Busy as all get out. I'm packing up the Lab and running around getting ready.
Don't look at me. I didn't do it.
One shall stand. One shall fall.
Hrm... that's a surprise.
I managed to get a lot done tonight. I've got my first load of laundry in the wash right now (it'll be done by tomorrow, if all goes according to plan). I'm slowly emptying out my dresser and washing everything, just on general principle. Twelve boxes of stuff have been packed this evening, ten from another bookcase and a fair chunk of the third, and two of action figures and models that I normally keep all over the place. The challenge, I think, will be packing up the model of the Sentinel (from The Matrix) that's on top of Dataline's monitor - it's a little over two feet in length. I'll be able to find a more suitable place for it after it's all said and done. And I've got plans for a diorama for it.... images will be forthcoming.
I brought an armload of empty boxes home from work today. They were originally from some of the new servers, I think, and were being pitched. When I dug them out of the dumpster, I had ideas for what to put in them.. now I have no idea what should go in them. Maybe some of the gear from my entertainment center, maybe clothes, maybe something else. I had a hell of a time getting them home today. Even nested together and held in place with styrofoam peanuts, the largest one is still 3.5 feet on a side, which is very unweildly.. moreso when you're trying to keep it from sliding around and hurting someone during the bus ride home. I think I could curl up in it for a nap if I emptied it out... it's now taking up a huge amount of space in the Lab at the present time. I can't wait until I get my keys.. I'm going to start driving stuff over there, not because I'm in a hurry, but because I'm feeling very claustrophobic at the moment.
T-4 days and counting.
I just heard about the other position, for certain this time.
I didn't get the job.
As if reality hasn't screwed me over enough lately, George Bush's overtime cut bill goes into effect shortly. There goes half my paycheque every week.
Mr. Bush, you've just killed whatever chance you had of my voting for you.
"Your moving out is costing me a lot of money. You would do well to say very little."
T-5 days and counting. That is all I will say on the matter.
I don't know if this guy is a truly gifted psychic, a talented conspiracy theorist, or an utter nutbar. No matter how you cut it, this makes for interesting reading. Look it over for the heck of it.
I discovered earlier tonight just how far six packing crates will go: One full bookcase and perhaps an eighth of another bookcase. I'm attempting to make the best use possible of space in each crate, so in places I've mixed and matched books from two other bookcases to maximise use of space. So, now I've got a commpletely empty bookcase and a big chunk taken out of a second one (the bookcases that flank the staircase, incidentally), with a few gone from the one to the right of my workbench.
I hope I get my keys relatively early in the week, so I can move things a little at a time each night. I'd like to move one bookcase and six crates of books each evening, unpack the boxes as best I can, and then bring the boxes back for the next load the next night. Things probably won't work out that way, though.
I'm going to pack up some of the small stuff around my lab in another crate or two, also. I've got little stuff on top of each bookcase and on the shelves that I'd like to take with me (such as some pottery shards, little toys, and other things like that - details), so I'll probably wrap them in bubble wrap and pack them separately.
I wound up going to the Expomart solo today. No big deal, because the Super Surplus Sale wasn't a big deal, either. If you went there looking for car audio gear (specifically, bass systems powerful enough to make the Washington Monument reverberate), you'd be in heaven. Unfortunately, the three dealers of gear were demonstarting their wares, which meant that hearing anything apart from "BOOMPH BOOMPH BOOMPH RUMMMMMBLE BOM-BOM-BOM-POOM BOMPH..." was not possible. Even with my cellphone screwed to my ear (metaphorically speaking) with the volume all the way up, I still could barely hear Lyssa when she called. There was lots of very pretty metalwork there in the form of knives, swords, and strange implement not seen since the ninja movies of hte 1980's (long live Sho Kosugi!). All very nice stuff, and highly affordable, also. However, aside from ritual use I would not trust any of it to protect me unless it was a life or death situation. The steel's probably cheap enough that one good blow, either landed or blocked, would snap the metal.
I have to admit, though, the katana, wakizashi, and tanto in the wooden stand would have looked good on my altar, but they'd also be terribly impractical at this point in time.
Around that point, I left and headed westward to my usual stomping grounds once again.
First stop, Officemax to price stuff. They've got good prices on one drawer modular filing cabinets (lockable), two drawer filing cabinets (also lockable), and four-drawer (lockable if you spend an extra $15us on the mechanism) filing cabinets. I'm thinking about picking up a few of the stackable one drawer ones just after I move in this weekend. Their bookcases were also nice, but a bit on the pricy side. I think I'll haunt K-Mart for them, because they usually have them for $50us. I didn't feel like paying $79us for a bookcase today. I did purchase a new ink tank module for my printer, something that I'd been putting off for several weeks. They tend to die after six months or so, which renders the printer inoperable. One can switch out the ink tanks all one likes, but the control electronics for heads are in the tank holder module, and those are what die periodically. I got stuck paying $55us for one; if I could find them for less, I would pay less, but as far as I know they don't even show up at computer shows.
After that, I hit up my favourite everything-and-the-kitchen-sink store, Sam's Club, where you can find exactly what you need, in bulk, for a decent price. In a stroke of serendipity, I found a moving kit (fifteen crates, packing tape, and bubble wrap) for $23us. I also picked up a six-pack of packing tape just in case I had to shore up some cardboard boxes. At long last, I bought myself new pillows for my bedroom. I also picked up a few things that are best purchased in bulk, like shampoo, soap, and a first aid kit (the size of a small suitcase for $19us - one never knows). The hard part was wrestling everything into the back of my car. Once I got home, however, it all came out smoothly and it, at this moment, sitting in the garage.
At this point I've been sitting around thinking about how I'm going to get everything packed and when I should start sending out messages to people asking for help. I should probably start doing so tomorrow, just to be sure.
I've decided that after I get settled in, I'm going to rebuild Leandra; I'm tired of Debian's quirks, most of which have to do with old revisions of software. I tried to build the latest revision of GAIM on Kabuki and Leandra last night, and it errored out both times because an argument of a GTK call was wrong, and I don't know enough about GTK to try to fix it. I also haven't been able to get Java working (which has curtailed my wanting to learn ig), and the later revisions of Mozilla and Firefox don't work, either. I never had this problem with Slackware, so that's what I'll be moving Leandra (at first) and Kabuki (later on) back to. I will also be able to use the v2.6 kernel series without having to perform major surgery. Someone's ported APT (the Advanced Packaging Tool - I'm too busy to dig up the link for slapt-get) to Slackware, too, so I can automate updates once again, and not have to compile some packages by hand, either.
Cor blimey, I taste like Tea.|
I am a subtle flavour, quiet and polite, gentle, almost ambient. My presence in crowds will often go unnoticed. Best not to spill me on your clothes though, I can leave a nasty stain. What Flavour Are You?
I am a Defender-ship.|
I am fiercely protective of my friends and loved ones, and unforgiving of any who would hurt them. Speed and foresight are my strengths, at the cost of a little clumsiness. I'm most comfortable with a few friends, but sometimes particularly enjoy spending time in larger groups. What Video Game Character Are You?
Gods... 'Defender' was my first handle. Wow.
When's summer going to get here?
No, seriously.. when?
For the past three weeks, temperatures have barely broken 70 degrees Farenheit in Pittsburgh. Waking up between 0500 and 0600 EDT, it isn't unusual right now for the temperature to be barely over 50 degrees, not warming up until 0700 EDT or so. Today it's been raining most of the day, finally cutting loose in time for the rush home this evening. And then really cutting loose at dinner time; tornado watches are on until 0400 EDT Saturday. Pittsburgh seems to be safe for the time being, though. Aside from a downpour that's lasted all night, the wind's been low and there's been no thunder or lightning to speak of. At least, as far as I could tell.
One thankfully low-stress week is over.
Tomorrow I'll be going to Hypermart, the yearly super surplus sale, to look for stuff for next weekend.. the move.
I need furniture. Specifically, an easy chair or two, maybe another lamp for the living room (I'd like to get a few of those white LED 'bulbs' - they're as bright as halogen lamps, use less power, and last far, far longer). If I can find another bookcase and perhaps a coffee table, I'll be set.
We'll see what happens.
Hopefully my glasses will be in, soon. If things go the way I think they will, they'll be ready just in time. I should hear back from my landlord this week upcoming about exactly when I can move in; I should get my keys, too.
Mental note: Start enlisting help. I can pack a little each night, but I'll need help to get it all moved into the truck, and moved back out again.
Mental note: Get a moving truck.
Mental note: Get cash to pay for pizza for everyone.
Mental note: Get boxes this weekend to start packing. Big ones. Shipping crates, if possible.
I probably won't be able to sleep there, for a few days, anyway. It will take time to unpack, and time to get everything going again. The bedroom is probably going to take priority. A bed and a dresser - pretty easy. Putting clothes away will probably wait until after I've got the Children set up again, so I can work to music. After that will be the rest of the apartment, which I can do a chunk at a time until it's ready. Maybe a week, tops, if I work on it each night.
It doesn't take me long to get settled in. I just have to work at it.
Let's see... what's happened outside of my egotistical little world today? How about a few ill tidings to balance the hope I've been splashing across this HTML page? No longer the domain of dedicated proponents of fraud, prepacked phishing kits are now available across the Net, so now every Tom, Dick, and Harry can try to scam people out of their identities. No longer do you have to lurk on Bugtraq to find the latest Internet Explorer spoofing vulnerabilities to leverage to make people think they're at a legit site, when in fact they're about to be screwed, blued, and tattooed. The scams-in-a-zipfile come complete with all of the code and HTML necessary to put up a website (on a rooted server) to capture unsuspecting users' credit card or bank account information.
I wonder if the password is still 'CHIBA CITY'...
What else has happened recently? Hmm... the crackers who hit the McMurdo Station (Antarctica) computer network really didn't have the scientists' lives in any danger because the life support system of the research station wasn't actually hooked up to the Net? The FBI might have overstated things just a little to make a point? Naaah.... Keith Lourdeau, head of the FBI's cybercrime unit stated in his testimony before a Senate subcommittee hearing that the environment control system was accessible through the Net, when in fact it wasn't (and still isn't).
There's a word for that. It has eight letters and begins with 'bull'.
Lourdeau, to his credit, never stated that his unit had encountered anything qualifying as 'cyberterrorism', but Attorney General John Ashcroft apparently missed that detail when working on his report to the US Justice Department that justified the USA PATRIOT Act shortly therafter fnord.
Happy 30th birthday, Dungeons and Dragons.
The first security vulnerabilities in Windows XP Service Pack 2 have been discovered. Have a nice day.
Another day, stacked, packed, and racked. Go, me.
I can't wait to get out of here. I've already begun to plan the move, from figuring out how I'm going to move my library and what I'll have room to bring with me (such as my desk and home entertainment centre) to what clothes I'll be bringing first, whether or not I'll wash them before the relocation, and where I'll put them. I'll be able to bring that chest-of-drawers after all, so I'll have someplace to put the clothes that don't have to be hung up (which is all of my t-shirts and shorts). I'll have to time things so that I'll be moving in completely after the utilities and telephone are activated (which implies that the DSL link will have been transferred, also), but that shouldn't be too hard after I get the go-ahead from the manager. I'm excited. I don't yet know where my altar is going to go, most likely in the living room until I can figure out a better place for it. The key factor is how I'm going to set up SAL-9000 when I get there. Maybe that's going to have to wait a bit.
I should sit down and write this stuff down, so I have my ducks in a row.
I need more time to sit and write, in general.
My hands are starting to bother me again. That's not good.
I went to the optometrist tonight to see about getting a new pair of glasses, to replace the ones I'm wearing now that are damaged and listing to one side all the time. Because they're under warranty, I don't have to pay for them, but I do have to wait until they come in, which should be in about a week's time. I can wait. They're not so bad that I'm completely blind.
On 9 August 2004 the Federal Communications Commission began pushing for all Internet protocols to be made less secure to make it easier to monitor them. That's right - they want to add the Net to the CALEA statute. As if they're trying to follow in the footsteps of Canada (see yesterday's entry), they want ISPs to foot the bill for implementing this, which is going to raise the rates of all of us in the States with net.access. This hasn't gone into action yet, but the way they're pushing it's only going to be a matter of time before someone gives (or they find a way to set a legal precedent - the Al Quaida operative they busted with a laptop full of data seems like a good way to go about it, don't you think?)
In other news, the US Central Intelligence Agency is making a move that paranoids have been screaming about for years, and that's permission to act against US citizens inside the United States. Porter Goss, the man G.W.Bush nominated for replacement head of the CIA, introduced legislation that would allow the CIA to do just that. It's being called an 'intelligence reform' bill, and was put forth on 16 June 2004. Just one more reason to worry...
Hard crypto might not be enough to save you, either. Not too long ago (on 13 August 2004 - Friday the Thirteenth, of all days), someone named Pascal Junod announced that he found a way to produce collisions in the SHA-0 algorithm SHA-0 is referred to as a message digest algorithm, which basically takes an arbitrary pile of bits and computes a much shorter, theoretically unique in all the known universe string out of it, called a digest. These digests are the keystone of digital signatures, which can be used to prove that your pile of arbitrary bits really is yours (because it's keyed to your public key) as well as proving that the pile of bits hasn't been altered in any way. The fact that he was able to produce a collision (proven in the message) means that it is now theoretically possible for someone with enough computing power to generate another pile of bits that has the same digest as your pile of bits, and possibly convince other people that it's yours (or that the pile of bits hasn't been tampered with, when in fact it has been). As if that's not enough, rumours are flying around the cryptography community that someone managed to do the same thing to SHA-1, which is the SHA-0 algorithm's stronger brother. Same net result - digital signatures might not be worth the paper they're printed on shortly.
To be fair, it's not going to be easy to exploit this. Yes, it very well could be possible to forge a bitstream that has the same hash as something that everyone would like protected (say, an OS update). That does not mean that an attacker could create a hacked version of that bitstream that has the same signature. One thing about message digest algorithms is that they take into account every bit in the bitstream. The faked bitstream that has the same has might not even be a legal file on any computer. It's one thing to alter a patch or someone's e-mail and have it come out with the same digest. It's another to come up with garbage that has the same digest. An attacker would no doubt want to accomplish the former; the latter isn't any good for a nefarious plan save to distract someone.
For once I went to bed early last night, around 2100 EDT, to try to make up for not getting any REM sleep all weekend. I think it worked; I made it through a day filled with "oh shit" situations, people walking into my office way in the back to put out fires and help consultants. I even made it through my DHCP lease expiring, and all the havoc that is wreaked when everything is restricted by IP address (uh-oh...)
I lived. I adapted.
All that stress began to leak out by the time I got on the bus home, though. By the time I got home I was ready to go off on someone. Anyone. Very nearly did, too, in an uncharacteristic loss of mental coolant.
Maybe reading NRC reports of power plant screw-ups wasn't such a good idea.
I got an e-mail from the guy who interviewed me - he says that he's sorry about the delay, HR is in a holding pattern down there while they figure things out. I can handle that.
This evening I signed the lease on my apartment. I paid the rest of the security deposit and the rent for September. I can start moving in the weekend of the 28th of August. That's the weekend after this one.
I finally did it. I broke free of this place, and now I only have time to plan how I'm going to move before I set off on my own.
After I signed the lease and wrote a few cheques to cover the rest of the security deposit (I paid $100us of it up front to reserve the apartment) and the rent for September, I went back upstairs. The door was still open because the maintenance guy was replacing the locking mechanism on the door (a nice, big steel number - my favourite) due to stickiness and generally being a pain in the butt to open, so I walked back in and looked around. "It's mine," I thought. "I live here. I will live here. This place will be my home." I admit to doing a few twirls in the open space that is the living room, admiring the window, fingering the walls, and walking around, seeing everything again for the first time. Everything's so much larger than I remember it being. The kitchen has a garbage disposal (and the power's on - I was able to hit the switch and activate it briefly). The bedroom and living room get much more light than I remember. The window's much larger. So is the balcony. The carpet is soft, though it could use a once-over with a sweeper.
I can start moving in the weekend after next. I need to get the phone turned on within thirty days of moving in (thus sayeth my lease). I'll probably have to put deposits down on most of the utilities, so I'm going to save up some cash to do so (modulo new glasses tomorrow night).
I've got a line in on a couch for my flat. Anne Marie and Albert, friends of Dataline, offered me their spare couch for nothing. As long as it's not too ratty and doesn't smell, I'll take it.
I start moving in two weeks.
This takes balls the size of truck tires: The Canadian police force wants the telecom companies to levy a surchage of roughly $0.25us for every phone in Canada to cover telephone and Internet surveillance, should it ever become necessary. They don't want to have to pay the cost of wiretapping themselves. This ranks up there with the Chinese government charging the families of executed dissidents for the bullets used.
I think I want a tattoo of the internal schematic of a MOS 6581 chip somewhere on my body. Yep - the SID chip.
Have you ever had the feeling that it's dangerous to disagree with Those In Power?
I'm not getting that job. It doesn't take a Ph.D to figure that one out.
I'm going to be stuck in Pennsylvania until the day I die. Nothing I've tried has gotten me out of here. I can't find a good job to save my lives.
My family really gets under my skin, too. From the condescending question of "So, did you find your way there all right?" to being told directions to get places that I'm reasonably confidant that I can find on my own (such as the local supermarket that I go to two or three times every week) to the simple "What are you looking for?"
Maybe I shouldn't get fed up with this (gods only know, I'm not supposed to get angry or frustrated around here), but there's a simple principle that I live by that they don't seem to understand: I treat others in the same manner that I wish to be treated. I don't want to talk to them; I don't like to talk to them; I don't say anything. I really don't like being cornered by them whenever I happen to go upstairs. That's why I spend all of my time down here. I really don't care about tales of their friends or what they did today or what they plan on doing, and I do not wish to tell them things from my end of things. I also resent being asked what I did, as if I was a thirteen year old who got caught sneaking out late at night, and several of you will no doubt be pleased to hear that pointed inquiries were made with regards to where you, my readers who are no doubt fed up with the angst and frustration that make up the last few entries, live.
Yes, they're now curious about where some of you live. How to get there and landmarks, also.
Why it's any of their business, I do not know. Why they want to know, I have no idea. If any of you are concerned, please contact me privately.
I can see that my body's second adolescence is not going well, for they seem to think that I've returned to the age of fourteen or therabouts.
On the bright side, guess what I'm doing tomorrow night?
Signing the lease on that apartment.
I think that's going to go a long way toward stabilising the internal situation right now. My reserves are completely spent; this weekend's taken the last of my strength, and it takes much right now to keep me from curling up on the floor and bawling my eyes out, because my internal systems have lost almost all of their organisation, and chaos will soon ensue if I am not careful.
I must admit, however, it would be nice to let that pressure go and purge it from my system. Once I'm out of here, fine. Doing so right now would only reinforce being treated as a child in their eyes. It's a sign of weakness.
I don't know. I suppose wanting to be alone to work on things that I feel are important and wanting a little bit of privacy are considered 'juvenile' actions.
Is it any wonder that my dearest wish is to disappear?
Last night Lyssa and I crashed over at John and Lara's. I had hoped that the night would turn into a game night (they're the only folks I know around here who are interested in games of any kind, even a good card game of one sort or another) but it wound up being a night of sitting around drinking and talking. Either way, it was still a good night. Lys and i got up early this morning so I could get her back to the homefront to drive back down to Maryland, and were trapped in the singular hell that is Pittsburgh traffic when PennDOT decides to work on the roadway system. The two main arteries out of Pittsburgh proper, to the west and south, are shut down for maintenance right now (PennDOT engineers were quoted as saying that they were "going to do fifteen years of work in three days" last night, a proclimation that does not instill the listener with any sort of confidence), necessitating detours that add anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes of travel time (worst case scenario, due to traffic congestion). Around 0900 EDT today, the worst case scenario was encountered. Lyssa and I were stuck in traffic far earlier on a Sunday than anyone should be. Due to our sleepy, dazed states, only the dashboard clock kept track of time for us.
Am I the only one who is suddenly reminded of a plotline in the Illuminatus Trilogy? I dearly hope that the end results will not be the same...
Julia Child - RIP
Heh heh heh... this does my hearts good. From some of the remarks near the end, however, I'm inclined to think this is a joke.
Three new episodes are available at Utena Thumbnail Theatre!
1745 EDT: Still no word. I think I'm going to give up hope. I left a message for the guy that interviewed me (on his cellphone's voice mail) but I really don't think that I'm going to get a call back.
I'm supposed to sign off on that apartment tomorrow, so either way it'll be a change for the better.
Wish me luck, everyone. Or have a drink for me.
1803 EDT: Still no word.
I'm finally starting to catch up. My chequebook is balanced, my speeding ticket has been paid and will be mailed out tomorrow, and I've finally gotten the bathroom and kitchen floor cleaned. I now know how much cash I've got in the bank, and how much I'll have available to close on that apartment, in the event that I'll be staying in Pittsburgh. Still no word yet on that job down in Maryland; I filled out the webwork (a web application replacing the mounds of paperwork that usually have to be filled out when applying for a position) last night and recieved the confirmation, so that should be squared away. I had to go back a decade to fill out my work history (yep, ten years).. I don't know if that's normal these days or not, but one thing about compulsively keeping records is that when you need that kind of data, it's there. Now Google just has to invent a search engine for all of my binders and file folders...
I'm supposed to find out from my contact by the end of tomorrow whether or not I get the job. I really hope that I do... I know that I keep saying this, but this could be the brass ring. My chance to make something positive of myself.
Even if I don't get the job, I still have that apartment lined up and ready to move into, as of 15 August 2004. Either way, it's a winning situation.
I'd just much rather have that new job....
Lyssa is, at this time, on her way northward to visit her family in Pennsylvania. I'll be driving out to join her tomorrow night and we'll spend the evening kicking around the city having a good time.
My glasses broke today. I discovered that part of the left earpiece that attaches to the len-body is broken - if you imagine a two-pronged fork that fits over a small nub, with an itty-bitty screw (two millimetres, tops) passing through it, you've got a good mental image of what the hinge looks like. Now break the top tine off of the 'fork' and you've got the situation my glasses are in at the present time. The lenses don't sit right on my face; they've a tendency to shift around, which messes with how light is focused into my eyes, which at turns gives me a headache and vertigo. I drove out to America's Best after dinner earlier tonight, hoping to get a new earpiece. Instead, they ordered me a new set of frames. I'm happy to be getting a new set of frames for my spectacles but I was hoping to get them repaired tomorrow. Maybe I'll put up with them as best I can until tomorrow night, and then I'll put my contacts in for the drive.
Earlier today, the left earpiece popped off as I tried to tighten the screw to make it a bit more stable. Inside the bulgey part nearest the lens (my, how technical) was a spring with a little solid metal piece at the end that applied pressure to the rest of the frame and snugged the frames into place on my head. The spring explosively decompressed, shooting the little metal thingy (very much like a tumbler from a very small lock) across the room and into oblivion. It took me a good half hour to get the earpiece back into place, albeit much more loosely than it had been before. The earpiece is also much more wiggly in the vertical axis than it had been before, which is why they keep shifting around all over the place.
Science teacher Roger Bennatti kept a Twinkie for 30 years in his classroom as an ongoing experiment to see what its shelf life was. You mean to tell me that after 30 years the bloody thing hasn't hatched yet?!
Wow - James McGreevey, governor of the state of New Jersey resigned after coming out on CNN.
This is pretty cool - type arbitrary text into this website and an application will sing it for you by piecing the words together out of a library of samples from other songs.
Too much going on in too short a period of time. Bear with me.
Gods, I need sleep. In fact, I'm going right now...
The number of people whose web browsers don't understand the 'ftp://' URI is amazing. The hell of it is, all of them seem to be IE v6.0 on Windows XP (Home Edition, I think).
Curses and a pox upon the asshole who seems to think that taking every word from the Webster's dictionary and trying it as an e-mail address on the Network is a good idea. We've been flooded over here by this guy - over two million messages in twenty-four hours. Two million. I've had to manually rotate Lucien's log files as a result. My network link is flooded with crap and Lucien is straining under the weight of all of the junk that's filled his input queues. Earlier this evening I spent some time working on that with Qhandle to sweep the junkmail out by hand, but he's going to have to do the rest on his own. If anyone Out There is sending mail to one of the users of the Network, please be patient because it's going to take a while to process the crap. It's stuff like this that makes me wish it was legal to LART hosers like him or her.
Times like this make me want to get Fist of the North Star on these idiots. Fuck the Geneva Convention, I want to see spammers' heads explode like watermelons dropped from overpasses and shards of broken bone poking up through lacerated muscle tissue and skin.
By the bye, if any of you Out There will be travelling northward through Pennsylvania, be careful if you'll be driving through Fulton County, just over the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. There are maintenance roads that run parallel to the highways, about thirty feet above the roadway. Police cars position themselves up there and scan the passing traffic with radar guns. If they detect a viable target (someone going faster than 55 mph) they shoot right down the maintenance roads to the highway like it was a launch ramp and hit their lights about halfway down - that's how I got nailed last night on route 79 north. Around 2115 EDT I was busted by a Pennsylvania State Police officer for speeding just over the border. The guy had me dead to rights. I told him, quite honestly, that I was in a hurry to get home because I had to be up for work in a few hours (the gods' honest truth) so he went easy on me. I've got a ticket for $125us.
In case you've never been ticketed in Pennsylvania, traffic citations break down like this.. let's say, for the sake of argument, that you got caught doing 65 MPH in a 55MPH zone:
So.. for going ten miles over the speed limit, a $45us fine balloons to $125us. Ouch.
I'm just going to pay it and move on.
I didn't have a chance to write about my interview yesterday because I got home too late to do so (well after 0000 EDT, due to heeding the speed limits). The interview was probably the hardest I've ever had in my life, and by the time I walked out of the building I felt like a lake trout who'd try to apply to the Ph.D programme at MIT. In other words, like a complete moron.
I wasn't speaking as clearly as I had wanted to. I was so nervous, I even forgot the title of the CISSP book I've been studying from. They asked me about stuff clear back to my days at IUP, such as what kind of show I did at the radio station, what a "Computer Science Ambassador" was (in short, very little), what I did at previous jobs... in total, nearly two hours of good-cop-bad-cop questioning. At the end of it, however, I was told that I was the top candidate for this postition.
I was so nervous, however, that I got lost on my way back to Lyssa's flat.
Badly lost. I found myself driving down a crowded two-lane highway running next to a cornfield ringed by a ten-foot fence with "Property of US Government - no trespassing" signs every twenty feet.
