|NO, YOUR CAR DOESN'T HAVE A PART CALLED A "DOOHICKEY"
Wouldn't it be fabulous--and comforting--if you could bring your car care questions to someone other than a mechanic? The folks at the Car Care Council think so, too. At their Autoshop Online site, at http://www.autoshop-online.com you can get answers to the most commonly asked car care questions without even seeing a wrench. Browse through in-depth descriptions of your car's major systems; download quarterly newsletters packed with maintenance tips; see what you DO know by taking an online Car Care Quiz. Or, for a paltry $29.99--less than most mechanics charge to kick your tires--you can e-mail one of their staff mechanics with your problem and get an answer by the end of the next business day. It's not "Car Talk," but it's the next best thing.
STOP, CLOSE YOUR TEST BOOKLETS, AND PLACE YOUR PENCIL ON TOP OF YOUR DESK
Trying to get into college? Considering grad school? Finished with your education for the nonce and seeking a job? The Princeton Review Online, experts in preparing you for the SATs, GMATs, MCATs, and more, would like to help: http://www.review.com
Here you can find everything from sample tests you can take online to a service called Remind-O-Rama (Your Virtual Nag) that sends you e-mail messages reminding you where you should be in your test preparation or career-search process. And even if you don't care about your education or career, the Word du Jour feature--which mails
you a new word and definition every day--will surely enhance your life. We found some of the career advice a bit simplistic (for instance, the cover letter and resume tips would be more useful if illustrated with examples), but the test-preparation support is very thorough. These folks even have their own teachers take the exams, just to keep up with the changes.
THEY'RE NOT NEW YORKER CARTOONS--BECAUSE YOU CAN'T AFFORD NEW YORKER CARTOONS
Here's a thought: If most of the people reading your business reports would rather read cartoons, maybe you should consider putting the cartoons in your business reports. Well, maybe not--but one or two probably wouldn't hurt your newsletter or Web site. Ted Goff of Goff's Cartoons at http://www.tedgoff.com/cartoons/gifs/20bus1.html has ready-to-download business cartoons that you can easily search by subject. The cartoons aren't half bad and, if we understand his rates correctly, are very reasonably priced. If they have one drawback--and this isn't always a drawback--they don't exactly push the business-issues envelope. For example, searches on the words "fired" and "downsizing" yielded no cartoons.
For something a tad edgier but apparently similarly priced, try Carol Simpson's more politically aware cartoons at http://www.igc.apc.org/simpson/CartoonWeb.html
THIS EXPLAINS A FEW THINGS
Sexual Harassment: What Every Working Woman Needs to Know, at http://www.cs.utk.edu/~bartley/other/9to5.html is aptly titled; it's a site that every working woman should visit, regardless of whether she feels she's being harassed. This simple, clearly written page explains how the law defines harassment (if nothing else, one read will make it clear why Paula Jones' case was dismissed) and provides step-by-step instructions detailing what you should do if you've been, or are being, sexually harassed. Think of it as a CPR course for the protection of your rights and your dignity: Read, print, and save the information now, and you have a better chance of doing the right thing if you ever need to, no matter how incensed or panicked you might be.
A DIET JUST ABOUT ANYONE COULD LIVE WITH
CyberDiet, at http://www.cyberdiet.com is probably the most reasonable diet site we've seen to date--either that or its calorie-calculating algorithms need adjusting. First you enter your name, weight, and frame size and then let the site calculate your ideal weight--which CyberDiet presents in the form of what seems to us to be a very generous range. Next, you enter the weight you'd like to be and let the site tell you how many calories you should ingest every day to reduce to that weight. Finally, you jump to the online meal planner, where you choose from hundreds of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes while the site adds up your daily calorie and fat totals. The only way this could be easier is if it were free--and it is. (If you just HAVE to spend money, you can purchase a weight-loss guide or cookbook from the site's online
AH, YOU THINK YOU'RE SO SMART
Ever lose an argument even though you knew you were right? It's not uncommon: Many of the people you deal with every day don't know anything, but have mastered enough rhetoric to talk a fly off a dunghill. The answer is to call their disputatious bluff--and Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies at http://www.assiniboinec.mb.ca/user/downes/fallacy/fall.htm can help. Sure, it looks and reads like a guide to winning high-school debate tourneys (and may in fact be well suited to that purpose). But it's also a great way to know when--and HOW--you're being snowed by coworkers, bosses, salespeople, or politicians. If
you've ever wished you could silence someone by saying, "You've set up this straw man to distract us from the real issue," then this is the site for you.
Looking for a place to start a new life? You may want to consult Money Online's Best Places to Live page at http://pathfinder.com/money/best-cities-97/five.html which ranks the 300 largest metropolitan areas in the country. However, our advice is to read it more for the information--which is plentiful--rather than for the rankings themselves. Because the rankings weigh economic factors (such as job growth, taxes, housing prices, and medical care costs) more heavily than others, the list elevates some, er, less-than-garden spots to perhaps unwarranted heights. Case in point: 1997's number one place to live was Nashua, New Hampshire; we'd be surprised if most New Hampshire residents think of Nashua as the best place to live in their state, let alone the entire country.
