Today in History

On February 24, 1863, Arizona was organized as a territory.
Before that the place was an absolute shambles with newspapers and unopened mail littering the living room, laundry piled on the dining room table, and a half dozen bowling pins scattered in the upstairs hall.

World's Most Dangerous Meme

I just ran across a meme that leaves me breathless. I can’t decide whether the guy who came up with it is an absolute idiot, or a criminal genius.
In case you’ve somehow missed out on this craze (in which case, I’m deeply jealous), a reasonable colloquial definition of a “meme” is that it’s a series of questions that you’re supposed to answer and either reply back to everyone on the email you received it in (plus perhaps everyone you know) or, more recently, post the answers on your blog and encourage others to copy and answer on their own blogs.
Now I’ll admit, I’ve participated in a few of these things, most recently a list of “Have you ever done these things?” but I’m generally reluctant to share much in the way of personal information. (A co-worker recently commented that she knows I take time off from time to time, but never had any idea where I was going.)
This new meme terrifies me. I don’t know whether it originated as email, or in blogs, but what you do is start off with your real name (or perhaps even your full name), and then make up your “Witness Protection Name”, “Nascar Name”, “Stripper Name” and so on. The way you create these names is through various concatenations of the name of your first pet, the name of the first street you lived on, your mother’s maiden name, and various other bits of information that are normally reserved for establishing your identity when you open a bank or credit account.
Armed with that information, a scammer should have no trouble impersonating someone who participated in the meme.
What scares me is that a member of my immediate family fell for this one, which means my identity has been compromised too.
Some days, I truly hate the Internet.

Reply to All

More than once, I’ve seen where somebody hit “Reply-to-All” when responding to a company-wide email. I’ve seen people follow-up by using “Reply-to-All” to tell people not to use “Reply-to-All.” And just once, about five years ago, I’ve seen that escalate to three or four levels of people saying “You idiot! Don’t use Reply-to-All.”
I’m not sure how much coverage the news story got outside the DC area, but back in January, employees of the US State Department managed to cripple their own email system by hitting “Reply-to-All.”
Gene Weingarten’s matter-of-fact reporting of that event has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in quite a while.


For the sixth year in a row, I’m the webmaster for the Shore Leave Science Fiction convention. Clearly this proves I’m insane, but insanity can be a good thing.

A couple weeks ago I got the word from Kett (the person responsible for booking the actors) that there would be a bunch of actors to announce this past weekend and could I possibly put up a message saying that a guest announcement was pending. So I put a message on the home page, along with a set of photos of a plush bunny labeled “Guest to be Announced Soon!” The guest names, photos and biographies came in over the next several days.

Kett called me on Sunday so we could doublecheck that everything was ready to go with the announcement. During the conversation, she mentioned that the people who participate on the GateWorld message board (a Star Gate fan site) loved the bunny photos and had been digging into the web site, trying to find clues about who the guests might be and checking for updates on a very regular basis (I’d noticed a spike in traffic as soon as the announcement went up).

At that point, all I needed was the official “Go Ahead” from the convention chairs. In the meantime, I couldn’t help myself. I added a message on the home page saying, “Hello GateWorlders! The update is nearly here, just making sure we chase off all the wraiths first.” (Wraiths being the villains, or in this case, an analog for last minute glitches – nothing like having problems come up during a high-profile update.)
I took a look at GateWorld site and found the thread where they were chatting about Shore Leave. Kett wasn’t fooling about their level of activity.

6:28 PM EST: I posted the first “Hello GateWorld” message on the home page.
6:31 PM: The first GateWorlder reported that a new message had appeared.
8:08 PM: I updated the message to say “The update is nearly here, we’re dialing the chevrons now.” (“Dialing the chevrons” being something analogous to dialing a phone number people on the show do when they’re programming the stargate with a destination.)
8:11 PM: The update was noticed!
8:15 PM: A final message, “Chevrons locked. Update in progress.” (The “phone call” was connected, the exploration team can now walk through to another planet.)
8:17 PM: The message was noticed almost immediately and people started hitting the web site in earnest, trying to be the first to see the update.
The home page is always the last thing I update. That way nobody sees a guest announcement, until all the details are visible. (Even with my high speed connection, updates still take a few moments.)
8:22 PM: They even read The News Page! Nobody ever reads the news page! It doesn’t contain nearly as many details as the other pages.
8:24 PM: And the fans go wild….

Judging by the comments on the GateWorld site, some of those folks probably think I’m a bit cruel.

Exclusive Coverage: Obama Eats Lunch!!!

OK, I haven’t seen that headline yet, but when I was taking a break on Monday afternoon, I did see this one:
President Obama bumps his head
It seems that as the president was boarding Marine One, he paused to wave to people on the ground and didn’t duck low enough to clear the helicopter’s doorway. And with everything else that’s going on the world right now, CNN decided to put that story on their home page. (They also hastened to assure us that Mister Obama wasn’t harmed in the incident.)
Y’know, there’s a fine line between enthusiastic media coverage and stalking. CNN didn’t step over that line so much as they pole-vaulted.

Fiscal Policy

I lived off-campus during my senior year of college. I don’t recall whether it was me, or a friend who lived across the hall, but one of us glued a nickel to the floor in the hallway. For the next six months, every Friday and Saturday night you could hear drunks tripping as they tried to pick it up.
This random memory brought to you by Elmer’s, manufacturer of Crazy Glue and many other high quality adhesives.

What are the overdraft fees are for a bounced reality check?

Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

  • According to a statistic I heard on the radio during my drive home this evening, approximately 9,000 people per day are losing their jobs.
  • Also according to various news sources, the median pay for members of Congress is approximately $200,000 per year.
  • A couple months ago, members of Congress received a pay increase. (This was an automatic raise, not one they had to vote for.)
  • The Senate has 100 members, the House of Representatives has 435.
  • Hey! I just came up with a way to trim the Federal budget by $110,600,000!!!

Pot, Kettle, Black

With all the talk over the past few weeks about Peanut Corporation of America’s big salmonella-flavored peanut recall, I was mildly amused by today’s User Friendly strip about the recall. True, it’s not uproariously funny, but I found it amusing and passed it on to a few people.
Dad wrote back: “you have too much free time”
That verdict might have carried a bit more sting if it hadn’t come from the same guy who had just moments earlier sent me detailed instructions on how to “test” a motion-activated sprinkler:

To test the sprinkler –
Insert battery(ies) as required,
Stick sprinkler in ground,
Connect hose to sprinkler and hose bib,
Turn on water,
Walk past sprinkler.