Yesterday's installment of the SANS Handler's Diary pretty much says it all.. a professor at an American university that they're declining to name has assigned to his or her students the reconaissance and penetration of a computer system Out There Somewhere, which is illegal in the US unless you've got the proper permission, contracts, flaming hoops, legal team, and whatnot. Moreover, the university in question has stated that they will not stop the professor, they just don't want the students going after the university's boxen (and we all know what the security is like on university nets...).

Here's something you don't see every day - a poll was taken of US troops in Iraq at this time and less than 25% agree with what Bush is doing with them.

The Smithsonian Museum of American History is planning an exhibit on the history of hip-hop. Among those who spoke at the announcement were pioneers of the genre, such as Grandmaster Flash. The exhibit will feature artifacts of the evolution of hip-hop, such as Grandmaster Flash's original turntables, MC Lyte's diary, a poster announcing the release of the album New Jack Hustler by Ice-T, and Afrika Bambaataa's famous Marcus Garvey leather jacket. Mind you, these were on display at the announcement only.. much more will be on display at the exhibit itself.

I want one of these.

Choose Your Own Adventure book cover photoshopping contest (some stuff not safe for work).

This is pretty cool.. a lock that uses a key without a keyhole. Following the methodology of "something you know and something that you physically have" of authentication, the E-Lock company of Israel has developed a lock that responds to a series of knocking sounds as its key. The idea is that you press a small device to the door itself (which doesn't have a keyhole, and might not even have a handle) and type a code into it. The device then emits into the door a pattern of knocking sounds, which the lock picks up, interprets, and decides whether or not to unlock.

This is very, very sad... in response to the law recently passed in South Dakota that would ban abortion, someone has posted a do-it-yourself abortion manual to her weblog.

Last night to celebrate Fat Tuesday, Lyssa and I found ourselves craving fine Indian food at what could be our new favourite restaurant, Aarathi Indian Cuisine (409 Maple Avenue East; Vienna, Virginia, 22180; 703-938-0100). There we once again partook of a simply fantastic meal, from cardamom tea to rice pudding and tasty sweet curries in between. Truth be told, two different kinds of bread were a bit much and we felt it most of last night.. but some days you need curry.


Wow... a first look at Microsoft's Project: Origami, which appears to be a miniature tablet PC. The unit's announced features include pen or keyboard input, the ability to plug USB devices in, wireless networking, multimedia, and GPS. Doesn't that sound familiar, modulo the USB support?

Something strange is going on in Australia - schools will be ordered to disconnect their net.links unless each one pays the Australian Copyright Collection Society every time a student is told to browse a website, stating that they are collecting royalties on behalf of the webmasters Out There.

What the hell is this? If you put up a website it's free access for everyone on the Net (well, just about: China, the Middle East, and Scientologists have to filter net.content). There isn't any expectation of royalties unless it's in the terms of service, which most websites don't have or require. Also, I have to ask, what is the "Copyright Collection Society" doing with the money? Giving it to the webmasters out there in payment? Where's my cut of the funds they collect, guys?

"Copyright Collection Society" my rosy red starfish. "Protection racket" is more like it.

Stephen Heller, the whistleblower who broke the case that Alameda County, California was using uncertified voting machines manufactured by Diebold has been brought up on felony charges for illegal access to data, burglary, and recieving stolen property. Two years ago he came across documents while working at law firm Jones Day (which represented Diebold) that stated that using uncertified voting systems constituted a major violation of California election law and that Alameda County could sue Diebold for breach of contract. Moreover, Diebold's legal team was wondering whether or not the secretary of (California) state could investigate them for such allegations. The documents wound up in the hands of the Oakland Tribune and were posted to the newspaper's website in April of 2004; this threw fuel on the fire of controversy because a significant fraction of the voting machines decided to tank on Election Day, which meant that thousands of voters had to be turned away, and about as many had to file paper ballots. An investigation showed that Diebold had sold the systems prior to federal certification, and used software that also had not been certified. That model of voting system was banned from use in May of 2004 as a result.

If Heller is convicted, he faces up to 44 months in prison.

Hearing this gives me geek-wood: The Play Symphony will be having a concert in northern Virginia on 4 August 2006. If you've never heard of them, the Play Symphony is a full orchestra that performs video game music. They are famous for the Final Fantasy orchestral tour of 2005, entitled "More Friends" that left fen weak-kneed and raving for days afterward. During this tour they'll be performing songs from Final Fantasy (surprise, surprise), Metal Gear Solid, Shenmue, Halo, and a couple of other games (check out the website). Tickets for the 4 August 2006 show at the Wolf Trap Filene Centre in Vienna, Virginia are not yet on sale but rest assured I'll let everyone know when they are.. after I reserve my own, of course. The prices of tickets have not yet been announced but I've spoken to a few folks who have picked up the prices for the concerts in Chicago, Illinois, and tickets are between $25us and $125us (the latter includes a meet-and-greet with the composer and performers).

Wow - the FBI's been watching the interrogations going on at Guantanamo Bay, and they're seeing some interesting stuff, such as forcing suspects to watch gay porn under strobe lights ("There.. are.. five.. lights!"), wrapping them in Israeli flags, and refrigerating them.

Here are reasons why you didn't get your flying cars in the year 2000.

Holy shit. MC Hammer has a weblog.


Another day at work.. I finally got sleep this weekend so my body and mind feel pretty clear this morning. Knock on wood, the day's started off pretty slow, so I'm actually being productive early on a Monday for once.

Start knocking on the nearest wooden object.

The world of science fiction is diminished by the passing of Octavia Butler at the age of 58. Her novels, which are renowned for being fascinating, imaginative, and insightful are known for taking a long, hard look at modern social issues in such a way that people don't know they're modern and automatically close their minds out of political correctness. Ms. Butler died on 24 February 2006 after suffering a fall in her home in Lake Forest Park, Washington state. Ms. Butler, you will be missed...

As if I couldn't be any more cheerful this morning, Don Knotts, remembered for his role as Barney Fife, also died last week of lung cancer at the UCLE Medical Centre in Los Angeles, California at the age of 81.

The US Department of Justice stated that Google's reasons for not handing over web search records were unwarranted, because the records that they are being commanded to hand over contain no personally identifiable information, so no privacy laws would be violated. What they are not saying is that Google's so-called immortal cookie does in fact uniquely identify everyone who hits the Google search engine and accepts the cookie (which just about every web browser out there silently does unless you configure them not to). What they also are not saying is whether or not the DoJ's demanding those cookie records.

I wrote some stuff about this back in January; if you're interested in net.privacy you'll probably want to check it out.

The Defcon 14 call for papers is open.

A new distributed computing project started in January of 2006: Breaking a couple of German messages from World War II that were encrypted with the Enigma device. Enigma was the Allies' name for the German cryptosystem that the Axis was using to protect its top-secret communiques; it was eventually broken by the Allies but not all of the messages were decoded. It is thought that the messages in question haven't been cracked yet. The M4 project came about to set up a distributed processing system that would systematically try every combination of rotors (if you're not familiar with the theory behind the Enigma machine's guts check this page out) in a smart way. The idea is that you download an open source client written in Python and run it on your machine and it goes out to grab bundles of keys to try, does its thing, and uploads the results to the M4 project. This isn't too different from the methods used by distributed.net, SETI@home, and The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search in theory, though in practise it does something very different.

If you've been in the hospital for surgery of some kind in the past couple of years, this should give you pause - the proprietors of the Daniel George & Son funeral home of Brooklyn, New York were busted for selling cadaver tissue on the black market. They had installed a hidden operating theatre in their funeral home, where they harvested cartilage, skin, bone, and other hardy tissues from corpses that moved through their home and sold them to a shell company, which then resold them on the open market for surgical transplanation. They replaced what they took with all manner of materials, from lengths of plumbing pipe to the surgical drapes and gowns they wore while chopping the bodies up to give them the basic appearance of wholeness. Last week the proprietors of the funeral home along with a former dentist named Michael Mastromarino and Joseph Nicelli with selling tissues of questionable quality (the death certificates of some bodies were faked such that they didn't show up as having been sick or very old when they died), graverobbing, grand larceny, racketeering, and other crimes, racking up 122 counts in all. People that have recieved tissue grafts in the past couple of years are lining up to get legal representation in case they recieved infected tissues (note that it's the responsibility of the tissue harvesting company to ensure that the bodies are healthy (modulo death) before consideration for harvesting)...

Just when you thought that stuff like this only existed in cyberpunk novels..

Speaking of stuff in cyberpunk novels, who really thought that TIA (Total/Terrorist Information Awareness) project was really spiked back in 2002? It's come out that they just split the various projects up and renamed them - funding and work on them never ceased. Data mining research was moved to other bodies that are unaffiliated with the Pentagon. Control of the IAPS (Information Awareness Prototype System) was transferred to NSA HQ, Fort Meade, Maryland from TIA proper under the codename "Basketball", though the contract still belongs to Hicks and Associates of Arlington, Virginia. "Basketball" is supposed to be the component that correlates output from various analysis structures. Another project, originally called "Genoa II", was renamed "Topsail", and placed under the control of ARDA (Advanced Research and Development Activity, NSA HQ, Fort Meade, Maryland). Project Topsail is said to be an umbrella projet under which software that would assist information analysts and policy makers anticipate terrorist acts. Defense contracter SAIC was awarded a $3.7mus contract in October of 2005 to continue development of Project Topsail. Supposedly, early generations of technologies developed by these and other projects were used during the planning of US military operations in Afghanistan and other operations in "the continuing war on terrorism". This is some pretty scary stuff, folks.. check it out when you get the time.

Ever try to file a complaint against the polic? An investigative reporter for the station CBS4 of Miami, Florida did a story on this, and what he discovered was fascinating. Not only was the reporter unable to obtain a complaint form of any kind because all but three of the 38 police stations didn't have any, but after finding out that they'd been recorded by an undercover investigative reporter but he took an incredible amount of flak for it, including an officer preparing to draw his weapon after being pressed to produce a complaint form. The transcripts of the hidden video recordings are very revealing... one of the police departments even took it to court to prevent the original story from being aired.

Morrissey was questioned by the FBI.

Heh heh heh... load this article (SFW) and do a quick find on "GAY ADOPTION". It's amusing.


Picking up from last night, Lyssa and I woke up aroud 1830 EST and checked our e-mail, and found communiques from Lyssa's brother. As it turns out, he was going to a meetup last night and wanted to see a few friendly faces there, which meant us. Oddly enough, the late 20's/early 30's meetup was going bowling at an alley just a couple of miles away from our apartment complex, so we got dressed and hit the road, searching for the alley.

There is something that you should know about Lee Highway in northern Virginia: It doesn't always go in the directions you think it should. For example, and this is where Lyssa and I kept getting turned around last night, if you want to stay on Lee Highway when it meets up with Old Lee Highway, you should not continue going straight, but get in the rightmost lane and make a hard right - the strip mall with the bowling alley will be on your left in a couple of seconds' time. You actually have to turn into the parking lot to find it, but trust me, it's there.

The meetup was kind of small, about twenty people. I wasn't actually expecting anything because I've never actually been to a meetup. As advertised, it was a bunch of folks in the late 20's or early 30's getting together to hang out and have a good time. I met a couple of folks while I was there, a few other professional geeks in the area. I'm notoriously bad with names so I really don't remember any of the names (I'm pretty sure that one guy was named Kami, and pronounced as part of "Cameron", which is why it sticks out). Lyssa also spoke to a couple of folks while we were there, mostly the same people that I was hanging out with.

