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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

26 October, 2006

Siteseeing

Posting this reminded me that I have a lot of stuff that I've been meaning to post here, but never got down to. Here it is. Bits and pieces picked from my columns. These are sites that have some relevance for writers. Hope you like them. The long URLs lead to the specific columns. The site names link directly to the sites reviewed.

(One thing. The format of the columns—a very tight word count, a certain number of sites per column—has meant that I've frequently written far less than I would have wanted to. Please feel free to add your views too. Either here, or on my archive—the long raw URLs .)


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/05/mousetrap-1.html

What was that word again?
Word Spy
You know all those I'm-so-cool words that suddenly come into vogue with the with-it corpo crowd? That get bandied about by the young B-school grads with the power ties? This site is a good place to figure out what the heck they're saying. Seriously, though (and before my MBA friends put a fatwa out on me), the site is a fascinating repository of what's new and happening. It calls what it does “lexpionage,” or the sleuthing of new words and phrases. And the words it chooses aren't the made-up variety of doubtful provenance that descend into your inbox with monotonous regularity. Word Spy includes detailed citations of each entry.

Click to find
Bartleby.com
This is what the net was supposed to be: free information across borders.
This site is one of many (we'll cover some more in future columns) that give you online versions of books, absolutely free. Bartleby is best known for the invaluable set of reference books it offers. (A small sampler: Roget's Thesaurus, Fowler's King's English, Strunk and White's Elements of Style, World's Orations, Oxford Shakespeare, Gray's Anatomy, World Factbook, Oxford English Verse, the Bhagavad Gita, the King James Bible, and much more.) But it also has sections on non-fiction, fiction, and poetry.
Worth a virtual bookmark, hmm?


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/05/mousetrap-2.html

[Great source for the SF&F writer]

Myth Universe
Encyclopedia Mythica
An encyclopaedia of mythology, folklore, and religion, it offers as much to the serious student as it does to the casual surfer. Myths sorted by region, folklore in various categories, the site can keep you occupied for hours. It also has an image gallery, a fantastic bestiary that covers all manner of mythical creatures from different cultures, a gallery of legendary heroes, and even a growing set of genealogical tables. The site also has a section on Hindu mythology. And you can subscribe to its RSS feed. No, that's not what you think. That stands for Really Simple Syndication (among other things), which is a way to read fresh news or blog feeds via a feed reader.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/06/mousetrap-8.html

It gnows what you like.
Gnod - The global network of dreams
An experimental project, Gnod is a “self-adapting system, living on this server and ‘talking' to everyone who comes along.” Here's the way it works. Type in the name of an author (on gnooks.com), and in a whirling matrix - you'll have to wait a few seconds for it to settle down - it gives you other authors you might like. Likewise with movies . For music , the site first asks you to name favourite artistes, and then makes recommendations based on your choices. A related site that I didn't find a link to on these sites (and in fact the way I found them - Thanks Nilanjana S Roy) is music-map.com , which does the same whirlpool act with musicians, bands and singers.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/07/mousetrap-10.html

“It was a dark and stormy night…
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
“…the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who opened his book, Paul Clifford, with the preceding sentence, the Bulwer-Lytton contest asks you to write the opening sentence of the worst of all possible novels. Started in 1982, by a professor in the English Department at San Jose State University, the contest has a cult following on the net. It now features entries in various categories, aside from an overall prize. The archives from previous years should keep you occupied on many a rainy day, even if you don't want to enter the contest.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/07/mousetrap-11.html

The Power of One
One Word
Feeling a little blocked? Need that challenge to get the synapses moving? One Word might help. The site gives you sixty seconds to write whatever come to mind based on the one-word cue you are given when you hit the “Go” button. “it is not about learning new words.” the site says, “nor is it about defining words. the real purpose of this exercise is to alleviate our natural tendency to edit everything—and learn to flow.”


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/07/mousetrap-12.html

If you love something, set it free
BookCrossing
BookCrossing wants you to free your books. And you do so by deliberately losing them. Leaving one in a train, say, or in a restaurant. But first, you register the book on the site and get a BookCrossing ID number, with which you label the book. Then, every time someone picks up the book and sees the label, they can log in to the site and record a journal entry for the book. And you get notified by email every time that happens, so you can “follow” your book on its travels, and read what other people think about this book that you loved enough to want to share it with the world. Just make sure it's not from the library, hm?


