Blog: 2003-05

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Elizabeth Austin, "In Contempt of Courtship," Washington Monthly, Jun-2003

Some more large Emacs packages that one can install through Debian:

apt-get install auctex bbdb gnus mailcrypt vm w3m-el

Cutting through a sparsely-populated parking lot after 2am club closing this morning, there was a guy, who must've ingested a gallon of fluids, who spent at least two minutes audibly baptizing the side of a massive black SUV in the center of the lot with the recycled product. Normally I would shout discouragement at a public pee-er, except I didn't disapprove 100% of this particular instance of socioeconomic commentary. The lighting was good, so considered capturing the simultaneously proud and shameful moment with the digicam at hand, but didn't want to invade his privacy.

Long CNN story on capture of Olympic bombing suspect Eric Robert Rudolf, dated "Saturday, May 31, 2003 Posted: 1:04 PM EDT," doesn't mention the Richard Jewell media fiasco at all. Which is not wholly surprising, if CNN was one of the prominent offenders in the defamation:

Jewell says a headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that afternoon "pretty much started the whirlwind." The headline read: FBI suspects hero guard may have planted bomb. It was read to the world verbatim as breaking news on CNN and the AP picked it up, sending it to news organizations around the world. The story leaked to the media was that Jewell wasn't a hero at all, but was himself the bomber who perversely sought publicity for saving people from the explosion.

—CBS 60 Minutes II, "Falsely Accused," 26-Jun-2002

Today's Dilbert (30-May-2003) reminds me of an incident many years ago (long enough ago that Discretion will forgive us for mentioning it), when I saw a full-page magazine ad for a company I was involved with. The ad claimed product functionality that I thought we didn't actually have. I sent an internal email that pointed out what I believed to be inaccuracies, and CC'd the CTO and a co-founder, since I'd begun to suspect they might not have the complete story from engineering. A VP came to me to tell me that the CTO had asked him, "Why did Neil send this to me?" It was emphasized that violating the chain of command was frowned upon. Later, after a more senior engineer than me figured out how little the board knew, and whistleblew, the co-founder remarked to me his surprise that nobody had come forward earlier. The main reason no engineer came forward earlier is that we didn't have visibility into what the board was being told. And, even had an engineer figured it out, the organization provided immense disincentive to raise a fuss (e.g., at one point, the most likely reaction would've been layoffs). Eventually the board learned the truth, but too late to save the company. It's not that uncommon a pattern of organizational dysfunction.

That same VP once threatened me with a knife, in connection with another incident. He was surely joking, but he wasn't smiling, and I couldn't help but recall that he'd mentioned growing up on the mean streets of "the projects."

XML syntax sure does a number on the readability of OWL models.

Noticed that Debian now has the latest version of PSGML, so deleted my manually-installed copies and did: apt-get install psgml

"Terrifying Bill Passed During NBA Playoffs," The Onion, 28-Mar-2003

Released Quack version 0.21.

Warren Buffett, "Dividend Voodoo," Washington Post, 20-May-2003

Added to my Apache mod_rewrite rules on one of my boxes. Might as well post some of the rules here, if only for backup. The first rule I have after the RewriteEngine on line is to let all requests for robots.txt through:

RewriteRule ^/robots.txt$ $0 [L]

Then we redirect requests for the nonstandard favicon.ico to the user's own machine:

RewriteRule /favicon.ico [L,R=301]

Redirect some of the Web worms that attack shoddy Microsoft systems, not that the worms will actually follow the redirects, but it makes us feel better:

RewriteRule ^/MSADC/ [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/NULL.printer [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/_mem_bin/ [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/_vti_bin/ [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/c/  [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/d/  [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/msadc/ [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/scripts [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/scripts/ [L,R=301]
RewriteRule /winnt/ [L,R=301]

Then there's the crawlers of Alexa, the company who's been operating spyware in Web browsers for years. Redirect them to their own Web site:

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_HOST}$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*$ [L,R=301]

If someone left the www. part off of my home page URL, send them to the canonical server:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^/(.*)$1 [L,R=301]

On this particular private server, we disallow access to the default page, using conservative regexps:

RewriteRule ^/$           - [F]
RewriteRule ^/index$      - [NC,F]
RewriteRule ^/index.htm$  - [NC,F]
RewriteRule ^/index.html$ - [NC,F]

Finally, if the server is being used among a small group of GNU/Linux users, we might want to punish the non-purists:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} MSIE    [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} \.NET   [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} Windows
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Opera
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

Leonard Cassuto, "A Humanist's Sojourn Among Scientists," Chronicle of Higher Education, 2-May-2003

Don't Argue with Children

Changed the CSS for my pages to replace the distinctive blueboxes look with something much more plain but arguably more readable. There are a few rough edges with margins and padding.

Spam this morning:

From: Ronnie Saager <>
To: Nwv <>
Subject: allah abords Ableitungskanaelen

Suggests a great way to market products to NSA surveillance technicians and analysts:


SURVEILLANCE staff, check out these (ALLAH IS) GREAT deals!

Stressed out from monitoring MILITANT INSURRECTIONS all day?
Romantic BRAZIL vacation packages starting at just $99/night!

HOMELAND SECURITY begins at home with the HECKLER-KOCH MP5K!
Safer than ANTHRAX in the medicine cabinet or a DIRTY BOMB

Big bonus check for finding SADDAM MOBILE BIOWEAPONS LAB?
Treat yourself to weekend boating in beautiful Virginia!
Just for the HALLIBURTON of it all!


