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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

Spam, I Am
June 12th, 2003

...I would not read it in the mall!
I would not read it in the hall!
I would not read it in my home!
I would not read it with a gnome!
I do not want to read the spam.
I do not want to, Spam-I-am.

There's a lot of talk these days about spam, not the canned mystery meat that is actually quite tasty, thank you, but the digital kind.

According to several sources, approximately 40% of the e-mail people get in the US is considered spam. You don't believe me? Take a look at some sites that post spam statistics like Oregon State University or Empowering Media. If you're a Mac owner who uses the Mail app in OS X then it is easy to see how much spam you get by simply looking in the Junk folder in Mail. If you're like me you may get 5 to 10 pieces of legitimate e-mail per day, but you'll also get 2 to 10 pieces of spam. If I clear out my junk folder today, I'll have 20 to 40 pieces of junk e-mail in the folder by this time next week, and those are the ones that Mail filters; I may get 1 or 2 pieces of spam in my regular mail boxes that somehow escaped the filters. My editor at TMO says he is getting some 200 spams per day.

Spam is all over the news, too. The Washington Post posted an article about how bad spam is getting. In July, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would hold spammers liable for costs that businesses or individuals incur dealing with spam, and all sorts of anti-spam Web sites and groups have sprung up all over the Internet.

I guess I just don't get it. Why are people so up in arms about spam? You know that saying about how nothing is certain but death and taxes? Add spam to the list. We had spam before the Internet came about; it came through your mail slot in your front door, and it disturbed your dinner, and it woke you from a dead sleep with an incessant ringing of your phone, and it interrupts your favorite TV shows. TV commercials, phone calls, and bulk mailings aren't spam you say? Tell me that the next time the phone rings after you have just worked up a good thick shampoo lather, forcing you to leave the warmth of your shower only to listen to some guy mispronounce your name and try to sell you a half of a cow or a timeshare in Peoria.

See? It's the same stuff we've been putting up with already, it's just that now it's more personal.

I think people are looking at spam all wrong. It is not such a bad thing if you consider that modern spam filters take care of as much as 90% of all spam that hits your inbox. And consider that benefits of spam:

  • It doesn't fill your trash-can or local landfill
  • You can't get a paper cut from it
  • Your mailman is under less strain due to a lighter mailbag.

What intrigues me is the breadth of knowledge spammers have about me. For instance: How do spammers know that I'm a guy who likes barely-18 [...], whose manhood [...], and who needs help with [...]. These people are shrewd psychic marketers, they know just what is wrong with me, and exactly how to fix it.

They also seem to know that my finances are in dire straits. Is it coincidence that spammers send me information about bankruptcy, credit repair, and investment opportunities about as often as I reach for my wallet? I don't think so. In fact, I was just thinking about bankruptcy last week while wondering how such a move would affect my poor credit. Of course, after filing for bankruptcy I would then have lots of money to invest. Man! It's downright spooky how clever these spammers are.

There's also potential educational value in spam that many people have overlooked. Really. I get spam in 10 different languages. Before getting a spam-o-gram from South Korea I never had any interest in learning Korean. I suppose the spam could have come from North Korea, I don't know because I still can't read Korean. I can pick through the Spanish and French spam, but those that look like Russian have me stumped.

In fact, teachers should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity being delivered daily into your mail queue. Have your students decipher the spam you get! It could be a fun and exciting activity. Just make sure your spam isn't an ad for Vicky's Voluptuous Virgins; parents tend to frown on such things.

There is one thing about some spam that irritates me, though, and that is getting spam intended for someone else. So far, I've been called Brad, Marvin, Steve, Bill, Empress Marsha, and Vacello, the Undertaker. I get aggravated when people insist on sticking a 't' in my last name, so you can imagine how miffed I am about being called Steve.

Attention Spammers: If you are going to send me spam, at least have the decency to address me by my proper name. (Note: I do kind of like Vacello, the Undertaker though.)

So, the lesson here is: don't complain so much about junk e-mail. Think of your spam-choked mailbox as a hint that you should step away from the computer and get outdoors more often. And when you see the shocked and wondering looks on the faces of your little Billies or Betties as they gape at birthday-suited bimbos after opening an e-mail addressed to them, take it as an opportunity to teach them about the birds and the bees. There's some good in everything, even if you have to have a GPS receiver, bloodhounds, and the Royal Canadian Mounties to find it.

...I will read it here and there.
I will read it anywhere.
I do like to read the spam.
I do like it, Spam-I-Am!

May Dr. Seuss forgive me.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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