Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Last Thursday night I attended the local "Silent Dinner" where people from the deaf community join Sign Language teachers and their students for an evening of food and fun. I've only been learning S.E.E. (Signing Exact English) for a couple of weeks and I have to admit, I felt like a kid at Thanksgiving Dinner. You remember those days, when the adults sat at the "big" table and the kids were relegated to the "little" table.
The one saving factor was that I wasn't the only "child" there and managed to strike up simple conversations with others that were either students themselves or willing to go slow enough for me to follow. I was also thankful for the manual alphabet that we could fall back on when necessary. If I was signing to an ASL (American Sign Language) user and didn't know the right sign I could at least spell it out!
Something that might need to be said about the A.S.L. and S.E.E. systems is that A.S.L. is the language of choice in the deaf community. It's what those who have communication challenges (various degrees of speech and/or hearing loss) use on a daily basis. Its primary use is simple conversation with many short-cuts, colloquialisms and meanings that change depending on usage. A.S.L. is their primary language and English (spoken or signed) is a second language to them. S.E.E. expands on A.S.L. with a "1 sign = 1 word" philosophy.
Although this leads to a better comprehension of the English language it does mean that an S.E.E. user will have signs that don't match up with A.S.L. but, as I found out, I was able to pick up bits and pieces of conversation all up and down the table regardless. It's fascinating to be able to "hear" what people are talking about 15 seats away without having to strain or "filter out" other noise.
Towards the end of the evening, when the crowd had dwindled to about a dozen or so, my teacher started telling stories about me and how I would check "the yellow book" to make sure that her signing was correct. In my defense I explained that the name of the class was "Signing EXACT English" which inadvertently broke everyone up when I added the "ish" sign to England. Although proper for S.E.E. it simply isn't bothered with in A.S.L. where the usage implies English or England.
None-the-less, the A.S.L. users (esp. the deaf one) really got into it when the discussion got into the "correct" way of signing various letters. My favorite was Vince, who had obviously been deaf for a long time. His facial expressions and body movement were so good that, although he went very fast, I was able to follow much of what he said.
At one point, when there were several of us debating how difficult it was to differentiate between "E" and "O" at a distance, Vince told everybody that we were all wrong about the shape of the letter "O" and that, although the two hand shapes are very close, "O" needed to be signed sideways to make it obvious it's an "O"!
Well, DUH! Why didn't I think about that?

How Old are You

Just in case you weren't feeling old today, this will certainly change things. Each year the staff at Beloit College in Wisconsin put together a list to try to give the faculty a sense of the mind set of this year's incoming freshmen.

Here's this year's list:

1) The people who are starting college this fall across the nation were born about 1983.
2) They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up.
3) Their lifetime has always included AIDS.
4) Bottle caps have always been screw off and/or plastic.
5) They've never bought a vinyl record; music has always come on a CD.
6) They have always had an answering machine.
7) They have always had cable TV.
8) They cannot fathom not having a remote control.
9) Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight Show.
10) Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.
11) They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.
12) They can't imagine what hard contact lenses are.
13) They don't know who Mork was or where he was from.
14) They've never heard:
a.. "Where's the Beef?",
b.. "I'd walk a mile for a Camel", or
c.. "de plane Boss, de plane".
15) They do not care who shot J. R. and have no idea who J. R. even is.
16) Michael Jackson has always been white.
17) McDonald's never came in Styrofoam containers.
18) They don't have a clue how to use a typewriter.

New Microsoft security patch 

While "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance" (Thomas Jefferson), the price of secure computing is eternal patching.

Last week, Microsoft released yet another patch for Internet Explorer 5.01, 5.5 and 6.0. This one corrects six vulnerabilities -- the worst of which could let a hacker run ANY program on your computer! Microsoft says you should download and install the patch immediately from:


Thanks for Packing My Parachute 

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience. 

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!" 

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb. 

"I packed your parachute," the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!" Plumb assured him, "It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today." 

Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, "I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said Good morning, how are you?' or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor."

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know. 

Now, Plumb asks his audience, "Who's packing your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory-he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety. 

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. 

As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute. I am sending you this as my way of thanking you for your part in packing my parachute!!! And I hope you will send it on to those who have helped pack yours! 

Sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes to us without writing a word, maybe this could explain: When you are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do -- you forward jokes. 

And to let you know that you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still loved, you are still cared for, guess what you get...A forwarded joke. 

So my friend, next time if you get a joke, don't think that you've been sent just another forwarded joke, but that you've been thought of today and your friend on the other end of your computer wanted to send you a smile. 

