Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The princess and the tank engine

Halloween was my favorite "holiday" as a kid. Period. Sure, Christmas meant new toys, skiing in Tahoe, snowball fights, family, homemade candy, and weeks away from school ... okay, Christmas was my favorite holiday, but Halloween was a close second. There was just something about haunted houses, ghosts, skeletons, dungeons, graveyards, trick-or-treating, and all things scary, dark and mysterious that appealed to me.

I was a little eccentric in that my favorite costume was the $1.99 skeleton outfit that could be purchased at your Thrifty Drug and Discount store. You know the one -- the cheap plastic skull mask and black smock with the skeleton imprint that tied loosely in the back. Many of my friends' mothers spent days or weeks making their costumes, but I could never understand why anyone would wish to be Money Man, Cinderella, The Great Pumpkin, Superman, or the like, no matter how nicely executed the costume, when for a mere two bucks one could be a skeleton. What the hell did Cinderella have over a skeleton?! Suffice to say I never won a costume contest at school or elsewhere, but I stuck by the skeleton costume for years, long after my brothers were proudly wearing my mother's creations (and winning contests).

In any case, the macabre and the gothic still appeal to me, but at some point in my early teens Halloween fell out of favor. It likely happened a year or two after I'd stopped trick-or-treating, about the time I realized that throwing eggs at cars and other teens wasn't all that smart. I rarely celebrated Halloween in my twenties and thirties, but now that I have two small children, ages 4.5 and 2.5, and get caught up in their excitement when we talk about ghosts, skeletons, and candy, the memories come flooding back. My daughter will be a Snow Princess and my son will be Thomas the Tank Engine this year, and part of me wishes I could don the ol' skeleton one more time, just to feel the way my two children do now. Have a safe Halloween!

Monday, October 23, 2006

4INFO Cool

Do you have a blog or RSS feed you wish to promote via SMS? I found a cool new tool from 4INFO that, in about two minutes time, allows one to create an SMS service for just about any RSS feed. In my case I used my Feedburner URL, http://feeds.feedburner.com/drury, and reserved the "drury" and "markdrury" keywords with 4INFO. So if you text either of the those terms to short code 44636 (4info) you'll get an SMS message with my latest blog entries. Why you would wish to do that for my blog is another question, but it's a pretty handy way to promote information services, especially those that change frequently. Here are just a few of the services I created while testing 4INFO's offering:

cnnpt (CNN's political ticker)
drury, markdrury
earthquakes, quakes
mebay [search term(s)]
u2b, utube, youtube [search term(s)]
yahoonews [search term(s)]

4INFO offers four different service types, ranging from a Simple Menu Service, with static content, to XML Web Applications, that allow one to provide an XSL to parse and display the feed as desired (the mebay and youtube services are XML web applications).

4INFO's Open Platform site also has a number of example services to get you up and running quickly, and there's a developer forum if you have questions or comments that aren't addressed by 4INFO's content. Visit the site, create an account, and you, too, can have people following your blog or feed on their cell phones within minutes.