Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. I've had some rough days recently. The Physical Therapy has been generating more pain that the surgery did. On top of that, last Monday (after PT) I went and had a cavity filled in my lower left Wisdom tooth. This was an adventure in and of itself because I'm one of those people that don't like dentists. (I wonder why)
Then, still recovering from that, on Tuesday morning, around 10:30, I suddenly got hit with what I can only describe as an electric jolt right in that new filling. It was like someone had hooked it up to 110v and flipped on the light switch! After a couple of seconds it abated, but it left my jaw aching and me puzzled. Several minutes later it hit me again! This time I called my dentist and while I was on the phone with them I got hit twice more!
Here I am rolling on the floor in pain (and unable to speak for several minutes) when they tell me that this is NORMAL and that I should try to hold out until Wednesday when he'll be able to "smooth up the surface." They think that it's being caused by two fillings touching together. Well, needless to say, I've had many fillings before and never experienced this effect. Not only that, but since the first "hit" I've not hardly moved a muscle in my jaw for fear of causing the little electrocutioner to re-awaken.
"No," I told them, "I can't put up with this! I'd rather have it removed than deal with this shock treatment for 24 hours!" Thankfully, they called my oral surgeon (more on that later) and were able to get me right in. Within the hour my Wisdom tooth was gone and I was free of the lightning bolts. Nothing left to do but wait for the Novocaine to wear off. (Oh, joy!) I think I'll pick up that book "When bad things happen to good people."
And that, Your Honor, is why the newsletter didn't go out last week.

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GRINS & GIGGLES:

The minister was preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for repairs to the church building.

Therefore, he was annoyed to find that the regular organist was sick and a substitute had been brought in at the last minute. The substitute wanted to know what to play.

"Here's a copy of the service," he said impatiently. "But you'll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement about the finances."

During the service, the minister paused and said, "Brothers and Sisters, we are in great difficulty; the roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected, and we need $4,000 more. Any of you who can pledge $100 or more, please stand up."

At that moment, the substitute organist played "The Star- Spangled Banner."

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CYBERSPACE ALERT:

It seems like the headlines are all the same these days. At lease once a week I see "Protect yourself online" blazed across the cover of some magazine. Yes, it's true that the online world can be scary, but so can be the street in front of your house after sunset. The world is full of both good and bad people. The internet merely reflects our society. You've had to learn what it takes to be safe walking around downtown and making your way through the real world. The same can be said about life online; all it takes is a little training, practice and experience. Take my hand for a moment while I mentor:

In 1988 an organization called CERT was founded at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was in response to the Internet Worm incident, which brought 10 percent of Internet systems to a halt in November of that year. The following year CERT reported 132 "incidents" of security violations on the internet. After growing slowly to about 2500 events/yr through the 90's things suddenly exploded in 1998 hitting nearly 4,000! In 1999 there were almost 10,000 and in 2000 they reported over 21,000! This year is only half over and already CERT has logged more than 15,000 security violations.

This trend isn't going to go away. According to the FBI, these are the average dollar amounts lost in the last year through criminal activity on the internet:

Financial Fraud - $8.0 million
Theft of private information - $2.9 million
Network vandalism (outsiders) - $454,000
Network vandalism (insiders) - $276,000
Virus infestation - $244,000
Denial-Of-Services attack - $122,000

As you can see, stealing information and then profiting from it is BIG business on the internet. You and your children (our future) need to learn how to "take a byte out of cyber-crime", so to speak. This can be done simply by learning some basic skills.

1) Close the windows and lock the doors: install a home firewall and virus protection.
2) Don't talk to strangers: protect your home address, phone numbers and the names & ages of your children.
3) Don't accept candy, gifts or rides: downloads and attachments should be scanned before opening.
4) Just say "No": remove (or "spoof") your name and email address within your browser.
5) Stay away from dark areas: read the privacy policy of web sites you visit and "opt out" whenever possible.
6) Wash your hands: clear your browser's history and cache; delete unnecessary cookies.
7) Travel in groups: the family that surfs together builds knowledge, confidence and self esteem.
Also - know how and when to "call 911" (your local expert) and don't be afraid to use it when necessary.

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MEATSPACE ALERT:

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING:
Two men from Georgia have been charged with violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Act. Leighton Deming, 56, and Thomas Marciano, 42, were arrested by the FBI after trying to sell an apparently genuine turn-of- the-century eagle-feathered headdress worn by Apache leader Geronimo.
The FBI was alerted to the scheme by the advertisement itself, which was posted on the Internet. "It said 'only serious candidates must respond because it is illegal to sell eagle feathers in the United States'," an FBI spokeswoman said. (Reuters) ...Everyone is entitled to be stupid now and then, but some people really abuse the privilege.

