29 October 2023
SETI League
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Home Again


Uber Tip

In the past week I've been using Uber a lot more than usual. It's expensive and, fortunately, my need to use it so frequently won't last. I noticed something in the app I haven't seen widely reported. It's been trying to "manipulate" me into unwonted generosity. Perhaps Uber habitués are more than well aware of the app's quirks. Tipping for cabs and full service restaurants was part of my upbringing, and I've never felt especially awkward calculating and remitting the appropriate amount. But the Uber app, along with any number of cashier terminals are trying to bring out my natural guilt* in the form of excessive (or, sometimes any) gratuitous emolument. Specifically, when I leave a tip on the app for a completed Uber ride, usually selecting among several app-presented choices from, say 10% to 25%, the app silently remembers my selection. If, for example, it's 15%. On my next Uber ride, the choices now range from 15% to 30%. Presumably the point is to gently persuade me not to select the minimum but rather the next-higher increment. If I fail to do so, the following ride reverts to the initial 10% to 25% selection. It knows when it's licked.

I've read a few articles about how infuriating the tipping situation can be since the pandemic. It's potentially embarrassing for the tipper who doesn't expect to tip a terminal, and the candidate-tippee whose only service is to hand one a bag and turn said terminal to face the customer. I somehow manage to contain my impulses, whatever they may be.

Tipping is a Difficult Subject. Shall we Solve Part of the Spam Problem Instead?

Trade shows engender far too much spam. I attend several per year, and my company exhibits at several. For a month before and after each of them, I receive any number of unwelcome and unwanted emails. Some are "legitimate" in the sense that an exhibitor has decided that my existence on the show floor entitles me to increasingly urgent entreaties to attend their booth, meeting, celebration, etc. A few are worthwhile, generally distinguished by my previous inquiry or actual commercial activity. Others are irrelevant to my interests, but I receive them willy-nilly because the trade show management itself has sold my email address to all comers.

If I understand this part of the spam ecosystem, resellers purchase these attendee lists from the show management and attempt in turn to resell them. I receive many spam emails offering to sell me these lists. Am I overoptimistic in believing a slight change may help?


1: Presumably the list resellers tout their lists as being of "qualified" recipients and charge for them based on quantity.
2: The purchasers then send mostly spam email to everyone on the list.
3: Most recipients get annoyed and erase the spam, despairing of doing anything about it.


1: The purchasers, who may honestly believe the lists contain good leads, should add the name of the company who sold the list to the bulk emails. E.g., If you believe this email is spam, I bought the list from xresellerx.com. Please ask them to remove your name before it is sold again. The ultimate recipient (spamee) could notify the sender that the list of leads he purchased contains people who consider it spam, and also complain to (and about) the seller.
2: The list purchaser then would have an incentive to ask for a refund from the original reseller, thus discouraging the practice.

Would this work, at least a little bit?

A Tiny Bit of Relatively Gentle, Not Very Strident Politics

Since I have a license to transmit over the radio, and I've been professionally involved in broadcasting for over 60 years(!), I pay attention to the Federal Communications Commission and all who sail in her. The FCC, like other regulatory commissions, has a job to do, and commission members are nominated by the executive branch and confirmed by the senate. The FCC has five members, three from the president's party and two from the opposition party. When the White House changes hands, the commissions are normally rebalanced. Because commissioners' terms are not coeval with political terms, it often occurs that there are vacancies waiting for nominations and ratification, leading to a temporary imbalance. This can lead to tied commission votes or even the lack of a quorum. It is the job of the president to nominate commissioners so that the FCC and other bodies can do their job. So much now for "How a bill becomes law."

This job—regulating communications—is nominally non-partisan. A lot of the work is highly technical and performed by notionally non-political, appointed bureaucrats. We (the people) hope they will have balanced viewpoints, avoiding stridency and working in the general best interest of the country. Although the commissioners are nominated by the president's party, the nomination must be ratified by the full senate, and one would expect (or at least hope) that competent and uncontroversial candidates would be put forth.

Commission candidate and Democrat Gigi Sohn was so controversial that her nomination languished 500 days before she withdrew it. Subsequently, candidate and Democrat Anna Gomez was nominated and was seated on the FCC without undue fuss. If you're curious as to the details, feel free to check them out on the internet. My point, after all the above, being: Why nominate someone guaranteed to be anathematic to so many—industry people and politicians alike—to sit on a nominally non-political body?

500 days!


A local publication alerted me to Yavapai College's offer of "master gardener volunteer training." If a college (or, really, anyone) runs out of hyphens, cut an em dash in half which yields at least two!

New Word: Pantsing

Many authors do it, and I'm sort of doing it now. Many authors write their novels after carefully outlining the plot and characters. If one just starts a story and writes and writes and writes and suddenly it's done, that's pantsing**. I.e., written by the seat of one's pants. I'd never heard that usage until recently and like it so much I'm sharing it with my thousands of millireaders!

House For Sale

My colleague, H. Paul Shuch, has a house near Williamsport Pennsylvania which will be without an occupant in due course, since he's planning to move to the West Coast. I mention this here because his house is special in a very RIKLBlog sort of way. It has a microwave antenna array in the back yard and is festooned with other desiderata for appropriately geeky purchasers. Learn more about it here. Act quickly, before all the SETI goodies go up for auction. If there's no interest in these aspects, it will be sold as a résidence ordinare and a great opportunity will be wasted.

*Sorry, Apps and Terminals. Anything resembling guilt left me long ago.
**Sometimes they're not done but done-for. Pantsing doesn't always work.

Richard Factor


"Poisoning Pigeons in the Park"

Danny Caccavo and Richard Factor
With deep and grave apologies to Tom Lehrer
And TikTok users everywhere



This one is even more mysterious than the audio industry T-shirts that frequently appear here. This shirt exhorts us to "Visit South Pacific Year 95" and, in red, The South Pacific Islands Like Nothing On Earth.

The only South Pacific Island I have ever been to was due to bad weather in Sydney, and the transit lounge in Fiji wasn't great fun. Maybe some benign hacker dropped this in my T-shirt "folder."


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