Eye on the Web, with Mary Westheimer


rear vision, 2005 and before


"Perhaps you enjoyed these sites in a past KNLS, broadcast, thanks to our sponsor, sculptor Kevin Caron, and we hope you enjoy them again through this Eye on the Web Archive.
                    --Mary Westheimer

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If you'd like to contribute sites for possible inclusion in future shows,
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DECEMBER 2005

C an you hear it? When you go to the site Naturesongs.com you can hear plenty. In addition to bird songs, you'll hear insect, mammal, amphibian, reptile and even human sounds, as well as wind, weather and other noises like thunder, rain, pumps and guns. In the birds section, you can hear penguins, loons, grebes, kingfishers and other fowl, including some the site wizards couldn't even identify but would love your help on. You can get help, too, in case you have a sound you can't identify. You also can buy recording equipment such as microphones and recorders through the site. There are tips on how to make good recordings, links to other nature sites as well as outdoor photos and information about the natural foliage of Arizona, where much, but far from all, of this information was gathered. Naturesongs isn't flashy, but its strong content is music to the ears of those who love the outdoors.

E ven if you're on a diet, you can enjoy DailyCandy. Without gaining as much as an ounce, you can keep up on what's hot, new and undiscovered in fashion, style, food and drink, beauty, and arts and culture from this free daily ezine (or "email magazine") and Web site. It's all served up in classy style, enough to make any of us feel young, slim and hip. Interestingly enough, DailyCandy publishes daily editions for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, London and Washington, D.C. There's also an Everywhere edition for those of us who don't live in any of those in sanctums. Every subscriber also automatically receives DailyCandy Travel on Saturday. And there are two weekly editions: Kids, for busy and cool parents, comes out on Thursdays; while DailyCandy Deals, which features special sales and promotions, is published on Tuesdays. Talk about a full plate!

I f you have bats in your belfry - or anywhere else - you'll enjoy the site Bat Conservation International. Devoted to the fascinating world of bats, the site furthers BCI's mission to teach people the value of bats, protect and conserve critical bat habitats, and advance scientific knowledge through research. And this handsome site is just the place to do it. You can learn what to do if you have bats in your home (or your belfry); find out about the connection between bats and diseases like West Nile virus; learn how to use bat houses to attract these strange and wonderful creatures; learn about bat events, bat wine, bats in bridges and buildings; buy cool bat-theme stuff from the BatCatalog; read news about bats; and even send bat e-cards. There's an amazing amount of information on the site, which is as deep as - you guessed it - a bat cave. If you love them or even fear them, you'll (sorry!) go batty for Batcon.

P icture this: gajillions of icons, all for the downloading. That's what you'll find at The Iconfactory. This good-looking site bills itself as "Your Quality Freeware Icons Hub," and so it is a source of fantastic tiny images for use as icons - and whatever else you can dream up. There's a heavy Macintosh influence, which makes sense when you realize that many designers own Macs. That environment is much more focused on images, too, but Windows users aren't left out. Many of the icons are available in both formats, and it's easy to find the types of images you need and download them, all for free. These aren't the cheesy images you find on many free graphics sites, either. Some are simply drop-dead gorgeous, and I didn't see any I wouldn't be proud to use. You can also download tools to help you make icons, and there are other goodies, all of which are well explained and - of course - beautifully presented.


NOVEMBER 2005

P ucker up! That's just the posture you'll want for VirtualKiss.com, which bills itself as "THE online kissing resource." There are daily tips, kissing stories, kissing polls, kissing games, kissing astrology, kissing gear and so much more. My favorite section, the e-kissing booth, lets you send a variety of kisses by email. There's everything from wacky smooches such as an Eskimo kiss to holiday kisses like a 50th birthday special. I also enjoyed the kissing spycam, which lets you peek at the VirtualKiss.com offices to see how the pros handle interoffice paddycake-face. And now here's a little peck on the cheek for you: the kissing contests page mentions that the first one to let them know about media coverage for VirtualKiss.com gets a free LipLamp (whatever that is). Just email details such as city, date and station to press@virtualkiss.com to get a chance at this smacking good prize! And with this broadcast, you have an entry!

K eep this strictly confidential. Well, keep it at least as confidential as any public Web site, even if it is the online home of the international organization that helps the law enforcement community combat crime, Interpol. For those who thought Interpol was only found in thrillers, this site is especially fun to get a look at this very real organization. It offers information about terrorism, fingerprints, money laundering, art crime, crimes against children, DNA profiling, people smuggling and other fascinating pursuits of those on the dark side of life, and what the folks on the light side are doing about it. Of course, you aren't going to uncover any classified material (although I bet there is some available to those who have the right passwords), yet it's fascinating to see an international law enforcement perspective on many things most of us just read about in the paper or see on TV. They even have a section on recruiting, in case you've ever considered becoming an international spy. Just keep it hush hush, OK?

