everybody on Twitter, and not every Twitterer is going to be your cup of tea. How wonderful!

Having now answered the requisite Twitter philosophical question, here are my 5 personal favorite types of Tweets.

  1. Informative - Teach me something. Point me at an article dissecting a news story. Give me a link to a CSS tutorial. Introduce me to a 93-year old lady that cooks depression era recipes on video. I'm an information junky. Be part of my supply chain.
  2. Funny AND Informative - Have a sense of humor and also feed my info habit. I like Twitterers like @annamariecox, irreverant, able to get into White House press briefings, and willing to tweet about the color of Robert Gibbs' tie.
  3. News - I find myself getting more and more of my news through Twitter. No, I haven't abandoned the ancient news sources of yesterday. You know: RSS, iGoogle, AllTop, etc. No. Far from it. I've been known to watch old-fashioned cable news, and even pick up some oddly formatted news medium printed on paper of all things! But with my local paper and television news channels having Twitter accounts, as well as many major national and international media Twitterers, and with increasingly good Twitter organizational tools like TweetDeck, I find 140 characters just about perfect to tell me about a news item and give me a link I can follow if I'm interested.
  4. Inspirational - OK. I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a good inspirational quote or positive affirmation. Power of intention thinking and mystic wisdom and spirituality pique my interest. BUT, and this is a big but, for all you people posting spammy and questionable business promotions buried in the same dozen or two stale old quotes, be forewarned. If I think I've heard the same quote recently, and I go to your profile and find an identical quote on your front page, I'll unfollow you fast as I can click.
  5. Personality Tweets - A big criticism of Twitter is, "I don't want to know what someone had for lunch, or that they're waiting in a movie theater line." Well, sometimes I do. I'm sure it's a total mistake to think you actually "know" somone you've only met through Twitter, but there are Twitterers who I think really do give you a peak into their personalities through Twitter, and sometimes that can be interesting. @McCainBlogette is a good example. Politically, we're not very alike, John McCain's daughter and I, but I enjoy her prolific tweets and I appreciate the ability to gain some insight into another intelligent human being. There are thousands of interesting people on Twitter who I would not be likely to meet and talk to outside of that enviroment. How cool is that?
So that's my 5 favorite types of tweets. What are yours?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It's "Teacher Appreciation Day," and since I don't have time to write something new, I'd like to recycle this piece I wrote a long time ago, when I was writing a web column called AppleBits. AppleBits focused mostly on Apple Computer related news and opinion, but from my own unique (some would say warped) perspective. Sometimes, as in this case, the columns had little to do with computing.

I had never heard the term blog, but I guess blogging was what I was doing. AppleBits had thousands of readers around the world. Over the years this article has bounced around the Internet, and on occasion I'll get an email from someone who was touched by it. Seems a good day to reconstitute it here on Kestrel's Keep. I promise. New original content sometime soon.

Fred Giuffrida, May 5, 1998

I was a senior in high school. It was a good place to be in life. Lots of things were on my mind, but whether I was going to make it through senior English wasn't one of them. I hadn't had too many problems academically in the prior eleven years and I didn't expect this year to be any different, but here I was, sitting, waiting to get my first writing assignment of the year back from a teacher I didn't know very well. I thought I could write fairly well and this guy, Mr. Perreault, seemed pretty decent, so I'd just get this paper back and get on with enjoying senior year.

Then the assignment came back. Scrawled across the top was a grade and three words, "D - This is CRAP!". So went my introduction to John Perreault. He had my attention. Many of us in that class did poorly on that first assignment. It might have seemed excessive, even an indictment of all those English classes that came before, if Perreault hadn't proceeded then to teach us to write, and could that guy ever teach.

I remember him as being a real "guy" who had a tough aspect, but could speak quite emotionally, particularly about literature. He didn't pull any punches and you always knew where you stood with him. I grew to respect that. He loved to force us to think, and grinned as if lost in a private joke whenever we'd make some new discovery that he'd all but laid in front of us. It definitely didn't turn out to be an easy class.

We were supposed to learn about American literature, and he was a great guide. He helped us wade through Melville and put ourselves in Ahab's shoes. He made me see so much value in Thoreau's Walden that I later read it again, and then again, and occasionally I still pick up that book to this day. In the process of our tour of American authors he managed to teach us a little about life as well.

I still remember him confiding to us what he thought might be his favorite line in literature. It was the last line of Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises, spoken between the lovers that can never be, as she tells him how nice it could have been. He simply replies "Isn't it pretty to think so." Perreault thought so much of life was expressed in that line. I think I needed to be older to appreciate that quote the way he did.

