Busy weekend. For the first time in two months, I've finally had a chance to clean up around the apartment. The carpets are swept, the floors mopped, and the bedroom is in decent enough shape to be presentable. I even changed the water in the fishtank, much to the relief of Proteus and Eris. My only gripe is that I haven't yet dusted, something which I actually hate doing but need to do to satisfy that part of me that's a perfectionist. I've also caught up on rest since Tekkoshocon a couple of weeks ago, so much so that my body's immune system is again listening to commands and doing its job. Late yesterday afternoon I jumped down to Fern Dragonstar's to celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately, I arrived just after everyone else left (what timing..) but spent the evening with her and the kids just hanging out and catching up on life in the past couple of months. Fern's one of my favourite people but we never get to see each other. She's been doing a lot better, and is trying to get her life organised and running smoothly.
When you get right down to it, what else can you really ask from life, other than not having any problems and having time to spend with the people you love?
Let's see... what's been going on the big, wide world Out There in the past couple of days? Apparently, not much that isn't running around in circles or making one wish that they lived in an L7 facility: A fifteen year old kid was picked up on AOL for sex by an adult. As it turns out, the adult in question was one of the folks AOL employs to monitor the chat rooms for stuff just like this. One of the cow-orkers of the AOL monitor in question discovered the liaison and reported it to the authorities before the get-together, planned for the girl's seventeenth birthday, could come to fruition. AOL and its parent company, Time-Warner are being sued for falsely representing AOL as safe for kids, and for not sufficiently watching over the actions of its employees. The AOL monitor has been canned, the kid is now nineteen, and waited two years before reporting what was going on and bringing the lawsuit.
We have two words of the day for the price of one: Left wing and right wing
The Transportation Security Agency is at it again, and this time they might have a few plane hijackings in the future, not for political reasons, but because some of the folks on long plane flights really, really want to go to Borders in a hell of a big hurry. It stems from this: Luggage screeners and the folks who search you at the security checkpoints are empowered to not let you bring stuff with you that isn't on their list of prohibited items at their discretion. The gentleman who wrote this blog entry was told that come 14 April 2005, passengers could carry only two books to read in their carry-on luggage and not four. How strange. Because the screeners are allowed to interpret policy, this could cause some pretty weird situations. I'm thinking specifically of college students, some of whom actually study while they're travelling. I'm also thinking of an associate of mine who encountered some.. shall we say, difficulties, regarding his reading material while he was in the southeast last summer.
This might refer to matchbooks (remember, cigarette lighters can't be carried on flights anymore, though book matches can, ironically enough), but again, the screener's discretion is relied upon in ambiguous situations.
Something to keep an eye on: Dcrab claims to have discovered numerous security vulnerabilties in a number of very high profile websites, among them CNN and the Bank of America. He hasn't said, however, what he's found or what its impact could be, so there's no sense is screaming that the sky is falling. This could get interesting.
Apparently, my pimp name is Vicious D. Lynch Jazz. What's yours?
| You scored as Beast. Codename: The Beast
Full Name: Henry P. McCoy
Mutant Powers: Increased agility, strength and stamina.
Henry "Hank" McCoy is a founding member of the X-Men. Among all his original teamates, Hank had the best childhood, between loving parents, and so his temper and way of living was one of the happiest at the mansion. Beast's mutation at first was hardly noticable, but while away from the team, Hank made a terrible mistake: testing a new substance that he was using to study the x-factor. Beast tried the substance on himself. This caused a further mutation on his body, covering him with gray fur (that later became blue), fangs and great nails. He had then indeed become a "beast".
One of the only students at the mansion who took up an education beyond that of the Xavier school, Beast's studies were in the biogenetic area of his field. Possessing a quick wit, a wry sense of humour, and scholarly wisdom, he also has a penchant for quoting the classics and poetry. Despite his beastly exterior, he is possesess incredible genius, making him one of the most intellingent minds in the world.
Which X-Men member are You?
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I'm not likely to whip out pictures of my family at every turn, though.
I think these folks are going out on a limb safety-wise, at least in some respects, by hunting down and hatching the eggs of very, very old organisms, but I'll get to that later. Researchers have empirically proven the Red Queen Hypothesis of genetics, which says that a species must constantly evolve to remain a good fit for its environment, and to discourge predation however it can. By finding these very old eggs, hatching them, and observing and comparing the organisms (in this case, a strain of water flea) to generations extant today, you can see how the genome of a given species has evolved over time. The oldest eggs found were dated at being over a century in age, which makes them a perfect genetic snapshot of the species. The morphological changes in a century's time in daphnia retrocurva were striking: The length of the spines on the carapaces and the shapes of the heads of the diminutive creatures of earlier generations were markedly larger, which makes them less likely to be consumed by predatory insects and fish in their natural habitat. The native environments of modern generations of d.retrocurva have many fewer predators, so recent specimens lack these features. Genetic analysis shows that the genomes of the earlier and later generations of d.retrocurva are highly similiar (within the parameters you'd expect of a century's worth of genetic drift), plus the genes that control the development of those structural features.
Most just wouldn't get it, but if you stop and think for a moment, it makes perfect sense to keep the surveillance cameras under photographic surveillance. In Seattle, Washington this week, attendeed of the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference did just that, lead by wearable computer pioneer Steven Mann. Mann and over two dozen other folks invaded the local mall and photographed every securicam they could find (as well as the smoked plastic domes on the ceilings that might not be concealing securicams due to cost of installation) to see how the folks watching on the TV monitors would react to being watched in turn. Mann, per usual, was wired up with his Eyetap glasses; everyone else was carrying the ubiquitous cloth carrybags commonly handed out as conference-swag to which they'd stitched black plexiglas domes mimicking those covering surveillance cameras. Some of them had wireless cameras behind them, some didn't. Like those on the ceilings of stores, you just don't know unless you go up there and look. As you'd expect, the security guards were less than thrilled with the photography, and just didn't understand why the watchers may in turn be watched. Interestingly, they only took offense at the handheld cameras the conference goers used; they didn't pick up on the meaning of the smoked plastic domes that were nonchalantly being aimed all over the place. Even Argus is blind to the obvious, it would seem.
In response to the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, a new bill has been introduced to the House that would prevent the Net from being considered public communication. Specifically, the bill would ament the CFRAo2k2 to "not include communications over the Internet".
Bruce Schneier of Counterpane has published an analysis of the Papal voting procedure, used to select a new Pope of the Catholic Church. The procedure is entirely transparent in that everyone can watch everyone else vote at all times, though the contents of the votes themselves are kept secret until they are counted three times by three different people. All voters are given multiple ballots, in case errors are made. All tallies of the votes are made six times, three by Scrutineers, who count the votes, and three Revisers, who verify the counts. Three others called Infirmarii, are randomly selected before each vote to collect ballots from Cardinals who are too ill to vote in the Sistene Chapel. Everyone sees that one and only one ballot at a time is placed into the chalice holding the votes each time. After the votes are tallied and confirmed, they are burned in full view of everyone (white if the election has concluded in the election of a new Pope, black if not). The Sistene Chapel is swept for electronic bugs every day before the voters go into seclusion; laser bugs monitoring the vibrations from the windows high above are a known problem, but there are also countermeasures available to deter laser tapping (small buzzers are affixed to the insides of the windows which cause the glass to vibrate, making it impossible to pick up the sounds of voices). It wouldn't surprise me if the Vatican's thought of that. The Cardinals are also in choir dress while they are in seclusion, which makes it difficult for anyone to conceal ballots to stuff the vote, if they were so inclined. As if that weren't enough, the officials overseeing the votes as well as the voters themselves swear that they will not attempt to hedge the votes one way or another (for what that's worth; even religious oaths may and can be broken, they aren't like mental conditioning in most people in the short term).
When in doubt, send in the droids. The United States military has been testing combat robots armed with pump-action shotguns in Iraq. First the aerial drones controlled by a combination of neural nets and remote control hardware, and now the 40 pound track-driven Pacbot. The 29th Infantry at Fort Benning, GA is testing them more stridently at this time, though they've already seen deployment in the battlefield. The article, however, is a bit hystrionic, and neglects to mention how the Pacbot is controlled (a neural net and sophisticated expert system software, remote control, or both?) while it yells about the possibility of AI controlled Humvees that can't drive in a straight line (computer piloting of road vehicles is notoriously wiggy), which actually makes all the difference. I hate to say it, but this article contains only a little useful information and more ranting than I ordinarily prefer to read.
Well, they've finally admitted it: Information behemoths CoicePoint and Lexis-Nexis have been owned many, many times in the past and not realised it until well after the fact. At this time, Senate Judiciary Hearings (chaired by Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania) pertaining to identity theft are underway, and the corporations are admitting that their security has been compromised anywhere from 40 to 50 times (!) and they've notified law enforcement... not once. Computer security officers designated as law enforcement liasions didn't seem to understand how much of a problem this is for the people whose information is contained in their databases, and so didn't think it important enough to report it to the FBI, the Secret Service, or even local police. Moreover, all but four or five of the compromises were the result of someone guessing poor passwords (oh, for Kibo's sake...). In twenty years, has no one decided to come up with a reasonably hard to guess password for their logins?
If these guys are the best and brightest of the industry.. we're well and truly fucked.
This situation tastes heavily of irony, if nothing else: Senator Jeff Miller of Tennessee, who is one of the most ardent supporters of a Constitutional amendment that would forevermore make same-sex marriage illegal, and who preaches up and down about the sanctity and permanance of marriage is getting a divorce. Far be it from me to make fun of what is never a good situation for anyone, but doesn't getting a divorce detract from the concept of marriage in general? As if that isn't enough, he's accused of 'inappropriate marital conduct' (had an affair), something that we're accused of doing more often than not. So much for the solemnity of a marriage between a man and a woman only. Unsurprisingly, he fought and won a battle to have adultery excluded from the text of the Constitutionalm amendment that he's sponsoring.
Not long ago I linked to an article about PIEs (Persistent Identification Elements), which use Flash to track net.usage when cookies are disabled. In reaction to this, an extension for Firefox called Objection has been released which adds an entry to the configuration panel that lets you clear all of them out of your browser whenever you want. At this time, this extension only seems to work with the Windows port of Firefox, but the call's been put out for other OSes to be supported (due to directory structure differences).
Your word for the day: Newspeak
| C...Carbon |
You scored 22 Mass, 38 Electronegativity, 30 Metal, and 60 Radioactivity!
|Nobody understands you... no, not even organic chemists. The social individualist. You like your attention... but not TOO MUCH attention. You are able to form incredibly close relationships with many individuals, but you don't really get along with preexisting groups. You value equality in relationships, and don't deal well with overly submissive or demanding people. Well, whatever... thanks for making life possible... oh, and cut the global warming out.|
| My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender: |
|Link: The Which Chemical Element Am I Test written by effataigus on OkCupid Free Online Dating|
Nevermind the fact that in most places you can buy a new one in a shoppe not ten feet inside the security perimeter, cigarette lighters are now banned on US flights. This was done because Richard Reid, the infamous Shoe Bomber who was apprehended on a flight over three years ago, attempted to use an ordinary butane cigarette lighter to light the fuse attached to explosives worked into his sneakers. And yet you can still carry up to four books of safety matches on your person aboard a plane.
To quote Super Milk Chan, "You dumbass!"
It's one thing to ship samples of a highly virulent virus to research labs; it's another to then order the labs to destroy their samples post haste; it's a third to make a big deal in the news about telling them to do so. The rationale given was that the samples of Asian flu, type A/1957 was never supposed to have been shipped out, and that the risk of samples 'going missing' and later being used as bioweapons was too high. As it turns out, this was done to see how many labs would actually listen to orders. If you're going to send them out just to see who listens, though, and you know bloody well that some might not do what you tell them to... why use active samples of the virus?! A simple phial of saline solution would have worked just as well, and would actually have been cheaper!
Your word of the day: Neoconservative.
If you drive a vehicle, at some point some git is going to slam into it while you're not there and then drive off as if nothing had happened. Sometimes this is just a love tap, and sometimes it means hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair bills. One guy was on the recieving end of this, and rather than sigh and get on with life, he tracked down the guy who did it and let his insurance company handle things. The minivan that slammed into his car left a hubcap behind, which he looked up on hubcaps.org to identify the make and model of the vehicle. Armed with a representative photograph of the minivan, he then went to the management of the parking garage, who then searched the tapes from their securicams and found the incident recorded in their tape library. The license plate number was clearly displayed on the tape, which he acquired copies of. A publically available database was consulted to find the name, address, and phone number of the person associated with that place. Thus armed, he took the evidence to the insurance company, who covered all but $100us of the repair bill.
Smile: You're on candid security camera.
Thinkgeek has added something interesting to their inventory, a home DNA storage kit. The kit includes supplies for taking a sample of your own DNA with a swab to pick up some of the shed cells from the lining of your mouth and stuff to preserve it (the exact method isn't specified; I'd guess freezing). There is even a setup in the kit to show you a 'snapshot profile of your DNA', whatever that means. I'm guessing that it'll show you a visual representation of your chromosomal makeup, ala DNA analysis. There's even a card that you can send the results away with to get a t-shirt with that visual breakdown on it.
Frankly, I'm not sure what I think of that. On one hand, I think it's kind of neat to take a peak at your DNA, and maybe save a sample of it for some odd reason. I still harbor thoughts from time to time of banking some of my body's DNA in the hope that one day it'll be clonable; it's the sci-fi fan in me. On the other hand, you can do some pretty nasty stuff with someone else's DNA, like set them up for something. Also, is it really a good idea to give people access to a snippet of your DNA, reasonably intact, for any reason? It seems to me like some things should be kept private, especially in a world where privacy is steadily being eroded, with no one doing a damn thing about it.
Folks who remember the BBS (bulletin board system) scene of the 1980's into the mid 1990's will be interested to find out that Jason Scott of textfiles.com has shipped the masters of the BBS documentary to the printers for mass production. The documentary, spanning three DVDs, will be available RSN (real soon now), as it's being duplicated at this time. Pre-orders are being taken.
Last night, at long last, I finally found the time to settle down and get some real work done around the Garden, after running around for so long and running myself into the ground. A quick stop at the store was made after work to pick up cleaning supplies, and after dinner I headed into the bathroom to scrub down everything, from the floor and carpets that were covered with my own hair (enough to weave another 'me' out of) to the tile walls which were still looking pretty good but if you're going to take care of business, you may as well do it right. I even threw out the old bathmat and replaced it with a new one, one which I hope will be usable for longer than the old one before looking like it's been sitting in the sun for too long. Next on the agenda is cleaning up the rest of the apartment, but I'm going to make a day of that on Saturday because I need to move a lot of stuff around to run the sweeper.
Nooo... no one ever doctors evidence. Ever. Not even the NYPD, which was caught editing video footage of arrests made at the Republican Convention in 2004, resulting in rather more people being charged than really should have. In fact, 91% of the 1800 people arrested have had their charges dropped or been declared not guilty. The editing in most cases was clips of protestors acting peacefully being dropped from the footage entirely; which corroborates the testimony of the police. The full, unedited footage, however, contradicts their story. Listen to the report (linked off of this article in several different formats), and also read the transcripts of the interviews of some of the folks arrested. It's enlightening stuff, to say the least. No one seems to know who did the editing, which makes a lot of people out to be worse than they really were. What is known is that it's sloppy enough to be obvious to anyone watching it with half an eye open.
I rather thought that the separation of church and state was for the best of the people (seeing as how this country was originally settled by people running from religious persecution), but some very powerful people in the US government don't see it that way. It's one thing to have a personal religion, you see, and to keep your own conscience, but apparently that isn't enough anymore. I think it's interesting that they say that they've got the inside track on whatever plan the Divine has, and a lot of that seems to include giving people that they don't like a hard time. Of course, the Terri Schaivo case figures prominently in this (who isn't using her to grandstand these days, just let her find peace!!) Representatives of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, who believe that US law should be thrown out and replaced with Biblical law (I'll leave it up to you to do some research and see what this entails; suffice it to say, some of the dictates are up there with what US forces are so proud of abolishing in Iraq). They don't seem to understand that the Constitution was not written along Biblical principles, and history backs this up. I have on final comment on this, and that is that people who perpetually think that the world is going to end or that the land is on the brink of falling into disaster seem to be the ones that try to bring this about, in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. When some people need to be right, they will attempt to be right at all costs, even though it sometimes means becoming the very things that their paths have warned them about time and again.
Information security might begin with you, but 'you' does not appear to include Lexis-Nexis. The database giant, whose databases contain sensitive information on millions of Americans, has reported that it was compromised, resulting in the dissemination of over 300,000 records to the intruders. The infiltration of thier network was discovered after a usage audit of Seisint, an information brokering company they acquired in July of 2004. Stolen login credentials were used to gain access to the databases. Lexis-Nexis states that their security was not circumvented in any way, it was only passwords that were broken.
Uh, guys? Login credentials are part of information security. Those accounts were imperiled by persons unknown. Thus, your information security was jeopardised. In short, J00 W3R3 0WNZ3D!
We can't even trust Big Brother to keep our information safe. Feh.
Carrying a purse does not preclude being able to kick someone's ass if need be. The latest handbag by Sundae's Best includes a cast aluminum handle that looks suspiciously like a pair of brass knuckles...
Understandably, the US military is very interested in the expansion of the field of prosthetic limb replacement, so much so that they've come up with a preliminary set of specs for bionic arms that seem reasonable, but are technically far from implementation at this time. The limb would be controlled by the peripheral nerves, presumably by installing jacks attached to the motor nerve trunks and plugging the limb straight in (no less would be necessary for control approaching that of an organic limb). The replacement arms must have sufficient dexterity to pick up a raisin unassisted (they're usually a bit under a quarter of an inch in diameter) and write in longhand with a pen or pencil. Sensory feedback is a requirement (much work in this direction has already been done in the field of industrial robotics, for giving robotic arms a sense of touch, and hence a sense of pressure to tell them how hard they're squeezing); specifically, common tasks must be doable in the dark by touch alone. The arm must also be capable of lifting 60 pounds unassisted.
In short, they want a reasonably good facimile of a human arm, and soon.
