Eye on the Web, with Mary Westheimer

rear vision, 2006

"Perhaps you enjoyed these sites in a 2006 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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W ith the population increasing exponentially, it's hard to believe there are towns that have been completely abandoned. In fact, there are probably hundreds of them in the United States alone. But many have not been entirely forgotten, as you'll discover when you visit the Web site Ghost Towns. Launched in 1998, this site has a homegrown feel, with a patterned background and - unfortunately - corny music on key pages. But the content makes it worth your while. They've included information on ghost towns in all 50 U.S. states, with histories of and directions to most if not all of them. There are also books and videos, tours, a ghost town scavenger hunt and a forum. With the Internet rush behind us, Ghost Towns itself seems not unlike its subjects, but it's the sort of site that should never be abandoned on the Web.

H ere, boy! Here! Those words might be yours after visiting Adopt Me. Yes, you can adopt any one of a number of pets, including a dog, a cat, a fish, or even a snake, and generally enjoy all the benefits of pet ownership without having to pick up any nasty messes or pay any real vet bills - although you do need to feed them to maintain their happiness level. You can teach your new pet tricks, enter it in contests, reward it for good behavior, groom and feed it. (My virtual pet python, Slither, loved the fish at the Japanese restaurant!) And you can have as many virtual pets as you want, with a variety of settings and talents. The site's graphics make this a fun site for kids to learn something about the responsibilities of having a pet, while helping parents determine if their kids are ready for the real thing. Or it might just be the perfect way for an apartment dweller to have their own pet. The only thing missing is a big wet lick at the end of a long day....

I t's a-MAiZing! Visit The Maize and you, too, will be shaking your head in, uh, amazement. Indeed, the clips given to these cornfields throughout the United States and in six other countries are quite incredible, with everything from a tribute to Johnny Cash to leaping fish, silos and barns. These mazes are all created by one company, working with farm owners and organizations in each location. After 10 years, the company has created more than 1,000 cornfield mazes, with more than 180 this season alone. Yes, these works of art only last one year, making the effort that goes into them even more impressive. The site not only helps you find cornfield mazes near you, it also tells you how you can have your very own (if you have your own cornfield, of course). It also offers a school field trip section and corn facts. If nothing else, you can enjoy the very fact that people make a living shaving pictures out of crops. Now that's amazing!

S ssssso I hear you're interested in my sssssite, Kingsnake.com. Well, no wonder! It'ssss full of wonderful information about me and my compadressss: frogs, turtles, tortissssses and other reptilian rassscalsss. You'll find information about breeders, dealers and sssuppliersss; classssifieds; message boardsssss; organizationssss; eventsss; care sheetsssss; books and videossss; product reviewssss; a photo gallery; pet lossss and even a pet store locator. And you'll find hundreds of linksss to showssss, art, clothing, giftsssss, importers and exporterssss, zoos, reptile rescue, trauma centerssss, and other sitessss. Yessss, you'll really be able to wrap your mind around everything reptilian when you vissssit my awessssome ssssite.


F or news, press ... display. That's as in PressDisplay.com. This is a remarkable site that offers access to 300 newspapers from more than 60 countries on the day they are published. You can sort the news by subject and reporter, look at blogs, top stories, top papers and top photos. The amazing thing is that you can actually look at a reproduction of the printed papers and navigate with their special PressReader software to scan the pages. You don't have to stop and download anysoftware, and the navigation tools are pretty self-explanatory, so you don't have to spend a lot of time learning something new. You can zoom in, email the page to a friend, blog about the page, or - what a concept! - just read it. This isn't a free site, but you can get a free seven-day subscription, and, if you want to keep up with news in other parts of the world, this is the place to ... press.

C urious things happen when science meets culture. That becomes obvious when visiting the fascinating site Phylotaxis. This graphically gorgeous site is more than just another pretty place, however. Sponsored by Seed Media, Phylotaxis is the work of artist David Harris. There you'll see on your screen a vibrating mass of colorful beads that are populated automatically every few hours by a computer program that scours a number of online news sources and blogs that focus on science. When you run your mouse over the individual balls, headlines pop up. Click on one, and you learn more about the story. The combination of the imagery and the stories can be mesmerizing as you begin to relate subjects that you might not before have connected. Such curious discoveries are a particular delight when they are beautiful, to boot.

