The Earthquake App

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Every time I visit my family in Los Angeles, I think about earthquakes. When they hear my concerns, they say they fear the streets of New York City with the murders, muggings, and, the latest rage, the knockout game. For those of you who don’t know what the knockout game is, let me explain. For the last year or so, gangs of teens have been roaming the streets looking for older people (that’s us) to hit in the head. The goal of the game is to knock someone over. If a person goes down, you win. Lovely isn’t it?

Regardless of the crime challenges in NYC, I still find the potential of an earthquake very overwhelming. That’s why I became very interested in any kind of app for my iPhone that would notify me or act as advisor during an earthquake.

While there are a number of options, I found the earthquake notification app from the Red Cross to be very appealing. You can receive alerts and notifications, learn how to prepare your family and home, and let others know you are safe, even if the power and cell connections are out.

I’m getting this app on my next trip to an earthquake zone. All you have to do is access the Red Cross from a mobile phone. Call REDCROSS or (**73327677) for the link to download the quake alert app to your iPhone or Android device. You can also download directly from the iTunes or Google Play app stores.

I think for peace of mind this app is good because it lets you know what to do before, during, and after an earthquake, even if there is no data connectivity. I would also want to know immediately what the shaking impact was in my area and that of my loved ones. With the Red Cross app, you can let family and friends know you are okay via Facebook, Twitter, email, and text.

The app also gives you updates on the nearest Red Cross shelters in your area and provides a Toolkit with a strobe light, flashlight, and audible alert functions.

Life is strange. Some people probably think I am being overdramatic with my earthquake thoughts, while others simply like the idea of being prepared. It is your choice.

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Manual versus Digital

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One of the hottest tech items for this holiday season is something that I can’t imagine anyone would want. First of all, I have little interest in anything that is related to the kitchen. Secondly, who would spend $150 for a gadget that does something you can easily do by hand?

Nevertheless, many tech writers, including Dain Binder, have cited the new SmartShopper Grocery List Organizer as a very popular Christmas item this year. The SmartShopper has an intuitive interface so all you have to do is push the record button, say the name of the item you want, and then all items get placed into categories. The SmartShopper has 2,500 items in its library.

The voice-activated SmartShopper is being touted as a tremendous time saver. I don’t understand how, but it must be the case. Writers and reviewers claim that if you use the SmartShopper you don’t forget a thing! If that is worth $150, then this gadget is for you.

Rosetta Stone Never Worked for Me

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I am desperate to learn how to speak Spanish. A lot of my friends in Miami speak Spanish because their parents and grandparents come from South America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. I get so envious when I hear them switch from English to Spanish and back again.

I often think to myself that those who speak several languages are really smarter than everyone else. Of course that is not true; it just feels that way. People who only speak one language sometimes make up the excuse that everyone speaks English so what is the point of learning a second one. I think it is more about the difficulty of learning and retaining.

People swear by Rosetta Stone. It never worked for me. Now Apple has recognized Duolingo as their favorite free iPhone App of the Year. The app is also available on Android. I am going to give this one a whirl. The app has been around 12 months and already has received 10 million downloads. That is huge.

The app was developed at Carnegie Mellon University where computer science teacher Luis von Ahn and student Severin Hacker thought there should be a way to use smartphones to learn new languages.

Duolingo offers six languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, and Portuguese. Pictures and videos are used for association purposes. The app is like a game so it’s fun. That should do it. I am starting today. I will report back.

Your Body Will Be Looking for New Surfaces

Remember the name Pranav Mistry. He is a 31-year-old Indian computer scientist who is leading the world in gestural interaction. To learn more about gestural interaction, please watch the video above that was taped a few years ago. You will think it is all science fiction. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Mistry’s “SixthSense” wearable technology is going to allow you to use natural hand gestures to project digital content onto other surfaces, like walls and physical objects around you. “SixthSense” frees information from the confines of digital devices by seamlessly projecting onto your physical environment.

Mistry is the head of the Think Tank Team and Director of Research at Samsung where he works on a wide variety of topics including wearable computing, augmented reality, ubiquitous computing, gestural interaction, artificial intelligence, machine vision, collective intelligence, and robotics. He is best known for his work on SixthSense and Samsung Galaxy Gear.

Everyone is waiting for the next big thing. This could be it. Did you ever see anything so remarkable? Okay, maybe a baby being born, but that’s it!

Un-Appy Habits

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I’m not going to chew gum anymore.
I’m not going to chew gum anymore.
I’m not going to chew gum anymore.

I can’t break the habit of chewing gum. It makes me feel productive. This is a big stretch but I guess you can compare it to someone who runs. Many people run because they expel a lot of pent-up energy and they get a great sense of accomplishment. Every time I chew gum, I feel like I am making my motor run. I like the feeling of biting down on something that needs to be kneaded.

I know I sound like a crazy person. Do crazy people chew gum? I need to break this habit. I had been telling my friends about my dilemma and one of them recommended the app called Lift. The app helps you accomplish changes in your life.

Lift is designed to solve tough problems, keep you motivated, and develop new positive habits while ditching old bad ones. The app explains itself this way:

Lift tracks and display graphs to show users how many times the habit was performed, over the past weeks / months. To gain ‘Momentum’ on the app, you need to perform and check-in a habit at least 3 times a week. ‘Momentum’ is used as a yardstick to measure how near you are from making the habit your habit.

