A coal-black void as empty as deep space. That was life as it was in the days before the World Wide Web.
But once our computers became connected, we discovered the joy we'd been missing.
How many of us take full advantage of the wonders of the Internet, though, is debatable. For as great as the Internet is for killing time, we can scarcely afford the time it takes to kill it.
Provided below are some Web sites worth visiting and hanging out for a while. Some sites are informative, some are entertaining. And all will make your life better and richer, if only for a minute or two.
pandora.com: The online jukebox pandora.com is a terrific place to hear bands you may or may not have heard of, but should like all the same. For instance, the initial selection of indie outfit Wilco begat Death Cab for Cutie, Golden Smog, and The Shins. A likewise choice of indie rockers Guided by Voices led to Pavement, Superchunk, and the Lilys. Consider it a fun musical guessing game.
stumbleupon.com: Just as the site's name suggests, stumbleupon.com is a helpful source to alert you to other Web sites you didn't know existed. You start by selecting your interests — animals, movies, philosophy, travel, for example — and the site does the rest.
unnecessaryknowledge.com: For aspiring Cliff Clavins — the "Cheers" know-it-all — this site will help get you started with a full supply of useless trivia to amaze yourself and bore others to tears.
pangloss.com/seidel/Shaker/index.html: For English lit majors: Verbally maul your nemesis in the most eloquent of ways with a list of put downs from the Bard himself. Nothing reminds someone of his worthless nature like the Shakespearean insulter at pangloss.com.
www.tripletsandus.com/80s/80s_games/arcade.htm: Get your classic game fix with this site, which lets you play a nice selection of '80s arcade hits like Pac-Man, Qbert, Zaxxon, and Centipede for free — no downloading required.
coolsiteoftheday.com: If the site's name isn't self-explanatory, let me spell it out for you: This is the place that gives you a link to a cool Web site of the day. Oh, and there are archives so you can visit past cool site winners.
www.allmusic.com; www.allmovie.com; www.allgame.com: Spend an hour, day, or weekend on the All sites and learn everything you wanted to know about your favorite band, director, or game, along with comprehensive reviews.
www.theonion.com/content/index: A decade or so after The Onion became a Web phenomenon, the satirical newspaper site and now its sister Onion News Network remain the best place online for political and cultural irony; consider it "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" in convenient Web form.
power.listentoamovie.com: You remember your favorite jokes in "Arrested Development," but watching the DVD at work isn't advisable. So, listen to the canceled sitcom instead at listentoamovie.com. There's no video, just audio of favorite movies and TV shows.
ratemydrawings.com: This site allows closeted artists to post their artwork online for feedback. You can rate others' work as well.
scribd.com: Like ratemydrawings, but for budding writers. Browse, rate, share stories, jokes, etc. online.
definr.com: This is the fastest dictionary online. Seriously fast. It'll help you with words before you've finished typing them. Seriously.
whatshouldireadnext.com: Forget stuffy book clubs. This is a book recommendation service that will tell you what you should read based on what and who you're reading now.
heyokay.com: This is an amusing collection of funny photos. Nothing more, nothing less.
gamehuddle.com: This is a site devoted to games. You can read about video games, share your thoughts about video games, and, what else, play video games.
snopes.com: Where urban legends go to die. And no, Microsoft is not going to send you money, no matter how many times you forward that e-mail.
www.asciimation.co.nz: I'm not sure who has more spare time on his hands: the guy who animated Star Wars in ascii (short for American Standard Code for Information Interchange) at asciimation.co.nz, or me for watching the computer code movie … twice.