Saturday, October 31, 2009

ThomasNet

Anyone remember those huge green volumes that probably took up a shelf and a half in your local library's reference section? You used them to find manufacturers of all kinds of stuff, whether local or not. Well, now that resource is searchable online.

From their website:

Search ThomasNet to find manufacturers, distributors and service providers - from Actuators to Zirconium and everything in between.

If you're looking for a product, you can type it right into the search box or use the categories. Use the links above the search box to find brands or companies. The scope covers the US and Canada, but you can't search by region. It's either all locations or one state/province. Some states are subdivided, like Massachusetts (into Eastern and Western halves), so depending on where you live you might have to do a couple searches to find everything.

Click on the company name to see contact information. You can also compare companies, or email or print results. Once on a company's page you can write notes and save them, provided you've created an account for yourself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Baseball Books

Quite a few baseball books have been published in recent years, and this list includes some of those new ones plus a few old favorites.

1. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber

Fans and players alike seem to enjoy complaining about umpires, but what is being an umpire really like? They are supposed to make calls as they see them and not make an impact on the game, but what happens when their calls are wrong? What are the "magic words" that will get a manager or player thrown out of the game? From umpiring school to the minors to the majors, follow Bruce Weber as he straps on the mask and chest protector and learns first-hand what it's like to be one of the men in blue.

2. The Yankee Years by Joe Torre

Joe Torre gets writing credit, but Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated actually synthesizes the information in this narrative of Torre's time as manager of the New York Yankees. From his inauspicious hiring by owner George Steinbrenner after the 1995 season to the end of his tenure following the 2007 playoff loss to the Cleveland Indians, read about everything that went on behind the headlines. See what it was like to lead the team to four championships in five years. Learn how Torre dealt with Steinbrenner's management style and find out how the players felt when Alex Rodriquez joined the team in 2004. Read about what happened later that same year, when the Red Sox came back from the brink of elimination in the ALCS to win four in a row and get to the World Series for the first time in 86 years--at the expense of Torre's Yankees. Through the good and the bad, get inside the head of this brilliant manager.

3. Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember by John Feinstein

John Feinstein is a newspaper columnist as well as a prolific author of sports books, and in this one he follows pitchers Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina through the 2007 season. Both pitchers were near the end of their careers--Glavine chased 300 wins that year, and Mussina contemplated retirement--and they both are given plenty of opportunities to speak in their own words. Read what they have to say about what it's like dreaming about playing in the majors, being on winning as well as losing teams, changing teams, aging as a player, and having to adjust their game to stay competitive. Both pitchers are introspective and have near-encyclopedic knowledge of every game they've played, making for fascinating if slightly tedious reading. Serious students of the game, especially of pitching, will enjoy this one.

4. National Pastime: Sports, Politics, and the Return of Baseball to Washington, DC by Barry Svrluga

At first glance this book may seem to appeal only to those few diehard fans of the Washington Nationals, who relocated to DC from Montreal before the 2005 season. However, any baseball fan will be interested to read about what goes on in the front office and how personnel decisions are made. Most fans will experience long stretches of losing but true fans stick with their teams no matter what, and so those true fans of any team will understand what it was like to watch the underdogs perform above expectation and bring the excitement of baseball back to a city bereft of the game for thirty years. Barry Svrluga was the Nats' beat writer for the Washington Post at the time, and he planned to write the book from the start of the season. Thus he was around from the time the team moved and set up office in trailers to the conclusion of the season, when the overachieving Nationals went 81-81. Really, it's more interesting than it sounds. Give it a shot.

5. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss

Sportswriter David Maraniss writes eloquently about this 1960s Pittsburgh Pirates star. Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American player voted into the Hall of Fame, and this book demonstrates why. Clemente was one of the best ever at his position of right fielder, he won Gold Gloves and MVP awards, and he was a perennial All-Star. Off the field he generously donated his time and money to charities in his native Puerto Rico and elsewhere in Central America. In fact, he died in a plane crash while delivering emergency aid packages to Nicaragua following an earthquake in 1972. He was and remains an inspiration.

photo courtesy of Flickr

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do Not Mail List

Stop unwanted catalogs from clogging up your mailbox and reduce your waste by getting your name on the Do Not Mail List from DirectMail. At first glance DirectMail seems like to opposite place to be as they sell address lists to companies and organizations, but they also say,
As direct marketers ourselves, we know that mail-order companies don't want to waste their money sending mail to people who don't want to receive it.

You have to register with the site, but it's free. Take a look at their FAQ.

There is another option called Catalog Choice. Again, you have to sign up. They have a list of participating catalog companies, but even if yours isn't there send in a suggestion to include certain titles.

Do Not Call Registry


Are you getting telemarketing calls? Do you want to see if your phone number has been registered? Check out the Do Not Call Registry, run by the Federal Trade Commission.

Input up to three phone numbers (or call 1-888-382-1222) to stop telemarketing calls. You can register both landline and cell phones. If you have more than three numbers, you can come back to the site and input the others. You'll get email confirmations for each one.

Did you register once but want to double-check that your number is still there? There is good news: Numbers on the registry do not expire. So chances are your number is still there, but there is a link to make sure. If you move or get a new number, it's not a bad idea to make sure that new number is registered.

Click "More Information" then "Information for Consumers" to get the FAQs.

Everything on the site, including the FAQs, are available in Spanish.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The World Factbook


For information on countries of the world, their flags, and maps, start your search with the CIA World Factbook.

Select a country from the menu. There are also locations listed, like the Arctic Ocean, the Holy See (Vatican City), the Kingman Reef, and the West Bank. You'll get anything from maps and flags to demographics and government information. You can see larger images of the graphics or get printouts.

The tabs under the menu pertain to the resource itself. You can find maps and flags here as well as definitions ("References") and explanations of abbreviations ("Appendices").

There's not a lot of narrative here, but if you need statistics or an overview or just want to see where a country is in the world, this is a great resource.

As a bonus, check out the link from the list on the left labeled "World Leaders." This resource, Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments, is a list, by country, of heads of state, cabinet members, ambassadors, and more. (Both the A to Z list on the right side and the one in the middle go to the same places.) Don't let the initial "updated" dates throw you. It looks like the lists haven't been updated for a couple of years, but once you get to individual country information the dates become much more recent.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facebook

Check out this posting of Facebook privacy settings. Some of these are pretty basic and should be common sense, like not allowing your profile to appear in Google, but others, such as not allowing stories to appear on friends' pages, may be ones you haven't considered before. If nothing else, this list of ten tips should get you thinking about how you control your online privacy. If you want even more information on Facebook privacy, there is a downloadable file.

PC Magazine's Top 100 Websites of 2009

Okay, so this isn't exactly new, but it's still a cool list. PC Magazine has selected the top 100 websites of the year. They chose some old favorites (the New York Times and Slate) as well ones you've never heard of (Giveaway of the Day). Use the links on the left or scroll down to see the classics and the undiscovered gems. From tech info to just plain fun, you'll be sure to find something of interest and hopefully even usefulness. If you fall in love with them all, you can download the entire list to your browser's favorites.

Flu.gov

Stay up to date with the latest information on the H1N1 virus with Flu.gov. The site is run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the CDC links to it from their own website.

One of the more important sections is the area where you can check on your state's information, such as locations for getting vaccinated and whether your state has a pandemic plan. If your state has a hotline or blog, that will be listed.

There is a list of FAQs but you have to search it, I don't see where you can view the entire thing. But it's pretty comprehensive with refinements and categories presented to you so you can find exactly what you need.

