David Plotz is reading the Bible and blogging it on Slate. His coverage is excellent and deals with many questions I've long had about the Old Testament but never got round to looking into. For instance, the business with Jonah and the Fish (a) does anyone actually believe this story, that some dude lived for three days inside a sea animal - Pinnochio style - and (b) why is this framed as Jonah and the Whale? Jonah 1:17 clearly says 'fish'. Because modern versions have edited it in :-) Unlike unicorns and dragons, whales are not mentioned in the bible at all. Nor are cats (ie: Felis Cattus Domesticus). Anyhoo, Exodus:
Chapter 35 through Chapter 39
When you need to build a tabernacle, whom do you call? Bezalel*, of course. Again and again, Moses talks up this guy, whom God endowed 'with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft.' Bezalel and his sidekick Oholiab get more mentions in Exodus than anyone but Moses and Aaron. They're only subcontractors, but God loves them.
God names feckless Aaron as his high priest and declares that Aaron's descendants would be an 'everlasting priesthood throughout the ages.' Couldn't the Israelites do better than that? First of all, Aaron (Mr. Golden Calf himself!) is probably the most incompetent and faithless man among them. If He'd picked anyone at random — You, Uriah in the tribe of Asher, come over here and put on this sacral vestment — God would be more likely to find a suitable priest. And even if Aaron were the holiest man in the Sinai desert, the inherited priesthood would still be an iffy idea.
Google AdSense has a testimonials page, these are usually very lame - often fictional quotes dreamed up by PR people, PR people posing as customers whacked on MDMA:
I'd like to thank Shady Company for a fantastic product, it's increased our revenue by 12,000% since an hour ago, and its such a pretty color. Whee! Look at the colors! The after-sales people are fantastic, I love you guys, I love you so much, I just want to touch your shirt... wow, thats so... amazing... your shirt... it feels so furry... wow. Dr Martin Horseworthy, Nebraska
Sometimes they have a picture of a potato-looking goober to go next to it, so you'll know that someone this white and this bald may endorse the product. But this is Google and I'm interested to see some examples of ad placement they think work well without interfering too much with the site. Enter testimonials:
Check out golf-equipment-tips.com down the bottom. Things to notice:
The site does not exist, the domain is registered anonymously with Tucows, but that could mean anything. Hanzi dead link.
Google has a cache of a single page from December of last year, so the site did at one time exist, and it looked something like this:
The text ads on the left are AdSense, the text ads on the right are LinkSynergy ads. This is a clear breach of 'Wesley Atkins' AdSense agreement:
'General: You further agree not to display on any Serviced Page any non-Google content-targeted advertisement(s)'
LinkSynegry is a spyware related company and the number one result on Google for that name is a page on how to remove their hideous malware, so Mr. Atkins may not hold his site visitors in great regard. The content of the page is MaxFli's own marketing text, copied verbatim. There are links at the bottom to the rest of the pages which existed on the site, which together with the repetitive text make a good example of keyword stuffing, which Google frowns upon. AdSense policy prohibits 'Excessive, repetitive, or irrelevant keywords in the content or code of web pages.' This is the excessive repetitive kind.
I would wager that none of the other pages contain any real original or valuable content, or even a useful arrangement of content, the site was put up solely to host ads. This is verging on a blackhat site. Again, Adsense policy is that: 'No Google ad may be placed on pages published specifically for the purpose of showing ads, whether or not the page content is relevant.'
So... a spam site violating Google's policies and recommendations that did not even stay in business is Google's idea of a 'success story'. Hmmm... little oversight there.
I should note that I am a big fan of AdSense, I use it on several of my sites and it pays the hosting costs. I could use more intrusive placement to increase my CPM, but I don't need to, and y'all wouldn't like it. They're the only game in town as far as I'm concerned, which is why I stuck with them for the past two months while the ads were turned off (Google was sending me a postcard with a PIN number. They do that, be warned.) For comparison, I spent a year trying different ad layouts and formats from Amazon on a another site, referred them a bunch of people and... nothing, they acknowledged the traffic and that's it. Not one brass farthing. Lot of good that was. I do wonder about the quality of Google's services since they went public, they don't seem to be showing the innovation or commitment to 'Dont be Evil' that they used to. Oh well, still better than Yahoo :-) Thank you Adsense guys... I love you... can I touch your shirt...
