My Perl-Fu is Unbeatable!

I’ve made another tweak to the comment form. Previously, my defense against comment spammers relied upon the Perl operator !. Although this stopped most spammers cold, over the last few weeks the spam has crept up from nonexistent to several a day. This is unacceptable. So after some arduous research, I have added another weapon to my arsenal: the Perl operator ne. Take that, evil spammers!

In all seriousness, adding the “Yes/No” radio button seemed the simplest-stupidest possible change I could make, right after the previous tweak (empty text field, type anything you like). I’m not sure if the radio button will work, but we’ll see over the next few days how well it holds up. According to my logs, the empty text field trick was blocking just about 98% of the comment spam. By that I mean, 98% of the requests that were actually trying to post to my real, active comment form. The standard MT comment script, mt-comments.cgi, is just getting hammered. Or it would be if it existed on this site.

So here’s hoping the radio button trick does a little better than 98%. At the very least, I like the humor value of asking the user explicitly whether he or she (or most likely, it) is a spammer. But if this doesn’t work, I’ll continue to morph the profile of my comment form until it eventually includes a CAPTCHA, a text-message challenge/response, and biometric identification submitted via snail mail. Remember to please seal those plastic bags before sending, people. Thanks.

(Or I could just use Akismet. But that’s kind of a last resort.)

I Miss Liquid Nitrogen

Chad Orzel points to a collection of amusing science “merit badges”. In particular, Chad highlights:

The “has frozen stuff just to see what happens” badge (LEVEL III).
In which the recipient has frozen something in liquid nitrogen for
the sake of scientific curiosity.

Ah, how I miss liquid nitrogen. Back in the day, we had this thing called the Physics Circus, where we’d go out to local elementary schools and give physics demonstrations to the kids. It is amazing how enthusiastic third and fourth graders can be. If you ask a bunch of fourth graders “how do you think this worked?” you get a forest of hands shooting up, and all sorts of wonderful ideas. Of course, you have to catch them at the right age, because just a couple years later, they transform into sullen middle schoolers. But right before that, kids are amazing little scientists.

Anyway, we had a boatload of demonstrations about electricity, Newtonian mechanics (the weighted bicycle wheel in the spinny chair, that sort of thing). But the one the kids really loved was the liquid demonstration. Unlike the other demonstrations, there really wasn’t much scientific content to the liquid nitrogen segment of the show. The message was basically, “freezing things with liquid nitrogen and breaking them is really cool.”

Personally, I was less interested in breaking things with liquid nitrogen and more interested in just playing with the stuff. I used to pour a few drops on my hand and watch the droplets skitter across the surface, like water droplets on a hot stove (in fact, exactly like water droplets on a hot stove). If you were careful, you could also stick your hand directly in a dewar of liquid nitrogen. One professor I knew would pour a little liquid nitrogen in his hand, slurp it up, and shoot steam out of his nostrils. I never dared try that. He had achieved a sort of Liquid Nitrogen Zen Mastery.

Of course the best of all was the liquid nitrogen ice cream. You just get the ingredients for ice cream as if you were going to make it using a traditional ice cream machine, with the rock salt and everything. But instead of turning the crank for an hour, you just pour the ingredients in a bowl, pour in the liquid nitrogen, and stir, stir, stir. Vapor pours out of the bowl like a witches cauldron, and in less than five minutes you have smooth, creamy ice cream. The bubbling during the freezing process aerates the ice cream perfectly, and it all freezes too fast to form any ice crystals. Liquid nitrogen! It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking some up.

It’s Soup Night!

Tonight I’m heading over to Sam and Pat’s place. It’s one wild Friday night, let me tell you. We’ll be drinking beer and making Sam’s Famous Spicy Cabbage Soup (not to be confused with Sam’s Famous Tom Kha Gai or Sam’s Famous Chicken Marinade Which Is Definitely Not Kerrick’s Famous Chicken Marinade). Also we might play some head-to-head World of Warcraft. Or maybe even watch the director’s cut of Aliens. Perhaps we will have an extended debate about the merits of the M41A Pulse Rifle, and discuss the evil of Burke and his upturned collar — proof positive that he was an evil corporate drone… from the future! Hey man, this is Soup Night. Anything could happen!

Also, we will be celebrating the completion of Pat’s paramedic internship. Congratulations, Pat! I have to say, I’m a little jealous of Pat right now. He saves lives for a living, and he wears a cool uniform. Chicks dig that kind of stuff. Tech writers… well, we don’t have cool uniforms, although there are some tech writers out there that save lives (indirectly). Of course, there are also tech writers out there that kill people (indirectly). You won’t be surprised to learn that the latter group totally sucks at their job. Losers.