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Search engine David to charge at Goliath January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Google, Internet, Internet Software.
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Jimmy Wales, a Pinellas County man who became a tech icon by co-founding the vast online encyclopedia called “Wikipedia,” has now launched another globally ambitious project. Wales wants to out-Google Google.

Wales is a former options trader who works out of a small office near BayWalk in St. Petersburg and on his laptop wherever else he happens to be. Financially speaking, he’s David to the Goliath of Google, a $148-billion corporation which owns the most popular Internet search engine and has won legions of fans by creating free products such as Google Maps and Google Earth.

So what can Wales arm himself with in his battle to create a better way of searching the Internet? The same thing that made Wikipedia a global phenomenon: Thousands of volunteers like you. He hopes.

Wales has co-founded Wikia, a for-profit company with offices in San Mateo, Calif., and also is chairman of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation based in St. Petersburg, which was set up to support Wikipedia.

The for-profit Wikia already is in the business of setting up Internet communities for different groups. Now the company plans to create an Internet search engine that would challenge those of Google or Yahoo.

To many users, the knowledge that flows from simple searches on these sites works like magic. Wales himself uses Google all the time, and says “I think we’ve all loved Google so much because it’s so much better than what came before.”

But he and other Internet activists have complaints. Sometimes Google searches yield strange results, he says, and Google is not good about explaining them.

In a recent interview, a St. Petersburg Times reporter suggested Wales type the word “spears” into Google. The top 10 results: One Web site for California-based Spears Manufacturing, which makes plastic pipe fittings and valves; eight sites related to pop singer Britney Spears; and one Wikipedia article about the kind of spears that people throw.

It’s strange, Wales says, that the first result of this search was the plastic pipe company. He would like Google to not only explain results like this, but to go further and open up its software so others could see why seemingly strange results occur. “There’s a complete lack of transparency,” he says.

A Google spokeswoman wouldn’t directly address the “threat” of Wiki competition or criticisms. She only said that “search is at the core of everything Google does and we are always working tomake it better” by providing users with the Web’s “fastest and most relevant search experience.”

For Wales, this is about more than geeky curiosity; it’s about freedom of speech. If a few big companies control the world’s Internet searches – increasingly the gateway to knowledge in our society – it only seems fair to him that people should be able to know how searches work.

But asking Google to unveil its software is akin to asking Colonel Sanders and Coke to give out their secret recipes, so it’s not likely to happen soon. That’s where the new Wikia project comes in. Wikia is preparing to use volunteers to collectively write software for a brand new search engine. It’s an approach called open source development, and has been used effectively for other software projects.

In addition to creating software that makes computers search out Web pages and index them, Wikia hopes to create an online community similar to Wikipedia. Volunteers would pore over different search results and evaluate them.

Under this system, unlike Google or Yahoo, volunteers could actually change how the search engine works. They might decide the article on spears (the throwing kind) should get the top position and maybe the satirical Web site “Britney Spears on Semiconductor Physics” shouldn’t come in as ninth in the search.

The innovative part of Wikipedia is that it allows anyone to write or edit encyclopedia articles on any topic. But their writing is examined by thousands of other online users of the system, who debate and correct the mistakes. The encyclopedia has been praised for its breadth and ease of use, but also criticized for some embarrassing errors.

“Just as Wikipedia revolutionized how we think about knowledge and the encyclopedia, we have a chance now to revolutionize how we think about search,” Wales wrote recently on the Search Wikia Web site (http://search.wikia.com/wiki/Search_Wikia).

One stark difference stands between the Wikipedia project and the new search engine. In Wikipedia, the volunteers know they are collaborating in a non-profit effort to create the largest encyclopedia in human history. But Wikia is asking volunteers to help create a product owned by a for-profit company.

Wales said it was set up that way partly because organizers needed to raise money from investors to get the necessary computer hardware and engineering expertise.

Wales doesn’t think people will balk at volunteering for a for-profit company. He said the important thing is for members to know that they are creating a free software product which will be open to anyone. The company’s profits would likely come from advertising.

$149-billion Google’s market capitalization

$487.19 per share – Google’s closing stock price on Friday

$2.69-billion Google’s most recently reported quarterly revenues (third quarter 2006)

12th and 13th Rankings of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, respectively, in most recent Forbes list of richest Americans. Forbes estimates they made in the area of $13-million per day over the last two years.

$1.65-billion Amount in stock that Google committed to buy popular Internet video-sharing site YouTube late last year

1 followed by 100 zeros Definition for the mathematical term “Googol”

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Church reaches 50 years January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture.
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Immaculate Conception parish

WORCESTER > Hoping in part to capitalize on the steady migration of residents to the city’s West Side during the 1950s, Immaculate Conception parishioners abandoned their crumbling old church in a heavily industrial area off Lincoln Square and moved to a new house of worship overlooking Grove Street that the Most Rev. John J. Wright, Worcester’s first bishop, declared was a “beautiful tribute to the Blessed Mother.”

