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Welcome to I Am. When?

After a nearly 10 year hiatus, it is my pleasure to welcome you (back) to I Am. When?, the personal blog for Andrew Maxim. On this blog you will find entries dealing with virtual environments, robotics, information systems & technologies, physics rants, and miscellaneous "whatever thought gets stuck in my head" type stuff.

Excuse the massive amount of dust on this here Internet do-hicky-thing-a-ma-bobber. I have managed to restore all of my old blog entries from 10 plus years ago and obviously need to clean up some of the stuff. Do not fret, I will not be fixing spelling mistakes or editing entries (except this sticky post welcoming one) unless it pertains to a personal possessive which has become historically inaccurate (eg saying "here is a picture of my car," when I sold said car three years back). I will also be removing the Proverbs Web Calendar posts to keep from being misleading. The static pages are all fair game though.

Again, welcome (back) to I Am. When? I hope you enjoy the madness that is my mind.

Thanksgiving

Compared to the other nations of the Earth, the United States of America is a young and inexperienced country; while the land has seen its fair share of much older nations rise up on its soil, the country itself is still in its youth. Despite our young age, this is a great nation full of know-how, ingenuity and purpose.

Throughout the history of this nation there are two phrases, historical quotes if you will, that exemplify this drive, determination, and ability to overcome obstacles. The first occurred on July 20, 1969 at 4:18pm EDT when Neil Armstrong announced to the world, "The Eagle has landed." The second occurring each and every Thanksgiving morning as a country proudly declares, "The Turkey is in the oven."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Getting Into Graduate School - Part III

Maximizing Your Bachelor Degree

This last, and long overdue, part on getting into a good graduate level program covers the seldom mentioned criteria that many (most? all?) schools use when selecting candidates for entry: the value of your bachelor degree. The obvious side of this would be knowing that some schools are considered better than others, but that knowledge doesn't do you much good unless you plan on transferring to one of those "better" schools. Instead, we will focus on the courses that make up your degree.

Take a minute and dig out the requirements to earn your degree at your current school. It should consist of a bunch of required courses, a few courses you can pick and choose from, and "other" courses. These other courses could be anything from courses to meet the minimum credit requirements, to liberal art courses (such as needing 3 communications credits that could come from a variety of places), to specialized focus courses for your given degree. Hold onto that list. Open a new web browser and go to the undergraduate program for your major at one of the colleges on your graduate school list. For instance, if you are currently attending Brown with a major in Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon is probably on your list of graduate schools, so head over to the CMU Computer Science undergraduate website.

Once you have found your way to the undergraduate program website, see if you can find the degree requirements for your chosen major. Every college website I have been on has those requirements posted someplace, usually as a PDF file. Found it? Now compare the degree requirements from your current school to those of that prospective school. More than likely, unless they are both state universities within the same state, you will see several differences between the degree requirements. Your school might require one semester of Chemistry, while the other school requires two; or maybe your school allows you to choose between three advanced programming topics such as Compiler Design, Database Management Systems, and Operating Systems, while the other school requires Operating Systems. These differences are actually pretty damn important in the aspect of graduate school acceptance.

Continue reading "Getting Into Graduate School - Part III"

Getting Into Graduate School - Part II

Improving The Odds

Continuing on from where Part I left off, we should have narrowed our list of potential graduate schools down to a reasonable size. A list of about ten schools would be ideal; not that you will be applying to all ten, but because we will be whittling that number down a bit during the next part of this series.

There are several things admissions boards look at when approving or denying applicants. Most criteria should be pretty obvious such as grade point average, GRE/GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and essays. I can't offer any help on your GPA, it is either good enough or it is not. Likewise, you are on our own for the essay portion of any application, although I will point out that there is no such thing as an "optional essay" for grad school admissions. The other two common criteria I can offer a little advice on.

