Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Last week was a much less busy here than two weeks ago. Anne had a couple of meetings to attend, dinner with the girls and shopping at the outlet stores in Truckee, CA. I worked late on a Color LaserJet for a ComputerLand customer because the replacement part had been redesigned and wouldn't fit in with the original parts. Of course, Tech Support didn't tell me that until after 7pm!
I was mad as a wet hornet! After not a little ranting I convinced the manager to send the whole drawer (not just another part) and do it overnight for the same total price as the original part. This customer was, after all, a hospital and couldn't afford to have this printer down. Otherwise, I would have packed it in at 5:00 and just come back in the morning. NOT an option here.

Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place

From a recent "Fred on Everything" column about his buddy Gopher who worked with him at a gas station when he they were teenagers.

One day a woman pulled up to the island in a Corvair - a car, now extinct, that was shaped like a bar of soap and low to the ground. The car was as short as Gopher was tall. From altitude Gopher asked, "Can I help you, Ma'am?

"Do you have a rest room?"

The distance was too great. Gopher thought she had said, "Whisk broom," and responded, "No, Ma'am, but we could blow it out for you with the air hose." 

In the resulting turmoil, Gopher had no idea why she was yelling at him. 

It seems that Laura came home from Nursery School one day and announced that Kevin had pee-peed in the yard.

Since Laura was one of the older children in the Nursery School group, her parents wanted to impress on her that she should try to help the younger children learn right from wrong, so they asked "Well, Laura honey, how big is Kevin?"

Whereupon Laura held her two index fingers an inch or so apart and said "Oh, about this big."

Roberta writes:
One day my housework-challenged husband decided to wash his sweatshirt. Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to me, "What setting do I use on the washing machine?"

"It depends," I replied. "What does it say on your shirt?"

He yelled back, "Detroit Red Wings."

The author of one of my subscriptions writes:
According to my mom, my dad was with me once when I was a teenager and I had to have an operation. Pop was watching every move the doctor made. At one point he asked, "What's that?"

The doctor explained, "This is an anaesthetic. After he gets this he won't know a thing."

"Save your time, Doc," Pop explained, "He don't know nothing now."

Spam Masquerades as Admin Alerts
By Brian McWilliams

A new breed of pop-up ads is appearing mysteriously on Microsoft Windows users' computers. The so-called "Messenger spams" have security experts and system administrators scratching their heads -- and recipients fuming. 

Some of the ads, which hit Windows systems through back door networking ports and not by e-mail or Web browsing, appear to have been generated by Direct Advertiser, a $700 software program developed by Florida-based DirectAdvertiser.com. 

By tapping into Messenger, a Windows service originally designed to enable system administrators to send messages to users on a network, Direct Advertiser can deliver "completely anonymous and virtually untraceable" ads "straight to the screen of your client," according to the company's web site. 

"Now somebody on the other side of the world can sit there and pop up messages on your screen," said Gary Flynn, a security engineer at James Madison University, where users have recently reported receiving pop-up spam selling university diplomas. 

The Messenger service, not to be confused with Microsoft's MSN Messenger chat client, is enabled by default on Windows 2000, NT and XP systems, according to Lawrence Baldwin, operator of the myNetWatchman computer intrusion reporting service. Baldwin said potentially millions of systems may be vulnerable to the pop-ups, also known as "NetBIOS Spam." 

According to DirectAdvertiser.com's lead developer Lenard Iszak, the program can generate about 5,000 pop-up messages per hour, hitting more than one recipient per second. A demonstration of the Direct Advertiser software enables users to target a range of Internet addresses, such as those assigned to a specific ISP or a particular country. 

Zoltan Kovacs, founder of DirectAdvertiser.com, said the company has sold about 200 copies of the program since launching two months ago. According to Kovacs, the software is ideal for advertising 900-number and other telephone services. 

"I have customers who call me back and tell me they love it and it generates hundreds of calls right away," said Kovacs, who noted that Direct Advertiser is a good alternative to bulk e-mail because its messages are not regulated by spam laws. 

According to Flynn, many network administrators are puzzled over how the ads have weaseled through firewalls onto users' computers. While Windows Messenger traditionally uses commonly protected ports 137 and 139, Flynn said the recent pop-ups appear to use port 135, which is often left unprotected by a firewall because it's a vital conduit for communicating with a Microsoft service called RPC. 

