Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Next weekend Anne and I will be in Portland, Oregon, riding the most beautiful and awe-inspiring train in history. It's called "The Daylight Express" or, by those in-the-know, the 4449. Our destination will be the Deschutes River Canyon of Central Oregon. Most of the Canyon is inaccessible except by train or boat with the walls of the Canyon rising 2,200 feet above the tracks. It is little wonder why this trip has constantly ranked as the number one rail excursion in Oregon.

After traveling on the north bank of the Columbia River for 110 miles we turn south. In over 100 miles the tracks climb from the Columbia River at Wishram to the high plateau of Central Oregon at Madras with grades that approach 2%. Engine #4449 will make the climb unassisted – no diesel helpers. Listen to the sounds of a steam locomotive really work for almost 4 hours! This will be an experience one will long remember. 

The train will be composed of former Amtrak “Heritage Fleet” equipment and the Northwest Rail Museum Daylight cars. An open-door baggage car will be available to record the sights and sounds of the train as it speeds through the Columbia River Gorge and up the 2% grades of the Deschutes River Canyon.

Special Note: the 4449 has received a special Red-White-&-Blue paint job just for this trip. I'll post pictures on ThePeers.Com

Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place



A minister was walking in front of his church when he heard his five-year old son and playmates 'round back.

He walked back there and noticed the boys had found a dead bird. Feeling a proper burial was in order, they had secured a small box and some cotton batting, then dug a hole, and were now standing around the "grave."

The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers, of course. With sonorous dignity the little boy intoned HIS version of what he thought his father always said:

"Glory to be unto the Faaaaather, and unto the Sonnnn... and into the hole he goes!"

Click below to hear the Enron voice mail system announcement. If your sound is turned on and you have a reasonably current version of Macromedia's Flash, it will play automatically, so you might not want do this at work (there is a "stop" button).


Windows Messenger Woes

Dropped IM connections, loss of VOIP capabilities, spotty delivery of .Net Alerts —all are problems users are having with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Messenger real-time communications platform.

Many users are pointing the finger of blame at Microsoft's .Net application delivery framework.

Messenger became integrated with Microsoft's desktop operating system for the first time with the release in October of Windows XP. Users' problems began shortly thereafter.

The most prevalent problem users are having is with IM in the current version of Windows Messenger, Version 4.6. After upgrading to 4.6—through Windows XP's automatic upgrades feature—users said they frequently become disconnected from the service, some as often as every 5 minutes. Worse yet, they have no indication that they are disconnected until they try to send a message to another user.

"Every 5 minutes or less, it goes down, but it still shows you as being online," said Bryan Martin, a network engineer at the CRI Technical Solutions division of the Carr, Riggs, Ingram LLP accounting firm, in Panama City, Fla. "It's getting pretty annoying."

Martin upgraded 20 PCs in his office from Windows 98 to XP and got Windows Messenger 4.6. Since upgrading to 4.6, employees have had to use the telephone and e-mail for intra-office communications instead of IM.

"4.5 is fine," Martin said. "You go up to 4.6, and it screws up. But we've already upgraded. You can't reverse it now and go back to 4.5."

Windows Messenger Web bulletin boards have been lit up by users with similar complaints for several weeks.

But that's not the worst of it for Ken Knight, president of IT consultancy Help Consulting. His two-man company had been using VOIP (voice-over-IP) support in NetMeeting (a component of Windows 2000) to make PC-to-phone calls. But since upgrading to Windows XP, which promotes Windows Messenger as the VOIP platform of choice (though it still includes NetMeeting), Help Consulting has had to invest in a business-calling plan.

"XP completely stopped VOIP for PC-to-phone calls. It was fine before we installed XP. But since we upgraded to XP, we can't make PC-to-phone calls. We've had to go back to the regular phone," said Knight, in Piedmont, S.C.

Windows Messenger users who have subscribed to Microsoft's .Net Alerts service, for things such as weather and traffic updates, have also reported spotty service at best.

Derrick Phan, a network administrator in the Educational Technology Center of the Punahou School in Honolulu, tested Windows Messenger on Windows 98, ME, 2000 and XP, as well as Mac OS 9 and OS X. The disconnection problem is present on all of them.

"I believe this is not a normal issue with new software, but there is a bigger problem with .Net servers," Phan said. "This is not a problem locally on the user machine or private network, but I believe it's something to do with [the] Microsoft .Net server where Microsoft keeps track of the Passport accounts."

