Saturday, November 28, 2015

Career in Crisis

ed phoning home ouch
May 18, 2003

Career in Crisis: Career Confusion.

now would not be the best time to mention my senior thesis-- or my grad school major, or the fact that i spent the better part life as a volunteer and advocate for children at-risk.. working to give them hope and a second chance at life.

systematically invalidating such bogus, barnum-type feedback that one typically gets from a MBTI type of personality test that is given during high school or in college. i won't bother to mention the standardization of SAT scores to help our country feel better-- or the fact that the stanford-binet was created for military issue only.

who gives a shit anymore??? if you told a me a fat bearded lady at the circus could decide my fate and tell me what direction i should choose next-- i'd take it! and throw in a fat tip for being smart enough to know that any answer-- no matter how grim, is far better than just wandering aimlessly through life looking back on what might have been-- at THIRTY! AT THIRTY!!!!

after receiving five letters of rejection from jobs that require nothing more than a GED or a high school diploma, i decided to go to the tennessee career center hoping to find a job that will allow me to afford the most basic necessities of life. toothpaste, toilet paper, cat food... i got hooked up with a counselor that afternoon. he has two masters degrees-- one in educational career counseling, and a second in counseling psychology. could this be the guidance counselor i have been asking for since.. well... since... i was old enough to know was in need of guidance?

surely someone else must have recognized i was in need of guidance, but god knows my parents weren't paying attention, and having good genes just doesn't cut it these days. but now more than ever, i realize that having all the smarts in the world won't get you anywhere if you never learned how to apply them.

i am the exact same five year old who needed to win the spelling bee. in college, i was the one to set the curve, not just make it. the one to break the rules, and, break them i did, but there is no glory in being second best, second smartest, second brightest, or second anything.

i wish i could say that after all this time i developed other ego strengths and finally felt okay with who i am, you know.... "just being me," but i am sad to report that my "condition" (diagnosis) was amazingly accurate and predictable. just like all the doctors said! i wonder if they derive joy out of being right-- if they crack open a bottle of aged liquor in my fathers office and say, "see, we told you so. we told you their was nothing you could do." and so nothing they did.

and by doing nothing, and i do mean nothing-- the illness will just take will its course. and i am now, in fact, nothing. nothing costs nothing (at least to them) and daddy made another fine investment. on the other hand, nothing has drained every hope, fear, security-- every chance-- and every last breath from my body. i might have believed in me. but i know i'm alive because a tear just rolled down the side of my cheek. i am home.

but i still haven't learned. for some reason with all of my failures i am reminded of in so many ways... me, myself, as i watch them play out every time i shut my eyes or open them. yes- blink.

sometimes i ask myself, how did i get here? how did this happen? what happened to all of the plans i made for myself? where did they go? where did I go? constantly replayed over and over and over again in my mind. i must be FUCK1NG CRAZY!

but at this moment, here, even as i say the words, i am not truly insane, i am merely in pain. what a tragedy that those two words rhyme-- they ruin what could have been a very profound misnomer of the human condition and the labels we hold so dear.

i am the exact same 5 year old who needed to ACE the spelling bee, set the curve, not just make it; break the rules, and, break them i did. there is no glory in being second best. second smartest, second brightest, or second anything. being second sucks. it sucks every god-damned second of the day.

and so my search for mediocrity continues and i wait for it each and every day hoping it will find me beaten and worn from the storm. all of the storms, but dammit, its still there. i still have questions those damn elyssa questions that made all my professors so proud, damn ideas, damn thoughts, damn hope.

my mother still calls me everyday to see if i went to get food stamps to feed myself, fuck her, and her fucking things. fuck diamonds and couture and fuck that life. i was here mom, the whole fucking time. just not pretty enough with out any surgery. not pretty at all, with all those damn scars.

i hope someone out there still loves me. i do actually believe that i deserve love and kindness despite the obvious fact that i am a royal pain in the ass. i refuse to work in burger king. for right now, at least.

so goodnight my dear friends. let's all try to have sweet dreams. pepe awaits, as does alanis, and a pack of smokes that i can already taste.

yes, what could have been, what should have been-- what MIGHT have been if you let me be


"When written in chinese, the word Crisis is composed of tvo characters: One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." -JFK


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Check your sanity privilege: writing online can be bad for your mental health

Check your sanity privilege: writing online can be bad for your mental health

Check your sanity privilege: writing online can be bad for your mental health

One morning, several years ago, I woke up with an allergy. On my way to the office I picked up some pills from a little shop on the seafront, near my flat. Several hours later I decided to head home again. For reasons I've never really been able to explain, I stopped at the Spar and bought some more pills.