Flu essentials are offered in a variety of languages, and the entire site is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Stay current on all the news by following on Twitter, Facebook, RSS, email, and even YouTube.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

AnnualCreditReport.com

From the Federal Trade Commission:

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every twelve months.  The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services.  Don’t be fooled by TV ads, email offers, or online search results.  Go to the authorized source when you request your free report.

Read the FTC FAQs for more information. Your report combines all the information from the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You don't have to visit all three yourself; AnnualCreditReport.com does the work for you.

It's a good idea to keep an eye on your credit reports. You don't get your credit score this way, but you do get to see what creditors see. If you're trying to get a loan or mortgage or you just want to know what's on your report, you can get it for free. Then you'll know if you need to take care of any problems or errors that show up.

GuideStar

Do you want to check details on a nonprofit organization? Do you want to donate but want to make sure the organization is worthy? Are you looking for a certain kind of organization but aren't sure which one? Try GuideStar.


GuideStar is itself a nonprofit that seeks "to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving." You can search the site and get basic information on nearly 2 million nonprofits, such as verifying the existence of a particular organization, but if you register (which is free) you can get even more, like contact information, financial information, and IRS forms. There is even the option to subscribe to GuideStar, but unless you are doing serious research you probably won't need that much in-depth information.

GuideStar is pretty easy to navigate, but there's a how-to video if you want to watch an overview of the site.

Searching for a non-profit's name is straightforward, just type it into the searchbox. You can also type in keywords, and then at the top of the results screen you'll see a list of suggestions for related searches.


If you get too many hits, click on "Refine Your Search" to add details such as location or more keywords.


Check out the search tips for help in using the site.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Voting

It's getting to be that time of year when towns and states talk about elections. Politicians have been campaigning, and you may be thinking it's time to register to vote.


If you need to know who your legislators are, try this site. It's from the federal government but has links to state officials as well. Just enter your ZIP code.

For information on voting in your area, use your favorite search engine and type in your state or local jurisdiction plus "elections" or "voting." Each state should have some sort of bureau of elections, and each town or county should have some sort of registrar. This local registrar will have information on how to register to vote and also where you go to vote. Depending on where you live, you might be able to register to vote when you get your driver's license renewed.

image courtesy of flickr

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bing

There is a third search engine out there that claims to be a "decision engine," meaning it tries to interpret your searches and help you decide what results will help you the most. This newcomer to the searching scene is called Bing.


Bing is a Microsoft product, built expressly to rival Google. It started in June 2009 and since then has gained a fair share of Internet searches, generally making it one of the top three. (On a side note, Microsoft and Yahoo have entered an agreement where Bing will eventually power the Yahoo search engine, a move which both companies hope will allow them to overtake Google.)

Let's take a look at Bing. At first glance it seems to offer some of the same types of searches as Google and Yahoo, like News, Maps, and Shopping. It certainly has a cleaner interface than Yahoo but not as stark as Google's white page. Bing has a revolving image gallery, and if you hold your mouse over the picture, you might see some boxes pop up. Mouse over one of them for a tidbit of information and click on it to get the whole story.

From the list on the left, click "More" to see what else Bing has to offer.

Let's try a search. To compare it with Yahoo from the previous post, type in your hometown. You'll see a list of results down the middle of the page, but on the left you'll see them organized by topic. If you wanted the newspaper for your town or the names of some restaurants, click the link on the left and Bing will redo the search. You can also look for images, maps may show up in your results, and news articles may also appear. (Maps and news articles may also show up in Google's search results.)

Let's try a different kind of search. Type travel itinerary for new zealand. What kind of results do you get? Notice that Bing also has sponsored sites. In this case, you might take a look at them as you are probably looking for a travel company to help you plan your trip. Also look through the rest of the results, though, because you might find an absolute gem of a smaller company that didn't pay to have its website show up at the top of the list.

Explore Bing the next time you need to find something on the Internet. How does it compare to Yahoo or Google? If you need assistance using the site, click "Help" at the bottom of any screen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yahoo

I confess I use Google exclusively, but there are other search engines out there. Let's next explore another well-known one: Yahoo.


