2002/12/30

Well, I've just spent five hours watching Mind Candy, which is a DVD of PC demos from the late 1980's and the 1990's. The stuff that hackers were able to write without the benefit of math coprocessors, graphics acceleration, and sometimes even floating point math are nothing short of amazing. If you've never watched a demo before I'll have to warn you, a great many of them were written for the 80486 and the early Pentium cores and DOS. In theory they'll run under DOSEMU for Unix but I've never tried so take that with a hefty grain of salt. A good place to start looking if you're curious is Demos Explained at Oldskool, there's a brief rundown of the demo scene there.

I've got to jack out; between the potluck dinner, the sweets, the heat (the flat's burning hot), and the sleep deprivation my brain's going to power down.

Whatever possessed me to clean today, I've no idea. I guess I'm stick and tired of looking at all the cruft in my Lab. I'm half tempted to post the building to eBay with all contents going to the highest bidder. I don't have room for a lot of stuff, like all the computers down here. As it is I don't have enough electricity to run all of them safely. I'm planning on upgrading Dataline's deck to put some of the hard drives to use and I can upgrade Crash and perhaps Burn a bit more, but beyond that the components are just sitting down here using up valuable space. No wonder I want to go walkabout for a while, it'll be nice to only have to worry about a backpack for a change.

The up side is that I think I've found another eight or nine eBay auctions for the new year. The down side is that I don't know if they'll actually get any bids... only time will tell. A friend of mine just gave me an idea, put up a page of the stuff that I'm getting rid of so that people who most need it have a chance to see it and drop me a line first. It never fails: Just when I throw out a box of stuff I get two or three e-mails from people that start with "I heard you're into old-school computers..."

Holy shit.. the RIAA website's been cracked. Mirror this while you can, because it's been Slashdotted.

riaa.com is now completely offline.

Okay, I've rewritten the scripts that generate the BOFH excuse and Virtual Adept excuse of the day pages. I really don't feel like powering Leandra down to swap in her old system drive to copy the scripts back across so I decided to dust off my shellscripting skills and rewrite them from scratch. They're trivially easy scripts to write but think of it as mental exercise (which is more exercise than I've been getting lately, but that's a different story). Anyway they're up and running again, and regenerated every night at 0001 EST, so don't bother reloading them several times a minute to see if you get new excuses - you won't. I don't know how to write CGI scripts yet so I'm going to get things working again before I start trying new things. Enjoy.

2002/12/29

Today's been a busy day. This morning 'lex and I drove out to the computer show - 'lex needed a new mainboard for his deck and I was out to stock up on printer ink cartridges for the new semester. Once there we ran into Vlad, who was also hunting for a new mainboard. We spent the better part of two hours wandering around comparing prices and specs. There was a remarkably small number of people in attendence, which I thought was a plus because there was actually room to walk around for a change and all the good (read: odd) stuff wasn't snapped up earlier. I lucked into an ISA SCSI card for Crash as well as a seven-device SCSI-2 cable so I can finally use all those extra SCSI drives laying around the Lab. I'd say that we're collectively well prepared for the new year.

It figures, though.. I finally found a SCSI internal Iomega ZIPdrive and I couldn't afford it. So much for pulling all the data off of them to get rid of the unit.

Arriving back at the Lab I discovered that Dataline's boss had arrived to take Sadie home. As much as I like Sadie she tends to get to you after a while, what with all the barking, jumping around, and being underfoot in general. She makes it hard to make breakfast in the morning, and there were a few calls that were not close per se but I really could have done without them.

Right now I'm making another batch of cookies to finish off my gift list tonight. I've got the third batch in the oven and there's over a half bowl of dough to go through. Check that, I'm getting less than five batches out of this particular bowl. I might have to make a second batch of dough to have enough for everyone, but probably not today. Sorry, folks.

This is far more amusing than normally allowed by law.. Agent Elrond.

2002/12/28

I just realised how many sound effect samples from Ghostbusters are making it into anime these days.. Yu Yu Hakusho is one of them (they use a lot of samples from the proton packs for chi-blast scenes).

I've been on the run pretty much all day today. First, I shipped out the Police tour jacket that I auctioned off on eBay today. That actually took the longest to accomplish due to the length of the line at the post office. Something took me completely off guard as I stepped up to the counter and handed over the box. The man behind the counter asked me if I was shipping "anything nuclear, fragile, organic, biotoxic, or explosive" in the package. I was so caught out byu this that I had to ask him to repeat himself - he really did say what I'd thought he'd said. Of course I wasn't sending anything of the sort (though 80's music tends to be addictive) and I told him so, but the fact that it's a standard question these days was a shock.

If a terrorist really was to ship something of the sort, do you really think that they'd be honest and tell them?? Stop and think about this.

Once that was out of the way I did a bit of shopping for the family to restock and then drove out to Lowe's Theatre to meet Ellen and Jason; they had my Yule gift waiting for me in the form of a ticket to see The Two Towers and a bag of freshly ground French vanilla coffee.

Okay, so much for kicking caffeine again. It's been a losing battle all through break. Anyway, The Two Towers was a amazing movie. Like any adaptation of a novel some things had to be changed; some scenes were dropped entirely, others were rewritten from scratch. Visually it was an amazing movie (I seem to say that a lot). The battle of Helm's Deep was incredible to watch on the big screen (especially from the box seats), and with visuals it was much easier to keep track of what was going on. Gollum was, from the standpoint of a 3d mesh, about as well done as any decent 3d work these days; I'd compare it to the meshes in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within for that matter. When it comes to texturing and strand animation (Gollum's hair) it was also on part with modern work. But the fine animation, like his facial expressions (in particular the primary and secondary movements of his lips) and the ripple of muscles beneath his skin (because Gollum was all but naked) was bloody fantastic. This was more than skeleton animation, the virtual musculature was orders of magnetude beyond anything I've seen anywhere else. Good show, folks.

Afterward I headed home to meet Alexius for dinner. He was waiting back at the lab for me so we could head out to the Robot Club and Grille, which was a good hour's drive from the Lab. By the time we got there it was just about empty, there was only staff remaining when we arrived. I rather enjoy eating in restaurants that don't have a lot of people or very loud music so this actually made it a pleasant experience. The fleet of battlebots on site were offline, probably because it was so late in the day and they were getting ready to close for the night. That wasn't a big deal, either, or at least I thought it wasn't. 'lex and I thought it amusing that the Robot Club was sandwiched between a Pizza Hut and a Radio Shack - the perfect location for hacking hardware. You've got food and you've got spare parts (well, a small supply of spare parts seeing as how Radio Shack has gone downhill in recent years) - what more do you need to get your hack on?

The food there is quite good - I recommend the hot wings, the honey and garlic wings, and the chicken fajita (which comes on two plates and is a build-your-own dish, just so you know). It's also very inexpensive and the coffee refills are free. The house salad was.. a house salad. No matter where you get them they're still pretty much the same.

'lex and I spent a good four or five hours catching up on old times, talking about life in general, metaphysics, movies... reconnecting. It's easy to forget what it's like to talk to people if you spend too much time in hiding.

2002/12/27

This morning I was treated to a wakeup call of 60 pounds of wiry-muscled, overly affectionate dog known as Sadie. Yes, Dataline's boss dropped her by early this morning. Little did I realise that being asked to come into the living room well before my alarm clock went off would result in a wakeup call consisting of a happy-hello slurp from Sadie and Sadie's front paws moving in tight formation at just shy of sixty miles per hour aimed at my groin.

Once Dataline picked me up off of the floor and apologised my brain put together what had happened. I think I said a few blasphemies that I've not used since I was very, very small.

The pain's mostly gone away, the shower helped. Ziggy's in hiding and shows no signs of responding to any calls, including tuna. Sadie's happy to see my grandfather again, though that doesn't stop her from racing around the house and begging to go outside.

Lowmagnet just send me this article from Indymedia about state police and INS roadblocks and arrests in Arizona. Terrence, the article's author, was returning from work one day when he found himself stuck in the traffic of a roadblock manned by several unmarked cars. His car was approached by Tohono O'odham police and he was asked to produce his driver's license for the purpose of a sobriety and customs checkout. He notes that INS does not often participate in sobriety checkpoints. At this point my opinion differs with Terrence's - it's well within the rights of a law officer to ask to see your license, indeed it's SOP (standard operating procedure). If he'd just complied he could probably have gotten through this without trouble. I would, however, draw the line at allowing my vehicle to be searched without probable cause or a search warrant. By not producing your license they can just dig it up by running the plate on the car, and you can't hide that in any practical manner.

The story continues: A Tohono O'odham detective stated that the area was known for smuggling and drug running. Okay, valid point.. but why was INS there?

The an agent from US Customs chimed in. Terrence and vehicle were forced to pull over and were de facto detained. Officers moved toward their weapons, the K-9 team arrived (officer and dog, let me clarify), and Terrence was removed from his vehicle. He was handcuffed and taken into custody. At no time was he informed that he was under arrest or read Miranda. For the record charges were filed against Terrence - his initial court date is 3 January 2003. Terrence reported that he'd observed cars being searched without a warrant, and that local police were most definitely sharing information with federal authorities.

At this point Terrence lists the license plate numbers and identifying characteristics of the law enforcement vehicles. The list is rather long so rather than cut and past them I've decided to mirror the article here for your perusal.

The Raelians are at it again. They claimed that the first legally recognised human clone would be born before the end of the year (by Christmas, to be precise) and they're planning a news conference to announce the fact. I'm not sure if I believe these guys or not - the sound like a bunch of nutbars, to be frank. But just because you sound nuts doesn't mean that you don't know what you're doing. It's possible that they've managed to pull it off. Like many other things, I'll believe it when I see it. Here's another article from ABC.net.au.

2002/12/26

Happy day-after-Yule, everyone.

Dataline's got friends coming over today so we've been trying to clean up the house and get the little stuff that the munchkins could get into picked up and put away. I just finished shovelling the driveway and sidewalk so everything should be ready to go. Before all hell breaks loose I thought I'd catch up on my e-mail, do a little light reading, and write a few updates...

This lovely news article in the Washington Post was waiting for me when I jacked in.. the US is interrogating suspected terrorists with extreme prejudice and responding to criticism with "And what are you going to do about it?" The Bagram air base in Afghanistan is being used as the United States forces' base of operations; a stockade's been erected wherein suspecte al-Quaida and Taliban operatives are incarcerated. Such time-hounoured tactics as being forced to stand or kneel in odd positions for extended periods of time, sensory deprivation, and sleep deprivation (also used in Vietnam and China) are being used to coerce the captives into spilling their guts. US officials on one hand decry the use of violence and torture against captives as deplorable and yet defend their use of the same tactics as just and necessary. It figures... it's wrong for everyone else to do those things except for them. Hypocracy at its finest.

The Geneva Convention of 1949, in case you're not familiar with it, outlines the standards of treatment and captivity of prisoners of war. Suspected terrorists in the hands of CIA psych-ops teams are not, technically speaking, POWs. That's how they're getting away with this.

Food for thought.

TechTV has released its lineup for their new Anime Unleashed block. Among the shows are Silent Mobius, Betterman, and Serial Experiments Lain. Rejoice, yet hope that they havn't hacked the shows to bits to get them past BS&P (Broadcast Standards and Practises, the guys who tell them what they can and can't show on TV).

It's insane out there! I went out earlier today to pick up some leather for a project and to have my new watch modified so that it'll fit properly. Finding parking at the mall was next to impossible, I got lucky and found a spot behind JC Penny's. Once inside the mall it really wasn't so bad, I think the cars for the staff take up more spaces than most people think. Having the links removed from the band took a little over an hour due to the number of people in line ahead of me (so to speak) so I decided to wander around and kill some time. The sheer number of people returning stuff was amazing; the "get what you really wanted" sales had some neat stuff were a nice touch. I strongly suggest hitting them while you still have time. The mall's bookstores are still poorly stocked, though, don't expect to find too much there. The little kiosks are still your best bet for neat things. Unless you really have to, however, just stay home and don't bother going out, it'll save your sanity.

If only I'd cleaned my car off yesterday... I spent a good half-hour today running the engine and scraping the layers of snow and ice off of the car just so I could find the windows and windscreen. Everything was frozen solid, and I do mean everything. The windscreen wipers were frozen in place.. the windows were frozen shut.. the trunk is probably frozen shut, I havn't tried it yet. Around the halfway mark I started losing feeling in my hands.

Where was this going? Nowhere in particular. I could easily go back and edit the previous paragraph to insert it into the narrative so that it makes sense but I really don't feel like it right now. Maybe I'll come up with something cogent and witty later tonight, or maybe I'll just sit and draw.

2002/12/25

Joyous Yule, everyone.

I've just put a set of photographs from Yule dinner on line, take a look at them to see what it looked like before the family ripped it to shreds. *grin*

I got up rather late this morning so exchanging gifts was rather delayed - to the tune of 1200 or so. I figure I'm making up for being so maniacal about it when I was younger (or so they tell me). Anyway, after I got my brain booted back up and had breakfast we opened gifts. I got Dataline a copy of 20th Anniversary Trivial Persuit, a facial steamer, some Lady Stetson, and a shawl. I also got her a copy of the CSI novel, because she loves the television show and a copy of Fellowship of the Ring because she loved the movie so much. I got for my grandfather a new electric screwdriver (this one with replacable power cells.. bloody NiCds...), a hat, scarf, and gloves, and a box of candy. In return I got a copy of Bounce (the new album by Bon Jovi), a leather-bound traveller's journal (extremely classy, I must admit), a pair of ear muffs, a bobbly-head shaped like a Grey, and a La Crosse Radio Watch from C. Crane Company. One thing about the watch, the band's too big for my body's wrist. After a bit of fumbling I managed to make it as tight as I can, but it's still too loose. It just fits if it's closed over my sleeve, though. I think I'm going to have a jeweler replace the band, but I don't know if it'll affect reception of the signal yet. Neat stuff all around. Dataline wants to play Trivial Persuit after dinner today; I won't argue.

This afternoon I did a bit of musing on the differences that I've noticed between interactions in various subcultures, based upon a holiday gather I'd gone to a couple of days ago. My essay's kind of rough but it's the core of a couple of thoughts that I've had knocking around in my head since Saturday. I'd be interested in any comments that you might have, if only for the sake of sanity checking.

2002/12/24

Cue the last minute madness, folks. I ran to the store this morning to get the last-minute items that we'd forgotten, like catfood, shortening, and milk and the stores were starting to fill up with people of a like mind.. parking was almost nonexistent and people were hunting for empty spaces like sharks circling a sinking ship. I managed to get in and out in record time, though. We're about to start making pierogi around the lab so this entry's going to be short for a while. We've got potato, sauerkraut, and cottage cheese filled pierogi on the way and everything else will no doubt hit the stove later this afternoon.

To everyone I promised pierogi to, they're on their way, just be patient.

Pierogi update: Dataline and I have finally called it a day. Together we have made almost a gross of pierogi (twelve dozen), filled with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, and cottage cheese. Dataline says that the cottage cheese ones taste exactly like the ones her mother used to make; not surprising, I found the recipe she used for the filling in a drawer stuck inside another cookbook. I'm amazed that they worked out so well, though.

I spent most of the time making up batches of dough for the dumplings themselves, rolling the dough out, and cutting it into sections to make the envelopes. Dataline filled them and got them ready to bake. Together we make one hell of a team - it only took four hours to make dinner for the next two days and two batches of gifts. Damn, we're good. *grin*

For an encore I've got a batch of toffee bars in the oven for dessert tonight. I figured that I may as well while the kitchen's heated up and the oven's ticking over.

And now I indulge in the day's news... here's something that's just come down the wire from the Cryptography mailing list (@wasabisystems.com). An outfit called Glueck and Kanja A.G. has released something that they're calling a self-learning OpenPGP and S/MIME gateway. The basic premise of this software assumes that all users on a given network relay their outgoing e-mail through their local SMTP server, and that they pick up their e-mail from a central server. The e-mail server detects when e-mail isn't protected and encrypts it against the recipients' (plurality intentional) public keys before transmission. Also, when a user connects to the server protected e-mail is decrypted and the digital signature (if present) is authenticated. All of this is done transparently; the end user doesn't even know it's there. Public keys and certificates are generated automatically by the server, so the administrator does't have to generate keys for potentially thousands of users at a time. Definite food for thought.

The Internet Villian of the Year Award Nominees are up at ISPA Awards now. Among the nominees are the BBC Watchdog, for an article on spam written this year that spent more time slamming certain ISPs than saying anything of use to ISPs' customers; Oftel, which is making life difficult for its compeditors by refusing to allow access to fibre; and the RIAA, for its willingness to execute Denial of Service attacks and compromise the security of networks to stop people from trading .mp3s.

What the... a computer in a spherical case?? Note: This page is entirely in Japanese. I have to admit, it's a slick-looking deck. There is a rectangular window in the back for the connectors and the chassis splits around its equator into two pieces so that CDs can be inserted into the (notebook formfactor) reader. The mainboard is mounted to the bottom of the equatorial tray, upside down it would appear; the hard drive is mounted to a cradle that hangs down into the lower half of the chassis. I've got to admit, this is the neatest thing I've seen in a long time - I wonder how long it'll take for them to hit the US.

2002/12/23

Well, I dodged the bullet this morning. I got up at 0600 EST to get ready to catch a bus downtown for my day in traffic court. I'd slightly miscalculated how much time I'd need to get ready, 45 minutes was just enough but there was not enough buffer time for my tastes. However, nothing bad happened so I can't say anything about that. I started reading Tolkein's The Two Towers on the way in to kill time. From where the bus let me off it was a good half hour hike to the municipal building, where the traffic court itself is located. It felt strange to be in court as a defendant, the only times I've been in court previously were because I was taking someone there. Now I know how they feel. There were about fifteen other people there as well, which helped because I could observe them to figure out exactly what was supposed to happen in traffic court and the protocols to follow. First, we had to check in with the cashier across the hall so the documents would be put on the stack for the judge to go through during session. Once that was done we went into the courtroom itself and waited in a bank of chairs for our names to be called. Once the court was brought into session (I think by a bailiff) the judge called each name in the stack. One by one we went up to the bench, where the judge read the charge (in my case, careless driving) and asked how we plead. Each person made their call; I plead 'not guilty' (reiterating my originally filed plea).

At this point I expected to be asked to justify my plea but this was actually not the case (so to speak). The judge passed the file to the bailiff, who then read the summary and the charges written up by the officers (who weren't present this morning). The judge nodded and asked if there was any other documentation extant; there wasn't. The judge then asked me if there was an automobile accident involved in the incident; there wasn't. She rescinded the charges and the writ and sent me over to the cashier's office, where I was given the relevant paperwork and told that the refund of my fine would arrive within eight weeks.

