Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year. Please Spread the Word!


I want to thank my readers for helping me launch my blogs, Barry's Best, The Price of Rice! and Barry's Central Florida Real Estate News. Since I began blogging during Thanksgiving week of 2006, I've been steadily picking up readers, which is exciting. I always have you in mind when I write, even though your picture is a bit blurry. Please keep reading, and if you get the chance, tell your friends and cohorts about my sites. Here's wishing you and yours a very prosperous, healthy and happy New Year.

Where Did That Saying Come From, Anyway?

Ever wonder where a phrase or word came from? Here are a few answers. These phrases all originate from conditions of life in the 1500s:

"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children - last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.

"It's raining cats and dogs."

Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, rats, and bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery, and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.

"Dirt poor."

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.

"Thresh hold."

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (the straw left over after threshing grain) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more and more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. To prevent this, a piece of wood was placed in the entrance way.

"Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

They cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite awhile.

"Bring home the bacon."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man bring home the bacon.

"Chew the fat."

They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

"Upper crust.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top.

"Saved by the bell."

England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins, take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell. Thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or be considered "a dead ringer."

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Spam Gets All Sophisticated

It goes without saying that a world of knowledgeable internet users would be the end of spam, simply because responding to spam is idiotic. So, turn idiots into people with half a brain, and spam would die. Then spammers would have to find a new line of work. Maybe the spammers would die, too. But all that's wishful thinking at the moment. People are still stupid, and spammers are becoming more sophisticated.

Here's how they're delivering spam that evades spam-filters. Spam-filters stop spam typically by identifying spammy words and spammy links. So how are the spammers getting around that? By sending their spam-messages as images rather than text. (See accompanying graphic as an example.) These images are designed even to evade optical character recognition (OCR), where a filter "reads" the text from the image, by adding textured backgrounds, different fonts in different colors, etc. The human brain, which is quite good at pattern recognition, can easily decipher the message, while computers struggle mightily to understand what all the fuss is about.

Another spam scam that, unbelievably, gets some idiots to bite, is the pump-and-dump penny stock scheme. The spammers will buy shares in some stock nobody's ever heard of, send out millions of emails telling people how great that stock is, then, when the idiots have swallowed the bait and actually purchased shares, the spammers sell for a 5%-6% gain. Obviously the idiots lose on the deal. One can only hope that they learn their lesson the first time and never repeat their idiocy, but there seems to be a new crop of idiots coming up at any given time.

So kids, what's the moral of this story? Simple. Shoot all idiots on sight!*

*The author is not really advocating shooting anyone. He means this only as a satirical diatribe against idiots who respond to spam. He does not remember ever meeting any of these idiots in real life, and wonders what they look like. Would he recognize one if he saw one? He does not know. In any case, there is no shooting allowed. Unless an idiot breaks into your house and tries to steal your computer. Then all bets are off.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Email Worm Disguised as New Year's Greeting

CNet News.com has posted this warning about an infected email making the rounds on the Internet. According to CNet,
"Worm-laden messages are titled "Happy New Year" and contain an attachment called either postcard.exe or postcard.zip, according to experts at VeriSign's iDefense Labs, which provides information on security flaws and exploits. If the attachment is opened, malicious software is downloaded from the Internet and can infect computers running Windows operating systems."

For social reasons we tend to be more likely to open these kinds of emails during the holiday season. Because we expect them, we may not be as careful as we normally would be. So keep your guard up and don't open "Happy New Year" emails willy-nilly. And anyway, if someone wants to send you a proper greeting they should send you a card or make a stinking phone call, right? Right.

Giveaway of the Day

The web site Giveaway of the Day offers visitors one free application per day, an application that normally costs money. According to the site, it allows you "to get the best commercial software titles - for free." Today's giveaway is called RoboTask. RoboTask "enables you to automate any combination of tasks in your computer, ranging from simply launching applications, to checking email, moving or backing up files," etc. In a recent post on The Price of Rice! entitled "Five Fabulously Fruitful Time-Management Tips!" I pointed out that automating repetitive tasks is a great way to better manage your time. RoboTask appears to fit that bill nicely. Keep in mind that it is available for free only today (at the time of this writing, 18 hours 2 minutes to go). You can check it out here. Don't be late!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dexpot 1.4: Virtual Desktop Manager


I think the name is unfortunate, but otherwise it looks like a very useful PC tool. A Virtual Desktop Manager that "turns your monitor into up to 20." If you like to work with several applications at once but don't appreciate it when they crowd your screen area, this is the tool for you. You create several different desktops to suit your needs, then switch between them in a flash. Visit the creators' web site here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

PC World's "The Web's Most Useful Sites"

You can visit the entire article on PC World to read all the ins and outs of their "Most Useful Sites" by clicking here. If you're in a hurry, you can cruise the list right here. I've put the list together just for you. Why? 'Cause I'm a nice guy.
  1. Word Processors: And the Winner is Zoho Writer!
  2. Spreadsheets: Google Docs and Spreadsheets!
  3. Password Managers: PasswordSafe (the winner costs $, so runner up wins!)
  4. Instant Messaging: Meebo!
  5. Webmail: Yahoo Mail Beta! (Gmail was only 3rd!)
  6. User Review Sites: Yelp!
  7. Answer Sites: Yahoo Answers! (Google's in the dog house!)
  8. Event Calendars: Yahoo's Upcoming.org! (WTH?)
  9. To-Do Lists: RememberTheMilk!
  10. Web-Based Calendars: 30 Boxes!
  11. Video Aggregation Sites: VideoSift!
  12. Web Operating Systems: YouOS!
  13. Mapping Services: Google Maps! (Gee, thanks!)
  14. Widgets: Google Gadgets & Yahoo Widgets! (A shared title!)
  15. Mashups: HousingMaps; Pubwalk; Weather Bonk
S' 'nough. I'm goin' t' bed.