I had no intention of trespassing. I just wanted to turn around and go back to Lyssa's, which I eventually managed.
Wish me luck, everyone.
My contact at the place I'm interviewing for called me less than 70 seconds before I pulled into the parking lot - an emergency came up at home and he was headed out. The interview's been rescheduled for 1400 EDT.
I was sitting at the traffic light looking at the parking lot when he called.
I must not fear. Fear is the mindkiller. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear, I will allow it to pass through me and over me. And when the fear has gone, I will turn the inner eye to follow its path. The fear will have gone. Only I will remain.
Deus est coffee.
Lyssa and I got off to late start today, and an early closure last night. We went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Tia's in Virginia, an hour's ride down the beltway, and arrived in plenty of time to miss the Saturday evening rush as people stopped out to eat before going out to do whatever it is that they do on the weekends down here. The food at Tia's isn't terribly expensive, but you do get a lot of it - the pick four platter is well worth the $9.99us, and all of the possible choices are good. Be sure to save room for dessert, namely the fried ice cream. They give it to you on a dish the size of a serving platter, and it's easy to eat too much.
Verdict: Bloody good food for a cheque of $50us. Make sure you stop in there if you'll be in Virginia.
We did get lost on the way home, mostly due to the fact that the highways leaving Tia's are one-way and not marked all that well. Thank the gods that I didn't cancel my net.access account on my cellphone, otherwise we'd have been screwed. By the time we got home, the only thing we could do was go to bed.. and this we did, packing away about ten hours of much needed rest.
Earlier yesterday, Lyssa and I prowled around the local mall looking for some new gear for me. Specifically, I was in search of a new business suit, a sharp number to replace the one that I love to wear, but was a holdover from my last body. It fits, but it hands oddly because it was designed for someone a good bit heavier than my current body is now. We found a small formalwear shoppe in the PGP Mall (no, I'm not kidding) run by some older Indian guys, where I picked up a brand-new number made by a tailorship called Falcon and left it to be altered slightly to fit my unusual frame. The gentleman who actually altered the suit was amazing - by just eyeballing me, he was able to modify the suit to fit perfectly. While he worked his magic, we headed farther down the mall to find a new tie and dress shirt to go with the ensemble. We found one in the form of a pair of sky-blue microfibre shirts and a dark red silk tie, suggested by an older gentleman who probably has more knowledge of fashion and colour coordination in his left ear than I have in my entire body.. officially, I wear a size 'medium' in dress shirts, with a 15 inch collar to accomodate a necktie.
My neck's fourteen inches in circumfrence. I'm officially a pencil neck geek.
I haven't tried the shirts or tie on yet, but I did try on the suit before we left. It fits perfectly.
"But Bryce, why did you suddenly skip out on plans for this weekend to go to Maryland? You and Lyssa spent the entire time kicking around having what sounds like a good time." you're probably saying.
We haven't been having a good time this weekend, at least, not in the way that one would normally think of it. We think it's fun to do these things. However, the reason that I dropped everything and took off for Maryland is because I have a job interview on Monday afternoon.
Wednesday night, I got a call from someone down here about a position that I really hadn't expected... I don't want to say too much about it because I'm terrified that I'll jinx it somehow. This could be the brass ring...
So, I've been a nervous wreck all weekend about it.
Any prayers, energies, good vibes, or good-luck sex with your partner(s) of choice would be appreciated from the bottoms of my hearts, and proof will guarantee you admission to the celebration afterward. <grin>
Freudian Inventory Results
|Genital (46%) you appear to be stuck between a progressive and regressive outlook on life. |
Latency (70%) you may be using learning as an escape from living.
Phallic (30%) you appear to have negative issues regarding sexuality and/or have an uncertain sexual identity.
Anal (46%) you appear to have a good balance of self control and spontaneity.
Oral (43%) you appear to have a good balance of independence and interdependence.
I still say that Freud needed to get laid.
To jump back to the present time, Lyssa and I met Lauren, a friend of hers from belly dancing class, and Steve (Lauren's significant other) for lunch at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant called the Prince Cafe. Their food is a bit on the expensive side but not terribly so, and their vegetarian fare is some of the best I've had in a long while. The fatoosh was warm but not overly so, not chilled (so it was easy for me to eat), and the bread on top was still warm, because it had been taken from the oven minutes before. The vegetable curry was also excellent, and went well with bismati rice. The piece de resistance was the opportunity to smoke a hookah afterward. No, nothing that would earn a visit from the MIBs was in the three foot long, highly ornate pipe, but a smoking mix called Five Stars, which had a slightly fruity taste and was very easy on both the lungs and sinuses. It went down smoothly, came back up smoothly, and left a pleasant buzz that didn't fade too rapidly. We spent a total of four and one-half hours in there, talking, laughing, swapping stories, and smoking. Frankly, I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
Rick James, RIP. You will be missed, oh Super Freak.
This morning I killed a camel cricket the size of a facehugger in Lyssa's closet.
Morpheus preserve me, but what the hell happened last night? Did one of H.R.Giger's dreams escape and go roaming around in the material world? It was at least as long as Lyssa's thumb, if it was a bloody inch, and zigzagged like a mouse on crystal meth with a slotted-off tomcat hot on its heels. Lyssa told me that it was big, the biggest she'd seen yet. I must confess, I only half believed her... but no. She told the absolute truth. I managed to nail the sucker with a baseball bat (she keeps one laying around specifically to remedy situations like this; I'll take pictures of it if you don't believe me), leaving a smear of twitching legs and protein the size of an 180 MB CD-ROM. I've never heard an insect go 'splat!' before. This one did.
Ye flipping pole-vaulting gods, that was disgusting.
Next stop, the International House of Pancakes.
Off to Maryland!
Well, it's Thursday. Today was spent building another system at work, shaking the bugs out of some documentation, and trying to get things set up for the rest of the week. Something's come up unexpectedly, and I must go out of town again this weekend to set some things up.
Don't you hate it when this happens? A lot of stuff's happening at the moment, but it's not a lot of different things, it's one or two big, huge things. About those individual things, however, there isn't much to say (or that you can say) about them... it doesn't make for very good reading, I'm afraid.
I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry about this: Texas police raided a house not too far away from the city of Houston on 27 July 2004 because they thought a hibiscus plant was marijuana. Johnny Law might be many things, but a botanist he is not. They reportedly also wondered if a bamboo plant could also be marijuana, and demanded to know what Blair Davis, the owner of the house, was going to do with a number of watermelon and cantaloupe plants growing in his back yard.
Dennis Leary to the contrary, I don't think that a hollowed out watermelon would make a good bong.
Today was another of those days.. on the up-side of things, around 1100 EDT today I called the manager of the apartment complex back and told her that I was going to take the apartment. I set up a meeting in two weeks' time to sign the papers, hand over the security deposit, and begin planning.
One small step for man, one jaunt across the universe for a a Time Lord.
Earlier this evening I picked up the first volume of Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, after going to the store on a wild hunch. I've been watching it on Leandra, and it's very good. It was released by Manga Video, so the quality is what one would expect from them. The music is excellent, and the animation is crisp and smooth - the dubbing, as blasphemous as it may sound, is also excellent - they appear to have used the VAs who did the original Ghost In the Shell movie. They brought the Fuchikomas (called Tachikoma, in the series) into the story, and they're what you'd remember from the manga: One part goofy, one part oddly disquieting. Oh, and Togusa's mullet has quite a bit of visual appeal, he looks a lot like MacGyver in the first two seasons of the show. <chuckle>
I just found out that the apartment I've fallen in love with is DSL capable. Earlier today, I charted bus routes to and from work for the same physical location.
To quote Dakota King, the hero of a short line of kids' pulp adventure stories from the late 1980's, "I'm outta here, boss!"
Lyssa's okay, too. That's also a relief.
Today, it was back into the breech for another fight with Solaris. This particular battle ended in scorched earth and bulldozing, to clear way for a new playing ground.
That's about the size of what's been going on today. Lots of stuff that I can't write about, and that's really about it. Boring stuff.
This isn't, though. In Oshkosh, WI, after a police officer was shot last Saturday night, police officers went door to door, confiscating all of the guns they could find in every home they went to. Search warrants were issued for only two homes, to seize weapons for forensic analysis, but an unstated number of other homes were searched also. Interestingly enough, this story managed to make it into the national news shortly after. Cooler heads are speaking out, stating that verbal consent is not enough for confiscation, and that what happened was beginning to make residents nervous, and understandbly less trusting of law enforcement (the exact wrong thing, right now). If you search Google News, you can find a lot more on this incident - my wrists hurt.
Remember, way back in the day, when games like Jet Set Willy drove you nuts, because no matter how hard you tried, you could never finish the game? There just had to be an item you missed, or you just weren't hitting the jump button at just the right instant to clear that gap? Guess what? Sometimes it's not you, it's the game. For the heck of it, I looked up the game Jet Set Willy on Google tonight, and came across a page of POKEs (Commodore and Timex/Sinclair BASIC commands to insert values directly into memory locations without having to edit the executables, essentially patching a running binary) that remedy the bugs that render them unfinishable. As it turns out, there were also many more sequels and hacks of the game than I thought at first - at least six, and from what I've stumbled across, there are many more than that.
If 8-bit remixes are your thing, check out the Digital Press Sound Archive, in particular the work done by Seth, a.k.a., 8-bit Weapon. He even did a remix of the victory theme of Interplay's Neuromancer!
It's amazing how much havoc simply moving a single workstation from one office to another can wreak in a Windows domain. It set me back a good two hours at work, and messed iwth most of the rest of my day.
But, what can you do? It's Monday.
..which pretty much describes how today went. It started off hectic as I moved my stuff from one office into another and waited to get into the network to get to work, then helped the new contractor for a while, then rushed around the rest of the day doing Monday morning due diligence-type stuff to catch up. All in all, it was in a blender. By the time the end of the day rolled around I didn't want to see or talk to anyone, I was so tired and frustrated. I didn't want to talk to Dataline on the bus, nor did I really feel like consulting tonight.
Dataline's boss' kids hosed his computer up royally. By the time I got there it was crawling and error windows were popping up every few seconds, probably due to bugs in the spyware itself. Ad-Aware alone wasn't enough; Spybot alone wasn't enough. I eventually had to go through everything with the Windows Task Manager and Regedit and rip stuff out by hand. At the end of it all, I managed to get everything cleaned up, remove the annoying error messages that appeared shortly after login, and even got rid of the annoying System Soap startup window that hijacked everything.
It's gotten to the point where I wish that someone would go vigilante and take out a few designers of spyware... real black ops style action. A few coders (say, the guys behind Gator, WhenU.ClockSync, and maybe Raznew-A) are ambushed outside of their office, and worked over by a couple of guys dressed like ninjas. Maybe their hands get broken, maybe they just get their heads shaved and their asses worked over with blowtorches and vegetable brushes. In the best of all possible worlds, they'd serve as an example to adware, spyware, and all-around muckware development houses - their software is unwanted, and its presence will not be tolerated.
In the best of all possible worlds, of course.
Yes, I'm feeling cold blooded and malevolent right now.
I'm sick of having to fix system after system that's been brought to its knees by a piece of code that thinks it's really neat to insert itself into IE and slow the system by a factor of ten. I'm sick of seeing megabytes of traffic every day from that software as it tries to sneak through the firewall and grab updates to itself, or worse, transmit what the user's been doing all day to someone in another network to analyse. As a security guy, the only way I can really interpret such activity, in light of federal law, is as a hostile act. That's a breach of network security, and must be treated as an incident, no different from someone, for example, compromising a web server. The information sent might be proprietary information, which would most certainly constitute a security incident. As an IT guy, I'm also sick of performing surgery on the workstation of Joe Schmoe in the next office over because his box is crawling like someone who thought they could out-drink Bluto from Animal House, and I'm sick of watching a sizable fraction of the network traffic be requests from muckware and not people doing research.
I'm sick of having to clean up messes of this magnetude with regularity.
This afternoon I spent much of the afternoon wandering around being a consumer whore.
I took advantage of the back-to-school sales at the local strip mall to pick up a carload of new equipment. I bought a small microwave, which would be sufficient to get me through the week, and not take up too much counter space. I also got a good deal on a vacuum cleaner and a crockery set, enough to keep a decently sized space clean and fed without too much trouble. Tumblers are going for cheap at Wal-Mart, everyone's favourite plague upon the strip malls and mom-and-pop corner stores, as are teakettles. Giant Eagle wa running an unannounced sale on cookware also, and I was able to walk away with a cooking knife set for less than twenty dollars American.
But why, you're probably asking yourself, is the good Doctor dropping cash on so much hardware?
Shortly after 1700 EDT yesterday afternoon, I put a deposit down on an apartment.
Last week, I'd spent some time setting up appointments to visit apartments around Pittsburgh, different ones from before. Bright and early, I got up, did the usual routine of basic maintenance-and-breakfast, and started calling around to confirm. My first inkling that things would not be going as smoothly as I'd hoped was that the phone number of the first place had been disconnected. Uh-oh.
Confirmation of this came from getting horribly lost while searching for the place. Badly. Scarily. Somehow, my brain just didn't pick up on the fact that the road is one I travel every day on my way to and from work. By the time I finally found the building, I was over an hour late, though I'd planned for that possibility, in truth. I had the opportunity to see three flats, two studios and a one bedroom apartment. The front door of the building slammed in my face, striking my shoulder hard enough that I could feel the joint separate and pop back into place, which isn't a pleasant sensation when I do it deliberately, either. The deadbolt lock on the first flat jammed, and the key got stuck when it was time to leave. The pad was as small at my college dorm room, and the renter wasn't the best of housekeepers, to say the least.
I was surpised to find a stack of pornographic DVDs piled on top of the desk.Piled in the corner was a bed and toys sized for a toddler, perhaps five or six years of age.
I've got no problems with porn. I do, however, have problems with leaving one's stash within easy reach of a youngling. That hits all the wrong buttons.
The second was larger and cleaner, its tenant was a much better housekeeper. He was also, I was told, not there very often. It was much larger and a much nicer carpet and paint job. I think I heard about the refrigerator on Coast to Coast AM a few years ago. Black mold is hard to get rid of, and grows under only the most harsh of environments, I've discovered over the years. Decided not to take the chance.
While the landlady went off in search of a maintenance guy to extricate the key from the lock, I examined the area a bit more thoroughly. To my chagrin, I noted that the wood around the locks of the first flat was partially missing, and only a cheap brass plate had been bolted over the gap in the wood to mount the locks. Someone, I deduced, had kicked the door in, probably for a quick burglary.
The third flat, two floors up, was even nicer than the second, and even had a decent bathroom. When I looked out the window at the neighborhood, however, I chanced to observe some thuggy looking guys flashing signs at each other as they passed on the street.
"Great. Gang bangers," I thought.
The second place I visited was just down the street. The address I stopped at was the front office for the property management company, and one of the kids (local guy, probably just starting school, if I pegged his age correctly) drove me to two buildings to show me the open apartments. The first was an attic one bedroom apartment, and had a lot of usable floor space... but thei walls followed the shape of the roof, so three feet above the floor, the walls began to taper inward, making it impossible to put anything taller than a kitchen table anyplace. There wasn't even a proper shower in the bathroom, there was only a bathtub and an extensible hose. The second place was a studio apartment across the street from a car dealership. The picture windows let lots of light into the apartment, and the fireplace was recessed and sealed off, which made it a rather attractive ornament. Upon closer examination of the picture windows, I noted two holes punched clear through the perspex, each about the size of a dime, and surrounded by a spiderweb of cracks about the size of an American silver dollar.
I'm no expert, but I think those were bullet holes.
The kid tripped over his tongue when I mentioned them - to his credit, he didn't have an explanation, and didn't pretend to.
Nice place, but I didn't want to take a risk. I might have taken it if no other possibilities had presented themselves. I also pointed out the fact that the mortar around the windows and fireplace was crumbling, the kitchen window couldn't be opened, and the electrical outlets were in bad shape: One was plugged with paint, another was badly broken. We couldn't find the jack for the phone line, either, and we searched for a good half hour or so.
I nearly settled for it. I told them that I'd have to think about it, and I'd let them know later. The guys were nice enough to fill out maintenance reports before the fact, to get them fixed before the next tenant moved in.
The last apartment was a few districts over, in an apartment complex that I've driven past time and again over the years since I returned to Pittsburgh. It's built like the sort of bunker that Thom Felicia would construct if he felt a need to get away and hide out for a while. I got there early and spent some time fumbling around, trying to find a place to park. At one point I made it all the way around the back of the building, only to discover that there was no way out, due to the maintenance truck parked at the end of the alley, and no room to turn around. A cool head and a steady hand backed the car out of the alley and got turned around without any trouble. Because I got there early, I wandered around the structure for a while, looking for the woman I was supposed to meet. I managed to get into the building by sneaking in the maintenance door at the back, and politely knocked on the door of one of the tenants who was having her apartment remodelled. She was rather surprised to find that I'd gotten in, and once I'd made it clear that I was clueless and only searching for the manager, she was kind enough to call the manager to let her know that I'd arrived, and let me sit out front to wait.
I sat on the front steps for about a half hour, and finished my book. Soon after, the manager of the building rounded the corner and asked who I was. I answered truthfully, and she remarked that she'd been looking for me. I didn't know where her office was, so I had been waiting for her. That cleared up, she lead me up to the apartment for rent, and after some initial fumbling with the lock (what is it with apartments I'm looking at and locks that jam?) she let me in to look around.
I found home.
The walls are white plaster and sealed masonary. The carpet is brand new and a soft, even grey colour. The window faces the east, it's one of those thermal models, and there's even a ledge outside that you could put plants on, if you so chose. I'd guess the living room is close to thirty feet on a side, and the kitchen nook is set against the north wall. It's full equipped - there's a gas stove and a brand-new fridge. The sink's even new. The bedroom is about half the size of my Lab, about twenty by twenty feet. It has its own furnace and air conditioning unit, so the climate can be controlled independently of the other flats in the building. It's also about two blocks away from the local telco's CO, so there's a high probability that I can get DSL (I've already contacted the folks at Telerama about doing a line check).
The manager gave me an application and told me that I could leave a deposit on the flat, so that she'd stop showing the apartment to other people. I drove home, dashed off a cheque, and floored it back to the building to drop it off.
There's bus service to downtown Pittsburgh and all points west every fifteen minutes.
I found home.
I returned home, triumphant, and spoke to Lyssa for about an hour, bouncing about my find. Then, I headed back to the building to drop my cheque off with the manager, to make sure that I've got first crack at that flat. It's too much what I need right now. It fits my purposes perfectly. It's mine.
Later in the evening, I drove over to Lupa's to get ready for an evening to celebrate. I touched up my looks a bit (we were going out gender bending last night, and she'd been dying to try out some modifications that she's been making to herself lately) and snapped some photographs of each other (check our respective websites in the near future for them) in the front yard, under the tree and near the archery target. Afterward, we drove out to the local Chinese smorg for dinner, and were treated to a group of members of the ballcap-and-wifebeater crowd and remarks that most lifeforms with one hundred functional neurons and less find amusing. Personally, I found it amusing to switch from a male to a female voice and back again while talking, to mess with their heads.
After they left, I still got up to check on my car. No problems.
We headed back to pick up a CD that she wanted me to listen to and then set out for the South Side, the hotbed of Stuff To Do On A Saturday Night(tm) in Pittsburgh. We poked our heads in a few places to check up on people, left behind a few gifts for people, and stumbled into a Venus In Furs concert at Nick's Fat City. Three bands for $5us? Why not... Lupa is pleased - she was mistaken for a biomale with little trouble. I'm proud of her.
Something weird coloured our time there, though - things weren't adding up. The opening band was having a lot of trouble with their gear, and kept stopping and starting. The people weren't adding up, either. It might have been the fact that a lot of the folks who were showing up were mostly drunk, which messed with the vibe of the place. I was on edge the entire evening, unable to relax, unable to fit in. We wound up leaving after the first opening band left the stage and headed out to B'witche's Tavern to see how the turnout for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was. For a while, we discussed going down to Pegasus to dance for a while and make everyone wonder, but wrote it off as being a bad idea, due to the vibe in the air last night.
The Tavern had the most people in attendance than it has for a long time, including some folks in costume. On the scorecard were two Magenta cosplayers, one Eddie, and three Riff-Raff. They also went to town on Rocky karoke; they were excellent singers, one and all, and had a lot of fun while they were up there. Shanyna, a fixture at the Tavern and staff, is also an amazing singer, even mastering Little Nell's singing voice. The ritual virgin hazing was also held, overseen by Master of Ceremonies and Satanic Mechanic Alexius Pendragon, and the group of seven virgins (including barmistress Saphy) were introduced to the fandom in the finest way possible... by being fucked by the audience. Neophytes take note: Do not take that literally; hit up Google for the RHPS FAQ. The movie began, and at that point all hell broke loose.
Some true Rocky veterans were there last night, people who know the movie so well there is more dialogue in the callbacks than in the entire movie. I wasn't able to keep up because I was laughing too hard at the lines that I'd never heard before. I'm going to be hoarse on Monday. There's serious talk right now of making it a permanant fixture there on the last Saturday of every month. The folks who came last night were cool enough to help clean up, even going so far as to bring a shop-vac ("Dedicated fans bring props; anal rententive fans bring vacuum cleaners," as one of the Riff-Raff cosplayers said). We had the place back in shape inside of a half-hour, at which time everyone parted ways. Lupa and I hung around for another hour or so to take pictures around the outside of the Tavern and then headed back to the Lab to copy the images off of my camera and onto a blank CD.
Leandra refused to burn a workable CD. The rest of the Children are also being uncooperative. In short, they don't like Lupa. Not one bit. Leandra won't burn CDs for her; Lucien keeps 'dropping' messages containing the link to the pictures we took; von Neumann is blocking everyone out; Lain is just.. Lain. Even after Lupa went for a walk to clear her head, they still complained and acted up. We're going to have a talk soon, they and I.
This isn't a promising sign for Bush: Even Reagan's next of kin don't want him in office for another term.
Taking photographs last night, I noticed once again that the skin on my face is a different colour than the rest of me: I'm told it's an orangish colour. So far no one else has mentioned it, though it's unmistakable, and slightly disturbing. It's due to heightened levels of beta carotine in my body's bloodstream, that is for certain. However, my addiction to carrots (I can eat them all day if you let me, they satisfy my sweet tooth like no other) has been a thing of the past for months now. Yet, examining the images, my face is much darker than the rest of me, and the colour is a sickly shade of orange. Dataline pinned it this evening, I think: The beta carotine in my bloodstream is still there; the water I drink every day (between three-quarters and one gallon of water a day) isn't enough to flush it out of my system; because only my face gets any sunlight during the day (due to business clothing), the slight tan that develops heightens the colouration, making it highly noticable.
Either that, or something about cameras makes me look like a mutant.
That, or my visual cortex or self-image are screwed up, and I'm finding anything to make myself feel bad about my appearance. Maybe it's nothing. A few people I've asked haven't said anything about it, and that sort of quirk of appearance tends to draw attention of all kinds.
I just don't know.
I discovered what was wrong.
Leandra is writing CDs just fine. Her primary CD-ROM drive isn't working anymore. The DVD-ROM drive, on the other hand, reads them just fine.
It's the end of yet another week and damn, it didn't come fast enough.
The project at work kept kicking my ass harder and harder, until eventually I found out that the plug had more or less been pulled. Specifically, the decision to bring in someone else had been made earlier in the week, and I think that it would have happened no matter what I'd done (or been able to do). I should probably be angry about this; in fact, I think I should be royally pissed off about this turn of events. I'm not, though. I'm not sure if it's a sign of maturity, or if it's just burn out, or being tired, or what. It just is, and it's out of my hands, now.
It's funny: I almost had plans of making a triumphant entry tonight, about pulling it off in the nick of time and coming home bouncing off the walls. It didn't turn out that way. Not by a long shot.
I'm okay with failing once in a while. I just don't like it when it's a foregone conclusion.
Thankfully, I didn't have a repeat of that dream from yesterday morning, which I'd been hoping to write about...
I was in a garden of some kind, in the back yard of an older looking house, the kind that I dimly remember my great-grandparents living in all those years ago. There were thick bushes, hedges perhaps, encircling the yard. Some of the ground had been torn up, and patches of bare soil could be seen. A small blue bird, about the size of my fist, was racing around the yard, trying to escape the claws of a black cat that was persuing it with all its might. I don't know why the bird didn't try to take wing to escape; it was however, flapping around the yard like mad in a curving, twisted path throug the yard. It disappeared beneath the hedges, with the cat still tearing up the ground after it.
Somehow, the bird found its way into my cupped hands, where I held it tightly. Noting the smears of blood trickling from its beak, I loosened my grip upon it, trying not to hurt it any more than it already was. I could feel someone or something behind me, something very large and very dangerous. I knew with the certainty that accompanies dreams that my life was, quite literally, in its paws (for it was a cat much larger than I, and if my memories of its forelegs and paws are accurate, anthropomorphic). The soft leather pads that rested against my arms and chest would remain there as long as I didn't do anything rash, like try to run. Eventually, the bluebird crouched on my flattened palms, and I could see that the red was more than a few smears, it was all over its neck and breast. I couldn't tell if it was coagulated blood, the remains of partially digested earthworms, or if it was the bird's guts spilling from its mouth, as if it had been crushed by something very heavy or very strong. I could feel fear that I had done that, injured that bird so, which was why I kept loosening my grip until there was none.
The detail with which I could (and still can) see the bluebird was such that I could count its feathers, if I chose. The vision of that mangled bird haunted me most of yesterday, and into today.
In a move that sets an uncomfortable precedent, the federal court of the state of Alabama decided that people don't have a right to privcy in their own bedrooms by deciding that the state "has a right to police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating." How does this work? By 'police' they mean that they can monitor the sale of sex toys and presumably track who buys them and who sells them. There are really only two reasons to buy sex toys, and that's either to embarass someone, or give someone a good time (however you define the latter). Frankly, if I buy something at an adult store, it's between the owner of the store and myself, that's it. The state government and/or local police don't have a right to find out unless I tell them, or if I do something illegal with what I buy and I get busted for it.
Where am I going with this? To put not too fine a point on it, I don't like the possibility that this could be used to set a national precendent. I try to look at the big picture at times like this.