At this point I called Dataline and told her the good news. To celebrate I hiked back downtown to Barnes and Noble and had a cup of coffee and read a book for a while (not the one I'd brought with me, just to be safe). In due time she arrived downtown and picked me up, and now I'm back in the Lab relaxing.

Hail Eris.

For some weird reason we get at least two pieces of mail every day for our next-door neighbors.. have been for the past three weeks, actually. No one's paying any attention to the street signs again, I see...

I forgot all about the Gdancer plugin for XMMS. It puts a small animation on the screen which is frame animated in response to the song that XMMS is playing at the moment. Right now I'm listening to a .sid file rip from Interplay's old C-64 game, Neuromancer. Nothing like a cover of Some Things Never Change by Devo to get Lain dancing on the icon bar.

2002/12/22

I just installed Apache from the Debian package network and after a little bit of hacking re-built the server configuration by hand (it was faster than finding which CD-ROM I'd copied it over to... oh, wait, it's on a floppy disk; nevermind) and kickstarted it. If you're reading this update then it's working. Rock. I'll copy over the Network frontpage later today once I finish tweaking things on Leandra.

The Network's frontpage should be in place now. I had to power Leandra down and install the old hard drives in the should-be-hot-swappable-but-really-isn't removable caddy and boot into single user mode to get to the data but once I did that everything started working fine.

Aargh. My brain's fried, and it's probably going to overload tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning I have to be up at 0600 to catch a bus into the city to go to traffic court. I'm going to fight my last ticket and see if I can get the points taken off of my record. No matter how it turns out I'm going to be out the fine, and I'm resigned to that. But I don't want to points on my license, that'll hamstring me enough that I might not be able to commute to school next semester. Cross your fingers, folks.

Leandra's finally up and running - she weathered her regeneration nicely. Just a few minutes ago I got Exim configured properly, so she isn't sending e-mail addressed to the internal Network anymore. Now I can respond to all of those e-mails that've been piling up. After some initial fumbling I managed to get all of the relevant files restored from CD-ROM and the hard drives and X is running nicely. I had to screw around with GDM a bit to figure out how to log in but once I figured that out it was a simple matter to recreate my desktop configuration. Now I'm trying to figure out how to build my own Debian packages so I can install the software that I absolutely can't get from the package collection without compromising everything.

By the bye, if anyone knows what's up with the five or six power outages every day around here, please let me know. I'm sick and tired of having to resuscitate the Children every time the power blinks. The UPS is holding up but it's kind of small so I don't know how much longer it'll take these shocks.

My brain's completely fried, I'm going to jack out for the night.

Okay, maybe not completely fried. I found this link in Kelly's Livejournal: Which of the Endless are you? After taking the quiz, I found that I am most like Dream.

Okay, it isn't much of a stretch.

2002/12/21

So I decided to start re-working Leandra last night after I got home from dinner with Lowmagnet. We went to Don Pablo's, which is a Tex-Mex restaurant not far from my lab. They've got fantastic food there.. their appetizers are meals in and of themselves. We barely had room for an actual meal once we polished off the sampler plate. The meals themselves were just as good and just as filling.. one more reason to love eating out but hate the holidays. Anyway, when we got back to the lab we started to break down Leandra. Once I got her users disconnected (it never fails - plan a maintenance cycle and everyone decides to log in all at once) and the last of her files backed up to CD-R I powered her down and cracked her case to remove the old hard drives and take a can of compressed air to her internals to do a proper cleanout. You've heard of dust bunnies.. you've heard of dust puppies.. but dust rhinos?

Ye gods, people.. wads of lint, dust, hair, and stuff that I really don't want to think about were jammed in each and every fan in Leandra's chassis. The slotfan I had in there to pull air past her graphics card was ruined by the cruft in there. Thankfully I've got a spare that can be installed. Once the cleanout was done, however, I was able to replace the drive arrays with a pair of 60GB 7500RPM hard drives. I also replaced her Creative Labs SB-32 sound card with a SB Live, which means the last of the legacy ISA cards are now history, though I'm really going to miss the pair of 8MB SIMMs for on-card storage. Once that was finished I finally got to give Debian v3.0 a try. I booted from the CD-3 I'd burned at Silicon Dragon's suggestion and started installing. First and foremost, I hate cfdisk. I was able to create the first three system partitions (/, swap, and /usr), but when it came time to create the extended partition I could make any partitions inside of it. I wound up popping open another virtual terminal and using the standard Linux fdisk utility to set up the partitions. That done, formatting and mounting the partitions was a snap (though running a badblocks check on an 8GB partition can take a long, long time...)

I havn't had a chance to really mess around with Debian yet though I'm steading installing software and getting used to the apt system. It's nice to install everything I use normally (and that's a lot of stuff) from a single list in one terminal without having to download the source, compile it, and make sure that the package management system worked over and over again. I'm logged in via SSH from Kabuki upstairs while making chili and using screen to manage the Debian package list and install stuff. I have to get Apache, BIND, and other network utilities installed so everything'll be up and running but I'm getting there by working straight through the list. There's no better way than from the top. Once everything comes together (and you'll know because you'll be able to read this update) I'll let you know.

One weird thing - we've been getting nasty power dropouts around the city lately. Five-second long losses of power, to be specific. That's not something ordinarily considered good in the middle of winter, even weird-ass winters the way we have up here. The children are definitely feeling it, and they're not appreciative. The four systems hooked up to the UPS are fine but the other two (which happen to be Crash, who acts as secondary DNS, and Burn, the primary mail server) keep going down and staying down, so nothing can be resolved and no mail can be recieved until I hard boot them. What's worse, the KVM only has four ports on it, and they always seem to be taken up by systems that don't need to be connected at the time. Lowmagnet and I took turns reaching back behind the rack to switch the cables from system to system. Not fun. The phrase "pain in the ass" was conceived with such a scenario in mind, of this I am convinced.

Speaking of things that get on our nerves, the family's already starting to feel the holidays. Between Dataline and my grandfather arguing and not listening to one another (I'm certain that it's deliberate because I changed the batteries in my grandfather's hearing aids only two days ago), Dataline's cousins calling because they want her to go to their monthly dinner, which she really isn't up to (and they're calling every twenty minutes)... I won't even get into trying to make dinner and help get the house decorated and cleaned (alternately)... there's too bloody much going on right now.

2002/12/20

I think Ziggy likes the Sisters of Mercy. I put on my copy of Shot v2.0 (a collection of the Sisters' music videos) and she's been laying in the middle of the lab staring at the screen. Either she likes how they're shot or she likes the voice of Andrew Eldritch. Some of the backgrounds of the videos are rather busy, though, so it might be all the motion, too. She hasn't said.

This is amusing.. when flying this holiday season don't pack any food and don't lock your bags because your gear will probably be checked at least once. It's amusing that they specifically asked that fruitcakes not be packed (I think I read something about that way back when on the MMN, actually), but seeing as how they're very dense and hard it makes sense - anything could be hidden in them (and usually is). They're asking that fliers not lock their bags in the event that they must be searched so they don't have to cut the locks themselves from the bag. Seeing as how their bomb sniffers are reported to have a 30% rate of reporting a false positive, I really don't see why I should have to put my stuff at risk of theft because their hardware screws up. Fix the problem and don't break the solution, folks. And if someone seaching my gear thinks that my Newton's a really nifty toy I wouldn't put it past them to confiscate it as suspicious and then walk off with it. No, I really don't trust them, does it show?

Given all this drek going on, I really think that flying's not a good idea at all right now. Stay home with your families, people. Don't put up with this hassle. Take a bus if you must, or at least drive - see some of the scenery, as pretty as the skies might be.

The other shoe fell this morning - my grade report came in. I got an A- in Data Communications, which is within spitting distance of what I'd expected. And as for Discrete Structures... drumroll please.... B-. Fear my l337 mathematical skills. Next stop: Graduation!

The week before last Patrick Ivins gave me the fansubs of the X/1999 OAV for Yule. I wasn't able to get them to play back properly under Xine so I'm trying to use Dataline's deck and Windows Media Player to display the .avi files. The only thing is, I'm a complete newbie when it comes to Windows media support so I have no idea what in the hell I'm doing. I tried Apple Quicktime for the hell of it but that didn't work, either. I'm now downloading WMP v7.1 and searching for codec modules. I wish the betas of Xine v1.0 would compile properly for once.

Not too long ago Dataline picked up Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 for her system, too. I tried installing it today... it wants to put 120MB of driver data on the system drive alone, which wouldn't be so bad save for the fact that she's only got 99MB free (out of 2.1GB on the system drive). I think I'm going to have to rebuild her deck for her again just to install it, though it's going to have to happen after I finish with Leandra, because I want to put that 40GB drive in place to do it right for a change. Sometimes I hate frankenboxen.. they make it bloody difficult to do the simplest thing. If anything this proves that it's possible to install Windows 2000 on a 2GB hard drive. But don't try it at home, cats and kitties, just fork over the money for a decently-sized hard drive (at least 60GB).

2002/12/19

I got back from shopping just about an hour ago. My grandfather's been complaining that his power screwdriver isn't working. After trying to charge it for a day or so I've concluded that the NiCd power cells in the handle are blown. NiCd batteries tend to develop a phenomenon called the memory effect after a certain period of time. This happens when the cell is recharged without being fully discharged; tiny crystals form within the power cell and interfere with the solution's ability to store electrical energy for long periods, so the cell never really recharges. If that happens for too long the cell won't hold a charge at all and can't be used anymore. There are ways of using pulses of high frequency electricity to blow the crystals in the power cells (a process called reconditioning) but I don't know how to do that. There are devices out that that will do so but working with electricity isn't something I'm particularly good at (or wont to do, after being thrown across the room a couple of times) so he'll have to be content with the new power screwdriver I bought him for Yule (along with a new power cell - I made sure to get one where the cells aren't hardwired into the case but can be removed and switched out).

I just finished backing up Lain, after the problems she was having booting back up yesterday. In a nutshell I used GNU tar to stuff her entire file system into a single file and cat it across an SSH connection to Leandra so it can be compressed and then burned to CD-ROM. The way I did it was like this, in case you've never done it before: tar --create --verbose --exclude /proc --exclude /dev / | ssh drwho@leandra "cat > /tmp/lain-20021219.tar". That command line will create a tape archive of every file in the file system and cat it to the standard output, which I've redirected through SSH into a file on Leandra, which is now compressing and testing in another window. I know that I left out a few options, like --preserve but I'm not worried about that right now, I'm more worrked about just getting copies of the files. I can re-set everything later in case I have to reconstruct from that backup.

Ye flipping gods... talk about an out of body experience. Professor Tanzio Pinelli has been developing a treatment for liver cancer in which the organ is removed entirely from the body and perfused with a boron solution of some sort (the article doesn't say) and then the organ is placed in the path of a stream of slow neutrons. The idea behind it is the neutrons will cause the boron atoms to fission and the resulting nuclear fragments will kill the tumours. Amazing. The patient in question who underwent the twenty-one hour long procedure is up, around, and doing well the article says. Congratulations.

This is interesting: A fifteen year old student did a penetration test of his school's network as a project. To prove that he had cracked their network he changed his 4.0 GPA into a 1.9 (D+) and then wrote three pages of suggestions for upgrading their security. The boy's trusting, I'll give him that. Frankly, I wouldn't have been surprised at all if the school had turned on him and either kept his GPA where it was or called the cops on him. Network admins tend to not like being shown holes in their systems, and they can be very vindictive (who needs Gibson's black ICE when you've got a pissed off admin in attack mode?) at times like this, even sanctioned ones. I'm all for the lad getting credits for it, and I really hope that they don't decided to turn on him for it. I don't wonder, however, if he didn't just run L0phtcrack or John the Ripper on a password file to get the secretary's password.

Hold it, folks. I think you should read this. Since 9/11 US immigration laws have changed - all males from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan who have not yet been naturalised must have registered before 16 December 2002. Since that time, between 500 and 700 immigrants have been arrested around Los Angeles, CA. INS isn't talking, but word on the street has it that they're under suspicion of visa violations or other offenses. Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets over this. Immigrants from other primarily Muslim states have later deadlines. Given that these folks are being preemptively arrested, who's to say that they won't be arrested as well? I can't see anyone else signing onto this roster anytime soon, not if it means being busted for no good reason. The SoCal ACLU's having kittens over this, and rightly so. The US did this to Japanese-Americans back in World War II.

Anyone else worried yet?

Well, I've just put my first item up for auction on eBay, a Police Synchronicity tour '83 satin jacket. Opening bid's $15.00us if anyone's interested in it. Drop by and take a look. I've just put a second set of items up, a set of 8-track cassette tapes for Dataline. Opening bid: $10.00us.

Earlier tonight I had to run out for spare parts.. both bulbs above the stove blew within a few hours of each other and without them you really can't see a bloody thing in the kitchen. Getting the covers open is trivial, it's a pair of Philips-head screws. Actually getting them out of the sockets, however, is a different matter. First, someone at the factor put a blob of silicone glue across the bulb and socket. That came off pretty easily, it just had to be peeled free. Actually unscrewing the bulbs, however... when those suckers blow, I mean they blow. The insides were coal black and apparently one of them had heated up enough to melt the stem holding the filaments in place, so when I unscrewed the bulb just the glass came loose. The socket was filled with carbon and what I think are little flecks of metal, judging by the way my eye's burning from what got into it (mental note: flush eye with saline once more after writing this update). I had to cut the power to the microwave part of the stove (we've got a combination suite upstairs) and then take a pair of pliers to the metal part to get it out of the socket. Not fun. Once I got it loose, however, it was pretty easy to work it out of the housing.

Whee home maintenance.

Holy imploding Kibo!

2002/12/18

My exterior seems to be adapting nicely to the new dental work. The occasional twinge can be felt as something inside its jaw misfires but by and large the fillings are working out quite nicely. They handled sushi last night with no trouble, and breakfast this morning without a hitch. As long as I'm careful they should be fine.

Okay, enough about the dental work. It's not amusing for you to read anymore. It would probably be old news by now even if I'd been writing it while under the influence of reasonably powerful painkillers (read: "powerful enough that my exterior is knocked flat by them").

Round two of baking starts this afternoon. Another couple of dozen cookies are on the docket. I'll probably start giving them out around Thursday or so, if all goes well. I should probably start e-mailing people to be sure that they'll be around, come to think of it...

I just found a nifty site for synthpop called Dead Wire - they do streaming of synthpop streams and music videos (via the Realplayer plugin). I'm playing around with installing the Real Audio Mozilla plugin so I can watch some of them (they've got the Cruxshadows.. Cosmicity... Felia Da Housecat (as if you're surprised...)) there goes my afternoon. *grin* I'm trying to watch a couple of videos right now but while the window comes up nothing's coming through on the window in question. I might play around with it more later today.

Mozilla's output says that it can't open the /dev/audio device - that's probably because I'm running ESD (Enlightenment Sound Daemon) to mix sound in realtime, but the rpnp.so library for Mozilla wasn't designed to use it (even though the Realplayer application itself was). Odd.

A lot of things on that page are for clubs and live performances in San Antonio, TX. Hmmm...

I just saw Val Kilmer on television hawking Nikon digital cameras. Weird.

The second batch of cookies is finished. There's now a stack of four Tupperware containers in the kitchen packed with cookies ready to wrap and give to people. If need be I can make more but this should last for a week or two. They're the best batch I've made yet - practise really does make perfect. Once the last batch cooled I took Lain offline to see if the DIMMs I'd picked up a few days ago were compatible with her mainboard. They work perfectly, but I had some trouble bringing her back on line. At first she refused to detect her secondary hard drive, then she wasn't gatewaying packets properly. I powered her down again and took a can of compressed air to her internals, pulled and re-seat the IDE connectors, basic "gods, please let this be all that's necessary" type of stuff. The next time I powered her up she worked fine but her firewalling rules were messed up somehow. I had to fiddle with them a little bit to get things going again. Weird stuff, but she's up and running again. I think she took offense at my pulling the 64MB and putting the 16MB back in.

I'm still backing up the data on Leandra, one disk at a time. I'm backing up her OS configuration and miscellaneous stuff right now, and I'll start on this part of the VA FTP archive when it's done burning. One of these days I'll put a link to it up, but if you've been on the Net a while you know how to find it... and dammit, I don't need this right now. I don't know if it's being at loose ends a lot and not knowing what to do with myself, or if it's being in the lab too much, or if it's just seasonal, but I think I'm hitting the bottom of my emotional cycle - cue mild depression. Dammit, I can't stand when this happens, there's no reason for it.

I'm going to have to fix that.

2002/12/17

I hadn't expected to sleep in quite so late this morning... at 1130 I automatically came back online. Ten solid hours of sleep. I haven't gotten that in months, let alone weeks. I still have the residual deep sleep headache between my temples from it. Of course today's got a constraint on time - I'm supposed to pick up Sentinel for dinner tonight around 1700 (I'm taking him out for sushi) and after that I'm probably going to finish baking new batches of everything so I can give out gifts this week. Last night I picked up a half-dozen wire baskets that I'm going to line and use to hold the cookies, et al. You have to love dollar stores sometimes.

Right now I just took a fresh batch of five layer bars out of the oven and I'm letting them cool while I catch up on my e-mail and news for the day (late start and all that) and then I'm going to start producing chocolate chip cookies en masse. I love recipes that make a gross at a time. *grin*

Ouch.. just goes to show that it can happen to anyone. Science fiction author Spider Robinson (of Callahan's fame) was taken for $900us on eBay for a fraudulent auction. After fighting with eBay for several days and getting nowhere fast he finally wrote the news article above and got results. Basically, eBay refused to be of any assistance to him at all and if it weren't for the bad publicity his claim of fraud might never have been paid attention to by anyone who could do a damned thing.

Be careful, folks. Only deal with people who use the established cash transfer methods, regardless of their feedback. And use a good password on your account.

I just finished the first batch of five layer bars to give as gifts. I did two things differently this time: One, I used a smaller pan, which meant a thicker crust and hence better support for everything on top of it. Secondly, I sprayed the pan with Pam before packig everything in. I don't know if this would could as a "third" but I was careful to not let the sweetened condensed milk hit the sides of the pan. Those things done the pan came out with no trouble and the bars cut (and slipped out) beautifully. They taste wonderful. I made sure to cut the bars once just after taking the pan out of the oven and then re-cut along those lines when I took them out of the pan to transfer them into a storage pan for a time. Either way, they're going to rock the docs. The second pan of cookies is in the oven right now and they turned out quite well also. I took my time this time, and I made sure to use real eggs instead of Egg Beaters. It made a world of difference when I was mixing the batter, there was a lot more moisture to work with so the dough wasn't dry to begin with. I just had the first cookie and... wow... guys, you're in for a treat.

