March 30, 2003:

The Big Truck comes the day after tomorrow, and we're getting a little ragged here trying to get everything tied up with a ribbon on it (or at least two stickers) before then. Last night I changed over to Poco Mail, because a new onslaught of spammer domains (four or five per day) is clogging my registry and making Outlook Express unstable and slow.

Poco is good in a lot of ways, but it's slow when dealing with large mailbases, like mine. (30,000 messages.) I try to nuke stuff I don't need anymore, but there's still a lot there, and it doesn't cope with large mailboxes (like Sent Items) very well. I guess this is motivation to shovel out the mailbase, just as we're shoveling out the house right now, but shoveling out the mailbase, while easier on the muscles, doesn't take any less time.

On the spam front, what we need most right now is for mail clients to strip out or otherwise ignore HTML comments when filtering mail. The latest spammer scam is to insert HTML comments full of random gibberish every few characters in any message text, typically in the opt-out (hah!) instructions. (The main body of spam these days is almost invariably an image downloaded from a server, and I'm trying to figure out how to discriminate against messages that download images from elsewhere.) Neither Poco nor Outlook Express ignore HTML comments, and this is making it much more difficult to nuke things based on text filtering.

POPFile is basically worthless, and I've uninstalled it. A false positive per day is unacceptable, especially on messages with no conceivable resemblance to junk mail.
March 29, 2003:

While getting to the bottom of the pile out in the garage, I discovered something forgotten and wonderful: A trove of over a hundred NOS (New Old Stock) boxed inductors from the 40's, 50's and early 60's, from J. W. Miller, Meissner, and other famous firms from the glory days of radio. I bought them about ten years ago from an old chap at a hamfest, and the box he handed them to me in was crumbling to dust. So I moved them into an empty PC Techniques magazine box, circa 1993, and then put them on the shelf. I got busy with other things and forgot about them, and because they were in a magazine box I thought they were magazines...until this afternoon.

I have always wanted to build a tube-type shortwave superhet receiver but never have, and with the IF cans in the box, I now have a fighting chance. Won't be for awhile, but the lesson is clear: Label your stuff! Especially if you have stuff on the scale that I do!
March 27, 2003:

If I have any Poco Mail users among my readership, listen up: Here's my junksender.txt file, which has hundreds of known spammer domains, each individually discerned. (I.e., I was careful not to include any of the free email services, which are much beloved by the chickenboners.) And speaking of which, I can only assume that the tanked economy is responsible for the recent exposion of chickenboner activity, testified to by the great many incompetent spams I'm getting—these people are desperate, dumb, and not reading the doc.

My list of blocked senders will filter out most of the "professional" spammers, who acquire and use their own domains. You'll still have to filter on distinctive phrases in the text to root out the chickenboners. Fortunately, this gets easier as time goes on: M0rtgage, p3nis, F.R.E.E and so on are not things you generally see in real email.

We're heading into the packing endgame's been 13 years since we last threw everything we owned onto a truck, and we've forgotten a lot of things, do you pack ties? (And for people who have seen my scrap pile, I must clarify: I mean neckties, not railroad ties, which stack quite neatly in a moving van, and don't wrinkle...)
March 26, 2003:

The great enemy we face in our modern era may not be socialism, or communism, or globalization, or even terrorism, but cynicism. I think the reason that Europe hates us so much (now that they're finally coming out and saying it to our faces) is that they're cynical and we're not. (At least those of us who aren't members of the bicoastal intellectual elite.) Cynicism, of course, is the intellectual fallacy that nothing really matters, and the one thing that drives cynics completely batshit is knowing that somewhere, somebody thinks that certain things do matter. The cynics brand us as sentimental cornballs, but the truth is that as best I can tell, we're happy, and they're not.

A friend of mine (who for fear of the RIAA asked to remain nameless) sent me a copy of a song by Billy Dean: "Once in a While." It's gentle country, and while I dare not post the MP3, you can find the lyrics here. Cornball that I am and have always been, I will freely admit that it brought tears to my eyes. Consider the bridge, which Billy sings with forceful conviction:

That's why we call them heroes.
That's why we know their names,
And once you've heard their stories,
You're never quite the same.

