Monday, April 11, 2005


My battle against spam continues. Interestingly enough, most of us have apparently grown used to the rash. Some guys at the Pew Group and the American Life Project (an unlikely mixture if I ever heard one) say that 53% of us don't trust the internet, down from 62% last year. As our collective In Boxes fill to overflowing with the dreck however, the gnomes at Pew maintain that most of us will stumble on ahead with only a few curses and grumbles about the waste.

A case in point: I have been trying since last Friday to get a new pager up and running. I like the antique technology of the pager rather than tying myself to the ubiquitous cell phone. I own and use one of the picture taking doodads but I hate to be tied to the damned thing. I want to have the caller filtered through the pager so that I can stall a little bit. Maybe I don't want to talk right now. See? My old pager that was provided by the state was taken from me when I told them to put it where the monkey put the nuts. So, I went down to my local provider (the Orlando Electronics store... a mom and pop operation in the heart of the Little Saigon district of Orlando Florida that provides the entire neighborhood with a mainline contact with the Pacific Rim). The nice Vietnamese lady behind the counter sold me a package deal consisting of a brand new Motorola pager bundled with a year's pager service ($142 total. no waiting). She picks up the phone and is instantly connected with an account service provider in India who takes the order and in perfect English for my benefit along with perfect Vietnamese for the order taker in the US, goes over the details of the deal and takes my money. Done deal. Thank you very much Mr. Baird. Have a nice day.

Of course, nothing ever works as planned... does it? I got a pager last Friday but I still don't have any service. I spent my morning sitting at the store with my long suffering account person wrangling with the good folks in India about my account. I just don't understand Meester Beer, this never happens except when you come in (did I mention that I do a certain amount of business in their shop?).

Did you ever hear about Cyrus Field? I think that was the name. He's the guy who laid the first Atlantic telegraph cable from New York to Ireland back in the 19th century. It seemed like such a simple idea. Run the cable from London to New York and just hook up the wires and every thing else would fall into place. Well... they said the same thing about landing a man on the moon too. What could go wrong? Huh? OK... Cyrus finally got it done but damn... it turned into the technological miracle of his time. Just think... direct communication with London. Just think... a connection hooking Orlando with India and China and what ever damned collection of screw ups there are in the loop to make it damned near impossible to get a phone number to ring allowing my pager to work.

What's this got to do with my spam wars? Well... I'll suggest to you that all this garbage on the internet is clogging up things so that we may be killing the goose... eating the seed corn. But does it seem to be a real serious problem yet? Well, only if we can't get the real information through the noise. I rely on my email to do business. When I can't do business then I'll figure out another way to skin the cat. Smoke signals maybe. So far the spam is just a nuisance, but as things get more and more complicated we are all becoming more and more dependant on complex systems to perform simple tasks. I'm engaging people from thousands of miles away to get my pager phone number enabled... and it isn't working very well.

Cyrus... I know how you felt buddy. The first try at a cable across the Atlantic failed because the engineer didn't understand electricity. The next cable worked, but by that time Cyrus had had to go to the mattesses and had involved whole nations in the effort. He died a rich man and famous man because the second cable was a success, but damn... it took some doing.

Nobody ever said things would be easy.