I have a question to pose about spam etiquette. Say you go to the website of a well-known Fortune 500 company — an established company that’s been in the computer business for over two decades — and update your already-created so that you can buy something from them. Say that, during the account update process, you aren’t told that you’re also signing up to receive a junk newsletter from the company, nor are you offered the ability to tell them not to send you their marketing crap. Now, say that within a week, you start getting junk email from them, offering up the new products of the week and whatnot, and that at the bottom of the email is a clear opt-out link. What do you do? Do you just delete the email? Do you click the link, and opt out of the crap that you never opted into to begin with? Do you report the email to Vipul’s Razor, Pyzor, and all other collaborative spam databases? (Incidentally, this same should-be-aware-but-clearly-isn’t company lets you log into your account to change your settings, but on logging in, clearly shows that I have opted to not receive email from them. How can they justify sending me this newsletter when it’s clear they also know I don’t want to receive any marketing email from them?)
Shannon and I have a (least) favorite new smell: burning clutch. Yesterday, while driving back from New York in rain so torrential the Saw Mill River Parkway was turned into a virtual floodplain, I noticed that the clutch in my car started feeling really, really mushy. We were on a long, steep uphill, and the clutch was requiring quite a bit higher revs to engage; in addition, it was channeling the most acrid, horrific smell straight back at Shannon and me. There was at least a half-mile left of hill, so with some quick acrobatics, I got off to the shoulder and turned off the car. We debated how I’d be able to even look under the hood with the rain coming down as hard as it was, and we started hunting for the nearest Subaru dealer. (Thank goodness I kept the little “every Subaru dealer in the country” brochure when I bought the car!) After one dealer’s service department treated me like a radioactive, smallpox-laden anthrax spore, we found another closeby, and decided to start back up and limp along to see if they’d take a look. When we got to their service department, one of the techs took my keys and took the car out for a quick spin. He came back and said that it felt OK, and that the smell was undoubtedly the clutch; he said that it was probably OK to get back to Boston, but that I should bring it in to my local dealer today for a look-see. I got it in first thing this morning, only to learn later today that it won’t be until tomorrow afternoon before they look at the car, and then god knows how long before it’s fixed. One mechanic said that he thought some water got into the clutch, making it slip a bit to cause the burning smell; another said that there shouldn’t be any way for water to get into the clutch, and that they’d have to drop the transmission out of the car to see what had happened. And despite a quick bit of learning, I feel like I’m totally at the mercy of the mechanics — if they came to me tomorrow and told me it would be a cool grand to replace the gerbils and rabbit brain that run my transmission, I’d have to just fork it over. One hopes it’ll all be covered under the warranty… we’ll see.
Over at VentureBlog, Naval Ravikant wrote up his experience using Dartmouth’s amazing wireless network. Wired ran a piece last October about the university’s plans to build out a universally-available, open network that encourages both educational use and recreational tinkering, and from Naval’s piece, it looks as if it’s working. Students are using $50 voice-over-wireless handsets to make all their calls, and developing services based on location (like friend-finders and scheduling systems that send reminders timed according to how long it will take users to get to their next appointment from where they are). It’s not too surprising to me that Dartmouth is on the wireless leading edge; I remember visiting my brother at Dartmouth in the late 1980s and being totally knocked-out by BlitzMail, their revolutionary campuswide email (and, effectively, instant messenger) system. Now, they’ve found another place where technology carries interpersonal communication to the next level, and nothing but good can come of it.