First, your GRE or GMAT scores. These are pretty standard tests covering math skills, verbal skills (definitions), and writing skills. You are on your own for the verbal section, as either you have a strong vocabulary or you do not. The other two sections I can offer advice on. The math and writing (quantitative and analytical) sections of the test are based on courses you should have taken by the end of your freshman year; the end of your sophomore year at the latest. The topics are Precalculus Algebra and English Composition. Remember those? The sooner you take the GRE or GMAT after finishing those (types) of courses the fresher it will be in your head and, hopefully, the better you will do on the test.

Continue reading "Getting Into Graduate School - Part II"

Getting Into Graduate School - Part I

Selecting the Right Graduate School

Before you begin applying to Masters or PhD programs at any graduate schools, the first thing you need to do is figure out which schools are right for you. Selecting the right school is not as easy as it might first appear and should be a continuing process right up to the point that you start submitting applications. This seems like the logical place for me to start talking about the application process for graduate programs.

The best time to start looking into graduate programs is during the second semester of your sophomore year in college (undergraduate program), and no later than the second semester of your junior year. There are many reasons for this that I will cover in part II, but for now, I'll just say that it allows for proper planning. Suffice it to say that this will (should) be an evolving process throughout your school search and the sooner you begin the process, the better prepared you will be.

I hate making lists and doing pros and cons type of stuff; they work for many people but I am not many people. There are times that they are a necessary evil and choosing a graduate program is one such time. This is a list that you will want to keep for a while and make changes to on a semi-regular basis, so I would suggest using a spreadsheet program like MS Office Excel or OpenOffice Calc. (Just for the record and to keep the FTC happy, I have received no endorsements from either product manufacturer, but I would be happy if Microsoft wanted to give me tons of cash or even free software to plug their products. Actually, to be completely honest, I'll whore myself out to any company that makes a good product.) Where was I? The list, that's right. You will likely wind up with a few lists of stuff when going through the grad school selection and application process, so find something to keep all this information in, even if it is just a college composition book.

Continue reading "Getting Into Graduate School - Part I"

Miscellaneous Crap

Forty. That is the minimum number of hours I am working each week, usually it is more. Sixteen. That is the number of credit hours I am enrolled in at school this semester. What does this have to do with anything except as an excuse as to why updates to this here blog-thingy are so few and far between? The answer, simply put, is to let you all know just how insane I really am. Bonkers.

Aside from all that I have been emailing with a few people on the Proverbs Web Calendar 2.1. A long time ago, in a life far, far away, I goofed in my coding. In my own defense, the part I goofed on was how the web event calendar handled some of the special characters in languages other than English, and I only speak English (as can be seen by how poorly translated the language files are). So a few boo-boos slipped past and some language packs did not work correctly.

The good news is that I took a little time away from my very busy schedule and fixed those "undocumented features." While I was fixing that problem, I went through and made a few other minor changes to the event calendar. The full list of changes is included in the download or on the calendar page up there ^. Just like that and we are now up to the Proverbs Web Calendar version 2.1.1.
Continue reading "Miscellaneous Crap"

Tutorial and Other Updates

As promised, I have finished up the Omnidirectional Tactile Whisker Sensor tutorial. Complete instructions are available in the tutorial section (linked in the main bar above). I think when all is said and done, each sensor comes out to a price of about $0.75 (yes, 75 cents) or less. I have made about a half dozen of these Whisker Sensors thus far and each has come out working quite well with little to no problems. The intention is to post this tutorial up on the Society of Robots website as well. Good stuffs all around.

Speaking of the Society of Robots (linked in the side bar over there <-- ), the website received much love in the July/August edition of Robot magazine. To be honest, it is about time the website got this attention, as there is so much information available at the Society of Robots for every level of roboticist. It really deserves a full featured article, or at the very least an interview with founder John Palmisano. Congratulations SoR! Well deserved.

I am also in the process of updating my Science Scout badges page to include my latest badge, as well as updating all the image links to the new Science Scout page. Even if you have no interest in sciencey stuff, I do recommend reading the badge page. It is quite the humorous compilation, if I do say so myself. It is linked off my About Me page (main bar above) or directly by clicking here.

