March Molly Madness

Howdy all! This is MG Myers.

The competition for the March Mollies was mighty fierce with 23 great nominees. The votes have been tabulated and the winners are <drum roll>

i-04c948c78f767caad42e88cf9ad3c8ad-drum.jpeg

onion girl and CJO!

These two well-deserving commenters are hereby inducted in the distinguished Order of the Molly. Woohoo! Weehee! Congratulations to both!

Now we just need to catch up on the April awards. Who of your fellow commenters do you think is deserving of a Molly award for April and why?

Also, in the last Molly thread Mattir had a terrific idea of starting a monthly book club.

It would be good to have a monthly book club wherein commenters could discuss contentious issues like that raised by the Anatomy of an Epidemic/Emperor’s New Drugs books over the weekend. Hard to have a productive discussion between people armed with anecdata and googlescholar in one corner and the other side armed with the knowledge gained from the book under discussion.

What do you folks think about a Pharyngula book club? How about some suggestions for a worthwhile book to start us all off?

Molly…under new management

Hi, this is MG Myers. A few readers mentioned that Pharyngula is three months behind in awarding Mollies. Shame on PZ. Since PZ doesn’t have the job done, I thought maybe we should fire him help him out. Anyway, I’ll be taking over the Molly administration. If you have any community building ideas we could do to make Pharyngula an even stronger and better community, feel free to put your ideas in the comments.

For starters, let’s catch up on inducting some well-deserving commenters in the distinguished Order of the Molly. The votes for February have been tabulated and the winners are <drum roll>

i-04c948c78f767caad42e88cf9ad3c8ad-drum.jpeg

SallyStrange and llewelly!

Congratulations to both!

For your next assignment, you know the drill. We need to collect some nominee names for the distant month of March. Just leave your votes and nomination reasons in the comments.

I’m beginning to hate Yahoo

Just a warning: lately, there’ve been a lot of nasty, slagging, one-off comments coming in from Yahoo accounts — you know them, the usual unreadable smear of a name that we all call yahoomess. I’m considering cutting them off altogether. All it will take is one click and the yahoomesses will no longer be afflicting the site.

If there is anyone who objects, speak now. If there are a significant number of reasonable people who are logging in with those IDs, and have managed to successfully generate a readable name for themselves, I’ll reconsider.

Changes, one way or another

I have news. Scienceblogs is going to be folded into a new organization sometime soon — basically, we’ve been bought. I can’t discuss all of the details just yet, but let’s just say it is a prestigious national magazine with a healthy bottom line that will do us a lot of good. There are certainly some advantages: like I said, prestigious, and there’s also a commitment to up-to-date technology and migrating to better blogging software. There’s also an agreement that the range of topics I discuss here, including the strong dissent from religion and the atheism and the anti-creationism stuff, are acceptable subjects. So that’s the happy part of the story.

The worrisome bit: there are standards and practices to follow, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but I do not want my peculiar voice to be compromised. That’s why I’m in this thing in the first place, to be able to express myself as I want when I want. So we’re in the delicate negotiation phase, trying to find agreements on form that don’t infringe on content, that will allow me to say any damn thing I want but maybe will require me to take an extra moment to review my articles with more cool deliberation before clicking that ‘submit’ button.

It is entirely possible that we won’t be able to find that position that is acceptable to both sides of our discussion, in which case I’ll cheerfully move on to an independent server and keep on keeping on right there. I’ll be thinking about the pluses and cons for a while.

I said “both sides,” but there are actually three sides: me, the hosting organization, and you the readers. How would you react if, for instance, profanity filters went up on the comments? Right now, it’s a real free-for-all in the comments, but I do clean up spam, ban certain elements that have demonstrated their trollishness, and will occasionally swoop in and erase comments that reveal personal information or contain nothing but bigoted raving. Would you leave if some automated software converted certain four-letter words to euphemisms, or if comments containing such words were held up until you edited them to meet the standards? What limits to expression would you accept?

These are trade-offs, so another interesting question is, what would persuade you that some limits to language are acceptable? Are there features that you think it would be worth demanding (say, user editing, or just faster performance, or free ponies with every comment) that you’d like to demand for the price of watching your potty-mouths a little more? We’re negotiating, you know — they make requests, we make requests — so tell me what’s most important to you.

I sure haven’t signed any contract with this organization yet, so it’s still entirely possible that I’ll just fly off my own way. Your input will be a factor, so speak up here, and I’ll listen. No matter what, though, things will not be the same, and there will be changes coming this summer.

In which I reveal my secret identity and announce a radical change

Three and a half years is a pretty decent lifespan for a cuttlefish.

The Cuttlefish Poet started out as a joke. I had posted about Cephalopod
Awareness Days
, including a cephalopod poetry contest, and just for
fun, added a handful. I have my reputation to think of, so a quick
nom de tentacle change was required. I honestly thought that would be
the end of it.

But then, Gary Aldridge made the news, and in the ensuing respectful,
solemn thread
, I was struck with a rhyme. So… why not let
“Cuttlefish” make another appearance? So he did. This time, though,
the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with just enough “that’s
inappropriate” to convince me to put it up as its own post.

I am strong, but I am not immune to public reaction. It was fun being
“Cuttlefish”, at least at first. The very first month commenting
“he/she” won a Molly! I had to start another blog for Cuttlefish,
just to keep my thoughts straight. I don’t update it nearly as often
as Pharyngula, so it’s not a great time-sink. And little or no
editing takes place—if I like a comment Cuttlefish makes on
Pharyngula, I post it on the Cuttle blog; if not, I can just let it
stay and get buried in other comments.

