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


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



DECEMBER 2009

I t's the Baby Huey of databases. Yes, you'll find everything you want to know about cartoons at the Big Cartoon Database. You have to register to have access to this database of more than 100,000 cartoons, but once you do, you can post reviews, participate in their forums, rate your favorites, create your own list, and even download the special BCDB toolbar. And did I mention you can watch the cartoons? You can watch them right online and, in some cases, download them from various sites. You can also learn about the amazing people who created these gems, when each was released by which studio, read a synopsis and production notes as well as user reviews. You can even buy some of these animated shorts. For people who love cartoons, this site has it all, folks!

O oooh! How cute! It's hard to say anything else when visiting Zooborns. The site's slogan is "The newest and cutest exotic animal babies from zoos and aquariums around the world," and it fulfills that promise. From aardvark to zebra, Akron to Zurich, you can find babies by more than 130 types of animal or 150 different zoos and aquariums. Of course, you can simply search by keyword, but you may not get that far when you see all the wildly darling photos on the homepage. The day I visited, there were photos of a baby white rhinoceros that was cute enough to cuddle. You can also browse the archives, sign up for their email list and RSS service, or connect with Facebook and Twitter. You can check out the sites of the participating venues. It's enough to make you say, "Ooooh! How clever!"

W hat do you make of that! I'm probably not the first person who thought that when visiting the site of Evelien Lohbeck, a Dutch freelance artist with a decidedly distinctive style. The site itself is quite charming, with handdrawn navigation that actually works. Click on "Showreel" to get an overview of her delightful work, then on "Films" to see those snippets come to life in more than a dozen short, humorous films. In the "Other work" section you can see her other charming artwork, a collection of paintings, drawings and asemblages as well as some of her internship and freelance creations, most of which would probably be more interesting if I spoke Dutch. The bulk of this artist's work, though, speaks very well for itself, making me glad I found her site.

The wheels of the bus go 'round and 'round, 'round and ..." Oh! Sorry - I was just caught up with the thousands of children's songs you'll find on BusSongs.com. According to its homepage, the site has the Internet's largest collection of children's music, with lyrics, videos, and music for more than 2,000 kid's songs, lullabies and nursery rhymes. Whether you're simply trying to remember the words to a song your mother sang to you, or you're a teacher or a parent looking for material to keep kids busy on a trip, in class or at home, this site is a treasure trove. You can browse by more than 30 genres or alphabetically, or simply search for songs. You can also check out top rated, most visited and recently added tunes. Wherever you go, though, you'll find lots of fun going 'round and 'round.

I have a hunch that you'll enjoy Hunch. First this interactive site gets to know you by asking you 20 questions. You can then save that profile, which will help the site hone its recommendations to you, or you can launch right in by asking your own question. If you do save your profile, you start to see how you fit into the world as the site tells you how many other people chose the same answer. But it gets more interesting. You can not only ask a question, you can create a topic that others can then work their way through by answering yes and no, or multiple choice questions. As you might have guessed, there's a computer algorithm powering the site that not only refines your preferences, it pools your likes and dislikes with everyone else's to contribute to coming up with the right answers. My hunch? I could get hooked on this site.


NOVEMBER 2009

W hat's in a name?! You can find out all sorts of things about monikers at Behind the Name, which tells you more than I ever knew you could know about more than 16,000 first names. Wizard Mike Campbell started the site back in 1996, and he's done a terrific job creating a place you can easily learn everything about names. You can search for a name and learn about its history, etymology, useage and pronounciation. I enjoyed seeing each handle's popularity, namesakes, name days, ratings in 14 different qualities, as well as comments from visitors. You can also contribute information or register to add a name to your personal list. Or you can look up names by overall popularity, find anagram names, names for twins and so much more. When it comes to names, this site has everything you need to know!

S omething to see. You'll find almost anything you want to see with the fascinating image finder Pixolu. Let's say you'd like to find a photo of a red rose. This beautiful image search engine will scan Yahoo and flickr to find every possible image of that stunning flower. Once it shows you what it's found, you select the pictures you like best and drag them to an area on the right. Then pixolu can continue to refine your search until you find just the image you want. You need to check that your favorite isn't protected by copyright, but then you can print it right from the screen. Since this fascinating distiller is still in beta, we may still see more refinements, but for now, we can count on seeing countless beautiful images, thanks to pixolu.

