Words I’ve Been Dying To Use

[byoo- kol -ik]
Of or suggesting an idyllic rural life.

The likelihood of me using this word during the course of typical, day to day conversation is low. So this post is satisfying my itch to notify the world I know the word.

Allow me to use it in a sentence.

“On the drive to the family farm, I spent a lot of time pondering a bucolic existence.”

In short, the smell of rain.

You know the smell in the air shortly before and lingering after a rainfall? Well apparently vegetation release certain oils which are absorbed into the ground and other surfaces when rainfall occurs after a dry period. (So the smell in the air is plant sweat?)

I love this word. I love the sound of it, but I also love how one word can explain so much.

Mental Floss first brought this word/meaning/phenomenon to my attention in this article: 48 Things You Didn’t Know
Had Names.

And Michael on his Vsauce channel over on YouTube, also dedicates time to petrichor in a recent video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k85eD_tQZo&t=5m04s

This post was originally drafted, edited, and posted using the WordPress for Android app, and typed using Swype.

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Worst Nickname Story for a City

Spartanburg, South Carolina. Ninety miles northeast of the state’s capital of Columbia. Two hundred miles from Charleston. Nickname: “Sparkle City.”

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Spartanburg, SC over the last few years because the company I work for has an office there. On one visit someone in our office mentioned one of the city’s nicknames: “Sparkle City.” With a nickname like that, I was naturally inclined to inquire about the origin. My guess was a precious metal mine, or perhaps a natural spring. Something obvious. Despite my routine questioning of locals, no one seemed to know the nickname’s origin. I thought this was odd because it’s a rather bold nickname for a city, as nicknames for cities go.

In fact, let’s pause and run through a few obvious city nicknames (because putting a finer point on this is soooo necessary):

Vegas is Sin City. Ok, not hard to justify that one.

Detroit is the Motor City. Again, obvious.

New York City, to some, is simply The City.

Denver is the Mile High City. No explanation needed.

Even Oz is the Emerald City for an obvious reason.

So you’d think Sparkle City would be no different, right? Well that’s what I thought, but I was wrong.

Here’s the thing. Back in the late 1950s there was a bebop band who went by the name Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones. That’s it. That’s the origin of the nickname. Some enterprising civic leader (I’m speculating here) managed to leverage the success of Joe Bennett and his crew to come up with Sparkle City. And now we are all scratching our heads 60 plus years later.

I think a few moments may be needed for you to process this, because there’s a fair amount of disappointment to work through. So please, feel fee.

Ok, welcome back.

Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones reportedly hailed from Spartanburg, SC, but in my research I discovered the members actually came from Cowpens, SC, the next town over. Poor Cowpens. They were jipped! I should be writing this post about their lame town nickname! They do have a historic Revolutionary War battlefield though.

Now don’t let Spartanburg’s poor excuse for a nickname take away from Joe Bennett and his band (and yes, there’s a web site: joebennettandthesparkletones.com). Listen to their songs and you’ll find they are kind of catchy, in a late-1950s-pop kind of way. And I intend no disrespect to the city of Spartanburg. I just think adopting a nickname based on a moderately successful 1950s bebop band because they were on the Ed Sullivan Show and Dick Clark’s American Band Stand a couple of times is a bit of a stretch. Stick with The Burg. That makes more sense.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones:

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I Finally Saw A Christmas Story!

You know that movie that’s been out for a long time, and everyone you know has seen it, except you? For me that movie was A Christmas Story. But, I finally saw it during this past holiday season. And now it’s growing on me. I blame that stupid pink bunny suit…and my friends.

I wasn’t avoiding it. I wasn’t even aware this movie existed until a couple of years ago. Somehow it eluded me despite apparent 24-hour A Christmas Story TV marathons, the merchandising, and the steady stream of references around the holidays among adoring fans. I don’t consider myself sheltered from popular culture, so my prolonged unawareness of this movie is a mystery to me. And after seeing it the first time, I wasn’t convinced I was missing anything special.

In fact my first impression of this movie was summed up in two words: awful and bizarre. I found it hard to sit through the entire movie and failed to find redeeming qualities. Then, 24 hours later, it was growing on me.

It’s growing on me because people in my circle of friends know it, quote it, and love it. At first, the movie in and of itself didn’t seem to possess the cache to hold sway over me. But the turning point came while visiting friends on Christmas Day. One of my friends had been gifted a set of four pint glasses, each depicting a different scene from the movie. I picked up one of the glasses, and still with disdain for the film fresh on my mind I began studying Ralphie in the pink bunny suit. Suddenly, it hit me. “I get this,” I thought. And just like that, the connection was made.

“He looks like a pink nightmare,” I can picture myself saying next year to friends.

