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Archive for February 11th, 2005

A Few Websites to Visit

Friday, February 11th, 2005

Well, Max in Canada wrote me and said she found a site for artbooks made of Ukuleles. She read about it on another weblog. (Brian now says he saw it on Boing Boing… written by the author of blog Ukulelia, by the way… which is one of his favorite reads. However, Max is the one who told me about it.) Check out this amazing stuff by Peter and Donna Thomas at http://www.baymoon.com/~ukulelebooks/

Their work reminds me of the amazing artbooks my friend, Susan Hensel in Minneapolis, makes. If you haven’t seen her site, visit http://susanhenseldesign.com

And last but emphatically not least… the artform of good website design. I am not a fan of overdone websites, I don’t like music playing in the background, animated logos or moving things that require this or that plugin. I’ve been on the web since before most women I knew had an email account. I wrote and taught the first “how to use the Internet” class for the Michigan Department of Transportation, when I was working for the computer training company. That is, the first class available to a department that is typically cutting edge on new technologies, and full of really smart, well-educated people (engineers who design bridges, for example).

I am fond of websites that actually figure out what their function is, and go ahead and pursue that function as efficiently as possible. Even some very large sites do a pretty good job of it. One of my favorites is the US Postal Service, where you can order stamps to be delivered to your mailbox, look up someone’s zip code 24 hours a day, find out how much it will cost to mail any type of package to any address in the world, find the closest post office (which was very helpful when Sarah and I were in Chicago this summer) and a host of other useful things.

Well, I’ve been a big fan of Mapquest since the beginning. There have been other map websites that have come and gone, but I have remained loyal to my first love. Until today.

Oh, my goodness… Google has come out with a map site, and it is freaking incredible!!! Check out http://maps.google.com and see for yourself!

The two things that Mapquest got wrong consistently were placing a person’s address accurately on the street, especially if the house number was in the thousands… and it was really fussy about how you typed in an intersection. For example, my mom’s house was placed 5 houses down the road from where she really lives, which placed the marker on the wrong side of a main street. And I had the worst time typing in “Mount Hope Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave.” which is my closest intersection to my house. It was really picky about how to type in Mt. Hope, or something, and it never understood me.

Google Maps gets both of these things right. You can put in a beginning and ending address and it will show you how to drive between the locations… with a better map than the one Mapquest gives. I typed in a few trips and it estimated about right, as far as how long the trip typically takes in good traffic.

It also has a feature to type in business names or types of businesses. I typed in “coffee near Mt Hope and Pennsylvania Ave Lansing” (without the quotes) and it gave me a list of 10 coffee-related businesses nearest our house. It’s amusing, though… we must live in coffee desert-land. The closest place it lists is a coffee wholesaler for offices and restaurants. The next closest is one mile away, and I had never even heard of it though it’s not too far from my friend Ulyana’s house.

The Beaners where I often meet Sharon P in the summertime, is 3.6 miles south. That would be close enough for a bike ride if it were not so dangerous to ride a bike in that busy traffic area. The Beaners where I go with Altu (East Lansing at Michigan and Grand River) is 4.8 miles, and that one is actually a nice bicycle ride although longer.

I’m having too much fun with this map site! Brian is a big map fan, he likes to read maps for entertainment. He is the one who found this site for me. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Photos today: 1) One of my CityKidz! who finished one handwarmer last week. She is doing the second handwarmer in a different yarn… still pastels, still acrylic variegated, but slightly different colors. She forgot her knitting at home on Thursday, so she knit a wristband with a tiny ball of leftover alpaca someone donated to my program. In one hour. She has only been knitting about a month, but is really doing well. She asked yesterday if I’d show her next week how to make a backpack (I’ve had at least five knit by kids in the program over the years). This should be fun!

2) A stuffed cheetah handknit from handspun yarn. I got it in a native crafts store in a mall, in Nairobi, Kenya. The cheetah is about 5 inches tall and 7.5 inches long including tail. He came with a tag which I’ve now lost, which had the name of the woman who knit it. 3) Small/ornament knitted zebra from same women’s cooperative in Kenya, bought at same shop, maybe 3.5 inches long.

I searched the web for the cooperative’s information and found a site based in the USA, www.kenanausa.com where knitted merchandise from Kenyan women (looks like the same group) can be purchased. If you click on the word Cheetah or zebra you can see the merchandise they offer in these categories. Note that even though some of the publicity says it’s all wool, some items are brightly colored and labeled as acrylic. Also note that even though my own animal was labeled “cheetah,” the website puts my guy under the category of “leopard.” (By the way, this one mall/market was the only place I saw handknit items on my entire trip, although I did see a generous handful of yarn shops in Egypt.)

4) Handbag made from bottlecaps, purchased in Nairobi at Masai Market, in a covered outdoor area attached to a large fancy mall. I love this thing, but my hostess did not understand how I could want to take it home! I figure she doesn’t understand how few things in this society are made by hand, and how much I value handwork. 5) Wonderful basket also purchased at same market. It is maybe 18″ in diameter and pretty heavy, a perfect basket to dance with (balancing on my head). I tried on a lot of baskets at the market, and was quite the spectacle… this white girl dancing in the aisle with a basket on her head! It was fun.