Home • My Favorite Links

This is just a collection of links I find interesting. Check back, because I keep adding to this list from time to time.

Looking up at the stars...
Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)Incredible astrophotographs, updated daily. Pictures from latest and greatest telescopes, as well as contributions by amateur astronomers. Explanations and lots of links to other sites, too.
NGC 1300I am fascinated by these Hubble photographs of distant galaxies. Consider the sun, a typical star. Now take a moment: think that the light that made these pictures came from so far away that the individual stars are just a blurry haze of light; each pixel in the picture might contain the light of thousands of stars...
V838 MonocerotisBeautiful stellar nebula that perplexes astronomers. Some recent activity in the area has them wondering what's going on there.
Growing V838 MonHubble Heritage Project shows how this light echo has been visibly growing. Think of it like a giant 3D ripple in a pond.
Full moon risingWow... nice shot of the moon rising over Greece. (Not all the pictures are of deep-space objects... ;-)
Starry NightA beautiful starry night panorama over the Sahara.
Map of the UniverseThis one is cool; much like the "powers of ten" video, this zooms out from earth to the edge of the known universe. It's claim to fame, though, is that everything is shown in the right place in relationship to everything else.
Stormy VolcanoAn impressive picture of the Icelandic volcano that sent ash over Europe.
Fish-eye view......of the center of the galaxy. This shot is clever in a number of ways.
Lightning in AthensAnother fascinating terrestrial shot: lightning strikes in Athens.
Little Prince Earth?More Fun with Fisheyes. A great shot of the Australian sky near Parkes Radio Telescope dish...
Interactive Parkes...along with the following fun interactive site (linked to from APOD, too.)
Day-glow SaturnInteresting view of Saturn, capturing it's planetary aurorae.
Saturn's One RingFollowing one of the links of the Saturn APOD above eventually gets you to this rather cool video. Okay, so they "cheezed it up" a bit with the LOTR references, but still informative; put out by the folks at Spitzer Space Telescope ...
Discovery's Final PartingAn earth-based time-lapse ("star-trail") view of Discovery parting from the ISS for the last time.
Discovery's Final Parting (video)Here's a you-tube video of the same picture as above, where Discovery separates from the ISS for the last time.
Shuttle Pre-launch movieAn excellent time-lapse video (from some pretty spectacular angles!) of the several days of preparation the shuttle goes through prior to launch. It doesn't just start at 10-9-8-7...
Hubble Heritage Image GalleryJust some of the images that the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has taken over its years in space.
Clear Dark SkyWhat's the weather going to be like tonight where you live? Excellent tool for seeing how good the seeing will be tonight.
... San RafaelFor example, this is what the seeing will be like in San Rafael, California.
Bad AstronomyA great site for debunking a lot of bad astronomical (astro-comical?) blunders. Look up arguments against not only flat earth, faked moon shots, and the dubiousness of astrology, but (my favorite) the bad astronomy that appears in the movies.... and he's right up the road at SSU.
Blew MoonThere was always something disturbing (to me, anyway) about the definition "Blue Moon" ... you know, the second full moon in a month. (In younger years, I thought it was the second new moon... ;-) So it was an interesting discovery to learn that this is not the definition... at least not the original definition. Our "modern" definition is actually a mis-interpretation originating in 1937. Interesting.
Blue Moon FolkloreEven more interesting is how the meaning of the phrase has shifted over the past 400 years, from "an absurd proposition" to "an improbable event" to "a melancholy mood" to its present (and probably transient) meaning of a second full moon in a month (something which isn't really all that improbable... now, a blue moon in February: that's improbable!) [Page recovered from The Wayback Machine]
Your SkyHere's a cool app from Fourmilab in Switzerland: provide some basic lat-lon info, and a few other tidbits of info, and you can see what's in the sky above you.
Future TimelineFascinating, and in many ways a bit creepy. See the future projected from now until the end of the physical universe (about year 10100...) The more near-term future may be a bit of conjecture, but not that improbable.
Etymology OnlineWhere did that word come from? It's fun tracing a word or expression back to its original meaning....
