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Browser based applications

MicroSoft Office

I don’t understand how Microsoft continues to retain its position as software leader when there are so many competing free online resources available.

I am a big fan of Google Docs and its competitor Zoho. Lifehacker provides a good comparison of the features provided y both.

And there’s also Open Office, an open-source program which I believe is restricted to your desktop and not available via the internet (last time I used it was in 2005).

Yahoo! just acquired Zimbra — which is more of a training or webinar type service to compete with Zoho Chat and Meeting

Now that I’ve switched from PC to Mac, I’ve been using Google Docs and Zoho (I really do need to commit to one) exclusively.

What do you use?


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Rome Reborn 1.0

Rome Reborn

Scientists, historians and archaeologists came together to recreate Rome as it appeared on 21 June 320 AD. The 3D city runs in real time and took 10 years to develop. Travel back in time and see Rome Reborn 1.0.

I’d love to see someone develop something like this for Lisbon prior to the earthquake of 1755. Records and correspondence indicate the city was the jewel of Europe before that natural disaster. The fires and floods killed almost 90,000 people and destroyed the city’s infrastructure. It would be interesting to see what the city looked like before the wide avenues and squares were built.

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Encompassing the Globe

Encompassing the Globe

The Sackler Gallery hosted one of my all-time favorite exhibitions – Encompassing the Globe – about the Portuguese maritime explorations in the 16th and 17th centuries.

My mom and I attended the opening of the exhibit back in June and since then I’ve gone through the collection of maps and paintings and furniture and religious relics about two dozen times. I’m particularly fascinated by the armillary spheres.

I thought I had a good understanding of Portugal’s history during the age of exploration – but this show proved my knowledge at best inadequate and at worst disgraceful considering my parents were born there. I really need to bone up on my world history.

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Help find Stephen Fosset

Steve Fossett

Tara Calishain of ResearchBuzz just sent a message on the Mechanical Turk’s effort to help find missing adventurer Steve Fossett. Fossett went missing on September 3 while flying over the Nevada desert. Satellite imagery has been made available for his last known whereabouts (he did not file a flight plan) and Mechanical Turk HITs have been set up to review those images.

The link will be live for one week. You have 60 minutes to work on each HIT. The HITs are small squares of satellite images that you have to review for unusual objects. Examples are provided for you; if you want to get a closer view of the image, you’re given a coordinate to use in Google Earth. With each hit, you either report that you have seen nothing unusual or you report any strange objects — a space is provided for comments.

Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for tasks that require human intelligence. These tasks are called “HITs”, ‘Human Intelligence Tasks’.

Before you can start working on Mechanical Turk HITs, you will need to complete a short registration process. If you are already an Amazon.com customer, you can sign-in using the same email address and password you use at Amazon.

Good luck and spread the word!


Losing My Mind


This morning, on my way to recharge my phone, I got distracted by something on tv. So I walked into the kitchen, poured some cereal, and proceeded through my morning routine. As I brushed my teeth, I remembered that I had to recharge my cell battery. But then I misplaced my earrings and spent 10 minutes looking for them. On my way out the door, as I grabbed my phone to call a friend, I noticed one slim bar left in a flashing red battery icon.

I had forgotten to remember to recharge my phone!

I’ve noticed lately that I do this more and more often. I get up to grab a stamp, only to forget why I walked over to my desk. I’ll turn on the dishwasher, realizing too late that I had already washed those dishes. I remind myself to buy tokens for the laundry room, only to get to the basement with two filled bags of dirty clothes, detergent, and fabric softener and no way to run the machines.

Worse still, I’ll run into my neighbor in the laundry room and completely blank out her name. Until an hour later, while I’m playing Tetris on Gameboy, when I remember her name, her ex-boyfriend’s name, and the name she gave her new laptop.

Or while working, I’ll open a new tab to search for something, get sidetracked by incoming email or a phone call, turn back to the open tab with no recollection of what I needed to look for.

Is it ADD? Dementia? Early onset Alzheimer’s? Just another symptom of growing older?