Since mid-September, numerous myNetWatchman participants have received repeated probes on port 135 from a handful of Internet protocol addresses assigned to Everyones Internet (EV1.net), an Internet service provider in Houston, according to Baldwin. The numeric addresses translate into "NetBIOS machine names" that begin with WEBPOPUP and that have appeared in several recent ads, he said. 

EV1.net officials, who did not respond to interview requests, are investigating the issue, according to Baldwin. 

Now that spammers have pioneered the Windows Messenger technology, worm writers may be next to target the service, according to Harlan Carvey, a security engineer with a financial services firm. 

"I'm sure we're going to see spyware or malware that makes use of this," Carvey said. 

Carvey and other security experts said users can protect themselves from unwanted pop-ups by disabling the Windows Messenger service and/or properly configuring their firewalls. 

According to Kovacs, he hasn't promoted Direct Advertiser aside from touting it in a link from the control panel of StealthMail Master, a program he also markets that promises to hide bulk e-mailers' IP addresses. 

In December 2001, DirectAdvertiser.com's Iszak lost a dispute with America Online over the domain ICQmultipager.com. According to an archive of the site, ICQ MultiPager enabled users to broadcast ads to users of AOL's ICQ chat service.


Quick Update:

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With their lowest price plan, you can use BAMnet's nationwide Internet access for as low as 4.5 cents per minute!
To see all of their updated pricing, visit http://www.bamnet.com/newrates.html
Or, to take advantage of the new pricing! Give them a call at 877-322-6638, 9am-5pm EST, Monday through Friday.

Note: new rates effective Friday, November 1

Business burglaries raise fears of ID theft
By Russ Wiles 

Lately, Iíve been hearing of mortgage companies in the Phoenix-area getting hit by burglaries. In at least a couple of cases, computers were the main items stolen.

Anyone who has refinanced a mortgage can see this as worrisome. After all, few documents contain so much personal information as a loan application. Names, addresses, phone numbers and birth dates. Social Security numbers, bank account records, employment histories and perhaps tax returns.

A typical mortgage application contains ample raw materials for opening false accounts, obtaining fake identity cards and wreaking other havoc.

Stolen loan records could do quite a bit of damage to a lot of good people, said Linda Pecanic, regional security manager for M&I Bank in Phoenix.

Theft or loss of personal computers isnít an isolated problem. Just last month, an audit revealed the Internal Revenue Service canít account for an unknown number of laptops used by volunteers to help low-income, elderly and other taxpayers file returns. The Customs Service and Justice Department also are missing computers.

When Fairway Independent Mortgage of Phoenix was burglarized in July, computers were among the items taken. Branch manager Nino Pascale said he doesnít think sensitive information was compromised, as the computers held little personal data aside from client names and addresses.

We havenít heard from any clients (suffering identity theft problems), he said.

Provident Partners Mortgage of Scottsdale, Ariz., was burglarized this month. Computers were taken, as were Rolodex files - possible sources of passwords and card numbers.

Owner Ken Sachs is hopeful client data were not compromised, but heís not sure. Some of the PCs did contain client information, he said, though the machines were password-protected.

Provident is notifying clients to have credit bureaus place a fraud alert in their files.

As these cases show, the ID-theft risks are vast. Mortgage firms, banks, brokerages, utilities, merchants and others all hold sensitive personal information. While businesses try to safeguard this data, itís impossible to plug all leaks. Consumers must take precautions, too.

Step one is to order credit reports from each of the Big Three credit bureaus at least once a year. They are Equifax (www.equifax.com; (800) 685-1111), Experian/Credit Data Southwest (www.cdsw.com; (602) 252-6951) and TransUnion (www.transunion. com; (800) 916-8800). By law, the bureaus can charge up to $9 per report.

If you think your personal data were somehow compromised, as I suspected when my community mailbox was broken into, have the credit bureaus place a fraud alert in your files. This will prompt credit card firms to call if an account is opened in your name. Separate fraud numbers are available for Equifax, (800) 525-6285, and TransUnion, (800) 680-7289.

Get in the habit of checking monthly bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges. Donít toss mail from unknown merchants before finding out if itís a bill for a purchase made in your name.

And donít ignore precautions such as shredding unwanted credit card solicitations. To halt such offers, call (888) 5OPTOUT. You will be asked to supply your Social Security number.