Holy cats - Adobe Acrobat Reader v7.0 is finally out for Linux. Way to push us to the back of the line, guys... may I suggest checking out Xpdf as well? Maybe we can start pushing things farther in our direction by extending the open code first.
At last, someone is looking into the $212mus price discrepancy from Halliburton (original article is linked at the top of this reprint, sell your soul to get access to it, or just give them the address of someone across town). Halliburton is accused of overcharging the US government for services rendered in Iraq, to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars, as uncovered during a routine audit. Of course, all charges of wrongdoing were denied, the numbers to the contrary. I doubt the public will find out the results one way or another, though.
I think this is telling with regard to what's going on in Cuba at this time. Suspected enemy combatants are being brought before US military tribunals, and a few of them are demanding to be shown the evidence against them. They aren't shown anything because the evidence is considered classfied. One of the judges (their names are restricted information, of course) was quoted as saying, "I don't care about international law. I don't want to hear the words 'international law' again. We are not concerned with international law."
1444 EDT: Conrot has set in. Poor food, stress, and too little sleep have kicked my body's immune system solidly between wind and water. I'm up and around but I think I'm going to be sitting on my butt for the next few days, until I get caught up on everything. Maybe I'll work from home on Friday so I can sleep in a little bit more than normal.
| You scored as Sloth. |
Seven deadly sins
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Where's my sunbeam?
There's a counter-movement to the Day of Silence?!
At last, it's done. Yesterday afternoon, running on little sleep and much caffeine, I left work early and trucked over to Dr. Schrenker's office for the last procedure, the installation of the permanant crown on that molar I broke a little over a week ago. It took only a single flick with a dental pick to pop the temporary crown off of the resin post set into my tooth and then a few minutes of fiddling and worrying to test the real crown a couple of times and file it down so that it fit properly. The rough part was actually cleaning the excess cement up because that stuff is very, very strong (I forget what it's called exactly) and requires a lot of abuse to break up and sweep away. That is actually reassuring, because it means that it will take a lot of abuse to damage the bond. Once it was in place, though, it was smooth sailing. It feels great, and it's much more usable than it was before.
This one wins the "No shit, Skolnick" award for 2005: US forces have no exit strategy for Iraq. There are no plans to leave Iraq anytime soon and indeed, this will not happen until the 'victory strategy' is fulfilled. Much of this 'victory strategy' has not been openly discussed, but it seems to consist of getting the Iraqi military up to speed and turning them loose. No one seems to know when they'll be deemed ready to stand on their own.
Your word of the day: Liberal
Just when you thought you could go a single day without hearing about new
laws in process that deal with peer-to-peer filesharing networks, the Motion
Picture Association and the Internation Federation of Phonographic Industries
You might be a fanboy if you go to the trouble of modding your scooter to look like Kaneda's bike in Akira.
When trouble comes to paradise, those in charge start asking for volunteers. In this case, the state Health Department of Hawaii (a state health department?!) is asking for 600 volunteers for a bioterrorism attack dry run, to put an emergency drive-through vaccination clinic through its paces. Placebo injections will be given, and those who participate will be given $5us gift certificates for chain stores. This will be the first such test carried out in the country, and the results will be analysed by experts from Alaska, New York, and Arizona.
In Beaver county, in my home state of Pennsylvania, the state of the art computerised, touchscreen based voting system has been decertified by the PA Department of State. Following a petition filed by the residents of Beaver county, professor Michael Shamos of Carnegie-Mellon University audited the voting system, and declared that the system is not safe or efficiently usable by the people, and furthermore it is not capable of the accuracy required for a political election. The voting system has been in use since November of 1998. The biggest problem reported is that the units sometimes refuse to register any vote at all, leaving the system in a questionable internal state (what is required to make it register a vote at that point? a vote for whom? will it even be recorded?).
In another sterling example of the "Just don't get sick" healthcare system in the United States, the market price of pharmaceuticals has grown faster than the rate of inflation, if you can believe that. So much for this election's Medicare reforms.. as if that weren't enough, the state governments have been instructed to not guide Medicare beneficiaries to any particular prescription drug plan, even if doing so would save those people money. Many people, who are older and live on a fixed income, can't afford the medication they need, and rely upon Medicare to at least help pay for what they need. Now, you can't get assistance that might help Medicare go a little bit farther. I guess you can't get old, either.
A few days ago I wrote a little more about requesting a copy of my FBI file from the powers that be. While I was gone I recieved the following letter in the mail:
Request No.: xxxxxxx-000
Subject: Lynch, Bryce Alexander
Dear Mr. Lynch:
This is in response to your Freedom of Information-Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request noted above.
A search of the automated indices to our central records system files at FBI headquarters located no records responsive to your FOIPA request.
Although no records responsive to your FOIPA request were located in our automated indices, we are required to inform you that you are entitled to file an administrative appeal if you so desire. Appeals should be directed in writing to the Co-Director, Office of Information and Privacy, U.S. Department of Justice, Suite 570, Flag Building, Washington, D.C., 20530, within 60 days from the date of this letter. The envelope and the letter should be clearly marked "Information Appeal." Please cite the FOIPA request number assigned to your request so that it may easily be identified.
David M. Hardy
Record/Information Dissemination Section
Records Management Division
Interestingly, the field office in Pittsburgh still has not yet responded, nor sent back the registered letter receipt coupon.
I guess that settles it. I'm not important. I can definitely live with that.
Last night was a night of sleep, though not necessarily of rest. After I got home and took one last inventory as I unpacked, I sat down to watch the two episodes of the new season of Doctor Who Lyssa's been uploading to me shortly after they hit the Net (I strongly doubt that it'll make it to cable in the US, though I'll be first in line to buy region 1 DVDs if they're released, make no bones about that) and then tried to sleep. I was up most every hour to look around and check on everything for some unknown reason. I'd reached the point where I was comfortable in my hotel room, but I'd forgotten how to be in my own apartment. That, and serious dehydration kept me from quite relaxing last night.
I had been on the go since Friday morning (8 April 2005) since pretty much sunrise. I got up at my usual time during the week, but rather than take the time to indulge in a pot of coffee and make breakfast, I realised that if I was going to make it to the Expo mart on time for the opening of registration I was going to have to step on it. And so, I hauled my suitcase, my satchel full of textbooks, several garment bags, a case full of computer equipment, and a broad brimmed hat down to my car in three trips, fed my fish, and headed for Monroeville. Because check-in at the Radisson is at 1500 EST/EDT, I had my stuff hauled up the John and Lara's room to sit while I went on-shift and did staff type stuff. This year, registration was handled by a web application hooked to a database; pre-registered convention attendees were looked up, confirmed, and given their stuff right off the bat. Everyone else had to be keyed into the database and given their stuff. To save money, we were going to set up a wireless network at the hotel which stretched into the Expo Mart; the application was running on a laptop computer somewhere in the conventionspace, and laptops were set up at the registration tables at each end. The first problem which arose was, as you would expect of a building that is about as large as a city block, is all the metal in the walls. We were going to get around that by setting up a meshwork of access points, but ran into another problem: If you're going to set up a meshwork, all of your access points need to be from the same manufacturer, be it LinkSys, Microsoft (I know, they rebranded someone else's gear; I'm not writing a case statement for this entry for pity's sake), or what have you. We had some LinkSys gear and some Microsoft-branded gear, and it just wasn't coming together. The three hundred foot spool of CAT-5 cable would not have been enough to stretch from the front of the Radisson to the Expo Mart, no matter how hard we'd try.
Eventually, Bob (the guy who designed the registration application) and I spoke to the Expo Mart management and cut a deal to use their wireless network for the duration of the con. Bob spent an hour moving the web application from his laptop over to the server where he hosts his website while I earned a new nickname to add to my PGP keys, "The Yellow Streak."
First, a bit of background: At Tekkoshocon this year, the t-shirts given to the security staff were coloured neon yellow, bright enough to be seen in the dark at thirty feet, with black printing on them. You can see these suckers clear across the Expo Mart. You can see one of us coming around the corner by the glare leaking around the wall. If you turn a UV light on one of these shirts you can get a tan from the reflected light. If you get enough of us together in one place, you can even see us from space.
The Radisson Hotel has free wireless access on site; the Expo Mart, on the other hand, charges $195us for unlimited usage as long as you'll be on site. The only catch is that you have to go through them to get an access code to authenticate your MAC address with the router, and until you have that you can't sneak through (well, you probably can, but I had more important things going on than hacking around and possibly honking off their management team). We had the management app running on the Net, but we needed to get a platoon of laptops onto the wireless network and on the Net. Not all of them had wireless network cards; there were even fewer active hardlines on the convention floor. This necessitated my sprinting back and forth from the lobby of the Radisson to the registration desk in the Expo Mart side of the convention and back again a number of times. After the second or third dash, the sight of a skinny pale guy wearing black flarepants with most of a gigabit LAN hanging from the belt and D-rings on the thighs wearing one of the aforementioned security goon shirts and kitty ears, with a black and white tail and hair trailing behind like a battle standard was common. The Mach 1 Bishonen was on the move, and for the gods' sake, you'd better get out of the way.
Because not all of the laptops had wireless networking hardware, we had to borrow a couple of antiquated units from the Expo Mart IT department, a number of transceivers which plug straight into the RJ-45 network jack on a computer that act as portable 802.11b gateways. We discovered eventually that they only worked on the Expo Mart side and not the Radisson side. The transceivers might have been hardcoded for the ESSID of the Expo Mart wireless net, I don't know. I do know that more running around was required to distribute them properly. Once we'd gotten permission to use the wireless networks on-site, the hard part was keeping access to the registration application. About twenty minutes after registration caught up with the dead tree backlog of data, we lost access to the application, and the lines began piling up once again. This was because the ISP which hosted the app was under attack...
That was cleared up a little later; I don't know how much later because I was working crowd control, and lost touch with Bob until later that day.
Much of Tekkoshocon was crowd control, crowd control and firefighting because many of the minions, the volunteers who said they'd work a couple of hours doing stuff for con staff like moving boxes and setting up equipment flaked on us, leaving the convention badly understaffed. Security was working double duty to cover, and the large numbers of people who were arriving in waves to either pick up their registration packages or to register were swamping us. As much as I love cosplay photography, when the halls aren't terribly wide snapping photographs can clog up foot traffic in the hotel. Every few minutes one of us working security would have to swing through the length of the con and keep people moving so there wouldn't be any pileups, especially with some of the j-rock and j-pop costumes that resembled ballgrowns.
I somehow found some time that afternoon to hit the dealer's room, which had many of the same dealers as last year, save for a distinct lack of "Annoying Yaoi Guy", whose voice could be heard outside of the dealer's room as he hawked his wares. It was later that day that I discovered that some items which I had purchased in the dealer's room were missing (several decks of cards, a large number of pins and buttons, and several models and action figures), along with some really weird stuff, like some makeup for one of my costumes, a hairbrush, a can of shaving cream, and some documentation I'd printed out to read during downtime. I'm positive that I didn't leave it anywhere because it never left my side until I'd gone up to my room to put the bags into my luggage. Thankfully, my laptop and all of its components are accounted for, as are the contents of my wallet. Very disturbing.
I saw something which I didn't have the guts to do while I was there, and that was a Megatokyo cosplayer (Junpei the l337 Ninja). Megatokyo, I have been told by various folks on the convention circuit, has something of a bad reputation, which appears to be part of why the initial blast of webcomic folks at cons has died down to next to nothing. At any rate, I managed to buttonhole the guy for a quick photograph before resuming my rounds.
Friday night was spent in the security office writing as fast I could; the night before I'd stopped in to visit John and Lara, who are on the convention board of directors. They'd mentioned that their chair of the RPG/CCG room had flaked out on them, leaving something of a power vacuum. While that power vacuum was filled in relatively short order, it also left them with fewer people to run games. In short, I was offered the opportunity to run a BESM (Big Eyes Small Mouth) game at the con, set in the world of Serial Experiments Lain at the con, which I accepted, knowing full well that I'd have to work like mad to not only put together PC (player character) sheets but a scenario and a selection of NPC (non-player character) sheets. The scenario came to me out of the blue; between Thursday and Friday nights I managed to put together a part of six skeletal characters, which players could take a half hour to flesh out before I started the game; I have a small collection of NPCs from the original run of my camaign, which I was going to introduce at some point to make things a bit more interesting; most of the NPCs, however, I was going to have to pull out of my ear at a moment's notice, though I had a good idea of how to do it and not swamp the party (the trick lies in knowing how the power levels of the game are laid out; if you know that, you can pick a few traits at random and scale them so that they pose a worthy but not insurmountable challenge).
As it turned out, however, no one showed up for it. Just as I'd expected. At least I got to sit around that night with Ellen, Justin, and Xavier and geek out for a couple of hours over pizza in the RPG/CCG room.
Later that night, I changed into black silk PJs and headed for the late night panel which I'd been dying to sit in on, Convention Nightmares (originally titled "Story Time With Uncle John"), featuring Mike McFarland of FUNimation, "Pocky" Kim (a veritable demigod of the convention circuit), and Greg Ayres, along with a select group of Tekkoshocon staff. Some of the best stuff at cons, it can safely be said, isn't the cosplay or the vendor's room or even the panels, it's all the crazy stuff that happens behind the scenes that you never, ever hear about (save for Amanda Winn-Lee, whose reputation preceeds her far and wide). I strongly suggest that all of you staff at least one con in your lives, not only to give yourselves an opportunity to experience what it is that we go through, but to collect a couple of interesting stories to tell to your kids. I can't do the stories any justice because delivery is half the experience, but I can tell you that if you take these folks aside and ask them about some of the stuff that they've gone through, they'll tell you and leave you in stitches.
As for the situation with the batteries for the FRS radios that the staffers were carrying... you're going for batteries next time, Pocky.
Around 0200 EDT I finally crashed, after setting my alarm to wake me at 0900 EDT that morning. My internal chronometer had other ideas, though, and I was up a few minutes after 0800 EDT. Rather than try to roll over and get a little more sleep, I pulled myself out of bed, started a pot of coffee (the room had a little coffee maker and a small supply of coffee), and got in the shower to boot the rest of my brain up. Following that was a shave and digging through my luggage to find the first costume of the day, the movie version of Utena. During my search, I discovered that a few pieces of needed paraphenalia had gone missing, including some lipstick (which would have hidden my lips, bright red from dehydration). Mentally shrugging, I went on with my morning shave (the last time I would see my shaving cream, strangely enough) and got dressed. The uniform fit very well, though I still wish I'd gone with the other version of the jacket. The wig, after being brushed out and examined by myself and Cosplay Kate, didn't really need much in the way of styling, and so on it went. The artificial locks hid my normally dark hair quite well, and my ponytail went down my back under the shirt and jacket, which hid the rest as well as providing a good spot to pin the wig into place. After a few more adjustments to my costume and picking up my satchel of textbooks, I headed out of the room and down to security ops to check in.
When I go out as heavily dressed as I was that day, I'm really not used to people recognising me. I took some care to try to hide the more distinctive features of my body, though pretty much everyone I knew greeted me that morning. I was a bit nervous at that, though eventually I relaxed. It's an anime convention - compared to some of the stuff people have seen, I was flat bloody normal in comparison. With that, I hung out for a while and broke my fast on a number of doughnuts (you'd expect security folks to NOT have doughnuts in the office?!), caught up on an evolving situation from the night before, and then went out on rounds.
I should mention the Final Fantasy VII cosplayers who became famous during Tekkoshocon 2005. There was a group of folks running around the con (with whom Ellen and I became good friends) dressed as characters from the video game Final Fantasy VII (something of an otaku classic, rather like This Corrosion in the goth scene), announcing their presence with a boom box holding the original soundtrack. Justin, dressed to the nines as Sephiroth, was hearlded by his personal theme music, which led to many fanfolk's jaws dropping. The crew would wander around the Expo Mart part of the con for a while until they found a suitably large space (maybe twenty feet on a side), whereupon they would then hold a mock random battle (an RPG staple in which wandering characters suddenly run into a pack of monsters and mix it up). Prop weapons would be waved harmlessly in the air at one another, multcoloured faux feathers were thrown into the air in lieu of 'phoenix down', bottles of blue Gatorade were produced and chugged (read, 'heal potions'), and Sephiroth's signature attack, the supernova, was accompanied by a pad of yellow stickynotes, all bearing the legend "Super Nova" on them. Of course, the boom box was cued up at that particular moment to battle music, which would last a few minutes, and gather an audience. When the music was over, some characters would be on the ground and some would be doing odd victory dances. Then everyone would get up, dust themselves off, re-start the music, and wander around some more.
Later, a few of us began kicking around ideas for holding a LARP at the next Tekkoshocon. But I get ahead of myself.
Eventually, they began to really have fun with the phenomenon, breaking out a few other favourites and dancing along.
The evolving situation was taken care of around noon that day, when a number of us found ourselves standing around the door to the security office feeling as if we'd just gone to a post-softball game fistfight only to discover an alien war machine poised and ready to devour a city standing before us. Thankfully, nothing came of it (for us, anyway), and the situation was resolved.
Most of that day was wandering around doing security-type stuff, like looking for lost people and generally keeping an eye on things. The con ran smoothly, and on that I can't say much more. The days were long and there was a lot that had to be done, but in the end everything went smoothly. That afternoon I ran up to my room to change into the second costume, Sumeragi Subaru from Tokyo Babylon, a costume which I've perfected in the months since I first wore it. I ran around doing more security-type stuff to prepare for the cosplay, the single event that draws even more people than.. well.. the rest of the con combined. By 1700 EDT there were already two groups camped out on the floor outside of main events (we told them that they could hang out as much as they wanted but not to make s'mores because they'd set off the sprinkler system, which would make the Expo Mart angry), and all hands were on deck to patrol the con to make sure that no one tried to sneak into rehearsal and ruin the surprise or cause any other trouble. Presently, the group of people grew and grew, until it stretched around the front of the Expo Mart. Many decks of playing cards were produced and games were played to kill time. A young man who was dressed as the Laughing Man from Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex kept us all entertained by dancing (quite well), which gave everyone something to admire (the man can cut a rug, let me tell you). Con staff sent some folks around to sell Bawls to the captive audience, and made a killing doing so.