The last update here is that I am hoping to have the next in my series on Computer Security up before end of week, where I will be covering User Permissions. Stay tuned...

Pull And Pray Is Not The Way

Oh my dear God. I found this article on birth-control from over at LICD Webcomic who got it from one of his readers, and I am just shocked. It seems every time I think there might be a glimmer of hope for the scientific community, they throw a curve ball over to the stands.

Seeing as I know (thanks to Google analytics) that most of my readers won't bother to click the above link, I will say that the article is about medical doctors wanting the withdrawal method, better known as the pull and pray method to be considered a viable form of contraceptive. And by "viable", I mean one in which the doctors should be discussing as a possible contraceptive method between partners. I will give them one tiny mark for admitting it is not a full-proof method, but just to acknowledge it is ludicrous to begin with. You know it, I know it, but apparently some doctors don't know it.

So how on Earth did they decide it should be a viable method of contraceptive? The answer is statistics. Many people have been using the pull-and-pray method with some success, which makes it statistically viable according to the doctor in the article. But what they never seem to teach in school is that statistics lie. Statistics are biased and opinionated and they, well, they lie. Except for the statistical correlation between the decline in Pirates and global warming. That one is truthful.

In order to see just how bad statistics can lie let's take a look at two examples of other methods of birth-control that should be thrown on the table from a statistical point of view. The first is an old wives tale that you hear from time to time and which has even made it into various movies: You can't get pregnant if you are a virgin. I will bet my life's savings that if you were to do a study on the number of teens who have practiced this method of birth-control, there would be less than a 50% conception rate. Probably somewhere below 20%. I can make that statement because of the next method of birth-control that should receive equal time with the withdrawal method.

The Just Have Sex Method of birth-control. Poll any couple who has tried to have a baby as to the frequency of their "unprotected" sexual activity prior to conception and you will be seeing averages of 30-60 days. Even on the low end of that, 30 days of "unprotected" sex, assuming an average of once per day, means that the couple had sex 31 times with one instance resulting in conception. That is a 96.7% effective rate for just having sex as a viable form of contraceptive. That's almost the level of condoms for FSMs sake. Statistically speaking of course.

Not buying it? Well, let's look at the facts then. The average menstrual cycle of a woman is 28 days. Of those 28 days, ovulation occurs around day 14, which is when the egg comes flying down the fallopian tube (the process starts around day 12). The egg is viable for about 2 days after that, meaning it can be fertilized by a sperm. Looking at the statistics for this, and being generous by allowing for 3 days of actual conception, we can see that for 89.3% of the days in a menstrual cycle conception is not going to happen.

"But Andrew," you say, "the most fertile period of a woman is from 5 days before to 2 days after ovulation. Wikipedia told me so." And you would be right. The reason for this is that sperm can actual survive inside a woman for 5-6 days or so. Meaning they can be waiting for the ovum like well trained Ninja, ready to strike at first sight. One would think that this would increase the odds of conception to something higher than 11%, right? Wrong.

Sperm are not well trained Ninja. At best they are undertrained Ninja. And Ninja are weak when compared with Pirates. Instead of swimming up to wait for the ovum to arrive, sperm, in their Ninja fashion, wander around aimlessly without a well thought out plan of attack. Most actually drip out of the woman after sexual intercourse is complete (hence the need for towels). The rest crash into each other, try to swim through the walls of the uterus, and general look like the three stooges. Basically, Ninja-like. This behavior greatly reduces the chance of conception overall.

Some do get lucky, however. This is why the human race has not died off, and the reason that there is a slight chance of conception. It is also the reason it is still called the "miracle" of life. This leads me to my last point regarding the so called withdrawal method of contraception.