More options:

Lane County Waste Management Division in Eugene, OR, has a succinct list of other ways to fight things such as Junk Mail, direct Mailings, and Unwanted Mail generally. They also have suggestions that will reduce or eliminate your susceptibility to these things. Check out the many brochures they have, especially the one titled Reduce Junk Mail Brochure:


WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? The Washington state Supreme Court has overturned the voyeurism conviction of Richard Sorrells, who was caught using a video camera to record the view up the women's skirts at a summer festival. The court ruled that such voyeurism is "disgusting and reprehensible" but not illegal. "A citizen has to be warned by clear language in a statute that particular conduct is a crime in order to be punished as a criminal," says Sorrells' lawyer, Ken Sharaga. State law protects people from voyeurism in places where they "would have a reasonable expectation of privacy," but the court found that people should not expect privacy in a public place. (Seattle Post- Intelligencer) ...Only a court of law, not justice, could rule that women cannot have an "expectation of privacy" in their own skirts.

EMBARRASSING BURNING SENSATION: Two unidentified boys, aged 15 and 16, were trying to show each other how brave they were, say police in Elgin, Ill. The boys were putting gasoline on their underpants and lighting it on fire, then smothering the flames. "They continued to do this for three rounds," said a police spokesman. After that, "the shorts were drenched in so much gasoline that they were unable to extinguish it anymore." The 16-year-old was treated for burns, but won't be charged with any crime, police say. "Each one of them participated by their own free will. Being totally stupid is not a crime." (Arlington Heights Daily Herald) ...Ah, but it is. Violations are punished by the perpetrators' own actions.

PROFESSIONAL PHARISAICALNESS: When George W. Bush announced his "faith- based" charity initiative to give tax dollars to church-based charities to provide social services, many church leaders denounced the idea. One of the most vocal was the founder of the Christian Coalition, TV evangelist the Rev. Pat Robertson. Church-based charities "will begin to be nurtured, if I can use that term, on federal money, and then they can't get off of it," he warned. "It'll be like a narcotic; they can't then free themselves later on." The first $30 million in grants have been issued. "We had over 500 applicants," said a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman. "It was extremely competitive." First in line: Operation Blessing International of Virginia Beach, Va., which was awarded $500,000. Operation Blessing was founded by Robertson, and he remains its chairman. (Washington Post) ...Cut Robertson some slack!
He needed a clear example of religious hypocrisy to use as an example in his next televised sermon.

JUMPED SHIP: William Dean Sullivan, 36, of Nanaimo, B.C., Canada, apparently wanted to go on a cruise. He allegedly tried to stow away on a ship as it left Vancouver -- by bungee jumping off the Lions Gate Bridge as it passed underneath. Apparently figuring he could drop down after settling just above the deck, Sullivan instead slapped into the ship's tennis court, then bounced back up. As he stretched out the cord again, the railing at the stern hit him as it went by. He was left hanging from the bridge, and then rappelled into the water where he was picked up by a passing boat. "There were shrieks of horror from down below," said a witness on the bridge. "I guess the people saw him coming, you know, on the ship. I guess he missed." Sullivan was charged with mischief after being treated for minor head injuries. (Vancouver Sun) ...Game, set and match.

IT'S ALL IN THEIR HEADS: "Men Think Their Way to Fertility" -- Reuters headline

MANY PEOPLE WERE OUTRAGED at the story last week, where a kid was suspended after reporting a fellow student passed some pot to him in class. Yes, the kid who "tattled" was suspended (no word on the kid that passed it) -- because he waited until after class to tell his counselor, rather than the teacher whose nose this was happening under. Sharon in California says this sort of reaction is not unique: "This incident reminds me of one about 15 years ago when my son was in 8th grade. Jason knew that many kids at school were sniffing glue and other substances. Because he was concerned about it, he called the poison control center and got 'the facts.' Then he went to the principal and suggested that the school needed to undertake an educational program to warn kids about how dangerous 'sniffing' was. But instead of educating the students as Jason requested, they expelled him for refusing to 'name names.' I was proud of him for his actions, and angry at the school for their short-sighted stance!"

[It appears that more and more, Zero Tolerance = Zero Effort - DP]


I don't know if these sites will be up next year when the Fourth of July rolls around, so go play with it now (while you still can)!


Damn Pop-Up Windows

Do you hate those advertisements that "pop-up" on top of, or sometimes underneath of, your browser? If you've ever been on MSN, Yahoo, AOL or almost any other popular service, you've been hit with these annoyances. Ads, banners, surveys and come-ons assault the casual internet surfer on a daily basis. Sometimes you can't even see them because there isn't a viewable window, just a "button" on your Taskbar. These are actually the most nefarious kind, because they're usually tracking your travels across the web!

