News From The Woods.73A - September 28, 2004

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published September 28, 2004


"Writer's Drag"


(NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS ONE OF THE COLUMNS THAT WAS "LOST" WHEN OUR SERVER DIED. IT WAS RECENTLY RE-DISCOVERED ON THE INTERNET ARCHIVES AND HAS BEEN RESTORED HERE)

Boy! It sure has been a long time since I have contributed anything to "News From The Woods". I have just recently realized that my last article was back in April.

What happened?

Well, there have been several reasons. For one thing, I've been trying to spend more time with my family. I have always held the opinion that family comes first. But in reality, that is much easier to say than to live, so I have been trying to align my schedules so that I have actually spent more time with family "after hours", whatever THAT is in my crazy world. With Robert in the first grade now the subject of homework has taken on a prominent position in our lives. Plus, he has gained many new friends, and they all have birthdays, so birthday parties and outings are now coming into play. And now that he is fast approaching the age of seven, his understanding of the world is growing in leaps and bounds. There are many questions that need answers and it takes more concentration to nurture his natural curiosity while keeping him on the straight and narrow as far as what he is learning. Television in particular is of the highest priority, especially children's programming. So much more seems to be acceptable these days and as parents we are concerned. Our standby, good old National Geographic, stills holds morality in high esteem. The Discovery Channel is also usually good. The best part of all this is that Robert WANTS to see this stuff. We don't feel like we are cramming education down his throat. He actually LIKES nature subjects and the like. He is spelling now so no more spelling out things for each other in his presence on taboo subjects because he is getting wise. He has become an "A" student and is on the honor roll and we want to encourage that attitude above all else. It's hard work and as he gets older there will be no slacking for us, as it will be even more difficult through his teenage years. He already shows signs of peer pressure and each day he brings home some new twisted reality as told by some school yard playmate.

Another cause of "writer's drag" is because I am doing less writing in a professional capacity. Since the demise of NewtekPro magazine I am no longer being given monthly byline assignments or software reviews. Earlier this year I was being considered as a staff writer for a prestigious audio magazine. To be honest I was surprised they would even consider me but still hopeful for the chance to write for such a major force in the industry. However, as it turned out and as the Chief Editor explained it to me, ALL magazine publications are reducing their print content due to pressure from the industry to move over to the Internet with online content. I suppose that's a good thing as we are saving millions of trees in the process. But in any event, since I write less for a career it is easier to fall out of the habit of writing every day. This has also done very little good for my dream of writing that book I have in me. Maybe the lack of writing assignments will spur me to renew my resolution to actually get to work on it.

Another nagging issue is health. While I have always been as healthy as a horse, I suppose sooner or later we must all reckon with the ravages of age. When we are young we bounce back from every malady from a simple flu bug to a hangover in just a matter of hours. When you pass fifty, "things" start happening to your body. You're on the downward side of life and you become more aware that your body doesn't function as it used to. A common cold that was just a nuisance in my twenty's takes several days to shake now. I catch myself complaining about aches and pains I never had before. Last winter I got an awful respiratory infection which took forever to rid myself of…… like SIX MONTHS! Our family doctor was becoming concerned and with each successive appointment he would prescribe some new medicine or treatment. I had a lot of tests during that time. We discovered I had high blood pressure as well, so I had to start medication for that. I was becoming so self aware of my insides that I began worrying that I was becoming a hypochondriac. My wife was getting sick and tired of my complaints about being sick and tired. All in all I am still very lucky, as being sick certainly beats the alternative! But is does tend to drain your spirit occasionally and the trickle down effect has a hand in taking it's toll on my writing contributions.

I must also blame technology as an excuse for my lack of attention to my writing chores. Technology is moving so fast these days that it seems you have to have a master's degree in engineering or programming just to keep up with what's going on. With the recent purchase of a laptop we now have four computers in our business. Heck, I spend hours every day just moving data from one system to another! I am now in the process of placing all my systems on an Intranet LAN system. This will enable all my computers to act as one big system, sharing data and reducing my file redundancy. But keeping up with software updates, integrating new programs, and maintaining all the gear takes quite a bit of time. Then there is the spam and spyware issue.

Now here is an area I just don't understand. It seems to me that less than two months after I read about the measures being taken and legislation being passed to curb spam, my Inbox has grown from about 25-50 spam messages a day to over 120 EACH AND EVERY MORNING. That is just incredible! I have Norton utilities and a Spyware removal program but I still get hundreds of spam messages every day. What's WITH THESE GUYS!?? Do they really think that I will purchase their product when they use these methods to advertise? Sometimes I'll look up at a monitor and see that someone has somehow found a way to place a start up icon for "Play Online Casinos" right on my workbench. How do they do that? WHY do they do that? I delete it immediately. Even if it WAS something that I might be interested in - I absolutely REFUSE to visit any site that condones or encourages such practices. Or how about when you are working on something and suddenly IE opens up and you get six windows on your workbench. "You've won!" -- "You're the One Millionth Customer!" -- "Enlarge your penis!" - "Webcam Deal" - "Free Vacation"…. And then the last one…….. "Prevent Spam!"

H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m………. Does that last message make you wonder if perhaps the developers of the "spam removal" software industry are actually using the spam in the first place to sell their product?

Pretty slick. But not slick enough for me.

And by the way, I don't use IE, I use Netscape. Do you want to know why? Because when these insidious windows open up it is always using an IE browser. I NEVER get a spam message opening up with Netscape. And if this keeps up I fully intend to REMOVE Internet Explorer from my hard drive. Are you reading this, Microsoft?

And while I'm on the subject, I am also considering removing my guestbook from my web site. I hate to do it but I have to check it every day and remove all the advertisements for ring tones, casinos, and herbal medicines. Sometimes the guestbook entry is even unclear about what it is selling! The guestbook was put there as a way of intercommunications between the fans of the site and the webmaster. It was not designed as an open forum for spammers or a free advertising space. I guess these jerks get money from advertisers to spew their ads all over the Internet on guestbooks but I just don't get it. I mean.... What person in their right mind would be browsing through someone else's guestbook and then see an ad for an online casino and then suddenly decide to go there and play? It doesn't make sense. And the spammer's client pays good money for this service??? What a crock! I wish to God we could all get the spammer's email address (and home address for that matter) so we could return the favor and place them on every spam list on the Internet. It truly would be worth the time and trouble.

And FYI- as of last week my ISP has installed a new filter which has (so far) eliminated 90% of ALL the spam I have been getting. It was so successful that at first I thought I was having trouble until I noticed that I was receiving only the email that was truly intended for me. I called up my ISP and promised him something really nice for Christmas for making my Internet life so much more enjoyable.

These practices are TRULY not acceptable, a real and legal invasion of my privacy, and in my opinion the work of the devil. Everyone behind the spam industry MUST be sub human and crack heads. How could ANYONE think that advertising with these methods will make them any money? SURELY 95% of anyone getting spam just hits the DELETE button. Are they aiming for the 5% of the idiots out there that are so incredibly thick that they support such methods? I guess so. Another sad but true indication that society is headed down the toilet.

And I hate to leave you on such a sour note, but I must now attend to family matters.