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/09/mousetrap-18.html

Don't read this
Forbidden Library
Take a look at the date on top of this page. It's 2005, yes? You wouldn't think it from the way, even now, we have self-appointed custodians of culture that exists only in their narrow minds wanting to decide for us what we shouldn't wear (hide those legs, girls), whether we can send roses on February 14th, and yes, what we shouldn't read. This site has neatly sorted lists of books that have been banned or challenged over the years, telling you why they were considered bad for the innocent public. A fascinating and scary view of narrow minds through the ages.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/09/mousetrap-20.html

Past Imperfect
National Mission for Manuscripts
Launched by the Ministry of Culture (no, that's not an oxymoron), this Mission's worthy, um, mission is to locate, catalogue and preserve India's manuscripts, and to enhance access, spread awareness and encourage their use for educational purposes. In typical sarkari style, sucky site design and navigation, with page after page devoted to restating its objectives. I'm told that in the real world, they have been very successful so far, though there's much still undiscovered. Should be site worth bookmarking when they're done (it's a five-year project that was launched in 2003), but in the meanwhile, I recommend visiting their photo gallery, which has some lovely pictures of manuscripts on paper, cloth and palm and bamboo leaves.

Werds are all I have
Dicshunary
The net is full of wonderful reference sites. Dictionaries, thesauri, what have you, it's all there. But this site is a home for all those words that will never make it into the more, ahem, respectable resources. The words - make that “werds” - that “might only exist in the language of one neighbourhood, one family or even one person.” You can contribute stuff from your own private lexicon, and even have a custom (you do the tweaking) version on your own site, so people know what the heck you're waffling on about. [Statutory warning: not for children.]


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/10/bookmark-this-cybertrack-2.html

Literary Traveler http://www.literarytraveler.com/

“Explore your literary imagination,” says the site's tagline. And, even though I disapprove of people who spell “traveller” with only one “l” (them that pays the cheques rule, sez this writer), I must tell you that there's plenty of great reading on this site, if you're a lover of both travel and books.
Literary Traveler's main offering is articles about writers and the places associated with them. Some are obvious: Hemingway and Pamplona , Robert Louis Stevenson and Samoa , Neruda's Isla Negra in Chile . Others less so, like James Joyce and Trieste , or the “ dismal swamp” that Robert Frost almost never came back from. The quality of writing is high and most articles come with links to more information on the location or the writer. You can search according to the places written about, or check the authors' names to see if your favourites find a mention. The site attempts to earn its keep with ads, yes, but they're not intrusive, and you do get the feeling that it's one of those increasingly rare animals, a genuine, old-fashioned labour of love. One assumes its founders also get revenue from their listing of Literary Tour Operators (you can, if you choose, do a Jane Austen tour or wander the haunts of the Beat poets in the San Francisco Bay Area). Oh yes. There's also a newsletter to subscribe to. Quibbles? The locations and authors covered are mainly in the USA, with some representation from Europe, with the rest of the world, and its literature, going largely unrepresented.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/10/mousetrap-23.html

Logolepsy
My Favorite Word
Tell the world what your favourite word is, though you'll have to remember to type out the URL spelled in American. “Money” was taken, though “food” and a certain three-letter word weren't, so I might just go back and send one in. Yes, I'm a very basic kinda guy. The people behind the site plan to turn all this into a book, and they say nothing about sharing the royalties, so you may choose not to contribute, But browse through the entries, from “ Abstemiously ” (!) to “ Zaftig ” (which means “full and shapely,” or as a friend put it, “fat in a nice way.”). And no, I'm not going to explain the title above this paragraph. Go look it up.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/10/mousetrap-25.html

When life gives you lemons...
Spam Poetry
We all live with spam, those unwanted commercial emails (and now, even SMSes) that offer us companionship, free advice, loans, prescription medication, Viagra, porn, millions of dollars if we'd only help the widow of an African dictator get her fortune out of Nigeria, and heaven knows what else. This blogger channelled her irritation into putting that spam to work. She writes poetry that puts together the subject lines of spam she receives. The result? She says it best: “A little bit Found Art, a little bit Whimsy, and mostly, just to find a way for me to find a peaceful intersection between digital communication and my life.”


