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December 16, 2003

No Tea For Me

One hundred and thirty years ago the Boston Tea Party was held in Boston Harbor. Today, I drink coffee.

December 15, 2003

Knowspam and Yahoo

It turns out that the good people at Yahoo have deemed in their infinite wisdom to block all email originating from Knowspam.net, the anti-spam service that I am now using, along with many others who are fed up with all of the garbage. Many spammers use fake Yahoo addresses in the From field on their emails, and Knowspam effective sends a reply to each of these. Instead of applying intelligence to this problem (e.g. by ignoring only unsolicited challenges) Yahoo is blocking everything, which means that it is a) impossible to email people with Yahoo accounts via Knowspam and b) impossible for people at Yahoo accounts to complete the verification process necessary for their first email to a Knowspam user. Knowspam is working on this, but they shouldn't have to.

December 10, 2003

Commuting On the Edge

Schhhhhhhickkk! Schik! Schik!

I was on the train, heading home a little early that afternoon. I was slouched in my seat reading a magazine and eating a late lunch, when that that sound-out-of-context reached my ears.

Schick, schick, schick.

It was the unmistakable sound of someone sharpening a knife.

A scene from a childrens' book, with the villain preparing to dine on the protagonist. Was a fellow passenger about to eat me up?

SCHICK, schick schick-schick-schick!

This is not right, I though. Can't be. Doesn't make any sense. I wracked my brains trying to think of some more sensible activity that might make that sound, but nothing came to mind.


My posture improved in a hurry as I tried to locate the source of this sound, but in a rattling train it wasn't easy. There weren't a lot of heads visible over the seatbacks, and none of them struck me as the knife-sharpening type.


A conductor walked up the aisle and back, and didn't seem at all perturbed. Bolstered by this I gathered myself together as the train approached my stop, and I started down toward the door. In the very last seat I found the source of the sound.

A smallish woman, mid-thirties, artsy. In one hand she held a leaf-shaped object perhaps eight inches long and two inches wide, and very, very thin. It could have been porcelain, but I believe it was pale stone. In her other hand she held the blade, a knife or rasp of hardened steel, which she was running repeatedly down the edge of the stone, honing, then examining, then scraping again as she altered its shape. I'm not at all sure what she was making (scrimshaw? A lifesize cameo of a beloved pet snake?) but I have to say it was an unusual sight for New Jersey Transit. And to think they won't let us bring nail clippers on airplanes.

December 04, 2003

Satisfying Transit

"We've got two problems this morning," said the voice over the train's loudspeakers. "First, there's a disabled train ahead of us. The second thing is that we're having switching problems" [groans from fellow passengers]. "We'll keep you informed as we learn more, but if you've got a Snickers bar, now's the time to open it."

December 01, 2003

Moon Over Mars

Don't miss Andrew Chaikin's gorgeous images of the moon occulting Mars, taken this past July.