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Change Your Weak Password! Or Someone Else Will

Three of the most commonly used passwords are: “123456,” “password,” and “iloveyou?”

I logged into Gmail recently and was pleasantly surprised to read this screen pop at the top of the screen:

“Thousands of online accounts are hijacked every day. If you re-use your Gmail password at other websites, change it now.”

Thank you, Google! This is exactly the kind of message people need!

Many people use the same password on multiple sites. Each site that requires you to establish a user name and password employ varying degrees of network security. Less sophisticated sites may even store your password in their database as unencrypted text! And if their network is hacked, and a hacker discovers your username and password, they will likely attempt to use it on sites like Facebook, AOL, Yahoo, and Google to see if it works. If you’ve used the same password everywhere, well, bad people now have access to a lot of personal data. And what’s one of the first things a criminal will do once access is gained? They change the password! Now you can’t get into your account.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, many identify theft cases begin with a simple password hack.

So change and diversify your weak password! Or someone else will.


I’m by no means an expert on digital security or passwords for that matter. But I have found good resources that have helped me become more sophisticated in my use of passwords.

  • There are a lot of tools available to help you avoid having to remember different passwords for all those sites. I use LastPass, and there are other similar trustworthy services worth looking into.
  • Here’s a good, eye-opening read on password hacking from John P. at One Man’s Blog: How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords.
  • I’ve developed a fascination with passwords, or more precisely, password security. I listen often to a podcast called Security Now where hosts Steve Gibson and Leo LaPorte discuss topics related to internet, cyber, digital, and network security. Passwords come up often. In fact, Steve Gibson has his own fascination with passwords. Unlike my fascination, however, his has the potential to help people be safer online. You know, because he’s like a computer science genius and all, and I’m not. Anyway, he created a fun tool called Password Haystacks which analyzes the time required to hack a given password, assuming certain variables. For example, 123456 is hacked in under 20 minutes if the hacker is using an exhaustive key search, or brute force technique. Play around with Password Haystacks and see how your password (or hopefully passwords) stack up!

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Two Random References to the Earth’s Rotation (via the Nerdist Podcast and Phineas & Ferb)

What I’m about to share will likely result in eye rolling. But I couldn’t resist the urge to share.

Today I was listening to the Nerdist podcast episode 139. The guest was Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson). During the interview, they got onto the idea of stopping and reversing the rotation of the earth. You know, like in Superman.

When I got home tonight, Phineas and Ferb was on television; the Rollercoaster: The Musical! episode. Dr. Doofenshmirtz had covered the Eastern Seaboard in tinfoil (again), and planned to use his giant magnet and his Magnetism-Magnifinator to pull the east in a westerly direction, thereby reversing the rotation of the earth.

Seriously, folks. What are the odds of hearing about the reversal of the earth’s rotation from two seemingly unconnected sources in one day?

Yup, eye rolling. It’s ok.

Two final thoughts:

  1. The Nerdist podcast is definitely worth checking out.
  2. If you’re not watching Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel, you’re missing out on a really great show.
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Apple’s Accessibility

Here’s a tweet I sent recently:

My mom is blind and an iPhone user. She downloaded iOS5 for her iPhone 4. Said the VoiceOver screen reader is now even better. #applerocks
21 Oct via web

So I admit it. When my mom first told me she was getting an iPhone, I was a doubter. How is a blind person going to use an iPhone, I thought. But I didn’t say anything, because I know that when my mom gets an idea like this, she usually ends up knowing exactly what’s she’s doing.

Now she operates an iPhone just as well as a sighted person.

After she told me about how much better VoiceOver functionality is in iOS5 – and it was really good in earlier versions – I decided to check it out for myself using my daughter’s iPod Touch. I turned on the functionality and closed my eyes so I could attempt to navigate the screens dependent only on the screen reader.

One of the genius features of VoiceOver on iOS is double-tap: the user taps a screen element once to activate the screen reader, then taps twice to activate the screen element’s intended action. Apparently VoiceOver is a mature technology appearing initially in OS X. And like almost everything Apple does, it’s done right and done well.

This week I was catching up on podcasts and listening to TWiT episode 319. I smiled when Leo Laporte played this clip of Stevie Wonder making comments at a show in September.

Clip set to start at the 4m 19s mark: http://youtu.be/5p4ZGPnieBs?t=4m19s

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Facebook for Android – Cheesy Infomercial Guy Follow Up

So, after making fun of Facebook for Android by personifying it as a cheesy infomercial guy, Facebook goes and releases a new version. And fixes one of the shortcomings!

Inline audience selection is now available, so users don’t have to wait until logging in via the desktop browser to post audience specific content . Nice job, Facebook! You get a star sticker.

