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"Four dead in O-hi-o"

Published Friday, May 04, 2012 @ 3:42 AM EDT
May 04 2012

Egads. The Kent State killings were 42 years ago today...

(You Tube Video: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: "Ohio.")

Categories: From the archives, History, Music, Video, YouTube

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From the archives, #2

Published Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 12:37 AM EDT
Mar 26 2012

(Originally published in print form on June 14, 2000)

Oh My God! They Killed Library!! Those Bastards!!!

"The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem." -Milton Friedman

Library, Pennsylvania died earlier this month. It was almost 160 years old.

It was replaced by South Park, Pennsylvania, named after the county facility located within its borders and not the notorious Comedy Central animated cable television series bearing the same moniker. (Those familiar with the show recognize the above paraphrase of the cartoon's running gag, the repeated weekly demise of Kenny by various unpleasant means.)

Why would any sane group of people vote to rename its local post office after a century and a half?

The answer, of course, is money. A complete explanation requires a bit of background, so please bear with me...

There is no town named Library. It's the name of the post office that happens to serve what is now South Park Township.

It opened in 1842. Local legend has it the area around the post office was popularly known as "Loafers Hollow". Pennsylvania is well known for its odd post office names (Blue Ball and Intercourse immediately come to mind), but fortunately, the powers that were exercised some restraint and called the new facility...

Library, due to its proximity to the local library. This is particularly significant, since it's the only part of this story that makes any sense.

Anyway, people started calling the village near the post office Library. Three years later, in 1845, when the local leaders decided to form an actual governmental entity, they of course named it...

Snowden Township, after John M. Snowden, a prominent Pittsburgh businessman and politician who died earlier that year.

Actually, it worked out okay, since people knew that Library was at the south end of Snowden, and Broughton (formerly Curry) was at the north end, and nobody really ever called Snowden, Snowden.

Not much happened for about 80 years until the Allegheny County commissioners decided to buy up a bunch of farm land at the north and south ends of the county to preserve the region's original rustic charm. It acquired almost half of Snowden Township and called the recreational facility...

South Park, which sorta made sense, since the other park on the northern end of the county was called North Park.

Things remained pretty quiet until 1960. That's when the neighbors started causing trouble, specifically Bethel. (Bethel broke off from Snowden in 1886. Originally formed as a township, Bethel reorganized as a borough in 1949 and then became a home rule charter community in 1978. Obviously a bunch of malcontents.) The nastiest thing they ever did was change their name to...

Bethel Park, in an effort to cash in on the rural allure of its proximity to South Park. Which, as you recall, is actually in Snowden Township, which everybody called Library.

Around this time, the federal and state governments started using zip codes as the primary method of determining where they should send their payments to local municipalities. This caused quite a problem, since Snowden didn't have a zip code of its own. Some of its mail was delivered by the Finleyville post office, some by Pleasant Hills (Pittsburgh 15236). The bulk of its residents was serviced by the good ol' Library post office. Indeed, when people thought of South Park, they thought of the county park, not Snowden. Those portions of Snowden that weren't in the Park were commonly referred to as Broughton, Piney Forks and Library, and Library was the only part of Snowden that had a real business district. So, in the late 60s, Snowden Township changed its name to...

South Park Township, which didn't really have much effect, aside from changing some municipal signage and stationery. The post office kept the name Library, and everyone seemed to be happy...

Until this year, when the post office announced it was going to move from its current location in a rented building across from the Rite Aid to a brand new facility that would be built next to Bavarian Village, down the road from the township municipal building in the area roughly between Broughton and Piney Forks.

Perhaps emboldened by the fact the post office was, technically, no longer in the area of the township known as Library, the township supervisors decided to petition the United States Postal Service to a) change the name of the post office from Library to South Park, and b) have the few residents who had their mail delivered by the Pleasant Hills and Finleyville post offices included in the new South Park post office's delivery area. Finally, everyone who lived in South Park Township would have their mail delivered by the South Park post office, and the morons in the state and federal governments would no longer send money belonging to South Park to Pleasant Hills and Finleyville.

