Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The 'Portland Santa' returns, with 'hemp milk egg nog' and more

Last year, the creative folks at Portland's Bent Image Lab animation studio sent out a holiday card with a very distinctive version of the Jolly Old Elf. The "Portland Santa" was a hipsterish dude who looked more like a refugee from "Portlandia" than a guy who hangs around with elves.

This year, the Portland Santa is back, in a new Bent Christmas card, and he's as alternative as ever, with an "Eat Local" T-shirt and animated christmas cards online frame eyeglasses. He's up in the skies over the city, in a flying sleigh -- er, wait, make that a flying food cart -- led not by reindeer, but by what look to be two urban goats. An attractive female elf is dispensing "Hydroponic Mistletoe," and a sign indicates that Santa and his team have other treats to offer, including "Hemp Milk Egg Nog" and "Gluten Free Fruit Cake."

So enjoy this bit of seasonal cheer, with a Rose City slant, illustrated by Brett Superstar, and conceived by Chel White, Solomon Burbridge, Greg Arden and Superstar.

-- Kristi Turnquist

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 has been a Banner Year for Walgreens API

2013 has been a banner year for Walgreens. The company launched the Walgreens Pharmacy Prescription Refill API, announced the QuickPrints Photo App Developer Contest encouraging developers to integrate the Walgreens QuickPrints API into their mobile applications, and announced the integration of QuickPrints with the Adobe Revel website. Nearing the end of 2013, Walgreens has unveiled the brand new QuickPrints SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, announced the QuickPrints Developer Contest winners, and has just released version 2.0 of the QuickPrints API.

Users of the Printicular Windows 8 Desktop App can send their photos to Walgreens for same-day pickup.

QuickPrints SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8

Walgreens announced the upcoming launch of new QuickPrints SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 at the Microsoft BUILD Conference that was held earlier this year. These new SDKs are now available for download and include a set of APIs that allow developers to create Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications where users can submit a photo print order to a Walgreens store. A few examples of Windows 8 desktop and tablet applications that use the QuickPrints SDK for Windows 8 include Printicular, Order Prints, and PhotoWeaver. Bruce Seymour, Managing Director at MEA Mobile, the publisher of the Printicular app, told ProgrammableWeb that:

"The Windows 8 QuickPrints SDK provides a critical bridge for our Photo Assistant App, Printicular to the retail endpoints at Walgreens. The Walgreens technical team is comprised of the some of the best API architects in the business. We're very proud to be working with Walgreens on developing our next generation of Print to Retail apps on the Microsoft Windows 8 platform."

The Walgreens QuickPrints SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are great examples of how the Windows developer tools provided by Microsoft help to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem for Microsoft, companies like Walgreens, and app developers. Using Microsoft developer tools, Walgreens created QuickPrints SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, which can be used by developers to create apps that help promote Microsoft products and Walgreens. Tim O'Brien, General Manager of Platform Strategy at Microsoft, provided ProgrammableWeb a statement:

"Microsoft is committed to providing developers with opportunities to build engaging scenarios and to be successful on the platform. Partnering with companies like Walgreens empowers developers to create an enhanced and differentiated photo-sharing experience for their consumers."

QuickPrints Developer Contest Winners

Walgreens has announced that Moments and tapsBook are the winners of the Fall 2013 QuickPrints Developer Contest. Moments is a free application for iPad that allows users to easily create photo books from their Facebook, dropbox download or iPad photos. The Moments app also allows users to print their photo books to Walgreens for same-day pickup. Walgreens offers same-day pickup for photos at over 4,000 Walgreens locations across the US. Amit Sherman, CEO and Founder of Moments, states in the company press release that:

"The Walgreens QuickPrints API is great for Moments, since we only had to focus on creating a great app: they take care of the brick-and-mortar part of photo book printing. This is why we could focus on creating a simple application, built for mobile, for the creation of striking photo books that are real simple to make."

tapsBook, is also a free application for iPad that allows users to create storytelling photobooks "with just one tap." tapsBook photobooks can be instantly shared and can be printed with same-day pickup at Walgreens' many locations across the US.

QuickPrints API Version 2.0

Walgreens has just released version 2.0 of the QuickPrints API which includes several key new features and updates. The new release only applies to users of the direct QuickPrints API and does not apply to users of the SDK variations. Some of the key new API features include:

  • Support for Web Channel based photo print checkout.
  • Support for Mobile Browser based photo print checkout.
  • Supports navigation to originating site after checkout completion.
  • Ability to upload images to Walgreens Storage via REST approach.
  • Overall more seamless and simpler API integration than past versions.

For more information about the Walgreens developer program, the QuickPrints SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and other available Walgreens APIs, visit the Walgreens Developer Portal.

See also ProgrammableWeb's analysis of the business model behind Walgreens QuickPrints API.

By Janet Wagner. Janet is a Data Journalist and Full Stack Developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, open data, data visualization, and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The road to the top

A WARM wind tugs at the coat-tails of Reverend Urio as he rides his motorbike on a paved road circling the base of the world's highest free-standing mountain. Kilimanjaro rises out of the parched east African plain as only a volcano can, its icy peak towering three miles above a sea of yellow grass. The reverend makes the trip every morning and yet, blinded by the slanting sun, he seems surprised when the tarmac runs out. Bike and rider shudder as he turns on to a track of packed red earth that leads uphill. The breeze turns cooler and the land greener. Mountain streams feed farms and groves. The hooded heads of acacia trees become tangled like manes.

