2005/07/11

Phase two of the move finished late last night. All of Lyssa's stuff has been moved out of her apartment and trucked over to mine. After days and days of hell, it's finally done.

Thanks to everyone out there who came out to help us haul stuff, and who joined us for pizza afterward: the.Silicon.Dragon, Elwing, Butterfly, Tantric Chef, Tiger-Phoenix and the kids, Mark, Hasufin, Steve and Lauren, Grant, and Kash. The beer will be forthcoming. Apologies to everyone whose names I forgot; I'll update this list as I can.

After a slight misadventure on the part of Kash and I picking up the moving van (never, ever go with U-Haul; rent from somebody elsee, like Penske or Budget Rentacar), namely, my debit card being so badly damaged that it didn't register in the dealership's reader, necessitating a quick drive to an ATM so that I could withdraw enough cash to pay the bill and deposit, we loaded it up with Lyssa's stuff inside of two hours flat, which has to be a world record. The drive to the new place required a caravan down the Capital Beltway, linked by cellphones and FRS radios with a six-mile range (gifts from the gods, I tell you). With everyone moving boxes simultaneously, we emptied the van in less than an hour, then drove to the storage facility to get all of my stuff, including the furniture. Much to our surprise, this took less than two hours itself, and resulted in a much neater packing job in the van. A five minute drive to the apartment later, and we began the task of unloading.

Our balcony is unusable for loading and unloading stuff because it's a good ten feet off the ground, so we'd have had to set up a pulley system from the balcony above us, but because we're technically on the ground floor (only five steps up) it wasn't really that bad.. only an hour was necessary.

All told, we were finished by 2000 EDT.

I'd kept a slush fund for dinner that night, because Lyssa and I had promised everyone who came out pizza and beer afterward. We wound up passing on the beer but Pizza Hut was more than capable of feeding fifteen hungry movers, many of whom hadn't eaten at all that day.

My body still hates me for eating out so much. Can't be helped when there isn't any food left in the house and all of your cookware's boxed up and MIA.

Yesterday, Lyssa, Kash, and I drove back to Lyssa's to get the last of the little stuff, and to clean up one last time. Her apartment was nice but really needed a onceover for the next tenant... ask me about that sometime.

This morning, my commute to work was less than twenty minutes, and I even found it without trouble.

Next step: Unpack and set up. And fight to get my DSL line connected.

The rock band INXS is searching for a new frontman after the suicide of Michael Hutchence in 1997. After this nine-year sabbatical from the music scene, they've decide to do this using a reality television show.

CommVEx (the Commodore Vegas Expo) and DefCon 13 are behing held the same weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada...

Damn. Wish I had money and vacation time. Between those two events and being in the desert, that sounds like paradise. You can bet I'd be at both events, with my trusty C=64 (which I hope still works) slung over my shoulder on a guitar strap.

Maintenance is dragging its feet: The drains in the bathroom are stopped up so thoroughly that three bottles of drain cleaner have not fixed things yet. They have yet to go to the apartment and do what they're paid to do. Covad, who owns the physical phone lines in our area, is also stalling on hooking up the pair leading to our apartment to the phone line in the punchdown in the basement. I guess they don't like the fact that we're getting a naked line, i.e., a phone line with no dialtone for DSL only, because we're going voice-over-IP.

I quiet smoking for this?

2005/07/09

Phase two of the move starts today. U-Haul screwed us; the rental office screwed us last night by closing at 1800 EDT, so we couldn't actually do anything moving related last night. Out of touch for a couple of days.

2005/07/08

No time to sit and write. No time to breathe. Can't hear - ears are still ringing.

Lyssa and I start phase two of the move tonight, which is moving her stuff to the new apartment. My stuff comes out of storage tomorrow.

No time to sleep, either, I guess.

The founder of Go computers has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, claiming that MS took 'covert action' to kill their handwriting recognition computer interface, called PenPoint, by pressuring Intel into pulling its funding of Go Computers and threatening the major computer manufacturers of the time to not include the PenPoint software.

I can sort of believe this because MS has a history of strongarming computer companies into not bundling software they don't like (such as Linux and StarOffice back in 1997 and 1998) and see as a threat. I doubt that this case will go anywhere, though, because we all know how much Microsoft fears antitrust lawsuits... and we also know the penalties they've suffered from being found guilty in several of them in the past decade.

Police in London, England are downplaying rumours of suicide bombers yesterday in the media, in an attempt to keep the waters relatively clear during the investigation into the four explosions during rush hour yesterday.

The picture in this article jumped out at me this morning. I sort of wish that I rode the Metro to work just to see such an awesome sight first-hand.. a police officer in riot gear, carrying a rifle as he patrolled the metro car. Damn scary a sight it would have been, too. Only a day late, the US government has raised the alert level to orange for US public transit systems. Riot cops, hardware, and police dogs are all over the place.

Where I am in Virginia right now, I see no increased police presence on the highways or in any buildings I've been in so far. Same with the few places I travel to en route to work in Maryland or DC. If they're out this far, they're keeping a low, low profile. If anybody in my area with RF ears is listening for unusual radio traffic picks anything up, let me know via e-mail (usual communication protocols apply).

They're already blaming Al Quaida for the London bombings. The MO seems to fit, and they did come very near the beginning of the G8 summit, which is attended by countries who have troops in Iraq. A group called "The Secret Organisation of Al Quaida in Europe" has claimed responsibility; whether or not this is a legitimate claim is unknown at this time (anyone can claim to be Al Quaida; it isn't like they carry membership cards or anything) and probably get away with it.

Sven Jaschan, age nineteen, admitted creator of the Sasser worm has been convicted of illegally altering data. He's been given a suspended sentence of one year and nine months.

William Gibson has a new article in Wired Online, entitled God's Little Toys. Give it a read.

In Detroit, Michigan, honors student Diedra Stokes won her civil liberties case in court after being arrested for refusing to show her identification to a police officer. The way that US law is structured, you only have to produce identification if you are driving a vehicle and a police officer asks you to produce ID, or if you are crossing the US border into or out of the country. Stokes was charged with "impeding pedestrian traffic," one of those laws that stays on the books to give police a way to arrest people they can't pin anything else on, a tactic which cuts both ways, as this case shows. The charges were dismissed after officer Jamale Turner did not show up for the hearing. Stokes was asked to leave the place that she was waiting for a pickup by her mother by officer Turner, and after refusing to do so and refusing to produce identification, she was arrested briefly before release into her mother's custody. The precedent used is the 1979 case of Michigan v. DeFillippo in the US Supreme Court, which struck down the Detroit, Michigan "Stop and identify" ordinance as being Unconstitutional. It should be noted, however, that you should give your name to police if asked, and do not do so at your own peril.

New technical term: frobble - noun - Situation where two or more people are working on the same nonsharable resource, and each thinks they've lost their minds because settings keep changing out from under them without warning. This is due to each user changing a setting and committing the changes, only to have another user change it to a different value. This battle of the keyboards tends to go on for several minutes and mystify the users until they actually speak to one another in an attempt to figure out the problem.

New technical term: hot-swap cable - noun - Length of network cable strung up, down, around, over, under, and through computer center hardware racks that looks very important at first, but after tracing it the admins discover that neither end is connected to anything, ostensibly in case an existing network cable catches fire in the middle of the afternoon and needs to be replaced with a minimum of downtime. Synonyms: standby cable, hot standby cable, cat-6e to go, waste of space.

2005/07/07

Busy as hell. Running all over creation for work. Updates sporadic until after the move.

Sven Jaschan of Germany, the creator of the Sasser worm which took Windows by storm in May of 2004 has gone on trial in juvenile court in his home village of Waffensen. He is in juvenile court at this time because of his age at the time of the worm outbreak (17).

Microsoft announced that Longhorn would not give user accounts administrative access by default. Didn't they say that about Windows XP? And didn't they yank that because of how many apps (Microsoft's most of all) that broke?

What in the hell happened while I was gone?? At o-dark-thirty EDT today, six explosions, timed to go off within seconds of one another, went off in London, England during their rush hour. The detionations occurred in the vicinities of Edgware Road, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Russel Square, Aldgate East, Moorgate, and Tavistock Square. The London Underground and all bus service have been suspended indefinitely. Rumour has it that the Israeli embassy in London recieved warning mere minutes before the explosions. A number of groups have stepped up to the plate and published press releases taking credit for the exposions. Scotland Yard is playing its cards very close to its chest right now; they're not saying anything yet. Unconfirmed reports have it that there were similariities to the explosions in Madrid, Spain in 2004 in terms of tactics and timing. No engineering analyses of the bombs' remains have been published yet, if indeed any have been done yet (which I doubt). The US DHS, surprisingly, has announced that it has no intention of raising the national threat level (for once), and that they had no idea this was going to happen (bullshit - what is the NSA doing if not monitoring communications all over the globe, playing hangman?!?)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has condemned the attacks, and blamed terrorists for the explosions. He was quoted as saying that they were specifically aimed to disrupt the opening of the G8 summit.

You know, I forgot all about the G8 summit this week...

Another news report confirms the rumour that the Israeli embassy was warned. Israeli representatives are, at this time, attending the G8 summit.

www.g8.gov.uk is getting hammered at this time, so you probably won't get through.

I just found out that Dataline's going in for gallbladder removal surgery on Monday, 25 July 2005.

At the bank this morning, I chanced to overhear an older woman with a distinctly British accent cashing in all of her traveller's cheques so that she could fly back to London - she mentioned that she had not heard from her children, who work in London after repeated attempts to contact them, and wanted to get back as soon as she possibly could.

Ye gods. That sent a chill down my back. Ma'am, if you ever read this, I wish you and yours well. I hope that they were not injured in the blasts.

2005/07/06

DSL's out in Lyssa's apartment again. Thank you, Verizon.

2005/07/05

How in the hell did I get to work in half an hour?!?

I think I left the apartment a lot earlier than I thought but didn't look at the time. No matter, it's giving me a chance to get the utilities hooked up at the new apartment before the real workload sets in.

George W. Bush refuses to change his opinion on global warming, presented evidence to the contrary after British Prime Minister Tony Blair asks him to uphold his end of the bargain.. Bush was further quoted as saying that he will refuse to agree to any environmental protection measures that appear to do the same thing as the Kyoto Protocols, which were enacted to prevent change in the global environment in response to pollution. I find it interesting that a change of stance was part of their agreement, in exchange for public and private support of the Second War in Iraq(tm)... and less than surprising that Bush is welshing on his end of the deal. This comes mere days before the G8 summit in Scotland, which is a meeting of the minds of world leaders on whatever issues the leader of the hosting country sees fit to bring up. Bush did, however, say taht he's pushing for investment in research into alternative fuels, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles and nuclear energy. If you do a little research, though, you'll find that he's utterly full of it - in 2003 Bush slashed funding of research into renewable energy sources. He also wrecked enegy conservation measures with an earlier budget. This is only a small fraction of the measures he's put into place that are setting back the pace of scientific progress in the United States.

I'd just like to say that this guy wasn't arrested and convicted for installing a modchip in an Xbox - he was convicted for selling modchipped Xboxen that he'd illegally installed up to 80 cracked commercial games on. Technically, it's illegal to modify game consoles in the European Union (free use, anyone?), but that isn't really what they nailed him on.

Get it right, guys.

2005/07/04

To everyone in the United States, happy Independence Day.

On Independence Day, it behoves patriotic Americans to know something about their founders, does it not?

You know this is going to cause one hell of a dustup, pardon the pun: The United Church of Christ has officially stated its support of same-sex marriage. Kudos, folks.

Six boxes of Lyssa's stuff, mostly books, are now packed up and ready to go. The rest of the apartment remains; the rest of the apartment is trashed, actually, from our pulling stuff out and moving it around to make room for the boxes.

After breakfast today I headed out to Target to pick up a few things, like boxes, packing tape, and another set of cotton pants to wear to work (they beat the hell out of jeans in this weather, let me tell you). As I left my trust car in the parking lot I was accosted by an older gentleman ranting and marvelling loudly at the T and A of a woman he'd seen in the mall mere minutes before.

Whatever, man.

I found what I needed in fairly short order - the soap, paper shredder, and packing tape are pretty standard. After some asking around I came away from the store with fifteen collapsed cardboard boxes stuffed in various parts of my car. Free shipping crates are always a good thing.

The afternoon was spent driving around looking for lunch in a town where damn near everything closes on July Fourth and stuffing things into the aforementioned boxes. We still have a large number remaining, and I doubt that we'll have any left over. Dinner tonight was at TGI Friday's, where we raided the Jack Daniels menu after a not-quite-wait; try both the chicken tenders and the JD burger. I didn't try the ribs.

Our waitress was attentive, perky, nice, and enthusiastic even after working time and a half in a restaurant. She did a yeoman's job, and impressed both Lyssa and myself.

As I write this, I can hear fireworks going off outside, the traditional celebration of Independence Day in the United States. I'm not big of fireworks; haven't been since I got here. I don't really consider them pretty or interesting to watch. I guess I know too much of the chemistry behind them. I do, however, adore getting together with folks for a picnic or a cookout on this day and spending quality time with my friends. I haven't gotten to do that for a few years, and I miss it.

I almost wish that I could go outside and see them. I can hear them all the way down here, where I now sit. Unfortunately, the Capital Mall is standing room only for July Fourth, and you can't really see anything unless you somehow manage to get up high, like in a building that happens to be open in downtown Washington, DC today. Driving in or taking the Metro are foolhardy today, due to all the people.

Oh, well.

I still feel out of sorts from this whole move, first from Pennsylvania to DC, then from DC to Virginia proper. Living like a (well equipped) fiddler crab moving from apartment to apartment, skimming the Beltway to expedite my work.. it's odd. It's tiring. I haven't been anyplace to really put down roots for a while, and I'm starting to miss the stability. I miss having a place that I've control over, where I can relax and plug myself in. Now that we've started packing up Lyssa's apartment, it's feeling less and less like a home.

Friday night. Friday night and we'll have a home.

Maybe I'll have my head together enough to be able to write coherently for a change. As it is, my thoughts are going in so many directions at once, I have a difficult time arranging ideas. I'm fairly certain that it's the essential rootlessness of it all - I need to settle down. I need a place that I can call 'home' to think and write.

2005/07/03

Haven't been home much today; Lyssa and I met her folks to go to the movies, where we say War of the Worlds this afternoon, and afterwards went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner.

War of the Worlds isn't a sci-fi movie; it's a horror movie that just happens to have some things in common with a famous book by H.G.Wells and has been worked over (note that I do not say 'worked on' or even 'directed') by Stephen Spielburg. Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise and not a ubermensch like he has in the past few movies he's been in; an everyman who comes face to face with the Unknown, in the form of an alien invasion years in the making.

The special effects are top-notch, naturally. The acting's okay at best, embarrassingly bad at worst. Some of the dialogue is cheesy. The alien craft are very well done, and creepy as all get out. The movie, however, degenerates into splatter about a half-hour in. There are also some plot holes that made me want to stand up and yell at the characters, "You idiots! You're watching it happen to other countries on TV but you're not using what you've learned to save yourselves!"

The crazy guy in the woods and the monologues at the start and end of the movie are taken right from the radio play, which was a nice touch.

After it goes horror, it starts getting needlessly gory. So much so that I was really squicked by it. Spielburg centered a lot on the traumatic aspects of the movie, so much so that it actually ceased to be scary and started getting annoying. Specifically, I got bored with all the close-ups on Cruise's face that showed him stunned or crying. The bit with Ray's (Cruise's character) two kids also left me facepalming. The daughter was either a basket case or preternaturally sane; the son really needed to be incinereated by the aliens' heat rays.

The conflict between Ray and which kid to save was.. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be. Nuance and subtlty are good things. But when you go for nuances, pick one and stick with it, don't pack them on layer after layer like makeup on a cheap hooker.

The red vines that were crawling across the planet after the invasion began were a nice touch, harking back to the tales of H.P.Lovecraft. The landing of the aliens was also very Lovecraftian, The Colour Out of Space in particular. I drew the line at the ships hoovering people up, though.

The alien away team was scary was hell, though, and was very well done.

And how in the hell is it that the entire planet gets razed by the aliens, but the ritziest part of Boston, Massachusett's was completely overlooked???

As for the ending, and I don't think I'm giving anything away here because it's the same ending as the book, radio play, and original movie (as well as the opening of the old TV series) - how can the aliens bury their craft on Earth so many, many years ago (perhaps thousands) but then not take into account the other lifeforms in Earth's biosphere which no longer affect humans? How does such an oversight happen when you plan your invasion with such a timescale??

One star. Don't bother.

In hindsight, I should have known that the movie was going to suck - Duo of the Lost Boys and Rhianna loved it. And they adore hideously bad movies.

After leaving the movie, the five of us drove down highway 7 to The Cheesecake Factory, which is an excellent restaurant, if I may be honest. The calamari is tender and fresh, the spinach and cheese dip is tasty but not too heavy, and the vegetable curry pot pie is excellent.. it would be amazing if it weren't for the puzzle factor, i.e., the curry was in the dish and a large puffed bread was placed on top of it. It wasn't made as a pot pie, but a two part meal which was very large - a single meal is enough for two people, easily. I couldn't finish the main course, and the thought of dessert (we brought home two pieces of cheesecake) makes me cringe.

I recommend getting the cheesecake for dessert to go - it's fantastic.

Half a flaregun. Excellent service, wonderful food, good prices.

Your Slanguage Profile

Canadian Slang: 75%
Aussie Slang: 50%
Southern Slang: 50%
Victorian Slang: 50%
British Slang: 25%
New England Slang: 25%
Prison Slang: 25%
What Slanguage Do You Speak?

Fred Phelps is at it again, and of course he's too much of a chickenshit to go to his own protests, instead sending his family and congregation while he stays behind.

T-minus five days and counting. Lyssa and I start moving into our apartment in Virginia Friday night after work. We start packing tomorrow, and we get the moving van on either Friday or Saturday, depending on when U-Haul gets back to us.

The truck will be necessary for Lyssa's stuff - it's a long way from her doss to the new place. My stuff, however, is stored relatively close to the new doss so the truck is only necessary to speed things up. Once Lyssa's stuff is offloaded a team of folks will go down to the storage facility to start moving my stuff, including all the furniture.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have brought so much furniture with me. I admit, I'm attached to my bookshelves, though I wound up tossing two of them because they were old and falling apart.

I rather regret bringing the little couch, too. Lyssa and I are eyeing futons, so we'll just have to get rid of the couch anyway.

Casualties thus far: My mounted Johnny Mnemonic poster (with a hole through it courtesy of a falling shipping module which I'm also pretty sure contains my alter stuff, including my Commodore-64). I'm afraid to see what else might have been managed.

It's my fault, too - I didn't secure them properly. Fuck.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

2005/07/02

Last night after work, Lyssa, Hasufin, and I drove out to Coldstone Creamery for ice cream after work, which was a first for me. Coldstone, if you have never been to it, is an ice cream parlour with some very unusual sorts of ice cream (black licorace, which really is dark black, for example), some excellent versions of some old favourites (like vanilla and strawbery), and some very tasty sorbets as well (like tangerine). The idea is that you specify what you'd like mixed into your ice cream and someone behind the counter lays some ice cream out on a refrigerated marble slab and pounds, mixes, and swirls your choices into the ice cream. I love soft ice cream, and I've discovered that I'm quite fond of Coldstone. Lyssa disagrees.

Ah, well. I like what I like, albeit in moderation.

Today's been a slow day, and for the most part a lazy one. I woke up around 1000 EDT to the phone ringing - Hasufin at work ran into some unexpected problems, and as the admin on call I was next in line. Thankfully, I didn't have to drive in to work on anything, because he was able to fix the problem with some consultation and examining the software for a while.

Lyssa and I went to the grocery store this afternoon to get stuff for dinner tonight and for the next few days.. I'm still getting used to this whole living together thing. It's a new expeience, I have to admit. How do I manage time with Lyssa and for myself? With a lot of communication. I could theroetically go out every night, if I chose. The idea that I could do so still strikes me as odd. Lyssa can as well, if she likes, and from time to time she has. That does not seem odd to me, but the fact that I could is.. new? Odd? A little frightening? All of the above.

It's the things that seem ordinary to everyone that I treasure.. going to the store, lounging around the apartment, driving around for the hell of it.. I never thought I'd get to share it with anyone, and now I am.

It's a good feeling. I find it a little scary, too.

I'm still getting used to wanting to read or check my e-mail while Lyssa's around, though. It feels like I'm shutting her out, even though when she does the same thing, it doesn't bother me at all.

Something else to adapt to.

Gods.. there's so much that I want to write about right now. Weeks and weeks of suff happening.. it'll take hours.

I feel that I should give everyone a heads-up about a restaurant in downtown DC called Al Tiramisu, which Lyssa, Hasufin, and I had dinner at about two weeks ago. It's a tiny little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant that we were hideously underdressed for (we were dressed like college students, and the rest of the patrons were after-hours professional types). The waitstaff is very, very polite; the food is very, very good; and they they appear only when you don't have your mouth full and look ready for more. They also bring out bottled water to keep you happy until whatever else you've ordered is ready.

What they don't tell you is that the bottled water is $6us per bottle. You can go through two or three bottles of water in one meal. I don't know how much the wine is because I didn't check.

The fact that there are no prices on anything should have been my first warning. Each entree is between $10us and $20us per plate. The desserts are very tasty and filling, though smaller than one would expect, and hover around $8.90us each. Coffee starts at $3us per cup and isn't bottomless or refilled.

We accidentally dropped $103us on a dinner for three there, which nearly broke the bank.

Their address is 2014 P Street NW; Washington, DC 20036, voice number 202-467-4466. Good food, but very expensive. Don't go there unless you really feel like dropping a lot of money.

I could comment on the bottled water in itself, the price aside (the bottles' labels looked very worn; it wouldn't surprise me if they had been refilled from the tap a couple of times each). This is something I expect of a less classy (and less pricy) restaurant someplace other than the core of Washington, DC.

2005/07/01

Somehow I made it to work in record time today, not because I went any faster than usual (well, I did, but I wasn't speeding) but because I managed to hit one of those rare 'sweet spots' in timing and traffic patterns where the beltway wasn't a parking lot during rush hour. Sure, there were one or two slowdowns but on the whole I was able to make it to work in about forty minutes, about one third of my usual time in the mornings.

Maybe it was the fact that I got out the door about ten minutes earlier than usual because I packed leftovers for lunch instead of making lunch for myself. At any rate, I'm not going to complain because I found it a refreshing change of pace from the usual commute.

One of the largest credit bureaus in the country, MBNA, was purchased lock, stock, and barrel by the Bank of America for $35bus in funds and stock. This will make the Bank of America effectively the largest credit bureau in the United States by giving them a 20% share of the market. The BofA is working on the acquisition of all of the lowest-risk credit companies, one by one.

The UK is still targetted by crackers with specially tailored trojan horse attacks. The attacks, as mentioned earlier, are specifically targetted at certain organisations, and the software used in the assaults appears to have been designed with keeping a low profile (read: samples out of the hands of the AV companies) as a priority. Now, vulnerabilities in Microsoft Word are being used to install malware on vulnerable workstations. Somebody, it appears, really has a mad-on for these guys, even after they've hit the newswires.

One Tom Adelstein mentioned in an article earlier this week. This organisation is known to have funded a number of trips that have been implicated in ethics violations among certain members of the House of Representatives.. astute readers will know whom I write of. New names of representatives have been added to this list of violators of the House Ethics Code, incidentally. After a certain point, however, the firm of Preston, Gates, and Ellis drops off the radar of companies implicated in this mess. It becomes more interesting when you find out that Melinda French Gates is also on the board of directors of the Washington Post, one of the more influential newspapers that have been covering this matter. I strongly suggest that you read the scanned documents included with this article; they are very interesting and very revealing. Not only does Microsoft control a lot of money, they have some control over a large number of people, many of whom used to work in the US government. The list of people who are not pushing MS' antitrust penalties is also considerable: Among the people are the Undersecretary of commerce for Technology (Phil Bond) and Ed gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee. Those are some people with a lot of clout in the US.

Whoa. Steamboy, by Otomo Katsuhiro (director of Akira), has come to the US in theatrical release... or was, judging by the theatre listings for April and May. Time to prowl the local listings, I guess.

It's baaaaaack... H.J.Res.24 was put before the House of Representatives on 17 February 2005, which is a bill that would repeal the twenty-second amendnment. In case you're not familiar with it, the twenty-second amendment is what limits presidents to two terms only. This isn't the first time this has been attempted, and it probably won't be the last.

2005/06/30

Another article, containing more information on the Freedom Tower to be constructed in New York City as a replacement for the World Trade Center has hit the newswires. In addition to the touchy-feely stuff, it has some interesting information on the architecture, placement, and armouring(!) of the building. The base of the building will be solid ferroconcrete with metal armouring reaching a height of 200 feet above the ground. There will be fewer windows in the structure. The base will be 200 feet on a side, and the whole structure will taper gently, assuming the form of an obelisk (cue firestorm on conspiracy theory mailing lists). The building will also have its own communications antenna, in addition to the usual backup generators and external communications feeds.

Something else to keep your eye on: George W. Bush has ordered the creation of national security departments within the FBI and DoJ, which brings them under the control of John Negroponte, the US Director of Intelligence. Incidentally, this puts the Director of Intelligence in the loop insofar as Federal investigations within the USA are concerned; Negroponte would have direct command over field agents on assignment. Whether or not the DoI would have priority control over the director of the FBI and the Attorney General is not clear. It should also be noted that another executive order was enacted on Wednesday, 29 June 2005, which permits freezing the assets of people, organisations, or companies that may be involved in trafficking weapons. You can check out the entire executive order here, at whitehouse.gov.

The name of this cross-organisational group this executive order has created? The National Security Service.

In other news, the US military is going to use Sony's Cell Chip in some of its computer systems. Yes, the very same CPU that will drive the Playstation-3.

Give this a look: OpenCRS.com. It's an archive of Congressional research reports - studies done for Congress about a wide variety of topics to keep them (theoretically) informed on what's going on in the world. They're a good way to keep track of what's happening in the world around you.

The human brain is probably not binary in its processing architecture. The studies done are interesting, using mouse cursor movements made as people process linguistic and visually symbolic data in a one-to-two manner (indentification) to determine what distinct states their brains were in. The experiments showed that processing began before the words they heard were even completed. The article is a bit thin on details, but it's definitely thought provoking.

Up side: I've just discovered that the ethernet cable I've been using to connect Luel to Lyssa's home LAN is long enough to reach the bathroom. I'm writing this update from the john.

Down side: While eating dinner tonight with Lyssa and Lauren at Plato's I took a tiny chip out of a molar (one of the ones on the bottom left side that I had filled just a few weeks ago) on some falafel. My jaw's still sending error messages (not pain but "What the hell was that?!" impulses). Fuck.

2005/06/29

Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth, which was defrauded of $2.7bus ,a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/2005-06-28-scrushy-cover-usat_x.htm">has been acquitted of all charges. Indicted two years ago, the man known for living (and acting) like a king got off scot free. Nevermind the fact that recorded conversations repeatedly showed him asking about whether or not he was being monitored by whomever he was speaking to and religiously keeping track of who in his staff knew how much of what was going on. Seems a little fishy to me. His lawyers used a brilliant tactic, making it look like witnesses against Scrushy were in even deeper trouble but cut deals with the prosecution to get off more lightly, when in fact Scrushy was the high man on the totem pole of this scam. Scrushy also made himself out to be a deeply religious and pure man by donating thousands (possibly up into the low millions) to churches around Birmingham, Alabama and appearing on weekly religious television programmes, as well as making ins with local pastors. The only thing he didn't do was nail himself to a crucifix; this tactic not only makes religion look bad, but insults the intelligence of anyone who knows even a little about this case.

