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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T he '60s live! Yes, you'll see it in action at AlterNet. This lively site uses original reporting as well as other independent sources to inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights, civil liberties, social justice, media and health care, among other causes. Along with 2.3 million other monthly viewers, you can read success stories, critiques, investigative reports and insightful analysis as well as sign petitions, add your own comments, and easily share stories on myriad social networks. You can browse the Progressive Newswire, read front page stories in more than 20 categories, or sort content by the most read, most emailed and most discussed topics. The range is broad and the tone revolutionary, helping you celebrate freedom in all its messiness.

C at crazy. That's how to describe the owners of Temple of Cats. And come to think of it, so are people like me who have cats and think they are loveable and hilarious. Even if you think you don't like cats, the photos on this site might just win you over. There are also videos of cats doing tricks - yes, catlovers, it's true! - and animations of cats tumbling and chasing their tails. You can also shop for cat beds and houses, cat couture and even a cat remote control. There are also cat comics, cat art and cat news. I enjoyed the Chinese opera cats in their exotic makeup, and something tells me cats might like it, too. You can even make cat comments, although, oddly enough, no one seems to have made any yet. So if you like cats, you'll likely enjoy this site, which is ... the cat's meow.

A ck! There's always breaking news at EurekAlert!. This global news service is brought to the Web by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It allows universities, medical centers, journals, government agencies, corporations and other research organizations to share their science, medical and technology news with the media and the public. There's breaking news as varied as the video capture of rare cats on Sumatra, new drug combinations to fight cancer, and studies about acid rain. The site makes it easy for reporters to find the news they want, then contact the proper sources. There's also information about science business, meetings, grants, awards and books. The calendar lets you know what's going on when and a multimedia gallery with images, audio and video illustrates the news. Whatever is happening in science, EurekAlert will help you be the first to know.

W ait until you see this! Actually, you don't need to wait at all! Just go visit My Modern Met to see, as they say "beautiful photography, incredible art and clever design." The name of the site coupled with its contents might make you think this is a play on New York's fabulous Metropolitan Museum, but it's really all about the giant metropolitian centers many of us reside in. The day I visited, there was a story about a permanent outdoor installation of Sol LeWitt photos on the wall of Gotham City's Mondrian SoHo, illustrations by award-winning artist Alessandro Gottardo, and a German walkway that looks like a rollercoaster. You can contribute your own visions of beauty, whether they are photos, illustrations or videos, or just browse, just like 2 million other people do each month. Whatever you do, you'll be a part of something others just can't wait to see.

H ahahahaha! The Internet is the perfect spot for comedy, and SplitSider is a Web site about what makes us laugh and the people who create it. The site covers movies, TV shows, videos, books and, well, anywhere and anything that wants nothing more than to make you laugh. The site serves up a variety of stories about comedians and their vehicles, including movie reviews, snapshots of funny people who appeared on Saturday Night Live, videos of how comedians handle hecklers, and links to other funny spots on the Web. I also enjoyed browsing through the list of the site's many contributors, which you can sort by the most prolific, the most recent and alphabetically, then click right to their articles. If you have something to say, you can contribute, too. Just remember to keep 'em laughing.


Y ou won't need me anymore. Well, I hope that isn't true, but with StumbleUpon it just might be. Since it was founded in 2003, this computer add-on has attracted the affection of more than 20 million users and now serves up as many sites in an hour as it did its entire first year. The application started as a Firefox extension, but now can be used on any browser as well as iPhone, iPad and Android devices of all sorts, and you can't beat the price - free! Why would you want it? StumbleUpon uses a combination of your own preferences and those of other Stumblers, feeds it all into its super-smart software so it can recommend sites it thinks you will like. Of course, you can rate the destinations yourself, adding to StumbleUpon's collective wisdom. But don't leave me! I'll still bring you quirkiness you can't find anywhere else!

M aking it up from scratch. That's pretty nearly how the online industry has developed since the World Wide Web was introduced in 1993. Suddenly, an entirely new world was blooming, and that meant new jobs, new ideas, new perspectives. Almost two decades later, the industry is recognizing the importance of professionalism, making WaSPInteract an invaluable resource. Here you'll find a completely free curriculum developed by The Web Standards Project's Education Task Force that connects education and industry to the benefit of us all. Not only can you use their curriculum - which covers the big picture, user science, development, design and professional practices - you can contribute to it. As you might expect, there are also links to other helpful online resources and tools, one reason we've loved the Web from the beginning.

