I need to get out more.
And I’ll admit that “out” is a relative term.
I’m speaking in terms of the Internet.
For months I’ve been married to the same 15 or so Web sites. Every day I check a select few like clockwork: Facebook, Internet Movie Database, Yahoo Sports, etc. And I always utilize the same reference tools: Wikipedia, Google, Thesaurus.com.
It’s time to escape the rut and explore strange new cyberspace worlds. To boldly go where millions and millions of people have gone before me.
So where should I head for fresh Web suggestions? Hmmm ... but of course. The Web.
My trek leads to 100 Best Web Sites, which presents a perfect solution for this quandary. The site bases its roster on “21 criteria of excellence,” which the staff is constantly scrutinizing — things like user-friendliness, breadth and no annoying advertising.
Founded way back in 1993 as part of the Columbia University site, Bartleby describes itself as “the pre-eminent publisher of literature, verse and reference providing students, researchers and the intellectually curious with unlimited access to books and information on the Web, free of charge.”
Thus, if I want to read something light and uplifting like, say, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the entire short story is there on the screen.
Heading south, I inspect the 100 Best Web Sites list for more unfamiliar delights. At No. 24 is GuideStar, which provides information and reliability ratings on nearly all the major charitable organizations.
Named after modern telescope terminology, the site’s mission is to “revolutionize philanthropy.” So when wondering if money you donate is really paying for bags of grain to be delivered to Angola, then GuideStar can break down that info to the smallest detail.
Elsewhere on the list of 100 standouts:
• FindLaw.com — A tool employed by both professionals and amateurs for all forms of legal advice and representation. I use it to browse the state laws of Kansas. Did you know the statute of limitations for a libel lawsuit is one year? Whew, that’s good news.
• UComics.com — No need to wait until that “Broom Hilda” compendium hits bookstores. This comprehensive site gathers new and old comic strips. One of its best features is a random comic generator based on individual criteria you input.
• Alexa.com — This “Web information company” ranks the most popular sites (i.e., frequently visited) using a variety of parameters, from recreational categories to exotic countries. For instance, according to Alexa, the most fashionable site in Angola right now is Windows Live.
• Earthcam.com — Live online cameras that span the globe can be accessed here. A personal fave is called Buzzindowntheroad, which simply follows a truck driver’s relentless trek from the view of his cabin.
• Jokes.com — Comedy Central runs this site, which supplies jokes searchable in all types of genres. Each is accompanied by a user rating. Five-star example: “What do you call a frat boy in a suit? The defendant.”