G et lit! That's just what you can do through DailyLit, a site that delivers snack-sized sections of books to your computer or phone daily. You can choose from more than 1,400 books by title or genre. Once you select your book, its listing gives you a synopsis, how many installments you'll get, members' ratings and reviews, and lets you determine when you'd like your snippets delivered. You can add a book to your favorites, your to-read list, or give it as a gift. Many of the books are free, and those that aren't seem to be under $10. But the irresistible essence of this service is the ability to read books in small bites. So before you know it, you've read War and Peace! Well, its 663 installments would take just less than two years, but you would actually have read it. And that's something to get excited about.

I t's not hard to see why Indexed has a devoted following. It's not because it's flashy; it's not. It's charm is site owner Jennifer Hagy's simple black-and-white diagrams that capture, in a few strokes, something that would probably never occur to you and that may take a few minutes to understand. But when you do, you'll almost certainly smile, and most likely will outright grin or break into a genuine guffaw. Take the graph "Spring & good intentions," which shows the interaction between running shoes sales and sunny days. You can enjoy Hagy's quirky take on the world back as far as August 2006, browse by label headlines, have Hagy's world view delivered to you electronically, or just add your own observations as comments. Whatever you choose, you'll likely end up seeing the world a little differently.

B etter than Ebert and Roeper. That's what I thought when I happened upon Clerkdogs, a site that can't wait to recommend a movie for you. Just enter the name of a film you love, click on the "Match" button, and back will come movies that dozens of former video-store clerks, not computers, thought you might like, too. You get a top clerk's pick from the 11,000 films in the site's database, then a handful of others that you might also like. The SuperMatch and Mash It options let you refine your pick, using slider bars for five different attributes. Or just click on Movie Info to learn more about your choice. The site is still in beta mode, but considering it comes from a former video clerk who also founded reel.com, this site gets two thumbs up.


OCTOBER 2009

W hat a porker! When it comes to anything about pork, ThePigSite.com is stuffed with information about "the other white meat." This British site is no joke, however. You'll find all sorts of information, from industry news, products and promotions, to a knowledge center, articles, forums, a bookshop, a newsletter, business directory, statistics and a section devoted to pig health and disease. For industry insiders as well as those of us who just enjoy their work, there's also a section devoted to recipes. The site's owners don't just stop at pork, however - they also host sites devoted to poultry, fish, cattle, beef, dairy, meat and bioenergy, and even have pig, poultry and fish versions in Chinese. Indeed, this site is something to squeal about!

L et me be your guide. At Guidespot there are more than 12,500 guides to, well, just about everything. There are 26 different categories, as well as "fresh" (or the newest) and popular guides. I'm trying to not be spooked by the fact that Phoenix, Arizona, where I live, was being featured when I visited - it's possible it's coincidental, or they may be picking up my computer's IP address. Paranoia aside, the community guides are a nice feature. For Phoenix, I can find restaurants, travel destinations, events and entertainment. There are also spotlighted guides, featured authors, and information about becoming a guide yourself. You can rate your favorite articles, read about the people who write them, and link to related subject guides. But as jam-packed with information as it is, the site is so well-organized you won't need a guide to get around.

Y ou don't say! But you'll be able to say what you want in any one of more than 90 languages at the amazing site LiveMocha. From Afrikaans to Zulu, you'll find all sorts of familiar languages as well as ones I'd never heard of, such as Wolof and Azeri. Developed in Seattle, Washington, LiveMocha helps you learn useful everyday language from actual native speakers. You can connect with people who speak the language or languages you want to learn as well as become an instructor. You can also take online courses in some languages, whether you're a beginner or intermediate, learning for fun, business, academic preparation or to meet new friends. There are also speaking and writing exercises and flashcards to help you learn. The incredible part is that it's all free, which makes me say, "Wow!"

O bsessed. The people who hang out at Jalopnik aren't afraid to admit they have a thing for cars. In fact, the site's slogan is "Obsessed with the cult of cars" and its content supports that on all cylinders. There's tons of information organized in ways that people who are crazy for cars can especially appreciate. And there are lots of wonderful photos illustrating why so many of us love cars so much. The day I visited there were features on basic collectibles, Formula 1 race cars, a classic Mustang found on eBay, updates on Speed Week and the Frankfurt Motor Show, car crashes, custom cars and hybrids, and among other subjects. I also got a kick out of lolcars, which lets people share funny car-related stories. If you're obsessed with cars, speed right on over to Jalopnik.

