Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. It's time to lighten up a bit. Things have been lighting my fire for several weeks now and I feel that we all need a break. So, to kick things off, here's a great story from one of your fellow readers that will have you howling with laughter.

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GRINS & GIGGLES:

Overview: I had to take my son's hamster to the vet. Here's what happened: 

Just after dinner one night, my son came up to tell me there was "something wrong" with one of the two hamsters he holds prisoner in his room. "He's just lying there looking sick," he told me. "I'm serious,Dad. Can you help?" 

I put my best hamster-healer statement on my face and followed him into his bedroom. One of the little rodents was indeed lying on his back looking stressed. I immediately knew what to do. 

"Honey," I called, "come look at the hamster!" 

"Oh, my gosh," my wife diagnosed after a minute. "She's having babies." 

"What?" my son demanded. "But their names are Bert and Ernie,Mom!" 

I was equally outraged. "Hey, how can that be? I thought we said we didn't want them to reproduce," I accused my wife. 

"Well, what do you want me to do, post a sign in their cage?" she inquired. (I actually think she said this sarcastically!) 

"No, but you were supposed to get two boys!" I reminded her, (in my most loving, calm, sweet voice, while gritting my teeth together). 

"Yeah, Bert and Ernie!" my son agreed. 

"Well, it's just a little hard to tell on some guys, ya know," she informed me. (Again with the sarcasm, ya think?) 

By now the rest of the family had gathered to see what was going on. I shrugged, deciding to make the best of it. 

"Kids, this is going to be a wondrous experience," I announced. 

"We're about to witness the miracle of birth." 

"Oh, GROSS!", they shrieked. 

"Well, isn't THAT just Great! What are we going to do with a litter of tiny little hamster babies?" my wife wanted to know. (I really do think she was being snotty here, too. Don't you?) 

We peered at the patient. After much struggling, what looked like a tiny foot would appear briefly, vanishing a scant second later. "We don't appear to be making much progress," I noted. 

"It's breech," my wife whispered, horrified. 

"Do something, Dad!" my son urged. 

"Okay, okay." Squeamishly, I reached in and grabbed the foot when it next appeared, giving it a gingerly tug. It disappeared. I tried several more times with the same results. 

"Should I call 911?" my eldest daughter wanted to know. "Maybe they could talk us through the trauma." (You see a pattern here with the females in my house?) 

"Let's get Ernie to the vet," I said grimly. We drove to the vet with my son holding the cage in his lap.

" Breathe, Ernie, breathe," he urged. 

"I don't think hamsters do Lamaze," his mother noted to him. (Women can be so cruel to their own young. I mean what she does to me is one thing, but this boy is of her womb, for God's sake.) 

The vet took Ernie back to the examining room and peered at the little animal through a magnifying glass. 

"What do you think, Doc, a C-section?" I suggested scientifically. 

"Oh, very interesting," he murmured. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Cameron, may I speak to you privately for moment?" I gulped, nodding for my son to step outside. 

"Is Ernie going to be okay?" my wife asked. 

"Oh, perfectly," the vet assured us. "This hamster is not in labor. In fact, that isn't EVER going to happen... Ernie is a boy." 

"What?" 

"You see, Ernie is a young male. And occasionally, as they come into maturity, like most male species, they um... er... masturbate. Just the way he did, lying on his back." He blushed, glancing at my wife. 

"Well... you know what I'm saying, Mr. Cameron?" We were silent,absorbing this. 

"So Ernie's just... just... Excited?" my wife offered. 

"Exactly," the vet replied, relieved that we understood. More silence. 

Then my vicious, cruel wife started to giggle. And giggle. And then even laugh loudly. 

"What's so funny?" I demanded, knowing, but not believing that the woman I married would commit the upcoming affront to my flawless manliness. 

Tears were now running down her face. "It's just... that... I'm picturing you pulling on its... its... teeny little..." she gasped for more air to bellow in laughter once more. 

"That's enough," I warned. 

We thanked the Veterinarian and hurriedly bundled the hamsters and our son back into the car. He was glad everything was going to be okay. 

"I know Ernie's really thankful for what you've done, Dad," he told me. 

"Oh, you have NO idea," my wife agreed, collapsing into laughter. 

