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From 5 June 2005 Issue

A Sagacious Geek Leaves Lasting Lesson
By Michelle Rivera - MichelleRivera1@aol.com

Wildlife educators caution that if you see a skunk "doing tricks," you better hightail it outta there because you're about to be slimed. Some species of skunks stand on their heads before spraying, giving a cute little show that belies the onslaught of a series of incidents that will, momentarily at least, change your priorities.

I didn't see a yoga-practicing skunk, my experience was a lot more tame one day when my computer starting doing some weird tricks of its own. It booted up, and then, as if being strangled and gasping for air, turned bright blue, then black, and with a malodorous puff, shut down, dead, kaput.

A few days later, I opened my front door to welcome the geek that had been sent from the computer repair shop, a man who, despite the big black-framed glasses and hearing aid, and the short-sleeve dress shirt with the pocket protector, looked like my knight in shining armor. Indeed, I almost looked past this skinny little kid who could have been all of twelve, to see the brilliant white steed I was sure he had arrived upon.

He diagnosed and sorted out my problem (a blown motherboard) and was checking all the programs when he told me that my computer (and this is the part you'll care about), could run a lot faster if it was exorcised of all the little demon spy programs that had been installed every time I logged on to the internet. "Just go to www.downloads.com, he said, and put the words "Spybot search" in the search line, and download the free "Spybot software." As he said the words, he performed each function and soon my computer was undergoing a vast and cleansing spyware eradication program. In the end, this little Spybot had sought out and destroyed 118 instances of spyware on my computer. Makes you feel all icky!

While we were waiting for this process, Mr. Wonderful took in all the animal-rights posters, photos of demonstrations, Bob Barker's Autograph, the shrine to Peter Singer and all the other stuff we all have in our offices and asked me if I liked animals. (Insert your own joke here). He then went on to share with me that his girlfriend is an adoption counselor at the local shelter and that he met her when he brought in a stray dog. Naturally, the geek, the girl and the dog all live together now in perfect harmony but that's for another time.

"So tell me," the cynic in me said, "Why are these Spybot programs available for free? I mean, after all, with all the good stuff it's doing for my computer to make it run better, why are they giving it away instead of selling it?"

"Well, you know how there are all these bad people in the world who are staying up nights dreaming of ways to phish your computer and get into your hard drive and spread viruses and all like that?" he asked.

Oh yes, I affirmed, I knew all about that. Those people are everywhere! Spreading internet hoaxes, stealing Ebay accounts, spreading death and destruction wherever they go.

"Well, there are also good people out there. People who want to shut them down, people who want to help. People who are really good at computers and consider it a personal victory when they stop some bad guy from hurting people's computers. They don't charge because they really believe in what they are doing, they are doing something really good for people."

What a concept!

A few weeks later, during my daily meditation, his words came creeping across my consciousness and it occurred to me that these good people are everywhere, aren't they? I mean, those of us who work in and for animals, we always say how we "hate people" and we always hear of all the bad things that are done to them. But we need to remember that there are good people out there too. For every creep who drowns kittens, there are two people who would jump right in after them. For every bastard who fights dogs, there are three more who would snatch those dogs from harm's way if they only could and banish their owners to jail cells. For every Jeffrey Dahlmer, there is a Wayne Pacelle. For every Huntington vivisectionist, there is a Jane Goodall, for every Purdue, there is a Karen Davis. We are legion, we are strong and we will eventually win. We need to remember that we have a lot to fight for but right is on our side. It's so easy to get discouraged. Just yesterday ten greyhounds died in a fire because a security guard, upon hearing the alarm, twice went to the wrong kennel and found nothing amiss. Stories like that enrage us and cause us great distress, but we must remember that although ten died, fifty-nine were saved, and are being treated at a hospital by caring people who are doing their level best to keep these dogs alive. Later, they will be sent to a greyhound adoption program where more people will help them find homes. Finally, they will be adopted by caring people who will lovingly invite them to be members of the family and hopefully give them lots of good things to eat.

There will always be "us" and "them" and we will always be fighting the good fight but it's a noble thing we do.

Oh, and stay away from skunks standing on their heads, they are not trying to impress you, trust me on that.

Go on to Oh I Wish I Was An Oscar Mayer Wiener
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