METER MADE

If you’ve ever searched for parking endlessly, then spent a fortune at a packed garage, then promptly realized that there’s a cheaper option right across the street, fear not: You’re among friends. Even better, there’s a way to ensure that this will never happen again.

Parking in Motion, a new, free iPhone app (Android version coming soon), helps you find nearby lots and compare rates and then directs you to the parking facility of your choice.

To get started, either input an address or let it use your current coordinates. Next, you’ll see a map of the closest garages, all of which you can click for prices, hours, etc. The shopping-cart sign indicates lots that let you reserve directly from your phone–meaning you can take some solace while sitting in traffic for the Bruce Springsteen concert–and the percentage sign indicates how full facilities are. Once you’ve settled on a lot, Parking in Motion provides turn-by-turn directions for getting there.

In addition to the usefulness of comparison-shopping garages, we’re pretty excited about Parking in Motion’s forthcoming public parking features: Think real-time street availability and the capacity to pay the meter from your phone.

Posted in Tech + Tools | Leave a comment

CACHE IS KING

The Internet is a wonderful (and overwhelming) place filled with millions of things we’d love to read/watch/ogle, if we only had more time. Luckily, there are now more ways than ever to save Web ephemera directly from your toolbar. Below, the three we find most useful:

Instapaper We used to email ourselves links. Then we discovered this smart, free Web tool that lets you bookmark pages–it’s as easy as clicking “read later”–and come back to them anytime. You can even organize saved Web pages into folders or send articles directly to a Google Reader RSS feed.

Radbox Don’t have time to watch that talking twins video the minute your sister forwards it to you? Save it in your free Radboxaccount for viewing later. Kind of like TiVo for the Internet, Radbox “records” videos from across myriad sites–YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, etc.–for accessing from one handy queue.

Pinterest Essentially a mood board for the modern age, thiswebsite enables you to save and share all the beautiful things you find online. Users create pinboards–say, for an upcoming party or bedroom redecoration–to which they add images from across the Web and share with others for opinions or inspiration.

Posted in Tech + Tools | Leave a comment

DRIVING MISS CRAZY

We American women love our cars. From get-around-town two-seaters to highway-hugging sedans, we count on them to get us where we want to go safely–ideally, with a dash of fun and style.

 

The just-launched website Vroom Girls understands this and wants to make our vehicular experience as pleasurable as possible. Edited by Tara Weingarten, a former Newsweek car columnist, the site promises to answer every question we ever had about cars–as well as a few we didn’t know to ask.

 

Easy to navigate, Vroom Girls has articles on practical matters such as winterizing your wheels, driving manual transmission and how to conduct a proper test-drive. It also includes reviews of dozens of new autos and a Q&A column with useful answers to questions such as one from a reader desperate to downsize from an SUV yet still have off-road capabilities. Plus, a series of road-trip itineraries give tips on where to stop for, say, great food on Arizona off-ramps and super shopping in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Columnist and comedy writer Janis Hirsch’s story on our secret guilty pleasure–eating while driving–has us particularly hungry for more.

 

 

Posted in Tech + Tools | Leave a comment

MODERN LIBRARY

We were recently assigned Crime and Punishment for our great-literature book club. (We know–ambitious.) The good news: Dostoyevsky is pretty gripping. The bad news: Crime and Punishment doesn’t exactly pack light.

The solution: Litfy.com, a new online compendium of free e-books that you can read anytime, on any device, and bookmark and annotate to your heart’s content.

Once you sign up, begin by searching Litfy’s library of thousands of books (most are public-domain titles, though the site is also working with publishers to offer copyrighted material) and add selections to your queue. As you read, you can virtually dog-ear pages, highlight passages and make margin notes.

Plus, since Litfy stores all your account information, you’re able to log in from any device–tablet, smartphone, computer–and pick up where you left off. And soon you’ll be able access your books even when off-line, meaning your airplane reading need not suffer.

Another perk for book clubs is Litfy’s easy-to-form discussion groups, which enable fellow readers to check in with one another and ask questions as they go.

By that measure, if anybody wants to discuss moral ambiguity in 19th-century Russia, we’ll be there waiting.

Posted in Tech + Tools | Leave a comment

WORD’S WORTH

We love a well-placed semicolon, hate serial commas and remain forever tormented per the acceptability of split infinitives. What can we say? We’re word nerds. Luckily, three new books have our linguistic interests at heart:

If you’ve ever wondered about how the way you speak reflects who you are, you’ve got to read psychologist James Pennebaker’s The Secret Life of Pronouns. This gripping look at “function words” (I, me, it, for, etc.) explores everything from politicians’ use of the word we–not as inclusive as you may think–to Oprah’s Twitter lexicon.

Think you’ve out-groan punning? Not so, says speechwriter John Pollack in The Pun Also Rises, which makes the case for wordplay’s rich history and cognitive importance. From the visual jokes found in Egyptian pyramids to the final rounds of the world pun championship, Pollack shows the science and joy of subversive language.

Finally, as much we like using words, we also like looking at them. Simon Garfield’s new book, Just My Type, is a deft and downright fun study of typeface that asks the question: What does your favorite font say about you? Learn how Trajan became the movie-poster go-to and how Gotham may have helped Obama’s White House bid.

Posted in Arts + Culture | Leave a comment

CULTURE CLUB

Do you understand Internet memes? Or Steampunk? Or Dead Drops? Neither did we, until we started watching Off Book, a fascinating new PBS Web series that explores experimental and nontraditional art forms.

Launched this summer, Off Book tackles a different theme every two weeks–say, online craft culture or aerial dance–in punchy five- to eight-minute videos that are posted online, where they live indefinitely.

 

The episodes are certainly far-reaching, with subjects ranging from ultra-niche (light painting photography) to ultra-ubiquitous (typography).

Our favorite installments, however, are those that invite us into a whole creative universe we never knew existed. In “Steampunk,” for instance, we learn about artists, musicians and actors whose work is informed by a pseudo Victorian world in which steam power reigns supreme. And in “F.A.T. Lab,” we’re introduced to a rogue online community dedicated to merging pop culture with open-source technology. (Practitioners recently created a Web tool that can bleep out any mention of Justin Bieber on your computer screen.)

The forthcoming episode, “Street Art,” goes online this Wednesday, so be sure to check in then to see the creative currency of a can of spray paint.

Posted in Arts + Culture | Leave a comment

CUTTING REMARKS

Jonathan Chapman probably would have made a great surgeon. Instead, this freelance graphic designer took his precision, dexterity and proficiency with a scalpel to the world of paper art, launching a collection of gorgeous hand-cut goods under the appropriately charming name Mr. Yen.

Drawing inspiration from vintage portraiture and botanical drawings, Chapman’s creations are Victorian in nature and equally old-fashioned in execution (no laser-cutting here), ranging fromadorable cards ($7 to $16) to large-scale art ($230).

Our favorite pieces, however, are his personalized silhouettepapercuts ($62), which make for terrific gifts and all-around conversation-worthy keepsakes. To get one, you’ll have to send Chapman a photo–he advises posing your subject against a white wall and pulling back any hair longer than shoulder length–which he then uses as a template for your hand-cut design. For an additional $15 he can add a name and date to your masterpiece or cut exquisite creeping vines and leaves directly into the profile.

Because of the intricate nature of the designs, each small piece takes up to six hours to complete. Good thing Chapman considers the scissor work his favorite part of the process.

Posted in Arts + Culture | Leave a comment