When I was a sixth-grader, I loved a nerd named Brian. Using an empty box of See’s Candies, a piece of string and a shoebox with a cut-out rectangular hole, he constructed the world‘s first laptop. The keyboard was drawn with a green felt-tip Magic Marker. Brian took his ”computer“ everywhere, even to the bathroom.
”What are you doing?“ I once asked.
Brian could have been my god, if only he’d had Web access . . .
Find your inner geek. Feed it. Nourish it. Pet it. Love it. Show it the Internet and watch it blossom. The Web is vast and infinite, and everyone has a favorite corner. Here are some sites that offer alternative ways to spend your time and help you stay wired, whether you‘re in the desert or lost in a sprawling urban jungle. And when your date turns to you with adoring eyes and asks, ”Where did you find this?“ you can coolly reply, ”On the Net, baby, on the Net.“
Technolust and the Great Outdoors: Yes, you can take it with you.
Crickets chirp, a cloud glides over the full moon, a lone wolf howls in the distance, and I gaze into the Webcam-generated face of my lover reflected in the glow of an LCD laptop monitor with cellular modem satellite uplink.
Techie dreams can come true, and, in a section on ”Mobile Computing,“ www.camping.about.com tells you how. In addition to listings of modem-friendly campgrounds and RV parks, the site features ”Computing on the Road,“ a tech-intensive series of articles by mobile-computing expert Mel Chaney on how to take it all with you. Chaney reviews cell phones and other methods of ”wireless connectivity,“ field-tests the stuff, and comes back with tips on what does and what doesn’t work on the road. He also offers advice on power sources, cellular-phone rates, GPS tracking and electronic maps, and explains how to program your computer to make connections using a phone card and a cell phone.
And speaking of GPS trackers, Chaney recommends DeLorme‘s cost-effective and versatile Tripmate (www.delorme.com), which runs on four AA batteries or the cigarette-lighter outlet of your car. Tripmate reads directions aloud and leaves an ”electronic bread-crumb trail“ to mark your progress.
MacGyver would be proud.
From camping.about.com, link to www.a2zsolu tions.com for details about ”anti-glare“ laptop devices, steering-wheel-mounted laptop desks, and portable full-page Pentax printers the size of your average three-hole puncher. Or visit www.jademountain.com for solar-powered-laptop and cell-phone chargers. Of course, you can order online.
All geared up and good to go . . . where? Go forth, young geek, and multiply.
If only I’d read that article on how to watch grizzlies from a safe distance. If only I‘d bought a better sleeping bag. If only I had remembered that certain mushrooms are poisonous. Alas, the road to hell and excruciating bodily injury is forever paved with ”if onlys.“ Save yourself the misery. Visit www.gorp.com, the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, possibly the single most comprehensive cyber-stop about all things outdoors. Read articles on viewing wildlife at night, bat watching, diving with sharks or snorkeling with stingrays. From simple nocturnal hikes at a local park, to photography trips to vineyards and castles in Portugal, to exploring mysterious Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, the reports on this site are the stuff of modest and grand adventure alike.
From www.lonelyplanet.com, follow a link to www.citysync.com. Concept Kitchen software developers, in collaboration with Lonely Planet, provides digital city guides that work with your tricorder-size PalmPilot, as well as your desktop Mac or PC. Avoid tourist traps, find restaurants, hospitals, places to crash at night or places to live it up until the wee hours of the morning. Software is available for a dozen major urban locales, including Bangkok, London, New Orleans, Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Goodie alert: The site offers a free 24-hour test drive.
They’re big, they‘re loud, they grumble, and occasionally they spew mass quantities of toxic smoke and boiling red-hot lava. Http:volcano.und.nodak.eduvw.html is Volcano World, which features sections on volcano of the week, volcano adventures, today in volcano history, and (my personal fave) current eruptions. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about — you guessed it — volcanoes.
Between the winged, haloed, twitching dead pig and the squirming dead snake are the pearly greenish-gray gates of the Roadside Pet Cemetery, a devilishly clever section belonging to www.roadsideamerica.com. Enter and you‘ll find a hyperlinked map of the cemetery grounds. A virtual melange of dead-animal oddities lurks at each of the graveyard’s main quadrants. The elephant burial ground and dead celebrity pets are located to the west, pet vets and faithful steeds to the east. Roam to the cemetery‘s far end and poke around in the pet-casket factory. To the north, hop around to the ”quarantined“ Tuberculin Rabbit Shrine on Rabbit Island in Upper Saint Regis Lake, New York.
