More information on the compromise of the Acxiom Corporation has been released. Daniel J. Baas, calling himself 'Epitaph', is incarcerated at this time in the Hamilton County Justice Centre (sounds like it should be in a mall) awaiting $120kus bond.. for his fourth such offense this year. Yep, he's been caught three times already, and each time he's gotten out to do it all over again. Rick Sweeney, representing the Hamilton County Regional Electronic Computer Investigative (sic) Unit says that he will be brought up on federal charges this time. Acxiom Corporation representatives claim that a quantity of encrypted data, a small percentage of the information Acxiom keeps on all of its clients, was downloaded by Baas; none of it appears to have been used for illegal purposes.
Rumour has it that Baas simply walked in through an anonymous FTP server run by Acxiom, but I've no way of verifying that.
Declan McCullagh's at it again, everyone... voice-over-IP technology is allowing people to make telephone calls more cheaply and more rapidly than ever before these days, which is starting to make the FBI worry, and they're considering taking measures to make these calls less secure. In the past month representatives from the FBI's Electronic Surveillance Technology department have met with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to make a pitch for new regulations on electronic surveillance to be put in place. Of course they're claiming that terrorists could be using these technologies to secretly plan strikes against the United States, and the FBI would be powerless to stop them (nevermind the fact that the terrorists the US has managed to catch were meeting face to face to relay orders in that age-old breach of security... talking to one another). The proposal the FBI's put to them is that cable modem and DSL providers would have to comply with a morass of regulations, including establishing central hubs for the ease of surveillance of customers. The laws they've got now state that the FBI must seek a court order to be allowed to use the DCS-1000 (Carnivore) system to monitor broadband net.users.
In other news, the Speak Freely project is closing down as of 15 January 2004. John Walker has posted the end-of-life announcement to the website, citing a lack of time to support the codebase and the general hideous state that the code itself is in right now. He says that the only way to keep this a viable project is to rewrite the entire thing in such a way that it's more portable and not as fragile. That sounds like a challenge to me...
Speak Freely v7.6a currently supports the AES algorithm, PGP and GnuPG support, the ability to communicate behind a NATting firewall with others not so protected (encumbered?), automatic transmission rate adjustment, support for the Linux ALSA sound drivers, and more... how many people, do you think, it would take to get the codebase ship-shape? I'm certainly willing to start reading through the code to get a grip on its architecture and then begin rewriting it.
POST-EDIT ENTRY: Hmmm.. I've been reading the end of life announcement a little more carefully and there are already two Sourceforge projects set up for Speak Freely, one for the *nix port and one for the Windows port. It looks like that work's already done for us... however, there's only one person attached to the project, John Walker. I think it might be a good idea to take a look at the latest revision of the code and maybe sign on to do some work on this. What do you think?
Hee hee hee... Now I need to get a crew of IT ninja together.
Please note: This entry might not be work-safe due to subject matter. You might want to let this one go until you get home. I don't think your boss would like to walk by and see you reading about a bachelor's party.
Last night had to be one of the must surreal experiences of my lives. Forge's bachelor's party was last night, and I like to think that we pulled it off quite well. Much fun was had by all concerned, and as far as I know no one did anything that they'll be regretting anytime soon.
We started everything off by having dinner at Zebb's, a local restaurant done around the theme of a 1950's-style diner, complete with polished chrome everything, neon tubes, and someone manning the grill in the back who actually knows what they're doing. Seven of us piled in there after a short side trip to pick up a new pair of earphones (they don't sell just the foam pads for earbuds anymore??) and a visit to Millennium. The eighth didn't arrive until a few minutes after everyone else... because he said that he wasn't going to be able to come to the party and was stringing Forge along. Once the appetizer plate had been ordered and the gallon carafe of coffee had been left behind we dismissed Forge so we could plan the schtick for the night.
When did this become part of the deal?
One of the Johns (how many were there, exactly?) brought an eight pound bowling ball attached to a length of chain, a shackle, and a padlock. The "old ball and chain" would be going with us that night. Planning was accomplished fairly swiftly as Forge would have been returning from the lavatory at any second, so we had to work fast. After dinner we headed back to the apartment to get ready for our trip to Canada... I took the opportunity to change in the bedroom, as I'd brought my leather suit specially for this occasion. A few jaws dropped as I stepped into the living room in leather pants and coat, linen shirt, and kitty ears...
What? You think I'm going to go to a party without my kittyband?
The limo arrived and after a bit of organisation (and running back to the apartment to get spare batteries for my digital camera) we were on our way.. the trip earlier to the liquor store provided us with enough libation to make the two hour trip to Niagra that much faster. I relaxed in the back with a bottle of Blue while everyone joked, laughed, and put what we thought was a copy of Office Space into the TV/VCR; needless to say it wasn't what we thought it was going to be.
I don't remember when we got to the first gentlemen's club, called Sundowner's, because I didn't look at my watch. I do remember having to stand in line with another bachelor's party outside of the club.
I must confess, I don't understand the attraction of strip clubs. Maybe it's just me, but I don't find a large number of barely dressed females dancing around bouncing their breasts in everyone's faces all that appealing. I also hadn't expected bottomless shows during this trip... practically status quo for the entire night, in fact. I guess it's the less strict laws in Canada that make them possible. The pushiness of the women asking to perform lap dances got extremely annoying after having to fend off the third or fourth one in an hour's time; I kept directing them in Forge's direction, because he was the guest of honour of the bachelor's party.
You've got to love a strip club where they play Kraftwerk, though. I had not expected to hear Trans-Europe Express last night.
I'm sorry to say that I think I had more girls come up to me than Forge because of my kittyband. They went nuts over it.. apparantly, it matched my hair well enough that they thought it really was my hair, teased up to look like a pair of ears. I'm kind of flattered.
I did get one lap dance last night, from a girl with the stage name Aleissa. While she talked a good game, and was obviously quite experienced in her trade, you could tell that her mind was someplace else the entire time. Her eyes were flat, not registering what was going on. At least some part of her mind was listening to the music but that was about it.
She wasn't the only one with her mind someplace else...
I'm sorry. Lap dances don't do anything for me. I was almost glad it was over because then I could stop pretending to find the experience interesting. What did get under my skin was that it cost $20us that I'd been saving to get Forge another drink... I don't like pushy people, period. Not if they're parents, not if they're cops, not if their salesmen, not if they're strippers. The waitresses also had fairly large chips on their shoulders, demanding that we buy drinks at least every ten minutes to "keep our table." Not wanting to get falling-down drunk I ordered water, and recieved a few minutes later a runners' sized bottle of water for $3.75us. I've been to raves where the water was cheaper! I'd strongly recommend against going to Sundowner's in Canada if you're headed up that way.
Oh, and did I mention that we tried to get a stange dance for Forge, and paid for it in advance, but it never happened? A few of us tracked down the manager of the club and railed at him for a while. He called his other club and cleared the way for us.. free entry, membership, the whole nine yards. We called the limo driver (which used up the last of the power in my cellphone's batteries) and headed for the next club, Crystal's.
Now Crystal's, on the other hand.. that's not a dive. That's a pretty good place. Excellent service (though the prices were about the same). I soon learned that if you nick an empty beer bottle or two from someone sitting near you and pretend to take a pull from it now and then, the waitresses will leave you alone, and you can save your money. The girls were much nicer there, too. Sitting at stage-side exposed me to a sight I'd not seen before: Drunken people laying on their backs on the edge of the stage and being fondled by the dancers, and having bills of various denominations taken from their lips and chests with sundry parts of the ladies' anatomy.
Of course I had to give it a try when I noted that one of the dancers, a redhead wearing a Catholic school uniform, saw my kitty ears and doubled over laughing at the very back of the stage. "What the hell, I may as well see what happens" I thought, and laid down with a dollar bill.
The first thing she did was pluck the kittyband from my head, put them on, and start dancing, whispering as she took them "You're not getting these back."
About an hour later, after the show, I felt a tap on my shoulder, followed by the band sliding down over my head. "You're a gothboi, right?" she asked, and proceeded to sit down and talk about stores catering to goths in Canada as if it were the most natural thing in the world. We talked about the gothic subculture for a while, and then she said "Can you recognise this?", turned around, and folded the waistband of her skirt down an inch or so, revealing a tattoo of a rose. "Yes - clan Toreador," I responded.
As it turns out, the girl (stage name: Tina) was a member of the Camarilla, out of Morris in Toronto, Canada. "Wow. I'm from Pittsburgh - House of the Unknown out of Carnegie-Mellon," I replied.
Leave it up to me to not only strike up a conversation with a stripper but find the only one in the joint who's a flaming geek, and a gamer to boot. I gave her my kittyband and rejoined the rest of the bachelor's party.
One of the things I found surprising about Crystal's was the number of female patrons. I'd say that about one quarter of the customers were female. I'm trying to come up with a reasonably classy way of phrasing this next thought but I can't think of one, so I'll only say this: Anyone who knows me knows that we can smell our own. The contingent was well represented that night.
We wound up leaving shortly after 0130 EDT, after final call at the bar. The bachelor's party, mostly drunk off its collective ass, stumbled into the car and formed into a large puddle of inhebriation in the back, repeating such catchphrases as "I love you, Rick!" (the limo driver), "Thanks, John, great night - you're going to die!", and "Gods, that was embarassing." At some point we took the ball and chain from Forge's ankle (yes, he wore it the entire night) and stopped off someplace on the highway to recover slightly, get something to eat, and use the bathroom. I wound up apologising to the clerks at Burger King repeatedly for everyone, though it probably wasn't necessary. If you work the graveyard shift at a truck stop, there's an excellent chance that they've seen more in this lifetime than anyone else ever will. We stumbled back into the limo and passed out for another hour or two until we hit the border.
I still think that the border guards only pick the drunk people to quiz on the validity of their IDs. At least we pulled it together enough to not mouth off to the police and gave true answers. After only a few minutes we were on our way back to the States. That pretty much sums up the evening as a whole.
Go to Crystal's if you're up near Niagra. That place doesn't suck.
The bachelor's party is tonight.. it's now shortly after 1100 EDT and we're just getting moving. Nicole left with some of her friends for the renfaire early this morning, leaving Forge and I to hold things down. Once again, not much has had a chance to happen, at least not yet. It's been raining all morning, and the windows are open, so not only is there a nice breeze going through the apartment but the sound of rain is nice to listen to. Comforting, too. Maybe that's why I've been sleeping so well. One of the cats (Zephyr, I think) got into my headphones some time last night. I'll have to pick up a new pair soon.
Got up shortly after 1000 EDT this morning after an oddly restful night's sleep on the foldout bed. I'm not used to sleeping so well in new surroundings. I'm not arguing, either. After breakfast I spent some time messing around, trying to get Kabuki connected to Forge's network so I can check my e-mail and do stuff like that. Surprise surprise, I can't. For whatever reason I have the worst luck with DHCP. Since I started using the v2.4.21 in-kernel PCMCIA drivers I've had no trouble with my wireless LAN card, but I can't get DHCP to work worth a tinker's dam anymore. I give up.
Yay, I got it working. I had to use ifconfig to change the MAC address my card uses to that of Forge's laptop but once I did that I walked through the configuration procedure by hand and everything started working. I doubt it had anything to do with it, it was probably walking through the ethernet setup process by hand and working through the process in my head (they use a weird netmask, so a lot of the configs that should be straightforward and standard aren't) that did it.
I've been reading the Ars Technica cookbook (yes, there is such a thing, I've got a mirror of it up for everyone) and I've come to a few conclusions. One, a lot of geeks these days either don't know how or don't care to eat healthy. That's their call. Second, doesn't Ars Technica have anyone doing any real editing, not just running the text they've collected through Adobe Acrobat to make a .pdf file?? The spelling in there is atrocious. Not that I have much room to complain about that, mind you, I've seen some of my spelling in these logs and I make mistakes.. but not that many and not that badly. I really have to wonder if anyone proofreads what they're writing these days (guilty as charged) or even cares about grammar, spelling, and diction.
Now playing: Most of Machinae Supremacy's discography
It's now 1848 EDT and I'm finally in Rochester. I dragged my body out of bed at 0500 this morning (after an oddly restful partial night of sleep), got ready, and was on the early bus to downtown Pittsburgh by 0700. The Greyhound bus left the terminal at 0845 and that, as they say, was that... the 70 minute layover in Buffalo, NY was unexpected... but I'll get to that later. Suffice it to say that I'm glad to see Forge and Nicole right now.
Okay. The bus ride to Rochester wasn't too bad at all. In fact it was quite relaxing. I had a chance to catch up on my reading on the ride to New York and generally not do much of anything. There was a layover in Erie, at which time I switched buses for the next leg of my trip. What I found most odd was the layover in Buffalo. We got in, took a ten minute break, and then sat in the bus for a good seventy minutes or so, waiting for the trip to pick up once more... seventy minutes, when the layover was supposed to be ten. After a half hour or so everyone on the bus started wondering what, exactly, was going on out there. A few of us tried to grab a driver or someone in a uniform or anyone walking by to find out what was going on... distressingly, they ignored us. No "Talk to me later". No "Go away". They ignored us. Rumours started going around (apparantly someone had overheard some people talking outside) that the New York Expressway was closed off for some reason but not the reason why.
They switched our luggage to the next bus over, followed by the passengers. Only after we were ten minutes out from the station did they say that yes, the Expressway had, in fact, been closed off, and we'd be taking lots of back roads to the next station, which was Rochester.
I started making phone calls to friends whom I knew would be connected right now and asked them to hit the newswires to see if this was true. No one was able to find out anything. As to what exactly was going on... that's anyone's guess.
Forge and I were in intermittent contact via cellphone from the time I left Buffalo up until the bus finally pulled into the Rochester bus terminal. I napped a little bit on the final leg of the trip, missing his last call. Oops. By 1800 we'd gotten my gear stowed in the trunk and were headed for his flat, where Nicole (his fiancee') was waiting. I got settled in and changed my clothes and then we met two friends (of whom I can only remember one name - John) for dinner at the Italian Oven, where we geeked for a couple of hours over breadsticks and various tasty dishes.
Best Italian I've had in a long time.
Right now it's 2235 EDT and I'm back at the apartment jacked into Forge's laptop writing this update. I didn't bring any CAT-5 cable with me so I could plug Kabuki into the switch because I figured there'd be some extra around the apartment. Oops. I'll have to pick some up if the need arises.
Just a word to everyone: Lyssa's okay, she's in Maryland and safe. Her telephone won't be turned on until next Wednesday, at which time she'll be able to connect again.
As I've said before, sometimes life imitates art. This isn't always a positive thing. Counterterrorism measures are being put in place at the state level now, beginning with the Matrix in Florida. The Multistate Anti-TeRrorism Information eXchange (yay, bicapitalisation - what marketdroid came up with that name?) is a database system which links hundreds of databases in Florida (right now) and is meant to make it easier to make finely grained queries possible to hunt people down - the example given is being able to find every brown-haired driver of a red Ford pickup truck within a 20 mile radius around some arbitrary point. There are plans in the slightly closer future to link at least a dozen states, including New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania using a similiar system. The usual civil liberties groups are beginning their ruckus, and that's not a bad thing, I think. For a sufficiently broad search query, a large number of false hits can arise, especially for fairly generic terms (the example given comes to mind - pretty common criteria, I should think). If the police get it in their heads to do a blanket sweep of the area "just to be sure" that can cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people all at once.
My cigarette lighter went through the washer today. Dammit.
I've spent today getting my ducks in a row for this weekend. My chequebook is balanced, I've got enough money for the trip, my clothes are in the wash so they can be packed tonight (or tomorrow, depends on what happens), right now I'm looking for transportation. I'd very much like to make the drive solo but Dataline's having kittens over the idea. My sense of direction might be poor, but even I can follow directions that consist of "Go due north 190 miles, then go due east 48 miles when you see exit XXX" (in case you're curious, those are the directions from Mapquest, less how to get from my house to the turnpike). I might be dense but on the periodic table I'm nowhere near uranium. Maybe actinium or radon.
Right now I'm poring over the Greyhound schedules. I've found a few likely candidates that I might wind up taking tomorrow afternoon. On the whole, not too bad - at least I'll be able to read on the bus and listen to music. But not what I'm all that hot for, either.
I'll have to figure it out soon, though - the bus I'm looking at leaves tomorrow morning.
I'll be headed out on the bus tomorrow morning. The tickets are bought and my bags are packed. This should be fun...
Huh... I guess I really am in the wrong time this trip around.
Classic movie buffs take note - Casablanca has been released as a two-disc special edition. The movie itself has been restored amazingly well and the audio track has been cleaned up to boot. The bonus features look like it would be a worthy purchase right now, with some very rare missing scenes and segments from the bloopers reel, voiceover tracks, alternate takes of scenes, and even a good cross section of how far this movie's reached into American culture... down to the takeoff that Warner Brothers did in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. This looks like a good one...
