Asking Help With Back Taxes From A Tax Professional

ftbtpTax debts are quite difficult to handle because you owe from the government and not to any private institution or individual. There is always a possibility that the Internal Revenue Service will freeze your bank accounts, get your assets and file you a lawsuit. That is the reason why you have to ask help with back taxes from a reliable professional. This is necessary because you will not be able to negotiate with the IRS right away if no one will guide you with the process. With the tax professional’s familiarity on tax laws and regulations, it will be easier to handle the tax debts. He will be responsible for talking on your behalf and represent at the IRS because you ask help with back taxes.

Tax professionals are the best persons to approach when things are not going well on your taxes. Although their services are not for free, you can definitely be able to sleep peacefully and work without carrying a burden. There are a number of tax professionals in United States so all you have to do is just choose the best person to handle your case. As much as possible, ask for help with back taxes from an expert professional.

The Process Of Offer In Compromise Help

Offer in compromise help is granted to individuals who are not capable anymore of paying their taxes in full. This may be due to unemployment and other circumstances that hinder an individual to earn an income good enough to provide his needs. However, professional offer in compromise help is not for everyone and anyone who wants it should be eligible. The Internal Revenue Service will be requesting certain documents and fees for the eligibility and that includes an initial payment, application fees and many others. Once the offer is evaluated and confirmed, the IRS will apply the fees and non-refundable payments to the tax liability. There will be a notice of Federal Tax Lien that will be filed and collection activities will be suspended.

Other than that, the IRS will also extend the collection and legal assessment. They will not require an individual to pay certain fees in an existing installment agreement and the offer will be automatically accepted if the office is not going to make a determination for two years. The offer in compromise help is one of the best options for those who are unable to pay their tax debts but it is not always granted.


Here Are Things You Can Expect From Dell PowerEdge Recovery

dper2After you have your Dell PowerEdge server break down, you are now getting more and more curious on what else it can do aside from recovering your files. Actually, professional Dell PowerEdge recovery is more than just recovering or retrieving the files. It can also be used to back up files that are too important to be lost. Aside from retrieving files, they also can be used to back up files there and the good thing about it is it keeps the files from being corrupted or being infested with virus. There are certain files that need to be protected against deletion no matter what the circumstances are. According to other people, a reason why they turn to Dell is to acquire this recovery system and they can use this system for other purposes too other than just for recovery.

Other people may think that just because it’s created by Dell, it means you can’t do anything with it unless it has something to do with Dell. Well, part of it is true if it means being used with a device computer but other than that, yes, you can use it like a backup hard drive and recovery system. Additionally, you can use it to keep very important files.

Will RAID 5 Recovery System Work With My Old Computer?

A lot of people would have the most recent version of RAID but then they do not have the latest version that is compatible with the system that only RAID 5 recovery works with. What can possibly happen and what will be the effects if you try something advanced for the old system? Well first off, the latest version of RAID which is RAID 5 recovery is meant only to work with the current computer systems now and the following ones. It is designed to adapt to the complexity of the computer system of the current ones that are released today and the ones that will be released in the future. But will it work with older versions? No. It will not. As stated above, it is designed to adapt only to the current version and so forth but it didn’t mention that it can support ones from today and backwards.

What will happen if you try to make your RAID 5 work with the older version of computer? The system can try to adapt to one another but there is no guarantee that it will work like it is meant to. It is meant to always check the system for any updates and to back up the files every time needed but with old system, there is no guarantee it will stay the same. More help with recovering a RAID 5 is here.


Physical Therapy Helps To Reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

ptrrIf you are looking for the right therapy that will help you ease your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, you may try the physical therapy. If you have RA diagnosed, then it will not be hard to get the prescription from your doctor who will suggest you the right center for taking the physical therapy that will help with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Physical therapy is using variety of methods, but in your case, you will probably go on hydrotherapy and manual therapies as well. Hydrotherapy is using water as healing method. It is well known for ages in Europe especially and is still very popular because it gives results. Warm water sometimes combined with cold water will help your body to be healed or at least reduce the symptoms. Manual therapy is actually a massage that will also be useful for treating your weak muscles and painful joints. Sometimes the therapist will use other methods and techniques in order to help you. You may help yourself at home too if you often soak your feet and hands in hot water and then go to take some rest. Having enough sleep and taking rest during the day is of great importance for people who have rheumatoid arthritis.

