Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. The great American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910) observed: "I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are impossible."
Along those lines, I must say that the mini-series TAKEN ( or more properly, "Steven Spielberg presents TAKEN"), on the SciFi channel, was riveting. Whether you're open to the possibility of E.T.s or not, you have to admit that simply contemplating the possibility puts a whole new wrinkle in our ego-centric existence. And the little girl narrator was the icing on the cake. I especially liked it when she said that even if they're out there "... we're ALL still alone."
That's one of the things I love about looking up at the stars. It makes me feel significant and insignificant at the same time. As small as I appear to be when looking out, I can't help but feel blessed when I look back in.

Signed,
Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place

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GRINS & GIGGLES:
Mornin', my little Geography Whiz, 

I read a story yesterday about the horrendous geography skills of people. Not just Americans, though something like 60% of people can't find Iraq on a map. ("Mr. President, the troops are waiting outside of Indiana and waiting for your signal to attack, sir.") Turns out 60% of people in Iran can't find Iraq on a map, either. ("Mr. President, Iranian troops are waiting outside of Indiana and are waiting for your signal to open their 7-11 stores, sir.")

Anyway, the dumbest of the dumb: 11% of Americans can NOT even find the United States on a map. And I got to thinking: 280 million people in the USA. 11% would be about 32 million. Isn't that how many subscribers AOL has?

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If you love someone...

THE ORIGINAL VERSION:
If you love something,
Set it free...
If it comes back, it's yours,
If it doesn't, it never was yours...

THE POSSESSIVE VERSION:
If you love somebody,
Don't ever set them free.

THE PSYCHOLOGIST'S VERSION:
If you love somebody,
Set them free...
If they come back, their super ego is dominant,
If they don't come back, their id is supreme,
If they don't go, they must be crazy.

THE MARKETING VERSION:
If you love somebody,
Set them free...
If they come back, they have brand loyalty
If they don't, reposition the brand in new markets.

THE HOUSEWIFE VERSION:
If you love something,
Set it free...
If it doesn't move, then you either gave birth to it or you married it.

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CYBERSPACE ALERT:
Digital Attacks Against U.S. Rise in November 

The number of digital attacks in the United States rose by 13 percent in November despite an 8 percent decline worldwide, according to a London-based security firm called mi2g. They counted 6,642 attacks in November against the United States, accounting for half of all the attacks worldwide that month. So far this year, according to mi2g's tracking, attacks against the United States exceeded the next four most targeted victims combined. Mi2g nodded to the recent CERT data released in November showing that the highest percentage of major new vulnerabilities impact Linux and that new Windows vulnerabilities were on the decline by that yardstick. Nonetheless, mi2g found that the most attacked operating system in November remained MS Windows at 67 percent or 9,945 of all attacks.

http://entmag.com/news/article.asp?EditorialsID=5617

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A plot to take over the net?

Behind the scenes of the Web services revolution, IBM and Microsoft are placing themselves in a position from which they could collect royalties on Internet traffic via the control of key, next- generation Internet protocols. The basis for that potential power play lies in ownership by the two giants of intellectual property within specific Web services protocols. The collective strength of IBM and Microsoft could be enough to render Internet standards consortia, such as the W3C, powerless to stop them.

http://techupdate.zdnet.com/techupdate/stories/main/0,14179,2866688,00.html

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Microsoft Wants WindowsXP.nu Domain From Hobbyist 

Steven Bink, a 32-year-old owner of an IT services company, is baffled that Microsoft has come knocking two years after he started the site, but he said he won't fight the software maker. "It's strange that Microsoft comes calling now with the fact that Windows is their brand. I want to see if there is room to negotiate, but I don't have any illusions about going to court," he said. 

Microsoft seems to be cracking down on trademark infringement. The company has also asked several small European software makers to rename products that had "Windows" in their names. The makers of Windows Spy and Windows Backup Wizard, for example, have received letters from Microsoft lawyers. [Interesting that M$ lost a case in the U.S. because the judge ruled that the term "windows" is generic. Hahaha - DP]

http://computerworld.com/governmenttopics/government/legalissues/story/0,10801,76556,00.html

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STREET ALERT:
Ever hear of "The magic of compounding interest?" You're gonna wish you had!