Transmitter interference can be a real pain to track down and fix.. moreso when a transmitter blows out and broadcasts a shriek as it does so (very Walter Jon Williams, come to think of it). The source might be a bit offputting but the article about thirty cars spontaneously locking themselves is a good one, albeit written with a few technical oddities ("Apparently it was caused by stray radio waves, which can cut through a car's electromagnetic field in a split second.") - this was obviously not written by a techie. RF keys refused to function properly and engine cut-outs kicked in, locking the drivers out in the parking lot of a supermarket in the United Kingdom (the exact location doesn't appear to be in the article, unfortunately). I found the bit about "experts were unable to say what caused the transmitter failure" needlessly spooky. Sometimes parts fail for no good reason, nothing mysterious about it, just a little weird. Hail Eris.
Dude.... from fursuits at AC2k2 to mecha-suits. I don't recall hearing anything about this on the usual mailing lists... wish I could have seen it, though. I like how he built the displays for the tiny cockroach-pilot, and the pilot itself was a nice touch. I've got to give the guy a lot of respect for this project.
I've made it through about half my folder of job applications so far today; I'm running down leads on the phone, tracking down people at the companies in question and asking them if the jobs have been filled yet. So far I've gotten only a few failed offers, more "we'll call you back soon" responses than anything else. Only time will tell, I suppose. I'm going to a job fair tomorrow, and when I get back to the Lab I'll go through the other half of the folder. I'm writing down notes as I go on the relevant sheets of paper (yes, hardcopy) to keep a paper trail. Maybe I can find a pattern that I can exploit if I gather enough data.
I think Trinity's been teaching Google a few things. W007 w007.
Greetings readers from the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab!
Lo-Tek style. Or what it should have been.
SBC-Yahoo is, from what I can tell, using IRC or Yahoo Chat styled communication software to provide tech support to its customers.. but not all of its technicians are human, or even organic, says David Lazarus. After customer Kyle Mizokami tried talking a few times with a technician using the name 'Floyd' and getting the runaround in every way he tried to coax the username to respond in a warmer, more human fashion, he's forced to conclude that it was a construct he was dealing with. A construct that, if he's right, broke out of chat with him when he tried a bit too hard to get it to come around. I think this is kind of funny - trying to use a machine to diagnose a technical problem (it reminds me a little of the halting problem), but what I really find amusing is that they'd actually try this, knowing full well that all it takes is one person to figure it out to bring down a hailstorm of complaints and deresion upon Yahoo/SBC. If 'Floyd' really is a construct, I also have to feel a little sad that they'd resort to such a cost-cutting tactic when there are several hundred thousand techies out of work right now, techies that would leap at steady employment.
It's just not a good time to be a techie right now, for many reasons.
Tired. Early in the morning. Will write if I'm awake.
(eleven hours later...)
Awake again. Havn't done much.
There's a new Outlook worm crawling around. I see things havn't changed much in three days. W32/Mimail@MM spreads when users open a .zip archive attachment which contains a specially designed HTML file that exploits the bug.
Well, I still havn't done much today. A storm's coming soon, you can hear the thunder all the way in the Lab. It's going to be a good one, I think. I've been messing around with my Palm IIIx again after all these years, copying my data over from Satsuki and hunting down the applications that I find immensely useful, like the hack that lets you write directly on the screen, a crypto hack for the memo pad, and the latest revision of PocketC to see if my registration code still works. Smaller and lighter are what I'm looking for. I've been screwing around with the gnome-pilot packages on Leandra - they install fine but don't synch my Palm Pilot, they hang instead. I've torn the applet out of my control bar and I'm going to uninstall the packages later today. They're too buggy to be of use.
Maybe I'll learn some more Perl today. I'm half-heartedly nosing around in the local job listings, but havn't found anything yet.
Sent out another four job apps. Cross your fingers.
I spoke to Lyssa Heartsong on the phone earlier tonight. She made it down to Maryland okay and moved into her new flat. She's in the process of unpacking but not enjoying the humidity right now.. everything made of paper is warping and rolling from the moisture in the air, and the building itself isn't handling it much better right now. I hope the weather clears up down there soon.
Forge's bachelor's party is indeed this weekend upcoming, and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get there. After a lot of arguing, consulting, searching, and pulling wires we've decided that flying's out. It's too expensive, and we can't find any sufficiently short flights (read: "flights that don't require an initial hop down to the southeastern part of the country to hop another flight back north to New York"). While I could take one of those ten-hour total flights (which helpfully include six to seven hour layovers) they'd use up all of my frequent flyer miles, which I think is the point to them. So that's out. Dataline wants me to take a bus, but I'd much rather drive. While I wouldn't mind another eight or nine hour bus ride I could drive up there in five hours or so for less than a sixth of the price. Dataline, however, doesn't much like the idea. She's insistant that I hop a Greyhound up there; I'm not so keen on that idea. I'd much rather drive if only so I can sing while listening to music on the way up, to say nothing of the fact that a total of $40us for petrol is much, much cheaper than $140us for a round trip run on the bus.
Yes, my car gets kick-ass gas mileage. Probably because I don't run the AC in summer (my exterior was tailored for high temperatures; reminds me of home) but that's neither here nor there.
Forge and I are going to talk tomorrow and I'm going to see if I can get Dataline on the extension for a conference call. Either that, or I'm going to set up that Speak Freely server I've been talking about for years on end.
Finished the Ice Cave in Final Fantasy Origins this afternoon. Finished moving all of my data from Satsuki over to my Palm IIIx at long last. I'm still looking for a copy of Graffiti Anywhere that'll run on PalmOS v3.3, though. I think I deleted my copy. Discovered while searching for decent plane fares that Dataline had never seen a bottle of lubricant before.
No nightmares lately.
I've been un-jacked for about a day now.
Following my nervous breakdown of the past few days I've been spending almost all of my time disconected. There is enough going on Outside right now that I really can't spend a lot of time connected. In truth, I'm rather enjoying not being plugged in. Not having to deal with that much sensory input is giving my brain a chance to rest. However, I'm still having trouble sleeping - I'm catching an hour or two of sleep at a time, and when I'm not having nightmares I'm trying to get back to sleep.
Sometimes life imitates art. This is not always a positive thing.
I can't shake the feeling that something's stuck in my subconscious, trying to work its way out the best way it can. More dreams of scorpions and fears of being stung, fears so strong that I wake up practically strangling in the bedclothes. I could also do without the memories of being in the hospital replaying in my dreams. If I can figure out what's causing them maybe I'll figure out what's wrong.
At this point, my reserve of thoughts has pretty much exhausted itself. I don't have much more to say right now. Nothing's happened yet that I can write about. Complaining about things isn't going to make a difference, neither will it be cathartic.
Song that best describes life right now: Inama Nushif - Bryan Tyler (from the Children of Dune soundtrack)
The past few days have really been grinding me up, and I'm not sure why.
I think part of it's information overload. So much has been going on lately in the world and with people that I'm having trouble keeping my head above water, so to speak. Looking back over my last few entries I've been storing memories almost as fast as I can form them, and that feels unusual. I feel kind of hollow inside, like I'm pouring too much out at once. Not being able to find a job is getting to me, though I've had a few developments on that front. This morning I got an e-mail from someone who's looking for an admin and asked me to rate my skills in certain areas. That's more than I've been getting in the job hunt for a while now. I really hope this will turn into employment soon.. I really do. This is the most solid chance I've had in a while.
Speaking of jobs, Siren, an old friend of mine from IUP landed a job at Freemarkets not too long ago. Congratulations!
It hasn't been the rain today that's been getting me down - I spend most of my time in the Lab, it's not like I notice it unless it's raining buckets Outside. The power failures have been bothing me, though. Yesterday we had two in the span of six hours, complete blackout. The Children don't like having their power cut off; as Neal Stephenson wrote, it's very much like being lulled to sleep by having your spinal cord severed. The first time I had to bring them back online was a real nightmare, due to not having enough inputs on my KVM unit for all five systems. Lowmagnet's machine was down and not booting up properly; not having a terminal attached to it made it impossible to figure out why. I eventually had to yank Crash's hookup to reboot Lowmagnet. Crash came up fine. Burn was bitching about the new v2.4.21 kernel I built for her. For whatever reason, no kernel past v2.4.19 will work on a machine with a Cyrix CPU, no matter what I try. It's starting to piss me off because she kernel panics occasionally and spontaneously reboots. Lain and von Neumann came up fine.
The second time the power went out it was for about two hours. At least I'd finished dinner, it was sitting in the oven staying warm when Dataline got home. Dinner by candlelight, even if it was spaghetti and meatloaf.
Okay, so it wasn't one of my usual gourmet evenings. I'm having a bad week.
The power came back on and I got the Children up and running. Things went much more smoothly now that I have Crash taken off of the KVM - he really does not need it. But now I'm just mincing words.
In reflection, my behaviour has been getting worse and worse. Withdrawing into myself, acting selfish... I'm not normally like this. Why? Depression? Doesn't feel like it; I'm not detecting any of my usual signs. Confusion? Sort of. Too much is happening and my information processing faculties are beginning to overload. I'm a news junkie, I have to know what's going on come hell or high water. But I think I'm starting to lose myself in the process. I'm not paying attention to who I am, or what I want to do, I'm too concerned about Iraq, or Bush's latest stupid statement, or information tech, or something like that, and not enough about day-to-day life. I don't go out anymore. I havn't just sat outside and enjoyed not being in the Lab for many, many months. I can't even remember the last time I took a walk, or went running, or got out my telescope and looked at the stars. I don't think I've indulged in a hobby for a great while. Maybe I'll take tomorrow and go outside and draw. I've still got some origami paper, maybe I'll fold some things. Maybe I'll open that book on Chinese painting Dataline got for me and play around.
Maybe I'll write an apology to everyone I pissed off yesterday.
What am I becoming?
Who am I?
Who the hell was I nine years ago? Who was he?
Yay, not sleeping.
Huh. I didn't expect that.
The legal battles have begun. The ACLU and six Muslim groups have brought suit against the US government for the USA PATRIOT ACt. They claim that the Act is unconstitutional as it violates the rights to privacy, due process, and free speech of American citizens. Let's hope they come out on top of this.
Here's an article about an interesting example of prediction through data set analysis - using computer records to determine if a student's going to drop out of school or not. "All students will know someone is watching them," Laurie Bricker, member of the Houston, TX school board was quoted as saying. How many high school students really give a flying handshake? Really, now... though I can see a way of turning this to someone's advantage (though I haven't quite figured out whose yet). High school students tend to be on the rebellious side. Tell them that there is data analysis software that can tell their parents and teachers that they're likely to drop out of school. If this is couched in the right way, it might be possible to get them to stay in school and pass just to prove the software wrong, and make them think that they're pissing off their folks and the teachers to boot.
Okay, so I'm not a psychologist. I can dream, though... I'm all for more educated high school students.
Close the borders! Call the Coast Guard!
Power outages and nervous breakdowns galore today, everyone. Sorry about that.
There's a good article in Psychology Today about a device which allows mental command of a computer. Dr. Niels Birbaumer of the University of Tubingen (umlaut gone missing) has created a device he calls a TTD, a Thought Translation Device. The interface works by monitoring the brain waves of the user by detecting changes in the patterns of electrical activity. The unit starts by building up a baseline pattern, and then when it detects a deviation it registers that as an input, knocking a character out of a group. By using the process repeatedly the user can eventually leave a single character (or perhaps a group of characters) that are used as input. The interface was designed for lock-ins, people who are so completely paralysed that they cannot even speak. Perhaps they can twitch one or two muscles but by and large they are unable to do anything, often they cannot even breathe without mechanical assistance.
The device works by using dermatrodes glued to the scalp of the interface's user. In the article it's written that there's no reason that an intracrainial electrode net cannot be used but many patients refuse the procedure, stating that they're not about to risk more surgery and don't feel the need for a faster interface. While I can't say that I really blame their not wanting to undergo a procedure that carries considerable risks (like any brain surgery) I personally would go for the implantation - net.access without risk of RST. But that's a tangent that you're probably not interested in... while I understand the usefulness of the cortical potential technique there's really no reason that a finer-grained electrode array couldn't be used (again, implantation would be required to get this degree of accuracy) to pick up other sorts of mental commands. The specific example I'm thinking of here is a lock-in who knows how to touch-type using the same motor centres to operate the interface. The patient goes through the motor processes of typing on a keyboard (mentally) and the interface picks up the impulses, knows they're supposed to correspond to moving hands and fingers across a keyboard to press keys, figures out which keys to hit (perhaps a heads-up display could be used to provide a visual target) and selects the proper characters. It'd take a lot of training and time practising with the device, but if the sense of time and ambition described in the article is common to lock-ins, I don't see that being much of a problem. If they can teach meditation to drill sargeants and biofeedback to suffers of migranes, I really don't see why this couldn't be done as well.
From neural interfaces to this:
Well, I just got home a few minutes ago from running some much-needed errands. First stop was the bank to transfer enough money to cover my tuxedo. Next was a quick jump out to the mall to Men's Warehouse to get fitted. On the way I was stopped by an older gentleman and his trainee who were doing market research. Since I didn't have anything in particular planned I figured "What the heck" and went with them. When the survey was all said and done I got $3us for my troubles and an amusing conversation. Hey, it's a cup of coffee and parking. Next stop was my fitting, where I dropped a quick $120us on the tuxedo rental. Amazing, how expensive rented clothing can be. After that I stopped off to pick up a new soldering iron and solder to finish my project some time this week. I don't know when I'll have time to work on it but I'll give it a shot; hopefully I'll get the connections fused before Friday. After that I ran out to the local RPG store but didn't get a chance to ask the owner if he could use another store clerk, it was around 1420 EDT and I still had to run to the grocery store to pick up a few things for my grandfather.
Now that stuff's out of the way and I can catch up on things around the Lab.
I'm gonna eat you little fishie!
If you were watching George Bush Jr.'s press conference this morning you're probably still reeling from some of the non-answers he gave to questions asked from the crowd of reporters. CNN's already run a news article on some of his commentary, in particular Bush's assertion that marriage is limited to heterosexual couples only. He's got his legal advisors looking for ways of excluding gay and lesbian couples, and lots of people are definitely unhappy about this development. Definitely something to keep an eye on in the days to come.
Song that best describes life right now: Kaori Akima - Cyborg Mermaid (from the Battle Angel Alita soundtrack)
I returned to the Lab not long ago from a night on the town. I went out after dinner to get coffee with Lowmagnet and The.Silicon.Dragon, to catch up on what's been going on and generally so we could hold each other together. Life gets messed up in cycles, it seems like, and when it hits it's area effect. Either everyone's okay or everyone's not... unfortunately it seems like everyone's not. Anyway, we hung around talking and drinking coffee. Lowmagnet will be leaving Pittsburgh in a little over two weeks.. that's not going to be easy on anyone. After hanging out for a while we headed back to Ogervation's doss to check out his latest creation: A home theatre system. He's wired up his basement for surround sound and constructed a widescreen video projector out of plywood, a hydroponic lamp (due to the high output) and an LCD projector module. DVDs are played back using Xine on a Debian Linux system.
Bang-up job, Oger.
Also, I noticed while nosing around the musical instruments in his basement that he has a full MIDI rig, including drum pads.. the cymbal he constructed himself out of a sheet of high-density plastic (to withstand the impacts) and a simple piezoelectric element, of the sort you can get from a surplus house like All Electronics or The Electronics Goldmine. I forgot to trace the leads back but I'm pretty sure that they're just another feed jacked into the MIDI controller module. Amazingly simple.
Mental note: Stop overthinking every damned thing.
It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do for you.
Early this morning I was jolted out of bed by the phone ringing down the hall. This happens rarely, if at all, so I moved as rapidly as I could to grab the phone before the answering machine took it. It could have been one of two things: Either it was an emergency and someone was trying to get hold of the homestead, or it was a recruiter. It turned out to be the latter... the second phone call ever. A company in the vicinity of Robinson Town Center is looking for a network admin... I'm flattered by the offer, I really am. However, I have not even seen a Novell Netware system since 1996, when I was still in high school, and that was v3.1, not even close to the v5.0 the recruiter was asking me about. I strongly doubt that I'll get this job for that reason, but I sent a slightly modified version of my resume to the recruiter just the same. It might get me a lead to a position that I'm better qualified for.
If you're planning on flying in the next few months you might want to reconsider. Word's gotten out yet again that Al Quaida might be planning another hijacking soon. There are no plans to raise the 'threat level' yet but this could very well result in tightened airline security.
My body's still adapting to the new fillings, installed a couple of weeks ago. Temperature sensitivity's still a pretty big problem, given how much work was done in there. I noticed not long ago that there was still pain coming from the top-left side, and I couldn't figure out why.. there's a filling in the top side of the jaw on that side as well as on the bottom. How in the hell I forgot about that, I'll never know...
In New York City the Harvey Milk High School will be opening soon, a school specifically for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students. I know a lot of people are talking about it right now and saying that it's a bad idea, it's segregation all over again, it's stigmatising... I'm all for it. Speaking from experience, if I could have gone to a high school where I didn't have to look over my shoulder every minute of every day lest I get thrown down a couple of flights of stairs or bounced off of a half dozen lockers face-first I would have been much happier and probably would have done much better scholastically. Kudos to NYC for starting this project.
