i encountered this through as “33 Names of Things You Never Knew had Names“, but i was astonished to discover that, in fact, i knew what most of these things are before looking at the list… and being the geek that i am, i thought it would be interesting to find out if there are others like me. thus, i am starting the “33 Names of Things You Never Knew had Names” thing-that-everyone-calls-a-“meme”-but-which-probably-isn’t (because i’m not sure whether it really meets the definition of “meme” or whether it’s just another web quiz, and i’m a geek enough to know that there’s a pretty big difference).

the following list contains 33 unusual words, which are actual words and not things that i made up. put an asterisk (*) next to the ones you know without peeking at the answers, which follow.

then post it in your journal as well, to spread the joy…

  1. AGLET *
  5. DRAGÉES *
  6. FEAT *
  7. FERRULE *
  8. HARP *
  10. JARNS, *
  11. NITTLES, *
  12. GRAWLIX, *
  13. and QUIMP *
  14. KEEPER *
  15. KICK or PUNT *
  17. MINIMUS *
  18. NEF
  22. PEEN *
  26. ROWEL *
  27. SADDLE *
  28. SCROOP
  31. TANG *
  32. WAMBLE *
  33. ZARF *

  1. AGLET – The plain or ornamental covering on the end of a shoelace.
  2. ARMSAYE – The armhole in clothing.
  3. CHANKING – Spat-out food, such as rinds or pits.
  4. COLUMELLA NASI – The bottom part of the nose between the nostrils.
  5. DRAGÉES – Small beadlike pieces of candy, usually silver-coloured, used for decorating cookies, cakes and sundaes.
  6. FEAT – A dangling curl of hair.
  7. FERRULE – The metal band on a pencil that holds the eraser in place.
  8. HARP – The small metal hoop that supports a lampshade.
  9. HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER – A 64th note. (A 32nd is a demisemiquaver, and a 16th note is a semiquaver.)
  10. JARNS,
  11. NITTLES,
  12. GRAWLIX,
  13. and QUIMP – Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.
  14. KEEPER – The loop on a belt that keeps the end in place after it has passed through the buckle.
  15. KICK or PUNT – The indentation at the bottom of some wine bottles. It gives added strength to the bottle but lessens its holding capacity.
  16. LIRIPIPE – The long tail on a graduate’s academic hood.
  17. MINIMUS – The little finger or toe.
  18. NEF – An ornamental stand in the shape of a ship.
  19. OBDORMITION – The numbness caused by pressure on a nerve; when a limb is `asleep’.
  20. OCTOTHORPE – The symbol `#’ on a telephone handset. Bell Labs’ engineer Don Macpherson created the word in the 1960s by combining octo-, as in eight, with the name of one of his favourite athletes, 1912 Olympic decathlon champion Jim Thorpe.
  21. OPHRYON – The space between the eyebrows on a line with the top of the eye sockets.
  22. PEEN – The end of a hammer head opposite the striking face.
  23. PHOSPHENES – The lights you see when you close your eyes hard. Technically the luminous impressions are due to the excitation of the retina caused by pressure on the eyeball.
  24. PURLICUE – The space between the thumb and extended forefinger.
  25. RASCETA – Creases on the inside of the wrist.
  26. ROWEL – The revolving star on the back of a cowboy’s spurs.
  27. SADDLE – The rounded part on the top of a matchbook (it’s also the rounded part on the back – or “spine” – of a book).
  28. SCROOP – The rustle of silk.
  29. SNORKEL BOX – A mailbox with a protruding receiver to allow people to deposit mail without leaving their cars.
  30. SPRAINTS – Otter dung.
  31. TANG – The projecting prong on a tool or instrument.
  32. WAMBLE – Stomach rumbling.
  33. ZARF – A holder for a handleless coffee cup.


i’ve been keeping track. this month, i have received 1454 spam messages this month, which is an average of 133 a day. it’s getting so that i have to warn potential customers and new contacts to put something distinctive in the subject line so that they don’t get spam-filtered, and frequently they do anyway. i’ve not received (potentially spam filtered) messages from my own wife in the past few days, and i think i may have spam-filtered at least two legitimate customers as well. the biggest culprit has also involved chinese characters in the subject line and something in the message which makes KMail crash when i select it, which is one reason i have been toying with the idea of upgrading to a newer version of linux, as mandrake 9.2 is around three years old now. i haven’t been able to figure out what, though, because the message contains nothing but unescaped unicode characters. these messages, combined with the fact that i don’t get that many email messages anyway, have caused me to think about just not having an email address any longer. the only problem is what to do about the incense business… 8P

Gates: Spam To Be Canned By 2006
January 24, 2004

(AP) A spam-free world by 2006? That’s what Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates is promising.

