From the Missing Persons Bureau

Dropped into the spam bucket last night:

This is a message to the admin. Your website is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I have found a company which offers to dramatically increase your traffic to your site: [URL redacted] They offer 1,000 free visitors during their free trial period and I managed to get over 30,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted traffic than you have now. Hope this helps :) Take care.

Evidently there’s a surplus of bots out there, if they’re willing to dump that many on me.

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Fark blurb of the week

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She can’t run in those

With Robert Stacy McCain distraught over not having Ashley Judd to kick around anymore, the least I can do is to give you a scene from the day job she’s not quitting:

Ashley Judd in Herve Leger

In Olympus Has Fallen, which premiered last week, Judd plays the First Lady to Aaron Eckhardt’s President. On the way back from Camp David, the Presidential limo crashes. Guess who survives.

This is yet another Herve Leger bandage dress, which I’m betting will generate at least one line of snark from either Stacy or Smitty. I did, however, admire the shoes — “Fitch” by Jimmy Choo — which might have provided oppo from the McConnell camp once they found out that they’re $1095 a pair. (The always-reliable Shoebunny takes a closer look.)

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Script kiddies to be tried as adults

Yours truly in the tweetstream, yesterday:

Supposedly, a spammer has declared DDoS on a blacklister, which is kinda like calamari saying “Look at the squid!”

It was, of course, a bit more complicated than that, and Bill Quick dubs it Geek War:

In the not too distant future, mass interruptions of cloud and other digital connectivity is going to be treated with the same tender mercy that deliberate mass interruptions of air, water, and food are today.

Because, yes, continuous bandwidth will become that important to health and life.

He may well be right. For now, though, the hardest hit are likely to be Netflix customers.

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Wide birth

In the last several years, only the Department of Public Safety has asked me for a copy of my birth certificate. Then again, I don’t occupy a public office, and I’ve never been subjected to this sort of thing:

There certainly should have been more of an effort by the right in general to police its own — our own — and to read the birthers out of the movement much as William F. Buckley read the John Birch movement out of conservatism back in his day.

I have long suspected that Barack Obama was trolling them all along.

And as they sowed, so shall they reap:

Birthers, it turns out, can be bipartisan. They have a new target — the rapidly rising GOP senator Ted Cruz.

Though he bears all the marks of a Texan — the swagger, the signature twang, and the ever-present cowboy boots — 42-year-old Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban father. By dint of his mother’s citizenship, Cruz was an American citizen at birth. Whether he meets the Constitution’s requirement that the president of the United States be a “natural-born citizen,” a term the Framers didn’t define and for which the nation’s courts have yet to offer an interpretation, has become the subject of considerable speculation.

And it involves some of the same people who sparked conflict — and drew charges of racism — by raising questions about the circumstances of President Obama’s birth. Donald Trump, for one, says he is impressed by Cruz but hasn’t yet looked extensively at his background.

Because there’s nothing more important for a candidate than being vetted by Donald Trump.

I’m not at all keen on candidates keeping secrets. On the other hand, I’m going to wait until they open their mouths before I assume they’re lying.

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Other cheek duly turned

This is a pitch for Rego, an app for saving locations:

“Rego’s private. Nobody sees what you add to Rego. But sometimes you’ll want to share a place with a friend — or even the whole world — and Rego makes that easy.”

Which is not particularly scintillating, until you discover that “Rego” is some sort of Brazilian slang for “butt crack” — which developer Matt Henderson didn’t, until he started wondering why sales in Brazil were so brisk.

If you ask me, he needn’t have worried. “Rego,” after all, is Latin for “I rule,” and Henderson’s good-natured acknowledgement of the issue demonstrates that he indeed rules.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Where have all the Wizards gone?

Lost to injury or illness, all but eight; but John Wall was back, Washington’s played over .500 ball since he returned, and the Thunder spent most of the first quarter fouling Wall in an effort to keep him from doing what he does best. (Wall wound up taking 15 free throws, making 12 of them.) Oklahoma City pulled the starters with 5:16 left, figuring the Wizards couldn’t do much about the 20-point deficit, and indeed, Washington left three starters in because they didn’t have anyone else. The final was 103-80, and the ribbons at the horn could be considered the curtain of charity.

Then again, if you want to see foul shots, the Thunder took 41 of them, making 37. OKC even knocked down the majority of their treys (8-14), something we haven’t seen enough of lately. They won this one, though, with defense: five Wizards landed in double figures, but the mighty John Wall was held to 18 points on 3-18 shooting and 12 assists, and Washington shot only 32 percent. The three-man bench, however, did manage a creditable 26.

With abbreviated minutes for the OKC first string, the points were a bit more evenly spread than usual, with Kevin Durant collecting only 21, Russell Westbrook 20, and Kevin Martin 18; no one else made double figures. What Scott Brooks is most likely to mention, though, is that Washington actually bagged more rebounds, 43-41. The man is never happy.