P ut your finger on it. The pulse of hurricanes and tropical storms, worldwide, that is, at Storm Pulse. Our weather is more fascinating than ever these days, and this site helps you know what's going on with current storms as well as past ones easily and comprehensively. A colorful map of the world - which can be expanded to full screen - lets you view current cloud, radar and wind conditions, U.S. radar reports as well as ocean buoys. You can zoom in and out, and move the map up, down left and right. You can also zero in to the Atlantic and Pacific basins on their own full-screen maps. There's also an extensive archive of past storms, and you can catch up on your hurricane news, too. Or check out the satellite images and see the current activity from above. Whatever the storm, this site helps you put your finger on it.


SEPTEMBER 2009

F ace it. That's just what you can do at Face Research. This interactive site from two psychologists from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland lets you look at photos of faces and video clips of people, listen to voices, and choose the ones you find most attractive. The researches want to see how people's preferences relate to sensation-seeking, lifestyle and hormonal status, and they give feedback about what types of faces and voices you found attractive and eventually provide overall findings. But for visitors like me, it's just fun. You have to register, but it's free to participate in more than 40 studies, rating faces of men, women and babies, as well as judging their voices. And you can take surveys that let you share your preferences. You can even morph and transform faces and upload your own puss in the demos area, all helping you see things differently, through your own two eyes.

D o it by the book. Or, in the case of whichbook.net, you can find books by their content. Although this site is primarily for people in England - the books are published there and there's a nifty feature that lets you find a place in england where you can borrow them - the technology alone makes it fascinating for everyone. Using a series of slider bars with opposing attributes - such as happy and sad, serious and funny - you choose up to four different qualities, or choose from different plot, character and setting qualities. Then whichbook will recommend books and audiobooks accordingly. Click on the little "borrow" button, and you can find a library that has each book. You can even read excerpts of some selections. It's a clean and very slick site that could work wonderfully in any country - now that whichbook has written the book on it.

T hey've got you coming and going. At the site The Hidden Language that's literally true, as it is premised on the belief that playing back what we say in reverse reveals what we truly mean. Before you write off this idea altogether, consider the credentials of its founder, Wayne Nicholson, who has degrees in education and psychology and has studied the work of a pioneer in this field. There are plenty of examples, too, of recordings backwards and forwards, some more convincing than others. There are celebrity, inspiring, music and TV ad reversals, as well as information on using this technique for business and personal development. There are articles, videos and other information supporting this fascinating approach to revealing true meaning, whichever way you're heading.

P icture perfect. It's easy to get your drawings just right when you visit Coloring.com. This fantastic site has hundreds of line drawings organized by a variety of subjects including holidays, seasons, animals and others. Once you've picked your picture, you simply color it by clicking on the hue or pattern you want, then clicking on the part of the picture you want that color. If you don't like the color you chose, just select another one and click on the part of the drawing you want to change. It's amazingly easy. When you're done, you can imbed the picture on your MySpace page, print it, email it, or save it to you own gallery. This site can be fun for very young children as well as satisfy kids who, well, aren't really kids anymore. And that makes it just perfect for hours of online fun.

C harity begins with a handful - a handful of rice, that is. With the help of the UN World Food program, the site Free Rice is amazingly powerful despite its simple operation. The site dishes up questions you can answer with a single click. Then, for every question you answer right, sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to help alleviate hunger. Now if you're thinking, "Ten grains of rice! That's not much!" after visiting the site you'll know why it works: the questions are truly addictive. There are a dozen different categories and the questions are very informative, so while you're learning, you're earning food for the hungry. That's probably why nearly 24 million grains of rice were donated the day I visited, and more than 66 billion grains have been donated since the site's inception. Now that's a lot of good, starting with a handful of rice.


AUGUST 2009

I t's magic. Well, maybe it isn't sorcery, but the illusions at Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest really are magical. Each year, the Neural Correlate Society sponsors what they call "a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier visual illusion research community." They explain that visual illusions are simply perceptual experiences that don't match actual physical reality, but the many winners from the past five years are truly amazing. While there are other Web sites that offer eye-tricking treats, it's especially fun to understand why these illusions work. Some are interactive, letting you change the visual, while others let you fool yourself by looking at them in a certain way or at a specific spot. And you'll find that time will magically evaporate while visiting this fascinating site.

T here's strength in numbers. That's the premise of the site FlowingData. The brainchild of statistician Nathan Yau, who says he lives and breathes data, FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians and computer scientists use this information to understand humans better, primarily through data visualization, which lets non-experts like me make sense of all those digits. This marriage of numbers and pictures really does help someone who struggles with math understand what these brainiacs are trying to tell us. The site is easy to navigate, whether you're clicking links, searching or adding your own comments. And, of course, in addition to the numerals and discussion of numerals, there are pretty pictures, including lots of graphs that help you see what the numbers mean. And that really props up all of those digits!