TYPISTS--PREPARE TO KISS YOUR STRESS GOODBYE
That's the promise made at Keyboard Yoga at http://www.ivillage.com/fitness/yoga/index.html As the Webmistress says, this is the place to learn "basic yoga postures and self-massage techniques you can do right at your keyboard." We couldn't help but approve of her practical approach to exercise: "Pain doesn't usually equal gain, it usually equals, well, pain." We also liked the little animations showing how to do the exercises. But our favorite thing about the site is that it lists both the physical and mental benefits of each exercise; for example, the wrist and hand exercise not only "stretches out hands, fingers, wrists, and arms," but also "opens the mind to love, compassion, clear communication, and insight." Strangely out of place was the Cosmopolitan "virtual makeover" ad, which seems at odds with the holistic gestalt of the site. Guess even massage therapists have to make a living.
CONTENT IS KING...
At least it is on the Web--and Contentious, at http://www.contentious.com looks like an excellent resource for anyone charged with creating that content. The zine features articles on the business of online writing, tips for making a living in that business, and profiles of folks who have done very well. It's easy to read and easy to print, which is important because you'll want to do both. Even Roger Ebert
gave Contentious a thumbs-up in Yahoo Internet Life--and when was the last time Roger's thumb steered you wrong? A must for anyone starting a Web zine or writing for one.
FORGET THE NEW TAURUS. CAN I HAVE A 1972 GRENADA FOR THE WEEKEND?
For those of you unfamiliar with Rent-a-Wreck, let us fill you in: This alternative to the big auto-rental guys lets you rent used (sometimes very used) cars for very low prices. Rent-a-Wreck's Web site, at http://www.rent-a-wreck.com is in keeping with the low-budget gestalt: less-than-fancy graphics, less-than-flashy city locator (you first enter the city and then pick the state, and you have to underline spaces), and less-than-fancy commerce (you fill in a form, the company calls you back for your credit card number). Even so, this is a publicly traded company with offices from coast to coast--so take it seriously, especially if you need inexpensive, unglamorous transportation. It sports a good travel links page, too.
HEY, AND BRING A BOTTLE OF WINE, WILL YOU?
Do you dread these words from your host? Start making a habit of visiting The Uneducated Palette, Wine for the Rest of Us, at http://www.enjoywine.com where, instead of getting your wine expertise from a stuffy expert, you can get it from a man and a woman who are learning about wine
themselves (and who plan to get married soon in Napa Valley--isn't THAT special?). Learn to talk the talk--and learn the correct way to pronounce "Zinfandel"--from the site's simple glossary. And the best news: Because these folks concentrate on bottles costing less than $15, you can impress your host or hostess without depressing yourself. Sure, the site's slow, but we're so used to that we hardly even notice anymore.
BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE ALL DAY TO GET RICH
There are lots of e-marketing resources on the Web, and many of them are very good. But what we liked about eMarketer, at http://www.emarketer.com/welcome.html was the length of many of the articles: SHORT. In our wonderfully brief visit, we found terrific short features on e-business ethics (did you know that 13 percent of workers surveyed admitted to using company computers for personal shopping?), current events (including information on the legal validity of online confessions), and even polls (where, for example, you can choose which industry pundit you think has estimated the correct volume of e-business that will be
transacted in the year 2000). If you have a little more time, no problem--you'll also find in-depth features, such as eMarketer's continually updated list of the ten best business sites online. This is a good, fast resource for anyone interested in selling online--and from the look of things, we all had better get interested.
BEFORE YOU TAKE ANOTHER BITE OR SWALLOW ANOTHER PILL
How much do you know about all the stuff you're pouring into your body these days? One way to find out a little more is to visit the Internet FDA site, the online home of the Food and Drug Administration, at
http://www.fda.gov/default.htm This is a complete library of the information published by "The Nation's Foremost Consumer Protection Agency." It's all here, from warnings on food additives, to reports on new medical products, to regulations regarding the sale of tobacco. The site can be a bit cryptic (for example, because we didn't know that the technical term for Mad Cow Disease is "bovine spongiform encephalopathy," it took us a while to locate documents on this topic), and too many of the documents are available in Acrobat format only. But it's good to know that you no longer have to WRITE to the FDA for important information--and wait for it to arrive in the mail, weeks later.