B ully for bluff buffs! One visit to Blufr and you'll see right away how bluffing and trivia go hand in hand. Indeed, Blufr turns trivia into an addictive, rollicking online game where you can compete with other trivia fans around the world. A simple bit of trivia is posed, and you then rate it true or false ... and get to see how many other people were fooled or flattered by their answers. You can email the question to a friend, embed it, add a bluf, or look at top scores and top blufs, random blufs and tag clouds. There are also other fun touches, such as ways to link to your blog and online accounts. But my favorite part is that the answers are linked to information in blufr's parent company's site, Answers.com, providing information in context. Why, it's practically educational! And I'm not bluffing!

W ant something to really chew on? The site The World's Healthiest Foods will give you just that, and it will be good for you, too! From almonds to yogurt, this site provides detailed information about 130 foods that are delicious and nutrient rich. Sponsored by the nonprofit George Mateljan Foundation, the site provides information about the health benefits, history, selection, storage, nutritional content and preparation of each food, as well as spotlighting a food of the week, recipe of the week, a menu for the day, and a Q&A with George himself, the founder of Health Valley Foods. There's also a food survey that helps you pick out the right foods for you, information about organic foods, foods that are good - or bad - for people with certain conditions, and information about meal planning and healthy eating. You can also find information on vitamins contained in food, as well as vitamin supplements. Uh, well, I've gotta go - after spending time on this site, I'm starved!


W hen in Rome, greet as the Romans. That's the premise behind the site The Business of Touch, which helps business people learn how to greet colleagues in 15 different countries. In business, as in any relationship, that first impression can be critical, something Aquent, the company that sponsors the site, should know - its business is helping companies put to work people, processes and technology most effectively. The site is a good demonstration of their work: it's clean, elegant, well-conceived and clear. Choose any one of the 15 countries, and a text explanation as well as an animated illustration of the specific greeting appears, complete with audio. If you'd like to comment on the segment, you can add your thoughts easily, or just read others people's input. And that makes the Business of Touch a good way to get to know other cultures.

O ooooh! Did you see that one? It looks like a hippo! Oh! Sorry, I was just lying here on my back, watching the clouds float by. I was inspired by The Cloud Appreciation Society, a fantastic site for those who, as it says, aren't ashamed to admit they love the fluffy fellows. In fact, the site even has a manifesto that celebrates clouds and those who love them. Yes, this site is practically a support group for cloud-lovers, even if they are hardly maligned. Just check out the cloud photo gallery with more than 1,500 photos of clouds contributed by enthusiasts - including photos of clouds that resemble things. There's also a cloud of the month, cloud art, cloud verse and a cloud chat area. You can even become a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society or buy a copy of The Cloudspotter's Guide. Indeed, this site looks like ... a winner!

B lack, white, cerulean; high, rounded, elegantly simple .... You'll see turbans of all shapes, sizes and colors at the charming site Rate My Turban. You can see the most popular turban, check out the day's super turbans and the Turban Hall of Fame, meet some of the turban wearers, learn to tie a turban, and even submit your own for rating. Or you can just be mesmerized by the centerpiece of the site: the simple opportunity to see different turbans and rate them from one to ten - you don't even have to hit "go" to give your opinion on each look. You can focus on just men's or just women's turbans or turbans worn by certain age groups, or even look at some of the previous turbans and rate them. And you won't be alone: the nearly 600 turbans on the site have been rated more than 435,000 times! On a scale of one to ten, this site rates an easy eight!

Q QF! According to the site AbbreviationZ, that means Quite Quite Fantastic in the business world, although I think it'd work just about anywhere. And it could be just the label for this word lovers site. You can search through more than 357,000 abbreviations and acronyms in more than 130 categories. Search for an exact phrase, the beginning of a phrase, do a reverse look up, or even run a metasearch of a number of sites at the same time. You can also submit entries, become an editor or - this is a neat feature - add a little tool to your browser to let you decipher acronyms and abbreviations on the fly. If you're a Mac user, there's a free widget, too, that lets you paste any acronym or abbreviation in it for translation. Ah, technology! You'd just have to wonder, if he had access to this site, WWWD (that's "What Would Webster Do").


