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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Big City Lights

I just got back from Las Vegas. Wow, that was weird. That was the one place I was pretty sure I would never ever go. I would have been willing to bet on it.

It's strangely appropriate that I would have lost that bet.

You see, God doesn't want me to gamble. Every time I do, I lose. It's to the point of being a little spooky. I don't even get lucky in board games. Anything that has to do with a spin of the wheel, roll of the dice or deal of the cards, I'm going to do badly in.

When I was a teen-ager, I believed God had a special angel that followed me around and ratted me out every time I did anything I shouldn't. That's how I got caught in the girls dorm at Valley Grande Academy at 2 AM. I got punished harder than anyone. Some of the guys got off scot-free! They had been crawling through the girls' chapel window for weeks. I went along, almost by accident. I didn't do anything naughty while I was there. But I got nailed for it!

Fortunately, I had long since decided to behave myself and cooperate with my teachers. As a result, everyone didn't get kicked out because the principal didn't want to have to kick me out too! Being respectful of your teachers, bosses and colleagues is very helpful when your guardian angel is busy firing off flares every time you break into the kitchen freezer for a leftover Eskimo Pie. That night the principal did a run through on his motorcycle and Dave Dameron and I had to hide in the freezer in our shorts for half an hour till he left. That's how Dave caught a cold in May in 100 degree weather.

I learned early that if you're a decent person (with occasional, but not major lapses), you can get a slide on most minor failings. It's something worth remembering. Treating other people the way you want to be treated might not be very satisfying if you're one of those people whose sense of balance in the universe depends on getting even if someone does you wrong, but following the golden rule works better than anything I know for getting along with your fellow man (don't ask me about women - they're a different species and I still am learning their language).

We went to Vegas to visit The Secret Garden, a tiger and dolphin exhibit at the Mirage Hotel run by Sigfried and Roy. It was beautiful. My boss at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge sent Sheila and me there to see how they ran the place. It was lovely. We hope to raise about 8 million to build a similar facility at Tiger Creek for the big cats. I can hardly wait to start pouring concrete!

While I was in Vegas, I lost some money in a slot machine, saw pirates sink a ship and dance with scantily clad women and was, I think, almost propositioned by a prostitute (Sheila let me out of the room for 30 minutes without an escort).

Outside my window I could see the Sphinx, The Eiffel Tower, a pyramid and a volcano. It was opulant, decadent and well designed to relieve you of the burden of your money. A strange place, not devoted to the service of God. I felt so like a stranger in a strange land.

It was beautiful, amazing - a Disney World for grownups (well, not really grownups - more like for adult children). I got to thinking - if a terrorist wanted to set off a nuke, Las Vegas would be the place. Catch it during one of those computer conventions or something and you could take out a whole segment of the nation's economy. There were a lot of well-connected people in town.

Pretty weird!

Just one man's opinion.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Never Got My Confirmation Number

A dear friend sent me an e-mail telling me if I forwarded this to just 9 friends, Applebees would send me a 50 dollar gift certificate. Poor trusting thing got snoogered on this one like some tens of thousands before her. PT Barnum knew whereof he spoke.

But I would disagree with Barnum on one thing. It's not a sucker that's born every minute. Okay maybe every other minute, but it's not just the greedy and self-seeking that are easy prey to con-men and frauds. It's also the innocent and trusting as well and I say, "Shame on anyone who would take advantage of a trusting person." It's a vile thing to do and you should develop a rash for treating a nice person like that.

As you've probably guessed, the Applebees 50 dollar gift certification confirmation number e-mail doesn’t work (It's appended below without everybody’s e-mail addresses just in case). Somebody is trying to see how many people they can fool into forwarding this e-mail.

Here are some ways you can tell when you’re being hood-winked on one of these.

1. Logic - There is no way for Applebees to confirm that you sent the requisite e-mails without putting some sort of tracking software on your computer to verify that you actually forwarded those messages. They’d have to do it with a virus or Trojan-like program without your knowledge or they’d have to set up an auto-install program that asks your permission to put tracking software on your computer – in which case you’d know it was there. It’s exactly like if you were to send 9 letters via the post office. How would anyone track that unless they watched you put the letters in the mailbox. If it does work, it means something bad has attached itself to your computer…

2. Go to the bottom and look at the first person to post this message – in this case it was one Roger Wilson. I looked down the list of every previous post and in every case but one, the poster’s e-mail address is shown. Guess who's name did not yield and address when clicke - OUR BUDDY ROGER WILSON’S. That’s a dead giveaway. He doesn’t want some anti-spam vigilante tracking him down and bonking him on the head. I once tracked down one of those websites that hijack your computer and make it inoperable unless you buy something. He had an office in Austin, Texas. I went to visit with a baseball bat. Someone else had the same idea first evidently, because when I got there, the place was abandoned and there was some pretty radical damage to the premises.

3. Rule of thumb – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Doing this would break Applebees virtually overnight. If this worked, you could have this scenario. First e-mailer sends to 9 people. Those send to 9 each (that’s 81 so far). At 50 each, Applebees would be in for 4050 dollars. The version of this e-mail had gone through 11 rounds. Let’s say only 1/3 of the people actually forwarded it from there on out and only a third of those responded and so on.. Let’s see what kind of damage that does.

