Thursday, December 30, 2010

Welcome to the Grid

Yes, that title was inspired by my recent TRON post. But it also has another meaning. Read on, reader.

I'm a computer person. I typically use computers that run Windows, but I'm getting comfortable on the Mac OS X, and, let's face it, a computer's a computer, either way. The parts are the same, even the programs (Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, Mozilla Firefox) are essentially the same. But there are some differences, and they're important too.

TRON: Legacy Quasi-Review

I didn't set out to review TRON: Legacy, but after reading Max's article on the subject, I wanted to re-post my reply on my Blog, so that you guys can chip in with your thoughts. (Hint, hint: Comment! Add opinions! C'mon, I know you're reading this stuff...)

So, go read Max's article; it's pretty good stuff. And now, the (significantly shorter) reply:

TRON: Legacy (2010)

" [Applause] Overall, excellent work. I have to disagree with the earliest part of your premise though; the original TRON was better, because, quite frankly, the notion of PERSONIFYING computer programs was freaking BRILLIANT. The second time around? Not particularly witty.

The concept that the programs we write become single-minded souls on a mission is awesome, the notion that the larger, overarching code that sets the rules and regulations functions as the law enforcement is equally awesome, and the notion that users throw a wrench into the whole thing is EXACTLY what you already agree with, and EXACTLY the point of TRON. Programs exist FOR THE USER, and the user undoubtedly screws it up, and has to go fix it.

Sure, sure, there are problems. But it's metaphorical; it's imaginative. The very scenario you presented, with the suited guys around the table, wouldn't have been possible to CONCEIVE of if TRON hadn't first presented the personification-of-computer-programs idea.

That said, many excellent points. WALL-E does a great job, but it's not Pixar's first attempt at an important message: Monsters Inc. talks about corporate greed and fear-mongering, WALL-E tackles obesity and the environment, etc. Happy Feet, which I believe was done by different people, deals with animal endangerment. The animated movies are good at it, as they should be.

So what purpose does TRON serve, in light of such powerful, meaningful competition? It serves to broaden our imaginations, to get us to look at our world, even our digital world, in new ways, and to think about the things we are creating with our new technology. There were messages of corporate greed even in this latest TRON movie, pitting "free" operating systems against profits built on changing the 11 to "a 12" (remember that?). This TRON asked us to think about open-source software, and downloads and piracy, all issues facing our future, both in a programming and economic sense.

Do we create movies like TRON because we, as you say, "find computer programs so boring"? I think not. I think we create movies like TRON because we find the possibilities of the technological age so incredible, so endless, so EXCITING. We create TRON because we need to, in some small way, begin to express the magnitude of what we imagine and barely understand. We represent a new frontier in terms of our world, for we have no other way to comprehend it. We're haven't run out of things to say about technology. Rather, we can't find the means to say enough. "

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tufts 4 the Cure

It's winter break, and so, since not much is going on at Tufts, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you all about something I'm getting ready to promote once I'm back.

Presenting: Tufts 4 the Cure. I encourage everyone who reads this to take part; it's easy!

What is it? Simple: When you're not using your computer, it's screensaver can be saving the world, with the help of BOINC and the World Community Grid.

How? When your computer is idle, this program from Berkley connects you to a database of scientific research, downloads a small packet of mathematical data, and crunches numbers, sending solutions back to the database. Your computer and thousands like it around the world contribute to the research project, shaving years off the time it takes scientists to analyze and interpret laboratory data. Already, the program has produced a ton of research, which is publicized freely to the worldwide community to help advance our knowledge of:
  • Cancer
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Influenza
  • Dengue Fever
  • The Human Genome
  • Climate Change
  • Clean Water
  • Clean Energy
  • ...and more!
Want to help save the world? It's really, really easy, safe, and (most importantly) FREE.