There were some close calls. A few people did guess, but their
guesses were either buried in comments, or on their own blogs with
very few readers. Sometimes “his” comments came altogether too
quickly after my blog post, and I worried that it would be too
obvious. After a while, though, I started toying with that, making
Cuttlefish appear nearly psychic. The biggest benefit to this, of
course, was seeing how this intimidated Truth Machine.

It has been fun, but now my own book is coming out, and well, three
and a half years is a good long life for a cuttlefish. And as you know, we’ve had a few problems here at Scienceblogs, which have led to a little dissatisfaction with the current digs…but hey! I’ve already got this other blog where I’m comfortable, so I’ve decided to just up and move wholesale from scienceblogs to digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com. If I do any
more rhyming there, it will be under my own name, but otherwise, look for new material to appear at the Digital Cuttlefish from now on.

Spamming me doesn’t work, OK?

I know you’re out there, and I’m laughing at you. Something happens to me occasionally: some clever dick decides that they’ll torment me by signing me up for all kinds of internet newsletters and advertising, so that my in-box will get flooded, or they sign me up for magazine delivery and then presumably chuckle at my discomfiture at receiving unwanted mail.

What they don’t understand is that I live in spamville.

i-8c03b40c3a4b2c2f30e3f1b855c0cab3-spamville.jpeg

I get several thousand emails a day right now. Putting me on an acupuncturist mailing list, or the newsletter of a chiropractic cult, simply throws a few more drops into the torrent. I click on it once, add it to my list of software sorting rules (all mail from this address→trash), and it’s gone and never reappears. I can do this far more quickly and easily than you can sign me up. I have skills honed in an incident with Catholics a few years ago.

So sure, you can get a company to send me something like this a thousand times, and I’ll see it once, and forevermore, that company is dead to me. Meanwhile, what I’ve got is blog fodder.

i-6ead4be826ba9b5fcf7c8af160e3ada8-acupuncrap.jpeg

Acupuncture loons are churning out software to calculate magic points to poke the gullible? That’s just hilarious.

As for those who burden my poor mailman with pulp, that goes in two directions. Most of it just gets recycled, like the church newsletters and letters telling me to pay for prayers on their magic prayer rug. Some of it I rather appreciate: the person(s) who signed me up for those gay men’s magazines, for instance. They actually had intelligent analyses of political issues, with fashion tips. I felt guilty about taking those in and depriving a quality company of revenue, and cancelled those, but any others, I just recycle their money into the big blue boxes.

Anyway, I just thought I’d mention to the delusional harasser that yes, I noticed your recent effort to make a dent in my mailbox…for about 30 seconds.

Word from On High

The latest information from management on the impairment of service:

We are still working to contain the ongoing DDoS attack, and to this end we have recently upgraded our service with Rackspace. This should restore access to our readers who have been blocked for the last week. However, some users may still be blocked, so please continue to send blocked IP addresses to webmaster@scienceblogs.com (or have them send us their IP addresses directly). As a preventative measure, please send your own IP addresses as well; we will add these addresses to Rackspace’s whitelist.

The problems should start easing up. If not, harass the admin at the address above.

This will do you no good if you can’t read the site

But we do have a little more information from Seed management.

Let me apologize again for the problems that many of you and your readers are experiencing. The attack is ongoing, originating from Turkey and Qatar, and until it stops, Rackspace must block IP ranges in order for the site to be accessible to anyone. They are also unwilling to manually unblock hundreds upon hundreds of individual IPs. They have advised that we invest in a firewall and additional services from them, but we are still working out what these will cost and how effective they will be. I am not sure if I was correct in thinking that these attacks are not malicious, but I said so because we were told the attackers were trying to use our servers as an open proxy, with the request “GET http://www.kosmodiskmedikal.com/ HTTP/1.1.” Upon reflection, I have no idea what that means.

I don’t know what it means, either, but I bet someone will tell me in the comments.

The great big banner thread

I’ve got banners out the wazoo now: 19 26 have been installed now, and I can always add more, so it’s not too late to send one in.

As several people have noticed, I was wrong. The actual dimensions of the space allotted for banners is 760×126 pixels, but the bottom 24 pixels are obscured by a menu. Those who sent me adjusted banners, I’ve already swapped them in — it may take a while for your image cache in your browser to clear. If anyone else wants to patch theirs up, send ’em along and I’ll replace those, too.

All of the current banners are on display below the fold.

[Read more…]

Bannerless!

Many have noticed that the Pharyngula banner has been gone for a few weeks. This is a completely independent problem from our recent (and still ongoing) access bugginess. For some reason, our tech guy hosted all those images on the Amazon web server when setting up the pages, and Amazon has either locked us out or reorganized their directories, and they aren’t loading any more.

The easy solution would be to put the images in some other accessible place, and tweak the code to redirect it to load from the new address, but unfortunately, when the tech guy set up the images, he cropped and resized and tweaked them in various ways…and I don’t have the modified images. I have my original files, but I can’t simply upload those — they won’t work.

So I guess I need a brand new banner. Anyone out there have any graphic artistry who’s willing to whip something up for me, in return for an acknowledgment, and a link on my About page? I can give you the old logo collection (that’s a .tar file of a set of Photoshop images), tell you that the size should be 760×120 pixels, and turn you loose. There is no obligation to use the old logos, and creativity is a good thing (I always felt the old banner never had enough tentacles, for instance); also, if you send me something, I’m not going to feel obligated to use it, or may even use it for a while and then replace it. So don’t agonize over it, or I’ll feel awful.


Thanks to everyone who has pointed me to caches of the old banners, but they also won’t work. The old banners were composites put together by putting images together with some randomizing code. I’m really thinking of a fresh start right now, a simple single banner.