Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Ad Challenger to Google and Yahoo?

Yesterday's New York Times ran an interesting story about a new online advertising firm that has been winning some customers from Google AdSense. The company, Quigo Technologies, runs contextual texts ads (those ubiquitous short "Ads by Google" that appear around articles and blog entries) but unlike Google, provides a much more transparent experience for advertisers.

The Times article notes that some big advertisers such as ESPN.com and FoxNews.com have moved to Quigo because the service gives them more control over where their ads run. Yahoo and Google's model, on the other hand, gives advertisers little say on what sites they would like their ads run on, and according to the article, doesn't even give advertisers a list of the sites where their ads do run.

"Quigo, by contrast, gives advertisers not only the list of specific sites where their ads have appeared but also the opportunity to buy only on specific Web sites or particular pages on those sites," says the Times. "It also allows media company sites like ESPN.com and FoxNews.com a chance to manage their own relationships with advertisers."

Google downplays the influence of Quigo, as you'd expect. But the article quotes a Google spokesperson as saying that in the coming months their advertiser reports will begin listing the sites where each ad runs.

Should be interesting to see how this all shakes out. I've seen a number of odd and inappropriate ad placements on Web sites, and I think the options Quigo brings to the table can only help advertisers, bloggers, and readers.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dress-Up Games for the Instant-Messaging Age

Back in the early days of the Web, avatars consisted of simple smiley faces. Today, avatars have become sophisticated, animated images that can be customized to suit the user's personality.

With so many girls online these days, it was inevitable that their love of dolls and dress-up games would find its ultimate expression in designing stylish avatars and cartoon dolls (dollz). What I didn't know was that there was a whole community of girls devoted to dollz and avatars.

A Web site called The Doll Palace lets users choose from a huge number of dress up games, so girls can create their own personalized avatars to use in chat programs, forums, or even competitions. These games for girls go far beyond the old dress-up games of changing a doll's dress or hair style.

The Doll Palace offers a seemingly endless variety of dollmaker tools and options for playing fashion games. You can start with a certain style or look, including fantasy and fairy dolls, celebrity dolls, dolls with holiday themes, hippies, and dolls in Goth and Emo themes. With dolls in the "Guys" category, girls can play tomboy and dress up like a soldier, weightlifter, or even Superman.

Then users can choose from a mind-boggling variety of body styles, hair colors and styles, faces, tops, pants and skirts, and other clothing--and wings. And that's not even mentioning the shoes, bags, and other accessories to choose from. Add in backgrounds, furniture, and other items, and you've got a complete scene.

For Academy Awards season, for example, users can choose the right background for their dollz--at the podium for an acceptance speech, out on the red carpet (with or without cheering crowds in the background), standing next to the huge Oscar statue, etc.

The Doll Palace also has forums and chat rooms where users can discuss dolls and the challenges in creating them and ideas for crafting specific designs. All in all, this site offers an amazing variety of options for girls who want to play dress-up games.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chimps With Spears? Just Don't Let Them Have PCs

Are chimps getting ready to take over the world? A report in the March 6 issue of Current Biology says that researchers in Senegal saw wild chimps biting the tips of sticks, then poking them into the holes of trees to jab small primates called "bush babies" and pull them out.

Chimps are pretty close to humans, genetically. They've already been taught a number of not-so-stupid human tricks, like recognizing colors and patterns, pointing to sequences of pictures to "talk," etc. Now they're figuring out spears on their own. What's next--knives? pistols? assault rifles? rocket-propelled grenades?

Here's a scarier scenario: Chimps using computers. There's always been that tired old saying from Philosophy 101 class, if you have an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of typewriters (yeah, it's an old saying), eventually one of them will type up a Shakespeare play. Well, maybe the animal is really a chimp, you only need one of 'em, and the time is now.

Chimps are smarter than monkeys, and they know better than to write something with as little earning potential as a play; they've probably heard about how many unemployed playwrights there are. And no self-respecting 21st-century chimp would be caught dead using a typewriter.

No, what's scary is these hairy fellows finding PCs and the Internet. Before long they'll be mimicking human behavior and becoming bloggers, spammers, chat junkies, and online shoppers. In the digital age, the language problem is no big impediment to using the 'Net, because it's not like anyone online uses the King's English. How hard can it be for the average chimp to pound out stuff like LOL, BCNU, ROFLMAO, and I <3 Britney?

