Saturday, April 7, 2012

A-Z: Google Earth to Bev - Get Exploring!

Google Earth in Sky Viewing ModeGoogle Earth in Sky Viewing Mode (Photo: Wikipedia)
My heart is full of adventure, but my wallet is not full of money. Luckily, we can now explore far away places, even other planets via our computers, which makes Google Earth one of:
My 26 Favorite Ways to Piss Away Time Do Valuable Research on the Interwebs.

Now, there's a lot of stuff you can do simply via you regular browser, without installing Google Earth.  Go to a street view of a location, for example.  Which I have stumbled around doing for years, but discovered, hey, there's any actual tutorial that shows you how to do it, quickly and painlessly.

How to use Street View

Street view let me do a virtual wander of the neighborhood where I plan to set my next novel.  Get the vibe of the different kinds of houses (and level of upkeep), cars, parking, what kinds of businesses are on the corners...

Of course, I'll have to make some field trips down there, too. But this lets me get a feel for the place, so I can start writing, without burning up my gas money.

But if you want to do all the really cool stuff, you might want to install either the whole thang, if you use Google Chrome, or perhaps a plug in.

Historical View - totally awesome.  I did not know (until I started cruising the tutorials) that in some locations, you can access a historical view of many places.  This also will be handy for my new novel; I may also have my older characters reference, perhaps, a house that has burned down, or been McMansionized, or a restaurant that used to sell Korean food that now offers Mexican.

Historical View

I admit it - I don't write sci-fi and have no legitimate writing reason to visit the Moon. But like Newt Gingrich, I want to do it anyway. because it's there.

Fly Me To The Moon (and Mars, and the Stars)

Back to basics - I always thought there should be a way to save a view when using Google Earth, and share it.  I'm as shocked as you are, dear reader, to discover that yes, somebody already thought of that.

On sharing screenshots

Obviously, Google Earth won't tell us everything.  If I want to find out what the sky looks like in my fictional neighborhood (inspired by a real one) on a late September evening at 7:30 pm during a major brushfire to the west with an onshore breeze, I probably need to go look (or not write the scene exactly that way).  I heard there was a brainiac who started posting that the tsunami in Japan last year was a hoax because he looked at the villages via Google Earth and everything looked just fine.  Unlike him, I do understand that the Google Earth shots are not real-time broadcasts, but simply a set of photos that were taken at one particular time.

However, Google Earth does offer a great tool for the average writer, not simply a cool toy to play with. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

My A-Z theme is My 26 Favorite Ways to Piss Away Time Do Valuable Research on the Interwebs.

Truly, sometimes an idea from a "pointless" fun site or post or photograph does result in pages and pages of writing. Or at least a blog post or two.

Do you travel via Google Earth?
Other features you'd recommend?
Got other fun sites beginning with the letter "G"?
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