There's a BOFH game now!
It's one thing to hide stuff in your underwear drawer, but this is going a little too far.
Just a few minutes ago I got home from touring a couple of apartment buildings. Lupa put me on to her landlords a few weeks ago; they're good folks, the salt of the Earth, and suggested that I go to them first to look for new lodgings. Regulr readers have no doubt read of the problems I've been having at home, so I won't go over the whole mess again. The first two places I looked at aren't too far away from where the Lab is situated at this time. One could be problematic in that the current residents (with one exception) have been troublesome in the past, so the state of the building and the nerves of the other occupant are a matter of some question. The second place isn't far away from the first, and the walk-through of the place I did gave me a very good feeling. The landlord takes very good care of his holdings, and is in the process of remodelling them at this time. Everything in the place is newly reconstructed - the walls and the plaster, the carpets, the kitchens, the wiring (even the CAT-5 cable in the walls....), the windows... this place isn't a dump. It's extremely nice, and I wouldn't mind moving into there at all.
The third apartment is a few miles down the road from the first two, and is rather far out of the way. Nicely so, in fact.
Quiet. Peaceful. Hard to find. Everything I look for in a place to live.
Unfortunately, the third place is also much more expensive - $500us per month with no utilities included. That's more than to of my paycheques put together.. I'm probably going to have to pass on that. It's also far enough out from the local CO that a DSL loop probably can't be run out there. That's the downside of liking to live out of the way - connectivity is hit or miss.
I've got all appropriate appendages crossed for the second one.
I did some wandering around in addition to everything else today, partially to get a sense of what I'd need to get for the new place and how much it's likely to set me back. I don't think that I could afford a new bed, as much as I'd like to get one. I'm probably going to have to live with the one I've got right now, and leverage it as much as possible for storage space. I'm going to need another bookcase, I'm doubled up on all of them (and quadrupled on one), but those are relatively cheap. A full height filing cabinet (with locking mechanisms on each drawer) is going to be a must. But I'll cross those bridges when I come to them.
I spoke to the woman whom I've been trying to get in touch with about renting an apartment this afternoon. She's got a few in the area that will be up for rent soon, and I'm trying to get in on the ground floor. I'm going to call them tomorrow and probably spend the day touring their properties to see if there are any that I can live in comfortably and safely. DSL access is a must for the Network. The family has resigned itself to this, I think. That is a good sign - it'll make things easier.
Yet another episode of the BOFH has been released - and this time the PFY is somewhat worse for wear. Hee hee hee... Simon's made up for the last one, I must say.
(Note: Link fixed) Are they insane?! $125us for Spider Jerusalem sunglasses?!? Forget it, guys.. I'll make my own.
Today's been a long one, but I got a lot done. I took the day off to take care of some stuff in my personal life that's been piling up for the past few weeks. A lot of it's not really worth writing about - sleep, rest, and making sure my hands were going to hold up for another few weeks. I spent a lot of today calling back recruiters and going through my lists of contacts to call about employment in Pennsylvania and parts south. I managed to get through to more people than I thought I would, but I wound up leaving more messages than anything else. I also made the time to cruise the job nets and apply for a couple of positions for good measure. I think I wrote some good cover letters for those positions; only time will tell. I'm going to have to pull their wires again in a few days to make sure that they're listening.
Who would ever have thought that you'd have to ping people to make sure they are listening...
After taking care of that stuff today I finished up something from work that I had to bring home last night. I hacked on it for a good eight or nine hours last night, as evidenced by my lack of writing for the past twenty-four hours. I wish I'd been able to write a formal programme to do it but after spending a good four or five hours trying to debug it (but discovering that one can, in fact, sort on multiple fields in Perl) I gave up on it because I didn't want to waste any more time. I wound up doing via BFI (brute force and ignorance) in a text editor, and hammering it into the shape I needed it.
I'm not proud of it. But it's done, and it's accurate.
But to get back on track, I headed out for a few hours in the afternoon to clear my head and get away from the Lab and the air conditioning. It's been lovely outside, better than 70 degrees Farenheit and not much wind - how in the worlds could anyone stand air conditioning at a time like this? I can't; I have to wear sweats (including a sweatshirt) in the Lab because it's too cold for my tastes. The trip Outside did me a world of good. I rolled the windows down, cranked up Iris, and tortured the world with some new school synthpop and my attempts at singing. It was a good day to be alive.
Out of curiosity and a need to see how things have changed since I went back into hiding, I headed to the local mall to see what new symbols that pop culture has come up with in two years. Apparently, quite a bit. I think I rather like the new clothing styles that have appeared for the summer, though they seem a bit too impractical for heavy usage; moreso seeing as how I spend most of my time in a refrigerated chamber but what can one do? Media Play has rearranged itself again; they have quite a collection of boxed sets these days, and crates of cheap, bad movies (ninjitsu exploitation flicks from the early 80's that look so bad that I won't spend the $3us on them just to sample from them). Why they decided to hide the anime in a far, back corner, away from everything anyone is even remotely interested in browsing is beyond me, however. Pickings were slim; there isn't much there right now. Radio Shack has CB radios in stock for a good price, and I am told (by someone whose opinion that I can't say I trust fully in a technical capacity ("Radio Shack: You've got questions, we've got blank stares.")) that they are relatively easy to install for someone with a reasonable amount of technical skill. I'm not big on vehicles, however, so I don't really trust myself to install one safely. I've been asking around here and there to see if there is someone who could install one in my vehicle for me. I'm probably going to go with a magnetic antenna for simplicity's sake, and because the mount and whip can be easily removed for when I stay local, or when it would not be prudent to leave the unit exposed.
Suncoast, on the other hand.. Suncoast was a place well worth the trip. I spent some time nosing what they had, and spent a while looking over The Big O miniatures that they had on clearance. Cute, but I've got enough toys and not enough room to display all of them. Back they went. I chanced to find a copy of the director's cut of Crash, starring James Spader on VHS on the clearance rack for $4.99us, which I snapped up instantly. As I was checking out, I happened to ask the guy behind the counter, "Hey, have you heard if the rumour that they released Jem on DVD?"
His answer: "Yes, they did. We've got the boxed set in stock right now."
I bought it.
I'm a fan of 80's cartoons, and something of a collector of the memorabelia of the time. I'm rather proud of my collection of first edition first generation Transformers; I still remember how to work all of them (well, except for Blur, who I still can't figure out how to transform for the lives of me). My guilty pleasure, however, was watching Jem back to back with Robotix on Saturday mornings. I've always had a love of music of any kind, and the show appealed to my feminine aspect. Still does. I haunt the going out of business sales of video stores at the end of the year to see if I can find any episodes that I don't have already on tape (only a few tapes of Jem were released) and snap them up if I find them. This changes things, though - the boxed set has the first two seasons, interviews with Christy Marx (creator of the series) and Samantha Newark (voice actress of Jem), excerpts from the series' bible (the canonical encyclopedia of who, what, where, when, why, and how of the entire series), and even a music-only setting for the disks.
Going to watch them soon.. not sure when, though.
Afterward I headed back to the Lab to check my messages and voice mail and cold call a few more recruiters to see if they had anything for me.
Which brings me up to the present time.
Just as a heads-up, the vote to not end overtime pay for folks who work above and beyond their normal hours was taken. It was slim, but overtime is still in place.. until 23 August 2004. When the vote was taken 19 Republical reps changed their minds and voted with the GOP, thereby refusing to stop this bill once and for all. If another vote is not taken before 23 August, the bill will pass, and who knows how many people (among them myself) are going to be getting their financial hurt on because they're not being paid for time outside of the usual 40 hours per week.. please contact your representatives and urge them to push for another vote on this bill.
In Here, there is a certain degree of anonymity inherent in ever connection. People are just strings of text on a screen and occasionally an animated icon which serves as an identification symbol, depending upon the particular forum in use. This anonymity tends to loosen people's inhibitions, and can expose the best or the worst in someone's personality. The kindest, gentlest people can become rampaging avatars on the Net; conversely, some of the most distasteful, nasty folks can show real virtue, if you give them a chance. If you've ever spent any time on IRC, IM chat groups, web boards, or any of the 'chat rooms' innumerable that are so popular anymore, you've no doubt walked into or participated in the odd flame war. Most of the time, however, flame wars are confined to those forums. In Garland, TX (a suburb of Dallas), a flame war erupted into a gang war the likes of which surprised the local constabulary. Several people were injured, one badly enough to require hospitalisation, when an all out slobberknocker involving improvised weapons.
Sounds like a bad Jackie Chan movie.
The whole thing was videotaped, which lead to the arrest of all but one person, whom is thought to have gone over the border into Mexico to hide out. 34 people have been charged with rioting, aggrevated assault, and causing serious bodily harm (baseball bats have a way of doing that), which are all second degree felonies punishable by 20 years in prison. They managed to trace everyone back to a particular web forum somehow. A few of the participants even created accounts using their real names, which made it exceedingly easy to find them.
The times, they are a-changing.
Holy imploding Kibo. I never want to see anything like that first-hand.
Ye flipping gods... I'm losing it. Data crunching shouldn't slam me like this...
Vote Crowley and Aziraphale in 2004!
Not much to say tonight; too busy hacking on something.
I think the nervous breakdown's over.
I spoke to one of my recruiter-contacts tonight. I've found a few positions that I think I've got a chance at landing. Wish me luck.
Just when you though that life as an admin was getting better, along comes another beastie to kick you in a tender place. Since the kid who wrote Netsky and Sasser got buster, other worm coders have released functional clones of Sasser, dubbed Sasser.F and W32@Cycle.A, both of which exploit the MS04-011 vulnerability. About the fairest thing you can say about Cycle.A is that it kills instances of Blaster and Sasser, but it will launch a DDoS attackon the Islamic Republic News Agency or BBC websites after 18 May 2004. Sasser.F, on the other hand, is basically a hack of Sasser.A - it was probably made with a hex editor, because only a few minor changes were made, such as the filename used to store the executable once it infects a system.
As if that wasn't enough, Microsoft is backpedalling on the release of XP service pack 2. They've changed their minds - pirated copies of XP will not be allowed to install SP2 after all. Great. This means even more possible hosts for the Win32 worm of the week, which is going to bog down net.traffic even more. Guys.. you don't clean up a network by keeping people from installing patches. And you're certainly not hurting for money.. you bundle Office ($400+us) with Windows these days, and you technically take a hit every single time you do that. Make it easy on us admins and let them install the bloody thing. I, for one, am sick and tired of dealing with the background radiation of Windows virii and worms.
And.. and and and.. to make your night complete, the trend of
net.businesses being blackmailed or DDoSed has spread from central Europe into
the United States' sectors. At this time the FBI is investigating the the case
of CSI Mid-South, who was
2004/05/11 Not much happening on the persona front today. On to the newswires! For a while now the F/OSS (free/open source software) community has had its
eyes on Evolution, which
is an open source personal information and correspondence management system, ala
Microsoft Outlook. It was developed with the Gnome desktop in mind, and looks and acts a lot like the Outlook we all know
and either love or despise. The one thing that wasn't free, however, was the
connector which allows you to connect to an Exchange server and access the user
lists, global address database, collaborative environments, and all the other
nifty features that everyone has to have but not many people use. Somem time
ago (I don't know exactly when), Novell
developed a closed-source connector module which allowed Evolution to interface
with Exchange servers and do all the nifty stuff that Outlook did. They other
shoe's fallen - the source code to this connector has been released, and will be officially
integrated into the v1.4 and v2.0 releases of the Evolution source code for
everyone, thus levelling the playing field once more. It's anyone's guess how
long it'll take Microsoft to release a patch to break this, though. Changing your grades - it's not just for David Lightman anymore: Three
Detroit high school students were busted for cracking their high school's network and changing their grades and physical breaking and entering late last year.
Oddly enough, their names were released to the press, strange because they are
students (two are 18, one is technically underage). A keylogger was used to
grab passwords; some sort of backdoor software was set up to let them download
the logs. Instructions on getting into the network and altering student records
were reportedly put on a website. If convicted, they face up to five years in
prison and a $10kus fine each.
What Stone Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Not much happening on the persona front today. On to the newswires!
For a while now the F/OSS (free/open source software) community has had its eyes on Evolution, which is an open source personal information and correspondence management system, ala Microsoft Outlook. It was developed with the Gnome desktop in mind, and looks and acts a lot like the Outlook we all know and either love or despise. The one thing that wasn't free, however, was the connector which allows you to connect to an Exchange server and access the user lists, global address database, collaborative environments, and all the other nifty features that everyone has to have but not many people use. Somem time ago (I don't know exactly when), Novell developed a closed-source connector module which allowed Evolution to interface with Exchange servers and do all the nifty stuff that Outlook did. They other shoe's fallen - the source code to this connector has been released, and will be officially integrated into the v1.4 and v2.0 releases of the Evolution source code for everyone, thus levelling the playing field once more. It's anyone's guess how long it'll take Microsoft to release a patch to break this, though.
Changing your grades - it's not just for David Lightman anymore: Three Detroit high school students were busted for cracking their high school's network and changing their grades and physical breaking and entering late last year. Oddly enough, their names were released to the press, strange because they are students (two are 18, one is technically underage). A keylogger was used to grab passwords; some sort of backdoor software was set up to let them download the logs. Instructions on getting into the network and altering student records were reportedly put on a website. If convicted, they face up to five years in prison and a $10kus fine each.
Not really having a life, pretty much all of it is fantasy right now.
I'm starting to wonder why I even bother.
I get at least one call per week from recruiters for various jobs. I make sure that I return every call that I get, and reiterate my contact information just in case. The only problem is that I never hear back from anyone after that. It's really starting to wear me down.
I'm seriously considering taking a day off soon to track down and call up each and every one that's left me messages in the past month, just to see who was serious and who was only curious or playing games. That might sound bitter but I am bitter. Bitter and frustrated and ready to start coming apart at the seams soon. I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels; no real progres is being made and I'm not really making any headway aside from 'just' keeping up. It's like being stuck in a swamp (a rather unpleasant situation, to be sure): You can struggle ahead a foot or two but aside from seeing a few more trees that look as if they could be used to pull yourself out of the muck, you can't really grab onto any of them to get the job done.
Okay. Time to shake myself out of this. This can't keep up.
It's been confirmed - the student picked up in Germany has admitted to creating the Sasser worm. A tip resulted in his being raided and arrested; the source code to the W32@Sasser worm was found on his hard drive. He's been released pending the formal filing of criminal charges. His name has yet to be released, probably due to his age.
I guess SID chiptunes are making a comeback...
Interesting.. Brad Pitt predicts that Greek-style skirts may become fashionable for males soon. Hear me not argue; being able to wear a skirt without trouble would be a breeze of fresh air (take that as you will) around here.
Happy Mother's Day, Dataline.
I suppose that I caught up on my quota of sleep, because I was up and around shortly after 0930 EST this morning. I stumbled into the shower to clean up and get my brain going, got dressed, and checked my cellphone, which I'd left on all night. Lupa had called back with the phone number of her landlady, whom I left a message for shortly after breakfast. Dataline had ripped into her gifts early this morning, and loved them. I got her a card, a copy of The Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD (two disc set, letterboxed format), and a small keychain-sized Leatherman tool (because she always borrows mine) for Mother's Day. Everything went quite well today, I'm rather glad to say. No fights, no problems... dinner this evening was meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and green beans almondine, one of her favourite meals. I nearly forgot about dinner because I'd been working on some job applications this afternoon, and came upstairs just in the nick of time. Dinner was fairly easy to put together, though it took a while to get my head out of my resume' and into a recipe (meatloaf, before being baked, is curiously easy to backpedal upon and fix before it's too late).
Everyone loved it. I'm rather proud of it, myself.
In a move that actually has me relieved, Microsoft has decided to permit pirated copies of Windows XP to be patched with service pack 2 when it comes out. Pirated copies of Windows are all over the place, like mushrooms after a summer rainstorm, and as often as not go unpatched because users figure that they won't be able to install hotfixes anyway (because the copies haven't been officially activated by MS). This means that they're sitting ducks for the worm of the week. Unlike XP service pack 1, which could not be installed if the dominant Windows installation was pirated, SP2 can be installed normally, meaning that many fewer hosts for various electronic nasties. I commend MS for making this possible, tightening net.security just a little bit more in a time when virus fighting efforts around the world cost better than $1 billion US dollars annually anymore. Barry Goffe, MS group product manager, was quoted as saying that "..we finally decided that even if someone has (a) pirated copy of Windows, it is more important to keep him safe than it is to be concerned about the revenue issue." Way to go. I just hope that the user interface for the Windows Firewall functionality is easy enough for end users to use to protect themselves without making a big production out of it. Personally, I can't wait to see how well the anti-buffer and heap overflow features of XP SP2 work. Various forms of Unix have had this functionality for quite a few years now (GRsecurity, Openwall, and Immunix StackGuard come immediately to mind), and many security professionals have been wishing for something similiar for Windows for about as long. Also at long last, IE will have popup window blocking, banishing the most annoying of web feature for everyone else.
In further news from the Microsoft front, they caught the guy who wrote Sasser and probably Netsky, thanks to the reward fund MS set up last year for tips leading to the arrest of virus authors. Local informants lead to the arrest of an unnamed 18 year old who lived in Rotenburg, Germany. Inside of 48 hours after the tip came in, the teenager was in custody and charged with releasing all four variants of W32@Sasser. The spread of the Sasser worm has thankfully slowed down in the past week as systems have been disinfected and patches applied. This was the first arrest that came about as a result of this reward fund. No other information about this case has been released so far.
Last night was a long one, but a good one just the same.
For the past few weeks a few of us had been planning a birthday party for Alexius. Like myself, he is loath to tell people when he was incarnated, and even more reluctant (if my tortured English may be excused) to celebrate it. Fern Dragonstar took it upon herself to set up a surprise party for him at B'witche's in the guise of Geek Night. I arrived early for once, around 2000 EST, and began setting up. As before, I came garbed in my urban combat clothing, Kabuki-san and a bag of gifts in tow. The night started off by playing with the heads of a few locals who came in to shoot pool and knock a few back, and who happened to make some remarks about vampires hanging out in the Tavern. I shot back that a few cyborgs would be joining me later in the evening as I jacked Kabuki into the PA system and ran a sound check. "Cyborgs, eh? Never hearda 'em before. Any werewolves joining you tonight?"
Later that night Lyssa Earnst came in wearing her GarouMUSH t-shirt, but that's beside the point.
The local folks left soon after that. Sorry, guys.
The night's attendees were pretty thin. Advertising could have been much better for Geek Night; I suspect that the name of the night kept a lot of people from attending. When a lot of people think of geeks, they tend to think of the sorts of people that they'd rather not spend much time around because they're not too exciting, real life much to the contrary. But I get off topic.. by and large, Alexius' close friends filtered into the Tavern through the course of the night; even some folks who haven't been seen in quite a long time, like Istvaan. I really don't know, because I spent pretty much the entire night in the DJ booth; I missed a lot last night. Including Alexius' entrance and subsequent ambush with gifts, drinks, and quite possibly the finest chocolate cake I've tasted in years (with an incredibly tasty thick, blue icing and quartered circle insignia). Once I realised what was going on, I turned Kabuki loose for a few tracks and came down to wish Alexius a happy birthday.
Happy birthday, 'lex.
Because last night was Geek Night, the selection of music wasn't quite so limited, and I geared up with this in mind. I played a little of everything last night, from every genre. I even had a chance to throw a few C-64 remixes into the mix, much to everyone's amusement. There are few nights when Weird Al Yankovic are permissible fare, and much fun was had by all. I wrapped up around 0130 EST and socialised for a while, then passed on Eat and Park to head back to the Lab. After being fried for the better part of a week the last time I did that, I needed time to sleep.
i did this in spades, staying offline until late in the morning, or perhaps early in the afternoon; Time's funny when most of your brain is still in warm shutdown.
Today was a bad one.. I had to go food shopping. If I didn't, it simply would not have gotten done, just like putting away last week's groceries. They went out and stocked up, which was a minor victory, but put away none of what they'd brought. I wound up putting them away a little at a time all week, which rather annoyed me. Not being helped put things away and unload the groceries when I asked for it got under my skin, also. This resulted in a rather nasty fight shortly after, which was resolved later in the afternoon.
As for that apartment, I'm starting to wonder if I'll get a chance to take it. Same with those job offers I'd gotten; no word back from the recruiters.
This evening I had a chance to relax, after cleaning out my closet, rotating out some clothing, geting ready for laundry, and putting away more clothing (ye gods, I'm a clothes horse), so I took the time to sit down and read and even did some writing to get some things off of my chest, as well as meditate upon what's been going on lately. I've found that writing is a good way of rolling ideas around inside my head, and often answers come to me as I figure out the best way to put words together. I think best on my feet, while I'm talking to someone, and by writing in a conversational manner I can do much the same thing. But figuring out what to do and actually carrying it out are two different things. I need to get out of here before I lose myself entirely. I just need that phone number...
|FIRE OF AIR. Serious and intellectual, you live in the world of thoughts and ideas. You grasp things quicker than most and are a master debater. Your verbal skills are unparalleled; your conversations are stimulating. You are concerned with issues of justice. Your standards are high, so there is danger of becoming too moralistic. While truth is generally an honorable thing, chew on this: "Why Yes Herr Strudel, my neighbor IS hiding Jews in his basement!" You're Christopher Walken in Suicide Kings.|
Work long. Work tiring.
Went to Barnes and Noble tonight to pick up a few things. Spent some quality time with Kabuki. Most of the right hemisphere of my brain is in hibernation mode right now, I've observed.
It's earned it.
