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27 July 2007

Summer 2007

I'm back! Just like last summer, I went to a sea side town to cover myself in fine sand and then dive into azure water. I also licked the salt off a margarita glass, relaxed on a hammock, and gazed at blood-orange sunsets night after night. This summer I was in Bodrum, which is in the west of Turkey, chosen World's Sexiest Beach of 2007! It's a great destination for those considering a great break with style.

However, unlike last summer, I didn't bring my camera along so I can only present the following panorama image of the view from the place I stayed. Captured with my mobile phone and created using Autostitch (Windows):

I just wanted to let you know that I'm back and started re-designing The Thinking Blog as I mentioned earlier. It is going to be cleaner, faster and with a whole new look. Coming real soon.. in a few days.. stay tuned!

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14 July 2007

Breaking News from the Author

My exams are over (they all went well to my knowledge) and I'm off for a little break! I'll be back in two weeks to continue publishing my draft posts on eclectic topics that I hope will get you thinking. What's more, I will unleash a new site design that will knock your socks off! Please comment on these articles if you have any suggestions for the new design: poll and feedback. Don't forget to feed on the RSS (or enter your email address) and be notified when I'm back.

Meanwhile, catch up with my previous content: popular posts, must reads or blog archive (links to last two are on the sidebar). Stay tuned!

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13 July 2007

Sharing Moola Invites

Who wants to be a millionaire? Actually make that 7 figure millionaire. No, seriously. Moola is an online game currently in beta test. Users can win up to $10.7 million in real money by playing games here. Moola is absolutely free, and it works through the support of their sponsors. There are no hidden tricks as far as I can tell and the games are really fun to play. Don't sign up unless you can spend some time online.

How does it work? Moola gives you a free penny when you sign up. You then put that penny on the line against other Moola users in games of semi-skill/semi-chance (each of which takes a few minutes to complete). The winner takes the cash and moves up the ladder. The loser gets another free penny and starts over. If you win the next round as well, you get $0.04. Each level works the same way, going like this - $0.01, $0.02, $0.04, $0.08, $0.16, $0.32, $0.64, $1.28, $2.56, $5.12, $10.24, $20.42... until the 30th level which is $10,737,418.24. So if you win 30 times in a row, you can cash out for millions!

How do I get paid? Speaking of cashing out, you need to make at least $10.00 to get a check (the current option is check only; Paypal is in the works). Although it is always wise not to cash out that moment because it will be hard to start all over again. Moola is currently limited to US/Canada, except Louisiana, Nevada and Quebec. International players can play and get money, but can only cash out when the international version is out. But don’t worry; It may be out soon. I am an international player as well.

What are the games? Moola now features 3 games. The first game is called "Gold Rush" which is played in 6 rounds. In each round the player has to choose one of his 6 gold nuggets (numbered from 1 to 6) and place them on a scale against the other player's choice. The winner of the round gets the value of both nuggets as well as a random nugget which is placed in the middle of the scales. The second is named "Ro-Sham-Bo-Fu" and is a take on the classic Rock Paper Scissors with a twist. In each round (6 rounds per game) one of the available choices (e.g. rock) is randomly chosen and players get bonus points for not using it whether they win or lose that round. The third game is Hi-Lo. They have modified, to some extent, the classic game of Hi-Lo, in which you'll have to determine whether the next card in your sequence is higher or lower than the last.

How is Moola financed? It employs a novel scheme in which players are given free money to wage against other players in return for watching a 10, 15 or 30-second video commercial and answering a trivia question related to the ad. Thus it allows players to place bets against other players without risking any of their own money, but that's a small price to pay for a free penny. That is probably why so many people join and play everyday and why Moola is experiencing such a fast growth rate.

Starting with more free money? You can also get money on the site by completing things like surveys (which helps get you eligible for the higher levels because it is hard to start off) and by referring people (you get a certain percent of their earnings and you even get a percent of what the people the invited make and the people they invited). The referral network is four tiers - your friends, your friends' friends, their friends, and their friends. For the first tier, the referral bonus is 4%, the second tier 3%, third tier 2%, and the last tier, 1%. You get bonuses whenever your referrals get a bonus, or when they cash out.

Since the website works on an invite only basis for the moment, we will start something similar to the Pownce invites post to get unlimited amount of people in. You know the drill, but this time it will be easier to invite others with our unique referral links.

Here's how we do:

  1. Claim your invite from through this referral link. Currently, there are 3 invites left, but apparently once they are finished we get 6 more invites.

