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© St. Petersburg Times, published August 7, 2000

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Spam-free mail?

I read about this spam-free concept some time ago in a programming-oriented newsgroup. Some bright hack had cobbled together several Perl scripts to manage his ever-growing spam problem. The solution was this: If a person sent him mail, he'd ask them to take a small step to verify that they actually were a human by clicking a URL. The mail would then be delivered to his inbox. Most spam came from fake e-mail addresses and, therefore, a human would never click a verification link because no one got his note. Like most brilliantly obvious ideas, this one is very simple. It looks as if free e-mail provider has taken this concept and turned it into a Web-based mail solution. The only drawback I foresee is if the message comes from an increasingly popular e-mail-enabled pager or phone. Most can't access the Web yet.

Not from these parts, eh?

Lusting after a chicken tikka masalla? The tantalizing thought of turrones got you in a tizzy? Feel dense without your smarties? If that's the case, Ethnic Grocer is your kind of online shop. Local grocery outfit Publix doesn't do a bad job but misses out on some of the weirder items. They are higher on my list than the others because they make a semi-decent attempt to stock goodies from my homeland.

What next?

Rampant commercialization grips the planet as never before and everybody is out to plop their logo on substandard merchandise. And you, my dear sheep, shall be fleeced with the rest of them. So why not be different? Just like all the different people? Express your individual sameness with wacky, thought-provoking T-shirts such as those from the Seven Deadly Sins site! Yes, I have seen the future (and it has Nike's logo on it).

Strong geek repulsion

Avid Napster user? Maybe GNUtella is your cup of tea? Or maybe any number of other file-sharing programs keen to capitalize on Napster's notorious name? Whichever flavor the masses favor, cunning leaches are creating tools such as Flat Planet's ShareZilla. It's an e-mail harvesting/targeted marketing tool that feeds you potentially useless information that has nothing to do with your search. Armed with devious software such as this, considerate pseudo companies can send you and your kids tons of e-mail for porn, get-rich-quick schemes and so forth. The lesson? Never put your real e-mail address into any program you wouldn't trust with your bank details. Bah.

Something soothing

Clearly I'm in a caustic mood this week. So while I try to bring my blood pressure down, let's consider Alexander Calder's visually pleasing works of art. I first ran into them at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and was absolutely enthralled by the sheer size and beauty of his work. Ah, that's better. I can breathe again.

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