First the Freedom of Information Act took a hit as what used to be publically requestable information began to vanish. Now the federal government is taking interest in what people request information about. Mark Miller, a college student who lives in Texas, was raided and questioned by the US Secret Service because he filed an FOIA request about the underground steam tunnels of his college (which are a popular topic of exploration at many colleges - do a web search on 'zorking', 'tunnel ratting', or 'urban exploration' for more information). Instead of going down there and breaking the law, he simply asked some questions.. the FBI and Secret Service (no initials there because it has the wrong connotations) asked him if he was a member of student activist organisations, how he knew about the FOIA and open records laws, how he knew about the tunnels.. They say they were just checking up on him to make sure that he wasn't up to anything terroristic; the investigation is said to still be underway. The big question here is how the Joint Terrorism Task Force found out about the FOIA request. Miller has filed another FOIA request, this one about the investigation of which he is a subject. Come on, people... if he really was planning a terrorist act, would he really go on the record by making an FOIA request in his own name, about his own college? Common sense..
Dead on, especially the clothing. I use patterns of light in a lot of my Workings, also (down to my laser pointer). I never could get the hang of shuriken or throwing knives, though.
Here's a guy who's been hard to find lately... R.U. Sirius, formerly of Mondo 2000, has given an interview with Better Humans. The interview touches briefly upon what happened to Mondo 2000 in the 90's, talks a little bit about its history (its start as High Frontiers and evolution into Reality Hackers), the zines' goals and background, and how they kept it going even when they were about to give up. Makes me wish I'd bought that last issue, after all... It's an interesting article if only for historical purposes. give it a look.
Angst Technologies is back!
Today was another day that just seemed to slip by.. after running around a little to gather information and take care of a few things that had arisen, I sat down for another day of coding. I'm still working with MySQL and DBD:mysql, and I'm making a lot of useful, functional progress with them. A lot of my code is pretty blocky and inelegant right now because I've been cutting, pasting, and modifying slightly earlier stanzas of code that I've written for the sake of expediency (at this point in time, I'd rather be working out what has to be done and testing it and not debugging overmuch; I plan on rewriting the stuff that's repeated too often to not only speed the operations up but make the code easier to understand once the basic functionality is in place). While I'm not on a deadline right now, I do see a need to get some practical work done and get some return on invested time to show management. The data that this code produces will be rather important in the near future, and the sooner that data can be put to use, the better.
No pressure, I just see a need.
With all the fun and games with the Sasser worm going around right now, one would think that computer security and network integrity would become a higher priority for lots of institutions, including the United States government. One would think. On 3 May 2004 civilian federal agencies were notified that their budgets for certifying their computer security were being cut. In a time when keeping your data safe is more important than ever, cutting the funds that would make this possible strikes me as a dumbass maneuver, excuse my language. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security will be getting more money for the same thing, but the civilian agencies are being screwed over. Why do I get the feeling that the worms following the next two or three are going to become even more virulent and destructive? The folks who are inclined to write malware that does damage could very likely take this as a window of opportunity to exploit to its fullest.
Wow. This will make backing up music that much easier. It'll even pay for itself if you're like me, and have a few thousand audio cassettes in your collection.
|Which poem are you?|
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
God, you're indecisive. You're not that great, but you don't know if you want to accept that. You appreciate beauty and observe things others may not, but you're also hopelessly impaled on your own foolish romanticism. Go you.
|Click Here to Take This Quiz|
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.
One of my favourite poets, no less.
Now playing on SLAY Radio: Paradroid (001 Goes Hmmmm) by Rauli.
This rocks. I'm going to download it.
POI now has its own Cafepress shoppe. Check 'em out.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, Hotmail has to go downhill another notch. Microsoft's set up a programme where spammers who agree to abide by the CAN-SPAM Act have carte blanche. That's right.. if they pay $20kus and swear to listen, they're allowed to spam all they want into the Hotmail domain. As if it wasn't hard enough to keep e-mail addresses clear these days..On the bright side, The Register's published a new BOFH story, entitled Beward Mad Ron Bearing Linux.
Okay, so it doesn't take much to make me happy. Though this one doesn't, particularly. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some.
Joy of joys today, more time spent coding. In particular, I've been working with the Perl DBI modules that allow you to connect to a MySQL database and do all the nifty things that you can do by hand, such as running queries, sorting through data, and building tables, but more interesting things also. I spent most of today doing something that I've been trying to do for a while now, which is actually crunch the data that comes out of the database: Extracting certain elements from a single field, regular expression searches, edits, tallies... data analysis, in other words. I'm starting to have fun with it. All it takes is putting together a generic framework to connect and disconnect and actually execute queries, the rest is actually writing the SQL queries and figuring out what to do with the data once you have it. Half the battle is trying to figure out what, exactly, you've got and how to store it properly. Once you know how to store it, you can then start doing stuff to it.
Things started to drag near the end of the day, but what can you really do?
I've been thinking lately about users. End users.
As I mentioned earlier this weekend, I spent a few hours working on the computer belonging to a friend of Dataline's who is, by and large, clueless when it comes to computers. By her own admission, she doesn't know how to find what she needs under the Start Menu - if it's not an icon on the desktop by default, she can't find it and does not use it. She didn't know that Windows has to be patched using Windows Update periodically (anyone watching the evening news in the past few years will no doubt have heard about doing just this). She really only reads her webmail and prowls around webboards related to a certain music star; her husband is only interested in fantasy baseball, and becomes irate (I was told; I've no evidence of this) if he can't access his stats every day or so. She barely knows what a virus scanner is, or even that she had one installed by default by Dell. I've decided that I won't be a terminology pedant for the purpose of this discussion.
Please note, I've rather brutally summarised this.
After considerable thought, I've decided that people should be asked to show at the very least basic knowledge of the Net in particular and computers in general before their ISPs allow them to connect. This is for their own good, and the good of the Net as a whole. People who don't know that Windows must be updated periodically to remedy security vulnerabilities and fix bugginess in general must be taught what patches are, what they do, why the must be installed, and how to go about installing them. They must also be taught what virus scanners are, the basics of how they work, how to update them, and why they are so important. I'm not talking about making Gramma and Grandpa study for the CISSP certification here, not by a long shot. I'm talking about taking folks who probably know only what is necessary to do their job at work, if that, and getting them up to speed insofar as basic computer literacy. Teaching them about the Net, about the hazards and best practices and why it's important to, say turn off file and printer sharing in Windows and why you should read the docs before playing around with "this new Linux thing."
I've been considering going to my local library and pitching this idea to them - a basic net.literacy course for whoever wants to come. Nothing terribly technical, just the flat-out basics in easy to understand language. I think it's something that the world in general and the Net in particular could use right about now. If anything, it might cut the rate of spread of e-mail viruses and worms right now, and maybe it'll cut into the profit margins of e-mail scammers, spammers, and identity thieves.
Speaking of thingings related to the Net, the folks at LURHQ have recently discovered that Team Skynet, the creators of the Netsky worm e-mail worm, are probably also the creators of Sasser. They managed to get hold of a copy of Sasser to pick apart, and discovered that the comments in the code and some of the code itself are shared between Netsky and Sasser, suggesting a common codebase and some, if not all of the same developers. Two more variants of Sasser have been discovered recently (strains C and D, with slightly different functionality and subtle bugs) and are still wreaking havoc. Due to a bug in the D strain, which renders the worm unworkable on Windows 2000, they are expecting an E strain to be released soon. Lock and load, people.
As if the latest beastie wasn't enough, some folks in New York City have not been happy campers for a few days now. It's one thing to lose your link; it's another to lose your link because someone or something accidentally cut the physical connection, but when someone breaks into a colocation centre and walks off with a few DS-3 cards, you just have to break down crying. Some time over the weekend people unknown broke into a Verizon colo facility located at 240 East 38th Street, Manhattan (thanks for the address, guys, now everyone knows your physical security is substandard and will no doubt swing past the joint at least once to check it out) and stole the units out of the switches (if it's the infrastructure I suspect, they're the module that link optical fibre into the switch hardware); unsubstantiated rumours state that the fibres themselves were cut to further aggrivate matters (I haven't been able to confirm this). Replacement modules were found in the area, however, and they should be in place by now.
So I've finally gotten fed up. I'm moving out.
The exact reasons for this aren't really worth talking about, not right now, anyway. Suffice it to say that I'm getting in touch with someone I know who has an apartment for rent not far away from the Lab, so the time and cost of moving shouldn't be too much. More importantly, there's a high probability of keeping my DSL line, so I can keep the Lab's network up and running without much of a shakeup during the move. It's right on a main roadway so there's a good chance that I can just hop a bus in to downtown to get to and from work, and if I play my cards right I might be able to pull it off in such a way as to give myself a bit more time, all things considered. If it lessens my commute, so much the better. I'm willing to sacrifice $375us every month if it means more time and more sanity to work with.
Much of today was spent playing Operator in my cubicle, staring at network traffic skittering down my screen like wind-driven droplets of rain ("Blonde.. brunette.. redhead..."). Someone let a new worm loose between 30 April and 1 May, in all probability late Friday night (of course, it had to be on Walpurgisnacht.. when all the pagan sysadmins had the night off and were celebrating). It's been designated W32.Sasser.B.Worm, and it spreads by exploiting the MS04-011 vulnerability in Windows - there are actually a number of vulnerabilities encompassed by this Technet bulletin, but they add up to only one thing: An attacker can run whatever code they like on the target, meaning that if someone or something wants to get in, they can get in unless you've installed the proper patch. There were some problems with the original version of this patch on Windows 2000 systems, which lead to a lot of people uninstalling it, thus unprotecting them. Yay. Once Sasser infects a machine, it uses a Windows API function called AbortSystemShutdown, which prevents the system from shutting down gracefully and then begins trying to propagate itself. This little bastard's been keeping a lot of us busy lately, and it's only a matter of time before some genius gets hold of a copy and hacks it to carry a destructive payload, which is going to make life hell for a few weeks.
No, I'm not angry. No, I'm really not.
I know of this monestary outside of San Francisco, CA...
What remained of my reserves is now spent.
Read this. Now.
Not long after the state of California pulled the plug on the use of Diebold electronic voting machines, stating that they were unreliable, one Dan Spillane of King County, WA has come forward by stating that he's filed suit against his former employers for firing him. He claims that executives ignored his missives that the software was defective and needed to be fixed before it could be safely used in an election. He was terminated just before he was to meet with representatives of the US General Accounting Office, who are charged with certifying that voting machines are sound (via analysis by an independent third party).
On other fronts, a service pack for Microsoft Windows 98 Special Edition has been released.. not by Microsoft, but by a power user. Alper Coskun gathered together all of the updates and hotfixes released by MS for Windows 98 SE and bundled them together, along with fixes for some of the more annoying problems in 98 (aside from the file system eating itself occasionally), such as not being able to address more than 512MB of RAM and more stable USB drivers. How well it works is anyone's guess; I don't run 98, I haven't tried it, I can't say anything one way or another about it. All I can tell everyone is to back up their data fully and often, especially before installing this badboy.
Congratulations to Lyssa Heartsong, who's been accepted to present some of her research at a conference coming up in September of 2004!
As my besainted grandmother used to say, the gods treat her kindly, "I'm bushed."
Last night was B'witche's Tavern's first goth night. Mamma and company had been planning it for several weeks, and at the suggestion of Alexius and Fern, she'd asked me if I would DJ last night. I jumped at the chance to spin in public again - B'witche's is probably my favourite place to hang out, and the prospect of giving something back to everyone appealed to me. Most of the week was spent picking out music to play last night, both from my CD collection as well as from my collection of .mp3 files. It was with some trepidation last night that I ate dinner and changed my clothes after work, into my trademark combat fatigues, Cray Research t-shirt, and war jacket. I discovered too late that my cat's eye prosthetic contact lenses, while nifty, were painful to wear. I bought them two years ago, but my prescription has shifted over time, so while I can technically see through them I can't see well. Rather than risk serious eye strain (and maybe a car wreck later in the evening), I removed them.
But, in my tired and fuzzy-headedness, I begin to ramble. Concentrate..
I was a nervous wreck from the time I left work until I actually arrived at the Tavern shortly after 2030 EST. Dinner was Mediterranean, light, and while reading in a vin attempt to to relax. I must have been nervous if a single cup of coffee had me buzzing and my hands trembling ever so slightly; normally it takes eight or nine cups to reach that state. In hindsight, this didn't help my nerves any, though the increased reaction time was a boon later in the night, as I'll get to (sooner than later, if I don't fall asleep at Kabuki soon).
I packed up Kabuki, my briefcase of CDs, and my backpack, jumped into my car, and set out for the Tavern, arriving just a few minutes past 2030 EST. Getting my game face on was easy - keeping it proved much more difficult. I always get nervous before a gig.. there's so much that can go wrong, and I've never been particularly strong in the self confidence department. Being up in front of everyone makes me nervous.. One of my biggest fears is screwing up badly and being laughed at. Always has been. Thankfully the screw-ups last night were minor and the only laughter was from people having a good time.
The way I'd planned things, the first hour or so would be noise as I learned how to use the sound system and found the rhythm of the evening. There weren't many people there during that time, thankfully, and I really needed the time to adjust. The way they've got things set up there, there are two professional CD players hooked up to a battle board mixer, which if you've never seen one before is very simple conceptually, but takes getting used to. There are four volume slides on it (channels one, two, and three/four, and amaster volume slide), a crossfader (which segues smoothly between the two channels you select on either side with rotary switches), a five-channel stereo graphic equaliser (which I wasn't allowed to touch), and the controls for the cue monitors, which took me until midnight to figure out. In addition to the CD players is a separate line for a laptop computer. Hooking Kabuki up was easy; getting her audio outputs to work proved more difficult because the battle board had been reconfigured. To make a long story short (too late), I had to pull the maintenance access panel of the PA system and trace the laptop audio line back to its input ports to see what to set the switch to.
Just trust me on this.
I think people started coming en masse around 2130 or 2200 EST. I didn't realise it at first because I was too busy bouncing from side to side, checking the time remaining on the CD, picking .mp3's, bouncing over to the CD carrier to look for something else, sweating like a goldfish in a blender, and fretting that I wasn't picking the right music.
Ellen and Jason arrived with Jameel in tow, two folks who were part of the great Mage LARP walkout this week. Iris arrived a bit later, along with some folks who are regulars of the Tavern but whom I hadn't met before. Lucien of the local shoppe Hocus Pocus and his wife Kali arrived around the same time. I'm rather proud that they liked my set, and people kept giving Kali requests to pass along to me (sorry 'bout that..)
Most everyone stopped by the booth to wish me well, which I found very reassurring. Thanks, everyone.
I honestly don't remember what my setlist was like, I was too busy picking songs to remember to write down what I was playing. I was also fretting that I was picking the correct song to make a coherent set and picking music that would not alienate the audience.
I hold myself to a very high standard, which I probably shouldn't do because I'll probably never actually achieve that degree of performance skill. I judge a DJ's performance by how many people they can get dancing at any one time and for how long. Maybe it comes from my background in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rave scene (formerly based out of Hyperreal), where it's not unusual for there to be hundreds, sometimes thousands (at large parties) of people dancing, and many came just to dance to one or two favourite DJs. It's a judge of a set, how many people dance to it.
Early in the night, the dancefloor was a throughway, more or less. It wasn't until later in the evening that anyone danced. Judging by those criteria, my set was pretty much a bust. That was also around the time that I started playing tracks from other people's CDs (James, Parasite Joe, Iris, Whisper.. thanks, folks - you saved my butt last night). Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe not.
It must be said, however, that not everyone comes to the Tavern to dance on any night. B'witche's is the sort of place where you can grab a table and sit talking all night, and have a good time doing that. A lot of folks did just that, and I shouldn't take it hard. The thing that really got me, I suppose, is that some folks that I knew from the Pittsburgh goth scene came out last night, which caught me entirely off guard. People I haven't seen in literally years. I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, far from it. What I will say, and I hope in a careful manner, is that my skill is nowhere near what the Pittsburgh scene has come to enjoy. I'm no Brian Parker; I'm no Derek Pegritz (who has an amazing sense of humour); I'm no Kelly Ashkettle.
I hope that I didn't disappoint.
Maybe I'm just being too hard on myself again.
As asked, I wrapped up around 0130 EST this morning and disconnected Kabuki. After wrapping everything up we retired to the local Eat and Park for coffee and to relax. It was around this time that the fact that I'd gotten up at 0600 on Friday began to catch up on me. I celebrated making it through with an ice cream sundae and a few cups of coffee. Winterfaerie had joined us last night, and it was good to catch up on old times with her. She's graduating from IUP soon, and like me, she's trying to figure out where to go in life and what to do. We finally parted ways around 0330 EST. I got back to the Lab shortly after 0400 EST and crashed hard.
I was awakened this morning by a phone call, though that wasn't what set my day into a tailspin.
A friend of Dataline's was pounding on the door at 0800 this morning in a panic. Her computer was malfunctioning and she needed it repaired as soon as possible. To make a long story short, I spent all afternoon and a large chunk of the evening trying to repair it. No virus infection; only one instance of spyware; no applied patches. The Windows Automatic Update service had queued a very large number of patches over the months(!), which took the better part of two hours to install. This had little effect, and I wound up using the recovery CD to reinstall Windows XP Home Edition (curses and pox upon that bastard OS). At least it didn't reformat the drive (even though I tried to coax it to do so), so there wasn't any need to try to back up all the data on there. For future reference, Dell system restoration CDs don't actually do a full reinstallation of the systemware, they just blow away the C:\WINDOWS directory and unpack a fresh copy from the CD. Either that, or they really do perform a reinstallation, but they don't reformat the drive so you actually don't lose much. If you encounter a situation where you really do have to torch everything, you're better off getting a copy of Windows 2000 Pro or Windows XP Pro (which is a surprsingly stable OS if you turn off all the XP eye candy, turning it into a Windows 2000 lookalike) and reinstalling from that, because you won't be able to either repartition or reformat.
Either way, I don't really recommend using them unless you have to.
As much as I love cosplay, this is a bit much for my tastes. At least these guys are getting their roadwork in...
I've decided that the anime FLCL (Fooly Cooly) is a series that could easily be mistaken for a collaboration of Timothy Leary and Terrence McKenna during their respective heydays. I'm convinced that if Gainax had brought the two of them on board and asked them to do a sequel to Eva, this would be the end result.
I discovered something this morning: When you want the garbage crew to take a (badly battered, staved in on one side) garbage can.. they won't.
I'm not terribly happy about this, but I'm not terribly angry, either. This is more of a headslapper than anything else.
Today seemed to crawl by with a snail's pace. Nothing bad happened, but once I got everything out of the way there wasn't much to do.. my boss was in a meeting this afternoon, so getting 'marching orders' didn't happen. I spent the afternoon practising with MySQL and playing around with the IDS' web interface, mostly to learn how to use the functions that I don't use very often, like automagickal trend analysis and graphing. I'm going to have to grab him after I get in tomorrow to see what's going on.
discover what candy you are @ quiz me
Taking last night off from the Net gave me a chance to rest up and spend some time fixing my wrists. Many analgesics and a soldering iron later, I've got the feeling back in my fingers and the circulation's improved immensely. Taking the odd break during the course of the day probably had something to do with that, too.
My hands started troubling me on Monday night, probably due to overwork, too much caffeine the night before, and the fact that the temperature plunged to the low 50's on Monday. I had to go to work early on Tuesday for an on-site migration, which basically means that I had to carry a replaement server seven or eight blocks to the destination office building, a parcel weighing roughly 35 pounds. Needless to say, I was sore and tired from lugging that monster such a distance through downtown Pittsburgh. Thankfully, because it was election day on Tuesday many offices were closed, so traffic wasn't too bad. When I arrived there was a SNAFU boiling merrily away awaiting my arrival: A number of network cables had been disconnected before I got there. To connect the new machine, I had to plug them back in.. not working in that office or having a wiring diagramme handy I couldn't do this without risking major disruption of their network, which would certainly slot off everyone who had come in that day to catch up, which I wasn't about to do. Moreover, my contact at the building up and disappeared into the basement to oversee another server migration, leaving me high and dry for a good hour. I finally talked one of his techs into taking me down to tell him that I was screwed unless he either gave me a schematic or came upstairs to plug everything back in. Thankfully, he did the latter, and once I was sure the machine was up and running I was out of there in a short period of time.
The walk back, on the other hand, was even worse. Firstly, it was uphill. Secondly, I had to carry the original machine back to the office with me. If you've never been in a hosting facility, to get the most out of the space they have the computers in there are mounted in racks, which requires a special kind of chassis that looks a lot like an elongated stainless steel pizza box, much like this one. Unloaded, they weigh about ten to twenty-five pounds. When you add a motherboard, two CPUs, two high performance hard drives, a second power supply, multiple intake and exhaust fans, and a gigabyte of RAM, all of this equipment covered with big honking heatsinks to keep them frosty, even a one unit case (the smallest rack mountable case manufactured, not counting so-called 'blades'), they weight between forty and fifty-five pounds. Larger cases (like three and four unit chassis) weigh correspondingly more.
Seven blocks up hill. Fifth pounds balanced on a one-inch wide metal rail cradled in both hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome.
I nearly dropped the damned thing by the time I got to the actual hill. I'd lost all feeling in my hands when two workmen caught it just before it fell. They were nice enough to carry it up to the doors of my building for me while I tried vainly to restore circulation to my hands. I bought them coffee as thanks for saving my bacon that morning. It's the least I could do for them.
After dropping the computer off in my boss' office I bummed some Advil from Dave, the software patch manager (I don't know his actual title, I haven't found it out yet) and headed back to my cube to start in on my daily routine.
By the end of the day my fingers and palms had gone numb and my forearms were burning because the nerves were misfiring. I was not a happy camper.
One thing that people don't seem to understand (which is why I'm posting it here) is that when I'm hurting like that, anyone who tries to talk to me is fair game. I like to be left alone so I can concentrating on setting things right and relax. I don't want to talk or spend time around people.
I did head out last night, however, to vote in the primary election held in Pennsylvania yesterday. I discovered something shortly after I walked into the polls, which I filed away until tonight: They didn't card me.
