Filtering Out Mobile Spam

by bdunn on August 18, 2014

in Communications, Geek

I don’t know if you can do this with a Windows PC, as I dumped that failed proprietary computer operating system long ago in favor of Linux. With a Linux PC and either your own mail server or a friendly Internet service provider, I’ve found that you can cobble together a system that so far has removed 100% of the spam email from my mobile phone.

This was a big deal to me, as I have multiple email accounts and use email heavily to get things done. On my desktop, I run a Linux email client program called Claws Mail, which is pretty great once its set up properly. It comes with two different spam filtering systems, one of which catches probably 90% of the spam sent my way.

But until very recently, I was snowed under with spam when checking my email accounts via my cell phone. For whatever reason, email apps for the Android operating system (and as far as I know for Apple phones as well) are unable to filter out spam. My spam load was so heavy that it could take me 10 minutes to go through a haystack of email before I found the one needle that was not spam.

Then, I gave it some thought and did this:

First, I created a new email account on my email server, with a name that for this post I’ll call spamfree@mydomain.com. Then, I went in to my phone’s email app, K-9 Mail, and removed all five of the email accounts I’d been monitoring. Then I added a single account to the phone – spamfree@mydomain.com.

This next part took some time, but to me it was worth it. In my desktop email client, Claws Mail, I have the ability to “filter” email messages according to a variety of conditions, such as who a message is from, who it is to, what the subject is, etc. I can have Claws Mail move certain messages to certain “mailboxes” to keep related messages or, say, family email, separate from the rest.

It turns out Claws Mail also can forward or redirect any email, based on the conditions above. This was the key to my system.

I set up my email filter rules so that any email from certain senders whom I consider important will be redirected to my spamfree@mydomain.com account. Thus, if my wife or one of my kids, or other relatives, or my friends, or contractors or business partners sends me an email, I will still get it on my phone. Voicemail also gets through to the phone, as do text messages.

But the spam crap that makes up probably 97% of my total email volume cannot get through to my cell phone. Instead, it is filtered into the spambox on my desktop computer.

The system isn’t perfect. On occasion I will get a legitimate email message from someone whom I never have met before, and such email will not make it to my phone. Really that’s not such a big deal, as I can answer that mail when I get home.

The biggest flaw in this new system probably is the fact that it won’t work unless I keep my home computer up and running all the time when I’m away. This can leave my computer vulnerable to thunder storms, which is a consideration I need to ponder.

But otherwise, the spam-load this has taken off of my phone is pretty impressive.

{ 1 comment }

Chicken Tales

by bdunn on August 4, 2014

in Be Afraid, Big Ag, Factory Food, Government

I’m trying to be patient and wait a few years until, if things go as planned, my wife and I move to the Polka Farm full-time, before raising a flock of chickens. But it’s getting really hard to wait.

Drive-In ChickensI like eggs, and I like chicken meat. A lot. At a time when beef and pork prices have increased by about 6% and 13%, respectively, over the past year, I have, like many other American peasants, been forced to rely increasingly on the Factory Chicken for my grilling and roasting pleasure. Of course, new demand has caused chicken prices to rise also, but they’re still very cheap comparitively.

Unfortunately, you get what you pay for.

Some of America’s chicken factories have become most adept at producing little 4 and 5-pound vomit bombs, ready to go off on anyone who forgets to sufficiently overcook the meat.

For example, I give you Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms. Beginning in March of last year, whole chickens slaughtered and “processed” at Foster Farms California factories caused salmonella poisoning in 634 people in 29 states who reported it (and for every food poisoning case reported to the government, more than 25 cases go unreported). Of those cases, 241 people were sick enough that they had to be hospitalized.

Here’s the hilarious part: On July 31, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced that the Foster Farms salmonella outbreak “appears to be over.” But about a month earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Salmonella Heidelberg (an especially nasty antibiotic-resistant strain) in Foster Farms’ boneless and skinless chicken breasts. So yeah, one Foster Farms vomit outbreak has officially ended, but another one has just begun.

In case you haven’t figured it out, the moral of this portion of Our Story is, don’t buy anything from Foster Farms unless you really, really don’t like the people you’ve invited home for dinner.

But here’s the kicker: Chicken factories such as those operated by Foster Farms have been running under the watchful eye of USDA food inspectors trained to discover and remove diseased and otherwise digestively unsafe birds from the factory killing line before they make it to the grocery stores.

Considering outbreaks such as the ones at Foster Farms, you might not think the government inspectors are doing a very good job. But consider this: Chicken factores are allowed to run their killing lines at the speed of 140 per minute. This gives government inspectors .43 seconds to inspect each bird. I’m not sure if I could even tell if a chicken has two legs in .43 seconds.

Thus you come to see why so much of our factory-supplied meat is tainted with disease-causing microbes.

