Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.
"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist
E-mail me: pmurray [at] despammed.com
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
A minor spam mystery solved. My brother and I have been puzzled by the sudden drop in spam at our Hotmail accounts -- to virtually none. I'm not talking about a sudden improvement in the spam filters; even the Junk Mail folder has been relatively empty.
I've been thinking that Microsoft's lawsuits against spammers may have frightened them off. Talk about a plaintiff with plenty of money to pursue its case!
And then late last night I found this NY Times article about Alan Ralsky, one of the world's most notorious spammers (and who lives maybe 20 miles from me):
Alan Ralsky, according to experts in the field, has long been one of the most prolific senders of junk e-mail messages in the world. But he has not sent a single message over the Internet in the last few weeks.
Regardless of what Ralsky says for public consumption ("Of course I'm worried about it," he said after the law was signed. "You would have to be stupid to try to violate this law."), I don't think the law will accomplish much. Neither do antispam organizations.
It's amazing to me how Ralsky and other spammers see themselves as victims. The big guys are out to screw them. They wouldn't resort to their dirty tactics if they weren't forced to by others. And so on. A few examples from the NYT article (emphasis added):
"E-mail is not working any more," said Brendan Battles, a longtime marketer who has sold CD-ROM's containing long lists of e-mail addresses. "More people are mailing and you get less and less response." Mr. Battles says he has virtually given up the business.
So let's all shed a tear for those misunderstood capitalist little guys who fill up our mailboxes and make us pay for the privilege.
Monday, December 29, 2003
More astroturfing. Josh Marshall points out that newspapers continue to print form letters submitted by readers, as a simple Google search demonstrates. This one originates at the Bush re-election web site.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
The Wright stuff. Nice to see that the tradition of "hacking" (challenging and amusing pranks) is alive and well at MIT for the 100th anniversary of flight. (via slashdot)
Visit the Empire State Building. Columnist Sydney Harris liked to write columns with things he learned while looking up something else; this fits into that category.
I followed a link to a piece of software that turns a folder of your images into html pages ready to upload to a webserver. Why, I'm not sure, since Photoshop Elements 2.0 already does this for me (example), but I did. The software is called snapGallery, and it's free. The creator links to galleries that others have made with the software ... and one entry labeled "Virtual Empire State Building" caught my eye. Don't expect any virtual reality or anything high-tech, but there are some neat photos. What a beautiful building. I'm a sucker for art deco.
No pleasing some people. A few years ago (1995?) the Smithsonian Institution had a display on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was an uproar because it seemed to come down squarely on the "this was unnecessary and wrong" side of the debate.
Fast forward to this week, when their National Air and Space Museum opened its new facility at Dulles Airport, which is large enough to display the entire restored B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The curators sought to avoid controversy by staying away from a discussion of what happened. Essentially they're saying, "Here's the plane that did something historic," and leaving it at that. (Here's their official statement.)
This makes sense to me. It's an ongoing debate and you'll never please both sides, so who can blame them? Well, it turns out that some people can.
Yes, the National Weather Service has a sense of humor. Check out this test message today from their Missouri office. (via TVBarn)
The greatest football player I never heard of. That would be the late Otto Graham, a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
I got mine, you're on your own. More fuel for the fire over trucks vs. cars:
Michelle White, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, estimates that for each fatality that light-truck drivers avoid for themselves and their passengers, they cause four fatalities involving car occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. "Safety gains for those driving light trucks," Ms. White said, "come at an extremely high cost to others."
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Next study: the effectiveness of beer goggles. I suspect this should go in the "Well, duh!" file:
Psychologists in Canada have finally proved what women have long suspected - men really are irrational enough to risk entire kingdoms to catch sight of a beautiful face.
Monday, December 08, 2003
"I'm a lot more worried about my money than I was before this." More Wall Street scandals? Nope. That's the reaction of a security consultant to the news that ATMs running Windows were infected by a virus last August. The computer "monoculture" of Windows running on everything -- thank you so much, Microsoft -- makes it easier for viruses to spread.
"It's a harbinger of things to come," said Bruce Schneier, chief technical officer of network monitoring firm Counterpane Internet Security.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Musical genius. I can't let this appreciation of Carl Stalling's scores for Warner Bros. cartoons pass unmentioned.
If you've never stopped to think about the music in these cartoons, take a few moments to read this.
It's nice that he mentions the new DVD set -- which I own, but have barely watched, believe it or not -- but he should have also mentioned the two CDs that have been out for several years: The Carl Stalling Collection, Volumes 1 and 2.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Would you believe version 3.0? The Washington Post's Dana Milbank provides the latest White House version of Air Force One's purported encounter with another airplane during Bush's trip to Baghdad. (via Romanesko)
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Origins of Photoshop revealed. From an article in the Financial Times:
It was developed by two brothers, Thomas and John Knoll, the former an expert programmer, the latter the executive in charge of special effects for the first Star Wars film.(via BoingBoing)
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Pardon my cynicism, but ... Any time a billionaire says that his lawsuit is not about money ... it's about money.
The 800-pound gorilla strikes again. Just a few days ago I speculated to my brother that, having squeezed its other suppliers, Wal-Mart would start twisting arms at Visa and MasterCard. He agreed.
I turn on the news during my morning commute today and voila!
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will stop accepting signature debit cards issued by MasterCard starting in February, the first major retailer to take such action since a lawsuit settlement freed merchants to pick which credit and debit card services they use.
A few more calls like this and maybe I can hang out a shingle as a pundit.
Now here's the tough question: who do you root for in this one? The behemoth retailer or greedy bank associations?
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
And speaking of major league...
WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader (news - web sites) has not yet decided whether to make another run for the White House, but he's authorized a new exploratory committee to raise money for a potential bid.
While the site wasn't completely up, Josh Marshall found the FAQ page and ridiculed it (along with the whole idea of a Nader candidacy). It's been removed, but someone cached it.
Major league. The best way I can describe the guy suing to have "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance is a short phrase used by George Bush to describe a New York Times reporter. You know, the one that begins with "major league."