“Two years from now, spam will be solved,” he told a select group of World Economic Forum participants at this Alpine ski resort. “And a lot of progress this year,” he added at the event late Friday, hosted by U.S. talk show host Charlie Rose.

Gates said Microsoft, where he has the title of chief software designer, is working on a solution based on the concept of “proof,” or identifying the sender of the e-mail.

One method involves a human challenge, or requiring the sender of an electronic pitch to solve a puzzle that only a flesh-and-blood person can handle. Another is a so-called “computational puzzle” that a computer sending only a few messages could easily handle, but that would be prohibitively expensive for a mass-mailer.

But the most promising, Gates said, was a method that would hit the sender of an e-mail in the pocketbook.

People would set a level of monetary risk – low or high, depending on their choice – for receiving e-mail from strangers. If the e-mail turns out to be from a long-lost relative, for example, the recipient would charge nothing. But if it is unwanted spam, the sender would have to fork over the cash.

“In the long run, the monetary (method) will be dominant,” Gates predicted.

He conceded, however, that his prognostications have not always been on the mark. Notable misjudgments include the rising popularity of open-source software, epitomized by Linux, and the success of the Google search engine.

“They kicked our butts,” he said, while promising a better next-generation Internet search engine from Microsoft, due as early as next year.

At the forum itself, Gates announced a partnership with the United Nations to bring computer technology and literacy to developing countries.

Drawing on a $1 billion Microsoft fund, the U.S. software giant will work with the U.N. Development Program to provide software, computer training and cash to establish computer centers in poor communities, starting with pilot projects in Egypt, Mozambique and Morocco.

Gates told a news conference the centers would not have to use only Microsoft products.

Egypt’s minister of communication and information technology, Ahmed Mahmoud Nazif, welcomed the help, noting that about 500 to 600 centers have already been set up in Egypt.

Gates told the smaller group he thought Microsoft’s team of software engineers was outrunning the hackers that have caused havoc by unleashing increasingly destructive viruses to attack networked computers. But he said it was tough to stay ahead. “If only the bad guys would just do the same stuff they did last year,” he moaned.

While the Windows desktop operating system has become a “very powerful standard,” he said Microsoft was more open today about its source code to allow other companies to develop competing products. That was partly due, he said, to the rise of Linux and antitrust actions in the United States and Europe.

Gates said he had not met with European Union antitrust commissioner Mario Monti, who is also attending the forum in Davos, but would be willing to if it would help settle the long-running EU antitrust case against Microsoft.

EU regulators charge that Microsoft’s decision to tie its Media Player into Windows, which runs about 90 percent of desktop computers, “weakens competition on the merits, stifles product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”

They are threatening fines that could reach up to $3 billion, as well as a far-reaching order for Microsoft to strip the multimedia application from Windows to give rivals such as RealNetworks’ RealPlayer or Apple’s Quicktime more of a chance.

“We’re doing what we can to come to some amicable settlement,” Gates said.

After three days of hearings last November, the European Commission is expected to issue its decision early this year.

The meaning of spam
By Annalee Newitz

I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why my spam looks the way it does. Until quite recently, I received about 20,000 spam e-mails every day. The poor little Bayesean filter in my Thunderbird e-mail program couldn’t keep up and would routinely barf when confronted with such huge piles of crap from “Nuclear R. Accomplishment” with the subject line “$subject” and a message body full of random quotes from Beowulf.

Before I finally fixed my spam problem — oh blissfully small inbox! — I developed a few vaguely paranoid theories. Briefly, I imagined spammers were spying on my inbox and culling sender names from it that matched those of my friends. In my saner moments, I would wonder why exactly spam evolved to look the way it does. Why do spammers keep sending me pictures of pink, bouncy letters that spell “mortgage,” followed by text from a random Web site? And why, oh why, do they send me e-mails containing nothing but the cryptic line, “he said from the doorway, where she”? How can that be good business sense?

So I called expert Daniel Quinlan, who is an antispam architect at Ironport Systems as well as a contributor to open-source antispam system Spam Assassin. He patiently listened to me rant about my e-mail problems — I think antispam experts are sort of like geek therapists — then explained why I receive spam from random dictionary words strung together into a name like Elephant Q. Thermodynamic. It’s done to fool any spam filter that refuses to receive e-mail from somebody who has already sent you spam in the past. “They want to create a name that your spam filter has never seen before,” Quinlan said. It turns out every weirdness in my spam is “probably there for a good reason,” he said. In the arms race between spammers and antispammers, spammers try every trick they can to circumvent filtering software.

