A veritable Internet legend known for having all the answers.
Xerox web master McLain has compiled a fascinating, often hilarious list of questions submitted by the public to the Xerox web site and their supposed answers. The questions are divided into 20 categories, ranging from "Animal Kingdom" ("On a turkey, what is the name of that red thing that hangs down over the beak?") to "World" ("What are the seven wonders of the natural world?") to "Off the Wall" ("How long would it take to vacuum the state of Ohio?"). In addition to responding to these queries, McLain provides, at the end of each section, a list of between three and ten web sites that he recommends for further research. The "United States" section, for example, lists web sites for zip codes, the CIA, and the FBI as well as an online phone directory; the "Sports" section supplies URLs for the National Football League, major league baseball, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In the last few pages, McLain also lists major web search engines and offers a few general tips. With the exception of the suggested web sites, this title is similar to David Feldman's "Imponderables" series. Unfortunately, like the books in Feldman's series, this volume also suffers from a reliability problem: although McLain's answers sound authoritative, he only infrequently provides their original source. (And a surprisingly large number of answers in each section cannot be found using the web sites McLain recommends.) While this book is entertaining and makes for enjoyable browsing, it is not an appropriate choice for most reference collections. Recommended only for larger public libraries with a demand for humorous trivia books.--Leah J. Sparks, Bowie P.L., MD Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A fun, fact-filled snack for the terminally informed. Who would ask or answer a question like, "Do people who were born blind ever dream?" The answer is, a Webmaster at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. And yes, blind people hear and feel in their dreams. In 20 chapters like Food, Music, Finance, Words, and including Odds and Ends and Off the Wall, McLain provides intriguing questions and answers along with subsections like Did You Know?, Factoids, and references to Web sites and Internet resources for further information (including Santa's e-mail address). The many diverse facts are enlivened by the author's wit, so that the Sports question "What is the difference between billiards, snooker, and pool?" is followed by the parenthetic "Are you waiting for a cue?" Many of the Ripley's-type facts intend to astound more than stump, such as the printing of a $100,000 bill and the existence of a 12,000-year-old shrub. Other information challenges us to know why "Geronimo" is yelled before leaping (the chief escaped the cavalry with a daring jump) or why our keyboards are designed as they are (the T and H keys require different fingers to keep typewriters from jamming). Most of the challenges challenge, but we knew that green mailboxes aren't for mailing. At least half of the book, however, is stuff we didn't want to know, such as that a Johnny Carson joke began a toilet-paper shortage, that there's a name on the US map 49 letters long, and that the nation's favorite pizza topping is pepperoni. If going to the beach this August and being out of touch with our information overload makes you feel like a fish out water, then this is the book to take along.