Friday, April 27, 2007

E-BOOK: Wikibooks Language Courses

Sorry for the radio silence this week. I got in over my head a little with work stuff. I am working on a more balanced schedule, especially as I am starting a course next week, and will be posting regularly again. Anyway, today's link is Wikibooks, a neat website which uses the 'wiki' model of user-edited content to organize information into books. Most of the books contain liberal links to related content on Wikipedia and elsewhere as well.

As I will be starting a course next week which will license me to teach French, I have been brushing up on all things French using every resource I can find. Among the texts I looked at was the Wikipedia French Language Course. Much of it was a little basic for my needs, and I can be picky about format for stuff like this, but I certainly respect this project for its ambition and its open source model.

Numerous other language programs are available through Wikibooks. Some are more comprehensive than others, but most contain at least enough to give a broad overview and some helpful links for further study.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

E-BOOK: The Second Commons Press Title

The first Commons Press title, The Lunchbox Gourmet, had over 600 views since its very recent launch. So, I thought it would be fun to do a follow-up. The new one is short, sweet and all-graphical: pictures, with brief comments, of my top twenty-five lunchbox bento creations. Bon appetit! It's Lunchbox Gourmet, Volume 2.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

E-BOOK: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I got a new (used) pda this week for reading ebooks, and it's made things so much more fun :) It's the same model as my old one, but not broken, so I can actually navigate using the touchscreen. Anyway, to celebrate, I downloaded a whck of new e-books, and my first read has been "The Invisible Man" by H.G. Wells. I'm loving it! It's a fast read, with snappy and digestible language. I don't quite sympathize with our main character (the titular man is kind of a whiny brat) but I'm enjoying the story. Ceck it our for yourself!

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Friday, April 13, 2007

WEBSITE: How to Enjoy Many Books

In the spirit of my previous post about Wikipedia browsing, here are some tips for getting the most out of another website I love: Many Books Net. This website features more than 15,000 ebooks, most from the Project Gutenberg catalogue, available in a variety of formats. It is not my only e-book stop: with Project Gutenberg boasting 20,000 plus titles, and Project Gutenberg of Australia bumping the total catalogue up even more, there are times I do go elsewhere. But Many Books has some nice features not found in these other sites, the best of which is a menu for each title which lets you choose your download format (palmdoc, PDF and others) or read directly on-line. The title's page also sometimes (but not always) has a short excerpt and summary.

What really makes Many Books fun are the browse features, though. Here is a rundown of the best of it:
I like Project Gutenberg for its simple, plain-text files readable by any machine. But when I just want to browse, or when I know I will be downlaoding directly to read on my Palm device, I much prefer going to Many Books Net.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

WEBSITE: How to Enjoy Wikipedia

Wikipedia is, as most people know, an internet-based community-driven encyclopedia. It has attracted its share of controversy in the past for being editable by anyone, but imho this is a specious argument. At least one study has found it to be at least as accurate as Britannica, for one thing. And any researcher who accepts information from just one source without verifying it elsewhere is not doing a very good job :) Wikipedia can be a wonderful starting point, and give a solid overview on key areas of a topic. It's a good quick read when you just want an overview.

Wikipedia also has some fun browsing features, for those who decide they just want to learn about stuff :) Herewith, the highlights:
The Featured Content page allows you to browse different types of content, and offers a random example every time you visit. So, each refresh will give you one of these:
  • An article
  • A portal
  • A sound
  • A list
  • A topic
The random article feature is cool int heory, except that a few times when I tried it, I got really short or incomplete articles. If you were visiting Wikipedia once a day hoping to read a short article and learn something, the homepage 'article of the day' would be your best bet.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

MUSIC: Songs by engeo

I am always so delighted when I find English music on Jamendo! I like French pop when I'm in the mood, but it frustrates me that they have not got a language filter on there yet. The new spiral feature has really helped me go exploring though, and I have a ton of new music to share with you over the next little while. First up: this album by engeo. "Dreamworld" is my favourite track, but all of them are good. Happy listening!

