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I don't know what the hell happened but today's been worked over with a blunt object and it's showing no signs of getting up off the floor. Last night Lyssa and I headed out for a late night adventure to get her medication refilled. We went to dinner at the Silver Diner because we were in search of something warm and relaxing, and decided that a couple of bowls of soup would be the perfect thing. After we got home, Lyssa crashed hard, sleeping until 2100 EST or so on the bed. The week finally caught up with her, and down she went. After she woke up we discovered that her eye medication was about to run out, but there is a CVS not too far away with a 24 hour pharmacy, so we jumped into the TARDIS and set out on our task. Thankfully, that didn't take very long, and we got home in good time. Lyssa went back to bed and I stayed up running down the reason that my pager kept going off every fifteen minutes, a matter to be taken up at work shortly.
Some time last night, the power failed. I'm pretty sure the UPS in the office picked up the slack, at least for a while, though we were so deeply asleep neither Lyssa nor myself heard the siren going off. This wasn't so bad save that the power outage also knocked the alarm clock out.. my internal clock woke me up at 0726 EST with a start - just over half an hour to get ready for work and get out the door! That's when everything started to go wonky...
A bit of insect life in the bathroom woke us up fast. The bag of carrots in the fridge that I was going to pack in my lunch was frozen solid, not a state you'd expect from the refrigerator but the freezer. The bread went moldy sometime yesterday. My pager was still going off. The rain and sleet stopped sometime last night, but what I thought was mist on the windscreen and rear window of my car was actually a sheet of ice... as was the driveway outside.
Work hit the ground running this morning and hasn't stopped yet.
Hwang Woo-Suk, Korean geneticist accused of faking the results of his experiments in which eleven new germlines of human stem cells were supposedly created has returned fire upon his critics, claiming that he would put up instead of shut up; to that end, the sample stem cells are being taken out of cryostasis. He also stated that some of the cell cultures had been contaminated by a fungus of some kind.. convenient, that.
Interesting, how stuff breaks loose all at once...
Speaking of all hell breaking loose, a nuclear power plant near the town of Sosnovy Bor in Russia blew up. Specifically, a smelter that was used to reprocess contaminated metal from the plant blew up.
The results of somebody shooting at padlocks. The results are surprising, to say the least.
Common sense won out - the US Congress refused to reauthorise some of the more controversial parts of the USA PATRIOT Act today. The Senate was unable to get enough votes to prevent a filibuster on the PATRIOT Act.. thank the gods. On the other hand, though, a committee is being put together to examine a report that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping on US citizens (as if committees ever accomplished anything). In 2001 (post 9/11), George W. Bush gave the NSA carte blance to monitor international communications of an unknown number of people inside the US (which is expressly against the NSA charter).
In other news, the House passed a bill that expressly protects the symbols and traditions of Christmas and no other holiday, apparently because they think there's a conspiracy afoot to make Christmas verboten in the US. Interestingly, one representative asked if the symbols of Haunakkah would be preserved as well, and was told flat out that they wouldn't be. Cooler heads did not, unfortunately, prevail in this madness. When last I checked, ravening hordes armed with pitchforks and torches were not setting each and every Christmas decoration aflame, nor where there people with sledgehammers going after churches and malls. Once again, I have to wonder what's going on that this is distracting people from noticing.
In response to the tales of secret prisons set up all over centarl and eastern Europe by the United States for the interrogation of suspected terrorists and the stories that are coming out of them from people who were incarcerated and interrogated for months, the European Parliament wants to know how in the hell it's being done with no repercussions or permission. The chief investigator of the Council of Europe, Dick Marty, has presented the results of a month-long research programme which found evidence to back up these claims, though it was footnoted that the prisoners there are probably being moved to Northern Africa at this time. The allegations are still not being denied by the US, but they're also not saying exactly what's going on or that they're going to stop.. Condoleeza Rice is taking a lot of heat for the black ops, and she isn't doing a very good job of putting minds at ease.
In the country of China, the construction of a power plant was protested by the people, and was put down with a hailstorm of gunfire from the People's Army. The Chinese media machine has done an amazing job of making this a well-kept secret. The Great Firewall of China and broad censorship methods have kept all word of the massacre out of the Chinese news, though as you can see it's leaked out into other newswires around the world. Once that happened, the Chinese government finally got around to releasing the 'official word'.. four days after it happened on 6 December 2005. 'Official word' has it that 300 armed men and women from the village of Dongzhou attacked police forces; surviving villagers reported that at least 20 people had been gunned down by automatic weaponsfire and at least 40 others are missing. The attack was so violent that even the most outspoken independent webloggers and news portals on the Chinese grids are keeping quiet and watching their backs more than usual.
It's one thing to get drunk on a long flight, but getting ferschnickered and starting a fight because the flight attendents won't let you have sex in the bathroom is just too much (note: article is work-safe, might trigger content filters for the word 'sex').
Should the DoD be compiling files on groups? What about groups who don't think that the military should be recruiting so heavily in high schools? Would you consider them a threat? The DoD does, and wrote up a 400 page report (which was leaked) on the subject. They're going so far as to collect information on who attends, the vehicles they take (gee, that sounds a lot like a certain rave I was at back in '98 that got busted...), and keeping tabs on those people. Some of those people are even investigated in depth for their involvement. Vietnam War protestors are no doubt feeling a bit of deja vu.
Last night Lyssa and I went out for Chinese food at the restaurant we went to over the weekend, called the House of Mandarin (165 Southeast Glyndon Street, Vienna, VA, 22180) for an impromptu dinner. I feel compelled to revise my rating of this restaurant to four flare guns, not because of the slow service but the food and the dinner entertainment we recieved last night. I don't know if they had an off night or what, but the food was tasteless - all of it. The egg rolls had no flavour, the dipping sauces had no flavour.. the kebabs that were part of the pu pu platter were marinated (I'm pretty sure) but definitely underdone (so underdone that I wasn't able to bite off pieces of meat and had to more or less swallow it whole; it kept getting stuck in the back of my throat). This left me with a "this isn't tasty" feeling (which I'm definitely feeling today). The dinner entertainment I alluded to made the hair rise on the back of my neck because it casually strolled through the dining room like it was the most natural thing in the world and yes, I'm pretty sure it could survive a nuclear war without too much difficulty.
Suffice it to say that I'm not going back there for a long while.
Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold has resigned from the company just after word got out that the company will be hit by securities fraud litigation. Chief Operating Officer Thomas Swidarski will take over as CEO in the interim. It also appears that some folks within Diebold with a conscience and an idea of what's going on have gotten tired of the company dodging legal requirements for some of their products and are getting out of the blast radius. The State of California is also thinking of filing suit against Diebold for making false claims about its products
Readers of my memory logs know that I have an interest in stem cell research and cloning, and that I've been covering Hwang Woo-Suk's work with cloning (referenced article discusses cloning of dogs via stem cell nuclear transfer). A couple of days ago the doctor who provided him with human ova for research announced that the stem cells produced for another of his research projects were faked. The paper written by Roh Sung-Il, chairman of the board of Mizmedi Hospital, Hwang Woo-Suk, and Dr. Gary Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh will be withdrawn from publication. Word has also gotten out that a former researcher at that lab was forced to fake results showing that eleven new germlines of stem cells had been created.
Happy Patch Tuesday, everyone.
The firestorm of the holiday season is picking up once again, and both feelings and pocketbooks are being hurt by Christmas, Yule, whatever you want to call it. That is precisely the problem.
This time of the calendar year is full of holidays that more or less overlap: Christmas, Yule, the winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, CHRISTmas (that's a new one that's popping up more and more), Festivus.. so many different celebrations, so many people. So many people are up in arms because someone wished them a happy something because they don't agree with or follow that particular path.
Yep, holiday bitchiness is no longer reserved solely for not being able to find a parking spot at the mall or that special gift for a special someone, it's now sharing its origins with someone being told "Merry Christmas" and taking offense at it, as ludicrous as that sounds.
When last I checked, there wasn't nearly enough joy, happiness, and cheer in this world. Any time of year that someone could or would genuinely wish someone else happiness seems like a pretty good thing to keep on the calendar in my book. A time of year that people could enjoy life for what it was and who they had around them seems like a pretty good idea, regardless of what you happen to call it. If you want to throw some gifts into the mix for the halibut, then so be it. But getting honked off because someone wished you a good one?
I've been on the periphery of just such a situation lately, and from where I'm sitting on the sidelines, it's ridiculous. No names, no specifics, I'm not out to embarass anyone or throw fuel on the fire, but come on people, start thinking with the three pounds or so of grey matter riding in the captain's chair on top of your necks and not your stress hormones. Some fantastic rants have come out of this rivalling those of the great one himself but this is hardly the time of year for such theatrics (unless, of course, you're driving down the road and you get flagged off by someone old enough to be your grandfather, but that's a different story).
The holiday season, starting around the fourth week of November and ending shortly after the new year, is claimed by so many different faiths and paths for many of the same reasons that I would argue that there's enough holiday season for everyone. Also, I would put forth that there's more than enough holiday cheer out there to go around regardless of what you do, though lots of folks are ignoring it entirely in favour of complaining that they're persecuted, being pushed to convert, or otherwise finding reasons to complain. Holiday cheer should be one of the universal aspects of society these days, like interstate highways, reality TV, and bad music on the radio, which if we don't all like it, at least we can agree to disagree and not haul out the heavy artillery. Holiday cheer is protocol-agnostic, I argue: It doesn't matter how you express it as long as you express it. People are getting pissed because they're hearing "Mo'adim lesimkha. Chena tova." instead of "Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu omedeto." and "En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!" when they'd much rather be told "Gun tso sun tan'gung haw sun."
Folks, get a bloody clue: They're all expressing the same sentiment!
Holiday cheer is holiday cheer, and telling someone to sit back and enjoy some isn't a capital crime. Get over yourselves. Stop acting insulted because someone wished you a merry Christmas and respond in the same spirit with whatever it is that you celebrate. There's no shame in saying "Joyous Yule" to the Salvation Army folks if that's your trip. Knock it off and enjoy the holiday season, however you happen to do it, whomever or whatever you happen to pray to, whomever or whatever you aspire to be or become like. Start showing a little respect to other people if you want their respect.
Just talking to someone isn't automatically an attempt to convert you into something else. If your faith or your philosophy, or whatever it is that you follow is so easily shaken by someone saying "Merry Christmas" then you really need to sit down and think about what it is that you're doing or following because your belief in it probably isn't strong enough to withstand someone wishing you well.
And for those of you who are about to open your mail readers and flame me for using the Gregorian calendar instead of the lunar/Dianic calendar, the Julian calendar, the Islamic calendar, or any of the others, it's the calendar that science on this planet has more or less settled on, so go blame the chemists, engineers, doctors, and what have you. If you don't like it you are more than welcome to start keeping track of dates in time_t format.
The Firefly fandom and divination, together at last.
We are coming closer and closer to William Gibson's Idoru with this, the first beauty contest for constructs. Promoted Franz Cerami is trying to start the world's first talent agency for computer generated people, and to do so he's auditioning artists through their portfolios. Each construct's measurements (in both inches and processing power) are given.
And people wonder e-books haven't caught on yet. Personally, I'm happy with everything I've downloaded from Lulu.com. If you need anything else, there's always a GNUtella network or four, BitTorrent, or even, if you're patient, alt.binaries.e-book on Usenet.
There are also various utilities out there that let you alter the parameters of .pdf files, like PDFtrans. Remember that there are always alternatives.
Wow - nice cosplay automail. Can't wait to see it when it's finished.
This is an interesting development - undercover law enforcement will be prowling public transportation of all kinds to conduct surveillance of riders as well as stop terrorist activities as they start. These VIPER (Visible Intermodal Protection and Response) teams will start patrolling in Las Angeles, California, Washington state, Atlanta, George, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC's Metrorail system. Why am I suddenly getting visions of Team America: World Police?
Congratulations to Kash for making it to salary from hourly wage at work!
It's Dean Grey Tuesday. Those who are about to download, we salute you.
At 0035 PST today, Stanley Williams, who was one of the original founders of the street gang called the Crips was executed at San Quentin State Prison in California (login required - Bugmenot is your friend). Tookie Williams, as he was known, was convicted for his role in the murder of four people in 1979. The story takes an interesting turn as one examines his life since then - he became an outspoken anti-gang advocate from prison, wrote at least eight books that I know of, and was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize four times until his execution earlier today.
I find myself of two minds about this. On one hand, he shot four people from behind with a sawed-off shotgun back in 1979, when he was first bringing together the street gang, which has become infamous across the country. The gang is responsible for some pretty brutal actions, from murder to dealing drugs. They're often reputed to be better armed than the police (but then again you can say that of pretty much any organised gang these days). While the death penalty no longer serves its intended purpose (dissuading the public from killing people) because it's now so far removed from the people it's supposed to scare, it still serves to remove malignant influences from society at large, much as a surgeon would excise a tumour to save a patient.
On the other hand, Tookie Williams really did turn over a new leaf in prison, from all appearances. He spoke out time and again against gangs and violence, moving missives that would surprise anyone who only knew that Williams had been a gang member. He was a very intelligent individual, very well spoken and very passionate about his beliefs and about street gangs. If you head over to Amazon you'll find the books that Williams wrote, including his memoirs.. I can't help but think that the world is somehow diminished by his execution because it cut off all the work he's done in the past thirty years from inside prison.
I find myself torn... he started out badly, with a reputation for ruthlessness that would give anyone pause, but did a lot of good in the latter part of his life, up until early this morning. He fought for stays of execution and clemency up until the last minutes of his life, all of which Schwarzenegger declined.
Someone who fought to turn his life around in thirty years, whose works even caught the attention of the Nobel Prize Committee from behind bars, has died. I don't know if his work was enough to make up for the senseless murder of four people, that's not for me to judge, but I think it went pretty far. I hope that William's work has kept kids and teens from doing the same stupid things that he did all those years ago; looking at the next generation, I despair sometimes.
Maybe thirty-odd years in prison and such works can really turn someone's life around.
In news from the biotech front, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California have created chimaeric mice with human neurons to better study degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's disease. This was done by injecting human stem cells into mouse embryos, which is a breakthrough on two fronts: First, it proves that stem cells (from humans, at least) can be successfully transplanted into other species. It does not prove whether or not the reverse is true. Historically, xenografts (tissue grafts from other species into humans) have not gone well. Second, it resulted in the successful birth of mice with human neurons inside their brains. It is calculated that less that 0.1% of the neurons in the mice were actually human, but that's still a lot of neurons. That's not enough for the mice to learn how to pick the locks on their cages or start programming in C, to put some fears to rest. The next step is to implant mouse embryos with stem cells from people with neurodegenerative disorders to see if they'll develop those diseases, so that their progression can be better charted and analysis will be easier.
A lot of wires are being pulled and ears are being bent behind closed doors as the USA PATRIOT Act nears its end and the Senate fights to keep it around. Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania fought to an impasse with the rest of the Republicans in the Senate, so he turned to George W. Bush to goose things along. As things stand now, 16 provisions of the PATRIOT Act will expire on the last day of this year, five of which deal with computer crime. Other provisions of the Act cover the use of search and seizure warrents classified as secret by the court system and compliance with National Security Letters to the letter (and not being allowed to say that you were even served with one), and telecommunications providers having to keep accurate, detailed records of arbitrary network traffic. Some new stuff was added to the PATRIOT Act, making it look even less patriotic: The law that defines how many cigarettes may be considered contraband would be dropped to 10,000, for example, and it would become a federal crime to make a recording (be it a photograph or a video) of garages, warehouses, or other facilities used by large transportation means with the intent of doing harm (which isn't defined). Another addition suggests the creation of a new court to add to the judiciary system, specifically a new federal drug court.
Don't you feel much safer, now?
What the hell?
Spend an hour messing around with GNOD - you'll discover something new based upon what you like. You won't be sorry.
An appeals court in California decided last week that doctors can claim religious liberties in refusing to treat homosexuals, stating that it violates their morals. What's next? Refusing to treat someone who isn't an evangelical Christian?
Ouch! White Wolf's website was cracked! If you've ever bought something direct from their website, or if you're re-upped your Camarilla membership, you might want to contact your bank and have them put a watch on your card.
What a weekend...
On Friday afternoon I was sent offsite to one of our hosting facilities to perform an emergency audit ('emergency' in the sense of "do it now so you won't have to do it over Yule break"), which wound up taking most of the day. An entire day of following cables from point A to point B by way of a rat's nest of cables suspended ten feet above the floor has a way of tiring you out, because it all starts looking the same after a while. That night, after driving home later than I'd intended, I stumbled home in time to meet up with Duo, Kash, Rob (who's been visiting Rhianna from Scotland for a number of weeks now), and Lyssa to go out to dinner before hitting the movie theatre to catch the opening night of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Rob's an older gentleman, his hair mostly grey, with a pronounced Scottish accent; I found myself reading his lips more often than not because I'm not terribly adept at picking apart people's speech patterns. We wound up heading over to Amphora for dinner, because it has the best selection of vegetarian fare for diners in our area. We spent the evening marvelling at the amount of food that Rob can eat and.. you should have guessed by now, talking and talking.
One of these days, I'm going to keep a list of all the topics we touch on during dinner. I expect it'll take up at least one page of text without cross references.
The only showing of the movie we could hit was the 2230 EST showing, so we got back into the TARDIS and drove back to the Tyson's Corner Mall, the third floor of which has been converted into a full-sized movie theatre. We got there ahead of time to get tickets for the later showing and then killed some time by wandering around the (also full-sized) Barnes and Noble, which occupies part of the two floors underneath the theatre.
One thing about mega-malls, you can find just about anything there.
By the time we got back to the theatre the place was packed full of people waiting eagerly for the movie to begin. The requisite half hour of trailers and admonishments against people leaving their cellphones turned on ran, and then The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe started. Along the way we met up with Kyrin the Toxic Elf, whom we invited to the holiday party the next night.
Like many other kids, I read the book when I was younger, around the age of seven or so. I wasn't fond of it. I tried again some years later, when I was more able to appreciate the nuances of the book. I didn't like it then, either. That said, I didn't like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I did find it visually engaging and well written. The special effects were impressive. The casting was also excellent. But the story? I still don't much care for it.
I've already gotten a few e-mails asking about this, so I'm going to reply to them in here publically: No, it isn't due to the Christian overtones in the movie and book that I dislike the story. I dislike the story because I dislike the story as a whole, no more and no less. I disliked it even before I knew there were Christian overtones in the story (which was around the age of six or seven). Please don't make this out to be more than it is.
We got out of the movie around 0145 EST on Saturday and headed for home to bed down for the night after what turned out to be a very, very long week.
What the hell. They're all very, very long weeks at this time of year.
Lyssa and I wound up sleeping in until 1000 EST or so on Saturday morning, though we cuddled in bed until 1130 or therabouts, until we realised that we had to get out of bed at some point if we were going to get breakfast, go shopping, and get the apartment cleaned up for the cookie exchange party that night. To that end, while Lyssa got Kash and Duo out of bed I got in the shower to clean up and then we decamped for the Silver Diner for breakfast, which I hadn't expected but went along with anyway. The four of us wound up talking far longer than we probably should have, and had to scramble for the supermarket to stock up. We wound up splitting up - some going to Whole Paycheque to get stuff for Kash, and myself going to Giant to get everything else. On the whole, it took about an hour or so to get everything rounded up, modulo a couple of candles for the altar on the balcony. The afternoon was a whirlwind of running around to get stuff (which we could have avoided by starting off earlier and not goofing off quite so much at the Diner, honestly) and then racing home to get ready. Lyssa, Duo, and Kash were turned loose in the apartment to pick stuff up and clean while I got ready to make my famous chocolate chip cookies.. I mixed up a batch of dough (which typically makes twelve dozen cookies, give or take a few) as carefully as I could, though I wound up breaking a wooden spoon trying to mix the ingredients after a certain point. If there's one thing you can learn from Matrix Revolutions, it's that you can mix cookie dough with your hands and have it come out pretty well... I got a little under half a full batch done by the time people started arriving. There's still a mixing bowl full of dough in the fridge that's probably unusable by this point, unfortunately. After three batches in the oven, I decided that I'd better get out of the kitchen and start being a proper host, otherwise I'd be baking several dozen cookies that only a small dent would be made in. There's also the matter of coming across as trying to out-do everyone, which wasn't my intention.
Mark and Butterfly arrived, as did Hasufin and Mika, Kyrin, and a host of other folks that I honestly don't remember everyone who was at the party.. there were so many people and I was running around so much, I sort of lost track.
Alexius drove down from Pittsburgh to visit, and came to the party with Alora, whom he was staying with (and whom I haven't seen since the very early days of B'Witche's Tavern back home. Grant (Lyssa's brother) arrived with a case of beer in tow and a box of cookies. Kyrin and I wound up hanging out for a while in the kitchen talking about how we got here and sundry other things. Alora got lost in the library for a couple of hours poring over the books. Jarin, Duo and Rob wound up talking to pretty much everyone.
Alexius brought a batch of TIE Fighters with him, peanut butter thumbprints with caramel filled chocolate kisses and espresso beans on top. Remarkably tasty, those were - everyone kept going back for seconds.
I noticed something about some folks who have certain restrictions (read: oaths) upon them: When they think you do, too, they're remarkably understanding and accomodating, even when you don't. To those whom I refer to, thank you for your consideration and politeness. We were just talking in the library, and though we keep people's names secret by and large, we think that information wants to be free in other matters. Feel free to stop by and talk shop sometime.
Around midnight, everyone remaining sat down to watch The Boondocks on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, which is an animated series based upon the comic strip of the same name by Aaron MacGruder, who has been a speaker a number of times at HOPE, in case you're trying to place the name.
Lauren was kind enough to dance for us again, this time with a full audience in the living room. Some of the songs on Kyrin's MP3 player proved quite to her liking after I jacked it into the surround sound system, and she had a couple of signature tracks on her own unit. She recieved a rousing ovation after she finished, and everyone present was most impressed.
My .plan file was extended a bit thanks to that particular party.. updates forthcoming.
The Toxic Elf was the last to leave that night. We made up a gift box of about two dozen cookies for him on his way out the door.
No pictures were taken because I was too busy baking and running around to remember to take any. No footage of Lauren dancing, either.
We finally crashed around 0200 or 0300 EST on Sunday, I'm not exactly sure when. I do know that we dragged ourselves out of bed, met up with Hasufin and Mika, and we excahnged gifts at that time. Lyssa recieved a pair of sea turtle slippers; I was gifted with a ten cup coffee maker(!). Hasufin recieved a pair of cast iron skillets, a smallish one and a much larger skillet with a lid, suitable for use in baking as well as cooking.
We piled into our respective cars and went in search of lunch that didn't involve large amounts of processed sugars. That morning was the first sugar crash that I've ever had. Just looking at cookies made me feel ill in a way reminiscent of my first hangover.. my body needed protein, and lots of it. It was gotten in the form of Chinese food from a little restaurant that Lyssa and Kash found some months ago. We had to wait to get our menus, which was slightly annoying, but once the food was served it was top notch. A good sign of a good Chinese restaurant is how many Oriental folks are eating there - nine or ten on a Sunday morning ws a good omen. I'll dig up the name of the restaurant we went to - I give it one and a half flare guns (due to the slow service). It's a really good restaurant - if you're in northern Virginia, stop by.
If this is true, we're all in a whole lot of trouble.
Richard Pryor - RIP
|I took the "The Animal Spirit" quiz on gURL.com|
|My animal spirit is...
According to shamanistic wisdom, the horse is first and foremost a free spirit, despite being enslaved by humans for thousands of years. Horse people tend to hate being told what to do, but do what they need to do anyway, without complaint or anger. Read more...
What is your animal spirit?
0845 EST: At work. The snow fell most of last night, judging from the accumulation on the TARDIS and the landscape. The snow is wet and heavy and lays in broad sheets - it's perfect for making a snowman or for packing into snowballs. It also turns into thick grey slush on the roads and can make it difficult to drive, but only if you're not bright enough to not drive like most Washington, DC drivers, which is to say faster than is safe with any precipitation coming down. I would also go so far as to say that inexperienced drivers would have problems with it because they wouldn't know how to cope with the road conditions properly.
The rest of us are no doubt wondering why the roads are so empty. It's a beautiful day even though it's cold and snowy outside, and it's really not that difficult to drive in. I'm one of maybe five people at the office at the moment and I'm enjoying the quiet.. not that it's going to stay like this for long, mind you. It's the nature of my job to attract crisis like rotting hamburger meat attracts flies, though usually because people in my profession are adept at fixing unusual problems more than they are prone to causing such problems. We leave that to developers.
Who says that Feds don't have a sense of humour?
A few world governments are predicting the impending demise of the Kyoto Protocol, which is an agreement signed by major world governments some years ago to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the environment. Ian Campbell, Environment Minister of Australia, went on the record as saying that Australia made a mistake in signing on back in the 1990's. He's even going so far as to say that there are a number of countries other than the US that are actively resisting the Kyoto Protocol now and are trying at the very least to renegotiate it.
What a day. No time to sit, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I'm at home now, but still on the go. More as I have time to think.
More rearrangment of the apartment last night, this time, the bookcases from the living room were unloaded, moved into the library (where we had originally planned to put a couch), reorganised, and repacked. It makes the living room look much bigger and gives more room to walk around. We'll probably move the couch over to where the bookcases used to be (and flank it with the endtables) some time tonight. While I was at it, I threw out a few months worth of old magazines that I'll net get around to wearing as well as old catalogues to free up some space on a bookshelf. I also made the time to punch holes in and bind a bunch of printouts that've been piling up around the apartment, in my backpack, and in my printer under the desk in the office. They'll probably wind up on said shelf tonight...
US TSA operatives don't have 'shoot to kill' orders, it appears, but they definitely can if they have to (their operations criteria, which are basically what they're allowed to do and supposed to do under various circumstances, are kept classified, but you can learn a lot by watching them work). Yesterday, US Air Marshals took out a passenger who claimed to have a bomb and refused to follow orders. The passenger had been aboard an American Airlines flight out of Miami, Florida. Afterward, three bags in the cargo hold that bomb sniffing dogs had twigged to were removed from the plane and blown up by the bomb squad (in many cases, it's easier and far safer to move a bomb out of harm's way and blow it up yourself than it is to try to defuse it these days). Secondary reports have it that the passenger refused to put his bag down and reached into it, which caused the air marshals to open fire and kill him. Under the circumstances, I think they did the right thing. As much as what a lot of the TSA does leaves a bad taste in my mouth, the guy they'd cornered didn't drop his bag when asked and reached inside of it instead. They did what they had to do under the circumstances.
No word yet on what they found in the bag or whose bags were pegged by the dogs.
Now this is pretty funny.. brass knuckles encrusted with rhinestones, only $72us each.
A timely website for the holiday season: The Consumerist, which is a weblog for consumer complaints of all kinds, from everyone's favourite mega-department store Wal-Mart to Amazon.
