January 14th, 2007


Cat Wine

When it comes to whims, that was a good one. Tonight, I went to a POG (the mostly-anarchist group) social. I met a number of interesting people, including a lawyer for one of Pittsburgh's unions, people who help unions negotiate, a bunch of the anarchists, and several other folk. Conversations ranged from political theory (with some of the union folk, including a former Trotskyite who became a Democratic Socialist) and co-ops as socialism within capitalism to organising tactics (where I had some of my questions about why they do things the way they do answered). The event wasn't particularly .. intellectual, but it was a good thing to do - there are sides to me that have been asleep for several years, and it was nice to have them get up and take a walk for a bit. Part of this was the music-in-a-crowded-house-basement phonomenon, something I haven't seen since Charles threw some open mics of that sort in Columbus. I never thought I'd see the gap bridged between things like the Columbus art community and the Columbus activist scene, but this found something close to the strange middle ground. There were some parts of the music that I disagreed with (particularly, some criticisms of the current system seem hollow (e.g. use of the term "patriarchy") or ignorant (the expressed ideas about Iraq seemed to have no actual awareness of world events)), but it was very nice to be there. There were a surprising number of people there - it gives me hope for the future, even if it's not exactly the same thing as what I would have. I was tempted to walk around the party and ask everyone what Anarchism meant to them, but I decided to just relax and enjoy myself instead.

On the walk back to Squirrel Hill (about three miles), I thought a bit about age, and if many of the people there would retain their beliefs as they got older (I was a decent bit older than the median age), but then I finally came to the conclusion that this was a bad way to think about things - it's entirely concievable that people might have their best political ideas in youth, as people's willingness to face harsh realities might be at their greatest in youth and slowly fade. Perhaps. With that possibility (at least), I can dispense with the idea that how long political ideas last in a person should make a difference in how I understand the ideas themselves. This also gives me a nice line of reasoning against certain arguments I once heard from Nicole that tried to give a moral dimension to memetics (as much as she did not recognise memes).


On Blocking BLOGSpam

I get a fair amount of spam on my blog, and as a result whenever I get a decent amount of it gathered, I look at the apache logs and try to find ways to block it. Methods I've used, along with how much I think they're chopping things out:

  • Block individual IPs at the iptables level from all communication with my machine - I'd guess this chops out about 10% of my spam, but it's hard to know because I don't get logs of any sort from these attempts.
  • Reject comments where the IP of the machine that gets the comment form differs from that which posts the form - This cuts out the majority of my spam (probably about 75%) - it's not unusual for me to see the form retrieved from thailand and posted from china (or other similarly distant places. This has a cost - any proxy pools won't be able to comment on my blog (chopping out AOL at least). That's fine by me.
  • Keyword-based rejections - blocking mention of viagra, cialis, and a number of other products that spammers like to mention cuts out about 10% after the above.

Things I am considering doing:

  • Block Tor. In recent times, I've come to the conclusion that tor is a bad thing (it diminishes responsibility for one's computer), and I found a nice set of scripts to find IPs that would likely talk to my servers as tor proxies. I probably would just block tor from posting, as I don't like the idea of automating things that talk to iptables.
  • Block all of China, Korea, India, and other asian countries from commenting. I've only once had a proper comment from outside the Americas and Europe, and the majority of my spam comes from IP addresses in that sphere. This is definitely just WRT comments - I know I have readers elsewhere in the world.
Right now, about three bits of spam make it in every day.

I'm not currently looking at CAPTCHAs - it'd take some effort to implement, and would not stop the poor people who are paid to spam from doing so.

Slightly orthogonally, I found this on the topic of email spam. I've never seriously thought about such a system, but I've been on an anti-spam kick for the last few weeks...


Class Supplemental

I should note that I only have 2.5 people who have given me a yes for the roguelike class I'd like to teach this semester. I want at least 7-8 people (more ideally, 12+) if I'm going to make it happen. I'll leave more flyers in the cluster, and will hopefully know for sure by next saturday (meaning I'll start a week later than classes in general will). Interested parties should leave a note here.

Today is devoted to cleaning. Hand-washing of laundry is surprisingly soothing, and I got rid of some tea stains on the carpet that I was worried would be permanent. With luck, I won't need to drop another thousand to clean this carpet when I move out of here (fingers crossed). Also soothing has been the recent pleasure of falling asleep to rain. Something about that is deeply calming to me. I wish I lived somewhere with perpetual warm rain. Even cold rain sounds nice though.


Conversions and Evangelism

In a recent blog post, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a liberal high Persian political figure with ties to former (reformist) president Khatami, discusses an interesting perspective - that the age of evangelism and conversion is over. He ties in some of the ideas Khatami presented on his recent trip to Harvard - that it is time for a dialogue of civilisations based on mutual respect, and an end to competition. The position is an interesting one - not one, I think, that is supported by text of the Qur'an (and thus likely Bid'ah), but one that might eventually lead to peace (of the armistice kind, perhaps?). I wonder how accurate Abtahi's claims that efforts to convert lead to increased international tensions are. I can buy that they make people feel their religious group is threatened, and that that in turn may lead to problems. Whether that's a large factor compared to other contributors to tension is difficult to measure. Whether it would be possible for people who would place peace over evangelism to reign in evangelists/missionaries (and people like Coulter) in their civilisation is another question entirely.

I'd like to note that in how I consider the present governmental system of Persia, I refuse to assign any disapproval to governmental leaders who took part in the hostage crisis. The Americans (along with the British) abused diplomatic privilege in the nation for many years, from toppling elected leaders to assassinating people hostile to their abusive oil deals. Their captivity both quelled a threat to the state (argument by necessity) and was a form of justice for an institution that had little to do with diplomacy. The greed of American governance of the time in continuing to topple governments until it got one that it felt it could control to suit its business interests, ironically, ended when the dice finally landed on people with the confidence to do what it took to prevent that abuse, with their regime becoming a great enemy of the United States. It's unfortunate that the regime itself is so ugly, or it would be beautiful to watch. An incredible understatement by Madeline Albright on one of the toppled political figures (Mossadegh) sums it up:

"The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons," she said. "But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."

I've finished a few books/journals recently. Interesting(?) thoughts:Collapse )

I'm hoping for more wonderful rain and a bright moon to fall asleep to tonight.

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