Archive for the ‘blog meta’ Category

To Write, or Not to Write, That Is the Question—

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

I wonder whether I'm engaged in soliloquy. Some people have accounts on this 'blog, allowing them access to restricted entries, but I don't know that anyone is actually logging-in and reading those entries.

I Know It When I See It!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Yester-day evening, I was using a publicly accessible WLAN to connect with the Internet. I found my access to this 'blog blocked by a Norton-branded product, which declared the 'blog to be pornographic.

Erotica really hasn't figured large in this 'blog. You can find the relevant entries with the tag erotica. I think that the two or three entries that caused Norton to damn this thing are specifically my entry of 2 July 2009, my entry of 26 March 2010, and perhaps my entry of 30 June 2010; the entry of 30 January 2011 may have weighed against me as well.

Of these, the entry of 2 July 2009 is the one that most likely set-off alarms. It contains an overtly erotic image (by Carolyn Weltman), and has a key-word of cunnilinctus.[1] Do a Google image-search using that key-word, and a link to that entry is currently the second returned. And, because of a couple of the other key-words in that entry, other images are also found, including one by Karel Šimůnek than many would regard as pornographic.

In the '50s, the drawings by Joe Shuster in the entry of 30 June 2011 would have been regarded as pornographic, though now the word pornography would typically be regarded as too strong. (Actually, a hundred years ago, many would have insisted that the picture in my entry of 2 February 2011 were pornographic, while now-a-days it could appear in a children's book without fuss.) Still, the text in that entry contains the term sado-masochistic and there are pictures, and Norton's classification was probably mediated with weak AI; indeed, once other flags were thrown, the appearance of the word dominatrix in a follow-up entry may have been seen as further PoP.

Most WLANs that filter do so by way of a DNS table. When a browser seeks content located in terms of a URI or of a URL, and that specification includes a domain name, the domain name is converted to an IP number by way of a DNS table. By censoring the table that is used, the WLAN can block domains.

Some people subvert this censorship by way of a proxy server, which is no more than some site that will act as an intermediary; fetching content from the blocked domain. The obvious problem here is that the proxy may be identified and blocked as well.

A better subversion is to use a different table than whatever is being supplied by the WLAN. In particular, one may configure one's system to use DNS tables provided by Google, or perhaps by some other third party. But be alert that using an alternative DNS table may not be a good idea in other contexts. (For example, when using a subscription ISP that places quotas on content for most sites, but with exceptions.)

[1]The words cunnilinctus and cunnilingus are synonymous in English and in some other languages; but in Latin cunnilinctus referred to the act, while cunnilingus referred to a performer of that act. The latter word acquired its more recent meaning as a result of incompetent posturing (something that has figured more than once in attempts to borrow foreign terms and phrases). Efforts to clean-up this particular mess have repeatedly failed, but I avoid participating in it, by using the word that is both proper English and proper Latin. Hence my use of the less common term.

Missing Links

Monday, 11 February 2013

Assuming that you do much surfing of the WWWeb, you've surely noticed that there are a great many sites that now require one to use an account with an external social-networking service in order to access functionality that previously would have been available without such an account. For example, to comment to some sites which are not themselves hosted on Yahoo! or on Facebook or on Google+, one must none-the-less log into an account with one of these services.

From the perspective of the site-owners, reliance upon such external services can reduce the costs of managing site-access. The external social networks provide this management partly as valued-added to their account-holders, but providing this service is a means of building a behavioral profile of those account-holders.[1] (To this day, most people do not assimilate the fact that most social-networking services exist largely as profiling services.) As you might expect, I feel that efforts to build such profiles should be resisted.

I understand both the problems of the client-sites instead independently managing access, and the difficulties of knowing just where to draw some objective line that would distinguish acceptable and unacceptable external services. (For example, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to require a verified e.mail account, and even to require a verified e.mail account from a service that is not black-listed. But, once one requires a verified e.mail account from a service that is white-listed, one may be pushing visitors into allowing themselves to be profiled (by an e.mail-service provider), if the white-list is overly constrained.)

What seems inexcusable to me is not simply handing access-control over to an external service, but handing it over exclusively to one external service that is a profiling service. The very worse case of such inexcusability is handing control over to the biggest of these services, Facebook, but it remains inexcusable to give exclusivity to any other external service (unless that service has some real guarantee against building profiles).

Which brings me to a policy change that I will be effecting for my own 'blog, not-withstanding that it has never required an external account to access its functionality.

