Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thing 34: Using the Web for Better Health

For some of us losing weight is never easy. Fortunately, there are nifty online tools available to help you along the way. I've found two that I recommend - FitDay and Nutridiary. They have similar features, and both are helpful. Set a target weight and track the calories consumed and calories burned. You can do this daily or, if that's too much of a time commitment, use these tools to occasionally look up the nutritional content of last night's dinner or find the approximate number of calories you burned working in the yard.

Here's how it works. You enter basic information about yourself (height, weight, age, lifestyle level). Using this information, the website calculates an approximate value for daily basal (metabolic) calories burned and lifestyle calories burned. For any given day, you can enter calories burned from activity, which ranges from biking to household chores to yard work. The sum of these three categories equals the total calories burned per day. Then you can enter the foods consumed on any given day. From this information, the website calculates total calories consumed, as well as where these calories come from and how they are distributed. It also creates a chart of all of the necessary vitamins and minerals and records how much of each you are getting, highlighting any that you are not getting enough of.

The only significant difference that I can find between the two services is that Nutridiary is also a social network. If you diet better with "community" support, perhaps Nutridiary would be a better choice for you.

Discovery Exercise
  1. Create an account at Nutridiary or FitDay
  2. Fill in the food chart and the activity chart for a typical day. Find out how the number of calories consumed compares to the number of calories burned.
  3. Find out whether you are meeting recommended nutrient requirements. Are there any nutrients for which you aren't getting the recommended amount?
  4. Evaluate the site in your Learning 2.1 blog.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thing 33: Express Yourself Through Online Art

Since the previous two entries were so darned useful, it seemed entirely appropriate to make this one equally useless. Indeed, the Internet provides endless opportunities to waste time. Here are a few sites where you can be creative, have fun, and, yes, waste time - but hopefully not too much time.

Have an urge to express yourself artistically? Try Mr. Picassohead. It's a drawing program with Picasso-like pieces that you can drag and drop onto a “canvass.” Each piece can be enlarged or reduced, rotated, or colored. When finished, you can add your work of art to their gallery or send the link to family and friends.

More time to kill? Then click over to String Spin to create string art or try your hand at snowflake making.
Then for more fun and fascination, try one of the Falling Sand games. Is this art or is it a game? You decide. Here's the general idea. You are given materials (sand, oil, salt, water, seeds, etc.). You can use these materials to draw on a board (game field?). These elements interact with each other. For example, you draw a plant. You also have the option of drawing fire which will burn the plant. Or you can draw water which will put out the fire and also make the plant grow. There's absolutely no purpose to any of these sites except just idle fun. So if you’re feeling a little creative and would like to kill some time, check one or more of them out.

Discovery Exercise:

1. Explore one of the following:
2. Blog about your experience.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Thing 32: Online File Storage with Omnidrive

Online file storage sites are not new. However, some of the services have added features that make them hard to resist. I've discovered two that I particularly like: and Omnidrive. Both allow you 1 gigabyte of storage space, and both are absolutely free (and I REALLY like free). In addition, they both allow you to share your files with others which makes for an optimum opportunity for people to collaborate from different locations. Hmmm ... I can think of a lot of PLCMC teams that might need to collaborate from different locations.

I really love Omnidrive. They have combined forces with Zoho so that you can create new documents or edit ones you've uploaded using Zoho Writer or Zoho Sheet - all right from inside your account. In fact, I created this blog from inside Omnidrive using Zoho Writer.

Maybe I'm easy to impress, but I'm impressed. In the first place, I really like the idea of having a web-based storage site. I often find that I'm at home and want to see a file stored on my computer at work. I can just upload those files, then whether I'm at home or on my next trip to Paris, Rome or London (oh, how I wish), I can view them wherever and whenever I choose.

Then there's the sharing feature of Omnidrive. Want to collaborate on a file? If so Omnidrive sends an email to the people you want to share the file with. You determine the level of access. Files can be read-only or editable by the people you share them with.

Photos are another reason to use Omnidrive. SnipShot is another one of their affiliates. You can upload images, then edit them in SnipShot. You can crop, resize, adjust for brightness/contrast and rotate - in short do most of the things you'd ever want to do to an image and all from inside. There's even a option to view your images as a slideshow. Clever.

Another nice feature of Omnidrive is that they let you create a 'Live Folder' that will fill up with files from an RSS feed of your choice.

I've found lots of reasons to like Omnidrive. I'd like to hear what you think.

Discovery Exercise
  1. Open an account at Omnidrive.
  2. Upload a text document, then edit it online using Zoho Writer.
  3. Upload an image, then edit it online using SnipShot
  4. Blog about your experiences using Omnidrive.

Thing 31: Get Organized with Plaxo

There are a number of websites that allow users to set up organizational calendars and task lists for free. Among these are Remember the Milk, Jotlet, and Plaxo.

My personal favorite is Plaxo, which seems to have all of the best components of the others with its own special features. For starters, it can sync data with other programs such as Outlook, AOL, and various Web based email services including Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail. It will automatically pull your contacts and events from any of the programs that you choose, which definitely saves a lot of time and trouble. You can add feeds from Flickr, blogs, and Amazon, which automatically update. You can also subscribe to schedules for sports teams, bands, television shows, etc. using iCal. A great thing about Plaxo is that you can share all or part of your calendar with your contacts, or you can publish it and make it public. Then, of course, there's always the option of just leaving it private and allowing no one else access.

Discovery Exercise
  1. Sign up for Plaxo Basic (or if you're willing to spend the money, Plaxo Premium).
  2. Add a couple of events to your calendar and be sure to mark recurring events.
  3. Try creating separate categories for your calendar (such as home and work), and edit your events into these categories. Make sure you're able to view calendars for each category separately and that you can overlay them onto one another.
  4. Make a countdown of important birthdates and anniversaries.
  5. Create a task list, and be sure to check things off as you complete them.
  6. Pick a band, tv show, or sport of interest and, using, subscribe to it on Plaxo.
  7. And finally, be sure to create a blog post about your discovery experience. While you're at it, think of ways you and your coworkers could use Plaxo (or Jotlet or Remember the Milk) during library hours.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Introducing July's Discovery Guide

I don't know about where you are, but it's hot here and it makes sense ... after all it is July! A huge thank you to Jamie who did a super job guiding us through four new discoveries over the last few weeks. This month, our Discovery Guide leader is Julia Hanson.

Julia's a terrific gal and a very seasoned technology trainer who works in the Main Library's Virtual Village. Although she's not one to tout her own accomplishments (& I'm sure she'll blush when she reads this), I do have to share with you one other little tidbit about Julia... she's also a 2005 NYTimes Librarian Award winner.

Anyway, please join me in welcoming Julia as July's Discovery Guide. I hope you're as excited as I am to see what adventures she has in store.