T he man who made us all want our own 15 minutes of fame has had many times that. You can learn all about him at the online home of the The Andy Warhol Museum, which is affectionately known as "the warhol." An iconoclast of amazing proportions, Andy Warhol was one of the major cultural influences of his time. There's an interesting section on silkscreening, which Warhol took to a new level, and you can even create your own silkscreen that you can email to a friend. Of course, you can learn more about the collections, what Warhol-related activities are going on right now around the world as well as at the physical facility itself in Pittsburg, and a store where you can buy all things Warhol. The exhibition when I visited involved the artist's time capsules. The site uses Flash technology to show you what was in these little treasure troves, filling you in on Warhol lore along the way. Whether you knew of him before or not, you'll enjoy this bold trip through the mind of a true - and truly famous - original.

I f the Internet is a huge river of information, Troutnut.com is the fly-fishing department. It's sites like these that really make the Internet special. I didn't know anything about fly-fishing until I happened across this site. Now I know that there are a lot of people out there who know a lot about tricking smart fish into getting reeled in by smarter fishermen. There's the Naturals Gallery, which features more than 1,000 original, close-up photographs of flies, nymphs, larva and other things that trout eat and trout fishermen imitate (mmm, good!). Then there are underwater pictures of wild trout and their prey in their natural environment. The site also offers desktop backgrounds, with instructions on how to install them, Quicktime movies that show how trout's prey moves, articles, other photos - some of which are quite amazing even for nonfishermen - and, of course, a gift shop. For people who are hooked on fly fishing, this site is a real catch!


OCTOBER 2005

I want it all. Fortunately, when it comes to the English language, The Free Dictionary has it. And that's a certain sort of heaven for logophiles, because this site brings together a cluster of resources to help you better understand what each word means. For instance, if you look up the word "supercilious," you first get a pretty standard dictionary reference, complete with audio and printed pronunciation, etymology and definition. You also get, however, a very strong thesaurus listing, a list of places the word is mentioned, references in classic literature and additional browser links in the dictionary and thesaurus, as well as other references. Of course, there are lots of links within each of these sections, giving you a well-rounded understanding of the word, all on a single page. There are other fun bits of trivia, too: a word of the day, birthday of the day, article of the day and word game, but for me, the full story on each word I'm seeking says it all.

I t's no coincidence that a computer monitor looks like an acquarium. At least you might start to think that when you visit OrcaLive. The work of Dr. Paul Spong, who has spent more than 30 years researching wild orcas, the site lets you watch and listen to orcas in their natural habitat near Vancouver Island, Canada, from July through late fall. Of course, neighbors such as sea lions, salmon and other creatures drop by, too. You can even download a program that alerts you when there is activity to view through the underwater camera or to hear through the microphones beside them. It's still worth visiting the rest of the year, though, too. You can enjoy highlights of past seasons, read about the project, and even order videos of past activity. The site offers high bandwidth as well as accommodates those who have less robust connections, so everyone can feel as if the sea were just on the other side of their screen.

I t's 4 a.m. - a perfect time to go to the museum! The 24 Hour Museum, that is. Offering news, listings and features from more than 3,000 United Kindom museums, galleries and heritage centers, this site has the newsy feel of an online publication with the content of a lifetime - or make that countless lifetimes. The richness and depth of England's history is yours for the clicking, whether it's news about events and activities, or enticing trails of past adventure. There are also city heritage guides; sections for teachers, museums and volunteers; and a whole site for kids called Show Me. You can find museums by geographical location, and of course, this highly professional production has wonderful search capabilities, too. When they named the site, they may have been thinking about it being open 24 hours a day, but the more I dig around, the more I'm convinced I could explore it for 24 hours a day and never see it all!

I f you're wondering who took your stapler again, you might just find it at VirtualStapler.com. If it's not there, the wacky folks at Hays Internet Marketing, who created this site, will probably let you use theirs. The first thing you see is three different models of staplers. Pick one, run your mouse over it and it will, well, staple some air for you. But wait! There's more! There's a stapler gallery, with various types of staplers; stapler poetry, with soulful haiku, limericks and love poems; stapler gear; staplers in the movies; a FAQ and letters about staplers. You can even buy an iconic red Swingline stapler or donate to the Stapler Fund to buy new virtual staplers for the site. Easy to use and fun, this site seems to have evolved from a joke into, well, a joke gone nearly obsessive. You can laugh all you want, but some of the staplers in the gallery are pretty interesting. OK, you can accuse me of not having much of a life, but what else do I have to do now that I can't find my stapler?


SEPTEMBER 2005

H ave you ever wondered about the little things? WonderQuest is the site where you'll probably find the answers. The online version of April Holladay's USA Today newspaper column, WonderQuest is full of the questions that flit through our minds, yet we seldom find the answers to. Things like "Why are toenails thicker than fingernails?" that we may think aren't important enough for someone to have found answers to. But someone has, and the site offers 'em. In fact, it has answers in 18 different categories, including Humans, Oceans, Computers, Evolution, Chemistry, Plants and Physics. Holladay lists the top 10 questions and their answers, and some of them might surprise you. You can also search the site for information or even ask a question. Of course, WonderQuest offers an electronic newsletter, too. With all of this, you'll never again have to wonder where to find answers to the little things.

