Friday, December 29, 2006

Birthday Celebration - On Ice and In Chinese

Our Almost-Five year old finally turned Five today. :)

We went to see Disney on Ice at the SkyDome Rogers Centre today to celebrate. The show was a lot of fun (although I'm miles away and no closer to being a figure-skating fan than I was before).

We got monetarily raped in the process of getting a couple of souvenirs for our sweetheart. This (pointless) spinning glow-in-the-dark Tinkerbell contraption was the only thing worth getting really. It was funny when a mother in the next seat asked me how much it cost, I told her "twenty bucks ... about 17 bucks more than it should have!". Such is the Disney empire.

After that we did a late lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant. This was the absolute highlight of the day since the restaurant was nearly empty and upon bringing Em a chocolate sundae, two employees fully versed in the karaoke experience, along with microphones and accompanying backing track, sang Happy Birthday to our daughter in both English and Chinese. Very very nice.

It kind of reminded me of the scene in A Christmas Story when the family goes out for Chinese food on Christmas Day. :)

Please Indulge Me For A Moment

Please indulge me for a moment. As you can see on the top of this page (unless you're reading through an aggregator) I've toyed about with a new blog header image and finally came up with something I kind of like. Let me know if it works for you - or not.

I created it in Inkscape and it kind of came about as I was creating my three entries for the Inkscape 0.45 About dialog box contest over on deviantArt (which I posted about a short time ago). You can check out my three entries right here. You'll notice that my new blog header image is similar in concept to my third deviantArt entry.

Inkscape 0.45 (which is about to be released shortly) has a new blur feature which I've put to use here in moving those small tiddlywinks to the background. I've gone away from the shiny floor reflection since it's oh so 2006. (psst - actually I still like that effect but don't go telling anyone).

Anyways, I toyed with the thought of revamping the look of the blog completely for the start of the new year, but actually decided I still quite like the blue background. I will however make it my mission to update my blogroll and add my Flickr zeitgeist widget over on the right when I have time.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Christmas Battle 2006

Sitting here nimbly typing away, I notice my fingers slightly trembling. I've developed a subtle but unmistakable throbbing in the back of my head, just above the nape of my neck. I'm also noticing a discrete nerve causing an intermittent twitch under my left eye.

Too much Christmas cider? Nah, can't stand the stuff. Too much coffee? Nah, can never get enough.

What I am describing is much more hideous than that. It is the result of the parent-hating, sadist who thought up the idea of the 15,000 piece bead kit (and my in-laws who decided to buy it for my daughter).

Sure, it looks like a great idea. Heck, I'm no crafty crafter, but some beads and string matched up with an almost 5 year old seems like a safe bet... Just don't try to unpack it.

The box it came in has a nice clear front panel that displays all 15,000 beads (it might as well be 150,000,000) in neat little compartmentalized cavities. My in-laws had the awesome idea of giving us a small plastic Rubbermaid-type 4-drawer cabinet along with it to keep little one organized.

The transfer of beads from original package to 4-drawer plasti-chest proves my undoing. Of course the large bead thingys are a piece of cake. Being the engineer I am, I sat and scratched my chin for a moment before getting a small teaspoon to aid in the material transfer operation. Making great strides with the compartments containing larger beads, I thought pretty highly of myself.

Did you know that they can make beads that are almost microscopic in size? Did you know that square shaped compartments made of thin vacuum formed plastic can act as minature trampoline-like launchpads for said tiny beads?

With every slight snap of the oil-canning compartment bottoms (think the bottom of the classic Trouble board game's pop-o-matic bubble), came the shower of untold hundreds of micro-beads. With every dip of the spoon, every surgically gentle extraction attempt, came flying micro beads.

Every flying bead took with it a shred of my dignity and a whole whack of my patience.

Ninety minutes later, the transfer is done (unbeknownst to my daughter, at least 200 micro-beads remained in the package and were headed for the trash) and we are stringing beads.

One final humiliating realization came to me while trying to thread some of the smaller beads. Daddy needs glasses.


Okay... then why?

Robert Scoble writes:

"But, I’m not going to write a lot about John Edwards."

Sorry if this is a stupid question Robert, but why exactly did they invite you along then? Maybe I'm missing the point.

[Edit: Maybe for ScobleShow video coverage?]

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's Over... or at least partially...