Makes me sick.

They're going to try it again, I see: The design of the Freedom Tower, the successor to the World Trade Center, has been announced. It will be 69 stories (1,362 feet) high, and will feature a parapet and an observation deck, and is just as high as the old WTC. I have to admit, I'm rather ambivelant about this. I never got to see the old WTC, but that's not why. The last one was taken down by elements inimical to the values originally granted to citizens of the United States by the nation's founders, and it caused a shakeup around the globe. Now it's being replaced by a building just as ostentatious and probably more costly (allowing for inflation). Seems like a hell of a big target to me.

It took 'em two tries to take down the last one; I feel concern for this one, and it's not even built yet.

An American who was behind part of a million-dollar identity theft ring was sentenced to six years in prison in the UK on Monday. His partner, Lee Elwood of Glasgow, Scotland, was sentenced to four years after pleading guilty last year. The two were a pair of experienced phishers with a network of fake websites and illicitly obtained credit cards that kept them in the black for months, possibly netting them over $11.5mus. Things were purchased online with the fraudlent credit cards and then re-sold on various auction sites to launder them; the proceeds were then sent to accounts in Russia, but the two kept a cut of the proceeds for themselves. A hefty cut, if the released details are any indication. Credit cards as well as traveller's cheques were also forged by the duo - no mean feat when you think about the sophistication of anticounterfitting techniques today (as well as how difficult it can be to obtain certain devices used in the processes).

Robert Lyttle of Pleasant Hill, California, formerly a member of a group of crackers called The Deceptive Duo, has been sentenced to four months in prison and a $72kus fine for compromising comptuers run by the DoD's Defense Logistic Information Service and NASA in 2002. He plead guilty after his arrest in July of 2004. The other half of the Deceptive Duo, Ben Stark, has not yet been sentenced.

As if that weren't enough going on today, the country of Pakistan is completely off the Net. A failure in the transoceanic cables that link Pakistan to the rest of the net caused by a dead power supply at one end of the link or possibly in a repeater has left their sectors entirely gone. Hopefully they'll be back up soon.

2005/06/28

I've come to the conclusion that travelling on the Beltway is like ADSL - driving down is faster than driving up. In other words, driving to anyplace is much faster than driving back during the week; we can debate the weekends, because it's hit or miss, depending on the precise hour of the day.

Now this is easily the most evil thing I've ever heard. The BTK (bind, torture, kill) serial killer who roamed Wichita, Kansas for over ten years has turned himself in, and is on trial at this time. Snippets of his testimony are in the article, and it's chilling: He talks about 'putting people down' as if they were animals, and talked about his life as a serial killer as if he were an anthropologist who had been studying them in the field.

The bit about comforting one of his earlier victims and even getting her water before suffocating her with a bag really freaked me, I don't mind telling you. I know that I can get down on the human race from time to time, but this is in another league, pure and simple. He has to be taken at his word on this, but it's not hard to imagine it going down (I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader).

Cold. Fucking cyrogenic.

More stuff to worry about: Another Indymedia server in the UK has been seized. This time, it was the server pertaining to Bristol's indie news scene. One member of the group was taken into custody during the raid. When last someone tried to find the person, the Bristol police reported that he was no longer in custody, and suggested that they try the British Transport Police, instead.

Prisoners mysteriously changing hands while in custody.. does that sound familiar to anyone, by any chance?

The story behind it goes like this: On 17 June 2005, an anonymous post was made in the comments of an article served from that machine stating that certain 'objects' were left on a train passing through the UK, near the time of the G8 summit this year. Rumour has it that around $100kus of damage was done by this action (note: I've no idea what they're referring to; if it happened while I was moving, I missed it, and don't have time to go back and look for it). The member was thrown out for doing this, and someone protested his expulsion. Then someone called the police.

Rialian, by popular demand, has organised a second gather at the Four Quarters Farm called Crossing the Thresholds. It has been confirmed to take place between 23-25 September 2005.

This was first published back in 1999, but for those of you who missed it: Video was extracted via electrode implants from a cat's brain. It wasn't in realtime, but after some hefty signal processing, they were able to determine with a high level of accuracy what the cat actually saw. The images are two parters: The top is frames of the video footage the cats were shown, the bottom is what the cats actually saw, as picked up by the electrode arrays that were monitoring clusters of ten neurons within the cat's hypothalamus.

Here's an interesting twist of events pertaining to the change in law that makes it easier for you to lose your land by emminent domain: A private developer in New Hampshire is trying to take over the land owned by Supreme Court Justice Davis Souter, who was one of the judges who voted in favour of this ruling, so that he may construct a new hotel. One Logan Clements is behind this ironic tack. His justification to the local government involves not only more tax revenues for the town than Judge Souter is paying, but it would represent the preservation of a unique piece of land - the home of a Supreme Court Justice "who was responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans." Clements is trying to raise capital from pro-liberty investers to set the wheels turning on his project.

Go, Clements, go. If I lived in New Hampshire, I'd sign off on it. Serves Souter right.

2005/06/27

Wouldn't you know it...

Got up at 0600 EDT, got ready, and made it out the door to go to work. The beltway, as you'd expect, was a madhouse... I actually made good time (1 hour, 20 minutes).. and halfway through realised that I'd forgotten my keycard to get into the building.

Don't you just hate it when you get to work early but can't get in?

The DSL line at Lyssa's apartment is down, so neither of us can get on the Net from home; I spent a good hour on the phone with Verizon last night and after going over the troubleshooting procedure with their tech (who didn't seem surprised at all that I know a few things about TCP/IP), it was determined that either the DSL modem is going bad (and feeding back into the telephone hanging off of the splitter), the line is bad, or something at the CO is wonky. I'm going to pick up a new splitter after work today, and Lyssa and I are going to dig my spare DSL modems out of storage to try them on the line to save ourselves the >= $100us replacement charge for a new DSL modem. Time will tell.

Lyssa's back on - Verizon concurs that it's the modem. More to come.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Net, someone out there is attacking certain companies and government agencies in the UK with tailored trojan horses via e-mail. There is strong evidence that says that the UK isn't the only target; a number of sites in the US and other countries have also been attacked. No word if the assaults have been successful, logically enough. The trojans were specifically tailored to suspected vulnerabilities in the Windows platform known to be used by those agencies, which could be the sign of an attacker who knows what they want and how to get it, or could be a sign of someone who knows that those agencies use Windows on the desktop and made an educated guess on the versions deployed; a little knowledge of how bureaucracy and IT departments work goes a long way. Like the attacks in Isarael some time ago, the code used was custom written and not released openly on the Net, so the usual scanners and protection packages don't recognise them. This strongly suggests planning. The filenames transmitted are also carefully chosen to sound related to military or corporate business, and not your usual foobar.mp3.scr or startup.pif filenames. These trojans are also designed to snag sensitive documents and send them elsewhere for analysis. They also don't propagate on their own, so they aren't as likely to spread widely enough to be detected.

Man.. after reading Ghost in the Shell and all those Shadowrun novels for all those years, it really makes sense how trojans can be used in attacks now, doesn't it?

Credit card order processing giant CardSystems Solutions was compromised to the tune of 40 million accounts, reports MasterCard, who uses this company to handle their customer transactions. A routine audit shows taht someone compromised CardSystems' network and ran a couple of database queries to capture the names, expiration dates, and identifying numbers of around 68k credit cards. They say that the data used for true identity theft wasn't taken, but having your credit card number and expiration date snaffled is bad enough - people can still charge things to you. Just one more reason to not sleep well at night...

Never, ever, ever store proprietary data on your personal machines without protecting it somehow, if only by not copying it to the hard drive at all. A Japanese power plant employee accidentally leaked 40 megabytes of confidential nuclear power generation reports to the Net using the Winny peer-to-peer file sharing network.

Well, fuck..

I heard from the insurance company: They decided that I was at fault for the wreck on the way to Maryland down from Pennsylvania. They'll cover the cost of repairs, but I don't know how much they'll jack my yearly rates up. I'm afraid to find out.

Oh, and they were angry that I had a rental car for over a month: They'll only cover $20us/day of the costs for reimbursement. The last time I read my policy, I was covered for $30us/day.

They neglected to say if that's what my policy has always been ("We are at war with Oceania; we have always been at war with Oceania" - my ass! I've got the hardcopy to prove it!) or of they've decided to change it so I can't do that to them again in the future.

I needed a car. Insurance covers that. I pay enough to feed a family of six in a famine every year for automobile insurance, you damn well better believe that I'll make the most of what I pay for.

The paperwork is, surprise surprise, in storage.

I've got some phone calls to make tomorrow...

Lyssa didn't have the best day, either. Her DSL connection has been up and down more than a Vegas prostitute on payday, and it's making it very difficult for her to not only apply for loan consolidation (thank you, FedGov, for raising the rates on student loans this summer) but apply for jobs. She's taking it about as well as I am right now.

Verizon managed to hack together some sort of fix that requires her to log into a server to bring the DSL connection up. Of course, I had to jack Luel into the workgroup switch to check my e-mail, and wasn't able to send traffic past the DSL modem (a Westel 2200, which has a lot more functionality built in than I thought (default administrative login: admin/password, though I don't know if it can be logged into from the outside)). If you don't authenticate, you can't send traffic to the Net. I'm jacked into Alphonse right now writing this.

We went to Tiffin tonight for dinner, because frankly neither of us felt like cooking after the days we've had. Much yummy curry was had.

Cryosuspension experiements in dogs for emergency surgery are progressing nicely in my home city of Pittsburgh, PA. Rather than use this technique for daring brain and heart surgeries, they're working on adapting the process of cooling the body down to 7 degrees Centigrade while perfusing it with chilled saline solution for prolonging the lives of accident victims and battlefield casualties.

Wouldn't you know it? All the cool stuff comes out of the woodwork in the Steel City the moment I leave.

Heads-up: At the convention Gallifrey 2006, John Barrowman, who played Captain Jack Harkness in the new Doctor Who series, will be one of the guests.

February 17-19, 2006... not too far away from my birthday...

2005/06/25

Silent clubs in the UK, where there is no PA system but everyone instead wears cordless headphones. Wow.

Didn't I see that in a bad sci-fi movie once?

Lyssa and I went to the Safeway Barbecue Battle in downdown DC today. Unfortunately, while I love getting out now and then, it wasn't worth the money we spent on it. The cover charge was $10us, and the food was too expensive for the quality, which was far less than I was expecting, and much less (as if those two terms were qualitative) than I honestly like. It was pushing 90 degrees Farenheit today, which didn't help matters, either. The sunlight felt like it was burning us the moment we stepped outside, and the humidity made it painful to breathe. We took the Metro to DC proper and a short walk brought us to the multi-block barbecue festival. After paying the cover, we wandered around for a time, noting the high price of food at each booth.. depressingly high, in fact. There was also a distinct lack of free samples, which were advertised heavily.

Oh, and you can't just buy something to drink while you're there. You have to buy tickets; each ticket is $2us; drinks start at one ticket each. This is all well and good until you do the math, and discover that a bottle of water is $4-$6us, and a lemon ice is $4us. That's a bit more expensive than either of us were willing to pay for a bottle of water.

The food was overpriced, as I mentioned. We bought a sampler platter of ribs, barbecued chicken, and pulled pork with baked beans and coleslaw for $15us, which is a lot for a single paper plate of food. The turkey leg was $6us, and was actually large enough to be worth the price. The quality of most everything was poor, I'm sorry to say. The pulled pork was pretty good, I have to admit. This was overshadowed, unfortunately, by the ribs that were as much gristle as meat (and not as tasty as they looked) and the chicken, which didn't really taste like anything. The bread was hard as a rock. I couldn't even bite into the turkey leg... I could feel dental work that I've grown attached to wiggling, which is never a good sign.

We ate what we could but pitched the rest, then bought a pair of Italian ices to get us through until we left the competition. We sat by a small park eating Italian ice and watching the world go by around us, with a street musician (who played an amplified and slightly tweaked guitar to a drum machine) seranading us to downtown Washington, DC as a backdrop. A couple of bottles of water got us home in one piece, first by Metro, then by car for the final stretch.

After we got home, we collapsed from exhaustion - the heat and humidity were pretty bad and while Lyssa's used to it, I'm not. After we got back I went back to bed and slept for a good three hours, and woke up still covered with sweat. A quick shower woke me up, though, and Lyssa and I headed out once again, this time to find dinner. My body's still a little swollen (my watch doesn't fit right and I can't put my ring on right now) but a little time and a lot of water will fix that right up... however, the two of us drove to Ledo's Restaurant to pick up pizza.

Ledo's is Maryland's best kept-secret. It's a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant that recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary in Maryland, tucked away in a strip mall about twenty minutes from the University of Maryland. Once we put our orders in we roamed around a bit, visiting a Spanish bakery and a local supermarket for stuff to drink.

Ledo's pizza is good. The crust is thin but tasty, the sauce is sweet, and the toppings are fresh. The pepperoni is cut right from sausage in thick slices and layered right on. The sausage, I've found, doesn't have much flavour. The pineapple is pretty good, but probably from a can, and I completely forgot that I ordered grilled chicken on my pizza. If it's on there...

Ledo's pizza is pretty good. I'm told that either you like it or you don't. I suggest taking a drive down to route 193 east and looking for it's rather plain lighted sign on the left-hand side of the highway.

X is for Xerxes devoured by mice.
You will be devoured by mice. You are so shy and
always off alone in the corner. No one knows
you are there except for the blood thirsty
rodents.

What will be your Edward Gorey death?
brought to you by Quizilla

Let's see.. what else was I going to write about?

Oh, yeah.. Walking the Thresholds... I left off with the Naked Elf Cuddle Tent Friday night...

Saturday morning we woke up wondering just how much sleep we'd gotten, because without timepieces we swiftly returned to the schedules our bodies are hardwired to operate on. We wandered down to the picnic tables to listen to the Toxic Elf talk.. and talk.. and talk..

I decided that just keeping my mouth shut until the showers were started up made the most sense. Eventually, we wandered down to the showers and got cleaned up, then pieced together lunch. I sat in on a reiki presentation by Rialian and Jarin, and then Silvaerin'a's discussion of physics and metaphysics, from Newton through alchemy into as much quantum mechanics as you can go into in three hours.. I wound up hanging around talking with her about that until the time came to hike back up the hill to the stone circle for the in-between life meditation by A'hri'l, which wound up being a lot more involved and a lot more rough than I'd thought it would be.

I don't know how much detail I want to go into about this. Suffice it to say that it was a lot more rough than I thought it was going to be. It took a while to calm down after I came out of the trance, and after I made it back to the campsite I slept for a few hours out of sheer exhaustion.

My body's getting old. It doesn't bounce back the way it used to.

I made it back online in time for the presentation that Lyssa, Kash, and I were doing, which was a roundtable discussion of technology, cybernetics, and mythology as they relate to metaphysics. We lost a few folks, but had a lot more walk-ups (heh) who participated in the discussion which went on for a few more hours than originally scheduled. Even after the discussion ended, it kept going even longer informally.

Somehow we even touched on the topic of numbers stations, firewalls, sigil magick, and finding new uses for existing technologies.

Yes, I finally had a chance to explain my theories of technomagick. I love talking shop.

After that was lunch, at which time it started raining, as it had been doing off an on the whole weekend, just in time for Rialian's discussion of what he calls the relational path. The interrelationships of the various elements of day to day life are what he talked about, and how changes propagate from part to part, place to place, and thing to thing. I have to hand it to Rialian, he really knows his stuff.. he's got a lot of time to read, and he juggles at least eight books at a time. He brought most of them with him to Thresholds, and they made their rounds not a few times. Suffice it to say that I keep my eye on a lot of that stuff already, as my memory logs can attest to.

Afterward, Lyssa and I made dinner for everyone, in the form of vegetarian chili and polenta in the Four Quarters Farm kitchens.

I'm rather pleased to say that they turned out quite well - everyone that took part enjoyed what we'd made.

I never made chili with potatoes before, but it went over quite well just the same.

After that was the mead-making rite, where people brought honey and herbs with them from home. I brought a half-litre of clover honey that Blackcat gave to me for Yule a few years ago; Lyssa brought some of the herbs she's been growing, some pineapple/basil and chocolate/mint hybrids to contribute. On and on, the procession of honeys went into the pot to cook and eventually decant into a number of carboys.

Rialian brews fantastic mead. I can't wait to see how it turns out. It'll need at least a year to age, and a few more to really come into its own.

After that was more about reiki, and attunements courtesy of Rialian and Jarin. I've been interested in reiki as a discipline for a while now, but have not been able to attend any of the attunements in Pittsbugh (those I could afford, anyway). Rialian and Jarin have been not only practising but experimenting with reiki for years, and while their conclusions are very different, they both have some interesting things to say.

One of the things that concerns me about reiki is the alterations that I've made to this body over the years. Reiki, once it's implanted in one's bio-enegetic system, cleans things out and patches up any injuries that have happened over the years.. what if it un-did some of the things I put in there?

Rialian says that it shouldn't remove anything that I put in there, much to my relief. If anything, it takes what it has to work with and fine-tunes it as best it can. "So if you're an asshole," he remarked, "it'll make you the best asshole that you can be."

Lovely. Interesting, though.

There's also the matter of being incapacitated while reiki's cleaning you out. Everyone reacts differently after an attunement, in my observation. I've seen people trip from it for hours afterward, and people trip all over themselves for the bathroom beause their digestive systems decided to empty as fast as they possibly could. I've also seen people knocked flat because their body's respiratory systems decided to clean themselves out explosively. Another worry of mine was that I might not be in shape to drive home after camp broke the next day.

I think it's going to have to wait until after I get settled in at my new apartment in a few weeks' time.

After that, Lyssa and I hung out at the bardic circle, at the top of the campsite, kicked off by Rick. If you've never been to one, there's usually a bonfire built in the center, and people walk up and tell jokes, tell stories, and from time to time sing, recite a poem, or play some music. That night was made up of a small number of jokes and a lot of stories, some very well told (those by Lyssa and Rick) and some that were less than entertaining (my own, for example). What's important, though, is that people got up there and gave it a shot. To my knowledge, nobody got booed out of the circle.

We crashed not long after the fire began to die down, and woke up in time to break camp. Breaking the tent tdown took longer than expected, due to a roommate that we didn't know we had. Remember that wolf spider? It had taken up residence behind a joint in one of the rods and spun itself an egg sack, which it was grasping tightly between its eight legs. Mika managed to dislodge the spider but it lost the egg sack in the process, and I don't know if it ever found it again; we were too busy throwing stuff out and packing up our gear. We wound up leaving the ground tarp because there wasn't any room in the car for it, nor room to unroll it and let it dry.

Lauren and Steve took a lot of our gear with them; unfortunately, I haven't been able to let the tent properly air out, and I'm worried that it's begun to grow moldy while in storage. I need to get together with them to pick it up, but I don't know if there'll be any way air it out until after the move.

Exhausted, Lyssa, Mika, and I said our good-byes and left for home. We offloaded a lot of our stuff and drove to Outback for our first good, hot meal in the entire weekend.

After that, Lyssa and I drove back to Pittsburgh to pack my stuff up; that's a story for another time, though.

Jonathan Adams, ex-Bond bad guy and narrator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show>, has passed beyond. Lost in space, and lost in time, and meaning...

Things you'll never hear a pagan say.

Well said, Mr. Dean.

2005/06/24

Just when you thought it was safe to purchase real estate in a time where your parents' homestead, roughly the size of a townhouse, can fetch upwards of $100kus, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments can annex private property for economic development. What does this mean? If Wal-Mart decides that it wants to build a new franchise and your house just happens to be in the way, they can ask the local government where you live for your land, and it can be handed over to Wal-Mart.

The original owners, incidentally, are screwed when this happens.

The ruling was a close one, 5-4 in favour of the bill. The first people hit by this bill live in Connecticut, thrown out of house and home so that an office block can be constructed. Local officials have carefully been granted this power, and the high courts have been divested of any say in the matter (for the time being; you know this is going to cause one hell of a backlash).

First Dance Dance Revolution took the arcades by storm. Then it was parodied in the form of Mosh Mosh Revolution in the webcomic Megatokyo. Now there's Kick Ass Kung-fu, an immersive video game where your real-life martial arts skills control your character in the game environment. The game engine apparently implements video game-style physics for the character, so even if you have trouble skipping rope your virtual self can give the cast of The Matrix a few lessons. Special collision and impact analysis software determines how effective your attacks and blocks are during the course of the game, computing virtual damage.

Second day of work: Still got there early (by a near-accident I woke up almost fifteen minutes late) - arrived around 0730 EDT. Next try: Get up at 0600 on Monday. Still getting my work environment in shape.

I discovered something today about the newer Dell systems that have a built in video subsystem, as well as an add-on card: The BIOSes work in either-or fashion, i.e., either the on-board video adaptor is active or the extra one is, but not both. I spent a couple of hours today trying to get multiheadedness in X running, but only managed to get two out of three displays running, after installing Nvidia's closed-source drivers. I still can't get the on-board chipset running, so I've decided to use the third monitor for Luel, my laptop.

Oh, well. I'd really like to see the glmatrix module of xscreensaver in three screens simultaneously.

I'm really enjoying working at Sunrocket. The people are nice as well as clueful, and always fun to talk to. Stuff gets done and, so far, there isn't much downtime, as evidenced as my lack of time to write lately. There is even new hardware to play with... I can't wait. I haven't been excited about working anyplace in a long, long time.

I've got some time, so I'll start in with Walking the Thresholds, the camping trip Lyssa and I went on earlier in June. This is long, and it's only going to get longer, because I'm not even all the way through Friday, so sit tight.

Walking the Thresholds is a camping trip held every summer at the Four Quarters Farm, which, if you've never been there before, is out in the middle of nowhere. Well off the main highway, you've got a good hour's drive to get there. I know it doesn't sound like much to some of you, but I found it a very moving experience - this summer was the first time I've been so far off the grid that I couldn't even feel any RF, let alone get a signal on my phone. The sky was the clearest I've ever seen, so much so that I could count individual stars in the sky and the air was fresh and clean.

I drove down on Thursday from Washington, DC (I'd gone to visit Lyssa the night before, and brought a load of stuff down for the moving effort) and after a quick supply run (I didn't bring a lot of consumables with me to save room in the car for packed-up stuff) after a late start, and of course getting caught in rush hour traffic on the beltway, which turned a quick jaunt back over the border into Pennsylvania into a five hour trip.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of pavement on the road heading back into the Farm proper, as evidenced by my rental car. The second thing I noticed was the presence of animals roaming around everywhere. Turtles picking their way across the road; chickens wandering around with peeps near the farmhouse; frogs hopping through the mud and grass.

Yes, I'm a city-thing. Seeing these things touched me in a way that few things have. The most contact with critters I have is watching birds when I get out of the car, and the odd pet cat or dog met in my travels. Sure, everything is alive to some extent, but this was the first real living place that I've ever been in. You can feel it all around you, buzzing just below the range of hearing, singing a hymn to a place that most everyone takes for granted.

A few folks were already set up by the time I got there; Camp Cambodia was in full swing, and Rialian and Helen were getting things ready for the influx of folks to come. I was offered one of the wooden platforms scattered around the campsite to set my tent up on, but declined because... I don't know why. Part of me wondered what would have to be given up for it, and part of me was expecting to have to break down and move everything because someone else would want it. I set up the tent on a reasonably flat section of land (to appearances, as I'll explain later) near the main path through the farm, an operation which took less than five minutes after unfolding the ground tarp to protect it from the wet soil and critters. The tent I'd purchased is constructed after the fashion of an umbrella, so once it was unfolded I only had to push upward on the center part and the tent assembled itself. The rain fly was tossed over top of the tent's shell and everything was assembled in a flash. Rialian was impressed, and is probably planning to pick up one of his own for next year.

Rick and Kash helped me get everything staked down, and then I started hauling stuff from my rental car down to the campsite. Tessa from Camp Cambodia was kind enough to help me with some of the heavier stuff, like the inflatable mattress and a crate of stuff that, in hindsight, I really didn't need and certainly did't make use of. The pump for the mattress was already charged, and after unrolling it I turned it loose.

The air mattress wound up being a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be. It took up almost the entire tent, in fact, and was much higher than expected also, which made it difficult to stand upright on top of that (figuratively speaking). Folks walking by were impressed by the seeming luxury (I use 'seeming' deliberately, here) of my setup, as well as it appearing a bit bigger on the inside than on the outside. Sizes can be decieving, after all.

Rialian's opening thingy (so-called because 'ritual' suggests planning and organisation) went remarkably smoothly. The theme this year was community and what people bring with them to the places they inhabit.

I noticed something odd during the course of WtT this year: Rialian's closing words were in vernacular English, or at least that's what I heard. Over the next few days, I overheard folks wondering what language he'd been speaking, or wondering how Rialian knew French/German. At least two other folks mentioned Listari. I still haven't figured out what was going on. The gist of what he said was about welcoming everyone to a place of safety, where they did not have to worry about the outside world for a time.

Not long after that, I snuck back to the stone circle to take care of a little business. Since Thresholds is a good place for changes to be made, and it's a reasonably secure area for folks like myself, I took the opportunity to rid myself of a little excess baggage, namely the 'damaged goods' crap that's built up over the past eleven years or so, since I arrived here. I charged up one of my ofuda, one of the final ones in my supply (more due to my not buying more flash paper than anything else), loaded the whole mess into it, and then set it loose with my lighter.

Have you ever had to carry around thirty pounds of gear that you never use, but can't bring yourself to leave behind until you get good and tired of wasting all that energy lugging it about? How your muscles ache and you start to regret coming, and regret making the mistake of hauling more stuff than you really need? Then you leave it behind and walk on? It feels like that.

I wandered around a little to see who was already there and then eventually found my way up to Cambodia's party camp (they set up two this year; one for partying and one for the folks who actually wanted to sleep). I eventually broke into a conversation or two there and relaxed with a bottle or two of the mead that was making its way around the particular campfire I was sitting at. Dinner wasn't much, a couple of pop tarts and a few handfuls of trail mix that I'd brought with me (because I hadn't felt like setting up the camp stove or figured out how the kitchen arrangements worked yet). I wound up running into a few friends of Bladeless Axe who I'd first met a number of years ago at Defcon.

There seems to be an unusual overlap of Others and hackers, at least in the circles I run in. This still surprises me.

I awoke on Friday morning to... sunrise and mist. Lots of mist. My body's internal chronometer decided to ignore its programming and run from firmware only (i.e., the schedule that it was programmed genetically with, and not the programming that I've set into it over the years). I think I got about four hours of of sleep that first night, due to the humidity and temperature (WtT is usually on the cold side), adjusting to sleeping on an air mattress set up on a slant, and the large spider (by large, I mean two inches, confirmed later that weekend while breaking camp) that took up residence between the tentfly and tent shell, right above the lantern hanging from the ceiling.

Keep an eye on that spider; I'll mention it time and again. Spiders were all over the place in a synchronistic manner that weekend.

