Web Sites of the Week: Xmas Edition

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In the story of the Magi, we learn that a couple of old kings thought the baby Jesus wanted nothing more for Christmas than jewelry and potpourri. Now, those might not sound as exciting as a teddy bear or a new bike, but for a poor child born in a smelly sheep stall, the gifts of the Magi seem particularly thoughtful and practical to me. (And I bet Mary and Joseph were thrilled.)"Practical!" I hear you sputter, spitting spiked eggnog all over the page. "I hope you feel the same way Christmas morning when you find oven mitts and a can of shaving cream in your stocking!" (Don't even think about it, Mom.) But I think practical gifts get a bad rap. So, this Christmas, I present the three gifts of the Internet — Web pages that I find to be more valuable than tree sap.

The first is the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com). Every film, every TV movie, practically every television program ever created is lovingly chronicled on this wondrous database in easy hyperlinked format. IMDb is searchable in practically every way imaginable, and has more information in its files than you can shake a DVD at. Find out what production any actor has every been involved with, in any capacity, as well as their birthday, their children, their most embarrassing soundbites and the name of their pet turtle.

Then there's www.dictionary.com. OK, it's based mostly on the overly liberal American Heritage Dictionary. But it's there at the click of a finger and it doesn't cost a mint, unlike a subscription to the Oxford English behemoth. Plus, Dictionary.com offers the remarkable, free "Word of the Day" e-mail list. With 365 days of presents, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Last but not least, there's www.map quest.com. Come on, you know you love it — even if it gives you 35 steps to get from your house to the nearest 7-Eleven. A boon to any incurable road-tripper (like me), Mapquest, despite its flaws, is the easiest way to get from here to there. See how long it would take to drive from here to Ketchikan, Alaska, and find out the number of Cracker Barrel Restaurants are on the way. Hit the open road, feel the fresh air, and leave the musty frankincense and myrrh to the folks in Bethlehem.—Diana Peterfreund

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