my nullmailer daemon had gone haywire, rescanning the queue hundreds of times per second; my /var/log/mail.log, /var/log/mail.info, and /var/log/syslog were well over 22 gigs each, and the logging daemon itself was hogging 125% of CPU. googling didn't turn up anything, so I punted and apt-get update followed by apt-get install nullmailer, which upgraded to the latest version. finally back to normal. no idea how long that had been going on.
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