a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Websites list: Daily Telegraph’s pick for the most useful 101

Posted on the March 31st, 2008

The headline got me — The 101 most useful websites. If this headline for the new list on the Daily Telegraph online read “best” or “top,” I might have been tempted to click. With the word “useful,” I couldn’t resist (“The 101 most useful websites” compiled by David Baker, Telegraph.co.uk, March 30, 2008).

Many of the websites listed are popular or familiar. Some I already use regularly, others I’ve forgotten about and was happy for a reminder. And some were new discoveries.

The compiler David Baker asserts:

There are tens of millions of sites to visit. Not forgetting telegraph.co.uk, here are the only ones you actually need.

List categories are technology, entertainment, advice and info, house and home, social, shopping, and travel.

Doubt if anyone will agree one hundred percent with Baker’s choices, and the list naturally is tilted toward Brit readers. Unless you know Technorati listings by heart, though, reading the list is interesting. You can find it here.

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The U.S. Congress: are you happy with it?

Posted on the March 23rd, 2008

If your answer is no, Lawrence Lessig has some ideas on how we can change it. On Friday he launched Change-Congress, making the announcement at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Lessig said Change-Congress is a multi-partisan movement. In the presentation, he described how the organization will work, and what he sees as the first problem:

This problem that I’ve described is not the most important problem, it’s just the first problem. It’s the first problem that we have to solve if we’re going to solve other problems. There are no ends to extraordinarily significant problems that we face right now in this country. But we won’t be able to address those problems sensibly until we solve this first problem…

Lessig laid out the structure of Change-Congress in a 37 minute, 12 second slide presentation (apparently he doesn’t buy into the derogative conventional wisdom that most of us have an average attention span of only about three seconds):

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Call me the breeze J.J. Cale

Posted on the March 23rd, 2008

Saw this old review of J.J. Cale’s music on HeadButler.com which reminded me I hadn’t listened to him for a while.

Found a remedy (lyrics here)

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Arne Naevra and the animals

Posted on the March 21st, 2008

From the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica (March 18, 2008), a video featuring photography by Norwegian wildlife photographer and film producer Arne Naevra.
Related article here, with photo essay (“L’arte di fotografare animali” by Cristina Nadotti, La Repubblica). In Italian only.
Arne Naevra and the animals

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Butterfly beauty fluttering away

Posted on the March 13th, 2008

In Britain, according to Sir David Attenborough, more than 75 percent of the country’s butterfly species are in decline (“Attenborough launches project to stem butterfly decline” by Jessica Aldred, The Guardian online, March 13, 2008). Sir David made the statement during his announcement yesterday of the proposed construction of a sanctuary called Butterfly World.

Excerpt from the Guardian article:

Six of these species have lost more than 50% of their distribution, the report, from the charity Butterfly Conservation, found. A further 15% have suffered distribution decreases of more than 30%, including formerly widespread butterflies such as the dingy skipper, small pearl-bordered fritillary, wall and grayling.

The reason I am posting this heads-up about the The Guardian article is primarily because of the photo series accompanying the piece. Ten shots of the exquisite moths that leave no doubt about their beauty, see here.

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Online video comedy sometimes not so funny

Posted on the March 12th, 2008

Following up on yesterday’s post about online video viewers, here’s a video interview with Chris Albrecht, a reporter at NewTeeVee.com. This site, according to its launch announcement in 2006, is devoted to online video, and other technologies that are reinventing the video experience. See press release here (“Introducing, NewTeeVee” Feb 4, 2006).

In this interview last week with Beet.TV.com, Albrecht talks about the glut in comedy videos online now. He says “anybody can be the next viral sensation” these days, but that there’s a trick to it:

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Online video viewer: find out if you’re heavy, moderate or light?

Posted on the March 11th, 2008

Results of a study of online video viewing habits was released recently by comScore. The digital measuring company tracks a global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers to learn about their online and offline browsing and buying behavior, according to the website. This recent, up-close look at online habits was done in conjunction with Media Contacts.

A description of the study and its core findings, per comScore:

The research was designed to understand the consumption habits and mindsets of Internet video users as they relate to online video, TV, and advertising and content across both media. The results revealed differences in orders of magnitude: the heaviest viewers (top 20 percent of viewers) averaged 841 minutes of online viewing per month, while moderate viewers (next 30 percent) averaged 77 minutes, and the lightest viewers (bottom 50 percent) watched just 6 minutes each.

See full press release here (“comScore and Media Contacts Study Highlights Behavioral Differences Among Online Video Viewer Segments” Feb 14, 2008)

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Brain-Computer Interface for paralyzed people

Posted on the March 10th, 2008

What if you couldn’t move at all and had no way to communicate with anyone about anything? Until now.

