Persistence of addressing

A few days ago I mentioned that “It’s going to be interesting to hunt down all of the places which have my Sun address”. Yesterday I came across one of them: PayPal. And changing it was quite a trip.
It’s easy to add a new email address to PayPal, so I did that. But then I wanted to make this address the primary one, and delete my address. To accomplish this, PayPal wanted to send a confirming email to the current primary address – but that address had been deactivated on the day of my RIF. The workaround was interesting. First, I had to log in. [“Something you know.”] Then PayPal showed me the last four digits of my credit card, and asked for the full number. [“Something you have, but could be stolen.”] Next, PayPal indicated that it had my phone number on file, and asked if it could call me. When I clicked Yes, a four digit code was displayed, my phone rang [“Something you have that can’t be stolen.”], and I was instructed to enter the code using my phone [“Something ephemeral that you know.”] . This satisfied PayPal that I was who I claimed to be, and the change was effected.
How does this stack up as an identity solution? It certainly exploits existing technology to the full….

A stranger in a REALLY strange land

When I read stories like this, I wonder what weird, alien country I’m living in.

“I just killed a kid,” Charles Martin told the emergency services operator. “I shot him with a goddamn 410 shotgun twice.” He had gunned down Larry Mugrage, his neighbours’ 15-year-old son. The teenager’s crime: walking across Mr Martin’s lawn on his way home. Mr Martin opened fire from his house and then, according to the police, walked up to the wounded boy and pulled the trigger again at close range, killing him.

[I’m turning off comments, because I don’t want the chore of moderating all the rants from the RKBA nuts who try to justify their culture of death.]


I’m not a typical sports fan: I don’t support one team exclusively. When it comes to football (English, of course), I tend to cheer on three clubs: Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool. (And I have a soft spot for Newcastle, too.) But I’m more interested in watching a good match than seeing “my” side win at any cost.
All of this is a roundabout way of explaining my distinctly mixed emotions at watching Liverpool’s 7-0 thrashing of Birmingham in tonight’s F.A. Cup quarter-finals. This was not a good match. By half time there were really only two open questions:

  1. Would Birmingham snatch a consolation goal, and
  2. Would Liverpool’s score get into double digits?

Ah well. Let’s hope that Birmingham is relegated from the Premiership: based on recent form, they’re less deserving than Portsmouth.

Old problem… new solution

For as long as I can remember, the music business has been in the habit of releasing different versions of albums in different countries. Back in the 1960s, British LPs were typically longer than those issued in the USA, so American customers got hacked and butchered versions of British albums, and British customers got US releases padded out with filler. Later on the practice was used to discourage import buying: the US distributor of a British artist would try to discourage American fans from ordering from the UK by making sure that the US version had a couple of extra tracks. This was frustrating to hard-core “completist” fans: do you wait, buy both versions, or what?
Last year Saint Etienne released an excellent CD in the UK, “Tales from Turnpike House”. 12 tracks, plus a bonus CD of children’s songs. Now their US label has released the album with 4 extra tracks, 1 deleted, different sequencing, and no bonus material. But today this presents no real problem. I’ve just downloaded the extra tracks from iTunes*, and assembled a playlist with all 15 tracks in the US sequencing.
Of course this scheme could have been foiled if one of the four new tracks had been tagged “Album only” (i.e. not available on its own). So who makes that call – Apple or the distributor?

* The only gotcha was that I had to change the album title for the four new tracks, to prevent iTunes from merging them into the UK album – I want to be able to access the original version unchanged.

Upgrade successful

The upgrade to WP 2.0.2 seems to have been successful. I’ve disabled live preview for comment composition, because I want to try a slightly different approach in the future. Apart from that, everything should work the same. If you notice any problems, please add a comment to this posting.

Random 10

Another Sunday, another i-ching thrown by iTunes:

  • “Ghostly Horses Of The Plain” by Al Stewart (from Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time)
  • “Suite in G Major, HWV 441 – Adagio” played by Trevor Pinnock (from Handel: Chaconne in G Major, Keyboard Suites)
  • “Precious Heart (Joshua Ryan Remix)” by Tall Paul (from Music Through Me)
  • “The Merciful One” by Zohar (from Buddha Bar 1)
  • “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti (from Cupid & Psyche 85)
  • “Drifting Away” by Faithless (from Reverence)
  • “Answering Machine” by Marillion (from anorak in the uk live)
  • “Underneath The Rainbow” by Men Without Hats (from …In The 21st Century)
  • “End Of A Century (Live)” by Blur (from Best Of Blur)
  • “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin (from Led Zeppelin Remasters)

"Let me count the ways to tell a weasel"

This afternoon I bopped over to Cambridge* to attend one of the MIT philosophy colloquia. The speaker was Ruth Millikan, and her subject was Let me count the ways to tell a weasel: On extensional meanings and nature’s clumps [PDF, 692KB]. To brutally summarize a nice, wide-ranging account, she set out to show that the classical question of how linguistic reference can be justified is simply answered by the natural “clumping” of class-defining properties in the real world. I agreed with her thesis, and enjoyed the way she presented it. However I think that she overemphasized the importance of the intrinsic “clumpiness” of the world and understated the role of agents (i.e. us) in choosing the clumps that were significant to us. This certainly confused a couple of the audience, who perceived an unintended dichotomy between “natural” and “purposeful” clumps. (They’re all natural: we are part of nature.)
I participated in the Q&A, and went upstairs for the social afterwards, but Millikan was surrounded by old friends. Thus I wasn’t able to ask my two big questions:

  1. Was her main thesis about language or meaning-making intentional agents in general? In other words, is human language the focus of the work, or is it simply a convenient system used by a particular class of agents?
  2. Although she focussed on “language as it is”, she did discuss how linguistic usage shifts and evolves. So does she like the concept of memes, or does she have another explanatory model that she prefers?

I was pleased to find that I felt right at home, and thoroughly comfortable with the material. One reason I’d wanted to attend this particular seminar was that when we read Millikan in Dennett’s course a year ago, I found her stuff particularly hard to wrap my head around. I guess I learned something after all. Cool.

* Well, actually I took the Green Line to Park Street, wandered through the back streets of Beacon Hill, and then walked across the Longfellow Bridge.