Researchers in London, England have figured out the mechanism behind metastisization, the phenomenon where cancer cells migrate to other parts of the body to set up shop. Before cancerous cells detach and go walkabout (floatabout?) they con bone marrow cells into migrating first (interesting...) to land someplace else and prepare the environment for the cancerous cells.
Ann Coulter: Dale Carnegie Graduate.
The US Senate, in its infinite wisdom, has earmarked $3bus to supply every US citizen with a digital television. Under the entitlement, if you have an old analog TV, you can trade it in for a brand new digital TV for nothing. Rather than spend that money rebuilding NOLA, they want to drop three billion dollars on making televisions readily available to everyone and anyone. Rather than do something about the educational system, they are talking about funding the purchase of televisions, which are guaranteed to bring the amount of information that students pick up during their formative years down to pop culture and music videos, not mathematics, vocabulary, and critical thought.
Whether or not televisions will be equipped with 'off' switches is at this time unknown.
They're predicting a winter storm for my area tonight (2-4 inches by 0630 EST), and already everyone's battening down the hatches. Arrangements are being made at work for people to work from home, the stores are full of people stocking up on enough food to out-wait the natural decay of all of the baryonic matter in the universe, and it's bitter, bloody cold outside.
Lyssa and I made dinner tonight, a perfectly broiled salmon with cajun shrimp salad. By and far, this was the finest dinner I'd had in a very long time, and remember it even now fondly. We sat about for a while after dinner, while I did some stuff for work, then set about trying to build that bookcase we bought back in September.
I say 'try' because once I got the box open, I took inventory of the contents: Lots of boards, directions, styrofoam.. but no hardware. No screws. No nuts. No fasteners. No nails for the backboard.
We've got two choices: We can either go to the hardware store and get everything we'd need to put the bookshelf together, or we can scrap it (we paid a pittance for it) and get a bookcase that's nice, not messed up (the contents are pretty banged up, I have to admit) and constructable.
Yes, I know Lucien's acting wiggy. I need to rebuild him, and possibly upgrade his hardware while I'm at it. One thing at a time: OS and software upgrades as time permits. I'll announce when and how, and post the new SSL certificate fingerprints when it's done.
I also need to rebuild Lain (my firewall), partially because she's overdue for an OS upgrade, and partially because I'd like to implement traffic shaping so that many things will run faster on our end of things.
Long, long, long day yesterday.. spent much of the day up to my neck in telephone call routing data and switch configurations for a new project. I didn't get home until 1900 EST or so - I left work after 1800 and picked up the pizza that Lyssa'd ordered for dinner. She knew I'd be getting home late and neither of us were in much of a shape to cook, so while I was out and about I picked up dinner and came home to collapse. Much of the evening was spent listening to the Advent Children soundtrack (can't wait for that to be officially released in the US) and doing a little Yule shopping. I also threw a load of laundry in, though we really need to get cracking with picking up the bedroom and the kitchen.. the cookie party is this weekend, and I'm going to be making enough of a mess baking a batch of cookies in a couple of days.
Hussein's got to be packing bowling balls to pull this off - he boycotted his own trial yesterday, causing the court proceedings to go on without him. One would think that a man on trial for war crimes involving an entire country would be forced to attend his own trial, but apparently prisoner handling techniques aren't all they could be in Iraq.. he's also been bitching out the judges, which is not going to inspire them toward leniency, if that's what he's after..
It's times like this that remind me of why friends of mine who go abroad tell everyone that they're Canadian and not from the US: Condoleeza Rice was sent to Germany to apologise for an innocent German citizen being picked up by a black ops team under suspicion of being a terrorist and imprisoned in a classified facility for interrogation (yes, I sound like I should be a guest on the pre-George Noory Coast to Coast AM; read the news sites and follow what's been going on if you don't believe me). She did anything but apologise. Since the reports of the classified sites got out, most of the rest of the world's opinion of the US has taken a nosedive; her statements confirm the reports. Rice admitted that the CIA boys made a mistake, but made no attempt at rectifying this dipomatic pie in the face.
This is neat: Someone used kitchen utensils to extend the range of an Apple Airport Express by rigging up an external parabolic antenna.
A plugin for Apple's iTunes called pearLyrics, which displayed the lyrics to playing songs is no more because Warner/Chappell Music, Ltd. don't understand that reading lyrics to songs isn't copyright infringement.
A Boing Boing exclusive: Hurricane Wilma from street-level.
The TSA's going to have kittens when they read this. The comments are about the quality I'd expect of Slashdot, though.
This sounds like a lot of fun: Deflexion.
Holy cats... I didn't expect to see this anytime soon: Sun Microsystems is opening the source code to its latest processor core, the UltraSPARC T1. The specs, source courde, and simulation models will all be made available, along with the spec for the instruction set.
Now, you're probably wondering why a hardware design has source code.. the answer is that processor cores aren't so much designed by electrical engineers drawing circuit diagrammes anymore as they are programmers working in a language called Verilog, or a similiar language like VHDL. In a nutshell, rather than drawing diagrammes to outline logic, a programming language is used to define all of the operations the CPU will perform, lay out the cache, define what the ALU (arithmatic logic unit) is capable of, the instruction set, and all the other nifty stuff that goes into the magick smoke. When it's all said and done, the source code for the processor is run through a compiler which then outputs a design suitable for fabrication and a bunch of other stuff... unfortunately, CPU design and fabrication is far from my area of expertise, so I'm writing what I learned back in undergrad computer architecture courses (yo, Dr. Grove!). There are (I've just discovered) many resources on the Net that explain this particular art, so plug 'cpu design' into Google and see what comes up.
A rat proto-brain has been trained to fly a virtual jet in an F-22 flight sim. I say 'proto-brain' because it isn't a true brain, it's a neural network composed of about 25k neurons extracted from a rat embryo. Still, they're living in a petri dish in a life support medium and they're flying a virtual plane.. the ramifications of this are fascinating.
Oh, gods... James Cameron is moving ahead with his live-action adaptation of Battle Angel Alita, also called GUNNM.
No, I'm not holding out a lot of hope for it.
One Joseph Hanas is being punished for not completing a drug rehabilitation programme; at the age of 19 he was arrested for possession of marijuana. He left because he was being pressured to become a Pentacostal; Hanas is Catholic. While there, he was berated with such pleasantries as being told that his path was 'witchcraft', and his bible and rosary were taken from him.
Thank you, faith-based initiatives.
The first snow of the year's come to DC, depositing a two-inch layer of fluffy white snow over the trees, ground, and everything else. It began to snow yesterday around noon and didn't let up until sometime late last night, I know not when. I left work early to pick up Lyssa at the metro station (who had gotten out of work early but didn't have her keys to let her into the building), which landed me smack in the middle of traffic composed of everyone else who had the same idea. After returning home Lyssa set about making dinner (the last of the chicken and dumplings from the weekend) while I jacked back in to work on something at work that needed to be taken care of. After getting things wrapped up for the day we headed out to the store to pick up some ornaments for the Yule tree. We first stopped at Michael's to look over the blown glass ornaments, which we picked up a couple of boxes of on sale before walking down to CVS to find wire hooks to attach them and a few other miscellaneous things. After a hunt we found the hooks on a shelf down near the floor, where you had to know about them to find them in any reasonable amount of time. After that was a stop at the supermarket to get some groceries for the week, such as stuff for lunch and tonight's dinner (which will probably be pork chops).
I've got a little Yule tree.. it's not much, only about six feet high and not terribly full, but I like it. It's easy to set up, doesn't take up much room, and is easy to store when not being used. It took longer to get the lights strung on the tree than it did to figure out how to assemble the tree and stand it up next to the door to the balcony. We've got a total of three strings of lights on it and a couple of dozen ornaments, from the small number I brought with me from Pittsburgh to the ones we bought during our last trip back to Pennsylvania. It took us a while to figure out how to get everything organised but once we did the tree shaped up nicely. I'll take a couple of pictures when I get home tonight.
Next on our agenda is moving the two bookcases out of the living room into the library (we're not going to be getting a new couch soon) to neaten things up a little, which we'll probably do tonight.
As I've alluded to a bit, this weekend we bought a new betta, an electric blue crown tail betta (note: that's not a picture of my betta, it's an illustration of the unique feature of this particular sub-breed, namely the separate but not ragged fin edges) that I haven't named yet. He's not very big yet, only about one and a half inches in length at the present time but once he acclimates to his new surroundings I've a feeling that at he's going to start growing. He's still getting used to having much more freedom of motion in the new bowl, I've noticed. Again, photographs to come.
I'm considering naming him Kurt.
The Tom DeLay trial has all but dropped out of the media in the US (as expected) but that doesn't mean that he's not in trouble anymore. Tom DeLay, former majority leader in the House of Representatives is still on trial for money laundering, though the charges of conspiracy were dropped against him for unknown reasons. DeLay is in trouble for sneaking $190kus in corporate funds along with two associates (John ColyandrO and Jim Ellis, both GOP fundraisers) to GOP candidates for the Texas legislature back in 2005, which is illegal under Texas law. Charges of conspiracy were dropped because it actually happened in 2003, before the law against conspiring to violate Texas election laws went into effect.
The US Department of Transportation is funding practical research into tracking the location of every vehicle on the road, to the tune of millions of US dollars; only Washington state and Oregon have made any progress to date. The idea is that a GPS receiver/transponder would be attached to every car - the GPS figures out where the vehicle is (within certain limits) and the transponder broadcasts a packet consisting of a unique ID value for the car, the time, and the car's current location. The project has to do with 'mileage based road user fees', essentially paying a certain fee per mile driven on a public roadway. Part of the project has it that the vehicle would be disabled if the GPS transponder were tampered with in any way.
These are why I don't do user support anymore...
A bad night.. I'm not sure if it was the exhaustion doing a number on me or what, but I didn't sleep well at all. Lots of nightmares, lots of getting up to wander around the apartment, trying to clear my head, tire myself out, or otherwise escape from them. In the first dream, which shook me up enough that I couldn't get back to sleep for some period of time, I walked into the office to check my e-mail because I figured that something important had come in from work and saw perched on the wall next to the lamp a black spider with white markings, about an inch in length. Preliminary research suggests that it was a funnel web spider of some kind.. I made it the usual deal about not bothering me or anyone else in the apartment, but failed to realise that it didn't respond somehow (spiders usually do when I talk to them for some obscure reason). It also didn't click with me that it was early December, and yet there was a large spider alive, well, and running around.
It might have been a jumping spider, come to think of it...
The reason I'm doing so much research on spiders at the moment is simple: It scared the hell out of me, and I want to get a handle on it.
Getting back to my dream, though, I went back to bed, and then felt compelled to get back up and go back to the office. The light was back on, and there was a very large gentleman sitting in the office chair. By 'large' I mean big enough to rip apart a minivan without mechanical assistance, with very small eyes... unusually, inhumanly small, drawn very much like the eyes a cartoon character might have, little more than an S-shaped upper half and a smooth line for the bottom, shiny black, with no other features. The man had closely cropped blonde hair and was wearing a white t-shirt (that I recall). The expression on his face was anything but amused... in fact, he looked downright pissed, and insulted that he had to sit in my office. I forced myself awake at this time, because I didn't want to tangle with a pissed-off dream.
Later this morning Lyssa and I awoke before the alarm went off and we went about our business.. until Lyssa could be heard from in the bathroom calling my name about an unannounced visitor skulking about along the baseboard. I stepped inside as Lyssa exited, and noticed a black critter, about an inch long, with white markings. The spider from my dream. I twitched aside part of the bathmat to provoke a reaction and it took off across the tiles, big enough that it kept getting tangled up in the hair on the floor from brushing my hair last night. I slapped a water tumbler over it and started calling for something broad and flat to slide underneath - eventually, the backing from a pair of pantyhose was produced. As I tried to pin the little sucker under the tumbler I saw a pair of black legs scrabbling around for purchase to get loose.
Spider trapped, I fumbled it through the apartment, got the back door open, and shook the little sucker out of the tumbler and possibly off of the card as rapidly as I could manange to ensure that it didn't try anything heroic, like clinging to the tumbler, card, or my hand or bathrobe. After I went back in, I pretty much broke down, partially due to the other nightmare I'd had shortly before waking up.
...maybe it was a bold jumping spider. The markings seem right.
The second dream was altogether worse. In the dream, I had just taken a break from doing something or other that took up a lot of time to check on my fish.. in the dream, I had a largish fishtank (about five gallons or so) in which I kept a number of goldfish. To my horror, I discovered that I'd neglected the fish for many days, probably weeks - the water was greyish brown and polluted and the fish.. the fish were dead, or minutes away from dying. Their eyes were milky white, scales all but fallen off, and trailing clouds of white fluffy decay as the currents in the water pushed the stiff bodies over the moldy gravel.
It isn't often that I feel emotions in my dreams, but I felt sick. I felt fear, and regret, and hatred for myself during this dream. I'd been so wrapped up in my own stuff that I completely forgot to take care of my fish, my pets, which depend on me.
In a futile attempt to save at least the one last goldfish that responded when I moved the tank around, I dropped some food (it looked like the Betta Bio-Gold that I feed the bettas) into the tank. The goldfish swam half-hearted upward to get at the food, which somehow got the attention of the two corpses at the bottom of the tank.. the two formerly dead goldfish had turned into eel-like betta fish, black, long, and sleek, with no eyes and mouths full of sharp white teeth, not unlike a pirahna. They began to stalk the third fish, by this time lapping at the food on the surface, then smoothly came up beneath it and began ripping at its fins. The third fish barely noticed the assault as it ate. Then it too turned into one of the moray/betta fish and continued to eat, as if it were trying to build up its strength.
I bolted awake at this point to escape the dream, which left me shivering and mostly incoherent after the episode with the spider in the bathroom.
The city of New Orleans announced on the twenty-ninth of November that it would be deploying a new wireless network across the city to help businesses get back on their feet by allowing businesses to get back on the Net to do business. Bellsouth recinded the donation of a building to the city police force because the service would be free. This is not the first time something like this has happened; around the country (in Pennsylvania, in particular) telecom companies have been lobbying state governments to prevent cities from setting up and running free wireless networks, arguing that it constituted unfair competition funded by the taxpayers. The NOLA police are still working out of garages, hotels, and anywhere else they can find a place to set up shop.
Nifty - a pack of etched stainless steel playing cards.
Even more nifty - a microbe that produces hydrogen, not carbon dioxide, as a metabolic byproduct. Its preferred environment is pretty harsh (near-boiling water and dissolved carbon monoxide gas - it's a volcanic spring extremophile) but if it could be successfully cultured, the gas might be usable as fuel.
The state of North Carolina has certified Diebold electronic voting machines for use in elections, even though they don't meet the state's legal requirements for voting machines.
Just wonderful - some of this is practically in my back yard.
It's snowing in NOVA. This means that everyone who isn't a refugee from Pittsburgh is going to be doing twenty on the roads.. even on the beltway.
Want to see a copy of the letter Condolezza Rice sent to the European Union because they proposed an inter-governmental body to oversee ICANN? The Net is supposed to be "medium and facilitator for global economic expansion and development" but only the US is allowed to oversee it.
Been denied your prescription because "it conflicted with the moral values" of the pharmacist? Go here now.
Yesterday afternoon, Lupa, Teriel, Lyssa, Kash, Duo, Mika, Hasufin, and myself hung out at the apartment for a good bit of the day, enjoying each other's company and generally having a good time. Later in the afternoon, we piled into the cars and set out for The World Tree, a pagan shop run by some of Rialian's friends in Maryland. Lupa and Taylor were introduced first hand to the wonders of beltway traffic, which set Lupa off, much to my chagrin. Bring connected to T/time is an interesting thing, but by no means an accurate thing. At any rate, we found the store with relatively little difficulty for a change. The usual store owners weren't around but their staff, a pair of younger women were, and were most pleased to see so many of us piling into the store on a weekend.. they were also taken with the conversation that Rialian, Teriel, and Lupa were having about the seminars that they were arranging with the World Tree. Especially the Work that Teriel's been doing with hormones and neurotransmitters.
We wound up nosing through the World Tree's selection of books, books, more books, and shiny things. Sharp things, in any capacity, were consipcuously absent, which I hypothesise has something to do with Maryland state law. Duo was quite taken with their selection of alchemical tracts (seeing as how he is half of The Ghetto Alchemists, along with his twin brother Solo (it's a long story...)) but opted to pass on them for the time being, as he has a number of experiments to handle at the present time. I didn't find too much that I needed at the moment, though I did pick up the latest edition of a periodical that comes out of Philadelphia from time to time.
Around 1800 EST Rialian showed us to a local kebab joint, not too far away from the store. I figured that it was going to be a fast food place, but I was wrong - it's actually a very small restaurant with very good Mediterranean food called Moby Dick's Big Kebabs (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried) that was SRO with patrons. The food really is good there, good enough that the place seems to hve quite a clientele. I had the chicken sandwich platter, which took a while but was grilled to perfection, and very tasty. I didn't get a chance to grab a business card while I was there, but I'll dig up the contact information when I get a chance. Suffice it to say that I give Moby Dick's two flareguns, for how busy they were and the service thus resulting.
After dinner we headed back to our cars and then back home to get dressed to go to chiarOscuro for of their last nights.. yes, chianOscuro is ending, because the organiser is moving to Canada and no one wants to take over the night, though another will take its place in January of 2006, I have heard. I didn't much feel like getting dressed up last night, so I just changed my shirt and pulled my hair back. Lyssa took a shower and changed her clothes into something more suitable. Just about everyone else was fine the way they were, and went as they were.
Someone should call CNN - we made it there in record time, under an hour, because we actually put together intelligent instructions (that resulted in only one turn-around). Once we caught up with one another (because we tok a number of vehicles) we trooped into the club.
It seems to be a rule of nature that whenever you have to wait for anyone in the foyer, one of your favourite songs to dance to (in this case, Annie, Would I Lie To You? by Iris) will be played. Though, it should be noted, more favourites were played that evening as well... Alphaville, InSoc (Peace and Love, Incorporated, no less!) and Murray Head (part of the soundtrack to the musical Chess) wound up on the setlist last night.
Unfortunately, I did something dumb. A few minutes after we hit the dance floor, I felt something give in my right shoulder, which never did heal properly. If you've never seen me dance, just about every limb winds up being used, including my arms. I felt something go 'Click!' in my right shoulder, and pain shot from the joint up into the back of my head and down into my chest as it did so. While I could still move my arm the pain was such that it didn't feel like a good idea to do so. I walked off of the dance floor, feeling like a complete idiot.
Between being tired and in pain, I wasn't able to muster up the concentration to fix my shoulder. A few experimental wiggles dissuaged me from trying to re-seat the ball in the socket.
I'm not certain whom called Teriel over, but after I opened a port in the firewall, he was able to turnoff the pain receptors and get the muscles to relax enough that I could use my arm again. As he observed, I favoured the arm the rest of the evening (as anyone watching saw me tuck my hand into my back pocket to minimise any motion could tell). I wound up taking things much easier last night.
It took the wind out of my sails, no two ways about it. I didn't dance a whole lot the rest of the night, though Id di drink a lot of water to rehydrate my body.
I feel kind of bad about last night.. I wanted to dance more. Everyone had a good time at chiarOscuro. Even Duo got into the groove of things for a while before we had to go home.
We left around 0115 EDT Sunday morning, when both Mika and I (the drivers) were getting too tired to keep going. It took us longer than expected to get home because the streets in downtown DC are illogical and nonsensical by turns, but we did get home by 0300 EST, just before I got too tired to drive (though it was an act of will to stay awake by exit 16 on the Beltway heading back to Virginia).
I got up around 1000 EST this morning, because Lyssa had an appointment to keep - she had picked up some gear from Craig's List and was supposed to meet up with her contact at a Metro station. So, Lyssa got up early, and I got up around 1000 EST because I was dead tired. As I was getting out of the shower, Lupa knocked on the door. I poked my head out to find that she and Teriel were going to leave soon, because they were driving back to Pittsburgh, and Teriel was (after that) driving back to Ohio. I towelled off, put on a robe, and said farewell as they headed out. After getting dressed (and Mika and Hasufin came over with their new supply of coffee), we headed out to pick up the new toys. Unfortunately, her contact was running late, so to kill the need to get lunch and get parking in Arlington (which has to have the worst parking situation in all of Virginia) we stopped off at a Chinese restaurant for tea and egg rolls, then walked over to pick up what we'd come for - a load of music CDs for gifts for people. We headed back to the TARDIS and drove home to meet up with the crew once more for lunch at Amphora, where we spent much of the afternoon discussing the finer points of high ritual, being transgender, and Catholic doctrine and dogma.
Okay.. now I'm really getting tired. Time for sleep. More tomorrow, when my brain is more functional.
Lupa and Taylor arrived last night, amidst a whirlwind of doing laundry, shopping, and trying to get the apartment looking nice for their arrival. They got in safe and sound, and after dinner (Lyssa made chicken and dumplings for us) we got to sitting around talking shop about this, that, and everything. They were enthralled with the collection of books we've got in the apartment, and I got to sit down and have a discussion with Taylor about some subjects near and dear to my hearts...
It's been a very long and trying week. Even though I went to bed early last night (0000 EST or therabouts) and slept until 1000 EST or so, my brain still isn't fully back online. Work has been running me through a wood chipper feet first in the past couple of days, and I'm trying to gear my brain down enough to actually relax and enjoy things. We spent pretty much every night this week running around trying to get things cleaned up and ready, though there isn't much that we could do about that. On Wednesday evening we drove to the mall instead of going home to get Lyssa's glasses repaired (they'd been damaged while we were in Pennsylvania) and fell into the mass of humanity fighting for Yule gifts after work. After that, Lyssa went to the beauty salon for a haircut while I roamed around the mall to see what they had to offer. I found a lot of things that I really can't afford, though were very pretty and which I think a lot of people would like as gifts. Depending on how finances go, we'll see what transpires.. I didn't check out the new movie theatre on the third floor of the Tyson's Corner Mall, though later that night I did go into the Barnes and Noble.. two floor of books, books, and more books. And a decently stocked magazine section, but the books...
One day, I'm going to find myself not printing things out anymore, but entering them into a personal wiki, not only so that I could freely hilight text and make notes, but not have to take up so many bookshelves with binders and books...
But I'm rambling, now.
I wound up buying a few essentials for work, namely, refills and batteries for my pen/PDA stylus/laser pointer, which I need for work, but that's about it. Lyssa's haircut went very well, or so I thought... she mentioned that she wanted to get a trim to remove the dead ends and to encourage her hair to grow more. The stylist took off about six inches of hair, which is quite a bit of hair, even when you're expecting it..
She was, to say the least, unhappy with the job the stylist did.
Lyssa's hair looks great - I love the change in length. She's getting used to it.
Thursday night we wound up eating dinner at Amphora because we were running around shopping for the weekend and needed to finish cleaning up around the apartment. Our not having gotten a great deal of stuff for the week doubtless contributed to this... sometimes you have good weeks, and sometimes you have bad weeks, I suppose.
Lyssa made blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning with real maple syrup, which I found delicious and some of the best that I've had in a very long time. They were a real treat, no two ways about it.. now we're sitting around the apartment relaxing. Lyssa's getting ready. Lupa and Taylor are in the living room stretched out. A few more folks will be stopping by soon, and we're waiting for them. More as things develop.
Lots of bad dreams last night. I slept restlessly, at best. The first dream involved my getting it in my head to ride my bicycle down Route 7 in the middle of summer, where the sunlight was so bright that I was quite literally blinded, navigating on foot by sound and touch. Even though I was wearing a helmet, the sun kept getting in my eyes no matter what, and all I could see what a bright, bright white light. Don't ask me how I managed to survive four lanes of highway (even though Route 7 only has three...), I somehow remembered the hand sign that means that you're going to turn (isn't it straight out to signify a left-hand turn?) and I crossed into the far left lane safely. By the time I got over there I had to stop and got off my bike, because I was shaken up enough that I couldn't ride anymore.
And found myself getting a ticket for reckless driving and endangerment. I convinced the police officer that grit from the road had gotten into my eyes and forced my contact lenses out of my field of vision and behind my eyes (which has actually happened a few times; it's not fun) and he let me go with a warning because the same thing had happened to him in the past.
The second dream was far more threatening. I had been talked into going to a party at a house thrown by some folks with a dodgy reputation in the occult community, at best. The house was at least four floors high, and while the outside looked like your usual respectable brownstone, the inside had been all but gutted, and was undergoing serious renovations. If any 412 and 724 folks remember Das Projekthaus back in the day, it was a little bit like that. There were things on shelves built into the walls that simply didn't make any sense, like a flat of trial makeup kits stolen from Kaufman's and plates of canape's (no, I don't feel like digging up the HTML code for a lowercase 'e' with an accent mark right now) for people to sample. I kept turning down things that I was offered, but was eventually forced (in the 'held down and made to drink' way) to to drink peppermint beer, which made me drunk enough that I wouldn't be able to drive if I decided to leave early because the hosts knew that I was the designated driver. At one point I snuck out of the party and walked down to the local park to get some fresh air and give my head a chance to clear but someone came and got me, and made me drink more on the way back, so that I was staggering by the time the dream ended.
That was the most disturbing dream of them all. I need to go through my memory stores to see what's in there that would arrange those symbols in that way. I need a mental version of GNU grep, sometimes.
The GTX Global Corporation claims to have invented an artificial intelligence, which they say will be used for marketing and sales functions. From what the article describes, it sounds like an IVR (interactive voice response) system with a larger choice tree than normal. Given enough time, disk space, and processing capability, you can develop a programme that can communicate in a humanlike manner (no jokes about marketing screed having anything to do with intelligent communication, please), and with the right hardware and software it'll even be able to figure out what a person is saying but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an AI because it wouldn't be able to do much outside of what it had been designed to do, which is market services and products. There are a lot of definitions of 'artificial intelligence' out there, and researchers have been fighting over exactly what the term means, or should mean, or will mean. I'm not an AI researcher, and to be honest all the wanking over the term gets under my skin. I maintain that an AI would have the same flexibility of thought and contemplation that human minds (because those are really the only minds that the species knows anything about) have. Yes, they could be specialised into fields of practise or expertise, but all experts (save a small number of idiot savants) are capable of thinking about other topics, even if it's only the weather and the price of petrol at the station.
Then again, I don't know if I have room to talk. I failed the Turing test, once.
Presenting HAL: The Hybrid Assistive Limb, developed by one Professor Sankai of Tsukuba. The HAL is a servoframework designed to help people unable to walk under their own power move around by helping their legs move and allowing them to maintain their balance without difficulty. No other details at this time.
If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be Robin Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry.
