Do They Have Mangos in Moscow?

Mango Languages logoMango Languages just launched their online language learning product in beta.   They’re offering 11 free languages courses – including Russian!   Each course is comprised of 100 lessons, presented in a PowerPoint-style sideshow providing the written form of the words along with the spoken dialog.   The focus is on learning short, conversational sentences.

Even though we’ve fallen way out of practice since our classroom-based Russian language primer course at U.T.P.B., I was surprised at how much of this seemed familiar.   As we begin to prep for our first trip to Cheboksary, maybe the combination of the Mango online lessons and the Pimsleur audiobook courses will help to ease some of the language barrier.

(You have read the latest exciting news over on our Russian Adoption Journal, right?)

Survivor 15: China

Survivor: China logo

Premiering Thursday, September 20th on CBS, Survivor: China will be the 15th season of the reality TV series.   As usual, we’re participating in our Survivor game at work.   This time around I drew Dave and Rob drew Frosti for our survivors.   Since neither of us has ever won, we’re due this time around!

This season will include several historical Chinese locations, including the Shaolin Temple and the Great Wall of China.

Instead of Exile Island featured in previous seasons, the China contestants will have the ability to kidnap a player on the opposing tribe as part of winning a reward challenge;   the kidnapped player remains with that team through the next immunity challenge, and will receive a clue to the location of a hidden immunity idol at that camp.

Go With the Flow

Recently, I’ve been thinking…   The widespread acceptance of digital music has probably caused album artwork to become much less important since so much music is being bought electronically now.   And even of the CDs you might’ve physically purchased in the past few months, what was the last one you bought that featured a truly memorable cover design?   Can you even recall the what the album covers from the last 4 or 5 CDs you purchased looked like?

I believe that’s all about to change…

Cover Flow screen shot

Cover Flow, the 3-D interface that iTunes & the new iPod lineup features for visually browsing through your digital music libraries via album covers, was created by independent Mac developer Jonathan del Strother and purchased by Apple back in ’04.   It’s a gorgeous, intuitive, & fun way to peruse your music collection — almost exactly like flipping through stacks of vinyl LP record albums back in the old analog music days.

The more I see of the visually-stunning Cover Flow interface, I’m convinced that its popularity — thanks in no small part to Steve Jobs’ miraculous iPhone — will spark a revitalization of the previously-withering art of album cover design.   Since thumbing through your music collection’s cover art is the coolest way to find stuff on all of the new iPods (except the display-less iPod Shuffle), I think we’re about to see the visual aspect of music get a serious kick in the pants!

And I don’t think the impact of Cover Flow ends there.   No sir, not by a long shot!   Similarly-styled GUIs are going to spring up left & right — not the least of which is Leopard, or Mac OS X v10.5, the sixth major release of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system due out in October ’07.   It’s a safe bet that we’re seeing the next paradigm shift in user interfaces.

What do you think?   Will Cover Flow revitalize album cover design within the music industry?   And will it become as imitated as the iPod’s venerable click wheel?

It’s Like, Us!

Rob & Dede's Simpsons avatarsBack in July when the movie released, Dede whipped up custom Simpsons avatars on The Simpsons Movie website that depicted us as Springfield’s newest residents.

Then yesterday, I came across a link to another fun Simpsons character generator widget that does an even better job of transforming a photo of you into a Matt Groening-style Simpsons character.   Here’s what Dede & I look like according to Simpsonize Me!


Rob & Dede's DoppleMe avatarsAlso earlier this week, I stumbled across the DoppleMe Free Dynamic Avatar Maker and decided to see what we’d look like in their little world…

It’s a little surprising how well some of these avatar generators capture your likeness.   You can use these images on Internet forums or social sites.   Have you tried any of these?   Post a link or pic so we can see what you came up with!

A Challenge Answered

Kirk Blanchard at Just Thinkin’ issued a friendly challenge to fellow bloggers who’ve been around for a year or more to republish your first blog post.

Seemed like a fun & nostalgic glimpse at the humble beginnings of 2Dolphins, so I decided to take up the gauntlet…   (Dede just loves it when I dredge up obscure phrases like that!)   Yup, my first official Blogger post from Saturday, March 13th, ’04 is still online & oh-so-exciting:

Update:   Kirk posted a comment wondering if these were still available.   Well, yes they are and here’s a page where you can view the whole lineup of Victorinox SwissMemory multitools.

USB Swiss Army Knife

USB Swiss Army KnifeThe Register is reporting that Victorinox (the Swiss Army Knife people) and Swissbit (the USB memory people) will unveil at the German computer fair CeBIT next week the ultimate pocket tool for geeks…

The USB Swiss Army Knife comes in 64 & 128 megabyte versions.

Rain, Sun & Fun

We went to Brady last weekend for the annual Labor Day Goat Cook-off and although we never actually went to the cook-off, we sure enjoyed the long weekend with our friends.

We joked about the weather before we left because the last couple of times we’ve gone down there the weather turned bad and we’ve had to come home early.   There was even a freak snowstorm during last Easter and we ended up driving home in a blizzard.   This time we thought we were safe so our only plans for the weekend were to hang out in the pool and soak up the sun.   Well, here’s the view of the pool about an hour after we jumped in.

More rain in Brady, Texas

Yep, it rained for most of the afternoon on Saturday but luckily that was it.   The rest of the weekend the weather was perfect for a relaxing time at the pool.