Halfway up the mountain, Reverend Urio switches off the engine and parks outside a church made from cement and corrugated iron. He removes his helmet and coat, exposing short-cropped hair and a dog collar. He says he doesn't mind the 90-minute ride from Moshi, the regional capital, to the village of Mshiri, where he was appointed pastor a few weeks ago. He enjoys overtaking the minibus he would otherwise have to squeeze into. "The only part I don't like is the rocky section where the paving runs out," he says.

Reverend Urio was born on this hillside and everyone knows him by his curious first name, Speaker. As a ten-year-old he received a Tanzanian government scholarship to one of the best secondary schools in the country. From there he joined the church, which sent him to university. Around here the church has a habit of pinching the best talent. It is better organised than the government, he says, brimming with confidence. The pastor has developed a fine awareness of power. He says the elders in the village call him "shimaku", an honorific, and that he knows who among them will be helpful.

After stints in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Kampala, he spent the past few years as a church administrator in Moshi and still lives there. But his ties to the village never frayed. He has returned out of loyalty, he says, "and for the view". With the enthusiasm of a schoolboy, the 49-year-old points at the peak above us, calling it an island in the sky. Clouds envelop it during the day but they have yet to blow in. The view in the other direction, down to the plain, is if anything more spectacular. Distant dust storms whirl like tumbleweed.

Reverend Urio walks into the church to check on preparations for the Sunday service. An assistant is hanging red banners above the pews. Another carries two wooden stands with numbered slots to the main door. They are filled with envelopes and worshippers are asked every week to put in money. A clerk collects it, noting the amount in each envelope on a score card. Following the service the pastor is handed a set of accounts, which he spreads out on his desk and studies. The suggestion that worship does not receive top billing fails to offend him. "We are flexible," he says and points out that the church is Lutheran yet the cross on the altar is adorned with a likeness of Jesus. "It was there when I came. So what if people think we are Catholics?"

The service starts with a hymn and ends with prayers, spoken in a mix of languages. Swahili, used nationally, is rapidly displacing the local Chagga. Ever more villagers migrate to the cities. Change is all around, says the pastor. The schools are getting better, but not fast enough. More is required from the government. During his first sermon he told the congregation that the track leading to the church must be paved. "We need a new road," he said. "You are right," they shouted back. He wondered what they might do about it.

On Sunday mornings all the radios in the village are set to gospel music. Why, asks Mshukuru Kimaro, his arms hanging loosely in an oversized jacket, does anyone bother going to church? "You can get the service at home."

The 17-year-old has just left secondary school and is considering his employment options. All his ancestors were farmers. Most neighbours still are. Techniques have changed little. Bananas are cut down with machetes fixed to long sticks. Millet is ground with a bucket-size pestle and mortar made from hardwood; most of it is malted at home and turned into beer.

The soil on the slopes is volcanic and needs extra nutrients. Since few farmers can afford chemical fertiliser, they keep cows and goats for the manure-but not many, since land is scarce. Animals are tethered and fed dry grass. The milk they provide was once churned to make butter in hollowed-out pumpkins but now the farmers use plastic containers. Houses have evolved, too. Before, people lived in conical huts, 15 feet high and made from grass, in which man and beast cohabited. Very few remain.

Mshukuru shares a two-room wooden shack with his mother. Mosquito nets cover the beds and clothes hang from a string under the ceiling. A second shack houses two goats and a fireplace with a blackened pot. Mshukuru's mother is the cook at the local primary school. She has been gone all day and Mshukuru is bored. He turns off the radio and notices a concert of birdsong and mooing. The range is symphonic. Animal life is always audible on the mountain, though mostly concealed by the plant life. Dwellings are dwarfed by surrounding vegetation. Corn conquers idle patches; flowers grow in rampant colonies.

Tomorrow it will be market day at the spot where the paved road starts, and Mshukuru decides to walk down to have a look. He calls out, "He's my friend," pointing to a youngster in the window of a house. Mshukuru asks him for a piece of chewing gum. "My friend works in a shop," he says, a faint realisation that he too will have to earn a living now flitting across his face. He is an only child and lost his father many years ago.

By a toppled tree trunk he encounters a girl in a blue dress. Their conversation is art deco christmas cards and leaves him grinning. "She is my friend," he says later, then stalls. "She is not my girlfriend..." He declares that he doesn't want to marry until he has a college degree. But how to pay the fees? He would like to find a job as an engineer in a city. When he has money he might come back to Mshiri. Or he might marry in the city. He stops in the middle of the track and declares after a moment's hesitation, "I believe, if God wishes it, I will become a rich man." His index fingers are pointing upwards. "If it happens, I will not be surprised. And if it doesn't happen, I will not be surprised either." He looks up to the peak of Kilimanjaro, briefly visible. "One day I want to go there."

