Dead sites, thrown shoes and other odds and ends

John Gushue
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On Sunday, when I saw video of an Iraqi journalist flinging his shoes at George W. Bush, the first thing I thought about was security. Namely, where were they? After all, the journalist fired off not one but two shoes, and the security detail wasn't by the president until after the journalist had been pushed back.
My second thought - well, maybe more than second - was that someone was going to have fun with what, admittedly, could have been a much more serious incident. And yep, that's exactly what happened … including some online games that lead off this week's hop around the web.

Sock and Awe
Can You Throw a Shoe at Bush?
Let's face it. Putting "George Bush" and "shoe-throwing" in the same sentence is just too easy for the likes of Jay Leno to resist. (Although David Letterman got in the best joke, for my money, saying the president "hasn't dodged anything like that since, well, the Vietnam War."
Hence, these quick-and-dirty online games appeared, taking a headline and running away with it. Sock and Awe gets the prize for the better title, and the more impressive visuals, rudimentary as they are. The second shoe-throwing game is kind of amusing, but only so much; after all, is there really that much fun to be had picking on an unpopular president at this point? (I imagine there are some that would emphatically yell "yes!" to that question, but let's move along.)

Thanks, Sandy
I and many others will be losing a good friend on Friday. I Want Sandy, a digital assistant I've featured in this column, will be closing up shop on Dec. 18. I got the e-mail announcing the closure a few weeks ago. Bummer.
Sandy was a genius of an app: you mailed it (or her, if you grew fond it to that extent) a note of, say, a meeting time, or a reminder of a pending deadline, or a nudge on a task that you should no longer avoid. Like magic (but, really, more like really good programming), Sandy would ping you with a reminder, just on time, even months later. Sadly, the parent company, Values of N, is packing it in, in what appears to be a sobering commentary on the state of the economy.
As one door is closing, another is opening, albeit through a tech giant. Google announced last week that its Gmail program is adding new task-management features for its users, with some Sandy-like modifications. I'll keep you posted if I see others.

Lively (but not for much longer)
Also about to shuffle off its, um, virtual coil is Lively. Google launched Lively only this summer, as a sort of entrÉe into virtual-reality world that Second Life has much more prominently exploited. Evidently, most users are happy enough with their first life, or don't have enough time or inclination to create a second one in Lively. Google is turning off the Lively support (sorry; can't resist a pun like that) at the end of the month.

Christmas candies
Last week, I offered a holiday assortment of sites to help get you into the Christmas mood. I didn't have enough room, though, to tell you about the following.

Christmas Seals E-cards
Did you know that Christmas Seals are now 100 years old? They were introduced in 1908; a century later, we still send Christmas cards, and Christmas Seals are a nice way to celebrate the season while doing something meaningful about lung diseases. The Lung Association is promoting "better breathing" with this e-card feature.

NORAD Tracks Santa
A classic Christmas site, year in and out. NORAD has been in the business of tracking Santa's sleigh on New Year's Eve for decades; instead of using the radio, NORAD has been using the web since 1997 to help keep anxious kids posted.

Christmas desktops
Need to give the desktop on your computer a seasonal flair? Plenty of seasonally themed pics are ready to download from here.

All Things Christmas: Games
For the very young, a small assortment of games for quiet amusement. (Parents: I'll emphasize that "quiet" bit again for you.) For instance, you can deck out your own snowman, or ask a magic elf some questions, much like a Magic 8 ball.

John Gushue is a news writer for in St. John's. E-mail: Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog:

Organizations: Google, Lung Association

Geographic location: Vietnam, St. John's

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