Nightmare election

The moonbeam slashed through the darkness of the bedroom like a glow-in-the-dark spoon through hot chocolate. The light seemed unnatural, causing microscopic specks of dust dancing in mid-air to glow like the ghosts of atoms gone by.

At first I thought it was a dream—it felt like the inside a Tim Burton movie. There was no color, just black and white. I could *feel* the moonlight creep across my face, as if it was a *thing*. I could look down on myself, and see my eyes highlighted in a band of clear white light, like a close-up in an old Joan Crawford movie.

I could hear myself breathing like a stranger. I could feel the covers pressing me down as if I was a corsage between the pages of War and Peace. The only things I could move were my eyes. They moved back and forth, like a searchlight at a Hollywood premiere—seeing nothing but night.

And then... I could *feel* a sound. Like Ricky Ricardo using my ear drums for Babalu. I could feel the tiny hammers in my head beating out a sound I'd never heard before.

Floup. Ssssp. So loud I wanted to cover my ears, but I couldn't move. Floup. Ssssp. Sharper. Closer. Floup. Ssssp. Time moved glacially. My eyes darted like bats, trying to see where the sound was coming from.

A mouse? No, it sounded more like a miniature kangaroo with a limp. I peered over the edge of the bed. What *was* that thing? My eyes adjusted, nocturnally. It looked like a hand, slapping the ground, then clenching its fingers to move itself. Yeah, right.

It was Halloween eve, so I figured I was dreaming. But if I was dreaming, I'd never think I was dreaming. Would I?

Wait, it wasn't a hand at all... it was a monkey's paw! Then, in a very dream-like way which felt totally real, I was now in a line at the fire station. In line to vote. In my underwear.

I got my ballot and went into the booth. I was ready to mark the ballot when, to my horror, I realized my hand was missing. I couldn't mark my ballot. It had to be a dream, yet it was too real. I could see the linoleum floor, a light gray with black specs. I could hear everyone talking—about the rain, about getting cords of wood for heating. My wet wool sweater smelled slightly sheepish. I could feel myself sweating.

I looked at my ballot, and out of the corner of my right eye, I saw it. The paw was crawling to the ballet, dragging a pencil with it. I was frozen as it climbed onto the ballot. I felt nauseous watching it vote for people I didn't want in office.

Each vote was just one tiny mark, but with each mark I felt my life changing. The world changing. And I was powerless to choose. I realized the paw was brainless. It was just voting for the candidate that the polls had said would win. It didn't care if candidates were qualified, or had a snowball's chance in hell of winning, it just kept ticking them off. Ticking me off, too.

I tried to scream, but no sound came out. I thought about all those people in countries without elections. Those people didn't have a choice—but I did—if only I could do something about this hideous appendage usurping my vote.

I remembered that John F. Kennedy had won over Richard Nixon by *less* than one vote per precinct. What if this paw made that one critical vote? As it crawled out of the booth to place the ballot in the box, I decided I had to do something. I tried to stomp on it, but missed. I tried again, but the paw had dropped a banana peel, and I slipped, hit my head on the linoleum and blacked out.

When I awoke, I had been transmogrified into that most pitiful of all creatures. Yes, I was an "undecided." The future was not mine. I had lost it. Oddly, the election was now a week away, and the TV networks were already predicting the results through their digital crystal balls (after all, why would I want something as mundane as the actual news when I could hear predictions about events that haven't even happened yet from people who had been consistently wrong in the past).

I dreamt I woke in a cold sweat. I couldn't feel my hand. I would have to type the FuseLetter with my nose and settle for people in office who I couldn't even stand to look at on TV. Luckily, it was only a nightmare. But I had a vague sense of unease that it might come true (except probably for the part about the paw).

Don't let this happen to you. Choose or lose. Make up your mind and vote.

It's not hard. Even a monkey's paw can do it.