The winners of the Big Brother Award have been announced! The top three violators of privacy and confidentiality are.. drumroll please... Margaret Hodge, minister of state for children of the United Kingdom, for supporting a program that would track minors and share the data with other UK government agencies; British Gas, for declaring that privacy rules kept it from saving an elderly couple who froze to death in their home last winter after they cut off their gas without even trying to negotiate; and Lloyd's TSB, because they demand that customers present photo ID or else their accounts will be frozen without a second glance.
I knew that Bill Gates was a bigwig, but geez.. he had the US Department of Homeland Security working security for a dinner party.
I feel eversomuch safer... thanks, guys.
No REM sleep? No problem! The dreams I was having just before awakening this morning were extremely vivid, and scarily detailed. They were so strong that I'm still shaken up by them. I'll write about them when I get home tonight.
Another day, another dollar.
Last night I called another fifteen places about apartments for rent, and got back eight or nine calls throughout today about them. Unfortunately, a lot of them are simply too expensive for what I'm mkaing right now, so I've bowed out as gracefully as I could. I still have a few appointments lined up for this weekend. I think after this weekend I'll make my decision, before they start disappearing, rented by people who are willing to jump in head-first to get a place to live.
It's not easy, balancing everything right now. As it stands, I'm working two jobs, two and a half if you count spinning at B'witche's occasionally, which requires a lot of energy. I'm making serious progress toward finding an apartment and moving out. Last night I found fifteen more apartments around the city, and made some phone calls expressing interest. Of those calls, I eight of them were returned. I had to bow out of five of them because the prices were just too high (not college apartments, either, very up-scale ones that weren't advertised as such, with correspondingly high prices). I could feel lunch curdling in my stomach as I found that some of the prices were in the quadruple digits per month, meeting or exceeding my net pay. I'm also re-opening some connections with old friends, and trying to get out more often. I spend entirely too much time in the Lab, so I've been trying to get out whenever I can, even if it's just for a spin around the block. The summer's a little over half over, and I'm trying to make the time to get out and enjoy it a little.
Yes, right now I'm bouncing around like an old television with no vertical hold.
The guy that wrote this article probably doesn't know about all the other times that this tactic has been tried in the past. In response to the outbreak of the W32@MyDoom.O virus earlier this week (which seems to have burned itself out), reporter Paul Boutin suggests that someone Out There engage in a few IT black ops by writing some virii/worms to crawl around and patch security vulnerabilities. I hate to say it, but this isn't going to work. It's been tried before, and it hasn't been nearly as effective as he seems to think it was. The first one that comes to mind was written by Max Vision of Whitehats fame, which landed him in jail for a while. To do the job before the malevolent code gets there, the white-hat worms will have to propagate at least twice as fast as the nasty stuff, which is going to snarl networks pretty badly, and might even be counterproductive because the increased network traffic will also slow down efforts to get patches in place. The white-hat worms could also destabilise already twitchy systems, possibly knocking out mission critical services, which doesn't do much to endear the designer to the authorities, who would no doubt be after the author... it's always the ones who try to help who get nailed.
Always be careful of what you keep in your peer-to-peer client's upload directories. Some of it you probably don't want getting out.
I've been having a lot of strange dreams lately, with a lot of glue-like or otherwise sticky imagery (spirit gum, adhesives, glues...) and insects (coming out of the places I usually reserve for implants). Weird, weird dreams, that have been taking all the rest out of sleep. Something's going on inside.
Another day, another dollar. More time was spent hacking on the same project, though not much progess was made. I've never worked with fibre channel technology before, so it's taking me time to get up to speed, moreso when it's an OS (Solaris) which doesn't have very good documentation on setting it up at all. They've got software for it (it's Sun Microsystems, of course they've got their own software for it), but what they really need is a good troubleshooting section, something along the lines of "In case your box doesn't detect the card, here's how you go about testing it."
It's maddeningly slow going.
Something wholly unexpected happened today: Two guys who were leaving for Marine boot camp in a few days were attacked by two other guys who wanted their jewelry. When they wouldn't fork over, the guys opened fire at close range on them. One was hit in the arm, the other in the chest (they haven't released anything about his condition yet). This happened at the mall that's about ten minutes from my house; the big one off of 279 that's practically the hub of commerce in my area. Two guys shot that close to home.. this spooks me. This hits all of my 'oh shit, grevious bodily harm' buttons, the very same ones conditioned into my psyche by the public school system.
And this is how fans get treated?!
"Just another manic Monday..." --The Bangles
I wasn't awakened by the alarm clock this morning, but instead by the steady drumming of rain against the windows and roof over my head. A storm had hit earlier this morning and hadn't let up by the time we got up around. It was actually rather pleasant, listening to the rain drum against the house as I got dressed. That doesn't happen to often and the novelty appealed to me. The rain didn't let up until well after I got in to work.
Most of today was more of the usual Monday-morning-catchup-and-duties. Not much worth writing about there, save for making a breakthrough on the latest project I've been working on. A big one. And now on to the next problem to solve...
It's been one of those weekends were I haven't had much of a chance to write about anything, mostly because I haven't had the urge to write. More and more, I want to get out of where I am, and to that end I've been spending a lot more time out and about lately. I've been going out to drive around for the sake of driving, spending early Friday evening and part of Saturday cruising around Pittsburgh, simply because I could. Because I don't get out much anymore. Because I spend so much time in the Lab and not enough driving around, breathing fresh air, listening to music, and seeing the world.
Because summer's half over, and I want to enjoy it.
Last night, I drove over to Lupa's house. The cats, Puppet and Toby, are still there, and still lazing around the house. We hiked back into the woods for a while so she could show me around. I don't see enough green, and I don't mean money when I say that, either. There are trees all over the place, not the carefully manicured lawns that are the trademark of suburbia. There are vines and ferns all over the place, and spiders of all kinds pick their way through the underbrush almost faster than you can walk.
Later, we drove out to Lea's house. As it turns out, she lives with a few folks that I knew way back in the day, when I was actually a part of the Pittsburgh goth scene, or as much as I ever was. It took me a while to get used to being out again, and I've been out of touch with those folks for far too long, but eventually I was able to sit back and relax. We drove down into the South Side for french fries and marvelled at the audacity of yinzerettes, who will literally bitch for blocks because they walked out in front of your car and nearly hit them - nevermind the fact that they were crossing a four-lane throughfare against a red light.
Later in the evening, I drove Lupa and Lea back to Lupa's den, then I headed back to the Lab to crash for the night, and rest up for today, and the week to come.
A long weekend? No. A busy one? Depends on your definition of 'busy'. I spent a lot of it looking at apartments. A fun one? Yes. I got out, and I actually feel relaxed right now.
They're kidding, right? Somehow, picturing the Christ as a kiddiot makes me feel ill...
Now this is a project that is long overdue - constructing your own electroencephalograph and driving it with open source software. Damned cool, I say. As someone whose electronics skills don't quite extend to medical applications, I see an opportunity to build an emminently useful device.. I've been practising biofeedback for years now, but since I'm not instructed in it anymore, I don't have access to the electronic monitors that they used to use, such as pulse meters or skin galvinometers, and the versions I've been able to rig up using spare parts and the odd electronics experimenter's kit haven't been nearly as useful. Radio Shack, as usual, stopped carrying their versions of such devices years ago.
Their warning file is extensive, and tries to cover all the bases to protect them from liability, but I don't think that a lawyer's looked at it yet. Yes, it can be dangerous to experiment with biofeedback, even more so when you are using electronic devices to do so. Electricity is electricity, and if you're not careful you can light yourself up but good. They have some links to places to get dermatrodes, among them The Electode Store, but I strongly suggest looking for local medical supply stores to purchase them at, the prices are much more reasonable. If you can help it, don't use collodion to hold them on, go to a costume store and get spirit gum, or use foam tape, because collodion is nasty stuff. It smells, and it gums up your hair like nobody's business. I had a lot of success with spirit gum, but the insulating effect did dampen the signal somewhat. The absolute worst, though, was saline paste on button dermatrodes. Those usually go under the chin (I did some sleep studies a few years ago), and when that stuff works its way into your pores (beard shadow) it can get itchy, and even if it doesn't it feels icky.
Not a beginner's project by any means, but it would be well worth the time spent developing one's skills.
No updates because I've been running around Outside. I've been feeling the sun on my skin, enjoying the wind, and hiking in the woods. Damn, this feels good.
Unable to sleep any longer this morning, I got up early and read as the sun rose. My excitement wouldn't let me get more than a few hours' rest last night: Today I went out to see a couple of apartments in the Pittsburgh area.
I was so excited, I put on a kettle of water to boil before I took a shower, because I wanted to make some good coffee to wake up to, Arabica roast freshly brewed in my French press. I wish I'd been able to make use of the anniversary present Lyssa had sent me yesterday, an electric coffee grinder. Mental note: Get coffee beans when next I go shopping.
But enough about my coffee addiction.
I really like the first two I've seen so far. They're in quiet places, far removed from where the Lab is right now. The first is kind of plain but there is a lot of wall space, which would be essential for my bookcases. Still, I'm going to have to leave some fraction of them behind when I move, if only for the sake of practicality. I know, on some level, that I can't bring everything with me, not for a long time yet. And yet, I want to uproot myself and change my surroundings.
Oh, well. Leaving some stuff behind will be a good chance to slim down my life somewhat, and figure out what to do with what I have. I've got too much stuff, hands down.
If and when stuff goes up on eBay or out for a garage sale, I'll let everyone know.
The second place is very swanky... it is part of what used to be a mansion that's been diced up into apartments for rent. The walls are covered with beautiful panelling, there are glass-enclosed shelves on one wall, and there is even a (nonfunctional) fireplace on one wall. The floor's hardwood and the kitchen is amazingly done. I fell in love with it immediately.
However, it's also impractical.
The panelling is nice, yes. But it would be poor for bookshelves. The pseudo-fireplace is nice, also, but it take up room that could be used for other things, like a desk or my workbench. The closet is very deep and spacious, but where would I put everything that doesn't hang up (i.e., stuff that would ordinarily go into a dresser, like underwear)?
I'm going to have to pass on that one.
The third and fourth were classic Pittsburgh college town ratholes: Tiny, dark (okay, so that's not necessarily a bad thing), and overpriced. They were scarcely bigger than my Lab is right now, and in fact I was more comfortable in my dorm room at IUP all those years ago.
Guess which ones I'm not going to take?
To be sure, however, I won't be jumping on that one just yet. I've got a few more leads to track down, and one more appointment next weekend. I hope to add two or three more appointments on next weekend, for good measure. I want to keep my options open for a while, and then decide before the end of August.
I don't remember hearing anything about one Brian Walski, former LA Times photographer, getting fired because he submitted a faked picture from Iraq which was subsequently run in the Sunday edition, do you? A sharp-eyed employee of the Hartford Courant was poring over the pictures and found some discrepancies in Walski's, which made the front page (the picture went into syndication in a number of pictures via Newscom, an internal service used to distribute images to various Tribune-owned papers). Walski took a number of images and stitched them together in Photoshop and transmitted them to his home paper. I've captured the altered photograh along with the originals it was assembled from (note: this is an animated .gif file, which will display the images in sequence) for your edification.
"Become the media," indeed. Mr. Biafra's statement cuts both ways. You can become the media, yes, and in fact it is an excellent idea (control the information, control the people that consume the information), but it can also be used to manipulate the people in any direction the media sees fit. Just as the common folk can spread the word about things that the commercial media won't touch with a ten meter logic probe (Indymedia comes immediately to mind), the commercial media can manipulate the opinions and perceptions of the people. When you get right down to it, it's very difficult to present information in a way that doesn't put a spin of any kind on it. Words can be sculpted to make something look better than it really is, or far worse. The same event can be cast any number of ways. Even the tone of voice someone speaks in, the subtlties of inflection, can colour how we process information. The mass media has the advantage: They control most of the broadcast frequencies out there. Their newspapers have circulation in the millions. They've got the raw money to print thousands upon thousands of copies to distribute far and wide, and the manpower to get those papers out there. They've got cable TV networks online 24/7/365 pouring words and carefully crafted and edited images into the optic and auditory nerves of millions every second of every day - not necessarily synthesised images like the one abouve, but carefully edited and timed nonetheless. The line between editing and falsehood is a thin one, to be sure. Their websites and search engines represent gargantuan tracts of the World Wide Web. We've got our own sites, as large as we can afford, find for free, or wherever we can install a server and a few hard drives. We've got weblogs and search engines and instant messenger networks to communicate through. They've got cameras; so do we. Now that digital cameras are affordable, the people aren't beholden to the corner drugstore anymore to get their pictures developed; their images can be copied from the camera's memory store and uploaded to the Net in seconds. And, of course, there are people who pore over each and every image to see if they've been tampered with in any way (what Art Bell used to call "pixel people").
The outcome of this battle (I don't want to call it a 'war' because no one side has formally declared open season on the other, as far as I know) has yet to be determined, and in truth probably never will be. As long as we've got the same access to the Net as they do, and no one finds a way to prevent us from communicating amongst ourselves, there will not be an end.
My opinin of The New Adventures of Cutey Honey ep. 5: Someone call David Icke.
The second volume of Tokyo Babylon is out - pick it up!
The next volume will be out on 7 September 2004, so mark your calendars, or ask your local comic shop to set one aside for you.
A few folks have been stress-testing Windows XP service pack 2 for a while, and they don't like what they've discovered. During testing, three out of five machines that SP2 was installed on broke completley, and had to be rebuilt. Microsoft didn't say why those machines bluescreened, and gave the testers at CRN a hack to get around the loss of what appears to be a critical system binary to get into the box long enough to uninstall the service pack. Even after uninstalling SP2, they had to hack the registry in a few places to completely remove SP1. Which also removed SP1, along with the driver for every device on the system. In short, it hosed the box. Don't install it, at least not yet.
For pete's sake, I thought we left this crap behind when Windows NT 4 was EOL'd...
A further rant on Sun Solaris, if I may:
The packaging system is a royal pain in the ass. It's even more difficult to work with than Redhat's native package format, RPM. RPM might be obtuse and fascistic when it comes to managing dependencies (one package requiring the presence of one to many other packages), but at least its commands make sense after you read the documentation. Installing a package? `rpm -i packagename` Removing a package? `rpm -e packagename`. Solaris' pkgadd isn't so nice. To install a package, you have to use a command which is mostly documented in the manpage, only with a minor difference from what common sense would dictate: `pkgadd -d /path/to/SUNpackage`. The -d switch is for 'directory', i.e., where pkgadd should search for the name of the package you want to install. If you want to install a package from the current directory, wouldn't you put a dot (.) just after the -d switch?Common sense says yes. Sun Microsystems says no, you have to put NOTHING after that switch.
It took two hours to figure this out.
I have to admit, I'm pretty thin in the common sense department, but even I don't think this is correct.
Just a few days ago, 45 year old Scott Levine of Florida was indicted for cracking into Acxiom, one fo the largest information warehouses in the world. 144 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, fraud, and sundry violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act are among the offenses he is charged with. Levine is accused of illegally downloading roughly 8.2 gigabytes of personal and financial information pertaining to American citizens, with an estimated value of greater than $7mus. Sandra Cherry, assitant US attorney for the Eatern District of Arkansas, was quoted as saying that "this could be one of the largest computer crime cases ever prosecuted."
Information is not only power, it's worth its weight in gold, depending on what it's about.
In other news, three men living in St. Petersburg, Saratov, and Stavropol, all in Russia, were arrested for blackmailing a number of online gambling casinos. The men are accused of masterminding DDoS attacks against online bookies' websites and extorting large amounts of money from the websites' operators. The idea is that if they didn't cough up, they'd be flooded into the ground; if you can't get to the website to place your bets, the owners will lose money and customers. Another article states that they were demanding between $18kus and $55kus to halt the attacks, followed by warnings stating that the attacks would resume if their demands were not met, this time during times of peak activity.
Gods, I love that movie.
Consulting tonight. No updates.
Well, maybe one or two.
In Toronto, Canada the weekend of 3 December 2004 will be the World of Commodore expo, at which will be celebrated the Toronto PET User Groups' twenty-fifth anniversary. The latest hardware and software for Commodore computers (yes, there are still people out there making stuff for the C=64 and C=128, among other units), Commodore hacks of all kinds will be on display, and SID tunes and remixes will be the dominant form of musical entertainment. It will be held at the Belaire Hotel in Toronto - check the website for more information.
I've decided something about Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system.
First, it earned the nickname 'Slowaris' in spades, when it comes to installation. The system initialisation system takes ages to run. I was able to boot a machine from the distro DVD, walk away, make a cup of coffee, talk to my boss, come back, and it was almost ready to start up. I still had time to sit down, get comfortable, position the keyboard, and open the admin's manual before it ran. That took a good ten minutes or so (I use a French press to make coffee).
Then there's the disk partitioning software. It's almost as much of a pain in the six as Debian's installer makes it out to be, and that's saying a lot. You can expect to screw up at least four times before it finally works the way you want it to. Third, the keyboards on serial terminals just plain suck. It's a miracle if the backspace and delete keys work the way they should, and if you make a single typo you have to go back quite a few screens and start the process over just to retype a single hostname.
As if that weren't enough of a pain, package selection is the pits.
"Pits", as in Art Bell's Sounds From Hell(tm) "pits".
Ideally, you'd cursor through a list of packages, picking out what you want and what you don't want. Each package would have a description of exactly what it contained and what the package, as a whole, did. FreeBSD does this. The many flavours of Linux do this. Hell, even Microsoft Windows explains what optional packages do when you build a box. Solaris doesn't even bother; only rarely is there a description of what a given package does, so a fair amount of (hopefully) educated guesswork is necessary. When everything's said and done, you can easily spend two or three hours wading through a list of packages that returns you to the very top of the list after most every selection, leaving you to scroll downward through the list at 960 characters per second (about five seconds per screen if you count the scrolling effect) several score times to set up your new server.
Usually, by the time you're done with that, it's time to go home. I'll let you know how long it takes to actually install said packages tomorrow, before I leave for my other job.
Yep, I'm working late tomorrow night, so I probably won't be posting until late, if at all.
Still worried about your e-mail at work? Some large companies now hire people to read outgoing e-mail to make sure that no secrets are getting out. According to a survey by Forrester Consulting, 44% of large companies in the US (how they define 'large' isn't stated) have staff members whose sole task is to monitor the flow of outgoing e-mail traffic. A surprising 48% of companies do this on a regular basis.
As an old friend of mine once said, "Shalom Echelon, mah nishmah?"
One of the better Mondays I've had in a while, to be sure. Nothing blew up, at least not so that it couldn't be repaired. Much of the afternoon was spent re-learning why Sun's flagship operating system is often called "Slowaris", especially on the installation end of things. Hopefully tomorrow won't result in a broken back or dislocated shoulders.. those SPARC machines get heavy, especially when you have to raise them higher than your head to mount them in the rack.
I think it's time to unsubscribe from a few mailing lists. I can tell when I don't fit in. One doesn't have to post to them to pick up the traces of what is and is not 'acceptible' among the disenfranchised.
Net result of tonight's efforts: Fifteen apartment management companies called in the Pittsburgh area, thirteen messages left, one promise of a call back some time tomorrow (ideally), one appointment to visit a studio apartment this upcoming Saturday. Tomorrow: Waiting for return calls, more of the same.
I'm getting better at knowing when not to say anything to someone. It's best to let people talk, a lot of the time.
I think I'm going to go back into hiding for a while. I don't want to inflict this upon other people.
Users take note: Verizon has just announced that certain parts of the country will be set up for fibre direct to the house, the service that they're calling Fios. What does this mean? It means that subscribers will be getting the same optical fibre drops from the CO direct to their houses, the same fibre that gets run into office buildings for the T1 and T3 lines that we all enjoy. Fios subscribers will be able to enjoy up to 30 megabits per second, the equivelent of three average Ethernet connections shotgunned together, roughly twenty times as fast as DSL. If you get the triple pack of services (voice, video, and broadband service) at once it'll come in over the same line for much less than it would if you bought the services singly. Links from two to five megabits in speed will cost you $35us if you get phone service from Verizon at the same time; 15 megabit service will run you $45us every month if you get the same deal. No word yet on the full 30 megabit links, though.. I just hope they'll be relaxing their terms of service for these badboys.
I know, I know.. I can dream, can't I?
Just when you thought that the Nigeria-419 scams were passe', out come Nigeria-419 death threats, where the spam consists of tall tales of a murder-for-hire outfit "in 102 countries" who demand $40kus or the recipient of the message will be taken out.
Does this remind anyone of an episode of MacGyver? Maybe I'll get lucky and Murdoc will be sent after my biomechanical ass... he, at least, had style, very unlike the idiots who send out scam-mail like this.
There is now an H.P. Lovecraft drinking game. Yes, you too can now get completely hammered reading such fine stories as The Dunwich Horror and The Silver Key.
I'm sorry, this is going too far. Is it now impossible to do anything these days that cannot, in some form, involve incredible amounts of drinking?
Pagan Night at the Tavern last night was a bust - almost no one was there. I drove over to Alexius' early last night to talk with him for a while about what's been going on, but we didn't get a chance to actually talk about what is on my mind.
This isn't actually any different from usual.
Fred left early last night so 'lex, Shayna, and I took turns playing music to the nearly empty bar. A little after midnight I began to feel my attention waver ever so slightly; this was magnified as the pain began to build up behind my eyes. This did not bode well. When I began seeing trails in my visual field, afterimages of people moving around, I knew that I had only a short period of time to get home and get offline, a migraine was on the way.
Parasite, 'lex, and I managed to forestall it for about ninety minutes or so, long enough for me to get back in the car and make haste for the Lab.
I got home and went to bed before I was unable to drive anymore.
I woke up this morning not to pain but the pervasive icky feeling that means that my body's biochemistry is flagging me off for one reason or another. I've got a good idea as to why, too. My reserves are completely tapped, both physically and emotinally.
I spent some time this afternoon doing cost projections, to figure out what kind of apartment I should shoot for on the basis of what I can afford (first) and whether or not it's a rathole (second). The way my finances are right now, I can afford between $400us and $500us per month in rent but not much more than that. My mandatory expenses are roughly $700us every month, and I make between $400us and $515us per week, or between $1600us and $2060us every month. That doesn't leave a whole lot for food, parking, and other bills (because very few apartments include any more than water and electricity, usually).
Unless I find a better job, I don't think that I will be able to afford to move out. If I don't move out, however, my memory log posts will be coming from the IP address of a mental institution's firewall instead of the Lab, however.
I don't think this is workable. I'd have to live in a rathole (and further become a geek sterotype, to say nothing of becoming completely paranoid about site security (i.e., the Children)), and I don't want to do that. I don't think that I can stay at home for much longer. I don't want to get a roommate, though - I've lived with people as long as I can remember, and quite frankly I need time alone for my own stability.
Pace, and old, old friend of mine, is getting handfasted on 21 August 2004. I suddenly feel very old.
A Different Drum is holding their Summer Synthpop 2004 festival again, only in Salt Lake City, UT this year. <sigh>
There's a new episode of Utena Thumbnail Theatre online.
My HOPE 2004 pictures are now online. Feel free to peruse them; e-mail me if anything is broken, if you'd like to be edited out of a picture, or if you've got a correction or update to one of the captions.
I'm staying offline today to try to get my head screwed back on straight. Talk to you later.
Another long day. I'm back in the saddle, though - I'm doing what I love the most. Building systems. It's one thing to work on a Linux system, but don't get me wrong. I love Linux. They are so featureful and the tools are a pleasure to work with. However, it's also important to get back to your roots once in a while, and work with systems that don't have the GNU toolchain, with all of its nifty options and amazing arrays of features.
It's like going camping with only a handful of odds and ends in your pockets to serve as a survival kit. You have your wits, perserverance, and ingenuity to serve as your primary tools, and everything else you 'just happen to find'. It keeps you sharp, and teaches you both humility and patience.
I love my job, sometimes.
It does annoy me, however, when multiple versions of the same library are on Kabuki and trying to compile an updated version of GAIM keeps bombing. Please be patient, everyone.
It was only a matter of time before the hardcore, wu-tang ShadowRun-style cracking started and people started trying to turn a profit by selling the spoils of their break-ins. Assuming that this isn't jetwash, of course... a group on the Net calling itself the Source Code Club claims to have stolen copies of the source code to a commercial intrusion detection system called Enterasys Dragon v1.6 as well as the source code to the Napster client and server software. Specifically, the source trees to older versions of these packages are supposed to have been copied. The physical location of the website was a web hosting service somewhere in the Ukraine, which doesn't mean much because one could either crack the provider's network and set up shop or buy service through the Net through any number of means, some more traceable than others. I use the past tense because as of yesterday, the website was shut down, citing redesign of the business model.
When you're selling stolen copies of the source code to commercial software for $16kus a pop, the authorities taking offense at one's practises of industrial espionage has a way of making one change one's mind.
Yes, they were selling purported copies of the source code for $16,000us to whomever would pony up the cash. Whether or not anyone actually paid for copies remains unclear; this wouldn't be something that you'd go around talking about, after all. How this is going to turn out isn't clear, either. I'm keeping my eye on it.
My jetwash airflow-detector keeps flip-flopping on this. A company called Artificial Development claims to have developed a massively parallel supercomputer that they call CCortex, which is supposed to be a functional model of the human brain, composed of twenty billion simulated neurons and twenty trillion interconnections between them. They claim that the model is composed of simulations of the frontal lobes, motor, and somatosensory cortices. That's a fair whack of the human encephalon, I must admit. They're supposed to be training the neural nets that comprise this project by communicating with it and using classical neural network training methods. They are, however, unclear as to exactly what this super-neural net does. Does it attempt to communicate in a meaningful way with a user, like chatterbots do? Does it take in information and try to reason with it, in much the same way that CYC does? The press release isn't clear. It seems to me that they're modelling the chemo-electrical activity of those parts of the brain, and not so much the end result of same, which would be something approximating human consciousness. If you read the company's website, their stated mission is to create a simulation of the human mind of such detail that it can assist in making business decisions at the macro scale (broad decisions as to where to go but not how to go about it at lower levels of scale/higher levels of complexity, I should think). An interesting mission, and if they can pull it off my mirrorshades are off to them.
It seems a bit too advanced for this point in time, though. You'd need an insanely advanced model of the workings of the human mind to pull it off, and without proof I can't say that they've done it.
I'd have to talk to it myself, and verify that it's not a human on the other end of an IRC chat, in other words.
Hrm.. my old civics teacher was right. Read the first sidebar...
