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Playing the angles

Plus geekdom and clothes encounters for men.

It’s been a few years since I uttered the words, “look, Mom!” but I can think of no better instant reaction to Sodaplay. (Thank you, most gracious reader Tom, for sending it my way). A free art/play offshoot of Web design firm Soda, Sodaplay is line art come to life. When you first see the site, you think, “Oh, figures that move. I’ve seen that.” But start playing around and you’ll quickly be sucked into the magic.

I started out by clicking the Soda Constructor and then the “click here to play” link. This took me into the guts of the program, where I started to play with files available on the site (click File in the left-hand corner for a list). After adjusting the gravity and the direction of movement for a few figures, I suddenly started to forget about other things I had to do that day. I dragged shapes around the page, morphing them into all kinds of crazy new patterns.

After a few minutes, I braved the next step–creating my own file. Not being naturally inclined toward geometry or graphing, I was skeptical about whether I’d be able to produce a figure I actually liked, but I did so in about 45 seconds. With the swelling pride of a new mother at her baby’s first steps, I stared in amazement as my little figure hopped and spun around the page in ways I hadn’t expected. It was beautiful. At that moment I realized I was hooked.

Putting the icing on this experience is Sodaplay’s sleek, intuitive, and stable design. I usually dread the process of signing up on a site, but I didn’t here–it was completely unobtrusive and in no way interrupted what I really wanted to do. The site never crashed, timed out, or showed any hitches in operation when creating or saving files. (You must have a Java-enabled browser to use Sodaplay, and the site recommends that if you’re on a Mac, you use Microsoft Internet Explorer. Also, the site won’t work if you’re behind a firewall.) Now all I ask is that Web designers for other interactive sites visit Sodaplay first.

I’m wide open

If you’re into open-source computing, you already know all about Thinkgeek, so this is for the rest of us. Why should you visit? Because Thinkgeek.com is a well-designed, entertaining site at which you can buy cool stuff or just entertain yourself for a few minutes. Either way, you’ll learn valuable information about what real computer geeks are doing, reading, thinking about, and buying.

Looking for ergonomic furniture? You might want to check here first. Wondering about the latest tech books or hot new gadgets? Ditto. The site also has sections devoted to caffeinated products, gift certificates, stickers, work wear (semi-casual attire), and a copious selection of T-shirts for men and women. If you buy an Open Source or Geek God shirt, your money goes directly to open-source projects.

You look marvelous

Men: Not so good at picking clothes that aren’t jeans and a T-shirt? Neither am I; in a men’s store, I’m at least as clueless as you are, and even more impatient to get out of there.

I’ll let you in on a secret: Women aren’t necessarily naturally more fashion-inclined than men. Dressing well is a skill that most of us have to learn and practice. Luckily for you, you’ve got a fabulous resource in Modern Man. This site goes well beyond the obvious and mundane tips of most men’s fashion sites or magazines (i.e., “Always match your shoes to your belt.” Duh.)

This site treats you as if you have a brain, and a life: It’s organized so that you can learn as much–or as little–as you’d like about the finer points of menswear, never forgetting that your primary concern is, Does this make me look like a dork? If all you want to know is a little about colors, cuts, or fabrics, it’s easy to find. (See the sections on how men and women see color.) But honey, if you care about his stuff, you are in for a treat. Even if you think you don’t, you may be surprised. Do you really know what size you wear in a dress shirt? Or what the terms rise and drop mean for pants? You wouldn’t walk into a dealership and let the salesperson “educate” you about gas mileage or blue-book value, so why not invest a little time in Modern Man before hitting the mall? Next time you’re confronted with a wall of khakis in straight-leg, relaxed fit, pleated front or flat front, you’ll be in and out of there in a snap, and nobody will be more grateful than that special someone in your life.

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