When I got to the polls they asked for my name and address, looked me up in a looseleaf binder to confirm that I was supposed to vote in their area, and recieved my voter's form and stub before entering the voting booth. Not once did anyone try to authenticate who I was. I could theoretically have claimed to be anyone who lived in that general area and voted as them without getting a second glance. I even considered it for a brief period of time, just to see if I could do it.
For the record, I didn't.
With my luck, either I would have been caught and arrested for doing so, or it would have worked and others would have gotten the exact same idea, leading to a massive disruption of a democratic vote, which is not and would not have been my intention at all. I do find it rather scary that they have such lax security at the polls, though.
This morning I discovered that my repairs had mostly fixed my hands, but my biceps and shoulders were sore. It wasn't misfiring nerves, but not having exercised them for two months (since I took a break from weight lifting). The muscles are a little strained and torn, but nothing that a hot shower and a good night's sleep won't fix.
Carpal tunnel acting up. No update today to preserve my wrists. No e-mail, either. Have a good night, everyone.
This article is too interesting to not post. I've always suspected that blogs were being monitored, or at least some of them...
Carpal tunnel alert.
I've got to stop drinking so much coffee on Sunday afternoons - even though I went to bed around 2200 EST last night, I didn't fall asleep until well after midnight.. even after dosing myself in a vain attempt to get to sleep.
I'm starting to wonder if my body's metabolism isn't playing a sick practical joke on me these days.
Today was a surprisingly busy day at work - the amount of stuff to wade through during the day that had piled up over the weekend was considerable.. there was even more than usual. Getting everything straightened up, checked out, and packed away took most of today. Maybe it was the amount of stuff, maybe it's the fact that the chill in the air is wreaking havoc with my wrists, slowing me down horribly (as I've warned you, above). On the whole, however, I got a lot done and I'm very pleased with how everything turned out. I have to go in early tomorrow, so I'll be getting up around 0500 to have a snowball's chance in a blast furnace of making it in to the office before 0730 tomorrow morning. One of the things about an organisation that is active 24/7 (like the county government) is that there's very little time to make major changes to things, meaning very little tolerance (in the original sense, being able to work around or handle some situation without being adversely affected) for downtime. Most everyone is either going to be out or up to their necks tomororw, so it's up to me to get the job done.
Because I ride the bus every morning, this puts me in a rather odd position. I hope that I can make it in by the time I'm supposed to.. cross your fingers, everyone.
In an article that will make many a geek sit up and take notice, Dungeons and Dragons turns 30 years of age this year. First published by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson back in 1974, what could be the world's most popular (or notorious, depending upon your opinion) role-playing game has been purchased by over twenty million people the world over, totalling bettern than $1bus in sales. Not bad for a game that was spread by word of mouth among college students looking for a way to blow off steam and high school kids. The RPG is so popular that at one time every US nuclear sub had at least one campaign running to pass the time on their months-long underseas voyages. D&D is credited with creating an industry that has taken on a life of its own, inspiring dozens if not hundreds of genres (not bad for 'saxon violence'...) and not a few famous societal panics.
Gods, I feel old.
While I'm on the subject of gaming, time's running out.. White Wolf GamesTradition Book: Hollow Ones (Mage pedants, hassle them, not me) and Manifesto); buy $75us and they'll throw in a copy of Mage: Limited Edition (I don't know what's so neat about it, though - the image doesn't make it clear). Fans of the (sometimes great, sometimes awful) novels should take note - Kevin Andrew Murphy has released yet another novel set in the Mage mythos, featuring everyone's favourite Hollower Penny Dreadful. The nine chapters of the story are up for download as .pdf files right now; I've been reading them as they come out and it's an excellent story, told in Murphy's inimitable style.
B'witche's rocked last night. Going to bed.
The Beltane celebration was held a week early because, while technically it's next week, not many people will be in town for it, so they decided to hold it while there would be a turnout.. and what a turnout it was. The parking lot was packed again, and the Tavern was standing room only. People were even spilling out onto the dancefloor, where a maypole had been erected. The traditional vines and ribbons had been attached to the pole, and Mamma and the crew were trying to round up people to join in the dance. Before that, Alexius Pendragon and Kali were coronated the Beltane King and Queen, selected via votes submitted on the Tavern mailing list a few weeks ago. They made a most interesting couple, to be sure.. I gave my digicam/phone a try last night during the coronation. I forgot to take the time to turn the flash on, so I don't think that the images turned out terribly well. Time will tell, when my new cellphone plan kicks in and I can access the Net from my phone (and hence, e-mail the images to one of my accounts).
The maypole dance turned out a bit more.. eccentric.. than had been planned. Arranging people in two concentric circles to spin the lines around the pole took a bit more doing than expected, and people kept getting mixed up (over and then under? under and then over?), but a good time was had by all. A good time was also had by Alexius, who kept threatening to curse people with fertility in the year to come.. <grin>. Other forms of technology were in full effect last night, from Eggman and I geeking over our PDAs to trying to get a USB hard drive powered up and working behind the mixing panel, to the driver's license reader refusing to read people's ID cards for a while (sorry about that), but by the end of the night we had everything running smoothly.
A running joke was that most networks were easier to sort out, and maybe we should sneak some CAT-5 cable onto the maypole next year. Fred played a few of my CDs for the mapole dance (I wish he'd stuck with the ambient discs and not Juno Reactor, but what can you do?) and afterward (Iris was remarkably well recieved by everyone, much to my surprise). I do wish that he hadn't played Godsmack's Voodoo four times in one night, however - once is enough.
Fern, Eggman, and Dreck spent much of the night back by the pool tables.. Dreck has turned out to be quite the pool shark, skunking all comers and coming back for more. He's also finally 21, so he was celebrating his birthday a day or so late.
Happy birthday, Dreck.
A lot of new faces turned out last night, which is always welcome at the Tavern.. some welcome, some not so by the end of the night, but statistically speaking that's part for the course for anywhere. Some people from the B'witche's Tavern mailing list who post but don't come out very often were there also, though as far as I know, they didn't really talk to anyone (or at least as far as I saw). I could be wrong.
Last night was something of a change of pace for me: Because it was a celebration (and because I'd been threatening to for a while) I came in the closest thing I have to ritual gear, which is my boots, war jacket, and a pair of 'shades, and took the time to put on some face paint. I decided to go with my male aspect tonight, instead of my usual androgynous self. Last night I never really did get used to evidencing a male form. It doesn't feel comfortable anymore. It's too unnatural (perhaps I should say that it runs counter to my nature, which would be more accurate). It felt somewhat uncomfortable, to have to lean all the way to one side.
The other thing I noticed was that most of the people at the Tavern whom I know quite well simply didn't recognise me. Even Mamma walked by once, trying to figure out just who I was, and Mamma knows everyone who spends any time at all at B'witche's. She was quite surprised to discover that it was me, but greeted me warmly just the same. I never did connect with some folks last night (Alaric being one of them). Maybe they're used to my usual appearance, or maybe I changed my appearance just enough last night that their memories just didn't visually click.
Talk about 'least expected things'.
While I understand the reasoning behind the badly truncated, super terse vocabulary employed by habitual users of instant messaging networks like AIM and Yahoo Messenger, I fail to understand why they use the same terms in search engine criteria. I don't see why this would be effective.
Greetings viewers from The Cosplay/Anime Costuming and Masquerade Links Page! Enjoy the Tekkoshocon 2004 pictures!
I realise that this is rather late in coming, but I just got around to checking.. the location for Summercon 2004 has been announced: Pittsburgh, once again at the University of Pittsburgh University Club! Online registration is $30us, at-the-door registration will be $40us. No speakers have been announced yet, they're still accepting abstracts for papers and suggestions for panels, though.
While we're on the subject of conventions, the keynote speakers for HOPE 2004 have been announced. On Friday, Kevin Mitnick will be giving the keynote speech. On Saturday, Steve Wozniak will be taking centre stage.
I get the feeling that once again the speakers will be mobbed for autographs. This is going to be a good one.
I'm laying here in the Lab relaxing after a long day hacking at work with a geekbone that just won't quit and watching Iron Chef. This is the wildest thing I've seen in ages - trout, sugar, and milk in an ice cream maker?!
I've met art geeks.. computer geeks.. RPG geeks.. vehicle geeks.. food geeks are a new one by me.
Let me see.. where to begin... I spent a lot of today coding in what is steadily becoming my favourite language, Perl. It can be one of the most elegant programming languages on the planet, or it can look like executable line noise, but no matter how you cut it if you want to code something fast and off the cuff, it can't be beaten. That, and Perl chews on data like nobody's business - you can throw nearly anything at it (even a realtime dump of network traffic from TCPdump) and get the job done. It beats the pants off of C for data analysis, and C is one of my favourite languages, period. At any rate, the bug I'd been working on fell in fairly short order after a night's sleep (please notice the lack of 'good' there) and not an hour later the script had been transformed from an off-the-cuff hack to get the job done into a utility that will probably be seeing an awful lot of use in the near future.
So my regular expressions look like I dropped a book on the keyboard. They work.
After dinner I jumped back out to Best Buy to pick up the new cellphone that I've had my eye on all week. I did some quick research before heading out and noted that most any cellphone with a data cable can be used with a Linux box for connectivity. I think my next purchase is going to be a data cable for my new phone. I can't tell you how many times I wish I'd been able to jack in through Kabuki while I was on the road, if only to get directions to someplace.
Yep - I dropped my tax return on a new cellphone. My old one was on its way out - the power cells wouldn't hold a charge for very long and there's no guarantee that I could keep finding new ones, even on eBay. I couldn't resist the digital camera, either; the one I usually carry on the road is fairly hefty (pushing two pounds (slightly less than a kilogramme)) and most importantly not mine. It's Dataline's, and sometimes I'm not comfortable carrying it with me. There's a speakerphone built into it, which I've needed for a long time now (conferences on the road to navigate). The ringtones are the icing on the cake, and I've got some ideas for custom LCD backgrounds kicking around in a subprocess. I spent some time tonight keying in my backed up phone numbers, and I'll probably finish the job tomorrow. On the whole, I'm very pleased with it... except for the fact that my current headset isn't compatible with this unit, so I'm going to have to rely on the speakerphone (and make everything think that I've blown some of my cache RAM while driving) until I can either find an adaptor or get a new one.
Here's to trade-in refunds.
It's about time! The C=64 revival band Press Play On Tape finally has an album out.. and Think Geek has it in stock! That is just too cool.
Speaking of cool, what happened to the warm weather? The air was slightly chilly and damp this morning, and by the time the end of the day rolled around it had begun to rain ever so gently, and continues to do so at this time in the evening. At least it's not bitingly cold outside, nor is the rain so hard that you get soaked no matter what you're wearing. Work was on the long side today, but I think that was mostly due to a lack of sleep and sunlight, which tends to mess with my body's hormone levels (maybe I do have SAD, or some analogue of same). A meeting this morning went swimmingly, and strongly suggests that the mental reprogramming I've been doing is really starting to show positive effects. I even managed to hold it together long enough to smooth out a few problems stemming from misunderstanding from the last staff meeting. I'm still glued together after that, and I have no plans of stopping this evening.. I call that a positive change. I wound up spending a lot of the afternoon coding some more, another data analysis project that I've got a deadline on. I've figured out exactly what has to be done (all those software engineering classes taught me, go figure), now I just have to massage one particular functionality of Perl into doing what I need. I've been reading my Teach Yourself Perl book again, I'll crack it again tomorrow and see what I can make happen.
Early this morning I got a call from Lyssa, who was on her way out the door on her way to work. I was quite surprised to see who it was that early.. it's things like that which really brighten my day.
Reporting spam from chello.at tonight, I found the following in their registry data when I did a WHOIS query on the IP address: "<spam abuse e-mail address> Any reports sent to any other e-mail addresses may be treated as SPAM itself and followed by legal actions against originator."
Lovely. At least Chello is one of the all too few ISPs who actually make their spam reporting addresses known, so we don't have to carpet bomb admin, postmaster, abuse, spam, root, administrator, and legal at a given domain to make sure they get the point.
Being a fanboy is one thing, but this is just bloody overboard, to say nothing of pretty cool. Someone spent the past five years building as perfect a replica of the DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future. This guy found production sketches and photos from the making of the movie, interviewed the original builders, probably watched all three movies a few hundred times, spent untold hours casting resin and vacuum forming plastic to make all of the nurnies (the bits that look high tech but are actually just decorative). Amazing. Just when you thought that cosplayers went to great lengths...
Wow. It's Wednesday and I'm almost caught up on my sleep.
Work's been slow lately - most of what I've been doing is writing yet more documentation and researching procedures. Hopefully soon I'll be able to test some of this stuff out in a controlled environment to see how well it works. The weather in Pittsburgh is finally approaching what people anywhere else in the United States would consider 'springlike', with daytime temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Farenheit (inclusive), cool breezes, a distinct lack of a need to put salt on the roads, wear parkas and boots to get the mail, or grow mullets to keep one's central nervous system warm. The sky's clear and sunny (painfully so - bring your 'shades if you come to visit) for a change. Even the rain's not so bad anymore: It's no longer blowing fast enough to cut exposed skin to ribbons in a matter of seconds. Makes me wish I could go out more during the day to enjoy it, it does.
As my besainted grandmother used to say, "This is enough to piss off the Pope." The George Bush administration is 120 calendar days away from activating a bill which will eliminate overtime pay completely for a number of professions, among them assistants of many kinds (including administrative and executive), many computer-related jobs (including analysts, developers, and engineers), and other kinds of white collar jobs, such as pharmacists (who seem like they fulfill a pretty important role in American society these days), financial services workers (ditto - the bucks must flow), and consultants (about the only work a lot of us can find right now). Some of us happen to depend on our overtime pay just to make ends meet, and the way corporations and agencies are cutting costs these days, we're going to find ourselves screwed, blued, and tattooed by these changes. The new regs will not apply to union workers, incidentally - they're the last political force in the US that you want to get angry at you, but even they're not so sure that they're going to dodge this particular bullet. For a lot of us, we had to fight just to get overtime pay for the hours we put in above and beyond the call of duty, and the chance that we could lose a lot of our livelihood is all too real. The way the new regulations are written, if you make more than $445 per week in salary you are no longer guaranteed overtime. People may still get overtime pay if they early between $23.6kus and $100kus and work more than 40 hours per week, but it's no longer a requirement.
Enough 'may' and 'could' - time to act. I know how trite they are these days but if there's no other way to make your voice heard, why the hell not take advantage of it? The AFL-CIO is starting a letter writing campaign to the US government expressing its displeasure with these new regulations. Stand up and let those in power know that you're not going to stand for the loss of what could be a substantial part of your livelihood. Add to the letter that's already been written for you - personal anecdotes, why overtime is important to you, why you need those few extra dollars every paycheque... give it the personal touch. You are, after all, their constituents. You're the ones who your tax dollars go to pay. You're the ones who vote and the ones who can vote them out in a few months. Make your stand.
This morning on the bus in to work, I finally finished my CISSP study book. All 783 pages of it. From start to finish it took me better than four months of reading on the bus, during lunch, in the evenings, on the weekends... I think I killed a dozen hilighters, all told. Now I've got to go back through the book, actually taking the review testlets (writing the answers down and going back to check them), writing up the vocabulary, and maybe even taking the online review tests to make sure I've got everythying down. At least now I can stop carrying that five-pound monster to and from work with me every bloody day... that sucker's heavy. Even heavier than some of my textbooks from college, in fact. I think I'm going to take a break for a couple of days and then start in on the notebook work.
Okay... who left work early today? Raise your hands!
Probably the only thing I like more than a mystery to tease apart is a mystery that doesn't mean I have to race around at breakneck speed because all hell is breaking loose. Today was, by and large, boring. A tad on the slow side but it wasn't a crisis, which I am very thankful for.
Today is Fern's birthday; I spent the evening at her apartment celebrating and partying with the locals. Fern's little ones arranged the entire thing, no mean feat when you take into account that the affair was a surprise party, and they kept it under wraps the entire time. The apartment was set up just so with balloons, confetti (which Fern's going to be pretty slotted off about), and munchies. Alexius arrived just in time with a peanut butter cake and the pinata to hang up. Then it was just a matter of the kids keeping a watchful eye out for Fern to arrive back at home. Somehow, we managed to pack fifteen-plus people into her apartment.. when she finally did arrive, we ambushed her with confetti and blow-out toys. She celebrated a true punk birthday - one of her friends (whose name I never seem to catch) gifted her with a case of Michelob and a pack of cigarettes. The beer was even cold.
That was hands-down one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.
The night was pretty confusing and difficult to keep track of. Fern's apartment is on the small side, and when a lot of people are there it gets difficult to keep track of what's going on. Conversations run together and unless you're right next to someone it's tricky to make out what's being said. That, and being on something of a schedule tonight is making it difficult to write at this time.
Time for a bit of overdue writing.. most of Saturday was spent roaming around in one fashion or another, be it going food shopping to restock (and still forgetting a few things; dammit) or running to Borders, or even driving abroad for a bit to unwind and find someplace to hang out. For a change of pace the folks ordered pizza for dinner (pepperoni, sausage, and onions) from the pizza shoppe just down the hill from the Lab. Excellent place, though they screwed up Dataline's hotwings (she wanted plain wings; they sent barbecue). I think there are still a few slices of pizza left in the fridge, in fact. I'll not rehash what I've aleady written about Saturday (having gone back and reread it); I wound up driving solo out to B'witche's that evening and staying until long after closing time. I spent much of the night talking to Alexius, Lupa, and Ysidro (a member of the Keep cabal, who I don't think that I've met Outside before) while curled in a booth near the bar. True to form, the night didn't end the half-hour after closing when they finally threw everyone out due to PA blue laws.. we crossed the highway and spent the next three hours eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and talking about this, that, and pretty much everything, from hacker cons to pornography, from trying to draw maps of Oakland to swapping PDA documents and everything in between. I finally got back to the Lab around 0500 EST and crashed.. for about four hours. Damn my body's circadian rhythms.
Spent all day Sunday dead tired but still managing to clean the house (upstairs first, which got on my nerves, then what I could reach of the Lab). After a hastily assembled dinner, I curled up on the floor in a nest of blankets and pillows and napped for about two hours. While ordinarily it helps me catch up on rest, it didn't help me fall asleep until midnight or therabouts this morning.
I've been like the walking dead all day today. My brain just won't spin up the way it's supposed to. As things which are connected are wont to come in clusters (more like packs of rabid dogs...) a bit of confusion and a lot of pondering dragged the day even more than it had been before, though not out of boredom (pushing the usual order of things around, actually). My mind's still dragging ass right now, so I'm probably going to jack out early and crash. George W. Bush is in town right now, hyping the senatorial candidates for the upcoming election, making stupid jokes, and reading speeches right out of the movie Independence Day. A lot of offices downtown let folks go home early this afternoon so they'd beat the inevitable traffic jam that ensures from an entire central city throughway being shut down for the motorcade; Dataline beat me home by a good two hours. I left the office at the usual time and made it home in not much more time than normal. If there was any traffic jam in downtown Pittsburgh today I completely missed it.
That's been about it so far.
Whee! I haven't been horseback riding in almost fifteen years!
Long night. Long day. Going to bed.
Wow, I'm famous - a lot of people hate my war jacket. <blows a raspberry>
Today's been spent on the road or wandering around, or mostly so. I wound up getting up earlier than I'd intended because I couldn't stay asleep; bad dreams involving what appeared to be a moses sole, uglier-than-homemade-sin stingray, or just a really flat and determined dream-shark, with a serious case of the munchies was swimming around in (and I do mean 'in') the carpet upstairs, generally making a pest of itself and scaring the hell out of me. When it finally managed to get my cat, however, I jumped awake, rather startled. I think that it woke me up two or three times before I gave up on sleep and got out of bed shortly after 0800 EST. After basic maintenance I made breakfast (and turned the heat up on the bacon a little too far - lower heat is the way to go) and then sat down with a good, hot cup of coffee to read. I've been trying to work myself out of this funk that I've fallen into, so I've been spending time alone just relaxing, reading for fun and sorting out what's in my head at the moment.
Around 1130 EST I managed to get a shopping list together and then headed out to stock up for the week to come. The supermarket was remarkably empty today, probably because it's nice out and everyone's either working outside or going on joyrides to enjoy it. Given Pittsburgh's caprecious weather patterns, you have to enjoy things like this while you can. One of the things I forgot about that particular building is that cellphone reception is spotty at best, nonexistent at worst, so trying to hold a conversation just doesn't happen unless you're outside and on your way home. I spoke to Lyssa in short bursts while I was in there, which was rather frustrating. We spoke for longer on my way home this afternoon. After unloading the car and getting everything put away, I headed out once more to drive around and enjoy the day. I hit Borders first to see what was going on there and picked up a few things, a copy of The Infinite Tapestry (before all the WoD stuff goes out of print at the end of this month) and the second volume of The Big O in tankoubon form. After that I headed down the highway to Best Buy because I've been in the market for a new cellphone for a while, and I wanted to see what my options were.
For the longest time, Giant Eagle used to have tiny Sprint stores set up near the front desks. I happen to have cell service through Sprint, so I figured that after four years of using the same phone (and recently, said phone going from "full charge" to "recharge immediately!" in just over five minutes) it was time to upgrade, reasoning that I can either spent time hunting for a new power cell (the two I keep handy are wearing out rapidly now) or I could bite the bullet and get a new one. As fate would have it (and often does around me), the chain decided that Sprint stores aren't doing very well and got rid of them.
After I got to Best Buy I immediately started nosing around, and after talking with some salesfolk for something like one and a half hours, I think I've figured out what phone I'm getting. I don't recall off the top of my head which one it is (I don't feel like running back upstairs to get my notes at this particular moment) but it's got a digital camera with flash built into it, ringtone support, hi-res LCD screen, micro-screen on the outer half so you don't have to open the phone to see the CID display, built-in web browser and dataport, the whole nine yards. If I trade in my old phone and get a slightly different calling plan I'm looking at getting something like half the price of the phone back as a rebate. I'm sold. I plan on picking it up shortly after I get my tax return. It'll take a while to get my contact information transferred over (and to find that One Man And His Droid theme song ringtone) but it'll be an investment, if only to save money in the long run on batteries.
