"Fallout From the Fall of CAPTCHAs"
Jul 15, 2008

Slashdot has an unusually interesting discussion on the rise and fall of CAPTCHAs, which is why I give that link precedence over the original story.

I mention this because I keep waiting for someone to discuss the root problem, and it's so rarely done that I guess I'm just going to have to do it myself. The root problem of spam comes from the following simple tension:

  1. We want to be able to contact or be contacted by anybody.
  2. We don't want to be contacted by just anybody.

Without understanding this fundamental dynamic, the whole "spam" situation won't make any sense.

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Jun 25, 2008

One of the things I sometimes fiddle with in the back of my head is how to fix school curricula to better serve students and society. One of the stronger ideas I have is that economics (and ideally, game theory) should be taught, replacing a lot of really dumb mathematical holdovers like trigonometric identities for a semester or two.

And over the last few weeks, I've been really wishing that we'd been teaching economics for the past fifty years instead of other silly things, because the blinding stupidity on exhibit in the recent oil debates is really starting to get to me.

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Jerf to MSM: Links, Or It Didn't Happen!
May 27, 2008

I can prove the News Media, or the "MSM" if you like, is not about news. I really do mean "prove". It's quite simple.

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Please Stop with the HTML Replacements
May 14, 2008



Uncountably many Wiki markups, all different.




Who knows what I'm missing.

Please stop.

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May 05, 2008
Sometimes in the middle of the night I get kind of stuck. Laying in bed, not quite awake, not totally asleep, kind of dreaming. And stuck on one particular subject, unable to change it and think/dream about anything else. - recently at Chizumatic

I'm sitting here wide awake at 4:15 am local time having just had this happen due to a bad combination of getting too cold while sleeping (always gives me annoyingly complicated dreams) and probably too much caffeine.

My reward is a rather nasty awakening where my subconscious was making a good run at convincing me an infrequently recurring sound I've been hearing may be an auditory hallucination, which still almost freaks me out to type so I must not be quite ready to go back to sleep yet. It actually took me a moment to establish that I really have a memory of having heard this sound in real life and that the whole thing wasn't a dream-time mental fabrication. The idea that I frequently have a mathematically precise auditory hallucinations does not pass rational muster, but who's rational at 4:15am?

To prove to myself that I'm not crazy I tried to Google the sound, which is not easy, but I finally found something very similar here; it starts exactly the same, but it always ended differently. (Perhaps because I'm almost always directly on top of a tower, or perhaps this is a recording of a data burst where I'm just hearing a simple sync signal.) Since you have to register for that site, here's an mp3 version of the characteristic beginning (I cut off the part that varies for space & bandwidth).

Perhaps you've heard it too. Now you know: Cell phone interference, probably GSM.

Not auditory hallucination. You hear that, subconscious? Real. Can I go back to sleep now? Yes? Thank you.

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