Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

Nov. 18, 2002

Pour a circle of salt around yourself and your computer

Dear readers,

Among my computer messages this past week, one of them grabbed me by the lapels.

Even though nothing came of it, there is a lesson here for all of us.

"IMPORTANT: This e-mail is intended for the use of the individual addressee named above (That was me) and may contain information that is confidential, privileged, or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons with low self-esteem, no sense of humor, or irrational religious beliefs.

"If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this e-mail is not authorized and constitutes an irritating social faux pas. Unless the word absquatification has been used in its correct context somewhere other than in this warning, it does not have any legal or grammatical use and may be ignored."

Aside here by me, Jim O'Leary: I owe it to you my readers to look up the word absquatification for you in my American Heritage Dictionary. The word means "movement which is hasty, quick, and secretive to avoid apprehension." It is mock Latin purporting to to mean "to go off and squat elsewhere."

Continuing on: "No animals were harmed in the transmission of this e-mail, although the next door Labrador is living on borrowed time, let me tell you. Those of you with an overwhelming fear of the unknown will be gratified to learn that there is no hidden message revealed by reading this backwards, so just ignore that alert notice from Microsoft.

"However, by pouring a complete circle of salt around yourself and your computer, you can ensure that no harm befalls you and your pets . . . "

Here the transmission breaks off and I have no way of knowing either the sender or the message, which was supposed to follow. Such is an example of much of the e-mail I receive each week.

Let this be a comfort to those of you who feel guilty at not owning a computer. You haven't missed a thing.

My most annoying e-mails ask me to take their names off my Waverly Star list (There are five of you still on this list by my latest count).

Such a reader was one Steve H., whom I had never met. I don't know how he got on my list in the first place.

He said he found me by typing in "Waverly" on his search engine. (For those of you who don't know what a search engine is, neither do I. I do know they go by such names as "Google," "Sherlock," and "Jeeves."

I don't know what these names mean either. There is also "Yahoo," which I understand is a Japanese word.)

Who is Steve H.? Apparently, he was an internet reader of The Waverly Star who took exception to my passing along some tediously self-righteous and alarmist articles on political and economic topics I had thought must be of interest to the entire world.

He said only his mother is allowed to send articles and clippings of this nature. I cite him as an example for those of you who wish to cancel your subscription.

He is an example of someone asking for me to quit sending him stuff in a rather classy way, not the usual complainant who says he wants no more "spam." (Another thing I don't know - what is "spam" in computer language? I am a self-taught computer user and all I am good at is typing, which, along with playing checkers, is something one can do on a computer).

Since I didn't know Mr. H., I didn't know why he was cancelling himself from my small constituency. I could ill afford such a loss.

His request for privacy, then, generated some panic stricken correspondence on my part. I felt like a telephone solicitor who is suffering from the new law affording several hundred thousands of Minnesotans the opportunity to cut him off their telephones.

Aside here: I once tried to be a telemarketer. I lasted 45 minutes.

When I handed the man back his telephone book, he asked me how much he owed me. I told him "Nothing. Just let me out of here! There are people threatening my life. They said I interrupted their happy hour.

Ever since then, I have been kind to the telemarketers, even the recorded ones, but never kind enough to buy anything.

And back to the subject: Here, then, is Mr. H.'s correspondence, printed without his permission. Since he asked to be deleted, he will never see it anyway:

"Jim, of course the war in Iraq is a concern, but you're preaching to the choir here. Please, no more of these polemics! It's not fair to inflict long rambling articles on one's correspondents, no matter how good the cause. Only my mother gets to do that on a regular basis."

"Dear Mr. H.:

"Roger, over and out. You are now just another floater out there in CyberSpace, alone among six billion people. Well, maybe not six billion.

"Only just over one percent use a computer for e-mail, but that's still a lot of folks. Is it too much to ask of you to tell me why you are depriving yourself of my advice and wisdom?

"And further, is this message I am sending to you a violation of your request for privacy and an invasion of your personal rights to be a grouch?"


Jim O'Leary


From Steve:

"Your message isn't a violation. It was addressed to me directly and not as part of some general distribution list. For another, it was not a political diatribe for my edification."


To Steve:

"I have another question: Do you have a delete button on your computer? If so, do you need my instructions on how to use it?"


From Steve:

"Oh, my no. I have a deluxe model with popcorn popper and foot massager, but there is no DEL button, as the manufacturers quite correctly presume that anyone with the discernment to choose such a luxurious machine as theirs will certainly be able to figure out how to avoid being spammed.

"Addressing the source directly (sometimes with heavy implement in hand) generally takes care of the problem right up front."


To Steve:

"You must have something on your computer screen that allows you to dump unwanted, unopened e-mail into the trash. All computers have trash logos."


From Steve:

"Once upon a time, a retailer objected to my request to be removed from his mailing list. I had explained to him that my PO box is small and had no room for catalogues and other such solicitations, but he said, rudely, 'So just throw it away.' I had to point out that I was not (as yet) sending him packets of old eggshells and coffee grounds to 'just throw away,' but if he was really interested in a pact to dispose of one another's trash, perhaps we should iron out the details."


To Steve:

"Steve, you write rather well, I see. I desperately need guest columnists since I have run out of ideas long ago.

"I have used up my brother, my nieces, nephews, and friends, and I now have nobody to turn to. I am like a beginning life insurance salesman. We were always taught to sell first to our relatives and friends.

"I have run out of both relatives and friends. I am not too proud to turn to strangers. Could you write a column for me?"


From Steve:

"I have little to say, and on those occasions when I do undertake to educate someone, I like to keep the process within my arms reach, to facilitate the administration of any smacks that the process may require."


To Steve:

"Or better still, why don't we get into an argument? There is nothing I like better than arguing."


From Steve:

"I myself like popcorn best of all, and then a very long list of other things, the typing of which would wear my fingers to nubbins long before I reached 'arguing.'"


To Steve:

"I think you are stupid to eat popcorn around your computer."


From Steve:

"O ye of little faith. God's eye may be on the sparrow, but I have a sparrow's eye for popcorn, and would not waste so much as the tiniest crumb of it on a keyboard.

"Steve, the quick and beady-eyed."


To Steve:

"Your eloquent prose cries out for publication. Please, one more time: Will you write me a column? For my readers out there in Waverly Land?"


From Steve:

"I'm a very shallow person and only want movies (or life) which involve singing, dancing, snappy dialogue, as many naked people as possible, and a happy ending. It is regrettable how few New York Times articles meet these criteria."

* * *

Dear Readers,

Steve is right. The New York Times does not even carry comic strips, which, in the daily papers of this nation, are the only things you can really believe.

I have failed you one more time. I was unable to engage this wonderful person to write a column for you. I even offered to pay him! I have also offered to pay readers to read my stuff and that didn't work either.

If I ever hear from him again, you will be the first to know.

Anyway, I am right back where I started and so are you. Now aren't you glad you took the time to read this column, packed as it was with such interesting facts and information?

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