Kathleen Parker

Several years ago, I abandoned my youthful embrace of capital punishment and crossed over to an anti-death-penalty stance. Becoming increasingly anti-death comes naturally, I've noted, as one gets closer to the finish line.

And there's the DNA factor. When more than a dozen men on Illinois' death row were exonerated by DNA technology and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan suspended executions, I jumped onboard.

Then something happened a few days ago that has prompted me once again to gaze affectionately toward the death penalty. Not peaceful death by lethal injection. Or even the electric chair or by firing squad.

No, I'm leaning toward the final scene in "Braveheart," which I didn't actually see because I had to close my eyes. I'm pretty sure dismemberment was involved or at least suggested as I climbed under my blankie and asked the teenagers to tell me when it was over.

Whatever it was - the rack, the wheel, the inconceivable pain - was too horrible to imagine for either Mel Gibson or William Wallace. But it is indeed quite delightful to consider as a just reward for whoever is responsible for unleashing The Worm(s) on us decent computer-dependent folk in recent days.

First it was the "Blaster" worm, still at large. A new virus - Sobig.F - is spread by e-mail with the subject "Re: Details" and the message "Please see attached file for details." If you're naive enough to click on the attachment, your computer gets infected and your days of innocence - and equilibrium - are gone.

Call me lucky, but I receive about 150 infected e-mails an hour. Other subject headings that find my address irresistible include "Re: Thank you!" "Re: Approved" "Re: Wicked Screensaver" and "Re: Your Application." All upbeat and mysterious, tempting and approving. May I just respond en masse: Two words. Not Merry Christmas.

The attachments in some cases are huge and take up so much space on my server that my e-mailbox fills up quickly and mail starts bouncing back to senders. Between consulting with techies and deleting trash from my mail provider's server, I'm wasting hours while dusting off old newsroom vocabulary - the sort that went out of vogue about the same time human-resource executives started getting the best parking spaces.

While worms are an annoyance to me - just one measly individual working from a PC - they're wreaking havoc for businesses and large institutions. In Canada, reportedly, a worm has interfered with system repairs following last week's blackout. Airlines have reported problems. Whole industries have been slowed to a slug's pace.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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