Excellent, Feature-Filled, Free Bible Software

Whether you view the Bible as the inerrant word of God or as a great work of literature, e-Sword will prove to be an indispensable piece of software. Not only is it free, it allows you to add several versions of the Bible, commentaries, dictionaries, study notes and more. It is comparable in its features to software that costs hundreds of dollars, no kidding. I know because I bought Bible software before I knew about e-Sword, and I actually prefer e-Sword. You can even download and install a version of e-Sword to your Pocket PC. Click on the image to enlarge the screenshot. You can get e-Sword by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I HATE These Guys!!!

Alright, brace yourselves. Something just reminded me that I really needed to spew about CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and his overly made-up health-babe sidekick, Robin (Meade). I cannot stand them! Every time I have to sit in a doctor's office and watch their sucrose-laden, pill-selling, fake-smiling, bonhomie-belching bone-headedness, I want to hurt somebody. Sometimes I try to avoid them by sitting facing away from the stupid wall-mounted screen, but I can still hear them and their stupid synthesized fake-music. Why do doctors play this awful stuff? I can guess. Because the pill-makers pay them to, probably. (Any doctors out there want to tell me if I'm right or wrong?) Am I the only one who hates them? Maybe some of you actually like them. Find their "reporting" helpful and informative, do you? OK, fine, but I don't appreciate having them forced on me just because I have to see my healthcare professional and have no other reasonable means of getting better! There must be some way to boycott doctors who are sadistic enough to show this stuff. Who knows, maybe I will get better on my own. That'll teach 'em.

If you feel the same way, just stick your head out the window and shout, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" Or you could just comment here. Up to you.

(The views expressed here belong to the author of this post and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author.)

Today's Freebie: Any Video Converter

From Any-DVD-Converter.com comes a great freebie application.
"There is open source software to perform almost every task for video conversion. But if you are one of these windows users who are looking for an All-in-One video converting tool with easy-to-use graphical interface, Any Video Converter provides just that, allowing you to effortlessly convert video files between every format, for FREE! Any Video Converter is a professional video converter which can convert video files from various formats with fast converting speed and excellent video quality. It can convert almost all video formats including DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV, AVI to MPEG-4 movie format for iPod/PSP or other portable video device, MP4 player or smart phone. It also supports any user defined video file formats as the output. It has an unmatchable speed and high quality. Any Video Converter makes it easy for anyone to enjoy the any format video with your iPod, PSP, mobile phone or MP4 player."

Latest Political Roundup

What better way to begin life-after-Christmas than to get a jump on all the subterranean political rumblings? The year 2007 will be filled with swarms of mini-politico-tremblors which will break out at the command of politicos and the press who help them, all in the service of the 2008 elections. So, let's put our ears to the ground! Do you hear what I hear?

Ariana points to Joe Biden attempting to sell his brand of honesty to set himself apart from the rest of the Democratic herd. The Citizen Journal asks, is Iraq Vietnam, or is it WWIII? The Daily Kos points to the NYT eye-opener about Iranians detained in Iraq by the U.S. That one should prove to be interesting. Outside the Beltway reports on the Justice Dept.'s "massive database" under construction, which will become a source of massive debate. The American Thinker is pondering the future of North Korea and a possible U.S. Navy quarantine. That would be scary.

So now you have a bit of foresight, or forehearing, into what may be coming in 2007. Don't you feel good about that? You should.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas. Won't be blogging much today, understandably. I do have a life, you know. Well maybe not a life, exactly, but I have other things going on. Today is a day for family, turkey, and presents. Make it great, people!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Ultimate Reference Web Site

When doing research on the Internet, we've all probably gone to a dictionary page, or a search engine site, or an encyclopedia page, et cetera, et cetera. Here's a very handy site that encompasses all of your reference needs. It has links to all of the above, plus: specialized dictionaries; scores of news sources, including newspapers from across America and around the world; driving directions; weather forecasts; financial reports; homework help; calculators; calendars; legal sources; public records; quotations; and of course, zip codes. There's a lot more that you'll enjoy exploring on your own. It's called RefDesk and you can visit by clicking here. It's the only reference bookmark you'll ever need.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Free Open Source Computer Planetarium

We've been having some unseasonably warm, cloudy weather for about a week or so in Central Florida, but we should be enjoying the cool, clear nights we typically get this time of year very soon. On those nights, nothing beats going out to the backyard and looking at the sky. In some of my very first posts on this blog I mentioned the thrill of seeing Saturn's rings and Jupiter's bands and moons through my telescope. But with or without a telescope, it is a wonderous thing to gaze upward and appreciate the magnificent vastness of the observable universe. Many people would like to learn about the stars and planets but think they have to spend lots of money for good software to do it. Not so, my friends. Tonight (at least for me it's night) I want to pass on a great software title that is absolutely free, and that will let you pan the night sky, zoom in to interesting objects, identify over 120,000 stars from the Hipparcos catalogue as well as the planets and their moons; there's a whole lot more you can do with this software that I don't have time to describe. I have this software myself. It's called Stellarium and you can get it here.

