Short story writer, aspiring game designer, bad chess player.
10577 words

Disposable Email Addresses

By the time spammers invaded the Internet, it was too late for most of us. In our innocence, we followed the tenets of establishing our online credibility by using real email addresses. The more savvy among us knew better than to post our home addresses online, so we invested in a private mailbox (PMB).

Belatedly, we tried to thwart spammers with naïve tricks like using a clickable image of our email address, or obfuscating it as mycompany (AT) myrealdomain (DOT) com.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse was halfway to Hawaii! Our harvested addresses were already in the hands of every spammer who had the money to buy the lists.

Short of closing the email address down permanently, we had to learn new tricks. CGI scripts that had secret checkboxes that only a spambot would click. that was clever, but only for website forms. Aunt Betsy could still mess us up by cc'ing us along with the entire maternal branch of the family tree.

Slowly, we switched from defensive tactics to offensive strategies. Gmail addresses with + symbols and identifiers helped us find out who was selling our addresses. Compromised addresses could be terminated.

As an aside, I did this with snail mail, after learning about evil companies selling me information. I would use weird variations of my first and middle names. When I started getting credit card offers with one of those names, I knew who to blame. However, what could I do about it? Nothing.

Well, over the years, I used services like, but most signup forms rejected those addresses. I pretty much gave up. I was not going to change my address. Every time I did, back in the 20th century, it was a huge hassle letting my family and close friends know.

My only recourse was to get better at keeping my email inbox cleared. The first strategy was to filter my mail through Gmail. My friend, Sharon Hurley Hall, taught me about that. 

In addition to preempting obvious spammers, I no longer had to waste bandwidth on Aunt Betsy's jokes, chain letters and uncropped 2 MB cat photos. Gmail also provided a nice label and incoming mail filter system.

At first, I did what I always do: made too many labels and individual filters. I didn't get that much mail so it was manageable. But, the love child of Parkinson's and Murphy's laws ensured that email would expand to fill my inbox.

It's my fault, really. Instead of using an RSS reader (until much later), I subscribed to dozens of newsletters, website notifications and blogs. My labels and filters were out of control.

I finally consolidated them under a priority ranking system:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Clients
  • Everything else

To maintain this new filtering system, I needed a way to add new email addresses to one of the filters. I devised a semi-automatic way to do it, using Excel and a bit of VBA coding. I have to manually edit the Gmail filter and paste the updated string, but it's reasonably fast and I only run it when I have a handful to do at once.

The end result is a clutter-free Inbox. But, not surprisingly, the four filtered "boxes" are bursting at the seams. All I really managed to accomplish was to divide the piles and tidy them up, when what I needed was to stop them from becoming piles in the first place!

That's where BurnerMail comes in. "Out of sight, out of mind" is the phrase I'm looking for. LOL!

Truthfully, if I just unsubscribe from everything, I would not have to go through all of these shenanigans. I guess the diet is harder than I expected.

My first real test of BurnerMail involves I want to receive those emails outside of my main ecosystem, otherwise, they risk being mass deleted when I get overwhelmed with the "Everything Else" box.

I created a burner address and updated my account. After pasting the confirmation link that I just received in my BurnerMail box, the change was accepted by Now, I'll just wait to see where my active subscriptions go. Excitement abounds!!

Silicon Footprint

So, I shall continue to mix metaphors horribly, in hopes that the jarring connotations trigger the feelings I'm trying to convey. This time, I'm thinking of my footprint on the web. My friend, Holly Jahangiri, mentioned that she was keeping her profile on a social media platform so that no one else grabs it.

Unlike the dreaded carbon footprint, it's not immediately obvious that we should strive to reduce our silicon footprint. That is, should we be more visible or less? For historical context, I used to read a lot of Make Money Online (MMO) blogs. In the early days of Google, online marketers manipulated search engines for profit. In order to combat this exploitation, Google began to actively hunt down websites that ran afoul of whatever the Google demi-god decreed was fair play.

In response, marketers began teaching each other ways to "reduce their footprint" on the web. You see, a lot of the exploitation involved making dozens or even hundreds of duplicate websites, all linking back to the so-called mothership. Other techniques relied on stealth. Interestingly, both tactics were exposed due to laziness and ignorance on the part of marketers.

For example, if a marketer replicated a Joomla site, chances were good that certain files, HTML snippets and scripts were completely duplicated. In the case of the stealth marketers, these copies were considered "leakages" that revealed the identity of the marketer.