They finally caught Bobby Fischer, ex-chess grand master. Back in 1992 he broke United Nations sanctions by travelling to Yugoslavia for a chess tournament; he was caught in Japan, and will be extradited to the US for trial.
Got home from work and immediately headed out again to work, this time to do some consulting for some friends of mine. Tonight was mostly seeing what they had in place and figuring out what would have to be done with it. As with anything, now I need to plan out what has to be done to it all.
There's so much going on right now, I'm not sure where to begin. I'm trying to do a little of everything at once to try to make some progress but I don't know if it'll work out.
Here's a writeup of W32.atak@mm, the new virus that I mentioned yesterday.
A quick update with the situation at work - I figured out what I have to do and set to work pulling data off of the machine as fast as it'll let me. It's also in even worse shape than I thought it was - not only is it not Y2k compliant (heh - bet you never thought you'd hear that buzzword again) but it's falling apart at the seams. I'm amazed it's stayed operational as long as it had.
When in doubt, always read the fine manual, no?
In other news, still hating living at home, still despising my genetic family, still angry that I can't find an apartment I can afford. On the bright side of things, at least I'll be consulting tomorrow night, so I'll have a bit more money to put away for when I actually do stop being a loser and get the hell out of Dodge.
It was pleasant to hear upon returning home that the amendment Congress had been trying to railroad through that would have made homosexual and lesbian officially a non-partnership, and rendering all of the marriages thus far null and void was shot down today. At least until next year (after the election) it's safe to be queer and try to get married.. or as safe as your surroundings will let you be, anyway. The breakdown of how senators voted is part of this article.
When your connectivity goes down, wouldn't it be nice to know what happened? I think it's a basic right of users of any service to know what's going on.. the FCC, however, is proposing to make the reasons for outages classified to prevent terrorists from using them to further their plans. That's right, telling people why their cell service is down can be used to aid terrorists. As if a 'terrorist' with half a brain can't look up the frequencies used by cellular phones and design a jammer out of some spare parts. Guys, I think this is utter bullshit. This 'terrorism' jazz is turning into an excuse to classify everything and anything under the sun. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The terrorists won.
Our collective way of life has been changed forever. We're looking over our shoulders constantly. Our bank records can be gotten without a search warrant, as can records of our net.access. Our phones can now be tapped without having to get a warrant for a considerable period of time. If you're arrested because they think you're involved in 'terrorist activities' they can throw you in jail and deny you your basic rights, such as the right to talk to a lawyer and the right to try to make bail. You can now be strip searched at the airport and they'll take the ballpoint pen in your pocket but give you drinking glasses in the first class section made of real glass and steel knives to eat your meal with.
Speaking of disgusting, there's a new Win32 virus going around called Atak, and it goes out of its way to make it hard to disassemble. Graham Cluley, who is basically the mouthpiece of the antivirus industry (official or not) talked about Atak a little earlier today: It tries to detect when it's being run in a debugger and tries to interfere with the debugger's operation (there are some ways of doing this that date back to the days of MS-DOS and even the older consoles, to prevent pirates from reverse-engineering copy protection schemes). Someone put a lot of work into designing this badboy...
As the character John Parker said in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, "I'm a diplomat! I failed flight school!"
The first day back at work is always the roughest. I spent most of last night trying to claw my way back onto my feet, emotionally speaking. Nothing drives home how much I hate living at home than coming back from someplace where I actually feel like I belong, only to have to start pretending to be someone I'm not all over again. And dealing with a $90us phone bill.
I'm such a loser.Anyway, it was back to the grind come 0800 EDT. I waded through the usual routine, plus an extra few days because I wasn't at work to keep up with everything, then spent the afternoon in a freezing cold isolation chamber hacking on a system so old that it rolled over during Y2k and kept going, like a dinosaur that completely missed the last planet killer impact. I'm not sure which was worse, the cold or having to pick the box apart to see what it made it tick. Tomorrow: More of the same.
How convenient: In an election where a candidate's military record is one of the biggest targets in the smear campaigns that litter the mass media, it turns out that George Bush Jr.'s military records were destroyed accidentally. A Freedom of Information request for his records brought back a response stating that the microfilm containing his payroll records was damaged so badly that the data therein could not be retrieved. All attempts to find the backups were unsuccessful, also.
I'm still playing catch-up, so it'll take me a few more days to get my HOPE pictures put up for everyone to look at. Please be patient, especially if you have sent me e-mail recently. It's going to take a while to get through it all.
Around 0700 EST today, Alexius and I pulled into the driveway of the Lab. Dead tired, we'd driven all night from New York. We kicked around in New Jersey around midnight last night hunting for a place to eat dinner, eventually settling on a Subway franchise somewhere off of I-78. It wasn't the best food on the road but it was tasty and not terribly expensive. A garden salad and a hoagie can really hit the spot when you've been awake for far too long. We got in to the house and unloaded everything, and then I crashed in bed, falling into a dreamless sleep for a couple of hours. I had set my alarm for 1100 EST so that I could reorient myself and get some stuff done today, such as weeding out my e-mail accounts and put up some pictures.
I told them flat out that I'm not going to go grocery shopping for them today. They had all weekend and they are perfectly capable of getting their collective ass off of the couch, putting down the potato chips, and getting into the car. Too bad.
Let's see... where did I leave off last night, after dinner in Jersey when I fell asleep in the car? Oh, yes...
Jello Biafra's keynote speech on Sunday: ..but then again, I only had a single mental subprocess listening to him at the time. We stayed through the Social Engineering panel, also, listening to Verizon frustrate the attempts of the panel to reach the offices of anyone to have some fun. I went off wandering in search of people I'd been meaning to hook up with and ran into a few old friends, whom I spent some time catching up with. I never did find the Woz to get his autograph... never did hook up with Mitnick again, either. After a while I headed in to the encryption key signing panel to get a good seat, and take a look at the fingerprints of the keys that everyone had sent in. Of course, I had a copy of the latest version of my own keyring on Kabuki, so I checked my own fingerprint just to be safe. Everything checked out fine. One by one, we went up on stage, said who we were, identified our keys, and then read off our keys' fingerprints, to validate that they were legitimate. Everyone also said that they would or would not produce identification to verify their identitites. I declined to do this, for a number of reasons (mostly because I can't produce a driver's license issued to "Doctor, The".
I like my privacy. What remains of it, anyway.
Somewhat to my surprise, no one wanted to even look at my key for that reason. And I thought I was paranoid...
Oh, well. I guess that's what I get.
After the PGP key signing party, Silicon, Elwing, and I found Alexius and we kicked around for a while until closing ceremonies started. Vlad, Genetik, and Keebie had already taken off, and I think Silicon and Elwing had departed, also. At least, I don't recall seeing them again that day. Closing ceremonies were presented by Emmanuel Goldstein and the rest of the HOPE crew, including Greg Newby (the guy in the nifty looking purple zoot suit), Roadie, Porkchop, BernieS, the Cheshire Catalyst, and I think Shapeshifter (I can't remember the name of the guy I was helping stack chairs later that night). HOPE was an unqualified success, period. Very little trouble was had, security didn't have to come down on anyone because most everyone was cool with both each other and with the hotel staff and location, and largely self policing. The NOC (network operations centre) staff, some of whom took turns sleeping in a pup tent set up in the back, talked about Verizon's incredible ability to screw anything under the sun up, the other problems with the network (slight though they were), and how they took care of both managing the bandwidth and the morons who spent so much time trying to knock out the wireless network with DoS attacks.
Guys.. are you SURE that you want to screw with the public net at a hacker con? Do you really think that's a good idea?
I must be one of a handful of people who's ever pondered the consequences of doing something like that... the phrase "soap in a sock" comes to mind.
Security was cool all across the board. The public cluster was tiny, a shadow of what it once was, barely a few handfuls of terminals set up by Telerama, and some of those thoroughly screwed around with (as I discovered trying to reach the Batcave's website on Saturday afternoon). That's actually not such a bad thing, because people spent more time walking around the city, going to presentations, and talking to one another than they did sitting around talking on IRC (only saw two people doing that, as opposed to more than I can count on two hands in binary at H2k2) or playing FPSes (first-person shooting games). Yes, it's nice to be able to check your e-mail once in a while, but not to sit and veg on the network the whole time. You can just as easily save money and do that at home. We discovered that the IBM punchcards were our tickets for prize draws at the end of the con. Each had a unique identifier; at first someone brought a pair of 10-sided dice up for them to roll numbers on, but eventually some shell hackers whipped up a quick script that made use of OpenSSL's random number generation utility to generate four digit values, which mostly worked. I felt rather sorry for the guy who won the copy of Windows Server 2003 because everyone started ragging on him for it.
Who cares what OS you're running as long as it does what you need it to? Bloody childish, it is..
The con wrapped and many of us stayed behind to help the staff pick up trash, pull down decorations, stack chairs, and dismantle the AV and computer nets. Alexius and I, after finishing with the seats, headed down to the basement to get our luggage and then hailed a cab back to the Staton Island Ferry Station. While we stood in the terminal waiting, we watched an older guy wearing touristy clothing with a pair of headphones on, just dancing away in the terminal like there was nobody else there. Not many people stopped to look at him, but I kept peeking back every once in a while to watch him. I really wonder what he had going through those headphones... I've got a picture of him in my camera that I'll put up soon.
The ferry trip was the smoothest I've ever had. I sat down to read a little and twenty minutes later Alexius tugged on my sleeve: "Get up, we're almost there."
We loaded up the car and headed homeward. It took us a few tries to find the right highway because our directions were from the Hotel Pennsylvania and not the Staton Island Ferry Station, but we managed to get everything sorted out. Around 2300 EST we decided that a full stomach would make the trip home easier so we began trying exits on the New Jersey highway in vain attempts to find an all night diner, like those that litter the Pennsylvania roadways like so many discarded cigarette butts. Eventually we settled for hoagies from a Subway franchise somewhere just over the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border.
An hour after dinner, I powered Kabuki down and settled in for a few hours of unseasy sleep as Alexius, ever the night owl, guided us homeward.
And here I am now, six hours after waking up once more, writing and editing pictures.
Kevin Mitnick's keynote speech may be downloaded in .mp3 format from applefritter.com. It's 12,860 KB in size. Steve Wozniak's keynote speech may be downloaded from there, also. There is also more weblog coverage of HOPE available, posted by the user BDub.
the.Silicon.Dragon and Elwing have put their HOPE 2004 photo album online.
1210 EST - finally back on line.
Somewhen around 0830 last night those of us who were going to the bi-yearly virtadpt.net party at The Batcave retired to our respective rooms to change clothes and prepare. I jumped in the shower briefly and "tooled up for a night of it," as an old friend of mine was wont to say, quoting the movie Johnny Mnemonic. Combat fatigues, motorcycle boots, and my "I am Jack's overwritten stack pointer.." t-shirt from ninjas.org were swiftly donned, contact lenses replaced my spectacles, and my war jacket completed the ensamble. I locked on the traditional pair of mirrorshades and headed down to the public cluster to hang out with everyone else.. who hadn't changed yet. Shrugging, I patched into the big honking ethernet switch I mentioned yesterday, leaped back to the Network, and began sweeping out my spam and checking up on everyone.. later, Alexius came down and after a bit of research and wrestling we managed to coax the sound chip of his HP Omnibook 4100 into working with Fedora Core. I've been showing him around the more commonly used functions of Linux, such as editing text files, where to find things to do administrative tasks, where to find things that users can/need to do, what's supposed to be running, how to alter the configuration of his machine.. I've found that if you work through the tasks, you tend to remember them better because they wind up in your procedural memory.
I ran into Hairball again - he flew up from the southern US and hung out with us for a while. He loved my coat.. so did a lot of people. I wound up posing for a lot of pictures with people, including Jason Scott, the creator of textfiles.com. His eyes lit up when we introduced ourselves with our NPA (network plan address == area code) along with our handles. We spent some time talking about BBSes, text files, and what it takes to run such a large site as his. One of his biggest gripes was that the admins of some sites beg for money to cover the CPU time generating their pages takes, when there are solutions that would be far more cost effective. Well, maybe not 'gripes' per se, but I can't think of a better word.
I was also impressed by the folks in the back of the public cluster who had set up a video projector and were playing PyDance (an open source clone of Dance Dance Revolution) with real DDR pads interfaced through a PSX-to-USB adaptor. I've got to try that one of these days.
Not long after that we retired to the room of Vlad, Keebie, Silicon, Elwing, and Genetik to get ready for the night's party at the Batcave. Silicon and Elwing were considering going with us, but they had decided to go to a number of presentations that night. Alexius, Vlad, Keebie, and I hung out in their room drinking wine and mead, and sipping from my hip flask of Wild Turkey (thank you, Mr. Gibson, for the character of Lynch in Count Zero) while talking about the con and life, and how things have been going. All the while, Keebie was fixing my hair. Originally, I'd planned on doing the Valaquen Spike again, but I don't think my hairline would have survived all the teasing, pinching, pulling, industrial strength hair spray, and possibly hanging upside down from the clothes rack in the miniature spare room. At least, that's what it took last time. However, after all these years I finally got a chance to try out dreadlocks, or at least pseudo-dreads, where Keebie separated my hair into ropes about half the diameter of a finger, twisted them a bit and coated them with styling gel, and sprayed them with Super Freeze hairspray. All told, it took about two hours to get it all done, but by the time she was finished I had a lovely head of what amounts to coax cable.
When I was younger, Maelea, an old friend of mine, and I sometimes talked about dreading my hair up and tipping each cable with a 1/4 inch phono plug, which I think I'd like to try in the future on a special occasion.
Vlad got dressed up as an out of town rude boy with a generous side of goth, resplendent in black just-about-everything with a red bowling shirt and red and black fingernails. Keebie wore a lot of mesh and lace and a beautiful black corset with green piping and go-go boots. Elwing and Silicon opted to stay in that night; Silicon wasn't looking too good earlier that day, what with not really sleeping and not eating right, so this was probably for the best. I'd hate to see him exhaust the last of his reserves and wind up sick for a while. Alexius, always up for a good night out, threw his electronic component covered hat into the ring. We headed back to our room to get him outfitted. My black bondage pants, with the zippers still done up to keep them out of bell-bottom mode, fit him perfectly, and he adapted to the chains and optical fibre admirable. A black t-shirt, my black Converse sneakers, and his hat completed the outfit, and we stopped by the mezzaine to see if we could collect anyone else (and show off a little, I must admit), and then after some more pictures we dropped off our con gear and took off.
By the way, if anyone knows where I can find a new keyboard for an NEC Ready 360T, please e-mail me privately.
Earlier that day I'd stopped off at Kinkos to print out a number of extra e-flyers for the Batcave ($15us without, $10us with) so we saved a bit of money getting in, and without any trouble, I would like to add. The first thing we did was wander around a bit to get a feel for what was going on, which was lots of people out for a good time. There were some people doing the sitting by the wall looking at everyone but even more people, in fact I'd say the majority of the attendees that night, were there for one thing: Getting their groove on. We looked down over the first floor's dance floor for a while but the climbed the stairs to the second floor to see what was going on. The mix of music was much more eclectic, ranging from EBM to 80's and pure goth, so there was something for all of us. We stopped at the bar for a quick libation and toasted a few times to friends past and present and to many more good times. After we finished our drinks we descended the staircase to the first floor to explore. Not long after arriving on the first floor of the club, I found the mix in the music, the point where the drums just match up and stay that way.. like a surfer waiting patiently all day for the right wave to surf on, I felt that the time was right to dance, or at least make an ass of myself on the dana beeline for the dancefloor. Alexius decided to sit this one out so I asked him if he'd hold my jacket, which I shrugged out of after he accepted and staked out my territory. Keebie and Vlad joined me, and we danced to a set of eight or nine songs, tracks which I honestly wasn't keeping track of because I was having too much fun just feeling my body move. After the set was over we rejoined Alexius and talked for a while. I climbed back into my war jacket and made sure that all of the zippers, snaps, and buckles were closed.
Curious about the second floor, we climbed back up and gently shouldered our way through the throngs of people who stood around talking, bobbing to the music, and watching everyone else. It's easy to enjoy yourself in a place like that... even more so when the music changes to old-school goth, Joy Divison's Transmission. Behind my mirrorshades (I haven't lost the ability to navigate in the dark with 'shades on) my eyebrows shot up and I began cutting through the crowd to get to the dancefloor like a biomechanical shark. I managed to find a place just in front of the DJ's booth which was expanded by Vlad and Keebie, and Alexius, I was surprised to note. My dreads were all over the place as I did what comes naturally, which was just move however the music inspired me. That's all I do; I can't really dance, I just like to try, and anyone else be damned who has anything negative to say about it. 'lex isn't a big dancer but I was proud of him because he matched us song for song for song and looked bloody good while he was at it. I'm very proud of him; I'd like if it he went dancing with us more often.
We spent the rest of the evening on the dancefloor, eventually stopping because we were dripping with sweat and ready to crash for the night. I noticed something at the Batcave that night: The ratio of gothic, industrial, and fetish folk to more conventionally dressed clubgoers was much higher than any events I've ever attended in Pittsburgh, at least one 'casual' to every five or six G/I/F folks. Even more surprising was that they were entirely cool with each other. There was none of the sense of "You don't look like us" that I'm used to getting. Everyone was there to have a good time and get their groove on, and this they did, without any cliquing up on opposite sides of the dancefloor or stuff like that. Everyone was there for the music and it really showed.
It reminded me very much of a rave in that respect, in fact.
I felt very comfortable there, very much like I fit in, which isn't the sort of sense that I'm used to getting. By the time we stumbled off of the dance floor we were dripping with sweat and aching. We ran into Brandon, who was selling DVDs at the convention. He was taking care of a friend of his who had had too much to drink. By the time we'd caught up with him he'd gotten her into the care of her friends and was ready to head back to the hotel. We were going to return also, so we decided to call it a room party. Vlad and Keebie headed back to their room to change clothes, as did Brandon. 'lex and I changed into more comfortable clothing and we tidied up a bit until everyone arrived. Genetik, Silicon, and Elwing were offline for the night so it was just the five of us at 0400 EST. We passed around a bottle of wine and showed off pictures, some of the images on my website and the parts of Brandon's portfolio that he had brought with him, because he works as a professional photographer and sometime stage hypnotist.
A lot of talking and reminiscing was done early this morning. Eventually we ordered out for breakfast and sat up until dawn talking and generally hanging out. Around 0600 EST 'lex and I decided to crash for a few hours and we bid everyone farewell for a time.
By the time we'd come back online we were getting ready to check out of the hotel yet not actually leave the convention. After showering and packing all of our stuff up we carted the whole load down to the basement where we paid $4us for the hotel staff to store our gear, modulo our laptops. Vlad, Keebie, 'lex, and I then went in search of lunch, which we found in the form of the Bagel Maven Cafe' on 7th Avenue. The food there is decent and surprisingly affordable, though the service left much to be desired. Vlad asked for a fairly simple sandwich and recieved the wrong order twice (incorrect in the details - he can't eat mayonnaise and asked for white bread, and recieved rye with mayo twice in a row). When they get it right it's okay, but you might have to work on them a little to get what you're asking for. I suggest going there for coffee (free refills, incidentally) and perhaps a pastry, but not necessarily a meal if you're after anything reasonably complex.
After lunch Vlad and Keebie headed up into SoHo to go shopping while 'lex and I returned to the Hotel to catch the third keynote speech of the day, presented by Jello Biafra of Alternative Tentacles Records. Jello always has a lot to say, mostly about the United States' current political situation and the current regei'me but also about big industry and corporate America, the music industry, and the mass media and how easily it can manipulate the public with a single sound bite. It's best if you try to track down some of the video footage of his speech (there were a few people there recording him, as was the 2600 crew so they can release the DVDs and videotapes soon), I walked in late so I missed the first half hour or so, and even then I only had a single subprocress... more to come after I upload these updates.
Alexius ad I crashed around 2300 EST last night, unable to stay awake any longer. We hacked on Archimedes, his new laptop, as long as we could but sleep overtook us and we slept the sleep of the just in beds far more comfortable than any hotel normally affords its guests.
The two of us awoke shortly after 0900 EST this morning, and after quick showers to clean up and bring our brains back online we headed up to the eighteenth floor to see what was going on. I stopped off in the swag room (where all the dealers are set up) to pick up a few things - check out No Starch Press for their technical books, they have some excellent ones for all levels of ability, and some new ones on the way that I am rather excited about. The EFF, as always, is in attendence, and is offering memberships to whomever wants them, and they are selling small steel plates with the Bill of Rights etched on them - "Guaranteed to set off airport metal detectors!" Some other, more interesting and immediately practical devices are on sale, also.
The "Take this stuff" box is already picked over. Mental note: Bring gear to get rid of cheaply next time.
Captain Crunch is passed out in the movie room on the Mezzanine on an inflatable couch. Pictures to come.
Steve Wozniak will be giving the second keynote speech at 1200 EST today. The main area on the eighteenth floor is already standing room only, and spillover rooms are already set up, such as the movie projection room that Alexius and I are sitting in writing this entry.
Mitnick's keeping a low profile - I haven't been able to find him since the live Off the Hook broadcast last night, where he disappeared stage left shortly after the presentation wrapped.
There's no wireless connectivity in the Mezzanine movie room - this is a remote update.
I'm now free associating to try to bring the rest of my brain back on line, does it show? It's also helping me dredge up details that were lost to the noise yesterday, so I can get them written down.
'lex and I spent some time talking to the security guys on the bottom floor (who are guarding the escalators to the mezzanine floor). They liked the stickers I've got on Kabuki-sama's chassis. Just after I picked up an Intel Xeon OEM decal, which now rests next to the AMD Athlon sticker. "Oh, you've got one of those dual-CPU laptops now? I see that you're packing both an AMD and an Intel." he joked.
"Yeah, and I've got the smart chips from a few credit cards in here, too. Kabuki-sama needs all the processing power she can get."
"Let me see.. you've got some credit cards in here, and you're even powered by a demon!" (meaning her Praga Khan decal) "And it's also a Transfomer.. does it transform into a gun?"
I laughed. "No, but she does sprout wheels out of the sides, and tank treads out of the bottom of her chassis. She can go right under doors.. the only thing I haven't worked out yet is how to get the Quickcam under there."
Security Guy #2 (Security Guy #1 hadn't left his post by the elevator) found this amusing. "Oh, so you've got that warning sticker on there to tell everyone that anyone putting their head betwee the keyboard and the panel will damage either the head or the panel when it closes?"
"No, that warning is for the four and one-half ounces of C4 packed around the hard drive. If anyone tries to open her chassis, it'll detonate."
NOTE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: My laptop really doesn't have any explosives in it. That was a joke made only at HOPE 2004. Please don't vivisect me when I get to the airport.
We spoke for a while longer about how the convention was going and what had been going on. This matched what the Cheshire Catalyst told me last night - everything is going scarily well. No major problems aside from Verizon screwing up the DS1's have required any attention.
The Woz is on stage upstairs; all of us are downstairs on the Mezzanine watching on the movie projector (the HOPE media server is running so well that they've been streaming some of the other presentations down here simultaneously) because it's been SRO in room A, and has been since at the very latest 0900 EST. We're still trying to get everything running on Alexius' HP Omnibook 4100; time to hit Google.
There's an FRS radio communication repeater on channel 4, quiet code 20. Yes, I'm serious.
Redpantz and his SO rolled into the con around 1200 EST.
Woz is telling jokes about his strange phone number collection; his phone number used to be just off of Pan Am's, and he used to get calls from people looking to book flights. He used to have fun with them, even going so far as to say 'Just kidding' at the end of the call. A lot of people didn't believe him. I rather liked the bits about the 'grasshopper special'; if you took a lot of flights around the country, he used to say, you could get a better price on your flight. I wonder how many people bought that hook, line, and sinker.
He's been talking about the hacker nature lately; wanting to do things more elegantly, wanting to push the envelope of what is possible and how it is done. Technology is an outlet for people with a certain kind of motivation, a certain kind of way of looking at the world. Money versus a community where money isn't the motivating factor, but the need to do something neat, and most importantly something new. Pranks at CalTech, told in the form of stories by his father around the dinner table, that were fiendishly elaborate and creative. Pranks that left you scratching your head as often as doubled over laughing. Sometimes they went over well; sometimes they went wrong.
Just like anything else, come to think of it.
"Just because something's fast doesn't mean that it can compete with the human mind." --Steve Wozniak
He seems a very pesonable speaker. He keeps comparing 'people like us', meaning the attendees of the conference listening to him, to 'most people', people who aren't technically astute. In a way, it seems elitist; we don't do anything that anyone couldn't each themselves to do. But he's also right. A lot of people don't want to learn anything more about technology outside of what they need in their day to day life. The secret is wanting to learn, wanting to know what's going on behind that locked door, inside the case, on the die inside that little block of black plastic. It's the drive to know, to figure things out.
Humans are interesting creatures. The secret is in their motivation. How to motivate them is the key.
The audio's too loud in here, though. It's painful in the upper frequencies, especially when Woz gets excited about something and he begins speaking more loudly.
Much later today...
Woz's speech was amazing.. he's the epitome of hackerdom. One of the true hackers, one of the last of the old school...
Afterward, the.Silicon.Dragon and I ran upstairs to try to meet him to get an autograph.. as it turned out, he was on his way back downstairs to the mezzanine level to sign autographs. Damn.
However, as we fought our way to the front of the room I saw Kevin Mitnick getting ready to leave. I bolted forward, yelling "Kevin! Hey, Condor!"
He didn't answer to his old handle (or one of them, depending on whom you listen to), interestingly enough.
He was in a hurry to get downstairs himself, but we did talk for a moment. For understandable reasons, he refused to sign my copy of Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. I ran to pick up a copy of 2600 and met up again with Silicon, Elwing, Genetik, and Vlad. We hiked up 9th Avenue between 34th and 40th avenues in search of action, adventure, and a flea market in Hell's Kitchen. The flea market wasn't worth the hike, unfortunately. Silicon, who had slept even less than Alexius and I put together, was in a bad way so we stopped off for a break at 40th Street Diner, which is a 24 hour diner that has a little of everything at a good price all the time. Much refreshed after a late lunch, we hiked back to the hotel by way of a store or two, in search of supplies for tonight.
