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December 10, 2006

Filed under: meta»blosxom

Thread Hijack

Someone listing themselves as "jonny" and leaving bogus gmail accounts has started dropping redirect scripts into my comment threads. Right now it just opens Google, but it could have been used to launch malicious code for all I know. I added a line to Pollxn that destroys script tags, and searched for the relevant comments, so it should be safe now.

Anyone else seen this kind of behavior pop up?

The scripts are hosted at, which is listed as belonging to a James Sullivan living in Colorado Springs. He runs't visit, it's a porn gateway. Looks pretty seedy to me. And now I'm paranoid about leaving security holes in Pollxn's code. I hate being paranoid.

So I did what everyone should do when a spammer is dumb enough to leave their tracks out in the open, and I called him. A woman answered the phone, said he's out of town until Thursday. I'll try again then, and ask him why he's trying to obstruct my content and mess with my server. I'm sure the answers will be enlightening.

October 23, 2006

Filed under: meta»blosxom

James Sullivan is not a spammer

I just got off the phone with Mr. James Sullivan, whose name has been used to plaster malicious cross-site scripts across the Internet and especially on Movable Type-based blogs. Unless he's an exceptional actor, Mr. Sullivan is not actually responsible for this spam. He's a victim of a particularly vicious identity theft, one which he seemed barely able to comprehend.

I introduced myself as a tech journalist from Washington, DC--technically true, and it's much less confrontational. Do you own I asked him. "I don't even know how to put up a web site," he said. "Why are all these people calling me?" Briefly, I tried to explain what was going on, including the porn site. "Don't visit it," I said, "it just opens straight to dirty pictures." Mr. Sullivan noted that he had no intentions of visiting a porn site--although, granted, his wife was in the room.

This led to the question of how he was going to fix this. He's going to the cops tomorrow, he said. "Well," I said, "this may be a federal matter, to be honest with you." "The feds?" he exclaimed with a big-government skepticism that I'm sure does Colorado proud. Yes, the feds, I said, and also said he'd probably have to check with InterNIC and ICANN.

"I thought I was going to have to call Al Gore!"

"No, Mr. Sullivan. He only invented the Internet, he doesn't fix it."

So there you have it. I'm sure it's a small consolation for the people who, unlike me, faced serious problems as a result of the scriptbots working in Mr. Sullivan's name. But at least all the scripts did is mess up a few web pages. Mr. Sullivan will probably be getting phone calls off and on for a while to come. I think he's gotten the shorter end of the stick.

October 11, 2006

Filed under: meta»announce»delays

The Power of the Gerund

I did this on once, before I had a blog and I would just change the front page randomly. I think it was inspired by an old post at Emma Story's blog. It's better than just saying "I'm busy."

Last week and the next, I am:

  • Composing: but not for myself. Three videos will be produced for the GDLN world forum, and they need music similar to the theme I've already made for background. Note to budding Spielbergs: do not tell your music director that you need "fast," "slow," and "really fast." music. It tends to be unhelpful.
  • Planning: for National Novel Writing Month. Will anything actually get written? Hard to say. But it's nice to have plans.
  • Reading: Righteous by Lauren Sandler and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I've been on a bit of a dominionist kick lately, and I'm going to try to see Jesus Camp this weekend if work allows.
  • Watching: Night Stalker, the remake of the 70's cult classic that starred Darrin McGavin--a.k.a. The Old Man. It's a bit of an X-Files ripoff, and I think I'll actually have something to say about that shortly. Of course, Galactica is back for the third season, and it's every bit as good as you'd expect. I will definitely have things to say about it.
  • Walking: the dog. He has turned into a pretty good puppy after all. The cat's trouble, but charming trouble.
  • Playing: The Secret of Monkey Island using PocketSCUMM. It's easier than I remember, and wittier although not as funny, if that makes any sense. Rocket Slime is on the way from Amazon at some point, but frankly I've had no real gaming time lately.
  • Working: overtime. All this weekend, and probably much of next week while the World Forum finishes. There's a lot of voiceovers to be done, and B-SPAN is picking up. Just don't tell my boss: I haven't technically asked to come in after hours, not that it's ever stopped me before.