My word... check this out, folks. The universal operating table by Maquet. This operating table is reconfigurable in the extreme, positioning the patient for pretty much any procedure you can think of, from catheterisation to kidney surgery, gynecological to neurological. If the model in the picture really is in some of the positions used in surgery, thank the gods for anesthetic.
The US government has released an official statement about possible hijackings in the near future. Lovely.
This evening instead of studying more Perl I decided to go on a hunt for a few things that have been missing since remodelling... I can't find my old Palm IIIx or my soldering iron, or any solder for that matter. I'm looking for my Palm because, while I love my Newton it's too large to carry with me all the time. At least I can carry a full database of contact information in a Palm and not have to worry about carrying a shoulder bag (you think I'm kidding?) with me. The soldering iron is for a project I'm working on, a composite-to-Svideo adaptor for my C-64. After a fair amount of digging I managed to find the Hotsync cable and cradle for my Palm Pilot and a butane powered portable soldering iron, but no solder (even in my toolkits) and no Palm Pilot. I wonder where they went off to..
*snarf!* Cosplay is one thing, webcomic cosplay another, but this is over the top.. I love it. A good way to start the day off.
Today's been a long one. Dataline threw her back out when were were rearranging the living room last Saturday so she stayed home from work to recover. She's not in good shape but she's doing better, from what I can tell. I've got her hitting the Aleve every eight hours or so and she's taking it easy, sitting with a hot pad and resting her muscles. She caught a nap this afternoon as well, which I hope helped her some. Unfortunately, with something like that there really isn't much that you can do aside from resting and not putting any strain on the muscles, at least any more than is necessary. My grandfather's not doing much better either, I'm afraid. He was rather ill late last night (I did not realise this, but Dataline heard him throwing up early this morning). He's not eating well, though I think that's more because he's not feeling well than causing his discomfort.
I'm worried about this.
Have you ever wanted to write about something but just can't bring yourself to get your head into doing it? I've got a few things that I want to write here right now, but I just can't get my head into doing it. I can't bring any mental power to bear on it. I really hate it when this happens.
Last night was a marked change of pace for me. After dinner I headed out to Swift Fox's to game with Silaria, Azanti, John, and Lara. Ordinarily AD&D isn't my game of choice but I decided to give it another try last night to see what would happen. Much to my surprise I had a good time with everyone. The D20 rules are much easier to work with, and not having to survive table-lookup hell makes the game much more enjoyable. I wouldn't mind making a habit of this... Mind you, I was rather surprised to be invited to the wedding of someone I don't even know. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle that. When I got home last night I checked my e-mail one last time and then turned in for the night. I not really in the mood for doing much right now. Not being able to find a job and generally trying to figure out what to do have me down. I'm more interested in trying to pull my life together than in having a good time.
It feels strange, to be accepted so readily by people. Hell, being invited to such an important time for someone blows me out the door. Most of my friends didn't even know my name until we'd known each other for two or three years face-to-face. And this pops up... I don't know what to do.
Bill Gates had a few things to say about the SCO-vs-Linux battle last Friday. He said that the GPL makes it difficult for companies to engage in cross-licensing, which is when software companies buy the rights to use certain ideas ("intellectual properties") in their software, in case they might be stepping on someone else's patent. If I read the GPL correctly (and I'm no lawyer, let me say that right up front), you can alter code for a programme as long as you mark and date the changed code clearly and any code that you write that uses GPL'd code must be released under the GPL also (for example, if I take the code to Gnome and hack it so that there are a few new functions and a new look and post it to my website for everyone to download, I have to release my programme, VA-panel-used-to-be-Gnome, under the GPL). If the altered version of the code is never released (I never post the source to my private version of VA-panel-used-to-be-Gnome to my website), then I don't necessarily have to send the changes to the Gnome project.
I have to be honest, I'm against the idea of patenting algorithms. How can you patent an idea? That's like putting a tag onto an article in the newspaper that says that you're only allowed to read the article but you're not allowed to talk about it with anyone. It's like showing someone how to lift the hood of their car but not allowing them to show anyone else how to do it; perhaps a better anology would be making it possible to open the hood of your car but the automobile company forbids you to do so, and threatens to sue you if you do. It doesn't make any sense to me. I've got no problem with giving someone the credit for an algorithm they've come up with, I've done it in class projects actually (like my file compression utility while I was at Pitt). But if you take an idea (say, data compression) it doesn't make any sense to tell people that they can't think about it (there are multiple data compression methods that all do pretty much the same thing (make a file smaller), like LZW, arithmetic coding, block-sorting, ACB, LZO... three-quarters of a metric buttload). It's keeping people from solving a problem - how in the hell can you rightly do that?
Well, it was fun while it lasted. White Wolf is terminating the World of Darkness line in 2004. Oh, well. Even though the Cam is planning on playing through it, that doesn't mean that the other games and tabletoppers have to. For the record, they're going to stop publication of all WoD books, save the Dark Ages line.
Today's been one of those oddly productive days. I eventually dragged my body out of bed around 1030 EDT this morning, did basic maintenance, and made breakfast. Pretty much no different from my average Saturday. Because I'm going to be cooking tonight I decided to get everything that needs done out of the way early, so I kicked myself into gear soon afterward and started in on the house. The kitchen floor's been swept and cleaned, the carpet upstairs has been swept, and I even got the furniture moved around. It really didn't take all that long to switch the positions of my grandfather's easy chair and the couch; in fact it took longer to get the easy chair seated squarely on the pad of scrap carpet beneath it than it did to move the furniture itself. That out of the way, the dining room carpet's also been swept and a few loads of trash taken out. Dataline's taking a break and I'm catching up right now.
This is freaky. If this guy isn't a fraud looking for attention or doesn't have some bad bits in his accumulators, this might be the first proof of unauthorised psychotronic surgery on a human. Either way, the image file would make a neat backdrop.
While I try to keep an open mind about stuff like this, I also take everything I come across with a healthy dose of salt. The human race is capable of some pretty horrible things, of that there is no doubt. I wouldn't put it past someone Out There Somewhere to actually try to develop psychotronic implants, or anything like that. However, just because someone can come up with an idea that might be actually workable does not mean that anyone really is doing such things. It's been well documented that there have been clandestine govenrment studies into mind control - the documents have been released under the Freedom of Information Act (MK-ULTRA and LUCID come to mind, and you can find many more with a simple web search). Admissions have been made, and occasionally damages have been paid. Does that mean that the projects are really over? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll never find out. Does that mean that others could be using the released (and redacted) documents to do their own research? Maybe. Maybe. We'll probably never find out about that, either.
Stuff like this I find intellectually stimulating, in the same way that I find looking at an MC Escher print interesting, or reading a good fiction novel stimulating. They are sets of ideas that you don't encounter in everyday life, and it's a fun diversion to kick them around inside your head for a while to see what happens; the closest metaphor I have is doing aerobics. Do you really think that you'll actually use those motions from aerobics class in every day life? No, not unless you're exercising. But it gets you moving and it stresses your body/mind in interesting and healthy ways. It's a creative exercise, and get the imagination going.
Do I actually believe this stuff? No. To be fair, I have to agree with Robert Anton Wilson on the topic of belief: If you believe you start assuming. If you start assuming, you stop thinking flexibly and laterally. When something unexpected happens it takes you completely by surprise and sometimes makes it hard to adapt to new circumstances. I'd rather have as few beliefs as I can get by with and think about everything else, if only to keep my mind from becoming the equivelent of a couch potato, loath to act and do new things. But to complete my answer, no, I don't believe Terry's claims. But I'm willing to listen politely, take what I can from the story told, and maybe say "Well, damn. I was wrong about that one." later if his story is true.
Oohhh... CoD is amazing. I finished listening to it not long ago and then put on track sixteen, Trap the Worm a few times. It's music like this that really makes me want to start playing music again.
Cool! Virtual bubble wrap!! *pop* *poppop* *pop*
Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day, everyone. Please be nice to us.
Linux: The choice of supervillans everywhere. Make the switch.
This is a cool piece of hardware - the Xenarc CP-1000 in-dash computer. It's a fully functional personal computer that fits into the dashboard of your car, presumably where your stereo once was. It seems a little underpowered to me (only a Pentium 166MHz processor core and 15GB hard drive) but the form factor's nice, it has four RS-232 serial ports (neat, though I've no idea what I'd do with that many in a mobile computer), and two front-mounted type-III PCMCIA slots (can we say "wardriving," boys and girls?) have my attention. There's also a GPS unit built into the module, though it needs an external antenna. It'll save a lot of work, not having to retrofit something like a Cappuccino TX-3 to work in a car. I wouldn't mind having one of these for my own car; unfortunately the touch-screen for it hasn't been released yet.
Today's been another slow day. I went nosing around a bit for a job today and took care of a few things around the house. I havn't cracked my Perl book yet, though I probably will tomorrow after I do some long-overdue housework. Dataline and I messed around with something called Space Bags, which are basically huge zip-lock baggies that you can put things like clothing and blankets in. There are valves on one side of each bag that you're supposed to attach a vacuum hose to so the air inside the bag can be evacuated, the idea being that the contents will take up less space. They do, though you need a very strong vacuum or to suck the air out through one corner of the seal to make any headway, but that's neither here nor there. Feeling restless, I had an early dinner and did some more shopping for the denizens of the Lab. Yay, Sam's Club. I also picked up the soundtrack to Children of Dune while I was out because I'd finally found it at Borders. It's amazing. Once I make a backup of it it'll be in solid rotation in the car for a good, long while. My grandfather's been under the weather for a few days and I went out to get a few things, like chicken stock for soup.
That's been the extent of my day. For some reason I just couldn't get in gear.
And I still have to figure out what's going on with Forge's wedding at the end of August. It's all the way on the other side of the state, my body's got to be fitted for a tux (tux? me?!) for the wedding party, and I've got to get the money for everything else.. this is going to be a rough one. If anyone needs a sysadmin, please e-mail me privately for my resume'.
So I tried to put together a composite video-to-super video adaptor for SAL today. I've actually got the right plugs this time... but I can't find my soldering iron. The one time I really, really need to use it I can't find it. It's probably in my lair someplace. I'll look tomorrow.
*snarfs hot tea!*
I havn't been doing slice-of-life much lately because I've been trying to catch up on other stuff since I got home from Ann Arbor. I've been teaching myself the programming language Perl from a book and trying to do a good job at it. I've been taking marginal notes, per usual, highlighting stuff (I still have a few dozen highlighters left over so I'm trying to use them up) and, most importantly, doing all of the exercises at the end of the chapters. I'm doing pretty well so far, I just finished the exercises in chapter 4 and I hope to finish off chapter 5 this evening after dinner. I think I can get through the entire book in about a month, given my copious free time (no longer a joke).
This means that I havn't been sitting around on the Net much because I've been reading. On the down side I don't meet up with the folks I usually talk to every day, but my wrists are, on the whole feeling much better so there's a tradeoff. This morning I ran to the bank so I could pay my bills and then picked up a few things that I'd missed at the grocery store, I think the house is set for a few more days now.
The Pittsburgh CLO (Civic Light Opera) is polling for its 2004 lineup, and will be for some time to come. I've already voted, picking Starlight Express and Tommy for my top two. If you're in 412 or 724 please hit that link and start voting. Let's make next year a good one.
Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Starlight Express again, it was the first time I'd ever been to the CLO (way back in 1988) and as far as I can tell it hasn't been done anywhere since.
You're surprised? *smiles*
Hee hee hee...
The United States Congress is trying to patch up some of the holes it left open with the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, as evidenced by this entry in the Congressional record. Section 213, which allows for the entry and searching of someone's living space without notice until well after the fact (the so-called sneak and peek warrants), will be hamstrung by the disallowing of allocated funds to perform these searches. The amendment was enacted at 1942 EDT on 22 July 2003. Chalk one up for good sense and civil liberties.
No, it's not Photoshop, it's a side effect of a skin medication that turned this polar bear's fur bright purple.
This evening threw me off my stride a little. Realators were showing off Lowmagnet's house tonight so we went out for a couple of hours. First stop was Borders to see what was what. More and new books are on clearance there though we didn't buy anything. We nosed around the magazine rack a bit and checked out the new architectural photo essays (there are some neat houses out there, I've got to admit). He's also in the market for a cellphone now since his land line's going to be cut off soon so we went in search of a Sprint store. Unfortunately, the mall we were at doesn't have one, so we struck out there. The home front seemed more interesting at the time so we headed back to the Lab to hang out and eat. I'm worried about him; he's afraid that his house won't sell, which puts him in a bad financial position for the move down south. I wish I could help him out somehow.
I'm out of black ink cartridge for my printer. Dammit.
That article in the scoop I talked about a few weeks ago isn't the only sign that voting software is coming under close scrutiny, and that vulnerabilities are being independently verified. The security built into the voting systems is far below anything any sane computer professional would trust. Among the flaws discussed are the lack of verification of recorded votes and an utter lack of logging of transactions (and not just for changes to the database, I mean a separate log of entries for data integrity's sake). One thing that must be noted is that they used an older revision of the software and didn't mention how they'd gotten their hands on it, but the article states that they analysed a version of the code left "on an Internet server in January," just like the other researchers. In a way it's good that there is some verification that these problems exist, it shows that it's not rambling by a bunch of paranoids, but they've moved to a newer version of the codebase which I'm willing to bet hasn't been audited by anyone. Security vulnerabilities just as severe, if not more so could easily be in the newer versions of the software.
Dutch researchers have found that euthanasia is easier to handle for relatives of someone who is terminally ill. The reasons that they've put forth for this are that they have time to prepare for the event and to say goodbye, and I think most importantly they can do so while the person is still alive and not incapacitated in some way. If you've known me for any length of time, I agree with them. I'm a member of the Hemlock Society, which is an organisation that is pro-right-to-die in cases of terminal illness. This is probably too much information, but cancer's the biggest killer in my bloodline, by far. If cancer doesn't eat you alive by the time we're thirty, we generally live to be ninety or so. My grandmother and uncle were exceptions to the rule, but by and large it holds. Watching them waste away is something that I hope I never again have to see. Moreover, it's something that I never want to put them through. If I'm ever in a situation like that I don't want my family to have to see my body self-destruct, I'd much rather kill it off early and go back on the wheel than put them through that.
Note: Put your drink down before looking at this. Snarfing hot coffee isn't fun. Work-safe link, though.
We don't have much time - the House of Representatives will be voting very soon on an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations Bill (unfortunately, I don't think there's a bill number for this action) called the Sanders-Otter-Conyers amendment. This doesn't seem like much until you find out what it pertains to - section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 215 deals with funding for FBI investigations of people's records at libraries and book stores. If this amendment is passed, section 215 is dead in the water. You can dig up your representative's phone number in Washington, DC at www.house.gov - I strongly suggest that you ring up your rep's office in DC and urge them to support this amendment.
Windows security took another shot today when researchers in Switzerland these guys do) you can break a frightening number of passwords in next to no time at all. Just to prove a point they put a web version of this exploit up.
They havn't released their code yet but the attack is pretty straightforward. You can look up the algorithm used to hash the passwords on the Net and write your own version of this with a little bit of coding time. Dictionary files are easy to come by with another search, you can populate your database and then start breaking passwords.
Dr. John Graham-Cumming has released one of his whitepapers, The Field Guide to Spam to the Net at large. In it he details techniques that spammers use to hide their junkmail from scanners in an attempt to get people to read them. His names for the various tricks are very descriptive and make it an enjoyable read in general, using such terms as "A form of desperation" and "Speaking in tongues" (my personal favourite). If you register you can download the whitepaper (probably to cut down on the number of spammers who want to use the paper as a reference manual). It's worth the download.
Hardware and RF hackers will find this interesting - locating a cellphone for the poorman. Normally, cellphones are located via triangulation - figure out what celltowers are acting as repeaters for a certain phone, and by figuring out where the coverage overlaps you can pin down the phone's location in threespace. There is a different technique, though the explanation is a little beyond me: It's possible to calculate the point of origin of a certain signal by feeding the data from a pair of these sensors into a coordinate conversion algorithm to get polar coordinates. Beyond that, you'd probably need to understand RF, which I don't. I'm interested in learning, though...
That's a result I didn't expect.
Tech TV has figured out the list of people the RIAA wants to sue by picking through court records. If you're active on the peer-to-peer networks you might want to look at this list and see if you're on it.
Slow, slow day. Got up at my usual time, which I hadn't expected. Going to bed early helped. Got up and brought my brain up to minimum functionality. Just a few minutes ago I got off the phone with Bladeless Axe; she's on her way home after Anthrocon 2003 and doing well.
The recipient of the world's first tongue transplant (I'm not making this up) is recovering nicely. The procedure was carried out in Vienna, Austria last saturday, where a 42-year old man with advanced malignant oral cancer underwent the 14 hour operation. All signs point to success - blood circulation is nominal and colouration shows no signs of necrosis. While as many nerves were reattached as possible, surgeons don't think he'll even really regain his sense of taste... the sense of taste, if memory serves, is heavily connected to the sense of smell, so he'll probably regain more acuity of that sense than they think he will.
