Archive for March, 2003


USA Patriot Act

A librarian speaks out against the USA Patriot Act.

And surprise! The USDOJ and FBI are drafting a sequel to the USA Patriot Act that would authorize even broader powers to infringe on civil liberties. An interesting provision would add a minimum of five years to criminal sentences for knowingly using encryption technology while committing a crime. This would likely discourage use of encryption for legitimate purposes.

On that tangent, I just came across WinPT, a collection of GnuPG tools for Windows.


Interesting news on the spam front.

I’ve always assumed that obfuscating email addresses on web pages was an exercise in futility. Something like HiveLogic’s Enkoder is probably quite effective, but simple things like replacing each character with its equivalent HTML entity (e.g. e for e) can’t possibly be. I figure we have to give some credit to the spambot writers: they can’t fall for trivial deceptions like that forever, and no doubt some caught on years ago.

A recent study demonstrates otherwise. They set up hundreds of email addresses, each used for a single purpose, and tracked the received mail over a six month period. As expected, addresses made available on public web sites received the most spam. What very much surprises me is that email addresses obfuscated either using HTML entity or human-readable equivalents (e.g. “username at domain dot com”) received no spam.

This is bound to change, but it still catches me off guard. Of course, in the situation I face at work (dozens of people maintaining web sites over which I have no control, no chance of using either of these techniques consistently), it really doesn’t matter. I figure I could either filter email addresses on all outgoing pages, which isn’t worth the overhead, or write something that periodically spiders the site and “fixes” pages. Neither option is really worth the trouble. What I can do is try to prevent spambots from hitting our sites in the first place. Lotsa fun to be had there.

Hey Matt, if you’re reading: how about this for a discussion at April’s meeting?


Paul Hintz

We went to see Paul Hintz play at Black’s Ford in Wayzata last night. Paul is my favorite local guitarist, actually one of my favorite guitarists, period. When I worked at the Roastery and we had musicians play weekend nights, he was the only one I made sure I was there for. He’s great.

Turns out he plays Black’s Ford about every month, so I have something new to look forward to in our remaining time out here in the ‘burbs.

Oh. The food’s great, too. I’ve been there for lunch a number of times, but never for dinner. They used to have the distinction of being the only place in Wayzata you could get a good espresso (Maravonda). I have no idea whether that’s still true, but their dinner specials were spectacular.

Good food, great jazz guitar. Could it get better?


"This is why I wanted that degree in semiotics, ma!" Part 2.

As if the Total Information Awareness office’s logo weren’t bad enough,‘s icons are just plain awful. Or maybe they’re hilarious, as demonstrated here.

Hmph. That’s two days in a row that I’ve described something as hilarious. Gotta get me a thesaurus. Either that or stop reading funny things.


Microsoft withdraws from W3C Web Services Panel.

Story on Infoworld.

No comment.


Scary things from Weight Watchers Past.

These Weight Watchers cards from 1974 are hilarious. I just kept laughing and laughing and laughing.


Way to Go, MIT Press!

Lawrence Lessig writes about MIT Press requesting permission to publish single lines from 12 different songs in a book being released this summer. They requested permission and received 10 forms and two replies.

One reply, from the representatives of the Kinks, demanded $1500 … for permission to reprint a single line “help me, help me, help, me sail away” from the song “Sunny afternoon,” and $10,000 for a more extensive quote.

The other reply, from representatives of the Kobain estate (which I assume is within Courtney Love?s control) forbids him from reprinting the line “polly says her back hurts? from the Nirvana song “Polly.”

MIT has nonetheless decided that these words are protected by fair use, despite these demands.

Sounds about right to me.


Farscape Finale.

The Farscape series finale aired in the US a couple nights ago. If every episode were that strong, I’d miss the show. Phenomenal. One of the things that I really liked about Farscape was that it did not often talk down to the audience, repeatedly banging viewers over the head with explanations for what was happening. Star Trek: Voyager did that all the time, drove me nuts. Instead, Farscape often started an episode mid-story, leaving it to us to fill in the blanks to figure out how the crew had gotten themselves in a jam this time, or even what the jam was. The finale did this, and I am glad.

I just wish they’d ended it about a minute earlier. Call me sentimental.


Support Our Troops != Support The War.

An organizer of yesterday’s “support our troops” rally at the State Capitol expressed frustration at the pro-war stance of many who attended. It’s frustrating, yes, but not surprising. I haven’t come across many who make the distinction.

It doesn’t help that “support” is so nebulous. Have you given much thought to what it means? I haven’t. Do I wish for our soldiers to come home safely? Yes. In fact, I wish they’d come home now. Am I saddened when I hear of soldiers dying in this war? Yes, deeply. Will I spurn those who return, angry at their participation? No, of course not. Does this mean that I support the troops? You tell me. Am I aware of and grateful for the sacrifices they’ve made in the defense of this country? Yes. Do I think this war in Iraq is in defense of this country? No. Do I oppose the war? Wholeheartedly. Does this mean that I don’t support the troops? You tell me.

I’m not going to write a whole lot about the war. It angers me too much for me to be rational about it, and there’s nothing that I would say that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times elsewhere. For now, let it stand that I oppose the war. I do not accept the Bush Administration’s rationale, and I fear the path that they are taking this country and the world.

I do not say that lightly: I fear this path.

If you don’t understand why, I suggest that you read Fareed Zakaria’s excellent essay, “The Arrogant Empire.” While you’re at it, Gary Kamiya’s elegant “Sleepwalking toward Baghdad is well worth your time, as are the remarks by US Senator Robert C. Byrd: “The Arrogance of Power.”

Oh, one more thing. If you didn’t read the whole article about the rally at the Capitol, you missed the closing paragraphs:

The only speaker who received a hostile reception was N. Ruby Zigrino, a Muslim from Minneapolis. She was initially cheered when she said she supports “ousting a tyrant regime.”

But she then read passages from the Qur’an, suggested that a new Marshall Plan will be needed in Iraq, and said administration officials should study foreign-policy failures to avoid repeating them.

Her listeners responded with boos and shouts of “Screw Muslims!” “Screw the Qur’an!” and “Go home!”

Reading this makes me physically ill.


Is George Bush Really John Gill?

Remember the Star Trek episode “Patterns of Force“? Kirk and Spock discover a Nazi-like regime headed up by Kirk’s old Academy professor John Gill. Turns out that Gill is being heavily drugged and used as a figurehead Führer, kept in a small room and forced to give speeches to rally the people of Ekos in a war against the nearby planet Zeon.

That’s what I’m reminded of whenever I see George Bush delivering a speech on television, especially when he’s speaking from the Oval Office. The expressionless, fish-eyed stare, the way his head doesn’t move, how he doesn’t seem to understand what he’s saying… it wigs me out.

Lest you misunderstand me, I’m not reacting to the war by taking personal jabs at Bush. Give me some credit. It’s just that I honestly have a hard time watching him deliver a speech.

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