Transmetropolitan fans take note: The final trade paperback is out! For folks who aren't fans of the tattooed bastard yet, Transmet chronocles the adventures of Spider Jerusalem, futuristic saint of gonzo journalism. He's a writer; he's a journalist; he's a sometime adventurer; he is to fictional newspapers what Edison Carter was to fictional television news. Transmet in general is a speculative fiction piece that also touches upon some very interesting and sometimes horrifying topics, like child prostitution, genetic manipulation, involuntarily altering people's states of mind (ala Dr. Timothy Leary), and what the possible effects of widespread nanotechnology could be at street level, within the dominant culture of the place only referred to as The City. It's easily one of the best titles of DC Comics' Vertigo line; if you're not familiar with it get down to your local comics shop or bookstore and pick up volume one of the series. You'll split your time fairly evenly between laughing yourself sick and cringing at what's going on.
Just don't do it while you're trying to give up smoking.
Okay, so the article's wrong.. the last Transmet paperback isn't out yet. Amazon and Barnes and Noble have it listed as a pre-order. When I was looking for it earlier today during my travels I couldn't find it Outside, either. The latest issue of Previews (the comic book et al screamsheet, catalogue, and wishbook) says that it's due out in May. Don't go looking for it just yet. If you happen to find it, though, let me know - I'd like to grab it. I hate it when this happens...
The meeting went much better than I thought today. Either it wasn't as bad as part of me had feared or (more likely) the mental reprogramming is working as expected. Aside from some corrections and expansions that have to be made (which I'd expected, given the allowances I'd made for a lack of situational information when I was originally writing the documents) the documents I'd written were bang-on, emminently usable and well done.
I'm fairly proud of that.
Even fatalistic ol' me is pleased with them.
Anyway.. Dataline spent the evening at a concert while I stayed home and talked to Lyssa on the phone and did a little reading to decompress. It's been a long week, not terribly exciting or stimulating but at least nothing blew up and no crises had to be averted. As someone in IT, that's a lot to ask for, and a lot to be thankful for when such a time is granted.
It's late and I'm tired. Off to bed.
Have a boring night, fellow IT ronin. May nothing go wrong tonight.
Well, pending the staff meeting tomorrow, my current project is finished. It's going to need revision in the near future, and I could probably take it in some new directions, but as things stand now it's in place. The rest is polish and feature creep; no more major work has to be done. I"m rather satisfied with that, given the kind of week I've had. Tomorrow is the staff meeting, and a chance for more mental reprogramming. I'm still working on excising the programmed reaction that says that criticism in any form is an attack, and having people go over my work and give me feedback on it is a good way of doing so by burning it out completely. If it's overworked it'll eventually fuse and die, and then it can be removed, so to speak, in a big chunk.
I'm not the only one who's had a long week. In the past few days there's been a rash of breakins at supercomputing centres around the country. The systems in question were massively parallel computing clusters running the Linux operating system, which is uniquely suited for constructing distributed processing networks, as well as Sun Microsystems' Solaris. Evidence suggests that these intrusions were deliberately targeted to these clusters and not just folks running automatic exploits to see what systems Out There could be cracked randomly. It's not the bandwidth that appears to have been attractive to the crackers but the exceptional amount of disk space (at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, over 724 terabytes(!)) and perhaps raw processing power (like that of the cluster at Stanford). Whoever was going after these nets probably knew what they wanted to use and found a way of getting hold of it.
It's not easy to program multithreaded or distributed applications; there is a lot to take into consideration, such as not accidentally corrupting the data being processed, not bogging down the disk and network subsystems with requests, and individual threads or subprocesses not deadlocking while waiting for each other to catch up. It's even more difficult to program a distributed application when it's not just sharing CPUs and memory on a motheboard but a number of separate systems connected by a local area network, using their network links to communicate and synchronise. If that is indeed what the intruders were after (compute cycles), it's a good guess I think that they knew their stuff, if they were going to make use of these multiprocessing networks to crunch numbers, because they'd need considerable skill to make full use of these processing facilities. Either that, or they know someone who knows their stuff and who's writing all the code. Either way, it's pure speculation at this time because not much information about this has been released. Given that a lot of the work done by these multiprocessing clusters was for government research, the US government's probably freaking out right about now (and rightfully so) and putting a lid on the investigation (due to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 (amended in 1986 and last in 1994 - yay, CISSP studybooks) and probably by the Government Information Security Reform Act of 2000, which specifically covers systems defined as necessary for national security (of which government research could be construed).
There's another article here that has a bit more information. The NSF's TeraGrid multiprocessing network was compromised also, along with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications based out of the University of Illinion at Urbana-Champaign. The systems affected have been quarantined and are currently undergoing forensic analysis to determine the extent of the infiltration and how much, if any damage was done. The exact methods of infiltration will no doubt be determined during the analytic procedure.
If you remember way back when I found a link to a website that simulates the effects of a thermonuclear detonation statistically. There's another one out there that's fit to give you nightmares for a while, only this one simulates a meteorite impact. Just for funsies, I keyed in a set of statistics for the Lab: 50 miles from the impact site, a meteorite 50 feet in diameter made up of very dense rock (a rather sizeable chunk of debris from the asteroid belt) moving at.. oh, I don't know... 50 miles per second (no, I'm not using the metric system; deal).. impacting the Earth at a 50 degree angle (to make things interesting).. let's say it hits competant rock with a density of 2700 kilogrammes per cubic metre (no way around that figure). The site automagically converts my messed up American figures to the good ol' metric system, chugga chugga chugga... and comes up with a meteorite impact equivelent to 4.3 megatonnes of TNT going off all at once, leaving a transient crater 2,635 feet in diameter and a final crater 4,110 feet in diameter. The maximum amount of thermal radiation would last for 0.01 seconds after impact and would cook everything for about one second; there probably wouldn't be an Eva-style fireball left by the impact (a shame, really; if I knew such a thing was going to hit I can't think of a better way to go out than being blown into a cloud of fine ash more or less instantly, preferably while in a fittingly dramatic pose). At any rate, there wouldn't be much heat to speak of, it would barely even rate against a sunny day. The earthquake, on the other hand, would be about 5.0 on the Richter scale and would last for a hair over sixteen seconds. There wouldn't be much ejecta (think shrapnel from the impact) to worry about because a lot of it wouldn't make planetfall at all. The wind, on the other hand, would gust for nearly four and one half minutes around 10.5 miles per hour, and would raise a ruckus of 67 decibels of sound pressure, which is roughly equivelent to rush hour traffic.
Verdict: Emminently survivable. An impact like that is estimated to happen once every 338 years or so.
To paraphrase the Green Tentacle, "Wow! A full eight hours!"
Yes, you're going to have to scroll down some. Work with me on this.
Work's been on the rough side lately. I'm still working on writing procedural documentation, but it hit an impasse a few days ago and I've been banging my head off of it for a while, trying to figure out what was going wrong. As it turns out, the problem I was encountering was due to the hardening procedure applied to every system before anything else can be done to it. In particular, it has a nasty habit of breaking IIS 6 in obscure ways. IIS 6 is a picky beast to work with, to begin with. Unlike its predecessors, it's much more secure right out of the box (or at least until the grey hats take a debugger to it and start finding vulnerabilities), but part of that security means that a lot of its functionality is either disabled or plain not installed right out of the box. Add to that the changes made in Windows Server 2003, and when it's all said and done, more was said/cursed/sworn/blasphemed than done. Yes, it was one of those days...
I wound up stepping through the hardening procedure line by line this afternoon, the equivelent of running a programme inside a debugging utility to watch exactly what was going on. It was a footnote written in the margin of the tech manual, however (thanks, Chris) that solved the problem: They left out a rather important entry, which dealt specifically with the trouble I was having. Once I changed the setting in question, the entire bloody thing began to purr like a well fed and scritched kitten.
Seems a little high to me..
Yep.. stealth goth.
Tired. Feeling poorly. Going to bed.
I left the bloody windows of my car open again. It's been cold as hell today and raining... and sitting on wet leather seats to drive to the store wasn't fun at all. Dammit.
There are certain topics of conversation which I simply cannot abide being treated in a disrespectful manner. Among them are the right to die movement, computer security, and certain biological modifications which are extremely expensive and difficult to have performed due to their life-changing nature. This day, the last of these was strapped to the rack of guttural laughter and flogged with lashes of crude characterisation by my co-workers, who are known for indulging in this and other less savory time-killers when females and the boss aren't about for a half-hour or so. Under ordinary circumstances, they're surprisingly decent folks, if a bit rough around the edges (think 'salt of the computer using Earth') and even humourous. This afternoon, however, I could not refrain from figuratively dropping a live grenade into their midst and dangling the pin just out of their reach. Quote the Principia, "'tis an ill wind that blows no minds," and I think I was fairly successful at that.
For reasons of discretion I will touch upon the topic with delicacy; those of you either know who you are or know where I'm coming from.
There are certain elective surgeries, as I stated previously, which are difficult to have performed and pose considerable risks for the patient. The possibility of feeling as if their exterior at long last reflects who they really are, however, is a strong motivator and often outweighs the risks by far. As such, respect in discussion, I feel, is warranted for folks who quite literally lay it all on the line to live their lives as they wish, both in terms of the risks of surgery as well as the radical elements of society taking umbrage and striking out. This afternoon, when I heard some people whom I consider to be peers of profession speaking out of hand without stopping to consider this topic, I had to speak up.
I'm fairly well read in a great many topics; I try to conceal it as much as possible to keep from coming across like a know-it-all (I'm more like a 'know a little about everything', but this makes little difference). So when I heard a suitable pause in their discussion about what, exactly goes into having some of one's biological systems reworked, I chimed in with a few statements about the amount of time necessary, about how much one can expect to pay for such an operation, why it's probably not covered by medical insurance... basic, practical stuff that wasn't terribly technical. But not stuff that you can come up with off the cuff, either - you'd have to research the procedure to know this stuff. I also answered a few of their unanswered questions about whether or not sensation is kept and how still-connected tissues are used to build new structures.
Silence. Dead silence for the first time in an hour.
"You've looked into this?" one of them asked.
In reply, I reached behind my head and lifted a handful of thick, shoulder length hair, and let it fall back to pool about my neck and shoulders.
The other half of the story they need not know; this served to fulfill my purposes adequately.
Guys, if you happen to read this one day, stop and think for a while.
A brief digression, if I may: Adrian Lamo's sentencing has been pushed back to 16 June 2004. Lamo, who is famously known as the 'homeless hacker', was known for two things: Traipsing from coast to coast repeatedly, and cracking the networks of some of the largest corporations in the world with nothing more than a web browser. Lamo's skill at finding vulnerable proxy servers and manipulating them is legendary; earlier this year he turned himself in when the New York Times (no, I'm not going to link to them) brought him up on charges for taking over parts of their internal network, leafing through personnel information left accessible from the Net, examining filestores used by stringers to upload stories, and making use of their access to such information brokers as Lexis-Nexis. Lamo plead guilty to a single count of computer fraud earlier this year.
Hang in there, Adrian.
Happy Easter, everyone.
Holy imploding Kibo... take a look at these suckers. Warning: Not for the entomophobic or arachnophobic. While I think that "Rick's" story is a bit of an exaggeration, the fact that the two spiders in the picture are trying to eat each other makes me think twice about it. I'm glad that I live in the States right about now.. though they remind me uncomfortably of the scorpions that live down in Texas.
I just got a message from Darien about the article I linked above: It's jetwash. Real camel spiders aren't that big and they're not toxic (at least, as far as larger critters, like humans and camels) are concerned. Camel spiders eat insects that are smaller than they are, though they've no compunctions against walking over still or dead animals to clip off hair to line their nests with just before laying an eggsac. Still, that's one nasty image up there....
Live and learn, die and forget. Unless you're an expert system.
While we're on the topic of strange stories, I've spent a few days watching this one and trying to figure out what's what, but I haven't found anything that is worth talking about: In the town of Canneto di Caronia, Sicily, electrical devices are blowing out left and right, and fires are spontaneously starting all over the place. Apparently, this has been going on since January 2004, though it's just hit the newswires. From what they can tell, this isn't due to power fluctuations in the high tension lines leading into the town because they've all been cut. Installing generators locally has not stopped the phenomenon from occurring; in fact, the generators blow out just like everything else. No one's been hurt by anything going on yet but the residents of Canneto di Caronia are scared out of their wits and heading for the hills. I can't say that I really blame them. The tiny town of 39 residents has declared a state of emergency. Arsonists and highly skilled jokesters have been ruled out because the fires have broken out and electronics have blown out in full view of police and researchers who are involved in the situation - if there is trickery afoot it's being done in such a way that no one can see it happen. Lately, cellular phones and alarm systems have started acting up in a like manner, though not quite so explosively.
After considering it for a while, I don't know what might be causing this. Everything I've been able to come up with to explain what's going on has been man-made in origin, which strongly suggests that these things are beind deliberately done for some reason, though one can't rule out the possibility of an accident or unforseen side effect of something. Microwaves would cause fires to break out and electronics to malfunction, but they would also affect living things adversely, namely the folks who live in the town. A magnetic pulse can disrupt electronic devices, though I don't think that it would cause them to flame out. Small chemical devices that would overheat violently, something along the lines of small quantities of magnesium and a heating element or igniter (such as those used for model rockets) would do the trick, but they would have to be secreted in most everything in the entire town with perfect secrecy, which rules that out (as does the lack of evidence of such a device being found in anything, as far as the reports show). I confess that I am a loss - I've no explanation. It is, however, very interesting to contemplate.
Hmmm.. Psykosonik is supposed to be making a comeback soon, if this website is any indication. New member, new look... the site throws you over to here once the intro loads, though. Paul Sebastian is still a part of the band, and the demo music playing through the Flash is most definitely his voice, though unfortunately I think they've left a lot of the cyberpunk influence behind. That's not necessarily a bad thing, all people and all things evolve, but that doesn't mean that I can't miss it. You can download a few .mp3's of their new stuff off of the second website, spend some bandwidth and give 'em a listen.
Much to my surprise yesterday afternoon, the office closed a few hours early, and everyone was allowed to leave at 1400 EST for the Easter weekend. The office went from a skeleton crew to tomblike and empty in no time flat. Because I'm not on a few internal distribution lists (due to my status as a temp) I missed the memo, and to be safe checked in with upper management, who happened to still be around. After determining that this applied to myself as well, I wrapped up everything I was working on and headed off to the local Barnes and Noble to kill some time until the bus back home came. Dataline was off yesterday, and stayed home on vacation. Unfortunately there wasn't much that caught my eye, save a copy of The Apocrypha (an edition which doesn't have The Book of Enoch in it, unfortunately), so after a quick jaunt around the store I wandered back out into the streets and thence to the Lab.
Forge and Gypsy are in town visiting for Easter weekend; late yesterday afternoon my cellphone rang. Along with Alexius, we arranged a dinner outing to catch up on the past few years, and to figure out what would be going on for the rest of the night. Of all places, we wound up at the diner not far from my house (because there are no such diners in Rochester, only takeout places and fairly ritzy and expensive restaurants). Nothing fancy, nothing particularly upper class, just good food at a decent price, bottomless coffee, and lots of talking. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to say much last night, not until later in the evening. A lot's happened in the few years since Forge moved up to New York, and more since the wedding late last summer. It's good to get back in touch with everyone and spend time. So many people are leaving, and lines of communication are starting to wither and fade.
I miss everyone.
After running into someone from work (which, in hindsight, I should have expected because we live so close together) we set off for the House Pendragon and from there to one of Pittsburgh's more unique evening events, Bareoke at the Tennyson Lounge. Bareoke, if you're not familiar with it, is kareoke at a strip club, a most unusual combination.
I'm not terribly fond of strip clubs. I don't really find them entertaining; nudity in general doesn't do much for me. As a rule, unless my intellect has found something interesting to ponder, the rest of me isn't going to do much other than its normal autonomous functions.
To put it another way, unless the mind's aroused, the body doesn't care.
To return to the topic at hand, however, the four of us trucked south of the city in Forge's new wheels, a midnight black SUV that looks like a cross between a mobile black ops centre and a limo. We pulled into the parking lot and met up with Fern and friend (whose name I, regrettable, do not recall at this time), and walked in en masse.
Unfortunately, the only tables left in the place were right in front of the PA speaker, so once the music started up discomfort set in rapidly. I forgot my earplugs last night. Thankfully, Forge moved a chair against the wall for me, well behind the speaker.
We wound up going back to the bar for a while to drink for a bit and talk. For some reason, I got maudlin in fairly short order and we talked about moving, finding a job, burning out, trying to find a new line of work... trying to develop a new path in life. Lots of theories but no answers yet. But I still try.
Kareoke was surprisingly good - there are a lot of people who can sing well to begin with, and a considerable group who can when they have a few drinks in them. The girls up on stage also joined in, which I found surprising. The girls there have personality as well as stage presence.
At least, it was good until I got up on stage. On a lark (or perhaps it was the Mike's Hard Lemonade) I picked Corey Hart's Sunglasses At Night, figuring that I could get through it with relatively little trouble.
I was very wrong. Once I got up on stage I could feel my cheeks start to burn. Stage fright set in, and just short of halfway through the song, bumbling it badly the whole way, I put the mike back on the stand and took off for my little corner.
I give 'lex credit and thanks, he found a pair of sunglasses and brought them up on stage for me, but it wasn't enough to steady my nerves.
The rest of the night passed fairly uneventfully and rapidly, thank the gods. I got home shortly before 0200 EST and went to bed, hoping to sleep off a heaping spoonful of embarassment and portholed confidence. It nearly worked - I was jolted wide awake shortly after 0800 by a nightmare, the content of which I'm not terribly interested in writing about at this time. Suffice it to say that my imagined singing ability in the dream got under more than my own skin.
It's amazing what you can find in dollar stores, sometimes.
In prowling around the local dollar store looking for a new pair of shades (for an upcoming project, incidentally) I came across a rack of audio CDs of various sorts. At first I didn't pay them much mind until I began to browse the artists. I found a large amount of unusual music, old school trance that I hadn't heard of before (Phasis, Bionic Crew, Monks), a compilation or two of old-school goth (Siouxie and the Banshees, The Stone Roses, Peter Murphy), and a Frontline Assembly CD-5 (Everything Must Perish). Total cost: $6.42us.
Sometimes I love dollar stores.
The line between 'spiritual' and 'frighteningly weird' is a thin one, and is drawn only by opinion.
Today was a (thankfully) boring day. Nothing went wrong. Nothing blew up. No crises. By the time the day ended I was able to curl up on the bus with a book or two (and the local paper) and unwind.
Awwwww, yeeaaaaaahhh..... <ties on a silver and black do-rag>
Time to take some more pictures, I think.
This evening on the bus headed back to the Lab, I had one of those close encounters of the stupid kind (I think that'd be a Type-VII, if George Allen Hynek would still be alive) that doesn't quite sink in until some time after the fact, when you're at home safe and sound and can reflect calmly. Running through my neighborhood is a very long road that serves as the main drag: It goes from one side of the township to the other nonstop, and if you put the hammer down you can cover a lot of ground in very little time. Many younger folks are wont to do just that - put the hammer down, I mean. What's more, this road passes over one of the two very large hills that form the valley that splits the township into two very large and picturesque regions. On occasion (I wish that I could say 'rare' occasion but when the weather is nice this is almost a daily occurrance) teenagers who sink more money into their PoS cars than they do anything else drag race the length of this road. If you guessed that one of them has to drive in the lane running in the opposite direction, you get a cookie.
Two of them decided to do just that early this evening.
The idiot driving the wrong lane, the one my bus happened to be travelling in, decided to change his mind and swerve into the opposite lane scant seconds before winding up in a head on collision with a very large public transportation vehicle, which Dataline and I happened to be riding in the front seats of.
A part of me wishes that his racing buddy hadn't dropped back a few essential feet to allow this idiot to blow past my bus at better than 65 miles per hour, thus skimming some of the cruft out of humanity's gene pool. Another part of me is relieved that my last words this time around weren't "Dumbass." The rest of me is both disturbed at the cold-bloodedness of those two subprocesses and relieved that nothing bad happened.
What in all the Chinese hells possesses people to do something so stupid? Please explain this to me. Why, under any circumstances not involving a life and death situation, could anyone, teenage or adult, consider driving on the wrong side of the road at a speed at least twice that of the posted limit a beneficial or intelligent thing to do? Especially when the time of day is such that there are vehicles travelling in the opposite direction in that particular lane of the road returning home en masse because the workday is over. Why???
Now playing: Alphavilla - Big In Japan (Culture Mix)
Now here's one of the most interesting body mods I've seen in a while: Cosmetic eye implants. You heard me, there are people in Amsterdam who are paying up to $1000eur to have tiny synthetic chips shaped like stars, moons, hearts, and other shapes just under the conjunctive membrane that covers the eyeball. The procedure takes about 15 minutes to perform as an outpatient under local anesthetic. The procedure's already been patented and there is a waiting list of patients already. No complications have been noted yet or are expected in the future, for that matter.
Personally, I'm still waiting for implanted silver contact lenses, corrective in nature if possible. Still, I dream.
I've been thinking about Time lately. Time in the capital-T sense, the big picture of things, and not just the numbers marked off by clocks and wrist watches. A lot of what we think of as time seems to be based upon perception: How we interpret what we see around us dictates what we consider to be the speed of things happening. We're having a good time at a party, dancing and talking and generally enjoying life as it comes, and it seems to slip past us all too rapidly. On the other side of the coin, when you're in a dentist's chair having a tooth drilled out it feels as if it's taking several incarnations to get the job over and done with. That high-pitched whine reverberates through the bones of your skull so that you can't escape it short of a shot to the head and all you can taste if dry enamel.. I can think of a few things that are less fun but unfortunately they're all pretty graphic, and up there with the footage originally cut out of Robocop. I think you see what I'm getting at.