This grand unification plan had only one flaw; it required the consent of the postal patrons, including the lunatic fringes in Pleasant Hills and Finleyville. A ballot was prepared and mailed. The South Park residents who had their mail delivered by Pleasant Hills decided to keep their Pleasant Hills addresses. The South Park residents who had their mail delivered by Finleyville decided to keep their Finleyville addresses.

Only about half of the people serviced by the Library post office responded to the ballot, but a majority of those who did voted to change the name of the post office to South Park, believing that, as in the past, not much would happen.


Despite reassurances in the letter accompanying the name change ballot, the USPS said Library postal patrons have to send change of address notices to everyone, including Social Security and PennDot. The letter also said the post office would continue to "forward" mail addressed to Library to South Park for a year, which shouldn't be too hard since we haven't moved anywhere.

And since the South Park residents with Pleasant Hills and Finleyville addresses voted against the change, they won't have South Park addresses and the township will still, theoretically, lose state and federal funding due to supposed zip code misdirection.

Library, PA was the only post office with that name in the United States. It was unique, easy to remember, and had been around for more than a century and a half. It was abandoned for no good reason.

Residents of Anaheim, California didn't rename their town Disneyland after the major recreational facility within its borders. No community in the northern half of Allegheny County has expressed any interest in changing its name to North Park. The local newspaper boasts that pop singing sensation Christina Aguilera hails from the northern Pittsburgh suburb of Wexford. Guess what? Like Library, Wexford doesn't really exist. It's just a post office serving Pine Township and a number of other communities that don't suffer from South Park's insecurity and identity issues.

But unlike Wexford, Library is now history.

Well, not really.

Thanks to its reliance on technology and the zip code system, the postal service really doesn't look at the city and state addresses on mail anymore. Everything is driven by zip code. Off the record, an unnamed source at the main post office in Pittsburgh admitted to me that since Library/South Park's zip code isn't changing, mail marked for Library, PA 15129 will continue to be delivered indefinitely.

He's not kidding. As a test, I sent myself a letter to my street address, but in Loafers Hollow, PA 15129. It arrived the next day.

Sometimes shortcomings in technology have a definite upside.

Paranoia Weekly:

The relatively uneventful arrival of the year 2000 created a void in KGB Report: specifically, the retirement of our "Y2K-A-Rama", the weekly litany of impending computer and technology-related disasters. Grieve no more. We proudly present Paranoia Weekly, a compendium of dire events hanging over our heads. As usual, some of the concerns listed here are valid while others are of dubious certainty. We provide them as a reminder that technology isn't necessarily our friend.

  • Worldwide famine coming? The International Food Policy Research Institute says satellite photos and mapping technologies reveal 75 percent of agricultural land in Central America is endangered because of erosion, 11 percent of Asia's cropland is poor due to waterlogging and salinization and 20 percent of African soil suffers from nutrient depletion. Overall, 16 percent of the planet's agricultural areas are suffering from reduced productivity; experts warn a 40 percent increase in productivity will be needed by the year 2020 to support the world's growing population.

  • Wrong number. Sure, your private information is safe on modern computer systems. Usually. Every once in a while, though, small mistakes happen. Like Pac*Bell printing 400,000 telephone directories which accidentally included those persons who wanted their numbers unlisted. Oops.

  • Makes you wonder. The Wall Street Journal recently quoted a survey of 70 large companies in which 21% admitted their systems had been penetrated by hackers. Factor in the ones who aren't talking, and the number is rather alarming.

  • Don't get Real. And take NetZip off your machine as well. RealNetworks is at it again. Last year it was revealed the company's RealJukebox product secretly transmitted the name of every song file it played to the software vendor. Real claimed it was an accident and issued a patch. Privacy Journal just reported that when you download a RealNetworks product, you are also treated to the virus-like installation of a utility called Download Demon. Produced by RealNetworks-owned NetZip, the Demon mucks with your system settings and makes itself the FTP program your browser uses to transfer files. It then sends back to RealNetworks the name and URL of every file you download. All of this is done without the user's knowledge but, apparently, with the user's permission. You did read the software license and privacy policy, right? There's a name for software that installs itself on a computer without the user's knowledge and permission: virus. Aren't there laws prohibiting this activity?