...for namesSame sort of thing, but for names.
EL EastonAnother etymology site.
Take Our Word For ItHere's another great little site that offers etymologies for many common words and phrases, and an assortment of other word-related information. So, is it pronounced PEE-kahn or puh-KAHN? ;-)
Word DetectiveAnother etymology site, explaining where certain idioms and phrases came from.
WordnikHere's an interesting site, a sort of "Google meets the Dictionary", folding together definitions from major lexicons, instances of use (especially contemporary references, such as from blogs) and cross-referential items going beyond the vanilla "synonyms and antonyms"... hmmm...
lexipediaHere's a fun site (in beta as of this writing) that shows words in relational trees. Think of it like a visual dictionary, where various spokes from the central word show definitions for the word as a noun, verb, adverb, etc. Fun to play around with (though still a bit rough around the edges.)
World Wide WordsAnother collection of etymologies, this one with a decidedly British spin.
Language MiniaturesA collection of curious topics on the English language. Some are fun, others thought-provoking. Worth a read. (Let's hear it for Rolo-Pifla!) Note: original site has gone down, so the link now takes you to the Way-Back Machine.
PoemsYou could argue that the epitome of language is the poem. Here are some of the classics.
Literary TermsSo what the heck is an enjambment anyway?
RhymeZoneIf you fancy yourself a rhymester (or even a poet) but have rhymer's block, this is a cool site that may help get you out of that quandary. (PS: yes, they in fact have seven examples of rhymes for orange...)
ShakespeareOkay, before you go rolling your eyes and saying "(sigh) Shakespeare" ... check it out! There's some really great stuff in there! ;)
More WillPlays, summaries, history, quotes, and more.
StormA nine-minute beat-poem by Tim Minchin, replete with enjambments and all manner of devices, about a particular (hypothetical) dinner party, and two opposing points of view... (Warning: while thought provoking, parental guidance suggested, for use of one or two words George Carlin once riffed on.)
The movie...which is soon (2010) to be turned into a movie. Fun.
...Finally ReleasedA year (April 8, 2011) overdue, but worth the wait. Check it out!
Errors in EnglishWanna learn URself some good habits?
Guide to Grammar and StyleAnother useful guide, with an interesting perspective on things, and nicely interlinked.
EggcornsThese are fun mis-uses of the language... even the term itself illustrates the concept: eggcorn was what somebody thought how acorn was spelled. There's mindgrain for migraine, and... well, you get the picture.
MondegreensOf course the topic wouldn't be complete without tossing in some mondegreens as well. Here's a bunch of 'em in Christmas carols.
List of HomonymsAlan Cooper's (rather exhaustive!) list of homonyms... if you've ever wondered which of sight, site, or cite to use, (or ade, aid, aide, or your, you're, etc..) this is the site for you! (Just be sure to cite it as a reference in your bibliography...)
Dictionary of IdiomsThe American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, in the repository of Googles scanned books. We use idioms every day, often without knowing that they're idioms (until we have to explain one to a non-native English speaker ;-) ... this is a great collection of English idioms.
GermanDeutsche Welle (German TV) offers downloadable lessons for learning German, including audio. Pretty cool stuff.
German-English dictionaryLike the name says, the dictionary of English to German and German to English
Latin Dictionaryamo, amas, amat, etc...
How ToLatin's a bit more complicated than English (no kidding?) so a few tips on how to look things up might be in order.
Perseus Online LibraryPerseus Online Library includes many Greek and Latin works, and a searchable dictionary.
Study GuideSome study notes by Dale A Grote on Wheelock's Latin.
HanBar™ LexiconOkay, a bit of self-promotion here, but I developed this Chinese/English tool because I needed something like it, and there wasn't anything else out there. (Five years on, there's still no equal! ;-)
Learn MandarinThe associated site, with some learning games and sound assist.
Zhongwen.comThis is a really cool site, made all the more so since you don't need to install Asian language fonts to visit it. It helps demystify Chinese Han characters, and in general is quite interesting.
