I've been running a writing workshop lately with some of the teams at work, and as a warm-up for the workshop's first session, I've been asking folks to do the following exercise:
Look up the wikipedia page of your hometown or one of your favorite places. Follow links from the page until you find something that feels like a story.
I can highly recommend it. First of all, who doesn't like to think that all that mindless wikipedia surfing is worth something? Second, you really never know what you'll find or what ideas it will spark. Small town street races in space. Moravian bishops. Adventure cryptozoologists.
I think it works because of the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction principle. And that's true simply because individual people and communities are way more interesting than the flat, homogenized view of the world we often get.