That's why we call them heroes.
The best thing they ever do,
Is to point to the best in us all,
And say: "If I can, you can too."

Heroes don't have to be warriors. They don't have to be loud, or famous, or even especially visible. They cannot, however, be cowards or phonies, which is the two-horned brand I burn into the hides of cynics everywhere: We know you're not strong enough to face the world, and dodge the need to consider ultimate questions with a withering sneer. You're still fighting.

We've already won.
March 25, 2003:
Where were all these antiwar protesters when Clinton sent troops into Bosnia? Just wondering, heh.
March 23, 2003:

The Big Truck comes in only 9 days, so my entries here may get shorter and sparser for awhile, especially starting tomorrow. We have about 250 boxes packed, but the easy stuff is done, and now it's a question of trying to decide what you can pack and still live in the house for another week. The place is a tremendous mess, with open boxes arranged around me in a circle while I empty shelves, my desk, and various storage cubbies, like behind my desk under the window, where the dust was an inch deep atop old Compaq keyboards and other stuff I hadn't thought about since 1997.

So bear with me if I get a little quiet for awhile.
March 22, 2003:

I downloaded the latest release of PocoMail and decided to give it another go. My copy of Outlook Express has begun to get unstable, probably due to the immense number of blacklisted domains that the idiot thing insists on storing in the registry. Poco rubbed me the wrong way last April when I tried it out, (although to be honest I don't quite recall what the killer problem was) and I uninstalled it and more or less forgot about it.

But I really need a better mail client than OE. So I've got the newest Poco running in parallel with OE, downloading messages without removing them from the server, with OE still maintaining my primary mailbase. Poco imported all 30,000 messages in the mailbase without much trouble. It can't, alas, import blocked senders, so I'm bringing them over from OE via cut'n'paste, a few at a time as I find time. (You can download what I have so far of blocked senders, in text file format, here. I cringe to recall it, but what's there is less than half of what's still in my damned registry!) Once I have Poco's spam filters working acceptably, there's no particular reason to keep on with OE, and I will nuke it gladly.

On a lark I installed Kazaa and went looking for other Poco users' junksender.txt files, but didn't find any. If I had, I would have cobbled up a simple text merge program in Delphi. I may still do that, so if any of you have a PocoMail junksender.txt you'd like to share, please send it along. Once I have my full blacklist in Poco format I'll post it. About 80% of the spam I get is from obvious spammer domains (things like and and my blacklist is my best antispam weapon at the moment, and most of the chickenboners can be caught by searching for their increasingly idiosyncratic spellings of things like F.R.E.E. and m0rtgage.

One interesting feature a mail client should have is the ability to check a message being sent to be sure it doesn't trigger the client's own spam filters. The filters are there; it should be just a check box somewhere to apply spam filtering to each message before it's sent, so I won't by mistake include something that other people are likely to be filtering for.

Long-term I hope to use Phoenix Mail Roundabout, but until it's progressed a little further Poco may have to do.
March 21, 2003:

Setting side for now the issue of whether the war is a good idea or not, let's talk about the protests popping up in biggish cities around the country. What exactly are they trying to accomplish? If they're trying to bring the undecided around to their point of view, they're going about it most peculiarly. Jamming public transit with human barricades at the end of the day when tired and hungry workers are just trying to get home is not the way to make points with anyone. Blocking access to Joe's Bagel Shop is not a strike at Corporate America or anything else except poor Joe, who may not actually have been a conservative before he saw the Left trying to drive him out of business. I saw a news clip of protesters somewhere screaming abuse at police, who stood there stolidly without cracking heads or even arresting anybody.

I was most amused that the generally liberal (and sometimes screamingly so) members of the Plastic Web aggregator were not sympathetic. And boy, if you're pissing off your own people, then ya gotta wonder what in hell is going on.