Updates as events warrant.

August 15, 2006

Filed under: meta»announce»delays

New fuses

Okay, the lights are back on, and everything seems to be where I left it. Guess Neureal fixed their DNS issues. Now, who's got an opinion?

Oh, yes. I do.

I'm typing from a Konsole window on my first Linux installation. I'm impressed by how slick the GUI is, and a little bit amazed at how unhelpful Linux still manages to be. Would it kill you guys to write just a paragraph on (for example) the four different partition formats I'm given? Sure, I can google it, but I probably shouldn't have to.

Also, the live CD (try out the whole OS from a bootable CD before you install) is really slick. But you can't tell me that most people really want to go around downloading a 700Mb ISO before they install. It's such a weird mix of technical savvy and personal cluelessness.

July 7, 2006

Filed under: meta»blosxom

Count My Blessings

More than a year now, I've been writing here. I still couldn't tell you why. But I remember thinking that at some point I'd want to use it as a way to chart my obsessive cycles. I haven't quite figured out how to gather that information from the filesystem, but I have managed to create a category count, so at least we can see where I'm focusing my time.

Here's a handy visual guide:

Obviously, this doesn't tell us actually how much text I've written for each category (although I could measure that by kB if I needed to), and if we looked at it that way the slice for Random entries would be far smaller. But I do think it's interesting to see how I spend 1/5 of my time writing about music, almost as much about games, and almost 1/10 each on fiction, the World Bank, and the medium itself.

I also think it's interesting to look at this and think about how much the categories actually overlap. After all, a significant number of those gaming posts are actually linked to music (at least 11 of them, by the extended count), and it wouldn't surprise me to find other ways that the categories are really just a starting point for organization. A lot like my desk, this is a messy system. I think that's one of the reasons I like it.

June 7, 2006

Filed under: meta



December 22, 2005

Filed under: meta»announce

Crowd Control

You may have noticed that there's been a variety of poorly-behaved commenters frequenting Mile Zero lately. In response, I'd like to make my comment policy perfectly clear, so that trolls can find the line.

  • I don't delete people who simply disagree with me: If you search back through my old political posts, or a few of the gaming threads (I can't remember right now) you'll see some arguments taking place there that sometimes got a little heated. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and although I'm not thrilled about the stress level it sometimes creates, I'm not going to cut them off. So if you have a reasonable response to something I've said, I'd actually encourage you to respond. Everyone loves to see comment counts.
  • With that said, don't always expect a response: The CMS system for Blosxom/Pollxn, which runs this blog, is really nothing more than a clever concatenation of flat text files. It's not sophisticated. My interactions with it are mostly limited to FTP and SSH, which is only as powerful as the user. I've learned to work a few clever tricks, but there is no automated process for comment notification, for example. If you leave a note on an old entry, I won't know until I go looking for it. Moreover, I've learned that silence is usually the best response to arguments I don't find sufficiently convincing or relevant. If I think the argument is going in circles, I try to just stop talking. Don't confuse lack of interest with lack of evidence (I'm looking at you, C-Dawg).
  • Remember, you have no edit rights: Anything you put here, and which I don't delete, will be around a while and may even begin showing up in search engines. If your comments are particularly stupid or offensive, but they don't get cut, consider the possibility that I'm keeping them just because I think they make you look like an idiot. I trust my archives to speak for themselves to visitors, and overall I'm proud of my output here. You should probably treat comments anywhere the same way--and for the record, there have been some great commenters here of whom I'm also proud.
  • Moderation: Comments that don't get deleted are the rule, not the exception. Yet the exception does exist. I will not hesitate to remove comments from visitors who are abusive without providing an argument, who litter unrelated threads with non-sequitors out of spite, or who don't meet a sufficient interest-to-hassle ratio. If you engage in these behaviors regularly, I'll make it a habit to delete your comments without even reading them, which is as close to banning as the system will allow. I may disemvowel comments instead of deleting them, if deletion would break the flow of the thread (i.e., someone's already responded to you). It's nothing personal. I'm just not paying money for server space and traffic every month so that you can harass me, and I don't need the stress. If that's your goal, I can point you to a variety of free hosting solutions where you can vent all the vitriol you want.

