I'm at an age when writing my memoirs is a fine way to bore to death anyone foolish enough to read them. In some states, notably North Dakota, boring people to death is a capital offense. The penalty is watching a hockey game without easy access to your odd pint of brandy.

I’m at an age when writing my memoirs is a fine way to bore to death anyone foolish enough to read them. In some states, notably North Dakota, boring people to death is a capital offense. The penalty is watching a hockey game without easy access to your odd pint of brandy.

I’d like to visit my hometown of Grand Forks to soak up local color, but this time of year the weather could and usually does get nasty. I might consider a visit if I could get a nonstop flight. To no one’s surprise, there are none. Flying nonstop is sort of like jumping into a cold lake. There’s no turning back. But taking connecting flights gives a person second thoughts, and if he has an ounce of common sense, as they like to say in the Peace Garden State, he just might turn back.

For my memoirs I’d like to be as accurate as possible. The city has changed since I left lo these many decades ago. Google Maps can help pinpoint landmarks such as the Grand Forks Hide and Fur warehouse, which if the wind is just right broadcasts its essence to my old neighborhood, the one that was destroyed in the Great Floods of the last century along with much of the rest of the city.

I want to work in the yarn about the great flood on ’97, but it’s a drag to switch back and forth between Google and the Web page I’m on. To the rescue comes Curiyo, a free and helpful program for Windows and Mac PCs.

After a quick download, I installed it in Firefox, where it runs as an extension. It works in Explorer, Chrome and Safari, too. After that, whenever I wanted more information on a subject, I simply left-clicked on a word of phrase on a Web page. I chose the Grand Forks Herald website, since I figured rightly that the local newspaper would have tons of information about the city and surrounding areas. Click on any Grand Forks flood text on the Web page, and up pops a box with everything I want to know about the flood.

I wanted to mention my boyhood friends from Devils Lake, but I needed more background about the city. So, instead of surfing to the Devils Lake website, I left-clicked on the city’s name, still on the original website, and up popped everything I need to know about the little city, including the fact that there really is a lake by the same name. Still on the Herald website, I copied and pasted notes about Devils Lake onto my document, and then became curious about the Sheyenne River, not to be confused with the Cheyenne River in Wyoming. Since Curiyo (the “i” is upside down) figures I might be “curiyous” about the Sheyenne River, a light broken line is under the two words, accompanied by a question mark. With a left click on the broken line, a box popped up telling me the river meanders for nearly 600 miles. Who’d have guessed?

Well, there was no stopping me now. Still on the Herald website, I was able to learn whether the fish were jumping in Lake Winnibigoshish. The Great Roundabout debate turned up a reader’s fear that snow plows wouldn’t be able to do their job. When I clicked on “roundabout,” an animated graphic showed me how it works.

It went that way for hours as I stayed on one website and learned everything there is to know about my boyhood city. Gathering local color from the impressive Herald website was a snap. In fact, as I clicked on the most obscure terms, I was given many choices of definitions. If Curiyo couldn’t quite figure things out, it gave me choices among categories — history and technology, among others.

While my memory of the winters is still vivid, I had forgotten how the great outdoors is so important in a state where the opening of pheasant hunting season means government and businesses pretty much shut down. I did all this without having to surf to other websites.

If you’re not writing your memoirs, Curiyo will allow you to bring up boxes and photos of related material with just a mouse-click. Say you’re on the U.S. Congress website, and you see the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey’s name highlighted with a broken line below it. You left-click on his name, and up pops a photo of the senator along with a biography and reference material. I can imagine that students doing term papers would have high praise for Curiyo. But one word of caution: Curiyo gets its information from such sites as Wikipedia, which can be unreliable. No responsible journalist would use Wikipedia as a source, except as a jumping-off point to further research.

I soon gave up writing my memoirs, and instead decided to learn everything there was to learn about Grand Forks. With Curiyo, I could do that and more without leaving the Web page I had chosen. Curiyo is a free download at Curiyo.com.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor and software enthusiast. He can be reached at noah436@gmail.com.

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©2013 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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