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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DECEMBER 2010

S addle up! If you're ready to travel through the American Southwest, your first stop should be at the site The American Southwest. The site features the adventures of one John Crossley, who has driven around Arizona, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, focusing more on the dramatic scenery than urban areas. Our host does a masterful job of combining his own fine observations in words, photos, videos and maps with other resources such as the National Park Service to give a well-rounded picture of these picturesque areas. There are also links to car rental companies, hotels and other tourist needs, more than 150 cool panoramic photos of Southwest vistas and a special section on slot canyons. Short of visiting yourself, this is one heck of a Southwestern ride.

I t's easy being green. At least, it is if you visit 1-800-Recycling.com. There you'll find an amazing amount of information on how recycling is easier than you may have thought. There's lots of information about ways you can recycle in categories including Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Home and Garden, Mixed Greens, Workplace and Local Focus, including do-it-yourself projects and other fascinating ways people have recycled materials to build items like guitars. The site also has a recycling center search that helps you find recycling facilities in your own U.S. city, and there are even iPhone and Droid apps to help you recycle. The site is bright, clean and, yes, green, making it easy for you to be as ecologically responsible as you want to be.

A rtist at work. He may not create in oils or watercolors, stone or steel, but, as you can see at GV Etched in Time, George Vlosich III is truly an artist. George works in a medium most people know as a toy, the Etch-A-Sketch, yet the images he creates are as detailed as the finest pen and ink drawings. George began creating on Etch-A-Sketches when he was just 10. Since then, he has visited with presidents and queens (Queen Oprah Winfrey, that is), sports stars, musicians, actors and other celebrities, sharing his talents. You can enjoy them, too, on George's Web site, where he tells his Etch-A-Sketch story in words, pictures and video, as well as displays - and sells - his graphic design and photography services and other art. Yes, there's lots to draw upon at GV Etched in Time.

W e go way back. How far back is "way back" is relative, especially when it comes to the Internet. The Internet Archive takes you back to the good old days of the Internet - make that as far as 1996 - through its WaybackMachine, a true blast from the past. Just enter a Web address, and back come links to that site in its previous incarnations. I had fun looking at old versions of sites including Yahoo and the Internet Movie Database - it's fun to see how they developed over the years. Archive.org offers more than 400,000 moving images, nearly 85,000 live music performances, more than 700,000 audio recordings, a digital lending library, and a whopping 2.5 million texts. All in all, there are plenty of memories here that go just far enough back.

I    don't know. Fortunately, though, ChaCha does. The ChaCha service is really for cell phones, but it's fun on the Web, too. Think of it as a lifeline, your really smart roommate whom you can call or text for answers anytime you want, for free. Ask anything, and you'll get a text message answer back in just a few minutes. If you're online, you can ask your question right on the screen, and the answers come back with the opportunity to rate them or to share them on social media sites. Or you can just click on other people's questions that are scrolling by on the homepage, browse through the subject categories, or zero in on any one of ChaCha's guides by clicking on ChaCha.me You can even become a guide - get the answers about how right on the site. Whaddyaknow!


NOVEMBER 2010

A merican history, compressed. That's what you get at AnimatedAtlas.com's Growth of a Nation. This free, 10-minute movie presents the history of the United States from 1789 to the present in a colored, illustrated and, yes, animated map. You can simply click on "play" to see the nation unfold on the map, as history marches across the country and a voiceover shares the progress. Or you can interact, clicking on the timeline, and running your mouse over various states and landmarks. This free version is intended to entice you to buy a longer version, and anyone learning American history just might want to do so. Or you can take the really short course by viewing the 50-second YouTube video, which is pretty hilarious and whets your appetite for the longer versions. Whatever your route, this site provides a terrific way to unreel more than 200 year of history, right on your monitor.

D eep. When you look over the Edge, that's just what you see: deep thoughts from some of the world's most brilliant thinkers. If you are ready to invest some intellectual curiosity and, potentially, a whole lot of time, you can get a peek into the enlightened perspectives of geniuses including Stewart Brand, John Brockman and Danny Hillis. One of the most fascinating parts of the site is its World Question Center, where a new question is posed annually, and where people can answer it. The answers to this year's query - "How is the Internet changing the way you think?" - come from 172 essayists, including top-notch scientists, artists and creative people. Together, they have created a massive Internet-based document that shares their thought-provoking answers with all levels of thinkers.