Hopefully everyone enjoyed (or is still enjoying) their holiday time. Myself, I feel kinda relieved it's over once again for another year. It's such a mad rush at the end of the year. As you can see from the photo above, our dog Jessie was as beat as we were by the end of it all.

It's not completely over since our little one has her birthday a couple of days from now and New Years is just next weekend. If holidays are supposed to be restful, then these don't qualify as holidays.

Among the nice shirts, belts and ties, I snagged a nice gift certificate to a local camera store. Right now it's a toss-up between a new lens and a new printer. I've been pining for the Epson R800 printer for over a year now, but the price never seems to drop ($449-499 CDN). I feel guilty for paying that much for an inkjet, although I have seen the output and it is quite nice.

So it may be that I'm leaning towards a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens. It's a little more than the printer, but it's fast and relatively cheap. On my 350D it will work like a 135mm lens and since I love available light photography (witness most of my nicer photographs) that nice wide aperture is very very appealing. So we'll see in a few days if I change my mind.

For now, my absolute favourite shooting is done with the 50mm f1.8 cheapy that I bought a while back. While you still have to fight with moving subjects under typical indoor lighting, sleeping dogs turn out rather well. :)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Freefall... positively...

Talk about a positive outlook. Here's an extremely entertaining and well-written guide to surviving a 35,000 ft freefall. If you do manage to exit the aircraft at 600mph, at least you can be prepared. Here's a small excerpt of the greatness that is this article:

Snow is good—soft, deep, drifted snow. Snow is lovely. Remember that you are the pilot and your body is the aircraft. By tilting forward and putting your hands at your side, you can modify your pitch and make progress not just vertically but horizontally as well. As you go down 15,000 feet, you can also go sideways two-thirds of that distance—that's two miles! Choose your landing zone. You be the boss.

At least somebody is thinking ahead. ;)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bubbling Up

Ahh the holidays. When you couple the Christmas, New Year (and in our case birthday) season hurtling towards you with a ridiculous amount of work as every Tom, Dick and Sally comes out of the woodwork wanting projects finished and permit applications submitted before the new year, you end up with time for little else.

It's truly amazing how life can get so busy that you simply have little time to ponder anything at all (and that includes potential blogging topics). You forget how valuable those (these) spare moments are to your sanity.

A couple of things that *have* managed to bubble up:

The next version of Inkscape, 0.45, is upcoming. The Inkscapers group on Deviantart is soliciting entries for the "About Inkscape" dialog box. I managed to create a DeviantArt account (a long time fan of the site, but never a member, until now) and posted a couple of entries. Lots of very talented and creative people there, so I'm not sure I stand any chance although as of yet, there are not many entries. What the heck though, worth a shot.

My daughter has taken a real shine to TuxPaint as of late. While the resulting canvases (sp?) will likely only win rave reviews from Daddy and Mommy, it has done absolute wonders for her mousing and keyboard skills in a very short time. Don't be fooled by its overly simplistic look (this is not a Disney creation). It struck just the right balance between providing fun painting tools with good sound feedback and appropriately sized buttons and controls. Although typically thought of as a Linux app, it is available for both Windows and OSX as well.

Finally a quick note or two just to piss off those people who always harp and complain about political correctness during the holidays.

1. Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings and [insert other generic holiday term wishing well to people of all faiths from the athiest to the agnostic to the devoutly spiritual]. Why should we be ashamed for wanting to include all people in our best wishes? Get over it.

2. My daughter is learning about a multitude of cultural and religious celebrations at school right now. She brought home a little craft that outlined the meaning of Kwanzaa. Ahh Kwanzaa, I used to laugh at that - in some way, the butt of jokes. The principles of Kwanzaa outlined on that little craft sounded more profound and reasoned to me than anything I'd gotten out of Christmas celebrations in the past.

See, even an almost-five year old can expand your horizons.

Shopping is done. Presents are bought. Two more days of the daily grind until we coast to Christmas. It couldn't come at a better time.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Some good news in the news for a change

I think we've all become somewhat used to hearing about medical progress in terms of identifying problems, treatments to mitigate symptoms or preventative measures. Not every day you read about the reversal of a disease.

Of course it's not quite "there" yet, but "Canadian scientists reverse diabetes in mice".

Some good news in the news for a change.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Early Gift From Flickr!