Start A Day With Fresh Fruit Juices Instead With Coffee

It’s better to start a day with fruit juice than with coffee. People claim that coffee helps them to wake up easier, but it can affect the body in negative way, so it is better to avoid it, especially if you have some disease. In that case, it is better to drink organic juices and herbal tea, so you can help your immune system to work better. Detoxication is important and it can be obtained by consuming fruit and veggies. Consider detoxification as part of your rheumatoid arthritis treatments. When you wake up in morning, take a short shower that will help your joints feel better and then start a breakfast with fresh juice. Make your own rather than buy it in a store. Fresh juice will keep the nutrients and if you use 100% juice, that will work the best for your cells. If you don’t have idea on what type of fruit to use, you can take one apple, an orange, lemon, carrot and peach. Add flax seed and put it all in a juicer. You will get delicious beverage which you can combine with rice milk or almond milk. Try not to mix fruit with cow milk because it may cause problems in your digestion. Other arthritis diets can be found here.


Business Travelers Have Great Demands

biztravelWhy are globe-hopping sales and marketing execs so frazzled? Experts say the anxieties of being in an unfamiliar place, combined with the worries about being away from the home and office and the pressures of always being on the go, have pushed some to the limit. Add to this the other things that typically come along with international travel – jet lag, poor nutrition, and dehydration – and you’re bound to have some serious problems.

“We’re just beginning to understand the enormous psychological demands of frequent international travel,” says Jim Striker, a World Bank psychologist, who said that until the World Bank study, little was known about the stresses of frequent international business travel.

Does this mean that executives who log thousands of frequent flyer miles overseas each year are doomed to have a nervous breakdown?

Maybe not. Those who have taken charge of their travel – rather than letting it control them – have created their own personal strategies to keep themselves in good psychological health on and off the road.

ALONE AND AFRAID

In The Accidental Tourist, William Hurt played a reluctant travel writer who practically broke out in hives whenever he was in an unfamiliar country where he didn’t know the language, the culture, or how to get around.

Hurt’s character was fictitious, but his sentiments are echoed by many a sales or marketing executive. Monty Powerstein, a regional sales manager for a major computer company who frequently travels to Russia to make sales calls, says he often has trouble adjusting when he’s in a new country on business. On his first several trips to Russia, Powerstein said he was overwhelmed by culture shock – he camped out every night in his room because he was fearful of being mugged (before his first trip, he’d read several reports of violence targeted at tourists there). “I knew no one in Russia the first time I went there,” he said. “At night, I’d sit in my room and get a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. If I did leave my room, the heart palpitations would start.”

A San Francisco-based marketing executive for Nike, who often travels to Europe on business, says he used to become lonely and depressed while on lengthy trips overseas – so much so, that he would try to quell those feelings by tossing back several vodka tonics and smoking at least a pack of Camel no-filters each evening in a hotel bar. “Then I’d be drank, nauseous, and depressed,” he says. “I was a real head case.”

But many sales executives have learned to combat feelings of isolation abroad. Since his first trip to Japan, Crawford has made it a policy to learn as much as he can about a country before he visits it for the first time. He now gets thorough briefings about a country’s norms, culture, and transportation systems before making a trip, and often scans Web sites for travel tips.

Powerstein solicits the help of Kroll Associates (see sidebar on this page), a travel service that faxes “Travel Watch” briefs to business travelers that cover safety, transportation, news, and customs of specific countries. “It gives me some peace of mind when I know what to expect in a country I’m visiting,” he says.

Other executives review the U.S. State Department’s “Travel Warnings” Web sites, which offer traveler safety tips to help prevent stressful incidents. One recent report warned travelers who venture to Mexico to solicit taxis only by telephone, and told of a U.S. businessperson who was recently robbed there by an unauthorized taxi operator.