At this and some other sites, a list of implicitly or explicitly recommended links is provided, outside of the body of principal content. (With the present formatting of this 'blog, they are in a right-hand column.)

In the case of my own list, I will be removing (or refraining from providing) links whenever I discover that the only evident way to access those other sites or to comment to them is by using an account with exactly one external social-networking site.

For example, if a 'blog is not hosted on Facebook, but the only readily seen way to comment to it is by using a Facebook account, then I will not wilfully provide a link to it. I will continue to link to Facebook sites; I will continue to link to sites where the only readily seen ways of commenting use social-networking accounts, so long as accounts from more than one social network may be used.

This policy only applies to the sort of generalized recommendations represented by that list. I may continue to link within principal content to such things as news-stories at sites that are enabling such profiling.

[1] I don't know that those handing access-management off to such services receive side-payments for doing so, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Just Pining

Sunday, 5 August 2012

On Sunday, 27 May, I received a pair of e.mail messages announcing formal acceptance for publication of my paper on indecision, and I ceased being braced for rejection. From 15 June, Elsevier had a version for sale on-line (first the uncorrected proof, then the corrected proof, now the version found in the journal). The issue itself (J Math Econ v48 #4) was made available on-line on 3 August. (I assume that the print copies will be received by subscribers soon.)

Reader may recall that, not very long ago, I was reading A Budget of Paradoxes by Augustus de Morgan, and that when de Morgan used the term paradox he did not use in in the sense of an apparent truth which seems to fly in the face of reason, but in the older sense of a tenet opposed to received opinion. De Morgan was especially concerned with cases of heterodoxy to which no credibility would be ascribed by the established mainstream.

Some paradoxes would later move from heterodoxy to orthodoxy, as when the Earth came to be viewed as closely approximated by a sphere, and with no particular claim to being the center of the universe. But most paradoxes are unreasonable, and have little chance of ever becoming orthodoxy.

I began reading de Morgan's Budget largely because I have at least a passing interest in cranky ideas. But reading it at the time that I did was not conducive to my mental health.

Under ideal circumstances, one would not use a weight of opinion — whether the opinion were popular or that of experts — to approximate most sorts of truth. But circumstances are seldom ideal, and social norms are often less than optimal whatever the circumstances. When confronted with work that is heterodox about foundational matters, the vast majority of people judge work to be crackpot if it is not treated with respect by some ostensibly relevant population.

In cases where respect is used as the measure of authority, there can be a problem of whose respect is itself taken to have some authority; often a layering obtains. The topology of that layering can be conceptualized in at least three ways, but the point is that the layers run from those considered to have little authority beyond that to declare who has more authority, to those who are considered to actually do the most respected research, with respected popularizers usually in one of the layers in-between. In such structures, absurdities can obtain, such as presumptions that popularizers have themselves done important research, or that the more famous authorities are the better authorities.

As I was reading de Morgan's book, my paper was waiting for a response from the seventh journal to which it had been offered. The first rejection had been preëmptory; no reason was given for it, though there was some assurance that this need not be taken as indicating that the paper were incompetent or unimportant. The next three rejections (2nd, 3rd, 4th) were less worrisome, as they seemed to be about the paper being too specialized, and two of them made a point of suggesting what the editor or reviewer thought to be more suitable journals. But then came the awful experience of my paper being held by Theory and Decision for more than a year-and-a half, with editor Mohammed Abdellaoui refusing to communicate with me about what the Hell were happening. And this was followed by a perverse rejection at the next journal from a reviewer with a conflict of interest. Six rejections[1] might not seem like a lot, but there really aren't that many academically respected journals which might have published my paper (especially as I vowed never again to submit anything to a Springer journal); I was running-out of possibilities.

I didn't produce my work with my reputation in mind, and I wouldn't see damage to my reputation as the worst consequence of my work being rejected; but de Morgan's book drew my attention to the grim fact that my work, which is heterodox and foundational, was in danger of being classified as crackpot, and I along with it.

Crackpots, finding their work dismissed, often vent about the injustice of that rejection. That venting is taken by some as confirmation that the crackpots are crackpots. It's not; it's a natural reäction to a rejection that is perceived to be unjust, whether the perception is correct or not. The psychological effect can be profoundly injurious; crackpots may collapse or snap, but so may people who were perfectly reasonable in their heterodoxy. (Society will be inclined to see a collapse or break as confirmation that the person were a crackpot, until and unless the ostensible authorities reverse themselves, at which point the person may be seen as a martyr.)

