Category Archives: Wired

Musings about computers, usually when one has just failed me, and the internet, usually when something has just baffled me.

Very Inntsertieg

The great thing about the internet – and about blogging specifically – is the connections it offers with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.  The conversations you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Blog Spammer: Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

Dear Blog Spammer: You have my permission to subscribe via RSS feed, but please don’t grab it. I might need it for a forthcoming rewarding post.   Continue reading

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Time-Travelling Space Aliens

I smile, remembering the perfect quote for my post about listening to our future selves.

“Sometimes our impulses come to us from the future.”

I frown, realizing that I can’t swear to the wording.  And although I remember the story clearly, I can’t remember the name of the novel or the author, so I can’t confirm or correct it.  And just like that, the hunt is on.

Regrettably, Googling the half-remembered quote brings up interesting but not relevant sites about space aliens and time travel.   Continue reading

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Partly Truth, Partly Fiction

My spam folder is full.  Again.

There’s a photo from Pam and a document from Louella,
neither of whom I know.
The Apple Store wants me to update my information;
PayPal wants me to verify my account information.
The US debt help administration wants to, I don’t know, I’m guessing here,
help me administer my debt.
The FBI wants to get in touch but doesn’t say why. Their agents are, after all,
trained to keep their own counsel.
One writer has the secret to earning 20 years of wages in 29 days, and another offers me a Fast, Easy loan at just 3%, which will help me buy that secret.  I love it when things come together like that.
And two organizations have $800,000 for me: the US Department of the Treasury (OK, I sorta get that) and the UN General Assembly (Huh?).

It used to get me down.  It was like the high of “You’ve got mail!” followed by the crash of “Bwahaha!  It’s spam!”  The going up was so not worth the coming down.

But now I’m used to it.  So used to it, that my analytical brain is engaged: I’ve started to notice the odd ebbs and flows of spam.  I can go a few days, even a week, without seeing any.  Then there’s just a trickle: a couple a day for a couple of days.  Then it’s boomboomboom, and suddenly my spam folder is full.  Again.

How come?  I mean, given that there is spam, why doesn’t it come in at a steady rate?  This week the answer came to me in a flash, in the way of all great scientific breakthroughs.

You’ve likely heard about the trash vortex: a waterborne midden of plastic debris out in the Pacific, held together loosely by ocean currents.  But some garbage is always breaking free and drifting off, ending up on a beach in Tasmania.  Or the Aleutians.  Or any point in between.  So the flow of garbage onto beaches is steady, but from the perspective of just one of those beaches, some days the waves are clean, some days there’s a sprinkle of garbage, and some days, well, it just pours in.  It all depends on the winds and the currents.

Drawing of garbage patches in Pacific Ocean

Print-screen image from National Geographic site

That’s what I figure is happening with spam.  Picture, if you will, the internet as a great ocean of whirling electricity, with bits of information bobbing along.  Somewhere in those unregulated currents lies a spam vortex—scams phishing for personal information, and offers of sex, money, and sex for money—all floating aimlessly in a jumbled mass of faulty spelling, poor grammar, and weird word order.

Then the currents shift, the wind picks up, and hey presto: my spam folder is full.

It’s kinda cool, I think.  Instead of feeling picked on, I can now see the arrival of spam as a signal of my connectedness to all things, or at least to all things internetish.  A sign of winds and currents operating beyond my ken, but every once in a while throwing something up on my beach.

What a compelling metaphor/story/theory.

There are just two things wrong with it.

First, the something that ends up in my spam folder is sadly like a rotting fish, which sort of robs the whole explanation of its poetry.

Second, despite its name, the trash vortex isn’t, you know, actual plastic bottles, bags, and fishing lines all floating on the surface in a scummy tangled mess.  Rather, it’s microplastic particles that a casual boater might not even notice: one site likened it to plastic confetti, suspended below the surface.

Well, all right then.  Time to regroup.  Let’s see what I have so far.

If there were an ocean vortex of actual, you know, trash,
then we could see spam as its internet equivalent
and take something interesting and uplifting from that.
But there isn’t.
So we can’t.

I have to admit that it’s not quite as compelling as I had hoped.


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Just Click

It’s not the fact of spam that astonishes me: It’s the range.

Let’s see what’s on offer today, shall we?

There are the one-time-good-deal financial offers.

I can have higher sales (“Of what?” I wonder) through social media marketing, if  I just click on this link to send my credit card information.

I can update my account information if I just click on this link to send my personal information to a company with a trustworthy name.

I can have $15 million deposited to my bank account if I just click on this link to send my banking information to a bank with a famous-and-therefore-trustworthy name.

I can have an unbelievable business investment opportunity if I just click on this link to send my banking and personal and credit card information to Peter (clearly a Real Guy, with a name and everything).

And then there are the more personal opportunities.

I can order no-name pills for erectile dysfunction.

I can hook up with fake-name (but HOT!!) Russian/lesbian/Russian-lesbian lovers.

I can buy actual-brand-name sunglasses that will make me look hot.

I understand the sex, money, and sex-for-money pitches (with the emphasis on the money, these days, apparently based on my demographic), but sunglasses?


I mean, I can totally see making online deals for sex or money or sex-for-money with people who have approached me out of the blue using a form letter in regrettable English and an email address that doesn’t match their alleged company name, but don’t you have to try on sunglasses before you buy them?  I know I do.

I mean, it just screams improbability, doesn’t it?  What are the odds that anyone is going to go for that?

But that’s the joy of spam.  The odds don’t have to be high, as long as the volume is.


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The Law of No Free Lunch

Musings on the inevitable trade-offs in life and the odd things we lose when we gain time: recognizable signatures, for one.


I click on the “Place signature” button, move the cursor left, and click again on the signature line of my PDF invoice to sign the document.

Or not.

Dagnab it. I’ve done this lots of times. Well, a few times. And maybe not recently. But it should work. What’s wrong?

Using the “Hit that key harder” protocol, I make several more failed attempts until I realize that I don’t have a stored signature in this version of Acrobat, newly loaded on my new laptop. Oh.   Continue reading

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