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/11/mousetrap-28.html

By all that's holy
The Internet Sacred Text Archive
I'm not big on religion, but this site's first lines hooked me: “This is a quiet place in cyberspace devoted to religious tolerance and scholarship.” Not a rant in sight, just texts (mostly in English translation, but some with in the original language too) from just about every religion, tradition and belief that produced texts that we know of, from African religions to Zoroastrianism. The archive pulls together material from a huge variety of sources: scans from books and articles, material from early internet FTP archives and BBSes, even transcripts and retellings from religions with an oral tradition. It has over 45,000 files, some of them unique. For instance, comprehensive translations of the Upanishads and the Rig Veda that are unavailable online elsewhere. Amen.

No, really!
Literally
That's the wonderful thing about the web. You can take your pet peeve and devote an entire blog to it. And if it's a word that's misused as often as “literally” is, hey, there's a lot to blog about. Here, you get examples from the media and elsewhere of the word's incorrect and unnecessary usage, and, just to be fair, its proper use too. Good fun. Literally.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/12/mousetrap-30.html

Found in translation
Cipher Journal
The web is a helpful place when it comes to helping you understand other languages. Automated translators, freely available, can give you the gist without too much pain. But without the flavour, the nuances that only a professional equally at home on both languages can provide. This site aims believes that translation inspires better literature, and it publishes “creative works of art & literature that call attention to the process of translation. We will also include reviews of translated literature—both new and old—with a special emphasis on the merits of the translation.” What's available online thus far isn't, um, voluminous, but it should be site worth watching.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2005/12/mousetrap-32.html

Argot finder
Glossarist.com
Dictionaries are all very well, when you're looking for random words. But when you want to look up specific categories, you would be better off checking out a specialist glossary. This site helpfully lists industries and categories, and then links to glossaries in those niches. Not all links work, but it's still a might useful site. Horrid thought: I'm shooting myself in the foot here - there are enough links listed here for me to fill out the next few columns. Mutter, mutter, grumble grumble.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/01/mousetrap-34.html

Everyone has a book in them. Or at least a chapter.
Glypho
I have been checking out collaborative writing sites, to see if there's an idea or two I can steal for my own writing group. Stumbled on this via a newsgroup (thank you, Ambika Sukla). The has “preview” in its masthead, so perhaps it's going to go paid soon, or maybe it's just got more features coming up. In the meanwhile, it's a fun place to try out your writing skills. How it works: a user outlines a story and ideas. Other members contribute their thoughts, and then take a stab at writing a chapter. Democracy takes over from there, with users then voting on whose rendition is best. And so on. Worth watching, to see if the hive mind can replace the single author; though Stephen King won't lose sleep yet. What do you think?

How do I love thee, let me count the electrons
Poetic Table of the Elements
Pure fun. A mix of science and poetry – unusual bedfellows at the best of times – the site features a Periodic Table of the Elements, where you can click on any of them and read poetry that is “original poems about, inspired by, reminiscent of or otherwise related to that element.” Much enjoyment, with some decidedly informative verse, which, methinks, should be included in school curricula. And yes, you can also contribute your own flights of poetic fancy. Registration isn't required. (And, by the way, everypoet.com, the parent site is a great resource for the bard in you.)


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/01/mousetrap-35.html

Formula Stories
Michael Swanwick's Periodic Table of Science Fiction
Remember the Poetic Table of the Elements from last week? Here's another site that finds the Table inspirational. This one isn't open for entries, though, or collaborative either. It's a bunch of short Science Fiction tales, one to each element, all by the same author. I would imagine this took a while to write, and there were points where he wished he hadn't started – heck, I haven't finished reading the lot yet – but it's a great effort. The standard varies, but I personally like his toungue-in-cheek style, even when he's vamping his way through. I particularly liked Germanium, Argon and Xenon.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/01/mousetrap-38.html

Verbivores only
Luciferous Logolepsy
“Dragging obscure words into the light of day.”With a motto like that, I don't really have to tell you what the site is about. But hey, this noble publication actually sends me a money (sort of) to write this column, a practice one seeks encourage, so one must macarise the countercasters and deliver a full complement of words. The site lists and defines over 9,000 words, with a self-confessed leaning towards the archaic, because they “tend to be more evocative – as if their very age lends additional meaning or overtones.” It's a wonderful treasure house for students and lovers of the language. If you just want a little fascinating reading, pick a letter from the menu, click, close eyes, scroll down blind, and read the first few words you see. To find a word related to a term you know, there's a convenient search option. Oh yes. The site name. I'll save you the look up. It means “an illuminating obsession with words.”