B rilliant! That certainly describes scientist Albert Einstein, who is credited with some of the most profound discoveries of our time. Now, thanks to the Einstein Archives Online, you can look into his many papers and, perhaps, get a glimpse into his amazing mind. The site offers images of Einstein's original manuscripts, so being able to read German helps a lot, but it's still fascinating to get a look at his scientific notebooks and manuscripts as well as his non-scientific holographic manuscripts and typescripts, and travel diaries to places including South America and the United States. Other diaries are mentioned, such as those from trips to Japan and Palestine, but they are not yet available online. There's also other material, such as aphorisms, that aren't available yet, either. But they are enticing, so it would be very bright, indeed, to visit this site again.

W hat a scene! At Improv Everywhere causing a scene is what it's all about. One Charlie Todd is the mastermind behind more than 100 missions, as they call them, that give people a real New York experience, a story to tell, and an opportunity to smile and laugh. And boy, do they. Along with tens of thousands of participants, Improv Everywhere has pulled off pranks at New York locales including Best Buy (in which everyone wore khaki pants and blue shirts, just like employees), on the subway (where identical twins mirrored each others' actions) and, perhaps most famously, Grand Central Station (where hundreds of people froze in place). The missions are clever, well organized and, above all, good hearted. The site shares the missions as well as their background, and watching the videos just makes me want to, well, cause a scene, too.

K eepin' it fresh. Indeed, the site Freshome is doing its best to keep your home looking great. Launched in 2007 by Romanian Micle Mihai-Cristian, the site is hopping with clever interior design and architecture ideas from around the world. You can browse through categories, including Best of, Apartments, Architecture, Bedroom, Furniture, Ideas, Kitchen, Living Room and Bathroom. You also can search the site for something specific, and browse the most viewed stories and recent posts. If you like design and architecture, you won't be bored. And you won't be alone. The site has 1.5 million visitors a month, and more than 50,000 Facebook fans. There's an email newsletter, an RSS feed and just a general feeling of euphoria about beauty you can live with and in. With mostly contemporary designs, this site definitely can help you keep your look really fresh.


OCTOBER 2010

Y ou don't say! There are people who still care about good writing. In fact, that snappy sort of wit that personified the United States in the 1950s and Gertrude Stein's Paris seems to be making a comeback. But the boys of The Bygone Bureau have been serving up their wry observations since the site launched in 2007. The look is clean yet stylish - of course! And the lively patter, which the guys update three times weekly, ranges from imagined stories behind stock photos to ruminations about househunting advice and a personal history of karaoke. Officially, the site calls itself "a journal of thought" and describes itself as an "online magazine that publishes travel writing, humor, and cultural criticism," but honestly, it's a lot more fun than that. Go ahead, read for yourself.

T here's a graph for that. Indeed, there are charts for just about everything at GraphJam, where life and pop culture intersect. The site claims it's for your "inner geek," but my visit suggests it's purely for laughs. I was there just minutes before I posted the Maslow's Hierarchy for Robot Needs on my Facebook page. Now that's funny! Interaction with the site isn't limited to sharing the graphs through Facebook, Digg, Twitter and email, though. All of the charts are submitted by users, who can also comment, vote for their favorites and learn about similar graphs they might like. You can also see a random chart and the site's hall of fame, or get help creating five different types of charts right on the site. So if you have a great idea for a graph, there's no reason you can't create one for, well, almost anything.

F ace plant! You can do just that at FACEinHOLE.com, a site that lets you put your face - or that of anyone you have a photo of - into any one of a number of scenarios. They have plenty of images to choose from in categories including Advertising, Art, Books & Magazines, Costumes, Film & TV, Kids, Miscellaneous, Music, People & Celebrities and Sports as well as animations, videos and games, or you can use your own image. Then you upload your photo or shoot one with your Web cam, and it's imported into the picture, where you can manipulate it. Of course, you can then upload it to your favorite site. And there's an iPhone app for creating send-ups on the go. With this free and fun site, placing a face has never been easier.

W hat a concept! Actually, make that "Khan-cept," as in the Khan Academy. This illuminating site features 1,600 instructional videos by Salman Khan, a former investment fund employee who started tutoring in math his cousin remotely in 2004. Using YouTube, he soon began teaching others with simple videos of 10 minutes or less, done on a virtual chalkboard. Five years later, he quit his job to dedicate himself to expanding his virtual school where anyone can learn anything - for free. Subjects include math, science, history and finance. From basic addition to calculus to credit default swaps and brain teasers, there's a remarkable collection of lessons here. Kahn hopes to eventually include, well, pretty much every subject. Now that's a concept!

