IT'S Monday, and you're behind. That's how you always start the week. You'll fall further behind on Tuesday, and still further on Wednesday, and somewhere around Thursday you'll realize that the reason you're so far behind is that you're clinging to unrealistic ambitions and youthful dreams. The secret to catching up is to come to terms with your mediocrity. You must have the courage to be a quitter. Then on Friday, you can call in sick.

But it's still Monday, and you'll need to know what's going on in the world so you can resemble an informed person. That's why we're here. Other columns give you blather; we give you facts and talking points. When we conceived of the Rough Draft column, we vowed that from the moment it was posted, at 1 p.m., it would provide everything you need to know to operate intelligently, at least through 3 p.m. and possibly until a quarter to four.

Politics: Al Gore is now arguing that Bill Bradley voted for Reaganomics. These two are struggling to get to the left of the other guy. Gore will relocate his campaign this week to Tennessee as part of his effort to go "to the grassroots,` meaning, where real human beings live. If Gore gets lost he can visit the Fodor's online Nashville site at www.fodors.com/ptpshort.cgi?Nashville.

This morning in New York City, George W. Bush said the Democrats "no more invented prosperity than they invented the Internet.` It's a good line. He's been using it in essentially every speech since June. (Speaking of innovation.)

Now, sports. Key talking point in Washington: The Redskins have an amazing offense after several years of being merely offensive. The Redskins are 3-1, with the best offense in the league and the worst defense. The antidote to surrendering 36 points is scoring 38. Vince Lombardi football this is not, but it beats losing. Norv Turner, who one Internet wag called a "proven loser` just a few weeks ago, has reincarnated his Dallas offense of the early 1990s. What's incredible is that they beat the Panthers even though they couldn't tackle or even get within the same Zip code as Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who is leading the league in average yards per carry and in vowels.

The long day's journey into night that was the Orioles season is mercifully over, the final record standing at 78-84, numbers that obscure the fact that the team didn't play a meaningful game after April. Ray Miller is expected to be fired right about -- now. "If and when we have something we'll let everyone know,` said Orioles spokesman Kevin Behan at 11:06 a.m. today.

In business news, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, now operating under the corporate rubric of Vulcan Ventures, is investing $1.65 billion in the telecommunications company RCN Corp. Unknown at press time is whether he wrote a check or pulled the money out of his shoe. The Forbes 400 this year listed Allen's net worth at $40 billion.

(Astonishing footnote: The Busch family, according to Forbes, isn't worth as much as this 35-year-old Jeff Bezos character who started Amazon.com. Is that fair? One family owns the world's favorite beer, Budweiser, and the other guy's never even turned a profit. Yet on paper he's worth more than twice as much. Makes you want to go out and hoist a tall Bud in honor of the underdogs, the little guys at Anheuser-Busch.)

For Allen, $1.65 billion is chump change. When you have $40 billion, and you're still under the age of 50, you have only one reasonable career option: Total world domination. The news reports on Allen's investment indicate that he is steadily trying to buy up powerful positions in the Internet economy. The bigger question about the Internet is whether it is merely going to be a utility, like the telephone network, or will evolve into something grander and stranger -- the infrastructure of what theorists call the Noosphere.

The word "Noosphere` was coined by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It's ably defined by Barbara Marx Hubbard in her book "Conscious Evolution`: "The noosphere is the mind-sphere, the thinking layer of Earth, the larger social body created by human intelligence. It is composed of all the spiritual, cultural, social and technological capacities of humanity, seen as one interrelated superorganism.`

But so far it is a very confused, slightly hare-brained superorganism, if one is to judge by searching the "Noosphere` web pages on the Internet. You find yourself hyperlinking into some serious New Age territory, encountering messages like this:

`Madhuri is my name. Ecstatic Focus is my game.`

The problem is that the emergence of the technologically-driven noosphere is overlapping with the Consciousness Shift, a spiritual event. Different people use the same word for radically different phenomena. Some get their information from the artificial intelligence laboratories; others get their information from, and this is a direct quote, "the teachings of a higher-dimensional walk-in named Drunvalo, of the Alpha and Omega Order of Melchizedek.`

Now, astronomy news. Tomorrow before dawn, Venus, the star Regulus and the crescent moon will form a tight triangle near the eastern horizon. This is either a portentous astrological signal that we must evolve to the next level of consciousness, or the meaningless alignment of objects that actually are separated in space by distances of millions and, in the case of Regulus, trillions of miles.

At 12:43 p.m., Ray Miller still hadn't been fired, an Orioles spokesman said.

We accept no liability for the misuse of these talking points.

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