The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Feeping creaturism

I've spent the past week or so adding a new feature to The Boston Diaries and I'm finally rolling it out—email notification of updates!

A week for a simple feature might seem like overkill, but I did want to do this right and with as little breakage as possible. And it's not quite as straight forward as you may think either.

Design strategy number one: avoid complaints of spam as much as possible. As a result, I added a verification scheme. Upon first submitting an email address, the program displays a page saying the email address has been collected and at the same time, an email has been sent to the email address requesting verification. This is to keep a malicious person from submitting an email address to some unsuspecting person who then starts receiving emails about some oddball site being updated. So simply adding an email address to the end of a list is right out.

To this end, there are two lists maintained—one list of addresses that I am waiting a reply from, and the second one that actually gets sent the notifications of updates.

When the person subscribing replies, the reply email is sent to a program that gets the email address that doing the replying, and looks it up in the pending list, and if so, removes it from the pending list and adds the email to the notification list, and sends an email saying as much.

The program that processes new entries then goes sequentially through the notification list and sends out an email message.

Fairly straightforward, although there are some details I skimped out on (like checks to see if the address is already in one of the lists, unsubscribing, just small details) that's pretty much how it works. The time spent though, was making sure I got all the details (big and small) right. Oh, and making it such that Spring could use it for her journal as well.

Still waiting …

I've yet to hear back from the spammer, which isn't all that surprising; I doubt I'll ever hear from him. Bummer.

In other news, I've received several pieces of spam from what looks to be Microsoft, but is, in fact, yet another piece of viral software attempting to propagate itself across the internet via Microsoft Windows.


“Hunting of the Snark”

What made this hunt so hard? Puzzles like the 192-letter cryptogram, for one thing. As Jean notes, “A cipher of that length should be a snap to break. And this one wouldn't have been bad at all if I'd thought to mention that the hidden message was in Spanish. But I didn't. I also neglected to note that the pairs 'll', 'rr,' and 'ch' stood for single letters, as they do in the Spanish alphabet.” Chalk up some frustrated victims for this ruse, particularly the people on the Spanish House team, who were among the last to figure out the trick.

Via my dog wants to be on the radio, The Great Annual MIT Mystery Hunt

So there we were, Bill, Dave and I, driving along this lone stretch of road looking dilligently for the next clue and not finding it at all. We eventually went back to the previous point in the treasure hunt, and carefully traced the clue back to that same lone stretch of highway. This time we found the clue but were the last team to do so.

It turns out that we had solved the puzzle too quickly and the person handing out the clue didn't arrive in time.

I think we ended up coming in second or third place.

And I never was on a winning scavenger hunt team. Not that we didn't have fun while doing it.

A Gina Gershon Sock Puppet

Sasha McNeal, one of the show's writers and puppeteers, admits that it takes a twisted mind to dream up the idea of performing “Showgirls” with sock puppets, let alone pull it off. But once the idea had been broached, the group couldn't ignore its comedic potential. “I think that as actors we find it amusing because (the movie) is just so bad,” she says. “And you can get away with so much more with sock puppets. If it were just ourselves redoing 'Showgirls,' no one would care.”

Gotta see it to believe it

Showgirls. Sock puppets.

I'm sorry, I just can't wrap my brain around the concept.

Too bad it's only showing in Chicago.

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