S harpen the focus. Folks who frequent Vimeo might just explain their preference for this upstart video site over the megasite YouTube by talking about Vimeo's superior quality. Vimeo embraced high definition video early, and it prides itself on being "a worldwide community of respectful people." Graphic designers and other creatives often prefer this attractive site, which features nearly 100,000 channels, more than 2,800 groups and innumerable categories to browse through. Of course, you can search, share, rate and otherwise participate, too, as well as create your own special corner of this video world. The basic membership is free, or you can opt for the more comprehensive pay version. Either way, you're bound to bring things into sharper focus for you and your viewers.


SEPTEMBER 2010

J ust playing around. That's the whole point of Playing by Art. Go ahead, try to visit this site and not stick around to create, oh, at least a couple of masterpieces. Lisbon Labs, the Portuguese firm that created the site, enables you to use Adobe Flash to create a variety of artworks by combining backgrounds and snippets from more than a dozen different types of art, which you can then manipulate by rotating, enlarging, reducing, flipping, duplicating, moving, changing colors, lightening and darkening each component. When you're happy with your picture, you can save it and download it to use however and wherever you like. The program is plenty intuitive and simple to use, but they include instructions, just in case. That makes it easy to play around as much as you like.

E ye yi yi. That's just what I thought when I visited the graphic arts community Pxleyes. If you love making or viewing images, you'll find something on this site to suit your fancy. There are contests and theme competitions and statistics showing how participants are faring; tutorials for almost 30 different programs; resources for stock images, fonts, icons, textures and other components. There's also an active forum area, and you can keep all of your stuff organized in your own section. And all of it is free. The focus, of course, is on the stunning creations, whether they are drawings or paintings. The colors, shapes and subjects range from spectacular to weird, with plenty of room for everyone's taste and opinion. That's enough to make anyone exclaim their appreciation for this busy community.

L et's get started. That's just what's happening at KickStarter, a site that focuses on funding and following creativity. Let's say you're a promising artist or musician. You have an idea, but not the cash to buy the materials you need. Enter KickStarter, which helps you share your idea and raise the money you need to make it a reality. Internationally acclaimed artist Ariana Delawari is using KickStarter to document her family's story through photographs, footage and interviews. The day I visited, 41 backers had contributed nearly $5,000, halfway to her goal. For each project, you can learn about the plan, its backers, read comments and blog entries. Or you can become a backer by committing as little as a dollar. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.

W hat does news look like? NewsMap can show you. This fascinating site uses a series of color blocks and their gradations and type sizes to show you the news visually. Select news from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kindom and the United States, and the latest from that country's media is displayed in colors that indicate whether it's focused on world, national, business, technology, sports, entertainment or health. The brightness of the color block indicates how new each story is. Place your cursor over a headline, and you get a synopsis; click on the block and you are sent to the full story. Now this looks like technology that gives the big picture.

n my dream I am walking down a long hallway, lined with doors. I open one and peek in. There is a mad scientist, performing experiments and writing long equations on the blackboard. Wait! This isn't a dream at all! It's the site MyPhysicsLab. Created by self-employed software engineer Erik Neumann in 2001, the site features more than 20 mesmerizing physics simulations that remind me of a spirograph. Like one of those toys, you can adjust the settings, although in this case much more precisely, and let the simulation create an often graceful image. In addition to the calculations, Neumann provides some background on the how and why of each simulation that even I can understand as well as other fascinating information, making this site a dream rather than a nightmare.


AUGUST 2010

A feast for the eye of the beholder. That's just what you'll find at Beautiful Life. This online magazine - which is itself quite lovely - is dedicated to all aspects of design, art and the luxury lifestyle. There are sections on Web, graphic, industrial, automotive, fashion, urban and interior design as well as fine art, but of course, the lines blur. In addition to beautiful examples of the genre, in each section you'll also find helpful information such as reviews, tutorials and free stuff. It's all helpful - if you can drag your eyes from the gorgeous designs. For example, I had trouble scrolling beyond the stunning Peugot Velocite two-seater, which also happens to be a zero-emission electric car. It's just one eyeful among many on this mesmerizing site.

I've been everywhere, man." If you haven't yet, there's still time, and EveryTrail makes it incredibly easy to go, well, pretty much anywhere then share your trip on this amazing free site. Part travelogue, part GPS sketchpad, EveryTrail lets you map your travels on your GPS or mobile phone, then upload them, with photos, to the Web. You can also share tips and, of course, read about other peoples' adventures in more than 80 countries. Whether they plan their trips in advance or just go with the flow, you can join them via interactive maps on sightseeing tours, sailing adventures or road, hiking, cycling, flying, hang gliding, geocaching, skiing and kayaking trips. Whatever the mode of transportation or location, EveryTrail can take everyone everywhere.