3rd round – 81x3= 243
4th round – 243x3= 729
5th round – 729x3= 2187
6th round – 2187x3=6561
7th round – 6561x3=19,683
8th round – 19,683x3=59049
9th round – 59049x3=177147
10th round – 177,147x3=531,441
11th round - 531,441x3=1,594,323

Now at 50 dollars each that’s - 50 x 1,594,323 = 79,716,150

That means that after only 11 rounds, this e-mail would have already cost Applebee's close to 80 MILLION dollars and that’s if only a third of the people who receive this actually forward it to someone who hasn’t received it already. You can reach far more people with your message for far less cost than that by buying commercials during the Superbowl.

If all 9 responded at every level, the total would be a devastating 31,381,059,609. That’s over 31 BILLION dollars Applebees would lose on that little deal in just a few weeks.

4. Rule of thumb #2 – If it looks too good to pass up, there’s probably a hook in it. That’s how you catch fish. Remember this: One day, this e-mail may come back to this guy (since he started circulating it first among people whose e-mail he actually knows and who probably know his, only not as “Roger Wilson, but by his real name. When he gets hold of it, with all those forwards, he can harvest all the e-mail addresses (which are probably good addresses since the people sent them to people they know). He can then sell them to spammers or use them to spam himself or to send you viruses if he’s a mean person. AND every time he gets it back, he gets a whole knew tree of e-mail addresses because of the way pyramid forwarding works. Remember after only 11 rounds it could have passed through 1.5 million e-mail boxes. He’s set out what amounts to an e-mail drift net and when he comes upon it again, the e-mail address he harvests from that net may be yours or mine.

Also notice about midway through the list, there’s a note that says “it works!” That’ can’t be real because you wouldn’t know it works till after you send the e-mail, so how could you have said “it works” when you sent it in the first place, since you hadn’t found out yet whether it works or not, huh? The spammer is probably the one who sent it although the e-mail address may be disguised or phony.

5. Look it up on or's urban legends/hoaxes site: They've always got the straight poop on the latest of these. Do that before you pass anything along!




If you want to do some good, e-mail this column to 9 people. I bet it doesn’t make it past the first round. That’s just human nature.

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King

"Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is."

. - Will Rogers

Monday, January 15, 2007

Everybody seems to know how to solve the Middle East problem, and yet it's still a problem

I stumbled on an article in a British newspaper that is utterly typical of a whole species of journalist I call criticus knowitallus. They all seem to know all there is to know about how to fix the problems of the middle East. It is remarkable how many people see themselves as experts on how to fix things in Iraq. They snipe constantly at Bush and Blair. It's not that hard. They are wonderfully easy targets because they actually did something about the butchery that was going on in Baghdad. And despite the civil unrest and fighting, the death toll is still nowhere near that generated by the late, unlamented Saddam Hussein and his progeny, though to listen to criticus knowitallus, you'd think Bush and Blair were just mean old guys that were picking on the poor Iraqis without any provocation.

In the US, we have a huge number of folks that would prefer that we just pull our military out of everywhere in the world, seal up our borders and shove our heads in the sand (or somewhere else equally dark). There was a guy on the Roger Gray radio show this morning, literally screaming about how Bush is stupid and evil and we should bring all our troops home and stay out of everybody's business.

I remember the last time the isolationists got that rowdy. I remember a certain world leader (British) who kissed a dictator smooth on the bottom at the conclusion of 'negotiations' and came home to wildly cheering mobs as he proclaimed "Peace in our time."

The head-in-the-sand crowd over here praised his foresight and wisdom. Then when the gentleman with the toothbrush moustache started driving tanks all over Europe, that same crowd of isolationists turned on on Mr. Chamberlain. They still called for us to "stay out of it" and kept it up till Britain was backed up against the wall, our ships were being sunk by the hundreds and the Japanese were blowing up naval bases all over the Pacific.

My only comfort is that my children are here on the far side of the world from Iran and Iraq and that Arab missiles (so far) will only reach as far as Europe. I can run my car on East Texas moonshine and I've got room for a garden, just in case we decide to try isolationism.

It amazes me that so many supposedly intelligent people just totally dismissed it when radical Muslims declared war on the west and promise to keep fighting until they kill us or turn us into Muslims by force. Even more incredible, you assume (on what basis I can't imagine) that if some of the middle eastern nations get nukes, that, of course, they'd never use them and of course, they'd never share these awful things with the terrorists that have their training camps out there in their deserts.

It's like these guys believe that if only the terrorists knew what nice people we all thought we were they, wouldn't want to kill us. I'm sorry. If you think that if we leave the nice megalomaniacs alone that they won't bother us, you're being a little bit naive. Hey, I tried that approach in 5th grade with the class bullies that regularly pounded my head and stole my lunch money. News flash! IT DOESN'T WORK!

Imagine if King George had told the British Navy, "Just leave those pesky pirates alone. Surely if they see that we're going to be nice to them from now on, admiral, then they won't steal our gold, sink our ships and rape our women, what?"


