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Dirty Diatribes

“... done dirt cheap.”

Part 3

You’ve got (junk)mail: Besides my normal UW email account, I have several web-based email accounts. One, for example, is listed at the bottom of this page. A while back I realized I was collecting so many online “accounts” for various things (chat, email, online shopping here and there, etc.) that I needed to find a way to keep track of everything. So, I created a simple text file: accounts.txt. It contained my username and other such info for a number of accounts. Sure, it wasn’t really that “secure”; if any one broke into my apartment and searched through my harddrive, they might find it (assuming it wasn’t compressed and encrypted in a zip file). However, I felt “safe enough” with it. Yesterday I came across accounts.txt and thought to myself, why don’t I just organize this in a rational, easy-to-use fashion? So, I turned it into an HTML table [no, you can’t look at it]. I was in the process of going through several old text files, and while doing so I found some old email that I hadn’t yet archived (and/or deleted). To make a long story a tad bit shorter: in one such message I found notes for yet another email account. However, it didn’t list a password. So, I tried out the account and typed in one of my old passwords—to my amazement, I got it right on the first try. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I did not, however, check my inbox.

Fast-forward to tonight. I was in the process of grading quizzes and homework when I realized I needed to 1) email three of my students and 2) forward information about a certain assignment (involving the Deutsche Bahn [very cool] website) to another TA. So, I logged back on, wrote my emails, checked my email (nothing new), etc. I thought back to this one account and decided to check it. What awaited me? 233 new messages. That’s ‘what’. What was I going to do with 233 new messages for an account I’d never used? Delete them, of course. However, there was one slight problem: I could only view 25 messages at a time. It took me a few minutes, to say the least, to get rid of all the spam.

I just deleted those messages? Without even reading them? But of course! The subject line alone were enough to convince me that I need not bother reading the actual messages. Below is a short yet representative sampling of the message subjects (excerpted from about June-July of this year):

So, happy as could be, I started deleting. Only two messages, of 233, were saved: one because it was from the organization providing the email address (providing me with some useful info), and the second by pure luck. I decided to copy down a sample of email subjects (see above), which meant I should read the email subject lines, which I did. In the process of doing so, I came across one titled “Your Cousin” (mentioned above). Unlike the ones starting “hi” and “High Bud...It’s Been A Long Time” (from addresses I obviously didn’t recognize), this one didn’t seem like a spam. First, the originating domain was that of a reputable company. Well, addresses can be forged, but thinking what the hell, I decided to actually read it.

Lest anyone get their hopes up, no, this was not from a cousin of mine, long lost or otherwise. However, it was from a person who thought they might be my cousin. It was endearing in a sort of way. The message is as follows:

Steve—I hope you are the correct Steve Krause. I am <name deleted>. My mother is <name deleted>. If you are indeed my cousin, could you let your mom know that <name deleted> (my sister) had her babies last night (3/10/99). A boy and a girl. (Zachary Darwin—4 lbs. 11 oz. and Leah Christine—4 lbs. 11&1/2 oz.) She can call me if she would like I have the phone number for the hospital - mom and dad were going up today.

P.S. Please let me know if I have the right Steve Krause.

Your Cousin (hopefully!)
<name deleted>

Alas, this message was dated March 11, 1999. I think I received it just a *tad* too late to do any good. Still, I found it all rather interesting. It’s not often that I get messages asking if I’m the correct Steve Krause. I did have a message a few years ago from another person looking for family history information regarding several long dead “Krauses.” I don’t think that person was a relative, though. The names given didn’t match any I knew. The same is the case here—no names that I recognize. Yet, it was nice to have at least one genuine message among 233 pieces of spam.

—November 21, 1999

I have an affinity for puns: I like puns and many other types of jokes/humor, and last night just ended up being a good night for puns, at least if one likes such things. Perhaps I told a few too many for my own good, but they just kept presenting themselves. Among other things, there was the “Men are from Macs, women are from VMS” line, straight from yesterday’s Userfriendly (currently my favorite online comic). All in all, the MadLUG meeting went well; several new faces.