Believe you me, I did. <shiver>

My brain came back online fairly rapidly, even though I'm not used to being entirely unplugged. I met up with Solo of the Lost Boys and Chris for breakfast, and decided to fire up the Grasshopper stove that my grandfather gave me for the trip to make breakfast. It heated up water just fine; it was the loss of balance on the stone table and fall to the ground that nearly splashed us with boiling water that soured me on it for the rest of the weekend. As I munched on raisins and more trail mix Solo produced from his tent a crate of ramen bowls from Japan - the good ones, with their own foam bowls, a large cake of peppered tofu, and noodles that weren't nasty, even after rehydration. The large camp stove set up in the 'living room' tent near the edge of the campsite provided both coffee for me and hot water for our ramen. Much of the day was spent sitting around geeking with people and attending the odd seminar. The extended peception class was most interesting; I did learn a few new techniques that I simply haven't had the time to practise, but hope to start soon. The sight was... I can't say it was entirely new, because a lot of it I have naturally, though I did pick up on a couple of things that I hadn't seen before (like the glyphs on the tree I was examining - did someone leave them there ahead of time?). I'm also not used to seeing things without something approximating electronic reproduction, a cast which my particular modifications lend everything. The attempts at telepathy near the end of the class, unfortunately, only reminded me that I probably don't have the talent for it. I also had the opportunity to take a dip in the swimming hole downhill from the campsite for the first (and unfortunately the last) time that weekend with Rick and another young woman whose name I now forget.

Dinner was more pop tarts and trail mix. Someone had made dinner that night, but I missed it entirely because, well, I was talking to people the whole time. I did a lot of that, much more than at any other time in life.

WtT is one of the most relaxing events I've ever been to.

I started to worry as sun set - where were Lyssa, Mika, Lauren, and Steve? They were supposed to arrive sometime that afternoon but were hours overdue.

They did arrive that night, though much later than expected. It was actually around the time that Solo broke out his sun gun (a directional lantern that pumps out at least 500k candlea of light, and was spotted clear across the farm). It was also used to test the density of the mist in the air (there was a ceiling of about thirty feet above the ground that evening, as estimated by the distance between said miniature star-with-a-handle and the circle of light cast upon the layer of fog in the sky).

At one point while I was playing with the miniature star-with-a-handle, Rhianna walked by and asked if I was trying to make contact with aliens using the beam of light I was shining into the sky. "I'm just trying to find a ride home," I answered.

You've got a deal, Rhianna - the first one to get a ride brings the other.

I may not have gotten a ride home, but at last the headlights heading down the road belonged to Lyssa and company. I helped them offload their gear from the car and once everything was moved into our tent, Lauren and Steve began setting up easily the biggest tent in the campsite, soon dubbed the Tent Mahal. Easily twenty feet long by ten long, ten people with all of their gear could easily have fit into it with some elbow room to spare. The evening was spent trying to coax a campfire to life in the Lost Boys' camp and kicking back a little.

Following some time spent at the Lost Boys' camp trying to keep the fire going and sharing a couple, Lyssa, myself, and a few good friends retired to our tent to make use of the one of the rules of the Four Quarters Farm that I never thought I'd ever partake of, the clothing-optional rule.

This is why I didn't take any photographs, incidentally.

Take one TARDIS-like tent with air mattress, add a handful of Others who were lounging around in various states of undress (from nude to no shoes) chatting and cuddling until near sunrise. I lost track of how long we stayed up but had a wonderful time. Clothes are such odd things... either you need to wear the right ones to have a good time or you have to be getting it on to enjoy (or justify) being naked, right?

Wrong.

I love meeting folks who think the same way. 'Naked' and 'physical contact' do not imply sex, as much as we're conditioned to think that way.

Come Saturday morning, everyone who was going to be there had arrived, and Thresholds began in earnest. We all awoke and stumbled out of the tent, confused once more as to what time it was, and indeed what day it happened to be.

More to come in the future, including catching a glimpse of things to come, an utter meltdown, helping make dinner for folks, learning more about reiki, and the bardic circle.

2005/06/23

Life is up, life is down, life has left me wanting to cry.

Today was my first day of work. Of course, I wanted to be there early, and not caught in rush hour traffic on the beltway, so I got up at the crack of dawn (0515 EDT), got dressed, and after throwing lunch together hit the road.. and got lost in traffic, necessitating a turn-around way on the other side of the University of Maryland. I eventually got straightened out and started fighting my way down the beltway in the general direction of Virginia. I made it to the office in record time, a litte over an hour.. over an hour ahead of schedule.

Once again, at 0800 EDT, I'm the first one at the office. I wound up killing time reading my health insurance paperwork and later on my PHP book (why don't I just buy stock in O'Reilly and be done with it?) until a pleasant soul let me in to kill time at the office until everyone arrived, at which time I went on a whirlwind tour of the office meeting my new co-workers.

I'm still getting set up at work. I still have to get my workstation set up, and of course I need to learn my way around the various networks and figure out what everything does. That'll take a little time, of course.

The insurance company is climbing all over me for more statements pertaining to the wreck I was in a few days ago (I'll write about all of this soon.. if only for my own sanity, which is a little threadbare at the moment). I find it interesting how writing in here is good for me, as it helps me organise my thoughts and put them down in a coherent format; as within, so without, as the old adage goes.

Rush hour traffic in the other direction, however, is the pits. It took two hours to drive home tonight (left the office at 1715 EDT, fifteen minute stop off at the supermarket for a few things for dinner).

I think a little tweaking of my travel schedule is in order.

Let's see.. Walking the Thresholds (the camping trip I went on a few weeks ago).. everything that happened then.. driving back to Pittsburgh to pack up to move.. the move itself.. getting my TARDIS... getting in a car crash not two days after getting TARDIS.. trip to downtown DC on Tuesday and getting horribly ripped off on dinner.. trip to the movies to see Batman Begins and another rip-off dinner... open study last night.. doing my finances tonight and feeling my hearts leap into my throat as I discovered that I only have $400us available at this moment...

Interesting times, indeed.

2005/06/22

Still alive. Back online. The Children were, after a lot of fighting, reconnected at Elwing's house. Lots and lots going on, maybe I'll have time to write tonight.

The DNS updates have finally propagated through the Net, so even though the reconnection took place on Monday, it finally means something.

Privately produced television shows are dangerous. We can't have them, can we?

2005/06/14

Yes, I'm still alive. I'm back in Pittsburgh and running around like a madman trying to get everything done. I'll write about everything once I have a few hours, but to give everyone a short overview of developments in my life, I spent the weekend at a gather called Walking the Thresholds, I've been hauling boxes of my stuff down to Maryland a few at a time, I bought the first car of my very own this afternoon, and two good friends of mine, Hasufin and Kash, are in Pittsburgh helping Lyssa (she's here, too) and I move my stuff down to Maryland. That's the capsule version; I'll flesh it out later.

2005/06/12

Back from Walking the Thresholds. Recovering from six hours of REM sleep the whole time. Lots of stuff to come.

What. The. Fuck. GOP chairman walks out of raucous hearing. During a hearing related to tha USA PATRIOT Act and the expiry of certain portions therof, all hell broke loose and the chairman just up and walked out.

These are the people we have in the US government these days??

2005/06/08

Last day at medSage.

Last night Alexius came over to help me pack some stuff up at my apartment, and after the first crate of videotapes we went out for coffee at a local shop to catch up on things and relax for a while. I've been away for a long time, and we've been out of touch. A lot's happening right now for both of us, and it's happening pretty fast.

It's a rare time when you can just sit back and spend some time with a good friend. That's what makes life worth living.

Look to the skies, but be sure that you have an umbrella handy. A severed leg plummetted from the sky and landed in the back yard of a Long Island, New York homeowner yesterday. The leg (leg, hip joint, and even part of the torso) apparantly fell from the wheel-well of a South African Airways jetliner en route; this has been confirmed by US Customs agents, who found what was left of the hapless stowaway when the plane landed at Kennedy International Airport.

In the heart of the state of Alabama, a woman has given birth to a baby after the successful transplantation of ovarian tissue from her identical twin. One Stephanie Yarber underwent the experimental procedure last year, surprisingly began to menstruate after just three months. Two months after that, she became pregnant.

Life finds a way. It always does.

Just as it manages to find a way to survive the most lethal medicinal compounds that the human race can synthesise. There's a new strain of the tuberculosis bacterium out there and it's resistant to numerous drugs used today. The strain, dubbed MDR-TB (multiple drug resistant tuberculosis), is most commonly found in the immigrant population of California, but it's a sure bet that it'll slowly begin to spread as people move around and the bacterium jumps to new hosts. The treatment for this particular strain is extremely expensive (>= $200kus of drugs, often up around $1mus), requiring a regimen of bleeding edge antibiotics for up to two continuous years. The evidence presented by the Journal of the American Medical Association strongly suggests that this is the result of folks overseas not completing an anti-tuberculosis vaccination regimen, which logically has a way of killing off all of the weaker bacteria and leaving only the real microbial badasses, which are then free to reproduce normally, following the principles of Darwinian evolution.

It should be noted that you can't really 'eradicate' a disease. Bacteria and viruses will always be in the environment. When they say that a disease has been eradicated, they really mean that everyone that could possibly catch it has been vaccinated for it, which means that there are no longer any hosts for the organisms. It amounts to the same thing, but the difference is an important one.

This makes me wonder: A lot of folks have presented evidence that this is a hoax, an art hack (no MARC logo or branding, for example), but then again look at some of the crazy stuff that's come out of the DHS.

My hope is that it's an art hack.

R.U.Sirius, formerly of the magazine Mondo 2000 is back, this time with podcasts.

And they let this guy into the country?!?!

Thanks, Seele: USB pendrives shaped like sushi.

I've come to a conclusion about Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania): If he doesn't want to listen, his mind is already made up, or if he doesn't want to deal with you, his responses to any telephone calls made or letters recieved is simply an explanaton of whatever it is that you're writing about. Nowhere in those communique's is there any reason on his part for disagreeing with you, any comments aside from the politically correct ones, or any reason to believe that he's actually read anything sent to him.

We've got to vote this guy out of office.

2005/06/07

Another evening, another shopping trip to pick up packing boxes and stuff for the camping trip. After a quick test of the camp stove, I discovered that it does indeed work, and it can be used for cooking without too much difficulty. I need to get another tarp, just to be safe, but I don't really expect much difficulty at this point in time.

Last night was used to catch up on everything, to put it simply. Balance the chequebook, clean out the fridge and the cabinets.. stuff like that. Stuff that gets put off. The fishtank was also topped off. I think I'm going to use my nalgene bottles to transport Proteus and Eris to Virginia in the future. No idea about the Sea Monkeys yet.

I have no idea what possessed Apple to do this, but it's official (as official as any press release on a corporate web site, anyway) - starting in 2006, Apple Computers will move away from IBM's PowerPC architecture in favour of the Intel CPU platform. The leap was announced at the World Wide Developer's Conference in San Francisco, CA yesterday morning. At Steve Jobs' keynote address, he demonstrated a port of the Tiger release of Mac OSX running on a prototype Macintosh computer based around an Intel processor core (a 3.8GHz Pentium-4 based machine - thanks, Lowmagnet). Apple is selling a Developer Transition Kit for $999us to assist coders in migrating their code from the PowerPC architecture to the Intel architecture.

Speculation's running rampant over why this is happening. Historically, there have only been two hardware platforms for personal computers, Intel and whatever the Mac had been running at the time (at first the Motorola 68k series, lately the PowerPC by IBM). Both platforms have many differences at all levels, the least of which is instruction efficiency. PowerPC processors run at a slower clock speed than Intel's cores do, but they're more efficient, so they tend to benchmark nearly the same (if you believe all of the benchmarks, that is). That's the most visible difference to non-developers, though - there are changes that end users will never notice, but coders will tear their hair out over, such as differences in how bytes are represented (in the Intel cores, the bit that represents the '1' in the string of '1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,... are stored closest to the base of memory (little-endian), while in PowerPC cores it comes closer to the top of the memory field, address-wise (called big-endian)). Unimportant unless you write code that goes down there and flips single bits in bytes, one at a time. If you're so inclined, you can read an excellent overview of the endian-ness schtick here, but take my word for it: When it comes to architecture, everything that you can't see will come back to shoot you in the head. Just as interesting, it's come out that Apple's been planning this move for about five years now.

Maybe it's become too difficult for third-party developers to maintain code for two separate hardware platforms. Maybe IBM's thinking about killing off the PowerPC line. Maybe Apple's decided to jump on the x86 bandwagon because that is what everyone else is using. I don't know for sure.

(updated - thanks for the information, Lowmagnet)

Even though the United States Supreme Court has decreed that people who smoke marijuana for medical purposes (i.e., with the prescription of a doctor) are still violating the draconian US anti-drug laws, the medical marijuana clubs in California are still in business. Eyebrows are raised and people are looking over their shoulders more than they had been before, but that hasn't stopped cancer patients, AIDS sufferers, and people with chronic pain related to injuries from going to one of the dispensaries in a number of states for a brownie or a few hits from a water pipe for relief. Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court ruling doesn't strike down any of the pro-medicinal marijuana laws in place, it only says that they are in violation of federal law, i.e., they're not trying to do anything about it, at least nothing's given them a reason to try to do anything about it. The Governator, of course, refuses to take a stand at all, passing the buck on to Congress.

Your assignment for the day is to do some research on medical marijuana. Run a few searches. Read the medical studies. Make up your own mind.

As always, your personal information is safe and sound.. unless the backup tapes are lost in the mail. Citigroup has lost the records of 3.9 million Americans in what could be considered the largest breach of confidentiality yet reported. The backup tapes were shipped via UPS some time ago to a credit bureau in Texas, and they vanished en route. They do not believe that the information has been used inappropriately, but they are still sending out letters of warning.

Please tell me that they're encrypting their backups...

Debian Linux v3.1 is now officially released.. on 14 CD-ROMs or two DVD-ROMs. Wow.

The Los Alamos National Laboratories have been under the proverbial microscope for a number of years now for various screwups, among them loss of confidential research information (of the sort that tends to tens of millions on the black market) and financial irregularities of the sort that can be considered embezzlement. One Tommy Hook, one of the auditors looking into the embezzlement case, however, was attacked while out of the office early Sunday morning by persons unknown. Both Hook and one Chuck Montano were scheduled to present evidence to the House Energy and Oversight Committee, which began the investigation. Hook's jaw is broken and one of the discs in his back was injured during the fight. If the folks who jumped him were trying to get him to back down, they made a mistake, because now the FBI has been added to the investigation.

Make up yours minds, people.

Just when you thought four-foot remixes in dual-pad mode were getting easy.. Dance Dance Immolation comes along!

I see that respect and compassion aren't family values to teach. (note: not work safe quotes)

Neat!

2005/06/06

What a weekend.

After work on Friday I spent some time straightening up my apartment, which had begun to look pretty dodgy in places.. no, maybe 'cluttered' or 'a mess' would be more appropriate terms. Some digging and folding revealed to me once more the floor of my bedroom, which I hadn't seen in roughly one week's time. That done, I set about packing a few more boxes of stuff from the living room, mostly books but some knick-knacks from the shelves and home entertainment center as well as my room. Rhianna was supposed to stop in Pittsburgh briefly on her way back down from Canada, but due to unforseen circumstances, she'd gotten a late start and it wouldn't have been feasible to meet up to haul some of my gear. Around 1800 EDT, I loaded a couple of (very heavy) crates of books into my car (I could only fit three in the rental car, unfortunately, two in the trunk and a third in the back seat) and headed southward, in the general direction of Washington, DC.

Five hours later, I pulled up outside of Lyssa's apartment and headed inside. We managed to manhandle the three crates of books out of my car and into the apartment, an experience which both of us hope to avoid in the future because I optimised for space in the boxes (I filled them as full as I possibly could to minimise the number of crates necessary) and not for mass (those suckers are heavy). Hands shaking and backs sore, we took off for Plato's Diner for a late dinner and then returned to her apartment to watch a little television and then crash for the night.

We woke up sometime during the later half of Saturday morning, got cleaned up, and made a hasty breakfast before hitting the road to pick up Kash, who would be our moral support while we drove around the Virginia/Maryland/DC area checking out apartments. Our first stop was a community called the Forest, named for the elegantly landscaped grounds and the thick forest that surrounded the area, giving it a quiet, homey feel. The apartments there were well within my budget, but the commute to Sunrocket would be, on average, one and one half hours. I can't manage that, I'm sorry. We did get to see a number of suites there, but the wide open spaces and high livability of the apartments wasn't enough to coax me to put up with sleep deprivation and three hours every day on the beltway. What good is a nice apartment if you never get to enjoy it?

The second apartment complex is in a far more urban area than the Forest, in the northern part of Virginia and only about ten minutes off from the Sunrocket offices. The suites are very large and very bright - between the balcony and the picture windows, we won't be hurting for a nice view or a lot of light in the afternoon. Net.access is included, but it's through Cox, so it's doubtful if it'll be usable for the Network. I will contact Speakeasy shortly to find out. Needless to say, after touring the model apartments, we signed on the dotten line for a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with a study on the side. Total rent: $1290us/month, which isn't bad at all for an apartment that size in northern Virginia. The complex is also about ten minutes off of the Metro station, so mass transmit is also readily available.

The Metro puts PAT in Pittsburgh to shame. The Metro lines can actually get you to where you want to go, and not just from the heart of the city to the southern edge of the city.

After putting the deposit on the apartment (which we can start moving into on 8 July 2005), Lyssa, Kash, and I headed to Uno's for dinner to celebrate. Neither Lyssa nor I had a good breakfast that day, so we were famished by the time we finally decided on a restaurant to eat at. Kash had a little trouble finding something to eat due to his food allergies but we did find a few things that would work, and then we spent the afternoon talking and squeeing about the new apartment.

It hasn't quite sunk in yet. So far, the logistics of moving all of my gear to another state for storage and then another move into the apartment have settled in on me, but that's about it.

Afterward, we headed back to Lyssa's apartment to clean up and get ready for the get-together that night - Lyssa had put out an all-call for folks going on the camping trip this week, and we needed to get the place straightened up and room made for guests. Kash, for various reasons, is exempt from moving heavy stuff around, so Lyssa cleaned up the bathroom and kitchen while I straightened up the living space and made room for people. Rhianna and Rick, safe from their trip from Canada arrived with Solo of the Lost Boys in tow, followed by Rialian and Helen with a few more folks, whose names I regrettably forget. The first movie of the night was Team America: World Police, from the demented imaginations of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame).

This movie is painful, no two ways about it. South Park fans will no doubt eat it up at the same time they're cringing in pain. It spoofs the marionette shows of the sixties and seventies beautifully (remember Thunderbirds?) and it's plain to see that they don't think much of the US geopolitical stance, either.

There's also hot puppet sex, which must be seen to be believed.

Solo and I ran out for alcohol while everyone else waited for the pizza to arrive, which saved us from the mindfuck that is called FLCL. When we returned, we found Rialian staring slack-jawed at the television, futilely trying to make sense of the show.

For what I think is the first time ever, Rialian crashed. The earth tremor you may have felt was the last of his sanity going critical.

Lyssa and I finally crashed around 0230 EDT, after everyone had left and we had picked up the last of the trash from the night's rather successful gather.

The next day we slept in until noon or so, though we actually woke up around eleven and started talking about the move. We lounged around for a while until eventually deciding to get up, get showed, and go to breakfast. We wound up going out for lunch at Tiffin's, the very same Indian restaurant whose chicken vindaloo had kicked my ass so soundly a few months ago, for their Sunday lunch buffet. My original rating stands: One flaregun. Damn fine food, good service, and good, hot coffee.

After heading home, we caught the latest episode of the new Doctor Who series (when are you guys going to pick it up in the US, anyway?) and then, all too soon, I had to head for home for more packing.

Disney does goatse? (note: work safe)

Everything I need to know in life I learned from first-person shooters.

Check eBay.

2005/06/03

I found out last night what's been up at home. I'll start at the beginning.

Last night was a long one. After dinner I headed to Sam's Club to pick up a six pack of strapping tape and another round of packing boxes for the move, coming up in a few weeks. They were out of shipping boxes so I wound up buying a package of file boxes, which aren't nearly as large but have built in handles and don't have to be taped shut (well, very often, anyway); they're ideal for little stuff, like papers, models (with sufficient padding) and knick-knacks. My next stop was the homefront to see the folks and pick up the paperwork for the insurance company. As it turned out, the paperwork was already done and ready to send back - thanks, guys.

Dataline's been under a doctor's care since she was rushed to the hospital a few weeks ago. The diagnoses are in: Type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and an enlarged liver. In hindsight (which is 20/20, as we all know), this makes perfect sense. Dataline's now on a special diet to manage her blood glucose (it's unknown at this time if she'll have to begin taking insulin) and taking one of the newer sythetic thyroxin analogues. She's also on something for her blood pressure, though I don't recall off the top of my head what it is; they are doctor's office samples to see how well this particular protocol works before committing to a (very, very expensive) prescription.

I can't believe that I forgot. Type 2 diabetes runs in my bloodline. My biological grandmother had it near the end of her life, and I have some blood relatives who are also diabetic at this time.

After leaving the homestead I drove out to John and Lara's new apartment (a top shelf flat, to be sure) to pick up some gear that Hasufin had loaned to them a while ago, and wound up hanging out and talking with them about the impending move. I'm worried about them - my grandfather is old, even venerable, I dare say. He's had a long life, and done things that I can only dream of. He's earned the downtime in his life. Dataline is also getting up in years; it may be disrespectful, but it's a fact of life.

None of us are getting any younger. Even me. It's a fact of Time that we barter the moments of our existence with our health, second by second, day by day. Eventually, we can't pay for our time anymore and our bodies fail, and we go off to wherever it is that people go.

My grandfather has some amount of time left; I don't know how much.

Dataline has more time left; again, I don't know how much. When my grandfather goes, it's going to hit her like nothing else has. It's going to hit all of us.

As the kids these days say, it's going to suck.

I'm leaving Pittsburgh soon, leaving Dataline behind with my grandfather. As much as I want to continue carving my way through history, and maybe making things better for some people... it's going to hurt them a little now, and a great deal later. I can't see it clearly, but it's coming; I don't need the Sight to know that. Should I stay in Pittsburgh, where I'll be needed in the future? I don't know.

I'm everywhere. It's one of those things that I just know, that I can't escape. If I leave Pittsburgh, I'm can always go back when I'm needed.

It won't help protect kids, it'll only tell them where to go first: ICANN has approved the .xxx top-level domain. A company called ICM Registry, Inc., based out of Great Britain, will have control over registration of these domains. When I find out how much they'll be asking for yearly registrations (this hasn't been decided upon yet) I'll let everyone know. I, for one, wouldn't mind having a .xxx vanity domain of my own.

Heh. http://www.goatse.xxx/

You know it's going to happen.

I thought this had already happened: Microsoft announced that they will start using "Open XML" file formats for Office starting somewhen in 2006. Their file formats will be available under a royalty-free software license shortly before Office v12 is released; if I recall their marketing tripe correctly, this was a big selling point of Office 2003, wasn't it (not that the formats are really free, though). Just like right now, all they have to do is sit on the DTDs (XML Document Type Definitions), which means that the values of each document have no context, so you really won't know what everything means in there. They can also use a proprietary data compression scheme, so opening up the XML file won't be easy for third parties, to say the least.

What with the FBI being able to go to libraries and confiscate records of all the books you take out without anyone being in a position to talk about it, anonymity is all the rage when it comes to your reading list. This, however, smacks of a set up, if only a set up of your wallet. I'm all for privacy and anonymity, but I have a problem with buying an anonymous library card. The cash transaction still gets tracked - "someone bought one of our anonymous cards, and here's the number attached to it." It would also be a great way to gouge people for a little peace of mind.

I wonder if that'll catch on.

There may have been a breakthrough in the murder of Dr. Eugene Mallove, a scientist researching different forms of electricity generation and one of the researchers who attempted peer-review of the so-called 'cold fusion' experiemnts of the late 1980's. One Gary McAvoy, already serving a sentence for larceny, has been implicated in the 2004 murder of Dr. Mallove. The article is thin on details; it is not, for example, mentioned if this took place before or after McAvoy's arrest for larceny, or even what lead them to McAvoy as the primary suspect in the murder. Details to come.

2005/06/02

Well, it's finally sunk in. I'm leaving in a couple of weeks, going off to continue making my way through the world.

I don't have a living room anymore, it's packed full of crates of books and knick-knacks. I can't find my altar anymore, and let me tell you, the air conditioner isn't easy to to reach anymore, either. I need to find some way of packing up all of the stuff on top of the home entertainment center, too. The Major and the Sentinel will have to break off the tentacle lovin' for a while (I never did post pictures of that, did I...?) to be packed up in bubble wrap and crates. And the stuff in my bedroom. And the stuff in the closet that I never did set out. Maybe I should get some clingwrap to hold shut the decorative trunks that I have a lot of my models in, too..."

I need to plan this better, I think. First thing's first, though: I need a place to start moving stuff to. Multiple places makes it logistically difficult to manage.

I'm not invoking Godwin's law, I'm simply passing along something interesting that I found this morning. It appears that Nazi Germany was kicking around the idea of building a nuclear device during World War II. A document was found in a private collection that appears to outline at least the basics of an atomic bomb built into a missile body. None of the math that you'd expect to find is present, nor is much of the detail that you'd find in an actual technical schematic, but if this document is legit then it does at least strongly suggest that Nazi Germany knew about the Manhattan Project. There is nothing on the document that names who worked on it. There is also a lot of controversy over whether or not the Axis actually had a nuclear weapons programme of any kind; other documents found from that era state that the amount of enriched uranium was overestimated and the project was scrapped as infeasible due to the difficulty of enriching uranium at the time (and even now, truth be told).

A few weeks ago, the FCC discovered that they can't force the implementation of anticopying measures in televisions and other related equipment - it's not their jurisdiction. The MPAA is having kittens over this and has started lobbying Congress. The MPAA is attempting to pass a bill that says that the FCC does in fact have this power, so their broadcast flag bill will be passed more easily.

The way Congress has been passing bills in the past couple of years, I'm surprised that at least a few representatives haven't been selling votes for bills on eBay. This doesn't look good.

I'm waiting for the academic community to take this too seriously.

This fits the bill of coolness, if you ask me: A 90 piece traditional orchestra in Leipzig, Germany will be performing a number of classic C-64 chiptunes, such as International Karate by Rob Hubbard, Battlefield 2, and Morrowind. You can get more information at vgmconcerts.com.

Makes me wish I could jet out there to catch it. I missed the Final Fantasy soundtrack concert a few days ago, too...

Australian IT has a remarkably level-headed article on cyberterrorism that everyone should read.

This is wrong on so many levels. (note: For crying out loud, it has to do with goatse.cx - of course it isn't work safe!)

Canada's looking might nice this century...

Just because your statements were made "off the record" doesn't mean that people should not sit up and take notice of what's going on. "Off the record" doesn't mean "I didn't mean it" by any means, it means that you said something when you didn't think anyone was listening, and now you're trying to downplay it or pretend that it wasn't said.

2005/06/01

One of the greatest mysteries of the past fifty years has been the identity of the person who leaked all that information regarding the Watergate Hotel burglary back in 1972, in which the US Democratic Party's offices were broken into (check out watergate.info for a good overview of the whole scandal). In the history and tales surrounding the break-in, a mysterious insider who came to be known as 'Deep Throat' leaked an awful lot of sensitive information, which wound up turning what seemed to be a simple B&E job into the scandal of the 20th century. Not too long ago, one W. Mark Felt, the 91 year old ex-assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation came forward as Deep Throat. The two Washington Post reporters who broke the story of the Watergate scandal, Robert woodward and Carl Bernstein, confirmed that Felt was their contact who gave them so much information at the time. This comes after three decades of denials on Felt's part, even in the book he wrote in 1979, though given the stakes, I can't say that I blame him.

In other news, Sony is quietly releasing audio CDs that can only be copied a set number of times and the rips made cannot be copied after this is done. A company called First4Internet developed this so-called 'sterile copying' technology for them. It is said that over one million such CDs have been released to the public, though it isn't known yet which CDs they are. When this scheme has been cracked, you can bet that it'll be spread far and wide, just like the last few times. I also wonder if these disks will play in older CD players, which is another problem that cropped up as a result of anti-copying technologies.