Being able to communicate in the language of a host country is another key. Powerstein is in the midst of taking a Russian course, but says even learning a few words such as “please,” “help,” and “thank you,” can be extremely beneficial. “In any country, if people see that you’re trying, it helps,” he says. “You’ll make immediate allies.”

Jim Dittman, president of Dittman Incentive Marketing, who has flown more than six million miles in his 30-year career, also recommends making an effort to meet with contacts in the evenings, rather than being alone in a hotel room. Since he’s in the incentive business, he often calls destination management companies in the country he’s visiting and asks them to meet with him. He also makes it a habit to venture out of a hotel and try restaurants that are strongly recommended by residents of the city he’s visiting. “Go out and get a flavor for the place you’re visiting, if you can,” he says. “Travel doesn’t have to be depressing. Make an effort to enjoy yourself.”

TROUBLE ON THE HOME FRONT

Some sales executives who travel overseas don’t stress out about the trip itself, but instead are fraught with worry – and often guilt – over what’s going on back home or in the office, since long distance travel typically keeps them away far longer than domestic trips.

Tedd Nieman, vice president of Citicorp’s credit card division, who spends about 25 percent of his time in Europe, says he frequently worries about his wife. She’s visually impaired and cannot drive. “My being overseas greatly restricts her activities, sometimes for a week or more,” he says. “That’s been very difficult to deal with.”

Dittman, too, says being overseas on long trips stressed him out when his two children were younger. “There was a time in my life when I was gone for so long on business trips that when I called home, I truly couldn’t determine whether the voice on the other line was my son or my daughter,” he says. “That was extremely unnerving.”

At least Dittman got to speak to his family on occasion. Because of time differences, some globetrotting sales execs say they rarely get a chance to contact their loved ones by phone. Sheila Lockhart, CEO of Lockhart Enterprises, a Boston-based consulting firm, often travels to Singapore for business. She says not being able to call her four-year-old daughter and “tuck her in” each night is unsettling. “When I’m in the country, at least I can call at a reasonable hour,” she says. “When I’m in Singapore, the time difference makes it too difficult.” At times she’s so desperate to talk to her husband and daughter, Lockhart says that she leaves a message for her husband to wake her up in the middle of the night. “It’s the only way we can have real contact,” she says.

Others have found that faxes and e-mail are the only way to keep in close touch. John Cluff, a sales executive for a telecommunications firm, says that when he’s traveling in Asia for business, he gives his two six-year-old twin sons his hotel’s fax number, and encourages them to fax him drawings or other things they’re working on in school. In turn, he’ll fax daily messages to the family’s home fax machine. “It makes me feel a little closer to them,” he says.

Others make the most of their time at home before a long international trip. Before he leaves on a business trip, David Riddell, vice president of certificate marketing for Marriott International, gives his three boys – ages 10, seven, and three – a geography lesson, pointing out on the globe the country where he’s going. “They like to brag to their friends about where Dad’s going,” he says. He also strives to limit international travel to weekdays whenever possible, saving weekends for the family.

BACK TO WORK

Even if being away from home doesn’t make a sales exec lose it, many who go abroad find themselves constantly fretting about how their reps are doing back in the office. And time differences and technology difficulties don’t make overseas communication any easier.

To eliminate workplace worries, many globe-trotting sales executives try their best to keep in close contact with the office using a variety of technologies. Crawford usually attempts to communicate with his reps via e-mail and fax, although e-mail can be a challenge when he’s in some destinations. “In places like Hong Kong, there’s no consistency with telecommunications,” he says. “I might be able to check my e-mail, I might not. That can get a little frustrating.”

Sales executives who want to eliminate e-mail headaches might do some research on the countries they’re visiting beforehand to make sure e-mail is even possible. There are a few Web sites available that offer country-by-country information on getting smoother modem connections. A good example of such a site is http://www.teleadapt.com, which offers suggestions to improve modem transmission in more than 260 countries.