S ome people live for their cars. Others apparently live with them. That's easy to believe when you see the luxurious accommodations on view at UltimateGarages.net. You'll see places on this classy site that are nicer than many peoples' homes, and the cars are truly drooly, and oh, the accessories! Yes, this baby is one sweet ride. You'll find tips for tricking out your garage as well as practical ways to improve it, and you can ask questions or read advice the experts have already given others. You can even submit your own tips. But that's not all! They have listings of events, reviews of products, an awesome Swap Meet where you can post items for sale or things you're seeking, and track your own listings. At some point, they're going to add an Online Store, too, and as this site develops, it could end up being the ultimate site for garage and car enthusiasts.

I s there anything to see at a site about black holes? Indeed, Black Holes is definitely worth getting sucked into. Brought to you by the Space Telescope Science Institute, this wonderful site is full of powerful images and information. Although I usually skip animated site introductions, this short movie is well-worth viewing. Once inside, you can enjoy the Journey to a Black Hole. Before you take off, you can drag a viewfinder around space, revealing various planets and other destinations, learn about X-rays, visible light and radio waves before you shoot into space to visit a black hole. The journey is simply amazing, bringing the outer world into focus in a way other media just can't. There's also an encyclopedia with information and experiments, and tons of links. One of the best sites I've ever seen, this one is anything but a black hole.

A laska is all about the outdoors. In wintertime, most people may want to stay inside in the U.S.'s most northern state, but those who love being in the wild will almost certainly enjoy Alaska Outdoors. Whatever your interest in outside adventure, if it happens in Alaska, you'll likely find information about it through this site. You can charter fishing, hunting and ATV trips, connect to an eco-tour or arrange for bear and wildlife watching. You'll also find river rafting, canoeing and kayaking, snowmobile tours, hotels, cabin rentals, bed and breakfasts, travel and booking agents, air charters and air taxis, campground and RV parks - and even RV rentals, if you don't plan to take one of your own. If you're thinking of going to Alaska, this site will help connect you to the people who can help you get where you want to go, and do what you want to do once you get there.

Z ZZzzzzzzzz! You can find out what all the buzz is about at StyleHive. This new site leverages the contributory power of the Web much like popular destinations such as MySpace and YouTube. Like these blockbuster sites, StyleHive uses what are called tags, or keywords, to help you find and contribute your own tips and opinions. In this case, the subject's the clothing, accessories and other products that constitute an ever-changing world of fashion and style (oh, can't you just hear the clothing companies circling to promote their wares!). You can register to file your own views, or simply search or browse through various tags or subjects. I discovered this site when one of Kevin Caron's sculptures got tagged during the site's beta phase. With StyleHive now elevated to alpha state, I suspect you'll be hearing more about it. So rev up and check it out now to be part of getting this site humming.


I n the beginning, there was the directory. Yes, Yahoo was the first attempt to index the World Wide Web. Then search engines like Excite, Altavista and Google - which use sophisticated computer programs to do the indexing - came along, and, boy, did they take off. Now the Web is taking a step back with human-driven indexes like PreFound. Oh, you can just go to the site and search for your favorite topics like any of the well-known sources, but you can also contribute to PreFound by becoming a finder. In fact, PreFound is seeking people to become finders, and in some cases they even pay for links. They like them in chunks - when you search, you'll discover that the matches come back in groups. While you may not use PreFound right now for a fast search on a specific topic, if you're ready for an adventure, this is a great place to begin.

T he word "model" takes on new meaning in the work of sculptor Antony Gormley. That work - and the process and analysis that surround it - takes special shape on the site AntonyGormley.com. This well-known British artist has used his own body as the starting point for his art, and the full-size figures many of his pieces embody are remarkable. And the site reflects Gormley's fresh look at the world. You have the option to view the site full-screen, which removes other distractions as you navigate through a somewhat unusual approach to the Web. You can do a linear Walkthrough of the site, looking at his work through the years, read about Gormley in Archives and Texts, and view photo essays on a number of subjects, including a fascinating one on the body-casting process. With his site, Gormley has created his own world, where you can enjoy a full-size version of a very special place.

