There are many different web tools for making free interactive maps, but of the ones I’ve explored, amMap provides the most visually appealing templates.
AmMap is a package of Flash maps that you can easily customize. Change colors, add text or photos, adjust zoom — the options are endless. I’ll warn you though, you need to be familiar with or at least willing to get familiar with some HTML coding to use amMaps properly. (Or at least find someone in your company or organization who is.)
The tool gives you a range of different maps to work with, including individual country maps and comprehensive world maps depicting either countries or continents.
With little HTML experience of my own (and a whole lot of Google searches), I was able to put together this map using data from the Institute of International Education. The map shows the top 10 countries of origin for international students studying in the U.S. during the 2008-2009 school year.
You can download amMap for free from the website. Once downloaded, extract the ZIP files to a new folder and get to work!
AmMap is a product of amCharts, a company based in Lithuania. You can also use amCharts to create clean, well-put together graphs and data charts, including pie charts, bar graphs and scatter plots. Click here for details.
The emergence of digital SLR cameras capable of shooting HD video has prompted an informal debate about whether the cameras are suitable for video journalism.
Naysayers like Cliff Etzel of solovj.com say the shallow depth of field and cinema look produced by DSLRs distract from the story. Etzel says the need for additional equipment to improve a DSLR’s functionality as a video camera is another major drawback.
But take a look at a news piece shot with a DSLR, and you’ll see that when done right, you really can get a superb product.
Here’s an example shot by photo and video journalist Dan Chung in China for British newspaper the Guardian. (It takes a little time to load, but it’s well worth your patience!)
Chung’s website, DSLR News Shooter, is a great resource if you’re interested in seeing more.
For the video above, Chung used the Canon EOS 550D, a.k.a. the Rebel T2i, which is miraculously, not extremely expensive. I recently purchased my own and have been very happy with its performance so far. The camera comes complete with an external mic jack, so you can get higher quality sound. The kit I bought rounded out to about $1100 and included an extra lens. Check B&H for deals.
Another valuable resource for travelers on assignment overseas is eDiplomat.
The site includes information on cultural etiquette in more than 40 countries. Entries cover everything from greetings to offensive gestures to corporate culture to dress.
Just for fun, check out the advice on the United States. Here’s a sample bullet point:
- Some Americans are known as “back slappers” — they give others a light slap on the back to show friendship.
Lonely Planet is another helpful resource for traveling. It includes advice on topics from hotels to weather trends for visitors to a variety of countries.
If you’re preparing for an assignment in another country and are unable (or unwilling) to shell out hundreds of dollars for Rosetta Stone, there are other much less expensive (a.k.a. FREE) ways to learn the basics of another language. Even with the benefit of an interpreter, it helps to know at least some of the language yourself.
Language courses from the U.S. Foreign Service Institute are posted online for anyone to access. (See FSI language site here.)
The U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute is the government’s primary training institution for diplomats and other foreign affairs workers. The FSI lessons on the Web cover more than 40 different languages. Courses include both text and audio.
For some of the languages, the FAST (Familiarization and Short-Term Training) series appears to be the most useful. Because the lessons are designed for travelers preparing to live and work in a foreign country, the topics covered may be more relevant than those offered by other language-learning courses.
Another good resource is Mango Languages. Courses on the Mango Languages site are designed to provide learners with conversation skills for real-life situations.
The library in my area allows access to Mango Languages lessons directly through the library’s website, so you can learn at home. When you visit Mango’s site, it has a search function for your zip code to determine whether your library has a subscription.
If you’d like to explore more resources for learning a new language the frugal way, check out the site Free Language.