More and more, obtaining information online is like uncovering the needle in the proverbial haystack--unless you know how to search. Not all search engines are the same; some are smarter than others, and each has its own quirks that you can learn to exploit. The good news for Web surfers is that with so many search tools out there, if you pick the right one, you will find what you need.
So what about the ubiquitous Yahoo!? Its strength is that it's not intended to be a comprehensive index of what's on the Web. Edited by actual humans, Yahoo presents only pages that make the editorial cut--its index includes only a tiny fraction of all the sites on the Web, so you don't get bogged down with hundreds of sites to choose from. Yahoo! is a good starting point, but if you don't get the results you need, move on.
To where? Industrial-strength searching is yours at AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com), which features a comprehensive index of Web sites as well as support for Boolean search techniques that allow for fine-tuning by using "operators" such as and, near and not as well as quotation marks around the specific information you need.
Still not getting the hits you seek? Try using a parallel search engine, which simultaneously queries a number of other search engines and then delivers the results to you. A top parallel search engine is Dogpile(http://www.dogpile.com), which queries Yahoo!, InfoSeek (http://www.infoseek.com), Excite (http://www.excite.com), Lycos (http://www.lycos.com) and others. Or try Mamma, "the Mother of All Search Engines" (http://www.mamma.com), which seeks information through Excite, InfoSeek, Mining Company (http://www.miningcompany.com) and several other engines. Metacrawler (http://www.metacrawler.com) does much the same. Try out several search engines, and bookmark the one that best serves your needs.
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It may sound drab, but the Fed's Beige Book is an economic gold mine.
Formally titled Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, as it's commonly known, is a one-stop reference on the nation's economy. Issued eight times yearly, the book provides detailed stats and opinions on the sentiment of the local business community, the strength of various business sectors and other information for each of the Fed's 12 districts. The Summary makes for fast reading, and is a good way to take the pulse of a region and of the nation. Decision-makers at investment houses and large corporations swear by the Beige Book, and now the Web puts the same info in your hands, free of charge: http://www.bog.frb.fed.us/fomc/BeigeBook/Current
Need a quick look at a foreign country? Head to The Internationalist, where there's information to be had on all major U.S. trading partners. Mouse clicks give you the scoop on a country's local government, economy, banks and major cities. More links deliver maps, a currency converter, weather conditions, guides to telephone adaptors and electricity--even a clothing-size converter. Despite this abundance of information, the site is well-organized and easy to navigate. Before going abroad, drop by for a visit.
Bookmark the Follow Your Dreams site for bad days because here you'll find short quotations to get your mood back on track, such as Henry Kaiser's "Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes." A daily affirmation is also featured. You can even sign up to receive a daily inspirational e-mail postcard. Who knows? It may be just the thing to brighten your day.