Thank heaven for coffee. It's all that's left! Smoking's out, has been for a long time. In fact, they won't even let you smoke outside anymore in some places (http://tinyurl.com/fnaqq). Not that I was ever a smoker, but you never know.
Coffee, it turns out, is not all that bad for you after all, despite its bad rep (http://tinyurl.com/mn83c).
Coffee can be prepared in all sorts of ways and drunk in all sorts of settings. But being a practical sort, I've recently taken to having mine at my local Internet cafe - the better to drink and work at the same time. For me, it's perfect, because much of my work involves surfing the net (lucky me, eh?). Me, a laptop and a latte, enjoying cafe ambience - and free cafe Wifi. Makes for a perfect morning! But all work and no play makes for a boring morning. Sometimes, a little diversion is what's called for.
Armed with a laptop and an Internet connection, not to mention a caffeine high, you can have loads of fun placing what I call "stupid Internet cafe bets" with fellow cafe patrons. You make friends, have a good time - and often walk away with enough money to pay your latte tab (the coffee crowd is good about paying off bets they lose - unlike the bar crowd, which would sooner rap you in the nose than part with a plug nickel!).
For example, you can bet on a Google Fight (http://www.googlefight.com/) against your local cafe habitues.
Google, of course, thinks it knows everything about everything. But just how much does it really know? Therein lies the question - and your chance to pick up some change. Just choose a Google search term to duke it out against your opponent's, and see which term has more links.
Mother's Day, which is mentioned on 319,000 Google-ized pages, for example, is more popular than Father's Day, which is only on 282,000.
Who's bigger in cyberspace - O.J. Simpson or Homer Simpson? Hotdog or Hamburger? Tina Turner or Ted Turner? Type in your terms, click on the Google Fight button - and either collect or pay.
Now that's what I call fun! Picture yourself holding a frothy half-espresso playing for mini-chocolate chip cookies. It's like - too perfect. Gotta love that coffee culture! But for real cafe betting action, I'd recommend something called "TinyURL Whacking." This is a game for real coffee drinkers - it demands concentration, human insight and the kind of enthusiasm you get only after you've chugged down five cups of coffee!
First, though, I should explain what a TinyURL is. No doubt you've received e-mail or other messages with very long links embedded in them - so long, in fact, that they get truncated at the end of a line, with a portion of the link jumping to the next line. Clicking on the first part of such a link will not get you where you want to go - because the "link" that you're clicking on is incomplete! The only way to reach the page you're aiming for is to copy and paste each line of the split-up link into your browser - a hassle to do, and something that doesn't always work, for some reason.
There is an alternative way of sending out such links, though; the solution is at http://www.tinyurl.com. Using the TinyURL tool on a page with a lengthy URL, the site will automatically generate a svelte, short link re-directing anyone who clicks on that link to the original page. You may have noticed that I've peppered this article with TinyURLs, not only in order to demonstrate how it works, but also to save ink in the paper. You can download a toolbar at the TinyURL site which will automatically generate a link.
TinyURLs are useful for all sorts of things, such as when you don't want people to know the "real" nature of the site you're sending them to, at least before they get there. Of course, a tool like this can be used by spammers and other undesirable advertising types to send you to sites promoting heaven knows what - but of course, none of us would ever do that! There are several other services that do this as well, links to which are available at http://tinyurl.com/j (see how it works?).
But only TinyURL has whackability, apparently. When a user creates a TinyURL, it gets registered in the TinyURL database - and apparently remains there forever, or for as long as the company will be in existence. Legend has it that the original TinyURLs (http://marnanel.org/writing/tinyurl-whacking) consisted of one or two letters or numbers, such as http://www.tinyurl.com/a1 (which links to the Unicyclist Community forums). The TinyURLs I get these days use five letters/numbers (such as http://www.tinyurl.com/david, a Web page for a missing cat!).
You never know what you're going to find with TinyURL whacking - and therein lies the fun, adventure and betting action: Pick a random set of letters/numbers, append them to http://www.tinyurl.com/, type the URL into your browser and place friendly wagers on what comes back: Animal, mineral, vegetable? Commercial site or personal site? Funny, serious or dumb? It's a bet! And the Internet cafe is a better bet than the racetrack - coffee smells a lot better than horses!