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April 2006

Operation Wasp

Microplitis_croceipes_waspIn keeping with the nature theme I've got going this week (see yesterday's post on the Eagle's nest), today I'm going to focus on wasps.

More specifically, an article I read awhile back entitled, "Scientists recruit wasps for war on terror."

Apparently, scientists at the University of Georgia-Tifton Campus have trained wasps to check for explosives at airports and toxins in subways. "You can rear them by the thousands, and you can train them within a matter of minutes," says Joe Lewis, a U.S. Agriculture Department entomologist. Isn't that unreal?!

But before you envision an army of wasps swarming around the enemy...the scientists have actually developed a hand-held device which contains the wasps while they do their thing. It's now ready for pilot tests and may be available for commercial use in 5-10 years. The wasp brigade could supplement or even replace bomb-sniffing dogs, which cost thousands of dollars and take months to train.

And because wasps are sensitive to a variety of chemical odors, they may also prove helpful in detecting crop fungus while it's still below ground-level, and detecting cancers or ulcers by smelling someone's breath.


Shop & Talk

Shop_and_talkFollowing in the footsteps of Stylefixx and Shecky's Girls' Night Out, the Boston Event Guide has introduced a new event for shopping-minded Bostonians: Shop & Talk.

Billed as a one-night event where you can "get your eager hands on the fresh spring looks of Boston's local talent," S&T looks similar to the previous shopping fiestas - merchandise, meet-the-designers, cocktails - but in a new venue (Hyatt  Regency Grand Ballroom vs. the ICA) and with the addition of a live fashion photo shoot.

And the events are getting pricer: S&T will cost you $30 at the door (weird that women are willing to PAY to SHOP??). But If you miss the inaugural S&T event, don't despair:  Stylefixx Spring 2006  is happening the following week.


Hornby Island Eagle's Nest

My Mom alerted me to this great web cam postioned over an eagle's nest on Hornby Island, British Columbia.

Eagles_nest_1 

The nest is tended by two adult Bald Eagles, and contains two eggs. If you are patient (leave a browser window with the cam on in the background) you'll see one of the parents return to the nest with dinner and trade off sitting duty. Be sure to keep your audio on...the birds make quite a ruckus during the changing of the guard and you'll know when to tune back in. And be sure to check it the week of April 26th, when the hatching is due!

Here's the really amazing part: this pair of eagles has been nesting in this same nest for 19 years; they produce 2 eggs per year.

Note: the cam runs live during daylight hours Pacific Time; other times it may run a repeat of the previous day.


Panjea

PanjeaHas someone finally figured out how to monetize social networks?

PSFK reports that Panjea is now open for business. This community site is similar to MySpace - users can create profiles, upload music & video, and connect with other users...but with an added twist: the opportunity to profit off of the site. You see, Panjea is offering to share the ad revenue generated from the site with the content generators: its users. The more visitors to your pages, the larger your cut. Panjeans may also opt to donate a percentage of their earning to charity, with Panjea will match.

This is a great idea because:

  • Users are incented to upload quality content (understanding that "quality" is relative) in hopes of appealing to a broad audience
  • Users are more likely to help drive traffic to the site to make money for themselves or their charity of choice

The trick will be whether Panjea can adequately manage such a system. If they can sufficiently grow the community, it could be a boon to advertisers who are always looking for more targeted messaging opportunities (in theory, Panjea could target ads more precisely based on user profiles). However, they could also fall victim to Mad Ave's fear of social networks (thanks to questionable content that appears on MySpace).

With the glut of social networking sites out there, it seems that it would take an incentive like this one to get user to create yet another profile on yet another site. However, if the income stream is a viable one, the more opportunistic users out there may be less inclined to post their wares on Flickr, YouTube, etc., where there is no opportunity to profit (as it would behoove them to drive all traffic to Panjea). It will be interesting to see if this model gains traction.


Switch

SwitchI love this: an online show that encourages young girls to experiment with technology and design. Tech + Fashion. Two of my favorite things!

Tech_fashion_1

Dubbed Switch (with the cute, Junior-High-like URL: "iheartswitch.com"), the show was created by Allison Lewis, a web designer and instructor at the Parsons School of Design. The site is still in beta and has limited functionality, but there is a link to Episode 1: "How to Make a Talking Frame" with Diana Eng from Project Runway. Lewis has indicated it's a side project for her right now, but with the right promotion and partnership model this could form the basis of a cool little community.

You can read more about Switch on Boing Boing and in Wired Magazine.


Aloft Hotels

AloftI love Starwood's W hotel chain, so I was intrigued to learn that Ross Klein, President of W Hotels, is debuting a new lodging option - an "upscale motel" called Aloft Hotels.

The new rooms boast funky decor, plasma screen televisions, MP3 docks, and WI-FI (building-wide!); Each hotel also offers the cleverly-named "re:fuel" cafe and a "w xyz" lounge.

The first Aloft Hotel is slated to open next year in our very own Lexington, MA, with 500 additional locations - worldwide - by 2012.

Aloft_room


Huski Ski Lodge

It's tough to think about skiing when it's a warm Spring day here in Boston, but how cool is this: Huski

Huski is an Australian ski lodge in the town of Falls Creek, Victoria. Pictured in this month's Travel and Leisure magazine, the building design was inspired by a snowflake, with 14 stacked apartments radiating out from the core.

Huski_bed Besides lush surroundings, this swank spot also offers up a day spa, produce store and wine bar. It should serve as a hot Summer destination as well, for hikers, fishermen, and spa-goers alike.


Free T-Mobile Wi-Fi

Masthead_tmobile_3T-Mobile voice/data subscribers get a nice perk every weekend from now through May 28: free Wi-Fi broadband service at its over 6,500 HotSpot locations in the U.S.

Subscribers just need to take their phone & laptop to any of the participating locations (e.g., Borders, Starbucks, Marriott Hotels), launch their browser, and go to http://freeweekends.hotspot.t-mobile.com.

The carrier is hoping to get more users engaged with the service, so they'll pony up the $19.99/month access charge that will be required when this special promotion ends (or if you want weekday access now).