The net’s best spots to get smart fast

The Internet is colossal, and like anything that sprawls and spans impossibly huge distances, it can be a confusing place to navigate. From shopping to networking to âÄî letâÄôs face it, looking at porn âÄî many people have a daily ritual and a personal connection with the Web. With such an expansive system at most everyoneâÄôs fingertips, itâÄôs hard to know whatâÄôs worthwhile. Here are a few sites that people should direct their Web browser to more often, for their brainâÄôs sake! Ted.com sounds like the name of some everymanâÄôs personal website, a place where he might blog or vlog, or perhaps publicize his hard-won collection of beer bottles. But itâÄôs not. Ted.com is the time-eating site for the TED conference, an annual convention with a lofty credo: âÄúIdeas worth spreading.âÄù At TED you can catch author Dave Eggers funnily describe how he started a pirate-themed tutoring center for kids, or watch food journalist and cookbook writer Mark Bittman compare our current food state to a nuclear catastrophe. Lucky for us technocrats, TED has posted hundreds of these videos on their website. This is an excellent diversion for anyone who digs thinking. And the speakers arenâÄôt the only smart thing about TED: You can organize talks by different categories, such as most inspirational, most beautiful or most jaw-dropping. Regardless of category, TED will always show clickers a good time. Sick of navigating the unrelenting hordes of online news sites? The Week âÄî a publication that could draw comparisons to Sparknotes, but with a bent for news content âÄî has a website. At theweekdaily.com, a topic is provided âÄî For example, Sarah PalinâÄôs $150,000 extreme makeover âÄî and then several different news sources are quoted to provide various angles or aspects of the story. So in just a minute or two, you can read âÄúThe New York TimesâÄùâÄô deriding Palin for defending her new shade of bulldog pink lipstick , and then read commentary from âÄúThe National Review,âÄù which posits that no media ever mentions Joe BidenâÄôs, uh, hair plugs. âÄúThe WeekâÄù is perfect for getting into both sides of a fight when you donâÄôt really have the time; but for those who do, the site is replete with links to a myriad of online sources. ItâÄôs a smart way to surf for news. Though in this age of 24-hour news, the siteâÄôs lack of frequent updates might irritate the fast-paced, web-obsessed visitor. ThereâÄôs no denying that reading hardcopy writing is easier on the eyes than reading it on a computer screen. But Dailylit.com is ingenious enough to make you forget that youâÄôre reading from a glowing orb. The site allows users to select books to receive via e-mail in short, readable segments. The site figures that since people spend hours a day on their computers and, increasingly, less time reading books, that e-mailing portions of tomes to readers is a great outlet for anyone who wants to spend more time with extended written forms. There are a number of free books on the site, but many require a small fee; though before paying for any book, you can have part of it e-mailed to you. If it doesnâÄôt pique your literary interests, you can decide against buying the book. Sure, Dailylit.com may not compare to traditional book reading, but thatâÄôs what makes it appealing to many. ItâÄôs Generation A.D.D.âÄôs reply to long-winded writers. Are you studying for the GRE? Do you care about starving people? Do you wish you knew what the word âÄúliegeâÄù meant? Well, now you can cover all of these bases at freerice.com, a site thatâÄôs like a vocabulary test with far-reaching social benefits. Answer a vocab question correctly, and the site donates 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program . In minutes you can watch your bowl fill with grains as you pit yourself against the wordsmithing computer. Answer a question right, and the next question gets tougher. If youâÄôre wrong, itâÄôs no big deal; youâÄôll get a different word (and theyâÄôre not going to take rice away, thankfully). The site has expanded to a number of different categories. Now users can brush up on the Romance language they consider sexiest, or figure out where Djibouti sits on a map. What are your favorite websites? Do you know of some obscure sites that you consider particularly useful? Tell us on our blog: www.mndaily.com/blogs/ae-blog.