March, 2004

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Turing test

Friday, March 26th, 2004

Received this interesting E-mail in the account I normally use to receive messages from Yahoo! Personals (etc.):

Hey You!

Well, I got your message yesterday afternoon but just now had a chance to get back to you as I’m just taking off for an afternoon appt & I just wanted to say thanks for taking interest in me on Yahoo. I’m so happy you responded to my “icebreaker”

So, have you met anyone off the internet yet? The one guy I started talking to was too shy for me and he was from Yahoo, too. I hope I don’t make you timid. I’m really fun and outgoing (At least I think I am, hehehe.)

Anyway, here are some pictures a girlfriend and I put together last month http://personal.fnpsites.com/lisa/ She is a riot and got me to do some pretty silly stuff… I hope you like!!!!

I will be leaving town tommorrow for work though (I work at Proctor & Gamble & I’m always getting sent to the tiniest towns). I guess it isn’t all that bad since I had no plans for the week anyway But anyway I’ll be really bored sitting in the hotel room tIll next Tuesday in Madison, WI. So, I hope we can make time to chat and get to know each other better and maybe see if we can make some plans!! I’ll check my email when I get to the hotel! I hope to hear from you! I’ll be online tommorrow morning. Maybe we can hook up there and chat. If not let me know when you might have a moment.

Always Looking,
Lisa   xoxoxoxo

Hmm! Well this certainly caught my attention. Still, there were a couple of suspicious things about the message. Firstly, as far as I could recall, I had never received any “Icebreaker” (which are basically canned one-line messages you can send to people on Yahoo! Personals) from anyone named Lisa—as far as I could tell (since people often will use nicknames and pseudonyms on those kinds of sites).

What was more suspicious was the website indicated in the E-mail. I went to it and it was the front page leading to another page of more revealing pictures of “Lisa”—which I would have to sign up to some “adult verification service” for in order to access, for $35. Now I’ve received this kind of message before, but there was something a bit different about this one: in order for “Lisa” to have E-mailed me directly at my vtluu.net E-mail address, I would have had to send her a message with said address, and Yahoo! is pretty good at weeding out “fake” ads of people who are looking to advertise adult websites.

So I decided to play along, and replied with a short message politely thanking “Lisa” for her E-mail (and saying that I wasn’t interested in paying to see nude photos of her). I was rather surprised to receive a reply about half an hour later:

How nice :) You got back to me!!! I’m just got back from the gym & noticed you responded to my email. I love it when “I Have Mail.”

So, what do you think about a cup of Joe to get up to speed with everything? I’m pretty open this Saturday and would love to meet up. Well, let me know what your schedule looks like if you want to get together sometime soon. Ohh I almost forgot, did you like the pictures? If you couldn’t get the link to work you can find them at: http://personal.fnpsites.com/lisa/ I thought they were kinda funny but I don’t know how someone else would take them so let me know your thoughts.

I’ll talk to you soon.
Lisa

Again, another message that sounded genuine, except for one glaring problem: what “Lisa” said in the second message totally contradicted what she said in the first: “I’m pretty open this Saturday” versus “I will be leaving town tommorrow … tIll next Tuesday” (sic). And again, trying to push the website! That was when I realized that I’d encountered a somewhat more intelligent “spamming agent”.

I say “somewhat” because by the second message the agent had failed the Turing Test. Roughly speaking, the Turing Test (Alan Turing, one of the principal “founders” of computer science) refers to the ability of a computer to mimic a human being to the point where someone conversing with it could not be certain if it were a computer or a real person. While there have been programs devised that have “passed” the test in some limited form (notably for the Loebner Prize contest), it seems that online smut vendors don’t yet have software that sophisticated… for now. All for the better, I suppose.

I’ve attempted to engage the agent in further conversation, but alas it has gone silent.

More sideways driving

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Unfortunately the new racing harness didn’t help me do any better at last Sunday’s autocross, where I spent five of my six runs re-learning to control the car with the new tire and alignment setup. As I found out, the new alignment makes the car considerably more responsive but also equally less forgiving; where rough steering inputs used to be dampened out by the car’s tendency to understeer, the car now happily rotates in response to sudden turns of the wheel—intentional or otherwise. To compound things, the lot where we were running (Oakland Coliseum) had a lot of loose dirt and sand (“marbles”) anywhere where people weren’t driving—that is, “off the line”. So whenever I would lose control of the car a little, I would go off-line, onto the slippery marbles where the loss of control would only get worse.

That being said I managed not to spin the car (as has happened to me at Oakland before), though I came close a couple times, and I finally managed to pull things together on my final run… although it was a “fun run” and didn’t count towards my competitive results, unfortunately.

I also ran at an event at Candlestick Park a couple weeks ago, where I fared somewhat better (third place). Unfortunately at that event the course proved too much for my camera mount, which was unable to grip the camera tightly enough to prevent it from rotating around on a particularly hard turn going into the first slalom in the course. Consequently after about 20 seconds or so the camera would inevitably end up pointed at the back of the front passenger seat.

I fixed the camera mount last week though this Sunday I opted to use the front camera which I had recently replaced. The results from the camera were not as good as I had hoped, either, as the cheap camera seems to cope poorly with sudden changes in lighting; my runs were very late in the afternoon so the camera would go very quickly from pointing almost at the sun, to pointing away from the sun. Unfortunately it seems that camera is really only suited for midday use. The only thing it has going for it over the camera mount in the rear of the car (where I can mount my DV camcorder which yields a substantially better picture) is a fantastic unobstructed view of the course in front of the car.

[photo of racing camera]

“Echt Gurt”

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Spent most of Saturday taking the car apart and installing a Schroth Autocontrol 3-point racing harness belt, meticulously documenting everything photographically along the way so that I could write up an installation “how-to” for fellow Evo owners. Check out the fruits of my labour.

Tread is good

Thursday, March 11th, 2004

Had new Kumho Ecsta MXs put on the car yesterday. After seven or eight autocrosses (and only 5000 miles), the Yokohama A046s were worn down to very little tread. Lucky for me the weather has been so nice the past few days, because driving in the rain would have been rather exciting. Also, had Auto Innovations do a custom alignment job to improve the car’s steering and handling.

I’ve been doing “okay” at autocross; still learning to make the car go exactly where I want it, and still learning where exactly I need to go—following the right lines, applying the right amount of acceleration and braking for the various parts of the course, and so on.

I installed a camera mount for my Canon DV camcorder in the back of the car, and also a small camera on the rearview mirror stem, to record my autocrossing adventures. Here are a few of my videos:

Spring has been cancelled

Thursday, March 11th, 2004

Apparently we’re skipping straight to summer.

Yikes

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

Three weeks without an update… Work, autocross, my involvement with NorCalEvo.net, and something—or rather, someone—else have been keeping my life extremely busy.

Stay tuned…