Cyber Crime Hits the Big Time - Washington Post

Got a call from a friend who had just read today's article in the Washington Post about cyber crime. My friend was made very afraid by the article. It was, after all, somewhat scary. In response, I will share a few security tips with you here. To stay safe (or as safe as you can reasonably hope to be), follow these measures:
  • Make sure your email client or webmail does not show images by default. If the email is safe and you want to view the images, you can allow them for that site only. This practice protects your privacy.
  • Beware of social-engineering scams. These are relatively sophisticated scams that play off our social sytems of trust or desire. Lottery scams play on greed. Porn scams play on lust. Scams that appear to come from your bank or the government play on trust.
  • Don't try to unsubscribe from spam messages. Clicking the "unsubscribe" text will only inform the spammers that they have a live email address, which will now be sold and resold to other spammers.
  • Don't let your friends send you all their forwarded crap. I'm always leery of messages that have "Forward" in the subject line. I've had to ask friends, in a nice way, to stop sending me that kind of stuff. I don't need another funny or heartwarming story. I'm funny enough as it is. And I don't do heartwarming.
  • Do not go to websites by clicking a link in an email, especially banking or commercial sites where you normally would type in private data. You should type the address directly into your browser's address bar. Phishers try to get you to go to their fake sites so they can harvest your passwords, etc. You can't always trust anti-phishing toolbars either, because phishers will often use zombie computers to route their fake sites through.
  • Always install the latest security updates for Windows and other programs. Not doing so leaves you more vulnerable to worms, trojans and viruses.
  • Use antivirus, firewall and antispyware applications regularly to protect and scan your computer for these pests. You can get several of them for free. Get them from PC World or another reputable site. (Email me for a list of good, free applications.)
  • If you use a wireless home network, make sure that it is not accessible to outsiders; use encryption or MAC filtering to block neighborhood snoops.
  • Finally, don't download crap. Only download from sites you can trust, recommended by people you can trust. Like me.
Send me an email or leave a comment if you have questions.

Inventor? or Serial Killer?

I think of myself as a good judge of someone's character by how they look. I'm not talking about skin color or ethnicity. I'm not racist, c'mon! I'm talking about something we do all the time, based on the evolution of our brains. We are programmed by evolution to decide if someone is friend or foe. Can we also determine if they are inventor or serial killer? Taks the quiz and see how good you are at it. I stunk. Click here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Keep a Second Desktop in Cyberspace

Do you hate having to schlep computer files back and forth between work and home? Yes, you can email yourself, or create a data CD, or use a thumb drive, but all of those methods are a pain in the behind. You have to remember to transfer the files you need, doing it takes time you don't really have (and you know the bigger the hurry, the more likely it becomes that your computer will mulishly defy your will), and you will always be trying to figure out which copy is the most recent one. Not a bit of fun.

Here’s an idea. What if you could have a virtual desktop that could store up to a gigabyte of data, had applications like word-processing and spreadsheets, address book, email, IM and live chat, message boards, your own blog, RSS reader, MP3 player, and more? You can keep stuff there that you can access from any Internet-connected computer. Sounds like an excellent idea, right? And it’s free. Don’t you love it? Nothing to download, takes 2 minutes to sign up and you’re good to go.

It’s called Desktoptwo. Get it? Check it out here.

THEY'RE MADE OUT OF MEAT by Terry Bisson

"They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"Meat. They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat."

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"

"Both."

"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."

(Visit Terry Bisson by clicking here.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Worst-Case Scenario: How to Foil an Alien Abduction

You're driving along a dark, deserted road when suddenly a UFO appears overhead in front of you. You pull over just as a beam of light radiates from the craft, and you can see five gray-colored aliens descending in the beam. You get out of your car for a closer look. Uh-oh! The aliens are rapidly moving toward you, and you think that you're going to be abducted. What should you do?

Do not panic.
The extraterrestrial biological entity (EBE) may sense your fear and act rashly.

Control your thoughts.
Do not think of anything violent or upsetting--the EBE may have the ability to read your mind. Try to avoid mental images of abduction (boarding the saucer, body probes, etc.). Such images may encourage the alien to take you.

For more tips on this important subject, visit Popular Mechanics: Worst-Case Scenarios by clicking here.

Am I Dreaming This?

Lucid dreaming. Do you experience it? Do you even know what it is? For those of you who think it's dreaming about blood and gore, that would be lurid dreaming, although lucid dreamers can dream blood and gore, too. But I digress. Lucid dreaming is simply dreaming while being aware that you are dreaming. The next level up is when you can exert your will on the dream, or control the dream. Have you experienced this? Sometimes there's a cue, something in the dream that makes you aware that it is a dream. For example, when in my dreams I have a very difficult time reading something, because the letters keep changing, I know that I'm dreaming. At that point I can usually control my own actions and do things I couldn't do in reality. According to Dream Views, lucid dreaming can be learned, and even mastered so that you can do it at will. Want to learn more? Visit Dream Views by clicking here.

Charles Darwin Online

Many people disparage evolution and Charles Darwin (author of On the Origin of Species) without having read a word from his pen. I think that may be because of what we might prefer to believe, rather than what is demonstrably true. In any case, it has become easier than ever to read his actual words. This web site features Darwin's complete works, in a very cool format. On the left you will see the text in a very readable font, while on the right will appear a scan of the actual hard copy page. If you would like to become more educated on his world-changing discoveries, click here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Guess How Much You Owe!

According to the U.S. National Debt Clock, it's a hefty sum indeed. Each U.S. citizen's (illegals don't owe anything, I guess) share of the national debt, at the time of this posting, was $28,675! Yowza! And it's going up like a SaturnV, at the rate of $1.34 billion per day. It seems that we have come to a point in our nation's history when the real problems of the day cannot be solved, simply due to the way our political system works (or doesn't work). There are too many entrenched interest groups who contribute too much loot for congress to find and execute genuine solutions to looming crises like Social Security, trade deficits, budget deficits and the national debt. There are many voices laying blame and prognosticating about the future, but the truth is, no one knows how things will turn out. We can only hope that something or someone can flush the goo that is blocking our hardening political arteries. (Click on the image to visit the web site.)

