The Easter egg hunt goes techie

April 23, 2011 – Remember decorating Easter eggs as a kid? It was truly exciting to hard boil eggs, write your name on one of them with a wax crayon, and then drop it into a bowl of colored water until it turned blue, green, yellow or pink.

You might say those colorful eggs have kept up with technology.

Recently I’ve discovered that Easter eggs, at least the virtual kind, are also intentionally hidden in computer programs, video games, movies, TV shows and books.

Who knew?

Atari coined the term virtual Easter egg after they hid a secret message in their “Adventure” game, bringing a new meaning to the Easter egg hunt. That was way back in 1979, so I’m a bit behind the times. The concept is parallel to other hidden items such as trying to spot Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearances in his movies. Some are easy and others are a bit tricky, but that’s what makes it fun.

I can find Hitchcock, but I’ve never spotted any of these hidden eggs. According to one website, someone recently found six eggs on disc 7 of Lost: The Complete Second Season.

I could get addicted to something like this.

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Fiction Friday: A Quarter Named Joe

April 22, 2011 – Here’s an original piece of flash fiction by one of my favorite authors.

A Quarter Named Joe

Once upon a time there was a quarter named Joe. Joe was a very smart quarter. Joe was found on the streets of New York. The boy who found Joe spent it on a candy bar. Joe was happy he helped the boy find something to eat.

The next thing you know, Joe was in California. Another boy was walking along and he saw something shiny. The boy picked up Joe and put him into an arcade machine. Joe was helping the boy battle monsters and vampires. When the manager dude opened the machine, Joe fell onto the ground and rolled into a corner. Joe was happy he helped the boy battle the monsters and vampires.

Then, Joe found himself in Florida and another boy picked him up. Since he was lost, he put Joe into the pay phone and called his dad. Joe fell into the slot, but the line was busy, so he dropped back out. The boy put Joe in his pocket and he sat down for a few minutes. The boy put Joe back into the slot and dialed the number again. This time the phone rang. The boy gave his dad directions to pick him up. Joe was happy he could help the boy find his father.

The End

About the Author: Charlie Conroy was 9 years old when he wrote this heart-felt story about Joe, the helpful quarter. Although it was written 18 years ago, it stands the test of time. Sadly, Conroy has given up the pen for a career in computer science, but there’s always hope that one day he’ll write again. He’s given special permission to his mom to post this on her blog.

Phillies avoid sweep

April 21, 2011 – The Philadelphia Phillies lost their first series of the season, but avoided a sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday, closing out a mediocre 2-3 home stand.

There’s hardly cause for alarm this early in the season, but the hitters are struggling, which makes even the most faithful fan go bonkers. The pitching hasn’t been that great either, which is enough to make the Phillies faithful want to jump off the Walt Whitman Bridge.

No doubt the pitching will be fine. It’s a long season filled with ebbs and flows and even the best pitchers will have off games. The question is will the hitters come around? They’re not getting on base or hitting for power and it’s even got Charlie Manuel concerned.

This is basically the same team that struggled with its offense most of last year causing hitting coach Milt Thompson to lose his job. One thing is certain the team misses the bats of Chase Utley and Jayson Werth. Since Werth is no longer an issue, Utley better get well quick.

Maybe they’ll find their spark out west. They play four in San Diego beginning tonight before heading to Phoenix for three games with the Diamondbacks.

Royal wedding, bah humbug!

April 20, 2011 – It’s practically impossible to avoid the frenzy surrounding the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Since the engagement announcement, we’ve been bombarded with intimate details about an event that is happening 3500 miles away. We’ve speculated which designer will make the dress and how Kate will wear her hair. We’re able to buy replicas of the engagement ring, the china pattern they’ve selected, bobble head dolls, and a plethora of other weird souvenirs at sites like the Royal Wedding Online Store.

I’m not blaming William and Kate; it’s definitely the media pushing all of this on us. And it’s not just your run of the mill gossip writers; the top journalists are just as guilty. They haven’t caught on yet that we don’t care as much as they do.

Although NBC seems to get it. They announced yesterday they are cutting down on the coverage, and less staff will travel to London than previously scheduled for the April 29 nuptials.