The band Iris has announced the release of their latest album, titled Wrath on 23 August 2005. The album is undergoing its final mixdown at this time. It is unknown how many Hagaren cosplayers will be going Deadhead as a result.

I'm taking these stories with a hefty dose of salt, but it really wouldn't surprise me if records of anti-terrorism operations were being silently altered. The memo in .pdf format linked off of the first article is short and interesting: The memo states that all records inside the TECS (Treasure Enforcement Communication System) dealing with people who are known or suspected to be terrorists, or are on one of the famous secret lists of people who are not allowed to fly are to be altered to comply with something called HSPD-6 (Homeland Security Presidential Directive number 6) (referenced here; in short, it states that there must be a government organisation that handles screening for terrorists, analysis and dissemination of information pertaining to terrorists, and that there must be procedures in place fo handling, disseminating, and using that information). Specifically, records designated 'terrorist' must be updated to reflect the nature of the investigation into those people, and not the final designation. For example, if someone inside the TECS system is suspected of laundering funds for a terrorist cell, their records will be updated to reflect a financial investigation, and not a counter-terrorist investigation. If the dictates of the memo were followed, these sweeping changes were completed by 11 April 2005.

Doesn't this sound like it would confuse things needlessly? It would seem to me that if someone were being investigated as a terrorist of one kind or another they would be given higher priority than, say, some guy laundering money for the local protection racket. This makes sense. But reclassifying someone who really is laundering money for terrorists as 'just' someone laundering money gives them a lower priority in the stack of assignments of people to put under the microscope. Doesn't this sound like it would hinder hinder the War on Terror ™ by deliberately making terrorists appear to be less than top-priority?

The tsunami in December of 2004 exposed many artifacts lost for years beneath the waves. Elaborate rock carvings and even temples were exposed as tonnes and tonnes of sand were washed and blown away by the tidal wave that demolished a number of islands utterly.

Industrial espionage in Israel.

Apparently, it's only investigative journalism if you agree with what's been uncovered. Otherwise, it's blatant propaganda or muckraking.

What a load.

Speaking of loads, check out what happened to Dr. Thomas Butler.

Well, it's final.

I've been sitting on this development in my lives for a few weeks now. I'm superstitious in some ways; one is talking about job prospects before I know one way or another. I'm afraid that I'll jinx them if I let the cat out of the bag too soon, and it's been my experience that this happens more often than not.

I've also been keeping quiet about it because I didn't want to mess things up at work, which was a far larger concern than just not getting a job.

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed with a voice-over-IP company in northern Virginia called Sunrocket. I've been sitting on razors waiting to hear whether or not I got the job, and being very careful to limit how far this information could get out, lest the jinx knock me out of the air again.

When I got home last Friday night I found in my mailbox a registered letter, a formal offer of employment, which I accepted as soon as I was able to (more of a problem than it might sound because it was Memorial Day weekend, and nothing was open). I also negotiated myself an extra two weeks, so I don't have to move down there in three days anymore. I start work at Sunrocket on 23 June 2005.

Rent for June has been paid, and a letter to my landlord with my letter of intent to break my lease early was delivered this morning. That buys me an extra week to clean out my apartment after I get things moving.

My current gameplan is to get my stuff either in storage in various places or moved down to DC; I'm moving in with Lyssa. This weekend will be spent checking out houses and apartments in areas within a reasonable distance of Vienna, Virginia, which is where Sunrocket's main office is located. This, of course, means a one hour commute at the best of times, but I'm fine with that. If there's a way that I can take the metro to get to and from work, I'll do that. The metro is certainly cheaper than paying gas and tolls every day. If not, well, we'll find a way. We always do.

The last time I was down there, we spent some time scouting for places to rent, and found two great townhouses in Rockville, MD, but unfortunately both are spoken for at this time, so the search continues. Lyssa has some leads on rental property which we're going to check out.

My tentative plan is to move at least some amount of stuff down there in the days to come and live at Lyssa's while we find a place to move to. I'm going to put a lot of my stuff in storage and find someplace to host the Children while my Speakeasy account is suspended for the move. When we do find a place to live we're going to move all at once. I still need to find a new car, though now that the insurance company's come through all I have to do is sign some papers and then I can look for new wheels.

I just realised something - there's a chance that I can get a vanity plate in the state I move to (either Virginia or Maryland). Neat.

I have two cross-country car trips planned in the next two weeks, so I'll haul some stuff down during each one. After the second I'm going to rent a U-Haul truck and empty my apartment out. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'm going to clean one last time after everything's gone. After I get everything into storage that needs to be stored (like my voluminous winter wardrobe) I'll be set to move the Children, and then that should give me a precious two or three days to rest before I start work at Sunrocket.

I handed in my resignation at work yesterday, and spoke to Bossman about it this morning. It's going to be rough on medSage, but I'm confident that they'll keep moving forward. I'm now in the documentation phase, which is less than fun but gives me a chance to codify everything that I do on a daily and weekly basis in one placeat long last. I've got a couple of days to do this before I have to head out on the second trip, which has already been arranged for (I'm running at least one seminar while I'm there, and I can't leave it hanging).

Next steps (running concurrently): Get more strapping tape and boxes so I can continue packing, drop stuff off at various houses, and get the insurance paperwork signed so that I can start looking for another car.

Mark Nichols, formerly Cosmicity, has posted samples of his new stuff to his website.

2005/05/31

I didn't remember that May had thirty-one days. Oops.

Fans of either the hottest thing since sliced bread or the most frustrating OS ever, depending on whom you speak to, will be interested to know that Debian Linux v3.1 is on its way. Scheduled for release on 6 June 2005, the Linux distro that put package repositories and automatic updates on the map is almost ready for prime time.

This morning was less than fun for me because I've been trying to meet in the middle with my car insurance company over the loss of my beloved Oldsmobile Cutlass GLS. As I mentioned, it's been totalled. This morning I drove out to the body shop with an extra gym bag to empty the rest of my stuff from the remains.

I had no idea of how nasty the carpet under each seat could be; we're talking movie theatre floor after the fourth showing of Episode III, here. When I walked up, a tiny spider skittered across the smashed trunk lid; perhaps a sign of... I don't know what. Spiders seem to pop up all around me when important stuff in my lives happens.

Anyway, the car's empty, and my bumper stickers have been pried from the rear window, along with my C'thul'hu magnet. That's the ball game.

Now I have to wait for the insurance company to get the paperwork to me so I can sign off on everything. The sooner I do that, the sooner I can start looking for a new car. Photographs are forthcoming.

Submitted for your approval and appreciation of hack value: Rigging up a Kinesis ergoboard using K'nex parts.

In a not-so-surprising-anymore turn, the US federal government turned to a court of appeals to regain its power to force ISPs to turn over their users' net.traffic statistics. This comes on top of the proposed renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Federal Bureau of Investigation attempting to gain access to various sorts of information without having to get a warrant.

HASH(0x8bb6480)
You are Commander's Palace, a grand old dame of the
Garden District. Traditional yet always
vibrant, you are never afraid of innovation but
you seldom carry it too far. Some locals claim
you have become a tourist trap, but your loyal
patrons know there is no restaurant in town
that treats its regulars with more finesse.

What Famous New Orleans Restaurant Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The White Lake, near Bolotnikovo, Russia up and disappeared one night. Everything in the spring-fed lake is just.. gone. Because the lake was fed from underground springs, it's entirely possible that something reversed the flow of water, draining the lake instead of keeping it filled. A report by one Fyodor Dobryakov mentiones that there was a loud noise and the water was rushing into what he described as a void, along with a lot of stuff in and near the banks of the lake. This is an unprecedent phenomenon in the area, the first that anyone's ever heard of it happening there to be sure. The going theory is that there was a shift in the soil strata beneath the lake, which opened a fissure into an underground channel, into which drained all of the lake's water. Presence of the forms of life indiginous to the White Lake were found in the nearby Oka River supports this theory.

2005/05/30

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

I spent most of today catching up on my sleep. I'm pretty sure that I got REM sleep last night, because I didn't wake up feeling like someone had spent the evening before performing corrective phrenology on my favourite skull. I count that as a minor victory. This morning after breakfast I spent somet time reading a few of the books I'd picked up at Half Price Books yesterday and then playing through more of disk two of Final Fantasy 7, a game which I missed out on after its release when I was in college. I can see why people get into its plot; it's a very engrossing game, and well done. Around the middle of this afternoon I ducked out to do a little shopping at the local K-Mart to pick up a few last minute things for the camping trip with Lyssa coming up in June. I'll write more about that later. I picked up some clothes to wear around the campsite and some raingear just in case it rains (which it usually does).

After that I packed up my tent and ground cloth to take to my parents' place for a practise set-up along with the stuff to make chili, as I'd promised. The dry-run went far better than expected, taking less then twenty minutes from unpacking to having a completed dome tent in their back yard. I left it up for a while to stretch and settle as I took over the kitchen and made chili and a batch of Rice Krispie treats for everyone. Dataline and her friend Judy were working on further remodelling of her bedroom and bathroom.

Dinner was a picnic dinner, as befit Memorial Day. Chili, potato salad, and an assortment of munchies, and was about what you'd expect. Before I left I packed up my tent and ground tarp, and then hauled the garbage outside before heading for home.

Back in the 1980's, there was a programme for the various 8-bit computers of the day, like the Commodore-64 and the Apple II called Operation: Frog (amazingly, it's still around to this day - here's the website for the new one). It was a simulation of a frog dissection, where you used a number of cursor/instruments to remove the organs from the virtual frog and place them on a tray. You could also flip the floppy disk to the other side and watch a simulation of the organ in action and learn more about it. It was also possible to run the simulation in reverse, and reassemble the frog. When you were finished putting the frog back together, it would hop off the dissecting tray and back into the pond.

Well, I thought it was pretty cool when I was a kid. Still do.

The reason I'm rambling on about Operation: Frog is because I found this this evening. Someone's dissected a frog and suspended it in a tank of formalin. This isn't so unusual in itself in a biology lab, but it's downright eerie sight to see the now-empty abdominal cavity of the frog filled up with a very tiny microcomputer. Yes, there is now a dead frog jacked into the Net. The microcomputer inside the frog is running a web server that controls a number of galvanic actuators that are spliced into the frog's rear legs. If you've never heard of the experiment back in the 1700's, one Luigi Galvani discovered that you could use electrical shocks to move the muscles of living and dead things, proving that living things were at least in part governed by electrical activity. You can go to this project's website and click on links using your web browser that cause the frog's legs to kick remotely, and watch the results through a webcam that is also connected to the implanted microcontroller.

2005/05/29

Remember the court case about the divorcing pagans and the judge who wouldn't permit either of them to bring the kid up paga? Word's gotten around in spades, and folks aren't pleased with this. Judge Bradford is being flooded with letters, phone calls, and e-mails about the divorce proceedings. It is projected that an appellate court will side with Thomas Jones, Jr. (the father); experts in Constitutional law are saying that parents have the right to raise their child however they wish, regardless of whether or not others might agree with them. Even the Indiana State Bar Association is saying that this ruling sets a dangerous precedent for everyone who lives in the state of Indiana, neopagan or not.

Your Amazing Yoda Sex Line
"You know, this would be a lot more fun without Frank Oz's hand up my ass."
The Amazing Yoda Sex Line Generator

2005/05/28

Ouch.

I found a number of copies of Manos: Hands of Fate on DVD at Half Price Books today. Not the MST3k rip on it, the real, whole movie. Multiple copies.

I walked away and found a copy of Crash by J.G.Ballard not ten feet away. See? That movie isn't so bad after all. It pointed out something that doesn't suck to me.

Pressured into speaking in tongues and secrecy? Convinced that they'd be persecuted? Forced into nervous breakdowns? Attempted suicide after leaving the group? I thought the Co$ had the monopoly on messing with people's minds.

The Serpent
You scored 27% Pride, 27% Envy, 47% Ambition, and 65% Deceitfulness!
You are the serpent. You decieved Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and were later cursed by God. Of course, Satan was just using you as a pawn. In fact, you probably didn't know any better. After all, you were just a humble animal, content to live the lazy/non-glorified life that animals live. You probably just wanted to have a family and be a fine/upstanding snake in your community, but Satan knew that you had a trait that he could use. That is the trait of deceitfulness. Unfortunately, he managed to use you, and we all know the rest.



My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 7% on Pride
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 22% on Envy
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 32% on Ambition
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 84% on Deceitfulness
Link: The Which Biblical Villain Are You Test written by MetalliScats on Ok Cupid

2005/05/27

This image is a good way to start the day off right (note: work safe)

On a slightly more worrisome note, researchers are confirming results that plastics may adverse affect the development of male fetuses. Word about this has been going around for a few years now, but this is the first time I've ever seen it come up in a news feed that wasn't dedicated to prepublication research. Chemicals used in the manufacture of many commonly used plastics called pthalates can interfere with the development of primary sexual characteristics in human embryos, causing feminisation to some extent, depending on duration and concentration of exposure. Congenital infertility has also been linked to pthalate exposure. The most commonly encountered vector of exposure to this family of compounds has been found to be plastic food packaging, whereupon the pthalate compounds leech out of the packaging into the food therin.

Interestingly, pthalates are used in the manufacture of soft, pliable plastics, which are all around us all the time.

Every once in a while you'll hear about people for whom The War never ended. Tales of Japanese soldiers who never got the message that World War II was over and who were hiding out on tiny islands in the Japanese archipelago appear in newspapers or on late-night television shows from time to time. Just recently, two more Japanese soliders from that era, well into their 80's, may have been spotted on islands in the Philippines. Japanese ambassadors are en route, tracking down the veracity of these rumours. The going hypothesis is that they were separated from their units near the end of the war and hid out, lest they return and be charged with desertion. If these rumours are true, they are the last of a dying breed; most of the holdouts you hear about finally came forward in the early 1970's after their commanding officers were found after all these years and sent to talk them down.

Ripley would be all over this.

Users of peer-to-peer networking technologies, such as the booming BitTorrent, are no doubt aware of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the weight they are throwing around to try to stamp out these methods of sharing data. To that end, they've been shutting down trackers and forcing people into settlements in the thousands of American dollars. Overseas, however, they are being less than successful. In France, judges are refusing to throw the book at offenders, instead giving them suspended sentences and in some cases actively trying to decriminalise file trading for personal use. Legislators in France are trying to draft policies that don't treat the media organisations as gods, unlike the situation within the borders of the United States.

You know, I'm really getting tired of the cute acronyns that are used for the names of bills passed by the US Senate these days.

I just heard from the insurance company - the car's totalled.

My beautiful car... a 1999 Olds Cutlass with all the trimmings and a cherry on top (well, a moon roof, anyway).. it'll cost more than the car's worth to fix everything (including, as it turns out, a bent frame). so the insurance company wants to junk it. I have to go to the body shop to clear my stuff out and get the license plate before the end of business tomorrow.

Have to extend my car rental again, too. The layout for that's going to suck like Windows NT 4 in a web farm, let me tell you.

On the bright side, I've now got an excuse to start shopping for a hybrid.

Amidst reams of evidence, witnesses, and a political firestorm from all directions, they've finally decided that Tom DeLay actually did violate election law by pocketing hundreds of thousands of US dollars in campaign contributions and laundering the money through his wife's accounts. Oh, and this is in fact an ethics violation, surprise surprise. Nearly $200kus of those funds will have to be given to the Elections Board for redistribution to the candidates that DeLay trounced financially back in 2002. This is, it should be noted, a civil case; the criminal case is still pending.

It should also be noted that DeLay isn't actually accused of wrongdoing. I find it amazing how you can be caught embezzling funds red handed, but you might not actually have done anything wrong or illegal.

When subcultures collide, courtesy of The Onion. That brings a smile to my face right about now.

HP has thrown its hat into the REAL ID Act ring by announcing the HP National Identity System, interoperable with Microsoft's .NET platform, of course. This technology is designed to implement identification of users to US government websites and manage online identity-related information, and also implements the requirements set down by the REAL ID Act for personal identification. Oh, and it also is designed to capture biometric and demographic information.

Remember the guy who had plastic explosives in his shoe and tried to blow up an airliner back in 2003? Ever wonder what eventually happened to him? Wonder no more, and then wonder why the mass media never said a word about it. It's thick on pro-US patriotic rhetoric and not reasoned opinion (read: it reads like a rant about a third of the way in), but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

2005/05/26

Outlook vulnerabilities and strong crypto: together at last. Someone's figured out how to write an exploit for Outlook that, once it has found its way in, begins to encrypt data on the machine, in the form of Word Documents and spreadsheets, using an unknown algorithm (it's not mentioned in the article). The owner of the machine is then sent an e-mail demanding a ransom to decrypt the files (which the author of the exploit hopes are business-critical). So far, this has happened only once that anyone knows about, but you can expect this to become popular in the near future, as small companies decide to pay the ransom rather than track down the extortionist or figure out how to break the code. I think it's a safe bet that a few out there will use some cheesy scheme, like rot13, but not many.

What we used to think was a neat plotline in short stories in the early 1980's is now a way to make a quick buck.

I'm not sure how much good it'll do, given how bureaucracy runs, but the CIA is running a net.wargame to test how well industry and government in the US can stand up to a (wait for it) "digital Pearl Harbor". The idea is, if government and corporate net.resources are attacked and rendered unusable, what would the repercussions be to the rest of the country? Details about the wargame are scarce, so I don't know anything more than this.

If I were them, I'd be concerned with protecting telephone switches, to keep the POTS (plain old telephone service) network from going down. Losing voice communication would hit the country pretty hard; because cellphones use the POTS network outside of the cell repeaters, cellular would be affected, also. Direct connect services like Nextel might not be hit so hard because the range of the handheld units is pretty decent, at least half a city in my experience. Cellular service can be taken down by either cutting the trunk lines heading to a couple of repeaters in a city or by using an RF jammer, which really aren't that difficult to build when you know how they're supposed to work (figure out the list of frequencies that you want to jam, build a simple transmitter that broadcasts noise or whatever else you want to spam them with (like a steady tone or music), hook up the right kind of antenna, and turn the power on). You can do the same thing to emergency radio communications, like CB radio. This will also affect transcontinental shipping, because truck drivers will be out of contact. You can even do that to regular radio transmissions, to knock out the local news. Cutting the power to a given city by taking out the power substations is sort of a given. Taking out cable television could be done by taking out the stations, or by using the aforementioned jamming methods. Taking out net.access is best done with DDoS attacks; there are high school freshmen with botnets of ten to fifteen thousand hosts each; if they can do it, so can the terr'ists. Simply pick a few of the backbones' repeaters and hammer them into the ground. Taking out the top-level DNSes can be done the same way. Viruses are a hit-or-miss proposition because there's no guarantee that you'll find a vulnerability that'll work well that you can sit on until you want to launch because there are always people hunting for them and making them known.

The best way to keep rebellion from actually coming to anything is to co-opt the rebellion, preferably before it starts. Clear Channel, everyone's favourite media conglomerate that snaps up radio stations and shows like power pellets in a level of Pac-Man, is well aware that they're breaking laws all over the country by trying to assemble a monopoly and is also well aware of how many people can't stand them for a variety of reasons. To protect their market dominance, they've set up a fake anti-Clear Channel pirate radio station in Ohio (the site is empty, showing only a notice that it'll go active on 31 May 2005, probably due to their readership having kittens when they figured it out).

Here's something interesting: Open a command prompt or shell and plug www.radiofreeohio.org into a call to nslookup or host (I've done this using samspade.org, you can with any other web-whois service, and there are a lot of them out there), and you'll get the IP address 207.230.150.254. Now plug that IP address into a call to whois (or click the IP address on the Sam Spade link I just posted), and see who owns that IP address.

Clear Channel Communications, of San Antonio, Texas.

I've been lax in the past couple of days on your word of the day, so here's one for today: Diversion

Remember when the contents of Paris Hilton's cameraphone were hacked out of T-Mobile's network? It wasn't much of a hack, as it turns out. A little social engineering was used to gain access to T-Mobile. A few phone calls were used to gain access to an administrative web application used to manage customer records. Once they had access to that application, they started looking up the phone numbers of famous people. Using a vulnerability found in the T-Mobile customer website, they changed the password to Paris Hilton's account and then started poking around inside it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Okay.. let me get this straight..

Mother and father are divorced. Mother and father still want to expose their child, their flesh and blood to their faith. The judge won't let them because they're neopagans. Judge Cale Bradford of the Marion Superior Court has decreed that the child's biological parents are forbidden to teach them a faith, and refuses to remove this provision from the divorce decree. The judge needs to be reminded of the fact that it isn't up to him to define what does and does not constitute a religion, and that he has no say whatsoever in what the parents can or can't teach their child, divorced or not. If they want to bring him up a Christian, the judge can't say 'boo'. If they want to teach the kid about buddhism, the judge can't tell them not to. Hell, if they want the kid to join the Church of Scientology, the judge can't stop them. Same goes for any of the various denominations of wicca and neopaganism out there. Same goes for just about any religion practised in this country, whether or not you, I, or Judge Bradford happen to agree with them or practise them. When last I checked, the wiccan denominations were accepted by the US Government under the First Amendment of the United States ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."). Furthermore, Indiana state law permits parents to determine what religious exposure and/or training children are exposed to as long as the parent in question has legal custody of the child.

Because the judge doesn't accept telephone calls (news articles posted to the Net have a way of making them pour in), you can write to him at the following address:

Hon. Cale Bradford
Marion County Superior Court
Civil Division 1
200 E. Washington St., W407
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
(317) 327-4200

Quote of note from this press release on the Oklahoma state senate website: "Despite her impressive academic degrees and her service as a teacher at the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, her errant belief that the teaching of the Intelligent Design Theory blurs the line between the separation of church and state is the first of many problems to arise with her nomination," thus sayeth Senator Clark Jolley on the nomination of Dr. Virginia Ann Dell to the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee.

"Errent belief," huh?

The press release continues, but I won't quote more of it because I've already linked to it.

I don't personally have a problem with talking about Creationism in school, even though technically it is a violation of church and state. Kids need to be exposed to all manner of points of view on the state and origins of the universe (gods know, they sure won't go looking for them on their own anymore). In high school, when I first started seriously studying chemistry, biology, and anatomy, from time to time Intelligent Design came up in class, along with numerous other hypotheses that tried to explain why the human body is the way it is, and indeed much of the known universe. Later on, when I started studying biochemistry and organic chemistry in college, I was amazed, no, blown out the door, by what I was learning. The elegance of organic chemistry gave me a sense of awe for the first time in many, many years. To think that so many tiny bits of electrical charge (protons and electrons, and of course neutrons, which don't carry an electrical charge) could make up atoms, that then comprise such amazingly beautiful structures, so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, yet we live within ultra-complex structures made up of uncountable numbers of those tiny little patterns of energy.. I can definitely see what the I.D. folks are driving at, and from time to time I wonder if maybe they're not right.

I do, however, take offense at the condescending tone that this official press release was written in. They think they're right; that's fine with me. I won't argue matters of faith. But I've never heard anything so downright patronising in my lives. I can't help but picture them standing there, patting Dr. Dell on the head like a sleepy schoolchild, saying "There, there... you're so awfully wrong.. we'll set you right.."

2005/05/25

It never seems to end, does it?

After speaking to my landlady last night, I discovered that I had to get my car towed, and fast, before the police came.

As it turns out, they thought that my car (post-wreck) had been abandoned in the lot; the going theory was that it had been stolen and wrecked, and then dumped in the nearest handy location. The license plate, though tucked in the rear window, could not be easily seen, which led them to beliveve that there was in fact no license plate at all. The police had been called on Saturday, and if I had been an hour later in calling, it was to have been towed to the impound as a stolen vehicle.

I called AAA and had them tow my car to the body shop I'd contacted on Saturday. Sixty seconds later I slapped my forehead because I'd left my entire keyring in the car, instead of just the car keys. House keys? On that ring. Office keyring? On that ring. Briefcase key? On that ring.

Earlier yesterday I called the rental agency and arranged for an extended car rental; my insurance covers it, so why not?

Thank the gods I'd had enough foresight to get my spare housekey before I did that. I was able to sleep in a little this morning, and after most of my morning routine I drove to the auto body place to pick up all but my car keys from the front office.

True iPod music collection management is now possible in the form of ml_iPod, which lets you not only manage your music library from WinAmp, but also lets you transfer files from your iPod to another computer, something which iTunes pointedly does not let you do.

The BBS documentary filmed by Jason Scott of textfiles.com is now available for order!

It's one thing to say that you're everywhere (as I do, from time to time). It's quite another to pull it off in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet; in the case of Duane DeFreitas, the middle of the jungles of Guyana. DeFreitas lives there for months on end, acting as a guide for explorers and as a photographer. No electricity. No POTS network access. Just the housing he's built for himself, a collection of spare parts, and a satellite communications rig powered by solar panels. He keeps in touch via instant messenger and soon with VoIP software.

I'd love to check out his setup down there. I've always had soft spots in my hearts for hacked-together gear, and his network takes the cake. I have to admire that.

This on the Jay Leno show last night - folks use Morse code can transmit faster than SMS users. Most impressive.

Man. George Lucas must have been pissed about Episode 3 being leaked six hours before the premiere. Now if only he'd gone after the guys inside his organisation who leaked the work print in the first place...

And what the hell does DHS have to do with shutting down a BitTorrent tracker?

2005/05/24

I'm too fucking tired to read stuff like this.

Fnord.

Scores: 33% Dogmatic, 66% Mystical, and 44% Esoteric!
How do I interpret my scores?

Determine your highest score. If you are evenly matched, consider yourself a well-rounded individual. You possess the qualities of all three spiritual traditions without the drawback associated with fixating upon one path. For everyone else, keep track of this score and the second highest score. We will discuss what these mean below.

DOGMATIC:

Higher dogmatic scores indicate a highly principled person who believes in living life correctly based on the teachings of scriptures, teachers, or prophets. Higher dogmatic scores also reveal a person who believes that there is only one right path to salvation or enlightenment. Dogmatic types are often in deep reverence for their faith.

MYSTICAL:

Higher mystical scores indicate a person who makes sense of the world around them through their own self. Spiritual enlightenment for a mystical type involves polishing one's own heart, mind, and body. Mystical prayers are often ecstatic, involving singing, dancing, music, or poetry. Mystical types can frequently seem perplexing and impulsive.

ESOTERIC:

Higher esoteric scores indicate a person who lives life by the principles set forth by more dogmatic traditions while, at the same time, also living life by the mystic's tendency to translate the world around them into themselves. Esoteric types rely heavily upon symbol and meditation for answers to their questions. Quite possibly the most distinctively secretive type, esoteric people guard their mysteries well--keeping those who are not ready for enlightenment away from powerful ideas and beliefs.



My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 47% on dogmatic
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 64% on mystical
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 35% on esoteric
Link: The Spiritual Tradition Test written by Giogoto on OkCupid Free Online Dating

I guess I'm a little too cynical. I also try to remain consistent in my actions, because I try very hard to serve as an example to people, even though not many people realise it.

2005/05/23

Hail Eris. All hail Discordia.

2005/05/21

I'm okay. I'm alive. My body seems to have finished healing the minor injuries sustained during the automobile crash Friday evening. No more pain in the chest or ribs, the muscles are sound and working the way they're supposed to, and I can draw a deep breath now. No longer do I need to gear up my TARDIS and head out west to strip a couple head of cattle to the bone to supply my body's protein requirements.

