Category Archives: Living Life

Merry Christmas –Joyeux Noel (2014)

Dear readers and subscribers,

christmas-message

The Christmas season is now upon us and perhaps (just maybe), we can put aside the worries of the moment and reflect upon the joy and the beauty, the giving and the sharing, that Christmas brings to so many of us.

Christmas remains wonderfully inescapable. Its traditions and rituals, established in simpler times, continue to remind us – that those we hold close, are the greatest gifts of all. The Grinch was on to something when he offered – “Maybe, Christmas doesn’t come from a store.”

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The happiness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Have a wonderful Christmas, however you define it.

Bill

Tech Thoughts is winding down for the Christmas break – so, you will find us fairly quiet the next several weeks. Regular posting will begin again on Thursday, January 5, 2015.

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Filed under Living Life, Personal Perspective

Happy New Year 2013

Dear readers and subscribers,

As 2012 comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year. May 2013 fulfill all its promise, and may all your expectations be met.

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“Every man should be born again on the first day of January.  Start with a fresh page.  Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were, and are past”.

~    Henry Ward Beecher

The year ahead could be the perfect time to ramp up your happiness quotient.

:)

Count your blessings and express gratitude for what you have.

Cultivate optimism.

Practice acts of kindness.

Avoid social comparison.

Nurture relationships.

Commit to your goals.

Learn to forgive.

Take care of your body – get active.

Step off on the right foot with a  little mood music – a particularly good rendition of Abba’s Happy New Year (playable in HD 1080p) on YouTube.

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Happy New Year 2012

Dear readers and subscribers,

As 2011 comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you, and your family, a happy and healthy New Year. May 2012 fulfill all its promise, and may all your expectations be exceeded.

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The year ahead could be the perfect time to ramp up your happiness quotient.

🙂

Count your blessings and express gratitude for what you have.

Cultivate optimism.

Practice acts of kindness.

Avoid social comparison.

Nurture relationships.

Commit to your goals.

Learn to forgive.

Take care of your body – get active.

“Every man should be born again on the first day of January.  Start with a fresh page.  Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were, and are past”.

~    Henry Ward Beecher

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Filed under Living Life, Personal Perspective

Homework Help – 12 Web Sites That Lend A Hand

Need Homework Help? – Turn To These Terrific Web Sites.

imageParents, it seems, are less equipped than ever to jump in and help out with homework assignments. Statistics from the Canadian Council on Learning seem to indicate – two out of three parents feel incapable of helping their children with homework, or after school assignments.

As a parent what do you do; who do you turn to? As a student, since it’s unlikely you can turn to a parent; what do you do?

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project study, you both turn to the Internet. The study’s research revealed that the Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the learning environment for teenagers, and is used as an essential study aid outside the classroom.

Students and parents report that the Internet is vital to completing school projects, and has effectively replaced the library for a large number of online students. As many as 71% of students surveyed, report using the Internet as their primary source for researching, and completing major projects.

If you’re a student or, the parent of a student, consider bookmarking the following web sites which will provide comprehensive and reliable educational information that can be used to research school projects, and homework assignments.

Discovery Education

Discovery Education offers free student resources that bring learning to life both inside and outside the classroom. We invite you to take a look at our interactive games, videos, contests, virtual labs and activities designed to help you dive deeper into a topic —and have fun too!

Refdesk 

Since 1995, Refdesk.com, has served as a one-click springboard to many of the Web’s top dictionaries, encyclopedias, calculators, atlases, news headlines, and search engines. The site also includes a handy “homework helper” section that provides help in all subjects for students in every grade.

ipl2 (Internet Public Library)

ipl2 is a public service organization and a learning/teaching environment. To date, thousands of students and volunteer library and information science professionals have been involved in answering reference questions for our Ask an ipl2 Librarian service, and in designing, building, creating and maintaining the ipl2’s collections.

HowStuffWorks

Have you ever wanted to know why an earthquake occurs? How CD burners work? What the sun is made of? These questions and a large number of others related to computers/electronics, automobiles, science, entertainment, and people, are all answered at this award-winning Web site. Simply type a query into the search window or peruse the topics by category. Extras include free newsletters, surveys, and printable versions of all answers.

