Eye on the Web, with Mary Westheimer

rear vision

"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

If you're looking for current shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2011 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2010 shows, please click here.

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If you're looking for 2008 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2007 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2006 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for shows before 2006, please click here.

If you'd like to contribute sites for possible inclusion in future shows,
please email Mary at mary@kevincaron.com. Thanks!

JULY 2012

R ight here. Just like you, I'm stuck on our own planet, a subject covered well by Living on Earth. The site is based on the public radio program Living on Earth, which broadcasts environmental news, features, interviews and commentary on a broad range of ecological issues to 300 U.S. communities. Even if you don't live in one of them, you can get the goods by visiting the site, where you'll find stories and photos as well as the actual audio broadcasts. When I visited, I was fascinated by the piece on chemicals that make you fat, a new stinky plant discovered in Madagascar and insights about the upcoming Earth Summit in Rio 20 years after the first meeting. You can read or listen to this week's show, browse archives going back more than 10 years, dig into special features and series, and check in on five specialty blogs. So make yourself at home, wherever you happen to live.

I t's raining. Or maybe it's too cold to send the little ones outside. If they - and you - are going stir crazy, a visit to Free Preschool Crafts.com is just the ticket. With nearly 50 categories based on holidays like the 4th of July, Christmas, Easter and Halloween and others including flower, handprint and footprint and recycled crafts, there's plenty to keep the kids - and you - busy. Each craft listing features a photo, instructions that include what you'll need to make it and how to put it all together. There are also recipes for making growing crystals, slime, a generic Silly Putty, papier mache and generic play dough, and you can buy craft supply packs to help you make this cool stuff. I enjoyed reading about painting with ice, the spooky popcorn Halloween hand, and the egg carton spider. There are also links to other sites of interest to moms with tots, and preschool craft books, all to help turn a rainy day frown upside down.

B    is for beautiful. Yes, pretty much everything is beautiful on B is for Bel. With a tagline of "everything that makes you go ooohhh..." this site is the realm of one Belly B, aka Bel. A lovely Singaporean lass in college in Australia, Bel creates her own world of sweetness and light. When I visited, she tackled the disturbing issue of how to keep and wear bobby pins, with a minimum of words and a bright pink drawing. Bel is no bubblehead, though. She has 25 categories of posts, including ones on Technology, Science and Architecture as well as Beauty & Fashion, Weddings and Design. And there are helpful tips and tricks, too, like how to overcome sugar cravings, how to make a perfect hair bun, and how to create your own fashion-forward bleached clothes accents. You can't help but feel more beautiful yourself after visiting Bel.

D id you see that?! That's part of the fun at Mighty Optical Illusions. If what you see everyday isn't confusing enough, this site is for you. There are all sorts of optical illusions, a handful of which you can see right on the homepage. You can also choose the Random Illusions - who knows that you'll see there. There are also videos, illusion tests and favorite illusions, and you can get widgets for Chrome, Mac, Windows or your iPhone. Or you can browse through more than 30 categories and see such illusions as impossible buildings, startling body paint, audio and video illusions, and baffling stereograms. Not surprisingly, M.C. Escher's creations have a prominent role, popping up in various categories. You can rate illusions, submit one of your own, or just spend hours on this site seeing things you couldn't otherwise imagine.

P lease push start. Before you're ready to do that, you'll want to visit Let's Make Robots. If you always have wanted to build a robot, this site will get you started, then get you - and your robot - going. It starts with a beginner's project that helps you build an operating robot. Like all listings, it gives you an overview of the project - cost, materials, ease, time and specs - as well as video and text tutorials. There are also robot-building tips, blogs, reviews, challenges, forums where you can ask any questions about your projects, and shops from around the world that supply parts. The heart of the site, though, are the robot designs. There are tank bots, drum machines, photoheads, robot bees, friendly bots, rovers and even Puff, the Magic Fire Breathing-Fighting Dragon. It's all facilitated, unmitigated fun for people for whom pushing start is the final frontier.

