Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: November 2002

The gazing eye

The author of the infamous “The Eye of Argon” has been found.

Descending from his perch, Grignr was startled by a faintly muffled scream of horrified desperation. His hair prickled yawkishly in disorganized clumps along his scalp. As a cold danced along the length of his spinal cord. No moral/mortal barrier, human or otherwise, was capable of arousing the numbing sensation of fear inside of Grignr’s smoldering soul. However, he was overwrought by the forces of the barbarians’ instinctive fear of the supernatural. His mighty thews had always served to adequately conquer any tangible foe., but the intangible was something distant and terrible. Dim horrifying tales passed by word of mouth over glimmering camp fires and skins of wine had more than once served the purpose of chilling the marrowed core of his sturdy limbed bones.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Say '

It really pleases me to see the WWE TV writers working on the WWE’s press releases. That’s just a hugely impressive document. It starts out pretty sane, discussing some WWF strongarm tactics, but around about the third paragraph it takes a sharp left into a very odd place.

“The demand was contained in a letter sent by a Mr. Michael Rogers, an English Barrister who has resided in Switzerland for 30 years and who holds no Swiss license to practice law. Rogers is held out to be the Fund’s ‘Legal Advisor.’”

From there the press release just goes for broke:

“‘Today, according to public records, he [Rogers] is the only authorized Switzerland representative for an entity known as “The Gaia Movement Trust Living Earth Green World Action”, a phony environmental fundraising scheme reportedly under the influence and control of Tvind, a shadowy international syndicate under investigation around the world, whose leaders are sitting in a Danish jail. In between, Rogers was involved, in the mid-1980s, in establishing an Islamic charity known as Dar Al Maal Al Islam or DMI, which is being named in numerous lawsuits after the events of September 11, 2001, as one of the principal vehicles used to funnel Saudi money to fund the Al-Quaida terrorists. Further investigations are underway.’”

Links are mine. The absence of any linkage showing any connection between Michael Rogers and Dar Al Maal Al Islam (which should be, I think, Dar al-Mal al-Islami) is due to the fact that, well, I couldn’t find any.

Still, just a classic press release. It’s not often that you see the losing party in a lawsuit come out of the corner with that much aggression.

Not so much the action movie

I picked up the Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys DVD last week, and watched it over the weekend. I’d managed to miss it in the theaters, since although Jodie Foster is a strong selling point for me, Todd McFarlane is not. However, after watching Igby Goes Down I was pretty pleased at the thought of watching Kieran Culkin again.

Not a bad little movie. Not great — it probably overreaches at the end, in terms of plot — but pretty good. The core of the movie is the nature of teenage desire and ennui, and if you forgive the twist at the end you won’t have much to complain about. I think the actors did a great job of nailing the complexity of first love, teenage sexuality, and the sheer boredom that leads one to be a complete idiot.

Despite the title, it’s not really terribly important that the kids go to Catholic school. I gather it’s a semi-autobiographical story, which explains that choice. The animated sequences, on the other hand, are pretty important. It’s not that they reveal anything very surprising about the way the kids think of themselves, and they certainly don’t reshape any of the plot. They do, however, provide the movie with a propulsive sense of action which I think distinguishes it from a lot of indie coming of age flicks. The animation ruthlessly strips away sentimentalism, because it’s so cheesy and in places tawdry.

Definitely worth owning, for me.

What's that, officer?

I wound up calling this guy. The number listed was his home number but his wife kindly gave me his work number. He sounded pretty confused when I talked to him, so I just recommended that he contact his local FBI office and complain that someone was using his name for fraudulent purposes. At the time, there was no telling if he was lying or not. I figured recommending the cops would work either way.

I later got email from the sysadmin at one of the hosts associated with the spam, who said they’d found the guy responsible for the spam. Didn’t say who it was, which is OK with me.

Today, Greg pointed out this page, on which says:

We are a new online bank. We need someone who can make us a script which supports fully automated banking (credit card deposits, internal money
transfers, wire transfer requests, etc.). We are willing to pay big cash for
the program.

Alas, Justin Young confirmed that was his email address when I talked to him on the phone. So I’m thinking he’s responsible after all. Poor guy. I’m glad I got to help wield the hammer.

Apocalypse Spam

Jeremy Bowers writes on the hidden dangers of Bayesian spam filters. Core of the argument: spammers can use any possible filter mechanism to fine tune their spam, and since the Bayesian filter is the best we have, once it fails we’re doomed.

However, if you’re trying to sell me something, you have to either a) market it in the body of the message, or b) give me a URL to look at. Here’s the simple algorithm for filtering spam with URLs in it: if the sender is in my address book, let it through. Otherwise, mark it as possible spam. Jeremy neglects to consider the possibility of personalized filters which by their nature can’t be duplicated by spammers, since they rely on information that only I have.

Bayesian filters may in the end prove to be personal enough, in fact, since they use your own email as the basis for the filters. All in all, I’m not too worried.

(Link by way of Workbench.)


Polly Toynbee’s article on Afghanistan one year later is excellent reading, and her writings may be instructive to those who assume that opposition to war on Iraq only comes from dedicated leftist pacifists. It’s clear from her article that the citizens of Afghanistan are really glad that the Taliban is gone, and going in was the right thing. She also reminds us that there’s more to do.

“‘I was walking with my cousin and her husband outside here,’ said another man. ‘The vice and virtue police beat them both with big sticks, beat them to pieces, blood everywhere, because her ankles showed too much under her burka. I stood there, ashamed, but there was nothing I could do. I didn’t go out after that.’ He was a young Pashtun and no friend of this new mainly Tajik government, but he had no doubt that the Americans did the right thing.” That, but also this: “One woman was keen to set up a new charity for sufferers of type 2 diabetes: I suggested she look at the children’s hospital first. There had been no electricity there for two days when I visited: the two generators sent from Japan were unusable without money for the oil to run them.”

She’s four-square against war on Iraq, though. There’s middle ground, no matter how much the fringes would like to deny it.