T here are shoppers, and there are buyers. The Web caters to both, but more people still shop online than buy. They'll do all their research with a browser, then finally head to a store that has the goods. These are the sort of people who find ConsumerSearch so valuable. After checking to make sure that this isn't a commercial site masquerading as a place to do product research, I began delving into the 13 main categories and dozens of selections within each of them, including myriad home and office needs. The site offers "fast answers," more comprehensive "full stories" and then, best of all, a comparison chart that helps you easily see how the products stack up against each other. There don't seem to be many products in each category, but what's there is fully covered. The site also has price comparisons at various online retailers, letting you click through for instant gratification. Ah, the Web! What a wonderful way to shop!

W ater, water's everywhere ... even on the Web. No, you don't have to worry about a torrent coming out of your disk drive, but you can enjoy water at The Health Benefit of Water. Created by a Romanian woman named Tatiana who now lives in Canada, the site is a tribute to the life-giving source and the reasons that it has such an amazing affect on us. The site is chock-full of facts (for instance, did you know bone is 22% water?) and provides lots of helpful information about the properties of water, drinking water, the messages from water (featuring fantastic experiments on water crystals), waterfalls, spas, feng shui, salt water and so much more. The site is put together in a fascinating way, with links leading you intuitively from page to page - almost like water tripping down a stream from pool to pool. Yes, this site will slake the thirst of anyone interested in water.

Y ou can go from key to shining key on the wonderful site OnlyPiano.com. That's because it focuses on pianos and - you guessed it - only pianos. Dedicated to promoting piano music and the people who play it, the site is a great source for piano artists and fans alike, offering piano news, music equipment, sheet music and CDs from featured performers of jazz, New Age and classical piano. There are interviews with pianists; forums for chatting about anything related to pianos; a resource center that connects you to piano teachers, tuners, history and associations; technical and professional information for pianists; and even a piano store where you can buy all sorts of piano-related items, including sheet music, CDs, piano stools - even grand pianos! While I'm not a player myself, the site seems to be the labor of someone who truly loves pianos and is eager to connect with like-minded folks, keyboard to keyboard.


AUGUST 2005

F For some of us, having outer space on our desktops is about as close as we'll ever get to it. That has never seemed more true than with Deep Impact, a recent project of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Many people around the world watched July 3 as NASA launched a projectile into the Tempel 1 comet. Some of us used telescopes - often to no avail - but anyone with a Web connection could also see the excitement unfold by watching NASA TV on their computer. That climaxed as the impactor hit the comet dead on and material spewed into space. What? You missed it? Movies of the impact showed up on the Web site almost immediately and are still available, along with biographies of the project team, a timeline, details about the spacecraft itself, links to related sites and other minutia. Yes, this site really brings space home.

I f you think you're seeing things in the sky, you might want to visit the site Birdzilla. Billing itself as the "the number one Internet birding site," this is just the spot for anyone who wants to know more about the amazing creatures that fill our skies with color and our hearts with joy. This site is so huge it's almost hard to find what I think is its heart, the Wild Bird Omnibus, which lists all the species. Each listing can have a photo, a song, information about habitat and sightings, and ways to report these things easily. There are also sections on each U.S. state, help with bird identification, a shop where you can buy bird goodies, and a free online life list, which lets you log what birds you've seen, where and when. But Birdzilla doesn't stop at traditional Web offerings. It has expanded its focus beyond the Internet, offering Birdzilla TV and Birdzilla radio. That's great news for anyone who wants to see - and hear - more about birds.

T here's something magnificent about a moose. Just ask Mr. Ernst's sixth grade class in Fairbanks, Alaska, which created and has maintained The Magnificent Moose Project since 1996. You can learn about moose food, hunting moose, the dangers of moose (these are big animals!), Native American moose uses, moose nuggets, moose statistics, moose predators, moose products and the fascinating design of this sometimes ridiculed creature, as well as read moose poetry and see moose cartoons. You can even watch moose movies, filmed in Mr. Ernst's own yard. Moose are clearly a big part of Alaskan life, and the more you read about them on this informative site, the more you appreciate their magnificence.

I f we have the Web, do we really need a memory? The U.S. Library of Congress's American Memory begs the question. The home of more than 100 collections and 7 million documents, photographs, maps, films and audio recordings, this remarkable gathering of memorabilia is fascinating for researchers, teachers and students as well as casual browsers. There's a whole section to help teachers use the material in the classroom, and you can even ask a librarian questions in case there's something you can't find yourself. You can browse by topic, time period, type of document and even by place, and of course, you can search. The beauty of it all is that, as the official repository of the United States, the Library of Congress is a definitive source for much of this information. The quality is high and the breadth is wide. From Revolutionary War maps to recordings of public reactions to September 11, this site is guaranteed to bring back memories.


JULY 2005

W hat's the word? My word for the Online Etymology Dictionary is "classy." You could also say "practical" and "handsome," all words you'll find among the many, many listed there, with their fascinating backgrounds. Devoted to the source of English words and compiled from 40 volumes, the site is comprehensive without being overwhelming. It has a nice, fast search function, and the results are far-reaching. They're also easy to read and navigate - in fact, the whole site is quite clean and attractive. It's a snap to see what you want and click to find more information - for example, a little book image links to the word's listing at dictionary.com, giving you even more data. You also can browse by letter, and there are some fun links (oddly enough, in a different design presentation). You can even sponsor a word of your choice, becoming one of the site's fascinating supporters, and thereby helping keep alive this version of the English language.