Elcomsoft was found not guilty today in court of charges that their software which decrypts Adobe Electronic Books violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Rejoice.

Sentinel, Fred, and I went to Sushi Tomo this evening for dinner for Sentinel's Yule gift. They had a ball there - the food's incredible, and highly affordable. Once I managed to figure out exactly where Sentinel was so I could pick him up (navigation is NOT my strong suit) it was smooth sailing to get to Sushi Tomo. Fred was already there waiting for us and had reserved a table for three - thanks! I have to admit, I'd not expected flying fish roe to be quite so tasty... when it comes to sushi, give everything a try at least once. Order the stuff you've tried two or three times running as your favourites. Anyway, we spent a good fours hanging out there talking and pondering. A good time was had by all. Sentinel, return home safely for the holiday. Fred, maybe I'll see you later this year, maybe not. Please let me know ahead of time.

Too.. much.. sushi.. one plate... exceeding... capacity.... *thud*

2002/12/16

Well, my trip to the dentist was eventful and, on the whole, not nearly as bad as it could have been. The dentist filled two cavities on this visit, which I'd not expected but I'm not complaining about given their state of advancement (my chequebook, on the other hand, had a few unkind things to say). It wasn't so much how much he had to do, it was... aah, I just hate drills. I don't mind having work done, it's a necessary activity. It's the fact that the vibration from the bit conducts through every bone in my skull, from my cervical vertebrae all the way up to my eyesockets. And if the handle of the drill touches any other teeth it's a hotline right to the top of my head. Not a nice feeling. Anyway, the two worst teeth were drilled and patched, but one is probably going to have to be removed given the state its in. A couple layers of epoxy plastic and synthetic enamel have repaired it but the state of decay is advanced enough that neither of us think it's a good idea to let it go. I'm planning on about two years' time for its extraction.

The lower left quadrant of my face is still numb from the novocain, I can't even feel any pressure on my cheek, not that I'm arguing right now. It should wear off in a couple of hours by my estimation. I can barely speak out loud right now, I feel like Mumbles in Dick Tracy, all the way down to the way my mouth is twisted down to one side from the lack of muscle tone. It's a weird sensation. So of course Dataline calls my land line to check up on me... *sigh* It never fails.

Sorry, kid, but I can't talk and you can't figure out what I'm trying to say. Let's pick it up later.

Speaking of picking things up, this is a scream. Journalists, phone phreaks, and information junkies all over the US are giving John Poindexter a taste of his own medicine. Large amounts of personal data, from his home address and telephone number to what appears to have been a US Search dossier on Poindexter are making their rounds on the Net. It all started with one Matt Smith, a columist for the SF Weekly, putting Poindexter's home phone number in his column on 27 November 2002, and it spiralled out of control from there. There's even a set of satellite photographs of Poindexter's house up at Cryptome (slashdotted out the wazoo).

I love it. Now he knows how we feel.

And about feeling... I just realised that it's been a day since I've last had any coffee. My head's a little swimmy right now as my exterior starts to run low and adapt but that's about it. I think I'm going to dry out over break again.

It feels kind of weird, actually. When you have a cavity it's natural to poke at it occasionally because it's a structure in the mouth that is not ordinarily there. I keep going back to those two teeth and they're filled in. That's going to take some getting used to, I think.

2002/12/15

There's no escaping it, the waste of time known as decorating for the holidays. I don't have time to write right now, catch you in a couple of hours.

Well, we got the living room rearranged after a lot of grunting, groaning, swearing, and several false starts. The stereo system was taken apart and put in the attic and the shelves left behind were used to help support the platform for the tree. A number of sawhorses were used to further suspend the tree platform above the floor. This is done so that we can set up the train set for my grandfather in such a way that he can play with it, given the fact that he is quite advanced in age, even for our bloodline. This requires not only a four-foot height from the floor but a much smaller tree than we used to use (this one is only about four feet in height in itself and is actually made from a very dense mass of optical fibre with a multicoloured light in the rotatig base). On the bright side there's a lot less fuss necessary to decorate it. The train's up and running and the tree is lit and slowly rotating about its base. The rest of the living room's a complete wreck, and it's expected to remain thus until the rest of the boxes are unpacked and the contents set up so we can get the boxes back up in the attic once more.

Once that was done I spent the afternoon with an old friend of mine from the local BBS scene (circa 1994-1996) who's still in the area (kind of). We spent the time reminiscing about all the fun times we'd had together and all the crazy stuff that we'd done when we were young (read: "still juveniles") and in need of entertainment. It amazes me how the world changes still: People move away and get new jobs, they get married and have children (ye gods), they change who they are and what direction they're going in, and sometimes they just move away and never speak to you again. It's a part of life to be sure but one that never quite feels real until you actually experience it. It's one thing to talk about growing up but quite another to have to say goodbye and move on because people have changed and made their decisions.

Found in this month's issue of Crypto-Gram: 109-bit elliptic curve cryptography was cracked by... a hell of a lot of computer systems working in parallel. The article says to not worry because 163-bit keys are the norm for elliptic curve cryptosystems in use right now. Personally, I don't use a key for anythig that's less tha 1024 bits in length. I'd rather plan for the future so the need to scramble around like mad trying to change keys if need be is much less pressing.

2002/12/14

Well, I finally went ahead and did it.

This morning Dataline cut my hair.

She took a good twelve inches off the back, which constituted my ponytail, and then shaped the rest to about two inches in length all over. I feel naked. I can't feel it swinging in the air anymore and it's not bumping against the back of my neck when I move my head. In a way I feel like a fish out of water - my hair's that of a man now, more or less, but it doesn't fit when I look in the mirror. It's out of kilter with everything, or at least right now it is. I look like a boy now... but not. The facial structure doesn't match the hair; the shoulders don't match; the eyes don't even match anymore. It looks like a mask or a prosthetic or something. I'm infiltrating the male gender.

I'll take a couple of pictures later today and put them up, along with the "befores" from yesterday afternoon.

Too much pizza... urg.... not.. used.. to.... fast food...

Ye flipping gods, folks. I just got back from a shopping expedition to McNightmare Road, which is the de facto drag of my main town. I left the Lab this afternoon around 1230 EST, and got home.. less than a half hour ago (it's now 1833 EST). The weird thing is, the stores aren't particularly packed. There are many cars on the road jamming traffic up (and gridlocking the parking lots of the malls.. McEntyre Square was a single, solid mass of motor vehicles this afternoon. It took better than forty minutes to move one block after I left the computer store (had to pick up an upgrade for a friend). I frequently found myself wishing that I'd brought more CDs with me to listen to because I was going through them at a rather fast rate sitting in traffic. Maybe I should bring some Beethoven with me on my next outing - I'd love to learn how to sing the lyrics in the fourth (I think) movement.

Something else that never ceases to amaze me is the lengths someone will go to to let you have it when they're not happy with you, the situation they're stuck in, or anything else in the world that no one can do a single bloody thing about. Consider the example: I was sitting in traffic waiting to move forward a car length or so. I was able to move up less than a car length but did so. An older gentleman in a burb beater (read: "SUV") drove past in the opposite direction while trying to look through my car to see what lay on the other side of the road (hillside), tried to turn but couldn't (duh), then rolled down his window and yelled at me "Next time clear the fucking intersection, you fucking jagoff!" (intersection?)

This man was probably someone's grandfather. This man was also no doubt surprised to see hillside next to the lane I was in at the time as he drove by, assuming that he had three neurons to hook together in series.

Go figure.

Last night after gaming with some of the guys we went to the local cineplex to see Star Trek: Nemesis. That was the biggest waste of a four-hour excursion I've ever been on. The movie was not only a waste of time it was a waste of celluloid and even oxygen while sitting in the theatre. The plot started out so-so and then rapidly went downhill from there. There were one or two amusing lines in the movie that would make fine samples but those aside the movie sucked various electrical current-carrying objects in a power plant. I've had more fun having broken bones set in the hospital than I've had while watching Nemesis. I want more than my money back I want my time back. If someone tries to con you into going, refuse as strenuously as possible.

Check this out, cats and kitties... there's another Ghost In the Shell movie in production by IG Productions right now. It's titled Innocence: Ghost In the Shell and is currently scheduled to be released in Nihon in the spring of 2004. In related news, GItS television series, Stand Alone Complex is coming along nicely. If you hit the webpage for it you'll see everything that's happened with it lately. I don't have time to report on everything as I'm busily trying to get data backed up now that I have access to Leandra's CD-RW drive once more.

Last night after I got home I had Leandra hard-reboot herself while I cleaned up the leftovers from the game. She came right back up without any trouble; she knows what's coming and brought everything back on line without any hassle. I'm currently in backup mode, pulling all the extra stuff off of her drives and moving it to CD-R disk to put into cold storage. Once I finish doing that (it shouldn't be more then ten or eleven disks) I'll start doing user-by-user and then configuration backup and then let everything sit until next week when I start to reconstruct her. It'll be a change for the better; every once in a while you have to re-do the system to blow away the cruft that builds up over time, as one installs, uninstalls, debugs, and upgrades software. It's also an excuse to use a journalling file system like ReiserFS for a change (ever fsck(1) 90GB of data before?) and pull some old drives out of use to give them a while to rest.

2002/12/13

It's finally over. The exam wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was a seven-page monster that covered the entirety of the course this semester but there actually wasn't that much calculation involved. A lot of the exam was actuall true-and-false questions mixed in with being able to identify the important stuff and figure out how it would be used and not so much use it. That was a lot easier than I'd expected it to be. Thankfully going over the material so much made it easy to match up the detail with the question. One thing about the professor, he's got a sense of humour, but it's subtle. I rather got a kick out of having to answer in binary, and there are backhanded digs at various famous personages here and there. All in all it was quite amusing, at least as final exams go.

After stopping off for supplies (yet again) I returned to the lab, had breakfast, and now I'm partaking of something that begins with s, ends with k, and was in short supply. While I do have some things planned for today they're mercifully creative in nature and not strictly regimented, required, or expensive.

First I have to catch up on my e-mail and get my news updates for the day.. better prepared to face the day, as it were. In an age where data flows like water not having at least a general idea of what's going on in the world Outside can make you a sitting duck anymore. It's good to keep track of life at least in a cursory manner. First and foremost are the updates from the Politech mailing list. If you're not on this list then you should be. They keep track of how politics and technology interact in the modern world, and there are some very astute people who post to it who might bring up one or two things that you'd never previously considered. I know I've discovered a few new things as a result of that list.

Speaking of discoveries, Dataline just put me onto this: Three former IUP students were arrested in a major online fraud scam not too long ago. They defrauded Ingram Micro out of better than $90,000us of equipment over the past couple of years. The scary thing is, I lived in that hall (the CS dorm) for a couple of years while I was a student at IUP. Ye gods.. just when you think you know what's what something like this comes be-bopping by and catches you by surprise.

I've just made a few changes to the Network. I've brought Burn, the new mail server, on line and I've updated a few DNS records for people's websites. Here's hoping everything runs smoothly for the rest of the day.

Of course I'd forgotten to create a few accounts for users on Burn so that there'll be someplace for their mail to go to but one of the beautiful things about Qmail is that it doesn't care if you create a new user on a system it's running on, it'll try to deliver the message again in the future and if it can access the mail file or directory later it'll do so and use it. You have to love an adaptable system. If anyone's reading this (and you know who you are, because I've told you the score) then you can log in with your usual password to pick up your mail.

Mental note: Set up an updates page for the Network itself. Along with a real website for the Network.

So I was goofing around a little today with Dataline's digital camera and my tripod. I took a couple of ego shots for the halibut (mostly the last ones of my long hair - vainvain) and a few posed shots to run through the Gimp later. I also took an in-character shot of my secondary for the Cam LARP, Rick Vankin, just in case a troupe webpage is ever set up. I'll probably get them copied over to Leandra later tonight or tomorrow, and cropped before Monday. There isn't much there but I'll let everyone know what's what once I get it all done.

2002/12/12

Another day closer. 0800 tomorrow is the last final for the semester. I don't know if I should be relieved, panicked by the fact that it's tomorrow, or lackadaisacal. I'm voting for lackadaisacal just to keep my blood pressure down. While I don't plan on entering a coma just yet I do want to keep my head clear and and relatively unstressed so I won't vapor-lock tomorrow morning. Lots of pencils, a gum eraser, and a calculator are packed and ready to go, and if need be I've got a pacifier that'll be slung around my neck just in case (you think I'm kidding; I grind my teeth when I get nervous, and it helps keep my teeth from cracking). It got me through five calculus classes, it might work at Pitt.

At some point this weekend I hope to take a few posed photographs before Dataline cuts my hair. I don't think there are any shots of me en neutrois in the album and I wanted to get a few before time ran out. I've decided that I'm going to keep one lock of hair, the braid behind my ear that I usually wear my septagram on; I don't know why, it just seems like a good idea.

This is just too cool.. in searching around randomly for 'TARDIS key' I found an object entry at Geocaching for a TARDIS key that's being moved around the United States from cache to cache. Guys, my hat's off to you.

A little bit of serendipity never hurt anybody. As I was driving out of the neighborhood this morning to go to the bank and pick up groceries I happened to spy upon someone's trash pile the remains of a desktop computer. My curiosity immediately piqued I pulled into the driveway to inspect the unit and found that it still had its CD-ROM and floppy drives intact, as well as a sound card and NIC. There's also a CPU still on the mainboard with a cooling unit but I don't know if it's operable or not. I'm going to strip it later tonight for parts and get rid of the rest. If luck's with me it'll be a Pentium-II or Pentium-III core. The expansion cards alone make it worth the time and effort (as minimal as they are) to salvage them.

Well, I'm going to cut things short for today, everyone. My final starts in a little less than twelve hours and I want to cram as much in before I have to go offline, which'll probably be around 0000 EST tonight. I'll catch everyone after I get home tomorrow and tell you how things went.

Hail Eris.

2002/12/11

Well, I've finally decided to cut my hair. For whatever reason, my body doesn't like to have long hair, it starts to lose it at an alarming rate once it reaches a certain length, and I rather like having hair for the forseeable future. Seeing my driver's license photo kicked me hard enough in the grille to convince me of that. About the only question I have is, how can I have my hair cut to stop this process and yet still have a decent length of hair to do stuff with. I'd like to not compromise androgyny if I can help it, though sometimes one does what one must do. My tentative plan is to leave two inches (about five centimeters) everywhere, which is long enough to look masculine if done right, but long enough to do feminine things with.

My vanity aside, I've been looking around on the Net this morning for information regarding donating the hair that I cut off to the American Cancer Society to be made into wigs for chemotherapy patients. Graeme put me onto it a couple of years ago and I'm going to follow up on it. Something good will come of my vanity, and this is the perfect time of year to do so. Call it my penitance (if you believe in such a thing). The project is called Locks of Love, and it's pretty simple in execution, you just have to send them a clean, neatly banded 10 inch ponytail. I figure that I'll ask Dataline to cut my hair this weekend and then I'll send it out on Monday morning. Call it my good deed for the day.

Not too long ago a Spanish sea patrol backed by a number of United States operatives raided a North Korean ship in the Arabian Sea and discovered that, buried among all the building supplies, were twelve disassembled SCUD-type missiles. Needless to say they were not pleased by this at all. North Korea's been making waves on the international circuit with their nuclear programme and they just blew the trust that anyone had placed in them that they weren't doing something dumb. So much for trying to bring down the political blood pressure of the world for the Yule holiday.

Australia's ruling last week that they had jurisdiction over a defamatory statement made by Dow Jones on their web site in the United States is handing them a fair amount of flak from legal experts around the world. In a nutshell, because Dow Jones published something that someone in Australia decided to sue for, the Australian court is saying that it falls under their jurisdiction due to the Net's influence far and wide upon the planet. The majority of the counter-arguments state that this legal precedent would force anyone who published anything at all to consider the legality of their words in every country in the world, which is logically impossible. Finally, someone uses their head in matters of defamation.

Gods.. I didn't know that the new Mad Max movie coming up would draw this much attention. This is the third or fourth news article in the press I've found in the past twenty-four hours and there are still more out there. Amazing, how many are looking forward to its release.

I just got back from the Camarilla potluck dinner at Carnegie-Mellon a few minutes ago. Between twenty and thirty people showed up and just about everyone (as far as I know) brought something to share. I brought a chicken and ham cassarole (the recipe for which my mother found randomly in my grandmother's recipe books) and green beans almondine. Patrick baked a ham and a vanilla cake. There were a few other cassaroles there as well, an amazing pineapple cake (the recipe for which I'm searching for right now), a fruit platter, jello... it was a combination potluck dinner and picnic. I'm glad I 'saved up' for tonight, it was well worth it. There are a lot of good cooks in the Cam, no lie. The evening was spent catching up with good friends and swapping stories of all kinds (in character and out of character both). I gave Patrick, Nicole, and Lu their Yule gifts while I had the chance - I hope they like them. I also ran into someone I used to work with at Eldervision, Mike Krotschek. He's active in PA001, the local Cam chapter (though I didn't know this while I worked with him, interestingly enough).

You know, I think that's the first time a lot of people have seen me dressed down, i.e., out of costume. I was actually asked if I was cosplaying (dressed as an anime character) while I was there. I wasn't, I swear! That's how I look normally!

Ziggy, my cat, keeps sharpening her claws by digging them into the swatches of carpet that line my lab. I don't know why she does that but I think she's not happy with me right now. Too much time studying and not enough time playing with her, I think.

Here's something that at least a few people will find useful, a review of the IMAK Smartglove, which is a new kind of wrist brace for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. The reporter at Ars Technica gave it a glowing review. You might want to look at the IMAK website to decide for yourself though. I'm still threshing through my e-mail queues so I havn't made up my mind yet, personally.

2002/12/10

Well, this is an early entry for my logs. It's 0118 EST on the tenth, and I think I can feel the myelin of each neuron in my brain starting to cook. I've been plowing through the material for the discrete structures midterm at a steady clip since yesterday, and the only thing that comes to mind is getting the bloody thing over and done with. I hope I can get everything read through at least once (the last chapter covered in class one more time as well) before the exam.

Maybe I'm just getting squirrely again (a change for the kitty), I always get twisted up inside around this time of year. The Yule holiday's always been a little weird for me, and this year is no different.