More for the logolepts
Worthless Word for the day
A site with its heart in the same place as the previous one. Except that this one takes itself less seriously. No reflection on the quality of the content, though. In fact it scores higher in my book because it offers context and examples of usage. And, as the name suggests, it has a fresh offering every day. And yes, there's a good search function too. Negatives: the archives are selected, and not comprehensive. There is a complete word list, but that only offers definitions. And the site's frames, architecture and generally layout are, well, not the best. [Link courtesy: Megha Murthy ]

Spring has sprung
Asinine Poetry
(And quick link to show you that we don't have intellectual pretensions after all. Well, not too many.) Bad poetry is easy to find online. Heck, be nice to me and I might even show you where I hide mine. Anyway, thanks to the easy availability of free web space, blogs and the like, everything that sensible publishers reject can find a home, and an audience. Theoretically. But I digress. Asinine Poetry, says this site is “Not necessarily bad; mostly kinda funny.” And they deliver. Read via their list of contributors, or stroll around at random. Rewarding any way you choose. And the site also hosts contests. There's one for asinine haiku open right now. Let's see.. Web columnist fancies / Fifty dollar prize: / newspaper doesn't pay enough. What say?

We are like this, what to do
Dick & Garlick
That rare and welcome creature, a blog that discourses with both wit and erudition on the various regional strains of Indian English and street slang, and the resulting neologisms, mixing links and citations with his own views. One character flaw, though. The chap behind it seems to take really long breaks. He's on one now, the second since I first began following the site, and I'm hoping that this will bring him back. Well-written blog. Go visit and pprod him into posting again. And while you're there, ask him to explain the name. I think I have it, but if I'm right, I can't reproduce it here.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/02/mousetrap-41.html

In the beginning was the word
The Wordplay Website
The first sites were all words. Most of us till experience the Internet primarily via text. Add to that the fact that the web started out in the English-speaking world, and that the most represented language is still this notoriously quirky language, and it isn't surprising that there are so very many sites that pay homage to the word in English. This site features “over 500 pages of word puzzles, games, amazing lists, and fun facts.” Play with their Anagram Generator , explore Palindromes , Spoonerisms , Pangrams , Malapropisms , and much, much more. Do see my personal favourite, Tom Swifties . BTW, there's even a section called Net Lingua . Invaluable, IMHO, for those of you who find web argot incomprehensible.

Site of record
Internet Indian History Sourcebook
Part of a larger set called the Internet History Sourcebooks Project , that is one of those old-fashioned – in web years – labours of love. It is information presented freely, profusely referenced and linked, combining piles of original texts, translations, and links to other sites. Objectivity test? It links also to ‘nationalist' sites, with a caveeat. Definitely worth your while whether you're a student, teacher, researcher or plain old dilettante. Or a textbook re-writer in search of stuff to rant about / copy from.

[Useful when you're trying to get context for a date in history for your writing perhaps?]
This day, that year
ANYDAY Today-in-History
Pick a month, pick a day, hit the button. You get a massive listing of historical events (with a bit of a Western tilt), anniversaries and birth and death days of famous people. After you've checked out your own birthday (yes, no shame to that, everyone does, I share mine with Edison, Sheryl Crow and Archie Andrews), you could go look up some other stuff to make for interesting cards, trivia and just plain bugging your pals.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/03/mousetrap-44.html

Verse for Commuters
Poems on the Underground
Twenty years ago, three poets talked the Underground (London's commuter railway) into an act of beauty. The Underground, like public transport in most cities, carries ads. When those ad spaces are blank, said the poets, let's use the space to carry poetry. That year, poems, some classic some contemporary, began to appear inside trains. Commuters loved it. It was so successful, the selected verses were published in a book (now in its tenth edition), and the idea has been replicated in other metropolitan transport systems. This site lets you sample those poems. Enjoy. Psst: Anyone have the CR, WR and BEST PRO's email addresses? I tried contacting them years ago to push this idea, but I suspect my letters never got to their desks. Think about it: would you rather be perusing every last word of a Coaching Classes ad on your way to work? Imagine, instead, Ghalib, Faiz, Ramanujan, Tagore, Kolatkar or Moraes for company...