There is a solution. It's called a Pop-Up killer or stopper. Most of them are Shareware, which means that you download it and try the program for a while and if you like it you pay for it. But I've found one that is FREE! It's called Pop-Up Stopper and it works as good as, or better than, the filters that you have to buy. Very few of us have a warm place in our hearts for browser windows that pop up in front of the screen without permission. The free Pop-Up Stopper prevents them (and pop-under windows) from displaying.

Download Pop-Up Stopper FREE Edition today, but don't bother getting Pop-Up Stopper Companion. It adds nothing to Pop-Up Stopper's abilities and just puts more garbage on your browser's Toolbar.


Grandmas giving care
by Sevil Hunter 

Esther Sirkin of Reno is a modern-day granny nanny. Her business card even has the title underneath her name, with a caricature of a smiling white-haired woman printed on the corner. Her clientele: Six-year-old granddaughter Rivka Sirkin.

Despite the common perception of far-flung families and globe-trotting baby-boomer grandparents, recent surveys found that grandmas are still the most common child-care providers when parents work outside the home.

For those fortunate enough to have willing and able parents, the so-called "granny nannies" often fill a need by watching kids part-time or during irregular hours such as nights or weekends.

"Itís a sacrifice, but one I was willing to make," said Esther Sirkin. "But what people donít know is that being a granny nanny is much different 

than being a grandmother who pops in for a night or takes the child out for a few hours at a time. A granny nanny is the one who takes over when Mom is gone. Itís worth it, but it can be quite demanding."

Thereís no comparison to a relativeís devotion when it comes to child care, even for those who can afford a child-care center or paid nanny.

A 2001 AARP survey of 1,500 grandparents found that 15 percent provided child care while parents worked and nearly a quarter baby-sat at least once every two weeks.

"The relationship with her grandmother is an important one," said Nancy Sirkin of Reno. "What we have is special." 

A recent University of Washington study showed informal care arrangements were popular at all income levels, with most citing familiarity as the main reason they chose relative care givers. 

"Thereís no one most parents would rather leave their child with than their grandparents," said Susan Newman, a Rutgers University professor who is studying adult childrenís relationship with their parents.

Grandparents also may be willing to do out-of-the norm care thatís not as profitable for formal providers. In the University of Washington study, about half of all hours were in the evening or on weekends; nearly a fifth of care givers cared for a special-needs child; and care is usually part-time, averaging 18 hours.

On average, grandparents give one-on-one attention to children, compared with a ratio of one adult to every five young children in a center, according to the University of Washington study.

"Grandparents who provide child care build connections with their grandchildren for life," Newman said. "That tight, tight bond gives kids a real sense of security and a strong sense of identity with their family."

But for all the advantages, even families with good relationships should anticipate some problems, experts say.

"Parents need to be really careful not to take advantage of grandparents and not go overboard with the hours," said Nancy Wilson, program specialist with Penn State University Cooperative Extensionís Better Kid Care program, which works with informal care givers. "Parents and grandparents need to talk ahead of time so everybody knows what to expect."

Experts advise all parties to be clear about expectations when setting up arrangements so the emotional connections that make family care so gratifying are not the same ones that leave either side resentful or unwilling to continue.

Tips for parents and their Ďgranny nanniesí
∑ Set ground rules up front. Address issues where there might be generational differences, such as in discipline.
∑ Show appreciation.
∑ Offer to pay, or consider trading services, such as mowing the grass, doing car repair or bringing extra portions of meals. Some parents give small, useful gifts such as certificates to movie theaters or restaurants.
∑ Avoid bringing up the past. Focus on now.
∑ Donít take grandparents for granted.
∑ Parents may need a backup plan. Grandparents may also be more likely to have health problems that require a break from care giving.
∑ Be clear about a grandparentís separate roles. It may be easier for young children to understand the difference if the roles are split by houses: fun grandma at her house, no-candy-bars-for-breakfast grandma at home.
∑ Encourage grandparents to stay current on child-development and care issues.


Life appears throughout the universe wherever and whenever conditions are right, much as waves appear on the ocean when windy conditions arise. As a wave is simply an individual expression of the greater ocean, so too are we expressions of the greater life of the universe.