The marketers spent a lot of time and effort sealing these leaks. In essence, they were attempting to reduce their footprint.

The flip-side of silicon reduction is amplification. Ironically, this is also based on efforts of marketers. The most famous amplifier, that I remember, was Pat Flynn, of  His message is centered on creating an audience, using as many channels as possible. While some of them are offline (books, for example), many involve social media platforms.

Naturally, amplification appeals to non-marketers, as well. Unless we're all marketers?

Okay, let's leave marketers alone. They're not all a monolith of evil. Let's turn now to the other raging topic of the web: privacy.

If that's not a buzzword for reducing our silicon footprints, I don't know what is. What I do know is that I am pulled between two dichotomous concepts:

The Internet is forever

Security by obscurity

These deserve more than a glossing overview. As a person old enough to pre-date the advent of the world-wide web, privacy was simply a matter of having an unlisted number, not signing up for those store surveys and always requesting the carbon from the cashier who imprinted your credit card.

Of course, I was not to savvy about credit bureaus, public records, the federal government and direct marketing sales leads. (Oops, I mentioned marketers again!) 

I was shocked to learn that my savings bank routinely sold customer information to whoever was paying for them. When I finally learned to monitor my credit reports, I realized that privacy was basically a myth.

Now, in this Internet Age, privacy is relative. It is vitally important to someone who is being stalked. But, shouldn't it be equally important to us all? It's one thing for Wal-mart to harass us with "targeted" ads. It's quite another to be targeted by faceless hackers and their soulless botnets.

This leads directly to the conundrum of the silicon footprint. If it is the sum total of amplification and visibility, less the impact of privacy / stealth efforts, what is the sweet spot? What magic number indicates the perfect balance between having your voice heard without pinpointing the location of the megaphone?

To even begin to search for the answer, we have to look at the second concept: security by obscurity. This term originated to define the choice one takes to evade detection, where that choice flies in the face of established security practices.

I love the examples given here:

Examples of security by obscurity

To explain how security by obscurity works, we need to look at real-life examples. And the first example that comes to mind is this one:

Hiding the key to your front door under a nearby rock or the welcome mat. The principle is simple: your house will be “secure” until a thief discovers the key in its hiding place. That’s when your house becomes vulnerable.

The same goes for building your house in the middle of the forest. Being surrounded by trees and shrubs, it’s “secure” within that forest. However, as soon as someone walks in and discovers your house, it’s vulnerable.

In the cybersecurity world, there are other real-life scenarios where security by obscurity is seen every day:

  • Hiding user passwords inside binary code, or mixed with script code or comments. This is a very popular technique that assumes the attacker won’t read the code, and therefore, provides protection from any intrusion.
  • Changing the name of your application folder, for example from ‘admin’ to ‘_admin.’ It may take longer, but if the attacker finds you are using ‘_admin’, and there is no additional authentication or IP-based whitelist, he’ll be able to jump right into your administrative area.

In terms of regular folks like us, we may subconsciously rely on this concept when we defer things like backing up our WordPress sites, protecting our home computers and reusing our passwords online. In other words, "Ain't nobody thinking about little old me..."

Except, it's not the "nobody" we should be focused on, it's the unrelenting, soulless botnets! If you do have a WordPress site, hopefully, you're using some kind of login protection plugin. Even a cursory glance at the activity logs should be enough to scare you!

If spambots weren't bad enough, what about the barbarian port scanners probing at your gateway? I check in with Gibson Research periodically, just to ensure that  these malevolent electrons don't know that I exist.

Incidentally, that site has a great article about passwords. It's titled How Big is Your Haystack? The subtitle is ...and how well hidden is YOUR needle? Talk about keys under rocks! We shouldn't have to be neuroscientists to stay protected online. 

Also, social engineering is going to undo all the technical advances made, ever. What good does it do to have a quantum 4-dimensional authenticator if a hacker can just sweet-talk his way past all of your firewalls?

Workflow: Getting Evernote Into Standard Notes

Let me start off by saying that I do not recall if Evernote always had a 50-note limit on selecting them. This will cause a headache for importing a large amount of related notes. However, it may be a nice way of enforcing mindfulness during the process.

So, "vanilla" Standard Notes treats tags the way one might treat folders, in that all notes with the same tag will be retrieved at once. I like this because it makes sense and, it allows me to create new notes based on the current tag.

