Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Avoiding the evil of "auto reply"

I for one, ponder the wisdom of "Away" messages.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  That is the automatic "reply" email that goes to everyone who sends you an email while you are on vacation.  I think it's a poor idea, but that's not what this post is about.

There is a particular problem when one subscribes to listserves.  For those who don't know, a listserve allows members to send an email to the list, then it gets forwarded to all the members.  They can reply and a public conversation can ensue.  I subscribe to several: [ubuntu-users], dedicated to community support of computers running the Ubuntu-Linux operating system; [ssfp], a discussion among Oregon Solo and Small Firm Practitioners (lawyers); [relu], a discussion among Oregon Real Estate and Land Use lawyers.  You get the idea.  Note that all the names are in square brackets.  I listed them that way because the listserv software adds that to their subject lines.  It makes sense later.

This post is from an email I sent to [relu] this week.  I am adding here since I think it is of general interest even if you don't use lists.  Below I briefly describe the problem and a solution. If you must use away messages.  It really is an easy fix.  Please read a bit further.

The main problem is that, depending on how the listserve is configured, there are a couple of possible results.

    (A) Everyone who posts to the list receives an away message (bounce message) from everyone who has set one.
    (B) The listserver gets inundated with bounce messages.
    (C) With a poorly configured listserver, the result of B is chaos on the list.
    (D) With a properly configured listserve, the result of B is that you are unsubscribed.
    (E) It wastes bandwidth, especially for our colleagues who are still on dialup (Yes there are some)
    (F) Create the risk that something important has a similar sounding title and gets deleted in the crush.
    (G) It is a pain in the neck for everyone else.  The incident that generated this post was a message sent to RELU that generated 60 emails.
    (H) Floods of emails like that are "SPAM-like" behavior.  Maybe that is not a problem to the person setting the away message, but MY isp has blacklisted the bar's mail servers more than once.

So here is the fix - quicker to do than to read this far!

Note: Every email client, Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Evolution, etc has different methods and terms.  This email does not have exact instructions.  But if you are able to figure out how to do an away message, it should be easy to adapt the following.

First, Whether you know it or not, an away message is a "Filter" or "Rule."  If you are using that technology, you are already half way there.

Second, Create a create a folder in your email client to hold messages from the list, perhaps a subfolder of "Inbox" perhaps somewhere else, For example, I have a folder for [relu] called "RELU-Folder".  In my opinion this is useful even if you don't use away messages.  The benefit is that you can read listserve messages all at once when you have time, and not just because they showed up in your inbox.  As you will see below, you will not manually move messages to the folder.

Third, Create a "Filter" or "Rule".  Tell the filter to examine the Subject line of each email and look for a unique string. For example "[relu]" and move those messages to the RELU-Folder.  Read at your leisure.

Fourth, When you are going on vacation, create your away message as usual. 

Finally, the the crucial last step.   Go to your "Filters" or "Rules" list and find your away message.  Move the away message to the bottom of the list.  Done!  Go on vacation.

Why this works:  As mail comes in, your mail client processes the filters / rules from top to bottom, when the "[relu] filter" is activated, the message is moved and the "away message" filter never sees the message and does not reply.  Never fear, all the messages that are not filtered out will still get sent the message you desire.  But you will no longer be sending an away message to a thousand of your RELU
friends who'll just be jealous that you are on vacation and they are not.

Thank you for reading this far and for considering changing your "away message" practices.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

More Bang for the Book Buck

Attention Amazon Shoppers!

I've just learned that we can all do a little more with the purchases we are going to make anyway. So that no one has to read further than they want, here is the "press release" style summary:

  • Who: Anyone shopping on Amazon.
  • When: Every time you shop!
  • What: Support a good cause by linking to Amazon through the NAHHH site below. When you make a purchase, Amazon makes a donation to NAHHH.
  • Where: Go to the Homes that Help and Heal (National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses) website, and follow these directions:
  • How: It's only a few clicks. Once you are on the NAHHH page, click the Amazon logo at the top. You can check out the offerings in the NAHHH Store, but the donation works on anything you buy during that session, not just the books on that page! Click the big portal box at the bottom. As of today, it says "Price Selection Convenience" with a large Amazon arrow. Then shop freely!
  • Why: Well, obviously for the donations. So below is why I care, and why I think you should too.
People who need sophisticated medical care have options for speciality treatment. There are many specialist clinics around the country. More and more patients travel for treatment every year. But where will they stay? A "Hospital Hospitality House" is a place where family and patients can stay when away from home for medical treatment. Instead of a hotel, lodging is free or reduced cost in a home like setting.

Most of us are familiar with Ronald McDonald House which provides housing for children and their family's. There are many more such houses serving other patient constituents, but without the major corporate backing. NAHHH is an association of hospitality houses -- hundreds of them around the country.

So why do I care?

Two years ago, I was involved in a truly serious auto accident when I was run off of the road by a careless driver. I was able to go home pretty quickly, My nephew who was in the car with me was not so lucky. Though he is doing well now, that was not always a sure thing. For the whole story, check out the Sam's Update blog. The story begins with the August 3, 2008 post.

While Sam was receiving treatment, his family stayed at a Hospitality House near to the hospital. The fact that the family was able to be with him 24-7 while he was in was an important part of his recovery. This became an important part of his life and ours. One of his important caretakers was Sam's Aunt Karylinn.

A year after the accident, we knew that Sam was eventually going to be ok. And at that time, Karylinn learned that NAHHH was looking for an executive director. So now we have come full circle, Karylinn is serving as the Executive Director and I am promoting their fund raising. Will you consider it too? If you are going to Amazon anyway, invest a few extra clicks. Remember, go to, click the Amazon logo at the top, then at the NAHHH Store, click the big portal box at the bottom. As of today, it says "Price Selection Convenience" with a large Amazon arrow. Click through and shop away!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care Reform - Pain and Suffering in America

TodayThe Oregonian ran a story headlined "Medical mistakes kill 200,000 a year in U.S., inquiry finds." Why the death toll? Partly because secrecy of medical records and non-disclosure prevents improvements. Who objects to mandatory disclosure? The AMA and American hospital association of course. The article does n0t make the connection to the current health care debate, or the AMA's understandable concern the full disclosure could result in lawsuits.

On another front, we continue to hear from conservatives that the real reason health care costs so much is the cost of malpractice laswuits, (frequently using the term "frivolous lawsuits" as though a doctor could bever make a mistake) malpractice insurance and defensive medicine.

As a part of health care reform, let's deal with both of these problems.

First, we completely eliminate jury awards for "pain and suffering" in a medical malpractice lawsuit. But as we do that, let's remember that a pain and suffering award is often a poor surrogate for the lifetime of medical care that will be required for the injured patient. For this scheme to work, there may need to be other limits on malpractice awards as well.

Second, As a condition of the first one, a patient injured by a doctor's mistake, would be entitled to free health care related to the injury for life. That may sound like too much to give, but remember, if we have universal health care, this should cost nothing, or very little as insurance carriers would need to be prevented from ever imposing a "lifetime limit" on the cost of care for that patient.

Finally, mandat0ry reporting by doctors. Don't report or get caught in a lie, it could cost you your license. But if you report, take responsibility for your actions? As long as there is universal coverage and no incintive for a lawsuit, there would be little reason for defensive medicine and little or no reason for malpractice insurance.

If we want doctors to be medically responsible for their mistakes, then let we need to give them a break from the financial responsibility. If we want all patients to be made whole, then a malpractice claim can't be a windfall for the few who win a lawsuit. And if we want the costs of care to go down, then we need to remove the need for unnecessary - defensive medicine. As for the insurance companies? Well I'm sure they will find some other kind of insurance we just can't live without.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Transformers, games and whatever

The time has come to prove myself to be an old curmudgeon again. All because of a radio commercial. Loosely paraphrased . . . "Summer's here, the kids have been home for two days, and already they're complaining 'were bored...' Well don't despair mom, come to and get the transformers, X-box, video game or other gadget to keep you kid entertained all summer." Oh, and since also sells groceries, make sure you get them some twinkies, a tub of icecream and poptarts. (Ok, I made up that last bit.)

No NO NO and NO!@&% It is summer and it is gorgeous outside, take them to the park, to the mountains, the beach, or just kick them out into the yard with all the other kids. Or send them to the neighbor's house to drag their kids away from the x-box.

But it's dangerous out there! I can hear you thinking it. There are child molesters and gangs and drugs and whatnot. Yup, and most of those things existed 40 years ago when I was 10. And every time a kid is molested or hit by a car it is a tragedy for that family. But the reason that it is "news" is that the chances of it happening to your kid is small . . . really small. Teach them to stay out of the street, stay away from strangers, don't get separated from friends and who's mom or dad is home.

But it's hard, you say, things have changed and both parents have to work two jobs to support the family. Yes, i know that's true for some families. Especially in these times, some of your neighbors have one or the other spouse out of work right now. Maybe get out of your backyard, onto the front porch, meet these people and see who IS home this summer. And I don't think it has to be every parent in the neighborhood or even a majority. But little Jimmy and Mrs. Smith both need to know something. When mom hears from Mrs. Smith what Jimmy was doing and with whom, Jimmy and Mrs. Smith both need to know that Mom is going to believe Mrs. Smith (not "protect" her "baby") and that Jimmy is going to get in trouble for it.

