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April 22, 2001

Welcome to Montana

Blogging. The new media term taking the Net by storm. Short for Weblog, to Blog is to put up a web site that chronicles your thoughts, your activities, your life, either in the hopes of enlightening yourself and others, or because your ego is the size of Montana.

I'm hoping it's the former.

I've had this domain for several years and done nothing with it. Now Blogging is going to get a chance.

This site will undergo many style changes in the upcoming months, as I have no real idea what I'd like the end product to look like. What I do know is that I've spent several years in the industry and know the difference between a point, a pica, and a pixel. I know that the Internet is a wealth of information and misinformation, and anyone can discover just about anything online if s/he looks long enough. I know that my mindset has undergone many changes in the last few years, and will doubtless undergo more as I get older. Growth is change. Stagnation, to me, is worse than death. If I cannot change, just dig me a hole, throw me in and cover me with dirt.

The unexamined life is not worth living. Funny. I was just checking online to find out who said that (Socrates) when I found this: "If you believe everything you read, better not read"--Japanese proverb. It's about the best quote I've ever found to describe the way I think.

I'm a skeptic. I've been a skeptic ever since I can remember. I suspect waking up in [what I thought was] the middle of the night when I was about five and asking my parents to fight a little more quietly so my brothers and I could go back to sleep probably had a little to do with that. Even more than that, I think the gift of Tom Sawyer during my ninth year, which led me to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and then the rest of Mark Twain, was the primary thread in creating my quilt of skepticism.

Of course, we can't discount the fact that my father was an incredible skeptic, and when I was very young, I idolized him. He fell off that pedestal eventually--right about the time I developed independent thought. He never did get over it. That's the problem with control freaks. They don't do well with children.

But enough about me. Let's talk about:

Email hoaxes, chain letters, and other annoyances in your inbox

As I said above, you can find an amazing amount of information on the Net. You can use the information in one of two ways: To bolster the incredible amount of misinformation being tossed about, or to find the true facts behind the stories. True facts, by the way, is not a redundancy. A fact is a piece of information. It can be either true or false. False facts abound: witness the incredible number of urban legends out there. Who hasn't heard of the infamous "hook" story? "I know it really happened, a friend of mine knew this kid who knew the kids who found the hook!" There's a marvelous group of sites out there dedicated to debunking urban legends and, more to the point, lies propagated over the Internet. See my links page.

Lies seem to be my biggest hot-button issue. I hate being lied to; I generally do not lie (anyone who says they never lie is lying); I can't seem to lie to myself. So when I receive an email hoax letter, I tend to fly off the handle sometimes.

The latest email hoax I received was that list of lies about Coca-Cola. Seems to me that the simple reading of the list would enlighten the sender to its falseness. Seems to me the dead giveway was this one: "The distributors of Coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years!" A simple question begs to be asked here: Why would the Coca-Cola company, whose livelihood depends upon their product selling, openly acknowledge that their product can not only be drunk as a beverage, but clean grease as well? Yup. That'll sell an additional 20 million cans. I found the truth on (check that links page). And if that weren't proof enough that someone was yanking your chain, how's this one: "To carry Coca Cola syrup (the concentrate) the commercial truck must use the Hazardous Material place cards reserved for Highly Corrosive materials." Yes, because every store that contains a soda fountain that uses Coke syrup makes sure they train their employees in hazmat handling. Another dead giveaway: The sheer number of Coke trucks we've seen carrying a HazMat sign. For those of you who still don't get it: That would be zero.

This letter is only one of many that are forwarded through Internet e-mail, clogging up the servers, filling up your inbox, wasting precious time having to wade through this crap. What boggles my mind is the sheer ignorance of the people who pass these along. Do they never read the contents of the letters? Apparently not. Otherwise we wouldn't have the persistent rumor that Walt Disney wasn't buried, but cryonically frozen (he wasn't--Snopes or Urban Legends for details),

Chain letters infuriate me probably more than any other piece of spam. I can't get over how grown men and women, intelligent grown men and women, lose all sense of reality and forward along these ridiculous, badly-written, hokey, error-ridden pieces of garbage. The principle behind the chain letter is the one that astonishes me the most. People seem to think that if they don't pass along the letter, something bad will happen to them. Most chain letters threaten chain-breakers with death and dismemberment for breaking the chain. But fear not, if you break the chain one day but remember to send it out after you've had your bad luck happen to you, you can still rescue your good luck! <barf> And yet, these same people who tell their own children, "Wishing won't make it so" can't seem to remember their own advice. Look, I still recite "Star Light, Star Bright" when I'm outside for the first star of the evening, but trust me, I've long since realized that my wish isn't about to come true. I also don't believe that if I blow out all the candles in my birthday cake my wish will come true. Neither, in fact, do most intelligent adults.

So what turns them into morons when it comes to chain letters?

"Oh, I just passed it along for a gag. I really don't believe in them." And yet, you passed it along. "Well, you never can tell." No, you can't seem to, so ask me: WISHING DOESN'T MAKE IT SO. YOUR WISH WILL NOT COME TRUE. There, happy now?

One chain letter I received at work had a list of consequences that were so laughable I couldn't believe people passed it on. I called the person who sent it to me and read out loud the one that said "Ernie L. broke the chain, and went out dancing the following Friday. A disco ball fell on him and killed him."

"Do you really believe that happened?" I asked my coworker. She admitted that she didn't. She also said she hadn't read that far along. Ignorance and stupidity: A deadly combination.

Here's a true fact: I have broken the chain on EVERY SINGLE CHAIN LETTER I have ever received, both paper and online. I have not died. I have never had a run of bad luck that was caused by breaking the chain. And I have never, ever had a disco ball fall on me while dancing.

"Personality tests"

The last of the inbox-fillers are the so-called personality tests. I'm sure we've all received them from more than one friend or coworker. There's the one where you answer questions about yourself and forward it to your friends. There are several that the Dalai Lama supposedly sent around to us, although why he would be bothering to send spam on the Internet while he's so busy fighting to free Tibet from Chinese rule is beyond me.

Call me crazy, but I'm not interested in taking personality tests of unknown origin. The ones you find on the net are probably written by college students who have taken just enough Eastern Religion and Philosophy courses mixed with a bit of Psych 101 to make people believe the tests are somehow meaningful. I'll pass, and so will my inbox.--MAY