A lot of my life's been like that lately. I tend to fret a lot about not having enough time to do everything I'd like. That tends to be due to the fact that I try to do as much as I can all at once, and get so bogged down trying to manage all of the thought processes I get confused and then get panicky for no really good reason. The trick is to pick a few things to do, do them, and then come up with another list later of different things to do. I'm so used to multitasking that I bite off more than I can chew, and get snarled up inside. Yet another thing that I've got to start working on. A classic case of perception dictating one's responses, not to what is, but to what one perceives and interprets as bad or frightening.
Solution: Change the interpretation of the perceptions, or change the perceptions.
That's actually pretty easy to accomplish. I just have to decide what I'd like to do and then go ahead and do it. There'll always be a chance to do the other stuff, and if need be I can rearrange what's happening to take care of more pressing matters, like paying bills or stuff like that.
I've been thinking lately about everything that's been going on in Iraq, too. US troops are still over there even after Bush announced last May, that the war was over and everyone would be going home soon. The suicide rate among US troops stationed in Iraq is slowly beginning to climb, I think because their not being permitted to return home to kith and kin is beginning to wear down the soldiers stationed over there. That and the fact that US troops are being picked off a few at a time is demoralising because there's no clear way to fight back, or even tell who is friend and who is foe. Just today somewhere around a dozen Marines were killed in Fallujah; this, of course, comes just a few days after four others were killed, mutilated, dragged behind cars, and strung up like deer set to bleed out by a hunter in a nightmarish vision right out of the jungles of the Vietnam War. If that won't take the wind out of your sails, I don't know what will.
Hearing about this day in and day out and day back in makes me ill. I've been refraining from commenting on this as long as I could, but I have to say something now.
US troops should get the hell out of there and not look back.
They're supposed to be in there for peacekeeping purposes, until the first democratic elections are held and the reins of power are transferred, probably none too smoothly but transferred nonetheless. It seems pretty obvious to me that the people of Iraq who are willing and able to take control are the badasses who don't want democracy and they sure as all the sand on the beach don't want US troops in their country anymore. Oh, and I failed to mention that they're ready, willing, and able to do whatever they please to make sure that they get their way. They've got the connections to get weapons and plastic explosives to wire up carbombs and suicide bombers. They've got the money to pay for it all (and probably their own safety). They've got the influence and control over people to get them to do hideous things like dragging the corpses of US GIs behind motor vehicles like slabs of beef. They've got the presence to gather like-minded Iraqis, train them, and give them a purpose: Driving out US troops.
Fine. Let them have their country and their government. Let them have what remains of their country after the US bombed the living hell out of it. The US has no business rebuilding what they destroyed over there, certainly not if that is how it's going to be thanked, with bullets. Let them have what's left. They don't want US influence and assistance? Fine. Let them fend for themselves. They've made it abundantly clear that they don't want any interference...
Give them what they want, and let them sink or swim. I'm fucking sick and tired of hearing about people being taken out in small groups or individually. Those GIs have families and careers that they're wasting on a small cabal of ungrateful wretches who want nothing more than to drive out what could be their best chance to get the rest back on their feet. It's not worth it.
Scott, I don't know if you'll ever read this, but come home soon.
Another day, another dollar.
Today seemed to fly past with the alacrity of cars on the freeway in the days preceeding spring break. It was quiet, short, and best of all, boring. Nothing happened. Ergo, nothing bad happened. No fires to fight, nothing blowing up, nothing going wrong. Today was just another day.
I spent a lot of the evening copying down a few more recipes into my notebook, including an interesting pasta recipes that calls for eight ounces of hummus for the sauce. I'm really curious about it, now. I might try it this weekend, in fact.
I finally balanced my chequebook this evening, taking care of a chore that I ordinarily detest. I hate seeing how fast money drains away, like so much water down the plughole. It's disheartening. It feels like I bust my ass at work and there's nothing to show for it. I suppose that I shouldn't complain so much, at least I can pay my bills without having to figure out what I'm going to have to sell next to cover them. It's the principle of the thing, though. Just like not having enough time to write in here.
Just venting. Feeling very out of sorts, trying to hold onto something.
I decided to take a break for the past few days from writing in here, to give my creative mind a chance to rest and go out for a while and do stuff. Friday was spent polishing up a project at work and wondering why in the hell it was still raining in the evening. Later it turned into a light dusting of snow, which persists in dusting everything, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Cam LARP's heating up - politicking is at an all time high, reputation is actually being called into play and being used these days (after being neglected for the better part of three years), and all hell is breaking loose. My primary character isn't going to be buying off the flaw Nightmares anytime soon.. you have to love a campaign in which there are always enough nasty things happening to keep a nineteen-going-on-twenty year old from relaxing for a minutes. I have to hand it to Kris Borer, the storyteller for the Mage venue, he's good at writing situations which are real moral conundrums, moreso because you have to filter things through what your character would reasonably do, and that gets confusing after a while. While he's yet to really write anything that's outright scary (like monster-leaps-out-of-the-closet scary) he's good at the sort of slowly dawning horror that people like Brian Lumbly write. Anthony, who plays the token wraith in the venue, is also good at taking the icky stuff that people don't ordinarily think about and making you feel like you need to take a shower after you get home.
One good case of the willies, even from an intellectual perspective. Good stuff.
One of these days I'm going to finish sewing the patches onto my war jacket. They're still sitting on my workbench, waiting to be sewn into place. Where that came from in that train of thought, I've no idea at all.
After LARP, Jason, Ellen, and I spent some time talking to Brian afterward, catching up on what's been going on and generally touching base. The three of us (Brian declined) wound up at Eat and Park drinking coffee, talking, laughing, and eating. For the first time in a long while I had a chance to sit and game geek with friends without feeling like I was disturbing or scaring people. We had a good old time, talking until the wee hours of the morning. In the mood to indulge, I ordered a rarely-sought treat: A strawberry fudge fantasy sundae, which seems to consist of equal portions of vanilla ice cream, diced strawberries, and hot fudge. Excellent combination; I'd go so far as to say "Damned good," actually.
Saturday was not the relaxing day that I'd had in mind, but was still pretty decent nonetheless. I headed out per usual to the grocery store to stock up and did my usual weekend chores, then jumped out to the local comic shoppe to pick up my subscriptions, along with volume zero of the X/1999 tankoubon, released by Viz. After that I headed down the street to the local gaming shoppe to poke my head in and see what was going on. Precious little, to be honest, though seeing a harried-looking young mother with three younglings in tow did my hearts good because she was looking to see what had just been released - it turns out that she was a gamer. She was also getting her younglings hooked on Pokethulhu...
That got a laugh, you can be sure.
That laugh stopped abruptly when I discovered that the clerk had accidentally given that same young woman the comics that I'd purchased not a half-hour earlier... needless to say, I was unhappy about losing the latest issule of Voltron, though I do hope that she gets some enjoyment out of it, or out of the first collection of X manga. Maybe she'll become infected... anyway, the clerk called on ahead and had them set aside another set of issues for me, free of charge.
They're good folks down there. I try to support them as much as I can.
Truth be told, I was hoping to stay at home last night and relax: Watch a movie or two, catch up on The Big O and Witch Hunter Robin, but early yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from John and Lara - Kate had just broken up with her SO and she was throwing a party to blow off steam (read: get completely out of her skull with ethyl alcohol and sundry flavourings). For a moment, I almost passed on the shindig but I don't get together with folks as often as I'd like, so to continue the general trend of going out, doing stuff, seeing people, and generally having a good time I accepted. I plugged her address into Mapquest and set out after dinner, only to arrive during a showing of the He-Man and She-Ra Movie.
Ye galloping high-stepping gods, that movie's bad. Really bad. So bad I couldn't bear to watch it for longer than a few seconds at a time. John and I headed back out the Lab to pick up a few things for the party, and returned a little under two hours later due to the traffic in Oakland being completely tied up due to some event or other that the University of Pittsburgh is throwing this weekend, either Baccalaureate or spring break, I don't know which. The rest of the night was spent talking, drinking, talking, eating, talking, cursing her stove because two separate controls are required to turn it in, drinking, trading in-jokes (many of which escaped me) and off-colour references, and playing DDR. I think I passed out somewhen around 0600 EDT, only to pick myself up off the floor around 1030 EDT and head for home, accidentally leaving some stuff behind as I did so.
At this point, I think I'm going to jack out and take a nap.
Something Awful is screwing around, per usual, but chaotes out there might want to start taking notes and reworking things a little...
Cattell's 16 Factor Test Results
Long day today. Very long, very rainy, very cold. My nose is still stuffed up from the sudden change of weather, and I'm told that it snowed very briefly today.
News to me.
I wish that I had more to write about right now, but I don't have a great deal to say. I've been keeping my nose to the grindstone and working on stuff. I got my latest project done today with time to spare, ironed out a few bugs (I've a hunch that there'll be a few more to take care of tomorrow, but nothing too major), and came home to kick back with a cup of coffee and a plate of tortellini salad.
I AM 57% INTERNET ADDICT!
I am pretty addicted, but there is hope. I think I'm just well connected to the internet and technology, but it's really a start of a drug-like addiction. I must act now! Unplug this computer!
I like books too much.
Nobody likes to find out that what they make has flaws in it. Software companies downright hate being told that their software is insecure and dangerous as a result. But life goes on; you fix your code, recompile, release your patches, and get on with life. Tegam in the country of France, which manufactures the antivirus software Viguard, has gone too far, though. A few months ago a gentleman named Guillaume, who works as a molecular biologist (and is a security researcher as a hobby) found some serious vulnerabilities in Viguard; moreover, he proved that Tegam's claim that their software catches 100% of all viruses Out There was false. Instead of backing away and reworking some things, however, they brought him up on charges of counterfitting (counterfitting what? He analyzed their software and wrote about doing so.), called him a terrorist, forced his results to be taken offline by his ISP, and generally started throwing their weight around, making Guillaume's life hellish because he dared to speak out and warn people. He's flown from the US to France twice now to stand before a tribunal, trying to explain technical topics to nontechnical folks. Please give his account a read and spread the word - this could set a dangerous precedent for security researchers the world over. If they can't publish, who'll be able to warn people? Who'll be able to warn the maintainers of software?
Food for thought.
The folks who write documentation usually aren't novelists, as The Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness can attest to. It's not scans of dry manuals from dusty hardware, it's pictures of signs, user diagrammes, and objects, the safely labelling of which is so ambiguous that the only way to interpret it is to crack jokes. Check out some of this stuff, especially the bomb-in-a-dead-rat from World War II.
If it's one thing that you can count on this city for, it's the regular cycle of weather, you have to give it credit. For every nice day, there are three cold, rainy, or both days to compensate. You have to love hot and cold running environment and people who completely forget how to drive when they're going through a tunnel.
But I blow off steam. And try to kickstart the right hemisphere of my brain.
I've been worried, lately, about not having enough time to do everything I would like. Writing these logs is, in many ways, a comfort to me. While I do not write a great deal of really personal information in here, I treat these files as a sort of backup of memories and thoughts. Organic memory is notoriously fallible, and the strangest things can disrupt enough neurons to render memory patterns too weak to pull back or wholly inaccessible. Like a good hit to the head. Anyway, I greatly miss writing these updates. My writing is starting to go downhill from disuse, that much is certain. I hope to arrest that soon; writing has always been something that I've enjoyed greatly, and I never want to lose the ability to pen relatively decent prose. The other thing is that I write about things in here that I care deeply about, things that I never want to forget about or lose sight of. I don't want to forget what is important to me.
In a time where life moves faster than most anything else, it's very easy to become engulfed in the patterns and routines that make up everyday life, and forget who and what you are. It's very easy to think of oneself as a component, interchangable in nature and designed only to perform a certain task. That's not what people are, they're not parts. I show a rather marked tendency to depersonalise, to remove what people usually think of as a conscousness from a situation, and look at things from a parallax point of view. An example may do a better job of illustrating this:
This afternoon after work, I walked to the bus stop with my umbrella up and my favourite pair of gloves on as the rain pattered to the stained and cracked concrete all around me. The cool wind bit the skin of my face and tossed a lock of hair around, occasionally blowing it into my eyes. I stopped by the nearest building and dug in to await the bus home. While I stood there waiting and occasionally shivering, I chanced to see a rather odd looking gentleman standing nearby. He was wearing a leather jacket and a pair of eyeglasses that made his eyes look larger than they really were, and which accentuated his cheekbones strikingly. He struck me as someone who probably spent more time behind a desk than walking around in the sun, and was odd because he was wearing a leather jacket, which is't exactly corporate haute corture. I wondered why he decided to kill time standing at a bus stop, of all places. There were more interesting places in Pittsburgh to kill time, places where he could probably get a cup of coffee and something to eat to tide him over for a while. I knew of one not too far away, and briefly considered pointing him in the right direction.
Then I realised something.
I was looking into a mirrored window. The chap wearing the leather jacket was me.
I didn't recognise myself again.
All of that said, I think it's clear why I try to write in here at least once every day. I write about things that interest me on a number of levels, and which touch on things that are very near and dear to me. Things that are a part of who I am, and which I never want to forget about. I'm afraid that if I lose sight of those things that I care about, I'll lose bits and pieces of myself, and I might start coming apart at the seams.
Then again, maybe I'm just paranoid and unwilling to partition my time any more finely than I am right now.
An outfit called SecureWave has come out with a new paradigm of computer virus protection, or at least is retracing the steps of a road once travelled but left for a time, something that the field of computers is wont to do. The software that they're working on isn't designed to look for the traces of things that aren't supposed to be there, it's supposedly designed to only allow things that it recognises as valid software using a recogition system of some sort (probably a unique message digest of known good software) to run, and will stop any other software from executing. The theory is that the administrator or owner of a given computer will spend a little time working with the protective software, setting up lists of software that is known to be legit and should be allowed to run freely. Everyone's got a few applications that they can't live without, and which they can think of right off the tops of their heads (for me, that would be Mozilla, OpenSSH, Mutt, and GnuPG; you no doubt can think of yours in a few seconds' time); as a result, making that whitelist should be a simple matter. Moreover, they claim that their corporate customers report a marked drop in calls to the help desk, meaning that the users find less trouble with their antiviral software than the other big name packages of the field, which means less hassle. I think this is something to keep an eye on, it could give the big names in the field a run for their money.
I am the Coquette
The ability to delay satisfaction is the ultimate art of seduction - while waiting, the victim is held in thrall. Coquettes are the grand masters of the game, orchestrating a back-and-forth movement between hope and frustration. They bait with the promise of reward - the hope of physical pleasure, happiness, fame by association, power - all of which, however, proves elusive; yet this only makes their targets pursue them more. Imitate the alternating heat and coolness of the Coquette and you will keep the seduced at your heels.
Symbol: The Shadow. It cannot be grasped. Chase your shadow and it will flee; turn your back on it and it will follow you. It is also a person's dark side, the thing that makes them mysterious. After they have given us pleasure, the shadow of withdrawl makes us yearn for their return, much as clouds make us yearn for the sun.
Jesus Christ, do you have to try to break everything? Okay, there are seven legitimate answers not counting that bullshit "My parents are dead" question, but did you have to fucking see what happened when the results ended up in a tie? It's crackers like you who make Microsoft cry, I swear. Anyway, you win. You're far superior to me, a lowly quiz-maker. Is that what you wanted to hear? Is it?Which Popular Hero Are You?
(Special blazingly obvious, just-pick-a-picture-and-put-in-your-goddamn-blog edition)
Heh, heh, heh...
I'm still trying to catch up from the weekend. I'm still hacking away at work, and making a great deal of progress. I'm still writing specs and docs, and I'm actually about ready to start writing everything up, once the proof of concept work is done and written up, anyway. Of course, it was cold and trying to rain all day today, not that I noticed all that much of it due to my spending the vast majority of the day in the core of a large building away from anything resembling the environment. At least what there was of it had the decency to taper off by the time I got out of work.
California folk take note: Every Tuesday night at the Echo.. Club Microwave! All chiptunes all night. Old school gamers sit up, take note, and plan your pilgrimage...
If you're ever up to anything, one of the rules that one must follow is to leave no trail of evidence back to yourself - "Say nothing that winds up in a Pearl Harbor file," formally speaking. This should be one of the key tenants of the information society in which we live. A little-known fact about Microsoft Word, for future reference: Whenever you create a document, changes you make don't just disappear, they are invisibly kept inside the structure of the (mostly undocumented) files. If you're conversant with Word you can examine the traces of every edit anyone's ever made to that document. A few days ago a particularly creative hacker out there coded up a few bots to crawl around on Microsoft's webservers looking for Word documents, and here's what he found. There's too much here to describe in the limited time I have tonight (dammit), so give it the once over and take a look. It's not technical, in fact it's downright funny, in a queasy sort of way.
You'd think the RIAA would stop trying to discredit everyone and come clean: File sharing doesn't hurt the sales of compact discs.
Now if there were just more bands on RIAA-backed labels that were actually worth listening to...
Ho-kay.. Lots of running around, not much time to write about it.
Q: What comes after the first day of spring in Pittsburgh?
A: Four days of rain.
On Sunday Lyssa and I went out a bit to see what was going on in the big, wide world out there, and wound up wandering around the campus a bit in search of heads for my electric shaver. It's taking heroic effort to keep my body's beard shadow away, so I finally broke down and went hunting for replacement parts. I didn't find them in DC, but we did find a clothing consignment store, rather like a bottom-of-the-barrel-Gabriel's that did have some interesting sunglasses (I've got to get a few pictures of those) and a pair of rubberised canvas carpenter's jeans for a grand total of $26us. It's not often that you'll find good gear for cheap, and I can always use a new pair of pants, even if I can't wear them to work. We also stopped in at a local tea house and stocked up on plum and black tea, as well as some bone china tea mugs (with fitting lids and china strainers that fit inside for brewing loose leaf tea). They also had something at the bar called bubble tea, which is something I've not encountered anywhere outside of that general area. In a nutshell, it's a frozen tea slushie (we had a lemon bubble tea) with a layer of tapioca bubbles in the bottom of the cup. I feel a need to explain them: They've globules of cooked tapioca about a quarter-inch in diameter that are dead black in hue (at first I mistook them for the actual layer of tea in the bottom of the cup) and which soak up the flavour of whatever they're mixed with readily.
It sounds weird, I know, but it's really good. If you ever come across a place that makes bubble tea, get a large and sit back to enjoy it for a while. Don't let the huge straw set you apace.
I don't know if it was the bright sunlight yesterday or the stress of travel or what, but by the time yesterday afternoon rolled around I started seeing vague flickers in my peripheral vision and began to feel a pain in my forehead not unlike someone boring into my forebrain with a carbide masonry bit, followed by the business end of a plumber's snake... a migrane headache. First one in I don't know how many months (at least seven; I was hoping that I'd outgrown them at long, long last). The discomfort was only gnawing for a while, bad but tolerable, but by the time Lyssa and I had returned home a little under an hour later I felt as if I'd been poleaxed. In a very uncharacteristic turn of events my vision lit up with a glare not unlike a photostrobe going off at point blank range as most of the organics in my skull felt as if they were boiling and ready to burst out quite messily.
Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
I was about to think several words that I can't repeat in mixed company. I think most of the noises I made were very much like those of a kitten with a broken leg. Lyssa spent some time trying to put me back together with acupressure techniques and massage, and managed to get the pain to recede enough that I could get around on my own.
I'm very disturbed by this. I haven't had a migrane in many months. I've been avoiding the usual triggers (preservatives and artificial sweeteners). My stress levels are the lowest they've been in quite a while. It may have been the stress of travelling or going out in sunlight far brighter than I'm used to (which is to say, any sunlight at all) without a pair of goggles or wraparound sunglasses. It could also have been eating different food than I'm used to. It could have been a lot of things.
The sudden explosion of pain, however, worries me. I'm seriously considering contacting my neurologist to make an appointment for a checkup soon. I'd like to make sure that nothing's going wrong inside my cranium before it's too late. I don't think that it was due to the project I've been working on lately, that shouldn't have caused a malfunction like that.
On the brighter side of things, I've decided to buy a CB radio to keep in my car. I do have a cellphone and I do talk to people while I'm on long trips, but the cost lately has become prohibitive. On a good road trip my phone bill can almost double in two days' time. Not good. I have a shortwave radio scanner but lacking a ham radio license I can't broadcast with it, only listen, and I very much miss talking to people. When I was younger, my grandfather kept a CB radio in car and I'd listen to him talking on it when we'd drive around running errands. For a time I had a handheld CB reciever, a few years back, but returned it because I really couldn't afford it. I realised on the way down to DC that, between talking to Lyssa and doing some voice execises, I really miss the personal contact on car rides. I really do miss driving with someone else in the car. So I'm going to see if I can get a CB radio, maybe a handheld unit, maybe a mountable unit that has to be bolted into the dashboard and wired into a power feed, but some form of transmitter that I don't need a license for (because I don't have time to study for any more exams right now) and is relatively cheap.
Back in Pittsburgh.
Well, the project I mentioned was completed with plenty of time to spare on Friday. All that studying paid off; I just hope that it works. The gulf between theory and practise, as they say, is, well, a gulf, after all. But it's nothing that can't be repaired with a bit of thought and some reading of the fine manual. I even had time to complete a second, only slightly lower priority project on Friday to cap things off. I'm pleased. Very much so.