Looks like Flickr has given an early Christmas present to its users! Free account holders get their upload limits increased 5X to 100MB/month! And even better still Pro account holders (of which I am one) now get unlimited uploads!

Now I've really got to get my arse in gear. I've yet to run up against the old 2GB/month limit. Sounds like I'm not taking or uploading nearly enough photos. ;)

Ho Ho Holiday Flickr Fun with Photos

Lifehacker has a post up about a neat little Flickr easter egg which lets you put a Santa hat or beard on a photo.

But why do that when you can do the real thing! Here's a shot of my lovely niece Sarah from this past weekend:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Somebody set me straight on Hip-hop for 5 year olds

1. Breakfast done, Dad flips it to The Learning Channel and then heads to the kitchen to ready the school lunch for his almost-five year old daughter.

2. Dad overhears the backbeat of hip-hop music and some rapping.

3. Peeking into the living room, it's Hip Hop Harry. He's rappin' the benefits of sharing, playing fair and staying fit.

4. It's kinda like Barney, only instead of being annoyingly sanitized and corny, he's leading a breakdance competition to end the show.. oh yeah, and he's a bear wearing a big medallion, not a purple dinosaur.

5. In the show-ending dance off, each kid takes a turn in the circle, body-popping, spinning around - y'know all the moves, but everyone - even the girls- are dancing with a very serious, almost grimace on their faces. It's like they're saying 'yeah, that's right.. I'm a bad mofo..'.

6. Tonight, almost-five year old is quietly singing/rapping, 'Go Harry..Go Harry..Go Harry..'

Ok. I'm torn. I'm not supposed to pre-judge. I told myself I'd always be open to new things. But in my head I'm thinking, "Hip-hop aimed at 3 to 6 year olds????"

I know that listening to hip-hop doesn't turn you into a street hood. Even I like listening to it sometimes. But can you honestly tell me it wasn't borne out of that culture? Why are so many hip-hop videos about SUV ridin' maniacs tearin' down da house?

Yo yo yo... I don't have a problem with the hip-hop. It can be da bomb so to speak. But 3 to 6 year olds?? C'mon. Would there be a complaint if a show was created with goth-type characters to the backbeat of something like Marilyn Manson (does that even have a backbeat?) ?

Am I simply a confused middle-aged Canadian father whose falling into the conservative trappings of so many before him? I don't have a problem discussing the state of death metal with my 17 year old nephew. Why am I so confused with this?

Somebody please set me straight.

Short Answers and the Fall of Civilization

Here's the email I send to a client asking for confirmation on a couple of items (of course the names and subject matter have been changed to protect the innocent... and me):

Hi Zanzibar,

So it is full height jibberjabs and blickity blocks with a continuous 12x9 pinky-doo everywhere? Are blingitybings or additional rinkydinks required?


Richard Querin, P.Eng.

No fine work of literature to be sure. But it was simple and clear enough don't you think? Here's the response (via frickin' Blackberry of course)


So is that a yes only on the jibberjabs, blickity blocks and pinky-doo? What am I to assume for the second part of the question?

Is this a result of PDA/SMS/Blackberry short cryptic notation syndrome? Where is the art of communication going? I read plenty of emails a day. You would think the proliferation of written communication would yield some improvement, but all it's done is laid the problem bare for more to see.

I know, I know. Another grammar rant. But there wasn't even a period on the end of that single word reply! But at least it was spelled correctly.

I must be going a little batty, because I actually enjoy reading the odd email that comes to me with full punctuation, correct spelling and some semblance of coherence and planning. It happens once or twice every couple of weeks (I swear - no more frequent than that). You have to enjoy them when you can.

Apologies for liberating the curmudgeon in me again. But somebody has to document the fall of civilization. Why not me? ;)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Photos and Inkscape

[click here to see a higher resolution version on Flickr]

A quick note to the Inkscape mailing list today gave me a couple of quick ways to trim imported bitmaps to the shape of any arbitrary boundary:

1. Select both objects and then choose Object->Clip->Set


2. Create a pattern fill based on a bitmap using Object->Pattern->Objects To Pattern, and then fill the object with that pattern.

This proved to be quite fun, so I put together the little collage you see above. It was probably easier to create this in Inkscape than in a bitmap editor like GIMP or Photoshop since you could easily create, rotate and modify each 'snapshot' throughout the process and modify gradients etc..