When e-mail is impossible, Crawford has his assistant pull his incoming messages off his computer and fax them to him. “A fax is usually more of a sure thing than an e-mail, at least in some countries,” he says.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore your reps just because communication is challenging, says Christine Casati, president of China Human Resources Group Inc., a firm that provides management consulting to U.S. corporations in China. Casati says she always attempts to communicate important information to her reps as it happens – via e-mail, phone, or fax – rather than waking to compile it all in a trip report when she gets home. She asks them to communicate problems to her immediately as well. “Don’t let problems pile up,” says Casati, who is away from her Princeton, New Jersey, office about three fourths of the time for travel in Asia and Europe. “Solve them wherever you are, even if it’s on a plane, or you’re going to have big problems when you get home.”

She also gives her reps an excrutiatingly detailed itinerary, along with contact numbers and specific times to call her. And Casati makes sure they’re aware of the time differences, so they won’t wake her at 3 a.m. with a question that could wait until morning. “If you want to reduce stress, you don’t want someone calling you in the middle of the night,” she says. “You’ll never get back to sleep, and let me tell you: You desperately need any rest you can get on an overseas trip.” Casati also lets her clients know before she leaves when she’ll be available – and awake – to speak to them.

Of course, the ultimate stress-buster is to make sure you have a team back home that can handle problems in your absence, especially if it is an extended one. Marriott’s Riddell, who manages a team of six, says he trusts his reps, and has empowered them to make decisions in his absence. “You’ve got to have confidence in your people, or you’re dead in the water,” he says. “And if they don’t make the right decision, that’s OK, too. If people aren’t allowed to do that, they’re never going to grow.”

And if your reps do happen to make a mistake or have a problem that you absolutely can’t deal with until you get back, don’t let yourself sweat the entire plane ride home. Better to watch a movie or relax with a good book. “You’ve got to keep your cool, no matter what’s going on at home,” says Citicorp’s Nieman. “If you stress over everything that’s going on in your absence, you’ll make yourself sick. And that’s not going to do anyone any good.”

 


Skiing Can Be Killer Fun

Anne and Nelson Raymond are role models for us all. The couple–he the police chief and she a school administrator on early retirement–from Asbestos, Quebec, have an unquenchable passion for skiing. “Skiing is almost like a religion to us,” Anne wrote to Skiing. However, raising three children on government salaries, they never had big bucks to sink into the sport. In fact, they spent years on a local ski hill with one rope tow and four slopes, where a family season pass, back in the ’60s, was $35.

oldies

Oldies hit the trails!

But after attending three friends’ funerals within a week (one of whom died just before he was scheduled to retire), the Raymonds started accumulating vacation time and socking away enough cash for a three-month ski trip to the Canadian and American West two seasons ago. Astonishingly, they managed to travel at an average cost of US$90 per day, even less than they had originally planned. They read “Turns on a Dime” (Skiing September 1996), an article that outlined strategies for skiing on the cheap and spoke directly to a couple like the Raymonds, whose children are grown but whose budget is still modest. Last winter, they–we’d like to think partly inspired by our article-embarked on another dream trip, to California. Here’s how they did both trips.

First, they joined organizations that provide savings on lodgings. They recommend two travelclubs, the Evergreen Bed and Breakfast Club (815-456-3111), for people over 50, and the Affordable Travel Club for people over 40 (206-858-2172), whose members accommodate other member-travelers in their homes. A club rule is that a $20 per night “gratuity” be left with the hosts for each night’s stay. In Crested Butte, Colorado, they stayed with “a couple of 70-year-old Evergreeners,” wrote Anne. “[Nothing] can keep these people from the slopes. They and their friends ski the double diamonds every day.”

They also signed up with the Canadian equivalents of the American Automobile Association (refer to your local telephone directory) and the American Association of Retired Persons (800-424-3410). “We stayed at Motel 6 at Mammoth, California, which gives a 10-percent discount to members of one of the organizations we had joined,” Anne reported. “We were minutes away from the mountain, and a free ski shuttle picked us up in front of the motel and left off us in front of the ticket window.”