He also taught us to write. I waived out of a semester of freshman college English because of him, and I never had trouble with any writing assignment during those years. Later when I became a software engineer, I found that many people couldn't write a coherent technical specification. I could. I credit Perreault. Today, I write AppleBits, and a few thousand people find it interesting enough to read it every day. If not for John Perreault, I'm quite certain that AppleBits would not exist.

Over the years, many times I've thought about going back and saying "Thank you." The first time was probably when I came back from college, then when my career started working out, then probably once every few years to this day. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I might be able to get in touch with John Perreault via the web. I found that my high school now had a web site, and it was being run by the gentleman who used to be principal at my Junior High, Richard Griffin.

I sent Mr. Griffin email explaining how much I had appreciated Mr. Perreault and asking if he could put me in touch with him, so that I could say thanks. A few hours later, he sent me a reply. He explained as kindly as possible that John Perreault had passed away from cancer about five years ago.

So this story has a couple of embedded lessons, a little gift from Mr. Perreault to me through two decades of time. The first is about the importance of teachers. They're undervalued, underpaid, and taken for granted. The best of them affect their students' lives forever. Every student should have one John Perreault in their lives; that teacher who challenges you, guides you and leaves you better prepared for life than when you met.

The second lesson is, of course, about saying thanks. There are probably people in your life who've exerted a particularly positive influence on you. Maybe it's a parent, a friend, a spouse, or maybe even a teacher. Don't wait too long to say thanks. I'd like to think that John Perreault knew the profound effect he had on his students' lives. I hope his family knows that there are probably hundreds of former students just like me whose lives are better for having ended up in his classroom. Isn't it pretty to think so?

Copyright © Fred Giuffrida, 1998
All rights reserved.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How to Live Forever

(This is a rerun of a post I wrote in September of 2007. It's hard to believe it's been two years. - FG)

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have bad news for you. Barring some very significant medical breakthrough in the next hundred years or so, someday you will cease to breathe. Your heart will stop beating. Your brain will cease to be electrically active. You will die. You may take heart however from the fact that, like the proverbial pebble in the pond, the ripples of your life may continue virtually forever. You may gain some degree of immortality.

There are, of course, relatively easy ways to be remembered forever. Do something infamous. Adolph Hitler and Osama Bin Laden are not likely to ever be forgotten by history. You can be exceptionally good at what you do. Babe Ruth and Thomas Edison will not be forgotten. You can even gain immortality by being majorly incompetent. George W. Bush comes to mind. And of course, folks who have left behind major works of literature, audio, or video recordings live on in a way. I have a friend who, among other recordings, played on the seminal recording of a Christmas song you hear annually. I've discussed with him what it must be like to have that semi-anonymous immortality.

But what of the rest of us, those of us who will never achieve fame? Can we live on long after our mortal bodies have rotted away? Well, depending upon your own religious persuasion you may say, "Of course," and argue that we'll live on in heaven or maybe come back to earth as a cow, but that's not the kind of immortality I'm talking about. I'm talking about the immortality that comes from being remembered, and from having the actions of your life ripple on throughout history. The good news is that this type of immortality is within all of our grasps. Here then are a few short steps to becoming immortal.

  1. Love someone.
    Find your soulmate. Love another human being with all of your heart and soul. Commit to them and entwine your life with theirs in such a way that after you are gone others will look upon the two of you as the prototype of the perfect relationship. An unfortunate side effect of this is that when you die you will leave this person utterly heartbroken. This is unavoidable.
  2. Be a true friend to as many people as possible.
    My Dad used to say he had many acquaintances, but only a very few friends, and I'll have to say I'm probably the same way, but if you truly want to be immortal be a friend to many, and I mean a true friend. Be there. Really listen. Give of yourself. Be the kind of friend you'd like to have.
  3. Care.
    Care about others. Care about the environment. Care about animals. Be the most caring person many people know. Be a grown up flower child. Work for peace, and justice, and care about leaving the world better than you found it.
  4. Teach.
    "Teach your children well," the song says, but it's bigger than that. Pass on what you know to a child, whether it be your own offspring, your niece or nephew, or the child of a friend. Know that when you are just living your life, little children are watching you, and adjusting their world view accordingly. Professional teachers have the biggest opportunity. A third grade teacher may directly influence a thousand children during her career. Those kids will go on to affect others, who will affect others, ad infinitum. Volunteer to help kids. Promote education. You'll be achieving easy immortality.
If you're lucky, you know someone who will never die. Their life lives on in yours, and in the lives of everyone who knew them. The ripples in their pond are innumerable. Your job then, maybe your sacred duty, is to take that spark of their life, and pass it on.

