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OCTOBER 6, 1997:  CHAIN GANG: Those ever-thoughtful, paternalistic Washington bureaucrats at the Department of Energy have created an unlikely online repository for urban mythology: http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/ CIACChainLetters.html. In addition to a long lecture on why spam (and all such fire-and-forget correspondence) is wrong, there's a section of the page devoted entirely to bogus chain letters. Our personal favorites are the chilling "testimonials" on human kidney harvesting, which incited the same giddy terror we experienced after the "Bloody Mary" story at Stephanie Rioux's third-grade slumber party. Just when you thought it was safe to look in the mirror, up pops the horror of a bathtub filled with ice and instructions, upon regaining consciousness, to use the carefully placed nearby phone to "call 911 immediately." Log on and get the gory details.

The other great thing about this site is that it dispels, once and for all, the myth that viruses can be transmitted via email. Though the mission of the DOE's "Computer Incident Advisory Capability" is to expose Internet hoaxes, with especial attention to the latest information on the circulation, circumvention and cure for known computer viruses (the last update was back in July; but a variety of links may offer more timely information), the site offers a nice introduction to online etiquette for novice and experienced Internet users alike.

But for a little ham on wry, don't miss the misleading "fair use" link, which takes the narrow focus of informing DOE employees, via memoranda, about the appropriate uses of the Internet and email. Namely, it spells out its "zero tolerance" policy for such breaches of federal Standards for Ethical Conduct as the playing of computer games, use of email for "social activities not sponsored by the Department," and (of course) viewing sexually explicit material. The ultimate threat: "Such misuses have resulted in counseling, termination of employment...and criminal charges in (at least) one case."

"We, as Federal employees, are expected to hold ourselves to the highest standards of behavior and stewardship," the memo concludes. Guess former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary wasn't on that mailing list. She's been under recent investigation for gross expenditures on travel (four trips at $3.42 million), soliciting charitable contributions in return for promises of political access, and that weird and costly list ranking friendly vs. unfriendly members of the press corps. (Though she cops to the $46,500 blacklist, she denies all allegations regarding the alleged contribution, and chalks her travel tab up to good old-fashioned "bad bookkeeping.") For our tax dollar, we'd rather foot the bill for gratuitous chatter and all the free porn those nameless hacks in the windowless cubicles can handle on their lunch breaks.

DREAM ON: Every fall, the new TV lineup affords a quick peek into the dim cul-de-sacs of mainstream culture as the channels become clotted with a slew of weird, ill-conceived or just plain bad shows that eke out brief little life spans and then are canceled. One of the most intriguing: You Wish!, a sitcom following Sabrina, the Teenage Witch on Friday evenings. It goes like this: A divorced mom raising two teenage kids comes into possession of a vivacious, adorable, young, male genie who's just aching to fulfill her every need, if you get our drift. "I haven't granted a wish in 2,000 years," he says, "and I'm feeling a bit pent up!" It's like all the barely covert sexuality of I Dream of Jeannie has been transported to the 1990s with a coy little gender twist; or as if Shirley Jones had had a magical sex slave on The Partridge Family. Or maybe just a sexy slave. At any rate, Mom decides her greatest desire is for the genie to open and close the garage door for her. Still, the season premiere has them sitting on her bed together while she wears a nightgown, making the rest of the season rife with possibility if more double entendres and suggestive situations ensue as the genie and his master (as he calls her) get to know each other a little more intimately. We can only hope.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: If you're all dressed down with nowhere to go, the UA Modern Languages Building auditorium has cool happenings with great regularity. Events this week include the continuation of the UA Poetry Center's Fall Reading Series with Chickasaw poet, novelist and essayist Linda Hogan (The Book of Medicines, Solar Storms and Mean Spirit) at 8 p.m. Wednesday, October 8. Call 321-7760 for information. And the UA Department of German Studies continues its fall film series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 9, with Die Augen der Murnie Ma. Call 621-7385 for information. Both events are free.

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