Like that famous New Yorker cartoon says, on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. Or a chimp. Once our simian cousins start spamming and blogging and buying stuff online, the human race is going straight down the tubes. It won't be long before we're all dressed in loincloths and chains, and conversing with primates named Cornelius and Zira.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Find Quality Steiner Binoculars for Every Purpose

Nothing brings you closer to the action than a good pair of binoculars. And binoculars from Steiner are more than just good. These fine German optics have been known for quality and precision for more than 50 years and have models that are great for outdoor, marine, military, and birdwatching purposes.

And if you're going to buy top-quality Steiner binoculars, you'll want to buy them from an expert optics dealer. Sure, you can find binoculars at all kinds of stores, but how much is the sales person or Web site really going to know about them? Eagle Optics has the great low prices you want, but features the selection and exceptional customer service you'd expect from a knowledgeable optics store. What's more, Eagle Optics gives you free financing on orders over $200.

Steiner offers a number of specialized model lines, and you'll find them at Eagle. For example, there's the Merlin line for the birder, naturalist, or hunter. The Night Hunter models with extra-bright images for long-range wildlife viewing. And the Peregrine line provides a great combination of portability, color reproduction, and light-gathering ability.

No matter what size or magnification you're looking for, Steiner and Eagle have the right pair of binoculars for you needs.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Take a Nap--It's Good for Your Heart!

Now this is the kind of health advice I can really get into following!

From an Associated Press news article last week:
"A six-year study of nearly 24,000 Greek adults found those who regularly took midday naps lowered their risk of dying from heart disease by more than a third." The effect was most pronounced in adults who worked, and was less pronounced in persons who were not employed. It's thought that napping helps the people process thoughts and reduces stress from the working day.

"Afternoon siesta in a healthy individual may act as a stress-reducing habit, and there is considerable evidence that stress has both short- and-long-term adverse effects on the incidence and mortality from CHD (coronary heart disease)," said one of the doctors involved in the research.

I've always liked taking naps during the day, how about you? Will you nap more as a result of these findings?

Well, I'm off for a healthy nap... I can just feel my heart getting healthier as a doze off to sleep ... zzzzzzzz....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Get the Info and Products You Need with a New Web Reference

Ever wish you could find out about products and services you need, and locate leading suppliers at the same time? Now you can, because that's the idea behind Encyclocentral. You can look up all kinds of topics--from carpet and rug dealers to dating sites to government military surplus auctions--and find links to vendors that supply just what you're looking for.

Let's say you think you might need a malpractice attorney, but want to find out more information. Just look it up in Encyclocentral and you'll find out about what malpractice is, the different types, and even current legislation that might affect it. And you'll find links to a number of malpractice attorneys to talk to.

Need to find information on a product or service and then make a purchase? Give Encyclocentral a try next time.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Britney Spears Channels Sinead O'Connor with New "Bald is Beautiful" Look

Stumbling out of clubs, cavorting around sans-panties, dropping her kids on the head--you'd think Britney Spears had done enough bizarre things lately to last a lifetime, or at least the rest of this decade. But no, not for the girl who is, ironically, best known for songs called "Crazy" and "Oops! I did it again."

Yesterday the 25-year-old pop tart was seen on TV video sporting a shaved head while getting a new tattoo at an L.A. tattoo parlor on Friday. It was reportedly that she had checked into a rehab facility, but then checked out the same day.

I've heard of rapid detox, but didn't know that substance abuse could be cured with drive-thru rehab. What an idea... sorting out your demons as quickly and easily as picking up a Value Meal at the McDonald's pick-up window! Maybe she's on the cutting edge of new medical advances, who knows.

Until recently, the lady had her defenders, people who said that she was just going through a phase after her divorce. But now there can be no doubt: Britney "Call Me Sinead" Spears has officially gone off the deep end.

Why did Britney shave her head? Is she trying to emulate the former look of singer Sinead O'Connor? Or is she trying to snag the look of some well-known actresses in their bald roles, like Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3, or Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta?

Britneys' manager couldn't be reached for comment. That poor fellow may well have checked into rehab, too, following this latest instance of his client's misbehavior.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Good Lighting Makes Any Room Look Better and More Elegant

Tell someone that you're looking to improve your home, and they'll ask you about a new paint job, new furniture, refinishing the floors, or new decor. But one of the best and most flexible ways to create a new look is through the creative use of home lighting fixtures.

Premier Lighting has lighting products to fit all styles and all areas of the home. Think of the different moods and environments you can create with track lighting ... wall sconces ... and more effective bathroom lighting.

