I'd like to start a new feature and regularly (more or less monthly) highlight for my readers a few web sites or blogs that I think are especially useful, informative, uplifting, entertaining, or otherwise worthy of a visit. Usually these will be sites that you probably wouldn't stumble upon all by yourself, and will be collected in the section NEW AND FEATURED LINKS in the right-hand column of this page. So, here goes!
PEARLS OF HISTORY
This is a brand new blog (started about a month ago), so there are only about a dozen posts as yet. But they're all very well-written with plenty of video and graphical content, and highlight the endless intersections between historical and current events. Recent posts include reflections on the life and death of Sir Winston Churchill, whose funeral took place 45 years ago this week; the heroism of Miep Gies, who hid and helped sustain Anne Frank and her family, and who passed away earlier this month; and the theft and recovery last month of the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign that hung over the Auschwitz death camp. Also featured are sharp insights into current events that may well shape future history, such as the hands-on work of Great Britain's Prince William with the homeless in London. The author, who goes by the nickname Pnina--Hebrew for "pearl"--writes in a style that is direct and succinct, yet vividly descriptive and engaging. Visit soon and often, as I think you'll find the site a treasure-trove of interesting and thought-provoking information.
If you love traditional Christian hymns, you'll love this site. It's the only one I've found that tells the whole story behind the hymns and the people who composed their text and music. Often those stories are as moving as the hymns themselves, and provide real insight into the personal turning points that inspire works of such great beauty and power. The content is organized in a unique journal fashion. As explained by the man behind Wordwise Hymns, "[e]ach day’s posting will describe something that happened on that particular day relating to the history of our hymns and their creators. There may also be brief observations or an explanation of the contents of the hymns." That man, by the way, is Robert Cottrill, a Canadian gentleman with degrees in both History and Religious Education and a former pastor, teacher, and music director. His site is indexed and fully searchable, so if you want to learn about a particular hymn or hymnist, just type your key words into the search box that appears on every page. Videos featuring great performances of the hymns reviewed accompany many of the posts. Mr. Cottrill also welcomes comments and queries about the hymns he's documented, as well as about that one you heard way back in your childhood and now can't quite recall the title of. A few minutes a day at this site provides both knowledge and wonderful spiritual refreshment!
Ships are the biggest and most powerful machines built by man. I've never been out in the ocean on one, but just to stand on a wharf and look up at one towering above me, or watch from shore as one passes down a river or lake, takes my breath away. If you love ships as I do, you'll be thrilled with this site. One of its most amazing features is a "Live Ships Map," which locates all of the world's major ports and tells you, in real time, how many ships are in or near that port at the moment. Click on a port and you'll get a closeup map of that area with icons showing the name and exact location of each ship in the vicinity--and when you click on the icon, you'll get a popup window showing its registry, status, dimensions, destination, speed and course, and photographs (if any) of the ship on the MarineTraffic.com site! This includes passenger and cargo vessels, tankers, yachts, tugs, and other craft. You can also access this information by going straight to a list of vessels or ports by name. If you've been on a cruise and have a favorite ocean liner, you can find out where she is now and where she's headed, at any moment (for example, right now I'm tracking the liner Carnival Imagination as she leaves Cozumel, Mexico headed for Miami--and I can see just what she looks like!). Just as amazing is the site's enormous collection of ship photographs, which covers most of the vessels and ports on the Live Map--and most of these are of astounding quality. There are even web cams from some of the ports! So, if you want to feel like an old salt without leaving your computer desk, "sail" over to MarineTraffic.com!