Outside, a cold wind is moaning through bare trees while a layer of gray clouds covers the sky. Warm weather toys are sitting in the garage and the lawn mower has been stored in the basement for the winter. Flower beds look like a scene from a nuclear test zone and even the neighborhood dogs have stopped scattering our trash all over the block. Warm weather activities have ground to a halt, leaving most of trying to find ways to occupy our time and avoid spending three months locked in a padded cell wearing a jacket with the arms tied at the back.

Ask any philosopher and he’ll tell you that winter is a time to reflect on life, a time of quiet tranquility and the opportunity to connect with and make peace with our inner self. In my opinion, that viewpoint is worth about as much as a wheelbarrow full of bovine fertilizer. I’ve already connected with my inner self and we both agree that winter is about as necessary as a square bowling ball. A human is a hairless creature, for the bigger part, and incapable of survival or even comfort in cold climates without central heating or multiple layers of clothing. How are we expected to fish or ride motorcycles when covered with so much polyester and wool that we can hardly walk, much less bait a hook or swing a leg over our favorite mechanical horse? The only option is to find other ways to keep ourselves occupied. Thanks to Al gore, who invented the Internet, I think I’ve found the answer. For the next three months or so, I’ll try to determine how we managed to survive without being electronically connected to the rest of the world and the plethora of information to be found on the world wide net.

Our household has been connected to this marvelous fount of knowledge and convenience for about four years and during that time we have been exposed to the good, the bad, and the ugly. First, for the good. The convenience of e-mailing has and does allow us to communicate with family and friends with instant messages and exchanges of vital data, pictures, and electronic greeting cards. Nothing brightens a day more than to receive an e-card in full motion and color accompanied by stereo sound. In one instance, a streaming video (same as a full movement video tape) showed a group of penguins dancing around to a catchy musical score. In the captions a person was asking for advice on what to do with all those penguins. The answer was, "take them to a zoo." The final caption read, "I took your advice and they enjoyed themselves so much that I think I’ll take them to the amusement park next weekend." It’s hard to believe that some people can’t understand the educational benefit of the Internet. How else could we learn how to keep penguins entertained?

Another good feature of the Internet is receiving a surprise e-mail from a long ago acquaintance or school mate. Here is a golden opportunity to renew a friendship and to catch up on what has taken place over the years. Such a contact also opens the window of opportunity if you should still happen to have a grudge against that person. For instance, a former schoolmate who, because he was bigger than you, bullied you constantly and called you a wimp has sent an e-mail asking how "The Nerd" is doing. Reply by informing him that you’ll be moving soon and you’re new e-mail address is "LeavenworthFedPrison.Death Row.com. Revenge! How sweet it is!

Now for the bad. As I was writing this on the word processor a pop-up from our anti-virus protector informed me that a new world wide virus is on the loose and this system is not protected against it. Did I wish to download such protection? As far as I was concerned, they might as well have asked me if I would like for them to stick their finger into the barrel of a gun being held to my head. Of course, I clicked on OK. Another pop-up informed me that such protection was not available unless I renewed my subscription to their service for another year. In other words, I’m being held for ransom. They can’t scare me. Go ahead and pull the trigger.

The ugly can take many forms, such as a mean virus or in this case, a streaming video by an overweight, toothless gentleman who calls himself The Brooklyn Tough Guy. Using language that caused even my cheeks to turn red, he describes his suggestions on how to combat terrorism on the airlines. I agree with him, but if his mother finds out about his potty mouth, he’ll need that protection against her. It is kinda funny, though.

Now that it’s a well known fact that we can no longer live without the Internet, we’ll just have to learn to live with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wonder when "the useful" will enter the picture? Now ain’t that something.

Watch for Dan Graves’ column Wednesdays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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