[thanks to Jennifer Leiker for this one]

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CYBERSPACE ALERT:
Microsoft does an about-face: Opera applauds Microsoft's decision to allow access for standard-compliant browsers

Opera Software ASA today welcomed Microsoft's quick backtracking on denying millions of Opera users access to their main Web portal, MSN. Microsoft's abrupt change of mind came after hostile reactions were reported in the media from many Opera users who had tried to access the site.

Microsoft claimed that Opera users were denied entry because the Opera browser "doesn't support the latest XHTML standard" according to Bob Visse, MSN's director of marketing.

"Opera's XHTML standard is of the highest quality," says Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software ASA. "In fact, Opera is internationally acclaimed and renowned for its strict compliance with all international Internet standards. Maybe Microsoft should take a look at its lack of respect for the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) international Internet standards before bad-mouthing others."

The W3C is the international body created to ensure interoperability between technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential.

The irony of Microsoft's claim to standards-support is complete when you check the MSN.com site for compliance with the XHTML standard. Anyone can go to the W3C's standards validation service at http://validator.w3.org/ and type in www.msn.com. The document returned demonstrates clearly that not a single document on their site adheres to W3C specifications, and many of their documents do not use XHTML at all, e.g. http://careers.msn.com/.

This is not the first time Microsoft has tried to deny Opera users entry. Before, Microsoft has tried to keep Opera users out from its IIS-servers by excluding Opera from the browsercap.ini set-up files. That would exclude Opera users from any Web sites running on Microsoft's server solutions.

Opera Software sees Microsoft's latest behavior as a sign of their acknowledgement of Opera as a valid threat to its dominance. In the last year, over 6 million copies of the Opera browsers have been successfully downloaded and installed from Opera's Web site by Windows users all over the world looking for a better Internet experience.

On non-PC devices, the industry leaders in the market are joining forces with Opera, and the Opera family of browsers is currently the leading browser choice for embedded devices.

"I would like to use this opportunity to applaud all the vigilant Opera users around the world who immediately reacted to this abominable act from Microsoft. Opera fervently believes that the Internet only will thrive if it remains a structure where human innovation can prosper to the benefit of everyone," continues Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software ASA. "All users will benefit from a dynamic marketplace where users can choose from several browser alternatives."

About Opera Software
Opera Software ASA is an industry leader in the development of Web browsers for the desktop and device markets, partnering with companies such as IBM, AMD, Symbian, Canal+ Technologies, Ericsson, and Lineo. The Opera browser has received international recognition from end-users and the industry press for being faster, smaller and more standards-compliant than other browsers. Opera Software ASA is a privately held company headquartered in Oslo, Norway.

Learn more about Opera at www.opera.com.

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MEATSPACE ALERT:

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: Police in Brechin, Ont., Canada, made a huge haul of marijuana, netting 20,000 plants -- 50 truckloads. Deciding it was too much to burn, they buried it at a landfill. Big mistake. "The first night, there were 35 guys out there," said a head shop owner. Once word spread, "there were whole rows of guys with shovels digging it up all night and hauling it away in trucks." Police finally wised up and started arresting people at the dump, charging them with possession of marijuana and possession of stolen property. (Toronto Star) ...One man's trash is another's treasure.

START OVER II: When an unnamed man's friend was sentenced to jail in a drunk driving case in Stockholm, Sweden, he volunteered to serve the jail time for him. "I wanted to go to jail to stop myself from drinking for a few weeks," the 51-year-old man said. "My pal didn't think it would work. He agreed to let me try. I borrowed his ID card and identified myself as him at the prison." The ruse was discovered after two weeks. His friend has been ordered to report for his full jail term, and the man has been convicted of perjury and impersonation. (Reuters) ...So he'll get his drying out after all.

BLOCKHEAD: The City Council in Southampton, England, was going to chop down a 60-year-old tree until local residents protested. After the Council decided to save the tree, it announced the decision by writing a letter. To the tree. Posted to the tree's trunk, it started "Dear The Tree," and explained the tree has been issued a temporary preservation order. A Council spokesman said the letter was a "standard legalistic device" and that "addressing the letter 'Dear The Tree' ensures that a preservation order covers it." The letter advised the tree that any further comments or suggestions regarding its fate must be made in writing. (London Mirror) ...Next step, a solicitor will be assigned to give it fair representation.