I t all starts with a single sheet of paper.. Then you can take it from there on the origami site Happy Folding. As you probably know, origami is the Japanese art that lets you create everything you can imagine - and some things you can't - simply by folding pieces of paper. Site owner Sara Adams explains that she got hooked on origiami in 2005, and she suspects, after some time on the site, you just might get hooked, too. Browsing through the many photos of and instructions for paper rats, flowers, birds, pregnant women and even a ninja, you just might. There are step-by-step diagrams to show you how to make some of these creations, instructional videos you can sort by difficulty, type of paper and other parameters, a gallery, a dictionary and links, all celebrating what you can make with a simple sheet of paper.

T ell me a story. East of the web's wonderful Short Stories does that, instantly, in myriad ways. You'll find a featured selection of the month as well as Children's, Crime, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Nonfiction, Romance and Sci-Fi stories, a story of the day, a random story and top stories. There are classic and contemporary stories, teacher and story guides. You can search for a title, author or keyword, and see other tales by the same author with a single click. Each story also has an age rating, quality rating and page length. Perhaps best of all, the stories can be read online, printed or downloaded for reading offline or on handheld devices. If you want to write as well as read, you can even add your own comments about each offering. And it all happens instantly, for free. Now there's a story worth telling!

M ake out like a bandit. That's exactly what you can do at Make. This site, and its companion quarterly print magazine, is brought to you by the folks at O'Reilly. They publish books for programmers, so they definitely know something about technology. But here they make it accessible for non-geeks, bridging the gap between "wow" and "how." There is a lot here - a blog, video- and podcasts, projects, a community forum area and a Maker Shed Store where you can buy all sorts of kits, plans, books, tools and clothing. All the areas seem to intertwine and feed each other, although at times there's so much on the page it's easy to get distracted from the reason you went there in the first place. There are some online extras you can't find in the magazine, too, so you know you'll come away from this site with plenty!


JULY 2009

T he English language has a half million words. Apparently that's not enough for the folks at Verbotomy. They are having a ball creating new words that have layers of meaning. and you can join in. Each day offers a challenge to create a word to match a specific situation, often something encountered in modern daily life that heretofore lacks an adequate description. Each participant proposes a new word, its definition, pronunciation, etymology and use in a sentence. You can comment, vote on nominated words, or just browse, and everyone can enjoy the drawings that accompany the challenges. You can even keep up with the fun on Twitter and review statistics about the various submissions, all for free. This makes it great fun to add words to English that mean something extra special to you.

ext to eating, smelling or cooking it, reading about food is great fun.. And you can read about it all at the FOOD Museum Online. The FOOD Museum celebrates food through its collections, educational programs, publications and, fortunately for us, its Web site, helping people of all ages explore what we eat, how we eat it, where it came from, how it has evolved, its impact on the world, and its future. No food is neglected here as evidenced by the pizza museum, and there are also seasonal and special exhibits as well as permanent ones. You can read about food by category or origin, its present and its history, and see photos of food being grown, processed and eaten. If you don't see what you're looking for, you can even ask about it. Short of feeding you, this site is a cornucopia for everything about food.

A    search engine of knowledge. That's just what you'll find at WolframAlpha, which calls itself a "computational knowledge engine." Indeed, what Google is to Internet content, WolframAlpha intends to be for knowledge itself, making "all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone." With more than 10 trillion pieces of data and more than 50,000 types of algorithms and models, it's certainly on its way. It's built with Mathematica technology, which itself took more than 20 years to build, and now it is being supplemented by input from, well, you, if you'd like to share your ideas and thoughts. You can ask WolframAlpha anything, and you almost always get an answer, and then you can check the sources or comment, simply adding to the knowledge in this amazing engine.

S hort and sweet. Or sometimes short and compelling. Or short and poignant. Or short and - well, you get the idea. And so do the people behind Very Short List, or VSL for short. This graphically striking site is actually the jumping-off place for a trio of intriguing email services that focus on fascinating gems that, as they put it, "haven’t been hyped to within an inch of their lives." There's the VSL list itself, which spotlights entertainment and media, VSL:SCIENCE, which shares breakthroughs you might not see on the front page, and VSL:WEB, which focuses on sites and videos worth seeing that you might not yet have seen. They have plans to add VSLs for food, books and kids, all of which, like the current channels, will offer one delicious nugget a day.