Thanks to John and Lara for driving me out to the airport (!) this morning so I could pick up my rental car and get to work doing everything else that came up Friday night. Thanks also to Alexius, for offering to drive me around everywhere to do what I had to do, as well as drive me to the hospital if it became necessary; as things turned out it wasn't required. If I'm fortunate, I might get some sleep tomorrow night.

Once more, unto the breech.

2005/05/20

Burning 700MB CD images on a 16x DVD/CD burner takes only about one minute, under normal circumstances. Life is happy.

Something else has just occurred to me: If the folks with the biggest mouths spent their energy coming up with ways to fix the world instead of just making everyone angry and disoriented, the world would be a far better place.

The Business Software Agency is well aware of the trackerless Torrent, and is keeping an eye open, as usual. They admit that not having central trackers to take down will make killing piracy harder (they have enough trouble with IIS admins who leave the FTP service turned on and uploads enabled), but it isn't impossible.

Microsoft, concerned with the fact that you can run Linux and the various BSD operating systems on older hardware (as old as an 80386, in fact), is working on a version of Windows XP that will also. The thing is, it's based on a client/server model, i.e., your old box has a handful of apps that are very stripped down, and everything else runs on a central server, with only the user interface on the client. This isn't a new, optimized version of Windows; if it were, everyone would want to be running it on their new machines to squeeze every last compute cycle out of them; folks like me who use older hardware are going to keep using what we've been using all along. This is functionally no different from Citrix Metaframe or, dare I say it, Xwindows and X.org.

Not ones to slow down the pace of progress of any reason (including a lack of security), J.P.Morgan and Chase will start rolling out RFID-equipped credit cards under the project name 'blink'. Now, in addition to having a magstripe to run through a reader, RFID-equipped credit terminals can now read the contents of the card by simply waving it in the air. So can anyone else in the area who spent a couple of hundred dollars American on an RFID reader, too... if you can read an RFID chip, you can duplicate it without much trouble. The article does not explicitly state that this is an RFID technology, but I can't think of any other method that would implement this yet remain small enough to fit in a standard credit card.

Until they get the kinks worked out of this, this is going to cause a lot of trouble in the field of identity theft. Ugh.

A message has just hit the Politech mailing list that this is, in all probability, an RFID-based system. RFID kits for development like this one are very cheap - under $500us. A small price to pay for large scale credit card fraud, indeed.. the systems used to make credit card copiers back in the 1980's were even cheaper, on the order of $100us if you shopped around a little for parts.

8-bit gaming isn't dead, it just went underground. During its absence of visibility, it's gotten quite strange, and the folks who love it hack it because they live to do things that have never been seen before, like Grand Theftendo. That's right, someone's cloned Grand Theft Auto III on the Nintendo 8-bit console. The whole thing was written in 6502 assembly language, the native instruction set of the NES' CPU, using an assembler that the author designed for this very purpose, called NESHLA (NES High-Level Assembler). NESHLA comes with a macro library that takes a lot of the drudgery out of coding for the 6502, like memory organisation and interrupt handling (which, having coded 6502 and VAX assembly in the past, can drive you bonkers; you can easily spend more time getting memory managment and interrupting working than you will on the rest of the project). While I'm not too crazy about coercing assembly language into looking like a higher-level language like C, I can see how it helps when you're actually coding. I can't wait until this has been released; not only would I like to see how well it works, but I'd like to mess around with the code, also.

A must-read: Disproving filibuster FUD

Something else I've realised: It's easier to make fun of someone and make them out to be an idiot than it is to come up with an intelligent refutation of their position.

Your word of the day: Straw man

Two days ago I came across news that the USAF was trying to get permission to implement a space-based defensive system from the rest of the US government. Linda Moulton Howe has been following this a lot more closely than I have, and she's written an article on the four Star Wars systems that they want to set up, namely, hunter-killer microsatellites that can take out other satellites, kinetic kill rods of very dense metal that strike from orbit with the force of several thousand tonnes of TNT, space-based laser weapons (not Real Genius-style weapons, but for taking out satellites and launched missiles) under the name Project EAGLE, and electronic warfare measures like electromagnetic pulse weapons, microwave weapons, and jammers.

In a nod to the 1980's (that isn't New Wave, unfortunately), Russia is less than pleased to hear this.

Have you heard from your friends lately?

These guys are on crack.

Well, fuck.

On my way home tonight, I stopped at the stop sign near the on-ramp to route 28 North (yes, PennDOT has seen fit to put a stop sign on the highway), and then edged up a few feet to peer around the side of the barrier to make sure that there were no cars coming, so that I could merge onto the highway and head home through Friday night rush hour traffic.

The van behind me thought I was pulling into traffic and not just creeping up for a more clear look and stomped on the gas, rear ending me and sending me a good twenty feet into traffic. I heard the crunch of the trunk buckling before the jolt hit me. I honestly don't remember if it was because I hit the gas to pull out or if it was the impact that pushed my car into traffic, but I do recall hearing something dragging on the pavement (the shattered remnants of the rear bumper) and deciding to hit the emergency flashers. When I got out of the car I could feel something deep inside my chest sending error messages; trouble breathing, too. Something broke loose, I think.

For the record, my body is ravenous right now. I cashed in a gift certificate for the pizza place and polished off a large pepperoni pizza in an hour's time. I can breathe easily now, though there's still pain when I try to take a deep breath. My body's working overtime to knit itself.

The trunk's practically gone; the only storage space left is the part right behind the seats, inside the frame. The lid's buckled, the light array on the back is gone; there aren't any reflectors or red plastic bits left, and the fender's totally off the car. There was black structural foam all over the place; most of it's been kicked off of the highway into the bushes, though the bumper itself has been doubled up, secured with a bungie cord, and placed in the back seat.

My car's technically drivable but not roadworthy.

The guy who hit me was remarkably cool about the whole thing; act cool and you get cool in return, basic law of nature. We exchanged driver's license and insurance information, and he and the guy behind him were kind enough to bust my trunk open (it was completely crumpled shut, and now it's held down with another bungie cord) and move my gear out of there into the back seat, where it could be easily gotten at during unpacking. He even escorted me home to make sure that nothing fell off my car into traffic.

It was one of those nights: I had my cellphone wardial just about everyone I knew in the dialing directory and I wound up leaving a lot of messages on a lot of answering machines. I finally got through to Alexius, who began running scenarios with me so I can get everything done that needs to get done this weekend. A lot's going on, and until I can get everything squared away and fixed up, I'm dead in the water. After figuring a few things out I called the insurance company and filed a claim with the information I had and then ran outside with the camera to photograph the damage and get my gear into the Garden. At this point I finally got through to Lyssa and we wound up talking and running more scenarios to figure out how things are going to have to happen this weekend.

It was Lyssa that gave me the idea to get in touch with Dataline by way of a mutual friend of ours, whereupon I discovered what had happened this week: She'd been in the hospital, but hadn't told me because I'd have been a basket case (which is actually true).

Some time earlier this week, she began evidencing symptoms of an aortic dissection. Thank the gods, it wasn't, but she has been in the hospital all week under constant supervision. He blood pressure is high, too high for someone her body's age, and I've a feeling that some major lifestyle changes are in store for her, among them stopping smoking. She has more appointments at the hospital scheduled this upcoming week.

Next on the docket: Getting my wrecked car to the body shop and getting that rental car because I have to drive all over creation this weekend due to what folks in my line of work euphemistically call 'an evolving situation'. I'm also going to set a subprocess to work knitting whatever got messed up in my chest (which I think is minor impact trauma, from teh ribcage hitting the seatbelt and stopping, but the internals didn't stop at the same time and smacked into said ribs).

To everyone who's been calling and offering to help both of us (Dataline and I) tonight, I thank you from the bottoms of my hearts.


Take the What High School Stereotype Are You? quiz.

Heh.

2005/05/19

Yesterday evening after work I headed to the local bookstores to see if I could track down some texts on routing, an aspect of TCP/IP which I find myself woefully lacking in knowledge. The thing is, it isn't easy to find a good page to start learning the basics from before moving on to more obscure topics, such as configuring a router to use multiple uplinks but favour some over others due to speed. What's more, we don't actually have any routing hardware at work (the gear we'd need for this particular application would cost as much as my car), which puts an unnecessary drain on the company budget. Of course, Linux comes to the rescue with its advanced routing capabilities (including a utility to set everything up which looks, to my limited experience in this field, a lot like Cisco's ip utility).

That doesn't mean that I know the first thing about using it.

I've heard of a couple of books on Linux routing, but hadn't thought to look online to find the titles. My first stop, by way of the gas station ($1.99us per gallon for the cheap stuff) was Borders. Borders, as I discovered, rearranged the layout of its store, so I had to hunt around to find the section of computer books, which has depressingly shrunk in size. The UNIX-related book section has dwindled in size to a little less than a full shelf. The Linux-related book selection has similiarly shrunk to about a half-shelf in size. The really crunchy books, on stuff like memory latency, OS design, and compiler design are entirely absent.

This isn't good.

Failing to find what I need at Borders, my next stop was Barnes and Noble, which has a slightly larger selection of technical books, but the quality of those books was about the same as Borders, i.e., not that great, and definitely not what I need.

I'd order from Amazon but I'd like to leaf through the book to make sure it has the information I need in it first, and even then the delay of a couple of days would set me back.

Time to read the comments in the source code.

Maybe I can write up some practical documentation on this when it's all said and done.

While I was in the car driving around, I found myself thinking about numbers and surveys. Everyone hears about 'a poll taken' on the news, and the term 'majority' is bandied about here, there, and everywhere. One must keep a few things in mind, however: First, the word 'majority' often refers to the most dominant segment of a given population; in the context of polling, you can't ask every single person in the country what their opinion is, so the pollsters must take a sample of the people which is meant to represent everyone in the country. Depending on how the sample is taken, the information gathered and the conclusions drawn may not necessarily be accurate for the entire population. Polls are taken from lists of people gathered from.. someplace. I don't know where; you probably don't, either. The folks who do know where these names, addresses, and phone numbers came from don't tell us, not out of spite or a need for secrecy, but out of practicality. I suppose if you figured out which group or company ran the poll, they'd tell you, but who has time for that these days?

The scientific method demands repeatability for confirmation or disproval of the conclusions drawn. Polls can be repeated, but depending on the resources of the parties repeating the poll, a much smaller sample, with a weaker relationship to the whole, may be selected.

There is also the matter of stacking the sample to get the results you want. It's a dirty concept, picking people for your sample who mostly hold the same opinion, so no matter what your poll is, you'll get a certain set of results. No one talks about it, but it's entirely possible. Maybe it happens; maybe it doesn't. There's no way to know. Depending on where you get the contact information for your sample of people from, your sample might be stacked in one way or another and you might not even know it.

Then, there is my favourite problem with sampling, called an error of availability. Essentially, an error of availability is assuming that something is more prevelent than it really is because you hear about it more frequently. For example, in a hypothetical sample of one thousand people who use laptops, if a small number (let's say ten) bent the interviewers' ears for two hours about how much they hate Dell's silver laptops, an error of availability would be assuming that a majority of that sample hate silver laptops, which could then be amplified into an erroneous conclusion that the majority of the people who use laptops hate silver laptops. Errors of availability can come when you don't pay as much attention to the numbers as you do to the interviewees or situations that stick out the most.

To put it another way, the folks with the biggest mouths can make it seem as if they represent the majority, when they probably don't. If the folks with the biggest mouths claim to be experts who represent the majority, and no one calls them on it, then no one's going to know any different.

People blindly parroting the opinions of the folks with the biggest mouths is an entirely different matter. A lot of folks don't think about the issues for themselves, and just go along with the majority. Because the majority isn't formed of people who have thought things over and decided for themselves but instead go along with whatever a disembodied voice or a talking head says is thus-and-so, opinion is manipulated, and quite easily. I don't consider this a majority opinion, I consider it a consensus opinion formed by people who can't be bothered to think for themselves, and as such are only there to make the flock look bigger.

There isn't much you can do but try to swing opinion back in your direction, but good luck with that.

And then there's the whole polarisation of society deal, but that's an essay for another time.

The War on Terror ™ has backed itself into a corner - is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Luis Posado Carriles, a refugee from Cuba, snuck into the United States and demanded asylum because Venezuela is after him for blowing up an airliner in 1976 (the airliner was Cuban). Both Cuba and Venezuela consider him a terrorist, and have been trumpeting this all over the globe for years. The US government has made known that they support any and all acts of sabotage against Cuba (Cuba is a Communist country, and we all know how much the US of A loves Communism...), and they've also stated that they've backed various anti-Cuban acts over the years. But now there's a problem: Will the US offer asylum to a terrorist?

The reputation of the United States isn't all that great right now on the global circuit; a blatant show of hypocracy will make the country look even worse.

Deport him? Send him to a country not involved in this mess to make his own way (that'll go over like Alka-Seltzer in the pigeon feed)? Give him asylum? No matter how you cut it, this is one hell of a mess.

Ever wonder how easy it would be to do a background check on someone? Some grad students made a class project out of it, and the results are disheartening. (More coverage here (no registration required))

The original BitTorrent client has gone trackerless!

Star Wars meets Photoshop. Note: As far as I can tell these are work safe.

There's a very intelligent overview of the phenomenon of terrorism up, with answers to some of the questions that everyone thinks they know the answers to but are actually much more complex than they appear at first glance.

To contrast, here's the word of the day definition of 'terrorist'.

Something just came to me: The most the so-called 'left wing' and 'right wing' are slagging each other, the less they're paying attention to what's actually going on.

As if that's not enough to make you take a few seconds to ponder, how about a change of policy on the part of US military forces that would allow regional commanders to request pre-emptive nuclear strikes if they think there's a threat of use of weapons of mass destruction.

2005/05/18

Your word of the day: Treason

There is a very intelligent and nontechnical writup of the broadband-over-powerlines fiasco that everyone who uses any form of wireless technology should at least give a cursory read to. The FCC is giving another shot at country-wide implementation, nevermind the fact that the initial tests in the United States were less than stellar; in fact, the complaints both before (this has been disasterously tried in other countries before) and after the tests would have given anyone with more neurons in their brain than dollars at stake reason to scrap the whole effort. BPL, in short, kicks off enough RF interference to kick everything from amateur radio stations to emergency radio services (police, fire, paramedics...) upside the head. BPL also isn't as fast as they're making it out to be; DSL and cable are much faster and more reliable means of accessing the Net. When you look at the politicking that's been going on with respect to BPL, Machiavelli would be proud. I won't go into that particular part of it; read the article. If nothing else, it'll make you wonder about what else is going on. What I will comment on is that the FCC's test results showed levels of RF interference that disrupt communications in many other frequency ranges, though their public report gives this barely a mention. You can download the FCC's official report from page three of this article, which leaves the FCC's report smelling of something sufficiently different from roses to make your eyes water. If that's isn't enough, a couple of websites linked at the end of the article hold audio recordings of what can be heard over the airwaves in regions of BPL deployment.

Man... maybe I'll keep a closer eye on the Capture the Flag game at Defcon the next time I go out there.

Maybe I'll even get around to entering.

The United States Air Force is working on getting permission to set up a space-based defense network in the name of national security. Some are saying that this could cause another arms race, this one orbital instead of intercontinental. When you think about it, they might be right: It's one thing to have missiles that can lob a bomb a few continents away, but a satellite network could theoretically pick off those missiles, in the event that they are fired, before they even hit the outermost part of the atmosphere. Such a system would really change the rules of warfare. This would be legally and politically permissible because George W. Bush pulled the US out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 in 2002, a treaty which forbade the construction and/or implementation of space-based weapons. Then again, this might not be anything worth worrying about - look at how well the Star Wars programme has ever done. Even its current incarnation isn't anything close to successful, as most people think of the term.

Got milk?

Watch your tongue if you fly into or out of Houston, Texas - flippant remarks might be reason to get busted. Specifically, their PA system periodically plays the announcement that "inappropriate or humorous remarks may lead to your arrest."

Maybe they'll start lining people up on the tarmac in front of a firing squad for punning in line.

In all seriousness, though, I can see where they're coming from. I've heard kids in line at the airport joking about carrying weapons and bombs with them, much to the consternation of security folks stationed around the airport. Due diligence says that they have to be on guard no matter what, and they're so worried about hijackings and bombings they can't let anything slip through.

Cynics among us, myself included, don't think that they'll be able to do anything at all in the worst possible scenario, however. As John F. Kennedy was reputed to have said, "If they want to get you, they'll get you, and you can't do anything about it."

If you're using Mozilla Firefox as your web browser and you'd like to increase the number of files that you can download simultaneously, do this: Open a new tab (control+t), and enter the URL about:config. This opens the Firefox configuration page, which lets you access its low level settings directly. Scroll down until you see network.http.max-connections. Double click on each of the following settings and in the little window that pops up, change the value to the following:

I've tested this using Firefox v1.0 for Linux and I've not had any trouble with these settings. You will find that you can download more files simultaneously (instead of just two) and web pages that are graphics-heavy will load much more rapidly (because all of the relevant files will be downloaded in larger groups, filling the page faster). If you're a file leech like me, or you enjoy going through people's photo albums in multiple tabs, this will cut the time necessary to download everything immensely.

Frank Gorshin, RIP.

2005/05/17

Apple Computer hasn't always been a hit with everyone - a few of their early efforts bombed. This article has some interesting bits of early Apple history that will make you stop and think about how fragile the computer industry really is, when it comes down to making customers happy.

It looks like the technology to make diamonds as close to natural as possible has finally been let out of its cage by DeBeers... either that, or someone else has figured out how to synthesize diamonds that you'd have a hard time telling from natual ones using a process called chemical vapour deposition. CVD is a process in which you heat some material to a high enough temperature that it melts, boils, and then turns into 'steam', which is then directed over a substrate of some kind to build up a coating of that material layer by layer, each a couple of molecules thick. The diamonds manufactured in this way are at present fives times as large as commercially available synthetic diamonds, and orders of magnetude clearer and optically transmissive, unlike common industrial diamonds. So far, diamonds bigger than three carats haven't been made but it's only a matter of time before the technique is perfected.

Where, exactly, is the line between "That's a lie" and "That's a lie because it contradicts what I think/what I'm told to think"? Can someone please tell me?

It's not a clearly drawn line, that's for bloody sure.

Audio Hijack Pro v2.5 for MacOSX is out. This utility lets you record audio sources as you listen to them for archival, including iTunes and Skype voice-over-IP communications. Get it before Apple sics its lawyers on them.

At long last, politicians are starting to realise that it's a really honking bad idea to let information brokers sell people's Social Security numbers. Maybe one or two are tired of dissatisfied constituents taking out credit cards in their names without their knowing it... representatives Ron Paul and Joe Barton (both of Texas) have been pushing to make this illegal for years, though they haven't been successful thus far (incidentally, they were never supposed to be used for identification). This represents an attempt to actually make it a codified law, along with a number of similiar long-overdue efforts.

..but why am I suddenly wondering if this will be implemented by the REAL ID Act, just snuck through Congress on 11 May 2005?

You scored as General Grievous.

General Grievous

67%

Darth Vader

64%

Mace Windu

64%

Padme Amidala

58%

Anakin Skywalker

50%

C-3PO

50%

R2-D2

50%

Yoda

44%

Clone Trooper

44%

Obi Wan Kenobi

42%

Chewbacca

39%

Emperor Palpatine

39%

Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

2005/05/16

It's been a long, busy weekend... Lyssa drove up to Pittsburgh with Silicon and Elwing, and by the time I got home from work I was pleased to find her crashed out on my bed, catching up on her sleep from the night before. We straightened up the apartment a bit (I hadn't had a chance to clean) and then hit the road for dinner at her parents' place Friday night. Rush hour traffic in Pittsburgh wasn't too bad, because everyone's trying to get out of the city instead of into it, but due to roadway construction in the areas south of the city proper, traffic was backed up a good hour or so. Moreover, the parkway was scheduled to be closed at 2300 EDT that night for construction on an overpass (we hypothesized as we drove underneath it, surrounded by construction gear), this placed a time limit on how long we could spend there. There were probably detours to get traffic around the construction zone, but I don't know the area out that way, and didn't really trust myself to make it through before sunrise. The powers of Team Ryoga are many and varied... and the end results predictable.

Dinner was grilled chicken, marinated in balsamic vinegar and mashed cauliflour. We spent a few hours there with Lyssa's family, catching up on the past few months and heading out to see her grandmother, later in the evening. The trip back was complicated by the thunderstorm that hit western Pennsylvania, which reduced visibility to next to nothing in short order. After getting back to Pittsburgh, we rented a DVD (the rerelease of The Exorcist) and made a pizza, probably the best that I've ever had. Unfortunately, my DVD player is acting up, and the DVD cut out after a half hour (which it does with most DVDs anymore). Next purchase: DVD player.

We wound up sleeping in on Saturday and heading out to run a few errands that took up most of Saturday. In preparation for going camping in a couple of weeks, we picked up an air mattress (queen sized, with rechargable pump) and later that day a tent large enough for the air mattress (very important), the two of us, and the gear that we'd be bringing with us. Sam's Club has excellent deals on DVD writers, which I now need for Leandra to actually back up the data her users store on her drive array, though they don't have a dual-layer DVD-R disks in stock (even though the writer supports it). After dropping everything off at my apartment and polishing off the pizza for lunch, we changed for dinner with John and Lara later that night headed to the South Side to wander around and see what was going on. We stopped in to see Lucien and Kali at Hocus Pocus and check up on what's been going on, then crawled a few of the stores south of Oakland. Around 1830 EDT we headed back to the car and drove to the Spaghetti Warehouse in the Strip District to meet John and Lara. Amazingly, I do know my way around downtown Pittsburgh, because I've worked there for so many years, so it was merely a matter of traffic to find the Strip District, then the restaurant, and then a parking space. John and Lara joined us a few minutes later, and half-starved, we set to work on the menu. Calamari and sourdough bread opened the meal, followed by lots of coffee and eggplant parmesan. I'd rate the Spaghetti Warehouse one flare gun, because the service was excellent for dinnertime in downtown Pittsburgh on a weekend, but Lara's pasta was far from good, and she wound up sending it back. There were no other complaints, save the occasional "Oog... I'm full."

Lyssa and I split up, Lyssa and Lara, John and myself, and we headed across the city to check out the new apartment that John and Lara moved into a few days ago. For $200us more than I'm paying in rent, they're living in an apartment twice as large as mine, with two bedrooms and scads of closet space, to say nothing of a living room with an excellent view and lots of space.

Damn.

After checking it out, we headed back to my place to hang out. I'd figured that after spending so much time moving, they'd like a change of scenery, and so we spent the evening drinking, talking, telling war stories, and playing a new card game, Fishing For Terrorists. By the time we were ready to pack it in for the night, John and Lara were getting ready to sack out in my bedroom, Lyssa and I in the living room, when we made a rather pleasant discovery: Inflating the air mattress requires the pump, but the pump won't start up until it's been charged for twelve hours. Moreover, it won't run if it's plugged in, which left us up a certain creek without a paddle. Rather than sleep on the floor again, we piled into my car and drove back to John and Lara's and crashed on the futon.

The next morning, we headed back to my apartment to drop off John and Lara so they could pick up their car and drive back home.

Lyssa and I made a breakfast out of bacon and waffles, thanks to my new toaster, and then lounged around my Garden for a while until we drove to my folks' place to spend some time with Dataline. On the way up, we stumbled across a computer system by the side of the road prominently labelled 'FREE TO GOOD HOME'. I threw the car into reverse and we piled the whole shebang into the trunk: Two monitors, a computer, a printer, scanner, and speakers. The CPU appears to be a Pentium-II, and there's probably about 192MB of RAM in the machine. Lyssa gets whichever monitor works; I need a machine that I can blow up a few times while researching for my GIAC certification.

Silicon and Elwing arrived early, and Lyssa and I had to take off in a hurry to get home, whereupon we spent about an hour geeking over the computer we'd picked up.

All too soon, however, it was time for us to part ways. Lyssa headed back to DC and I went off to go grocery shopping for the week to come.

I think that most people have at least a little fun nosing around in the computer networks of whatever schools they attend, either legally or illegally. It's something of a geek rite of passage. This, however, gives me pause: Two students at a high school downloaded sensitive personal information on staff and students, including Social Security numbers. As far as is known, none of the information has been used in any way, though the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration were notified of the theft. The students could (and should) be punished, and there is talk of criminal charges being filed (identity theft). Forensic information points to the students doing this because they could, and not because they had any motive other than to see if they could pull it off.

I'm of two minds about this. It's normal for clueful students to do stuff like this before the school system finishes crushing the inquisitive spirit out of most of them, but this is identity theft, even though they didn't actually do anything with the data they found. If two kids can do it, what about someone who is looking for people to rip off to make a quick buck? A message needs to be sent - you can't go around doing this without repercussions - but I don't think it's impossible that they understand the scope of what they did. They could have a future.. I don't want to see it cut off before they can find out what it is.

It's a tough call.

At long last, has a vulnerability been found in Qmail? Qmail, an e-mail transfer system written by one Daniel J. Bernstein as a replacement for the notorious Sendmail, is renowned for the security of its design and the tighteness of its code (as well as the restrictive licensing requirements placed on the codebase by Bernstein). The learning curve is a little steep, but if you read the docs before installing it it's easy for a sysadmin to fall in love with. Anyway, Bernstein has a standing $500us reward for any exploitable holes in the Qmail system itself (he is quite specific about that), which has gone unclaimed since it was announced in March of 1997. Perhaps it's about to be claimed... only time will tell.

Your word of the day: Belief

Attention GAIM users: Instructions for getting SSL/TLS encrypted communications (necessary for MSN Messenger now) have finally been posted.

And never assume that you have all of the libraries you need installed; check before complaining.

Leandra's first hardware upgrade is in place: A 16X dual-layer DVD writer, manufactured by Life's Good, purchased from Sam's Club. Rock on.

This coffee mug might be risky to have around the office. I love it.

A few weeks ago some kids got hold of a trailer for Star Wars: Episode 3 and subtitled it in l337. Lucasfilm is now pissed and made them take it down. May I direct you to your favourite Bittorrent tracker or peer-to-peer filesharing application to search for it?

After getting the DVD writer installed in Leandra and working properly, I put together a little shell script to do the heavy lifting for me. When I update it, I'll post new copies of it.

At a church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Roman Catholic priest Michael Sklucazek denied the sacrement of communion to over one hundred people who wore rainbow sashes to show support for gay Catholics. Those who wore the sashes still went to the altar and waited silently for communion in front of the entire congregation in protest.

2005/05/15

Is the United States planning to invade Iran next?


:: how jedi are you? ::

I think the Ohio state government is turning into aRobert Anton Wilson novel. Just a little paranoid, don't you think?

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned an article about someone who's been going around impersonating a Secret Service agent and using this to throw people out of open political gatherings that would add dissenting opinions to the discussion; this includes college professors and grandmothers (no, seriously). The US Secret Service has finally noticed, and has started an investigation. They're not pleased with this, and rocks are starting to be kicked over, starting in Colorado (where most of the trouble's been localised). Eyebrows have gone up at SSHQ because the White House is dodging their questions and refusing to say exactly who this person is and why he's misrepresenting himself.

2005/05/14

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative

94%

Postmodernist

75%

Idealist

75%

Fundamentalist

50%

Modernist

38%

Materialist

38%

Romanticist

38%

Existentialist

38%

What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

2005/05/13

The consumer electronics company Philips has joined forces with Microsoft to implement Microsoft's Digital Rights Management scheme, code-named Palladium, at the hardware level in electronic products the world over. Support for the Windows Media Video and Audio (.wmv and .wma) formats will be done in hardware, making the two formats much more widely available to consumers. Of course, this also limits strongly what you can do with the video and audio files that you own; backing them up becomes much more difficult, and there is always the possibility that you won't be able to share video and audio files that you yourself create because you might not be able to distribute the keys used to protect the files...