A   moment of solitude. A breath of fresh air. A feeling of peace. When these pleasures are welcome, so may be Always Well Within. This loving blog is the work of Sandra Pawula, who helps her visitors think about such things as what happiness truly is as well as why sadness is the true key to it, reasons to slow down, how moderation relates to minimilism, and other matters that often get lost in our daily lives. The more than 200 articles on this site are about tapping into your own inner happiness and freedom to live, as Pawula says, "authentically with more clarity, confidence and ease." You can subscribe to the site, get it by RSS feed or email, or just visit when you like. If an article inspires you, you can add your own thoughts and comments, enriching the subject, your life and the moment.

I t's easy being green. At least it is when you visit Inspiration Green. From art made from bottlecaps to videos about dust and lots in between, this site shows why being green is fun and fascinating as well as worthwhile. I really appreciated the detailed articles about turning your pool into a pond, converting old boats into furniture, knowing what vegetables and fruits to avoid because of pesticide residue, comprehensive information on climate change, even music about living the green life and trailers of movies with green angles. The design of the site is somewhat dated but the layout and navigation is excellent, helping you flow through it effortlessly. You could spend hours at this site learning useful and valuable things about saving our planet - and ourselves - pretty darn easily.

W hy knot? You'll find the answer at Fusion Knots. J.D. Lenzen created this site that celebrates "new and unusual ornamental knots" to share his love of twists, coils and weaves - and to promote his book Decorative Fusion Knots. In addition to offering the first chapter of the book, the site includes color photos of 148 knots and links to YouTube videos that show how to tie each one. There are also downloadable versions of instructions on how to tie 66 knots. The variety of the knots, their beauty and flow are really special, opening your eyes and mind to something you might otherwise take for granted. I suspect the nearly 7,000 members of the site's forum appreciate what Lenzen has done for them and for the art of knot tying. So when it comes to this pursuit, indeed, why not?


H ow do you say that again? If you have any questions about pronunciation, Forvo is the site for you. It shares pronunciations for words in more than 275 languages, including Walloon, Venda, Shona, Min Nan, Lozi, Gilaki, Ewe and Bambara. For each, Forvo tells you how many people speak that particular language, how many people on Forvo do, as well as how many pronunciations are on the site. (In case you're wondering, there's only one word in Ewe, and that's "yoo." I am not making that up.) Fortunately, you can add words. You can also look at words by category regardless of origin, see maps with accents and languages and, of course, hear pronunciations, presumably primarily from native speakers. You can also vote for your favorite pronunciations and share information with friends. All in all, this site makes me say, "Bravo!"

F luffy is out. At least, you don't have to resort to old-fashioned or common names for your pets anymore, now that there is petnames.net. In fact, the site boasts 20,000 names for your dog, cat, fish, spider, monkey or, well, anything you think of as a pet. The homepage shows you recently added names, or you can browse by gender, category (such as funny names), type of animal, origin (such as Hawaiian) or even just by first letter. If you browse by letter, you can sort by gender once you get there, although many of these names are pretty unisex. Once you zero in on the name itself, you can see its meaning, gender, category and type of animal, rate it, save it to your favorites, or make a comment. So forget "Fluffy," and maybe name your new cat ... "Floressa"!

T he inside scoop. Yes, you will get just that - albeit from two generations ago - at The Orwell Diaries. The work of the people who bestow the Orwell Prize annually, this blog shares the political and personal diaries of British author Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, 70 years to the day since they were written. The diaries cover the period from 1938 to 1942, a tumultuous time in the world's history as well as in Orwell's life. In addition to the diary entries themselves, the site shares a biography of this complex man, photos and maps, and links to other sites that offer pertinent information. Notes explain the background of the material as well as background on the Orwell Prize, Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing. Yes, this site gives you a rare inside look at a special moment in history.

I s that a butterfly? Visiting Callistonian.net takes you into the enchanted world of Chantelle, a lovely 20-something lass with style. Her site's tagline - "where always its spring" - is from poet e.e. cummings. The name of the site is pure fancy. The site has just three sections: home, colophon+ and exits. Exits is, simply enough, links to other sites. From the homepage, you can read the beginnings of blog posts and, if you're interested, click to read more. Chantelle is interested in things Korean, and offers her perspective, whatever the subject, with one raised eyebrow. Colophon shares information about our hostess, without giving too much away. All of this is wrapped in a simple, sophisticated design, which walks the sitemistress's talk. Yes, in fact, that is a butterfly!

W here's the swatter? You might be tempted to ask that when you visit insects.org. Or maybe not, because this is a site for those who recognize bugs as "modern marvels," as well as for those who aren't so sure about that. You can search for keywords or click on the bug of the week. Or check out one of the site's three categories: Entophiles, Class:Insecta, or CE Digest. The Entophiles index contains more than 150 photographs and information about some of the most fascinating and beautiful insects from around the world. Class:Insecta is for teachers, with butterfly and moth wings patterns and surprising, detailed information about stamps with insects on them. CE Digest has articles about a variety of insect-related subjects, helping make clear it's better to share than swat.