Coming up: a back-to-back in the Great (Still) White North, Friday at Minnesota, Saturday at Milwaukee. Winter isn’t done with us yet.

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Two-minute warning, more or less

At twelve noon every Saturday, weather permitting, the city of Oklahoma City tests its warning siren. I’m only two blocks from it, so I hear it just fine, thank you very much. And it’s a common topic of conversation; why, it even has its own Twitter account.

And while we’re talking sirens, Roberta X dropped this bit of historical detail into a footnote:

Some years ago, the city of Kokomo found their siren system had major gaps in the form of failed units and shifting population, and after crunching the numbers, realized it was more cost-effective to hand out a weather radio to everyone in town! Hey, whatever works.

I have two of them, one built into a combo TV/radio/siren/floodlight once sold by Coleman to suburban paranoiacs. (The TV, a purely analog device, is now redundant, since every station likely to carry weather warnings has migrated to digital.) You’ve already heard about the other one.

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Last night’s (and tonight’s) downtime

I duly reported it on the backup blog, before any official explanation was proffered.

Now there is one:

At this point, we are suspecting our Cisco router to be the cause of the incident. As the final portion of our Network Improvement series, this is the last piece of our core network infrastructure that remains. We’ve run into some problems getting it out of service in normal maintenance windows, before last week’s outage we were poised to finally pull the trigger and remove it but ended up having to postpone it yet again.

Then again, it’s kind of hard to rip out everything at once without ticking off the customers.

They announced today that the replacement hardware will be installed tonight after 8 Pacific today.

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Groovus maximus

“Wish me luck,” says Bill Quick: he’s ripping vinyl. I am confident that he’ll do just fine: admittedly, it’s not exactly rocket science, but it does require some tech smarts, the ability to pay attention, and a good ear.

The major drawback is the fact that doing a 40-minute LP will take all 40 of those minutes, and probably a few more besides. He’s not, however, as anal as Your Humble Narrator:

You’re supposed to go through and “clean it up,” but my vinyl is already pretty clean, and I sorta like the occasional pop or hiss — that’s what records sounded like when I was a kid, and I find it sort of comforting.

And if you’re used to hearing a pop at a particular place, not hearing it will mess with your head. In the original single of the Troggs’ immortal “Wild Thing”, during the brief break between “You move me” and the return of the guitar riff (about 1:49), there’s an audible board click. I played a declicked version for my brother, and he swore there was something wrong with it, though he wasn’t sure what.

Then again, I once sat down and declicked an actual cracked 45. Took me sixty-two minutes, or sixty minutes longer than the song itself. Why I did this, I’ll never know: I have the darn track on CD, fercryingoutloud.

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The PDF word

Another disgruntled Adobe Reader ex-user:

Seems like whenever I want to use it, it decides it needs to update itself, which means I have to wait, and when it is done updating I find that someone has moved the controls and I have to go look for them, which means more time wasted. There are probably ways to get around these problems, but I’ve had enough, and I just don’t care, not when I can use Google. Google has its own problems, but at least it doesn’t change their user interface every six weeks. In this case I just download a 14 megabyte PDF file, just to see if it might contain anything interesting, and when I tried to open it I remember that I don’t have Adobe Reader installed, so I upload it to Google Drive (which is their new name for their document service). Drive offers to convert the document to Google format. This has its pros and cons. On the pro side, the space used to store the converted file doesn’t get charged against your allotment. On the minus side, the conversion isn’t always perfect. In this case the conversion didn’t work at all: FILE TOO LARGE it tells me after it has been grinding away for a few seconds.

A recent addition to the Firefox arsenal is a JScript-based PDF reader that works in the browser. Unfortunately, it’s dog-ass slow, and I mean one of those lethargic-looking hounds, like the basset.

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What they left behind

Children grow up and move away — they do if they have their own health insurance, anyway — but the trappings of childhood remain behind, as Tad Maudlin can tell you:

Eventually, the toys will get cleaned up and donated to a church sale or some such collection, but the last bottle of Mr. Bubble will just migrate to the rear of the cabinet. Periodically, I’ll clean and rearrange the contents of the cabinet, but I won’t want to dispose of half a bottle of Mr. Bubble. Eventually, I’ll say I’m saving it for the grandchildren, but I’ll not really know if I’m to have my line continue or if I’ll live to see it.

Lest Tad become glum about this prospect, I will mention a product that remains on my shelf: it’s Dow Hospital Germicide and Deodorizer (Citrus Scent), EPA Reg No. 464-400. Active ingredients: good old alcohol, plus a dollop of 2-phenylphenol. This came home from the hospital with my daughter in 1978, and I am not giving it up. For one thing, the can is still about one-third full, though the propellant has long since given up propelling. The citrus scent, however, is alive and well.