I missed cosplay again due to security duty. Specifically, I had to take a shift in the office making sure that no one was doing anything heinous, checking weapons, and stuff like that. I'll probably do what I did for last year, and buy the DVD of the whole cosplay from Deathcom, who Tekkoshocon employs to record and distribute the cosplay competition. I took the time in the office to order pizza again from Monroeville's Unique Pizza, which has excellent pizza for only a little more of what you'd expect for delivery pizza in the area - they're well worth the price, let me tell you. Thankfully, nothing happened until the end, when we were called upon for crowd control duty once again. Thankfully, not much was required here - everyone left peacefully and went about their business. This left an hour or so before the Piano Squall concert.
If you've never heard of Piano Squall, his name is Michael, and he's a cosplayer who dresses as Squall from Final Fantasy VIII and is also an accomplished pianist, specialising in anime and video game themes. He's well known on the convention circuit, and very friendly and approachable, as I discovered the next day. Things were running a little late then, so we had to get Piano Squall set up and then run a number of flats of hardware down to the other end of the building to set up for the dance, which was to begin at 2300 EDT. Of course, I took the opportunity to run upstairs and change my clothes again, this time into my leather suit and trench coat to keep in theme with this year's Tekkoshocon, "The Matrix".
It should be noted that this theme was all but absent from the convention itself, save for the programme and convention badges, which were partially written in l337. Still, I've been looking for an excuse to wear my leather around for a while, and so I dressed in leather pants, shirt (thanks, Dataline!), boots, blazer, and trench coat, which was conservatively estiamted as one-half a couch in surface area. This failed to impress anyone.
However, I knew that I had a limited amount of time to wear my New Wave stuff in because I had no desire to repeat the incident at HOPE 2000, which involved latex rubber clothing and heatstroke. Still, I made the best of it before I had to change once again before the dance, into flares and Tekkoshocon t-shirt. At the same time the dance began, I was called into service to card people for the Yaoi 101/Hentai A-Go-Go panels, because PA state law demands folks age 18 or older for adult material.
I find this slightly disturbing in light of what I saw from the signers just before cosplay began. Signers appear to be a relatively new phenomenon, in which con-goers find a cozy corner to curl up in with several to several dozen close or new friends and hold up signs to everyone who passes by, not unlike a litter of puppies begging for affection and chewie toys. The signs range from the benign ("Glomps given freely") to the odd ("Bishie neko - will crossplay for glomps") to the downright worrysome ("Looking for slave; 15 y.o, excellent domme").
....the hell?! A 15 year old kid looking for a sub???
Anyway, every time someone would walk by, they'd creep a little closer to the part of the hallway where people were supposed to walk. Then a bit closer. Then a bit closer. Until we finally had to empty out the security office to get Evil Minion Overlord (tm) Dave to flush 'em all out and destroy their signs. Can we say 'liability', boys and girls?
The dance seemed to be a mix of remixes of newer anime theme songs, some j-pop, some DDR tracks, and a lot of very, very new techno (mostly real techno without a lot of trance). I've been out of the scene for a very long time, so mostly I kept out of the way and enjoyed myself. I even managed to dance a bit, just to keep the ol' legs in shape. I had to take care of something that came up during the dance, though, which meant leaving until it was time to lock the place down. After that, I helped some stranded folks find a way home after their car broke down. As it turns out, the guy I found who had a car was one of the folks I was playing Illuminati with at the last Tekkoshocon; I tried to find him after the con was over to give him a t-shirt but wasn't able to during all the ruckus. I finally returned to my room and crashed around 0300 EDT.
The next morning, I woke up around 1100 EST and decided to take it easy after the night before. I leisurely moved my stuff down to my car with help from the bellhop, checked out, paid my bill, and then wandered around the con some more being official, wondering the whole time what the hell happened to the stuff I'd put in my room on Friday - all of it's missing. The nearest thing I can think of is that either room service took it for some reason, or someone got into my room and walked off with it. I've pretty angry about this, though there isn't much I can actually do aside from lodging a complaint with hotel management to see what they can do about it. A lot of Sunday was spent making sure that everything was ship shape and running smoothly. I helped with some teardown at the end and some setting up of the art show and closing ceremonies before that. There really isn't much to write about that, save trying to track down some folks who are in charge of departments was painfully annoying, my FRS radio is shot and barely transmits anymore, and I wish I'd bid on something at the art show that was really beautiful. Unfortunately, duty called.
I did, however, get to meet Piano Squall that day, and bought a t-shirt and poster (the latter which he autographed, along with a programme that I dug out of a pile). I also managed to buttonhole Grey Ayres and get his autograph (and swap a debatably poor story for the gutbusters he told early on Saturday; it's only fair).
Rather than stick around for the staff dinner Sunday night, which could easily have run until 2200 EDT or later, I headed home by way of the Chinese smorgasbord on the way along with Ellen, Justin, and the rest of the FF7 crew to shoot the bull, descend upon the unsuspecting smorg like a plague of locusts, and geek out. I hadn't had any real food since the night before, so I was ravenous, and plowed through two plates of food before coming up for air.
When all of it was said and done, we parted ways and returned to our respective homes, with contact information in hand. I sort of feel bad about not going to the staff dinner but I was worried that we'd be there far too late and I wanted a bit more control over when I could go to bed Sunday night, to catch up on rest that I really needed for the dentist's appointment today, as well as stuff going on at work...
Your word of the day: Conservative
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a guide for anonymous blogging, which everyone out there should at least examine briefly. It's not technical and has a lot of useful information that just might save your job.
You have to worry when wanting to forbid capital punishment for juveniles is considered grounds for impeachment, as are pushing for taking international political norms into account for politics and wanting to strike down an anti-sodomy law. Ladies and gentleman, the cause of this uproar is Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Folks you'd think would turn the other cheek are saying, "No man, no problem," when they talk about Supreme Court Justice Kennedy.
This country scares me.
Perhaps there's hope in the Unitarian Jyhad.
Incidentally, they call me Sister Boot Knife of the Short Path. What do they call you?
2030 EDT: I've returned to my Garden to rest.
My journey has been long and hard, and I've slept very, very little in the past three days. I've been from one end of the building to the other and back again, and earned a new name to add to my repertiore, "The Yellow Streak." I've been interviewed for a high school paper and recognised, much to my brief mortification. I've met and laughed with a number of demi-celebrities, from Pocky, who is a legend on the convention circuit, to Grey Ayres, who is possibly the most notorious voice actor in the continent. I nearly repeated a certain incident at HOPE, thankfully to no bad end. I even got a few comments about the sheer number of costume changes I pulled off in a single day (four), much to the consternation of a few people.
I got my roadwork in and I've abused my body horribly, far more than I really should have. I have fangirls, much to my surprise. And, as things are wont to happen to me, I had a brush with the strange that left me dazed, disoriented, and, for a change, pissed right the hell off.
I've had a great time. I'll write about Tekkoshocon tomorrow, as the opportunity comes.
Come to Tekkoshocon 2005!
The Lord Shaper is working overtime on the anxiety dreams lately, of this I am fairly certain. They're spreading like wildfire among my friends lately, and early this morning I had my own. I can only remember fragments of the last part of it but it involved being stuck in Chicago, Illinois with only six hours to get back to Pittsburgh in time for work for something very important, and only being able to drive back there. I would never logically have made it in time. By the time I woke myself up I'd lost most of the dream, perhaps mercifully, and jumpstarted my brain, if only to sweep the remnants of the dream from my mind.
Your word of the day, boys and girls, is drama, often synonymous with the word bullshit.
It's come out that the legal counsel on retainer to US Senator Mel Martinez of Florida wrote a memo that's been making its rounds which stated that the Republican party could make out big by taking advantage of the Terri Schaivo debacle. I'll leave it up to the reader to look at the information out there (and don't tell me that you can't find any, it was the only thing on the news for a solid two weeks, for Kibo's sake) and decide if they did.
With that in mind, let me just take a moment to remind you that information has a way of getting out.
Remember, if it's written down in some form, it can get out. Then again, just
talking about it
Even the Department of Homeland Security is concerned about the privacy of identifying information, so much so that they've hired Paul Rosenzweig to serve as the head of their privacy board. In case your long term memory's deleted prior references to this gentleman, he was head of the (hopefully) now-defunct Total Information Awareness programme two years ago. Whether or not this guy really cares about or knows anything about privacy remains to be seen, and privacy and civil rights advocates are already burning up the trunk lines with phone calls and e-mails of protest. First the head of the Claria Corporation (famous for everyone's favourite spyware Gator) was nominated for a position, and now this. If this is their idea of homeland security, I'm afraid to see who they're going to hire to guard the borders...
The state of Kansas has become the seventeenth in the country to amend their state constitution to redefine the word 'marriage'. The amendment passed by better than a 2-1 margin in the polls. This amendment not only makes same-sex marriage impossible but it also has the potential to affect legal powers of attorney, custody of children, coverage by health benefits, and adoption procedures.
Ever get the feeling that somebody really didn't like you?
Jonathan Schwartz, president of Sun Microsystems, went on the record with an attack on the GNU Public License, which governs legal rights for an enormous amount of opensource software. Schwartz did the usual song and dance about not being able to use GPL'd software in enterprise products, which isn't strictly true: You can't link GPL'd software into your products, as you would with libraries, but you can use GPL'd software to underlie your app, as a Linux distribution would. To clarify a bit, you can compile your app against GNU LibC, but what would make your app GPL. However, if you were to use a utility like GNU awk below your app to do stuff during installation (for the sake of argument; awk is a user utility used for writing pattern scanners) that does not make your app GPL'd. The relevant frequently asked question may be read here at the Free Software Foundation's website. The exact wording used is "at arm's length"in the GPL FAQ. If you can reasonably separate GPL and non-GPL code without breaking everything (for example, there are a number of implementations of awk out there, so you don't actually have to rely upon GNU awk), the license doesn't jump over. Schwartz also mentioned the perils of developing countries opening their source code, stating that it would place them at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. What he didn't say was that first and second world countries doing the same thing levelled the playing field by doing so. It is also ironic that Sun Microsystems has been crowing about using the GNOME Desktop environment in later versions of Solaris; GNOME is open source software, presided over by the GNU Project.
Cellular manipulation, ho! A group of scientists in Korea have figured out how to artificially age human cancer cells, causing them to enter their death-phase. This is important because cancer cells never die, they just replicate out of control. They've done this by installing a gene called MKRN1 in them, which somehow causes the enzyme telomerase to stop functioning in them. Cells can only replicate a set number of times, controlled by structures at the ends of chromosomes called telomeres. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get a little bit shorter. When the telomeres are gone, the cell doesn't divide anymore and dies instead. Cancer cells have an enzyme called telomerase in them that keeps the telomeres from shortening, which means that the cells effectively have no checks upon their lifespans. Not only can this research possibly lead to a cure (or at least an effective treatment for cancer) but it could also lead to advances in the field of life extension, by allowing the development of a treatment that allows for the precise control of telomerase, meaning that cells could be coaxed to replicate longer than they otherwise could without becoming cancerous. The thing that bothers me, however, is that the team's research into the functioning of gene MKRN1 has not been published; they're sitting on it. Hence, no peer review. This could easily be jetwash; it's happened before.
If you've been following the saga of blogging in San Francisco, you'll be interested to know that they've decided to take a more laid back approch to it after a firestorm on the Net. The proposed law has been split into two parts, one which does not specifically reference the Net and one which states that only paid references on the Net must carry a disclaimer. As Declan McCullagh astutely points out, we don't know exactly what the original bill said, nor do we know how the proposed law will turn out after it's been kicked around in the legislature for a while.
Microsoft reports that Service Pack 2 for XP is unpopular with businesses. Well.. yeah. Have you seen the list of things it breaks? Or the list of applications that lose functionality, sometimes critically so? No IT folk in their right minds would install it under these circumstances!
On the prosthetics front, researchers at Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, Maryland are working on a prosthetic eye to cure some forms of blindness (not those related to brain damage). Their design involves implanting a microchip at the back of the eye which is used to interface a tiny video camera to the user's brain, built into the frames of a pair of glasses. The design was unveiled at a confrence in London on Monday; human trials will, if all goes well, take place within a year's time. While the resolution of the prosthetic eye will be less than that of an organic eye, it would still hopefully be good enough to allow for day-to-day living to go more smoothly.
In case you're curious about some of the logistics of this procedure, may I direct you to the work of Professor Stephen Warwick, which I wrote about some time ago.
Hunter S. Thompson will get his final wish sometime in August of 2005 - his ashes will be fired from a cannon constructed on his property. A 53 foot high monument depicting his insignia, an upraised fist, is being designed to incorporate a functional cannon, which will be loaded with the late author's ashes and fired from atop a 100 foot high pedestal during a public festival commemorating Thompson's wild, thought-provoking life. Love him or hate him, it's going be a shot heard 'round the world.
I wish I could attend that. Maybe I'll be able to. It's too soon to tell.
Ryan Gravlin posted to the focus-ms mailing list at Securityfocus a list of new features installed by Server 2003 Service Pack 1, which will be of interest to sysadmins planning a migration path in the near to mid future. Among the new features are turning off client services (such as the DHCP and WINS clients), setting up system auditing with a default configuration (it's normally disabled), and setting up IIS to not allow any unauthenticated users to alter files by default. If you read the rest of the thread, however, a lot of people are having a hell of a time after installing SP1; the most common problem encountered is the server refusing to come back up after a reboot, necessitating a complete rebuild. For production machines, this is probably the worst consequence you can imagine, up there with the hardware catching fire. Moreover, this happens not only on machines that have been in operation for a while, but on newly constructed Server 2003 systems as well (i.e., with no alterations made to them). It doesn't sound like a good idea at this time.
This is slightly older news, but researchers at the Schepens Eye Research
Institute of Boston, Massachusetts published last month that
Heads-up for fans of Hagane no Reinkinjutsushi: Not only has Viz licensed the manga (due for release on 3 May 2005) but they've also licensed the novels (due for release in October of 2005) and the art book (due in November of 2005).
If it's the artbook I've seen making its rounds on the BitTorrent trackers, it isn't much to write home about.
Remember that DNS cache poisoning attack I mentioned a few days ago? There's a comprehensive writeup of the whole mess available at the Internet Storm Center. It's on the technical side but it does explain why it's being done and who is and is not vulnerable in pretty clear language.
As touching as this is, why does it sound like a scene from an action movie?
If you've ever wanted a way to compare the search results from both Yahoo and Google on a particular topic, check out Yagoohoogle.
In response to the large number of net.users who either routinely erase the cookie cache of thier web browsers or who pick and choose what domains may be allowed to set cookies in their caches, a company called United Virtualities has developed a method called PIE (Persistent Identification Element) which un-deletes cookies (no word on whether or not it'll force the creation of cookies if you don't let any be set) without the user knowing it. The PIE technology uses Macromedia's Flash extensions for implementation, and is designed to be difficult to disable or uninstall. Thankfully, Macromedia has published instructions for configuring the Flash plugin to disable the PIE modules. The Flash applets on that page directly configure the Flash plugin on your machine. Read the instructions carefully! To do so, go to the "Global Storage Settings Panel" page and set the amount of disk space that sites you haven't visited yet can use to store content on your hard drive to "None". Why should a website that you haven't even visited want to store something on your machine? Also, go to the "Global Security Settings Panel" and change the setting to "Always ask"; generally speaking, website B should not have access to anything that website A sets on your machine, unless website B is part of website A (which the Flash plugin is hopefully smart enough to detect). The changes appear to take effect immediately, and permanantly.
Your word of the day: discriminate
The Delocator - Plug in your zipcode and find the nearest coffee shops that aren't Starbucks. After playing around with it for a while, I've noticed that it doesn't do an intelligent lookup of locations because it does a numerical comparison of the zipcode you give it with other zipcodes in its database. The thing is, zipcodes aren't necessarily close together if they're numerically close - 15090 and 15091 are probaby not right next to one another, geographically speaking. Still, it's a start.
Just when you thought the media fiascos were over, along comes something that most news programmes won't touch with thirty feet of co-ax cable: The hearings to determine how much of the USA PATRIOT Act will be renewed. The way things stand now, about half of the provisions made in the controversial law will expire on 31 December 2005. Constitutionalists and privacy advocates all over the US have been up in arms over the changes made to US law by the PATRIOT Act since the get-go; a few states have even gone so far as to refuse to implement them, stating that the changes to federal law were inherently unconstitutional. Five sections of the PATRIOT Act, which specifically deal with electronic communications, are among those in the sunset expiry list, all of which have to do with clandestine monitoring of communications and the execution of classified court orders.
A couple of days ago I wrote about writing to the FBI to request a copy of my dossier. Yesterday I recieved the registered mail receipt from the office in Washington, DC. It's interesting that the office one state away recieved and responded to the reception of the letter faster than the one across town.
| You scored as Existentialism. Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.
Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.
It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.
More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...
What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com
The Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 was introduced on 3 March 2005. I strongly suggest that you take the time out to review what it says. In part, "the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review... any matter.. concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."
I've paraphrased it greatly. Click on that link and read the text of this alteration to Title 28, Chapter 81 of the United States Code. The whole bill is short, sweet, and to the point. Then I want you to start researching the word theocracy.
Stop and consider this for a minute, if you will. What would you do if you were pulled over by a police officer, and instead of just writing you a ticket he pulled you out of your car and kicked the stuffing out of you? Or if you were thrown out of the hospital before you could be treated; during the court case, you were told that it was perfectly legal for the hospital to refuse to treat you?
You'd be going bananas, wouldn't you?
What if the judge you went before told you flat out, "God says that I can't rule for you, Reader," and there was absolutely nothing you could do about it?
That's what this bill would allow.
I do happen to dislike Brittney Spears, come to think of it...
It's T-two days and change until Tekkoshocon, and I'm already fussing over my costume. I know it's egotistical of me, but I worked hard on it, and I really wanted to do it right. After a lot of time and work, I think that I didn't make the right jacket. The pattern I used had two variant jackets and two variant styles of pants, and I picked the shorter of the jackets and the longer of the pants, thinking that they would complement my unusually shaped frame. I had to alter the pants quite a bit to make them fit properly, because they were too large; I'll have to throw a few sets of stitches around the waist to tighten it a bit more, because the waistband is still on the loose side. The jacket, on the other hand.. I think I made the wrong choice. I should have gone with the longer jacket, which actually would have reached my hips. After digging out more reference images and finding a few cosplay pictures of others in my library (which I really need to clean out), it really should have been longer. Theoretically, I could lengthen it, but I don't have time, and I really don't want to spend time at Tekko slaving over a sewing machine in a hurry. I guess I'll have to deal with it as best I can, and leave the alterations or a do-over for afterward, for version 2.0.