D iving into Dumpsterworld has to be cleaner than the real thing. The site's slogan is "Reduce, reuse, recycle," and Dumpsterworld definitely has an innovative take on that earth consciousness. Comprised of an active Web message board, this site is not a joke. Apparently there are a lot of people who can afford computers but like to sort through garbage. You'll find fascinating discussions about what's safe to eat (not kidding!), what to do if you get caught, what to do with the cool stuff you find, as well as requests from people who are collecting specific types of items, such as wool garments and animal bones. There's even a section where you can ask others exactly what you've found by posting photos of your treasures, and a gallery of retrieved goodies. The quality of some of the items people have simply thrown away is a sobering reminder of how careless the wealthy can be. Thank goodness for the resourceful divers, who aren't afraid to leap in and do their bit.

I finally know where ideas come from! If you've ever wondered, you'll enjoy visiting the Halfbakery. Yes, this is a site full of ideas, most of which are - you guessed it - half-baked. There are suggestions in more than a dozen categories, including Culture, Cars, Food, Fashion, Home and Health. Some of my favorites are the pool behind a waterfall that lets you swim in deep water without diving in, the sinking theatre floor that accommodates long-legged patrons, and the cyclical letter keyboard, which incorporates previously submitted half-baked designs. By logging in, you can add your own million-dollar ideas or comment on those that have already been posted. You can vote, too, indicating if you're for or against a specific inspiration, with the site showing the vote results via tiny icons. With its easy interactivity and pleasant wackiness, the Halfbakery is, well, a really great idea.

H ot diggity how! The next time you're stumped on how to add a border to a picture in PhotoShop, create a ladybug costume, or get the men in your family to put down the toilet seat, eHow has your answer. This amazing site has thousands of answers in Automotive, Computer, Family/Relationships, Finance/Business, Pets, Travel, Health and seven other categories, providing easy-to-understand solutions for a dizzying array of challenges. The answers provide clearly written steps and then also sometimes extra tips as well as related eHow answers. You can rate the instructions and, of course, submit your own or even write an eHow article, or just email the information to a friend. The site also links to WikiHow from the Wikipedia folks and makes it easy to search Google. All in all, eHow shows you just how easy it can be to find just what you want to know.


JUNE 2005

G ive me a Big Mac to go in a styrofoam box while I'm driving in air-conditioned comfort in my SUV. On the other hand, don't. The site GreenChoices gives me lots of other options that make more sense these days. It offers links to sites that have more environmentally friendly options in nearly 30 categories, including babies and kids, solar power, ecotourism, recycling, furniture, pest control and investing. For instance, the building/hardware category introduced me to the Green Roundtable, Ingenuity Wood and Beyond Waste, all of which offer clever takes on building with respect for the past and an eye on the future. Brought to you by the folks who host the click-donation site at www.environmentsite.com, this site doesn't accept advertising or sell anything. Rather, GreenChoices is all about acting today like we care about tomorrow.

I t's almost like having X-ray eyes. Indeed, the site Human Anatomy Online uses Web technology to terrific advantage, allowing you to look at the many systems of the human body, in color, with little callouts that give you detailed information. Whether its the cardiovascular, skeletal, digestive, muscular, lymphatic, endocrine, nervous, urinary or reproductive systems, you'll see it all here, with the site's animations, hundreds of graphics and thousands of descriptive links. You do need Java to use this site, but the program is free and downloadable. Once you click on a system or a subcategory, an image pops up. Run your mouse over it, and colored links appear. Each offers more information on that particular function or part, almost like you're seeing inside a living body, but with interactive footnotes. This is one site you gotta see.

S ometimes our truth is bigger than ourselves. That's where a site like Fray comes in. Fueled by volunteers who think the Web is a grand place for personal expression, Fray calls itself an online magazine, and it's been publishing on the Web since 1996. About once a month, the site offers a true story, then lets readers post their own experiences triggered by that piece. There are four subject sections as well as events, a storyblog and a shop with Fray stuff. But the heart of the site is the stories, and they are as beautiful as they are fascinating. Every one I read had been designed with striking illustrations and type treatments that made each piece special. Then, at the end of the stories, a question leads to readers' submissions, adding seldom-seen dimension to truth, which is rare enough in itself.

I t's all about getting the last word. Usually called "signatures," the last line on many people's email messages are automatically added for a final say. Some people use them for promotion, others for fun. Some people change their signature depending upon whom they're writing and why, and others change them daily. And it makes sense, when you realize the second most read line in any letter is the P.S. What? You don't have a signature?! Well, thank goodness, then, for the site Coolsig, which offers more than 4,000 cute, clever and even crazy taglines you can add onto your email messages (check your email program for how to do this easily). From verbal typos to one-line jokes to life's questions to fortune cookie wisdom and much more, you'll find signatures that keep you going for a long, long time.


