March 2010

Dear Wilder Publications,


One should never take this sort of story at face value, so I looked it up on Amazon, and my jaw dropped for two reasons.

  1. The linked disclaimer that the contents of The Federalist Papers "does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today".
  2. The publisher's claim of copyright on the material.

Both are most likely boilerplate, but they’re deeply clueless boilerplate. And they do indeed reflect a certain kind of modern values…

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Got salt? The fine is $1,000…


…or will be in the state of New York, if the dumbest state legislators in American history can manage to pass their new bill.

Not kidding:

“No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises.”

The “in any form” really puts the crown on these king-sized asshats. It’s amazing they managed to write a complete sentence, much less an actual bill.

Arbitrary limits


As a general rule, office firewalls do not have to be configured to cope with simultaneous incoming syslog traffic from 80,000+ hosts. Mine did. Sadly, the default limit for a particular element was only capable of handling about ¾ of that, leaving our outgoing connections somewhere between unstable and “not” when things got busy.

Fixed now.

PS: syslog can be scary efficient at sending packets when a box is unhappy. Enough unhappy boxes makes for a quite impressive DDOS attack, if you haven’t previously discovered that using “no state” in a firewall rule does not, in fact, avoid filling your state table with crap, thus accelerating your approach toward that arbitrary limit.

Dear Amazon,


I think all search results would be improved by the ability to exclude departments. Instead of forcing me to guess whether an item has been filed under “Home & Garden” or “Grocery”, let me instead exclude “Baby”, “VHS”, “MP3 Downloads”, and “Clothing & Accessories”. You already allow negative keywords in the search field, so this would be a natural extension.

This would be particularly useful for your “recommendations for you” list, which in my case is currently dominated by cookbooks, salami, and SF novels. If you want to sell me anything else, you have to give me a way to sort it to the top, and the current positive filtering system is trial-and-error, since most of the listed categories don’t actually have anything in them to recommend.

Dust on the lens


I confess, it’s been so long since I went through my slides that I simply forgot that I’d gotten Dita Von Teese and Lynn Thomas to cuddle naked on a sofa.

And when did I manage to get Vanessa Gleason outdoors for a quick (clothed) shoot? I sleeved the slides, so I must have looked at them at least once. Clearly I’ve been out of the game for too long…

Dear Vmware,


Come on, really?

"We'd like to keep you informed via email about product updates, upgrades, special offers and pricing. If you do not wish to be contacted via email, please ensure that the box is not checked."

At least the box is not not unchecked by default, but this is stupid.

Zelazny’s Crime


What if Roger Zelazny wrote a hard-boiled murder mystery, and no one knew about it for more than thirty-five years? Well, now you can buy it on Amazon

It’s been out since last February, but it didn’t make it onto my recommendations list until a few weeks ago. And, of course, I’d never have gone looking in that genre.

How is it? Not bad. It was a complete manuscript, but it’s got some rough spots, as if he planned to go back and work it over again, but then moved on to something else. Their best guess puts it right around the same time as Nine Princes in Amber, and I can see some similarities (stylistically, that is) to the opening section on Earth, before Corwin recovers his memory.

Dear Piggy Bank,


It was nice knowing you. If you wonder why you’re empty now, Nancy and Harry and Barry took it all for their big-pig friends.

This little piggy has no market,
This little piggy has no home,
This little piggy eats dog food,
This little piggy lost a job.
And Big Nancy Piggy says “let them eat pork”, all the way home.

Oh, and if you see Nancy, could you ask her what’s in the bill? She promised to tell us once it passed, and I’m simply dying to know how much my taxes will go up while I start paying more for worse health care.

Update! A performance artist on the streets of Mumbai has done an excellent impression of the future of the US economy and health-care system.

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Japanese in email


Just some random info:

  • If the email doesn’t use MIME headers at all, it’s almost certainly encoded in Shift-JIS (or, more likely, the Microsoft variant CP-932, also known as Windows-31J).
  • If it has a proper Content-Type header with RFC 2047 encoding for the header lines, it’s almost certainly encoded in ISO-2022-JP, and your mailer should figure this out correctly.
  • …unless their software encoded the header in Shift-JIS but claimed it was ISO-2022-JP, which I’ve seen a few times. In one case, the Subject and body were right, but the From header was in Shift-JIS.
  • Unicode is still quite rare in Japan, and cellphones in particular will ignore the headers and simply decode the message as if it were ISO-2022-JP. If someone tells you that your email is mojibake (文字化け, literally “character corruption”), force your mailer to set the right encoding. For Apple’s Mail.app, the command is:
       defaults write com.apple.mail NSPreferredMailCharset ISO-2022-JP
  • Oddly enough, most phones will apparently handle raw Shift-JIS; at least, spammers feel comfortable using it.
  • If the body encoding is specified, but the headers are not RFC 2047 encoded, then the headers usually are encoded the same, but not always. Mail.app reliably guesses wrong for these.
  • Messages are generally formatted for a fixed-width font where most characters are double-width, not just the kanji and kana. Graphics characters and emoticons are quite common, and many messages will look like crap in the wrong sort of font. This also applies to blog entries.
  • The EUC-JP encoding basically doesn’t exist outside of legacy Unix code and old data files.
  • Japanese spam tends to be polite, grammatically correct, and riddled with loanwords.

Updated Truths, #61b


"Congress interprets democracy as damage and routes around it."

(with vaguely-sincere apologies to John Gilmore)

Context matters


"You strap your Prosthetic Leg to your back and head out for some adventure."

Solution: don’t let the dumbasses graduate


Problem: a few students at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, are upset that the date on the school’s diplomas is written as In the Year of Our Lord…. Seriously.

Refund their money and send them back to grade school; I don’t think a college has any courses remedial enough for this crew.

Amazon Recommends… therapy


These may be my favorite oddball Amazon recommendations ever:

Because I bought Slow Cooking Curry & Spice Dishes, Amazon recommends
The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Move Through Depression & Create a Life Worth Living
Because I own Better Homes and Gardens Complete Step-By-Step Cookbook, Amazon recommends
Principles of Neural Science

Amazon Recommends...

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”