Sunday, November 25, 2007

Comfort info

My father was an engineer who not only was able to fix anything, he could answer almost any technical question, and did--so thoroughly that you didn’t want to ask him something like, “How do televisions work?” if you had somewhere to go later. Because my brother is the same way, I grew up thinking these were universal male traits, only to be sadly disappointed when I reached adulthood. Now that my brother is only available by email (although full of wisdom should I ask) there's no one around—like here in this room—who can give me the answers I want right now. That’s why I find reading Rule the Web, by Mark Frauenfelder, oddly comforting, the way other people might feel eating an apple pie that tastes just like their mother's. Basically the book tells you everything you ever wanted to know about using the Internet, with the information presented in the form of questions organized around various topics (Searching and Browsing, Shopping and Selling, Media and Entertainment, etc.). Like my father, Frauenfelder is careful not to make you feel stupid if you don’t already know the answer, and I'm guessing that there’s stuff in here even my brother doesn’t know. Anyway, I just started reading it and already I found a former colleague’s telephone number on (I long ago gave up using telephone books or directory assistance, but those online white pages are often inadequate) and ordered a year’s worth of Vanity Fair on eBay (who knew they sold magazine subscriptions?) for $7.99.

And I'll add my own tip, too new for Frauenfelder's book:, a not-for-profit site that makes it easy to take your land address off retailer's lists and bring an end to the pounds of unwanted catalogs that come in the mail every day.

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