It’s actually surprising that more people aren’t following the royal wedding and all of its lavish details. We are a country that loves reality shows. Isn’t this the same thing? We watch the train wrecks that appear on Maury Povich and Jerry Springer, and we love the Housewives franchise, hair salon wars and anything else that seems controversial and a little gritty. Maybe William and Kate are too happy for our taste.

I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, I just don’t get it what the fuss is all about. But I wasn’t that little girl who began planning her wedding at age 10, or who wanted to be a princess for Halloween. Instead, I dressed as a hobo or a witch and was happy with that. Like Carrie Bradshaw said in Sex and the City, “I must be missing the bride gene.”

As for William and Kate, I wish them well, but I can’t wait for their wedding to be over so I don’t have to hear about it anymore.

Re-entering the Real (Estate) World

April 19, 2011 – Planning to sell your house anytime soon?

Some people think they’ll do better if they sell their own house and skip the real estate agent, but that’s not usually the case.

A real estate agent’s primary job is to understand the real estate market and use that knowledge to guide you through the sale of your house. The agent will gather information, handle open houses, advertise and negotiate on your behalf. In addition to taking care of these time-consuming details, your real estate agent knows what steps need to be taken and where to find important information to expedite a sale.

1. Establish an asking price. Your real estate agent should be able to advise you of a fair price based on the marketplace and similar properties in your area.

2. Marketing your home. Your real estate agent can offer suggestions on effective home improvements and will use every available resource to advertise your residence. Your agent also takes care of the promotion and paperwork, but allows you to make the final decision.

3. Finding buyers. Your agent should also work with a mortgage lender to find credit pre-approved buyers. Credit pre-approval means the lender has checked the buyer’s credit history and will finance that buyer’s purchase up to a certain amount.

4. Dealing with the unexpected. Between the initial sales agreement and the final closing or settlement, issues may arise. Your real estate agent can smooth out the bumps and bring the sale of your house to a favorable conclusion.

5. Your next home. The search for a new home can be overwhelming, even if you know what city you want to live in or the type of house you want to buy. Be sure to get a credit pre-approval yourself to increase your bargaining power and ensure a smoother closing. Once you know how much you can borrow and have your financing lined up, your real estate agent can find all the homes in your price range with your specifications.

And when you’re ready to move again, remember your real estate agent is on your side. They’ll provide you with one professional source to make all aspects easier—from listing your home and researching new communities—to fitting you with the right mortgage.

Unemployed? Use your time off wisely.

April 18, 2011 – Large gaps of time on resumes may be deal breakers for some employers, even though we’re working through the worst unemployment situation since the Great Depression.

To combat that, I’ve kept myself employed on my resume since I’m able to do freelance writing and graphic design work from home. It doesn’t keep me busy for 40 or more hours a week, but now instead of asking about what I’ve been doing the past year, employers instead ask about my freelance work.

If you’re not able to use freelance work or any other home-based business information on your resume, arm yourself with a good answer about how you used your time while you weren’t searching for a job.

Here are three valuable ways that may help:

Take a class. I tried to stay on top of industry changes by becoming certified in social media and just for kicks I also took a few public relations classes. If you’re worried about spending money, state unemployment benefits may cover some of the tuition. There are also inexpensive classes available at community colleges, but you may be lucky enough to find some free classes online. They make a great addition to your resume.

Start a blog. I started this blog back in November and I love it. It’s a great way to spend your time and the research you do for your posts keeps you informed. Also, depending on the topics you write about, add your blog’s URL to your resume.

Volunteer. You can’t spend all of your time looking for a job, so why not use your spare time by giving back to your community. It could also be a valuable networking resource for you, and again, it’s something positive to put on a resume.

Is Apple ruining America?

April 17, 2011 – On Friday, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), blamed the iPad for eliminating thousands of American jobs. He also stated that Borders is closing stores because everyone is downloading their reading material.

Ironically, Jackson admits to owning an iPad and just last month he was singing its praises on the House floor.

Is this simply the flip-flopping antics of another politician, or will he target EZ Pass next, which eliminated thousands of toll collector jobs, or those self-checkout registers at the supermarket? Why just pick on Apple?