Lighting can really make or break a room or outdoor location, so it's a smart idea to check out the best options for a space.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just Because Your Urinal's Talking to You Doesn't Mean You're Drunk

New Mexico has a new partner in cracking down on drunken driving-- talking urinal cakes. The pink enclosures display an anti-drunk-driving message, "You drink, you drive, you lose." And to make sure the point gets across, the urinal cakes speak the message, too. The talking urinal cakes are said to cost $21 each and the batteries supposedly last for three months. The talking urinal cakes have been installed in some bars in Albuquerque this week; they will be distributed to bars in other cities later on.

I've heard that New Mexico has perhaps the biggest drunk driving problem of any state in the U.S., so maybe this is a good idea. Supposedly talking urinals were used in New York City a couple of years back, but I didn't see any. And Country Music Television used talking urinal cakes as a promotional technique a few years ago.

I haven't run into any talking urinals in person. However, I did have the experience of Eddie Murphy speaking to me right as I was pulling down my zipper in the men's room of a NYC bar last week. (There was a talking sign for his new movie "Norbit" above a urinal, and after I walked past it it started it's spiel.)

A few thoughts come to mind regarding the anti-DWI talking urinal cakes:
* The campaign might indeed cut down on drunk driving, but not in the way you'd think If I was three sheets to the wind and heard my urinal talking back to me, I might well have a heart attack right then and there.
* Who'd want a job servicing these things and installing new batteries? It's great they last three months, but eventually someone's gotta go in there and put in a fresh battery.
* Why are these deodorizers called urinal "cakes" anyway? Makes it sound like something you'd find in a demented bakery.

I hope nobody bakes me a urinal cake for my birthday.

SI Swimsuit Models Arrive at the Newsstand, and On Your Phone

Valentine's Day is almost here, and this year Sports Illustrated is giving a gift to men everywhere for the occasion. That's because Feb. 14 is the day the latest edition of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue hits the stands.

Believe it or not, this is the 43rd edition of the famous swimsuit issue, and of course over the years it's become more than just an issue of a magazine. It's always been a controversial and much talked-about phenomenon.

For those who love the gorgeously photographed shots of gorgeous women in exotic locales, it means getting down to the store before all the copies sell out. For some women, the swimsuit issue is an offensive display of scantily dressed ladies in a sports magazine. And to some loyal SI readers, it's an unwelcome intrusion into the sports coverage of their favorite publication. Every year Sports Illustrated can count on getting some subscription cancellations from irate readers angry about the inclusion of swimsuit photos among their sporting content.

Whatever your stand, there's one thing everyone can agree on: the swimsuit issue has become a yearly cultural phenomenon that's way more than just a magazine. Naturally, the swimsuits and styles have changed a lot over the years, and so has the swimsuit issue. Years ago SI started bringing the swimsuit issue phenomenon to calendars, videos, TV programs, and of course the Internet. This year there's one more place you can find the lovely swimsuit models: on your cell phone.

That's right, now you can see your favorite SI models whenever you want by downloading cell phone wallpapers from SI Mobile. These are straight from the magazine's photo shoots and cost only $1.99 each. And they're available from all major wireless carriers.

The SI Mobile site features more than 50 supermodels from Heidi Klum to Maria Sharapova, Marisa Miller, Molly Sims, and 2005 SI cover girl Carolyn Murphy. And it includes wallpapers from classic SI cover girls from past years, including multiple-year cover models Elle Macpherson and Kathy Ireland.

What's more, SI Mobile users can go beyond just photos of the models. You can download video clips from the photo sessions, ringtones with video, animated screensavers, and more.

If you're used to just buying the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, you're missing out on a lot of the fun! Check out the new swimsuit issue goodies from SI Mobile.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mild Winter?! Yeah, right...

It seems like just a few weeks ago when folks in the Northeast were complaining about the warm weather and wondering if we were going to get a real winter.

In fact, it was just a few weeks ago, back in late December, when it was about 50 degrees on Christmas day in New York City. The weather was unseasonably warm, and the City had experienced its first snowless December in 100 years.

I doubt that many New Yorkers are complaining about those warm days now, when the City has been in the throes of a cold snap that has left the wind chills hovering in the single digits for much of the last two weeks. Snow is predicted for late Tuesday/early Wednesday--three to six inches worth--and NYC should consider itself lucky that that's all it's getting.

Upstate New York has gotten bombarded with snowfall that's remarkably heavy even for those wintry northern climes. Some areas have been hit with eight to 10 feet of snow, which makes Denver's December/January allocation of the white stuff look pretty tame.