Okay, it's now 0952EST and after getting sleep, showering, and getting dressed I actually feel a lot better right now. The third thing, of course, was to check the news tickers. Iraq isn't as innocent as the modern cynic guesses they might be, they've got quite a collection of toys stashed away, and many are highly entropic in nature. On the laundry list in the report are nuclear weapons in the alpha-testing stage (and the gear to make the fissionable warheads themselves), phenol, ricin, and the gear to make chemical weapons, but oddly enough no biologicals.

And, surprise surprise, names are named in this report - companies in several countries, suppliers, corporate contacts.. not that anything'll happen, mind you, but at least they found something for a change. Now I can sleep better. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

AMD just started to release the Athlon XP 2800+ processor cores, fresh out of the ovens. No specs yet but I know what Leandra's next upgrade's going to be in a year's time or so... also, they're loking at releasing the 64-bit Opteron cores in early 2003. Folks who still have a job, it's time to get your proposals written up and sent into the chain of command for upgrading some of those older servers at the office. This could be amusing.

Fans of cyberpunk cinema take note: Mad Max: Fury Road is slated to be the fourth movie in the series and will start production in 2003 in Australia. For those who've never seen Mad Max, Road Warrior, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome they're a trilogy of movies about an ex-cop who has a run in with a biker gang, loses his wife, and then goes out into the Australian outback to live out the rest of his life as a nomad in the indeterminent future. Water and gasoline are the biggest commodities and settlements with anything of worth (that are small enough to not have a garrison, anyway) are targets for raids by biker gangs and whacked-out nomads looking for their next tank of gas. While not exactly high cinema they are surprisingly good movies (especially for their time) and worth at least one viewing. They were rereleased not too long ago so you can probably rent them down at your local video store right now.

Here's an interesting article about the state of the US, posted to Kuro5hin not too long ago.

That was interesting. I just set up the mail client called mutt on Leandra, mostly because it will handle PGP and GnuPG transparently to the user. If you get an encrypted message it'll ask you for your passphrase (though it'll cache it in memory for a few minutes so you don't have to type it over and over again), decrypt the message, and let you read and respond to it. It'll also let you sign the message, encrypt it to the other person (I don't know if it'll encrypt to multiple people yet, though, or at least I don't know how to do it yet), or do both. Mutt's a far cry from Pine, which is what I've used for the past couple of years, but I'd like to get good with Mutt. It makes some things easier (encrypting mail, obviously), though configuring it initially is weird. I had to append the contents of the given gpg.rc file, which has the default commands for GnuPG in it to the system-wide Muttrc file. I havn't found a way to make it include another file in its primary config file yet, in my the same way that C includes work. Also it'll show you all of the headers of every message, not just the usual "To", "From", "Date", "Subject", "Reply-To", you've got to go in and write ignore lines for lots of different nonstandard header lines. I just spent a half-hour doing that. You also have to turn off the option that'll move all of your mail to another file on the hard drive when you're done reading it, which I really hate (I like my ~/Mailbox file, and I do keep some stuff in there just in case). Once you get that stuff done, though, it's really not too bad. The arrow keys can be used to move around and the on-line help's decent, though for the first couple of uses you really should keep another xterm or Screen pseudoterm open so you can flip back and forth between the manual and the client.

2002/12/09

I finally got my UPitt parking permit this morning. It took getting up at 0800 and trucking out to campus earlier than I prefer without an exam but I managed to secure one. It set me back a good $280us for three months and change of parking (one semester, give or take a few days) and my spot's way, way up on the hill... from where my classes are held it's a good twenty minute walk under winter conditions. That's going to suck, but not as much as missing class while hunting for a parking space and having to pay $20us-plus every week for parking. I guess I shouldn't bitch too much, I'd just like to park close to class for a change.

I just found something incredibly neat - an encryption plugin for GAIM. It uses OpenSSL to encrypt traffic to and from other users with the plugin. Take a look, it's pretty neat.

This came down the wire on the Cryptography mailing list today. It's an essay written by William Stone III about the looming threat of wide scale monitoring of the Net and the loss of privacy as we know it. The original article can be found here at wrstone.com, incidentally. Anyway, the article starts off with a discussion of the Homeland Security Act and how it impacts the Bill of Rights. I don't think that I agree with the assertion that the Bill of Rights has been under fire since Lincoln, though, something doesn't quite ring true there. What Stone said about the last hope for privacy resting in the hands of the nerds, however, is entirely true. The Total Information Awareness initiative is mean to impact out world, ladies and gentlemen, the Net. Information is the lifeblood of the Net and we regularly partake of it. We control this place, not them. By cooperating with TIA we concede our acceptance of 24x7x365 monitoring by the United States government. Do not cooperate.

I have to admit it's a rant, but one of the better ones out there. At least there are facts to back this one up as well as evidence staring everyone in the face every day.

Gods.. am I turning into a civil libertarian or something? Or am I just worried. I'll have to think about that one for a while...

2002/12/08

I've got to take a break from studying. I'm almost through the material once and once I finish the problem sets that should set me up for the next pass. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this, though there's a lot of ground to cover. The discrete structures exam is, after all, comprehensive in nature.

Ouch.

I did a bit of shopping today to unwind a bit. I picked up shipping stuff from Officemax because I've got some gear that'll be going up on eBay in a couple of days. I'll let everyone know what I've got and when it's up once I finish getting everything together. I also finished my Yule gift shopping and stocked up on groceries at Giant Eagle for the lab. I'll be making a few things for the Camarilla Potluck Dinner this week so I'll let everyone know what happens and how that turns out, too.

News updates.. where to begin? How about here: A federal appeals court in California upheld the ban on private ownership of military assault weapons on 6 December 2002. On the whole I'm actually not opposed to this, the police are getting their butts shot off by criminals who are better armed than they are. HOWEVER, something in the ruling strikes me as odd: The court ruled that individuals have no Constitutional right to own weapons, only militias. That's right, people alone can't own guns. Judge Stephen Reinhardt stated that the second amendment ("A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people (emphasis mine) to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.") doesn't apply to individual citizens of the United States of America.

Let's look at that again: "..the right of the people..."

Doesn't Reinhardt's statement contradict the wording of the second amentment directly? It sure looks like it to me...

You know, now I think I have a problem with those gun restrictions..

In other news, The Watch has decided to shut down. In a statement sent to their mailing list on 8 December 2002 (today) they stated that the events which were instrumental in the creation of the organization have recently become issues which affect everyone now, not just the pagan (and related) community. Wicasta Lovelace said in her closing statement that The Watch is still committed to their ideals but are refocusing at the present time. Exactly what that means I have no idea. That's two shots today that I didn't feel like taking.

In court not too long ago allegations of financial contributions granting priority access to and preferred treatment from political figures came out and were substantiated by internal memos galore. In a nutshell companies were buying dispensations from politicians. And this is surprising how?

And the news continues to suck today. Would you believe support techs being fired for being helpful? It's hard enough finding someone at a support desk who knows their finger from a branch on a binary tree and these idiots have the nerve to fire the ones who actually have two neurons to rub together?? Kibo on a fucking crutch, people, what's the matter with them?? People are being disciplined, fired, and written up for violating policies that aren't written down or even known by anyone? People... if you use one of the big providers like Bellsouth or Qwest, please write to the management and give them a piece of your mind. No fucking wonder it's a pain in the six to get a decent connection these days, the clueful are being driven away.

Thank the gods for smaller ISPs like Telerama.

Greetings, readers from nipr.mil!

2002/12/07

Two days of studying for my discrete structures final and I'm in a lot of trouble... I've been going back through the last material covered that'll comprise fully one-half of the exam and the more problem sets I do, the more disheartened I become. To put not too fine a point on it I really don't understand the material. That much is obvious from the fact that in each section I'm accidentally applying techniques that don't make any sense for the problem at hand (like confusing permutations and combinations). The more I try to figure out what's going on the less sense it makes. I think the problem is that I really don't understand the principles behind what I'm working on so there's no context to apply the few things that I actually do understand. This really isn't good. If the grading algorithm that the professor's using for figuring final grades (I say algorithm because 45 minutes of Friday's recitation was spent by the TA putting said algorithm up on the board and trying to explain how it works) was simply ( (points student X got) / (total points in the course) ) * 100.0 then I'd have a better idea of how much was on the line with this exam, but because the grades are given as something called Z-values that look something like 0.1322.... is that good? Is that bad? What the hell does it actually mean?

Basically, I don't know how much trouble I'm in here. Maybe I should stop working off of my notes and just re-read the text book.

I found out something from my grandfather today, too, and better now than in a couple of days - the first batch of chocolate chip cookies sucks. They turned out too hard to eat comfortably, so I don't think that they can be given as gifts to anyone. Dataline says that using Egg Beaters probably had something to do with that. Given that I used pretty much the same technique for the dry ingredients as I have the other times, I agree with her. I'm a little angry that I bought so many packages of Egg Beaters for baking, though.. guess I'll have to freeze them to use for breakfasts in the future.

Dammit.

Lowmagnet stopped by earlier tonight. I hadn't seen him in a couple of weeks and was starting to worry about him. He's doing fine, just going nuts around this time of year like nine-tenths of the population of this country during the Yule holiday season.

Something's been bothering me all day today.

Last night after LARP a bunch of us headed out for a bit to eat to wind down. As we left we noticed a large group of people clustered at the side of the road. I noticed a couple of dining hall trays with them and figured that they'd been sledding. If you've never been lunchtray sledding before give it a try some time, they're awkward and hard to get moving, especially in deep snow, but they're fun once they get moving.

Anyway, I kept looking as I walked past (I was driving) because something wasn't quite right there. I couldn't put my finger on it, so to speak. Once we got in the car and got the engine (and hence heater) going, bright lights started up back in the direction we'd come from.. an ambulance's warning lights. Someone had gotten hurt, apparantly badly enough to warrant an emergency call.

I feel awful. I should have realised that something was wrong. It just didn't click inside my head that so many people bunched up like that was unusual, even for the area we were in. Usually I can pick up on people in pain somehow, but this time it completely blew past me. Maybe I could have helped somehow, maybe I could not have, but either way it is my place to try somehow. But I blew it; I missed it entirely.

Fuck.

2002/12/06

Classes are officially over for the semester. It's now the time for finals, which every student has a love/hate relationship with. We love finals because they mean the end of the semester and the start of a break for a couple of weeks but we hate the work required to study for them, to say nothing of the worry and long nights cramming as much information into our heads as we possibly can without shooting ourselves. They're like a dentist's appointment that way. I've only got one left to study for, discrete structures, and that's going to be a cast-iron bitch to get through. I'm shooting for a B at the very least so that the final grade will be a C or better. The better the end grade the lower the probability that I'll have to retake the course. I suppose that I could take it as a summer course if I absolutely had to but I'd like to avoid it as strenuously as possible. I want out of there.

In other news, HP is declaring the end-of-life of the Alpha series CPU. For many years the Alpha processor cores (originally manufactured by Digital Equipment, then bought out by Compaq, then bought from Compaq by HP) were the creme' de la cool CPU for intensive calculations. You could find Alpha cores in supercomputers, clusters, mainframes, and even the higher end scientific workstations. HP is gambling on the Intel Itanium processor core to make it big so they're cutting their R&D budget on the Alphas to maintenance only to devote more time and money to the Itanium.

Remarks about how hot the bloody things run are extraneous to this topic of discussion, however. Ask someone who's ever owned a DEC Multia why they're often used as space heaters.

Oh, this is cool... retrogamers take note: There's a James Bond-style Atari 2600 on auction at eBay right now. Someone either cloned the 2600 or hacked one into a nifty looking suitcase. You've got to see it to believe it.

2002/12/05

It's snowing!

Like nobody's business, no less... it started around 0400 (I'm told) and hasn't let up yet. The first thing I heard this morning was Dataline yelling about how cold it was, how hard it was snowing, how she'd been standing outside for the better part of 40 minutes waiting for the bus and freezing her six off the entire time. Oh, and did I mention how a snowplow sliding backwards down my hill took out the trash pile around 0800? The garbage trucks aren't even out and the snowplows are just driving around aimlessly, not really doing anything at all. I can't complain all that much, I suppose, everyone needs a (forced) day off now and then. I was supposed to go to the dentist this morning but that's pretty well gotten a `kill -9` (not that I'm complaining all that much, to be honest). If anything it's an excuse to stay at home, finish my homework (due tomorrow, though I doubt I'll be actually getting in to hand it in), do a little studying, and maybe bake something. There's about five inches of snow outside right now and it shows no signs of stopping or slowing down.

Oh, well. Clearing the driveway'll be good exercise. I can't argue about that.

Squeak, squeak, folks. The genome of the lab mouse has been completely sequenced. Now they know pretty much where every gene is, what it does, and more importantly what parts aren't really genes but junk DNA (as far as we know, anyway). As an interesting sidebar, mice have about 2.5 billion base pairs (adenine-thyamine and cytocine-guanine links), compared to the 2.9 billion in the human DNA strand, which code for something like 30,000 distinct genes. Of those 30,000 genes only about 300 do not correspond between species - the genomes are that similiar. Humans even have genes that code for a tail, though the vast majority of the time those genes aren't expressed (human embryos have tails (and gills, interestingly enough) up to a certain stage of development and lose this structure; a very few people don't and are born with vestigal tails). What does this mean? Aside from finding out for sure that the genetic systems are very similiar (though not compatible; no ear and tail transplants yet, antro-mice) researchers are getting better at figuring out DNA sequences, and the technology for sequencing DNA strands is getting faster and more complex, so more progress will be made more rapidly with the human genome. Cool stuff.

Take cover, cats and kitties - Theo de Raadt's on the warpath again, and this time he's got a good point. Theo de Raadt, if you're not familiar with him, is the leader of the OpenBSD project. It's a BSD-style Unix that's completely open source (do whatever you like with it, even incorporating it into your own commercial product, unlike the GPL), security audited unto death, and the default installation is as secure as can be. Neat stuff. They're trying to port it to the Sun UltraSPARC III processor but Sun Microsystems is stonewalling them. Theo's rightly angry because Sun won't even let him talk to anyone who could hook him up with the paperwork to get the specs (NDA or not). If there are any serious OpenBSD users who read this page please write, call, or e-mail Sun Microsystems and yell at them. Support Theo on this.

My obsession with the video game Paradroid continues. Behold the Freedroid homepage.

The first baking run is finished. The last batch of chocolate chip cookies is cooling off in the kitchen right now and I just spent the better part of an hour fighting with the five-layer bars. Up until I tried to cut them they were perfect. They looked great (past tense), smell great, and taste great. But they'd fused themselves so solidly to the pan that cutting and removing them was next to impossible. In removing the ones I could I wound up wrecking the majority of them. This was definitely an alpha-test batch of bars.

In case you're curious the recipe for them is this: You'll need 1.5 cups of Cornflake Crumbs, one stick of butter, one cup of granulated sugar, one cup each of chocolate and butterscotch chips, 0.5 cups of chopped walnuts, 1.33 cups of flaked coconut, and one can of sweetened condensed milk. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. In a 13x9x2 inch pan mix the cornflake crumbs, granulated sugar, and butter (fully melted) as well as you can and press them down into a crust with the back of a spoon. Shake the chocolate and butterscotch chips evenly over the crust. Shake the walnuts over the chips and crust. Evenly spread the flaked coconut over the nuts, chips, and crust. Then evenly pour the sweetened condensed milk over all of that (sweetened condensed milk is more like syrup than actual milk; it's very thick and flows out of the can slowly so punch big holes in the can and drizzle it evenly). Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool. You'll probably want to use a nonstick pan for this recipe (or grease the pan before use) to keep the crust and milk from adhering to the pan. Cut into bars. Good luck with this recipe if you decide to try it.

Heads up, everyone - even thought the Homeland Security Act was passed something good (but minor) came out of it - the TIPS programme was quietly redacted by the same bill. The Justice Department took so much flak over it that they decided to cancel the Terrorism Information and Prevention System. Also, lines that would have created a national ID system (which is there anyway) and would have made a position called a "Privacy Officer" were taken out by the same bill. House Majority Leader Dick Armey pushed this bill through, stating that they were counter to the concepts of a free society. Yay, Dick. Even the TIPS website's gone now. Good riddance.

After upgrading almost the entirity of libSDL on Leandra I compiled Freedroid and I've been playing it for a while. It's got .mod file music... the droids print out dialogue messages occasionally.. the sound effects are cool. This game rocks all known sheep - download it and play it!

2002/12/04

Twelve degrees Farenheit when I got up this morning and still cold enough for cryogenic experimentation. I think I slept with four blankets last night just to stay warm. Having a nest that's got two external walls doesn't help keep the heat in, I'm sorry. I'd have slept in my lab if it wasn't for all the noise down there (like the furnace and the cooling fans). One of these days I'll get around to making the Children runtime quiet but gods only know when that'll happen.

I've got my datacomm final in a little under two hours. I really don't know what it'll be like; it's not supposed to have any Java programming on it so I'm pretty confident that I can handle it. The math's a bit shaky but I'm good with Boolean logic so that shouldn't be too much of a problem. It took a little while for the right gates to close inside my headware but once I realised that "one's complement math, no carrying" really meant "exclusive-or" everything got a lot easier all of a sudden. We'll see what happens soon.

I should throw a copy of PuTTY on a floppy disk some day and keep it in my satchel; I'm working out of one of the clusters again, this time on a WindowsFP (Fisher-Price) box and there isn't a copy of SSH to be found. I don't care if the college has a Kerberos v4 domain, if it's not enabled by default then I don't trust it. Besides, a Kerberos login won't help when I source out to other places (like the Network).

I don't know if this is legit or not but in this day and age you never know. There's a company in Atlanta, GA that's using neuromedical research to come up with new advertising techniques. The outfit's called the Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences, and basically what they're doing is performing MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of people's brains who are being shown various sorts of advertisements to see what parts of the brain fire the most. On one hand it sounds fishy to me - brain scans? On the other hand I might have an idea of what theory they're working with. Different forms of visual stimuli require different parts of the brain to process the information the visual cortex has translated into the brain's internal format(s). Advertisements that cause the most discrete parts of the brain to start processing at once (meaning that a large portion of the brain's actual data processing structures are working on the advertisement) or that cause selected parts of the brain to start processing (like the emotional centers, as the article talks about potential customers forming an emotional bond with a product) could then be analysed to see exactly what aspects of the advertisement are having the most effect. Once they know what's working the most they can start using it more heavily or in new ways to better get into the customer's head.

