ABOUT THIS SITE
Myself at Simatai in 2004
I hope you like factsanddetails.com and find it useful and interesting. Even though the articles contain material from other sources in various forms it has taken a lot of hard work and many years to gather, assemble and organize the content in this site. There is a lot of good information on the Internet and in other media but there is also a lot of crap and I have tried to collect the good stuff, crystalizing it into easily-digestible facts and details and organizing them in a logical, easy-to-navigate format without adding a bunch of new crap. So far I have done pretty much everything — wrote, researched and pasted the articles, located and prepared the images, put the html code on the text and put the articles and images in the site — myself with the exception of the basic website design which was done by a Japanese web designer.
The site has its flaws and some articles are better than others but overall I think the articles are comprehensive and interesting and cover many aspects of the topics they address. I try to hit the main points and cover them in some depth and — in the case of most of the articles — add a lot pictures to bring the text to life. Content in the articles includes: 1) facts and basic information derived from various sources that are essential to understanding the topics addressed; 2) primary sources and eyewitness accounts; 3) reports from respected, reliable and interesting print and media sources such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, the BBC, Washington Post and National Geographic; 4) studies and research often picked up second hand from websites like Live Science and Discovery News, blogs or magazine or newspaper sources; and 5) occasional opinions and analysis that offer a deeper understanding of the topics they deal with.
HOW TO USE THIS SITE
The site is organized into topics (listed on the home page) and categories which are divided into subcategories and articles. Sometimes too many articles are bunched together in the subcategories and the titles are too long (for Google reasons) but otherwise they are organized in a way that I hope makes sense. Some effort has been made to group related articles together to show how things are interconnected and branch off and are not necessarily summed up in a search engine search. The articles themselves are divided by subheadings that are listed with links on the left side of the articles for easy browsing. The articles are not really intended to be read from beginning to end but rather are set up to be skimmed or browsed in such a way that you can easily zero in on areas that interest you. The Search tool is not so great as it often turns up too many articles or nothing at all (I’ll try to improve it in the future).
SORRY ABOUT THE TYPOS AND SMALL MISTAKES
I apologize for the small errors and editing mistakes such as left out words, misplaced punctuation, forgotten plurals, spell check mistakes and the like. I have produced a huge volume of material and edited it myself, sometimes while watching over my kids, and this has meant that mistakes have slipped through...Sorry... I stand by the accuracy of the text though, with occasional misspelled names, mistyped numbers and statements that have not been properly qualified. If you find a mistake or something that seems amiss please let me know.
LEGITIMACY AND EXPERTISE
I am not professor or an expert on the subjects I write about but I have done a fair amount of reading about them. I try to use good sources (see below) and have been doing what I am doing—collecting and organizing information and facts— for some time and feel I have developed some skill at it. The text is written in factoid style generally using language found in travel guides, magazines and newspapers rather than academic journals. I don’t have footnotes and bibliographies but I often list sources at the end of the facts or under the first fact under each subheading. When a source is not listed the information: 1) can be taken to be a generally accepted fact (often seen in at least two different places); 2) has been arrived at through observation (direct or second hand through other sources) or by common sense; or 3) was taken from a newspaper or magazine article that didn’t attribute it.
When I started this project in the 1990s I used mostly print sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri (a Japanese newspaper), The Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The Guardian, Atlantic Monthly, Archeology magazine, Natural History magazine, news services used by these periodicals such Reuters, Associated Press and AFP, information from national tourist offices, tourist brochures I have picked up from places I have visited, Lonely Planet Guides, other travel guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Now in addition to sources listed above I use: 1) Google searches; 2) public domain sources found on the web such as those from the Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, U.S. State Department and Project Gutenber; 3), blogs that have collections of articles; and 4) searches of news sources such as the Guardian and the New York Times. Books I have used have included ones about world religions, animals, funeral customs, marriage customs, eyewitness history accounts, the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, The Rough Guide to World Music, Paul Theroux travel books, Daniel Boorstin history books, regional customs and manners books by Nancy Braganti and Elizabeth Devine, The World Almanac, The Guinness Book of World Records, and art and history books for regions such as the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe. I try not use Wikipedia except when I am desperate as I find it annoying that Wikipedia is the primary source of information on so many things and I want to offer a different perspective in my site.
Most of the images come from Wikimedia Commons, which I really like. Sometimes I snatch pictures off the Internet and then e-mail the source and ask if it is okay to use or take them from academic sources and use them under the “fair use” policy. There have also been times when I I have taken images from a tourist office or company and have used them with the understanding that they help promote the place or company the pictures are from and I don’t make any money from them.
