Saturday, June 05, 2004


Stochastic Observations Du Jour

For about two years, my personal e-mail was completely spam-free, thanks to careful control of where I announced it. Starting back around February, spam started pouring in, undoubtedly as a result of someone who had my address being infected by a harvester, or from some missive that went far beyond its original intended distribution and was picked up by a no-goodnik. My ISP implemented a spam filter, which up until fairly recently required me to log into their web interface to check a spam folder on the server. Well-intentioned, but a bit of a pain in the neck, as it occasionally flagged friends and wanted e-mails, such as eBay transaction notices. They've fixed this by moving to Spam Assassin, and it's at least allowed me to maintain a whitelist. But being faintly curious about the sources of spam, as well as wanting to have some degree of control, has gotten me to front-end my preferred MUA with Mail Washer Pro (well worth the money, IMHO), and to be an active SpamCop reporter (I have little patience to sit and de-obfuscate the URLs in spam, and manually do all the lookups). Some random stats that may be of interest:
* About 29% of my inbound e-mail is spam
* About 45% of my spam is flagged by an RBL (real-time blackhole list, maintained by a bunch of Good Guys who try to hunt down these vermin)
* About 25% is identified by Mail Washer's First Alert service, although a lot of these are also caught by RBLs
* About 15% is picked up by the Bayesian filter in Mailwasher
* The remainder is picked up by a "Not To Me" filter
* Most of the senders are in China or Korea, but an increasing percentage are on broadband connections in the US or Canada.
* About half of the ISPs refuse SpamCop reports in munged form, or altogether
* De-obfuscating the links and looking up the networks responsible for hosting the spammers' sites, I find that hinet dot net and telemar dot net dot br host a majority of the links I receive from these lice. These chowderheads are in Taiwan and Brazil respectively.

You know, why would it be so awful for ISPs to do two simple things, those being blocking TCP port 25 from their consumer connections to anywhere other than their own SMTP servers, and to implement a quota on those SMTP servers, say 50 or 100 outbound messages in any 24 hour period unless pre-authorized? I don't imagine it would be terribly difficult to hack qmail or sendmail to implement same....

Taking a 180, the great Mark Steyn decided to deconstruct the current production of Fiddler On The Roof, and as always is incisive and entertaining. I happen to fall into the third critical position Mark mentions, perhaps vehemently so. Other than naming burial societies, my family and their friends showed little nostalgia for for the shtetl and the old country, preferring to look forward. The music did get heavy airplay (or whatever you would call it) on those ghastly wood cabinet "hi-fis" in the living room, and heaven forbid that we kids would touch the hi-fi with our music (I remember my father giving me quite a look once when I snuck the 45 of "Hang On Sloopy" on the turntable reserved for "La Boheme" and other "good music"). As there were always tons of weddings and bar mitzvahs to go to, we could always count on a fair portion of the soundtrack being played by the band at these shindigs (invariably, the band was composed of music teachers from the New York City public schools moonlighting for the extra bread). And if you vacationed at a resort in the Catskills, it would be blared incessantly, or you could count on the entertainment (think Steve and Eydie) to throw it into their set.

Bad enough, but the show was completely killed for me when it was done in a junior high school in Brooklyn. The average observer will note that there are tons of amateur productions of this show, most of which are done by schools, but this one was in such a completely absurd time and place, that it is worthy of an Absurdity Award. The production was done in the school district in Brooklyn that caused the 1968 teacher's strike, right after the teacher's strike. The majority of the cast was black. The kids played it straight, and did a fine job with the show. It was quite controversial, though - 60 Minutes did a segment on it, and Howard Enders produced an hour-long documentary that aired on ABC. The absurdity factor was way up there, as the proto-Sharptons were causing trouble for the whole thing during the run-up, and the whole thing was being held up by pundits and a very left-wing teacher I later dubbed "Rosa Luxemburg" as an example of "the way things should be". After being a peripheral observer to the situation and overloading on it, all I can say is "Oy".


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