  2. Once you receive an invite, you must return to this thread and post your referral link to invite the next 3 to 9 people in line.

That's it!

So, if you need an invite, just click the link above. If none available there, try other links in the comments section below. See you on the Rock Paper Scissors battlefield!

[This article is brought to you by cash advance]

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12 July 2007

One Person's Trash is Another's Treasure

Going "green" is the thing to do these days. Almost everyone is taking part in the effort to save the environment, big or small. The website I'm about to introduce to you today will make some of you very happy. The idea behind this new startup is simple. SwitchPlanet lets you swap stuff, you probably won't ever use again, with other users who need them. Becoming a user is absolutely free and there are no transaction fees, you just pay for the postage of the items you want to trade.

Currently there are 4 categories of items; DVDs, CDs, video games and books. Soon, more categories will be added and you will be able to trade anything from clothing to electronics with other SwitchPlanet users. Registration is not mandatory for viewing the listings and you can register when you spot something that you like. You can also use the search feature to find the item you are looking for.

After logging in, your own profile allows you to list the old stuff that you don't use, add friends, view your account history and start switching. When someone requests an item you own, you can either accept or decline the request. If you accept a request, you mail the item within 5 days. You will have to pay for the delivery yourself but this also works the other way when you request for an item from someone else. Once the user confirms that he or she received the item you sent, you will be credited to use for your own requests. When you find an interesting item, you will be able to request it by clicking "Have It."

For the barter system to work without actually paying for anything, SwitchPlanet uses a form of currency called Switchbucs. So you receive Switchbucs when you send something to another user and use them to request things you want from others. If you don't have enough Switchbucs to get the item you want, you can also buy 1 Switchbuc for 1 USD dollar. This system works in perfect harmony and makes the whole process of trading easy and simple.

I think it's an excellent way to reuse and recycle old items with one another, thus wasting less!

[ This post is brought to you by SwitchPlanet ]

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Supersaturated Solution Crystallizing

Prepare for magic science! Here is a really, really cool experiment you can do at home explained in "plain" English. If you take a cup of water and add salt to it you will notice it's "disappearing." What is going on is that the salt is dissolving into the water. The water molecules are breaking the salt molecule up. If you keep adding salt you will soon notice that it has stopped dissolving. The solution has become saturated, in laymen terms, there is no more room for the salt to dissolve. If you heated the water more salt can be dissolved.
Now, if you take that hot water with more salt in it and cool it, well you just made a super saturated mixture. There is more salt than the water can hold at that temp. in the water. Nothing will happen until you add a seed crystal. If you drop on some salt into the super saturated solution, it will cause the rest of the salt to come out to. Because the salt is evenly distributed it will appear to "freeze" but really it is salt coming out. So, replace the salt with Sodium acetate and BAM, you get HOT ICE!

However, the video failed to mention that he had some Sodium acetate on the tip of his finger. You need a seed crystal to start the reaction. Also it is not really solid ice but more of a mush like mud. A way easer way to get instant freezing water is to take an unopened non flavored water bottle and put it in the freezer for between 40-60 min. Then take it out and shake it, hit it or pour it out. The results are very similar.

Just dont eat it! It's concentrated sodium acetate. Acetate is what makes vinegar unique and gives it its smell and sour taste. Vinegar is 5% acetic acid and 95% water but concentrated acetic acid can drill a hole in your stomach and intestines. So yeah, you probably don't want to ingest something that causes pain, nausea, and vomiting.

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10 July 2007

Power of the Wind

It's been a while since I brought creative marketing to your attention and here is a TV spot that is just as deep as Sophisticated Android. Some of you may already have seen it, but I wanted to include it to discuss about the potential power of wind energy. We have seen how turbines could be integrated into skyscrapers, and more recently, Treehugger reports a new 130-megawatt wind power project to be built in southeastern Turkey. However, can wind provide sustained energy output?

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09 July 2007

Think Science, Cosmology and Philosophy

William James famously said that "a great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." It seems that what makes a true thinker is not any one thing, but it certainly means keeping an open mind to new ideas and perspectives. With that in mind, here are some intriguing scientific thought experiments, perplexing cosmological questions and quintessential philosophical dilemmas. In short, here is 'fuel for thought,' if you'll excuse the play on words, from some of the classic thinking disciplines. Hopefully it will have something for each kind of thinker.
Scientific thought experiments are a great way to bring highly complex and specialized questions into the lives of everyday thinkers. By using straightforward analogies experts are able to make truly fascinating problems accessible to the general public. In turn, the visual images these conjure in the mind's eye are compelling on a fundamental level. WIRED has collected some of the most famous of these from history into a simple list, including classics such as Schroedinger's Quantum Cat and Einstein's Light Beam. Respectively, these represent simplified but still very powerful ways of understand scientific issues of significance that are available to all interested thinkers with an imagination.

