jon jensen's blog

March 1, 2009

My Funny Valentine

People like John Valentine make me want to get into politics some day. The economy is in shambles, personal freedoms are under attack, and the government is steadily increasing in size and scope. But State Senator Valentine has a plan to fix all these issues. Haha, I keed, I keed.

Just when Utah Liquor Laws might finally see some sanity, Valentine is trying to push though a bill that would require restaurants to wall off the bar section and make it a crime to pour a drink in plain view of patrons. The rationale is that it protects children from the allure of alcohol. Never mind the incredible costs to restaurants, their patrons and the state.

Perhaps the most idiotic part of the bill is the redefinition of "intoxication." Having a seizure? Suffer from nystagmus? Just a loud talker? Looking at a cop funny? Congratulations, you could be cited for public intoxication under the new wording.

Here's a better idea:

Let's create a law that requires all cars registered in Utah to be retrofitted with special seats for passengers under the age of 16. These seats would be surrounded by an opaque plastic curtain so that young passengers would no longer be bombarded and tempted by the sights of people driving. Additionally, let's make it a misdemeanor to ever be seen driving. This includes simulated driving (video games, pantomiming, etc.).

Right and Left love to complain about the Nanny State, but they are equally guilty of promoting and expanding it.

While we do still plan on moving north, it is a little bit tempting to stick around Orem a few more years to support (or be) Valentine's opponent in 2010.

Posted by jon at 10:45 PM

March 18, 2008

Are you with us?

So it turns out that Tom Cole and the NRCC need my help to win back the House and Senate. To that end, they have sent me the "official 2008 Congressional District Survey and [urged me] to participate in this historic project AT ONCE" [Emphasis in original]. Oh, and they also want lots of my money.

If political propaganda is an art form, this little gem of correspondence is a KarlRovian masterpiece. The letter is a breathtaking concerto of fear mongering and straw men, culminating in a melodious orgy of false dichotomies and appeals to emotion. The survey is also an excellent read, full of important questions whose answers will have a substantive influence on the Republican platform in this coming election. Most are non-leading, unbiased questions, along the lines of "Do you support the Liberal Demoncrats' plan to rape old ladies?".

Completing the survey is an important responsibility, since my "answers will represent ALL Republic constituents living within [my] Congressional District". Some people might be a bit surprised that the NRCC would pick a liberaltarian like me to represent the country's most conservative congressional district, but I totally saw it coming.

The multiple-choice options were a bit restrictive, and they forgot to provide any space for write-in answers, so I'm posting my responses online. Also, I have a high degree of confidence that if I mailed mine in, it would never make it past the temp's shredder.

  1. Do you feel voters in Utah's 3rd District support making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent?

    Sure, most of them do. But these are also the people that would vote Bush in a 3rd time if they could, so I wouldn't put too much stock in their critical thinking skills.
  2. Do you support the House Democrats' "slow-bleed" strategy to "choke-off" funding for our troops in Iraq, leading to their withdrawal and a perception of American defeat?
    unchecked box Mu.
    Wow, just wow.
  3. Should Republicans continue fighting for full implementation of a ballistic missle defense system?

    But you guys go do whatever the hell you want. Though I'm pretty sure it won't be a blip on your radar when gas hits $5/gallon this summer.
  4. Do voters in Utah's 3rd District agree with the Nancy Pelosi Democrat Majority's decision to impose massive tax hikes on the American people?
    unchecked box Mu.
    But they'd say no (same goes for #2).
  5. Do you think that House Republicans should continue to push for pro-growth policies that create jobs and oppose tax increases that would add a burden to working families and set back our economy?
    unchecked box Mu.
    Change "continue" to "start" and you've got yourself a definite "Yes, if I can have veto power".
  6. Do you support Congressional Republicans' efforts to decrease domestic government spending in order to reduce the national deficit?

    Their current efforts? No, they are completely one-sided and are negated by our ridiculous defense spending abroad. Start cutting on both sides of the aisle, and then you've got my attention.
  7. Do you support the Democrats' effort to give federal government bureaucrats complete control of your health care costs and choices?
    unchecked box Mu, with No-ish tendencies.
  8. Should Republicans in Congress make expansion of Veterans' benefits a priority?

    Wait, how'd that one get in there? That almost sounds like a serious question to me: "Support Our Troops" vs. "No Welfare, Dammit!". Though I guess for Republicons, Terruh trumps all. jon = fail.
  9. Do you support maintaining anti-terrorism laws that give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the far-reaching powers to track, detail and prosecute terrorists and their accomplices?
    unchecked box Mu.
    Ok, the question is a little vague, guys (intentionally, no doubt). FISA? Yes. Letters of Marque? Why not. USA PATRIOT ACT and signing statements? Hell no, bitches.
  10. Should Republicans in the House of Representatives make securing our nation's borders and enforcing out nation's immigration laws, including combating the hiring of illegal workers and ending the "catch and release" policy a top priority?