  • Identity insurance. Travelers and Chubb Group have added the costs associated with identity theft to the list of losses covered by their homeowners policies. It's possible to incur significant legal fees repairing the damage done when someone uses stolen or counterfeit IDs or credit cards in your name. Chubb's $25K coverage is a free addition to its homeowners policies. Travelers charges $25 per year for $15K of protection.

  • Good news, bad news. A study by Stanford University shows 20 percent of Americans spent five hours a week or more surfing the web, and 60 percent of that group said they spent less time watching television. The bad news? Over a third said they spent less time reading newspapers, about an eighth spent less time with their family and friends, and a quarter spent more time doing work at home in addition to regular office duties.

  • Fortunately, they're the good guys.(?) Microsoft and the US government may be battling over the breakup of the software giant, but Bill and Janet have other arrangements that are a bit more amicable. For example, the encryption software integrated into Microsoft's Outlook application? It's pretty secure, unless Uncle Sam has an interest in you: Bill gave the Feds the escrow key.

  • We're gonna need a bigger disk... If you think you have disk backup problems, consider Driveway.com, the outfit that offers free Internet backup services to consumers. In its first three months of operation it had received over 40 terabytes of data. That's 40 followed by 12 zeros, or the equivalent of 20 billion double-spaced typewritten pages.

  • Where do I send the flowers? Users migrating to new computer systems go through the same stages of grief as persons dealing with death, according to an expert quoted recently by ComputerWorld. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the normal emotions users experience when forced to leave an old system. "Invite them on a journey to undiscovered lands with new equipment and new processes and the opportunity to grow," another guru said. Right. Tell that to someone going from VMS to Windows 2000. And find out what this guy's smoking.

<KGB Windows 2000 Advisor:

Ok if pre-installed on new laptops. Otherwise, not yet.

KGB Trivia:

Answer to our previous question: The X-Files was the television series in which John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood), one of the three hackers better known as The Lone Gunmen, accesses a secure Department of Defense site running version 5.2 of VMS. "I know a couple of login tricks," Byers modestly boasted as he hacked his way in. Interestingly enough, there actually were some security quirks in VMS 5.2, but it's unlikely they affected any DOD systems. Military installations usually didn't run plain vanilla versions of VMS.

The episode featuring the VMS hack, "Unusual Suspects", is one of the series' best. The show's fifth season premiere, it aired on November 16, 1997, revealed the origin and motivations of the trio and explained how they became associated with Agent Mulder. Hopefully Fox will rerun the episode before it airs next season's The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off series based on their X-Files characters.

More trivia: Before DEC began sticking dashes and letters on the releases, VMS was said to suffer from the " Inverse Star Trek Curse".

Most VMS system managers skipped installing the even numbered releases of the operating system, which had a reputation of being somewhat buggy.

On the other hand, even numbered Star Trek films are generally considered to be superior to the odd numbered releases. Star Trek III (1984, directed by Leonard Nimoy) is sometimes cited as the exception to the rule, but even fans admit the film's somber tone and obscure references to the series' canon made it less accessible to non-Trekkers. Most folks went to see Ghostbusters that summer. Still, Nimoy completely vindicated himself with 1986's Star Trek IV, usually referred to with the Friends-like title "The One About The Whales". IV garnered universally glowing reviews and remains the highest-grossing film in the series ($110 million).

This issue's question: The "Unusual Suspects" episode of The X-Files featured a guest appearance by Richard Belzer as Detective John Munch of NBC's now-defunct Homicide series. Belzer's Munch now appears regularly on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The actor/comedian had a recurring role as a different police office on another series that aired in the 90s. Name that series, and no fair using the Internet Movie Database. First correct answer wins a KGB Y2K compliant pop-up calendar, sure to be a collector's item. (There won't be any KGB calendars in 2001.)


