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Thursday, July 19, 2007
Stuff >
by Blob

In some dimly remembered past lost in the swirling mists of time, I wrote a web gadget I called Quotebox. I don't recall why; I think it was mostly an excuse to see if I could meld graphical elements from POV-Ray with a web site. The answer, obviously, is yes. It doesn't really serve any purpose beyond that, though, and I doubt anyone ever looks at it.

Except the spammers.

I hadn't looked at it myself in ages, but I was tweaking the site yesterday, and I wanted to check out the old quotebox. There were something like 2500 spam quotes in the box. The best part is, most contained URLs, with tags, that were rendered in the box so poorly (because it specifically does not render html tags) that even if one did want cheap cialis, that idiot would have to copy and paste the URLs from the mess.


So, I added my captcha code to it, too. For some miraculous reason, the captcha has completely eliminated blog spam. We'll see if it has the same effect on the quotebox.

While doing that, though, I noticed that I was giving away the keys to the castle. The form you submit the captcha on had a hidden input with the md5 hash of the captcha. If one had wanted to bypass the captcha, all he would have to do is post his own form with his own md5 hash and captcha text. My script would have compared whatever text he sent with whatever hash he sent and happily approved the post. Now, it was intended to be a quick and dirty hack; but I'm ashamed of how dirty that one was. It is now more secure. It's not very secure, but at least there is a part of the equation that an attacker can't know.

Take that, miscreants!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005
News, Stuff >
by Blob

Now, this blog here has a readership of about three. And I may have chased them off with the very sporadic updates.

Furthermore, it's a custom-written blog, so unless I used some very common post variable names (and admittedly, I may have), to spam it you'd have to either write additional code or post manually.

Given the cost-benefit ratio, why the fuck would anyone spam my comments?

And yet they do, to the tune of 10 a week, or so, starting a few weeks ago. I put in some IP logging to see if it was just one certain corner of the internets I could cordon off, but no. Look at this list from the past few days:

If your address is on this list, you should either be ashamed of yourself or improving your antivirus/firewall protection.

Perhaps I'll change the script a bit, to see which it is: manual or custom-coded.

In other news, I got the Frontalot gig. It was, however, a much larger job than I was expecting, so I'm one of four guys on the task, and the one given the challenge of project lead. I'm having a hell of a time getting the project plan done, but I really, really don't want to let the MC down.

Not least because he done sent me some phat lewt in the form of a dope T-shirt and his new CD.

Friday, December 9, 2005
by Blob

Well, I didn't make it. November was a hellish month. Work was crazy, I was trying to write my novel, holidays and baby showers and financial crises. Blah blah blah blah blah.

All excuses. Fact is, I'm a failure.

I wrote 22,037 words in November, until I had a bout of writers block so bad that I just couldn't keep up. Not bad, I suppose, but I am shamed by the likes of Kris and his wife Laura. Wesley didn't quite make it this year, but he's done it twice.

Nonetheless, I feel pretty good. It was a far, far better effort than 2004. I actually like my book for the most part. I'll probably even continue working on it. I also had a great time hanging with the other Cleveland area NaNoers.

In other news, MC Frontalot has put out a call for a website coder. I've offered up my services. Let's see if he takes the bait. I love Front's music, almost without exception. What has always amazed me, beyond the unbelievably dope rhymes, is the production value. Top-freaking-notch, even when he's only got a week or so to throw the thing together for Songfight.

I've always felt slightly bad about the fact that I haven't had the money and the inclination at the same time to offer Front recompense for the listening pleasure he's given me. So, if he should take me up on the offer, we'll call it good.

If you're a nerd, or a music fan not afraid of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, I strongly suggest you check out his stuff. In particular, I recommend Charity Case, Braggadocio, and Which MC Was That?.

I guess I'll wrap this up. Sorry I haven't posted in so long. NaNoWriMo took a lot out of me. I'm jazzed, though, and I'm ready to try again next year.

Oh, look for the voice of the blob in the first episode of Stargate Cafe to be released, hopefully, on January 1, 2006.

Okay, I think I'm done now.


Monday, August 29, 2005
by Blob

It's not called Chagrin for nothing.

Following my usual bike route, one comes to the intersection of SOM Center Road and Hawthorn Parkway. Turning around there makes a 9 mile ride and avoids the massive hill that lies to the east of SOM.