    If it's not the gays destroying marriage or the Arabs hating our freedoms, then it's the Mexicans destroying our economy. If only there were some way to harness the awesome power of your irrational phobias, we could be completely energy independent... how about making that your priority numero uno?
  11. Do you think House Republicans should continue fighting for comprehensive education reform to ensure that every child in America receives a first-rate education?

    Though it is an interesting idea. I mean, maybe you could pass an educational reform act, and its name could be something about including every child... Oh. Yeah. You'd better stop before you pass any more turds like that. Whatever happened to cutting domestic spending?
  12. Do you agree that winning back a Republic Majority in the House of Representatives is essential to stopping the Nancy Pelosi Democrats from raising our taxes, destroying our economy and endangering our homeland?
    unchecked box Mu.
    As for your three fears, 1. taxes will go up regardless 2. uh, read the news lately? we're already beyond screwed. 3. neither you nor they would do anything to change this much in either direction.
  13. Will you support our Party's campaign to defeat the Pelosi Democrats and elect a Republican House Majority in 2008 by joining the NRCC with a generous financial contribution today?
    unchecked boxYes! I want to join the NRCC's effort to win back a House Majority, safeguard our values and principles, and keep America progressing towards a strong, prosperous and secure future. I am enclosing my most generous contribution of:
    unchecked boxI cannot pledge my support for this year, but I would like to include a contribution of $11 to help the NRCC fund this survey and its tabulation.
    Damn, I don't even know how to respond to this one. $11 a pop just to fund the damn "survey"? I guess you've got some significant "overheads" to worry about.

Posted by jon at 7:50 AM

April 9, 2007

It really pays to digg — coding deathmatch 2.0

The good news: The coding deathmatch is back, this time with twice the prize money and a guarantee that every finalist will win something.

The bad news: Employees can't compete (obviously), and previous finalists can't win prize money, so that makes me doubly ineligible.

Ok, so it's not really bad news at all. Making previous finalists ineligible helps level the playing field and lets us share the love with everybody else. And as tempting as that $10K+ first prize is, to me it really isn't worth that whole unemployment thing.

So if you are a Utah programmer with nothing better to do this Saturday — let's be honest here, you're a programmer and you live in Utah — you owe it to yourself to sign up. It could be the easiest $10K you ever make in your life (Derek, it might be the easiest $10K you ever make in your life legitimately). Who knows, you might even find yourself doubly ineligible for the next one. Trust me, that's a good thing.

Sign up

Posted by jon at 7:30 PM

January 15, 2007

Thwarting comment spam

There are a variety of approaches to combatting blog spam. Each has its pros and cons, and none of them is perfect. Three common approaches that I've seen:

1. CAPTCHA's can be effective, but spammers are getting better at finding ways around them. Generally speaking, the better the CAPTCHA is at keeping out spammers, the harder it is for your user to decipher.

2. Bayesian algorithms, keyword filters, and other types of content analysis are good, but spammers are getting smarter. Blog spam is becoming increasingly on-topic, making it harder to filter it out and requiring more manual work.

3. Requiring a login or subscription to a service is a good approach in theory, but in practice spammers have no problem setting up bogus accounts. Then there's the fact that most people don't like creating accounts just to post comments.

Recently I decided to test out a new approach to dealing with comment spam. It occurred to me that most spammers don't necessarily crawl my blog at the same moment they spam it. It seems more likely that they have bots that crawl the web to find comment forms (or even subscribe to services that do this) and then systematically spam it some time later.

So I set up a simple PHP script that ties into Apache's mod_rewrite to manage the URL's for my blog. Basically every day, the URL for the comment form changes. The new URL comtains an effectively random 32 character string, making it impossible to guess the correct URL without actually going to the blog. The end result has been an 80% reduction in comment spam. Combined with MT's junk filters, it has proven to be extremely effective.

The next step will be to adjust the frequency of the URL changes to see how that affects the remaining 20% — if it ends up making a big enough dent, I'll make the source public to give people an additional weapon in the war on spam.

Posted by jon at 1:12 AM

November 15, 2006

Horizontal CSS bar graphs

Even though I've been doing CSS for years, I still think it's the coolest thing since sliced bread—the novelty hasn't worn off and probably won't until something better comes along.

Last night I gave my CV a much needed update. One neato feature I included in the online version is a horizontal chronology of my work experience. Looking at the source code reveals it's all done in CSS.

CSS bar graphs are nothing new, but my approach is a little unique. By using em's for all measurements, it makes it especially easy to specify the bounds of the various items; a job that lasted 12 months is simply 12 ems wide. This also makes the whole thing scale very nicely as you adjust text size.

Another cool thing is the toggle between outline and timeline views—just changing a class on the body completely restructures the whole thing.

Posted by jon at 7:29 AM
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