KGB in the UK. The nice folks at Datalogics (http://www.datalogics.com) are sending me to Swindon, England for three weeks to teach some classes in DL Pager, their tactical nuclear automated composition system. I'll be across the pond from June 18 through July 8. I know there are a number of KGB Report readers in the UK, but my grasp of English geography leaves a bit to be desired. I'm completely booked during the week, but so far the weekends look free. If you're in the neighborhood, so to speak, drop me a line and let's see if we can arrange a meeting. (It'll also let me see if I acquired the right power plugs and phone jacks for my laptop.)

KGB on the Radio. You can listen to me regale listeners with my stirring "Network Solutions Made Me A Child Pornographer" tale online via RealAudio at www.techtalkradio.com. I was recently a guest on TechTalk With Mike and Andy, a weekly radio show which airs on KNWZ-AM near Palm Springs, California. The show's also syndicated and available on the web. Once you hear how I perform on the radio, you'll understand why I think my best move is to stick with writing.

Power Problems. I was somewhat concerned the electrical power reliability piece that appeared in the last newsletter might have been a bit too pessimistic. No more. In one 24-hour period last week we experienced five outages of two to three seconds in duration. The weather was fine, the temperature was in the 60s, there was no wind and since it was the weekend, utility crews weren't out cutting trees back from the lines. Those annual pruning efforts are the primary cause of most of our interruptions, followed by bad weather and auto accidents. Another lesson learned: underground utility lines are of relatively little value when they all terminate on a decades-old wooden pole that's located at a blind intersection at the highest point of the local terrain. Might as well paint a bull's eye on it.

Useless Web Site of the Week:

If you want to kill an afternoon, check out http://www.epguides.com, which has episode guides for over 1,500 television series from The A-Team to Zorro and Son. Most entries just contain basic information and a list of episode names and airdates. Over 350 series receive special treatment, with full plot summaries and detailed cast lists. The site can be somewhat frustrating, though. You can't get detailed data on M*A*S*H, but, by God, Homeboys In Outer Space is catalogued in excruciating detail.

Curmudgeon's Corner:

The new Disney animated film Dinosaur is being criticized by some as scientifically inaccurate. Lemurs, the primitive primates who play a major role in the picture, didn't appear on the planet until 15 million years after the mass extinction of the big lizards. You'd have thought these keen-eyed observers would have picked up on another significant gaffe: it's highly unlikely the lemurs and dinos spoke English.


Why is the amount of time required for an out-of-town check to clear the bank inversely proportional to the size of the financial institution in which it's deposited? My now former bank has scores of branches, ATMs in every convenience store in the county, phone and web banking... and wouldn't let me touch the proceeds of foreign deposits for five business days.

Actually, my experience was worse than that. I made the mistake of depositing an out-of-town check the Friday before a Monday holiday. Federal regulations require the bank to fork over the cash "not later than the fifth business day following the banking day on which funds are deposited." Okay, the check goes in on Friday. The next business day isn't until the following Tuesday. Day two is Wednesday, day three is Thursday, day four is Friday, and the fifth business day doesn't arrive until the following Monday. That's 12 calendar days- nearly two weeks- before I can access the full amount of the check.

I can understand a bank's reluctance to part with its cash if the account owner's name is Beauregard Gatorfoot, the financial institution is Big Mama's Bank and Gumbo Emporium of Bayou Le Crawfish, Louisiana and the nearest Federal Reserve branch is two days away by mule. But a check from a Fortune 50 company? Drawn on the nation's second largest bank? With systems that can debit my account in microseconds from any location on the planet?

Fortunately, the Fed's guidelines are maximums. Banks have the discretion to clear checks faster if they wish, and the relatively tiny outfit where I now do my business makes the full amount of the deposit available to me the next morning.

