E-tales: Mail marshalled

This week - forget sanctions, drop Mir on Mugabe's head instead; does Annette King use email; and Kiwi visitors overwhelm a cartoon website.

Does Health Minister Annette King use email? A colleague recently wrote to her by email and received this reply from a secretary: “Thank you for your email. If you would like a personal reply from the Minister of Health, please email your postal address.”

As the colleague pointed out, any letter you “send” will be typed on a PC, and could be transferred easily to somewhere with an email capability regardless. Email or snail-mail, my colleague still awaits his response.

Bad language

The same colleague has had fun with the Eudora email client, which has an automatic rating program for what it thinks are naughty words. He has just written about the removal of infant hearts for study in hospitals in an innocent ethical discussion. All was fine until he referred to police efforts to gain access to blood samples stores by hospitals from infant “heel pricks”. The moment “prick” was typed it was underlined, along with the word “punishment” and “you neglect”.

Our reporter is curious about the Eudora's (Qualcomm's) “rude word” database and logarithm, which gave him a two-chilli rating -- “Your message is likely to offend the average reader”. As he points out, “let’s hope the police’s future email scanner (they will surely implement one) doesn’t use the Qualcomm engine”.

This reminds E-tales of a similar story, where someone commented that under some email monitoring programs it may only be safe to type the word “breast” in close proximity to chicken. Antibiotic-laced or not.

Splicing the mainbrace?

Can we deduce there's more merger mania ahead for the IT industry, judging by where Compaq held a media presentation last week?

Tha Auckland gathering was perhaps -- and it's a big perhaps -- the last featuring the Compaq bosses before the impending merger with Hewlett-Packard. (The proposal will be voted on by shareholders next week). The location was at the headquarters of the Oracle racing team, down in the Viaduct Basin, within champion spitting distance of Larry Ellis' multimillion-dollar yacht. Who knows, using Oracle vessels for Hewlett-Packard/Compaq meetings could be another "synergy" for the industry.

BYO, er, NT

The Wireless Data Forum stages a "Wireless Wednesday" networking opportunity with drinks and nibbles in Auckland this week. In an email to members, outgoing general manager Belinda Matheson appeals: "If you have one, please bring along a plastic name tag holder for your business card to make networking with new friends and associates easier." Hopefully it's a case of WDF wisely trying to free up more funds for food and booze. If you have your own set of name holders and want to make good use of them, you can join here.

Incidentially, after recent disputes over his exact role, Matheson's successor, Luigi Cappel, is identified as "acting general manager".

Future-proofing

A US-based cartoon website is apparently so popular in New Zealand we reportedly forced its creators to upgrade its servers.

The online animated cartoon Stone Trek was created three years ago by Florida man Brian Matthews. A cross between Star Trek and The Flintstones, the strip features characters such as Capt James T Kirkstone, played by William Shatrock; Mr Sprock, played by Leonard Alloy, and misadventures aboard the stoneship USS Magnetize.

Several episodes lasting between three and six minutes have been made, including spoofs of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and a coming one of Star Wars, just in time for the release of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It's brilliantly conceived, though the humour seems a bit lame.

Just before Christmas the website received a plug in a best of the web review on Xtra. Then last month Matthews' local paper, the Bradenton Herald in Florida, reported his response: "When the first episode went online, it generated an immediate email response from fans as far away as Europe, South America, Japan and New Zealand. The response from New Zealand was so great the server had to be shut down until we went to a bigger server."

Clearly the outfit's technology wasn't planned for growth -- don't they realise the population of this country could fit comfortably into a medium-sized US city?

Never too late

UK-based link-up site FriendsReunited.co.uk has claimed its first two weddings: Sheila O’Brien and Dave Trill of north-west London and Alison Hunt and Len Whitney of south London. O’Brien turned down Trill for a date 28 years ago when they went to Vyners Grammar School. Hunt and Whitney met as teenagers at Hillcroft School but lost touch in 1978. No word yet on whether the clutch of local equivalents will rekindle old flames.

Mugabe games

The dictator of the moment, Robert Mugabe, is topping the ratings in one place -- and he doesn’t even have to cheat. South African students have created the Get A Life website featuring the Zimbabwean leader in a range of games. The latest is called Extradite Mugabe in which you help his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, fire Mugabe through two moving targets.

Former Serbian head of state Slobodan Milosevic, on trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity, also appears. Creator John Kuhn says 15,000 played the Mugabe game in its first few days. Other Mugabe games offer the possibility of squirting diesel and crashing Mir on to him.

Machiavellian emails

Backstabbing British office workers use email to further their careers, and send racist, sexist and pornographic messages. Some 38% of Brits surveyed send emails to backstab their colleagues by pointing out their mistakes, says the NOP Research Group, with London the Machiavellian capital, 55% of its workers admitting to such practices.

Some 30% of those in the survey, commissioned by internet filtering company SurfControl, admitted sending racist, sexist or pornographic emails while at work, though four-fifths also believed email offers a "sense of protection" because everything is written and documented.

Virtually homeless

A place with no jobs and houses is obviously better than Pakistan. Swedish artist Lars Vilk has created a virtual country based in a remote area of Sweden where many of his sculptures are located. Vilk is battling with authorities over his rights to display the art on the plot, which attracts many visitors, and created the country, Ladonia, hoping to gain some autonomy.

But he says the virtual country, which has 6000 registered residents from around the world, is currently being deluged with applicants for citizenship.

“Everything had been going quite peacefully when suddenly we started receiving several hundred applications a day from people in Pakistan -- people actually believed it was possible to reach here and get jobs, to settle here for a new life."

Vilk has had to put a note on the citizenship page explaining that it is impossible to get a house or job in Ladonia.

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