So If I Don’t Answer, Call Me

My e-mail account at work, to which all other email is funneled, is very seriously messed up.

Three facts:

1. A student tells me she's been 'e-mailing me all semester' and justifiably complains that I didn't answer. I try to answer student email as top priority, but have no recollection of any of the email. Nor is any of it in my extensive saved mail file.

2. An invitation to a major conference I'd really like to go to was e-mailed to me several weeks ago, I never got it, and they assumed I was not interested. I heard about it by accident yesterday.

3. Today, email both to and from me is taking random numbers of extra hours to turn up, sometimes in double digits. If it does turn up.

Some Observations:

● Numbers one and two may be due to my roll-your-own procmail spam filters. But I'm getting well over a thousand spams a day and have to do something. I've asked the law school to upgrade the Unix box to a version of Perl that's less than four years old so I can install something like Spam Assassin, and they are working on it. No ETA, and if experience is any guide they'll roll it out about a week before (or after) it's obsolete.

● Number three, the random delays, is new. Here is a fragment from a sample header:

Received: from (localhost [])
by (Postfix) with ESMTP id D9F065C7118
for ; Wed, 16 Jun 2004 08:01:02 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from ( [])
by (Postfix) with ESMTP id CB0005CA84D
for ; Tue, 15 Jun 2004 21:48:43 -0400 (EDT)

How can there be a ten hour gap between receipt and delivery on the same machine??? Update: the school sent around a voice mail message which says we're being subjected to “a targeted spam attack” which I take to mean a DDOS attack.

● I may need to find a new, commercial email host or change to gmail.


● And last but not least, how come no one picks up the phone anymore if e-mail isn't being answered?

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13 Responses to So If I Don’t Answer, Call Me

  1. peter jung says:

    Blame Tom Ridge, John Ashcroft, and Karl Rove….

  2. fiat lux says:

    There are any number of commercial web hosts that will happily meet your needs. I’m sure your readers would be happy to suggests a few dozen to check out. I’d suggest mine but I don’t want to look like a spammer.

    I would stay away from gmail though. “Cool” factor aside, why have ads in all your mail if you can afford to pay ~$10 a month for no ads?

  3. Michael says:

    Actually, this blog is hosted on a commercial server, and it has email. Ironically, though, the uptime here while fine for a blog, isn’t quite good enough for something I think should *always* be up, like my email.

  4. Eli Rabett says:

    You seriously need to move your student correspondence to a separate E mail account.

  5. Barsk says:

    This explains a lot…I’m guessing you aren’t getting all of my e-mails either (and this also explains why I write the same thing to you 2 or 3 times, the first one gets to you after I have written the third one). Go technology!

  6. Michael says:

    ER– It’s sort of ironic if I need to move student correspondence off the university’s system, isn’t it?

  7. Barsk says:

    After the way grading has gone both semesters for me (one grade took something like 8 weeks to get, another I got a pass in because of a screwup) plus the massive tuition hike because of poor investment performance (according to what the school told me in response to a query — not sure if it’s true or not but I’ll take it on good faith) as well as the ‘campus wide wireless internet’ (yea right) I guess I’m not too surprised. There’s a reason why I do my work for you at my Med school office…stuff up there actually works (which is odd since it appears they also use an exchange server for e-mail). Alright, I’ve ranted enough, must say if it wasn’t for the overall qualtiy of the faculty I’d be pretty upset with the school. Guess it can’t all be cake and ice cream.

  8. Greg says:

    School domains are notorious for being susceptible to spam. I really don’t understand why more schools don’t belong to even basic blacklisters like spamcop.

    If you have an outdated version of perl *yeesh!* on your box, why not try something like SpamProbe, I use it and am in love with it. Quite possibly the best of the bunch IMO.

    By the way, big fan, long time reader, first time poster.

  9. Greg says:

    clearly my attempt at HTML isn’t working… The URL to spamprobe is

  10. Eli Rabett says:

    You don’t have to move student correspondence off the university computer, you need another EMail account on the University computer. Alternatively you could set up a filter in your Email client to automatically move all messages from your students to a folder called Students (you can filter on their Email address which might be a pain, or you can tell them to put the class ID number or a secret phrase into the subject line.

  11. If you’re interested in testing Gmail, please let me know and I’ll send you an invitation.

  12. Hey, Michael. How amusing to find myself posting here on this subject, lo these many years after leaving UM.

    In fact, it really wasn’t a DDOS—it did involve a couple of zombie machines, but only a couple. Once the zombies were identified, they were blocked.

  13. Michael says:

    We are stilll having major problems, and random delays. Yesterday it was about five hours to send a message to my secretary.

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