Going camping

So next week’s trip to San Antonio was cancelled due to higher priorities requiring me here. Which is just fine with me, actually — now I can go camping. Smores here I come 🙂
By the way, if you happen to be in Philly next week, this looks like it would be fun: PHILADELPHIA LAPTOP BATTLE 3! The evolution of the DJ battle. Nice.

Student Loan bye bye!

That’s the Alamo, a monument of great importance to Texans everywhere. I might be going back to San Antonio — home to the Alamo — for work, from Sunday through Thursday. I find out tomorrow. If I’m not going, then I’m going to try and head across the Florida peninsula with Cam, Melissa, Ines, Patricia and Hugo for a weekend camping expedition! I’m pretty excited about the possibility, I’ve really missed hiking the outdoors around since I came down here. If I DO end up going to San Antonio, though, I hear there’s some pretty cool caves which need my attention. I’ve never been caving, though, have you?
Big news on the personal finances front — as of yesterday I mailed off what should be the last payment of my Federal and BC Provincial student loan. Wooo — all those years of living with my parents paid off. Haha. Seriously though, it’s nice being 100% debt free.
But we can’t have that, can we? Time to set some goals. 🙂 Today I noticed ‘nee picked up a television — perhaps it’s time I did likewise. Yeah I have a TV. But, I mean one with working speakers. I have DVDs that need watching and my 17″ LCD flatpanel, while it’s been great… I have couches out in the living room that are getting lonely! (Alright, quit your snickering already.)
Still no bumper. Then again, they said they’d call on Monday and I haven’t called them back to figure out what’s up yet.
Anyhow it’s off to bed! Have to be at work by 7:30am! If you haven’t done so yet take Alison’s advice (but not on spelling) and go see The Incredibles. You’ll have fun.

Interesting new trend in blogspam

These days, the number of spam comments I receive easily outnumber the real ones. It’s been an interesting (if annoying) battle. The tactics employed by spammers seem to change on a fairly regular basis.
My presumption has always been that the main intention of blogspammers (known herein as simply “spammers”) is to exploit Google’s PageRank algorithm, which (in a very rough sense) places pages which are linked more often higher in the search results.
The first tactic used by spammers was pretty straightforward: put the address of a website you’d like to promote into the URL field of a blog comment. Nearly all Moveable Type-based blogs use the same mechanism for commenting, so it’s fairly easy to get a computer to do the job automatically. Some people, such as Jim of extrametrical.com, have written their own commenting systems, which — since they use a different commenting mechanism than MT blogs — aren’t targeted. It’s the fabled “security through obscurity” idea [Wikipedia], and it seems to work pretty well. Or, at least, I haven’t seen any blog spam on Jim’s blog lately (actually, ever).
Then came along Jay Allen’s excellent MT-Blacklist, making things considerably harder for spammers. MT-Blacklist leveled the playing field by collecting many spam URLs in single spot — known as the “master blacklist”. When MT-Blacklist is installed on a Moveable Type-based site, each time someone (or some THING) wants to post a comment, the supplied URL is cross-checked against the blacklist, and if a match is made, the comment is refused.
This lead to the creation of dashed versions of the same URLs. For example, http://www.texasholdem.com became http://www.texas-hold-em.com. A little harder to type, but whatever works.
A short while later (and here’s where things start to get weird), spammers started using double and sometimes triple dashes. http://www.online—casino.com and the like. A little strange, but as long as it shows up first in Google, it doesn’t really matter what the address is. Fine. I don’t like it, but I still understand that.
But over the last week, I’ve started receiving spam from completely nonexistent domains, devoid of links in the comment body. And it baffles the heck out of me. Why? What’s the point? About the best I can come up with is that some kind of virus has struck the computers of the spammers, causing blogs to be spammed with nonsense information unintentionally. But a virus, targetting spammers but as a side-effect affects bloggers? Seems a little odd — where’s the motive?
Take www.mingholee.com, for example — the URL in a piece of blogspam I received today. Punching it into my web browser’s location field yields me this:

And Google doesn’t know much about the site, either:

However, here’s something interesting. At the time of this posting, 129 pages contain the term www.mingholee.com. So I’m not the only one.
One more remote possibility, is that over the last week I developed a hole in my DNS services, and what doesn’t work for me (i.e.: www.mingholee.com) actually works for other people. But it that seems extremely unlikely, given the only sites I haven’t been able to reach are the ones spamming my blog.
Someone please give me a clue…

Friday night live

Happy Friday everyone! Well it looks like those Ultimate videos I posted were a bit too popular. Suffice to say, they’re now re-hosted, and hopefully a little faster too. 🙂
The new bumper hasn’t come in yet. I like Davin’s suggestion. Because, really, you can never have too many LASERS. Especially if they’re where a bumper used to be. Change lanes, or I will LASER you! Perfect.
Tomorrow’s fun starts with work. Oh did I say fun? I meant the opposite of that. My bad.
Then, in the evening, I have no idea what’s going on yet, but I refuse to sit around in the house. Done that too many times this week, it’s driving me nuts! Maybe I’ll get out with the camera and see if I can’t get some entries for Cam’s Photo Challenge. He hasn’t announced the winners yet, so I’m going to try to do a late submission.

