current journal
spam notice


reminds me of blood vessels in the retina

Nighttime lightning.

Blog comment forms are irresistable to spammers. I've played a cat-and-mouse game keeping spammers out, but nothing on the scale that the large blogging platforms have gone through. When you post a comment to a site hosted on Blogger, a lot goes on behind the scenes to determine whether you're a person or an automated spam program. I don't just mean serving up the CAPTCHA; there's also some truly cryptic Javascript that helps separate the wheat from the chaff. The code is obfuscated—deliberately hard to read. This is an instance of security through obscurity, which succeeds only to the extent its workings remain secret. All else equal, a system that doesn't rely on security through obscurity is preferable to one that does—but sometimes you do whatever it takes.

Obfuscated code has been around as long as there have been programmers, who write it not just for security but also for sport. For an example of mildly obfuscated code, see the Javascript in this page that calculates the day of the week. For obfuscation beyond what you'd think anyone could (or would bother to) achieve, see the IOCCC—the Olympics of obfuscation.

???? Blogger's (that is, Google's) anti-spam code is more for a utilitarian purpose than for sport, although you can see in this excerpt that they have not just slipped π in but also the golden ratio (2654435769 is 232 × 0.618...), which may be there for good reason or maybe just for the fun of it.

Spammers will work at defeating a system that hosts zillions of blogs before they'd bother with a one-off system protecting a trifle of a blog like the one you're reading. Google has to be clever because they have some very determined adversaries. Tommyjournalcomments, on the other hand, enjoys security through unpopularity.
self-explanatory If you keep a car long enough, the blower motor (in the HVAC system) will go bad. After you replace it, the old motor can be plundered for a curved magnet that will fit on a drillpress column, just the ticket for holding the chuck key.

This is the second in an occasional series. In the interest of sustaining suspense, I won't say whether future installments will also feature magnets.
The guy who had my house before me planted dozens of trees, evidently thinking that with irrigation they would be OK.

Well. The cottonwoods blew over, the Leyland cypresses have had trouble with the heat, and the pines take a dim view of the alkaline soil. The rest were OK choices species-wise, but even among those a few have been thwarted by caliche.

Then there's the incense cedar. It looked good until some critter ate all the foliage off it last year. I think a career as lumber is in its near future.

This neighborhood can be a tough gig if you're a tree.

And yet there are surprises. For the first time in 15 years living here, I've seen an Arizona cypress start from seed. It's a welcome addition, as AZ cypress is one of the best adapted trees for this area. It started under another tree, and I moved it today to a better location. I think it's got a chance. Much as I prefer posting sentences of my own, it's been a hectic day (nay, month) and I will resort to quoting something I saw in the paper today.
Through extensive research and trial and error, he figured out how to simulate the telltale signs of age: the distinctive spider-web cracking in the paint, the tiny dots of fly droppings, and the slimy green look of old varnish when viewed under ultraviolent light.
Shades of A Clockwork Orange. No matter what you think about airport body-scanners,
this is a straightforward rule-of-law issue:
In July 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that the Transportation Security Administration had to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its policy of using "Advanced Imaging Technology" for primary screening at airports. TSA was supposed to publish the policy in the Federal Register, take comments from the public, and justify its policy based on public input. The court told TSA to do all this "promptly." A year later, TSA has not even started that public process. Defying the court, the TSA has not satisfied public concerns about privacy, about costs and delays, security weaknesses, and the potential health effects of these machines. If the government is going to "body-scan" Americans at U.S. airports, President Obama should force the TSA to begin the public process the court ordered.
Please consider signing the petition at If it gets 25,000 signatures by August 7, the administration will respond. As I write, it's halfway there. To sign, you have to register (easy) and be over 13 years of age. I didn't see anything about having to be a US citizen; use your judgment on that.

This came to my attention via Bruce Schneier. outdoors in the shade

It's warm.

And as has happened before, it's when a friend was free to go climbing.
Geococcyx californianus, Cupressus arizonica Are roadrunners photogenic, or what.
Click on the pic for the full bird experience. In one of my favorite short stories1, the narrator recalls how he told his dad he wanted to take magic lessons; his dad said OK but evidently misheard and thought it was music lessons.

A couple nights ago I dreamt that I was at the home of the story's author2 (who is deceased; that alone shoulda tipped me off that I was dreaming). I told him I liked the book that story appears in, and he called it "rubbish". But I digress.

Some years after I'd first read that story, I met a magician who'd gotten into the craft as a kid when someone misheard him say that he wanted to be a musician and got him magic equipment instead.

A climbing buddy once told me about a bunch of routes he was naming after Peter Gabriel song titles. When he said Shock the Monkey, I asked if he'd said Chalk the Monkey,3 and he said no but I like it and that's what the name will be. And so it is.

The Japanese record market evidently likes to see lyric sheets. If the original version of a record didn't come with lyrics, the Japanese release might include the results of an attempt at transcribing them. A Japanese version of a Monochrome Set record gave

    2 o'clock early arousing asphyxes our zig-zag

for a lyric4 that really was

    Swirl the potpourri around / Sync-pulse, pic-sync and sync-sound

In an interview, the band's main songwriter said, "I gained a reputation in Japan for being a great lyric writer. I long ago stopped thinking about this."
1Why I turned myself into a nightingale
(Warum ich mich in eine Nachtigall verwandelt habe)
2Wolfgang Hildesheimer
3climbers put chalk (usually MgCO3) on their hands to counteract the effects of sweat
4from The Weird, Wild, and Wonderful World of Tony Potts
(for Sasha: they rendered Fritz Lang as bread slam)
The lyrics to King's Lead Hat
by Brian Eno include the line

The passage of my life is measured out in shirts.

For my snake, make that skins.
click to embiggen