At the bottom of the track, Mshukuru greets a friend of his mother. The man looks aggrieved. He says his 18-year-old daughter recently ran away from home. She said there was nothing for her to do in the village. Nonchalantly Mshukuru tells the man that his daughter will return soon and pats him on the back. Asked later how he could be so sure, he shrugs and says, "I didn't want him to go looking for her. Give her a chance."

The market is a collection of wooden stands. Many are already filled with produce from surrounding fields: carrots, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, ginger, garlic and watercress. Red coffee berries are sold to a co-operative for roasting. The previous night several stalls caught fire and burned to the ground. The men standing around the ashes blame an electrical fault. Still, their ire is directed at the fire brigade whose engine arrived an hour late, with no water in the tank. When nothing came out of the hose the crowd turned angry. Official neglect is seldom so obvious. Stall-owners smashed the windows of the fire engine while the flames still flickered behind them. The firemen tried to flee, and backing up the engine, they drove over and destroyed several motorbikes.

"The road is everything," says Mshukuru. His father died waiting for an ambulance

"We get nothing from the government," says Mshukuru. "It is the same with our road." He is walking back up to Mshiri. The free-falling equatorial sun lights the treetops. Men push wobbly wheelbarrows filled with fruit; women balance shopping on their heads. The minibuses that carry people along paved roads do not come up here. Mshukuru lists the many reasons why the dirt track should be paved. "The road is everything," he concludes. His father died waiting to go to hospital. No ambulance would come up to the village. Mshukuru stops to smell the lemony scent of a spindly eucalyptus tree by the side of the road. This is all the medicine we have, he says, worried about his ageing mother's health.

Official neglect

Reverend Urio consults the elected chairman of the village council in Mshiri about upgrading the road. Wilson Mosha is a retired school teacher and behaves like one. When asked a question he repeatedly asks for your correspondent's pen and notebook to give answers in writing. He has lived on his shamba, or smallholding, all his life. He inherited it from his father, who fought for Britain during the second world war in Ethiopia and Burma, and named him Wilson after a brother-in-arms from England. During his childhood the village road was barely passable. In the decades that followed the residents slowly widened it, in part at his urging. He has been an unpaid village administrator since 1972. "I pushed for houses to be connected to the national grid," he says. "It is happening but some are still without lights." If anyone knows how local politics works, it is him.

Within a week of the pastor's first sermon, Mr Mosha convenes a public meeting to rally support for paving the road. Several hundred villagers turn up, at least one from every family. Both men and women attend. Formerly only men attended but that changed when bequests of land to daughters became common in recent years. Horny-handed, they cram onto benches in the dining hall of the local school, chattering until elders walk in. The sudden silence is startling, as is the evident respect for authority.

Mr Mosha has invited officials from the local government. Villagers bow and scrape, addressing them as honourable minister or director even though they are neither. Every utterance is prefaced with profuse expressions of gratitude. Many villagers are practised flatterers. They profess agreement with the government, then demand a change of policy.

The meeting lasts two hours and also includes a discussion on leaky water pipes. The officials respond curtly. Anyone asking a tough question is accused of "lacking respect". The meeting is not a success. Afterwards Mr Mosha points out that villagers pay no tax; only the rich do. A neighbour responds, "Do you mean the officials don't have money for our road? Look at the expensive cars they came in." Accusations of corruption fly.

Mr Mosha tries a new tack. He teams up with the executive officer of Ashira, the village down the mountain where the paved road starts. Vicky Lyimo agrees to help. When it rains, muddy water runs down the track from Mshiri and floods her village. She persuades a higher official to take a look. He makes encouraging comments but offers no money. A local MP visits. He promises to look for funds but does not sound hopeful.

Some villagers suggest tougher action, perhaps a demonstration, but Mr Mosha says that, "protocol must be followed." Even at lower levels, bureaucracy is stifling. When your correspondent asks to meet Mr Mosha's brother, an official in the church, he suggests calling the local parish to get them to arrange it.

A mixed blessing

Two roads run through the village of Ashira: a dirt one up to Mshiri and a shorter paved one to a girls' secondary school. Ms Lyimo, the executive officer, explains that her predecessor is responsible for the laying of the tarmac ten years ago. She spots him at the "First And Last" bar. Elialifa Lyimo (no relation to Ms Lyimo) is sitting on a plastic chair under a tin roof. He points at an empty beer glass and tells a waiter, "You know what I drink." A cigarette stub sits in the corner of his mouth. "This is the first bar when you come from the field and the last when you go home," he explains.

As a young man Mr Lyimo worked as a salesman for a shoemaker in Kenya. When he came back in 1985 he volunteered as a village administrator. He heard that the former headmistress of the girls' secondary school had been a classmate of the wife of the then president. "So I took the headmistress to State House in Dar es Salaam and asked for the First Lady," he says. They saw the president's wife and told her that schooling was difficult in the rainy season. The road flooded and many girls failed to turn up. "We didn't see the president and I don't know what the wife told him but soon after that they paved the road to the school. It is how things work."

Mr Lyimo is ambivalent about the effects of better roads. All his seven children have left the village. "They are building houses in the city and eating well. I suppose they may never come back. Perhaps when I die they will bury my ashes there." The prospect makes him spit on the ground. But he sees a potential upside to a paved road to the village. "They might at least visit."