JUNE 2012

T axi! You can step into the world's most amazing cab virtually at the Ultimate Taxi. Once you get past the retro look and the piles of ads on this site, you can have some real fun getting to know Jon Barnes, your driver. Since 1984, Barnes has been ferrying tourists and celebrities around Aspen, Colorado, in his 1978 yellow Checker cab. Through the years, he's has added a dizzying collection of electronic keyboards, drums, lasers, light and fog machines until, by the early 1990s, the taxi became a celebrity itself and Barnes began focusing more on entertaining that getting people from place to place. On the site, you can learn about the cab's sound and light systems and see photos of famous and regular folks who've ridden in it. Barnes even transmits directly to the Internet from the taxi. So, please, step right inside ....

R eady, set, analyze! That's what you can do at Kaggle. The folks behind the site realized that most companies, governments and researchers aren't able to get the most value from their data. Meanwhile, there are apparently a lot of scientists who crave real data to develop their techniques. Kaggle has figured out how to match up thousands of PhDs from fields including computer science, statistics, econometrics, math and physics from more than 100 countries with the organizations with the data. The scientists also meet, network, collaborate, compete with other scientists - and they get prize money from the data sources. According to the site, Kaggle has always outperformed pre-existing accuracy benchmarks. On the site you can read case studies, start your own competition, see existing ones, and contribute to the site's wiki. Now go!

C ool! In fact, every thing you find on The Cool Hunter is just that. Indeed, since 2004, founder Bill Tikos and his team from the ACCESS Agency, the multi-disciplinary creative ideas agency and one-of-a-kind resource hub, has been committed to "roaming the UK and the globe so you're in the know." What you'll know about, in brilliantly colored photographs and videos, is, well, a little bit about everything, including Ads, Architecture, Art, Design, Events, Fashion, Food, Gadgets, House, Kids, Lifestyle, Music, News, Offices, Transportation, Travel and treehouses. Monthly, more than 1.8 million readers enjoy such delights as a Star Wars GPS system, Spanish leather purses, a treehouse with a swirling ramp, a German architectural playground, stylish running sneakers, and a retro speedboat. Now that's cool!

T hey come from the future. That's the promise of io9, and the folks who run the site keep their word. Editor-in-Chief Annalee Newitz describes the site as a "lifestyle magazine for the future," that blurs the line between science and science fiction, providing, if you will, the "entertainment side of science." And they do a good job of it, updating the stories daily. When I visited, there was news about a caterpillar that looks like it's made of clear plastic, the best comic book movies of all time, a millionaire determined to defy gravity, and the way the world just might end, among many, many articles. There are top stories, the most popular ones and an active forum area, which is not a surprise, since 10,000 other people were visiting the site the same time as I was. io9 is fresh, fun and full of news you won't find anywhere else - at least not in the present.

C ome on in and sit a while.... That's just what you'll want to do at The Lettered Cottage. Southerners Kevin and Layla Palmer have treated this lovely blog as their playground, and, as they say, passion pushes their swing. That means the site is full of the things they love, and you are likely to love them, too. It doesn't hurt that TLC is graphically gorgeous, but that's no surprise from two people who care about their surroundings. Their style is evident everywhere from their own house to the lucious photographs that illustrate their posts. You can read favorite and other posts as well as HGTV articles, watch their videos, learn from how-to articles, submit your own problem room for Layla to make over, enjoy their Guest My Nest projects, or buy books, tutorials and photographs in their shop. All in all, it's almost like visiting your auntie in Albama ....

MAY 2012

et there from here. That task is made easier if you're a part of Waze. Waze is a social mobile application that you can use on your smart phone to help you find the best way to get to where you want to be in real time, which is especially helpful if you're a commuter. You just leave the application open while you are driving and the map automatically updates. If you get stuck in traffic, a red line appears by your car to warn others to avoid that spot. And, while you're stuck, you can send reports about accidents, construction work, speed traps - even photos. When you get to work or home, you can update maps on the site via your desktop computer. If this is all too serious for you, keep your eyes open on the map as you travel for treasure chests and other goodies for the chance to earn extra points or win real-world prizes. And that will get me where I want to go.