Read all about it and sign up for an account through our portal website:

https://sites.google.com/site/tufts4thecure

And, if that's too long and annoying to remember, just send your friends to tinyurl.com/tufts4TC

You get to use the computer when you're around. Let the world harness the excess energy when you're not.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Save on School Books

How to Purchase College Textbooks (for Less)

1. Find out what you need in advance.
Don't wait until classes begin to get your books, or else you're stuck getting them from the bookstore at the last minute for ridiculous prices. To get the list early, try:

(a) The bookstore's website. They'll tell you what books you need; write down titles, editions, or ISBNs. You don't need to buy from them.

(b) http://getchabooks.com/ A non-profit website started by Tufts University and Brad College. It supports book listings for a dozen or so schools, including BU and Georgia Tech, and the list is growing.

UPDATE (21 Dec. 2010): Ricky Mondello of GetchaBooks and Tufts University informs me that the website is not actually a non-profit service; although it won't cost users anything extra, the retailers do give referral commissions to GetchaBooks. I'm just impressed he found this post.

(c) Last Semester. Ask upperclassmen, find a syllabus online from the last semester, or talk to professors; they'll know from last time what you'll need.

2. Compare prices.
Getchabooks has built-in price comparison between a few competitors, but go further. Consider buying your book used (cheaper, rarely contains problematic markings) or renting your textbook (reduced price, you must return the book at the end of the semester; works best if you will not need the book again). Great places to find your books cheap are:

Buy (New and/or Used)


If you do buy from the bookstore, double check; chances are, they're a Barnes & Noble company, and likely take all those gift cards you've accumulated. That's no reason to pay higher prices at the bookstore, though. B&N cards don't expire; you have 8 semesters to use them. Only buy from the bookstore when they have the best price.

Rent


If you've never rented books before, don't worry; it's easy. Simply be aware of the date that the book is due back. Then, before that date, use the box they gave you and their pre-paid shipping label that they email you to send it back vis UPS. I find that Chegg tends to want books back before BookRenter; if you're concerned that you'll need your textbook through finals, mind the dates of finals and the dates due back.

3. Sell back.
For books you didn't rent, you're going to want to turn them back into cash once your done. Your bookstore will likely buy them from you, but the price may not be so great. Consider:

The downside to selling online is that you'll need to ship the books, but anything's worth it if you can get some or most of the book's cost back in cash.

There you have it. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Political Misnomers

During my studies, I have found the following phrases to be amusing in the American political system. Or, at least, the American political textbooks. Presenting a dictionary of modern political terms.

Congressional Oversight Committees
These are responsible for overseeing the ways in which legislation is being implemented. Easily misconstrued as committees who frequently miss things entirely. As in, "Oops! Did we forget to appropriate funds for your agency? Sorry, it was a small oversight. We'll have to refer you to the Congressional Oversight Committees."

Pork Barrel
This refers to money distributed by Congress via grants or subsidies for various discrete projects. This is not to be confused with any actual barrels of bacon that may or may not be sitting outside the congressional chambers for certain congressmen. That just wouldn't be kosher.

Logrolling
There are no dead trees involved, unless someone is trying to pass an anti-Lorax law. This merely means that, in order to get anything accomplished, congressmen must be willing to support one another's legislation. You scratch my log, I'll scratch yours. Or something.

Sophomore Surge
Not to be mistaken for a super-sized freshman fifteen, this is merely the notion that recently elected officials tend to win their second (first incumbent) election by much higher margins than their first election (as a challenger). This helps ensure their future reputation of invulnerability.

Franking
Related neither to hot dogs nor speaking sincerely, franking is getting free mail services for being in Congress. Why wealthy representatives cannot help fund the US Postal Service is beyond me.

Electoral Misfire
This is what happened in 1888, and more recently in 2000, when the Electoral College selected a president who didn't win the popular vote. This has nothing to do with your Colt M1911 .45 caliber locking up when you tried to shoot President Ford.

Faithless Elector
Someone who votes but does not believe in G-d is an atheist voter. A faithless one participates in the Electoral College but, instead of representing his state's vote, defies the public and votes in a different direction. Personally, you would think they would have made that illegal by now. It's a disaster waiting to happen.