At home I sat quietly in my room for a while, turning them over, reading the packets. I wasn't upset, I wasn't in the grip of some existential crisis, and although I'd suffered from depression for several years I didn't feel in the grip of an episode. I felt no particular urges or impulses. In fact I felt nothing very much at all. To anyone watching I'd have seemed no different to normal; but some fundamental part of my brain, some vital restraint, had been switched off. The brakes had been cut.

I took the recommended dose. And then I took one more. I remember expecting to feel something, but I didn't, so I took another. Still nothing, so I took another couple. Still nothing. Again. Nothing. I kept going. It wasn't dramatic or emotional; it was as if I were outside of myself, an observer performing a science experiment on my own mind and body. How far could I push the Martin before I triggered some sort of response?

When it finally came, the response was sudden and brutal, like a hard reset of the soul. Realising what I'd done I tried to make myself vomit, but I couldn't. Buckets of cold sweat poured off me, my heart racing, every inch of my body alight. Even then my instinct was to contain the problem: I didn't want to go to hospital and deal with awkward questions, so instead I turned to Google and researched the problem, trying to establish how much danger I was in, and whether my current symptoms were from the overdose or a subsequent panic attack.

With the help of a friend I got through the night, and in the months and years that followed I got better. I never fully "cured" my depression, but I learned how to manage it and how to limit the impact it had on my friends. It would be easy to make up some bollocks about why I did what I did - comforting in fact, since I'd know how to stop it from happening again - but the frightening truth is I've absolutely no idea.

Five years ago I started writing; and if ever there were an activity designed to comprehensively fuck with your mental health, it's writing on the internet. Gradually I've gained more success, writing for my own blog, then the Guardian, then New Statesman. There's a lot of talk about writers with "platforms" having privilege, and that's true to an extent, but few people talk about the downside – having a platform is also a major challenge to my sanity.

Being able to talk to 20,000 people at once sounds brilliant until you realise they can all talk back to you. Of course, only a tiny fraction of readers do, and those are typically either the loud or the inane, in no way representative of your 'audience'. The praise and insults are routine and meaningless noise, while conversations become increasingly fraught. A reasonable point stated by one person can feel almost abusive when repeated ad infinitum by a circle of 100 people standing around you and pointing.  Then of course there are the very real cases of abuse and threatening behavior, something that all writers just seem to be expected to accept as "the price", as if simply having a platform makes you a legitimate target for abuse – fair game.

In the face of this bizarre feedback, a lot of writers and tweeters seem to end up with a profoundly distorted world-view, measuring their self-worth by hit counts and Facebook likes and meaningless prizes. It's an incredibly easy trap to fall into; it took years for me to stop caring how many hits a post got, and since then I've been a lot happier as a writer. Meanwhile, I've watched people become obsessed with who has more Twitter followers, and become profoundly ugly as a result. 

When combined with mental health issues, this can become something altogether darker and more sinister. I've lost count of the number of debates on Twitter in which I've seen vulnerable people, egged on by their peers into aggressive online confrontations. At it's most extreme, whole communities of people online seem to be wrapped up in their own fantasy words, the heroes of their own mass delusion. A couple of years ago I visited a forum for people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but within hours, members were conducting a thorough investigation into my entire life – a bizarre group paranoia had taken hold, feeding on itself, rejecting any interference from the outside world.

When you become the target of this kind of behaviour it can be incredibly disconcerting. Since late 2010 I've been cyber-stalked by a series of people – or possibly the same person – who have become obsessed with me, creating endless parody accounts and meticulously Storifying hundreds of my online conversations. On the one hand, this is not brilliant for my sanity: I do talks around the country, and each time I wonder I'll be confronted by an obsessive with a knife in his hand – in fact one stalker turned up to a panel I spoke at in 2011, lurking anonymously in the audience. On the other hand, it's impossible to escape the fact that these people are seriously damaged themselves. As irritating as it can be, their obsession hurts them far for than it does me, and I can't help but feel a little sad about that.

That said, nothing is more irritating than the idea that because I've suffered from depression, because I've taken an overdose, I'm somehow unable to cope with the real world. I may be mildly fucked in the head, but I'm not remotely fragile. I'm quite happy to be a dick to people who deserve it, and if you don't like me being a dick then, well, it's probably because you're not as good at it as I am.

Mental health is a complicated thing, problems arise for complicated reasons, and the idea that it's simply a question of being unable to cope with bad things is deeply unhelpful. One of the most irritating manifestations of this sort of unwanted concern is the idea of "triggers", a concept that seems to have little or no basis in solid research, but has been adopted across sections of the internet in an incredibly tedious and patronising way. I didn't really give a crap about Hyundai's exhaust fume ad, and like Unity  I suspect the reaction to it may have been overblown.

