From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 30 Jan 03 - The Next 21 (Part 2)


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, a remnant or trace of an organism of a past geologic age, such as a skeleton or leaf imprint, embedded and preserved in the earth's crust.

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week.

I apologize for TOURBUS' recent absence. Your usually fearless bus driver was so busy hiding under his bed in abject fear that he hasn't been able to reach his computer in a while. You may have heard about the football game that was played in San Diego last weekend between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. You may have also heard that a VERY small minority of Raider fans have a tendency to take the "Raider" title a tad bit too seriously, looting, pillaging, sacking, and plundering at the drop of a hat. [Yes, even AMERICA has football hooligans.] :(

What you may NOT have heard, however, is that the two major Interstate highways that the "Raider Nation" had to travel to get to San Diego (I-5 and I-405) BOTH CONVERGE IN BEAUTIFUL IRVINE, CALIFORNIA! So, I've been hiding. :P

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week. On with the show ...

A couple weeks ago we started talking about "The Next 21," a collection of 21 really cool Web sites that didn't make my first "Top 21" list simply because I ran out of room. For those who missed the first post -- which you can find in the archives at the site's we have visited so far:


2. Slashdot

3. Yahoo What's New

4. Google Browser Buttons

5. PopCap Games

And here are the next five sites.

6. Coffee Break Arcade

Since our last stop was at a games site, we might as well keep the theme going by stopping at another cool online games site: Coffee Break Arcade.

Spend any amount of time on the Internet and you are bound to run into a bunch of web sites that offer free Java and Flash games. One site lets you race slot cars, another lets you play blackjack, and yet another even lets you play whiffle ball online [yes, folks, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you no longer have to exert yourself with such strenuous, real-world activities as whiffle ball.]

The games are cool, but the problem is keeping up with all of the free online games that are available. That's where Coffee Break Arcade comes in.

Coffee Break Arcade gives you links to over 100 free online games grouped into six different categories: classic games, cool games, sports games, shooting games, racing games, and casino games.

In other words, there goes your free time. :)

7. Internet Movie Database

Imagine how you would feel if you made a list of the world's greatest museums and forgot to mention The British Museum or The Louvre. Well, that's how I feel for not including the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) in my original Top 21! How could I not mention IMDb?! What's WRONG with me?! [Don't answer that!]

Anyway, the Internet Movie Database is a free, searchable database of over 260,000 film and television productions made since 1892. That's 111 years worth of entertainment information, folks! And, according to IMDb,

We catalog information on who made them [the 260,000 film and television productions in the database], who appeared in them, where they were filmed, awards they received, trivia, quotes and many other categories. Along with being able to look up the movies, you can look up people. We have information on close to a half-million actors and actresses, almost 50,000 directors, and much more. All of this is quickly accessible through the "search the database for" form you see at the top of the lefthand column

Most everyone knows about IMDb's searchable database, but there are a BUNCH of hidden treasures in this site that few people ever see -- the now playing list, movie/TV news, photo galleries, and MUCH more. If you want to find out more about these hidden treasures, I *STRONGLY* recommend that you take the free, online IMDb tour at

8. Metacritic

How can you find the REALLY good movies among all the dreck in your local movie theater or video shop? Well, you can always read the movie review column in your local newspaper ... but that is just one person's opinion. Enter Metacritic,

a place where movie fans easily find the most important reviews for each new movie at a glance. In addition to quotes from reviews from major critics on each movie page, you will find links to each of the full reviews. We also wanted to design a system for comparing reviews between critics and between movies. To accomplish this goal, we developed our Metascore formula. Each movie is assigned a Metascore, which is a weighted average of each of the individual reviews for that film. This number, on a 0-100 scale, lets you know at a glance how each movie is reviewed.

The site offers reviews of films, videos, music, and games. And here's the coolest part: the numbers and the colors next to the title of each movie/CD/game give you that item's average score on a scale from 1 to 100, quickly showing you if that item has received good reviews or poor ones. Red means bad, green means good.

[Metacritic will be rolling out a completely new design in the next couple of days. In the interim, you might want to check out a related site called "Rotten Tomatoes".]

9. TechTV

While I still visit CNET's every day and anytime I am looking for a particular freeware or shareware program, I find myself spending more and more time at is the companion site for the TechTV cable television network. The network creates new shows almost every day on topics ranging from gaming to computer tech support, and the content from those shows is then immediately posted to the TechTV Web site. So is RAPIDLY becoming one of the best places to go if you want to see product reviews and demonstrations or get tech support articles on practically ANYTHING technology related.

The best way to jump into the TechTV site for the first time is to search the site for a topic that interests you. Key in a search term (like "Macromedia Dreamweaver"), choose to search the "entire site," and set the timeline to something big. If you aren't impressed with both the quantity AND the quality of the hits you get, you're doing something wrong!

And if you want to see if you can get the TechTV cable network in your neighborhood, check out,23350,2122587,00.html/?heading (that should all be on one line).

[And, yes, I do watch TechTV's "The Screen Savers" -- see -- but I have to admit that I don't watch it as often as I should.] :(


Let's say you are college professor (or even a home school parent) and you want to explain the Ideal Gas Law (PV=nRT) in such a way that your kids will not only remember it but UNDERSTAND it! You'd probably create some sort of hands-on simulation. And, if you were techno savvy, you might even create a virtual simulation and post it online in Blackboard, WebCT, or your course Web site.

But what if you didn't have the time or know-how to create your own online learning tool or simulation? Well, that's where MERLOT comes in.

MERLOT -- the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching -- is a free, peer-reviewed collection of over 8,000 different online learning tools and simulations developed (mostly) by college professors around the world. MERLOT is designed primarily for faculty and students of higher education, but I've discovered that a BUNCH of the stuff in MERLOT's archives will appeal to early teenage students as well. So don't let all the "higher ed" stuff scare you away from what is a WONDERFUL educational resource.

You can browse MERLOT's collection by subject area -- Arts, Business, Education, Humanities, Mathematics, Science and Technology, and Social Sciences -- but a better place to start might be the 2002 MERLOT awards page at This page will give you a better idea of what I mean when I talk about "online learning tools and simulations."

That's it for today! Have a safe and happy week and we'll talk again soon! :) -- Patrick Crispen

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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