November 05, 2006

Mousetrap - 77

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.]

Grave matters
Indian Cemeteries
A small site that lists graveyards, graves, and monuments from the times of the Raj. Lots of reader-contributed pictures, historical information about the churches or cemeteries mentioned in most cases, and a searchable database that lets you look up names, cities, regiments and campaigns, and occupations. It’s not comprehensive, of course, but it does go some way towards its objective: “preserving the memory of historic cemeteries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma.”

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 5th November, 2006.

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