Japanese phrasesSome practical phrases for getting around in Japan
BabelfishOf course, an online translator is handy, even if it doesn't always do a perfect translation. With a nod to Douglas Adams, Altavista (well, Yahoo now...) provides this fairly useful tool.
ProZThis is another cool site, a go-to place for all sorts of translations. Not the automated BabelFish as above, but real people helping each other: it's sort of a translator's watering hole (and the place to visit if you need to hire translation services.) Interesting!
AnagramsClint EastwoodOld West Action? Try it!
Project Gutenberg"Your Free Digital Library" -- thousands of downloadable books: classics and other works (many of which the copyrights have expired and are now in the public domain.) Read them online, on your mobile device, or e-book device.
OpenLibraryA cross between the ultimate card catalog and "imdb for books"... a clever open project with a goal of "one web page for every book."
A Disagreeably Facetious Type Glossary..."for the Amusement & Edification of People Beginning a Love Affari with Fonts". Sure, you may know that the little doo-dads on the ends of strokes on a serif typeface like Times are called Serifs, but have you ever wondered what the hollow of an O or the horizontal line in an H are called? This short glossary -- more of an anatomy lesson of letters -- will be useful in understanding typography.
Marin County has quite a vivid history in terms of railroading. While the iron doesn't shine anymore, it's left its mark here.
NWPSome historical photographs of the North Western Pacific, or as it was sometimes known, the "Nowhere in Particular" railroad.
NPC RRThe predecessor to the NWP was the North Pacific Coast Railroad, at least in Marin and Sonoma. Many innovations happened here, including being one of the first electrified lines in the country (as well as No. 21, below.)
NPC in FairfaxOne of the NPC's stops: sleepy Larkspur.
NPC HistoryMany lines that used to run through Northern California were gathered up into the NWP.
County of Marin's accountCounty of Marin's page of NPC and "Riding the Railroad in Marin County"
NCRAAn effort to bring rail back to the old NWP line
More History
Locomotive No. 12One of the original locomotives still exists, in original livery. (Note that the California State Railroad Museum has changed domains, so this is from the wayback machine...)
California State Railroad MuseumThis is the new domain for the CSRM... nice, but shame on them for not preserving the old link... Cool URIs Never Change.
Caboose No. 2Also still around is one of the cabooses from the line
Bully BoyThe first time I saw No. 8, "Bully Boy", I thought cool! Turns out there were a few Mason-Bogies running elsewhere, but Bully Boy had quite a reputation in these parts.... ;)
Mason BogiesWhat's a Mason-Bogie? Here's some more info.
Mason Bogie PaintNot just built to be hard workers, Mason wanted his locomotives to be "good lookers" too, and bogies like the Bully Boy were brightly painted machines. (From archive.org)
Steam DummiesHere's another little novelty... a tiny 0-4-0 steam engine clad in a small "coach" frame. Originally done to keep horses from being spooked by the loud noises of steam locomotives, these eventually became the precursors to things like "doodlebugs"... and of course, a bunch of them trundled along right of way in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.
Dummy ProfileHere's one in profile
Dummies for DummiesA short primer on steam dummies.
Another SpecimenA good photo, though this is of a line on the other end of the country.
Steamlocomotive.comA great site with history and evolution of the steam locomotive
Wheel ArrangementsSo, was a Pacific a 4-6-2 or 2-6-4? (Or, what are those funny numbers anyway?)
Cab ForwardOne of the local phenomena (Okay, not Marin County, but in California) was the cab-forward.
SteamLocomotive.infoAnother site of interest for steam fans.
Steam Locomotive AnimationEver wonder how all those gears and wheels made a steam locomotive move? This is a great little site with a really useful set of animations...
Steam Loco Family TreeAn interesting "family tree" of steam (at least in the US) in terms of wheel arrangements. The number of wheels and axles under a steam locomotive wasn't just for looks: there were very practical motivations for them....
First Cab ForwardI mention cab forwards, because the classic SP Cab Forwards were likely inspired by a quaint little invention here in Marin County...