A Carwash Ate My Bumper

I didn’t even know anything was wrong, until I heard a grinding sound as I was exiting the carwash. But I had no idea where the noise was coming from. I definitely knew something was wrong when the guy across the parking lot stopped what he was doing and pointed at the car. My first instinct was too look at the roof; maybe one of the brushes got caught somehow? But the roof looked just fine. Sparkling clean, in fact.
Then I saw it. My bumper. On the ground. About 5 feet behind the car. Bits of plastic and wires. “No!”, I thought, “I just had that replaced a few months ago!” But looking at the rear of the Altima, my bumper was still there.
I’d driven clean over my front bumper, grinding it on the ground as I went.
The guy who pointed at me offered to take pictures on his disposable camera and mail them to me; I thought they might sell disposable cameras in the gas station, and while I was inside asking he took off. They didn’t, so I bought a disposable camera (the aptly named Kodak FunSaver) from the nearby grocery store instead and took the shots myself.
When I purchased The Altima in the summer of 2002, it had clearly been in an accident; according to the previous owner, the front and rear bumpers were damaged while the car was being shipped back from Germany where her fiance had been stationed at a military base. She figures it (or another vehicle) must have not been secured properly on the boat, and a slow-motion rolling collision ensued. I checked the VIN out and there’s no history of accident claims made against it, so I believe her. Guess the carwash just pushed it past its limit. Just in case, though: this was the Ultimate Wash from a Chevron. Caveat emptor.
The woman in line for a carwash behind me ran and got her money back.
Anyhow, I’ve got a new bumper on order; that’ll be $224 plzkthanx and should be in Monday. On top of that I need it painted silver, and installed, which will probably bump me up to the $500 range. I should point out that it’s just the polycarbonate shell of the bumper which came off, not the actual bumping infrastructure, which is still intact (though exposed). On the plus side, I can see my windshield wiper fluid reservoir now; perhaps I’ll be able to repair the crack in it (probably a product of the aforementioned collision).
At the gas station, the attendant strongly suggested I take my bumper with me lest I lose it; considering it was totally broken, I wouldn’t have been heartbroken. Anyhow, I didn’t want to litter, so it’s in my back seat. Tonight, I had the somewhat surreal experience of thinking I had to make sure I didn’t brake too hard, lest my bumper smack me in the back of the head.

Pictures/Video from the 2004 UPA Club Championships

Update, Fri, Nov 5th, 10:07pm EST: Alright, the videos should be back online! Let me know how things go, esp if transfer speeds are better/worse or if I’m over my bandwidth quota. 🙂 –K

Dialup connections, beware! This is a huge page, be sure you’ve got a coffee handy if you choose to click that “MORE…” link. Onward!

Dramatis electorius

Well, what can I say? Last night, between chatting with Brian, Davin, Alex and Cam over instant messenger I worked on my post about the weekend from around until 10pm, and tired of visiting webpages for my election information, I flipped on the tube. Having the very-most minimal cable possible (just enough to get a discount on my internet service), I didn’t have CNN or C-SPAN or any of the major news services, so I just flipped it to SNN6, one of the local channels, figuring they’d give me an update. What I found surprised me — they were going through who had won the position of county sheriff for Charlotte. What about the national election going on?! But that’s how it works down here. When you go to vote, you’re not just voting on Bush or Kerry or Nader; you’re voting on judges and sheriffs and all sorts of stuff. Seems unusual, but I think it’s related to the whole balance of power thing.
Anyway I ended up settling on WEDU, a PBS affiliate, and watched the what I’m guessing was a special edition of Jim Lehrer’s Newshour. The coverage actually turned out to be much better than I had expected; they discussed the current results, and in-between talked on things I was curious about, like how the geographic area someone grows up could affect which way they’ll vote. You know, left-coast, that kind of thing? Well one theory was, the closer you live to water, the more likely your vote will be liberal. Interesting idea. It holds in most of the situations I can think of, except the east-coast of Canada, which I believe is typically conservative. Another theory was that the higher the population density, the more likely they are to be liberal. Bigger cities == more likely to be democratic. Interesting idea, and I think it holds true. Except for all those cities in Texas. Hmmm.
Anyhow I shut off the TV around midnight; the coverage, plus dinner, plus maybe that beer made me pretty sleepy. Woke up at 5:47 without the assistance of my alarm. “Well,” I thought to myself, “self, why not check how the election is going”. It’s looking like Bush is probably going to get re-elected. The Bush campaign has already declared victory, though Bush isn’t scheduled to speak until later today. The Kerry camp is definitely not certain the election is over. I’m don’t know. It’s looking like another four years of incoherent speeches and dogmatic foreign policy. Guess we’ll find out soon.