When a man is sexually excited, even before intercourse, small amounts of semen are released from the penis. This helps in providing lubrication during intercourse. This semen contains viable sperm. It is just as likely that one of these viable sperm, released prior to ejaculation, could blunder upon the ovum and result in conception. Notice this little part: released prior to ejaculation. Meaning before the pull-and-pray method has even had a chance to take place.

If you put all of this together, you will see that the withdrawal method has roughly the same chances of conception (or prevention) as sleeping with only virginal women and just going for it (or the anti-withdrawal method). Stealing from my Pastafarian brothers and the Prophet Bobby Henderson, if you are going to teach the withdrawal method as a viable form of contraception, the other two methods listed here should receive equal time. Either that or some doctors need to go back to school to learn about reproduction and statistics. Thank You.

Cloning the Pink Panther

I have decided that scientists need to devote a large portion of their time and energy into cloning Peter Sellers and rapidly growing him back to adulthood. Yes, I am saying we should resurrect Peter Sellers. I am certain everyone out there can think of a million reasons that this would be desirable, with not having Steve Martin portray Inspector Clouseau on the top of everyone's list, but I have alternate motivations.

My reasons for wanting to bring Peter Sellers back to life might be dated by a few weeks, but still valid:

1. Every time the media uses the phrase "Swine Flu" there should be a law stating that the words would be dubbed in by Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

2. The Pink Panther movies should be remade, with every instance of the word "swine" replaced by "H1N1", just to bring the movies up to date.

3. Because the only decent thing Steve Martin did in the media was The Jerk and he should not be allowed to ruin another Pink Panther movie.

If someone could startup an Internet petition to make this happen, I would be forever grateful. Thanks.

A Few Site Changes

I love Serendipity. The word and the blog. Going through and making changes to this blog has been so simple thanks to all the work the developers have put into the core product and the plugins. There are a few things I have had to tweak in the PHP code, but that is only because I like to make it "all my own."

For those of you who could not tell already, I did in fact decide to go with the sticky entry to provide a quick blurb for new visitors. I have also opted to whore myself out and throw up the Google AdSense plugin. If all of my readers decide to click an advertisement I could probably afford to pay for 20 seconds of my monthly web hosting bill. Sweet. That aside, I am quite happy that it has been showing advertisements related to networks and security, as opposed to porn. Of course I think I disallowed porn advertisements when I setup my AdSense account, so that might explain it.

Speaking of whoring myself, you might also notice I changed the picture of me in the right hand corner. That is the most recent photo of myself from all of two days ago (there is one from yesterday someplace, but I don't have it yet). A new photo just in time for me to have cut my hair off and make the new photo no longer accurate. Good stuffs.

Tweaks and Changes. Oh My!

I've started the process of changing around the site in order to get it more "Andrew Friendly". Nothing overly drastic, but sometimes things get broken (such as last nights attempt at installing the Mobile Output plugin) and I figured I should provide some forewarning for future breakages. I have also run a complete backup of both the frontend files and the backend database, just to be on the safe side.

My hope is to get all my back-dated changes up on the blog over the next week, including some sort of "About Me" page. I have not decided yet, but I am leaning towards a sticky entry that explains I Am. When? for newcomers who happen to wander over this way. With a few billion people in the world, there have got to be a couple of people left out there who don't read my blog. I think it would be nice to present them with a short blurb in the form of a sticky post.

I also need to find a new picture for over there -->

Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed for me.

House

I know I am a little behind in the times, but a few weeks ago I discovered the Fox television show House. To be honest, it was actually the reruns on USA. I've known about the show since the first commercials started appearing on the Fox network during an episode of Family Guy or the Simpsons or some such thing; I just had no desire to watch another medical drama.

There have been a million medical shows on television and if you watch the network lineups it actually seems like the medical industry is in competition with the law enforcement sector to see who can get the most number of television shows produced each year. The majority only last a short while. Some of these shows I have watched (both on the medical and law enforcement sides of the line), most I skip over completely. For me, some work great (CSI as an example), while others fail miserably (CSI Miami as an example).