Geared SteamHeislers and Climaxes and Shays, oh my! Real work-horses, and a number of oddities, too.
xxactraxxI've gotten back into the Model Railroading hobby and this place is a dream-come-true! Ever wanted to lay your own track, but thought it was too hard? This stuff makes it easy, and fun!
McKeen MotorcarAn idea ahead of its time a hundred years ago, it still looks unusual. The McKeen Motorcar was one of the evolutionary spurs in the development of light rail. Termed the "wind splitter" for its sharp front end (the term "streamlined" only came into use decades later) its outlandish shape (compared to other vehicles of the time) seems inspired by nautical design. Typical of things ahead of their time, the technology wasn't quite up to the concept, so these futuristic vehicles were somewhat unreliable... and even to this day, unique....
McKeen PostcardsMcKeens in San Diego and La Jolla.
Link and Pin CouplersThe period between 1870 and 1915 saw a huge number of inventions dealing with coupling of cars in a train. Before then, there were versions of what was called "link and pin", after, there was the knuckle coupler. But for almost fifty years, interchange between 'roads was an exercise in exhaustion if not frustration.
Mt. Washington Cog RailwayOn the other end of the country, here's another railroad oddity, a railroad not driven by wheel, per se, but by cogs -- achieving a grade of up to 34 percent (steep, for railroads!)
Online Train SimulatorEver wanted to be the engineer of your own train? Take your pick of a half dozen or so Japanese lines, with these online flash-based sims. You can even toot your own horn... Fun!
Electrical Outlets WorldwideI guess if there's one thing that makes the world go 'round, it's Electricity. When going in-country abroad, it's a good idea to know what sort of plugs you'll find there... ;)
more Electrical outletsA bit of history on this page, as to why all this 120/220 volts, 50/60 hertz stuff. Hmmm... the US could have gone with 220 instead of 120, but because we already had so many 110 appliances when the rest of the world didn't, we were stuck.
Electrical outletsJust another table of outlets
Four Essential Travel PhrasesThis site is fun. Really! Four essential travel phrases (and not ones you would think) in (almost) every language, and a few conlangs....
Including Klingon
Where the hell is Matt?Stumbled on this the other night; clicking on it by accident, actually, I started to watch what I thought was some jerky home-video. Then this guy starts to dance this goofy dance. And then it got interesting. Fun! A must-see. (If your internet connection supports the bandwidth, check out the high-def version -- (the link is the bottom of the video screen.)
His websiteIf you're curious, you can see more...
Strange MapsWhat's travel without a map or two. Well, these aren't exactly ordinary maps. Take a gander!
50 States, 50 countriesHere, the names of the 50 states of the United States are replaced with the names of countries having the same GDP.
Map of the Internet?This clever sketch shows a map of online communities, with size and position indicative of population and proclivity. Fun.
Exclaves of West BerlinMost of us older than a certain age remember "West Berlin" as an "island of democracy" in the sea of Soviet East Germany. What wasn't well know was that it wasn't just a single "island." There were "Exclaves" of western land sprinkled all around Berlin.
Friends' Links
Friends and acquaintances that have their own sites.
PierceThorne.comPierce's site is the place to go for some wry commentary about things in general. (Psst: don't let the secret out, but under that prickly exterior, he's actually a pretty nice guy! ;)
WoofD2Washington Owners Of Flying-Disk Dogs, or "Woof-D-two", is run by a friend of mine up in the Puget-Sound area of Washington.
Vaughan ArchitectureA high-school friend of mine's web site. We're just getting him set up, but he's having fun with it.
SirensInSanityA friend's site he set up for his wife, who is a professional belly dancer.
HotRods By LewAnother site we got set up for a friend; he does hot-rod and other restoration.
Morning Sun Child CareExcellent childcare in Marin County, including bilingual Mandarin immersion.
Democracy TalkingFormer Autodesk CTO, colleague, and visionary, Scott Bourduin, hosts "The Conversation" -- a forum for returning sense to the political discussion. Not particularly partisan, but an effort to counter the extreme polar and divisive nature of politics today, Scott's site is a breath of fresh air. (Site was formerly Restoring Integrity
SolarFXA colleague's foray into solar energy production; this website chronicles his experiences in having solar photo-voltaic panels mounted onto his roof.