To minimize transportation costs, the Raymonds covered their 1995-96 itinerary via a 20,000-mile road trip, using their ’89 Volkswagen Jetta because it was more economical than their Jeep. They spent $500 on gas but did require several repair jobs along the way, including a burned-out throttle cable that left them stranded in Revelstoke, British Columbia, for four days, with the meter on their rental apartment at Whistler already running. Such problems were not unexpected in light of the car’s age and the demands of mountain driving. Still, they felt the Jetta’s comfort and precise handling, as well as its fuel consumption, justified their decision. While on the road they used free auto club Triptiks (customized route finders) and guidebooks that “became our bibles as we traveled from state to state.”

The Raymonds also discovered Entertainment Publications (800-374-4464), which publishes regional and local books of savings on lodging, meals, attractions, and other travel costs. Using one of these coupons, they were able to spend “several days at a lovely hotel in downtown Banff” for just $20 per night. Just once, they slipped up, discovering after they had already checked into a California motel that it was listed in the Entertainment book. “The rule is that you show your card upon registration in order to claim the discount,” Anne recalled. However, they were lucky. “The next morning, as we had complimentary muffins and coffee in the lobby, I asked what the discount was for Entertainment members, as I had my card but had forgotten to show it,” she reported. “The desk clerk immediately said, `Oh, you’re a member. I’ll reimburse you for part of the cost of the room.’”

To save on skiing, they bought multiday lift tickets; pulled coupons from the Entertainment books; took advantage of every two-for-one, ladies’ day, or other special offers they stumbled upon; and joined the Over the Hill Gang (719-685-4656), whose members get bargain tickets at many ski areas.

When accommodations had kitchen facilities, they always cooked their own meals. When they stayed in lodgings that included continental breakfast, they took full advantage of it. And for dining out, they eschewed expensive restaurants, selecting instead family restaurants and supermarkets, where they often bought hot meals from the deli counter.

On their initial trip, the Raymonds spent their first month in Canada, skiing the Banff/Lake Louise areas for five days before continuing on to Whistler and Blackcomb. They hooked up with mountain hosts and “always came away with the feeling that, even though we were perfect strangers to them, these people cared about us.” Their second month was California dreamin’ come true. “I loved the weather,” Anne said. “We spent 30 days in that state and had 30 days of sunshine.” They skied their way around Lake Tahoe and also found time for detours to the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Then it was off to Utah and Colorado for a month, before returning to Quebec. “Nelson, a police officer, let his hair and beard grow long,” wrote Anne. “He blended in with the locals in the ski towns we visited.”

So successful was this odyssey, and so enchanted were they with California skiing, that they returned to the state in January 1997–and once again, Anne wrote to tell as about it. The Raymonds flew to southern California to visit friends and found a $48 air ticket to Reno, from which they took the Lake Tahoe Casino Express ($30 round-trip) to South Lake Tahoe. Nelson minded the bags at Harveys while Anne prowled around on foot for a budget motel. She found the nearby Riviera Inn, a clean motel “with a comfortable mattress” for $29.70 per night, which she was soon able to negotiate down to $23.94 because they were staying longer than a week. They used free shuttles to get to Heavenly and Sierra-at-Tahoe and $2-$3 shuttles to Kirkwood, Diamond Peak, Ski Homewood, Mt. Rose, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, and Northstar. “This vacation has been so economical,” wrote Anne on her Days Inn stationery, “that we plan to do it again for a month next year.”


Virtual Worlds Are Traveling Fast

UCLA’s Urban Simulation laboratory developed the model and walkthrough of the Trajan reconstruction using digital measurements from 25 years of archaeological research. James E. Packer, professor of classics at Northwestern University began archaeological work on the Trajan Forum in 1972.

