If you don’t read the comments here, you may have missed the wonderful thing that Mary Beth did last week. After a brief discussion here about how all knowledge is a web search away once you remember to formulate the question, she went out and researched a topic that had mystified her for many years: the Meat Shoot.
Suppose you see a sign in front of a VFW hall that says “Meat Shoot, March 21st.” Here’s what I want to know: is that effective advertising or not? Is the VFW hall making a fair assumption that anyone who wants to come to a meat shoot already knows what one is? The good news is that it hardly matters anymore, because Mary Beth went and made a Meat Shoot entry in the Wikipedia, thereby making it that much easier for the casual meat shoot passerby to become informed. And just to show how much Google loves Wikipedia, as of this writing (and less than a week after the article was created), Mary Beth’s meat shoot article is in sixth place on the Google search for meat shoot.
Can you feel the Great Brain getting smarter? The synapses at the meat shoot neuron just got a little stronger, and gosh darn it, it makes me proud to be alive.
The latest version of Google Earth now has a projection of the sky built into called, fittingly, Google Sky. It’s a natural extension. We’ve got lots of pictures of the starry sky, so why not stick them all together using the Google Earth glue that already exists. But when I tried it for the first time, I was underwhelmed. If you want to learn your way around the stars, the freeware package Stellarium does a much better job. But I soon realized that’s not exactly the point. Google Sky can act as a focal point for aggregating shared data about the heavens just as its Earthbound sibling does for terrestrial data like storm tracks and botanical surveys. See for example this Popular Science note: Google Sky a Hit With Astronomers. Incidentally, there’s a similar professional sky-watching tool called WikiSky, but it doesn’t have a lot of the slickness of Google Sky.
Anyway, I figured that somebody would have entered special data about where to find Comet Holmes in Google Sky. They had. I was able to follow a link that placed this little indicator of the comet’s location on my screen. I really liked the fact that the interface has this holdover from the Earth-facing side: directions to and from the comet. I’d like to see those directions.
Take exit 9 to merge onto I-84 W toward US-20/Sturbridge/Hartford (41.7 mi). Take exit 57 on the left to merge onto CT-15 S toward I-91 S/NY City (2.6 mi). Turn straight up and head directly toward Mirfak/Alpha Persei (25.43 million mi). Turn right onto Holmes St (1.3 mi).
[originally spotted on O’Reilly Radar]
This is Jay Whittington Lewis, my great great grandfather (my mother’s mother’s mother’s dad). This image reaches me because a very nice gentleman named Mike Kelly purchased it and wanted to know more about it. As he said: “Back on 2 Feb 1995 I purchased a
framed 8×10 photograph of man in a UCV uniform wearing a Southern Cross of Honor from Mishoe’s Auction House in Columbia, SC. …I did a cursory investigation on this man back then and concluded that he was likely the J. W. Lewis who served in Co. B, 1 Bat’n NC Jr. Reserves. I got this person’s compiled service records but never really followed up too much farther. Sort of out of the blue I put his name into Google last night and up came your web page.” Here is the entry he came across, although I have mentioned J.W. elsewhere on the site as well. Why am I obsessed with him? Partly because I share his middle name, and partly because he represents the most vivid link I have with a particularly colorful period of history. In fact, I dug through some family records, and found this account of his memories of his time in the Civil War. Read his story and hear about the first time he saw a railroad train, or how his grandpa spirited him out of the army hospital.
I owe this picture to a friend I made using Google. Now he knows more about his picture, I know more about my great great grandpa, and we have forged a small bond with each other. Do you have a web connections story like that? Soon everyone will.