So, most times, that's what I've done. On a few occasions, however, I've felt up to pressing on. On each attempt, something unpleasant has happened.

Attempt #1: Kris and I had almost just begun to ride for the summer and so we didn't have the oomph to ride back up the hill. We walked.

Attempt #2: Riding alone, I sent both derailleurs to the lowest gear in preparation for the long ride back uphill. The chain jumped clear off the front crank. While attempting to put it back on the sprockets with minimal effort (and mess), I managed to get it wedged down between the frame and the crank. Eventually, pulling with both hands while pushing down the frame with my foot dislodged it and I was able to continue. I would later realize that I broke the sensor for the cycle computer.

Attempt #3: Also with Kris, while travelling on the path, 30MPH downhill around a bend, I saw —far too late— gravel strewn all the way across the path. I hit the brakes for a second, but as soon as I got on the gravel, the wheels locked and I lost control. I was ejected from the vehicle and landed shoulder first (head second: thank you, Mr. helmet), fortunately on the muddy embankment next to the path. I would later realize that I broke the cable which runs from the replaced sensor to the cycle computer.

Attempt #4: Riding alone, I threw the chain again, this time a mere 100 feet from the safety of SOM Center Road. Once again, I managed to get the chain wedged so severely that it took five minutes of work to get it dislodged. I did not, however, break my computer.

I'm not a superstitious person, but I'm seriously beginning to consider not going that way any longer. It just hurts too much.

Friday, August 26, 2005
by Blob

Isn't it amazing how quickly a month can slip by?

I've meant to write on a few occasions about different subjects but haven't done so for one reason or another, and next thing I know, it's a month later.

First, I wanted to talk about a revelation I had about a month ago:

I'm a terrible writer.

Which isn't to say that I write poorly. I've got a pretty good grasp of the language. I can convey my ideas somewhat effectively. It's just that I don't have any style, man. My writing is very clumsy and random. I gave NaNo a try1 last year and that's when I began to realize it. It really hit me when reading my blog. It's just pathetic.

I'm not sure if that's something I can fix or not. I may just not have any gift for words. That's okay, I suppose. I've got a number of other gifts. But writing is something that I'd previously thought I was fairly good —if not talented— at.

Don't take this as self-pity, or fishing for compliments. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, or so I'm told.

I should talk about my weight loss efforts. I've stayed (mostly) on track for the past month, but I haven't lost any more weight. In fact, I've either gained some weight or my mom's scale was lying to me. I finally got a scale of my own (and verified its accuracy), and it showed me 272 two weeks ago. I'm down to about 265 now. I believe that I've built quite a bit of muscle mass, which could also explain the discrepancy.

We're still eating smaller portions of better foods, although I've stopped watching my calories too closely. We've continued to ride our bikes; Renee actually did 24 miles on the towpath with me a couple of weeks ago. However, the sun has stopped being in the sky at 6:30am, which makes the whole morning bike ride much less appealing. So, we dug out our old Bally's cards and started going back to the gym, M-W-F evenings2. Either because I've become more disciplined about it or because Renee's there with me, the gym doesn't seem the drudgery that it did a few years ago when I signed up. Of course, we're only on our second week, so that could change too.

In other news, I found a better t-shirt printing service. Spreadshirt allows you to upload your images in vector graphics formats which means you can print them in different colors, have actual transparent regions, and they look good on fabrics in colors other than white. So, if you hit the Lurkerwear link on the left, you'll see a much better selection of shit. One feature request I'm going to send them is the ability to hierarchically group items. I'd like to have the front page show a link to each style, then the style page show a link to each type of product, then the product page show a link to each color available. But that's nitpicking. It's pretty sweet. Check it out.

I went to a Halo 2 party down in Canton a couple of weeks ago. I acquitted myself fairly well, playing against a bunch of young punks who play the game regularly. I was fairly consistently 2nd place in the deathmatch games and my team was teh winx0rz in most of the team games, so w00t. I'm having an XBox LAN party at my place tomorrow, so there will be more Halo 2 to test my mettle.

And that, dear reader, catches us all up, I think. Thank you for sharing this time with me. I feel like we've grown together. Can I have a hug?

13Bad, bad, bad. I don't embarass easily; I generally don't mind showing what a dumbass I am, but there is no way that story is going to see the light of day.