Awesome! After promising it as one of the upselling features of the Pro- and Plus-level accounts, Six Apart has delivered TypePad’s domain mapping feature. (You can see it in action at alaina.org.) Now, maybe it’s time to convert this entire website over to TypePad… something to think about, indeed. At least I’ll move all my photo albums over, and just set them up at pictures.queso.com or something. Bravo, Six Apart!
Day one of the Pediatrics Board exam down, and boy was that tough. Day two in ten hours…
new york times, 10/17/2003boston globe, 10/17/2003
Bill Buckner must be breathing a sigh of relief today, because at the top of the list of people most responsible for ripping the hearts out of all Red Sox fans, he appears to have been instantly supplanted last night by Boston manager Grady Little. Here at the hospital, just saying “Grady” or “eighth inning” causes nearly everyone to erupt with venemous rage, and there’s a poll running on the Boston Globe site that, with nearly 11,000 votes cast, is 67% in favor of tossing Little out on his ass. (Of course, it’s one of the worst-worded surveys in all of history, but alas.) Some of the headlines in the print version of the Globe today read: “Little was too late with ace in a hole” (continued with “Little tipped his hand by holding his ace too long”), “Little stood by his man, for too long,” and “A Little second-guessing”; exclusive to the website was the main Red Sox page headline “Sox blow it; Little’s failure to remove Pedro in 8th cost Sox the pennant .” It’s bad enough here that there’s a certain Cubs fan who’s probably relieved that, as horrible as his last few days have been, at least he’s not Grady Little. (And for posterity’s sake, there are PDFs of both today’s Globe and Times.)
yankees!  yankees!
OK, here’s where I admit that I had almost completely written the Yankees off somewhere near the end of the seventh; here’s where I also admit that I may have caused damage to both my sofa and the floor beneath it with all the jumping up and down that I did in the bottom of the eighth. What an unbelievable game, and what an even more unbelievable end. (Mariano Rivera pitching three complete innings for the first time since April of 1996!?! A walkoff home run from Aaron Boone!?!) I have to admit a bit of sadness for the Red Sox — since I’m always a sucker for the underdog, and now that I live here, I also have a bunch of friends that are going to be horribly sad for the next few weeks — but I also have to exult at the Yanks making the to Fall Classic. A few last notes before heading off to bed:
  • The choice of Rivera as the ALCS MVP was just obvious, and well-deserved.
  • It’s a shame that Pedro stuck around for the eighth; in the blink of a managerial eye, a masterful Pedro victory turned into an unfortunate afterthought. (Well, we’ll see how much of an afterthought it is in the Boston press tomorrow.)
  • Hey, Tim McCarver — could you possibly have been more annoying about whether or not it was going to be the end of Roger Clemens’ career? I’m pretty sure that we all got it the first twelve times you said it; we probably didn’t need the other fifteen hundred.
I know that it comes as shocking and totally unexpected to everyone that Verisign plans to reinstate the service that redirects any and all requests for nonexistent .com and .net domains to a page of advertisements. I’ll acknowledge that a huge part of me feels the same bile rising in my throat that floods forth every time I think about the fact that a huge chunk of the Internet is controlled by a company comprised of a thousand drunk anencephalic monkeys. But there’s also a cluster of neurons in my brain that hopes that Verisign does start Site Finder back up, so that ICANN can yank the .com and .net domains out from the control of the incompetent buffoons.
Holy crap — James Seng wrote a Bayesian spam filter for comments on Movable Type sites. Similar to the first responses to unsolicited email, the first responses to the comment spam problem were custom blacklists. And just like with e-mail blacklists, I felt a little uneasy about the idea of comment blacklists, because they rely on imperfect data that’s susceptible to sabotage and simple mismanagement. A Bayesian filter should, in theory, be both accurate and less reliant on the continued vigilance of others; if this thing works as advertised, it would be crazy for Six Apart to not slurp this thing up and integrate it into TypePad as an option.