As things went from bad to worse for my paper, I dealt with how I felt by compartmentalization and dissociation. When the paper was first given conditional acceptance, my reäction was not one of happiness nor of relief; rather, with some greater prospect that the paper would be published, the structure of compartmentalization came largely undone, and I felt traumatized.

Meanwhile, some other things in my life were going or just-plain went wrong, at least one of which I'll note in some later entry. In any case, the recent quietude of this 'blog hasn't been because I'd lost interest in it, but because properly to continue the 'blog this entry was needed, and I've not been in a good frame-of-mind to write it.

[1] Actually five rejections joined with the behavior of Abdellaoui, which was something far worse than a rejection.

Of Black-Outs and Block-Heads

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Those who attempted to visit this 'blog yester-day met with this proclamation that it were suspended by its author in protest against SOPA and against PIPA. None-the-less, when the Woman of Interest asked me whether I thought that the black-out protests would be effective, my answer in the late morning was negative.

First, I was inclined in advance to believe that deciding positions had already been taken (albeït not announced) some days ago by a majority in Congress and by the President, and that final outcomes would not be actually swung by the sort of protest that could plausibly be expected.

Additionally, by late morning, I felt that a rather poor protest had been mounted. Wikipedia, most famous of the protestors, ostensibly blacked-out its pages, but had left them so that hitting Esc as they loaded caused the ordinary content to be delivered. Google merely changed its home-page graphic, partially (but, tellingly, not fully) covering-over their name with a cocked black rectangle; never mind that those who invoke searches with a browser text-field don't see that graphic anyway! Many sites did no more than change their color-schemes.

I think that least effective were those who expressed their ostensible support for the black-out by posting those expressions, through-out the day, on the WWWeb, while withdrawing nothing. Now, let me make it plain that I have no quarrel with those who simply didn't participate in the black-out, or those who shut-down only some of their sites; the former may be perfectly consistent, the latter perhaps efficient. But those who weren't blacked-out in the least and discoursed upon their support for the black-out on the WWWeb as that black-out were in-progress seem not to understand that they were providing content in attempted support of an effort to provide a sense of the loss of content that would follow upon the passage of something such as SOPA or as PIPA. And if the only content that one normally provide were tweets and such, then exactly that were what one needed to halt to actually support a black-out.

Those in that last group ought to understand that SOPA or PIPA wouldn't simply mean that the WWWeb no longer offered them so much information and passive amusement; such an act would limit their ability to express themselves as freely as they do now. Along with Google and YouTube and Tumblr would go Facebook and Twitter and Blogger and all the other centralized social-networking sites. (Which is not to say that more autonomous sites, such as mine, would be spared.) People who won't g_dd_mn'd shut-up would be quite hard hit — which might be an amusing thought, but freedom of expression is essential, and not to be reduced to quiet chatter-boxes and pontificators.

My participation in the protest, however, wasn't conditioned on a presupposition that it would sway the body politic. My actions were essentially symbolic, and it wasn't necessary for me to believe that I would sway anyone, though I would hope at least that there'd be one or two sympathetic readers.

And my negativity about the black-out doesn't mean that I expected or expect one of these bills to pass, nor for it to avoid a Presidential veto, nor for the Supreme Court to rule in its favor. I don't know about the first two. (The President will certainly require cover if he is not to veto a bill of this sort, but perhaps he will think that he can get that cover from a signing statement.) I would be unpleasantly surprised by the last; the Supreme Court seems more genuinely alert to concerns about freedom of expression in recent years.

Of course, I may be wrong about the effect of the black-out, however feeble it may look to me. Representatives and Senators have been spooked by scarecrows in the past. But, if the bills failed, that failure wouldn't itself demonstrate that the black-out had a deciding effect.

I would definitely caution at this point that what appears to be strategic retreat may be merely tactical. The interests behind these bills are not going to go away, and features of these bills may be withdrawn at one stage only to be reïntroduced at another (such as reconciliation).

The principal recommendation of many of those participating (however convincingly or pathetically) in the protest was that people should contact their Senators and Representatives. Well, the Senators from California are a knavish fool and a foolish knave, and the Representative for my district is at best a twit. I've tried moving those three in the past, and been met by silence or with inane boiler-plate. If they voted against these bills, it wouldn't be because of anything that I said to them. There's not even a sympathetic reader to be found amongst them. But I do know that other districts are not so grim.