Moses as a child
Moses as a child

Yesterday afternoon I learned about hobbyist groups in Germany in which the members dress up like Native Americans; some are real fanatics. Some present themselves as experts and scholars; they are keeping the culture ‘alive’ in so far as they emulate it. It all reminds one a great deal of the SCA and their interest in the Medieval. However, here it seems that for many members “being” an Indian, and essentially dressing in drag as such is a fetish; evidence shows there is a great erotic/sexual aspect to it. One of the more interesting aspects, however, was the way in which such emulation is surrogation; in particular, ‘being’ an Indian is a way for many white German males to practice their ‘masculinity’. The whole thing was quite fascinating, and as I don’t wish to butcher Katrin Sieg’s scholarship by way or poor summarizing, I’ll end here.

I’ve received several emails I need to write; I’ve received quite a few new ones in the past several days, some of which deserve attention in the near future.

Much of my data-reorganization (webpages, etc.) is complete. However, my old papers are still in need of being HTML-ized. They will need to wait until next semester, though, since I don’t have much free time this semester.

Hoboken beer
Hoboken beer

As for the end of the semester, I still have several papers to write. Okay, 5 papers to write. The one for Charles won’t be too bad—I already have the ideas in my head. However, I need to present it on Monday, meaning I need a draft for then. Toma wants a draft on Monday, and I need to write up Berghahn’s ASAP. That leaves me Adler’s and Hermand’s. Adler’s will be the “hard” one; all new reading and research. Hermand’s is also “new,” but not as difficult, I think. Of course, I could just decide to take the final exam there.

—December 4, 1999.

From /.: “Scientists Poised to Create Life.” Tim C submitted a story on BBC1 in the UK about scientists thinking they were on the verge of creating life. Okay. Nice. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Tim continues: “Somewhat reassuringly, they realise the potential impact of their work, and so are seeking the opinions of religious leaders before proceeding with the next stage of their research.” My question, why do religious leaders matter? You ask someone for their opinion if that opinion is important (to you, etc.) What authority do religious leaders have? From this I conclude the following: too much.

One Slashdotter posted:

I’m really glad that they are consulting religous leaders. I’m sure that they will be told not to proceed, but I’m also sure that they will anyway. As much as I want technology to push ahead, I really hope that they fail. I believe in God, and I don’t really think that we should create life. Increasing the standards of living is one thing, but I have to disagree with this.

What a loony answer. It’s the “I believe in God so I don’t think we should create life” thing that gets to me. What do those two things have to do with one another? Where does it say “Thou shallt not create life!” Perhaps it doesn’t have anything to do with ’god’, but rather with how believers in such things see themselves in the world; if humans can create life, then creating life isn’t only the realm of god, and hence god’s importance is diminished even more. Basically, as I see it, such people can’t stand the idea of a world without absolutes and a world in which ’man’ is the center of things. Perhaps it causes them to take on too much responsibility; perhaps they have to think too much; perhaps they don’t feel secure enough.

A quote I liked much better (from another Slashdotter) goes as follows:

Frankly I don’t think God cares if we create life or invent nuclear weapons. I think we should however!

Much better answer. First: as another poster pointed out, the article/story said the process was under ethical review; it seems the poster confused ‘ethical review’ with ‘consulting religious leaders’; this doesn’t surprise me too much, as far too many people believe ethical = moral, and that ethical/moral behavior is best left to the realm of religion (some going as far as to believe only others who believe as they do can be ethical/moral). This, combined with the above quote, makes a point I like: ethics are social; they are a measure of our society. Face it: without other people, there’s really no need for ethics/morals. What sorts of ethics we have are determined by what sort of society we wish to have, and how they are practiced helps to show what sort of society we really are. As a society, we need to worry about how we treat other forms of life, how we treat and interact with nature, etc. Any thoughts of some sort of supernational ‘afterlife’ are merely 1) pretentions to importance (that humans actually merit such an afterlife, either for eternal punishment or for damnation) and 2) a way to ignore real world troubles and instead comfort ourselves with thoughts of the sweet-here-after ... whatever.

—December 9, 1999.

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]