New Passport Forms are confusing

I don’t like the design of the new “Canadian Child Passport Application”:

It asks for information on both parents. I understand why, but it asks for “Relationship with other parent” and “Date of marriage (if applicable)” _twice_, once for each parent. Wouldn’t the answers always be the same?

Strangely, it also asks for parents’ “Surname at Birth”; How is this information germaine, especially for people who married before they came to this country?

On the front of the form, we write the name of the child and the applicant. On the back of the form, we write the name of the child and the applicant again, in order to sign a declaration. (Update: maybe this is because you can now print the forms from the above linked PDF, and the pages would be separate?)

It’s almost as if they were looking for filler for a two page form :-)

posted at 3:39 pm on Friday, May 30, 2003 in Rants | Comments Off on New Passport Forms are confusing

The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference

Why don’t _I_ ever think of these things?

bq. “Write better emails. Make more moneys.”

Two workshops in particular caught my eye (ouch!): “Grammatical errors: What’s the optimal number?”, and a debate on “The effectiveness of using all UPPERCASE characters.”

Too funny…

“Jeremy Zawodny”: → “The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference”:

posted at 9:13 am on Friday, May 30, 2003 in Humour | Comments (1)
  1. jok says:

    According to that 419 scam stuff is Nigeria’s 3rd to 5th largest industry. Reading through that stuff, I learned something new (not that I would have fallen for it) but online buyers are sending counterfeit certified checks and money orders above the amount required for the merchandise and asking for cash to be wired back (since banks honor those two things right away even though a counterfeit can still bounce).

People Still Don’t ‘Get’ Passwords

“”: → “The Register”: :

bq. Nine in ten (90 per cent) of office workers at London’s Waterloo Station gave away their computer password for a cheap pen, compared with 65 per cent last year.

bq. Workers were asked a series of questions which included: What is your password? Three in four (75 per cent) of people immediately gave their password.

bq. If they initially refused they were asked which category their password fell into and then asked a further question to find out the password.

bq. A further 15 percent were then prepared to give over their passwords, after the most rudimentary of social engineering tricks were applied.

bq. The most common password was “password” (12 per cent) and the most popular category was their own name (16 per cent) followed by their football team (11 per cent) and date of birth (8 per cent).

We put a lot of time and effort into getting the security right in our software. It’s nice to know that all that effort isn’t going to waste; people are forced to give away their passwords in order to compromise the system :-)

(That’s sar- I say, that’s sarcasm, boy.)

posted at 9:08 am on Friday, May 23, 2003 in Security | Comments Off on People Still Don’t ‘Get’ Passwords

WISH 47: Lessons Learned

Another WISH (“WISH 47: Learning Your Lesson”: has caught my attention:

bq. Name one lesson you learned in gaming that you will (hopefully) never have to learn again.

I guess I’ve been fortunate; I’ve never experienced the kind of interpersonal conflicts that others described in their responses…

Instead, my biggest lesson has been a game-playing one. In many cases, combat means you’ve _failed_; all that’s left is damage control. Sure, sometimes you’re there to clear all of the monsters out of a dungeon; hack and slash away in those cases! But sometimes the opponent is bigger/better/stronger than you, and combat will get you killed (or worse, locked away by the city guard :-). With a good game master, shrewd negotiation will get you a better prize than death and destruction. Besides, it’s more _fun_!

My first experience with this was in my very first adventure, over a decade ago. The party was a group of (low level) outsiders recruited (conscripted?) to solve a murder; since some of the town officials were suspects, the local lord needed outsiders.

The local town council had been around for a long time, and they all knew and trusted each other. We had managed to figure out which ones were guilty, but didn’t have enough hard evidence to convince the others. However, we’d managed to spook them enough that one of the perps attacked us.

During the ensuing melee, the town guard showed up. One of the party turned and fired at them. We were slaughtered.

The DM told us later that if we _hadn’t_ dragged the guard into the combat, they would not have interfered. We would have survived; they would have combined our findings with the evidence they already had, and arrested and convicted the bad guys.

Ever since then, I’ve had a bias towards shooting _last_, instead of first. You might notice this if you read “Adanflaen Nights”:; Alex tends to try to talk her way out of situations. She did that last week when she jumped out of a tree unarmed, instead of shooting from concealment. Of course, she’s not stupid; she never drops her guard, and is perfectly willing to remove someone’s throat when negotiation has failed :-)

posted at 8:36 pm on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 in WISH | Comments (2)
  1. Ginger says:

    I’ve also found it very interesting that so many people have posted meta answers. I didn’t intend for things to go that way despite the fact that I posted a meta lesson myself (and one that encapsulates several other lessons I’ve seen posted).

