Tuesday, February 28, 2023

If you lose the ability to fly in 3D on Google Maps

Suddenly, I couldn't do this... 

It was fairly distressing.  Why could I NOT fly through 3D landscapes using Google Maps?  

As you probably know, IF you're in Google Maps with Satellite view turned on (that is, you can see the ground, trees, buildings) AND you hold down the control-key, THEN by moving your mouse around, you can fly through the landscape.  

At least, until you suddenly can't do this one day.  

I kept searching around for the answer, and managed to figure it out (no help from various online documentation!).  

The answer: You have to turn on the "Globe View" setting on Maps.  Mine was turned off, which is why I couldn't fly around.  (No, I don't know how it got turned off.)  

You'll find the options control in the lower left of the Maps display.  Looks like this: 

Click on the "Layers" button in the lower left.  It should change to look like this: 

When you hover over the Layers button, you should see more options to the right: 

Click on "More" to see the suboptions, including other views (Transit, Traffic, Biking, etc.) along with "Globe View" and "Labels."  

This shows the submenu with Map Details.  

If you want to fly, turn on "Globe view" so that the checkbox is marked (as above).  Once that's checked, you can fly around.  

And, for extra fun, you can turn off "Labels" if you want to see your map without all of the annoying labels that tell you every street, building, and business name in the view satellite view.  Annoyingly, you can't turn them on/off in maps view, but so it goes.  Here's the difference: 

If you'd like a short video, here's one showing the way to turn Globe View on.  


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

SearchResearch Challenge (2/22/23): World's largest waterfall?

 I'm fascinated by all things aquatic... 

An actual waterfall (not synthetic). P/C Pexels.  

... so it's not a huge surprise that I would search for the world's largest waterfall, wondering if I could visit it sometime.  

But I have to admit that I was very surprised by the answer.  It was so surprising that I spent another hour looking into the world's largest waterfalls--Where are they? Why are they there? What causes them?  

My little bit of curiosity-driven research led me to a completely different understanding of waterfalls.  I bet it will do the same for you.  Can you find the answer to this week's Challenge? 

1. What is the world's largest waterfall?  (This is pretty simple.) 

2. Where is the world's second largest waterfall?  (This isn't so simple.)  

This Challenge can lead you into long digressions about deep ocean currents and edifying excursions into eddies of knowledge.  Enjoy the journey as you search for the answers! 

And be sure to let us know how you found the answers.  We all want to learn how you did it. 

Search on! 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Answer: What do you call this thing?

Getting to the right keywords.... 

... sometimes takes some time and a willingness to look at the search problem differently. Let me tell you my story of searching for this thing.  Our original Challenge was:  

1. What does one call the hanging thing in the above image?  The topmost ring about 6 feet across (2 meters) while the bottom ring is about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter.  

I started with the obvious Search-By-Image, but as you can see, both Google and Bing's search-by-image functions fail pretty spectacularly.  And you can see why--the background is also pretty striking.  It's difficult for humans to separate foreground from background here, so it's not a surprise that Google would think this was a peace sign... 

Or that Bing would see this as a circular wall hanging... 

I had to use "traditional" keyword search.  But where do you start?  

Since this was seen in Rome, I started with regular web searches like: 

     [ Italian hanging wreath ] 

     [ Rome two rings ceiling ] 

etc etc.  I won't bore you with all of the searches I did, most of which didn't work out well.  

I changed my strategy to do more visual search, using Google Image search with those same queries.  

It wasn't working out well.  So I asked myself, "How would I ask another person about this?"  When I described the search Challenge to a friend, I realized that the word "chandelier" would be useful.  (It was literally one of the first words out of my mouth, but oddly, NOT one of the first search terms I thought of!)  

An image search for: 

     [ two ring chandelier ] 

which worked much better, giving me something to work from.  

These results are pretty good, but missing the greenery / foliage part of the original image.  A quick modification of the query to include "greenery" and "tent" gives results this, which are much better: 

These are getting pretty close to our original image.  A bit of hunting around in these images told me lot about what these things are, and where you can buy (or more likely) rent them, because, honestly, do you have space for one of these in your backyard?  I don't!  But they're great in larger public spaces.    

To answer our other questions: 

If you went into a store, what would you ask for?  Answer: A "ring greenery chandelier" or "foliage" or "floral."  

What kind of store would you visit to buy this... thing?  Answer: Either a place that rents party gear (e.g. tents for weddings), or just a wedding store!  

I really didn't expect this answer, but now I know... should I ever be in the market for giant hanging chandeliers of greenery (or flowers)!  


SearchResearch Lessons

1. Don't get distracted by properties of your search that aren't essential.  In much of my teaching, searchers add too many terms that they think are important, but really aren't.  In my case, I was focused on the fact that this was in Rome, so I kept searching for "Italian" or "Roman," which turned out to be unimportant.  Likewise, I was hung up on the two rings, which wasn't critical to the chandelier. 