J ust one thing. That may be a little, but, as busy as our lives get, it may be a lot to focus on daily. Yet that's just what the blog A Small Stone does, beautifully. Since 2005, British author Fiona Robyn has been posting one clear observation a day, hoping it helps each reader do the same. Some days, the post consists a single sentence, such as that for Monday, May 31, which reads "a single gossamer spider-spun thread glints violet in the morning." Other days, a poem appears. Or a funny exchange. Or, from August 19, 2009, an account of a chance encounter at the zoo. And if you'd like to play, Robyn's companion site, A Handful of Stones, is readers' opportunity to submit their own shining moments, one at a time.

R ide on! That's just what more than 135 thousand motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world talk about at Adventure Rider. When most people think of social media, sites like Facebook come to mind. But specialty sites like ADV Rider, as its participants like to call it, were social before the term "social media" was coined. On this immense bulletin board, primarily off-road riders have made more than 12 million posts to plan trips together or alone, share photos and stories about rides, gossip, and generally cover everything under the sun and ready to fling some mud. There are regional forums, sections dedicated to specific bikes and rides, and so much more, all for the love of riding. So grab your gear, and let's go for a ride!

F ood, glorious food! That's just what is celebrated at Smitten Kitchen. If you love food - cooking it, eating it, even looking at it - you will indeed fall in love with this charming site. Its focus is food, simple yet delicious recipes that are cooked and shared by resident chef, Deb, and her loyal husband, Alex, who create masterpieces in their tiny New York apartment. The instructions are sassy and fun, the photos delectable, the recipes doable and clearly delicious. You can't help feel at home, as Deb tells you more about their tiny workspace - and how to make one work - offers tips, a really helpful conversions section and an awesome set of links. The centerpiece, of course, is the recipes, but the gorgeous setting and the great navigation and content make for a glorious, glorious visit.


JULY 2010

H ow funny!Whether they're funny or philosophical, you can make your own comics at MakeBeliefsComix.com. Whether you want to work in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese or even Latin, this remarkable site allows you to make your own comic strips. The art is supplied by Tom Bloom, and the technology and instructions by author Bill Zimmerman. You simply choose one of 20 characters, give him or her an emotion, add objects, a background color, text or thought balloons to each of the panels, and voila! you've created your own comic strip! The exercise is addictive, and it also gave me great respect for the masters who turn out comics regularly. Once you're done, you can email your creations to your friends, letting them get their own laughs.

I t was just on the tip of my tongue .... Now that phrase can be on the tip of your pen by visiting The Phrase Finder. This wonderful British site revels in the joys of the English language. The bulk of the site is subscription based and perfect for writers who are reaching for headlines, ad copy and other text that they can use in their work, but there's still plenty for free, too. There are the meanings and origins of 1,500 English phrases and sayings, including the wisdom of William Shakespeare, the Bible, English proverbs and phrases coined at sea. You also can ask questions in the discussion forum or browse the more than 70,000 posts in the forum's archives. Yes, a visit to the Phrase Finder can pull your tongue out of your cheek and put a smile on your lips.

Still plays with paper dolls." I guess you could say that about anyone who frequents Polyvore. But there's much, much more to this fascinating site, which uses the interactivity of the Web to elevate playing dress up to a whole new level. It's almost like electronic scrapbooking, and it's all free. You can simply see what the latest fashions are by trends, celebrities, brands and favorites, browse the 30,000 sets that the site's 1.2 million members create daily, or, perhaps best of all, make your own. The software is incredibly easy to use. You just select the blouses, shoes, pants, skirts and accessories you like, combining them with text and other design features, then post your creations to the site. No matter your age, Polyvore is the place to play with fashion.

H ow about a little music? Or, if you visit Playa Cofi Jukebox, a lot of music. Like its name, the site is a little confusing, but not so much you can't enjoy the amazing songs it lets you play right from your computer. You can select from any year from 1950 to 1989, click on a song to begin, and then enjoy the top tunes from that year in a loop. The site also offers the songs from blocks of years and specific eras, like swing, doo wop, folk music, disco, country and more. There are monthly tributes to specific artists, video archives and links to lyrics sites, as well as Cashbox magazine's weekly top 40, 30 and 20 countdowns in various genres. The site is truly a tuneful treasure trove that gives you a whole lot of music going on and on and ....

S hine a light, shine a light, shine a light on me. Or for that matter, you can shine a light on just about anything, as you can see for yourself at Urban Projection. This side project of German creator Sebastian Funk could just keep you mesmerized as you click in and out of nearly 30 subject categories and the work of more than 20 artists as well as archives that go back to 2006. With its black background and delicate white text that that looks gray until you put your mouse over it - whereupon it turns readably white - the site focuses on the light side - that is projections on the side of, well, almost anything. This site is clearly the work of creative and dedicated people who are moved by the ability to project and the power of light, whether it's for art or advertising. Shine on!


