Comment Spam and
Jul 05, 2004

I sent this as an email to Dave Winer but I'm posting it here so he has somewhere to point:

This is just a shell of an idea hardly worth blogging, but if you're getting into the comment spam issue it is worth sharing. could be used to IM a managing editor of a Manila site when something is posted so they can take swift action. For a relatively low-flow site, one could even require all comments to be approved, and not unduly hamper flow.... at least while a managing editor is online.

There are obvious issues but its an idea worth tossing around, I think.

Step one of hawking your identity theft solution is...
Jun 22, 2004

... getting the identity of the propective customer correct.

And the error has already spread; in the same batch of mail I have an AT&T credit card offer for Douglas Bowers.

(One of my previous nom des plumes was "Jerome Bavers". Hmmmmm... nope.)

I wonder how long Douglas here will take to die?

Only with computers can you make millions of errors per second.

Mixing morals with education on dangerousmeta
Jun 22, 2004

(This started as a comment on this post but it grew too large and I needed some HTML.)

I don't know how exactly this fits in, but...

I've actually lost most, if not all, respect for the "novel as philosophy" idea. What finally killed it for me was a science fiction book called "The World of Null-A", which is adequately, if a bit breathlessly, summarized and explained here.

What you can't tell from that summary is that the story is clearly subserviant to the philosophy being espoused. What annoyed me finally was the rosy depiction of "null-A" philosophy; it solves all problems, by, basically, dues ex machina.

This, ultimately, is my objection. Novels-as-philosophy nearly inevitably break down to:

Alternatively, the line can be that the reason for the problems is that the philosophy isn't followed.

(Ayn Rand, from what I've heard, is another example of this, but full disclosure: I've never read anything of her's personally.)

Novels make it easy to skip the hardest problem that any philosophy or idea faces, that of showing correspondance with the real world, by virtue of removing the real world entirely. I find now that I much prefer a seperation between my philosophy and my entertainment. Entertainment is allowed to build off of philosophy as a bonus, but the first goal should be entertainment. Actual, full-scale advocacy should be reserved for somewhat more formal treatment, where the ideas can be critically examined in the context of the real world.

I started this post with "I don't know how this fits in." What I mean about that is that I'm not sure this applies in the context of the New York Times story, which refered to education. It is possible, even likely, that I would never have gotten to these ideas without first building on novels-as-philosophy. Philosophy and related disciplines are heavy going, and anything to make them easier to start with may be a good idea.

Still, it still bothers me. It is very difficult to analyse novels-as-philosophy, and that's the last thing a "newbie" needs. (Cheap shot: This is evidenced by the number of believers in Ayn Rand in high school and college. (I have read several independant explanations of Objectivism so I do feel qualified to say this.) Objectivism pretty much only works in her books, and as a result it traps inexperienced people.) I guess the upshot is the usual "no easy answers" cop-out. :-)

Reverse Compatibility as a Pernicious Software Trap
Jun 20, 2004

I'm a little late to this party; only today and to a lesser degree yesterday is my typing speed high enough that I feel I can "afford" a weblog post... and even this otherwise pointless paragraph :-) (My previous post on switching to Dvorak was justified as a typing exercise and easily took over two hours to type. This one did too in rough draft but you see how much better I'm doing :-) )

Read the rest (1633 words)

A Bold Move
Jun 10, 2004

Lately, I've been doing a lot of typing. Even more than usual, because
if there's anything that's good for productivity, it's working in an
environment with no meetings or other productivity drainers.

This activity has not gone unnoticed by my wrists. The last five
days or so, my wrists have been hurting a lot, relatively
speaking. I'm nowhere near the pain levels I've heard others describe,
where they literally can't pick up a glass of water, but the fact that
all that stands between me and that outcome is about nothing
has been weighing rather heavily on my mind.

Given that skillwise I'm a one-trick pony (I think to get ahead
in a world of six billion people you need to play to your strengths;
you can't be a generalist), this is a major concern on a number of
levels. Therefore, I decided to meet this problem head on and take
suitably drastic measures.

First, of course I took some serious time off from typing and I
think my wrists are finally feeling better. But more interestingly,
I've switched my keyboard to the Dvorak layout, as shown on sites like

There has been a lot of heat shed on the Dvorak issue, much of it
over eighty years old. If you want to know more about it, a web search
on Dvorak will
teach you a lot. (OK, I admit it, my typing speed is still slow enough
to make summarizing a hundred-year-old controversy daunting.) I
haven't written about it yet in the context of reading the news yet,
but I applied my yardstick of "What objective facts are there that I
can intepret without needing to resort to the analysis of others?",
and here's what I get:

I have many years to amortize the advantages, and now is probably
the best time of my life to try it, so here's hoping it helps, so I
can stop freaking out and get on with the rest of my life.

So far, I'm five days in and typing is still a major effort to
remember where all the keys are. I rarely manage to surge to a high
rate of speed, but about five keys into those surges I find myself
slipping into QWERTY and having to backspace. It is fascinating
observing myself learn the layout; for instance, my learning rate has
a definite daily platea, beyond which I cannot pass until I sleep and
resume the next day. In the morning I am suddenly better. This is all
well-supported by research, it's just that I have never had an
opportunity to witness it so closely from the inside.

Wish me luck!

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