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August 2009

My New York Minutes

NYC Straight UpA SERIES OF NEW York minutes defines the last day of August 2009 for me. I've been fortunate to enjoy more than 10 hours wandering NYC neighbourhoods and I return to Ireland with special New York minutes as memories.

Counter Service Minutes. The courtesy I enjoyed in Manhattan completely erased the negative stereotype of rude New Yorkers that my grandparents tried to impose on the family. I bring home special minutes from the Reading Room of the NY Public Library, from Bryant Park, George Washington Square Park, MOMA, the Whole Foods Cafe in Columbus Circle, Starbucks near the Garden and Macys. It seemed that people really felt happy to see a customer, even though I didn't buy stuff at every venue.

My Affinia Minute. I get a nice feeling standing under the marquee of the Affinia Manhattan. I was surprised to hear Danny the doorman ask, "Are you back for the night with us?" Danny saved me a big chunk of change by recommending thin-cristed pizza one block away and by turning me towards a Long Island Railroad connection that I will use when visiting next time.

My Macy's Minute. For a little more than a minute, I watched the eyes of a Macy's doorman while he answered questions. His eyes never left a tight scan he was keeping of the shop floor while his verbal demeanour was calm and helpful.

My Deli Minutes. It takes less than a minute to walk through many midtown delis. I was on a mission, seeking Matzo Ball Soup mix. Although I failed in my mission, I got to see bag ladies helping themselves to fresh chicken while cashiers just nodded when the ladies mumbled past the open doors.

The Sunday New York Times. A decade ago, the Sunday NYT was as fat as my little finger is long. Sunday is the day for spending a minute looking at the NYT's major sections. If you care about good writing, you will buy the paper like I do. It costs $5 nowadays. I know people who spend a week reading it, so it's money well-spent.

I miss the Big Apple even more today, with so many heartfelt minutes now part of my travelogue.


Sent mail2blog using Nokia E90 Boingo Typepad service from JFK Airport.

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Impossible to Ignore Socialising Online

Touchgraph Bernie

WHEN THE WAITER who has served the family for more than 30 years tells my 80-something mom that he's on Facebook, it becomes impossible to ignore how important online social networking has become. I think things like Twitter are colossal time wasters so I try to put them in time-controlled boxes. However, I'll keep using Twitter (me topgold) because it gives me a social release, along with some creative energy. Nearly a quarter of the people I follow from Ireland can be categorised as "creators" when using Forrester Research's metric because Forrester thinks all bloggers are creative. A lot of those people are in the Touchgraph screenshot above. However, fewer than 10% of the people I follow actually create interesting things worth mentioning in posts, tweets, or comments. Most of those I follow just spotlight interesting things, link to new content or argue about mainstream events. I tune out a lot of that direct chatter and absorb it via aggregators. After all, I can't listen to the live stream of more than 2000 voices chatting at the same time.

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Tech for Second Graders

OLMR and Gaelscoil

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT things I've accomplished this summer is meeting up with Debbie Keys, a second grade teacher in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to chat about ways to bring Irish and American primary school students into the same online discussion space, using crisps, photos, and audio chat sessions. We haven't sorted out all the details but know that we want American and Irish students to compare common things by describing those things in their own lingo. Behind part of this cultural exchange sits Online Meeting Rooms and its capability to push images through Powerpoint and to play those images in the new .FLV player. This effectively means we will be able to make simple little photos appear as though they are video presentations in our online meetings. The work process involves taking a quality image (at least two megapixels in size), saving the image onto Flickr, importing the Flickr image into Powerpoint, and saving the work in Slideshare.

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Sony e-book Reader

Sony Reader
Sony e-book Reader
Originally uploaded by Irish Typepad
A COMMENT FROM Greg Boomgaard in my Facebook account caused me to think about Sony's e-book readers. Window displays in several NYC shops put the new reader front-and-center. In Greg's case, he's talking about two years of regular use. He says, "I've used it mostly for traveling as it is lightweight compared to lugging around an equivalent number of hard copies of magazines and books. I've loaded many books from the Gutenberg library. I can switch books according to the mood I am in. I also have a pdf converter to Sony's epub format. You can read PDF documents. You just can't change the font size so some things can be too small to read." Greg thinks Sony's embracing of ePub and the millions of books open to its reader means things are getting better. I'd have to say, that of all the items of technology that should help my toddler do well in primary school, a well-designed set of e-books might help her become as excited about reading under a tree as I was as a child.