Only one sticker though because I wouldn’t call this a total redemption. This was more like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber “totally redeeming” himself with the acquisition of the motor scooter for the final leg of the trip to Aspen. Not like Darth Vader tossing the Emperor over the railing at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Speaking of Vader’s sacrificial action, check out my friend Kyle’s post on the degree to which Vader is actually due redemptive credit.

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Grannies, Reefs, and Goiter Knots: You’re Probably Tying Your Shoe Wrong

I’m self-taught when it comes to shoe lace tying. I vaguely recall refusing help from my parents as a child, convinced I could figure it out on my own. And I did. Sort of.

The knot I learned is the granny knot. It would plague my laced shoes well into my 30s, usually accented by the goiter of shoe lace knots, the dreadful double knot.

Then, in January 2010, I discovered this article on Lifehacker.com. I’m now completely off granny knots (and double knotting) and have fully embraced the reef knot.

My commitment to the reef knot was validated recently when I came across episode 2, season 1 of Put This On (putthison.com). In this episode titled Shoes, they explain proper shoe lace tying technique beginning at the 8:18 mark, but check out the entire 10 minute episode and learn plenty about quality men’s footwear.

p.s. Really, Trent? The goiter of shoe lace knots?

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Facebook for Android as a Cheesy Infomercial Guy

If Facebook for Android were a cheesy infomercial  guy spinning the app’s news feed shortfalls and lack of inline audience selector as features.

Hello, I’m Facebook for Android, and I’d like to tell you about two of my wonderful features.

  1. You know how you’ve taken time to filter certain friends or commercial interests from your news feed? Well as a Facebook for Android user, you’ll get to see everything you’ve been missing!  All the stuff my browser-based counterpart holds back, including: people you have no interest in hearing from, and the all important “so and so is now friends with so and so.” Think of me like 24-hour cable news: I’ll dish you a bunch of crap you have little or no interest in seeing.
  2. And, if you’ve taken the time to create custom friend list and use the inline audience selector depending on what you’re posting, don’t worry. I’ve taken care of that too! When you submit a post with Facebook for Android, you won’t need to bother selecting custom lists. I’ll just go ahead and post it to your default list. This way, you don’t have to give any thought to your intended audience. It’s like I’m doing the work for you!

So don’t delay! Take advantage of my hubris and catch all the content you’ve been missing while posting updates to unintended audiences!

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Documentaries – My Internal Dialog

Me, to myself: “Hmmm, Helvetica. How in the world could someone make an 80 minute documentary about a font?”

Me, to myself (in response): “Good question. It’s possible  this documentary could be really interesting and full of useless knowledge about fonts which I could then use to impress (annoy) friends/acquaintances.”

Those who know me well know I enjoy acquiring completely useless information on a variety of topics. Naturally I’m a sucker for good documentaries.

Netflix is a great source for documentaries including a program on the history of Helvetica by director Gary Hustwit. In the universe of useless information, I suppose most would place the biography of a font somewhere on the unexplored edges.

Back to the dialog in my head leading up to the decision to watch.

Me, to myself, again: “But 80 minutes? No way I make it all the way through.”

Me, to myself (in response): “Telling people I watched a documentary on the biography of Helvetica will likely result in the following reactions:

  1. ‘Trent, I don’t think I know many people who would watch a documentary about a font, let alone admit to having watched a documentary about a font.’
  2. ‘You watched a documentary on the history of a font? That sounds about right.’ Or,
  3. ‘What’s Helvetica?’”

Me, to myself, again: “Well now I have to watch it. I need to be able to inform and educate the ‘what’s Helvetica?’ people. (Naturally they will want to hear all about it, right?)

Eighty minutes later I had watched one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

Netflix is great for discovering documentaries you would otherwise never know existed. I also discovered Between the Folds by Vanessa Gould. Netflix repeatedly offered it up in “Suggestions for Trent”, but I dismissed it initially based on the following internal dialog:

Me, to myself: “A film about origami sounds incredibly boring.”

… it was actually a monologue for a while, until I had this thought:

Me, to myself (in response): “Don’t forget how much you liked Helvetica.”

And with that, I began watching. Three minutes into the film I was certain this would be as good if not better than Helvetica. Not only did I enjoy the film, I was inspired.

I recommend checking out Helvetica (helveticafilm.com). Helvetica font is ubiquitous. You most likely saw it somewhere today. Why wouldn’t you want to learn more about something you probably see every day?

I also recommend Between the Folds (greenfusefilms.com). The air bag in car steering wheels owes its compacted shape to an algorithm derived from principles of origami.

Or, let your internal dialog voices go back and forth for a while until one of them convinces you to check out a different documentary.

Me, to myself: “Perhaps someone has made a documentary about people who listen to internal dialog too much.”

Me, to myself (in response): “To the Netflix catalog!”

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