In a nationwide survey of people between 18-and-65 years of age, 43% said their companies did not offer 401(k) plans and a staggering 54% said they were not vested in a company pension plan. Yet, almost half the respondents said they expect to live past 80 - and with good reason. U.S. actuarial tables show that for a married couple, both age 65, there is a 60% chance one of them will live to be 90. This increasing life expectancy could require many Americans to fund 25 years of retirement. 

Despite growing life spans, 40% of those surveyed said they were saving nothing at all for their retirement; however, that same percentage did admit to either playing the lottery, entering sweepstakes, waiting for an inheritance or getting married as part of their retirement funding strategy. 

Other findings from the research show that 32% of respondents have already worked for 5 or more companies in their lifetimes. And many people, especially in the 18-34 category, said the reason they're not saving for retirement is because it's simply "too complicated." 

[thanks to Steve Smith for this one]

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TRUE STORY:

USUALLY CRIMINALS JUST SHOOT THEIR MOUTHS OFF: When Jimmy Batten, 56, arrived at his home in Brooksville, Fla., after being out for the evening, he found an intruder in his living room. He confronted the man, later identified as Sean Todd Duval, 26, who was allegedly trying to steal some guns Batten had in the house -- a rifle was lying on the floor. That's when he noticed that Duval was missing a toe on one foot after accidentally shooting himself with the rifle. "Finish me off,"
Duval begged him. "Go ahead and blow my brains out." Batten called for police and an ambulance instead. "I guess I had all the right in the world to shoot the boy," Batten said. "But I didn't." (St. Petersburg Times) ...Of course not -- not shooting him is a much more severe punishment.

KLUTZY FOOLISH CRIMINAL: Aaron Bell, 19, has been convicted of robbery after a particularly lame effort on his part: Bell decided to hit the KFC store in West Philadelphia, Penn., during the hours the safe's time lock wouldn't open. He should have known that -- he had worked as a cook at the very KFC he was robbing for 2-1/2 years. He wasn't wearing a mask or disguise, and all the employees knew who it was that was robbing them. Bell left empty-handed ...and showed up at the store to work his next-scheduled shift three days later. "He was acting like nothing had happened," said the prosecutor in the case. Employees called the police while Bell was in the men's room, changing into his uniform. (Philadelphia Daily News) ...There's clearly something more fried there than the chicken.

DRIVEN: Amanda Webster, 34, of London, England, couldn't get her car to start. "I noticed that part of the key was missing," said Keith Scott, who was dispatched by the auto club to help. He figured out that the missing bit was the transponder -- a security device that won't let the car start unless it's detected near the keyhole. Webster's toddler, Oscar, had been playing with the keys. "Mrs. Webster told me that he had been sucking the key and we realized he might have swallowed part of it." Scott had her hold the baby up to the steering wheel to get the transponder near the detector and the car started right up. The transponder was "recovered" later. (London Telegraph) ...Yeah, great security -- even a 1-year-old can start the car!

GONE POSTAL: Rep. Bob Schaffer of Ft. Collins, Colo., decided to name a post office for someone who is developmentally disabled. He sponsored a bill to honor Barney Apodaca, 60, a local man who lives on his own, works two jobs and raises money for charity. After sailing through Congress and being signed into law by President Bush, the Barney Apodaca Post Office in Ft. Collins was christened. Apodaca was surprised by the gesture. Very surprised. "No one asked me if I wanted this, and if they did I would have said 'No!'," he said when he found out later. "I don't want my name on the post office. I don't work over there. I never go to the post office." Schaffer has asked postal officials to abort their plans to put up signs and have a party to celebrate the new name. (Denver Post) ...Schaffer's next bill: a "Fight Paternalism" stamp.