I felt of out of place while I was there.. I didn't know anyone, I had just dropped in out of the blue.. it felt very odd. That didn't stop me from bowling a couple of games (I averaged out at about 100, which means that my I haven't lost what little touch for the game I had back in my BBS days). The teams were very lopsided, I noticed (three on one, six on the other), which meant that Lyssa, Kami, and I played two games in the time it took the other folks to play one.

We wound up leaving around 2200 EST last night and decamping to the local IHOP (International House of Pancakes), which is something of a fixture south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It's one of those 24-hour restaurants where you can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner at all hours of the day, and where you can get a bottomless cup of coffee to boot. We hadn't eaten since 1700 EST or so, so we grabbed a bite to eat (Lyssa the short stack of pancakes, myself the basket of chicken strips) and relax.

Because my body's been acting up whenever it doesn't get coffee every day (this is bad.. addiction to anything is unacceptible) I've been detoxing my chassis, drinking more water than usual, trying to get exercise, and cutting back on the amount of coffee that I drink, but as an experiment I decided to order a decanter of decaf along with dinner.

Ugh. It still tastes like chemicals. Still can't stand the stuff.

We noticed something while we were there: Baby bats! Gothlings! Whatever you want to call them, they're the goth-kids too young to go clubbing, so they get dressed and hang out at the local all-night restaurant (Eat and Park used to be my hangout of choice, so don't think I'm standing in a pristine glass house here). For just a second, I felt old, as if I should be holding court (or recruiting an army) or something..

Mental note: Find someplace new to go dancing down here. Since chiarOuscuro tanked, Lyssa and I haven't gone out anywhere.

Well, what do you know.. the Sci-Fi site went live. WARNING: Spoilers on the pages inside the site! If you haven't seen the new series yet, be warned!


If you've been paying attention to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, then you've probably heard that they still want to bring Forrest County sherriff Billy McGee up on charges because he commandeered an ice truck to distribute water. FEMA, in its infinite wisdom, was sitting around on its collective laurels while people were getting sick and dying, so the sheriff took it upon himself to distribute clean water and ice to the people he is charged with protecting. While not facing jail time, he is facing a fairly hefty fine for doing what FEMA was too brain-dead to do.

So.. what did I do today?

Well, not much of anything. I woke up around 1100 EST this morning because I had been dead-tired from this week. Lyssa had been up for a few hours before me but went back to bed to cuddle my comatose form. I got up, performed basic maintenance, and made myself breakfast, then got dressed and headed out to run around a little while Lyssa stayed at home and worked on her new obsession, knitting.

My first stop was the package place (I've no idea what the real name of it is, it's one of those places where you can mail out packages) and put a couple of birthday gifts in the mail and then hit route 7 to see what I could find. I had an inkling of what I was after (Disinformation: The Complete Series on DVD) but wound up wandering around Tower Records for a good bit of the afternoon. I stumbled across a copy of Echoes and Artifacts, by the Cruxshadows, which I've been meaning to pick up for a while because it has a few of my favourite songs on it, and also found copies of some hard to find magazines that I've been looking for. I was also very surprised to note that they had for sale The Black Flame, which is the biannual magazine of the Church of Satan. That's the last thing I expected to see in a music store around here. The content of issue 16 has some interesting articles in it but not much that I found particularly useful or interesting.

Unfortunately, they didn't have a copy of the Disinformation series in stock, so I took the time to pick up a copy of MIrrormask for Lyssa as a surprise (she's wanted to see it since she first heard about it but I got sick and we missed one of the very few showings down here). After this particular find I checked out and headed for home. I took the opportunity to listen to my new CD in the TARDIS on the way back because I'm normally too busy at work to listen to anything for longer than thirty seconds at a stretch and rolled the windows down to get some fresh air. When I got home Lyssa was busily knitting and watching televion, one of the many so-called "reality TV" shows that are so popular these days (this one on Bravo).

While watching Project Runway Lyssa started making an early dinner of baked polenta while I straightened up a little bit - did the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen, put some magazines away, stuff like that. Lyssa's cooking really shines on the improvised stuff she makes - it's incredible. Polenta, which is corn mush, is really tasty when fried or baked, and comes across a lot like a bread. Try it at least once (especially Lyssa's - tell her I told you so).

We napped for a couple of hours after that, and woke up somewhen around 1830 EST. We crashed hard... I think we're still catching up on our sleep.

This just in: Funimation, the North American anime licensing powerhouse, announced at Megacon that they've licensed the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, titled The Conquerer of Shamballah. Both the movie and the thirteenth DVD of the series will be released in the US on 3 October 2006. No word yet on a theatrical release (hint hint, guys!).

Hey, wait a minute.. October third.. isn't that when Ed and Al burned their house down?

This is truly a wired world.. Livejournal is selling virtual flowers, boxes of chocolate, and balloons. The virtual gifts will exist on the recipient's userinfo page for two weeks before vanishing.


The National Archives just found out about the reclassification effort.

It seems that the DHS considers bumper stickers evidence of terrorist activity.

You know.. rereading the transcript of the recording that guy made (I bet his supervisor's freaking out over that - data recording devices are verboten in secured government facilities) it reads an awful lot like a gradeschool argument.


The EFF has posted realtime notes and transcriptions of the WIPO conference, day 2. It would behoove everyone who reads books, watches TV, or listens to music to check out some of the stuff they think is a good idea.

This is pretty cool: Teaching fractals using cornrows as examples.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been working with very simple quantum computers, and they've made a very strange discovery: You can run a database search algorithm without actually writing a programme to do so. This strange state of affairs is due to the fact that sometimes you can deduce an answer without actually applying a logical method. The photon used to implement the qubit was placed in a superpositional state, in which it was both running and not running a programme called Grover's quantum search algorithm. Interestingly, even when the photon was in the latter state it still revealed the correct answer.

To quote the Principia Discordia, don't look at me, man, I didn't do it.

Is it legal to seize a search engine you don't like, even a private one?

It looks kind of cheesy, but it caught my eye nonetheless this morning: A USB key labelled as one of the HAL-9000's memory units. Personally, I'd much rather go for a USB key a bit more like the ones from the movies (a transparent block of plastic) rather than a little sliver with some silkscreening on it but it still has silly-toy factor.

A 12-year old in Aurora, Illinois was charged with a felony for bringing sugar to school because the cops thought it was cocaine.


It's snowing this morning... not sure when it started but it was a surprise when Lyssa and I walked out the front door. A quick peek outside around 0645 EST made me think that it was raining and not snowing.. whoops.

The new crown's in place and working out very well. I'm wondering about what the dentist did, exactly, to fine-tune the fit of it, though. More and more, I have misgivings about going to her for dental work. She wants to remove three fillings that I've had for less than a year and fit caps onto the teeth. Not only is that expensive (to have that done is better than $1kus per job, of which I have to pay half) but.. those are new fillings!

She can work on the two molars remaining that don't look so hot (they bother me just about every day) but that's it.

So.. after leaving the Air and Space Museum with Lyssa, Hasufin, Mika, Duo, and Kash, we headed back home to grab dinner on the way.. we wound up going to a middle eastern (Afghani, actually) restaurant called the Panjshir (224 West Maple Avenue; Vienna, Virginia; 22180), which is a little hole-in-the-wall place on Maple Avenue with beautiful interior decoration, a helpful waitstaff, good prices, and good atmosphere. We had to wait a while to be seated because there were so many of us, but the food made it well worth the wait. The food is well priced for folks looking for good fare locally and extremely tasty. The six of us shared what we'd gotten for dinner and were impressed by everything we'd ordered. I highly recommend checking this place out if you're in the area.

After dinner we headed home to meet up with Dilemma and hang around the apartment watching movies. Dilemma was introduced to the crew and we sat down to watch a movie that I've had in my collection for a while but hadn't had a showing of - a Japanese fairytale called Onmyoji. Unfortunately, we watched the dubbed version on the DVD, which I'd never had the heart to watch before. The translations were okay, though some of the nuances were lost and I wasn't too wild about the voices used in the dubbing process. Something that I did notice about the movie that I rather enjoyed was that the chanting performed by the onmyoji (yin-yang sorcerers) in the movie was kept in the original languages.. it didn't sound cheesy at all, but creepy and sorrowful, in a way. If you like fantasy movies, martial arts, anime, or foreign films, at least rent Onmyoji to watch it subbed.

I'm not usre, exactly, when the shindig broke up. After the movie was over Hasufin and Mika quietly excused themselves while Lyssa and Dilemma talked on the couch. Kash and Duo stayed up to crash in the pillow nest and watch Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (fun fact about the movie for you: Even though it's anime, the primary voice track for the movie has always been English and not Japanese, quite the reverse of usual anime). Eventually Dilemma left and Lyssa and I went to bed to catch up on our sleep.

The four of us woke up sometime Sunday morning and set out for the Silver Diner for breakfast to cap off the weekend. Duo and I ordered something the call the Paradise Island French Toast, which includes pan fried bananas and pecans, raspberry syrup, and caramel. They're far from on-plan for any diet out there but they're oh-so tasty, and full of sugar. Parents, don't let your kids have these if you value your sanity.

Regrettably, I had to go to bed early that day, because I had to work the night shift to take care of a few things around the office.. and we all know how well that went.

Kathryn Cramer is picking apart the super-secret DRM technology called VEIL that you can't even get the specs to unless you pay $10kus for it to see what, exactly, they're hiding. Check it out - this is some good investigative blogging.

Samsung is being sued by Disney, Time-Warner, and a few other media companies because they sold some DVD players that ignored region coding back in 2004, which meant that you could order DVDs sold in other countries and watch them successfully. Where they get the whole "allowed unauthorised duplication" thing (it's a DVD player meant for home entertainment centres) is unclear.

You knew this was coming - folks are confessing to damn near anything under torture at Guantanamo Bay just to get it to stop, just like during the Inquisition.

Re-tune your equipment, folks!

You hear about this from time to time in medical journals as a curiosity, but it's pretty rare - a couple of days ago a Russian man had a fatty tumour removed from his back that turned out to be a fetus absorbed while he was still in the womb. From time to time, what should be fraternal or paternal twins will develop in the womb, but they'll collapse together into a single clump of cells. Sometimes you'll hear about surgeons removing a tooth from someplace it doesn't belong, like the sole of a foot, or finding fingernails inside the abdominal cavity during routine surgery or something, but every decade or two something like this pops up.

If you've never heard of The Church of the Subgenius(tm), it's a joke religion that's been around for at least thirty years now. Specifically, it lampoons fundamentalist religion of all kinds, shamanism, and just about everything else under the sun that you can imagine. It's a huge joke centered around Slack - real, hardcore Parker Lewis-style fucking around and coming out on top each and every time. A woman in Texas lost all contact with her son because she's a Subgenius. The story's thirty-seven flavors of screwed up, no lie... and guess what? My fellow Discordians have declared open season on the judge on Jake Day (73rd day of Chaos, otherwise known as 14 March 2006).

I wonder if he likes knock-knock jokes in Esperanto...


It's been a couple of days.. long, days. Last weekend was wonderful, modulo an emergency page at 0030 EST Saturday morning that kept Lyssa and I at her brother's place untli 0345 EST while I was troubleshooting. The past day has been, in a word, horrific.