Grass-Roots Campaign
An organization dedicated to the election of graminoids. Just kidding; a movement orchestrated by the community, not the candidate, typically focused on one-on-one interactions with voters.

Senate Deliberation
Quite opposite to the removal of liberties (de-liberation), this just means discussion. The Senate gets to argue bills indefinitely; there's no time limit (exception: cloture).

Cloakrooms
This is not where congressmen keep their coats, nor their invisibility cloaks. Rather, it's where they socialize, converse, and take naps. The Wikipedia article said differently, so I checked it sources. Its source confirmed my knowledge, not, in fact, what the article stated. So I edited Wikipedia. Hopefully they don't revert the changes.

Coattails
Here we have the notion that a successful president makes the whole party look good, allowing members of that party to get reelected more easily, especially of those members supported him. And here I was hoping it related back to the cloaks.

CREEP
This was Nixon's Committee to RE-Elect the President. Cause that doesn't sound shady. Turns out, they were about as creepy as the acronym implied (see: Watergate).

Watergate's Plumbers
How could this possibly mean anything other than people working with wet clear liquids, abundant in the ocean? Well, it does. These were the guys who bugged the Watergate Hotel for Nixon's staff. The importance here was not the bugging, but whether or not the president was lying.

Saturday Night Massacre
Nobody died, but people got fired. Mainly, Attorney General Richardson and prosecutor Cox.

The Cabinet
This is actually a collection of 15 department heads, not a place for storing blenders and peanut butter. The president basically selects these guys, with the Senate's advice and consent. Cabinet members can, however, oppose the president if their agency's ideals differ from the administration's agenda. This is known as "going native," which, unfortunately, does not relate to tribal rituals.


The Kitchen Sink
A tactic of throwing every available argument out, hoping one will "stick" even if others are rejected, rather than focusing on bolstering one or two important points. Again, a disappointment; not a dish repository.

Note: I struggled for a few minutes between repository and depository. Google results indicate that the former is to be used for places where things are kept for exhibition (eg. library, museum) and the latter for any place where things are stored. Other definitions consider the repository the part of the depository where the storing takes place. I am still uncertain; thoughts? Connotations? I selected repository here because I find it more aligned with the notion of giving and taking; it is unlikely one would only deposit the knives, but, having to re-posit them after having used them...

Judicial Restraint
No, Chief Justice John Roberts isn't holding down a criminal while the police slap on the cuffs. This just means the Court is trying not to make policy, as they are, after all, unelected. "If in doubt, don't." Under this philosophy, we're gonna read the Constitution literally (strictly constructionist or originalist). This usually applies to modern conservative justices. Usually.

Docket
The cases the Supreme Court will hear. I thought it could make a cute name for a tiny dock for tiny paper boats, perhaps spelled "dockette."

Standing
Parties in a case both need standing. This doesn't mean they need to be on their feet, but rather that they need to be affected by the case at hand. If you accept a settlement, there goes your standing.

Free Rider Problem
No railroads, just regular people who get common goods without joining the providing group. That is to say, people who breathe the fresh air that environmental organizations fight to protect, people who watch the public TV that members donate to pay for, or people who sleep safely at night without ever joining the national defense services. It's like people who use Wikipedia without clicking on those "urgent pleas" for donations.

Or, more directly, those of you reading this public Blog without becoming a member, by clicking "Follow" on the right and signing up. Hint, hint.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Tonight I'm attending a Yule Ball at the university whose Quidditch team placed second in the collegiate World Cup. Is it possible that I've ended up at a modern-day, American Hogwarts?

Perhaps. If that's the case, it's probably important to clarify a few changes in terminology. We don't do it quite like the Brits here. And so, for everyone at Hogwarts, here's the official guide to visiting your sister school:

DISCLAIMER: If you are not a current or past student of Hogwarts School, or have not otherwise thoroughly educated yourself on its history and customs, you are unlikely to appreciate the following.

JP Licks (Honeydukes) in Davis Square (Hogsmeade)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Holidays!

