Thank You. Welcome. Good-bye.

Can of Hormel Spam

The original SPAM – Shoulder of Pork and Ham.

Spam has been around almost since the Internet went live.  In fact, I’d probably wager the first spam message was sent the day after the Internet went live! And I’d likely lose that wager.  According to Digital Trends, the first spam message was probably sent in 1978 over the Internet precursor, ARPANET.  Six years ago, in 2015, spam traffic accounted for some 85% of all Internet traffic.  Whew!

Spam email isn’t news and it isn’t new. So, why am I writing about it now?  Simply for the fact that spammers today seem to have adopted a common practice:  Sending emails masquerading as “welcome” messages.  In essence, the unsolicited email arrives in one’s inbox and reads something like this:  “Welcome to the XYZ slimy product and service company.  We value your privacy and respect your time, so we won’t pester you needlessly.  If you wish to unsubscribe from our mailing, please click here,” with the “here” containing a link.  Which one should absolutely not, ever, never click!

The warped humor I find in these mails is the opening assertion – a “welcome” message, as if I’d actually gone to so-and-so’s web site and signed up for something.  Then, as if the message was responding to this ridiculous assumption, the smooth language meant to assuage and fears and calm the recipient down.  Many of these bogus emails contain some sort of “legalese” text suggesting one can read their privacy terms and so on.  Again, never, ever click on a link in a spam message.

The “unsubscribe” offer is exactly the opposite.  By clicking to “unsubscribe” to email one never subscribed to in the first place, is a guarantee that your email address will be validated and then sold to spammers worldwide.  You might as well close your email account now, because if you think you get a lot of spam now, be prepared for the tsunami…

By now you’d have thought most people would understand this, but the mere fact these spam messages continue says two things:  (a) There must still be gullible people in the world, and (b) the cost of sending these messages by the thousands (millions?) is so low that it is made up for by a very small percentage of people clicking on the links in them.

It wasn’t my intent to make a product recommendation, but it occurred to me now, so here it is:  I have been using a software program called SpamSieve since it first came out in 2002!


Rein in your spam with SpamSieve

I’ve run it on every Mac I’ve owned since, and it has never failed, never caused problems, and continues to be updated nearly twenty years later.  It cost $30 and has paid for itself many times over.  Macworld called it a “must-have spam filter,” and I agree.  One can “train” it to a wildly specific degree, or set it up to use its defaults.  Either way, it’s unobtrusive (starts automatically when the email program launches) and never shows its “face” until an update is available.

All in all, in this day of inboxes overflowing with spam, it’s nice to have something that will just stand guard and move it aside until one is ready to give the junk a once-over and delete it permanently.  Maybe that’s why I find these “welcome” messages less than unwelcome.

On This Day in 2021

Nothing happened.

The Occupant of the White House kept America’s credit card in his pocket and didn’t spend money (that we know of).  The Washington Nationals, as a result of a four game winning streak, moved into a first place tie with the NY Mets.  But they’re only 24 games into a 162 game season.  And their record is 12-12.  (It is fun to watch future hall-of-famer Max Scherzer pitch, though).

No riots have been reported, and COVID-19-20-21-22 is not the leading story in the news.  Oh, the rule makers are still trying to play it for all it’s worth, but it’s more and more obvious it’s a “plan-demic” as opposed to a pandemic.

Wait.  Hold the phone.  It just hit the news wire:  Bill and Melinda Gates have announced they are ending their marriage.  First it was Jeff Bezos, now Bill Gates.  I guess the pitfall to being the richest man in the world is that marriage is unsustainable.  I doubt this will affect many outside their circle.

All my computers, cars and appliances are functioning normally.  All my guitars are strung and playable.  I get my daily exercise and have now been twice vaccinated.  In two weeks, I’ll be on vacation.  Today, nothing happened.

But I felt like writing about it.  🤓

Change Is A-Coming

This past year has been almost a daily re-hash of wake, coffee, work, exercise, eat and sleep. Rinse and repeat. So, it’s with a bit of excitement that I find myself all of a sudden involved with several new projects that have grabbed my attention.

