By Gil Schwartz

January is the time for reevaluation, and I find myself filled with all the proper emotions right on schedule. Chief among these are shame and regret, followed closely by determination. How much more admirable I would like to be in the year to come! And not in the relations between myself and my fellow humanity, either. No, it's things between me and my computer I'd like to fix. As a public service, I lay bare my foibles in the hopes that my humiliation may serve the greater good:

No more buying CD-ROMs I never really use. That's right, I'm going to be real aggressive about this and either cut out the indiscriminate purchasing of discs or use them to their fullest potential. Right now, I'm planning on devoting the rest of the month to The Lawnmower Man, Myst, and Wrath of the Gods. All of these, among others, have installed their operating detritus on my hard drive, where they are taking up precious bytes for, at this point, no discernible reason. The fact that I am totally bogged down in each of them makes this a tough resolution to keep without weeping, but I'm determined. After I've completed these, I intend to listen to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring all the way through and compile an interesting report on something arcane using my Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia and Microsoft Encarta in a serious way for the very first time.

Perfect my online persona. I'm genuinely ashamed at the amount of time I've spent this year engaging in the lowest levels of discourse with people with whom I wouldn't share my spare sweat socks. Much of this conversation - and I use the word in the broadest sense - has been at the office, where people are starting to suspect my dedication to productivity. The other day, Werblin, our controller, came into my office with a sheaf of spreadsheets as big as a Buick and found me deep into a Tarot session with Madame Lazonga on AOL. I couldn't get off - she was in the middle of evaluating the forces now at play in my relationship with my cocker spaniel, Lumpy. "What the heck are you doing, man?" said Werblin. "Offloading a matrix interface," I told him, invoking my handy screen saver, but I don't think he believed me. In the meantime, I lost precious minutes of chat time! From here on in, I promise to close my door and not let anyone distract me!

I'm going to read my e-mail every day. My behavior here has been inexcusable! The other day Berber in Bethesda sent me the fourth quarter revenue numbers (which he had already faxed me a few minutes before), and I didn't find out about it until the next morning! Imagine if that was something crucial! From here on in, I'm going to log on right away, first thing, and spend quality time reading and replying before the first bolt of morning java has cleared my system. That kind of responsiveness to meaningful - indeed, any - communications is what the 90s are all about.

Upgrade! I'm very ashamed. If I were run over by a bus tomorrow and somebody had to look over my hard drive, the age of the stuff in there would repulse them. So much of my mission-critical work is done on beloved, but antiquated software, and the idea of messing around with it gives me hives in all the wrong places. Up until now, it was almost like I didn't care. It's a new year, with new possibilities, and there's no reason I can't make a clean break with the past. I've got all the newest versions of my favorite software right here, and by next Thursday, I will have installed it all (keeping parallel installations of my old versions, too, just in case, you know, something appears in the newer ones I don't like, or is hard to learn, or unnecessarily arcane - you know how it is).

I'm never using the words information superhighway again without laughing. And if any of you do at lunch, in a meeting, on the train or in a symposium…I'll kick you down the block. I'll take you on, one by one! I've had it with every constituent part of it! I'm overloaded with information! I see no evidence that anything about it is super! And it's not a highway! Worst of all, it's an umbrella term that destroys the need for anyone conversing on the subject to say what they mean. Not to mention the fact that, for the most part, the whole thing is almost entirely fictional. Hey! Gang! Right now it's a network with 3 million squinting wretches poking over it day-to-day! And that's it! Brother! When it's more than that, we'll all know about it. Until then - shut up! Jeez!

I will be jolly and less aggravated. Starting right now. So have a great year! And don't let them catch you having too much fun on your machine, you hear? The fact that great computing is a whole lot serious than it looks is one of those tasty little secrets we should probably keep between us power users. And if someone should ask whether what you're doing at this moment is worthwhile, just tell them, "Sure - I'm boning up on the protocol for offloading matrix interfaces." That oughtta hold 'em - for another year.