But then the reaction to most things on the internet is overblown. As bad as my mental health has been, I've always looked sane compared to Twitter.  I'm not sure what that means for our mental health in the long term, but it's going to be interesting to find out. In the meantime, be a dick or don't be a dick, but remember that not all forms of privilege are immediately obvious.

If any of the content of this story affects you, the Samaritans are available to talk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Martin Robbins is a Berkshire-based researcher and science writer. He writes about science, pseudoscience and evidence-based politics. Follow him on Twitter as @mjrobbins.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What is a DNS Blacklist? Mail Server?

What is a Mail Server?

Trust me. 

What is a Mail Server?

With the click of a mouse button, you can send an email from one point of the globe to another in a matter of seconds. Most of us take this process for granted, giving little thought to how it actually works. It's easy to understand how standard snail-mail gets from point A to point B - but how does an email message make its way from a sender to a recipient? The answer to that question revolves around something called a mail server. You can learn more about the role that mail serves play in email delivery by reading on below.

What is a Mail Server?

A mail server is the computerized equivalent of your friendly neighborhood mailman. Every email that is sent passes through a series of mail servers along its way to its intended recipient. Although it may seem like a message is sent instantly - zipping from one PC to another in the blink of an eye - the reality is that a complex series of transfers takes place. Without this series of mail servers, you would only be able to send emails to people whose email address domains matched your own - i.e., you could only send messages from one account to another account.

Types of Mail Servers

Mail servers can be broken down into two main categories: outgoing mail servers and incoming mail servers. Outgoing mail servers are known as SMTP, or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, servers. Incoming mail servers come in two main varieties. POP3, or Post Office Protocol, version 3, servers are best known for storing sent and received messages on PCs' local hard drives. IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, servers always store copies of messages on servers. Most POP3 servers can store messages on servers, too, which is a lot more convenient.

The Process of Sending an Email

Now that you know the basics about incoming and outgoing mail servers, it will be easier to understand the role that they play in the emailing process. The basic steps of this process are outlined below for your convenience.

Step #1: After composing a message and hitting send, your email client - whether it's Outlook Express or Gmail - connects to your domain's SMTP server. This server can be named many things; a standard example would be

Step #2: Your email client communicates with the SMTP server, giving it your email address, the recipient's email address, the message body and any attachments.

Step #3: The SMTP server processes the recipient's email address - especially its domain. If the domain name is the same as the sender's, the message is routed directly over to the domain's POP3 or IMAP server - no routing between servers is needed. If the domain is different, though, the SMTP server will have to communicate with the other domain's server.

Step #4: In order to find the recipient's server, the sender's SMTP server has to communicate with the DNS, or Domain Name Server. The DNS takes the recipient's email domain name and translates it into an IP address. The sender's SMTP server cannot route an email properly with a domain name alone; an IP address is a unique number that is assigned to every computer that is connected to the Internet. By knowing this information, an outgoing mail server can perform its work more efficiently.

Step #5: Now that the SMTP server has the recipient's IP address, it can connect to its SMTP server. This isn't usually done directly, though; instead, the message is routed along a series of unrelated SMTP servers until it arrives at its destination.

Step #6: The recipient's SMTP server scans the incoming message. If it recognizes the domain and the user name, it forwards the message along to the domain's POP3 or IMAP server. From there, it is placed in a sendmail queue until the recipient's email client allows it to be downloaded. At that point, the message can be read by the recipient.

How Email Clients are Handled

Many people use web-based email clients, like Yahoo Mail and Gmail. Those who require a lot more space - especially businesses - often have to invest in their own servers. That means that they also have to have a way of receiving and transmitting emails, which means that they need to set up their own mail servers. To that end, programs like Postfix and Microsoft Exchange are two of the most popular options. Such programs facilitate the preceding process behind the scenes. Those who send and receive messages across those mail servers, of course, generally only see the "send" and "receive" parts of the process.

At the end of the day, a mail server is a computer that helps move files along to their intended destinations. In this case, of course, those files are email messages. As easy as they are to take for granted, it's smart to have a basic grasp of how mail servers work.

Related Articles

What is a DNSBL?

Domain Name System Blacklists, also known as DNSBL's or DNS Blacklists, are spam blocking lists that allow a website administrator to block messages from specific systems that have a history of sending spam. As their name implies, the lists are based on the Internet's Domain Name System, which converts complicated, numerical IP address such as into domain names like, making the lists much easier to read, use, and search. If the maintainer of a DNS Blacklist has in the past received spam of any kind from a specific domain name, that server would be "blacklisted" and all messages sent from it would be either flagged or rejected from all sites that use that specific list.