After a lot of fiddling I managed to get the wig on properly. I kept pushing it too far forward, which covered my eyes with the bangs. After not messing around with it much but just letting it fall, it went into place the way it was supposed to. It needs a little shaping in the front, but that can be done at Tekko.
On the whole, I'm concerned with the net effect of the costume. Part of it work, and parts of it don't. I'm really not sure how it's going to work out. I wouldn't mind getting a second, practised opinion of how it works out before the con, so I can make last minute adjustments if I need to.
Maybe some of it is familiarity. I know what my face and body are supposed to look like, and no matter what tricks I use to change that, I can still see my own face under the costume and the makeup.
I can't make myself forget. Maybe that's what's throwing me, I'm shooting to look like someone very unlike myself, and some part of me keeps searching for and amplifying the bits and pieces that it's used to seeing. If I can just get that part out of the way maybe I'll pull it off.
We miss you, Terrence. See you again, at the end of Time.
This weekend was spent running around like mad trying to get stuff done before Tekkoshocon, coming up this weekend (8-10 April 2005). Work for the past week has been spent doing sysadmin type stuff (don't tell me you didn't see that coming) because we've had investors coming into the office just about every day for a due diligence audit of our daily procedures. This, as you can imagine, is far from fun, and requires writing a lot of documentation that was originally scheduled for later this year. Even though much of this is 'common sense' to an experienced admin, due diligence states that you still have to have it written down for review and improvement, if only to serve as a handbook of operations for everyone else in case the admin goes on vacation or winds up in the hospital or something like that.
This is, unfortunately, a common enough occurrance that it must be planned for. Stress doesn't help the body's regenerative capabilities any.
I've also been working with Cosplay Kate on her laptop, which decided to go off the deep end and crap out after a web meme posted by someone infected her machine with no fewer than eleven distinct pieces of spyware, including the infamous IBIS Toolbar, which specifically terminates anti-spyware software, and at least one which trashed Norton Antivirus, which allowed the system to be hit by a worm of some kind (I couldn't quite tell, given the damage to the Windows Registry). I managed to rescue the data from her laptop and burn it to a pair of DVD-ROM discs, but unfortunately when Kate tried to reinstall Windows XP, the bad sectors that had been quietly accumulating on the drive decided to attack all at once.
Rather than fight with everything, Kate's decided to upgrade.
I've also been working like mad on my movie-Utena costume for Tekkoshocon. I've finished the tailoring and the alteration of the pants (which were generously cut in the pattern), as well as sewing the navy blue stripes onto everything. I spent Friday night doing some touch-up sewing to flatten the edges of the trip properly and used a special fabric glue to set the knots in the thread on the inside as well as sealing the edges, which tend to fray if you aren't paying attention. Yesterday afternoon I gave the costume a good pressing with an iron and a real ironing board, and cast the collar pips before dinner. After I got back to the Garden, I sanded the pips with three grades of craft sandpaper (just like I did with the Deep One embryo I made for Pegritz a few years ago), applied a few coats of gold enamel, and then a double coat of transparent varnish once that dried. I'll attach the pin posts tonight. The only thing left to do is style the wig (the bangs need cut so that I can actually see while wearing it) and practise moving around in it.
The mornings were spent running around, going food shopping and sitting at the local H&R Block office having my taxes done. Because I moved last year, that complicated things a little bit, so I couldn't just drop off my forms and have the guys there crunch the necessary numbers. I wasn't able to get my laptop written off as a business expense, unfortunately, because I didn't break the $4.5kus barrier on business expenses. When all was said and done, I got $11us back from the IRS and another $60us back from the state of Pennsylvania.. but then had to pay $280us to Shaler and another $80us to the city of Pittsburgh for income tax, which basically sucked my tax return dry and threw it into the trash. Bleh.
The Arkoon Security Team has discovered a security vulnerability the EXT2 filesystem of Linux. The vulnerability is an information leak, to be precise - information winds up in the filesystem's data structures on disk that probably shouldn't go there. Whenever a user creates a directory, a block of memory is pulled from system RAM and a few bytes are altered to set up the directory; nothing else in that block is initialised, so whatever the contents of that memory block were originally can still be picked off of disk (modulo the first few bytes, which are part of the filesystem). What does this mean to you? Bits and pieces of whatever you happened to be doing can wind up on disk accidentally, from parts of web pages you were looking at to chunks of e-mail that you were writing. The researchers have gone off and examined EXT2 images (files that contain EXT2 filesystems, distributed for the purpose of duplicating disks, like boot floppies) on the Net, and found data that shouldn't really be there. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that some organisations and people back up their data by dumping images of their EXT2 filesystems to other storage media, which could be considered a gross violation of certain information security laws. This bug is found in implementations of the EXT2 filesystem in versions 2.4.0-2.4.29 and 2.6.0-220.127.116.11 of the Linux kernel.
The city of San Francisco, California is trying to decide if it should require webloggers to register with an ethics commission and to report their financial gains from the practise of weblogging. In a proposed law which sounds very much like the federal law that would have considered webloggers to be political contributors on a smaller scale, the draft law states that weblogs that mention local candidates that recieve more than 500 hits per month will subject the webloggers to a registration fee as well as periodic auditing of web server traffic.
Not too long ago I posted a link to an article that discussed the laws that require telephone companies to offer DSL without dial tone, which is steadily becoming a more common option for people who are more concerned with Net-realted bandwidth than talking on the phone. Last Friday the FCC stated that they cannot force telecomm companies to offer so-called naked DSL, after a 3-2 vote. This could put a lot of smaller companies (like Speakeasy on the ropes, because they have a hand in the naked DSL market.
Keep an eye on this one.
In nine states, laws have been passed that prevent the passage of laws regulating or restricting the sale of seeds of genetically modified plants. Yep - it's now illegal in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, Idaho, and West Virginia to pass laws that place limits on the sale of gengineered seeds and plants. If you look at the texts of those laws, they're all almost the same, which suggests that the same lawyer wrote the bill and submitted it in all of these states (and more are sure to come) more or less simultaneously. Does this strike anyone else as being a slightly odd procedure?
This image says it all. (note: I'm pretty sure this is work safe)
The second trailer for the Hagane no Reinkinjutsushi movie, called The Conqueror of Shambala, has been fansubbed and uploaded. You can snag it out of the Torrent here: http://jesse.hostchange.com/tracker/download.php/37/%5BYeySUBs%5D_HAGAREN_THE_MOVIE_-_Trailer_2_%5BAF02E3DC%5D.avi.torrent
You knew this was coming - a gang of car thieves in Malaysia circumvented the fingerprint lock on a man's vehicle by amputating his index finger to activate the fingerprint reader.
No shit, Skolnick.
I forgot - Lulu's Noodle Shop in Oakland (Pittsburgh, PA) uses MSG in their food.
I'm going to take the remainder of a bottle of Motrin and hope I get an hour of sleep or two tonight.
Now, what day is it supposed to be, again..?
Not a joke: If you check out the Internet Storm Center there are reports of a rogue DNS Out There poisoning DNS caches all over the Net by pretending to be authoritative for every domain in the .com top-level domain. If you accidentally use this server to resolve a .com address, it'll claim that it is, in fact, that address, and all traffic will be redirected to a search page. The IP address of this server is 18.104.22.168, and it's located in the network of Hanaro Telecom, Incorporated in Seoul, South Korea. The things people will do for clicks...
Hopefully not a joke: Microsoft, in a bid to slap some phishers down, has filed 117 'John Doe' lawsuits against the maintainers of known phishing websites. If you've never seen one of these before, these websites are clones of the sites of major financial or corporate companies, like Citibank, eBay, and PayPal, and attempt to trick unsuspecting users (with, it has been determined, nearly a 90% success rate) into giving them the user's login credentials for those sites as well as enough personal information for the proprietors to take out credit cards and possibly loans and other bank accounts in the users' names. In short, identity theft. The software titan is hoping to use the lawsuits as leverage to subpoena data about the owners of the sites from the hosting companies they're based out of so they can then bring actual, directed suits against them. For once, I have to applaud their actions. Phishing is a serious problem on the Net these days, and people's lives are being utterly ruined by a single mistake. I really hope that they can put a dent in the problem.
Not a joke: It happened sooner than I'd been lead to believe - Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003 was released yesterday. A list of the new features is available here as a page of links to other knowledge base pages... it's a bit more spread out than I like, but at least you can check out the release notes without having to install it first.
Not a joke: However, I think they did screw up pretty thoroughly when they granted clemency to Jeffrey Lee Parson, who wrote the first version of the Blaster worm. Parson now has to do 225 hours of community service instead of paying $500kus in fines. Bullshit. Blaster is to this day costing thousands of US dollars and hundreds of techie-hours of work in cleanup. It's still out there. Folks still won't install the patch and are still getting hit by Blaster and its variants. This guy needs smacked down and hard for the havoc he's wreaked.
Vaguely work safe: Introducing iCopulate. Hot iPod-on-iPod action! Transfer .mp3's from one unit to another without having to go through a computer! Get your gawk on!
This takes me back to the days of smart bars at raves... I guess it's only natural that the coders at Google would find a way to make the Net more accessible to the human race by making them smarter in realtime. I find their list of pharmochemicals brought back from the Bolivian rain forests highly amusing, and I think I'll work that into a Mage game some time in the future.
Mental note: Install PHP from source and not from Slackware package. Sorry, everyone.
Not a joke: Pat Buchanon got slimed. Ranch salad dressing bukkake!
| pretty good |
You scored 18 American Logic Points!
|Wow, you actually look around every once in a while. Congratulations.|
| My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender: |
|Link: The American logic Test written by You4got2Evolve on Ok Cupid|
Since bloody when does New Line Cinema own the rights to the concept of 'elves'???
What is this, the first operation in the Middle East back in the 1990's? Flaws in US military intelligence are still said to be too common, resulting in bad decisions and poor planning. George W. Bush was quoted as saying that the hits the US has taken to its international credibility and respect would "take years to undo." I guess that's what happens when you claim that another country has weapons that can destroy entire cities even when your advisors are telling you that they probably don't, and you continue to say that even after inspectors not hired by your country tell the whole world that there aren't any over there.
Terri Schaivo, requisat en pace.
At long last, after the release of the 64-bit x86 platform Microsoft will ship 64-bit Windows to manufacturers by the end of April. Around the same time, Service Pack 1 will be released for Server 2003, which is meant to pave the way for the 64-bit platform. Almost since the debut of the 64-bit cores, 64-bit versions of several distributions of Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and even the GNU HURD have been available.
Yesterday, I wrote about signing the petition to a number of pharmacy chains that would force their pharmacists to fill prescriptions regardless of their religious or moral objections. Amazingly, I recieved a response from Wal-Mart, which said little of anything, only that they refuse to stock emergency contraceptives and that their pharmacists may stick to their guns on this. Not that they actually care about the reasons that this is bad, not that they'll look into it, not that their legal team knows thing one about this, only that this is how they see it and tough noogies.
Now it's time to tell them by not patronising them. Express your opinions with your dollars.
William Kristol, founder of a super-conservative think tank discovered that it was a good day to pie.
United States military analysts have stated that the draft may have to be reinstated if US forces aren't pulled out of Iraq because they can't meet current requirements for manpower. By the middle of 2006, they say, they won't be able to maintain an effective military presence in Iraq because enlistments are at an all-time low (maybe it's the lack of faith and trust in this operation and regeime). Army Secretary Francis Harvey and George W. Bush have both gone on the record as stating that there were no plans to reinstate the draft, but going on the record doesn't necessarily mean that you're telling the truth anymore.
Also on the military side of things, the Minuteman Project of Arizona has put out a cattle call for armed volunteers to patrol the Mexican border to prevent people from sneaking into the US. Folks with their heads screwed on straight are saying that this is an invitation to racists who wouldn't mind a chance to shoot at their least favourite parts of the human race.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, word got out that the US federal government has been quietly funding the production and distribution of news stories that paint USFedGov and its actions in a light that makes the public more likely to accept and back them - most people call this propaganda, though that's such a dirty word these days... George Bush stated that this practise was legal, and that there were no plans to stop doing so after a number of watchdog groups filed complaints with the FCC, stating that this practise is news fraud. No matter how you cut it, writing news stories that hide the truth and decieve people as to what exactly is going on is lying to people. It makes the government less accountable to the people because the people will no longer have the information necessary to make up their own minds about what is going on. The government is supposed to act upon the will of the people through the representatives elected by the people, and this is no longer the case.
Pennsylvania representative Jeff Habay has been charged with, among other things, a felony charge of "possessing or using a facsimile weapon of mass destruction" (which could be anything from a highway flare to cornstarch) because he reported recieving a letter that contained a white powder at home, which made everyone assume that it was anthrax. Later analysis showed that this powder was harmles. The interesting thing is that Habay claimed that the letter was sent by one George Radich, one of his consituents in western Pennsylvania who did indeed mail Habay a letter on the up and up (it was signed and had his proper mailing address on it); Mr. Radich called for an audit of Habay's PAC (political action committee), something that throws a monkey wrench into Habay's operations because he's already up on ethics charges of using Pennsylvania state money and time to campaign, as well as having his personal staff campaign for him, which is a conflict of interests. Habay is also charged with having his staff run background checks on the families of competing candidates and people who signed the petition calling for his audit. He also is said to have directed his staff to run background checks on Radich and his family members and to smear Radich by flyering the Pittsburgh area.
I guess writing to your representative can get you in hot water. Keep copies of everything you send and keep everything you do on the up and up and publically accessible.. gods know that folks like Habay don't. Trying to get through to him was never easy (he was a representative in the area I used to live in).
I think it's interesting that this mess was published in the UK, because you certainly won't hear about it in the North Hills News Record, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. You probably won't hear about it in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
Residents of Connecticut and New Jersey take note: DHS is planning terrorism drills to test their procedures next week!
The US military has admitted that it took out two Arabic journalists who were working for the satellite channel al-Arabiya. At first, they said that it was unlikely that the bullets they'd fired at the checkpoint had killed the two.
This is just sick: Ice, Ice Baby translated into C++.
Ordinarily, I don't write about net.petitions here, because most of them really don't do any good, but I think this is important enough to give it a try. As I've mentioned a few times in the past, a growing number of doctors and pharmacists are refusing to prescribe or fill prescriptions for birth control, among other drugs on "moral, ethical, or religious grounds". Nevermind the fact that many of these drugs can be used for more than pregnancy prevention, such as treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome, unusually bad cases of acne (no, I'm not making that up; I didn't know, either), and to smooth the time of menopause. But, of course, those don't seem to matter.. the petition is to the larger pharmacy chains, such as CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreen's, and Wal-Mart to tell them to stop playing games with the health of women and fill their prescriptions. It might also be worth calling the customer service lines of these chains to give them a (polite, please - you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar) piece of your mind.
It's not a bullet between the eyes, but I'll take it: Famous spammer Scott Richter has declared bankruptcy after being sued by Microsoft, of all companies. Legal fees have driven Richter's company, OptInRealBig.com, into chapter eleven bankrupty protection.
In case anyone's curious about my rabid hatred of spammers, I've worked as an e-mail server admin in the past (and still do, sometimes). E-mail is the life's blood of corporate life, these days; people check their mail from just about everywhere you can imagine because you never know when someone's going to ask a question or want to further a deal at any time. It sounds ludicrous, and in a way it is. There really aren't any 9-5 jobs anymore, not if you count being on call, studying for certifications, reading up on new technologies (and teaching yourself how to use them because there isn't time at work), reading memos (again, because there isn't enough time at the office), and working on stuff from home.. again, because there just isn't enough time during the 'traditional' workday. So many people feel that they have to be connected all the time, and e-mail is their primary means of communication. If that means of communication is interrupted for even an hour, people panic. Entire companies quake in fear.
An hour can make the difference between making the company a few million $CURRENCY or losing your job because an e-mail didn't arrive/depart on time. An hour is a long time to have no contact with anyone because the Exchange server is down (nevermind the fact that there are people in your office, people with physical bodies that you can talk to, or that there is a cellular phone or a desk phone to pick up and use). An entire company can go bankrupt because a single e-mail did not get through.
A single spammer can send enough junkmail to bring an e-mail server to its knees. Filling an incoming mail queue with ten or fifteen thousand messages in the span of six hours (that's the worst I've personally seen) can force out one hundred real messages, which can cause just this. Or worse, the onslaught of spam can crash a server entirely (Exchange, I'm looking at you, dammit), which means hours of downtime. With all of your users breathing down your neck. And management breathing down your neck. And sometimes you'll get phone calls from business partners and customers asking why e-mail they've sent to your company is bouncing (because the mail server's been hosed by spam). No pressure. No pressure at all.
Put yourself in my position. You're on call 24x7x365. You've got an entire company and several dozen business partners, suppliers, and a few hundred customers who are depending on a turnaround time of an hour for business related e-mail. Some horse's ass on the Net decides that they're going to spam every user account they've been able to glean from your domain, along with a few hundred to a few thousand accounts that don't exist, just to be safe. Your mail server keeps up with the increased traffic for a while, but eventually it runs out of virtual memory or a pointer in the code winds up aimed at a memory location that it really shouldn't, and then it all comes crashing down.
What do you do, hotshot? What. Do. You. Do.
If you've got a strong W/will, you can handle a situation like this once or twice before you start getting angry, no matter how cool you are, no matter how laid back you are. Now do this about once a month for a year. You're going to be pretty honked off. Now have a few close scrapes - maybe the mail store of your Exchange server gets corrupted and you have to rebuild from a backup (you do make backups, don't you???), maybe you lose a disk or two on your array and you have to shut down and replace them, maybe the entire machine locks up and you have to use the big red switch to bring it back. If you're particularly lucky, when the machine comes back up and the filesystem check runs, some of the disk blocks will be set back to 'unused', which means lost e-mail messages or perhaps database corruption.