Our friends Glenda & Bryan in Brady aren’t night owls and rarely have overnight guests, so I think we pretty much throw their life off-balance whenever we visit.   Since they didn’t own any boardgames (who doesn’t have any games?), I insisted that we purchase some for a game night on Saturday.   Amberly helped me pick out some electronic music trivia game.   Everyone loved it and we sat up late playing it until the questions started repeating.   The next day, we purchased another game, Imaginiff and it was awesome!   I can’t wait to play it with some of our friends here.

We also got to see Amberly’s new guitar and hear a few performances from her.   Here she is with her Ibanez guitar in her happy place.   😉

Amberly's new Ibanez guitar


Graph It Up!

pencil and graph paperWhether you’re planning to rearrange some furniture, laying out a garden, working on a crafty project, charting some progress, or just doodling, sometimes you need graph paper to do the job right.   At, Kevin MacLeod offers a vast assortment of free graph paper generators so you can create & print your own custom lined & grid papers, ledgers, storyboards, music staves, lettering guidelines, and much more!

(Note: Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

September Suggestions

Blogtipping iconEaston Ellsworth’s Blogtipping concept is simple:   you link to three unsuspecting blogs with three compliments & one helpful comment or idea for each blog author.   Giving a few fellow bloggers a pat on the back is just a nice way to start the month off on a positive note.

So, here are September’s Blogtipping sites:

I’m an Organizing Junkie by Laura covers a topic that’s near & dear to Dede’s heart – organization.   3 (actually 4) things she loves about this blog (aside from the fact that it’s about her most favorite subject of all time!):

  1. Great pictures that clearly show how to use the organization tips discussed.
  2. Naturally, this blog is very well-organized!   Tips are easy to find since they’re arranged in categories.
  3. Laura offers ideas for organizing things that I’d never thought of organizing (like bad habits, for example).
  4. Lots of links to other sites & creative organizing ideas.
  • Tip: The pages are a bit cluttered with distracting ad banners along the side but that’s probably something that can’t be changed for sponsorship reasons.

Escape Adulthood by Kim & Jason Kotecki is a great way to keep the Summer vibe with ideas to help grown-ups escape adulthood & children have better childhoods:

  1. "Business Wisdoms" & other creative solutions for reducing the stress of Adultitis and keeping your inner child alive & kicking.
  2. The site is chocked full of Jason’s great artwork & fun cartoons!
  3. The Lemonade Stand online store has loads of cool products for the young at heart.
  • Tip: It might be nice to be able to filter the posts by author in addition to the other categories.

Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly showcases tools, gadgets, software, videos, books, websites, or just about anything else that’s useful:

  1. The range of stuff is incredible – where else can you find reviews of Kevlar thread along side a book about pre-Columbian American Indians and a primer on gel pens?
  2. Site is easy to navigate and search.
  3. Subscribe via RSS feed and/or direct email newsletters to keep up-to-date.
  • Tip: I’d like to see a few more categories – books & software, for example.

Now it’s your turn – have a favorite site you’d like to share?   Post a comment!

A Dolphin’s Tail

She swims, eats, & plays almost like like any toddler her age.

Only difference is that Winter is a dolphin — without a tail…   for now.

Winter the dolphin

Several months ago, I wrote about a remarkable breakthrough for a dolphin in Japan named Fuji who had been fitted with the world’s first prosthetic flukes.   But last month, an even more noteworthy & ambitious project involving an artificial limb and a dolphin is underway.   Winter, an 18-month old female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calf in Florida’s Clearwater Marine Aquarium will be the first dolphin in the world to be fitted with a full prosthetic tail.

Though similar to the case of Fuji, Winter lost not only her flukes but also the peduncle (a vital wrist-like joint that allows a dolphin’s tail to move up & down) after getting caught in the buoy line of a crab trap near Cape Canaveral when she was only 3 months old.   Despite her severe wounds, she had begun learning to swim and play without her tail.   But after she was was rescued and transported to the facility, veterinarians became concerned that her spine might also suffer damage in the long run if other options weren’t pursued.   One of the world’s leading prosthetists, Kevin Carroll, who travels the country tackling the toughest human amputation cases, was consulted to help craft a solution.   But Carroll, of Hanger Orthopedic Group, Inc., hadn’t anticipated the magnitude of the challenge of designing a prosthetic for a dolphin:

I came straight down, saw Winter (and) felt really sorry for her.   And I came in and I said, ‘OK, we’ll fit her little tail. Not a big deal.’   Little did I know it was going to take a year and a half to do.   With a person, when we fit a socket on them, we have one long, solid bone.   We don’t have to have the socket moving in every direction.   With a dolphin, it needs to move along with her full spine.

Carroll is developing a prosthetic tail system for Winter that includes a gel sleeve that attaches via suction so that it won’t irritate her sensitive skin.   Although there are many months of work & training to go and it remains to be seen how successful the prosthetic will be over the long-term, those involved are very optimistic as she’s acclimating to the first pieces of the artificial limb quickly.   And the lessons learned with the high-tech artificial dolphin tail are paying off in advances in the prosthetics field for people too — already, at least one wounded serviceman back from Iraq has benefited from Carroll’s research for Winter’s project!

Follow this link to read USA Today’s coverage about Winter and her prosthetic tail.   And be sure to check out Winter the Dolphin’s video sponsored by a new Florida fashion portal website LivFashion.