First and foremost, or at least for-most-Jews, Happy end of Hanukkah!

Gelt and dreidels!

8th night, candles shining bright(ly)
And another gift of the holidays...NO MORE CLASSES! Just got out of my last Spanish class of my life, and the class class of the semester! Woohoo! Just some finals, now. But that's okay, this dreidel video makes everything better:

video

As does this 2010 year-in-review. Happy New Years, early, from Google:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Week in Photos

What's up at Tufts? Let's check it out...through photos!

HilleLOL
"Cheap Sox" performing at HilleLOL. During one game, one of them lied down on the floor, pretending to be dead. We were asked to shout out "Give us something that this person died of!" Best response: "A wrench."

Tufts Dance Collective
2 hours of non-audition performance groups, guest-featuring Sarabande and Irish Dance (starring Abby)

Ballroom
Ballroom competition at the gym - wait, we have a gym? Great job, MayaBea.

Brasil Club
The Brasil Club performing awesome martial-arts dance. It's reminiscent of a future time in which fighting has evolved into choreographed motion and art, because they don't have use for real fighting anymore. 
video


S-Factor

"S-Factor" (a capella) doing "impromptu"-style singing at Dewick to promote their upcoming show.
video

Monday, December 6, 2010

Published: Daily Op-Ed

Peacelight Proudly Presents: My First Published Piece in the Daily!

That's right loyal readers, without making it publicly known, yours truly had secretly submitted an Opinion-Editorial (Wikipedia claims Op-Ed does not stand for that, I argue that, through common misconstrual, it has come to) to the Tufts Daily.

View (and "like," for facebook users) the official article titled "The race card: Maybe we jumped the gun" available on the Daily's website.

I would take a picture of the paper, but the Daily has kindly provided a simpler alternative; full-page online previews of the print publication. Here's a screen-grab of today's edition:


Pages 6-7 of the 6 Dec. 2010 Tufts Daily, featuring my article in the bottom right, complete with large photograph.
As it would happen, the front page of the Daily contained a full headline article chronicling the postering events which took place last Friday, after the Daily had published its Friday issue. Included in this issue were also: one editorial piece on the subject, one cartoon on the matter, and two Op-Eds, of which mine was the latter. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the other Op-Ed was co-authored by the actual creators of the gun/wrench posters, defending their actions. My piece, located directly below theirs, unintentionally refuted some of their points, giving the last word on the issue.

The poster people contend that they are not trying to ridicule anyone and reference a variety of historical examples of times when discrimination was an overlooked but important issue. I still contend, however, that they are making an issue of something that was never racially motivated, and that we should be focused on safety in this case. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that, had a white man been carrying around the same object, the caller would have still called in. Quite frankly, although racial biases do exist, this isn't an example of one

Granted, not everyone will agree with my take on the incident, and that's fine. I think we can all agree (1) that racial/gender dialogue is important, but also that (2) campus safety and the reporting of suspicious activity is also important.

Ironically, a Safety Alert today (we don't get them every week, seriously; just sometimes) warned us of an off-campus robbery. The suspect was described as white.

Back to point, read the article(s), enjoy, and remember: if you ever feel like any of my posts should become an Op-Ed, let me know. I'll rewrite them so as to submit original, unpublished work, and then send them in. Who knows, one of these days I could end up on staff.

Thanks to the Daily for publishing so many diverse viewpoints, thanks to Max for all of the great posts, conversations, and posters, and thanks to our mysterious caller for helping keep us safe.

Hanukkah at Dewick

I've been saving these for when I didn't have any fun videos to post. Here are the shots from Dewick's awesome Hanukkah celebrations. They've been decorated since the first night, with a special dinner Thursday night. Those latkas were yummy!

The main entrance, decorated. Note the error on the dreidel on the poster.
Presents? What's inside?
Latkas! Apple sauce!
Happy 5th Day of Hanukkah!

I, Lorax

Today, I'm the Lorax,
I speak for the trees;
I ask you to listen up closely now, please.