So much so that on Friday evening after dinner I packed my car up and drove the requisite couple of hours to visit Lyssa down in DC. I'm down there right now jacked into her deck writing this. We've just finished dinner; a mutual craving struck us and we collaborated on a rather large pot (a stock pot, actually) of chili. Not my usual Cassidy chili, mind you, but not her grandmother's recipe, either. It's an unholy hybrid of pork and ground turkey and a full bottle of chili powder, among other things. On the whole, it turned out quite well, and was worth the two hour wait. We haven't done much of anything today, and that's fine by us. Every once in a while you need a day where you don't go anywhere or do anything. We've been steadily working our way through the Doctor Who: Key to Time boxed set, something that we'd been meaning to do for several weeks now.
I could have done without getting turned around on the streets in her neighborhood last night. I could also have done without something that sounded too close to a number of gunshots near my vehicle, also, but this morning I didn't see any holes in the chassis. All's well that ends well.
I become. I also study my butt off because I've got a project that has to be finished by tomorrow night. That's assisting in my evolution, also.
CPU temperature: -270.23 Centigrade
The weather's really looking and feeling nice these days; I hope it holds up for the rest of the season. Only a single layer of clothing was necessary today and I was able to leave my Tom Baker scarf at home for the first time in at least a month's time. It was even nice enough in the afternoon that one could lean against the wall at the bus stop and read a book without getting cold. Tonight was reasonably busy: After dinner I gathered together my tax documents to drop off at the office this weekend, picked up around the house, called a recruiter back about a job opportunity, and inhaled another sixty to seventy pages of Microsoft SQL Server documentation. Not MS' docs, though - someone's GIAC paper, downloaded from the SANS Reading Room. It was sort of a Hitch-hiker's Guide to SQL Server, talking about what the system databases do and what's inside them. More importantly, it talks about what the various tables and stored procedures do, and what can happen if you play around with them too much. If you're trying to keep your head above water, dig around in the Reading Room and take a look at some of the stuff in there. You won't be sorry.
Avoid Prince Omar's Organic Fat-Free 'Original' hummous if you've been looking at it in the supermarket. It's not all that great. Avoid it if you can.
Even the cutting-edge of anonymity techniques and cut-outs won't save you if you pay for everything with a legitimate Paypal account. A couple of weeks ago a 48 year old Dutch firmware developer tried to blackmail the dairy product company Campina out of 200k Euro. He did everything through an anonymizer located in the US, forced the company to open a blind bank account, and got them to get a bearer's card issued on said account. He even went so far as to get them to purchase a credit card reader, copy the contents of the magnetic strip into a file, and give him the data along with the PIN via steganography and a random image on the web. The thing is, he bought his account at Anonymizer.com through a Paypal account keyed to his real name and location Outside. Dutch police picked him up; he was brought to trial and given a sentence of ten years for blackmail and five counts of attempted murder(!).
No word on why this guy was trying to squeeze Campina, though.
If you've been keeping up with what's going on in the US in even a vague way, you've no doubt heard about how paranoid the airlines are getting about letting 'shade people' on board airplanes anymore. Delays of multiple hours in length are not uncommon at airports anymore, luggage must be unsealed so that it can be searched easily, and there are lists of people to search thoroughly and to harass or detain on sight in circulation among staff. To try to assuage some of these problems for people who pay a great deal to fly these days (like high powered businessfolk) plans are in the works for a trusted traveller card that can be carried by said folks. If you submit to a background check well in advance and pass, you can be issued a card with some form of authenticating factor (the article mentions a biometric authenticator of some sort, like a retina or iris scan) that will allow the bearer to breeze relatively rapidly through airport security. A 90 day test run of this project is supposed to begin soon in four or five airports around the country to see how well it works. The thing is, to get one of these passes you pretty much have to surrender your private life to prove to them that you're not a risk, rather like undergoing a background check for a security clearance. The usual cries of 'national ID' are starting to go up here and there; funny thing is other countries have national ID cards and you don't hear them complaining. Chalk up another one to the drive to be unique and free in the highly conformist society of the United States.
Dataline took the day off today to drive my grandfather to the doctor's office for his yearly checkup, and to see if the medication he's on is having a positive effect. They didn't find anything wrong with him today, nor were there any side effects of his medication. He's healthy as a horse and not even slowing down. The doctor doesn't want to see him for another year unless something happens in the meantime. That's the kind of prognosis I like to hear.
Work was busy, though not painfully so. A good portion of this morning was spent being trained in the fine art of Windows Server security, both 2000 and 2003. I remember a little bit of it from when I was working at Eldervision all those years ago, when Onivel was showing me the ropes. I've also been reading a lot of Windows and SQL Server 2000 documentation lately, so I managed to pick up some of the basics from there. What I learned today also helped me solve a particularly tricky problem with SQL Server that I'd been scratching my head over since yesterday. It's a good feeling, solving problems that make you stop and ponder for a while. It's like chopping a cord of wood and standing there with the axe in your hands, the sweat cooling upon your brow, feeling the breeze against sweat-slick and gritty skin as the ache in your muscles begins to fade ever so slightly.
The weather's starting to look up around here, hopefully for the rest of the season. It was warm enough this morning to not require a parka or winter gloves, something that I don't mind in the least. By the time day was over the sky was still bright and clear and it was actually warm enough to not have to button the coat up. I know, I know, it sounds trivial and childish, but that's what I enjoy in life: The little things. Not having to button my coat means that I can feel it bounce against me as I walk, and I can feel the wind rushing over my clothes and blow my hair back. It's not bitter cold; it's not even uncomfortable. It wasn't quite pleasant, but that's coming soon.
I can't say that I am terribly surprised by this: College students are beginning to jump ship from CS to other disciplines. Given the job market and the fact that techies are now pretty much a commodity in business right now, I can't say that I really blame them. It's bloody difficult to find a technical job right now, and there's no sense in battering yourself bloody to earn a degree that you won't be able to use because the jobs you're qualified for are either locked up tight by people with more years of experience than any of us have or are being shipped overseas to be done more cheaply. I must be honest, I've been considering life in the future for a while now, and I've been toying with going back to school for my masters degree as well as getting a degree in something else (perhaps psychology or linguistics) and either becoming something that's more practical (which, knowing my luck, will be glutted by the time I'm ready to take on the job) or becoming an academic and trying to get tenure. If I had any business acumen I'd try to start a restaurant or something but as things stand now I don't think that I could do it. I'm probably going to hang tough until things get better in the marketplace.
I take a break today.
One thing never ceases to amaze me about Pittsburgh: How changeable the weather can be. The day can start off bright and sunny and by nightfall the rain will be so strong that it'll rip the paint off of your car if you give it a chance. This morning was a study in contrasts: The dawn sunlight was bright, strong, and rich.. it was even passably warm for this time of year ('passably' defined as only slightly above freezing); warm enough that you probably didn't need to wear a hood if you wouldn't be out long. But when the wind kicked up it tore through everything you could put in its way. By the time I got to the office I'd lost the feeling in my fingers and was wondering how such a cheerful day could have such a bite. Struck me as odd, it did.
I think today I was in probably one of the most productive meetings of my career, not because we got a lot done but because for once I got to explain something.
I don't ask for much out of life, really. But once in a while I do like the chance to explain my reasoning for something I've done. Calmly. Logically.
I think I'm going to treasure that moment. I'm not as dumb or as scatter brained as I might appear sometimes...
Speaking of work, if you haven't heard about George W. Bush's proposal to make overtime pay an option for companies instead of mandatory when people put in hours above and beyond the call of duty, here is one of the many petitions making the rounds, this one by the AFL-CIO. As someone for whom overtime pay is a big part of the paycheques that get me from week to week, I'm not willing to lose that part of my income. Many people rely upon overtime pay just to get through life, and it's not always feasible to get a second job just to make ends meet. I strongly suggest that all of you check out this site (or don't; hit up Google and look around for yourself) and think about what this could mean for life in America. As it is, the economy's bottoming out and jobs are being lost left and right; shuttling jobs overseas to cut costs isn't going to keep the US solvent, it's only making things worse. At leat think about what this could mean; trace the connections, think about what would happen if the income of just a tenth of the population was slashed, think about how life would go. Would it still be possible to pay your way through school? Set aside money for retirement or your childrens' college fund? Pay the bills or eat decently for a while?
Just think about it.
The general drain on jobs in the US isn't the only thing that's keeping a lot of techies from finding employment.. burnout is a big part of it. When you're on call 24/7, handling users who have only slightly less clue than a Cuisenart, spending too long in front of a terminal, and wondering when that tingling in your fingertips is going to blossom into full blown carpal tunnel syndrome, it's not hard to dream of doing something else with your life. A recent study states that only 1/7 of IT folks consider themselves to be happy at work, as compared to other vocations. People who do practical work, like working with people or with their hands to make or repair things might not make as much but they find fulfillment in their lives and even enjoy their work. Food for thought.
I'm back. Earlier tonight I went out for coffee with Alexius, an old friend of mine whom I just don't get to talk to often enough anymore. We met up at a local coffee shoppe and spent the better part of two hours talking about everything that's been happening in our lives lately. It felt good, talking to 'lex. For as much as we happen to run into each other (usually at B'witche's) we never really get to touch base. He's still adapting to working a new shift and a new set of duties at work, I'm doing my thing. We complained at each other about this, that, and the other thing, and had some good laughs on top of that. I filled him in a little on what's been going on lately; not in enough detail to really get across what's going on but 'lex picks up on things more readily than it appears sometimes.
You know, I just realised something: My writing in here has gone downhill. What with everything going on lately, I haven't been observing things as much as I usually do. I also haven't had the mental CPU time to devote to writing; I mean really well-thought out writing. Writing about stuff that I've been chewing on lately. A lot of what I've been doing has been at work, and I can't really talk about much of that for professional reasons (as well as an NDA). At home I've been mostly studying a little, reading a little, and continuing the regenerative process. Not a lot of that's interesting unless you could doing three or four things at once. I've been doing a lot to break out of the old cycles, so I havn't had much time to write as a result of that, too. Going out and doing stuff without rushing around has a way of doing that.
It's going to take some time and some doing. I can pull it off, though. I always do.
Still learning Windows 2000 Server. Still making mistakes, still doing dumb things, but also still learning about it. I know that I am not as fast as someone who knows it inside, outside, and upside down, but I'm not just standing around watching the pretty pixels blink, either. I do good work, and when it's done, it's done. And I'm not afraid of a deadline, either.
Okay.. tip of the pin to the folks who are going to understand that beyond the shadow of a doubt.. hi, folks.
I might not be much of a fan of Windows but I am really getting into the DAC (discretionary access control) system built into it. Bloody near everything in the system can have access controls of some sort put onto it. In a way, it's scary as hell because frobbing the wrong setting can hose a entire subsystem, and sometimes I worry the entire box, but on the other hand if you want to make a system so (theoretically) secure that a fly can't sneeze inside the chassis without it being logged, you can do it. That's also why I like playing around with GRsecurity, because you can set ACLs (access control lists) on various system objects in the same way. I just like playing around with stuff like that. It's like building a mind one neuron at a time.
Now playing: Barcelona - Shell Account
If you've never heard of it before, VoIP (voice over IP) is a technology which lets normal voice traffic be transmitted over the Net instead of the POTS (plain old telephone service - you think I made that one up?) network. It's much cheaper and it can be much more secure because instead of having to garble a bunch of frequencies on a commline all the unit or software has to do is run a standard encryption algorithm (like RSA or IDEA) on a bunch of numbers inside a standard packet. Predictably, the US Department of Justice is fighting with the biggest commercial providers of this service (and I'd wager that the developers of VoIP software are next) to make it easier for them to tap and decrypt these data transmissions. Companies on the bleeding edge who use VoIP technology to communicate for reasons of security, on the other hand, are wondering if maybe this eavesdropping could set them back in numerous ways. This runs counter to everything that the Net is, which is an open community of people exchanging ideas and spreading information. Some of this information is of such a nature that anonymity is paramount, to protect careers and lives. Wiretapping could conceivable make it easier to pin down someone; for example, a whistleblower who is trying to warn authorities of serious problems someplace. The possibility of a top secret product design meeting being silently wiretapped is enough to make anyone who's ever done any corporate R&D work shiver.
I got a lot done tonight. I mailed out two packages, one to Pace and the other to Lowmagnet (whose Yule gift is woefully overdue - sorry, bro) and picked up a few things for the rest of the week. I went in search of a new book to read but I've got more than enough to hold me for the next month or so. So I headed back to the Lab to study some more and worked my way through another few chapters of Windows 2000 Server-related stuff. I also did some rewiring and implanted a few new symbols in my wetware. It hasn't been much, but it has been a lot of what there has been, if that makes any sense. I've been going for quality instead of quantity lately, and from the way things are turning out, it feels a lot better. Things are slowing down and they're making more sense than usual. I can handle this pace; I can handle this much information; in fact, I'm starting to enjoy it again.
Things are starting to look up again.
Now playing: Priss and the Replicants - Konya wa Hurikain
Last night was Pagan Night to celebrate Ostara at B'witche's Tavern and a good time was had by all. I drove out to the den of Swift Fox and Silaria, who would also be attending that night and walked into a bad situation: Silaria just bought a new minivan (at least, I think that's what it is.. land leviathans all look alike to me) and was anxious to test it out. Great. The keyfobs which control the powered door locks and, most importantly, the alarm system, decided to die at the same time. This problem was compounded by the fact that their neighbors are less than agreeable people, and in all probability would call the police on general principles if the alarm went off. This could have been bad. Silaria let me pry open one of the keyfobs to see what kind of power cell was inside it, because sometimes the RF keyfobs malfunction in strange ways when their batteries begin to fail. After a few minutes of work with a pocket knife I found that standard 2032 button cells (which, if you've ever looked at a computer's mainboard, are almost always the BIOS batteries) power that model of unit. After that it was a simple process to pop an old battery out of a spare computer and pop it in. Alack and alas, it didn't work.. we wound up stopping on the way to the Tavern to buy a few (and get candies for the Ostara basket being raffled off last night). Swift was fast enough to get into the minivan and turn the engine over, which also silenced the alarm before it could cause too much of a racket. The lad definitely lives up to his name.
They showed me a new, back way to the Tavern which doesn't involve cutting through downtown Pittsburgh and points east. It's about the same distance from what I could tell; I'm going to have to get those directions soon. Anyway, it took a little fumbling to get there but once we found the right landmarks we went 'round back of the building and walked in. The Tavern's getting bigger and bigger, and it's getting harder to find parking spots and tables once you get in. This is actually a good sign - it's thriving, or at least beginning to. All of the regulars were there, like the House Pendragon, Shuvani behind the bar, Lupa was vending that night and dressed to dance, and assorted other faces from the local area were around. I even met some new folks there; it's good to see some of the others making their presence felt in the area. I introduced Swift and Sil to the House Pendragon and various other folks and we found a table close by. Once again there were drums all over the place and the circle began somewhen around 2300 EDT. I'd dressed for the occasion last night, in clothing that makes it easier to move in and was layered, so I could take off what I needed. For the halibut I also brought my pair of leather ears to wear, which went over very well.
I wonder why more males don't dance at Pagan Night. Not that I'm arguing, it's nice to show that side of me around the place. Given everything going on right now, it feels good to let that side of me go for a while.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk to the people whom I really need to talk to about what's been going on lately. I finally had a chance to talk to 'lex, but we were interrupted by Alaric, and I didn't get a chance to tell him anything.
I feel kind of bad about that, and kind of frustrated. Then again, it's a tavern; it's not the sort of place that you can really get into a deep conversation at because of all the people and the volume of the sound there. I did get to meet Laura, one of his friends from down in Virginia. We started a good discussion but Swift and Sil decided to call it a night and we left before it really got interesting. Oh, well. It happens.
It wasn't so much a lot that happened last night, it was how much of what happened that was important. Lots of talking, lots of dancing, and just enough alcohol to completely forget the fact that I don't like bars. I like the Tavern because it doesn't feel or act like a bar. The people are nice, kind, and don't cause trouble. The people who work there are nice and you can talk to them. There's a kitchen with real food and not just bar munchies. I like it there.
For people who are running personal firewalls on their decks like BlackICE or RealSecure, life just got much more interesting, as an ancient curse put it. eEye Security recently found a vulnerability in some common personal firewalling software that lets an attacker remotely execute code on a vulnerable system. The vulnerability is in the protocol analysis module, which does the actual looking at TCP/IP packets to see what's inside them. To make some network software, like ICQ work, it has to know what's in each packet so it knows how to rewrite them. Someone Out There Somewhere can send a spoofed UDP packet to a victim and run whatever code they like... and surprise, surprise, this vulnerability is already being exploited by a worm running around called Witty. Witty is one of the nastier bugs out there right now because it slowly chews up the file system, eventually wrecking the system. Witty randomly writes junk to random sectors on all of the hard drives on the system; eventually it hits systemware or the boot sector, killing the machine.
Whatever happened to "For informational purposes only"?
Just when you thought that it was safe to relax around your neighbors, the most normal seeming folks turn downright frightening. In Noonday, TX William Krar and Jidith Bruey were arrested for manufacturing chemical weapons on the sly. Everyone thought that the two were storing such odds and ends as old clothing and yard tools in the garages that they'd rented. The FBI discovered guns, ammunition, conventional explosives, and a cyanide charge, which if detonated could have killed thousands of people. The FBI is calling this the biggest domestic terror investigation since the bombing of the Oklahoma City center in 1995. Moreover, there is evidence suggesting that the duo had constructed other chemical dispersement devices and distributed them... scarily, the two had been caught for other offenses, including impersonating a police officer (!) a number of times in the past since the mid 1980's and nothing substantial had been done. Over 150 subpoenas have been issued so far, and more are on the way.
I think that I should explain myself further to everyone. Lately, it appears that I've been getting a little weird, or a little out there. I admit that I am a bit of an eccentric with some unusual interests. Lately, however, I feel that life's been less of an experience and more of a sentence, as in a prison sentence. The daily routine is beginning to stiffen up and turn into a straight jacket, both mentally and emotionally. I find that I've been losing my drive, my willpower, and my mental flexibility. Emotionally, I've been shutting down, becoming little more than an automaton and not a living being. To wit, I've decided that it's time to change. Everything has to change.
I'm tired of just running mental programmes in day to day life. I need to live; I need to breathe; I need to act. I am unwilling to feel my W/will sit within me burning in anger because I can't rouse the strength to do anything. I have to get rid of all the patches and programmes that are limiting me to acting in ways that are now counterproductive. Yes, life hasn't been easy. Yes, I had to adapt to keep moving forward. Those adaptations are now, however, hampering my efforts to grow and evolve and are no longer beneficial. If one is injured and must wear braces during the healing process, the muscles atrophy because they are not used. After the healing process is over, however, if one continues to wear those prosthetics that once protected him or her, they keep him or her from exercising their muscles so that they regain full use of that which was injured. In my case, those programmed reactions and modes of thought are the prosthetics which, while useful during the healing process, are now preventing me from getting stronger. It's time to unbuckle the braces and walk on my own. It's time to get stronger instead of being held upright.
I won't be the same person; changing oneself means that the old will be gone and something will take its place. I can't promise that I won't change my appearance somehow; I can only promise that it won't be too strange. I won't get weird, something that mundane life reviles. Hell, I've been weird all my life and most of the human race doesn't seem to mind. But I won't be going off the deep end.
I just want to become who I want to be, and not who circumstance and expectation want me to be. I'm cutting my puppet strings (metaphorically speaking).
As people from time immemorial have said time and again, "What the hell is this?!" Scott Bloch, special counsel for the US governent, has rescinded job protection for gays and lesbians in the federal workforce. What this means is that gay, lesbian, and bisexual federal workers can be fired simply because of their sexual orientation, though attending LGBT events is not in itself grounds for termination or demotion (because a lot of straight folks - 'allies' - attend them also). His justification is that LGBT folks are not considered a protected class because we have no protection under US civil rights laws. "One is a class.. and one is a behaviour," Bloch was quoted as saying.
Just doing a little research.
Slept in this morning; I finally went offline around 0230 EDT after talking with Lyssa for a good many hours. We've been working on things lately, trying to figure out where we're going and how. She's also been helping me figure out what's going on inside my mind. There is a lot of bad wiring in there, a lot of hacks and ad hoc patches to remain functional (as defined by modern psychology) but the thing about hacks to fix things is that they often don't repair the underlying problem, they just work around them. While they are good in the short term, the underlying problem still needs to be addressed. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately (or at least a subprocess has been) to find the stuff that's been buried beneath all the layers of patches and programming, and there's a lot of junk in there. We've been making a hitlist of things that need to be addressed, issues of confidence (lack therof, actually), various fears that are not irrational but are the result of experience, and habits built over time that allowed me to act in circumstances that I really do not encounter anymore.
In short, it's time to reformat everything and reinstall. It's time to blow all the cruft out and start over with the latest version.
It's time to regenerate.
Well, another week packed away.
Still hacking on Windows 2000. Out of desperation this afternoon I did something that I haven't had to do in literally years - cram part of a book. One of the first things I taught myself when I was getting back on my feet was how to speed-read, to get as much information into my head as I could. Ironically, I read a few books on the topic though it was the audiocassette course that helped the most.
Yes, I'm old-fashioned enough to still have cassette tapes around the Lab.
Anyway, I had to learn what I could so I grabbed a Windows 2000 MCSE cram book off of a shelf in the NOC and started cramming. It takes me a few moments to focus my mind enough to turn on that part of me, but once I get tunnel vision the only thing I can do is follow my fingers over the page.. long ago, I stopped caring about the amount of time that passed, I just get as much information into my head as I can. I made it through three chapters and got enough data loaded in to figure out what was probably going wrong - damn NetBIOS and network routing. Damn it all.
It felt good, stretching that part of my brain for a while. I should do that more often with actual books and not just text files.
I decided to pass on LARP tonight, even though I had my hearts set on going. I really don't feel up to it right now; I really don't feel up to going anywhere at all, for that matter. I just want to stay local right now, even though the idea of going out for a while appeals to me.
I don't know.
Don't feel like newscrawling right now. But you've probably figured that out.