The parts in between were great, though. I'll write about them when I get a chance.

Friday after work, Lyssa and Elwing headed out to the local craft store for knitting class, which lasted a couple of hours. I stayed at home around that time with my iPod on and cleaned up the apartment a bit because we'd be having company over that weekend. After they got back we hit the late-Friday road to go to her brother's place to see his new digs and split a pizza for dinner. We wound up hanging out until well after midnight, around which time I recieved an emergency page from work...

You know it had to go downhill from there, right?

The evening culminated in poring over stack dumps and programme traces and having someone drive to the hosting facility to physically pull out a power cord to reset a machine. That wasn't fun.

Lyssa and I eventually got home around 0415 EST on Saturday and went straight to bed. We got up around 1100 EST and went into a mad dash trying to finish cleaning up the apartment. We didn't finish, unfortunately, because Kash and Duo of the Lost Boys arrived somewhen around noon.

There was a mad dash to get everything together in a hell of a big hurry, and as I said before, we didn't finish. Hasufin and Mika arrived shortly therafter, and we got our stuff together to head out to the Air and Space Museum for the afternoon.

On the way there we decided to stop by Wegman's, which is a swanky grocery store with a very tasty (and unusually large) buffet-style restaurant that happened to be along the way. Imagine a smorgasbord the size of a Wal-Mart with food from Whole Paycheque: You've got Wegman's. While the food there is very tasty (especially the Chinese bar), it's also very expensive, on the order of $8us per pound. Your average lunch can easily wind up two pounds in weight or so, because they weigh everything. Lyssa and I each dropped $26us on lunch, which was a lot of money for an average amount of food that you could copare to lunch at Whole Paycheque if it wasn't organic. It really wasn't worth it.

After lunch we piled back into the TARDIS and set out for the Air and Space Museum. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy to find, because I drive past it on my way to the hosting facility from time to time - exits for it are a landmark that I keep an eye open for. I'm not sure how we found parking so fast but I suspect that Mika called in a favour or two from Someone. Anyway, we had to pass through security to get into the museum, which consisted of having our bags (if we had any) searched (they searched my camera bag). I also had to empty the contents of my belt holster for the security guards (consisting of a Leatherman tool; thankfully they didn't notice the haemostats or any of the other implements). The folks there are very geek-friendly, and let me in without having to take anything back to the TARDIS.

The A&SM is built in a plane hangar, which, if you've never been in one, is bloody gigantic. It's easily the size of a football field - it has to be to hold all of the planes therein. They have an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane on display along with a Space Shuttle (that, I am told, is silently being cannabalised for parts), planes from World War I and II, training planes, parts of famous planes, memorabelia from the Space Race up until the 80's.. there's so much in there you'd have to walk around with a tape recorder to get everything down. It's huge. I had my camera with me, and I snapped about sixty pictures while I was there of a fraction of the stuff they had there.

They even have the model of the mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind inside a lexan display case. If you look closely, you can see stuff that the designers hid among the nurnies, like a little R2D2, a tiny cemetary plot (with a crucifix mausoleum and four gravestones), a TIE fighter, little groups of model planes (that are supposed to represent the planes the aliens in the movie abducted), and a picket fence (I saw no little white house there).

I'll eventually get the photographs up.

We spent the entire afternoon at the Museum wandering around, taken in by everything on display there. For some odd reason I found myself getting choked up from time to time by certain exhibits. I'm still not sure why. A few of us checked out the simulator rides on the bottom floor, which to be honest aren't really all they're cracked up to be. Skip the simulator rides when you go there, they aren't worth the $7us.

More to come tomorrow.

1001 fun things to do with liquid nitrogen!

So how easy is it, anyway, to wage biowar? This will be of interest to you. At the very least, it can be expensive to pick up the necessary hardware to do it, even on eBay (no, I'm not kidding). The necessary chemicals can also be tricky to get hold of. Once you've got a DNA synthesiser, though, you can plug it into a computer, give it a DNA sequence (Google is your friend - the author found the the gene that codes for Enhanced Cyan Fluorescent Protein on the web), and go to lunch and you'll be able to generate the DNA without too much trouble.

It should be noted that the full DNA sequence for smallpox is also readily available on the web. Getting your bacterial sample to take in the DNA and plug it into its own genome is even easier, you just drip your synthesised DNA into the culture medium. Bacteria use a system called plasmid exchange to swap bits and pieces of DNA for genetic diversity, because single-celled organisms only reproduce by fissioning, which can be likened to a natural cloning process; this same mechanism is used by bacteria to pick up the DNA and integrate it. Some fraction of the culture then starts doing whatever the new DNA tells it to. In the lab, it's not perfect, though... in nature, the plasmids have their own protein coats that faciliate the integration process, something that DNA synthesisers (at least the ones used in this article) don't make.

This just in: The new season of Doctor Who starring David Tennant starts on 15 April 2006. Be sure to stick around home so you can prowl your favourite BitTorrent tracker. Be sure to seed once you're done!

For the past seven years, the US government has been steadily reclassifying information without telling anyone, and yet they're leaving how-to type documentation, such as how to use high explosives properly, untouched.

I had the permanant dental crown installed this morning at the dentist's office. A bit of twisting and turning and grinding was necessary but it went smoothly, and it's doing very well.

It's about bloody time.. a crew of bikers called the Patriot Guard are turning up at the funerals that Fred Phelps and his family protest at. Keep up the good work, folks.


Charges will not be fired against Dick CHeney for the accidental shooting of his friend a few days ago. I have to agree with this.. shit happens, and I really don't think that it was anything more than your basic screwup. Cheney's probably mortified at what happened.

Let's just let this go.. if sniper rifles or pistol shots to the back of the head were involved, then I'd say to keep up with it.

I was really afraid this would happen: The Senate won't be investigating the warrantless wiretaps by the NSA after all; they also voted against Russ Feingold's bill to limit the powers of the USA PATRIOT Act.

It's finally happened - someone's developed a trojan horse for MacOSX, dubbed Leap-A or Oompa-A. Its propagation vector is the iChat IM system, and it goes to everyone on the user's buddy list. The file needs to be opened/executed by the user that recieves it. When the file is opened it disguises itself as a .jpg file and places the string 'oompa' into the resource fork of infected programmes to prevent multiple infection. Securityfocus also has a writeup on Oompa-A, with links to relevant sites. The trojan tries to disguise itself as a collection of leaked screenshots of the next release of OSX, codenamed Leopard. It doesn't actually harm anything on the system, at least not yet; variants are sure to come. There is a list of FAQs here that OSX users should read.

In the state of North Carolina, the GOP is going around to churches asking for copies of the membership registers to use in voter registration drives. Many churches are refusing, citing privacy.

Guantanamo Bay.


This isn't a real surprise: Torture at the Abu Ghraib prison is still ongoing. More pictures were leaked. Guantanamo Bay is also back in the news, with fresh allegations of torture. If you'd like to see the proof for yourself you can download the images from any of these BitTorrents. I encourage you to seed after they're done until your share ratio is at least 1.0 (meaning that you've uploaded as much as you downloaded).

The RIAA is now claiming that fair use does not include backing up the software or music that you bought for personal use, entirely in contradiction to US law. Ars Technica has a better article on this matter over here.

I've always suspected that this was possible, but someone's gone ahead and done it: Someone's hacked a serial interface onto a Roomba to turn it into a remotely controllable robot, in addition to its already nifty autonomous control system.

Presenting Psiphon, another software package to help people governed by restrictive regeimes get unfettered access to the Net, from the software labs of the University of Toronto. Psiphon is designed with plausible deniability in mind, so if someone suspects that you're up to something shady they can't prove that you were accessing something that you shouldn't have (like reports of the Tiannamen Square massacre of 1989). It's basically a proxy system that uses encryption to conceal the contents of both the request and the content returned. No logs are kept on the clients or the servers. Port 443/TCP is used, which is the same port used to protect traffic with SSL, which is a must for net.business and banking, so that port can't be blocked out of hand without pissing off most of a country that uses the Net in a serious manner (and who doesn't these days?). Psiphon isn't ready yet, but it's scheduled to be released at the PEN conference in May of 2006, which is dedicated to discussion of free speech.

Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge is urging Microsoft to code backdoors into the Windows Vista filesystem to make it possible to extract encrypted data.

David G. Rayburn, after the Superbowl was over, killed his wife and stepson as they slept with a hammer and then hung himself in the basement with a nylon rope. The strange thing about this murder/suicide is that he left a bizarre cryptogram for a suicide note (a high-res image of it can be found in Bruce Schneier's weblog). No one knows why he did what he did - he didn't have a motive, as far as anyone knows, for murder or for suicide, the only clue is the note he left. I've looked at the note, and it's not in any language I've seen before. It doesn't look like any sigils I've seen published anywhere, either. Very odd.


Pre-registration for the sixth HOPE conference is now open.

The Ohio state school board voted yesterday to remove passages in the state's standardised science curriculem that teach students to decide for themselves on the matter of evolution vs. creationism by doing their own research and making up their own minds.

As always in public school, making up your own mind is verboten.

In the state of Massachusetts, the state pharmacy board has ordered Wal-Mart to stock the day-after pill, to be made available by prescription. 's about damn time.

Children in kindergarten are being trained to challenge science in any way possible in school in favour of creationism. They are being taught to challenge their textbooks in light of so-called Intelligent Design doctrine in school. Most are already enrolled in Christian homeschooling plans of some kind (which makes me wonder exactly which teachers they're going to be challenging if they're homeschooled..) so they can pick and choose their texts without too much difficulty in most of the country.

This is truly a sad day: Loompanics is going out of business but having a sale to blow out their stock. Ladies and gentlemen, start your scanners, PDF binders, and BitTorrent trackers.

I woke up this afternoon shortly after noon after pulling an all-nighter for work, feeling pretty well but bleary and with a headache that just wouldn't quit. I'm not sure if it was dinner last night or the disruption to my sleep schedule but I felt pretty fragile today.

Last night on my way home from work, I stopped off at the store to pick up a few things to make Valentine's Day dinner for Lyssa, and recieved a call from my boss on the cellphone last night while I was standing in the checkout line: The thirty minute countdown timer to get home and get to fixing stuff had started. I dashed home, gave Lyssa the bouquet of white roses I'd picked up at the store, and after a few minutes I jacked straight in.

Suffice it to say that enough time had passed that making dinner was out of the question because neither of us were thinking straight at the time (due to low blood sugar) and I was all but frothing at the mouth from what had transpired at work. Not only had the hammer fallen on a crisis at work but Leandra's power supply gave up the ghost. It's been dodgy for a while now, kicking out at odd times (usually during a hard reboot) and not wanting to do its job, but it finally failed. To be fair, it's sounded pretty bad for a while now, as loud as some power tools, I've been told.

Lyssa and I opted to go out for dinner last night for Valentine's Day, by way of Best Buy to pick up a new 500 watt Antec power supply for Leandra. For fun, we walked over to Chili's in the next parking lot for dinner. Both of us were famished after not eating all day so we dove right into an onion blossom (which turned out to be a mistake for both of us) and ordered dinner: Lyssa ordered a steak while I ordered a hamburger. Lyssa also opted for one of Chili's margeritas, which are very tasty and, as we found out first-hand, very, very powerful...