My creator studied algebraic geometry with Oscar Zariski and David Mumford at Harvard, and with J.-P. Serre and A. Grothendieck in Paris. After receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1963, he became a Junior Fellow at Harvard, then taught there for several years. In 1972 he moved to California where he is now Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. My siblings include "Residues and Duality" (1966), "Foundations of Projective Geometry (1968), "Ample Subvarieties of Algebraic Varieties" (1970), and numerous research titles. My creator's current research interest is the geometry of projective varieties and vector bundles. He has been a visiting professor at the College de France and at Kyoto University, where he gave lectures in French and in Japanese, respectively.
My creator is married to Edie Churchill, educator and psychotherapist, and has two human sons and one daughter. He has travelled widely, speaks several foreign languages, and is an experienced mountain climber. He is also an accomplished musician, playing flute, piano, and traditional Japanese music on the shakuhachi.
Which Springer GTM would you be? The Springer GTM Test
Hee hee hee hee... more random battles.
Very busy today. Lots to fix before the weekend.
A recently declassified NSA internal memo speculates if the reason the US in Vietnam wasn't fabricated for political reasons. The memo includes a large number of declassified transcripts of intercepted conversations as proof regarding whether or not North Vietnamese military ships attacked United States destroyers in 1964. As it turns out, the memo was classified Top Secret but word leaked out to NSA historians, who routinely work with declassified reports; the report was then requested via the Freedom of Information Act.
Got an unexpected surprise this morning: A light shower of snow in the DC metropolitan area, which stopped as suddenly as it had started. No accumulation.
Back in 2000, one Samantha Buck of Astoria, Oregon opened a little coffee shop that she named after herself. Two years later, Starbucks moved into the area and sued her into changing the name of her shop, even though her name is 'Sam Buck'...
Trademark dilution my ass. There's a world of difference between a Starbuck's franchise and a hole-in-the-wall that probably has much better coffee (to say nothing of service). She's now out several thousand dollars, not only in legal fees but in having to replace advertising and consumables used on site.
More on the Grateful Dead bootleg fiasco: Normal bootlegs are fine, and can be downloaded once more from archive.org, but the bootlegs recorded right from the mixing board, which are of the best quality are the sole property of the Grateful Dead and can only be listened to as a stream and not downloaded.. at least, not until someone figures out how to rip them into audio files for recompression, which any decent net.audio player is capable of.
Incidentally, the streams are .mp3 playlists, which you can save to disk using XMMS' disk writer plugin, which comes standard with the utility. Others no doubt exist for other audio players, do a Google search and find one.
Bruce Schneier opens up with both barrels on the TSA. Well written and informative.
William Smith, CTO of Bellsouth, went on the record as saying that certain websites should be able to purchase priority access through their long-distance nets based upon how much they're willing to pay. The example given is that Yahoo should be able to pay Bellsouth for the privilege of users accessing their website faster than they'd be able to access google. On the bright side, quality of service would become more prevelent on the Net; on the downside, however, only the folks with the most money would have users accessing them faster (note that there is a difference between connections being given a higher priority, and just having a faster link; it could be likened to being on the guest list at a club, as opposed to running faster to the front door).
The new Doctor Who series will officially be released on DVD in the United States on 14 February 2006. Also, BBC Direct is licensing the new series for US television, they're just not sure where, yet. I hope that PBS picks it up (it's tradition, after all), though I'd not shed a tear if the Sci-Fi Channel ponied up to show it. Time to start writing letters and e-mails, everyone..
| Renaissance Gamer |
90% Parlour/Party Games, 85% RPGs, 69% Computer Games, 62% Console Games
|The Uber-Gamer! This type of gamer enjoys ALL types of games! It doesn't really matter what situation they're in, the Renaissance Gamer is good to go! Chances are, this gamer has several games stashed away that most have never heard of.|
| My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender: |
|Link: The What kind of Gamer are you? Test written by otakubilly on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test|
One Peter Hammond of Cape Town, South Africa was charged with assault for his anti-Halloween paintball gun rampage, where he and his son sniped kids out for trick-or-treat.
Just in time for the holiday season, the TSA has decreed that it's changing its passenger screening procedures on 20 December 2005 (login required, go to bugmenot.com for usernames and passwords). The random search procedure will be changed, and at least some passengers will be frisked, but they're relaxing the ban on certain implements in passengers' carry-on luggage. The last is supposed to give the searchers more time to carry out the new random searches, which I suspect is being frisked if you set off the metal detector one too many times. New events are defined as anomalies, which can lead to the infamous secondary search, which consists of being taken aside and shaken down. New and more complex explosive scanning protocols will also be instituted.
Ever get the feeling that they're trying as hard as they can to make it a pain in the ass to fly anywhere?
How to take a screenshot of a playing DVD in Mac OSX.
Phil Lesh, former bassist of the Grateful Dead speaks out on the Grateful Dead bootlegs being taken down. archive.org will be putting them back up sometime tonight.
In biotech nes, Dr. Geoffrey Raisman of University College of London has worked out a way to regenerate severed nerve cells using other nerve cells from the human body.. namely, those found in the nose and sinus cavity. His theory is this: The nerve cells in the sinuses that are involved with the sense of smell are constantly growing, unlike nerve cells in other parts of the body. Cells may be moved around more or less freely in the body, so long as the environment is hospitable (i.e., there is a supply of oxygen and nutrients). With that in mind, he proposes to transplant some of the always-regenerating nerve cells from the nose into regions of nerve damage, such as those servered in motor vehicle accidents or partial paralysis. If it works, the severed nerves will be spliced back together, once more carrying nerve impulses. He's performed this procedure in rats with with excellent results. Dr. Raisman made a point of saying that this procedure, if it works, will probably be unpopular because all of the other methods under research at this time involve costly, patentable drugs, which will be profitable to use; nerve cell transplantation will probably not be.
Maybe he's right. Maybe he's not. Let's hope, though.
Thomas Hawk was ripped off by an outfit called PriceRitePhoto, which even went so far as to verbally harass him. Check out what happened when he followed through with his threat to post about it to the Net.
Law enforcement is worried about some researchers at the University of Pennsylvania figuring out how to defeat wiretapping hardware from the endpoint, not because they figured out how to do it, but because they don't know if anyone else has figured out how to do it. Since CALEA was passed back in 1994, wiretapping is now done on the telco's end of things and not, say, at the pole or the box on the outside of your house. Wiretapping is done at the switch level from a command console.. but now you don't have to crack into the switching network of the telephone company, you only have to fool the switch into thinking that the phone is still on the hook, so it never turns on its recording capability by feeding a certain tone into the line while you're talking. It is also possible, they found, to mess around with the phone numbers it looks like you dialed (which is what a pen register (a wiretapping method that keeps a record of all of the numbers dialed on a particular line) does). You can download a copy of the whitepaper from here along with .mp3 files of example normal and C-tone bearing phone conversations.
Huh. I thought I'd be one of Autumn's Children, myself.
Cute. I like it.
While doing maintenance tonight, I uploaded one of my technomagickal experiments to my website, called gematria-1.0.pl. It's a Perl script that performs a Quabbalistic technique called gematria on words in either English or Hebrew. The code is pretty straightforward and well commented. Comments, questions, and patches are always welcome.
Now I just need enough time to finish the rest of my code...
This sort of thing makes me ill: Cardinal Francis George of the Catholic Church reported that gays have no place in the priesthood. This says nothing of the unknown number of homosexuals who are already priests, and have been Catholic clergy for an unknown number of years to date. I wonder if they've forgotten who the avatar of their god spent his time with.. that's right, everyone that the people of the time disliked and treated like second and third-class citizens.
Way to emulate the Christ, guys.
If you've spent any time on the Net in the past decade or so, you've probably come across a mashup in .mp3 form or two. Mashups are mixes of two or more songs put together in such a way that you really can't tell which is which, which produces a new song entirely. The first time I came across them was on mp3.com (requisat en pace) in the late 1990's, when people would upload all sorts of experimental tracks. With the advent of affordable audio editing software, more people have started to do this. Not too long ago, a mashup album based upon the Green Day album American Idiot was released by a crew calling itself Dean Gray (heh). Ten days later Warner Records had every last track yanked from the Net, stating that by making mashups of tracks no one would want to buy the inspiring album (as if you could actually decide that the remixes and parodies were better than the original). Dean Gray has put out an all-call to make the mashup tracks available across the Net for twenty-four hours in a show of disobedience on 13 December 2005. Websites that wish to host copies of the album can register at the website I've linked above and are obligated at that time to host copies of the album at that time.
Seeing as how I've got limited bandwidth at home, I'm more inclined to put it up on a BitTorrent tracker or two to make more efficient use of bandwidth. DJs can also register that they will be playing the Dean Grey mashups on that day, if they so prefer.
So... who have you been calling lately?
Fortune Magazine has done an excellent article on the anime and manga industry and why they're doing so well. It also sheds some light on the factors that go into releases and how the companies are closely connected to the fandom in general to see what direction everyone's going on. The article talks a great deal about how fansubbers and file sharing on the Net have turned a niche culture into a world-wide, multi-million (if not billion) US dollar industry, and why the companies are not being harmed by it; in fact, it's helping them to no end. Of course, the example series that everyone is familiar with, at least in passing, is Shin Seki Evangerion/Neon Genesis Evangelion, which put anime on the map in the US. The article talks a great deal about fansubbers and what they do, as well as going to the conventions to keep their ears to the ground, keep good relations with the fans, and finding out what everyone is watching or reading these days. The article also mentions that the fansubbers themselves ensure that their subs are gone from the Net when a company has licensed a show and intends to release it somehow. The article even mentions the oft-speculated about Evangelion movie under development by WETA (who was responsible for the Lord of the Rings trilogy), and the lengths they're going to to get the visuals and special effects right.
No word, of course, on whether or not the script is going to suck, nor any word of how accurate to the series they're trying to make it. The article also mentions the upcoming Transformers live-action movie and everyone in Hollywood that is working on it (director Michael Bay, and executive producer Steven Spielberg).
The Grateful Dead, known for encouraging its fans to bootleg their shows, is swiftly disappearing from the Net because the marketing company has demanded that they all be taken down. Fans are outraged.
A few months ago I mentioned hearing word of something called Titan Rain, which pertains to a group of crackers based out of China who specialise in US military networks. A few more details have been released about the case (which is a really bad idea during an ongoing investigation - it tips off the folks you're investigating). They are supposedly based out of the Guangdong province of China and have come into possession of US military data classified 'secret' (probably higher). The Chinese government, it is thought, is now in possession of this information.
More and more, I wonder if this is actually legit. The military has lots of secrets; it has to so that potential enemies can't device countermethods in the event that push came to shove. When something major happens to compromise the security of a classified facility or data network, that isn't something that anyone would announce, not by a longshot. First, it shows that you were vulnerable for at least a certain time, and probably still are in at least some places. Heads will no doubt roll once the higher-ups are convinced that there is a security breach. Second, if the intruders are watching for the target to respond somehow (and if they've got a mad-on for classified military information, chances are they're going to be keeping a discrete eye out for any updates), they're going to either stop for a while to let any trail they left grow cold, or they're going to become more wary and perhaps go to extra measures to make their connections harder to track and their logins harder to detect. Third, and the Titan Rain crackers don't seem to have done this from what the available information shows (though it has happened in the private sector), if word gets out that you've been detected, it's entirely possible that the intruders would erase large amounts of information that could be used to figure out where they came from and what they've been up to. Again, they have not been said to have done this, but it is a possibility that should be taken into account by any incident response personnel. Fourth, what tactical advantage does publicising this have for the United States? It makes them look like they've been asleep at the keyboard (which they technically have, given the bureaucracy that testing and eventually rolling out security updates often involves).
The article seems like hype, something designed to give sysadmins fits and make people who aren't really technical afraid of crackers.
Four pharmacists in Illinois were suspended without pay for refusing fill prescriptions for the morning-after emergency contraceptive after they balked on moral or religious grounds. Way to go, Illinois.
Lyssa and I had plans to start cleaning up last night, we really did..
We didn't make it that far. After work we went to CVS to drop off her prescription (the guy behind the counter gave me a hard time because I wasn't Lyssa, which I'd sort of expected) and then walked to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner and the week to come. Unfortunately, it wasn't as healthy as it could have been (that would have taken more energy than either of us had at the time) but it was tasty when everything was said and done (DiGorno frozen pizzas are like that). Unfortunately, by the time that we went back to pick up her medication, we discovered that the pharmacist had made a mistake, and the prescription had to be refilled. We took the opportunity to look around the Yule ornaments for a while (they've got some very nice stuff at CVS, to be sure, but I'm more for unusual and quirky decorations than your usual blown glass objects and tinsel; I've a feeling that we're going to have to negotiate a little on this) and picked out a few strings of lights, and then checked back to find that everything had been done correctly this time around.
After returning home I did some picking up around the kitchen and living room while Lyssa put the pizza into the oven. We also gathered up a load of laundry, which I took down to the laundry room and threw in to get us through the week to come.
After dinner.. I don't remember too much. I laid down on the floor to read for a while and at some point I dozed off, waking up around 2100 EST (in time to move the clothes into the dryer).
Needless to say, we didn't get much done last night. We have to, however, because Lupa and Taylor will be visiting this weekend, and we really should get the place looking nice. We should also reinforce the firewalls around the sector to protect the remaining tenants of our building (interestingly, the number of people who have been moving out of our complex has been noticable; by my count three apartments have opened up in my building in the past month) in case things get.. interesting.
Unsurprisingly, the United States is refusing to talk turkey in another climate change management conference being held in Montreal, Canada. One Harlan Watson, who is heading up the delegation from the US that was sent to the conference, went on record as saying that they would resist any measures proposed on the grounds that it would damage the economy of the US too much and retard progress. Of course, everyone else who originally signed the Kyoto Treaty is welcome to keep following it.
There's a new data storage medium on the way, though it's probably not going to hit the consumer market for a couple of years due to the extreme price - holographic data storage. InPhase Technologies of Colorado has hooked up with Hitachi to refine and mass produce the technology, which is for the time being going to be accessible to mass media stations (for storing shows) and the biggest data centres (probably for backing up SANs, which tend to be measured in terabytes of storage capacity). Holographic data storage technologies will permit megabytes of data to be written at one time instead of a stream of single bits at once, which is an impressive jump in storage technology (I keep using that word...) in itself. Due to how holograms are read, data retrieval is an order of magnetude faster than the fastest DVD-ROM drives in use today. The smallest holographic disks available will be around 300GB in size, which is definitely nothing to sneeze at. Initial sale of these new disks is projected to begin at the end of 2006 under the name 'Tapestry Media'. Readers will cost around $15kus, while disks will run about $120us. Consumer-class holographc storage disks will enter the market around 2007, probably with a hefty price tag attached to them (about the same, I'd guess, that DVD+/-R(W) disks and writers did).
Ladies and gentlemen.. start your slush funds.
Who says that the days of getting busted and then becoming a media star are over? Mafiaboy's writing a column for canoe.ca now.
A bug has been found in Cisco's IOS v12.0(2a) in which commands may be executed on the router beyond normal user privileges through the web configuration interface. The idea is that a package of commands is inserted into the web server from the outside, and whenever someone logs into the web configurator with admin privileges, the commands will be executed. The advisory says that only a Cisco 3620 running this particular firmware release has been tested, but I think it'd be a good idea to schedule some time to try it on other routers and perhaps a few switches that Cisco manufactures. I'd certainly be curious in seeing what happens.
The idea is that it's possible to examine discrete regions of the router's RAM to see what's going on in there via the web interface. You can pack stuff into memory by telnetting to a router and see it if you dump the memory buffers; that's logical. But that makes it possible to inject code into the browser that next accesses the web interface; IE has a couple of extant remote-execution exploits right now. However, the vulnerability can also be used to reconfigure the router this way (the example given is changing the password on the 'enable' account on the router). The telnet prompt doesn't have to be used to make this work, in fact, any port open on a vulnerable router can be used to inject code to be run by the next admin user.
Interesting factoid about the security package Core FORCE: It uses a version of the OpenBSD pf system ported to Windows to implement its firewalling functionality.
Following the reports that the United States has set up and is operating at this time a number of secret prisons for suspected terrorists in European countries, the European Union has announced that any EU country that is home to such a facility cold lose its right to vote upon European Union matters because these prisons violate several of the founding principles of the European Union, such as human rights and democracy.
The saga of the Sony rootkit continues. A research at Princeton University has been analysing the rootkit and installer and made a frightening discovery: The software installs itself before it gives you the option to refuse the EULA. If you do decline, the software remains on the machine in an inactive state. If the same CD is placed in the drive a second time, however, the rootkit is activated regardless of the response of the user.
Isn't installing unauthorised software on a machine without permission a felony in the US?
Are police allowed to do stuff like this?
Holy cats - Telerama is on its last legs.
Lyssa and I got a lot done tonight. We set about tearing into the closets in the office, which are still packed with stuff from the move. Crate after crate of stuff was pulled loose, opened, and examined; a good bit of stuff that we don't need anymore was piled up to be tossed tomorrow evening after work. Many miscellaneous knick-knacks were thrown out, along with outdated printouts and other junk that accumulates lke so much lint along the baseboards (there's a lot of that, too, to be sure). After all was said and done, three boxes and a computer that I can't really fix anymore (I don't have the components any longer) were tossed along with a garbage bag and a pile of clothing that I haven't worn in years. A single packing crate (which needs to be returned to Hasufin) has also been freed up. Now we just need desks for all of the stationary, CD-ROMs, and disks that we found...
Very tired after the long drive back to DC. Lyssa and I got back around 1800 EST last night, upon which we emptied a good whack of stuff out of the TARDIS and piled it up in the living room, for lack of a better place to put it. We've got a lot of cleaning up to do this week... the largest boxes of stuff are still in the trunk, waiting to be removed. I'll probably do that tonight after we get home from work and do some grocery shopping, which we are in dire need of taking care of for the week to come. Both of us are exhausted after the drive back.. we left her parents' place around 1100 EST or 1200 EST (I'm not sure which) yesterday and stopped off at her grandmother's place for a while, then set off for home. We decided to take the scenic route through the mountains and down through West Virginia but stopped off at a few places in the mountains to do a little shopping, to get an early start on the Yule season's gift giving. We also stopped off to pay back Lyssa's brother, in the form of a couple of pounds of fudge that he'd asked us to pick up from a store along the way. The trip through the mountains was relatively easy, with little traffic to contend with. By the time we'd gotten to Maryland, however, we found ourselves mired in hundreds of people returning home after the Thanksgiving holiday, which added a good two hours to the trip.
One would think that there had been a holiday or something, and everyone was in a rush to get home.
By the time we got back, neither of us were in much of a mood to move stuff around nor cook, so we rang up Hasufin and Mika to see if they wanted to go out for dinner and rested for a while. We did move a lot of stuff out of the TARDIS and piled it up in the living room, but that was about it. Mika and Hasufin arrived around 1900 EST, borrowed vacuum cleaner and DVD in tow, and we piled into Hasufin's car for a trip to Amphora, the Greek diner not too far away.
I should have gone to bed earlier than I did last night. I'm having a hard time getting my brain going today. The fact that the office is out of coffee doesn't help matters any. There's so much going on, where do I start? I'm even having a hard time pulling my head together to write coherently in here.
Proof of concept code for MS05-051, the bug in Intenet Explorer that allows remote code execution by simply browsing a malicious web page is floating around on the Net. Specifically, the MSDTC (Microsoft Distributed Transation Coordinator) bug can remotely execute code on Windows 2000 machines and locally execute code on XP and Server 2003 machines (unless the MSDTC service is running at the time). The COM+ bug is remotely exploitable on Windows 2000 and XP SP1, locally exploitable on XP SP2, Server 2003, and Server 2003 SP1. The TIP and distributed TIP bugs are DoS attacks only. Because all of these vulnerabilities lie in the MSDTC system service, they are lumped together under a single MS vulnerability advisory. If your system is running Windows 2000 or later, please install this patch from Microsoft.
It's one thing to make a prank phone call or two, another to .annoy someone, but this is going too far. Reports have been trickling in that people have been phoning up places of business (like fast food joints) and representing themselves as police officers. They've been telling managers that some of their employees are stealing, and convincing them to take the employees aside and strip-search them, otherwise the police will be called in to haul said employee away. Many are falling for the ruse and following the instructions the callers are giving.. from time to time with underaged females. This has been going on as far back as 1995, it turns out, with a considerable record of the managers doing exactly what they are told. Whoever is doing this is doing a lot of research to sound convincing, and doing a lot of research on his targets to know exactly whom to call, when to call, and how to talk his way up the chain of command. From a social engineering perspective, he's doing an amazing job of doing his homework. He also at least takes a look at his victims, because he can describe them very, very well.
Fucking sickening, this is.
So is this: The security screeners at Pittsburgh International Airport strip-searched a woman who was pierced, and made her remove her hardware because they wouldn't let her onboard the plane with her nipple rings intact.
This isn't an isolated incident, either. I've a friend (who has since moved from Pittsburgh) who was searched every time he want through the metal detector because of his ampallang.
A document called the Vienna Conclusions, which was written by the UN at the World Summit of the Information Society was altered at the advisory of Microsoft to delete all references to free and open source software after some of the authors were convinced that profit could not be made on free software. The Free Software Foundation of Europe is obviously unhappy with this turn of events.
Xbox 360 lockups due to overheating?
Six of the guys who were part of Shadowcrew back in 2004 plead guilty to charges of conspiracy in federal court. They face a maximum of five years in prison and fines of up to $250kus.
...the hell?! The BBC and the Nation estate are forcing the extermination (sorry..) of a lesbian Dalek film! (very not safe for work)
My brain hurts.
Back in DC, safe and sound. The drive was long and hellish.
Getting ready to go shopping with Lyssa and her folks. For getting up at 0830 EST on a Saturday, we sure are getting a late start. Granted, part of that was my being dead tired after the drive back from my folks' place, where we helped pull stuff down from the attic, rearrange the living room, and put up the platform for the Yule tree, but that's neither here nor there.
Okay, gotta go.
Yesterday Lyssa and I drove back to the homestead to visit with my folks, who haven't seen her for quite a while. Somehow we keep missing each other when we're in Pittsburgh. We wound up having dessert that night with my mother, and sitting around looking at old pictures and talking until well in the evening. For some reason, and I'm not entirely sure how we got onto the topic, we wound up on the subject of fun toys and building kits, like Robotix and Construx, and how I had crates of them up in the attic. So of course we got up, pulled down the trap door to the attic, and climbed on up to hunt down said crates of stuff. We found a lot of Construx stuff and some Robotix (which I've actually been meaning to replace now that they're back in production because I played with them so much I burned either the power lines, the controllers, or the motors out), as well as a goodly amount of Voltron toys and many of my Transformers. All of these are going back to Virginia with us to be set up under the tree in lieu of a diorama. I'm considering setting up a Yule scene of some sort with them, probably involving the fabrication of a number of tiny Santa hats and a congo line.
Part of the thing about crawling around in the attic was exposure to fibreglass, which caused a half-body itch by the time we'd gotten back to Lyssa's folks' place around 0100 EST. My back, chest, arms, and legs were afire from the myriad of tiny glass fibres that had been embedded in my skin through my clothes. I wound up washing most of my body with a cold cloth around 0200 EST this morning to stop the itching, which still periodically reappears (though probably due to stress).
Lyssa and I also wound up moving some stuff around in the living room so that we could set up the platform for the Yule tree, which I'd promised to do on Thanksgiving day. That wound up being pretty easy to do because it's basically a flat of wood with removable legs. Once enough room had been made in the living room, setting it up was easy.
We left for southern PA shortly after my pager went off, which necessitated my making some due diligence phone calls around 2230 EST last night, the last thing I'd hoped would happen. I've heard nothing since then, though, so only time will tell what happened.
I got lost on the way home. Specifically, I missed an exit and we wound up a good twenty miles off course. We cut through the California University of Pennsylvania campus and took a shortcut back to the right part of Pennsylvania and made it back in somewhen around 0100 EST this morning.
We had to get up early because Lyssa's mother was going holiday shopping and she wanted all of us (Lyssa, Lyssa's brother, and myself) to go with her. I just barely got up around the right time, because I've been dead tired from all the driving around in the past few days. Once I got a shower and some coffee into me I was able to function decently well, though I wasn't the one doing the driving today (thankfully). Our first stop was the local Cracker Barrel to get breakfast and warm up for the madness today, where we spent a little over an hour wandering around the general store part of Cracker Barrel, waiting for our food, drinking coffee, and eating. CB was full to bursting today, with a proportional load upon the kitchen in the back which caused the (understandable) delay.
Today is known in the US as Black Friday (or whatever day after Thanksgiving it is) because everyone and their backup has stormed the malls today to get a start on their holiday shopping. True to form, the South Hills Village mall was packed wall to wall with people in every store you can think of buying, buying, buying. You couldn't turn around today without bumping into someone examining the stuff on display or dragging a kid or three after them through the aisles. The difficulties that came after finding a new coat I'll not trouble you with, nor will I write up what happened at the end of the afternoon. Suffice it to say that going out today was madness, and an exercise in all that is frustrating, exhausting, and futile. By the end of today, when we piled back into the car for the drive back, I fell asleep in the back seat, a dreamless sleep that comes of your cerebral cortex powering itself down and saying off until the car stops moving for longer than a minute. I don't remember too much of getting out of the car and removing parcels, I was that tired. I napped on the bed upstairs until Lyssa got in touch with her friend Marie, and plans were made for dinner earlier tonight. We piled into the TARDIS and met up with Marie, then switched cars and headed to a local pub for a dinner that said only one thing: "To hell with it."
After today, some barroom Tex-Mex food hits the spot.
I drove back on my own because Lyssa wanted to spend some time with Marie to catch up. I thought I'd head back and get some rest, so I headed straight upstairs and didn't set about reading the books I picked up a few days ago, I started plowing through my mail queue to see what's been happening in the world. I'm having some trouble concentrating right now, I should probably go to bed and sleep so that I can make the drive back to DC tomorrow.
All this long distance driving is wearing me out.
...what the hell?
It's at times like this that I wish I had far fewer principles and the urge to go into a different line of work: Michael Brown, former FEMA director who was thrown out on his ear for screwing up the NOLA relief efforts in a spectacular manner is starting up his own disaster preparedness and mitigation consultancy. Tell me, would you let this guy help you plan for a natural disaster that could turn your business continuity into hash?
Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, dead at the age of 73. He was best known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid.
Got back late. Tired. I'll write tomorrow.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Lyssa and I made it back into Pittsburgh safe and sound early this morning. We left around 1900 EST last night, heading in the general direction of Pennsylvania. Due to the rain, which swiftly turned into snow the farther into Maryland we got, the trip took a little over six hours, probably up into seven hours. I honestly don't know because I was getting a little fuzzy around 0100 EST and I don't remember too much after pulling into the driveway of Lyssa's parents. Suffice it to say, though, we got in fine, albeit a little cold. Of course, the snow got very bad after we hit the halfway mark, but rather than find a place to safely double back we pressed on, and made it with a half tank of petrol to spare.