2Except last Friday, at which time we were packing up to go camping. We brought our bikes and went on the bike ride from hell.

One of my uncles suggested a route that took us up a hill that was a 90% grade for about 6,000 feet. On coarse, loose gravel. And it was hot. We walked a hundred feet, stopped, walked a hundred feet, stopped, etc.; nearly used up our water supplies— and that was just the beginning. I was supposed to take a turn onto a road that ran along a ridge at the top of the hill, and then back down to join with the (coarse, loose gravel) road that led back to the campground, about 8 miles.

Well, I'd walked this route a few years earlier, and I didn't recognize the road, so we continued on —it's literally named this— Big Hill Road until it went back down. So, now we're careening down a grade similar to the one we'd climbed on —you guessed it— coarse, loose gravel. We managed to avoid death somehow and found a paved road.

For a brief, glorious time there, it was a nice ride. Smooth asphalt, no traffic, and easy hills. But I gradually became aware that we probably should have turned where I first thought we should have turned and that I didn't know where this road was going, exactly. I was pretty sure that if I just kept turning left, I'd find a road I recognized and I was also pretty sure that the road to the campground (Wally Road) extended to a paved road to the south, so I couldn't hardly miss it. Well, that road turned on to a road that was more travelled and hillier. That road eventually turned on to State Rotue 514. 55 MPH speed limit, traffic, curvy, and hills that were worse still. But, I was pretty sure that this was the paved road that intersected with Wally, so I trudged on.

Poor Renee was dying at this point, having not started as early in the summer as me and being quite a bit less fit. I stopped at a farm for directions and confirmed that we were going the right way. Eventually we made it back after 11 tortuous miles. Just as we reached relative safety, Renee had a moment with her bike and wound up hitting the barbed wire which ran around posts on either side of the hiking/biking trail entrance to the campground. Fortunately, she escaped with just some bruises and scratches, but damn.

3I'm also not very creative. I really like what KJToo does with footnotes in his blog, so I'm blatantly ganking the idea. Oh, to have a personality of my own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
by Blob

Because riding fifteen miles on Saturday wasn't enough exercise, I took it into my head to fix up the back yard a bit.

The previous owners (Renee's aunt and uncle) put in a neat little garden area behind the house. It's got a bunch of paving stones placed around flower beds and a smallish plastic pond. Well, we haven't much of anything with it for the last six years, and so the flower beds had become weed beds and there were also weeds —and herbs; oregano, basil, rosemary that were also planted back there that seem to grow like weeds— growing up around the pavers.

In addition, we had a row of shrubs on the south side of the yard, providing some privacy to/from those neighbors, but the shrubs were overgrown and causing the neighbors problems, so a couple of years ago, I, along with my professional landscaper friend Dan, cut them down and began digging up the stumps. Dan had to leave before we were done, but left me with one of his fancy mattocks to finish pulling them. Well, I managed to break his fancy mattock. Snapped the steel handle right off. I'm good that way. So, I put plastic down for the rest of the year and tried to kill and decay it all off. Well, of course, I didn't do a very good job with the plastic and several of the stumps wouldn't stay covered and some even managed to survive. The following spring, we took up the plastic, intending to plant something else there, but the money wasn't ever there, and so it became a very large weed bed itself.

Flash forward to this Saturday. We took the SUVoID down to Home Depot, picked up a non-fancy mattock, some heavyish plastic, and 10 ½-cubic-foot bags of gravel and two bags of sand. Total cost: $85. Most expensive item: 10'x100'x4mil black plastic. Total weight: Fucking heavy. I'd guess each bag of gravel/sand weighed at least fifty pounds and maybe closer to 70. I had to lift each one out of the bin and into the "cart", then I had to lift each one out of the cart and into the car, then I had to lift each one out of the car and into the yard. I'm fucking He-Man.

We'd already talked about what we wanted to do with the flower bed/paving stone area: rearrange the stones so there's one large gap, rather than several smaller ones, and put a Japanese zen garden-like thing in. So, Renee went to work prying up and moving the pavers while I went to work on the remaining shrub stumps. That process probably only took about 45 minutes, during which I managed to create and rip open a large, nasty blister on my left hand, just below the wedding ring. I had to spend the rest of the day without that ring. That's the longest it's been off in fourteen years. Weird. After I got done ripping up stumps, I helped Renee with the remaining pavers. We were fortunate that most of the weeds were actually growing on sediment that had collected on top of the old plastic the pavers were resting on.