I’ve been sitting here in the fellows’ office at my hospital waiting for a lecture to start (and watching the MLB.com GameDay applet for the Yanks/Red Sox game), and just witnessed the funniest, stupidest interaction with technology ever.

One of the upper-year fellows was trying to print something, and the printer wouldn’t have any of it. She thoughtfully examined the display on the printer (“82 IO ERROR”), and then turned it off and back on. She tried to print again, but zippo happened. She then took out the paper tray, emptied half the paper, put it back in, and tried to print again. Shockingly, nothing happened. She then turned it back off and on. Nothing. Next, she turned it off and on about twenty times in rapid succession; again, the printer spit out exactly zero pages of her document. She then pressed every button on the top of the printer, all to no avail. After that, she hit the printer — hard — with only a sore hand to show for her effort. Finally, she ripped the plug out of the wall and stormed out of the room.

That’ll show the printer!

What a night of baseball! First, the Yankees’ other 40-and-over pitcher, David Wells, got it done in Fenway Park, pitching seven innings and striking out five. Then, the Cubbies learned that the Curse of the Billy Goat is alive and well when one of their own fans grabbed a ball from above the outstretched glove of Moises Alou, preventing the second out of what turned into an eight-run Marlin eighth. (Poor guy had to be scooped out of his seat by security, and later escorted out of the stadium, so that other fans couldn’t kill him.)

Of course, the Marlins win pushes the NLCS to the seventh game, which means that the Yankees/Red Sox game will be at 4:00 today… when I still have at least two hours left at work. Dammit!

I know you were all just aching to post comments and whatnot, but alas, that ability was hosed here today. (And here, and here, and here.) The reason? Because last night, I was foolish enough to accept a security update to the perl installation on my RedHat Linux box. I’m sure that the update rendered my machine more secure, but it also rendered every single perl script on the machine — including Movable Type — completely unusable. Trying to solve the problem led to a ton of other totally self-recursive problems, like perl not allowing me to install modules because those same modules weren’t already installed. It made for hair-pulling annoyance. In the end, I just downloaded the newest perl source code, recompiled from scratch, and installed what seem to be fifteen dozen modules in order to get everything back up and running. Crap like this is so annoying, so time-consuming, and just so idiotic. Could you imagine if you had to go through the same crap every time you wanted to install an app on your desktop machine?
My summary of tonight’s Yankees/Red Sox game:
  • Roger Clemens had early problems with control, giving up three hits and two runs in the first fifteen pitches. Luckily, he settled down, finishing after six innings with no more runs and seven strikeouts.
  • The Yanks scrapped away as they always do, turning gap shots and long low balls into runs. And with the only home run of the game, Jeter literally silenced Fenway Park; I don’t think I’ve ever heard the crowd that silent.
  • Pedro Martinez reinforced his reputation as a headhunter, hitting Karim Garcia in the fourth and then yelling further threats about throwing at batters’ heads into the Yankees dugout.
  • After a not-even-close pitch up and inside, Manny Ramirez inflamed already-smoldering tensions by strutting out towards the mound, causing both benches to clear and Pedro to lose even more friends by throwing 72 year-old Don Zimmer to the ground.
  • A moronic Fenway groundskeeper felt that it was a good idea to jump into the Yankees bullpen during the ninth inning, somehow leading to Karim Garcia getting injured. (Can you say criminal charges? Can you also say unemployed?) (Update: it appears that it may have been the Yanks responsible for the bullpen fracas; we’ll see where the fallout ends up.)
  • Mariano Rivera was, as always, just awesome. It’s just unfathomable that he has a postseason ERA of 0.74; during the playoffs, Mariano regularly gives the Yanks two solid innings in which all they have to do is concentrate on putting more runs on the board.
All in all, neither of the two superstar pitchers was all that awesome, and Pedro ended up losing the matchup both on the scoreboard and in his jackass behavior. (And for those who don’t know, there’s a reason Don Zimmer was bridling at Martinez pitching at people’s heads. In 1953, Zimmer was hit in the head, and was unconscious for nearly two weeks. He couldn’t speak for an additional four weeks, and he ended up with a metal plate in his head. Three years later, his season was ended by another pitch to the head that broke his cheekbone. In other words, he knows of which he speaks.)
Honestly, in the wake of pretty clear evidence of the Catholic church shuffling around pedophiles for years, does the Vatican really want to start another controversy by sending bishops and cardinals out there to claim that condoms are permeable to HIV? More than asinine, it’s just unconscionable, spreading lies and exposing people to an uncurable condition for the sake of religious zeal.
It figures that, on his own damn birthday, Matt Haughey gives us a present: Ten Years of My Life. It’s a website on which Matt plans to post a daily picture… for the next ten years. Happy birthday, Matt, and thanks for the promise of much more to come!
Oh, for the love of God… a group of parents in Oak Park, Illinois are suing their school district over the deployment of wireless technologies to connect the schools and provide network access within the schools. They are claiming that wireless networks are dangerous to the health of their children, and want the networks taken out of service. Am I really to believe that none of these parents have cellphones or cordless phones? That they never used wireless baby monitors? That they’ve never stopped off in a Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee, or set foot in an airport, or an airplane? That they’ve never used a GPS navigation system? Are all these parents going to disallow their kids from going to any college that has a distributed wireless network? A few other tidbits about the attempt to get wireless banned in Oak Park:
I gotta say, the worst thing about watching the Yankees-Red Sox games is that goddamn car zoom sound that all of the Fox on-screen graphics make. Seriously — in the last minute, there have been eleven effects that made the little zoom sound. Wouldn’t you think that they’d realize the freaking car sound is only within spitting distance of acceptable during Nascar broadcasts, and that even then it’s seriously debatable?
And there you have it; the most one-sided rivalry in sports now takes center stage, starting Wednesday night. It’s a shame that it looks like the pitching lineups won’t get Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez on the same field, but it does seem likely that Clemens will be pitching in Fenway Park one last time in his career, which is just awesome.