No matter what we do, it seems, they always move forward without paying the slightest bit of attention. What's it going to take?

After a 3.5 year long investigation culminating in a sting operation in the southwest region of the United States sixteen US law enforcement and military personnel have been arrested for complicity in drug trafficking. A total of $222kus in bribes was recieved during this time as these folks smuggled cocaine across the United States/Mexico border in official vehicles, using their uniforms as camoflauge. Eleven of the sixteen pleaded guilty in US District Court yesterday afternoon, after being caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. The others are expected to enter pleas either today or on Monday. Everyone who pleaded guilty was released on his or her recognizance; the minimum sentences are 34 to 36 months in prison, adjusted for cooperation with authorities (read: ratting others out). John W. Scott, a prosecutor for the US Justice Department, stated that post-trial sentencing would be delayed indefinitely, probably until any information turned over by the defendents could be verified and acted upon.

Transportation Security Agency screeners have no problem geeking over a Zippo lighter/digital camera but will only let the camera part on board; the lighter case isn't permitted. This makes no sense at all.

2005/05/12

In a nod to Serial Experiments Lain, someone tired of using fans to move air around inside the chassis of his computer immersed the guts of his deck in chilled mineral oil, save for the drives, to keep his machine cold enough to run properly. The fans now serve to circulate the mineral oil inside the aquarium. It appears that all of the cable connections run out of the tank by way of the normally open top to their respective peripherals. Because minueral oil is an insulator of electricity, the electronics won't short out because they're immersed.

Happy twenty-fifth birthday, Pac-Man!. Even in the time of Doom 3, Quake, Anarchy Online, and World of Warcraft, Pac-Man remains, still in production in some form (be it one of those trendy twenty-five-games-in-a-joystick units, a retrogamer's toybox, or the latest 3D implementation on the Playstation 2), and still gathers millions of $CURRENCY every year.

I'm going to plug in my Atari when I get home and reminisce.

At the E3 Expo coming up, the Namco crew has put out an all-call for strange junk to glue onto a huge katamari. Namco, the folks behind Katamari Damarcy, have taken notice of the recent fad of making at least one trophy at every convention a katamari, have decided to see how large of one they can create in the span of three days (i.e., the length of the E3 Expo). Rules for what they will accept are posted in this article.

Wow.

When you can't sit with your back to the wall at work to hide the fact that you're goofing off, there's Stealth Switch to cover for you when you hear the telltale footsteps of your supervisor walking past. The Stealth Switch is a tiny footswitch that plugs into your computer and sits under your desk. Whenever you tap the switch, it tells the software installed on your workstation to either hide all of the windows on the screen, only some of them, or replace them with some set of other windows. Check out the list of features for the whole story.

This is nuts. Something's wrong if you have to buy extra hardware to cover for the fact that you're slacking at work. Either your slack-fu isn't good, or you really need to re-evaluate your career, because if you're slacking that much at work there's an excellent chance that someone will look into your lack of productivity and consider firing you for it.

Now, I can see using this for some tasks, like triggering a certain programme in a hurry (like a hyperlink to the web console of your IDS or a mapping application) or switching virtual desktops; that, I think, would be worth it (especially if you're like me and have several dozen virtual desktops running at any one time). But by and large, goldbricking to this extent just proves the Japanese adage of "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down."

Afficionados of the strange, like Edward Leedskalnin's Coral Castle will take notice of a group of British scientists who figured out how to levitate things using magnetic fields that are not in themselves magnetic by exploiting the dimagnetic effect. Essentially, if you place something inside an extremely powerful magnetic field, a weaker magnetic field will be generated. If that second field is strong enough to overcome the pull of gravity, the the object inside the fields will float, because gravity isn't able to overcome the second field and pull it downward. If you dig around a little bit, you can find some stuff on famous experiment done in 1997, demonstrated on US television, where a living frog was levitated using this effect. You can also find some of the math behind it if you click around. Here is a writeup of the original experiment, with photographs and downloadable movies, if you're really curious.

Wow... a 16 Tesla magnetic field...

Earlier this year I mentioned a trend that some of us have spotted, specifically microbiologists turning up dead. As it turns out, this may have been going on longer than 2001; one Steve Quayle has tracked it back to 9 May 1994. The specialties of most of these microbiologists are the same: Applied microbiology, of the sort used in classified research projects. Some of the first to die were studying things that just now are beginning to make people worry, like the organic origins of Alzheimer's disease and CJD (Mad Cow Disease in humans). Two more have died this month, Dr. David Banks of Australia and Dr. Todd Kauppila of the United States. While I don't much agree with the tone of Quayle's assumptions (Occam's razor rules out a conspiratorial reason for these deaths), I do find this pattern very strange, especially when biowarfare is one of the bugaboos of the War on Terrorism &tm;, and folks actively researching some topics that have been suggested for bioweapons or at least at one time were doing so are turning up dead in improbable ways. I also have a problem with the pattern that Quayle shows: While there is indeed a dense pattern starting in 2001, his reaching back to 1994 and 1996 feels extraneous.

Still, this pattern stands out and strikes me as interesting, especially when you dig into the backgrounds of these folks a little.

2005/05/11

I never trust anyone who tells me that something's for my own good, and to just take it. Case in point: Congress approved the $82bus addition to the budget for the war on terorrism and Iraq. Total cost since the year 2001: $300bus. The bill was passed by a vote of 100-0 yesterday. What they're not saying out loud is that the REAL ID Act, which was hidden inside this spending bill like a virus inside a cell passed at the same time without anyone the wiser. All that remains is for George W. Bush to sign off on it. It looks like the thousands of letters, faxes, phone calls, and e-mails came to a big, fat zero. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, worked hard to sneak these provisions in because he wanted to make it harder for undocumented immigrants to secure valid papers to hide inside the United States. Nevermind the fact that it's easier for undocumented immigrants to get real ID documents than it is to to create fake ID documents.

Next stop: Writing to George Bush using small words to ask him not to sign off on this. Don't bother e-mailing president@whitehouse.gov because all mail to that account bounces.

In other news, an arrest has been made in the theft of source code for Cisco's IOS, which runs all of their switches and routers. Sometime in the past year, at least one computer security website in Russia has posted excerpts from the codebase, which was pilfered from Cisco's R&D net by a Swedish cracker who calls himself Stakkato. It is thought that vulnerabilities found in the IOS codebase were exploited in attacks against networks belonging to the United States government, but details on that front are sketchy at best.

On the front of cryptography, some researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have succeeded in factoring a two hundred digit number, which is the largest number factored using general purpose algorithms to day. They've been working on this since Yuletime of 2003. This is important because the RSA Security company uses these challenges to track how long it takes ordinary computing machinery to factor very large numbers, to benchmark how strong encryption mechanisms using the RSA algorithm are. The only way to really know how strong a cryptosystem is to break it, and the longer a given system takes to break, the stronger the cryptosystem is thought to be.

Regular readers of mine are no doubt aware that I've been keeping an eye on whistleblower laws in the United States, specifically as they pertain to the US intelligence community. A couple of weeks ago, a small group of people stepped forward to bring public awareness of the repercussions of stepping up and saying that there are serious lapses in security, procedure, and organisation and that something needs to be done for the good of the country. Some of these people who came forward are now feeling the results of their doing so, from losing their clearances to being transferred to scut work (from intelligence analyst to motor pool chaufferur), often after decades of loyal work. Some of these people are unable to even sue because the State Secrets Act forbids it, because official secrets may be recorded in the court transcripts. Due to this act, the court cannot hear the case because it doesn't want to get involved in state secrets. One Sibel Edmonds filed such a suit after being fired for criticising her employers' (the US Court of Appeals) security and sloppiness of translation of documents and testimony. Her case was dropped in July of 2003 when the Court of Appeals invoked the State Secrets Act. Even though Edward Markey (representative of the state of Massachusetts) says that he's going to introduce legislation that will prevent retaliation upon whistleblowers, I don't think it'll pass because it's too convenient to use whistleblowing to get rid of workers that aren't well liked in the US government. It's too powerful a tactic to let it be rendered useless.

Now this is more like it.

Last week, a Baptist church excommunicated nine members of its congregation because they were registered Democrats. Yesterday, the Reverend Chandler of this church resigned due to the firestorm of protest and walk-outs that resulted. Reverend Chandler made a point of making extemporary political speeches from the pulpit, which caused at least one group to call for examination of his church's tax-exempt status in the eyes of the IRS. As the law stands now, churches are forbidden to participate in political activities if they wish to maintain their tax status as both churches and non-profit organisations.

An old friend of mine, Seele, is conducting a study of website layouts that make it very easy to read textual information, and hence absorb information. The survey can be seen here, on her website. Please stop by and take the survey, she really needs users' feedback on website layouts. The research parameters and rationale behind this study have been posted as this article in Seele's weblog.

Surprisingly strong structures made entirely of pennies. These are pretty cool, take a few minutes to check them out.

The first paragraph aside (who told her that this made a good introduction??) something odd happened on Mount Soledad, not far away from San Diega, California - it rained shrimp. Hundreds of baby saltwater shrimp were found far away from the ocean near the Summit residential development.

2005/05/10

Aftermath of more dental work: Sleep, but no rest. Did someone inject an LD-50 dose of Damitol into my cerebrospinal fluid this morning?

Congratulations to Elwing on passing her Sun Network Exam!

I'm still wondering what happened across the street on Mother's Day.

I drove to the homefront to spend Mother's Day with Dataline, and in between praying that my pager wouldn't go off we made the time to watch Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (a fine example of pulp cinema, down to the ray guns and bubbletop suits; gotta buy that one) and make chicken parmesan for dinner the old-fashioned way, in the oven. For some reason, the folks across the street took it upon themselves to hitch every last shrub and tree on their property to the back of the 4x4 pickup truck that is usually parked in their driveway (I don't know whose it is) and tore them out of ground one by one, roots and all.

We still don't know why they did this. Maybe they're running low on fire wood for their stove in the back yard.

I count myself fortunate that the chain and/or bumper didn't break and send shrubbery flying through any windows.

Wired had someone there covering the Time Traveller's convention at MIT this weekend past. Thankfully, I was able to dodge their photographer, becuase I technically didn't have 23 May 2002 off. I don't want to get in trouble at work.

2005/05/09

On the movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, released in the US not too long ago: Disappointing.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thought this way. The few folks who fell asleep in the theatre and were snoring agree with me. I've never seen that happen before.

The opening theme was the same one from the TV series back in 1981. I really thought that it wasn't going to suck when I heard that. I think I'm going to track down the soundtrack from the TV series and forget about the movie.

They turned Arthur into a lovable twit, instead of just a twit. I can deal with that. Mos Def as Ford Prefect was surprisingly a good choice, though I like the wardrobe of the original Ford Prefect better. Trillian was cute. Every time Zaphod appeared on screen, I found myself waiting with bated breath for him to vanish from the screen. Think of a surfer dude who's taken far too much brown acid and then had a lobotomy while tripping on it. There you have it. Of course, because Hollywood had a hand in it there was a shopping cart full of beer and a big honkin' gun involved in the plot. Some side trips were added that were supposed to add the element of suspense, but wound up tedious. The Magrathea effects were visually well done, but again.. boring.

Folks, don't bother. Don't bother renting it when it comes out on DVD. Don't bother renting it when it hits the age of "$1.00us for five days" at the rental place, either.

It looks as if spam is facing some stiff competition right now, in the form of the Win32.Sober.P worm, which is estimated to make up 25% of all e-mail traffic at this time. It has reached this point because Sober.P was designed to deactivate antiviral software and the Windows XP built-in firewall. Once again, an Outlook worm has made life hell for system administrators; so much for a quiet Monday morning. Sober.P picks over the Outlook address book and then uses its own SMTP transmission engine to send out copies of itself. You can't just watch the local Exchange server for increased traffic because it bypasses it entirely. Check out Symantec's writeup if you're feeling morbidly curious.

The bill concealing the dictates of the Real ID Act will be voted on tomorrow. We don't have much time. You might want to check it out and take action, or at least as much action as the system will let anyone take these days. I strongly suggest that you at least check out the practical FAQ to see how this bill would affect your life if it were passed and think on it at least a little. Here is a list of all of the organisations opposing this bill. Among them are the ACM (Academy of Computing Machinery), the American Bar Association, B'nai B'rith International, Catholic Charities USA, the CUNY School of Law, Harvard Law School, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, New York State AFL-CIO, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, among hundreds of others.

Ow. Ow. Ow.

I'm back from Dr. Schrenker's office, and I feel exhausted. Two molar were filled today in quick succession, and the work done was extensive. Due to the larger surface area of the hindmost molars, each and every thing done to them was transmitted to the rest of my jaw, no matter what happened. Dr. Schrenker shot my body up with a righteous combination of local anesthetics, which has paralysed the lower left quadrant of my face up to the ear, but vibration still carries through bone, and I felt the drill's grinding everywhere else.

It's not my teeth that are hurting, at least not yet, it's the muscles in my forearms from gripping the arms of the chair and my hands, my neck from knotting up due to cringing, and back (also due to cringing). I could feel the sweat dripping down my back as he worked; apparently the cavities were pretty deep.

That is the most harrowing thing I've been through in a long, long while. My face is still numb, which I'm thankful for.

I just want to curl up and sleep.

The NSA appears to be cutting its own hamstrings for no good reason with all of its mole hunts that are costing good analysts their clearance and jobs. If they spent this much time and money doing their jobs instead of hunting down employees that they didn't like, the US really would be a safer country to live in.

Emo Kid
You are 42% Rational, 0% Extroverted, 42% Brutal, and 14% Arrogant.
You are the Emo Kid, best described as a quiet pussy! You tend to be an intuitive rather than a logical thinker, meaning you rely more on your feelings than your thoughts. Not only that, but you are introverted, gentle, and rather humble. You embody all the traits of the perfect emo kid. You are a push-over, emotional, gentle to the extent of absurdity, and so humble that it even makes Jesus puke. If you write poetry, you no doubt write angsty, syrupy lines about depression, sadness, and other such redundant states of emo-being. Your personality is defective because you are too gentle, rather underconfident in yourself, decidely lacking in any rational thought, and also a bit too inhibited.

I probably made you cry, didn't I? Fucking Emo Kid.

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more INTUITIVE than rational.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more HUMBLE than arrogant.

Compatibility:

Your exact opposite is the Smartass.

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Hippie, the Televangelist, and the Starving Artist.

*

*

If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42% Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well. Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.




My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 24% on Rationality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Extroversion
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 45% on Brutality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 5% on Arrogance
Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on Ok Cupid

2005/05/06

The bandwidth situation at the office is still painfully bloody slow. If anything, it's gotten worse.

We get better transmission speeds with a Tarot deck and a stick of chewing gum.

Research into autism has shown that the immune systems of autistics are measurably different in chemical makeup from non-autistics. Chemical and cellular breakdowns of the blood show that the levels of B-cells are 20% higher in autistics than in non-autistics; levels of other (nonspecified) immune cells are around 40% higher than in non-autistics; levels of still other immune response-related bloodborne proteins are higher than statistical norms, also. This technique, once the underlying principles have been verified through the process of peer review, might be useful for early diagnosis of autism in newborns.

I find it interesting that a mental/neurological disorder has side effects in other aspects of the body's functionality. It makes me wonder if some of the genes for autism are also part of the gene-groups that code for the human body's immune system; if they are, then logically if you change the common genes, both will be changed. I have to wonder what other genes are tied together; maybe there are some other anomalies that can be used to diagnose autism. More importantly, maybe there are some changes that can be made to reverse the abnormality while leaving the potentially positive traits in place.

Probably not. Genomes seem to have a sense of balance. Whenever a gene is changed in one place, there are repercussions throughout the rest of the system in terms of the genes' expression. It's like the fruit flies that have eyes all over them whenever a single gene is tweaked: If you change one thing, that change propagates everywhere else. Also, if you do tweak a gene, there's no way of telling what negative effects will manifest until well after it's too late. The error-correction mechanisms of DNA are amazing, but they can only do so much.

The New York Times has picked up the time travellers' convention in a story. I rather resent the "computer science majors possessing way too many brain cells" crack, but then again, what can you expect from a culture that has lost its appreciation of hack value?

At last - someone with their head screwed on straight. An endangered species.

Somebody pinch me - a federal appeals court has struck down the FCC's requirement that video hardware must obey the broadcast flag by 5 July 2005. The DC Circuit court ruled today that the FCC doesn't have the right to regular the production and/or use of consumer electronics that pick up broadcasts and transmissions but do not have the capability of relaying those transmissions in a like manner. In a nutshell, a video capture card doesn't have the ability to retransmit the signals it picks up, so the FCC can't regulate it. Back in January of 2005, there was a firestorm from all corners over fair use, and it seems to have done some good at last. The only thing the FCC can do now is lobby Congress to give them this power, and given the pressure on the FCC from the MPAA and probably the television networks, they're probably going to go for it. Keep the pressure on.

Do you really have the right to free speech if you can be fired for your point of view outside the workplace?

Something must be wrong with me.. at first I wrote 'worldplace'.

The Google web toolbar doesn't make you as anonymous as it might seem. Your actual IP address is inside the HTTP headers, in the X-FORWARDED-FOR header field, specifically.


Who's Your Inner Buffy Bad-Girl? Find out @ She's Crafty

One of these days, I'll actually get around to watching Buffy.

Pegritz was right: This is downright spooky. Note: Might not be work safe. Will definitely make you gape.

On 5 May 2005, the so-called National Day of Prayer, the East Waynesville Baptist Church of North Carolina excommunicated nine members because they were members of the Democratic Party of the USA. Another forty left in disgust following this act.

What Pulp Fiction Character Are You?

You talk fast, you think fast, you act fast. Stop. Calm Down. Drink some decaf and go back to hitting up liquor stores.

Take the What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? quiz.

2005/05/05

The Law of Fives is never wrong.

Your word for the day: Progressive

Last night was one of my "let's wander around and see what's out there" nights. Mother's Day is coming up (8 May 2005), and I needed to get a gift for Dataline. I headed to the local mall to be a good little consumer and after picking out what I was looking for, I decided to roam around a little to see what else was going on. Star Wars Episode 3 stuff is all over the place. I'd like to read the book but I think I'll wait until the hardback comes down in price, because I don't much feel like shelling out $25us for it right now. The trade paperback version of the manga Ghost In the Shell 2: Man/Maching Interface by Dark Horse Press is also out there, for about the same price. The seventh and final volume of Tokyo Babylon is out this month. No sign of the first volume of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, though the first two DVDs are for sale. Hot Topic (ugh) has the FMA t-shirts in stock, at long last, for $18us each.

Early this morning, two home-made grenades went off outside the British consulate in New York. The bombs had been placed in a cement planter outside the building, where they detonated around 0350 EDT, ripping a piece of the planter away and shattering a plate glass window. It's been determined that the bombs were fairly simple, consisting of a container, gunpowder, and a timer, but that's about it. Given how Tony Blair's lost the trust and respect of much of Great Britain due to the war in Iraq, it's not all that surprising.

Larry Franklin, an analyst of the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon (where did they get that name from, Zork?) has been charged with passing classified information to pro-Israel lobbiests in Washington, DC. The OSP was formed to act as an independent office that would supply intelligence information to civillians who work at the Pentagon, dodging the problems inherent in clearing people for work with highly classified information in the military. Data on potential attacks on US forces was released in June of 2003; it isn't known if that data was in turn forwarded to the Israeli government. Franklin turned himself in yesterday and plans to plead 'not guilty'. He is currently free on a bond of an undisclosed value. You can bet your bottom dollar that internal security is having kittens over this, no matter what really happened.

Another $100mus spent in Iraq can't be accounted for. Film at eleven, people - this isn't the first time that something like this has happened. Over six billion dollars can not be accounted for. And as far as anyone knows, no one is doing a damn thing about it.

Those are my tax dollars you're wasting, dammit. Unfortunately, I don't really have a say in how my tax dollars are being used, even though they claim that you can vote on any referendum that hits the government, most funding is set by fiat by committess here, there, and everywhere, and never hits ballots that the public casts.

Unless you've been on the run for the past few months, you've probably heard that Star Wars episode III: Revenge of the Sith is coming out at the end of this month. Lots of people aren't expecting it to be any good (the first two episodes weren't anywhere close to the original trilogy) but the fans are lining up just the same. However, controversy is already brewing because the movie is considered too violent for young kids.

Um, guys?

I'm going to go slowly for you.

If you've seen the original trilogy, you know what happened in the mythos of Star Wars, so these aren't spoilers for you. The Jedi are all but annihilated. The Sith take over. The Sith aren't very nice folks.

Let me make this clear for you: The Jedi are all but wiped out. Fucking massacred. This doesn't mean being bonked over the head with a bouquet of daisies, this means a bloodbath. This ain't pretty, fictional or not. Kids don't need to see this. Parents who know anything about Star Wars will know this if they have three neurons to hook together in parallel.

Moreover, it's known what happened to Anakin Skywalker, who became Darth Vader. For Kibo's sake... you don't wind up like that because you fell out of your treehouse! It's going to be bloody, violent, and messy!

Even I know this!

Back in January of 2003, I stumbled across an article about AIDS medicines being tested on kids in New York. Now, a few months later, ABC News has picked up on this, at long last. An investigative piece by the Associated Press has revealed that HIV-positive foster kids are supposed to have advocates looking out for their health and well-being while they are part of test programmes for new AIDS treatments, but aren't. The noticably higher death rates aside, side effects of these treatments included rashes and a drastic reduction in the numbers of white blood cells in these kids. No accessible records were kept tying these deaths to the experimental protocols. Marilyn Castaldi, spokescritter for the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center of New York, was quoted as saying that "advocates weren't needed," presumably due to minimal projected risk to the health of the test subjects. Just because someone's infected with the AIDS virus doesn't mean that there isn't an element of quality of life, folks. An as-yet terminal disease doesn't meant that making them suffer more is permissible because things can't possibly get any worse.

Read both of these articles, folks. It's fucking scary what's going on, and what is going on seems to be out of the hands of anyone who'll give a straight answer.

"Our position is that advocates weren't needed," my rosy red starfish.

The US TSA has announced that it's going to start recording more information about travellers starting this summer. All prospective travellers will have to give their full, legal names and birthdates when purchasing tickets. Of course, it's only 'suggested' that you give this information, not 'required'. If you don't, though, your probability of being searched is much greater, because partial names match more readily than full names in searches.

As if that weren't interesting enough, Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, is kicking around the idea of setting up a private, nonprofit organisation to collect information on private citizens and relay the information to the Homeland Security Agency. Sounds an awful lot like the Total Information Awareness system that they were setting up a few years ago, doesn't it? One person who was present for this was quoted as saying "It sounds like investigating every person for no reason."

And, as if that weren't enough, there's Title II of the REAL ID Act, which is at this time making its way through the Senate. This Act, ostensibly to make all of us safer, has been hidden within the text of a bill that would allocate funding to tsunami assistance; what those two things have in common is anyone's guess. Title II of this act requires that all fifty states link their driver's license databases for easier access, and would also require information exchange with the driver's license records in Mexico and Canada. DHS would have sole say-so over the design of US driver's licenses, on top of that. If you read a little more, DHS would also be able to set limits on who can and cannot get a driver's license in the US.

Have you ever tried to get a job without a driver's license?

You can read the full text of all three versions of the REAL ID Act here.

Google's Web Accelerator sort-of anonymises traffic.

Not too long ago I linked to an article about a group that was lobbying for protection for whistleblowers that bring to light egregious lapses in national security. Russ Tice, an analyst for No Such Agency, has been fired for participating. After working there for twenty years, his clearance was pulled and he's been given a window seat until his job is finally terminated on 16 May 2005. Tice's particular grievance was that it's not uncommon for loss of clearance and access to be used for punishment of whistleblowers in the US intelligence industry.

As for the e-mail about a former co-worker.. all I have to say is, how many breaches of intelligence and classified information have gone to China in the past ten years? The words "guidance system" spring to mind. Go look it up.

Sometimes you have to say that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. I wouldn't have done it this way, but I admire the guy. He's got stones you could use as ballast on an oil tanker.

Sore Winner
You have a 80% Survival Rate and 60 % Sanity Left!
Your survive with some injury, but you survive nonetheless. However you are unable to look in the mirror or even at your own body without having horrible flashbacks or the tramua you have suffered. Your slumber is filled with horrible dreams and your waking moments are agony from the constant pain that wracks your body and the things in your mind refusing to let you relax from the horrors you have seen. There is only one way out. And you take it. Suicide. Release is the most wonderful feeling you have ever experienced.



My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 84% on Survival
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 56% on Sanity
Link: The Haunted House Test Test written by eclipso on Ok Cupid

Presenting... the Livejournal of the Last Dalek!

2005/05/04

Ordinarily, I'm not much for pop music, but this caught my eye soon after my first cup of coffee this morning. The band Linkin Park is threatening to stop producing music for their label, Warner Brothers, because of the projected $600mus resulting from their IPO, only $7mus is going to go back to the company and artists. That's right; $593mus from the IPO is going into the pockets of upper management. Ordinarily, bands don't complain about their lot in life, if they know what's good for them. Being unhappy with your record label is a good way to get screwed out of what little money they really do make. There are also some unpleasant noises heard, which can't really be substantiated without hard data, that the management of the WB record label has been making money hand over fist while the company itself is deeply in debt; the proceeds of the IPO would go toward paying off some of that debt. Which leaves one to wonder what would happen if the label suddenly went casters up, and had to be dismantled and sold off.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the stuff that the Transportation Security Agency confiscates at the airports? Some of it winds up on eBay!

This article is interesting, not so much because of its subject matter as the list of restrictions that the current US regeime puts on its aid money. The organisations the money is going to won't get the money unless they catagorically reject abortion and push abstinence and/or marriage, even though abstinence only delays the inevitable, and then under certain circumstances only.

This is a messy fight, and not one that's really going to be won. The folks with the money are more than happy to take it away if the folks they're looking at won't kowtow properly. This is still considered a victory, because it's "money saved", but if you ask about the country it was originally supposed to be given to, they won't remember what you're talkingn about. Not that they listen to questions like that, anyway.

Who says you never learn anything useful in high school? In a drug awareness class at the Elma High School in Washington state, a deputy giving a speech demonstrated a good bit of how to cook methamphetamine at home, and one of the students recorded the whole thing. It wasn't the whole procedure, but with a little research and skull-sweat you could figure out how to do it on your own, assuming that you didn't blow yourself up, of course.

Your word of the day: Apostasy

Private First Class Lynndie England, famous for the photographs of her humiliating prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq has had her plea of guilty thrown out of court because the military judge doesn't believe that she knew that she was doing wrong at the time. Under US military law, guilty pleas are only accepted if the person knew that they were committing wrongdoing at the time.

Funny. I thought wrong was wrong. I guess those darn mixed signals from the media are confusing me again.

2005/05/03

Our network connection at work is, if we're fortunate, fast enough to type in a text window from another server and display the characters echoed back within sixty seconds. If we're not fortunate, one of us can type a command, walk away, go for a cigarette and a cup of coffee at the coffee shop down the street, come back, and the characters typed will be on the screen. Please note that I never said that the command was actually executing. At our ISP's suggestion late yesterday we went to the bandwidth testing page that they suggested. Half an hour later, our results appeared on the screen.

Needless to say, we're fast on our way out of there.

Congratulations to Mozilla Firefox, which just broke fifty million downloads!