The TARDIS weathered her first trip in the snow without problems, I'm proud to say.
I spent part of last night after unloading the car trying to get Luel to associate with the wireless access point in the house, but for some odd reason I still can't get a connection or configure encryption properly, even though I have the WPA key this time. I can detect traffic, a carrier, and the access point but can't associate with it.
Okay. Next stop: Pittsburgh to see my folks.
The trip back to Pittsburgh to the homestead went swimmingly well. I left around 1200 EST for the suburbs and made it in decent time, about an hour, give or take. This was mostly due to the roads being empty because everyone had gotten to wherever it was that they were headed. It was very cold but snowed for a while on the way in, which made thinsg worrisome but on the whole didn't impact travel a whole lot. I did discover the hard way that the TARDIS was out of windshield wiper fluid, so I couldn't get the muck and salt off of the windscreen, but that was easily remedied with a bit of basic maintenance in my folks' driveway. I lost traction only once, and that was when I cut through downtown Pittsburgh on my way northward. The TARDIS compensated nicely.
My folks were happy to see me after all this time. I don't get back here too often, and I try to make it a point to go visiting while I'm up here.
Wow. Never thought I'd catch myself saying that... anyway..
I helped my mom put together Thanksgiving dinner while I was around and about the house. I helped with the mashed potatoes (their potato peeler is top-notch; it didn't bother my wrists or anything) and with cleaning up a bit to set the table. I also sat down and had lunch sometime in there, I think just after I arrived, because I hadn't eaten since 2000 EST the day before. We spent a lot of time catching up, talking about what's been going on and dodging the odd barb. They're taking care of my mom's boss' dog for Thanksgiving, so I was greeted by fifty pounds of speeding canine when the front door opened. She was as sweet as ever, and always underfoot. Ziggy has retreated to the maze of stuff in the basement where she can't be easily found, though she came out to visit me when I went downstairs to find her and track down the stuff that I'm bringing back to DC with me.
Thanksgiving dinner was set around 1600 EST today and we tore into the ten pound turkey like there was no tomorrow. The task of carving the bird fell to me for the first time in quite a few years, and somehow I managed to dismember and slice it up without making too much of a mess. I'd skipped desser, though, partially because I was quite full of tasty stuffing, turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, and rolls-with-cranberry sauce, and partially because I was going to head back to Lyssa's parents' place and have dessert. There was also the matter of the temperature plummeting as the sun went down, and I'd wanted to get back safely before any moisture on the roads began to freeze. So I gathered up the stuff I was taking with me, including a number of computers, a Yule tree,my Lost Treasures of Infocom disks, and assorted stuff from the pantry that I'm going to haul back to offset having to go shopping along the way.
Maybe I should offload it while we're staying out here...
It's bitter, bonechilling cold outside right now, definitely well below the freezing point of water. I had to let the engine run a bit to warm up before I took off for Lyssa's folks' place.
It was a good Thanksgiving dinner, no two ways about it. I made it back here after an hour or so, safe and sound.
Lately, I've been meaning to sit down and ponder what I'm really thankful for. It's a pretty long list, seeing as how I've made it through by the skin of my teeth (and probably my holy guardian angel all but blackmailing the forces of chance and probability a few times) most of this year. I'm very thankful for my family and friends, who've stuck by me this whole time and listened to me rant, rave, bitch, and helped out from time to time. I'm thankful for stubbornness, too - I don't give up, even when completely frustrated. I'm thankful for good music of all kinds, from gangsta rap to classical music and everything in between. I'm thankful for coffee, the answer to many of life's problems. I'm also thankful for having Lyssa in my life. I don't think that I could have made it this far without her.
I'm not in much of a mood for specifics right now. It's about 0055 EST on Friday and I'm starting to get tired. More as I have time to write tomorrow.
I worked from home yesterday so that I could drive Lyssa to the doctor's office for a checkup. I spent much of the day catching up on stuff that'd happened while I was gone, and writing documentation and plugging data into spreadsheets because I don't ordinarily have time to do administrative stuff at work. Lyssa checked out fine, and we decided to swing past her old apartment to pick up the mail that's been piling up (apparently, in Maryland, mail forwarding is done only for thirty days before ending; I'm still recieving forwarded mail from Pittsburgh, oddly enough) so we hit the beltway to return to College Park. The beltway, as I feared, was already jammed with rush-hour traffic, so a trip that normally takes forty-five minutes wound up taking around two hours. We finally arrived around 1820 EST and went looking for the mail that's piled up. It wasn't waiting in the promised location, so we gave up and set out once more in the general direction of Spark of Spirit, a store we haven't visited in a long while, because Lyssa was looking to stock up on powdered incense and I'm always up for talking shop with the store owner (even if I do have to give them a crash course in executable line noise), but unfortunately they close at 1900 EST and we'd have gotten there just as they were closing, so we decided to go to Pandora's Cube, the College Park anime fanstore.
After our stop, where we spent far too much time talking shop, we headed to Tiffins's, arguably the best Indian restaurant in the area for dinner. Neither Lyssa nor I had eaten all day, so most anything we could think of sounded positively delicious. We were supposed to meet Kash for dinner, though, so we spent a little time nosing around the Indian groceries that conveniently flank Tiffins to pick up some of the spices that we've run out of.
Forty-two years ago, my namesake first went on the air on the BBC. It's been a long, long, long, strange and fun trip.
Come, join the fandom.. we have cookies.
The Playstation Portable's been cracked again, which would allow homebrewed code, like games, to be run on the commercial unit. Sony's not keen on people who buy their gear writing and running their own software, so they're trying pretty hard to prevent it from being done, like forcing updates of the PSP's firmware, but the homebrew movement's hot on their heels.
In case you're curious, you'll find a lot of sites with a Google search for 'playstatin development kit'.
The EFF's guide to weblogging for students. It has an excellent breakdown of what you can and cannot do, your legal rights, legal precedents, and gotchas (such as attending a private school).
Jose Padilla, who's been held by the US government on suspicion of being a terrorist, has finally been charged after being held for a number of years(!), though not for what he was picked up for.
A memo leaked out of the British government that the US was planning to bomb the offices of the Arabic television network Al-jazeera for a while.
Sci-fi fans take note, this will be of interest to you: Two teams of physicists have been able to measure the capacitance of a Josephson junction. A Josephson junction can be likened to a conventional electronic component in many ways; basically, they are made up of two superconducting layers separated by an insulator of some kind. Electrons are able to sneak through the insulator from one side to another, without disrupting the superconducting properties of either conductive side. J-junctions of various forms are widely used in many applications these days, whether or not you know it (I didn't know that, in fact..) For the first time, someone managed to get a J-junction to act like a true capacitor, which was a theory for many years but just proven.
"Embrace and extend", folks - this time it's RSS.
DNS problems with the Network seem to have been cleared up, thanks to help from Speakeasy's tech support.
Winter's come to Virginia, if it wasn't already here. A far cry from the weather last weekend (amply warm enough for shirtsleeves and shorts), it's been cold and rainy for the past two days, in the low 40's Farenheit and dreary. The sky last night was a salty grey colour after sunset, the sort of colour you'd expect from wet concrete or fabric that's falling to pieces from the weather. I'm working from home today because I've got to take Lyssa to the doctor's office this afternoon, and it'll be easier to work from home than it will be to drive in, drive back, drive down, drive to the office, drive back... better living through science and technology, and all that, right?
Outsourcing within the US?
The Vatican opens fire on intelligent design, claiming that "it isn't science, even though it pretends to be." Father George Coyne, the Vatican's chief astronomer, had a few pointed things to say on the topic, none of them kind.
Amazing, how an organisation that persecuted scientific research for so long seems to have come full circle.
Meanwhile, in the state of Kansas, the University of Kansas has begun teaching creationism and intelligent design.. as part of a class of religious mythology, which will be offered during the spring semester of 2006. Paul Mirecki, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies, was quoted as saying that "The KU faculty has had enough. Creationism is mythology. Intelligent design is mythology."
Holy imploding Kibo.. there are people out there with their heads screwed on straight.
Science, religion, and mysticism/erotericism can be reconciled, but one can't be dogmatic about things. It takes an open mind and a willingness to at least read up on other topics, whether or not you think you agree with them, and see what they have to say and examine the evidence before making a decision.
An excellent article on religion and the US government's formation. This should be required reading for all US citizens.
Thanksgiving with a geek? Here's how to tell!
Take the quiz at dicepool.com
Going away for training has much the same effect as going away for vacation: All hell breaks loose.
The Bleeding Snort team has released a set of Snort rules that will trigger whenever a Sony DRM-infected system tries to phone home. You can also check them out at the Bleeding Snort site itself if you like.
Microsoft's anti-malware software also has signatures for the Sony rootkit. It'll automatically identify instances of WinNT/F4IRootkit and (supposedly) cleanly remove it without trouble. It will not, however, remove the DRM or remote reporting software.
While we're on the subject of the Sony rootkit, Sony has pulled the 50 CDs from its catalogue that contain the software and has offered to send replacements without the software to consumers. Stores have been asked to pull the treacherous disks from their shelves, but it's too late: They've already got three lawsuits filed against them, and perhaps more are on the way. The charges are scary to behold: Illegal spyware distribution and deceptive advertising, and they're even being brought up on specified computer crime charges (vioations of 18 USC 1030, maybe?).
A list of all of the affected CDs and how to return them may be found here.
Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG's Global Digital Business arm, was quoted as saying "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"
Strong words. I'd love to see the look on his face if his personal workstation was infected with one of these nasties and he was asked why he was, say, trying to contact a DoD network or two, or maybe relaying spam to folks inside of Sony BMG's network. "Why should they care," indeed...
Interesting how this site even lists ANSI bombs in its collection of known nasties. How many people remember ANSI files these days, anyway?
Ninth and eighth circles of Hell still broken open. Requested emergency air drops of Holy Water from the Vatican City via forest fire fighting planes.
Eighth circle of Hell re-sealed. Need skin grafts. Taking a rest from the good fight tonight.
's been a long day. We've a third member on my team at work, and I spent the day training him and getting him up to speed in the few days before Thanksgiving break, when I'll be on call dreading the pager going off but also at home, away from DC once again.
Napped for a while this evening after getting the laundry in. Feel more tired than I did before.
Check this out: The DTV (mislabelled 'Commodore 64' here) is outselling the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS on Amazon Deutschland.
I've come to the conclusion that I absolutely have to upgrade Leandra now. Both Firefox and Thunderbird are growing too slow to use comfortably, and some compiles and decryption operations are taking a painfully long time. I think I need to start hunting for some new parts...
Feel like downloading a copy of Wikipedia to take on the road?
And now we're back to low-tech solutions to annoying problems, gentle readers.. remember the CD anti-copying technology that was defeated with a marker? The Sony DRM kit can be rendered uninstallable by sticking a piece of tape along the outer edge, rendering the data track on the disk unreadable. Alternatively, disabling autorun in Windows will work; do this by holding down one of the shift keys on the keyboard when you close the CD-ROM drive, or by using the regedit utility to frob a setting. Open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> CurrentControlSet ->Services -> Cdrom and change the value of the 'Autorun' key to 0. Cleanly exit from regedit, reboot, and there you go.
Note that this will disable autorun functionality for all CD-ROM disks you put into your drive. Also note that I disclaim all responsibility for problems that arise. If you don't trust me, check out the Microsoft knowledge base and look it up yourself.
Hooo.. boy. Richard M. Stallman is at it again.
Not work safe: Ray Digerati: IT Gigolo. The man gets paid for house calls with sex, or so he claims.
As someone who's done spyware removal on the side for folks, all I have to say is that I'd rather wait to be sure that the box is back up and running before accepting that blow job. Speaking too soon and all that.
"I'm outta here, Boss!" --Dakota King
0713 PST: Getting ready to fly home to DC. Everything's okay. Will write en route and upload it all when I get back.
1314 PST (probably): I've just begun the second leg of my trip, Orange County to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. The commuter hop from San Jose' was little more than a hop, a skip, and a jump to get into position for the flight back east. I spent the entire killing-time part (and the flight) reading one of the books I'd picked up at Barnes and Noble last night, which is one of the Ninth Doctor novels just released in the US, Doctor Who: The Monster Inside. It's very true to the series and is set some time after the episode called World War III in the season, though early enough that Captain Jack Harkness hadn't yet been introduced. It's a well written book and flows nicely from scene to scene and doesn't get bogged down anywhere. The portrayals of the Doctor and Rose are true to the series and very well done. If you're a fan, you can almost hear their voices, which is always the sign of a good tie-in novel.
For those of you who know what the first season of the new series revealed, yes, it's there.
I went on one last adventure last night with Bladeless Axe Without A Handle, a last chance to see California and have a good time. Class wrapped early yesterday because it was the last day, with only two lectures and a final lab that would determine the outcome of the class. The lectures were short, so the instructor gave us extra time to work on the final project.
It's every phone phreak's dream to own (not pwn) their own CO. To stake off your own sector in the telecomm grid and set up your own phone numbers for whatever purpose you like is a feeling of power, no two ways about it. The software I was training in allowed me to do just this as my final project: To block off a sector (albeit a virtual one, because the training net wasn't hooked up to the Net or the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service - a real telco acronym) network), set up an NXX (if 202 is your area code/NPA, 555 would be your NXX, which is referred to sometimes as a CO (Central Office)), and then start allocating numbers to fictious people. Each number can be associated with a phone and calls could be made inside the training network from phone to phone.
Total time: About an hour to provision everything and test it. I passed.
After class was over I went back up to my hotel room to do the responsible thing and pack ahead of time, which really didn't take very long at all to accomplish. I didn't bring much in the way of clothes with me, and I'd left some spare room in both my business pack (my new backpack designed for a laptop computer) and borrowed suitcase just in case. A few nights ago, Bladeless and I drove down to the local B&N to hang out for a while, and I'd memorised the route taken to get there, so I changed my clothes, grabbed my leather, and set out for the bookstore to nose around a little. In hindsight, I wish I'd taken the time to put my contacts in and grab a pair of sunglasses because it was unusually warm and bright yesterday, but my eyes soon adapted.
My first stop was the imported computer equipment store to drool over more toys, which I seriously entertained the notion of picking up while I had time. The USB VoIP handset designed for computers running softphone software really appealed to me (seeing as how I work for a telecom company so I should probably mess around with a softphone more) but ultimately I passed, because I'd much rather test such a device with Luel for compatibility before dropping the money to pick one up. A number of Google searches were unfruitful before I'd left. I did discover that what I'd thought was a USB turntable at said store (which I will find the card for eventually) was actually a 40GB hard drive module for the Sony Playstation 2. I'd heard word that they were very difficult to get in the US these days, and were probably out of stock everywhere. Still, not having a PS2 of my own I decided against getting it. Also, there is the matter of whether or not the hard drive (manufactured for use in Japan) would have been compatible with a PS2 designed for use in the United States.
My next stop was the sidewalks of San Jose headed in the general direction of the highway I remembered. After hiking for about a half hour and not seeing anything resembling a bookstore, I buttonholed a gentleman who was just getting home from work and asked him as nicely as I could about the wherabouts of the store. He replied that I was a few blocks away from the store (two blocks down and two blocks over) and that I should backtrack to the last stoplight and take the catwalk that spanned the freeway, and then cut through the neighborhood to get to it.
I thanked him and set out for the catwalk. About halfway across, an odd feeling of vertigo overtook me as I realised that the cars were heading right for me and then passing underneath harmlessly, an optical illusion that struck my fancy. To that end I pulled out my camera phone and took a few pictures of the oncoming traffic. I half expected a police officer to stop me for taking unauthorised photographs (hey, if you can get busted for copyright infringement of taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge or for violating national security for taking pictures of the front gate of an Army base...) but the only person I ran into was an older gentleman on a bicycle out for a right.
I greeted him cheerily before continuing on my way.
The folks in the quiet suburban neighborhood, with their boats, expensive cars, statuette-lined driveways, and early weekends were probably wondering what an oddly-dressed.. something.. wearing a leather jacket and talking on a cellphone was up to while wandering around. In case any of you ever stumble across this website, I was searching for the road that lead to the next highway over because I was going to the mall. I wasn't casing your houses.
Hell, I doubt I could afford to live in San Jose, as much as I like it there.
After taking a shortcut through a retirement apartment complex I realised that if I followed the high school kids I'd find the local mall. My hunch was correct as I passed a few car dealerships and then a Game Stop franchise which is stuck to the side of Barnes and Noble. They had ample facilities to hang out and play the new games, but nothing much that struck my fancy. Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, presented me with an armful of books that I sorted through while drinking coffee in the cafe'. I left a couple behind which I have on my Amazon wishlist anyway and went with the stuff that I'd probably never remember to get anyway. I plan on mining a few of them for ideas for my Mage campaign, and there is some stuff that appeals to the technomage in me.
Of course, two of the books were the new Doctor Who novels.
I got in touch with Eshari, who lives in the area, but wasn't sure exactly would be going on last night. I'd called Bladeless to let her know that I wasn't at the hotel and then headed for the front to check out and lament that B&N doesn't have shopping carts.
Our first stop was the Weird Stuff warehouse, where we browsed the store for a far-too-short half hour or so looking at all the odd and rare gear, from SGI Octane workstations to a Sun Microsystems storage rack of the sort that we used to have in the data centre at the County. They have parts in bins all over the place.. test gear.. computers of all kinds from many eras of technology, even a dusty and forgotten Atari 800 system stuck in the bottom of a shelf.
To crude only briefly, I had a difficult time turning around because my geek bone was knocking painfully against everything.
The manager of the store wound up escorting us out because we kept stalling for time.
Our next stop was the open highway because we were headed for the beach at Santa Cruz. Again, we took the highway through the mountains and rolled the windows down to smell the fresh mountain air, blasting party-night traffic with psy-trance music and enjoying all that California has to offer. We traded caffeine horror stories (she related the time that someone bought pure pharmaceutical grade caffeine powder to Defcon in little plastic baggies in his luggage, and I told her of the horror of recreational pharmacology called Black Crash) en route. Presently, we came to Santa Cruz and drove around for a while, both looking for someplace to park and to see the bridge at the amusement park where they filmed part of the movie The Lost Boys.
It's not much to look at in the dark, closed down, and not in the movie, I'm afraid.
Santa Cruz is quite the party town for counterculture on a Friday night. We talked a bit about what's been going on lately on the east coast with everyone until we found a place called the Saturn Cafe', which is a hotspot for the new generation on the weekends, and I suspect during much of the week, also. The Saturn Cafe is a vegetarian diner done up in local art and kitsch. If you've ever been to the Beehive in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you know of what I speak. If not, the restaurant is done up in found stuff, old art projects, stuff that was probably bought at flea markets and garage sales, and sundry gaudy stuff. Many of the tables are topped with rectangular wooden boxes filled with a strange assortment of stuff, like children's toys from the 1950's and bizarre little knick-knacks which are the stuff of estate sales. There was also just enough room that you could slip notes under the perspex into the box for people to read. The bathrooms are unisex (confusingly so - one is labelled with a pop-art painting of a woman, the other a painting of the same woman dressing a man in drag) and painted inside with blackboard paint. Chunks of chalk are secreted all over each bathroom, the better to leave messages, missives, and non sequiturs for the next folks who have to perform basic maintenance. If you felt the need and had the pens, you could also tag on the walls, if you so chose. I departed, leaving my handle and a bit of Discordian Quabbalah in my wake before returning to the table.
The food at the Saturn Cafe is organic and vegetarian or vegan for the most part. If you're up for chicken wings or fried Mozzarella cheese sticks, you can get them, but if you're after anything that was once on the hoof or swimming around you'd be out of luck. I had something called The Pack, which is a pair of corn tofu-dogs and french fries and a cup of vegetarian chili, with a mint chocolate chip milkshake (my guilty pleasure) while Bladeless partook of the vegan nachos and a tofu dish the name of which escapes me.
The food at the Saturn Cafe is also amazingly filling for what you get. I suggest eating early that day and waiting until evening to make room for the food, and even then you probably won't finish it all. I give it one flaregun - if you're in Santa Cruz, go here for dinner. You won't be sorry.
On the way back, we walked past an unusual argument in the street - two groups of kids who either knew each other well and were screwing around, or something a bit more sinister but unfortunately becoming more common these days, which was two groups of high school kids shouting at the tops of their lungs at one another. Rather than arguing over turf or who did what to whom, they were arguing recreational pharmacology - one group for getting stupid on pot, the other singing the praises of getting tweaked on crystal meth. They were so earnest about it that I honestly couldn't tell if they were kidding or not. Given some of the tags I'd translated in the bathroom of the Saturn, I really can't tell, so I won't speculate.
Our next stop was the Santa Cruz boardwalk to nose around a bit and walk along the beach. I spent some time poking around in the arcade and discovered a full-sized Lazer Tag arena (gods. that takes me back) and a nook in the back that specialised in the classics, like Battlezone, Pac-Man, Tron, and even a Pong knock-off in a cabinet the size of a refrigerator.
Photographs of the last are forthcoming.
Bladeless and I hiked up and down the beachfront for a while, talking about the curves that life's thrown us and our respective practices and watching the breakers roll in over the beach. I've never actually seen a beach before so this was another new experience. I stood there for what seemed like hours, watching the tide roll in and retreat, packing the sand down more and more tightly and resculpting the waves and contours of the beachfront. The sound of the water crashing against the sand was like thunder, loud enough that the surf could be heard from the arcade. It really does sound like a storm coming in, over and over again. The moon is waning at this point in its cycle, and the light sparkles in a way I'd never before thought of upon the surf and through the spray. I now know what they mean by sea foam, having watch it slide and ripple as the water approached and receeded.
Last night, I was officially the farthest west in this country than I've been before in this life.
Because my cellphone's power cells had gone dead earlier last night, I wasn't able to keep track of time (no, I still don't have my watch fixed..), nor was I able to take any photographs.
We drove farther up along the coast afterward and walked for a while along the cliffs. There are caves along those cliffs, if you're brave enough to scale them and explore, which I'd very much suggest doing when the tide isn't coming in or out. The cove at the bottom of the cliffs was almost completely flooded by the tide, and I suspect that the area is completely submerged during periods of high tide. I considered briefly going down there to look around but decided against it as I had no climbing gear with me and no desire to fight what I suspect was a very strong riptide as the ocean waves retreated from both cove and bay. Bladeless spoke about going down there a few times and feeling the water filling the cave opening beneath her feet, causing the rock itself to vibrate in sympathy.
All too soon, I had to return to my hotel and get some sleep so that I could get up in time to catch my flight this morning. I dropped off as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I slept straight through until 0600 PST, when I began to prepare to go to the airport. After showing I rang up the taxi company and requested a cab at 0800 PST and packed up the last of my things, like the clothes I'd worn last night, the few toiletries I was taking with me, and Luel. Checkout came and went and after throwing my stuff into the cab I returned to the San Jose airport to catch my first flight into Santa Ana.
It's 1438 PST. I don't know what timezone I'm in at the moment, probably Mountain. My material aspect is roughly 37000 feet above the ground. The stewards are serving the second round of drinks as we make our way toward the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. I also very badly need to get up and stretch my legs because my back's killing me.
Now playing: Infamous - Driller (Dark Side of the Moon remix)
1859 CST (maybe): I'm stuck in the very back of the plane where I have no leg room and even less arm room. I've decided to take advantage of the time on my hands and prepare some of the photographs that I've been collecting and meaning to upload. I can barely touch type because I don't have any arm room, and I am now kicking myself for not having packed my trackball in my backpack so that I don't have to worry about using the touchpad, let alone trying to edit pictures in The Gimp with one.
My wrists are going to love me for this dumbass maneuver...
Mental note: Get an .mp3 player that can hold about ten gigs of music, if only because the guy in the seat in front of me keeps leaning backwards in an alarming manner, and I'm afraid that he'll crack Luel's screen if I can't get out of his way.
Not only did the Sony DRMware act like a Win32 rootkit but it also phoned home to report what you were listening to.
Last day of class today. One more lecture, and then the final. Cross your fingers, everyone...
I spoke to Starbreize yesterday afternoon after class because I'd gotten out early, and discovered that she had to cancel because she'd taken sick that morning, and wasn't in any shape to go anywhere. Hopefully we'll get to meet up tonight someplace, but afterward I hooked up again with Bladeless Axe and we cruised the electronics surplus stores that were still open.
...now how am I going to get those hard drives on the plane back to DC..?
We hung out for a while to check out all the nifty toys, like the test equipment and strange server and desktop hardware (like a four-port ISA 10baseT network card that would be perfect for a router, upon reflection, but would also be rather slow because ISA is an interface standard from quite a few years ago.. not many mainboards even have ISA slots on them anymore) but unfortunately all the nifty places to shop for toys around here close early (between 1800 and 1900 PST) so we had to move quickly. We found ourselves back on the Apple campus for the BayLISA meeting.
I'd never really been to a usergroup meeting before (just one of the WPLUG meetings at CMU a couple of years back), so this was entirely a new experience for me. The geek quotient aside, there were a lot of greybeards in attendence - the folks who have been working on UNIX for better than twenty years, well before Linux and FreeBSD brought UNIX and UNIX work-alikes to the masses, and certainly well before Sun Microsystems started selling Solaris. The folks who are balding on top but have hair down to their waist just the same and beards that would make the Soggy Bottom Boys sit up and take notice. The folks that I try to listen to as closely as they can because they've forgotten more about system administration than I've yet learned.
The topic last night was electronic law and civil liberties, and the two presenters were practising lawyers, one in private practise and dealing with corporate law, and one who teaches at Stanford and handles electronic civil liberties cases in her spare time. Their names escape me, but when I track down the programme from the BayLISA website (when I have a net.connection) I'll post them. The first lawyer discussed how the discovery process of a lawsuit goes, and how it often lasts longer than the actual trial (years, as opposed to weeks). He also mentioned that while in court, he doesn't ask any questions that haven't been asked before as part of the discovery process; questioning is more for the benefit of the jury than anything else. The second lawyer, a woman from Stanford named Jennifer Grankik, spoke a lot about reverse engineering, the DMCA, and the Michael Lynn case from Blackhat 2005 in Vegas. She is also, I am told, legal representation for some well-known names in the field of computer security, like the Dark Tangent and Raven Alder. She delved deeply into the whats and wherefores of EULAs (end-user license agreements, which have lately become so convoluted and nasty that Dr. Faust would have changed his mind that fateful night) and the legalities of what it means to hack stuff, for any reason these days, it seems like.
She reminded me a lot of my lawyer, in fact, in terms of personality and how things were phrased for people who aren't lawyers but do have a technical background.