CLEARLY, SOMEONE IS GOING TO LOSE FACE OVER THIS: "Face Transplants No Longer Science Fiction" -- Reuters headline

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FUN SITE:
A silly one for this week. Turn on the sound and poke the doughboy:

http://www.derekgrout.com/doughboy/doughboy2/poopboy.swf

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GREAT UTIL:
iHateSpam 

Sunbelt Software, makers of iHateSpam(tm), the top-selling junk email filtering software for Microsoft Outlook(r) and Outlook Express(r), announced today that iHateSpam is now available for just $19.95. The product had previously been available for $29.95. The pricing change is effective immediately on Sunbelt's OnLineShop; retail stores that carry the product are expected to drop their prices imminently. iHateSpam 3.1 is a powerful salvo in the escalating war against junk email. "We decided to make iHateSpam available for just $19.95, giving consumers the best solution in one cheap package," said Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software. "Best of all, people get one year of free spam definition updates, as well as our world-class technical support. It's an incredible value." 

http://www.sunbelt-software.com/product.cfm?id=930&affid=w2knews

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WebNuke

This thing works far too well, I love it. What it is, is an applet that lets you right click on any popup, and select "nuke it", and it adds an entry to your hosts file that routes the site to 127.0.0.1 [your computer's nul address - DP] , which [power users] have been doing for a while manually, but this does it auto-magically!

http://wwwnuker.tripod.com/webnuke/

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SOFTWARE:
The addictive BeJeweled

Wouldn't you know it... right in the middle of the busiest holiday season, they come out with a new version. Damn them! Now I'll never get my shopping done. The new Holiday Bejeweled has gingerbread men, Santa hats, peppermint candies, ornaments and more!

http://zone.msn.com/bejeweled/

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GAME TIME:
Neverwinter Nights

If Bejeweled isn't you cup of tea, then give my current addiction a shot. They just, last week, released a playable demo and this demo of Neverwinter Nights allows you to play through the Prelude of the single-player campaign! Start your training at the Academy as a deadly and dangerous Rogue moving through the shadows using stealth and secrecy, or as a scholarly Wizard and wield powerful magic against your enemies. Perhaps a hulking Barbarian whose lust for battle is matched only by his terrible rage is more your style, or the classic armor-clad Paladin who protects the innocent and vanquishes his foes. Once your training is complete, do battle with ugly skulking Goblins and undead Skeletons!

Be warned, though. This game is not only highly addictive, but it requires a mid-ranged gaming system to run: 450MHz processor, Windows 98 or above, 96M RAM (Win98/Me) or 128M RAM (W2k/XP) and a 16 MB TNT2-class OpenGL 1.2 compliant video card. Most systems sold today meet or exceed these requirements, so if you're up to it... dodge & parry!

http://www.fileshack.com/file.x?fid=1804 (FileShack.com)
http://www.fileplanet.com/files/110000/117661.shtml (FilePlanet)
http://www.3dgamers.com/games/neverwinternights/ (3D Gamers)

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IT'S A SMALL WORLD:
Molecular memory bank draws closer

One day you could be storing data inside molecules.
A group of scientists have found a way to manipulate the atoms in a molecule to store more than 1,000 bits of information. The researchers managed to briefly store a small image in the molecule before extracting it with the same method they used to put it there. Despite the success, the scientists say it will be a long time before their work results in working molecular memories. 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2538119.stm

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IN PASSING:
Orlando Villas Boas

In 1943, Boas joined an expedition into the Brazilian interior to map possible agricultural land. He came across so many "primitive" tribes that he realized they needed to be protected from the encroachment of modern society. The government resisted protection -- it wanted to "open up" the interior. Boas and his brother Claudio stayed in the jungle for 30 years and made "first contact" with many tribes, and learned a dozen languages to communicate with them. At the same time, the state of Mato Grosso was selling the tribes' land out from under them, and the Boas brothers' protests nearly cost them their lives. But thanks to international pressure, in 1961 the Brazilian Government created the 5.6 million acre Xingu National Park, where 17 tribes were settled to live in peace. It is estimated today that about 6,000 people live in total isolation from modern society in the park. Claudio died in 1998; Orlando died December 12 in Sao Paulo. He was 88.

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QUICK WIT:

You can make the place you are now your paradise
_