You Like Maps? You Like Weather Forecasts? You'll LOVE Weatherbonk


Weatherbonk has put it all together for you. It combines your local weather forecast, a Google map with current temps, monthly averages of temperature and precipitiation, and several live weather cams. That makes for a pretty handy web site. It also has a Power Map that you can click on and get the forecast for that specific location, in addition to some other neat-looking stuff that I haven't had time to play with yet. You can get there by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Featured Book: Empire, by Orson Scott Card

Most of us have an incredibly narrow historical perspective when it comes to the U.S.A. I was fortunate enough to come here with my family in 1975, when I was 15-years old. I became a U.S. citizen 11 years later. I had to learn a few things about this country's history and government in order to become a citizen, and I have learned a lot more since, and yet my frame of reference is constrained by and contained within the very recent past. What Orson Scott Card does in this unnerving near-future novel is to show us how close we could be to repeating the past. With vitriol being slung back and forth between far-right and far-left, "the American dream shatters into violence." War breaks out between American and American. The unthinkable explodes into being as a new civil war is born. This book is a must read, as are all of Card's novels. (My favorite is still the first one I ever read by him, Lost Boys; that one had me in tears at the end, and I'm a guy!). Click on Empire to get it from Amazon.

A Hike in 10 Dimensions

According to string theory, everything in the universe is made up of tiny, vibrating strings, which, by virtue of their particular vibrations, define every subatomic particle there is. However, in order for the mathematics of string theory to work, the strings have to be vibrating in as many as 10 spatial dimensions. Where are these extra dimensions? Why can't we see them? Why can't we experience them? Well, for one, we are 3-dimensional beings, with no perception of extra dimensions (besides the temporal dimension known as time). For two, the extra spatial dimensions are tiny. Way too tiny for us to see. Experimentalists are working very hard, as we speak, to create a means of detecting the existence of these dimensions. Now, is all that perfectly clear? No? Do not be dismayed. If you click here, you will be transported to a web site with a nice animated explanation of what 10 dimensions look like. Sort of. I found it very illuminating. Really. (Move your pointer to the left where it says "Navigation." This will allow you to click where it says "Imagining the Ten Dimensions.")

Read Shakespeare on your Phone/PDA!


I know my audience, such as it is. You want to read classics all the time. If you have a Palm, Smartphone or Pocket PC device, here's a great way to download and read classics for free or regular books for a price, on your phone/PDA. It's called MobiPocket. Check it out here.

Tempted to Become a Hermit?

I would imagine that we've all felt the urge, not to merge, but to diverge. You know, to get away from people for a while. Sometimes we just don't want to be around people. As Jerry Seinfeld said once: "People. They're the worst." But if we were ever to wake up to a world where we really were alone, that would be the worst. Because we, as Cesar Milan would say, are pack animals. Evolved to hang out with other people. There are exceptions, however. There are people who can actually thrive by being utterly by themselves. Perhaps you are one of those people. Not sure if you'd like it? I found this web site devoted to those who are interested in what being a hermit is all about. It's called Hermitary, which is a cell annexed to an abbey for the use of a hermit. Click here to visit.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Play with Paint and Stay Clean!

Everyone, and I mean everyone, likes to play with paint. The problem is, most of us don't like to get paint all over us. It's hard to get off, you have to use paint thinner, which smells funny, unless you use water-based paints, and...sorry, sometimes I get carried away. This free application, called ArtRage 2, lets you mess with paint and canvas, on your screen, in digital form. No cleaning up afterward! Just look at what you can create! (I certainly can't, but perhaps you can.) Click here to try it out.

See What People Are Getting Other People

Short on ideas for your friends who have...some stuff but not everything? How do you know what's a great gift and what will be returned for an exchange as quickly as humanly possible? What's a hot gift item and what's lame? (Even the word "lame" is lame.) When a wrenching sense of mental vacuity threatens to wash over you like a tsunami (what does that even mean?), you can skip on over to ThisNext, a nice amalgam of social networking and shopping: Social Shopping! Without being around people! The New York Times apparently thinks this is a great idea. How it works is, you can look at what people (other than you) are buying each other. Who knows, maybe you'll find some great gift ideas to fill that mental emptyness that you've been struggling with lately. Please comment on it if you happen to try it. Click here for the web site.

Update on War with Iran Poll Question!

My highly scientific poll question of Dec. 14, "Do you think war with Iran is inevitable" has 60% of all respondents saying "Yes, and the sooner the better." Most of the rest believe that their answers would be too complex for my poll. Speaking of Iran, Dick Morris, sitting in for Neil Boortz today, believes we should "bomb the hell" out of all their nuclear facilities. According to Dick, they would complain loudly and burn some American flags, but what else can they do, really?

I don't see GWB doing anything remotely like this, but who knows. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Learn Your Alpha-Bravo-Charlies



I
don't know how many times I find myself on the phone with some customer service rep or whomever, and I need to spell out something for them, literally (and I mean literally in the literal sense).

The problem is, when I try to make sure they know which letter I'm saying, I'm usually searching my brain to the "as in" part. Say I'm trying to spell out my blog's URL, to make sure they have it right. This is me: b as in, ah, bunion. a as in...aardvark. r as in rat. And so it goes, sometimes I come up with something so stupid I end up in stitches and can't go on.

Does that happen to you, too? Hey, what do you know? We have something in common! But unless you have some military or law enforcement training, or watch way too much
Cops, this will keep on happening, until you learn what some call the Military Alphabet. I'm going to save you the trouble of searching for it and include it as a graphic right here. Over and out.

Fonts for the Poor! Fonts for the Poor!

Get it? Like, "Alms for the poor"? OK, forget it then. If you get tired of Times New Roman and Arial, here's a site that will let you, safely, peruse and download fonts that strike your fancy. When you dowload the font and extract it from the zip file it comes in, you can open your Fonts directory from the Control Panel, then drag and drop the new font into the Fonts directory, which will automatically install the font to your system. Caution: Don't go hog wild. Too many fonts can cause your machine to get bogged down. Click here to visit Better Fonts.

The Frog Goes "Widget. Widget. Widget."

Actually, as everyone knows, frogs go "Ribbit." Disgusting creatures. However, I'm not here to discuss these horrid amphibians. I'm here to talk about widgets, those useful little bits of code that sit quietly on your computer desktop, doing their job, be it providing the weather report, your daily list of things to do, or the annual schedule of meteor showers. There are many widget engines, but Yahoo is up there with the best and, you can trust them not to do anything untoward with your computer.