H ours of free folding fun can be found at PaperToys. Indeed, more than 70 plans for fold-up models can be printed from the site. But these are no ordinary toys! You'll find plans for the Eiffel Tower, an old Volkswagen bug, Mount Rushmore, Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Stratocaster guitar and Bill Gates' house (although the latter takes two pages to make the whole thing). The site also has a nifty feature that lets you easily email each plan to friends, right from the site. The site sponsors will even make custom fold-up toys for you, some of which you can view. There are other fun things to do, too, including free software to let children write their own audio stories. The heart of the site, though, is the paper fold-ups, and they're something you can enjoy instantly.

A All aboard! Anyone can enjoy the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum, but train and history buffs will be immediately entranced. This isn't a slick site, yet people wouldn't come to it to see the latest in Web design. Instead, you'll find amazing photos, drawings and maps about the people, places and times when railroads expanded across the United States, opening its wide expanses to the world. The challenges of the enterprises - from chicanery to smallpox to natural barriers - is covered in great detail, with lots of links from one section to the next to keep you constantly clicking, much as the trains themselves finally rolled across the tracks. While most sites avoid lots of text, this one gives you plenty to read as you learn the good and the bad about a bygone time. Destination: history!

JULY 2006

T ake off! That's just what your imagination and memories can do when you visit Roadable Times. This clean and simple site shares the history of what it calls "the ultimate man-made machine," the flying car. It features more than 70 designs that go back as far as 1918 and range into the present, with varying degrees of success. Reading about the backgrounds of the vehicles, such as that of the Dragonfly, is fascinating, and almost enough to make me want to try them out. There are integrated designs (which feature a car that can be flown and driven), modular approaches, and vehicles that can take off and land vertically. Each listing has photos and more information, including links to the designers of the crafts. There are also resources for designers and builders, for this is one dream that continues to live on.

O pen your eyes to a lively Spanish art scene through the site Barcelona Street Art. It was put together by Justin Case, an artist, photographer, illustrator and apparently all-around cool guy who shares his art in Dublin, London, Madrid, Berlin and selected airports, in addition to Barcelona. The site includes some of Case's work as well as that of many other artists. You'll see what some may dismiss as graffiti but many others hail as art that surprises us when we sometimes most need it. The site features more than 300 pieces. You get a peek at each, then can click on them to see the work in all its glory - and, often, context. Some of the images load a little slowly, but the time is worth getting a gander at this eye-popping art.

T he death of the letter has been greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase American writer Mark Twain. That's the point of Rivertrout.com, a site that shares letters and brings together people who love them. And it does it in a most elegant way, with classy graphics and clean design. But these aren't just any letters. As the site's hosts explain in their submission information, they seek what they call "Literary Letters," those that tell a story, convey feelings and move readers. Indeed, these expressions of hope, passion and reason do just that. Most are in text, and a few are available in audio. They all, though, seem to create a sense of people, place, of energy, reality and mystery. And that is the essence of life.

S mart mouth! That's just what you can become by visiting BrainyQuote. The site celebrates the wise and wonderful things people have said throughout history, which comes in handy when I'm trying to remember a clever statement by someone. I like it because it's easy to search, but there's a lot more to it than its fast search engine. You'll find a quote of the day, which you can add to your Web site or blog, quotes arranged into 40 topic categories, quotes alphabetically by author's last name, and quotes by more than 60 types of writers. You'll also learn about celebrity birthdays, and can browse the wise words of the most favorite authors. All of this is then cross-referenced in each listing, letting you quickly absorb the information, which makes it easy for you to sound brilliant.

JUNE 2006

S ometimes it takes seeing to believe. Now we all know that not everything we see online is real, but sometimes we get to see things that are made to look real, and they can be amazing. Such is the case with SandFantasy, the site of artist Ilana Yahav. Now this isn't a site you go to to be wowed by how wonderfully it's designed or organized, but one, rather, you visit to see what you'd otherwise have to travel to faraway places to experience. Fortunately for us, Web video allows us to see Yahav's incredible animated creations, which she makes using sand on a glass table. Using specific song lyrics and themes, she creates flowing stories that you can hardly believe are made with such simple tools. The site enables you to see six different videos, all performed to inspiring music. And that is definitely worth seeing.

