Brief History

Mentioned the “Small Towns” post to my Dad, for whom it was intended. He in turn mentioned driving around the Dakota countryside in the early 1990s looking for the grave of Sitting Bull.  And that jogged my memory about an almanac item for today: The Wounded Knee massacre took place on this date in 1890 (two weeks after Sitting Bull was killed). Our reflections on how short a history we have: Wounded Knee was just 113 years ago, and happened during the lives of people we both know; the blink of an eye, really.

Small towns

A random find of particular interest to those who have wandered the highways of the Great Plains — especially those of North Dakota: Small Towns.

After you’ve viewed the dusty corners of such dusty corners as Regent and Tuttle, North Dakota, poke around the rest of the site a little.

Blog Time

There’s some research out there on blogging activity: How many blogs are out there, how many are abandoned, frequency of updates, etc. But, having dabbled ever so lightly in online diarizing, and having come across some reasonably well informed, well written, and constantly updated blogs — let’s list BoingBoing (maintained by a group of friends), Dan Gillmor’s eJournal, the Volokh Conspiracy, and Bruce Sterling’s Wired blog (modestly titled Beyond the Beyond) for starters — the question I always have is: Where do these people find the time?

For me, it’s a conundrum: Getting my work done in a halfway respectable manner, doing the nonwork stuff I want to do (in random order: cycling, working out, being a halfway attentive husband, father, son, brother, and friend, reading, and watching “24” and “Survivor,” then thinking about and occasionally noodling with “my spare-time literary activities,” which might, by a stretch, be said to include blogging).

I don’t see any research about that. Maybe there’s a story in it.

Especially at This Time of Year

Man sets car on fire on a Bay Area freeway, incinerating his wife’s two kids and critically burning her. Local police chief’s comment, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Certainly it’s a very tragic situation, especially at this time of year.”

Thanks to the magic of a Google news search, we discover that the chief isn’t the only one who’s feeling this way about a Yuletide human torching. Scotland’s Evening Telegraph reports that a 48-year-old man in the town of Kinross set himself on fire. The Telegraph quotes a witness: “It doesn’t bear thinking about, especially at this time of year, the Friday before Christmas.”

That’s actually a nice touch, reminding us just what time of year it is. But wait, here’s more tragedy and extra-heartfelt emotion stirred by the coming of Xmas. In Rhode Island, a trench collapse killed an apprentice plumber on Thursday. His employer — responding to the second such death in less than a year — said: “Our heart goes out to the family, especially at this time of year.”

In Hilton Head, S.C., a few days ago, a high school student was struck by a car and killed. The school district flack had this to say: “It’s a sad day for this family and for the island community, especially at this time of year.” I’ll refrain from comment. Especially at this time of year.

SpamStats: The Hobby

It’s an experiment. Maybe a dumb one,  since it involves allowing 350 megabytes of email to just pile up, most of it unread, a lot of it unreadable. But the point was trying to learn about spam. It sure looks like a lot comes in. But how much? From whom? Whence? (Yes, whence?)

The first question is easy to answer. And since nothing is new under the sun,  it’s also easy to find innocent-looking email account holders who have been keeping track. Like this guy — he used to archive all his spam, and has a running record of the volume back to 1996. He gets a lot more than I do.

The second question is easy, on the surface. There are lots of real-looking names attached to spam messages. Lots of people who use just their first names, like they’re your buds. I just now got a note from David, telling me I can get 90 percent off a nice piece of maintenance software. Wow. Thanks, David. He gets deleted with the rest. But looking back to last December, I see David has sent me six messages, all trying to turn me on to a great deal of some kind. And lots of other Junkmail Daves and Spam Davids, many complete with last names — 37 in all — have contacted me to let me in on the latest in “teenz hardcore software account-past-due horse-humpin’ action.”

Some of these Davids might be real people. But if they are, they didn’t send this stuff. So, who really did? And where are they operating?

If that was easy to find out, we wouldn’t have spam. But for the next little while — let’s please not inquire for how long, because it might expose ugly truths about my attention span — I’m just going to sift through the last year’s worth of filth, free offers, and fun to try to answer some of the Big Spam Questions of Our Age.