January 2009

Love video games but refuse to support hierarchies of capitalistic oppression? Now there’s a solution: The People’s Mario!


The problem with the internet is that it’s too big. You know there’s tons of cool stuff out there, but it can be damn near impossible to find anything interesting unless you already know what you’re looking for. That’s why, on the recommendation of my friendly neighbors, I’ve started Stumbling around the internet.

StumbleUpon is one of those web apps that I’ve heard about and seen little clicky-buttons for all over the place, but never really checked out. I’m incredibly glad I did. Basically, you tell StumbleUpon what kind of web content interests you and it gives you a nifty toolbar with three important buttons: the stumble button, which whisks you away to a new page (kinda like the random article button on wikipedia), the “i like it” button, and the “i don’t like it” button. The last two let you tweak your preferences much like Pandora lets you tweak your music preferences.

But the proof is in the pudding. In 20 minutes of Stumbling, here’s some of the cool stuff I’ve found:

I never would have found any of these without stumbling because I never would have thought to look for them. Well worth checking out…but a WARNING: this will suck time away very rapidly and very sneakily.

I had an Ipod Shuffle for years, but never used it aside from long flights or road trips. This Christmas, my parents gave me fourth generation Ipod Classic with a 160 GB hard drive. While I’m not a habitual user, I have been carrying it around a few times a week. I’ve noticed a few unexpected consequences:

  1. Plugging my ears with music fosters a strange disconnection from the world around me. It makes me focus in on whatever I’m working on like a laser beam. Normally in a coffee shop or walking around campus I’m constantly looking around. I notice ducks, people with odd facial hair, the time, etc…When I’m plugged in, I get swallowed up by the noise. I don’t just stop hearing the rest of the world, I stop seeing it, too.
  2. If the quiet time between songs is unusually prolonged, I snap out of it in a fit of self-consciousness. I suddenly realize that I’ve been missing loads of interesting stuff. The cast of extras around my table in the Bistro has completely changed. The chess game ended, and now a gaggle of freshmen are recounting last weekend’s encounter with the police. I start looking around, visibly startled.
  3. The ridiculous amount of space on my hard drive makes me want to buy loads and loads of content from Itunes. When I see my bank statement, I rethink my unwillingness to subject my new laptop to the ravages of LimeWire.
  4. Podcasts are a fantastic, untapped medium. I subscribe to seven, and would add dozens more if anyone else produced reliably high quality content that interests me. My guess is that no one has figured out how to turn a buck out of podcasting, with a few notable exceptions.
  5. I have a very, very small music collection compared to my peer group. Serously, like 800 songs. I used to have more, but it’s all trapped on my now defunct Acer.
  6. Party Shuffle doesn’t work for me. I need songs that fit my mood and, even more important, the pace I’m walking at. Bill Evans is fantastic, but right after Green Day it just feels wrong. I’d be interesting in looking at data on how many times per hour people click the “>>|” button, because I’m sure I’m way over the mean.
  7. I fret about the condition of expensive things I own, but not enought o preemptively protect them. For example, I constantly examine the case of my Ipod for scratches or imperfections but I’ll probably never buy a case for it. Same goes for my laptop.