Y ou can meet the most interesting people online. Not all of them, of course, are real. Take, for instance, Mary Woodbridge. Or perhaps she'll take you, because Mary is the brainchild of a very creative advertising campaign for a climbing gear company. This fabrication makes Mary Woodbridge's Everest Expedition that much more fun. This delightful English site introduces us to Mary, a charming 85-year-old woman who is preparing to climb Mt. Everest with her dachsund, Daisy. You can peek in on their training, learn about their route, find out more about Mary's idols and her fans, read some of Mary's tips and sign her guestbook. Mary even has a merchandising area, which, in the most gracious way, pokes fun at sites that sell advertising schlock. On every page, you can see an ad for her sponsor, which we really must thank for introducing us to such a lovely person!

S ay it's so! That's exactly what the site American Rhetoric does, in the most elegant of style. This graphically attractive, well-organized site speaks to "the power of oratory in the United States" in a variety of fascinating ways. I found the top 100 speeches, the most requested talks, movie speeches and short audio clips. And that was just on the homepage! The heart of the site, though, is its bank of more than 5,000 speeches in print, audio and video. You'll also find historic information about rhetoric, long and helpful lists of rhetoric publications and organizations, a rhetoric quiz and a fascinating account of an incident involving the flamboyant basketball player Dennis Rodman and a referee from different perspectives. That's worth a visit in itself! But once you're there, you'll see so much more to investigate. And that's worth shouting about!

T here's a new town in town. At least that's what it seems like when you visit TagWorld. It's an online community that has music, photos, blogs, video, Web sites, interactive classifieds - and 1.6 million inhabitants. Like MySpace before it, TagWorld is integrating various forms of media and technology, including, in its case, major record label power and Flickr photo capabilities, and attracting lots of people who are looking to connect. This online community touts tags - which it describes as ways to identify and organize items - as the glue that holds all of this together. The site is slick, and I'm sure attractive to a younger set, as evidenced by its posts, photos and music options. TagWorld's volume is metaphorically loud, and I suspect that's just the way its investors like it and its participants feel most at home.

MAY 2006

T here's nothing as easy to believe as a hoax. If you don't believe that, take the gullibility test at the wonderful Museum of Hoaxes. It's just one of the wonderful aspects of this site devoted to deception, intentional or not. You'll find nearly 50 categories of chicanery, as well as the 10 best hoaxes of all time, the best (and worst) April Fool's jokes, the top 10 college pranks, tall tales about creatures, photo hoaxes and so much more. You'll even find a list of links to Web sites that are themselves hoaxes - what better place than the Net to create something that certainly seems real, but really isn't! This lively site's forum is full of other people's input and insights, but most of the credit must go to host Alex Boese, who has written two books on the subject, and who has put together a thorough and well-written collection of information that is well-presented and easy to navigate. And that's the truth!

W hen you're a kid, a mashup usually involves something like peas. Now that we're grown up (at least theoretically), we can turn to the Web for an entirely different sort of mashup. That's the term for a site that seamlessly combines technology from another site with your own to create something new altogether. One popular mashup is Platial. It bills itself as "The People's Atlas," giving us all a chance to leave our mark on the world. Well, the virtual world, that is. Platial uses Google maps, which are quite amazing in themselves, to help you create your own collections of interesting spots, or find others' favorites. The latter is easy - you just type in any specific interests and a location. Up pops a map showing those spots that have been entered by people like you. You can see photos, detailed information, email the listing to a friend, or add it to Your Places on the site. Or you can add your own maps easily enough, all without making your mom mad!