Et Cetera
Other stuff, mostly fun, usually interesting.
Patent 6836886Well, after a few years of red tape, this finally came through!
AutoCAD Easter EggHa! Somebody found it. I wonder, though, if they figured out the keystrokes to get it, or if they just hacked the resources... ;-) (Hint: If you've still got Kirkland, it's in the AutoCAD Today feature!)
WikipediaThis site is maybe one of the coolest out there... free online encyclopedia, in Wiki format...
NABOBToo cool! I've been Wikipedia'd... But wow, that was a while ago!
ArchivedWikipedia deleted the entry back in 2007, but it lives on in the WayBack machine....
Mattering NABOBsJust for the record....
French VersionWhile the English wikipedia site has taken down the entry, it seems that the French version has really gone overboard and taken the matter to new heights ( ... if you'd rather, read the translation.)
Published?Oh boy... it even made it into print... whodathunkit?
FIND1701Another bit of archeology... way back when, in the early days of PC computing (1989) when viruses were relatively rare, we could write single-purpose fixers, like this one, that undid the damage of the "1701" virus.... (another fallen flag; redirected to archive.org)
StrandbeestTheo Jansen's kinetic sculptures: wind-powered sculptures that walk, and even interact with their environment.
strandbeest.com... even more vids at the home site... (much of the site is in Dutch, though.)
strandbeestmovie.com... here too.
Wolfram AlphaThis is an interesting site; not exactly a search engine, per se, but rather interesting... more like a computational engine. The kinds of queries you can give it are fun. Oh, and yes, it does have the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
April Fool'sJust kidding... ;)
Introducing iDeaiPod, iPhone, iGuess trend lemmings abound everywhere. But I like the original, the iDea!
Y10KSome bright soul with too much time on his hands really is looking to the future. You think Y2K was bad, just imagine the trouble rolling over to the year 10,000 will cause. (Interestingly, the authors didn't post the date that they published the paper using the notation that they're proposing... ;-)
When Frogs FlyCute parable of corporate ineptitude; maybe pigs won't fly, but frogs?
Mostly HarmlessDon't Panic! The BBC has this clever Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy site online. Okay, it's not really about the galaxy, but contributors from around the world have been posting stuff on it. So grab your towel and have a look.
Snopes.com"I heard that a friend of a friend of so-and-so says that..." Um, probably not. This site is a really useful one in figuring out what's myth and what's not. I strongly recommend folks poke their head in on this site before swallowing what could be the latest bit of internet fiction... ;)
File FormatsCool site. Sort of a "pocket guide" to a bunch of geeky information. ;-)
Causes of ColorThis is a really nice site that deals with all sorts of ways in which "color happens."
Color BlenderThis is a cool little site to help you come up with a color scheme; pick one color, and five other complementary colors are generated based on your choice.
VischeckClever on-line tool to help you design graphics to be "colorblind-friendly"... simulates Deuteranope, Protanope, and Tritanope color deficits. Useful part of Section 508 accessibility testing.
Online Graphing CalculatorGraphing calculators are cool, but what's really sweet is that this one is written entirely in Javascript to run in your up-level browser! Yes, you can do dynamic graphics in DHTML!!!
Sorting AlgorithmsClever animations of the various major sorting algorithms. Gives you a pretty clear indication of why Bubblesort is so sloooow... ;-)
BookmarkletsWhile we're in the Javascript frame of mind, here's a cool site showing some design fore-thought with respect to javascript and bookmarks... cool little "installable apps" that do useful things, and they're free.
Hacker Jargon FileThe "official" (albeit de-facto) dictionary of computerese. With technology being a fact of life these days, journalists would do themselves and their readers a favor by reading and correctly using the terms. ;-)
True Definition of HackerPersonally, I'm most galled by the way hacker has taken a negative connotation, mostly by casual conflation with other terms that are, in fact, antithetical to what a hacker really is... read this for the clarification.
