Set A Book Free

Passalong BookToday I had a good idea. A great idea really. I had just finished a really great book, and typically I would have happily shelved it, content to have another good book in my personal library. But having discussed this book with a friend, I thought to make it a gift to him, which is a nice thought. But I then imagined him finishing it, and happily shelving it with his books, rather than it being happily shelved with mine, and the thought had less appeal. I don’t know why, I guess I’m selfish. But here’s where the idea came in. What if I gave the book away, on the condition that the recipient would likewise give it away when he finished it? And here’s where the idea gets a cool, tech twist… what if you could track where it went?

Certainly such an idea can’t be that original I thought, and some searching online found that it was not. I found a few web sites that facilitate the free swapping of books by mail, but that’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to turn a book loose, to be found, read, tracked, and turned loose again. I found my idea, already in full fruition at BookCrossing.com. The site offers all of the features I was looking for, and so I registered my book, and gave it to James. Tonight I printed up some labels to use for future releases, the first of which will be my own book, which will be set free in the wilds of Washington, DC tomorrow. May it find a good reader, and be passed along many times.

Five years ago, I entered five dollars into the Where’s George site. None have yet had any of their travels recorded. I hope the books I release do better.

Find-A-Grave

findagrave.jpgFor me, one of the most satisfying parts of my hobby of exploring family history is finding and visiting the burial sites of my relatives. And I have a growing album of photos from such visits. While these visits sometimes can provide new information, more importantly they give me a sense of connection and satisfaction. Regardless of anyone’s individual beliefs in an afterlife, I know that one sure way to live on after death is in the memories of others. And I like that.

As nice as these cemetery visits are, it’s not always possible to make them. And that’s where a great site for Genealogists and Graveyard enthusiasts can be a big help. Find-A-Grave is a virtual cemetery in which information matching burials in real world cemeteries. For example, you can find information about my brother Sean, and my Great Grandmother Myrtle on the site.

One feature that’s available on Find-A-Grave is to request a photo. If there is a burial for which you’re interested in seeing a headstone photo, you can submit your request on the site. The request will be sent to registered users who have agreed to be photo volunteers that live near that cemetery. I have submitted a few such requests, but to earn the favor, I wanted to do the same for someone else. And I recently got the opportunity when a request to visit Hardens Hill Cemetery and photograph a particular headstone arrived in my email.

Thanks to the Google Map that showed the location, it was easy to find our way to Harden’s Hill Cemetery, unexpectedly nestled in some woods at the end of a cul-de-sac in a development just minutes from our home. My daughter Colleen joined me on the hunt, and we quickly found our subject, Theodore Reid. I took a bunch of photos, and added all of them to the appropriate internments on Find-A-Grave. The oldest burial we spotted at Harden’s Hill was in 1905, the most recent in 2005. And by the flowers all about, it was obvious this is not a forgotten cemetery. But even when there’s not human visitors, we learned that there are others keeping watch.

Blogging the Post

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The Washington Post has a very cool feature on their news stories that I’ve been meaning to write about. Many of their articles include a sidebar block like the one shown here titled ‘Who’s Blogging?’. Using the blog search engine Technorati, the Post searches blogs for postings that reference and link back to articles on washingtonpost.com, and then in turn links back to them.

I think this is a very smart thing for the Post to do. Recognizing that bloggers are more likely to be offering some commentary about the news, rather than breaking new news, these links to bloggers who are discussing their stories enhance the news that the Post is providing by showing how it contributes to the online conversations and debates of the blogosphere.

And it can lead to some interesting connections. When I recently wrote a posting titled ‘Holy Ignorance‘ which commented on an article I read in the post about the development of a ‘Creation Museum’ being built in Ohio, the first comment posted in response came from the web developer who manages the web site for the Creation Museum. I’m pretty certain he wasn’t a regular on my humble blog, but found his way there from the list of links from washingtonpost.com.

How Rich Are You?

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How rich are you? >>

 

I’m loaded.
It’s official.
I’m the 36,007,565 richest person on earth!

Here’s a great site to help you start the week feeling good. Find out how rich you are on The Global Rich List, a web site on which you can enter your annual income and see a calculation on how you compare with every other person on the planet.

It’s an interesting exercise, and important reminder of how fortunate you really are. Certainly other measures such as health, happiness and quality of life are at least as important that a straight dollar tally. But even though my wallet is empty and I’m packing my lunches this week, it’s nice to learn that I’m among the top 0.6% richest people in the world! I need to work at clawing my way into the exclusive ‘Top 35 Million Club’. Later, next week I’m eating out!

thanks to Nathaniel for sharing the link

Rapture Letters

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Are you spending any time wondering what your friends will think when the Rapture comes and you’ve been taken up to heaven while they are left behind to pay for their sinful ways with seven years of Hell on Earth? They’ll worry where you went, and wonder why you haven’t called.