At first glance the homepage seems cluttered and busy, especially when compared to Google's clean and simple search box. Yahoo has links all over the place: across the top where the search box is; down the left where scrolling over these opens a pop-up window (to close it, click the x in the top right corner); in the center where top news stories appear; and to the right where popular searches are shown. Whew!

Where to start?

Let's try a search and see if the results screen is less crowded. Type your hometown into the search box and click "Web Search." You could also search for images, videos, jobs (under the More tab), and other kinds of information, but we'll stick with the basics for now. You should get a nice list of webpages relating to your town, including the official website if there is one.

One thing to watch out for, both with Yahoo and Google, are sponsored sites. They will be on the right side and at the top of the search results, although the label's type face isn't prominent. These sites usually have something to sell and may or may not be relevant. These companies have paid to be included in results lists, which is why they might not really be on topic for you.

Yahoo also tries to organize the results for you down the left of the screen. Multiple mentions from the same source are grouped together, and it also lists some phrases to help narrow your search. The ellipses (...) replaces your search term(s), so if one of those phrases looks good, just click on it and Yahoo will redo your search.

Click the purple Yahoo logo to get back to the homepage. Take a closer look at some of the other links on the screen. Yahoo would like to be your one source for information. If you're constantly looking for sports scores or email or Facebook or movie information or news, you can find it all here. Yahoo may not offer the book search or news archives like Google, but it can be handy in keeping you up to date with current affairs.

Try your hometown search in Google and compare the results. They'll probably be about the same. Now try a more in-depth research question, like a list of medical symptoms or a topic from history (for instance, result of battle of gettysburg). How do the results differ (or not)?

Choosing a search engine for research may not be important anymore as you should be able to find what you need in any of them, but you'll probably find yourself drawn to a certain one for various reasons. Just don't be afraid to try others once in a while, something I should keep in mind myself.

Update 8/10: Yahoo is now powered by Bing, the search engine created by Microsoft.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Google, Part 2

 Google is more than just a search engine. It can do all kinds of nifty things, like spell-checking, defining terms, showing stock quotes and weather, doing calculations and conversion...all kinds of things.

In the upper left corner of the Google homepage is a list of more kinds of searches. For instance, if you know you want images or videos, you can click on the corresponding link.

Google also has indexed newspapers from the past centuries and from around the world. Click the "News" link to start searching. If you want to use the archives, click the "Advanced" link to the right of the search box, then the "Archives" link in the center of the page. Some results may have a cost in order to view; these will be labeled "pay-per-view." Honestly, I don't use this feature as much as I probably could.

Two other huge aspects are Google Books and Google Scholar. Both are listed on the "more" pull-down menu. Sometimes you'll run across these when doing other searches, especially if you're looking for a title even if you didn't intend to search for the book itself. The result will start with books.google.com.

Google Books includes works in the public domain plus others that are still under copyright. Thus you won't be able to see full-text for everything. Still, you should be able to view relevant parts or have the option to buy or borrow the book if you do need to see the whole thing. (When you're looking at the content of the book, see the links on the left for obtaining a copy. "Find in a library" will link you to Worldcat.org, which searches library catalogs nationwide to find locations near you that have copies. Talk to your local librarian about how to borrow the book.)

Google presents contents of books (and sometimes magazines) right on the screen. There is usually the option to view it as a PDF, but keep in mind that if the entire book is online the PDF might be huge.

Google Scholar is a little trickier to use. It indexes journals, abstracts, conference proceedings, and other papers, but often these sources are not available full-text for free. There may be a cost to view the contents or the article may not be available online in the first place. Still, you can get a citation and check with your local librarian about getting a copy. For more about searching Google Scholar, see Scholar Help.

Google is a powerful search engine, but it also does so much more. Explore the "more" menu at the top of the homepage to see all the applications Google has to offer.

For the basics of searching Google, see Part 1.