I brought a new printer,
The laser-jet kind,
'Cuase running to Tisch I was starting to mind.

And yet, this new printer,
Though nicer than most,
Doesn't do one thing the Tisch printers boast.

For, when printing at Tisch,
It had been all the rage
To print every paper on both sides of each page.


But I've found a good method,
Of loading and flipping,
That keeps all the blank sides of pages from skipping.

And so I would ask you,
Whoever, wherever,
To please kindly join me; don't skip pages ever!

Find a way, a new way,
To print two-sided, like me;
So that you, like the Lorax, may speak for a tree.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Have a Rockin' 4th Night

Nothing says miracle of lights like electric guitar.


This is pretty awesome. When's it comin' out for Rockband? Oh, just kidding - they already have Hanukkah Blessings for Rockband.

Monkey-Wrenching Around

This post is a follow-up to my original comments on the matter, posted yesterday. By the way, here's the official story from Tufts Daily.

After discussing the topic with friends, and online, I decided to go add a comment below the wrench poster plastered to the door of my dorm building. I discretely added an index card, urging students to report all suspicions to TUPD, no matter what.

The next time I walked by that door, both my index card and the original poster were gone. In fact, all three posters in the surrounding area had vanished. Interesting.

Then I got to Shabbat services, where I had the opportunity to talk with Max, with whom I had already spoken about the subject. His adventures are detailed in his humorous and intriguing blog post on the subject. He took a somewhat comic approach to the issue, posting his own posters. In short, his posters pointed out the flaw in the original batch: they used an adjustable wrench; the real individual was holding a ratchet wrench.

The counter (or clarification) poster
Alright Max, that's kinda funny. Apparently, the original poster people didn't think so (he had a conversation with them; read more in his blog). And what the heck, you made the daily's online follow-up report! They're calling you a "piggy-back protester". But Max actually has an interesting point to make: was the call to TUPD made because the man with the wrench was black, or, perhaps, because people are unfamiliar with ratchet wrenches, which kinda look like guns.

Holding a ratchet wrench like a pistol
Well, gee, folks. Maybe the social activists are convinced that this was a case of "discrimination," but I'm not. Looks to me like anyone walkin' around with one of these looks pretty creepy. Even white guys.

Moral of the story? Of course gender/race discrimination exists. But don't go creating it where it doesn't. The real solution to all of this? Educate people about what tools look like. That being said, definitely take time to have a dialogue about race and gender. But not in this context. This isn't fair to people trying to do the right thing.

Remember: Report suspicious behavior to TUPD! It doesn't make you look stupid, it helps keep us safe. Also remember: Computer science students get free printing; make friends with them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Soup

I remember this! =)

Who knew it was a song? Mom, you never sang it...

Throwing a Wrench Into It

Yesterday at approximately 4:00 PM, Tufts students received an email from TUPD: a man with a handgun had been reported to have been spotted on campus at 2:35 PM. Although the police never found him, a warning with his description was included: African American, male, approximately 40 years old, etc.

At around 5:00 PM, an update came. Someone had replied to the original alert, explaining that he was at the location during the time described, matched the description, and was in fact carrying a silver ratchet wrench, likely mistaken for the gun. The police interviewed him and determined that there was not, and had never been, any actual danger.

But that wasn't the end of it. Today, plastered all over campus, appeared the following fliers:

The popular on-campus poster, seen the day after the incident.
At first, I was amused. A social statement: a white woman holding the tool doesn't get questioned, but a black man is suddenly suspected of wielding a gun; it's talking about sexism and racism. Clever.

But then I thought about it more. What are the implications of this message? That students shouldn't report suspicions? That guns on campus are a joke? That reporting suspicious people is being a bigot, not a good citizen?

The more I considered it, the more I came to believe: this flier is very wrong. It's actually a danger to the campus. Because if it is to be taken seriously, it's telling students to ridicule the person who reported this incident. Suspicious activity is serious, and it should always be reported; no student should have to fear being labeled a racist/sexist for having tried to do the responsible thing.