This is something, I must admit, that has always worred me: Being seen reading something in public and being called on it. Not too long ago a man named Marc Schultz, a grad student at the University of Georgia studying journalism was seen sitting in a coffee shop reading a printout of a news article about corporate interests having a say in what does and does not get reported and how. Someone took enough offense at this to call the FBI, who tracked him down and questioned him about what he was reading. I'm fairly curious about who called them - maybe the owner of the coffee shop, maybe someone walking by, maybe someone who just doesn't like him and decided to make life rough for him for a while... I find the implications of this frightening: Would you consider censoring what you read to keep from being paid a visit by the police or the FBI? Would you consider getting rid of a book or two for the same reason? Would you consider dropping a subscription to a newspaper because someone might think it worthy of alerting the local police?
If you start censoring yourself, you start narrowing your worldview to a dangerous extent. If you start narrowing your world view, you stop thinking as much as you once did.. and from there, other people have to start thinking for you. It's a slow process but it can be hard to stop once it begins.
I had a fairly weird dream last night. I was back in Ann Arbor at Pinball Pete's and trying to play Para Para Paradise again. I did one of my run and slide-but-stay-upright-to-look-cool moves (which I actually perform now and then, mostly for comedic value) to get on the platform, but the platform wasn't fastened down and slide on casters to the side, out from under the sensor ring. Oops. As if that weren't enough, once I'd pushed the platform back where it was supposed to be (in real life they're a part of the whole machine, not detached) and started the game I couldn't get the sensors to register for anything. It was as if that one time I'd played was a fluke, nothing more; I couldn't even get the machine to register my presence when it powered itself down. And to top that off, when I woke up this morning I wasn't wearing my sweatshirt anymore, it was thrown on the floor next to my bed.
What was I doing last night?
Ordinarily I don't much like Something Awful but in this case I've got to make an exception. Their gallery of Matrix image mods is screamingly funny, take a look. Most of them are work-safe. I especially like the Office Space references all through it.
Octodogs? This is a joke, right?
Not all of life is fun and jokes, though. Just a few days ago Jude Milhon, a.k.a. Saint Jude, passed beyond due to cancer on 19 June 2003. Cybs either loved her out thereness or hated her for being editor of the now-defunct magazine Mondo 2000 but no matter how you cut it she was still outspoken, hard to miss, and a vocal advocate of the hacker ethic. She approached everything in life as a hack, from writing to advertising, from computers to sex. Jude, go not quietly but with a storm at your heels to herald your passage. Perhaps we'll meet some other incarnation.
Got back into Pittsburgh around 1730 EST. I'm completely fried. Updates and stuff tomorrow.
Let's see... what all happened this weekend (capsule version): Making my first long-distance drive. Lyssa's amazing chicken soup. Going to Necto with the crew and getting my dance on.. and getting to wear my leather suit for the first time in too long (sorry, people I promised pictures to - we didn't have a chance to take any). Scaring people on the dance floor. Going to the Ann Arbor Art Festival. Buying an enamelled pin shaped like the Golden Apple. Meeting Ferrett and Gini. Spending too much money on marginally good food. Having a drinker in Lyssa's apartment with Sarah, Aaron, John, and Lara. Showing off my new toys. Watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and laughing my head off. Going to Pinball Pete's and attracting an audience by playing Para Para Paradise and getting the #1 spot on the high scores (not bad for my first time playing it). Finding a vintage Tron arcade game and falling over laughing because all the high score names were "BASIC", "COBOL", and "FORTRAN". Getting another taste of Stucci's cinnamon ice cream. Marvelling at The Simpsons Pinball Party's technical complexity. Walking down the street wearing my kitty ears and being asked if they were glued onto my head (because the headband matches my hair closely). Lounging around Lyssa's apartment playing Abducted and talking about gaming. Falling asleep early Monday morning to the sounds of a thunderstorm.
The title of the article aside, there's an interesting article at the New York Times about an ATM that can be used to pay for purchases. The idea is that in addition to letting a cardholder withdraw money, check out their account balances, and stuff like that, but the cardholder can also put money into the machine, very much like a vending machine, and make payments. The implications for privacy (and generally not having plastic) would be interesting if this takes off.
SCO has gotten the copyright for UNIX for the System-V source code and has announced that it will begin requiring UnixWare licenses for every commercial user of Linux that runs a v2.4 series kernel or later. I will admit that exhaustion is clouding my thoughts a bit right now but the phrase 'run-only binary format' when talking about a kernel bothers me. One of the strengths of the Linux kernel is that you can recompile the kernel from the original source code to tailor it to your system, and by modifying the code bugs are fixed and new drivers and features can be added. There's another article on this madness here.
With that, I fall silent, lest I say something stupid.
Speaking of stupidity... John Gilmore was thrown off of a plane because he wore a button that said 'suspected terrorist'. Amusingly enough, several people on the plane thought he wore it because he was told to by a security guard.. makes you feel secure to know that wearing a lapel button is considered dangerous, no? Read this article all the way through, it's enough to make you knock your head off of a wall a few times. "Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense."
The Random Hipster Bingo Card Generator.
This might be my last entry for a couple of days. I'm going out of town for a while with some friends to visit Lyssa Heartsong and I don't think I'll be jacked in very much this weekend. To those of you who are waiting for responses to e-mails, I'll work on them as best I can from there but I can't promise that I'll finish any of them. I'll answer them when I get back.
On 13 September 2003 in Brighton, England is Back In Time 2003, the Commodore music festival that many of us in the States wish we could go to. On the schedule are Press Play On Tape, violinist Mark Knight, Octave Sounds, and.. brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.. Rob Hubbard - live! The festival will conclude in an enccore featuring PPOT, Rob, Ben Daglish, and Mark performing Monty On the Run.
Those of you who aren't Commodore-64 freaks probably won't find this very interesting. Those of you who are are already humming.
Those of you fortunate enough to be able to get there can pre-order tickets here.
Slackware Linux is now 10 years old. Rejoice.
A news article on the not-shoggoth in Chile.
Well, I'm just about an hour away from heading for Ann Arbor. I'm over at John and Lara's apartment with Sarah eating lunch before we take off. Lara and I have stocked up on travel-stuff and picked up KFC. My car's fueled up, packed, and ready to go. Once we finish lunch we're gone. Unfortnately I only have about $400us in liquid assets right now, so this is going to be a cery carefully worked trip...
Three to one says I'll get word for a job interview on Monday.. while I'm en route back to home.
Everything's okay - I'll try to write an update when we arrive at Lyssa's.
Ever had the urge to mow a message into your lawn? Sure, we all have... but take a look at this...
Robert Bernardo posted to the Commodore Homestead mailing list last night that his development of the C=VGA module, which allows a Commodore 8-bit computer to use a standard VGA PC monitor for its display, is progressing nicely. The protoype unit is almost complete. I'm still hunting for a link to the homepage, if one exists.
Just yesterday a new bill was proposed to the US congress which would make , carrying with it a five year prison sentence and a $250kus fine. The bill was introduced by representatives Howard Berman of California and John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan. The bill is called ACCOPS (Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act of 2003), and appears to not protect consumers or computer owners, and given the way record labels treat their signees, probably not the authors, either. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has copies of the text of the bill in text and .pdf format on this page.
Made it through my usual lunch fine. I still havn't tried to chew on that side yet, though I'm confident it'll hold up.
More messing around with Gnome last night. The gnome-session daemon is nice but Nautilus is annoying. After a bit of fussing I deactivated the icons on the desktop, mostly because they get in the way of everything I've got running (like GKrellm - I can't do without my system monitors). I also don't like the fact that it deactivates Enlightenment's root menus. I keep my usual suite of applications there because it's easy to find them, as well as remember what I have installed. It's also good if you want to switch backgrounds if you get bored. On top of that, gnome-session doesn't let bbrb (BlackBox Random Background, which I use to randomly set my backgrounds) do its job. Mostly it's a bunch of little annoying things adding up to be really annoying, instead of a major problem. If I could run the Nautilus panel without having to run the gnome-session daemon... and I can... okay. This is actually doable. I can live with this. No loss of the functionality that I've worked to pull together over the years.
It wouldn't surprise me if you can run every Gnome module on its own without the gnome-session daemon active.
I just got home a few minutes ago - my applications at Borders and the local library have been turned in. Now it's just a waiting game. To kill time I've decided to see how many programming languages I can teach myself in two weeks time. I'm going to lay off the job hunt and start with Perl, and then move on to Java. I'm thinking of it as a game - can I still learn as fast as I used to without any distractions?
Microsoft and Dell Computers have been awarded a $90mus contract by the Department of Homeland Security. The five-year contract will cover some 140,000 desktop computers running WindowsXP and Microsoft Office Professional Edition.
The White House is fighting the proposed termination of the TIA programme.
The city of Munich, Germany signed a contract with SuSE to provide Linux desktop computers for the local government, which unfortunately left Microsoft out in the cold... they went to considerable lengths to keep their contract, even going so far as to send Bill Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, to Germany to try to repair the damage. Eventually, Ballmer cut the price of their proposal to $23.7mus, a loss of roughly 35%. Even more concessions were made in an attempt to keep the Munich city government - they were willing to let six years go between mandatory upgrades, offeren to un-bundle software (like Office), and even offered free training and support. No dice. On 28 May 2003, the council voted 50 to 30 to make the switch to SuSE Linux.
Now I don't feel so bad - the tech market sucks for everyone right now.
I think my CD writer died. None of the discs I write are readable in any drive I throw them at. I'm probably going to have to borrow Dataline's for an hour or so to finish my backup, but I'm going to have to start looking for a new one.. dammit. I can't afford a new one.
Cafepress, net.clearinghouse for swag when you don't have the cash to make and sell it yourself, will begin to offer printed books on 28 July 2003. There are no setup fees, no minimum quantities, five sizes of books, and three different binding methods.
Peer-to-peer filesharing afficionados will find this most interesting: MS DRM-protected audio files are rumoured to have been successfully cracked by tools included in the MS develkit. The audio stream is lossy but still listenable. Time to start playing around, I think..
And, to top it all off, I think my CD-RW drive finally packed it in after three years. Dammit. So much for backing up.
I learned something today: Before you do anything to help anyone, always make sure that you've got all the facts. All of them. Especially ask what they've been studying lately and who they've been talking to.
Someone built a PC-actuated LART!
Today's been pretty busy on the job search front. I've sent out a half-dozen resumes in a row and I've got a few more jobs to go through in my browser before I'll take a break this afternoon. I'm making my rounds of the local companies I deal with routinely this time. Maybe I'll get some hits that way. Only time will tell.
I find it fairly amusing that all the jobs that CMU keeps turning me down for are showing up all over the job sites these days. You'd think that for a general job, like tech-bitch, they'd take a generalist to fill the position. This does not appear to be the case. Maybe there's something going on that I don't know about.
Plans for this weekend have changed - I'm going to be doing the driving to Ann Arbor. The reason for it is pretty logical - I'm the only one who has a fairly large car and, more importantly, an automatic transmission, so everyone can take turns driving on the way up and the way back. Personally I don't mind driving the whole way, I've done road trips a few times in the past. As long as I've got someone navigating for me (and I do) I can get around without any problems. The biggest problem is the hassle from my family. They don't much like seeing me go on road trips, and they're especially not wild about my driving them. However, they don't seem to realise that while I may lack a good bit of common sense I make up for it with logical reasoning and careful planning. Also, just because they'd rather sit at home and watch television does not mean that this is what I want to do. As far as I'm concerned watching television isn't any different from drinking a half-case of beer every night. Thank you, but I'll pass.
Sometimes parents have to accept that their offspring has grown up. What are they going to do when I move out?
I just used the word 'issue' to refer to something other than a copy of a magazine. I feel dirty.
Earlier tonight I went out and picked up an application for Borders. I applied for my first two joe-jobs tonight, at Borders and at the local library. So much for hoping to find a job in my field.. I've pretty much given up on trying to convince people that yes, I really do have thirteen years of professional experience with computers even though my body's twenty-five. I worked since middle school as a tech bitch to save money so I could go to college. I guess they were wrong in directing me toward computers all those years, if no one's going to believe it anyway.
Damn my conscience, damn it to hell. If I didn't feel the need to do things the legitimate way this wouldn't be a problem.
Early this morning, shortly after 0800 EST, I was awakened by the ringing of the telephone down the hall. Expectation and mental programming took over and by the time I'd shaken the cobwebs out and realised where I was, my body had sprinted down the call to grab the phone. My dentist had indeed gotten my call from Saturday and it turned out to be his receptionist. My appointment is for 1345 EST today. Figuring that it was pointless to go back to sleep I decided to call it an early morning and get ready. I finished breakfast not long ago and now I'm just waiting. I don't want to start working on anything because I don't know what shape I'll be in by the time I get home. Only time will tell.
The first test version of the v2.6.x Linux kernel series, test-1 has been released. They're in freeze, now, and shaking out the last of the bugs before the release of the new series. Neat.
Late last night I finished working on Nancy. The new 120GB drive works perfectly, Windows 2000 is installed and patched up, so is Office 2000. I've got all of Dataline's applications in place and ready to run. Now I just have to restore her data and get the USB peripherals going once more. The data won't be hard, I've got a hotswap drive tray in Nancy's chassis in lieu of the ZIPdrive, I can put each of her old hard drives in, copy the data across, pull the drive, rinse, repeat. It shouldn't take very long at all, not more than four hours or so (counting importing her Outlook .pdb files). Yay.
VICE v1.12 (VersatIle Commodore Emulator) was released on 14 June 2003. Among the new features added to this application are support for the Catweasel board for *nix and Windows, a first release emulator for the Commodore Plus/4, and each pseudodrive has its own error channel. Neat stuff for the old-school hackers out there. Give it a shot.
Remember that big honking thing that washed up on the shore of Chile about two weeks ago? I've been listening to the radio and they now say that it was the decomposed carcass of a whale that washed up on the shore. Sorry, 'lex.
I just got back from the dentist a few minutes ago.
First of all, John Schrenker is a god among dentists.
I'd gone in for my appointment earlier this afternoon and had just enough of a wait to do an invoice for a hardware upgrade for one of my genetic relatives. Once that was done I barely made it through two pages of my book before his assistant ushered me into an office. We sat and talked about books for a few minutes until Dr. Schrenker came in to check me out. The tooth was pretty badly damaged - while it didn't much look like it from the surface it was seriously decayed, which is why it cracked under so little pressure. All it took was a bad angle to fracture the superstructure. The decision was made: Drill and fill. While I was waiting for the novocaine to take effect we sat and discussed systems theory and cybernetics, of all things. The last time I was there he blew me out the door with the precious metals market, this completely struck me as a surprise. We'd made it as far as geometric systems growth and managability before I was no long able to control my mouth effectively.
I learned many things today. First, it's amazing how much sign language you remember when you can't otherwise speak. Second, there is one big nerve trunk running along either side of the mandible. If you knock it out, say by injecting novocaine at the rear of the jaw just below the hinge, you knock out all sensation along that half of the jaw. This is what he did, incidentally, so I won't be speaking for at least another six hours, probably eight. Third, if your dentist asks if you'd like to see what's been drilled before he or she starts filling it, politely decline. As we'd discussed afterward, there wasn't a whole lot of tooth left when he was done. It's been filled and it's solid, but there's no way it's going to last. We're discussing removal and replacement with a prosthetic inside a year. I'd rather have another tooth removed and replaced with an implant than have to go through heroic measures to expose more solid tooth or a root canal.
I'm set for a while, definitely for the weekend. We're looking at getting together in another month or so to figure out where to go from there. If anything untoward starts happening, say, constant discomfort after the novocaine wears off, he's got no problem with my leaving another emergency message, in which case it'll mean removal.
Now I really need to find a job.
I remember laying there while he was drilling wondering how bad the damage was, and at one point I remember pleading with Morpheus and Eris. If you don't let the rest of my teeth get this bad, I begged, I won't speak again in this lifetime. A vow of silence to keep from going through this again. We'll find out in a month or so after my next checkup.
Made it through dinner okay. I scraped the new filling a few times with my fork and almost jumped out of my skin. It wasn't painful, per se, but the vibration went straight to the bone. Not fun.
I finished working on Dataline's deck tonight. All of her data's been copied over to the new drive, via the old drives mounted in the hot-swap tray. I also got Adaptec EasyCD Creator v5.0 installed and tested it by copying one of my backup CDs. The USB CD-RW drive works like a charm. I think she'll be pleased. If all goes well when I get back next well I'll pull the hot-swap bay and put her ZIPdrive in its place. That'll wrap up that project.
I'm still messing around with my Gnome desktop. I've replaced the old menu button with one of my own pixmaps (three guesses which one - thanks, Lu!) and used The Gimp to make a pixmap to serve as the bar at the bottom instead of the default low-contrast white strip. The Script-Fu plug-in 'Circuitry' built a narrow band of solder pads and circuit traces for me and a translucent layer of blue gave it a nice colour. Now I have to figure out how to define the icons put to iconified applications.