G ood things come in small packages. At least Kent Griswold and the followers of his Tiny House Blog certainly think so. In 2007, Griswold started the blog based on his love of small spaces. Today, it's a big collection of plans, comments, photos, ads, links and videos dedicated to, well, tiny houses that has garnered attention from Oprah, the New York Times, CNN and The New Yorker. You'll find plans for 15 darling little houses, from the 64 square foot Hermit - which is about the size of a bathroom - to the massive 874 square foot Tumbleweed B-53. You can sign up for workshops on building tiny and also straw bale houses, buy books on various subjects of interest to people who live in small spaces, download the directory, or browse through the photos of great houses people have built in very small packages.

J ason Kottke has something to tell you. Actually, he has a lot to share with you, and he does it at kottke.org. He's done so since March 1998, and his blog - which he says is about "the liberal arts 2.0" - has so much you want to know about. The day I visited, there was a fascinating slow-motion video of an owl flying, an article about coal-fired pizza, insights into menu design and a photo shoot with Frances Bean Cobain. You can browse through the latest posts or choose to read random archived posts; read reviews of books and movies; download Kottke's free font, Silkscreen; and see photos he has taken. You can catch up with him on Twitter, too. If you're looking for a new career, there's also a job board, and pretty much anything else that Kottke finds interesting.

G o further with Fluther. If you have a question about, well, pretty much anything, you can indeed do just that at this free site that models itself after a gathering of jellyfish. The site is much more fun, though, especially since it has adopted a lighthearted tone; it may the only site whose confirmation email is written as poetry. Once you've signed up, you can join in the fluther of questions in the General area, where you are instructed to stick to the facts, or the Social section, where you can be as irreverent as you wish. There's also a blog and a chat area, but most of the fun is in the questions and answers. They range from "How do you make lasagne without tomato sauce?" to "Can irony exist without a God of some kind?" Yes, with a flurry of fluther, you know you are part of a broad human race.

Y our own private concert. Visiting Black Cab Sessions makes you feel that you're getting just that with some of the top bands in the world today. It all began when five guys in London found a way to have their favorite musicians perform for them. They set up a camera in the back of some classic cabs and invited people to play. And play they do. On the site, you can watch and listen as Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, Brian Wilson, Richard Thompson, Lianne La Havas, Mumford and Sons and dozens of others sing and play guitars, drums, synthesizers and even an accordion as they are driven around in a London cab. You can browse through and play the sessions, make a comment, or listen to and watch recommended videos. It's a different way to see your favorite bands, as if it were all just for you.

L ook around. That's easy to do at 360VR Images. To show off their amazing ability to create a complete visual of any place, anywhere, the professionals at 360VR Images share 360-degree views of some iconic locations, including New York's Times Square on New Year's Eve; the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; Shanghai, China's Oriental Pearl TV Tour Skywalk; the Statue of Liberty; the top of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, Colorado; and the cockpit of the Space Shuttle. Some of the panoramas are shown via QuickTime technology, while others use a Java viewer. Whichever you use, you can swing around in a circle in the image as well as rotate up and down. It's almost as if you were there - complete with a slight case of seasickness. Regardless, this is a rare opportunity to see everything, all the way around you.


M ake it yourself. That's just what you can do with the help of Adafruit Industries. Under the leadership of "Ladyada" Limor Fried, the site offers a quirky mix of electronics kits and instructions for ... well, sometimes I don't know what they're for. There are some projects I did recognize - there are three clock designs and an eggbot that lets you draw on egg-shaped objects - and lots I didn't, including the Chumby and the SpokePOV. I loved the electronic cufflinks, though - they're perfect for a geek formal. You also can buy components and parts, tools and books, wires and cables. And if you want to learn more, there are tutorials, forums, a blog, videos and a weekly chat. There are also archives, too, that go back to January 2006. Yes, this is the place if you're ready to make something electronic yourself.

I 'm telling! You can do just that at the Complaints Board. You know how frustrating it can be when a company doesn't do what it said it would? Well, this site lets you tell the world who did - or didn't do - what they should have done. There are more than 400,000 posts explaining what company was out of line, what country it happened in, when and by whom it was posted. You can see the latest complaints, search by company or product name, or sort them by more than 150 categories and subcategories. You can also read about recalls, news, stories, tips and tricks, and see images and videos about consumer interests. And, of course, you can submit your own complaints. There's lots of room to explain the problem, and you can even upload files that illustrate the issue. It's all part of elevating complaining to an adult level.