Released webjump-plus.el 2.4.

Updated Privoxy actions file.

comp.lang.scheme readers who have come to associate Scheme with "Nigerian Scams" propagated through a certain mail-to-Usenet gateway might appreciate the following Gnus score rule:

 ("^Path:[^\n]*!bloom-beacon\\.mit\\.edu!mailpost-gateway *$"
  -1000 nil r))

On ad-blocking:

Overall, 14% of online consumers say they now use some form of ad-blocking software, according to a March study from Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. That's up from just 1% of Web surfers a little over a year ago. Even more alarming for Web sites: 13% of consumers surveyed said they didn't know about ad blockers before being questioned by pollsters, but now that they do, they will consider installing them on their computers. At a conference this year, Washingtonpost. Newsweek Interactive CEO Christopher M. Schroeder warned that the spread of ad-stripping software could be disastrous for the industry.

—Carl Sullivan, "E-mail, Ad Blockers Pose Problems for Publishers," Editor & Publisher, 5-May-2003

If you think your experiments are fun:

[...] physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory calculated the odds that a planned experiment, in which atomic nuclei would be accelerated to collide at high speeds, might cause all the matter in the earth to collapse into exotic dense particles called "strangelets," extinguishing life, among other things. The risk came out to about one in 50 million. That sounds good, and the experiments commenced without tragedy [...]

—Dennis Overbye, "'Our Final Hour': Global Warning," New York Times, 18-May-2003

One reason not to run Microsoft Internet Explorer, seen in a Web site's HTML:

Set o = CreateObject("WMPlayer.OCX.7")
Set c = o.cdromCollection
if c.Count >= 1 then
    For i = 0 to c.Count - 1
End If

Released sigbegone.el version 0.5.

Nkiru Asika Oluwasanmi, "10 Things Your Moving Company Won't Tell You,", 13-May-2003. This reminds me that I need to put up a Web page on Colonial Moving & Storage, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, soon, if they're still in business. They pulled a similar scam on me, when I moved from Providence several years ago. At the time, I talked with the AGs' offices and various regulatory authorities, and also located other people who'd had similar scams pulled on them by Colonial. Then I found that I couldn't sue Colonial in Massachusetts, even though they did business moving people there, since their only office was in RI. Due to school's demands on my time back then, I had to write off the losses in dollars (approx. $500 in stolen goods alone) and sanity. And I have much bigger corrupt fish to fry nowadays. But Colonial needs at least a Web page in their honor.

Never underestimate the utility of fitting lots of text onto the display.

On interpreting Ebay feedback. So much for the convention of only looking at the totals and the Complaint messages.

Alexandra Marks, "Eminent domain and private gain," Christian Science Monitor, 9-May-2003

That same paper tackles The Matrix in its own peculiar way:

David Frankfurter, for one, disagrees. "I'd resist the notion of [Neo] as having anything to do with Jesus," says the professor of history and religious studies at the University of New Hampshire. "He's the classic hero figure from early Jewish literature."

—Josh Burek, "The Gospel according to Neo," Christian Science Monitor, 9-May-2003

If the best of the best mid-level engineers rate only 65K-85K in Boston, I shudder to think how the kiddies without experience (outside the dotgone 'industry') will be able to afford Boston cost-of-living. That's one of the better-looking jobs on the site, btw.

I roundfile all resumes containing the word "Mensa." It's like putting a local swingers club on your resume — a dirty little secret that can only hurt you in the eyes of an interviewer or resume-screener. OK, the swingers club mention might have a titilation factor; Mensa does not.

Released sigbegone.el version 0.4.

Hours of amusement: Craigslist Missed Connections in Boston

The pages are once again working, so I'm happy.

E. L. Doctorow, "Walter John Harmon," The New Yorker, issue 12-May-2003, posted 5-May-2003

Released Quack 0.20.

Watched the full Pedestrian sequence in Cambridge this evening, and could watch it another few times under better ergonomic conditions. See it through the window of the old CompUSA storefront on Mass. Ave. In the evening or early morning, to get the best lighting. One thing is that much of the audience of this installation view it whilst waiting for the bus, and are ripped out of Pedestrian immersion when bus arrives.

The State Department report on global terrorism for 2002 suggests that while Canada has been helpful in the fight against terrorism, it doesn't spend enough on policing and places too much emphasis on civil liberties.

—Jim Bronskill, "U.S. says Canada cares too much about liberties," Ottawa Citizen, 3-May-2003

Declan McCullagh, "Inside Cisco's eavesdropping apparatus,", 21-Apr-2003. Fred Baker of Cisco comes across as pretty forthright here. I think we might see less of that quality in the next generation of technologists.

Passed a construction sign that showed wheelchair acessibility from the 77 Mass. Ave. entrance, and imagined the route to Lobby 7. Some poor architect was overconstrained.

Last night, the Pedestrian installation of the Boston Cyberarts Festival 2003 was BSOD'd. I'd already seen it working, one early morning, before the opening. While I was watching it that morning, on a deserted Mass. Ave., a man in a security guard uniform materialized and approached me. He was a performance artist, whether he knew it or not.

Three-leet redneck.

A birdfeeder for the basement office.

Released first snapshot of Httper, along with a new version of UriFrame and my SRFI-19 version.

Back to taking my daily multivitamin and 500mg C. Main drawback is that it seems to want me to sleep less than my requisite 8 hours.

Earlier to... 2003-04

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