Dinner was wonderfully tasty.. I haven't had a good hamburger in a long time, though my digestive system has suddenly discovered that it hasn't had one in about as long and is trying like mad to hack together the necessary enzymes to digest it... this is very uncomfortable. Lyssa was rocked pretty hard so we decided to call it a night and head home, whereupon we set the alarm to get me up at 0145 EST and went to bed.

I woke up feeling like hell, with a nasty headache and dizzy, which all but abated by sunrise. I managed to bring Leandra back online somehow, but I knew that was a touchy proposition at best, and resolved to install that new power supply this afternoon after I woke up.

Got up shortly before 0800 EST this morning to drive Lyssa to the Metro station. Didn't feel much better then, either.

I finally got up around noon, cleaned up, and had a short lunch of cereal and raisins.. I'm off on my birthday - yay!

This afternoon after doing a bit of reading I made a few phone calls to try to track down some more components for Leandra, vis a vis Antec modular power cables because I figured that she'd be short some power couplings due to the sheer number of peripherals installed in her. Best Buy didn't have any but the clerk suggested that I check out Micro Center, which I plugged into Google.

There's a Micro Center not five miles from the apartment. I jumped into the TARDIS this wonderfully warm, 60 degree Farenheit afternoon and set out for the store.

Holy imploding Kibo, Micro Center is amazing. It's on par with some of the stores that Bladeless took me to in San Jose, California. It's like Wal-Mart for geeks, with everything from CPUs and motherboards to funky keyboards, laptop bags, and magazines. If you're a techie you can probably find it here.

I wound up buying some power coupling splitters on the off chance that I'd need them (I wound up not, much to my surprise, but people always tend to ask about them) and headed for home. En route, Dataline called to wish me a happy birthday; I did the same (because we share a birthday) and discovered that she'd just gotten out of the hospital...

She fell after work yesterday and sprained both ankles. She's using a walker to get around now.


I finished reading a couple of books today, did some writing, and replaced the power supply in Leandra. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, for the most part.

I think Lyssa's got the flu - she's looking and feeling very fragile right now, and dropped not long after we got home this evening.

After a brief, light dinner she took me to the mall to buy my birthday gift - a 30 gig iPod.

That's right, I've become one of the iPod-people. The Kool-Aid is tasty. I'm using GTKpod to transfer a couple of hundred .mp3 files to my iPod for starters and I'll probably start pulling more off of backup CDs soon. I really need to learn how to use it effectively..

Thank you to Lyssa, Kash, the Lost Boys, Elwing, Alexius Pendragon, and one or two folks I've probably forgotten for chipping in to buy this for me. You and my iPod rock!

I should write about my birthday today, but not much has really happened to celebrate it. Lyssa baked me a cake last night and we went out for a while tonight, but we're really going to be celebrating this weekend, due to schedules and things like that. I'll write some thoughts on it when I get time tomorrow.

Andreas Katsulas, requisat en pace. Katsulas, best known for his role of Ambassador G'Kar on Babylon-5, died at the age of 59 on 13 February 2006 of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California.

Lyssa is, at this time, laying down trying to get some rest. I should join her soon.

Gary McKinnon, the systems cracker in search of UFO material, is still fighting extradition to the United State of America after the heat was turned up under him. If brought to trial, he faces a possible sentence of 60 years in prison after cracking almost 100 computer systems belonging to the Pentagon, NASA, and the armed forces. The reason that they're trying to get hold of him is a message that he supposedly left in one of the boxen he was rummaging around in, which likened US foreign policy to terrorism. McKinnon could also face a Military Order #1, which would basically make him an enemy combatant and put him before a military commission.


Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

There's customising your work environment, and then there's customising your work environment.

Think you can just go out and buy a new graphics card to take advantage of that shiny new HDCP monitor you just bought? You're in for a rough, rough time of it.

I find it funny that, scant days after Microsoft announced that it'd be selling its own AV software it released a signature update that identifies Norton Antivirus as malware, tries to remove it, and breaks it, which leaves the system further unprotected.

Conspiraacy? Naah.. remember, Hanlon's Razor is a useful tool.

It's come out that the Northwest Hospital and Medical Centre of Seattle, Washington was compromised by an intruder, identified as 20-year old Christopher Maxwell, who turned the hospital's internal computer network into a botnet. He and some unnamed coconspirators wrote a virus that infected computers after cutting deals with some above-board adware companies that pay per system running their malware. The zombieware he'd installed interfered with day to day operations of the hospital: Access cards stopped working; terminals in the ICU crashed; internal paging systems even stopped working, so doctors could not be contacted in emergencies.

This Hackers stuff is getting dangerous.

The water in the toilets of fast food restaurants in Florida has a lower bacterial count than the ice in the soda machines.

At this time, the link is Slashdotted, but 25 April 2006 has been announced as the official US release date for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.

Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have figured out how to interface a slime mold to the control circuitry of a small robot. The slime mold acts in place of a CPU, causing it to move to avoid light, seek dark, and hide itself. Due to the natural activity of the slime mold, it also seeks out regions of high humidity.

Consumer VoIP company Skype has inked a deal with CPU giant Intel to rig up their client such that the Skype software will be crippled if it runs on anything but a true-blue Intel processor core. They've inserted some code that figures out the manufacturer of the system's CPU and limits such features as conference calling: Intel cores can have up to 10 people in a conference while boxen running AMD chips would be limited to 5 people in a conference. No word yet on other functionality that would be disabled. AMD, of course, is having kittens over this.

I wonder how hard it would be to fake the value returned...

Holy shit: First Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his birding buddy, then some birdshot migrates to the guy's heart and gives him a heart attack.


Heads-up from the Sci-Fi Channel: They will start showing the new Doctor Who series at 2100 EST on 17 March 2006.


It snowed in DC! Whee!

Yes, I actually am kind of happy about this.. I love snow, even thought I'm not exactly a fan of driving through a lot of it. The snow picked up after 2200 EST last night as Lyssa and I were flipping through channels looking for something that wouldn't cause our IQs to drop thirty points, and eventually settled on the Mythbusters marathon on the Discovery Channel last night. The first episode we tuned into happened to be the one talking about Archimedes' focused solar beam (readers of Slashdot no doubt heard about this a few weeks ago), which they managed to get to work with some help from some MIT students. We called Hasufin and Mika over to watch it; Hasufin is a history and archeology buff, which is why we called him at 2215 EST on a Saturday..

Lyssa wound up turning in around 0030 EST this morning; I joined her shortly afterward. Lyssa hasn't been feeling too well lately, her eye's been bothering her. We're not sure if it's the fact that her eye medication has changed slightly, if she's getting sick, or what. She's made an appointment for a glaucoma specialist to get her right eye checked out (on Valentine's Day, oddly enough), so we're waiting patiently to see what's what.

This morning, Lyssa and I were awakened by sirens coming from the office: The UPSes were going off because we'd lost power to our apartment building. I'm not sure but I think the heavy snowfall of last night had something to do with it. Thankfully, power was restored in a few minutes, before we had to worry about something like the heat going offline.

After breakfast this morning Lyssa and I decided to go play in the snow. We put on our warmest clothes and our boots and headed out into the courtyard by way of our building's laundry room. The snow, while light and fluffy, isn't the kind that's good for packing. If you work at it a while you can make decent snowballs but if you want to build anything larger, like a snow creature, you've got your work cut out for you. Still, this didn't stop Lyssa and I from trying. We wound up sculpting a six-foot high snow homunculus that we dubbed 'Lumpy', in deference to the many younglings who live in our complex. When it was all said and done he looked up close like a surgically sterile Hieronymus Bosch sculpture with vaguely humanoid features peeping out of the lumps of snow that Lyssa and I had packed around the central structure. After about an hour Lyssa figure out a method to roll decently sized balls of snow to add to Lumpy's structure, but the snow wouldn't let us make a traditional snowman.

At the end we used pieces of bark and sticks to make arms and facial features for Lumpy. I've got some pictures of Lumpy in my camera that I'll upload later.

Lyssa went back into the apartment to relax a bit and take some photographs of Lumpy from the balcony while I ventured back out to do some digging to unbury the TARDIS, which was covered with a good six inches of snow from last night. I fired up the engine while I worked to give my car a chance to warm up and thin the oil. It didn't take very long because the snow, while piled high, wasn't frozen, just damp enough to make big chunks, which were easy to sweep off. I also took a few minutes to stomp down the snow (about a foot in height) because the snowplow had stranded every car in the lot by packing the snow up behind them... after the initial packing I rocked the car back and forth for a while to crush the snow down as much as possible so that the TARDIS wasn't trapped anymore. I'm not sure if I'll be able to drive to work tomorrow, but you won't be able to say that I didn't try.

1316 EST: It's started to snow again.

Later in the afternoon, some of the kids knocked Lumpy over and were seen rolling him about trying to build up more snow. When last spotted, they'd gotten bored and were throwing snowballs in the parking lot. Thanks, guys.

Employees of CityWater.com, based out of Cincinatti, Ohio now must have RFID chips implanted via subcutaneous injection to gain access to the datacentre. This is because the company stores recordings from surveillance cameras scattered around the city.

In other news, those very same RFID chips can be easily duplicated.

...what the hell?! Devo action figures?!

The US government has concluded their infowargames, code-named "Cyber Storm" (heh.. paging Angela Bennet.. paging Angela Bennet..), and they've decided that bloggers constitute a threat to their information infrastructure. Yes, webloggers are a danger because we can contact people far and wide, rally folks to a cause, rant and rave about what's going on, and start misinformation campaigns.

Wow. I feel like I should start laughing or something. Are we going to have to register our websites with the DHS? Are copies of Movable Type going to be restricted in the same way that typewriters were in Russia back in the Cold War?

Not bloody likely.

Scientists working out of Utah have discovered a new chemical that seems to work far better than current treatments for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The compound, code-named CSA-54, works like the interferons normally produced by a healthy human immune system to combat viral infection. Their experimental results, limited to samples of HIV in test tubes, have been reproduced many times, but they're not yet ready to begin full-scale testing. CSA-54 works by interfering with the interaction of HIV with T-cells in the immune system, which prevents their infection and subsequent usurpation. Tests were positive with all known strains of HIV in labs (which is quite a few - a few hundred thousand, I heard once).

Now to see who buys it and takes out a boatload of patents on it...


It's 0040 EST, and once again I'm pulling an all-nighter. Gotta love deadlines when they're predicting a snowstorm for the area...

Work has been rough this week - the days are going fast but that's because a lot of stuff is going on and there isn't much time to breathe. Even going home has been in a rush, which lead to my cutting a corner not sharply enough in the parking garage and scraping the front left fender (again!) against a concrete post, which took a hefty patch of paint off of the fender.

I've been saying many nasty things about that ever since then. I give up. Time to find a body shop that won't demand a pound of flesh and a couple of gigs of storage out of my brain to get the TARDIS fixed up.

I also need to fix Leandra's exhaust fan. It sounds like a buzzsaw most of the time.

Friday night, Lyssa was supposed to go to a knitting class at a local art store. After work I hurried home to pick her up, and then went out to dinner at the local Chinese takeout joint for a pair of combo plates, which we wolfed down as fast as we could so I could head to Michael's to drop her off. I wasn't intending to take that class because I wanted to work on some articles that I've been meaning to submit to various magazines, so I turned around and drove home. No sooner had I taken my boots off than my cellphone rang: It was Lyssa, tellingme that she couldn't take the class because she hadn't registered 48 hours ahead of time.

