Chatter #53: December 10, 2001

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM



The Bush/GOP recession is rolling on, and now it has rolled over Teri and me. Teri was laid off from her job last week; she's still on maternity leave, but she won't be going back in January as we expected.

There are plusses and minuses to the situation; Teri had wanted to stay home with the baby for more than the eight weeks allowed by law. On the other hand, we'll badly miss that second income; I'm not sure yet just how tight things will be. This places a huge new burden of responsibility and worry on me.

We'd arranged day care at a place literally a one minute walk from her job; then we'd improved even on that situation when my parents offered to take care of Sebastian two or three days a week. I was particularly happy about that! We'll still have my folks take care of him at least one day a week, I think (for some reason I'm sure they'll be willing ). It will be good for Teri to have a little time off, and Sebastian needs someone to introduce him to fine music and the Armenian. language.

Health care will all have to be switched over, of course, but we'll get through it.


Sebastian is doing wonderfully. He had a pediatric appointment this morning, and he weighs 13 pounds nine ounceshe's huge! Although not fat. Apparently his proportions are perfect. I wish I could show a picture, but of course I can't. Incidentally, he had four shots today and Teri tells me he cried and cried! Poor little boy.

He's very close to being able to roll himself over; a week ago I put him in the crib on his back (the recommended position), and came back a little later to find him on his side! From that position he could easily have rolled onto his stomach, so turning over can't be more than a week or two away. We'll need to be particularly careful.

He smiles, grins, gurgles, and is so close to giggling that it's scary. He sticks out his tongue when I do, with a huge grin. And Teri has gotten him to TALK! Really! When we go up to him, put our faces near his, and say "Hi!" with a big smile, he mimics our mouth movements. And sometimes when he does, he smiles and whispers "Hi!" back to us! Once or twice he's even said it out loud, quite clearly in his little-boy voice.

He almost certainly doesn't know what he's saying, of course, but it's still amazinghe's only nine weeks old!

A Shock To The System

I had quite a scare a few nights ago! I'm not sure if it was a worm, a virus, or something else, but on Saturday night my computer was badly corrupted. Here's what happened.

Someone new had signed my guestbook. But as so often happens, they didn't leave an email address; only a nondescript web address. I'm often able to get an email address from a web site, though, so I clicked on the link.


New windows with porno ads ERUPTED into my system like a volcano or, well, a porn star. I started hitting Alt-F4 like crazy, and after a little while managed to shut them all down. Relieved, I started Internet Explorer back up.

What the hell? It opened that same original porn site back up again! Again the ads erupted. Finally no more windows opened, and I tried to figure out what had happened. One thing was immediately obvious: my default starting page had been changed from Google to the porn site. Bastards! But I could fix that. A quick visit to Internet Tools and all would be restored...

I clicked on "Home", and Google popped up. Fixed! But wait a minute...on the blue title bar where it used to say "Google - Microsoft Internet Explorer", it now said "Google - (porno page URL)"! No matter where I clicked, I'd go there...but the original porno site URL was tacked on the title bar next to them all (for example, this page appeared as "Chatter - porno site URL").

Something was obviously very, very wrong. I was surprised at how upset I was...I was sweating and cramping. Still, it was time to sit back and try to take stock. And when I did, I found that my system had become very different...

Somehow the porno site URL had been tacked into every IE window title. Porno ads popped up at random times, EVEN IF I DIDN'T HAVE IE OPEN. Twenty porno sites had been added to my IR Favorites, ranging from to Russian pre-teen girls to gay personal ads. An HTML porno-site icon had been added to my desktop! And my Startup menu included that link! I deleted that right away, deleted all of the new Favorites, cleaned out my IE history and temporary Internet files, emptied my Recycle box, and then ran a file search on my system for anything with the porno site name in it. Nothing. Whew! To test things, I shut down the system, waited a minute, and booted it back up.

BOOM! As soon as the system booted up the original porno site automatically opened again, along with all of the popups. Everything was back the way it had been before I'd done all that cleaning, but worse, because Internet Explorer was NOT supposed to run on startup! Now I was terrified. Someone had taken control of my system, and I didn't know if I could take it back.