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TRUE STORY:
CHICAGO - The war on terrorism took a strange and sad turn Friday as airline officials at O'Hare International Airport refused to let a 73-year-old grandmother board her plane until she gave up her two six-inch knitting needles. Apparently authorities were worried that she might knit an afghan...
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The following sign was recently seen in the front window of a local neighborhood business:

WE WOULD RATHER DO BUSINESS WITH 1000 TERRORISTS
THAN WITH ONE JEW.

GOLDBERG'S FUNERAL HOME
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How to Win the War in Afghanistan 

Take all American women who are within five years of menopause - train us for a few weeks, outfit us with automatic weapons, grenades, gas masks, moisturizer with SPF15, Prozac, hormones, chocolate, and canned tuna - drop us (parachuted, preferably) across the landscape of Afghanistan, and let us do what comes naturally. [One person suggests that for maximum effectiveness the chocolate, Prozac and hormones should be taken away.] Think about it. Our anger quotient alone, even when doing standard stuff like grocery shopping and paying bills, is formidable enough to make even armed men tremble.

We've had our children; we would gladly suffer or die to protect them and their future. We'd like to get away from our husbands, if they haven't left already. And for those of us who are single, the prospect of finding a good man with whom to share life is about as likely as being struck by lightning. We have nothing to lose.

We've survived the water diet, the protein diet, the carbohydrate diet, and the grapefruit diet in gyms and saunas across America and never lost a pound. We can easily survive months in the hostile terrain of Afghanistan with no food at all!

We've spent years tracking down our husbands or lovers in bars, hardware stores, or sporting events. Finding bin Laden in some cave will be no problem. Between us, we've divorced enough husbands to know every trick there is for how they hide, launder, or cover up bank accounts and money sources. We know how to find that money and we know how to seize it... with or without the government's help!

Uniting all the warring tribes of Afghanistan in a new government? Oh, please ... we've planned the seating arrangements for in-laws and extended families at Thanksgiving dinners for years. We *understand* tribal warfare.

Let us go and fight. The Taliban hates women. Imagine their terror as we crawl like ants with hot flashes over their godforsaken terrain. I'm going to write my Congressperson. You should, too!

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FUN SITE:
the Labyrinth Project
Deborah Everhart and Martin Irvine, Co-Directors
Sponsored by Georgetown University

The Labyrinth provides free, organized access to electronic resources in medieval studies through a World Wide Web server at Georgetown University. It's easy-to-use menus and links provide connections to databases, services, texts, and images on other servers around the world. Each user will be able to find an Ariadne's thread through the maze of information on the Web.

This project not only provides an organizational structure for electronic resources in medieval studies, but also serves as a model for similar, collaborative projects in other fields of study. The Labyrinth project is open-ended and is designed to grow and change with new developments in technology and in medieval studies.

http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/labyrinth-home.html

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TRICK OR TREAT?:

A trick-or-treater came to my door dressed as "Rocky" in boxing gloves and satin shorts. Soon after I gave him some goodies, he returned for more.

"Aren't you the same 'Rocky' who left my doorstep several minutes ago?" I asked. 

"Yes," he replied, "but now I'm the sequel. I'll be back three more times tonight, too."
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Top10 signs your too old to trick or treat. 

10. You get winded from knocking on the door.

9. You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.

8. You ask for high fiber candy only.

7. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag, you lose your balance and fall over.

6. People say, "Great Keith Richards mask!" and you're not wearing a mask.

5. When the door opens you yell, "Trick or..." and can't remember the rest.

4. By the end of the night, you have a bag full of restraining orders.

3. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece.

2. You're the only Power Ranger in the neighborhood with a walker.

1. You avoid going to houses where your ex-wives live. 

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POSITIONS NOW OPEN:

Five cannibals get appointed as programmers in an IT company.

During the welcoming ceremony the boss says: "You're all part of our team now. You can earn good money here, and you can go to the company canteen for something to eat. So don't trouble the other employees." The cannibals promise not to trouble the other employees.

A month later the boss returns and says: "You're all working very hard, and I'm very satisfied with all of you. However, one of our cleaners has disappeared. Do any of you know what happened to her?" The cannibals disavow all knowledge of the missing cleaner.

After the boss has left, the leader of the cannibals says to the others: "Which of you idiots ate the cleaner?" A hand raises hesitantly, to which the leader of the cannibals says: "You fool! For four weeks we've been eating Team Leaders, Managers, and Project Managers so no one would notice anything, and you have to go and eat the cleaner!"

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QUICK WIT:

Religions must serve humanity, not the other way around.