Geek PowerSteven Levy's article at Wired.com, on the old-style (ie, real) hacker, as idealist and social influence.
xmlGeek?Are you an xmlGeek?
Commodore PET AliveIt's been a long while, but oh the hours I spent in front of my PET. I can still see the "*** Commodore BASIC *** 7167 bytes free"...
Good EatsI don't much care for cooking shows -- you know, they're standing there behind a counter... "and now we're going to fold in a little heavy whipping cream, then..." Blah, blah, blah. (And I really don't need some portly idiot telling me how to "kick it up a notch"!) But Alton Brown's Good Eats is different. Quirky, eccentric, and intelligent, taking time to explain why things are the way they are. I also like the creativity he puts into his shows: where else can you find a show on cooking that opens with a parody of...
Poe's poem"The Raven", you know: "Once upon a mid-morn dreary, as I pondered with eyes quite bleary..."
One fan page...Here's the whole site. Somebody took the time to recreate all the Good Eats transcripts. Yeah, that's dedication. (Now, would AB say "get a life"??? Well, I don't know, but it's certainly Good Reads.)
AB's pageAlton Brown's own site. Questions answered, and goodies available... yup, including that kosher salt cellar....
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO.orgProving that there's a sucker born every day, this site pokes fun at some people's relative ignorance of chemistry and a willingness to believe something just because it's written. Let's see: dihydrogen means 2 hydrogens; monoxide means one oxygen. A regular sheep in wolves' clothing, this H2O...
School of the Renaissance SoldierAs a veteran of a foreign (well, historical) war, this is of passing interest... We be soldiers three...
New Life for Dead Hard DiskThis is clever. If your hard disk has gone south on you, here's something clever you can do with it... turn it into a wall clock!
PuzzlesJust some interesting brain-teasers, and an optical illusion or two as well.
Clever UITakes a lickin' and keeps on... well, just read it.
200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutesIf you ever thought statistics were boring, consider probably that it's how they're presented that makes them so: dessicated numbers and arcane formulae. Here comes Hans Rosling to the rescue with this very impressive video on 200 years of health and wealth...
Odd BussesSome interesting pix and vids about busses...
xkcdReally clever (techno)humor hidden behind stick-figure drawings.
Watching CloudsNot quite sure if he's serious in this one, but it's almost poetically profound... I could see doing this.
Tiniest Open-Source ViolinPretty much my response to "gee, why don't you have a [pick your favorite social media] account?" ... oh, like you didn't see that coming? ;-)
Map of the InternetThe actual map referenced in the Strange Maps link above. Shows the distribution of online communities then...
... revisited... and "now" (2010) where Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have grown to tremendous proportions.
Map of the Internet (IPv4)A similar map showing the IP address allocation...
Tic-tac-toeThe "optimal" moves for playing tic-tac-toe, all illustrated in two boards.
Explain xkcdJust in case one (or more) xkcd comics are a bit too arcane, here's an unrelated site that crowd-sources explanations, so ponder no more the mystery of any given xkcd. ;-)
Bay Area Quake MapUSGS real-time map of earthquakes happening here in Quake Country. Beware the red boxes. ;-)
Fastest CameraThis may be one of the coolest videos around: TED speaker Ramesh Raskar demonstrates a rapid-pulse laser and a camera capable of trillionth-of-a-second shutter speeds... so fast, that it can send a laser pulse a few centimeters long, can reconstruct images around corners based on reflections, and show how light reflects and refracts through a bottle in "time lapse" fashion. A must-see!
Cool URIs don't changeNothing on the web is worse than a 404... especially when it is avoidable. This is my little admonishment to web-master-kiddies everywhere (;-) ... please don't change URIs, that's just badness: if it used to work before your reorg, it should continue to do something useful for the visitor afterwards.. It is so trivially easy to preserve old URIs, and redirect them or do something useful with them, even in the face of your pet reorg project... so... just... don't! Really! Cool URIs don't change. Period. ;-)