Monday May 19, 2008
The Cats Did What-now?
Another reason to love Wikipedia: there I was, minding my own business, reading an article about Olive Oyl (whose name, I learned, is a pun on "olive oil"—it's true!), when I stumbled upon somebody's creepy foot-fetish interpolation:
Unlike most modern damsels in distress, Olive Oyl has short hair, is tall, skinny, with enormous feet that have been tickled on several occasions. Once tied up on a ship and having her shoes taken off, milk was spread on her feet and licked of by cat's she was laughing very much.
OK, now I know way too much about Olive Oyl's feet. What's more, that's a run-on sentence with a dangling modifier, a misspelling of off, and a greengrocers' apostrophe in cat's. Oh, and , I think.
Sunday April 6, 2008
Cross-stitch, said the Tensor
Friday February 1, 2008
Today in a thread on Ask MetaFilter, I learned a new word (well, lexical item): joe job. That's when someone sends out spam with the return address of another person they want to make look bad. The AskMeFi poster actually uses it in a slightly broader sense that lacks the malicious intent.
Wednesday February 28, 2007
This doesn't feel right. No, not right at all. As I'm typing this post, well...
Google is down.
Google is down. Oh, the front page loads, but hitting the search button produces nothing but the World Wide Wait. I've tried several times, too, and one time Firefox asked me if I'd like to download an octet-stream called "search"—does that mean they're messing with the MIME types? Whatever. It's been down for minutes...like two minutes. I don't like it, not one little bit. It's like being temporarily lobotomized. Without Google, what am I supposed to do? Go back to Altavista? I'm getting the shakes just thinking about it.
Hmm. I've finished typing the post, which was supposed to kill some time until Google came back, but it's still down. Come back, Google. I miss you.
Wednesday January 31, 2007
Well, I Guess It's Low in Fiber...
The title of one of today's crop of spam emails:
There is a secret weapon to weight loss polonium
It may sound a little drastic, but it's absolutely effective. If you sign up now for the new Putin Diet Plan, your dose of polonium will be delivered free, anywhere in the world—you'll hardly know you're taking it! And signing up is easy—just criticize Russia's slide towards tyranny a little too publicly.
Wednesday December 13, 2006
I need some advice. I've been getting annoyed with the errors in the linguistics-related entries on Wikipedia, and I've been tempted to create an account and go fix them. The question is this: should I use my real name as my WikiName, or should I use a pseudonym? If the latter, is there any reason not to use TheTensor? I ask because my initial impulse was to use my real name—I'm going to be editing linguistics entries, after all, so I figured I might as well be up-front about my qualifications, such as they are—but then I read the page where people request user name changes, which includes a lot of variations on, "I hadn't realized how public I'd be making my real name."
So, if you've participated on Wikipedia, either under your own name or a pseudonym, I'd appreciate hearing about your experience with regards to identity issues.
Thursday October 12, 2006
Neoprene What Now?
- I do not want to order a "Neoprene Horse boot",
- I do not know what a "Neoprene Horse boot" is, and
- I am afraid to Google the phrase "Neoprene Horse boot" in order to find out.
That is all.
Monday July 31, 2006
I don't know if you've noticed, but this blog now reeks of legitimacy and authority. (Can you smell what The Tensor is cooking?) At 1:30:07 AM PDT on July 31st 2006, I received my first visitor to this site via a link in the English Wikipedia. The link, which is in the entry for Toy Story 2, points to this post that explains why it's funny when one of the characters in the movie says "Don't touch my moustache!" at the end of a phone call to Japan. The link was apparently added on June 11th (thanks, Che fox), but I guess nobody clicked on it until today.
I'm grateful for the link, though I'm far from the most knowledgeable Japanese expert on the 'net. But what the hell—Wikipedia may be a house built on sand, but now I'm a part of that sand. Woo-hoo!
[Update: Hmm. It occurred to me to try searching for more Wikipedia links here, but that turns out to be hard to do. Wikipedia's internal search doesn't search URLs in links. Google won't let you specify link: and site: on the same search, which is annoying. However (eureka!) Windows Live Search will. Unfortunately, it seems not to have indexed the links on Wikipedia recently. Still: advantage, Microsoft, on this one.]
[Now playing: "Volcano" by The Presidents of the United States of America]
Sunday July 30, 2006
How'd They Know?
Spammers are getting alarmingly sophisticated. I just received a piece of email titled:
Wow, how'd they know that? There must be some kind of super-advanced, AI-complete data mining going on behind the scenes.
[Now playing: "Burning Inside" by Ministry]
Thursday July 13, 2006
Separated At Birth?
In a recent post, Dagger Aleph mentioned the MyHeritage Face Recognition site, which will take an uploaded photograph of your face and tell you which celebrities you look like. (Feel free to fill out the registration form with garbage—I did.) I fed it my favorite headshot, and it tells me I resemble the following fine individuals:
You know how sometimes you take an online test of some kind and the results seem eerily accurate? Um, I'm not having that reaction right now.
