Archive for October, 2007

Free website, anyone?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

For about a year now, I’ve been making use of the free web-hosting service offered by Microsoft called Office Live Basic.

Most people have probably stopped reading already, as soon as they saw the name Microsoft. Truth be told, I can’t really blame you. Their free website tools, all ASP-based (don’t ask me what that means) are cumbersome, and definitely have a learning curve.

But, you can register a domain name for nothing flat, build a site pretty quickly using their template construction methods, and — in time — pick up enough tricks to make the site look and function reasonably well.

I’ve used Office Live Basic to build to build two sites which are both doing nicely in terms of steadily-increasing traffic. My latest is FirstMention.com where I indulge a peculiar fascination I have with word and phrase origins. If you visit the site, you’ll see several features of the ASP-based sites, including:

  • Pages work okay when viewed in Internet Explorer, but there are some problems with Firefox and other browswers. I’m just beginning to work out how to fix these.
  • It’s possible (but not easy) to incorporate Adsense. Text ads work well, but image ads, for some reason, seem particularly non-relevant to the pages, and I’m eliminating their use bit by bit.
  • There are limits to page formatting options with the free service. For instance, there are only a handful of fonts available.

Anyway, just wanted to mention this, in case anyone feels like exploring a useful-but-not-perfect freebie for registering a domain name and quickly building a site.

Cheers,

David

Victor Hugo tells poet: “Keep your day job”

Monday, October 15th, 2007

A handwritten note from Victor Hugo was found in a French edition of his book “Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Uclue customer binder123 wondered what Victor Hugo was writing about, but the author’s scrawl was hard to make out, and he had used antiquated spellings and letterforms.

Researcher scriptor managed to decipher most of the text, and uncovered a touching letter written by Hugo to an aspiring poet who had sent a sample of his work and sought his advice. Hugo replied that the hopeful should not give up his day job, because “success sometimes avoids the talent and goes to the mediocrity”.

Here is scriptor’s English translation:

Hauteville house. – 3 November [1862]

I read your poem, Monsieur, you asked me for advice, I sense a noble heart in your ___ plea, I strive to answer you.

No, do not sacrifice your profession, do not hazard your peace; the priest lives on the altar, but the poet does not live on poetry.

That literature requires the literate, ___ without exception. Success is capricious. I add this: success sometimes avoids the talent and goes to the mediocrity; thus it is impossible to predict anything.

After having read a very beautiful poem, one must neither encourage nor discourage the poet.

That is my disposition, Monsieur.

Recieve my cordial sentiment of ___.

— Victor Hugo

It’s amazing (and fabulous) that something like this can come to the public eye for the first time, 145 years later. It’s a lovely insight into Victor Hugo the person.

For further details, see Victor Hugo Note Translation at Uclue. If you don’t know the poet and author Victor Hugo, see his entry at Wikipedia.

Decoding acronyms

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Sometimes you want to know the meaning of an acronym. Perhaps it’s new, or perhaps it’s jargon — a term used within a particular community or subculture.

There are two ways to go here. You could look it up on a comprehensive site such as The Free Dictionary, where you may get dozens of possible meanings. Take a look at this Free Dictionary search for the acronym OP, for example.

Or, you could look it up at the Urban Dictionary. A Uclue user, willdeans, describes the advantage of this approach:

People submit their own definitions and then vote on the definition. As a result, the most common uses of an acronym become immediately clear. Chances are the definition you are looking for will be in the top few

Thanks, Will!

Prices, Inflation, Stocks, Interest Rates

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Historical information about prices, inflation, stocks, interest rates, exchange rates, labor prices, the value of gold, etc goes under the name of Economic History.

A wealth of economic history data can be found at the Economic History Services website, where you can explore a variety of data sets and use a variety of calculators to answer questions such as these:

  • How many modern dollars would I need to buy the same goods that I could have bought for $10 in 1793?
  • How has the purchasing power of the pound changed since 1264?
  • How much did unskilled labor cost in the past?
  • What has happened to interest rates, exchange rates, the cost of living, the stock market, and savings in the past?

Other services at the site include book reviews, databases, an encyclopedia of Economic and Business History, and a massive set of useful links to related sites.

Some of the calculators redirect to the Measuring Worth site, where a number of useful data sets are hosted, together with a glossary and explanatory article about Measures of Worth.