NET GAINS; The universal answer

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The Independent Culture
If space is space, where is space? If teasers like this are keeping you up at night, "Ask An Expert" sites on the Web are touting themselves as the places to come for quick answers. Oh, the exact location of space? Everywhere, according to Dr Universe.

Plenty of media coverage has been given to moves by certain medical institutions to automate responses to the most common complaints. And the proliferation of medically oriented "Ask An Expert" sites demonstrates that there are recurrent ailments for which there appear to be stock answers. At one health expert site (health.yahoo.com/health/ expert), the frankly creepy-looking Dr Dean and Dr Nancy offered soothing advice to puzzlers such as the following: Genital warts - can we have unprotected, monogamous sex? The consultants' advice was no less heartfelt at Pets Are Part of the Family (www.petspartofthefamily. com) which promises "to explore, celebrate and stand in awe of the animals who share our lives".

For general enquiries, Dr Universe invites questions on any topic. An extension of Washington State University, the good Doctor will refer your question to the relevant faculty on campus and e-mail you the answer. Don't let the child-like appearance of the site deter you either. Sonnet structure, the bio-chemistry of tiredness - you name it, Dr Universe had provided highly readable and plausible answers on them all.

Mean Streets

www.streetgangs.com

If ever evidence was needed that times are changing, two of the world's most notorious street gangs, the Bloods and the Crips, now have their own web-sites, so you needn't confine your gangsta fantasies to buying Ice-T CDs. But, even if there's no such thing as an on-line drive- by, the rhetoric is depressingly familiar. "So you wanna pack and be gangsta?" asks the Bloods site (bloods.com). On the pretext of telling it like it is, the site contains a few pathetic murder-scene photos. Like its slightly better organised rival's site (crips.com), it's little more than a slice of street-level grand guignol. Even a quasi-academic site like www.streetgangs.com can't help itself. Throughout this organised survey of LA gangs - with maps, graffiti and news - the whiff of a lifestyle vicariously experienced is unavoidable.

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