Do this a few times a year. Be shaken out of bed at 0200 $TIMEZONE a couple of times. Have to stay awake for a few days at a time, so you start hallucinating from sleep deprivation. Then drive home while you're in that state. Think you'll be particularly well disposed toward spammers after that?
The FCC is playing games again, this time with DSL service - they've decided to suspend regulations that force local telcos to offer 'naked' DSL (DSL over lines that don't serve as telephone lines as well). This is a trend that's really caught on among geeks, because they can get DSL service without having to pay for a phone line also (since so many folks use cellular telephones primarily these days). Specifically, the FCC voted 3-2 to suspend these regs in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana, and other states are rumoured to be next on the list. I wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the CALEA-liek VoIP regs they're working on, because many users of naked DSL tend to use VoIP hardware or software instead of POTS (plain old telephone service - no, seriously!) service, and other means of curbing VoIP implementation have failed to date. They're definitely losing money on naked DSL.
This sounds suspiciously like replacing truewords with goodwords: US passports will no longer have RFID chips in them, they will instead contain "contactless chips", "proximity chips", or "contactless integrated circuits". The four letters 'RFID' (radio frequency identification) have many security experts, privacy pundits, and religious folks of all stripes up in arms, and rather than address their concerns, the powers that be would much rather find a way to make people accept them, because nobody would look up how a "proximity chip" works, right? Nevermind the fact that you can get an RFID reader on the open market and dump the contents of the chip in the passport without the bearer knowing any better. And if you can dump the contents of a chip, you can bloody sure make a duplicate with the data you've got. Once again, this isn't going to stop the forgery of passports, people. It's going to make it a little bit easier, in fact.
This is why you should be very, very careful about where you post and how you connect to the site.
Yesterday went far better than I thought it was going to go, although the root canal process isn't finished quite yet. I went back to Dr. Schrenker's office yesterday, where he finally removed the filling (temporary or otherwise) by drilling it away. In a fit of common sense (though maybe not good sense), I opted to undergo this part of the procedure without anaesthetic - the nerve is gone, after all, so there's really nothing that could register pain, aside from the gum tissue and the other teeth. About fifteen minutes of vibration, which wasn't painful at all (save when a chunk of filling material would break away and hit soft tissue), and the filling was completely broken up and flushed away. The hardest part of the procedure was actually getting the matrix, the circular mold that fits around the base of the tooth, fitted, because most of the remaining tooth is actually below the gumline (that's how damaged the tooth was) because that involved pulling the gum apart and forcing the little metal ring down in there.
That sucked, but it wasn't that bad. It kept slipping loose, however, so repositioning it a number of times was necessary. Eventually, though, it did find purchase and remain stable for the rest of the procedure.
The business part of the tooth was built up with a UV-sensitive epoxy resin that approximates the stuff used to repair automobile bodies - it appears to be orange and translucent while liquid, but when exposed to some wavelength of UV light (I haven't seen the tech manual on the unit used there) it swiftly hardens into an off-white plastic. I'll cut to the chase and say that after many molds were taken of my teeth, a temporary crown was made out of acrylic and glued into place while the molds are shipped to a lab for fabrication. The temporary crown is basically an oblong of white acrylic, without any of the usual features that you'd expect of a molar. It feels kind of strange, having a smooth white cube (well, rectangular prism) in your mouth on one side. I'm a little afraid to chew on the left side of my mouth for fear of dislodging it. I'll see if I can get a picture taken some time today (I didn't think it would be this hard to get an image of the inside of your own mouth) for the edification of everyone Out There.
That gum you like is going to come back in style.
I'm getting a little sick of writing about this all the time, but it keeps happening and the number of people who think it doesn't is still frighteningly high: A laptop belonging to the University of California at Berkeley containing the names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers of of 100k alumni, applicants, and grad students was stolen, showing that information security is still sorely lacking in many departments. The laptop was stolen on 11 March 2005, and they're just now obeying California state law by telling everyone about it. I can see why, too: If someone nicks a laptop with sensitive information on it, you don't want to announce right away what was stolen, you want to get measures in place to watch for the abuse of that information. If someone steals a laptop, chances are they're after a quick buck and not the possibility of getting that much sensitive information (at least, I'd hope that's the way most laptop thieves work). You can't count on every deck you see having profitable data stored on it someplace. Unfortunately, this is the second time in six months that UCalB has had an information compromise (the first was when their network was cracked and someone got into research that they were doing for the California Department of Social Services).
Anyone who's up to anything even remotely shady already knows that to protect oneself, you must encrypt the files on your storage media that are incriminating. Anyone who isn't up to anything shady should encrypt their data anyway because too many worms and viruses these days install backdoors, and you really don't want some kid with too much time on his/her hands nosing around in your financial data or personal correspondence (sure, most e-mail is boring but it's still embarassing to find something you wrote on a website someplace). The US government is well aware of these measures, and they can make all the difference between an arrest and a waste of time and resources. The US Secret Service is applying the time-honoured methods of a password cracker (the human kind) and large-scale computing to assist in the evidence collection process. They're using the spare processing power of their desktop machines to guess keys to various encryption algorithms, in an attempt to shorten the amount of time required to gain access to the data of suspects. They are also going through contents of the hard drives they confiscate to search for clues as to what the password might be - names of friends, favourite stories, interests, all things that people tend to draw from when they're coming up with an easy-to-remember password. Don't forget famous dates and birthdays... all of this data goes into the DNA (Distributed Networking Attack) system to be tried as passwords. Data forensics techniques are also used to come up with possible passwords; for example, going through the web browser cache, IRC and IM logs, the slack space on hard drives (the parts of filesystem blocks past the end-of-file marker), and the swap files or partitions of systems are all mined for unique strings (some encryption programmes are more than happy to cache your passphrase, which can be written to disk in the form of a swap page, when you least expect it).
You'd think by now that people would know how to come up with strong passphrases these days. Any good encryption programme will let you use a passphrase of more than eight characters these days. I would suggest generating a key of longer than the 256 bits mentioned in the article (anywhere from 1024 to 4096 bits, more if you've got a powerful machine and your associates don't mind encryption/decryption times up in the multiple minutes). Your passphrase protects the private part of your key; choose a good one. Don't pick just one word, that's what they're breaking with the DNA system. Come up with a full sentence, and for pity's sake don't use one that can be found in a book. If you get raided, they're going to go through your bookshelves to see what you like to read, and try out the ones that stand out. If you can't remember a single sentence (just seven or eight words, plus punctuation!), there are serious problems... if you know more than one language, mix up the languages the words are from. By and large, password choices have gotten better than "love", "sex", "secret", and "god", but not by much.
The Department of Homeland Security is charged with watching out for people and groups that could cause harm to the United States.. but fomr some strange reason, they're not looking out for groups that are armed and pose a direct threat to the country, just the groups that are noisy but don't stockpile weapons. Yep, anti-government groups (militias), white supremacist groups, and even some gangs (which are better armed than the police, in many areas) don't appear on the list of organisations they're watching out for. Nevermind the fact that local law enforcement in several states are after them for... shooting at people and blowing stuff up. Some of these factions have been confirmed to either be planning or preparing to execute plans that the US government loves to call 'terrorist actions'. These range from mailing letters supposedly containing anthrax spores to making and stockpiling cyanide gas bombs, pipe bombs, and heavy machine guns and ammunition.
Priorities, people. Priorities.
And speaking of priorities, a bill was passed by the the House of Representatives in Michigan that allows health care providers to refuse to treat anyone they like on moral, ethical, or religious grounds.
What is this bullshit?! What happened to the Hippocratic Oath, which states that "I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm"??
I honestly can't say that this surprises me; so many falsehoods have been spread about what's going on, I've found it wise to trust little of what I read or hear, and instead dig for harder information, information that can be confirmed or denied with research. The Transportation Security Administration lied about protecting passenger information that it collects. They collect and store information about passengers for unspecified periods of time, presumably for the purpose of data mining to find people who fit the general profile of 'terrorists' inside the US (here's a hint, guys: the folks you're looking for are doing their damndest to appear normal to you guys). They're also strongarming airlines into turning over passenger information to add to their databases. The contracters they're hiring are also doing whatever they like with this customer data, and they don't appear to be paying much attention to how that data's bring protected (does the word 'Choicepoint' ring a bell?); this shows no due diligence on their part whatsoever.
No wonder so many people refuse to fly anymore.
First was the implementation of CALEA, which was a federal law that required all telecommunications providers to alter their networks so that voice traffic could be easily wiretapped (data traffic, such as modem and fax lines may also be monitored, as was done when the MoD was being investigated in the early and mid 1990's). Now, the FCC has voted 5 to 0 to prevent any businesses offering net.telephony from doing so unless they make it possible to transparently monitor such communications. Voice-over-IP services allow users to make regular telephone calls over the Net using software and hardware that plugs right into a data network; because of this, it's possible to transparently encrypt this network traffic, so that no one can listen in. The feds don't like this, and are trying to get themselves some elbow room before they're completely locked out. If this doesn't make you wonder what's going to become of the open source and shareware VoIP systems (hit Google - there's a bunch of them), it's worth at least some consideration. Many of these projects aren't even in the US so they can't really be forced to compromise their security..
Next thing you know, they'll want to put webcams in digital televison sets..
Happy Easter, everyone.
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I can tell you one thing, they're not bringing Easter candy to all the kids in Iran.
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It was announced earlier that the bill that would have brought weblogging under the purvey of political campaign contributions just barely did not pass, saving the butts of a lot of folks In Here. If the bill had passed, websites with political content would have to be regulated under those laws unless they were password protected (i.e., private forums) and had a readership of fewer than five hundred people in a 30 day period. Thankfully, the hue and cry raised by netizens bent the right ears in the US government and the bill didn't make it through. That was a close one.
I got a welcome letter in the mail today from PNC Bank, with whom I do most of my business. It seems that they got everything straightened out with AES, and they've credited my account with the $600us that they mistakenly added to my student loan payment in February. I can rest now - I don't have to worry about my bills making it through without the cheques bouncing anymore. I've put the money away for a rainy day (well, actually for my hotel bill at Tekkoshocon 2005) and gotten on with things.
Today was one of those days that goes slow and lets you take life at your own pace for a change. The office was closed today, so I spent the morning running around taking care of some errands that I've been putting off for a while. In particular, I had to the hit the local notary public and get some letters stamped so that I could request my file from the FBI. I've been considering doing this off and on for the past, oh, eight years or so, but never got around to writing the letters and doing the deed. After my trip to Florida, however, I decided that it woudl be best if I knew what was going on, and produced a pair of letters, one to the FBI home office in Washington, DC, and one to the field office in Pittsburgh. Because you can add a reception receipt for nothing when you send a registered letter (when the letter is recieved and signed for, a postcard stuck to the back gets mailed back to tell you that the letter was in fact recieved), I spent the extra time filling it out, and then went on my way. I'll get a solid response from them in about ten days, and after that we'll see what happens.
Most of this afternoon was spent doing reading of various kinds - finishing the first read of a copy of Reality Is What You Can Get Away With by Robert A. Wilson, reading documentation for work (which is about as dry as burned toast), and generally trying to enjoy the day and relax. I drowsed for part of afternoon (it was only after the fact that I discovered that I'd bought decaf coffee by accident earlier this week). I managed to work that off by working out this afternoon, and really enjoying the extra activity. I also rearranged one of my bookshelves, the two that are packed with binders, to be specific, so that they'd be a bit more stable. After all of that (pant pant) I sat down to watch Adolescence of Utena again to do a character analysis (in particular Utena's poses and gestures). She doesn't seem too hard to pull off, but I will have to spend some time bending my body structure to more closely approximate hers.
I drove to the south side early this evening to see if a rumoured meetup was actually going to come together - of course, it didn't. This is Pittsburgh, after all. After a cup of coffee at the Beehive, I wandered around a little bit to see how things were down there, and explored a used bookstore to see what might have appeared in the few months since I've been there. Aside from nine or ten copies of the Liber Al Vel Legis, not much. A little discouraged, but relieved to save money (due to all of the books I brought back from Florida with me) I walked back to my car (it was an unusually nice night, overcast and dark but not too cold) and drove home by way of the supermarket to get chicken to make dinner tonight. I wasn't able to find any of the organic chicken I usually get and wound up buying a pound and a half of what have to be the plumpest, juciest, most lean chicken breasts that I've ever seen.. which means that they're probably pumped full of more hormones and preservatives than some disgraced baseball players or pro wrestlers I could mention. Only time (and a possible migrane later tonight) will tell.
Annoyance of the night: Web pages that try to set more than two cookies from domains nowhere even close to the one I've just accessed.
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It's another of those days in Pittsburgh today, one where the rain is trying very hard to turn into snow when it grows up but isn't quite there yet, and the sky is the colour of wet concrete, pregnant with water and making everything in the world below look washed out. Everything looks like a photograph that's been sitting in the sun for too long, all bleached and faded. Thankfully there isn't any wind, but the chill in the air is quite enough this morning. It slithers under your fingernails and through your hair like the leftovers from a jello wrestling match, not quite leaving you feeling sticky but cold and sore. You can feel the cold in your joints, where it settles like silt at the bottom of a pond and brings with it lethargy and the notion of holing up in a coffee shop, even a Starbucks, and ignoring the world outside those glassy walls until your watch tells you it's Saturday.
Is it a webcam or is it a Powerbook with the lid taken apart? Who can tell?
(it's a digital image that's been perfectly aligned, incidentally)
Chess master Bobby Fischer is at it again - this time he's gone to Iceland, which now considers him one of its citizens. The US has been after him since 1992 when he flew to Yugoslavia to play Russian chess master Boris Spassky in a rematch (the last time they dueled over the sixty-four squares was in 1972 in Iceland), which contravened US sanctions. For that reason, he flew to Japan and went into hiding to keep from being extradited to the States. Earlier this week, the Icelandic Parliament voted to make Fischer a citizen, which puts the US international legal system in a bind until they figure out how to turn the MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) they have with Iceland to their advantage. It isn't as if they don't have good reason to throw a lot of processing power at this process, either - Fischer had some colourful things to say to the international newswires about the 9/11 attacks, and the current regeime is unhappy, to put it mildly, with being called a bunch of war criminals.
An explosion at an oil refinery in Texas that killed 14 workers and injured another 70 has jacked the price of crude oil up once again to $54us and change, which reverses the $2us fall in the price-per-barrel yesterday, a dip which left many crude future speculators in a cold sweat. The BP plant is the third largest in the United States, and cracks over one-half million barrels of crude oil every day. Interesting, as an ancient curse would have it.
Microsoft watchers are probably aware of the suits in the European Union which forced the cyclopean software company to release a stripped-down version of Windows in the Union due to antimonopoly laws and violations therof. They've done so, but users are complaining all over the place that this version of Windows is badly crippled. Basic Powerpoint functionality (read: multimedia stuff to keep your brain occupied during boring meetings and classes), and probably other stuff the article doesn't talk about doesn't work anymore. Umm.. guys? You wanted a version of Windows that didn't have Media Player installed. The Media Player modules are all through the OS, and are hooked by Office to provide this functionality. You didn't tell Microsoft to keep the eye candy in its own apps functional. Just like if you tried to de-integrate the IE modules, you'd no longer have the basic Windows UI.
And while we're on the topic of Microsoft, one of their patents has come to light in which they've got a patent on some of the basic functionality of IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol. One of the big selling points of IPv6 is the ability for computers so equipped to configure their network stacks without extra software, mening one less thing to malfunction and make the IT staff one step closer to going on a month-long vacation. The thing is, Microsoft didn't disclose to the US Patent Office that there was a whole body of prior art for this metho - by the Internet Engineering Task Force. That right there is grounds to declare a patent unenforcable.
An open letter to GUI application developers:
In windowing environments, you can define where on the screen a given window appears whenever it's trigger event is reached. This includes the screne layer upon which a window appears; viz., above or below already displayed windows. Why is it that some of you feel compelled to display very important message windows (such as "Can I stop this service before continuing?") below at least one other window so that they cannot be seen? This tends to hang the installation process up needlessly, and can sometimes give the illusion that your software has hung.
For Pete's sake, people - message and warning boxes should be visible to the user!
Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree? There is a bill headed for the House of the state of Florida that will make it legal to sue your teachers for telling you things you don't want to hear. The bill is supposed to stamp out "leftist totalitarianism" (whatever the frag that means) in Florida's colleges. Called the Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, it passed committee by an 8-2 margin and will head on to two more committees before hitting the House proper. Representative Dennis Baxley, who promoted the bill, says that college classrooms should be more than "one biased view by the professor, as a dictator controls the classroom." Hey, Baxley - they're college professors. You're not. You don't agree? Get a Ph.D, write a few treatises, and teach your own classes. Let us college students decide what we do and don't agree with, and don't give a bunch of gits who are only in college to drink and party on their parents' money the opportunity to sue the few really good professors into the ground just because they hurt your widdle brains. The law would make it possible for students who think they're targets for "public ridicule" the chance to sue; I guess you could call being caught flat-footed in class or unable to defend your point of view public ridicule if you've a mind to.
This is the biggest gust of jetwash I've ever heard. College is supposed to be a place that challenges you, that introduces you to new ideas and makes you come up with your own points of view as a result. You can't bury your head in the sand if you don't agree, and if you close your mind to any ideas but those you already have, you're going to have a very skewed view of the universe and how things work. It's a very, very dim view of reality, composed of a tiny subset of the things that are out there. You'd really do yourself a disservice if you traded such a broad view of life for such a tiny image.
If you want to do that on your own time, that's fine by me. But don't make it possible to screw all of us who actually want to expand our minds and maybe learn something interesting (if not immediately useful) along the way.
Not too long ago I wrote that I'd sent in my copy of Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence for replacement, because Dreamworks messed up the subtitling so badly. Yesterday afternoon the replacement disk (v4) arrived in the mail, so after dinner I popped it into the DVD player to see if they'd actually fixed things. Dreamworks did an excellent job on revision 4 of the DVD, and it shows. My DVD player had a little trouble with the layer changes on the disk, though my DVD player is pretty old and not the greatest, so keep that in mind. The font for the subtitles is much smaller but just as clear, and they don't take up one third of the screen anymore. The artefacts of closed captioning (like "bell ringing" whenever a bell in the soundtrack rings) are entirely gone, presumably to return if you deliberately activate closed captioning. The video quality and audio quality are the same. If you've got an older release of the disk by all means go to the Sony Dreamworks website and request a new one. It's worth the three weeks of your time.
