Photo of the Day

Illustration by J. Longo

Illustration by J. Longo

To Her Neighbours She Seemed Quiet and Unassuming

Online, She Asked to be Tortured and Killed

In 1996, the olden days of online hookups, Sharon Lopatka found the man of her dreams on the Internet.

Granted, her dreams were unconventional.

Sharon Lopatka set out to look for someone to kill her. So she posted an Internet message to the discussion group lia:

“Want to talk about torturing to death?”

Her message continued:

“Hi my name is Gina. I was wondering if anyone out there would want to talk about the subject mentioned above with me. I kind of have a fascination with torturing till death … of course, I can’t speak about it with my friends or family. Would love to have an e-mail exchange with someone – If you’re interested … e-mail me at: [email protected]

“I hope you all don’t think I’m strange or anything … I just want to talk about it.”

This disclaimer seems to have been a lie, just like the name she gave. She is certainly dead. Her body was found in a shallow grave outside the caravan where one of her e-mail correspondents, Robert Glass, lived. He was charged with her murder. His lawyer claims he killed her by accident, during an episode of sex with strangulation.

She had taken a train from her home in suburban Maryland to Glass’s caravan in rural North Carolina three days before. She told her husband Victor that she was visiting friends; she also left him a note saying: “If my body is never retrieved, don’t worry. Know that I am at peace.”

So far, it sounds like an everyday tale of American weirdness.

Much of her participation on the Internet was as a rather desperate seller of home improvement tips: a kind of low-rent Jocasta Innes. One of the two small Web sites she ran started off like this:

“Home Decorating secrets seen in the posh homes from the New England states to the Hollywood homes can now be yours. Never published before! Quick easy ways to decorate your home. Thousands of decorators will be furious when they hear that we are giving away their professional trade secrets (unknown to all outside the industry). For the first time in print these secrets and tricks of the trade can now be yours.

“How to glamorise your walls without messy wallpaper or hiring expensive decorators.

“Easy sew and no sew home decor projects that anyone can do! Transform any room in your house into a decorator’s showcase!”

This kind of greedy, resentful consumerism is familiar from thousands of small ads in the back of American magazines.

But out on the wilder reaches of the Internet, Lopatka took it further.

Read more »

Maori don’t need Internet access

NZ Newswire reports:

Only 68 per cent of Maori households have internet access compared with the national average of 83 per cent, new data shows.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell has released the report on Maori in the ICT Sector, saying it reveals issues that need to be addressed.

Despite the relatively low number of Maori households with internet access, the report says 15 to 24-year-olds are high users of mobile technology which they use to access it.

Mr Flavell says Maori should be helped into ICT career pathways.   Read more »

Aucklanders are doomed


Not because of Len Brown, although that can’t have helped.  But apparently, Aucklanders are so disconnected from reality that they want Civil Defence to restore their “WiFi” before water.

In emergency situations, Aucklanders want WiFi internet restored before water, a survey revealed.

Auckland Council Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) found 48 per cent of people prioritised WiFi as an essential part of everyday life. Read more »

There is no such thing as cyber bullying. There’s just bullying

Three in five women in their late teens have been victims of online bullies, according to new research revealing an alarming number of Kiwi adults encountering the problem.

While new measures have been brought in to tackle the problem in schools, a snapshot of voting-aged New Zealanders found one in 10 people aged 30 to 59 — and a rate twice that for those in their mid- to late 20s — have experienced it.

A new survey asked around 15,000 people if someone had used the internet, a mobile phone or digital camera to hurt or embarrass them.

Rates were highest among young people — 46 per cent of all 18- to 19-year-olds, with the problem worse among females in that age group.”Women aged 18 to 19 reported the highest levels of cyber-bullying among all groups, with roughly three in five experiencing cyber-bullying,” said Harrison Steiner-Fox, who compiled the research using data from the ongoing New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS).

It was in step with previous research that has indicated one in three children are affected by it.

Another recent survey of nearly 750 young people aged 11 to 18, by Otago-based group Sticks’n’Stones, found 87 per cent thought cyber-bullying was an issue — and 255 had experienced it the same year. Read more »

Photo Of The Day

Photo via Gray’s Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. In a small black trashcan under the nightstand was the previous morning’s Daily World a local newspaper that served Gray’s Harbour and an empty plastic Pepsi cup. Next to it, a crumpled piece of thick white paper, no bigger than six inches wide, that read “SUICIDE” in block capitals.

Photo via Gray’s Harbour County Sheriff’s Office. In a small black trashcan under the nightstand was the previous morning’s Daily World a local newspaper that served Gray’s Harbour and an empty plastic Pepsi cup. Next to it, a crumpled piece of thick white paper, no bigger than six inches wide, that read “SUICIDE” in block capitals.

The Strange Case of the Man With No Name

In life, he was evasive and strange. In death, he became a 9/11 terrorist, a ghostly apparition and an internet superstar.

On Friday, September 14, 2001, Lyle Stevik arrived at an average motel in a sleepy, nondescript town close to Washington’s Pacific coastline. It was a typical September day: 52 degrees and drizzly. “Welcome. Surf’s Up. Life Is Good,” read the shabby sign outside the entrance to the Lake Quinault Inn, a cheerfully optimistic motto for such an ordinary place.

