Reconnect with the actual world

As this is my first column of the year, I wish to extend a warm welcome to you, whether you are a returning student or a new student. Indiana University has a lot to offer you, but I’d like to offer some words of caution.

What you’ve heard is true – IU is one of the most wired campuses in the United States, if not the world. There are e-mail stations in the cafeterias, hallways and in other random spaces. The campus offers dial-up network connections that are fast and efficient.

IU also offers an incredible deal that allows you to acquire Microsoft products at only $5 a CD-ROM. You can not go wrong with that deal: if a new upgrade goes wrong it probably didn’t cost you more than $20, the price of the Office 2000 Premium 4 CD set. (And, at least in my humble opinion, Office 2000 is a major improvement over its competitors and predecessors.)

The lure is great. For only a few dollars you too can get on the Internet and surf all day; many research journals are available online with the click of your mouse. Hometown newspapers keep you in touch with the places you are from. Networked games offer the lure of winning games and prizes. Chat rooms offer the potential for new friends in interesting places.

And IU is making it even easier for you to avoid stepping in the classroom. The University now offers Oncourse, a Web-based instruction system that, in some cases, could mean that you will never have to step into a classroom or physically meet your professors.

No doubt about it, this technology is grand! It is making life a whole heck of a lot better.

But I want to remind you that you are here in Bloomington, a city of 70,000 people in Monroe County, in the state of Indiana.

So I wish to offer you some advice: TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER. GET UNWIRED.

And I don’t mean you should purchase a cellular phone. I mean lose the technology.

Bloomington and the surrounding areas offer a number of splendid attractions that are well worth the trip and worth getting offline and outside for. For those of you interested in fall colors and a tourist-trap shopper’s Mecca, head east to Nashville and Brown County State Park. It’s well worth the trip, even if you must pay to park during the prime tourist season.

Every train buff in town ought to take a trip west to Solsberry and the world’s third-longest train trestle. It is an interesting site, and any one wishing to marry a person named Melissa has a built-in proposal painted on the south side of the trestle (at least it was there when I visited it earlier this summer). Both of these sites are well worth the time away from your Web browser, and there are many more places to visit in the area.

But for those of you who want to stick closer to town, or even want ideas for the upcoming weekends, Saturday, Kirkwood Avenue will be home of Hoosierfest, an annual concert and street fair. It starts at noon and the tunes begin at 2 p.m.

And Labor Day weekend will bring the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts to Fourth and Grant Streets. Another opportunity to get outside and have some fun, you will be able to find stuff to hang on your walls and enjoy live entertainment.

For those of you who cannot wait for the weekend and have a few minutes to spare between classes, here’s an idea. Sit outside in the Arboretum or make the trek to People’s Park. Each provides their own kind of unique entertainment: plants and people at their best and worst, case dependent.

In any case, there are opportunities to get offline and outdoors. Don’t waste your time in Bloomington only seeing the walls of your apartment and the street between home and campus. Get out and live a little.

Your computer will be waiting for you when you get home.

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