Personal information compromise ho! A computer at the office of Food Service and Housing of the Chico campus of California State University was cracked in July of 2004 and turned into a dump for pirated data which wasn't discovered until February of 2005. The box in question was also used as a staging point for the compromise of other systems by as-unannounced intruders. This machine had a database on it that contained the identifying information (name, address, Social Security Numbers.. you know the drill) of some 15.5k students, 1k faculty members, and five years worth of former students, totalling out to about 59k people. Administrators do not know if the database was accessed, and they're not taking any chances. New security measures have been implemented, of course, and they're finally getting around to issuing ID numbers that ARE NOT SSN's.
It's about bloody time.
DDoS for hire comes to America. Last week a 17 year old from Michigan (name witheld because (s)he's a minor) was arrested along with 18 year old Jason Arabo; the latter hired the former to use his botnet to DDoS the websites of compeditors to ramp up his business. Damages of over $1mus are reported.
In a move that should have anyone who lives within one hundred miles of a
nuclear power plant considering relocation, two of the largest manufacturers of
control mechanisms used in nuke plants
I have just one thing to say about sound bites, the five to ten second snippets of sound that make up most of the interviews shown on US television and played back on US radio. Sound bites are limited to the context of their use; i.e., their meaning is dependent upon the comments from the commentator they are played along with. For example, a sound bite selected from a discussion of whether or not abortion should be legal might consist of the phrase "I don't like it". That sound bite could be played in either context with no one being any the wiser: The sound bite supporting the delegalisation of abortion, or commenting on the delegalisation of abortion. Without hearing the whole audio segment, you don't know which side that person supports, or even if that person is supporting either side of the argument (yes, there are some people who have no opinion). Hell, you don't even know if that sample of speech had anything at all to do with a discussion of abortion. Without knowing where something came fron and how it's being used, you can't consider it a valid part of a discussion. Those sound bites aren't much more than the samples musicians use to make music.
Accountability is becoming harder and harder to get from the government these days, so much so, in fact, that certain cities in North Carolina are trying to get the power to sue those who have the audacity to ask to see publically accessible files. I can't think of a better way of not having to explain myself, can you? Word has it that they're trying to make it a state law in NC, and this might set an uncomfortable precedent for the rest of the nation (gods know, Pennsylvania would be near the front of that line). In the same vein, the city of Burlington, NC is appealing a NC court ruling that says that they can't take private citizens to court to prevent them from attending public meetings or accessing open records. It's being justified that private citizens have the right to sue for access, so the state should have the right to sue to prevent access.
That makes me wonder what they're trying to hide.
A few years ago, I finally paid off all of the student loans from when I was attending the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Now, years later, they've sent me a registered letter stating that I have officially paid off my loans, and am one step closer to being debt free. This could have come a little bit earlier... like, when I mailed the last payment in, say.
MacOS fans should take note that malware aimed at you is appearing now. The security vulnerabilities being reported in Mac OSX could potentially be used to infect workstations much as Windows machines can be hit, and malware is a booming industry these days. The rootkit called Opener was just the tip of the iceberg late last year, and more is surely on its way. Symantec is keeping its finger on the pulse of desktop security, and they are talking about Macs becoming the next targets on the Net. Just remember that Symantec has a vested interest in keeping an eye on Macintosh desktop security.
If you haven't heard it on the news yet, it's becoming a more common procedure to take a DNA sample of suspects arrested in conjunction with a case, usually by swabbing the inside of the mouth to pick up cells from the cheek for chromosomal sequencing at a forensic lab. A new question has arisen, though: What happens to the DNA sample if you're innocent? Roger Valadez was arrested in conjunction with the BTK ("bind-torture-kill" - sound like it's from a movie?) and this procedure was performed on him. He was released because the real BTK killer was apprehended, and now he wants that DNA sample to be destroyed, because he wasn't the right guy. Valadez was one of 1300 people who were picked up at one time or another in conjunction with this case(!). Critics are calling this clear proof that DNA sampling isn't an effective means of capturing criminals (the movie GATTACA to the contrary). The point is, does the government at any level (local, state, or federal) have the right to maintain a library of DNA samples from people, guilty of a crime or not?
I'm still working on getting my refund from AES, the company which managed to screw up one of my student loan repayments by taking out $800us when the cheque was written out for $200us. They've told me that I now have to take it up with my bank, which I have done. My bank says that the number 2 looked like an 8, and so entered a transaction for $800us. When I asked them why they didn't check the text to the left of the number (reading, helpfully, "Two hundred dollars and 0/100"), I was told "We don't look at that. We just look at the numbers."
After fighting for a while, the woman I spoke to on the other end finally decided to write up a dispute and put it through. We'll see how this turns out.
At one time, it was possible for journalists from friendly countries to enter and leave the US freely, by virtue of their media connections. This rule was silently cancelled and journalists are getting the third degree and beyond now. Special journalist visas are required to enter the US now, and at least twenty journalists have been detained because the regulations that were once ignored by INS that allowed journalists into the country are now rigorously enforced by the TSA. Professional journalists are starting to ask the question, "Since when is the US government accrediting journalists?" Now, I can see why they're suddenly requiring and checking the visas of folks trying to enter the country - after 9/11, it's not even common sense to do this, it's practically written into the human genome to start paying close attention to foreign travellers. But journalists all across the board are starting to take flak whenever they try to enter the US. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Could it be that you can find much more detailed information about what's going on inside the US by reading the foreign newswires?
What the hell?! The MPlayer website has been shut down! The European Union's software patenting laws are making it illegal to develop open-source implementations of media players, so MPlayer may disappear in the near future. Download the source and the codec packs while you still can. I would also ask you to consider MPlayer XP, which is a fork of MPlayer but uses a multithreaded core.
After discussing this with a few folks, I've of two minds about that, because I don't know if they're doing this to prove a point (software patents are bad), of if they're being leaned on (or know that they'll be taken down because MPlayer is pretty famous in the opensource community). The warning suggests both.
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The trip home yesterday was just as much of a misadventure as the flight to Florida, though in a different way. The plane was on time, the weather in West Palm Beach as well as Pittsburgh was conducive to flight (though Pittsburgh's weather, as you'd expect for this time of year was cold, wet, and breezy), everyone boarded the plane in a timely manner, and we took off on time. However, once we got to Pittsburgh International Airport, the fun began. First off, getting your luggage is slow as all get out; there are at least six luggage carrols that I know of, and some number more on the other side of the airport that I didn't get to see while I was there. Luggage came down the chute one or two pieces every seven or eight minutes, which leads to very large crowds piled up around the baggage carrols. Some people had been waiting there so long for their suitcases that they were napping on the floor next to the walls or on the benches. I wandered around for a good hour or so, just waiting for my suitcase. Eventually, it came down the chute and I spent another half-hour searching for a way to break a dollar so I could pay bus fare (because I really didn't feel like dealing with another huge cab fare) and eventually talked the woman behind the money changing counter into giving me some quarters in exchange for a single because I couldn't find a change machine anywhere. After that came another trek back downstairs to wait for the 28X bus back to Pittsburgh by way of the southern suburbs of the city. That was actually the easiest part; waiting for the connecting bus back to my end of town, however, became quite tedious after half an hour of standing in the rain. I called Dataline to catch a ride and then headed to Subway for dinner. Mere minutes after I finished dinner, I watched the bus I needed pull up at my bus stop and then head homeward.
Some days you're the bug, some days you're the windshield.
Once home, I dropped my stuff off at the Garden and then made a quick trip to the grocery store to get lunch for at least a few days this week, and then sat down to sleep.
Savvy net.citizens have probably heard about some countries, like Iran and China, restricting and/or censoring net.access so that their citizens cannot get access to information In Here that might pose a political or ideological threat to the regeime in charge. There are always ways, however, to get around those restrictions, from using multiple proxy servers to HTTP-over-SMTP to hard crypto. Now, underground access points are springing up that allow people to access the Net for anywhere between $26us to $67us per web site. People are paying, too - anything to connect with people of a like mind who are trying to stay below the radar of those in control. Of course, state corruption figures into this phenomenon as well (bureaucrats with decent access sell use of their accounts and passwords on the black market), and there's always the possibility that at least one of them will roll over their little black book to take them down.
It's risky to get access to information. What amazes me is what the powers that be consider hazardous to their power structure.
IMAX theatres are movie theatres that are built like stadiums, in that the space they use is about one half screen, and one half seating, so that people are packed in vertically and not horizontally; moreover, the screen fills your entire field of vision, so that you are fully immersed in the movie being shown. Typically, IMAX theatres are used for very popular movies (Matrix Revolutions) or specialised movies, such as Forces of Nature or Ghosts of the Abyss, which are being shown at this time at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. The views are simply breathtaking, and they have a way of making just about anything interesting through cinematography and by producing a feeling that you're actually standing there. As it turns out, there is a segment of the population which feels threatened by this, and is steadily increasing pressure on the owners of IMAX theatres, who are cancelling some of their movies for fear of protests. Right now, less than a dozen IMAX theatres, mostly located in the southern United States, are bowing to this pressure, but it seems like a reasonable extrapolation that these early victories could cause this suppression to spread northward. The stink is over the fact that scientific knowledge is seen as a threat to religious faith, and some influential religious folk are actively working to suppress the spread of scientific knowledge among the people. I realise that history is treated as a disposable topic in school these days, but I'll go out on a limb and say that this reminds me a lot of the beginning of the Dark Ages, when the spread of information was treated as one of the signs of the end of the world (thus sayeth a Church that was afraid of losing the power, money, and control it had over people). It's interesting that these days, there are people wo preoccupied with the eschaton they actually chart the coming of the apocalypse (I often wonder what they'd say if they found out that they have a lot in common with some highly unconventional pseudoscientific takes on the end of Time, which can border on neopagan philosophy).
Books aren't being burned right now, though it's happened in the past to texts that were making people wonder. Some kinds of books are becoming harder to find in libraries and bookstores, and in some libraries there is a pervasive fear of taking certain kinds of books out in case the FBI comes asking about the books you like to read. It's becoming harder to learn about history, advanced math, and biology in school these days, too - many classes are either offered very late in high school or are considered "advanced", so many don't feel that they should take them. Television shows that could tell kids that there's more to the world they live in are being protested so heavily that they're not being shown. Whatever heavens forfend that one should realise that "those people" might be your friends, neighbors, or cow-orders, and might even be your best friend. I'm very concerned that this is going to lead to some major problems in the next couple of years.
If you're using Mozilla Firefox, you can make a lot of little changes to your configuration by poking around under the hood by plugging the URL about:config into your URL bar.
They're just not giving up - the bill that would amend the Constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal has been introduced to the House again by representative Dan Rungren. He was quoted as saying that "courts aren't democratic institutions."
As mentioned a few days ago, one Jeremy White, a Canadian blogger, was denied entry to the United States because immigration officials didn't think it was possible to make a living as a blogger and refused to believe that you can talk to someone without having their phone number. White has pulled the entries he wrote about this matter, because he has been told that they would threaten his case if push came to shove.
I just noticed this on the back of one of the credit card application's that have piled up in my mailbox while I was gone. "SECURITY NOTICE: Any person who interferes with or obstructs delivery of this letter or otherwise violates Title 18, United States Code 1702 may be fined up to $2,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to 5 years."
Heavens forfend that a credit card application, which would cost me many thousands of dollars if I actually got this card, should not get through. And yet if a cheque gets lost in the mail, you have to fight for months to get a reissued cheque.
It's been a few days and I've been busy, so I didn't get a chance to complete my last memory dump. I'm sitting at the West Palm Beach International Airport at this time, enjoying the wireless net.access provided (there is at least one 802.11g wireless access point around here, ESSID "PBIA_WIFI", channel 1, no WEP or WPA). There is also a DHCP server running, distributing RFC 1918 IP addresses (these are in the 192.168.228.0/24 subnet, it appears). The DHCP server also configures a single DNS (192.168.231.254), which is capable of resolving hostnames and IP addresses normally. There's some weird port filtering going on here, though - I can't actually SSH back home, so I'm writing everything on Luel for later upload to Leandra. You can't ping out of this network, though you can try to traceroute, in which case you'll make it as far as the default router (192.168.231.254) before the packets stop dead. TCP traceroute shows a single hop back to the Network. If you open a web browser and plug any URL in (for an experiment, I tried to head over to animemusicvideos.org) I ran into a proxy server running on.. wait for it... 192.168.21.254... which showed me a splash page for Palm Beach International Airport. Yay.
If you hit the "Connect to the WiFi" icon on the left-hand side of the page, it'll associate your IP address with the local proxy server, and you'll then be able to bounce around on the Net with a web browser (or log into other machines via SSH). Most interesting.
But enough about that. Airport security is much tigher here than it was at PIT. The line for the security checkpoints (of which there were multiple) was at least six rather sizable stores long; rather than wander around to find a cup of coffee I got in line early, and actually cleared security inside of 45 minutes. They did the usual "dump everything on you into the bin and put your laptop into a separate bin" but the security guard also asked me to put either my wristwatch or my belt with buckle into the bin, I think to minimise the amount of time they'd have to wand me. "It would be faster if I just went through like this," I said, holding my hands up (those were the only pieces of ferrous metal on me).
The security guard stared at me as if I'd suddenly asked him out on a date in Portuguese.
Rather than hold the line up, I took my belt off, threw it in the bin with my laptop, and went through the metal detector. No problem.
Late Friday night after dinner at a hideously overpriced seafood place with good crab cakes and fried alligator (!), the three of us stopped by the bar for a quick one (they had heard of the spice, after all!) we changed and jumped in the pool, whereupon Lyssa began to geek out with some critical theory folks and I froze my biomechanical butt off. At the Wyndham, just because the pool feels heated to your hand does not necessarily mean that it is heated to the rest of you. A quick lap around the pool, however, both served to warm me up and remind me how much I need to start execising again. We hung around for a while and talked in the pool, trading Monty Python and Black Adder quips and I started in on prosthetics and joint replacement with a guy who was the spitting image of the Christ itself. Later, we invaded the hot tub (and by this I do mean invaded, because we were fighting for space in the tub with semi-inhebriated partygoers on Spring break, and the air was even colder than the water). For a brief moment after some jokes about religion, I thought about going through some basic Latin in conversation about there, but decided not to make an ass of myself. We turned in shortly after that.
I should mention something about the seafood restaurant we went to: Either something was amiss with their food, or Lyssa and myself have exceedingly odd and/or delicate digestive systemsm for we woke up feeling like someone had opened our digestive systems and emptied a good deal of drain cleaner into them. While my body was able to deal with this travesty in a few hours' time (thank you, alimentary modifications), Lyssa was knocked flat by it for most of the day. She and I went to the William Gibson panel at 0830 EST while Shannon attended the Lord of the Rings fandom discussion, feeling somewhat worse for wear. The panels were, on the whole, interesting, though I must confess that I am skeptical of the conversational analysis of Virtual Light which proves that Chevette is a classic heroine, albeit the strong and silent type. That sort of analysis makes my skin crawl - it's too much like taking a sow's ear and making a silken purse and choker for my tastes. Take the character for what it is and run with it if you like, but don't try to reduce everything to integer values. I greatly enjoyed the discussion of the role of physicality in Neuromancer, and the contrast between Case and his obsession with cyberspace as a means of escaping his body (on a temporary basic) and Molly, who makes her living with her body (at first as an AI-controlled prostitute, later as a professional ass kicker). What caught me by surprise was the mention of Case's fear when he first connects the ROM construct of McCoy Pauley, who is little more than a programme, a simulation of a pure consciousness running inside a computer. While I had taken Case's reaction for sorrow at the loss of his friend and mentor, the interpretation of fear is also a valid one.
After the panels were over Lyssa and I wandered around searching for Shannon to meet her for breakfast; we were unsuccessful, and Lyssa was feeling worse and worse as time wore on. Our half-hour break was over, and we went to view the panel of which Sam (a friend of Lyssa, Mike, and Jude) was a part, and watch her presentation of a paper on Victorian horror and how it reflected a fear of and wish for death. Heady stuff; if I can find a copy of Sam's paper In Here, I'll post a link to it for you to check out. It was more interesting than it seems, especially because Sam did a good job of speaking in a way that captured and kept it interesting. Shannon entered the room sometime after Sam started, and re-united we headed off to the hotel restaurant for lunch.
At this point, I feel a need to write about my new rating system for restaurants and other eateries, based on a scale of flare guns.
A flare gun, in the context I'm using the term represents two things: The amount of effort required to gain the attention of the waitstaff (no flare guns means they notice you when you need something and doing their job well; one flare gun means that a noticable amount of effort was required to get service when you need it; five flare guns means that nothing short of a salvo of marine flares fired across and/or up the nose of some representative or manager of the waitstaff was required). It also reflects the amount of physical disress unrelated to a pre-existing ailment or overeating you feel within six hours of eating someplace (no flare guns is anything from your average greasy spoon up to a four-star restaurant where you're not footing the bill and even get a free dessert without asking for it; one flare gun is equivelent to a Denny's, Eat and Park, Friday's, or the like on a busy night; four flare guns means you're ill after eating there; five flare guns means you've been hospitalised with food poisoning or an intestinal blockage).
The restaurant at the Wyndham is about 3.75 to 4.0 flareguns, because the food is edible though far from top shelf (about equivelent to a well stocked high school cafeteria on mystery meat day) and the service, in a word, sucks. The seafood place we trucked to the night before I would also put at about 4.0 flareguns because the place is too noisy to hold a decent conversation and because Lyssa and I were sick the next day. The restaurant in question is called the Rustic Inn Crabhouse (4331 Ravenswood Road; Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33312; phone number 954-584-1637). Stay away. The Wyndham Fort Lauderdale Garden Cafe' should similiarly be avoided (now that I'm naming names).
