Posts Tagged ‘tools’

East Coast people, first, let me be honest: yes, we’re all giggling about your 5.8 earthquake on this coast.  And no, it isn’t fair, but you probably laugh at our occasional funnel clouds.

Second, it’s still very important to go report what you observed if you felt the earthquake; use this USGS link:

USGS: Did You Feel It?

Why? Because it helps geologists map exact earthquake soil response for specific types of seismic waves, and it helps engineers assess actual and potential damage. I makes everyone safer in the long run.

Even with itty-bitty little quakes…  (Kidding!)


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Eureka contaminated sites

Another useful Google Earth feature today: the Contaminated Sites layer from Terradex. This company compiled, and makes available free online, a list of USEPA Superfund and RCRA Cleanup sites, and state sites including California, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey.

The layer requires the use of Google Earth 4 or later. When you click on individual sites, the description includes links to websites and a comment box to provide feedback on the sites. There are 130,000 sites shown, and zooming into regions will reveal more sites.

It’s quite interesting if you like to find out what goes on in your community and know about the quality of your environment. Alas, I don’t think it’s been updated in a while; some of the site clean-ups marked as still open may have been completed by now.

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If, like many of my friends, you are searching for a new job — unemployed, underemployed, looking for new horizons — you may be tempted to try the “free resume review” service from The Ladders. What’s the harm in getting a little free advice, right?

If so, I recommend you read this informative and courageous post by Jason Alba. Turns out The Ladders’ resume critiques are cut-and-paste form letters assembled by sales personnel, worded to give the most alarming picture possible and scare job seekers into paying $700-$1,000 for a resume.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t pay these prices, even if it was not a scam. All a pseudo-review like that would have done would have been to demoralize me. Just go to one of the many reputable resume services linked in the article and comments, they will also be much, much cheaper — and provide you with personalized help, not a form letter.

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Here are some free online learning resources you can use to do some research, improve your skills, and share information.

I like using free e-books, slide presentations, images, and videos to find cool ideas, information, and resources.

  • Scribd — a place where you can store documents online and browse what others have uploaded. I’ve found many useful e-books there.
  • Free-eBooks.net — more e-books, with a dedicated and more organized browsing system.
  • Project Gutenberg — digital versions of public domain texts, which means most of the classics, among others. Project Gutenberg aims to make the contents of our libraries available for free to the widest number of people possible.
  • ManyBooks.net — an extension that builds on the Gutenberg Project and other sources to offer texts in many different formats.
  • The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks — on MakeUseOf.com
  • SlideShare — A place to store slide presentations, such as PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, iWork, Word, or Open Office documents. I’ve found many a useful and interesting presentation there. Slideshare also lets you share and embed slides into other sites.
  • Flickr — the well-known photo storage site not only lets your store, organize, and share your images; it also has a neat Creative Commons section you can search for images from others which you can legally reuse (read the specific conditions applicable to the images.)
  • YouTube — not just for stupid pet tricks and movie previews; under categories like Education or Science & Technology you can find very interesting material.

And tools to get more tools:

  • Feed43 — If you have a little familiarity with HTML and carefully read the instructions, you can create feeds from sites that don’t already provide them; then you can route the feeds to your favourite reader.
  • MakeUseOf.com — a blog dedicated to scouring the Web for more tools of all kinds. Every day you get links to new resources.
  • Free Download A Day — daily suggestions of freeware and shareware you can use.

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Google Earth iconI’ve mentioned several times things I love about Google Earth. I use it a lot for my work, but I also find it to be a lot of fun. Today, I’d like to share some interesting resources and tips on more geographic information about local features that can be explored in Google Earth. Google Earth is every Internet user’s gateway to geographic information system (GIS) information.

Topographic maps can be overlaid right on top of Google Earth so you can compare the aerial view and the map.  This layer was kindly reprojected, stitched,  and made available by3DSolar.

The National Wetland Inventory compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a key reference in conducting a lot of environmental studies, and is now available in a Google Earth projection.  Very handy for first-cut approach to a site, even though you still need field verification.

The Earthquake Hazards Program offered by the U.S. Geological Survey compiles several different and interesting links relevant to earthquake and geological hazards.

Air Quality Index maps from U.S. EPA AIRNow let you explore current, recent, and real-time air quality throughout the U.S.