Note that the flier, of which dozens, if not hundreds of copies exist on campus, contains no information explaining who put it there, as is regularly required by university policy. In other words, the people who put this out did so in secret, overnight, without identifying themselves. That's a good thing, I think. Because if I worked at TUPD, I'd be kinda pissed at the hot-shots who think it's clever to make fun of handguns on campus, or reporting suspicious activity.

I strongly encourage any Tufts residents reading this to combat these posters. Post, alongside them, your own statements. Encourage the reporting of suspicious activity. Support doing the right thing. Plaster "better safe than sorry" or "campus safety > political correctness" or "calling TUPD isn't racist, it saves lives." Don't go ripping anything down; that's not fair, but feel free to exercise your own freedom of speech.

ALWAYS report suspicious activity. Worst case scenario, some unnamed graphic designers think you're a racist. But if you don't, the worst case scenario is that someone ends up dead.

UPDATE (11/4/10): Article continued in new post.

3rd Night's the Charm

Tonight's Hanukkah video comes from Abby. Hope you enjoy, and happy third-night-of-Hanukkah!

Balch Arena Theater

Over the months, there have been some incredible performances at the BAC. And now, a recap (of the ones I attended).

The mind-blowingly elaborate set of The Alchemist.
The Alchemist
November 6

Summary: Written by Ben Jonson in the early 1600s, the play sounds Shakespearean, as well it should; apparently, William wasn't the only one writing that way in that time period (he just gets all the credit). The performance was the comedic tale of two con-men (and one con-woman, operating multiple schemes simultaneously, from the same house. The balancing act and ensuing panic was delightful, and, as my first show, I was very impressed with the extensive set, especially considering they removed a portion of the theater's seating in order to build it. Little did I know that shows do this all the time. [Related Article: Tufts Daily]

Oleanna
November 8

Summary: Previously described as the scariest theater experience of my life, this two-character play brought the incredibly real, raw, and gut-wrenching agony of one male schoolteacher and one struggling female student to life on the B.A.T. stage. The emotions were breathtaking, and it literally left me with a headache, a buildup of suppressed rage, and tears just barely repressed. The actors were, of course, wonderful, but the script was especially compelling. Themes included gender roles, political correctness, and power struggles. [Related Article: Tufts Daily]

The stunning life-sized trees constructed for Uncle Vanya.
Uncle Vanya
November 18

Summary: A Russian piece, this play told the tale of some passionate people, and some not-so-passionate ones, living relatively useless lives. It plays with environmentalism, failure, and peace in afterlife. My friends Abby, Mayabea, and Sydney were involved in the production, so props to them for a job well done! [Related Article: Tufts Daily]

Pretzel Night
November 22

Summary: An original show written by Tufts students, this short comedy featured yours truly. Details are available in its own post. The Tufts Daily has no related article; tsk, tsk, tsk.


The brightly-lit set, populated even before the show began.
Assassins
December 2

Summary: The first musical I saw here, Assassins tells the tales of assassins, or would-be assassins, who succeed at or attempted to kill a president of the United States. The show culminates in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the assassins sing about their "rights" to do as they please, to seek fame and happiness, and to peruse their dreams (although the failures of the American Dream is a prevalent theme of the production). The show included a handful of real guns and real gunshots, which made for an engaging (and somewhat terrifying) view from my seat a bit stage-left of center. [Related Article: Tufts Daily]

If you're ever at Tufts, I strongly encourage you to come see a performance. They're cheap (or free!), and always worth it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two Lights, Two Lights, L'Chaim!

Happy Second-Night-of-Hanukkah, everyone! Tonight's special video comes from the hosts of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear; Colbert and Stewart. Referral credit: Grandmom.


Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah everyone! Here's the electric Hanukia:

First night of Hanukkah; shamash in blue LED, candles in white
It's not the best picture in the world (thanks to the camera flash), but, unfortunately, it looks even stranger without the flash:

Blur and white noise! Yay!
Yeah. But you get the idea. It's a brilliant white LED on the far right, and a less bright blue in the center. Rain reflects the colors on the glass windowpane. It's pretty.