G lub, glub, glub. Fortunately, you don't have to go under water to enjoy the ocean world. You can get a virtual tour from your desktop simply by visiting National Aquarium Baltimore. Of course, the site offers all sorts of information about the actual aquarium - ticket prices, hours, location, the latest exhibits and such - but there's plenty to enjoy on the museum's Web site, too. The Animals area lets you learn about some of the 16,500 amphibians, Australian animals, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles that live at the facility, and you can learn about conservation and ways to protect our ocean world and environs. I even played a puzzle that helped me understand how fast a dolphin swims. When it comes to ocean matters, this site will help you keep your head above water.


JUNE 2009

T ick, tock, tick, tock .... Yes, time is passing, and as it does, more and more brilliant and just plain clever ideas are hatched all over the world. You can almost keep up by reading Toxel.com, a daily blog dedicated to showcasing the best creative products and designs from around the globe. The Design section is full of Web site and graphic design resources such as free Photoshop brush sets; the Inspiration section has creative furniture and clothing including the stunning Hana table; and the Tech area has innovative designs including a clever two-way door. There are also interesting comments from other visitors. I couldn't always discern why a product was in one section or another, but then, I didn't really care, either. Wherever I browsed, I was able to while away the minutes looking at the latest, fascinating designs.

I f it was in a newspaper, it's probably now on the Web, thanks to NewspaperARCHIVE.com. That's why genealogists, historians, researchers, reporters, writers, teachers and students subscribe to this amazing collection of more than 3 billion names, 1 billion articles, 104 million pages from 824 U.S. cities over 241 years. You can simply search for a name, or you can browse by more than 20 topics. The search engine results send you to images of the actual pages, which you can then search again to zero in. You can also save and refine your searches as you go, and even set search alerts for specific terms. Happily, the site is blazingly fast, sharing all that's fit to print through the latest technology. Now that's front page news!

K nock on wood. You can do much more than that with wood by visiting Woodgears.ca , Matthias Wandel's wonderful woodworking Web site. Every Monday, Matthias adds a new article, complete with clear photos and drawings, and text as well as links to other relevant information. He archives previous articles neatly into categories including Machinery, Joinery, Furniture Projects, Woodworking Tricks and Home Improvement Projects. My favorite area is Wooden Machines, where you can learn how to make a wooden combination lock, a wooden tripod, a wooden apple grinder and even a wooden pipe organ. These are just a few of the delightful projects you'll find on this solid site.

T he strangest things you've never seen are the subject of area51.org. Named after the section of New Mexico where UFO enthusiasts say an unidentified flying object landed in the 1950's, this handsome site calls itself the "secret headquarters for paranormal reports." Its focus ranges far beyond space visitors, however, by also covering topics as diverse as ghosts, possible new planets and Einstein's brain. The homepage links to stories posted on other sites, but there's also an area51 blog with entries from the semi-mysterious Agent Zero (whose bio says his name is Sky Londa, although I can't help but be skeptical afte spending time on this site). Whether you believe the stories or not, area51.org is the place for strange doings of all sorts.

Y awn..... The name of the site www.sleepingchinese.com tells you exactly what to expect: photos of Chinese people sleeping. They're divided into categories of Hardsleepers, Softsleepers, Groupsleepers and New photos, and unlike some photo sites, there are no clever quips or lengthy (or even short) explanations about the photos. You just know they were taken somewhere in China, and that these people are tired! You can rate the photos and watch them in slideshows, see the 10 most often viewed, the 10 top rated and the 10 newest photos. Site owner Bernd even invites you to send your own photos of exhausted Chinese people. I guess I'll think about it ... after I take a little nap.


MAY 2009

S ee for yourself. You can do exactly that at EarthCam, an incredible portal for everything about Web cams. It's hosted by EarthCam, a company that really understands how to create an effective commercial site, by focusing on its subject, rather than its products (although you can easily buy them on the site). That makes this the place to go for Web cams. If you are running one, they'll provide a link to it, just as they do to beautiful, fun and interesting places and events all over the world - and even above it. Among others shots, you can see Earth from the International Space Station, a cat's view of an animal shelter in Michigan, a mountain view in South Africa, and live shots from India's first Web cam. You can see the top 10 cams, new cams, search by keyword, or browse through the categories to get your very own snapshot of what's going on in the world right now.