    I’m glad to see that some people are posting character/play-related lessons.

  2. Arref says:

    That’s a good answer.

SPAM Escalation

Perverse Access Memory: Blackholing Spam

bq. We’ve started using realtime blackhole lists (RBLs) to stop some of the spam that whiterose mail users are seeing.

My SPAM escalation:

* some homegrown procmail filters. That lasted a couple of years, but was too hard to keep up-to-date.
* “junkfilter”: was quite good, but I still had problems keeping it up-to-date.
* I now use “spambayes”: It is available as a procmail filter, as a POP/IMAP proxy, and as an Outlook plugin. I’m now using this everywhere. It uses statistical techniques to learn the characteristics of your incoming mail, and filters accordingly. It is surprisingly accurate :-)
* In parallel with spambayes, I switched from sendmail to postfix, which has a whole bunch of useful anti-spam technology built into the SMTP listener; the theory is that it is better to reject SPAM during the SMTP session than it is to deal with it later.
* Sadly, I had to disable some of postfix’s filters, because it was trapping too much legitimate e-mail :-) Many of my correspondents work for companies that can’t seem to configure their DNS or their SMTP servers properly, and educating / whitelisting them was taking too much time :-)
* I have now given up, and started testing some (conservative) RBLs, with reasonably good results; they’re now installed fulltime. I’m currently evaluating, but I’m getting too many false positives (for me), because they tend to pick up the MTAs of large companies and ISPs.

Every time I’ve tried SpamAssassin I’ve had trouble with it; but naturally, your mileage may vary :-)

We’re in a war, and the spammers are as smart as we are. I’m already seeing SPAM specifically designed to foil statistical filtering. As with all escalations, the solution seems to be to make my host less attractive to spammers than someone else’s…

posted at 4:28 pm on Monday, May 19, 2003 in Site News | Comments (6)
  1. Michael says:

    I like the RBLs from in particular stops a lot of our spam.

    In fact, I need to add more of them. I’m hoping they’ll consolidate more of their lists. would be nice…

    I also use – a conservative list recommended by a very knowledgable regular poster to the Stalker SIMS mailing list – known dialup open relays – know open socks proxies

    To date we haven’t had any good mail caught, but we may. We’ll see.

    Also using the new version of Eudora (beta 6) which has a beysean Junk Filter function. I’m really starting to see a lot less of the spam I get sent.

  2. Michael says:

    Bayesian would be the other (i.e. correct) spelling. lists several anti-spam products that can use the RBLs…

  3. Harald says:

    <laughter> never post before coffee.

    I’m going to move on to test spamhaus next; I’ve heard good things about them. I tried once, but got way too many false positives; I’ve never tried their individual subdomains.

    I’m currently using (recommended by the postfix-users list):

    (155) – socks/HTTP proxies
    (91) – single-stage relays, proxies, and formmail sources

    The number is the number of messages rejected by the RBL in the last week. I used to use, because they are described as “extremely conservative”, but I didn’t get any rejects from them other than a mailhost that I was forced to whitelist.

    I’ve just tested for a week. It rejected 28 messages that no one else did, but it lists all of the servers for, generating false positives.

  4. Harald says:

    I forgot to add: I’ve been using a (postfix specific) log scanner to tell my users when email to them has been rejected by an RBL; I’ve had a couple of false positives reported that way :-)

  5. Ginger says:

    I second the recommendation for Eudora. It’s getting some false positives (mostly via my yahoo account, which classifies some solicited commercial email/mailing lists as spam) but has been excellent about learning from its mistakes.

  6. Vipul Bhatt says:

    Can anybody help me in configuring exchange 2003 to check blocklist using

    Kindly reply at the earliest and oblige by doing the needful.
    I possible PLEASE mail at
    Thank you.

Weather uncooperative


It figures; a perfectly good eclipse to watch tonight, and it will be cloudy.

I should start keeping track of the number of times that happens :-)


posted at 9:31 am on Thursday, May 15, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Weather uncooperative


Ok, so I didn’t get the grass cut :-). With this week’s weather, that means it will be scythable by Friday.

Anyway, I had a nice weekend; even the house cleaning wasn’t as onerous as expected. It apparently also used up all of my extra calories from last week, since I didn’t gain any weight this week!

I’m never under-gruntled for long. This is probably a good thing…

posted at 4:10 pm on Monday, May 12, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Gruntled

Digital Cameras

I want a cheap digital camera, just to play with. Probably 2 megapixel, since they’re well, cheap :-) Other features: USB (not serial), and some kind of expandable storage (Probably Compact Flash). Analog zoom would be nice, although that probably still pushes it out of “cheap”. I’m perfectly happy with an older generation (i.e. used) camera. Small/light would be nice too.