Shan and I took Lyssa upstairs to rest, and once she was in bed I made some arrangements for heading home today. I reserved a car from Dollar Rentacar for too bloody much money (economy car, two drivers, unlimited mileage, one day: $108.16us, with a $250.00us freeze on my card to secure it). Sure as the day is long that it wasn't worth it for Shannon to drive me to the airport and back to the hotel until her flight arrived. Later that night, I cancelled the car and made arrangements to get a cab this morning, which I'll talk about later. I also double-checked my reservations and found that I was going to fly out from Palm Beach International and not from Miami, which is a multiple hour drive from Fort Lauderdale. I handed off my copy of Wetware to get autographed for me by Rudy Rucker while I stayed in to make sure Lyssa was all right. I also made a phone call back home to Lupa for some long distance help, both for Lyssa and to get back into my apartment (because Lupa, who feeds my fish while I'm gone, couldn't get in on Friday because the lock is broken (the lock's been flaky since I moved in, for the record)).
A couple of hours later Lyssa had fallen asleep and was resting quietly in our hotel room. I slipped quietly away to pick up the books that I'd won at the auction that day (a book of Yule poetry written by H.P. Lovecraft (!!) and a handbook on writing good science-fiction) as well as the tome that Lyssa had placed the winning bid on. After doing the deed (and picking up a surprise book for her) I went off to see Jude present on Mark Danielewski's book House of Leaves (which Poe fans will no doubt have heard of, for Mark is her brother). After the panel was over, I took Jude and Sam aside for a quick word, and then we headed upstairs to check on Lyssa, who was up and around and feeling much better (thank you, Lupa). This turned into a two hour geekfest on just about anything you can think of, from critical theory to the new paradigm of literary interpretation (transrealism, basically writing about everyday events from a fantastic or magic(k)al perspective) to joking about transrealism to community to alcoholism to Lent to neopaganism.
Needless to say, I was quite happy to have been there.
That evening was the IAFA awards banquet, a black-tie affair that the movers and shakers of this sector of academia would be attending. Shannon had finally reappeared, having been captured by a group studying various fandoms for a number of hours. We cleaned up and dressed to the nines in velvet, silk, and linen with thread counts best expressed in exponential notation and swept into the cocktail party with the grace and poise of the Japanese tea ceremony, style that could kill if you came too close, and an utter lack of seriousness in ourselves. We met up with Jude, Sam, and Mike and killed time until the banquet began. The banquet was not only an awards banquet, but it also celebrated the birthday of Brian Aldiss, which will actually occur a few months from now. He recieved a standing ovation when this was announced (the IAFA holds him in the highest of esteem), something which drove home how important and well known he was to everyone. I suppose at this time I show my true colours; I'm not a literary thing nor an academic, so I felt very out of place at this conference. I consider myself hounoured to have been permitted to attend.
At this point, I have to wonder what happened. The food downstairs is pretty bad, but whoever the caterers were, they did a fantastic job with the food and desserts. Simply the finest food I've had in years, I would say rivalling that of Forge's wedding, even. Not that I'm arguing - the lasagne, chicken, bismati rice, and greens were fantastic, Brian Aldiss' cake was superb, and the tiramisu had to be 80 proof.
There's a phrase from computer science, "starving while dining with philosophers" which I feel applies here. Not because everyone reached for their silverware simultaneously, which rendered everyone incapable of eating from deadlock, oh, no. The reason that we starved is because we talked. And talked. And talked. Editors, writers, professors with more letters after their names than you'd find in a can of alphabet soup, and very well read geeks of all kinds were at our table, and the air was afire with ideas. Postmodernism, deconstructionism, reading and editing papers, and the goings-on of the conference. If you love intelligent conversation, you'd be in heaven there. Even I, the incurable introvert, spoke. A professor at the table named Amy (the surname of whom regrettably escapes me at this time) is studying transhumanism, and after discovering that my professional discipline is actually computer science and computer security, asked me what I knew of transhumanism.
At that time, the muse of speech touched me, and I dumped several megabytes of data from my wetware into the air with words and gesture. Yes, I am a transhumanist, though not a vocal one. I have my ideas and I live my experiment, and one day pehaps I'll get around to actually writing what it is I do when I dump my memory engrams into these files and do not implement some form of comment entry system. I also mentioned the time that Lowmagnet and I got to talk shop with Professor Steven Warwick and Stelarc and the paper I'd stumbled across about how the Web and search engines are being used more and more as communal, extended memory fields. I didn't get a chance to tell her about the prosthetic eye that Alexius and I had been designing for Lyssa, unfortunately.
Lyssa and I also met Kim, who first saw us at the Written On the Body panel on Friday. She studies fandom in general and costuming in particular, and came over to talk to us after working up the courage. We wound up speaking more later that evening about cosplaying and as it turns out, she's met the Predator cosplayer at the LA Comic Book Convention about two years ago. She actually knows of a tribe of Predator cosplayers who make their rounds, and will next appear at DragonCon. I'm going to look them up on Google when I return home.
After a quick stop off at our room to freshen up a little, Lyssa, Shannon, and I (I seem to have picked up two filthy assistants) headed downstairs to the front patio to, yes, talk even more and split a few cigars with Mike (who looks a lot like the bad guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark), down to the trenchcoat and hat, Jude (the twenty-first century dandy), and Sam in a purple corset that did what must have been horrible things to her ribcage. It's true that cigar smoke will seek out and cloud around the non-smokers, defying even the laws of physics in an attempt to make people choke and gag when caught on the inhalation.
The after-party was about what you'd expect: Lots of alcohol, lots of cheese and fruit, and lots of people sitting around blowing off steam built up from presenting, defending their points of view, fielding questions, and geneally not wanting to fly home the next day to go back to work. It was here that we really got a chance to talk to Kim and her roommates and reflect upon how common it was to see famous authors walking around talking with.. well... just about anyone without a hint of fannishness. Purely equals. Definitely not what I'm used to.
The three of us called it an early night, for we had to get up at 0600 EST to make our respective flights, did a little packing, and then sacked out, completely exhausted. When the alarm went off at the crack of almost but not quite dawn, I got in the shower to kickstart my brain while Lyssa got dressed and packed up a bit more. Because Shannon's flight actually leaves early this evening, she was able to sleep in some. I walked Lyssa down to the carport to catch the shuttle to the airport and we said our goodbyes. After the bus pulled away I wandered around the remains of the conference to get a sense of how things had gone. If you quiet your mind enough, sometimes you can catch a blink of what happened, how people felt, and how organised or disordered things were in a given place. The conference, as near as I can tell, went as smoothly as you can expect an academic conference to go (make of that what you will; I'm certainly trying). It was very laid back, no fights (verbal or otherwise) broke out, and the people who were presenting recieved a lot of constructive feedback and suggestions for their work. If anything went very wrong, I didn't pick it up.
On one of those hunches that I've learned to listen to over the years, I headed back to the balcony and saw Shannon making haste for the carport. I took a shortcut downstairs and confirmed my suspicions: Lyssa forgot her thumbdrive, the sliver of solid-state circuitry that holds a half-gigabyte of data that she uses to back up her work. I've got it on my keyring right now, so I'll get it back to her when I see her next. We headed back to the room to ensure that nothing else had been forgotten (as far as I know, the room was clean) and then went down to the restaurant for one last breakfast before departing for our respective homes. Shannon's a Slavic literary studies scholar; I'm a computer geek. We spoke a lot about the cultures of our respective fields, what it means to write and publish, and what it means for us to advance our knowledge and earn advanced degrees as a result. For the field of computers, it means devising new algorithms and technologies that can be applied to theoretically make work and life easier to manage and simple to perform (and yet we still have desks coveredwith papers and spend hours at a time programming and hunting for data). It means making networks a little bit easier to manage. Systems more resistant to information loss and corruption. Disks able to hold more data in a smaller space. Entire servers able to crunch numbers faster and manipulate data in more complex ways. It means writing papers about vulnerabilities and how to fix them. Teaching people how to use their computers more efficiently. Making information available to people.
I feel at a loss because I haven't really done that. A lot of what I do at work (and at previous jobs) I'm not allowed to publish. Most of the code I write I'd have to turn over to my employers. More deeply, however, is the sense that I've lost some of the hacker spirit - that which drives us to experiment with technology, to see what else we can make it do. Undergrad ground a lot of that out of me. When you have to write two or three programmes simultaneously for class and do research for papers, and and and... it injures something deep inside you. It takes something you love and makes it into something that you have to do, something that's a little less interesting, a little less fascinating. It leaves you less time to hack. Some days after work, I don't even want to look at a computer - I just want to curl up with a book and forget that there is anything electronic in my Garden.
That's bad. That's very, very bad. I feel like I've lost another part of myself, one that made me who I am. Which leaves me with the question, who am I now, exactly? What am I?
I haven't advanced the state of the art.
But now I wax depressive, something I promised Lyssa that I wouldn't do.
Oh, Shannon never found Rudy Rucker, so my copy of Wetware remains unautographed. Oh, well.
1252 EST: The plane boarded and took off on time, a refreshing and surprising change of pace from Thursday afternoon, when I flew down to Florida. ETA: 1505 EST or therabouts.
Actually getting to the airport today was something of an adventure. Taking the suggestion of the bell captain, I cancelled my cab reservation and caught the shuttle to Fort Lauderdale International, because he said that I could catch a shuttle to Palm Beach International and save myself some money.
Guess what? You can't.
I was hoping to catch a shared-ride (where a group of people rents a shuttle to go someplace for a reduced rate) but found out that they run on a very irregular schedule, often waiting until a group of six or more people who are going to the same place has assembled. I was the only one on the platform.
So I caught a cab, and had to pay with three megabytes of hot RAM out of my headware. Okay, so maybe I didn't actualise an out-of-context misquote of Gibson to get a ride to the airport, but I did pay a grand total of $104.00us for the cab ride. I got fucked on the fare. I guess no matter what, there was no cheap way to pull this off. Gentle readers, if you use Orbitz to book your flights, book them at least three months in advance, and for gods' sake make sure that your return flight takes off from where you landed. Save yourself a lot of trouble and a hell of a lot of money. Don't do what I just did.
1920 EST: Well, I'm finally home. I'll write about that later, but there is something which has me a little spooked that I want to get off my chest right now. I've just uploaded my latest memory backups to the Network and I started in on my suitcase, full of clothing and books. I noticed two things right off the bat: First, the notice that says that my luggage was searched. Second, the contents of my luggage were pretty thoroughly gone through: My suit is pretty rumpled up, the spare batteries for my camera are all over the place, and the books were out of order (maybe they like science fiction...)
I'm vaguely disquieted about this. No, check that: I'm very shaken up by this. Isn't the Fourth Amendment supposed to protect US citizens from having their belongings searched? I wonder how they'd like it if I could, for example, go through their lockers to see what they carried with them before they got to the airport.
I feel like someone's just given me an icewater enema.
Oh - and they neatly coiled my dress belt up, too.
We finally took off around 1845 EST last night and arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida around 2230 EST. Somewhere over Florida the plane was put into a holding pattern by the control tower, so that added an extra half-hour of time to the trip. Once at the airport, for some reason, I got my luggage shortly after arrival; the real wait came from waiting for the shuttle from the Wyndham Hotel to get there, but once it came it was less than a ten minute drive to the hotel where Lyssa was waiting for me. Around the same time I got off the minibus with my suitcase, the pizza arrived.
If you're down here, don't order from Sal's Italian Ristorante (954-929-4727)- their pizza is marginal, the salads are tiny, and the garlic bread is just plain bad - 3.0 flareguns. I'd suggest ordering from the local Papa John's franchise (954-522-7272).
Food at the Wyndham is bad; it's overpriced (about $13us for the breakfast buffet; I don't know about lunch and/or dinner, but you'll pay at least $8us and it just sucks) and just not very good. About the only quality thing you can get is the ice cream from the overpriced hotel shoppe and the bagels from the breakfast buffet. There really isn't anyplace to walk to for good food, and if you take a cab you'll pay too much to get anyplace. Just rent a car for a day's transportation. Alcohol's about what you'd expect for a poolside bar; these savages don't seem to know what Goldschlager is. They do, however, know how to properly prepare pina coladas and Aftershock.
The panel Lyssa and I went to today, entitled Queer Eye On the Caped Guy, was a panel of critical discourse on LGBT themes in comic books, of all things. Everyone from the hardcore comic book geek to the queer theory expert to the anime and manga afficionado (the wrong term to use, to be sure, but it's the best I've got at the moment) were on the panel, and a lot of surprisingly interesting conversation came out of it. There was a lot of discussion of the Comics Code of the 1980's, which specifically forbade mention of homosexuality in any form, the Northstar of Alpha Flight Debacle (and those that followed), and how the stories suffered because the writers and publishers, afraid of being sued or losing their readeship, tap-danced around the issue of homosexuality.
Following that was another panel entitled Written On the Body: Anatomy of the Fantastic, which was a series of discourses on physical existence as seen from the light of the experiences those bodies undergo. The first paper was about the appropriation of ritual in the context of modern primativism, and touched on all of the major body modification procedures performed today (such as piercing (not just your ears, and not just one pair of piercings), tattooing, branding, and scarification) and why they are done. The context of those in continual pain for medical reasons attempting to come to terms with the nervous system that has betrayed them as well as the body reclamation movement, which I feel that I should not comment on because there is already a body of discourse out there which is far better written than I could ever hope to bring to the topic. There was also a discussion of the links between real life, perceived real life (i.e., what we think of the lives of media stars and what their fandoms (yes, I'm talking about LoTR actors) think about their lives) and how the media has allowed people to treat everyday linear life in a hypertextual manner, with discrete events and times linked together not by the measurement system of the clock that most of the world has agreed upon but by jump-cuts and suppositions, supported by being able to rearrange information to find new internal structures. Digital media technologies like the TiVO and hypertext have allowed human paradigms of information analysis and organisation to perform the same tasks to a given body of data that we can also do with a personal video recorder (rewinding and reviewing live information, and showing events thus recorded in new orders and new ways to find hidden information).
After that panel (which left Lyssa and I geeking helplessly afterward with the first presenter), we watched Shannon, a friend of Lyssa's, present her paper on the use of liminal space (spaces on the periphery of experience and literature, as opposed to the core spaces/times of experience) in the short stories of Liudmila Petrushevskia. Pretty dense stuff; Shannon hit a lot of stuff in information theory insofar as arrangement of information and internal structure of a body of information (touching on hypertext, which appears to be a buzzword these days) in those stories. I can also see some unintended connections with the "soft places" that Neil Gaiman wrote about in Sandman, those places where the world of dreams and the real world overlap because they haven't been strictly divided by the minds of humanity.
I write this update from my table at the Seattle's Best franchise at the Pittsburgh International Airport, sipping a house blend, and reflecting on my first airline travel since 2001, when Alexius and I flew to Las Vegas. Frankly, I'm very surprised that things have gone as well as they have. I left the Garden around noon today to just catch the bus heading downtown, after a wait of essentially no time, since I made it to the bus stop just as the bus pulled up. Earlier today I had to break the zipper tabs off of one of the pockets of my suitcase because the lock sealing the pocket no longer seems to have a key, and rather than face a hassle at the security checkpoint I opted to have to replace the zipper tabs after I get back. Attempts to pick the lock last night were unsuccessful; I just don't have a talent for making it work.
Shortly after arriving downtown I just made the bus out to the airport, another coincidence for which I am very thankful. Again, the ride was uneventful, and went smoothly.
Once I reached the airport, I stopped off to pick up my boarding pass by way of the airline's check-in kiosk. In my research I didn't exactly know how this was supposed to work, so much to my surprise, I skimmed my credit card through the reader on the front, confirmed my flight and seat, and a boarding pass was presented by the thermal printer in less than five minutes. I picked up a boarding pass jacket and checked my suitcase at the security checkpoint, and off I went. Much to my surprise, my boarding pass doesn't have the dreaded quad-S ('SSSS') flag on it, meaning that I should be examined like a specimen under a microscope.
In hindsight, I could have presented an empty boarding pass jacket to the security guard at the bottom of the escalator, and she wouldn't have noticed. That trick would not have worked at the next security checkpoint, however, because the security guards were not only armed and not afraid to show it (seeing folks walk around with 9mm pistols has a way of killing any and all thoughts of trouble, of the "I wonder what would happen if..." varity most of all). My boarding pass was carefully checked and I went through the requisite tasks of emptying my pockets into a bin, placing my shoes into a bin, placing my coat into a bin, placing my backpack on the conveyor belt, and placing Luel on the conveyor belt in a separate bin, then walked through a metal detector that didn't pick up my wristwatch, ring, or even the rivets in my jeans this time (kudos to the techs at the airport who actually calibrated the metal detector's sensitivity settings properly). After collecting my gear and packing it away once again a short tram-ride has brought me to the grand concourse, where I sit now writing.
There's a wireless access point somewhere around here; I don't think it's provided by Seattle's Best, because the ESSID is "FlyPittsburgh" instead of something you'd expect from a coffee shoppe, like "SeattlesBest" or "C0FF33". It's only 102.11b (11 megabit), using channel 1, and gives IP addresses that are not routable (172.16/16 - see RFC 1918 for details). I think their router's configured for some degree of security because trying to run a TCPtraceroute to anyplace results in ten unresolved, unidentified hops, ending in the destination (IP address properly resolved) (I've been using ports 80/TCP, 21/TCP and 443/TCP for my experiments; all have been successful, though limited to ten hops as well). Examining the /etc/resolv.conf file on Luel (updated by his DHCP client) shows a pair of nameservers, (22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199), which resolve hostnames correctly. This isn't odd in and of itself - it's not uncommon for the local caching DNSes to be outside of firewalls to lessen the impact of a possible compromise. Trying to run my web traffic through the Tor network hasn't been effective at all (and I can't say that I trust the wireless network here, partially due to the fact that WEP isn't in use, much less WPA) for some reason - maybe it's just lag. I've had that problem from time to time with the Tor network. That's a hazard of any highly distributed network, proxies or not.
I really hope no one gets the idea to run TCPdump while connected...
Attempts to SSH out were slow, at best, which might be my fault due to network services running at home on the Network. That's how I've been able to get these updates transmitted.