The Institute refused to say exactly which companies were backing this research, though they claim that they are some of the largest consumer product companies on the planet, so that suggests the conglomerates who are into pretty much anything on a supermarket shelf. It pays to diversify, I guess, though I'd hate to manage an outfit like that. Anyway, Adam Koval (executive, the Brighthouse Institute) says that this has nothing to do with manipulating the thoughts of consumers. What is advertising for, then, if not manipulating the thoughts of prospective consumers to buy your product. Advertising makes people think that a certain product is really neat, very useful, good to have because it makes you fit in better with/stand out from your peers, or necessary to keep moving forward in life. Whether or not the consumer in question really needs the product is immaterial, but then things turn into an argument for reducing one's life by removing extraneous influences, but that's not my aim here. Anyway, I'm not sure I like how this is going... advertising by nature is subtle but this is bordering on devious. In a sick sort of way I'm very impressed - assuming that this isn't just a scam to bilk a few corporations out of a lot of money.

One thing you'll find interesting - on the very last page of the article (there are only two) are a few links to other sites about advertising. One of them is Adbusters. *smirk*

One final down, one to go. The data communications final was a rough one, I've got to admit. I didn't even hit every question and started running out of time; every last question on the exam was either an essay question or required table manipulation (lots of routing). In the last ten minutes of the exam period I wound up doing a quick cost/benefits analysis based upon the point values and complexity of each question; the last exam was curved so I figured "Why not? It couldn't hurt and it might help in the long run." I think I left seven or eight unanswered, which I'm disappointed with myself over (because I like doing things right, i.e., all the way through) but I'll take what I can get. If I pass I pass; I won't argue and I'll be happy with it. I managed to hit the high point-value questions and answer them as well as I could, that's really all that I can do.

2002/12/03

Holy drek, it's cold outside.

I got up early today to run some errands before settling down to study for my datacomm final and remembered the hard way what 16 degrees Farenheit (sans wind chill factor) feels like. The air's more than just cold right now, it's down right bitter; it cuts through your skin if you spend too much time outside. Hell, it's cold enough that even two shirts, a vest, a muffler, and my leather jacket can't keep enough body heat retained. It's like walking into a refrigerator. Folks, if you can at all help it, stay inside today.

The first order of business was getting my driver's license renewed. No sooner had I walked into the office and taken a number than it was called - zero wait state. I walked over, preened a bit to look presentable, and the picture was taken. Not even five minutes later my new license was ready, and I about fell over when I saw it - if the sex on the card didn't say 'male' you wouldn't know what you were looking at. Does my hearts good, that. I'm actually amazed at how neutral my appearance was in that image. I still hate my smile, though, it feels like a rubber mask.

Next was running around to pick up stuff to start cooking for everyone. Aldi's produce isn't all it could be, in fact it's scarcely anything at all, but if you need to get ten pounds of flour, five of brown sugar, and enough chocolate bars to not only make enough s'mores to keep the munchkins going but to make a few chocolate chunk recipes for less than $20us, that's the place to go. If it wasn't for the electric griddle that I picked up to make breakfast on in the morning (as well as sundry other things for times when the kitchen's packed with other dishes in production) I would've walked out of there only $25us poorer rather than $50us. It's definitely the place to go to stock up for the holidays. Find your local branch and pay them a visit.

Giant Eagles, on the other hand.. something weird's going on there. First of all the electric doors ignored me completely walking in, I almost broke my nose against the glass thinking that it would open as I approached. That's never happened before, and machines like me. Second, the lottery counter was closed because the dialup terminal they use wasn't working, so I couldn't play my grandfather's lottery numbers for tonight. Third, the anti-shoplifting archway went off as I walked into the store with nothing at all on me instead of going off if I'd tried to steal something. That has been happening all day, the manager tells me... and someone went to a lot of trouble to hide the cornflake crumbs behind the croutons and salad toppings in the bread aisle. I mean a lot of trouble - it took five minutes of digging (and thirty of wandering around the store wondering where they'd been moved to). I thought there'd been a run on cornflake crumbs for a while there. This is more weirdness in one location than I'm used to experiencing, even at a gather.

Something I've been meaning to talk about lately... and if you're on any mailing lists or prowl around on any web boards you're bound to notice this as well. The vocabulary and diction of people these days has become quite poor. In at least one out of every five posts anywhere you're likely to find homonym errors (accidentally using words that sound alike but don't mean the same thing), spelling errors (not that I can say anything about that, I'm not perfect), and sentence structure that would make the English language scream if it could. I have to wonder if grammar and diction are even taught in school anymore. At the very least spelling should still be taught - is it graded? The vocabulary of the average American is shrinking steadily as well; I do not count jargon relevant to someone's career within this argument. Multisyllablic words are an endangered species these days. Is the loss of complexity and desnsity of information fortelling something?

Update for you: Take a look at the homepage of the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund. A notice just came down the wire in their 3 December 2002 newsletter about the 441 ravers busted in Racine, WI for attending a benefit concert. The first 206 people cited were scheduled to enter pleas in court. As it stands now, 19 plead "no contest" in exchange for a reduction of their fine to $100us; 147 plead "not guilty" and actually demanded trials; 40 failed to appear and were found "guilty" by default. My hearts go out to the 147 who are standing up for their right to gather and make their voices heard - sock it to 'em. The Wisconsin arm of the ACLU is pushing for the court to dismiss the charges of disorderly conduct against the defendents. More updates as they come.

This just in - a group of political activists in South Korea are mailbombing whitehouse.gov's primary mail exchanger with junk. Their actions are a response to the deaths of two schoolgirls in a vehicle accident (they were run over by a US military transport) back in June. Guys, a) you're a couple of months too late, and b) do you really think that Bush cares that his spam is coming in more slowly than usual? Does anyone think that any e-mail sent to the president or vice-president even get any attention? Also in regard to the same incident, four people were arrested while trying to break into a US military installation in South Korea (I'd worry more about these guys) and the US Embassy in Seoul was being marched on by 300 protestors; predictably the protest was broken up.

It's not just the Middle East that's angry at the US, that's for sure.

I'm not sure what to make of this. There is a petition to alter the Homeland Security Act to make Poindexter's Total Information Awareness inititive null and void. Oh one hand I'd LOVE to see this idea go the way of the dodo, disco, bustle and corset combinations, and the Colecovision, but on the other hand I really worry that when this petition, with its signatures, is passed on to the people who need to see it most, every name on it'll appear on a "get this asshole" list somewhere (see the below entry for 2002/11/19 for details), and then a lot of people will be thoroughly screwed, perhaps targetted. I really don't want to wind up on a list like that...

Questions? Comments? Please let me know, I'm still undecided.

Okay.. back to good things. distributed.net announced another competition today, RC5-72. For people not into cryptography, this means that their next parallel super-distributed computing project will be to crack a string of text encrypted with the RC5 algorithm and a 72-bit key. They're using a known plaintext attack because the first few words of said encrypted string are "The unknown phrase is..." (or at least I think that's the string, I just lost that hyperlink.. dammit). Still, there's no way of knowing how long it's going to take.. ladies and gentlemen, start your CPUs.

2002/12/02

It's damnably cold outside, too cold for any sort of comfort. I'm staying in the union as much as possible to keep my exterior from freezing solid. It is an odd sort of chill on the air, much more bitter and pervasive than normal for this time of year though the actual temperature was only around freezing when last I checked. It might be the wind; I can't much feel that through my coat though I feel the loss of stored heat. It might just be disorientation; I've not been sleeping well lately, which is actually entirely my fault for once. Drinking too much coffee while studying and going to bed later than I really should have over Thanksgiving break have not helped any.

Wired Magazine (home of the pretty multicoloured striped page bars) is running an article on the MacIntosh userbase. It's actually kind of interesting, how it talks about Mac users becoming fanatics for their platform of choice. Mac loyalty; Mac pride; Mac addiction... how about people just finding something that works for them, and something that they really like to boot? I really can't see people treating Steve Jobs as a cult leader to be accurate.. but then again if you hang out in some places long enough fans/devotees of Richard M. Stallman come pretty close. I can think of a few other sorts of fans that are as amazingly cliquish and self-organizing as the Deadheads, though. That's not a bad thing by any means; I'm just saying that it works the same way. I must confess, I really don't get the whole "even if Apple went under, I'd still use my Mac" thing. I'll tell you why, too: I'm the same way with my Commodore-64, and I don't know why I'm like that. Let's say, for a moment, that Apple really did go out of business in the early 1990's. No more Macs, no more MacOS, almost no hardware made for the Mac anymore, much less software than before written and released for the Mac. What would possess devoted users to not start looking into alternatives?

Beats the hell out of me. I might be way off base here but I think it fits in with the manner in which they think and the way in which they solve problems. The UI of a Mac is a simple thing; the learning curve is much less than that of Windows and there's less to screw around with to get things done. If you want to start mucking around with the stuff under the hood you can do so pretty easily, but by and large you really don't have to (or if you're in a school lab, like I am as I'm writing this, you really can't do that anyway without breaking a few laws and the lab monitors hitting the fire suppression system to take you out). I'm really not sure what the attraction is, I've got to be honest with you. I'm interested in hearing from Mac users out there why they're so dedicated to the platform, however.

I'm going to cut this update off here for a while. I should be cramming for my datacomm final on Wednesday. Updates to come later this evening, as they are made available.

2002/12/01

It's still snowing. It's 0046EST as I write this, and everything's coated with a fine layer of white outside. I don't think it's stopped since yesterday afternoon; I don't know, I've been downstairs the entire time.

Got up this morning and it'd stopped snowing. A good bit of the snow is gone now, which might not be such a bad thing given that tomorrow starts the last week of classes. Yay.

At some point today I'm going to start figuring out what I'm going to bake for everyone to give as gifts; there's no point in hiding it any more, I don't think I'll be able to afford much in the way of presents but I have more than enough recipes to keep people well fed and on a sugar buzz until the New Year. A few of you probably read this memory log so please e-mail me privately if you've got any allergies I should know about (like nuts, peanut butter, or something like that), I'd hate to see someone accidentally get sick because I wasn't careful.

True to form, the state of the world's pretty poor right now. The situation in the Middle East is one of bombings, attacks, and missile runs against towns and people. So much, in fact, that I'm not even going to bother putting individual commentary up here, just bounce over to Google News and see what's happened in the past day or so. It never fails, the Yule season is the perfect time for conflicts that've been going on since before the Common Era to flare up and for hundreds, if not thousands of people to die all at once.

Guys, you just don't get it, do you? The only reason that you've been fighting for so many years, hell, centuries, is that you keep striking back at one another. Instead of calling it quits you retaliate again and again, each time pissing off the other side even more so that they do something else to you... it's pretty obvious that you (in the general sense of the Middle East) live in the Land of the Blind, because an eye for an eye's claimed every working optical pickup in the entire region. Now you're just flailing in the dark at one another, and to boot you're harming innocents in the process. If you really want to take each other out, then do it right - blow up the entire area, kill everyone, scorch the Earth so that nothing will live there for five or six generations.. then you'll have peace, and your spirits will have the lands that you've coveted for so long.

Actually, that probably won't work, because you'll just keep fighting on the Other Side, doing the same damned things over and over again.

I hate to say it but this is very much the truth. Being a techie at work is hard on the wrists and hard on the nerves. As for it being highly compeditive I can't vouch for that because that hasn't been the case with the companies I've worked for in the past. If the article's talking about competition between individual employees, I havn't really seen anything like that. If it's talking about competition between companies as a whole then yes, the market is very neck-and-neck: Release dates can make or break a product because customers as often as not jump on the first package they see that'll fix a problem they're having internally or that will allow them to do business as usual in a timely manner. The article doesn't talk about the cracker vs. administrator wars, which are pretty much constant no matter how you look at it. Deadlines and release dates are the Sword of Damocles no matter how you look at it; code's got to be written and debugged and anything standing in the way of that usually winds up with a few metaphorical holes in it, made by the developers who have a job to do and will get it done, dammit. I admire full time developers for that; that kind of resolve and determination amaze me to no end. As for a lack of job security, this is also very much true. I've seen it too many times to not worry about it myself even though I'm an admin and not a developer - if you can't do the job they hired you for then you'll be replaced by someone who can, and the company cutting you loose won't think twice about it becuase they're interested in results, not attempts. And because the tech market's tight right now, there's an excellent chance that your replacement will be someone who'll do the same job you were, maybe for a bit less than they were paying you simply because day to day life requires income, and when you don't have a job income of any sort is a welcome thing.

It's a fact of life: Basic self-interest (i.e., normal living) will make you do a lot of things that intellectually you'll hate yourself for, and selling yourself short is something that can make the difference between being able to make the rent this month and your landlord throwing you out onto the street and changing the locks behind you. It isn't pretty; it isn't fun; it is a constant danger when job security means that you're just a replacable component. Just like everyone else. Just like me.

As Charles Hoy Fort once wrote, "I think we're property."

Greetings, readers from the Defence Science Organisation! And a special Open Source hello to my readers from microsoft.com!

2002/11/30

Due to burnout and studying for a final I havn't written much here today. Last night I had a few folks over for an experimental BESM (Big Eyes Small Mouth) game based around Serial Experiments Lain. I borrowed the BESM core book from one of the guys I play Shadowrun with occasionally and gave it a try. Character generation was remarkably fast and we all got up to speed in very little time at all. After running a short prelude I started the scenario off. This is the first time I've ever tried to run a game so I was surprised at how well things went. It's got a lot of potential, I hope I can keep it going through break. Afterward we went out for coffee and wound up driving around most of the city to find a coffee shop that wouldn't require an organ donor card to sell up a cup (you know what chain I'm talking about), and we wound up finding one that had free wireless net.access for its customers. Whoop. True to form Kabuki synched with the local AP for all of three minutes so I spent the rest of the time goofing around and getting torqued. I guess it saves my wrists in the long run. After that we decided to watch Ice Age, a CG movie that I'd honestly never heard of (then again I don't watch television so I missed the commercials) and wound up enjoying throughly. The animation was fantastic in the movie, down to the rippling of the muscles of the tigers. Amazing job they did on the objects. The fur was cartoony by design so I can't really comment on it, but I will say that it fit the general style of the movie quite well, it didn't detract from the movie at all.

To take a break this afternoon from studying I decided to go out and do a little more Yule shopping for everyone. I picked up a couple of things from Barnes & Noble and was quite surprised to find that the Party Store (yes, that is the name of the store) still had Halloween stuff in stock. Mental note: Return soon to stock up. I was rather surprised to note the dark clouds rolling in from the northern horizon and the combination of snow and hail that started coming down not long after. It is the season, I suppose, but around here weather that actually matches the season is always a surprise. It's still snowing as I write this, in fact.

Sadie the dog is still driving everyone nuts around the house. She's a very high-maintenance dog, she demands a lot of attention and a lot of upkeep. She also doesn't know her own strength and almost knocks you over when she decides to ask for a hug. She's a nice dog and all but... I really can't wait until her owner picks her up. She's driving me nuts. Why is it always during finals??

2002/11/29

Whoever said that turkey helped you sleep must have had an odd metabolism.. I didn't get to sleep last night until 0300 or therabouts. Turkey keeps me up like no other if I'm not careful. Then again I'm just a freak of nature.

Speaking of eating birds, this is just childish. PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has assembled a network television commercial that relates the eating of turkey to terrorism. Guys, they're turkeys; they're bred such that they probably can't survive in the wild; they don't serve a purpose in the food chain aside as human foodstuff; shut the hell up and eat dinner. The fact that you're accusing people who ate turkey yesterday of being terrorists is nothing more than cheap theatrics to try to shame or scare people instead of intelligent discourse. If you don't like it, fine, don't eat it. But trying to make me give up eating turkey with such an ill-thought ploy just makes me want to go upstairs and have another turkey and chopped ham sandwich; if you're going to be reactionary then so am I. Apparently it's the only thing you'll listen to. The fact that you're jumping on the "terrorism is bad, mm'kay - if you're not for us then you're against us" bandwagon like every other PAG (political action group) out there doesn't make me respect you any more, in fact it makes me lose respect for you because you're acting like sheeple (ironic, that) and not using your brains to come up with something intelligent and coherent. And if you're really against eating meat then I strongly suggest that you read Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

Don't waste food, folks.

The latest version of the Linux kernel, v2.4.20, has been released and is now available at most if not all of the usual places. Leandra's downloading from a United States mirror right now and the transfer speed's bulldogged, so word's definitely gotten out.

For everyone who's curious I removed the extra user ID from my GnuPG key and re-set the primary UID. You shouldn't notice anything but a different "Encrypted from" response in messages from me. This is minitiuae; carry on.

Okay... now stuff like this really pisses me off. There is a case in the California courts which could repeal your Miranda rights. "You have the right to remain silent; if you give up that right..." You know the drill, the case of Miranda vs. the state of Arizona thirty-six years ago, where an arresting officer has to inform you of your rights as you're being taken into custody. It's in jeopardy right now. The case that this Kuro5hin article is talking about probably has the designation "Oliverio Martinez vs. Oxnard, CA", if you want to do some reading up on it. I won't get into the specifics of the case (the article does a better job than I ever could) but I will get to the heart of the matter, which is that the town of Oxnard, CA is trying to say that people do NOT have the right to be free of coercive interrogation. Their premise is that the fifth amendment only matters during your trial; it doesn't apply any other time. If this goes over it'll set a nasty precedent; it'll basically reverse Miranda v. Arizona. What could happen after that I really don't want to speculate on, mostly because I'm afraid of the most likely possibilities (like the possibility of the old standbys of telephone books and rubber hoses being used to extract information from detainees). Oddly enough, there appears to be a law on the books from back in 1968 that says that confessions acquired from suspects who haven't been appraised of their legal rights are admissible in court; as far as I know this law hasn't been invoked lately, if ever, but I'm not a legal eagle. If they know about this law then they might try to invoke it in court. In case you're interested (and who wouldn't be?) here's a set of Miranda resources that you might want to look through. They're short and easy to read, and might make good food for thought after all that leftover stuffing for dinner tonight.

2002/11/28

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

Getting up at 0900 isn't too bad if you set your alarm (it beats insomnia). It's when you've got sixty pounds of dog bouncing on you because she probably doesn't like the sound of your alarm clock, on the other hand, that the morning takes a sour turn. I'm still sore from playing with her yesterday - it's amazing how hard paws can hit when their controller doesn't realise her own strength. Sadie's a good dog but she hits hard.

You know what? It's Thanksgiving.. I'm really not in the mood to harp about the stuff happening internationally today. You need a break; I need a break; everyone watching television needs a break.

