Jewish World Review June 15, 2004 / 26 Sivan, 5764

David Grimes

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Computer dust causes a mighty stir | If you are looking for further evidence that home computers are the spawn of Satan, a California environmental coalition has found evidence that the beige boxes are laced with "toxic dust."

Faster than you can say polybrominated diphenyl, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has determined that certain fire retardants found on computer processors and monitors pose potential health hazards, including reproductive problems, neurological disorders and, of course, the sickly pallor found in people who confuse excessive computer use with a real life.

I am making that last part up, more or less, in hopes that you will not be unduly panicked by this latest alarming health report to the point that you feel the need to don a radiation suit every time you check your e-mail. I, of course, am sitting in front of a computer screen as I type this and I don't notice any neurological disorders affecting me other than an irresistible urge to keep typing the letter eeeeeeee.

To tell you the truth, after reading the report on CNN's Web site (, I found it hard to ascertain what, if any, health risk we're talking about here. (My guess is somewhere between a glowing ball of plutonium and a rasher of crispy bacon.) Some computer companies have stopped using PBDEs in their newer models and researchers haven't definitively linked the chemical compound to specific diseases. (If you are a laboratory rat, however, I would stop licking your computer screen right this minute.)

"The levels in the dust are enough to raise a red flag, but not enough to create a crisis," said Dr. Gina Solomon, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. "I have an old computer monitor in front of me now and I'm not about to throw it away. But when I get a new one, it will darn well be free of those chemicals."

So there you have it. If you have an old, contaminated computer, you're perfectly safe. But if you buy a new computer, watch out. Or something.

Personally, I am more unnerved by a book written by the Rev. Jim Peasboro of Savannah, Ga., titled "The Devil in the Machine: Is Your Computer Possessed by a Demon?" I knew the answer to that question was an unequivocal "yes indeedy" even before I knew exactly which demons the Rev. Peasboro was talking about. (The demons that concern him most are the ones that lure married men to pornographic Web sites and married women to naughty chat rooms. He doesn't seem concerned at all with the demons that lead stumped columnists to play hours of computer solitaire.)

Donate to JWR

According to the Rev. Peasboro, every PC built since 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit. Presumably, if you have a relatively new computer, you have more demons in your PC than Washington has lobbyists.

Peasboro also says demons can possess anything with a brain, including a human, a chicken or a computer. (This may be true, but I have never had a 3,000-word story vanish into the ether at the hands -- wings? -- of cyborg poultry.)

But this is the most alarming part: Peasboro actually had the opportunity to inspect an infected computer. He said the "alien intelligence" program started up the minute he walked into the room and began spewing profanities. (My guess is that he confused the computer screen with the television screen, but never mind.) Then the computer went "haywire" and began printing out what looked like gobbledygook. He gave the printout to a dead-languages expert (I'm not sure why, either) and found out that it was a stream of obscenities written in a 2,800-year-old Mesopotamian dialect. (How these ancient Mesopotamian obscenities differ from the ones being directed our way these days from Iraq, I cannot say.)

So the big question now is: What effect, if any, will toxic dust have on the computer demons that lurk within one of every 10 American PCs?

My guess is that it will only make them stronger.

In fact, don't be surprised if you're working at your computer one day and a huge hairy arm emerges from the screen and grabs you by the throat.

That would be bad, yes.

But it's nothing compared to some of the stunts my computer's pulled.

