Remember, there are still .6 shopping days 'til Christmas.

Need some conversation starters for your holiday get-togethers? Here are a couple of my favourite strange and funny news stories to help get you started, along with a reading list of things I've read. 

Start with MSN Search, Comcast odd news and Weird News.  Think of it as a small present to kick off your holidays.

Now, off to the reading list. Keep in mind that the descriptions come often are taken directly from the articles.

Happy Christmas Eve...

think denk: the blog of Jeremy Denk, concert pianist - Of all things, my six-year-old came across the blog of Jeremy Denk, a concert pianist in New York. Worth a read particularly for those interested in the everyday musings of a concert pianist.

Deirdre Imus: Missing the Mercury Threat: An appeal to New Jersey's Governor - Politics on The Huffington Post -- Deirdre Imus writes this week on her blog about the decision last week in New Jersey where members of the Public Health Council voted to mandate four new vaccines for children in 2008: two of the vaccines contain thimerosal (mercury).

Analysts wonder when Whitman will leave eBay - Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer, 12/22/07 -- Early in her reign at eBay, Meg Whitman said she couldn't imagine being in charge for more than 10 years - an anniversary that is coming in February.

Amazon.com: High-Definition 101 - High Def in a Nutshell: With up to six times the resolution and superior sound compared to traditional formats, high definition is the perfect way to watch your favorite movies, TV shows, and sports. In other words, you don't watch HD--you live it.

Media Mechanics : Blinded by the Shine on Apple - "Companies are seeing the success of Apple and for fear of losing market share are going after them from many angles. Others can, and are, copying the design principles. In some cases blatantly ripping off the Apple look...

Max Builds a PC (Computer Science Teacher blog) - "My friend Max is building a PC from parts. Over at Channel 8 (First post in the series here) he's looking for recommendations and suggestions about parts. Looks like a good conversation is taking place already but there is always room for more.

Steve Clayton: Geek In Disguise : Steve Jobs on Software + Services - "For a while now I've been banging on about Software + Services being an industry thing not a Microsoft thing and then something odd happened. I was at Web 2.0 and someone showed me the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs interview from All Things D on their iPod Touch...

Windows Live Photo & Video Blog : Photo Gallery is now on Microsoft Update - Friday, December 07, 2007 10:39 AM by pixblog -- This is a special shout-out to our BETA program participants! At our last estimate, the Windows Live Photo Gallery BETA was installed by nearly 3 million users worldwide. Our BETA testers give us feedback...

Office Offline blog: A few notes about reader-submitted comics 

Windows SteadyState

BetaNews | 'PlaysForSure' logo being replaced with 'Certified for Vista' - 'PlaysForSure' logo being replaced with 'Certified for Vista' By Scott M. Fulton, III, BetaNews December 12, 2007, 6:24 PM Without much explanation, Microsoft's PlaysForSure Web page, which had once been the meeting ground for its portable media technology...

BetaNews | Microsoft ends free software for monitoring giveaway - By Ed Oswald, BetaNews, 121207 -- Microsoft pulled the free software offer from its Web site Tuesday, which made free copies of Vista and Office among other applications available in exchange for feedback.

BetaNews | Vista SP1 release candidate goes live - By Scott M. Fulton, III, BetaNews -- This morning, BetaNews FileForum was alerted to the availability of the latest release candidate for Windows Vista Service Pack 1, just released from Microsoft.

BetaNews | Microsoft bug deletes files instead of sharing them - By Ed Oswald, BetaNews December 11, 2007, 2:03 PM The company's FolderShare application is intended to allow customers to synchronize files across multiple machines, but a bug has ended up deleting them.

BetaNews | IDC: Fewer desktop PCs to be sold from now on - By Scott M. Fulton, III, BetaNews, 121107 -- Emphasizing the declining role of the desktop PC form factor in worldwide sales, the analysts of IDC's Quarterly PC Tracker now predict portable PCs will constitute 65% of US PC sales by 2011.