Tomorrow, members of Immaculate Conception, the city’s fifth oldest Roman Catholic parish, begin a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of that move.

The celebration starts with a Mass at 10 a.m., during which a 12-foot-by-3-foot anniversary banner will be hung from the choir loft. Several other events are planned through the year.

The parish’s roots go back to the 1870s, when the pastor of St. John Church on Temple Street in Green Island, Worcester’s “mother church,” felt there was a need for a parish to serve the growing Catholic population in the city’s north end.

A wooden church was built in a former apple orchard on Prescott Street, near Lexington Street. That parcel today sits roughly behind the Marriott Courtyard Hotel. The church was dedicated on Dec. 8, 1878, and included “missions” in Holden and Rutland.

The parishioners were mostly poor, with many of them living in area tenement houses actually owned by the church. They paid their monthly rent of $10 to $12 to the church’s first pastor, the Rev. Robert Walsh.

The church was located in an area filled with mills and factories. The church was heated with excess steam generated by the nearby American Steel and Wire Co. plant. The area was so gritty that one of the factories, possibly American Steel, agreed to repaint the church every year because of the dirt and other emissions from nearby smokestacks.

In the 1950s, there was discussion about moving the parish. Church officials saw a need for another parish closer to the growing West Side. Rev. Champlin said the original church also began falling into disrepair.

Church officials decided the land at 353 Grove St. was appropriate for a new building and a cornerstone was laid in 1956. Items were placed in a metal remembrance box that was put into the cornerstone, including a copy of the $400,000 construction contract; a roster of parishioners; lists of members belonging to the parish’s Holy Name Society, Women’s Guild, and Youth Council; copies of newspapers reporting the project; a church history; coinage from the era; and a medal of Pope Pius XII.

The brick and stone church, located about a mile from the old one, was built under the direction of the pastor, the Rev. Edward T. Connors, and a Mass of dedication was held appropriately on Dec. 8, 1957, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Besides the 750-seat church, the complex included a parish center, a parking lot and an outdoor memorial to deceased members of the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division that was paid for by alumni of the division. Rev. Connors had served as the division’s chaplain in World War II during the African and Italian campaigns.

The church featured three carved panels over the main doors depicting Christopher Columbus and his men giving prayers of thanks for their successful voyage. Six of the eight stained-glass windows depicted visions of Mary. A seventh portrays St. Joan of Arc, and the eighth is of George Washington with the Blessed Mother, arms outstretched, standing over him. Immaculate Conception’s tower bell once served in Worcester’s main firehouse and was donated by the city in memory of deceased members.

Rev. Champlin said the parish, which includes 600 families, is made up of people from many backgrounds. “A lot of people think Immaculate Conception is an Irish church, but we have people from many, many groups,” said Rev. Champlin, noting the parish’s membership includes Latinos, blacks and people of American Indian descent.

In addition to kicking off the year’s festivities, parishioners tomorrow will mark the visit of the Three Kings to the Christ child. Other anniversary events will include a Mass in March recognizing the ethnic and cultural groups that make up the parish, and a family day in May that will focus on the church’s history.

Owl discovery January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Ecology.
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Did you know there are 37 species of owls in North America alone?

Owls have long been regarded as both bearer of wisdom and harbinger of evil. Children 10 and up and their parents are invited to embrace the myths and lore of owls as a Norristown Farm Park naturalist takes you on an “Owl Prowl.”

Look for tracks, nests and other signs of these nocturnal creatures throughout the 690-acre park just as dusk nears.

Owl Prowl, 4 p.m. Sunday at the Norristown Farm Park, 2500 Upper Farm Rd., Norristown. Meet at Visitor Center. Free. Information: 215-234-8497. Registration required.

Celebrate India January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture.
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The Garden State Discovery Museum begins 2007 with a two-month salute to multiculturalism. “Since the museum started, we’ve been looking for a way to celebrate our diverse community,” says program director Paul McElwee.

The celebration begins this weekend with Bollywood-inspired entertainment by an Indian dance troupe under the direction of Ritu Pandya. Dressed in saris and other traditional clothing, the group will perform dance fusing traditional choreography with modern elements. Guests will learn the history of henna, an ancient Indian art, and can get a henna tattoo.

Italian, Irish, Chinese and African events are planned for January and February, which McElwee hopes will “stress the idea that we are one community even though we come from varied backgrounds, and provide kids with exposure to things they’ve never experienced before.”

Indian Festival and Henna Workshop, 1 p.m. Saturday at the Garden State Discovery Museum, 2040 Springdale Rd., Cherry Hill. Admission: $9.95; $8.95 seniors; free for those under 1. Information: 856-424-1233 or www.discoverymuseum.com.