2. Try describing your search to someone else, that often reveals the most common way to talk about something... which is often the best search.  Again, I didn't follow this advice, but spent way too much time searching for "two ring hanging" things.  Once I told someone else what I was looking for, the word chandelier came out, and that was part of the key to success.  I've said this before--don't get too fixated on any particular word or phrase.  Keep your mind open!  

3. Search-by-Image won't always work!  This is especially true when the image foreground/background is complicated.  It helps if you can clarify the image, but in this case, there wasn't any way to get the picture while not having all of the background stuff.  And when Search-by-Image doesn't work, fall back on your keyword search skills... the classical approach is sometimes the best approach.  

Search on! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

SearchResearch Challenge (2/8/23): What do you call this thing?

 I was in Rome, Italy the other day... 

... (it's a long story, trust me)... 

... but while there, I saw this thing hanging from the ceiling of a party tent.  The strange thing was that at this location there were 3 more inside the tent, and 4 more of these hanging outside in the garden, all suspended about 12 feet (4 meters) above the ground from tree limbs.  They're clearly decorative somethings, but what?  

This is a pretty straightforward Challenge this week, but it requires a wonderfully classical approach to search.  Try it, and you'll see what I mean.  

1. What does one call the hanging thing in the above image?  The topmost ring about 6 feet across (2 meters) while the bottom ring is about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter.  

The color here isn't great, but the rings are covered in green leaves and vines.  For the record, I saw more of these things in different places around Rome, always in festive spaces such as al fresco dining patios and the like, so I know there must be a place where people go to purchase them. 

But if you went into a store, what would you ask for?  And, for bonus points, what kind of store would you visit to buy this... thing?  

As always, be sure to tell us what your thought process was in figuring this out.  Let us know in the comments.  

I'll tell you my search process next week, along with all of the sidetracks and misses along the way.  

Search on!  

P.S.  I'll get around to the "how to search on a schedule" problem from 2 weeks ago.  Turns out that I am really busy at the moment and the answer requires a bit of time to writeup.  I'll get to it: promise.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Answer: Musicians travels--how did they get from A to B?

 We think of travel as easy... 

Bach and Chopin, both travellers. But how did they travel?
P/C Wikimedia sources.

... but back in the day, getting from point A to point B could be difficult and lengthy.  If was to travel from Paris to Majorca, it would be a 2 hour flight, costing around $100.  I could leave in the morning and be there by lunch.  

But what was it like for my musical heros, Bach and Chopin?  They both made long trips.  I bet it wasn't quite as simple as buying a ticket online and then taking the bus to the airport.  

Our Challenges for this week are: 

1. Frederic Chopin traveled from Paris to Majorca (also spelled as Mallorca) in 1838 with the hope of improving his health. It was a disaster from beginning to end, but as I was looking at a map of the Mediterranean, I wondered about he got there--it's not exactly around the corner. How did he travel to Majorca?  Obviously he took a ship, but from where? And how?  How long did it take? Now I'd just take a ferry, but was there regularly scheduled service in 1838? How did he travel back when he returned in 1839?  

2. Johann Sebastian Bach also had a famous trip that left me wondering about the details. In 1705 he traveled in the winter from Arnstadt (where he was living and working) to Lübeck to hear Dietrich Buxtehude play the organ at his parish church.  That is also not exactly around the corner. It's nearly 400 km (248 miles)!  How did Bach get from Arnstadt to Lübeck and back?  How long did it take him to travel? 

I'm going to answer this in a short and sweet post.  If you read through the comments, you'll see that the SRS Regulars did a great job of finding some quality resources.  

Frederic Chopin & George Sand:  I didn't expect people to look at Google Arts & Culture story about Chopin and Sand's travels, but it's a nice find. From that site we learned that on October 31, 1838 they arrived in the South of France to embark on Le Phenicien, a steamboat headed for Barcelona. They stayed there for a few days before taking another steamboat (a weekly "packet boat") from Barcelona to the port city of Palma on Majorca.  They stayed on the island, suffering through a difficult winter until February 13, 1839 when they returned to Barcelona, and then onward to Marseille and Paris.  

Interestingly, this article was written by the people at the Museum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand, they're certainly a credible site (and certainly a museum I hope to visit one day). They tell the sad story of Chopin, Sand, and Sand's two children who came along for what they hoped would be a holiday trip.  That kind of holiday never quite materialized.  

Ramon was the first to find that they took the steamship El Mallorquin on their return to Barcelona and located this pic of the ship that they took to and from Majorca!  The trip was about 12 hours each way, depending, of course, on weather.  But since it used both sail and steam, it was a reliable means of transport.  

