by Penn Jillette

I picked up a ton of great tips to make my e-mail more efficient by reading the manuscript for Marshall and David's book. But I'm just an individual guy, so e-mail administrators should be as happy with this book as an e-mail administrator could be empowered to be.

I sent the authors a message and learned another trick. If you receive some mail, send back an automatic answer saying that a certain code word must appear in the RE: line. Then when you receive another message with the code word, just don't answer. The thinking is: The correspondent is probably just some tech-dilettante, comedy-magic guy trying to waste your time with an e-howdy. He'll just think he typed the wrong address (and maybe he did). The technique works; I wrote the foreword anyway and less time was wasted.

After reading the whole book (at least you read a bound copy, I had to read it on paper printed on one side-so much for the paperless office-and held together by a freakishly large and therefore valuable rubber band), it's time to incorporate the tips and tricks (another tech term) into our e-lives. We must not forget that even with all the e-mail problems we've just read about (most of which some of us don't even have and some of which most of us don't even have), e-mail is still the greatest thing ever invented in the history of the world. "What about fire?" you say. And I answer, what good would it be without an e-mail to "come and get it?" You give another try with "the wheel." Yeah, where would we want to go that we wouldn't have to confirm through a quick message? "Smallpox and Polio vaccine," you whisper, growing weaker and more desperate. Don't make me laugh, I have chapped lips. E-mail is the best.

I've been on e-mail since a very rich and famous computer friend (it's even better to name-drop when you don't even need the name) said to me in 1985, "Shouldn't a guy like you have an ARPANET address?" (It wasn't ARPANET anymore by then, but being a future-thinking entrepreneur, he wanted to give me a better story for now, here in the future.) I was set up with (Go ahead. Try to send something there. You're better off mailing to Marshall and David. It'll just bounce; my address has changed).

Before e-mail, I was like Judy Jetson-a different age, sex and number of dimensions, but we were both on the phone all the time with our ponytails knotted high on our respective heads. The phone is nice, I guess. You can pick up emotions without sideways smiley winks, but the two people on the phone are rarely in the same mood: I feel like chatting and you want me dead. E-mail solves all that. I can read your messages when I'm in the mood to chat, and you can save my messages to help prove your case in court.

I feel that e-mail, although often used for business, is more intimate than voice phone. When I see your words, they are in my font and color on my computer, and the computer feels like part of my brain. Telephone is talking; e-mail is whispering thoughts directly into my mind. My e-mail friendships are more solid than my few remaining phone friendships (phone phriendships?).

Penn and Teller (I guess I'm kind of talking about myself in the third person, but it's OK-I'm in show biz) run our whole business with e-mail. All our staff and crew members are online, and the tours are often coordinated through e-mail messages from one floor of a Hyatt to another by way of a system designed to go all the way around the world to sidestep a nuclear bomb. It may not be the most efficient way to run a business, but it'll get you the chance to write a foreword to an e-mail book. Teller and I wrote three books through e-mail. We read each other's chapters as attachments and did all the editing with messages (he cut out my best stuff).

I live on the road. And I keep track of all my business and keep in touch with all my friends using e-mail. It seems to me that life on the road must have been very lonely and businesses must have been in a shambles before it. But I haven't checked I love e-mail. I kiss it. And this book makes it even better. Now, if Marshall and David can just improve chocolate and sex, they'll really be talking.

OK, that's it-I have to e-mail this in.