H ave a seat. The World Toilet Organization wants you to do just that, but do it safely. This is a site that you might think at first is a joke, then you realize that it's for real, and it's really worthwhile. Devoted to the need for better toilet standards throughout the world, the Singapore-based WTO and its site provides a way to promote and exchange ideas, health and cultural issues. You'll find information about Toilet College, Toilet Summits and Toilet Expos, and you can even play the online game Urgent!, which, as the site says, "aims to educate toilet users on proper toilet hygiene and toilet etiquettes." You can also download the world toilet song, "Secret Garden." If it sounds like I'm making fun of the site, I'm not - it has important articles, information about events, products, design advisories and other concerns. It's just that somehow, they've made toilets fun. So sit awhile, and enjoy!

I t's front page news. But at Digg, you help decide what is worthy of that visibility. Combining "social bookmarking" (whatever that is) blogging, RSS and non-hierarchical editorial control, digg is a news source that allows users to submit stories and also rank which ones are most important. It's a little unnerving that the site doesn't say who is behind it, but then, if you don't like it, you don't have to go there, or take advantage of the ability to upload stories, put stories from digg on your own site, or rate them. A lot of people do, though, so there is much information and activity. While you're there, you can add your own comments, blog, email stories, browse the categories, and even spy on what stories are being added, as it happens, and it happens fast. Now that's front page news at the speed of the Net!

APRIL 2006

Open quotation mark Is knot! Is, too!" Indeed, of all the sites I've ever seen, Animated Knots by Grog may be the most useful ever. It's one thing to show how finished knots should look, but this wonderful site actually demonstrates how nearly 75 knots are tied. You can find the knots through an alphabetical list or browse by Boating, Climbing, Fishing, Scouting and Search and Rescue categories. This is definitely no joke - a bad knot in any of these cases might be the difference between life and death. Then each listing provides detailed written directions, information about the knot's features, uses and advantages, and - best of all - there's the video, which you can slow down or speed up, or even stop at various stages. There is also information on Knot Care and background on how the site was put together. It's all interesting, clearly presented and valuable. And I'm knot kidding (sorry!).

S o let's see what you've got. If you have video, YouTube is just the place to do it. Founded in early 2005 by some PayPal pioneers, YouTube is a free and easy way for people to watch and share original videos worldwide. Much like the early days of the Internet, sharing video online was a mishmash of multimedia formats, huge files and convoluted uploading methods. Now YouTube has simplified the process, and already more than 6 million videos, created by hundreds of thousands of active members, are served daily. YouTube is well-conceived, with lots of thoughtful goodies, such as ways to select the most recently added or top-watched videos, to browse by subject, comment on and rate videos, see details about them, and even easily add them to your own site. And did I mention that viewing them as is easy as a single click? Best of all for video buffs is the opportunity to add your own, so we can all see exactly what you've got.

I 'm not sure I see it. But then, that may be because the images at coverpop are pretty tiny. No problem! Slide your mouse over each one, and up pops, well, something, depending upon which coverpop subject you're viewing. There're more than 20 different categories, including movies and books, vintage pulp, Harry Potter, musical instruments and cds/dvds. But it's not always as simple (or crazy) as it appears. For instance, on the musical instruments page, what you're really viewing is every guitar available on Amazon.com, and you can click through to learn more about each instrument ... and buy it. The same is true for drums and keyboards and ... well, you can see where this is going. While not every subject area has this purchase feature, the ability to just see these intricate collages and zoom in on their components is a treat in itself. Just one of the remarkable sites from Jim "Krazydad" Bumgardner, this is definitely a site worth seeing up close.

W hat is it like, exactly, to live in Alaska? The site Wrangell, Alaska is dedicated to sharing the many facets of life in this town on the northern tip of an island southeast of Juneau. Oddly enough, I had to use another site's map service to find exactly where Wrangell is, but perhaps this remote town feels so, well, self-contained that its place in the world at large isn't that important. Among many other subjects, the site does provide information about the history and culture of Wrangell, which has been occupied for as many as 8,000 years. I enjoyed learning about its part in three major gold rushes and the Chief Shakes Tribal House, which is on a small island that's accessed by a pile-supported walkway. The site shares information about contemporary Wrangell, too, with news and an events calendar, insights about the town's economic climate, and a directory of local businesses - just the sorts of things you'd want to know if you were considering moving to Alaska.