When I started this project I was living in the Washington D.C. area and called every embassy and national tourist office and asked them to send all the information they had—and started with that. Later, I collected the newspapers, magazines and books that I listed above and every few months spent an entire day cutting them up and putting them in piles based on country or topic and put the piles into boxes with previous piles, ending up with about half a room full of article-filled boxes. The piles of articles used so far for China and Japan alone, when added all together, would probably exceed three or four meters in height. It is a crazy system I know but is ultimately easier, more comprehensive and reliable than relying totally on Google searches.
I don’t cut out articles anymore but I do have the piles of old ones and they are useful in helping me sort out and point me in the direction of what is interesting. When I write about a country I divide the piles into culture, economics, government, history, etc. piles and pick out the stuff that seems worthy of including. The content you see in my website has been chosen after sifting through a lot of information. The process is more of an act of labor than of scholarship, but it is fun discovering new things, determining what is important enough to include and reporting on topics in some depth. Putting it all on the web, I guess, is my way of being productive member of the global community...and it gives my life meaning.
Now, I cut and paste a lot from articles and text I find on the Internet. I do this primarily to save time. There is so much information out there and it is just too time-consuming to sift through it all and write proper articles from scratch. I also try to use as much public domain material as I can. The main problem with this approach is that it hurts my Google ranking as much of the text in the articles is not original content.
My goal is to eventually cover all the countries of the world—along with topics and subjects such as religion, animals and crops that are not specific to particular places but are important in grasping what they are all about. Understanding the world is a bit like putting together an overlapping jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of things that are unique and specific to a country but there are also a lot of things— such as ancient history, ethnic groups and the things mentioned before — that are shared by several or many countries. I am not yet there putting all the all pieces together in my site but I am getting there.
With each country I try to collect information that gives insight and understanding into the country, its people, its culture and its environment and organize it different categories, subcategories and articles. Trying to give a sense of what a country is really like is complicated and multifaceted goal and I try to do by covering a wide range of topics with brief, concise, to-the-point bits of information.
MESSAGE TO STUDENTS
I generally do not know much more about a topic than what is written in the articles about it. If you send a question and don’t receive an answer it generally means I don’t know the answer or I would do the same kind of searches that you could do yourself to find the answer. I am very busy working on my site or taking care of my family and I don’t really make any money from the site which means in part I just don’t have time to answer in-depth questions or surveys. Things I can answer with a short answer are generally okay.
As I said before I know that some of the article contain typos and writing and editing mistakes. The best way you can help me here is alert me to which article has the mistakes by cutting and pasting the URL (link) to the article in an e-mail. Then cut and paste the part of the article with the mistakes and, if you don’t mind, correct the mistakes and e-mail the corrections to me at email@example.com
CITATIONS AND THE USE OF IMAGES
For bibliography and footnote reference, please include the following information:
Author: factsanddetails.com Title of Article URL of the Article
Articles from factsanddetails.com contains information from other sources that are usually named where the material is found. These sources should be named and credited along with the factsanddetails.com website, in accordance with the style manual of your choosing.
Most of the images are from Wikipemedia Commons. Most have been shrunken in size and many have been cropped. You are welcome to use these images as they are in my site. The sources of the non-Wikipemedia-Common pictures are listed under Image Sources near the end of the articles. Some of the images I obtained more than ten years ago and it may be difficult to track down their original now.
I am a teacher and writer currently living in the Hiroshima area of Japan. I was born in the Mojave Desert in California and brought up mostly in Reston Virginia, in the Washington D.C. suburbs. I graduated from Wesleyan University in 1979 and later took courses to be a high school teacher. Over the years I wrote about rock music and had some pieces published in the Washington Post, the NME, The Face and other publications, wrote a guide about sports in the Washington D.C. area, worked construction, did a stint as bike messenger in D.C. but mostly I have worked overseas as an English teacher—at an elementary school in Istanbul, language institutes and a university in South Korea, as a freelancer in Barcelona and for the last few years running my own little informal schools in Japan. Being an overseas English teacher is not a very high prestige job but it does allow one to travel around and has given me ample free time to pursue the website project that you see here.
I like traveling but I don't really like tourism. One of the primary motivations for launching this website was to provide the kind of information I wish I had when I was traveling. My trips have included long bicycle trips in South America, Africa and Asia and a half dozen trips to China and lots of two or three week trips here and there. When I am on the road I like to travel rough and fast and pack a lot in. Relaxing just kind of makes me nervous. My approach to this website is similar. I'm ALWAYS working on it much to family's dismay.
If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind though I am no expert and pretty much everything I know is in my articles.
Thanks for your interest,
assembler of factsanddetails.com