In addition to adding a humidifier to my guitar room, I’ve subscribed to online guitar lessons from ActiveMelody. With hundreds (or thousands) of online lessons to choose from, I found this one addressing the kind of guitar playing I’m interested in. I am always hesitant to purchase online anything, but as one person on the site’s forum put it, a year’s subscription costs only a little more than a couple of in-person lessons. A good point, given that I spent a year with in-person lessons that cost much more than I paid for a year of tabs, downloadable jam tracks, and video lessons I can access whenever I wish. I am enjoying it so far!

The other project that has me all a-twitter began as the germ of an idea when I discovered that my favorite guitar forum might be lapsing into disuse. It’s a long story I won’t go into now, but this site has a “sister” site and the idea is to just have everyone move into one. The problem I (and some others) have, is that I don’t like the sister site!

So I got the idea of seeing how difficult it might be to create an alternate forum. I already have a domain and a site (this one), and checking with my ISP, found that I had plenty of storage and bandwidth, and that I could run a forum — perhaps as a subdomain to this (but more on that later. Maybe.).

I began researching forum software. There’s a lot of it available, both commercial and free. Side note: I believe forums are one of the oldest concepts enabled by the Internet. We used to have “bulletin board systems” (BBS) before the Internet. A forum is just a newer form of BBS. Since I participate in a number of forums (fora?) I started looking into what software they were using. A lot of cream rose to the top in short order. Here are some that I found.

  • xenForo.  This is a commercial product.  $160 for a license if you self-host it. $55 every year thereafter.  A lot of sites I visit have moved to this platform.
  • phpBB.  Many software packages proclaim they are #1, but in this case, phpBB may be correct.  The software has been around since 2000, and it’s 100% free!
  • Discourse.  This is very modern software, “designed for the next 10 years of the Internet.” Their business model suggests paying them to host your forum, but the software is free.  Being modern, it automatically reformats for smart devices as well as browsers.
  • vBulletin.  Another popular commercial package.$249 to purchase, or a monthly hosting place from $15 per month and up.

I looked at some others, but these were the standouts.  There are plenty of review sites, and I found this one lists all of the above, with comments.  Wikipedia has a table comparing forum software capabilities. Not wanting to shell out dollars for a proof-of-concept, I decided to see what some of the free packages offer.  I downloaded DIscourse and installed it on my Linux server, and then I fetched phpBB and installed it on my Mac.  Yes, that’s right, I put a software forum on my Mac!

At first, I was hesitant to install on my Mac, because with all the needed components, I thought it might chew up too much disk space.  Wow, was I mistaken!

Based on php, the scripting language designed for the web, it wasn’t necessary to install, because Macs already ship with it.  I just made sure it was up to date.  Years ago I found a free web server alternative to Apache (which is bundled with every Mac, but I find difficult to set up) called Abyss Web Server from a company called Aprelium.  I’ve used in for years, and it’s solid and feature-filled.  All I needed was a database, so I downloaded SQLite3 and created an empty database.  The install was a snap, and I began to build a forum.  I downloaded and installed a theme I liked, a language pack for American English (British English is the default) and even poked a hole through my router so that a couple of people I invited could look at it.

Well, that was a fun couple of days.  Now to my ISP…

In conversing with one of their staff (maybe the only one — she’s been with the company since before I became a customer — and that was 25 years ago!) she informed me I could install phpBB without a problem, and that she created a sub-domain so that I could add the forum without clobbering this site.  It’s done.  Now, my next step is to take what I’ve learned locally and start thinking globally!

I'm so happy!


An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Mr. Cook:

I am dismayed at Apple’s decision to remove the Parler app from the App Store. In many ways, this seems contrary to Apple’s founding and original character.

The Mac Team and the Pirate Flag

My love for Apple and its products began in the late 1970s. I had first an Apple //e, then a IIc. When I was able to get my hands on a Macintosh, I replaced the IIc quickly. I’ve read all 122 stories by and about the Mac team at When Steve Jobs raised the skull and crossbones flag and declared, “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy,” the tone was set. Apple wasn’t going to “go along,” Apple was going to be a challenger. A trend-setter.

I remember the “dark days” of Apple after Steve left. I remember Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio and the horrendously complex line of boring, tan computers. I remember the rumors that Apple was going to be acquired by Sun Microsystems. I remember Microsoft, considered to be Apple’s staunchest rival, infusing Apple with $!50 million to keep the company solvent. I remember buying Guy Kawasaki’s book, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, and buying and proudly wearing a “Mac Evangelist’ shirt (which I still own).