Roadside America, an extended online version of the 1986 book, features ”odd and hilarious“ ditties on the road less traveled (their slogan: ”Your online guide to offbeat attractions“). Albino squirrel towns in Montana. Cops wearing bushy-tailed-rodent arm badges. Juno the Transparent Woman and her Theater of Human Sexuality in Cleveland, Ohio. Probe the lobe of the ”Travel Brain,“ a nifty piece of software that takes you on predetermined tours of your choice.
Fire up the Pinto, strap on your pocket-protector, and take one of Roadside’s ”hypertours.“ Try the ”Hotwired,“ a seven-day bat-out-of-hell journey from L.A. to New York, starting at the Nicole Brown Simpson Townhouse and culminating at the Wheel of Food in Keansburg, New Jersey, with joyous stops in between at Mummies of the Insane in Philippi, West Virginia, and the Mutter Museum of medical oddities in Philadelphia.
Because a nerd cannot live on HTML alone: Tasty food sites, hypertexted for your dining pleasure.
Until scientists perfect a way to download the core of human consciousness into hard drives, pass the pizza and the aji-no-tataki rolls, please. Visit the World Wide Sushi Restaurant Reference at www.cis.unisa.edu.au~jmSushi. Its (regretfully) text-only ”Sushi Glossary“ explains the difference between ama-ebi and odori-ebi. Global restaurant listings feature reviews by hardy, iron-stomached field-testers. And before you scream for the ketchup or send your sashimi back for 10 more minutes on the barbie, check out the enlightening discussion of ”Sushi Bar Etiquette and Tips for Beginners.“
Looking for that special brick-oven karaoke bar slash cyber-cafe Burmese bar and grill? Mouse on over to www.chowbaby.com, where many a carefree hour can be spent toying with its pull-down menu ”Restaurant Finder,“ which lets users select restaurants using the criteria ”ambiance, features, entertainment and location.“ It‘s almost as good as MadLibs. Really.
Cyberculture and Sci-Fi: Walk the walk. Talk the talk.
Take heed of a tech-and-science-info site that root-level nerds passionately worship. Www.slashdot.com lets you pay homage to Slashdot’s sister RealAudio radio discussion site ”Geeks in Space“ at http:thesync.comgeeks. Go on, tell me again about the Radioactive Random Number Generator and Chromosome 21, you sexy, sexy thing, you.
Who says Web sites can‘t have beauty and brains? Behold the UCLA department of designmedia arts’ elegantly designed, fast-loading site www.design.ucla.edu, which melds luscious eye-candy graphics with postings on scheduled events, and info on a series of lectures and demonstrations. Set your brain on spin and embrace the heady new media possibilities: human-machine symbiosis, interspecies communications, hypertext novels and responsive cinema. All that plus a neat-o drawing of a squid (or was that a root?).
Okay, so I‘ve only been to three Star Trek conventions. But if I’d known about http:sflovers.rutgers.edu, I would have gone to more. SFLovers is the granddaddy of science-fiction, fantasy and horror sites, and claims to have been a Net presence since ye olde ARPAnet days of ‘79. Find out when Buffy, Seven-of-Nine, and the Cigarette Smoking Man will be in town by accessing the comprehensive sci-fi conventions list. And for the rabidly dedicated, there are links to the official minutes of World Science Fiction Society meetings (a.k.a. WorldCon, the people who choose the recipients of the Hugo Awards).
”Trekkie Sci-Fi freak!“ Oh, yeah? Hab SoSlI’ Quch! (TRANSLATION: Yo mamma has a smooth forehead!). Bone up for the next convention at the Klingon Language Institute at www.kli.org. There you‘ll find a list of everyday phrases and insults (one and the same to the true-blooded Klingon), pronunciation guides, and tips on writing and speaking this most manly of manly languages. The Big Kahuna says, ”If you’re gonna do it, do it all the way. If you learn only one phrase, make it the all-purpose Heghlu‘meH QaQ jajvam! (“Today is a good day to die!”).
But not to fret, my geeky pet. Klingon nihilism aside, raise your laptops on high and praise the lords of Coke-bottle glasses and corduroy shorts, for today is also a good day to live. Today is a good day to be a nerd.