A clue may lie in a whimsical but highly articulate cartoon strip by Peter Bagge, which is so true it's doubly funny. (Remember, I actually marched on Washington over Vietnam with a million other longhairs back in 1971, so I've seen some of this stuff when it was first-run and still know a fair number of those who marched with me.) If Bagge's insights are true (and I think they are) it means that most of these people don't care a whit about the war at all. It's about partisanship, and pet causes (most of which have nothing to do with war or peace) and kids looking for excuses to cut class.

Do the protesters have any idea how badly they're painting the (worthy) idea of peace activism? Can they fathom how many people they're pissing off and driving away from the cause? Democrats keep whining that the Republicans are cheating to get in power and stay there; perhaps the Dems need to crack their whips over some of their left wing, who are the best advertisement for the Republican party that ever was, and better PR than the often-dimwitted Republicans could ever devise for themselves.
March 20, 2003:

A special Darwin Award for Clueless Artists should be issued to the Dixie Chicks, who were working a European audience recently and figured that slandering America (and of course, George W. Bush) always plays well abroad. What they forgot is that the country-western music crowd is, for the most part, made up of Red People, who voted for George Bush and for the most part support his policies. In subsequent weeks, country stations all over the country pulled all Chicks music from their playlists and invited enraged listeners to bring their Chicks CDs and branded merchandise to parking lots where they could be burned, bashed with sledge hammers, run over by tractors, and otherwise desecrated.

Maybe it'll all blow over, but maybe not. Out in Red Country, people still refer to Jane Fonda as Hanoi Jane after 35 years. Country has a long memory. Lesson 1: Know your market, heh. Maybe they could start doing Streisand covers.
March 19, 2003:

Our deadline for Saddam to get out of town has just passed as I write this, so across the country people are pouring chips into bowls in front of the TV and stocking the fridge with cold beers and getting ready to watch another good war.

Are you sick yet? So am I. I'm sick of the politics and the rhetoric on both sides. I'm sick of the tenor of the antiwar protest, which is way more about hating George Bush and the Republicans than about all the Iraqis who are going to die in this thing. A few Americans and British will probably also die, but I don't think Iraq fully understands what it's up against, and I don't think most ordinary Americans do either. If this war happens (and it isn't started until it starts) it will be a rout.

I'm sick of France claiming the high ground, when it's all about oil to them too, and how they'd rather buy it from a dictator who gasses his own people than from an American puppet regime.

I'm sick of the lack of ideas from the peace movement. OK, peace. Tell me how. Don't tell me how much you hate Bush. We know that. Tell us how to get to peace from where we are—oh, and maybe tell us how to keep Hussein from killing his own citizens by the tens or hundreds of thousands. That's gotta be worth something too, right?

I'm basically sick of the whole damned thing. I lost half of last night's sleep tossing around for being sick of it all. I don't want it to start, but if it has to start, for God's sake (truly) let it be over quickly.
March 18, 2003:

I borrowed a fascinating book from my good friend Bishop Elijah of the Old Catholic Church, now retired in Roseville, California. It's a history of the Polish National Catholic Church, to which our little Phoenix Old Catholic community belonged before we broke with them over their increasing conservatism and inexplicable (well, OK, maybe a little explicable) passion to reunite with Rome while a Polish pope was still running the place. The book is The Origin and Growth of the Polish National Catholic Church by the Rev. Stephen Wlodarski. I expected history and got it; what I had not expected was in the appendices, where the full statement of faith of the PNCC was reproduced. Of particular interest to me was Point VII of the Eleven Great Principles of the PNCC: On Eternal Punishment. It's too big to place inline here, but read it if you're the least bit interested in Catholicism.

The gist: The founders of the PNCC were universalists! I'd heard rumors to that effect, but this was the first time I'd seen it all laid out, and as far as I know it's unique in the Catholic world. The document (about 1000 words) is a truly beautiful thing, and reflects the well-known Polish reliance on progress through hard work. This is the antithesis of conventional Protestant belief (i.e., not "do" but "done") and one answer at least to a question I rarely get anyone in the Catholic community to answer for me: To what extent do we cooperate in our own salvation?

