Attack of the caterpillars

Currently one of the most popular news items at Yahoo! News is Caterpillar Population Explodes in Mass. As a current resident of Mass., I can testify to the disgusting omnipresence of caterpillars. All around my house there are zillions of tent caterpillars. When I first arrived on island in mid-May, they were just exiting their tents. Now they are in all the plants, climbing up the sides of the house, and marching across the deck. They are big, furry, gross, and filled with juicy guts that explode when you step on them. My mom tried to squish one last weekend and it blew up all over her foot. Ick.

Slowly losing the spam battle

There was a time when I spent all day on my computer. Actually there was a lot of time like that, like pretty much all the time from 1995 until May 21, 2004. And that meant that I had time to go through my email as it arrived, more or less in real time. As the amount of spam I received increased, it became more annoying to go through mail, but it was manageable.

I use a combination system, with Spam Assasin as the first line of defense. If it makes it past Spam Assasin and it's from a mailing list, it goes into the appropriate folder. If it's addressed directly to me *and* the sender's address is in my address book, it goes into my Inbox. All else get shuttled into a folder called Suspect.

It used to be that I'd keep my eye on Suspect throughout the day, deleting bad stuff, moving legitimate emails from strangers into my Inbox. But now I'm rarely online for more than ~30 minutes a day. Some days I'm not online at all. And so my Suspect mail folder has grown from 1,000 messages to 3,000 to 5,000 to its current tally of 7,990 unread messages. Even if I manage to go through 500 in a day, by the next day I've downloaded hundreds more. I am losing the battle, and I admit defeat. The spammers have won.

I've created a new mailing address specifically for readers of the site to use to contact me. It's available on the contact page. If you need to reach me, please use that, as I'll be sorting that from now on into a different folder. And if you sent something and you haven't gotten a response — and you're not likely to be in my address book — you might want to resend. The chance of me getting through 8,000 unread mostly spam messages any time this year is slim to none.

Update: Several people have written to point out that having my new address as a link on my contact page will only result in more spam. If you view the source on the contact page, you'll see I'm using JavaScript to write the address, so there's no easy address for the spam bots to scrape. I appreciate your concern though, and thanks for writing.

The truth about milk

From a few days ago, Slate on the decline in milk's popularity, Milk: How a wholesome drink became a villain. There are some interesting facts in there about how Americans began drinking milk so much in the first place.

Milk reform began as soon as milk drinking became an entrenched American habit — during the mid-1800s, as Americans moved to cities. But the early reformers wanted Americans to drink more milk, not less…the early reformers blamed rising infant mortality on city life: The new cities, they argued, caused women to become morally degenerate and physically weak, and they transmitted those ailments to the infants they breast-fed. The solution: Feed babies cleaner, purer cow's milk.

A perfect solution, if I may say so. Everyone knows that cows are the most morally upright citizens in the barnyard! The other sins against milk, according to Slate: its high cost, its racist inability to be digested by peoples other than Northern Europeans and Saharan nomads, and its agribusiness, Frankenfood tendency to get all drugged up with hormones.

While I don't agree with all the arguments against milk, I will admit to being a soy milk drinking since 1998. And I'm happy to report that soy milk is gaining in popularity. Once an obscure beverage relegated to a back aisle in a San Francisco health food store, I can find it right next to milk in the dairy section at nearly every supermarket I shop. Yay yummy delicious soy!

Why not vacation in France?

If you haven't yet booked your summer vacation, why not consider a trip to France? The New York Times has collected a bunch of articles to create a France Guide. From barges in Burgundy to the Romanesque architecture of Poitou-Charentes, there are lots of ideas for what to see and explore. If Lille, one of 2004's European Cities of Culture, is on your agenda, check out the Times' What's Doing In: Lille and Maciej's recent first-hand report, Lille. Bon voyage!

Marathon training principles

From Runner's World, common sense 10 Principles of Marathon Training:

A marathon training program can survive any challenge — as long as your determination remains strong. Here are 10 principles to carry you through your training.

From my four and seven-year-old cousins when I told them I was going to run the NYC Marathon:

Cousins: How far is a marathon?
Meg: How far do you think it is?
C: Ten miles?
M: Guess again.
C: 20 miles?
M: More than that, keep guessing.
C: 300 miles?!
M: Oh no, not 300. Only 26 miles. But still, that's like four hours of running non-stop!
C (McKenna): Oh, that's not so bad. That's only sixty minutes. Plus sixty minutes. Plus sixty minutes. Plus sixty minutes.

And she's right. I know I can run sixty minutes. Now I'll just do it four times in a row.

Where will you be in November?

I know where I'll be November 7, 2004: in New York City running the ING New York City Marathon! The lottery results have been posted and for once I've gotten lucky with a lottery and I'm in. Woo hoo! Now this means my running and training must get much more serious. But that's OK because I've always wanted to run a marathon, and the NYC marathon looks to be really fun. As fun as 26 miles can be, that is.

Five bridges, five boroughs, and more than two million spectators make the ING New York City Marathon a race like no other.

Maybe I'll even "marablog" — blog as I run. 😉

The almost pilot

My new schedule of going back and forth between Nantucket and New York City means a lot of buses (blech) and a lot of flying (yay!). The last two trips I've been super lucky on Cape Air and I've sat in the co-pilot's seat. Cape Air flies Cessna 402's with a single pilot, meaning one lucky passenger each trip gets to sit up front in the co-pilot's seat. And lately that's been me!

Taking off this afternoon from Logan Airport in Boston was especially fun because our little plane taxied along the runway with all the big jets, including an Air France 747. And since I can see all the dials and knobs, and there's a yoke right in my lap, it's like I'm almost the pilot. Except I don't really know how to fly. But I watch the air speed and altitude nonetheless. I've always loved flying, and these recent trips in small planes remind me just how much I love it. I think I'd really like to Learn to Fly. And then maybe someday I'll go from the almost pilot to the pilot pilot. Roger that!

Victorious runners

Meg and AlainaOn Saturday morning, Alaina and I met in Central Park to run the Circle of Friends NY Mini 10K. Don't let the word "mini" in the title fool you, this was a full 10K (6.2 miles). To my surprise, Alaina greeted me with the news that she hoped to break her time set last year and that she was looking to run 9:05 miles.

I've been running for close to four weeks now, after taking time off for illness. But I haven't been training that hard. I told her I'd see what I could do. We stayed together through 5K, crossing the half-way mark in something close to 27 minutes. But at the top of the hill past The Ravine, I bade her farewell, told her to run fast, and fell behind into the pack of slower runners. I was hot and tired, and couldn't believe I had half a race left to run. Never had 3.1 miles seemed so long.

But slow and steady it was, with stops at 4 and 5 miles for water. And about a minute and a half after Alaina, I crossed the finish line. My time was 1:00:11, with a pace of 9:42 — quite a bit off 9:05. But I did it, and I've never been so happy to get a silly medal in my life. From here on out, I'm doing more speed work so I can get faster. I think I've said that before, but this time I mean it.