Vive la revolution!
The internet is changing the way we spend our spare time. Ed Power looks at the websites that’ll help you while away the hours in 2009
If you really want to cheer yourself up this New Year, the best place to be is sitting at your computer. Seriously, the internet is awash with quirky distractions, where you can happily fritter away a fair chunk of your spare time.
What's more, with broadband set to finally become available through the entire country in 2009 and computer prices tumbling, there's no excuse for not joining in.
Here, then, are some of our favourite sites for the 12 months ahead (alas, we haven't been able to include the Irish Optimists Association -- disappointingly, 'Optimist' turns out to be a class of dinghy).
How's It Going?
So you've always wondered 'how to make a move on a girl while watching a movie on a couch'. Assuming you don't have a knowledgeable older brother to fill you in on the details (at least one who won't laugh themselves silly when you broach the topic), the next best thing to do is visit Howcast, a 'how to' site devoted to simplifying life's many conundrums. With its dry humour, Howcast tries not to take itself too seriously.
But it's simple-to-follow video guides are wholly in earnest. In addition to solving your romantic woes, more serious matters -- how to write a letter of complaint, how to ready your house for a new pet -- are also tackled. If you're feeling helpful you can even upload some advice of your own. www.howcast.com
Life In The Fash Lane
We've never had so many fashion choices at our fingertips. Ironically, this has had the effect of making dressing smartly more difficult than ever. Who can say what the best kind of jeans to wear to next week's dinner party are when you've got dozens of varieties from which to chose.
Here's where Omiru comes in. With its motto, 'real style for real people', the site aims to cut through the fashionista blather and provide you with an honest appraisal of what looks you should be debuting this spring. Whether you're curvy or petite, big-boned or a bean-pole, Omiru has lots of canny advice.
Think of it as your own personal Trinny and Susanna -- minus the gratuitous insults. www.omiru.com
Rice Work If You Can Get It
Who doesn't love puzzle games? Especially puzzle games that help solve global hunger. Play this word quiz game and every time you answer correctly, Freerice donates 20 grains of free rice to the UN World Food Programme. You get to give your brain a workout -- and help undernourished people in the developing world. I think this is what we call a win-win situation. Freerice raises money through advertising -- the more people who visit the site, the more it can charge advertisers and pass on to the UN.
We're just waiting for someone to come up with a Sudoku puzzle that combats global warming. www.freerice.com
It's All In A Name
There's a baby on the way -- and you're stumped for a name. You don't want something too . . . well, common.
But you also don't want your child to be the only kid in school named after a Battlestar Galactica character (because they WILL get beaten up at lunch hour). To the rescue comes Nymbler, a baby name site with a twist.
Simply type in some of the names you've been contemplating and Nymbler will suggest variations you haven't previously thought of. Feeling better already, aren't you? www.nymbler.com
Why not go one step further and actually invest in the developing world. It sounds like something Bob Geldof might think up after one Red Bull and vodka too many, but that's precisely the principle behind Kiva. At this site, you can pledge funds -- from as little as €30 -- to business people in poorer countries (for instance, a store owner in India; a cattle breeder in Azerbaijan). All going well, your money is repaid within the year, says Kiva.
We suspect that warm glow of self satisfaction will last a little longer. And don't worry about your cash disappearing down a Nigerian internet scammer's back pocket either. Kiva is a not-for-profit organisation headquartered in San Francisco and is registered with the US government.
Something To Chew On
So you want to learn how to cook but you can't bear all of those grisly celebrity chefs trying to seduce you with their 'pukka' recipes. At the Irish-run ifoods.tv, you can benefit from the know-how of celeb-free foodies around the world.
Contributors to the site, brainchild of renowned Dublin chef Niall Harbison, upload videos of themselves teaching their favourite recipes -- plus there are forums where users can post follow-up questions and pitch recipes of their own.
And we guarantee absolutely nobody will refer to you as darlin' in a comedy mockney accent. www.ifoods.tv
Animation Once Again
Don't let your kids near it, but Looseville is an hilarious cartoon site by Cork-based comic artist Alan Moloney. Try to imagine a surreal Irish mix of Peanuts, Dilbert and South Park -- topped off with off-beam humour worthy of Flann O'Brien.
There's an archive of Moloney's strips going back to 2006. He sells some pretty great t-shirts too. Sure, some of the humour is a little out there -- and it gets quite risque in places -- but if you could do with a chortle, check it out. www.looseville.org
Nest Best Thing
Whether you're getting married or moving in together, shacking up with your partner throws up all sorts of surprises -- not all of which can be glossed over with a giggly pillow fight.
How should you split household bills? Whose turn is it to take out the rubbish? Can one partner veto the other's choice of an icky paint-scheme or baldly announce that their beloved's collection of novelty beer bottles simply has to go?
We can't promise to solve these nettlesome dilemmas, but we do suggest you check out The Nest, a site dedicated to smoothing out co-habitee ruffles, with tips on merging your finances and how to get ready if there's a baby on the way. www.thenest.com