The PNCC does not promise an easy journey to the Beatific Vision, but at least they promise a journey, and not some kind of diabolical Monopoly game with infinite stakes and loaded dice. Perhaps it's all metaphorical; truly, how can we explain or describe what path may lie beyond death? On the other hand, it's the sort of thing that ordinary people can understand, and something I wish I had known about in time to gently defuse my mother's lifelong terror of being tossed into Hell on a technicality.
March 17, 2003:

Wow. I knew that Pete's LX200GPS was a heavily computerized device, but just how computerized wasn't clear until Pete and I set it up last night and gave it a spin. We didn't have much time. The weather's been bad, but late yesterday afternoon the skies cleared up to some extent and we decided to set it up.

It was eerie. We put the scope on its monster tripod, powered it up, and told it to go align itself. It first identified its location in space-time with its built-in GPS receiver, and then slewed to where it thought Sirius was. Came real close—and Pete centered the star in the eyepiece and pressed Enter. It then slewed majestically across the sky to Dubhe, and we did the same. After that, we simply selected planets and stellar objects from the list stored in its computer, and the scope hummed around and centered them in the eyepiece for us. We saw Jupiter, Saturn, several Messier objects, and a couple of close doubles before the clouds closed in and we saw lightning in the distance. Total observing time: 40 minutes. We spent no time looking for things, and all that time looking at them. Needless to say, it's not quite the same with my home-made 10" Newtonian, as good a scope as it is.

It's a good thing the Meade was easy to take down, because a storm roared in not long after, and we had one of the wildest cloudbursts I've seen since the madness of 1993. An immense quantity of hail came down, and I had hail an inch deep on my front porch.

It wasn't really enough time to decide how much I care for the "go-to" telescope concept. There was a nearly full moon, so it wasn't a good night to look for faint deep sky objects, and we spent most of our time gasping at Jupiter and Saturn, which were spectacular. We tried to control the scope with Cartes du Ciel (see yesterday's entry) but the serial port wouldn't talk to the scope and we had no time to troubleshoot once we saw lightning in the west. As a first impression it was terrific. I can't help but think that instruments like the Meade will make telescope making as a hobby mostly extinct, just as low-cost modern amateur transceivers have made the hobby of building radios mostly extinct. That's a problem, especially in terms of helping young people understand how all this works, but for old guys with more money than time, yikes! There's nothing like it anywhere.
March 16, 2003:

The move is making me crazy, but I decided to take a break for a couple of days while my old Lane Tech Astronomical Society friend Pete Albrecht drove out from LA with his new Meade LX200GPS telescope. (See my entry for January 2, 2003 for a photo of the scope, though not Pete's.) We're going to set it up today if it clears, though a peek out the window right now shows light drizzle.

What Pete showed me last night, however, was dazzling: A completely free software package called Cartes Du Ciel (that's "Sky Charts" in the Freedom language) by a Swiss chap named Patrick Chevalley. It's by far the best star atlas program I've ever used, and they don't get any cheaper, heh. It allows you to install star charts as they become available. We installed the Tycho charts, which gives us stars down to about 12th magnitude, which is the limit for Pete's scope, and somewhat beyond the limit for mine. It displays constellation figures (if you want them; they're handy for orientation, especially with everything down to mag 12 on your screen!) and Milky Way boundaries. You right-click on an object to identify it and display its properties (coordinates, magnitude, catalog number, etc.) and can control the size of the field displayed.

It will not only show you where the planets are, but also where the planets' moons are! I was most impressed with being able to see the location of Phobos and Deimos, which I've never seen "in person" through a scope. (Having 12th-mag stars on the chart would be handy in a Phobos and Deimos hunt!)

