Internet: Christmas On-line

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The Independent Culture
www.north-pole.co.uk

Christmas. It's so commercialised these days - which is fantastic if you've discovered the joys of on-line shopping. The big commercial Internet sites are no doubt breaking all previous sales records. But if you're looking for something a bit less full-on, then it might be worth taking a look at North Pole. It's designed as a "fun for all the family" site, and it has some tacky Christmas jokes, a site for sending christmas e-mails to Santa Claus and an on-line advent calender. It's nicely put together but by the same token, it's hard to imagine the family crowding round it after Christmas Dinner; surfing the web is, for the time being at least, likely to stay a solitary activity.

If you do want to turn your computer into the centre of your Christmas, then don't miss the opportunity to pull up Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (www.stormfax.com/dickens.htm); the great man would no doubt get a kick out of the idea that his classic short story was being distributed in such an eccentric fashion.

And one more thing: if you've only just gone on-line within the last year; be warned. The numbers of people going on-line after Christmas Day can throw the Internet into a bit of a shock. The real black spot typically comes two or three days after Christmas. This is supposedly because it takes most web virgins that long to work out how to use their modems and get connected.

Cocktail Bar

www.absinth.co.uk

It may not be a universally popular idea, but if the Internet is anything to go by, absinthe has a rather large following on the Internet. There's even an absinthe ring, which sounds pretty sinister but isn't. It's just the term for a group of web page owners who have banded together and placed a link to the next web page in the chain at the bottom of their page, which means you can leaf through a number of pages on the same subject. With something so controversial, frankly, the company has hardly needed to actually market the product.

Unsurprisingly, cocktail aficionados have embraced the Internet with their usual gusto. One of the best places to start is The Mining Company Guide to Cocktails (cocktails.miningco.com). One of the best sections is a list of glossary terms. If you didn't know that a muddler was a wooden mallet used to smash ice, then this is the place to head for. The site also features a series of recipes designed for Christmas.

Creatine Havoc

adam.cs.uwec.edu/magnusdr/Coaching/creatine.html

Creatine, the wonder drug for athletes, has been having a rough time in the press, recently, and judging by some of the information out there, it's not difficult to see why. Creatine is a soluble drug that's supposed to increase energy, enhance workouts and aid recovery from injury. However, some people claim that prolonged use can result in long-term health problems. There are a number of sites devoted to the subject but this is one of the most detailed, going into a huge amount of detail about the drug and its possible effects. Proceed with extreme caution.

SITES OF THE WEEK

www.alienabductions. com

There are plenty of X-files sites about alien abductions out there. But not many tell you why they haven't chosen you, or more importantly, what to do if you want to be chosen. OK, it's a spoof site but subtle enough for the joke to take a few moments to filter through.

zeus.bris.ac.uk/phacb/ boc_home.html

Octopush is best described as as a game of ice hockey underwater - two teams of six players push a lead puck around the bottom of a swimming pool. Quite why they do this is anybody's guess, but this site will tell you everything you need to know about setting up a team of your own

www.planet.com/ dirtweb/dirt.html

The museum of dirt is a celebration of all things earthy. Don't forget to check out the celebrity dirt section, which includes a picture of a jar of dirt from John Belushi's grave and some sand from the sandpit where OJ Simpson played with his kids. There's nothing like playing dirty.

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