GreenLance Communications: News • Media • Reviews

Saturday, May 31, 2008

How I Stalk Stars

IMDBHow do I use the Internet Movie Database? I chase the bunny trails, tying to discover how many degrees of Kevin Bacon is, say, Madonna. (Two. Her former brother-in-law, Chris Penn, was Bacon's Footloose co-star. The entertainment industry turns out to be surprisingly incestuous.)

Other people use it for movie reviews, biographies, flim trailers, and videos. Oh, and the movie star trivia.

What are your favorite sources for entertainment news?

Friday, May 30, 2008

How I Interrogate My Kids

Bloom'sMy goals as a parent are fairly simple: I want my kids to think clearly, serve God, and improve the world. The first of those goals is the easiest to impose upon them. I just ask tough questions that cause them to cogitate at a high level.

Bloom's Taxonomy is a good model for formulating thought-provoking questions. You'll find references to Bloom's all all over the Internet, but this site at the University of Illinois makes the Taxonomy easy to understand and emulate.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How I Figure Stuff Out

HowStuffWorksMy younger kids loved this one so much they made it their homepage. How Stuff Works explains how toilets flush, how telephones get sound, how your automobile turns gasoline to motion...and pretty much everything else you've ever wondered.

Spend some time considering the mechanics of animals, autos, business and money, communication, computers, electronics, entertainment, food & recipes, geography, health, history, home & garden, people, science, and travel. Fascinating.

How do you find answers to your questions? Tell me by clicking the Comments link below.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How I Get Worldly

Fact BookIf the CIA has experienced some bad PR over the years, perhaps the World Factbook will go some way toward fixing the agency's rep.

World Factbook is the authoritative go-to place for in-depth information on every country on the planet, updated twice a month with new statistics, maps, and information that only the CIA has the resources to compile. The most interesting part of each country's description is at the end, under the heading "Transnational Issues." There you'll get the skinny on the CIA's opinion of what sorts of troubles are brewing in the nations of the world.

Where do you look for information before you travel? Share your favorites by clicking the Comments link.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How I Get Critical

Rotten TomatoesSo, so tired of wasting twenty, thirty bucks -- and a couple of hours of my life -- on bad, unfunny, poorly made movies. Any more, I don't see a movie unless Rotten Tomatoes says it's worth my time.

Rotton Tomatoes surveys not just one or two critics; it surveys every critic under the sun, including my absolute favorite, Eric Snider. And it assembles all those critics' ratings into a single score that's far more reliable than any one person's opinion.

Tell me how you decide what movies are worth seeing. Click the Comments link below.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How I Got Foolish

Motley FoolThere's one born every minute...but those of us who invest Motley Foolishly aren't among their ranks.

Click the Investing link to get started, then learn the basics of buying low and selling high. Pay yourself first, understand the power of compounding, start early, do something, and never turn down free money. Master the basics, and wealth will follow.

Share your favorite educational site by clicking that Comments link.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How I Sell My Soul

CraigslistActually met someone the other day who'd never heard of Craigslist. And here I thought it was as ubiquitous as Ebay and Amazon. Ah, well. In case you're the OTHER person who's never heard of it, Craigslist is this decade's new Pennysaver, the new Classified Ads, the new Yellow Pages.

Come join the rest of us who are using Craigslist to buy and sell our tchotchkes, find employment, advertise garage sales, hire a guy to fix the roof, and moan anonymously over lost love. See what you're missing?

What websites are you shocked that people don't know about? Tell me about 'em by clicking that Comments link below.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How I Get Fed

RSS FeedWhat? You don't yet have an RSS Feeder? Now that's gotta stop right now, young reader. It's time to get headlines from all your favorite pages -- including this one -- fed directly to your desktop.

Spend five minutes of your life setting up a feeder, and save hours and hours and hours of scanning frequently-updated online newspapers and websites. Let your RSS Feeder do the scanning for you while you sit back and get productive.

The BBC offers this easy tutorial on RSS Feeds: How they work, how to choose one, how to install it, and how to operate it. (Me? I use an RSS Widget in my Vista sidebar. It satisfies my ADHD-driven distractability.)

Tell me which RSS feeds I ought to add by clicking that Comments link below.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How I Know What's True

This is TrueEvery Saturday morning, for better than a decade, I've been laughing at the crazy, crazy things my fellow travellers do. You guys. Thank you for being on the planet with me.

And thanks, too, to Randy Cassingham's This is True for keeping me up to date with the odd goings-on of the human race, and giving me a good giggle in the process.

