Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dadomatic: Will The Real Santa Please Stand Up?

Will The Real Santa Please Stand Up?

‘Tis the season when red and green are the new black, and the “holiday spirit” permeates all things commercial and otherwise.  If you are politically correct, then almost all salutations, spoken, written, or otherwise are readily sprinkled with “HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”  If you are politically direct, then, at least this week, it is “MERRY CHRISTMAS.”  I am Jewish, and now that the Menorah is back in its box, I am perfectly happy to enjoy the trees and the lights and the wreaths and even the occasional mistletoe.  I am also perfectly happy to say, MERRY CHRISTMAS to someone, and even happier when someone says MERRY CHRISTMAS to me.  That is because for me, Christmas is not so much a religious holiday as a state of mind.  It is has become an extension of the introspective warm and fuzzies that start with Thanksgiving and end at year-end on New Year’s Eve.  It is during this proverbial “Holiday Season” that we are finally free from the go, go, go, get, get, get mentality of the rest of the year and at last have explicit permission to be a little sappy.  This time of year it is okay to be reflective and appreciative. It is okay to be helpful and giving. It is okay to say “I love you” and “thank you” a lot, and to a lot of people who touch your life.  Of course it should always be okay to do these things and they really should not be reserved for the last five weeks of the year.  Unfortunately, many of us, myself often included, keep these emotions and their expressions in check most of the year, boxed up along with our lights, ornaments and Menorah’s…

Bah Hamburger…

I used to be a regular Scrooge come Christmastime, muttering “Bah Humbug” under my breath and frowning my way through my seasonal melancholy with an irritated demeanor that would have made Chuck Dickens proud.  In recent years, however, I have seen less of my inner Ebenezer and more of my Santa self.  I have watched my kids become young adults and grow beyond the age when they were in awe to wake up and find half-eaten cookies and a half-filled glass of milk as proof positive that indeed Santa had squeezed through our chimney and left all those colorfully wrapped gifts under the tree (yes, my kids grew up in a “mixed” household and we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas).  I can fondly recall when it was my turn to wear the rented Santa suit and offer entertainment (and my lap) to my kids and nieces and nephews, using my best stage voice to give them a hearty, bellowing, “Ho, ho, ho!”

The Santa Clause…

I miss those days when my kids were young enough for Santa and Christmas to be more magical than commercial.  When we could dangle the notion that there really is a Santa and the concept teetered precariously on the edges of their belief.  Now, as I am older and presumably wiser, and as my kids have long since wised up to the fictional tricks of St. Nick, I have come to the realization that Santa does indeed exist.  I am Santa, and so are you!

Will The Real Santa Please Stand Up?

As parents, we are all Santa, and like Santa in his North Pole workshop, we too, are working at being Santa all year long.  As Santa, we must monitor and guide our kids from naughty to nice.  We keep our lists and remind them of their great moments, and the moments that need some work.  We offer our laps to our kids freely as a place of comfort, consoling and encouragement.  We shower our kids with gifts all the time.  Sometimes in the form of Christmas-like packages, but more often our gifts come in the form of constant love and support, doing it all to provide a happy roof overhead and food on the table every day. We ride our modern mini-van sleighs through the neighborhood, and always do our best to bring cheer to our children when they are most in need of it.  We may not have long white beards, reindeer and elves, but we have the holiday spirit in us to be a good Santa all year round. It’s what parents do.

What do you think? Are you a real Santa too?  I hope so, and send you and your family best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season, and of course a Merry Christmas too!

“Ho, Ho, Ho!”

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

Photo Credit: © Ivan Bliznetsov – Fotolia.com

My Holiday post at www.dadomatic.com... Happy Holidays!

Posted via email from Kiss My SASS!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Devices With The Dragon Tattoo

It has been a while since I have read a good thriller, and there is nothing like the feeling you get when you are approaching the end of a page turner, reading fast and furiously, racing toward the grand finale, but at the same time wishing the feeling (and the story) would never end.  I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, thanks to my gadgets, I was able to extend the experience a few hours more than I expected, and flesh out the images and enactments of the story that the brisk words of Stieg Larsson had etched in my mind's eye.

