Ooh, Halloween, festival of things that go bump in the night—like me rummaging in the back of my closet for my costume. Of course, with


House of horrors

Ooh, Halloween, festival of things that go bump in the night—like me rummaging in the back of my closet for my costume. Of course, with an election around the corner, the really creepy stuff is all too close at hand. Submitted for your approval, the following things to scare you, fret you, terrify you, and otherwise make you go "hmm."

Fox Guards Henhouse. The FBI wants to teach cyber-ethics to schoolchildren. That would be the same FBI that threatened nuclear physicist and innocent man Wen Ho Lee with the death penalty if he didn't "confess" to stealing atomic-bomb secrets. Among their pedagogical plans: Telling kids that ratting out bad people like hackers and MP3 fans is a good thing. Maybe the kids could instruct the G-men on the ethics of tattling?

Xena Cancelled. So much for my Gabrielle costume.

Bush, Gore, Feh. George "limits to freedom" Bush wants filters on school and library computers that would reduce the Net to material fit for a five-year-old (if, of course, such software actually worked as claimed). Gore wants ISPs to log which pages their kids visit (leaving that record—and presumably any URLs the parents visit—open to subpoena by "interested" officials), but at least, he's not blocking them altogether. Let me reiterate: Tipper Gore's husband is the best presidential hope we have for free speech on the Internet. That whirring sound you hear is Frank Zappa spinning in his grave . . . like a top.

Further Feh. In a recent poll commissioned by the Digital Media Forum, 92 percent of Americans favored filtering the Net in schools; 75 percent support banning First Amendment-protected speech (specifically, hate speech and pornography) from the Net entirely. And each of those idiots has the same number of votes I do. The only tiny ray of hope on the filtering front is that the Congressional panel appointed to study filtering software (in the wake of the 1998 Child Online Protection Act) has recommended filtering not be mandatory because the software's lousy. Expect that recommendation to be roundly ignored in the last days of vote-pandering and election hysteria.

John Giuffo. If I ever get a letter like his recent Salon missive in response to a column, I will a) laugh my ass off; b) understand I've achieved immortality, like the guy who pitched Hank Aaron's 715th home run; c) give up and turn the column over to the letter-writer, obviously the better person for the job. See for yourself: http://www.salon.com/news/letters/2000/10/18/new_york/index.html.

Next They Ban Your Halloween Costume. Appeals courts in Florida and Massachusetts this month ruled that the right to anonymity doesn't extend to your typing fingers. In Florida, a judge ruled that ISPs can be compelled to reveal the identities of pseudonymous folk posting allegedly defamatory messages in chats and threads, even if the statements haven't been proven to be libelous. Got that, Sunshine State whistle-blowers and critics of the powerful and lawyered-up? Meanwhile up North, much the same thing happened. Next stop for this ship of fools: Ohio, early November.

Fr貥 Gros, Hermano Grande, Etc. The United States and Europe are close to agreement on a sweeping cyber-crimes treaty that would, among other things, require Internet companies to retain records of customer activity and ISPs to review private e-mails sent through their services. Other surveillance powers would also be expanded. EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center) and GILC (the Global Internet Liberty Coalition) are urging the Council of Europe to reconsider its proposed treaty, but this one could, at best, go either way.

Ice Ice Baby. Scientists at the University of Missouri-Rolla's Virtual & Rapid Prototyping Lab have developed a 3D "printer" that makes things out of frozen water. (No, no Popsicles. Get that nasty thing out of your mouth—you don't know who programmed it.) We have advanced from the era of hideously ugly amateur desktop publishing into the era of hideously ugly amateur ice sculptures. No wedding reception will be spared.

AmIHotOrNot.com. It's demeaning. It's stupid. Someone please help me. I can't stop.

The Undead Walk Among Us. Remember Boo, the fashion dot-com that went fashionably bust? Not only is it relaunching under new management on the 30th, but the original founders—the Swedish duo who burned through nearly $120 million of investors' money in a year—are getting around $100,000 for writing a book on how they did the deed. On a related note, I'm writing a book on how my checking account came to have $11 in it last week; it's called Basic Stupidity and Lack of Self-Control. Any buyers? I'll throw in a Gabrielle costume cheap. . . .

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