Yet he says development is undermining ancient traditions. The Chagga people have lived here for half a millennium. Some families hire Mr Lyimo to teach them rites they barely remember: how to slaughter and divide a cow between mother, father and siblings to celebrate a betrothal. "Some things have improved, of course," he says. "In the past we believed children will never grow hair if women eat eggs during pregnancy. Now we know better. Still, my grandchildren cannot speak our local language."

Bow-legged, he announces he must go to a funeral. He walks out of the bar and along a banana grove. Above him the mountain is sheathed in cloud. Unprompted, he says, "Bananas are flowers, not trees." When he doesn't get a response he walks into the grove and starts pulling down leaves that are flapping like sails. By the time he is done, nothing is left of the plant. He says, "See, no trunk. Bananas are just rolled up leaves." When he returns to the track he says, "Bananas are radioactive as well." (A check online reveals he is right. Scientists refer to a "banana equivalent dose", a tiny measure of radiation similar to eating one banana.)

At the village cemetery Mr Lyimo sits down under pine trees. Only a few graves dot the grassy slope. Most people are buried on family land to ensure their children's right of occupancy. This makes borrowing money difficult. Banks will not accept grave land as collateral since they cannot repossess it.

"What else can you do in a village but dress up and die?" asks Mr Lyimo

After a minute's rest, Mr Lyimo joins hundreds of guests along the track to the house of the deceased. Some sit down on chairs under a marquee. Prayers are said over loudspeakers. Mr Lyimo belts out hymns. Then family members carry the coffin above their heads into a banana grove for burial.

Complimented on his starched shirt, Mr Lyimo says, "What else can you do in a village but dress up and die?" He and other guests are members of the ruling Party of the Revolution. They agree that the party is venal; MPs are leeches; national bosses are worse. "Every party is corrupt, and it didn't start today, or yesterday," he says. "Are you Christian? Well, after Jesus died on the cross they took him to a cave and posted Roman guards outside. Three days later he was resurrected. Do you think he got out without paying a fee?" The villagers giggle. The only people they trust are unaffiliated local leaders. "We know how they live," Mr Lyimo says. "We can tell their honesty from their house."

Damp stains the wall behind a tattered armchair. Mr Mosha, the chairman of Mshiri village, and his family live in two rooms held together by corrugated iron. They feed themselves from a vegetable garden along the road to Ashira. Three cows provide milk but no meat.

A month after the arrival of the new pastor the road looks remarkably different. The surface is smooth even if still earthen. Many of the rocks are gone. The sides are solidly squared off. Occasional vehicles pass each other easily.

After the government rejected calls to fund a new road, Mr Mosha visited all the homes in the village and solicited contributions of $13 each. Few families refused. He also contacted offspring who had left the village. Money came from as far as America. Within a week he had collected $10,000. "We can't wait for the government," he says. "We do it ourselves."

Money in hand, Reverend Urio phoned a local man who works in construction in Dar es Salaam. He drove his ten-tonne Caterpillar motor grader 350 miles to Ashira and ploughed his way up the slope to Mshiri. To save money he stayed with Mr Mosha. In one week he flattened eight miles of road.

Since then the villagers have dug drains to protect the road from downpours. They still hope for tarmac one day, or at least gravel. Some have even bigger plans. They imagine continuing the road all the way up to the summit of Kilimanjaro. At the moment the track thins to a grassy path above the village and then loses itself among bananas and corn.

The only way to the top is on foot. It takes a week. Mr Lyimo thinks it should stay that way. "In my 69 years I have never been up there," he says. "Why go? Where will these new roads lead us? It's beautiful down here, green and warm. Up there is only stone and ice."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is 'Delightful' the New 'Cool'?

In July 2012, when Marissa Mayer became the new CEO of Yahoo, she told The New York Times about her plans for the company. "My focus at Google has been to deliver great end-user experiences, to delight and inspire our end users," Mayer explained. "That is what I plan to do at Yahoo: give the end user something valuable and delightful that makes them want to come to Yahoo every day."

"Delight" is a fitting goal for tech firms like Google and Yahoo, whose business models rely on keeping customers happy-not just occasionally, but daily and over time. "Twitter's products influence everything from pop culture to politics, delight our users and change lives," a recent job posting for the company put it. An ad for Facebook's head of global recruiting summed up the role thusly: "Facebook will need a recruiting leader to scale while continuing to delight users, candidates, and customers through hyper growth."

It's the lexographic equivalent of artisanal pickles, or of horn-rimmed glasses, or of Zooey Deschanel: It seems to be visiting us from another place and time.

It's not just tech firms, though, that are taking and talking delight in a web-augmented world. Everything, it seems, is delightful right now. Literally. Everything.

I know this, on the one hand, in the most anecdotal way possible: I've recently found myself using "delightful" pretty much all the time. To describe TV shows. And books. And songs. And children. I've dropped the D-bomb while describing blog posts and cat videos and actors ( hello there, Jake Johnson) and one particularly twee pair of holiday socks. Last weekend, I used it to describe pizza.

I know! Pizza. In my defense, it was really, really good pizza. ( It was de-licious, you might say. And de-lovely.)

