Spam Is Down? No Way!

I was just over at where they’re running an AP wire story about spam:

Those annoying “spam” e-mails for Viagra or low-rate mortgages that clog computer users’ mailboxes appear to be on the decline, federal regulators said Tuesday.

Say what?

In the six hours I’ve been at work today, I’ve gotten 16 spams on my account and more on my work and accounts.

Most of my spams are never seen by me. The filtering on Thunderbird, the email program I use, is good – not great. What does get through is often obvious enough that I can dispatch it before opening it.

There has been a veritable flood of spam for ‘hot stocks’ in the past few weeks. Though they look like text, they are really images. Thunderbird gives up and ships them to me.

On the other hand, there are also some false positives. Helaine ran into my friend Diane Smith today. Diane said she had mailed me… though the mail was marked as spam and filed away where I would have never looked!

I am surprised by the huge number of spam emails I get in Russian and Chinese! I don’t speak either language so I can’t tell you much about the content. From what I can tell, the Russian spams are often mass mailings for legitimate products, like real estate. That differentiates them from the spams I get for V1@gr@ or hot girls who want to meet me.

I’m sure there are guys who hot girls really want to meet. None of those guys have to shave their ears.

Even sending mail has become increasingly difficult because of spam. Messages I sent to my counterpart at our sister station in Springfield, MA bounced because the mail server I use was flagged as a spam site.

I can’t send messages to the NH Register either. No one has told me, but since I can get through via, I assume it’s another site blacklisting my mail server.

I am neither smart enough nor well versed enough to come up with a spam solution, but I know it’s out there. The vast majority of spam is a chase for money. Money on the Internet means credit cards. Can’t we find where that money is going?

Electronic mail is so smart, so simple, so efficient, it must be saved. We can’t afford to go back. It’s got to be policed… soon, please.

Oh, and to the FTC; the people quoted at the beginning of this entry. What exactly are you smoking?


The strangest thing happened at work this afternoon. The power went out.

Actually, that’s an oversimplification. Though most of our lights stayed on, all our computer screens went dark (as did the computers driving them). In the days of film or videotape that might not have been as awful. Today, everything is on a computer. Everything – even stuff you wouldn’t expect, like video.

Our engineers started scrambling. They knew part of the station was powerless, but they didn’t know why or where the problem was.

Throughout the building there was the incessant chirping of Nextel as engineer called engineer, hoping for some insight or a sign that would lead to a fix.

Where Nextels weren’t chirping, UPS (uninterruptable power supplies) were. Their batteries were quickly draining and they were signaling their own death.

I started to think, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, what would we do? How would we, or could we, do the news with only limited electricity?

There have been stations in hurricane and tornado areas that broadcast from their parking lot using a ‘live truck’ as a mobile control room. Is that even possible anymore when all the video is on a hard drive somewhere?

Someone asked me if I had any magnetic Suns! I’ve been doing the weather for over 20 years. That era totally predates me.

I watched a production person move through the studio holding a gigantic electrical strip… like an extension cord on steroids.

Our master control operators managed to reroute our feed around the television station, going from Springfield, MA to Mad Mare Mountain in Hamden. We were back. Somehow, with part of our electricity on, another engineer figured out a way to get a camera on live for a news brief. There would be no video from stories, but at least we’d have a live on-air presence.

Soon all the computers returned. I’m not sure what the problem was, but it was fixed.

Back in the weather area I had a dozen or so PCs to bring back to life. Some of them needed to be fired in sequence to bring up the networks that interconnected them.

One by one they came back to life. Little by little the entire building picked up where it had left off. By the time we got on the air at 5:00 PM, it was impossible to know we had been dead in the water less than an hour earlier.

If this was some sort of test – we passed. I just don’t want to have to go through it again… though I’d like to play around with magnetic Suns and Magic Markers.

My Trashy Story

Every week, on Friday, our trash goes to the curb. Every other week it’s supposed to be accompanied by recycling. It doesn’t work that way in our household.

Whether it’s our distance from the curb or the amount of recycled newspapers we have (we subscribe to both the New Haven Register or New York Times) or maybe all the boxes we get because of online shopping, going to the curb bi-weekly doesn’t work. So all of this recyclable material piles up in the garage. A few times a year we stuff it into the SUV and I drive it to the transfer station.

Transfer station, what a lovely phrase. It’s so much more genteel than town dump.

I drove up to the transfer station this morning only to find the new policy – no newspapers. I had an SUV full of recyclables, and of course, the supermarket bags of newspapers were on top!

I unloaded the 20 or so bags of newspapers to get to the cardboard and other material underneath. At this point the transfer station folks took pity on me and found a place… a transfer station loophole if you will… that allowed me to drop the papers off. From now on it’s newspapers to the street, I suppose.

I want to be a good citizen, but it is increasingly difficult to follow the rules. In fact, it would be much easier to hide the newspapers and cardboard and bottles with our weekly trash. I’m sure a lot of people do just that. It also always strikes me as a little ironic that the two most talked about recycled products are made from sand (glass) or grow on trees (paper).

I know this is supposed to be good for the environment, and I’m for that. But, is it really? Is this just a feel good exercise with no payoff… or negative payoff?

