Track Google searches, improve IQ

I read about Google Web History the other day and fired it up immediately. Google Web History is smooth and smart, and the data it provides is super useful.

Basically, Google keeps a log of every site you've visited through a Google search. You have to be logged on using a Google account to access the history; I got my account when I signed up for Gmail.

My history includes about 3400 Google searches dating back to lunchtime on October 4, 2005. One feature I found valuable: searching through my Google history to dig up sites I once visited. Google has your permission to keep data on every spot you've visited on their servers. But the data doesn't need to stay there forever. Click Remove Items on the search history page and the links are deleted from Google's servers.

Playing around with Google Web History got me thinking about some other Web sites that you might be interested in, like the new Citizendium online encyclopedia.

Citizendium challenges Wikipedia

Launched in March, Citizendium (pronounced sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um) promises to strip Wikipedia of its popularity.

The game plan is to ensure Citizendium entries are accurate and have accountability. That's not exactly how Citizendium founder Larry Sanger puts it, of course. But what else can he mean when he says the site will improve on Wikipedia by "adding 'gentle expert oversight' and requiring contributors to use their real names"?

Citizendium relies on a vetting process. Potential contributors need to submit their real name and biography, and agree to abide by the rules--which run almost 1000 words and read a little like a software licensing agreement.

Dig this: Have a deadline looming? What better way to start work than by watching Buddy, the famous surfing dog, do his thing. He's a Jack Russell Terrier and obviously can't wait to get into the water. [Caution: sound.]

Some smart, cool, and useful maps

I get a kick out of mapping sites. And according to the e-mail I've received, so do you. Here's a generous handful of maps for you to play with.

The World Sunlight Map is amazing Based on satellite data, it shows a real-time, computer generated view of the earth. Double-click to zoom in. View it at dusk wherever you are and you can see the edge of sunlight. Very nice stuff. [Thanks, Leo.]

Find the Landmark is a neat way to familiarize yourself with where famous spots are located. Start with something simple from the Change the Category pull-down menu. Countries is a good first choice, as is Mountains/Volcanoes.

Even if you're not a birder, you might get a kick out of Geobirds, a site that will help you identify and track North American birds.

The Mental Floss Geography Challenge asks questions like these: Where is Cote D'Ivoire? How about Holy See or Azerbaijan? The challenge is to identify as many countries as possible in two minutes. Watch for the name of the country on the lower portion of the screen, then use the small map to move to the correct continent before selecting the country on the large map. Don't let the little flags confuse you like they did me--they point to small island countries. Micronesia, anyone? I struggled through the test and my score was a flat-out goose egg. (The test comment was: "Well you can only go up from here." Thanks.) My wife, bless her heart, skunked me with 60 percent.

If you're enjoying these sites, you'll probably get a kick out of the Strange Maps blog. The author doesn't just post a map. He or she has lots to say about each one. Fascinating. [Thanks, Judy.]

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Steve Bass

PC World
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