O On a scale of 1 to 10, Foodsel.com weighs in perfectly. This site is really helpful for everyone who is watching their weight or wants to simply be more fit and healthy. The Food section gives you calorie, fat, carbohydrate and protein data about 7,500 foods, as well as information about nutrients. You can look up products by manufacturer name and by food group, too. The Health section helps you determine your body mass index, and if you're really brave, organized and motivated, you can actually keep track of your weight, the food you eat, how much sleep you get, and your general state of well-being in the Diary section. More than 500 people have signed up to use this free site, which is worth much more than its weight in gold.

L ost but not forgotten. That's the case with the mastery celebrated on the site ObsoleteSkills.com . From "adjusting the vertical and horizontal holds on a television screen" to "zipping archives across multiple floppy disks," there are nearly 600 abilities on this site that are seldom if ever used anymore. Of course, there are some favorites such as "using a slide rule," "making a pop top chain," and "delivering milk to homes," and then there are some listings that probably should come under the heading of social commentary, such as "creating useful Web sites" and "darning a sock." But most are trips back in time for those of us who've been around a year or two. The site makes it easy to find entries with a search engine, and it's easy to submit your favorites, too, making this site anything but obsolete.

K eep your finger on the pulse of the world on the fascinating site Worldometers. In dizzying and sometimes mind-boggling real time, this site reports worldwide statistics, including those for Population, including births, deaths and daily net population; Government and Economic figures, including healthcare and military expenditures,cars, bicycles and computers produced and sold; Society and Media stats, including new book titles, daily newspaper circulation, number of TV sets and cell phones sold daily and, blog posts and Google searches; and Environmental facts such as forest and arable land lost this year, CO2 emissions, current average temperature, and the number of species that have gone extinct. Perhaps most amazing is that it does it in 32 languages, making this a truly worldwide site.

T ell me something good. The site for Ode magazine does just that, carrying information for "intelligent optimists" from their paper publication to pixels and an even wider reach. Founded in 1995 in Rotterdam, Ode shares positive news in Dutch and English about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better. There are articles from the magazine, as well as Blog posts from correspondents worldwide; an Exchange where readers can share their observations; Good News that can also be emailed to you daily; a social networking area devoted to the People who make Ode what it is (and that includes readers!), a section devoted to special interest Groups, and a Marketplace. All in all, this site makes you feel great about the state of our world.


APRIL 2009

D on't say another word - another cuss word, that is! That's exactly what you can commit to at the No Cussing Club site. When 14-year-old McKay Hatch started the club at his own school in 2007, he probably had no idea that it would catch on so quickly, but within six months, 10,000 people from all 50 U.S. states had joined, and today there are double that many 20,000 members in 25 countries. Now at the club's Web site, you can take the No Cussing Challenge, become a member, learn how to start your own chapter, commune with other members, share your good news or vote on others' posts, check out the club's music video, see photos of members - including the oldest at 103 and, quizzically, a dog - and buy club goodies. When it comes to this site, the word is all good.

K nock your eyes out at the clever site Interestingness. This site focuses on startlingly beautiful images posted at the photo sharing phenomenon Flickr, then lets you play with them in some, well, interesting ways. The current day's photos load first, but you can change the date and get any day's choices. Then you can push a button and shuffle them randomly, creating colorful collages. Float your cursor over the photos and you see each picture's name. Then click on each individual image to enlarge it to three different sizes and even visit the contributor's own Flickr page, where you can usually see more of their images. Adding bookmarks and posting to a fistful of social networking sites is easy, too, all while looking stunning.

S potless! Sweet-smelling! Sparkling! That's how your life can be after visiting HowtoCleanStuff.net. Indeed, this site is chock full of tips submitted by regular folks for cleaning, well, almost everything. Its ten categories - including Home, People and Pets, Automotive, Outdoors, Tech, and Clothing and Fabrics - offer helpful hints for cleaning sometimes surprising things and many everyday ones, such as How to Clean Ballet Flats, How to Clean Gunk, and How to Clean History From Windows (the last of which makes sense when you realize they are talking about computer software). You can also submit your own tips, and when you do, the site owners donate 25 cents to the Clean Water Fund. Most of the tips are really very helpful, making you feel smart, skillful and sensible.

L ooking for faces in the oddest of places becomes addictive after you visit the delightful Faces in Places blog. The concept is simple enough: many images we see every day look like, well, faces. We're not talking about religious icons in tortillas here, but rather eyes, noses and mouths - or at least things that look like them. The more I browsed, the more charmed I was, enjoying photos of a big dirty fan (an actual wind generating device that looks like a face), a fire with a spooky leer, a crying wall, and a plastic squeeze lemon that looked suspiciously like a Muppet character. And, with archives that go back to April 2007, you can spend a lot of time looking and laughing. So now I'm going to be spying for faces in everyday places, too.