HE'S PROBABLY TURNING IN HIS GRAVE:
Catholic priest Fr. Marcelo Rossi of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has worshipers dancing in their pews. His new CD of aerobics music is at the top of Brazilian charts thanks to "Vira de Jesus" ("Jesus Twist"). In the country's 1991 census, 83 percent of Brazil's population described themselves as Catholic, but only 15 percent of those said they went to Mass regularly. But Fr. Rossi holds his Mass in soccer stadiums to accommodate the crowds of young people who wish to attend. (Reuters) ...Why should the devil get all the good music?

IT'S DIFFICULT TO SAY "DUH" WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL:
"Study: Obesity Can Shorten Lifespan" -- AP headline

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TRUE STORY:
Mrs. Duvall
by Michael Hart

If there was one thing that would inspire fear in the heart of a fourth grader at Damascus Elementary in the mid-1980s, it was the name Mrs. Duvall. She was my math teacher, a large, intimidating woman who walked with a heavy step and always had a severe look on her face. Her voice was rough and deep, and when she raised it the only thing that shook more than the walls were the children in their seats. Before math period, you could hear her voice booming from across the hall, and I remember feeling sorry for her main class, who had to suffer her close scrutiny for much more of the day than I did.

I was good at math until we started fiddling with long division, but struggle and hard work brought success at even that. Yet even as hard as it was, I didn't know the meaning of difficult until I tackled money and time. I could count change and tell time, but when it came to adding or subtracting either one, I was at a loss. It came so easily for my peers, but it would be a stumbling block for me that would take months to overcome.

We had tests we had to take on a computer in the room, and we had to keep taking the tests until we passed them. Week after week I approached Mrs. Duvall's desk with fear after yet another failed attempt, and week after week I had to listen to her frustration: "You know this, Michael! You know how to do it!" I considered asking Mrs. Duvall if I could just take a failing mark for that section, because I wanted to give up more than anything. But I also wanted to prove myself, so I decided to keep working at it.

Eventually the day came that I passed that frustrating test. I approached Mrs. Duvall's desk again, with a head hung low as if I had failed once more. A look of disappointment came to her face, and then I looked up with a big smile and exclaimed, "I passed!" Much to my surprise, Mrs. Duvall jumped up from her desk, gave me a big hug and a slopping wet kiss on the cheek, and looked me in the eyes with a proud look on her face. "Michael, I always knew you could do it!"

I don't know if she realized it, but she gave me that day the most precious gift I have ever received. She believed in me, and because someone like her could believe in me, I learned to believe in myself.

Whenever I feel like giving up, I remember Mrs. Duvall's faith in me, take a deep breath and give it all I've got. Years later, the same kid who struggled with even the most basic mathematical concepts went to college on a full academic scholarship and graduated near the top of his class. All because Mrs. Duvall didn't give up on him.

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FUN SITE:
Vehicle shopping

Anne and I have decided to get rid of my car and buy her a mini-van. Several things drove us to this, not the least of which is condition of my car. Although it's a later model than Anne's, the Kia just needs more work than the thing is worth. What we need is a vehicle that's large and comfortable when family and friends come to visit and, also, can do some hauling when necessary since we don't own a pick-up (a travesty in the west).

If you've ever looked online for auto site no doubt you've been inundated by everything from the local dealership to "Bob's Bronco" web sites. You may have also noticed the complete lack of useful information on 99% of these sites. Here are the ones that you REALLY need to get the details that will put bullets in your gun for the showdown that you'll inevitably face with a sales person.

Highway Safety
Here is your first stop on the journey. Knowledge is power and this site will fill your head with important information. Look up the Vehicle Ratings on everything that you are even remotely considering and examine the charts. The tests rate 6 areas of injury and if there's even one POOR rating, pass it by. You don't want to have to find out why the hard way.

Vehix
The best site for doing comparison shopping. I love the ease with which you can just click-click-click your way to beautiful side-by-side listings. This makes it very easy to really see what the differences between vehicles are and, by process of elimination, narrow the field to two or three contenders (eg. Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Mazda MVP). Another thing that you need, if you're looking at a used vehicle, is it's history. You can see if it's a "lemon" with their "FREE Carfax Record Check."

Consumer Reports Online
This is the site you go to when you've narrowed it down and you're looking for the nitty-gritty. They have an area that's called the "Auto Hub" where you can get everything from test reports and recommendations to price breakdowns for exact make/model and options. That last one will cost you $12; cheap insurance, if you ask me. I've been a subscriber to their magazine, off-and-on, for years and a paying member to their online site for the last couple. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Autobytel
Second only to Vehix for comparisons. Not as "intuitive" to use but much more detailed in the information provided, such as typical ownership costs, available option packages, vehicle specifications/dimensions and model year changes. This is also where you should end your journeys. Once you know what you want, the options you need and the price you're willing to pay... fire your opening shot. These guys will hook you up with someone that can provide you with your dream car/truck/SUV at a reasonable price.

http://www.hwysafety.org/
http://www.vehix.com
http://www.consumerreports.org/news/AutoHub/Reports/
http://www.autobytel.com

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QUICK WIT:

Never let life's hardships disturb you. After all, no one can avoid problems, not even saints and sages.