The program has an option to allow control of a Meade "go-to" scope through a serial port. Click onm an object, and the scope will go there. We're going to install it on my laptop and give that a shot tonight. I don't have the time to say a whole lot more about it right now, but if you have any least interest in the night sky (and especially if you have kids at home) go get it and try it. The download is 16 MB, but trust me, it's worth it!
March 15, 2003:

Moving company estimates are coming in, and they're remarkably consistent in their predictions of the weight of our aggregate household goods: 25,000 pounds. Knocking off about 5,000 pounds' worth of things that don't need packing (primarily furniture and my 1,000-pound engine lathe) Carol reminded me today that once we're done packing I will have dumped over ten tons of stuff into boxes. We're well past 200 packed boxes now, and will probably go to 250, maybe 275.

I have a system. Every box gets a 2" X 4" label with a room code on it: BR1, BR2, MBR, KIT, GAR, DIN, and BAS. Anything bound for the basement (BAS) gets an additional label, color-coded for one of four zones carved out in the cavernous basement:

      Red: Electronics & Technology
      Yellow: Books
      Green: Carol's stuff
      Orange: Miscellany

(White labels in the photo above are simply address labels, so that no box will be without our address.) We've created signs with each of the room codes on them, and colored sheets of paper to tape to the basement walls where we want the movers to drop the boxes. If all goes well, we should never be entirely unable to zero in on a specific box among the many.
March 14, 2003:

Several people sent me notice in the last day and a half of the liquidation of Peer Information, parent company of geektome specialist Wrox Press, design book house Friends of ED, and Glasshaus, a UK publisher of Web design books. I'm not familiar with Glasshaus, but Wrox has been something of a phenom since about 1993. They began by publishing books by Russian authors, often with marginal translation and terrible editing, but over time they became a serious force and published a lot of really good books, several of which are on my shelf (well, OK, in boxes, like everything else) and will remain with me for a long time.

The fate that befell Wrox tracked that which befell Coriolis to some extent. Wrox, like Coriolis, had the problem of what to publish once their list got big and they needed to publish 100+ books a year. We tried to go horizontal, into other areas, while Wrox went vertical, and published books of such phenomenal technical narrowness that maybe 200 people in the world might be passionately interested in them. You can't do that forever, and once the publishing depression hit, it hit them hard. (As my friends know too well, Coriolis had other problems that I don't say much about in print.) Friends of ED came out of nowhere with a tremendous budget, publishing good but costly-to-produce books on graphics design. They took a lot of market share from Coriolis' Creative Professionals line, and we lost a lot of sleep trying to decide how to compete with them.

Wrox was very popular in programmer circles, and made its authors stars by putting their pictures on their unmistakable fire-engine red covers. Not long before the end, I was working to design a new series of technical books allowing us to compete with Wrox on similar terms, but Coriolis sank before I could sign the first title in the series.

Book publishing is in a lousy place right now. Small presses struggle in obscurity, mid-size houses like Wrox are teetering on the edge before tumbling out of sight, and the monster conglomerates are still bleeding worthless titles into the marketplace, probably in an effort to kill everybody else off before they're forced to quit the business themselves. Keith and I designed Paraglyph to have the lowest cost structure possible, but more important than that, we will never publish books for books' sake. Every title has to make sense. The lessons of Coriolis and Wrox are not lost on us.
March 13, 2003:

Yesterday's post generated a flurry of interest fairly quickly. Nobody stood up to defend tantra—it's one of those things, I'd guess, that people talk about a lot more than they actually do—but some intriguing thoughts came in on celibacy.

Reader Jason Kaczor suggested that young nerds have their legendary focus because they're celibate, and I suppose that's possible, but there are other explanations. Young nerds (like young people of any category) simply have less to focus on, and more time to focus on what they choose to do. I recall having intense focus when I was a teenager (and celibate, which at that time we called "lonesome and hard-up") and spent much time banging out loopy SF stories on my Underwood and building radios and telescopes. Once I got a girlfriend I spent somewhat less time in my mother's basement, and once I met Carol (at 17) I started my long march to full humanity in earnest.

Someone who asked not to be quoted by name suggested that among modern, secular liberals, celibacy is what you do to take a break from frantic promiscuity. Yes, that would be funny if it weren't so sad.