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/05/mousetrap-55.html

Start here
DebbiesIdea
Long ago, a lady called Debbie Sankey dreamed of a reference work that would recommend which book of any given author would be the ideal introduction to her or his oeuvre. To quote the site, “Start reading an author with a poor or atypical example of his work, she observed, and you would likely never read that writer again--perhaps losing in the process a world of pleasure and knowledge. On the other hand, since there would seldom be one right book to read first, the resource would have to be a compendium of opinions.” And that's exactly what this site delivers. Search by author or genre, and see what the site's registered users have to say. With a simple sign-up, you can be one of them too. And what of Debbie? She died two years ago, aged ninety. This site is a vibrant memorial.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/06/mousetrap-56.html

On the tip of your tongue
One Look Reverse Dictionary
Online dictionaries are a boon when you want to look up the meaning of a word quickly, or check a spelling, but what if you can't quite recall a word you want? If you know its meaning, but the word is just out of reach, somewhere in your memory? This utility (part of a larger dictionary search site , which claims to index “7,934,909 words in 974 dictionaries” and is worth a visit), lets you input a word or words, even a sentence or a query, then gives you a bunch of words that could be related. I find that it gives you too many answers, but it's still in Beta, so it's worth keeping track of. Meanwhile, it even has a way to help you solve crossword puzzles!

Fresh words
Word Mint
Regular readers (all two of you) will know that this column has a weakness for sites about words and language in general. This blog falls into that category. It makes up words, the world needs, and serves them up with definition, pronunciation, an example of usage (though that's usually the weakest section) and an etymology. It's a CollaBlog (no, not one of their words, this one I made up several years ago, and it actuallu caught on!) run by a dozen or so bloggers, so there's fairly frequent posting. And they're open to new members, so you could join in.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/06/mousetrap-59.html

Bookmark this!
The World eBook Fair
Project Gutenberg and the World eBook Library will make 300,000 e-books available from July 4 to August 4 at this site, which bills itself as the “first World eBook Fair.” It will feature “..eBooks from nearly every classic author on the varieties of subjects previously only available through the largest library collections in the world. Now these books are yours for the taking, free of charge, to keep for the rest of your lives.” There's more. Aside from the free downloads, you can also upload your own eBooks, though the site doesn't saw how yet. There's more to look forward to in future editions: half a million eBooks in 2007, three-fourths in 2008, and a full million in 2009.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/07/mousetrap-60.html

Verse-us
QuickMuse
Poets are generally held to be gentle souls, abhorring conflict and suchlike. Perish the thought. I could tell you about... Never mind, let's talk about this site. QuickMuse as an idea isn't all that unusual: it pits poets against each other one on one, gives them a cue and a time limit, and lets them loose to write. Technology steps in here. You can “watch” the process, tracking the poet's pauses, their erasures and editing, the speed (or lack of it) with which they put down a line or a word. And no, you don't have to be online at the precise moment the poet is. The archives let you see not just the finished poems but also the “recordings” of the writing process. And no, you won't be subjected to random outpourings from netizens with nothing better to do. A select list of highly-regarded poets have featured thus far, among them, Robert Pinsky , the US Poet Laureate.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/08/mousetrap-67.html

All your's
Apostrophe Protection Society & The Dreaded Apostrophe
Dedicate'd, unlike so many signboard painter's, advertiser's and (the horror) newspapers, to the correct use of that poor, harassed mark of punctuation. The first sites page's are full of photograph's and other example's of misuse, plu's a forum. The second ha's detailed example's of proper usage, with lot's of little tip's. Both feature set's of interesting link's the grammar lover wo'nt find uninteresting. Now, I'm looking for someone to set up a forum dedicated to sticking lighted matches under the fingernails of people who use “you'll” (which, fercryingoutloud, is a contraction of “you will”) when they mean “y'all.”