Back to the TARDIS. Back to Michael's. Pick Lyssa up and off to Trader Joe's to get groceries, not because of the snowstorm they're predicting but because we're out of just about everything.

I think we got back around 2030 or so Friday night, after I recieved a phone call on the way home from my boss - something odd was afoot at work and I had to jack back in to check it out.

I sat down to hack on that for a while, got it taken care of, and then spent some time trying to relax. It didn't work too well, unfortunately. I've got a tendency to be a type 'A' personality, which is rapidly becoming my nature.

Lyssa has gone to bed; she fears that she's coming down with a cold (maybe the one my body just shook) and doesn't want to get sick. I jumped out a little before midnight tonight to pick up some cold medication for her to leave in the bathroom while I'm doing work-type stuff.

I need to learn how to relax again. I'm grinding my teeth again, and that's not good with a temporary dental crown.

The left hinge of my jaw is still sore. I think I've figured out why: The dentist shot me up four or five times with lidocaine to numb my jaw enough to do what she had to do. That's a lot of fluid, and it's not going to drain off all at once. This afternoon I took a peek at the inside of my mouth and noticed that the gum tissue is still swollen, distended, and very loose.. I'm pretty sure that is the result of all that fluid still inside the gum tissue, slowly being absorbed by the body. That's going to take a while.

Tomorrow morning: Off to the post office to ship some stuff out.

There was other stuff that I wanted to write about.. have to find it in my head.

My birthday's coming up next week. 15 February. I'll be.. let's just say that the digits '2' and '8' are in there next to one another somewhere in that order. Unfortunately, it falls in the middle of the week this year, but I'd like to get together with friends on Saturday (18 February 2006) to spend the day and celebrate. E-mail me if you're free on Saturday to get together.

My birthdate is the first in the broad web of coincidences that comprises my life this time 'round. I was born on the same day as my biological mother, some years and a few hours apart in the same city.

Okay. Off to bed. It's 0230 EST.

Remember Hurricane Katrina?

I know, it's so six months ago... but there are still people in Louisiana trying to get back on their feet however they can. Of course, many are petioning the US government for help in various forms, but it's slow going. There are reams of documents pertaining to what's going on but they'll probably never be released to the public because they carefully documented every screwup and change of plans that have hamstrung things to this day. The Washington Post was able to get its hands on 41 pages of memos from the DHS, which contained, among other things, warnings that Katrina would be far worse than any simulation they'd ever run becuase the levees would probably be broken by the storm and that it would require effort beyond what they have ever had to put forth to clean up.

When it came to actual work, the federal government placed the responsibility squarely on what was left of the local governments of the area. When it came to the leaking levees, the Army Corps of Engineers didn't pay any attention to the reports of water building up on the wrong side of the structurse.

While I'm in a low blood sugar induced bad mood, check this out: Plans for the large scale eavesdropping of private US citizens were put together back in the 1980's but enacted only within the past six years. Way back when, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were discussing exactly what would be necessary to put together such a surveillance programme in the US and put together what they thought was a workable plan. This plan is part of what they call CoG - Continuity of Government - which basically means that if the leaders of the US are in a bad way they could evacuate to hidden facilities and pickup where they left off. The article mentions 'Site R' on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border; this is probably Mount Weather, which was prepared for this purpose during the height of the Cold War.

More on the topic of wiretapping: Not too long ago George W. Bush was speaking in Cambridge, Maryland about the NSA's monitoring programme, and when security was clearing the press out of the room for the 'secret session' they left the microphone on: Bush said over the open mic "I support the free press, but let's just get them out of the room."

Not too free a press if you have to sweep them out because you don't want them to know what's going on, is it?

The state of South Dakota voted to ban abortion 47 to 22. Even under situations of rape, incest, or ill health of the mother, abortion is still illegal.

What is this, the 1970's?

2044 EST: Still feeling groggy as hell, and not quite all here. I've been feeling this way since this afternoon, actually, when I took a nap. I'm not sure what the hell happened to Lyssa and myself, but we've been running in slow motion all day. Even the trip to the store to mail some stuff out and pick up groceries for the week (so that we don't have to go anywhere tomorrow, don't you know) was running at three-quarters speed. I'm finding it difficult to concentrate or even type right now (because I lost the feeling in my hands due to the cold) and the muscles in Lyssa's neck are in spasm.

On and off all day today, it's been trying to snow outside. Pretty much all day it's been kind of cold and raining; I've heard that by late afternoon it had turned to sleet. I peeked outside a few minutes ago and discovered a coating of snow over everything. The state of Virginia has put out a winter weather advisory, complete with tickets for parking on the side of the road. Looking out of my window shows that it is indeed still snowing, with no signs of letting up.

Apologies and get-well wishes to Derek Pegritz, who passed a kidney stone today. Shit, dude.. you never do it the easy way, do you?

Your Five Variable Love Profile
Propensity for Monogamy:

Your propensity for monogamy is medium.
In general, you prefer to have only one love interest.
But it's hard for you to stay devoted for too long!
There's too much eye candy to keep you from wandering.

Experience Level:

Your experience level is high.
You've loved, lost, and loved again.
You have had a wide range of love experiences.
And when the real thing comes along, you know it!


Your dominance is medium.
You tend to be the one with more power.
You aren't a total control freak in relationships..
But of course you don't mind getting you way!


Your cynicism is medium.
You'd like to believe in true and everlasting love...
But you've definitely been burned enough to know better.
You're still an optimist, but you also are a realist.


Your independence is high.
You don't need to be in love, and sometimes you don't even want love.
Having your own life is very important for you...
Even more important than having a relationship.
The Five Variable Love Test

Earlier this evening I was sprawled out on the floor in the living room playing Final Fantasy VII and I noticed crawling across the floor a tiny house spider, about the size of an American nickel. He sat down in front of me for quite a while, maybe fifteen minutes, just hanging out.. then he took off as fast as his legs could carry him across the room for parts unknown.

I think he was just checking up on me.


Back in December of 2005 it came out that the PATRIOT Act was up for a permanancy vote. There was some concern about the proposed changes to the controversial act at the time. This week, lawmakers cut a deal with the White House because the PATRIOT Act renewal had been blocked because it didn't go far enough to protect civil liberties. A vote in the House of Representatives allowed for the nenewal of the PATRIOT Act but the motion was blocked in the Senate. While it is still possible for the government to seize the business records of whatever entity it so chooses for analysis for signs of terrorism, it is now possible to contest this in court.

At 1324 EST today, some of you on the eastern seaboard probably heard a sound not dissimiliar to a concert B-flat sounding from 40,000 feet above sea level. This is probably not one of the signs of the apocalypse, it was the Virginia DMV telling me that they had recieved the title to my car and updated my records to reflec that my car is now fully and completely registered in the state of Virginia. They'd recieved the paperwork some time in September of 2005 and marked everything copacetic around 30 September 2005.

They just didn't tell me that they don't send out updated registration documents after this is done, they just assume that you trust them to do the right thing.

As with all things, I suggest the application of Gorbachev's Razor in matters such as these: "Trust, but verify."

If you've ever used Google Desktop, you're familiar with its functionality. Among the nifty stuff it does, it will index everything on your computer so you can find what you need in a hurry. This means that the indexing data is uploaded to Google; the searches are done using the same search clusters that you access by going to www.google.com. It should be noted that Google's been approached by the US government to turn over search engine records...

Those search engine records include the Google searches you're running on the computers you've installed Google Desktop on to find the latest revision of your resume'.

Think about that for a while.

The EFF has a couple of things to say about this, also.

While we're on the subject of monitoring, the executive branch of the US government is battening down the hatches due to the hearings now being held by the Senate Judiciary Committee. In fact, Karl Rove himself is going around to Congressfolk and threatening to blacklist anyone who votes against the monitoring of private citizens without a warrant. The hearings began on 6 February, and will determine whether or not the FISA Act of 1978 was violated or not. It isn't known at this time if the contents of Rove's luggage include a rubber hose, telephone directory, stick of salami, or enema bag full of bleach.

It should also be noted that so many wiretaps are being ordered by the US government that big telecom companies, like Verizon, are having a hard time keeping up with them all. A number of private companies have been formed in the past four years to help telecom companies implement and manage all of these wiretaps. Since 2000, the number of taps has increased by 44%, which is one hell fo a jump. While smaller telecom companies haven't said if they'd been approached by the NSA or not, they also might not be in a position to talk about it.

I. Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff testified that he ws ordered to leak information to the press that Iraq was trying to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, information which later turned out to be false. No one's quite sure yet if Cheney himself or someone else gave him the order though.


One of NASA's press folks, appointed by George W. Bush himself has resigned amidst controversy (login required - Bugmenot.com can hook you up). One George Deutsch, who was tasked with limiting what the press could publish about NASA's research into environmental change, global warming, and cosmology, forced at least one web designer to place the word 'theory' after every mention of the Big Bang on NASA websites (apparently, he doesn't know what the word means). This wasn't why he resigned, though - he quit because Texas A&M confirmed that he never graduated from there, to the contrary of his CV and resume' on file at NASA. This whole bruhaha started when a number of respected scientists at NASA approached the New York Times about censorship of their work coming down from the White House by way of Deutsch. After some digging it came out that Deutsch had faked parts of his resume' to get his job.

First Lieutenant Eddie Rebrook IV of Charleston, West Virginia, was injured in the line of duty in Iraq in 2005 and was discharged due to the extent of his injuries. He was charged $700us to replace the bulletproof vest that apparently didn't do anything to protect him by the US Army.

The US government is planning another public monitoring system, tentatively called ADVISE, which stands for Analysis, Dissemination, Visualisation, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement (who came up with this?). It's supposed to monitor e-mail, websites, weblogs, and what have you on the Net for signs of terrorist activity. Supposedly it's already come in handy for stopping a couple of plots.

I can't help but envision teams of interns reading LiveJournal and running Google searches in darkened chambers.

This is kind of iffy insofar as the Net is concerned. If you post to the Net potentially anyone can read it, be it on a Usenet newsgroup, an e-mail list, or a weblog (your own or someone else's) it's out there for every search engine on the Net to index and most everyone on the Net to gain access to, in one way or another. If you don't want it indexed, don't put it somewhere where a search engine will see it. Don't post about it. Tell someone privately.


Woke up this morning without a whole lot of pain in my jaw, save the muscle trouble at the back. I'm still getting used to the temporary crown, which lacks many of the structural features of a real tooth so it doesn't feel right when the teeth at the back meet. From past experience, it doesn't take long to get used to, but it is a little distracting when trying to eat. I'll only have to have it for about two weeks, until the permanant crown is installed.

This makes me worry just a little bit: America On-Line and Yahoo are considering plans to sell direct e-mail access to their customer bases, bypassing all spam filters, no questions asked. The idea is that a company pays some amount of money per message per e-mail address (say, $0.025us) and whatever they want to send can go straight through to the inbox. This is being called another aspect of what net.pundits are calling the "two-tiered Internet", where there are certain services or networks that just work better depending on how much someone pays.

Most modern cellphones these days have GPS recievers in them, which are used when making 911 calls. The idea is that if you call your cellphone transmits your current physical location to the 911 office so they know where to send the emergency units. However, quite a few cell companies around the world are selling access to those GPS records in near realtime to whomever can pay for them. Companies are using these services to keep tabs on their employees while they're offsite, so they know what you're probably up to, or can at least make an educated guess.

