Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

Sorry, but more delays

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

I had been planning on returning to full time posting and I was about 75% done with a post on GMO opposition when I suffered a mishap which will prevent my return to full time blogging.

On Saturday I was on a bike ride when a family decided to stop and completely block the bike trail on a blind curve at the bottom of a hill.  This, by the way, is a stupid thing to do.

I could  not stop in time.  I swerved to avoid them.   I successfully missed hitting anyone, but was thrown from my bike so violently that I fully lost consciousness.  I started to awaken in the ambulance as it arrived at the hospital.

I have the following injuries:

  1. Numerous bruises and soft tissue injuries
  2. Sprained foot
  3. Minor skull fractures
  4. Moderate concussion
  5. Badly broken right humerus

Of these, my right arm is by far the worst.  I am right handed and have zero use of it.  Also very painful.   It is in a sling, but I am scheduled to have it operated on next week.  Screws and pins will be required to rebuild it.

I am told it will be months before it is 100% back to normal, but hopefully much sooner that I will be able to type with both hands. For now I am of limited capability and taking a lot of pain killers.  Hence, no new posts for at least a couple weeks.

Also:  I do not doubt there are typographical errors in this post.  It took a grueling 45 minutes to write.  Please, just deal with it.  I am in no mood to go back and edit errors which may be obvious but do not detract from understanding the content.

Sorry, but a CAPTCHA has been added

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

I’m sorry to have to impose an annoyance on commenter, but unfortunately there has been a rash of bot-generated spam, and the unobtrusive and transparent WordPress plugins I have been using to try to catch it have not been doing a very good job lately.   It seems that the spam bots now do a very good job of emulating the behavior of standard browsers and are managing to change their IP’s and wording fast enough to avoid many of the blacklists.

As a result, I have had to add a CAPTCHA to the site.   I know how annoying some of these can be, especially when it is extremely difficult for humans to tell what the characters are due to extreme amounts of distortion.   Because of this, I have chosen a font and style that should not be too difficult to deal with.   Hopefully it will still provide the necessary level of security to stop bots, as most of them do not even bother trying to decode CAPTCHA.

Again, sorry for this annoyance, but it has become necessary.

More Posts Soon – I promise!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

To all readers -
You may have noticed that Depleted Cranium has been a bit light in posts recently.   It’s been a few days since the last one and that one was a few days after the one before that.  Sorry about that!

My personal life has just been very busy recently.  On top of that, I’m working on a couple of posts that are going to be rather long and highly researched.   Please bear with me while I get things updated.  New posts will come soon!

Also, please don’t tell me it should be “bare with me,” because it is actually bear.  Bear is the animal, but it also means to hold, carry or stay.   Bare means naked.

Thanks

-Steve (AKA DrBuzz0)

Sorry If Your Comments Do Not Appear or If Comment Threads Are Spammed

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Like most blogs, this site gets its share of spam comments.  Most of them are from various sites looking to get traffic or try to use the comments for free advertising.  Others are from various malicious individuals who simply want to cause trouble or harass readers and blog authors.

It is the policy of this site not to block or restrict comments simply because they disagree with a premise or express an opinion that is not wanted.  Only comments that are entirely for such advertising are blocked along with repeat offenders who only want to repost the same thing over and over or harass readers.  That said, the right to editorial control is reserved.

As a reader, you have probably seen spam comments from time to time.  However, the vast majority never show up on the public side of this website.  In fact, the comments are spammed multiple times per day, but well over 95% are caught by filters, which flag spam comments and prevent them from showing up.   These filters use several methods, including blacklists of URL’s and common phrases along with banned e-mail addresses and IP ranges.

The filters are not perfect, and in addition to sometimes allowing spam to make it through, they also sometimes flag legitimate comments as spam and send them to the spam folder, rather than posting them.  This is not intentional.  It is simply an unfortunate reality that compromises must be made to balance the effectiveness of the spam filters with the problem of false positives.

Over the past few years, one particular spammer has been of particular difficulty in dealing with.  In addition to deluging the site with repetitive, often incoherent comments, this spammer is very tenacious and responds to having comments blocked with the use of different ISP’s and alternate e-mail addresses.   Because of this, they sometimes manage to slip through.  When this occurs, the filters are updated.

This spam usually comes from the province of Quebec Canada, but more recently, has been traced to ISP’s in Chicago, Illinois, USA.  It’s not clear if this is the origin or if proxy servers are being used.  Some of these comments have managed to get past all the automated filters and show up in the comment feed.

As a result of this, it has become necessary to tighten the rules for comment filters.  Unfortunately, this does increase the risk that legitimate comments will be flagged and not show up.  I do periodically check the spam folder to see if any comments have been miss-identified as spam.   These comments are not lost, and I do correct this when I find them, thus restoring them to the site.   Due to my busy schedule, this can sometimes take a couple of days.  If your comment does get flagged, you can contact me by email.

Also, be aware that despite these measures, it is still possible some of the unwanted comment spam will slip through.

Gee… I wonder who could be responsible for this???

Paul Kurtz Has Died

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

It is with the deepest sadness that I must inform readers of the death of our good friend, one of the main founders of the modern skeptic, freethought and secular movement, Paul Kurtz. He was 86.   He will be deeply missed.

Sorry I do not really have it in me to memorialize Paul any further at this time.

Mars Rover Lands PHEW!