If you haven't tried them out, you're missing out on some very cool and very useful desktop enhancements. If you'd like to give Yahoo Widgets a whirl, click here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Does Santa Use Google Earth?

Why not? Why should Santa not have access to such a powerful tool? Everyone who's anyone has it. For Pete's sake, even I have it. If you don't even know what Google Earth is, you're probably an AOL user too. Maybe you even use the term "surfing the Web." Shudder. Before you go off in a huff, go ahead and join the rest of us...grab a free copy and start snooping. I've set up pushpins for every place I've ever lived. Boy do the memories come flooding back. You can get it here. And as an example check out this sat photo of Bangkok. You can go anywhere, man.

bangkok

Keeping Up with Political Events, (and other useless things...)

I will continue to be faithful to my charter, seen in the upper section of this blog, namely the "POLITICS" item. For political junkies, addicted as you are to all things political, here is a link to an MSNBC "Political Calendar," leading all the way up to the Apocalypse, otherwise known as election day 2008. It is quite possible, some may even say probable, that we will have a woman President on that day. A great day for America (depending on the identity and political beliefs of the woman, of course), surely.

I'll tell you whom I want for President: Mayor Thomas Carcetti of Baltimore, MD, that's who. Unless he ends up being like all the rest of them, which, after the latest episode of The Wire (HBO), looks like it may turn out to be the case. Sadly, he is not a real person. Dang! Anyway, you can click here to check out MSNBC's Political Calendar.

Friday, December 15, 2006

If You Think, You Need Thinkature!

Part of the value of Barry's Best blog, and why you should definitely subscribe (costs nothing!), is that I take the time to find useful information that you would probably never hear about, and that I take the time to try what I find myself, weeding out what doesn't work as advertised or is illegitimate for one reason or another, before I recommend it to you here. That's a valuable service, and I enjoy doing it for you. Here's a very very cool tool for collaborating with others on any project (it has chat and audio/camera features, so you can talk to the people you're working with), or for helping yourself organize and plan your own ideas. I'm using it to think through my own business plans. Please give it a try by clicking here. (PS: I don't get anything for you signing up for any of the things I recommend.)

Seating Charts for your Events

If you're planning an event that includes arranged seating (say, a wedding rehearsal dinner, or an excruciatingly boring conference, or a gathering of hardcore Trekies), here's a free way to chart out the seating arrangements (up to 50 guests for the free account, more if you're willing to pay). Give it a whirl by clicking here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Care for Some Classics, Perchance?

As I write more and more, I find I want to write better and better. I have started thinking about ways to improve (just writing a lot is a very good way) and, to that end, given considerable thought to reading the classics. I was forced by the school system to read several works by Thomas Hardy as a lad, to the point where I and my classmates began to speak in a marvelously 19th century cadence and vocabulary. Not since then, I don't believe, have I set eyes on any work older than I am. Only now, in my late 40s, am I ready to return to the classics. Perhaps you would like to find some classic books that you can read in the comfort of your favorite desk chair and will have to spend not a farthing to acquire? If so, please visit The Gutenberg Project, which has 20,000 free books in its catalog. You may click here to go there.

If You Like Making Phone Calls from your Computer

Are you a Skype user? Then you're probably aware that Skype has been running a promotion for about 7 months allowing free outgoing calls in the U.S. Well, that's now coming to an end. However, the new paid plan is pretty darn good: Unlimited domestic calls for only $14.95 per year. You can also sign up to use Skype to call anywhere in the world for 2.1 cents per minute. Check out these plans here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

FareCast: Cast the Internet Bones, Know When to Travel

Long, long ago (or maybe yesterday, depending on where you live), people would cast bones, or chicken guts, to predict future travel prices. Modern-day humans, sadly, have no way of predicting anything, due to our amazing advances. Until now, that is.

You can always find out what fares are, what hotels rates are, etc. That's internet child's play. What about when you'd like to know if fares and rates are going to go up or down? What do you do then? There's nothing you can do, except read the papers like everyone else, like a schlub, like a lemming, like a dweeb. But if you're on the bleeding edge, if you are savvy, if you read Barry's Best every day, then you can try Farecast, the internet site that will tell you what's going to happen with travel prices. They claim that using fare predictions saves an average of $40. Your own mileage may vary. If you're planning a trip, try it out, tell us how it works. Click here to visit Farecast.

Want to have a Merry/Happy Christmas/Chanukah/Holiday?

If you answered yes, you are correct! So go on over to The Price of Rice and take a look at the latest post over there, called "Random Kindnesses," it'll soften your stoney heart without rotting your teeth. Follw its precepts and line of merciless logic and you will, without question, have a...fairly OK Christmas!*

*None of the above guarantees shall be construed by any party or parties to be a guarantee of a darned thing. Void where prohibited. Tax and title not included.

Click here to have a happy holiday!

New From Google! Toolbar 3 Beta (for Firefox)

When does Google not have something new on offer? It's hard to keep up, but I try my darndest. Today, Google offers an updated Google Toolbar for Firefox users (if you aint usin' Firefox yet, you orta). It's version 3.0 beta. Don't let the word beta scare you, Google has an excellent rep for putting out solid betas. New or updated features include the ability to share web pages with friends, and open files with Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and...well, I'm not sure what else yet, but 3.0 has got to be better than 2.1, right? Right. Get it here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

To Catch THE Predator!

You've seen Dateline's To Catch a Predator series, where they lure in sexual predators who think they're coming to a house to meet a 12-year-old girl, right? Well have you at least heard about it? OK then. Here's a YouTube parody, To Catch THE Predator. Catch it here.