And some of the tellers have lollipops.


Quotations of the Week:

  • Saying Windows 2000 is the most powerful OS in the Microsoft family is like saying Moe was the smart Stooge.-Kevin Barkes

  • I defied the stereotype of a classical president.-Bill Clinton

  • If you want to talk about stealing, let's talk about record company contracts.-Courtney Love on Internet music theft via Napster and Gnutella.

  • If you ever get annoyed, look at me, I'm self-employed. I love to work at nothing all day.-Bachman Turner Overdrive, "Takin' Care of Business"

  • Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.-Thomas Jefferson

  • I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.-Noel Coward

  • Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • The real measure of a day's heat is the length of a sleeping cat.-Charles J. Brady

  • Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.-Jerry Seinfeld

  • If you owe the bank $100, that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem.-John Paul Getty

  • CAUTION: This product exerts a force on every other object in the Universe, proportional to the product of their masses divided by the square of the distance between them, center to center.-The Ultimate Generic Warning Label

  • Categories: From the archives

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    From the archives, #1

    Published Sunday, March 25, 2012 @ 6:41 PM EDT
    Mar 25 2012

    This is From the archives, #1.

    I'm reposting some of the more ancient KGB Report entries using our current blogging software. This eliminates many of the bad link and missing image problems, makes the material easier to read and also easier to find.

    Note that these items are over a decade old. They've been edited only to remove dead links. Updated information and observations appear as comments.

    (Originally published January 13, 2000)

    How Network Solutions, Inc.
    Made Me A Child Pornographer
    "But Officer,
    I Don't Even Have a Pornograph!"

    I was going through my daily US Postal Service dump of delinquent credit card statements and IRS notices (where's the Y2K bug when you really need it?) when I came across an odd-looking envelope with a München, (Munich) Germany return address.

    I immediately assumed it was from a fan of my old DCL Dialogue column, which ran for a number of years in the now-defunct DEC Professional magazine.

    Although I stopped writing for the publication five years ago, DEC Pro was one of those rare trade journals that contained solid, unbiased technical information. For that reason, it was rarely thrown away. System managers frequently stashed their collection in some secret place in their offices and rarely allowed their copies to be borrowed by others.

    To this day, clueless new hires placed in charge of VMS computer systems frequently discover their predecessors' DEC Pro cache, read the mags cover to cover and send me requests for the various items I offered in my column.

    So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope and read the following:

    Dear sir or madame,

    you have on your webpage www.lo-li-ta.org nice pictures, so I want to ask if I can buy pictures and videos on CD or tape from you? Please send me a list with prices. If I can't get them from you, please tell me another enterprice where I can get them from.

    Nice pictures? www.lo-li-ta.org??

    A quick trip to the address revealed a members-only porn site featuring nude photographs of young women.

    Very young women.

    Very, very young women.

    25-to-life at a federal institution young women.

    Surely this was a mistake. I checked the domain registration records for lo-li-ta.org and was stunned to find:

    WHOIS information for lo-li-ta.org

    Organization: KGB Consulting, Inc.
    address: 1512 Annette Avenue
    Pennsylvania, PA 15129 US
    Admin contact: Barkes, Kevin
    email: speedy03@MAIL.RU
    phone: 412 8542550
    fax: 412 8542550
    tech contact: Hostmaster
    email: hostmaster@easyspace.com

    I did what any other liberal Democratic male 45-year-old self-employed American businessman with a windowless basement office loaded with a dozen networked computers and a dedicated T1 connection to the Internet during a U.S. presidential election campaign year lousy with right wing ultra-conservative candidates would do.

    First, I changed my pants.

    I also purged the temporary browser caches and history lists off all my computers, stuck a Post-It note with the number of the local chapter of the ACLU on my system's display and scrawled my attorney's telephone number in indelible laundry marker on appropriate body parts. Then I sat down and tried to review the situation rationally.

