… and things you read on the Internet.

If Mark Twain was still alive, I’m sure he would of said, “There are lies, damned lies and things you read on the Internet.” This is of course quite obvious to anyone who has been using the Internet for more then a few weeks so you would of thought that by the end of 2005 people would of learned by now.

But no, people still forward chain letters around which have factual errors which are obvious if you spend 60 seconds to do a quick search on Snopes, Truth or Fiction? or Break the Chain. Is it so hard to bookmark these sites and use them to see if the email you got from some friend or family member but written by some unknown individual is true?

Are we as a society, so desperate for our side to win an argument that we’re willing to forgo common sense and basic research so that we can claim that we didn’t know that Oliver North never mentioned Osama Bin Laden in 1987 or that there are two people in the world with the name “Mohammed Atta” just so that we can argue Bush is doing the right thing? What does that say about your argument when you rely on lies to support it?

One thing I’ve noticed that over time, my responses have become more “colorful” (some might say even acidic) over time. In the past, I’d politely point to the original sender (never to the entire list) out that it wasn’t true and include a link to Snopes and ask that they check there first in the future. Of course that didn’t work, so I’d start to just delete them, hoping that everyone else who got the email was smart enough to do the same. But over time, I’ve found myself perversely drawn to pointing out to everyone (in my patented sarcastic way) just how stupid these chain letters are, not because I think the sender will learn, but because it’s the only way for me to vent my fustration.

So I say to everyone reading this (all 3 of you that is), don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.


Confidentiality in Email

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more companies have been adding confidentiality notices to the bottom of emails. Lately, I’ve been wondering why. I mean, just what is the purpose of these notices? Are they legally binding? Do companies really believe that people will do what the notice asks? What will they do if they don’t? If not, why do they bother?

So let’s dissect an average message:
Confidentiality: This e-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s)

Well if it’s sitting in my email inbox, then obviously I’m an intended recipient right? Why am I responsible for making a determination regarding what you intended? If you can’t be trusted to properly address an email, why are you trusting a potentially complete stranger to make an accurate determination on your (obviously flawed) mental state?

and may contain confidential and privileged information.

Again, how would I know what is confidential and privileged? Don’t you by the act of emailing this information to a complete stranger make the information not very confidential or privileged?

Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited.

Oooohhhhh!!! Now you’re scaring me! PROHIBITED!!! Oh wait.. just what are you going to do if I forward this on to the Wall Street Journal? Tell my mom? Also, wouldn’t I have to “review” the contents to make an accurate determination of the nature of the content? If you can’t prohibit your own employee from distributing your confidential information, what makes you think you can stop me?

If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

“Please” is such a nice word, but it’s hardly a forceful requirement. Also what am I supposed to tell the sender? That they’re an idiot for sending me some super secret document detailing their plan for dominating the world’s supply of organic skunk scented candles?

Thank you.

Well at least you’re polite about it.


Well this sucks

It’s 3:40am and I’m awake. Not sure if this is just a bad case of allergies anymore or a head cold, but I can’t sleep. Claritin and Sudafed 12hr have failed me. Maybe I’ll try some Oban 14. So here I am, working on my WordPress theme (almost done) and watching TV… thank god for TiVo. (On a side note, I wonder how many other people’s TiVo controller have the marking on the -> button rubbed off from skipping commercials?)

Either way, I have to say I’m overall pretty happy with WordPress so far. It’s got a decent plugin architecture (still need to find a spell checker) and has some really nice features, but some of it’s API is annoyingly inconsistent. This theme I’m working on seems to be coming along nicely, but between the bugs and inconsistencies in web browsers, now I remember why I hate webdev.


Moved to WordPress

Well I finally got sick of writing custom code/templates (I’ve used static files using templates/Makefiles as well as dynamic pages using Perl/HTML::Mason). While I’m quite proficent with Class::DBI and PostgreSQL, it just wasn’t worth the effort of writing all the administrator forms for managing content.

I had a few major requirements:

  1. Secure and actively maintained
  2. Themeable so I can make it look like I want to without too much work
  3. Decent admin forms for managing posts and comments
  4. Can be hosted on my personal server on synfin.net

Hence, I tried Blogger. But wtf? They support sftp (secure ftp over ssh) but their website doesn’t support SSL. So while they can login securely to my server, I have to send my username/password in clear text to them? You would think that now that Google has bought them, with all their PhD’s they could figure out how to purchase a SSL certificate and load it on their webserver…

Anyways, so then I started looking at code I could maintain myself. After much research, I ended up with WordPress. I’m not thrilled it’s written in PHP and uses MySQL; both of which I personally think suck from a developer perspective, but that doesn’t prevent people from writing decent apps it seems.


Educated vs. Trained

I assume most people intuitively already know this, but I found this article to be a clear explaination of something that I’ve found 100% true… that there is a real difference between people who are “educated” and “trained”.

“This brings me to my last point… I have noticed a distinction between the various people that one encounters in the work place, a distinction made by Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Apart from the truly useless wards of the state, there are two kinds of people: those who are educated, and those who are trained.

Educated individuals tend to be generalists. They might be especially good in a few specific things, but that is not their main selling point. By far and away, their main virtue is adaptability. They have absorbed a large body of knowledge and generalized it into a framework that allows them to reason about and solve novel problems. They do not tend to get into ruts. They do not tend to bump up against walls and get stuck. No matter what the environment is into which they are thrust, they can adapt and prevail.

Trained individuals, when in their domain, are indistinguishable from educated folk, or perhaps even superior. They have absorbed some particular body of knowledge and are now purveyors of it in the same way that followers of a religion are purveyors of their faith. Pointed in the right direction they are very capable people. Put them up against a novel situation, however, and they are damn near useless. They will spout ideological nonsense that aligns with their programming, and there is quite simply nothing that you can do to convince them that there exists a better way. If they learned system A, and part of their indoctrination is that system A is the best system ever, then there is nothing in this world that you can do to convince them that system B is better. You may just as well try to make a Satanist of a fundamentalist Christian.”


Rep. Marilyn Musgrave

Today, I got a spam from Rep. Marilyn Musgrave from Colorado about the 2007 Farm Bill. I thought since she took the time to email me, I should send a thoughtful reply:

Dear Rep. Marilyn Musgrave,

Thank you so very much for your email. I found your words especially relevant since I live in California and spend most of my time as far away from farms as I possibly can. I think it is great that so much of my tax dollars are being spent on worthless pork such as farm subsidies and that I have people like you to blame for it. Also, I want to thank you for sending me this unsolicited bulk email (often known as SPAM, but please don’t confuse it with the Hormel product- they don’t like that). While most people of your stature have enough common sense to not want to be associated with something that peddles free pornography, cheap viagra and bogus stock tips, it apparently suits you quite well.

Unfortunately, while I would love to vote against you in an election, I will have to find it enough to tell my representatives and senators to vote against the 2007 Farm Bill.

Aaron Turner

P.S. Please remove me from your spam list.
Hopefully I wasn’t too subtle…


More news is good news

Two things of note recently… tcpreplay 3.0.beta6 was released which continues to fix bugs reported by all the beta testers out there. Many thanks to them for keeping me honest. On a more political note, SCOTUS recently ruled that eminent domain extends to allow the government to take your private property and give it to another PRIVATE entity such as
a company wanting to build a hotel. Now, a private developer has decided to try to build a hotel on Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s home. I have to admit, “Just Deserts Cafe” is rather appropriate.