Hair gel, hair spray, and some nail polish were acquired for our party-to-be at The Batcave this evening. I stopped up at my room to take a quick shower and change my clothes. Tired of doing the shorts-and-t-shirt tourist thing, I'm sitting in the public cluster jacked into a wired connection to the concention LAN cyberpunked out dodging someone who's been trying an SSH man in the middle attack on the conLAN. The wireless net's offline, so someone hauled out a mother-huge switch for everyone to patch into.
I've gotten into quite a few conversations as a result of my war jacket, including two guys from Canada who are into wearable computing (that was a cool discussion) and one young lady who noticed my leather pride patch and asked me about the scene.
Oh, there's a HOPE 2004 bash at The Hacker Halfway House - if you're in NYC, stop by with money, snacks, and alcohol.
The convention weekend got off to a rather tense start when, around 0245 EST, Alexius and I were greeted in the fine state of New Jersey by the highway patrol. In trying to make decent time to New York City, we bent a few traffic laws and were called on the carpet for doing 85 MPH in a 65 MPH zone about thirty miles outside of Newark. We knew that we were busted when the car behind us not only flipped on its high beams but turned on a sun-gun mounted on the driver's side door and carefully examined not only the license plate but what could be seen of the inside of the car and the backs of our heads. Then the red and white blinkies went on and our hearts sank. The officers made a careful survey of the insides of the car when they got out to talk to us. They spent rather a long time studying the back of the car, including my war jacket spread out across the back, the plastic grocery bag of marshmallows, and the sundry bags and devices littering the front seat and passenger's side foot well. I made very sure to keep my hands in plain sight: A kid dressed all in black wearing a Hackerspotting t-shirt who could have anything from a pistol to a pound of C4 hidden in that backpack at his feet is a potential hazard. Alexius kept his cool and handled the situation admirably. I froze briefly when the second officer made his way around the car, studying everything. "What's in the box back there? Show me."
Alexius' elder furthark divination runes were swiftly produced and shown, still in their zip-lock baggie.
Ticket in hand, we resumed our trek. If that is the only contact with law enforcement we have this weekend, so be it.
Play nice out there, kids. And watch your backs on the New Jersey turnpike.
0337 EST: We're in NYC. A little over five and one-half hours isn't bad for crossing an entire state and part of another.
0844 EST: We got in to the hotel at a reasonable time for us, somewhen around 0330 EST. We decided to check in early because we were dog tired and wanted nothing more than to offload our gear and find a safe place to park. Getting the room was pretty simple even though we're paying for an extra day to do so. Offloading the equipment was about as easy because we packed light this time. Well, 'lex packed light as he always does. I was down to two bags and my war jacket.. okay, a suitcase and a bag.
Oh, fine. How about a suitcase and a courier's bag for my laptop and assorted support gear.
Finding a place to park that wouldn't break the bank was an adventure in itself. Park at the wharf, right? Seem simple?
How about a three hour trek through most of Manhattan and Staton Island, ending shortly after 0600 EST. Three hours. Once we secured the car and gave everything the once over we hiked to the Ferry for the trip back across the river. It was an interesting experience, riding on the Staton Island Ferry. The ride was the smoothest I've ever been on, from leaving one side to standing at the docking apparatus at the terminus. The cries of gulls could be heard over the water, mixing weirdly with that half-hazy state of mind that comes with twenty-four hours of uninterrupted wakefulness. As I write this during the first presentation of the convention (Hacking National Intelligence: Power to the People by Robert Steele) my mind is amazingly clear; the extra caffeine and bagel an hour ago probably helped. Anyway, 'lex and I hailed a cab after we got off of the ferry and rode back to the Hotel Penn, nearly running out of cash for the fare as we did so. It was a great relief to stroll back into our room and get our first showers to clear off the cruft and wake up.
The badges for the convention are black armbands with fists on them with "HOPE 5" printed on them in silvery-white ink. Someone didn't think this idea through, I get the feeling, because these armbands don't really fit around any parts of the body but the neck or the thighs. Not many of us have biceps that are suitable for these things... but I'm making sweeping generalisations again.
Robert Steele covered a lot about what's been going on in the American intelligence community in the past four or five years, and made references to some things that he'd talked about literally years ago, such as the impact of computer intrusions on national security. He also gave a scathing review of the general ineffectiveness of the CIA, FBI, et al in the years following 9/11. No more manpower's been thrown at homeland security. Not much in the way of nonmaterial resources (read: money and computing power) has been added, it's mostly been shuffling around of what already exists. He also gave away one of the key secrets of getting a security clearance: Live a circumspect life. Keep a low profile.. stay in the closet if possible (though it's becoming incrementally more acceptible to lead an 'alternative lifestyle' in the US intelligence community these days), don't use drugs, don't be too far out on the extremes of the political spectrum.. common sense, minor paranoiac stuff.
Dammit. I should have been paying better attention. I'm going to grab the document from his website and read over it a few times and write something more intelligent. Probably after I get some sleep.
I'm writing this portion of the entry almost completely offline. I got Kabuki associated with the wireless network at HOPE 2004 but there's a problem: I'll let the convention's NOC staff speak for me:
The WORLD is DISCONNECTED from this NETWORK.
The wonderful people at Verizon have failed to provide either of the TWO DS1 connections to the hotel that were ordered a month ago.
The NOC team is working diligently on the problem. We will make very loud announcements when the internet returns. Thank you for your patience
So it's not the fault of anyone at the con that our sector's cut off from the rest of the Net - Verizon is acting childish and refusing to bring the DS1 lines up. I don't know when anyone will read this, but if and when you do, this is the reason.
I'm sitting in the Radio Prometheus presentation right now, listening to Dharma Dailey, Josh Marcus, and Pete Tridish talk about the good that FM radio pirates have done for the community. Formed more as a protest against commercial radio and to push the state of the art of low-power FM broadcasting than to be pirates for the sake of piracy or to cause trouble. Communities are drawn together around the broadcasts of these stations, some of which are only interested in bringing new music to the people, but others are spreading news and much needed information. Right now they're discussing some bills before Congress right now (my mind's too fuzzy to multitask at the present time) that could bring the curtains down on low power broadcasting. Companies like Clearchannel are slowly but steadily beginning to dominate the FM radio portion of the RF spectrum, and the politics of it are becoming more and more worrisome. The FCC is trying to manipulate things in such a way to show that low power broadcasting actively interferes with paying, licensed radio stations, and some of the tactics they're using (like demonstrating the interference that a nearby station could generate by playing a sound sample twice, slightly overlapped)... not realistic, or accurate at all. You get a lot of hiss and the occasional clicks and pops in the transmission, and oftentimes you'll get what amounts to audio salad, bits and pieces of phonemes and parts of musical notes coming across the weaker signal (having worked at a college radio station for a few years as a tech - WIUP-FM, if it matters). They're trying.. but it's not accurate. There is also the matter of a low power or micropower station (say, a radio pirate with a transmitter pushing a few watts) jamming a commercial station pushing a few thousand to a low million or two watts of RF (probably not going to happen due to the sheer power of the signal).
My mind's starting to act wonky. Sleep deprivation is beginning to interfere with my thought processes, and I can feel bits and pieces falling away and going cold. Emotional responses are beginning to get locked in patters that I would much rather they didn't. There's no reason for it, it's simply because I've not had the chance to partake of REM sleep in.. let me see... thirty-three hours and change. I'm going to continue writing as well as I can but I can't guarantee that it'll make sense. Expect me to be going over everything at a later time to make sense of the information.
Kevin Mitnick has spoken.. not about anything that hasn't been said before, he went over his history as a famous hacker, the ups, the downs, and what happened all those years he was in jail waiting to go on trial. In short, it wasn't anything that he didn't at least touch upon the last time he was on Coast to Coast AM. His speech ran a good hour and three-quarters, and the Q&A session went for better than a half hour. The schedule might have been pushed around a little, I'm not sure. He spoke remarkably well, keeping the attention of everyone in the audience (which was standing room only on the 18th floor) and on occasion causing everyone to break into fits of laughter and applause. By the time he'd finished recounting the highlights of his younger years, we'd laughed and smacked our collective forehead not a few times.. he also regaled us with a few interesting tidbits of information (some of which came out in the trivia session for copies of his book later on - I still wonder why I didn't answer that one question...) I got a chance to ask a question at the mic during Q&A - "Was it you who left those recordings in Tsutomu Shimomura's voice mail?"
Mitnick said that it was not he who left them, but a joker who was an acquaintence of Shimomura who left them. After his arrest, he stated, the joker came clean. Judging by the media circus surrounding Mitnick's arrest, this news sank without a trace.
I'm still trying to corner him to get one of my books autographed by him. Perhaps tomorrow.
I've been taking many, many photographs while I've been here, which I hope to put online over the next few days. Right now my body's sitting in one of the presentations rooms where a live broadcast of Off then Hook is taking place. I think it'll remain conscious for another hour or so but I'll be going offline to sleep soon. The network's up now (2100 EST) but I'm not certain for how long, so I'm taking as full advantage of it as I can.
Earlier today, the.Silicon.Dragon, Elwing, and I were interviewed by a 2600 camera crew for a documentary about.. HOPE 2004. They asked us what we thought of hacking today, where we thought it came from, what it 'really' means (how subjective a question..), and the like.. I answered as honestly as I could, talking about trying to accomplish tasks as elegantly as possible and trying to make mechanisms do things that they were never designed to. The C-64 graphics hacks of the 80's and early 90's came immediately to mind, because the pushed the graphics chips of the Commodores farther than their designers had ever envisioned, and produced effects (link to a library that does those things because I'm too tired to find the proper definitions at this time - that's what Google is for)that people didn't think they were capable of, such as the famous "copper bars" effect.
I'll remember more tomorrow. I'm going to bed.
As I write this entry I'm sitting in 'lex Pendragon's car barreling down the highway in the dead of night on our way to HOPE 2004 in good old New York City, the city that never sleeps (as the movie Hackers put it).
Work today was as it's been for a while now, long, but not terribly boring due to some changes in the routine, which I'm not one to disparage by any means. My anticipation of this weekend made it feel like the day would never end, though once it did I hiked to the bus stop with a spring in my step and a song echoing in my hearts (Zettai Unmei Mokoshiroku from the Utena soundtrack, which has been stuck in my head for over a week now). Like the past few days, however, the bus was over a half hour late in coming, leading many of us who wait at that particular stop to wonder if the bus had indeed been shot up by a roving gang war and the bus driver was bleeding out all over the grimy floor of the bus. Callously, this wouldn't be a terribly big deal because there is another bus home later in the evening, but now I'm just trying to get my creative registers primed and firing.
Lyssa called me on my cellphone while I sat on the bus, reading Idoru by Gibson somewhat apprehensively - she discovered something untoward, but thankfully before it was too late to fix. Her discovery was that her closet was not immune to the ravages of the basement flood of Independence Day weekend 2004. A considerably quantity of clothing had to be washed and re-washed to return them to a wearable state, and she's down a pair of sneakers due to wet rot. Ugh. When last we spoke she had thrown another batch of laundry in.
Makes me wish I was down there to help her out.
The walk back to the Lab was a welcome chance to stretch my legs, probably for the last time in a day or so; it's a long drive to New York. Just as I reached the driveway, something caught my eye: Among the tiny sparrows that hopped around on the street and driveway was a splash of neon yellow, tweeting pitifully. "Now what in the heck is a parakeet doing Outside?" I thought to myself. Someone's pet bird must have gotten loose in the past couple of days (the bird seemed in good shape from what I could tell) and was flying around, maybe wondering where familiar surroundings were; perhaps pleasant ones from the bird's point of view, perhaps not. 'lex says that I should grep the newspapers for 'lost bird' ads; they pop up occasionally, so it's not that long a shot. That is assuming, of course, that said parakeet is still in the area and not dinner for a passing feline.
There was a mesage waiting for me on the answering machine when I walked in - I didn't get the job. The company that I'd interviewed with decided to hire someone else for less money than I was asking for.
For the record I wasn't asking for much, just what I was making at the last company I'd worked for, which wasn't much as most reckon it but is dead on for the IT industry in Pennsylvania as the SANS yearly survey would have it. However, if another position opens up they say that they're going to offer me he job without a second glance due to my experience and qualifications. I can live with that. I made a good impression. I didn't come across as an arrogant idiot, nor as a flake.
Either way, I'm happy with how things turned out. I've got my confidence back.
I packed up the pile of last minute stuff that had accumulated on top of my suitcase after chugging a quick cup of coffee and spoke to Lyssa a bit about the fallen-through job. At the same time I began collecting CD-ROMs to bring with me and copying datafiles over to Kabuki-sama for the car ride. Alexius showed up just as I was wrapping things up and helped me get everything loaded into his car. We sat and talked as the files sftp'd their way over (okay, they were .mp3's...) and finally set out to get one last batch of supplies at the local supermarket before heading northward to the Chinese smorgasbord near the highway. A quick dinner later, and we were on our way... which catches me up to the present.
Oh, for crying out loud.. (note: not work safe). Judge Donald Thompson of the state of Oklahoma had a number of complaints filed against him for using what is euphimistically termed a 'male enhancement pump' while the court was in session (i.e., he was sitting on the bench), oiling his equipment, shaving it on occasion (I call bullshit on that, it isn't easy to shave that particular part of one's anatomy, no matter how much practise you've got), and pleasuring himself... ye flipping gods. There were at least four witnesses (definitely more) who signed this complaint.
In slightly less than twenty-four hours, 'lex and I will be heading northward for New York City to attend the HOPE 2004 conference at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Most of the past two days has been spent preparing for the trip. Most everything's been wrapped up at home for the next couple of days. I finished packing earlier tonight. Kabuki-sama is safely stowed and ready to roll. My suitcase has clothes of all kinds in it, some more tech-toys to cart around that I probably won't use, and some books to get autographed. I've got stuff to do on the ride up that isn't reading, munchies for the con, and a jar of me'lange to wake up to. I'm also going to bring a mirror of my website on Kabuki to work on while I'm up there. I've no illusions that I'll be able to get on the con's network with any reliability so I'll probaby wind up writing updates on the local copy, which I'll upload en masse once I get to a stable link.
If anyone will be up there, feel free to come over and say 'hi' to the Team. We'll probably be in the public cluster playing the TCP/IP drinking game at some point.
And now, a little entertainment: Funny entries in the Microsoft knowledge base.
Aah... Emperor Norton.. wish I could have met ye...
Well, I've finally got some time to write about this past weekend. Work today was a lot of playing catch-up and trying to make sure nothing blew up in the few days I'll be in the office because I'll be heading out to HOPE at the end of this week with 'lex.
I got in to Maryland late Friday night/early Saturday morning after setting out cross-country a bit later than I'd originally intended. Lyssa's monitor is on its last legs so before leaving the state I drove out to Vlad's place to pick up a loaner for her. We hung out for a while, talking about this and that and coming up with plans for the conference this upcoming weekend. After loading the monitor into the back of my car I set out for the southern border. A quick stop off for petrol by the highway later and I was off.
I had brought the CDs I'd picked up at the flea market and the Utena soundtracks to listen to on the way down. I think I've got a few new tracks to add to the arsenal on Goth Night (unfortunately I won't be at the next one because.. it's this weekend). I need to mark them on the cases so I can find them in a hurry.
I made it in a little over four hours of travel time without stopping, which isn't bad for Independence Day weekend interstate traffic. For some reason everyone was headed northward, so the south-heading highways didn't have much traffic to contend with. Because it was dark I lost my usual landmarks and wound up somewhere near a US Army research facility just outside of the University of Maryland's campus but a quick phone call brought me in, whereupon I crashed hard. We stayed up for a while drinking white wine, eating sushi, and watching The Secretary, which is fast on its way to becoming a BDSM classic. I think I'll track down the original story to read in my spare time soon... the next morning, or afternoon, I should say, we somehow dragged ourselves out of bed to make breakfast, only to discover that the usual breakfast necessities were lacking in the cupboards. We had lunch at the local campus diner, where we spent a few hours eating fine seafood (mmm.. crab cake...), drinking coffee, and talking about life. Our restocking run lead us to Whole Paycheque^H^HFoods, where we picked up things to grill and things to munch on for a picnic on Sunday.
Incidentally, the chocolate covered ginger is expensive ($8.99us per pound) but tasty, and has an unusual flavour. Save up and try it when you get a chance.
We also stopped off at the local comic shop for Free Comics Day. I think we spent more time talking to the owners of the store than we did hunting for new stuff to read. I picked up the hardback version of David Mack's Scarab while I was there.
The evening was spent cleaning up the basement a little and working on Lili, Lyssa's partner in crime. She was long overdue for a rebuild so we backed up all of Lyssa's data and then reformatted. Lili's been rebuilt on top of NTFS5 and I've hardened her a little bit, to make sure that Lili doesn't get owned by one of the umpteen Windows viruses and worms running around Out There Somewhere. First thing I did after the third reboot was make sure the ethernet cable was unplugged and throw in the Microsoft security update CD-ROM to install SP1 and a bunch of hotfixes, just to be safe. The rest of the night was spent cooking up a fine chicken feast on the electric grille after marinating it all day in a tikki marsala sauce with some sweet peppers and the Greek yogurt sauce that we've fallen in love with.
We got up early on Sunday morning to meet Corinne, one of Lyssa's co-workers, for breakfast at the same diner, but as luck would have it she didn't arrive, so it was another morning of eating (breakfast, this time), talking, and eventually heading out to see Spiderman 2. Because we had some time to kill before the movie started we hung out in the mall's arcade playing video games. She stomped me thoroughly at Marvel vs. Capcom2. I'm not very good at fighting games, but it was fun to watch Cable and Toolbot duke it out, though. Later we went head-to-head at Ms. Pac-Man, and she beat me by a scarce thousand points or so. After the movie was over I returned the favour at a vintage Pac-Man cabinet game, and won by about the same margin.
I'm genuinely surprised at how good a movie it was. As I've probably mentioned in the past, I'm not much of a fan of Spiderman but the movies are turning out quite well. The guy who played Doc Ock did an excellent job, swinging back and forth between supervillian and slightly dour burned out scientist. The sequence where the robotic arms attached themselves gave me a pleasant shiver as the wiring slid home. I still say that Octavius should have marketed those badboys and left the self-sustaining fusion reaction, held by a magnetic bottle that naturally would have attracted every piece of ferrous metal in a nine block radius behind. He wasn't handsome.. he wasn't particularly rugged in that supervillian sort of way.. he had a paunch and his hair was thin in places.. he fit the role of a mad scientist who hit rock bottom perfectly. The movie had me jumping in a couple of places and I think I tore some of the skin off of Lyssa's wrist in the cafe' and ER scenes.
It's a rare movie that I get into so much that I react to it. Two thumbs up. Go see it when you get a chance.
It was pouring down rain by the time the movie was over.. I mean a real deluge - sheets of water were streaming down from the sky. We decided to hang out a while longer and see what we could find in the mall. The toy store had a few things that kept us busy for a while (like the construction sets and the Transformers), and we stopped off to nose around a few more places. I picked up a new pair of sneakers (black Converse high tops) because my old pair are about ready to fall apart. I didn't realise that the woman behind the counter gave me a strange look until later, when Lyssa pointed out that this probably was not the safest mall to ask for pink shoelaces in.
How was I supposed to know?
We should have known that something was amiss when the trip home was delayed by part of the highway being flooded out. My car just barely forded two stretches of roadway that sent land leviathans scurrying for the turn-around (hee hee hee). Thankfully my car's got a high suspension and excellent brakes, so we made it without trouble. However, by the time we got home we discovered that the basement, Lyssa's apartment, had been flooded by the rain. The gutters were completely overgrown with plants and the remains of dead plants, and all of the rainwater had gone straight down the foundation and into the rooms.. we spent the next six hours mopping, soaking, and wringing stuff out to make it safe and liveable once again. The landlord was called and many colourful words were left on his answering machine.
To his credit, the very next day he went up on the roof and cleaned the gutters out.
The evening was spent completely burned out, munching pizza because we were too tired to cook the way we'd planned. Pariah stopped by later in the evening and spent some quality time with Lyssa, which did my hearts good.
And now I'm out of time and have to go to bed.
Home from DC. Dead tired; work tomorrow. 'night.
I AM 54% GOTH!
Oh My Goth! You Goth, Girl. There is a good chance I am bi. Freakiness pumps through my viens, but I can still laugh at myself.
How in the hell did I manage that?
Got into Maryland around 0130 EST this morning. Dead tired. Just woke up. I'll write about how the day went later.
Another long one.. my brain's about fried. Just one more day to make it through...
The initial panic at work seems to be over. Everyone's getting back to their normal routines, modulo shuffling some tasks around to make up for the loss of personnel. I had a good talk with my boss today about everything that's been going on. I could feel my blood pressure drop a few points during and afterward, a not unpleasant feeling.
I've seen some bad ideas in my day, and I've even had my share of bad ideas, but this takes the taco. One of the regulars over at Something Awful (for Pete's sake, not a work safe link!) figured out how to construct what appears to be a working home-made flamethrower. The T-joints and valves appear to be steel or brass, which is what you'd expect of a weapon designed to spit flame a decent distance from the fuel pack. He even built his own fuel tank out of large sections of PVC pipe, which fit into a camping backpack. I would not have done it that way, for the single reason that if something were to happen to the tank it would blow like a grenade, throwing shrapnel everywhere and probably turning the bearer of this device into a pincushion. I would have kept the propane in its own tank, and probably used a few camping stove-sized tanks for fuel. The new tank is what makes me wonder if this is a hoax, and a dangerous one, at that. The use of PVC cement is a nice touch, though. A great deal of care was taken on all of the seals, though, down to coating the threads of the plugs with silicone sealing tape to tighten them. The action pictures are extremely blurry, because the author says that he set the time delay on the camera too long.
Ye flipping gods... this is just crazy enough to be true. I've seen some of the underground engineering that goes on in my hometown and at various cons around the country, and if you've got enough courage to go through with it, this is the calibre of thing that can be done.
What a day.. Another day at work where the higher functions of the brain have shut themselves down and the rest of you feels like it's just run a five mile race after smoking a pack of cloves. All hell broke loose today; unfortunately, I can't talk about it.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
Let's see.. what else happened in the big, wide world today? The First Court of Appeals of the state of Massachusetts has set an uncomfortable precedent today by stating that providers of e-mail service do not break the law when examining their customers' communications without the consent of the customers. Uh-oh. The story goes on.. criminal anti-wiretapping laws were not violated by one Bradford Councilman (what a name..) when he secretly copied and examined the e-mail of his customers to monitor their transactions; he did this to give his rare book sales store/company/commercial website (whatever you wish to call it) a compeditive advantage over Net.giant Amazon by understanding what his customers were looking for and planning accordingly. The reasoning behind the ruling is the fact that the messages were in the RAM field of his system and not in transit through the network cabling, so technically he didn't tap any wires, he was performing an administrative act on his machine.
Crypto, people. Crypto.
Aliant Energy of Connecticut has called off its test of BPL, Broadband (Internet access) over Power Lines due to the incredible amounts of interference generated by using power lines as the conduits for net.traffic.. just like other countries did years ago (scroll down in the article for the relevant links). While it's an interesting idea for getting connectivity out to the masses, it's got a history of problems, many of them quite serious. It's one thing to generate disgusting amounts of RF interference, but another when that interference turns the frequency bands used for cellular telephones, CB radio, and emergency broadcasts into white noise. Thankfully cooler heads and the ARRL prevailed and cut the experiment off before something nasty happened, such as someone dying because the authorities couldn't get through due to all the white noise in the RF bands.
Dammit. That job opening at Qwest Communications closed before I could apply for it.
I love culture jamming - when someone sneaks into a niche in society and starts messing around to shake people up, it brings a smile to my face, even if it happens to be something I'm a part of. Not too long ago a group of culture jammers calling themselves the Progressives Against Progress infiltrated the Green Party's presidential nomination convention and seeded it with flyers nominating Fidel Castro for the Green Party's candidate, calling for an end to farming and the Net, and anti-globalisation propaganda. The Greens who attended the party not once noticed how slickly these folks were dressed (completely missing the whole 'designer clothing manufactured in sweat shops' angle) and probably didn't read the flyers at all (Fidel Castro?! come on, folks.. even I'm not that dense!) Unfortunately, the joke's still on the Greens because not one of them, it was written, spoke up about what they were helping to distribute (some volunteered to help hand out flyers), or even bothered to try to get the joke.
An old friend of mine has a word for folks like this: Sheeple.
I can't help but think of this as a case of "Ooh! Shiny! I'll help!" It never occurred to anyone to even examine what they were reading (words go in but thoughts never start because of them), which both frightens and sickens me. Rule number one in America these days is "Read what you're handed, lest you sign your life away without even realising it." It's too easy to screw yourself over if don't bother to read what you're signing or think about what you've been passed. This is like high school kids reading a 'classic' in literature class but not once stopping to grapple with the concepts; they just let the words wash over them, take notes in class, and regurgitate as necessary to get a passing grade on the exam. The knowledge doesn't actually enter their heads - it gets filtered out by the need-to-survive-academically filters. They don't learn anything from it.. they don't carry anything with them through the years that they gleaned from those texts.
I say this knowing that I've done it before, which isn't an easy thing to admit. The Scarlet Letter went in one eye and out the other with me. But I also admit that I didn't do it very often.. but now I'm getting off the track of my original rant, which was about the Green Party Convention screwing itself and possibly losing some of its credibility as 'the third party' in the US.
The first Real Life Comics paperback will be released on 5 July 2004. The paperback contains the entire first year of the web comic in dead-tree format, and covers the (mis)adventures of Greg, Tony, Dave, Adam, Liz and Lizzie, Debbie, and Crystal.. everything from working for a small airline to building Eva Unit-00-kai in the backyard and all points in between are hit in the comic.. give it a read if you get a chance, but not at work because you'll probably forget about everything else you've got to do that day.
Remember all that talk about the frequent flyer's security prescreening programme a few months ago? It's taken off, and frequent travellers are happy with it, mostly because it means not having to be searched stem to stern every time you get in line for your flight. A telling quote was included in this article (assuming that you take its veracity at face value): "I'd do anything to save time and hassle going through security - anything legal, that is."
That seems a bit too orchestrated to me, but I'm wary like that.
More to consider... More to consider...
This morning's been a busy one. Three apartments have been contacted, one job offer call has been returned (I'm still waiting for the reply... it's been three calls, now, and I haven't been able to get in touch with this gentleman in realtime), and I've got an interview this afternoon. I'm going to work on a few more things and then start getting ready to truck out there.