UPDATE: Aha! Unsatisfied with my original results, I tried feeding it a different picture, and I got much more plausible results:
Johnny Depp (68%), Edith Stein (67%), Richard Clayderman (64%), Rene Russo (63%), Dolph Lundgren (63%), Gael Garcia Bernal (62%), Bill Murray (62%), Audrey Tautou (60%), and Sarah Michelle Gellar (59%)
That's more like it. Remember, computers are infallible, and this one says I look like Johnny Depp and Audrey Tautou all rolled into one. Aw, yeah. (Edith who?)
Tuesday May 16, 2006
Has anybody else noticed Firefox mis-guessing the character encoding of web pages when it's set to "Auto-Detect, Universal"? I keep going to pages that I think I've visited without trouble before in Firefox and seeing lots of these: �. That's the Unicode REPLACEMENT CHARACTER, U+FFFD, which is "used as a substitute for an uninterpretable character from another encoding". I guess this means auto-detect is deciding that some pages are UTF-8, then when non-ASCII characters occur in patterns that don't form legal UTF-8 encodings, they get replaced with �. This seems to have been happening to me a lot recently—did they change something in a recent patch?
Sunday April 2, 2006
A Hell of a Sales Pitch
I just received spam email that contained the following enticements:
- The title "Bastard you die"
- The first line "ponzi scam"
- The URLs of four web sites, which I will not repeat
- The final exhortation "Bastard join my site now!"
Um, no thank you?
Are the spammers now deploying some kind of sophisticated reverse psychology? Maybe they don't want me to visit those URLs, so the right way to spite them is to visit them anyway! Or possibly not. It's very confusing.
Sunday December 11, 2005
The (already pretty sizable) grain of salt with which I take Wikipedia articles just got a little bit bigger. On the bright side, though, this AP wire story will probably be the first thing a lot of people have ever heard about Wikipedia, and there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? Right?
Monday December 5, 2005
We're Tops in Secret Plans
Tales from the Referrer Log: thanks to a post I made a few weeks ago, this blog is now the number eight Google search for top secret plans, and the number one search for the string "top secret plans". I've never been prouder.
Hey, guys? I think the search results ranking algorithm might need some tweaking. I'm just saying.
Friday October 7, 2005
A Kissed Out Red Float Post
Having recently posted about the Cocteau Twins and about the meanless text included in spam email, I realized the two subjects are related in an interesting way. Liz Fraser, the lead singer of the Cocteau Twins, is famous for the very strange way she articulated the lyrics of their songs. She's not just singing pure notes—there are actual consonants and vowels in there—but it's not any language I know.
Thursday August 4, 2005
If you're like me (and why wouldn't you be?) you get a lot of spam. In fact, you're probably not like me—my non-Tensor, non-school email address is probably on just about every spammer's list of addresses because I've had it since 1996 and used to post to Usenet from it. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) In any case, I get a bunch of those spam messages with randomly-generated text in them, some of which I find amusingly nonsensical, so I've included a selection.
Tuesday April 5, 2005
I just received a piece of spam advertising "V1@GRA" and "C1al1s" that appears to be from "Hillel". I had no idea he'd gotten into that line of business, but I think he's timed his entry into the market well—after all, if not now, when? I suppose it's only a matter of time before I receive a personal offer for a risk-free Nigerian business opportunity from Shammai.
Sunday March 27, 2005
The latest fad that's sweeping the blognation seems to be the transparent screen trick: take a photograph of whatever sits behind your screen, then carefully crop and tweak the image and use it as your desktop background. The result is the illusion that your screen is transparent, with your icons and windows floating in space. Unable to resist, I spent an hour or so moving my monitor out of the way, taking photos in various lighting conditions, and massaging the best photo until it matches up quite well. Here's the result:
Saturday March 19, 2005
A Font Odyssey
Recently, I'd been noticing that sometimes when I visited certain blogs, they looked sort of...ugly. Not from a design standpoint (although, just between you and me, the blogosphere could probably stand a top-to-bottom redesign, this blog included), but because certain fonts seemed to be displaying wrong. In particular, some letters seemed to be slightly larger than others, leading to an unpleasant "ransom note" effect—just barely noticeable and therefore extra annoying. I did some digging, and the cause was both interesting and not, as far as I can tell, described on the web anywhere.
Saturday February 12, 2005
For your edification and amusement: NameVoyager, a Java-based visualization of the popularity of various given names in the United States for more than a century. I had fun looking up the names of friends and family members and noticing that, almost without exception, each received his or her name during the peak of that name's popularity. Even in naming, we're slaves to fashion. For a challenge, try to find a name that was popular at the beginning of the sample (around 1900), went out of style, then came back into vogue recently. The best examples I've found so far are "Ivy" and "Edgar". (hat tip: Peeve Farm)
[Update: Add "Emma" and "Maggie" to the list of back-in-fashion names. Also, try entering single letters (i.e. "a", "b", etc.) to see the distribution for all names beginning with that letter—there's no consistent pattern in the consonants, but all the vowels show a U-shaped curve. For some reason, vowel-initial names were out of fashion for a while in the middle of the last century, but now they've come back. What's up with that?]
