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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire

Well, then - that was a couple of months of not much blogging from me then, wasn't it? Sorry about that; it's a surprisingly easy habit to fall out of. I'd argue that the move and adjusting to the new living environment and my new computer keyboard and the wintry weather threw me off, but nonetheless I suppose I failed to uphold some sort of unspoked blogger-ly commitment to you my readers (both of you).

Specifically to guard against this sort of thing, I set a posting trigger for myself several months ago - a specific criterion that requires me to post when it's met. And, a few days ago, met it was, so here I am back on the blogosphere. Maybe it'll be easier to keep posting than it was to start posting again.

Nothing fancy, though. To keep me from having to actually formulate a cohesive entry, I'll once again lean on the timeless blogger's crutch of cute little bullet points. And away we go -

Just in case I fall back into non-posting for another couple of months I'll say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's now. Also happy birthday to my two holiday-birthdayed readers. If you're not doing anything Friday, stop by the Java Creek Cafe in Cedar Rapids for a Christmas Soul Hug concert. You know you like you some Christmas music.

Welcome back, Charlie, after an extremely brief hiatus! I'll wager I'm the Hitchhiker's Guide expert among your readership, so it falls on me to weigh in on the 42 question. Or answer.

I'm at work, so I don't have my Adams biographies handy (yes, I have two), but my recollection is that the math was wrong because the Golgafrinchans had upset the program (that's the "plot" explanation); it was also wrong because, hey, ironic that the Question everyone's been looking for is permanently out of reach. It was later stated that the Question and Answer cannot both be known about the same Universe. I think Prak said that in Life, the Universe and Everything.

Adams was bemused by people's attempts to find meaning in the base-13 equation, apparently some going so far as to find a coded message in the text of the question, but he insisted, "Even I don't make jokes in base-13."

Also, it's a girl.
Yay, hypocrisy!

Also: Charlie is Always Right. Never doubt this.
Today's word is "azqypj". I feel your pain. I considered not leaving a comment due to the extra work of "verification" that I have to go through. It's a KFI of 1 if there ever was!

I enjoy Mr. Adams' writing. I had tea with Doug (I used to call him Doug when he was alive). It was lengthy. It was like a long dark tea time of the soul. I miss that guy.
It is a bit of a hassle, no doubt about it. I don't understand why the verification words have to be more than a couple of letters long - seems like "gh" would serve to befuddle the blog spamming programs as well as "ddgufkan" (the word du jour for this comment). It seems to be throwing people off of the fun "guess the lyric" game, too, which is a shame. I may have to go back to deleting spam comments, but I'll stick with this for a while; it's possible that people just aren't checking my blog because it was so freaking long between posts.

John - I find that sort of disappointing, really. I liked the idea that the Question didn't make sense because the Universe didn't (doesn't) make sense. Permanently out of reach is good, too, though, I guess.

And congratulations!
I will guess that this title is a line from a Beatles song. I will go with "A Day In The Life". It sounds like something John would put in a song after reading it on page two of the local paper.

Today's word is:
Etymology: Latin curtus shortened and Middle English Crist, from Old English, from Latin Christus, from Greek Christos, literally, anointed, from chriein

Christ meaning: an ideal type of humanity

Krtcr was often used as a holidy greeting for those one didn't care for which meant literally may your ideal type of humanity be short.
Charlie, I'm sorry to have disappointed you with my interpretation of the 6x9=42 equation. Would it help to remind of the opening of Life, the Universe and Everything: "There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
Also, my guess (and I leave this up to you to pronounce true or false, since you're an excellent mathematician) is that fewer than five characters makes the password too easy for a computer to get by chance.
I do recall reading the if-the-Universe-is-understood-well-then-that's-it bit in LTUAE, but I never connected it with the Question/Answer of Life, the Universe, and All That (commonly referred to as Everything!). Which is somewhat lame, really; it's sort of an obvious connection. Maybe I'll just continue to believe that Adams intended the funny joke to be "ha ha, the Question doesn't make sense!" in the face of all available evidence. That seems easiest.

Obviously you're right that a longer word is more resistant to hacking, but it seems like anything would defeat the blog spammers - I assume they try to post and never even know whether they've succeeded. I also have no idea why the text image needs to be in a weird psychedelic font; that seems completely useless. Any of the computer science knowledgeable-y readers out there care to chime in? I'd be curious to understand this more.

Mark - "A Day in the Life" indeed. Kudos be unto you!
The weird psychedelic font is needed because reading text in standard fonts can be done with software, while so far only humans can deal with randomly distorted text. There's a decent overview on the Wikipedia.

In general, the blog spammers don't care much about whether they can spam to any given blog, but once a defense technique becomes standard they'll put some serious effort into beating it; they notice when they start losing money...
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