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was unaware of changes in Version 4.6 that would cause these connectivity issues but added that the company was addressing these problems.

"Microsoft recommends that users who have not already done so update to the latest available client for the best experience," the spokeswoman said.

Spirit of the West Story
By Shawnee Cavnar-Brown
California, USA

The summer of 2000 found me in Wyoming to see the Oregon Trail, married but traveling solo. I had two weeks worth of food and camping supplies aboard my truck, driving very slowly along the ruts in the vast and barren areas of central Wyoming.

About two miles after crossing a small highway, I came upon a gully that crossed the trail. The ditch got hold of one tire and jerked the steering wheel so both front tires were stuck. The bumper jammed into the dusty ground. There was not a house for miles and miles -- just an endless expanse of sagebrush.

I tried gearing from forward to reverse to get the truck moving, but the back tires spat dirt. I stuffed my canvas tarp and sagebrush under the tires for traction, but when I spun the tires the tarp flew out. I heard what sounded like a gunshot -- the back tire had blown out. No point changing the tire since I was stuck anyway, so I took a water canteen and hiked the trail two miles back to the highway.

When I got to the turnout I found a couple parked there, adjusting something on their truck. They drove an older truck, with a tired- looking camper hitched to its bumper. The husband and his wife appeared to be from a rural area. They were simple-looking folk, with three dogs on leashes panting beside them and Wyoming license plates. I approached and told them my dilemma.

Their truck had a winch on the front, and without a second thought, "Bill" unhooked his trailer and left it in the turnout. I hopped into their truck bed, and we drove back along the trail to my truck.

Bill managed to free my truck, and insisted on helping me change the tire. Good thing, because I didn't know how to get the spare down. When he finally lowered the spare, it was flat! Bill insisted on taking me and the spare to the nearest town, 40 miles away. There, he aired up the tire, produced a valve wrench and tightened it, and drove me back to my truck. There he changed the tire for me, and followed me all the way out to the pavement to assure my safety.

My rescuers had been heading for the Sweetwater River to fish. I offered them money, propane fuel, food, water, whiskey, etc. Seeing my tired and defeated face, he offered ME a beer. This humble fellow, a simple guy in soiled clothes, spent hours of his own time helping me, and expected nothing in return. Bill told me a "thank you" was good enough. As I drove south, I saw him pull his trailer from the turnout and head north.

The amount of kindness Bill showed me that day warmed my heart. I learned a good lesson: the finest books sometimes have the dustiest jackets.

Dungeon Siege

Over the years, my friends and I have played the "hell" out of Diablo, Diablo II and D2: Lord Of Destruction (affectionately known as "LOD"). The story line is that the war between heaven and hell has spilled over onto the earth. The world needs a hero and YOU are the only one who can cleanse it of the foul spawn, sending the demon and his offspring back to hell. But, as great as the game is (multiple Game Of The Year awards) it's time to move on. And right on time, Dungeon Siege brings 3-D adventuring into the genre ala EverQuest, but without the $10 monthly fees!

Dungeon Siege combines the immersive elements of a role- playing game with over-the-top intensity and non-stop action. Dungeon Siege plunges you into a continuous 3D fantasy world where you face off against an army of evil that has been unleashed. You begin as a humble farmer, and as you travel through the world and gain new skills, you can gather a party of up to eight characters to aid you. 

The official release date is April 4th. I'll tell you just how excited I am... I pre-ordered it! You can pre-order Dungeon Siege through three exclusive programs with Electronics Boutique, GameStop, and GameFixx.com. Personally, I went with the GameStop deal.

Adventurers who pre-order from Electronics Boutique will receive a cloth map that highlights such wondrous locales such as the Ice Caverns, Fortress Kroth and Stonebridge, all situated within the Kingdom of Ehb. 

Those who pre-order from GameStop will receive a full color 20+ page mini-strategy guide by Sybex. This guide will provide gamers with advance knowledge into the intricacies of character creation, combat, magic and character development. 

And finally, those who pre-order from GameFixx.com will receive a Dungeon Siege t-shirt featuring the Rock Beast!

hot! Hot! HOT!



We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends and movies should fail, there is still the radio and television to fill up the void... We can do our housework with soap opera hero's at our side... Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we don't even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take it's place. We must re-learn to be alone.
- Anne Morrow Lindberg


Nonviolence is the greatest virtue, cowardice is the greatest vice - nonviolence springs from love, cowardice from hate