Cosmological questions are similarly scientific, but deal with big-picture issues regarding the history of time and the nature of the universe. Now, it may not matter to us on a pragmatic level whether the universe is expanding or contracting or precisely how big it is. Still, our psychological understanding of such frequently asked cosmological questions strongly informs our comprehension of reality. Moreover, cosmology rests uniquely at the heart of the other core thinking disciplines, including science, religion and philosophy.

Of course no survey of important thinking issues could be complete without a consideration of philosophy. Many philosophical issues seem timeless, such as the debate over whether we have free will or if our actions are, instead, predetermined. Some even argue that this is a false dichotomy, yet the question is still asked by philosophers and scholars around the world. Likewise issues of truth versus relativism have remained persistent questions for millennia. Wikipedia provides an editable and ever-changing list of classic and contemporary philosophical questions that provides an excellent starting point for people who wish to keep thinking about these and other philosophical questions.

There are, of course, many kinds of thinking beyond those related to scientific, cosmological and philosophical issues. I believe our former president was paraphrasing William James, whether he knew it or not, when John F. Kennedy stated that we "too often enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

What about you? Dare to think about science, cosmology or philosophy?

This post was written by Craig Kohler from Web Urbanist. Craig has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and has just presented his master’s thesis on architecture and urban design. His site deals with cutting-edge issues and flashback then-and-now comparisons.

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08 July 2007

Sharing Pownce Invites

Pownce, the new startup of Digg's Kevin Rose, can be described as a Twitter killer. Twitter is was a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (text-based posts limited to 140 characters) via SMS, IM, email, the website, or an application such as Twitterrific (Mac) or Twitteroo (PC). However, you can't have private conversations, announce events (within a specific begin/end time frame), send hyperlinks, or files up to 10MB.

Pownce removes all these limitations of Twitter. With Pownce, your messages are not limited to 140 characters and your links are properly hyperlinked! It also has some handy filtering options for your messages, which makes your life much easier (try to find that link someone sent you 6 days ago on Twitter). Likewise, you can download the Pownce application (Mac and PC) to make it even faster to read and send notes to your friends.

My Profile on Pownce

However, like it used to be with Gmail, Pownce is only opening up the site to a few people who can invite their friends. Some people are already selling these invites on eBay, but who would want to pay for a free service? I was invited to Pownce by Political Grind and I have 6 invites to give out. Though, using Mashable's standard comment chaining, we can get an unlimited number of people into the site.

Here's how it works:

  1. Leave a comment here with your email address. If you don't want to expose your address to spambots, get a disposable email address and change it once you are in.
  2. We will send invites to the first 6 people who leave their email addresses in the comments of this post. You must leave your email address in the body of the comment.
  3. Once you receive an invite, you must return to this thread and invite the next 6 people in line. Reply to their comment with something like "@John: invite sent."

That's all folks! Let me know what you think of Pownce once you start using it - what you liked (or didn't like) about Pownce, and what you use it for.

PS. If you like to add me as a friend, feel free to check out my Pownce profile (or Digg profile).

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Web-based Instant Messaging

Many schools and offices block computer users from installing instant messaging software. However, instant messaging is an important part of communication and there are ways around these types of blocks placed by your IT department. Web-based instant messaging clients do not require installation of any software and run in your web-browser. The best thing is that they can be used just about anywhere that you have an internet connection - dialup or broadband!

All of these clients can access AOL, Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, and Jabber unless otherwise noted. Each one is rated out of 5 stars - 5 stars being excellent, 1 star being poor.

  • Meebo. Upon arrival at the website, you have the option of signing into one of your accounts or using a universal meeboid and password to access all of your accounts under one interface. By using the meeboid, you can save your conversations to view later, set a personalized avatar and customize the colors of the web interface. Conference chatting is available. Meebo also features the "meebo me" widget which can be added to any website - and does not require any registration. ★★★★★
  • EasyMessenger is another free client that is very easy to use. Unlike Meebo, registration is required. It includes a built-in RSS reader, so you can keep up with your feeds without having to use a separate program or service. All of your accounts are accessible via the same interface. EasyMessenger does not provide conversation logging or a personalized avatar. ★★★
  • KoolIM gives you access to over 20 instant messaging networks, including the big 6. If you have friends in other countries, this web-based instant messaging client is probably your best bet. Registration is optional. There is no conversation logging or personalized avatar. Like EasyMessenger and Meebo, you can have secure conversations. ★★★★

Do you have a favorite? If so, which one? Any additions are welcome!

