Though a lot less spam has gotten through lately, it's still been piling up in the filter, and our tech team has speculated that's one reason for some of the performance problems (including those "error establishing connection" situations) - spambots hitting the site simultaneously and clogging it, like an old-fashioned party line suddenly picked up by a dozen people all babbling gibberish into the phone and leaving no spare lines for the real users.
Or something like that.
So our tech team has taken a step that should keep bots from registering - adding a "captcha" form JUST for signups. I loathe them, personally, and will not ever implement them for commenting or posting, but this seems to be a way to baffle the bots.
If you notice any quirks with site access or performance, please let us know. It's only been a few hours but it seems a lot faster to me ... might just be the power of suggestion :)
thanks again for your patience