There are a great many reasons for which I worship the internet, such as being able to look things up on Bartleby.com.
The fine folks at Bartleby provide free access to searchable versions of everything from The American Heritage® Dictionary (fourth edition) to The Oxford Shakespeare, Gray's Anatomy, Roget's Thesauri, and the full seventy-volume anthology of Harvard Classics and Shelf of Fiction titles.
Want to check out the "human ovum examined fresh in the liquor folliculi"? Bartleby can happily zing you to a 1918 illustration from Gray's Anatomy, in which "The zona pellucida is seen as a thick clear girdle surrounded by the cells of the corona radiata. [...and] the egg itself shows a central granular deutoplasmic area and a peripheral clear layer, and encloses the germinal vesicle, in which is seen the germinal spot."
Or maybe you're trying to remember who first quipped, "The two most beautiful words in the English language are 'check enclosed,'" in which case Bartleby will confirm that it was indeed Dorothy Parker.
I'm also utterly addicted to my daily emails from The Writer's Almanac, now that I'm not driving my kids to school when Garrison Keillor reads out their lit-trivia plat du jour on NPR each morning. Today's missile informed me that June 28th is not only the birthday of Peter Paul Rubens, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Eric Ambler, and Mark Helprin, but the 102nd anniversary of the "day in 1914 that the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot and killed by a Bosnian revolutionary, an event that led to the start of World War I."
Thanks to the Almanac, I now know that:
Early in the morning, on this day in 1914, Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, boarded a touring car that would carry them to Sarajevo's city hall. What they didn't know was that six Bosnian Serbs, members of an organization called the Black Hand, were planning an assassination attempt.
Ferdinand's car wasn't even half way to city hall when one of the assassins threw a grenade. The chauffeur sped up, and the bomb bounced off the side of the car, wounding twenty people in the cars behind. Ferdinand made it to City Hall unscathed, and he was greeted there as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The mayor began making a welcome speech, and Ferdinand interrupted him, pointing out that he'd just nearly been killed.
Instead of offering to protect the archduke with an army escort, the general in charge of security suggested they return to the train station along the straightest, widest road in the city, so that they could travel rapidly. Unfortunately, no one told the chauffeur about the change in plans. So Ferdinand and his wife got back into the car, and the chauffeur proceeded down the route that had been published in the paper that morning. Once he realized his mistake, the chauffer stopped and tried to back out of a narrow street.
The chauffeur just happened to have stopped the car a few feet away from one of the assassins, a nineteen-year-old named Gavrilo Princip, with a .38 Browning pistol in his pocket. Standing just a few feet away from the royal car, he fired only two shots, but that was enough to kill both the Austrian archduke and his wife.
I am also, as you can probably tell from my blog posts herein, a sucker for Google Images, via which one can instantly access pix of everything from, well, Dorothy Parker to royal assassinations in 1914 Sarajevo.
But high-speed Net access has its timesuck pitfalls, too. Not least, for me, all those sparkly and wondrous divination sites I seem to consult a good bajillion times a day.
There's Facade.com, offering fortunetelling avec Tarot cards (your choice of layouts, using decks ranging from Rider-Waite to William Blake to The Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans)
A quick one-card read with the latter just now gave me:
The card represents the critical factor for the issue at hand. Oshun (Seven of Discs) : A pause to check on the progress of your labors. Making difficult financial decisions. Exercising patience and perseverance. Evaluating the status of your work and your options for the future.
I'm not so much into the Runes or I Ching readings on Facade, but I'm all about the "Floaty Pen Oracle" when I've got a yes-or-no question (e.g. "Does my second book suck?", "Will everyone laugh and point when/if it ever sees the light of day?" &c).
But no, I can't stop with just Facade, I've got to check the shape of things to come on other sites, too... Like Nancy Garen's Rider-Waite deck tarot consultations (one-card or seven-day forecast), Christian Day's Salem Tarot Salem Tarot (free three-card reading), or my very favorite, the Hollywood Tarot.
Which not only gives you a choice of Card of the Day, The Trilogy, and ten-card Hollywood Cross readings, but also the wit and wisdom of Lady Esmene or Madame Esmeralda, such as "Think: who would Madonna do in this situation?"
Each card in this virtual deck features a film personage relating to the fortune it portends, such as Whoopi Goldberg as the High Priestess:
"The High Priestess exemplifies wisdom. She is also known as "The Papess", after Pope Joan; other traditions have known this archetype as Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom."
Garbo as the Hermit"
"The Hermit knows that every individual needs solitude from time to time in order to reflect on the various mysteries of life. The Hermit realizes that the noise of other lives can distract from hearing one's own song."
And Frances Farmer as Five of Pentacles ("Hardship"):
"Most of us experience moments of hardship in our lives. Some of us have lives that are mostly hardship.
Frances Farmer is a Level 2 archetype of Hardship. Luminously beautiful, her fierce independence was not understood in the Hollywood of the 40's. Convinced that her unwillingness to cooperate proved her madness, her advisors had her committed. She experienced the most brutal of psychiatric experimentation and physical mistreatment. She was finally released, but spent the rest of her life in hardship."
This is the perfect deck to consult if you're wondering whether or not to option your new novel to Pee Wee Herman, or if your protagonist should be played by Robin Williams or Elizabeth Taylor.
I'm now off to Yosemite, to meet up with Intrepid Spouse and some inlaws... but first, I've gotta go see what all these sites have to say about how the drive will go...
If I could just STOP with the divination jones, I might actually get my packing done.