Mid-Autumn Festival, Mooncakes and Hidden Messages

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which for this year is 25th September 2007. There’ll be much drinking of tea and eating of mooncakes. The mooncakes usually come in boxes of four. What is a mooncake? Let me show you:
Traditional mooncakes
It is made of lotus seed paste, usually with some lotus seeds mixed in, with a reddish brown outer crust. The ones I bought have a single (duck’s) egg yolk in their centers. There’s the plain (without yolk), double yolk and even the thoroughly sinful quad-yolk variety. They should then be quartered into bite sized portions, which are easier to hold with your fingers.

Here’s another variation, the snowskin mooncakes:
Petite sized snowskin mooncakes
The outer crust is flavoured. I bought small sized ones, each about the size of a quarter of the full sized mooncake. Mine are banana-, strawberry-, orange- and pandan-flavoured. Guess which of them they are?

Why are there mooncakes? The story goes that long long ago in China, a war was fought between the Chinese and Mongolians. The Chinese, faced with the impossible task of communicating with each other without the Mongolians knowing, came up with the ingenious idea of hiding secret messages in mooncakes.

The mooncakes were then speedily distributed and the Chinese leaders were quickly informed via the secret messages. The Mongolians didn’t suspect a thing. Word spread that the 15th of the eighth lunar month would be the day of the Chinese revolt. I guess the Chinese won.

My point, and I do have one

Why am I talking about mooncakes? Well, do you store text in hidden input boxes, but are supposed to keep them secret? The most common example is the password in plain text no-no. Even if the information isn’t exactly sensitive, having application-specific data flying around in digital space while the user is fiddling with the application is still bad.

Do you hide information in plain sight, like the secret messages in mooncakes?

Information knaves are getting smarter. If you dangle data in front of them, but use a simple trick to render data invisible, sooner or later, they’ll catch on. And when they do, you’d better have a backup plan.

Ok, I made my point. Now I’m going to go eat my mooncake.
Tip: Do not eat more than one whole sized mooncake at one go. My limit is half a mooncake per day, and no more than four per year.