A All bets are on on the site Long Bets. Started by some heavyweights including Stewart Brand (creator of the Whole Earth Catalog) with help from Amazon's Jeff Bezos in 2003, the site lets people make predictions about the future (two years or more), then lets others bet against them. Making a prediction is $50 and the minimum bet is $1,000, with the money going to a non-profit organization, so this is done solely for posterity - or bragging rights. The subjects must be societally or scientifically important, and participants must use their own names, so when you see Warren Buffet involved, yes, that's THE Warren Buffet. The result is a fascinating look at where some people believe our world is going, with counter arguments from others. It would be nice to be able to read about bets that have already been settled, but for now, this site is a sure thing.


MARCH 2009

W hat goes around, comes around. And when it comes to crop circles, there are some people who think that what's coming around are extraterrestrials. CropCircleConnector.com has been keeping tabs on these circular wonders worldwide since 2002, but the phenomenon began being reported in the late 1970s. I don't know what's creating these huge, sometimes intricate images in fields, but it is exceedingly artistic - many of the crop circles you'll see on this site are truly beautiful. But there's more than photos. You can learn about the phenomenon itself, the latest circles, researchers, conferences and the code of conduct for visiting crop circles, and you can buy information about crop circles or join the group. Whatever you do, I suspect you'll come around to believing these images are, at the very least, works of art.

G o north, young people! If you go as far north as Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands and the northern parts of the Russian Federation, you'll enjoy ExploreNorth. Using the site directory or by simply searching its more than 4,400 pages, you'll find original articles and photos, as well as information about the culture, environment and economy of these northern climes. There's travel, tour, transportation, art, history, music, sports and recreation information, and if you want to get involved yourself, there are blogs and bulletin boards. I especially enjoyed the information about the moose, road reports and Webcam shots, all part of northern life, whether you're going for real or in your dreams.

W hat's the chance? If you're visiting Random.org, chances are good that you'll be able to find a random number, random card or random note. Indeed, this site is all about unpredictability. It started in 1997, when some clever folks decided to create a random number generator for gambling. While that didn't pan out, random.org is now a true random number service that generates randomness via atmospheric noise. Fortunately for us, they do so in all sorts of fun ways, including a coin flipper that uses your favorite new or ancient coins, a die roller, a card shuffler, a lottery number picker, a sound generator, a list randomizer and a password generator, among other fascinating randomizers and information about randomness. Yes, I bet you'll have a ball on this fascinating site.


FEBRUARY 2009

T he truth shall set you free. At the site freedocumentaries.org, make that "The truth is free" because at this site, it is (and besides, that's their slogan). Among the 130 movies available on the site are well-known ones such as "Super Size Me," "Why We Fight" and Michael Moore's "SiCKO." There were also many I hadn't heard of, including ones about India, Afganistan, China and other countries, as well as movies about political and social issues such as globalization, big business and slavery. Each film's listing can include the movie's trailer, a description, site comments and producers, but the amazing part is that you can watch the entire movie online. You can even choose what size you want the screen to be. And with all of this knowledge comes freedom.

C Check! Yes, you can put a big checkmark next to the site Checklists.com for putting together an amazing collection of lists that help you logically address home, health, people, travel, fun and money issues. I worked with Don Parcher when he launched this site back in 2000, so it's especially fun to see this latest version. With the help of his son Matt, it's now easy to find more than 300 checklists on everything from body piercing to body surfing. You can browse by subject area, scroll through all the checklists, choose one of the top checklists, or simply enjoy the featured one. There's a checklist blog and also a handy calendar that lets you know what we're celebrating today, this week and this month. So before you make a major (or minor) decision, check this site for things to consider first.

Y ou could write a book about it. Or sometimes a pamphlet will do, and if it will, you'll likely find it at the Federal Citizen Information Center. For more than 35 years, this U.S. federal agency has provided helpful information about consumer issues and government services by phone, with printed publications, and now through its Web sites. Back before the Web, you called or wrote for pamphlets on anything from apprenticeships to traveling abroad. Now the Internet has changed all that. Sure, you can still call toll-free or buy printed pamphlets (and this site tells you how), but now you can also download much of the information for free. The range and amount of helpful data is mind-boggling, making this site, well, something you could write a book about.