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

This 'blog was off-line for more than 24 hours after an event on the server. A technician at the hosting service ultimately identified the problem as a conflict between a security up-date and the theme — software establishing the appearance (lay-out, color-scheme, &c) of the 'blog. (I find the same conflict when I attempt to use WordPress Default Theme 1.6, upon which my theme was originally based.)

I am told that the administrators can and will change a configuration of the server to allow that theme to be used; but, to get the 'blog back up-and-running in the mean-time, I am temporarily using a very different theme. If, by the time that you read this entry, the 'blog looks pretty much as you're used to seeing it, that means that I have returned to the original theme.

Not Dead; Just Pining

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The recent relative quiescence of this 'blog has obtained from a confluence of things. I have rival demands of my time or of my energy, have not always been in the best of moods, and have not known quite how I want to formulate some of the entries upon which I have been working.

With respect to the last, one problem has been that I've wanted to present the entries in a certain order (or at least a certain preörder), which has allowed bottle-necks to develop. I think, now, that I'd better loosen-up on some of these considerations of the order of entries.

Eternity Is Not a Deadline

Sunday, 22 November 2009

As previously noted, back at the end of April 2008, when WordPress version 2.5.1 was the latest stable release, I reported a bug in the handling of nested q[uotation] elements by WordPress. The bug was scheduled to be fixed with version 2.7. Then, as the release of version 2.7 approached, the bug-fix was rescheduled for version 2.9. When I discovered this rescheduling, I wrote

And there seems no assurance that, about half-a-year from now, that target won’t be reset to version 3.1.
Well, that was actually more than 11 months ago, but two days ago, with version 2.9 in beta, the fix was rescheduled for Future Release, which is to say that it really isn't scheduled at all.

I don't really want to dive into the code to fix the error myself. For one thing, I've been thinking of writing an independent software package that would contain some of the same functionality as that of the package in which the bug resides, and I neither want to license the code of someone else nor face challenge as having perhaps cribbed said code. Further, I'd expect to have to invest significant effort to understand the code before I could properly patch it, and might have no use for the understanding after the patch.

Impending Move

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Some time within the next two weeks, I am going to shift this domain at its 'blog from one host to another. The move should be transparent to visitors. There is some chances that a comment might be lost, if it is made between the cloning of the underlying dB and the up-dating of DNS tables, though I will take measures to try to avoid such loss.


Friday, 30 January 2009

My lack of posts here have been an artefact of my illness. I managed to comment here-and-there to various journals and 'blogs, but putting together an entry to my own 'blog has seemed too much. I'm considerably better now, though I'm still coughing and somewhat congested.

One of the aspects of my being ill has been that I don't have a clear sense of the timing of events over much of the last few weeks, even though I felt fairly lucid during most of that time.

On the worst day, whenever that was, I awoke as weak as a kitten — I had to lay down and rest after the effort of simply finding two matching socks in my laundry — but had to go out and get something for food energy. I managed to get to CVS/pharmacy (a half-block from my home) and got orange juice. After I drank it, I was very cold. I wasn't thinking clearly enough to reälize that I was cold because, on the one hand, I had just put about a pint of cold fluid in my body, and, on the other hand, was too low in energy to generate off-setting body heat. I just climbed under my bed-covers and passed-out. When I awoke, I was over-heated, and thought I'm like an old mouse, who has lost his ability to regulate his body temperature. But I was otherwise feeling much better; the carbohydrates and vitamins in the orange juice had been put to good use.

Later that day or some time on the next (I really don't remember), worried about me, the Woman of Interest placed an order for home delivery with Vons while I was asleep. This was probably a good idea, but in the event Vons quite dropped-the-ball. They originally gave her a two-hour window for expected delivery; at the end of that window, she got a call telling her that it would be another 20 minutes. She told them to telephone her if there were any problem. After instead about two more hours, figuring that local restaurants would soon close for the night, I went out. On my way, I let the Vons delivery man thorough a pedestrian gate to the apartment complex. When I got home, there was no food at my door; just a Sorry we missed you note. And, no, the delivery man hadn't called the Woman of Interest; as I noted to her, he didn't want to have to admit that the ostensible 20 minutes had been more like 120 minutes. (FWIW, I live less than half-a-mile from the nearest Vons store. As the Woman of Interest notes, they probably don't run the delivery service out of the nearest store, but it is none-the-less absurd that they cannot perform the equivalent of a half-mile delivery within two or even three hours.)