You can do quite a few neat things with a bitmap photo imported into a vector based editor like Inkscape. There are a few neat demo video's over on the Xara site. One of them shows some interesting things about photo editing on a vector graphics editor. Good stuff.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Inkscape Screencast 2 - A Quicky Glass Globe

Did you know that if you take a strip of masking tape, one cheapy Dell stick microphone (which came with some of our old systems at work) combined with my mini camera tripod, a creatively bent coat hanger and one of my daughter's nylons for a wind/breath screen, you can actually record a screencast with narration? Hah!

It took about 4 takes before I was even remotely satisfied that it was audible enough. The sound seemed so low and hissy at first. Still, it's not the greatest - and of course YouTube has simply butchered the video quality, but it might be useful to some.

In this screencast I create a quicky glass globe. Now, as I've mentioned ad nauseum, I'm no Inkscape expert or graphic designer. If you've got Inkscape tips or some other constructive criticism, please, let's hear it!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Inkscape Screencast - My First Experiment

A few posts ago I gave a few quick examples of shiny web2.0-like objects I created in Inkscape. Before I posted that I actually did a little half-hour attempt at a screencast with a program called Xvidcap. It failed miserably, generating a tiny video at about 2 frames per second. Not Good.

Will Simpson commented on that post that he'd like to see a screencast of some Inkscape stuff, so I took a little more time to investigate. With the exception of having to modify the first line of the configure script (changing bin/sh to bin/bash) the instructions in this post worked! So I configured, compiled and built this patched ffmpeg program that let me create a somewhat decent screencast.

The long and short of it? I created a quick screencast showing the creation of a simple black shiny button using Inkscape. Before criticizing it too harshly, read the notes and caveats below.

A few caveats:

  1. Uploading the video to YouTube significantly degraded the quality (originally 800x600 at 30fps - 1000 kb/s bitrate) - if I find a decent place to host it, you will be able to download a much better version.
  2. I don't have a microphone to create decent sounding narration so I didn't even attempt it. I may try to pick one up in the next little while.
  3. Tutorial-type screencasts are kinda (very) useless without narration, so don't expect to learn too much from it - it's really only an experiment.
  4. To help alleviate 3 minutes of utter boredom I dubbed in a nice Rob Costlow track using Kino - I hope you like some nice solo piano.


I converted the avi video from ffmpeg to dv-video for use in Kino. I dubbed in the music with Kino and trimmed it slightly. However I couldn't figure out how to get Kino to export to mpeg4 which supposedly converts best with YouTube so instead I generated an mpeg2 file which may be the main reason for the blurry YouTube quality. I've got to figure this part out better.

The patched ffmpeg program seemed to capture the 800x600 video flawlessly, but when I tried 1024x768, even at lower bitrates, the capturing program would just quit on me. Not sure why. Meh. 800x600 is ok I guess.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Recon Mission - Circa 1981

Talk about your tough love. Makes you wonder why people complain about wasted tax dollars and court resources..

Some of you will hate me for this, but what the hey...

I clearly remember sneaking into my parent's closet on several occasions during mid to late Decembers of years gone by. If the coast was clear, I would look for the presents with my name on them (opening my brother's gifts would clearly be immoral!). Boxes were evaluated not by size, but by heft - a much better indicator of the potential cool-ness of a gift. A quick scan of the taping method and a couple of deft razor blade slices later (my Dad still uses a Wilkinson double-edger by the way) I was in.

Of course I never actually played with the toys. I would open them up just enough to see what they were. After that I was perfectly content to wait until Christmas morning to get them. And I never went through them all. One or two of the heftiest was enough to satisfy me. And it wasn't always smiles and sunshine. It could be Stretch Armstrong, it could be a pair of shoes, you spin the wheel, you takes your chances.

Did it ruin Christmas morning for me? Nah. The excitement was still there. I didn't have to feign the enthusiasm, nor the excitement - only a little bit of surprise. And besides, the greatest parents in the world (my parents - in case you didn't know) weren't idiots and I was no world class cat burglar. I'm sure they knew what I was doing - at least had some clue - because there always seemed to be the one or two "awesome" presents at Christmas that I never ever saw coming.

Would you have called the cops? Heh.

Variations on a Shiny Black Theme

I've noticed a seemingly endless number of "Web 2.0 Shiny Button" tutorials lately. Most of them involving Photoshop. Looking at a couple, it all seems to be about gradients and transparency - something that Inkscape is good at.