What makes a good commenter? I follow a simple rule before I click the submit button. I ask myself: "Does this comment really help explore the original post? Does it give other people something interesting to which they themselves can respond? Or is it just that I want to hear myself talk?" Too many people will leave comments when they don't have anything to say, just because they can. These are especially frustrating, not only for curious visitors, but for the original writers, who feel like their time is being wasted.

It's important to remember that a good commenter faces the same challenge as a writer. They must build credibility and show that they're worth the attention--and if they do so, people will notice. The flip side is you don't start with any credibility at all, which trolls usually forget. Words may sound cutting from that side of the monitor, but to everyone else they're just another anonymous voice with an axe to grind.

November 9, 2005

Filed under: meta»announce»delays

How do you say "coming up roses" in French?

So... slow month, huh? Sorry about that. But I've got a few good excuses for the cobwebs in the corners around here. The results of a lot of work are really starting to pay off:

  • France! Tomorrow I'll get on a plane and fly to Paris for a two-week vacation. Preparations have taken some time, especially since I've never been to Europe or speak much French. Traveling to a country where neither my Spanish, nor my Mandarin, nor my Arabic (such as it is) will do me any good: how do I let Belle talk me into these things? I may put up some travelogues if I get the time, and I may not if I'm just having too much fun. Basically, check back in November when regular daily updates will resume.
  • WILL WRITE FOR FOOD. Speaking of November, my interviews about a month back paid off. Effective next month, I'll be writing and helping with production for the Bank's Internet broadcasting initiative, B-SPAN. Trivial and/or non-job threatening World Bank commentary will therefore continue to be a regular feature. It's a win-win situation for us all.
  • Continue? 9 Next week's Escapist (Issue #15) will, unless something changes, include my article on gaming, hip-hop, and race. It's titled Guns, Gangs, and Greed: Gaming's Hip-Hop Diversity Gap. I'll try to put up a comment post for discussion if I get a chance. I want to thank Belle, Corvus, and Cindika for their help in editing--something every writer needs, whether they admit it or not. Any mistakes inside are still mine, but the article is exponentially better for their input.
  • Those who are about to rock... Don't forget, if you're a reader in the DC local area: my Four String Riot solo project will be playing at Stacy's on October 28th. It'll be like an experiment in the effects of jet lag and two weeks away from the instrument/looping combo. I often joke that my shows are meant as a Spectacle teetering on the brink of collapse, and that'll certainly be the case at Stacy's. Come for the suspense, stay for the miraculous recovery of ROCK. Lately I've felt that performances have been a little dull--hopefully this will be the shot of nervous energy I've needed.
Au revoir, kids! See you for sure in November! Until then, stay safe, look both ways before you cross the street, and remember: there's "a rat" in "separate." That one gets me every time.

August 11, 2005

Filed under: meta»corrections

Editorial Correction (first in a hopefully short series)

When I went on my first job-interview blitz, right before I graduated from college, I had one interviewer ask me the difference between a degree in communication and one in linguistics. I tried for about five minutes to explain, using all kinds of metaphors and examples, but I'm not sure the point ever made it across. I'm not going to try again. If you are confused, trust me. They are very different fields.

In any case, I absolutely do not have a degree in linguistics, and although I mumble my way through a couple of different languages, that doesn't necessarily make me any kind of expert. Example: in a previous post, I referred jokingly to as "incorrectly spelled." The site's developer (Paul Roub) has written a quick post, in which he refers me to this unbelievable smackdown by an actual Ph.D. in Linguistics, detailing why the spelling "mic" is an abomination before god and country.

Wow. As is only right and proper, I acknowledge my mistake--open mike it is.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go spend some quality time with my AP Stylebook. I'm feeling a little faint.

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