We pulled up the old plastic, mattocked the heck out of the flowerbeds, smoothed everything out as best I could with a leaf rake that I immediately broke the handle of, put new plastic down, then the pavers, then the gravel. It actually looks fairly nice, if I do say so myself.

Then, the pond. The pond originally had fish in it. They lasted a year or two under our stewardship. Then came the big West Nile Virus Scare of 200(1?2?), when the neighbors insisted we put a pump/filter in there to keep the mosquitoes from breeding. Being a nice guy, I complied, and cleaned out the pond at that time as well. We've got a nice little fountain on the pump and it looks pretty cool. Well, we'd like to get some more fish in there, so we needed to put down a new substrate and stuff, so we cleaned out the pond again. When it was nearly out of water, it was loose in its hole, so I pulled out the entire plastic tub (thinking this was a shortcut) and poured out the rest of the water and hosed it down. Then I got to dig out the sand which had collapsed into the area the tub used to occupy and re-create the hole for the pond to sit in. To my surprise, the tub went back in fairly easily and we loaded it up with some of the sand, some of the gravel, and a lot of water and got the fountain started again. It, too, looks nice with its fresh, clean water. We'll let it naturalize for a few weeks before we buy some koi.

Then I dug up the rotting railroad ties which lined the old shrub area, put down more of the plastic, and used the railroad ties to hold it down.

Whew. It was almost as exhausting to write about as it was to do it. Hopefully next spring we'll have to money for some new shrubs.

The whole process was roughly equivalent to putting a spit shine on a turd, but it was rewarding nonetheless.

The best part, though, was that I got to drive the SUVoID into the back yard. I had previously thunk that it wouldn't fit between the trees and the A/C, but I was wrong. There's maybe even a foot to spare. But I sure as heck wasn't going to lug all that gravel from the driveway to the back yard by hand. Youch.

Okay. That's the end.

I'm really done now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
by Blob

My bike has apparently grown weary of hauling my fat ass up all those hills.

On Saturday, I was doing very well. I got to the turn-around point of my 9-mile ride and I'd done a good pace and had relatively little trouble with the hills, so I thought I'd keep going, down the monster hill and see what lies beyond it. Basically, the road goes down that hill and then ends at a recreation area, but the trail goes on, so I kept following it. After riding through some dense brush and across a wooden bridge, I came to another road and a hill back up. I started to climb this hill, but I'd just had to slow down for people blocking the entire trail, and so I needed to downshift. I threw both derailleurs into low gear at the same time and the chain just popped off the crank.

After recovering from the sudden loss of resistance, I stepped off the bike and tried to quickly re-attach the chain. Unfortunately, in my haste, I only succeeded in making the problem worse. One link of the chain had found its way deep into the pedal mechanism and got thoroughly wedged between it and the frame. So, I had to turn the bike on its back (forgetting the computer attached to the handlebars) and get my hands good and covered in grease to finally get it dislodged. I was literally pulling the chain with both hands and using my foot to hold down the frame.

About the time that I turned the bike back over, I realized that I'd just pushed the computer into the ground with a decent amount of force. I was relieved to find that it wasn't destroyed, and continued about my ride. I came to an intersection with another trail (which at the time I didn't realize was the trail that I'd been on a few minutes earlier), and my usually good sense of direction told me that left was the way back to Rt. 91, and ultimately, home, so I went that way and was rewarded with a downhill section. Only, it was part of the same downhill I'd already done. So, when I got to the bottom and recognized where I was, I turned around and started up the hill (again).

I made it up the hill, much to my surprise, without having to get off and push, albeit in low, low gear. About half-way up that hill, my computer wonked out. I thought perhaps that the magnet had become misaligned, and indeed when I got to the top of the hill, I adjusted the magnet and it started working again. I managed to do a moment at 34.3 MPH on the way home and finished the trip uneventfully. The computer read around 14.5 miles, but I think it was actually 15 or more, when you compensate for the computer missing wheel revolutions.

On Sunday morning, I set out again. While climbing the first big hill, the chain jumped for a second, giving me a start and costing me momentum. I sat down and switched into a lower gear for the rest of the hill and carried on. Then it happened again. And again. In addition, my computer lost about half a mile on the return trip and I didn't notice it.