The warm weather in December was a fluke; winter has not gone away. Of course, next week it could be back in the 50s again. It's said that the best way to deal with changeable weather is to dress in layers. So look for me on the streets of the city; I'll be the one with the duffle bag full of 10 layers of clothes, trying to dress appropriately for whatever curveball this El Nino-influenced can throw at me.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A New Home on the Web Where Jewish Singles Can Mingle

Dating has come a long way since those pre-Internet days when people posted short classified ads full of cryptic abbreviations like "SWF" and "DJM." The Web makes it easy to offer in-depth details, photos, and much more, and the new site Jsingles.com makes it simple for Jewish singles to browse, mingle, and connect.

It has the professional-looking design and features of the major online dating sites, but caters specifically to Jewish singles of all ages. It includes Jewish Personals featuring detailed bios, photos, and the ability to "send a message" or "send a flirt." But what makes the site even more useful is its collection of articles.

Being Jewish means very different things to different people, and in some of these articles Jsingles helps users navigate the tricky aspects of dating in this environment. Some people are religiously observant Jews; to others being Jewish is strictly a cultural and ethnic identity. For example, there are articles on mixing Jewish religion and dating ... the difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews ... the Jewish holidays and what they mean ... picking the right Jewish dating service ... and more.

The site also contains tips on finding local Jewish singles events, the pros and cons of fee vs. paid Jewish personals Web sites, and insights on how women can find the right single Jewish man.

Finding Mr. or Ms. Right will never be easy, but Jsingles.com makes it possible to increase your chances of success!

"Collapse": Is Our Society Heading for Extinction?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending an intriguing talk by professor Jared Diamond, the author of the bestselling books "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (which won the Pulitzer Prize) and, more recently, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." The focus of the talk was the latter book, and he offered some great insights on what we can learn from the failures of a variety of civilizations around the world and throughout history.

These civilizations, like ours, were great and successful societies which nevertheless ended up with vacant, abandoned cities. While he suggests that our society is indeed in a dire situation due to environmental degradation and global warming, he feels it's not too late to turn things around. After the talk he took questions from audience members, and in particular encouraged attendees under the age of 30 to come up and ask questions. He said that this was because it is these young people who will be living in our society decades down the road, and thus have the most to gain--or lose--from what changes occur or don't occur to turn things around.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How to Graduate from Endless Student Loans

They say education is a gift that stays with you a lifetime. For too many students, it seems like their student loans may last just as long! Starting one's career with a mountain of debt is not a good way to begin that important phase in life.

The good news is that grads can learn about Student Loan Consolidation and get out from under that huge burden. I've had friends who had good-paying jobs, but they had to work a second job just to keep on top of all their bills, and their student loan was a big part of that.

Many grads could make their lives a lot easier by learning more about Student Loan Debt Consolidation. It won't make the debt go away, but it will make it a lot easier to manage.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"Robochick" Astronaut in Diapers Nabbed in Murder Bust!

Ground Control to Major Tom: One of our astronauts is insane! NASA does all kinds of physiological tests on astronauts... but maybe they should concentrate on doing more of a "check-up from the neck up"?

Lisa "Robochick" Nowak, a mission specialist who was working with the Space Shuttle's robotic arm, was arrested Tuesday and charged with attempted murder for driving 900 miles to allegedly confront and murder her romantic rival. Nowak is 43, married, and has three kids, but apparently was in love with fellow spaceman William "Billy-O" Oefelein.

She drove from Houston to Orlando, where the other woman lives, and had in her possession a BB gun, a steel mallet, a knife, rubber tubing, and pepper spray. And she was wearing a trenchcoat and wig, and a diaper to avoid those time-consuming potty breaks on the drive down. Well, those are all the things that I take with me on a trip to Orlando!

She apparently confronted the woman she thought was her rival--Colleen Shipman, who she believed was romantically involved with Billy-O. The Robochick was said to have confronted Shipman (who doesn't seem to have a catchy nickname) at her car at the Orlando airport, and sprayed something at her. It may have been the pepper spray, or it could have been robopiss from her diaper.

Robochick was let out of jail on bail and ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device. No word on whether she had to wear a diaper or whether she had potty privileges at home.

Danger, Will Robinson! Please get Ms. Robochick the help she needs, so she can return to work... at a nice desk job on the ground, of course.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Love Means Never Sending Another Boring Valentine's Day Card

If you care enough to send a birthday, Valentine's, or other card to a friend or loved one, why would you send them some bland, generic greeting?

I always send cards that are humorous or off-color (umm, unless it's condolences on someone's death, that is). They're fun, friendly, and definitely are going to be remembered long after those cards with sunsets and sappy poetry have been put out for recycling.