A s big as all outdoors. Actually, we're talking even bigger, at The Scale of the Universe 2. If you want to get an idea of how big - and small - things are, this is the site for you. First, you simply click on the "Start" button. That takes you to an innocent looking page with various items including a human, a flower, a giant earthworm and a hummingbird. When you start sliding the button below these images to the left, you begin seeing smaller and smaller items, from a grain of rice to a clay particle to an atom to, finally, quantum foam. Slide it to the right, and larger things appear, from the Eiffel Tower to Ganymede to the Stingray Nebula to, finally, the Observable Universe. What makes this site so amazing is all the things in between, in living color, all in relation to each other, indoors and out.

I n bloom. That's the best way to describe the site for Walters Gardens. This Michigan-based company - the nation's leading wholesale grower of perennials - has put together a well-organized and beautiful resource for green industry professionals and home gardeners. It starts on the homepage, where each of these audiences as well as members of the media are directed through their own portals. In each section - yes, I peeked - each group finds the resources it most wants and is spoken to directly, rather than asking everyone to adjust to a more general presentation. The centerpiece, though, is its amazing database of 2,000 varieties of perennials. There are also design and care tips, helpful resources, inspirational quotes, gardening calendars, and loads of information for the pros. Yes, the folks at Walters Gardens totally understand how to put together a well-rounded, full bodied Web site that looks and works like a garden at its peak.

W hat do you do in your free time? In his, Tomas, who lives in Goteborg, Sweden, has created a site with some of his favorite things called One Motion. There is a lovely essay about Goteborg Now and Then - even though it's in Swedish, anyone can enjoy the historic and current photos - and some other fun games and fancies. Take the disturbingly realistic spider, to which you can feed insects while you're not dragging it around with the cursor (yes, it's a little spooky). There are also pursuits like the Snake Game, where you help the reptile catch mice. You can play Asteroids or Tetris, sketch and paint, spin records like a real DJ, break dance vicariously through three young men, and play a drum machine. These and the other playthings on the site are enough to occupy hours, having fun in your own free time.

R ock on! You can do just that, English style, at The Word. Since 2003, this monthly print magazine has covered rock music, films, books and television for, as they say, "people old enough to still want something substantial to read." They've interviewed hundreds of people, including the biggest rock stars on the planet, such as Paul McCartney, Prince, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison, and popular culture figures such as Martin Scorsese, Samuel L. Jackson, Ricky Gervais and Malcom Gladwell. The site communicates the magazine's energy and content well, with videos, podcasts, reviews, T-shirts, blog posts and events. And you can chime in, getting your own account so you can comment on the lively proceedings. If you think the music scene is dead, check out The Word to, well, rock on.

APRIL 2012

A    library on your lawn! That's just what you can have if you participate in the Little Free Library project. The whole idea is to have a structure big enough for a handful of books where people can take a book and leave a book. Since the first little library was built by Wisconsin resident Todd Bol to honor his mother, this movement has grown to more than 800 little libraries of all sizes and shapes in 28 states and countries. On the site, you can see some of the amazing libraries people have built (75% of them were created by their owners), buy one, buy a kit, or just download plans. You can also see press about the project, meet the team that makes it happen, and find a little library near you on a map. It's all about the magic of community, one you can join by putting a library on your lawn.

