Ways to avoid spam

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This is an ongoing essay which will collect a series of links and thoughts on how to avoid spam. Avoiding spam is a way of life, not something you think about today and then forget about for a few years.

  • Don't have anything to do with chain letters
    Personally, I'm not sure why anyone needs a reason to roll their eyes at chain letters--and I mean _all_ chain letters.
  • Don't put your email address on your web-site
    I'm sure there are harvesters out there that can take an email address in some weird form (like willkg at bluesock dot org) and convert it to a regular email address. However, it does raise the bar a bit. Especially if you make up your own syntax.
  • Don't reply to spam
    When you reply to spam, you notify the spammer that someone is receiving email at that account. It's better to just delete it.
  • Better yet, automatically reject email from known spam domains
    There are domains from which I only get spam. Things like and My vote is to reject all email from those domains categorically. For instance, you can set up sendmail to reject them. This is different than filtering email in the sense that it tells the SMTP server trying to deliver the spam that you're not accepting email from them whatsoever.
  • Don't give people your email address
    There are lots of forms out there for free whatevers and various contests. If you can, set up an account that you can use for these purposes, but don't use your good email account.
  • Don't click on any spam links, don't buy anything from spam email
    This should be obvious.
  • Don't use an email client that renders HTML emails
    Sometimes HTML emails will have links to images which get downloaded and tell the spammer that you are a real person reading the spam.
  • As a last resort, use a spam filter
    I say this is a last resort because the mission is not to remove spam from your inbox, but rather to avoid getting spam altogether.

Update 12/9/2004: There is no way to avoid spam anymore. You can probably reduce it by not telling anyone anything, but every second that your email address exists increases the likelihood that you'll start getting spam.

little things: bluemail

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I found out that when my mom went to italy, she used bluemail to check her mail--she thought it was great. MY MOM USED BLUEMAIL! How insane is that? My silly mother thought it was a real program, too--she didn't pick up on the fact that a) it's missing a _lot_ of functionality, and b) it was written by US!

So she's like "oh, and I used Bluemail--it was great!" And I said, "yeah, I implemented forwarding and reply-all a few months ago and no one's really touch it since then." And then she goes, "what? you guys wrote that? wow...."


little things: lyntin

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I was using telnet to connect to this mud I play on and I got tired of telnet. So I started looking around for solid mudclients and found a few--but they were either flakey or bloated or shareware or lame or any number of a myriad of bad things. I decide to roll my own and do it in Python. Then I discover Lyntin--this mudclient written in Python and the maintainer hadn't touched it in months. He hands over the maintenance of the project to me. I move it to Sourceforge, put out a few versions, fix a few bugs, and voilla! I have a solid mudclient.

Then I start releasing versions with the fixes in it. And people around the world email me on occasion--I get like 1 or 2 emails a week. Some of them have patches for things that are broken. Some of them have feature requests. One of them said he didn't like Lyntin at all. But all of them were "Thanks--great job!"

That's so cool.

on coffee

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One doesn't drink coffee in the morning because one is thirsty, or because it provides nutritional value, or because one enjoys it, or because one is hooked. Rather it is a chance to revel in life--to enjoy its dark and bitter waters, the acidic aftertaste. Then, and only then, you know that your day couldn't possibly be that bad and you gain in the strength to go on.... One more step.... One more day of tedium.

And it helps to focus for some reason. I find I think twice as fast and twice as focused after a good meal and a couple of cups of coffee. If you skip the meal, then you just get a super caffeine high which lasts some 15 minutes and then you burn out. But whatever.

So there is a balance involved in drinking coffee. A balance of solid and liquid. Of drink and eat. Like the natural flows of the universe.

There is a certain macho factor too. Like when I'm working, I don't want a mamby-pamby cup of starbucks or green mountain coffee! I want a cup of coffee made from dirt. I want to put my spoon in my coffee and have full confidence that it will stand up in the coffee and not touch any of the sides. The coffee should be either scalding hot, or arctic cold. It should be black as night, bitter, and mildly acidic. You should be able to use the same cup of coffee to take the rust off your car.

Update 12/9/2004: Sometime back in 1999 or so I started getting the shakes on the weekends when I wasn't at work. This was around the time when I was working for a company that had one of those really fancy coffee machines. So I quit drinking coffee. After a few weeks, I stopped getting headaches and feeling the effects of withdrawal.

Then I started drinking tea and went through a tea phase.

Then in 2001 or 2002 or sometime around there, I started drinking one or two cups a day. Every week or so I'd read yet another article that waxed philosophical about the incredible HARMS or the incredible BOONS of drinking some amount of coffee a day.

Now I'm up to two cups a day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Doesn't really matter if it's caffeinated or decaffeinated--I think I drink it mostly as a habit. Drinking water doesn't really do it for me.

See, that update was really interesting! Just like the rest of the essay! In retrospect, the "drinking coffee is macho" meme is probably a phase most folks go through as well. Part of me wonders what the differences between "drinking coffee is macho" and "smoking is macho" would be. Are they psychologically similar enough to be equivalent?

stuff that's moved me

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There has been a long list of things that have moved me. Like when you're playing harmonics on a guitar, the other notes vibrate in sympathy. While I don't recall why I originally added this topic to my on stuff list, it's one of those topics that's easy to come up with one or two things on the spur of the moment--and then spend the rest of your life thinking about.

I think the things that move me the most tend to be sudden and unexpected and usually while I'm busy trying to get something done. Rarely do I find things that move me while I'm sitting still enjoying the placitudes. Sometimes it's a connection. A sudden realization of an isomorphic mapping of a group of things that allow me some insight as to the relation of the items in the group. Course, I'm talking about items in the non-thing sense--they could just as easily be feelings or thoughts or visual abstractions.

Maybe someday I'll reach a point where it's important to make a list of the things that have moved me. Partly because I require moving again, or maybe because the list will move me and bring insight as to the things that move me. I guess, kind of a meta-moving.

Update 12/9/2004: Everyone has stuff that moves them, so I'm not really sure how interesting this "essay" is. I think it's a good idea to add some data points.

I was really moved the first time I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but not that moved the second time I saw it.

I was really moved when my dad told me he really admired the fact that I'm working on getting into grad school. I definitely don't have a good feel for why, but I was moved that he felt it important enough to send me an email about it.

I was moved when in January of 2004 (or maybe February--I forget specifically), my grandmother called me on the phone to tell me goodbye forever (she was really sick with cancer and a dozen or so other issues) and that she always cherished the moments we spent together and thought that I was a really good person. Then she died a few days later.

There are more but this is good enough.

on my time spent in the DEClab

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I spent a lot of time in the computer science lab at Boston College.

Let me rephrase that. I spent a _lot_ of time in the DEClab. I used to sleep in the DEClab semi-regularly. I worked there, played there, socialized there (yes, I know...), and occasionally did other stuff there.

I have a lot of fond memories of that time and the people I spent the time with. Too many to write here. In the declab, someone once wrote on the white board "My karma ran over my dogma."

That pretty much sums up my long stay in the DEClab.