His name was Tom, a formerly plucky encyclopedia salesman who rang my parents' doorbell when I was eleven years old, living in a not so nice neighborhood. To this day I think back and wonder how his confidence must have wavered the more he explored the neighborhood I was living in at the time; slowly realizing that selling encyclopedias to non-English speaking immigrants who barely knew how to read them was futile.
This shroud of realization was written all over his face when I answered the door. I remember his speech on why the encyclopedia set was necessary for us, and have an even clearer memory when remembering the excitement in the room when my mother actually purchased them.
This was 1994 – the early nineties, when the Internet was new to me and its potential completely unknown. During that phase, I couldn’t fathom even having a computer.
I thought I had all the wisdom and knowledge in the universe in the palm of my hand.
To me, the Internet has become this unbelievable and overly expansive encyclopedia where you can find information on the politics of the Maldives or the mating habits of the Moroccan cockroach. It’s clichéd to say that with all of the power and knowledge that we have at literally our fingertips, there comes a responsibility to really ensure that the site is factual.
This always occurs to me when I find yet another great and useful website. The following are some of these random online sources of information that I use on a weekly and sometimes daily basis that help me explore the world and how to live in it.
This website is a type of “book trading” site that allows members to trade books with other avid readers throughout the world. There is no membership fee to join. All you need to be a book moocher is a few old books you don’t need in your possession. You receive points for posting books, sending books, and leaving feedbacks. I’ve been a member for only three weeks and already have received two free books and sent out four.
Money management is tough. After graduating from college three years ago, I still don’t know much about it. Among the many resources I have found to learn the art of managing the Benjamins (in my case the Washingtons) is Mint.com. One of my favorite sections of the site is mint.edu where your money questions are answered quite clearly.
Dawdle is a great alternative to the usual eBay and Funcoland video game trading businesses. Dawdle is a gamer matchmaking site, matching a buyer with a seller based on system, game, and pricing.
Subway systems always confuse me – no matter where I am. The only subway that was easy to understand and did not leave me completely turned around was the London Underground. Anyone who is familiar with New York City knows that the subway can be a convoluted web of transfers and unclear intercom announcements. HopStop eases this difficulty with door-to-door subway directions and delay alerts. Currently they have information for various areas including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
AlterNet is another option for Internet users who like their world news a little less filtered than the usual CNN or MSNBC media outlets. No matter where you fall in the political spectrum, there are some interesting stories in there. What other online news outlet features stories like “How I Survived Men’s Prison as a Woman” describing the plight of transgendered women in men’s prisons and “The Health Industry’s Secret History of Delaying the Fight Against Cancer”?
The New York City real estate market is just as bad as you think. You fight to acquire your dream apartment; agree to give your iPod and all of its music up to the landlord (the equivalent of first born to many young professionals) only to have roaches you will probably hear breathing under furniture, mighty mice, and leaking toilets from the tenant above. Shitty Habitats advocates proper and effective building management and crucifies faulty brokers, landlords, and building management companies while always remaining honest about its reporting.
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