J am-packed. That's the best way to describe Lost at E Minor. This site from brothers Zolton and Zac Zavos and dozens of their clever friends delivers the latest in art, architecture, design, ecology, events, fashion, film, food, illustration, music, photography, places, trends, videos and Web sites. Despite the amazing quantity of images and information presented - which is probably why other sites hire these guys to provide content - Lost at E Minor is quite readable. The biggest challenge is deciding where to turn first, but it helps that sections are broken into digestible bits such as We're Supporting, We're Watching, We're Reading, We're Thinking, We're Listening to, We're Traveling to, We're Wearing, We're Posting and New Art. You'll never lack for the latest when visiting this bountiful site.

et a load of this! That's just what you'll do at Colossal. This image-laden site is driven by one Christopher Jobson's love of photography, architecture, design, animation, painting, drawing and installation and street art. Each week he shares roughly 30 posts about things that catch his eye, providing striking images as well as text, video and music as the site presents the work of a spectrum of fantastic artists. The archives go back to 2010, so there's plenty to sample. You can click on each month's number or just select an image and go back in time to sample previous offerings. By doing the latter, I enjoyed art, music and video coming together in Mirrored Music Video for Yuksek, and the incredible tree-trunk carvings in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, UK, but there's loads more to see on this eye-popping site.

J ust my type. Who couldn't love the work of Jessica Hische? The U.S. Postal Service does - she's designed the latest love stamp - as do Oxfam, Target, Kellogg's, Avis, Tiffany's, McSweeney's and dozens of other corporations, publications and, well, me. If you haven't already, you may also fall in love with the lettering, design and illustration of this multitalented artist. Her site includes a portfolio of her professional work and her personal projects, which includes some Web design beyond her own stunning site (my favorite part: you can choose to see the site in "Teen Girl Mode," which dresses it up in a multitude of patterns, kitties and flashing lights). If you love type and delightful style, Jessica Hische's work will delight and inspire you, just as it does me.

A    fashion mashup is just what you'll find at Fashematics. Site owner, artist, graphic and fabric print designer, animator, and creative, music video and art director Jonathan Zawada made me laugh out loud at his clever and dead-on takes on high fashion. On the site, he shows how two images - say, those of paper correction liquid and a trash bag - relate, in this case, to fashion designer Narcisco Rodriguez's black and white 2012 Resort ensemble, complete with snow-white-haired model. The homepage offers a half-dozen culture / fashion mashups, and you can also sort by artiste. How could I not immediately check out Alexander McQueen, whose creations were notably quirky? There are more than 50 other designers as well as the ability to select by components including bubble wrap, McDonald's and Zorro. Yes, this site definitely mashes together high fashion and devilish fun.

MARCH 2012

P ut that on your bulletin board! Or, if you want to share something with the world, just pin it up at Pinterest, one of the hottest new sites on the Web. This virtual bulletin board is the perfect place to put up images, but you can also comment on other people's posts, "like" them (like you do on Facebook), or repin them on your own space at this popular site. At this point, you have to request an invitation to join, but while you're waiting, there are more than 30 categories to browse through, or you can search for your favorite topics. People are using Pinterest to put up pictures they like as well as for planning parties, redecorating their homes, saving recipes, and trying out new styles, all totally virtually. Whatever your interests, now you know where to pin them.

A h, the simple things in life. Like skipping stones across the water. Now even that, though, involves records and tournaments and, yes, Web sites. One of my favorites is Rock In River Festival. (There's also prostoneskipping.com, but it seems to be under construction right now.) The Rock in River site, which is The Official Website of the Pennsylvania Qualifying Stone Skipping Tournament, could get anyone excited about what has now apparently become a competitive sport. There are photo galleries, final tournament results, stone-skipping news, a stone skipping glossary and even video of what pros can do with a simple stone. In case you're wondering, world champion Russ Byars won with 42 skips, which is far from simple.

S tick figures unite! That's exactly whats happening at StickPage. Yes, stick figures have a home on the Web, one that's become stronger now that StickPages has teamed up with Fluidanims.com, another site devoted to these classic forms to create one of the strongest stick figure sites on the Web (now I'm curious: there are others?). This may all seem silly until you visit this visually rich site, which features 100 animated games, more than a dozen animated stick fights, more than 20 instances of stick humor, and a forum where you can discuss all things sticky. You can snag some stick wallpaper and stick T-shirts, hats, mugs and mousepads. It's all pretty enticing because the graphics and animations are so good, making you want to stick around to enjoy this truly creative site.

