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The art of getting lost

On the Web, you never know what you’ll find.

Getting lost on the Web is to be expected. Oh sure, it’s not necessary; plenty of people burn a path straight to their favorite weather, news, or shopping site as if they were going to the corner store, and never venture any farther. But getting lost down Web back alleys, one-ways, and meandering detours is like driving cross-country on the back roads, seeing and discovering whole new worlds. Pretty soon, you’re just enjoying the journey, and maybe even discover you’re the richer for it. So go ahead, get lost … you won’t believe what you find along the way.

Found memories?

There are plenty of good Samaritan sites out there attempting to reunite you with your personal effects, but Found Magazine isn’t one of them. That’s not to say they wouldn’t, but the point of the magazine and Web site is to rescue some of the detritus of the streets–discarded photos, scribbled missives, home recordings–and in so doing, fashion a kind of art. The site/magazine publishers say they will take “anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life.” Examples of found notes include to-do lists, children’s art, love letters, and even a vow of self-discipline: “I will not throu (sic) during quiet time.” It’s a kind of voyeuristic experience, to be sure, but more anonymous, bizarre, and poignant than your average reality TV show-fashioned to put your imagination to work constructing magnificent yarns from tiny scraps of real life.

Found sounds

Attempting to wrest historical sound recordings from musty basements, dusty attics, and obscure corners of the world, National Public Radio has put out a public, ongoing Quest for Sound. It has so far posted a wealth of sound recordings, from a reading of the Gettysburg Address by a man who witnessed it as a child, to a woman singing a lullaby in an extinct South African language called Kukasi, to a woman recording her worries about her husband during World War II. At press time, it was requesting sounds for the creation of a memorial to Sept. 11th.

Found yer dog

If you’re not lost but your dog, wallet, keys, or luggage have wandered away, here are a couple of virtual telephone poles to hang your flyer on. On the Internet Lost and Found, for example, it’s easy to report an item missing or found. Simply click on the appropriate icon, fill out a short Web form, and post. Then the item seeker can scroll items by category, which are in turn listed by date. If an item looks promising, simply click on the magnifying glass next to it for contact information. Plenty of lost pets are reported here, but another good spot to try is Lost and Found Pets USA, where you can quickly zero in on your state and city, and, hopefully, on the odds of bringing home your furry, feathered, or even scaly friend.

Found knowledge

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, but you’ll know it when you see it, visit Neat New Stuff on the Web, a weekly tally of interesting, useful, and fun noncommercial sites compiled by Marylaine Block, a librarian who hails from Davenport, Iowa. A recent listing included a consumer guide auto check, the Human Nature Daily Review, a portal that collects articles and other information on behavior from newspapers, magazines and journals, and the World Wide Biome Project, an integrated biology and computer project for students. Not likely to make it onto Yahoo’s top list of sites or any other popular resource, it’s like stumbling into an out-of-the-way rare book, record, or antique store-the one everyone will claim to have visited, but can’t quite remember how or when. Be sure to see more about how she chooses her site listings. Now that’s a lady who knows how to get lost.

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