The gray clouds parted briefly, as if to give her a better view of the solemn gathering. We stood on the bridge, the midday tide change behind us, watching the ashes drift swiftly to sea, pursued by a wake of flowers. Salt water flowed unbidden, caught on my lip and was gone. Must have been the wind. Goodbye Sharon. You are with us always. Immortal.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday Drivin'

The Sunday drive. Getting in the car and heading out with nothing more than a general direction and, at best, a vague plan. Yesterday, we did just that, heading north into the White Mountains, a less than busy destination in March, traveled only perhaps by spring skiers. We had a grand time.

Even in winter, with the trees a dead smoky red-tinged gray, the season still offered up scenes of postcard Americana like the one at the top of this page. Stores displaying signs saying, "See you in May!" outnumbered those that were open, and the doors of those shops serving the few stalwart tourists were shuttered an hour before sunset, like something out of a 50's B vampire flick. Still, it was a great way to spend a day.

I worry about the Sunday drive. Will this staple of family life succumb to high gas prices and environmental concerns? I hope not. I suspect that if the pastime is to flourish though, it will require the replacement of our current vehicles with ones using much less gasoline. Just one more reason to solve our energy problems I guess.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poetry Friday - Pushing the Clouds Away

Wow. It's Friday again already and I haven't posted anything this week. Well, it is what it is. :-)

It's 1978. Hormones rage and all roads are ahead and open. My 19 year old self picks up a book by Rod McKuen, considered saccharine by many, but I like him. One poem in particular touched me at the time. It's funny looking at it again, thirty years later, and from such a different perspective.

Pushing the Clouds Away
by Rod McKuen,

Clouds are not the cheeks of angels, you know
They’re only clouds.
Friendly sometimes, but you can never be sure.
If I had longer arms I’d push the clouds away
or I’d make them hang above the water
somewhere else,

But I’m just a man who needs and wants,
mostly things he’ll never have.
Looking for that thing thats hardest to find:

I’ve been going a long time now
along the way I’ve learned some things.
You have to make the good times yourself,
take the little times and make them big times,
and save the times that are all right
for the ones that aren’t so good.
I’ve never been able to push
the clouds away by myself.
Help me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Poetry Friday - To Laugh Often and Much

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Not sure if this qualifies as a poem, and it's debatable as to whether it originates with Emerson, though it is most often attributed to him, but this is my absolute favorite bit of verse. It's been hanging on my wall for years. -- Fred)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What are we reading?

In the first of what will hopefully be a regular feature here, it's "What are we reading?" Day!

Most people I suspect have maybe a single book they're reading. Maybe that steamy romance novel you read on Sunday mornings in your slippers, or the Andrew Jackson biography that's curing your insomnia. Not being remotely normal (But dear reader you've figured that out by now haven't you?), it's probably a symptom of what I suspect to be adult onset ADD that I never have just one book I'm reading. Here's list of the tomes in which I currently have bookmarks.

  • All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew - Well, technically I finished this one a week or so ago, but it was really good, and I'll be picking it up again is about a week as we start planning our "Victory Garden" for this year. As we all slide into the next Great Depression I'm thinking of upping the amount of food we grow. Might be a good plan.
  • The Bible - Nothing sanctimonious. I've just always wanted to be able to say I've read the whole book, and I haven't. It's about my fifth start at this project in my life. I try to take some time on Sunday to at least read a little. I have mixed success keeping to the plan.
  • Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer - This is Dr. Dyer's analysis of the Tao Te Ching, in which he takes each verse of the Tao and looks at it in detail. Each verse of the Tao is very short, and I thought perhaps I would read one a day together with Dr. Dyer's analysis. There are 81 verses in total. After 3 weeks I've read 3.
  • Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson - In my youth, I was affected by reading Thoreau's Walden, and I've always wanted to look into another of his fellow transcendentalists. My lovely daughter was kind enough to give me this volume as a gift. I think it's a long term project, but I'm enjoying it so far.
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin - Marketing guru Seth Godin explains why every business needs a purple cow. I like this book because it's small, pocket-sized, and is great to read in waiting rooms instead of last year's Sports Illustrated.
That's it. That's probably enough. Here's a few books that are on deck however.
  • I Me Mine by George Harrison - My son got this for me and it looks like a great book. I'm a big fan of Harrison and I'm looking forward to reading this.
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearnes Goodwin - Actually, I was about half way through this book over a year ago when I stopped picking it up. It's a great book, apropos of our times, and I 'd like to pick it up again.
  • The Cell by Stephen King - I picked this up for summer reading last year and never got to it. I love Stephen King however, and I am going to get to this.
So, that's it for me, for now. I'd love to know what others are reading. Feel free to share in the comments section. Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lent and the IGUC

There's an old saw that says that two topics one should probably stay away from in polite conversation are politics and religion. So... let's talk about Lent.

