Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S.A. and to help celebrate this Anne and I went to see the new movie Pearl Harbor. We both liked it and thought that it successfully combined actual facts, as we know them, with the personal stories of the film's main characters. Several situations that preceded the attack (and could have prevented our being caught completely by surprise) were included in the story line. Not the least of which was the radar station that picked up the incoming planes, but was discounted either because (in the movie) it was thought to be U.S. B-52s or (actually) that radar technology was still in it's infancy and not totally understood or trusted. This is shown visually to the audience when the tech taps on the radar display screen in an effort to get the large "blip" to go away.

  Another situation that caught my attention: My father has told me in the past about how the Japanese pilots flew across the water, right between our ships, and our service men (in the heat of battle) would fire at them as they went by, oblivious to the danger it posed to the ship and crew next to them! That was very interesting to me to actually see the situation brought to life on the big screen and drive home the level of panic and adrenaline those soldiers must have felt. Follow this up with the heart-wrenching deaths of all those people that drowned as our ships sank and you'll have some idea of the power of this movie to move you.

  I highly recommend that you see Pearl Harbor. Take some tissues.

For more info on Pearl Harbor:








"Health Tips and News - The Straight Dope On Food, Health, & Exercise"


Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life.  Is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it.  Everything wears out eventually.  Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster.  Want to live longer?  Take a nap.


Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies.  What does a cow eat?  Hay and corn.  And what are these?  Vegetables.  So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system.  Need grain?

Eat chicken.  Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable).  And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable slop.


Q: Is beer or wine bad for me?

A: Look, it goes to the earlier point about fruits and vegetables.  As we all know, scientists divide everything in the world into three categories: animal, mineral, and vegetable.  We all know that beer and wine are not animal, and they are not on the periodic table of elements, so that only leaves one thing, right?  My advice: Have a burger and a beer and enjoy your liquid vegetables.


Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

A: Well, if you have a body, and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one.  If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.


Q: At the gym, a guy asked me to "spot" for him while he did the bench press.  What did he mean?

A: "Spotting" for someone means you stand over him while he blows air up your shorts.  It's an accepted practice at health clubs; though if you find that it becomes the ONLY reason why you're going in, you probably ought to reevaluate your exercise program.


Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Can't think of a single one, sorry.  My philosophy is: No Pain, No Pain.


Q: If I stop smoking, will I live longer?

A: Nope.  Smoking is a sign of individual expression and peace of mind.

If you stop, you'll probably stress yourself to death in record time.


Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?

A: You're not listening.  Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil.  In fact, they're permeated in it.  How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?


Q: What's the secret to healthy eating?

A: Thicker gravy.


Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not!  When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger.  You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.




US company defeats Brit RIP Act

By: Thomas C Greene in Washington


Anonymous Web-surfing outfit SafeWeb has just expanded its secure server facilities in New York so that Europeans can enjoy faster access to private, and virtually anonymous, Web browsing and e-mail.


SafeWeb's proxy servers encrypt all data transmitted between an individual's computer and the Web sites visited, once they've logged on to the service.  Thus the only information one's ISP can record, hence cough up to nosey Feds, is the fact that one accessed the SafeWeb site.


Web-based e-mail accounts are available, which also encrypt all data. SafeWeb's free browsing gateway uses 128-bit SSL, automatically disables cookies and scripts, and hides the surfer's IP.


The only fly in the ointment here is that one's browser may cache requested pages locally, making them available for inspection by nosey co-users and administrators.


SafeWeb is in the process of dealing with this, and will within one or two weeks' time have that solved by encrypting URLs stored in the browser's history.  Naturally, privacy will be enhanced if the browser is set up with page caching disabled.


A digital certificate scheme alerts users to decoy T'Boy boxes -- not that the Feds would ever dream of employing such a cheesy trick.


Because the T'Boy boxes are distributed randomly, it is virtually impossible for any government authority to defeat the scheme with filtering, firewalls or surveillance hardware -- meaning that Netizens in notoriously authoritarian countries like China, Afghanistan, Britain and the United Arab Emirates will be able to access whatever they please on the Web and leave no trace of their comings and goings.






New Cell Phone Problems

By Nancy Gohring


It was once amusing for speakers at wireless conferences to underscore the reliability of mobile phones by asking audience members: When was the last time you had to reboot you cell phone?  The answer, of course, was never.


That joke isn't funny anymore.  Software glitches on new wireless handsets have led to recalls by NTT DoCoMo in Japan of Matsushita Electric Industrial and Sony Java-enabled phones, as well as problems with a line of Nokia phones in the U.S.

Software is also to blame for delays in commercial introductions of third-generation (3G) networks by NTT DoCoMo in Japan and British Telecommunications on the Isle of Man, off the coast of England.


Wireless leaders are concerned that users are already fed up with overly hyped wireless Internet services that haven't met expectations.  Recent additional handset hang-ups may dissuade potential customers from trying future mobile data services - the same services for which operators in Europe spent billions of dollars on licenses to launch.