P laying with the universe. That's what Solar System Scope lets you do in full color with the ease of moving your mouse. This graphically gorgeous, free, interactive 3D model of the solar system planets and night sky is the work of a Slovenian Flash developer that wanted to show off its skills, and this site does that beautifully. Although it's available in English, Slovenian, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese, words are really secondary to the ability to move around the plants and stars as you see how they relate to each other. You can view the solar system heliocentrically (that's with the sun in the center), geocentrically (with the Earth in the middle), or panorametically (which beautifully displays the constellations). You also can turn back time or advance it to see how it might change the night sky. They even offer a version you can put on your own site, where anyone else can play with it, too.

T he end of the road. That's what prompted cartographer Dale Sanderson to create USEnds.com. The site provides photos and descriptions of the end of current and historic U.S. highways, as well as maps that show each of these now-secondary roads in the context of its "route family." Rather than the antiseptic interstate freeways that now sweep from one end of the country to another, these roads often go through towns, each lending its own flavor to a trip. With 195 highways, there is plenty to catalog - the site has 600 webpages with aboutt 4,900 images, thanks to more than 200 contributors. You can browse numerically or use the site's interactive maps. Sanderson color-codes the routes so you know whether you're looking at current, historic, main or branch highways. Drill down to the highways themselves, and you see a travelogue that takes you back through history, all the way to the end of the road.

W ho said newspapers are dead? Whoever it was hasn't visited newspaper map. This colorful site helps you find newspapers around the world that you can then translate into more than 40 languages. You can search the site's database of more than 10,000 newspapers by name, language or location, but it sure is fun to simply click on the colorful pin markers on the site's interactive map to find papers throughout the world. Colors indicate each paper's native language, but with a single click on its marker, you then have the option to translate the paper using Google's Translate service. The site also lets you see historical papers, again by clicking on the map, which delivers readable images as well as links to the paper's current site. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls made this historic map! There's a mobile application and the opportunity to make corrections, too, helping keep newspapers alive and lively.

JULY 2011

L ike visiting a really smart friend. That's what it's like to pop in at The Improvised Life. Whether it's a video about creativity, an irresistible recipe, a virtual visit to artist Alexander Calder's cement block home, stressless ways to wrap presents, or links to other resources like a free guide for inventors, this elegant blog shares just like a clever neighbor would. Sally Schneider and her team somehow keep the site personal, giving a delightful voice to a great, big substantive world. It's all about creativity and not being afraid to make a mistake. Of course, you need to practice improvising, just like any other skill, making this site a wonderful model to follow while you pursue your own style and bliss. Now that's worth sharing with another smart friend!

F ilter: on. That's the purpose of AllTop. Whether the topic is work, health, culture, personal interests, techology, people, news, locales or sports, this site provides you with the best of the best. The site is designed by its three human hosts to give you what you want while filtering out what you don't. You can choose from hot topics on the homepage by clicking on anything that catches your interest, browse categories and subcategories, or create a page of your own preferences. The site imports stories from top news sites and displays the headlines of the five most recent ones. Place your cursor over a headline, and you can read a story snippet. If you decide that you want to read more, just click on the story title. So you can go as far as you want, or stop if you're done. And you can submit your own sites, adding to the heady mix, without fouling the filter.

W hat is good? GOOD is. Full of good, that is. That being said, the site isn't goody-two-shoes good. I enjoyed the work of poet Gil Scott-Heron, reading about GOOD's contest that raised $50,000 for an outdoor nonprofit, a confessional about eating at Subway, a slide show of photos of jacaranda trees' purple haze blooms, an "infographic" about illegal immigration, and the "Doodle Something Good for the World" project. Launched in September 2006, GOOD also produces videos, live events and a print magazine, all catering to living well while doing good. There's daily GOOD, in the form of an email newsletter, and random GOOD, on the Web site, and stories in more than a dozen different categories. Whatever you're reading or doing on the site, though, helps build a really good feeling about the world and our future.

I     broke it. Now I can fix it by visiting ifixit. Started in 2003 by two guys at California Poly State University, the site now has a community of 800 contributors and 100,000 newsletter subscribers who want to know how to fix stuff. Or they do know how and want to help others. There's help for cameras, phones, cars, computers, game consoles and household appliances, whether it's links to manuals and guides or a specific answer. The site can help you diagnose the problem and then fix it. The owners apparently make their income from selling repair kits, which seems like a fair deal, so you also find out what tools you'll need to fix problems. And, of course, you can post your own challenges, too. The site's navigation is a little tricky, but perhaps you don't browse when you're just trying to fix the darn thing!

B ut is it art? The site iamnotanartist doesn't make any such claims. In fact, at first this quirky destination seems to just be a place for small animations of drawings and photos. They're short and clever, and the actions are simple: a pencil being broken, the lines falling off a sheet of notebook paper, all struggles of design workers. They keep coming. Then you notice that none of them repeat. And they keep coming. Then, out of curiosity, you click on one. Now you have a page full of that image, and - voila! - information about the "nonartist" who created the animation you are watching. You can also resize the image and view its individual cells, email it, or share it on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can create your own. If you do, you may not be an artist, but you are now a filmmaker.

