Senin, 31 Januari 2011

0 A New Google Docs Homepage

As previously anticipated, Google Docs has a new homepage that's better suited for managing files, not just editable documents.

There's a sidebar that shows a small thumbnail and some useful information about the selected file. Google added new filters for images and videos, for public and private files, but dropped the advanced search form, which was more difficult to use. The drawback is that there are many search features that are no longer available in the interface and you need to use operators to get them back.

The slideshow feature borrowed from Google Wave is one of the most useful additions:

For some reason, Google Docs has a new name for folders: they're now called collections. "Collections are designed to combine the best features of labels and folders. A file can live in multiple collections, just like with Gmail labels. Collections can also be stored hierarchically, just like folders on your desktop. And of course, collections can be shared, just like you can share docs," explains Google. Technically speaking, none of these features is new, but it's much easier to add a file to multiple folders collections. Unfortunately, Google's new terminology will probably confuse users and many people won't realize that clicking "Organize" lets you add a file to a collection.

Google also dropped checkboxes, so now it's much more difficult to select multiple files: you need to use Shift for contiguous selections or Control for scattered files (Cmd if you're using a Mac).

Another new feature is priority sorting, which orders files based on importance. For example, a starred document that has been last updated 5 hours ago is likely to rank higher than a more recent document that hasn't been starred. Google says that it's like Gmail's Priority Inbox, but there's an important difference: Gmail always sorts conversations by date.

Overall, the new Google Docs homepage is a mixed bag. Google tries to morph Google Docs into an online storage service, while moving away from the initial goal of the service: editing documents online. Suddenly Google Docs is no longer an appropriate name for the service, 1 GB of free storage is not enough, the APIs are no longer useful because they're limited to editable documents and Google's applications seem limited because they can't handle all the files that can be uploaded. The new homepage can't address these issues, but it manages to make the interface more complicated: now it's a lot easier to open a file when you want to select it and to select the file when you want to open it.

Tip: If you don't like the new interface, there's an option at the top of the page that lets you temporarily switch to the old version. You should bookmark the URL:, since there's no option to permanently switch to the old UI.

{ Thanks, Karol and Ben. }

Minggu, 30 Januari 2011

0 How to Finally Get Better Sleep

When it comes to being healthy and living a vibrant and energy filled life, sleep seems to be one of the most elusive aspects to conquer. Certainly we know that getting a good night’s sleep is important - crucial, even, to good health. But it’s not as simple as just deciding that you are now going to start sleeping better. At least that’s how it often seems.

Want to eat healthier or with more variety? All it takes is some planning and follow-through. Want to exercise more? It’s just a matter of making time for even 10 minutes a day, and scheduling it in.

But you want to sleep better? Well that’s another story, isn’t it?

Isn’t it time to say enough is enough?

Allow me to share with you the things that I have found to be most powerful when it comes to regaining your control over the night. The following points have worked wonders for me (certainly some more than others, or for different periods of time), and I trust they’ll be of benefit to you.

10 Ways To Improve Your Sleep And Take Back Control
  1. Increase your Vitamin D levels
    I wanted to start with this point because I suspect it may be one of the less obvious techniques to resting easier. You’ve probably heard a lot about Vitamin D lately – a lack of it is being linked to an increasing number of health complaints, the reason for which is the fact that nearly every cell in your body has Vitamin D receptor sites. This means that it can affect every cell dysfunction in your body, as well as every hormone.

    One hormone that is crucial to good sleep is melatonin. Melatonin should be released as you wind down for bed – think of it like your body’s natural ‘off-ramp’. Well, with insufficient Vitamin D in your body, you make it virtually impossible to produce adequate melatonin. You can increase Vitamin D by exposing yourself to a little early morning sun (bright light sparks melatonin production) each day, by eating foods high in it (although it’s tough to get enough through diet), or by discussing a supplement with your health practitioner.

  2. Cut back on the stimulants
    Common sense, right? And yet how often do we find ourselves reaching for the (extra) cup of coffee far later in the day than we know we should? Couple that with a little more sugar than would be considered ideal, or perhaps even something as potently disruptive as an energy drink, and you know you’re setting yourself up for another vicious cycle of poor sleep and a sluggish next-day start.

    It takes at least 4 hours for half of the caffeine in your system to be metabolized, another 4 for half of that, and so on. So you can see how drinking coffee late in the day can disrupt sleep. My recommendation is to cut the caffeine and stimulants after 2pm. Be strict on this, and it will pay off for you!

  3. Have some tryptophan for dinner
    There are certain foods that will help to improve your chances of sleeping well. When your Mom told you to drink a glass of warm milk before bed, she was on the money – that works for many people (although not a good idea if you have dairy issues!). The reason dairy works is that it contains tryptophan – a natural sleep agent also found in oats, bananas, turkey, and almonds.

    Aside from foods high in tryptophan, many health experts advocate foods high in complex carbohydrates (oats, bananas, root veggies, wild or brown rice) as being helpful for sleep. The only catch is that this may not be a great idea if fat loss also a goal for you.

  4. Avoid eating or drinking alcohol closer than 2 hours to bedtime
    This is practical advice that a lot of us know makes sense – yet for some reason it can be a tough one to follow through on. Often we associate downtime (TV time!) with snacking, and this can go on right up until bedtime. Logically it makes sense that if your body is focused on digesting food or alcohol, it cannot simultaneously wind down and enter a state of deep sleep.

    The process of digestion may also inhibit the release of growth hormone, an important hormone for deep sleep as well as for building lean muscle and burning fat. Proteins and healthy carbohydrates (such as root vegetables, brown or wild rice) tend to leave the stomach faster than what fats will do.

