Monday, March 5, 2012

Yet Another List II

Continuing on from yesterday. You'll recall I was listing web sites that I had never heard of off Time magazine's list of the 50 best web sites of 2011. Well, I have a confession to make. In perusing Time's list of sites more closely I discover that I have not heard of most of them. So what does this tell you? Probably the obvious: I don't do a hell of a lot of web surfing, or conversely, I don't have call to check out sites in some of the magazine's topics, such as Family and Kids--we're past that stage, Susan and I--Social Media, Games. So there are several other areas left, and plenty of interesting sites, viz.:
  • Freerice -- With Freerice, you can do good by having fun. Answer one of the multiple-choice questions correctly — on topics such as English vocabulary, geography or chemistry — and the site's sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme. It doesn't sound like a major act of charity — but so many people answer so many questions that the site is responsible for the donation of hundreds of millions of grains of rice every month. That's enough to make a major difference for tens of thousands of hungry people in Haiti and other countries that need help. [There are 60 "levels," and I was on 42 when I quit. I got hung up in it for about 10 minutes. BTW, all I saw were vocabulary questions, nothing on anything else. 
  • CalorieKing  --  Half the battle of eating well is knowing what you're eating. And knowing what you're eating is a whole lot easier with CalorieKing. The site provides the nutritional facts for thousands of foodstuffs, from grapes (34 calories and 0.1 grams of fat per serving) to Wendy's Baconator Double (940 calories and 59 grams of fat). This basic info is free . . . [There's a pay plan where you can get menus, advice, etc., etc., but the heart of it is the calorie-counter. Great for me since I've been counting calories for a couple of months. I have an app on the iPad, but this look-up is quicker. Seems to be pretty damn comprehensive.]
  • Hipmunk  --  [This one is for Susan, the travel agent in the house. Cool tabular display of flight options for trips.] Shopping for plane tickets will never rank among life's greatest pleasures. But with Hipmunk, it's no longer among the most tedious. This slick site lets you search for flights across major airlines, giving you easy-to-scan results in a grid sorted by agony ("a combination of price, duration and number of stops"). Nice touches include an icon that highlights flights with wi-fi, and there are iPhone and iPad apps that let you use the service on the go.
  • Big Think  --  The thinking at Big Think is big indeed. This blog and video site covers, well, the world: arts, business, science, history and much more. Resident big thinkers such as futurist Ray Kurzweil and distinguished guests tackle the topics seriously, and counterintuitive notions and outright heresy are welcome. It's a great place to go to challenge your preconceived notions and recharge your mental batteries. 
  • Khan Academy --  In 2004, Salman Khan started tutoring his cousin over the Internet. In 2006, he began uploading educational videos to YouTube. And in 2009, he quit his day job as a hedge-fund manager to concentrate on Khan Academy, a sort of one-man university. Today the site offers his free lessons in thousands of highly visual 10-minute chunks. Math and science dominate, and students are the primary audience, but Khan is adding additional topics and welcomes adult learners. It's a remarkable undertaking — and with funding from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it has a bright future.
Now, I have to tell you that I lied again . . . because I have heard of Big Think and Khan Academy before now. And I agree with Time about both. Great sites.
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