A combination of pressure on operators to quickly introduce services to start paying for those licenses, and the challenges associated with building technologically advanced networks, is causing many of the glitches.


The operators encountered problems in tests on the commercial networks, as calls dropped when users moved from one cell site to another.


In Europe, where pride over global leadership in the mobile phone sector tends to be high, speculation is running rampant over the delays.  Experts said NTT DoCoMo, with a larger equipment order than BT for the Isle of Man, has more clout with NEC and has persuaded NEC to drag its feet fixing the problem for BT.  That way, NTT DoCoMo can be the first to roll out a 3G network.


The Strategis Group recently conducted a study and found that most leading vendors won't have 3G handsets available commercially until the end of 2002 - and some not until 2003.


Even before the widespread availability of many 3G phones, current handsets are beginning to experience problems as they handle today's limited data applications.


Nokia recently had a software problem in handsets it sold to Verizon Wireless.  After the phones hit the market, it was discovered they wouldn't operate on next-generation networks as designed.  Nokia is working on a software fix that can be installed in the network, so the phones will operate properly.


Ericsson also recently had a handset hang-up that, due to a manufacturing error, offered less battery life on the phone than intended.


Some industry observers aren't sure that customers will have the patience to wait for quality handsets.


"People are patient with their computer because they can't do anything else - they have to have e-mail to work," Kintz said. "With wireless, if it doesn't work, they'll go back to their PC."




Up Front: Give Your Unused Cycles to Science

Kevin McKean


Say so long to screen savers and use your CPU's idle power for some worthwhile work.


To contribute to a worthy cause like cancer research, you used to have to part with something you might miss--like your cash.  That's no longer the case.  You can now donate something that would otherwise be wasted--your CPU's unused processing power--to any number of important scientific or medical projects.  But should you?  And if so, which project should you choose?


The questions are especially timely now that Intel has thrown its weight--and $1 million--behind one such endeavor, the United Devices cancer research program, developed in conjunction with Oxford University.


The Intel program, launched in April, hopes to recruit 6 million people to download its client software. Their PCs will provide 50 terraflops of collective processing power (1 terraflop equals 1 trillion floating-point computations per second).  "That's ten times bigger than the world's largest supercomputer ...  for less than 1 percent the cost," says Pat Gelsinger, Intel's chief technical officer.


The Intel project is one of several that work like this.  You install client software on your PC, where it runs in the background either as a screen saver or during the CPU's so-called "idle" cycles.  It grabs problems from the Web site and reports back results over the Internet.  And the collective power of thousands of screen savers at work gives such distributed computing networks their supercomputer-like muscle.


The similarity ends there.  Distributed computing works best on "embarrassingly parallel" problems, those that can be broken down into many small independent calculations.  It's less effective when individual calculations affect each other.  It fails, for example, at weather forecasting, where a perturbation in one part of the atmosphere disturbs its neighbors.  Many other supercomputer problems--like modeling airflow around a wing or the physics of a bomb blast--lie beyond distributed computing's reach.


Of course, plenty of important work remains.  SETI@Home, the grand daddy of distributed computing projects with nearly 3 million participants, is searching for intelligent life in space.  United Devices, which wrote the Intel client, is also investigating the human genome.  And Entropia, a key competitor, is seeking treatments for AIDS and clues to stock market volatility.


Distributed computing can also help solve many stubborn problems of allocating scarce resources--like scheduling fleets of container ships or salespeople.  "Nobody thinks of container-ship modeling as a classic problem for distributed computing, but it works well nonetheless,"

says Marc Hedlund, co founder of Popular Power, which earlier this year closed its doors as a commercial entity but still conducts flu vaccine research.


How do you decide which project to support?  First, ask yourself whether you want to support commercial distributed computing projects, like those run by United Devices and Entropia.  (At United Devices, you can indicate that you want to do only scientific work.)


Security is another concern.  The distributed computing client software, like any program that communicates over the Internet, could be a target for hackers.  Your best protection may be to stick with well-established firms.


Leaving security aside, the best way to choose a charity is to put your CPU where your heart is. Senior Associate Editor Richard Baguley, whose mother died of cancer last year, has set up a PC World team on the Intel cancer research site.


Others may be drawn to the AIDS project, to SETI, or to something else.  Wherever you place your bet, though, expect distributed computing to keep growing.  "I hope it eventually becomes so common that we take it for granted, so that the portfolio analysis you run on your desktop may use

20,000 other computers for an hour," says Scott Kurowski, Entropia's founder.  "That could be the most powerful Internet resource ever created."




Be aware with Ad Ware


There used to be a time when you could download a free piece of software to your computer and it was actually free, no strings attached, no hidden agendas.  But now many companies distribute applications which they call 'ad ware' - advertising supported applications which instead of paying for, you agree to watch ads...  or in some cases unknowingly agree to have your computer/internet usage tracked (often referred to as 'spy ware').


Being tracked is bad enough, but what makes this even worse is that many of these applications can actually interfere with your other more important applications!  When researching this issue I was delighted to find Ad Aware, a free application which scans your hard drive for ad & spy ware.  Ad Aware not only detects these intrusions on your privacy, it also helps completely remove them from your system (as many of them don't go away when you do a standard uninstall through Windows).