IT'S LIKE THE WALL STREET JOURNAL WITHOUT ALL THE YAWNING
If at first glance you think that The Motley Fool at http://www.fool.com/index.htm is an investment resource for the uninitiated, glance again: If you don't know what a price-to-earnings ratio is, you need to find out. The difference is that The Fool rewards you doubly for your efforts; you'll not only learn more about finance, but you'll get all the jokes. This site is loaded with engaging, entertaining, and useful
information on just about everything you can do with your money (besides throw it away). Features we liked included the Lunchtime and Evening News, which provided quick updates on the day's movers and shakers on the trading floor; Dueling Fools, in which two people--and they could be ANYONE--debate some financial issue of the day (when we visited, the duelers debated whether Microsoft stock is a smart investment); and an extremely thorough How to Find a House section. There are also all kinds of information services available, including daily portfolio reports and industry snapshots you can have delivered directly to your e-mailbox! This is one of the few Web zines we've seen that would do very well in print, too.
"We never close" reads this fascinating site's tagline; and indeed,
it never does. What is "it"? A huge links list of many of the
existing Web cam sites available on the Internet. A Web cam is a
camera that broadcasts real-time images over the Web. Cam voyeurs
anywhere can tune in here and choose from a shot of the Golden Gate
Bridge, updated every 3 minutes; a behind-the-scenes live shot of the
CNN newsroom, updated every 3 minutes; daily updates of a college
student's freezer; and everything—and we do mean everything—in
between. Well, except the adult variety.
THE CALIFORNIA MUSIC AWARDS
We're not sure the concept behind the California Music Awards would
fly in places like Iowa. But California, thanks in part to its sheer
mass and open-arms policy toward creative refugees (Proposition 209
notwithstanding), boasts more than its fair share of musicians. And
these official awards (presented each year by BAM Magazine) spotlight
the best of the crop. Separated into "No-Cal" and "So-Cal" awards,
the Bammies are eclectic and somewhat arbitrary. View video clips of
this year's ceremony, check the list of winners, and view archival
footage of award shows past.
VINTAGE POSTER WORKS
Fellas: Want to prove to that elegant woman you're courting that you
didn't peak in college? One of your first assignments is to rip those
Pearl Jam and Budweiser posters from your walls and replace them with
framed, cultural works. This site will make it easy to do so; costly,
but easy. Stroll VPW's virtual aisles, which are organized into
American and European advertising, travel posters, military and
propaganda, and entertainment. Most posters are mounted, and secure
online ordering is available. She'll think you très cultivé--until, of
course, you use the salad fork for your entrée.
J.H. CAMPBELL MARKETING
Usually we don't review sites that do little more than promote a
business, but we'll make an exception here. This marketing firm has
put together one of the best-designed corporate sites we've seen; if
you're in marketing or advertising, it would behoove you to pay a
visit. Our recommendation not so much endorses the company's services
as it prods you to realize how high the benchmark has risen for a
corporate site's structural design, overall presentation, and
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
All About Jazz is way more polished than its tag line--"a magazine for
jazz fans by jazz fans"--would lead you to believe. The design is
sophisticated, yet clean; and the Real Audio record reviews sound like
professionals wrote and recorded them. What's more, the quantity of
material is amazing: The site covers classic jazz history as well as
the latest releases from today's players. You get interviews, record
and book reviews, and surprisingly well-written critical essays. Not
enough? You also get a chance to swap vinyl with other collectors,
find out what's happening at festivals around the country, peruse
listings for national jazz radio broadcasts, and follow links to other
jazzbo sites on the Net. An excellent resource.
Naming your site "About Living" is an ambitious undertaking. While
this hub isn't a cradle-to-grave how-to guide, it does serve as an
elegant gathering place for people who want to live a holistic life.
That's right, leave your cupcakes in the kitchen; this feel-good spot
(part of Vow.com's umbrella organization) tackles such topics as mind
and spirit, health and body, and personal growth. Each of the six
sections features topic-specific articles, book reviews, and ongoing
chats. Visitors can opine on specific subjects, or weave their
thoughts into the multipurpose Bulletin Board thread.
One thing's certain: Beginning May 1, 1999, and continuing through
2002, all major TV signal providers will need to make the transition
from analog to digital television. One thing is not so certain--just
how that'll happen. In typical high-tech fashion, various factions
are balking at the proposed standards, causing delays, consumer
confusion, and threatened government regulation. Befuddled?
Understandable. This extensive and cleverly designed resource helps
clear up some of the confusion with culled news updates, standards
schematics, discussion forums, and copious links. A helpful source
for consumers and broadcasters alike. --EH
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TRAVEL SMITH (travel)
Sometimes a Web site will present us with so much information and so
many purchasing options that we say to ourselves, "Why bother leaving
the house?" We almost caught ourselves saying that to describe this
new spot, until we remembered that its impressive and exhaustive
content—packing lists, weather forecasts, travel accessories for
men and women, U.S. Embassy information, travel agency listings, and
more—is meant to get you mobile. An absolute bookmark for the
casual, business, or adventure traveler. More links would make it
near perfect. --EH
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