I figured I'd take the opportunity to practice my Inkscape chops and play around a bit. So here are some variations on a theme. If you're sick of Web 2.0 with it's shiny, chunky buttons, then take this as your final dose. :)

For anybody interested in playing around with these, you can download the inkscape svg file right here: buttons-fun.svg

First, your typical fat shiny button. Literally 20-30 seconds work in Inkscape.

Next a shiny black and red power button. BTW exactly when did this symbol become synonymous with the power switch anyway?

An over the top version of a vertical scroll control. Either that or a power window switch in your car. This ain't getting any better is it..

Started as a lozenge. Then went for a control button. Ended up with a shiny, buttonless Kensington Trackball.

Is it a remote, or a phone? Not sure. Take away all the buttons and you've got the start of a perfectly good shampoo bottle. Spent about a half-hour on this one. Probably 15 minutes too much. ;)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lowering the Bar

I have a question. How can someone go to work day in, day out for over 10 years where the primary objective is not to aid progress, not to develop, not to grow, but simply to plod through, exerting only enough enthusiasm to do two things: get paid, and cover your ass. How?

While everyone else both up and down the proverbial totem pole is trying to get to the root of a problem, this person's far too busy eschewing any culpability or fault to contribute to the solution.

Clearly there is no shame in it for him. He casts away blame with such outward vigor that he's clearly proud of it, or ignorant.

The ironic thing is that in most cases this person probably ISN'T the source of the problem, ISN'T to blame, but the act of immediately and vigorously denying any blame does more to hurt his reputation and respect than actually causing the problem.

I've always believed that owning up to mistakes is a necessary part of building reputation, character and respect. But that assumes you care about building those things. If you don't, then happily escaping blame, avoiding responsibility and getting paid is fine I guess.

Ten years on and I still find it hard to believe someone can go through life perfectly happy to wallow, perfectly happy never learning anything and perfectly happy never progressing.

Maybe it's time I lower my expectations of others.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Will Wright on Colbert this Monday night

In case you hadn't heard or read:

Will Wright is going to be on the Colbert Report tomorrow (Monday) night.

Wright is the designer of such awesome games as SimCity, TheSims, and the upcoming Spore game.

I love his games simply because they make you think, make you work, and illustrate how great computer games don't have to be about burning down Santa Monica Blvd or (the Streets of Baghdad) with guns 'ablazin.

Video editing on Linux - Any Recommendations?

Back in August of 05, just as a test I posted this short video clip on my family blog. I think it illustrates how effectively a well chosen bit of music can enhance just about anything (slideshow, video or otherwise). I haven't done a heck of a lot of video editing since then (just too many other pursuits I guess). I've shot video clips off and on, but they've yet to make it from the mini-dv tape to the pc in the last year. The clip you see above was created using (gasp!) Windows Movie Maker. The music is by the awesomely talented Rob Costlow.

But I'm hearing and reading more and more about video editing on Linux lately. I've tried out Kino once or twice and while it seemed a little alien to me, I'm sure with a little patience and a little effort I could nibble into the stack of DV tapes on my desk that just sits there collecting dust.

Right now I've read or heard about Kino, Diva, Cinelerra, QDvdAuthor, ManDVD, and KDEnlive.

Have you edited video on Linux? What have you used? Any recommendations?

Note: Apologies for the poor quality of the youtube clip. I only had the video in wmv format (which supposedly doesn't convert so well to flash I guess) and I didn't have time - and didn't know how to convert it to mpeg4 or divx which is supposed to work better. If anybody's got tips on that, please let me know.

Working Tablet + GIMP = :)

Back about a week ago, I posted about the trouble I was having getting my Wacom tablet to work correctly with the GIMP. It wasn't moving over the full extents of the screen, and it wasn't getting recognized as an extended input device in the GIMP (which lets you use pressure-sensitivity).

As you can see by the image above, I now have it working. But I almost forgot to post about getting it to work. Thanks to Donncha for sending me a comment on that previous post which reminded me. BTW there are some awesome photos on Donncha's blog, you should check them out.

So here's the story. I cleaned up my xorg.conf file so that any references to serial or tablet-pc based entries in the wacom sections of the file were deleted. I also uninstalled and reinstalled the wacom-tools package as well.