  5. Relax your senses
    There’s nothing like bright lights and pumping noise to help you get a great night’s sleep, is there?! Not! It stands to reason that overloading your brain with ‘daytime images and noise’ is not really a great recipe for rest. Let me be clear – watching television and using the computer right up until bedtime is a sure-fire recipe for night-time twitching. If you must watch your shows, try to choose comedies over dramas or violence- those will excite your nervous system more. Ideally, turn off the technology an hour or so before bed and enjoy some conversation or reading.

  6. Set the bedroom mood
    I’m not talking about any hanky panky, although if that gets you nodding off then by all means! What I meant though, was creating an environment for sound sleep. A pitch black room is optimal for melatonin production, and even that red light on your alarm clock can be disruptive without you realizing it. Either get technology out of the bedroom, or wear a sleep mask. I’d suggest doing both. It’s also important to consider the temperature of your room, and making sure you’re comfortable (if you hate your pillow, invest in a new one rather than ‘making do’). If noise is an issue you may need to use earplugs.

  7. Still your mind
    A busy mind may keep you focused and productive during the day, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by running your to-do list while in bed – not least yourself. One of my favorite tricks for quieting the mind is to jot down 10 things I’m grateful for before bed. Another technique, which I also learned from my mentor Charles Poliquin, is to write down one thing you learned for the day, one kind thing you did for someone else, and another kind thing that somebody did for you. It’s very effective.

  8. Drown out your thoughts
    Try using a sleep or relaxation track like this free one over at Pzizz offers a full system, but you can grab a free 15-minute sample of their sleep or energizing track and download it to your iPod. This worked very well for me for about a month steadily, and after that I continued to use it off and on. There are many equally great sleep tracks out there on the internet, so do a search and try several of them – if writing your grateful list doesn’t work then listening to sleep audios may just drown out that busy mind!

  9. Have a morning workout
    We are designed to be at our most active and energized first thing in the morning. As a former insomniac I know how tough it can be to get motivated to get going after a horribly restless night. Your eyes feel like they’re full of sandpaper, and your head is pounding. Every muscle feels weak and exhausted. Oddly though, you seem to come alive by night-time. This is a classic sign of a reverse cortisol curve – your circadian rhythms are back to front! Rather than supporting the perpetuation of this situation (try saying that 3 times fast!) you can fight back by reminding your body when energy should be ‘up’. Try working out in the morning – even for 10 minutes – and your body will thank you for it. Creating an ideal circadian rhythm will help you to wind down naturally at night, and wake up feeling fresh in the morning.

  10. If all else fails, seek professional help
    If you’ve tried all of these steps and you still struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, consider getting professional help. To paraphrase sleep expert and author William Dement, “even 2 or more nights of poor quality sleep is a serious issue and demands treatment”! Don’t do what I did, and determinedly push through for weeks, months or years on end, thinking that you can manage or that you will get over it.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, remember that most people find that it’s the combination of several sleep techniques rather than just one thing which gets them through – so if there’s something on this list that you’ve never tried or perhaps forgotten about, then give it a go. It’s worth a try!

Do you have any favorite sleep techniques that you’d be willing to share? Bring it in the comments – as weird and wacky as you’d like!

Written on 1/30/2011 by Kat Eden. Kat is a Personal Trainer from Australia. Visit her blog Body Incredible to be inspired with the latest nutrition tips, weight loss advice, and motivational thinking.Photo Credit: wiros

0 5 Lessons That Professor Failure Taught Me About Success

Failure has become a faithful friend throughout the years. Early on in my life I thought failure was my mortal enemy. But life’s experience has taught me that Professor Failure is on the academic staff of my personal University Of Success that I attend.

He is a vital necessity for my training, in order to become someone who will reach his full potential, and even go beyond what he personally thought possible. And why is that? Because I have learned to ask a simple question of my professor after every failure, ‘What is the most important lesson that I can learn from this mistake?’

Those lessons then become the building blocks for the success I have experienced to date, and the success that will accompany me for the rest of my days.

So please allow me to share with you just 5 lessons that Professor Failure has taught me about success.
  1. The Importance Of Obsession
    If you ever want to make your mark on this world, you are going to have to break free of mediocrity and be obsessed.

    If I was to ask you as to what is your magnificent obsession, how would you answer?

    It must resemble a burning desire, a fiery ambition, something that keeps you up at night and wakes you early in the morning. It’s the thing that if you don’t do it, while you’re alive on planet earth, it just won’t get done. It’s your unique mission and contribution. It’s your executive orders issued to you by the General of the Universe to complete.

    Wishy-washy, directionless human beings have filled our graveyards for centuries. But may I challenge you to step out from amongst that company and be the extraordinary human being that you were created to be, and make your mark.

    Let the personal graffiti of your life be plastered on every door post, declaring, ‘I am, I was, I conquered.’

    Others may call you weird, strange, out of the extraordinary, single-minded, and one-eyed. But it is the obsessed of this world who have brought us the motor car, flight, freedom, the Internet, Facebook, and so much more. They have changed our world. So be obsessed and be a world changer.

  2. The Need For Persistence
    I recall the time when I’d written my first book and was about to self publish it. My first book sale yielded me more than $100,000. At the time I was filling shelves at our local super market. Even before I knew that I had made that sale I continued to work late nights and early mornings with a joy in my step.

    I made it a point to be the best shelf filler in that organization.

    Why was I so happy?

    Because I knew, because I knew (yes I’ve doubled those words for emphasis) that I was born to succeed. Sure, failure had knocked me down on a number of occasions throughout my life, but I was destined to succeed because I understood the power of persistence. And that persistence paid off. And what joy success was when I handed in my resignation and invited some of my shelf-filler buddies to my first book launch.