I took a somewhat different approach than most.  I figured that biographies of Chopin would be a good place to look for travel details.  Naturally, I turned to Google Books and did the obvious search for [ Chopin biography ] This brought me to a number of books about his life, and while many of them are in preview mode (you can only see snippets of the text), searching in the book taught me that while they took a regularly scheduled steamship (aka a "packet" boat), on their return trip, they had to share the Mallorquin with a large herd of black pigs, which was distressing for everyone as the captain insisted that Chopin, Sand, and the children remain below decks for the duration of the trip. The pigs were clearly the important passengers here!  (See Chopin in Paris by Tad Szulz, 1999, for the story of their passage to/from Spain.)  

I also learned to my surprise that George Sand wrote a book about the experienceA Winter in Majorca (original title:  Un hiver à Majorque, which you can read in French at the Hathi Trust or in English at the Gutenberg Project).  In there you can read about the trip back from Majorca to Barcelona: sounds horrible... 

When we returned from Majorca to Barcelona in March, it was stiflingly hot; however, it was not possible for us to set foot on deck. Even if we had braved the danger of having our legs swallowed by some ill-tempered pig, the captain would doubtless not have allowed us to thwart them by our presence. They kept very quiet during the first hours; but, in the middle of the night, the pilot noticed that they were in a very gloomy sleep, and that they seemed to be prey to a black melancholy...  

Naturally, this experience made me think I should do something similar for the Bach trip.  But first, I wanted an overview of Bach's life and how this trip fit into the overall story.  

Bach's life is incredibly well-known and well-documented and overviews are easy to find.  So it was easy to learn that Bach moved to Arnstadt in August of 1703 with a good salary and a top-notch organ in the chapel.  He stayed there until 1707, gainfully employed, although a bit unhappy with the quality of the musicians he worked with there.  

While in Arnstadt he learned of the spectacular, flamboyant playing, and compositional style of Dietrich Buxtehude, a famous musician working in Lübeck at the time. Bach needed a way to stretch his compositional wings--what better way than by studying the music of Buxtehude?  

So, in October 1705, at age 20, he asked for (and received) a month’s leave from his post, and walked to Lübeck (more than 200 miles [300 km]). He did not return until about the middle of January 1706, some 16 weeks later. Reasonably, his employers complained about his extended absence. 

Our Challenge was to learn more about the details of that long trip.  Did he really walk 200 miles in the middle of a German winter?  How long did it take him to go back and forth?  

A quick search in Google Books finds not only multiple biographies, but even a book specifically about his journey, Something Of His Art: Walking to Lübeck with J. S. Bach by Horatio Clare. 

At the time, there were coaches between the towns, but mostly they were expensive.  The bios agree in believing Bach probably walked the Old Salt Route, a well-worn trade route through northern Germany (between Lüneburg on northward to Lübeck) that had been in use since medieval times. It was far more common for people to undertake long journeys by foot than it is now, but even so, the dedication of the 20-year-old composer is striking. Traveling north in October and then returning in the heart of January had to have been a long and chilly trip.  

In reading through these biographies (e.g., Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, 2002) we learn that this wasn't the first time Bach had done a long trip by foot.  When he was 14, he walked with his buddy Georg Erdmann from Ohrdruf to Lüneberg, a distance of 200 miles, to get jobs as choristers.  

So a walk of about the same distance as a more mature 20 year old wouldn't have phased him.  Here's the walking directions from Google Earth these days: 

Google Maps claims that it's a 78 hour walk, but remember that the days get short in October and November, let alone January.  At best this is a decent 10-day hike, and probably a bit more--let's guess at 10 to 14 days if the weather is good.  And while we know the way would have been reasonably well-marked, he still had to walk through the Harz mountains (see the green area in the above map, and consider this image from Google Earth of the walk) which are fairly wild now, and would have still held a few wolves and dangerous folk:  

We could go on.. but basically it was a long walk that took Bach from villages and well-worn paths into the Harz forests and then along a trade route that had inns, villages, and places to hang out for an evening.  It's a walk I'd like to do some day, although I hope to do the Camino de Santiago first!  

SearchResearch Lessons

The key lesson for this Challenge has been to remember: 

1. Look beyond simple web resources.  Remember that even before there was an internet, people would carefully collect information and write biographies.  As we saw in the case of Chopin's trip, they might even novelize the event!  Google Books (and your libraries) are great resources to get to high quality content.  

Search on! 

P.S.  Sorry about the delay in getting this posted: this has been an unexpectedly strange week.

I'm trying to get back on schedule by posting this Challenge Answer today.  I'll give the second part of the answer to the previous week's Challenge soon. (That is, how to get searches to run on a schedule.)