Was the future simpler in the past, or was I? When I was a kid everything astronauts did was fascinating. I drank Tang, even though it tasted like slightly tart dishwater because that's what the astronauts drank. I ate the astronaut's "Space Food Sticks," which were kind of like Tootsie Rolls but in different flavors like peanut butter or caramel. I kept waiting for them to come out with "turkey & dressing," or "Salisbury steak" and was surprised when they never did.

It's not like I wanted to go to Mars or even the moon. I've never had any desire to leave this planet before my time. There was just something so "futuristic" about astronauts. So I longed for their special space foam mattress, and at one point, tried to convince my mother to let me sleep inside a huge cardboard tube.

A friend of mine from high school, Ellen, even turned out to be an astronaut on the space shuttle. She was the valedictorian (of course) and brilliant, so no one was really surprised. Afterwards she was casual about it, as if she didn't want to make her friends too jealous that she'd escaped the earth's atmosphere and we didn't.

So a few years ago, when I saw that space foam again, the future of my past came back to me. The foam's this amazing temperature-sensitive stuff that molds to your own body (which is, of course, better than having it mold to someone else's body).

The foam's also expensive. As you know, I try not to let reality stand in my way, especially in the way of a good night's sleep followed by a good afternoon's nap, but my wife didn't like this kind of foam (she doesn't need a reason but she had one—she said it "smelled") so that was pretty much that.

Then I discovered isotonic mattress pads. Just 2" of the magic space foam. Just over $100. It would give me just enough impression of having a space mattress that I was happy and my wife could live with it because, according to her, "it'll air out."

So there I was, sleeping like an astronaut, only with gravity, lying down, wearing far less than a space suit, and without the nausea it turns out astronauts get but never talk about.

Five years pass (imagine the pages flying off a calendar and the screen getting wavy and some moody Moog music). Now my mattress pad has, apparently, conformed to the body of Orson Welles. Not being a genius of Welles' magnitude, it no longer fit me.

So I bought a new one and when I got it home I had the brilliant idea of putting it on top of the old one. I figured this would be even more spacey and it would feel like floating.

I was excited as I lay down and felt myself sinking into it. It was like being on a cloud. For all of about 15 minutes. Then I continued to sink until the foam was up around me as if I'd been steam-rollered into wet cement.

I tried to turn over and couldn't. Then it started getting really hot. I sank deeper. I felt like I was sleeping on a marshmallow being roasted over a campfire.

I tried to roll off the bed, but found myself firmly held in place by four inches of space foam. Maybe this stuff worked better in zero gravity. Or maybe this was the wrong kind of foam. Not NASA at all, but some kind of alien technology designed to trap unsuspecting humans like a Roach Motel—Sleepers go in but they don't come out.

I wouldn't say I started to panic at this point, just that when I finally did claw my way out I kissed the ground—well, the carpet at least.

So here comes another new year where I'm reminded that the future isn't what I expected. After dragging the heavy foam pads around I managed to put my back out. So now I'll be sleeping on the floor.

And I'm still waiting for a Monte Cristo Sandwich-flavored Space Food Stick. Maybe next year.

P.S. Listen to my weekly radio interview on www.jesseberst.com Thursday night at 7:30, pacific time.

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New! Bitmotion universal component system


BitMotion's Universal Component System lets you continuously add new features to Fusion. It's a component subscription system that gives you a growing supply of new features downloaded right inside of Fusion.

New: a Slideshow module and a soon-to-be-named "falling images" module—see http://www.bitmotion.com/autumn/ for an example.

These features use large controls inside Fusion that make them easy to configure and use. A new PayPal component makes adding credit card processing a snap. Create calendars, get out of other site's frames, add rollovers, sound and more. You can even create your own components with JavaScript.

The subscription entitles you to freely download all the modules that are released within the year, plus get free email and newsgroup support, and receive free upgrades to the product.

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Web Site Pros—Partners And Suggestions

OK, so the Web Site Pros purchase of NetObjects has gone through, so what next? Support is coming (more details in the next SchmoozeLetter), and they're starting a new "Partner Program" and want to hear from you about it.

If you design web sites for other people you can take advantage of the WSP Partner Program and earn money by referring customers to WSP and NetObjects.

While the program hasn't started yet, you can be among the first to sign up to be notified when it's running—and then become a Founding Partner. To be notified, fill out this form http://www.bitmotion.com/feedback/wsp_feedback.asp

PLEASE ALSO feel free to use this form even if you just want to give Web Site Pros a piece of your mind!

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Fun Virtual Tours

Want to tour a foreign city or building but don't have the time or money to go there the traditional way? If you have a fast connection, there are a growing number of sites that offer in-depth virtual tours of attractions from the Taj Mahal to the Sydney Opera House, to flying over major cities. If you don't have a fast connection, then you can still view these—if you're very patient.

The Sydney Opera House virtual tour is beautifully designed using Flash for navigation throughout the building and panoramas. It also offers high-res QTVR panoramic images. I find this interface particularly slick, but it really does require a fast connection like a cable modem or DSL. A friend told me it crashed their computer (it hasn't done this to mine) so save your work before you visit, just in case: http://www.soh.nsw.gov.au/virtual_tour/vrtour.html

Here's a fantastic tour of the Taj Mahal, that also uses Flash for both the navigation and the panoramic images with QTVR for high-res virtual images. Each viewing spot also has four or more special audio tours that give you details on highlights—it's like getting a guided tour and the narrator's voice is quite soothing: http://www.taj-mahal.net/engnew/indexeng.htm

The company that produced the Taj tour has more "armchair tours"


And don't forget one of my favorite ways to travel virtually, the TerraExplorer which uses satellite photography to let you fly yourself through Las Vegas, San Francisco, Hollywood, Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle and Washington D.C., as well as Paris, London, Mont Blanc, the Holy Land and Red Sea in Israel, and Sydney Australia.

http://www.skylinesoft.com/interactive/terraexplorer/te xp_cityguide.asp

This system is GREAT fun, but it requires a fast connection because of the large amount of data it downloads as you fly.

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Spam Fighter, Too

In the previous SchmoozeLetter I included a script to help prevent e-mail harvesting robots from gobbling up your e-mail address and adding it to a spam list. I had a few people complain (yes, Gary, you know who you are) that they didn't like the "ugly button," and then, conveniently, Chris @ Lighthouse Colorprint, http://www.LighthouseColorprint.com e-mailed with two scripts that use the same scripting technique but use normal text links. Here they are:

    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript">
    var Domain="YOURDOMAIN.com"
    var Mailme="mail" + "to:" + "YOURADDRESS@"
    document.write("<a hre");
    document.write("" + Mailme + "");
    document.write("" + Domain + ">");
    document.write("<b>Contact Us</b>");
    // --></SCRIPT>

    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript">
    document.write("<a hre");
    document.write("<b>Contact Us</b>");
    // --></SCRIPT>

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Do Good With A Click


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One more thing:

The future may not be what it used to be, but this is a great quote for looking ahead to a new year:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."—Alan Kay

(Oh—and the most reasonable isotonic pads I've found are at http://www.thecompanystore.com )




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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.