  3. The Necessity Of The Dream
    Without a dream and without a vision you are nothing but a lifeless void.

    Dreams are not just for the confines of your sleeping hours. Dreams should be the invaders of your waking moments. Upon these dreams, for a better future, are based our hopes, and at the same time they’re the fuel that will drive your productivity and the profitability in everything you do.

    My dream is the guiding compass that has carried me through packing shelves, cleaning houses and factories, mowing lawns, publishing books, being CEO of my own web design company, business coaching, professional speaking and now being the owner of multiple businesses.

    I have never been overly concerned as to what I did, but rather how I did it. Happiness has accompanied me as much while cleaning toilets as it has conducting board meetings.


    Because of the dreams planted firmly in my heart and mind.

  4. The Vitality Of A Plan
    Without an architecturally designed plan a builder cannot build a structurally sound house. So too for life. You must take out some time to construct a plan for your life. For as someone once wrote, ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’

    There are many words that I could write about planning, goal setting, and life goals, mission statements and more. But let me simply share 6 points in brief that Napoleon Hill – the author of Think and Grow Rich - wrote way back in 1937.
    1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. Be definite as to the amount.
    2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.
    3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
    4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
    5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
    6. Read your written statement aloud twice daily, once just before retiring at night and once arising in the morning. As you read – see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money.
  5. The Power Of Faith
    Any great man or woman, who has ever lived, has had to pass through the refining fire of failure in order to rise as the Phoenix – to become those whom we call successful.

    Faith sees things as they are not. So it is during the periods where things seem impossible and insurmountable that faith is provided the perfect platform for development.

    As I cleaned dirty factory floors and toilets I dreamed that I would one day reach a global audience with the creative gifts that lay dormant within my being. I wanted to live a life of influence. I wanted to help those who may currently be in the depths of despair, depression and debt – and yet through my words lift them up so that they too can be instructed by Professor Failure and rise and obtain ‘High Distinctions’ in the University of Success.
So that is my call to you today. Do not allow failure to destroy you. Use failure rather to build you, to transform your character, crystallize your dream, and transfix your determination to succeed through the power of persistence and the fortitude of faith. This is your greatest hour. Grasp it with both hands and be the butterfly – and fly, fly, fly.

Are there any other lessons that Professor Failure has taught you, and could help others to graduate from the University of Success?

Motivational Memo:
A High Distinction obtained in the University of Success is yours if you allow the seed of failure to do its work within you.

Written on 1/30/2011 by Peter G. James Sinclair . Peter is in the 'heart to heart' resuscitation business and inspires, motivates and equips others to be all that they’ve been created to become. Receive your free inhalation of 'motivational' life by subscribing to his Motivational Memo Blog today!Photo Credit: Paul Keller

Jumat, 28 Januari 2011

0 Top 13 Tools For Efficiently Running Your Online Business

If you own a business, especially one that's entirely online, it is likely that you’ve got a distributed workforce. That means your employees (and contractors and partners) are located in different countries around the world.

Running an online business efficiently--and productively--requires the use of various tools and apps that can help you properly communicate with your employees, collaborate easily on multiple projects and hence compensate for the lack of everyday face-to-face interaction that happens in a real world office.

Following are ten tools that every web based business owner should consider for greater efficiency and productivity. All of these general tools that can come in handy irrespective of the type of business you run.

Basecamp is without a doubt the most popular web-based project management tool. Its interface is simple and easy to use, lets you create multiple projects with various customizations, share files, create to-do lists and milestones, and do much more.

Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is usually considered ahead of Basecamp for online project management in terms of features. However, it's viewed as slightly more difficult to use. Zoho Projects has been surging in popularity since it was launched, and you should take a look at it too.

Google Apps
Google Apps is a package of popular Google tools like Gmail, Google Docs and all, allotted specifically for your domain. Needless to say, it is must-have for any online small business owner, at least for Gmail on your domain if nothing else.

Zoho Suite
Zoho Suite also offers an impressive suite of online tools for businesses (Zoho projects, discussed above, being a part of it). Ranging from docs to wiki, reports to CRM and planner to invoice, there’s a huge number of applications to choose from.

Hipchat is a cool group messaging service that is multi-platform, helps you share files, create chatrooms and lets you collaborate quickly with multiple people in real-time. It replaces the back and forth emails and hence saves time.

Yammer is another tool that aims to foster better communication among a group of people. It is a private social network for your business, and has an interface similar to popular social sites (like Twitter).

Any list that talks about tools for collaboration and conducting business can’t be complete without Skype. Skype remains the defacto method for making audio and video calls online, helping people save tons in phone bills and communicate with friends and colleagues around the world.

Dropbox is a brilliant online backup and synchronization tool that has a host of features to suit individuals as well as small online business owners. It’s easy to setup and has a decent free plan too.

Mozy is another popular online backup service and has a product called Mozypro that’s meant for businesses wanting to do a secure data backup on the cloud.

Most of the online businesses require some form of invoicing and there’s no better tool than Freshbooks. It helps you manage invoices, track time and even manage your accounts. If you are a freelancer or a service provider who manages a team of freelancers, this is an invoicing tool you should consider using.

Unless you are freelancer and don’t own a site or a blog, chances are that your web business is centered around a website (or websites). Pingdom is a monitoring tool that alerts you via emails and SMS when your site goes down. This ensures that you know immediately about downtimes and can take swift action.

Evernote can take notes on the desktop, browser and mobile, enables quick capture of anything on the screen and serves as an organization tools for random ideas, text, images and more.