MAY 2005

he world around us is so immense that it's sometimes hard to get a grasp of it all. Well, the site solcomhouse will either help, or will simply make you more overwhelmed with the scope. Devoted to the preservation of the Earth's environment, the site packs a tremendous amount of information into its pages. The 68 subject areas cover a broad spectrum of information, from the sort of natural ones you'd expect - like solar, wind and pollution - to other topics that are important but not always connected to the environment, like AIDS, bioterrorism and war. There are sections on tsunamis and Iraq, and also information on tigers, pandas and elephants, among other animals. A great resource for school reports, this site provides invaluable snapshots of many of the Earth's charms and challenges. And that covers a lot of ground!

hen the space race kicked off in the '60s, it was us against them. Now, thanks to projects like the International Space Station, it's us and them. And thanks to the Web, you can not only get the background on the ISS project, you can also track it in the skies overhead. The NASA Johnson Space Center ISS Sightings site is the place to go online for all sorts of news about the ISS. It tells you when the space station is over your city, where it is right now and what the crew is up to, lets you print a space station bookmark, and even provides you all sorts of helpful information to hold a star party (the kind where the bright sparklies overhead are the celebrities). There are lots of links to other space related sections of the NASA site, too. All in all, it's a wonderful acknowledgment that we can get along in this world - or at least while circling it.

here's remote, and then there's the Yukon. According to CarcrossYukon.com, it is all of that and so much more. This well-organized site shares much of the flavor of the Carcross region, which includes the world's smallest desert - in Alaska, no less! - as well as a history of steamboat travel. There's plenty of information about current-day Carcross, including tourist attractions, lodging, maps, local real estate opportunities, photo albums and events. I spent most of my time, though, wallowing in Carcross' past. There's an overview of its history, information about its classic hotels, and - my favorite - lots of links to the old days of the steamboats. The roster - which doesn't even pretend to be complete - lists an astounding 389 sternwheelers that used to ply these northern waters. There's plenty more to discover at this site, however, so be sure to enjoy every nook and cranny, no matter how far away it may seem.

hat would happen if experts around the world got together and shared their knowledge? Why, they'd create the Wikipedia. One of the most amazing sites on the Web, Wikipedia is dedicated to free learning, offering a free content encyclopedia. It has more than a million articles in English, French, Spanish, Polish, German, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese, and more articles in more than 75 other languages. You can search, browse and even contribute articles. There's also a free dictionary in a variety of languages (yes, the Wikitionary), free textbooks, free quotes, free news, and free images, music, sound and video clips. Whether you're seeking information or want to share it, you'll want to wiki it.




APRIL 2005

h! I am so sorry! I know I'm late, but well, I was busy. Oh! I was, uh, researching! Yes, that's it! Researching! OK, there's simply no way around it: I was playing. In the name of research, though! Well, you can laugh, but you will lose track of time, too, at zefrank.com. Jam-packed with animation, short movies, interactive toys, games, stuff to read, stuff to watch and other silly nothings of all sorts, zefrank.com is the playground of a very talented artist who has done work for major corporations. Having, mmm, researched much of the site, among my favorites are dragon for chris, oranges and the scribbler. There's so much more to see, though. And if you choose to do it at work, check out the "panic buttons" at the top right of the screen - a little something for the boss, too!

ant to get away? You can learn more about using single-person and clusters of colorful balloons at two sites set up by one John Ninomiya. Cloudhopper.org focuses on single-person balloons - no gondolas here! - and the people who fly them, all over the world. Ballooning Into the Sky shares how to simply cluster together a number of balloons and use them to fly above the earth, sometimes to amazing heights. Ninomiya is certainly not alone in his interest. At these simple yet fun sites you can enjoy awesome photos from various enthusiasts and meets, and learn the specifics of getting up, up and away. Despite the bright colors and whimsical idea of it all, this isn't a fly-by-night fantasy. Both of these sites will help you understand the romance, yet start with your feet firmly on the ground.

ne of the Internet's charms is turning our perspectives upside down. For example, take the Museum of Temporary Art. Debby Rebsch of Germany has constructed a 40x50 cm, 33 compartment museum in her home. She displays the items on the Web and also solicits new exhibits, cycling the old ones out. Ah! International, esoteric, participatory - this is the Web at its best! When I visited, there was a cloth swatch and a button from the New York art installation The Gates, which in itself was temporary; a paper depiction of MA, which is described as Japanese space, or nothingness; and two pink Barbie shoes. Inspired by this quirky collection, I'm thinking of downloading the exhibit sheet form and sending in my own submission of something too precious to be permanent....

inding family information online is a common pursuit, but usually it's your own family. That's the great beauty of Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness. Originally started by two researchers who saw the need for such a service in their own area, this practical site grew quickly to an international phenomenon. Far from slick or glitzy, it makes it easy to find people in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as 43 countries, from Argentina to Yugoslavia. The volunteers explain where they can help and how - among them, some have databases, while others videotape tombstones - and all of them are amazingly generous. If you take advantage of the service, you're asked to pay for any costs, limit your requests to the bounds of common decency and volunteer to help others. Now that's enough to make anyone in your family proud of you!



MARCH 2005

For centuries, artists have sought to create their art while still being able to eat. Christo and Jeanne-Claude have figured out how to do just that, while at the same time achieving worldwide renown. Now, not everyone likes the work of Bulgarian-born Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, who are best known for draping large buildings and natural settings in copious amounts of cloth, such as when they wrapped an entire Swiss art museum. But the more I've learned, the more appealing they've become. And at their site, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, you can learn a lot. When I visited, it featured the New York Gates (hey! Central Park in a miniskirt!), which took 26 years to realize. Don't miss the "Common Errors" section, which offers revealing insights into the artists' perspective. While their art is fleeting by design, this site helps make their legend last.