Michael Crichton: Next (Big Disappointment)

So far I've only posted on books I've really enjoyed, that met or surpassed my expectations. I'm always trying out new authors because I want to expand my list of favorites, so I try lots of books that I end up tossing aside after reading only a few pages, because they either don't hook me (if I'm not caught and bagged by then, I know it won't be worth the effort to go on), or their implausibilities annoy me. For example, sometimes I read a few lines of dialogue and think, "No one talks like that!" That's all she wrote far as I'm concerned. Anyway, I don't post about all of the ones I throw back into the pond. Until now. Why now? Because I have enjoyed all of this author's previous novels so much that I expected a lot better from him. I speak of Michael Crichton and his latest novel, Next.

WARNING, WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!

If you don't want to hear my complaints because you plan to read it and don't want to see any spoilers, go ahead and stop reading at this point. You can't stop, can you?

You still with me? Good. What was so disappointing about Next?
  1. The very first character we run into is a PI. He's supposed to be following this other guy who stole some frozen embryos from some biotech company. But the PI keeps taking his eyes of his subject and, like a bozo, keeps losing him! Like 3 or 4 times! What a dunderhead. (If he were supposed to be stupid, I could understand, but he's not portrayed that way at all.)
  2. Then there's this lawyer chick who's the daughter of a guy who's suing another biotech firm because they used his tissues for commercial purposes (that's his claim, anyway). This lawyer's apparently second chair to another lawyer in the case. She's supposed to be a very smart and experienced attorney. When her dad finally takes the stand, and is being cross-examined by opposing counsel, she freaks and whispers to the lead attorney, "Stop this! Now!" What an idiot! First of all, didn't she anticipate this line of questioning? Second, how's the other laywer supposed to stop cross-examination? What a dolt.
  3. In the trial, the lead attorney for the plaintiff, the dad, cries out "Objection!" Then the judge sustains the objection without any objection being made, except for the cry of "Objection!"
I'm sure that if I had kept reading there would be many more of these problems, but I just couldn't continue. I got the impression that Mr. Crichton either had some incompetent editors, had someone else actually write the book, or both. Now I'm going to be all skeptical when I look at his next work. I hope he recovers his earlier skills.

Please leave your comments, tell me what you think.

Feel Free (Compelled) to Comment/Digg it/Stumble it

A short break for a word from the editor.

(Me.) Please comment on the posts you read here. Don't know how? It's easy! Just click on the "X Comments" (where X is the number of comments) at the end of each post. You have good stuff to say, stuff that other readers will be interested in. I'm telling you. They (and I) want to know what you think. If you think I suck, say so. If you think I am wrong, say so. If you have suggestions for future posts, suggest away. If you spot a typo that my editor missed (that's me again), expose it. If you agree with what I said and want to put in your 2 cents, throw in. No one likes to go first, but someone has to, so go ahead and be the first if you see that X = 0.

Also, if you like a post and want other people to be able to read it too, click the Digg it button (also at the end of each article). This will add the article to Digg's and Stumble's list of what people are reading and enjoying.

Thank you for your time and attention. We will now go back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, December 11, 2006

You Better Believe They Laugh At Us


Have you ever been a source of endless hilarity for someone when you tried to speak their language? Now you get to enjoy a few chuckles at someone else's expense. Turnabout is fair play, and all that. This site has compiled pix of signs in Japan that attempt to communicate their message in English. The results, as exemplified in this picture, will truly have you in stiches. (Warning: A few inadvertent racy words.) Click here to go there.

Handy Site for I-Like-to-Email-People-Huge-Files Dude

There are those among us who enjoy sending us, their friends, very very large files (VVLFs). They look just like normal people. The only thing different about them is the VVLF thing. Admittedly, we normal folk also need to send VVLFs occasionally, so let's not be too harsh about it.

Here's a handy web site to bookmark. It allows you to send files of up to 512MB (that's half a GB!) to anyone, and here's the beauty part, the attachment does not go to their inbox. Therefore, their email is not clogged. What they receive is a link from which they can download, at a time of their choosing, your humongous file. The file will be available for them to download for 5 days. This is email etiquette at its best.

It's called MailBigFile.com. Go there by clicking here.

If Politics is your Dish, Here's a Menu

Don't know about you, but my interest in politics waxes and wanes. Right now I'm in wane territory. But that's just me. I shouldn't be selfish by not posting any political stuff just because I happen to be burnt out on the whole stupid subject. Right? Have you ever met anyone so selfless? I think not.

So, in a spirit of magnanimity, and with the most praiseworthy of intentions, I present to you a list of fun political blogs, listed by category...

Conservative
Moderate
Libertarian
Liberal
There are many more than these, obviously, but I don't have the time or interest (remember about waning?) to post any more. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Universe is Pretty Big

That's an understatement. On these cool December evenings, it's really nice to step outside and look up. Of course, I live in Florida, so we're talking about the 50s. That's why I use the word "cool" and not "cold." But back to the universe. When you look at the stars, and you think about how far away they are, and how long it took the photons that are setting off electrical signals from your retinas to the visual centers in your brain to reach you, you feel small. But you also feel awe. And wonder. What's especially awe-inspiring is looking through binoculars or a telescope at a big planet like Saturn or Jupiter, and a tiny point of light, just like all the others, resolves into a disc, with features, like rings, or moons. I like to think about the universe and its magnificence because it adds something special to my day-to-day existence. It helps me keep things in perspective. How about you? Care to comment? Anyway, here's a link to a very nice web site that explains, in words and graphics, just about anything you want to know about the universe. If you have kids, they would probably like it too. Click here to go there.

Thomas Harris: Hannibal Rising

If you liked Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, you will love Hannibal Rising! I just finished it; Thomas Harris takes a few years to write each book, but you can tell every day he spends researching and then writing is well spent. Hannibal Rising sheds light on the origins of Hannibal Lecter. Reading this book, you begin to understand how a creature such as Hannibal could be formed. An intriguing character is Hannibal; you really like him, but you also fear him. I highly recommend this most recent in the series. Get it at Amazon.com...