Another thing in my defense? I do not think I am alone in finding some of the world to be such a total freaking delight. I think, instead, that there is an epidemic (or, if you prefer, a simple abundance) of the sentiment out there-a veritable garden of earthly "delightfuls." Delight is all over Twitter. It's all over Facebook. It's all over (often, warning, with NSFW connotations) reddit">Reddit. It's all over the Internet.

Here are some recent headlines:

This $40,000 TV Is The New Thing To Ridicule With Delightful Amazon Reviews ( Consumerist, December 9, 2013)

Delightful 'Six By Sondheim' Leaves You Wanting Six More ( NPR, December 6, 2013)

Watch this delightful video of an 81-year-old Nelson Mandela dancing on stage ( Washington Post, December 5, 2013)

29 Utterly Delightful Things You Only Find In Britain ( Buzzfeed, December 3, 2013)

The delightful paper world of 'Tearaway' ( The Verge, November 2013)

Wes Anderson Honors Fellini in a Delightful New Short Film ( Slate, November 2013)

Breaking Bad on Ice Is Ridiculous and Delightful( Slate, October 2013)

And here are some less-recent ones, from last year:

Insect Discoveries, Delightful and Disturbing ( New York Times)

The Most Delightful-and Little-Noticed-Idea in Bill Clinton's Speech ( Slate)

Kathy Griffin's New Talk Show Is Surprisingly Delightful ( Gawker)

Inside the Delightful World of Islamic Terrorist 3D Graphic Design ( Gawker)

You get the idea.

Nor, by the way, is its usage limited to other media outlets. We here at The Atlantic are fans of it, too.

Doctor Who's 50th-Anniversary Episode: Delightful, Fan-Servicing Chaos ( November 2013)

M.I.A.'s Delightful Middle Finger of an Album ( November 2013)

'The Trip': A Delightful Movie About Nothing ( 2011)

'What Are Clothes?' Asks Most Delightful Supreme Court Argument in History ( November 2013, via yours truly)

As a matter of fact, we've been fans of delight since the very first page of our very first issue back in November of 1857, when one English dramatist, Douglas Jerrold, was celebrated thusly by James Russell Lowell:

It will be something to remember in afterlife, that one enjoyed the friendship of so brilliant a man ; and if I can convey to my readers a truer, livelier picture of his genius and person than they have been able to form for themselves hitherto, I shall be delighted to think that I have done my duty to his memory.

But the question remains: why do so many of us delight in "delightful" now? On the one hand, I'd say, it's simply a nice, elegant word: light of tone, buoyant of spirit, semantically supple. It's got that long iiii sound- līt-in the middle of it, which is a structure Joan Didion would surely approve of, and which means, among other things, that you're almost forced to smile as you say it. De-liiiiiight-ful. It's also just lovely and lilty and a little bit childlike, the kind of word you might imagine the Pillsbury Doughboy using, were he capable of speech, to describe his giggle. ( Hoohoo!) "Delightful" suggests not just charm, but the best kind of charm there is: the kind that isn't trying to be charming. The kind that takes you, just a little bit, by surprise.

But there is also something, as those tech-firm marketing messages suggest, very specific and very current and very webby about delightful's appeal. (This despite its age: It was introduced sometime around 1200.)

Because while its usage-in books, at least- has trended downward since its peak in the early 19th century ...

... if you look at just the years after the turn of the 21st, you'll see a fairly sharp uptick. (The data below track instances of "delightful" and, for comparison, "delight" between 2000 and 2008, the most recent years Google charts in its Ngram Viewer.) Presumably-if only anecdotally-that upward trend continues into 2013.

So why the recent resurgence? It likely has to do, at least in part, with the fact that "delightful" now has a decidedly retro affect. Teddy Roosevelt "DEE-lightful." Which: . And, obviously, wasa fan of it. (He apparently pronounced itEmily Dickinsondelightful.) used it, too. So did Thomas Jefferson. And Albert Einstein. And Oscar Wilde"Delightful" is the lexographic equivalent of artisanal pickles, or horn-rimmed glasses, or Zooey Deschanel: It seems to be visiting us from another place and another time. Get your "delightfuls" in now, apparently, before Doc gathers them in a DeLorean and whisks them back to 1908, never to be seen again. The Sugar Hill Gang. Which makes "delightful"-that quintessentially vintage accessory, the kind you find in a secondhand store-a fitting adjective to describe the products of the Disneyfied, Etsyfied, Thrift Shop ified American culture of 2013. A culture that is by turns ironically earnest and earnestly ironic.


So ... where does that leave us? Should we double down on "delightful," embracing its twee little charms? Or should we leave it to play itself out, to go the way of and and other obsolescent endorsements?

I should probably, at this point, do the thing that has the best chance of putting me on the right side of history: mount a full-throated attack on "delightful." I should probably take for granted its imminent extinction. As a word, I should point out, it is ridiculously precious. As an adjective, I should continue, it is comically banal. I should give the next section a header that is wry ("Take 'Delightful' ... Please") or inquisitive ("Have We Reached Peak 'Delightful'?") or emotive ("Why the Word 'Delightful' Makes Me Strangely Sad") or aggressive ("Every Time You Call Something 'Delightful,' a Puppy Dies") and then proceed to explain why "delightful" is the worst thing to befall the English language since the coining of the word "moist."