Last but not the least, we’ve got Nowdothis. This is the simplest of the tools mentioned so far, and yet extremely effective. It helps you get rid of the myriad to-do lists and lets you focus on one thing at a time. And that’s the best way to actually get things done. :)



Written on 1/29/2011 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is a blogger and web publisher from India. He loves all things tech as long as it aids in productivity. He edits Guiding Tech, a blog that publishes useful guides, tutorials and tools. Check it out and subscribe to its feed if you like the site. You can also find him on Twitter. Photo Credit: Company Logos

0 Google Filters Suggestions Associated with Copyright Infringement

Google started to filter search suggestions that include terms associated with copyright infringement like "torrent", "bittorrent", "rapidshare", "megaupload". It's a slippery slope and Google's suggestions will be less useful since they'll no longer include many popular searches.

Last month, Google explained that this is one of the changes intended to address copyright infringement. "We will prevent terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete. While it's hard to know for sure when search terms are being used to find infringing content, we'll do our best to prevent Autocomplete from displaying the terms most frequently used for that purpose."

Blacklisting keywords like "torrent" is a terrible way to prevent copyright infringement since users can always type queries without Google's help. The main consequence is that Google will appear to be broken and users will no longer trust the suggestions because they're censored. Last year, Google started to become politically correct by removing the suggestions for queries like [why are muslim]. There will always be complaints about the suggestions, but starting to arbitrarily blacklist keywords opens a can of worms and makes it easy to remove other controversial suggestions. As Mashable says, "this is a subtle form of censorship, and at first glance it seems trivial. However, even though the censorship is slight, it still indicates Google's willingness to change its search protocols to satisfy the needs of a certain business group, in this case members of the entertainment industry."

Google doesn't blacklist "pirate bay", "isohunt", "mediafire", "cracks", "serial numbers", "keygen" and there's a simple trick to bypass the existing filters: start your queries using the blacklisted keywords (for example: [torrent ubuntu 10.10]).

0 On the Grid

[Image: 020 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

Dutch photographer Gerco de Ruijter recently got in touch with an extraordinary series of aerial photographs called Baumschule—some of which, he explains, were taken using a camera mounted on a fishing rod.

The series features "32 photographs of tree nurseries and grid forests in the Netherlands."

[Image: 010 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

"How abstract can a landscape become while remaining a landscape?" de Ruijter asked himself. "I tried to find the answer to this question during extended travels, by searching for a fully natural landscape, not manmade, and lacking any cultural presence. I found these 'natural-born' sites in New Mexico—deserts formed by rocks and sand and all forms of erosion. A barren landscape, too, with scarce vegetation."

[Image: 014 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

But this same research—a quest for a kind of inhuman authenticity of the surrounding terrain—eventually brought him to the hyper-artificial landscapes of tree farms and nurseries in the Netherlands.

[Image: 005 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

He thus set about visually documenting what he calls "the Dutch culturally defined landscape":
    The Dutch landscape was efficiently drawn with functionality in mind on the drawing boards of urban and rural planners. Tulip fields, hothouses, land worked by farmers on tractors with their GPS handy.
As de Ruijter goes on to explain, even though the project seeks to document "an extremely defined cultural landscape, it is the abnormalities that jump into view."

[Image: 009 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

Returning to the original question—"How abstract can a landscape become while remaining a landscape?"—de Ruijter suggests that "all of these objects arranged to form rows create a new form of abstraction, not because of the image’s emptiness but, to the contrary, because of the presence of so many 'things,' and their patterns and rhythms," as if we could farm and harvest barcodes directly from the ground.

[Images: 007 and 032, all by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

Indeed, "I found an enormous variety of visual elements," he adds. "They show up not just because of the different seasons, but also through the stratification of the land. Trees, soil, holes. The combination of a tight grid and the camera’s central perspective results in a distinct depth, while on a cloudy day fore and background may slide into each other."

[Image: 002 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

To take these photos, de Ruijter used both kite photography and even "a long fishing rod."

He describes how the process worked: "On top of this rod is a 2.5" x 2.5" camera with a wide-angle lens. A self-timer is adjusted to give me enough time to telescope the rod and manoeuver the camera above the subject. The frame of the image begins in front of my own shoes and measures roughly 30' x 30'."

[Image: 001 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

It is fascinating to see, though, when the arboreal vitality of the trees overcomes the grid they're planted in, to become fractally expressive of a different formal logic, one that exceeds any agricultural formatting of the landscape.

[Image: 028 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist].

I should also point out that I recently found some great views of a tree farm on Google Maps, a strangely dot-matrix landscape that appears more cryptographic than botanical—an emergent garden of living QR codes.

[Image: 008 by Gerco de Ruijter, 28" x 28", from Baumschule (2008-2010), courtesy of the artist, a great example of how the "fore and background may slide into each other," as the photographer describes it].

Gerco de Ruijter's Baumschule series is currently on display in its entirety at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, where it opened last week. It closes on April 10.

0 Choke Points and Kill Switches

[Image: Courtesy of Terremark, via the Atlantic].

Andrew Blum has a short piece up at the Atlantic today about the geography of "internet choke points," and the threat of a "kill switch" that would allow countries (like Egypt) to turn off the internet on a national scale.

After all, Blum writes, "it's worth remembering that the Internet is a physical network," with physical vulnerabilities. "It matters who controls the nodes." Indeed, he adds, "what's often forgotten is that those networks actually have to physically connect—one router to another—often through something as simple and tangible as a yellow-jacketed fiber-optic cable. It's safe to suspect a network engineer in Egypt had a few of them dangling in his hands last night.

Blum specifically refers to a high-security building in Miami owned by Terremark; it is "the physical meeting point for more than 160 networks from around the world," and thus just one example of what Blum calls an internet "choke point." These international networks "meet there because of the building's excellent security, its redundant power systems, and its thick concrete walls, designed to survive a category 5 hurricane. But above all, they meet there because the building is 'carrier-neutral.' It's a Switzerland of the Internet, an unallied territory where competing networks can connect to each other."

