I’m finishing up my vacation as I write, so this week’s websites
mirror my mood — i.e., they’re less than serious — at least one is
downright silly — but we will also look at a new threat to your privacy
on the Net.

Take me out to the ballgame. Several days ago, I was talking
with a friend who’s the sports photo editor for one of the nation’s
largest newspapers and he mentioned ESPN Gamecast.
As any Major League Baseball game is taking place, you can “watch” the
game in progress — getting a pitch-by-pitch update; detailed batter vs.
hitter matchups; current balls, strikes and outs; the pitcher’s total
tosses to this point (not to mention his stats against the opposing
team); and on and on. This is an amazing way to know everything that’s
going on in any game — or even better, to keep up with several games at
once, especially when neither is on TV. Go to the MLB Scoreboard and access
Gamecast beneath the box score of any game in progress.

Big fan. Charlie O’Reilly remembers the first big-league
baseball game he ever attended — Braves vs. Mets in 1967. That’s all it
took to get him hooked on the game. For the past three years, he has
made it a point to visit major and minor league ball fields and
chronicle his impressions of the stadiums and games at Baseball Parks I
Have Visited
. CharlieZeb, as he’s known, also has pages on Shoeless Joe
and Casey at the Bat.

The butler didn’t do it. If you’re fond of mysteries, you’ll
enjoy The Mysterious
Home Page
. Not only is it filled with info on fictional crime —
authors, characters, themes, organizations, reviews, dealers — but it
will also link you to several dozen online mystery games and interactive
fiction sites. Maybe you don’t have time to read a book while you
consume your tuna sandwich, but you solve a five-minute mystery on your
lunch hour.

Hot enough for you? New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute
provides info on pepper pungency (how scientists rate their relative
heat), a Hall of Flame, chile statistics (New Mexico is No. 1 in U.S.
production, but China leads the world) and even tells you what makes a
pepper hot.

Target practice. I can imagine how you might get annoyed
enough with the television set that you might want to shoot it, but a
microwave or a refrigerator?!? Well, if you’re Daniel C. Benton Jr., you
don’t really need a reason — instead of a bulls-eye, he has used an old
gas grill, dead computer monitor, electric range, TV, a printer and
other appliances for target practice. You can see the results at the Original World-Famous Home
Appliance Shooting Page
. I’m not recommending this practice, you
understand — just marveling over its weirdness. There’s even a CNN
video. Only in America.

The funny pages online. There are any number of reasons to
access the daily and Sunday comics online instead of in the local
newspaper. Maybe they’ve just dropped your favorite, you’ve moved to
another city that doesn’t have the comics you like best, or you get your
news exclusively online instead of delivered at 5 in the morning.
Whatever, at United Media’s Comics.com,
you can read more than 60 different comic strips, including some that
are new and not widely distributed yet. Also, these good-sized comic
strips will be a boon for those of you who are annoyed by many
newspapers’ habit of shrinking the strips so tiny you almost need a
magnifying glass to see them (and you can use your browser to make them
even larger).

It’s my turn, not yours. That’s the cry of summer — from the
days kids played tag around the neighborhood to long, contentious hours
hunched over a Monopoly board to today’s video and computer games. At It’s Your Turn.com, you play 40
different games (chess, backgammon, Battleship) against a live opponent
— first one makes a move, then another (you don’t have to be logged on
at the same time). Yup, it’s slow — there’s not a Java, Shockwave or
Flash game among them to crash your computer. Just right for the lazy
days of summer.

Is your privacy being violated? It was reported last week that
at least four online retailers (Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Lucy.com and
Fusion.com) have — in violation of their stated privacy policies —
shared with a marketing company personal information of those who
shopped at their sites. Read all about it in the CBS News article Online
Shopping: Privacy Hazard?

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