Web Walk!

Computer Life column for April 17, 1999

Richard Gordon

Many readers tell me they like the periodic Web Walks that appear in this space. This time, we'll visit some rather odd sites before hitting ESPN's NFL draft site.

Have you ever had the urge to go live in the desert for a week with 10,000 of your closest friends, all of whom are engaged in some form of painting, sculpture, or performance art? If so, visit the Burning Man Project's site (www.burningman.com). The idea is that thousands of people descend on the Nevada desert to camp out and form a temporary community, brought closer together by the adversity of their surroundings and their art projects. You can order tickets to this summer's Burning Man from this site.

Serious trivia hounds should try Duane's War of the Minds (www.webcom.com/duane/warmind.html). The questions at this site are designed so that you can't find an answer with a simple keyword search with your favorite Web search tool. New "battles", groups of four questions on Forestry, Philosophy, and a rotating series of other topics, appear about twice a month.

If puzzles are more your speed, try Fitzweb's collection of on-line brain-teasers (www.fitzweb.com/brainteasers). These are challenging Java and Javascript puzzles--I managed to solve one in which a knight takes every piece on a chess board; however, I didn't come close to the optimum solution.

Is topical satire what you seek? Perhaps The Onion will make you laugh 'til you cry (www.theonion.com). This parody of an on-line newspaper is filled with stories with headlines like these:

They'd really like you to purchase their first book, Our Dumb Century, a send-up of newspaper coverage of the 20th Century.

Do you find that most on-line joke services leave you deleting more jokes and enjoying them less? Then try Jester from the University of California, Berkeley (shadow.ieor.berkeley.edu/humor/). In this research project that combines advanced statistical techniques (they call it "collaborative filtering") and database management, Jester recommends "jokes based on your ratings of a set of sample jokes."

Every time Jester displays a joke, it asks you to rate the joke. Based on your ratings of the first 15 jokes you see, Jester tries to then show you jokes you'll enjoy. Thanks to the over 7,000 people who had rated some of the jokes before my visit, I did see some which I thought were pretty funny. You can also add jokes to their data base.

Finally, thanks to Cable TV, today is a very big day in the world of sports: the first day of the NFL Draft. If, heaven forbid, the adult male in your household is busy with yard work, little league, youth soccer, or spring cleaning, he can catch up at ESPN's Draft Central (nfldraft.espn.go.com).

ESPN's site will let fans track the draft in a number of ways. You can sort the draft picks by round, by NFL team, by position, or by the colleges at which the players most recently toiled.

Tip of the week

Cut and paste

This simple trick amazes novices frustrated by lots of re-typing.

You can copy text back and forth between different Windows or Macintosh applications with the Copy and Paste commands found in most software's Edit pull-down menu. For example, if you use your mouse to highlight the URL of a page you are visiting, then choose Copy from Netscape or Internet Explorer's Edit menu, you can paste that URL into a document--or web page--you are editing in an entirely different program.

You can also use key shortcuts in many dialog boxes that do not provide an Edit menu. On a Windows system, CONTROL-C is the shortcut for copy, and CONTROL-V is the shortcut for paste. On a Macintosh, the shortcuts are COMMAND-C for copy and COMMAND-V for paste.

Copyright © 1999, The News Journal Company

Computer Life Index

Richard Gordon helps support faculty, staff and student computing at the University of Delaware. E-mail questions, comments or suggestions to richard@inet.net, or write him at The News Journal, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850. Although each note cannot be answered individually, reader comments and questions will often be incorporated in future columns.