Egreetings.com has a large selection of free, funny Valentine's Day eCards that you can send. While many people opt for the sappy, silly, sugary cards for their significant others, I look at it this way: Do I really want to be involved with someone who doesn't have a sense of humor?! Check out their new "Cupid's Pickup Lines" and other Valentine cards and see if you don't agree.

But hey, to each his own. Even if you opt for sending a sappy card to your snug-'ems cookie-puss, Egreetings.com has plenty of other funny and risque eCards for birthdays, anniversaries, and just about any other occasion you can think of.

You can personalize any card with your own message and pictures. And if you're feeling commitment-phobic around Valentine's Day, you'll be glad to know that can get a free 30-day trial membership to send unlimited eCards. After that a yearly subscription is only $13.99. If only all relationships were that simple...

If you're an Egreetings member you can schedule eCards to arrive on a specific date, so you'll always get cards out on time. Sending eCards can save time and money too, as opposed to buying and mailing paper greeting cards. Give it a try!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Rock 'n' Rollers, Getting Older

Yes, the headline refers to David Bowie's old song, Changes:
"Hey, look out you rock 'n' rollers... Pretty soon now you're gonna be getting older."

I was reminded of this by last month's landmark for Mr. Bowie himself: Yes, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, has turned 60. He gave up the flaming red spiked hair and the heavy make-up long ago, but he continues to make innovative and interesting music. Along with acting and producing music.

While Bowie's 60th got a fair amount of ink in the press (and electrons on the Internet?), Patti Smith reached the same milestone with much less fanfare. And like Bowie, she's been through many changes and is still putting out music that matters.

Sadly, a couple of my favorite artists who are no longer living also had birthdays recently. Warren Zevon, the Excitable Boy himself, died several years ago. And the birthday of the great gospel and pop singer/songwriter Sam Cooke also occurred in January. Forutnately his music lives on, and a couple of recent books about him give great insight about the man, his music, his role in directing his career, and the still-mysterious circumtances surrounding his death.

Create Your Own Podcast with Free Hosting

Podcasting is one of the greatest technology innovations in recent years, in my opinion. Anyone from major news organizations to garage rock bands to ordinary people in their own bedrooms can create audio and video programs, and have them downloaded by listeners all over the world. I've become hooked: I now subscribe to over 25 podcasts.

One of the biggest costs in creating a podcast is hosting--that is, paying a provider to supply the storage space and downloading capability for your podcasts. That cost just went down to zero with a new Free Podcast Hosting offer. Mypodcast.com is now offering free membership for podcasters including free podcast hosting, unlimited storage, and unlimited bandwidth.

If you're thinking of starting a podcast, you'll definitely want check out this offer. With free hosting, you can spend your money on other things--like those cool new microphones and recorders!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Viacom: Hey YouTube, Take Down Those 100,000 Videos of Ours You're Using!

The folks at YouTube may be quite busy if Viacom Inc. is serious about ordering the video-sharing site to remove all Viacom content. Viacom estimates that approximately 100,000 clips from its programs are on YouTube, and the most-viewed clips are snippets from Jon Stewart's hip and happening Comedy Central program "The Daily Show". YouTube contains video content of all kinds that his uploaded by its users, from homemade band demos to TV show exerpts and commercials, and mash-ups of songs accompanying film clips.

Media watchers have speculated that Viacom's order is just a negotiating tactic to help further a deal with YouTube regarding payment for video content. Viacom wants to be paid for including the media giant's content on YouTube. The Wall Street Journal reports that while Viacom had previously allowed short clips to be included on YouTube. But it had asked YouTube to take down full episodes of TV shows that appeared on the video site.

Viacom and YouTube had been trying for months to reach a distribution agreement but talks had failed. The Journal reported that "Viacom executives said privately they had determined that the marketing boost they once believed YouTube provided them has proved to be a mirage."

YouTube's CEO refuted this, however, noting in an interview with the Journal that other media companies such as NBS and CBS had reached partnership agreements with YouTube.

"Viacom claims that the roughly 100,000 clips it ordered removed accounted for 1.2 billion video streams," the Journal said. "Viacom also has provided YouTube with a list of all of its programs and ordered the Web concern to keep Viacom content off the site in the future."

When Google bought YouTube last year a big question mark was what the popular site would do about its huge catalog of work that violated copyright laws in some form or another.

This may be a battle between old media and new media, or just a negotiating ploy. We'll all have to see what the next move is, and that will probably come from somebody's legal team.