Not too long ago a federal grand jury indicted private detective Anthony Pellicano on 110 counts of racketeering, illegal wiretapping, fraud, identity theft, and a few other things. In the late 1990's Pellicano was bribing police officers for access to information held by law enforcement on certain people, ranging from journalist Anita Busch to Sylvester Stallone. He also paid a software engineer and a telecom engineer (who weren't named) to write for him an application that he called Telesluth, which was used to wiretap people. What exactly this app does and how it worked isn't mentioned, though - there are lots of ways to bug someone's phone; software like this could reprogram a cellphone (1995.. the time's right for such an app) or generate command strings for telecom switches to implement so-called silent three-way taps (but you'd still need access to the switches, and that's no mean feat). There isn't enough information to say in here.


Dental work in about an hour; I'm working from home today. At the very least a crown is going to be installed on that broken molar. I'm praying that a root canal won't be involved.

1351 EST: Back from the dentist, sore, not liking life a whole lot right now. The old filling had to be drilled out, which is always entertaining. The process of numbing the site was even less fun, because it took somewhere between three and five injections of lidocaine before everything powered down. As a result, while most of my jaw feels like plastic the hinge is firing off error messages left and right. At one point a bite block was used to prop my mouth open because the muscles were so sore they wouldn't work. Under all of the amalgam filling was yet more decay that had to be drilled out. Thankfully the pulp wasn't exposed, so the dentist didn't have to open anything up for the main show. What's left of my molar (an unspecified percentage of mass above the gum) has been packed in plastic and built up; a temporary crown was installed. To get the temporary crown fitted, though, took three casting attempts, each more painful than the last because not only is my jaw sore, but so are my gums and the roof of my mouth.

Highlights of the day: "Huh. Your teeth have harder enamel than most people. My drill's not working right." "I've never seen a tooth structure like this before." "Your wisdom teeth are in the way again."

Gallifreyan physiology strikes again. At least she didn't discover the extraroot canal on that tooth.

At this time I've got an Advil tablet in my along with some orange/pineapple juice, and I'm patiently waiting for everything to return to normal.

The Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with the company Kellogg, Brown, and Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton) to construct detention centres around the country, in the event that a large influx of people should cross the border into the country and to support programmes that might require more detention space, whatever that means. One Jamie Zuieback, spokesperson for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, went on the record as saying that the centres would only be built in the event of an emergency (no word on how they'd get them done in time to cover said emergency) and that they might never be constructed. What kind of mass immigration could they be talking about? Are they expecting most of France or Cuba to suddenly flee to the United States?

It's a little known fact that when the US offers support to a country, they put certain stipulations on the support. Every once in a while, though, someone gets uppity and decides to work around them. The British government is offering aid specifically to family planning organisations in developing countries because the US specifically earmarks all of its money so that it can't be used for this purpose. It's come out that another of the restrictions the US puts on aid funs is that organisations applying for US funds are specifically forbidden to counsel women on abortion services, otherwise they'll get their funding cut. This is being referred to as the 'global gag order'.

The White House Press Secretary got raked over the coals today over the clandestine monitoring the NSA's been doing and got into it with the reporter.

A couple of days ago I finished downloading the ISO image of the DVD release of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conquerer of Shamballah after a subtitling team had gotten hold of it and worked their magic. They packaged a new ISO image, ready to burn to a double-layer DVD (it's huge, about seven gigabytes in size) to play back. Lyssa had transferred it on Alphonse originally, and because Al has a double-layer DVD writer he was the logical choice to do the job.

Well, it burned properly. It didn't play back in the DVD player in the living room (I suspect it has something to do with the fact that it was burned to a double layer DVD+R disk). It didn't play back in Leandra (her DVD-ROM drive is actually kind of old, and might not support double-layer DVDs; her DVD writer was able to mount it and read datafiles normally but not play it back). I have a suspicion that it has to do with the internal structure of the ISO image itself: Ordinarily the two directories on a video DVD are AUDIO_TS/ and VIDEO_TS/, and this disk image had the directory and file names in lowercase. I'm not sure yet if that makes a difference or not. Once again, Alphonse was the logical choice.

I'll try not to put too many spoilers in my review; of those that I must give to speak my mind, I'll try to obscure them as much as possible by omitting the necessary context. If you still don't want to know, stop reading and pick up again tomorrow morning.

I expected the movie to be unfinished, a rehash of the series, and generally not nearly as good original. I was wrong. The only rehashing was done in the opening credits to refresh the viewers' memory. It picks up smoothly about two years after the series and keeps going with the original themes. Edward Elric is still on the other side; Alphonse is back on his feet and studying alchemy. The fact that he dresses in the same manner that his brother did wasn't a bad sign at all but I wonder why he copied it so closely; it smacked of hero worship to me. Some favourite characters are still around and doing their thing, including Winry Rockbell and Alex Louis Armstrong. We find out what Ed's been up to on the other side and the funny business he's gotten tangled up in. Some familiar faces are on the other side, also, but not in the same circumstances we remember them in, which is refreshing. While it's new, it's not haphazard or out of character.

The storyline is coherent, well thought out, and very well executed. The animation is top-notch, though there are a few things that are very obviously computer generated and don't match up with the more prevalent cel painted graphics elsewhere. In one or two places it works well but by and large it jumps out. The events brewing on the other side are not too overboard or too slow paced.

If you've a head for symbols, you'll definitely notice a few things that'll make you raise an eyebrow.

Did Alphonse figure out some new tricks insofar as human transmutation is concerned? When did Hoenheim become a prosthetician?

The bad guys are badasses, no two ways about it, though a bit more character development would have been nice. If you know anything about early 20th century European history (especially some of the strange stuff) you'll be able to fill in the blanks without too much trouble. The reasons given for what happened make perfect sense. In real life, they also make perfect sense. The human race could definitely learn a thing or two from those two or three minutes of the movie.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't really end on a high note, and that's sort of not sitting well with me right now.

Final rating: Ten out of ten stars. While there are some things that I'm not wild about in the movie, it's definitely one of the best I've seen all year.

Download it if you can and watch it. When it's officially released, buy it and watch it. I kind of hope that it gets a theatrical release somewhere in the US, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm actually expecting Cartoon Network to pick it up.


While I really wasn't paying much attention to the Superbowl last night, I have to say I was very impressed with the MacGyver Mastercharge check card commercial. It's rare that a commercial can get me to start laughing.

Mark Twain famously wrote, "Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated," and the same thing goes for SuitSat, launched from the International Space Station this weekend. Reports have been trickling in from radio hams that they are indeed picking up a weak signal from SuitSat on 145.990MHz.

It's baaaaaack.. and it's creepy as hell. Worth1000.com is running another Photoshop someone into a manga character contest, and the results are damn scary.


You are a Mouse!
You are a Mouse! (Remember, this actually includes ALL rodent

What kind of furry are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


So... last night was game night at the apartment, and once again I'm very pleased with how things turned out. We were short a player or two last night but I had a couple of things written to keep everyone busy, and they walked right into everything. I'm once again surprised by what they were doing to the storyline, but if it's one thing that good players do, it's keep you on your toes but give you enough to play off of. It's going to be another two-part story, I've a feeling, and I need to flesh stuff out to give them a bit more to explore.

I'll figure it out.

Last night Kash and Duo came over to spend the night again, and after getting set up around the apartment we headed out in search of lunch after a later start to the day than usual which involved my cellphone ringing at 0600 that morning.. twice.

I won't get into that. Suffice it to say that it's going to be a long week, and I don't mean just from the dental work on Tuesday.

Anyway, we drove around for a while looking for someplace to get lunch, and eventually settled on a tiny little restaurant/grocery called the Al Nakheel Kebab and Cafe (340 Maple Avenue West; Vienna, VA, 22180). The Al Makheel is, to put it simply, one of those amazing little restaurants that you stumble across when you least expect it that has food that causes you to go back time and again... I think we've got a brand new favourite restaurant down here.

Last night before the game started the four of us (Lyssa, Mika, Hasufin, and myself) jumped out to Trader Joe's for stuff for dinner before the game really started. I filled everyone in on some of the background stuff that's been happening as we hunted down stuff in the store, then returned home to start the game off.

Around 2230 EST last night Duo discovered that the toilet was broken. Specifically, it began to overflow after a test flush because "It was looking funky" and resulted in a bit of a panic. Hasufin managed to get the water turned off at the valve as I called the emergency maintenance line and started mopping up the spilled water. The maintenance guy came with spare parts and got everything working in amazingly short order, which impressed me to no end. For everything that honks me off about living here, there are some advantages to it, and the maintenance staff is one of those things.

It's amazing what stress can do to you. I've been sleeping, when the opportnity presents itself, twelve hours at a stretch to recuperate lately. I don't have much time to really write the way I used to, and in the evenings I'm either still working or dead tired. Either way, my sense of time is getting messed up, and it's hard to keep everything in order in my head. I need to go back and edit more and more these days, when I have the time.

I didn't really do what I wanted to do this weekend... I was hoping to lay around for a while and read some of the huge stack of books that's been piling up, but that didn't happen. I did, however, get a lot of the apartment cleaned up, which I can't complain too much about. Didn't get to work on any of the articles I've been writing for a couple of magazines lately, either. I'd like to get everything done before I start forgetting it all. One of my side projects that I've been wanting to pick lately, on the advisement of that Tarot reading a while ago, has also been badly sidetracked, which really gets under my skin.

This bothers me.

Time to figure out a solution.

It's 1849 EST. I just got off a two-hour emergency call at work.

Time for some Goldschlager.

...what the hell is it about candied chickpeas?

2212 EST: Wait a second.. The Steelers WON?!?


NASA announced that Suitsat had been launched from the International Space Station a little more than sixteen hours ago, but it's not looking good. They've announced that Suitsat went dead after two orbits around the Earth. Very sad... I had hopes of picking it up once or twice from my scanner. A lot of kids who might otherwise have gotten interested in ham radio are also missing out.

This is awesome: C'thul'hu in Lego!

If you look closely, you'll even find a hidden TARDIS in that diorama.

It's not just US citizens whose communications are being monitored these days - back in 2004 during the Olympics mobile phones belonging to the Greek military and government were under active surveillance. Over 100 separate phones were tapped, among them those belonging to the Greek Prime Minister (!), the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Greek Minister of Justice, to say nothing of the bigwigs in the country's military. The taps were active until March of 2005, when word about them got out. The exact method of monitoring was a technique very much like one used by phone phreaks in the early 1990': Someone installed new software into the telephony switches handling calls from those cellphones that silently set up what amount to conference calls that included a number of prepaid cellphones that were owned by.. there's really no way of knowing who was using those cellphones, come to think of it. It is thought that nothing of great importance was tapped (discussing classified matters over unsecured lines is a security leak no matter what country you work for) but you never can be sure about that... the unauthorised call monitoring software was isolated and removed.

If they know who was doing the wiretapping, they're not saying.


This is the sort of thing that makes me want to perform a little corrective phrenology on people, in the hope of inculcating a little more common sense in the human race. One John Patterson of Louisiana is suing Apple Computer because iPods can cause hearing loss. First of all, just about every piece of audio equipment on the market these days comes with warnings that say that you're going to ruin your hearing if you listen to music too loudly, especially if you're using headphones. His argument that the iPod has insufficient warnings is, in a word, jetwash. Second, Patterson is warning that iPods can cause hearing loss because they can crank out sound in excess of 115 dB, which is enough to turn the little hair cells in the inner ear of humans into smoking stubs. Thirdly.. Patterson doesn't even have hearing loss, or if he does it's not from an iPod.