The Java-based BitTorrent utility called Azureus has released v2.3.0.0 recently, and the list of new features is something that Torrent afficionados should check out post-haste. Among the new functionalities in the software is decentralisation: No longer do you have to connect to a tracker website to download, because the Azureus clients themselves use the UDP protocol to keep track of who has what parts of what torrent, who is available, and where copies of the .torrent file itself can be gotten in the event that a tracker drops it from its list as it expires. Link functionality has been added to download .torrent files from the distributed Torrent networks, called magnet links. Chat functionality has also been added, to allow ad-hoc torrents to be created while people are talking.

Microsoft, the experts of astroturfing, have turned Team 99 loose to hype the release of Longhorn with weblogs. They're not trying to be subtle about it, either, because they've opened public nominations to Team 99 in the MSDN forums. They're shooting for knowledgable, loyal members of the MS Windows developer and user bases to spread the word far and wide on the Net. One wonders if this is in reaction to the unveiling of Longhorn a couple of weeks ago, which didn't result in "Ooh!" and "Aah!" from the audience, but cries of "AAAhhh!! My eyes!" that eventually resulted in MS forcing the screenshots off the Net. It was only a matter of time, I guess. Weblogs were originally a medium by which people could post their opinions on pretty much everything, so the logical next step is manipulating weblogs to manipulate opinion. First letters to the editor, and now this.

Whatever is being put in the water supply these days, I have to wonder if it's being cooked too long on the bunsen burner: The Free Software Foundation is being sued because one Daniel Wallace claims that the GPL is a price-fixing scheme. Yep, the sole purpose of the GPL is to drive software companies out of business, and not let people distribute their source code but keep rights to it. This lawsuit was filed in the state of Indiana, citing the Clayton Antitrust Act (15 US Code Section 26) as the justification for this suit. The asked-for injunction would outlaw the use of the GNU Public License in the United States if it's granted. Spin of opinion is claiming that the GPL is opaque and misinterprets US copyright law, which makes it unsuitable for use (unlike, say, the BSD licence, which allows you to use open source code in commercial products without having to open your code). The case has hit Groklaw, and a bit or research has already been done by folks more savvy than I, legally speaking. Daniel Wallace has a history of lawsuits against the GPL, none of which have panned out, and as it comes out the woman who wrote the article I linked to first has a history of misquoting leaders in the open source movement to try to spin things in certain directions. As always, following the money isn't a bad idea, and neither is placing e-mails under subpoena.

The New York Times has an interesting profile (no registration required) on the reverend Ken Hutchinson, who orchestrated bullying Microsoft into not backing Washington House bill 1515. He doesn't seem like that nice a guy for a reverend, breeding rottweilers because he likes potentially vicious dogs and playing football because it gave him an excuse to rough people up, if the quotes are to be believed. Hutchinson goes so far as to say that Microsoft's carefully written denial that he had anything to do with dropping their support is a lie.

Sounds like a guy I'd like to discuss life's foibles with, how about you?

Your word of the day: Fundamentalism

2005/05/02

This weekend was a celebration of Lyssa having earned her master's degree from the University of Maryland. I got into DC early Friday evening, as I reckon it (around 2100 EDT) and after unloading the car (for a change, I didn't bring a lot of stuff, just the essentials). I brought a care package for her, made up of the stuff I was able to replace from Tekkoshocon, along with a certain gift that I'd been able to pick up on eBay and sit on until the time was right: A Fullmetal Alchemist pocket watch, which are becoming difficult to find because they were originally limited edition only. She was thrilled to death at her gift, and carried it with her all weekend. Friday night we went out for dinner at a local burger joint for the traditional triad of a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake to blow off some steam after a week that's been hellish for the both of us. We even made it to bed early (for us), in preparation for Saturday.

A picnic was in the works for Saturday, though we didn't know if the weather would be co-operative that day. Word had gone out in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area, and folks came from all over to hang out, grill, and generally spend the day together. Lyssa and I went out for breakfast Saturday morning and then hit up the local supermarket for supplies. Folks would be bringing food with them, so we had to be careful of how much we bought as well as what we were getting. Mostly, we bought condiments and stuff to make baked beans (you can't have a picnic without them, let's face it) as well as consumables, like paper plates and plasticware (because neither of us wanted to do dishes). The rain never let up, so our backup location, Lyssa's apartment, was fallen back up. While Lyssa did the dishes and cooked I went into cleaning mode and straightened up the apartment in what I am told must be record time. With a large number of folks coming over, floor space needed to be made (one of the perils of college, no matter what degree you're going for, is the number of books that you will accumulate in fairly short order), and floor space was made. There are two things I hate: Cleaning and having to do something over again. I hate cleaning, so I try to get it done as soon as possible. I hate doing things over, though, so I make sure that when I do something, I do it properly. Putting the two together means that unless you're cleaning another room, you'd best get out of my way or you'll be picked up by the Swiffer by accident.

We were finished with plenty of time to spare when folks started arriving. Rialian, Helen, and Kash were the first to arrive, with many folding chairs in tow as well as munchies. Butterfly and Mark arrived with hamburgers and more condiments, which I set to work grilling on the stove immediately while Lyssa cracked open the Portobello mushrooms (easily the size of your kneecaps; you could wear them as pasties if you were so inclined, they were so large) and set those on the electric grill on the counter. Lauren, Paige, and Justin arrived after the belly dancing show at U.Maryland with vegetarian fare in tow. Mika, Rhianna, and Duo brought dessert with them, in the form of an ice cream cake that we'd forgotten about by the end of the night and a selection of cheeses and vegetables to add to the buffet. the.Silicon.Dragon and Elwing arrived shortly before Mika, Butterfly, Duo, and I went out on a mead run later in the afternoon. Food was set up all over the place, the grills were going full blast, and folks made themselves comfortable everywhere they could find room. I missed most of the conversation in the first two hours or so because I was slinging food behind the counter and making sure everyone was stocked up. As I mentioned earlier, a few of us went out to stock up on local mead and a few other libations and then we settled in for the night, as we are wont, to talk, talk, and talk some more.

It was very much like one of the Victorian salons, where everyone is tucked in and cozy and discussing everything you could possibly imagine. Some very interesting debates came out of them. Later in the evening, Lyssa dug into her collection of new Doctor Who episodes, and we were treated to a triple feature, Aliens of London, World War III, and Dalek.

By this time, it was around midnight and most everyone was crashing, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to our respective homes. Lyssa and I crashed on the couch for a while, and eventually retired to bed, utterly exhausted.

The next day brought corned beef hash, the Food Network, a quick trip to the comic shop, another nap, and dinner at an Indian restaurant reputed to be the finest in the area. As a duly ordained representative of the Bene Capsaicin, I ordered the chicken vindaloo as dinner... and met my match.

Part of my body's genome is Latino, I am told. I've loved spicy-hot foods as long as I can remember. Chili peppers? No problem. Hot sauce? In a tall glass, please. Chili? Learned to make it when I was living near Fort Hood, in Texas. I'm known for my Edward S. Teller memorial chili. This stuff, however, was an order of magnetude more powerful than anything I've had anywhere, not Pittsburgh, not New York City, and not even Texas. Certainly, it was more potent than anything I've ever dared to make myself. My sense of taste was airlifted to safety after two or three bites; at least, I sincerely hope it was because right now I think I could eat a handful of thumbtacks and not realise it. I didn't sweatdrop, I broke into a sweat which began to spontaneously boil upon my brow. A subprocess began paging through my memory field, searching for warranty information in the event that I had to purchase replacement internal organs on the black market.

I've met my match. On the plus side, it cleared my sinuses and bronchial passages, so I can breathe again.

Cellular telephone towers are becoming as ubiquitous as trees in this day and age, and in some places are beginning to outnumber them. You'd think that they would be placed advantageously, and that sometimes it would just be a bad idea to put one of these steel towers in visible locations. Think again. In the state of New Jersey, Verizon wanted to set up a tower in Mendham Township, a quiet, unassuming town. The residents politely refused, because the tower would be an eyestore visible from most every point in the area. Verizon wouldn't take no for an answer and broke out the big guns to ensure that the tower would go up (no registration required for that link). This isn't the only time that Verizon's thrown its weight around to put up another cellpeater. Sometimes these towers are half-heartedly disguised as something else, like a tree or even a cactus, but mostly you can't mistake them for anything but an antenna array sticking out like a broken limb above the treeline. In many places, suburbanites would rather deal with spotty cellular reception and have to use their landlines than put up with a property value-lowering eyesore (property value is everything these days; there's a bit of a boom in housing at this time in some of the newer areas developed, like my old neighborhood), but cellular companies can't have that because it's bad for their business. There are a few clauses in federal telecommunications laws that allow cellular providers to ask courts to ignore zoning laws when they want to set up a cellular repeater, and it's illegal to use health reasons to deny the construction of such an antenna array (the jury is still out on whether or not high levels of microwave radiation pose a health hazard, and probably will be for years to come).

I hope some of you have taken some time off for this.. or at least have vacation time free in the next year or two. I have no idea if this is serious or not, but someone at MIT is organising a conference for time travellers in the East Campus Courtyard at the following coordinates: 20050508@0200 UTC, 42:21:36.025N, 71:05:16.332W. The organiser is calling for everyone and anyone to help advertise this conference as widely as they can, in the hope that real time travellers will find out about it and attend, hopefully with some proof of who they are and where they came from. The organiser asks that attendees RSVP to the e-mail address timetravelerconvention (at) gmail (dot) com.

Speech is only free when you don't have to worry about the repercussions of every little thing you say, from "Good morning, miss" to writing a short story. Two sixteen year old girls from New York City have been picked up by DHS, and now no one knows where the are or what state they're in; one got into a row with her parents, as adolescents are wont to do, the other was a friend. The first girl's parents went to a police station in Queens, New York because their daughter defied them, and refused to submit. The police raided their home, confiscated all of the computer equipment in the premises, and read some of the essays that the girls had written. For the record, the girl was being homeschooled. One of the essays was apparently about suicide bombing, and why it was against Islamic law. The police only saw the words 'suicide bombing' and must have ignored the bits about why it's a blasphemous thing. This was enough for the girl to be arrested and spirited away, despire her parents' pleas. As a result, a friend of hers was also arrested as a co-conspirator.

Sixteen years old.

Let me ask you something, citizen: Have you ever thought about why someone would off themselves? Seriously, now.. have you ever pondered it? Maybe you wrote about in a diary or in an essay, or for all I know you mused about it a little in your LiveJournal. Do you think that your idle writings are grounds for being picked up by guys busting your door down? Maybe it's you son or daughter, who is wondering if the war in Iraq is the right thing to do. Maybe they agree with it, maybe they don't. Do you think it's right for them to possibly be arrested if they don't agree? Think hard before you answer that question.

Maybe Johnny Law's overstepping his bounds a bit.

And don't get me started on the whole "threaten your kids with being arrested because they're misbehaving" schtick.

Your word for the day: Autocrat

Don't get raped in Denver, Colorado if you're in the wrong time during your menstrual cycle. You're screwed.

2005/04/29

Everyone's favourite media conglomerate, Clearchannel, has split off its live entertainment unit as a new corporation and set up an IPO right off the bat. They's also announced an extra $3us dividend on their extant shares (if you've got a couple of hundred shares of Clearchannel stock, like what you would have if you cashed in your stock options), that's a nice chunk of mad money. Clearchannel's stock has already jumped in value after the announcement by ten percent, coming to rest at $30.10us during premarket share trading.

Smacking of the blank media tax in Canada, the Netherlands are kicking around a tax on MP3 players on a per-gigabyte of storage basis to serve as an illegal .mp3 download punishment tax. Because this tax is based upon the number of gigabytes of storage in the devices, this could conceivably crank the price of the iPod and its workalikes up several hundred US dollars each. Due to the existence of pay-for-playback MP3 sales companies on the Net, this is akin to making the end user pay twice for what they've downloaded; I'd go so far as to say that this makes CD fiends who rip their own material pay for their disks twice over, also. The proposed tax is the equivelent of $4.30us per gigabyte, which adds a net cost of $235us to your average iPod, and much, much more in the future, as the capacity of hard drives continues to climb. One possible dodge is to move to other audio formats like OGG, AAC, and ATRAC, but how many players use those formats right now? Not many.

Your word for the day: Hypocrite

The trick to making microcircuitry is to get your conductive paths tiny enough that you can pack lots of them in a small space to connect equally miniscule components. Past a certain point, however, it becomes infeasiable to make tools to deposit conductive material in thin enough lines - you just can't do it and have the circuitry still functional. It's like trying to draw a human hair to scale with a ballpoint pen: You can make a pen-tip that tiny but how to you get the ink to the tip, and how do you draw neatly with the pen? Other techniques, such as photolithography, dodge having to draw, as we usually think of it, but there is still a practical limit on how tiny you can make the lines. Or what you make those lines and components out of. Recently, researchers have figured out how to make bacteria cluster together in arbitrary patterns based upon alterations made to their DNA. This was done in this experiment by altering e.coli (a popular bacterium in genetic research) to emit microscopic pulses of red or green light, and to be sensitive to those pulses to serve as a communication medium for the cells. By manipulating the cells' transmissions, the cells clustered together into a bull's eye, a simple flower, and even a valentine heart in their growth medium. Hypothetically speaking, these cells could have been programmed to form any other pattern desired, from a smily face to a diagramme of a tree.. it's not beyond the realm of reason to coax them into forming part of a circuit, given sufficient research. Further modification of the bacteria would be necessary, for example, to make their cell membranes conductive somehow, to make them functional as electrical conductors, for example, but if the cells are bioluminescent and photosensitive to that bioluminescence, that could just as easily be used as an optical data transport medium (as long as the cells are alive, anyway). The medical applications of this should be obvious.

Speaking of communications, it's recently come out that the number of court-approved wiretaps has jumped 19% in the past year. If the reports are to be believed, each and every surveillance request put before the courts was approved, which is no mean feat. The states of New York, New Jersey, California, and Florida made up 75% of those requests, hands down. These numbers, however, don't take into account non-terrorism related monitoring, which is up 26% actually.

When last I checked, impersonating a Secret Service agent, or any law enforcement operative was a felony. So, who's the guy who's been doing it all over the country with impunity? Someone's been attending various public functions where George Bush is speaking, most recently in Denver, Fargo, Tucson, and Portsmouth, and has been bodily throwing folks out. Old, young, it doesn't make any difference, he knows faces and names and wants those folks out in the worst way. He's dressed in the Secret Service standard uniform, a business suit, mirrorshades, and curly-cabled earpiece, but refuses to identify himself. Why isn't this guy getting in trouble? The Denver Post isn't the only newspaper to notice this, either.

I guess if we don't agree, we're not allowed to be seen anywhere near the folks we don't agree with. It looks bad that there are dissenting opinions.

2005/04/28

Thought for the day: Disagreement with someone on some topic is not an attack. It's not a flame. It's not slander. It's not libel. It's not a threat to drive to someone's house and gun them down, or even a threat to drive to someone's house and smack them in the face with a banana cream pie. It does not necessarily have to call someone's theories, hypotheses, beliefs, or actions full of of shit or flat wrong. Disagreement doesn't mean that you're calling someone stupid, uneducated, or deluded. Disagreement doesn't mean that you're trying to subvert some group for any reason. Disagreement doesn't mean that you're trying to discredit someone or make them look bad. As long as you don't act like an utter asshat, it's only a difference in point of view.

In fact, let's make "disagreement" the word of the day.

It's very possible to disagree with someone without resorting to a schoolyard argument. In fact, try it some time. You might be pleasantly surprised.

After talking about hardware-based DRM yesterday, you might find this of interest: Microsoft's project Longhorn is dialling back its Next Generation Secure Computing Base technology, formerly codenamed Palladium, because there isn't much hardware out there that supports it. At most, it will implement Secure Startup, and not the full compartmentalisation technology, which is designed to keep software from interfering with other software (the example they give is to keep viral code from skipping from app to app, such as from IE to the Windows OS underneath). Secure Startup is supposed to prevent people who've stolen the hard drive from popping it into another machine to get at the data (this puts a cramp in data recovery companies and data forensics, it should be known). The NGSCB programme is falling more and more behind, and it's a safe bet that there are more reasons than just the available hardware, but that stuff's not getting out. Moreover, there is apparently still blowback all across the world about the hardware requirement for this technology, because nobody trusts the country in which it was developed. No, I'm serious; scroll down almost to the end and read the last three paragraphs.

In an unusually enlightened legal maneuver, a pair of universities in North Carolina have discovered that they don't actually have to reveal the identities of two students that the RIAA wants to drag into court. Yes, a Federal Magistrate has gone against the wishes of the RIAA and did not force the two schools to release the names of .mp3 swappers. The subpoenas in question were filed back in 2003 was stopped dead by privacy rights. The schools' administrative teams, however, didn't state that they were supporting the piracy of RIAA-backed music.

This makes me wonder how many people are really boycotting RIAA-related labels entirely in favor of indie groups and labels.

I don't know how widespread this is in the world, but all over the US you are likely to see dozens of gated communities, small neighborhoods for reasonably well off folks that are surrounded entirely by eight to fifteen foot high brick walls, with a small number of gates, most automated, some actually staffed by human guards, controlling entry and egress from the area. A couple of days ago, a crew called Heavy Trash put orange wooden observations platforms outside of three such communities in the Los Angeles area, so that passersby could climb up and watch what's going on inside the communities. The exact addresses are given, in case anyone in the area would like to stop by and make use of these observation platforms. What's next? Observation platforms with SUV-like canvas covers over them concealing small cadres of urban anthropologists, like those used by duck hunters and wildlife photographers?

Hmmmm.. that's not a bad idea, come to think of it. I live only a few miles away from one of these enclaves.

I mentioned last night a few news articles about cane toads exploding in Europe, of all things. Linda Howe has picked up on the story and adds a few facts that she's dug up: This was happening between 3 and 7 April 2005, and there were eyewitnesses of this unusual phenomenon. No contaminants were found that would cause this; no viruses or fungi and no chemicals. This also happened in Denmark on 25 April 2005, which is probably why this story popped up (twice in two different places). Apparently, cane toads aren't too popular with people due to their toxicity; in fact, in some areas the local governments have called for them to be killed if seen because they disrupt the ecosystems wherever they go (they have no natural enemies, so the animals that try to prey upon them die, which slashes populations). A few more articles are linked at the bottom of her report.

In the past four or five years, it's become very dangerous to be a whistleblower, someone who's fed up with improper procedure, cut corners, and sometimes outright dangerous situations that Someone, be it a corporation, a government body, or a group of some kind are keeping quiet. The origin of the term is lost in the mists of history; maybe it came from the nuclear power industry, maybe from the police, maybe from someplace else. Regardless, it's never been an easy thing to do. It's not uncommon for whistleblowers to be fired, sued, sometimes even blacklisted in industry because they spoke up about something that their conscience wouldn't let them ignore. Now, a coalition has formed to protect national security whistleblowers, and it's a safe bet that there are a few cold sweats on a few foreheads as a result. The NSWBC is attending Congressional hearings to demand an end to retaliation against those who expose corruption, screwups, and activities directly counter to the American people, something that everybody's heard about but no one wants to dig up the evidence of, lest they be considered whistleblowers also. After their appearance before Congress, they will hold a press conference, where some interesting names from the FBI, the DOJ, and a number of legal firms will take the podium. In fact, the press conference is going on right now (it was scheduled for 1330 EDT to 1500 EDT).

I wonder if it'll make the media tonight.

A few days ago I mentioned a new bill steadily making its way through the House of Representatives called the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, which would make it illegal to spread prereleases of music and movies, moreso than it already is. George Bush signed it into law yesterday. The EFF has a few choice things to say on this matter, and thankfully it's more coherent than a lot of the commentary on this bill, I would say even moreso than my own. It's not technical, it's not full of legal jargon (neither of them are), give them a read.

Fucking A
What Usage of the Word Fuck are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

Your brain: 40% interpersonal, 120% visual, 100% verbal, and 140% mathematical!
Congratulations on being 400% smart! Actually, on my test, everyone is. The above score breaks down what kind of thinking you most enjoy doing. A score above 100% means you use that kind of thinking more than average, and a score below 100% means you use it less. It says nothing about how good you are at any one, just how interested you are in each, relatively. A substantial difference in scores between two people means, conclusively, that they are different kinds of thinkers.

Matching Summary: Each of us has different tastes. Still, I offer the following advice, which I think is obvious:

  1. Don't date someone if your interpersonal percentages differ by more than 80%.
  2. Don't be friends with someone if your verbal percentages differ by more than 100%.
  3. Don't have sex with someone if their math percentage is over 200%.



My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 62% on interpersonal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 85% on visual
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 84% on verbal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 81% on mathematical
Link: The 4-Variable IQ Test written by chriscoyne on Ok Cupid

I don't really buy the whole "greater than 100% thing" but it does reflect, to a good extent, how my mind works. I'm not very good wtih people, but I do tend to think in symbols more than words and numbers, I can write well if I put my mind to it, and math and logic are the primary mode of reasoning I use in everyday life (even though I might have trouble with mathematical computation, the logic part of it comes naturally).

2005/04/27

Be afraid. Be very afraid. US forces missed one of their top ten terrorists, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in a raid in February. No details are forthcoming with respect to how they missed him.

It's good to be an evil overload, I guess, if only so you can have platoons of hired goons to take the fall for you. Radio-controlled implant full of $NASTY_POISON not included.

Trials of a drug used to treat breast cancer at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital have ended unusually early, not due to any problems but because the drug was far more effective than researchers had hoped it would be. Called Herceptin, the compound has a roughly 50% success rate for preventing the recurrance of breast cancer if used in the early stages. The compound acts on cells that have high concentrations of a protein called HER-2 in their cell membranes, of which 20-30% of breast cancer cells are. The drug has evidenced abreactions with other chemotheraputic drugs, but this doesn't necessarily disqualify it from use, just with those certain compounds. The side effect they mention is congestive heart failure, the probability of which increases when Herceptin is combined with Doxorubicin, another chemotheraputic drug. Still, these experimental results are promising, and definitely something to keep an eye on.

Microsoft's taking aim at Adobe, now, by announcing a brand-new document format that will compete with PDF and PostScript. The document format, named Metro, will be based on XML (what isn't these days?) and will carry a royalty-free license. They're also talking about integrating the Metro format into print servers and drivers to offload rendering (I wonder if they realise that placing code closer to the bare metal is a risky thing, and can drive system performance down) and accelerate the printing process. This wouldn't be the first time that Microsoft's announced jetwash to distract the industry from a company that they're wary of, if indeed that's what this is. Also, I've yet to see them actually come up with an 'open' file format. XML is all well and good, but if you don't document the schema to the file format, the XML code is opaque because there isn't any context to the components, and they can always throw binary data in on top of that, like they've done with the files generated by Office. If their file formats are open, why do people have to reverse engineer them just to figure out how to open them, let alone parse the contents?

When it comes to the word 'free', Microsoft's mastered the science of doublethink.

AOL rips off another well-known IM client, called GAIM, but integrates VoIP functionality, instead of making it into a module.

The black box comes to Windows. A utility will be integrated into future versions of Microsoft Windows as a bag on the side of the Mr. Watson Debugger (which you've probably seen from time to time during particularly harsh crashes) that will collect even more detailed information about the system's state, such as a list of running processes and the contents of open documents at the time of the crash. There will also be an option for the IT staff of the organisation to recieve the debugging information at the same time that it's transmitted to Microsoft. Thankfully, whenever this black box module pops up, the user will have the option of not sending debugging information at all, and if so how much information will be transmitted. Organisations covered by HIPAA will no doubt have to think long and hard about this functionality.

At long last, the US State Department has determined that maybe putting RFID chips in US passports is a bad idea, and maybe security needs to be tightened on them. Not only will they help US citizens stand out, because the devices to read RFID tags at a ten foot distance are readily available on the open market, and we all know how much folks in other countries like US citizens right now... also, if you can read an RFID chip, you can dump the contents to a file and cook a new one. They're talking about using encryption to protect the flow of data from the RFID chips, but that's rather vague; does this mean ROT13? AES? But now I'm just splitting hairs.. passports will also be coated with a metallic material, shielding them from incoming and outgoing RF (meaning, readers).

Anyway, it's interesting that they're finally becoming clueful.

Surveillance satellites pick up the damndest things.. even your own facilities.

Maybe some of those guys do have it in their heads to mess with folks who look for anomalies in orbital photographs.. I know I would, if given the chance.

The trend spreads: Computer at Carnegie-Mellon University's School of Business that held information on students who attended grad school between 1997 and 2004 were compromised, resulting in the leakage of sensitive information on over 5,000 students, graduates, and employees. The security breach was discovered on 10 April 2005. So far, they don't know if the information's being abused or not.

It's one thing to ponder classic Fortean phenomena like frogs falling from a perfectly clear sky, often tens of miles away from any body of water, but it's quite another for people to watch them swelling up like tiny little balloons and exploding. No, I'm not kidding, just outside of Hamburg, Germany, toads are seemingly inflating and popping, throwing toad guts all over the place like streamers and confetti. The authorities are utterly baffled. Maybe someone's feeding them alka-seltzer or something, which would cause them to swell up. I don't know if they'd explode like a hamster in a microwave or not (no, folks, I've never done that, but I used to play Maniac Mansion quite a bit when I was a kid) but I wouldn't rule out microwave radiation from one source or another causing the water to boil inside them and the pressure causing them to pop (it's not outside the realm of reason: during the cold war, the radar packages in Russian MiGs were so powerful, they'd fry birds in flight, causing them to rain down over the countryside; it wasn't until a MiG was captured that they figured it out). The hypotheses of a fungus of some kind or a virus doesn't sound right to me, because I don't know of any fungi or viral infections that would cause to evolve so rapidly that the organism exploded.

Very, very strange.

Your Taste in Music:

80's Alternative: Highest Influence
80's Pop: High Influence
Old School Hip Hop: High Influence
80's Rock: Medium Influence
Hair Bands: Medium Influence
80's R&B: Low Influence
90's Alternative: Low Influence
90's Pop: Low Influence
Adult Alternative: Low Influence
Classic Rock: Low Influence
Dance: Low Influence
Gangsta Rap: Low Influence
Progressive Rock: Low Influence
How's Your Taste in Music?

It's all about the weird stuff from the 80's. Don't let anybody tell you any different. Like Underworld's Change the Weather.

Your word of the day: Conspiracy

2005/04/26

Break a leg, Lyssa.

Your word of the day: Distraction

Microsoft has announced modifications to the next major release of Windows, first and foremost being hardware support for DRM, digital rights management. This release is the long-awaited Longhorn, and is scheduled for release sometime during December of 2006; when they'll actually get around to shipping it's a different matter. Why is this important to you? Plenty of reasons. DRM is a system for restricting what data your computer can access, what can be done to it, and whether or not it can be copied using strong cryptographic systems. Let's say that you download an .mp3 file from iTunes; that .mp3 can have code embedded in it that lets only your workstation at work play it backing using Windows Media Player v9.0 or later. At the end of the day you copy that .mp3 to your thumbdrive and bring it home for your SO to listen to, but when you plug it in the file won't play back because the license you bought the .mp3 under (remember, the essence of DRM isn't that you bought something, it's that you bought permission to do a limited number of things on a limited number of computers for a limited period of time (perhaps)). locked it to your computer at work. Or let's say that you bought a new motherboard for your OpenBSD server at home because you're long overdue for an upgrade. You swap the mainboard, processor core, and RAM in your box and boot up.. and get an error message because the OpenBSD kernel isn't cleared to run on this machine because the manufacturer didn't generate a cryptographic key for it, so the DRM chip on the mainboard halts the boot process.

