Can you imagine working in a meatpacking plant
for 50 years, as my uncle did? Indeed, it's even
hard to imagine a meatpacking plant. You know,
doe-eyed bovids trot in on hoof at one end and come
out sliced and diced on the other. (Glad I'm
My uncle used to be a bit annoyed when dainty
ladies would come through on tours of the plant and
hold a perfumed hankie over their noses. Of course,
one wonders why a dainty lady would be touring a
meatpacking plant in the first place. But no one in
Sioux Falls questioned it back then.
Relax, we'll get to the Internet. But there's
more. My uncle would get great deals on meat and
pass those deals along to my family. Once he told
my Dad about a great deal on canned ham. My Dad was
thrilled and ordered a ton of it.
My Dad had a hearing problem--a detail of
crucial importance to this little anecdote. The
canned ham arrived, but to our dismay it wasn't
canned ham, it was canned Spam. When my uncle said
"Spam," my Dad heard "ham."
I still remember the yucky taste. (Someone told
me recently he likes the taste, so maybe we just
got a bad batch.) The appeal isn't enhanced by
knowing what's in it. Let's just say it's made up
of leftovers. For what seemed like years, I carried
Spam sandwiches to school in my lunch bag. My Mom
tried frying it and in other ways disguising it,
but it was always blech.
So as you can see I never questioned the term
spam as applied to unwanted e-mail. In the
etymology of my experience there is no better term.
And while I endured Spam in my lunch bag, I am
thrilled to report to you that I have defeated it
in my e-mail box.
You must by now be intimately familiar with spam
(junk e-mail). I get around forty a day. Who falls
for this stuff? Does anyone really believe that an
herb can improve your sex life by 247 percent? Does
anyone really believe that within the next six
weeks you'll make a gazillion dollars? To say
nothing of the hardcore porn that comes through and
the endless of stream of messages promising to make
certain body parts larger and others smaller.
Please pass me a perfumed hankie.
Actually, I didn't defeat it. I simply took
advantage of a free spam filtering service offered
by my Internet provider (Lisco). It's virtually
flawless and has changed my life.
All my e-mail goes through a filter. On Tuesday,
July 2, for example, I received around 100 e-mails.
Of these, 34 were filtered. Five of those had
viruses, and 27 were junk. The remaining two were
messages that I, in fact, wanted to receive, so I
selected them and clicked the Deliver button. Of
the 70 messages that weren't filtered, only one two
were junk mail that I didn't want.
I no longer have to sort through and delete a
bunch spam each time I check my e-mail. Plus,
because the preview pane in my e-mail software
shows the content of each message as I delete it, I
used to have to view the junk as I deleted it. No
About twice I day I go to my filtered e-mail web
page to see what's there. Often the whole list will
be spam, from 15 to 25 messages. And in one click
it's all gone.
You can have the service to block specific
senders, or, if it has inadvertently filtered
something you want, you can tell it to always
accept mail from that address. There are three
different settings, from lenient to aggressive. I
use the latter.
The service, provided by a company called
Postini, filters five different categories of
messages. It automatically snags commercially
unsolicited e-mail. In the other four categories it
gives you a choice of whether to block that
category. These include sexually explicit,
get-rich-quick, and racially insensitive messages,
as well as too-good-to-be true offers.
It also catches messages that have viruses. Even
though my Mac isn't affected by many of them, I
still like the idea that they never arrive on my
If your Internet provider offers a filtering
service like Postini, go for it. If your provider
doesn't offer such a service, tell them they
should. Also, there are commercial services
available that are similar to Postini. Check out
Prevention, and JunkSpy.
I sincerely hope that you too will soon be enjoying
a spam-free life--and won't need a perfumed hankie
as you read your e-mail.
© 2001 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.