House is one of those shows that work great for a number of reasons, and despite being late to the show I am going to cover them. For anyone who has seen the show, the number one reason it works so well is the main character, Dr. Gregory House, played exceptionally well by actor Hugh Laurie. How can anyone not love House? He has all the qualities everyone looks for in a friend. He's antisocial. He's outspoken. He's arrogant. He's brilliant. He's self righteous. He's almost always right (can you really be self righteous if you are actually right all the time?). Now that I think of it, those qualities do remind me of someone. Hmmmm. Not sure who. It's right there on the tip of my tongue. Oh well, if I think of it I'll let you know.

The second reason House works so well is that the show is about the people and their interactions. While their interactions mostly focus around a medical topic, it is not about the medicine. It's also not about the drama (like E.R. was after the second season). It's the people. M*A*S*H was like that, and everyone loved MASH.

Another way House is like MASH is that despite having a continuing storyline, or rather continuity in the storyline, you do not have to watch every episode in order to enjoy the show. You can catch a brand spanking new episode and it is enjoyable. Flip the channel and watch an episode from two years ago, still enjoyable. I currently have no idea when or why the first team left (or was fired or whatever), but I get to continue to enjoy every episode without knowing. It's a nice thing.

My last reason that I enjoy House, and this is an Andrew twist and the real reason for this blog entry, is that you could replace the entire medical setting with an Information Technology setting and it would be exactly the same show. Get rid of the lab coats, switch the medical jargon for technology jargon, and swap out people patients for computer patients. The rest stays the same, which gives me something I can relate to.

House's team consists of several specialists, and as he actually explains during one episode, "you pick your specialist, you pick your disease." The same thing happens with IT specialists when dealing with any computer issue. In the end, it takes a diagnostician (someone whose specialty is that they are not specialized) to figure out the real problem and solution.

Of course as an IT show it would never work. No one would watch it. The moment someone said "corrupt hard drive" during an episode, the viewer's eyes would glaze over and they would change the channel. A doctor on television says "Cyclophyllidea" and people sit up to pay attention all the more. Yet everyone knows what a hard drive is, but how many of you know what Cyclophyllidea is? By the way, it was actually on an episode of House.

I was told by a friend that the real reason it wouldn't work as an IT show is because doctors are glamorous while IT people are not. What is not glamorous about the top richest people in the world for the last 20 years? None of them were doctors, most were IT people. Name two famous doctors. Most people can't, but they can all name Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. We have them. Right? Fine. Maybe Bill Gates is not sexy or glamorous. Ok, he's definitely not. Maybe doctors are. At least on television they are. And maybe an IT drama on television wouldn't work.

What did we learn from all this? Well, I like the show House. I will continue to chuckle to myself over replacing medical jargon with tech jargon as I watch the show. And I should change my title to "Information Systems Diagnostician", as it would solve my whole problem of not being specialized.

I Have No Words

Before you read on down further I would like to point out that I was told by an old friend that I have rather liberal views. She might be right, but I am pretty certain that this blog entry will see me firmly seated in both liberal and conservative hell. Not something I am proud of, but this has to be said...

It has just been brought to my attention that I owe some people an apology. I have never been very good at apologizing because, well, I am so rarely wrong. So here goes: I am deeply sorry for ever saying that any creature, whether it be plant, animal, bug, human or whatever, came into existence or its current form of being through evolution. There, I said it. Whoo. Glad I got that off my chest.

Apparently, I was wrong about that whole evolution thing, so I am sorry to all the creationists out there for saying I was correct about evolution. I was wrong. But so were all you creationists. We were all wrong. The worst part of it all is that the Pastafarians were wrong as well; the Flying Spaghetti Monster did not decide, in Its Noodley Wisdom, to make each creature the way it is. It was, in fact, PETA. Yes, you read that correctly. PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Who knew ecoterrorists were that powerful of beings, right? I certainly didn't.

