Online services, mailing lists, newsgroups...everything on or involved with the Internet is a breeze to sign up for, but canceling these services is a whole other ball of wax. Oftentimes, trying to remove ourselves from the active roster of a mailing list is more frustrating than
trying to get the vending machine in our office to accept a dollar bill. Enter Cancel It, an online consumer advocacy cancellation service that uses a universal form to void, nullify and otherwise annul any online product or service. And it's free. So next time, save yourself the time spent on hold with customer service and quit trying to decipher those confusing "unsubscribe" instructions; have the Cancel It team do your dirty work for you.
Having trouble figuring out just how a sheep is cloned? Turn to Access Excellence, "a place in cyberspace for biology teaching and learning" that aims to encourage budding scientists (who may
grow up one day to work for Genentech, Inc., the company that sponsors the site). It's geared mostly toward kids and teachers, though some of the "amaze-your-friends" factoids amazed us, too: "On the Roman holiday Lupercal (Feb. 14), goats were sacrificed and the blood was smeared on two
specially chosen youths. The youths would then run all around Rome with strips of goat hide in their hands. Women would strive to be beaten with these strips, known as februa (purifiers). Hence, February gets its name as the month of purification." We also liked the idea for a classroom activity involving forensic science, where students would perform "hair microscopy, blood analysis, chromatography and DNA fingerprinting." Cloned sheep, sacrificial goats, crime evidence--is this biology class or an X-Files episode?
On the heels of the Hollywood Stock Exchange (www.hsx.com), our number-one site back in January, comes Fantasy Billboard. This time, rather than pretending to be a movie mogul, you're in charge
of a record label. This is essentially Rotisserie Baseball for music buffs--pick six albums off the Billboard magazine record charts and watch as they shoot up the charts or sink like bricks. Each game lasts four weeks and the rules are complex enough to keep things interesting (no, you can't just take numbers one through six off of the Top 40 charts). Best of all, the game's free.
The Digits Project
The Digits Project is an attempt to gather loads of information on the individual numbers 0
through 9 (excluding 4 and 6, which were under construction as this issue went to press). For
instance, click on "5" and you'll discover all of the words that rhyme with "five;" learn that there are five Platonic solids; and find out that the fifth element is boron. Plus, there are links to the lyrics of "High Five" by Beck and the Slaughterhouse Five Web site. Remember, that's just "5." There's also a "Numbers of the World" feature in case you need to know the Esperanto translation of six (ses) or what's Turkish for nine (dokuz).
edu: U.S. News College and Careers Center
U.S. News & World Report brings its college and grad school rankings to the Web. This site includes hints on how to submit electronic applications, articles on campus life and an "Answer
Zone" for prospective students to vent their worries and reassure one another: "Dartmouth is but an arbitrary institution; love is a universal truth." The "fun" portions of the site, though, aren't as compelling a reason to visit as the straightforward rundown on the comparative prestige of colleges and universities: M.I.T. for engineering, Carnegie Mellon for computer science, Yale for drama, N.Y.U. for film. Not sure which field is for you? The "Careers at a Glance" section outlines some job prospects, while the "Find Your Job" section explains that every opportunity that sounds like fun has a "poor" employment outlook.
Radical and Extreme Hobbies
Much testosterone pumping at this site: unbelievable stories about high-power rocketry, cannons,
motor scooters powered by N2O, hovercrafts, boom tubes and other things that appeal to Monster Truck patrons. The images and sound files are amusing to view and listen to, but the written word remains the most powerful storyteller at REH. Be sure to read about the Battle of the Oranges, an annual festival in Ivrea, Italy that pits townspeople against one another in a mock battle with, yes, the orange as weapon of choice. Ooh, the citric burning!
A sort of Name That Tune for literature fanatics, the First Lines Web site challenges users to name that book title given its opening sentence. At last count, the page's authors had collected
hundreds of quotes that they've separated into 23 categories. The sections include books that have been adapted for the silver screen, science fiction, period pieces, women writers and Who Done Its. The IU staff, apart from Tiny the Mailguy, has failed miserably at all categories but one--children's literature.
Sending your sweetie a virtual bouquet of roses via the Web is a nice idea, but a simple GIF full of flowers might not rouse much of a reaction. Instead, try getting a giggle out of your friends by sending them cartoon postcards from Toonogram. Browse the selection of cartoons (all authored by the creator of the Web cartoon Doctor Fun), pick one you like and write a short message to go with it. Type in the e-mail address of your recipient, and Toonogram will send off an URL that lets your pal pick up the postcard. Seeing cartoon characters urged to "Follow the flies to Larry's Discount Meats" or to try "a puppy--it's kind of like Prozac" has just gotta be more fun than getting yet another tiresome round of forwarded Bill Gates jokes.
Nicknamed "the ability utility" by its staff of designers, Learn2 is an amazing sourcebook for all the things your parents forgot to tell you (or didn't actually know so much about in the first place). The site is vast and practical, telling readers in plain English and cute graphics
how to light a pilot light, drive a stick shift, cure hiccups, tie knots, change a diaper, defrost a freezer, iron a shirt, shave, cure insomnia, use chopsticks, balance a checkbook and much, much more. Yearning to try something more esoteric? Learn2 can teach you how to shuck oysters, make a roux, handcraft paper, make a paper airplane and spin a basketball like a Harlem Globetrotter. We just want to know when the "Learn2 edit a magazine" entry is scheduled to go up.
The Bride Wore...
With June almost upon us, this site should be of interest to anyone who has ever stared at a bride in disbelief and horror. What is it about once-in-a-lifetime celebrations that inspires such preposterous finery? This collection of pictures of "strange, odd and unflattering wedding accessories" has category names such as "Dear Wedding Lady--My Butt Isn't Big Enough" and "Groom's Gloom." That should give you an idea of the kind of frothy frippery you're in for.