Some of us have wild dreams or even nightmares about how our lives could turn out. Craig Robinson plotted his possibilities at the intriguing site What If .... We've visited Craig at his site flip flop flyin' before, covering his curiously fascinating MiniPops, tiny figures representing famous and not-so-famous people and, uh, creatures. What If ... offers multiple mini-Craigs, following the flow of various life paths he might have taken. Some of the routes are the stuff of dreams, such as when Craig is offered a knighthood. Others are nightmares, like the one in which he becomes a heroin addict (although it works out in the end). Others just follow fantasies, such as a career in football. Although the figures themselves are tiny and static, somehow Craig has us cheering, crying and just plain happy we happened upon What If ...

Sometimes all that remains of a memory is a scrap, an image, a sound, a smell. Or maybe a ticket stub. It's hard to believe how many people save ticket stubs, but you can learn more about them and their adventures at Ticketstubs. Created by Matt Haughey when he realized why he'd been carrying around ticket stubs with him for all those years, the site is beautiful visually and functionally. There are stories about unforgettable concerts, dates (good and bad) and fabulous adventures. You can read recently uploaded or the top ten stories, posts based on the location or event type. Or just browse items by date back to 2002. And, of course, you can upload your own story. The site even has a tutorial on how to photograph, edit and upload pictures of your stubs, which are a key part of the stories, each of which shares a fulfilling memory.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Court is now in session at the site The Proceedings of the Old Bailey London 1674 to 1834. You can read the original transcripts of hundreds of cases as well as see the original documents, learn about the crimes tried there and the pleas, look at all the cases on a particular day, or find out when else a defendant might have shown up at the Old Bailey. You can search by any one of a number of variables - name, place, keyword, statistics, crime, verdict and much more - and you can read about the London communities of the day. While not flashy, this is a well thought-out and beautifully linked site, letting you pop around, within and among the cases. You can almost imagine that you are indeed witnessing proceedings that occurred hundreds of years ago. Court dismissed!


FEBRUARY 2005

Are you making faces again? Well, the site Morphases can make it more fun - and more realistic - than you might imagine. You'll need Macromedia Flash Player to use this face manipulation software, but it's free. Once you have Flash, you can use the site's remarkable editor to modify and create human faces from different elements in real time. The site maintains a "genebank" with individual face elements - noses, eyebrows, mouths, eyes - that you can alter to your eye's delight. You can even submit your own photo for manipulation or post comments on your favorite creations. The editor itself is a bit cryptic at first, but once you get the hang of selecting the face element, then using the controls on the right to enlarge, reduce, move and otherwise change them, you can make all the faces you want. And you won't even have to stand in the corner!

What's the sound of strange things bouncing around? It could be "boing, boing," as in the blog boingboing.net. Blogs - the latest great thing online, with the term coming from "Web log" - are easy-to-update areas where people post, well, just about everything. Boingboing bills itself as "a directory of wonderful things," and while I'm pretty sure about the "things" part, "wonderful" is clearly subjective. The site certainly is a catch-all for a variety of odd and sometimes obscure information and events. On one of my visits, there was a bit on how curry may cure Alzheimers as well as some cheesecake photos of Bill Gates. Each item links to a longer story, and there's an archive that bounces back to January 2000. You can submit items, too, to the fearless five who fuel the lively muddle that is boingboing.

Consider yourself warned! Yes, the site The ESP Game may be more addictive than solitare. The premise is simple enough that you might not even think about the technology (and that's really technology at its best). Put together by Carnegie Mellon University, the site serves up random images from somewhere - anywhere - on the Web to two people at once, then dares them to come up with the same word to describe each image. You're timed, and certain obvious words may be declared taboo. Based on how many terms you and your anonymous partner match within the two-and-a-half minute limit, you get a score and an idea of how you rank overall. The game can be maddening and seductive - how can you stop now?! Well the site owners hope you don't, because the more you play, the more Web images you help them catalog. They've labeled more than 6 million already, and who knows how many they'll get before just my fingers are raw!

It's amazing what's logical when you're young. That's never more evident than when browsing the site I Used to Believe. Author and Web site owner Mat Connolley has provided a charming platform for all of us to share our deepest, darkest - and sometimes incredibly hilarious - childhood fears and beliefs. Some, interestingly enough, are universal, while others are quite creative. There must be hundreds of submissions in the 25 categories, and when they aren't making you laugh out loud, they might make you shake your head in wonder. There's Jade, who once thought there were two "N"s in the alphabet: one between "M" and "O" and the other between "Y" and "Z". Then there's Clare, who thought the weatherman decided what the weather would be. Rose thought that the people on the other side of the earth had to hang on to rungs to keep from falling into space. As cute as these are, you might just want to add your own childhood beliefs to keep the child in you alive.