BetaNews | CNBC: Apple preps sub-notebook for Macworld - By Ed Oswald, BetaNews December 7, 2007, 1:29 PM With just a little over one month before the yearly meeting of the Mac faithful, the rumors of an Apple sub-notebook have started to appear.

A Long, Long Wait for a Wii (businessweek) - Nintendo says the shortage is costing it big time, but some analysts say it's all part of the buzz machine by Cliff Edwards

BetaNews | MovieBeam to shut down on December 15 - By Nate Mook, BetaNews 120607 -- One of the first online movie download services is calling it quits after failing to make its business model work despite over $100 million in funding.

Smooth Sailing for Software Stocks - S&P likes the Systems Software subindustry's stock-price momentum and positive fundamental outlook. Among its top picks: Microsoft and Oracle, by Sam Stovall, From Standard & Poor's Equity Research

For Managers, Ignorance Isn't Bliss (businessweek) - December 9, 2007 -- Not knowing one's own faults and weaknesses—and being unaware that they even exist—is dangerous for top executives. Look no further than Zoe Cruz, by Rick Wartzman

Big Shoes to Fill at Adobe (businessweek) - Valley Girl December 10, 2007 -- Chizen will be a tough act to follow. Can Narayen, with an ambitious plan to remake how we gain access to the Web, fit the bill? by Sarah Lacy

Billion Dollar Innovation (businessweek) - December 7, 2007 -- A Finnish study profiled twelve U.S. companies to give insight on how successfully applied service innovation can bring in the big bucks, by Jeneanne Rae

Home Theaters: Less Is More (businessweek) - Home Theater December 7, 2007 -- The minimalist look popularized by the Apple iPod is finding its way into your living room, by Cliff Edwards

Leadership Is About Doing, Not Saying (businessweek) - Marshall & Friends December 4, 2007 -- Don't waste your time on crafting motivational messages if you can't back it up with action. Leaders must walk the walk as well as talk the talk, by Marshall Goldsmith

How to Write a Winning Business Plan - The founder of 18-employee Seahorse Power details the process behind the company's award-winning business plan—and uses an annotated version of it to offer advice by Kerry Miller

Plasma vs LCD - which is best? | APC Magazine - There are many claims and counterclaims about the merits of each, so we decided to test out a selection of the latest plasma and LCD sets from companies such as Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Philips, Grundig and Pioneer... saved by 14 other people ... on dec 11

Dealing with Microsoft Haters (Microsoft Certified Professional) - Microsoft may be the world's best-known brand, but it's not necessarily the best-loved. Here are ways to overcome deal-busting objections, by Anne Stuart, July 2006

Employee Communication: 3 Ways To Create Transformation In Organizations (Best Syndication) - 121007 -- "There are two distinct ways to use employee communication; one is to inform employees about what is happening in an organization, the other is to engage employees in the process of change. In this article we are going to highlight 3 case studies...

Microsoft Leads Accessibility Effort (eweek) - By Darryl K. Taft, December 10, 2007 -- Microsoft is heading a group of technology companies that will collaborate on creating IT products for the disabled, chartering an initiative called the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance...

Fixes for Windows standby and sleep problems | Workers' Edge - a productivity blog from Dennis O'Reilly - CNET Blogs - Courtesy Lifehacker: "If you're familiar with putting your PC in Standby or Hibernate mode (and hopefully you know the difference), you probably know that both are anything but a sure bet.

The Virtues of Virtualization (businessweek) - S&P says spending on virtualization software and services is likely to skyrocket by Kimberly Castro

Behind Chavez's Defeat in Venezuela - Chavez had predicted that he would win the Dec. 2 vote by up to 20 percentage points and promised to step down if he lost. He also threatened to cut off oil to the U.S. if Washington interfered in the vote. He didn't comment on either pledge...

Inviting the hackers inside | CNET News.com - By Ina Fried, 1/04/07 - Editors' note: This is part two in a series examining how Microsoft's security strategy has evolved over the past decade.

BetaNews | Microsoft: Firefox users in danger due to more frequent updates - By Scott M. Fulton, III, BetaNews November 30, 2007, 4:39 PM The author of a controversial white paper comparing Firefox' security integrity with IE's has released an update, which now makes an even more contentious claim than the original.