JUNE 2010

T here's the art of business, and then there's the business of art. The two intersect at the site Meylah, where creative people of all types can learn how to make their businesses more successful. In companies fueled by creativity - publishing, music, art - this is a particular challenge. When should you be creative, and when should you be businesslike? While the times overlap and blur, Meylah - the name of which comes from a Sanskrit word for "gather" - is committed to helping such businesses with online education. In a variety of articles and interviews, there's entrepreneurial advice and social networking know-how, such as how to write product descriptions and iPhone apps for creatives. The whole site is a classy lesson in professionalism. Now that's an art in itself!

A ow sweet it is OK, so maybe the confections on Cake Wrecks aren't all so appetizing, but they are entertaining. The handiwork of blogger Jen Yates, who is also the author of the book by the same name, this site celebrates those times "when professional cakes go hysterically wrong." Sometimes it's the inscription ("Good Louck," "Back to Schol" and "Yu dib it!" stand out), sometimes the subject matter (such as the Father's Day cake shaped like a steak or the entire collection of foot-shaped cakes) . You can have a ball just browsing through the site reading the clever text and comments, or contribute your own wrecks and words. Whatever you do, it's bound to bring laughter, and that's as sweet as it gets.

W hat in the world?! That's just what you'll find out at GlobalPost, one of the best sources of international news anywhere. While printed newspapers and magazines struggle, GlobalPost has grown since its founding in 2009 to serve news from around the world to millions of users from nearly every nation and territory on Earth. The site's more than 70 correspondents in more than 50 countries in every region of the globe serve up news on a broad range of subjects not only on the Web, but, interestingly enough, also to those print publications that can no longer afford to have their own bureaus in other countries. Whether it's breaking news or thoughtful in-depth reporting, your best stop for international news may well be GlobalPost.

A ll aboard! You can almost hear the conductor call when you visit the site of the Wilmington & Western Railroad. Of course, the site is a great place to learn everything you'd want to know so you can actually ride on this authentic steam engine-driven train, but there's lots to see, too, for those who aren't in the Wilmington, Delaware, region. In the About the Railroad area, I enjoyed the information about the history and the equipment itself, as well as daydreamed while looking at the route map. In the Planning Your Visit section, there's lots of information about what you can do and stay in the general area as well as an opportunity to Ask the Conductor questions of your own. Toot! Toot! After visiting this site, I'm all ready to leave the station....

W hen you just gotta draw .... you can get involved with the movement SketchCrawl. Artists from around the world are doing just that, thanks to this grassroots site, which incorporates a blog and a forum, all dedicated to promoting "drawing marathons from around the world." Instigator Enrico Casarosa based his "sketch-a-thon" on a pub crawl enjoyed with a group of friends, and it just took off from there. When I visited, people from around the globe were getting ready for the 26th SketchCrawl by communicating through the forums. The site also lets you buy SketchCrawl T-shirts (the better to find each other with), suggests materials, and teaches you how to post your sketches online. So no more excuses: ready, set, sketch!


MAY 2010

G ot an itch for something interactive? Scratch it with the help of the clever folks at the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music and art -- and then share your creations with the world on the Web. Designed for young people, Scratch helps users to reason, think creatively and work collaboratively while also learning mathematical and computational ideas. Nearly 1 million projects have been created already, so Scratch must be fun, too. It's free, and you can download it yourself. If you have questions, there's help right on the site, which is well organized and attractive. Or, if you prefer, you can just enjoy the other games and stories people have uploaded. Whichever your preference, Scratch is the right thing for that animation itch.

T his says it all! Well, you can make signs and other official looking creations that do at says-it.com. There are church signs, official seals, concert tickets, posters videotape and cassette cases, records, safety signs, badges, movie marquees, church signs and letterboards, restaurant signs, delivery trucks, Jeopardy clue screens and other opportunities to make your words look, well, official. Like the similar site we reviewed last year, Sign Generator, this is yet another magical way to create very real looking signs. If you'd like to try your own hand at making magic, the folks at says-it have even released their generator code as open source, so nothing is left unsaid.

S hine up your smarts. That's just what you can do at the site mental_floss. The site is actually the online home of the magazine by the same name, which says it's "Where knowledge junkies get their fix." The point, say founders Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur, is to make learning fun. And they do, with an assortment of facts and trivia that will make you the envy of all your friends. OK, maybe not, but the info might make them smile, laugh or simply be surprised that anyone would know such a thing. mental_floss offers articles from the magazine, a blog, trivia and quizzes, all of which make learning a lot more fun than it may have been in school. There's also an amazing fact generator that offers random trivia, so mental_floss gives you lots of painless ways to at least seem smarter.