Stevik, who appeared to be in his twenties, did what countless guests had done before. He grabbed a pen and scribbled his details on the hotel’s registration slip:

Name: Lyle Stevik

Address: 1019 S. Progress Ave.

State: ID … Meridian

Nothing about this was exceptional, especially given the context. Three days earlier and 3,000 miles away, three planes smashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing 2,996 people, injuring 6,000 and setting off a national security crisis. 9/11 made the history books; in the isolated town of Amanda Park, 9/14 was seriously dull.

In 2001, Lake Quinault Inn was still a family affair: Barbara — affectionately known as Aunt Barb — on front desk duty, was clerk-come-manager; her nephew, Gabe, owned the motel and adjacent store. The Inn, built in the 1960s, with six rooms in the main building and two in an annex, had slid into disrepair. But to the few travelers to stay in this picturesque patch of the Olympic Peninsula, it didn’t matter. The rooms were decent enough, and, at less than $50 per night, they were the cheapest in town.

Aunt Barb gave Lyle the key to room eight in the motel’s annex, and he paid in cash. Behind it, Olympic Mobile RV Park, was a miniature metropolis of trailers, broken cars, and spare tires. Inside, furnishings included a double bed, a dusty carpet, nicotine-stained vinyl curtains, and a glass dressing table — a steal for $43.87.

Lyle returned to the front desk just 60 minutes later — flushed, agitated, disturbed. Apparently, the trailer park was too noisy. He wanted to switch rooms. Even though she had just met him, this second encounter was far more memorable. Lyle avoided eye contact; he was acting weird; he gave Aunt Barb the creeps.

She handed him the key to room five, smack-dab in the middle of the main building, overlooking a tiny car lot. It was just like room eight — the carpet dusty, the curtains stained — but Lyle liked room five. He slept there that night. And the night after.

Read more »

NZ Post manages profit, but the traditional business is crashing

New Zealand Post has announced a six month after tax profit of $110 million. But it has voiced fresh concern about its mail and parcels business.

The net profit was up 10 percent on a year ago, and included the one-off effect of the sale of its Australian subsidiary Converga.

The underlying after tax profit was $74 million, down $12 million on the same period a year earlier.

Chief Executive Brian Roche says the Kiwi Group Holdings, which includes Kiwibank, Kiwi Insurance and Kiwi Wealth is “progressing well” despite a “volatile market”.

But he says the mail and parcels result was “below expectation” and “continues to give rise to concerns as to its ongoing financial performance”.

“The postal services business continues to be challenged by tough market conditions. During the last 12 months letter volume fell by about 60 million units and while we have significantly reduced costs we have not kept pace with the rate of decline. Read more »


Are you here for an argument?


Good evening, and welcome to tonight’s Debate. The Moot:

THAT On balance, the Internet does more harm than good

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Can Netflix really ban proxies and VPNs?

Netflix has announced that they are going to crack down on access via VPN and proxies to their US content.

In NZ Netflix is nobbled and you can only get full service if you use a VPN or a proxy service. Some people are overreacting to the news, one being lifestyle and travel blogger David Farrar who has stated on Facebook that he has already cancelled his Netflix subscription before the alleged bans have even come into existence.

But can Netflix actually do what they say they are going do?

Experts argue that any total shutdown would be impossible.

“It’s kind of a cat and mouse game,” InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter said.

“Each step that Netflix or other content providers take to the block things, the companies that make money by selling unblocking services will find a way around it.”

“It turns this into an arms race.”     Read more »

Turn your damn phone off

It is the holiday season and there is evidence that constantly checking your emails on your smart phone may be doing you some damage.

The secret to happiness is to turn off your smartphone email app according to psychologists, who warn that constant updates have become a “toxic source of stress”.

Technology that puts people at the continuous beck and call of their emails has created a culture where people feel they must be constantly available for work, according to research.

As a result, an “unwritten organisational etiquette” has become ingrained in the workplace and employees have developed habits which are bad for their emotional well-being.

Studies have found that continuously checking and reading emails due to a “push notification” feature, which alerts users to new messages even when they are not in their Mail app, produces tension and worry. Experts recommend that switching off the Mail app on your mobile device will alleviate anxiety.    Read more »

Almost everything bad is the (largely) unintended consequence of utopians

James Delingpole reviews Matt Ridley’s book Evolution of Everything.

[E]volution is a phenomenon which extends far beyond Darwin to embrace absolutely everything. The internet, for example. No one planned it. No one — pace Al Gore and Tim Berners Lee — strictly invented it. It just sprang up, driven by consumer need and made possible by available technology. As Ridley says: ‘It is a living example, before our eyes, of the phenomenon of evolutionary emergence — of complexity and order spontaneously created in a decentralised fashion without a designer.’

Which is what, of course, is such anathema to control freaks everywhere, from the Chinese, Iranian and Russian regimes to Barack Obama, who famously declared in 2012: ‘The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet.’

This claim, as Ridley demonstrates, is at best moot, at worst flat-out untrue. In fact, government was actually responsible for postponing the internet. One of its early forms was the Pentagon-funded Arpanet, which until 1989 was prohibited for private or commercial purposes. An MIT handbook in the 1980s reminded users: ‘sending electronic messages over the ARPAnet for commercial profit or political purposes is both antisocial and illegal’. Only after it was effectively privatised in the 1990s did the internet take off.

Read more »