Often, the spam you get is the result of months or years of this arms race. For example, spammers of yesteryear started sending images instead of text, so that spam filters looking for text like “viagra” would be fooled. Instead, the image would contain the word “viagra,” but filters would see only an image and let it through. In response, antispam software began tossing e-mails that contained only an image, since spam containing an image typically has some text with it like “check out my pictures from Hawaii” or whatever. Rarely does a real person send just an image.

Quinlan said spammers figured out their pictures were being chucked, so they started adding a few random words to their mail and got through the filters again. Then antispammers started chucking e-mails with images that also contained random words that didn’t make sentences. And that’s why, today, you get images with chunks of text taken from random books and Web sites. As long as the text fits into sentences and isn’t random words strung together, spam filters have a harder time figuring out if the mail is spam or ham. Spammers also send slightly different images every time, so that spam filters can’t identify the image itself as spam. And they fill the images with bouncy, pink letters advertising their crap because character recognition software can’t read bouncy letters. So any spam filter that uses character recognition software to look at text in images to find spam will be fooled.

OK, so there is a reason behind the madness. But how could Quinlan explain the spam I get that contains no advertisement for anything, no links nor images, and instead merely quotes some random passage from Dostoyevsky? Quinlan said there’s no way to know for sure, but the reigning theory among antispam experts is that it’s part of what’s called a “directory harvest attack” in which the spammer tries to figure out if there’s a real person behind a randomly chosen e-mail address. The spammer sends out millions of innocuous e-mails and may get a slightly different response from the mail server if the mail has reached an actual person. Once the spammer has established that certain addresses are valid, he can send his real spam and be sure that he’s reaching an inbox.

All of this sounds perfectly reasonable. Spammers are doing bizarro things to get their messages out. But why do I sometimes get a spam with the subject line “$subject”? Why would I ever be fooled into thinking that was a piece of legitimate e-mail? “That’s just some spammer who doesn’t know how to use his spamware,” Quinlan said. “Sometimes spammers do things that are — for lack of a better word — dumb.”


i was in the house that has been a part of many recurring dreams over the years, which is an abandoned house that you reach by “walking to the canadian border” where there is a huge suspension bridge that you have to cross over to get into canada. once you have navigated the maze of inspectors and suchlike to get through the border, the house is the first one you get to once you cross the bridge. it is actually underneath the bridge abutment, and, because of the fact that it is abandoned, you actually have to climb off the bridge and drop down to ground level, and then go down a driveway towards the water, and jump over a fence to reach it.

except that this time i had my bike – a bike i had when i was in high school – and the house was actually occupied by a “family” of hippies who hadn’t cleaned up or repaired anything to make it more habitable. i remember actually telling one of the hippies that i had been to the house before, many times, and it had been abandoned previously. the hippy’s response was to say that they had moved into the house comparatively recently, because there was no place else for them to live. the house was considerably more “messed up” than it had been before, with piles of dirt and garbage all over the place, although they had the beginnings of a really nice garden, and a large grow room full of big, juicy buds that were waiting for harvest, and the kitchen, while not exactly clean, was in far better shape than it had been in my previous dreams about the house. there were around five of these hippies, including at least one woman, who i saw but didn’t talk to. they were all “older” hippies, although they could have been young and just had bad teeth and skin conditions, or something like that. i got stoned with a couple of them, and their buds were, indeed, fat, juicy and potent. i recall being intensely curious about the fact that i had been in the house previously (it was almost like lucid dreaming, but not quite… i was aware of the fact that i had been dreaming my previous visits to the house, but not that i was currently dreaming), before it was inhabited, and poked around quite a bit. one of the places that i poked around in was a place that i recalled having been in previously, was now the “bedroom” for one of the hippies, and a good deal more “messed up” than it had been previously, with a temporary wall built of concrete blocks and boards, with a blanket over them.

finally, i decided to go… back? home? i’m not sure, but wherever it was that i was headed was, ultimately, going to take me back over the bridge to the united states. leaving the house, at this point, involved climbing over enormous piles of trash and garbage that had accumulated outside of the kitchen, and when i had gotten over that, i discovered that my bike was missing. there were several other bikes there, but mine was not. i went back into the house, over the enormous piles of trash, and found one of the hippies, who offered to get me more stoned. i am not one to ever turn down marijuana, but i was a little frustrated when i told him that my bike was missing and he totally ignored me, so i found another hippie, who joined us getting stoned. he said that if my bike was missing, just take one of the other bikes that was there, but my bike was brand new, and the bikes that were there were ones that had “been around the block a few times” and were old, ratty, and not very well maintained.