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The Hunger
Site
‘s sponsors donate food to the world’s hungry through the U.N.
World Food
Program every time you click on the button on the site’s home page.
It’s a classic Web-style, free-except-for-the-advertising model: several
sponsors’ ads appear on the thank-you page that comes up when you click,
each of which then pays one half-cent to relief organizations — about a
quarter of a cup of cooked food per sponsor per click. You can only
click once a day and have it take. (There’s no Java or CGI script on the
site collecting information about you beyond your IP address, by the
way; they’re href="http://www.thehungersite.com/privacy.html">TrustE-certified
for privacy standards.) Not a nonprofit, the site used to retain 14
percent of the donation amount as a fee charged to sponsors, but, as of
August, it no longer charges such fees.

I was cynical about the whole thing (to say the least) when I first
heard about it. According to the most authoritative
urban-legends-and-myths debunker on the Web, however, it’s href="http://www.snopes.com/spoons/faxlore/hunger.htm">on the
up-and-up. Unless you’re in the camp that says these sorts of food
donations do more harm than good, The Hunger Site is worth a bookmark.

The Music of the Internet

This href="http://www.forwiss.uni-erlangen.de/%7Ekinderma/musinum/InternetMusic.html"
>German
site will take your computer’s IP address (which is the numeric
version of a hostname and looks like this: color=purple>208.138.18.130) and convert it into music using a
fractal composition program. ( href="http://www.forwiss.uni-erlangen.de/~kinderma/musinum/musinum.html">Here’s
how it works.) The music is, um, extremely German, in a not
unpleasing way. You can also listen to other IP addresses besides your
own, such as “www.worldnetdaily.com.” Then download free Windows
software that will let you do the same trick on your own Web page.

Deciding what to believe

Slate’s Steven E. Landsburg href="http://www.slate.com/Economics/99-09-15/Economics.asp">argues
that if a highly prestigious journal publishes a theory, it’s more
likely to be wrong than right. No, that isn’t a typo. Why on earth
should this be so? Because, “given two papers that have both survived
the vetting process, editors tend to prefer the more surprising, which
means that on average they prefer the one that’s wrong.” It’s certainly
an arresting way of thinking about what credibility means — and,
remarkably, Landsburg tells us it’s actually been confirmed in a
study by economists J. Bradford De Long and Kevin Lang.

Trouble is, I don’t see where it gets us. If we oughtn’t to credit
anything that’s been published in a top journal, pray what ought we to
credit instead? Are we to accept only those analyses performed by
unqualified researchers, according to unreliable protocols, and
subsequently rejected by every top authority in the field? Methinks this
is the sort of idea that “works” only within the confines of squishy
social-science fields, like economics, where theory is king and no one
is really accountable. I know I’d hate to see it applied in, say,
cardiology.

Besides, there’s a nasty sort of sour-grapes cockiness to the whole
notion that leaves a rotten taste in my mouth: I sense a fundamental
untrustworthiness in anyone who spends this much time and effort to
argue that the higher-quality the authority the less credible the idea.
And I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t be arguing that way — certainly
not with that attitude — if they were competent enough to be well
represented in those “prestigious” (such an epithet!) journals
themselves.

Check your e-mail on the highway

DriverNet.com is an innovative, Kansas
City-based, nationwide system of e-mail terminals placed at truckstops.
If you normally travel with a PC and modem, you can hook it up at the
terminals and use the Internet as usual to check your regular e-mail. If
not, you won’t have full Internet access; just use the free e-mail
account you get from DriverNet — which (like any free Web-based e-mail)
you can check from home or work via their website when you’re not on the
road.

Chili Bom Bom

Electronic postcards are a dime a dozen on the Web, but href="http://www.retroactive.com/Postcards/music.html">these are
gorgeous and funny and different. They’re images taken from the covers
of 1920s sheet music. Selections include “I’ve Got the Profiteering
Blues,” “No Can Do,” and “Chili Bom Bom” (which I don’t know what it
means but I know what I like). Fabulous.

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