Ah, the rural life. Critters, events, opinions and trivia.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Can spam drive you crazy?

I have come to the conclusion that spam can drive you crazy. Not the Spam in a can, spam that arrives un-invited in our electronic communications sources. My ISP has "spam blocker" software, but even with that software in place, I get at least 50 pieces of spam in my email every day -- the software does block hundreds of items daily. Then, my home phone and cell phone, which are both registered on the "do not call" list are regular targets for spamming.

It appears there are loopholes in the "do not call" registry, including the exemption of: companies that you have previously done business with; non-profit solicitation; political campaign information; calls that are initiated from outside of the US, and more.

I have a friend who once ordered prescription drugs from a company online. He now gets at least 10 calls a day on his cell phone and that's with call blocking in place. There appears to be no way to get these callers to stop. This causes him to rant daily about his phone and email spam, and I realized that spam has driven him crazy -- of course, he did have a good head start in that direction.

I regularly receive phone calls for "surveys" and multiple automated robot political campaign calls. I finally contacted the political websites of these callers and told them if they don't stop calling me, I will never vote for them. Thank goodness election day is just around the corner.

The thing that puzzles me is why on earth do the originators of the email spam messages think they are effective? Everyone attempts to block them. Do they really generate business from these messages? The spam ads I get for loans, investment opportunities, prescription drugs and porn sites are sent in massive numbers with the exact same message from multiple senders every day. Do these advertisers really think this is an effective method of delivering their message? I would go out of my way to avoid supporting these businesses.

The spam that drives me crazy are the "phishing" efforts that look like legitimate email from sites that I have a relationship with. I worry that I will actually delete an important message when mistaking it for spam. Someday, my ebay account, or paypal account or bank account, or ISP account, may be suspended because I have missed a legitimate message.

In the "olden days" where spam arrived in the mailbox, I found an effective way to get removed from the solicitors' lists -- when they included a postage paid envelope or postcard for return business, I would glue it to a brick, or some other heavy object, so they would have to pay the postage due when they received the item.

So, in the future, if you see news coverage of some lunatic(s) who have gone on a rampage against spammers, don't be surprised. Their defence can be that the spam drove them crazy....

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Happened to Halloween?

This is one of those "when I was a kid" moments....

The time frame was the 1950's through the early 60's. Overall, I always say "I hated the 1950's -- the politics, the food, the furniture, the clothing". But in retrospect, that was a wonderful decade to be a kid, and the music was great.

Moms mostly stayed at home to raise the family. There actually were morning "coffee klatches" where moms would get together, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and trade recipies. Favored recipies made the journey from household to household some became traditions -- green bean casserole with mushroom soup and fried onions; yams with tiny marshmallows; ambrosia fruit salad with tiny marshmallows; tuna casserole with crumbled potato chip topping and of course, jello salad. Many of our dads had recently been in the armed services, so Spam and creamed chipped beef were also included in the recipe roulette.

When I was a kid, celebrating Halloween was quite different from today. I can remember the smell of leaves burning (can you believe that it was common to rake the yard, then burn the leaves in the street?). We eagerly anticipated dusk or the earliest sign of darkness, so we could dress in our home-made costumes, select the appropriate size paper bag for goodies, and get started on our search for sugar treasures. It was a major milestone when we were old enough to trick or treat without parental chaperones.

Our journey started in our own neighborhoods where we knew most of the families and we would visit every house that had lights on. We quickly learned which houses had the "good" treats -- goody bags with candy corn, loose candy and candy bars and which houses had the less desireable "healthy" treats -- apples, popcorn balls and the like. There were always the homes where the owner (usually the jokester dad) demanded we actually earn our treat by performing a trick. I have no recollection of what tricks we actually performed.

Next, our search for treasure expanded from our own neighborhood to houses that were quite far from home. Our parents were not particularly concerned about our peronsal safety or the safety of our Halloween treats -- their biggest concern was that we not over-consume our candy en route home. I can't recall hearing of a single incident of inappropriate behavior toward children, or of candy tampering. Some years, we were overcome with altruism and bypassed the candy treats and carried Unicef cans instead

I do have many fond memories of those Halloweens. One outstanding memory involved an annual visit to the "Burr mansion", former homestead of Aaron Burr. I can recall huge solid silver trays covered in candy and two lovely eldery genteel ladies serving us. I think they were distant relatives of Aaron himself.

Today, in 2006, traditions involve sponsored Halloween parties at town locations and I'm sure those events are much safer, and will be cherished memories for children today. Nonetheless, I long for a return to the times when children were safe and protected throughout the town and were free to explore.

Happy Halloween from me and the furkids!