MapCruizin is a local firm that gathers several free resources for Google Earth (and other geographic applications), including a map of California watersheds; a series of visualizations of U.S. EPA information on toxics and pollution; projections of the effects of global warming and climate change; and links to a collection of tools to do more with Google Earth, like use GIS data, draw new shapes, calculate areas, etc.

Another local initiative, Green Wheels, compiled a layer showing the Humboldt Bay trail network, both existing and planned.

Sea level rise scenarios from Mark Mulligan at the King’s College of London allow you to try various inundation scenarios based on the projected rise of sea level, and to compare the accuracy of the model for your area by checking it against current conditions.

Naturally, the Google Earth Gallery offers a multitude of other interesting or useful layers.

Links of interest:

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Back in January 2006, Jason Alba, a young IT professional and up-and-coming business manager was laid off from the software company he had helped develop. He says that although he was was sure he would find another job in a matter of weeks, he found himself months into his job search with no success.

But as part of his job search, he rapidly got tired of complex spreadsheets and sticky notes to keep track of his job search activities and contacts, so he started developing a little online database application he could use like a customer relationship management (CRM) system. He soon realized that others would find value in this tool, so he started his own company to make the new tool, which he called JibberJobber, available to the public.

Three years later, Jason Alba owns his own business, is a successful speaker, and has published books and instructional DVDs on using LinkedIn and Facebook, particularly for career management and job search.

This week, Jason is celebrating: it’s three years this week he started his own business — and his fifth child was born just days ago. So I thought I’d point people in his direction, for several good reasons.

  • Inspiration. Jason’s story makes a great narrative of the guy down on his luck who rebounds, the guy who rewrites the problem statement in order to solve it. Go read or view the story in some of the interviews .
  • Useful resource. Actually, multiple useful resources. I usually hesitate to write about commercial products, but I’ve already mentioned JibberJobber.com a few times in previous posts. When I was laid off a year ago, I was convinced that I was tracking job search information just fine. But I still gave JJ a whirl — and within days, it saved me from forgetting important details (contact info, follow-up letters, etc.) I’ve been employed for over eight months and I continue to use JJ as a contact management database and a job journal. On top of that, Jason posts tons of useful information on his site, and his books are also useful to me.
  • Job search ≠ career. In his blog, Jason often explores the distinction between career development and job search. It’s a fine point that is easy to miss while you’re searching because of the urgency of finding a job, and easy to forget when you’re employed because the sense of urgency is now missing. In other words, we tend to manage our careers in crisis mode — hardly a smart plan. I’ve drawn a lot from the JibberJobber blog in this respect.
  • Trifecta. How could I pass a chance to congratulate Jason for the triple shot of his new baby, his recently released DVD, and the third anniversary of his company?
  • Special. Yeah, JibberJobber has a special going on all week. You don’t actually need to pay to use JJ, only for the premium features, so this may or may not matter to you. But I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it, myself.

Congratulation, Jason!

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Here are a few sites I want to gush about, as educational resources, as entertainment, and as serious technical and scientific resources. Not only can they be used in the classroom, or browsed for the sheer enchantment of discovery, but they are pure gold for for professionals in the environmental fields as well.

NatureServe Explorer

A huge online database of species, NatureServe Explorer is a collaboration between natural heritage programs and conservation data centers operating in all 50 U.S. states, 11 Canadian provinces and territories, and 20 member programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The database provides information on the conservation status of species throughout the territory covered, their vulnerability, ecology and life history, etc., and provides techinal references to learn more.


The visual tool Lifemapper is the work of a University of Kansas team with support from all over the world. It uses an advanced geographical database to display where species are found and documented, and to predict where we might expect to find them. This tool also allows users to create Google Earth maps with the data. Note: You need to supply the scientific (Latin) name of the species to search.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System, or ITIS, provides taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world. ITIS is a cooperatice project between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Hey, here is a good place to look up scientific names so you can query Lifemapper!

PLANTS Database

Created and maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the PLANTS national database contains life history, range, and taxonomic information, photos, native/non-native status, and much more. It can be searched using either common names or scientific names.


Another product of international scientific cooperation, the FishBase information system provides images, life history, distribution, taxonomic status, and much more for over 31,000 fish species. It can be searched using either common names or scientific names.


Much more subdued, regional, and low-tech, BirdWeb is nonetheless a work of love and excellence, offering carefully gathered information and on-the-ground observations. It’s the work of the Seattle branch of the Audubon Society, and the information it contains is useful for a large part of our ecoregion.

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