Afterward we hiked down to BJ's for pizza and beer, on the tab of BayLISA. There the real geek-fu came out to play... I was privileged enough to sit at a table populated with a number of ex-SGI engineers who were probably slightly bemused that I've actually worked on a real UNIX (Solaris 7, 8, and 9) and that I'm not just "one of the Linux children", but that's neither here nor there. They were also very conversant in physics and particle physics (having worked at the accelerator facilities back in the 1980's) and sat down to explain the basics to another gentleman who had mentioned getting into a fight with a professor years ago... I re-learned a lot of stuff that I'd plain forgotten from physics years ago, and one guy (whose name I never learned) revealed his gift for taking something conceptually very complex and breaking it down such that you eventually understand what he's talking about. I wish I'd gotten his name, I'd love to talk to him again later. I also got to find out a lot about what happened to Silicon Graphics back in 1997, and why they suddenly fell so far in the computer industry.
I felt kind of left out because I don't have any business cards to exchange contact info with. I really felt left out because I seemed to be the only one there who never worked for a big company like Apple, Sun, IBM, or Google. Then again, I'm only 27 years old... I've got all the time in the world to find my niche.
BJ's pizza easily tops that of Round Table (across the street from my hotel), no questions asked. They specialise in Chicago-style deep dish pizza with toppings just grated and/or cut from the block and fresh out of the oven (but just cooled off enough that you don't lose all the skin inside your mouth).
I'm going to miss Silicon Valley if only for the pizza.
To come: Updating my .plan file. I've lots of good quotes from this trip.
Shaving with cheap-ass disposable razors can be very hard on your skin, and very painful. I should have sprung for new heads for my good razor...
Went out again with Bladeless after class last night. We tried to make it to the Weird Stuff warehouse outlet last night to poke around their stacks but we didn't make it before they closed at 1800 PST. Oh, well. We drove around a bit around downtown Sunnyvale and Cupertino, and I got to see more of the big tech companies that have buildings (and occasionally entire campuses) down there, like more of Yahoo, Google, and Cisco. We also passed the building of a certain web application server company which I've little love of, and saluted it proper fashion.
While searching for a drugstore (it's amazing what a little lip balm and some new conditioner can do for your outlook; too bad I forgot those Q-tips), we came across a little comic shop called the R&K with a large number of wall scrolls (lots of Final Fantasy stuff there, including Advent Children, though a few other series were represented) and a selection of more recent issues of American comics, which we spent some time nosing around. Prices on some things are pretty good down here, though you'll find a lot of untranslated stuff in most places you'd expect to find collectables. There's a small Chinese and Japanese strip mall down here called the Cupertino Village, which specialises in imported stuff of all kinds for collectors, from manga to statuettes and stuffed things of all sorts (most of which was on display). Bladeless and I looked around only briefly because both of us were running on empty and searching for food of any kind in the vicinity. The same strip mall has a small Vietnamese diner that has a good reputation but an unusual name (the Super Bowl Restaurant), so we stopped in for a bite to eat. I opted for chicken and curry soup, which wasn't too bad but it was a little on the greasy side, and I didn't expect to find bones floating about in the soup, which caught me aback (having bad teeth and all). Throwing a dish of steamed rice into it fixed the soup right up, and was reasonably filling besides that.
After our late dinner we jumped back in the car and found ourselves in the parking lot of Fry's Electronics, which is best described as 'Wal-Mart for geeks'. We only had a few minutes because the store was closing, so she took me on a whirlwind tour of the outlet, from the stacks of books on all things technical (as well as their clearance rack), which I was sorely tempted to mine for new books to read (until I realisd that I haven't really had any time to read since I got down here) to the aisle of discrete components (unfortunately, my knowledge of electronics isn't extensive enough to be much of an electrical engineer) and flashlight-related stuff (where I bought a white LED retrofitting kit for a AA Mag-Lite and a new micro-flashlight to hang off of my keyring). I wish we'd had time to poke around and look at everything they had, there are a few things that I'm in the market for right now but when the staff is following you around becuase they've closed the store and would like to lock the front doors, it limits what you can get away with.
We keep talking about driving down to the beach, but it's a far drive from San Jose (on the order of one and one-half hours), and I don't much want to pull another late-nighter because I'm technically out here for training. If I'm brain dead I can't learn.
Heh.. I've got responsibility now. I'm getting old.
That's something that I've been thinking about lately: Getting older. I have more stuff to do now (and not just at work, there's a lot of stuff at home that has to be taken care of, like cleaning and dishes) and less time to do other stuff in. I'm on call now, which takes the wind out of a lot of different sails. I need to get more sleep now (at least six hours every night). My body is taking longer and longer to heal after something happens to it. I can't stay up all night anymore (it's so much work it usually isn't worth the effort). I don't have as much time to exercise anymore. I have to shave more. It's getting harder and harder to manage my hair (though maybe cutting the dead and dried-out ends off would be a good idea).
It sneaks up on you. It really does. Little by little, more stuff is going on until you've got a list of things as long as your arm that you have to handle before anything else can get done.
One thing I've decided to do is not to forget to do the things I enjoy. If the opportunity arises for an adventure (like I've been having out here), I'm going to take it. I've been doing that most every night since I arrived in California, and loving every minute of it. I've seen new things and done new things and been new places, and I'd like to do that as much as I possibly can.
I might be getting old, but I'm not going to stop moving. I might move a bit more slowly, but I'm still going to enjoy life as much as I can. Getting old doesn't mean that you have to stop living.
The Moorpark Hotel has hideously bad coffee! Avoid it if you're out here!
Clif Bars can be a lifesaver when you skipped breakfast. They even make really crappy coffee palatable.
It's really dangerous to let someone configure a telephony media server with hold music when you've got 5.8GB of MP3 files on your laptop and a copy of sox. I only wish that I hadn't taken that copy of Cyberpunk Fiction off of Luel...
The Love in Action ministry, which wound up on the map for counselling people who no longer want to be gay, has been commanded to stop counseling people. The counselling facilities owned by the ministry were operating without licenses as mental health treatment facilities as well as controlling dispensation of psychoactive drugs, which is highly illegal without a license.
Happy birthday, Terrence. Maybe I'll see you after 2012.
Late yesterday evening after talking to Lyssa and catching up on my e-mail and various weblogs, I met up with Bladeless again to go out for dinner and take a tour of San Jose and the surrounding areas. Bladeless knew of a sushi place open until 0000 PST that also had really tasty sushi, so we hit up Midori in Sunnyvale for a late dinner. Their sushi is well made, with a fine texture and it holds together after being dunked in soy sauce, so if the flavour of raw fish isn't your speed you can safely cover it up and it'll hold together. Their potstickers are okay, but a little on the tiny side. You can probably safely pass on them if you're not really that hungry. The woman behind the counter recognised Bladeless as soon as we walked in, so we were shown to our table and served in very short order, just a couple of minutes. We wound up talking more about the adventures we'd had in the past few years; I found out what happened to her car after she left Pennsylvania - it lasted until the trip between Idaho and California, where it gave up the ghost somewhere in the badlands of Nevada and was put out of its misery with a very large crowbar.
The wasabi probably wasn't real, i.e., it was in all likelihood reconstituted grated horseradish with a horse doctor's dose of green food colouring, but it definitely will clear out your sinuses.
After dinner she took me on a whirlwind tour of San Jose, showing me how it's grown up in the past twenty years. "This whole area was orchards twenty years ago," she said, and I can see why: The land is very flat and the buildings are spread out very far, not unlike individual groves in an orchard. Each building is a good distance from its neighbors surrounding it, but it doesn't appear to be forced. The buildings were placed there because they just fit. They suit the landscape, and the landscape suits them with, from what I can tell, a minimum of reshaping. Much of the area is suburban, zoned for business and shopping, with a couple of walled enclaves along the main drag, high security zones with high stone walls.
Sitting in the car, I couldn't help but think that this was the place that had been mentioned so many times in the movie Wargames.
Bladeless took me on a whirlwind tour of the Apple campus, which is large enough to be considered its own neighborhood. The buildings have a white stucco or stone facade (I didn't get close enough to tell which) and are kept scrupulously clean. The buildings are numbered in the single digits, and are done in the old style, as if they'd been assembled out of pixels two feet on a side.
"Apple forgot to anti-alias their street signs," I laughed.
Once we were through the Apple campus, we put the hammer down and headed for the mountains overlooking the San Francisco bay. Up we went for a solid hour, travelling roads little more than a lane in width and hemmed in by trees and boulders bigger than Bladeless' station wagon. I remember thinking, as we drove upwards toward the endless ocean of the skies, that parts of many bad 1980's ninja flicks starring Sho Kosugi were filmed out here.
We finally stopped about 2500 feet above sea level, at a lookout parking lot overlooking San Francisco. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful out there - the moon was full, so the area was lit up almost as bright as day, which didn't detract from the view of the sky or the city one whit. I haven't seen so many stars since Walking the Thresholds earlier in 2005 - the sky was an impossibly dark shade of blue with just a hint of violet near the horizon and the stars were bright and clear, and the air was clear enough that each star was so big and bright that they could be mistaken for the detail lights of airplanes until you noticed that they weren't moving. Each and every star twinkled, too, something that I'd never before seen. The sky over the city, however, was a murky yellowish colour with hints of orange thrown in, as if the air of the city had been bruised some time earlier and was beginning to heal.
Looking down over the city, though, if you ignore the air, was fantastic. The whole city is laid out like a grid of pulsing, flickering lights crawling about on a bed of velvet, as if one of the designers of Tiffany's had read Neuromancer and replicated each and every cyberspace scene using a king's ransom of diamonds, pearls, and rubies, and trained a host of minute insects to pick up and carry each and every one according to a choreography unthinkable in its complexity. The city was a perfect network of pulsing lights, reminiscent of watching network traffic whizzing through a backbone. I almost expected to see IP addresses and headers blinking over each building.
It reminded me of Home.
Bladeless set up her camera and tripod and took a few photographs of the skyline, as well as posing me for a couple of pictures against the skyline.
The sky out there is amazing.. that far away from the city, the light pollution is almost nil. The night sky goes on forever, out to the limits of one's sight. You can just barely see the faint whitish haze that is what can be seen of this particular arm of the Milky Way. The moon was full and bright last night, and you could even clearly see features on the moon's face, like some of the larger craters and other impacta. The breeze blowing down the mountain from the bay on the other side was chilly and clean, and smelled more strongly of pine and tall grasses than it did of salt and the ocean, but was pleasant just the same. I found myself shivering violently until we started to walk back into this hills, along the equestrian paths into the woods.
I don't know how far we walked, or how long we hiked. Bladeless advised me to leave anything electronic I had on me in the car, because electronic gear has a tendency to die after a certain point in the forest. On a hunch, I left my cellphone behind (it was the only thing I'd carried with me) before we set out.
The trails are well worn and packed solid. They're very old, judging by how firm the earth is (even the damp places) and how the vegetation is worn away. I don't know how far back into the hills we went; surely, we hiked for over an hour before stopping. Lots of animal life, which I'm not used to. There were a lot of critters scurrying around in the undergrowth, making the plants rustle. We saw some deer picking their way across the hilltops and the sides of the cliffs. Not many birds were out last night, though we did hear the odd owl, and far into the distance, the echoes of a howl that I'm fairly sure were not from the small group of kids we saw at the overlook before heading off into the woods (or the large group of kids who had congregated there by the time we got back to the car, who somehow seemed to be guarding Bladeless' vehicle, with all of her gear in it). The air had warmed up noticably the farther back we went, probably from the exertion of hiking. It smelled oddly of early summer, though, which I'm not certain of how to account for. We stopped a few times to try to pick out the sounds of animals or the wind rasping through the branches, leaden with dead and crackling leaves.
The farther back we went, the more... I'm not sure of how to put it. The land there takes notice of everything happening, moreso at night. It didn't feel like it wanted us there, like we were waking it up well after its bedtime, not unlike one's neighbor when the kids crash through the backyard late at night after sneaking out. After a certain distance past a ravine, at the bottom of which we could hear a small stream picking its way through the dense underbrush and trees, I felt something unusual: Every modification I've made quietly activating itself, like something had walked through the directory of actuator software and frobbed each controller. Nothing went off, not overtly, but it was a moment of sudden realisation that I hadn't intended to go on full alert.
The hike back was a bit less notable, save that we spent some time trying to figure out if certain branching paths had been there on the way down. I think that they were, but you know my sense of direction...
We didn't run into ourselves on the way back, which really did surprise me.
We considered leaving an offering to the woods, but a place to leave something (which places tend to make one aware of) never presented itself. Perhaps it just wanted us to leave.
On the way back, I fell asleep in the car about halfway down the mountain. Between getting up early the past few days (which meant a lot of uptime in one day) and my modifications suddenly revving up, my body was exhausted, and as the car took each curve down the maintenance rode we used as a shortcut, I dropped off, waking up once we got back to my hotel. I thanked Bladeless and then stumbled upstairs to catch a few hours of sleep before class today.
Gods, the hotel's coffee is nasty. Moreso when it's cooled off. Ugh.
After lunch today I nosed around the little strip mall across the road from my hotel. There are a lot of Japanese import stores there, from a supermarket to a specialty hardware store, which has everything from micro-DVDs to DVD players, from games not yet released in the US (and not yet translated) to some peripherals for the Playstation 2 that will probably never see the main market in the US (like a USB turntable for a music-mixing game (I wonder if I can hook that up to my laptop...)), from USB keys and SecureDigital cards to the latest Toshiba Libretto micro-notebook computer (which I took a few photographs of) that isn't much bigger than a VHS videocassette yet runs at better than 2.0 GHz. Lots of stuff I'd love to own, but not enough money to buy even a small fraction of it. I wonder what else is around here...
This takes my high-school portable machine and blows it right out the window: An Atari 800 laptop!
Still writing offline. I'm considering walking over to the business centre of the hotel during my lunch break to upload updates to Leandra but I don't know if I'll have time to do so. Training is keeping all of us busy right now. The lectures are very well written and informative. The labs take some doing, but they are, on the whole, not too bad. There's a lab environment set up in the conference room, including a LAN of IP phones to configure.
Yes, I've been playing with them. They're pretty neat. You've got to love an office phone that has a dedicated CPU and embedded (programable) operating system.
I wonder how much Cisco sells its development kits for...
Since I came out here I've been in touch with a couple of friends who moved to the Valley. I went out to dinner last night with Bladeless Axe Without A Handle, whom I haven't seen since the last time she drove through Pennsylvania while questing about the country. This was back in spring of 2002 if I recall correctly, because it was before I graduated from college, and I didn't have an Operating Systems class my last semester.
Anyway, there's an Applebee's not too far away from the hotel, and we walked over there last night for dinner and a chance to catch up. We wound up talking a lot about our jobs and what we've been working on, which naturally turned into a discussion of security, reverse engineering, and security analysis. We talked a bit about reverse engineering and vulnerability analysis, then went back to catching up on what's been happening in our lives in the past few years.
All told, we wound up geeking out for a good four hours, more or less. We didn't have a chance to go to the local Japanese import store, nor the Fry's outlets that dot the San Jose landscape, but there's more time during the week. I hope to see more of San Jose than just the restaurants and the odd store.
One of the major highways in San Jose is a parking lot right now, so class has been delayed because not everyone is here yet.
I'm in need of three things at the moment: Hand lotion, because the dry air is drying my skin out so much that my skin splits every time I close my hands, lip balm, because the plane flight over dried my lips out so much that I look like I'm wearing lipstick, yet my lips split as readily as the skin of my hands, and Q-Tips, because I forgot to bring them. I'll have to see if there's a drug store around here after class.
21 wireless networks are visible from the conference room at this time. Of them, only one has encryption enabled, and only four have non-default SSIDs. That seems to be the most networks visible from this conference room.
The coffee today is bloody awful.
Class today was rough, too. The lectures were informative, and we were schooled on quite a few of the command line utilities available (and in fact, the only way of really getting a few things done) but when it came to applying them in the lab, I made a few elementary mistakes that screwed me later on. Certain protocols are idiosyncratic, in that they don't specify what some user credentials are supposed to look like. This isn't so bad if your entire system has a consistent scheme. But when you're not even sure what some of the command line options mean, you've got a problem. When every client you've got, be it a piece of software or a hardware device calls that piece of data something different... it can be downright confusing. I spent about an hour today trying to get a phone and a software-phone to communicate properly, and failed miserably. After conferring with my instructor, we figured out that I had the username wrong ('Agent authentication', the unit calls it), and once that was fixed I was able to make test calls to the other active units in the classroom. That done, I was able to reconfigure the other phone and met with success.
I'm now in my room relaxing and catching up on my e-mail. A lot's been going on at work, and I'm trying to keep my ear to the ground while I'm out here. I wish I'd kept my mail client open at work, because it handles all of the filtering and sorting of my e-mail, and I have to pick through the morass when it's not doing that automatically.
Writing all of this offline because the LAN Luel is hooked up to has no net.access or DHCP server. There is also no wireless access in the hotel or surrounding area, at least no legal access. I'm not interested in getting in trouble, which would reflect poorly upon my employers, but then again this is why I mirror everything locally when I go walkabout. This is the last thing I expected from Silicon Valley, to be honest.
One thing I never realised about training - you get swag, in this case, a 128MiB USB key with the coursework on it. Neat.
For those of you wondering why you're having so much trouble getting to the Network, the reason for it is that I forgot to update my domain records when I changed facilities, which means that at least one out of every three DNS resolution requests for hostnames in virtadpt.net are silently failing. I'll fix that tonight when I have some downtime.
Wow... a Powerpoint Presentation that is being used by the presenter as an outline of what he's going to talk about, and not to replace actually teaching stuff. A few of my professors in undergrad could take lessons from this guy.
Must.. not.. snark about this software.. in front.. of.. company reps! AAAAAUUUGHGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!
One of the softphones we'll be working with runs under WINE. Cool.
WINE will also support running apps miniaturised, i.e., in the system tray (which both Windows and just about all modern X window managers have). This is awesome. I'm so spoiled since I started using Unix...
No, I'm not going to go all salty and cynical greybeard Unix guru on you.
High geek concentration in this class. Excellent.
It's amazing how just twelve people can make a Sun Microsystems server running Apache Tomcat run like a 486.
1317 PST: Just got back from lunch with the other folks in the class. I was surprised to find that lunch is included with classes, a tasty southwestern chicken taco spread with the freshest fruit I've ever had in a restaurant. It was quite a treat, I must say. I've also been spending time talking with the other folks, and I've made quite a few friends out here. I'm seriously considering ringing up some folks out here to explore San Francisco a bit while I have the opportunity.
It's about as chilly as it is back home here, though it creeps up on you. I didn't realise that the temperature was only in the mid-60's until I started to shiver on the patio during lunch.
There isn't any net.access in the classroom at all. Scanning around, there aren't even any wireless access points visible in this sector. While it's not necessarily a bad thing to be disconnected for a period of time, it means that I can't check my work e-mail, either, so I can't get in touch with the rest of the Ops team to see how things went during maintenance. I also can't download a version of libgtk to compile during downtime so I can run a few tools that would be very handy to have at the moment. Oh, well. They're grown-up type folks at home. They can take care of themselves.
1100 EST (probably): I write this roughly 32,000 feet abouve the firmament, en route to Dallas, Texas on the first leg of my trip to the Silicon Valley for training in telecommunications software. Yesterday was a whirlwind of getting stuff done, packed, and ready to go before I left. Lyssa and I took it easy yesterday, relatively speaking, which is to say that while we did some running around we still had time to rest and goof off a little, as well as spend some quality time together. Last night we invited Hasufin, Mika, and Kash over to go to dinner at Konami again for sushi, sort of a blowout after the week that we've all had. Ordering sushi is an art as well as a science, because once you know what you like, and more importantly, how much of each item you get when you order 'one serving', you can piece together a tasty and filling meal for not a lot of money. 'Rolls' typically refers to six to eight pieces of foo; 'nigiri' usually starts at two servings of foo, and can cost the same as a serving of foo rolls. With that in mind, you can order two different kinds of rolls and one or two selections of nigiri and wind up with a plate of sixteen to eighteen distinct pieces of sushi, or as we've come to call it, geek soul food.
Konami also has an excellent selection of vegetarian sushi, consisting of marinated mushrooms, pickled vegetables, plain or steamed vegetables, rice, and seaweed, all of which is also gluten-intolerant safe. I've come to notice this because every third person I know in the DC metropolitan area is either vegetarian for some medical reason or has at least one food allergy (including but not limited to soy or wheat products). I find it very strange that there is such a high concentration of food allergies down here. I've been planning a study of the phenomenon down here, which I'll begin once I've got some free time (whenever that happens to be). If anyone's already done such a study, please let me know because I'd like to read your findings.
I'm also musing on this because I'm starting to notice a pattern in my own body which I'm a little concerned about. Lately, every time I've had seafood of some kind (be it crab, cooked fish, or sushi) I've broken out in an itchy rash along my arms and chest. I don't know if it has something to do with my laundry (new water down here, a bit higher in mineral content than in Pennsylvania or Maryland), my new diet (not really vegetarian anymore, definitely lower in phytoestrogens and estrogen precursors), and much higher levels of stress hormones in my body's bloodstream at any time (sushi is a comfort food for me, and comfort usually means the bloody pager going off), so perhaps it's not a hystimine reaction but something else I haven't nailed down yet.
Before I left, I handed my pager over to my second-in-command. Stress hormone levels have fallen markedly since then. I can actually sit and do nothing without having to force myself.
Maybe the rash is another manifestation of my tendency to want things to be going badly even when they're not. I need to sit down and give my psyche a thorough debugging.
Late last night, a decadent mood struck Lyssa and myself and we rang up Hasufin and Mika and asked if they were in the mood for pie ala mode. It is important to note two things about the DC area: One, the supermarkets are rarely open twenty-four hours per day, unlike in Pennsylvania. Two, it was 2340 EST when we came up with this idea.
I dove into my clothes, hopped into the TARDIS, and headed up the street to pick up Hasufin. En route to his apartment building, I heard a loud popping noise, not unlike someone setting off a fistful of M-100 firecrackers in a closed garbage can. Seconds later, half of the complex went dark. It appears that we blew another transformer, the second time in as many months. Hasufin jumped into my TARDIS and we set off down the highway to the nearest Safeway, which isn't open round the clock but closes at 0000. Much to everyone's amazement, we made it with fifteen minutes to spare, partially due to the lack of traffic that early on a Sunday (it starts picking up around 0200 EST/EDT on the weekends as folks leave the bars and clubs) and partially due to, well, I've got a knack for time, and we'll leave it at that. We picked up a gallon of milk (which I'd forgotten to get earlier) and a frozen apple pie and headed back home to make a late-night snack and pick up Mika along the way.
The power was still out when we returned, leaving us with a partially lit apartment. The power grid in my complex is actually composed of two separate grids overlapping, each supplying only part of each apartment. For example, there was no power in much of the living room, save for one outlet near the balcony door, yet the library and office were fully powered. The bedroom had no light near the wall but the alarm clock and bathroom were still lit. I suspect that this is the rule in every apartment, though I haven't figured out the pattern yet.
By the time I got in the shower this morning around 0605 EST, the bathroom lights were flickering, which I suspect means that the power company was fixing whatever it was that blew out a few hours previous. A couple of the breakers in the box had tripped sometime during the night (though not during the initial outage, as Lyssa confirms) which is consistent with the power being (shakily) restored to the dark portions of the power grid.
Mental note: Get some three-foot CAT-5E patch cables and run the external network connection through the UPS.
Hasufin picked me up around 0700 EST and he, Lyssa, and I drove to Dulles International airport so that I could catch my flight by way of airport security. I'd expected to have difficulty picking up my e-tickets but the kiosk uses credit cards to identify travelers and not the number of the credit card, so the tickets in my name were swiftly printed out. What a relief. Dulles airport security is a little bit different from Pittsburgh's in that large zip-lock baggies with handles are provided at stations along the path to the security checkpoint. Passengers are expected to empty their pockets into them, including all electronic devices for examination, in addition to taking your shoes off, putting your laptop in a bin to be x-rayed, and all that jazz. My wallet drew unexpected notice for once, due to the copy of the United States Bill of Rights engraved on a solid steel credit card (thank you, Electronic Frontiers Foundation).
I also noticed that there was a mantrap set up to hold passengers taken aside for 'extra security checks', which consisted of being wanded, frisked, sat down in a raised chair, and being wanded again. There is also a pronounced security personnel presence all over the place at the checkpoint; at any one time there is at least two pairs of eyes on you (not counting the securicams). I suppose that's to be expected given its proximity to the nation's capital.
The security screeners were complaining the whole time, mimicking (and mocking) someone who'd probably gone through there in the past couple of hours complaining about this, that, and the other thing, and yelling about whose fault this all is in no uncertain terms. Three to one says that whoever that person was, they're going to be checked over at the next airport.
I picked up a coffee and a muffin and killed time by wandering around the micro-Borders in the jetway mall (which isn't any better than the other newsstands in the jetway - if your taste is New York Times bestsellers, bring your own reading material), and later by kicking back with volume six of Grant Morrison's masterpiece, The Invisibles. I'd intended on doing some writing while I was waiting for my flight but got so wrapped up in the comic that I plain forgot to check to see if they provided wireless access for travellers in the airport, like Pittsburgh and Tampa, Florida do.
Dulles does have freestanding Internet terminals near the payphones, which you buy time on with a credit card (I don't know if they're pay-per-use or pay-per-unit of time). No datajacks on them, but each one does have a laptop style keyboard and a standard 3.5 inch floppy drive and SVGA display (probably 24-bit colour, 1024x768 resolution).
1338 CST: I'm at Dallas International Airport listening to Jonathan Coulton's cover of Baby Got Back (amazing, the stuff you find when you have nothing better to do than poke around in all the documents laying around in your home directory that you've forgotten about) killing time until my connecting flight to San Jose, California is ready to board. I considered jumping on the Net through the wireless access at the airport but rather than provide free access like a lot of other airports, they opted to partner with T-Mobile.
I don't have anything against T-Mobile, but I'm not wild about connecting Luel to an untrusted network and plugging a credit card number into the only website that I can reach. SSL protected connection or not, I can't trust it. I'm considering roaming around until I can find a kiosk at the jetmall down here where I can buy a prepaid T-Mobile card, but I haven't decided whether or not it's worth the effort.
I can associate Luel's wireless NIC with the local access point and get a DHCP lease from the server but I can't get past the local gateway. You've got to have a paid DHCP lease for it to open its packet filtering rules, I guess, and right now I'm not terribly inclined to mess around with it. There isn't much but ARP traffic in this sector - not really interesting.
Somewhere, there's a jetliner fueling up for its next trip with a big, purple pimp hat integrated into its etheric infrastructure.
After this last .mp3 plays, I think I'll go exploring a little, and maybe charge up my cellphone.