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Respecting the Border Inspectors

Sony Digital Voice SoftwareWHEN I CARRY sensitive data, it's never where you expect to find it. For example, all my really valuable document scans and other related photo imagery sits inside the digital dictaphone at left (or maybe not). Because I don't want to have a laptop stolen and data compromised, I normally carry it on removeable memory cards. Things like cameras, recorders, and smart phones have those cards. I won't buy a recorder if it doesn't have a memory card option. At US borders, searches of electronic media are permitted by law. I've seen laptops booted up and inspectors looking for "information that poses serious harm to the United States, including terrorist plans, or constitutes criminal activity—such as possession of child pornography and trademark or copyright infringement." But I've never seen an inspector looking at a DOC file on a camera. If you carry data and need to keep it from prying eyes, you really need more than a removeable media strategy. You need something like Microvault software that locks and hides directories. But you knew that already, if you're in the business of safeguarding sensitive data while traveling.
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Nokia Maps vs Google Latitude Smackdown

Affinia ManhattanBEFORE LEAVING IRELAND for a week in the States, I read Conor O'Neill's comment about Nokia Maps saving him frustration and money while roaming. From previous experience, I know that a page of information on Google Latitude normally costs me a euro while roaming and that I need a new page every five miles. Nokia Maps costs less than five euro cents across the same ground and Conor O'Neill's commentary prodded me to download all the pages I needed before I left home. I can use Nokia Maps offline, once I download and zoom around the route I intend to take. I can put the information for a country directly onto a memory card and reuse that memory card on subsequent trips. The entire States takes around 1.5 GB of memory. You cannot cache and save information from Google Maps. When in a new location, I normally try to see how much information I've saved locally onto my Nokia E90 by zooming down to the highest macro level while connected on a wifi hotspot. All things considered, I still like Google Latitude for ease of use when looking for location-based services. But with the money Nokia Maps saves me, I can operate with the knowledge that my data-fueled journey isn't costing me the same as overnight accommodation in a top-flight hotel.
Sent mail2blog using free wifi at the Eden Resort, Lancaster, PA 17601.
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Maemo Nokbook

Maemo running internetNOKIA WORLD MAY prise some eyeballs away from Apple's September announcements when people start talking about the way Linux-base Maemo software delivers a PC-like experience on a handset-sized device. Nokia's N900 (I call it a Nokbook.) is more than a generation beyond Nokia's earlier internet tablets. With the new Maemo softare, the N900 can run with dozens of open application windows while taking full advantage of cellular telephony features. The Nokbook lets people multitask and browse just like on their desktops. Maemo is an open source operating system that could capture consumer mindset because of its openess. Its kernel can easily connect mobile handsets to systems in digital homes.

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Remembering Flugtag 88

00_flugtag88formation I PACKED SOME remnants from Ground Zero of the Flugtag 88 disaster today, bits of my aviation heritage that I scavenged from parts scattered on the ground of Germany's worst air show. On 28 August 1988, two Italian Air Force jets collided over an audience of 300,000 people, killing 67 spectators and four pilots. More than 346 spectators sustained serious injuries in the resulting explosion and fire. The charred fragments that I discovered in a box I sealed that year will follow me back to Ireland where they remain the only connection I have to that day. I watched the 10 Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets from the Italian Air Force display team, Frecce Tricolori, performed their pierced heart formation the day before the accident and it looked a little ragged then. In the formation, two groups of aircraft create a heart shape in front of the audience along the runway. In the completion of the lower tip of the heart, the two groups of planes pass each other parallel to the runway. The heart is then pierced, in the direction towards the audience, by a lone aircraft. You can't perform that maneuver on top of an American airfield unless the lone aircraft is flying away from the crowd. That restriction was not observed during Flugtag 88, making the accident much worse than it would have been if the maneuver line had been more conservative.
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Spinning False Alarms

Freeway TurbinesTHE WEATHER CHANNEL reminds me of my Oklahoma years and the ecstatic weather presenters who would gloriously point to Doppler radar pictures of impending microburst activity. Some of America's best Doppler radar observers live in Oklahoma, home of several massive wind power towers towering more than 200 feet high (not the low profile freeway turbines at left). When the wind turbine blades spin rapidly, their vortices produce the same radar effect of sudden downdrafts, leading to red spots on the weather radar that might appear to be significant thunderstorm activity. In the heart of Tornado Alley, new installations come with a health warning for untested weather radar observers. During high-stress periods just before the arrival of snowballs called "hail", some meteorologists might react to red blotches next to wind farms as deepening mircoburst activity. Wind farms built within 11 miles of Doppler radar sites can confuse the special tornado radar arrays. And while the weather detection technology improves, the interim solution may be to stop and park blade rotation. That's not always the least stressful tactic for a 20m blade so I'm interested in technology that lets big blades freewheel below a vortex-generating speed.
Sent mail2blog using Nokia E90 Boingo-powered Barnes & Noble wifi service in Lancaster, PA 17601.
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Late Night in the ePub

epub: The Fastest Way to Reduce Backpack BurdenLATE AT NIGHT, under a crescent moon, I talked to an old neighbour who just happened by the family home. Harlan is retired from Sony and he embraces openness as a community concept. As my print-savvy daughter tells me, Sony's eReader is smart for being open. In my case, Sony's open format lets me dump all my college textbooks into one small handheld device. With the open format ePub community, I have in excess of a million public doman books. Taking a cue from the ePub community and from the New York Public Library, I am revising essential and supplemental readings in six college courses I teach, ensuring all those materials can be sourced from the public domain. Then I'm going to hit the road and tell educators across the world how to do the same thing.

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