Learn a language, with a Mocha flavour

John
John Gushue
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Mastering a new language - or even just getting started - can be daunting. This week's tour of the web starts with a service that lets you lean on the advice of others in the same boat. I'll also show you a wickedly cool clock that doubles as a screensaver, a free way to brush up your grammar and a full-body immersion in the recent history of pop music.

Livemocha

www.livemocha.com

I regret that much of the French I've learned in school has disappeared, and also that I've yet to master more than a few words of Spanish; knowing more of that would be definitely helpful with my in-laws who hail from Madrid. For me, I need motivation.

Surf's up - Mastering a new language - or even just getting started - can be daunting. This week's tour of the web starts with a service that lets you lean on the advice of others in the same boat. I'll also show you a wickedly cool clock that doubles as a screensaver, a free way to brush up your grammar and a full-body immersion in the recent history of pop music.

Livemocha

www.livemocha.com

I regret that much of the French I've learned in school has disappeared, and also that I've yet to master more than a few words of Spanish; knowing more of that would be definitely helpful with my in-laws who hail from Madrid. For me, I need motivation.

It's good to know there are online tools and one I've signed up for is Livemocha.

There are other online tools for learning a language, but what gives Livemocha its edge is its adaptation of social-networking tools. The idea is simple: you can nudge yourself along with simple words and flashcard-style prompts, and once you're ready to expand your horizons, converse with others who have registered.

Elsewhere this week:

Top 100 singles of all time

www.billboard.com/bbcom/specials/hot100/charts/top100-titles-00.shtml

As a diehard music fan, I'm more perplexed than ever by the plethora of charts out there, segmenting sales every which way: by style, by demographic, by format ... you name it. The Billboard Hot 100 has, for most of 50 years, been the benchmark by which everything else is measured.

The music magazine recently compiled its all-time 100 top singles, which should bring back at least a few memories for most.

Timebeat

leogeo.com/28_timebeat.htm

Check the time, or simply run Timebeat as a screensaver with a cool, somewhat eerie style.

With the sound of a heartbeat and some ambient music in the background, the screen will shift numbers by the second.

In Quotes

labs.google.com/inquotes/index.html

This is a project coming out of Google Labs: an opportunity to compare and contrast what politicians say. Not all politicians - just the best-known ones, and the timing is apt given there are election campaigns now underway in both Canada and the U.S. The defaults are John McCain and Barack Obama, but you can select a Canadian option. Both sort selected quotes on topic. Given that this is a new idea that Google is basically floating in the political environment, it's curious to see how quickly it's getting a meaningful test run. I can see it being applied other ways, as well.

Worst Hotel Guests

www.concierge.com/ideas/hotels/tours/2715

If you've ever felt guilty about tucking an unopened tube of shampoo into your shaving kit before you check out of a hotel room ... you can relax. Concierge magazine lists some of the all-time horror cases among celebrities who've graced hotels. You probably won't be surprised to learn about Russell Crowe and Keith Moon (the Who drummer appeared to view Holiday Inn rooms as sets waiting to be demolished), but there are a few names here that might raise your eyebrow.

Graviax

sourceforge.net/projects/graviax

How's your grammar skills? None good? Graviax is a free, open-source download that writers of all skill levels might appreciate.

Morph Thing

http://www.morphthing.com/

Take two pictures, combine them, and what do you get? In the case of two celebrities ... a new one, I guess.

John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: Google Labs, Billboard Hot 100, Holiday Inn

Geographic location: Madrid, Canada, U.S. St. John's

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