1937 PST: I arrived safely in San Jose, Califonia. My flight was delayed over an hour in Dallas because, once they loaded us onto the plane, they dicovered a fuel leak from the port wing, which the maintenance crew wasn't able to repair to their satisfaction. So they had us get off of the plane and unloaded all of our stuff from the cargo holds, and left us to cool our heels in the terminal for an indeterminant period of time, then loaded us onto the new plane and waited another half hour to forty-five minutes before we finally took off, destined for the Silicon Valley. We landed around 1800 PST, though it took another hour or so before I got my luggage and found a cab to take me to the hotel (wouldn't you know it, the hotel I'm booked at where training is being held doesn't have shuttle service from the airport). Thankfully, the cab fare was very low, on the order of $23us (Hail, Eris!), and once I got across to the hack where I needed to go he knew a great route that took less than twenty minutes, counting the butt-head who cut off a minivan, a sedan, and the cab.
I'm now safely ensconced in my room, relaxing in t-shirt and shorts (from a mock turtleneck and jeans) with the best pizza I've had in a long time (from Round Table Pizza) next to me on the desk (a bit pricy but oh, so good.. and just what I needed after today). After some prodding I managed to SSH back to the Network, so I feel safer about accessing certain network resources via Leandra and Lain.
0028 EST: The Children are home and settling in. I had to try two monitors on Leandra (her original is hooked up to Alphonse at the moment) before I got one that worked (here's a hint: If a monitor is brand new and labelled "Please take me" when someone moves out, it might not work in anything but text mode) but I'm writing this from inside X at 1280x1024 at 24 bits of colour and it's working nicely.
Lain came up with a minimum of trouble. I had to contact Speakeasy to get the proper network configs and arrange for DNS zone updates but she's running smoothly. Lucien came up without trouble.
Leandra's happy to be home.
I'm glad they're home. I feel whole again. I feel like the rest of my limbs, indeed even other lobes of my brain are reconnected.
I'll show them around tomorrow. Time for bed.
More on what's going on when I wake up.
1220 EST: Finally awake.
I've only got a few hours remaining in DC before I fly out to San Jose, California for training. Things have been up in the air for the past few weeks at work due to everything happening at once, but the word's come down and my tickets are laid in: My destination is the lovely Silicon Valley, Mecca of geeks of all kinds. They're sending me for a week to be schooled in a particular telecommunications system that we use, because quite frankly the documentation is for the birds that have long since flown south for the winter. To that end, I purchased a new backpack designed to transport laptops safely and I've been gathering up the clothes, books, and other things that I'll not only need while in California, but which I will need to keep me occupied on the better-than-five-hour trip each way. At this time of year, there is a tradeoff between how direct a flight you take to your destination, how much money you are willing to spend, and how many people are trying to fly home to visit family before or during the Thanksgiving holiday. My flight to California is expected to be short, about five hours or so, but the return flight will be closer to ten due to the stop-offs and layovers at various places around the country.
I am also in the process of wrapping things up around home so that I won't have to worry about bills or cleaning while I'm gone. I'm not expecting the trip to be difficult or problematic, it's a routine trip to the other side of the country for a couple of days.
Somebody contact Kurt - it's a Theremin-guitar!
Life's been busy enough over the past couple of days that I've only been able to write hit-and-run remarks about, well, this and that.
..like today, in fact. No time to write.
In a shocking turn of events, the House of Representatives has voted to drop their plans for drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas, a major backpedal from the decision last week. A provision that would relax a ban on energy source exploration off of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts was also dropped. However, it would still be possible to sell private property in the western US for development, such as national parks and forest reserves. The bill will also remove $50bus from federal benefit programmes.
Also on the energy front, the oil companies are starting to come under fire for a) announcing that the price of petrol would be raised time and again, and b) not being shy about announcing their record gains and executive bonus packages. The words 'price manipulation' are being used on the record, in fact. Pete Domenici, Senator of New Mexico, came right out and said "My constituents think someone rigged the price [of gas] and someone - them - is getting ripped off. Are you rigging the price of oil?"
This is an unusual amount of theatrics in government (even moreso than usual) and it's shaking some folks up in the high parts of the land. The executives who were brought in were not placed under oath, which has raised a lot of eyebrows (seeing as how it's standard operating procedure if you'll be testifying anywhere). Even Bill Frist (Senate majority leader) had something to say about the matter at hand (though not the execs not being sworn in - I guess someone learned a hard lesson after the 1994 tobacco hearings) about the lack of justification of the high prices. Deborah Majoras (chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission) said that she opposed price-gouging laws because capping prices might harm consumers.
Let me get this straight: Limiting the maximum price of gas will harm consumers. So what was paying $3us and $4us a gallon a few short weeks ago? A tickle fight?
Here's an interesting take on the 'teaching creationism-vs-evolution' debate. In particular, read the bits about 'teaching the controversy'.
Sony's being sued over the rootkit that protects their DRM software on music CDs.
Much more on the rumours that the US has been using white phosphorus in bombing runs in Fallujah - with photographs. Warning: Some of these are pretty hideous and probably not work-safe.
The trial of Saddam Hussein isn't getting off to a very good start: First the judges presiding over the trial came under fire, and now he's down two defense lawyers. The defense is calling for a full-scale investigation of the murder of two of their members, the first on 21 October 2005, the second on 8 November 2005 (yep, yesterday).
Following the story published in the Washington Post a few days ago about the secret prisons the US set up in foreign countries to interrogate suspected terrorists the Department of Justice is considering opening an investigation to determine who leaked all of the photographs and documents on the topic. They're doing a bang-up job of punishing whomever leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press, so this will be about as interesting as Saturday morning cartoons from the public side of things. The usual talking heads gave their usual non-answers and reassurrances of protecting the people.
After the board of education vote in Kansas yesterday, folks in Pennsylvania will be interested to heard that the eight members of the Dover, PA school board who were pushing for intelligent design/creationism in science classs were voted out.
If you're not inclined to install the Firefox extension that will let you do so, there's a website that lets you download the videos from Google Video.
This guy started trading with a paperclip and now he's up to a generator. He's not going to stop until he gets a house.
The DoD's still funding research into high-tech weapons: Meet the PHASR (Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response) rifle, which is a laser weapon small and light enough to be carried by infantry to use against human opponents. The principle behind it is that a laser beam is used to temporarily blind attackers long enough to subdue them. The trick is, the United Nations banned laser weapons that can do permanant damange back in 1995, so the designers have to work around that whole "Whoops, I just fried your retinas" problem. A mechanism that figures out how far away the target is and adjusts the power of the beam is theoretically supposed to prevent permanant eye damage.
Frankly, I'm surprised that they're not trying to adapt cutting lasers (like helium-neon and argon tube-based optical pumps) for battlefield use, particularly for antivehicular use, say, to cut a hole in the radiator or engine block, or maybe to melt tires (in the event that solid tires are in use) to immobilise the vehicle. Maybe they don't have the power packs light enough yet...
Crypto afficionados take note: RSA-640 was broken on 8 November 2005! A 193 digit number, the key to the encrypted message, was factored into a pair of 97 digit numbers using a technique known as the general number field seive. Interestingly, this article doesn't say how long it took the team from the German Federal Agency for Information Technology Security to do this, how many machines they had (and what they specced out at), or when the started.
In case you're curious, the reason that RSA has been asking people to try to crack these codes isn't to prove that their cryptosystems are secure (every cryptosystem ever created can and will be broken, it's a matter of when it'll be broken, depending on a large number of circumstances (such as advances in technology, like processing speed and networking) and how long it ultimately winds up taking). If it takes someone with a great deal of processing capacity (on the order of hundreds of machines) a couple of years to break a code that uses a 640-bit (193 character) key, than any data you encrypt with that cryptosystem and key of that length is probably going to be safe for at least that length of time. There's a chance that a fluke will result in the key being broken early and there's a chance that it'll take more than just a couple of years (say, a decade or two) before the key is factored. A factor in determining what cryptosystem and how long a key to use is how long you want the data protected for: A few days? A few years? A lifetime? Longer?
This reinforces the fact that cryptography can be defeated given enough time and computing power. It also shows long long it can take before the code is broken, so that everyone who uses that cryptosystem can reassess how long their data will be safe for and whether or not they should consider migrating to another cryptosystem, changing their key length, or adding another layer of keys or encryption algorithms to their data security model.
Since at least the days of the HPAC/V (hacking, phreaking, anarchy, carding, and sometimes viruses) BBSes, text files (usually parts of books published by Loompanics or Barricade Books) would appear in file bases that outlined ways to get a new identity by getting hold of the birth certificate of a dead infant, getting a Social Security number, and then using that. This is, it is said, becoming harder and harder to pull off in the modern day due to computer networks being used to transfer and update information on just about every human being on the face of the planet, like this guy found out in London. A man who has been going by the name "Christopher Buckingham" pulled this trick off about twenty years ago and he's just been caught by law enforcement. "Buckingham", now in custody, refuses to reveal his true identity. Even his family, his wife, kids, and in-laws, have no idea who he is. He was caught in January of 2005 when his passport had silently been cancelled when a maintenance mole going through a passport/identity database noticed that the information attached to his passport corresponded with the identity of a dead child.
...and I thought Pennsylvania's gubernatorial elections were cut-throat: The race for the governorship of the state of New Jersey has had the bloodiest media battle yet between the candidates. Jon Corzine and Douglas Forrester have been slagging each other left and right since the get-go, digging up dirt to splash all over the news and finding everyone and anyone who could possibly add an unkind word about the other. I'm surprised that no one's broken out the "Your mother.." cracks yet. There's been very little in the mass media about the issues that the voters actually care about, such as propery taxes. Polls conducted among the residents of New Jersey suggest that there will be a low voter turnout because so many people are disgusted with the candidates and their campaign actions - so much so that a record 57% of the people dropped any party affiliation at all and registered as independents.
One Jerry Reynolds, who was run off of Usenet over a half-decade ago for spamming every newsgroup he could reach, has not only decided to stop spamming at long last but he's suing the people who tracked him down and exposed him as a spammer to shut them up. Specifically, he's trying to get every last telltale and document on the Net about his old porn-spam operation to vanish under a blizzard of cease and desist orders. He's subpoenaing computers and throwing down gag orders, as if that weren't enough.
Interesting times at the movie theatres. I'd expect this entering and leaving a secured facility, but this takes the taco. If I wanted abuse like this, I'd hire former pro-dommes at my building and screen my applicants more carefully... sheesh.
Denver, Colorado has legalised marijuana for both private and medical use by passing the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalisation Initiative by a vote of approximately 54%-46%. I wonder how long this'll last before pressure is applied from higher up, say, the federal government...
Engineers and model makers are probably familiar with rapid prototyping, in which a device that uses an ultraviolet laser and a tank of UV-reactive liquid polymer to create three dimensional models of objects with high detail (limited by the precision of the motors positioning the laser aperature and the width of the beam itself). A professor at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy is working on a similiar device for creating organic structures out of living cells in the hope of one day fabricating replacement organs. He's using an organic polymer called a bio-gel as the scaffold for cells. Right now the experiments are limited to designing structures of blood vessels; the structure so fabricated isn't ready immediately, it takes time for the cells to replicate and replace the organic polymer used as a framework. It is expected that simple organs, such as blood vessel replacements, bladders, or urethral tubes will be feasible using this technique within five years.
The IRS has threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of the All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, California because the pastor presnted an anti-war sermon in 2004.
In a vote of 6 to 4, the Kansas Board of Education voted to enact new standards of science education in public schools.. yep, they're going to teach creationism by hook or by crook. Ironically, one member of the Board was quoted as saying that "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today."
This is highly disturbing. When I was in high school is was damned difficult to get any education at all in certain topics, such as science and American history (world history out the I/O buffer, though), and this is going to drive it down even farther into the ground. They rewrote the definition of the word science so that they no longer have to search for NATURAL explanations of phenomena, for pity's sake!
Phosphorus rounds are in use?
Maybe this will lighten the mood tonight...
Friday night of this past weekend was spent at home relaxing - both Lyssa and I had a hellacious week last week and we decided to sit at home and not do anything to recuperate. I can't say much more than that, really; Lyssa went to bed around 2230 EST and I joined her about two hours later, possibly able to stay awake for a while but unwilling to do so. My review of Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children is below, which fills in the rest of Friday night.
On Saturday morning we got off to a slow start, in that we really didn't want to do much but had to take care of a few chores, like going grocery shopping and having breakfast. We picked up some stuff for the week to come and a few things that we needed to have company over that night (it was game night, and a few of the local folks came over to start the Mage campaign I've been working on for a while) and then set about cleaning up the apartment. It didn't take very long to get everything picked up and sorted out. We took care of the offerings left on the ancestor altar as best we could under the circumstances and swept off the balcony to neaten it up. Unfortunately, one of our plants, a purple passion vine, fell off of the railing and smashed on the patio of the apartment beneath ours. Lyssa and I raced down there to clean up the mess and possibly apologise profusely only to discover that the apartment below us is empty. No one lives there, and it appears to be undergoing maintenance of some kind (possibly a repainting and clean-out). This left us with the task of cleaning up the remains of the pot and soil; Lyssa took the remains of the plant back upstairs to try to clean it off. Purple passion vines are notoriously fragile, so we don't know if it'll survive or not, but we're going to replant it as soon as we can to give it a try.
The weather this weekend was unusually warm (not what I'm used to by any means - in Pittsburgh this time of year is when a sweater is added to a turtleneck and the longcoats come out) so we propped the windows and back door open and aired the apartment out. Later in the afternoon Kash drove over to take a break from preparing from midterms and try out a new purchase: The latest edition of Dance Dance Revolution, codenamed Extreme 2. Kash is steadily getting back on his feet after a long illness, so we were wary of Kash that evening, who started around 1630 EST on Saturday and went on for another four hours straight without stopping until we asked him to around 2145 EST that night. I estimate that he's unlocked about half of the game by now (judging by how many new options and songs are available at this time). While Kash discovered his newfound talent for DDR (incredble, for someone who'd played it only once at our Samhain party a few weeks ago), I walked Hasufin through character generation because he was joining us for the Mage game that I was running on Saturday night.
Lyssa, Mika, and Ellen were also playing that night, though for various reasons we got a late state due to traffic and running out to pick up the pizza for everyone (our favourite non-chain pizza place doesn't deliver, so I had to pick it up myself). Things are getting off to a good start, though a little rocky because it's been a while since I've run anything but I've got a good group of players that I'm talking with during downtime and I've got a good feel for what needs to happen next to advance the plot I've got written.
We wrapped up around 0130 EST because the opening scene was finished. Mika, Hasufin, and Ellen went home while Lyssa and I cleaned up and Kash crashed in the living room. Not ten minutes later my pager went off...
Needless to say, we got another late start on Sunday, in fact not getting in motion until 1300 EST or therabouts, when the three of us drove to Amphora for lunch, partially because the kitchen was a wreck and partially because while we have lots of stuff for lunch and dinner, we don't actually have anything suitable for breakfast (as neither Lyssa nor I are home for breakfast most of the time). It was easier to go to the best diner in the area for a late breakfast, which also put us within easy distance of the supermarket to pick up a few more things (like soap and clothes hangers). The rest of the afternoon was lazy, up until we had to drive back to Maryland to meet up with some of Lyssa's friends from gradschool for dinner. The drive was uneventful, save for the dense traffic on the beltway (surprise, surprise). The surprise was actually the bottle of salad dressing, the top of which wasn't screwed down, so once I got the plastic seal off I was treated to a shower of raspberry-scented oil and vinegar.. just what I needed.
Thankfully the rest of the night was uneventful, and I got to talk to some interesting people from U of Maryland.
Just some of the stuff being pulled in government to prevent the US from being accountable for what it's doing on the sly.
It's not so much the fact that piracy is still alive and well in the world, it's the fact that a sonic weapon was used by the cruise ship to defend itself. Aren't those supposed to be in beta right now?
Remember the guy who escaped from custody in Texas? They caught him in Louisiana so drunk that he couldn't run from the police.
The television broadcast copy protection hearings are going on and someone's posted a BitTorrent of video footage of the hearings. Want to see who stands where? Plug this in and watch it after it downloads.
Rather than actually fix any problems with the proper application of HR (human resources) authority, the German technology company Nutzwerk, Limited has inserted clauses into everyone's contracts (past and future) that workers can't complain anymore, and must stay home until they cheer up.
This reminds me of a line from the the movie Flash Gordon: "All creatures will make merry under pain of death!"
Wow - the Vatican says that evolution is in the Bible. Too bad it won't make much of an impact, because so many people say that the Catholic Church is the avatar of all that is evil on this world.
I might not agree with the Catholic Church on a lot of things, but I don't think that it's inherently evil.
| You are Yuna! |
You scored 14 good or evil, 5 spirituality, -3 power, and 5 intelligence!
|Undeniably innocent and intelligent with the slightest - almost invisible - hint of corruption, Yuna, the daughter of High Summoner Braska draws on strong beliefs, her quiet wisdom and the wealth of friendships around her to strike out and defend Spira from Sin. Physical strength is perhaps her only real disability, but she makes up for it with a strong connection to the metaphysical through her deep faith. Throughout FFX, Yuna is faced with a constant stream of tragedy, but she never loses hope - always moving forward with her faith in her heart. Even when that faith proved false, she kept on and fought to find something else to believe in, determined not to give in to Sin's whims. Finally finding a way to defeat Sin's cycle of torment, Yuna again faced tragedy as she faced the loss of her love. Ever determined and hopeful, she kept going on until finally recapturing what she was denied for her sacrifices. Aligned with good, faithful and intelligent, if a bit weak, you are probably a very determined person with a strong belief in something - whether it be God or Starbucks Coffee is up to you. Chances are if you have that much determination coupled with keen knowledge, you'll get far in the world. Just try not to dwell too much on what you might be lacking strength-wise, and you should do well. Similar Characters include Rinoa(ff8), Relm(ff6), Ramza(fft)|
| My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender: |
|Link: The Who are you in the FF Universe Test written by Helbereth on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test|
As expected, "Scooter" Libby plead not guilty to the charges handed to him in the CIA leak fiasco. His lawyers went on the record as saying that they would reject any plea bargains offered.
One way or another, they're going to get at the oil reserves in Alaska. The US Senate refused to strip an amendment from a bill that would allow drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge (yay, backdoor tactics). I find it interesting that a senator from New Mexico would be speaking for the state of Alaska, but I digress... the vote was a very close one, 51-48 in favour of keeping the amendment that will permit oil and natural gas to be extracted from the Alaskan petroleum reserves. I'd really like to see the public opinion polls that Senator Lisa Murkowski is talking about, too. Another vote was taken that would require the oil taken from the reserve to not be exported to other countries, which came out 86-13 in favour of (the oil will probably be exported to another country anyway, because there aren't very many refineries left in the US). It will take an estimated 10 years before the petroleum extracted from the Alaskan reserve will arrive in the US market, and an extra decade to get production up to 1 million barrels per day. The US Department of Energy has published a report stating that tapping this reserve will have very little positive effect, and will lower the price of gas by a single US cent.
This isn't just a half-assed countermeasure against the skyrocketing price of oil.. this is a smaller ass-fraction, like a quarter, or maybe an eighth.
Charles Victor Thompson, an inmate of Texas Death Row, managed to escape from custody by procuring civilian clothes and a forged ID card that helped him convince facility security that he was with the Texas Attorney General's Office.
The Online Freedom of Speech Act, which would have exempted webloggers from the hundreds of laws that regulate political activism, speech, and endorsement didn't make it through the House of Representatives, dying after a vote of 225 to 182.
Sonic booms as a psychological warfare tactic?
National Novel Writing Month participants take note - the US Patent Office is starting to accept patent applications on storylines. One Andrew Knight is trying to patent his storyline in such a way that anything else anyone does that ties into his storyline somehow (for the sake of argument, invents a modification to automobiles that is patentable that somehow was part of his storyline (this is just an example!)) will have to pay him royalties because part of his story was used.
Intellectual property law is going mad...
This could also hit fanfic writers (and possibly fan-artists) hard.. gamers, too (because some gamers write their own supplements to publish on the Net - for example, check out B.J. Zanzibar's World of Darkness).
Tonight while unwinding after a long, rough day at work that left me feeling like I'd been worked over thoroughly by a couple of angry guys wielding Cobra batons I decided to watch the fansub of Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children which I'd downloaded off of a BitTorrent tracker a couple of weeks ago. It was in standard DVD format with a good set of subtitles (and an excellent translation), I only had to burn it to a DVD (done remotely via Leandra - this is how I did it) and wait for Elwing to drop off the disk.
Square Enix did a fantastic job with it, I'd say that it looked as good as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Animatrix: Final Flight of the Osiris, done with what I think is the latest release of the Square rendering engine. While I'm a lousy OpenGL programmer, I know enough about how it works to appreciate 3D graphics, and I was floored by Advent Children. Red 13's pelt was impressive in its detail and how individual strands of hair moved. Cloud's skin is impressively detailed (down to the pores along the nose and minute blemishes along the brow). Tifa Lockheart's battle animation (along with that of the Brothers) is amazing, and reminiscent of the fight scenes in The Matrix. The scenery consists of faithful recreations of familiar locations in Final Fantasy 7, including the church, the deadlands of the city of Midgar, and the wound of the planet in the far north (the exact name of which escapes me at the moment). The soundtrack is top-notch, and there are some new versions of some famous songs, such as bits of the main theme and of course One Winged Angel, which is Sephiroth's battle theme. Even the FF7 victory theme plays a few times at an appropriate moment, though you'll have to listen closely for it.
Yes, everyone's favourite badass reappears. That's not much of a spoiler if you've seen any of the movie's trailers, posters, or teaser images. It's like saying that James Bond defeats the bad guy and gets the girl at the end - it goes without saying.
The Turks, Reno and Rude also appear, though they're more for comedy relief than anything else.
The only real visual glitches I could detect in the animation are the same ones from earlier versions of the Square Enix engine: The fingers of the characters don't bend properly. Real fingers, when they curl to grasp something, start curling inwards from the fingertips inward to the palm. The Square Enix characters' fingers do the opposite, so they look like little kids trying to pick up something big. It drives me nuts. The other thing that I noticed, and this is a nontrivial problem to solve, is that the equations that simulate gravity in the context of the image aren't accurate to a one gravity environment (which I'm assuming that the planet that FF7 takes place on is). When characters walk, their arms don't move quite right; their shoulders don't bounce, specifically.
All that said, the rest of the visuals were amazing. It was easy to forget under most circumstances that I was watching a CG movie and not live actors (up until folks started making impossibly high leaps and changing direction in mid-air, contrary to all known laws of physics). Cloud's bike carries an impressive collection of swords, all of which he uses at one point or another, even stacking them together to make a mother-huge buster sword a couple of times.
One big problem I had with the movie, and this is common with tie-ins to familiar franchises, is that at some point a "hey, hey, the gang's all here" scene breaks out and every character comes out of the woodwork within a span of five minutes to get a few licks in on the bad guy. Red 13, Cait Shih, Yuffie Kisaragi, Barrett, Cid, and Vincent Valentine all show up, like it's some high school reunion or something. I can deal with seeing them before the big battle breaks out (one of them) to establish plot and reintroduce them if it's been a few years, but when they suddenly pop in to take some baddie to school like they just beamed down from on high, it comes across as too sentai/battle team show for my tastes.
On the whole I found Advent Children very appealing, and a lot of fun to watch. I highly recommend it to everyone. If you're not a fan of FF7, don't worry, there's a five minute recap at the start to bring you up to speed. If nothing else, watch it for the impressive visuals.
I'm definitely going to buy a copy when it's released officially in the US. It was that good.
Read this. Especially page 119.
I made it through maintenance on Tuesday night without too much trouble; I even managed catch a few hours of sleep. Wednesday afternoon at the office, though, was a maelstrom of stuff needing to be fixed (which wasn't my fault, incidentally) and trying to accomplish too many tasks at once. I thought I'd been pacing myself nicely through the week but I'm now all but wiped out. I got stuck at work until much later than anticipated last night, and had to drive to pick up Lyssa at work instead of at the Metro station, so I also got stuck in beltway traffic at the height of rush hour, which more or less stranded us out there until traffic died down. Rather than fight traffic, we went to dinner at the Olive Garden and waited out the beltway.
On the bright side, we made it home on the first try last night.
And now, a freedom of speech issue from western Pennsylvania, my old stomping grounds... a former employee of Allegheny Energy named Clifton Swinger criticised some of the company's policies and activities on an Internet message board, and apparently hit a nerve with someone in management. I say 'former' because Allegheny Energy subpoena'd Yahoo to find out who the poster was (it isn't clear if he was posting on a Yahoo message group or if he only had a Yahoo webmail account that he used to register on such a board) and sacked him. Swinger accused the management of Allegheny Energy of being incompetant and railed on the company's racial diversity programme (which is something that you never, ever do in this country, no matter what - remember, the emperor's clothing is always the finest in the land fnord). Allegheny Energy, using a tactic that's turned into a distinctive pattern of behaviour, filed a lawsuit against "John Doe" as a means of filing a subpoena against Yahoo to find out who was behind the account. They took the extra step of filing an emergency motion to grease the wheels of the legal system, supposedly to catch the poster before he could place fingers to console once again and say something that they just didn't like. Once Yahoo rolled over A.E. dropped the suit against Yahoo and fired Swinger in December of 2003, even though he wasn't using company resources or time to post.
What I want to know is, what constituted 'racist speech' in those postings? In this day and age, any sort of criticism at all can be construed as racist; the current legal system makes this easy, which is why a lot of people keep their mouths shut no matter what's going on. It's one thing to call someone names, but it's another (and more legally actionable in the US) to call someone on the fact that they screwed up and have the other party call a lawyer and say that it was racially motivated. The screwup, of course, will never be fixed.
I'm withholding judgement on this until I see proof.
I've been following the saga of the MPAA and RIAA trying to restrict everything and anything in the electromagnetic spectrum (it seems) for quite a while now (use the search engine to see exactly how long, that's a lot of hyperlinks). On Samhain the gruesome twosome did it again, resurrecting the Analog Hole argument (which basically says that you can capture the output of a television or audio equipment and re-encode it with a computer somehow). The EFF has a link to their documentation from this article if you'd like to read the brief. This time they're trying to have a law passed that forcesall output media (audio and video) to be covered by recording management techniques - basically, you can re-record audio or video output only a limited number of times. This will be implemented by forcing all A/V gear to carry DRM circuitry to monitor both input and output. Analog video recordings will carry the "do not copy" brand and will be automatically erased ninety minutes after recording, no exceptions. The bill also makes provisions for automatic update (the bill, not the hardware's firmware) in the event that the proposed copy restriction methods are compromised, so any hacks will be retroactively illegal/require upgrades or new laws.
Looks like they really don't want anyone making recordings to watch after you get home...
As if that weren't enough of a pain in the ass, the next-generation DVD hardware code-named Blu-ray (currently shooting it out with HD-DVD to become the next hot new digital consumer digital media format) will have internal monitoring and remote access technologies built-in, which means that if you tinker with your hardware the manufacturer can remotely access it and disable it. That would include a bug in the firmware (which never happens, oh, no...) that puts your gear into an inconsistent (yet still functional) state, like some early generation digital VCRs that would get screwed-up LCD displays but still otherwise work). Sorry, folks.. I bought it, and if anyone thinks that they'll be able to walk in from the outside they're quite wrong in that assumption.