 

Additionally, the app comes with a support system, in the form of users community. The community provides encouragement (or a healthy level of peer pressure), as they can give you ‘props’ (likes) for your check ins. Props, as a form of peer recognition, can fuel motivation. Lift users are encouraged to join a challenge. The challenge is led by a “Lift coach.” Other like-minded individuals also join the challenge. Then you check in every day and you all create the new habit, or stop the old habit, together.

It’s as simple as that. I will let you know if I ever stop chewing gum.

Early Adopters

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The digital market has a brand new audience and many grandparents are pretty upset about it. Infants are expected be the next big target for iPads. Fisher-Price has just introduced the “Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad®.” It will retail for $80.

Please don’t throw a hissy fit. No one is suggesting that you give a baby an iPad instead of quality time with the family. All this product is supposed to be is a sensible alternative to a TV set where you don’t necessarily control the content.

You can’t negate the fact that children today are growing up in a digital world. A Fisher-Price spokeswoman told me an iPad should be no different than a toy. Everything in moderation.

Pee and Chips

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Good news for people who fear they may have sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A Clinical Research Collaboration team at the University of London is currently developing a computer chip that can tell you whether or not you have an STD, including herpes and gonorrhea, There is one catch, however. You have to urinate or spit on the chip. Then the chip can be plugged into a phone for the analysis,

The chips will probably be the size of a USB chip and may be sold in vending machines for around 80 cents to $1.60. Many folks are applauding this new development since it will encourage more people to perform self-exams and could reduce the spread of STDs.

DigiDame Featured on The Three Tomatoes Website

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Cheryl Benton

DigiDame is now being picked up on The Three Tomatoes website and email newsletter. The Three Tomatoes is The NYC’s Insider Guide for women who aren’t kids. A Los Angeles weekend guide starts next month.

Basically this is a site where women 40 plus write stories about art, fashion, theatre, movies, restaurants, technology, and so on for ladies who are more mature. We want to hear and learn about stuff to do from women who have the same interests.

The site, founded by Cheryl Benton, a well-known marketing executive, has more than 30,000 page views a month and 15,000 email newsletter subscribers. Cheryl has many famous writers on the site. You will be very impressed,

The Three Tomatoes will be featuring posts from DigiDame several times a month. Click here to see the page devoted to DigiDame. I am so thrilled. I have to thank Ann Boutcher, Chief Marketing Officer at VOXX International, (formerly Audiovox), Hauppauge , Long Island for the introduction. Thank you Ann!!

Motion Sensors Turn Sign Language into Spoken Word

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If the language interpreter on stage at the Nelson Mandela memorial service was wearing this new device that I’m about to tell you about, we could have heard his signing in audible sounds. (Then again, maybe not. In case you haven’t heard, deaf people watching the service earlier this week said the interpreter’s signing was gestural gibberish.)

This may sound very futuristic, but there actually is a new Sign Language Bracelet with a set of rings that can translate sign language. The bracelet and rings use motion sensors and an LED display.

Sign language was always a big mystery to me. My niece Mara and grandnephew Ari can sign. When they showed me a few words, it made no sense to me. Still, I found it fascinating. Inspired by Buddhist prayer beads, some Asian students are developing the devices to solve the problem of communication for the hearing impaired.

Three rings are needed per hand to track the motions of the wearer’s hands and fingers. The translation then gets converted into spoken words, which are played by a speaker on the bracelet, worn by the listener. How awesome is that?

The bracelet also has a microphone inside to hear the words spoken so it can be translated into text. The text can then be displayed on an LED screen on the top of the bracelet.

Reports claim that the students already have text-to-speech and speech-to-text technologies in place. Let’s hope this invention comes out real soon. We have a lot of interpreting to do.

92Y Talks in Your Home

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Every year I love going through the 92Y catalog to check off which talks and concerts I want to attend. “The Y,” located on 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue in NYC, is known throughout the world as having one of the most comprehensive programs for lectures; concerts featuring classical, jazz, and popular music; literary readings; and film screenings.

I feel a sense of loss when I miss one of the programs I’ve checked off. As I get older, the chances of me missing a program is far greater as we travel more and spend a lot of time in Miami.

You can imagine the joy I experienced when I found out about the 92Y On Demand eNews showcasing the best of its programs. As a subscriber, I receive email updates about the latest talks, readings and concerts that are available online. There is also an archive. Check out the Livecast page to see which events you can watch live online. I also search for the segments on YouTube where the Y archives them.

I have included two of the recent interviews above: Alec Baldwin and Sting. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to take advantage of 92Y programs from remote locations.

The digital world just keeps getting better and better. Below are just some of the folks who have participated in Y programs.

Alvin Ailey
Edward Albee
Alan Alda
Truman Capote
Jimmy Carter
Bill Clinton
Francis Ford Coppola
Larry David
T. S. Eliot
Frank Gehry
Mikhail Gorbachev
Martha Graham
Rachel Maddow
Norman Mailer
Wynton Marsalis
Steve Martin
Sting
Margaret Thatcher
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Elie Wiesel