But, as he points out, this neutrality is by no means guaranteed—and is even now subject to change.

0 Landscape Futures Super-Media

[Image: For a project at the Bartlett School of Architecture's Unit 11, presented and discussed at the Landscape Futures Super-Workshop, Rina Kukaj explored a series of aerial landscapes—a "purification blanket"—that would act as a distributed atmospheric filter for the city].

Two write-ups of the Landscape Futures Super-Workshop have appeared. In one, Nate Berg, writing for Domus, refers to what he calls "a new shared and experimental approach to curating" that helped to animate the super-workshop's various events. In another, Friends of the Pleistocene describe their burgeoning research project into the debris basins on the edge of the city, a "long-term project to map their locations and create a typology of their forms," which kicked off during the super-workshop.

Each debris basin "exists as a 'signaling device,'” they write.
    Each announces that geologic change unfolds here, right here, in continuous and unpredictable ways. Each basin also exemplifies the best human attempt to build, plan for and contain the potentially uncontainable: the material reality of geologic time and force. When flowing debris activates these basins, an incredible shape-shifting occurs: the force and materiality of geologic time actually become perceivable. Solid becomes liquid, the far becomes near, virtual becomes actual, top becomes bottom, and a precarious equilibrium loses its poise as the habitable instantly becomes uninhabitable.
They cite the classic essay, “Los Angeles Against the Mountains,” also previously mentioned here on BLDGBLOG, where write John McPhee introduces us to the terrestrial instability of the ground beneath and around greater Los Angeles. In the process, he specifically describes the often bizarre spatial defenses through which houses can survive in the fallout paths of rockslides, debris slugs, and other forms of geologic "mass wasting."

[Image: Landscape Futures Super-Workshop students visit a debris dam at the top of Pine Cone Road].

The outermost suburbs of L.A. have reached what McPhee calls the “real-estate line of maximum advance” against the dark bulk of the San Gabriels—a range “divided by faults, defined by faults, and framed by them.” The San Gabriels “are nearly twice as high as Mt. Katahdin or Mt. Washington,” he points out, “and are much closer to the sea. From base platform to summit, the San Gabriels are three thousand feet higher than the Rockies.” However, they are also “disintegrating at a rate that is also among the fastest in the world.”

The San Gabriels produce, in the process, extraordinary rockslides: “On the average, about seven tons disappear from each acre each year—coming off the mountains and heading for town.” These slides are known as debris slugs, and they “amass in stream valleys and more or less resemble fresh concrete. They consist of water mixed with a good deal of solid material, most of which is above sand size. Some of it is Chevrolet size.” Debris slugs have been known to contain “propane tanks, outbuildings, picnic tables, canyon live oaks, alders, sycamores, cottonwoods, a Lincoln Continental, an Oldsmobile, and countless boulders five feet thick.” And all of it comes crashing down—frequently going right through people’s houses.

[Image: The debris dam & basin at the strikingly beautiful Deukmejian Wilderness Park].

In the face of “this heaving violence of wet cement,” as McPhee describes it, new architectural techniques have become urgently necessary. “At least one family,” for instance, “has experienced so many debris flows coming through their back yard that they long ago installed overhead doors in the rear end of their built-in garage. To guide the flows, they put deflection walls in their back yard. Now when the boulders come they open both ends of their garage, and the debris goes through to the street.” The house becomes a mechanism through which mobile geology violently flows.

Mazes of street barriers, deflection walls, overhead doors, feeder channels, concrete crib structures—these emerging typologies are not just limited to the domestic world. The whole city’s in on it. Los Angeles County “began digging pits to catch debris,” McPhee explains, surrounding itself with a necklace of voids in order to counteract an earth that moves.

The city’s debris pits are “quarries, in a sense, but exceedingly bizarre quarries, in that the rock [is] meant to come to them.” They are strange attractors, sometimes “ten times as large as the largest pyramid at Giza.”

[Image: Deflection walls protect houses not from terrorist attack or from runaway automobiles, but from geology: rocks spalling off the nearby hills and rolling through the neighborhood; photo by Friends of the Pleistocene].

Easily one of the most fascinating aspects of our field trip was seeing the sheer quantity of concrete deflection walls—aka Jersey barriers—that have come to line whole streets and front yards in these mountainous neighborhoods.

Objects now more popularly associated with anti-terror measures, these barriers are actually there to protect Los Angeles residents from geology. In many cases, private homes are all but invisible behind monolithic concrete barriers, surely begging a more elegant—not to mention permanent—architectural solution.

Entire, gently curving suburban roadway networks have thus been turned into emergency deflection labyrinths, extending the geometric logic of the debris basins above them.

In any case, I look forward to the results of Friends of the Pleistocene's research, and their post is worth reading in full.

0 Gmail Tests Image Ads

Greg Sterling spotted image ads in Gmail and this seems to be a controversial Gmail experiment. A Google spokesperson said that Google "recently started experimenting with image ads on messages with heavy image content." Greg confirmed that the image ads aren't displayed next text-only messages and they sometimes appear next to HTML messages that include a lot of images, especially newsletters.

Gmail's image ads are contextually targeted, but it's unlikely that users will tolerate them well. After all, one of Gmail's selling points was that it only used relevant text ads. Here's Google's answer from 2005 to the question "What makes Gmail different?": "There are other differences in the way Gmail provides access to your email. For example, Gmail automatically groups an email and the replies to it as a conversation. That means you always see a message in its proper context. And there are no pop-ups or banner ads in Gmail, just relevant text ads and links to related pages". Google's explanation continues: "[Gmail ads] are small and unobtrusive. They don't fill half your screen and we don't make you read them just to get to your inbox. Ads are never inserted into the body text of either incoming or outgoing Gmail messages and you won't see any pop-ups or untargeted banner ads in Gmail."

