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Posted on Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 7 a.m.

This week's web picks: Make music, track trends, play 'Krazydad' games

By Paul Wiener

Editor’s note: This is the next installment of a weekly column by Paul Wiener designed to point readers to cool or useful websites.

Wolfram Tones

This is another one of those sites where all I can do is say, "Have fun with it." You make music with it, of a kind — or is it just sound? Roll your mouse over a colored patch and see what happens. I should be embarrassed to recommend something I don’t fully understand, but I’m not. After all, I’m happy if some of you who don’t know the site are able to take better advantage of it than I am.

041512_krazydad.png is all about fun and games.

Stephen Wolfram is one of the geniuses of computational math. After he created and marketed Mathematica, a world class software program, he was set for life, but hardly finished.

His book, A New Kind of Science, also made him famous, even though it’s 1,200 pages long. Today he applies his discoveries to all kinds of scientific endeavors, learning systems, pedagogy, software, art and to creativity itself.

Sign in to his site and you can download beautiful things. On Wolfram Tones he applies his computational insights to the creation of sounds that closely resemble music. You conspire with his programs to generate “songs” using all kinds of parameters to shape them.

They can be saved and emailed. They can be watched and re-worked: change instruments, genres, rhythms, pitches, it’s your own online synthesizer, a little like a Midi device.

Wolfram wants you to have fun with mind, as long as you don’t forget who’s mind it is. These are the sounds of science. Make of them what you will. Getting lost isn’t so bad when you hear the soundtrack.

Pew Internet Trend Data

Why is the Internet like baseball? Because it thrives — no, it soars — on statistics. Since every keystroke is recorded somewhere, naturally it becomes food for research: 27 percent of you download video files, but 65 percent of you make travel reservations online; 8 percent of families with teens have no computer; 19 percent of adults own tablet computers.

Sure, some statistics lag, seem arbitrary, and are easily abused, but they’re often surprising, even addictive. Many sites offer internet usage statistics. Some are even more current. But few have the cachet of the Pew Research Center: it’s possibly the most cited and wide-ranging of all social research organizations in the country, revered by journalists, educators, social scientists and professionals who aren’t paid to make facts up.

Pew offers much more than statistics, and about much more than the internet. It provides studies, reports, datasets, charts and surveys on dozens of topics, from religion to gaming to seniors. And unlike many think tanks, it never interprets or spins its findings: it is a “fact tank” with serious, upfront bona fides.

Its lengthy, comprehensive Future of the Internet reports are frequently quoted, and can be downloaded — but so are dozens of Pew’s other reports. See for yourself how influential this organization is. It’ll help you know who’s not paying attention to the real world.


Krazydad is fun and games! Krazydad is eye candy. Krazydad is....Jim Bumgardner, an incredibly creative, happy and generous programmer at Disney Interactive Labs who simply enjoys making or offering free online games, programs and other geeky doodads for people to waste time with.

Like Jim Martindale (below) he’s a shining example of why most things that require expertise, quality and reliability are best done by individuals, not committees. Loving the work is the secret ingredient.

Had enough of Sodoku? Try Kakuro, Slitherlink or Jigoku. Had enough puzzles or mazes? Try Jim’s Flickr Colr Pickr: it’ll let you select any color shade among millions and then match it exactly to a dozen photos. Or Make Your Own Kaleidoscope! Hungry? You won’t believe what the Wheel of Lunch can do. And then there’s my favorite: the Amazing Instant Ascii Cam. See: the alphabet is still good for something!


It’s easy to search for books by specific topic, interest, place, theme, etc., mostly because you’re looking for words describing words. Amazon has seduced buyers by doing this for years.

But how easy is it to search for movies based on narrow terms? The Movie Keyword Analyzer, provided by the renowned IMDb site, makes it very easy.

If you have a sudden craving for a movie in which zoos feature prominently, Moka will find more than 400 of them, including Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Mogambo. It does this by using tags and metatags (terms hidden in the code supporting any web display).

Even so, tagging movies is still in its infancy. How do you really describe a 15-second conversation, a Lake Michigan shoreline, or blue gunk oozing from a shape-shifting alien?

Moka tries, and even when its suggestions seem far-reaching — try searching love, finance, rebellion (The Animals of Farthing Wood?) — it comes up with unexpected titles and groupings, including shorts, video game, and television. Film buffs and students: here is a tool that will expand or tighten the history of film, or show the attempts, good or ludicrous, that have been made to blast topics from language into light.

Paul Wiener of Ann Arbor was a librarian for 32 years at Stony Brook University, in Long Island, N.Y., where he managed the English Literature, Art and Film Collections. He may be reached at



Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

Very much missing Paul Wiener's weekly column. Where has it gone????

Tony Dearing

Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

Don't worry, Paul's column will be back soon. It will resume next weekend.

Michael Smith

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

This from last week. Where is this week's column. This is now one of my favorite features. Thanks, Paul.

paul wiener

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 4:13 a.m.

Thanks for saying so! That's a good question. I can't answer it, as I'm not the publisher. I'm as surprised as you.