Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on May 26, 1996 · Page 47
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 47

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 26, 1996
Page 47
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SUNDAY, MAY 26, 1996DETROIT FREE PRESS 7E If tfleto&oirs You can even check out the skies on Maui BROWSING NEW FRONTIERS Cloudy, I f By David Crumm D wonder Should I carry an umbrella to work today? Can I find a local forecast on my home computer? They're common questions. And they perfectly illustrate both the potential and the pitfalls of searching for useful information on the World Wide Web. Weather reports are as common as commercials on the Web. Hundreds of groups, from universities to television stations, offer thousands of pages of data. The challenge is to quickly snare one useful detail from this ocean. In my own quest, I started at the top with the National Weather Service in Washington D.C., which produces most of the weather data used by forecasters nationwide. That turned out to be a big mistake. The weather service's home page gave me more than two dozen choices, including "WXTopics and Links." What the heck is a WX Topic? Digging around for further information, I was distracted by some tornado and flood videos the weather service provides. Then, I noticed I could find out about weather conditions in Casablanca and Cairo and I flew away to Africa. ' Fifteen minutes later, I uncovered the weather service's Michigan page Mtpyiwfn.nw.noaWnmVmi.htnil, packed with 30 more choices! I bypassed "Hydro Products" and "Climatic Data" and called up a local forecast only to discover that this page was under construction! My computer flashed: "Michigan Local Forecasts Not Currently Available!" And so it went at many other sites I explored: lots of confusing labels and scores of glitzy attractions that distracted me all along the way. Among the most bewildering sites is an encyclopedic pool of weather data sponsored by Purdue University httpyAhundnatnn.purdue.edumain.html. The Purdue experts didn't just hand me a forecast They wanted me to select a theoretical model for interpreting raw data. That stalled me: Should I choose a "European" model for a seven-day forecast or an "Extended Range" model to look at 10 days or a forecast based on readings from weather balloons? Desperate for some help in plain language, I ran into Purdue's cryptic bank of hot buttons labeled, "SFC," "UPA," "NGM,""ECMWF" and soon. A meteorologist might have felt right at home. I fled. Disheartened by the Purdue experience, I wallowed for a while in the glitzy back alleyways of Web weather. Ihit the Web Weather Shop www.intellicastcomwxshops. I browsed the fancy thermometers, barometers and even the mahogany outdoor furniture, which must be intended for people who prefer to actually experience the weather instead of reading about it I found a few cheap thrills on the Storm Chasers Home Page httpyAaip.geog.niu.educhaserchaser.htmi. If you enjoyed watching the tornado junkies in the movie Twister," you may want to find out about these ordinary people who collect pictures of violent storms as a hobby. Running as far as I could from civilization with the help of Michigan State University I checked out the weather for Antarctica on a map made by satellites near the South Pole http:Avkweb.insu.eduAveather. It's cold. For armchair travelers, the University of Michigan has grouped together a series of eyewitness weather cameras on one Web page httpycirTU8.spri.umkh.eduwxnetwxcam.html. With a few clicks of the mouse, I checked out the current view from video cameras sweeping the skylines of Maui, Seattle, San Francisco and New York. But getting back to my umbrella! I finally settled on four sites that will quickly answer common questions about the skies over our part of the planet The NBC Network Intellicast httpywww.intellicast.coinweatlierdtwfourday offers a colorful four-day overview of local weather, complete with little pictures of suns and clouds and links to more in- K .IT - " ' J? RICK NEASEDetroit Free Press depth reports. If NBC seems too slow, Princeton University's Web Weamer http:www.princeton.educgi-binWebweatherww?cityDTW provides virtually the same forecast without the fancy graphics. WDIV Channel 4 in Detroit provides a rare and valuable service: an instant glimpse of the station's weather radar screen httpywww.wdivxomdopple r4.html. Many of the radar and satellite images posted on the Web are several hours old. At WDIV, you'll find cut what the skies look like right now. finally, if you've got a while to look around, U-M's statewide weather links cover 23 towns from Escanaba and Marquette to Benton Harbor and Detroit http:cir nis.sprl.umich.eduwxnetstatesniichigan.htnil. In the midst of this electronic odyssey, a friend interrupted me to suggest "You could just check the forecast on the Free Press' front page." Nah! The truth is: I'd really rather find it by way of Cairo and Maui. Free Press religion writer David Crumm didn 't have to worry about an umbrella that day because he never got away from his computer! Click on Nick If your little cybersurfers are Nickelodeon fans, they'll ; love Nickelodeon Online. But before heading there, youH need two things: an America Online account and a patient kid. ' Both are equally important The first time you click on Nick it takes about 15 or 20 minutes to download the color graphics, . but it's worth the wait And youll be happy to know that subsequent visits are quick to download. (And downloading time is free.) Once inside the most popular kid spot on AOL (500,000 visits a month) , on-liners are greeted with a smorgasbord of clever, colorful graphics. Kds call go to an area called The Blabbatorium to what else? blab with other kids. And cyber-conscious parents can worry a little less knowing that at least one adult Nick Operator is hanging out in the chat room at all times. And before you blab, blabbers get on-line etiquette basics: Don't give out any personal information; don't curse . . . Chew On This is a weekly question that invites response. The latest pressing topic: If you could pick any Nickelodeon character to be your best friend, who would you pick and why? . The arta is very interactive, with lots of places for kids to speak their minds. What would they do if they were president? Answers covered everything from finding a cure for AIDS and making smoking against the law to shortening the school year to 50 days and installing a water slide in the backyard at the White House. The site has three main areas. Show plugs is just that: promotional. It offers info on Nick shows, characters and coming episodes. Connicktion is great for kids in third grade and up because 6ome reading and typing skills are needed to get around. Smorgasboards offers a buffet of interactive stuff cool animated toys called Clickamajigs (which you can download and keep), the Nick Art Gallery, where kids can post their art, and an ongoing interactive story about a bug-eyed space guy named Phil. On AOL cDck on the Kids Only area, then click on Nickelodeon or use the keyword: Nick. - Byjanis Campbell 1 43 NET SITINGS The good, the bad and the weird on the Internet This library never sleeps Does your home library need more than a dictionary and thesaurus? Is your set of encyclopedias three presidents old? Have you waited until the last minute to start your term paper? Did you hear something on the radio a few months ago, and wish you could have that information now? Or you read it but can't remember the newspaper or magazine in which that tidbit appeared? When you can't sleep until you find the answer, you can visit The Electric library. This convenience is not free. It costs $9.95 a month to use EL's resources. But the EL has newspapers, TV and radio transcripts, magazines and newswires. On the "shelves" are books of poetry, literature, facts, dictionaries, a Bible and an encyclopedia. The site's introduction says there are over a million documents from "reliable sources." In addition to written resources, there are photos, maps and other images. The publishers, Infonautics Corp., created a similar service called Homework Helper for the Prodigy on-line service. Is EL worth $9.95 a month? That depends on how you value your time. You can wander the World Wide Web and find some of the same information for free. Public and university library Web pages provide dictionaries, thesauri and encyclopedias. The Web is crammed with images waiting (and waiting) to be downloaded. Many newspapers have Web sites and provide a sampling of current news without charge. However, the archives are not always available or cannot be searched by subject The Web pages for public television and radio only display information on ordering their transcripts. When you chew up connect time searching dozens of sites for your answer, the EL monthly charge appears reasonable. The search mechanism lets you hunt in a few, or all, sources. You can use advanced features to narrow your inquiry by dates, names of publications, authors or titles. EL's customer support is good a mid-morning e-mail question to customer service was answered in an hour. The on-line "help" pages are detailed and clear. The system's response time was slow during the peak evening hours. Before you subscribe, you can look over EL's services by signing up for a two-week free trial period. Choose the week before that term paper is due. By Alice Pepper Feeling lucky? Find last week's lottery ticket in your wallet and wonder if you're a winner? Click on LottoWorld magazine's new site on the Web to find out The site includes state-by-state lottery information, with daily and past results; a list of the top 10 U.S. jackpots; instructions for playing each game; tips and playing strategies, and links to other lottery sites. LottoWorld magazine articles and archives are also available, as well as a marketplace with books, software and other merchandise for the lottery enthusiast The site also offers a few areas with lottery number forecasts for each state based on computer analysis and astrology fun, but no better at picking a winner than your best guess. These areas are free through the end of May and then will be offered pay-per-view. The site also offers visitors the opportunity to join the $3 Billion Lotto Club, which offers 52 weeks of free lottery play. The site loads quickly with a background of this month's issue of the magazine. The site is easy to navigate and offers a simple way to find the big jackpot lotteries and check the daily numbers. ByKateMcKee WANT TO TELL US ABOUT A SITE OR A NEW CD? Send us E-mail at RANDOM&ACCESS What's new on CD-ROM Toy Story' leaps off the screen, but doesn't take kids anywhere By Cathy Collison There's no doubt that the whiz-bang animation of the "Toy Story" movie carries deftly onto the computer screen with "Disney's Animated Sto-ryBook: Toy Story" CD-ROM. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Rex the dinosaur and Hamm the piggy bank are alive and talking in their animated movie voices with movements to match. And they leap off the screen with 3-D graphics that far surpass much of the stif fer animation of other CD-ROM games for kids. But does it take a 5-year-old to infinity and beyond? Hardly. The four main games are woven into the 16 storybook pages. The user can call up any of the four games with ease by clicking on the symbol to play on the page. The directions led by Hamm are easy to follow and the user can click back and forward to review -pages or games. A pre-schooler can navigate this quickly. The story is the same one you loved on the big screen, from the toys' misadventures in Andy's room, to Andy and Buzz's capture by Sid, the demon boy next door, at Pizza Planet right up to the move to Andy's new house. Young readers can click on the pages and see words highlighted and on every page, click on different toys to hear their voices. The four games make use of movie scenes, but they are weak concepts, especially compared to the genius of the movie. The Put Away Toys game, for example, takes place in Andy's bedroom. The kinder-gartner who test played this was not enthralled with the idea or the simple task clicking the mouse on the toy and dragging it to a shadow on the shelf. Too close to real life! Other games which involve learning skills like matching colors and shapes at the Pizza Planet "Crane Game" and sequencing skills when Woody sets up toys to kick Buzz out the window are better, but don't stand up to repetition. And they certainly won't entertain older children who understandably like the movie. Imagine, instead, if the storybook could have let the user create toys from different parts of others like the bad-boy Sid did? Now that would have potential for creative fun. Cathy Collison directs the Free Press YAK! section. She has yet to find a kid who thinks putting toys away is exciting even on a computer. 77j rr-' Viv-Vl 'Disney's Animated StoryBook: Toy Story' System Requirements: Mac, system 7.1 or later, or PC with Windows, 486-50MHz or faster. Double-speed CD-ROM drive and color video display. Ease of Installation: ( out of 4) Simple and clear. Ease of Removal: (out of 4) Just eject the disc. Longevity Factor (out of 4) Doesn't bear up to repetition for games or allow for imaginative interaction. CostAccessibility: $39.95. Widely available. AND ONE MORE THING... A forest runs through it and into a young girl's heart In the Wilderness: Coming of Age In Unknown Country By Km Barnes Doubleday, 258 pages, $22.50 '.Review by Steve Byrne " n thp Wilderness" is billed as a COming-of- age memoir, but really it's much more: a coming-of-life memoir would be more like . it Pt oni onthnrKIm Rarnps' eneross- iu A wv cum auuivt au... - - 'ma first twU ic a nlare where mpTTlorV. self-CTe- ;ation and ultimately, self-understanding merge like creeks into a river, like veins into a 'heart At the center of it all is Barnes' sense of place, growing up in the then-untamed woods of Idaho with heryounger brother, lumberjack father and his obedient wife. As Barnes' puts it: "Some are born to the wilderness. Some come to the wilderness to be reborn. It was where my parents found their salvation and where I would once again find mine." Barnes' early years are idyllic. She explores the woods, glows in the warmth of her extended family, revels in the wonder of God and church, knows she is poor but believes she is rich. It was the time, she says, that she "sang with the soul of a child." But by the time she enters her early teens, her world becomes troubled. She's seen much tragedy, been conflicted by the sexual feelings she has for the son of her minister, and moved several times, the last time away from the woods. Then she really begins to struggle, dancing the lines between woman and girl, between religious and secular, between city and country. With its spirit and themes, the book recalls the classic Norman Maclean autobiographical novella "A River Runs Through It" "In the Wilderness" is not a fishing book, not even to the degree of "A River Runs Through It" which really wasn't a fishing book, either. But in her happy years, Kim fishes for meaty trout in the creeks and streams that roll near her home. And later, it's a fish battled and lost that finally halts the haphazard swirl her adolescence has become. There are other, more important similarities. Like Paul and Norman in "River," Kim is weighted down by her parents' religious strictness. And like Paul, she chooses the path of rebellion, confounding her God-fearing parents, who become so exasperated they send her to live with the minister and his family. There she hits silty bottom, and there she begins to understand her life's influences and come to terms with them. Only in hindsight can Barnes to "attempt to artioilate'thewildnessofher teenage years: "My parents loved me, within reason, and that reason seemed dependent upon my obedience. They loved me, of course, even in rejection, and perhaps saw in their rejection the absolute and logical progression of their love. But such love was not unconditional, and what I yearned for was unequivocable acceptance, for the familial walls to prove themselves strong, beyond fracture." In "A River Runs Through It" Norman's father, pained greatly by his son's Paul's violent death, urges .surviving son Norman to write their family's story, telling him, "Only then will you understand what happened and why." That request is at the center of "In the Wilderness," a book that's like a moonlight skinny-dip in a gentle stream: revealing, spiritual, cleansing, transcendent and awash in the elements that maker life's flows so unpredictable, wonderful and often haunting. Steve Byrne is assistant features editor at the Free Press. L

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