    Obviously, the domain registration was bogus. The address was listed as "Pennsylvania, PA 15129" instead of Library, PA. Indeed, that was the address printed on my German friend's envelope. The letter somehow managed to make its way across the Atlantic and into my mailbox.

    The email address listed had the MAIL.RU domain, which is located in Russia.

    Ah... it was beginning to make sense.

    I registered the kgb.com domain name in 1993, before the explosive growth of the Internet and the invention of the World Wide Web. It's an easy to remember name. In addition to being my initials, KGB was, of course, the moniker of the dreaded Soviet secret police.

    Even though the real KGB was disbanded in 1991, everyone still remembers the name, and my use of it generally elicits chuckles from baby boomers raised on cold war spy movies.

    Having such a popular domain name does have its downside. Daily reviews of my mail server's log files show scores of rejected e-missives to such addresses as boris@kgb.com, breshnev@kgb.com, gorbachev@kgb.com... you get the picture.

    About a third of the people who visit the website are looking for information about the KGB. We added a page with links to historical information about the agency, as well as a link to the makers of KGB Vodka. (They had contacted me a few years ago about buying the kgb.com domain name from me. I declined to sell, but they were very nice about it. You can find them on Facebook these days).

    (Yeah. We were mistaken for them. A lot.)

    The person who set up lo-li-ta.org was probably based in Russia, needed someone's name to stick in the application as domain administrator, and decided it would be funny to connect the KGB to kiddie porn.

    Unfortunately for me, when you enter "KGB" into a search engine, my site comes up second after something called "KGB's World of Harness Racing" at http://www.kgb.se. The ".se" indicates the host is located in Sweden, which, if you think about it, is probably a more appropriate place to register a porn site. But I digress.

    The problem is you can't easily register the country-specific .se domain name. My Russian buddy knew that, moved on to the next site on the list- kgb.com- and found what he was looking for. He accessed the online registration information for kgb.com and was ready to go.

    The host site he picked, easyspace.com, is located in the United Kingdom. Like most hosting services, Easyspace offers automated domain name registration and web site configuration.

    Neither Easyspace nor their domain name registrar, Network Solutions, Inc., checks to see if the information entered into the online form is really accurate. As long as the supplied email address is valid and responds to automated inquiries, and the credit card number entered to pay for the services clears the bank, the whole magillah goes through automatically.

    Okay, I figured out what happened. Now I had to do something about it.

    First, I sent a nasty note to speedy03@mail.ru, the email contact listed by Network Solutions as the administrator for the lo-li-ta.org site.

    Surprisingly, I did get a response:

    To: <kgb@kgb.com>
    Subject: Re: Legal action will be initiated.
    Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 23:28:15 +0300

    What's up with www.lo-li-ta.org ????

    Well, that was productive.

    An examination of the mail header attached to the message revealed his reply came from a different email account than the one to which I had sent my original message. I also learned it was routed through a dialup service called wm.westcall.ru.

    The dumb act was not amusing. I sent another email, and received:

    From: "SPEEDY_RACER"<top200@mail.ru>
    To: <kgb@kgb.com>
    Subject: Re: Legal action will be initiated.
    Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 00:00:14 +0300

    Hey, It's not mine!!! I am from Belorussia, but not ameriCan!!! ;-)) I think some one from you friend jest you, but why my e-mail there?? He-he-he!

    And watch out for moose and squirrel.

    Notice the clever change in the sender's name from Pchelkin_Vladimir to "Speedy Racer". Obviously, a wild and crazy guy.

    I realized Ol' Vlad wasn't going to be much help, so I sent a nasty email to the hosting service, Easyspace. I didn't receive a response to my message, but within an hour the plug was pulled on www.lo-li-ta.org.

    I also sent an email to Network Solutions. Well, sort of. There is no direct email address posted anywhere on the site, so I filled out a web-based "customer feedback" form requesting immediate action.

    I got an automated response informing me my message was received. I still haven't heard from them, and the domain information for lo-li-ta.org remains accessible and continues to list me as the administrative contact.

