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Just as there’s no end to mall versions of “Deck the Halls,” there
are more holiday-related websites than can be counted. We point you and
the kids to a few this week, but then we move on to other topics — like
proliferating area codes, clicking for charity, IQ tests and personality
quizzes.

Let There Be Lights. When it comes to decorating outdoors,
some people go all-out in their efforts. Lots of them seem to live in
Texas and put pictures of their houses, churches, courthouses and even
lights-encrusted cars on the Net for the rest of us to sigh over and
murmur, “Can you believe that?”

Here are some of the best virtual Christmas light shows:

  • Christmas
    Lights in Central Texas
    . More than 100 different pictures.

  • Planet Christmas,
    where the only thing missing is a partridge in a pear tree. They’ve got
    143,268 lights, 52 reindeer, 352 strobes, Santa in a helicopter and
    three singing penguins — all computer-controlled.

  • Victor Engel’s art
    car
    , all decorated with lights (in Texas, naturally).

  • Holiday
    Lights
    . Homestore.com has gathered a href=http://www.homestore.com/Decorate/HolidayLights/Gallery.asp>gallery
    of light displays from around the country — most are in California and
    one’s in Honolulu. The site also offers href=http://www.homestore.com/Decorate/HolidayLights/PhotoTips.asp>photo
    tips for taking pictures of outdoor holiday lights and href=http://www.homestore.com/Decorate/HolidayLights/Links.asp>safety
    tips.

Ho, Ho, Ho! If the “jolly old elf” in the white whiskers
and red suit is part of your family’s holiday celebration, little kids
will enjoy some of the Santa Claus sites on the Web:

Beware of North Pole.com.
When you click on many of the icons on the toolbar, the pages you go to
are selling something (from toys to CDs). The Workshop, mailroom and
clubhouse are noncommercial.

Fun for the little ones on Christmas Eve as the excitement begins to
build is the annual NORAD Tracks
Santa
website.

The Reason For The Season. Despite the ubiquity of Santa,
snowmen, elves, parties and TV shows about reindeer, Christmas has been
celebrated for almost 2,000 years for one reason, the birth of Christ
Jesus. These sites put the holiday in perspective:

Phone Frustration. New area codes are multiplying faster
than rabbits in spring or zucchini in midsummer. Fortunately, href=http://www.lincmad.com>LincMad is devoted to making sense of
this madness. It lists all the area code splits, showing the dates and
cities involved. In common with several other sites, it also has a table
of cities and area codes and area codes listed numerically. One handy
feature that I printed out to keep in the front of my phone books is a
U.S. map showing all the current area codes. There’s even a cute href=http://www.lincmad.com/mnemonic.html>mnemonic device showing
which area codes form words or associations that make them easier to
remember.

Just For Fun. If you’ve been on the Web any time at all,
you’ve probably stumbled over one of the personality tests (e.g., “What
does the way you eat soup indicate about your personality?”). But here’s
a site, Personality and IQ tests,
that gathers dozens of these tests in one spot and lets you and other
visitors rate their fun quotient or usefulness. There are love tests,
health tests, automatically scored IQ tests, even career tests (a typing
test, for instance, and a quiz that lets you learn if you’re cut out to
be an entrepreneur).

Doing A Good Deed. When something sounds too good to be true,
it usually is. When we remember that truism, we avoid a lot of problems,
online and off. But here are two sites that gather advertisers to donate
money to the U.N.’s World Food Program for every click of the mouse by a
visitor to the sites. Sounds impossible that just clicking can help get
food to the hungry, but both the better-known href=http://www.TheHungerSite.com>The Hunger Site and the newer
Click for a Cause are legit. You don’t register or
buy anything; at most you read a few ads or visit a few commercial
sites. If you aren’t a fan of the U.N., well, you can ignore the whole
thing. But many people like the idea of helping these public service
sites feed hungry children around the world.

Riddle Me This. A riddle a day keeps the wits sharp. Get your
daily dose at Today’s
riddle
. You can also sign up to have riddles e-mailed to you twice a
week.

Warm wishes for happy holidays to each and every one of the
delightful readers of this column. I appreciate you all.

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