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I don’t know if I’m the only one who felt this way, but upon seeing the first images come back from the most ambitious mars rover yet last night, my mood was less excitement and more relief.  It worked! It did not crash nor did it somehow fail to communicate to earth.  It made it down safe and sound.  The most dangerous part of the mission is finished.

The reason for my relief is not simply that the heavy rover required a complex and new method of landing, but simply the fact that so much can go wrong even with more conventional landings.   Not only could the landing go wrong, but the consequences would be enormous.   Had one of the earlier two rovers failed, there would have still been the other.  But the rover Curiosity is one of a kind.  There is no backup plan and all the eggs in this mission are in one basket.   The mission has cost over two billion dollars and used much of the available stockpile of precious plutonium-238.

In other words, we really only had one shot at this and had it gone wrong, the consequences for the US space program could have been enormous.   Unmanned deep space missions are a crap-shoot.  Even the best engineered and tested ones can and do fail.   Well, this one didn’t.   We’ve already got a few black and white photos back from it.   We’ll see what kind of discoveries it will make in the days, weeks months and hopefully years to come.   Now that we’ve let out the sigh of relief, it’s time to get excited!

Site is Back!

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Many apologies!

For those who don’t know, I’ve been running for the US Congress.�� I’ve been so ridiculously busy that when the site was taken down (due to my failure to update my credit card on the host) I didn’t notice for a week.� By the time I noticed, the host had deleted my files.�� Thankfully, I was able to restore them from backups which were made only four days before the site was taken down, so nothing was lost, except a few comments.

The reason it took so long is I had to manually rebuild the SQL database from the log files and that was rather involved.� Being so busy, I had been unable to set aside the few hours it took to do so.�� However, now I have and the site is back.

Sorry again for the service interuption!

Some updates on the run for the US Congress

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Yes, I’m still running for the US Congress and if you’ve noticed that this blog has not been updated as much as it once was, that is why.� It’s taking up a lot of my time, but I will still try to add fresh content to this site.

One thing that certainly needs to be mentioned is that the campaign still is very much in need of donations.�� We’ve received a few very generous contributions, but it has proven to be an extremely expensive endeavor.�� If you can chip in a few dollars or a few hundred, it will help a great deal.�� I cannot take any donations from those outside the United States (unless you’re a US citizen living abroad.)�� That is simply federal election law.� There has always been concern that foreign interests could influence US politics, so it is illegal to in any way fund a US campaign.

There is now also a campaign store, where bumper stickers, shirts and so on can be purchased.� Because a portion of these purchases goes to the campaign, they can also only be purchased by US citizens.�� If there’s a lot of demand for them from outside the US, we’ll consider allowing foreign citizens to buy them at cost, thus avoiding that problem, but as it stands that’s not currently being offered.� Really, I don’t see much reason why someone outside the US would want the campaign gear, anyway.

There are some things that anyone can do to help out, including foreign nationals and those who might not have a lot of money.� Some of the things that can be done are listed here.

The campaign needs help getting the word out on social media.�� We also are trying to get news submitted to various sites to get more attention.� It helps a lot when such submissions come from multiple parties.

One thing we really need is a Wikipedia entry for the candidacy.� It’s really better if that kind of thing is done by a third party, not associated officially with the campaign.� It makes the article more credible and avoids it looking like it’s been written entirely by the campaign for good PR.�� If it has multiple authors and editors, that is even better.� I certainly don’t want to write it myself, because that makes it look like little more than a self-produced advertisement.

We also need residents of Connecticut and especially the Third District who can help out in some other ways.

Need a Favor: Please Help Find Spelling Mistakes on Election Page

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

I really hate to do this, and I realize that it’s a bit unprofessional to openly ask for help with editing a page that is not even officially up.� However, as readers here may know, I’m not the best speller in the world, although I may well be the worst.

I am about to launch a website for my bid for the US Congress.�� However, I’m sure it has spelling errors in it and I can’t find them alone.�� Paying for editing would be expensive and likely delay things even more.�� That’s why I am asking to crowd source it from anyone kind enough to point them out.� I can be e-mailed or you can just point them out in the comments here.

The website (which is still not up as the main page) can be found at http://www.packard2012.org/test/

Once I am pretty sure there are no horribly embarrassing spelling errors I’ll move it to being the main page of the site.

I know that there are also parts of it that are lacking.�� It does not have a full photo gallery yet, the donations service is still pending on having the account finalized.� The “policies” section needs a few additional ones added.� I’m aware of that and working to add them.� Right now what I need help with is spelling.

Thanks to anyone who will help out.

Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

Friday, December 16th, 2011

I am very very saddened to say that Christopher Hitchens has lost his battle with cancer.�� He was 62 years old.�� He was diagnosed more than a year ago, and while there was at least a slim hope of beating the cancer, we all have known for some time that this day was likely to be soon upon us.

Hitchens was an illuminating, if controversial force who contributed much to the world, especially in the areas of ethical and religious debate.�� Despite his deteriorating health, he managed to continue his irreverent and pointed public commentary almost to the very end.

I first met Christopher Hitchens at Tam-5.� Sadly I never got a picture with him, but at least I shook his hand.� He was not able to make the next two Tam’s for various reasons and then he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which prevented him from attending many more conferences.

I’m sorry I did not get to know him better, though many of my close friends did.�� We appreciate his contributions enormously and will miss him.

For those involved in skepticism, secularism and related areas, this is a sad day.