Problem solved! Prepare for this eventuality with a visit to RaptureLetters.com, where you can enter the email addresses of your friends and family that you fear will be left behind, and when the Rapture comes, they’ll receive an email from you letting them know you’re with God in heaven. Only people who know they’re going to heaven could be so thoughtful.

How does it work? The site’s creator describes it as a ‘dead man’s switch’. Each week, he resets the program to prevent the Rapture Letters from being sent. When the Rapture comes, and he’s snatched up to heaven, he won’t be there to reset the program and so the letters will be sent. It’s one thing to be sure you’re going to heaven, but won’t it be a hoot when this guy finds himself stuck in traffic, or otherwise incapacitated, and the letters go out… false alarm, no Rapture yet… psych!

It raises a larger issue. Who might maintain such online services after the true believers disapear? On the FAQ of RaptureReady.com they deal with the question of how the site will be maintained after the Rapture occurs. It seems to me that what is really needed is a corps of unholy sys admins… non-believing webmasters who will still be around to keep the email flowing and the web sites humming. With all the spammers and pornographers on the Net, there should be no shortage of skilled techies who will be left behind to keep it up and running.

with thanks to Ed Helm on The Daily Show for his great segment on Rapture Letters

Megan & Michael’s Travelblog

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Imagine you were going to go on a trip around the world. You are going to spend a whole year traveling, and so you have to keep your costs under control, so maybe you’d do some meaningful volunteer work along the way, and oh yeah… it’s you’re honeymoon.

Michael Phillips is a first-rate designer and web builder who I have done work with for the last few years. His new wife Megan is a teacher. But this year, they’re globetrotters. Oddly, it was a snail mail note that Michael sent me from South Africa that pointed me to their online travelogue and photo album.

It’s a great read and an amazing journey they are on. You will suffer great travel envy, but at the same time, reading their updates and looking at their pictures is truly the next best thing to being along on the trip with them.

Back on eBay

It’s been a long time, but I’m back in action on eBay. When I originally joined eBay in 1998, my chosen user name, casey2000, seemed timely and futuristic. Now it just seems like a long time ago. In those six years I’ve been a periodic buyer and seller both. I’ve bought a computer, and sold some old ties. Looking at my own feedback, I can see I didn’t buy or sell anything in 2004.

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But it’s 2005 now and I’ve rejoined this wonderful online yard sale. And what am I selling on my way to that elusive turquoise star? Rubber stamps!

Why rubber stamps? Because my wife has a new hobby. Stamping is out, and quilting is in. And she’s decided that that space being used by her large collection of stamps could be better used for her growing collection of quilt material.

And what do you do when you have too much ‘stuff’ and need to thin the crap pile? Put it on eBay, because there’s a great chance someone out there is interested in your crap. And at the moment, for us, this is rubber stamps.

And what am I buying? Over the years it’s mostly been books, usually signed. But lately it’s been historical items connected with my interest in genealogy. My most recent purchases have been an 1885 map of Chicago, and a used ticket to the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. That’s right, I’m buying 100-year old torn pages from an atlas, and a used ticket stub. Antique crap.

Without question eBay has got to be one of most important and successful online businesses on the net. But flea markets have their dark alleys and questionable items. In the last week alone, eBay has been a frequent subject in the news for its popularity as a market for stolen goods, and for its handling of a unique fundraising auction to help to help a sick boy. With success comes the burden of dealing with such problems. But I remain a hugh fan of eBay. And if you happen to be in the market for some slightly used rubber stamps, I know just the guy 🙂

Buy Blue this Christmas

What’s a Democrat to do during this holiday season? Still depressed that all that work and all your contributions still left you on the short end of 51-48? For some, shopping can bring you some cheer. Maybe it can bring you even more if you educate yourself about how the businesses that you buy from choose to use that money in pursuing their own political agendas. That’s the theory behind two web sites, BuyBlue.org and ChooseTheBlue.com.

For some businesses, giving a majority of their political dollars to the party in power is less of a political act than it is a practical reality. The majority rules, and if you want to grease the wheels of government, that’s where your money is going to go. Others have political agendas as well, and they may promote them aggressively with their corporate contributions, and they do.

But at the same time, it is every consumer’s right to make their purchasing decisions however they please. Price, product quality, and good service are obvious factors in most buying decisions. And if you choose to dig a little deeper, and care to look at how a company uses your shopping dollar in the political arena before you give it to them, you certainly should.

thanks to Nels for sharing these with me