When someone calls and leaves voice mail at work, the message is sent to us in email rather than appearing on the phone. The message is attached to the email as a sound file so we may listen to it, and somewhere along the way, the voice mail is processed and added to the email as text so the message may also be read. It has worked well each time I’ve gotten voice mails in the past.

But then my niece left me a message. It was perfectly clear when I listened to it, but her message brought the machine to its knees as it completely failed to accurately convert her message into text:

Ring if you please bring me see you on a minute. Anyway — coming and going into now that they cast — and not not — not preferring to spell it anyway we’re going to there’s going to be going there we were gonna go shopping — there — entered into doing some stuff there anyway so while we’re there we were in my there they were in today is there any way anyway so will be there for a while and — fiasco probably be home late always get bigger from day and then if you’ll offline that I don’t think your offline maybe homemade is that it’s best — that I don’t know. About that bye.

Cutting-edge technology taken down by a 13-year-old girl. Tragic.

I got the following email recently (formatting left intact):

Subject:  Gun Vote – USA Today

This takes literally 2  clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue  question with USA Today. It will only take a few  seconds of your time. Then pass the link on to all  the pro gun folks you know. Hopefully these  results will be published later this month. This  upcoming year will become critical for gun owners  with the Supreme Court accepting the District of  Columbiacase against the right for individuals to  bear arms.

First – vote on this  one.

Second – launch it to other folks and  have THEM vote – then we will see if the results  get published.

Vote in the USA Today poll -  click on the link below.

The  Question is:
Does the Second Amendment give  individuals the right to bear arms?

Vote  here: Yes!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!

http://www.usatoday.com/news/quickquestion/2007/november/popup5895.htm

The correct answer to the question “Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?” is no. The Second Amendment doesn’t grant anyone the right to bear arms because our rights do not come from the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or even government. The Declaration of Independence states that the source of our rights is God, and the Bill of Rights only lists some them. It does not grant rights to the people any more than government may grants us our rights. Government’s responsibility is to secure these rights for the people, not restrict them. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote before about our God-given rights:

If there is no God, then who or what grants us our rights? They can’t be “God-given” if there is no God to give them, right? Then this implies that the rights must flow from the government. And what the government gives one day, it can easily remove the next. You can see how this has happened in the People’s Republic of China, and I do not wish to see it happen here in the United States. So I’ll be keeping both my God and my God-given rights, thank you very much.

In any case, the quiz is from November of 2007, and the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller in June of 2008 that the Second Amendment applies to individuals. I don’t put any faith in non-scientific polling like at USA Today. Heck, I don’t put much faith in scientific polling because of how easy it is to manipulate people into giving the desired answers.

Sure, we may talk about how our rights come from the Constitution, just like we talk about the United States being a democracy. But in both cases, it’s best to really know the facts behind the statements.

I got an email from my Angolan friend, Dorathy Barnado, today.

YOUR PLIGHT IS NEEDED

Sir,

I am Dorathy Barnado the wife of a late Military General an erstwhile top-ranking member of a frontline liberation movement in Angola,whose organization had engaged the Angola government in a protracted civil war since 1975.

I am therefore contacting you to assist me in channeling $4.5Million U.S Dollars belonging to my late husband into a productive investment ventures instead of war.I looks to make this investment discreetly under discretionary asset management arrangement.

I have contacted you on the consideration that you can assist me and work out the possibility of placing this fund with you for management either in your existing establishment or other venture to be undertaken at your discretion under terms to be agreed upon. I therefore prefers that this investment be made in your country.

I shall be expecting your response in order to furnish with details of the funds. All replies in response of this mail shall be directed to my private email address: dbarnado@[spammer].net

Yours truly,
MRS DORATHY BARNADO
Email: dbarnado@[spammer].net

OK, she’s not my friend, and I do not know her. But I can spot a scammer when I see one, and “Dorathy” is such a scammer. To be specific, this is an example of a Nigerian 419 scam, even though she claims to be in Angola.

I frankly don’t care how much they promise, I know it’s a scam. And you can’t cheat an honest man.

The LA Times is reporting a story about a psychiatrist who was fleeced out of $3 million by Nigerian scammers. And who says that spam doesn’t pay?

The Nigerian Internet scam — known in some circles as 419 after the Nigerian statute that outlaws fraud — is a long-running con that preys on people with e-mail accounts. Though there are scores of variations, the con begins with an unsolicited message from Nigeria or other African nation — usually from an alleged government official, banker or businessman who needs to find a way to get millions of dollars out of his country.

