C is for cookie. It was in the news this week — but not all
the stories told you what to do about it. What’s “it”? What some
columnists dubbed a double cross by DoubleClick, a company that
distributes ads and cookies on more than a thousand popular websites.

Cookies are little messages attached to your computer by the sites
you visit. Despite what you’ll sometimes hear, cookies are not all bad.
If you want Hotmail to remember who you are each time you show up to
check your mailbox, that requires a cookie. So do Amazon.com’s features
that recommend books based on your reading preferences or allow you to
save an order and add to it until you’re ready to buy the books.

But those cookies recognize your computer’s browser, not your name
and address. What Double Click has been doing is tracking the online
activities of millions of surfers — and linking those activities to
your name and address whenever you’ve given personal information to a
site. (Netdeals is one spot that has provided your data to DoubleClick.)

This is a serious privacy issue. What can you do about it? Three

  1. Head to the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Opt-Out site and follow the instructions
    for getting DoubleClick off your trail.

  2. Learn more about cookies, and what to do about them, by reading
    the FAQ at Cookie
    . Just be aware that if you set your computer not to accept
    cookies at all, you’ll run into problems at some sites that you like,
    and if you tell Netscape or Internet Explorer to ask before accepting a
    cookie, you’ll be doing an annoying lot of clicking. Sometimes you can’t

  3. Intermediate and advanced Net users may want to stop by Junkbusters to download free
    software that can be used to block all cookies, or just some of them.

Gathering places. A virtual family reunion on the
Web? You can have one every day with free family websites, a
fast-growing area of the Net. These are where you can post everything
from the video of your youngest child’s first step so the grandparents
and aunts and uncles can admire it, to the plans for a family reunion.
Your site can be password-protected so only your family members can
access it. Many hosting services also offer chat. Since each has
slightly different features — and strengths and weaknesses — it’s a
good idea to look them all over before deciding which would will best
meet the needs of your family. All are an excellent way to keep in touch
with family members scattered about the country or the globe.

Here’s where to look:

Quote, unquote. Here’s an interesting variation on the usual
quotation site: quotations from famous people about creativity. Although
the quotes at Creative
are arranged according to the authors’ birthdays, you can
search by months, by author (more than 2,000 of them) and by subject.
Also of note are the monthly themes (April and taxes, for instance, or
independence and July) and quotes from women.

Whom to vote for. You’ve probably made up your mind who you’d
like to vote for in the presidential elections, but that person may not
get the nomination. An easy way to find out where candidates stand on
issues that mean the most to you is at The Crayfish.com’s 2000 Presidential
Candidate Matcher
. You answer questions as to your views on such
issues as gun control, health care, education, taxes, foreign policy and
immigration, as well as single issues such as allowing homosexual
couples to marry, and you rate how important these issues are to you.
Then the site matches your answers with the candidates’ views to come up
with the man who best represents your beliefs. It also shows you how
close each candidate comes to your views on all the individual

Move over Monopoly. How long ago do you think board games were
invented? It may be that no one knows for sure, but a number were
popular in Roman times, when tic-tac-toe and Lucky Sixes were played. At
Wladyslaw Jankowalski’s Roman
Board Games
, you can read all about it. He also has sites for Roman Musical
Ball Games, which included handball, field hockey and soccer.
Warning: While these are entertaining and educational sites for home
schoolers and school kids looking for information for a project, be
aware that if they access the site alone, they might click on the link
to the Roman art museum site, which unfortunately features erotic art.

Whither the weather? Wednesday is when that furry little
groundhog known as Punxsutawney
will emerge from his burrow to see if we’ll have six more weeks
of winter, or if spring is around the corner. (We know which everyone on
the East Coast and the unseasonably snowed-upon South is rooting for!)
Phil is probably the only woodchuck in existence with two websites —
check his official site, too, and
also learn something about the town that gets into the weather
news once a year.

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