I spent most of the morning calling around about apartments and returning the phone calls of recruiters. Lately when I've been going out, I've been watching out for apartment buildings and noting the contact information in the voice memo function of my cellphone. I've found a few likely places, though the phone number of one was stale (the 412 number goes to a cheese factory, the 724 number is out of service), so that place is out. There are a few apartment buildings north of me that I have to swing past soon to get the contact info for, and some friends (you know who you are) are helping in this regard also. The way things are going, I'm going to wait until after this upcoming Friday before I settle on a plan to relocate, because I'll need to know how much of a necessity access to bus service is, as well as the amount of money every month I can budget for rent and utilities.
Wish me luck, everyone.
I've been back from my interview for a few hours now. As it turns out, I know some of the folks who work there, so that relaxed me during the interview immensely. They asked me the standard questions about what I do, what I've done, what I'm doing now (limited by my NDA, incidentally), and business related things about myself. Pretty standard stuff, all things considered. I think I handled it quite well, if I do say so myself. I relaxed easily and spoke as best I could, much of it coming from the hearts. If I couldn't answer, I told them so (there was nothing that I couldn't answer, however), I told them why I answered the way I did a few times, and I slipped easily into the professional mode of speech where you don't even have to think about the answer, you just know it, and it comes tripping off the tongue like a hailstorm of facts, methods, tactics, and connections. Even geeks can step into The Zone.
By the end of it, they told me that I'll find out on Friday.
I hung out with one of their alpha techies before I left, just talking shop and plans for the future. I think all that time studying for my CISSP has paid off...
I've got a good feeling about this.
On the way home I took off most of the formal wear, mostly because it was too hot to wear, and headed for the mall for the hell of it. I picked up two of the Revolutionary Girl Utena soundtracks at Suncoast, which I immediately ripped into. I think I've got the first OST soundtrack (Pioneer released it, unsurprisingly) and the movie soundtrack. It's got Brightened Garden on it, the song that Miki is always playing on the piano. I got the idea to teach myself how to play it last night, so that's most of the reason I went searching for it this afternoon. There are also has three variants of Zettai Unmei Mokoshiroku (the theme that plays during Utena's journey to the arena each time), the first story arc's, the second story arc's (industrial mix), and an instrumental version of the industrial mix. I've already backed up this disc, and the second isn't leaving my Lab until it's copied, also.
Okay, so I'm already a fan-thing for Utena.
This article caught my attention after dinner tonight - the US government is refusing to allow freedom of information requests for data pertaining to foreign lobbyists because they're afraid that they will crash the database server storing the information. What a load of bollocks. Even MS SQL Server is too stable to crash under the weight of a few thousand such queries, something that I will attest to personally. Just about everyone who's considered this has the same opinion: We didn't know it was possible for the copying of a few records to erase an entire database.
Glad to hear that I'm not the only one calling 'bullshit' on this one.
Is anyone else now really curious about what might be buried in there? I can see that I'm not the only one who thinks they're stalling for time... estimates say that it'll be at least until December 2004 until that data can be released in dead-tree edition.. the better to take black markers to for the purpose of redacting information, no? After a few screwups in which .pdf files were supposed to be redacted electronically but the black bars could be easily removed with a copy of Adobe Acrobat, maybe they've wised up a little.
Another long day, and a bloody tiring one, at that. I'm still worn out from this weekend past, and somehow today turned into a low-impact crawl through a boatload of servers, enough to force most of my higher brain functions to go offline without expending a lot of effort. By the time I got home I was about to fall over. Dinner almost didn't get off the ground at all because some of the stuff I pulled out of the fridge was moldy (damn Giant Eagle deli, nothing lasts from there) but some quick thinking saved.. well, not the day, but certainly my blood sugar.
After taking care of a few things around the house <cough> I escaped from the house for a few hours to help Lupa move some stuff into her new lodgings, then stayed to hang out and vent a little about life in the past few days. Now I'm home and getting ready for my second interview tomorrow afternoon.
I've got a plan. I've got time. I'm going to work up the energy if I have to bleed out.
I stumbled across this article earlier this evening, it's a Reuters story about so called "ethical hacking" classes. Basically they are week-long classes where you learn the basics of cracking systems, and from all accounts 'basic' is the proper word to use. A lot of what is covered is trivial stuff that you can pick up after reading a few text files or web sites. While sort of useful in the day to day job of a security officer, it's not the end-all-be-all, and if you rely upon this information you'll probably get blindsided. Basic screed about how poor most computer security is? Check. Guy with a ballcap and long hair? Check. Huge tuition fee? Check. As for ethics, there isn't much you can say without causing an argument between the black-flag-black-hats and the ever vigilant white hats. To keep from going off on a rant that will spark one of these battles, I will move on... some of the stuff mentioned in this article is hit or miss, and now that I think about it I can't say much because there are equally valid reasons that the stated examples would apply as well as counter arguments. Take, for example, war dialing. It makes sense to scan hundreds of numbers at night, yes? It makes equal sense to scan at random intervals during the day so that your calls get mixed up in the usual help desk and wrong number calls that routinely flood the phone nets of any large organisation. Dialing late at night tends to draw attention from graveyard-shift staff in the NOC as well as roaming guards, while wrong numbers during the day aren't unheard of. As for activity on port 0... that's not nearly as shady as you might think: A lot of networked printers broadcast to port 0 on their subnet to find a print server to register with. I know that this article isn't giving away everything, but it also doesn't give me much trust in the folks who graduate from these programmes because it's all basic stuff; it reminds me a lot of the NT4 certifications near the official end-of-life of NT4, where they were pretty much a dime a dozen. Yes, you've got a piece of paper, but do you have the actual background to back it up and not just memorised answers? Personally, I'd rather more folks went to the hardcore training sessions like The Blackhat Briefings, but that's just me.
Time for bed.
As rough as yesterday was, from the standpoint of utter exhaustion, today was actually much better and rather restful, all things considered. I crashed early for the first time in a long, long while last night (this morning?), which gave to me a dreamless sleep in which my body recuperated quietly and my mind went spinning off into dreams for a time. I woke up feeling rested for the first time in almost a week and after breakfast headed downstairs to call Lyssa. I had gotten it in my head to go out and about for a while today, if only to see what has been going on in the big, wide world while I've been gone (read: swamped with work and dealing with 'family' life). My first stop was the local flea market to see what interesting stuff people were looking to give to a new home.. not that I need any more junk to deal with, especially with this phase of my plan so close by.
Today was a day to meet retrogamers, I can see. I spent some time striking up a converstation with a woman about my apparent age who has a thing for interactive fiction. We spent some time reminiscing about Zork *, Planetfall, and Seastalker.. I bought a copy of The Zork Anthology (Zork * and Planetfall) from her in near-mint condition.. so close to mint condition that the manual's binding isn't broken, the maps are still sealed in plastic, and the CD is still hard to remove from its case and is unblemished. I picked it up for my IF collection out of a sense of loyalty to the old-school. Later on I met another retrogamer who brought with him hundreds of Atari and Nintendo games and systems as well as some older and more rare systems (such as the Apollo 2001, still in a mint conidtion box). We spent even more time talking about gaming; and I eventually found a copy of the E.T. cartridge for the Atari 2600 in his collection, which I purchased.
In case you're not familiar with this particular game, there was an adaptation of the movie E.T. made for the Atari 2600 back in 1983 that never really took off with the kids, and legend has it that over five million unsold copies were destroyed and buried somewhere in a landfill in New Mexico. It tends to be a rather rare game, so finding a copy of it is a prize indeed. A lot of folks hated the game (it wasn't much of a game, to be honest), but I love collecting rare things like this, so $2.50us was a steal for me). I also found a copy of A.E. Waite's The Book of Ceremonial Magic buried in a crate of classic science fiction novels. I also made the aquaintence of a used music dealer with a remarkable collection of wares to pick through. After some haggling I walked away with four CDs to add to my collection, Express by Love and Rockets, Sonic Temple by The Cult, and a Siouxie and the Banshees double-header, Peepshow and Through The Looking Glass. Out of cash but with more on my mind, I left the flea market to go on a drive through the park, and was treated to the sight of a small number of gophers running around in a field nearby the traffic light in the centre of the park and a bit farther down the road a flock of geese occupied an entire side of the road.
Later, I hit the highway to nose around in the malls and hunt for some new clothes for work. A quick stop at the bookstore and I picked up the latest issues of 2600 and Blacklisted-411 (which surprised me greatly because it hasn't been in print for years). I stopped off and found a new shirt or two and a new pair of jeans... I'm slightly disturbed because it's getting difficult to find comfortable clothing, a condition which is my fault, I must confess. Size 34 pants are too small, but size 36 are too large. I think it's time to lay off the studies for a while and start exercising again.
When I rebuilt this body, I never realised how closely it would mirror my current emotional state. Right now it takes a lot of effort to keep from flying into a rage at home over the smallest things. It's been time to leave for a long time now, I have to find the right place to move into so I can transfer my gear... ahh, but you're sick of hearing about that, so I will discuss it no further unless there are developments.
A Different Drum records has a new feature on their website - links to free .mp3's from some of their bands. Check 'em out.
Speaking of retrogaming, there's an article about it at the Rocky Mountain News that's a good read. Even though the old video games aren't much to look at, don't have CD-quality music, and often do not make any sense to modern gamers (such as not having a set objective but playing until you're out of lives), they's still a lot of fun, though a lot of us don't know exactly why. I'll walk a mile through downtown Pittsburgh barefoot to play a game of Defender on a real arcade machine, but I couldn't say for certain why I love the game. It's not pretty.. some of the sound effects sound like radio static or car alarms, but I find it a wonderful way to blow off steam and relax. For some reason or another, be it nostalgia or wanting to experience the long-gone days of our youths, some of us are drawn to these old fast-twitch reflex addictions, which chewed up scores, if not hundreds of our quarters, and on occasion lead us to hustle high-school kids at Ms. Pac-Man. <cough> I think it's neat that they're bringing them back these days, even if it's only as nifty-looking embedded devices. Personally, I still prefer the original consoles, but of course you can't always find them so the new units are often the way to go. Nintendo is re-releasing games for the original NES on the Gameboy advance, so the later-generation retrogames aren't being forgotten, either. I might buy one for just that reason... but that's what emulators are for, right?
If you'll excuse me, I feel a need to go and play Ballblazer for a while.
To quote the Principia Discordia, don't look at me, man, I didn't do it.
And my alma mater, it appears, doesn't want to do it. The University of Pittsburgh is headed to court to find a way out of having to cover homosexual couples in its benefits packages. They claim that the city has no authority to force them to include sexual preference in their nondiscrimination clauses because the state does not do so. This could set an uncomfortable precedent in other cities in Pennsylvania if this goes through.
As if that weren't enough, George Bush Junior has kneecapped HIV-prevention education in the USA. Funds have been cut and instead of talking about safe sex and proper use of condoms, there will soon be only talk of abstinance and denoucement of safe sex practises. Statistical studies of the past twenty years shows that such programmes do little save increase the probability of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. These new Centres of Disease Control guidelines will affect every organisation in the country that recieves federal funds of any sort and does HIV/STD prevention work, whether or not they happen to use those funds in that work. If they don't, they'll lose that funding without a second look or thought. Among the more interesting requirements of these new regs is required censorship of anything that these organisations produce, including pamphlets and websites.. any 'obscene' material ('obscene' being carefully undefined) must be stricken and that condoms must be denounced as unreliable (nothing is perfect... nothing). They're not going to keep people from having sex, they're just going to start convincing them to have sex without taking any precautions. Review panels will be charged with examining the work that is done and the materials produced, and those reviews will probably be used to determine if funding will be continued or withdrawn.
Life's not safe. Never has been. Soon it'll be even more of a risk than it was before. Ever get the feeling that someone doesn't like you?
Very not happy.
Roofing nail-chewing, tooth-grinding, barely controlled high-yield thermal reaction not happy.
A Lot's happened in the past few days, but it's also tired me out so much that I can't even think straight. I don't think I even reach REM sleep, when I happen to fall asleep, that is. Goth night last night was an utter clusterfuck, no matter how you cut it. The organiser cancelled it around 0200 Friday morning.. but it's up to the owners of the Tavern to cancel stuff. It was news to Parasite and I that the night was cancelled.. then we found out.. then we were told that it wasn't and to get out there. Unfortunately, everyone else made other plans, so we were left standing there scratching our heads wondering what the hell was going on. Another DJ was brought in on short notice after being told that he wouldn't be up last night, so his usual crew didn't show up, either. All three of us got screwed.
Parasite and I got orders arond 2145 EST last night - "Get off the stage. There's another DJ setting up."
I would imagine that onlookers saw a shared thought-bubble appear in the air above our heads, one that read "WTF?!"
We were so surprised by this revelation that we did indeed think in terms of instant messenger shorthand and not the customary (and much preferred) expansion of the phrase.
Shayna was pulled off of the door. Lupa walked in wondering what the hell was going on. We spent some time talking with the folks that come in for us every goth night at the Tavern, but when the DJ cranked the volume up loudly enough that the window next to our table began to resonate we decamped for the nearest Eat and Park (come on, don't tell me you didn't see that one coming) and spent the rest of the night talking, complaining, wondering, and drinking much too much coffee.
My ears still haven't recovered from the sonic assault by the other DJ last night. I still can't find my shooter's earplugs. I think I really did a number on my auditory nerves. I'm going to schedule an appointment with an audiologist soon, but I'm pretty sure I know what the diagnosis will be.
Fuck. Eight hundred and twenty-six years of perfect pitch down the drain.
Earlier yesterday, I spent most of the day locked in a small room working on an experimental wireless network. Five wireless access points all running at the same time in an enclosed space.. can we say 'microwave frequency signals', boys and girls? Sure. I knew you could.
By the time I got out of there I was having extreme difficulty speaking, to the point of stammering and being unable to enunciate properly. I was seeing halos around people and objects in my field of vision, and my sense of taste had all but vanished.. all signs of a migrane headache, yet the usual stabbing pains didn't follow. I don't want to think about what all that RF was doing to my neural activity, and on the whole I prefer it that way.
I really did a number on myself yesterday. I don't think I've ever abused my body so thoroughly, or if not in a very, very long time.
Needless to say, most of my mind is currently offline, and I haven't done a damned thing all day today.
Piotr wasn't a Camarilla character, but still that seems about right for what he'd be going through if that particular LARP was still together.
Long day at work. Long night at work, too. I'm beat.
Happy Birthday, Alan.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, today wound up being a bit different than I thought it would be. Still related to the Project, yet not what I was doing before, I spent today getting ready to pull and all nighter tomorrow night. Before working on a production system, I had the chance to build as close a replica of the real thing to practise hardening. The idea of this was to find the pitfalls before they break the production machine, and possibly set things back. I realised something today: It's not installing Windows that takes such a long time, it's waiting for all of the patches to download that can kill your day. I think in total I downloaded three hundred megabytes of hotfixes and service packs, which took a little over two hours to do across our network. Not that the day was wasted, but that was the lion's share of it. If I had access to a CD writer I'd keep an archive of them on a disk for situations just like this. But, like many things, that's neither here nor there.
They went shopping on their own tonight. I'm overjoyed. They're going to have to get used to it.
If there was ever someone who needed to be visited in a dark alley by some big guys carring blunt objects, it's this guy: A software engineer for America Online was charged by federal prosecutors in New York for stealing an internal list of 92 million screen names and selling it to spammers. Jason Smathers of West Virginia walked off with the list (which is one regular expression away from being turned into a list of e-mail addresses) and sold them to Sean Dunaway of Las Vegas, who then spammed them to advertise his net.gambling casino. Later, he sold the list to other spammers, netting $52kus. Later on, Smathers sold him an updated copy of the list for $100kus for the same reason. Both are facing up to five years in prison and fines up to $250kus.
You've got to hand it to Wired - even if their magazine's turned into greyrot, their website's articles are pretty good. They've gotten quite good lately at calling people and things out. They've uncovered something that fails to surprise, this time: Contrary to their claims that no sensitive personal information was released to private companies for analysis, a number of airlines secretly turned over data, such as credit card numbers, home phone numbers, and health information to the TSA without asking permission or informing the people. This isn't the first time they've been caught out on this, either. This is the third time in nine months that this has happened. This is very likely a violation of the Privacy Act, which is supposed to prevent the government from compiling secret dossiers on US citizens. Supposedly, the data was turned over for a stress test of the CAPPS II system, but what else the information is being used for we'll probably never find out (CAPPS II is a government-sponsored software project, so the relevant specifics are probably classified, and will remain such for some time).
This is something to at least keep in mind, seeing as how HOPE 2004 is coming up in a few short weeks. For those who have to fly to NYC, you have my worries. At any rate, the list of speakers this year has been announced. Kevin Mitnick will be giving the first keynote address on Friday, 9 July 2004. On 10 July the keynote will be given by Steve Wozniak, and on the 11th Jello Biafra will return. Hopefully he'll give a better speech than last time.. the seminars alone will make it worth the trip, however. I'm probably going to be recording them again this year (as if I have the time to actually listen to them). StankDawg will be describing the inner workings of IBM's AS/400 operating system. Nothingface will be talking about the electronic control networks of modern cars. A discussion that many will no doubt find interesting will be held by alumni of some of the most famous hacker enclaves, such as the Philly Walnut Factory, the L0pht, and New Hack City - building safe spaces for hackers. There are goth houses.. elf houses.. and hacker houses.
Come on.. don't tell me that you've never thought about what it would be like...
Check out the page, it goes into far more detail than I can. HOPE this year will be well worth the trip.
I got a call back this evening, just after dinner, about that job interview I went on a few days ago. They've called me back for a second interview next week. I'm already there, my exterior just has to catch up with me.
I don't know what it's been lately, but I feel downright fried. Tired. Approaching wasted, even. I'm not doing anything remotely exhausting right now, nor am I really worked up about anything. Something's disturbing my REM sleep, though I've no idea what that could be right now. It could be any number of things, now that I consider it: Depression (still at home), frustration (ditto), worries about the project at work (a possibility, though recent breakthroughs have done wonders for my outlook on life), apprehensiveness (on several levels), the list could go on for a while. Knowing my psyche, it's probably a combination of all of those factors, plus a few that I don't consciously know of just yet. Whatever's going on, it's bad enough that I wasn't able to keep my mind on studying tonight. That's a bad sign.
It's official - on 11 September 2004 there will be another Back In time party, held in London. If you've never heard of it before, BIT is a music festival organised by Chris Abbot of C64 Audio that celebrates... what else? Remixes of Commodore-64 chiptunes. I envy those folks who live there, and those who can make it... that would rock as hard as A Different Drum's party a few years ago, Summer Synthpop 2000.
As of 0705 EST this morning, I had one set of student loans paid off. My state loans, which helped put me through IUP for the first few years are now over and done with. The final cheque went out in the morning post... now I just have my federal loans to deal with. As of this evening (after dinner) I've calculated that I'm now only $17,600us in debt due to college (not counting credit cards). If I liquidated everything I own (which I've had a curious amount of difficulty doing) I could probably pay it off in one lump sum, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.
Today was rather busy.. in response to the situation of last Friday, M-C- and I trucked back to the other office with armloads of gear and time on our hands. In short, it wasn't the system that was at fault but a failed module in a router on the networking rack in the isolation chamber. A fairly straightforward diagnosis if you know how the network in there is put together (which M-C- does, having built it), but complicated by the fact that said router is several years out of manufacture, and the necessary components probably can't be easily gotten. He's got a plan to put things right again; we'll see what happens in the days to come.
I got a call back about that job interview I mentioned last Thursday - they want to schedule a second interview. I've already called them back...
The US Supreme Court decided today that if a law officer asks you for your name, you have to give it to them. If you refuse they can legally arrest you because you must be up to something if you don't want to.. right? The decision today was 5 to 4 in favour of, and the War on Terrorism (tm) was cited as their primary reason. Neither the Fourth nor Fifth Amendments (privacy and freedom from self incrimination) prevent states from passing laws requiring citizens to identify themselves.
I just realised something - I was out in the sun today. I got fresh air (or what passes for fresh air downtown). I saw the sky and the sun. I got to feel a breeze that wasn't the output of an air conditioning unit.
I don't get to do that enough.
The bulk of last night was, as usual, at the Tavern last night for Pagan Night. The Tavern had an excellent draw last night (though unfortunately it wasn't SRO) and most everyone seemed to be in good spirits. The music wasn't all it could have been, I'm afraid.. I'm really starting to hate Voodoo by Godsmack. Not many people at all were drumming, and I think that was actually because the Captain, who used to be head of security, lead the drum circle most of the time. Now that he's left the area there's really no boss drum to get everyone going and keep them going. I hope someone will step forward and take that over; I'm no drummer so I'm more or less out of the running (and somehow I don't think 120-160 BPM would work well for everyone). I ran into a lot of old friends last night, some of whom I'd lost contact with since they'd left for DC but returned not long ago. I trust that their homecoming was a pleasant one.
Some time last night something hit me, the sense that something wasn't clicking in the evening. I ran outside to get Kabuki and started figuring it out: There were some people missing. Lucien and Kali, for whatever reason, did not attend Pagan Night; they're fixtures there, doing readings for people in the back. Mamma wasn't there, either, which I think was the key to the whole night. I'd heard, in circulating amongst the folks who came last night, that she'd taken ill some time Friday night and would be on the shelf for some period of time. That's the first Pagan Night she's ever missed, and I think everyone felt it on one level or another.
Today as I was returning to the Lab after my Saturday afternoon grocery shopping trip, I noticed something unusual: A beat-up looking car, maybe a model from the late 1990's, parked in the northwest corner of the parking lot. The first thing I found odd was the unobtrusive package of warning lights on the roof - bad sign. The car was too beat up to be a fire department vehicle, and didn't have any of the usual insignia on it. The second thing that caught my attention was the fist-sized mass mounted on the dashboard, fed by a couple of thick back curly cords, pointed out at the highway through the windscreen. Bad sign - that was probably a radar gun. My suspicions were all but confirmed (I say "all but" because I didn't see the lights go on nor the guy in the car take off in hot persuit) when another beater, driven by what looked like a high school kid, took off down the highway like someone had dropped a brick on the accelerator pedal - he was really trying to get his money's worth out of the car. The beater in the parking lot started up and took off, though not in persuit, oddly enough. I have no idea why the lights and siren package didn't go on. I know for a fact that said kid didn't see them, because I don't think that anyone with two neurons to hook together would have done at least sixty in a thirty-five MPH zone when there's a car with warning lights on the roof with line of sight of the road. Even I know better than that.
I think there's a speed trap on Route-8 North, near Giant Eagle - for future reference, folks.
Also on the official front, the Defense Intelligence Agency of the US has worked a provision into the Intelligence Authorisation Act of 2005 in which they are free to act within the boundries of the USA without telling anyone that they are government agents gathering information on private citizens. This also exempts them from the Privacy Act, which prohibits the government from compiling dossiers on private citizens and greencard carrying immigrants. Intelligence operatives attached to the Pentagon going undercover... officials say that this power will only be used during full-fledged criminal investigations and that civil liberties will not be impacted. The ACLU says that the FBI should be doing this anyone, and the DIA has no business doing thus, mostly because they're military, and shouldn't be acting against citizens of their own country because it's a conflict of interests. This bill is before the Armed Forces Committee at this time, and depending on what happens will go before the Senate early in July of 2004. Just when you thought it was safe to be a little strange in the off-hours...
Personally, this makes me want to give 'em a show. If They are so curious about me that They will send an undercover agent to gather information about me, they're going to get an interesting report, to be sure. One so full of strange and bizarre things that either I'm too weird to consider a threat (because I'd be too occupied to cause them any trouble) or an aberration that would skew their analyses overmuch, and as such my data would be thrown out of any statistical breakdowns (deleting the obvious anomalies is a common statistical technique - if, for example, you're studying the amount of damage a certain amount of a certain explosive does (for example), you keep the numbers that pertain to the explosive going "BOOM!" and throw out the one time that a sample doesn't go "BOOM!" but suddenly transmutes into an oak tree that recites Mary Had A Little Lamb, or at least that's what they taught me to do in college in my statistics courses). That doesn't mean, of course, that I wouldn't fall under some scrutiny otherwise.. make some popcorn, boys, you're in for a show.
On second thought, maybe that's not such a good idea.. in fact, maybe it's time to start considering hiding the weird stuff in your personal life. Mental illness is a slippery thing, and sometimes, sometimes diagnosis can be subjective.. or placed on the wrong people for such reasons as "I don't like them" or "I don't understand them" (which is why there's a small but growing number of neopagans entering the mental health field, I've discovered). I dislike the idea of people crawling around in my private life; I despise the possibility that someone, one day, might decide that I'm not intelligent and a little eccentric but in fact mentally ill, and in need of treatment. I especially find it scary that preschool-aged children, children whose brains and minds are still in the formative stages could be diagnosed as mentally ill... how in the hell can one know if someone is mentally ill if their minds aren't even fully developed yet? How can one know if something is broken if one doesn't even know what the baseline should be? There is also the matter of pharmaceutical companies offering new and exotic drugs to treat all kinds of aberrations to 'consumers of all ages', which are extremely expensive (and often have radical side effects, such as olanzipine).
It's been another long and eventful day... for the first time in a while I got back to the Lab feeling tired, worn down... last night a minor emergency had cropped up just before I left the office. I made a few calls and tried to get things going at another office, to get someone to look at what was going on and maybe throw a few switches in the right place. No dice. This morning, the same problem was still evident, and the office was devoid of anyone who could work on it (I don't know which, I'm not privy to that information), but I had to head back downstairs to work on the same project, which incidentally broke through another barrier today. Shortly after 1300 EST, however, my boss called my cellphone.
He never calls my cellphone. "Oh, shit," I thought.
The orders were short, sweet, and to the point. J-, a co-worker, was down at the office hammering on the system, trying to bring it back to life. No dice - it was so thoroughly hosed that she couldn't log back into it, let alone shut it down. I had to get back upstairs, grab a spare machine, reconfigure it as a replacement, and get it down there to swap them out.