The one and only MacWorld D. C. occurred in 1989, and I attended gleefully. I won a copy of Informix’s Wingz program which was completely ahead of its time. I belonged to several Macintosh user groups. I bought the first three volumes of Inside Macintosh (hardcover!), and the first edition of The Macintosh Bible, and I still revere its First Commandment: “This is the Macintosh. It’s supposed to be fun!”

This is a Second Edition cover; I couldn’t find a First Edition.

Owning and using a Mac, and then later Apple products was a pleasure and filled with satisfaction. A quick inventory of Apple products I own shows Macs (6), iPads (2), iPods (7), Airpods (2), iPhone (1), Magic Mouse (3), Apple Watch (1) and assorted cables, cases, connectors and keyboards. On top of that I have five shirts, including the Mac Evangelist shirt mentioned above and two coffee cups.

I became a shareholder 20 years ago. Apple’s stock has been one of the best investments I have made! I cheered when Apple became the first company ever to exceed the $1 trillion market valuation.

Somewhere along the line, Apple became the “establishment” as we used to call it. That same establishment that Steve Jobs so despised. I’m sad to say the products don’t work the way the old ads used to claim: “There is no step three.” I have experienced software glitches with macOS security updates, my new iPhone didn’t automatically transfer data from my old iPhone, and crashes are now more frequent than the “sad Mac” one would rarely experience.

And now, Apple has put the icing on the cake with its decision to remove the Parler app from the App Store. Personally, I don’t like and have little use for “social media” (which is anything but, in my opinion), but this move seems capricious and divisive. I’ve been to Parler, and I have never read any article or posting there inciting anyone to violence. I have read and seen worse on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Those apps are not banned from the App Store, which makes me wonder about selective indignation. If Parler were offering pornography, weapons building instructions or clearly illegal content, I could understand it. But this strikes me as a move to silence voices you don’t want heard.

Would you have silenced Steve Jobs because of his pirate flag?

Sociopathy = Social Distancing + Social Media

I started writing this blog post on an online forum, and then felt it might better fit here.

It occurred to me this morning, as sometimes thoughts like this do, during my shower that we (the royal “we”) are once again being manipulated like cattle in the pens heading for the slaughter.  How?  

Ever since the coronavirus lockdowns started, I have internally rebelled at the term, “social distancing.”  Who came up with that term, why, and what does it mean?  In fact, the advice we hear to ostensibly help protect us against contracting the virus, is to physically distance ourselves from one another by six feet. So why not just say so?

Perhaps this is mental manipulation.  Because the more physically distant we become from one another, the more our innate need to socialize (man is a social being) reaches out and finds… social media.

New Yorker cartoon published on July 5, 1993 – the same year the Internet became public – is captioned, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The implications of this cartoon – the most widely reproduced New Yorker cartoon, according to Wikipedia – are that behind the firewall of one’s computer, one can pretend to be anyone or anything.  Enter “social media.”  I am not a sociologist, although I did some study decades ago in college, but to almost anyone with a semblance of a brain, examples of people pretending to be things they are not run rampant on the Internet. 

So why not us?  My inherent trust in people (which has gotten me in trouble before) wants to believe that everyone reading this is exactly who and what they say they are.  But if I say I’m a 6-foot-5, 250-lb. former Navy SEAL with extensive experience in black ops and multiple contacts within the intelligence community, who’s to say I’m wrong? (I’m not, by the way).  

Judging someone by their looks is almost as bad as judging someone by their intentions.  You can only judge someone by their actions.  It isn’t a stretch of the imagination to take a look at the giants of the tech industry and believe that they weren’t the guys in school the girls were all chasing after.  Facebook, in fact, was created by “geeks” to rate the attractiveness of coeds at Harvard.  It’s probably safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and others of their ilk weren’t like Yankee Doodle Dandy, and “with the girls be handy.” The image of the four-eyed geek sitting in his mother’s basement, pens in a pocket protector, gazing at a computer screen is known to everyone, I daresay. 

I was one of them.  I wasn’t “handy” with the girls, but I was good with technology, and made a career of it.  A good career, in fact.  It has allowed me to survive the ups and downs of economic swings, and yes, I got married and had a family.  So even geeks can succeed, depending on how you measure success. 