I wrote to Rabbi Merow, incidentally, asking if we can bless an electric Hanukia. She said yes. That's okay; I already did.

Here's memories of last year at home:

8th night and Shabbat. Maximum candles possible - so pretty! Photographed with a Sony Walkman w580i cell phone.
Clearly, I have to work on my camera photography skills; my cell phone skills, on the other hand, are superb.

Happy Hanukkah to all! Listen to the Hanukkah Song.

Update (7:41 pm): I have to share this awesome Hanukkah songs remix video by NCSY:

CAPTCHA This, Internet

I was recently posting a comment on a Blog when I was struck (for the umpteenth time) at the overwhelmingly annoying nature of CAPTCHAs. For those behind on the lingo, a CAPTCHA is that pain-in-the-butt word verification doohickey that virtually every website uses to check that you're human before you can post anything.

You know, they look like this:


Facebook actually does an excellent job; it's CAPTCHA uses two English words, "contribute" and "of," which a real human being should be able to read. Psychologists and computer scientists alike agree that human beings have an incredible ability to recognize objects even when skewed.

In other words, we can read the letter "f" in a million different fonts, even though no two "f"s look the same. And let's face it, cursive "f"s look nothing like print ones. But, having learned just a few basic examples of "f," we can extrapolate what is and isn't one. That's the basis of these tests: we can extrapolate, computers cant. It really throws 'em off to have wavy letters with lines thru 'em; they can't figure out the letter that's buried in there.

The point, ultimately, is to stop people from creating programs to automatically post things to websites; the CAPTCHA ensures that a human being is doing it manually. This reduces spam.

So, what's the problem? Well, while Facebook may have a decent CAPTCHA system, not everyone does. In particular, technological superstar "Google" has about the worst verification system invented. Could you solve this?


Right. Didn't think so. And that makes the internet frustrating. So what's the solution? I say, a new CAPTCHA system. Many have been proposed, but few implemented. All we need to do is identify something computers can't do that humans can. Letter recognition was a nice idea, but it's a little confusing. What else can we use?

Well, we know that people can recognize things that computers can only, at the very best, compare to a database of existing knowledge. The nice thing about letter CAPTCHAs is that there is no database of skewed words; computers have nothing to base their answers on.

This means that some proposed ideas, such as asking users to identify famous paintings, isn't going to work. Computers can match the CAPTCHA to a database of existing images and look up the most relevant related text in order to determine its title. Besides, people aren't smart enough to handle this system in the first place.

Relevant humor.
What else, then? For a time, Google tried object orientation, in which people had to correctly rotate objects; a computer shouldn't know which way is up in any given original picture. Nice idea, but check out the result:


First off, what in the world is that second image? And secondly...this is madness! That's a really inefficient system for clearing a security checkpoint - it takes too long, it's too confusing, and no one above a certain age is going to have any idea what's going on.

My solution: (it's mine, mine I say; don't even think about stealing it)...Cartoon Verification.

Oh yes. It's brilliant. You see, computers may be able to compare real-world images to a database, but what about artistic (original cartoon) representations? A human being can extrapolate the features in a caricature; a computer can't identify them. And it's so easy for people. Check it out:

Verification Technique: "Please enter the number corresponding to the penguin."
Ha! Take that, bots! There's no way to know which one the penguin is. I mean, unless you're going to have the computer go define penguin, learn its predominant colors, and deduce that of these five choices, #3 is most black and white - but, seriously? The program would need to be able to separate the shapes (made much harder if the animals were overlapping one another), and the above proposed "solution" could be rendered ineffective by ensuring frequent color similarity (throw in a zebra and a panda).

The beauty of the system? Any 5-year-old can get by, and no bots can. It's super-easy for people. And, most importantly, it's nothing like this:


Google, you're ridiculous. This post, brilliant. Now quick, someone find me a patent lawyer.