Appreciate this column? Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


05/25/04: Guess what's coming to dinner?
05/18/04: Dogs have changed for the worse
05/11/04: You rant, you pay
05/03/04: A new generation of civility
04/27/04: Repeat at your own risk
04/19/04: Brits learn grammar from Americans
04/05/04: Got those customer survey blues
03/31/04: Name that planetoid
03/24/04: Mind-melding is not for the squeamish
03/16/04: Write that novel — QUICK!
03/10/04: Turns out robots are as unhelpful as people
03/02/04: Dictators' softer side
02/23/04: Is there life after Ken?
02/18/04: California needs its chi adjusted
02/11/04: Pleeze by sum stuph frum me
02/03/04: A tale of two generations
01/28/04: Warning: Labels on products are getting wackier and wackier
01/21/04: It's a computer! No, it's a side dish! Skeptical? Look under the hood
01/07/04: Nursery rhymes to scare the kids by
12/30/03: Ear-scratcher fingered by police
12/24/03: Gifts for that not-so-special someone
12/18/03: Things we hate to do
12/09/03: Keep your name out of this book
12/03/03: When tots control the world
11/18/03: Danger: TVs falling from above
11/11/03: Songs that won't go away
11/04/03: Keep technology away from the monkeys
10/29/03: A career of sensational regrets
10/22/03: Ig Nobels reward weird science
10/16/03: TV golf needs a kick in the pants
10/08/03: That's geek to me
09/30/03: A man, a woman and a cat
09/22/03: A tale of two spams
09/16/03: Librarian action figure will be taking no guff
09/10/03: Slackers need to remain invisible
09/02/03: No fun in the summertime
08/26/03: The algebra of love
08/11/03: Journey to the center of the pavement cracks
08/06/03: Word dominance by U.S. appears a fait accompli
07/28/03: Ads that are hard to swallow
07/09/03: Keep cows out of the classroom
07/03/03: Little-appreciated facts about unshaven men
06/24/03: Brother, can you paradigm?
06/18/03: Cats, TV not a good mix
06/10/03: In defense of grumpiness
06/04/03: Do we really need keyboards in our Port-A-Johns?
05/29/03: Always a dull men's moment
05/21/03: Bad PC hygiene leads to bugs
05/12/03:Army mops up; Tony Blair doesn't
05/06/03: Grill a hamburger for PETA
05/01/03: Exams spice history
04/23/03: Too much money? Tax me more!
04/14/03: When good gourds go bad
04/11/03: One fish-tale that isn't --- and that's no lie!
04/02/03: Do you really want to know what your dog's thinking?
03/26/03: Pajamas make high school less stressful
03/21/03: It's time to be nice to the French
03/03/03: The ultimate clean and constructive sport
02/12/03: Get a bang out of cleaning with cruise vacuum
02/06/03: Voluntary kindness? Not likely
01/28/03: Signs our economy is on upswing
01/22/03: There may be cash in your old underwear
01/15/03: Banish these words, now more than ever
01/07/03: Coughing as an art form
12/24/02: Parents shell out for missed homework
12/17/02: French government says no to @ symbol
12/11/02: A latecomer joins fellowship of the DVD
12/02/02: Don't worry, be fat, unfit and really happy
11/18/02: Intrigued by a German invention that could get teens out of bed before the crack of noon
11/06/02: A noose by any other name ...
10/29/02: Iranian dogs on notice
10/22/02: Talk about a job that stinks --- literally!
10/15/02: The official world's funniest joke
10/02/02: Japanese turn eyes to computer haikus
09/27/02: Oh, no! Bosses want to know what's on your mind
09/24/02: An airbag, humanity's salvation?
09/06/02: Come listen to a story about a man named ... Bill
09/03/02: You're not in preschool anymore!
08/30/02: A charming idea from a brutal, whacked-out, megalomaniacal dictator-for-life
08/26/02: Blubber water? How to put on the pounds by gulping H20
08/21/02: The latest evidence that Mother Nature is out to kill us
08/13/02: Computers, airplanes and Canada don't mix
08/06/02: The sky's not falling? Dang it!
08/02/02: Some fond memories of worst TV shows
07/30/02: Pay my credit-card bill, please?
07/25/02: Something to celebrate
07/22/02: Baseball needs to ban the fans
07/16/02: Hasbro should consider new inaction figure
07/11/02: Decline in trash-talking is harming our mental health? Well, #@%&!
07/08/02 Americans retain right to fork tongues
07/01/02 These laws were made to be broken
06/18/02 Watching enough commercials?
06/03/02 Throwing your vote to the dogs
05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune