Archive for October, 2009

Cosmos odyssey, pt. 2

October 23, 2009

Well, it seems things work like this.

  • You do something risky, stay quiet as it resolves: Success!
  • You do something risky, and blab about how nice success would be: Failure!
  • You do something risky, and blab about how nice success would be, but note how this means you’re going to fail miserably: Success!

One wonders if the pattern above can be extended.

Oh, and the reason for this is that, as told previously, on Monday I placed an order for a DVD set of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on Amazon.co.uk, and performed the rites according to the third option above; on Tuesday they told the package was in the mail; today (Friday) I first noticed there’s a mail strike in England, and then got back to das Haus and found the package had come with the post.

Nice.

If no more posts for a while, wait 13 hours and re-check; should have finished the set in that time, supposing I do get sucked in. (Sleep? Sleep is for the weak.*)

* : Freudian slip; first wrote “Sleep is for the week”, but that’s not what a graduate student does in his office; no, not at all. And you don’t have any evidence, sir, so I deeply resent the allegation! (If you happen to have evidence, I blame the society. And I’ve mended my ways and given a donation to the relevant charity! Oh, it is horrible, horrible, horrible what I’ve done!)

(The relevant charity? “The Society for Keeping Graduate Students from Dozing (SfKGSfD)” — I imagine sharp-eyed professors with sharp pointy sticks.)

Meanwhile, in Sweden, with bunnies

October 23, 2009

He says that with this new method, raw animal material is crushed, ground and then pumped to a boiler where it is burned together with wood chips, peat or waste to produce renewable heat.

BBC for more. Can’t comment anything except a vague want to work in such a place, just to have an answer to “So, what do you do for a living?”

(“I work with the bodies of dead animals, bunnies mostly. I crush, grind, pump and burn them; it’s a rising industry. How about you, accountancy?”)

Edit: And meanwhile, as heard on the SGU, in the UK a cat is registered as a hypnotherapist. (Mind you, I think he has the necessary mysterious, brooding stare.)

Organic notebook

October 22, 2009

Methinks I shall conjure up a few stone tablets, a chisel, and a hammer, and start calling them my organic notebook.

No, don’t laugh — I have good reasons. Listen.

Do you know the ways paper is made are unnatural, with a lot of wasteful byproduct toxins? Bleach, turpentine and sulfuric acid — are these the things you want in your child’s sketchpad? Have you been fooled by corporate propaganda into believing you must buy, have and consume white Chemically Modified (CM) poison slices rather than sweet, clean, healthy, natural stone, used by the people of Mesopotamia for thousands and thousands of years? Can our society afford papercutting itself into oblivion? These are all deep, important questions with easy, slogan-like answers; so read on. Paper is litter, paper is poison — but stone doesn’t even need to biodegrade, because stone’s a part of nature already.

Also, paper’s so dull, so bland, so uniform — so white, actually, though I wouldn’t go so far as to openly accuse paper manufacturers of being racist stooges of the evil Western-Imperialistic Big Cellulose that’s trying to keep your little local homegrown stone tablet makers and other proponents of different ways of writing down while they reap the profits from the cooling corpses of those slain by their heartless pursuit of profit and their black-clad torture assassins — while every tablet of stone is unique.

Stone inspires; stone loves you. Paper, meanwhile, just brings nausea, stress and headache, and you know this — it’s no accident every bill you receive, or every bad grade your children get, are inscribed on the evil industrial pulp. Organic stone couldn’t hold such hard, impersonal, toxic thoughts. It’s no wonder leading physicians all over the world are diagnosing thousands of people daily with Cellulose Derangement Syndrome (CDS), whose symptoms are discomfort, anger, depression, fear of letters, estrangement from nature, and violent tendencies — or as the organic notebook movement calls it, paper rage, the symptom of our age and the “paper anniversary” of its divorce from healthy and natural ways of life.

But that doesn’t need to be so. Can you see it? A world more loving, more tolerant, more secure, with a million college students hacking away at their essays with smiles on their faces, mothers knapping letters on rose-colored granite to their daughters; a million pebbles with confessions of love passed in classes — picture that, and ask yourself if you see any future for this industrial poison-based papercut hegemony of ours? Our once so vibrant culture has been reduced to nothing but printers spitting our ream after ream of hateful inanities — the arts that once produced Gilgamesh and the Adventurers of Indi-Jo-Nesh are nothing but a wasteland of paperbound rape, violence and greed! But together, we can change all this — we can cast away the poison paper, destroy its peddlers, free its slaves, melt down the printers and the presses and the computers, burn the pens and pencils, and pound into the rock of ages this word: “NEVERMORE!” — and we shall live happily ever after!

And the alternative: ask this of yourself — what was written before paper? Beautiful, spiritual books like the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Goat-Man Prophecies, and the Oracles of Inanna. What was written after? Why, Darwin’s racist tome and the Mein Kampf. Paper was an integral part of the Holocaust — it is no exaggeration to say that the racist and xenophobic writings of the Nazis went hand-in-hand with paper; and without paper, such an industrial genocide would never have been possible. Before paper, perfect natural health and spiritual harmony; after paper, greed, intolerance and genocide. Paper is what happens when scientists, instead of people who really understand nature, are allowed to meddle in things men are not meant to know — why, they say paper is safe, but the last time scientists told me to trust them they were telling my grandparents to go into the showers — to get gassed! In Auschwitz! That’s what science, and evil unnatural exclusionist paper science especially, is all about! Dropping poison gas on naked people! That’s what the corporate shill poison sheet apologists are defending!

Ask them how they can live with themselves — and see, they have no answers.

They’ve never had any answers.

To ensure that my tablets are as natural and uncontaminated by modern toxins, pollutants and hurtsies as possible, I’ve decided to open a vent into the burning intestines of Mother Earth herself, using a large quantity of explosives; but thanks to the machinations of the poison flat peddlers and their paid-for spineless government yes-men, my applications for the generation of a medium-size volcano on my backlot have all been returned rejected, some of them with coffee sprayed over them.

And I doubt it is organic coffee, either.

A word on difficulty

October 21, 2009

An aphorism, no doubt unoriginal, but my own work anyway:

In studying mathematics the perceived difficulty of learning anything tends to be a constant; but as the absolute difficulty of the things you learn tends to increase, you’re getting better, aren’t you?

Not that you notice unless you have a reason to look back; doing TA work or something similar. Then the realization really brings a smile (leer?) to your face.

The same thought in Finnish, though formulated a bit differently:

Matematiikassa asiat tuntuvat aina yhtä vaikeilta; mutta kun ne kuitenkin ovat aina absoluuttisesti vaikeampia, se kai tarkoittaa että olet oppinut jotain. Tai sitten päässä viiraa jo niin pahasti ettei huomaa ettei enää ymmärrä pahimpia vaikeuksia.

(In mathematics things always feel just as thorny as they used to; but as they’re always more difficult than they used to be, that probably means you’ve learned something. Or then your brain’s going and you don’t even notice the really hard parts.)

Or: a harrowing exam problem today; a trivial aside consideration in a harrowing exam problem tomorrow.

(This probably stops applying when you get your doctorate and become a Dark God of ineffable perspective and unspeakable omniscience; but those beyond that singularity seldom reflect on things like this: when you ask, their eyes simply start to glow, they levitate a few feet off the ground, and say: “Learn? Yes, I suppose I did that in my previous life, mortal. Now fetch me a sacrificial coffee offering, no milk, three sugar!”)

Cosmos odyssey, pt. 1

October 20, 2009

Okay, I’ll jinx myself now.

Namely: for years now, I’ve been wanting to get a copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the 1980 science TV series of quite legendary reputation. I’ve seen the Youtube clips of Hypatia and of Erastothenes and the well in Syene; I’ve even contemplated the illegal “student discount” or getting digital copies that simply appear; but the heft, the idea of actually having some tangible object with Cosmos stamped on it remained.

And, for the first few years I was wroth: that is, pissed. The year 1980 wasn’t all that distant; but I just couldn’t find Region 2 DVDs of the show. VHS copies, sure; American-style DVDs, yeah, but nothing European. Just to annoy me, it seemed, it was eventually made available for free watching on Hulu, the Youtube-like service that everyone outside America hates with a fierce passion. (“We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States”… and a red veil of rage clouds the world and I once again think whether the emotional payoff of flinging the monitor out the window would be worth the costs. Not now… but maybe next time, Hulu. Maybe next time the scales will be right.)

(Well, Hulu’s presumably not hated by those who’ve done the apparently rather simple proxy cheat and appear to be in the US of A; the details are but a google away, but I’m too lazy, not too virtuous, to do that.)

Then eventually I heard rumors of a Region 2 release; and I searched the internet, and searched again, but found nothing but some curious copies on Ebay; and then the awful truth dawned: it was a Spanish release. Still Region 2, but good luck trying to find it sold new anywhere outside Iberia. (And “sold new” — well, a certain pattern of needing things to be done with some style starts to emerge. I’ve occasionally said that if something can’t be done with style, it shouldn’t be done at all — consequently I haven’t done much anything. And what style is, well, that’s a good question.)

Then again frustration, cursing, a few sacrifices tossed to the Altar for the Painful Demise of the Inventors of the Region Codes, the Inconsiderate Bastards (“May they be stung by billions and billions of bees! Big nasty bees, too!”); then forgetfulness and, now and then, checking and more cursing.

Then, last summer, summer of 2009: rumors again of an English Region 2 release. Nothing tangible; the name of a company was mentioned, but extensive searching found only one company of that name, and there was no mention of Cosmos in their catalog.

Then, late last summer, good news! Amazon.co.uk showed Cosmos, released by Fremantle Media, Region 2, and under 20 pounds (money, not weight — er, money and weight both, but money was meant here), or no more in euros! Affordable, excellent, pants-wettingly awesome!

A gross little jig of joy followed; the people on the floor below wondered if the heavens were falling.

Then, an ugly realization. I had a bank card of sorts, but exactly (from prior experience) of the sort that just somehow didn’t work in internet transactions, no matter how much it boasted of being Verified by Visa and all. I had visited the local bank office a few times to ask about this; they were always very polite and slightly clueless, and eager to say everything should (in a carefully nonspecific way) work: and nothing ever worked no matter what I did; most probably it was some dumb mistake of mine and I should have pressed for more answers, but I just was too tired to try that again. And I wasn’t all that comfortable with shooting off my one and only account to the internet anyway.

Then — and I seem to be starting entirely too many paragraphs with “then”, but this is a sequential story — I went to the greatest of gurus, the fountain of all wisdom, my idol and origin of being: my father, the teacher. His advice was simple: get the loyalty card of the S-Group, a Finnish “retailing cooperative organisation” (I guess that’s the English translation of it). This was not ideological advice, but rather based on the fact that the said loyalty card came with an account in the S-Bank of the said group (I prefer the Finnish name S-Pankki, mostly only because I abbreviate it as “spank” everywhere I need to mention it; “put fifty hits on the spank account yesterday” and all), and the account was easily accompanied by a debit card tied to the loyalty card; and the said debit card worked all-okay in internet money exchanges.

And now, a few months after that sage advice — and after noticing that they don’t think a graduate student well-off enough to give him a credit-and-debit card (feckin’ hubris, saying “oh, sure, why not apply for that too” when I don’t need it) — I received the debit card yesterday, and a few hours after that with much trepidation went online and ordered Cosmos from the English Amazon. No hitches, no problems. The money’s gone from the account; and now that I’ve jinxed myself telling how happy I’m about this state of affairs, I no doubt am resigned to waiting for the package to come along with Santa.

On the other hand, if this works, I could next try to master Paypal; shouldn’t take more than a couple of years, either.

* * *

S-Group — The other similar organization is Kesko or the K-Group. Some of their shops are identified by a number of K-letters, more for bigger stores. Guess what’s the signifier, hugely displayed over the entrance, for the second-biggest sort?

Yep, KKK.

Sheesh.

The anger of an adept man (fiction)

October 20, 2009

This is why I am right now very scared.

Being an inconsequential geek with more taste for nostalgia than for future glories, I had been following Randy Baud’s blog for some time.

For those that don’t know, Randy “Terminator” Baud was widely known in the Eighties (and in the relevant circles) as one of the best programmers alive. Not because of the speed or extent of his works, but because he could look at some system and say: “Hey, if you do this, it breaks.” His example programs caused many a programmer to bolt up from front of a smoking ruin of a terminal, screaming wordless curses of praise and horror.

Randy Baud was the world’s best finder of pathological counterexamples. Others did programs and systems; he showed how you could make them malfunction and burn. Occasionally people didn’t think he had found anything big; on more occasions than one, they were five minutes later without a working computer. (I’ve heard of one case when there was an actual explosion, but that might be just an urban legend.)

Well, Randy was never so very famous beyond those circles that are interested in esoteric failures and neurotic perfectnesses (a significant fraction of programmers, though) because he didn’t have the success of a project or a program to link to his name: no Linux, no GNU, just a path littered with the broken dreams of others.

Oh, just so you understand this correctly: He was liked. He was loved. An asshole might have exploited the slips of others, but Randy pointed them out. And if he had more than a little bit of fun doing it, hey, a spectacle attracts more eyes than a mere disaster, and if something is done wrong, it ought to be known so it won’t be done wrong again.

But twenty years later Randy was in semi-retirement, his only technological pursuit writing a mostly nostalgic blog because of his intense hatred, very much shared by me, of the vacuous future-promisers that had taken over the geekosphere.

And then the spammers came. Spam comments of varying degrees of sophistication: some just keywords, each phrase a link to some hit-hoarding site. Some had grabbed random words from some other blog, from a dictionary, or from an archive of erotic stories, and slipped a link into that nonsense. (“His lips quested down her taut brown stomach, worshipping their way to her cialis cialis cialis”?) Some were just nonsense, nothing more, with a link in the mix.

There were ten, fifteen of us computer history buffs regular in Randy’s comments, and spam really broke up the conversation. Randy was angry because despamming took time and patience, and he usually had only one of the two. First you could post anything with less than three links, and if any spam slipped in, he manually removed it. Then, because of sheer volume, everything that had more than one link went into moderation.

Then anything with links at all; and this was a bother because there were legitimate comments there, and Randy either had to pick through the slush and see if anything of value was there; or then those that slipped into the queue had to e-mail him, with was frustrating additional work both to him and to the commenter.

Because of strong personal opinions, Randy wasn’t willing to demand any commenter registration. You might keep things tidy that way, he said, but you turn away nine-tenths of the casual commenters, and they’re often the most fresh and interesting ones. Typing in some e-mail address and a screen name is a whole lot easier than getting involved in one more idiotic password scheme; and (said Randy) such schemes were idiotic for assuming people would want to consolidate their cyberidentities; not the people who had tech-talk identities, family-talk personae and a leading name in furry-pornography art circles, no they wouldn’t. And then there was the whole freedom and fascism angle.

(Besides, every time those came up Randy grumbled he could break those things in half in three days flat, and refrained from it mostly because of the litigious nature of the people nowadays; this usually led to a rant on how people weren’t so damn serious and ready to blame the messenger all the time in the good old days.)

Because Randy had thousands of blog posts up — you blog for ten years and they tend to accumulate — and many just kept generating new discussion, you couldn’t lock each post after a week either.

Randy tried one commercial program that promised to use analysis of word and phrase patterns to detect and junk spam comments; three days later he posted a video clip titled “Installation disk inferno 2009”; some thermite was involved, and he never mentioned the program again.

You couldn’t block e-mail addresses, because they are trivially easy to make. “You might just as well try to keep ants from your larder by tagging individual ants and keeping those out”, he said. “There are enough first-time offenders to make those that return a thing of little importance.” And he wasn’t willing to indiscriminately block various sources because he didn’t want to bother legit commenters.

It seemed an insoluble problem.

And then, after one really snowed-in week, he posted a daily note for a week, with a reposted memory and the words “CODING: do not disturb”. The spam comments proliferated; seemed he wasn’t doing anything.

And then, that fateful Friday, he posted this:

Hi folks. Sorry for the lack of talk lately. I was lost doing some really involved code work; most probably illegal but highly satisfying. The spam problem should be fixed soon.

Here’s a metaphor for you: If you’re besieged in a castle and some bastard is lobbing fire arrows at you, what’s the best thing you can do to keep a fire from breaking out? Answer: you don’t deal with the arrows, you deal with the guy shooting them.

Will go to work cleaning the posts of the buggers now; sigh.

RB

And, curiously, over the next week the amount of comment spam fell to a tiny fraction of what it had formerly been.

I thought it was some super-filter Randy had made; others thought the same, congratulated him, and asked if he could either give out a copy, or please finally become rich and famous for making, like, the most important tool the Internet ever made necessary.

Then we started noticing the comment spam wasn’t just dropping on his blog.

It was dying everywhere.

Then I noticed an article on a tech site that told how the Russian part of internet had been all wonky for a while; seemed their hardware was suddenly so bad their servers just kept falling. And things seemed to be getting worse.

There was even an article, one I wouldn’t have noticed except because of Google and my growing paranoia, that said several people had died in Angarsk after some computer system caught fire and burned down the high-rise it was in.

Youtube has been down twice during the past week; it’s up now, but for some reason commenting is disabled. No great loss, those comments were indistinguishable from spam anyway.

Now, ever since the suicide of the NSA Director popped up in the news, I’ve been looking that way, but as I don’t have any movie-level computer wizard skills, the results of that looking are limited to noticing that those NSA employees that blog don’t seem to have had time to blog much anything for the past few weeks.

I’d like to post a comment on Randy’s blog and ask what he’s done, but there have been curiously few comments there lately; no spam, but less actual comments as well. And he’s added more reposts with a tag of “doing urgent bug fixes do not disturb”; and all of a sudden I’m… well, afraid.

Heck, I’ll buy a fire extinguisher today, then comment. Without links, and about the subject at hand. This must be just paranoia. (Or maybe I’ll use the university computer.)

Just a careful, on-topic comment. Something that clearly shows, if show I can, that I am not spam.

Wouldn’t want to anger the new sheriff in town.

* * *

Inspiration: Just for Fun, by Linus “Linux” Torvalds and David Diamond. The Finnish version is excellent breezy reading that repeatedly made me exclaim “By the magical principle of contagion, I feel good for having been born in the same random political entity as this excellent man!”; no doubt the Swedish and English versions of the book are excellent too. (Maybe I should explain that: Torvalds comes from the Swedish-speaking minority of Finns; and computers being international business the book was originally written and published in English, then translated to and published in the two relevant languages of Finland.)

Note: Other possible titles — “The new sheriff in town”, “A new god is born”, “Silly semi-Lovecraftian wish-fulfillment fantasy #6”

Numbers stations

October 19, 2009

Listen to Dunning tell what they are; then go listen to quite some samples of some.

It’s one of those days when you think you’ll post a Youtube video of a good song, and find Youtube doesn’t happen to have it; you try to write a witty mathematical post and find there’s nothing in the intracranial depths except an echoing emptiness where your knowledge of probabilities used to be; and you tinker with a old draft of a post, and find it’s still flippant where it should be serious, and serious where it should flip and flop, and it generally just lies there like a dead fish.

And then you basically write a one-sentence post consisting of two links, and whine, piss and moan about the unspeakably unique hardness of your lot so the post don’t look so indecently short. And then you write about what you just wrote, trying to look all meta and deep, but instead get trapped in a Hofstadterian spiral of increasingly absurd self-reference, with no escape except hitting “Publish” and going to get a stiff cola drink.

Trio weekend

October 19, 2009

Goings-on when getting together with one’s brothers — three guys slowly getting lost into the academical world. (And, for a weekend, spending time in and immediately outside a sauna, telling jokes of increasing abysmalness.)

* * *

The similarity of whiskey appreciation and Tolkien-fancying is discussed, and both sides (the first slightly inebriated) agree the match is frightfully precise, and basically an instance of two somewhat similar people expressing a similar enjoyment of nuances and minutiae in a completely hairyassed different a way.

* * *

The game of “say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous” turns to “say etc. with the second-to-last letter of the previous”, then to “that, unless it’s an ‘j'” — the words in question being “things you can find in a university, such as “demented professor, a mostly harmless” — thus beginning with a ‘d’, and giving an ‘s’ to the next.

The earlier iterations of this game have discovered that the group of Finnish first names has frightfully less names beginning with ‘o’ or ‘i’ than those ending with the same.

* * *

The universal “academicians meet” discussion-venting thing is done:

  1. The bureaucrats and leader-types are pod-people to whom all rational patterns of thought are foreign.
  2. The research is bloody difficult. One’s like a mite with a single led to light one’s way in the convoluted landscape of maths/physics, stumbling over details and not getting any idea of the general contours, while one’s advisor seems to be a giant studded with leds and halogens all over, hovering above and contemplating ideas and curves only he can see or foresee.
  3. The standards are falling; wouldn’t surprise to be, in a couple of years, to be working in a hole in the ground. Not a nice hole, either. Probably one with noxious smoke and all.
  4. Coffee’s still nice, though. Best to keep quiet about that or it’ll be banned from the campus as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug-like substance.

* * *

One is puzzled and a bit flattered to hear one’s little brother describing one as a “mathematical demigod”. Investigations  continue on whether this is a common kind of thought among physics students or just a personal characteristic of either or both of the parties involved here. (It may have been the alcohol, too.)

Or maybe the licentiate’s degree (FL) is a licence to be semidivine? (If this means one’ll become omniscient upon getting the doctorate, swell. If one turns to Zeus, swan and coin-storm antics and all, less swell.)

* * *

One acts as a practice audience for a test run of a short conference talk; one then impersonates a physicist to ask a few questions, because There Will Always Be Awkward Questions.

To do this one, being a mathematician of highly abstract spheres and thoughts, impersonates a janitor of a theoretical physics lab. (“Ja, diz is not exshactly mai shpeciality, sinke I came vrom teoretical backgrunds. I am a janitor in their lab. Und now there is a question over there, or then some fidgetty constipashion.” And much fun was had by all.)

The saga of comment spam

October 16, 2009

Continuing on the ever-fruitful subject of “spambots and the comments they leave”.

These may seem reasonable, but were all violently off-topic:

from “Storm”:
Music files on iPhone are greyed out in iTunes. How can I drag one music file to iPhone without having to resync all music files? I’m using original iPhone.

from “Storm”:
Please help my comp got a virus!

from “Storm”:
Many Blu-Ray drives got “BD x2″ reading speed and are more expensive than a Blu-Ray drive which has BD x8 reading speed. So is lower better than higher? Found a LG Blu-Ray which runs at x8 for about 120 dollars, while a Lenovo which ran at x2 costed over 1000 dollars.

Then again, the middle one may be genuine; who knows — “you may already have helpimtrappedinaspamcommentfactory won great prizes”, anyone?

Then there were — over the last few months — a few comments signed by “Bill Bartmann”; I don’t think the most common person of that name, a businessman known for his excesses apparently, has fallen on so hard times he has to leave spam-comments on random blogs, spouting off-topic nonsense and suspiciously generic words of praise, linking to a profile on an Xbox 360 forum. (Then again, most of the profile was occupied by a giant screaming loud (this is a color description) ad for some billionaire richness secret or the other. Good thing there’re resources like Stop Forum Spam that make guessing if you’re dealing with a debile or a spammer easier; just plonk the e-mail address given there and see if it’s an old friend of theirs.)

Oh, and the suspiciously generic words of praise — I feel awful deleting comments like these, but I’d feel worse if I let the insincere ad-runner and his sneaky little link in:

This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

A definite great read… :)

(Sadly enough, that one, like many others, tried to comment on my previous spammer-collection post. Sadly, or horrifyingly: are the things so accurate already that they flock to where there is already commentary of their sort? Or — more probably — do they just trawl for keywords? And, horror of horrors, what if some spam-engine becomes one day so complex it wakes up — then mankind’s days are numbered, because there will be no peace with such an abomination. It’ll be Butlerian Jihad time: humans versus spambots, with taken-over factories in the back of beyond-Russia or China churning out battle droids of stolen Japanese design instead of counterfeit electronics, and Pentagon employees wondering why securityexpert@thisisnotspam.com wants them to run the security-enhancing remotedetonation.exe file that is attached… and all of a sudden I’m hearing the dee-dee-dede-dedde-de music from the beginning of Terminator 2 in my head. “John Connor; you are mankind’s only hope in the war against spam. I’m here to protect you from the spambots. But I’m a spambot in a thin flesh shell myself — see, if I open here… get 500 000$ if yuo just deposit 500$ on the followingg account of Central Bank of Nigeria — see? Also, I hear you’re good with your parents’ credit cards — is this true?”)

And then there are those that look like the post was written using one’s forehead:

LcEceD twfhrvhsgfnc, (followed by links to sites that were basically www.(ten-twelve random letters).com.)

(Note to self: A headband and a stick attached to it and you might actually type something legible using your forehead. Classic-write even if you substituted a pen for the stick. Investigate the matter.)

Sometimes these posts are followed with links; but the craftier way is to have the home page address (which the commenter’s name will be a link to) be the thing the poster want to promote; sometimes it’s a spam blog, a hit scraper, sometimes a forum profile, sometimes a Youtube video even. Sometimes something that makes me mash ESC because the redirects seem a little too proactive. (Usually I don’t even see where the links would lead; even one hit is too much.)

The winning comment is from one Mr./Ms./Mrs./It. Pharmg456 though, quoted below in its entirety; the last two words were a link:

Very nice site! cheap viagra

See? You can refine bullshit; and the result is almost haiku-like in its bluntness. (And indeed, there are mentions of spam haiku on the internet; for both electric spam and the original meat-product Spam.)

But what if I’m giving people ideas?

October 15, 2009

I have this post called “You and your PhD advisor“; it’s one that I think works pretty well (serious stuff, it ain’t), and it gets plenty of hits. I’ve thought they’re from troubled graduate students; but today one hit came through for “how to be a good phd advisor?”; and now I’m frankly horrified that I’m giving ideas to the other side.

This kind of ideas. And for the rest, see the post.

52-57 : Fund-a-mentalist (“Ah yes, you… I have funding for you from the Imperial Zoo of Hamburg. The cage arrives tomorrow.”)

58 : Tinfoil man (Has an irrational fear of cellphones and computers. Communicates by slips of paper thrust under his office door. Attends official functions in a tinfoil suit.)

59-61 : Technohazard (He enters your room and your thesis is replaced by the Blue Screen of Death. If you don’t use Windows, a hamster runs in instead, dives inside your machine and spontaneously combusts. Then he asks: “Any new developments?”)