The turkey's in the oven for the next couple of hours and I just finished the stuffing side dish (sausage stuffing, don't'cha know). The rest of today is looking like a no-brainer until the turkey finishes baking, which should be another four hours or so. We made a little too much of the stuffing vegetables though. The stuffing's got the perfect consistency and if we try to use them up it'll just turn into mush and probably not bake through the way it's supposed to. I get the feeling that it'll take at least a couple of days of everyone nibbling at it to finish the leftover celery and onions. Oh, well..

Scientific American is running an article on their website today of gifts to get the technically minded in your family. There are some real gems here, like the Watson/Crick double helix bracelet, and it's even affordable ($15us, maximum) and the Midas remote control wristwatch (which would be a lot of fun in boring classes in high school - long story). Some of these devices would be highly useful in day to day life, others would be just amusing (which is an end in itself). Generally speaking, places like Jinx Hackware and Think Geek would be good places to start your holiday shopping for cybs.

If I had a way of altering the configuration of the e-mail server at my ISP, I think I'd blacklist the entirity of rackspace.com, I get so much spam from servers in that IP address space that it's not even funny. "I say we LART the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure," to paraphrase Hicks from Aliens.

We tried the lemon merangue pie tonight. The crust came out fine; the merangue itself was perfect; the lemon filling was good but didn't set at all. I think the problem was that I didn't use enough corn starch and when I added the lemon juice I didn't turn the heat back on under the filling. It tastes great but that's the only glitch. Next time I know what to try. As for the cranberry sauce that I forgot to put in the fridge, ten minutes in the freezer set it nicely.

2002/11/27

Studying for finals is going well now that Thanksgiving break has begun. There's a lot of material to cover for the first exam (which happens to be data communications) so I am trying to cover at least one chapter (about two hundred pages) every day. It took some time to get up to speed but I seem to be making good time in that respect. I also did some last minute shopping for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow (I seem to do a lot of shopping on my days off) and picked up the stuff to make lemon merangue pie (from scratch, not a kit). I've never made a pie from scratch before (I seem to do a lot of baking, too..) so it'll be an educational experience. I'll let you know how it goes.

For some reason I've benen taking out my frustrations on spammers lately. I normally get sixty to seventy pieces of UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail) to my ISP account every day so I typically make four or five passes through the server in a day's time: Multiple passes to delete spam and the last to read whatever real e-mail that came in that day. Because the signal to noise ratio is so low it's really not worth the time to delete all the spam just to go back and read three real messages. Sickening, no? So I've been reading headers, abusing the host and whois utilities, and sending complaints all over the place. Enough's enough; there's no one around to take my frustations out on so people who waste so much of my time will have to do.

This just came down the RISKS-L digest.. eBay's servers support SSL for encrypting communication between user and server, that's a given. Changing one's password is considered a positive security measure, that's also a given. But the fact that the new password you key in ISN'T sent via SSL makes it all a moot point... take a look at the latest digest if you're curious, I don't have the link handy because I subscribe to the mailing list. In other RISKS news, people who use NT systems to access a home directory shared via Samba might want to be careful if they store their profiles in their home directory, especially if they use roaming profile support. In the same edition of the RISKS-L digest someone reported that when they'd logged out, NT saved their settings but good... it wiped their home directory and replaced it with the standard C:\Documents and Settings\Users\Default User\ directories. Everything else was torched. This is getting ugly.

Beth Israel Medical Center of Boston, MA was hit with a massive network outage not too long ago. The networking infrastructure which supports two buildings and multiple campuses and satellite offices was knocked on its butt due to a massive glitch in the routing arrangement (called a spanning tree) that their hardware had worked out for itself. As a bit of background, one of the neat things about a lot of networking hardware these days (like network bridges, switches, and hubs) is that it can be plugged in, jacked into the network, and turned loose, and it'll figure out how to route data packets by talking to the other networking hardware on the network. Routers, which must be configured by the network admins, don't work like this. Anyway, the switching hardware accidentally built what's called a routing loop, which is when datagrams circulate among the network infrastructure endlessly instead of reaching their destination. The traffic builds and builds until the entire network is wedged solid. It happens occasionally with the spanning tree protocol, but this is the worst incident I've ever heard of. Their answer to this scenario I must disagree vehemently with, however - they want to add a second, parallel network that will take over in the event this ever happens again. If their primary net gets stuck in a routing loop again and they try to cut over to the second net, there's an excellent chance that it'll happen to the secondary net as well. One way I think would work better to avoid this would be to remove some of the hardware that relies on the spanning tree protocol (which is mostly ethernet bridges) and replace it with smaller routers (which must be explicitly configured). Yes, it'll be more of a pain in the ass to the admins in the short term (because routers must have their routing tables set up, for the most part, by hand) but in the long term it'll make for a more stable infrastructure because there will be less that sets itself up and more that can't be messed up by accident due to autoconfiguration. They need to take some of their operation and some of their faith in autocofiguration out of the hardware and put it in their people.

At least, that's what I'd do. Then again I'm a control freak.

Kabuki's "n" key has been fixed but it sticks occasionally and doesn't register occasionally. It's getting annoying.

So we're taking care of my progenitor's boss' dog, Sadie, for the Thanksgiving holiday. Sadie's a hyperactive dog of some refined breed, I don't know which one. She's built like Gumby, all tight lines and wiry muscle, sixty pounds of hyperactive canine. She's not a bad dog, she just needs to calm down some. She begs to be let out every hour or so, whether she needs to go or not. We think that there's something outside that she keeps wanting to investigate; I think it's the dog next door because she keeps running over to the fence between our yards and sniffing around. A couple of hours ago Ziggy, my cat, finally came out of hiding to come downstairs for a while; Sadie caught her scent and followed her. Sadie was just trying to be friendly; Ziggy paniced and went after Sadie. I got Sadie pulled out of the way just in time before she lost an eye. Ziggy's in hiding and hasn't come out since. If I was her I wouldn't blame her at all. Right now she's back in hiding and I seriously doubt that she'll be out anytime before sunrise.

Well, I finally got around to setting up an AIM account. I don't ordinarily use IM utilities because I'm never jacked when everyone else is, but if you need to get hold of me, search for the AIM screenname "PanzerNeko" and I'll get back to you.

2002/11/26

Lacking anythign resembling a plan today I decided to hit the bank and do some more Yule shopping. I had to drum up some funds for next semester because I'm going back full time and then I decided to cruise around a bit to see what I could find. This time I hit up Borders for gift ideas. After nosing around a little bit (and finding, much to my dismay, that McKenna's Archaic Revival is out of print) is reached out into the rest of the mall for ideas. Unfortunately there wasn't much else out there, at least for folks I know. I might have to do some planning.

The largest ring of identity thieves to date has been caught and busted. The suspects (with the help of a mole in the organization Teledata, a company that allows banks to access the credit agencies' databases) took over the identities of over 30,000 individuals and ripped off over $2.7 million US dollars in cash and credit. Almost all of the victims will be able to recover financially, though somehow I don't think their credit histories will be wiped clean, which will still screw them in the long run.

On Monday, 25 November 2002 George Bush junior signed the Department of Homeland Security into existence. Terrorist threat detection through information analysis is their mode and modus, and they're going to be hooking into the information net of the United States to make this happen... the ACLE, the Federation of American Scientists, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are rightly concerned that the sub-offices of the DHS are exempt from any sort of public review or access via the Freedom of Information Act. We won't know what in the hell they're up to until it's done and over with, if indeed we ever find out. That's enough to make you stay up late at night worrying..

This really pisses me off... I get a lot of spam to my primary (ISP) account from various places on the Net.. because I had some free time today I decided to strike back at the spammers by alerting their ISPs to what they were doing, forwarding the messages with the headers, the usual rigamarole. Then I recieve a confirmation back from a company called Mindshare Design which is an ISP for marketers. Yep, marketers. They claim that they removed my address from their advertising lists and that the company that wasn't using "an opt-in list only" has a complaint registered against it, but I'll believe it when I see it. Somehow I just don't trust a company that's an ISP for spammers. If they're serious about doing opt-in work only then they might not be a rogue ISP but I'm seriously considering doing a zone transfer on their domain and then dropping the entire network block into my firewall rules.

Earlier this week the largest comsat constructed to date, the Astra-1k, was lost due to a misdeployment. The comsat was injected into an orbit too close to Earth and will probably burn up upon reentry at some point. As it stands now it's useless for relaying traffic. At least it was insured (for $217 million US)..

2002/11/25

So much for the pleasantly warm weather this weekend past, we're now back to 30 degrees Farenheit and multiple sweatshirts. I just walked downstairs past the doors to the lab and was nearly cut in two by the wind. Not fun, especially when you're already wearing two shirts and cords.

Today feels kind of weird, I just finished two books in a row (Hesse's Magister Ludi (Nicole, I'll get it back to you next game) and my data communications textbook). I feel like I accomplished something for a change this week. Now I've got to start studying for my first final (data communications), which coincidentally will be given on the last day of class. At least it's not the same day as my other final exam, thank the gods.

This isn't good - UltraDNS was hammered by DoS attacks this weekend past. UltraDNS is a company that does large scale DNS hosting for very large organizations, such as national ISPs, multinational companies, and probably a few distributed networks as well. I wonder who's trying to take out the Net from the bottom up? Ladies and gentlemen, start your local caching DNSes. I think we'll be needing them.

Once again the panspermia theory made it into the news today. Essentially, the panspermia theory states that life may have been brought to Earth in the form of spores or dormant bacteria that were trapped within meterorites that landed on earth billions of years ago. The theory was first put forth back in 1864 by Lord William Thomson Kelvin of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and it's been steadily evolving (heh) ever since. In 1903 a scientist named Svante Arrhenius proposed that such spores may not have hitched a ride in on meteorites at all but floated through space on their own; Terrence McKenna spoke about this theory as well in the years preceeding his death in 2000. Arrhenius, incidentally, gave the theory its name. In the 1990's the Russian reusable satellite FOTON conducted several experiments in which soil samples infected with the common bacterium bacillus subtilis were sent into space in the BIOPAN apparatus and exposed to hard vacuum and hard solar radiation for weeks at a time. Bacteria exposed to hard solar radiation were often nonviable due to the ionizing properties of ultraviolet radiation but bacteria that had been shaded somehow from direct radiation (such as within the soil sample itself) tended to have a 50% to 97% viability rate. Later experiments with bacteria exposed to solar radiation showed a significant survival rate - read the article, I've got to move on.

It appears that the Speak Freely project isn't dead after all. This evening a project called Gspeakfreely appeared on Freshmeat. It appears to be only a voice-over-IP system, however, there is no encryption support. On second thought, you might want to consider sticking with the original Speak Freely, though I don't know if it's been updated to work properly with the v2.4 Linux kernel series yet. I do know that if you hit the link at the very bottom of the page you'll be able to download Speak Freely v7.5. I havn't tried it yet but I'll give it a shot and see how it works on the v2.4.19 kernel. If it's usable I'll write it up.

2002/11/24

Last night I went to a GnuPG public key signing party. About six of us got together to verify the fingerprints of each other's public keys face-to-face and then sign said public key on our public keyrings such that we state that the key of such-and-such is a valid key and that it should be trusted. On top of that, anyone with one of our public keys on their 'ring can download the key of one of the people we say that we trust and it'll be listed as having so many signatures on it, which gives it a certain inherent level of trustworthiness. The upshot of this is that we verified that the keys came from the people who claimed to have created them. If anyone's looking for my key you can find it by keying my e-mail address on the Network into pgp.mit.edu and it should return to you my GnuPG public key (key ID number 807B17C1).

After that it degenerated into a party but at least we got done what we needed to get done. Life was good. Many s'mores were eaten. I'm still wondering why people insist on drinking Corona with wedges of lime stuffed down the necks of the bottles. Pizza was baked and consumed, too. I'm now speaking in short, sometimes broken sentences at the memories. *grin*

Life isn't so good at the University of Oslo (in Norway), however. System crackers managed to compromise their network so thoroughly that 52,000 passwords were stolen. Dozens of computers are scheduled for software reconstruction as a result. Ouch.

AMD is going to concentrate less on PC processor cores and more on other aspects of the computer industry in an effort to broaden their horizons. It's been neck and neck between AMD and Intel for months now and I think AMD's tired of playing games. The only down side is that if AMD stops competing with Intel as heavily as they were before, Intel will have less incentive to improve their processor cores but I can't see them lowering their prices to match. Basically more money for upgrades that really don't do that much more for you (sound familiar?). The race to improve will be less for innovation and more for just making a buck. I rather like watching the fight between AMD and Intel, it keeps them honest and the fruits of their fight benefit the end users.

The Flesh Public Library of Dayton, OH installed on its net.access systems filtering software to prevent users from looking up questionable content on the Net. They didn't realise that Net Nanny would block out their own website as a result. Instead of reconfiguring Net Nanny, however, they decided to change their domain name (from fleshpublic.lib.oh.us to piqua.lib.oh.us) to get around the restriction. Way to go, guys... what if someone's been diagnosed with prostate cancer and wants to do some research?

Greetings to readers at the International Atomic Energy Agency!

2002/11/23

Last night Lowmagnet and I spent the evening wandering around. We stopped in for dinner at Sushi Tomo, down on McKnight Road. That was the finest sushi I think I've ever had, it even tops going to Mayumi-san's for dinner up at IUP. The windows are now panelled over, which minimises distractions. I rather like the idea of not having to see or listen to evening traffic while I'm trying to eat. The food was fresh, the wasabi freshly ground and mixed, and the waitress most patient with someone still learning the names for everything (it was me, I'll admit). The tea was a little on the weak side but it was supposed to be, I think. The fish was most definitely the centerpiece of the meal. If and when I get the money together I will definitely return in the future.. their prices are very reasonable (a one-man sushi platter is only $18.95us) but with little income that can be a sizable amount.

After that we played mallrat and window shopped for the Yule season. I've got a couple of ideas for things to get other people though I plan on baking for a lot of people in liu of buying gifts to give away. I'm going to do a bit of running around today and pick some stuff up but cooking's the way to go on a limited budget, I'm afraid. I much prefer making things from scratch anyway - it's more fun and you learn more.

Verizon has gone to federal court to get out of not being able to share details of their customers' call histories with other companies. Verizon is currently prohibited from using their customers' calling histories to suggest services to said customers; likewise they are prohibited from selling data gleaned from callers' histories to other companies for marketing reasons. They were hoping to allow customers to opt out if that was their decision, but current laws cover all customers, whether they want to or not. Personally, I really don't mind if they want their customers to opt out. I'm a Verizon customer myself (my net.connection was provisioned from them by Telerama, my ISP (mental note: future song filk?)) though that isn't for telephone service; anyway if I was a customer of their phone service, and I, say, happened to make a lot of cross-state calls and they offered me a long distance plan that would save me money on those calls, the opportunity to save a few bucks would definitely get my attention. As for selling calling info to other companies that I disagree with. Who a customer makes telephone calls to is between the telco's billing computers, the caller, and the callee. Nobody else. I just hope that they make it well known, in no uncertain terms, that such a thing is going on and that it can be opted out of easily. Always give 'em that option.

Yahoo! is currently in court right now to uphold their decision to search the private e-mail of one of their users without a search warrant to 'assist' the police by minimising the paperwork they must get hold of. On Monday, 18 November 2002 the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge's earlier decision that such a search violated the suspect's rights. Frankly, I'm not sure what to make of this... on one hand I don't mind seeing a child pornographer get nailed in court at all; on the other hand such a precedent could reach farther than just this case, into the lives of anyone with a Yahoo mail account. I've got to think about this one for a while.

I just got back from Yule shopping about an hour ago. It's nuts Out There. The roadways into the major shopping districts are jammed with cars trying to get to the malls in decent time; finding parking is next to impossible. It was like watching a pack of sharks circling a school of fish, waiting for a chance to dart in and snarf up a couple. Once you get in the malls really aren't so bad. There's just enough people wandering around to make things interesting, there's lots to listen to. The smells of mulled cider and cinnamon roasted peanuts don't hurt, either. I never thought I'd enjoy walking around among people so much. Maybe I'm mellowing in my old age. *grin*

While on my shopping expedition I picked up a couple of gifts for my family and for some friends. They were near the tops of their respective lists so I figured that I'd better get them while they were still available. I also found the second volume of the X/1999 OAV (Original Animated Video) and (much to my surprise) the live action movie Parasite Eve, which I'd never expected to find so soon in the US. Go, ADV Films. Given all the gear in my lab I've already hidden the presents as well as I can without losing them entirely. I'm planning on one, maybe two more shopping expeditions and then rounding off the list by firing up the oven to start cooking.

Here's an unusual personality test for you: What recreational drug are you? I wound up being cocaine.

2002/11/22

Class is over, once again, for the week. A blissful afternoon of reading and doing nothing at all awaits... knowing full well that it'll be swept away come finals so I'm saving my strength for the last blowout in a few weeks. Whee.

News for today, coming right up... broadband provider Buckeye Cable has called the FBI on twenty-three people who uncapped their DOCSIS units. Yep, they didn't just cut their service, they got them Jacksoned. Paul Shyrock, president of Buckeye Cable states that one customer was pulling 100 megabits per second across his link, even though cable access doesn't really go that high. One of the folks they raided was in the middle of developing a smartcard application for Windows Media Player DRM (whether or not the delay of such a project is a good thing or not I'll not attempt to discuss), and every system in his house save the one which actually modified the configuration of his DOCSIS unit was taken, even his VCR, his CD-ROMs (burned and not), a book he'd written... this is actually SOP for the FBI. They prefer to take too much rather than too little just to be on the safe side (for them). A friend of mine I'd attended school with a few years ago was raided and he showed me the copy of the warrant they'd given him, and it was worded in such a way that just about anything electronic could be taken because it might have been illicitly modified somehow. Then again, they also took his squirt gun and the milk crates he'd been keeping his books in.

The folks raided will probably never get their stuff back, though.

I just got an e-mail from Dreck, an old friend of mine. A friend of his has come into a Planar PC, which is an all-in-one computer system. It's a model C3012T, with a Pentium MMX 200MHz CPU, 32 MB of RAM, and a 1.33GB laptop formfactor hard drive which can be mounted on a wall or on a support strut of some sort (bracket included). If anyone's interested in checking out the manual you can download it from here. He's taken two pictures of it which you can check out here and here. If anyone's interested drop me a line and I'll put you in touch.

2002/11/21

This is cute.. The Random Anime Title Generator. Handsome Cat Girl Ouo 13 wasn't exactly the title I had in mind for my autobiography, though..