MARCH 2006

I once had a math teacher who wouldn't touch money because he never knew where it had been. Too bad Where's George? wasn't around back then. Yes, this site tracks U.S. currency - dollar bills, fives, tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds - and there's even a companion site called Where's Willy that tracks Canadian currency. This is no one-note wonder, though. It's a complex, even scientific site that lets you enter the bill's serial number, series and your zip code as well as any comments, then tracks it as travels from hand to hand. The site can even tell you where the bill has been (if it's been registered before) and where it's gone, if it shows up again, noting travel time, distance and average speed, including a map of its journey. It helps, of course, if you write wheresgeorge.com on the bill, which I've done. Hmmm, maybe it'll end up with my former math teacher.

D oes anyone not have enough to do anymore? Apparently so, because sites like blifaloo.com are full of what they call "boredom relief": magic tricks, riddles, puzzles, games, cartoons, jokes, optical illusions, quizzes and useless information that can keep you busy for weeks if not months or years. Actually, some of it is quite interesting and not nearly as useless as they claim. I was fascinated by the information about detecting lying through observation of eye and body movement, and I'll be checking my bookcases for some of the rare books mentioned. Even games like Fish Eat Fish are pretty darn good ways to improve hand-eye coordination. But then there are things like the Soothing Beans optical illusion that just makes me queasy, but certainly less bored than I might have been if I hadn't been researching this radio show. That's why I have so much to do ... yeah! It just happens that some of it involves the sort of fun activities you find at blifaloo.com.

W hat goes around, comes around. At least it does at the gorgeous site Their Circular Life. This Italian beauty uses Flash technology to fascinating advantage, letting you get a well-rounded view of doings in five different locations. Through video and sound, you are transported to each of them, where you can then control the pace of a full day, slowly shifting the scenes to soak in the surroundings or speeding through them to capture the essence of place. Either way, you can watch and hear as dawn lights the setting, and see people pass through as the day lengthens and turns back into night. There are peaceful spots like a quiet lake, romantic locations like a Venetian canal, and busy locales like the Modena Railway Station. The images are clear and striking; the sounds make you feel like you're right there, participating. You can even share your feelings about the experience. Then, if you wish, you can start all over again ....

H ow do I love thee? Let me count the ways. In the case of 300 Love Letters, the quantity is impressive. So is this sweet little site, produced by a woman named Asia, who was inspired by the value of human connection and the realization that writing this many love letters - some to strangers, some to family, some to friends - could only make the exercise easier and therefore something that would probably get done more often. It's not fancy, this site, but there's a raw intimacy to it that makes me feel like I'm peering into the corners of someone else's most private life. The index is an intriguing matrix of 400 colored blocks, which suggests some of the letters may not be so loving, but I never found any. The colors appear random, but actually are coded in a way to let you read letters to specific people, or types of people, while the order is chronological. All in all, there are a lot of ways to like this site.


F inding new music is as simple as knowing what you already like. That's the revolutionary premise of the site Pandora. Produced by a group that calls itself the Music Genome Project, the site is a fascinating exercise in the relationship between different songs. First you register, opting to pay for an ad-free experience or get it free with ads. Then you can create your own radio stations by first choosing an artist or a song. The first song is the one you've chosen or is by your selected artist. Then the site begins recommending new songs based on vocals, rhythm, instruments, tonality and other musical aspects. If you don't like its offering, you can interrupt and say so. Now you have your very own radio station that plays just your kind of music, even though you may not have ever heard some of it before, which is a great way to discover new artists. So in Pandora, you have a best friend who really knows the music business!

H ey, man! The Sixties live! Yes, you'll feel like you've gone back in time to the carefree 1960s when you visit The Practical Hippie. The site bills itself as "News and views from a forest-dwelling writer & 21st century librarian" and exhorts visitors "Don't fear the future... create it!" Now if that, and the flower-child typeface used for the site headings, doesn't make you nostalgic, you may need to turn on a Bob Dylan record to truly set the mood as you wander through this haven of free thought. You can browse two-and-a-half years of site guru Margaret Collins' blog musings, or dip into the article archive, where you'll find more than a dozen pieces on a variety of topics, such as butter being better than margarine. The site is simple, fun and hopeful, an awful lot like that era when anything seemed possible and love was the answer.