I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me lately. If you've been reading this log file lately, you know that already. Maybe it's a stage in my evolution, where I have to figure out what's wrong before I can set them right. Maybe I'm getting depressed again. Maybe I've got a few bad sectors in my wetware. Maybe I'm just worn out. I don't know. I'm having a hard time thinking straight right now, at least when I don't have something pressing at hand.
Maybe I just need some downtime.
For a change, things are looking up at work. There's a procedure to be figured out, and I've been working on it most of today. I managed to inhale a heroic amount of Windows 2000 hardening procedures this afternoon (yay, SANS) and I've been fighting with Windows 2000 for the rest of the day. Why the installation CDs don't have drivers for one of the most common ethernet chipsets on the market (Intel) is beyond my reckoning. But there's always a way. I'll figure it out one way or another. I've got some ideas lined up for tomorrow.
Telerama's link to the rest of the Net was down for much of this evening, so if you couldn't reach this arm of the Network, it wasn't my fault.
I don't much feel like writing right now.. not much is going on, and truth be told my mind's running like an 80486 trying to play Quake. Maybe it's just the weekend catching up with me, maybe it's something deep inside me running around like a nut wearing me down. If I may speak metaphorically, there's so much machinery in there I sometimes have a difficult time when I try to tell the meat from the metal. I've spent the past couple of days analysing my thought processes (basically using a subprocess to watch the flow of logic and how it is expressed through action and putting the records in the back of my short term memory) and I've come to the conclusion that a lot of what I do is programmed. I solve problems and to a certain extent I decide what to do but by and large I'm a creature of routine. It's comfortable. There are few pieces to pick up, I've noticed. But when it comes to acting from the hearts, from deciding what to do and sticking with it, I practically have to wage war with the left hemisphere of my brain to get anywhere. This happens, and I respond thus. That happens, and I respond thus. What's going on inside and what's being done are two different things, though.
I feel like a robot, sometimes.
I just act without thinking. I know that I want to do something, but I just don't get up and do it. I don't say what I want.
I'm used to not wanting things, perhaps too much so.
It's rather like Swift's furbecue coming up. He's already got me down as the DJ. Do I want to spin there? No. I didn't even plan on going; I would have thought that the lack of an RSVP would have been a clue. Am I going to corner him and tell him that I'm not going to do it, and I'm not going? Probably not. It's easier just to shut the hell up and do it rather than risk the confrontation.
It's days like this that I really hate myself.
Maybe I spend too much time alone.
Maybe I don't know what the hell I want, and it's easier to let other people push the buttons.
I wish I could say that it's because I have too many friends and I don't know how to manage time to see all of them, but that's not true. It's confusing, to be sure, but that's not the reason.
Great. Now my mind's trying to rationalise its way out of having to think about this. <raps head off of the wall a few times.>
My first reaction at times like this is not to do anything - if there's nothing to do that'll be a worthwhile expenditure of energy, then why do anything at all? But that's just a cop-out, it's just another way of justifying not wanting to choose. Ergo, it's bullshit.
I guess what it comes down to is that no matter what I do, someone is going to be disappointed. In my mind, that equates to hurting someone, something that I really worry a lot about doing.
Deadlock. To keep from hurting people somehow (in the manner my twisted logic defins it), don't do anything.
I feel like Asimov's robot, RB-34.
My Tekkoshocon 2004 pictures are now on line.
It's Saint Patrick's Day, and it's still snowing, if you can believe that. I thought we were done with this weeks ago.. it's frustrating to see and hear the birds returning to the area and watch tiny shoots poke up out of the soil wherever you go.. and then it snows and covers everything up. At least it changes the accoustics to make the birdsongs more distinct. Small consolation. By all rights I should be getting falling down drunk and watching The Boondock Saints to celebrate but frankly I don't feel like it right now. I spent the night taping Chobits off of Cable On Demand and studying, if only because I can. I get in my moods sometimes; I never said that they have to make sense.
I've been thinking lately about how things change. It's been a decade since everything changed for me; my predecessor went on to wherever it is people go, and I'm here now. It feels strange, walking around inside a life that I don't recognise about as often as I do. I'm still getting used to the little things, even though everyone more or less thinks that they're intuitive, like talking to people and budgeting time to do things. These things aren't common sense, they are things that people learn so early that they might not realise that they're not intuitive. Sometimes, I still wake up in the morning and think about him. What was it like on that first day of school, oh so many years ago? Why do I remember the book that made me who I am? What was it like the first time he made a friend? What was it like to take that first ride in a car? What did a hug from his grandmother feel like?
Questions, questions, and few answers.
I suppose now that I've sufficiently creeped you out, I'll get on with the more pedestrian modes of thought. My apologies everyone.
I still wonder, though...
Whether you love him or hate him, Marcel Gagne writes some interesting articles for the Linux Journal on all sorts of topics. All of them are geared toward the beginning Linux user, and touch on topics that are of interest to folks who might not have enough experience under their belts to pull them off. This month he covers encrypted e-mail using GnuPG. It's very well written and isn't loaded down with technical jargon. The article walks you through generating your keypair, exporting the public key so you can give it to people, importing other people's public keys.. the bare basics to get things done. He also talks about integrating GnuPG with some of the more common graphical e-mail clients and information organisers, like Evolution and Kmail. If you've got a passing interest in crypto and you're thinking about at least digitally signing your messages, give this article the once-over.
It looks like I'm not the only one wondering about the possibility of outsourcing companies trying something shady when no one's watching. A programmer working for a Pakistani IT firm recently blackmailed the University of California by acquiring sensitive documents and threatening to post them on the Net unless they paid her more. As a result, the clients are looking at ways to minimise the amount of sensitive data that contractors come into contact with on a daily basis, which is something that they should have done right off the bat. Some of the measures they're going to are pretty extreme, but when you think about what kind of data they're probably working with it makes sense - the greater the risk, the more strict the security measures put into place. HIPAA, which is the set of laws governing the privacy of medical data, is a hot topic in the US right now, and from the way people are running around trying to make sure they're compliant, they seem to be working insofar as getting people to lock things down. Some facilities feature "clean rooms", which use terminals to access a central computer (anybody else remember using serial terminals to access a mainframe?) and restricted data forms which allow workers to process sensitive information in a manner that lets only the bare essentials become known. There are no floppy drives to copy data to, no USB jacks to plug keys or hard drive into, and no network connections to subvert somehow. At least some places are starting to realise that information really is a valuable commodity, and they're treating it as such. While I'm all for the freedom of information, I also recognise that there are some things that should remain secrets, lest the lives of innocent people be damaged somehow. Medical records can potentially keep someone from getting a job or disqualify them for benefits that their families might someday need. I don't think that I have to explain why financial data should remain private; ask anyone who's had their identity stolen and a few grand of fraudlent charges racked up in their names about that one.
I'm just glad to see some things start to change for the better In Here.
Wouldn't you know it, we woke up this morning to snow, of all things. Wet snow, almost sleet. Perfect for making all of us wonder if the road crews were still on vacation in Florida because the roads weren't cleared and everyone suddenly forgot how to drive in less than an inch of snow.. for pity's sake, people, it's not hard!
Work was quiet for most of today. Either everyone's just quiet lately or an unusual number of people just aren't around. I had a good deal of stuff to catch up on in the four days I was gone (why is it that things don't break until I'm gone) so today wasn't boring. It was productive, and I can't ask for much more than that. I still ask myself, however, why I bother to pay the price for a weekend away. It seems like every time I take the time to enjoy life or to do something that I enjoy doing, everything starts falling apart in my absence, and then I have to spend the next week or two fixing everything, setting things set straight, and generally being pistol whipped by the universe for daring to want to have a good time for a day or so. Even if I take care to set things up so that they'll be stronger before I leave, they're always in a shambles by the time I get back. I have been wondering lately if it's even worth it to take a rest now and then. I'll work myself into an early grave, but at least I won't have to put up with the carrot, stick, and baseball bat anymore.
Sometimes I really hate my lives.
The company Symbiot has been working for a while now on their latest product, a system that stops DDoS attacks by attacking the zombies themselves. I don't think that I have to tell everyone why this is a bad idea... lots of innocent folks' systems would be knocked flat by this product when all they need is a heads-up to tell them that they've got cracked boxes on their nets. I know that this sounds like it's the easiest thing in the world to do, it is most definitely not. But it doesn't make sense to me to wage all-out net.warfare, that's no better than out-and-out retaliation, with the escalation of combat that brings. Also, it is trivially easy to spoof the point of origin of a DDoS attack so that a target who is known to employ the Symbiot product can attack someone else without realising it (what would happen, say, if an organisation's network was attacked with an attack spoofed from whitehouse.gov?) This just isn't a good idea, folks.
As if that weren't enough to worry about, Symantec's gone on the record as saying that things are only getting worse In Here. Either security holes are getting easier to exploit or the crackers out there are getting better at what they do; probably a little of both, the way the universe works. So many holes are in the same vein anymore that it's not hard at all to modify an existing exploit to go after a different vulnerability. The networks of crackers out there are still passing around the latest and greatest for days or even weeks before advisories and patches come out, which is really no surprise. More and more often, exploits are being put into the intrusion routines of worms instead of making their rounds as fire-and-forget scripts, which means that a given piece of code can compromise machines faster than they can be patched, which, as any IT folk can tell you, is like trying to outrun a tsunami. It's a sickening feeling. One trend that's starting to take off is that systems are being backdoored more and more often; first crackers' rootkits, and now worms and viruses are starting to leave them behind so that they can be later taken over. Malware that carries SMTP engines, allowing someone to use them to send e-mail completely anonymously, is being developed by spammers left and right, which only makes things worse for everyone. Users' financial information and identities are becoming a hot commodity and are being pilfered more and more often. It's not looking good.
Sometimes the urban legend that programmers always leave a back door in their systems is true - during the cold war software used to control pumping stations on the Trans-Siberian pipeline carried a logic bomb that was used to blow up a section of it back in 1982, during the height of the cold war. Guy Weiss, former member of the National Security Council (now deceased) was behind that one. His plot played off of the fact that the Soviet Union had such a mad-on to get American software and hardware that they wouldn't check it over to see if it was safe to use; they didn't, and the plan worked. William Casey, former director of the CIA pulled it off. Everything that they'd gotten their hands on was flawed in some way, and all hell broke loose (figuratively speaking, but only slightly: the detonation of the section of the Pipeline went off with force equivelent to a three kilotonne nuclear device, a considerable blast to be sure). Now that programming work is being contracted to overseas companies, the clients find themselves in the same position that the Soviets were all those years ago: Is what we're getting from these folks safe to use? Has it been booby-trapped? Is there a back door? There's no way of knowing unless you examine the code.. and there's always the possibility of someone pulling something clever and the clients not being in a position to make sure.
Update: Day four after being manscaped. No itching. The stubble's kind of cute to look at. I think I'll go back to shaving my torso.
Well, let's see.. Tekkoshocon 2004 is over. We struck out from the hotel last night, went to dinner, and parted ways shortly before 1800 EDT. I finally crashed around 2300 EDT last night and woke up twelve hours later. But now I'm really getting ahead of myself.
Lyssa arrived at the Lab along with the.Silicon.Dragon around 2300 EDT on Friday night; she'd caught a ride with him from Maryland because all of us were working security for the con but I wasn't able to drive down and get her. Earlier that night Dataline and I had given the house a quick cleaning, picking up the kitchen, living room, and bathrooms. We'd also disassembled the couch/bed in the living room and dragged the mattress down to the Lab, an hour long job complicated by the arrangement of the furniture upstairs and the fact that the mattress, while relatively thin, was reasonably heavy and soft enough that it was difficult to pick up and harder to keep a solid grip on. I was writing up some notes when they arrived, and we spent some time catching up on recent events in our lives and watching Futurama on Cartoon Network.
You have to love an episode where Al Gore (playing himself) quotes Frank Herbert's Dune.
Lyssa and I wound up going offline later than we'd hoped, sometime during the late-night run of the of the latest (or at least later) translated season of Inu Yasha. The alarm woke us up at 0800 EDT and after showering and getting dressed I did something that I've wanted to do for Lyssa for a long time, which ws make breakfast. Bacon and eggs, Zingerman's jalapeno bread (hot out of the oven), and raisins got us up and running. We ran around for a while to get things necessary for the trek to Tekkoshocon, like getting petrol for my car and picking up the commissioned stuff from the ER Room (Don was re-working her wrist restraints due to a minor misfit), as well as a quick trip to the supermarket to get stuff to eat while we were up there (which wound up not really happening for reasons I'll get into later). We returned home and Lyssa checked in on the Net while I called back some recruiters to see what was going on with some offers I'd recieved (nothing yet, he was still setting everything up). Shortly after 1200 EDT on Friday we loaded up the car with our luggage, consisting of clothes, costumes, Lyssa's textbooks (because she was pulling double duty, studying for class as well as security), food, and bedding because we were sharing a single room at the Marriott with John and Lara (another fold out bed/couch). We made a final stop at the ER Room and then headed northward to the sounds of Iris and Lyssa napping.
We pulled in to the Cranberry Marriott and headed to the back of the building to check in with the con.ops staff. John showed us where our room was and while Lyssa checked us in (getting two more keycards in the process) I grabbed a push cart from a side hallway and unloaded the car. We didn't unpack as much as find places to put everything around the room without making it impossible to walk. That done, we returned to con.security and got our ID badges, bright red and helpfully labelled "SECURITY". We also got to meet the con.ops staff and the convention chairs (Dave, Rin, John (already a friend, head of security), Rebecca, and Kate (who I knew from the IUP anime club way back when)). We were briefed on our duties and the regulations and then turned loose to keep the peace.
This turned out to be a relativly simple job, modulo a few major incidents that I'm not allowed to talk about for various reasons. Suffice it to say that things went smoothly more often than they didn't, and the times where they didn't were taken care of smoothly and rapidly; the proper authorities are taking care of everything else.
Friday night was, for the most part, quiet. Convention-goers had been arriving since Thursday night and costumers were walking around showing off their work. Artist's alley, where artists had gathered to work and sell their work, as well as accept commissions was full and their labors were on display for everyone to see. Lyssa and I bought Swift Fox a print of a morphic vixen as a gift, a gesture which I hope is well-recieved by all concerned. For the hell of it on Friday night I went around in a version of my Nagisa Kaoru costume to see how it looked; I didn't really change my clothes because I was going for Kaoru-at-a-nightclub. Only a few people got the reference; I also got some "Are you Sephiroth?" comments here and there. Funny, being mistaken for a character in a video game that I've never played before.
This reminds me. Aside from the pictures that Lyssa and I took on Saturday night, no one photographed either of us. Oh, well.
The four of us ordered pizza that evening from Pizza Roma, one Hawaiian, one green pepper. Neither went over particularly well. Mental note: Next time, crowbar some time to ask everyone involved what they want, even though it might push back the process of deciding even more. Mental note the second: Get flyers for local pizza places and at least find out when they close so we know how much time we have to decide.
Something I found strange was the number of people walking around at the con carrying bokken (wooden swords used for practise). The number of nekojin there was considerable, so many that you could consider them another ethnic group (to steal a quote from Neal Stephenson). Lyssa and I felt right at home.
A piece of advice for everyone who'll plans on staying at the Cranberry Marriott: Don't go to the bar or restaurant there; go someplace outside. The drinks there are very expensive ($12us for Maker's Mark bourbon?!), the food's not all that great (I rather enjoyed the breakfast buffet, but my breakfast standards are very low due to eating in the IUP cafeteria for so many years; other meals there aren't very good at all) and it's overpriced for what they give you. In short, go someplace else to eat and buy liquor at the state store down the highway from the hotel and bring it back (discreetly). Save your money.
Lyssa and I dragged ourselves out of bed around 0830 EDT Saturday morning and after showering, we had a hasty breakfast at the aforementioned hotel restaurant and then went on patrol for a while. The convention was in full swing, the dealers' room was standing room only, the video game rooms were packed with game systems both new and old, and costumers were all over the place. Around 1100 EDT I left for one of the game rooms to set up for Illuminati. Dave head-of-gaming had somehow found a group of six folks who were interested in learning how to play a game which involves attempting to take over the known world. Aside from a few minor disruptions the game lasted over two and a half hours, and all of us had a great time. After the game wrapped up Lyssa went back to our room to study and I went back out on patrol. Saturday I was dressed as one of the gargoyles from Serial Experiments Lain. I discovered something about my visor: The rubber straps holding the lenses in place, even at their loosest, were too tight and the pressure on the sides of my skull kept giving me a headache. It also took some time to adjust to having what amounts to monocular vision because the left-hand eyepiece was at such an angle that I couldn't look straight forward and see anything, only at an angle. I wound up changing my clothes into a Tekkoshocon t-shirt and jeans some time before I went on cosplay duty. At this time, Lyssa and I took some time out for early preparations for the masquerade ball later that night. I would be going out as Proteus, and wanted to do something that I haven't been able to do since my days at IUP: Shave my body hair. "Manscaping", she calls it.
In case the males out there reading this have never shaved their body hair, it's actually pretty easy. The hair/beard trimmer of my electric razor took off a lot of the hair on my chest and stomach, and we finished the job with soap and water in the shower. Net result: No nicks or cuts, the discovery of a new mole on my hip, and a squeaky-clean torso. I've got to do this more often..
Saturday afternoon was everyone's favourite event, the cosplay stage competition. I feel that I should state something right off the bat: No cosplay competition has ever started on time in the history of the known universe. None. That said, the rest of this should make more sense... congoers began to line up to get seats for the cosplay two hours before the state competition was supposed to begin. At first the line was small as the hardest of the hardcore sat down next to the doors of Main Events (our room for the big conference hall) to wait. Soon after, everyone else began to arrive, wearing the most elaborate and detailed costumes of the weekend. The line, while not necessarily neat, was surprisingly orderly and followed the perimeter of the building exactly: Around the back corner, all the way back to the doorway of the backstage area (which no one tried to sneak into as far as I know, much to my surprise), doubling back toward the lobby of the hotel, down the side, across the front of the restaurant (not blocking it off, mind you - there was a neat gap the width of the front of the restaurant which formed spontaneously; no one had to tell them to keep the area clear), around the front corner of the hotel.... outside... back inside.. around to the nearly the front door of the hotel. Exactly how long a line was that? I don't know. I didn't measure. Another thing that surprised me was the fact that even though there was a multiple hour wait tempers didn't flare up once. Everyone was cool, quiet, calm, and collected, and the few times that I did ask people to move they complied without a complaint or even a smart remark. I hope these folks go to more cons - they do my hearts good.
I noticed something while I was walking the length of the line: The back corner, near the backstage door didn't have much in the way of air circulation or ventilation, so it began to get very, very ghot due to all the people crammed in back there. As the temperature began to rise, I realised three things: One, the possibility of people passing out from heatstroke, in particular the Inu Yasha cosplayers wearing the elaborate costumes (which consisted of multiple layers of heavy fabric), was very real. Two, some people had not bathed once since they'd arrived, a fact evidenced by my eyes watering. Three, there didn't appear to be a way to turn on the air conditioning because there were no vents set into the walls or ceiling. I got on the radio network and spoke to the hotel staff at the front desk, trying to get the environment control problems fixed; they couldn't do much about the folks who needed a shower. While I was able to duck backstage a few times I really don't know firsthand what Kate was taking care of back there. The green room, the back corner's counterpart on the other side of Main Events, was in a similiar bind but she was able to get food and lots of water back there for them. Most of the time was spent walking back and forth making sure everything was copacetic.
The security folks were checking around to find the people who had white con badges, which meant that they'd paid extra for front-row seats for cosplay. We had to find them because there was a second queue up front to give them first crack at the seats that were roped off. Out of twenty, I don't know how many we eventaully found.
By the time the doors of Main Events opened people filed quietly into the room to take their seats. By the time three-quarters of the line had entered the room we discovered that there were no seats left. Plan B was enacted, which mean lining people up along the sides of the room, but that was nixed by hotel staff because the PA fire codes forbid such a thing. The AV team, what gods there be love them, swung into action and rigged up a video projector and a pair of large speakers in the hotel lobby to give everyone who didn't get a seat a chance to watch. Everything was set up in Artists' Alley and cables were run along the floor beneath strips of black gaffer's tape (one of the most handy things in the universe) to back into Main Events and plugged into the audiovisual nexus in the back corner of the room. Everyone realised too late that this posed a considerable problem for the artists, who had paid considerable amounts of money to set up booths in Artists' Alley. Four people got up and left; two lodged formal complaints. If any of you read this, please accept my heartfelt apologies.
I think that cosplay only had about fourteen acts, so it didn't take as long as it had been scheduled for (maybe two hours?), but long enough that there were some problems that had to be taken care of. I still don't know why judging was delayed but the MC of Cosplay did a fantastic job of keeping the audience entertained and busy. He did a few song and dance numbers, culminating in a song that hardcore fans seem to love, called Yatta!.
I must have missed that memo.
Apparently, the audience ate it up, even though he didn't know exactly what the routine was. The rest of the cosplayers in the competition did, however, and flooded the stage to back him up. This brought the house down.
While this was going on, I discovered something: Tekkoshocon t-shirts were going on firesale, $5us for a shirt, $1us for a set of pins. Rabid fans would eat that up, so I gathered a group of people together, Tekkoshocon minions and hapless passers-by to move chairs around and open up space in Artists' Alley to prevent the crush.
After that we realised something else: The area that the cosplay was being projected upon was roped off, which meant that there was less room for people to move into when the cosplay let out. There was a mad rush to break down the AV gear, rip up the cables and coil them away, and free up more walking space. Thankfully, the staff finished in the nick of time.
After the flood was over Lyssa found me standing around dazed. She'd been studying all afternoon and wondered why I hadn't gone to get her. I began rattling off everything that had happened in the past five hours, ending with playing traffic control.
Ten minutes later, most of the security staff radioed in to tell con.ops that we were going out to eat and would radio back in later.