JANUARY 2005

You can do plenty of sleuthing on the wonderful site The Word Detective. It's the online version of the newspaper column of the same name, which answers readers' questions about words and language. The brainchild of Evan Morris, the site is simple and clean, letting Morris' love of language shine brilliantly. You are most welcome to email Morris a language question, although you might find the answer in his archive, which shares 1,300 columns from the time the site went online in 1995. Just reading the alphabetical listing of the words covered in columns is enough to bring a smile to a word lover's lips, or you can browse by date. You can also share your own favorite words, which Morris, who has also penned delightful books on language, may just include in an upcoming tome. Or you can subscribe to the email version of his columns, which you will get at the same time his newspapers receive them - hot off the keyboard, if you will. For word buffs, The Word Detective is definitely of the first water - and you can look that up.

How ingenious! The site ingenious fulfills the promise of its name, giving visitors a clever and compelling mix of interactive stimulation. You can read any of a fascinating collection of articles on subjects ranging from the impact of identity to the migration of technology, then debate about topics of science and culture. The site's See section not only offers access to 30,000 images from the Science Museum, National Railway Museum, and the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, it also lets you search across the Read, Debate and See sections of the site. Finally, you can log in and use the site to create your own Web world. You can save images, set up links, send any image you see in the See section on your own E-cards, which you can make and upload to the site. If it gets enough traffic and is shepherded with care, this site can develop into a fascinating exchange of ideas.

So you think your boxer is brilliant? Your kitty clever? Your goldfish gifted? The BBC's Test Your Pet site will help you see how your critters measure up. The site gives you a series of tests you can try with your pal, such as hiding treats in containers and noting which paw he or she uses to get them. I not only proved that our dog likes treats, I confirmed that he is, as we suspected, gifted. OK, it didn't quite say that, but the results were quite interesting. The site also lets you read about overall results for types of pets (our cat would disagree with the notion that dogs are smarter, but fortunately, he can't read - or at least I don't think he can...) Finally, the site offers insights about the science behind the tests, as well as assorted links. Yes, this is one place you'll want to sit ... and stay.

You know you're a nerd when ... you have a computer in your kitchen. Yes, I admit it, we love finding new recipes online, and one of the places we often find ourselves is Food Network. This site is so stuffed with wonderful food-related information, it's hard to know where to start. In addition to recipes, there's a cooking encyclopedia, a fat and calorie counter, how-tos, demos and cooking guides. One thing it doesn't have, though, is a search engine that lets you enter ingredients and then gives you recipes that use them. For that, we use a neat little utility called Cookin' With Google. You just type in your ingredients, hit "Grab A Recipe" and you have the power of Google searching many great recipe sites for you - including food.com. Now that's technology with taste!


2004

It used to be that we'd go on a summer vacation and put on a heck of a slide show with all the photos we took. But now that we have the Web, Chicagoan Mike Pugh made a heck of a Web site, Vagabonding. Mike's trip was hardly a summer vacation, though, as he traveled for more than a year through Asia and East Africa. He took along with him equipment that allowed him to take beautiful photographs and videos and then wrote about his experiences. Now you can enjoy it all, using this elegant site’s excellent navigation to learn about adventures such as Bangkok street food, the Egyptian Museum, Tanzanian safaris and even a Great White Shark tank dive. Or just check out Mike's route, view his favorite videos, or even post your own comments. Indeed, even though his journey was nearly a year ago, this site keeps his trip alive for people from all over the world. Now that's worth a visit!

As our world spins ever faster, we are better able to see the connections between formerly discrete niches. That's one reason the site Environmental Health News is so fascinating. Now, this isn't the sort of site you go to for a giggle. Its presentation is as straightforward and businesslike as its content. The homepage is jammed with the openings to breaking stories, articles on what they call "new science," as well as reports about protecting human health from environmental exposures. While the stories all involve the environment and our health, they range far and wide, from genetic code, to farming, to the oil industry to common household products. You can check the archives for past stories, have news delivered to your inbox, and even submit your own information. As rich and deep as this site is, fortunately you can also search for specific topics and words. When it comes to the intersection of the environment and health, this site is the first place to connect.

"A tisket, a tasket, a beautiful Alaskan basket ...." Indeed, Jill Choate's baskets are the stuff of tradition, albeit with a twist, and you can learn about them at her site, J. Choate Basketry. Choate offers a couple of galleries, in which you can browse through some of the beautiful baskets she’s has made over the years. There's also a scrimshaw gallery, displaying the work of another Alaskan artist, and then there are patterns and kits, as well as information about Choate herself and her basketry retreats and tours. There are also some somewhat cryptic sections that appear to be the work of Jill's daughter, that lend some hominess to the site. All in all, you get a feel of the life and work of an Alaskan original, an artist who uses the tools at her fingertips, including the Web.

Well, whaddya know! If what you want to know is more about computers, make your next stop the site Computer Knowledge. I happened across this handy site through a search engine, looking for a good key to TLAs (also known as "three letter acronyms") for a friend. Before long, I was checking out some of the site's other offerings, including a guide to emoticons (you know, those cute little pictures you can make with keyboard characters). It also has a file extension list, definitions and computer terms, as well as a computer virus tutorial. Actually, there's a lot of information about viruses, including a virus activity map, with the top 10 viruses and where they're lurking, information on antivirus software, and archives of newsletters about viruses past, most of which - sigh - seem sort of quaint now. So if you want to know something about computers, this is the sort of site you should know.