JUNE 2011

M mmmmm .... I'm hungry! If you are, too, and you're curious about the stories behind the food, you'll probably enjoy What's Cooking America. There are lots of wonderful recipe sites - The Recipe Link and foodnetwork.com come to mind - but this one has a homey feel, as if you were exchanging recipes with a friend. For William and Kate's royal wedding, they focused on high tea. For Mother's Day, brunches were on the menu. Of course, there are recipes, and their index is helpfully organized by type like Diet, Seafood and Fish, and Chocolate, and I appreciate the photos. There's also a Baking Corner; Regional Foods; Cooking Articles; a bushelful of Hints and Tips, such as how to buy vegetables and information on the different types of flour; a Culinary Dictionary; and links to food columns around the country. Hey, I've gotta go - now I'm starving!

S uper weather! That's what you get at WeatherSpark, which lets you see weather in an entirely new way. There are many thousands of people around the world who are fascinated by weather, and it's no wonder, since our lives are affected by it daily. Using WeatherSpark, you can check out global weather trends with interactive maps and graphs. You can look at the general map, sliding it around with your mouse, or zero in on a specific locale and then see history, forecasts, averages over years and decades, as well as global and local trends. And almost anywhere you move your mouse, the site provides even more data about the information. You can also see detailed weather reports for any day - if it is sometime in the future, you learn about what you might expect, based on the past. For any weather enthusiast, this site provides weather information super powers.

E ating your way around the globe. That's what Akila, Patrick and their two dogs are doing, and you can go along at The Road Forks. Our intrepid travelers let nothing get in the way of a good meal and a good story. You can browse by country - they've adventured in Africa, Australia, China, Cambodia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, South Korea and Thailand. Or browse by category - the dogs have their own section, and then there's Gear, how to Plan an Around-the-World Trip, Recipes, Cities, Scenery, How-to Guides, and so much more. There are also Recipes, Archives and Off the Road details, and you can even follow along by email. The photos are luscious and the spirit indefatigable. You really get to know this lovely couple and, despite never leaving your keyboard, feel like you're traveling with them, all the way around the globe.

T hey're doing this for science. Well, that's what people say, but the folks at Evil Mad Scientist are probably doing what they do for fun. You've gotta love this site, even if it's for nothing more than its name, but there's much more to it than that. On most Wednesdays, the wild-haired guys at Evil Mad Scientist post new stories they think their fans will enjoy, whether they're about electronics or gatherings where quirky geeks (said with the greatest respect) gather to share ideas and stuff. There's a whole section on Playing With Food, as well as Site News and other projects. I got a kick out of the Roving Pumpkin, which is perfect for scaring the daylights out of Halloween revelers, and there are lots of other fascinating projects and tidbits. There are also a forum and Evil Mad Scientist Flickr groups where you can join in the fun, for whatever reason you choose.

A s cute as they come. Yes, miniature giraffes are something else! You can see for yourself - and order your own - at Sokoblovsky Farms. This Russian breeder has created the most charming pet, the Petite Lap Giraffe. Their Web site, which is in somewhat broken English, lets you see these creatures through a Web cam, and you can order your own tiny giraffe (although there were more than a million people ahead of me). When you get to the Photos page, you can see the bull, Vladimir, and the lovely cows, Raina and Svetlana, as well as some videos of one happy owner. And that's when you find out that the entire site - and the giraffes themselves - are all part of an advertising campaign. A very clever one, at that, since thousands, probably millions of people have told others about these incredible creatures. But even if they aren't real, they're still as cute as they come!

MAY 2011

A   secret weapon. That's what the travel site Gozaic is, since it's an offshoot of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These folks know history, because they keep it alive for us and generations beyond. On the site you can browse and search by location, keyword or place type for destinations around the world. You can look at maps and information about lodging, dining, history, events and, of course, cultural and historic gems. If you sign up - it's free - you can save your favorites for future trips or just for armchair traveling. In the Connect section, you can find 7,500 travel enthusiasts who just may share your interests. Yes, this secret weapon really helps you hit your travel target.

T o knit, or not to knit? If that is your question, KnittingHelp.com may help you decide that you can knit, after all. The brainchild of Amy and Sheldon Finlay, the site is a lovely fabric of knitting instruction and the patterns and products you need to pursue this productive and relaxing pursuit. Amy is the knitter, and Sheldon stitched together the site. Together, they've established a rich community where knitters from around the world can learn and share ideas. In addition to basic instruction, Amy offers dozens of videos on specific stitches as well as topics including how to join yarn and what to do with messy edges. You can also buy more videos - as well as books, bags and needles - in the site's shop. Perhaps best of all is the opportunity to commune with other knitters in the forum, where there are more than 800,000 posts and you can ask your own questions and share experiences. So knit on, Macbeth!