A way to avoid phone tree hell | Seattle Times Newspaper - A way to avoid phone tree hell By Craig Crossman, McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Lawyers: Vista branding confused even Microsoft | CNET News.com - By Tom Espiner, 11/28/07 -- Lawyers for plaintiffs in a case brought against Microsoft over Vista's marketing have claimed that even the software giant's marketing director was confused by the prelaunch campaign in the U.S.

Protecting Your Precious (Intellectual) Property (Redmond Channel Partner Online) - It's almost impossible to be too cautious about safeguarding your company's creative assets -- and it's never too early to start taking defensive steps. November 01, 2007

The customer and the CEO (indiatimes.com) - While many factors including brand equity, pricing, service and quality play an important role in maintaining a brand’s success in the marketplace , in an increasingly competitive scenario, customer service has become a distinguishing tool.

Costco boss bucks Wall Street by being generous to workers, customers - to retail marketing strategy management customerservice ... on nov 30

HP expands PC market share lead over Dell in 3Q07, says iSuppli - Hewlett-Packard (HP) in the third quarter continued to expand its lead over rival Dell in the global PC market, shipping 13.1 million PCs, a 32.7% and 3.2 million unit increase from 9.9 million in the third quarter of 2006.

Taiwan market: Toshiba and Sony to launch new blue-laser drives (digitimes) - Jimmy Hsu, Taipei; Adam Hwang, DIGITIMES 11/30/07 -- There will be a promotion competition between the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc (BD) standards at the IT Month expo in Taipei, which will run from December 1-9...

Dell moves 40,000 Ubuntu PCs | The Register - By Ashlee Vance in Mountain View, 11/30/07 -- Dell agreed to ship PCs and laptops with the Ubuntu operating system after more than 130,000 people promoted the notion on the company's IdeaStorm web site.

BetaNews | Microsoft shows off Windows Mobile update, but not 7.0 - By Nate Mook, BetaNews, November 29, 2007, 3:58 PM -- Two dozen invited attendees to Microsoft's Mobius event in Amsterdam this week got a first peek at the next update to Windows Mobile. It's not version 7, code-named "Photon," but the reviews are positive...

Zune 2.0: Playing Tomorrow's Tune? (businessweek) by Stephen H. Wildstrom, 11/28/07 -- It won't catch the iPod soon, but it may be a harbinger of the subscription era. One thing you can say for Microsoft (MSFT): It doesn't give up without a fight.

Mike Walker's Ramblings about Industry Architecture : How NOT To Use PowerPoint - "This is a bit off topic but I thought it was pretty funny. Since I do a my fair share of public speaking I thought I would share some comedic wisdom with you after this long holiday weekend."

Microsoft gets better at carrying a Zune - International Herald Tribune - By David Pogue, Nov 29, 2007 -- "Microsoft might finally be getting the hang of hardware. The company's overall track record for designing gadgets is pretty awful. Remember the Smart Display? The Spot Watch? The Ultra-Mobile PC? The original Zune? Me neither.

The Day the Video Games Died (extremetech) - By Joel Durham Jr. , 11/29/07 -- A reviewer's view of Sony and Xbox replacement policies for impacted hardware. "So I'm down two consoles, one of which I had to replace by dropping $180 on a new one (and wait for the online stop to ship it to me).

RAID Class Terabyte Hard Drives Reviewed--Western Digital WD10EACS and Seagate Barracuda ES.2 (extremetech.com) - For this article, we've tested and reviewed a pair of enterprise RAID class terabyte hard drives, and also compared their performance with a few desktop terabyte drives.

Three-Way Music Software Comparison featuring Cakewalk, ACID Music, and MAGIX Music - By Joel Durham Jr. 11/28/2007 -- "Who needs a band? If you can jot down a few lyrics, wield a mouse, and maybe bang some keys on a MIDI keyboard, you can create your very own music. The process can be as simple as dragging a few readymade loops onto a timeline.