Dear Subscribers:

Now that we're well into '99 and heading toward The Sage Family's second anniversary, we'd like to pause and hear from you. Please e-mail us about how The Sage Letter can best meet your needs and interests. What would you like to see more/less of and what topics interest you most? Thanks in advance for anything you send us. Here's our lineup for this second week of January:

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Where Y2K is concerned, some of us are skeptical, some of us are laying in extra blankets, cash, and canned goods. We at Sage lean toward the former, but we certainly don't purport to be experts on the Year 2000 computer bug. So we look for useful, rational material on it to pass along to you.

Before we get to one of those, here's a bit of good news: Y2K won't affect North America's electric power supply, according to Reuters via Excite.

Utne Reader has a Y2K Citizen's Action Guide that, as founder Eric Utne puts it, "hopes for the best while planning for the worst." He cites a National Public Radio report about Y2K last October. It said a Harris Poll of Silicon Valley computer programmers and engineers found that more than 60% of them anticipate "serious impacts" from Y2K, 62% will avoid air travel at the turn of the century, 20% plan to withdraw all their money from their savings accounts, and one in 12 plans to move to safer quarters before January 1, 2000.

Hmmm. If that makes you want to take precautions, Utne's Guide offers plenty of advice, including: "The Y2K Neighborhood" and the story of what's been done in Boulder County, CO; guides to household and psychological preparation; questions we can ask our public officials; and a whole bibliography of media (including Web) resources on the millennium bug.

For thorough, continuous coverage of Year 2000 issues, go to's page dedicated to the subject. One story there this week said AT&T projects its Y2K spending to reach $375 million for '98 (when all the accounting's done) and $225 for '99. And Uncle Sam now has a Web site (didn't work when we tried to go there) and a toll-free hot line for citizens with Y2K questions: 1-888-USA-4-Y2K.

Tell us where you stand on Y2K. Do you plan to have a little extra cash under the mattress and a drawerful of candles, or to do a lot more? Please e-mail us. And if you have a favorite Y2K info source, share that too!

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For students marking Martin Luther King's birthday with research papers or other school projects, here's a superb resource, courtesy of Homework Central: The Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project at Stanford University. Homework Central calls it an "outstanding example of Internet cyberbiography." It contains secondary documents written about Dr. King, material he wrote himself (letters from jail, his "I Have a Dream" speech, sermons), recent publications about him, a chronology of his life, and much more, continuously updated. BTW, you can subscribe to Homework Central's list (right on its home page) and receive their top picks for Internet research sites on a regular basis.

Homework Central is part of, whose tagline is "Home of the 3 biggest study sites on the Internet": Homework Central Jr. for 1st-6th-graders, the original Homework Central for middle and high schools, and Encyclopedia Central for college and on up. If you try any of them, tell us what you think.

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And for the social side of student life….

If you have teenagers in your house and are not familiar with ICQ, "I Seek You", you may want to be soon. You've seen our reports about how using the phone has gotten too tedious for many teens. Instant Messaging and chat are even more convenient and immediate. Racing home after a BB game and going online to chat about who was with who in the bleachers and what happened during halftime is much more cool and communal than talking on the phone!

Of course, all this can be done on AOL, but it can also be done on the Web if homes have other Internet Service Providers. And, more important, even AOL recognizes - because AOL owns ICQ and keeps it separate and out on the Web - that AOL, which maintains a strong family-oriented image, is not always cool enough for teenagers. This last factoid comes from a Reuters story (via Excite). In it, AOL says use of its ICQ 'Net chat and messaging service has doubled to 25 million people since AOL bought ICQ just seven months ago. With it, users can create their own public chat rooms (if popular, ICQ will even put the room in its directory) and interest groups. And recent enhancements, Reuters says, include free email, a Web address book, games, and - coming full circle back to the phone - the ability to have phone conversations via the Internet with other ICQ members. AOL says (quite predictably) that it'll soon turn ICQ into a full-fledged portal. Already looks like one, we think.

If you or your children have used ICQ, do send us a review. We'd love to get your thinking on it.

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Web News Briefs

Everybody's doing portals. Remember our prediction about portals segmenting into what we call "niche portals"? Well, here's an example: Now movie studios are jumping on the bandwagon to create "entertainment portals." Warner Bros. will soon unveil its "Entertaindom" portal, according to Interactive Week. The site will feature content from the company's multiple movie and TV studios and recording companies. Sony will follow suit in the near future, to package content from Columbia TriStar film and its other entertainment properties.

We can see Pixar doing an animated version: Having our VCRs, phones, fridges, thermostats, and other household items "communicating" with one another on a regular basis is getting a lot of buzz at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this week. We've certainly heard about "digital homes" in the past, but - according to ZDNet - the burning question this year is how to package the network and sell it to us. Don't we have a tough enough time figuring out how to make the little digital clocks actually tell the correct time? Do we really need a new way to lose self-esteem?! One enticement being suggested is wireless technology: Maybe if they tell us they'll take away all those tangled wires behind the couch, we'll buy the network. E-mail us if that'd work for you!

No surprise here: We like our e-stores bright and inviting just as much as our physical ones at the shopping mall. According to USAToday's Tech Report, a recent study found that if the Web shop is warm, friendly, and easy to navigate, we're much more likely to give it our credit card numbers. Seems elementary, but the survey - by market research firm Cheskin Research in San Francisco - was the first-ever look at exactly what makes a site seem safe to users. It certainly bears out the fact that human nature doesn't change much from physical space into cyberspace!

This one's kind of fun: Bill Gates's self-effacing essay about his predictions, past and present for the technologies we'll all be using at home and work. He's cautious this time and makes just one prediction for '99 (at the very end), but his piece is a good place to find out just exactly what this DVD thing is and why it might be useful to you 'n' me. Bill also explains DSL quite clearly and why cable modems may make it tough for the phone companies to make their broadband solution for the home (DSL) a mainstream thing. If any of you have some expertise on these broadband-to-the-home technologies and would like to share it with fellow subscribers, please do e-mail us at!

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend.


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