Sometimes what you don't know what can ... delight you. I knew about what are called "Easter eggs" in software programs - those are the little squibs that programmers add that can only be accessed if you know where and how to click - and it turns out there are "Easter eggs" on music albums, too. Also known as a "ghost track," these are songs on albums that aren't listed on the sleeve or jacket. On a CD, they can usually be heard by playing the final track to the end, then waiting through a brief moment of silence. You can learn more about this - and the songs themselves - on the site Hidden Songs. You can browse through the tunes, clicking on links to learn more about the history of specific tracks and where to find them, and even buy the albums right through the site. Of course, you can also submit your own discoveries, or add to someone else's contribution. Now that's truly delightful!

You can have untold luck if you tell 10 friends about KNLS within the next - hey, wait a minute, this is no chain letter! But the Internet did give new life to chain letters, which now can be spread farther and faster than ever before by email. If you're interested in chain letters, you'll also find the Internet helpful by going to the site Paper Chain Letter Archive. This site is plain vanilla at its most, well, vanilla, but there's a lot of substance to the pudding. The site has a history of chain letters, a bibliography, an archive and a glossary. Frankly, the site is pretty academic and dry, but it's fascinating nonetheless. And who's to say how it might affect your luck?

I imagine you had no idea that this segment is being brought to you by the Honorable Lady Mary of Camelhead Court. Well, your ignorance would be well-founded, as there is no such person, just as there is no real Sir Michael Thornley de Redonda R.A., Baron of the Cross and Crosier. Such attempts at puffery is the bailiwick of the site Fake Titles and its vigilant proprietor, Richard, 7th Earl of Bradford. Richard, it seems, has taken great umbrage at those who sell - and buy - titles to which they have no claim. The site helps you understand how real titles work and unmasks some of the charlatans who are selling titles to social climbers who are hoping to elevate themselves with the help of some cash and the cachet of peerage. The Earl actually names names, calling to task those who have no right to use or sell them. So, I say: a pox on their houses! And enjoy this site that unmasks the rascals!

How about diving into some delicious Alaskan salmon, right off the grill? If succulent seafood makes your mouth water, you'll enjoy the site Alaska Seafood. Sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the site offers recipes, health benefits and seafood facts for individual cooks and foodservice operations. It also has marketing information including books and buttons, fishing and processing info, and a whole section for the "Small Fry," where kids can find their own recipes and snacks, and instructors can find a teaching guide. My favorite section was the recipes that help you cook a delicious meal even if the fish is frozen - for those of us who enjoy cooking, that's a trick worth knowing! So if King Crab legs, scallops, cod or halibut sounds good to you, you'll enjoy this delectable site.

What does your life look like? Ask Jeff Harris, and he'll just send you to the Web site JeffHarris.org. Since January 1999, Jeff Harris has posted a photo of himself on the site for every day. Some days he's doing something funny, other days the photo is poignant or clever or enigmatic. You can navigate through them all, choosing from thumbnails of a month at a time, or browse through the enlarged versions of the photos. The pictures are also cross-referenced by photographer, each of whom seems to have his or her own view of Mr. Harris, who, interestingly enough, today looks quite similar to the way he appeared in his first posted photo, with vast changes between. But this isn't just about Jeff. You can post your own comments about what's happening in your day in the Journal section, using words to share what your life looks like.

Site! Color! Motion! It's all part of Claudia Cortes' amazing Color in Motion. This site, her thesis for her masters in fine arts, provides an idea of what the Web can and will be in the years to come, enlivening animation with interaction in a resource-intensive but well worthwhile experience. The site opens with graphics worthy of the finest animation studios. With a lively soundtrack in the background, you are then given the choice of three different doors offering the Stars, the Movies and the Lab. The Stars tells you more about each color, while the Movies provide illustrated and orchestrated information about each. Finally, the Lab gives you the brush, and lets you direct your own scene, manage one of the colors, or just play with a kaleidoscope of hues. Yes, this is one site that has - and gives - it all.

Right up there with jumbo shrimp and military intelligence you'll find the seemingly oxymoronic site Desert Tropicals. While some of the information is specific to the Phoenix, Arizona, area, the site features pictures and information about more than 3,500 plants. Although you can select by type of plant, too, thank goodness this bounty is searchable! There's also a bulletin board where you can ask plant questions and get answers from experts and enthusiasts alike, links to other sites that focus on growing beautiful plants in the desert, and even science news. There are articles about desert gardening and even a store that offers the books you’ll want if you are one of those people who know that, add a little water to the desert, and boy, does it bloom!

What if you could get the big picture and zero in using the same amazing tool? That's just what Keyhole lets you do, all in 3D. Used by government, realtors, engineers, media and business since May 2001 to look at locations throughout the world as well as more than 80 major U.S. metropolitan areas and thousands of individual cities, Keyhole's database includes access to millions of dollars worth of satellite imagery, aerial photography, elevation data, street vectors, business listings and other data merged and available for instant access. That's all nice, but the truth is that it's really fun! After some practice, you can zoom in on locations and, in some areas, even swivel so that you can skim across lakes and land like an eagle. It works even better if you buy access, but just playing on the current site gives you a really rare view.





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