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A hard-headed approach

The new NFL rule banning crown-of-the-helmet hits, intended to reduce concussions, will probably do nothing of the sort, suggests KingShamus, considering the enforcement mechanism:

Yes, these very same fallible close-enough-for-government-work referees. So on top of every other judgment call the zebras have to make in the course of a nanosecond — Was that a catch? Was that an illegal hold? Was that ball going out of bounds because of a forward pass or a lateral in the final moments of the game while the defenders were being held in the endzone? — they’ll now have to discern in the blink of an eye whether or not a ball carrier lowered the top of his helmet and used it as a weapon against another player. That sounds totally easy.

In reality, this new diktat is going to be incredibly difficult to enforce. What we have here is not safety. It’s more like safety rule theater. Much like the Transportation Safety Administration’s airport security theater, the NFL’s attempt to stamp out crown-of-helmet hits has all the trappings of a rule designed to keep players safe, but nothing that actually makes that goal happen.

Memo to NFL commish Roger Goodell: If you’re being compared to the TSA, you’ve already lost the battle.

As for the helmets themselves:

They’re still basically the same amalgamation of hard plastic shell and interior foam padding that they were in the Reagan Administration. In other words, they can still be wielded like a cudgel.

And they still sound nice and weapon-y during the game telecasts — assuming those are real noises and not some sideline Foley art.

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Spamalamadingdong

I occasionally grumble about comment spam, but seldom like this:

Sorry about turning the Turing test back on in comments, but Blogger’s spam comments filter has just completely collapsed under the onslaught recently. I woke up this morning to find twelve digital turds plopped in the latest comment threads since 0100, and that’s not counting the sixty more in the spam traps.

Google jiggled their search algorithms back some time last year to more heavily weight backlinks in “social media” and news article comments sections, and even-less-scrupulous-than-usual SEO types responded by unleashed hordes of gibberish-’n’-backlink-spouting ‘bots on the Blogosphere. Comment spam had been a desultory sort of thing before that, sort of the universal background noise of blogs, but by the end of the year I was scooping as many as 300 spam comments out of the trap first thing every morning. It wasn’t so bad as long as they were getting caught in the trap, but now they’re getting past the filter and I won’t stand for that.

That’s Blogger. How’s Movable Type doing? Not so swiftly either:

Starting last Friday there has been a continuing attempt by spam comment creators (Blotted be their names from the Book of Life, and may a thousand weasels nest in their pants for eternity!) to overwhelm the Spam filters. Some inevitably get through and I have to weed those out by hand.

Total spam comments usually run to a total of a few hundred a day for both the main column and SideLine. Irritating but manageable. The recent onslaught, however, is running up to five or six thousand a day. This tends to overwhelm the site with read/write/filter operations which slows down legitimate comments as well as the site in general. There are fixes for this that I’m working on, but for now it is going to a slow going.

Hmmm. I’ve had fifteen since the first of March.

Then again, I’ve had my own godawful months — December 2008, with about 3,000, was the worst — so I have no reason to assume I’m immune to this sort of thing, though I’ve taken rather a lot of precautions.

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Looky-loot

A store in Brisbane, Australia is sick of people coming in to look at stuff and then go buy it from Amazon or wherever, and is doing something about it:

As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for “just looking.”

The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.

Why has this come about?

There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else.

This policy is line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.

Exactly when is this fee collected? Do you have to peel off a fiver the moment you cross the threshold? Or do they wait until you show up at the exit with no purchases?

I can’t see how this model can generate any additional revenue, unless they’re counting on this, um, gesture to bring them a whole lot more publicity. Viral whining! You gotta love it.

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Waste not

When some relative of Bambi’s decided to take out my car in the summer of ’06, I placed a call to the Highway Patrol, who in turn passed the word to the Department of Wildlife Conservation, which would deal with the remains — if there were any left when they got there, since it was at least plausible that someone might back up a truck and haul away half a freezerful of fawn, which is legal, in the sense that it’s not illegal: as Al Gore used to say, there is no controlling legal authority.

There’s about to be, though, in Montana, where House Bill 247 — “An act creating permits to salvage certain game accidentally killed by vehicles” — is on its way to the governor’s desk. How this happened:

[I]t took someone quite familiar with deer-car encounters to bring it up in the Legislature: state Rep. Steve Lavin, who also is a Montana state trooper.

“I was at a troopers’ meeting last summer and another trooper brought up the idea. I thought, ‘It’s kind of a good idea’,” he said on Friday.

“I was thinking, how many times have I had people ask me, “Hey, can I take this?” and I’ve had to say, ‘No it’s illegal’,” he continued, relating his own skirting of the rules in making roadkill available to a food bank.

As in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Montana’s bill would grant a permit or a tag to people who want roadkill for food. State Sen. Larry Jent is a co-sponsor.

“It passed the House and needed a sponsor in the Senate. I was laughing uncontrollably, so the chairman assigned it to me,” he said from Bozeman.

You can check your own state laws here.

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