When our interactions find us doubling as curators, positive adjectives are at their best when they can endorse and describe at the same time.

I should ... but I cannot. Because despite it all, I still find "delightful" ... delightful. It will do where no other will. The social world as it plays out online, after all, can be one of almost reflexive positivity. It's a world often driven by what Buzzfeed's books editor, Isaac Fitzgerald, has called "the Bambi Rule": "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." It's a world in which, as Slate's Jacob Silverman put it, "cloying niceness and blind enthusiasm are the dominant sentiments."

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a culture of courtesy. It's delightful! But it creates (among other things) semantic needs among those who are participating in it. In spite of all the new words that have sprung into existence with the advent of new digital technologies-in spite of all the new slang and acronyms and portmantohhhnos we have at our disposal-we still have precious few words to express one of the things we most often find ourselves needing to convey: simple satisfaction. We have "great," sure. We have "good." We have, if we're into that kind of thing, "awesome." We have, if we're getting excited about it, "fascinating." We have, if we are not, "interesting." And we have, still-still!-"cool," the near-universal endorsement that remains, almost in spite of itself,

But these adjectival exclamations, useful as they are, are also often unsatisfying: They're generic and occasionally perfunctory, the rhetorical equivalents of Facebook's thumbs-up. They say something, yes, but they don't always mean something. They may take the form of words; they are much more akin, however, to punctuation marks.

"Delightful" is different. It's a word that explains itself, fully and efficiently. Instead of "This is awesome because X," you get, essentially, "This is delightful because it's delightful." Delight is its own reward. We all recognize this. And when more and more of our interactions find us doubling as curators, filtering Internet for friends and family, positive adjectives are at their best when they can endorse and describe at the same time. "Delightful" is nondescript and nuanced at once. It is retro and modern in equal measure. And therein lies its charm. "Delightful" may well be the new "cool": the adjective we turn to, collectively, to convey our approval. It is, as Urban Dictionary explains, "a positive word that could mean anything good." It may well be becoming the universal validator. And that's pretty ... well, you know.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Newcastle West Dec 7

CHRISTMAS RECITAL: Newcastle West Church is the venue for a much-anticipated Annual Lions Christmas Recital which takes place on Thursday, December 12 at 8pm. The schedule is now finalized for this grand event, which is recognided as one of the high points in West Limerick's Christmas entertainment calendar. The occasion this year brings together two magnificent artists who are both West Limerick natives. Anne Phelan (Violin), who hails from Castlemahon, is an artist of International renown, who has performed with many Orchestras at home and abroad. Brian Hartnett (Tenor) is a Newcastle West native, who has numerous awards to his credit, and has performed on National TV and Radio on many occasions. Keeping the talent local; the Desmond College Choir, with Jean O'Brien (Piano), presents a Christmas Tableau. The entire program promises to be a most amazing evening of seasonal entertainment. Entry is FREE - with a bucket collection for West Limerick Charities - so bring the whole family.

NEWCASTLE WEST FILM CLUB: On Friday next, December 6, Newcastle West Film Club present the last film in the current season "Come as You Are" - a laugh out loud comedy - described by many as a road trip like no other. It stars at 8pm in The Desmond Complex (rear of fire station). It costs €7 per screening, with refreshments available. Returning again in February - trailers are available to view on Tel. 087 687 7970, e-mail :

WINTERFEST IN NEWCASTLE WEST: An exciting and expanded programme has been created for a seasonal festival of family fun. It opens on Friday, December 6 at 4.30 pm. Starting with the tree-lighting in the Square, including the launch of 'Encounters' - an exhibition of art from the state collections of the Republic and Northern Ireland. On Saturday, December 7: The Christmas Market, Santa's Grotto, a giant interactive drum, falconry, and more. On December 8, the Living Crib with Carol Singing takes place from 2 to 4 pm, in front of the Banqueting Hall and a Mini Market and Food Court will take place from 1 to 5 pm. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @winterfestncw

GREAT SOUTHERN TRAIL: A new book by railway historian, Dr Alan O'Rourke entitled 'The North Kerry Line' was launched in the Lartigue Railway Museum, Listowel, Co. Kerry by Minister Jimmy Deenihan on Sunday, November 24, and at the Library, Gortboy, Newcastle West, on Tuesday, November 26 by Éamon Ó Cuív T.D. The subject material is the Limerick to Tralee railway, along with the branch lines to Fenit and Foynes. The book is the result of several years of research and contains a detailed history of the four railway companies - who constructed these 90 miles approx. of railway in West Limerick and North Kerry during the latter half of the 19th century. It also provides a fine description of the lie of the land and of the communities - linked by the lines and their 22 stations.

BAPTISM PREPARATION PROGRAMME: A Baptism Preparation Programme will take place in the Parish Centre at 8 pm on Tuesday, December 17 (please note earlier date). All parents with a child to be baptised must first have attended one of these one-hour baptism programmes. Ring 069-62141 to book your place.

JOHNNY DONEGAN REMEMBERED: Knockfierna Rambling House will hold a special 2nd Anniversary Remembrance for the late Johnny Donegan. It will take place on Sunday, December 15 in the Desmond Complex, Newcastle West (behind library) at 7.30pm. This, "A night at the Rambling House" is a must for all traditional entertainers. A raffle will take place on the night, admission is free and all are welcome..

