Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two websites you should try out

I wanted to take a moment amidst my suddenly hurly-burly schedule and let you know about two really cool websites.

The first is SpaceWeather is a website that tells you all sorts of interesting things about what's going on in the sky. The neatest part may be their satellite tracker: you enter your zip code, postal code, or country, then it shows you where and when to look in the sky for interesting manmade objects that are visible to the naked eye: the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle Discovery, several large satellites, and things like that. Very cool stuff! The whole site is worth romping around for all sorts of interesting astronomical happenings.

The second site is, a juicy little nugget for the literarily inclined. Wordle generates word clouds from text that you provide it by analyzing the frequency of words in the text and then assigning a greater prominence to the words that appear more frequently. You can then change the cloud by changing the colors, fonts, and layouts. It's really quite fun! Feed Wordle the text of your latest article, or a manual draft, or that novel you've been working on. Or go to, say, Project Gutenberg, and grab something and try that out. It's a great time-waster, as if I had time to waste these days. (One of the joys of working on database engines is that you've always got something interesting to work on at any hour of the day or night.)

Try both of them out sometime. They're a lot of fun!

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