W hat's that?! If you're looking at something in the wild and that's your question, ZipCodeZoo is for you. I first thought that this site might help me find zip codes, but instead, it helps us all find what lives in various zip codes. This remarkable site is the work of the BayScience Foundation, a non-profit group created by one David Stang and his wife. Stang does more than pay for the whole shebang - he's contributed more than 44,000 of the site's nearly 313,000 photos that help you identify more than 2.5 million species. Then Google maps the site's more than 127 million field observations. Registering your location helps you build your critter Life List and lets you upload your own field observations and photos. So now you know your location for animal identification.

I t's a match. If you're a business person and could use some help with a project, or a freelancer looking for work, your answer may just be Guru. Companies post their projects and freelancers post their profiles, helping them connect. On the employer side, Guru walks you through the process of listing your project, helping you note what kind of skills someone needs to help you. You can describe the project and location - there are people from all around the world on the site. On the freelancer side, you can put up a profile that potential employers can view as well as search for projects. If you like what you see, you can submit a proposal. The site helps with the payment process, too, so there's no question who will get paid, when and how. You can also manage your projects, find tips on outsourcing, and ask questions of other entrepreneurs. For people in business, this site is a great fit.

S marting up. The folks at The Awl are among those who are tired of the dumbing down of our world. That's why this New York City-centered group created a site named for a sharp tool that puts small holes in things. It's also why the editors and their contributors seek commentary - and comments, which you can make if you register - about deeper things. I immediately got sucked into an article on the late writer David Foster Wallace's personal library, but it's only one of many articles in categories including Culture (and TV), It's Science, Things to Read, What a World, and the enigmatically named area called The Hairpin. Regardless of your specific interests, wherever you roam on this site, you're likely to find something that fascinates you. What you won't find is the drivel that drives entertainment gossip shows. Instead, The Awl makes you feel, well, smarter for having visited.

APRIL 2011

I t's amazing what you can do with a little imagination. Add in fantastic illustrations and you have the 19th century mechanical marvel Boilerplate. Yes, that Boilerplate. He's the robot that charged San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, rode with Lawrence of Arabia, and the one who saved Pancho Villa's life. At first, it's easy to believe that Boilerplate might be real. Artist Paul Guinan has created a remarkable life story and illustrated it with facts and amazingly realistic depictions of Boilerplate in heroic settings. In fact, he fooled comedian Chris Elliott, who included Boilerplate in his book as a real character. Boilerplate has his own book now, which has gotten reviews from top publications. It's all part of the legend of a history-making robot who helps us celebrate the power of imagination.

A h, the soothing sounds of nature. You can create your own such sounds at Free Nature Sounds. This Latvian site provides all sorts of natural noises and lets you combine them to create your own clips. They supply sounds including rain, fire, thunder, snow, wolves howling, children giggling, a cat purring and a beehive, which you can then combine. You can listen to some of the popular sounds that have been recorded and saved, or you can record one by selecting up to four different sounds to combine, then adjusting them by controling the sound level and adjusting the speakers. Once you have a composition you like, you can put in a link to your new sound combination or download it to your own computer or Web site. Or you can post it to Facebook to let all of your friends know you're a natural genius. Hey, I like the sound of that!

I t takes a village. Indeed, the Barefoot College helps residents make their own communities self-sufficient and sustainable. "Barefoot professionals" - residents trained by this grassroots organization - help establish solutions that involve solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people's action, communication, women's empowerment and wasteland development in 14 Indian states. So the group is creating jobs while helping move the residents and their villages into the future. Its site provides a comprehensive look at the college, its goals and successes, providing information about each of its initiatives as well as documenting its financial underpinnings and philosophy. All in all, this is an inspiring look into people working together.

O ld news is good news. At least it is if you like fossils like the folks at Fossil Science. Every month since September 2007, they've shared the latest fossil news from around the world. When I visited, they had information about twelve-thousand-year-old seafaring adventurers in California, speculation about the Afgani Buddhas that were blown up by the Taliban, and information about mating mites. But that's not all! There are articles about nature's patterns, beetroot juice's effect on humans, making fuel from willows, and so much more. You can also search the site and sign up for its RSS feed, or visit its science-focused fellow sites, such as Astronomy News, Biomimicry News, Tissue Engineering, Forensics Report and Nanotech News. If you like science, you'll likely enjoy this site full of the latest news about ancient things.