I never thought I'd have to put a firewall between my DVD player and the rest of my home entertainment system before...
OpenBSD v3.8, the BSD UNIX designed for security first and foremost, is out. There's a review of it at Newsforge. One thing I have to stress to folks is that OpenBSD isn't going to hold your hand the way Fedora Core does - it's for hardcore UNIX geeks and folks who are hell-bent on keeping a secure system. You have been warned. Users of other BSD platforms and Slackware Linux fans will no doubt find themselves right at home. It even runs on Zaurii, though only the C3?00 series.
Former Dick Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby makes his first appearance in court today on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and 'making false statements'.
Read the first paragraph of this news article very closely.
Remember the Sony DRM rootkit? Sony released a patch when somebody figured out that it could be used by attackers to hide malicious code. Duh. That's what a rootkit's for.
Regarding that major Cisco IOS vulnerability announced by Michael Lynn back in July 2005: Cisco has formally released a patch.
There are lots of places that people can go to if they disappear.
There's a side effect of the rootkit that Sony's copy protected CDs install: They'll hide anything that starts with the string '$sys$'.. like active game cheats, which some online services actively scan for now. What's next? The Win32 bot-du-jour? A worm? What if there's a vulnerability in the rootkit itself that can be exploited?
Thanks to Seele for twigging me to that article.
Tonight is another all-nighter for work to do maintenance, so it's now 0104 EST and I'm wide awake. I've got two cups of coffee in me and a few of my favourite podcasts to keep me company, namely, Podcast Who and Doctor Who: Podshock, that I've been trying to catch up on. Podcasts, if you're not familiar with the term, are .mp3 recordings of radio shows that people put together on a variety of topics, from current events to music, from international travel to the latest and greatest in technology. Various fandoms have also embraced podcasting, such as the Doctor Who fandom (as implied above). Thankfully, these two aren't over-the-top psychofan fanworks but planned, relaxed, and intereseting peeks into what's going on among fans today. They've reviewed episodes, books, and toys, talked about the new series, and even discussed major metaplot points, in case you're a new fan and you don't know what's going on (though the new series was geared toward new watchers just as much as the old-school). They're also very well done; it's amazing what you can do with a simple voice recorder and a little editing software (in the cases of these two podcasts, Apple's Garageband).
The saga of Tom DeLay gets interesting, as an ancient Chinese curse would have it. Since stepping down he's revealed that he's still got some influence in government because he's managed to get one of the judges spiked from his trial, something that no one brought up on charges should be able to do. District Judge Robert Perkins of Texas was removed from DeLay's money laundering trial because he not only contributed to the Democratic side of the 2004 presidential election race but also the grassroots political action committee moveon.org. DeLay and his legal team are going out of their way to make it a patisanship issue by saying that yes, you can be impartial even if you're a member of 'that other' political party, but they don't want to risk it. The more they say it isn't a matter of personal politics... the less I want to believe them. You don't go out of your way to mention something offhandedly if you don't want people to notice it.
Regarding the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court: Check out some of his rulings in the past. They're not technical (in the legal or technology senses of the word) but they should make you stop and think about whether or not he's the right person for the job.
Fox News through the ages.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby wrote smut?!
Anybody need a free registration key for Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory?
One would think it prudent to make sure that nothing else shady was going on behind one's back if someone had already been busted, but this is apparently not the case in the White House. After Lewis "Scooter" Libby's indictment, pundits on all sides of the political spectrum are calling for a shakedown of the White House staff but the White House is ignoring them without even giving a reason why. Ostensibly, this is to prevent jury tainting, but I don't see how even the standard empty promise of an in-depth investigation is goint to taint a jury. Vice President Dick Chaney is replacing Libby with two of his own staff members, David Addington (now Chief of Staff) and John Hannah (new National Security Advisor). Addington is notable as one of the folks who pushed the hardest to justify the use of torture in interrogation as well as unlimited presidential power in time of war (like now, or so CNN tells us).
The Methodist Church, in its infinite wisdom, has defrocked a lesbian minister yet restored another who refused to let a gay man join his flock. The Methodist Judician Council stated that their declaration was rooted in history and not prescription and had no bearing upon church laws. Way to love thy brother and thy sister as thyself, guys. Feh.
If you've purchased a CD from one of the big record labels lately, you've probably at least heard about Digital Rights Management technology, which limits what you can listen to your CDs on, how many devices you can listen to them on, and whether or not you can even copy the music from the disk. Some of the solutions involve software that is automatically installed on the computer you put the audio disk into (it's possible to put both audio and data tracks on the same disk). Sony Music has gone so far as to have their software install a rootkit on the computer in question that not only compromises security (the part and parcel of a rootkit), but is capable of loading itself along with Windows even when you boot into safemode by modifying the registry and even adding a few device drivers that you probably didn't want it to. Going through the trouble and sweat to remove it disables the CD-ROM drive on the system in question if you're not careful. There's another writeup of this little nasty in the F-Secure weblog, which isn't as technical but explains what's going on more clearly.
Old-school gamers do jack-o-lanterns. Neat.
Yesterday, the staff of Ritual Roasters (a coffee shop in San Francisco, California) came dressed as Starbucks zombies.
Not all bands, or even all record labels, are in favour of DRM. Sometimes it's the distributors who are at fault. Check this out.
This is nifty: NNFS, the non-networked file system. It's an open source application that lets you keep a consistent set of files on a number of distinct machines without having to network them together. This is done with a removable storage medium of some kind, like a USB key.
The US military has quietly released figures for civilian deaths in Iraq since 1 January 2004: about 26,000 people. The figure took the form of a single bar graph on page 23 (Hail Eris) of a report made to Congress in October of 2005. The number isn't quite correct because it's based upon partial figures only, on a per day basis.
One of the forks of Nessus I mentioned a while ago, GNessUs, has renamed itself OpenVAS.
Who would buy $60kus of prepaid cellphones?
Happy Halloween, everyone.
Aah.. the one day of the year that I can go to work dressed comfortably and not have to worry too much about people looking at me oddly. Photographs to come.
A replacement for Harriet Myers' nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States has been announced: Samuel 'Scalito' Alito, age 55, who has presided over the Third Circuit Court of Appeals since 1995.
Lyssa found the Washington Post profile on Alito (no registration required), including how he voted on a number of major issues, such as whether or not a woman needed to notify her husband that she was going to have an abortion (dissenter).
Seeing as it's Samhain, how about a photographic history of electric chairs through history?
Microsoft Windows Project Vista will finally support symbolic links. Microsoft MVPs posting wonder why they didn't copy this from the BSD kernel years ago.
Folks following biotech should read this news article: GlaxoSmithKline, the corporation that invented the vaccine against cervical cancer, is beset by activist groups trying to manipulate how much of the vaccine will be manufactured and how it'll be marketed. The cancer advocacy and survivors' groups are all for it, and trying to get it out there.. but there are some wingnuts out there who say that it's a subtle form of conditioning that advocates promiscuous, unprotected sex.
Yeah, my reaction was probably the same as yours: "What the fuck?!"
It's said that a number of pro-abstinence groups are meeting this week to plan strategy. The tug-of-war seems pretty evenly split between folks that want to nip cervical cancer in the bud as soon as possible, and those who say that it could encourage teenage premarital sex, in particular.
Is this country headed back to the dark ages, gentle readers? Are the fruits of science so scary to a small group that they're bending over backwards to make advances in healthcare difficult to get? What's next? Radiation therapy for cancer? Blood transfusions? Hormone replacement therapy for thyroid dysfunction? If they did manage to get distribution of this vaccine suppressed or legislated to death, who would actually be able to get it (besides the folks rich and connected enough)? Vaccines do not immediately give you the license to go out and do something stupid, they're a countermeasure, a means of bootstrapping your body's immune system so that you're prepared for an emergency situation. What these folks are saying is tantamount to expressing that wearing a helmet encourages you to try dangerous stunts on a bicycle because you'd think that you're invulnerable to injury. Anyone with three neurons to hook together in parallel knows that this is patently untrue.
What are these people thinking???
Can we say 'successful party', boys and girls?
Damn. I was shooting for Buckaroo Banzai.
Friday night was a whirlwind of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and waiting for the first wave of people to arrive, in the form of Bredmold, Ixx, John, and Lara from Pittsburgh. The hardest thing was trying to find a suitable ham to bake for the party.. when we throw a party, we like to feed people well, and not just provide junk food and alcohol (though there was plenty of that as well; it was Samhain, after all). I spent much of the time moving stuff out of the living room and into, well, other parts of the apartment. There's a surprising amount of stuff that we just can't find anyplace to put, so I made do with the limited amount of room we have around here. Mental note: Pull the bookcase we bought in September out of the TARDIS and set it up.
After multiple trips to every grocery store within easy driving distance (almost), we finally had enough stuff to start cooking. Lyssa prepared a pair of hams, eleven pounds each, to bake in the oven while I made more room in the living room and picked up around the office. The bedroom, it was decided, would be used for holding coats, backpacks, and what have you. By the time the folks from Pittsburgh arrived, the hams were almost done and we emptied everyone's stuff from the car. John and Lara walked to Hasufin's place to crash for the night while Bredmold and Ixx drove to the Silver Diner to get dinner. I stayed up for a while to make sure that they could get back and into my building without trouble, after which they set up the air mattress and retired for the evening.
Come Saturday morning, we relaxed a bit and had a quick breakfast, and then set about our respective tasks. Bredmold and Ixx decided to go to breakfast at Amphora, the other restaurant which Lyssa and I frequent. John, Kash, Hasufin, and Mika went to the Smithsonian Institution in downtown DC. Lara, Lyssa, and I set out to finish our shopping for the party Saturday evening. Our first stop was the local boutique to pick up some last minute costume stuff, including a pair of wings for Lyssa's Mad Hatter costume. I picked up a few odds and ends for later, and we spent some time checking out the new toys and talking to Kelly, the manager of the store.
We then stopped off at Trader Joe's to get some last minute groceries, and CVS to get party candy and makeup. After dropping everyone off, I went out again to get a few things we'd forgotten, like black pepper and honey to mull the cider later on. Lyssa set about preparing the vegetable soup while I moved yet more stuff around. Rhianna and Solo of the Lost Boys arrived around 1600 EDT; Solo was nice enough to help Lyssa with the soup, and later myself as I started putting together my baked macaroni and cheese (gluten-free this time). There was so much food for everyone that I decided to not make the baked apples to set out; now I've got to find some way of eating ten apples before they all go bad...
While I cooked (and later, swept up the kitchen with Solo's help) Lyssa was dying her hair red again for tonight. A few folks trickled in bit by bit as everyone returned from the Smithsonian and the house slowly began to fill with food(!) and people. Lyssa and Solo assembled the ancestor altar before everyone really started arriving. Trav and Char, unfortunately, had to cancel because most of the oil pan of Char's car (along with the oil) wound up all over the highway just over the Maryland state line and had to be towed back.
I lost track of when everyone arrived last night - between close to thirty people coming to the party, managing everything going on, dressing for the party last night (I decided to go with Sakurazuka Seishirou again, partially because I can't find my Utena costume, and partially because it was more appropriate to last night), setting things up, answering the phone.. it was a busy night.
Kash brought his PS2 and Elwing brought several DDR games and her pads. Hasufin brought alcohol in several crates for everyone. Games were brought out and traded. Elwing was seen for the first time in her vinyl dress. Lots of folks who'd never tried playing Dance Dance Revolution before gave it a try, including Rialian and Helen. The ancestor altar was fully lit by the end of the night. I somehow managed to frighten most of the partygoers when I went onto the balcony to the ancestor altar.. photographs of many kinds were taken (which will be posted soon, along with the gigabytes of other photographs I've taken since I moved). Lauren was kind enough to dance for us a few times (though we had to take over the office to do so). Chris was quite taken with our book collection, and spent quite a few hours poring through the stacks to see what we have. I got to meet Nick, of Nick/Branwyn/Laurelinde last night, and geek out with him for a very long time. I also went through an entire party without partaking of Goldschlager or Guiness.
Come 0300 EST (Daylight Savings Time, don't'cha know) everybody had either left for home, left for wherever they were crashing, or sacked out on the floor after draining the Brita pitcher a few times and partaking of the analgesics.
All of us got up around 1100 EST today, and after waking ourselves up and packing Bredmold's car, we headed back to Amphora for breakfast, and invaded the place. Not only did we get breakfast, we drank them out of all of the coffee in the restaurant and hung out until well into the afternoon, at which time the Pittsburgh contingent departed, and the rest of us went back to the apartment to rest. Lyssa napped while Hasufin, Kash, Mika, and I played a round of Chez Goth, and then picked up a bit more (definitely an all day project). Hasufin and I discovered a discarded table outside, which has been cleaned up and installed in the office until we can get proper desks to work off of. We've just been picking at food all day today because there was a great deal of food to be had at the party last night, and my stomach hasn't been right lately due to all the stress, not eating right, and not exercising.
I don't know when I'll get the pictures up, but when I get them up I'll let everyone know.
Dirty bomb decontamination techniques.
There are new developments in the Iraqi-oil-for-food scandal implicating some famous corporate entities, among them Daimler-Chrysler (automobile manufacturing giant), Volvo, and Siemens (the largest engineering company in Europe). They aren't the only ones, though - the list of companies that sent bribes to the Iraqi government in exchange for special consideration has about 2,200 names on it, with payments totalling somewhere around $1.8bus. Not only were bribes sent but contract prices were jacked up upon request (gee.. that sounds familiar) to help cover the money transfers. A network of oil trading and shell companies based out of Russia helped launder the money on its way to Iraq.
In the time-honoured ritual of sacrificing a scapegoat to save someone you really, really like, Karl Rove has been spared indictment again in the mess that resulted in Time Magazine blowing the cover of one Valerie Plame, CIA asset, but vice-presidential aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby' might get nailed by the grand jury for it. Rove will still be under investigation but now they've got someone to haul in. Charges of obstruction of justice and exposing the identity of a covert asset (a felony in the United States) are being openly considered, along with charges of conspiracy (which is much easier to nail someone on). The documents (widely thought to be forgeries) that outlined Iraq's acquisition of refinable ('yellowcake') uranium from Niger will probably be used as evidence; the White House is still crowing their authenticity.
What a mess.
Remember that Snort vulnerability? RD of THC has published the exploit code. Patch 'em if you got 'em.
Hate dealing with malware on large networks? Why not slow it down long enough to do something about it by preventing any of it from phoning home? Check out the following links:
Halloween Photoshopping context at worth1000.com. There's some great stuff in here, work-safe, too.
T-Shirt Hell has offered to transport any of their customers, free of charge, to their destination if one of their products gets the wearer thrown off of their flight.
In an interesting turn of events, the National Security Agency, so secret a government body that its very existence wasn't officially declared until just a few short years ago, is having its patent applications turned down because the White House deems them too sensitive to declare. You know something's amiss when the White House is more secretive than these folks, the undisputed masters of cryptography in the US, and probably on the planet.
The second Doctor Who series walked away with three NTA awards, namely most popular series, most popular actor (Christopher Eccleston), and most popular actress (Billie Piper).
Forbes Magazine is running a scathing commentary on webloggers (use bugmenot.org to find an account), making us out to be the fifth horsemen of the apocalypse. As with any good spin piece, it's all in the data you present to take advantage of my favourite quirk of psychology, the error of availability. They throw the terms 'lies', 'libel', and 'lynch mob' around like there's no tomorrow, and paint webloggers as little more than hitmen for hire, smearing everyone and anyone who looks at them crosseyed. They also go out of their way to find the worst, most extreme cases of obsession and idiotic behaviour (let's face it: Every group of people that have something in common is going to have some psychos; as Lyssa astutely put it, subcultures that don't police themselves will be known by their extremists and not the majority). If you play up the psychos, you manipulate popular opinion to falsely state that all of them are psychos. It happened in the 1980's with reversed speech in music and RPG players, so it's a known and time-polished tactic. They also do a good job of misrepresenting journalistic reporting and full disclosure to appear to be the work of stalkers or bloggers that have gone over the edge, even going so far as to reference Groklaw. Helpfully, they also put up a list of damage control tricks (again with the Bugmenot), such as starting your own weblog (which is a logical measure), bribing popular and respected bloggers to shill for you, and doing exactly what the article accuses bloggers of doing, which is finding information that can be used as a weapon against certain bloggers to discredit them or force them to retire.
This is probably the most reactionary piece I've read in a long while. It's hysterical in tone and not even trying to be subtle about manipulating the points of view of folks who probably don't know any better. Reading this piece was like watching a pro wrestling match - it's throwing punches as fast as it can without bothering to make sure they're aimed, ugly, and most of all, contrived. The first couple of paragraphs chart its course nicely, which is down farther than Orpheus went in search of Eurydice. The vast majority of bloggers are in fact not sociopaths with nothing better to do with their time and bandwidth than find famous people to slander, libel, and stalk, nor prone to trying to cause a corporation's stock prices to fall by scaring investors. I have to wonder about the skill and trustworthiness of an investor who would take the word of a blogger (even myself, let's be clear) at face value. Minor facts here and there are well and good and unless they're written like this article, should be carefully considered... and researched. Taking the word of anyone you don't know, whose credentials you are unsure of, at face value and not doing even a tiny bit of follow up research is a bad idea. Do your homework.. check your facts.. make sure that someone isn't trying to mess with your head and your actions. If you're not sure, check a little harder, use multiple sources. Get enough data to draw your own conclusions, and don't just take someone else's as the blind truth.
Oh, wow - George Takei came out. Rock on.
Last night Lyssa and I took it easy and drove to Rialian's for open study, as we are wont to do a few times per month. The usual crew was scattered around the house, with the addition of Kyrin (who uncharacteristically appeared last night) as his old misanthropic self. Lauren was there, wiped out and dead on her feet after teaching today. Once again, we wound up talking about everything and anything, from putting on hunting orange and shelling certain passers-by with paintball guns to pointed observations about subcultures and how a lack of standards of people and pressure (aside from to conform) leads to so many problems and bad names for various sorts of folks.
Last night was also a bitch-fest of sorts for horror stories and a general need to blow off steam after a long couple of weeks. I was given a Yellow Sign medallion to help with certain applications at work that are giving me no end of trouble. Rialian related the time her performed an invocation of Archangels by rapping (an interesting mental image is definitely Uriel as the Digital Underground's Shock-G).
We finally got home around quarter of midnight and I promptly sat down to troubleshoot problems reported by one of our contractors... I think I finally crashed around 0045 EDT or so.
Have you ever wondered how easy it is to make crystal meth? One reporter decided to find out, and was amazed at the lack of trouble encountered.
Back in 2001, a group of crackers calling themselves the World of Hell went on a website defacement spree, compromising among other things a couple of US Air Force websites. One of their number, who called himself 'Rafa', was arrested. Last week he was sentenced to seven months in prison after copping a plea with prosecutors. He's supposed to be deported back to Venezuela but NASA is also after him because he also cracked a few of their machines in 2002 and supposedly downloaded 40 megs of design data about NASA's next generation orbital launch technology. Because plea bargains are specific to cases and counts of crimes, NASA's trying to prevent his deportation so that they can bring him up on new charges.
They say that war is hell, but if you act like your enemies, what have you become?
Dick Chaney, vice president of the United States, is trying to push the Congress into legalising human rights abuses upon non-American prisoners (remember, 'enemy combatants' and those suspected of being such are no longer considered US citizens under US law) by intelligence service operatives (read: spooks). The bill placed before Congress by Senator John McCain is supposed to ban such activies all across the board, but Chaney is fighting tooth and nail to have the CIA exempt from this bill under the guise of 'counter-terrorism activies'.
Another major breakthrough in nanotechnology has been announced: Unguided, walking molecules. Ludwig Bartels' research team at the University of California at Riverside have managed to stand a molecule of 9,10-dithioanthracene (DTA) upright (relative to a flat substrate) and make it walk on two legs without the benefit of 'guide rails' by converting random heat energy into kinetic energy to propel itself. The molecule picks up one of the parts that act as feet and moves it forward some distance, then the other, and then the other.. they managed to get it to go 10,000 paces before it finally toppled over. If you try to search for specifics on this odd molecule, you're going to have a hard time finding anything that isn't a reprint of this article, but if you try some of the more technical physics publications (or just wait for the research paper to come out next month) you'll probably find more information.
Harriet Miers withdrew her name from the list of Supreme Court nomnees today.
The proposed changes to federal law that would require Voice-over-IP providers to provide for CALEA monitoring is being challenged in court by a number of technology advocacy and privacy groups. John Morris of the Centre for Democracy and Technology has gone on the record as stating that "The whole process of innovation on the Internet would be seriously damaged," and he's right. VoIP is a new technology, and the various providers out there are running into each and every possible glitch that you can imagine. Retrofitting VoIP for wiretapping would prolong the time necessary to turn it into a stable technology, which would hinder its adoption.
Overclockers Sampsa Kurri and Ville Suvanto of Finland overclocked a Radeon X1800 XT graphics card to a hair over 1GHz... with custom-built liquid nitrogen cooling system.
Still, that's pretty fast. They didn't encounter any lockups or visual glitches, either.
This is 31 flavours of creepy - a woman hung herself and was mistaken for a Halloween decoration.
It's official: The publically admitted body count for the US in Iraq is somewhere around 2000 soldiers and climbing little by little every day. They are uninterested in the number of casualties of Iraqi civilians, though (what is it up to now, about 25,000?).
As if the US isn't making enough waves in the Middle East, George W. Bush is applying pressure upon the UN to take measures against Syria in the wake of the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was found dead in his office of a single gunshot wound to the head, as far as anybody knows a suicide. Because Syrian nationals are suspected in the killing (huh?), the UN is outlining sanctions.. I've yet to see any hard evidence linking the two together.
Some interesting information about the vulnerability in Snort announced last week has come to the surface: One of the DShield incident handlers has developed a utility that can identify exploit attempts by either monitoring network traffic or analysing a PCap-formatted traffic dump. He's also written a Snort rule that can detect exploit attempts; of course, this will only work as expected on a Snort install that isn't vulnerable (i.e., the BackOrifice preprocessor has been deactivated somehow or a non-vulnerable version of Snort).
US passports are going RFID by October of 2006. This is being done despite the fact that 98.5% of the comments sent to the State Department (as part of its "request for comments" period) were negative, citing that the information stored on the RFID chips could be just as easily stolen as it could be read by a legitimate RFID reader. The RFID chips are designed, they say, to not permit tracking of individual passports, only logging the identity on them and the entry and exit of a passport. Supposedly, the passports will also be outfitted with unauthorised third-party monitoring materials (probably foil-laden covers such that you'll have to actually open the passport to get a clear signal). Authentication measures will also be implemented in the RFID data storage chips, but one Ari Juels of RSA has already written up a paper outlining the vulnerabilities in this system.
Cosplayers in the workplace. The folks shown are portraying Saionji from Utena and Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi. Cosplay mavens Rogue and Flexei are behind this.
And here I was pondering going to work dressed as Ohtori Akio this year..
And now.. Katamari Damacy as text adventure!
And now, new and interesting ways to spy on people. This technique, adapted from NASA's methods for picking up ultra-weak signals, uses a beam of microwave radiation (between 30 and 100 GHz) aimed through walls to pick up tiny, tiny vibrations in solid objects, which are then picked up, amplified, de-noisified, and recorded. The patent with full description of the technique may be read here.
I am Bryce's utter lack of surprise. The Electronic Privacy Information Centre has documents to prove it.
Google Base: You knew this was going to happen.
Holy shit: This guy built a laser-based object detector to trigger his camera to photograph insects. He built a whole embedded computer system out of perfboard and raw components. The idea is an insect breaks one of the laser beams and the detector photographs the insect (far faster than a human can close a shutter).
Fall's here in full force - it's wet, dreary, rainy, and most of all, cold. It's been cold and rainy since yesterday without much of a chance of letting up. Rather than go anywhere last night, Lyssa and I decided to stay home, out of the cold, and get our ducks in a row for the week to come.
In the midst of all the hubub about Iraq, a US Senator has accused British lawmaker George Galloway of lying under oath when he aid that he did not benefit from the oil-for-food exchange programme. An investigation has shown that Galloway and an organisation that he chairs were fronted 23 million barrels of crude oil between the years of 1999 and 2003. No formal charges have been filed yet.
Rosa Parks, dead at the age of 92. Rest in peace.
The Reverend Kieran mcHugh of the Pope John XIII Regional High school has commanded students to take down their weblogs, Myspace accounts, and other personal profile websites,/a> or face suspension... this means outside of school, as well as access during the school day. McHugh's justification is that he wants to protect students (gee... that sounds strangely familiar) from predators who might use their websites to gather information about thatm. The majority of the student body is protesting under the First Amendment. The school's bylaws also forbid any students from posting anything about the school on the Net without permission.
It's the Pope John XXIII Regional High School of Sparta, New Jersey, incidentally... and here's its website and here's a satellite map of it. You can plug it into Google yourself to see what students have to say.
MySQL v5.0 has gone production, and the new features are impressive. Among the new features are stored procedure support, views to limit the data that can be retrieved by arbitrary queries, information schemas, and a toolkit that will simplify migration from other database engines, such as Oracle and Access.
What the hell is DrDOS trying to pull?
Another darknet project, for scattering data across the Net: TinyDisk. It's nifty; check it out.
You have to love getting practical use out of web-based apps on the Web...
The EFF's latest entry about the Lyons Partnership.
When is the last time you read the end-user licensing agreement on software you've installed on your machine? Maybe never, depending on what you download and how often. Maybe you should - there can be some nasty stuff in there, from admonitions to never publish any comments or benchmarks on what you've installed to never removing or encouraging anyone to remove spyware that rode in on a routine install. Of course, you can't sue the software developer, that's been standard in software licenses for ages, but what if you try to get a refune? At least one EULA specifically and permanantly removes all right to a refund once you've recieved your registration code from the manufacturer - and demands that you pay the manufacturer $8kus in damages if you do (that's the EULA for The Breeder Standard, incidentally).
On Thursday the US Senate the transition from analog to digital-only television by the year 2009. This is interesting because it means that the television stations and networks will have to surrender their broadcast licenses to the FCC, which would then be re-auctioned off to other corporate and private entities. This is expected to free up a lot more bandwidth for emergency communications as well as wireless connectivity providers. The kicker, though, is that you're either going to have to replace your TV, or buy extra equipment so that you'll be able to tune in (though most, if not all televisions manufactured today are digital-ready).
A bug in the software controlling prisoner rolls in the Michigan State Prison System accidentally let eight prisoners out early. The prisoners were in jail for (thankfully) nonviolent crimes, from writing bad cheques to embezzlement.