Folks.. stop suing people because you're acting like a dumbass and take a little responsibility for your lives and your actions. It's a well known fact that high sound pressures can destroy hearing. This has been known for several decades now and it's been published all over the place. If you value your hearing it isn't the responsibility of the manufacturers to protect you, it's your responsibility. If you want to keep your hearing, don't listen to your iPods loudly enough that everyone around you can hear what you're listening to. If you're riding on the bus or in an elevator and other people can name the songs that you're listening to, you've got your volume cranked up too loudly. Turn the damn volume down. Apple shouldn't have to pay for your stupidity.

Senator Arlen Specter's at it again (we just can't get this guy out of the US Senate, no matter how we vote), this time with a bill called HR 683, also called the Trademark Dilution Revision Act. Thiss law, if passed, will make it illegal to depict trademarks under fair use in non-commercial speech, including art, writing (weblogs, anyone?), and music. For example, if you write a Livejournal entry about going to McDonald's and someone sees it, you could be sued for using their name without permission. If that sounds a bit daft to you, check out the example given in the article where one David Farber, who drew a Volkswagon Bug made entirely out of butterflies and other insects, took the picture down because Volkswagon threatened to sue him.

An organisation called the CRN (Communications Research Network) is wondering if VoIP (voice over IP) could be used by black hats to confer, especially when it comes to setting up now-profitable botnets. They say that botnet zombies might be controllable via VoIP technology, specifically. They are also calling for VoIP providers to publish the specs of their routers, switches, and what have you so that countermeasures could be devised against this sort of thing.

This doesn't sound right. I don't know if it's the general tone of this article or if these CRN folks don't know what they're talking about, but it's missing some facts.

First of all, VoIP is actually a combination of technologies. First, you need a signalling protocol to control the parameters of the connection - most every provider out there uses a protocol called SIP, the Session Initiation Protocol. While it could be possible to use SIP to tunnel bot commands to compromised hosts, there are better ways of going about it because SIP runs most often over UDP, which poses certain problems for hosts (compromised and otherwise) behind firewalls. Every provider has a different solution to this, with varying degrees of success. Second, actual VoIP traffic is encoded by one of group of CODECs, which basically take audio of some kind and turn it into binary for transmission across the Net to be decoded and turned back into sound by the client on the other side. This data is encapsulated by another protocol, usually RTP.

Now, this seems to make sense at first shine: Take a protocol and hide your bot commands (like "START SYN FLOOD" or "START SENDING SPAM") inside it. The thing is, it was designed for streaming content, like audio or video. It would be the wrong tool for the job; something like TCP would be a better choice (and is used for transporting commands anyway). There's another thing with using a stream of digitised audio to send bot commands: Unless the bot has some pretty hefty voice recognition code built into it or the bot's designed to compromise systems that already have voice recognition software built into it, it's the wrong tool for the job. There's another problem with that: VoIP CODECs were designed with voices in mind, not data streams, which the article suggests. It can take some work to get a mere fax transmission working over a VoIP connection; I don't know of anyone who's ever tried something like what they suggest.

The article mentions the fact that VoIP often bounces through multiple nets before reaching its destination. While SIP traffic can and sometimes does hop through multiple providers' networks, RTP traffic goes from endpoint to endpoint directly. As for ISPs blocking VoIP traffic.. some do. The ones, I have noticed, that are either offering VoIP to their own customers or plan to do so in the next year or so, in my experience.

Now, maybe the article did make a dog's breakfast out of the real report. I don't know. What I do know is that the article got a lot of stuff wrong.

Square Pictures is considering releasing Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in the United States. I wonder if the ISO images of the fansubs on just about every BitTorrent tracker on the Net gave them this idea.

Come on, Square.. you know it's going to go over big. Release it legally.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made it to the Superbowl.. and you'd think they're preparing for World War III in the Steel City.


All of the negative publicity surrounding the arrest of Cindy Sheehan must be drawing attention inside the Beltway - charges of unlawful conduct were dropped against her and an apology was issued. DC Police Chief Terrance Gainer was quoted as saying that "The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol."

I don't know if he's not aware of the new law passed or if he's talking through his hat but he accepted responsibility for the fiasco.

It also came out that Beverly Young, wife of Florida Representative Bill Young was arrested for wearing a shirt that read "Support our troops" - seeing as how she's the wife of a Republican House rep, I'd have thought her show of solidarity would have gone over well. Oops.

Well, it happened - the budget reformation bill passed, which cuts funding not only to student loans but Medicaid and Medicare. The bill passed by just two votes (216-214). Now it has to be signed into law, which I'm pretty sure is going to happen.

In an amazing screwup, copies of the newspapers the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette were distributed to subscribers wrapped in printouts of people's credit card information a few days ago. The data was on the reverse side of paper (probably re-used greenbar printout) used to wrap up bundles of newspaper for delivery. As if that weren't enough, the checking account and routing numbers of subscribers wound up on some of the paper, which is arguably just as bad.

After you die...

After death, you will exist in heaven. Everything and everyone you love will constantly surround you for all of eternity. You lucky scoundrel.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

Huh. That's not what I expected.

The Bird of Prey
EAGLE or HAWK - your daemon may be some kind of
bird of prey. Yours is a strong spirit, and a
fierce sense of liberty. You cannot be
confined. You may be shrewdly observant, and
like to be aware of everything that goes on
around you. You will fight fiercely for the
things that are most important to you, and
you are definitely a force to be reckoned
with. Still, you are not vicious by nature
and would prefer to be left in peace. You
probably value your solitude very highly -
not that you don't enjoy company, but
sometimes you just need to be alone -
otherwise you begin to feel caged in and
confined. You might want to take a drive on
your own, just to feel the road beneath you,
or to sit alone on your balcony, watching the
world go by.

What Is Your Daemon?
brought to you by Quizilla


Yay, anatomically correct snow sculptures.

I think I've just found one of my biggest influences in my formative years, a music video that I've only seen once before.

Back in 1987 a certain dance track by MARRS called Pump Up The Volume snuck to the top of the charts for a while. MARRS, comprised of members of the bands Colourbox and AR Kane, never released anything after that, I think due to the exceptional reclusiveness of the members of Colourbox, who wanted to be musicians and not performers.

That song (that, and the new wave version of Also Sprach Zarathustra, from the soundtrack to 2010, which wasn't actually in the movie) awakened in me an obsession with electronic music that's persisted to this day. One day I just happened to be watching MTV (I was quite small at the time, about nine years of age, I should think) and I caught the music video for Pump Up the Volume. I'd only seen it once, though I haunted MTV off and on for years afterward in the hopes of seeing it again.

For the halibut, I did another Google search for "M|A|R|R|S" (because that's how the band's name was spelled on the 45 rpm record, of course) after all these years and stumbled across the homepage for Colourbox, which listed a "best of" album.

Off to Amazon.

What sold me on this particular CD is that it features "enhanced CD video", which means that after the music tracks on the disk there's a standard ISO9660 CD-ROM data track.

The CD arrived in the mail today. Just a few minutes ago I mounted the disk in Leandra, copied the video (in Quicktime 4 format) from the disk, and watched it with mplayer. For the first time in almost twenty years, I've figured out why my love of video montage and trying to synchronise motion and video with sound effects (like record scratching and electronic samples) came from.

There was a version of the song which doesn't match any of the ones I've collected over the years. There was stock animation footage from NASA showing the Voyager space probes, moon landers, astronauts training for suborbital flights, and hypothetical probes landing on Mars and Venus. There was Atari text scrolling in the background and a shadowy overlay image of one of the members of Colourbox.

Let there be Pump Up the Volume.

I think I'll give writing music another shot.


Still stick. Working from home today before the dentist's appointment at 1500 to get that broken molar looked at. I didn't expect to get an appointment so soon but given the way it's been bothering me lately, I'm hardly in a position to argue. Between the Centrum, Dayquil, and pulling a couple of tricks to jumpstart my body's immune system I woke up feeling a hell of a lot better than I did yesterday, but I'd like to make sure I've thrown this off before I go and infect everyone at work. Unfortunately I didn't sleep very well last night, I kept waking up every hour or so to toss, turn, cough, or the like. At least the body aches seem to have subsided - I need to drink a lot more water to get the toxins flushed out of my body.

Looked over the tarot spread that Lyssa did last night. It's given me some stuff to think about insofar as how life's been going lately. I might have to switch a few things around so that I don't keep running myself into the ground, like I have been the past couple of months. At least the holidays are over. It suggests that I look more into self expression and spend less time trying to be a perfectionist and manifesting a Platonic ideal (hit and sunk).

Anyone who reads my memory logs knows that one of my interests is freedom of expression, not only under the first amendment of the United States Constitution but freedom from so-called "chilling effects" lawsuits, which are basically attempts to shut people up that someone doesn't like. When this article about the supposed copyright to the BDSM insignia came across my desktop I sat up and took notice. In a nutshell.. Quagmyr has been fleecing people over it for years.

Fyodor has announced the release of Nmap v4.0, and the changelog is impressive, to say the least. Among the new features the portscanner to end all portscanners boasts, it is now capable of transmitting pure Ethernet frames, in addition to various kinds of network packets, ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) scanning, MAC address spoofing of scans, an overhauled UDP scanning engine, and a new scanning engine that is much faster than that of previous releases.

The AP deconstructed the State of the Union Address from last night, and it's interesting to see everything that's been drastically oversimplified, sometimes to the point of misinformation. Take, for example, oil imports - the US doesn't get the majority of its petrol from the Middle East but from Mexico, Venezuela, and Canada. Health care has not, in fact, gotten better, in fact it's gotten much more expensive because it's so damned hard to a) get insurance and b) afford it when you've got it. Hurricane Katrina relief isn't top-notch, either; funding was cut and the levees that they want to build will not be designed for a category-5 hurricane. As for the No Child Left Behind programme, was he even aware that reading test scores dropped?

Another addition to the USA PATRIOT Act has been publicized, one which makes it legal to haul protestors away to face felony charges of they breach a security perimeter. It should be noted that the notion of a "security perimeter" isn't defined by this new clause, and it can be construed to mean the entire facility housing an event, whether or not the protest turns rowdy. Cindy Sheehan discovered this last night as she was arrested at the State of the Union Address because she wore a t-shirt that listed the number of US troops killed in Iraq. It should be noted that she was there at the invitation of Congressfolk Lynn Wooolsey, John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim, and John Cavanagh. A police officer saw her shirt, charged her, and hauled her bodily out of the People's House, where George W. Bush was giving the State of the Union Address last night.

Just a number on a shirt - that's not a protest, that's a reiteration of the nightly news, assuming that you believe their numbers. The nightly news reaches everywhere, even inside so-called "security perimeters". Does that make the nightly news a protest, too?

The trip to the dentist's office this afternoon went better than I thought it would - unlike last time, the dentist didn't perform an immediate root canal, even though the molar is missing about a quarter of its mass. I might not need a root canal at all, though I definitely need a crown for the tooth. I went to the Tysons Dental Associates office (8296A Old Courthouse Road; Vienna, VA, 22182; phone number 703-848-8906) in northern Virginia this afternoon to get said molar checked out. The first thing they did was take a full series of dental x-rays because I've never been there before. While not terribly amusing it went without a hitch. The examination by the dentist, however, shows that all the late nights without flossing have done a number on my teeth, as evidenced by the considerable effort she went to while clearing the tartar off of my teeth.