Incidentally, I subscribe to McAffee's online anti-virus service, which did NOTHING to help. Something I'll remember when renewal time comes up.

It didn't seem that this was a virus, seemed more like irresponsible advertising run totally amok (as my friend Virgil later put it). But it was wedged deep into my system.

A while ago I downloaded a program called Ad-Aware, a neat program which searches your system for adware and spyware (if you don't know what those terms mean, you need to educate yourself; short version, when you download a program you often end up with targeted commercials built into your browsing experience, and some programs secretly record what you do and relay that information elsewhere. No lie! Sort of a commercial version of Big Brother, although what with the recent government destruction of the Bill of Rights that seems sort of redundant. But I digress). Anyway, Ad-Aware also allows you to remove those unwanted programs. I ran it, and it found twenty or thirty unauthorized programs and removed them. There! I deleted the porno desktop icon, removed the Startup entry, deleted the Favorites, and emptied the Recycle Bin. Then for good measure I went into IE and in addition to changing the Home page back to Google, reset everything to default settings.

Shut down. Wait. Restart, heart pounding, covered in sweat. It was near midnight, and I was dead tired.

BOOM! Porn, porn, porn. It was all back.

I started researching. DejaNews had nothing useful for the keywords of the porno page title and "clean" or "remove"...just porno advertisements. Google also had nothing. Finally I found a link to an article about contamination of IE, and a link to a program that was supposed to fix it. Damn! It wasn't shareware, and it couldn't be downloaded. But where commercialware exists, freeware and shareware are almost certainly to be found...

More searching turned up some programs. I downloaded one and ran it. It gave a lot of options of things to clean...I selected all of them and ran the thing. There were no visible changes. Went through the routine again, deleting everything. Down, wait, restart, boom. I began to wonder if I'd have to buy a new computer.

But first I'd try to remove Internet Explorer and re-install it. Whoops! Microsoft doesn't allow you to remove IE...the best it offers is a "repair" option, which I tried. Still no luck.

Tried McAffee. It found nothing. Tried to get it to cleanse my system of cookies and other undesirable things, and it wouldn't even run! There were ActiveX problems of some sort, which were beyond me of course.

I knew there was information online on how to rip IE out by the roots, but that would be pretty drastic. It was nearly 1:00 AM, and my mind was racing...I felt as if my body had been beaten for an hour, I was totally drenched in sweat, I was dizzy, and I desperately needed sleep. I'd written to my friend Virgil who knows a bit more about some of the internal workings of Windows than I do, but hadn't heard back yet. Should I give up, go to sleep, and try to figure out what to do in the morning? Could I even sleep with my system so corrupted? I doubted it.

And then, out of the blue, it hit me. The Windows Registry. The (to me) mysterious and crucial Registry that contained so much core information for Windows. Virgil sometimes messed with his, but I'd never dared to mess with mine...too dangerous, because I really wouldn't know what I was doing. Kind of like performing brain surgery on my PC without medical training, using a grapefruit spoon...but I was desperate. I remembered the program: "regedit". And used it.

It had a Find function! That was helpful. I searched for the key part of the porno site name and came up with...TWENTY ENTRIES in the Registry?! Most of which I couldn't understand, but some had something to do with Channels, reinstalling stuff, etc. It looked very much as if I'd found the problem...but would the cure be worse than the disease? If I flat-out deleted all these entries, I might do incalculable damage to my system in some mysterious way. Of course I could reformat my hard drives and reinstall Windows, but I'd lose a lot. I back up, but not often enough. And in any case I have no way to back up even a small percentage of everything on my system. Only the key writing files and such are protected. And even those were a bit out of date.

But I was so desperate that I didn't care. I selected all of the affected Registry entries and pressed "Delete". They disappeared. Then I went back through the routine...home page, Favorites, desktop icon, Startup entry...and shut down. And waited. And waited. I knew that if this didn't work I was beaten....



PSBefore I went to bed that night I went straight to my guestbook and removed that entry. No one else is going to be trapped the way I was. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone! Well, except thugs like the criminals currently in power in the US, of course. And DAMN those sleazebags who created that monster of a site! Why couldn't they have given it an obviously pornographic name? Hell, even if they HAD what they did was still wrongthere's no excuse for hijacking someone else's system!

