Sing to me of breakage

I performed a massive update and reconfiguration this evening of the server hosting this site.  My intent was to make it ready for the implementation of new features (and to make those services available to other sites running on the same server).

While my testing indicates no problems, mileage can always vary. . .

So please speak up if you run across any problems.

Likewise, expect to see some changes coming soon (e.g., more security around comment submissions, like CAPTCHA images or other challenge/response systems, automatic blocking of trackbacks based on source page/server information, and so on).  You see, I’ve grown quite tired of the constant deluge of spam comments and trackbacks (>5,000 this week alone, all of which I have to check to ensure no valid comments were caught in the filter).  By inducing automatic checks against these, I hope to reduce the number of comments I have to look through each day while not terribly inconveniencing anyone who wants to leave a comment or submit a trackback.

We’ll see how it goes.

All I ask is that you tell me the moment you run across a problem or something that seems a bit off.  I’ll appreciate the feedback while hoping to make the site a little less easy for spammers—and a lot less inconvenient for me to manage.

[Update] I’ve now added a challenge/response system for comments based on simple math.  I find CAPTCHA very anti-accessibility.  That is, they render comments useless to those using screen readers who can’t see the images.  Therefore, I’ve added a new comment field based on simple math that can be seen/read by a screen reader.

So from now on when you want to leave a comment, you have to answer a basic number problem.  I can’t imagine anyone will find these challenges too problematic.  They’re simple and accessible.

Random Thought

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

— H. L. Mencken

Open thread

I’ve not done one of these in a long time, but a handful of cool items have crossed my desk recently, so I thought it only polite to share.  It’s possible I’ll start doing them on an infrequent basis as I continue stumbling upon things I want to share but simply haven’t the time to process.  We’ll see. . .

Another “human trait” exposed as a product of evolution: “A person who excitedly approaches infants and speaks to them in a high-pitched, musical voice has a behavior in common with female monkeys, suggests a new study, which found that female rhesus macaques use ‘baby talk’ when they see another monkey’s offspring. Since ‘baby talk,’also known as ‘motherese,’ may be an evolved trait in certain primates, the finding indicates this gentle way of vocalizing could play a key role in promoting positive relationships between parents and babies, as well as between adults and other grown-ups.”

Orphaned hedgehogs adopt cleaning brush as their mother.  You have to see the photo and read the article.  Too cute!

We’ve been discovering water outside our own solar system at an increasing rate, and now we find an entire solar system deluged with cosmic showers.  “NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed a dusty star system being soaked with a ‘steamy rain’ of water vapor. The water, pulled from gassy stellar leftovers into a dusty disk, provides what astronomers think is the first direct look at how the life-giving liquid makes its way into planets. The disk is the same sort of thing that forms around many stars and, in the case of our sun, was the seedbed for planet formation. The amount of water in the newly observed disk is thought to equal more than five times that of all oceans on Earth.”

This video is too much fun.  It’s quite simple: a handful of kittens playing with an empty box.  Need I say more?

Cosmic Blank Spot Puzzles Astronomers: “Astronomers have stumbled upon a tremendous hole in the universe. That’s got them scratching their heads about what’s just not there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking black holes, not even mysterious dark matter. It is 1 billion light years across of nothing. That’s an expanse of nearly 6 billion trillion miles of emptiness, a University of Minnesota team announced Thursday. Astronomers have known for many years that there are patches in the universe where nobody’s home. In fact, one such place is practically a neighbor, a mere 2 million light years away. But what the Minnesota team discovered, using two different types of astronomical observations, is a void that’s far bigger than scientists ever imagined.”  [via xocobra]