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/09/mousetrap-69.html

Mean
Online Etymology Dictionary
Etymology, the study of the history and derivation of words, is fascinating. And has many surprises in store as you dig around this excellent, well-written and -researched site. At the very least, you'll have lots of fodder for small talk. “Camera,” for example, is worth the look up—and then you'll find out why it sounds so much like the Hindi “kamara.” Or you could figure out the relationship between my first name and the Hindi “pathar,” both of which also share meanings and Indo-European roots. Actually, just look up “the.” Or “mean.” Much fun. Oh, did you know “radical” is closely related to “having roots?” Go. Goof off. (And yes, they're related too.) Enjoy. Speaking of which, did you know... Never mind.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/09/mousetrap-70.html

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur
Latin Quotes and Phrases
Veni, vidi, vici, you know. And if you're an Asterix fan, chances are you know a few more. Like perhaps, nunc est bibendum and alea iacta est. (Of course, if you're a lawyer, you can probably write a dictionary yourself.) Many of the words we use today in English (and indeed many other languages) have Latin roots, but while that's a good reason to study this small index, the fun bit is finding a few more shall we say, not-so-classic terms. For instance, the Latin for “That's the way the cookie crumbles,” which is “.Sic friatur crustum dulce.” Or “Obesa cantavit,” which means “The fat lady has sung.” The title to this paragraph, by the way, means “Anything said in Latin sounds profound.” See what I mean?


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/10/mousetrap-72_01.html

Regal largesse
Royal Society Journals Digital Archive
It's the longest-running journal in science, with Volume One, Issue One published in March 1665. And every issue from that one up to the current lot is available on the site now, for free. But. Only up to December this year. Nearly 60,000 articles, with pretty much the who's who of science in the bylines list, names familiar to us from high school science and everyday life. A small sampling: Bohr, Boyle, Cavendish, Chandrasekhar, Crick, Darwin, Davy, Faraday, Fermi, Fleming, Franklin, Halley, Hawking, Heisenberg, Herschel, Hodgkin, Huxley, Joule, Kelvin, Linnaeus, Lister, Marconi, Newton, Pavlov, Pepys, Priestley, Raman, Rutherford, Schrodinger, Turing, Volta, Watt, Wren.. But why am I prattling on? Go see! You have less than three-and-a-half months to catch up with three-and-a-half centuries of scientific study.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/10/mousetrap-73.html

Attention-deficit stories
55 word fiction
Flash stories, also called short-shorts, are very short stories, usually not more than 500 words, frequently less. Micro-flash specifies far lower word counts, and fifty-fivers are even tighter: not more (and, the purists insist, no less) than 55 words. Here, you'll find attempts from the blog world. Not one of them longer than this paragraph. (Which was 55 words precisely. Not including the contents of this parenthetic statement. Gah. Now I've ruined it.)

Edward Lear would be so proud
The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form
This rather unusual lexicographer;
His online word finder is half a
standard dictionary,
but it's extraordinary,
'Cause the definitions are all perfect limericks, unlike this one.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/10/mousetrap-74.html

In their own words
The South Asian Literary Recordings Project
Whoop-di-doo! Just right to fill in those gaps in my iPod. If you're an admirer of fine writing, and, by extension, of its exponents, you'll love this. Brainchild of the USA's Library of Congress Delhi office, it was set up to celebrate the LoC's overseas bicentennial. It features well-loved authors reading from their own writing. You'll find Mulk Raj Anand, Faiz, Kaifi Azmi, Keki Daruwalla, a certain A B Vajpayee (as a poet, not a speechmaker, thankfully) and many, many others, over eighty of them in all, in recordings ranging from 30 to 60 minutes long, in 22 languages from all over the region. Warts and all—accents, mistakes stumbles, and the more endearing for that. And yes, all available free, in Real Audio, and the more friendly MP3 format. Bliss.


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/10/mousetrap-75.html

Ex Libris
BookMooch
You know how some people (and you know who you are) borrow books and never return them? Well, this site makes it all official. It works simply: you register for free, and list the books you want to give away. And you can check out what others have to offer, and mooch their stuff. You gain points each time you list a book, send one off (postage is your only expense) or acknowledge receipt of one, and you use them each time you receive a book. Go see. And, er, by the way, you can save yourself the bother of registering and just send your books to me…). [Link via Prayas Abhinav and Joan Pinto]


Updated (23rd November, 2006). Hope you enjoy them. :)


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/10/mousetrap-76.html

You've got book
DailyLit
Books by email? A chapter at a time? Not as strange as it sounds. As the site explains, many of us who find ourselves with little or no reading time spend hours a day reading email (or, if you're like me, generally reading online all day). So the site offers you books mailed to you in bite-sized segments that should take you around five minutes to read. If you find yourself with a little more time on a given day, simply mail in for the next bit to be sent immediately, rather than the next day. All books currently available are public domain, so while you're not going to get the latest bestsellers, you will get quite a few classics. [Link courtesy Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan .]