For whatever reason I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkein a few nights ago.. still can't understand what made me pick it up and try to read it (again) but this time I've actually managed to get into the storyline and Tolkein's style of writing. Maybe I've matured somewhat in the decade since I recieved it as a gift; I don't know. Anyway, I'm not arguing all that much, it's a good book, or at least what I've read of it is pretty good. At the rate I'm going I should have it finished by Sunday (allowing for homework and finishing the book I've been trying to finish all semester). I feel almost up to speed again.

Biologists and geneticists in Rockville, MD are planning to construct a single-celled organism almost from scratch. I say 'almost' because they plan on starting with an existing microbe, mycoplasma genitalium, and gutting it for its cell membrane (and presumably the organelles therein save the nucleus). M.genitalium is one of, if not the simplest lifeforms on this planet, weighing in at 517 genes in its DNA (though it can survive with only 300 of them active, though how they found that out I don't know). The Institute for Genomic Research plans on synthesising a new strand of DNA from scratch and installing it into the organism to see if it'll even survive, and if it will for how long and how well. And yes, they say that they're planning on killswitching it, so if it does escape from its culture somehow the organisms won't survive. The debate is already on over whether or not it'll truly be alive. I say it will be: It was once alive in that it was taking in energy in the form of that held in the interatomic bonds of chemical compounds; it was breaking those chemicals down to get at the heat energy and using it to sustain its own activities; it was (presumably) excreting the waste products of those activities; it was (presumably) actively seeking new sources of energy to fuel itself; it was obviously reproducing (probably via binary fission) to maintain its colony; less important but still worth considering are that the original microorganism was motile. I know, I know, "modern science and philosophy still cannot adequately explain what life is," but that's a definition that works for me right now. To get back on track if the genetic code that the IGR implants into the cell membrane is able to do most if not all of those things (I expect that they'll have a devil of a time making it reproduce on its own) then it'll be alive by that definition of the word. That would be a landmark event in human history.

Microsoft screws up - film at eleven. Internet Explorer has yet another critical security vulnerability, this one a buffer overflow which permits arbitrary code to be executed on the vulnerable system. Specifically it's a vulnerable ActiveX control which makes this possible. However, what's worse is that even if the patched ActiveX control is installed a vulnerable copy of the old code could be installed by an attacker which un-patches the system. Microsoft's answer to this? "Remove Microsoft from your trusted publisher list (a list of companies the code of whom you trust explicitly)." Which will break countless websites due to how low a level the MDAC (Microsoft Data Access Components) code runs in a system. Ouch.

Full text of the USA PATRIOT act available here at Politechbot.

For the second time in a week Pittsburgh, PA has made it onto Coast to Coast AM, usually hosted by Art Bell. First the sharks dying in the Pittsburgh Zoo's aquarium were mentioned just a couple of days ago, and on the 18 November 2002 show an elephant handler was killed by his charge during a routine walk-around. Pittsburgh's an unusual town but whenever something makes the Art Bell show I start wondering.

Song that best describes life right about now: Playgirl by Ladytron

More and more lately I've been wondering what's going on.

No, not with the usual stuff I've been blithering about in here, just stuff in general. I've been thinking about all the people I havn't heard from in weeks - where are they? What's going on? Are they busy right now? Do I just keep jacking in when everyone else isn't connected at the moment (seeing as how I connect fairly late in the evening this could actually be it..) E-mails vanish into the ether(net) - not a bad sign, to be sure, I've been known to let e-mail pile up for days until I make the time to actually go through it, so that's not what's bothering me. Maybe it's just my timing again, and I'm starting to second-guess myself per usual.

2002/11/20

After reading that message on the cryptography mailing list last night (see the end of the entry for 2002/11/19) I couldn't fall asleep. Could having an opinion on a subject that the government thinks is dangerous (unless it has sole use of it, like nuclear weapons) make someone a target? What if it was someone I know, or someone I care about? What if it was me that was a target just because I encrypt my private mail?

Special thanks to Prezzey-san for the correction - there is no Czechoslovakia anymore, only Czech and Slovakia. My bad.

Students for an Orwellian Society

And seeing as how today's taking on a decidedly darker cast I may as well continue the trend: The US Senate has appproved the Homeland Security Bill by a vote of 90-9. The bill calls for a major reorganization of the US government - 170,000 employees from 22 federal agencies will be reassigned (and presumably retrained) for this effort. Oddly enough the names of those who voted against the bill were posted (I'll reprint them here): Ted Kennedy (Democrat, MA); Paul Sarbanes (Democrat, MD); Jim Jeffords (Independent, VT); Daniel Akaka (Democrat, HI); Robert Byrd (Democrat, WV); Carl Levin (Democrat, MI); Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (Democrat, Disney) (not one of the people I'd expected to have voted against it, given his hard-on for the DMCA and copyright); Russ Feingold (Democrat, WI). The Senate successfully voted to strike an amendment that protects companies that develop anti-terrorism technologies from liability (basically, you can't sue the company that made your gas mask if their design was bupkis if you survive). Not a bad way to cover their butts. Whatever happened to accountability? Tom Ridge is heading up the effort.

2002/11/19

James Coburn - RIP.

At least now he doesn't have to keep living down Hudson Hawk.

Heads-up for people watching the international set. A small explosive charge was found by Czech police beneath a railroad track mere hours before George W. Bush was supposed to enter Prague for the NATO summit.

Why am I yapping about the news so soon? I just got up at 0900 and my brain is still in power-up mode. Best to start small and then work up to something interesting, no?

2600 Magazine's documentary, Freedom Downtime will be shown on the Dish Network this week. Free Speech Television will be showing the documentary on channel 9415 on the Dish Network. Hit the last link to see the broadcast schedule.

Speaking of 2600.com I just found a disturbing news article from 30 October. Okay, so I don't visit it as often as I should.. what else is new? Anyway, there's a website supposedly dedicated to the United States intelligence community called intelligence.gov and claims to speak for same, oddly enough. If you poke around a little on the site, though, you'll find a list of things they consider threats to the US, among them chemical and biological warfare (that's a given) and, oddly enough, websites. Yep, sites hosted on the Net, nothing more, are considered a threat to the information infrastructure of the United States. Political activism by nature is an activity, yes. That's people getting together to make their voices heard (whether or not it actually does any good). But just putting up a website is considered a direct threat? Since when?

I did a little looking around to see who's behind this website (perfectly legally, for you spooks, spies, and federal agents out there, I used the whois utility, which comes standard with many operating systems) and found that someone named David Wheelock was the technical and administrative contact for the site. The e-mail address listed for him points at another domain, ucia.gov, of which he is also the technical and administrative contact. But that's neither here nor there, I just thought I'd post that for the halibut. Anyway, the folks at 2600 put it far better than I ever could - since when is a website considered a threat? Putting up a webserver isn't the same as, say, blowing up a couple of telco COs, which would cripple a city's telecommunications but good. Someone's worried about the power that groups of people have collectively, I think.

This just came down the line on the cryptography mailing list: Seventeen members of the cypherpunks mailing list are on the Project Lookout list. Said list is a list of people suspected to be connected somehow to the events of 2002/09/11, and not on the side of the Feds (if this transcript is any indication).

I really don't see what advocating strong crypto has to do with Al Quaida taking out two buildings and nearly the Pentagon. It looks like Bush's government has its 'get these assholes' list just like Nixon's did, if only because they can and no one can stop them. I'm afraid.

2002/11/18

Today started off weird right from the get-go. After basic maintenance the phone on the main line rang; it was an emergency call from someone who had kept missing getting in touch with me all weekend (hint: I don't keep my cellphone on all the time, that's why I've got a land line) and needed to talk to me right then. This happened while I was trying to prepare lunch for today and drink my morning coffee. Then I noticed the DVDs that needed to be returned before noon today.. okay, fine. I can do that. Once I hung up the phone and had lunch packed and ready to go I remembered that I had to stop and withdraw some money for this week to cover parking. Remembering that I had to drop off the DVDs before that, I mentally added twenty minutes to my travel time to campus. DVDs returned I hit the bank and remembered that I had to get a transaction statement for something; that was another few minutes as the ATM pulled my up bank records.

By this time I was only worried about making it onto campus in time to find parking. The second half of my morning commute was interrupted by two police cars, a police motorcycle, a white truck with its lights going, and much to my surprise a SWAT armoured minitruck peeling out of the police station for parts unknown. Drivers normally stop and break a sweat when police cars with their lights and sirens are going are coming at you; it's only natural to think you've been popped for something or other (like your "bad cop - no donut" bumpersticker) when that enters visual range. But seeing a SWAT tactical vehicle running flat out is enough to make you pray you've hidden your stash decently, you've encrypted everything on you deck, and your breath is fresh and minty... just in case the cops don't like the fact you're looking at them. Thankfully they weren't after my biomechanical butt but were destined for parts unknown, some reasonable distance behind me. Hail Eris.

Luck was still with me as I was able to make it into my usual spot in my usual parking lot with plenty of space to spare. Circumstance dictated that I back into the spot to leave room for other people.. and scared the hell out of me when I managed it perfectly on the first try. I think I heard a trumpet sound this morning but I could be wrong. Not much of note happened until after lunch, when I decided to stop by the student union to donate blood. It's been just four days extra since the last time I'd given (Pagan Pride Day) so I just squeaked in there. A bottle of orange juice and a few cookies later (mmm... deceptively tasty white chocolate chip cookies...) On top of that the Cure was playing over the PA system in the donation area - again, the last thing I expected to come across today. And I'm now writing this update, which brings us up to the present. Looks like probability around me is going to be acting funny for a while.

Take cover, cats and kitties. ProdiGene, Incorporated is in some hot water with the US Food and Drug Administration because gengineered corn and soybean strains have been interbreeding with unaltered native strains. Due to the controvery over whether or not such foodstocks are safe for human consumption (though technically these strains aren't for consumption but the production of pharmaceutical compounds) the FDA has slammed a quarantine over the fields and is calling for the destruction of all infected crops. I'm just waiting for ProdiGene to sue the owners of the contaminated crops for patent infringement...

Another interesting news story - chess mastermind Bobby Fischer was monitored by US intelligence because his family was thought to be in cahoots with the Soviets during the cold war. The FBI was paranoid as all get out over the fact that Fischer's mother moved to Russia to study medicine and when Bobby Fischer was looking into flying to Russia to match wits with their chess masters the feds freaked. Not understanding the meaning of phone calls he'd made home they'd assumed that he'd been approached by Russian operatives for recruitment but rebuffed them. Still, it was reason enough to continue investigating his family for many more years.

What the hell?! Hollywood celebrities doing commercials in Japan?? That video of Kyle MacLachlin is horrifying...

2002/11/17

Got to sleep in today. Last night I went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with Ellen and Lu from LARP. It was an okay movie, aimed more at the younger set than people our age, but still watchable. If you're an adult who's been asked to take the younglings to see it the stuff going on in the background will probably keep you entertained while the kids are marvelling at Harry. A polymorph potion going awry made it all worth while as Hermione Granger was transformed into a felinoid.. the kitty was most pleased to see this. *grin*

At any rate the movie was fun to watch. I'd recommend waiting for it to come out for rental but if you'e a mind to sit in a theatre and watch it you wouldn't be wasting your money.

That aside today's been a slow day so far, and doesn't promise to speed up any, which I really don't mind. About the only thing going on today is catching up on homework, and that's about it. If anything interesting arises I'll probably post an update later.

This is rude...

Lacking anything better to do I decided to dismantle my old NES and try to repair it (following the directions on the page linked below, off of classicgaming.com. After fighting for a half-hour or so with the screws (which were locked solidly in place) I removed the top covers and exposed the pins in the cartridge slot. The trick is to use a very, very small screwdriver (like the smallest jeweler's screwdriver in the kit, if you have such a thing) and slide it under each pin in the slot (working from left to right) in turn. If you push the contact pin to the left a bit against the spacer notch next to it you can then slide the tip of the screwdriver underneath the pin; twisting the screwdriver slightly will bend the contact pin upward. Do this for each pin on the slot; it'll take a while. You can safely power the NES back up for testing without the top cover or the RF shield in place but I do suggest that you put the cartridge harness (which you push down) back in place and screw it down. Then power the unit back up. I managed to get it working on the first try. Then I put the RF shield and top cover back on for a test and it's working fine. I just played a couple levels of Robowarrior and it appears to be fine now. The instructions check out.

If you've ever wanted to cruise around randomly for interesting sites, check out URLspotting.com. You never know when you'll find something interesting around there.

Here's the last paper I expected to stumble across tonight: The profile of a statistically average Satanist. Broken down, the average Satanist is in his mid-twenties, unmarried, has been involved since high school, and averages seven years on the path. Usually Satanists enter the path out of rebellion and grow into it. Not far into the article a few of the personality traits of a Satanist adolescent are revealed and, interestingly enough, how they are often found in devoutly Christian or Catholic youths of roughly the same age: A lack of fear, guilt, and self-doubt, and an expression that "all the rules had changed." I hadn't expected that at all from an article like this; indeed, I can corroborate this as I was involved in Christianity for a time when I was younger, and a few of the people I was there with had expressed similiar sentiments. I'm inclined to say that it's not so much what religion or philosophy you follow as it is how deeply you understand it and internalise its teachings. A large portion of this paper is the actual breakdown of the people sampled, I won't talk about that because it's pretty self explanatory (though if anyone has any questions about basic statistics drop me a line and I'll do what I can to explain it if you like). I have to disagree, however, with the use of calling oneself a Satanist to shock people into thinking; while this may work rarely as a standard practise it only plays on human xenophobia and actually scares people's more analytical thoughts into shutdown. Exactly opposite the effect intended.

2002/11/16

Well today got off to a good start, though it blew a tire about a mile down the road. I was supposed to go on a road trip today to Nuke's farm (one of my ex-coworkers from Moai) to do some consulting work for him. I managed to get up at 0800.. had breakfast.. double-checked my gear... wrote down directions and figured out where everything was (for a change)... and then checked my voice mail. About a half-hour after I got up he left a message for me: "Please don't drive out today, I've got an emergency to take care of."

Dammit. I got up at 0800 on a Saturday for nothing.

Anyway, for the halibut I went grocery shopping with my folks if only to get out of the house for a while. Between being tired (getting up early) and a bit disoriented at having my plans for the day zapped, and trying to sort out what to do next I was in a bit of a low mood. I think that's okay now, or at least I feel better now that I'm writing, so I guess it worked out in the end. I just hate having my plans crashed like that, I have to sit and plan stuff out just to know what I'm doing. Flying by the tails of my longcoat aren't my favourite activity.

Oh ye gods.. here's a discussion thread about someone's iBook being infested by a colony of ants. It sounds to me as if they were after a certain combination of darkness, humidity, and warmth in which to form a new colony and a deck that had been running for a while fit the bill nicely. The spaces in between the circuit cards and wiring would be perfect ant tunnels.

Last night's LARP was most interesting - everyone banded together and rescued my primary character from the Greys. Most of the time I sat there watching everyone in amazement at how they not only planned but executed the rescue and compensated for one of the most most devious storytellers I've ever encountered. I really hope Jason gave all of them extra experience points, they worked masterfully.

Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes an article in Wired about photo manipulation and how difficult it can be to tell a doctor image from the real thing (and how amusing some images can be). It's not a technical article by any means, I'll tell you that right off the bat, but if you've ever wondered about the thought that goes into some of those files and whether or not people actually try to figure out if they're faked this'll be of interest to you.

Yesterday for the heck of it I broke out my old NES (Nintendo Entertainment System - yep, the 8-bit grey box) to play a few games to relax. Super Mario 3 played well modulo having to fight with it a couple of times before it came up (classic flashing blue screen) and the controls would spuriously misfire and pause the game occasionally. I wasn't able to play Robowarrior, Milon's Secret Castle, or anything else for that matter, so instead of screwing around with it I gave up and read a book for a while. But on a lark I did some websearching for an NES repair manual and came across this page at Classic Gaming about fixing just this problem. Basically, the cartridge connector pins are squished down and need to be flexed outward to make better connections with the contacts on the cartridge PC board. I'm probably going to give this a try later tonight to see if it makes a difference, and I'll let everyone know how it turns out.

2002/11/15

This weekend's looking like it's going to be a good one. Homework-wise everything is finished and out of the way, even my datacomm project due in two weeks. Hear me not complain overmuch about that. I just got home from class a few minutes ago and I'm now relaxing for the first time in a couple of days. Life's good sometimes.

And life continues to get better. The BBC has decided to remake the lost Doctor Who episode 'Shada' starring Paul McGann (insert bowing and scraping here). Originally 'Shada' began production in 1979 but a strike caused it to never be completed. The BBC has once again picked up production of the lost episode and will be transmitting it as a webcast in the spring of 2003. You know where I'll be that day...

For whatever reason I've decided to forgo the usual pleasantries today. For the halibut I'm doing my laundry and catching up on my reading, something I've not actively tried to do in a long time. What the heck. I don't feel like running my headware hotter than I have to today.

Boy, do I feel dumb. I'm hacking around with my wireless access point, in particular experimenting with MAC filtering for securing the waveLAN because WEP's so broken nobody can get a connection to my access point (good luck synching your deck with my LAN when WEP's running, I can't even get onto it!) and I was trying to get Kabuki to link up properly. WEP's off, MAC filtering's set up right, the MAC addresses themselves are typed properly... but nothing worked until I set the Authentication method to "none" instead of "shared key" for WEP. *sigh* Now that I've fixed that bug I'm pulling a sweet eleven megabits across the workbench. If I had any common sense the universe would be in a bad way indeed...

2002/11/14

Remember that news article I spoke of not too long ago, the one about the systems cracker that was busted in London for infiltrating over one hundred military networks in the United States? I found another article that sounds like it might be the same guy.. he was searching for information pertaining to the United States and UFOs. His input says that he has been obsessed with the topic for literally years and this was nothing new for him. In London he's looking at ten years in prison for this; the US is pushing for extradition.

In other computer security related news the US House of Representatives passed a bill which would give cracking computers a sentence of life in prison with a vote of 299 to 121. The Cyber Security Enhancement Act will be grafted onto the Homeland Security bill. The bill allows for the monitoring of Internet and telephone use without a prior warrant, among other refinements. These guys are gambling on the fact that the masses don't understand the difference between owning a Redhat v7.1 box that someone just threw onto a residential network and blowing up a dam to justify it to the public, assuming that the public even finds out about this. Funny how all these bills are passing but we never hear about them on the news...

