In an earlier entry, I recommended Yahoo’s online “precision tool” for converting foreign currencies. Today’s Link of the Week is more of a Swiss Army Knife for converting any kind of quantity into another. There are several of these conversion sites available on the web, but among those I’ve tried, Convert-Me has the most different measurement systems listed: weight, distance, length, volume, area, temperature, cooking measures, power, flow, speed, and on and on. It’s possible that another site I use, ConvertIt.com, might have even more different measures. But it requires you to specify the input and, optionally, output measures in a more free-form kind of way (i.e. “5 feet”; “inches”), which for some reason I find disconcerting. In fact, I probably use them both about equally.
Normally in this space, I share a research link that I know, love, and use a lot. But this week, I’m offering a link I’ve never had to use, so far. Someday, I expect I will… but not too soon, I hope.
It’s the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, sponsored by the Chicago Headline Club Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice.
Here’s how they describe the service on the website:
The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists is a free service limited to professional journalists in need of guidance on reaching ethical decisions while covering the news.
The service puts users directly in touch with other journalists trained to help work through ethical dilemmas. Contact is made through the website only initially. Thereafter, it’s person to person. If you actually use or have used the service, let me know. I’m interested in how it works–and how well it works.
When writing a story about a movie, it’s often useful to know box office figures. There are several websites that provide this information. My favorite is Box Office Mojo. The site includes not only the daily, weekend and weekly domestic grosses and theater counts for movies currently in theaters, but also historical box office data (including all-time rankings) for thousands of films going back decades.
In an earlier entry, I mentioned that I also keep track of time around the world using a desktop application. Before I forget to name it, here it is.
It’s called, cleverly, World Time 6, and it’s full-featured freeware from Pawprint.net. In addition to letting you set up a floating bar with the correct time for as many time zones as screen real estate will allow, World Time also includes repeating alarms, countdown clocks, a stopwatch, and a time calculator.
It works very well for me, but a few cautions are in order. PawPrint.net is just a hardworking guy in British Columbia. While he has not completely abandoned World Time, he has not updated it in four years. The time zone database it comes with is somewhat out of date, but PawPrint provides all the software tools you need to update time zone offsets and daylight time dates as they change… that is, if you can figure out how to use those tools (I was able to).
Also, the built-in program that synchronizes your computer clock to any one of dozens of ‘atomic clock’ time servers does not play well with Windows XP. I advise you to disable it, especially since Windows XP and Vista provide this synchronization built-in. There are also complaints on World Time’s forums that the program has other compatibility problems with Windows Vista.
Having said all that, if you’re even a little bit handy with computers and you want a desktop World Time program, this full-featured item is certainly worth a try, especially at the price of $0.
Once in a while, you need to know which county a city is in (for example, because you need to call the county sheriff on a crime story), or conversely, which cities are in a particular county. One sometimes-handy tool for this is a Google maps mashup at maps.huge.info/county.htm. (Maps.huge.info also has a host of other useful data mapping tools: telephone area code boundaries, zip code boundaries, city boundaries, geocoders and reverse-geocoders) The only shortcoming to maps.huge.info’s county boundaries is that you must either already know the zip code of the county you’re looking for, or click in precisely the right location on a map of the U.S.
Another, often easier way to find your county is to use the somewhat under-loved map site MapQuest. Google Maps may have eaten a large portion of MapQuest’s lunch (along with breakfast and most of dinner), but MapQuest is still the only web map service I know of that shows county boundaries on all their maps at certain levels of magnification. If you don’t see the county lines, try zooming in one level at a time until they appear.
Because Sirius OutQ News covers a lot of international LGBT news, we have stringers all over the world, and I constantly need to know what time it is where my correspondents are (don’t want to be ringing the phone in Melbourne at 3 a.m!). One of the tools I use to figure out the complications of calculating the time elsewhere (time zones, the international date line, daylight savings time) is WorldTimeServer.com. (I also use a piece of desktop software for my most commonly used time zones. More on that in a later entry.)
WorldTimeServer provides the correct time anywhere in the world, taking daylight time, half-hour offsets, and the date line accurately into account. The site also offers time zone calculators to help you set up meetings at a future date and time, embeddable clocks for your website, and other handy tools. They make their money through advertising, and by selling subscriptions to their database to companies that need up-to-date information on ever-changing local time zones around the world (think travel agencies, airlines, etc.).
I was never in the military (duh), so I find military ranks and insignia somewhat confusing — and they come up in OutQ News stories pretty often, because of gays in the military.
Fortunately, there’s a handy website that not only shows all the ranks in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, in order, with their insignia, with officer ranks color-coded… it also provides their pay grade and puts it all in a tabular format so you can compare the ranks across services.
It’s all on one convenient page of a website aimed at fans of Tom Clancy novels, movies, etc.: The Tom Clancy FAQ Military Ranks page.
My job occasionally calls for research into a gay cultural topic. My first go-to source is always glbtq.com. This site bills itself as “the largest Web site devoted to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (glbtq) education and culture, (housing) the largest, most comprehensive encyclopedia of glbtq culture in the world.”
Headquarted in Chicago, glbtq.com is most definitely not a wiki, but rather a genuine, edited encyclopedia, with more than 2,000 signed entries, and a editorial board of eminent gay academics.
Whenever you report a specific amount of money, you should always convert it to the currency your audience uses. Because I cover international gay news, I’m constantly having to convert foreign currency amounts to U.S. dollars. There are many, many online tools for this, but my favorite is the Yahoo! Currency Converter.
By default, Yahoo’s tool converts Dollars to Japanese Yen, but this is not something I often need to do. But you can easily set the link you bookmark to your preferred default conversion. Just perform the desired default conversion and save that link. Now each time you click the link, it’ll be set just that way. I most often need to convert British Pounds to U.S. Dollars, so this is the link I use: Yahoo! Pounds to Dollars.
Note that this particular trick works for many database links — so long as the site uses GET method queries (which usually produce a long-ish link with lots of &-signs in it). IMDB and Wikipedia are two examples. Some sites use POST method queries (IBDB, for example), which don’t give you a usable link you can save.
Whenever I need a quick, authoritative summary of a country’s political, economic and social system, I turn to the Country Briefings at Economist.com. In addition to a listing of recent The Economist articles on the country, these briefings include a factsheet, economic data on the country, a short history of the nation, and summary descriptions of the country’s political and economic system. Not every country in the world is covered, but the 80 or so largest are.
Each week, I’m going to offer up one of the many web sites I’ve found over the years to assist me in research, fact-checking, or writing. Some will be gems you’ve never seen or heard of. Others will be commonplace sites everybody goes to, but for which I’ve found a special use or hidden feature that I’ll share.
For my inaugural ‘Link of the Week,’ here’s one of the best all-around websites offering guidance on radio newswriting and delivery: Newscript.com
The site is written and maintained by Ohio radio newsman Michael Meckler. It’s a tribute to the good, old fashioned broadcast newswriting values of clarity, simplicity and concision. The site covers much of the same territory that I aim to discuss eventually, but for those who want an excellent, brief crash course in radio news, there’s no better place to start than this.