Imagine that someone out there goes and signs up for a web-based fantasy sports league, and when asked for his email address, decides to make one up. Imagine that the made-up email address actually exists, though; furthermore, imagine that immediately upon submitting the “fake” email address, that scoundrel’s login information to the aforementioned fantasy sports league is sent out to the all-too-real person at the other end of the address. Now, imagine the annoyed recipient of the information deciding to log into the fantasy league website, and sell the entire team of the person who decided to not use his own email when he signed up.

I’m just saying…

For those who haven’t grown so irritated by junk email as to seize at the mere thought of it, the Boston Globe Sunday magazine has a good article by Neil Swidey on the history and the future of the fight against spam. Sitting here with 1,980 messages collected in my spam folder since the Friday morning, I can see why the mainstream press is starting to talk about the problem. I’ve wondered something, though — with the email addresses of most members of Congress available online, do you think that there’s a spam filter running on the House and Senate mail servers? If so, is there someone who trawls through the filtered messages, making sure that email from constituents doesn’t get thrown in the can?
I know that anyone who’s anyone has pointed to this over the past week, but Trevor Blackwell’s homemade Segway scooter is just the coolest damn thing. Reading through his narrative, it’s clear that you’d need a pretty good handle on your physics in order to build one yourself, but it’s also clear that if the Segway’s popularity takes off, it won’t be hard for a slew of similar products to make their way to the market.
If you’re interested in starting a topic-specific weblog, and more interested in figuring out how you could make it worth the time and effort it would take to generate something half decent, you might want to read Matt Haughey’s latest essay, Blogging for Dollars. It’s a reasoned look at using Adsense (Google’s text ad service) to provide both an income source to a site’s authors and a collection of relevant paid ads to a site’s readers, and at the end, Matt offers tips for making a site more likely to generate revenue through the Adsense model. Matt may have been the first person to roll out text-based ads on a personal site scale, so it should come as no surprise that he’s put a lot of thought into the small site advertising model; it’s nice to see that knowledge shared so openly, all with the hope of developing more niche weblogs which contribute to the collective knowledge of Internet users while making it worthwhile for their authors.
Dahlia Lithwick weighed in on the Do Not Call fracas this week, and while there’s been plenty of ink on the relevant legal precendents, her contribution is a Constititional dissection of the ways not to think about the controversy.