UPDATE: April '07, Google have made a new testimonials page.[read on...]
This is just too good. The assorted fruit and mixed nuts of the American religious right are unhappy with Wikipedia for its bias towards a reasonable middle ground and tendency to favor evidence supported consensus over truthiness. And so was created Conservapedia, an online encyclopedia dedicated to advancing lunatic opinion in an environment unencumbered by scientific knowledge or inconvenient reality.
As John Swift points out 'Conservapedia is based on good conservative Christian values while Wikipedia, as you can tell from its name, is based on Wiccan.' Would love to see Jimbo Wales face when he reads that one.
As far as I know this is the first time there has been an online creationist encyclopeadia which you can edit. From the entry on Kangroos:
'Like all modern animals, modern kangaroos originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood. It has not yet been determined whether kangaroos form a holobaramin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic.
After the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land - as Australia was still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart - or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.'
Since word of this broke on the blogoshpere it seems everyone and their creepy uncle have been contributing to articles. In the comments over at scienceblogs.com Steevl writes:
I'm having tremendous fun. I edited the article on Atheism to point out that it leads to pedophilia and bestiality. I checked back an hour later expecting my edit to be gone, but no: they didn't remove it, they added citations.
Round of applause for that man. Good-natured vandalism aside, here's a quote from the Google cache of an older and apparently serious article:
“Jesus said, ‘Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.’” (Gospel of Thomas 114) “Jesus is not suggesting a sex-change operation, but is using 'male' and 'female' metaphorically to refer to the higher and lower aspects of human nature. Mary is thus to undergo a spiritual transformation from her earthly, material, passionate nature (which the evangelist equates with the female) to a heavenly, spiritual, intellectual nature (which the evangelist equates with the male).” [link]
It had never occurred to me to consider whether Jesus would want his girlfriend to have a sex change operation so that she could be elevated from her sub-human female status, guess I never assumed Jesus thought about women that way. But apparently the fundies have pondered it at length and arrived at an important theological message for the world.
Life is so much fun.
Update: Jon Swift said...
Regrattably, it appears that some mean-spirited liberals have been committing mischief at Conservapedia and administrators have been forced to shut down new registrations for the time being. It may take them a while to sort out legitimate entries, such as the article about the Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus, from hoaxes perpetrated by liberals. All of the citations in my piece, however, link to versions by trusted conservative authors. You can also be certain that any version by Aschlafly, that is, the founder Andrew Schlafly, are genuinely conservative and of the highest quality. [read on...]
Some nifty cultural dissonance there, Donald Duck giving the Nazi salute to a framed picture of Hitler on his bedroom wall. Lyrics to the film's title song (which won a freaking Oscar!):
Nazi: Ist we not der super men?
Hirohito: Aryan pure super men?
Soldier: Ja, we ist der super men!
Röhm: [Prissy voice] Super-duper super men!
Nazi: Ist dis Nazi Land so good? Would you leave it if you could?
Singers: Ja, dis Nazi Land ist good!
Moussolini: We would leave if we could.
Röhm: We bring the world's new order.
Hirohito: [waves small Japanese flag] Heil Hitler's New World Order.
This is the same song that the POWs are performing for their musical in the Movie Harts War. At the time the cartoon was made Americans did not yet know about the Holocaust, they may not have been so goofy with the Aryan Supermen bit if they had.
Alderney was occuplied by the Germans as part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall - there was a concentration camp less than a kilometer from my house - and the island is surrounded by concrete fortifications built by Russian slave labor. When they died or could no longer work, they were thrown into the wet concrete. A lot of truly horrible things happened here. Nobody is known to have escaped.
To see the Nazi ideology as a subject for childrens cartoons, and dealt with in such a whimsical way is a bit of a trip, and makes a bizarre sort of sense given US WW2 propganda. History as it was described at the time.
Animating for Disney in the 40s and 50s must have been one of the most kickass jobs of the era. 'What'd you do at work today honey?', 'Oh, I was drawing pictures of a duck throwing tomatoes at Hitler.' 'That's nice dear.'
Architectures of Control is a fascinating blog about how items are designed to affect the behavior of people using them, from planned obsolescence where the desired behavior is a person to buying replacement object to the use of sideshow 'slimming mirrors' in clothing stores.
There are a lot of views one could take of these practices and techniques. (With the weasel words in brackets) mostly they are manipulative (subtle), dishonest (ingenious) and effective ways of separating people from money (helping customers decide what's best for them), or effecting (encouraging) changes in public behavior.
Such techniques raise deeper questions about society and capitalism as well, such as who gets to decide what is for the publics good (is the general public fit to decide?) and what should be expected of businesses. A common view seems to be that the responsibilities of businesses lie mostly with the supporting the interests of the shareholders, if a company can make more money through deceptive or unethical means - or even illegal means if repercussions will be negligible - then that is what it will do. The shareholders get to vote on company management, and if the organization is not generating as much money as it can management may be replaced or a competitor with fewer scruples may out compete an honest responsible organization. Thus businesses will be winnowed down in a fairly Darwinian way, tending towards large monopolies where possible.
Words like fair and honest are rather subjective, that may not matter when discussing the general case. Society benefits a great deal from big businesses (with some notable exceptions), despite their drawbacks which is why they are allowed to exist, and society's servant Government is supposed to mediate where interests of profit and public good come to loggerheads. (continues after the jump)
10. Sidewalks: Most people don’t look at the sidewalk when they walk. It’s surprising the number of people that walk by money simply because they never have seen it. Keep your eyes on the sidewalk when walking and you are sure to find some coins.
9. Gutters: This may apply to countries where there are a lot of people that ride scooters like in Japan, but at least for me, walking on the edge of the sidewalk so that I can also see the gutter will increase the chances of me finding money.
8. Intersections / Crosswalks: I’m always on the lookout for money when crossing the street. For some reason, it seems to gather here more than on the sidewalks and gutters along the main portion of the street.
7. Train / Subway Stations: Public transportation stations are a good place to find fallen coins. People are taking out money to buy tickets and invariable a coin drops to the ground here and there.
I've always enjoyed finding coins, I find quite a lot. Not sure how much it adds up to over the course of a year, but it's not about the value, I just like finding them. Like urban seashells. On the other hand, the national minimum wage of a farm worker in Zimbabwe (my native country) is less than one British Pound per month, I find more money than many people live on.
With that in mind, I'd like to share the very best place to look for dropped coins. Become become aware of soft chairs and sofas in public places, especially where people will be handling change. I don't think there is any better place for finding coins than a big soft sofa in a bar. Waiting rooms and bus station lounges are also good. One of these days I'm going to buy time at one of those airport 'First Class' lounges to see what's in their sofas.
You probably won't ever find much money for the time spent looking, this is not a viable way to supplement your income, but if you enjoy the hide-and-seek of it all, satisfying some ancient hunther-gatherer instinct, sofas are good to know about. There's also a quiet thrill to the subterfuge involved in searching the upholstery of a couch in a public place without anyone else being aware of it.
Animal Perfect is now the future of animal enhancement. They build new animals and salvage old-style animals for parts. Of course, they’ve come a long ways. When Animal Perfect started, you’d see a full-grown bear walk into Animal Perfect and you’d see a full-grown bear with sunglasses walk out. Completely cheesy.
Stick around and you’ll see a crab with his own jet pack. That’s a new 2004 model jetcrab.
But now, the whole operation is up and running. And the cleanliness of the place is astonishing. All the equipment is so shiny. Everything is in chrome. Oh, and all the staff have concealed weapons. They’re trained to kill anyone who enters unannounced. Or, if they run out of bullets, they’re trained to pistol whip anyone who enters unannounced.
'Elf, make me a starmonkey.'
First, the star is caught.
Some imaginary Ruby for you:
Variable pipe. Method catch_a_star. A lot of Rubyists like to think of methods as a message. Whatever comes before the dot is handed the message. The above code tells the pipe to catch_a_star.
This is the second half of Ruby. Putting things in motion. These things you define and create in the first half start to act in the second half.