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday in many Christian traditions, a day marking the beginning of the 40 day season of Lent. Now these days I consider myself Catholic++, by which I mean that I come from strong Catholic faith, but have found that the Catholic church has left me behind in recent years. Call me a "cafeteria Catholic" if you will. I am one who finds the Catholic church a good place to worship God, but who no longer accepts the authority of the church hierarchy. I bring this up because it's from this perspective that I approach this Lenten season.

Now let me say up front that all beliefs expressed here are my own. (Duh!) I have no issues with the spiritual beliefs of anyone, as long as those beliefs do not cause harm to other people or cute animals. My intent here is to look at one aspect of Lent, what I think of as the "I gave up" clause (IGUC for short). You know the drill. "I gave up XYZ for Lent." XYZ being anything from chocolate to sex.

I think there are two approaches to the IGUC. The first may be that the IGUC is a sacrifice, the modern day equivalent of a burnt offering, something you have no intention of giving up post-Lent, but which shows great will power on your part for 40 days. For most people, I'd say chocolate or sex fall into that category. (That is unless you're striving to give up either permanently.) In talking to people I hear a lot of food sacrifices of this type: pizza, desserts, chinese food... It seems a great many foods are declared "sinful" for Lent. Recreation activities (golf, television, video games) get whacked a lot for Lent as well. None of these sacrificial IGUCs ever struck me as quite right.

If God were to come to earth today to look around at our Lenten efforts what might he think? "You gave up watching 'Heroes'? Is that the best you could do? Do you think I care? I've got bigger agendas here!" That's why I think there's a second, maybe better (my point of view remember) class of IGUCs. I think of them as the "better person" IGUCs. This is where you take something you suspect God would want you to do anyway, that you're not, and just do it. This approach is somewhat more of an affirmative or positive approach. Instead of subtracting something from your life for punishment, you add something to make yourself a better person.

But does adding something even fit the "I give up" requirement? Of course it does. If you vow to be more friendly for Lent, you're giving up being mean and obnoxious. If you vow to help your wife out more around the house, you're just giving up being a schlub. See how it works?

I like the whole positivity approach to Lent. In fact, that's my IGUC. For 40 days I'm going to try very hard to be more positive. Looking back over the years I see so much negativity. It's especially evident in relation to jobs I've had. Sometimes in the past it seems that if a few co-workers got together, the only possible topic of conversation had to do with putting down other (not present of course) co-workers, the company, the world. How much negative gossip have I heard, and participated in?. No. I think there's plenty of room in my life just to be positive (or not be negative if you're a Lent purist). I'm working on it, and if God drops by today to check me out, I think he'll be cool with that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I hate February. I try to be positive about it, to enjoy all that the dead of winter has to offer, but by the time February rolls around in the year I've had it with winter, and I'm ready for spring. That's just the way it is.

Perhaps it's that I don't ski. Not that I haven't tried on occasion, but I'm not any good at it. I do enjoy cross-country skiing a bit, but I'm under no illusions that I'm any good at that either. For those who enjoy winter activities, maybe February is their favorite month. Then again, maybe it just isn't quite so bad.

It's not that I haven't tried to appreciate February. It has good points. I take the dog out and endeavor to enjoy the stillness, the quiet, the cold intake of air into my lungs. The freshly fallen snow is beautiful as it lies on the ground and branches of the fields and woods. No so much as it lies in my driveway, again, and begs to be cleared away.

Perhaps the cold, the stillness, the quiet are, in part, antithetical to the human condition. We look at the cold, quiet landscape and are reminded of the comparative lack of life. We crave warmth and feel only cold. So it is that some of the best parts of winter are in the avoidance, curled up in front of a warm fire, hands cupped around a cup of hot cocoa, or snug in our mountain of bed covers.

It strikes me as no accident that February is the shortest month. I don't know the origins of that, but I like to think that the calendar designers did it to instill hope, because even with four feet of snow on the ground and temperatures below zero, March 1st is blessed in that, at the very least, it is not February. So much does this affect me that I've always considered March 1st the first day of spring. I know. I know that the technical vernal equinox is not for about three weeks later, but I like to think that on March 1, winter is over. I've been known to look at a foot of March snow in my driveway and say, "You know. It's spring. God put it there. God will take it away."

March is just a week away, and that means winter is on the run. Soon it will be time for rebirth, for the warmth of the sun, and the smell of rich soil and green plants. Just be glad it's not leap year.