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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Truly free phonecalls (from german phones)

Everybody with a German phone number (Germans, and everybody else that obtains a German VOIP "landline" phone number) can call free to landline phones in Austria, Canada (including mobile phones), Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Spain & USA (including mobile phones) via a service called "Peter zahlt" (Peter is paying). This service is not limited to VOIP phones, because it is only initiated via web. The company is adding new countries every month. The service is at the time operational every day from 6: oo to 24:00. Peter zahlt is generating its revenue from advertisements which are shown within your internet browser while you are talking. You are of course free to close your eyes, turn off your monitor or move elsewhere. In other words: The advertisements are not annoying. Their must be a catch: Not really. You have to initiate the call via an internet browser. Your calls are paid by visual advertisements on that particular webpage while you are talking (you are not obliged to look at the advertisements - just close your eyes ;-)) and the time for one phone call is limited to 30 minutes (you are free to call as often and frequent as you want). No registration is needed. Just type both phone numbers into the browser window and talk for free.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How empathetic are you (able to be)?

Ever wondered how some people can “put themselves into another person's shoes” and some people cannot? Our ability to empathise with others seems to depend on the action of "mirror neurons" in the brain, according to a new study. Mirror neurons, known to exist in humans and in macaque monkeys, activate when an action is observed, and also when it is performed. Now new research reveals that there are mirror neurons in humans that fire when sounds are heard. In other words, if you hear the noise of someone eating an apple, some of the same neurons fire as when you eat the apple yourself... ...“The mirror system is a particular form of Pavlovian association,” says Keysers, referring to the classic behavioural experiments where dogs were trained to associate food with the noise of a bell. “Each time you crunch a potato chip you hear yourself crunching the chip, and now when you hear someone else crunching it activates your own action neurons.” The phenomenon has been exploited by advertisers for years – think of the Coca-cola commercials comprising of just the noise of a bottle of Coke being opened, the fizz of the drink and the sound of the drinking. And intriguingly, subjects in the study who scored higher in empathy tests also showed higher levels of mirror neuron activation. Differences in empathy scores and mirror neuron activity have been observed between autistic and non-autistic people, says Keysers, but this is the first time a spectrum of difference has been found in non-autistic people. “How empathetic we are seems to be related to how strongly our mirror neuron system is activated,” he says. “It’s exciting because we can start to look at the diversity of experiences of other people. Some people see others through themselves, and some are more objective about it.”
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

Friday, September 15, 2006

Have fun checking your knowledge with true and false statements

Blufr is a fun little site that makes true and false statements about history, science, geography and other topics. It is a trivia Web site where visitors judge statements as true or false, earning a personal score. Blufr wants to get people of all ages addicted to learning obscure facts. It is born out of as a way to promote the wealth of data available at the free, ad-supported online dictionary and encyclopedia service.
If you feel like learning random facts about random topics, Blufr, complete with its Web 2.0 name, is a great Web site. The concept is simple, so it's surprising there aren't many more sites like this one. Maybe it isn't the most high-tech site on the Web, but it's fun.
So much so that they're starting a 12-step program to help people curb their obsession. ('No way' or 'way'?).
The bottom line: Blufr is kind of addictive, totally useless and fun.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Molly Beanland about 'How i like to write'

After listening to hear latest demo on mySpace I Can Hardly Breath!
I take that opportunity to republish an exerpt from her blog. I think it can be interesting for others (including musicians) - not only because she uses the most common (& also from my point of view rewarding) way to write music, in collaboration - but also because her thoughts about writing unfortunatly not just are a matter of course.
Molly about "how i like to write":
Next week we'll be working on a song which I wrote with Tom Ingleby, my favoured co-writer. Tom is a really talented writer, his tracks are always so full of beauty and meaning. The way we usually work is that he will work on a piece of music and then give it to me. Then, I will write a melody and the lyrics to it, and maybe the bvs at that point too. I will make a little version of it at home, put down a rough vocal and then we will have a look at it together.I think this is a good way to co-write, at least, it's the way i prefer.