W hat a shot! Yes, you can see photographs of some of the most beautiful things on our planet at EarthShots.org. This site keeps it simple, yet really, really beautiful. Every day it features a single picture, sharing its glory in large format. There's often detailed data, too, about the camera equipment that was used as well as the lensman and the location. You can make comments, and EarthShots.org also makes it easy to display the daily photo on your own site. Photographers can submit their shots, of course, giving them an opportunity to show their stuff through this wide-reaching site. And you can spend hours browsing through the monthly archives, which go back to October 2006, or enjoy the site's inspirational slideshow, giving yourself a simple shot of beauty.

T he human journey is an amazing story. And it's told beautifully on the site Becoming Human. This interactive site shares the 7 million years of human evolution, including an interactive timeline that shares archeological finds from around the world. There's also a documentary that you can view online, download to your PC or Mac, or read the transcript of in English, Italian and Spanish. The site's Learning Center provides two games and activities, a chromosome adventure, and a section on building bodies, which explains how we are able to stand. Each includes comprehensive classroom materials, including student and teacher packets. There's also news, book reviews, a glossary and other general interest resources, all of which help as we take yet another step on this amazing journey.


APRIL 2010

I t's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Sugar Bush Squirrel. You wouldn't visit this site to enjoy its slick design (it's pretty basic) or because of its cool interactive games or tools (there aren't any). But if you visit, I dare you not to smile. This is Americana at its quirkiest. Sugar Bush Squirrel is a real animal that was saved by one Kelly Foxton, a former country music entertainer. No stranger to costumes, Kelly dresses up Sugar Bush and posts the pictures on the Web site, punctuating the pages with poetry and patriotism. There are photos of Sugar Bush in dozens of costumes, including combat gear, a bridal gown and bunny suit. You can buy Sugar Bush squirrel plush toys, a calendar featuring Nutsradamus and cards. Sooner or later, you'll find yourself laughing along with the littlest hero, Sugar Bush.

N ailed! That's how your meeting scheduling will be when you use the nifty Web site service TimeDriver. We've used this site to set appointments a couple of times, and it's just a well-thought-out service that helps you set up phone or in-person meetings really easily. You can get a 90-day free trial, and, if you like it, pay just $30 a year, which is definitely worth every penny if it helps you juggle a busy schedule. TimeDriver lets you set up what times you have available, then you can easily email a lot of people at once - for work, church or clubs. As the recipients pick their day and time, TimeDriver helps them log the appointment in their Outlook or Google calendar, and then updates your calendar, too. This slick service pretty much stops just short of taking notes at the meeting and sending a thank you note! It's truly a pleasure to encounter a program like this that reminds you just how great technology can be ... when you nail it.

T he story continues. It does, certainly, at Circle of Stories . The site was created by the Public Broadcasting Service, probably for a TV series, although I couldn't find any evidence of that. Whatever its genesis, Circle of Stories, which dates back to at least 2003, is a multifaceted gem of Native American stories. You can read or listen to four main tales, learn about storytelling itself, tell your own stories, contact the storytellers, as well as find other resources about Native American life. The main stories are fascinating, and the visitors' contributions add spice to the mix. As far as I could tell, there hasn't been a story posted in years, but that doesn't really matter. The site is a trove of captured chronicles, traditional tales and memories, and as charming as a legend that really never ends.

R each your peak.You can do just that when you visit MountainZone.com. This site really covers all the slopes, with sections on climbing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, adventure and mountain peaks themselves. There are videos, gear reviews, how-to articles, blogs from a variety of athletes, a guide to bicycle shops around the United States, photos and travelogues, all focusing on mountains and the things you can do on and around them. The site has a lot of information and it's pretty well cross-referenced. I wish I got the feeling, though, that its owners were having more fun - there's not a lot of personality exhibited. But then, reaching your peak can be serious business, especially at high altitudes.

G entlemen, start your ... lawnmowers? That's just what members of the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association do each year as the grass begins to grow under their feet. Based on a similar British group, what started as a promotional April Fool's joke in 1992 has now grown into a real organization, with nearly 40 clubs across the nation, an active Web site with a blog and lots of official information. And these guys are really racing. They have a national circuit and different classes of racing machines - some of the members are modifying their lawnmowers to look more like race cars than something you'd use to, well, mow your lawn. Some people seem to take it pretty seriously, although for most members, it's just a way to have good, clean fun. Vrrrooom, vroom - they're off!