Novelguide.com

The Web’s answer to those black- and yellow-striped Cliff Notes is Novelguide, a reliable and free source for literary analysis of classic and contemporary books. The site offers character profiles, metaphor and theme analysis, and author biographies.

CliffsNotes

Use these free CliffsNotes literature notes to help with your homework and tests. Browse the list to find the study guide you need.

Math.com

This site provides help in mathematics-related subjects, including basic grade-school math, calculus, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. Practice exercises are automatically graded, and this free site also features a glossary, calculators, homework tips, math games, and lesson plans for teachers.

Shmoop (Official Honoree of Webby Awards – 2010) is a new learning and teaching resource, lovingly made by Silicon Valley professionals and academics from Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard and other top universities. It is an online study guide for books, literature, essays, poems, US history, and quotes.

Wolfram Mathworld

With more than 12,600 entries this is one of the most extensive mathematics resources on the Internet.

Free Translation

Perfect for language studies, this handy Web site automatically converts text from one language to another. Just type and paste up to 1,800 words into the search window and then select the desired language.

No Fear Shakespeare

No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.

Science Made Simple

Science classes aren’t as easy for some to grasp as for others. At Science Made Simple, students of all ages can get detailed answers to many of science’s questions, read current news articles related to science, get ideas for school projects, and take advantage of unit conversion tables.

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Filed under Education, Homework Help Sites, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Online Learning, Parenting Help, Recommended Web Sites, Student Help, Timesaving Tips

Love And Freedom – The Porcelain Unicorn

I don’t often refer to non-technical videos, but occasionally there is one I wish to share……this is one of them. Sad, sweet, uplifting – film-making and story-telling at its best.

From the Net:

This summer, Philips and director/producer Ridley Scott launched a global filmmaking competition dubbed “Tell It Your Way” following its Cannes Lions award-winning short-film project “Parallel Lines.” The entrants were given freedom of expression and could take up any theme they wanted.

There were two strict rules – The dialogue could be precisely six lines (as it was in the ‘Parallel Lines’ films), and entries could not exceed three minutes.

Here’s the prize-winning entry in Philips’ “Tell It Your Way” competition. Easy to see how it impressed and touched the judges.

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To play video – click on the graphic.

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Filed under Living Life, Opinion, Point of View, Video

Take A Scheduled Break From Computing – Free Workrave Reminds You When It’s Time

Workrave logo.pngThere’s an old joke that goes something like this – If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself. I’m sure there are a lot of guys my age who can relate. All those “little” injuries I suffered back in the day – the busted shoulder, the dislocated knee, the groin injury, the slipped disc ….., bother me every day.

Until a year ago or so, I exacerbated all those old injuries by bad computing habits – the type of habits that virtually all computer users have, including:

Slouching, rather than sitting upright (This used to be my favorite position).

Barely moving (except for hands and eyes).

Incorrect screen height and positioning.

Poor keyboard placement.

NOT taking breaks away from the keyboard. (I was totally guilty of this one).

In July of last year, I discovered a neat little freebie application – Workrave – an application that’s designed to prevent computer users from developing, or aggravating, occupational diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries (my problem), or myopia.

Since I installed this application, I’ve used it religiously to force myself to take micro-pauses, and longer rest breaks. The most important break being – walking away from the computer at regular intervals.

I have to admit, that while I haven’t had to deal with the back problem that was the catalyst for me in installing this application – I still creak a little, early in the morning.   Smile

One of the more impressive features of this application is a set of onscreen exercises that you can use to help you heal injuries, or as in my case, to help me get all the kinks out of my muscles.

Miss Workrave, illustrating  just two of the exercises.She’ll expect you to join in.

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Application setup goes relatively smoothly since the user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple.

You can enable/disable each timer, modify the time between breaks, and set the break durations from within the Preference menu.

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While taking this screen capture, as you can see, I was prompted to take a micro- break as per my schedule.

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The application can keep track of your computer activity and breaks.