The Value of Having Lots of Apps

Last night I had spent a considerable amount of time composing a rather carefully worded email, only to have my email client (Thunderbird) fall into a persistent vegetative state upon attempting to send said email. Nothing I did had any effect and I reluctantly accepted that I was going to loose all that work. But wait! Could there be a workaround? (Workarounds are an essential part of doing battle with Windows.) First, I took a "picture," or screen capture, of the ailing email window with FastStone Capture (a free and very handy utility that allows me to capture any part of my 2 screens, save it as any type of graphic, and even annotate it). Next, I used PrimoPDF (a free PDF maker) to make a PDF (Adobe Acrobat) file of the picture. Next, I used Adobe Acrobat itself to run optical character recognition (OCR) on the PDF file. (I could have just used Acrobat to make the PDF, but it was giving me trouble at the moment--I've since repaired it, but luckily I had an alternative handy.) Finally, I saved the resulting text as a txt document in KewlPad (a skinnable Notepad replacement). Total elapsed time, 5 minutes. Work saved. What's the moral of this story? Could be two: One, having lots of applications that work well can, and often does, save the day. Two, maybe if I didn't have all those apps I wouldn't run into trouble so much in the first place. Take your pick, but I like to think it's the former, not the latter.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Desktop Wallpaper You Can Download Safely

Many of you like to download smileyfaces screensavers. Many of you also have to buy a new computer every 6 months because you gummed up your old one with crap you downloaded. You know who you are. If you must download stuff (and let's face it, downloading stuff is mainly what the internet is good for, right?), then practice safe downloading. To help you with that, I scour the web for good, quality stuff that is also harmless. Here's a great example: Pixelgirl's free icons and desktop wallpapers. Click here to go there, and take a look at this example of one of her wallpapers.

File Conversion without Software!

Have you ever wanted to convert files without the need to download software? Now you can, with Zamzar. It's simple and free. Converts files from one type to another, up to 100MB in size, then emails you the result. Go there by clicking here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lecture Series: Richard Feynman















Richard Feynman on the theory of quantum electrodynamics, to people who don't want to accept it because it seems too crazy: "You'll have to accept it because it's the way nature works. If you want to understand the way nature works...we've looked at it carefully, and that's the way it looks. If you don't like it, go somewhere else, to another universe where the rules are simpler, philosophically more pleasing..." To those who get turned off because the they just don't understand it: "I'm going to ask you not to get turned off. Realize that nobody understands it. Well what the hell are my students learning for four years if no one understands it? Well, I'm going to explain." My absolute favorite theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman (now deceased, sadly) gives a series of lectures in Aukland, New Zealand that are funny, and darned interesting. Unlike the stereotypical scientist-type, he is irreverent and unconventional. Click here to see this series.

A Room with a View

Take a minute and look around. Go ahead, look away from your monitor for a minute. To your left, to your right, behind you. What do you see? The same boring stuff you see every day, right? The same boring people, the same boring furniture, etc. Do you have a window where you are? What's the view like? A parking lot with a dumpster? A stupid tree? I feel your pain. Sometimes you just want to look at something else, somewhere else, even if it's someone else's boring view. It's new to you, right? Here's a way to take a break from the things you have to look at every day. Check out someone else's world for a few minutes, then come back to your own, and you feel refreshed and ready for anything. Well, maybe not that refreshed, but maybe enough to get you through your day. Visit Opentopia, a site that boasts "random live webcams from the net." Click here to get away from your life for a short break.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Top Five Things that ANNOY THE CRAP out of Me

OK, time for a list of things I find exquisitely annoying. Why now? you say. Quit asking questions, it's annoying. I am not perfect. I get annoyed, just like you do. Maybe not by the same things, but certainly you get annoyed sometimes. Check out my list, then share yours by commenting on this post. Unless you recognize yourself in my list. If you are on my list, just stop doing whatever it is that's annoying me. Very simple solution. Here goes:
  1. People who get their money and card from the drive-through ATM, then sit there putting everything away just so and counting their money and checking their receipt until their anal tendencies are assuaged, and THEN they deign to move on. In the meantime I have to sit and wait on their highnesses to DRIVE AWAY SO I CAN USE THE FREAKING MACHINE!!
  2. People who wonder through the grocery store as if they are the only ones left on the planet, like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man. They park their carts right in the middle of the aisle while they search the shelves for whatever the heck they're scrounging for. Their carts are left positioned in such a precisely obnoxious manner that you could get by if only your cart were just 3 millimeters slimmer across the hips.
  3. Those teeny tiny guys in their teeny tiny cars with fat rims and humongous spoilers (yeah, you really need those giant things just to keep your awesome cars from lifting off the tarmac, we get it!), whining through the streets like hungry little mosquitos. They drive like maniacs, as if to prove to themselves that, even though they are short in stature and their cars are the size of hotwheels, they are really tough guys. (I was actually lucky enough to see a couple of them get into a wreck once. With each other! Don't worry, no one was hurt.)
  4. People who never use a lane-change signal. They're too important to bother with letting the rest of us know WHERE THE HECK THEY"RE PLANNING TO GO NEXT!
  5. People who make lists of things that annoy them.
Wow, I really do feel better now. You should try it.

Common Errors in English Usage

No matter how experienced you are in writing, there will be some issues in using the English language that you aren't sure about. Surely. No? You know it all, then? Alright, just pipe down, I'm speaking to people who understand they aren't perfect. So, you're writing away, and your stream of consciousness spurts out something onto the paper, or the computer screen. (No, don't go there.) You look at it and wonder why it doesn't look right. You aren't sure if what you wrote is grammatically correct. What do you do? Or, perhaps you write or say something that a very annoying person claims is incorrect. That's how they say it, too, like, "That is incorrect." You argue with them, but they are horribly immovable on the point. What do you do? I have the answer! Once again Barry rides to the rescue. Check out this great solution. It has links to hundreds of common errors, all sorted alphabetically so any error is simple to find. Don't wait for something like one of the above-mentioned scenarios to happen to you. Be prepared by bookmarking this site. You won't regret it.