I know what you are thinking, "Andrew has finally lost his mind." I can assure you, one and all, that there is no "finally" about it, as I am pretty certain I never had it to begin with. I digress though. To get back on track, you should take a quick look at this website PETA has put together. Go on, I'll wait. Mmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmm. Back? Oh sorry, I'll wait while your jaw reattaches. Mmmm. Mmmmmm. Mmmmmm. Mmmmm. You can read on, the awe doesn't go away. Really.

In their supreme power, PETA has not only managed to remove the scales from the animal formerly known as "fish" and replace it with fur, but have also turned them into warm blooded creatures. Just like that. Poof. Are you as amazed as I am?

While I, a mere mortal, am certain that the great and powerful PETA have thought this entire thing through, I do have a few questions to ask of them. Being such powerful beings, I would expect them not to take the time to answer, but maybe they will have a preacher in their cult, I mean organization, that can provide some answers. I will also admit that some of these may be answered on that website as I did not see myself as worthy enough to read their divine words and closed the browser window very quickly, lest my jaw become permanently detached.

Anyway, questions.

1. How did you solve the whole hypothermia problem that other Kitten species succumb to when placed in water for too long? Does this mean global warming has really been a PETA plan all along to keep the Sea Kittens nice and warm?
2. About that whole kittens breathing air thing? Or should we expect mass Sea Kitten kills to start floating to the surface of our lakes and rivers?
3. I live in Florida, and currently if an Alligator were to eat someone's Land Kitten that gator would be relocated or possibly killed. Will there be the same enforcement for alligators eating Sea Kittens?
4. Do you have any statistics available of the likelihood of being attacked by a large Sea Kitten while swimming versus, say, being killed by a falling coconut?
5. When people go fishing. Wait. Am I still allowed to call it fishing or is it something else now?
6. When people go Sea Kittening they use a rod and reel to get their dinner. Does this mean they can now use their rod and reel to catch and eat Land Kittens?
7. Will you be petitioning the government to require Land Kittening permits, and if so when does the season open?
8. Do Sea Kittens now taste like chicken or do they still have that fishy taste? I only ask because I never ate fish in the past because I don't like that fishy taste, but if they taste more like what I would imagine Land Kittens to taste like (i.e. chicken), well then I will have to get me a Sea Kittening Pole and permit.
9. When I go through the drive-thru should I now be ordering a Filet McSea Kitten?
10. Will PETA be killing off, I mean euthanizing Sea Kittens now, just like they do Land Kittens?
11. What is wrong with you people?

I have a few more questions, but these should do for a start.

I guess I did have a few words after all.

He Was Right, But He Wasn't

I just got done watching the Presidential address to Congress and immediately followed this up with a quick view of the online major networks new sites. Overall I thought the speech was very good and showed the President Obama that was lacking from his press room speech a few weeks back. The one part I cringed at was when President Obama gave credit to the United States for creation of the automobile. This was no major cringe, however, because really we were the first inventors of the automobile. But then again we weren't.

I figured I would let it all slide until I saw the Fox News website article "Obama Errs in Saying Americans Invented Automobiles". Being a Republican I hate being represented by a news outlet like Fox News. Their views and misinformation not only tend to make Republicans look bad, but make me ashamed. Anyway, that is another story.

The real story is that Fox News was quick to point out, "...his grasp of automotive history suggests he could use a refresher course...The problem: The credit for internal combustion engines generally is given to German engineer, Karl Benz, who designed and built the world's first practical automobile in 1885." Frankly, that is inaccurate. Apparently, the Fox News people, Gary Gastelu and Mike Majchrowitz in particular, need a refresher on automotive history. So here ya go Mike and Gary...

As the article did point out, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot invented the steam powered automobile in 1769. Unfortunately, that is up for debate as Ferdinand Verbiest reportedly built a steam powered automobile in 1672, almost 100 years prior to Cugnot. So maybe Cugnot didn't invent it. For sake of argument, we will stick with speaking about internal combustion engine automobiles; otherwise we wind up going back even further.

