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Cradle to Grave ...
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 21, 1999

  The Navigator

This article contains links which take you outside washingtonpost.com.

Online communities will never take the place of real ones. But when face-to-face fellowship is impossible, such groups can come in handy.

"I like looking at other people's babies," admits Heather Johnson, who had a child of her own, Taryn, last January. So in the fall Johnson created January 98 Moms, a Web ring that links together 19 sites of mothers who want to show-off their offspring and share the trials and triumphs of parenthood.

By day Johnson, 22, juggles the phones at a Memphis computer hardware support company. By night she is mother and ringmaster. She hooked up with the other members of the ring at the commercially funded Stork Site.

"We share our baby stories," Johnson says. The mothers compare notes and, by the looks of the sites, even get a little competitive now and then. Go to Taryn's New Beginnings and you'll see what happens when a loving mother gets ahold of Web designing software. Johnson takes note of the first time little Taryn: smiles, laughs, reaches for objects, crawls and walks. We get a rundown of when her teeth came in. And apparently Taryn could write before she could do anything else. Against a pink background, we are treated to a first-person account of Taryn's first Valentine's Day, "which I spent in St. Louis!"

Other sites on the ring include Kaitlyn's Room with a "toy box" full of games and a page dedicated to Brandon Tyler, "the sweetest little bundle his daddy and mom-ma could have hoped for."

This is digital baby worship at its best, or worst.

But before you pooh pooh all the babytalk, you must admit that life – even when it's celebrated in a soupy, sappy fashion – is preferable to death. With its own, strange inherent logic, the Internet also brings together parents in mourning.

The Gone But Not Forgotten ring, designed for folks who've lost very young children, will break your heart. Here you can learn of Ethan Edwards, a 9-month-old baby who died in his bed. His grandmother created the memorial page. "Ethan," she writes, "like most babies, was active. He pulled his crib sheet off his bed, and somehow rolled around, got it around his neck and strangled (or suffocated) to death." The site links to a Good Housekeeping article on other babies who may have been killed by loose-fitting crib sheets.

The ring is full of such sad sites. One is dedicated to Alexis Kimberly Kull, a victim of bacterial meningitis when she was less than 3 months old. Her mother tells her sorrowful story and passes along cautionary information gleaned from the Pediatric Database.

For some reason, I paused for a moment when reading about Alexis and realized that, but for a tragic twist of fate, her site could have belonged to another ring. The pretty little girl was born in January, 1998.

Linton Weeks can be reached at weeksl@washpost.com

mouse CLICK: Molecular Expressions     In one of Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker" novels, two characters unearth the signature of creation under a rock. Obviously the gods of the silicon world read that, because they couldn't keep their John Hancocks off their work. The Silicon Zoo puts the microscope (literally) on old microchips to reveal Lilliputian characters that engineers of old grafted between the circuitry. Among the strange creatures are a herd of buffalo (appropriately called buffalo chips), a dog on the "K9" chip, and a 300-micron Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. So next time your computer goes bonk, don't call a consultant – call Ghost Busters.

Dan Pacheco

Surfing
Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the I-way

TOOT, TOOT, TOOTSIE'S MUD PIE ...
I am still trying to figure why I got forwarded an e-mail link to the "Wet and Messy Shoe Page." I've never had a shoe fetish: My closet consists of black sneakers. But the folks who banter back and forth on this hilarious site have a serious shoe thing: They dig getting their high heels filthy with mud. Among other things.

"Here are my silver Gucci's when they were still new," posts "Serena," whose shoe page links up to photographs of shoes galore. "And here they are after I wore them through the beach and through the mud."

Posts about how great it feels to get your shoes covered with rain and sleet somehow manage to slide into fantasy, and surfers are advised not to check out this Web site at the office. The "Wet and Messy High Heel Stories" include such riveting tales as: Muddy Pumps Dream, Heels in the Pool, and Muddy Stiletto Sandals.— DANA HULL

THE ULTIMATE PENALTY
The Web site address is apt: "Yahoo! Texas Executions." It brings to mind Texas rowdies massed outside a prison, waving beers and cheering on the latest inmate to exit death row. Since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, the body count in the Lone Star State, as of Jan. 15, is 166. The site's links provide practical information and targets for appeals for both proponents and opponents. One of those is the Amnesty International site, which includes a schedule of upcoming executions. Doubleheaders are scheduled today and tomorrow in Missouri, Idaho, North Carolina and South Carolina respectively. Next week also will mark a high point: four inmates are scheduled to die on Tuesday, Jan. 26 – in Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Perhaps newspapers should print the schedule regularly, to make national debate over capital punishment more convenient for all.— BOB CAROLLA


Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Write it up and send it to Joel Garreau or Robert Thomason.
   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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