SOCIETY OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL: The Annual collection takes place next weekend, December 7 and 8. Your usual generosity will be much appreciated.

AFTERNOON TEA DANCE: A dance in aid of the local volunteers with the Ray of Sunshine Foundation, who are travelling to Kenya in January, will take place at Fr. Casey's Clubhouse on Sunday, December 8 from 3-6pm. Teas served. Admission is €5, with music by Donie Walsh and your support is welcome.

PARISH TWITTER: If you are on Twitter, we encourage you to follow us @NCWParish. We will be posting thoughts for the day, reminding you of upcoming events, posting links for the newsletter, photos and updates of parish events. For family or friends who are away from home at this time, it's a quick and easy way for them to keep in touch with their home parish.

ACCORD MARRIAGE CARE SERVICE, NEWCASTLE WEST: ACCORD provides Marriage Preparation Courses for couples choosing to get married in the Catholic Church. There are still some places available on the January course - which takes place on Saturday, January 18. For further details: Phone 069-61000 or email

TIDY TOWNS: A special showcase and seminar for members of the West Limerick Tidy Towns Network, and interested members of the wider community, will take place on Wednesday, December 11 in the Desmond Complex Newcastle West from 7pm to 10pm. The evening will include a number of special guest speakers - with full details to be announced shortly. Communities considering entering the competition in 2014 are also invited to attend. Entrance is free and all are welcome. Contact Suzanne at West Limerick Resources on 069 79114 or email

S.J.Y.P.S.: The monthly meeting of the NCW branch will take place on Thursday, December 5 at 8pm in the Parish Office. New promoters would be most welcome.

ARRA FRIENDS: The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, December 11 at 7 pm in the Desmond Complex, with a Mass for deceased members, followed by music and dancing. The last Aquarobics will take place on Monday, December 2 at 11am in Killeline Leisure Centre. Demesne Walk continues on Wednesdays at 10.45 am. The Christmas Party will be held on Friday, December 13 in the Devon Inn Hotel, with an opportunity for dancing after the dinner. The coach will leave Bishop Street at 8:00 p.m.

DEVELOP YOUR IDEA: An Information Evening, to give you guidance, advice and direction with that big christmas cards idea, will take place over the next few weeks. The next information evening will be held in Leens Hotel, Abbeyfeale on Wednesday, December 4 from 5pm to 7pm. You can also e-mail or ring the chamber office at 069-77751.

COFFEE MORNING IN AID OF ADAPT HOUSE: A Coffee Morning in Aid of Adapt House takes place in the Community Centre, Newcastle West from 10am to 1pm on Thursday, December 5. Any donations of toys, clean clothes, books etc. would be greatly appreciated on the day. Please support if you can.

VOLUNTEERS REQUIRED: Volunteers are required for English Language classes in Newcastle West in the New Year. Volunteers do not require any specific qualifications or experience but must be willing to commit to volunteer 1.5 hours per week for an 8-10 week period to support small groups of 3-4 people at a time to develop their English language conversation skills. Contact Irene at West Limerick Resources on 069 66298 or email

ACCORD MARRIAGE CARE SERVICE NEWCASTLE WEST: Provides Marriage Preparation Courses for couples choosing to get married in the Catholic Church. There are still some places available on our January course which takes place on Saturday, January 18. For further details: Please phone 069-61000 or email

MEDJUGORJE PRAYER MEETING: The monthly meeting of the Medjugorje Prayer Group will take place on Saturday, December 7 at 8 pm in the Parish Pastoral Centre.

THE OPTIMISTIC GROUP: The Optimistic group (formerly the Newcastle West Jobseekers Network) meets on Thursdays in the Newcastle West Community Centre from 1.30 to 3.30 pm. The group recently began a selection of training courses which will run up to Christmas - including Confidence in Communication, Art, Healthy eating and Cooking on a Budget. This is an open door, drop in, relaxed format with a social group aspect. New members are always welcome. Further details are available from Dearbhla at West Limerick Resources' Rural Employment Service (RES) on 069 61316.

MASS DIARY FOR JANUARY 2014: Please note that we will begin to take bookings for January 2014 from 9.00am on Monday, December 2 in the Parish Office (069-62141). Bookings for the rest of the year commence as usual on January 1.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: Another spectacular Christmas lighting display will open at Tony Noonan's house in Templeglantine on Friday, November 22. Tony and his family have delighted and excited children (and adults) for many years with their amazing lighting display - which is going from strength to strength each year. What's more amazing is the fact that admission is free - with voluntary donations optional. The money raised is kindly distributed to some worthwhile charities as follows: Brothers of Charity Foynes, Alzheimer's Centre Adare, Acquired Brain Injury Centre Castleisland. Santy Clause will arrive (by sleigh) at 5pm on December 7 - with a Garda escort to protect all the toys. Carrigkerry Wren Boys will provide the entertainment, and to restore your faith in humanity, the toys, teas and sandwiches will be provided free of charge - the season of goodwill is alive and well! The display, which will continue over the whole Christmas period, will be well signposted at various points on the main road (N21), between Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale.