This post was written by Ellie from thepinkc. Ellie blogs several times a week about just about anything under the sun - from technology to current events to pop culture.

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07 July 2007

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words - Post 9

"Pictures Worth A Thousand Words" series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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06 July 2007

Hybrid with Three Wheels is Back

T-Rex is a very interesting hybrid created by Canadian auto/bike builder Campagna Corporation located in Quebec. The main feature of the hybrid in that it is indeed a middle ground between a car and a motorcycle, taking the best features from each of the "parents." The three wheeled vehicle is designed for two passengers sitting side by side, with adjustable seat backs, foot-pedal box, and 3-point retractable safety belts. Thus, making it much more secure than a conventional bike.

Even though T-Rex has been commercially available since the early 1990s, major changes were made to ensure the 2007 model is more efficient in fuel consumption. Using only a 1.4 Liter, 4-cylinder engine, it accelerates from 0-97 km/h (0-60 mph) in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 253 km/h (157 mph). The manual transmission, although controlled by hand, more closely resembles motorcycle transmissions than that of a car.

Due to the absence of doors or windshield (optional), the vehicle maintains a very low weight. In addition, thanks to its low center of gravity, two front wheels and wide single rear wheel, the vehicle can achieve turning g-forces greater than a substantial majority of four-wheeled vehicles. Its distinctive, unusual look and style has made it a collector's item for both car and motorcycle enthusiasts. See it in action in the following video.

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05 July 2007

The Future: Ubiquitous Computing

Computing, over the past 50+ years, has gone through two distinct phases: the mainframe era and the personal computing era. The third phase has begun and you may have not even noticed – that is the way it is supposed to be. Ubiquitous means existing or being everywhere at the same time, i.e. constantly encountered. Ubiquitous computing, or “ubicomp”, as it has been tagged will define the future of computing.
The distinguishing feature of ubicomp will be the lack of interface. Everything will be controlled by natural actions as opposed to the point-and-click interfaces we have all grown used to.

Right now we receive information in two distinct ways: pull or push. “Pull” can be characterized by a user sitting down at a computer, firing up Google, and searching for specific information in real-time. “Push” is characterized by receiving filtered information based on user preferences; much like the personalized text messages on your cell phone informing you of weather or traffic conditions.

When computing becomes ubiquitous you will not need to manually set preferences. The object you interact with will learn from you and provide information based on your environment. Temperature, time of day, movement, sound, color and light will all influence the information you receive. Ubiquitous computing will provide a continuous stream of information without being distracting and will only provide the information you need at the time.

Everything will become interactive and more importantly, reactive.

Imagine the following scenarios:
  1. You make a call to your friend whose native language is French. He understands English quite well but prefers to speak in French. No problem. In real-time what you say comes across on his end in French and vice-versa.
  2. You need to setup a meeting with a group of business partners who all have busy schedules. No problem, their automated calendars work together to find a good time for all of you to meet.
  3. You are rushed to the hospital after a car accident. By performing a retinal scan the ER doctors are provided with time-sensitive and important information: allergies, past surgeries, existing conditions, emergency contact information, name and age. (Ubiquitous computing will probably prevent most accidents before they happen.)
  4. You have lost your keys. No more searching, just ask your house. It will know EXACTLY where they are, even if they are hiding in the couch cushions. (Keys will probably be a thing of the past at this point.)

It is difficult to comprehend all that ubiquitous computing will entail. I look at it this way: Everything, and I mean everything, will be connected. A communication device of some type will be embedded in every single product created. This prospect is scary for some, exciting for others.

To see where we might be headed, make sure you check out these pages with more illustrative images:
This post was written by Jeremy Miller from Jemmille. He frequently writes about interesting technologies and cultural curiosities. If you are interested in contributing to the thinking process and become a guest writer on The Thinking Blog, find out more information here and be my guest!

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04 July 2007

Getting Things Done with 5S Philosophy

Based on Japanese words that begin with ‘S’, the 5S Philosophy focuses on effective work place organization and standardized work procedures. 5S simplifies your work environment, reduces waste and non-value activity while improving quality efficiency and safety. In this type of thinking, the Japanese revert to the cultural heritage of a community approach. The team is key rather than the individual. This is a direct reversal of Western thinking where the individual must be recognized even in a team setting.