The other reason I like Randy? He shares my views on Zero Tolerance. It's some kinda crazy.

Nominate your favorite funny place on the web by clicking the Comment link one line down.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How I Smarten Up My Kid

BBCParenting's not all fun and games -- except when it IS fun and games.

What could be more fun than playing animated math games against a cartoon with a plummy British accent? The BBC Schools site is a rich source of free, high-quality curriculum materials for every academic subject and every age from pre-school to college.

How do you use the Internet to keep your kids on track academically?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How I Find Meaning

DictionaryMSN operates my favorite thesaurus, but when it comes to etymology, I can't stop loving

It doesn't search just its own excellent resources; it also searches Encyclopædia Britannica, the American Heritage Dictionary, the Online Etymology Dictionary, Princeton University's WordNet, the Dictionary of Idioms, a multilingual dictionary, Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, Investopedia, an investment dictionary, a dictionary of law, a dictionary of computing, the U.S. Census Bureau Gazetteer, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, and an acronym finder.

That should pretty much put a stop to your next family Scrabble war, right?

Tell me about your favorite research resources!

Monday, May 19, 2008

How I 翻译 the 漢語

Babel FishI spent spent thirteen-odd years in China. I'm ashamed to admit, though, that four-year-old children read and write Chinese better than I do.

Still, I have an advantage: I know how to fake it. Babel Fish lets me double-check my college French and my bad Chinese before humiliating myself in public. For good measure, it also translates Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

¡Woo hoo!

What tools do you use to communicate with non-English speakers?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How...In what Manner...I...

EncartaBrilliant. Clever. Extraordinary. And lots of other synonyms. There's no shortage of thesauri and dictionari lurking about the 'Net, just begging to be consulted. I look to Encarta because the thesaurus seems to hit just the right word more often than any other. And the dictionary is pretty great -- cool, wonderful, awesome, ummm... -- too.

What's your favorite word look-up resource?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

How I Track Granny

rootswebGenealogical research: the art and science of stalking the dead. Just one more of my numerous little obsessions. It has its rewards. When I found that my dad and his good friend of thirty-some years share the same dirt!

There are lots of excellent genealogical resources on line, and I'll review them in future postings, but my current favorite site for posting genealogical research is Rootsweb. Input the name of your great-grandma, and find out what the government knows, as well as what nearly half a million researchers have already discovered about her.

Tell me how you stalk your own great-grandparents by clicking that Comments link below.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How I Feel the Guilt

Mother EarthYou're an obsessive recycler. You garden. You resist air conditioning. You even compost. But you still don't feel like you're doing enough to save the earth. The reason? Mother Earth News, the guilt-inducing Italian mother-in-law of media. These are the people who live in solar-paneled sod houses, dress in dead leaves, and won't step on bugs. They fertilize with their own bodily wastes and think driving automobiles should be a jailable offense.

I love them. And hate them.

How do you live sustainably? Click the Comments link one line down and tell me about it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How I Get Answers

AllExpertsThis may surprise you, but I don't actually know everything. I just pretend I do on television. When I need real answers, I ask real experts. Happily, experts are on call, just hoping I'll ask. Where do I find 'em? At AllExperts, of course.

Volunteers who have some expertise in their particular field answer questions by email, usually within a day, but rarely longer than three days. Find your topic, choose your expert, and rate the response. What a world!

Tell me where you go for answers, won't you? (And if you answer: "God," I'll accuse you of stealing my best line.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How I Get My Word On

StudylightFor depth of commentary, and access to Hebrew, Greek and Strongs, nothing beats Studylight for in-depth scripture study. Search by word, topic or specific scripture refence. Studylight lets you choose the translation (presently 47 options, including the Vulgate and two Spanish editions) and the commentary.

The Hebrew and Greek concordances I find particularly useful in trying to discern on my own the Author's original intent.

Today's fascination: The use of "Word" in Genesis 15:1 ("the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision").

Where do you go for scriptural commentary and to compare alternative translations?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How I Protect My Baby

HousecallDid I mention I have eight kids? That's right. Five sons, two daughters, and my baby: an HP Pavilion laptop. I've killed said goodbye to about a dozen notebook PCs over the past two decades, but it wasn't always hardware failures that sent them packing. At least twice, it was because a virus snuck through while I was on deadline. Anti-virus subscriptions lapse, time's short, and pow! I'm buying a new computer.