CAMINO DE SANTIAGO: The Youth Ministry Team in the diocese are organising a pilgrimage on the Camino in Spain next summer. The Camino De Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes - stretching across Europe, and coming together at the tomb of St. James in Santiago De Compostella in Northern Spain. It has become very popular with people from all over Europe in recent years and is particularly popular with Irish Pilgrims. The proposed pilgrimage of young adults (21 or over at the time of travelling) will take place from July 8 to July 15, 2014. The cost of the pilgrimage is not yet fixed, but it is hoped it will not exceed € 600. Those who would like find out more are invited to attend an information evening in the Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre on Friday, November 29 at 7.30pm. If you cannot attend, you can find out more by phoning 061-400133.

THE FOLK CHOIR: New members are welcome. If you can sing or play an instrument and would like to be part of this group, contact Joan Callaghan at 087-2200189. Practice is held in the Parish Centre on Tuesdays - beginning at 8pm for 45 minutes.

SUE RYDER: Share some festive cheer this Christmas and messages that matters - by sending our exclusive range of Sue Ryder's Christmas cards - available in store in Sue Ryder Charity Store, Maiden Street, Newcastle West. The Sue Ryder Foundation is a not-for-profit charity, introduced to Ireland in 1978. The aim of the foundation is to provide a safe and secure environment for older people. Age brings with it many challenges, but for many people, a nursing home is not always the ideal solution. The Sue Ryder Foundation offers its residents the opportunity to continue living independently within a more supported environment

DESMOND COMPLEX: The next Fun Day will take place on Wednesday, December 11. This will be our last Fun Day for the year. We would like to remind people to contact Brendan on (069) 84069 to enable us have a good approximation on numbers. We would also like to remind people about the hospitalities offered by the Desmond Complex. Dinners are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays of every week - with music on most days. Groups can also be accommodated but require advance bookings by ringing the office on (069) 62757 during normal working hours.

NCW FAMILY CLUB: The family Club for primary school-age children and their parents meets on Wednesday after school at 3.30 to 4.45pm. We do Art, sports and games together and have a snack - it includes a play area for younger siblings to come along also. Free for eligible families in receipt of social welfare. Parents must stay throughout. For further information: Contact Theresa on 069 79113.

COMMUNITY CENTRE: The AGM of the Community Centre takes place on Wednesday, December 11 at 8 pm. Members of the public are invited to come along and get involved on the committee. It is the wish of the existing committee to expand and bring some new blood on board.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday | The Daily Gift: Black Action Tees

At, Geoff Cain offers T-shirts that he says, "bring up the good feelings from childhood." They feature real life action heroes like Samuel L. Jackson and animated and comic book heroes like Black Vulcan and Verb! (from the "Schoolhouse Rock!" educational videos). For the more politically minded, there is a depiction of the Obama family inspired by Pixar's "Incredibles." But the shirts that connect most deeply with fans are those adorned with childhood icons like "The Brown Hornet," a hero admired by Fat Albert and his friends. $9.99 to $29.99;

More: xo so kien thiet-guide.html">Daily Gifts
Source: Nytimes

Nikon D5300 Vs. Nikon D7100

<Nikon D5300 Offersp>Nikon has just released its brand new D5300 DSL camera, and it's looking pretty good. The Wi-Fi feature in this model is a first for the company in single-lens reflex camera design, according to Gadget Review. So how does it compare to previous models?


According to Digital Photography Review, The D7100 is the first Nikon DSLR to do away with an optical low-pass filter (OLFP), with higher resolution than the usual filtered 24 Megapixel sensors found in the D5200 and D3200. It also has a slightly larger 3.2-inch 1.2M dot rear LCD that features an RGBW display than the D7000.

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Some of the features include a 24.1 MP DX format CMOS sensor, EXPEED 3 processing, Max 6 fps continuous shooting in DX mode, where it is 7fps in 1.3X crop mode, 1080 60i/3p video recording, built-in stereo mic, pentaprism with 100% coverage and .04X magnification, a 3.2-inch and 1.2m-dot LCD screen, front and rear IR receivers and equivalent water and dust resistance to the D800/D300S. It also weighs 765g, so it is relatively light as well.

The camera is available for $1,299.95.

Nikon D5300

The latest model of the DX-format DSLR has 24.2 megapixels, a DX-format CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter, built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, a built-in GPS, a durable light body, a 3.2-inch 1037k-dot vari-angle LCCD monitor with wide viewing angle, NAL-1 features for zoom/focus assist, and more.

It also has a full-HD 1920x1080/60p capability for movies, where selection can range from 24, 25, 30,50, and 60p. There are also 9 special effects for creative expression.

As previously reported, Nikon Rumors reports that the Nikon D5300 is expected to be introduced before the Photo Plus show in NYC at the end of the month or the CES show in Las Vegas in January.

It is reported that this will be the first camera to get the new EXPEED 4 processor. Some other rumored specs include 24 Megapixels, 39 AF points, built-in Wi-Fi and built-in GPS.

Photography Bay reports that the D530 will be introduced as an entry-level APS-C format camera. There are no reports yet of whether or not it will have better image quality over the D5200, but it would make sense to add additional video features to the D5300.

The price is $799 for the body only, where it is available in black, red, and a Nikon gray finish.

Source: Designntrend