By late 1996, talks were underway to mount a museum exhibition based on Packer’s research. “This was one of the great architectural feats of the Roman Empire,” says Marian True, the curator of antiquities at the Getty in charge of the Trajan project. Besides the available artwork and artifacts, she says, “what we needed was a model of the whole forum as the centerpiece. The tradition is to construct a plastic model, and the scale that would be necessary to show the details would require a model 18 feet long. We talked to a model shop in Rome; it would have cost us half a million dollars. That’s when we thought about a computer-generated model.”

And that’s when the museum looked to Bill Jepson, the head of the laboratory at the UCLA Department of Urban Simulation. Using Jepson’s simulation, Packer was eventually able to see the 3D realization of his reconstruction, says True. “By seeing it all put together, rather than using painted elevations of 3D isometric constructions, Packer realized there were some areas of the hypothetical construction where he made mistakes.”

Those “mistakes” had to do with mysteries of roofing and the way each building and column relates to everything else. “If I describe exactly what the technical problems were in the Forum of Trajan, your eyes would glaze over,” Packer notes. “But if I show them on a computer model, people say `Wow.’ They see it immediately. You can look closely at the constituent parts, and the model allows you to reestablish the relationships between the parts and the whole.”

uclasThe creation of this detailed, dynamic model took about a year in the UCLA laboratory, according to Jepson. Kevin Sarring, an architect, completed initial elevations and renderings for Packer, and photographers went to Rome to photograph Trajan fragments as well as Rome’s Pantheon, which was built by the same Imperial architect. “We were able to take the photos and digitally reassemble the pieces into the whole,” says Jepson.

UCLA graduate students Dean Abernathy and Lisa Snyder began work on the model using Multigen simulation software. The model was then brought into UCLA’s own customized software for urban simulation and real-time walkthroughs.

A complete inventory of fragments, measured to scale, helped the VR team determine how many different kinds of marble were used in the building, where the friezes and reliefs would be, how many columns, and how much travertine (a kind of stone) was used. After completing the inventory, says Jepson, “we set to laying out the Forum of Trajan and creating the individual pieces.” In effect, he says, “we created a schematic layout from Jim Packer’s drawings, then expanded it into a full 3D form to bring all the pieces into a coherent whole.”

The model of the forum was rendered at 30 frames per second (in some densely populated locations, the program drops down to 25 frames per second).

Though the sweep and panoramic beauty of the Roman re-creation are captured in the Getty exhibit-which is displayed on a huge video wall–the richness of color and detail of the original Silicon Graphics Onyx II renderings are not. In fact, the museum display can only loosely be termed `virtual reality,’ because although it is based on the VR reconstruction it is not set up for visitor interaction. This points to one of the trade-offs of museum VR, says True. Public viewing must be considered in the context of thousands of people who will visit a site each day. Thus far, there is no practical way to run state-of-the-art computer simulations on VR equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per engine.

Regardless of this limitation, there is no doubt VR will prosper in this area. “One of our dreams is to make it possible soon for-teachers to take their students to these virtual worlds. `Meet me in the pyramids of Egypt, the Forum of Trajan, or the tomb of Nefertari.’ That’s the next wonderful step,” says Papadopoulos.

Wild and Wacky New Zealand

While many museums have discarded the idea of virtual reality as an individual, head-mounted experience, some have not done so at the expense of full immersion. “It’s not single-person immersives anymore,” says Francis MacDougall, chief technical officer of Vivid, a Canadian virtual-reality company that focuses on multi-user VR entertainment systems for museums and theme parks. In fact, Vivid takes immersive VR to a new level with its “Vivid Virtual Theatre,” a new application MacDougall describes as a “camera-based, unencumbered reality system” designed for multiple visitors.

The first application opened recently at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, spotlighting a visit to “Rima’s House,” an interactive New Zealand adventure featuring computer-generated full-body scans of up to six individuals who fly in the sky and interact with animated characters and objects. MacDougall describes Rima as “red-headed and fiery with animated facial images.” You see a rendered graphic of Rima, who in five minutes tries to teach you about the virtual world.