I find song-writing such a personal thing, I dont want to write a song simply so that people will like it or buy it but because i want to actually say something or I want to live out an emotion. I mean, I want my songs to be good, of course i do, but what I think is good not what I think others will like. Because, that is what can be beautiful about music. It can be an expression of the soul, writing for "the market" is not that. Of course I want people to like my music but I dont want to force it upon them. and I dont want to second guess other peoples emotions and play on that, I dont want to trick my listeners. Does that make sense? I guess I say this having worked with a few high profile songwriters who are constantly saying things about saleability, like "hmm that lyric.... it's not clear enough... your audience might not get it" ....what is that about I think, why should I patronise my "audience". Where's the beauty in that? Where's the poetry in that?
Sure a simple line can be very effective and I love to use them but in cases where a lyric isnt clearcut, needs a little thinking through, maybe even needs a glance at the lyric book is the shading of the painters brush, its in the details, the meaning. I want to convey something in the way it demands to be conveyed, for example, if i'm writing about the universe and how beguiling it is, shouldn't the lyrics be a little beguiling too? If I'm writing a lyric about being honest and frank then the lyrics should be so too. A song about a twisting turning emotion that isnt quite figured out needs lyrics that embrace that.
But most importantly it's about expressing YOU, and not expressing the "you" that you think people want to buy into. I find that type of writing really sad. Depressing. There's nothing real about it......"stick a drum loop on it then people will buy it".... unless the drum loop is speaking to you and says what you want to say of course!So, I like to write in my own space, in my own time. When I'm feeling it. I dont think you can necessarily give that on cue... sometimes you can, but it's always less fresh and felt than had you got up at 4 am with an idea that you just cant contain... that's why i find these "song writing days" I sometimes get sent on a little but of an insult. I want to write a song with earnest not a "bish-bash-bosh here it's done" situation because thats not what music should be about, or thats not what it's about for me. I wish the world would see song-writing as a craft again. Doesnt matter what type of music it is, just look at Sean Paul, his lyrics are crafted, he puts his passion into it and you know he never writes for "the sell", and that's what we like about him.... the same goes the arctic monkeys, the foo fighters, shakira. I'm not saying I've got a problem with manufactured pop really. I like catchy songs just like anyone else... although I think it's a different approach because it's usually not the singer/band writing the songs. But anyway, I'm not complaining about music and not even the way some people like to write... just that I dont want to do it like that! I just cant write without meaning it, without being proud of it I cant sell it, I cant sing words that I have no conviction in. That's all I'm saying, I dont want to write for commercial appeal...I just want to be me and hope that maybe that appeals to some people anyway.
So please mr music industry dont send me on anymore soul destroying days.
This was seized 4 u at Molly Beanlands mySpace blog

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

30 Boxes - Work in progress (The Impact of the Social Web on Personal Organization)

"With 30 Boxes, our critical shift has been to move from the dominant interface of email to a timeline view, which we believe is a more intuitive starting place for organizing your life. It is a calendar and useful for calendaring, but it includes all manner of date stamped social media, is largely agnostic (you can use Google Calendar or as your primary vehicle to schedule), and was designed with sharing and information management in mind. It is dynamic (updating with your friends’ events), intelligent, available (lives on the web), open (your data is available in any fashion), and flexible. In addition to shifting the primary UI away from email toward a calendar/timeline view, we have been taking a new approach to the others as well. For email, we have a forthcoming application called Supermail, so named because it sits above and tries to govern multiple inputs/outputs as well as the non-email communication generated from social networks and blogs. It will also attempt to patch the reliability issues with standard email delivery and it will (of course) have an emphasis on sharing. In our world, contacts are now Buddies that support multiple contact points and virtual locales. We are very much engaged in identity management, social reputation, and portability. In order to make passive communication possible, you need aggregation tools that make it easy for the masses. When someone joins 30 Boxes, we roundup their online persona and immediately make that easy to share, easy to syndicate, and easy to duplicate."
30 Boxes has recently passed its 6-month anniversary and this was a short exerpt of Narendra Rocherolles splendid reflection
"The Impact of the Social Web on Personal Organization".
Read the full article here!
This was seized 4 u at 30Boxes

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Documentary Games

Parisriots2.jpgWater Cooler Games has an interesting story about documentary games (or docu-games), such as Escape from Woomera -- a Half-life mod designed as a direct critique of Australia's inhumane detention centres; Waco Resurrection that revisits the 1993 Waco tragedy, and the controversial JFK Reloaded. Ian Bogost, the author of the post, points to Cindy Poremba's blog for more information on the topic, to which she is devoting her Ph.D. research (PDF of her research proposal).

Bogost also mentions a new game that might belong to the genre. Paris Riots is a mod of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault in which the player is invited to take a side in the simulation of last year's civil unrest in France. The game uses real-world photography and video as a supplement to the game. Its author, Sylvain Gaillard, a French art graduate, has been violently criticized by the national press who took the game very seriously. However, he explained to blog-territorial that it's exactly the role of the media that he wanted to denounce in the game: the game "shouldn't be taken so seriously," he said. "I don't want to transmit any political message, be it anti-police or anti-youth from the suburbs. My aim is to make people think, to get the debate."

This is an interesting response from the creator, given how many game designers are doing just that: designing serious games in order to help people understand and respond to issues of policy, ethics, culture, war, and public health. Regardless of the intent, the end result is likely the same. As the author said, this kind of gaming gets people to think, and that in itself catalyzes shifting perspectives. Demo and 2 video trailers.
This was seized 4 u from Regine Debatty at