It's interesting to see that a Gmail page about privacy explains that "showing relevant advertising offers more value to users than displaying random pop-ups or untargeted banner ads". The key words are "random" and "untargeted".

{ Thanks, Greg. }

0 Google Image Search Indexes SVG Files

Last year, Google announced that it started to index SVG files, but the results were only returned by the web search engine. "SVG is an open, XML-based format for vector graphics with support for interactive elements. We're big fans of open standards, and our mission is to organize the world's information, so indexing SVG is a natural step. We index SVG content whether it is in a standalone file or embedded directly in HTML," explained Google at that time.

Now you can find SVG files in Google Image Search by restricting the results to this filetype in the advanced search page or by using the filetype operator. Here's an example: [molecule filetype:svg]. If you restrict the results to Wikipedia, Google returns 57,300 SVG files.

Most browsers can render SVG markup, but there are at least two important exceptions: Internet Explorer (IE9 will add support for SVG) and Android's built-in browser.

Kamis, 27 Januari 2011

0 Nest Factory

[Image: A swiftlet nesting house in Thailand; photo by Alexander S. Heitkamp, courtesy of Wikipedia].

"This drab, windowless concrete facade does not conceal an electricity substation, data servers, or a high security detention center," Nicola Twilley writes over at GOOD. It is, instead, a living birds' nest factory, an emerging building type that has "spread across Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and even Cambodia, towering above traditional one-story structures and transforming the urban landscape." Their purpose? To foster the production of swiftlet nests, used in Chinese bird's nest soup.

Nicola explains that these nest farms are, in effect, surrogate geological formations: "the buildings are intended to mimic caves," she writes, where the swiftlets would normally live, "with a carefully spaced matrix of wooden rafters replacing the ledges and crannies of a cave ceiling, and detailed attention paid to internal temperature, humidity, and even sound."

They are, in effect, part of what could be called a saliva industry, as the nests are made from swiftlet saliva. A spitshop, say, instead of a sweatshop. Mechanize this one step further, and full-scale 3D saliva-printing might not be far off...

0 Machine Vitrine

[Image: The spidery and self-supporting Cavity Mechanism #4 w/ Glass Dome by Dan Grayber, courtesy of Johansson Projects].

Artist Dan Grayber has a new show on display in Oakland, at Johansson Projects. It features an ingenious collection of spring-loaded devices that play on ideas of architecture, tension, mechanics, and space.

[Image: Cavity Mechanism #2 w/ Glass Dome by Dan Grayber, courtesy of Johansson Projects].

They are more like booby traps—their only spatial purpose to support themselves in states of high tension—or re-tuned Vitruvian readymades sealed in glass.

[Image: Cavity Mechanism #6 w/ Glass Dome by Dan Grayber, courtesy of Johansson Projects].

Grayber's Cavity Mechanism #6 w/ Glass Dome, for instance, "is a pair of spring loaded mechanisms that wedge themselves into the inside of a cavity (the glass dome in this case), suspending themselves. Cable running between pair maintains tension on both mechanisms. If cable were to fail, both mechanisms would fall."

[Images: (top) Cavity Mechanism #5 w/ Glass Dome; (middle and bottom) Cavity Mechanism #3 w/ Glass Dome; all by Dan Grayber, courtesy of Johansson Projects].

As the gallery describes his work, "Dan Grayber isolates machinery from its usual role of fulfilling human needs through placing it in an eternal mode of self-perpetuation. His safety-orange powder coated objects endlessly assure their survival through completing the simple and essential task of holding oneself up. These sculptures, which create problems as they solve them, exude a sovereign elegance, the dignity of not having to justify themselves to an outside source."

[Image: Untitled (fishbowl) Mechanism by Dan Grayber, courtesy of the artist].

This notion of a "sovereignty" of the object is a compelling one: the aloof, isolated, self-supporting nature of these pieces is done away with utterly the instant they are pulled from their glass domes.

Forced out of what could be called the tautology of the dome—a precise space of limitations in which each mechanism can perform itself endlessly—these arachnid-like devices become functionally useless.

They become not sovereign at all, but parasites robbed of their original, enabling context.

[Image: Column Mechanism #1 by Dan Grayber, courtesy of Johansson Projects].

An example of Grayber's experiments with this latter spatial condition is Column Mechanism #1.

Removed from the glass vitrine and installed directly on a concrete wall, it "consists of central tensioning mechanisms and eight 'satellite' contact objects, in pairs. Tension created from central mechanism is run through pulleys on each pair of 'satellite' objects, pulling them together, creating tension that squeezes column and supports central piece."

Similarly, the "centrally located springs" of Drywall Mechanism #2 "use bicycle brake lines to carry tension of springs to the outer mechanisms. Outer mechanisms have points that when tensioned simultaneously gently dig into wall surface."

[Images: Drywall Mechanism #2 by Dan Grayber, courtesy of the artist].

These latter examples also raise the intriguing possibility of a Dan Grayber installation disguised as everyday construction or architectural testing equipment: devices attached to drywall and concrete, like something straight out of a box from Home Depot. Until you notice the intricate systems of bike cables and tension lines, and the strangely functionless beauty of the forms poised just slightly on the right side of snapping...

[Image: Cavity Mechanism #1 w/ Glass Dome by Dan Grayber, courtesy of the artist].

The gallery will be hosting an opening reception on February 4, in case you're in Oakland and want to stop by; tell them you read about it on BLDGBLOG.