Being good with technology means being able to manipulate things. Computers, cars, cameras, vacuum cleaners, thermostats, light timers, video recorders (remember those?).  It does NOT mean manipulating people. But I think we have reached a point in our disintegrating culture and civilization where the manipulators are using “social distancing” to push us to “social media” where content and concepts are being filtered to present us with a single view of the world.  Churches, restaurants and bars – places where people gather to talk, exchange ideas and “socialize” are being withheld from us, for reasons that appear to make no sense. The sociopaths have found a way to herd us like cattle.  And the drug of “social media,” where nobody knows we’re a dog, blinds us to that. 

I Love It Here. So, I’m Leaving.

If you work in an organization that uses email as a major form of communication, you’ve no doubt been the recipient of the global “blast” farewell message. You know the kind. Generically, the email goes out to everyone in the company/organization/division/group/whatever, and announces the sender is leaving for greener pastures.

But wait, that’s not enough. The person writing the email typically says something to the effect, “I’ve made some lifelong friends here, and this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.”

There are even templates and guidance on writing such an email. The authors of these pieces of wisdom suggest that you are being considerate, thanking people you may not have had an opportunity to say good-bye to in person.

What I don’t understand is, the general tone of these emails suggests that the employment they’re leaving has been the pinnacle of their career, the company the best on earth, and the people the most wonderful creatures ever. So, if things are so great, why are they leaving?

If and when I leave my current employment (retirement looms only a short way down the road), I have no intention of writing a sophomoric “love letter” to the entire company. As the cartoon to the right suggests, when that day comes, I’ll just pack up and walk out the door. Done.


I have playing in the background right now some streaming audio from a site I’ve been listening to for a short while now, and it got me to thinking: Music For a New Age (MFNA) — this site — is now 25 years old!

That category of music sometimes erroneously (in my opinion) labeled “new age” is certainly not new. Fifty years ago, artists such as Tangerine Dream, Kitaro, Tomita, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Mike Oldfield were producing flowing, electronic, meditative and other-worldly music, experimenting and forging new ways of thinking about, and listening to music.

The MFNA web site was born out a personal wish to learn the then-new technology of the worldwide web. I didn’t purchase the domain name right away, but when it became apparent this thing called The Internet wasn’t just a passing fancy, I latched onto it. That was 25 years ago!

Originally, was little more than a “portal.” It was mostly links to other sites, separated into “pages” of data: records companies, broadcast stations, artists, and reviews. It was a personal creation; mostly a set of bookmarks to sites I enjoyed. It grew when others found it, and I wrote reviews and communicated directly with artists and producers. It was an exciting time to be a “web producer.”

Much has changed over the past quarter-century. Sites come and go, new performers arrive, old labels go under and new ones arise. But music survives. So, this brief revisit is more a “memory bubble” than anything else.

Without further ado, here are some links to music and musicians I listen to today. I should note, that some of these sites and their operators, performers and personalities, have been doing so for much longer than has existed. Music From the Hearts of Space, for example, has been broadcasting since the early 1980s. So, let’s start with them…

I should also like to make mention of Spotted Peccary, a recording label that features outstanding musical talent, and production standards. This is a company that is at the vanguard of keeping “new age” music alive!

Let’s Get Back to Guitar

I’ve spent too many posts recently focusing on travel, politics, health (mine, and in general), technology, and life in the time of COVID. So, it’s time to return to a topic that always elevates my spirit: guitar playing!

Fender Modern Player Short-Scale Telecaster

The other day I sat down and wrote a list of the songs I’m currently playing in my “repertoire rotation,” for lack of a better term. I was a little surprised that the list was long enough that were I a performing guitarist, I’d have enough material for a suitable concert. I also comment to friends that the stuff I play is so old that many would hear it for the first time and think it was all original!