On Monday morning, the chain was jumping whenever I tried to power up a hill and the computer gave up for good.

So, last night, I set out to try to fix the problems. I can't see anything wrong with the chain/sprockets/derailleurs, so I just oiled everything up and hoped for the best. On the computer front, I thought that I just had too much clearance between the switch and the magnet, so I bought some new wire ties and tried to remount it, but no matter what I did, I couldn't get a signal at all. I messed with it a bit and managed to (without pulling very hard), yank the wires from the switch (which it turns out is a very common and inexpensive reed switch). So, since it was wrecked anyway, I pulled apart the enclosure around the switch and found that it was broken. I had to give up at that point and I removed the whole contraption from the bike.

I got to bed too late last night and overslept this morning, so I haven't been able to test out my "repairs". I'll let you know how that goes. I'm hoping that I can grab a burglar alarm sensor from Radio Shack or something, since those have the same kind of reed switch in them, and adapt it for the computer, but I haven't had a chance to do that, either.

I don't want something like this to derail me. I've done a good job, keeping this up for five weeks, now. But damn, it's frustrating. Especially the hill-climbing problem. It's hard enough to do that, sucking air and trying to ignore the burning in the legs, but to miss a beat just completely throws me out of whack, and has the potential to throw me on the pavement.


Thursday, May 12, 2005
by Blob

I knew this would happen.

See, I haven't posted in a month because I didn't want to get ahead of myself. I still need to do my vacation write-up and my new car post. Plus, I recently got Forza Motorsport for the XBox and it has consumed my soul. I should post about that.

But I guess I'll never get around to it, so here's the summary:

We went to Las Vegas for our fourteenth anniversary. We stayed with Di, Sara, Matt and Julie. They were wonderful hosts, but busy, so we didn't get to spend as much time with them as we'd have liked. I played in a Texas Hold'em tournament; lasted only two hands. We ate well, including the nigh-traditional anniversary dinner at the Voodoo Lounge Cafe atop the Rio which was followed with a viewing of Penn & Teller's show, which rocked, after which I got to share a few words with Mr. Gillette and grab a picture. We met up wtih my cousin, Janet, who was in town for a conference and had dinner in Paris. We rented a Sebring convertible and drove around the desert, including Red Rock, Valley of Fire, and Lake Meade. We took the dam tour at the Hoover Dam. We drove to Los Angeles on our last day to pay short visits to Kieu and Sheryl. On the way, the Sebring broke down. Fortunately, we were near a Hertz location and were back on our way (albeit in a Buick Century, yuck!) in about half an hour. And then we flew back. Flying blows, by the way, particularly if you're of exceptional size. I know everyone bitches about sitting next to the fleshy flier, but trust me, it's much worse to be him.

We bought a new(ish) car! After much trial and tribulation, we settled on a car we hadn't even considered. It's a 2002 BMW 325i sedan, black, sandalwood (tan) leatherette (fancy vinyl) interior, manual transmission. It had just over 40,000 miles when we picked it up. I'm paying $100/month less than I did on my Kia. Assuming it holds up for a few years, that's a pretty sweet deal. We'll see how it goes. If I can keep it in good shape, I should break even on the loan in 2.5 - 3 years, so I can trade up to the Z4!

Forza Motorsport owns my soul. I really didn't want to like this game too much. I'm quite the opposite of a Microsoft fanboy, and I'm a long-time Gran Turismo fan. Trouble is, this game rocks. It's not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. It's much more sim than arcade. You have to be very careful with the brakes and gas. The XBox live support is what does it. That and the car customization. So much fun.

Friday, April 1, 2005
Stuff >
by Blob
To the asshole(s) who keep(s) using my email address as the from: header for (his/her/their) spam.

You suck. Please stop.


Monday, March 21, 2005
Stuff >
by Blob

I should have bought myself a domain name years ago, but I didn't. And now they're all taken, either by a legitimate site or by a squatter. I can't really think of anything good. I've been piggybacking off my friend Jason's domain forever and that's a pain in the ass for several reasons, not least of which is that name@machine.domain.tld email addresses aren't accepted everywhere.

So, I'm open to suggestion. If you think of anything that would sensibly describe me or my approach to teh intarweb, please pass it along.