To all of my friends, let me take this opportunity to thank you for having 'Packed My Chute' each and every day of our acquaintance. 

[thanks to Joannie Robson for this one]


THE BARE FACTS: Two University of Maine students charged with indecent conduct for streaking near school defended themselves in court. Kathryn Mann, 21, and Debra Ballou, 20, argued before District Court Judge Jesse Gunther in Bangor that the law specifies that violations are a result of perpetrators who "knowingly expose their genitals in public." Ballou asked the arresting officer if he "saw my genitalia." Orono Police officer John Ewing answered, "Not that I recall." Ballou rested her case. The female judge, noting that female genitalia are "primarily internal," dismissed the charges for lack of evidence. (Bangor Daily News) ...That's another difference between men and women. No man could bear arguing in court that there was a "lack of evidence" in a case of indecent exposure.

THE OTHER SIDE: The supervisors of the Township of Locust, Pa., have unanimously passed a new ordinance banning public nudity in the town limits, including "the showing of covered male genitals in a discernible turgid state." Township attorney Todd Kerstetter promises that the law would not apply to "normal occurrences." however. The law is simply "meant to go a little further to expand the definition of nudity," he says. (Bloomsburg Press Enterprise) ... New definition of obscenity: "I even know it when I don't see it."

BENJAMIN BRADDOCK HAS HIS OWN IDEAS, MRS. ROBINSON: "Future Bright for Super Stainless Steel" -- AFP headline 


Scan Your PC, Free!

For those of you that still haven't purchased Anti-Virus protection, there is an AV program out there that you can download for free. It ain't the best, but then if you wanted the best you'd already own McAfee, wouldn't you? The "bang-for-the-buck" ratio on this one is hard to argue with ($0.00) and it is, of course, better than nothing. It's called AVG 6.0 Anti-Virus and all you have to do is register with the site to get your free copy. They will email you a serial number for the installation, so don't lie about your email address on the form.

If you think that you have a virus and don't know if your anti-virus software is up to date, then here's the place you should go: TrendMicro has an online virus scanning tool in their FreeTools area. They call it HouseCall and it's a free, online scanner that detects viruses and cleans your PC. There's nothing to install and nothing to update once you accept their plug in for your browser.



The Night the Maia Sank
By John Coutts
Shetland Isles, Scotland

I grew up in the 1950s, a time when most of the western world was obsessed with the threat of communism. The McCarthy era in the USA had made everyone twitchy. Even on the tiny remote island where I lived, in the far north of Scotland, we knew all about the possibility of "Reds under the beds."

No doubt it served to confirm the perceived communist conspiracy when fishing boats from the Soviet Union started to arrive in Scottish waters in ever-increasing numbers. By the late 1950s there were always hundreds of Soviet trawlers lying anchored close inshore around most of the inhabited islands.

For a young boy it was fun. The long dark winter nights were lit by dozens of flashing searchlights that raked the shoreline all night long.
The summer days were a constant blast of pop music played on every deck loudspeaker of every ship within miles. It must have been intimidating for older people, but I was oblivious to all that.

Then one January night in 1962, when islanders were just sitting down to their early evening meal, the sharp explosion of marine distress rockets was heard above the rising howl of the force-10 gale outside.

The local volunteer coast guard hurriedly mobilized themselves and prepared for the first real sea rescue they had ever faced. A Soviet trawler had dragged her anchor and struck the cliffs close to where I lived. They rescued 12 men, including the captain, by breeches buoy before the ship sank. The other 12 were rescued by a lifeboat from another Soviet trawler.

The men were dispersed in two's and three's throughout the houses on our island. All of them were soaking wet and cold. They had lost everything they had except their lives.

That night they listened to Radio Moscow on our old valve radio. They joked and laughed and shook our hands often. They showed us damp photographs of wives and children, and they dried out packs of cigarettes which they insisted on sharing with everyone. Some of them could speak some English. Even when they had nothing left to give, gesture or say -- they still smiled.

All I could think was: "Here were the communists and they were warm and friendly, joking and generous -- not dark, evil and menacing," as I had been told they would be.

The following morning a small Soviet lifeboat docked at our little jetty to take the men away. Before leaving, the captain turned to us children and handed us each a small coin from his pocket saying, "Keep this coin and remember the night the ship was wrecked on your island." I still have that coin, a simple 15 Kopek piece.

I don't know what happened to him or the other men, but I sincerely hope they were not punished for losing their ship. The lessons they taught an 11-year-old boy that night about kindness, warmth and friendliness have never been forgotten.


Develop a profound belief in the universal law of cause and effect -- the empowering conviction that we all ultimately direct our own lives.