R iding the rails can really seem romantic, especially with the help of I Ride the Harlem Line. Our host, Emily - also known as Cat Girl - shares her observations, humor, photos and videos of riding New York's famous Harlem Line. For those of us who live in areas with limited train access, her accounts of her adventures are a peek into another world. Because she is a graphic artist, the site has a professional sheen, but most of the commentary is clearly personal. There's plenty to enjoy here - you can organize the posts by category, including Observations, Humor, Events, Museums, History and Video. You'll see historic photos, too, as well as read comments from other train buffs, and Emily's wonderful panoramic photos. All said, this site is a delightful ride.

MARCH 2011

G row up. That's just what the gentleman of the site Put This On help other gentlemen do by providing tips about attire. This "Web Series About Dressing Like a Grownup" has articles about luggage, belts, shorts, hats, watches and shirts, as well as specific posts, such as how to dress for a job interview. There are also videos on shoes, work and denim. Like the site itself, each feature is cool and classy, although our hosts aren't afraid to tell it like they see it. Some wonderful stories are the results of questions that visitors like you can ask, such as the one about the differences between plaid, tartan and madras. There's also fun information about shopping on eBay and great sales, all illustrated with luscious photos that could entice just about anyone to finally grow up.

Doctor, my eyes ..." can see remarkable images of space, thanks to HubbleSite. Devoted to the Hubble Telescope, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in space this year, this site shares the excitement of this celestial spyglass. Your first stop may well be the gallery, where you can browse through Hubble's spectacular color photos of stars, galaxies, planets, nebulae and other space phenomena. There's an entire section devoted to the telescope itself and another to its amazing discoveries, as well as a reference desk with frequently asked questions and a glossary, all the news releases over the years, and general information about astronomy. You can also send your own message to the Hubble and learn about the next generation Webb Space Telescope. This site is a fantastic way to see beyond the obvious.

D id I just hear what I thought I heard?! It's easy to misunderstand song lyrics, so thank goodness for LyricsFreak. The site offers a huge collection of song lyrics, which is perfect for solving mysteries and ending arguments. You can search by genre, title or artist, but other than the lyrics themselves, the site is one of few words. If your sense of humor insists that misheard lyrics may be just as good or better than the originals, the site KissThisGuy is definitely good for a laugh. It features classic misunderstandings like the one the site is named for, a line from Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" that he himself spoofed. You can search by lyrics, genre, artist and song as well as submit your own gaffes. Yup, that was laughter I just heard!

WIW, ABBR is a WOW.. OK, I made up that last acroymn, but it does describe ABBR, a site that celebrates shortcuts. You can browse through Internet, Business, Community, Computing, Sports, Business and Medical sections. Or simply search all the categories by starting with the abbreviation and looking for the word, using a word to search for an abbreviation, or search for an abbreviation with a specific word in it. They throw in the definition, too, or you can do a metasearch for meaning on the entire Web. You can create your own list of abbreviations - great for specific fields or topics - and submit ones that aren't yet listed. The site also provides tools that help you search its database from anywhere. While you're there, check out the associated sites - they're also GR8.

L ooking backward. That's what the vintage photo blog Shorpy lets you do by providing access to a century of high-definition images from the 1850s to the 1950s. Named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who is shown in a series of 1910 photos, the site serves up thousands of images, most of which were gleaned from the Library of Congress research archive. Here, though, you can view, comment on, vote for or share them with friends on Facebook. The top five photos of the day are featured on the homepage, complete with their original captions. Beyond that, you can browse by photographer - and there are some fine ones, including Dorthea Lange, Ansel Adams and Walker Evans - or look through more than 25 photo galleries. As you do, you see the past we now build on so we can look ahead.


I    dropped by the British Library today and read a few books. You can, too, by visiting the library's amazing section Turning the Pages. This mini-site lets you look at, read, magnify and even hear 18 of the greatest and oldest books known to humans. Among them are the Ethiopian Bible and the Lisbon Hebrew Bible, the First Atlas of Europe, the original Alice in Wonderland, the Classic of Botanical Illustration and the oldest printed book. It takes a bit of free technology and a bit of patience, but once you open the books, you can scroll through the pages, hear them or read them in full color glory. No white gloves, special permission or shushing from a librarian. Just settle in and read some true classics.

L ook around. Photographers have been doing just that for more than 150 years. Library of Congress's Panoramic Photographs celebrates the pictures of photographers who looked around more than most, taking photos that required more than a single shot to take in the whole scene. The site features more than 4,000 photos taken between 1851 and 1991 in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The oldest hail from the Civil War, and there are cityscapes, landscapes and group portraits, beauty contests, disasters, engineering feats, sports, school activities, fairs and expositions, and military and naval activities. You also can learn the history and techniques of panoramic photography, so you, too, can take the long view.