The same problem - logging in was hit-or-miss and generally took about ten minutes, and even then only in single user mode. I've come to the conclusion that a certain piece of software (nonstandard as having three buttocks and skittish as a ferret on bathtub crank) is the culprit. It's necessary, but has the nasty habit of destabilising the entire system when there isn't a decent network connection available. After lots of swearing and kicking it around I finally got it fixed up, loaded onto a cart, and J- and I hauled it down to the other office. I sat down and worked on the old machine for a while, and came to the conclusion that it was hosed. Ripped out out, replaced it, and booted the new machine up; same problem. I'm starting to suspect the network connection but due diligence demands that I check the box out first. Around 1545 EST my boss called back with some of the other IT folks on speakerphone. We spent the next half-hour or so troubleshooting, tracing cables that really need to be labelled (and cut to the proper length, i.e., longer than two feet short), and poking around in racks of hardware. Still no dice. We've come to the conclusion that something on their rack is screwed up because what I described doesn't match the schematics on file.
I'm going to stop here because it's getting into stuff I probably can't talk about (due to the NDA). Suffice it to say that without getting folks who are familiar with the physical layout of their network, we have no idea what's wrong. I will say that my camera/phone came in handy because if the network guys can't get to gear, the pictures can get to the network guys.
But that's not all... I loaded the old machine onto the cart and beat feet back to the office because it was going on 1630 EST and my bus leaves at 1700 EST. A little over halfway back, my boss called again. With one hand holding the phone to my ear and the other dragging the cart I tried crossing the street, but was a bit too late. The bus hit the gas as soon as the light changed and I tried to corner, but wound up dumping the computer off of cart because it slid out from under its straps. Picture, if you will, a computer laying on its side in the middle of Main Street, Pittsburgh... a hastily discarded cart is laying on the sidewalk... I'm in front of a bus with a cellphone glued to my ear Matrix-like groping with the other hand for the computer, all the while with my eyes glued on the front grille of the bus headed right for me, yelling, cursing, and calling the names of deities I haven't spoken to in nearly fifteen year.
I got back okay. So did the computer. The guys back at the office turned to look at me as I walked in looking like something the cat dragged in. "Have some problems getting back? We heard you yelling."
I nearly got pasted by a bus with my cellphone still on, and the guys at the office had me on speakerphone. They heard the whole thing.
Merlot goes well with crow.
After a dinner consisting of penne alfredo with ice cream for dessert (it was one of those days...) I headed out to Lupa's to check out her apartment. She's planning on moving out soon and offered me her place to save the hassle of having to have the utilities reconnected, et al. We agreed to help each other move and clean up the place, because while she took good care of it, it's still been lived in, and so could use a lick and a promise. I'm still planning on hiring a moving company to help with the heavy stuff in my lab, though. Not only can I not move it myself but it won't fit in any vehicle that I have access to. Her apartment is simply huge - it's easily twice the size of my lab, plus my bedroom. There's an amazing amount of room - two bedrooms to play with and an attic to store things in. The living room's large enough to sprawl out in easily, and the bedroom's about as large, so it's ideal for me. The cost of heating is reasonably low, as is water and sewage. I'm going to put in an offer on it tomorrow morning.
Sigh. The acquisition of TechTV is final. What a waste.
Much of this evening was spent checking out an apartment that I've been considering moving into.
The previous occupants didn't take very good care of it, which is an understatement, to say the least. The carpet probably can't be cleaned. They never mopped the floors. The tile's cracked in at least three places. The walls are covered with streaks of.. something.. that I hope is soda, though why they were spraying it all over the place is anyone's guess. One of the doors was kicked so hard that when it broke loose it ripped most of the doorjamb with it.
Oh, and it's a one-bedroom, and a small one, at that.
I don't think I'll be moving into it. I'm going to hold out for that large one on the other side of the valley that's a little out of the way, but is spacious, cooler during the day, and definitely gets DSL (I know because I had the guys at Telerama suss it out for me a few weeks ago). At this point in time, I need space - lots of space. Space for my bookshelves and the Children, and space to just sprawl out on the floor and nap or read for a while if I so choose. The fact that it's out of the way is icing on the cake. I like my privacy. If I get this job I'm shooting for, bus service won't be an issue. I still have to figure out the bus service to and from that area...
It's one thing to install software and have something ride into your deck along with it. It's quite another to listen to an audio CD and something rides into your deck that way. Dragos Ruiu posted to the Bugtraq mailing list today that the latest Beastie Boys album has a hidden data track on it that, when inserted into a Windows machine, installs what appears to be copy protection software of some kind, which probably prevents the ripping of the audio tracks on the CD somehow. I haven't come across it yet, so I haven't looked into it, but I'll definitely keep my eye out for it, and if I run into it I'll take a debugger to it and post my results.
This afternoon the oppressive humidity finally let up. The clouds were torn asunder and rain poured down from the skies, soaking the walls as the wind blew it harder than probably anyone can remember happeneing thus far this year, and swept the streets clean of both trash and people. Because I happened to be near a window for once today, I snapped a picture or two of it using my cellphone.
Today was a highly eventful day, to say the least. Last week I called off so that I could go on an interview today with a company in Pittsburgh. I didn't apply there, they found me and asked if I was interested in a position that they had open. After giving it the twice-over (once for the overview, a second time to make sure I got all the details right) I said that I was indeed interested. A day for the interview was set, today, and this afternoon, after putting on my office best (suit, tie, and dress boots) and a stop at the bank to deposit the rebate cheque from my cellphone, I hit the highway and drove southward, into what I did not know.
I mid-afternoon traffic I was pleasantly surprised to find that the trip was a shade over twenty minutes in length, with no problems.. and I didn't get lost, either. It was literally a hop, a skip, and a jump away, and I was actually early. The first part of the interview consisted of filling out a form that gave them permission to do a background check on me; that's practically SOP in the US these days. I met with management first, who quizzed me on my work history, what I've done, what I look for in a company, why I'm job hunting.. the usual what and wherefore. After that I met with their IT director, who examined my resume' and found it quite to his liking. It sounds like I'm just the sort of folk they're looking for around there, or so I'm told. There are a few other folks who are in line for interviewing, but I'm confident. I think I made a good impression upon everyone, and I'm no slouch in the technical department. I only stuttered a little bit, because it was stuff that I was trying to rush to the heart of. I have to work on that. I'm really hoping that this happens.. this is a major step in my evolution.
On the less serious side of things, I've got DVDs playing back on Leandra now, using both Mplayer and Ogle. I'm watching Utena now, the DVD boxed set I borrowed from Lyssa the last time I was down there.
Now I've got the find the soundtracks...
Insular Majuscule- You are spiritual and well
rounded. People look to you for advice, but
sometimes find you difficult to understand.
What Calligraphy Hand Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Just because I studied with Vorlons.. sheesh!
A Ferris Bueller shrine?!
This is one of the maddest case mods I've ever seen. This deck looks like something right out of Serial Experiments Lain, down to the acid green liquid cooling system and hoses running like appendages on one of H.R.Giger's creatures. I am not familiar with the sci-fi series that inspired this design, but now I'm definitly inclined to do a bit of research and see what it's about. I love how to big plastic hoses fit in with the ribbed metal conduits; the transparent lucite chassis is just icing on the cake. The designer did an excellent job with drilling and tapping the bolt-holes that fasten all of the components together - they fit well with the bolts and rubber gaskets he used, it looks like a professional engineer did this. Everything was polished on this chassis, down to the bolts, nuts, and washers (there's a body count of the consumable tools that were used during the course of this project), and it adds immensely to the overall appearance. I'm waiting for someone to make a case based upon Ziggy from Quantum Leap, now. Maybe in my copious spare time...
Dataline told me on the bus this morning that an old friend of ours, Marty, who was a ronin alpha geek for the nonprofits died not too long ago at the age of 41 of brain cancer. Ye gods.. 412 and 724 have lost one hell of a mind. The man could have had the tech industry by the short hairs but he chose to do what he loved, which was set up networks and hack software as a consultant instead of becoming a software baron. He was family, too, which doubly makes this a loss. Good-bye, Marty. We'll miss you.
What kind of disease are you?
The Doctor is caused by alien mind control rays.
The Doctor disease causes one's skin to be covered with small japanese children.
To cure The Doctor, successfully take over the free world.
Wow.. I get to force people to take over the world! Damn, I'm good.
One of my favourite spells on a coffee mug. I'm ordering this.
Yep, it was another day where not much happened; not much that I can write about, anyway. Suffice it to say that it was nicely boring. Nothing bad happened. Nothing blew up. No panicky situations. It jsut happened, that's about it. Some days, that's all you need to have a good day.
30 centimetres?!? That's not a member, that's a weapon!
A wise man once wrote, "Too much lube is almost enough, sometimes."
Here's to the uninterruptible power supply. Let's hope they hold up, okay?
Today was a Monday, unlike any other in that once it took off it kept going until it stopped. Nothing bad happened. A lot of good happened. A major breakthrough was made on My Project(tm), one which I'm incredibly happy about. Later in the day, four separate minds came up with the same idea within a two hour span or so, and I think we're all agreed that this particular solution is the way to take.
This is cool. A project's coming together. It never ceases to be a scary but neat feeling for me.
For the first time in weeks, the price of gasoline has fallen to reasonable levels. This means that the cheap stuff at the station at the bottom of the hill is $1.99us per gallon ($1.999us per gallon, specifically). A tenth of a cent under $2us, but it's a start. I hope it keeps up.
I bet that's the last result you expected to see...
My japanese name is ?? Iino (rice field) ?? Taiki (large radiance).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.
Strange... that's a new take on things. I still prefer my own, though.
Yes, not much happened today. Does it show?
That's about right.
As a bad movie once said, "Snoop unto them as they snoop unto us." The backdoor for Windows called Optix Pro has recently been revealed to have a backdoor of its own. The theory behind this utility (and the dozens like it) is that once a user installs it anyone with the matching client and access code can control a system remotely. All sorts of interesting things come to mind, like making a hapless user's CD-ROM drive open and close randomly, moving their cursor out from under them, and even nastier things, like erasing files. Normally, the access code is set by whoever's distributing it. An older version has a secret access code so that the original creator can get into any machine infected with Optix Pro and do the same things, and the distributor can't stop him. It just goes to show that you can't be too careful.... whether you're cracked or a cracker.
Earlier today a load of books that I'd ordered from Amazon, with the recently re-found gift certificate Dataline had given me for my birthday had come in. It's always a pleasant feeling, coming home and finding a stack of new (well, books I haven't read yet, anyway) books the size of a bowling ball waiting for you. Some R.A.Wilson.. some old-school cyberpunk.. some critical essays on old-school cyberpunk.. some conspiracy theory.. I'm set for a while, I think.
Yesterday was one of those days that starts off as a royal clusterfuck but somehow manages to pull everything together by the end of everything. I started off the day by sleeping in because I was dead tired (just like this morning, fancy that..) and once I got my brain booted up helping Dataline clean up the house because she was hosting their monthly dinner party (Dataline and her cousins have a dinner party every month so they don't fall out of touch again, and last night it was her turn to host). This took most of the day, in fact just about all of it... this was all well and good, the house really needed a good cleaning, but I had plans for the evening: I was spinning the first of two goth nights this month at B'witche's last night.
I didn't know that there would be two such nights this month until Friday, two nights ago, because after I returned from vacation I deleted 1,000 of the roughly 1,500 e-mails that were waiting for my on my mail server so that I could actually make it through everything in a reasonable period of time. The notice, I am told, had been transmitted as an e-mail. Because it had in all probability been tagged as being from a mailing list, I didn't notice it, so into the beyond it went... along with my heads-up. It wasn't until I chanced to look at the Tavern's calendar that I saw what was going on. Panicked by this point, I managed to extricate myself from dinner, change my clothes, throw my gear into the back of my car, because I hadn't heard back from anyone, and head out to the Tavern with all safe speed to try to figure out what was going on. Thankfully, Parasite was already there and setting up. We compared notes as we unloaded our respective cars and I slammed one of Peter's ham and cheese blintzes with french fries (because I'd skipped dinner). Parasite and Charon took point with Kabuki and I supporting.
Peter makes excellent blintzes, incidentally. Look for them on the new menu.
It wasn't until later in the evening, after 2300 EST, that Whisper, the young woman who organised the night to begin with, arrived. Once she arrived with William, her SO, we compared notes once again, and came up with a plan for the future.
Parasite and I had fun with the music last night, figuring that we couldn't do much worse than the initial screwup. I think our religious themed set went entirely over everyone's heads (unless you know the songs the pattern probably wouldn't have made sense) but it was fun to assemble it on the fly. Before the end of the night, I began improvising a little, even going so far as to use the bank of samples stored on Kabuki's hard drive to remix sonaNyl, an Nyarlathotep track. I'm thinking about re-doing the "Duke Leto live remix" of sonaNyl in the Lab and sending it back to him. We finished the night with another live remix, a hack of Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence called "The Columbine Crush live remix", which featured a recording of the 911 tape during the Columbine High School massacre.
I think we overdrew our accounts at the First National Bank of Wrong last night.
Today's been niiiice... annnd... slooowww.... got up late, went shopping late and at a leisurely pace, and laid around studying and reading all afternoon. I think I'm going to jack out early tonight and crash.
Hmm... I must be tired. I haven't written much of anything that is even vaguely memorable so far.
Dissent in the ranks, I see...
|How to make a The Doctor|
5 parts anger
3 parts humour
3 parts beauty
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of lustfulness
This is a cute little game: Shoot footage of UFOs and earn your paycheque.
Congratulations to Zard Biomatrix - his daughter, Virginia Dawn, was born at 0750 EST yesterday morning. Virginia Dawn was 19 inches long and weighed eight pounds, one ounce. Way to go, old son!
Frequent readers of my memory logs are no doubt familiar with some of my interests, among them the right to privacy in the United States of America. I'm big on being left alone; I leave other people alone, because that's how I like being treated. I don't like it when people monitor my actions, either at home, or when I'm out in public. I know that I can't expect privacy when I'm out and about, that's only logical if you're around other people. What I don't appreciate is people watching me through cameras, listening to me through microphones, or otherwise tracking me without a reason better than "Because you're out in public." Stuff like this makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I hear about it. In Baltimore, MD, a system of closed-circuit security cameras, strategically placed all over the city, will be brought on line. These cameras, ostensibly for the purpose of watching out for 'terrorist activity', will watch a great deal of what goes on all over the city. The project starts on the west side of downtown Baltimore, because of the large number of cultural institutions, government buildings, and the public railway lines passing through the region. The city's planners of this project hope to link the system into the surveillance nets of surrounding counties as well as local fixtures like the University of Maryland.
Interesting article. I've posted this only because the way they got their original tip-of is suspect - intercepted e-mail. Carnivore? MATRIX? Echelon? His neighbor taking it personally and ratting him out? We'll probably never find out. One thing's for certain: They're definitely watching.
When it rains, it pours. And here I am, with only a copy of the Weekly World News to serve as a makeshift umbrella... I just found out from Dataline that Chuck, a good friend of mine from way, way back (he remembers my predecessor, he's that old of a friend) has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Chuck's in his late 60's or early 70's, somewhere in there. I can never remember exactly how old he is (and him I, for that matter). They caught it in the very early stages following a biopsy. Right now he's looking at eight weeks of radiation therapy to try to knock it out of commission before it starts to metastasize. He's a basket case at this point; Judy (his SO) is probably in a like state. I can't say I blame them.
I AM 37% ASSHOLE/BITCH!
I may think I am an asshole or a bitch, but the truth is I am a good person at heart. Yeah sure, I can have a mean streak in me, but most of the people I meet like me.
Yeah, it's one of those days.
I've been accused of this, too.
As if enough weren't wrong, Symbiot has just released a new kind of computer security software, a package which monitors network traffic (or seems to, anyway) for attacks and then presents a series of options for responding to those attacks, from ignoring them ("let the firewall handle it") all the way up to attacking the offending IP address to knock it off the Net ("love lost, fire at will"). There's just one problem: You can accidentally attack an innocent party, which is never good netizenship. The Symbiot system can't tell if incoming packets are spoofed (i.e., their addresses of origin are forged), so it is entirely possible for an attacker to con the system into attacking a third oarty. So far, they're not saying exactly what this attack consists of; not having access to a demo system, I can't figure it out for myself. I'm rather intreigued with some of the other possible responses, including shunting the attacker into a honeypot to distract them; tagging the traffic, while useful for a realtime recording, probably won't help trace back the attacker. I haven't decided if the "trick the attacker into looking at their own data" bit is jetwash or not - what does it do, make them pop up a file manager window to their own drive somehow? Too vague for my tastes, hence, too vague to trust by any means.
Colour me cautiously curious.
And colour some other folks with the "What were you thinking?!" brush. One of the most common justifications someone will give you for coming up with a particularly neat hack is "To see if I could do it." Another one you're likely to get is "It made sense at the time." The latter statement best describes this thread on the Linux kernel mailing list. It's not terribly technical in nature. In a nutshell, a coder named Sergiy Lozovsky decided to write a tiny implementation of the programming language LISP, which he installed in his copy of the source code to better control OS security policy. Rather than using a bunch of arcane looking (even to experienced folk) controls deep in a virtual file system (/proc, if you've ever browsed a Linux box in passing), he decided to use a subset of an entire programming language to control the security settings. Frankly, I think that's pretty cool; he reinvented the wheel a little (by recoding the interpreter from scratch) but he used an existing language as a means of controlling his system at a finer level. I'm very impressed by this. I'm actually kind of curious.. his patches still seem to be on line...
Today was relatively uneventful, and that's not a bad thing.
The crisis yesterday was still averted when I got in to the office, and for that I am quite thankful.
I've managed to all but finish the project that I've been working on for the past few weeks, the only hangup right now is a few pieces of Symantec's software that just don't want to cooperate, and so must be bludgeoned about the head and shoulders with a lead sap to make them work the way they're supposed to. I think that'll be ironed out early tomorrow, which means that the project, from my end of things, is done. I'd like to help with deployment if I can, but I don't know what management has in store for me.
I have to feel for my boss.. he was at a wedding last weekend and returned home with a nasty case of food poisoning. Been there, done that, ruined the t-shirt yakking my guts out. He got called in to the office for an emergency job this morning. I don't envy him at all, he should be at home in bed shaking whichever beastie's set up shop in his digestive tract.
Okay, enough about work.
I tried watching the Revolutionary Girl Utena movie tonight. I borrowed the boxed set from Lyssa while I was in Maryland while on vacation, and I have to admit I'm hooked on the series now, if only for the music. It's rare that I watch an episode and don't get choked up just listening to the music, and those emotions are rare anymore... anyway, while the movie has excellent animation and detailing, and there are a few remakes of some old favourite songs from the soundtrack, it's far too random for my tastes. There were a lot of very abstract symbols that are revealed slowly throughout the OVA that are crammed into the movie all at once and don't really make any sense in the very limited context they're given. I don't think that I like it. I would much rather rewatch the OVA or read the manga. If you don't get a chance to see it, you're not missing too much unless you're a hardcore fan.
Just when you thought it was safe to get rid of your old gear on eBay, something else comes along and shocks you into perhaps paying a bit more attention to your processes. A large bank in the UK (the article doesn't say which one) put a bunch of old hard drives up for auction on eBay for disposal but didn't wipe the drives thoroughly before doing so. Pointsec Mobile Technologies, a mobile networking company, bought a bunch of hard drives for a song and picked them over with forensic tools, and found large amounts of sensitive information, including databases of customer information, personnel files, and even lists of passwords and accounts for internal systems. In short, a cracker's wet dream. Makes you want to go to the local used hardware store and pick up a few old drives to see what might be lurking on them, no?
More gifts from the screwup fairy have been discovered under the tree of competence: A Federal investigation team is trying to figure out where a laptop computer that was damaged and thrown into a dumpster for disposal eventually wound up. An auditor for the Justice Department reported his laptop stolen, then later recanted his story, stating that he'd accidentally broken it and threw it away to keep from getting into trouble for it. The contents of the laptop? Over four thousand pages of case files, which could be analyzed to determine who the sources of the data (read: informants) are and where they are located. No one knows how many ongoing investigations could be blown by this.
Hopefully a crisis has been averted.
Okay. I'm going to try to write one good entry today.
Today was another mostly boring day; usual duties at work, back to work on the project I've been working on for a while now. Unventful bus rides to and from work. A lot of this, incidentally, is why I don't have much to say right now, but I'm going to try to change that.
Springtime in Pittsburgh is beautiful at this time of year (I hesitate to call it 'summer' because it's really not; even though the temperatures routinely reach the 80's (Farenheit) right now, it's still not summer by the reckoning of many because it's not drop-dead-in-the-shade-of-heatstroke hot yet, meaning high humidity and a lack of wind). It's genuinely comfortable for most everyone to walk around outside without a coat on and the humidity's still rather low. I wish I could go out more often to enjoy it. Maybe I'll start eating lunch Outside, someplace...
I've been doing planning of this and that, as I am wont to do normally as an intellectual exercise, though light of late the practise has changed from mental exercise into a full-blown scheme, i.e., my getting the hell out of the house and striking out on my own. Such things as where I would like to move to, how much stuff I'm going to bring with me, how many loads it'll take to get all of my gear shifted from point A (the Lab) to point B (my new home), how many I can make a night, the mass of each load so I don't blow the shocks on my car, whether or not I'll have to rent a truck to move some stuff, how I'm going to get said stuff into the new place to begin with, how much money I can afford to spend, how long I've got to find a real job so I can live comfortably and not like a college student (which I've gotten quite good at, having done so for the past eight years or so)... things like that. Practical stuff.
I'm not sure if I'm going to have to pass on Summercon this weekend or not. On one hand, I'd like to go to network and see folks I've fallen out of touch with. I've also been talking to the organisers (when, exactly, is your advertising going to make itself known??) for a few weeks now, so I feel like I have to at least put in an appearance this weekend. On the other hand, it's $50us that I don't think I can spare right now, mostly due to going on vacation last week (and not getting paid for that week) and the fact that I'm going to be going abroad a few more times in the next month (back down to Lyssa's soon and to The Fifth HOPE). I can hang out locally... or I can be smart and save my money (and live cheaply to boot).
Decisions, decisions... career networking notwithstanding, I'd like to go to Summercon again to see how things have evolved, but $50us is a bit much for me right now.
Congratulations, Trap Vector.
Take care, Alan. I'm sorry that things turned out this way. Maybe we'll meet up some time...
Well, today was my first day back at work. Thankfully it was wholly uneventful; aside from a few pieces of good news much of the morning was spent playing catch-up (subject to the limitations of the data analyses that I have to do every Monday morning or therabouts) and the afternoon spent working on a lower floor on the project that's been taking up most of my time lately. The new hardware isn't yet in, the software's in place, it's the OS stuff that's got me. I'll figure it out; I always do. There's never any rest for the wicked, as Gibson wrote (or perhaps quoted; I'm not sure yet).
I should be tired. I should be depressed. I should be angry or frustrated. I'm only a little bit pensive, mostly because I'm not done with that project at work and I'm worried that I won't finish it in time.
I'll finish it. I know what I have to do; I have the resources to do what needs to be done; I even have the time (I hope I hope I hope.. I MAKE) to get it all done. I have to put emotion behind me and do what I do best.
There's a lot that I'd like to write about right now. Unfortunately, I am still playing catch-up at home as well as at work, with several thousand (no, I am not kidding) e-mails across three accounts to wade through to find possible job offers, emergency messages, and far too much spam to even contemplate at this point in time. Lots of neat things happened during vacation, such as going to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where Lyssa and I saw the pop culture exhibit (and tried, but couldn't find the original egg from Alien; we did, however,find the eggs from Jurassic Park) and were almost locked in the building accidentally because we spent far too much time browsing the history of information technolgy exhibit, where we got to see a PDP-11 donated by the FBI, what might have been the first Apple computer, a Commodore 64 (you know I was bowing and scraping), and even an Altair.. this was history. These were our roots... I took many pictures while we were there, hopefully I'll have time to put them up some time this week.
It's been decided: Tekkoshocon 2005 will be held on April 8-10 2005 at the Pittsburgh Expomart. Mark your calendars!
THX-1138, George Lucas' all but forgotten film, will be theatrically released sometime this fall. Interesting.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that minors don't necessarily have to be read their Miranda rights. Uh-oh.
Rumour has it that David Hasslehoff could be the next James Bond bad guy. As if the series wasn't dead now...
Jacking out is good for you. Hear, bloody, hear.
Back in Pittsburgh. Will write after work tomorrow.
My interview when I was at the WW II Memorial made it into the Washington Post this morning.
Wow.... what a week thus far.
I've been in Maryland for a few days now, doing not a whole lot of anything. Lyssa and I have been utterly irresponsible for the past few days, save for the most basic of obligations (such as keeping the apartment reasonably neat, bathing, taking the garbage out, and keeping gas in the tank of my car). We spent a lot of Sunday and Monday food shopping, stocking up for the week to come. Many tasty things were bought and made, and we got some use out of the little electric grille that I brought from home to cook on. Kielbassa and sweet peppers are very tasty when grilled together, and go well with grilled/toasted onion and garlic bread with olive oil. But I digress... We've also done a bit of running around lately, visiting stores, picking up this and that, and generally seeing the area.
The locusts were out in full force earlier this week. They're intersting creatures, some strains only arising once every seventeen years to fill the air with their mating calls, which sound very much like the phasers from the old school Star Trek television series. While they sound neat, they're not terribly bright... I've seen them trying to take wing while battering themselves senseless against the kerb or bouncing off of the windscreens of cars while trying to fly, thinking that there is nothing there. Lyssa downright hates the little suckers; I find them amusing in an odd way.
Earlier this week we rooted a few plants that Lyssa had been given by a friend, some cherry tomato and banana pepper plants that hopefully will survive the onslaught of the locusts. We planted them in some planters outside and set them in the sun with plenty of water. Only time will tell to see if they will make it. I'm hoping that they do, I've got some excellent recipes for stuffed peppers and a Greek salad that calls for cherry tomatoes.
Yesterday we hopped the Metro into the DC proper to check out the World War II memorial. Having heard nothing at all about it save that one was to be opened to the public on Memorial Day, I went in cold.. and was surprised by what I saw. Gleaming white marble as far as the eye can see.. copper and steel ornamentation (wreaths and faux shipping rope) covered with a patina of verdigris.. lights set into the walkways. One state or country on the side of the Allies was represented by each pillar. The two sides of the memorial represent the two fronts of the war, the Pacific Theatre and the Atlantic Theatre. The fountain in the centre of the complex is gigantic - I bet it looks beautiful at night with the fountains running and the lights shining upward from beneath the water. Lyssa and I made a full circuit of the memorial, looking at the construction, though mostly at everything that people were leaving behind in memoriam for those who fell so many years ago.
