Sunday, November 09, 2008

More Waycool Websites

Here's the next installment of way cool websites compiled for Interface, the monthly newsletter of MacNexus, the Sacramento Macintosh User Group. This list covers September through November 2008.
This site is the ONLY centralized service authorized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. The three companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free credit report.

Center for Environmental Oncology
Have you ever wondered if cell phones really can be pose health risks? Check out the latest advice from an international expert panel about cell and wireless phones electromagnetic radiation emission. A diagram dramatically shows how risk increases for young children who are more susceptible to electromagnetic fields.

Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC)
This service began in 1970 as the distribution outlet for free and low cost Federal consumer publications sent out from the Government Printing Office (GPO) facility in Pueblo, Colorado. Info is available by toll-free telephone as well as electronically.
The most popular publication is the free Consumer Action Handbook, an annual guide to making the best deals and protecting yourself. Order by phone at 1-800-333-4636 or download from the website.

Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft
I’ve mentioned this site in my articles on identity theft. It’s still a key source both to help you guard against the theft of your personal information or find help to deal with the loss.

Find out definitions for what’s hot in the geek world by using Wired Magazine’s Geekipedia, “people, places, ideas and trends you need to know now.” The only entry for J so far is Steve Jobs. Other items of interest at are articles from current issues of Wired Magazine and 12 blogs on topics such as new gadgets and gaming.

Government Information Online
If you need help finding something, you can even chat online with a government information librarian (the hours are Central Standard Time Monday through Thursday, 8am to 6pm, Friday 8am to 5pm) or fill out an online form to request an email response.

If you are into election collectibles, order plastic action figures, plush dolls and pez toppers of Barack Obama and John McCain at this site. There are also three Sarah Palin action figures. If you are looking for a gift for someone who has everything, why not buy a custom pez or action figure?

JibJab, a digital entertainment studio based in Los Angeles, became well known during the 2004 US presidential election when their video of George W. Bush and John Kerry singing This Land is Your Land became a viral video hit. The site offers humorous sendable eCards and videos. If you like Mr. Bill humor, check out this video.

Money Magazine Best Places to Live 2008
If you are thinking about relocating or just want to know how your city or town rates, check out this site from Money Magazine. Under quality of life, you can look at categories including fast commutes, most singles and clean air.

Museum of the Moving Image
The Museum of the Moving Image offers wonderful exhibitions online in addition to those in its Astoria, NY facility. My favorite exhibition is The Living Room Candidate; it features more than 300 commercials, from every presidential election since 1952. You will also find articles by leading critics and scholars, an international Calendar, and a Research Guide to online resources.

National Geographic Videos
This site provides incredible videos of all types of natural disasters. You can watch videos that show wildfires in hot, dry regions and avalanches in cold, moist ones. Also featured are earthquakes, lightning, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

New York Times Movie Reviews
Browse or search 28,000 New York Times movie reviews. Included in the FREE review archive are all films reviewed since 1960, reviews of all Best Picture Academy Award winners, as well as The New York Times guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. You can browse by title, year, genre, critic and country of origin.

Office of Women’s Health
You will find a wealth of downloadable fact sheets and brochures at this site, a service provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. One item I thought would be helpful for all of us to use is the “gender neutral” My Medicines brochure.

Urban Dictionary
There are lots of reasons to bookmark this online dictionary of contemporary American slang. Of course it will help you to stay on top of new words and new meanings for old words, but also provides a wonderful way to see the effect of cultural happenings on the American language. However, personally I think the most fun reason, especially for MacNexus members, is to celebrate the success of Urban Dictionary’s founder, Aaron Peckham. Aaron was an active member of MacNexus throughout his high school years before leaving Sacramento to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He is the son of long-time MacNexus member, Doug Peckham.

U.S. Social Security Administration
Check out your full retirement age based on the year you were born, use any of the variety of benefit calculators or read the FAQs (frequently asked questions) to give you a good overview of the information you need to know to prepare for your future.
If you are not sure where to find specific topics, start here. There is an alphabetical listing of broad topics ranging from benefits and grants to voting and elections. In addition, there are links to an A-Z agency index and information aimed at specific audiences (e.g. kids, teens, parents, seniors, military/veterans and Americans abroad.

This interactive, online museum “challenges visitors to think and explore scientific and cultural phenomena in new ways.” My favorites are Daylight Savings, Causes of Color and Calendars through the Ages. In addition, you can compare the regular page layout and the SpicyNodes view that uses sophisticated radial mapping technology.

