Wednesday, January 25, 2006



Not evil.

UPDATE: This should have been in here before: Both Yahoo and Microsoft Network (MSN) are far worse in their complicity in Chinese censorship than Google is. Reporting indicates that Google makes reference (in Chinese, which I can't read) to the fact that the results were filtered. Neither Yahoo nor MSN, the second and third most popular search engines, make any reference to their filtering. The Chinese firewall technology would work whether or not the American search engines were complicit. A Chinese user would simply be presented with search results that were blocked by the country's firewall. An annoying, but constant reminder that the society was not a free one. And that is enough to make Google's (and MSN's and Yahoo's) positions qualify as evil.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Note to spammers (updated!)

This is not an advertising blog. If I see or hear about a worthwhile blog, project, service or web page (that everyone else hasn't gotten to months before me), I'll post a link here. If you're providing a service that's altruistic, that's great. If it's entirely self promoting (that means you, "Jewish bible quiz" and "Learn Hebrew verbs" guy1), I'll pass. I don't need your prewritten blog posts. I don't need your mass mailings. I know you like your page rank, but, there are better ways to get it.

I may consider adding a new column to the bottom of my sidebar, entitled "Spammers." On it, I will post the name and email address associated with blog-ad spam. I may not have many readers, but I am traversed by search engines, and your address will be harvested by third-party spambots.

By the way, this only applies to mass mail2. I won't consider personal email to be spam, so don't be worried about clicking my email address. I do want to hear from readers through comments and email.

1 Never have I seen a site with more copyright notices on a single screen than this one. And, truth is, if it were free/open source software, the backend might have been somewhat useful. As a web service, it's of low to moderate interest.

And, by the way, dude, the 90's are over. You can use Unicode now. And, even if you're representing Hebrew words with graphics, you don't need a library of "over 10,000 graphical images." You just need enough graphics to represent each character and point. It's the basis of a novel technology called a 'font.' (Maybe I should apply for a patent on it.) If you want to see what I'm talking about, I won't provide a link, you can go Google for it yourself, or find some sucker who put up the press release/announcement.

2 Hint: if it has more than 10 email addresses in the "To" line, it's mass mail. At least learn how to use BCC. It's good for you.

Update: At least one spammer got part of the message. He took me off his list. He still didn't get that sending unsolicited mass email is bad netiquette. The reason: spam works.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NCSY Alumni Family Retreat

A spammer1 has asked me2 to inform former members of the brainwashing organization for Orthodox youth (NCSY) that they will be having a retreat soon. So, if you've been thinking lately, and wanted to stop, or, you thought it would be a good time to start your kids on the path to becoming too frum to look in your direction (child care and/or paternity testing will be provided!), you might want to go to the NCSY Alumni Family Retreat. It's taking place in a chat room with live animals communicating in sign language.

So, remember to KEEP THE FLAME ALIVE, because it's getting a lot colder in Hell.

To the spammer3: I'm glad I could help spread the word. You're welcome.

1 "Dear blogger" is a good indication that you're getting mass mail.
2 The one problem with spamming for blog space is you never know what kind of advertising you're going to get.
3 Your name and email address could have been posted here too.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Business Reply Junk Mail

I saw a piece on CNN Headline News about some things people do to get back at annoyances. One of them was sending those free business reply mail envelopes back to the companies that send them junk mail. For an extra measure of satisfaction, you can stuff in some junk of your own (like brochures that other junk mailers have sent you; Anyone think Capital One should lose weight?).

The good: It might encourage companies to stop sending junk mail.

The bad: It might encourage companies not to use business reply envelopes for things that you actually need.

One thing I've noticed (unscientifically) is that when I actually want or need to reply, they don't send me free envelopes. Then, I need to send back a letter with a stamp (now 2 cents more expensive) on it. The best example is the credit card “privacy” policy notice that gives me 30 days to tell them not to sell my information. They gave me a form to fill out (with lots of personally identifiable information, of course), but no free reply envelope.

What d'ya think?

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Business Week takes on patents

Here, I present a link to a Business Week article about the recent history of the “obviousness” test for a patent's validity. It starts out describing a case related to auto parts, but quickly gets into software and “business method” patents, and defensive patenting. The interesting bit is: note which side a particular large proprietary software company falls out on.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Cross-Currents Bullshit Alert

I don't usually read Cross-Currents, and I took them off my RSS aggregator a long time ago. Needless to say, I don't comment there, given their history of careful "selection." But, DW brought this diatribe of Orthodox triumphalism to my attention. Their thesis: Neil Gilman says that Conservayive Judaism should give up on halacha, therefore, Conservative Judaism has given up on halacha. And, of course that means that Agudas Israel spokesman Avi Shafran was right when he questioned the intellectual integrity of the Conservative movement. So, do we owe Shafran an apology?

Not yet. Conservative Judaism is not, and pretty much has never been, a united movement. When Mordechai Kaplan (as a JTS professor) wrote the foundational book for Reconstructionism, "Judaism as a Civilization," he argued that all three contemporary American Jewish movements were not viable. There were four chapters on the subject, one for each denomination — Neo-Orthodox, Reformist, Right Conservative, and Left Conservative. The non-halachic side of Conservative Judaism has already given birth to Kaplan's "Reconstructionism," David Wolpe's proposal for "Covenental Judaism," and Neil Gilman's current attempt to define the movement. Jonathan Rosenblum already knew that:

Just as Mordechai Kaplan taught an earlier generation of JTS rabbinical students to view Judaism as a civilization, in which scheme God played little or no role, so Gilman teaches them that a “binding” mitzvah is whatever a Jew decides at that particular moment is binding for him – an odd definition of obligation. Gilman reiterated this theme in his keynote address when he stressed that to whatever extent Conservative Jews follow halachic norms, it is because they want to and not because they have to.1

It is not news that some prominent Conservative thinkers don't view halacha as binding. So, what makes Rosenblum think that the internal debate is any more “settled” now than it was in the 1930's?

1The same can be said of a large part of contemporary Orthodox Jews as well. Yes, there's social pressure towards conformity and observance, but for many, the obligation is felt personally, but not externally enforced.

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Blogger: No space left on device

DW has gotten this message:

001 No space left on deviceblog/60/62/7/apikorsus/archives/2006_01_01_apikorsus_archive.html

So have some people on BloggerForum, including more than one report from today. Blogger claims that there are no space limitations (anyway, DW is a relatively light poster), so, it's probably something screwy with their servers. As of now, Blogger status reports no outages.

Have you gotten it? If so, report the bug!

UPDATE: Proposed solutions in the comments!

THEORY: The data in the cookies were invalidated when 2005 turned into 2006. Because they're session cookies, they expire when the browser is closed. Only people who left the browser running between Dec 31 and Jan 1 and posted with the same browser instance should be experiencing the problem. Is that true? Blogger does keep a number of session cookies, but I haven't analyzed their contents.

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