M y stars! You'll find stars - real and manmade ones - at Heavens-Above. The site began many years ago as a way to locate flashes from the Iridium satellites launched into space for extremely powerful mobile phones, but it has now expanded to help you see more real celestial bodies from anywhere in the world. If you register, you can save your location to make it easier to find satellites and planets in the future, or you can just indicate it each time you visit. Once the site knows where you are, it gives you personalized star charts with a simple click. You can also locate Iridium flares, the Space Station, radio amateur satellites, satellites that are escaping the Solar System, comets and planets, as well as find information about the sun, moon, planets, time and date. Oh my universe!

A    little to the left. Some of the subjects in the photos at Awkward Family Photos may have been told that as they posed for some of the most hilarious pictures you'll ever see. Most of the more than 500 photos on the site were taken in all seriousness, but either time or taste or simple mischievousness has now made them worthy of a belly laugh, especially when you read some of the comments beneath them. You can simply browse by page or visit by category. I couldn't resist the hall of fame, where, among other shots, a girl grins as she bathes in a toilet and a pregnant mother poses with her boys dressed in their hockey best. There are awkward stories, too, and of course, you can submit your own moments of sheer embarrassment for everyone to enjoy.

N either rain nor snow nor .... well, almost anything can stop the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from protecting life and property, and conserving and protecting U.S. natural resources. Its site shares its work well. You can find out about weather, oceans, fisheries, charting, satellites, climate, research and coastlines in amazing detail, from what the United States has to how we care for it. There's also a special education section for teachers, an opportunity to Ask NOAA any question or read the more than 700 that have already been answered. The site has a special mini-site devoted to the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, and you can even find out what the agency is doing in each U.S. state. I appreciate the Active Weather Alerts, too, because you never know when there'll be rain or snow or ....


W hen I was growing up my parents told me I could be anything I wanted. With a site like icouldbe.org now available, almost any kid's career dream can come true with the help of an online mentor. The site brings together youth, professionals corporate partners and even schools to help students get a realistic look at the world of work. Indeed, since 2000, when inner-city educator Adam Aberman founded icouldbe.org to further guidance and career counseling, the site has connected more than 10,000 students across the United States with caring and professional mentors, no matter where they live and work. This gives the youth a huge boost toward successful futures and the mentors the knowledge they have made a difference in someone's life, making this the kind of world you want to grow up in.

R ight on the tip of your tongue. If all of the words at Save the Words were there, you'd have quite a mouthful. Sponsored by the publishers of the Oxford Dictionaries, this tongue-in-cheek site is chock-full of words that are in danger of being abandoned. As you look at the screen full of colorful words, they literally call out to you, not unlike the animals at the shelter. Just click on one of them, and you get a definition and the opportunity to make it your own. Of course, you can submit your own words, too. The site also has a handy guide that gives ways to spread the word, such as using them to name your pet, or for skywriting or Scrabble. You can also search for words or take a chance on a random word. Whatever you do at this clever site, here you'll undoubtedly find a word for it.

H ow odd! How very odd! You'll find the oddest of the odd at Atlas Obscura, which describes itself as "a Compendium of This Age's Wonders, Curiosities and Esoterica." And it does deliver. You can simply browse the site, search for a favorite oddity, or even submit your own. The photos and text are delightful, and you can indicate your pleasure by "liking" each place, indicating that you have visited it, or sharing it via your social networks. For each spot, you'll find a map, an address and any pertinent links, too. If you know more information about a location or have a photo you'd like to share, you can even update the listing. You can see what other people have updated recently as well as see top users and top cities, too. And that sense of community isn't odd at all.

I    know what to do with that! That's the point of MakeUseOf, a daily blog that helps you make better use of the Web by dishing up news about cool Web sites; Windows, Mac and Linux computer tips and software programs; downloads and other tech-related information that can make you more productive. Ranked as one of the Web's most popular blogs by the site Technorati, MakeUseOf debuted in 2006. Today it has nearly 350,000 users who enjoy about 7 million page views each month. Its Directory offers computer and mobile apps, and you can ask - and answer - users' questions in the Answers section. There are also hot Tech Deals, goofy Geeky Fun and 30 free guides on popular subjects such as Facebook privacy. Yes, there's lots to make use of at this popular blog.

G et a snapshot. That's the focus of AreaVibes, a site that gives you information about, they say, every U.S. city. This is particularly useful for people who are relocating, planning a vacation, or just want to know more about the place they live. The site has a scoring system and information on cost of living, male to female ratios, families with children, crime, education, employment, health and safety, housing, weather, transportation, local businesses, nearby cities, a map and user reviews. To add your own review and participate in the site's Q&A section, just register - it's free. There are also more than a dozen guides about a variety of subjects. It looks like the site is just getting started, so you can help it get a clear picture of places you know. Click!

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