As for gangs, well more of the same. I'm not saying ignore your kids, the other moms and dads have a role too and you have to educate them and keep an eye on them. You certainly can't throw the kids outside and sit at the computer surfing blogger posts eating twinkies. The best defense against gangs are involved parents. And like I said, just a few neighbors who will get involved, and who know that "Mom and Dad" have got their back, can make all the difference.

Is all of this harder than sending the little darlings to the veg in front of the glowing rectangle? Sure, but these are your kids. Pull the plug and send them outside.

Why when I was a kid, the daytime TV was "soaps" so we had to entertian ourselves with nothing but a piece of string and a grasshopper we caught, for hours at a time, uphill, in the snow, both ways . . . .

Grumph, curmudgeon signing off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Camp Fire Girls in Iraq

So the other day, I was at the grocery store picking up a few things for dinner. On the way out, I discovered that it is that time again. Some kids with a table . . . "Hello! would you like to buy some____?" You fill in the blank depending on the kid. The Girl Scouts have cookies, the Boy Scouts have popcorn and nuts, the middle school band has whatever was a deal this year. The other day it was Camp Fire candy that was being charmingly pitched.

I have two usual responses. About 1/2 the time I donate a buck or two for the box of candy I really don't need. (Except for the Girl Scout "Samoas", I like them needed or not!) They get the profit they would make off of me, and they still have the box to sell. The other 1/2 I will say no thanks and move on.

This very close to being a "no thanks" day. In fact the words were said and I was out the door when I realized what it said on the sign near the table: "You Can Donate Your Candy To Troops." Huh!? I went back and asked what the deal was. This Camp Fire group has a dad in the military who is serving in Afghanistan. What they do is collect candy that people donate. When the box is full , off it goes to his units as well as others where he can give a connection to send it to.

How easy was this? It cost me five bucks, I don't have to eat the candy, the kids raise their funds, and there is a bonus day for soldiers half way around the world. I don't think that anyone loses in this transaction.

Now I know that folks have a lot of different feelings about the war(s). It is either a colossal mistake, or necessary to defend our freedom, or something else. But hopefully we all realize that these young men and women left their kids and are sticking their necks out for us. I think we can all support them regardless of how we feel about the politics that sent them there.

So here is a question to ponder. Don't you think that just about EVERY Girl Scout, Boy Scout, Camp Fire or middle school band group has some connection with our men and women in uniform? Isn't this an idea that should be spread around? Ya Think?


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We've all been dreaming of a White Christmas and this year we get our wish. A week of snow and being almost, but not quite, snowed in has been frustrating. But it has also helped us remember what the season is all about. All our plans of Christmas dinner, who's house to go to, and so on have all been snowed out; leaving us to spend time with family, connect more closely with family and help those less fortunate than we are. Even when we could get out, last minute shopping gave way to driving for "meals on wheels" bringing a little hot meal and brief visit to folks who can't get out even in the best of weather.

So we are grateful that we have our health, our family and our sense of humor!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Team 8!

For a week we have been under steadily worsening weather. Rain, then thaw then colder and colder weather. Now sub-freezing temps and steady snow. The result has been a slowly growing paralysis. Early on in this event, the roads "in town" have been pretty good, but the last 1/2 mile has grown unpassable. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to telecomute (the whole 2 miles to my office). I also have the Yukon that can get about if needed. Finally, today, everything ground to a halt.

All day long the TV has been filled with "Storm Team 8" reporting on the arctic blast. The local weatherman is pretty sharp and has been spot on with predictions, but I really don't see the benefit of live coverage from a slightly frozen reporter at a highway overpass reporting "it's snowing here . . . and it's hard to drive." Then five minutes later, from the other side of town, another reporter: "It's really windy here, and it's snowing . . . and now back to you for more doppler 8000 radar . . ."

Those of you in the midwest, or even east of the Cascades probably think "Geez, what's the big deal? we get that kind of weather every winter, all winter." Yup. But the difference is that we don't. Sure, part of the problem we have is that "people don't know how to drive in snow." But that's not the whole story. The rest of the story is that we, the municipal "we" are not prepared for it. Because here in the Willamette valley, it does not snow like this "every winter, all winter." So we don't have the kind of snow handling equipment that Missoula or Denver or even Bend have available to them. Drivers don't generally have chains or snow tires unless they plan on going to the mountains - because we don't get much snow!

I also think it is easier to drive where you get a hard pack snow with temps well below freezing as opposed to temps hovering around freezing - turning the snow in to a partly melted, very slick mess.

Well the prediction is that it is going to get colder, and more snow coming as the "Arctic Blast" coverage continues. The big question: Are we dreaming of a white Christmas? Time will tell.