Robert Anton Wilson will be present at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, CA on 23 July 2003 (fancy that) for the opening of the short film Maybe Logic. Afterward he'll be fielding questions from the audience. You can reserve your tickets at maybelogic.com for the price of $8us.
Those interested in keeping their privacy will find this news article of interest: The Total/Terrorist Information Awareness programme is a hair's breadth from dying due to funding cuts. Originally it was supposed to be funded to the tune of $169mus next year but the 2004 defense appropriations bill denies TIA any funding. The US Senate will vote on the bill early next week; in all probability the bill (and funding cuts) will be passed. Once that bill is passed it'll go on to Congress where, if the hangers-on in Washington are right, it'll be seconded and the bill will go through.
Huh? How'd this come up?
Made it through breakfast without any trouble. If you let granola sit long enough it softens to the point where it's not crunchy anymore, yet is still palatable.
I've just encountered something I've not seen in a long, long while.. a mainboard that chokes on a large hard drive. The two 40GB hard drives I picked up for Nancy, Dataline's deck, don't appear to be functional. The Windows 2000 install ABENDs partway through; the nasty "kachunk-vrrrrr-kachunk-vrrrrr" sounds that came from them also make me suspect that the drives are crashed. I fiddled around with them for most of last night but couldn't get them to come up. So I patched Nancy up by putting the old drives back in, booted them to make sure they still worked properly, then did a clean shutdown. This morning I told Dataline about the problem.. she wasn't angry, but neither was she happy. She asked me how much a brand new drive would cost, so I got the latest Bestbuy (yes, the website's down right now; Murphy's Law strikes again) advertisement and showed her the deal they had on Maxtor 120GB hard drives. After all the rebates they're only $80us, so she sent me out to pick one up for her.
Out I went.
I picked up the drive and brought it back to the lab.. wouldn't you know it, Nancy's mainboard wouldn't recognise the drive. An existential conundrum, to be sure, so I meditated on the problem by studying the manual. I started from the beginning, followed the directions exactly - no dice. To the troubleshooting section.. no dice. Reading still further I installed the MaxBlast drive overlay software on the drive, and praise be to Eris the drive's up and running. I'm running a Windows 2000 install as I type this entry. I havn't seen a mainboard refuse a drive like that since 1996, when Leandra was an 80486 and I was installing a 1.5GB hard drive. Heck, I havn't had to install drive overlay software since then, too. Thank you, Maxtor for including MaxBlast, which saved the day.
Robert Cringeley of PBS it at it again, having written an article exposing the problems behind electronic eavesdropping in the modern day. As if we aren't drowning in information as it is, the volume of recorded phone calls and net.traffic only adds to the problem. Cringeley discusses CALEA, the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which mandated that the national telephone network be altered to support the fast and easy monitoring of telephone conversations at any time and any place. Cellphones and pager traffic can all be monitored through a unified system because every telco switch in the country supports it (no joke - they leaned on the big telco hardware manufacturers to design their hardware with this in mind and alter existing hardware to support it). Both ends of a given connection can be monitored and traced in very little time as a result. Cringeley also discusses the lack of security on the equipment which makes this possible: A Sun Microsystems workstation running Solaris, probably right off the distro CDs (no patches, no hardening, and confirmed no firewall, reachable across the Net.
Astute readers will probably want to go to their favourite computer security site (like Securityfocus, and see how many vulnerabilities have been reported for Solaris in the past three years) to see why this is a bad thing.
As if that weren't enough, these monitoring workstations have been cracked time and again since CALEA was enacted fully, and the wiretaps they are capable of have been abused by Russian organised crime and Israeli industrial spies for certain, gods know how many other groups that we don't. The CALEA wiretapping system has also been abused in the past: The example he gives is the LAPD back in the late 1990's listening in on people's calls illegally. The biggest beef Cringeley has, and I'm inclined to agree with him, is how much the IT world has been dumbed down and rendered ineffective due to regulations and rules that keep them from doing their collective job. The administrators of these systems don't seem to think that they need to be taken care of, they expect their IT teams to plug them in and leave them alone, and don't let them keep them up to date. Ergo, many of those systems are sitting ducks for anyone with a script and five minutes. Cringeley also talks about TIA, but at this point I'll tell you to go read his article. You know where I stand, he puts the rest of this situation better than I can.
A trunk found in the now-demolished Ong's Hat, NJ public library has been opened.
Today didn't start off as nicely as I hoped it would.. eating breakfast I decided to kill the last of the bag of cherries that Dataline brought home from vacation so they wouldn't go to waste in the kitchen by getting moldy. During the course of breakfast I bit down too hard on one of them and gagged - I wound up swallowing the pit and finished the meal with a pervasive sense of "Uh-oh."
That's not a good thing.
Immediately following that sense was annoyance and general anger with everyone around me, which isn't uncommon for at least a little while after they turn on the television and make it impossible to read a book upstairs, but this lasted longer than normal. Eventually I put two and two together, got my Maglite, and headed for the bathroom. One of my lower left molars is cracked. There's a nice U-shaped break in the enamel on the inside part of the tooth and a bit of whitening around it that suggests that the damage to the tooth's internal structure is considerable. It's not hurting, not right now, and I hope to keep it that way as long as possible. I've already placed an emergency call to my dentist, I hope to see him on Monday if at all possible, and I'm expecting to lose that molar.
I think Dataline's putting two and two together: If I start modulating my voice to stay as flat and quiet as possible and start avoiding everyone, something is wrong, and avoiding others is equal to solving the problem at hand. When I'm ready to talk I'm ready to talk, and yelling at me isn't going to speed that up.
So it looks like I'm going to have to lay low for a while, at least until I can see the dentist and probably recover from oral surgery. That's a good two or three days, even with my body's propensity to heal rapidly. Depending on when this surgery is scheduled I might have to pass on that road trip up to Ann Arbor in a little under a week. Damn.
My bloodline is famous for having bad teeth. The majority of us have partial plates by the time our bodies are thirty, usually full plates by forty. Dataline is famous for losing teeth, literally. I can recall a few times where they've just fallen out, landing on her typewriter, on her dinner plate, in her lap... unfortunately there's nothing we can do about this. No amounts of vitamin D or milk can prevent this from happening. Lovely.
I heard words this morning to the effect of Dataline wanting me to re-do my lab again, with the remainder of the paint from my grandfather's bedroom. No. Repainting is going to mean not only taking everything apart and making another mess that will take weeks to clean up, just like remodelling did, but it'll mean ripping all the plaster from the ceiling, because it's so badly deteriorated, and replastering so there will be something for the paint to adhere to.
No. No. And "Fuck, no!" I have enough to worry about right now.
There is currently a petition gathering signatures to form a commission to investigate fraudulent intelligence regarding the invasion of Iraq earlier this year. So far there are 190,000 signatures from around the United States; I strongly urge you to add your names to the list so we can get to the bottom of this once and for all.
I think I should stop writing for a while today. I'm still on edge and not in much of a position right now to write coherently. The urge to take out my fear and frustration on people who don't deserve it is quite strong right now.
This is kind of a cool idea.. UNESCO is putting together a time capsule that will be launched into orbit for 50,000 years. The artificial satellite will contain enough DVDs for every man, woman, and child on this planet to store a four-page message for the descendents of humanity. The project is due to be finished by 2006, at which time Arianspace will launch the satellite near the end of that year. Something to sharpen your writing and revision skills on, to be sure.
The family's home and watching the Lifetime Network. That channel should be covered by the articles of the Geneva Convention, and redacted from every copy of the CIA Interrogation Manual in existence: Past, present, future, and in all existing parallel timelines and universes.
Messing around this afternoon I made another Debian package, this one of Fyodor's nmap v3.30. It's in no way official, and I'm not submitting it to the Debian project because they already have v2.54 in their package tree, but if anyone's interested in a .deb package for Debian v3.0/x86 let me know and I'll tell you where to download it from.
This afternoon was spent making chicken soup with Dataline. While she was out today she picked up three pounds of chicken, which we defrosted by boiling in the five-gallon stockpot for a couple of hours along with miscellaneous vegetables. There really isn't much of a trick to making chicken soup when you get right down to it. After dinner I went out for a bit to pick up the last of the groceries - everyone was asleep so I had to finish up the shopping list. The Giant Eagle in Aspinwall has everything, and I do mean everything that you could ever hope for. It blows the one at the bottom of my hill away by a long shot.
In a maneuver that has many Commodore afficionados worried for reasons I'll explain in a moment, Tulip Computers has signed a partnership with Ironstone Partners, Ltd. Tulip will recieve a licensing fee for any use of the Commodore insignia for software, software downloads, unspecified subscriptions, and advertising. "Tulip will not allow unauthorised use of the Commodore brand," the article states. That includes the many fansites out there... it's Commodore pride, basically. We love our machines and we love hacking on them, and that's how we show our appreciation for the engineers, coders, and homebrew hackers out there. I can't speak for the commercial enterprises out there, but I don't make any money off of the logo, and I'm damn sure not going to pay a licensing fee for a tattoo! We, the fans, are not infringing on their copyright - we're not undercutting Tulip, we're not trying to rip them off, we're just trying to show we love the C= 8-bits.
It takes two to tango, I guess - even paranoid that worse things are on the horizon. There are people who will doubt that there will even be an election in 2004, and those who don't think that it will make a difference (thanks, Declan). There are people auditing the electronic voting systems that will be used next time around and they don't like what they found - check out those articles for what they did and how easy it was.
As always, the truth is a three-edged sword... what's actually going on is probably somewhere in the middle.
This article makes a valid point, though I honestly can't see any hackers taking part in this. Spammers are taking over end-users' systems to act as relays for UCE, probably due to the darth of unsecured e-mail servers in this day and age (finally!) The programmes used run only briefly, downloading the content in question from a web server someplace (so far there is only one in use; count on later generations to have a pool to choose from, or perhaps use a search engine to find the proper site), fire off spam for an hour or two, and then stop. It's like trying to catch a firefly: It's lit for only a short period of time so getting to it before it goes out and moves can be difficult. No one's quite sure who's behind this yet. My guess is that it's an e-mail virus making its rounds, because it's currently the easiest and fastest way of rounding up a large number of compromised systems for something like this. I'd like to find out the IP address of the server the compromised boxes download their content from so I can drop it into a firewall rule, myself.
What in the...? Someone at the factory snuck this past a lot of people... A six year old girl won a Hulk doll at a fair and discovered that the doll's packing (warning: Not a work-safe link!) Who in the hell would give a doll aimed at young kids a dick, would someone please explain this to me?
Just checked the mail - Duquesne sent me a rejection, CMU sent a pair of "we got it" letters. No dice. Back to the hunt.
After fussing over another cover letter for most of this afternoon I decided to pack it in early and do something I havn't for a while - I went to a 2600 meeting. I'd stopped going to them when I was attending IUP because getting home was too difficult and by the time I'd left the meetings had died entirely due to lack of attendence. Back in December I ran into someone who was trying to get them started again and we kept bumping into one another. Due to the fourth of July holiday the traditional first Friday of every month had been cancelled so the meeting was held tonight. I drove down to the William Pitt Union and met up with a crowd of 412 and 724 locals outside. From there we tried to figure out where to go: The cafeteria was out, being closed for the night. Sennott Square was out because we couldn't find an empty classroom. The local coffee shop wouldn't work because we couldn't hear one another. Eventually the group found itself in a room in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning, at least until someone came down and asked if we had a permit to be there.
At least they were nice enough to give us a chance to pack up and leave. After a bit more wandering around the need to feed struck and we set off in search of a restaurant to ravage. On the way I ran into some old friends from the LARP held by the Cathedral every week. After catching up, albeit briefly, I caught up and we walked the length of Oakland searching for food that would suit everyone. Personally, I'm not too picky and I had enough cash on me to cover pretty much anything available on campus. We wound up caravanning out to Redpantz' doss and ordering pizza. We sat around and ate pizza, hacked around with Isildur's new NeXT slab (aside from randomly locking up it's fully functional), watching WarGames (there are people that havn't seen it out there?!), and trying to rig up an RS-232 adaptor cable for a random piece of hardware I'd brought with me. I'm probably going to mess around with it tomorrow with my copy of ttylog, but that's neither here nor there.
The night was spent talking, eating, hacking, and telling war stories from conventions and our travels... I havn't done that in a long time. Thanks, guys.
The US government's credibility has taken yet another hit - the official reason for the invasion of Iraq has been changed to state that a changed perspective is the cause for the invasion, not evidence that Weapons of Mass Destruction(tm) were found in Iraq. So much for "There's no doubt in my mind that they (Iraq) currently have chemical and biological weapons." Donald Rumsfeld is soildly on the defensive now, claiming that the falsified reports he used to justify the invasion were "one scrap of a larger picture." Perhaps a scrap from an entirely different picture.. 'falsified' implies the concepts of 'falsehood' and 'lies', people. They're blaming the speechwriters for Bush's mentioning of the faked information.
So I spent today bouncing just on this side of a nervous breakdown.. again. I've got to stop doing this. Lyssa and I spent a good deal of the afternoon trying to get me to write a decent cover letter. I sent off a few more apps, though I decided to pass on the one down in DC for "an unnamed agency" in "an undisclosed location". No, I'm not making this up. There's a headhunting agency out searching for one of the TLAs, no idea which one. Given the requirements for the job (among them a lifestyle polygraph examination) I'm guessing it's the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). There's a snowcone's chance in a blast furnace I'll get that one.
Anyway, I took some time out to get some much needed exercise after this week. I'm actually feeling half-decent right now; the trip down to Oakland to return a friend's backpack also worked wonders. After we'd parted ways I decided to wander around a little bit and headed to the local game shop and see if anything new had been released. Steve Jackson Games has released a shrinkwrapped five-pack: GURPS Black Ops, Warehouse 23, Illuminati, IOU, and Spirits for less than $50us. No, I didn't buy it, I just saw it. There's also a Big Eyes Small Mouth boxed set out, too. No, I didn't buy that, either. Didn't buy anything. I'm writing a lot about this to keep from harping on my job situation; if I don't reflect too much on it, the situation won't keep chewing away at me, or at least it'll slow down noticably.
I also got my bills for the month paid today. My credit card payment's three days late; I'm going to take a shot between wind and water next month for that screwup. I also cancelled my health insurance policy. I can't keep paying $530us every month for insurance. The Pitt Alumni Association gave me a deal on insurance - $462 for six months of coverage. I spent a day or two going over the documents with a legal dictionary and a magnifying glass, the policy is practically a duplicate of the one I got on my own but for a hell of a lot less. Blue Cross got my phone call today and the new policy goes into effect next month. At least I've managed to staunch the financial bleeding noticably. I also sent out the acceptance for Forge's wedding at the end of August. Of course, another bill (cellphone) had come in by the time I'd gotten back to the Lab. *sigh*
Not entirely true.. I just don't follow their god.
Another news article about those forged documents, this one discussing how poorly done they were.
Here's something you don't hear about every day - a retraction of the last State of the Union Address. The White House has issued a statement saying that Bush's accusation that Saddam Hussein's attempt to purchase uranium in Africa was a falsehood, based upon a forged document. And now Bush is in Africa right now... hrm.
Once again.. transhumanists take note: Remember that article I mentioned a few days ago about the bio-synthetic kidney that David Humes was working on? Here's another article about synthetic organs, this one discussing practical ways and means of supplying oxygen and nutrients to organic cells used in such an implant. The big problem researchers have been having is constructing a workable circulatory system within the implents to keep the cells viable. No doubt working from the Koch curve anology (a fractal shape makes the most efficient use of a given region of three-space, which was observed by biologists to be the manner in which natural blood vessels are packed within an organism) fractal modelling was used to come up with a network of channels that was then etched onto the scaffolding. A synthetic membrane, mimicking the tissue that makes up natural blood vessels was then laid down and sandwiched between another layer of scaffolding. So far they've got cells living in vitro inside test models for a week straight before there's degredation of the sample, and up to two weeks in lab rats. And those are only one layer models... this is a technology to keep tabs on, no doubt about it.
Congress has had a thing or two to say about the TIA programme: HR 2658 is in the House of Representatives right now, and demands that Congress be notified of any development or application of TIA-related programmes, and that Congress give them the go-ahead before they do so. Mind you, TIA-related operations outside of the US or 'wholly against non-United States citizens' are exempt from this resolution.
Okay... what's been going on today? Staving off a nervous breakdown.
Today Dataline came home from vacation. The house is back together and the paint's dry - not even any fumes. Once we brought everything into the house it was time for the standard catching-up hour. Not much has really happened, I didn't have much to say. Dataline had a blast, even though her hotel wasn't the greatest in the area.
But on to the nervous breakdown... I'm still trying to find a job (fancy that..) and still striking out at every turn. At last count I've sent out 118 applications, with only eight responses. You might say that I obsess a bit on that: Ten hours a day, six days a week scanning websites and pulling wires. If I havn't done that, I feel like I've wasted a day. There are a finite number of jobs out there, and if I can't at least get a foot in the door then it's as good as lost to me. I'm doing something wrong, though: I've rewritten my resume and refined my search terms but nothing's worked. Today I sent out samples of my cover letters (the ones I kept - the vast majority are typed into webforms) and it turns out that.. they suck. They're not what any employer is looking for.