About ten of us invaded the Dynasty International Buffet just down the road from the Marriott around 2100 EDT Saturday night by way of the state liquor store next door, where we picked up supplies for later that night, after the masquerade ball was over. Ravenous and stressed out, we descended upon the buffet like a plague of locusts. For reasons of self control, I haven't eaten at a buffet of any kind for almost two year now (since Defcon 9). I pounded two plates of food and finished with a pot of coffee, that's how hungry I was from my body burning through its stores of energy due to stress and adrenalin.
We unwound for a while swapping stories and talking about movies and the con. I love times like that.
Just before the buffet closed, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the masquerade ball. The security detail assigned to the dance was also allowed to participate, so Lyssa and I returned to our room to finish getting ready. Lyssa wore a corset and chained skirt over tights and a body suit, and I wore my leather pants and blazer and not much else.. I was going as Proteus (taking my masque off, so to speak), so there wasn't much else that I needed. I was hoping to add some details with bodypaint but because I was going to be dancing we decided that it wouldn't be a good idea. Lyssa and I did some experimenting with makeup, eventually winding up with a glam rock-style design that seemed to complement my hair and facial structure nicely. Ready to rock, we grabbed our security badges and set out for the masquerade ball.
Something that I spent most of the weekend thinking about: There were quite a few Matrix cosplayers in attendence, as well as the registration desk staff, which I've been seeing on convention websites for about a year now. Why? I can sort of see why, given the influence that anime and manga had on the movie, but it still strikes me as out-of-genre.
The masquerade ball had it all: New-school techno, industrial, j-pop and j-rock, rap, versus mixes, and sundry remixes of anime themes. Much booty was shook, much getting-down was done. Derek Pegritz and friends were in attendance, and dancing like there was no tomorrow. Even the.Silicon.Dragon was there and spent much of the time in trance. All of us had an excellent time. Silicon and I found the time to duel in the empty place to the side of the dance floor, something that I have not done in many years.
Due to events at the masquerade ball, we didn't get to sleep until nearly 0400 EDT on Sunday. When we did get up on Sunday morning we found that John had not gone to sleep since Friday night, and had collapsed upon the bed as Lyssa and I were getting ready to take a shower.
We'd been awakened by the alarm at 0730 EDT but dozed off and on until 1000 EDT, so we knew exactly what he was going through. We stopped off for a quick but rather poor lunch at the hotel restaurant and talked for a long time since some quiet time had come, and then went back on duty until the convention wrapped up. A lot of cleanup was done by the people who'd brought everything to begin with, like Artists' Alley and the Dealers' Room, which made it much easier on the rest of us. A lot of wrapup was being appraised of what had gone on that we didn't necessarily know anything about and cleanup. By 1800 EDT the hotel was almost back to the state it had been in on Thursday night before we hit it. the.Silicon.Dragon arrived at the hotel to pick up Lyssa and myself, and after loading our respective cars up we set off for home by way of a Chinese restaurant to tank up one last time and part ways.
Silicon and Lyssa arrived safe and sound. I spoke to Dataline, drank a good bit of Goldschlager, laid around the Lab looking at all the stuff I'd bought at the con, and then went offline around 2300 EDT in the lab, too tired to unpack or go back upstairs.
I'm working on the pictures from the con right now. I'll let everyone know when I get them put up.
Maybe jetwash. Maybe not. Keep an eye open.
Oh, yeah.. I forgot completely.. Nyarlathotep loved the Bottled Deep One I made for him!
Home from Tekkoshocon. Not dead. Not drunk. Still passed out.
Off to Tekkoshocon! See you there!
I made it through today. Go, Time Lord.
I think I figured out what does it, too. It's solving puzzles. It's not going to work to play with computers all day, it's finding interesting problems to hack on. It's all in the mindset I have when I approach it. I can write a utility to speed something up, but that's not intrinsically interesting (well, not very often). But if I've got a problem that's been bugging me (for example, having lots of data to wade through to find a pattern), it's a problem that has to be solved. It's something that matters. And it's something that would matter to a lot of people, the folks that are going to be taking my place after my assignment is over; more motivation. Hence, it gets my attention, and keeps it until it's done. I get to use both hemispheres of my brain.
So that's it in a nutshell. It's interesting. I came across a few interesting things today, in fact, things that I've had a subprocess working on since I got home. I've also been giving the Lab a lick and a promise because Lyssa is en route at I write this, so the Lab's got to be at least vaguely presentable. Tekkoshocon starts tomorrow.
Thankfully, the convention starts in mid-afternoon, 1600 EDT, but we have to be there earlier to help everyone set up. We'll hash out a timetable when she gets here. I figure that, if we actually expend the energy, we can get up, have breakfast, pack, run errands, and then get out there in plenty of time to help the rest of the crew get up and running.
Oh, the wig for my Nagisa Kaoru costume is washed and drying in the bathroom. I forgot that the wig in question glows in the dark...
Sometimes the ties that bind us to family aren't such a bad thing. When one goes abroad to make their fortune, it's nice to have some points of contact back home to exchange news with and keep you sane while you adapt. When those lines of communication are deliberately snarled by people who think that they know best, however, a whole set of problems arises.. and solutions. If you've been on the Net for any length of time, you've probably heard about how the Chinese government tries its damndest to control the information that their citizens can come into contact with; the Net drives them up the wall because you can theoretically read anything from anywhere, including news that They don't want you to know about (sadly, I'm not being sarcastic when I say that - I mean the great firewall of China). However, there are friendly folks out there who are finding interesting ways to get around that particular misfeature in one's posterior. Proxy servers, if you've never encountered them before, are systems that sit between you and the rest of the Net, rather like a firewall, only instead of just filtering traffic they intercept your requests and make them on your behalf, and then send you back the results when it gets them. They can be used to increase the security of a network in conjunction with firewalls, or they can be used to filter and sometimes alter the data that you request. In this case, the proxies make requests for data from domains that the Chinese government tries to block out (like the BBC) and send you the data in such a way (perhaps encrypted via SSL, if you can get your hands on a web browser that supports it) that it isn't caught by the media filters. There are also sites that mirror news stories that are not listed in the domain blacklist, and even RSS feeds can be used to get data because technically you don't read them from their point of origin, but through someone else's web site. There are some FoI (freedom of information) proxies out there, but not nearly enough. The Peekabooty project (an encrypted web proxy system based upon peer-to-peer networking isn't dead, just way behind schedule due to one of the coders leaving Hactivismo and reworking the project's architecture) is what I'm talking about, but it's not done yet, and nowhere near complete.
Hmm.. I seem to have strayed a bit from my original topic. The article that I linked up there talks about the efforts underway to make information more readily available to the people of China on both sides of the ocean. If only I had more bandwidth....
And while we're on the subject of distributed efforts, one Joel Reidenberg, processor of law at Fordham University, thinks that net.disruption techniques such as the feared distributed denial of service attack have the potential to become combat tactics in government-staged virtual warfare. DDoS attacks, server DoS attacks, and control of key Internet chokepoints (how many of those are there, anyway? isn't the Net supposed to be decentralised?) could be used against other countries during times of war as well as political groups that the current regeime of a country decides that it doesn't like, all in the name of law enforcement. In a semainar at the Oxford Internet Institute, Reidenberg said that democratic countries have an obligation to enforce their laws In Here as well as Outside. Something that it appears that he doesn't understand (or just wasn't quoted in such a way to imply that he did) is that distribution of computing power cuts both ways. Sure, an army of several thousand systems can knock a network off the Net by flooding the hell out of it, but where are you going to get those systems? Is a government going to resort to canned exploits and network scanners to compromise systems across the Net to turn into zombies? Sure, some would, but they as well as others would have to answer to ranks of angry admins and law enforcement in those countries, as well as the kiddies out there who are amassing their own armies. Also, those systems will eventually be found and disinfected; what are those governments going to say, "Don't un-0wn your boxes, you're killing our war effort"? The backlash of that will be horrendous. Also, there really aren't any chokepoints, at least in North America. The great firewall of China is an exception because there are so few trunks leading into and out of the country, so from a technical standpoint it wasn't too difficult to drop some firewalls and filtering proxies in there. Countries like the United States and the UK would have difficulty doing the same thing due to the number of trunks linking them into the Net; also, the NSPs (network service providers) would scream bloody murder if someone tried to force them to do that because it would cut into their profits. The cost of doing so alone would be enough to make them complain.
However.. if push came to shove and enough force was applied in the right places, all of that could change in fairly short order. Look at how long it took for the USA PATRIOT Act to cause a fundamental shift in USian life; scarecely a week. If they really wanted to turn the Net into a privatised war zone, they could do so by hitting some of the big NSPs where it hurts: In the pocketbook. Either that, or a bill could be passed which gave the government the power to sever some of the biggest trunk lines, and order the rest to be blacked out or heavily restricted. Not that I'm saying that this would be done anytime soon, only that such a scenario is not only possible (though unlikely), it could be done in a short period of time. To continue this hypothetical scenario, with enough effort all of the entry points could be locked down and net.traffic would be contained neatly. There would be ways around that, there always will be, but the access points would be constantly changing and some of them would be less than optimal; certainly poor enough that putting up a server or trying to transfer files of any size would be infeasible. The questions at that time would be, "How patient are you?" and "How long do you want to have that particular link usable?"
I sincerely hope that this doesn't happen anywhere anytime soon. It's an interesting intellectual exercise to undertake. Scenarios like that are like stretching, they keep you limber and ready to move.
Just when you thought that Victorinox couldn't come up with one more gadget to put into the Swiss Army Knife (accept no substitutes, take it from me) they came up with one. The latest Swiss Army Knife now has a 64 or 128MB flash memory module as one of the blades, connecting to a host computer via a USB connector. All I have to say about this is that I hope that the next iteration of the Cybertool comes with one of these. Then I'd have a reason to get into building miniature Linux distributions, seeing as how more and more systems can boot off of a USB key these days... maybe I'm selfish, but it's something that I think would be useful for IT folks to have just in case. Perhaps putting some data recovery or computer forensics tools in it would be a good idea.
Eeh.. someone's probably done this already. I'd be doing it for myself. Oh, well.
Another day down.. slow as all get out, but at least it passed. I've been doing a lot of studying lately, trying to get up to speed with what's to come. This afternoon I couldn't take another line of project abstract or government standards, I thought my brain was going to overload. On one hand, it can be interesting reading (at least the details, anyway) but on the other it's very dry and super-precise. Every last detail is spelled out in at least three ways so that it can't be misinterpreted. However, this comes at the expense of being accidentally misunderstood (there's a subtle difference) because each concept is made very cut and dried. Take a frog floating in a jar of formalin and a frog that's been dissected and stretched out on a slab of wax, its skin, musculature, and internals pulled free and arranged neatly with a bunch of T-headed dissecting pins. When you really look at them, they don't look like one another because the shapes are distorted and squished flat and out of any sort of pattern that the conscious mind can pick up on for interpretation.
That's what it's like.
The odd thing about this is the fact that the sense of strangeness surrounding the ideas fades after being away from it for a half hour or so. This state of mind has to have a practical purpose of some kind; I think I'll be looking into using the rainbow books as a form of meditation soon.
Packed a lot of stuff away tonight - garbage duty (regular as clockwork, and without needing to be told the obvious for once), arranging things at home, finished reading Mage: Ascension, finished my dataglove and goggles for my Gargoyle costume... I think that's it. I just have to pack for this weekend and get stuff ready to go. I can't forget to bring my Illuminati boxed set because I'm running a game on Saturday.
In something smacking strongly of H.P.Lovecraft's short story At The Mountains of Madness two separate teams of researchers have found two possibly heretofore undiscovered species of dinosaur. Upon the bottom of the Antarctic Sea was found the remains of what appears to be a carnivorous creature between six and eight feet in height that was built to move at high speed (exactly what that means is anyone's guess, I'm guessing that their theory is based upon its size, shape of limbs, build of torso..); this specimen is estimated to be roughly 70 million years old. The second specimen was found on Mount Kirkpatick, near the Beadmore Glacier, and appears to have been a herbivore. Only bones were found, but enough in such a state that the overall shape of the creature could be theorised; among the speculations is that the creature was roughly 30 feet in length. I realise that everything's sketchy right now, this is a very new development in research down there.
In a world where information is power, and debatably the most expensive commodity, one would think that the companies that have valuable stores of information (personal information, including people's credit card numbers and expiration dates) would try to beef up their intrusion countermeasures to keep crackers from walking off with the crown jewels. Not so - some companies are now opting to disclaim liability for information theft. That's right.. some net.accessible companies are having lawyers put clauses in their usage agreements that say that by using their services you waive your right to sue them if they get cracked and your identity gets stolen. I think that it's time to start compiling a list of companies who are trying to pull this off - Verizon Wireless and American Airlines are the examples given in the article, and I have the sinking feeling that this trend is going to start spreading, if only to save companies money in a time when the economy is on advanced live support (read, 2004).
Piotr a Nosferatu? The old bastard's stomach would start churning (if he wasn't using it to gestate parasites).
Two days 'til Tekkoshocon and counting. Work's been curiously slow these days, partially because a lot of folks are MIA due to the remodelling project in the office wrapping up. The other half of the floor isn't done yet so everyone who worked over there has been temporarily relocated, though I don't know where. The folks I take my cues from have been extremely busy lately, so there hasn't been much of a chance to talk to them lately. I hope that changes soon.
The lowered sense of stress has really freed up compute cycles in my headware lately. So many such that a subprocess has been rolling some concepts around when it has a chance. I might have an essay or two in the works as a result. I've also been doing a lot of Perl coding. I'm short on data needed to finish a project so I've been practising my coding by automating some fairly time-consuming tasks; it's also been helping me to regain my confidence. Unfortunately, I still can't code well listening to music so that's out. Here's hoping we manage to meet up tomorrow to see what's up.
This evening was spent running around taking care of stuff so that I can be incommunicado all weekend. The laundry's done (or will be shortly, it's in the dryer now) and I'm getting out the last of the e-mails necessary to lay plans for the con. I'm also nearly finished with the dataglove for my Gargoyle costume. Three lengths of optical fibre have been sewn to a one-size-fits-all lycra glove with monofilament fishing line, and I've been putting minute epoxy on all of the knots to make sure they stay in place. Epoxy - gift from the gods. Treat it well, it's your friend. Abuse it and it'll abuse you right back. Trust and guard it with your life.
Sometimes things go wrong, even in secret societies.. just a few days ago 47-year old William James was accidentally shot in the face with a real pistol while being initiated into the Southside Masonic Lodge by Albert Eid. Eid accidentally drew a real .38 revolver instead of a starter's pistol during the initiation ceremony and shot James at close range. Eid has been charged with manslaughter, and is out on $2.5kus bail.
I haven't written much about this lately, but the ties between Microsoft and SCO are beginning to be exposed, to the tune of $100mus. It's not just the opensource movement that's digging, either.. federal regulators are starting to do their own research into the matter. An unnamed source has mentioned to a number of news agencies (Newsforge among them) that anonymous tips and bits of evidence have been finding their way to the Securities and Exchange Commission lately. In a nutshell, some private e-mails from SCO have gotten loose, and they describe financial transactions between Micrsoft (through BayStar Capital of California) in the tens of millions of US dollars with speculation of further lucrative payments (for the financially struggling SCO) sometime in the future. This is scaring Darl McBride (CEO of SCO) mightily; he's so afraid that he's been carrying a gun, checking into hotels under assumed names, and hiring armed bodyguards in case someone tries to take him out. I'm not sure if this is propaganda, to make everyone think that the opensource movement is a bunch of nutcases who'll stoop to assassinating someone they don't like, or if he's really afraid of something happening to him. It seems to me like it's for show (due to how word of this is leaking out, and many peoples' tendencies to believe the stuff that they think shouldn't have gotten out at all) but it's not beyond the realm of reason that there are one or two nutballs out there who would take a shot at him.
Today passed by much more simply than I thought it would. Most of the office just wasn't in today, at least from what I could tell. Either that, or they were someplace else; I'd heard rumours of a meeting of some kind going on today but don't have any details about it. I guess I'll find out what happened tomorrow, or at least I hope that I will.
Not only did I forget the new batteries for my CD player today but I brought the pair of earbuds without foam pads. Trifles, to be sure, but slightly annoying.
Now I'm home trying to lay plans. I really should have gone to the North Hills Pagan Discussion Group meeting tonight. I found out too late that they'll be discussing chaos magick, something that I have a good deal of interest in and knowledge of. Oh, well. Sometimes one just has to stay home to take care of business. I'm still catching up from this weekend. Besides, after the last fiasco, I'm not sure I want to show my face around there for a while.
Last night I finished the visor for one of my costumes for Tekkoshocon, a headset like those worn by the gargoyles in Serial Experiments Lain. It's more streamlined than the ones in the series in some ways because it's not quite as bulbous. Instead of being based upon circular shapes this one is more asymmetrical in that sense because I based it off of a pair of diving goggles picked up from Wal-Mart yesterday afternoon. Of all things, the goggles I found are mirrored, also.. I kept the circular scanning piece on the left-hand size, that was too necessary to the look to pass up. After wandering around the store for a while, inspiration struck me in the housewares department. A strainer-plug for a kitchen sink, with the rubber gasket cut off, made a good scanning cap. A few black plastic zip-ties (used for permanantly bundling electrical cable_ attached it snugly to the goggles and some carefully positioned strips of electrical tape and it doesn't look half bad if I do say so myself. I've got some lengths of optical fibre scavenged from a dumpster laying around the Lab that I plan on attaching later. I'm also going to take one of my LARP props (a form-fitting black glove) and finish attaching fibre to that also. My batman factor is already considerable, so aside from a business suit I don't need anything else for the costume (well, just my contacts so I can actually see).
They said that it couldn't be done.. virus-scanning e-mail gateways can't unzip password-protected archives to check inside them, right? Common sense says that they can when the sender puts the password in the body of the e-mail. Simple as that. Common sense triumphs over expertise once again.
It's not a good feeling and it leaves you feeling silly and rather dumb, but it's also a good wakeup call. Take that one from me.
Tomorrow night I plan on cleaning up my white fright wig for my Nagisa Kaoru costume. I think a little hand soap and some warm water will do the trick; it's synthetic fibre, after all. I'll have to hang it upside-down to dry so it'll get nice and wild, and my contacts won't take long to clean at all. That's another costume down. I'm probably not going to costume on Sunday; instead I'll walk around as my usual oddball self. I will be going to the masquerade ball as Proteus, so that'll about use me up for the convention.
Yesterday was, strangely enough, not only relaxing but good for getting my head screwed back on straight. Amid some snarking from Dataline about my asking her to do the shopping this wee ("What, you're tired of helping me now?" "I'm tired of doing everything." <walks away>) she went out for a Saturday lunch and went food shopping while I drove three older computers and a bag of clothes to Goodwill to drop off. Three down, three to go... I've got a lot more room in the Lab now. One of my relatives' computers, the ancient 80386 box with 2MB of RAM and no hard drive is now fated to become spare parts, worth about $8us in total on the surplus market. Crash and Burn are off to their final destination. I stopped off at Borders on the way back to see if they had the last WoD book (Mage: Ascension), and finding that they did picked it up. Afterward I returned home ot sit and think about some things. More on that later. I also finished making the tail for Lyssa's catgirl costume for Tekkoshocon out of the last of my supply of polyfur. I'm proud to say that it turned out extremely well.
Later in the afternoon, Alexius called me and asked if I wanted to go to B'witche's Tavern for fetish night last night. Having not gone out in several months, I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly after 2030 EDT I changed my clothes and got cleaned up (leather jeans and duster, latex rubber t-shirt), explained where I was going to my horrified family (you'd think they'd be used to me by now), and then set out for the House Pendragon. 'lex was happy to see me in rubber again, I haven't worn that shirt in a very long time (over a year). It was settled that I'd be doing the driving and he and Andrea v2.0 would be along for the ride.
With only a little prompting I managed to find my way there without any problems. I think I could do it solo, in fact.
B'witche's Tavern is a safe place. I don't say that lightly. There were folks of every persuasion and quite a few kinks that you wouldn't really see anywhere else. To respect the privacy of everyone there, I will not elaborate upon what exactly was going on or who else was there. Suffice it to say, however, that a good time was had by all, whether or not it looked like it to an observer. I will say, however, that my rubber shirt was an excellent choice for the night and many people enjoyed touching and making sounds with it. Of what use is clothing that isn't fun as well as functional?
Don from the ER Room was vending last night. He as kind enough to loan me his trial bottle of latex polish to shine my shirt up because, appearance wise, it is very ill-kept and was rather dull. Now it's nicely shiny and hanging up to dry later tonight. I have to stop by his shoppe later, so I will pick up a bottle or two of latex polish just in case.
Afterward we split up, only to reunite later. I drove Andrea v2.0 home to go to bed while 'lex and Iris lead the way to Eat and Park. Lupa went on ahead to change and meet up with us there. One of the time-honoured rituals of nights out on the town is retiring to a diner afterward for breakfast and coffee, and of course to sit and talk for hours about anything and everything. We had a few good discussions about safe spaces (like B'witche's), porn, and psychology. Lupa is really getting into techniques of rewiring her consciousness by choosing the axioms that underly conscious thought and by filtering everything through them (which, when you get right down to it, is the basic principle behind perception) changing how her mind functions. Alexius takes the opposite stance, saying that no matter what you tell yourself you can't change what you believe, only what you say you believe. Personally, I disagree with 'lex - I think that he is confusing what you believe with what is hardwired into the conscious mind - the axioms that underly your outlook on reality are not the algorithms that process information using those axioms. To put it another way, the techniques used to solve equations of a particular sort (let's say a particular school of analytic geometry) are not the axioms (the underlying assumptions) used to determine which techniques should be used to solve the problems. I would argue that the need to believe is wired into the operating principles of the mind, but the beliefs themselves are not. But now I'm rambling.