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Bonus: By using Workrave’s built-in networking feature, you give everyone on the network an opportunity to relax, or exercise on a scheduled basis. A neat feature, I thought.

Available modes:

Normal – “Normal” mode is for normal usage. It will prompt you to break and, if so configured, force you to take the break.

Quiet – “Quiet” mode is pretty much like normal mode, in that it will still register your activity, and notice that you need to take a break, but it will not actually prompt you to take one, nor block you from using the computer. This is typically used when you want to show something on your computer to someone else. You are using the computer doing the explaining and the showing, but you do not want to be interrupted by breaks.

Suspended – In “Suspended” mode, Workrave no longer records your activity. This is typically used when someone else is using your computer for a brief time. In these cases, you may not want to quit Workrave, and you also don’t want the activity recorded, because it isn’t yours, and hence you will not need to take any “overdue” breaks. When someone else is using the computer for a longer time, it is best to quit Workrave altogether.

If you want to prevent injury, or other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer, or you need a reminder to take a break for any reason, Workrave could be just the right tool to help you do this.

I will say, it took some time to get the idea into my head that I had to become more responsive to the aches and pains, and other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer. I finally accepted the idea that a reminder program might be part of the solution and, as it turned out, Workrave was the right tool.

System requirements: Windows or GNU/Linux.

Download at: Workrave

Additional resources:

Computer terminal work and the benefits of microbreaks

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Living Life, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Quackwatch And The Skeptics Society – Web Sites For Rationalists

imageI’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest novel – The Lost Symbol. If you don’t recognize Brown, you’ll know who I mean when I tell you that’s he’s the author of The Da Vinci Code – a novel which was roundly criticized for its historical and scientific inaccuracies. Despite the criticism, the novel went on to become a best seller (80 Million copies sold), and a film which has racked up almost a Billon Dollars in ticket sales.

This latest novel is written in the same (Da Vinci Code) style – relying on social-science fiction to advance the plot. And, as in his earlier novels, Brown’s continued use of symbolic pseudo science – in this case, Noetic Science, (the theory that the Brain holds untapped extraordinary power), will be lapped up by those who bought into the mystical nonsense in The Da Vinci Code; Jesus had a wife, a family, and didn’t actually die by crucifixion.

I recall reading several years ago that “Roughly one out of six Canadians — and one out of eight Americans – believe that Jesus faked his death on the cross, got married, and had a family”. Very weird!

I have to admit – I had a minor struggle trying to comprehend why otherwise intelligent people are so ready to take Brown’s fictional representations as factual, and literally accurate. But only a minor struggle – given the large numbers of Internet users who are so easily convinced to act against their own best interests, by cyber criminals, I’m more than aware that peoples’ behavior is often stranger than fiction.

After finishing reading the novel, curiosity got the better of me, and I spent some time researching Noetic Science in an attempt to learn the mysteries involved in turning Lead into Gold.  Smile

In that journey, I discovered a couple of web sites, Quackwatch, and The Skeptics Society, that are worth considering as additions to your Bookmarks.

Quackwatch – From the site:

Quackwatch has grown considerably. To help visitors with special areas of interest, we maintain 22 additional sites for autism, chiropractic, dentistry, multilevel marketing, and many other hot topics. We are also closely affiliated with the National Council Against Health Fraud, which cosponsors our free weekly newsletter, and with Bioethics Watch, which highlights issues of questionable research on humans.

Our Internet Health Pilot site provides links to hundreds of reliable health sites. Our Casewatch site contains a large library of legal cases, licensing board actions, government sanctions, and regulatory actions against questionable medical products. These sites can be accessed through the “Visit Our Affiliated Sites” drop-down menu above. Their contents can be searched selectively with our WebGlimpse multi-site search engine or all at once through our Google search page.

The Skeptics Society – From the site:

The Skeptics Society is a scientific and educational organization of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians, professors and teachers, and anyone curious about controversial ideas, extraordinary claims, revolutionary ideas, and the promotion of science. Our mission is to serve as an educational tool for those seeking clarification and viewpoints on those controversial ideas and claims.

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Filed under Communication, Education, Living Life, Opinion, Personal Perspective, Recommended Web Sites