MARCH 2010

S he's gonna blow! Well, if any of the volcanoes in Alaska are going to erupt, you can get all the details at Alaska Volcano Observatory. A joint program of the U.S. government, University of Alaska and state programs, AVO monitors and studies Alaska's hazardous volcanoes. Thanks to its Web site, it now can share the information it gathers with all of us quickly and in great detail. You can find out about current volcanic activity, seeing a map of the more than 30 volcanoes in the area and which ones are acting up, check in on more than a dozen locations via webcam, read background data, see photos of these breathtakingly beautiful mountains, browse the site's glossary, and so much more. When it comes to Alaska's volcanoes, this site erupts with information.

O pen your eyes. That's just what you'll do at start looking, a British Web site that focuses on the process and techniques of artists' motivation, inspiration and creation. After making more than 70 videos for our sponsor, sculptor Kevin Caron, I was obviously intrigued with the concept. After visiting the site, I fell in love, quickly. You can browse by more than 11 categories, search by keyword, or tap on popular tags. You also can just start clicking on videos that catch your eye, or you can subscribe to the newsletter or the site's RSS feed to keep up on the videos being added often. I particularly enjoyed movies about artist Chuck Close, whose portraits are dramatically distinctive, and the creation and destruction of sand sculptures in Dublin. But oh! That's only the start at this eye-opening site.

S ometimes answers come in quirky packages. That's the basis of the book and Web site Quirkology. The term was coined by Professor Richard Wiseman to refer to, well, quirky psychological research, much of which uses mainstream methods to investigate unusual topics and unusual methods to investigate mainstream topics. Wiseman takes on popular activities such as firewalking, seances and even lying, as well as people's impression of names, dancers and emotion, the relationship between owners' personalities and those of their pets, the impact of white beards - which Wiseman calls The Santa Effect - and more. There is text and videos of the experiments and you can even recommend your own ideas for Wiseman's consideration. Pop science? These days, that is quirky!

H ot green That's the style of WebEcoist, a site devoted to environmental oddities, natural disasters, fantastic plants and amazing animals. If it has something to do with Earth, WebEcoist is on it. You'll find eco-friendly facts, environmental history and information about the green movement itself in 14 different categories, including Art & Design, Energy & Fuel, Technology & Gadgets and Transit & Auto. There are archives that go back to August 2008, collections of favorites and bests, and much, much more. Fortunately, the site is well-designed, so despite the dizzying amount of information, you can clearly see what's available, in part because the site handles images so well. I also liked the little navigation bar that popped up at the bottom of my screen - the combination of technology and green awareness is hot, indeed!

C ongrats on your very own TV station! Yes, you can now create your own full-screen channel, for free. If there's anything else like this on the Web, I haven't seen it. With isofa.tv, you can not only see anything you choose, you can make your own channel for anyone to watch online. This amazing site, which is out of Rio de Janerio, Brazil, shows YouTube videos full screen. You can simply watch whatever comes up, which can be pretty fascinating - I watched a video from Seaworld in which dolphins blew rings and played with them. Or you can search for keywords, and then watch videos about that subject. Perhaps most amazing, you can select videos by their specific YouTube address, then make your very own channel with its own Web address. Because it's full screen, it feels just like TV. So go! Be your own media magnate at isofa.tv.


FEBRUARY 2010

W ho are you, and where did you come from? You can probably find the answer at the great-granddaddy of genealogy sites Ancestry.com. Many years ago, my husband decided to research his progenitors. This site was almost like a family bible for finding his kin, and it's gotten even better since then. You can build your own family tree, search U.S. and even world census, voter, birth, death, marriage, military, immigration and emigration lists, collaborate with other members, as well as learn about records and genealogy. You can buy genealogy books, hire an expert through the site, and even explore by way of DNA. There is a monthly charge for many of the site's services, but there are things you can do without cost, too, helping you answer those time-honored questions about your origin.

P ure. Clean. Clear. Good water is all of these things, and so is the Web site The World's Water. It's so clean and well-organized, in fact, that it's almost hard to believe the volume of information it offers until you drill down into the site. The Data section focuses on recent times, with tables in PDF, Excel and plain text formats about 2008-2009 water matters worldwide. The Conflicts area has a timeline and list of battles over water from 3000 BC to 2009 that are sortable by region, conflict type, and date as well as a map showing where they happened. The site also offers Other Resources like a climate bibliography and air to water models. Indeed, this companion site to the biennial book The World’s Water is as sweet as the subject it covers.