From “Recycling Is Garbage” – New York Times Magazine, June 30, 1996:

Every time a sanitation department crew picks up a load of bottles and cans from the curb, New York City loses money. The recycling program consumes resources. It requires extra administrators and a continual public relations campaign explaining what to do with dozens of different products — recycle milk jugs but not milk cartons, index cards but not construction paper. (Most New Yorkers still don’t know the rules.) It requires enforcement agents to inspect garbage and issue tickets. Most of all, it requires extra collection crews and trucks. Collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill.

I don’t know what to think. I want to do what’s right, but I am really not sure. Until I know otherwise, I will follow the rules.

In the meantime, part of our recycling life at home will have to change. Newspapers to the curb. I can hardly wait for the first really big rain on a Thursday night.

Continue reading “My Trashy Story”

Another Reason Not To Smoke

I saw this just a moment ago on

A San Francisco man learned the hard way that littering — especially burning objects — is not a good idea. Jonathan Fish was driving across the Bay Bridge on Thursday when he tossed his cigarette out the window. But the cigarette blew back into his $30,000 Ford Expedition, igniting the back seat and filling the SUV with smoke. Fish pulled over and leaped from the flaming vehicle, which kept rolling and crashed into a guardrail. “It was in flames by the time he got out,” said CHP Officer Shawn Chase. “He had some of his hair singed on the back of his head. (The car) burned down to the frame.” Fish likely faces a misdemeanor charge for littering, which carries a fine of up to $1,000.

It’s a sort of funny, ironic story. Except for me, now over 20 years a non-smoker, it hits home.

It had to be 1969, wintertime, and a Saturday night. I was living in Boston, making believe I was attending Emerson College and working as a talk show producer on the Steve Fredericks Show at WMEX.

Being a talk show producer sounds more glamorous than it really was. WMEX was a second rate station with an awful signal. It was owned by Max Richmond, a larger than life caricature of himself. Everything he did was done with an eye to cost. That’s fine, but reward should be factored in as well.

We were in a building originally designed by a movie studio for their Boston operation. That’s probably the reason it was built of cinder block with no insulation.

I answered calls and watched the door to the outside. I didn’t even screen all the phone lines. Some came to my little booth – others didn’t.

The show ended at (I think) 2:00 AM. I found my car, a faded green 1960 Volkswagen Beetle&#185 and headed toward the Mass Pike. I was going to Albany, NY to see my friend Larry Lubetsky, a student a SUNY Albany.

Back then I was a smoker. My cigarette of choice was Tareyton. That was the brand which showed smokers with black eyes and the caption, “I’d rather fight than switch.”

This was the time when a pack of cigarettes in a machine cost 40&#162. I remember going to WHDH-TV (then Channel 5) for a conference and seeing cigarettes in a hallway machine for 35&#162!

I’m sorry. This story isn’t going in a straight line. Back to what I’m writing about.

As I drove, I smoked. And, as the cigarette would burn down toward the filter, I’d roll down the window and flick it outside. Looking back, that was wrong and I apologize to society in general for my selfish attitude.

Somewhere between Worcester and Springfield the car seemed a little smoky. Of course I had been smoking. So, I rolled down the window, let in some fresh wintry air, and then rolled it back up.

You didn’t want to keep the window down long in a 1960 VW. The heating system was vigorous enough to keep you warm through early September. After that it was a losing battle against the elements.

I continued driving, though the toll booth at the eastern end of the turnpike and through the Berkshires into New York State. The smoky conditions were getting worse. The window was going down more frequently.

It is only in retrospect that I realize I should have stopped and looked.

I merged off the Berkshire Extension of the New York State Thruway onto the main line. Even at this late hour there was truck traffic and my VW’s lack of power (the car topped out at around 60 mph… and took around a minute to get there) made me check my mirrors constantly. It was then I spotted the red glow from behind the back seat.

The 1960 Volkswagen had bucket seats in the front and a bench seat in the back. Behind the bench was a rectangular, deep pocket where you could store things. When I bought the car, there had been covers on the front seats. These fabric covers were in that pocket and they were on fire. One of my flicked cigarettes must have been blown back into the car.

I pulled to the side and jumped out. I didn’t think about safety at the time as I reached back in, flipped the front seat forward, pulled the slipcovers out and began stomping on them on the shoulder of the New York State Thruway.

I left them there, on the side of the road where they could commiserate with lost shoes and socks and the other things you find at the highway’s edge. I was shaking, now realizing what had… and what could have happened.

Still, I had to make it to Larry’s apartment before dawn. I hopped back in the car, lit another cigarette and started to drive.

Some people never learn.

Blogger’s note – I have been smoke free since the winter of 1984-85. This event had nothing to do with quitting. Of all the things in my life that were smart, quitting smoking was one of the smartest.

&#185 – I couldn’t find an actual photo of a green 1960 VW Beetle. I did find a yellow one and with Photoshop, made it green. Helaine took a look and said the color was unnatural. Actually, the color is pretty close. Though this was glossy paint when it left Germany, it was a very dull green during my ownership.