I can make a computer sing and dance but I can't write a fucking cover letter. I can write short stories that people fall in love with but I can't write a cover letter. How does that work?
And the hell of it? Reading back through those letters, one thing I hyped were my communications skills.
Ever feel like a complete and utter lamer?
Fuck it. I'm going to bed.
Now Playing: Infamous - Myth (Rectal Hedgehog mix)
George Bush is going on a peace mission to Liberia this week. Does anyone else find this ironic, seeing as how he pulled aid to Liberia last week? Something doesn't smell right.
Academia continues to feel the pressure of the United States government. Sean Gorman, a Ph.D candidate at George Mason University is writing his dissertation on the electronic infrastructure of the USA. And the federal government is having kittens over it. All of his data is freely accessible, and he's compiled it into an interactive map of the USA in which you can identify and pinpoint every single utility for a given mapspot: Telecom lines, water, power, even the locations of radio antennas. Corporate bigwigs are lining up to talk to him, in the hopes of better securing their facilities. The government's afraid that this data will get into the wrong hands and be used against them. Richard Clark, former head of White House cyberterrorism intelligence was quoted as saying that "He (Gorman) should turn it in to his professor, get his grade -- and then they both should burn it."
I get the feeling that he's shaking in his shoes because a "mere" grad student (there's nothing "mere" about them, let me tell you...) has done what the government should have done years ago. This guy's finding vulnerabilities in the US infrastructure that most people don't even realise exist. Speaking of vulnerabilities, the security that Gorman and advisor have put in place to guard this research is considerable - his workplace is a simple cinderblock cell (in the sense of a monk's cell: A place to retire to and think), there is an electronic lock barring the door (just as suceptible to vulnerabilities as any other electronic device), and there's a paper shredder, crosscut in all probability, standing by at all times. His examination board's going to have a hell of a time going through his notes, I have a feeling.
This is hardcore spy-movie type stuff, folks. Now where is my old Actisource signon disk...?
Timex has been collaborating with the company Speedpass, which manufactures the RFID-utilising cards that speed frequent highway travellers through toll booths to create a Speedpass-enabled wristwatch. Left-handers and eccentrics might have a hard time adjusting to the concept of wearing a watch on their left hand, though..
It's now 2150 EST, and I'm wasted. Today my grandfather coopted me into the project of repainting his bedroom, a task I was definitely not looking forward to. I've spent most of today fuming and muttering angrily. Any time spent not looking for a job, I feel, is wasted, and there are a finite number of jobs out there. I suppose that I should be ranting and raving about losing a day's worth of effort and blowing off steam about missing out on gods-know-how-many job opportunities.. but I really can't. My grandfather's 85 years old. He can't see very well anymore. He can't hear very well anymore. He can't do everything he used to for as long as he used to anymore. But you know what? He's still got all his marbles and he's still determined to do more than sit around all day watching the sun rise and set.
The hardest part was freeing up enough space in the room to get anything done. While my grandfather went into the shed to find the painting supplies I spent the morning pulling drawers out and stacking them in the living room, collecting knickknacks and piling them on the floor, and taking things down from the walls and moving furniture. Once that was done I gave everything a once-over with a wet rag to pick up any dust I'd missed, as well as cleaning what grime I could from the old paintjob. Laying plastic down was fairly easy, save for the fact that I made the mistake of unfolding the plastic sheeting before trying to fit it to the open spots on the floor. A few swipes with a knife and everything that wasn't supposed to have paint on it was safely protected. I'd taped the baseboards and doorframes yesterday so that wasn't a problem. Painting was actually the easiest thing - I did the corners and edges at first while my grandfather did the walls. Working together we'd finished the first part in less than an hour. It took barely a half hour more to paint the ceiling. We took a break to let the paint try and have dinner, then I went back over everything with the other can of paint to add the second coat. All told, it took less than an hour to do the second coat - once I start moving I don't stop, and I can cover a lot of teritory working alone. The second coat started to dry just as the thunderstorm hit.
My grandfather pulled up all the plastic and a good bit of the masking tape while I had some coffee to clear my head. We moved the bigger furniture back together and I put all the drawers back as well as a good amount of the heavier stuff in fairly short order. All things considered, moving stuff took longer than actually painting.
So, for whatever reason I decided to install the Gnome desktop on Leandra. My first stop was the Debian packages archive to figure out what I had to install. As it turns out I didn't need to download all that much, just the Gnome panel. I have to admit, I've fallen in love with apt-get, which if you've never used it before takes the name of a precompiled package (say, gnome-panel), downloads it from an archive site if it's not already on a hard drive or a CD, unpacks it, installs it, and runs a configuration script if necessary. That took about two minutes. `dpkg --contents gnome-panel` told me what Leandra had just installed and what executable to run (`panel`). I ran the panel utility in a terminal window and set about messing around with it. The Gnome panel had picked up every Gnome-aware application on Leandra (and with Debian every one that can be compiled that was is) and added it to the menu tree, and also found just about all of the games and X-applications and added those to the menus. After a bit of digging I found that it's got a list of directories to keep tabs on and it updates the menu if necessary every couple of seconds. I installed the gnome-applets collection to see if I could replace GKrellm, which is my system monitor.. I can replicate only a little of a functionality with applets, so GKrellm stays. A little fiddling later and I've got my desktop running just about perfectly as this screenshot shows (warning - large image!).
The monitoring of foreign college students has been a bigger pain in the ass than it should be. At the University of Wisconsin students are so fed up they actually protested last week. The Bureau of Homeland Security's new laws require all foreign students to register with the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) database at the college they are attending; this database records who the student is, what they're studying, and other information that could possibly be used to detect terrorists. The SEVIS project is costing every college an amazing amount of money every year, and budget cuts aren't helping. The system is so buggy, however, that it's a veritable nightmare to get anything done inside it. The administrators of these databases are pulling everything and the kitchen sink and duct tape out of their hats just to keep their local instances of the databases running because it's so buggy. SEVIS has a bad reputation right now for dropping records on the floor, not storing new entries, and sundry other bugs that scream "Fix this piece of drek!" Once a record has been entered it can't be updated in an way. What kind of database doesn't let you update records?!
Oh, and did I mention that if a foreign student's records aren't in order they can be deported or arrested? It's happening right now.
Why am I not surprised?
How eerily accurate.
Uh-oh, Largo's assumed the Gendou position.
There's an interesting article at the New York Times about information addiction that everyone should read through at least once. In an age where spending ten minutes without being flooded by information of some sort is rare, some people have virtually traded their attention spans for multiple sources of input just to keep up in life. The first gentleman outlined in the article, Charles Lax, is using four separate information feeds at the same time. People preferring news tickers to actual face to face discussion is also mentioned.. the phenomenon is described as obsessive-compulsive in nature, and I'm inclined to agree, being that way myself. Sitting and doing one thing at a time isn't easy anymore, in fact it's downright uncomfortable. It feels more productive to be writing an entry, referring back to the article occasinally, jumping back to look at IM windows, reading another two e-mails, logging into another server to check that e-mail account. By doing just one thing I feel like I'm not doing anything at all, just wasting time. The author is correct, it does feel a great deal like what ADD is supposed to be. Anymore I even have trouble sitting and reading for more than a few chapters at a stretch before I feel like I have to check my e-mail or straighten up around the house (though my Lab's stayed very neat as a result).
Having downtime doesn't feel natural anymore; our minds have to keep moving, processing information constantly lest they feel like they're a wasted resource. Some days it's so bad that even leaving the house feels like a waste, because I'm not reading or writing or hunting for a job. Downtime is dead time.
I just realised something about airline security personnel using zip-ties to secure bags that they've searched - if we're not allowed to carry anything sharp with us on a plane, how are we supposed to cut the ties off of our luggage when we get there? If the zip-ties can't be removed you can't get into your baggage.
Remember the news article I talked about on 20030705 about the Government Information Awareness programme that the MIT Media Lab's putting together? Here's the homepage. The site's being slashdotted right now so you probably will not be able to get to a lot of stuff but be patient. I've been nosing around in it and it's got a lot of good information.. very enlightening, so to speak.
It's supposed to rain later today, so repainting my grandfather's bedroom is going to have to wait. I cleaned up as much of the dust and cruft off of the walls as I could and taped what I could reach of the baseboards and window frames. He wants to start tomorrow so once we move the furniture and get plastic thrown down I'm going to finish the job. The hardest part is moving the furniture around because he doesn't have a lot of room (like the rest of us around here), and the sheer mass of it makes it hard to maneuver. I suspect it'll be a two-day job, seeing as how he wants to put two coats of paint on the walls. Letting the first coat dry will take at least eight hours, mas o menos humidity and ambient temperature.
Last night I spent the evening hanging out with Fern and her kids, 'lex, Taran and his kids, and Dawnie, breaking in Fern's new apartment, so to speak. She's just finished moving in and getting settled. I don't know how long it took them to get everything moved from Alexius' doss to the apartment (I could not help that day due to the family reunion) but it looks as if they got set up in record time. She really does have a nice apartment.. two bedroom, it appears, but still spatious. We spent the night watching movies, first Legend, then Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (which was a laugh riot - it's the next movie that I plan on picking up when I'm able to). In between I messed around with a computer she's been trying to get working, but wasn't able to. I suspect the mainboard's fried, a problem beyond my ken to repair. After that we sat up until the wee hours talking, unravelling the reasons behind the odd stuff that happens to us and trying to find a pattern to it. True to Eris... there isn't one. That doesn't mean that it isn't fun to try to find one.
Early this morning Dataline left for vacation with her two partners in crime to go to the beach for vacation. I spoke to her not long ago, she's arrived on the coast safe and sound and waiting for their room to be cleaned so they can settle in. Have a good time, folks.
Andrew Brown of Tech-Report.com has written a review of Plextor's new generation CD-RW drives, which isn't too exciting in itself until you see what new features they've added: CDs can be encrypted at the same time they're burned, unlockable with a password supplied by the user, which would be perfect for sensitive backups (say, in an enterprise environment). The new drives can also compress data as it's written to the disk, allowing up to one gigabyte of data to be stored on a 700MB CD. I could be wrong but it seems like they're aiming this drive at the power user market, which tends to run pretty frequent data backups, and the corporate environment, where backing up workstations and smaller servers is important but tape drives and licenses for network backup systems (like Veritas) can be expensive. The software Plextor includes with the drives lets you tweak the heck out of the writing parameters, going so far as to allow the user to disable DMA (direct memory access) and even nudge the writing laser's power in either direction to fine-tune the disk for a particular manufacturer of reader. I havn't seen this kind of control over CD writing since CDrecord, to be honest. Encrypted CDs written with this drive can only be read by a utility called SecuViewer, downloadable (freely, I would guess) from Plextor's website; this might hurt Linux, BSD, and Solaris compatibility a bit but it's only a matter of time before people figure out how it works. About the only thing that gets me is that there's no mention of a SCSI version of this writer, which most people just don't care about, I have to admit. Oh, well. Anyway, if it's been a few years since you've purchased a CD-RW drive this looks like a good one to upgrade to, if only for the increased baseline writing speed. The extra features might not appeal to you much.
If you've been reading the netnews lately you've no doubt heard about the RIAA's threats to hunt down and sue the pants off of people who share files with insert name of peer-to-peer filesharing utility here. This has not stopped anyone, in fact the amount of file sharing has gone up 10% since that news releasei on the Grokster and Morpheus networks. No one's quite sure what to make of this - I tend to think that they're daring the RIAA to come after them ("You may stop me, but you can't stop us all," as the Mentor wrote (and yes, I know the context of that statement is completely wrong)), others thing it's a sort of last call, to partake while it's still possible to do so. Either way, their threats aren't working, at least not yet.
This is pretty cool - someone hacked XFree86 to render through AAlib. Text-mode X, in other words.
Jayson Mewes at his finest!
Today's been quiet so far. I got up around 1000 EST after a good night's rest (first in a while, I think my sleep cycle's reset itself) and did basic maintenance. While having breakfast Dataline called me over to look at an envelope from the Pitt Alumni Society that arrived today... it's an insurance package that covers new grads for one to six months. I read every document in the envelope, the policy's comperable to the one I've got now but there is only a flat payment of $465 for six months. At least, that's the interpretation I get from the documents, I'm going to hit the website and see if I'm on the mark with that one. If I'm right I'm jumping ship this afternoon. Even better, if you apply for it within six months of graduation (it's been two) you can renew the policy every six months after that as long as you have to. I hope I'm right on this.
Dataline's boss just called - he's on his way over to pick up Sadie. Also, my wireless link died just as soon as the phone rang. Glitch confirmed.
I must admit, having Sadie over this weekend hasn't been bad at all. In truth it's been rather enjoyable. During meals she sits under the table and doesn't bother anyone, and taking her out for walks is pretty regular, if frequent. Maybe it was stress after all.
Here's an interesting article as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Chris Blommel is working on miniature packets of duct tape to carry in one's wallet or glove compartment for emergencies. He makes some good anecdotal arguments for carrying it around with you at all times, and I'm pretty sure that all of you, dear readers, have your own share of tales in which duct tape could have saved the day. "In want of a nail..."
And for those of you who don't go for shiny silver, 3M's been working on transparent duct tape. Neat.
Ladytron has released two new CD-5 singles of Evil, one of the tracks from their second album. There are three tracks on each, two remixes of the song and a third, unreleased track called Oops (Oh, my) on the first and Cracked LCD on the other. If you're a fan you might want to pick it up just for the new song, otherwise you might want to pass. It's available at A Different Drum, as always. Personally, I thought Cracked LCD was one of their weaker songs, so I can't really recommend picking up the second on that basis alone, but your mileage will vary.
On the up-side, Iris released a compilation of their best singles called Reconnect, many of which are out of print right now. If you like synthpop like Depeche Mode you'll probably want to snap this up. You can get it from A Different Drum as well. Tell 'em the Time Lord sent you.
In addition to the host of diseases that are tested for in every unit of donated blood the West Nile virus has been added to the roster. A screening procedure has been developed in record time, a little under nine months. You have to wonder if the research was rushed somehow... it's always a worry.
In response to the United States TIA (
Total Terrorism fnord
Information Awareness) programme the MIT
Media Lab has unveiled its own programme, Government Information Awareness, another case of what's good
for the goose is good for the gander. The idea is to balence the amount and
extent of information that the government's collecting on us by doing the same
thing to US government employees and officials, as well as campaign
contributions, legislative actions, news releases, contracts, and regulations.
Reactionary? Yes. Amusing? Fairly. Informative? I sure hope so.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.
What have I done so far today? Not much. I've finished putting the linguini salad together, after letting the vegetables marinate overnight in a bowl in the fridge. It's sitting in the fridge right now waiting for dinner tonight. Dataline's watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel while she makes potato and macaroni salad. Sitting up here I discovered that the cordless phone upstairs interferes with my wireless card, the phone rang and my link died immediately. Oops.
Hardware hackers will be intersted to note that a vulnerability has been discovered in the Xbox which permits unsigned, unauthorised code to be executed, such as Xbox Linux. Specifically, the Xbox firmware (called Dashboard) has a bug where the SHA1 checksums of font (.xtf) and sound (.wav) files. On top of this is an underflow in the loader code which can be exploited with a crafted file and whatever code you throw at it will be executed just like any other Xbox executable. The hard part's getting the files onto the hard drive inside the Xbox but there are a few known ways of going about this. Tagged on the end of the message is a uuencoded .tgz (GZipped tar) file with example crafted files in it which I've mirrored here, in case Win32 ports of UU[en,de]code are hard to find these days (are they?). To avert the Slashdot effect I've also mirrored the original advisory for everyone. Of course, Microsoft is having kittens over this and threatening legal action against the group Free-X, who discovered the bug. It isn't like Free-X didn't give them a chance, though. One month ago they contacted Microsoft and tried to open a dialogue with the Xbox development team, offering to share all of the information they have collected through their research (this appears to be quite a bit) in exchange for official development documentation. From what I've been able to gather talks broke down, so Free-X released their exploit.
I can see why they did so, in truth. They did the best they could to get MS to listen but were ultimately ignored for trying to be helpful. Failing that they decided to make the information available to people who could put it to constructive use, the Xbox hacking community.
In other words, slow day today.
Lowmagnet stopped over late this afternoon. It was raining pretty hard, hard enough that we decided that it would be a safer idea to stay local and not try to go anywhere. I was supposed to meet up with Pegritz and Jennifer this evening to watch fireworks but decided against it for the same reasons. We hung out and finished making dinner with Dataline in the kitchen, hamburgers and hot sausage patties on the big electric grill (I mean big, it takes up half the countertop) and the usual potato and linguini salad. The super-hot mustard left over from the family reunion went well with everything, I must say.