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/11/mousetrap-77.html

So you don't have to
Squashed Philosophers
Back in school, there were these books we'd pore through before exam time; guides to the various textbooks, question sets and the like. (I remember people who never bothered with the actual prescribed texts; they just read these.) This site is similar. Except that it scrunches entire philosophical texts into digestible chunks, with estimated reading time and percentage of condensation helpfully indicated alongside. It covers only western philosophy, starting with Plato, working its through other ancient Greeks and Romans, then leaping forward a thousand years to chaps like Machiavelli, Descartes and Spinoza, to Darwin, Thoreau and Nitetzsche, and to thinkers from the last century, like Russell, Sartre and Turing. Philosophers, says the site's owner (who has done most of the squashing), “are generally appallingly bad writers and you're after ideas, not precise words.” There is also a section on the Divines , condensing a few religious texts, and Writers , which has a huge collection. Here, the bad writers bit clearly does not apply; most of the books lose much in the squashing. But if all you need is cocktail party conversation crutches, head on over.

Re: search
Research Beyond Google
This column doesn't normally link to specific pages within a site, but this case is a very worthy exception. For most of what we search for on the web, Google and other search engines deliver. But, despite the eight billion pages—give or take a few million—that Google indexes, there's even more data out there. As much as 500 times that, some say, in what is being called the invisible or “deep web.” This page explains the concept and lists, and links, to “119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources.” Invaluable for any specialist. See also this article that explains the Deep Web concept . [OEDB link via Sunil Shibad .]


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/11/mousetrap-78.html

Many-tongued
Ultralingua Online Dictionary
There are many online dictionaries out there, and on-the-fly translators too. This site combines a bit of both, covering the Romance Languages. It works like a normal look-up, of course, but also offers grammar resources, and lovely add-ons like the ability to conjugate verbs in those languages, or get words for a number (eg.: enter 935, and it will give you the German neunhundertfünfunddreißig or the Spanish novecientos treinta y cinco). But the best bit, to me, is the ability to produce a dictionary-enabled version of any web page. Enter the URL, choose a dictionary, and you get a page where every word can be clicked to yield a pop-up definition. Invaluable if you have a shaky grasp of a language and need help often. [Via Ethan Zuckerman .]

[Planet Read is worth looking at for the way stories are told and translated / transliterated.]

Subtitled
Planet Read & Desi Lassi
Movies in other languages with subtitles in the one we read? Common. But subtitles in the same language? Think of it this way: not all who understand or speak a language can read it. So Planet Read aims to use Same Language Subtitling to help spread literacy. Stands to reason: karaoke-style subtitling below the visual does help increase understanding. Among its off-shoot projects (some commercial) is Desi Lassi, which streams music videos from Bollywood at you, with subtitles not just in Hindi but also transliterated in Roman script, and translated. (And so, for the first time, I actually figured out the lyrics of Chhainya Chhainya. I have to admit, though, it was difficult to keep one's eyes on the words and not Ms Arora...)


http://yourchequeisinthemail.blogspot.com/2006/11/mousetrap-79.html

On the Origins of Darwin
The Complete Works of Charles Darwin
Darwin is one of the best-known names in science. The impact he made on our thinking was immense, and this site could show you why in a way that's far beyond the bits we learned in school. It claims to be the first ever complete collection of all Darwin's publications, bringing many of them to the to the web for the first time. Among them, transcripts of some of his handwritten diaries, like the one he kept on the Beagle. It features complete text, down to publishers' ads, and gives you both formatted text and scans of the original pages. There's a complete bibliography, naturally, and translations as well, and audio versions, plus works by others that help you understand Darwin, like contemporary reviews. of his books or obituaries and recollections of Darwin. A good entry point to the site is http://darwin-online.org.uk/features.html .

[Good fun, all these parodies. It's an art form, done well.]

Green Eggs and Dr Seuss
Dr. Seuss Parody Page
Everybody's come across a bit of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss. At the very least, you've come across a parody or a rip-off, but didn't know it at that time. Well, this fan has a bunch of links to parodies of his works and style. On the main site. seuss.org , you'll also find links to a brief bio, to other sites, and to his books. Just to make it clear, this is not an officially-sanctioned site.


Suggestions continue to be welcome. Mail, PM, or (for del.icio.us users) tag them for:zigzackly.

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