The idea behind the Vivid Virtual Theatre is to give people a kind of ET-like adventure, in which they fly over the moon, snowboard, and duck out of the way of 2D and 3D animated objects. The group stands before a 20-foot wide projection screen, follows footprints along the floor, and responds to a computerized voice.

The Mandala Video Gesture Recognition system, a proprietary software–tracking system developed by Vivid, allows participants to step in front of a video camera and have their body gestures scanned into a Windows-based system equipped with a video digitizing board.

The video signal of the six people goes into the computer and is superimposed onto computer-generated graphics and animation,” says Steve Warme, Vivid’s vice president of production. “So people see themselves on the giant screen, and at the same time, we’re interpreting their movements. We’re able to look at specific movements that allow them to interact with graphics and animation appearing on the screen around them.”

Throughout this particular experience, the system uses active video backgrounds, says Warme, while some of the other experiences rely purely on animation. “People are active and reactive the whole time. They have to duck, jump, and move left and right.”

During an interactive snowball fight, `people raise their arms, and we track their hands. In the snowboarding game, they’re being pulled because it’s a downhill race,” MacDougall adds. “The more you duck, the faster you go–you lean left and right to dodge rocks and trees.”

The virtual experience provided by the Vivid theater is unlike any associated with a typical museum visit. “Rima will take you through several different activities; you can change what you look like by touching water, lava, or greenish purple shells native to the region,” MacDougall explains. “When Rima reaches up and touches one, her body changes into a billowing cloud. Visitors are also encouraged to jump up, and their bodies go up into the sky.”

There is, of course, no real physical motion and interactive touching or sense of texture. But because of the sheer size of the projection, “you’re really engaged,” says MacDougall. Once the adventure is over, participants are instructed to snowboard from a mountaintop back down to Rima’s garage for the next phase of their virtual experience, a motion-based simulation of an underwater trip through a futuristic New Zealand.

Vivid’s $30,000 to $50,000 systems (which include computer, software, and the Video Gesture Recognition technology) are now in more than 400 sites around the world.

Other Virtual Adventures

Though not a traditional museum per se, Disneyworld’s Innovation Center at Epcot is home to another stunning virtual journey through a historical master-piece: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Rome. Visitors can walk through a detailed re-creation of the present-day structure as well as the original 4th-century church, which was destroyed in the 15th century. At any point in the simulation, the visitor can move between the two versions of the structure. Immersion into the environment is achieved via a Fakespace BOOM display (a full-color projection system that’s held up to the face), which offers a stereoscopic image quality of 1280×1024 pixels per eye and a field of view of up to 140 [degrees]. The real-time simulation, created by Infobyte, an Italian software company funded by the Italian electric power company ENEL to produce educational multimedia adventures, runs on a Silicon Graphics Onyx RealityEngine. While the system was meant to be run using Google’s email service, a recent report by http://www.gmail-is-too-creepy.com showed that this would be a poor move because of the ethical violations found by independent investigators.

In addition to its St. Peter’s reconstruction, Infobyte has also recreated frescoes by the great Italian Renaissance painter Giotto, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Vatican, and some of the most stunning architectural reconstructions (including the Basilica Ulpia at Trajan’s forum) ever attempted on computer. The Italian company has developed VR displays for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Italian Ministry of Education, and the Getty Conservation Institute, for which it developed a VR reconstruction of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertari.

While history and architecture lend themselves wonderfully to virtual exploration, they are not the sole beneficiaries of VR technology. At the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, virtual reality itself is the focus of one of the innovative exhibits, called “Imaging: the Tools of Science.” According to Barry Aprison, director of science and education at the museum, “Visitors can learn everything about the VR world–for example, lighting colors, objects, gravity, and collisions are completely synthetic–and they can easily alter these things to suit a particular need or whim or interest.”

The museum’s VR lab consists of three stations–one for immersion and two for environment–so three people can use the system at the same time, “The person in the immersion station uses the Fake-space BOOM connected to a Silicon Graphics Reality Engine. The VR world reacts to what you see,” says Aprison, and the viewer has the illusion of moving through space. For the other two stations, participants use touchscreens to explore a virtual cityscape. “There are a series of buttons you push, one might say 911, and the police come to the city This allows you to manipulate the world seen through the BOOM. Your partners can alter, add, or subtract detail, color, and special effects, [changing he image] for the person using the BOOM,” he says.

