This is the time of year to take stock of oneself. For those of us for whom self-absorbed introspection is a year-round affair, racing against time is all-consuming and parallel to the race for money and status.
On the Internet, where reflection and prognostication sit side by side, clocks and counters gauge the passage of time while predictions of yesteryear live on.
For example, the Web site of Paul Nagai, an Alameda, Calif., programmer, features links to more than 225 Web-based clocks and counters. Included are links to countdowns to the new "Star Wars" movie; the kickoff of the reborn Cleveland Browns; and the number of seconds before Brian Rupp, a network specialist at Northern Ohio Educational Computer Assn. in Sandusky, retires.
Apparently, everyone has some seminal event to count down to.
Web sites that count the growing national debt, teenage pregnancies in the U.S., dogs destroyed in this country, cases of AIDS, and abortions can provide much-needed perspective.
Nagai's Web site is at http://www.panaga.com/clocks/clocks.htm.
Prognosticating is another custom of the season, and with the Internet you can easily dig up the predictions made a year ago. On the Web, statements tend to linger, which can make for some amusing forecast-versus-reality comparisons.
For example, last year CNN Interactive, the most popular news site on the Internet, predicted that $20-per-month, all-you-can-surf Internet charges would be replaced by metered pricing, just like we pay for long-distance phone, electricity and water usage (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1997/web.whatnext/).
Also, dynamic HTML, new top-level domains (such as .shop and .firm) and Web TV have not taken off this year as CNN predicted they would (although many again expect that they will next year), and Congress promptly passed a new version of the Communications Decency Act limiting certain kinds of speech on the Internet, even as CNN predicted a "more cooperative" attitude between government and technologists.
Online news outlet CNet last year had a panel of digerati offer their predictions for 1998, and, as the savvy often do, they tended to be noncommittal.
Most of them incorrectly thought that Apple would fall hard and that the Java programming language would offer a real threat to Microsoft's Windows operating system, but they did accurately predict that Microsoft's war with the Justice Department would continue and that so-called push technology (remember that?) would fall by the wayside.
Tasty Bits From the Technology Front, an e-mail technology newsletter, this year is running a contest, asking subscribers to gaze into their crystal balls to divine answers to questions such as:
* What will be the closing stock price of Amazon.com on Dec. 1, 1999?
* How many Linux systems will be in use worldwide on Dec. 1?
* Name five independent software companies that will be bought out by competitors other than Microsoft between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1.
* Name five independent software companies that will be bought out by Microsoft between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1.
The extra credit, tiebreaker question: Predict the title of Bill Gates' new book. The scoring of this last question will be "based on humor, self-reference and/or the obscurity of literary allusions."
Tasty Bits' contest can be found on the Web at http://www.tbtf.com/archive/12-15-98.html#s10.
Winners will be declared at the end of next year, but the only prize for winning is Net fame. It is, after all, a free newsletter.
Times staff writer Jonathan Gaw can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send Internet site suggestions to email@example.com.