But no more. Now I have great antivirus software that never expires. It's free, it's fabulous, it's TrendMicro Housecall. Oh, and you last three people who connect to the 'Net via dial-up? Sorry. You're out of luck. But for the rest of us, Housecall is a lifesaver. Thank you, Trendmicro. I love you!

Tell me your best anti-virus tricks by clicking that comment button one line down.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How I Beat Spammers

MailinatorIt's just this easy. I don't give my email address to people I don't trust. When strangers -- or websites -- want my email address, I'm Go ahead. Spam me, baby.

With Mailinator, I make up any name I want at the Mailinator domain, and it's mine. It's yours, too, if you want it. No registration, no login. Just retrieve your mail. Or better yet, ignore it. It'll disappear after a few hours. But who cares? Did you really want to read the spam?

Oh, Mailinator has a few alternative domain names, too, in case the potential spammer who wants your address is onto this workaround.

What do you do to fight spam?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How I Strut My Stuff

PhotobucketMy hard drive is plenty full, and I'm not the crypt keeper. I don't want to store all those random pieces of graphic art that really belong in blogs, email attachments and web sites. Storing photos is why the good Lord invented Photobucket -- the free photo sharing and storage utility. Photobucket stores vast quantities of your graphic art, and you get to decide whether to keep it private or make it public. But the Slideshows may be Photobucket's best feature.

Do you know of a comparable storage depot? Tell me about it by clicking the Comments link below.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How I Space Out

Space.comSomehow I managed to skate through twelve years of public school (and nearly as many years of college) with only a minimal exposure to science. Now I'm trying to compensate. And is my drug of choice.

I especially enjoy reading the science blogs and reports on scientific studies. Every day the site hosts fascinating articles such as yesterday's "Fairness Is a Hard-Wired Emotion" and "Myanmar Flooding Seen From Space". Sure beats TMZ for cocktail-party trivia.

How do you stay up to date on the subjects you loved in college?

Friday, May 9, 2008

How I Saved My PC

http://www.safer-networking.orgOnce upon a time my computer crashed. T'was filthy, dirty spyware took it down, it was.

I got it running again -- barely -- and installed Spybot -- a fabulous piece of freeware that somehow managed to make everything all better. I haven't had a problem since.

Tell me about your favorite free software utilities -- but please, only after you've installed your own copy of Spybot. Here it comes to save the day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How I Fight Glurge

SnopesYou have one too: The neighbor who's always emailing you dopey urban legends about hypodermics in gas tanks and Microsoft's magical ability to track email forwards and reward them with donations to charities. I stopped arguing; now I just respond with a link from Snopes. Snopes is in the business of telling the truth about stupid stories. It's usually right.

Tell me about other sources for combatting annoying email forwards. I'll reward you with a 25-cent credit to your Visa card. Really, I will. And if you don't tell 12 people about this post, you'll have terrible luck for the next 30 minutes.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How I Got Smart


My favorite avoidance activity: Editing Wikipedia. Each time I edit, I get the sense I've made the world a little bit better. And every time I start playing Wikipedia, I get just a little bit smarter.

Wikipedia is inherently unreliable, of course. (cf, Michael Scott's thoughts on Wikipedia.) And I'd never quote it in public. But it's nearly always my go-to place for getting general background information on an unfamiliar topic.

Which online resources do you use for research?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How I Got Thin

My Calorie Counter is the resource I use to obsessively track my weight, water intake, food consumption and exercise. Somehow, it gives me strength, knowing I'll have to account to a machine for that box of fudge I'm agonizing over. And if I don't exercise every day, the evidence will show up in graphic form.

Have you found a good tool for tracking calories and weight? Tell me about it!

Monday, May 5, 2008

How I Got Rich

It's Fidelity's Full View feature. Enter every asset and every debt, and Full View tracks your changes in net worth. I began investing with Fidelity because that's where my husband's company invests his 401K. I continued because it has great research tools. Full View was an unexpected bonus.

The downside: Fidelity recently "upgraded" its investment research tool with prettier graphics and less functionality. Tell me about a good online tool for tracking a budget, and I'll consider moving.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How I Got Famous

FacebookSocial networking is so "Will you sign my yearbook? Please? Please?" But suddenly, all my middle-aged friends are networked. And just as suddenly, so am I.

Without even trying, I know who's pregnant, who's sad, and who's having a birthday this week. So Facebook me, baby. Be my friend! Please? Please?

Tell me why you hate Facebook, and love Myspace. Or why you hate the whole notion of online networking, and wish we'd all just have a neighborhood barbeque.