Weekly Whack: Outside the Walls of Feff World Two
Outside the Walls of Feff World Two
May 11, 1997

As you may have noticed, this Whack was a bit late in getting up. That is because I'm in my last week at school and I'm swamped with all the finals and what not that I have to study for. It is a interesting paradox. I don't have time to write because I'm too busy studying so I can one day graduate college and get a job writing. But anyhoo, as for this week's Whack, I have for you two more reviews of Web pages that I did for the college paper here some time ago. True, I guess you could call it a cop-out, but I didn't have time to develop any new ideas for this week, so you'll just have to wait to some other time to hear my opinion on the whole Deep-Blue, Kasparov thing. Enjoy:

Bob and Dave's Wiffle-ball Page

When I first began exploring the vastness of the World Wide Web, well over a year ago, one of the first things I searched for was a site dedicated to the sport/art form of wiffle-ball. Unfortunately, the best I could do at that time was find the home page for some slow-pitch wiffle-ball league in Ohio. As any connoisseur would know, slow-pitch and wiffle-ball just don't mix. Keeping my faith in humanity, I decided not too long ago to search once again for a wiffle-ball site that played proper homage to the game that defined my childhood. My prayers were finally answered when I stumbled upon Bob and Dave's Wiffle-ball Page' at http://home.ptd.net/~murray49/wiffle.html.

The premise behind Bob and Dave's Wiffle-ball Page' is two middle-aged men living in a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania who are obsessed with the game of wiffle-ball. They play against each other constantly, and each claim to be quite good. The site serves as a way for them to express their love and respect for the game.

There are many sections that make up Bob and Dave's Wiffle-ball Page.' The first feature of the page is a large diagram of the playing field where their games take place, including labels and measurements. Below the diagram is a brief introductory message, followed by a concise history of the wiffle-ball. Next in sequence comes a series of links that lead to more information about wiffle-ball. There are game by game summaries of the battles between Bob and Dave, cool tips for wiffle-ball players, an official wiffle-ball trivia quiz, instructions on how to properly throw a wiffle-ball, a radar weather map for wiffle-ball players to judge if they will be able to play outside, and the wiffle-ball Babe of the Week', which contains a photo of some bikini-model whose physical beauty approaches the natural beauty found in the game of wiffle-ball. Near the bottom of the page there is an offer to buy a wiffle-ball autographed by both Bob and Dave, and also a section to e-mail the famed duo. The page concludes with a short list of other wiffle-ball sites maintained by individuals other than Bob and Dave.

Overall, the page had a good feel to it. The page layout is pleasing to the eye, the graphics are well done, and there are these neat little icons of wiffle-balls and wiffle-ball bats all over the page. However the authors of the page did try a little too hard to be funny, and many of their jokes fell short. I would have preferred if they took more of a serious approach to the subject matter. Also, there was one facet of the page that angered me somewhat. When I followed the link to the How to Throw a Wiffle-ball' section, I was swept away by an intense feeling of deja vu. I soon realized that this was because I was reading an essay that I wrote in my junior year of high school. I wrote an essay dealing with the physics of pitching a wiffle ball, and when Feff World was first put on-line, it was included as the first ever Weekly Whack. Apparently Bob and Dave found this essay, and decided to include it in their page. However neither Bob nor Dave asked my permission, or informed me of what they did. To make matters worst, they failed to cite that it came from my web page, and the only recognition I got was a small line on the bottom of the essay which read: "Courtesy of D. Palermo." So Bob and Dave will definitely be getting some e- mail from me real soon. The least they can do is give my first name.

So despite the fact that Bob and Dave are literary thieves, Bob and Dave's Wiffle-ball Page', at http://home.ptd.net/~murray49/wiffle.html, was generally a quality site, and a nice tribute to the game of wiffle-ball.

The Similarities Engine

In a Mecca of short attention spans that is the World Wide Web, it is very difficult to create a Web page that will grab and hold a visitor for extended periods of time. Basically Web pages are kind of like Chinese yo-yo's. They're are the greatest thing since pasteurized milk for the first five minutes after you discover them, but after the initial novelty wears off, they become banal, and they are eventually discarded in a box filled with Etch-o-Sketches and Wacky Wall Crawlers. Well I think I found the exception to this trend. It's called the Similarities Engine, and it can be found at http://www.ari.net/se/ise/se_top.html .

Basically what the Similarities Engine is, as described by it's creator David Whiteis, is "THE Web-based music recommending system." "How does a Web-based music recommending system work?" A naive reader like yourself may ask. Well it's pretty simple. First you select the first two letters of a band that you like, and then you are presented with a list of all the bands that start with those two letters. You select your band out of the list, and then some wiggies working behind the scenes will soon come up with a list of other bands that you also might like. It also ranks the bands it comes up with such grades as Very High,' High,' Medium,' and Low,' to describe the strength of the recommendation. For example, say you really like the band The Proclaimers (and may the music gods help you if you do), and you want to find some other bands that you might also like. You would select the letters p' and r', and then select Proclaimers out of the list (you'll find them between Pro-Pain and Procol Harum). Immediately the results would appear that if you like The Proclaimers, then the Similarities Engine could recommend with medium confidence the group The Eurythmics, and the bands Art of Noise, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, and Little Jack Melody with low confidence. So basically if you like bad music, you should also like other bad music.

As you can see, this thing has the potential of becoming very addictive. All you need is some interest in music. You don't even have to like popular music, they have everything right down to classical composers. And everything is all inter-related. For example, fans of George Gershwin may also want to explore Ryuichi Sakamoto, Marc Almond, and The Dance Hall Crashers. You can really spend a lot of time entering in all you favorite bands, and some of your least favorite bands. I first discovered the Similarities Engine when I was at the Language Resource Center here at school, and the ninety minutes my Spanish professor requires me to spend there disappeared in a heartbeat.

Obviously, like most things, the Similarities Engine is not perfect. The main flaw that must be understood is that it doesn't find bands that sound like the band you entered, but it finds bands that other people who like the band you originally entered also like. For example, if you enter in Green Day you don't get a list of other poppy punk bands. In fact, Pinhead Gunpowder, Billie Joe's original band which at times sounds a lot like Green Day, is not on the list, and vice versa. What is on the list, is a bunch of over-played radio/MTV bands like Weezer, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, R.E.M., Live, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. It is blatantly obvious that none of these bands have any musical similarities to Green Day, it's just that they are played on the radio and on MTV a lot, like Green Day, so a lot of the same people like them. Also at many times you may find yourself in complete disagreement with the Similarities Engine. For example, it suggests that since I'm a big REO Speedwagon fan (which I'm not ashamed to admit) I should also like Amy Grant. I'm sorry, but that will never happen. Anyhow, many times it is these flaws that make the Similarities Engine even more fun to use. Like try telling a die hard Led Zeppelin fan that he should also like Rush or Pink Floyd.

The Similarities Engine, to conclude, is a basic Web Page. It doesn't need any fancy graphics to spur it along, it just needs a simple program with a hook that will keep you coming back again and again. If you have any interest in music, I highly recommend this page.

Well I hope you liked those two little gems, but I must go for now, so to conclude this week's Whack, Gary Kasparov is a disgrace to the human race; any web page about wiffle-ball is a good web page; and I know REO Speedwagon, I've listened to many REO Speedwagon songs, I've been to a REO Speedwagon concert, and frankly, Amy Grant is no REO Speedwagon.

Now for this week's special feature, the top ten groups that fans of A-Ha should like according to the Similarities Engine:

10. Bad English
9. John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
8. Oingo Boingo
7. Kaija Koo
6. Kraftwerk
5. Paul Young
4. Lionel Richie
3. ABC
2. Duran Duran
1. Maggie Reilly