So I’ve started paying attention to reports and new research on ways to improve memory. And though some studies recommend certain chocolate or moderate drinking or standing on your head while reciting the alphabet backwards, it seems that there are 10 basic ways to boost brain power:

1. Cardiovascular exercise for a least 30 minutes per day ie. a brisk walk

2. Daily cup of caffeinated coffee or soda

3. Green or black tea

4. Reduce stress and become a yoga enthusiast

5. Sleep

6. Eat foods like blueberries and grapes; include supplements like Omega-3 fatty acid, Thiamine, Niacin, and Vitamins B-6 and E

7. Use your brain — learn a language or how to play a musical instrument

8. Learn mnemonic techniques like a memory palace.

9. Organize your life — if you always place your keys on a peg beside the door, you won’t struggle to remember where you last put them.

10. Write in a journal everyday — even if you forget, you can always look back on your own private record.

Do you feel like you’re losing your mind? What do you do to better remember?



US from Space

I grew up in an environment that valued what is now referred to as “green living.” My parents weren’t tree huggers, but immigrants who had grown up on a very small island.

In the summer, my father would only run the air conditioning on the most brutally hot and humid of days. Half of the backyard was devoted to growing an assortment of fruit and vegetables that included tomatoes, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, peppermint, strawberries, Asian pears, and grapes. We did not eat out. Ever. McDonald’s was a rare and exotic treat.

Leftovers were fed to our German Shepherd or used as compost for the garden.

Every bag we brought home was reused to collect trash. We turned off lights and electrical appliances when we weren’t using them. If the shower ran for more than 10 minutes, my dad would bang on the door and yell at us to turn off the water. My mom spent endless hours cutting patterns and sewing clothes at night. We planted trees, bushes and flowers all over our yard.

In the winter, trees were chopped down for firewood. Instead of running the furnace, we’d light a fire in the wood stove which was miraculously sufficient to overheat the entire 1900 square foot house.

Books were borrowed not bought. Money was saved not spent.

And though I never really felt like I went without, I went bananas when I entered college. Finally I could crank the air conditioning as low and as long as I wanted. To study, I’d turn on every light in the room. The radio, television and hairdryer would be used simultaneously, each drowning the other out. And if I had time, I could stand beneath the shower for an hour if I wanted to.

Fast forward 15 years and you’d think I never learned my father’s lessons of “save today for tomorrow.” The bad habits I picked up in college are still with me today. Bad habits I wasn’t conscious of until my mother stayed with me for one week this past June.

My bare kitchen cabinets and empty refrigerator made her shudder. “What will we eat?” she’d ask. And I’d drag her down the block to Cosi or to one of Dupont’s fine eateries. “Where do you you keep these bags?” she’d ask, holding out three or four rumpled CVS plastic bags. I’d point to a trashcan wrapped with a super duty Glad bag.  And when she reached out to turn off the thermostat on our way out, I nearly had a stroke. “Are you crazy? You can’t turn that off. It’s June. In DC. We’ll suffocate when we get back.”

She just shook her head and frowned.

I think of all this now because I just read about Raina Kelly’s Freegan experiment. I wonder how well I’d do if I tried to live carbon neutral?

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Entombed in Amber


On Saturday, August 18Dr. Jorge Santiago Blay will speak on “Entombed in Amber” at 2:30 p.m. at the National Museum of Natural History.

An injured plant releases a resin that entraps an insect: about 120-130 million years later a Smithsonian scientist contemplates Earth history in that bit of hardened and fossilized resin, now called amber. Dr. Jorge Santiago-Blay studies amber and shares his broad understanding of this and other plant exudates as they may inform deep geologic time and have supplied important resources for humankind. Following the lecture, chat with Dr. Santiago-Blay at display tables and learn about these substances and how to spot fakes.

Like most people, I became enamored with amber after watching Jurassic Park. For years I’ve collected gold and green amber set in silver — rings, pendants, and a bracelet.

If you’re in DC on Saturday, think about dropping by Blay’s lecture.