Click here to visit Common Errors in English.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mathematica Calculations Online!

This web site is for people who have difficult mathematical calculations to do and need some help from the great silicon god. Powered by Mathematica software, this popular site allows you to enter stuff like Sin[a + b x]^2 into the formula box, click "Compute," and get the answer immediately. I'll bet this will help with homework. It's been a long time since I did differential calculus and fooled around with integrals, but I would have killed to have something like this. Back then we had to use our HEADS! Anyway, I know that some of you are into these things. So check out The Wolfram Integrator, and have fun!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Very Nice Online Collaboration Tool

If you've got a small business or group, up to 20 employees or members, here's a nifty online collaboration tool with calendaring, webmail, contact list and file sharing. Best of all, it's free. (Isn't everything I tell you about free? OK, but mostly everything.) There's a paid version if you need additional features. It's very nice looking and does what it was set up to do. It's called BlueTie. PC Magazine says "Features work just the way you'd expect, and in my tests I got speedy, consistent performance."Get it here.

Time to Audit your PC!

Situation: You need a driver for a piece of hardware on your PC. Let's say it's your video card you need to update. All you need in order to find the correct driver on the internet is the make and model of the video card. No problem, just pull out the list of all the hardware in the PC that you got when you bought it. No go, huh? Can't find it? Wouldn't even know where to look within 100 yards? All is lost. But wait! There's a quick and easy way to find out the details of every piece of hardware and software in your machine. How? you say. Get the free Belarc Advisor to do a complete audit of your PC that comes up in your browser. I couldn't do without it! Get it here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

50 Tools to Help in your Writing

I love to read, always have. When I read books by excellent authors, some of whom I've blogged about here on Barry'sBest, I wonder at the talent required to put words together in such a marvelous way. Sometimes I read passages over and over just for the pure pleasure of it. No question a lot of what these men and women do is plain giftedness, but a lot of it is a learned skill. That means you and I can learn these same skills! Lifehack.org sets out 50 great tools to help you in your writing. Whether you are a blogger, a student, or have any other occasion to communicate through writing, these tips will prove to be an enormous help. View them here.

A New Way to Find Local Businesses

I know you don't want to have to dig out the actual Yellow Pages from the closet, or where ever that 10-pound, used-to-be-a-tree thing is hidden. There's an easier way to find local businesses...online! You could type in what you're looking for, say, a local jeweler, because you want to buy a ring for your sweetheart for Christmas, or a music store for a Britney Spears CD for your daughter's birthday, into a regular search engine and then wade through the listings to find a relevant result. That's a no-go. What works much better is a local search. These aren't that new, but Ask.com has just today introduced a very nice, highly effective tool called Ask City. I tried it for my local area and found many more pertinent results than other tools provided. Check it out here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

Most people don't love Microsoft's spreadsheet app. They use it, if they absolutely must. I love it. Even though I understand the non-Excel-lovers out there, it still surprises me that you can go through life just pointing, clicking and dragging away, when the keyboard is right there just waiting to get you to the same place, only faster than your mouse ever could. One keyboard shortcut we should all know (and use every few minutes while working in Excel) is Ctrl+S. This saves your work. It'll save your bacon if you hit it (hold down the Ctrl key and hit the S key) frequently. Both keys are right there by your left hand. If you're interested in learning some more keyboard timesavers, click on the graphic to see a larger image with a whole bunch of 'em.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Quantum Theory Made Easy

Do you sometimes feel like an idiot when your friends are discussing wave-particle duality or complex wave functions? Well then you have the wrong friends. On the other hand, as you read this post, you are enjoying the benefits of quantum theory. So, don't you think you should know just a little, tiny bit about it? Alright then. Check out three free video lectures on quantum theory given by the legendary theoretical physicist, Hans Bethe, in 1999. It's free, what can it hurt? Listen, if something terrible happens to all the theoretical physicists in the world, some of us will need to know something about this stuff. Eventually all the gadgets we love will stop working and then where will we be? So, take your medicine and click here to view them. Remember...they're free!

Test Your Bandwidth - Getting What You Paid For?


What kind of download and upload speeds were you promised by your ISP? We all know, or should know, that those promises are more theoretical than real-world, meaning that you'll never see them. But you ought to be close enough, right? There's a way to find out. Or how about this...for some reason, your internet connection seems to have slowed down dramatically lately. What's up with that? It's annoying, I know. But it may just be your imagination. You know how impatient you can be. Let's find out. Here's a very nice Speed Test site with cool graphics that'll let you choose the closest server to your current geographical location and see how fast your connection will download and upload data. Click here to see if you're getting anything close to what you paid for. (Warning: If you are using dialup, don't try this. You'll just get depressed and I don't want to be held responsible.)

Summary of "How to Win Friends & Influence People"

Ever heard of Dale Carnegie? How about his 1936 book by the above title? Come on, really? Never? I know I'm not that old. Anyway, if you have heard of it, have you read it? Neither have I, but I've wanted to. This classic book has been an important part of business leaders' libraries since it was first published, and it's still relevant for anyone who wants to be a leader in any field. I ran across the website that puts together a summary of Carnegie's winning formulae for success with people, so now I don't have to actually read the book. Sweet. Check out the site here.

Get Windows Defender!

Got a great tip for you...A great way to protect yourself (well, your computer) from nasty spyware, from the people who created Windows...Windows Defender! They say you can never be too thin, and you can never have too much spyware protection. I think you can do both if you really try, but most of us won't. So, rather than spend $$ on spyware protection, get it for nothing from Microsoft. (There's also Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition and Spybot Search and Destroy and a few others.) No one product is 100% effective, but in combination you can rid yourself of just about any evil piece of spyware or adware crap that is thrown at you from out there on the wild wild internet. Get Windows Defender here.