My good friend Bishop Elijah (a retired Old Catholic bishop and in my view the finest thinker the Old Catholics have at this point in time) expressed some discontent with my blanket condemnation of celibacy, and I suppose I'll dig myself a little deeper and clarify my thoughts on the subject before I head back out to continue shoveling loose radio parts into boxes in the garage.

The problems I have with celibacy are tied up with the Catholic Church, for the most part (I don't do "Eastern spirituality") and are these:

  1. The majority of celibates are celibate against their will, or at least against their better judgment. Catholic bishops and cardinals may support the lifestyle, sometimes reluctantly; most rank-and-file priests would dump it in a heartbeat. (Many have—great numbers of Old Catholic priests are ex-Romans.)
  2. The Catholic Church recruits its priests from the ranks of idealistic and often immature young men sometimes as young as 14, long before they truly understand the nature of their own humanity. They promise away what they never knew they had, and not all have the strength to break free of their loneliness once the fraud becomes obvious. The priests in our parish lobbied hard for "vocations" among us eighth graders, and I ate their cookies but I knew it was a scam and they knew I knew. (I was their last choice to serve wedding Masses and didn't get the tips that my less suspicious friends did.) My practical suggestion: No celibate should ever be a virgin.
  3. Celibacy, like all extremes of asceticism, is an invitation to spiritual pride. In other words, far too many celibates are pretty damned pleased with themselves for the depth and breadth of their sacrifice. My practical suggestion: Celibacy should be a deep and heartkept secret. Those who are celibate should never talk about it! In fact, celibates should pair off, man and woman, and pretend to be married. (They would then understand the true nature of what they have foresworn!)
  4. Institutionalized celibacy has an affinity for Manichaeism. Most of what is wrong with Eastern Orthodoxy (which in its defence understands many things better than Roman Catholicism) has its roots in Mt. Athos. Orthodox bishops must be monastics, and celibate, and this colors their attitudes toward women, marriage, the laity, and the physical world. If I were to found an independent Catholic jurisdiction, I would insist that bishops be married before their consecration. No individual should be granted the fullness of the priesthood without experiencing the fullness of humanity, and no individual should counsel, teach, or shrive the married without having been married him or herself.
I guess that's enough grumpiness for one evening. Most of what is wrong with Christianity these days is, in fact, Manichaeism, and Manichaeism is the great challenge facing those of us who would like to see religion regain the respect it once had.
March 12, 2003:

I was shoveling out old magazines from the corner of my office (they collect like dust mice) when I happend across a few issues of What Is Enlightenment?, an expensive semiannual journal on Eastern spirituality that I picked up here and there in the midlate 90s, while I was casting about for a spiritual path. Issue 13 was the last one I bought, and now I recall why: The cover theme is "Sex and Spirituality," and it was one of the most depressing things I ever read. One major article was about celibacy, and how great it was. The other was about tantra, and how great it was.

Celibacy in the eastern view is about redirecting your sexual energy to other things, such as the things that Ken Wilber writes about but no one but he can understand. (I do like his hairdo, though.) I've read quite enough about celibacy while researching the history of Christianity to know that what it mostly did was redirect men's sexual energy toward making them into jerks, a problem we're still not shut of.

Tantra, now...I admit I don't know much about it, but I wonder if the people who wrote the articles in that magazine had any idea how offputting their descriptions were. At best it comes across as a kind of pompous sandalwood-flavored mutual masturbation, and at worst an exercise in Eastern femdom fetish work. Amidst much talk of energy and chakras and goddesses and peak experience and such, I found no least trace of any mention of love, or even affection, let alone committment.

It's characteristic of the sense I get for Eastern spirituality generally: Fatalistic selfishness that yearns for extinction. Where's love in this picture? Or destiny? Where is there any sense that the individual even matters? Am I the only one this seems to bother?

Then again, I'm exhausted. Maybe I'll take another look in the morning.

