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A Note from the Electronic Cottage : You know you’ve gone too far on the information superhighway when there’s a SigAlert in your bedroom.

<i> Jane Hirsch is an author and Internet explorer in Pacific Palisades. Her e-mail address is jane@jsasoc.com. </i>

My husband doesn’t understand the new post-work world. He accuses me of being a parasite. I asked if I was preventing him from realizing his dream. He said that he dreams of fixing up the house, getting new rugs, a new sofa. We speak different languages. I give priority to my dreams over his material desires. I spend my days roaming the Internet, writing and reading.

I explored the ‘Net yesterday, and after a couple of misses (when I asked for CDI, the Center for Defense Information, the computer brought up a “virtual winery”) I got a graph depicting our military spending over the last half century and a clock showing how much we have spent on the military so far this year. I took down the e-mail address for the researcher at CDI. I will contact him and see what I can do to help cut the military budget.

Someone from a group on Peacenet posted me a note about the Tibetan hunger strikers outside the United Nations. One of them was getting very weak, and he might even die before the secretary general took note of the protest. I forwarded the note to my Internet citizens group. I must also remind them to tell President Clinton to veto the Medicare/Medicaid cuts. The other day, a group of us e-mailed a letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, asking them to vote against the cuts. I wonder if they have learned to pay attention to e-mail letters. They should. Those who e-mail them are not dummies.

I e-mailed my daughter at college. She hasn’t answered yet, possibly because she has been too busy rehearsing for her play to do e-mail.

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I wonder if my son’s obsession with “Civilization” will carry over into adult life. He builds cities and makes them thrive, usually before he does his homework.

My stocks were way up, to a 20% average increase (shown in “portfolio” in Compuserve) so this time, I sold off a few of them (on the computer, of course, through a discount broker on Compuserve). I electronically transferred some funds to my broker, but I don’t think they got there. I had to guess which of the three listed on-line brokers, all with the same name, was mine. I think I guessed wrong. Maybe the funds went into somebody else’s account. I must look into it.

I continue printing out the bibliographies I sent myself from the UCLA computer. I do the search there, looking up interesting combinations of key words, like voters and attitude change. Then I e-mail myself the resulting list of hundreds of books and articles, so I can print it out at home, free of charge.

I write in the morning, from 9 to 11. I bring my IBM Thinkpad into the bedroom, prop myself up against the pillows and write. That little portable has become my favorite. It is fast, it is light and I like the feel of the keyboard. The only thing is, I don’t have an IBM printer, so I have to send my writing by modem to myself and pick it up in the room with the Mac, where I can print it. Sometimes I pull the long phone cord over and plug it into the Thinkpad and telecommunicate in the bedroom. But usually I telecommunicate in the living room, where I have MacCIM, the graphics interface for Compuserve, and Netscape, the graphics interface for the Internet.

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I missed the last meeting of the Palisades Complex schools technology committee. They are having a hard time getting started with telecommunications. Last year, I asked the man from the central bureaucracy if they would help us repair our computers at Marquez Elementary School. He said no, because we didn’t ask permission when we bought the computers.

The computer has given me new frontiers to explore, and I marvel at all that I can learn without leaving my house. But I must get out, if only to dig in the garden. If you live in virtual reality for too long, you lose your grounding.


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