1600 EST: My flight's been delayed until 1700 EST at the earliest, 1755 EST at the latest. The thunderstorms they've been predicting for Florida have hit in earnest, and they're delaying flights all across the board to limit the number of planes in the air (and hence, in possible danger) as well as the amount of management of those planes that has to be done.
I need an .mp3 player.
I've just realised something: We can't carry cigarette lighters into the airport because they're a security hazard; they're confiscated by security if they're found. Yet twenty feet past the security checkpoint is a smokeshop where you can not only purchase a replacement if you so choose. There's a problem here.
Wireless is available everywhere I've been in the airport so far; I'm sitting at one of the gates right now injuring eternity and getting a strong signal even this far away from the concourse. I wonder how far the signal stretches outside the walls of this structure...
I wonder if I should walk to the pub and get dinner before I get on the plane.
Bloggers who follow human rights and freedom of speech issues both inside and outside of the US will be interested to know that Arash Sigarchi, sentenced to 14 years in prison in Iraq for weblogging about the imprisonment of other webloggers has been freed from jail by his patron newspaper, who put the cash up for him.
While I'm stuck in the airport reading the newswires, how about this: A Canadian weblogger was detained at the airport by Customs because he is a weblogger. One Jeremy White was denied entry and is now tagged for followup investigation whenever he attempts to enter the United States in the future. Apparantly, you really can't know someone unless you've met them face-to-face or even have telephone numbers for them (though it's kind of hard to meet face-to-face if you can't even fly in to see them). It seems that the basic concepts and uses of the Net were beyond the officer who questioned White, as he doesn't even know what it means to exchange e-mails with someone (hint: it replaces, and sometimes even augments speaking). Many of the details of this story, however, are still sketchy at best. There is much that I'd like to know about it (such as exactly why US Customs gave White such a hard time - did they ask him what he did for a living and, not understanding, act like gits?), so I'm being cautious about commenting on it any further. It's interesting, and definitely of interest, but there isn't enough for me to say either way.
Lovely. Just what I needed to read right now.
1913 EST: We're finally underway. Due to the storms in Florida the flight was unavoidably delayed. They pushed back the boarding time again and again until finally we got on board the plane.. only to wait on the tarmac another half-hour until flight control deemed it safe enough (in about two and a half hours' time) to take off. On the whole it hasn't been too bad a trip. During the delay I got a quick dinner for myself of Chinese food (from a Wok and Roll which has surprisingly decent food, most unlike its other franchises that I've visited in the past) and helped a young woman with three children with her DVD Man (one of those portable DVD players about the size of a Discman with a flip-top screen and battery pack, which I don't think her husband really charged). The kids were amused by a group of college kids flying down to Florida for spring break, who completely surprised me by playing aroung with the younglings. The guys looked for all the worlds like your stereotypical fratboys on their way to Miami for booze, girls, and partying. One of the guys had a large knapsack with him; another turned out to be a ventriloquist, who had the backback meowing now and then, and driving the kids nuts as they tried to figure out where the kitten was hiding amongst the books and CDs in there.
It just goes to show that appearances can be highly deceiving. Stuff like that makes me feel good about the human race; it warms my hearts.
The gentleman in the seat next to me just gave me a strand of Saint Patrick's Day beads. I wish I had something to give him in trade. Maybe I'll start carrying Mardi Gras coins again...
ETA: 2130 EST. Time to stress-test Luel's suspend-to-disk functionality some more.
Astute watchers of the US news probably remember the three incidents in which post offices serving the Pentagon building were shut down and quarantined due to the detection of anthrax in the facilities, meaning that the Pentagon building itself ran the risk of contamination. As it turns out, however, the post offices may not have been contaminated at all. The method used to test the building was to take the air filters to a lab for analysis to detect the presence of anthrax spores. The filters may have been contaminated at the lab by strains of anthrax used for calibrating the detection process and not while under normal use. This is reinforced by surface swabs from all of the building all registering negative for the presence of anthrax spores. Furthermore, the tests for the presence of the anthrax spores or bacilli, which operate by detecting specific segments of the DNA of anthrax, are known to be sensitive to false positives.
"Shirt's on fire! Now it's out!"
Something new on the front of temporary structure construction has appeared: Concrete canvas, which is a very large bag of synthetic fabric impregnated with industrial concrete. The idea is that you soak the bag and inflate it with air pumps, and a couple of hours later the concrete has set and you've got a building of some kind. Disaster relief organisations and the military are all over this development, because it'd make rapid deployment easier (no more pitching big tents by hand). A single concrete canvas bag weighing about five hundred pounds will inflate into a building with 172 square feet of floor space in less than six hours a nd will cost about $2100us. The inflatable buildings can even be delivered sterilised, making them ideal for use as field surgeries. Concrete canvas hasn't gone into full production just yet, but it's expected to hit the market by the end of this year.
Microsoft clones Firefox. Film at eleven.
There's an excellent interview with Thomas Dolby out there, which details what he's been up to all these years.
After yesterday (and spending five hours doing laundry at my parents' place last night) I figured that I could use a little extra sleep, so I gave myself another 45 minutes and woke up feeling a lot more relaxed and refreshed than the day before (there was no repeat of the alien abduction nightmare, which pops up from time to time), and ready to face the day. At least, after my first cup of coffee.
It appears that even if you're running Firefox as your web browser, Internet Explorer can still be infected with junkware. As long as you've got Java support set up, the installer, which runs as a Java applet, can dodge the usual security restrictions entirely and inject whatever it wants into IE because most everyone who is confronted with a warning window that asks if you want to trust a signed applet says 'yes' without even reading the whole warning. This is why you should always, always read the window that comes up - it's there to tell you that something went wrong, and tries to explain to you what the situation is. Mindlessly clicking on 'yes' is never a good idea.
Update: I sent back my Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence DVD a while back. I just recieved an e-mail stating that they've recieved it, and they say that I'll get my replacement (hopefully with real subtitles) within two to three weeks.
If you've never heard of Bluetooth before, it's a technology that is meant to implement a short-range radio network for electronic devices, sort of a wireless USB. The thing about Bluetooth is that it's not very secure - you can sniff the network activity without too much trouble and perhaps even insinuate your own device into the personal area network (PAN) of someone else. Just because it's called a short range networking technology, however, doesn't mean that someone a lot farther away than you think can be monitoring. Presenting the Bluesniper rifle, which allows the users to eavesdrop on Bluetooth activity from nearly a mile away. This device was first demonstrated at DefCon last year, and probably frightened not a few people due to how closely it resembles a rifle. A Ruger stock forms the basic framework of the device, supporting a directional Yagi antenna; the computing power is supplied by a Gumstick miniature computer set into a magazine for protection (though an external computer can certainly be attached). The rifle-like configuration of the directional antenna makes it possible to sight precisely, and thus pick up signals from a very tightly defined area in three-space (like a single person..) from a distance. The antenna was used to monitor a number of buildings in the city of Las Angeles, California, and multiple devices were detected within seconds. Most impressive.
| You scored as Buddhism. Your beliefs most closely resemble those of Buddhism. Do more research on Buddhism and possibly consider becoming Buddhist, if you are not already.
In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that base the Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration. In Buddhism, there is no hierarchy, nor caste system; the Buddha taught that one's spiritual worth is not based on birth.|
Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
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A generation grew up asking the question, "Is it live or is it Memorex?" In this day and age, you really can't tell anymore, thanks to advanced digital recording technology. You also can't tell if the news is live or fabricated anymore, thanks to advanced digital technology. A number of segments broadcast in the US news media were written and produced by the United States Federal Government specifically to be shown on the local news in many areas. The so-called reporters behind these stories were actually shills cast by the government, namely the Transportation Security Administration, the State Department, and the Agriculture Department's communications office. Basically, they're propaganda pieces, meant to reassure everyone and make everything look good. It's come out that hundreds of such pieces have been produced and broadcast in the past four years. The way it works is that the national networks are given these fabricated recordings, which they then disseminate to their affiliates. The affiliates don't actually have to send anyone out into the field to find a story, so they save money by broadcasting these propaganda pieces. US government officials argue that it is the responsibility of the affiliates and/or news networks to state that these pieces were written and provided by the government; I seriously doubt that any label them thusly. This also might not stop the local affiliates from editing out any such disclaimers. When called on their shit, the US government has admitted that some of the segments were "not strictly factual" and often contained "notable omissions". The practise originally began during the Clinton regeime; the Bush Junior regeime has polished it to a fine art.
How can you tell which news stories are plants and which aren't? Good question. Very, very good question. I guess you and I will just have to keep our eyes open and think very hard, won't we?
Happy Pi Day, everyone.
Not a particularly happy day at Dr. Schrenker's, though. I left work early and stopped off at the bank to deposit a cheque, then head to the dentist's office for the second phase of my root canal (The Root Canal Strikes Back, as I have come to think of it). I knew I was in for a rough time when I could feel the novocaine dripping down my gum onto my tongue, where I could taste it. Not all of it went in. I was also highly unnerved when I could feel a tiny tickle on the tip of my tongue as the needle, which from the point of view of the injectee is about the size of a bazooka, ever so gently brushed against the nerve fibre itself.
I felt a bigger tickle when the needle was withdrawn, and the nerve was again brushed. Very not good.
It was even worse when the familiar feelings of numbness and paralysis did not set in. I made it through the initial drilling of the temporary filling but when Dr. Schrenker reached in there with the files I about jumped out of my skin, in a Tim Burton-like display of dental mishap. It didn't hurt, exactly, but I could feel the tip of the drill bit-like files scraping around inside the root canals, and I could feel something soft and squishy deep inside them registering pressure and even moving around a little. I didn't last time.
More novocaine was injected, and a few minutes after the entire lower left quadrant of my face went numb (all the way up to my ear, in fact) lidocaine was injected into the base of each root canal. Again, Dr. Schrenker set about probing the root canals with those damned little files, and again I could feel them pushing and pressing soft tissue.
The entire procedure went on like this, with me jumping or making odd noises every time a probe or file hit the tiny little bit of pulp left inside my tooth. The weird thing is, the file wasn't going nearly as deeply as it was last time. I'm attributing this to the fact that not as much local anesthetic was used this time; it's the most logical answer, given the facts at hand. I also know that my body builds up a tolerance to various compounds in a very short period of time, even faster if you give it larger than normal doses of foo. The large number of local anesthetic injections last week would certainly cover that hypothesis, also. However, if the first injection wasn't given properly it's possible that the second wasn't either.
At any rate, once he was done poking and scraping around in there he filled it with sealant and solidified it with a heated probe. Thankfully, the spreader he used (which most people would identify as a 'dental pick' and leave at that) didn't hit the tissue, so no more discomfort was had from that (though I was expecting it with every breath). Another temporary filling was placed and now I'm at home with a dull ache well down below the tooth that was worked on.
For the record, as of 1617 EST the sense of numbness has all but vanished, in stark contrast to the procedure last week.
Ysidro was right - Gallifreyan physiology threw Dr. Schrenker a curve ball this time. Heh.
So, let's see.. what's been going on in the past couple of days?
Work has, once again, been grinding me up and spitting me out. Late-nighters and too much coffee have kept me from doing much other than hacking, hacking, more hacking, and eventually finding another server and setting it up. After a particularly bad cut on one of my hands, I considered a couple of workings having to do with the blood I'd dripped all over the mainboard but decided against it, as I don't feel like having to explain why there are kanji characters all over the inside of a production box. But again, that's neither here nor there.
Friday night I met up with Alexius and company for Alaric's birthday dinner at a nearby restaurant. I still don't know how old Alaric is, come to think of it... after work I was fried enough that I forgot to call 'lex back to see when we were meeting up, so I spent the hour or so in the restaurant drinking coffee and reading, winding down from the roughest week I've had in a long, long time. Much of the night passed in a blur; I was tired enough that my short term memory wasn't working the way it was supposed to, and that I didn't remember ordering the plate of onion rings along with dinner.
Yes, that evening was pretty fragmented. I drove home immediately afterward and crashed hard.
Saturday was a day of getting stuff done. After waking up and making breakfast I set about straightening up the Garden (which I'll take pictures of one of these days), putting away the mountain of clothes that'd built up on the floor, balancing my chequebook, and then starting to work on my Utena costume once again.
I discovered that I'd messed up the collar and scrapped it to try again, but then ran into organisational problems, i.e., couldn't figure out how the bloody thing was supposed to go together. I called Dataline and asked for help. After describing the situation, the pieces, and the directions, I packed the whole shebang up and drove it to the homstead. After clearing off the dinner table, we set about figuring out how it was supposed to go together. Dataline, who has more experience with sewing than I (by about twenty years, give or take), sat down with the directions and a cup of coffee, and began pondering.
And pondering some more.
Her verdict: The instructions for patterns these days suck.
Nevertheless, we figure dout how to put together the collar and lapels. While I might not be much for jigsaw puzzles, I'm good with my hands, and once I got everything pinned in the right places it was the work of only a few minutes to stitch the collar back to the lapels to the part of the collar already on the jacket to the front... once I get going, I don't stop for anything. By the end of the day I'd gotten the sleeves positioned and attached (Dataline showed me a neat trick for shaping sleeves involving a running stitch and discardable thread), the seams pressed, and the pants fully assembled.
By the time I came up for air it was well after midnight.
This afternoon I headed back there to get some more work in by way of another trip to Jo-Anne Fabrics for buttons and seam sealant (basically superglue to put on seam-locks to keep them from unravelling) and the supermarket. By modifying the lapel pattern slightly I managed to turn out a respectible pair of navy blue bars to serve as the front of the jacket, and then pressed and hemmed them so that they'll fit nicely when fastened to the jacket. The costume survived its first wash nicely, with none of the existing navy blue running and most of the pencil marks on the inside coming off. I also gave the suit its first ironing to set up the seams for later alteration (the pants are nice but very large) and to give the jacket some more shape.
I'll probably have it finished in another week or so.
Speaking of Tekkoshocon, bonus packs are now on sale for convention attendeed. Twenty silver packages, consisting preferred seating for the cosplay and anime music videos, a poster, and pins are on saile for $15us. Ten gold packages are also on sale, and are made up of the silver package, a "first in line" pass for the guest meet and greet, and a Tekkoshocon t-shirt for #35us. First come, first serve, available at the pre-reg table at the con. Bring cash.
On, and one pre-registered attendee selected at random will get a free gold package. Good luck.
Users of AIM, The America On-Line Instant Messenger, would do well to re-read their terms of service agreement before considering talking about anything of any real importance using this service if you downloaded the free client on or after 5 February 2004. The new terms of service agreement contains the following passage: "Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses."
Translation: The "content" you speak of is any text you type into your AIM client at any time, or any files you send. AOL reserves the right to capture and store any and all of that content it chooses, to use however it sees fit, for any reason, and you can't say 'boo' about it. Are you using AIM to collaborate with someone on a novel, short story, or paper you're writing? AOL can claim it for themselves if they want. Talking about something sensitive? It can be published without your consent. If you read a little more, you will discovered that you've waived your right to privacy insofar as AIM is concerned. Using AIM at work to meet with your cow-orkers? Don't talk about any projects, because AOL might decide that they should make the money off of them, and not your employers.
Now might be a good time to look into setting up a Jabber client for yourself, or maybe a private Jabber server for use at work.
An author's draft of The King In Yellow is up for auction on eBay.
Slept very well last night - no discomfort at all. The only thing that took getting used to was the fact that my body was trying to self-test the nerve, which was no longer in place. I sometimes think that I can still feel it there, even though for all intents and purposes it's just an inert chuck of calcium compounds in my mouth. I guess this is a little taste of what phantom limb syndrome feels like.
Frequent readers of mine know how I like to keep up with what's going on with the big information brokering companies, like Lexis-Nexis. They've got so much information on so many people, any sort of security breach could be catastrophic as far as the common folks are concerned; identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world today, after all. Back in my BBS days, tales went around with some regularity about some cracker who managed to get into some credit agency (like Equifax) and was doing credit checks on people; sometimes the tales included the cracker capturing the Social Security number and address of one of the people, then getting a bunch of credit cards in their name and carding a lot of stuff, sometimes the tales ended there. My point is that identity theft isn't a new thing, it's been going on for years and years, it's just that no one took it seriously.
Now it's so easy, everyone knows someone who's had an unauthorised charge levied against them. It's even easier these days because people are just handing the necessary information over to phishermen without thinking twice. Still, the big companies get hit now and then, though the amount of data that is compromised is often much greater. In the article I've just linked, Lexis-Nexis was cracked not too long ago, and up to 30k records pertaining to folks on the street may have been copied by network intruders as yet unknown. This happened just weeks after Choicepoint and the Bank of America reported that they had been compromised in the near past, also. L-N reports that they do not yet know how they were compromised (and if they did, they probably wouldn't tell anyone because it would taint an on-going legal investigation). In all probability, someone abused the account of a legitimate subscriber to get in and start pulling credit histories (just like they did all those years ago; back then, using the accounts of professional landlords and car dealerships was all the rage because logging of account usage was so spotty, a few more queries weren't likely to be noticed).
Just wait for crackers to start adding fraudlent charges to people's accounts to get back at them. And ask yourself two questions for me: 1) Could my records have been one of the ones copied? 2) What if the crackers started trying to find ways to delete records entirely, or re-write them?
Think about it.
New techniques of cultivating genelines of stem cells will go into production mode soon to replace supplies contaminated with non-human proteins, in response to the difficulties encountered a few weeks ago. The methods are currently being perfected outside the United States of America, which dodges the restrictions placed upon stem cell research by the United States government. Last month at the University of Wisconsin, cytologists have figured out how to wean current lines of stem cells off of the feeder proteins that are contaminated with mouse proteins. Other cytologists are perfecting a method of growing stem cell cultures completely outside of organic matrices, removed from human and/or animal feeder proteins.
In a move that's left the security-conscious facepalming, a French criminal court has fined security researcher Guillame Tena 5000euro for discovering a vulnerability in Tegam's Virguard, citing copyright infringement law. Tena published a proof-of-concept exploit to prove that the vulnerability exists (after Microsoft's famous missive, "That vulnerability is theoretical only"), and Tegam went to the court instead of their coders to actually fix the hole. The potential for this to cause a precedent in France which would prevent any security-related discoveries from being published is very real; that this might cause other countries to adopt the same legistation is, at this time, only slightly less of a risk.