Read up on DRM, folks - start with this Wikipedia article, because it gives a good nontechnical overview of this matter. And do it now, because lots of people are going to be screwed by this when it goes into high gear.

Speaking of DRM and its commercial use at this time, users of iTunes are fed up with it. More and more people are becoming frustrated with buying music online because the quality can't hold a candle to that which you'd get on a CD. More people aren't even able to play them on their MP3 players due to the DRM code in each file, essentially wasting their money. This is because people are used to buying copies of something, and not limited permission to use that something, and they much prefer the former because it's more logical.

Let's hope enough of a stink arises to trashcan DRM.

No, it's not over, I just got tired of keeping up with the astoundingly weird legal arguments in this case: IBM is crying foul in the IBM-vs-SCO case because SCO is mysteriously short over 16k files now. SCO's been called time and again to produce evidence by the court hearing their copyright infringement case against IBM, and time and again they've stalled for time, hemmed, hawed, and made excuses, but this time they've made an extremely large number of files vanish, presumably offered up to Shub Internet by way of /bin/rm.

Yeah, the legal docs are mind numbing. That's why I stopped following the case. However, when evidence up and disappears, almost always someone's up to no good.

While we're on the topic of computing today (a refreshing change from politics, to be sure), Microsoft has announced the release of 64-bit Windows.

No, those trumpets you heard weren't signalling the apocalypse, save for perhaps on Bugtraq.

Customers running 64-bit hardware but 32-bit releases of Windows can send their current installation media back along with $12us and get brand new copies of 64-bit Windows. Intel, for all its worth, is going to release their 64-bit CPUs officially next month, shortly after Windows: Reloaded. What's more, you can't get it at the store, you're going to have to order it from your supplier of choice.

ThinkGeek has TV-B-Gones in stock!

More information about James Gucker/Jeff Gannon, the discredited White House reporter who was exposed as a plant has been released - he was prone to hanging out at the White House, instead of being invited in like the rest of the White House press corps only when there was a press conference on. He also had much more access to the facility than any other reported in the press corps. Given the paranoia of the current regeime in the US, doesn't this strike you as odd? A mere reporter, wandering around the White House and attending briefings that the press didn't have the clearance to view? White House records show that entry and exit times for Gannon/Guckert are also missing, in direct contravention of policy. Relevant excerpts from the logs are in the article, as long as a brief recap of the stuff that Gannon/Guckert's been caught doing; it's not pretty.

It's nice to know that the US border patrol is protecting us from bologna and cheese smuggled into the United States. A man crossing the border from Mexico had with him fourteen suitcases containing 845 pounds of processed bologna and 100 pounds of cheese, worth a couple of grand on the US market. His papers were all in order, and after surrendering the cold cuts he went on his merry may, perhaps never to be seen again.

How about watching out for all them there terrorists you're always telling us to be afraid of, guys?

Better living through science and chemistry, eh? (Note: work safe, but it might give you pause)

Congratulations, Lyssa!

2005/04/25

Ever have one of those days where you just don't feel like writing?

After being jolted awake by my pager this morning, my mind's been off in a weird headspace, and I'm fighting to get my thoughts in order. Hence, no real updates yet today.

Since the 1980's, researchers have been trying to make hydrogen gas usable as a fuel by the customers, in an attempt to mitigate the dwindling supplies of oil and natural gas on this planet. Once you cut the media hype and propaganda out, it boils down to difficulty cracking (decomposing) ordinary water into hydrogen and oxygen, namely, the amount of electricity required to do this on the scale of mass production. In Los Angeles, researchers have figured out how to use bacteria to do this, though their focus is aimed at making water treatment operations cheaper. Much less electricity is used to spur this reaction system onward, to the tune of a quarter of a volt of direct current. The apparatus used is pretty much the same as that used for purifying waste water, only oxygen is excluded and a tiny electrical current is applied to the cell's contents. Theoretically, any organic waste mixed with water can be used to generate hydrogen gas using this method, with the useful side effect of purifying water, also.

Portland, Maine has an unusual visitor on one of its docks: A ship covered with what appears to be a large number of radio antennas, including a couple coverd with geodesic shields, not unlike those on doppler radar rigs. The 180 foot long ship is called The Sage, and is moored at this time in the high security section of the docks. Word on the street has it that the ship will monitor the flight of the space shuttle Discovery next month. The ship's captain, however, is under some kind of gag order from on high, by his own admission. Speculation runs rampant over what's on board, why it's moored way up near the top of the east coast (far away from Florida, where the shuttle launches are carried out), why it might have parabolic antennas on it, and who owns or is leasing the water craft.

While we're on the subject of unusual techniques being tested commercially, how about human genes being inserted into gengineered strains of rice? Folks are going nuts over this, ranging from Prince Charles of England saying that this is tantamount to playing God, from other folks who say that this is a little too close to cannibalism for comfort. On the other side of the coin, supporters are saying that there are no ethical problems here (I'd like a bit more detail, such as what, exactly they did, where they got the gene samples, records from review boards... I don't 'just trust' folks who say that the ethics of foo aren't applicable). The case in particular is a human gene that creates an enzyme called CPY2B6, which breaks down toxic chemicals, such as pesticides and certain industrial wastes, which would make it less likely that contaminants would accumulate in the rice later used as a foodstuff. This strain of rice is immune to thirteen different herbicides.

When I take over the world, I will pour billions of dollars into practical genetic engineering research, specialising in the human genome. This I promise.

Why?

Aside from making an army of cybernetically enhanced mutants to ensure that I keep control of this planet, I wish to do the human race a favour, and that is make human teeth much more resistant to damage and decay.

Yep, I just got back from the dentist's office. Thankfully, Dr. Schrenker didn't have to open the toolbox for anything major, I was only in for a routine cleaning (I drink too much coffee, I'm told) and checkup. X-rays show that I've got more cavities that need to be taken care of soon, before they get worse. I'm all for that, because I really want to avoid another root canal. Here's the thing, though: I discovered that my dental insurance only covers $1kus of work every year. I don't know how much I've used, and neither does Dr. Schrenke's office, because their computer is down.

2005/04/24

After the week I'd had last week, I decided that a few days of R&R were in order. I spent Friday night lounging around relaxing and playing games (a far cry from the frenzied system repairs I'd been making at work) and most of Saturday leisurely shopping for food and eventually finding a few rare books for a song at the local Half Price Books (paperback-sized Robert Anton Wilson?! The novelisations of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Tron??) which came home with me. I've also been doing a little reading in my spare time for work, which actually went better than the rest of the week had been, which is to say, nothing was thrown from my balcony or sacrificed to nameless horrors from the other side of the veil that we're used to existing on. After dinner last night, I headed over to Alexius' to meet up with Fern, Diane, and himself to raid Club Hot for pagan night, which has relocated from the now-defunct B'Witche's Tavern (requisat en pace).

Paris, my old partner-in-crime on the decks, was handling the music last night with his particular flair, spinning an excellent mix of music that wasn't too loud (unlike the DJ that followed him at 0130 EDT) and was eclectic enough to make everyone happy. Kali and Lucien, the organisers of the event, were nowhere to be found, strangely enough. I don't know what's up with that.

Around midnight, after a beer or two, I found myself propelled up the front to organise for the full moon dance contest, an event that I'd completely forgotten about. The others at the front were Fern, Titania, Iris, Sheri, and Molly, a newcomer to the evening. I'd made an effort earlier that night to deck myself out in comfortable layers, which consisted of jeans and a t-shirt, with a hoodie and my leather jacket to shield myself from the caprecious Pittsburgh weather (read: It's almost May and it's snowing). The ultraviolet reactive paint I'd worked into my hair was an utter failure due to the rain, and turned my locks into a nasty looking mess of gel that was neatly incorporated into a braid with no one the wiser (I'll not try that again) and a few markings just in case, worked in UV-reactive paint and highlighter, both of which blend in nicely with my normally pale skin until UV light hits them. I got lots of complements on the diagrammes I used last night. Maybe I'll work up an essay on their use later.

I spent the time before the dance mostly geeking with Chris, Titania's SO, who knows a lot of the folks I used to work with when I was at the County. It's a small world.

As 0115 EDT rolled around, the six of us took the stage wondering what Paris would pull out of his hat for the contest. The music wasn't quite familiar but was definitely to our liking, and the six of us did our best to impress and captivate the other folks in the club, arrayed around the bar with ballots and drinks in hand. I must confess, I wasn't paying much attention to anyone else at that time, else I'd have been paralysed with stage fright. By the end of it, though, a tie-breaker was held between Titania and Shari to Voodoo, the B'Witche's Tavern anthem.

The votes came in and were swiftly tallied. Titania won for best dressed. Shari took first place for best dancer. I was voted the dancer with the most unique moves, which rounded out the competition.

Paris' set ended and Alexius and crew decamped for Eat and Park for an early breakfast, my prize ($10us) from the contest in hand. Throwing caution to the wind, I opted for an ice cream sundae (specifically, Eat and Parks' cookie fudge fantasy, which must be seen to be believed). The evening over, we returned to Alexius' house and went our separate ways.

In response to Washington Senate Bill 1515 and the fiasco around it, I've thrown together prototypes of the front and back of a t-shirt. I'm working with a few other folks on images for other versions of this shirt. Feel free to use these images to print up your own t-shirts as long as you don't charge for it - see the Creative Commons License for more details.

The images are very plain, and they're supposed to be that way. I'm shooting for bonking folks over the head about this situation; we're getting screwed, so I'm not inclined to pull any punches. If they want to label us, then let's wear labels that they can't miss.. especially when these folks depend on some of us to get through their normal work days.

Your word of the day: Secular

2005/04/23

My pictures from Tekkoshocon 2005 are finally available. There is at least one image that remains unidentified. If you know who some of these characters are (and I don't) please e-mail me and tell me and I'll correct the attribution.

In North Carolina, the state Board of Pharmacy has decided to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill certain prescription or moral or religious grounds, but also requires them to help clients find alternative arrangements. Gee, thanks, guys. This turn of events transpired as a result of the dozens of lawsuits around the country about these laws being passed. Complaints are being filed all over the place, and the battle's going hard and heavy. In the past seven days alone, three bills allowing this have been submitted to Congress (gods know how many other bills are having similiar riders added to them with the same text).

I've already stated my opinion of this, so I won't cover the same ground again.

Well, it's official: As a result of the power playing and politicking behind the scenes, the Washington state Senate has rejected the gay civil rights bill by one vote. There is now nothing protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in health and life insurance, housing, and (very importantly in this day and age) employment. Folks from all walks of life, gay, straight, trans, and everyone else that I'm not remembering right now left the building much worse for wear, some in tears.

One bloody vote.

2005/04/22

Yesterday, a new bill was passed by a vote of 249 to 183 which gives massive tax breaks to energy conglomerates and raises energy spending by 80 billion US dollars, amidst protests in the representative part of the US government for months. This also happened regardless of the possibility of lawsuits over the usage of the gasoline additive MTBE, which is a known water contaminant in many areas, and is possibly carcinogenic. The bill also dodges the Senate's refusal to approve drilling for natural oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge. The point of the bill ostensibly was to reduce the dependence of the US on foreign oil, but I suggest that you start tracing the money to see who's benefitting from these increased profits. This also ignores the fact that there are many more oil refineries overseas than there are in the US because many were closed down some years ago. The bill allots only two billion US dollars for research into truly renewable energy sources, such as hydrothermal, solar, and wind power. An amendment was added to the bill which reduces the damages that regions harmed by MTBE contamination may win in court (there are 80 such lawsuits extant in the US legal system at this time). Why is this a bad thing? Those settlements are often used to fund cleanup efforts... MTBE is supposed to be phased out within eight years. Refiners are required to begin utilising ethanol manufactured from corn (didn't I hear about people doing that back in the 1980's on 3-2-1 Contact?), but only five billion US gallons of it, which isn't much when you consider how much fuel the US is sucking down right now. Daylight savings time has also been expanded by two months, now beginning in March and ending in November, making it a full six months out of the year.

handtops.com is running a review of a fully modular portable computer, manufactured by a company called MCC. Folks who keep up with this sort of thing might remember the OQO, which is another super-small handheld PC; this unit is a little different but is interesting because it's the third in a short line of such units (along with the OQO and FlipStart). The hardware is called a core, and is essentially a tiny package with a CPU, RAM, a laptop-sized hard drive (here, 20GB), and interfaces for PCMCIA cards and USB devices, around which you then construct other peripherals and possibly chassis for different uses. This unit is unique in that it's designed for other folks to manufacture their own 'shells', unlike the FlipStart and OQO. The MCC is less than a pound in weight and measures about 5x3x.0.75 inches (hairs under each value, actually, I'm rounding). Of course, you can upgrade the RAM and hard drive with laptop models. Base cost is $1990us. At this time, only a tablet-style shell is available, with a touchscreen, stylus, screen protector, and all the accoutrements you'd expect of something resembling an Apple Newton. A laptop shell is planned for later this year, as are shells for other uses, such as in cars and kiosks. There is also an OQO-like docking station available, which turns the MCC into a desktop system, for fully portable usage. Oddly enough, neither the docking station nor MCC core itself include network capability, either in the form of an Ethernet hardline or wireless (you'll have to use USB or PCMCIA units to add this essential functionality). As much as I love this idea, it's a bit on the pricy side to experiment with (Transmeta is no longer manufacturing the processor cores this unit uses, so they're going to be rare in the near future), and besides that, I've got a Newton already. And a Zaurus (which I use much more due to the development tools).

Sorry, guys.

The Geek Squad is planning on an epidemic of the black-and-white flu during a certain day in May.

As much as I dislike Microsoft's products and business practises (though I have to be honest, they rebrand some pretty good gear), I had to respect them for treating the LGBT folk in their workforce decently, at least until they renegged under pressure. No longer does MSFT support House Bill 1515 (an anti-discrimination bill making its way through the Washington state House of Representatives). Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church in Redmond threatened MSFT with massive boycotts if they didn't change their official political stance on this bill. Bradford Smith, vice-president of Microsoft, spoke to representatives of the software titan's LGBT workforce and informed them of what was going on, and then warned them that Hutcherson demanded that two Microsoft employees who testified before the Washington state House in favour of this bill be fired (this was not done). At least Smith took personal responsibility for backpedalling, and didn't try to play the faceless corporate giant card to cover his ass. In all probability, this will halt the bill's progression through the Washington state House, effectively killing the bill. Hutcherson has been bragging about how he was able to manipulate Microsoft, possibly the largest corporation supporting this bill; it wouldn't surprise me if he has set his sights on other companies backing House Bill 1515 (among them, Boeing, HP, and Vulcan, Incorporated (founded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft)).

I'm definitely making that t-shirt.

More information is available at the New York Times (no registration required for this article).

Senator Rick Santorum of my home state of Pennsylvania is at it again: This time his puppet strings are being pulled by a number of websites on the Net that provide weather information to the Net-using public at large. For years, the NOAA has provided, for free, weather information and forcasts on the Net and via shortwave radio. A bill has been introduced to the US Senate by Santorum that would make it illegal for federal meteorologists to provide the same information as commercial enterprises that provide weather-related content, sites with either sell access or support themselves with advertisement revenue. Once again, a sufficiently inexact bill has been introduced that could be used to cover just about anything, your classic dimensional hammer for stuff They don't like; exactly what is and is not permitted isn't clearly defined by this bill.

If only we could get this guy out of office. Unfortunately, even not voting for him doesn't seem to work. Are any of my readers interested in going into politics?

If I ever become an anime character...

A guide to conflict of interest...

Your word of the day: Deconstruction

2005/04/21

In a maneuver that's no doubt mobilised pressure to bow to the party line, Senator George Voinovich of Ohio refused to okay the nomination of John Bolton to the position of United Nations Ambassador. At first, there looked like there would be a committee-wide sweep of nominations but Senator Voinovich has been doing his homework and listening to the opinions of more people than just his party mates, and stated that he could not vote affirmatively in this matter. Scarily, this (someone making up their own mind) sets a precedent in this Congress. John Bolton is well known in the US government, as former Senior Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute, later as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, with a lengthy career in public service. Bolton is also known to have ties to the Federalist Society, a group dedicated to freeing the legal and judicial profession from the ties of liberalism. He is also known as a high-up in the Republican party's legal team, and was richly rewarded with a position in the Bush/Cheney regeime for single-handedly derailing the vote recount in Tennessee. He's got a reputation for striking down regulations and standards that he doesn't like, and to hell with the consequences viz, international regulations that limit the ability of the US to extend its military and financial power overseas.

Those in many professions know him to be brash, without a sense of humour, and dedicated to whatever mission he's given, with all the subtlty of a twenty megatonne tactical nuke. It's interesting that they're trying to make him their ambassador to the UN, because he's been an anti-UN activist since at least 1994, and maybe longer. He also had some colourful things to say about the International Criminal Court, calling it "fuzzy-minded romanticism that is not just naieve, but dangerous" and pioneered a new form of diplomacy, the open-handed insult, when he called King Jong of North Korea the "tyrannical dictator" of "an evil regeime"... the night before nuclear weapons talks with North Korea.

I don't know about you folks, but that right there makes me not trust him. Calling a guy with a couple of nukes at his command a dictator before opening negotiations with him... I dub this the Bolton Maneuver.

Don't just take my word for it, do your own research and make up your own mind. I started with this search and branched out from there.

These days, some people will do anything to dodge H-1B visa regulations for cheap labour. Some, like Sea Code. have gone so far, they've purchased a cruise liner and parked it 3.1 miles off of Los Angeles, California, in international waters to work out of. Sea Code is a software development company based off of said cruise liner, just close enough to the United States that it's realtively easy to get to, but is still located in international waters, so the regulations that apply to bringing in folks on H-1B visas don't matter. Cheap software development, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They say that they've got private rooms for everyone, baths and showers, and stuff to do when their coders aren't at work. Their coding facility will be connected to the rest of the Net via microwave links as well as cellular service.

Sweatshop concerns aside, all I have to say is this: There are enough coders living in the United States as citizens right now who need jobs.

A tale of the next generation. If this is the worst that a computer security professional ever has to deal with, the Net is looking like a safer place already.

Sheesh.. nobody knows what 127.0.0.1 is these days, do they?

In a move I've come to expect these days, the state of Texas has decreed that gays can't be foster parents, and is trying to pass a law to say that this is so, nyah-nyah-nyah. The bill has passed the Texas House by a vote of 135 to 6, and is on its way to the Senate. First states are repealing the precious few civil union bills that have been passed in the past year (the phrase 'second hand citizen' comes to mind; maybe I'll put that on a t-shirt), and now this crap.

So much for an open government:

From: postmaster (at) ctsg (dash) web01 (dot) ctsg (dot) com
To: timelord's (dash) address (at) virtadpt (dot) net
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 17:55:46 -0400
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

Unable to deliver message to the following recipients, due to being unable to connect successfully to the destination mail server.

president (at) whitehouse (dot) gov

Translation: The e-mail server didn't answer the connection attempt. This could be the reason. Maybe it was because Bush was told that all of his personal correspondence would be archived, as it has been since the 1980's (which is what screwed Olliver North in the 1980's; backups of his e-mail were used against him in court).

stone key
You are a stone key, and you unlock old and magical
secrets. What you have to offer is powerful and
difficult for many to understand, but
invaluable to the few who can truly grasp it.
Give the things you have carefully and
wisely, because not everyone will use them for
good.

What sort of key are you and what do you unlock?
brought to you by Quizilla

2005/04/20

Happy 4/20, everyone.

Happy anniversary, Zard and Liz.

I just discovered that I still remember some continuegame codes for Metal Gear for the original NES. I'm such a tool.

Sometimes one must resort to drastic measures to be taken seriously. During the course of doing its job, several members of the White House investigatory commission on intelligence failures threatened to resign en masse if the agencies they were assigned to investigate didn't stop stonewalling them. Moreover, they had to repeat this threat several times before anyone realised that they were serious. It makes me rather concerned that a group formed to figure out who screwed up and where in the power structure they are located is being ignored and restrained at a time when internal security is what everyone is supposed to be worried about fnord. Interestingly enough, there was at least one Federal judge heading up this fact-finding commission. This commission appears to have been broken as designed, however, as it lacked many basic powers such a cabal would need to find any information at all, such as the power to subpoena information and people for interview. There was also concern over how much of the information they uncovered would be released to the public, but that's only understandable when you look at the big picture. Exactly how many people in the public would bother to examine this information is a topic I will not discuss. There are two versions of the findings they've gathered extant, one which includes classified information, and one which does not (which was released to the public); it's been said that the difference between them is only about 10% of the content, meaning several chapters were omitted from the public version. The commission is also sitting on some of its findings, and refuses to divulge what it's found.

On the ride to work this morning, I was doing some thinking, as I am wont to do, and I figured out why, exactly, I hate political talk radio so much (which I have to listen to at work day in and day out): It's a load of balloon juice. It isn't even talking heads yapping on a screen that you can throw your coat over, it's a bunch of disembodied voices that claim that they know what is going on, what is best for us, who is evil, who is good, and who is a G/god. It's mostly opinions and ranting, with a darth of cold, hard, solid facts. After doing a bit of analysis on what I have to listen to during the day (and, I must be honest, even George Noory is better than most of this stuff (give me the one, the only Art Bell; but I digress)) and I've found that for just about every topic that comes up on the talk radio shows during the day, you get only two or three relevant facts about whatever the hell it is that they're yelling about, and then the voice will expound upon these two or three points for the remainder of the hour, instead of giving more of the story. Then there is the ego masturbation, which is easily tuned out, but I disgress once more.

These shows don't really tell you much aside from what to think if you don't want to be considered evil, subversive, or stupid. They don't give you the facts you need to make up your own mind.

J. Michael Straczynski said something in one of his scripts years ago that I've taken to heart: "The truth is a three-edged sword. There's my side, your side, and what really happened." You can't understand what a situation is until you have a large number of facts, some from either side, and some that you are not told, but have discovered on your own. Once you cut out the bellyaching and ranting and start digging up the facts, you can decide for yourself.

Speaking of opinions, your word of the day is opinion.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: It's not just for crushing grassroots efforts anymore. Adobe, manufacturer of the world-famous application Photoshop, refuses to implement support for the native file format of certain Nikon digital cameras because they're afraid of being sued under the DMCA, because reverse engineering for the sake of interoperability is now too much of a grey area, legally speaking. Specifically, the Nikon digital cameras encrypt the white balance data of each image, which is used for colour presentation calculations. Because the data is encrypted, it falls under the DMCA, and as such is a legally actionable method.

In a perfect example of how things usually go for me after making a breakthrough of some kind, yesterday wound up being one of those days that runs you into the ground without mercy, and leaves you feeling the next day as if you hadn't slept at all. I discovered the hard way why my power bill was so high this month: The payment for March never went through, so it's a double-bill with a penalty on top of that. I spent about two hours last night fighting with the power company's website to try to get the payment through, and was treated to a full house of Visual Basic runtime error codes and payments not going through (I hope - all those attempts represent a hell of a lot of money each time). I eventually got a payment through and made another attempt to set up automatic payment, but as one might expect, I have considerable doubts. This afternoon I'm trying to get my paper bills turned back on because if I write a cheque to them, I at least know that they cashed it and have a cancelled cheque to prove it. You can't screw up with paper, or at least it's harder to. Only time will tell if everything is fixed, now.

Why is it for every step forward I take, I get knocked back another six feet?

In the United States it will soon be illegal to leak files, thanks to a little-known bill hidden inside another bill that makes certain technologies that automatically censor content legal. The bill essentially makes it illegal to have available a copy of pretty much any electronic media that hasn't been 'officially released' yet (however they choose to define that), regardless of whether or not anyone ever downloads a copy, and can result in at least a fine starting at $250kus. Because it'll be a federal crime, you can expect a hefty jail term to be tacked onto that. It passed the Senate this Tuesday, so you can pretty much expect George Bush to sign off on it, probably without ever reading the bill. The full text of bill X.107 is available here, in case you're curious. A brief perusal shows that it was penned by one Senator Orrin Hatch, surprise, surprise. The part of the bill in question is section 103, "Criminal infringement of a work being prepared for commercial distribution", and amends section 506(a) of title 17 of the United States Code. Any material produced with a reasonable expectation of commercial release, the text states, that bears a copyright is covered by this new law. The penalties are defined to be not less than three years in prison (to cover accidents), not more than five years if the work was released for commercial advantage or financial gain of some kind, with repeated offenses carrying more lengthy prison terms.

This is wrong on so many levels (note: work-safe)

2005/04/19

First open-source viruses (remember the Virus Construction Lab?), exploits (by definition), then open-source bots, like SDbot and AgoBot, and now open source proof of concept spyware. The application is written in Perl (ActiveState's ActivePerl is the best implementation of this functionality, I have found), and uses the Win32 modules. This codebase does NOT, it should be mentioned, implement any functionality that would allow it to upload captured information anyplace, nor does it implement anti-uninstallation code, or even anti-spyware killing functionality. When you think about it, using Perl to implement commercial spyware isn't a good idea, because you either need to install Perl (which is a hefty install) or compile it (which has its own particular set of problems). Also, no spyware company is really going to open the code to its stable of malware agents, because they're all in competition with each other for revenue. Spyware isn't hunting down spyware, at least not yet, but if we wait for a while it'll start, and the fallout will hurt the end users more than the other companies.

Rumours about the US military having its own cadre of crackers have been going around since the early 1980's, but now they've gone public with the superficials of JFCCNW (Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare). They are charged with the defense of critical defense-related comptuer and telecom networks, as well as perfecting the art of CNA, computer network attack. They are described as a joint task force, so it's possible that experts from any government agency (speculation includes but isn't limited to the CIA, the NSA, the DIA, and the FBI) and could easily include experts from the private sector (the US military is known to employ operatives from Wackenhut for physical security, for example) as well. There have been tales going around the computer underground since at least the first arrests of crackers in the 1980's, about kids who've gotten into some pretty weird nets and subsequently been hired by $THREE_LETTER_AGENCY, but of course none of them have been substantiated; maybe a few ex-crackers are part of JFCCNW, but I'd doubt it because how how far suits trust crackers, ex- and otherwise. A more likely bet would be folks hired away from the bigger, more reputable security agencies, like eEye and Foundstone. JFCCNW is considered highly classified; information on the programme is very difficult to come by, and this article is pretty thin on the details I'd really like, such as whether or not they do their own offensive security research and how much gear they actually have to work with. Pretty much any activity that a determined cracker would consider is a safe bet for their tactics, including viruses, worms, the Windows-vulnerability-du-jour, direct intrusion runs, and EM warfare. It is also known that they have a few black programmes, or SAPs (Special Access Programmes) (projects that are so highly classified, they are funded out of budgets that just have a dollar value but no itemised breakdown; The folks who know about them are not permitted to even acknowledge that they have heard of these projects (such is the nature of bleeding-edge military research)).

Makes you wonder how many of the old text files they read....

individual-i

Your word of the day: Chauvinist

Revenge killer

You kill for
revenge.

That is because you have lost something or
someone you held very dear. Now you can't seem
to get over the loss that marked your soul, and
the only solution is to go after the one person
who brought all this pain to you. Chances are
you are angry inside and you bottle everything
up and don't talk to anyone about it. People
may want to help, but you think that they can
never understand your pain and only get
frustrated because of this. But it is important
to see all that you have left and be thankful
of that even if you have lost something great.
It may not be true that Times heals all wounds,
but with time and talking about your feelings,
maybe the hurt will ease.

Main weapon: Yourself
Quote: "You can close your eyes to
reality but not to memories" -Stainslaw J.
Lec
Facial expression: Gritted teeth and
teary eyes



What Type of Killer Are You? [cool pictures]
brought to you by Quizilla