The first internal combustion engine automobile was invented by George Selden in 1877 (a resident of Rochester, NY; which if I am not mistaken is in the United States. Or maybe I need a geography refresher). Several years prior to Karl Benz' four stroke combustion engine. The problem was that George Selden's automobile was never put into production and he eventually lost his patent rights. If I am not mistaken, that would make the United States the "nation that invented the automobile." That is the actual quote from President Obama, incase you were wondering. Not built; "invented."

And now to correct Fox's quote. The internal combustion engine was invented by François Isaac de Rivaz in 1806. If you cannot do the math that is 38 years prior to the birth of Karl Benz. Not only was Benz an inventor, but according to Gary Gastelu, Mike Majchrowitz and the Fox News network, he was also a time traveler.

So was President Obama right or wrong? Well, both. It is easy to assume he was referring to internal combustion engine automobiles. Thus, he was correct. This nation did invent them. But the automobile in general, well there he would be wrong. No matter which way you assume for that particular section of the President's speech; Fox News, Mike Majchrowitz and Gary Gastelu were wrong. And I can live with that.

Common Sense. Don't Surf Without It.

It is a beautiful Saturday morning and your friend Stacy has invited you to stop by and check out her new shop at the Space Book Bazaar. As it is such a beautiful day you decide to walk the few blocks, take in the sights and get a little exercise. You head out on your way, but figure you should probably stop off at the bank and deposit your tips from bartending the night before.

Being such a gorgeous day you get a little caught up in day dreaming and wind up taking a right towards the Tenth National Bank instead of a left. You catch yourself and think that this might not be the correct street, but up ahead you see a building with a big sign that reads "Tenf Nationel Bank". Do you go in and hand them your money?

You move on down a side street when a man wearing a mask runs up to you, hands you a box and runs off. You think to yourself, "That kind of looked like my friend Bob." Do you open the package?

You continue down the side street and come out at the entrance to the Space Book Bazaar. Not entirely certain where Stacy's shop is, you start meandering around the other stalls. Just then a man jumps in front of you screaming, "You have cancer! For $19.95 I will cure you." Do you believe him? Do you pay him?

Deeper into the bazaar you wander. The sights and sounds and smells are overwhelming. Some pleasant, others disturbing. The shops are as varied as the products they offer; ranging from neatly laid out fresh fruits in proper wooden stalls, to Genuine Rolex watches for sale in tents, to who-knows-what being sold from inside a van with dark-tinted windows. Do you stop at any of the stores and go in? Which ones?

Out of nowhere a crowd of people pass around you screaming and hawking their wares; a hand reaches out towards you from the crowd and you feel the sharp sting of a hypodermic entering your arm. Then the crowd is gone. Was that a pinch or a needle prick? You can't be sure now. Do you look for a police officer? Do you seek medical attention?

Welcome to the Internet.

I am fairly certain that most people would apply a little common sense to each of the above scenarios (I would hope at least). You would turn around and go to the correct bank, you wouldn't open the package, you would pass right by the lunatic shouting about you having cancer (and certainly wouldn't pay him), you would pick and choose which shops, if any, that you would browse through, and, hopefully, you would be a might bit concerned about possibly being injected with some foreign substance and would report it. Yet on the Internet, you don't. Well, maybe not you, but most of you.

For years people have used the excuse of computers being intimidating as a rationale for not applying common sense. Instead they say, "I didn't know," and are strangely happy with that. When the Internet was new that was an excuse. Now? Well now you shop, bank, date, and look at nude people performing all sorts of strange acts on the Internet. You are no longer intimidated by it. That excuse is gone.

Common sense applies everywhere. Not just on the streets. Not just at work. But on the Internet as well. That is what makes it "common", instead of street-smarts or business savvy. You do not need to be a technical genius to apply common sense to computers and the Internet. All you need is... Drum roll please... Common Sense.

This has been a public service announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogcast.