7500 to 1

[14 December 2017]

A little less than a month ago, noticing that spam had gotten out of hand here again, I started monitoring comments on this blog manually, to observe them more closely.

Since that time, the About page and the posts still open for comments have received something more than 7500 comments (so, between 200 and 300 a day), not counting those blocked by the Bad Behavior plugin), of which one was a relevant comment made by a human, and the others were spam.


A new look / Death to spies

[6 December 2012]

This blog has a new look, courtesy of the crackers who broke in and rendered it necessary to delete the blog, reinstall WordPress from trusted media, re-configure things, change passwords, and re-import the posts and comments. The old theme wasn’t part of the new installation, and while I kind of liked it, I didn’t like it enough to spend any time trying to retrieve it. The old theme was the then-current default theme for WordPress blogs; the new theme is (again) the default for WordPress blogs.

[“Are you kidding me? You can’t even be bothered to change the _____ theme?” hissed my evil twin Enrique at this point. “I did look at alternatives. Really. I just happened to like the default pretty well. It’s not like I’m lazy.” “Not just that you’re lazy, I think you mean?” sighed Enrique. “Oh, hush,” I said.]

The new theme seems to want a header image; I am grateful to Flickr for providing search qualifiers that allow one to search only for photos licensed under Creative Commons and allowing commercial use. The image above is drawn from a photo published on Flickr under the name Glass Bead Game by the photographer Darren Kirby of Edmonton, Alberta, to whom thanks (and an acknowledgement in the footer).

[“Wow,” said Enrique. “His blog photo makes him look way too young to be a reader of Hermann Hesse. Has there been a Hesse resurgence while I wasn’t looking?” “Not sure, but I think I heard that in fact there has been. It’s not the 80s anymore, Enrique.” “Are you sure? The House majority does not agree with you. And haven’t you heard anything about higher education in the UK lately? Sure sounds like Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain to me!” “Oh, be quiet, and leave politics out of this.”]

On the minus side, the links to other blogs have been lost, at least for the moment (I do have a list; it’s just a matter of typing them in again). And of course, I’ve lost a few days’ work (and counting), cleaning up after the Viagra hawkers.

On the plus side, I now have nicer blog backup utilities and more convenient tools for intrusion detection (on the theory that making them more convenient is a good way to increase the likelihood of their being used regularly). It turns out that when a web site is just a checked-out working copy of a Subversion repository which gets updated automatically when things are checked into the repository using a commit hook (as this Web site is), then just logging in to the server and running svn status gives you a nice list of things that have been placed on the server by intruders coming in the back door. So for those who do manage their sites this way, and who have never managed to get around to installing tripwire or similar tools, a local shell script reading, in its entirety, ssh hostname 'for d in *.com ; do (echo; cd $d; pwd; svn status); done' may be able to serve as at least a poor, partial substitute.

Still, while it’s almost always nice to learn new things, there are other things I’d rather have spent the last few days on. I find I have new sympathy for the motto Death to spies.

The view from Black Mesa

[13 December 2010]

When I took an introductory course in symbolic logic, all those many years ago, we used a textbook (Richard C. Jeffrey, Formal logic: its scope and limits [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967], in case you’re curious) which presented a proof method based on proof trees, which had the nice property that for valid inferences it’s guaranteed to terminate, and that for invalid inferences it will never terminate with a false positive. Allen Renear informs me that the locus classicus for proof trees is Raymond M. Smullyan, First-order logic (2d ed. New York: Dover, 1995), which I have been reading lately with pleasure.

All the theorem provers I’ve read about, however, seem to require more or less active participation and guidance from the user; like the proof-tree method, they produce a proof only when a proof exists, but unlike the proof-tree method they aren’t guaranteed to find a proof if one exists.

So I’ve been wondering: why aren’t there automatic theorem provers based on the proof-tree method?

Or are there?
[31 December 2010]

The view from Black Mesa is a new blog I have started, for posts related to digital preservation, data longevity, and the use of descriptive markup in institutions (especially but not limited to memory institutions: libraries, museums, archives).

Readers of this blog will find the style and many of the pre-occupations familiar, but the new blog will probably have fewer excursions into random topics not relevant to the mission of Black Mesa Technologies.

Blogging and apothegms

[25 March 2009]

For some time now I’ve been carrying around a little notebook with (among other things) notes on various topics I have thought it would be useful and interesting to make blog posts about. I haven’t had time to work out coherent expositions or arguments on most of the topics, though, so nothing happens. All I’ve got are short fragments in a telegraphic style — just enough (I hope) to remind myself, when I come back to the topic, of the line of thought I wanted to pursue.

Sometimes I think I should post the notes I’ve got, despite their incomplete, inadequate formulations. It might not help you, dear reader (sorry) but it might make this lab notebook more useful for me.

(See also Matt Kirschenbaum’s ruminations from 2005 on the use(s) of blog posts, which is a message in a bottle I’ve just run across.)

And I have begun to wonder if this explains the aphoristic, telegraphic style I associate with the posthumous notebooks and journals of great writers, full of incomprehensibly terse remarks. Are the fragments of (say) the Schlegels nothing but notes for things they would later have worked up into blog posts, if only they had not been born two hundred years too soon?

Or perhaps I should say:

Notebook full of ideas for posts.

Telegraphic — aphoristic — apothegmatic?

Schlegels (Nietzsche?) as bloggers avant la lettre?

Is profundity nothing more than haste to get something — something — a trail of breadcrumbs? — down quick?

Hmm. Breadcrumbs. Guess DanC (all of DIG?) thinks so.


Spam Karma 2, again

[2 January 2009]

As noted earlier, I hesitated to try to install Spam Karma 2 in the new location of this blog, since I wasn’t sure it would work with WordPress 2.6.5.

But after a couple of weeks with only Bad Behavior minding the fort, I became desperate. (BB does filter out a lot — my only problem was that almost everything it let through for me to moderate was in fact spam. I have better things to do than get ten or twenty messages in a day asking me to moderate comment spam.)

So I’ve installed Spam Karma 2 again, and so far it appears to work well with WordPress 2.6.5.

And my life is a bit quieter. (Actually, it would be quieter even without SK2, since the day with twenty comment spams appears to have been a fluke; SK2 hasn’t been catching twenty a day since its installation. But the next time the bots find me, SK2 will be in place.)