T ell me a story. You can do just that at Storify. A mashup of journalism and social media, this site makes it amazingly easy to create your own story by writing a headline and a little introductory copy, then searching for and adding information from existing media on the Web. You can pull story elements from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, instagram, Google and, well, anywhere on the Web. You can drag these parts into your story and comment on each as you go, then publish your masterpiece on Facebook or Twitter. The site does an amazing job making creating a story easy, fast and complete, as well as personalized. It's almost like instant research! At the same time, it maintains a personal - or professional - side that, well, brings stories to life.

P ow! Poof! Pop! It's all part of the fun at BrainPOP. Founded in 1999, BrainPOP's site offers animated, curriculum-based content to engage students, support educators, and bolster achievement. It does all this with games like the wonderful "Lure of the Labyrinth: Employee Cafeteria," in which you use various types of math to work your way through a maze. There are areas devoted to science, social studies, English, math, health, engineering and technology, and arts and music; sections that spotlight things like Black History Month; BrainPOP Jr. for younger kids; and lots of free movies. In fact, there's a whole section of free stuff, so anyone can take advantage of this impressive site that makes learning fun, no matter how old you are. And that's perfect!

Read the Finnish translation of this program at http://www.designcontest.com/show/eyeon-theweb-fi.


L et's eat our way to peace. That's the plan of the folks behind Global Table Adventure, and they want us to join them. Each week, Sasha, her daughter, Ava, and her husband, Keith (aka Mr. Picky), take us to a country through the food they eat. They share wonderful recipes, photos and stories about the food and each country. An interactive map shows you where they've "been" - they're "visiting" 196 countries alphabetically - and links you to all the posts about these spots. You can also go straight to the recipes, which are helpfully organized by type of dish, celebrations and lifestyles. Even though they only add recipes weekly, there's something happening every day, from meals and cuisines, to techniques, tidbits and travel. Beautifully conceived and designed, this site indeed gives us all a good reason to get together around a table.

H ey Dollface,ready for a little giggle water? Then click on over to Lackadaisy. When you do, you'll step into the amazing world of Tracy J. Butler, who has created an entire underground world of dames and cats, although in this case, all the characters are really cats. Butler has created 11 distinctive characters that hang around a speakeasy in St. Louis of old. There are more than 100 complete comics in gorgeous detail as well as an introduction to the characters, a glossary of era terms, fascinating explanations of how Butler creates the comics, and tutorials on how to draw and paint. There are also a gallery of early and completed drawings and guest artists' attempts at taking on the mugs of Lackadaisy. It all creates a world where throwing back a little giggle water sounds like a grand idea.

P ut it into context.When it comes to words, that's the focus of Wordnik. This clean, fast site provides definitions from multiple sources as well as related and similar words, all to help you grasp a word's meaning. The site has nearly 7 million unique words, almost a billion example sentences, more than a quarter million comments, and more than 80,000 Wordniks. Wordniks can't submit definitions yet, but in addition to lists, they can make comments in the Community section. There's a word of the day and a random word, but I like looking up a word I want to understand better and just browsing its context. For each word, in addition to lists, you get definitions from multiple sources, example sentences, and several types of related words - in short, everything you need to see how a word fits into the bigger picture of language and meaning.

C ool site. That's what you'll find at coolcapitals.com. This joint initiative of like-minded tourism offices of some of Europe's coolest locales starts off with a stylish woman with wild headgear that blows the names of the five cities across the screen. You can then just click on the names of the places - Amsterdam, Zürich, Vienna, Valencia, and Antwerp - to learn more about each city's art, architecture, food, fashion and design, making the site helpful for business and pleasure travelers. coolcapitals.com simply links to each city's own site, each of which is distinctive and comprehensive. Each site's offerings are available in several languages, and includes travel and hotel information as well as tips for meetings and events. Even if you can't jet off to one of these cities, you can enjoy them vicariously through this truly cool portal.