Here’s a sample (artist follows in parentheses):

  • She Comes In Colors (Love)
  • Melissa (Allman Bros)
  • Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington)
  • Roll With The Flow (Michael Nesmith)
  • Voices On The Wind (Little Feat)
  • Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Beatles)
  • Kind Hearted Woman (Robert Johnson)
  • Daydream (Lovin’ Spoonful)
  • Orange Skies (Love)
  • Key To The Highway (Broonzy)
  • On Your Way Down (Toussaint/Little Feat)

There are others, but if you average them out at three minutes each, those alone would qualify for a 30 minute concert! Wow. I didn’t think I knew enough to play without repeating! 😃

Michael Nesmith – Then (Monkees) and Now

I’ve said before that a positive side to the coronavirus pandemic is that it forced me to stay indoors, and to pass the time I played more guitar. And that’s a GOOD thing!

One other item I’ll add: I have found a number of web sites that have helped me learn the lyrics, chords and tabs, which has made my learning some of these songs easier. In no particular order: Chordify, Ultimate Guitar, ChordU, e-Chords, and for chord research, Chorderator and JGuitar.

I guess I can’t get away from technology. And that too, is a GOOD thing.

Some Days You’re The Fly

And some days you’re the windshield. Today I feel like the fly.

Yesterday, the U. S. and Canada extended their restrictions on travel between countries due to the coronavirus, putting my trip to Barbados in jeopardy. I’ve sent an inquiry to Canadian officials to see what the policy on travelers merely transferring between flights is, but even without an answer yet, the prospects don’t look good from the sites I’ve checked.

Which should I list first? The good news or the bad? Let’s leave the good news for last.

I purchased travel insurance for my (very long) flights, but only to cover illness or death. I’m not dead, and technically, I’m not sick. So, I may lose my entire payment. Which is not an insubstantial sum. I did cancel the hotel room I’d booked in Toronto and will get full refund on that, but that’s a paltry sum.

The good news is that I’m flexible, and in doing some additional research, I’ve found I can get a cheaper and shorter round-trip flight two weeks later that goes from DCA to MIA to BGI (that’s Washington Reagan National to Miami to Grantley Adams [Bridgetown] for those not up on their IATA airport codes. Since I booked my lodging through, it may be a simple matter to switch my lodging by two weeks. If not, I can get a full refund and just book something else.

But this is all on me. In the past, I’ve been able to fly from IAD (Dulles International Airport), usually on United Airlines, but this time United couldn’t help me. Thus, I turned to one of the travel aggregators I’ve looked at in the past. That was my first mistake; I’ve rarely found the travel deal that suited me this way. My second mistake was first trying Hipmunk, even though I remember reading they’d shuttered their doors earlier in the year. Well, on to Kayak, which finally found me the flights I eventually booked. Had I been less eager, I would have found out (as I did later), American Airlines has routine flights to Barbados. Either Kayak’s search algorithm is completely whacked, or the dates I chose are somehow not on anyone’s calendar.

While I wasn’t watching, Google added Flights to their arsenal of web technologies. And sure enough, that’s where I found the American Airlines flights. Sigh.

So, I’ve learned an expensive lesson. At my age, you’d think I’d be past making stupid, rash mistakes. But I guess I’m not.

A Scouting Trip

My last post was all about planning for retirement, and possibly considering moving abroad where life is more affordable. I’ve now taken the first step toward that goal!

Encouraged by the offer of a “remote work” visa valid for up to a year by the island country of Barbados, I decided to take some of the voluminous vacation time I’ve accrued and under the guise of burning some personal time off (PTO), I booked travel and lodging for the first week in September. I discovered very quickly that it’s not easy getting to Barbados from here! It turns out I will need to fly out of Washington Dulles airport to Toronto, Canada, stay overnight, and then catch a direct flight to Barbados. I guess the world isn’t beating down the doors to get there.

Sunset in Barbados

I don’t mind so much a six hour trip turning into an overnighter (as long as it’s planned), what concerns me right now is the COVID stuff. Canada is currently prohibiting visitors from the USA from crossing their borders. I don’t know how that applies to transient air travelers. I’ll have to check into that. Then too, Barbados requires a negative COVID test from within 72 hours of arrival. My insurance will cover the test, so all I’ll need to do is find a place that can do it in the time frame specified.

Reading up on the “Welcome Stamp” as it’s called, the Internet is the best in the Caribbean, and the facilities are plentiful. Broaching the topic of working remotely with my employer is something I haven’t done, yet. That could be a tricky issue, as the company culture is to work in an office. COVID has changed all that (which is what prompted this whole thing in the first place).

As the old saying goes, “More will be revealed.” Stay tuned…