    Still not comfortable, I called the Pittsburgh office of the FBI and related my tale to a very nice lady who told me that no real crime had been committed, so the Bureau really couldn't do anything.

    She suggested I call the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute here in Pittsburgh. CERT, primarily funded by the Department of Defense, provides technical assistance for responding to computer security problems. I knew I didn't have a security problem per se, but I'm not one to ignore recommendations from a division of the United States Department of Justice. (Would you want to tick off U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno?)

    The CERT fellow agreed with me that my problem wasn't security-related. He also agreed that I was doing the right thing by pre-emptively notifying the feds, who have a well-publicized zero-tolerance policy concerning child pornography and a well-documented history of seizing computer equipment first and asking questions later. Usually after the press conference.

    To be really safe, I decided to document my experience here inKGB Report and distribute it as widely as possible.

    Of course, my dilemma still exists. Network Solutions still lists me as the administrator of a kiddie porn site.

    Even more disturbing, I have no way of knowing if my name has been attached to other sites featuring objectionable material. Indeed, the only reason I learned of the present situation was because a pervert in Germany was so anxious to obtain kiddie porn that he mailed a letter to a complete stranger 5,000 miles away.

    That's scary.

    Even scarier: there's no way for me to search through the millions of registered Internet domain names to see if anyone else is misusing my identity. And I fear that since my name has been used once, it will probably be used again. My nightmare: I get raided by the feds and hauled off to the pokey for having my name attached to an illegal or immoral Internet-based business about which I know nothing.

    I suppose I could raise public awareness of the issue and my predicament by registering "Strom's-South-Carolina-Sweeties.com" to Senator Strom Thurmond and supplying the Network Solutions domain name information to the liberal east coast media cabal, but anyone with a valid credit card and email address can do that. I prefer the direct approach.

    My experience is probably not unique. It highlights three serious problems with e-commerce: verification of automated transaction systems; the need for a uniform, secure electronic signature or identification technology; and the lack of recourse available to humans screwed over by Internet businesses which fail to provide voice telephone numbers or postal addresses. It's rather pathetic when I get a prompt response from the miscreant responsible for my situation, but silence from the companies who actually executed the transgression.

    I'll keep you posted.

    [NOTE: Future "From the archives" posts will contain the follow-ups to this story]

    Told you so... In last week's issue, we said:

    "Fear mongers who were exploiting Y2K paranoia, here's a hint: redirect your marketing efforts to capitalize on the remaining media-hyped potential catastrophe, global warming."

    Apparently dismayed that there are only half as many near-earth killer asteroids as originally thought, the Wednesday, January 12 edition of the CBS Evening News With Dan Rather ignored that upbeat news completely. Instead, here's Dan's lead story summary from the CBS News website:

    "Our lead story this evening focuses on the mounting concern over global warming and the growing scientific consensus that it is real... we'll take a look at today's National Research Council report on the subject and we'll also have a report on how the increase of jellyfish in American waters, especially on the Gulf Coast, could be a harbinger of climate."

    Coming this summer: When Jellyfish Attack. Just in case those doofuses at the National Hurricane Center screw up again and disappoint us by not destroying Miami.


    Stan's still the man... After 17 years, Miller Freeman, Inc. has pulled the plug on Performance Computing, meaning Stan Kelly-Bootle's marvelous monthly Devil's Advocate column has lost its print-based home.

    Fortunately, the good folks at Aurora Software have provided an online venue for DA's successor, SODA (Son of Devil's Advocate.)

    Please support Stan's new effort by reading his always witty prose at http://www.sarcheck.com/skb/.

    [Note: Stan is 83 now. Our last e-mail correspondence was slightly less than two years ago. I'll let you know if he responds to a recent ping.]


    Answer to our previous question: In an attempt to cash in on the success of ABC's Batman, in 1967 NBC aired Captain Nice, starring William Daniels, and CBS broadcast Mr. Terrific, starring Stephen Strimpell. Both shows tanked.