Last week I spotted this video on TechCrunch. (“CeBIT Highlight: University of Bremen’s Brain-Computer Interface” John Biggs).

one of the coolest and most useful technologies we found at the show.


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Simon’s cat may make you giggle

Posted on the March 7th, 2008

About a year ago, my brother Sam and his wife Andrea rescued a stray kitten and took it home. They named it Josie and, overnight, this cat took full and imperial possession of the house and all its contents, including the two owners. Or so it seemed to me, judging by the deluge coming my way of cute-cat-anecdote-filled e-mails, and photos of the four-legged, furry thing.

Most cat owners seem to go this route, from what I’ve seen. Not so many of them, though, are as creative and funny in expressing the enslavement as Simon Tofield of tandenfilms.com. He’s creating some Simon’s Cat videos that seem to be on their way to increasing popularity on Youtube. (I spotted this video in the Videos section of Technorati.com)

You can join the crowd, if you have a couple of minutes, and find out what a desperate Simon does to get indoors for breakfast:

UPDATE: Josie’s owners wrote me, after reading this post, and informed me that his name is spelled Josey with a y. PassingComments regrets the error.

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Twitter: it’s not so simple

Posted on the March 7th, 2008

No, I am not saying this keeping-in-touch technology isn’t simple to use, because it is. I’m referring to more substantive uses of the mini-blogging service that may surprise you, just as they did me.

For example, last October the Los Angeles Fire Department made use of Twittering while fighting California’s wildfires. Also, the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Engineering uses Twitter to pass along info to its students. And U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards all use the service. This all according to Wikipedia. (And see here for a video of a University of Texas prof describing how he uses Twitter with his students — “Teaching With Twitter”, Professor David Parry).

But what is Twitter exactly?

It’s an ultra-streamlined messaging service. Each message is limited to 140 characters only, but you can send that message simultaneously to as many people as you like (from your cell phone or computer). And the service itself is free.

Just last month, an article in The New York Times described Twitter’s popularity (“If You Can’t Let Go, Twitter”
by Michelle Slatalla, Feb 4, 2008):

Twitter’s popularity is growing steadily (nearly 1.2 million users visited Twitter.com in December, a 223 percent increase over the same month in the previous year, according to comScore Inc., which measures Internet traffic). But it still has a much smaller following than top social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Two more places to go for more info: One is a short, but highly informative, video interview with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone — done last August by Intruders.tv. And for a sense of why the average Twitterer, perhaps, enjoys the service, see this article in Wired last June (“Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense,” June 26, 2007)

And to find out in two minutes how to use Twitter, watch this video below, just posted this week on YouTube, by commoncraft.com.

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It’s our Internet to lose

Posted on the March 6th, 2008

Yesterday’s Seattle Times has an editorial warning that the Internet is in jeopardy (“Internet in jeopardy as neutrality erodes” The Democracy Papers series, March 5, 2008). I liked this piece in particular because it outlines this complex issue simply and briefly.

A key sentence:

The Internet has developed into a clean canvas for all to play on and create. The cable and telecommunication companies that dominate broadband in the United States are fighting any network-neutrality law that would ensure the Internet stays this way.

See here for more discussion of this important battle now underway.

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Democratic presidential primary: follow today’s action

Posted on the March 4th, 2008

In the U.S. Democratic Party’s presidential primary race, today could be decisive or… maybe not.

Voters from four states are going to the polls — Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont — in the tug-of-war between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to become the nominee. For a report of the number of pledged delegates at stake, see this article in the Washington Post (“Obama, Clinton In Key Face-Off Texas, Ohio Results May Determine Campaign’s Future”by Anne E. Kornblut and Perry Bacon Jr.,Washington Post Staff Writers, March 4, 2008).

For the WaPo‘s breakdown, by state, of delegate numbers, and the current tally for the candidates, you can go here (Primaries and Caucuses/Democratic Party Delegate Tally).

And for any other political junkies out there, who may need some sustenance while waiting (impatiently) for contests results to come in tonight, here are a couple of places to go online for aid and comfort:

The Huffington Post has a good summing-it-all-up article of each candidate’s situation in the respective states as this day of voting opens (“Ohio, Texas, Vermont, Rhode Island Primaries: Hillary Clinton And Barack Obama’s Day Of Reckoning” by Tom Raum, March 4, 2008, courtesy of Associated Press).

And one of the best online blogs to click on to follow the action as it’s updated throughout the day — opinion, analysis of incoming results and predictions — is DailyKos.com. You’ll find vigorously expressed commentary and uncensored comments by supporters of both Obama and Hillary here.

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