Geography Based Sites and My Life

By aegreenaegreen (1261430613|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

During my exploration of the geography-based sites provided in class, I saw some that I already use and love while discovering many that I've never seen before. Some of these will be helpful and interesting to me now, while others have the potential to be indispensable to me this winter because I will be interning in Chicago, a place I have never lived before, for 10 weeks. Below I will discuss what sites I love now, what sites I love now that I know about them, and what sites I plan to fall in love with in January 2010 (and beyond - Eurotrip anyone??).

Which Sites I Love Now…

Google Maps

This site lets me see exactly where I'm going, and I've already used it to check out where I'll be living in January. I love the street view function, which I used to take a peek at the outside of my future apartment building, as well as the surrounding area on my street. And of course, I now know how what route I should take to the office and how long it will take me.
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Google Earth

It's so cool! I can see my Mom's house, my Dad's house, my apartment in Ann Arbor, and my future Chicago apartment. I also checked out India and Puerto Rico. It's so amazing to see places I know well from a different point of view, but especially places I've never seen! I love changing the street and 3D building views to really get a feel for a place (especially if I'm planting on visiting). In addition, the traffic and weather features are useful! But I also use it because it's interesting, for example, if I'm curious about the Pacific Ocean or Mars. This program has sucked hours from my life, but I'm fine with that.
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Kayak

I recently visited this site to look for a return flight for my Dad when he helps me move to Chicago. First, the "prefer nonstop" filter was helpful, not to mention the "include nearby airports" and flexible dates options (if you're a member - but it's so easy and free to sign up that it's no problem). Next, it makes my job so much easier because I can use the sliders on the left to get a flight at just the right time to fit my Dad's schedule. And, if he was picky, I could eliminate the airlines he didn't like or choose the airlines whose credit card he owns.

Finally (and obviously,) I love this tool because it takes all the work out of my job. Instead of visiting all the discount travel sites (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) and all the airline sites (American Airlines, Delta Airlines, etc.), and then spending time altering all the searches and comparing their price and duration, I can just visit this one site that does it all for me. You have no idea how much time I've saved since I started using it, and for me that's the best feature.
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ViaMichelin

I would never have made my way around Europe two summers ago without this handy planning tool! Before I left, I scheduled my flights and then used ViaMichelin to figure out how to get from every plane, train and subway station (it recognizes them all!) to every hostel. I printed the directions and used them, and they actually never steered me wrong. Without this site, I would have wasted a lot more time walking around with heavy backpacks and lot more money on cab fares. There were a couple similar sites at the time, but they were not nearly as detailed or accurate, so ViaMichelin was my lifesaver. I recommend using it for all your European travel needs, and don't worry - you can trust it.
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Which Sites I'm Flirting with…

Google Maps Popular Content

In this section, I'm really starting to like the "Find Anything Around You" feature. You can literally type in anything, from pizza to parking, and it finds it for you! And if you know Ann Arbor, you know that those are two very important search items for the area. I also like the SpotCrime tool, especially in light of the amount of Ann Arbor crime that's been happening recently. It helps me stay up on current crime events and reminds me to always be alert on the walk home.

Finally, although it's more cool than useful, I like looking at the lights of Chicago now and dreaming what they will be like when I get there. I feel like I'm preparing myself for the move, even if I'm really just daydreaming.

Google Moon Map

This tool is probably the least useful, but arguably one of the most interesting, tools I've come across. I can't believe how far technology has come that I can actually look at the surface of the moon up-close. I bet someone could check these images against the moon landing ones and settle the whole "hoax" speculation once and for all. In addition, using this tool to look at the moon makes the universe seem smaller - and more possible.
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World Sunlight Map

Again, this is one of the less useful but more entertaining sites. I'm loving it right now because it's the perfect distraction from homework. It's the most detailed radar map I've every seen, and it's so cool to see all the clouds over the whole earth. Like the Moon Map, it makes me feel like anything is possible - that things are really smaller than they seem.
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Which Sites I Plan to Fall in Love with…

Goby

Not only is this site's mascot, "Goby," the cutest thing I've ever seen, but he's also very helpful! The "what is Goby" and "how to use Goby" buttons get a new user off to a great start. Then, you can literally search for anything you want to do anywhere! And if you don't have any ideas yourself, it makes suggestions for you! The categories help me narrow down what I want to do, and I love the ability to enter any time period, so I can look at different weekends and seasons.

I will definitely be using this in Chicago. I'll be in a new city and I won't know all the great stuff to do and see. But with Goby, I can find anything to do! This tool will help me make sure I don't miss out on anything during my short 10 weeks in the best city in the midwest
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Waze

I think Waze is going to be one of the more useful tools for me, judging by the things I've heard about Chicago traffic. During my upcoming internship I'll have to drive to clients in the city or suburbs, and this tool will probably be instrumental in helping me avoid problem areas. Because real people can update traffic information anytime, I'll know about traffic issues long before other websites or news channels will tell me. Plus, since I can search by area, I'll only pick up traffic details that are relevant to me. I'm guessing that this site will be the last one I check before walking out the door.
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Google Transit

This tool is perfect for my needs! It worked well for me when I was trying to figure out where in Chicago to live. I could see how long it would take me to get by subway to the office, Wrigley stadium, and other important places in the city, and this affected my ultimate decision. I don't live in Chicago, so without this site, it would have been so difficult for me to get this information. I might have been able to get a map mailed to me, but even that would have wasted so much of my time. Again, I love any tool that saves me time and energy!

Even though I've used it a little so far, I think I'm going to be visiting this site constantly while I live in Chicago. I prefer public transportation because it's so cheap, and since I'll be new in town, I can use Google transit to look up the best way to get anywhere I decide to go. Exciting! (Yet well planned).

EarthTools

Although most features of this site are pretty cool, I can see myself using the time/time zone one the most. I hope I get to travel to other states during my internship, and I might get to work with people in different offices who are in different time zones. This handy tool will help me figure out when I'll really be arriving in, say, Vermont, and what time I should call my coworker in, say, New York.

Moreover, I plan to travel to lots of cool places during my lifetime. As you know, I like to thoroughly plan my trips, and this tool will help me check out what the sun is like in my tropical destinations and plan for the time change. Plus, it's a great excuse to take a break from planning and explore all the facts about the world that EarthTools has to offer.

Final Thoughts

It will be interesting to see which of these sites are still around next year and which ones are replaced by even better tools, as these ones replaced sites before them. I'll miss them, but I'm even more excited to see the improvements that will be made and new capabilities that will be made possible. I only hope that when they do, even though I won't be taking BIT 330 and have so many geography-based sites laid out for me, I'll still be able to find them and use them to, of course, make my life that much easier..

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