Pringles, Spam and Books


From the "sometimes it doesn't pay to get out of bed" department...

I'm buying a lunchtime snack in the Math CnD here in the University of Waterloo. They have these can of Pringles chips stored in a drop chute. You remove the can in the bottom, and another can falls to fill its place.

Well, this drop chute was loaded with Pringles cans, so when I removed the bottom one, the one above it dropped and, forced by the weight of the cans above it, shot out of the chute at some velocity and hit me squarely in the stomach.

I wasn't hurt. It's not like these cans have a lot of weight to them. But when things like potato chip cans start attacking me, I know that it's not going to be a good day.

Actually, it's been a pretty good day thus far. Work is manageable and interesting and it's not too cold.

The exercise of killing spam continues on at this address. I've cobbled together a set of filters that seem to be doing quite well. If you own your own domain and can manage your own e-mail filters, here are a few that you can enter that will cut down on your spam.

If the e-mail has "gamble", "gambling" or "casino" ANYWHERE in the mail header, delete it. Spam promoting online casinos appears to make up about 60% of my spam these days. Have your filter search for these three words and you'll eliminate all of that, with almost no false positives.

Just tell your friends that if they intend to organize a visit to Casino Rama, don't mention it anywhere in their header or subject line.

Also, search for long strings of spaces, like this: "      ". Many spammers, for whatever reason, place codes in their subject lines, possibly to avoid anti-spam filters, or to keep track of which addresses work and which don't. This code comes in the form of random numbers or letters (like "atyd85") and they place it at the end of the subject line, separated by spaces to make the subject line easier to read ("Come to our Casino!!!      atyd85"). Tell your filter that if the subject line contains six spaces in a row, delete the e-mail. This covers a lot of the spam out there and almost never generates a false positive.

If you don't know anybody in Russia, you're probably not going to get an e-mail from somebody at Delete these.

After this, the filters get a little complicated (if the e-mail comes from a hotmail address, but isn't addressed to me specifically...), but thus far I've been able to catch 75% of the spam before it hits my mailbox. Even with this average, I still sign up with Spamcop, which catches spam by way of IP addresses. The two methods taken together have kept my e-mail box relatively clean.

This past weekend has been busy and entertaining. I woke up early on Saturday morning (groan) and picked up my mother, and together we went to the CANSCAIP Packaging Your Imagination Conference. This conference was held in Victoria College in the University of Toronto. We parked at Kipling station and took the subway the rest of the way.

The conference offered a variety of workshops. My mother and I attended ones by Sarah Ellis, which covered the history and development of the novel, and Ted Staunton, which talked about what it takes to create good novel series (good series must turn on character, not concept.

My favourite presentation came from Eric Wilson, who talked about his career, and how he goes about creating his stories. The main message of his talk was to believe in yourself and to keep trying, even after several rejections (it took him five years to get his first novel published). The unspoken message was also to not be afraid to market yourself. At the workshop, he handed out very professionally made bookmarks promoting his latest mystery and his website. Also, at the workshop, he was able to address me by name just by a quick glance at my nametag, and he didn't forget it, either. He'd make a good politician. Fortunately, he's channelling his powers into childrens' book writing.

On Sunday, Erin and I went to Ikea and bought new curtains to replace our ratty venetian blinds. We also bought a proper guest mattress, and feel all grown-up about it.

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