Interested in how the various sects in the US voted last time? Check out the breakdown.
Let's see... with regard to the Furbecue pictures I recieved a cease-and-desist order over, I've gotten in touch with Chilling Effects, which specialises in publicising such cases as this. I'm also contacting The EFF, which has been following the exploits of the Lyons Partnership since at least 2001, when they started attacking other Barney-related websites. I've heard that they first started in the early to mid 1990's over the Usenet group alt.purple.dinosaur.die.die.die (which, suffice it to say, didn't go anywhere). I'll also be conacting the Bar Association of northern Virginia to see if they can point me to a lawyer who may be of assistance. I am told that all lawyers must do some pro-bono work every year, and they will be able to clarify this for me and perhaps point me in the direction of someone helpful.
Congratulations to Kali and Lucien, proprietors of the store Hocus Pocus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on their new television show Modern Mysticizm, airing on PCTV Channel 21.
Lyssa and I had one of those days.. the ones where you just don't get out of bed until 1300 EDT or so because you just can't wake up and don't want to move around much. Eventualy, we pulled ourselves together and dressed, then went out for lunch at the Silver Diner not too far away, where we said "to hell with the diets" and enjoyed diner fare.. I had the surf and surf, which is fried clam strips and a crabcake while she had the smoked Gouda cheeseburger. Diner food holds a special place in my hearts - it's relaxing and makes for good conversation. Afterward, we headed northward to Maryland at the invitation of Rialian to hang out at The World Tree, which is a little pagan store in Gaithersburg run by some old friends of his. He was minding the store for a while today, and wanted company. By the time we found the place (Mapquest's directions were needlessly convoluted) we were navigating by the plume of smoke in the air... as it turns out, someone had, for whatever reason, set the trash out back of the store on fire, and the flames had caused an aerosol can to explode. When we pulled up Rialian and Doug (proprietor of the store) were using a fire extinguisher to put the flames out.
What a way to leave a landmark.
Lyssa and I wound up staying there until well after closing, both talking with everyone there and nosing through the store. I found a few things that I'd love to have (but don't have any use for), and wound up buying a book of incense-book matches (just what they sound like: book matches that, when burned, give off incense) anda copy of The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Magic by Regardie and the Cicero's. I was awed by the red-and-silver hyrax for sale, exquisitely detailed (down to tiny little Hebrew characters inside the hexagram) and large enough to only fit on my thumb, but I don't work with the Solomonic system and passed on it. The four of us wound up at the restaurant Mosaic again for dinner and more talking and ribbing one another. Rialian and Doug go way back, and their banter pulled no punches.
If you're going abroad, be sure that you make sure you don't have any porn on your laptop because porn is drawing more attention from security guards than shady-looking terrorist-type folks are. The FBI, famous for kinkier-than-thou J. Edgar Hoover, is forming a special task force to fight porn. Pictures, magazines, DVDs, and articles are being confiscated at the borders right now.
Whatever happened to "If it's not hurting anyone (who doesn't ask for it), who cares?"
Due to threats on the part of Gibney, Anthony, and Flaherty, LLP I've had to take down many of the photographs taken at the October 2002 Furbecue. Read the report here.
Interestingly, I've been accused of dressing like an extra from Bladerunner in the past.
This is neat - it reminds me of Operation: Frog, but with people.
Yesterday at work was a long, long day.. a day which hasn't ended yet, but only gave me a brief reprieve last night. I trucked out to the hosting facility yesterday with the new sysadmin at work, and went through the whole rigamarole to get him signed up, registered, and coded.
That wasn't so bad. Getting lost in traffic was bad. Getting lost in traffic and becoming completely turned around because construction workers decided to finish the road to take and removed the road signs (which I found out about this morning) completely fucked me over. Eventually, we met up and did what we had to do (which took an amazingly short amount of time, after getting things straightened out with the security staff (first the wrong building in the complex, then a new guy, then a weird-looking.. thing.. with a briefcase, sans paperwork.. yeah, if I was site security, I'd be worried about the situation, too).
I headed home afterward, tired, hungry, and amazingly stressed out about everything going on at work. I managed to catch a few hours of sleep after dinner and presently got dressed to go back to work for Midnight Maintenance (I think I'll call it that in the future, it looks good in a text editor), where we were tasked with working on a couple machines at the hosting facility. This time, however, we had our paperwork straight (and the lack of traffic at 0-dark-thirty EDT made it much simpler to get there) and got in without much trouble.
What would a maintenace shift be without a couple of surprises, though? One of them wound up in my lap shortly after returning home, and I was up until 0630 EDT working on it from home. By the time it all wrapped, I decided that going to bed for fifteen minutes wasn't worth it, and stayed up, so I guess I can't bitch about that.
Oh, yeah, and I got served by laywers for something on my website. I'll write about that when I wake up tonight.
Anybody know a lawyer?
Tom DeLay surrendered to authorities yesterday.
On my way out of work last night, I got an interesting surprise as I loaded my stuff into the TARDIS. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a fuzzy brown speck inside the door handle of the left rear door (little more than a well in the armrest). Upon closer inspection I found that it was a small wolf spider, about a half inch in length and slightly less than that in width. It was quite dead, in all probability due to the fact that fall has come to DC (with requisite swings in temperature and pollen count) and the TARDIS isn't an incredibly warm vehicle around this time of year. The little spider probably died of exposure and old age, as spiders are wont to do at this time of year.
I picked the tiny corpse up with the end of a stick and deposited it outside of my car, on the ground.
For years, I've been seeing spiders in places that you wouldn't expect to find them, like labs in hospitals, clean rooms (for example, RIT's clean room, for the integrated circuitry fabrication class), and relatively high security places. I've started to take them as an omen of sorts, rather like a protector (vis a vis, the deathwatch beetle's capture at Lyssa's old apartment some months ago).
Updates regarding the Snort <= v2.4.2 vulnerability have appeared in the ISC handler's diary for today. While I don't agree with their assessment of lowering the threat rating (if you're vulnerable, you're vulnerable, no two ways about it so get to patching; lowering it prematurely means that some folks think the danger's passed when it really hasn't), some good information about the vulnerability was posted. Kyle Haugsness has figured out how it works and has written a proof of concept exploit to prove that it works (which he isn't releasing) as well as a monitoring application that sniffs for the exploit (which can technically be sent to any UDP port to attack the Snort sensor), which he will be releasing soon.
There is some concern that a worm could make use of this vulnerability, but the possibility of this is slim. The reason for this, I think, is because most Snort sensors use an unusual configuration, as Internet systems go. There are three main ways of hooking a Snort sensor into your network: Run Snort on one of your boxes; plug a true hub into your network between the systems you want to watch over and your link; configure your switch or router to turn on port mirroring (where all of the traffic going to and from a certain port or set of ports is silently copied to another port) (if the switch or router supports it). Once that's done, the network card that Snort will listen on is brought online without an IP address or routes, so it can't send traffic itself or directly recieve traffic, only passively sniff whatever packets are fed to it (via the hub or mirror port). While a theoretical Snort worm could launch an exploit packet into the network, where a vulnerable Snort sensor could pick it up and be affected, the worm's propagation would be slowed because the Snort sensor would probably not be able to follow up on the infection (once compromised, the sensor would then have to make a series of requests to another infected system to pull over the worm code and start running it; without a conventionally configured interface and/or set of routes, that can't be done, and you can't pack a full worm into a single UDP packet that's 1500 bytes, at most, in size). Anyone with enough concern about security to set up and run a Snort sensor no doubt has taken steps to isolate the sensor in ways that make this scenario unlikely (not out of fear of a worm infection, but to prevent intruders from disabling or compromising the Snort sensor or its database of alerts; the countermeasures are the same).
Now, if you're running a vulnerable instance of Snort on a host or a firewall, all bets are off (though firewall rules might prevent the requests to pull over the worm code anyway, depending on how they're written). It's written at least once (probably twice) in the Snort docs that you shouldn't run Snort on a host or firewall for this reason! If such a thing were to happen, those would be the boxen that would fall.
Analsis of the past thirteen years of achievement testing of US students shows that proficiency increases in math were minimal and nonexistent in reading. Almost 70% of all students in the US are scoring below where they should be for their grade in school. No surprise there. When I was in high school (when the data was first collected) they piled on more coursework and more reading, moved faster to try to make it through all of the information (which left less time for retention and discussion), and, in the end, lowered their standards. It still hasn't helped.
You can shovel more dirt into the a sack than it can hold, but it's going to rip the sack and go all over the place just the same.
Saddam's on trial.
An arrest warrant for Tom DeLay has been issued in the state of Texas, where he is charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and money laundering. His initial bail is $10kus. DeLay's arranged to give himself up to the police of Fort bend, his hometown.
Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that the cost of software is irrelevant in developing countries, nevermind the fact that the average salary in Nigeria (for example) is only $160us. The cost of Windows XP Professional (upgrade version) is, for comparison, $180us.
Another news article about the tunnel closures down here hit the newswires this morning. From what I can tell, someone arrested in the Netherlands mentioned a plot to blow up some of the tunnels in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, which put the US DHS and Maryland police forces on full alert yesterday. One of the tunnels running under Baltimore's harbor was shut down, and the other went into lockdown, whereupon all vehicles bigger than a car were searched by police. This caused a nasty backup of traffic into other main roadways. The evidence found was specific enough to justify the lockdown but not so much so to put the area on red alert. Six raids were carried out in the Baltimore, Maryland area which resulted in four arrests on immigration charges. One of the arrests was the result of information supplied by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
What an interesting place to live in!
Speaking of interesting (and not in the sense of an ancient curse), here's a little bit about how zoo animals in NOLA fared.
Users of the open source intrusion detection system Snort should sit up and take notice because there is a remotely exploitable vulnerability in v2.4.0 and later. There's a bug in the Back Orifice preprocessor that may be used to remotely execute code on the Snort sensor machine. A patch and a new release (v2.4.3) have already been released by Sourcefire. In the meantime, edit your snort.conf file and comment out the line "preprocessor bo" (Back Orifice by the Cult ov thee Dead Cow isn't used much by crackers anymore because there are far more advanced tools available nowadays). Then restart your Snort instances for the changes to take effect.
At 14th Street and Broadway in New York City, there will be an anti-Digital Rights Management protest outside of Virgin Records. The protest is supposed to educate customers about free use and the restrictions upon it that DRM technologies impose. They are also hoping to force Virgin Records to clearly label all of their CDs that are DRM-protected (i.e., in more text than Flyspeck-5 on the back next to the bar code where it says that the disk you're thinking of buying might not play in your CD player, like the ones that Lyssa and I saw in Tower Records this weekend past) as such.
Speaking of rights and music, how about writing to ASCAP and asking permission to sing Happy Birthday to someone?
Someone turned a ghettoblaster into a laptop bag.
Take this analysis of video games and violence with a grain of salt, but then check out the sources cited in the study (they're all hyperlinked).
More on stem cell research, this time in an article that specifically states that embryos don't have to be dissected to harvest stem cells... the clueful have been saying this for years, folks. Researchers at Advanced Cell Technology, based out of Massachusetts, and shadowed by the research team at the University of Wisconsin have discovered that you can take a single cell from a fertilised embryo when it's at the just-eight-cells stage, the rest of the embryo will still be viable and you can use that cell as the culture for human germline stem cells. This is exactly the same procedure used to section an embryo when pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is performed in fertility clinics. More interesting are the experimental results from MIT this week, published in the journal Nature: Their genetic engineering research staff has figured out how to clone embryos that never leave the just-a-bunch-of-stem-cells stage, meaning that they're large lumps of stem cells. If left to their own devices, they'll never become anything more than larger lumps of stem cells.
In an interesting turn of events, a federal court in Chicago, Illinois has ruled that spyware constitutes illegal trespass under US chattel law. In the case Sotelo vs. DirectRevenue, the suit filed alleged that spyware installed on a workstation surreptitiously that monitored net.activity without consent not only damaged the computer (a claim often found in court cases dealing with computer intrusion) but invaded Sotelo's privacy by recording his activities for later analysis. While the end-user license agreement of the injecting software states that spyware will be installed, there are at least three ways that the injector software dodges around actually showing the EULA to the installing user, which removes legal consent.
Did you know that one-fifth of all genes in the human genome were patented by private companies and universities in the United States? Genes, natural or not, may be patented under US law because they are considered tools of research and development (and thus may be considered proprietary in nature). Because genes are used in the synthesis of proteins (it's a complex topic, more so than I have time to write about right now; check this slide out) this makes them a product or a tool and not just bits of information inside the human body.
Thankfully you don't have to pay licensing fees on your own body just yet.
The EFF explains how to decode printer document tracking patterns.
Last week I mentioned that the vulnerability scanning application Nessus would no longer be open source. Since that time, the source code has forked no less than three times: GNessUs, Segusius, and GPL'ed Nessus Checks. There's a fourth but the link timed out on me.
DDR cloned on the TI scientific calculator series: xLIB xLIB Revolution v1.0.
In Rome, Italy, if you want to use a cybercafe', copy shop, or other public communication proprietorship, your password or ID need to be photocopied. Dates and exact times of use, names, and addresses must be stored, among other refinements.
Check out Time Magazine's list of the 100 best novels from 1923 to the present.
Check out how much was spent on peer-to-peer lawsuits last year, along with how much MPAA and RIAA bigwigs were paid.
Wow. Transparent aluminum-bearing ceramic used as a replacement for armoured glass by the US military. Cue Star Trek IV jokes.
In response to an active terror threat in my area, parts of the Beltway and I95 are shut down (told to me by Rhianna, who is currently stuck in the mess). Traffic's been diverted from the Harbor and Fort McHenry Tunnels and police are checking vans and tractor-trailors out.
This makes me wish I knew more about programming on the bare metal: OpenBIOS, an attempt to write a real firmware for PC hardware like that of Sun Microsystems and Apple machines.
There were biological weapons detectors set up at the DC protest back in
Interestingly, a few people really did get sick after the protest.
Rhianna's at work now, battered but here. Her delay was comperable to the one that Lyssa and I ran into last Thursday.
The tunnels're open again.
It's about time.
Russell T. Davies really has made good with the reboot of Doctor Who: He's been tasked with writing a spin-off show called Torchwood, which is about a team of investigators going over, under, around, through, and occasionally inside weird stuff happening in England, sort of like The X-Files with a much more loose sense of humour. There will be references to the Torchwood unit in the upcoming Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion special that will be shown on the BBC in December of 2004. Thirteen episodes of 45 minutes each will be aired in one-episode-one-adventure format, similiar to series 2.
As if that weren't enough, the character of Captain Jack Harkness is coming back as a member of the Torchwood unit. Now we'll hopefully find out what he was up to after the Satellite-5 situation at the end of this season of Doctor Who.
Okay. Fanboy ranting off.
Don't trust end-user licensing agreements in software but don't have the patience to translate all the legalese? Check out EULAlyzer, which digs through a EULA given by the user and flags potential gotchas. It's free and it's written for Windows.
Misspelled eBay acutions?
India thinks that Google Maps constitutes a threat to national security. The United States government doesn't agree for some odd reason.
Incidentally, that last link is to a pair of nuclear reactors.
Lovely: A bear that shits prime numbers. Yes, it's work-safe.
An old country song is a religious song?
Expressing your opinions can be a dangerous thing if you don't like the president. One of the students of Selina Jarvis took a photograph of someone making a thumbs-down gesture toward a picture of George W. Bush and took the film to Wal-Mart to be developed. The photo shoppe clerk called the local police, who called in the Secret Service. The Secret Service went to the local high school and confiscated the poster, and gave Ms. Jarvis the third degree.
Ironically, the project the poster was made for was about the US Bill of Rights.
On the up side, the FBI busted spam kingpin Alan M. Ralsky.
"A feast for fire and a feast for water; a feast for life and a greater feast for death!"
Around 1400 EDT today Lyssa and I returned home from Pennsylvania and Beth Fitch's memorial service. It's been a long, rough couple of days, and while they haven't been all bad, they have been rough.
As it turns out, Lyssa's grandfather on her father's side, Sherril, died today, also. What a week.
Thursday evening Lyssa and I ran around the apartment, taking stuff in and packing up so that we could head to Pennsylvania. That didn't actually take very long. The trip to Pennsylvania, on the other hand, was made a hell of a lot longer than it really had to be, even though we took what was ostensibly a shortcut through the mountains (route 68 west). The two hour delay was, in fact, due to an overturned tractor-trailer that had blocked all but one lane of northbound traffic... two hours to go five miles. Lyssa and I were going stir crazy trying to figure out what was going on. I wish I'd brought a few of my radios with me, so that I could have listened in to what was going on.
We got to Lyssa's parents' place around 0200 EDT Friday morning, after a long drive northward and my almost but not quite falling asleep at the wheel twice en route. Getting up at 0600 every day is rough, and not conducive to long drives when you've had a bad day. Thankfully, Lyssa's shouts woke me up in time to get back on the road before anything bad happened. At one point, Lyssa and I traded off to give me a chance to rest. I think I took a couple of micro-naps while I was in the passenger's seat, I don't know. My short-term memory got pretty fragmented around that time.
Once we arrived in Mather, we unloaded what little baggage we'd brought with us from the TARDIS. I headed upstairs and crashed, scarcely remember to take my clothes off. Lyssa went to bed some time after I did; I don't know when, and certainly don't recall noticing at any time.
We got up at 0900 EDT on Friday to get ready for the haul out to the California University of Pennsylvania for Dr. Fitch's memorial service. The drive out was uneventful and quick, and once we found someplace to park we wandered around a bit. Lyssa was shocked at the changes that had been made to the campus; lots of construction is underway at Cal U. at this time. We met up with Pegritz between classes and hung out for a while, but then made our way to the chapel for the memorial service. The chapel was full of family, past students, and faculty from Cal U. who knew Dr. Fitch and wanted to pay their last respects.
The memorial service didn't last as long as I thought it would, I have to be honest. The reception afterward was tastefully done and well attended in the Dome Room of the building. I got to meet a few grad students and not a few professors, most of whom seemed to think that I was a student of Dr. Fitch.
I got to meet Pat Hartman, another friend of Lyssa's from her academic days. She's a very interesting person, and I wouldn't mind getting to know her a little better.
We met up with Pegritz after class and went out for coffee and time talking about the novels he's been working on in his spare time. We don't get to see Pegritz very often, so whenever we're in Pennsylvania we make the best effort to see him. We eventually headed back to Lyssa's parents' place to change and meet up with Marie, an old friend of Lyssa's whom she hasn't seen in quite a few years. We went out to dinner at TGI Friday's about forty-five minutes closer to Pittsburgh from where we were, and then hit up the craft store across the mall parking lot to get stuff to make a wreath for the ancestor altar that we'll be putting out for our Samhain Party at the end of this month (on the 29th of October, 2005, specifically). We also picked up some candles at the dollar store for the ancestor altar.
We headed back to Lyssa's parents' place, where Lyssa and Marie spent some time catching up while I hung out upstairs that night. I'd had some ideas for some software that I hacked out in Perl on Friday night, which I debugged and got up and running. Now I just need to find some beta testers...
We got up early this morning to get cleaned up, packed up, and on the road for DC, this time by way of the mountains of southern Pennvylvania, which are beautiful at this time of year. We stopped in at a few of the curio places in the mountains and picked up a few jugs of cider to bring back with us, and perhaps to ferment in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, we won't be going to the Maryland rennfaire tomorrow but I don't know if either of us are up to it right now.
Here is an obituary for Dr. Fitch in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Bidding has ended on that huge collection of computer hardware from a few days ago. The final bid is $45,050us.
After driving all night from DC to Pennsylvania, we arrived at Lyssa's parents' place safe and sound, albeit dropping over from exhaustion. We're getting ready for Beth Fitch's memorial services. More to come later.
Linux users take note: There's an interesting vulnerability in the driver for Orinoco wireless networking PCMCIA cards where frames are padded with tiny pieces of memory used by other processes. That's right, minute fragments of something else running in your system might be going out for everyone to see. A patch has been released for this vulnerability. If you're used to working under the hood of your system, install the patch, recompile, and reboot. If you're not, your distro of choice should have an updated kernel image and module set out soon.
China's done it again - they've send a ship into space, but this time it has a crew of two and the mission time is five days. Not bad for only having a functional space programme for about two years. The budget for the Chinese space programme is about $2.3bus, much less than that of other countries.
They're making another James Bond movie, the twenty-first in the franchise. However, they're calling it Casino Royale. Is it a remake of the James Bond spoof of the late 1960's? The IMDB entry for the new movie suggests that it isn't.
I hate spammers, but stuff like this brings a smile to my face (due to sheer idiocy). Peter Francia-Macrae, age 23, has been hauled into the Peterborough Crown Court in the UK this week for not only being the UK's biggest spammer but threatening to kill trading standards officers who were investigating him for fraudlent trading, selling the rights to net.domains that were already owned by someone else, making bomb threats, and even sending out spam with the phone number of the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, exhorting people to call him up and complain.
The phrase 'brain donor' comes immediately to mind.
Symantec's written up a new Windows infective agent called Backdoor.Haxdoor.E, which is pretty basic as Winkits go, except for one thing.. the rootkit it installs is active even when you reboot the system into safemode (in which nothing but the barest functionality of the OS is active), which makes it a hell of a lot harder to uninstall. To poke around with it, you have to boot the Windows machine to the Recovery Console (which a lot of folks don't know about) using the instructions at the end of the article.
This is why I love costuming.. this guy made a full-sized Doc Ock costume.
Not so stealthy, is it?
The Children's Safety Act passed in the house. This act, if you're not familiar with it (it seems to have snuck under the radar somehow) amends 18 USC 2257 (which requires folks who produce porn to keep affadavits and evidence on file that everyone in a given production is of legal age) such that simulated sexual activity is included. It also expands the definition of 'sexually explicit conduct', and redefines the word 'produces' to include duplicating, reproducing, and distributing (among other things). The bigwigs in Hollywood, who are big on skin in otherwise lousy movies, are feeling the sting.
Why am I concerned about this?
First off, the law's become too broad as a result. Under the new version of 18 USC 2257, even embarassing baby pictures can be included under this law, which reminds me too strongly of the weird-ass laws still on the books because they can be used to bust people that the police/feds don't otherwise have anything on (like the defacing currency laws). Given some of the SLAPPs in action right now, this could be used to shut someone up who otherwise has a point. Second, each and every adult in this country, when last I checked, had the right to consensually do just about anything they pleased (short of snuff, let me amend) with other consenting adults in the privacy of their home or hotel room. As folks who know me are aware, this includes a few things that make most people cringe, such as many BDSM and D/s practises. If $FOLKS_GETTING_IT_ON want to videotape their antics and post them to the Net, that's fine with me. You don't have to search for it, download it, or watch it. But as long as you are of age in your area of residence and everything's consensual, I don't think that they have any right to dictate what you can and can't do. I'm all for the original version of 18 USC 2257 (anybody remember Amber Lynn?), but this is going a little too far.
Reuters newsticker article here, in case you don't feel like reading the bill.
Yahoo's closed all of their chat rooms to folks under the age of 18. They have also started to police the names of chat rooms, which forces folks to learn to use mIRC or change room names to stuff like "Trouble growing orchids" and "Dalmation lovers" to have net.sex.
Happy birthday, Uncle Al.
This is interesting... malloc(3) ninjitsu with a Mage: The Ascension flavour. He calls it The Malloc Maleficarum.
A couple of days ago, word from 'a credible source' caused the New York City subway system to go into high-security mode, for fear that explosive devices might be detonated in another show of terrorist power. The 'credible source' wasn't so credible, and in fact may have been yanking DHS' chain. The report that Iraqi terrorists were preparing to blow up the subway system resulted in the arrest of three suspects in Iraq, whom DHS had been keeping tabs on. The story sounded interesting, but didn't have any hard details to go on, as it turns out.
I wonder if this wasn't a mole hunt on someone's part (probably not the US'). The US has at least one informant in Iraq with ties to terrorist factions, which constitutes an information leak. Leak too much information, and the informant can compromise his, her, or its position in the information structure. Anyone with any head for intelligence and counter-intelligence knows that if you want to find a leak, you make known within your organisation carefully crafted disinformation, which you can readily recognise. When you see your disinformation pop up outside your organisation, you trace back everyone whom you told it to originally and from there you can figure out who or what your leak is. In intelligence circles, this is called a molehunt.
Releasing misinformation within your group and watching a world superpower batten down the hatches constitutes a pretty big warning flag, don't you think? Also, there is a fine line between using too much leaked information (thus letting on that you've got a mole) and not using enough (and sacrificing some of your own assets (usually deliberately, but screw-ups do happen)).
More on the 'hobbits' discovered in the Indonesian archipelago in February or March of 2005.. the location in history of the tribe has been placed at roughly 12,000 years before the current time, and yes, there were a number of them living together in a social unit. They were not pathological, i.e., genetically defective, either, at least, as far as analysis has shown. All of the specimens found (totalling nine distinct skeletons in various states of intactness) shared physical traits such as brains the size of grapefruit and recessed chins, within parameters strongly suggesting a subspecies. The collection of remains, in all, spans a period of time beteen 95,000 and 12,000 years before the current time, which is quite a while and very far back in human history. The specimens found do not fit the phenotypes of pygmy humans, in that they do not seem to have chins and possess much longer arms than pygmies do.
Heheheh... Mario plays dress-up. Among the more notable Marios are Mickey Mario, ER Mario, Catholic priest Mario, Devo Mario (with energy dome!), Ryu and Ken (from Street Fighter) Mario, Village People Mario (four of them!), geisha Mario, Ronald McDonald Mario, Flintstones Mario, naked Mario, and Robo-Mario.
Not too long ago I mentioned what happened to one Shi Tao, who was thrown in prison by the country of China for weblogging. The LA Times has picked up on this and has a few things to say. Shi Tao opened a Yahoo e-mail account to write an article for the website Minzhu Tongxun (Democracy Newsletter) about the fifteen year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. The article didn't go over well with the Chinese government, who sent operatives to Yahoo Holdings of Hong Kong to find out who wrote the article. Yahoo Hong Kong ratted him out, and they arrested Shi Tao on the street without warning, raided his house, and confiscated his computer and an unspecified number of his other personal belongings. For 'divulging state secrets' (sorry, China, but Tianamen Square is part of history books the world over) Shi Tao was sentenced to ten years in prison. As if that weren't enough, Guo Guoting, Shi Tao's attorney, was detained, placed under house arrest, and not permitted to enter his own law office before Shi Tao's trial. Jerry Yang, who co-founded Yahoo, disclaimed any and all responsibility for this. Yahoo isn't the only company to fold under pressure from China, Cisco and Nortel have historically done the exact same thing.
Sun Microsystems has released Staroffice 8.
This seems a little sneaky to me.
Red Rose Stories (not work safe!), a website for writers of erotica, was shut down for obscenity, and the sysop has been brought up on charges.