Friday, June 29, 2007

As seen from the perspective of those who speak "crooked head."

Via Haydesigner at Chaos Digest: "A very lengthy, but absolutely fascinating, article about a very isolated laguage from The New Yorker." Well worth taking the time to read.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

John Leonard

I once received an email from "spam" with a subject of "subject". Some people are not even trying.

The email had an attachment, a .gif file named "return nuclear". My antivirus software tells me there's nothing nasty in there, but I'm still afraid to open it.

The text of the email was gibberish, of course, and repetitive gibberish at that. However, as is frequently the case with spam email gibberish, some of it was rather amusing. The best bits were as follows:
To return nuclear gay marriage among ballot? Leader, install, new pm in, two weeks, ustop news.
Hosts poop, says nkorea, agrees to return.
Spam bots you need javascript enabled view it send.
Is being protected spam bots you!
Nkorea, agrees to return nuclear gay. Topnewscom contact top module empty main feeds latest newsmiami.
Leader install new pm in two. Issuesnew judge, expels defiant saddam from, genocide trialthai. Send, an enter your name. Spam bots you, need javascript enabled, view.
Ballot, issuesnew judge expels defiant. An enter your name message subject back copy. Nkorea agrees to return.
Install new pm, in two, weeks ustop. Enabled view it, send an, enter?
Several thoughts, with varying degrees of relatedness:
  • The gibberish texts of spam emails often resemble the writings of William S. Burroughs, particularly those he produced using the cut-up techniques he developed with Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville. For those with any interest in the topic, I recommend reading Burroughs' essay "It Belongs to the Cucumbers," which can be found in his book The Adding Machine: Collected Essays. In that essay, Burroughs noted similarities between the writings produced by such techniques, texts transcribed by Konstantin Raudive of so-called "electronic voice phenomena," dream speech, words spoken in delirium, and the speech patterns of those suffering from schizophrenia. Had Burroughs lived to see the age of spam emails, I wonder what he would have thought of them.
  • Spam gibberish also resembles poorly-translated text ("Somebody set up us the bomb!") and the jokes of Yakov Smirnoff ("In Soviet Russia, protected spam bots you!")
  • It occurs to me that spam emails would be an excellent way for people to pass coded messages to each other. One could send a message that looks like spam to thousands of recipients, but only the intended recipient (for example, a deep-cover CIA agent stationed in Berzerkistan) knows to look within for his instructions ("Install new pm, in two, weeks ustop.") to topple the government and make sure a new, US-friendly prime minister takes office within two weeks. Or maybe the message carries instructions destined for a terrorist cell. Who would suspect?--It's just spam. And even if the authorities were wise to this technique, with thousands or millions of spam emails being sent each day, and with thousands or millions of people receiving each spam email, distinguishing the code-disguised-as-spam email from all the others and then finding the one recipient the email was actually intended for would be a nearly impossible task for any counterespionage agency or an anti-terrorism task force.
  • If anyone from the CIA, FBI, NSA, or any of the other three-letter agencies is reading this: Dudes, I just thought up that last bit on my own. I'm not a terrorist or an agent of any kind, so don't go disappearing me. If you want to round up the spammers and indefinitely detain them in one of your secret prisons, though, that's fine by me.
  • Spam emails could also be messages from dead souls drifting in limbo. I wonder what Raudive would say about this.
  • An enterprising con-artist could probably make a nice chunk of change by convincing the public that spam emails really are messages from dead relatives. I can imagine the TV ads now: "Is there an email from beyond the grave in your inbox? Forward your spam emails to Miss Cleo! She will interpret the messages from your loved ones in the afterlife! Only $3.99 for the first five emails!"
  • I hereby coin the term "spamomancy" to describe divination, the telling of fortunes, or communing with the dead by use of spam emails.
  • This blog has featured posts on many diverse topics since its birth nearly two years ago. Increasingly, this has resulted in people arriving at this blog via Google search results that happened to pick up on an odd phrase or other that was used here only once. This post will surely do much to contribute to this trend.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Is there an entomologist in the house?

Despite having a cockroach as an occasional coblogger, I know very little about insects. So I need your help in identifying the pesky pests that staged a large-scale invasion of my house yesterday. Do you know what these are? How do I get rid of them and discourage them from returning?