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Internet beat provides a close-up look at the future
 by Jerry Bunin, Surfin' the Net

 original appeared in San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune, Saturday, May 11 1996

There is an unwritten, little known part of my job that involves the internet.

Mostly because of this column, I've become a webpage beta testing and announcement service.

In my morning e-mail, it isn't unusual to find messages from folks like KCBX General Manager Frank Lanzone and local Sierra Club activist Gary Felsman.

The messages usually contain something personal, some comment about something I've written lately and a request "to check out our homepage" or "look at our updated website."

I'm agreeable, expecially in the predawn hours when I surf the World Wide Web and answer e-mail. So I check websites, telling people when their links don't work, suggesting small improvements and congratulating them for upgrading San Luis Obispo County's online world.

Although most people know me as exceptionally cynical, I've become an Internet evangelist. I think I've seen the future and realized it is the present. I don't play many games on my computer because playing on the Internet is a game.

From my perspective, the KCBX and Sierra Club pages reflect how news and information will move from now on. You will be able to read about some club hike or new radio show in the Telegram-Tribune or the groups' newsletters, but you will seek more information by going to the website.

KCBX is a morning staple in my house. So it was natural for my wife and I to put a link on our homepage to KCBX <http://www.slonet.org/~ipkcbx/>. I checked the updated KCBX webpage for information on the Live Oak Music Fesitval, listened to a Mozart sound file and followed links to read about some National Public Radio favorites, such as a Prarie Home Companion.

I surfed to the NPR homepage. looking for a sound file containing the poetry of "large animal veterinarian" Baxter Black, but couldn't find any from the gifted gabber. I was further disappointed when NPR's webmaster never answered my e-mail about where to find more of Black's wit and wisdom.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed knowing that I got closer to black and NPR because of the Internet and because KCBX is a part of it.

At first thought, it seemed more natural for public radio to be in the online world than the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Yet it makes a lot of environmental sense for the 1,500 member Central Coast chapter to be online.

It gives me a paperless way to e-mail chapter chairman Pat Veesart at pat.veesart@sierraclub.org and it highlights the environmental wonders of our county.

The chapter website keeps a list of local club outings, links to club projects, committee information and "The Natural Wonders of San Luis Obispo County."

I spent some time exploring the wonders, including a link to information on The Pinnacles National Monument east of Soledad and the Channel Islands offshore from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

OK! So they aren't a county wonder, but we want tourists surfing the Web for vacation information to realize such scenic splendor is nearby.

Then, once they come to the Santa Lucia chapter homepage, they can find links to Montana de Oro State Park, the "Guadalupe-Nipomo" Dunes (which are partially in the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area), the Los Osos Oaks Reserve, The Nine Sisteres and other special areas of our county.

My wife and I now regularaly surf the Web before we go anywhere, looking for the little extra bits of knowledge that can help do the kind of advance planning that urns a short vaction stay into the kind of experience that makes us want to return.

It is the way of the future. More and more people will surf the Web bfore they come to surf the ocean in places like San Luis Obispo County. They will do it when they are looking for vacation or cultural information if they are thinking of spending a week here or moving here.


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