W hile the Kat's at play, the rats have a field day. At least that's what happens at RatLab, where, the site declares, "all the mad scientists go." The site is hosted by Kat, a 25-year-old microbiology Ph.D. student who says she really should be reading research papers instead of playing online. As fun as this site is, though, it provides actual answers to many of life's most perplexing questions. Among other subjects, it addresses the sensitive issue of sweat (why some people sweat more than others and why it smells), why eggs are considered a dairy product, and why some people are prone to addiction and others aren't. There are articles, do-it-at-home experiments, facts, links and a shop. You can also meet some of the young scientists, which we can only hope will be interesting to students who are seeking their way in the world. If they are, this is one rat maze that may well take them places!

B Behold the beautiful. That's exactly what you can do at Utata.org. This online salon was created by a group of photographers, writers and like-minded people who share a compelling interest in the arts, and Utata continues to evolve as they investigate the intricacies of artistic beauty. The site's sophisticated and clean design is evidence of their impeccable taste. The articles and photography then take the exercise to the next level, with dramatically beautiful photos and fascinating copy. Among other varied subjects, you can learn about life in Masterton, New Zealand, or ruminate on the joys of a good nap. You'll find many perspectives here as you poke about in the Archives, the Articles, the Columns and the Projects, or you can learn more about the artists themselves. One thing is certain, though: wherever you go in Utata, it will be beautiful.


E ven though it's virtual, a river runs through it. Indeed, the Internet has a lovely flow on the site The River Returns. This truly beautiful site, which focuses on Florida's St. John's River, is graphically gorgeous, well-organized and just plain fascinating. The river, which has animals such as manatees, houseboat residents, flying inflatable boats and a lively history featuring steamboats, sabertooth cats and European explorers (obviously not in that order!) has much to offer, and the site shares it well. There's a history timeline, audio and visual stories from people who love the river, and lots of information about what is being done to preserve this rich natural resource, as well as a whole section devoted to helping teachers share the value of waterways throughout the state of Florida. Yes, this site overflows with the bounty of St. John's River.

O h boy, just what I need: another pet! Yet, that's just what I feel I now have since visiting Racing Frogs. I suppose the site was created to promote a book, which is featured on the homepage, but once I entered the Realm of the Racing Frog, all else was forgotten! You first are walked through a sign-in process that is as clear and simple as any I've ever seen. That is perhaps in part because the site itself is so clean and simple, more like a video game than the Web sites I'm used to. Then you get to design your own frog! Within moments I had the geekiest, goofiest looking frog I've ever seen, and he's mine, all mine! Well, sort of. After about 24 hours to sort out paperwork, my frog is off to the races. There are all sorts of medals and grades and training to play with, and you can even chat with your frog. I can see how frog racing could become a new obsession! Yes! You guessed it! This site is a winner!

S upercalifragolisticexpealadosis! That's gotta be the word for the site www.thelongestlistofthelongeststuffatthelongestdomainnameatlonglast.com/. If there ever was a site to help settle a bet, this is it. It features an amazing collection of the longest, well, whatevers, in more than 200 categories, with everything from the longest Academy Awards broadcast (4 hours 17 minutes - and it got the lowest ratings ever!) to the longest zorb ball roll (323 meters, or 1,059.7 feet), with lots of fascinating trivia in between. For instance, did you know the length of the longest tongue? (3.7 inches or 9.4 cm.) Or the longest burning light bulb (lit in 1901, it's still burning!)? The best part may be that the answers go into a bit of length and even have photos, making the fun really long-lasting.

W We all dream of making a difference in this world. Alexandra "Alex" Scott did it, despite leaving us at the tender age of eight. This remarkable young woman looked beyond herself to see the bigger picture. At the age of four, Alex set up a lemonade stand to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Following her inspirational example, thousands of lemonade stands have been set up across the United States by children, schools, businesses and other organizations, all to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. As of November 2005, her national campaign has raised more than $1 million. Accordingly, the site Alex's Lemonade Stand helps enable the establishment of more lemonade stands and thus more research. The site has information about setting up a stand, grants and more, including Alex's own amazing story. If ever there was someone who turned lemons into lemonade, it is Alex.

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

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