Download Ad Aware and see if you're being spied on:





What's On My Nightstand - The House of Leaves


I just love when a book gets under your skin, makes you take another look at the world around, see things just a little bit differently. Michael Talbot's "Holographic Universe" was like that and "The House of Leaves" is also that kind of book. But for a completely different reason.


The House of Leaves tells the story of a house that is bigger on the inside than on the outside, and the strange discoveries that are made about hidden rooms and passages in the house.  It's strange and quirky, but at the center it's a great Blair Witch style chiller where what you can only imagine becomes much scarier than any boogie man or monster.  It's simply not like any other book I've ever read.  I've never read so many footnotes in all my life, and I can't remember a more intriguing book.


I got looks from my wife, Anne, as I turned the book on its side, upside down and round and round.  You really have to experience this book to really understand.  Additionally The House of Leaves is the only book I'm aware of that has its own soundtrack (POE's Haunted).  If you've listened to that CD before reading The House of Leaves it will take on  an all new meaning afterwards.


Be forewarned, though. This book will insult your intelligence while it dares you to read on. The introduction, for instance, starts with the dedication "This is not for you." Many pages are fragmented and some are mostly blank or just contain garbage. The book tells you several times that the "documentation" for this story is contrived and warns that you WILL have nightmares and, at some point in the future, probably suffer some form of mental breakdown. But for the life of me, I can't resist turning the page.


Newsweek is correct in stating that "House of Leaves is like no other novel you've ever read." In fact, some of the writing is banal and insipid; often it's downright crass and immature with smatterings of foul language and sexual situations. Combine this with the multiplicity of writing styles and this only belies the books true authors, which (I suspect) number in the hundreds since it began as an "open project" on the internet. This last one is the main reason for my interest in the novel. For the first time there has been a successful conversion of this type of work into printed form and, regardless of humble beginnings, it has become a national best seller.


Think twice before buying The House Of Leaves and don't write me to complain that I didn't warn you.


The House of Leaves:

House of Leaves Fan Site - http://houseofleaves.4t.com/

House of Leaves UK Site - http://www.houseofleaves.co.uk/

Poe's Haunted - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004Y6J1/dvdtalk



Daily hero:

My Elevator Friend

by Kelsey Goff

Story Editor: Joyce Schowalter

Richmond, Virginia, USA


About two years ago while working downtown at our company's headquarters I met a man I'll call "Martin".  At the time, the company was downsizing.  Again.  Reducing the work force for six years caused the stock to go up, but it often had the opposite effect on morale.


I'm a morning person, and start my work day around 6:30 a.m.  I get off work early for time with my loved ones.  Almost every morning I saw Martin on the elevator.  We were usually the only people there, so I made polite conversation as we rode to the 15th floor.  We speculated on the weather, or inquired about each other's weekend.  Some days I saw him in the company cafeteria.  Some days we left work at the same time, and I chatted with him and others in the elevator.


About six months after our daily elevator chats, Martin came to my office and asked if I had a minute to chat.  Though we worked on the same floor, I'm sure he had to search to find me.  I invited him to sit down.

He said, "I wanted to come say goodbye.  The company has let me go, today will be my last day."


I didn't know what to say.  Though I was too familiar with saying goodbye to co-workers, it was never easy.  Honestly, I usually ignored the event because I felt awkward and at a loss for words.  I told him I was sorry and asked if there was anything I could do.  He said, "No, I'll be fine, I just wanted to take the time to thank you".  I was now confused.  He explained that our daily talks had meant a lot to him.


Martin was a short, middle-aged man with a glandular problem.  He was obese, used a cane to help maneuver, and was painfully shy.  He thanked me not only for chatting with him in the mornings, but for speaking directly to him and others on the elevator, and for telling him a quick joke in the crowded cafeteria.  It seems that no one had ever been his friend before -- or if so they were standoffish to him in public.


He said he didn't want to take up much of my time as he knew I was busy and he needed to pack his personal things.  He had tears in his eyes as he shook my hand and left.


I've never seen him since, but I imagine he's doing well.  Meeting him changed my life.  Now when I'm in a hurry, or have a bad day, I try extra hard to speak kindly to those around me.  I remind myself that it's just as easy to say something nice as to say something rude, and I'm awed at how very powerful our daily actions are.




Update Your Vocabulary


To understand a process, you need to understand the basic terminology.  Here is another in a series of terms that will help you better understand the world of updates:


PATCH: A patch is a small file that when executed will patch or fix specific problems in a target file or application.  The benefit of a patch is that it is smaller in size than a full software update, and saves the user from downloading redundant, previously functioning files.  The limitation of patching is that the process is often version-specific.  In other words, the patch is targeted to work only if the user has a particular version installed.  So make sure to read the download details carefully (it will usually inform you of the requirements, such as "Updates v1.03 to v1.05"). 





  The pursuit of truth attracts critics