The key targets of 5S are workplace morale and efficiency. The assertion of 5S is that by assigning everything a location time is not wasted by looking for things. Additionally, it is quickly obvious when something is missing from its designated location. 5S advocates believe that the benefits of this methodology come from deciding what should be kept, where it should be kept, and how it should be stored. This decision making process should lead to a dialog which can build a clear understanding between employees of how work should be done. It also instills ownership of the process in each employee. As a result, it is often executed in tandem with standard work which standardizes the processes in which the items organized in 5S are used.

The 5S's are:

  • Seiri (Sort): tidiness, organization. Refers to the practice of sorting through all the tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. This leads to fewer hazards and less clutter to interfere with productive work.
  • Seiton (Straighten): orderliness. Focuses on the need for an orderly workplace. "Orderly" in this sense means arranging the tools and equipment in an order that promotes work flow. Tools and equipment should be kept where they will be used, and the process should be ordered in a manner that eliminates extra motion.
  • Seiso (Shine): systemized cleanliness. Indicates the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat. Cleaning in Japanese companies is a daily activity. At the end of each shift, the work area is cleaned up and everything is restored to its place. The key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work - not on occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.
  • Seiketsu (Systemize): standards. This refers to standardized work practices. It refers to more than standardized cleanliness (otherwise this would mean essentially the same as "systemized cleanliness"). This means operating in a consistent and standardized fashion. Everyone knows exactly what his or her responsibilities are.
  • Shitsuke (Sustain): sustaining discipline. Refers to maintaining standards. Once the previous 4S's have been established they become the new way to operate. Maintain the focus on this new way of operating, and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways of operating.

5S Freebies: Posters/Wallpapers

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02 July 2007

Meeting Your Virtual Friends

Most of us who blog, use forums and social networking sites for discussions and exchanging views, come in contact with people from all over the world. With some we interact more than with others. Of course, online discussions sometimes result in exchanging emails. We start developing something that can be called 'friendship' and many times we start feeling there is some higher level of connection. Be it similar views, similar personalities or familiar life situations, sometimes these 'friendships' also develop because we are learning something new from each other. Learning from each other is a big aspect of blogging and I feel most people are blogging because they do like meeting like minded people.

So I was wondering a few things about this whole phenomenon:

1. Are virtual friendships different than real life friendships for you? If yes, how?

Okay I think that word 'real-life' is not really accurate here because the virtual friendships are also real-life friendships except that we don't get to meet all of our virtual friends in person, go to lunches/dinners with, play tennis/golf with and get together over the weekends etc.

2. Is it possible to develop closer ties with people you meet online because sometime it is easier to exchange views freely in writing verses talking?

I am thinking here about the controversial issues which many of us might hesitate to express our honest views and opinions on if called upon to do so because of fear of being judged or worse being attacked?

3. And most of all, I wonder, would we feel the same about our Internet 'friends' if we ever meet them in person?

Or would our perceptions that we developed reading their words on the screen change after meeting? Would you be a bit unsettled if you saw a completely different person than the image you create for them over time?

This post was written by Pearl from Fresh Perspectives. Pearl analyzes random topics she finds online, sharing her own experiences, questioning their value, dissecting their meanings and triggering controversial reactions. If you are interested in contributing to the thinking process and become a guest writer on The Thinking Blog, find out more information here and be my guest!

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01 July 2007

The Self-Mummified Monks of Japan

Scattered throughout Northern Japan are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu. Followers of Shugendo, an ancient form of Buddhism, the monks died in the ultimate act of self-denial. Estimates of the number of self-mummified priests in Japan range between sixteen and twenty-four priests. Impressive though this number is, many more have tried to self-mummify themselves.

For three years the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, which contains Urushiol (same stuff that makes poison ivy), normally used to lacquer bowls. This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed.

As you can see, the process of self-mummification was a long and extremely painful process that required a mastery of self-control and denial of physical sensation. The self-made mummies of Japan are people who have earned the respect now shown to them, as they exemplify the teachings of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism.

Not all monks who attempted self-mummification were successful, but the pay-off for the ones who succeeded was quite high. They were raised to the status of Budda, put on display, and tended to by their followers. The Japanese government outlawed Sokushunbutsu in the late 19th century, though the practice continued into the 20th. The practice of self-mummification, which is a form of suicide after all, had to be outlawed to prevent Buddhist priests from offing themselves this way.

Sources and image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

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Evil Blog Post

John Chow dot Com make money hosting Canada on a 24" wide screen LCD monitor! Bad button:

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