DNS Blacklists have a rather long history in web terms, with the first one being created in 1997. Called the RBL, its purpose was to block spam email and to educate Internet service providers and other websites about spam and its related problems. Although modern DNS Blacklists are rarely used as educational tools, their function as an email blocker and filter still serves as their primary purpose to this day. In fact, almost all of today's email servers support at least one DNSBL in order to reduce the amount of junk mail clients using their service receive. The three basic components that make up a DNS Blacklist - a domain name to host it under, a server to host that domain, and a list of addresses to publish to the list - also haven't changed from the time when the RBL was first created to today.

Since then, dozens of different DNSBL's have sprung up and are available for use, and they all have their own lists that are populated based on what does or doesn't meet their own standards and criteria for what a spammer is. Because of this, DNS Blacklists can vary greatly from one to the other. Some are stricter than others, some only list sites for a set amount of time from the date the last piece of spam was received by the maintainer versus others that are manually maintained, and still others not only block IP addresses, but also entire ISP's known to harbor spammers. This results in some lists working better than others because they are maintained by services with a greater level of trustworthiness and credibility than competing lists might have. Users can also use these differences to decide on which DNS Blacklist works best for them depending on what their specific security needs are. Less lenient lists might allow more spam to get through, but might not block non-spam messages that have been misidentified on lists that have stricter guidelines for what goes on or what is left off of it. To help facilitate this, DNS Blacklists that are intended for use by the public will usually have a specific, published policy detailing what a listing means and must adhere to the criteria laid out in it in order to not only attain public confidence in their services, but to sustain it as well.

Related Articles


How to Remove an IP Address from a Blacklist

(Go to our Blacklist Check page to find out if your IP address is listed on an anti-spam database. This article explains why that happens and how to get off a blacklist.)

Each blacklist database has its own criteria for flagging IP addresses and compiling its own list of online offenders. Those criteria could include a variety of "listings": technical, policy, and evidence-based.

  • Technical listings occur mostly from mail-server configuration issues, such as missing or incorrect reverse DNS records, missing or incorrect banner greetings, and mail servers operating within a suspicious range of IP addresses.
  • Policy listings are based on an operator that does not wish to receive email from certain countries, or ISPs, that have a history of not honoring "unsubscribe" requests.
  • Evidence-based listings are those where the operator has received direct (or indirect) evidence that an IP address has been involved in sending unsolicited emails.

If your IP address has been blacklisted and you want to investigate, you'll need to visit the blacklist's website and do a lookup on your IP address. Most blacklist databases will provide general listing reasons, but don't list specific email addresses tied to blacklisted IP addresses.

Getting "unblacklisted."

If you're able to find out why you were blacklisted, you can try to get it reversed. (You may want to work with someone who is technically savvy to better help you.)

To start with, take time to ensure your network and mail server are configured correctly and all the details are in order for resolving the issues, as prescribed by the blacklist. For example, they may ask you to correct both forward and reverse DNS records, as well as SMTP banners. In addition, you can do the following:

  • Scan all computers on your network for viruses
  • See if there are any known and needed "patches" (updates and fixes) for your operating system
  • Configure routers more securely
  • Establish and enforce stronger passwords

Following the blacklist-removal process.

You want to be removed from any blacklists because databases often share IP addresses that have been listed. If you think you've fixed things on your end, go back to the blacklist's site and follow their instructions for the IP address removal process. Here's what you're likely to come across:

  • Self-Service Removal. There are a few blacklists with a self-service removal feature that lets you take your IP address off the list without much trouble. However, you'll want to make sure you've resolved any issues before doing this. If you don't and your IP address gets listed again, it won't be easy to get it removed that next time.
  • Time-Based Removal. Most blacklists have a built-in, automatic process that removes lower-level listings (IP addresses that are light offenders) within a week or two. But if the IP address had sent spam more than once or did a high volume, the time period will be longer.

Be nice...and see what happens.

When you're trying to get off a blacklist, you'll get farther along if you follow the rules and cooperate. If you are truly innocent of any deliberate wrongdoing (or if you made an honest mistake), let them know. The more open and direct you are with a listing database, the simpler it may be to have your IP address taken off the blacklist.

Keep this in mind:

  1. Their priority is to reduce the spam on their email platform for their customers—their goal isn't to prevent you from sending emails.
  2. Spam is a serious problem. They don't blacklist lightly. It's their way of trying to identify and prevent real problems.
  3. Blacklists are legal because they are designed to prevent fraud or other activity that disrupts normal business. We all need to accept that fact.
  4. If you made a mistake and were blacklisted, don't make the same mistake again. You likely won't be forgiven a second time.

You might be able to resolve any blacklist issues online. If not, and the blacklisting is troublesome for you, consider contacting the list by phone and try to resolve the issue that way.

Related Articles

Sent via iPhone

Sent via iPhone