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

E-BOOK: Project Gutenberg Finds for French Students

I am plugging away at my French, trying to attain my goal of complete bilingualism :) I have found the e-text offerings a little bit limited, to my surprise. Most of the French classics are available (Project Gutenberg has over 1000 French titles) but classic literary French and modern conversational French are not the same thing. I suppose I was hoping to find a French equivalent to the 'words of one syllable' series of retold English classics. No dice :)

I scoured the Project Gutenberg French offerings and did find a few readable texts. Most of these I would say would be quite accessible to those at the intermediate level. I am a fairly high intermediate and could work through most of this with no dictionary required :) Many of them are aimed at children. Others have stories or sections in short enough chunks that a non-French reader should be able to set up a fairly painless schedule for daily reading.

Friday, April 06, 2007

AUDIO BOOK: Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

As I have blogged previously, 'Pollyanna' by Eleanor H. Porter is one of my favourite children's classics. I was delighted to find that Librivox has just released it as an audiobook. Mary Anderson reads the whole thing herself (I always prefer the solo projects on Librivox to the group efforts) and is a serviceable, unobtrusive narrator. The Librivox entry also has links to the e-text and to related Wikipedia content, so I won't bother linking to it again :)

In other news from Librivox, they released 70 new titles during their 'March Madness' event, and have a new searchable catalogue which lets you filter the catalogue by title, author or status. If you want to filter in other ways (such as by genre, reader, language or only solo/only group readings, you can do that too, but you'll need to click through to the advanced search page for that). Kudos to Librivox for the improvements. They remain one of the most prolific, consistent providers of free audiobooks and public domain audio content on the net. Thanks for the new stuff, you guys! Now, the book:

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

E-BOOK: Illustrated History of Scientology

How to categorize this one? :) This public domain graphic novel-style piece is burning up the hit lists at Scribd, my new favourite web community with potential (you may recall, I just put up my own ebook there!) This piece presents a short, humorous explanation for all those who read the tabloids and have no idea what Tom Cruise keeps going on about :) Don't worry, it won't try to convert you :) This is strictly tongue in cheek.

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MUSIC: Songs by Jenny Gillespie

I found this EP, called 'Love and Ammunition' by Jenny Gillespie, on the Internet Archive. 'Bradforton' and 'Grenadine' are by far the standout tracks, but I enjoyed the whole thing. She has a sweet voice, and nicely written lyrics. From 'Grenadine' for example:

'I know it's only just a routine tear
But it looks so red in a glass that's clear...'

Enjoy! I've had this on replay for a few days now...

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

ADMIN: Tags!

I am on vacation this week for Passover, and catching up on a whole bunch of chores. I need to start hustling on school jobs for September (sigh) but am taking the first two days just to decompress and attend family functions. So...I went through the blog yesterday and tagged all the posts! Tags should help you search better for posts which may interest you. For example, all music posts have the tag 'music'but they also have other related tags. Netlabel posts all will say 'netlabel' and will also indicate which netlabel. So, you can search for 'all netlabel music' or you can narrow it down to just Magnatune, or Jamendo or whatever. You can search for all audio, or narrow it down to just audiobooks, or just audiobooks from Librivox, or audio which is not audiobooks. All sorts of options! I have also updated the website, adding the March posts to the blog index, and adding the music posted in March to the music index, which is now at 122 songs.

Monday, April 02, 2007

WEBSITE: Jamendo has New Features!

Jamendo is a wondeful netlabel that has several thousand albums available for listenign and dowloading. It allows you to star and rate albums, use the bittorrent client of your choice to download, and get recommendations based on albums you have liked in the past. It has a few quirks, to be sure: the majority of the albums are in French, which may or may not be your thing; many find downloading via bittorrent to be positively glacial (although you can export the streaming playlist to your favoured M3U player and save the tracks manually if you so desire) and it can be a fiddly site to navigate at times. That's why I was so happy to see a new feature ont he Jamendo site the other day: the spiral.

The spiral has a centre spoke with arms shooting out of it saying things like 'latest releases' or 'random' or 'popular this week.' Each arm has a row of album covers on it. Click on any album cover which catches your eye, and it gets moved to the centre spoke, where you can listen to it, download it, star it or banish it (temporarily or forever) from appearing in the spiral again. It's a great way to find new albums if you don't feel like just diving in to a massive pool of two thousand of them :) They plan to add filtering options down the road, which will be even better.

The spiral has revived my interest in Jamendo. I will be playing around with it in the next few days and rooting out some good music to recommend to you guys :)

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