I'm such a workaholic that it's hard to distinguish between hobbies and areas of research interest. Here are a few things that could fit into the former category...
Canterbury Tales: Text and Audio Links For a couple of years now I've been studying Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. ("That was when white people were cool," I explain, mostly joking.) Also consider looking at the BYU Chaucer site, which does not require Realplayer. One of my favorite Old English (Anglo-Saxon) site is on at Kenyon featuring Anglo-Saxon Riddles, with a line you can click on to see proposed solutions (with some of them nobody is sure of the correct answer).
CeolasThis is the home of Celtic music on the web. There are hundreds of tunes you can print out and play on fiddle, harp, comb-and-tissue, whatever you've got. Click here to explore a heritage whose riches are literally legendary.
Chess for Success Tutorial Manus Patrick Fealy is apparently a chess instructor who is here sharing a great deal of knowledge of the game with us - and for free! This is the web at its best.
The CuttySark No, this is not a brand of whiskey. The Cutty Sark was at the same time a business venture (fabulously profitable for over fifty years), a technological achievement (designer Hercules Linton synthesized the best transportation technology of his day and took a leap beyond it), and a thing of beauty. Thus it united three parts of life that are often broken apart: personal advantage, knowledge, and aesthetics.
Epicurious Here is a huge bank of recipes and other resources for amateur cooks.
Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire The web would be a dreadful place in which to read a six volume work, but it it is perfect for browsing. This edition, with an elaborate, clickable table of contents, is perfect for that purpose. Click here to meet a man who surveyed history with no prejudices but one: he loved civilization and despised barbarous stupidity, a great stylist when style was style, and not idiosyncrasy. And he tells the greatest story ever told, even if the bad guys do win in the end: "the triumph of barbarism and religion." A few of my favorite Gibbon quotes: "Many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant." "Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius." "A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste." "History...is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortune of mankind."
Grey Labyrinth Puzzle Page Of course, there are many puzzle pages on the net. This one is attractively illustrated, has instantly available answers, and sometimes has philosophical interest (check out the pages on the "Newcomb Problem"!). The math journalist John Derbyshire (better known as a reactionary curmudgeon) has a little page of puzzles as well.
Internet Movie Database I don't know who these people are, but they have made a huge amount of information available here. You can go here to scour the web for information, reviews, articles, quotes from, or pictures from any movie, recent or ancient.
The Institute for Justice My favorite charity. Give them all your money!.
The Twilight Zone Ample information on most of the 156 episodes in the five-season run of the greatest dramatic series in the history of TV. (Note: some accounts refer to 157 episodes. They must be including Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," which, though undoubtedly sublime, was not produced by the TZ team and was never included in any sindication packages.) The Scifi Channel used to have a much more elaborate site than they do now. After they monopolized the cable and broadcast rights to the series, they cut down their site and only show the episodes in the wee hours of the morning! I trust further comment is not necessary -- ?
Richard Wagner Meet the greatest of musical dramatists!You can hear some of his music too.
Kiplinger Stocks A great deal of information here for free.
Madison Symphony Orchestra This is a wonderful orchestra, and their web site, recently remodeled, is now pretty snazzy as well. Still worth a visit is Michael Allsen's ...
Principia Discordia The cheerfully chaotic side of the 'sixties!
Unofficial Madison Symphony Orchestra Website Meet the man who writes the MSO's excellent program notes!
I play second violin in another group, the Madison Community Orchestra. If you look at the second picture on this page, you'll see a boy in a blue plaid shirt helping himself to some cookies. That's our son, Nat.
All 415 of Paul Morphy's Chess Games Many believed he was the greatest chess player ever. It's hard to be sure, since he played before there was even an official American champ, let alone world-wide one. He was certainly one of the most interesting, both in chess terms and otherwise. The amazing Morphy took up chess because he finished law school while he was still legally too young to practice law in his state (Louisiana). He just needed something to do. While still in his early twenties, he quit chess forever to be a lawyer. As a lawyer, he was a complete failure, but he said that he would rather be a bad lawyer than a great chess player -- because chess is "only a game." On this web site, someone named Stan Shankman has put all Morphy's games on the web. I recommend that you follow the commentaries in Sergeant's invaluable book Morphy's Games of Chess (thank you, Dover Press!), while you have Stan's website illustrate them move by move (thanks Stan!). (BTW, number 201 on Shankman's list, against von Braunschweig and Isouard, is one of the most famous, the romantically-named "Paris Opera Match.")
Science News This magazine is one of the last refuges of real journalism (as contrasted with preaching, propaganda, etc.) on planet Earth and, with its new searchable archive, their web site is a terrific research tool.
Useless Web Pages No list of time wasting activities would be complete without this screamingly funny collection of links.
Visual Illusions An excellent optical illusions page from the Psychology Department and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. You can find a discussion of the classic moon illusion (in which the moon looks larger on the horizon than high in the sky), with a quote from yours truly, in Treebeard's Stumpers.
Who's Who in the School of Athens Recent visitors to my office are often annoyed by the large reproduction of Raphael's magnificent painting, which he originally made (at the age of 27!) as a decoration for the wall of Pope Julius II's personal library. Here is a clickable image that gives identities (some highly speculative) for some of the figures. (Note: they identify the beautiful white-robed figure looking directly at you in the group at the lower left as the woman philosopher Hypatia: the more usual identification is that this person is actually a young man, a member of the della Rovere family.) To study this work (and it does deserve hours of the closest attention) I suggest the Web Gallery of Art's Raphael Page.
Worlds Apart Except for The Sopranos, the only TV show I try to watch regularly. One episode of National Geographic's brilliant series will teach you more about appreciating real cultural diversity than a metric ton of PC swill.