If the target of the sting agrees to set up a United States bank account and pay transfer fees and other charges, he’s told that he’ll get a substantial portion of the money once it is freed up.

If he wasn’t willing to get money that wasn’t his by claiming to be the next of kin (a common tactic) or helping to get money out of Nigeria, he wouldn’t have been taken advantage of. You can’t cheat an honest man. But if you are a money-greedy psychiatrist in California, you can be fleeced all day long.

Should I send him a copy of my Nigerian 419 scam article?

Email is an interesting thing. It is so very easy to type up an email to someone, yet very few people ever respond when they read something they like or disagree with. Wright’s Law tells me that for every email I receive, there are 156 people who agree with the emailer, but who are just too lazy busy to write. My sense of honesty forces me to explain that Wright’s Law is expressed as, “42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot,” that it is named for comedian Steven Wright, and that so far, all statistics referred to in this article have been made up. But I felt it was about time to answer some of my emails in a very public way.

“What is the best email you’ve ever received?”

The funniest email I have received in a long time came during the height of the recent Terri Schiavo brouhaha. This pithy gem was only six words long. The meat of the message was the succinct “F*** YOU!” that is the staple of genteel and well-educated pundits throughout the English-speaking world. But what cracked me up was the automatic signature at the end of the message: “Have a great day!” A word of advice to future ranters — don’t dilute your hatred with well wishes. It’s a bit schizophrenic.

“Why do you call yourself Captain Midnight? Are you a real captain? Is your last name really Midnight?”

These questions are addressed in my about me page, but I’ll answer them again here. No, I’m not really named “Captain Midnight,” any more than my wife is really named “The Pirate King.” Believe me, that would look strange on a marriage license, except in Massachusetts. But I do have some captain’s bars from my fighter-pilot father, if that counts for anything. I have used this pseudonym for nearly 15 years; I first borrowed it from the Robert A. Heinlein novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. The protagonist of the story sometimes refers to himself as “Captain Midnight,” and my favorite quote comes from page 107 in my copy of the book: “Captain Midnight, undaunted as usual, knew just what to do.”

“Would you write up your views on [some issue]?”

Maybe. Someday. This isn’t your typical blog with multiple small postings each day about whatever strikes my fancy. Instead, I write about stuff that moves me, and my basic goal is to write at least 1,000 words on my chosen subject. [Eh, I've since skipped that requirement -- Captain Midnight] I’m not the speediest of typists, so these articles can take a bit to crank out, especially if I’m called away on some other task. At any given time I have a half-dozen topics that have been buzzing in my head for a while, and one of them will come to the forefront and demand to be released. This often means that I am not in the vanguard of a breaking story, but then I’m not a journalist in the classic “Stop the presses!” sense. I’m merely an opinionated person who thinks that both of the people who read this site would appreciate my take on certain issues. Or should appreciate my take. I told you I was opinionated.

“What are your favorite blogs?”

There isn’t enough time to read all the work of people I would really like to read. I’d have to quit both sleeping and working if I even wanted to begin keeping up with all the good writing that’s out on the Internet. Since I believe in Sturgeon’s Law that “90% of everything is crud,” it is important to avoid the crud whenever possible. The amazing thing to me is how many really good blogs exist; of course, that means a huge amount of crud must be out there as well. Here is a listing of sites that I visit daily to check for new material, in alphabetical order:

There are many others that I will visit once a week or so, but they are too numerous to list here.

“Could you send me some cool links, please?”

Sure. Here you go.

“What is your favorite joke?”

Again, honesty requires me to confess that no one has ever written to ask for my favorite joke, but I wanted to pad this past a thousand words and end with a laugh, so here goes:

There once was a field full of carrots. It was an old field, and it wasn’t so tasty to the carrots any more. One day, a carrot noticed that the field on the other side of the road had been freshly plowed and fertilized. He wiggled out of his hole and hopped across the road to the new field, where he planted himself. Bliss! He waved and called his friends over to the new field.

Thus began the massive carrot migration. Then one day, a carrot was hit by a passing car as he was hopping across the road. His friends rushed his mangled body to the nearest hospital where the finest carrot doctor in the land worked for hours repairing the young carrot. It was touch and go, but finally the head surgeon came out of the operating room to announce that he had both good news and bad news for the anxious family.

“The good news is that he will live. The bad news is that he’ll be a vegetable for the rest of his life.”