Kindle Fuels The Fire

I bought the Kindle version of the first book in Larsson's now acclaimed "Millennium Trilogy" and took full advantage of Amazon's clever cross-platform cloud based whiz bang of Whispersync. At one time or another I would read portions of the intriguing tale of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander on my Android HTC EVO, my iPad, my actual Amazon Kindle, and even my laptop PC.  Thanks to the slick Kindle software I could move seamlessly between devices and always keep my place in the story.  No matter where I was or what I was doing, I had access to my book, and the ability to slip in some reading and dive back into the adventure, living vicariously through the vying Vanger family.

Next Up...Netflix

I finished reading DRAGON TATTOO on my iPad, and as I feverishly swiped my way through the pages of the novel's delicious denouement, I was conflicted by both the excitement of reaching the end of the story, and the disappointment of reaching the end of the story and having to end my engagement and entertainment immersed in Larsson's well characterized world.  As I finished the finale and exited the Kindle App on my iPad I suddenly smiled and said to myself, "but wait...there's more!" Sure, there are two more novels in the series, but I wanted more of this story.  I wanted to relish more in the tale just told.  No problem!  After just a few taps of my iPad screen, thanks to Netflix and their great iPad App I was instantly watching the extremely well done Swedish film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on the same screen that I had just finished reading the book.  The characters I had been imagining in my mind were now fully realized before me, faithfully (for a film adaptation) reenacting the drama that I had been living through the digital pages on so many devices.

My Head (And Entertainment) In The Cloud

Thanks to the intricate interoperability of all my digital toys and "the cloud" I was able to enjoy a good novel in ways that were not so readily possible just a short time ago, and it was great. Having your books follow you everywhere you go makes reading a good thriller a thrill, and having instant access to the movie of the book as a visual dessert to a hearty literary meal is a delicious way to extend the end of a great story.  I have already started reading The Girl Who Played with Fire (the second installment in Larsson's trilogy) and I look forward to the movie, and to repeating the process again with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  I realize it is perhaps unusual to have a novel trilogy with a matching trilogy of faithfully produced film versions, but diving into Stieg Larsson's MILLENNIUM Trilogy in this fashion is perhaps the most fun I've had with digital entertainment this millennium!

How about you? Have you found new ways to enjoy your reading and watching thanks to your digital devices?

(Disclosure: All the book and DVD links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links)

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

How To Beat A Bot (By Being Human)

So, I am sitting at my computer minding my own business when a Facebook Chat window pops up and asks,

 "around? jeffrey, got a second??"  

It is from "Michael N.," an old high school acquaintance who, like so many others, I have befriended on Facebook but haven't really engaged with save for a few mass messages from other old High School friends that we were both copied on.  We are friends by Facebook standards and we certainly hung out in the same crowd on occasion "back in the day," but (no disrespect to Mike) we were not close friends.  That's why I was surprised to see a chat message from him...  So I answered,

"Sure. I am here.  How are you?

And then things got, in my opinion, a little bit weird.  No, "hey, how've you been?" or "whatever happened to so and so...?"  Instead, Michael said,

"ok cool, I know this is random, but i want you to try something real quick"

First of all, I know this is chat and Facebook and the age of instant messaging, but I'd like to think that a fellow adult who shared the same quality New York City Public High School education that I had would be a cut above using limited punctuation and all lower case letters when typing anything. I continued, tentatively...


And then "Michael" asked me to take some crazy IQ test.  An IQ test?  A guy I haven't seen or spoken to in decades out of the blue sends me a link to take an online IQ test?  WTF?  I didn't have to be a CSI to know that something was amiss.  I've been fooled before, but I won't get fooled again! (Yeah, all this High School talk brings back memories of THE WHO...).  So, clever me asks,

"How do I know this is you and not a bot?"

And of course I get a reply that has no relationship whatsoever to the question I just asked.  In my mind I hit Bot Bingo... no way this was really Michael!  And just to be sure, I go ahead and play the human card.  I want him to prove he's the guy I went to Forest Hills High with...

"Tell me something personal so I know it is really you..."

Silence.  No answer.  The chat is over.  Score: Human 1, Bot 0.  Chalk one up for the sentient beings!  I beat the bot!

What do you do when faced with an apparent bot? Do you try to beat it at its own game by asking questions only a human could answer?  Please share your bot beating techniques in the comments.

(P.S. I sent the real Michael N. a message that his FB account may have been hacked...  No reply so far.  He probably thinks the note from me is spam!)

Bot Photo Credit: © iBamboo3106 - Fotolia.com

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