Or maybe not.
March 11, 2003:
It's here. It's real. Three cartons of my newest book (see my entry for Februrary 11, 2003) landed on the doorstep a few hours ago. Boy, this has been a long road—even though it was shorter than the road to most of my other books. (Only Turbo Pascal Solutions, which I wrote in ten blistering weeks, made it to reality faster.) Now I need to get review copies out to key people, start begging Amazon reviews, and setting up presentations to promote it. I'll be taking a day or two off from packing the garage to do some marketing. What a rush.
March 10, 2003:

Perhaps the way out of the spam problem is to create technology to provide a sort of bonded mailing house in the electronic world. Way back when we were promoting PC Techniques and Visual Developer, we would rent mailing lists from companies and other publications and send them promo pieces for our magazine. However, we would never see the actual names and addresses to which we were mailing. We would send our promo pieces to a bonded mailing house, and the list owners would send their lists to the same bonded mailing house. The mailing house would label and mail our promo pieces and send us the bill.

This time-honored system has worked pretty well in the print publications world for a lot of years. In print, the emphasis is on keeping the mailing list out of the hands of people who wish to mail to it. On the Internet, it would be different: a platform for opt-out that would prevent "opt-out" from being nothing more than a confirmation of a "live" email address, and an invitation for more spam. The bonded emailing house would purge email addresses on a national "do not email" list from lists of emails sent to it from spammers. It would also charge spammers on a per-piece basis to send email messages from the mailing house's domain. The whole thing would be sanctioned by law, in that it would be a misdemeanor to send commercial email to anyone who has registered an address in the national "do not mail" list. Spammers would enter a legal "safe haven" by using the emailing house instead of sending mail directly. If mistakes were made by the emailing house, the house would take the hits for penalties, not the spammers. Because the "do not mail" list would not be made available to anyone but the various bonded emailing houses (who would pay for the privilege) the "do not mail" list could not be used as a source for more "virgin" addresses by unscrupulous spammers. (Are there any other kind? Not anymore.)

The per-piece charge need not be high to kill indiscriminate spam—not even a penny per. Spam needs to go out by the millions to make any money at all, so people publishing a legitimate newsletter to five or six thousand people would pay fifty or sixty bucks, which isn't punishing, and might serve to improve the quality of the content.

Such a system wouldn't be perfect, and would depend to a great extent on legal enforcement, but if enforced, it could work.
March 7, 2003:
I'm getting behind in my packing. I'll be quiet for a couple of days while I get more of the garage into boxes. This is hard work.
March 6, 2003:
We got our first weight estimate/quote in from a moving company. 23,000 pounds! How could we possibly have 23,000 pounds of stuff? (I admit, having an 1100-pound engine lathe on a metal bench doesn't help.) Then Carol dug around in her files and discovered that when we moved here from California, our stuff weighed in at 22,300 pounds. So we've acquired only 700 pounds of stuff since then. We hope. (Yes, you can laugh. It's OK.)
March 5, 2003:

Spammers have clearly discerned the threat from Bayesian filters, and have begun to respond. I got a puzzling message today, which consisted of a typical bitmap offering cheap mortages, surrounded by text that was calculated to sound like a legitimate business or personal message: "What is it that you people do at this company?" and, much more peculiarly, "Ah," said Arthur, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word "safe" that I wasn't previously aware of." (The quotes were in the spam and are not my addition.)

Good try, but it didn't work: POPFile nabbed it anyway, though it was less than a 1.000 probability. I'll be watching for more of the same. POPFile, alas, continues to throw me false positives on an almost daily basis, including (most recently) a sizeable message about obscure Celtic saints that I cannot imagine the program would mistake for spam. I have no idea what its problem is, but I see that a new release is available and will upgrade as soon as I can slow down enough to get it done.
March 4, 2003:

In continuing to dig down to the bottoms of our many junk drawers, lots of oddments have surfaced that I haven't seen in awhile. A nice clean copy of my "I do so homebrew!" QSL card turned up yesterday. I ran out of them while we were still in California and never reprinted it, and used generic QSLs for whatever radio work I've done while here in Arizona. SF persons may recognize the artist: Hugo-award winning fan artist Phil Foglio, with whom I was an undergraduate at DePaul University in the early 1970s.

