Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the information superhighway:

The U.S. Air Force Rome Laboratories in Rome, N.Y., has made the Net safe for virtual snowballs. As genuine lab workers wander in front of a camera, netsurfers from around the world get to launch virtual snowballs at them from the SnowballCam page -- left, center or right. A pen-sized camera mounted on top of the server records the shot, digitizes the picture, transmits it back to you and notes your score (if you hit).

The RL engineers who usually hang out in the lab have been ranked according to their speed, agility and vertical leap; point scores are awarded accordingly. Extra points are awarded for "hitting" casual visitors to the lab. When no live targets are available after working hours, a Batman mannequin is there to test your skill. RL maintains a leader board; if the camera is busy you can review a rolling record of previous attempts.

It's a lot of fun and will probably be active for only a short time.

-- Mark Doernhoefer

GETTING THERE: With a modem of 14,400 bytes per second or faster, a World Wide Web link-up from your Internet access provider and the appropriate search software, such as Mosaic or Netscape, check out: http://www.rl.af.mil:8001/ Odds-n-Ends/sbcam/rlsbcam.html.

Cool Runnings

You might think it's balmy this week, but it's always cool on the World Wide Web Cool Site of the Day. A highly idiosyncratic list put together by volunteer webmeister Glenn Davis at http://www.infi. net/cool.html tracks -- and provides links to -- what Davis thinks is the Internet's hippest destinations.

From the site, you can jump to more than 100 Web pages, among them some of the most unusual and experimental available. Take a trip to Austin, Tex., play a hand of blackjack, pose a question to the Magic 8-Ball, answer an on-line personals ad. Among the Cool are pages devoted to art (Graffiti Art), reading materials (BRETTNews), music (WNUR-FM Jazz Information Server), sports (WWW TennisPage) and, of course, "Star Trek" (Klingon Language Institute, Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, and Star Trek: Generations). There's a hyperlink that will connect you automatically to a Cool Word of the Day, http://www.dsu.edu/ projects/wordofday/word.html; the Real Beer guide, http:// and.com:80/realbeer/ and the Vampyres Only site, http://www.wimsey. com:80/bmiddlet/vampyre/vampyre.html. And just in case you want to visit the most un-hip locales, CSotD also includes a link to the Most Useless WWW Pages, http://www.primus.com/staff/paulp/ useless.html.

Davis notes that the volume of Netcruisers accessing the site increases dramatically on weekdays. "This tells me that there's an alarming number of people goofing off at work," he notes from his e-mail outpost in Norfolk. With figures hovering at around 10,000 visitors a day, that's a lot of lost productivity. But don't mention that to my boss. And now to come in out of the weather myself, I'm going to step into the LeWebLouvre, http://sunsite.unc. edu/louvre, where I'll do a bit of reading on abstract expressionism and contemplate the JPEG version of Joan Miro's "The Tilled Field."

-- Shellie Holubek

shellie9@aol.com

News of the Cyberweird

Big Brother may not be watching us, but he is reading This Just In, a compilation of humorous news reports culled from the wire services and sent free each weekend via e-mail.

Author Randy Cassingham says the list of subscribers includes staffers with the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Federal Communications Commission, the Library of Congress, two South Pole scientific stations and a slew of other federal agencies, departments, bureaus and institutes. This also is the kind of news that keeps comedians and commentators employed. Among recent gems, with Cassingham's remarks:

"MALPRACTICE: Arthur Spears, a 63-year-old London accountant, was afraid of doctors and hospitals. So much so that when he needed bladder surgery recently, he did it himself. The resulting infection killed him. 'Unfortunately, {his} drastic remedy went wrong,' the coroner said. 'A simple operation would have solved the problem.' (Reuter) ... Oh, sure: always second-guessing the surgeon.

"CASE STUDY: Irene Wachenfeldt, 44, was teaching an adult education class at the Kristinehamn (Sweden) high school. To drive home her point to the all-woman class about the importance of loving one's body, she stripped off her clothes, saying 'my body is good enough. I want you to feel the same about your bodies.' At least one student was impressed: 'It was one of our best lessons,' Jenny Berg said. 'It helped boost our self-confidence.' But an outcry led Wachenfeldt to resign. 'Teachers are not allowed to strip during class,' a school official noted." (AP) ... During recess, sure; but not during class. -- Scott Moore

moores@washpost.com

GETTING THERE: Send e-mail to listserv@netcom.com. Leave the subject line blank. The message should read subscribe this-just-in.

Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Tip Karen Marrero (marrerok@washpost.com) or Joel Garreau (garreau@well.com).