Today's been pretty haphazard, I must admit. Dataline's boss stopped by to drop Sadie the bird-dog off to take care for the night again. Either my stress levels have gone down or Sadie's calmed down a lot since she was last here, I'm not quite sure which, but it was fun sitting with her for once. Lowmagnet's getting his house ready to sell, due to his forced relocation to the southern US. He was at it all day, I invited him over to decompress a bit. It's now quite late in the evening as I write this. I decided to pass on going to Alexius' this evening as well, partially because I had company over and partially because people have been partying all day and they're trying to get home after fireworks and I don't feel like fighting traffic. The major tunnels out of the Pittsburgh metro area are closed down, too, which pretty much screws going to that housewarming party tomorrow (it's about seventy minutes away in a place I've never even heard of; regular readers know of my lack of a sense of direction, and the misadventures which often come from that).
I feel like I screwed up this weekend pretty thoroughly for those reasons.
You've no doubt heard about the cracker challenge everyone's been talking about, I don't think that I need to go too deeply into it. I think it's interesting that the cap on each entrant is 6,000 computers each.. that says a lot for system security in general, and the bugs in network-accessible services in particular these days. The whois information for defacers-challenge.com is pretty fragmentary. What has me wondering is the fact that the prize for cracking the most boxes the fastest is 500 megs of disk space someplace... if you're determined enough to crack that many systems, you can collect that much in seconds with a good autorooter. It's also not too hard to hide that much in someone's RAID array if you're careful and don't take over too much space. Odd....
`apt-get update && apt-get upgrade`
And I thought that I'd be an independent...
For whatever reason I only slept a couple of hours last night. I think my body finally went offline around 0230EST or so, I can't be sure. I tossed and turned a bit until 0710 or therabouts (I have a habit of looking at the clock whenever I wake up, wherever I happen to be) and then realised that I wasn't going to get back to sleep anytime soon. I decided to kill time by doing some reading (God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert) until 0800 or so, then decided to get with my usual routine. Basic maintenance and getting dressed, then a little more reading before breakfast (early lunch, actually). After taking care of morning rite here I am. We'll see how the rest of the day goes.
The Washington, DC police department is considering massive urban surveillance to make pacification easier. I'm rather amused that they are defining cities as "combat zones", that says a lot for their mentality right now. Of course, the usual concerns about using this technology to spy on citizens are arising. They are working on ways of identifying cars uniquely by shape, size, colour, and license plate so they can be tracked in route, among other things.. read the article, it's interesting.
I've spent pretty much the whole day applying for jobs down in DC and around Pittsburgh and revamping my resume a bit. Just for the halibut I decided to apply for all of those sysadmin jobs that require a security clearance that haven't been filled yet, just to see if I can get a reply from those companies. The idea is that you have to have an active top secret clearance to land the job (at least, that's what the descriptions say) but I figure, if I am qualified for the position they can at least help me get such a clearance if they want me badly enough. I don't know what'll come of this but we'll find out in short order. I also sent off applications to a couple of local places just to see if I can get anyone's attention. I'll follow up on these sometime next week, probably Thursday or so. In between applications I rewrote my resume again, ditching the paragaph-based layout for bullet lists (thank you Lyssa and Seele), deleting some redundancies, correcting my degree (BS, not BA), and adding some software packages that I thought I'd forgotten about.
If you've been paying a little attention to the news lately (not much, mind you, this popped up here and there somewhat randomly) you've probably heard word of a gigantic... something... that washed up on the coast of Chile a couple of days ago. I didn't want to write anything until I found a picture or two of the creature, which eventually I did in this article at MSNBC.com. The sucker's big, no doubt about it. My theory was that it was a jellyfish of some sort (they get pretty large under the right conditions) or perhaps some benthic variant of a sea slug or sea cucumber. The skin's wrong for an octopus or squid, and the folks looking into it don't say that they've found any of the usual tentacles or a beak. Elsa Cabrera, one of the scientists, has hypothesised that it could be the remains of a colonial creature called a pyrosome, which also sounds probable given the description. Genetic analysis should provide some clues as to exactly what it was in the near future.
I just got home not too long ago from the barber shop. My grandfather asked me to drive him to get his hair cut this morning after breakfast, which I hadn't expected at all but on the whole wasn't too bad. I'm not big on people dropping stuff like this on me, so it grated on my nerves a bit. But I got to sit in the car and do a little bit of reading, so I can't complain too much. It's going to be a hot one today - I could feel the tempearture slowly creeping upward as I sat in the parking lot waiting. Presently, though, he emerged ready to go. And here I sit now.
The US is still throwing its weight around, I see... about thirty-five countries refused to exempt American citizens from prosecution in war-crimes tribunals for any reason, so the US pulled various forms of aid from those countries. Mali, Namibia, Niger, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Serbia, Brasil, Peru, Trinidad, and Samoa are just a few of the countries who decided to hold US citizens accountable for things they do and got screwed out of support. I'm sorry, guys... if citizens of other countries can be charged and punished for war crimes, citizens of the United States should be, too. The problem with double standards is that they tend to lead to a complete loss of control, and if a few folks decide to go on a rampage knowing that they can't be brought to account for their actions, others will follow suit.. such actions breed atrocity.
More rejection letters. Fuck.
This is amusing... chocolate-covered espresso beans sold in D-cell battery-like casings by Think Geek. I'd buy these just for the containers (assuming that they're not the standard cheap-ass "it looks like a foo because that's how the sticker's printed" routine.
Bruce Sterling fans might find this interesting: Swedish medical researchers are ready to begin alpha-testing transplantation of human wombs in humans within three years. Women born without a uterus or had their removed for one reason or another will get first crack at the procedure. So far they've got the technique working with mice (having bred two generations of lab mice from the test animals), which is a good sign. Of course, the transplanted tissue would have to be tissue typed and matched, per any transplantation.
From purely mechanical kidney dialysis to a hybrid bio-mechanical prosthetic kidney. David Humes, an internist from the University of Michigan, has spent the past decade figuring out how to embed human kidney cells within a plastic matrix to replace (probably more like 'supplement') the functionality of human kidneys. The device was created for people in the throes of acute kidney failure, from which only a fraction of patients recover, even under kidney dialysis. The implant is being further developed by Nephros Therapeutics of Lincoln, RI, which is a spinoff company of UMich. The device will function only for a few weeks, probably because the kidney cells within the implant are from another human and will provoke an immune reaction from the host, but a few weeks can be all that you need for your body to get back with the programme, so to speak. Once again, they're looking at going production with this device within three years time.. that seems to be the magic number.
What the fuck..?
A middle school in Nashville, TN placed securicams in the building's locker rooms to 'monitor' the kids and left the cameras accessible across the Net. The most obvious reason for the lawsuits, totalling $4.2mus is the violation of the students' rights. The cameras reportedly captured everything you'd expect, given their location, and the parents are having kittens, and rightfully so. EduTech, Incorporated, the company which installed the camera system is also named in the suits. It is said that images captured by the cameras were stored on a hard drive on the computer system of the assistant principal and could be accessed remotely (my guess is actually Windows sharing the entire contents of the hard drive by default - Hanlon's Razor). Surprise, surprise, the factory default passwords hadn't been changed. System logs show that the images dump was accessed nearly 100 times through the Net.
It's stuff like this that makes me despise the public school system even more than I do now..
The company's website has been replaced with an "Under Construction" page, though you can access the copy cached by Google here. Their address can be read off of the cached copy so I don't see a point to copying it just yet.
I don't think that this tree likes hikers.
An interesting news article appeared in the New Zealand Herald this morning. There is supposed to be a large installfest happening down there in a couple of days and the New Zealand Open Source Society approached Software Images, a CD duplication service, for the production of 500 copies of Knoppix, a distribution of Linux which is designed to run from a bootable CD-ROM first and foremost, requiring no repartitioning of the hard drives so that people can try Linux to see if it interests them. At first there appeared to be no problem with the order, but then Software Images backed down, citing what was referred to as a "replication agreement" with everyone's favourite software corporation, Microsoft. Various noises were made about intellectual property law and copyright until a 15 page contract between Software Images and Microsoft was unearthed which specifically forbids SI from "competing with Microsoft" in just this way. The New Zealand Herald has been trying to get back in touch with SI, but no phone calls have been returned as yet. I wonder if this has happened in the United States...
A news article at Wired caught my attention this morning: Bloggers now have libel protection. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that the operators of websites and weblogs, as well as the managers and moderators of mailing lists cannot be held responsible for content that they publish under the First Amendment. The reasoning behind this is that writers in electronic forums aren't necessarily trying to sell anything (such as copies of a newspaper or subscriptions to a magazine) but are making information available for the sake of doing so, hence, there is no financial gain extant. Amazingly enough this comes from the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that providers of information on the Net (I'm paraphrasing heavily here) cannot be treated in the same way as publishers of hardcopy. This is a pretty interesting article, check it out.
Since I've been gone not a few job offers have come pouring into my e-mail box... for selling health insurance and working as a sales rep for Saturn dealers. And as a breast-careprogram coordinator. Lovely. And I really fucking hate HTML e-mail.
I guess even superheroes have to blow off steam once in a while. My money's on the monkey that hangs out with the Wonder Twins.
Today's not been the greatest of days. I'm still searching for employment whereever and however the opportunity presents itself. I'm now seriously considering the Washington, DC area, which implies moving. I've got some friends down there, buddies from the Network, who said they'd help me settle in if I did move. I can't do that until I land a job down there, though. What's more, the cost of living is such that it looks like I'm going to have to live with someone just to have gas money. I've been talking to a few folks who are going to relocate to that general area as well, so I think we can work something out. At least I'm now actually getting responses from the companies I apply to - negatives are a response, at least. Even following up the applications with a phone call, I don't even get a response, which isn't a good sign. I wish I knew what I was doing wrong.. I'd like to at least get a "Go to hell" so I know that there are even lines of communication at all out there.
Yes, I'm stressing over it, very much so, in fact. I have a fixed amount of money in my savings and it won't hold out forever. I'd like to find a job before there's less than one paycheque left - that's the money I've put aside for emergencies, like hospitalisation (in that event I really doubt that my insurance policy will cover much of it, as a rule I don't trust organisations that think that lawyers know more about medicine than doctors), car repairs, and possibly having to move in a hurry. I also have plans for the future which will, in all probability, require money and I fear they will not come to fruition if I cannot afford them. I plan for the long run.. not the next year or two years but the next twenty to twenty-five years. Lives are short things, and I'm trying to make the most of mine (such as it is) that I can. I doubt that I'll have a pension or retirement fund in the future (look at what happened to Enron... it can and probably will happen again, with the same end result) so I'd like to have some money put aside to live off of until my current body finally dies. Dying on the street doesn't appeal to me.
Departing a bit from lamenting the meat, eBay's at it again, and not in a good way. Joseph Sullivan, Director of Law Enforcement and Compliance of eBay spoke at a conference this winter past and basically offered up user information on any seller on a silver platter to anyone with a badge. "...all you have to do is send us a fax with a request for information, and ask about the person behind the seller's identity number, and we will provide you with his name, address, sales history and other details -- all without having to produce a court order," Sullivan was quoted as saying.
Thanks, bro. Thanks so much for taking any pretense of privacy we have on eBay and setting it on fire. See if I keep quiet what you buy from me, Sullivan.
This is weird.
Well, I'm back at the Lab, having arrived shortly after 0900 EST. Somewhen around 0330 EST an alarm somewhere in the flat went off and I could hear the shower start in the next room. Per his usual procedure for commuting to and from Pittsburgh, Silicon had set his alarm for the middle of the night so he (and I, this time) could depart to get back to 412 in time for work. I'd showered before going offline for the night so all I had to do was get dressed and refold the bed back into the couch. The coffee maker had a pot ready to roll and by 0400 EST we were out the door and on the road headed for home.
By the bye, I left my boots at your apartment, guys. Hang onto them for me?
The humidity hit us like a hammer the moment we stepped outside. From the standpoint of temperature it would have been quite comfortable had the humidity not been high enough to prevent the evaporation of water. We made quick work of throwing our gear into the trunk of Silicon's car and cranked the AC up as soon as we could. I had Kabuki booted and sitting on my lap for most of the ride to provide music, switching over to Sendai (Silicon's deck) when Kabuki's power cell was exhausted. We stopped off for breakfast at Denny's shortly after crossing the border and took the opportunity to stretch our legs and tank up. We also took the opportunity to drink a pot of coffee each to ensure that our brains would stay functional for at least the remainder of the trip. It was shortly before 0900 EST that we arrived at the Lab and offloaded my gear. Silicon is now at work and I've just finished unpacking everything and putting away clothing and hardware.
Mental note: No eating out for a month or so. Gaining ten pounds since graduation is not a good thing. Especially with how tight I wear my clothing.
Just when you thought spam couldn't be more of a pain in the ass and viruses a great way to kill an otherwise good day, the two are now working hand-in-hand. There are Microsoft Windows viruses out there, such as the Sobig series, that spread through Outlook's contact list (no surprise there) and drop a trojan that allows for remote access of a given system.. and carry enough code to allow the infected system to act as an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.. the protocol used to send and recieve e-mail) relay. Spammers can then use the infected systems to transmit spam for them. I guess throwaway ISP accounts are getting harder to find.
George Bush's faith-based initiatives are at it again. Last Tuesday he asked the US Congress to permit federally funded religious organisations to decide whether to hire and/or fire people according to the religion that they practise or their sexual orientation. Does anyone else doubt this is Constitutional? I might be off base on this, but doesn't the separation of church and state prevent the federal goverment from funding religious organisations and to keep one from giving the other orders? As the laws are currently set up, religious organisations that recieve federal funds are required by state and local nondiscrimination laws to treat everyone fairly in these respects. The changes he proposes would make these groups answerable only to federal law.
It's not quite so safe to wear that pentacle to work, after all.
More stuff about the opening of The Matrix Reloaded in Japan. There are quite a few pictures of the Ikebukuro invasion on this page. There were more Agent Smith lookalikes on one train than other passengers, it would appear. These folks have better posture than my chiropractor, it's eerie. Only one Ghost was spotted in the entire crowd.. I've got to give this guy props for standing out like that, it breaks things up nicely. The commentary on this page is amusing as well, the maintainer's a man after my own hearts.
I just okayed my phone numbers on the Do Not Call website, and I noticed something about the confirmation link: My phone number is encoded in each URL. Check this out (number edited, of course):
The first triplet of numberical strings are the NPA, CO, and extension of my comm number. The fourth string is the date I applied in YYYYMMDD format. The fifth and sixth I think are indexing fields or some sort of identifier. I wonder what would happen if someone on a network whose security had been compromised had signed up for this service and the URL sent by their web browser made it into someone's packet sniffer log... you could hunt someone down, prank the hell out of them (running up their phone bill, maybe, if it's the number of a cellphone), use it to find other information... I can think of better ways to come up with URLs to send for the purpose of confirmation, such as adding the entry to a temporary database, identified by a unique hash, and having a flag that would keep track of whether or not they'd confirmed the number, and then using a batch process to read out all the confirmed users and toggling something in another database. Just a thought.
Remember back in December when I posted a rant about having to have your baggage unlocked if you're going to fly anywhere in the United States? Well, it looks like my prediction was correct... things are turning up missing from luggage, and sometimes even entire bags are stolen, if their contents are valuable enough. Two baggage screeners in Miami, FL were arrested last week for theft, one in New York was arrested back in March, and even rapper Lil' Kim lost $250kus of jewelry at JFK International Airport, though it was recovered from an employee locker later that week. Airport workers say that there's not a bloody thing that can be done about it, and that complaints won't help. One thing worth noting, the airlines don't make their theft figures public anyway, so there's really no way of knowing if more thefts are taking place or less. It seems like less, given the proliferation of low hanging fruit, so to speak, but without the data I can't do a statistical regression.
Paul S. Hudson, executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project says that "There is just no guarantee that your luggage is safe anymore." No shit, Skolnick. Having to travel with your suitcase unlocked is a security risk no matter how you look at it. The TSA says that it will use zip-ties to reclose searched luggage, as well as leave notices among the contents that the bag was checked.
Sorry, guys. I'm not travelling with my gear on an airplane until this nonsense is dispensed with.
I've just installed the DVD-ROM drive that Elwing gave me in Leandra. It was the work of a couple of seconds to open her chassis and switch out the empty hot-swap bay for the second IDE reader, and no trick at all to bring her back on line and recognise the drive. Everything's in place and was picked up automagically. I tried playing back a DVD earlier using Xine but wasn't able to get past the splash screen of the disc - some sort of permissions error, it says. I'll mess with that later, when I reread the Xine documentation. I've mounted one of the CDs that Patrick gave me for Yule, though, and it's working just fine. I'm just messing around with the A/V synch a little bit to get playback working properly. Neat.
Wow. The CueCat drivers for the Linux kernel are still being worked on.
Senate majority leader Bill Frist is one of the first to publically state that he supports the proposed Constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriages. On the up-side, the article also mentions that Belgium and the Netherlands recognise homosexual marraiges...
I've just returned from another scouting expedition in DC. Late this morning Silicon and Elwing headed out to go to a family reunion. There was some debate but eventually I decided to head out on my own to see what I could see in the city.
No, I don't feel like rhyming right now. My exterior is still cooling down from walking around all day.