I'm in dire need of a new QSL, and if I can find Phil's original art I'll put one together. I suspect that I won't change my call again (K7JPD gave me my initials) even when we move to Colorado, where callsigns use 0 instead of 7, so once made it's made for good. The cartoon made me laugh—it reminds me of what I'm doing in the garage right now: Sweeping loose electronic parts into a "hell box" which I will have to sort someday in Colorado. Someday, sigh. When will I be making radios again? Who knows?
March 3, 2003:
Reader Ben Sawyer sent me a link to a photo of a USB toothbrush. He didn't have an explanation and didn't offer one, and as the site is in Japanese it was no help. My guess is that it's simply a clever way to use the battery in your laptop to power your dentail hygiene, and only the Japanese would have thought of it. (USB ports can source as much as half an amp—way more than a toothbrush requires.) If anyone can offer additional insights (or verify my guess) I'd be grateful.
March 2, 2003:

The spam problem has gotten so bad that even the Direct Marketing Association—for years now the biggest stumbling block to meaningful spam regulation—has gotten on board. The DMA clings to their idiotic contention that opt-out is viable, but the fact that they see the steamroller coming is an indicator of how bad things have gotten.

Many people I've spoken to endorse the legislative solution proposed repeatedly over the past several years: A requirement that commercial bulk emailers add a specified textual phrase to every message, indicating that it's commercial email. Such labeling is required on various sorts of things in the US, most visibly on food packaged for commercial sale.

This would kill a lot of spam spam stone dead, since virtually all ISPs would gleefully nuke anything with the mandated label before it ever got to consumers. The problematic part is that some commercial email is in fact useful and desired. I requested and receive two ad-supported Web aggregators that both looked like spam to POPFile before I taught it otherwise. I have occasionally (less often recently for fear of the sharing of email address lists) requested information on products via email. Such things should remain at the option of consumers, and ISP-based spam filters would make them impossible. Worse, the chickenboners and other small-time spammers would largely ignore the labeling law, so we'd lose a lot of newsletters, aggregators, and requested product information, yet still be bombarded by invitations to buy HGH, viagra, toy hovercraft, and photos of nasty sluts.

As usual, the devil is in the details. We could forbid ISPs from filtering spam (thus leaving the choice to filter or not filter to individual consumers) but unless we could get spam-label filtering onto virtually every email client in the country, spam would still be economically viable and would continue to overwhelm the Net. Charging for email by the piece is mostly absurd—I can't see why people continue to think it would work, nor how it could be enforced in the absence of a total Federal takeover of the Internet. The effect spam is having on the Internet infrastructure is mostly invisible to end users, but it's a problem, as related vividly here. Sooner or later the government will step in, and irrespective of what they do, it won't work—and will consolidate power in places we'd probably not want it consolidated.
March 1, 2003:

Before we went to Colorado, we had dinner with Bill and Esther Schindler, and were trading stories of those bad old 50's draggy moments—and I'm not talking about the Eisenhower era, either. Bill strongly recommended a nonprescription B vitamin supplement that you squirt under your tongue and let sit there for a minute or two while it leaks through into the veins under your tongue.

I'm ordinarily skeptical of such things, but the stuff was reasonably cheap, and Bill's no captious New Ager. So for the past two weeks I've been squirting bright orange goo under my tongue every morning.

Yikes. I haven't felt like this since I was in my thirties. That's the whole point: You apparently begin to lose the ability to make this stuff internally after age 40 or so, and when the deficiency gets bad enough they call it pernicious anemia. I'm thunderstruck at how easily I get out of bed, and how vigorously I can apply myself, sometimes until ten at night. Carol was watching me pack boxes earlier today, and she started laughing. "You look like somebody wound your spring up too tight," she said.

Wow. Oddly, it didn't have quite the same magical effect on her, but different people have different needs, and if you don't lack it, adding more won't help. However, if you do lack it, zoom! The stuff is available at Hi-Health and most other health food and vitamin places. It's called BTotal, from Sublingual Products, and I can't find a Web site for the vendor, but it's all over the Web. About $9 for two one-ounce dispensers like the one shown above. Energetically recommended!