International Space Station

Follow @twisst on Twitter to get your local sighting opportunities of the International Space Station. On a clear night, look in the direction provided in the tweet they send you. Very cool!

National DO NOT CALL list

I recommend that everyone take advantage of this. It will not stop all unsolicited calls, but it will stop the most annoying of them. Keep in mind that when you give your number to a business or non-profit group, they may call you unless you opt out with them directly. The Do Not Call Registry is not foolproof, but it helps. It may take a few weeks before the calls stop.

The Kindle 2

By Jamie York

As an avid reader, I decided to fork over $299 for an Amazon Kindle 2. The new, larger, 3rd generation Kindle DX is out too, but I opted for the Kindle 2 because of price and because I wanted something closer to the size of a paperback book.

Kindles use a technology called "electronic ink," which uses actual ink that organizes electronically when you go from page to page. It is this ink that gives the Kindle a realistic-looking page that is easy on the eyes, even when reading in bright light.

Content for the Kindle is available from and the cost of a new hardback book in Kindle format is $9.99. This seems a fair, discounted price if the authors are duly compensated. But pricing is not settled for Kindle content by any means. Some books are more than $9.99 and some are less. And then there are thousands of books without copyrights, as well as self-published books and rss feeds, that are available for free downloading, often in Kindle-ready format. Amazon also offers subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and a few blogs, that are delivered automatically right to your Kindle via Amazon's Whispernet service.

In addition to purchasing content, the Kindle user can add content through a personal computer and as an email attachment. As a rule of thumb, I would advise against anyone paying more than $9.99 for a Kindle book. This should be the maximum pricing, with a possible exception being specialty and technical books used for education -- and even then the content must be greatly discounted from print books.

Since I usually read a fiction and non-fiction book at the same time, alternating from one to the other, the Kindle is a convenience for me. I can easily navigate from book to book.
Kindle comes with an on-board dictionary, a searchable user's guide, and a web browser for access to Wikipedia and other sites.

One piece of advice though if you are considering purchasing a Kindle. Spend a little extra and buy a leather protective cover for it. I have read enough horror stories of people dropping and breaking their Kindles. This extra protection may just save your Kindle from damage. Otherwise, you can purchase insurance from Amazon and have your Kindle replaced free if you break it -- but they will only replace it once, so don't drop it again! Kindle apps are now available for the iphone, too, if one could stand reading a book on such a small screen.

Amazon's Whispernet service, which provides content to your Kindle via 3G carriers like Sprint, can also remove content without your knowledge or consent when the device is connected to the service. Users recently reported that two George Orwell books, Animal Farm and 1984, were taken off of Kindles by and the speculation is that the publisher either did not authorize the Kindle content or for some reason or withdrew consent. Users did get refunds, but it is odd, almost prophetic, that Orwell's books about paranoid totalitarian regimes, in which everyone is watched by the government, was the content removed by What other content might they remove? Could be made subject to Patriot Act provisions and turn over Kindle content to the FBI without the knowledge or consent of the owner, without a court warrant or any judicial oversight?
Hmmmm. Makes you wonder. These are, as Thomas Paine said, the times that try men's souls. Seems that our technology advanced for more rapidly than our common sense, than our humanity.

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

[Source unknown]

Swine flu PSAs from 1976

From the Center for Disease Control:

In 1976, 2 recruits at Fort Dix, New Jersey, had an influenza-like illness. Isolates of virus taken from them included a strain similar to the virus believed at the time to be the cause of the 1918 pandemic, commonly known as "swine flu." Studies at Fort Dix suggested that >200 soldiers had been infected and that person-to-person transmission had occurred. This led to the public health decision to mass-vaccinate the American public against the virus, but subsequent vaccine shortages and a link between the swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome caused the cancellation of the program. Watch the 1976 public service announcements below on YouTube:

1976 swine flu PSAs

Google's new SketchUp 3D design software may help autistic kids develop life skills

Google has developed software to help autistic children develop life skills. Although no two autistic children are the same, they all exhibit general obsessive-compulsive behaviors and language deficiencies. At the same time, however, these children often exhibit extraordinary computer gaming skills.

Google's Project Spectrum has created Google SketchUp 3D modeling software to give people with autism the opportunity to express their creativity and develop a life skill. It is not a traditional video game as we think of such games, but is a creative tool for the child to design 3D environments.

"The idea for Project Spectrum originated when we began getting phone calls and emails from users telling us about how much kids on the autism spectrum were enjoying SketchUp," Google tells educators. "As the calls kept coming in, we learned that people with autism tend to be visually and spatially gifted — that, in fact, they think in pictures. When people with these gifts get their hands on powerful, easy-to-use 3D design software like SketchUp, sparks tend to fly."

The link for more information and a free download is

My Favorite Twitter Apps

Twitter, for those of you who may not know or care, is basically microblogging -- that is, the writing of short, 140-character editorials, advertisements, announcements, jokes, expressions, and so forth. If you can think it, you can twitter it. Your audience is called your “followers,” and they receive all of your published work, called your “tweets.” Then you also follow others and receive their tweets.

There are countless uses for Twitter. The most common use is brand marketing -- that is, getting your product, service or message to as many followers as possible. Media organizations like CNN and scientific organizations like NASA also use Twitter to have interactive, real time discussions with their followers, who can be both members of their own organizations and the general public. Then there are those of us, like myself, who use Twitter for a variety of reasons, with “just for fun” being at the top of the list. I don’t play video games so Twitter is one of the things I do for entertainment. I am in the process of using this web page to post things for Twitter, including maybe trying to sell stuff now stored in the garage.

Professional marketers, public relations pros and educators may have their favorite Twitter apps to keep track of their usage statistics, but novices like myself like to keep things simple. Here is a list of my favorite Twitter apps:

Tweetdeck - This Twitter follow interface is customizable into columns. Mine are All Friends, National News, Regional News, Local News, Bloggers, Family, Replies, DMs, and Facebook. You can automatically shorten urls and send updates right from Tweetdeck.

Tweetchat - This is a great way to participate in #hashtag chats. You can customize the app to feature the chat leaders and block the griefers. You can also change the refresh speed and pause the feed. This is the best chat app I have found. Try the beta.

Twitterberry - This Blackberry mobile app will keep you twittering on the go. Follow the public timeline, all friends, replies, DMs, and your timeline. You send updates from a separate screen, which gives you a handy live character count. No search capability though.

Ubertwitter - This app, now in beta, has a location feature, search, retweet, and it is customizable in a number of ways, including type and icon size. You can click on the tweet and get user info and find out who is tweeting in your geographic area. I just downloaded this app and so far so good.

Mr. Tweet
- Just follow Mr. Tweet and get personalized follow recommendations and useful Twitter stats. Not really an app, but I use it like one.

Widgets - Display your timeline on other social networking sites like myspace and blogspot. Choose from flash or text displays.