Saturday, August 27, 2005

Free CDs in TV Guide

I bought a copy of TV Guide at the grocery store today. It has a mini-CD stuck to the front cover, promoting the TV show Lost. The mini-CD will work in most tray-loading CD players. I popped in in my computer and played with it. It had outtakes from the TV show, pictures, musics, games, and lots of fun stuff - plus the inevitable ads to buy the boxed CD set of the show's first season.

It was pretty cool as a novelty item. It's amazing to me that CDs are so cheap to make that they can stick them in magazines.

I'm sure the novelty will wear off if lots of people do this, but if you are a Lost fan, pick up a copy of TV Guide.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Survive the IRS (inside info for businesses)

This should interest everyone who runs a business!

When the IRS audits a business tax return, the auditors need to know something about the type of business in order to know what to look for. So the IRS prepares training documents on all sorts of businesses, ranging from auto repair to nightclubs and restaurants. This tells the auditors exactly what they should look at and question.

Wow! So if you're in one of those businesses, wouldn't it be great to know exactly what the IRS auditors will question?

Well, you can. You'll find a bunch of these IRS documents (called "Audit Techniques Guides") right on the IRS website. There's also another list, inluding some older (possibly outdated) guides, at

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Skype Me!

I've been playing around a bit with Skype, an Internet telephone (VOIP) application. (See

Skype requires that you have a microphone on your computer (a headset combining microphone and earphones is the best bet), and a high-speed Internet connection. You can talk to other Skype users, computer-to-computer, for free. You can call ordinary telephone numbers for a small per-minute charge.

Skype is also adding a feature that will allow you to pay a subscription fee in order to have a real telephone number, so that people can call you at your computer. Right now it's being tested.

So, what's the verdict?

I have a VERY high-speed connection, but I found the quality to be poor. Kind of like a weak cell-phone connection. I also found the interface to be a little clumsy.

From a purely technical standpoint, voice and data are being integrated, and a lot of phone traffic is alreayd routed over IP lines. But for personal use, Skype isn't quite there. If you are paying high fees for long distance calls, you *might* want to investigate Skype... after all, free is good! But for now at least, you're probably better off shopping around for a better rate plan for your regular phone.

Friday, August 12, 2005

How We Got Here (a good book)

I recently read a fascinating book, Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. The book sets out to answer the questions, "Why did advanced civilizations arise in some places but not others? How did people of European descent come to dominate the world economically and politically?"

This is not light summer reading - but it is surprisingly interesting and well written. Need more convincing? The book won a Pulitzer prize, it was on the New York Times bestseller list, and on the back of the book there is a recommendation from Bill Gates! (OK, maybe that's not the best recommendation - but read the book anyway.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Art Cards

I know a fair number of artists and designers, and I've always been surprised to find that in their free time, they create more art!

Often these "spare time" projects and quick forms of self-expression, meant to be given away or traded. I've recently discovered art cards... simple works of art (sometimes multi-media) created in a 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 size - like an old fashioned baseball trading card.

In fact, art cards were originally intended to be traded among artists... but now many are available for sale. It's an inexpensive way to pick up some nice original artwork, and they don't take a lot of wallspace!

Visit eBay and search the Art section for ATC (artist trading cards) or ACEO (Artist Cards - Editions and Originals).

Thanks to Cindy Couling for permission to use her Art Card, "El Cotorro." Visit Cindy's blog at

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A User Edited Web Directory:

There are many web "directories" that contain thousands or even millions of web pages, organized into neat categories. The two biggest, Yahoo and DMOZ (the so-called "Open Directory") are now too restrictive for most small sites. Yahoo charges $300 a year for a listing, effectively keeping out anything but large commercial sites. DMOZ has a bureaucratic system of volunteer editors, so that it often takes onths or years to get submissions approved.

A new directory,, is trying to solve this problem by creating a community edited web directory. Quite simply, anyone can add to or edit the directory. This system has worked very well for, the online encyclopedia, and hopefully it will work equally well for wikidweb.

Visit wikidweb and take some time to learn how the site works. Add your own favorite sites, and volunteer some of your time to help edit and clean up existing entries. It's a worthwhile effort.

Monday, August 01, 2005

El Cotoro

"El Cotoro" seems to be an archaic Spanish word for parrot. I found the word on an old deck of Loteria cards. I've also seen it spelled el cotorro, but neither spelling shows up in my Spanish dictionary.

What does that have to do with this blog? Nothing. I liked the word. I liked the image. And that's it.

That's what this blog is about. Stuff that catches my interest for a moment or two. Stuff that I find fun, or interesting, or intriguing. New products? Sure! El Cotoro is attracted to shiny things!

Maybe the things that catch my eye will appeal to you as well. There's a little bit of El Cotoro in everyone.