But I'm not sure which (if any) of those things were the problem. My other problem was (and is) is that restarting X after each modification didn't seem to work properly. Normally (for the Ubuntu distro anyway) you hit Ctrl-Backspace to restart X. On my machine, this logs me out, returns me to the GDM login prompt as expected. But on re-logging in, it can never get back to the desktop. I end up stuck at a light blue screen with full mouse movement but no desktop to speak of. The only option left is to reboot.

So being the newbie that I am, I was making changes to my xorg.conf file and then logging out and logging back in. Apparently, this does NOT restart the Xserver which means any of the changes I had made were not 'taking'.

The long and short of it is that I cleaned up the xorg.conf file, reinstalled the wacom-tools package and then the next morning when I started up the machine, the tablet was working fine. The Gimp recognized it and full pressure sensitivity was enabled.

Sorry there was no magical answer here. But I can say that there are several good threads on getting tablet devices to work. If you want to see what my current xorg.conf file looks like, I posted it right here in a message thread on It seems to work flawlessly for me right now so check it out if you're having problems.

Note: I have a Wacom Graphire3 tablet, a miniature notebook sized MS mouse (for my daughter), and a normal sized mouse, all of which are USB( and all of which are always hooked up and all of which seem to work perfectly now). I'm running Ubuntu Edgy with Beryl installed. If you have a serial model or are using a different distribution or setup your mileage may vary.

Friday, December 01, 2006

OLPC - Why Criticize? And the "Evils" of Computers and Kids

There is some discussion and criticism going on about the One Laptop Per Child program. And while if there's one thing blogs are good for, it's criticism. But you have to wonder sometimes how people rationalize their arguments.

Sure, providing a cheap laptop is not as high a priority as sanitary drinking water and food. No brain surgery degree required there. But what point is there to shooting down a perfectly good idea and project? Does providing a computing tool to people who would otherwise never have it necessarily preclude the work being done by humanitarian agencies to provide safe drinking water? Do you think if most of these people weren't developing the OLPC they'd be doing anything at all? Take what you can get brother! At this stage should we really be waiting for the one and only 'perfect' solution and shooting down every other attempt from some other direction? Can we really afford to do that? Let people contribute in any way they want to contribute. Be glad their doing anything at all.

And then in one of the comments on Jeff Jarvis' blog I read this snippet:

Admittedly, I’m a Luddite parent of kids who go to a Waldorf school, where we still believe in sitting quietly and listening to stories. But I really believe– even though I make my living at a computer– that my young kids (2nd grade and preschool) are getting a lot more out of learning to knit (really!), out of playing on the beach in rain or snow, out of being driven to use their imagination and handle the physical world and interact with each other than they would get, or will get for some years, from a box that’s very good at spoonfeeding information and providing reward cues that make you think you’ve gotten a lot more out of it than you really have.
Whoa! I'm all for getting out there and experiencing the world, natural and otherwise. But to dismiss the computer simply as a box that's good at spoonfeeding info and providing reward cues that make you overestimate your accomplishments is ridiculous.

What makes using the computer (and Internet) as a research tool any different than the once high and mighty intellectual trip to the local library? You search, you read, you consume. Because it's easier, is it somehow less valuable? Since when does reading and learning about things NOT count towards life development? Do you think real life experiences are somehow diminished with the advent of computers? Is one taking time from the other? Or is one able to enhance and complement the other?

Computers are what you make of them. I don't discount the value of trips to the beach (or knitting - actually I was a decent knitter at about 5 yrs of age - don't tell my friends). But I don't think they're mutually exclusive things. One can enhance the other. But that's entirely up to the parents. You find the balance.

If you treat it as a babysitter (as many parents do the TV) you've made your own bed. If you treat it as a tool that makes learning more things more easily, then I feel it can be tremendously valuable. Does it make kids less socially interactive? Does it make them antisocial? Is it a threat to the development of children? Only if parents let it.

I'm of the ilk that thinks too many parents are willing to place the responsibility (or blame) for all these things elsewhere. Anywhere but on themselves. If it's not the school system it's the Internet, or computers or the state of television broadcast standards or something else. Parent's need to realize that THEY are the ones who go furthest in determining how their children grow up.

One look at the throngs of kids hanging out at the malls all day leads me to believe I'm in the minority with that view.