E ducation everywhere. For free. That's the goal of Academic Earth. It's already fulfilling its mission by sharing lessons from 15 of the United States' top universities, including Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Yale. You can select courses by university, instructor or subject, giving you a number of ways to choose which classes you want to take. All of the courses are presented as video, letting you watch and listen,back up, and watch again. You can also search for what you want, or check out playlists created by the site's editors and even create your own by setting up a free account. The playlists are fun because you can create your own "courses" and listen to the best professors regardless of school affiliation. It's all part of making education the best it can be, wherever you may be.


L ive and in color. Well, the creatures you see on TrekNature might just be photos, but they almost look like they're alive. Founded in 2004, this site has helped more than 16,000 members from 164 countries learn more about the world through nature photography. Members can show their work, critique others, and discuss picture-taking in the forums. Because the site is about the world, you can view any page in traditional or simplified Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Japanese, Lithuanian, Portuguese and Russian. You can browse photos by continent, country, region, state or city, and rate them as you go. You can also enjoy travelogues and take part in workshops that allow you to compare a post-critique photo to its original. Or you can just gaze at the beautiful photographs, pretending you are there, live and in color.

T t's true. Yes, if you are wondering whether an incredible email or Web site claim is for real, Snopes is the place to go. The site rightfully bills itself as "the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumor and misinformation." Launched by professional researchers Barbara and David Mikkelson in 1995, the site is widely considered the authority on the veracity of claims such as a war-separated couple reunited by a tablecloth, deadly perfume samples,the chunky soup curse, political intrigues galore, and so much more. You can search by keywords - handy for cutting and pasting from emails or sites - browse more than 40 categories, check out the top 25 urban legends, and take a spin with the Randomzier. Wherever you turn, you can trust Snopes to be fascinating and true.

W orth thinking about. That's the sort of thing you'll find at Marc and Angel Hack Life. This charming couple shares its original outlook and opinions about life, productivity, hopes, health, work, tech and general self improvement through this fascinating blog. Recent posts shared practical ideas on "30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself," "95 Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness," and "60 Tiny Love Stories to Make You Smile," any of which could occupy you for hours. Once you have, you can make comments about the articles, and plenty of people have. You can also browse popular posts and the more than 20 categories that range from Aspirations to Weddings. There's some tech stuff sprinkled in, too, as well as links to other sites they like. Well organized and well thought out, this site is definitely worth your time and energy.

P aper to pixels. That's been the route for More Intelligent Life. Yes, the lifestyle and culture magazine Intelligent Life is now printed and then trickled out onto the Web during its bimonthly shelf life, then tossed lightly with a mixture of additional features, profiles, interviews and multimedia productions. Under the headings of Ideas, Lifestyle, Arts and Places, you'll find a broad range of articles covering style, food, wine, cars and travel dished up with, as they say, "crisp prose, dry wit and free thinking." When I visited, the Ideas section alone delved into inventions, early childhood and the global arms race. You can check in on the editor's blog, see the most popular and most commented upon stories, search, follow, subscribe and sign up for the site's newsletter, making this Web edition worth the trip.

W ould that chair look better by the door or near the couch? Whether you're a professional or just want your house to look like one designed it, Houzz is the site for you. It's no surprise that its own design is handsome, but the organization and its comprehensiveness is unusually impressive. You can browse by seven styles or by 21 different indoor or outdoor spaces, including bedrooms, kitchens, kids rooms, porches and wine cellars. Then browse through 200,000 photos and create your own ideabooks so that you can conceive or actually create the home of your dreams. You can browse through others' ideabooks, ask questions, and look at products. If you're a design professional, the site lets you offer your services, or if you're looking for someone to help you, you'll likely find them among the 30,000 architects and designers listed. It's all free, and all perfectly positioned.

Thanks for visiting, and come back next month for more fun from Eye on the Web.

Meanwhile, please visit our sponsor, sculptor Kevin Caron.

If you're looking for current shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2011 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2010 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2009 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2008 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2007 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for 2006 shows, please click here.

If you're looking for shows before 2006, please click here.

And come back next month for more fun from Eye on the Web.

Check out the inspired creations of our sponsor, sculptor Kevin Caron.