Friday January 28, 2005
Who Would Win?
I'm going to be away for a couple of days, but I'd like to leave you with a question to discuss while I'm gone:
Have at it—and please, no gouging, biting, fish hooking, or groin strikes.
Thursday January 20, 2005
Check out this collection of early 20th century hygiene posters, searchable by category and date, at the University of Minnesota. The earlier ones are generally funnier than the later ones, I think, because of the odd mixture of frankness and circumspection. Some favorites:
- Weirdly sex-positive: "What Sex Brings to the Girl" ("It is the sex or creative impulse which inspires her warmth of affection, her intensity of purpose, her desire to devote herself to the welfare of humanity.")
- But don't forget abstinence: "Beware of Chance Acquaintances" ("'Pick-up' acquaintances often take girls autoriding, to cafès, and to theatres with the intention of leading them into sex relations. Disease or child-birth may follow." Or the disease of child-birth!)
- The importance of proper dance posture: "Danger in Familiarities" ("Conventions are the fences society has built to protect you and the race." The race?)
- Avoiding those omnipresent STDs: "VENEREAL DISEASE COVERS THE EARTH" (Say...she's kinda hot. What are they advertising again?)
(via Incoming Signals)
Wednesday January 12, 2005
Sunday December 12, 2004
Check out Google Suggest: it tries to complete your search string for you while you type (try "tenser "—note the space). I'm not sure how useful autocomplete will be as search engine feature, but it's fun to play around with because it shows you the number of hits for all of the suggestions without you having to search for them individually. It's a neat little piece of work, especially if you consider the network traffic that must be going on under the covers to keep things up to date while you type. (hat tip: Sotho)
Saturday November 20, 2004
Word DOC to PDF
Because my thesis has been approaching completion, I've been thinking about putting it up on the web. The standard format for academic articles seems to be Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Format), but my thesis, along with most of the other papers I've written, are in Microsoft Word's DOC format. I figured there'd be a simple, free way to convert from DOC to PDF, but that turns out not to be the case. However, after a bit of research, I figured out a way to do clean conversions from DOC to PDF using only free software. Below, I describe the steps necessary to get this working on a Windows XP machine.
Friday October 1, 2004
First of all, who let Boston into our axis? (The axis of yuppie?) There may be a Bos-NY-Wash corridor thanks to Amtrak, but there is no axis.
I suspect that David hasn't read his William Gibson.
Monday August 2, 2004
1920 x 1200 Wallpapers
Recently, my venerable Gateway 2000 (!) 21-inch monitor began to misbehave slightly, and I decided that was a good excuse to upgrade. After researching and dithering for months, I eventually bought one of these, and it is, in a nutshell, sweet. I've even been using the 90-degree pivot feature, which I hadn't expected to actually be useful. The only problem is that such a nice monitor calls for a really pretty desktop background, and most of the free wallpaper sites out on the web don't have anything bigger than 1600 x 1200. I need 1920 x 1200!
Tuesday July 6, 2004
Today, as a part of a research project I'm involved in, I was assigned some audio and video conversion tasks. In particular, a couple of months ago we made about four hours of recordings of people making odd speech-like sounds, and I have to transfer those from DAT tapes into audio data files. Fortunately, there's a new G5 Mac running Panther dedicated to the project, so the conversion was a snap.
Or so you'd think.
Sunday July 4, 2004
After trying various ways to cull out email spam, I recently hit on a very simple and effective method of detecting it. I haven't seen this method mentioned anywhere before, but I can't be the first person to think of it, so I'm not going to claim to have invented it. It's a little too aggressive, marking some legitimate email as spam, but since I've been using it (several months), it has successfully marked every piece of spam as spam.
Monday June 28, 2004
Thanks to Ryan over at The Audhumlan Conspiracy and to Blinger over at, er, Blinger, I'm now the proud owner of a Gmail address. (Two addresses, actually: "thetensor" for this blog and another with my real name.) Woo-hoo! Now I'm in with the in-crowd!
Saturday May 15, 2004
Monday May 3, 2004
At Long Last
Since soon after I starting blogging, I've dutifully checked my referrer logs for funny search strings—all the other bloggers are doing it, and I wanted to jump on the bandwagon! Until today, though, no dice.
Thursday April 22, 2004
In doing my thesis research, I've come across a legitimate, honest-to-God word with only one Google hit. Now, it's not precisely a googlewhack, because it consists of a single word rather than a pair of words, but it's still pretty cool.