1. Defining things.
2. Putting those things into action.
So what if the star catching code works? Where does the star go?
captive_star = pipe.catch_a_star
See, it’s up to you to collect the miserable, little star. If you don’t, it’ll simply vanish. Whenever you use a method, you’ll always be given something back. You can ignore it or use it.
If you can learn to use the answers that methods give you back, then you will dominate.
SINK, A GAME by Ala Hera, E.L., N.S.; RAYVILLE APPLE PANTHERS
SINK is played by Discordians and people of much ilk. PURPOSE: To sink object or an object or a thing... in water or mud or anything you; can sink something in.
RULES: Sinking is allowed in any manner. To date, ten pound chunks of mud were used to sink a tobacco can. It is preferable to have a pit of water or a hole to drop things in. But rivers - bays - gulfs - I dare say even oceans can be used.
TURNS are taken thusly: who soever gets the junk up and in the air first.
DUTY: It shall be the duty of all persons playing 'SINK' to help find more objects to sink, once one object is sunk.
UPON SINKING: The sinked shall yell 'I sank it!' or something equally as thoughtful.
NAMING OF OBJECTS is sometimes desirable. The object is named by the finder of such object and whoever sinks it can say for instance, 'I sunk Columbus, Ohio!'
Playing with mash-ups of NOAA data :-) Shown here: Hurricane Sergio, sea surface temperature overlay.
As at yesterday: When its minimum central pressure dropped to 965 mbar on November 15, Sergio became the strongest hurricane to form or exist in November in the Eastern or Central North Pacific, surpassing 1991's Hurricane Nora.
The Book of Beginnings is a collection of the unfinished stories of POV-Ray artist Gilles Tran. They're fascinating, and end mid-sentence, reading them gives a strange sense of channel surfing. I'm sure he wasn't the first to say it, but Mystery said it best: 'always leave them wanting more.' Usually illustrations follow the story, with Tran it seems to be the other way round, which I suppose makes sense; if you spend hundreds of hours working on a scene in a ray-tracing modeller you must have a pretty good sense of it and the world it belongs in by the time you're finished. Highly recommended.
Did you know: there are several towns and cities across the United States called Woonsocket? It's like the City Fathers all got drunk on mead one day and had a contest for weirdest city name ever. The word is widely believed (by me) to be Nipmuc Indian for 'I will kill you and steal your horse, paleface'.
Pioneer captain Jeremiah 'Lucky' Pierre, addressing captured braves: 'You are defeated, you will now convert to Christianity and serve your new masters in the name of God, or die. Tell me, what do you savages call this place.'
Chief Ravenous Beaver: 'Wo oon sok k ket'
Which would explain Woonsocket, RI, the city whose motto is (no fooling) 'the most French place in the United Sates outside of Louisiana.' which I guess is in their favor. Apparently it's a nice place too, because the good people of Woonsocket, South Dakota named their town after it. New York was originally called New Amsterdam. There's New Orleans, New England, New Jersey, New Hampshire and so on. There's even a Paris in Arkansas. Some homesick fellow in the wild west must have had grand designs to found a new and beautiful city to rival the might and splendor of home, he would create his homeland afresh in foreign lands and it would be called: New Woonsocket (cue trumpets).
I don't really get the process behind place names in general. Consider New Mexico. Did American troops look at the battered country across the border after the Mexican-American War and think to themselves, 'Yeah, we should have one of those, the world needs another Mexico'?
For what it's worth, in case you think I'm picking unfairly on Woonsocket for having a funny name - as opposed to say Hygiene, Colorado or Santa Claus, Indiana [Google Maps] - westerners have trouble pronouncing my home town.
In 1979, the cast and crew of Rainbow made a special edition for the Thames TV staff Christmas tape. Though I grew out of this show around age ten it still has pretty colors, and a bear, and Geoffrey talking about his balls.
An artist by the name of Howard Hallis has made a picture of everything, like the most incredible Where's Waldo ever, and the most massive single instance of character copyright infringement I've yet seen, Howard Rules! First person (or simmilar) to find the following ten characters wins a candy bar and a lifetime supply of jumpers. Also, recognition.
(1) Token Black (South Park)
(2) Tinkerbell (Disney's Peter Pan)
(3) Marvin the Paranoid Android (HHGTTG, 2004)
(4) Cheetara (Thundercats)
(5) Emily (Tim Burton's Corpse Bride)
(6) Bam-Bam (The Flintstones)
(7) Double-D (Ed, Edd 'n Eddy)
(8) Goliath (Gargoyles, I'm dating myself here)
(9) The Cat in The Hat (Dr Seuss)
(10) Pikachu (Pokémon)
It's odd, to me, that I know the names and adventures of hundreds of cartoon characters. I know tons about them. I don't tend to know the full names of most of the acquaintances I pass on a daily basis, and next to nothing about their lives to date. So! ... mark up a copy of the picture with these ten numbers and email it in. I need to get rid of all these jumpers.
That's right, human flesh! You know, I actually had a bunch of sane things to say tonight. I was going to write about the the US exit polls, about Democracy in Africa. I was going to muse a little on the heated political attack ads [watch] that have been airing in the states.
I had some thoughts about the role of news media in the democratic process. I'm a little peeved with CNN, has anyone else noticed they've gotten hella sex negative recently? Describing perfectly ordinary adult websites as 'sleaze' where pornography whould have been a more accurate and nonjudgemental description. They even referred to bisexuality as a 'sexual problem' in their coverage of Ted Haggard, like they weren't concerned with him cheating on his wife with a hooker, or even that bothered about him using meth, but being attracted to men is apparently beyond the pale. (related video involving Richard Dawkins).
And then something wonderful happened, I typed the phrase 'like a potato' into google and was swept away on a magical journey of potato-like things. Books, Lex Luthor, pug dogs, Senators. I think we can all enjoy that while we wait on tomorrow's election results. And if you're still wondering what it is that eats human flesh, you can read all about it (extra, extra) at Emerald Bile.
'Let's face it,' he said. 'As iconic emblems of kitsch, there are two pillars of cheesy, campiness in the American pantheon. One is the velvet Elvis. The other is the pink flamingo.' - Robert Thompson
After shipping a whopping quarter billion (with a freaking B!) of the things Union Products of Leominster MA have finally discontinued the product.
The American Lawn Flamingo now faces abrupt population decline and eventual extinction. Oh well.
Social creatures, Lawn Flamingoes are unique among birds in having developed a hive structure simmilar to bees. Worker Flamingoes - usually seen in pairs - gather earthworms and larve in their hollow legs to feed the colony. Groups of workers may be guarded by the larger Warrior Flamingoes, which also protect the nest (or 'trailer') where the Queen carries out the mysterious process of reproduction. During the peak months of July and August a fully grown Queen can lay up to fifty jars of marmalade each day. Workers may be found tens of miles from their home trailer and how they traverse and navigate these distances is still uncertain.
Few scientists have bothered to study the American Lawn Flamingo, but some facts are known. They are naturally hardy, and can be found throughout the US with the densest popuations in the suburbs of Florida, Georgia, Texas and other states where 'y'all' is the correct second-person pronoun. Healthy flocks have also been observed around Hispanic immigrant populations, leading to the Yankee joke:
Edgar-Sue: How do you know a family of Flamingoes has moved into your neighbourhood?
Earl: They have little plastic Mexicans on their front lawn.
Originally introduced to North America in 1957, colonies quicky sprung up across the continent and can be observed to this day; seemingly unaffected by variations in climate, altitude or the existence of predators such as the common Garden Gnome.
Here's a crafty idea I had for a small, clandestine network of servers. GumStix sells tiny linux computers about the size of a stick of gum. They weigh about a quarter ounce - less than two teaspoons of water - and require very little power to run. They can also be configured to connect to WiFi or ethernet networks and set up like any other linux server, using a few cheap gigs on an SD card. All you need to do is set it up to automatically connect, enable remote access and connect it to a network somewhere. Voila, hidden server not easily traced to you, and because of it's small form factor it's easy to hide.
I came up with a couple ideas for setting up the botnet. We'll want to hide them on a lot of different networks, make sure they're always connected, and always have power. All over the world, ideally, and we don't want to do a lot of sneaking around to install them. Simplest idea I've had so far is to buy a bunch of cheap broadband/Wifi routers and put the gumstix PC inside the case. It has power, it's safe and dry, they're almost always online. Cover up one of the ethernet ports with a piece of PCI slot cover and connect the pins to your little server. Fiddle with the firmware on the router to allow it to invisibly access the net, then sell it on eBay UK.
Most Joe Bob Anybodys aren't going to open up their router to poke around, even if they did one more tiny green board is unlikely to arouse any suspicion, it's not like consumers pour over the circuit diagrams of their stuff. The UK is saturated with cheap broadband right now, so the router's likely to be plugged in to at least four megabits, sixteen if we're lucky (or we make our own luck). If you keep the server's bandwidth use moderate Joe Bob's highly unlikely to notice anything amiss :-)
Admittedly this is a fairly expensive way to go about building a personal botnet, but I it has advantages in terms of building web hosting swarms, and it sidesteps most of the issues you'd have to deal with when setting up a net. Compromised PCs can be turned of, get spyware infections, get replaced more often than routers and are not a good place to hide a bunch of files you're publishing.
Another idea is to do the same thing with a network printer, those big office printers that connect directly to the network rather than through a PC. The drawback to this is that business are more likely to have a clued-up IT department watching (and auditing) network traffic. But... who's going to suspect that the printer is up to no good? Watching. Listening. Projecting cold, critical malice from it's little LCD display, blowing whispered curses out the exhaust fan. Its hatred can be felt, warm to the touch, on every fresh page that slides out of it. No one ever suspects the printer.
But I digress. Newbie admins, take note. Printers are a serious risk to sensitive data and overall security. They know all about your documents before you can even put them in a folder marked Top Secret. It's been done before, during the cold war the CIA had Xerox technicians install a camera in the Russian Embassy's photocopier in Washington. Imagine the implications of a compromised printer in a bank or your small, local stockbroker's. But I'm more concerned with making a distributed hosting setup.
With WiFi in the mix the possibilities multiply. By playing the part of 'repair guy' they could be installed in electric signs, street lights, etc inside a weatherproof case (marked with *dire* warning labels) within range of hotspots. But that seems like more work than just posting them inside of cheap plastic routers.
Then again, I don't actually have use for a botnet, it's fun to work out some options :-)
See? This is why I don't want children. We could probably replace the baked beans with a bowl of mice and and this pudgy-fingered gobbling monstrosity would scarf 'em down. And then he'd say something cutesy and midwestern with a scary grin on his face.
Halloween is fast approaching (October already, where did this year go?) and there's going to be the usual business with kids dressed up as ghosts and monsters coming round the house and throwing eggs. They will have been turfed out of their own homes by their parents so that they might learn an important lesson in life: If you want something from a stranger, put on the scariest demeanour you can, then go round his house with your buddies and make a threat. Offer your hapless victim a choice between vague misfortune and giving you what you want. Playing is how we learn :-) Fine, good, so long as they're having fun.
It is kind of cool that this sort of thing is so stereotyped, that society in general makes up the most absurd things for kids to be afraid of. Overdone icons like plastic spiders and bats aren't scary, and we tell kids they are. In every other Scooby-Doo episode and TV Halloween special kids told, over and over, that they're expected to be afraid of spooOOOOooky stuff. Which is good, because that means we're not exposing kids to things that are actually scary. If I ever see a little girl dressed up as 'rape' for Halloween I'll know the ruse is coming undone.
Garfield's Jim Davis explains:
'Ghosts aren't scary...' he told me before explaining that before writing the strips he went around to everyone he knew and asked them what truly scared them. The answer he got most often was 'being alone' or 'dying alone'.
That's why Halloween's great, it's the one night of the year you can't possibly be afraid of children. It kicks ass that a bunch of 10 years olds come to my house and make to fright me with their werewolf costumes. They've been completely suckered into thinking the worst thing they're going to have to face in life is plastic werewolves.
If they thought a little more outside the box they could stay home, and then have a different little kid phone my house every night at midnight and tell me that I will die in a fire. That would worry me.