0 Gmail Desktop Notifications

If you use Google Chrome, you can enable a new Gmail feature that shows desktop notifications for new messages. Go to "Settings", and enable chat notifications and mail notifications to see a small bubble when you get a new message. If you get a lot of messages, it's a good idea to only enable notifications for important messages.

The nice thing is that the notifications are displayed even when you're visiting a different site or the Chrome window is minimized. Gmail's blog mentions an important use case: "you've probably missed an important chat message because you weren't looking at your Gmail window when it came in".

Unfortunately, you'll no longer see the notifications if you close Gmail or Google Chrome, so this isn't a perfect replacement for Gmail Notifier. This issue could be solved by background web apps, a new Chrome feature that allows installed web apps to run in the background.

Right now, desktop notifications are only available in Google Chrome, but this feature has been implemented in WebKit and there's a W3C draft for web notifications. Google Calendar has a similar feature as part of the "Gentle reminders" experiment.

{ Thanks, Sterling, Karol, Niranjan and Ran. }

Rabu, 26 Januari 2011

0 How to Study Effectively (Not Just for Students!)

Most of us don't stop learning after school's out. We may study for a professional qualification, in the hopes of a promotion, to make our working lives easier, or simply for the joy of learning.

If you didn't learn how to study effectively when you were young, though, you're probably wasting a lot of time.

Here's how to make the most of your studying time, so that you remember and understand what you're trying to learn – rather than just staring at the book in front of you.

Don't Just Read
The biggest mistake people make when studying is to read the textbook, or their notes, over and over again. Sure, some of it will eventually stick – but this really isn't an effective way to learn.

If you've ever "read" a whole page only to realize you didn't take in a word of it, you'll know how easy it is for your eyes to keep moving when your brain's switched off. And if you've ever nodded along, feeling like you've "got it" – only to fail a test – then you know that simply reading isn't enough to lodge information in your head.

Engage With the Material
When you're studying, you need to engage with whatever it is that you're learning. Ideally, you want to do that in some practical way. So:
  • Instead of reading a manual about PHP code, try using what you've learned as part of a website.

  • Instead of studying the science of cooking, bake something – and experiment with different additions.

  • Instead of reciting capital cities, get a blank map and plot them onto it.

  • Instead of listening to or reading French, try writing or speaking.
The way in which you engage will depend on what you're learning and on your own learning styles. You might prefer to write about what you've learned, draw a diagram, or do something practical.

Memorize Thoroughly

When you're trying to memorize something – perhaps a scientific formula, or a quotation from literature – it's often helpful to write it out. The more times you do this, the more likely it is to stick! To ensure that you're not just getting it into your short term memory, try writing it out at different times during the day, without looking it up beforehand.

There are plenty of tricks you can use to help you remember things. You might try mnemonics (here in the UK, schoolchildren are taught "Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain" for the colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). You could make up a poem or even set words to music – it's often easier to remember something which rhymes (like "Thirty days hath September...").

Take a Quiz
Until you test yourself, you won't know whether you've done enough studying. If you're working towards a particular qualification which has exams, get a hold of copies of previous test papers and try them out.

If you aren't going to be sitting an exam, look for a quiz on your subject, or ask a friend or family member to test you using your notes.

If you're studying for your own purposes – perhaps to learn a language – then you could test yourself out by attempting to write something in that language without referring to your books or notes.

When you're studying, it's easy to unconsciously skip over tricky bits – a quiz helps highlight these! Plus, you'll often find that material which you could only just remember gets more firmly lodged in your mind.

Do you have any great studying tips to add? Share them with us in the comments!

Written on 1/27/2011 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.Photo Credit: MC Quinn

0 What Is Your Body Capable Of?

Is your body out of shape? Do you want to become fit? No matter how unfit you are right now, it’s not too late to get your body back into shape. All you need to do is to establish and maintain an exercise routine.

In this post, I’ll share with you what has worked for me.

At the beginning of last year, I resolved to get back into regular exercise after a six-year break due to problems with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Now, twelve months later, I’m training in the martial arts again. I’ve turned into a runner, and I’m more fit than I was seven years ago. But I couldn’t have done it all on my own.

In order to find support, I started an 8-week Fitness Challenge on my blog Goodlife ZEN in October of last year. Over one hundred people joined (including Leo Babauta). It was so successful that I’ve now kicked off the Great Fitness Challenge 2011 with over 300 participants. Anyone is welcome - no matter how fit or unfit. What unites us all is the aspiration to improve fitness and lift overall well-being.

I’ve found exercise to be a miracle medicine. It improves your mood, combats chronic disease, helps you manage your weight, boosts your energy level, and promotes better sleep.

Can you get fit at any age?

The story of Bob Hayes, a farmer from Montana, is inspiring. Bob took up running at age 60 when his son encouraged him to take part in a 5km charity run. Bob struggled to complete the race. Afterward he said, “I wasn't feeling as fit as I would have liked to. Perhaps age is catching up on me?” Yeah, well – Bob was about to find out.

After his first run, Bob decided to join a local running club. Some months later, Bob took part in a half-marathon. Then he found that running long distances was what he enjoyed the most. Fast forward 20 years: Bob has turned into a celebrated ultra-marathon runner.

Last year Bob, now 83, completed his 12th LeGrizz 50-mile ultra-marathon (his first was at age 70). His time of 10 hours 47 minutes was 17 minutes faster than three years earlier when he was 80.

At age 83, Bob’s body is in a state many people in their twenties would envy. He says: “I’m in the best shape of my life!”

Can anyone get super fit?
Yes, you can build up your fitness and strength at any age. You might not become a star athlete, but good fitness is achievable for everyone. The key is to start with a routine that’s ‘too easy’. Being fit makes you feel great. It also makes you feel younger.

