SH Sean Harding/blog
Sunday, February 16th, 2003

Eric has some good commentary on the perils of ballot initiative systems such as the one we have here in Washington State. Each time Tim Eyman introduces a new cut-the-taxes initiative he strikes another blow at what makes our country run. Regardless of whether one agrees completely with how the government spends our money (few people do), we must realize that simply cutting off the money that funds programs is not the way to reform it. Taking money away from public transit will not solve road problems. Refusing to vote for school bonds will not fix the education system. Irresponsible initiatives that blindly cut as many taxes as they can almost unfailingly to irreparable harm to society without having any impact on the problem their proponents claim they solve.

If this keeps up, I’ll be very tempted to move to a state with a more reasonable political system.

Arrogance in the Amazon
Thursday, February 13th, 2003

Tonight was the big night: the premiere of Survivor: The Amazon. I was not disappointed. The big twsit this year is that the tribes are split along gender lines, and I think it’s brilliant. Predictably, the guys (Tambaqui tribe) instantly were sure they’d win every challenge, and they made no attempt to mask their confidence. I think it’s been demonstrated time and time again that cockiness does not win this game — especially in the beginning. But the guys this season started off with more arrogance than I think I’ve seen in all of the other seasons combined.

The men did clearly beat the ladies (Jaburu tribe) in the race to get fire. They used the kerosene from their laterns to start it and got it going in a matter of minutes. The women used nothing but sparks and kindling, spending hours on the project. As we watched this spectacle, my girlfriend and I thought that surely the women must have missed the kerosene in their kit. Or they didn’t know what it was. Because if they knew they had kerosene, why on earth would they waste their time trying to start a fire without it??? Yet moments after showing that the women finally got their fire started, Deena was shown explaining that they had been using the kerosene lamps for lighting. Perhaps this was just an editing trick, but it certainly gave the impression that the women knew they had kerosene but didn’t think to use a little of it to help start the fire. Duh!

The guys also outdid the women in the shelter department. The ladies weren’t even in that race. On the first day, the men built what has to be the nicest shelter I’ve ever seen on a Survivor season. The women had four logs laying on the ground. I don’t think that’ll cut it.

The first immunity challenge required a combination of physical and mental skills. It had a mix of puzzles and races with the members of the tribe tied together. They collected keys along the way to unlock themselves and split into smaller and smaller groups. This challenge is where the guys’ cockiness began bite them in the ass. They had a solid lead in the beginning. The women took waaaayyy too long on the first puzzle and I was sure they’d lost the whole challenge right there. But the crack team of Ryan and Daniel managed to blow their team’s massive lead by being unable to make it across a set of balance beams. Then the men sealed their fate by taking forever on the second puzzle while the women made it look easy. Jaburu won immunity and the men had to face the fact that they weren’t as invincible as they’d thought.

I think this is going to turn out to be a pretty interesting season. I’ll be very curious to see how the challenges play out over the coming weeks. I’m also looking forward to getting a better idea of how the power structure in Tambaqui is going to work. Each time I thought I had it figured out this week, something threw me for a loop.

It might be natural for me, as a man, to root for the men in this game. But I just can’t do that. The arrogance they’ve shown makes me want to see them lose again and again. If they don’t get their act together, the women are going to pick them off one by one on their way to the final three. I think this is going to be fun.

More spam
Thursday, February 13th, 2003

Here are some stats from my spam blacklists over the past few months. This is based on around 80,500 blocked messages. Sampling I’ve done indicates that over 99% of these messages are truly spam. In fact, I’m only aware of one case of a false positive with this system.

Remember, this isn’t really related to where the spam I do receive comes from. This only counts messages that were blocked by my Sendmail blacklists before they got to my spam filters.

Spam stats
Thursday, February 13th, 2003

I added a simple little widget in the right column of the front page to list the percentage of my email that was spam yesterday and the long-term average percentage of spam I’ve been receiving.

The definition of "spam" here is simple: it’s what SpamAssassin tags as spam. That means the count will include some false positives, and it’ll miss a few pieces of spam. But my experience with my configuration suggests that these numbers largely cancel each other out. I think it’s close enough for my purposes.

There are a couple of other factors here that may make the spam percentage lower than it otherwise would be. I have a large list of blacklisted domain names and netblocks in my Sendmail configuration. I’m not using anything like MAPS RBL here. I’ve just constructed a list based on where a lot of my spam seems to come from. It’s been pretty effective for me (it’s currently blocking an average of 20,000 spam messages a month). It’s hard to say how many of those messages would truly have gotten through to me; some of them are sure to be dictionary attacks or otherwise sent to invalid addresses. But I have no doubt that my spam percentages would be significantly higher without the blacklists there.

Also, I’ve used temporary autogenerated addresses for a lot of things like posting on Usenet. And my main web page currently has uniquely-generated email addresses on each page. Those are real addresses — mail sent to them will get through to me. But their nature makes it very easy for me to disable any that I find to have been harvested by spammers. While I’m not currently taking advantage of it, I do also have the capability to make those addresses work only for a short period of time. If the spam flood from them becomes too much of an nuisance, I may turn that on. It seems unlikely to seriously inconvenience legitimate users and if the time window were small enough, it would make the addresses useless for spammers.

Update 2003-04-30:

I added some information on my blacklist blocking to the spam stats box on the main page. Some of the blacklist information is discussed above. Since I wrote that, I’ve started using the Spamhaus SBL blacklist. At the time of this writing, it accounts for a very small percentage of my overall blacklist blocked messages.

Married by America???
Wednesday, February 12th, 2003

Fox has a new reality show coming up called "Married by America." In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to admit right up front that I like a lot of the reality shows that have been put out over the past few years. Even ones that were widely reviled. I watched the Big Brothers. I love Survivor. And while I haven’t gotten excited about them like I have some of the others, I’m not offended by the various "marriage" shows. But based on the history of those shows, it seems pretty obvious to me that none of these marriages will ever last.

Ok, ok, that should have been obvious before any of the shows hit the air. But at least viewers could have fantasies that the televised marriages would actually mean something — that the participants would live "happily ever after." At this point, I think even the fantasies have been crushed. Every reality show marriage so far has ended just as promptly as the shows did. So, what’s the point? Everyone knows, without a doubt, that this "marriage by america" is going to fail. We know it’ll probably fail within a month, and there’s no way it’ll last a year. Knowing that, I’d argue that it doesn’t even qualify as a real marriage. It’s just as much fiction as the marriage of Monica and Chandler on Friends. Maybe even more so; at least Courtney Cox Arquette and Matthew Perry have known each other for years.

Without any illusion of reality, why would anyone watch this show? There’s no character development. The story line, if there is one, depends on the supposed "reality" of the situation being presented. That’s gone, so I don’t see how the show can succeed. It makes me wonder: are Fox’s programming folks desperate or oblivious? Or maybe they know something I don’t. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

< Newer posts | Home | Older posts >