Tracking the Web on the Web

The amount of Web sites available to peruse is truly staggering. To get a ballpark figure, I entered "Web site" as a Google search and was inundated with more than two billion results. Of course, this number is deceptive; it represents distinct Web pages, and Web sites are comprised of multiple pages.

Still, my curiosity was piqued. I visited - which posts answers to a variety of questions pertaining to the Internet - to learn how many sites there actually are. In 2004, they estimated that there were approximately 43 million different sites.

I think it would be fascinating to play the role of a modern-day Lewis or Clark and catalog the vast resources that are available in the Information Age. Due to time constraints, however, I'll leave this task to the new breed of explorers known as search engines, and share some of the most entertaining sites that I have discovered. Of course, these only represent a drop in the bucket, but you may find them informative or, at the very least, amusing.

Who knew a flesh-eating disease could be so cute, cuddly and plush? We're talking about the microbe also known as Streptacoccus pyogenes. Think Geek, a site that sells a variety of unusual trinkets geared toward the pocket-protector crowd, offers a collection of microbes that have been expanded one million times and then fashioned into furry critters suitable for playrooms or office spaces.

The moral of the microbes? They serve as a reminder that there is an undetectable world of minuscule germs capable of doing harm to larger forms of life that don't take such precautions as washing hands, proper food-handling techniques and up-to-date immunizations.

Each 5- to 7-inch plush, priced at $5.99, comes with an instructional card that includes a picture of the microbe and information about the bacterium in its national environment. Other microbes available include Ebola, sore throat and common cold.

Quick and visually appealing, The Name Voyager is a great alternative to the cumbersome task of perusing through books of names. Simply enter a name, or even the first few letters of a name, and a color-coded chart maps its popularity over the past 100 years.

The Name Voyager, which can be found as a link on, tracks names of babies born in the United States as reported by the Social Security Administration. Tracing the popularity of family names can be intriguing. For instance, Beatrice peaked in the 1920s, while Brooke, which is not listed in the Roaring Twenties, has steadily been gaining popularity over the most recent several decades.

If you click on a name, you can even see its rank broken out by decade. This site is great, not only for parents looking at naming trends, but for the merely curious as well.

Wine lovers eager to lock in the best price on their favorite sampling need look no further than, a virtual bazaar that allows users to scour wine merchants' selections by simply entering a wine type and vintage.

Interested in a 2002 bottle of Chateau Rieussec Sauternes? A total of 41 entries from several countries are instantly listed in descending order by price.

The service is free to search for sponsoring merchants (approximately 200 retailers), and for those interested in price comparisons among the 5,773 suppliers in the database, the fare is $29.95 per year. In addition to its price-comparison tool, the site has wine recommendations, features a directory with all of the wine regions and appellations in the world, and offers a primer on investing in wines.

The question springs eternal: what to give the person who seemingly has everything? Whoever you're shopping for, it's safe to assume that they could use a menu organizer, one of the irreverent offerings of e-tailer Knock Knock.

From young singles to harried business executives, the practice of collecting menus continues to boom. In the process, lives are cluttered and desk space is infringed upon. The menu organizer is designed to bring a sense of normalcy back to their existence.

No longer will they confuse the good Chinese takeout joint with the one that always forgets the egg rolls. Menus can be organized by food categories or based on location. This groundbreaking menu-management system includes a binder, six section dividers, an order-taking pad, a couple of ballpoint pens, a pad of rating stickers and takeout tips. In addition, an essay on the Definitive History of Takeout is included.

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