1492 And All That. Today I’m glad I’m not an elementary school
teacher. How in the world do you explain to an American second-grader
about a holiday to honor Christopher Columbus, who never set foot in
North America? While I’m leery of revisionist versions of history, the
“discovery” of America is a story that continues to be rewritten.
Vikings, Native Americans (who came from Asia, or did they?) — it’s a
complicated story that probably remains to be uncovered.

Nevertheless, Columbus got the holiday and we have his letter to the
king and queen of Spain
as well as his journal
online thanks to the Medieval Sourcebook at Fordham University.

Where did Columbus first land in the New World? The Columbus Landfall
discusses the various theories.

Students in the American Studies program at the University of
Virginia take an academic look at Columbus in
. The University of North Carolina’s 1492:
An Ongoing Voyage
puts the Columbus voyages into a broader
historical context by looking at the Americas before and after its
“discovery” and at later conquests.

The most detailed online archive of Columbus material is Columbus and the Age of
from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. It catalogs
and lets you read more than 1,100 articles on the explorer.

1000 And All That. Of course, the Viking side of this story is
that Leif Ericson
arrived on the shores of North America 492 years before the Italians. You’ll be
hearing much more about this in the coming year because there’s a big
Millinneum Celebration
that started this past Saturday and will continue through Oct. 9, 2000.
It will even feature replicas of ships that set sail for North America
and eventually sail down the East Coast from Canada to Philadelphia.

America, America. And where does all this leave Amerigo
, who got the New World named for him in 1507? I remember
thinking as a kid it was a good thing they took his first name and not
his last, but that’s another story. …

Play Ball! This week the cliché, “The more things change, the
more they stay the same,” really hit home with me. I’m a big fan of the
Atlanta Braves, but this month
I find myself in Boston, which is going nuts over the Red Sox and Pedro Martinez. The attitude
here is, National League — what’s that? Far from the South and with no
access to cable TV, what do I do? I connect to WSB radio through the
Braves’ website and hear the broadcasts live. There’s something
comfortingly old-fashioned about listening to baseball on the radio
(even if I’m doing it through my laptop). Besides, IMHO, the Braves
announcers are much better than the clowns on ESPN.

Major League Baseball
isn’t a very exciting site, but it is a good spot for figuring out when
the playoff games will be and where (NBC is carrying the National League
games beginning Tuesday and Fox the AL starting Wednesday.) It also
offers live game audio if you have RealPlayer installed.

Will the World Series be Yankees vs. Braves again? Will Cleveland take on the miracle
Mets? My deadline for this column
comes before the Cleveland-Red Sox game is played, and my crystal ball
is cloudy. But one thing I know — thanks to 1990s technology, I’ll be
glued to the games in 1950s style — on radio.

Free Printer. If your office needs a color printer, and you do
a certain (unspecified) volume of copying per month, Tektronix is
offering a free Phaser 840 plus
(plus free shipping and three years of free, on-site
service) in return for your agreeing to purchase all your toner and
other supplies from their website (at prices that are also unspecified).
Obviously, not an offer for everyone. But it might work for you.

No Free Lunch. There are so many “ifs” in such free offers,
especially when you’re required to lock yourself in to a service for a
few years. Joel, a reader who writes from Cincinnati to pass along his
experience, says, “I can assure you that NetZero (which has made
headlines around the country for offering a free computer in return for
your accessing the Internet through their service) isn’t worth the
price. The ad banner is an immense bandwidth hog. It screws up my
e-mailing. Hours pass when I just can’t maintain a connection. I can’t
use auto-hide on the toolbar or taskbar, as it provokes ‘illegal
operation’ warnings and threats to shut down. Actually, doing just about
anything on NetZero can do that. I can surf like mad and still get
‘inactivity’ notices that give me 60 seconds to click ‘resume.'”

Phone Free. All of which reminds me that I wanted to ask you,
the wonderful readers of this column, if you have any experience with PhoneFree, which offers free
long-distance telephone calls? I’m a member of a nonprofit professional
organization that’s looking for a way for committees whose members are
scattered around the country (and some in Canada) to get together by
phone occasionally without paying high conference call rates. It looks
as though PhoneFree’s paid (“gold”) service offers that for $3 per month
for two people. But I’d like to hear from someone who has used it. My
e-mail address is at the bottom of this column if you know anything
about this or any other service that might work. Thanks.

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