creepy quiet

It’s going around: the quantity of spam made Diane snap a few days ago although she didn’t give numbers so I don’t know how bad it was. My friend Elvis had 70,000 spam in a couple of hours over the weekend (dictionary attack). Today I went to check my spam box for missed good stuff and discovered in nine days it had 48,000 messages and no program I could find could deal with it, either to download as mail or access via IMAP.

I’d had 103,000 spam messages in May, which was a huge number above April, which was a huge number above March. A year or so ago, I had 3,000 spam messages for a whole month. But so far in June I was getting that in a day – two messages a minute. I was on track for 150,000 of them for the month. At the same rate, July would be 225,000 – three a minute, every minute. In just a few months it would be one every six seconds.

Even though 99.5% of the stuff was being caught one way or another, I was still skimming the subject lines quickly every week or so to try and see if good stuff was in there. It’s not too bad actually if you check 20,000 messages at at time, as you’ll have many screens full of the same subject line; paging past 200 or more messages at a time that all say the same thing takes barely two or three seconds. But the time was still adding up, and there was a mental toll associated with worrying about it. And it was going to be 50% worse this month, probably 50% worse again next.

Forget it: I’m done. My spam filters at the server level had been catching about 95% of spam messages, with very rare false positives, and those were mostly the odd newsletter that I had in fact signed up for rarely read. No real legit email had been caught in many months. Time to stop worrying about it, stop assuming I’m going to miss something major.

I reconfigured things so the spam filter outputs right to /dev/null (for those who don’t speak Unix, it’s instant vaporization – poof, gone, that is that). 95% of messages gone. The next 4.5% was all misaddressed stuff; I turned off all non-active email addresses on my too-many domains, sending those messages right into space as well. I took the messages the filter missed in the last month and fed it back to it to learn it’s Spam.

After closing the gates and putting the alligators in the moat, I didn’t get any spam at all for two whole hours. I knew at the current rate in those two hours probably 250 or so messages had been eaten on their way up to the castle, but I’d heard nary a scream. I wanted to sneak up on a wall or to one of those slit windows and peek outside and watch the slaughter. But there was no easy technological answer to that, so instead, I just obsessively checked my mail to see if even the good stuff was getting through, which evidently it is.

Elvis kept popping into Instant Messenger to say the lack of spam on his email server was freaking him out as well, so at least I wasn’t alone in my paranoia. How weird and wrong is it that a sudden return of control over our mail strikes us as a creepy quiet?

I suddenly feel like there’s a massive void in my schedule that must be filled. The voids have been piling up: most of my shows are done for summer. I’ve run out of Sopranos DVD’s to watch for a while. I have a ton of photo work to do because I sold a ton of photos over the weekend, but once that’s done I earned some time to work on other projects. And now… I’m not moving missed spam every few minutes, battling huge mailboxes of crap. The creepy quiet must be filled!

My hope is to fill it with some writing. When I started this site I wasn’t going to write about current stuff; I was going to explore just a particular time in my past, from when my father died to when my daughter was born. I’m not doing a stellar job on that, but I do have lots of other things I want to get down: my first photo exhibition this weekend. Getting on three different news shows because of it. The irrigation water going nuts, turning the yard into a rice paddy. My protracted fight with the lawn mower. The balloons that drifted around the house for weeks and then made a break for it. A look back at the fun of taking a nine month old to England. And I should finish the half-written entry about why I think writing about current stuff is dangerous.

I want to write all that right NOW but I must sleep. But I’m sure over the next little while I’ll try to get all that down: in the forty minutes I’ve been writing this, I’ve checked my mail four times. Nothing. The quiet is making me crazy. Guess I have to fill it myself.


This was published on 10 Jun 2004.
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