Pictures and bouquets as far as the eye can see. Posters made by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Copies of discharge papers and death notices. Newspaper clippings, some old enough to be originals, carefully sealed in plastic or in picture frames. A few who probably died recently had their "World War II Veteran Reunion" baseball caps left beneath the pillars of their states of birth. We even saw a few ribbons and medals left behind. I was interviewed by a reporter for the Washignton Post yesterday about what I thought of the artefacts that were left behind. I think that the people who run the memorial (is it the National Park Service?) should save everything that people are leaving and not just dispose of them. Some of the things left behind are originals, pieces of history that should not just be thrown away and forgotten. Those artefacts are all that remains of the people who fought for the US in the second world war, and they should not be carelessly discarded, lest the memories of the people who fought and died be discarded, also.
Still alive. Still on vacation. I'll write when I have a chance.
On vacation! More when I have a chance to connect.
Today was a welcome change from earlier this week. After talking with my boss today I had a much better idea of what was going on and what had to be done - most importantly, I now know that there are indeed others working on this project doing a few things that I had been doing yesterday... things that I really didn't need to be. I've been told that they've been successful, and after a quick hardware swapout this morning everything is up and running, so now I can start on the hard part: Documentation. I hate to admit it, but sometimes it is hardware that's just not up to scratch. I still take it personally, though... I'm better than that, and I'm certainly better than a USB device that doesn't want to cooperate. I'm going to have to set something up to practise on in my copious free time, as an old friend of mine once said. I hate stumbling blocks of any kind; can't tolerate them at all. Time to go beyond the current set of problems...
At any rate, now it's up and running. The fact that the project manager somehow managed to buy us another two weeks (which neatly covers my vacation next week (I keep talking about that, can you tell that I'm looking forward to it?)) is just icing on the proverbial cake. I started writing the outline of the documentation this afternoon and filled it in with skeletal information to better flesh out tomorrow. On top of that, I'm going to do another dry run and write as I walk through it, to be sure that I'm writing accurate. More hacking - yay!
Let's see... what else is going on...
I dropped my vehicle off for its early emissions inspection earlier tonight and thumbed a ride home with Dataline afterward. In addition to the inspection I'm having them give it the once-over to make sure that everything's functioning normally. They're probably going to have to work on my brakes again, I tend to be pretty rough on them at the best of times. I hope it doesn't break the bank tomorrow night.
In a first for the forthcoming Windows 64-bit platform, the first virus has been written for it, though thankfully released to Symantec for inclusion as a proof of concept project. It's been dubbed W64.Rugrat>3344, and is a direct action infector, which means that it doesn't hang out in system memory, instead infecting executables and then exiting. It does not affect 32-bit executables or run on the (now common) 32-bit Window systems. Strangely enough, this is the first virus in a long, long while to be written in assembly language, tipping the scales at a miniscule (for this day and age) 3.3kb. It also goes out of its way to not destabilise the system, making heavy use of several Win64 APIs to work delicately. Forewarned is forarmed, I guess.
|What Irrational Number Are You?|
You are φ
Of all the irrational numbers, you are considered to be the most beautiful. Those who know you well have called you by many names, all golden. However, most people don't know you by name and probably won't even recognize you by sight, but they do like to see you. Despite your pretty face, you are by no means shallow. You are involved it many things: finance, biology, architecture, art, music, and much more.
In some ways you and e are a nearly perfect match. The power and intensity of e excites you.
Your lucky number is approximately 1.61803399
I'm still wondering what, exactly happened this morning. Last night I turned my alarm clock on, like I always do. This morning I got up twenty minutes late, awakening to the sound of Dataline knocking on my door. Somehow the switch on my alarm clock had not reached the other side of its slider and closed, just barely missing the 'alarm is on' position. Net effect: No wakeup call at 0600 EST today. Dataline slept in a good twenty minutes because she did not hear my alarm and woke up when she realised that she didn't hear me in the shower or smell fresh coffee (which I make every morning after getting my body out of bed). Somehow, neither of our alarms had gone off. We weren't late for anything, but it was rather odd for both of us to be behind schedule today.
Weird as Tupperware ladies on acid, I tell you.
Still no luck with the project at work. I spent most of today knocking my head off of what amounts to a brick wall. I've read the documentation more times than I care to count (enough that I think I caught all the spelling errors and all the times that they didn't replace the screenshots from the earlier model in the series with the one from this one - I'm really starting to not trust these guys anymore). I sat down and ran through the examples word for word, none of which worked. Microsoft's knowledge base didn't help much, either - I followed their procedure also, which didn't work. Doing some research on the unit in question has shown me more complaints and warnings from people who have shipped their devices back and bought new ones than assistance. Even less of a good sign.
The companion units are only marginally better. After following much the same procedure it connects but doesn't actually let traffic through. I went so far as to take a preconfigured unit back to my office to let the designated expert on that model take a look at it. She sat there with her notes for a while, looking at screens and flipping back and forth. "That's exactly right. Why isn't it working?" she asked.
Always when I'm supposed to go out of town this weekend... I hate my lives.
My boss is a good guy, don't get me wrong. I just hate being told "Work me a miracle." No pressure, or anything...
Funny. I'm not feeling terribly strong in the Force right now.
Other forces, on the other hand, are making no bones about who should be going where, and they're not afraid to defend places that technically aren't supposed to exist. Back in the day when the Groom Lake military installation, home of the infamous Area-51, was still active it was a common activity for UFO afficionados, the curious, and the adventurous to prowl the deserts around the base to see what they could see. Since that particular base has been shut down, however, the mystique has not abated one bit. A few if the folks, like once-famous desert rat Chuck Clark are laying low these days, mostly because a few of them got raided for their escapades. Clark's been absent from his usual haunts for a while because, in his travels arouns the area last year, he stumbled across some equipment that had been deliberately buried in the ground by the US government, a wireless transmitted attached to a sensor module set up to detect the passage of motor vehicles down one of the supply roads leading to the Groom Lake base. Such units have been spotted time and again for years, so they're nothing new; the only unusual thing appears to have been the sophistication of the device (it was one of the newer models, apparently), belied by how well it was hidden. Clark and another gentleman took it upon themselves to dig them up, check them out, and then rebury them... frankly, I think they made a huge mistake here. They knew that it was military equipment placed there for a reason. Messing around with it, even just to look at it, isn't something tolerated of any military hardware. When Clark lead a news team out into the desert to show them what he'd found, however, all hell broke loose: The FBI and operatives of the US Air Force raided his home and called in one of his colleagues, stating that one of their units had been stolen.
Had it? Beats me - there's no real way to know. Something that it highly strange is the fact that the government offered to not haul him into court if he went a solid year without messing around with any of their roadway sensors, citing national security.
I find that a little weird - shouldn't they throw the book at him if it was supposed to have stolen part of their sensor grid? This smells like a threat and not a punishment.
Okay. Calmer now. Did some research, found out that the device that's been giving me the most trouble is an utter waste of silicon. Wrote up my opinion. Time to see what happens tomorrow.
Why am I a magnet for crapware?<
Today was another day of hacking on network equipment and fighting with VPN connections.. as much as I love VPN technology, it never ceases to piss me off because it takes so long to get it working properly. It's even more difficult when you don't even know which particular scheme applies (does everything you do go through the VPN channel or only the stuff destined for the other network? every client's a little bit different) so you don't even know what in the hell to be looking for. I'm afraid that I'm going to run out of time before this stuff is to be deployed at the beginning of next week.. when I won't be in town. I have to get everything documented before deployment - will I have time to do so? I really hope so.. I'm shifting plans around a little to get more gear set up tomorrow instead of spending all of my time banging my head off of one problem. The reason I'm going to configure en masse and not wait until I get everything licked is because I'm hoping that once I get the stuff I have worked out already in place, it'll clear my mind to work on the particular problem I'm having right now, so it won't take nearly as long. Preventing my short-term cache from burning it in, as it were. Then it's just a matter of writing up everything I did so the procedures can be replicated later if necessary.
I hate it when my hands get so cold that I can't feel my fingers. I just lost a large entry in another window. Time to jack out.
Sorry about the downtime, everyone. I shut the Children down so I could install their latest playmate, a Big-Ass UPS(tm). More later.
Now I just have to get APCUPSD working. It's been a few years since I last used it, so it's taking time to re-learn. While I was digging around behind the workbench/server rack, pulling cables loose to make room for the UPS, I made a discovery: Nestled in the wiring that runs behind one of my bookcases is a rather large spider, much larger than a house spider (I would guess a wolf spider, judging by the configuration of the legs). Large enough to make me get the headband for my Maglite and check on it every half-minute or so to make sure that it wasn't coming my way. Large enough that I'm thinking about negotiating a nonagression pact with it, specifically the usual agreement that I make with spiders that share my space (don't come after me, don't come after my guests, and for Pete's sake don't go after my cat; in return you get to eat all the insects in the housee, starting with the ones that like to munch on books).
Today was one of those catch-up days that piled up a bit more than I thought it would. In crawling through the IDS logs for the past three days or so, my boss came in and gave me another project to work on with a deadline of Friday. I hope it won't turn out to be terribly difficult, though it might be annoying until I get everything ironed out. I hope I can get it taken care of by Friday; I'm supposed to go out of town soon and I'd hate for that to get messed up. Time to get cracking.
The stuff I do at work that I can't talk about aisde, today was fairly boring, even if I did get to hack on some networking hardware for a while. That, and the fact that I'm still a little tired from the weekend (I didn't get as much REM sleep as I usually need), so a lot of my thought processes are still kind of fuzzy.
Martin Roesch, creator of the Snort IDS, was a speaker at the AusCERT conference a few days ago, and had some interesting things to say about the future of the project. Among the things he's got in mind for the future is what appears to be behaviour-based detection, where an IDS learns over a period of time what the traffic pattens of the network are supposed to be like and once it's built a statistical model, anything that deviates from that model past a certain degree sets off an alarm. They tend to be noisy while they're in the learning phase, but once they've built their model they tend to be very quiet and very sensitive, with a much lower rate of false positives than ordinary knowledge-based IDSes. I get the impression that it's going to be a part of the knowledge-based (rule-based) functionality, a tool to assist in traffic baselining and tweaking, and not an overhaul of the analysis subsystem. The new generation of Snort sensors could be set up so that they learn about the systems on the network and ignore everything but applicable traffic to those systems. For example, if there are a number of Microsoft IIS web servers on a network, Snort sensors will ignore exploits for Apache servers but will alert on valid IIS attacks, which will make the analyst's life that much easier in the long run, by cutting down the number of alerts (valid and false positives alike) that have to be checked out.
"Motive," the construct said. "Real motive problem, with an AI. Not human, see?"
"Well, yeah, obviously."
"Nope. I mean, it's not human. And you can't get a handle on it. Me, I'm not hum an either, but I respond like one. See?"
"Wait a sec," Case said. "Are you sentient, or not?"
"Well, it feels like I am, kid, but I'm really just a bunch of ROM. It's one of them, ah, philosophical questions, I guess ..." The ugly laughter sensation rat tled down Case's spine. "But I ain't likely to write you no poem, if you follow me. Your AI, it just might. But it ain't no way human.
5/23. Hail, Eris.
After getting back to the Lab at an unholy hour this morning and crashing for a couple of hours, I dragged myself out of bed somewhen shortly before noon EST and managed to not kill myself or any bystanders making breakfast with 86% of my brain in warm shutdown. I did, however, somehow manage to dump raisins all over the place and tip over a vase of (mostly) dead fowers, which was cleaned up in fairly short order.. before I had a chance to fall asleep again. I wound up going to pagan night at B'witche's Tavern last night, for the first time in a long while. I wound up mostly talking to people and mingling. The drum circle never really came together last night, not like before, and the music just wasn't up to snuff, aside from hearing Boss Drum by The Shamen forthe first time in a public situation without my having to play it. I didn't really dance last night, as much as I'd hoped to for much the same reasons.
Nicky's the spitting image of the Captain from Disney's Pirates's of the Caribbean movie, and came to the Tavern in costume last night. Unfortunately, the pictures I'd taken of him with my cellphone didn't turn out. The resolution in dim light sucks, even with the flash on.
I discovered something last night: There aren't many people that I can talk to about certain subjects without them jumping to conclusions and completely de-railing the entire thing. For example, if I'm talking about a job offer, I am not talking about moving, a background check, or the price of tomatoes in Oregon. I'm talking about the job I'm being offered. Period. To be fair, it might just have been the alcohol garbling the communication links, but it did annoy me slightly. I also was not aware that I look like I am angry when I am moving at speed...
Last night Lupa and I spent a couple of hours into the early morning talking over coffee about life. My own, specifically. I'd like to finish repairing my psyche, or at least overhauling it to get rid of the old conditioning and software, that which the work I'd been doing earlier this year wasn't able to remove fully. I'm almost in a position to strike out on my own, and I intend to do so as soon as I can. The first thing I'm going to do is get my environment in order, specifically in a state that is uniquely mine, and not an edited version that doesn't cause any undue stress on my family. By arranging my surroundings, I rearrange the parts of my psyche that they represent, sort of a psychological feng shui. Second.. once I'm away from the dominant influences in my life, the software that allows me to appear to fit in with them will no longer be required, and if what happens this time is what happened when I left for college all those years ago, it should automatically fall away and go into cold storage. No more charade, no more need to camoflage myself.
Once I've got space, I'll be able to start stripping myself down to the basics and starting over. A lot of what we think of as our minds is programming that was developed as an adaptation to new situations, whether they are changes in our lives or one-time things that happen to us. Sometimes those programmes turn into guiding principles, and do not remain what they are supposed to be, which are ways to handle new situations. They go out of control. Once it all falls off, I can start sorting through everything and see what I need to keep and what I can get rid of. It's time to clean house.
I'm getting weird again, aren't I?
I got the e-mail from my ISP today - the apartments I'm looking at moving into are within 3000 feet of the telco's local CO, so getting a DSL drop into them should not pose a problem. Guess what phone call I'm going to make on Monday?
As I said before - if I can't crack RC-5 keys with it, I don't want it.
Yay, slow, boring Saturdays.
Today's been nothing short of a relief. Got up late, made breakfast, talk to Lyssa for a while on the phone.. then headed out for a while. First stop was Sam's Club to pick up a few things for the week to come as well as an investment that I was hoping to put off for a while, an APC BackUPS Pro 1100 (just a link to APC's website because I can't find the page for this particular unit, I'll update it if I ever do) to keep the Children safe. It's got a serial line to go to a machine to not only monitor the state of the UPS but also to send a shutdown command when the battery gets too low (I've had a lot of luck in the past with APCUPSD in corporate environments, so it'll exceed the requirements I have set for the Lab), so once the UPS is fully charged and I can schedule downtime with everyone (hey, folks - the Lab's going offline for a half hour tomorrow!) I'll unplug everyone, move the UPS into the Lab (on the floor - it weighs as much as I do, or at least a considerable fraction of my body weight), plug in the power feeds and serial line, and bring everyone back up. Shouldn't take more than a half-hour, an hour solid on the outside.
Mental note: Remember to plug the ethernet switch into the UPS, also. If all of the computer stay up but the switch doesn't, there will be no way to send a "Okay, shut down now" command to the Children. This unit also has surge protection for ethernet, so I'll have to connect it to the LAN between Lain and the DSL unit with a jumper for another zone of protection.
Taking the trash out this morning, I was walking through the back yard to the trash cans to throw some stuff away, and looked around in confusion because I thought I heard honking or quacking sounds.. underneath the neighbor's trees, what should surprise my eyes but a pair of mallard ducks, waddling around under the pines like it was the most natural thing in the world. Ducks in my neighborhood.... no open sources of running water.. why? "You guys are pretty far from your usual territory, aren't you?" I remember thinking as I watched them pick their way through the high weeds (also my neighbor's) toward the road, where they then took flight and flap-flap-flap-flapped away toward the south.
Why is that puzzling me, so? Maybe it's because I've only seen ducks, geese, et al either at the lake some miles away, or flying south for the colder months of the year. Never on the ground, looking like they'd taken a wrong turn somewhere and were trying to get their bearings, and certainly never near my place of residence. Yay, novelty.
I just finished reading the final Transmetropolitan trade paperback. All I have to say is this: Son of a bitch...
This morning started off to an odd start. My brain came back on line as Dataline knocked on the door of my bedroom: "Hey, get up. It's 6:15 - the power went out."
Tomorrow I'm off to buy a much larger UPS for the Lab - the Children, as a rule, don't appreciate the power being cut out from under them often. Sam's Club, here I come...
The electrical storms we've been having lately have been wreaking havoc with the power in the neighborhood. Sometime early this morning, we're not exactly sure when, the power failed completely. If it wasn't for Dataline's battery backed alarm clock we would have slept in.. like three quarters of the people who usually ride the bus this morning. We wound up getting dressed in the dark and putting on a kettle to boil to make coffee in the French press I keep in the kitchen for just such an occasion. As if that weren't odd enough, the bus was almost a half hour late once we actually got outside. I heard something about the bus not starting in the maintenance yard but haven't heard anything concrete about it - not that it's really relevant.
Work today was, thankfully, uneventful. Most of today was spent editing more documentation, analysing traffic, and figuring out what made a firewall go on strike yesterday. I should make a habit of reviewing my common sense more often. The evening's been spent relaxing, reminiscing with old Atari computing magazines, and watching cartoons, something that I've wanted to do for a while now. The only thing I could do without is the air conditioning and loss of feeling in my hands as a result. But, just as things could always be better, they can also always be worse.
Most aspiring science geeks, when growing up, have probably seen the episode of Mr. Wizard's World where Don Herbert is showing off the wonders of Fresnel magnifying lenses, the unique structure of which can concentrate light into an amazingly hot point on whatever they happen to be focussed on. They're good for looking at the fine print on insurance contracts and refund applications and burning things that a lighter can't do justice to. The Edmond Scientfic and Johnson-Smith catalogues used to make jokes about solar furnaces - these guys have actually played around with one, and have had great fun reducing pennies to slag. Their advice about wearing welding glasses is sound, though they forgot about the intense sunburn that can be caused by the unfocussed light that leaks out of the sides if you get too close to the point of focus. All in all, it's great fun at picnics and on slow weekends.
Today was another slow one... lots of little things to do, which has the net effect of screwing with my time sense. I got a lot done today, lots of editing, revising, and generally running around the network like a chicken with its head cut off collecting data to analyse. That aside, not much happened today, which is good because it means that nothing blew up, but bad because it started wearing on me. I've decided that this extra ten pounds on my exterior thing just isn't acceptible. I'm tired of not being able to breathe properly anymore. None of my jeans or pants fit properly anymore. Ingrown hairs in tender places and pressure on my stomach in just the right place to make it impossible to fully expand my lungs is driving me up a wall. I can't take it anymore. I can't afford to buy new pants, either - between bills, getting my car inspected next week (which is probably going to carry a hefty repair bill because I drive my car cross country a few times a year and tend to drive heavy on the brakes), and saving to go on vacation the week after that.. that's a bit more than I can afford right now.
To that end, I've started exercising again. Not my usual two hour stretching, weight lifting, and aerobics routine, I've dropped the weight lifting in the interest of having more time in the evenings, and besides that I really don't need to be toning my muscles at this point in time. I just want to rev my metabolism up a few notches. I'd like to get back into a routine of exericising one or two times a week, partially to get back to where I was before and partially just to get more physical activity into my life. Exercise never fails to help my moods when they flatten out.
After his arraignment, 22 year old Benjamin Stark, also known as The-Rev of the cracker team the Deceptive Duo has plead guilty to cracking eleven US government and corporate computer networks. The Deceptive Duo was known in 2002 for defacing numerous government websites and pleading with the administration to improve their information security before someone with much more malicious motives came along and did more serious damage to their systems. After cutting a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, he's looking at 24 to 30 months in federal prison. There is nothing that suggests that he's going to testify against his partner, who is thought to be 20 year old Robert Lyttle, another well known systems cracker. Stark is going to be sentenced on 24 September 2004 according to the article.
Regular readers of this journal are no doubt aware of the controversy surrounding the Diebold electronic voting machines, in particular the fact that they are not, in fact, secure devices but devilishly simple for anyone with a modicum of technical ability and wherewithal to get into and alter recorded votes before they can be officially tabulated. You might not want to click on that last hyperlink, though... Bev Harris, the sysadmin of blackboxvoting.org is being investigated by the federal government, and they are trying to get their hands on her webserver logs to see who's been reading her site and what they've been doing while they're there. Harris is best known for leaking dozens upon dozens of Diebold internal memos which spill the beans about quite a few things that should have been ironed out before the systems were released for public use. Something interesting in this article is the fact that someone sent her a hyperlink to a file that was supposedly the source code to the software driving the electronic voting machines; she didn't follow it because it smelled like entrapment to her though lots of other folks did and now the files are all over the Net, being picked apart like so many tinkertoys. Even more odd, Diebold said that they were going to publically release the souce code for auditing, so why, she reasoned, would anyone want to steal that code if they could get their hands on it shortly (aside from the challenge and bragging rights of doing so)? Not long after that, Bev spoke to someone who claimed to be the cracker who made off with the source doe, and came away from the whole thing even less certain that this was on the up and up. A few months later (in January of 2004) Secret Service agent Michael Levin contacted Harris and asked her about the compromise of Diebold's network. The Secret Service wants to subpoena her to come before a federal grand jury, and they want the records of everyone who's ever visited or posted to her forum; they're probably going to have to raid her and seize her systems to do that.
So much for freedom of speech. It shouldn't be dangerous to protect your freedom to decide fairly who should be in control.
|I'm A 1960s Geek|
|You're pretty quirky and weird but we know you're smart and love you anyway!|
|find your geek decade at spacefem.com|
Andy Kaufman is still quite dead.
Long day today.. not that it was boring or anything, it was a string of little things in a row, which when added together have the net effect of messing with your time sense. That, and my jeans are a bit too tight, so I was rather uncomfortable all day. Mental note: Pick up a few more pairs of pants that can be worn in summer. I wound up heading out to the store tonight to pick up a few things for dinner and lunch for the rest of week.
While I was out a recruiter called about a position in Pennsylvania; I sent off a copy of my resume' to him after dinner. After going over the specs for the job a few times I think I'm a fairly good fit for this admin position. Only time will tell. Cross your fingers.
Yep, Summercon 2004 is still on, and still being held at the University Center of the University of Pittsburgh on June 11, 12, and 13 this year. Registration is $30us in advance, $40us at the door. They are also still accepting prospective presentations - nothing's been announced yet, though. The only events that are on the schedule so far are 31337 Password, "My Greatest Hack Ever", and the xblast tournament. In short, the traditional events. I'm still trying to decide if I've got something interesting enough to talk about in front of everyone; probably not. Most of what I do at work I can't talk about, but none of it's really ground breaking, anyway. I don't have time to just sit and hack on stuff anymore, as much as I'd like to. I was thinking about doing a retrocomputing panel, or maybe a history of the scene presentation, but I don't know if that'll be sufficiently interesting for everyone who goes to it. I'm still pondering what to do and how I feel about that....
Holy imploding Kibo - a yellow jacket nest the size of a minivan.
I haven't decided if this is a hoax or not - did Andy Kaufman really fake his death 20 years ago? This guy's submitted samples of his hair, blood, and fingerprints for DNA analysis, and the results are in: There's a 99% probability that it really is him. This article, on the other hand, tells quite a different story. Kaufman's old friends gathered outside his house a few days ago to see if he really would appear on the 20th anniversary of his apparent death, but no one appeared. A lot of the buzz on the Net says that it's probably a hoax, and they cite all sorts of very real sounding reasons that suggest this. I honestly don't know.
The electrical storms last night knocked most everything offline around midnight EST. I was helping someone debug some code and kept waiting for a lightning strike to take something out.. which it eventually did, twice. Thankfully I'd backed up the source tree earlier that night and I run journalling filesystems on all of the Children, so there wasn't any data loss. The biggest problem was just getting enough sleep last night.. which I didn't. I supercharged myself with coffee this morning and somehow managed to make it all the way through the day in one piece. I plan on crashing early tonight to catch up on my sleep - I don't think I can do this again.
I'm getting old.
Let's see... something I've been meaning to rant about lately is the price of petrol in the US right now. Usually around this time of year the price of gas goes up to make more money off of everyone who's going to be going on vacation soon, so ordinarily it's not terribly surprising. On average, the cost of petrol around this time of year is between $1.50us and $1.75us, or at least it is at the gas station that I usually go to. Last Saturday night I tanked up before heading out to dinner with everyone, and much to my chagrin the price of gasoline, the cheap stuff mind you, was $2.10us per gallon. When you add to the matter that I drive around until my tank's almost exhausted (usually between 1/8 of a tank and the "30 miles left!" warning lamp coming on), I dropped almost $25us on gas. That hurt. A lot.
Tomorrow is National Don't Buy Gas day in the US.. not like it's going to make a whole lot of difference. Without petrol in the country, almost nothing will get done. Nothing. Not buying gas is akin to protesting the state of the world by refusing to breathe: You can do it for a short period of time if you concentrate but sooner or later you've got to do it, otherwise you'll start to die. If you live in 412 or 724 and you can afford to be choosy (meaning, you have just enough petrol in your tank to possibly cruise out of your way), take a look at Pittsburgh Gas Prices and find someplace cheap to tank up. At this moment, the cheapest prices to be found are out in Washington county ($1.94us per gallon), with the most expensive being a Texaco franchise (those are still around? wow.) in McKeesport ($2.29us per gallon). I just found my usual gas station on the Top 15 Highest Prices list, and gas is giong for $2.10us per gallon there as of 1830 EST this evening. For those of you not living in Pennsylvania but do happen to live on the North American continent, you can do the same thing at Gasbuddy.
For you Linux junkies (and the curious) out there, Fedora Core 2 has been released. If it's as good as FC 1 was, this might be an ideal distro to start experimenting with.
Speech is free only when it doesn't criticise anyone. Read and share widely.
Sometimes web browsers don't render HTML properly. Sometimes the site designers sabotage the HTML for certain browsers. The only way to tell is to look at the page source code and see what's going on in there. In this case, msn.net is specifically designed to not be properly viewable through Opera. Take a look at the evidence and decide whether or not this is a good thing to do.
The iDuck: Cute, but how practical is it, really?
Damn, I'm good. Like the shirt and tie, too...
Yes, I like vinyl. Have you ever tried to scratch an .mp3 file?
Nothing to write tonight, as much as I'd like to get some things out of my head and into a file. Too much to do. More tomorrow.