B efore you buy, freak! TestFreak, that is. Indeed, if you're buying consumer electronics, a visit to TestFreaks is a great idea. Although it's still in beta test mode, this site can probably tell you more about the cameras, camcorders, computers, games, phones, video and audio equipment and other goodies you were thinking of buying than any other source. The site doesn't claim to have every item, but it gives a dizzying amount of information about those it does list, then simplifies it all by giving a 1-10 overall score to help you get a snapshot of the best of the best, as determined by user and professional reviews, prices, blog posts, forum threads, news, rumors, manufacturers descriptions and specifications, manuals, videos and more. So let your fingers fly at TestFreaks before you let your money loose!

W hat's your sign? It can be almost anything after visiting the site Sign Generator. You can make downloadable, printable and emailable images with your words in more than 500 different settings, from highway signs, to movie marquees, to protest placards - easily, quickly, and in a variety of typefaces and colors. The site also helps you make avatars, wallpaper, logos, smilies, buttons, banners, comics, glitters, warnings and Web site or blog headers, all from this one site, and all for free. Sure, there are some ads, but they aren't overwhelming or distracting, especially considering the incredible collection of widgets that let you create customized images. With this site, my sign is a great big happy face!


JANUARY 2009

T hat is so cute! Or is it Cute Overload? No matter how cynical someone may think he or she is, there is probably something on this site that can make that person smile. There are 26 categories of cute, including the inevitable Kittens and Bunnies, but there are also Hedgehogs, Gee-ross!, and one of my favorites, The Rules of Cuteness. The photos and captions are devastatingly darling, such as the dachsund puppy in a hot dog bun, making this a great destination on a bad day. There are also links to recent posts and comments, archives going back to 2005, Find-a-Pet links, links to other sweet sites, CuteMail, CuteCaps for your own site, a CuteTracker for your MySpace page, and stuff you can buy to make yourself cuter. Oh, it really is so cute!

F rom the latest and greatest to the obscure and awful. Yes, the site IMDb has all the movie information you can possibly think of, and then some. "IMDb" stands for "Internet Movie Database" and as a movie lover, it's one of my all-time favorite sites. If you are trying to remember who starred in a certain movie - or even who one of the bit players, writers or gaffers were - IMDb is where you'll find it, along with movie slogans and stills, links to the biographies of the players, comments by viewers, trailers, box office news, quotes, trivia, what's new in DVD and on TV, and, well, pretty much anything that relates to movies and the media that swirls around them. A reference, a diversion, a joy - IMDb is all of these things, all the time.

A rmchair travel takes on new meaning at WHTour.org. This amazing site displays 303 UNESCO World Heritage sites in 360 x 180 degree imaging. That means you can use your cursor to swivel your view totally around, up and down, and zoom in and out on all of these locations, seeing them almost as if you were there. Counter to the instructions on the homepage, it displays a random site that takes you there simply by clicking on the photo. You can find the other locations by clicking on the "earth" link below the image, or any of the other linked words if you want to zero in on them. From there, things get pretty intuitive. You just continue to click on hot spots until you arrive at a World Heritage site you want to visit. Then settle back, click away, and see it all!

B ackground music will never be the same. The Web has all sorts of wonderful music sites, and now I've added Streamdrag to my list of favorites. This deceptively simple site makes it easy to find recordings - and videos, supplied by YouTube - by a wide array of artists. I started by searching for some of my favorite musicians and songs and was amazed at the number of tracks and their variety. There were live recordings as well as interviews, providing many dimensions of these artists. And did I say easy? Pushing the blue triangle next to the track plays it - and its accompanying video - immediately. Clicking on the green plus sign adds the selection to your play list. To play those tunes, you simply click on "playlist" and it shows everything you've chosen, or you can easily remove selections by clicking on the red minus. Otherwise, they play through, giving you amazing background music, all for free.

T hirsty? If you like beer, then you'll want to visit The Price of a Pint. It offers the going price of a pint of suds in more than 200 countries, from Afganistan to Zimbabwe. Prices are offered in pounds, euro, and U.S., Canadian and Australian dollars. So you simply choose your country, your preferred currency, and click "Find," and up pops the cost in various cities in that country. My favorite part, though, is that visitors can help refine the database of prices by clicking on a specified link. The database then averages all the prices it receives, making the amounts increasingly accurate as more and more people contribute. If you feel so inclined, you can also make a comment, some of which are enough, in fact, to work up a thirst!











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