By P. C.
appear simple, and should be, but turn out to have hidden complexities.
Picking a name for a website is one of these endeavors.
For those who
have not had the pleasure of trying to find a domain name totally
unfettered by pre-existing claims, here is a hint. There are precious
few left at this stage of the Internet Age. A domain name has been
likened to a piece of real estate or a storefront on Main Street, both
of which are worth money. The good ones – the short, evocative,
easy-to-remember, headline-grabbing domain names are, simply put, gone.
To find something usable and inexpensive, one has to scrounge around in
the alphabetic trash heap. Or settle for obscurity or something
cumbersomely long, devilishly tricky-to-remember or fraught with
unfortunate connotations. Even perfectly decent-sounding names can turn
out to hide nasty surprises and unexpected next-door neighbors. Just try
typing www.whitehouse.com on
your browser’s address bar. I am sure Laura Bush does not care for
that particular neighbor. You see, the cyberspace land rush has long
since gone into the history books. Like all land rushes and gold rushes
and rushes for rights of all sorts, it gave full rein to greed. (No
kidding, you’re shocked, huh?) Millions of domain names were snapped up
by cyber squatters and
inventoried in the hope that they would be worth a lot of money someday.
The result is a bizarre and inhospitable landscape chock-a-block with
landlords, squatters, Viagra merchants and designing entrepreneurs, leaving little room for the newcomer.
Especially a humble amateur astronomy club out in the dark-sky hinterlands.
Which brings us
to our little predicament. The Club’s formal name, while perfectly
straightforward and descriptive, suffers from a couple of drawbacks.
“Astronomers of Verde Valley” does not produce an easy set of
initials or a memorable acronym. “AVV” is short but not very
euphonic. A little slicing and dicing, however, produces ASTROVERDE.
Wow, it’s easy to say, easy to remember and actually means something
in elastic Latin. Green Star! Imagine my surprise when I ran a
domain-name search and discovered that “astroverde.org” was actually
available for the taking. The “.org” extension is merely top-level
domain name extension generally restricted to non-profit organizations.
And since we don’t, and probably couldn’t, make a profit
if our lives depended on it, this extension is entirely appropriate.
that's not the whole story. Little
in life is as simple and serendipitous as that. There are other aspects
to fixing on a choice. The words, or some variation of the words,
may have negative connotations, may cause confusion with another organization or ongoing
program. A quick search usually settles that. See for
yourself. Type “astroverde” into a Google search form and see what
happens. Very little – of the four items that are returned, our
website is one, followed by one document in Italian, one in Spanish and
one in Brazilian (no, I am not gifted with linguistic abilities – I am
merely guessing about the languages and could be off by a country or
two). No confusion here. Just to be thorough, let’s type “green
star” into the Google search box and see what happens. Lots - over 2
1/2 million items are returned. Amongst the
items on top of the list is greenstarinc.org. This is actually an interesting
website. As its home page blurb explains, “Green
Star® is a non-profit organization that encourages businesses to
practice waste reduction, energy conservation and pollution
prevention.” Well, I
thought to myself, we seem to be in good company, being pretty green
ourselves – we are, after all, proponents of dark skies, which
reflects both conservation and pollution abatement. And being amateurs,
we may be said to be “green” in another sense, greenhorns, that is.
Next on the list is the Greenstar Foundation, a multinational
organization based in Los Angeles that promotes solar power – the
Greenstar solar community center “delivers electricity, pure
water, health and education information, and a wireless Internet
connection, to villages in the developing world.” Not bad, thought I – here is another constructive, liberal initiative.
There seems to be a theme here.
One more final check. What if Google is
asked to search for "astro" and "verde" as separate
words? You get some 20,200 entries, mostly astronomical, some green. Then I espied something intriguing, a 26-page document laying out great
chunks of data and diagrams from the Microwave Anisoptropy Probe – now
called the Wilkinson MAP. (Remember our discussion of the Lagrange
points and the MAP spacecraft, successor to COBE, loitering around Earth's
L2 point? I am sure Dr. Fleishman does.) You,
too, can examine the document by clicking here.
The “astro” and the “verde” in this document came from different
sources – Astrophysics (from Princeton University
Department of Astrophysical Sciences) and Licia Verde (the
author’s name). Not an inappropriate neighbor, I thought as I
read the document.
Licia Verde: for those who doubt that
such a person actually exists, here is a photograph served up by Google.
Dr. Verde's 26-page pdf document is recent
and contains fascinating
data on the cosmic microwave background radiation. The author subtly implies
the data will speak volumes. She even offers several bullet point conclusions.
I found them tantalizing but a little
opaque, no doubt a consequence of my unusually high density. Dr. Licia Verde, I discovered after a bit of googling
around, has her name associated with more than a few documents
of this ilk. I haven’t tested its veracity, but
Google reports that "Licia Verde" is associated with
some 4,300 documents on the Internet.
The next item in the "astro + verde"
list was in Spanish, which Google helpfully
offered to translate for me. I responded, sure. What came up was
bizarre, at least if you took it at face value.
Here is what it said:
“Green Light for the Construction of the SOUL”.
It appears that on
the 25th of February 2003, an agreement was concluded for the
construction of the SOUL. Really! This seemingly metaphysical project
I googled on, mightily mystified by such considerations as design and
The SOUL, it turns out, will be the largest and most
powerful radio telescope in the world, the ATACAMA Large
Millimeter Array, a joint venture between the European Southern
Observatory and the NSF. Here is a picture of the proposed grand
venture. (Courtesy: ESO).
get the idea. Having the word "astro" in our name has
put us in the thick of astronomy related websites. A good place for us
process I have described is just the beginning of a neighborhood check, a process akin to
verifying that your lovely new home is not located in the vicinity of a known
toxic waste dump and that the neighbors do mow their lawns regularly. Of
course you can spend a lot of time checking out individual neighbors. How about astroverde.com, astroverde.info, astroverde.us and other such
domain variations? Are they in use? Could they, perchance, be fronts for
hate groups or purveyors of porn?
I thought a minute and decided to save myself a
little finger-walking. It was beginning to sink in that even in
cyberspace there were limits to the awful things one could do with the
It was becoming increasingly clear to me that through no great virtue of our own, we had
stumbled onto a good piece of cyberspace real estate, surrounded by all
manner of stellar neighbors and high-minded activists. Astroverde is in
a good astronomical neighborhood. Our domain name, in which we have
invested a grand total of $8.95, is certain to appreciate in value by leaps and