Please read the text of this: the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, which makes the labelling of copy-protected and otherwise broken digital media mandatory so that the consumer can make an informed decision as to whether or not to purchase it. It also makes the mislabelling of such digital media illegal. It will also serve as a patch to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to re-legalise reverse engineering and hacking (in the true sense of the word) for the purposes of security analysis and use of said object in a manner that does not violate the copyright, if any, of the object. The EFF has a page set up so that you can contact your local representatives in Congress expressing your support for this bill. You know what to do.

Sometimes I wish I lived closer to where the action is. In searching for the homepage of an old friend (Autojack, where are you?) I happened across this website for a live stage production of Gibson's Burning Chrome. I've no idea how good it was or how it turned out because it was put on in Chicago, IL back in 1998. I wish I could have seen it.

I'm not sure if this article is a scam or not. It's about a supposed interview with one Mohammed al-Usuquf and a number of nuclear warheads smuggled into the United States. A few of the criticisms of the United States in this supposed interview are reasonably sound (such as the US ignoring the Kyoto Treaty), but anyone who pays attention to what's going on and the way things are going lately could figure them. They're not proof one way or the other of the truth of this article. The fact that al-Usuquf gave absolute numbers regarding the number of Al Quaida operatives around the world is shady. I can't see anyone in such a position giving away so much of the game. If the interview's legit I'd say he was lying; or the interview might be a hoax. As for nuclear warheads being smuggled into the US through normal shipping channels (in disguise, of course), I'm not sure that I can buy that. The laxity of Ameican security is one thing but I really don't think it's that loose. For one thing, if a nuke is about the same size as a refrigerator it would have a lot more mass than a fridge, and that would be noticed during unloading and storage. Uranium and plutonium are very dense metals and if they were hidden in a crate or housing the size of a fridge the difference in mass would tip off someone trying to move it. And if they're lead shielded, that's even more mass to the housing, which is still suspicious. The plans he related throughout the interview are too detailed for something so secret that they've slipped past national security for so long. Bragging about them now could easily blow the entire operation, and I doubt that he'd risk that if he were serious about it.

This could be a hoax; this could be deliberate misinformation on someone's part; this could be purloined letter-style truth; I really don't know. I'm inclined to say it's jetwash.

2002/11/13

So much for the heat wave... at 0800 this morning the temperature outside was 44 degrees Farenheit and showing no signs of going back up to a comfortable level. Back to the turtlenecks, sweatshirts, and leather jackets. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted.

Just when you thought the Gimp was just for altering photographs and honing your scripting skills along comes an article on Film Gimp to broaden your horizons. It originally got it start as a postproduction tool for retouching individual frames for later editing and compositing and grew into a serious tool for video editing and effects work. Read this article, you won't be sorry if you've ever wondered what goes into movie post production or what the entries on Freshmeat mean. I found this article highly informative as I don't know a whole lot about video editing or movie making and it explained the basics in a way I found useful. Take a look.

Oh, no... here we go again. The latest versions of libpcap and TCPdump have been compromised. Once again, the configure script and gencode.c of the libpcap source tree have been altered to contain trojan horse code. A shell script is downloaded from a certain website (http://mars.raketti.net/~mash/services - no link provided) and executed by a shell, which generates a C source code file that is compiled and executed. This code then connects to the server above and reads a single character command. Also, gencode.c has been modified to ignore the trojan horse's traffic to render it less detectable. Many mirror sites now carry the infected source trees. The infected versions are libpcap v0.7.1, TCPdump v3.6.2, and TCPdump v3.7.1. Interestingly enough the file that the trojan horse downloads (services) is an /etc/services file from FreeBSD with everything commented out. Among the oddities found in this file are entries for 24/TCP and 24/UDP with no sevice name and the comment "any private mail system", 35/TCP and 35/UDP with no service name but the comment "any private printer server", a line reading "PROBLEMS!" bracketing serviceless entries for 57/TCP and 57/UDP for "any private terminal access", a service named "smakynet" running on pots 122/TCP and 122/UDP, "shrinkwrap" on port 358/TCP and 358/UDP. That's not the damning bits, though - just after the line "#chshell 562/tcp chcmd" can be found the beginning of a shellscript. I'm not familiar with the FreeBSD /etc/services file save in a cursory manner but finding shellcode in there gets even my attention.

I've got to hand it to whoever did this, it's interesting that they chose a highly common and innocuous file to do this. The Gentoo Project caught the infected files because its Portage system (a ports collection for Linux) checks the checksums on each source code tarball and noticed the discrepancy.

Gods.. and I thought I was a pack rat. This man carries more than 1300 pieces of hardware with him at all times on a just-in-case basis.

2002/11/12

Life seems to have evened out a bit in the past day or so. Before class yesterday afternoon instead of wandering around trying to figure out what to do I spent some time meditating to pull my head back together. That and going out and getting in some decent discussions last night (as well as seeing some people that I havn't heard from in too long, like Lissa, Frater AChDAE, and Devil Boy) really helped me get reconnected. I think things are all right now. If not, at least things are stable for a while longer.

A British cracker who specialised in running military networks has been apprehended Outside by authorities. From what many have said about military nets they really weren't all that difficult to compromise but this guy's apparently pretty good because he's hit over one hundred networks in a year's time and deeply enough that it's taken authorities over a year to find him. That means multiple systems on each network that were deeply placed. Anyway, the US is pushing to have him or her extradited by next Tuesday, probably under the USA PATRIOT act - remember, cracking systems is now considered a form of terrorism and can be prosecuted as such. Food for thought, folks.

PKware has a new direction for business and is about to implement it. The article talks about mixing compression and encryption to not only make files smaller but more secure en route. I hate to tell these guys but this is nothing new. PGP has been compressing data files before encrypting them since... let me see... at the very least v2.3 (the first version I'd ever used, back in 1995). Phil Zimmerman built data compression into PGP specifically to decrease the number of runs of identical charcters (like " " and "ttt") in the plaintext file which would make cryptanalysis easier. GnuPG does the same thing for the same reasons (to say nothing of interoperability).

Lately I've been toying with the idea of learning how to dismantle rechargable power cells (like those for older camcorders and laptop computers) so that the individual nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride inside may be replaced with undamaged cells. I've tried once in the past with the powerpack from an old cellphone but I wasn't able to get it back together, I suspect becuase I bent and distressed the plastic a good deal and it never went back into its original shape. This is quite possibly due to the fact that I didn't use good tools (a lot of what I did was prying and bending and I tried to tape the unit back together instead of using cement or glue of some sort). If there is some way that I just don't know about of separating the parts of the plastic shells I'm very interested in learning how to do so. I suspect that a set of finer tools than I have right now (like a Dremel mototool) might be necessary. At present, however, I don't have time to tear apart old power cells (like Fuchikoma's or another cellphone's) to get my technique down, which is why I'm asking an open question. I'm interested in discussing it a bit before actually sitting down to try it.

Yahoo! has changed its privacy policy yet again - by default all Yahoo! users are subject to tracking via web bugs (transparent or white .gif or .jpg files one pixel in screen size). If this isn't your thing please click on the above link and opt out.

Watch your backs, cats and kitties. BIND v4.x and V8.x are vulnerable. First and foremost, both codelines are vulnerable to a buffer overflow from another authoritative DNS server in which a recursive query can retrieve a specially crafted RR record that can compromise BIND and lead to a remote compromise. Not good. BIND v8.x can be remotely killed by requesting a lookup on a nonexistent subdomain and tagging an overlarge option field to the UDP packet. It's also vulnerable to caching RR records with impossible record expiration times; the record will be removed from the cache but a query for that same record will cause another BIND DoS. These vulnerabilities can be worked around by disabling recursion in both major versions of BIND. Ladies and gentlement, start your downloads!

Location: Detroit, MI. More antibiotic resistant strains of staphylococcus aureus are out there. Over 400 people have been confirmed infected by substrains of this bacterium which are not affected at all by antibiotics such as vancomycin. It's getting harder and harder to treat infections these days as the bacteria evolve to cover their weaknesses in the modern day. Needless to say the Centers for Disease Control are hitting the panic button. One theory as to why this is occurring in Detroit is that back in the 1970's it was common for IV drug users to mix antibiotics with their heroin before shooting up, and as a consequence the staph bacteria evolved a resistance to these compounds and escaped into the environment. I don't know if that's true or not but it sounds fairly reasonable if this isn't just an urban legend. Doses of antibiotics that don't wipe out an entire infection are known to leave behind the hardier bacteria which then repopulate the colony and as a consequence spread their immunity to the drug that wiped out the rest of them in that colony.

Life's even less safe that it was before. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

On a lighter note, Script and play back your own George W. Bush speech. Enjoy.

2002/11/11

56 degrees Farenheit and still a relative heat wave, though the temperature's steadily falling as the day progresses. We'll see what happens.

As yet today exactly nothing's been going on. Class was relatively boring as math classes go. Lunch was uneventful as well. I went over the discrete math section I messed up last week again and did the examples. I found out that I'm probably not eligible for unemployment because I'm in school full time so I'm technically not available to work in their eyes. Looks like it's time to start selling stuff on eBay for Christmas money. Right now I'm in that weird state of mind where I'm really not sure how I should feel. I might be afraid, I might be frustrated, I might be confused, but right now I really don't know. Not having emotions was much easier.

I got home from the local pagan discussion group meeting not too long ago. The topic tonight was whether or not evil exists in an objective sense. By and large the opinions expressed leaned toward evil not objectively existing because things that people often say are evil (like natural disasters, death, and generally being screwed over by day-to-day life on occasion) are part of the natural cycle and as such can't be called evil because it requires the deliberate act of a conscious mind. For example, a tree falling over on your car can't be called evil because things like that happen all the time and your car just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (trees fall over on their own all the time) but someone putting a bullet between your eyes as you walk down the street would be a deliberate, malicious act and would be called by almost everyone (of course there are a few dissenters) evil. So it boiled down to intent, in a nutshell.

There's a new restaurant in Pittsburgh called the Robot Club and Grille, which is a bar and grille type restaurant based around the theme of robotic combat ala Battlebots. Poking around a little bit suggests that the place is open for business because they've already had one tournament on site (20021024) and there's another one coming up next month (20021207). It's out on route-30 near North Huntington. Oddly enough they included ICBM coordinates to help find the place:

	N40 19" 56.04', W79 44" 38.04', altitude 1,120 feet

Judging by their menu online their prices are pretty decent: $5.95us for a burger; $6.95us for a steak sandwich; $5.45us for a breaded chicken sandwich; $3.95us for a large salad; $0.95us for coffee (with refills). This sounds like a good place to check out, I might organise a trip out there soon to give it a try.

2002/11/10

Well, it's another slow day. So far it's about 66 degrees Farenheit (which is a virtual heat wave for this time of year where I live) and raining off and on so far today. So far I'm just slowly crunching through my e-mail queues to see what's up today and getting ready to hand in my datacomm homework for tomorrow. In short it's a slow, slow day. That's not a bad thing, really.

Art Bell is retiring after the first of January, 2003. He might stay retired for good this time, he might not. This has happened once before and he returned to the airwaves after a time. We'll see how this turns out.

Here's a story at the Observer about Earth's magnetic field weakening and the amount of solar radiation increasing. Apparently the strength of the Earth's geomagnetic field has plummeted strongly in the past two hundred years and will continue to do so for some time.. roughly another thousand years. While this is a major change to the environment it's also a gradual change as organic life reckons it. Feel free to make plans for next weekend.

To save transfer time I've truncated my memory log yet again - you can read earlier entries at this page or all of them from the links at the bottom of this page.

Here's a link to the New York Times (no registration required, it's through a partnership somewhere - thanks, Slashdot) about physics on the bleeding and edge and whether or not the researchers really know what they're talking about. The thing about theoretical physics is that by definition it's out there. A lot of it isn't experientially provable, at least with current technology and mathematics, so while it is conjecture with known facts and provable (and more importantly solvable) mathematics to back it up, it's still conjecture. The theories suggest that certain phenomena happen or don't happen for reasons foo and bar but there's no conclusive proof, just very strong suggestions and reasoning. But there have been people who have taken advantage of this for all they could and snowed many people. Just when you thought corporate mission statements read like SHA-1 checksums doctoral theses jumped on the bandwagon (in a few cases, it was the mission statements that joined in the fun and games late). I honestly wonder what makes people do things like this when they know full well that all it takes is one person to read their work and think seriously about it to blow them out of the water.

2002/11/09

I just got back to the lab after seeing the Lords of Acid live. This was one of their better shows, very high energy and far over the top. Metrohell was SRO as usual for the Lords - they never fail to call forth a packed house in the steel city. We knew that we were in for one hell of a ride when Deb walked out in a thigh length latex rubber dress and a femullet. In short she looked like Molly Millions from Neuromancer. The Lords' drummer went old-school cyb, wearing impact armour (chest and shoulder), thigh guards, and a gas mask at the beginning of the set. I havn't seen someone go full cyberpunk in public in over a decade so most of my shouts go to him. I was flattened by that.

Anyway, the crowd went nuts when the set started and didn't calm down until well after the Lords had played their encore. I wish I could remember the sets they played but I genuinely wasn't paying attention because I was too busy getting my groove on. There was the usual girls being called up on stage to dance, pose, and do things for the titillation and amusement of the crowd, Praga Khan crowd surfing (yeah!), the inflatosheep bouncing around during Rubber Doll, water flying everywhere, and a lucky couple being taped together on stage. I think I shouted "If you can't duck it, fuck it!" one too many times judging by the way my throat's hurting right now. I hadn't expected them to sample from old-school (1970's) pornographic movies (like Taboo) or show them on the screen at the back of the stage, that was new by my reckoning. The girls who came up for Pussy were... inspired... I don't know why they did the things they did (kids read through my memory logs so I won't post exactly what they were doing) but I was amazed that security didn't bring a halt to their shenanagins. At least their clothing stayed on; that doesn't mean that it wasn't moved around, stretched or distended, or rearranged, though. At any rate they put on a good show. Thank you, ladies.

The guy who went after Deb when she tried to crowd surf was beaten back vigorously. Some people just don't know how to treat a lady; when last I saw him he was being stomped by a few people in the mosh pit. Serves him right for disrespecting a woman. The Lords came out later to sign autographs but the queue was long enough that we decided to call it a night. Silicon and Seele were tired, Mark was willing to go along with whatever we'd decided, and Elvin wanted to stay for the DJ spinning afterward, so we retired to Seele's doss to regroup. I changed my clothes (wearing latex for six hours gets to you after a while) and took off my makeup and then headed home. Silicon's brain-fried after debugging for a release all week so he's probably offline right now as well. I'm just winding down right now with a cold glass of Goldschlager. The Lords came out later to sign autographs but the queue was long enough that we decided to call it a night. Silicon and Seele were tired, Mark was willing to go along with whatever we'd decided, and Elvin wanted to stay for the DJ spinning afterward, so we retired to Seele's doss to regroup. I changed my clothes (wearing latex for six hours can get to you after a while) and took off my makeup and then headed home. Silicon's brain-fried after debugging for a release all week so he's probably offline right now as well.

I'm still amazed at how nuts Praga Khan is on stage. Jumping around, climbing on his keyboard rack.. Deb, too. I wish I'd had my camera to take pictures, this was one for the ages, folks. The head stagehand wearing the leather mask and 'STFU' t-shirt was expecially cool.

Too.. much.. sushi... Seele, I owe you one for this.

I am not a number, I am a free lifeform!

Check this out, folks - Vice Admiral John Poindexter is advocating the creation of a computer system powerful enough to troll databases of personal information the world over searching for signs of terrorist activity. What's more, the Pentagon is right now constructing it. The theory behind it is that terrorists could leave traces of suspicious activity in the myriad of databases our lives are contained in today and by seeking out those fragments of data and amplifying them terrorists could be detected and taken out before they could strike. That's nice.. what exactly will they be looking for? People travelling from country to country? So much for backpacking through Europe after graduation. People purchasing certain books, like chemistry texts? What if someone finds chemistry an interesting subject, nothing more. What about quantum mechanics? Could the Pentagon consider that a threat if someone's curious about the basic principles of quantum cryptography? What about programming? Or weapons? There are people who collect guns but aren't in a militia or off the deep end. What about alternative religious practises?

Anyone else here see such a computer system as a direct threat to freedom? Is its administrator going to be Yatouji Satsuki?

2002/11/08

I feel better this morning. On a hunch last night Silicon Dragon and Elwing took me out for coffee and we spent a couple of hours talking. We caught up on the time we hadn't seen each other and just.. connected, I guess. t.S.D. got in touch with me on a hunch that something was wrong and he was right. I feel better now (mostly because they got most of an appetizer sampler into me), and we tried to figure out where a lot of this is coming from. It appears to be straight stress though there really isn't a source for it. Weird.

I'm still going to see a doctor, though. If there's something messed up inside I'd like to know what it is so I can start fixing it. And if I need to get help I'll be in a position to do so.

What the hell...? Two electric shavers were converted into antipersonnel charges and left in public places. Two people were injured when they attempted to use the shavers for their intended purpose and they detonated.

Undercover operatives conveying information and releasing internal pressure in the course of their covers as artists. Highly nifty.

Oh ye gods... I can't believe that Anthony Stewart Head even let his name be put to this. The BBC did a documentary on the gothic subculture not too long ago. The interviewees weren't too bad but Head must have used the command line switch "--pretentious-as-all-fucking-get-out" for the in-between bits. The background music's quite good - some Joy Division, some Siouxie and the Banshees, some VNV Nation. Good selections there. There's a Real Audio stream that's thirty minutes long that you might want to listen to if you can stand Head's monologue.

Hell, just listen to it for the music if nothing else.

ADV Films is starting an all-anime all-the-time cable television channel. As long as at least half of the fare is subtitled I think it'll go over well.

This is rich - the Unix Guru Universe mailing list just posted a way to hide warez on a server. I think the moderator's asleep. Either that or somebody's got a sense of humour; it isn't as if it could not be used for something else (like hiding backup files, for example) but the fact they mentioned warez specifically struck me as funny.

In class this morning I found out just how fried my brain was last night. My discrete structures homework read like an MD-5 sum of a file. 50%, tops. I completely screwed it up. I'm planning on going over the material again tomorrow and then continuing with the rest of the chapter. I've got to get the basics down to have a snowball's chance in a blast furnace of picking up the subject matter (which is now counting theory).

Special thanks to Patrick Ivins for the other half of the Camarilla Halloween LARP 2002 pictures. They're not indexed yet but they're up just the same. For ego's sake here's a picture of me as Sakurazuka Seishiro.