How many buildings have to fall on us before someone takes these guys seriously? If someone declares war on you, it's only polite to show up and drop a few artillery shells on 'em.

Just one man's opinion...


Monday, January 08, 2007

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

I love this one! Everybody in the media is all up in arms over the video of a Disney employee in a Tigger costume taking a swat at a 14 year old with his heavily padded paw.

I've watched the video. I've worked with kids as a teacher, therapist, caregiver and father for a quarter of a century. I'm looking at the face of the teenage boy in question. He is grinning in not a very nice way. He is reaching behind the guy in the Tigger costume. It's not a natural arm-around-a-buddy kind of reach. He's leaning way over and it looks like he's trying to get hold of something around behind Winnie the Pooh's stripey friend.
The way Tigger swings at the kid, it looks like a reaction shot to me. There's no sense in him doing it otherwise. AND the kid is still grinning afterward - until, of course, Dad, who also smelled a rat, yelled at him and then suddenly he's saying that Tigger has caused him injury and distress and wants a personal apology. Now there's a personal injury attorney's dream scenario if there ever was one - the perp publicly apologizes thereby admitting guilt and exposing Disney to a humongous lawsuit. The family denies they want to sue. If you believe that, you're naieve.

Lawyers getting in the middle of all this is the main reason the Tigger actor can't apologize. I had someone do me wrong recently. All I wanted was an explanation, but her lawyer won't let her talk to me at all for fear of a suit. Ironically, the lawyer's advice is probably going to force me to sue the poor woman whose only sin is being selfish, breaking her agreement with my partner and me and bankrupting me in the process and forcing some families to send their loved ones to the nursing home (they call it being a smart business person these days).

I'm tired of living in a world where we can't even apologize to each other for fear of giving evidence in a lawsuit. People are greedy enough already. Ambulance chasing lawyers are only encouraging them. If you don't believe it, watch TV and count the number of lawyers out there fishing for personal injury cases.

It's raining car wrecks!
If you have XYZ disease...
If you suspect....
When you go to the hospital, complain loudly about your injuries...
Slee Z. Attorney will get you what you deserve....
From here I think I can see the end of the world.
Just One Man's Opinion...
Tom King
* The picture above is a blurred watercolor by the me based upon images in the news media of the viscious Tigger attack. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely accidentally given my pathetic artistic skills.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How Impossible is it to Save Money at TxDOT?

It seems someone at Texas Department of Transportation is trying to save money. This is not because of any altruistic desire to provide financial relief to us taxpayers. It’s because the legislature and the Commission told them they had to do it.

Now, welcome to the weird world of “Bureaucrats Saving Money”.

A notice went out from TxDOT recently to nonprofits, businesses, area attractions, entertainment places and other heavily trafficked places in Texas that from now on, the DOT would no longer provide those nice green directional signs that help drivers find your place of operation. The only places that get those freebie signs from now on will be (big shock here) GOVERNMENT OFFICES. Everybody else can have them, but they have to pay $350 each.

Here’s where the money saving part comes in – pay close attention or you’ll miss it!

In the next 60 days, TxDOT is going to hire crews to go all over the state gathering up all the nongovernmental little green signs and tearing them down. After that, if you pony up the dough, they’ll send out another crew to put your sign back up.

Does anyone see the flaw in that approach to saving money?

If you are asking yourself, “Why tear down a perfectly good sign when you could just leave up the old one till it gets run over or struck by an asteroid?"

We asked Wally down at TxDOT that same question. His response came from the depths of 4,000 years of bureaucratic logic. “It wouldn’t be fair for all the people in the future that will have to pay for signs if we leave up the ones everyone got for free.”

If that sounds reasonable to you, stop reading right now and go back to smoking your bong! What follows will only upset you and ruin your buzz!

What’s wrong with the TxDOT “save money on sign maintenance costs” Plan?

1. It doesn’t save any money for a long time. The state is going to pay a whole bunch of money up front to tear down the old signs. This is money that could be more useful applied toward fixing a couple of the 2,000 Texas bridges that are long over due for repairs.

2. It wastes staff time and energy when you could simply start charging for all the new signs and for fixing the old ones when they get broken. Why blow hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to make things “fair”?

3. Neither the Commission nor the legislature said they had to do it this way. This was something the engineers came up with all on their own. It’s policy, not law!
Charging for signs pointing to your organization, agency or business was designed to reduce taxes, not institute new ones in the form of unnecessary fees.

4. If, in the past, it was advantageous to put up signs for free that helped confused drivers to find the flea market, the zoo, the museum, the fairgrounds or any one of the thousands of nonprofit human service agencies scattered across the state, then why is it now better to tear all those most useful signs down again and hope all the folks out there can afford the new fees?

If the signs served a useful purpose, then why make it hard for these agencies and organizations working often at low pay for long hours under high stress. These guys are doing good works and providing community with a better quality of life. What’s so bad about leaving up their existing signs and giving them time to replace them all over time?

If this kind of goofiness bothers you, contact your state senator, representative and local TxDOT District engineer.

Who knows, they might change the policy.

Just one man’s opinion…

Tom King
Flint, Texas