And if you thought it couldn’t be worse for the consumer, you would be wrong. Because just last Thursday the USDA gave its final approval to new poultry inspection regulations. You know those trained government food inspectors expected to detect diseased chickens whirring past them at the rate of 140 per minute? Well, now if the factory owners so choose, they are allowed to replace the government food inspectors with their own employees. And there is no training requirement for those employees.

Does anyone think those employee-inspectors will have a whole bunch of incentive to find lots of diseased birds and remove them from the killing line?

It’s for real: Buy a grocery-store chicken and you get a free packet of vomit gravy with each bird.

Buy somebody else’s pasture-raised chicken? Healthy whole chicken can buy you peace of mind and pretty great taste, but it will cost you about $4.50 per pound, or around $24 per bird.

All of which is why it’s so hard for me to put off raising my own.

{ 4 comments }

Gardening With Don Quixote

by bdunn on July 21, 2014

in Economics, Factory Food, Food, Garden

The below couple posts notwithstanding, I labor under no misconceptions about the ability to provide a significant portion of my family’s food via my own efforts gardening or otherwise.

Suffice it to say that I’m just making a tiny dent. For now. All the fresh tomatoes and figs, and herbs, and hot peppers, and later on the Japanese persimmons – those are delicacies I am truly happy to have. But I realize I’m not producing enough of any of them (well, maybe the hot peppers) to equal a year’s portion for the family. Let alone all the other fruits and vegetables we four would consume in a year.

Lets just say I am working toward something like such a goal. Which is why I’m expanding an automatic watering system out at the Polka Farm, for instance, although by the time we can actually move out there, the immediate size of our family may be down to two.

Really though, I gloss this over a lot, but it’s good to realize that if one really is intent on not having to rely on the so-called just-in-time expensive grocery store food, even if just for vegetables, one is in for considerable work.

Aside from the preparation of a very large garden plot (a task not at all to be scoffed at), one might need to grow the following amounts, according to various sources that sound reasonable to me:

→ Tomatoes (my favorite) – 8-20 plants (I grew seven this year, and while they were very productive plants, I am sure we will use up all the frozen sauces and tomatoes I was able to preserve long before a year has passed).

→ Potatoes (not my favorite from a waistline standpoint, but quite the sustaining vegetable) – 40-120 plants. That would eat up lots of garden space.

→ Sweet Potatoes (that’s more like it, better for you but pretty much just as sustaining) 20 plants. Actually, I would probably grow more of these and much fewer “regular” potatoes.

→ Summer Squash – 16 plants.

→ Peppers – 20-30 plants (I am growing 18 hot pepper plants alone, which indeed has provided a year’s worth of fresh heat plus hot sauces. But sweet pepper plants are far less productive.)

→ Peas – 100 plants or more.

→ Onions – 160-240 plants.

→ Spinach – 40-80 plants.

→ Lettuce – 40-48 plants.

→ Carrots – 40-160 plants.

→ Cabbage – 12-40 plants.

→ Green Beans – 40-80 plants.

And that’s just for starters. Add in various other family favorites, add in herbs. Then consider how much room this many plants requires. And then consider the time required to preserve those vegetables for winter use.

The result is that one family member would have to make gardening pretty much his or her full-time occupation, if the goal were actually to provide the year-round vegetable and fruit needs for the entire family.

So yeah, I realize that at this stage in the game my gardening efforts amount to hobbying, not farming. And yeah, I realize how much more work would be required to pull off what my forebears did a hundred years ago or so. But hey, I’m retired now, and I have more time than I used to for tilting at windmills.

{ 0 comments }

Chip Off Grandma’s Old Block

July 10, 2014 Food

I remember my grandma had a basement room brimming with canned applesauce and tomatoes and plums and other fruits and vegetables, and she was always adding to the collection. Now that’s me, straining under the crush of the harvest and turning it into this week’s meals and next winter’s happy freezer discoveries. You haven’t heard […]

Read the rest →

The Merry Old Month of Tomato

June 20, 2014 Country Life

The crush of the harvest is a problem, but one of my favorites. In a good year, time turns in on itself and an extra month overlaps May and June, called Tomato. We’re having a whopping Tomato month this year, which is good because last year’s never really materialized. Seven stout plants grew from the […]

Read the rest →

Dear Students: Bend Over & Take It

June 12, 2014 Education

Yup, they just shot down a bill that would let some of the poorest of Americans – college kids – refinance student loans totaling more than $1 trillion in order to take advantage of today’s lower interest rates. Just like the rest of us can do with our mortgages if we so choose. A pay […]

Read the rest →

The Great Texas GOP Gene Cleansing

June 10, 2014 Be Afraid

The other day a well-regarded professor of genetics provided a fairly easy-to-understand summary of recent scientific research that reinforces past studies that show that the set of genes one is born with determines whether one will be heterosexual or homosexual. In other words, homosexuals are born, and do not for some reason choose to follow […]

Read the rest →