Bob Hayes says:

"When I'm out there in a race I never think how old I am, I think I'm the same age as the people running around me, so if they're 25 I think I'm 25 and if they're 55 I think I'm 55 so it keeps you young."

How to build up your fitness

Here are four tips on how to develop an exercise routine:
  • Tip #1: Do what you enjoy
    If exercise isn’t pleasurable, it turns into a grind. If you enjoy dancing, try something like Zumba classes. If you enjoy a challenge, try martial arts. Or try tennis, rowing, running, hiking, swimming or one of the many other forms of physical exercise.

  • Tip #2 Use ‘micro exercise’
    Maybe your life is very busy and adding a fitness routine seems just too much. In that case, try ‘micro exercises’. These are exercises you can do at odd moments. Let me give you a few examples:
    • While you wait for dinner to cook: do some incline pushups on the kitchen counter (place your feet 2 feet away from the edge, place your hands shoulder-width on the counter, keep a straight back and do push-ups. If it’s too hard, step closer. If it’s too easy, step back.

    • While you wait at the check-out in a store: strengthen your ankles and legs by rocking up onto your toes and down again.

    • While you sit at your desk: lift your feet off the ground and hold them there for 10 seconds or longer. This will strengthen your abs.

    • While you take a break at the office: do some squats (stand close to your chair, arch your back, and do squats, just touching your backside to the chair each time.

    • While you’re watching TV, do some stretches.
    These simple exercises don’t take up extra time. It’s a simple way to utilize stray moments for fitness.

  • Tip #3: Use functional exercise
    One of the secrets of getting fit is to change ordinary tasks into exercise routines. Here are some examples:
    • Stop using your car for short errands. Instead, walk, run, or cycle.
    • Play with your kids.
    • Hang out the washing with squats. Leave the basket with washing on the ground and squat down each time you pick up a piece of clothing to peg it to the line. (Make sure your back is straight or hollowed when you do this.)
    • Use a staircase instead of the elevator. Get out one or two floors below the floor you need to go to and walk the rest.
    • Run up escalators. Make a habit of running up each time you’re on an escalator (if there’s enough room).

  • Tip #4: Start running. Here’s how:
    I started running about four months ago after some previous attempts that came to nothing. This time I was determined to establish a habit of running in order to see how my body would cope with it. Now I love it and have started going on trail runs in the mountains.

    This is what helped me to start running:
    • Run slowly. It's important is that your body gets used to the action of running.
    • Run uphill. It’s a great way to strengthen your cardio-vascular fitness. And it’s easy on the joints because the ground rises up to meet you.
    • Alternate walking and running. If you are unfit but would like to take up running, start with very short runs. Maybe run just for 30 seconds, and then walk for 5 minutes or so. Repeat the pattern. As you get more confident, run for a little longer until you are able to run at a stretch without walking.
Unfit? Use easy everyday exercises
No matter how unfit you are, you can improve your fitness. A participant of the Goodlife ZEN Fitness Challenge 2011 wrote:

"I’m in horrible shape – I have actually gotten winded walking around my office. How to get your body back into shape if you are really unfit."

Whatever condition you are in, you can improve your fitness. If you are way out of shape, you need to take your journey of fitness very slowly. At the same time, it’s important to go to your edge regularly - wherever that may be. The edge of your fitness shows up when you get out of breath and you can feel your heart beating strongly.

There are some simple exercises you can do in order to start on your journey of fitness:
  • Set a chair back about a foot from a table or desk. Now lean on the top and stand up. Repeat this until you are out of breath.

  • Use one-gallon or half-gallon bottles with a handle (2 to 5 litres) as improvised weights. Sit on a chair with a weight in each hand, arms hanging down. Lift the weights chest-high and touch them together. Then bring them apart and return your arms to a hanging position. Repeat.

  • If you are very overweight or have joint problems, try swimming or aquarobics. This will improve your cardio-vascular fitness without stressing your joints.

  • Start walking. Even a short 5-minute walk will get your heart-rate up and speed up your metabolism.
Exercise with others
The best way to establish a long-term habit of exercise is to join others. It’s fun, and it makes you more accountable. Find others who practice the exercise you enjoy. Join a yoga class, train in martial arts, try Yumba, walk or run with friends - there are many ways to exercise with others.

You can also join the Great Fitness Challenge on Goodlife ZEN (it’s free). We’ve set up a forum for the Challenge and participants can check in each day and report how they’re doing. It’s inspiring to read how other people are going. Some of the participants (like Leo Babauta) are very experienced and offer great tips for exercising. It’s great to have a community with which to connect.

Make today the start of your journey to fitness.

Written on 1/26/2011 by Mary Jaksch. Enjoy more posts by Mary at Goodlife ZEN, and rev up your body in the Great Fitness Challenge. Or, team up with Mary Jaksch and Leo Babauta in the A-List Blogger Club, the acclaimed training program for bloggers.Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon

Selasa, 25 Januari 2011

0 Chrome's New Sad Tab Page

The latest Chromium builds include a new sad tab page that replaces the famous "aw, snap!" message with "he's dead, Jim!". The message continues: "Something caused this page to be killed , either because the operating system ran out of memory, or for some other reason. To continue, press Reload or go to another page." To see the page, just type about:kill in the address bar after opening a new tab.

"He's dead, Jim!" is a catchphrase used by Leonard H. McCoy, a character from Star Trek. "The line has entered popular culture as a general metaphor, with uses as diverse as descriptions of an unresponsive electronic circuit, an example of how to add an audio file to function as an alert sound in a computer system, and an illustrative quote regarding how to know if one's opponent has been destroyed in an action hero game."

Here's the old sad tab page:

{ Thanks, Chen. }
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