Monday Madness

As I've mentioned, my commute is pretty long; 90 to 120 minutes each way, although on a very lucky day I might make it in 80 minutes. I use my digital stick recorder to make notes for story and site ideas, and listen to the radio when I can stand it (sometimes I tune in a French language station, or easy listening just to get away from those sycophantic GOP-whores at NPR), but in general it's usually a pretty boring experience.

And sometimes it's not. On a misty morning not long ago I drove by a dilapidated old foundry near my house. I'd never seen any sign of activity there, but this morning the huge doors in the front were wide open...and through the mist I could see deep within, towards the back of the building, an incredibly beautiful column of roaring flame.

Not all of my commute experiences are as pleasant, unfortunately. Last Monday I was driving in to work, when I saw a guy in a black Oldsmobile who was obviously not a patient driver. He was passing on the left, on the right, not signaling, and cutting far too close to other cars. As 295 approached 95 two lanes become one; he pulled into the non-existent lane on the left and started passing cars.

But a truck ahead of him had had the same idea, and was blocking the way. He sat stuck behind this truck while the correct lane slowly inched forward. As my car pulled next to his, he decided to force his way ahead of me. Literally. It was a game of chicken: two cars inching forward at a snail's pace, me in my proper lane, him getting closer and closer to my car. A foot away...six inches...less than THREE INCHES away! Meanwhile the driver was going berserk, screaming and gesticulating at me like a madman. I ignored him.

But he was way too close, and in a crucial moment I was too slow. The car ahead pulled forward and he jumped ahead of me, giving me the finger. My temper kicked in and I gave him the finger back, both barrels. We had a little finger-waving contest, for a while, which I found extremely unsatisfactory. The way I felt that moment, the only thing that WOULD be satisfactory would be either for a cop to come by and shove a nightstick into the guy, or for someone to blow his brains out. Neither was about to happen, obviously, and I knew I'd be stuck behind this jerk for another twenty minutes, figuratively cheek-by-jowl...because he was staring into his rear-view mirror quite often, and favoring me with a finger-wave now and again.

After a moment's thought, I picked up my cell phone and dialed it, clearly in the view of this psychotic. Speaking slowly and enunciating clearly, I told the police his license plate number and state, car make and color, described the driver as best I could, and told them exactly how and where he'd tried to run me off the road. My mission complete, I hung up the phone with a vengeful grin.

As you've no doubt guessed, I never actually pressed "talk" on my phone, so the whole thing was a bit of impromptu acting with a dead phone. Perhaps he suspected that too...but he couldn't know for sure, which is what I was counting on.

We inched on, and my smile became broader and broader, interspersed with chuckles and eventually out-and-out chortling and laughter. At first it had been pure roleplaying; I was visualizing the driver at the hands of the police (specifically that New York cop with the broomstick fetish). But as I drove on, the laughter became more and more real. The driver looked miserable, and started doing a weird sort of sneering head-shaketrying to mock my laughter, obviously. But the fear that I'd really called the police was eating at him. And why limit his fear to the police? For all he knew I'd called a Mafia friend or relative (I don't have any, of course) and arranged to have his car traced and legs broken. I was ruining his day, and that not only repaired the damage this jerk had done to my harmony but was giving me the gift of laughter, to boot. :)

By the time we reached 95 he was completely cowed. As he pulled into the middle lane, I gave him a big smile and a happy wave goodbye...he just stared back, miserable, and pulled away. A few miles down the road the middle lane had stalled out, and as I passed him on my left he was clearly trying not to look at me. I gave him a break and only chuckled, but was pleased to notice that although there were NO cars behind me for a long, long way, and he could have started rolling again if he'd just pulled behind me into the right lane, he didn't. He stayed stuck behind that truck, and I knew why. I had ruined his day, and even better, maybe, just MAYBE I'd given him a reason to think twice before behaving like a complete asshole behind the wheel.

The Future

This page is getting too big again. What do you thinkshould I split it in half again, or start making each new entry a separate page and make the main Chatter page a date index of links to them? That would make it easier to read entries in order, oldest to newest or vice-versa. Sound good?

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[email protected] Copyright 2001 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 17, 2001. version 1.0