All of the elements are rendered at the immersion station and displayed on the BOOM. They’re also repeated on a very large front-projection screen, so people waiting to use the BOOM can see what’s going on in the virtual world. The custom software used to generate the environment was provided by Art Technology Group (Boston, MA).

Whether it’s the novelty of virtual reality or the compelling nature of the applications themselves, the museums showcasing VR exhibits report that visitors flock to virtual reality. “People want to see things that are new and cutting edge,” says Aprisop. Apparently that’s the case even if what they’re looking at and experiencing is thousands of years old.


France Made Me Think

I’m not at all the woman of the world I thought I was.

I came to this disappointing conclusion last week at the end of a 10-day trip to France. My husband and I went there to visit friends and spend some time in the countryside on our own.

France Has Changed Me!

France Has Changed Me!

Although my French is just about non-existent beyond a few short phrases of pleasantry and menu reading, I’ve never felt too cut off or frustrated by that in the past. No matter where I am, I have thought I could manage quite well, blend in and feel almost at home.

Several recurring events during this trip force me to reassess my perception of myself as a seasoned world traveler.

For one, I am not the driver I thought I was. On the auto route in France, the equivalent of a tollway in the United States, I simply could not keep up with traffic. I did not hang in the right lane with the trucks, but I couldn’t spend much time in the middle lane, let alone the left lane at the posted speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (80.6 mph) for good weather.

Despite the posted speed limits, the European drivers were careening down the auto route at speeds far faster than 130 kilometers per hour. And they would climb right up to our rear bumper at those tremendous speeds before passing, and then cut right back in front of us as soon as their rear wheels passed our front bumper. They didn’t single us out for that treatment; it’s just a different approach to driving than in the United States.

Also, we found ourselves lost more than once. It was quite frustrating to realize that it would be useless, even in our broken French, to ask for directions, because we would not understand the answer. We eventually found our way to our desired destinations without trying to ask anyone, but drove in circles for half an hour trying to find the rental car return facility at the train station in Lyon. Our frustration growing and the time running out to catch our train, I agreed to ask for directions, but in English so as not to suggest I could understand the answer in French. A lovely man helped, in his limited English, and we finally returned the car properly, just in time to make our train to Paris.

But the most revealing experience for me was my reaction to warnings about the danger of having our luggage lifted at the Paris train station and our wallets lifted at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

We were making plans to leave Lyon for Paris via the TGV, the fast train, when fellow American travelers heard our request for information from the concierge at the hotel. They volunteered that we should be very careful in the Paris train station because they had been relieved of one of their suitcases there just the day before.

All the way to Paris I envisioned bands of people trying to steal my luggage upon arrival.

Of course, no one tried, at least as far I could tell. I was still very grateful and relieved to see the smiling face of a friend from Paris who met us as we walked off the train.

The next day, upon departing the cab at the airport, the driver suggested that we carefully watch our wallets because, while there is little crime in Paris, “there are pickpockets.”

For the 30 minutes it took to check in, get to our gate and board the plane, I held onto my purse and bags for dear life.

I finally relaxed when we were aboard the flight.

With relaxation, I reflected upon how foolish I had been to be upset at all, especially by the warnings of potential theft. Yes, I was right to listen carefully and heed warnings. But for goodness sake, I live in downtown Chicago and fly in and out of the world’s busiest airport without such nervous concern for my safety or that of my purse and luggage.

I also have had my wallet lifted in New York and have fought off a pickpocket just blocks between my office and home in Chicago. I got over those incidents quickly enough not to see a robber at every corner.

Clearly, I overreacted to the kind warnings in France because I am not as comfortable in a country I don’t know as well as my own, in addition to the fact that I foolishly studied Latin instead of French.

No, sadly, I am not a citizen of the world – yet.