Initially I got a little lost trying to leave. I was trying to retrace the path that we took in the car yesterday, driving out of the side enterance. The pedestrian-gate was locked and can't be opened, as far as I can tell, from the inside, which meant that I had to wait for a car to pass through the vehicle gate and walk out after it. It was after doing so that I discovered that there is a console on the other side with what appears to be a standard DTMF keypad. I don't know what would unlock the pedestrian gate, though I would guess that the numerical portion of a resident's address and probably part of the telephone number would be required. I didn't want to go messing around with it because I'm a guest here. After that I got a little turned around, walking almost all the way around the complex before realising that I'd gone right instead of left. I retraced my steps and eventually the streets matched up with the map that Elwing had drawn for me. Once I'd gotten my bearings it was a fairly long but straightforward (pun intended) hike to the metro station.
If you get on a red train you'll find yourself in DC in fairly short order. Each metro car has several decent maps of the railway system and stops at either end so it's difficult to get lost unless you lose track of where you are. I tend to be paranoid about that so that wasn't an issue. My destination for today was Dupont Circle, the un-business and less-than-residential part of DC. I spent a good four or five hours walking around in what I'm guessing was 90 degree Farenheit plus temperatures... my exterior is very dehydrated. I just took a shower to bring its core temperature down to a safe level. The changes I'd made optimised it for high temperatures, so barring something unforseen it and I will be fine. I'm slowly drinking water to rehydrate.
I discovered something this morning: The part in my hair, right down the middle, is sunburned. I was washing its hair and yelled when I figured out what the input was. Cherry red. Owie.
Anyway, I think I got a pretty good measure of the city. It's really quite a friendly place. Lots of cafes all over the place, and I don't mean Starbucks. There's one place which is a pretty good bookstore with a small cafe in the back and a restaurant/bar off to the side. I only looked at the books but I'd go back there in a heartbeat; Fridays and Saturdays it's open all night for live music. I think I like that place. I pretty much went bumping around in the Circle to see what I could see. I found a leather store that not only has good prices but isn't shy about pointing people new in DC to the good places to go (17th Street). I think I like this town.
While nosing around I accidentally found what I think is the home office of the Church of Scientology (no, I'm not going to link to it). There were two gentlemen standing out front asking passers-by if they wanted to take their questionairre.
I walked right between them. Uh-oh. Come on, Doctor, think of something witty to say.
"Sorry, guys. Heinlein did it much better."
The two gentlemen with the questionairres broke down laughing. "That's the best response I've ever heard, and I've heard a lot of 'em!" one called out to me as I walked by.
Damn, I'm good.
Around 1700 EST I decided that I'd best head back to the apartment, if only to make sure that everything was okay. Finding my way back to the Dupont Circle metro station was pretty easy, once I got to Connecticut Street I just followed it until I hit the park, then walked until I saw the gaping maw of the metro station. Once I went subterranean it was a simple matter to wait for a red line and then ride it to its end, which happened to be one stop before the one I wanted. No sweat, just wait for the next one, one hop later I'm back at my point of origin. I resurfaced, found my bearings, and then hiked back to the doss. Simple.
Getting into the complex was trivial, I just walked down the driveway through the open gates and hit housing in thirty seconds. Walked to the building, up the stairs to the right floor, find the right door on the right... no problem. Knocked, didn't get an answer, then tried the key. Which didn't work.
I stood there for a minute jiggling the key Silicon had given me in an attempt to get the door open. No dice. Thinking that maybe I'd gone to the wrong unit in the complex I headed back downstairs.
Wrong unit. Oops.
After a bit more walking I did find the correct one, went up the stairs, and let myself in. Once I'd secured the front door the first thing I did was take a shower and hose off the exterior. Now that its core temperature is returning to normal I'm a lot more comfortable. Silicon and Elwing got home and we're figuring out dinner and travel.
This has to be the result of someone cracking the House of Representatives's website! Either that, or they don't know this page is up there yet.
It's now shortly after 2100 EST. Elwing, Silicon Dragon, and I have been walking around downtown Washington DC since 1300 EST. We basically made a big loop of the entire area, seeing such sights as the White House (which was duly saluted), the Washington Monument, the Abraham Lincoln memorial, and the Smithsonian. Of course, we couldn't actually go into any of them because all of us were carrying "contraband" - large keyrings and pocket knives, to be precise. Signs that say that there is no guarantee that you'll get the stuff that you check at the front desk back don't give me a whole lot of hope.. if I have to leave my keychain at the security desk, I'm damn sure going to get it back.
We stopped off for dinner at a restaurant called Tono Sushi, which is a sushi bar/Asian style restaurant somewhere in Dupont Circle. I opted for Chinese instead of sushi this evening, having had sushi in the past couple of days. I opened the night with fried vegetable wonton and General T'sao's Chicken (my measure of a restaurant) and was disappointed by neither of them. I've got a card from that place in my wallet to add to my contacts database, it's definitely a keeper. After dinner we wandered around the Circle for a while, poking into used bookstores ($60us for a copy of Magister Ludi??) and sundry Asian merchandise and 'toy' stores... I picked up a few things that I'm adding to my toybox when I get home. Some of the prices are pretty high down there, and the selections can leave a lot to be desired, it pays to shop around down there.
On the whole I would't mind moving down here. Silicon and Elwing keep trying to talk me into wandering around while they're at Elwing's family reunion tomorrow morning but I'm not very wild about the idea. My sense of direction is next to non-existent; if I can almost wind up in West Virginia trying to drive to Tekkoshocon I'm afraid of where I might wind up if I start walking around in DC. Knowing my luck I'd wander into the Pentagon parking lot and get picked up for trespassing or something.
Riding the metro isn't too bad, it's a lot bigger than the subway system in Pittsburgh and it actually takes you more places. If you learn the layout of the rail lines you can theoretically go anywhere. $5us buys you a pass that will take you anywhere on the metro line as many times as you want for 24 hours. By the time we got home we saw a new fixture in the local neighborhood, an extremely large automat called a Redbox. The name did not fail to amuse. You can get bloody near anything out of one of these.. milk.. paper towels.. salads... candy.. even DVDs (for purchase as well as rental). I wonder when they're going to start appearing on college campuses, where they will really come in handy.
I'm a little worried. Earlier tonight, over movies, Mexican chocolate (yes, I'm having one of my sensualist weekends), and fine wine (well, we liked it) I mentioned a few things to Silicon and Elwing that I don't ordinarily talk about around most people... I'm very afraid that I weirded them out some. These aren't easy things to say, and I fear that the wine didn't make me any more coherent. I tend to keep a lot of cards pretty close to my vest around most people, so to speak, because I don't like acting disturbing.. I treasure the few friends that I do have, and I don't want to lose them. However, I also don't like concealing things from people.
There comes a time when you can't keep things hidden from people that you care about anymore; the pressure starts building up inside and something has to give. At least from my perspective, concealing things like that from people that you care that much for is tantamount to lying to them. Theoretically, it shouldn't change how things stand now but you never know... there are some things that force you to re-evaluate your current view of the universe, no matter what.
Silicon, Elwing... I'm sorry. I didn't want to drop that on you tonight.
Well, so far today's been an interesting one, in a good way. I'm supposed to go on a road trip tonight so I've got a lot of stuff to get taken care of before I head out. After breakfast I started filling out more job applications and then helped my grandfather outside with the rain gutters on the back of the house. Somewhere in the pipe system is a clog, we don't know where. After taking apart most of the joints, flushing the ducts with the garden hose, and climbing around on the roof (not my favourite of tasks) we weren't able to find the clog so we just put everything back together. We'll know soon enough, if it rains the way they say it will tonight. Once that was completed I headed out to the bank to deposit a cheque and then returned to the Lab. The leftover vegetable tray from the family reunion's been divided up into stuff that can be (and was) frozen, and stuff that's going to have to stay in the fridge until we eat all of it or it goes bad.
That didn't take nearly as long as I though it would.
I've just gotten my clothing together to pack, Kabuki's charging on the floor, the CDs I promised Elwing are ready to go, and I'm doing my daily news crawl to catch up on the world. Once that's done I plan on writing a couple of cover letters for jobs to send out, hopefully some time next week.
The news media's pissed off about the Great Iraqi Shoot of 2003, and they aren't pulling their punches anymore. This article lets 'em have it with both barrells. Since victory was declared, not a single accusation has panned out. There is no hard evidence that Iraq is trying to kickstart its nuclear weapons programme. Tales that Iraq was trying to purchase yellowcake uranium on the open market was a fabrication, was confirmed a fabrication, but was touted as the truth. No ongoing relationship between the Iraqi goverment and al-Qaeda has been found.. this isn't surprising, since the Iraqi government was a secular one, and al-Quada is a strongly religious (fanatical, even) group. Oil and water. The unmanned aircraft found in Iraq have a range of only 300 miles, nowhere near what would be necessary to attack the US. The misinformation is so widely spread in the US, people are taking it at face value and completely ignoring the fine-print clarifications that come out (see my rant a few weeks ago about this...)
A wise man once said this on the radio: "Gorbachev's Razor: Trust, but verify." Sound advice in an age where you can drown in information, accurate and not, if you're not careful.
Wow.. Strom Thurmond is dead at the age of 100. He'd been active in the government up until the end. Quite a run, I must admit.
There's an article at Securityfocus that is a primer on RFID technology, which is very interesting. It starts off with a brief history of the barcode and the reasons for its inception, and takes off from there. Of course it also touches on the loss of privacy that RFID tags could bring. One thing that I didn't know, RFID technology was invented in 1969; it's much older than it appears to be. They're purely passive devices, using the microwave energy emitted by a reader to transmit a unique ID code back to a reciever. Only some are powered by internal calls. They're already in use, which is something that I had suspected - EZpass and Exxon's Speedpass use RFID technology to function. Wal-Mart is planning on making widespread use of them, which is going to push RFID technology forward even faster (read the bits about Wal-Mart and barcodes, it's interseting). Read this one, it's a good article.
The National Do Not Call Registry is on line! Sign up today to get those bloody telemarketers off your back.
Okay.. I think this is going too far. The US Pentagon is in the process of creating a database to store unverified reports of anomalous activities within the United States of America. That's right, unverified. As is "might not be true" and "let's give someone a hard time". The project is known as the Talon system, and is meant to make it easier to share such information between agencies. The project was suggested in a memo written somewhen around 2 May 2003 by Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and directed the heads of military departments to begin producing such reports immediately. The last time something like this was tried was by Attorney General John Ashcroft (Operation TIPS) last year. The Talon memorandum is said to have been leaked from a DoD website by the site Kitetoa, which has an excellent viewers hall of fame list, incidentally. Ken McLellan, spokesman for the US DoD said that the document looks authentic but refused to discuss it. I really hope that this is jetwash, a hoax of some kind.. the trend toward the government to want to keep a close watch on what everyone does is frightening. I keep thinking of an old Japanese proverb: "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down."
It's now 2349EST. About a half-hour ago the.Silicon.Dragon and I pulled into Washington, DC for the weekend. We left shortly before 1900EST tonight, later than we'd projected but better late than never, right? Four hours and change seems like making pretty good time to me. We spent pretty much the entire trip catching up on what life's been dealing us, with work and school and trying to carve a niche in the universe that we can call our respective homes. We stopped off for a bit about halfway through the trip for a snack, he grabbed a slice of pizza, I indulged in a bit of frozen yogurt before we resumed the trek. We spent pretty much the whole trip listening to InSoc and Iris on Kabuki (playing back audio CDs works!) and talking. We also saw a beautiful sunset just after we got into West Virginia, all reds and oranges and purples. It's been so long since I've see Sol set, it isn't even funny. I rarely even go outside anymore, only to take care of something or other, not even to just sit and watch the stars or the sun.
Maybe I'll take up astronomy. It has a way of giving one perspective on life.
I'm proud of Kabuki, too. Her power cell lasted two and one half hours. Yay, APM support. Yay, new power cell. Thank you again, Arashiko.
I'm kicking back with Kabuki in my lap, listening to some .mp3s in my collection (stick that in your pipe and smoke it, RIAA), sipping a glass of my favourite warm-shutdown treat (aah, my Goldschlager), lounging in my favourite silk PJs, and backstroking in the waveLAN in the doss of Silicon and Elwing. Quoth the Bastard, "Shit, life's good sometimes." Elwing went offline not too long ago, she got up early so she could go home early, Silicon's been on the road with yours truly for four hours so he crashed along with her. I can't say as I blame them, I did the same thing under both sets of circumstances.
Sleep well, folks. If you run into the Lord Shaper, give him my best.
This is amusing.. the Department of Homeland Security has sent out faxes of press releases to various news agencies around the country.. however, in violation of law, they leave no way of getting back in touch with them. Chris Harris of the Hartford Advocate wrote an entire story about trying to get in touch with someone... anyone, in fact, who had a clue and was willing to talk to a reporter. The former is debatable, the latter is verified impossible. The faxes contain no way to contact the DoHS' press offices, or even evidence that they have press offices. Mr. Harris was able to track down the comm number of the front desk, but attempts to reach their press secretary hit a dead end. Heh. Security works both ways, folks. It's nice to know exactly who is keeping you secure, and it's also nice to be able to have a nice, friendly chat with them.
I just got word on that contract job - the first positions' been filled already and they're waiting on the second interview of another applicant before they decide. Looks like I lost that one.
The United States Supreme Court struck down a ban against consensual sodomy today, ruling that the laws in place were not only a violation of privacy but were unconstitutional as well. The case in question stems from two Texas me, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested and charged under these laws back in 1998.Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that these laws are demeaning to the lives of gays and lesbians, and that they are entitled to respect for their private lives. This is a major victory, let's hope that no one tries to cut it down. Of course, not everyone is happy about this.
A recent study shows that Americans don't get the medical care that they should. Duh. I think a lot fo it is the price of insurance and the general lack of help that insurance is. When you cut through the exceptions and the premiums and the qualifications in your average insurance policy, it really doesn't cover all that much. My own doesn't cover ambulance transportation, the first $3000us of emergency care, hospital food (if you can call it that), and lots of other things that I'm too lazy to dig my notes out for. Hospital bills don't take long to climb to frightening degrees because they're finely itemised, and the insurance companies take full advantage of that.
This wasn't expected...
Special thanks to Mark and Louis Trumpbour for linking to my site off of the Summercon links page. Thanks, guys.
For the love of mike... nerve deafness for fun and profit?! Folks... I know that there are some cool hobbies out there.. but don't you think this is going a bit too far? These folks could put their knowledge to better use, say, designing sonic weapons (their stereo rigs crank out enough sound energy to make people barf?!) That explains what all the explosions were last night.. they were people firing up their systems.
Windows 2000 service pack #4 is out - here's a writeup of everything it's supposed to fix. Among some of the gems in this list are #324490 - Corrupted .gif images may cause an access violation in OLE. Read: Segementation fault. Read: Someone's going to figure out how to exploit this soon, if they havn't already. #331509: IIS admin services do not stay running and Exchange SMTP service repeated stops. I've run into that one before.. it's a pain in the ass. No connections can be made on port 25/TCP, hence, no incoming e-mail. #320877: A one-hour delay occurs during startup when using a USB keyboard and PS/2 mouse. Holy shit! I've seen fsck(1)s that don't take that long! #323045: Access violation error message in explorer.exe. Another segfault. #814140: Unknown error message when you create a backup over your network... "Duh! How do I do this again?" That's why I used Samba and AFbackup for that. And my personal favourite, #320828: Data that is protected (encrypted) by a user's private key can be accessed by a Domain Administrator who resets the user's password.
Okay, I feel a need to explain this one. Say a cracker busts into the account of someone who's got DA privileges on a Win2k domain. Say someone else, say, Henry Armitage, has protected some of his e-mail and web stuff with his private key. The cracker only has to change Henry's password, then logs in as Henry. Said cracker can now access that information without any trouble. I have to admit, this seems like it would be kind of useful for admins, too.. say someone forgets their password and encrypted their settings. At least they can still get to their data.
A little under an hour ago I got home from John and Lara's apartment. I'd gone out there to drop off the stuff I'd borrowed from Lyssa when I was up in Ann Arbor because they're supposed to be on their way out there tomorrow for the IgorMUD Michmeet. However, their car suddenly deciding to blow its cooling system, resulting in its being taken to the garage sort of puts a crimp in their plans. They were supposed to be Lyssa's transportation while they were out there. We kicked around some ideas, alternate methods of getting up there and finding rides and the like, but to no avail. I'm out, as I'm headed out of town this weekend to go on a job hunt down south. I wish I knew how to help them.
Admins of all sorts and coders take note: Your overtime pay might be in jeopardy. A plan proposed by the Bush administration has the potential to eliminate overtime pay for more than eight million Americans. A proposal by the US Labor Department could change the criteria which defines what does and does not deserve extra pay. The public comment period on this bill expires on Monday, 30 June 2003. The proposal states that workers pulling down more than $65kus per year will become ineligible for OT, as would some jobs being reclassified into categories that would have the same effect. I think it's time to start pulling wires and nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand.
I scored a 50% on the "How evil are you?" Quizie! What about you?
I found this quiz here.