    This week's question: The cable network TVLand is now airing the cult 80s shows Misfits of Science and Airwolf back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday mornings beginning at 8 eastern time. One of the stars of Misfits, Courteney Cox, went on to become a star playing Monica Geller on Friends. Jan-Michael Vincent, who was pilot Stringfellow Hawke on Airwolf, also appeared in an episode of NBC's late 60s revival of a hit 50s show. Name the show and the title of the episode. Hint: it's also currently airing on TVLand. Use your lifelines and email your final answer to trivia@kgb.com.

    [Note: In 12 years, the Internet has made questions like those above minor search exercises. Sigh.]

    UselessWeb Site of the Week

    http://www.pencils.com contains more than you could ever want to know about the ubiquitous writing utensil, such as:

    · 75% of the pencils sold annually in the US are painted yellow.

    · William Monroe, a cabinetmaker in Concord, Massachusetts, made the first American wood pencils in 1812.

    · Most pencils sold in Europe have no erasers

    Quotes of the Week

    Douglas Dahlberg (IT manager) "You live in a democracy. You don't work in one."

    Fadel Gheit, oil industry analyst, Fahnestock & Co.: "The Y2K bug was a bunch of computer geeks blackmailing the world."

    Bill Maher: "We spent all this money for nothing. It's like a world-wide Ken Starr investigation."

    Ed Howe: "A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice."

    Carl Bernstein: "[T]he weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal."

    New Yorker cartoon caption:

    (via Condé Nast)

    James Thurber: "You can fool too many of the people too much of the time."

    Categories: From the archives

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    Published Sunday, March 25, 2012 @ 3:54 PM EDT
    Mar 25 2012

    We're back on the air in less than a day which, quite frankly, is far better than I expected.

    I won't bore you with the technical details. On the surface, very little has changed. But under the hood, some judicious modifications have cut blog-related disk and cpu usage by more than 70 percent. As a software geek, I am well pleased with myself.

    Two things you may notice. There's been a major reduction in the number of Categories, and the archives are now compiled as monthly instead of weekly links.

    The categories that remain (see the right hand column) are the ones that visitors to the site actually use. To be honest, I went crazy there for a while, trying to create a category tag for every subject or person referenced in every blog post. When the sheer volume of links reached the point that the blogging software was taking nearly two hours to update all the files on the site, I decided it was time to do some editing.

    A few dozen lines of SPITBOL code, several hundred megabytes of log files, and about an hour of processing produced an extremely detailed analysis of what people view when they visit. Some categories had never been accessed- not even once. Others received hundreds of hits a week.

    More surprising- people looking for stuff in the archives here were far more likely to use the Google site search facility (see the "search kgbreport.com" box at the upper right) than wander through scores of weekly archive links.

    The changes cause the front page to load a bit faster and the right hand column is no longer several feet long. On my end, I no longer have to wait anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours for a new post to appear on the site.

    Over the next few months I plan to slowly but systematically deal with the ancient stuff written prior to October 2002, when I switched over to real blogging software. KGB Report was actually printed and mailed to subscribers back then, and the port from print publishing format to web code was less than optimal.

    I'm going to post those newsletters in a new category called "From the archives." They'll show up as new posts here. The historical perspective ahould be interesting and amusing (I hope), and posting that old stuff as current entries will get them back onto the main portion of the site in a form that's far more attractive and accessible.

    Finally, I want to thank those of you who stop by regularly. We've grown from about 2,000 to 3,000 page views a day in the last year, and more than half of you spend more than two minutes looking around.

    While you're perusing the site, take a look at the commentwear by KGB stuff in the right column. You can buy t-shirts, mugs, and other essentials emblazoned with pithy quotes and observations. I made over $40(!) in profit from there last year, which more than covers the insurance co-pay for the twice-annual bolt tightenings from my shrink.

    Writing may not be entirely therapeutic but at least it pays for the therapy.

    So. What did you accomplish this weekend?


    Categories: From the archives, KGB Blog News

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