Anyway, I'm looking through my Evernote account to see which tags are still relevant. The example for this post is license. Notes with this tag have my software keys, download instructions and welcome emails, which often contain useful links in addition to the keys and instructions. I definitely want to keep them. So The steps are as follows:

  1. Select Tags in Evernote
  2. Type, or select the desired tag (license, in this example)
  3. Make note of how many notes have this tag!
  4. If I have more than 50, I will do the remaining steps multiple times
  5. Cull unwanted notes by right-clicking each and selecting Move to Trash (Interestingly, the notes count remains unchanged!)
  6. Select all (or whatever number will convert without trouble)
  7. The new version will warn me if I tried to select more than 50 notes
  8. Click the three dots (More Actions)
  9. Select Export... from the menu
  10. In the file dialog, name the export evernote-tags-license
  11. Wait for Evernote to finish
  12. Navigate to Extended Dashboard (tools)
  13. Uncheck the box to preserve text formatting
  14. click the Choose File button
  15. navigate to the folder containing evernote-tags-license.enex
  16. As soon as you click OK in the file dialog, the export begins
  17. The tool creates a file named evernote-to-sn.txt
  18. If that file name already exists, the tool will append a unique number to the new file, such as evernote-to-sn(1).txt
  19. Using the Standard Note desktop app, click Account
  20. Click Import Backup
  21. Find the converted file and select it
  22. Standard Notes should display a success message
  23. Optional: rename the export file and store it, along with the .enex file in a backup folder. This serves as a reminder of what's already been done.

I'll be so glad when this project is completed. I'm not going to was time bashing Evernote. It simply stopped being an effective tool for me.

Standard Notes is more aligned with my evolved philosophy of integration and automation. Basically, I want my tools to do everything for me.

Is that too much to ask?

This post is my step-by-step reminder. I was blowing up the SN Slack, claiming that the Import wasn't working. After a few hours, where I read some helpful feedback, I realized that I had skipped steps 12-18 and kept trying to import the enex file directly!

Yabba Dabba Do!

Yabba: Yet another blog begins anew

Dabba: Dumb acronyms, back-formations banal associations

Do! : Daily obligation!

This is the "Hello, world!" post. While the title admits to some amount of exhilaration, it hints also to a suspicion of indulgence. Ironically, the theme of this blog is Digital Diet: Every Byte Counts.

I'm struggling with information overload, mentally drowning in an ever-present sea of manifested electrons. From Netflix to RSS; from email to browser bookmarks; from Kindle e-books to Slack notifications; from Standard Notes to Extended, I can barely keep my head above water.

I haven't even mentioned my mp3 collection, backups from at least two previous computers, downloads, uploads, blogs, social media, client files and web apps. There is just too much going on.

I do have one place where electrons are minimally invasive: my smart phone! Sure, I take pictures, send texts and play a couple of games. What I don't do is obsess over syncing. Y'all can have that. Facebook ruined that for me, years ago.

Since I'm hearing-impaired, I've never bonded with my phone like some humans seem to have. I can go hours without touching that thing. But, when I do, it's actually a break from all the noise. Slack can't reach me. Gmail is subdued (I wish I knew how to subdue Wal-mart! Like I'm going to load up on clearance items at every chance.)

After recovering from daily drowning, I creep back toward the water's edge. I need to see what's below the surface almost as much as I need to tame the tide. Young people refer to FOMO. I just like to stay informed, be organized and manage my electrons.

Is that too much to ask?

Setting up a new blog is a bit like diving into a pool. If you jump into the shallow end, you risk cracking your head open. If you opt for the deep end, well, you had better know how to swim!

Despite's claim that this is simple, I think that it's quite involved, if you want to customize things a bit. With WordPress, you can see what things will look like before you go live. With Medium, you don't have any options. LOL

This Standard Notes / symbiosis is nifty, and weird. There are steps to the process that remind me of old-school set-ups (image urls, link to website, setting an A record with my DNS provider, etc.) But, the actual outcome is, as I write this, unknowable. I guess I should have looked at more author pages. I got a little bored with the sea of brown pages...

Well, like everything else I do, let's go crack my skull in this pool. 

Oh, yeah, my theme was not inspired by 7-Day Digital Diet. I found them when I was thinking about a domain name for this blog. Serendipity doo-dah.