Since I’m playing online Scrabble frequently, I’m even more interested in learning unusual words. This site lets you make lists of words and phrases and easily share them. Your lists are visible to everyone but can be added to by just you, a group of friends, etc. You can add citations and comments to words and lists, or make private notes for yourself.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Great Tips from AARP online

These three articles from AARP provide really useful and easy-to-understand information.

Cash Flow Control: Ten Easy Tips to Help You Make the Most of Your Money includes info about the unique risks of debit cards, and how they differ from credit cards.

Watch Your Documents Overseas includes a variety of info, e.g. guarding against theft and how to avoid excessive cell phone charges.

Can’t Afford to Travel? How to Keep Your Family in High-Tech Touch includes info about videochatting using iChat or Skype, uploading photos to Flickr and blogging.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Way Cool Websites

I write a monthly column of way cool websites for the MacNexus, the Sacramento Macintosh User Group. I have decided to post them here instead of emailing them to a select group. Here is a compilation of those I have included in July and August 2008 lists.

Bad Fads
This site “was created to take a fun and nostalgic look at fashions, collectibles, activities and events which are cherished by some and ridiculed by others.” Feed your thirst for nostalgia with fashion entries such as bellbottoms, Farrah Fawcett hair and Nehru jackets. Another favorite category of mine is events where you will see photos of flagpole sitting in 1924 and telephone booth stuffing in 1959.

BenefitsCheckUp, developed and maintained by The National Council on Aging (NCOA), is “the nation's most comprehensive Web-based service to screen for benefits programs for seniors with limited income and resources.” Examples of topics covered are tax relief, prescription drugs, social security, in-home services and transportation.

If you've ever wanted to add way cool signatures to your email message, check out Coolsig and choose your favorites from over 4,000. Examples of categories you will find are: Battle of the Sexes, Life's Questions and Pick-up Lines. If you have never added a signature in Apple's Mail software, just open the preferences and click on Signatures, then add away - I have 10 currently).

This site is “a geek blog dedicated to the scientific study of gadgets, gizmos, and awesome.” The day I visited two items caught my eye: the 3G iPhone and the Mask of Emotion. My interest in the new iPhone needs no explanation; the mask, “a project from the Digital Media Design Dept at Hongik University in Korea, trades facial expressions for LED emoticons. The default setting is no expression, but if people shake hands with the wearer, the mask smiles.”

Google Zeitgeist
This Google website pulls together interesting search trends and patterns. The search statistics are automatically generated based on the billions of searches conducted on Google and provide “a cumulative snapshot of interesting queries people are asking – over time, within country domains, and some on – that perhaps reveal a bit of the human condition.” For 2007, iphone topped the list of fastest rising.

How Stuff Works
I included this award-winning site in 2004 because I had found its information on gas pricing really helpful. I felt it was worth another mention because besides its compendium of easy-to-read and understand articles on how things work, there is a wide variety of videos as well as. You can search by keyword or in categories from animals to travel.

Morse Code Translator
This fun site lets you type letters, numbers and punctuation into the top box and press the Translate button. You will see the Morse code in the bottom box or if you want to hear how your entry sounds, you just press play.

Web hacker Phil Crosby created this very fast online dictionary ninjawords because ninjas are smart, fast and accurate. You can even compare definitions by looking up many words on the same page. If you wish, you can see your word lookup history too.

Our Documents
This website is a cooperative effort among National History Day, The National Archives and Records Administration, and USA Freedom Corps. A special feature is “a list of 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings. The documents chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965.”

You will find lists of heads of state and heads of government (and, in certain cases, de facto leaders not occupying either of those formal positions) of all countries and territories, going back to about 1700 in most cases. Also included are the subdivisions of various countries (the links are at the bottom of the respective country entries), as well as a selection of international organizations. The screen shot shows an excerpt from the May 2008 listing.

Named as the top 2007 travel website by, this site is lets you compare top aggregators. “A handy matrix at the top of the results page gives an overview of the lowest prices pulled from 600 airlines across 200 sites. And refining the search by departure time or airport is a breeze.”

Snopes, also known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is the most widely known site for validating or debunking urban legends, Internet rumors, email forwards, and other such stories of uncertain or questionable origin. Whenever you get an email offer that seems too good to be true, check Snopes.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Where Has the Time Gone

Since my last entry, my life has been a whirlwind of activity. Looking at the life map I did for my Infopeople online course, Effective Time Management for Library Staff gives a quick overview of my commitments. I made this life map using Inspiration mindmapping software (available for both Macintosh and Windows). Check it out by downloading a free 30 day trial.