I’ve seen an older 2M Kodak that comes well reviewed at Henry’s for $130 CDN; it’s tempting, although it doesn’t have the zoom.

Any recommendations?

posted at 10:25 pm on Sunday, May 11, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Digital Cameras

Lunar Eclipse

There is a “Total Lunar Eclipse”: on Thursday night (May 15-16). It might be hard to see here in Toronto; the moon is a little low in the sky at this time of year. According to the “Lunar Eclipse Calculator”: the times and and sky coordinates here are:

| Event | Time | Azimuth | Altitude |
| Moonrise | 20:20 | 115.3 | —- |
| Sunset | 20:36 | —- | —- |
| Moon enters penumbra | 21:05.3 | 123.3 | 6.1 |
| Moon enters umbra | 22:02.7 | 134.2 | 13.6 |
| Moon enters totality | 23:13.7 | 149.3 | 21.1 |
| Middle of eclipse | 23:40.1 | 155.5 | 23.1 |
| Moon leaves totality | 00:06.4 | 161.8 | 24.7 |
| Moon leaves umbra | 01:17.4 | 179.8 | 26.4 |
| Moon leaves penumbra | 02:14.8 | 194.3 | 25.0 |
| Sunrise | 05:51 | —- | —- |
| Moonset | 06:08 | 241.7 | —- |

Next one is in November, so will be much higher in the sky…

posted at 9:35 pm on Sunday, May 11, 2003 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on Lunar Eclipse

Under Gruntled

I dislike tracking down nebulous bugs. It crashes, under heavy load, probably due to a memory stomp; good luck duplicating that one!

My house is a disaster area, and my wife is hosting the local bridal shower for my sister, _tomorrow_. I’m going to be spending the next 24 hours cleaning and tidying, when what I want to do is crawl into bed with a good book (and I’m about to go buy three of them at Bakka).

Somewhere in there I have to mow the lawn, and clean out the eavestroughs. At least my new grass is growing :-)

posted at 3:26 pm on Friday, May 09, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Under Gruntled


Evil image

Mark Pilgrim is evil. (or is that E-Ville?)

My eyes hurt.

posted at 3:15 pm on Wednesday, May 07, 2003 in Odd | Comments Off on Matchmaker

Kite Flying

Well, no kite pictures. I was having _way_ too much fun flying kites to bother with the camera.

The three of us woke up early, and even with a lazy morning we still arrived at the kite field at around 9:30. I helped a bit with setup while the kids ran around saying “hello!” to all of the TKF members the recognized. It’s nice that everyone is now treating them as just part of the gang. Speaking of which, the kids were angels all day; they flew kites, they made paper airplanes, they helped people, they entertained themselves. It was a pleasant break from normal sibling squabbling.

The weather on Sunday was fantastic; sunny and not too warm. The winds were a little unpredictable (it is called the Four Winds Kite Festival for a _reason_ :-). I think I flew almost every kite in my bag, although some of them performed better than others! Michaela picked up several new kites from a bargain bin; I was pretty sure that the Wright Flyer wasn’t going to fly well, although it could just need a little tuning.

The Kortright staff were selling kites, including a funky penguin kite (which didn’t look enough like Tux, otherwise I might own one :-). There must have been a dozen penguins in the sky by the time we started packing up, along with even more rainbow deltas.

Afterwards a few of us went out to dinner, and while there celebrated Gareth’s birthday. What seven-year-old doesn’t love being the center of attention?

Sadly, we’re out of town for the next two events; Polo for Heart is the same day as my sister’s wedding, and Over the Edge is while we’re in Italy. I guess we won’t see everyone again until Canal Days…

posted at 11:29 pm on Tuesday, May 06, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Kite Flying

They Grow Up


So he’s about to turn seven on Monday. Eeek! They grow up too quickly.

After a long winter, it’s always nice to get outside in the sun and fresh air, so we always hold Gareth’s birthday party in a nearby park. The weather has been obliging so far; this year it was slightly chilly (13°C), but sunny and with a nice breeze. We flew some kites, played on the climbers, ate sandwiches and cake, and even had a water balloon fight!

Of course, there had to be a geek angle. Through a marketing promotion, we were able to borrow a digital camera for the party, so I’ve got one to put in this blog entry :-)

Tomorrow we drop by the Four Winds kitefest at the Kortright Centre; I might have some more pictures then.

[ Crud. The picture doesn’t work well with my current pretty box layout. Not quite sure how to fix that; I’ll leave it alone for now. ]


posted at 10:32 pm on Saturday, May 03, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on They Grow Up