Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Getting off an e-mail spam
list is as easy as pi is long

Regarding a column last week about an e-mail spammer who threatened to sue me and have me fired after I requested that my name be taken off his mailing list, several readers shared their surprise and, well, a level of venom usually directed against someone who throttles puppies with his bare hands. It says something that traffickers in unsolicited, mass e-mail have managed to be despised on the level of drug pushers, wife beaters, IRS auditors and cat-jugglers.

I thought I was mad at the guy who mails the Bio Medical News press releases around the country. He'd better hope he never accidentally sends one to some of my readers. They are so fed up with spam clogging their computer systems they think spammers ought to have their own section under the Patriot Act mandating violent apprehension and interrogation with extreme prejudice.

To recap my recent experience, the Star-Bulletin has recently put a spam filter on the newspaper's e-mail system and I have a blocker on my newish computer. The result was that my daily e-mail shrunk from a mind-numbing 300 per day to a mind-numbing 10 to 15 a day. (My mind is easily numbed.) Even so, I still get some spam, including one or two a day from the Bio Medical News (BMN), an organization whose quest it is to let the world know about every mind-numbing breakthrough in bio-medical technology. I asked many times to be taken off the list, but nothing happened until I threatened to start making fun of the organizations hyped in the BMN releases in my column. That caused the head of BMN to call me some names, threaten to sue me and have me fired.

I RESPONDED in my mature way, making fun of him in last week's column, just to show that, though I will be bullied by some people, such as organized crime hitmen, I won't be pushed around by an editor of the Bio Medical News or any other bio-related organization.

His point was that I could have had my name struck from the list if I had simply followed the instructions hidden cleverly at the bottom of each lengthy piece of BMN spam. Specifically, to delete your name from their list you had to first get through the five inches of technical gobbledygook at the top; then wade through the text of the e-mail that you never wanted to see to begin with; then slog through an "editor's note" stating BMN takes no legal responsibility for anything in the release, then trip over the curious braggadocio that BMN is "the world's largest press release/newsletter distribution service focused exclusively on the medical product industry," then dodge several paragraphs about readership, clients and ordering; and THEN get to the delete part where you have to follow their instructions to the letter, including copying and pasting something or other and sending something back and, well, that's a lot to ask of someone who didn't want the stupid spam in the first place.

But I've learned something. At the bottom of all my e-mail I now include: "If you don't want to receive any more e-mail from me, 1) jot down pi to the 346,327th digit, enter your mother's maiden name, stick a chocolate eclair up your nose, turn around three times fast, pledge allegiance to Bill Gates and beg like you're before the Spanish Inquisition. There! No more "Honolulu Lite" e-mail.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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