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OK—I'd just finished warning you about viruses, and then I managed to get one myself, by opening an attachment without first *carefully* looking at the file name. I only tell you this so that you'll see these things can even happen to me—and so hopefully they won't happen to you.

The attachment was titled "I_am_sorry.doc.pif" I saw .doc and I opened it, but it was really a .PIF, which sent out a virus that wormed its way into Explorer, IE, and even the most basic Windows files. The end result: when I sent an email, it would send itself out in an attachment with different names, the best being, "Me_nude.avi.pif" Needless to say, such pictures, if they were to exist would scare small children and pets, and make everyone else run screaming from the room.

I had McAfee's anti-virus on this machine, which, as I suspected, didn't do diddly. I installed Norton's Anti-Virus, but this virus prevented me from getting to the Norton, Mcaffee, or even Microsoft site—so I couldn't download the latest .dat file.

I ended up using my wife's computer to find out info about the virus from the Norton SARC site. Then I had to go to DOS, delete a bunch of important Windows files and run Norton for DOS, which took THIRTEEN HOURS of constant disk access to check all 139,000 of my files (yes, I have a lot of files), so it could repair them.

Then I had to use DOS to copy files from the original windows .cab files and reinstall them, then clean my registry file, then reinstall Norton. Then it ran another scan which took about 90 minutes, found four remaining problem files and quarantined them (and I deleted them).

What a mess. I was able to fix it, but it caused me to lose almost two days worth of work—and I was actually lucky that it didn't delete any or all of my files, which some viruses do.

And why would anyone do this to a total stranger? I don't get that at all.

Anyway, it's fine now, which is a relief, and now I save all attachments to disk (even those that I first thing are GIF, JPG or nude pictures of friends), and scan them for viruses before opening them. You should do that, too.

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NetWhistle.Com: It Blows When Your Site Goes Down

The more dependent you are on the web, the scarier it gets when your site isn't working. Unless you're going to sit there checking your own site, every few minutes, it's hard to tell when it's down.

I just read that "only 4% of dissatisfied customers will tell you, the other 96% will just go away and never come back."

So what about people who try to get to your site, but can't, because it's down. This happens to everyone (I know, it's happened to me). And the sooner you know about it and take action, the better.

Now there's a new, free way to monitor your site (and e-mail accounts) once per hour. http://www.netwhistle.com checks your site 24/7, and sends alerts to either e-mail or pagers when there's a problem.

It's a useful way to make sure your site visitors and potential customers can actually get to your web site—and send you e-mail.

If you don't even want to wait an hour to hear about a problem, then you can have it check every 5 to 30 minutes. The more often it checks, the more it costs, but even so, the cost is reasonable, from $28.95 to $48.95 a month. If you do business on your site, it's worth it.

So try it now—the one hour alert option is free, and a great way to find out how reliable your system really is.

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What are you worth? Salary.com provides online compensation information for individuals, business managers and human resource professionals. Use the Salary Wizard to research salary ranges for thousands of job titles sorted by occupation and region. When I tried it, it said I should be earning a lot more than I am. But then—money isn't everything, right? As my wife says, "You have to factor in quality of life," and since my wife is always right, enough said. http://www.salary.com

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Planet Project

Said to be the largest global online polling event...ever, this survey asks people all over the world provocative questions in eight languages. Sample questions include "Would you switch your race if you could not change it back?" and "When you die, what do you think will happen to you?

After you participate, you'll be able to compare your answers immediately to those of millions of like-minded and not so like-minded participants from around the world.

The global survey will be conducted November 15th through November 18th, 2000, but you're encouraged to pre-register now and save your spot for the November event. If you register now, they'll remind you to come back to The Planet Project in November. To register, go to http://www.planetproject.com

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One Final Word

While trick or treating (I was dressed as a Vampire Bee), I met a new friend, nine year-old Michelle Minick who told me a great joke:

What's yellow and black and dangerous?

A shark-infested custard.

I think that says it all.




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