W hatever you can do, he can do smaller. That's easy to believe when visiting Moyer Made, the site of one Jim Moyer. While some people would consider it a feat to build a full-size engine, Moyer has built four miniature ones - that actually run! On the site, he tells the story of each engine and shares photos of the completed machine and some of its parts as well as offers specifications. I particularly enjoyed the pictures of the crankshaft of the world's smallest working V8 engine in, presumably, Moyer's hand. There are also videos of that little Corvette engine running, something you have to see to appreciate, and links to sites of interest to people who like tiny engines. Like Moyer's work, the site may be small, but it's powerful.

V ery funny. That's the point of British comedian John Cleese's site. Like the mind of actor and writer Cleese, who is perhaps best known as one of the members of Monty Python, the site is a bit of a jumble. It has more than 30 podcasts; the Cleeseblog, which features videos, comments and a Twitter feed; The World of Cheese, which provides an opportunity to buy Cleese T-shirts and other paraphernalia; and a forum where the Cheeselets romp. These Cleese fans from around the globe do indeed drop by to share obscure John Cleese references. Of course, you can follow Cleese on Twitter or sign up for his email list, which he calls John Cleese's Nigerian Lottery, which you win every time it hits your inbox. Now that's funny!

W hat a pearl of a site! Indeed, pearl-guide.com is a perfect place to learn about one of nature's most beautiful creations. Its 3,000 members - pearl dealers, farmers, traders, wholesalers, hobbyists, authors and consumers - have contributed more than 50,000 pages of information about their favorite gem. You can learn about natural pearls, cultured pearls, pearl history, pearl terms, pearl cultivation, care and grading. Oddly enough, though, there are a limited number of pictures of pearls or people finding, grading or even wearing them. But there's an active forum, where you can ask questions and discuss pearls, even if it's as simple as how to care for the ones your great-grandmother gave you. If you want to know anything about pearls, this site is quite a find.


JANUARY 2010

G o native. That's just what you can do after visiting PlantNative. This fascinating site's Oregon-based hosts want to encourage use of native plants in mainstream landscaping to "promote biodiversity, preserve our natural heritage, reduce pollution, and enhance livability." And they've gone about it in a very productive way. When you search by state or region, you find a snapshot of the happiest flora for that area and why and where it does best. You can also find out more about each plant by digging down, as well as find nurseries and community services in your region and nearby areas. They also recommend helpful books, offer a naturescaping guide, and the site has a regional area for professionals. Yes, this site makes it easy for people to feel like a native.

L et's make friends. At MakingFriends.com, that's not all you'll make. If you like crafts - or need them for classes, parties or group activities - you'll find them here at this jam-packed site, thanks to owner Terri, a former graphic designer, and her tough team of researchers (all of whom are under the age of 12). Fortunately, there are many ways to find what you want, with drop-down menus for themes, materials you are working with, what you're making the crafts for, as well as subject categories and holidays. You can find coupons, sample offers, contests and sources, paper doll and pony bead patterns. There's even yucky stuff for kids who don't like crafts, and the site's newsletter keeps you posted on what's new and fun, all of which makes it easy to make friends.

S core! If you're ready to make a change for the better in your life, the site 43 Things is ready to help you set your goals, record your progress, and make your dreams a reality. It also lets you cheer on other site users who are working to achieve their goals, and it's all free. The site offers a really helpful tour to help you understand how it works, and it's easy to get started - you don't even have to create an account. It's even easier to be inspired by the stories posted in the "did it" section, where you can find out how long it took others to achieve their goals, and they felt about them. Of course, you can comment, see recently cheered accomplishments, new and popular goals, as well as learn about other people and their dreams. Indeed, everywhere you click and read, you're already a winner on this site.

W hy don't we talk about this. Some people believe you can work out nearly any problem by talking it through. That's the focus of Mediate.com, a site dedicated to "Everything Mediation." And it just might be here. You can find mediation news, read and view more than 5,000 articles and videos about mediation, find mediators in every U.S. state, read blogs that focus on mediation, find books and services for mediation professionals, and find mediation events and organizations. There's information for professionals and those who are learning about mediation or need it. With all of its easily accessible content and more than 4 million visits annually, it's reasonable to believe the site owners' claim that it's the "world's leading mediation Web site." And that's something worth talking about!

T hat sounds ideal! That's the point of idealist.org, an interactive site that helps "people and organizations exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives." Despite its idealistic goals, this is an intensely practical site. You'll find jobs, organizations, consultants, internships, programs, people, videos, images, speakers, events and volunteer opportunities. There are blogs, daily alerts and forums, and it's all in English, Spanish and French! The site makes it incredibly easy to connect to individuals and groups by location, interest, language and keyword, giving us all great hope that idealism lives.





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

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