The dental hygenist, on the other hand, not only doesn't speak English very well but has all of the manual dexterity of an elephant not using its trunk while under the influence of PCP. I've never had such a rough workover before at the dentist's office. The dentist was also wondering why I don't have any metallic fillings in my mouth, which gives her some concern.

I think my gums have finally stopped bleeding.

Examining the x-rays showed a number of ominous shadows beneath a couple of fillings, which makes me wonder if Dr. Schrenker in Pittsburgh didn't clean them out as well as he thought he did. I don't relish the possibility of having a number of fillings drilled out and replaced.

It spooked me a little when the dentist asked me why I wear my hair so long - it would be a disadvantage in a fight, she said.

I'm a lover, not a fighter.

Next appintment: Tuesday, 1000 EST. Joy.

The packages waiting for me at home when I got back almost make up for the fact that teeth that weren't bothering me before are now hurting like a son of a bitch. Another CD from my Amazon order, a copy of the soundtrack to the game X-Men 2: Clone Wars for the Sega Genesis was waiting for me. Yes, one of the first soundtracks down by Kurt Harland of Information Society is now in my collection and being backed up by Leandra at this time. Also waiting for me was a long-overdue order from another gentleman in northern Virginia, an Information Society t-shirt from the Don't Be Afraid era along with a copy of the cassette single for How Long (off of Hack).

Of course, I'm wearing it right now. This shirt's going next to my Legion of Doom shirt in the closet for special occasions.

Definitely worth a read for a chuckle - the one and only Archie meets the Punisher comic ever made. Officially published, it lasted all of one issue.. no surprise. It's worth a look-see, though, if you like comics.


Wow. Gee. Another all-nighter, this time with extra suck factor, in the form of Duo's cold. I hate my lives, sometimes.

In health care news that should make anyone sit up and take notice, over a dozen states are considering laws that will protect healthcare workers who do not want to provide their services to people because it would conflict with their personal belief systems. That's right.. these laws would make it legal for doctors to refuse you treatment because they feel that it would violate their personal morals (in violation of the Hippocratic Oath) and pharmacists to refuse to fill your scrip for the same reasons (imagine a Scientologist refusing to fill a prescription for antidepressants or the prescription for the morning-after pill being denied a rape victim). That's not all, though - in-vitro fertilisation could also fall into this category because it could be said to be "not natural". Bioethicists are going nuts over this because of how broad those laws are and what they could restrict: Take, for example, the possibility of a doctor refusing inoculation to a child because the vaccines are produced using bioengineered bacteria or stem cell tissue cultures.

Hmm.. just thought of something. A doctor who is a Satanist or a Thelemite could easily refuse to treat a Christian under those laws. Watch how fast the lawsuits would fly and the laws would be repealed if that ever happened..

Some weird stuff's been making its rounds lately - someone found something weird poking aorund Google Earth in the vicinity of Bicton, Australia. It looks for all the world like a car hanging in mid-air.. there are photographs of various sizes going around via e-mail and news articles, such as this story at SMH. The odd thing is that you can see other parked cars nearby, which gives a sense of proportion to the image. The anomaly also looks a bit bigger than the cars near it, which suggests that the car is elevated somehow. I did some poking around with Google Local and found the image; it's as zoomed as I can make it (if you try to go in closer you get the "We are sorry, but we don't have imagery at this zoom level for this region" error message). The Register got in contact with someone in Australia who went on-site to check it out for them, and found no signs of any funny business, just grass, trees, dirt, and a lot of air.


0416 EST: Done with most of the work I wanted to get done, but now pushing a migraine from the pressure in my sinuses. Popping Excedrin, considering more extreme measures to get some sleep after dropping Lyssa off at work in a couple of hours. Planning a trip to CVS to get more Kleenex, cold and sinus medication, and other essentals.

Nasty dream during the couple of hours of sleep I managed to get last night before jacking in: I bit down on something (I think it was another tooth) and one of my molars (the one that's been giving me trouble for a few months) shattered, filling my mouth with bits of tooth and blood, that I spit out rather messily all over the place.

Making an appointment with the dentist tomorrow. Also looking up symbolism ("SSSSSSSSymbolism!!") of this dream. Very uneasy.

Making real progress coding. Should consider doing this more often.

0645 EST: Just discovered that a book I needed is at the office. If I go in today I'll get roped into working all day, too. Fuck.

0826 EST: Dropped Lyssa off at the Metro station. Found my book in the car. Bought cold medication, going to dope myself up and sleep this off.

2001 EST: Slept all day to recover. Feel much better now that the Excedrin is taking the edge off of the migraine.

..and what a thing to wake up to: There's a new budget cut bill, which Congress is calling a "budget reconciliation bill" which will cut student loans for every student such that they'll have to front at least another $2kus as well as crank up interest on federally subsidized student loans. This works out to a funding cut of 40%, or about $12.7bus. Use the 800 number on this website to call your local representative and ask them to not pass this bill.

The last time this happened, I had to leave college and work full time for a while before I could go back. I don't want to see this happen to anyone else if I can help it.

It's an 800 number, folks - call and leave a voice mail.

Here's a highly nontechnical FAQ that US citizens should read at least once: Frequently asked legal questions about NSA wiretaps.

Submitted for your approval: A memo about the US military's ability to collect information on civilians.


In an attempt to clean up the Abramoff mess in Washington, DC, lawmakers are pushing George W. Bush to disclose who in the White House had been meeting with Jack Abramoff and what they were meeting about as a show of good faith that nothing shady had been going on in there. This comes not a week after the fact that Abramoff was one of the bigger fundraisers for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, and that he'd been photographed a number of times during meetings with Bush.

LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Remember that news article I linked to yesterday about the US government laying plans for net.warfare in case the Internet was used against them? It was declassified - you can download a copy from here (mirrored here).


James E. Hansen, one of NASA's top climatologists is claiming that the White House is trying to force him to not speak on his topic of professional study.

Did you really think that the US government wouldn't lay plans to fight in the Net as well as Outside?


Geez. What a day. And today's shaping up to be just a rough, I'm afraid..

I had my first dream about stuff at work on Thursday. I could really have done without that.

This is an impressive feat of underground engineering - the longest, deepest-running smuggling tunnel on record was discovered by US Border Security not too long ago. The tunnel, used for smuggling drugs and people into the United States, was dug 85 feet underground and was 2400 feetin in length, running between two industrial warehouses on either side of the US/Mexico border. As if that weren't interesting enough, not only was electric lighting installed there was also ventilation, a poured concrete floor, a pumping system to keep groundwater from filling the tunnel, and a system for winching cargo into and out of the tunnel.

It is interesting to note that Windows Longhorn and Vista will require all drivers written for it to use the DRM (Digital Rights Management) hardware of the computer it's installed on. Not only will drivers have to be digitally signed by Microsoft to be loaded by the kernel but all drivers written for multimedia hardware (such as sound and video card drivers) must obey DRM dictates: If you don't have a license to listen to, watch, or record something it won't play back. If the driver doesn't have a digital signature from Microsoft it won't load (so you can't write your own sound card driver to record audio). Microsoft is saying that this is to prevent rootkits from being installed after a box is compromised, but I not only think that this is jetwash, it's not going to stop anything - take a look at the W32/Grew.A worm that hacks the registry so that it appears to be a Microsoft-approved digitally signed ActiveX control.

In a highly nifty show of recycling, NASA is recycling a Russian environment suit as a satellite by packing a telemetry package and a ham radio into it and shoving it out of the International Space Station. The ham radio will transmit data to the ground using a speech synthesiser module; it will broadcast on 145.990 MHz, which anyone can theoretically pick up with a simple radio reciever that anyone can buy at Radio Shack. If you use the J-Pass applet on NASA's website you can give it your zipcode and it'll tell you roughly when SuitSat will be overhead so you can tune your scanner to pick it up. There will be something in SuitSat's broadcast for everyone, from a regular announcement to a surprise set of words in different languages and even a slow scan television image (for advanced hams out there). SuitSat is expected to be functional for only a couple of days, until the suit's power cells run out.

Suitsat.org holds the website for this project.


Fans of the classics are no doubt familiar with the skit The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan. A few days ago at kurzweilai.net one Charlie Kam posted a transhumanist parody, complete with .mp3 recording.


What in the hell is this world coming to??? Prosecutors in Maryland have filed charges against an eight year old boy and his father because the kid shot a seven year old girl after sticking her up at a daycare centre. Yesterday, the kid got hold of his father's .38 revolver and brought it to school, and shot the little girl in the arm when she wouldn't buck up. This isn't the first time the kid's been caught bringing a weapon to school, though this is probably the most lethal one thus far. The kid's father isn't much of a role model, so I guess it stands to reason; he's a known felon with, it is said, an arrest record of some repute and is now up on charges of placing a firearm within reach of an unsupervised minor, along with other charges that aren't listed.

I say again, what in the hell is this world coming to? What kind of kid takes a shot at another kid (I can't even use the word 'student' because they are too bloody young) during a lunch money shakedown?

This morning, the sunny early morning that Lyssa and I were treated to as we got ready for work was interrupted by the ocean of thick, grey clouds blowing in from the north. Fine white flakes of snow began to sift down from the sky as we got into my car to head to work. By the time I got to the office, however, the skies had cleared and the snow had stopped.

Just a moment ago, I passed by a window on my way to the printer pod and noted the distinct lack of sunshine as the clouds spill across the sky, with an unspoken threat of more snow on the wind. We'll see how things turn out today (or whenever I can get close to a window to peek out, anyway).

There's an interesting article on Google in particular, search engines in general, and censorship over at Search Engine Watch that discusses, in part, Google refusing to turn over subpoena'd records to the US Department of Justice and yet censoring search engine results for searches originating in the country of China. On one hand they're not willing to rat out their users (however many million of them there are in the US) but on the other they deliberately fail searches on such topics as "democracy" in China. How can they reconcile this? Google is, at heart, a company. By the definition of the word they are a consortium of people using technology to provide a service to a group of people (users on the Net) to make money for themselves and their shareholders (in some order of terms, take your pick), and China is one of the most densely populated countries on this planet, so it's only natural that they'd want to keep access to that particular market and that means complying with the ruling party of the country of China, pure and simple. They have to comply with the laws of every country that they operate in, which includes those in France and Germany (where web site and information related to national socialism and white supremacy are illegal), the United States (which is why I think they're eventually going to cave in and hand over their records, and which is why I wrote about net.privacy a few days ago).. and China.

It's not an easy situation to balance or reconcile. It's definitely not a thing which readily lends itself to a hard and fast opinion. As a topic of academic discussion, it's ripe for both analysis and wanking.

...about all I can say at the moment is keep your heads down, folks.

Not too long ago, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke to a group of law students at Georgetown University and tried to justify the illegal, unconstitutional surveillance of private US citizens. Everyone in the room stood up and turned their backs on him in protest. More students also came in holding a banner that read Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. -Ben Franklin" (note: image linked off of Boing Boing because that LJ entry has used up its alotted bandwidth).

Update: CNN has picked this up, and also has video footage.

Samba v4 is on its way and it'll implement an Active Directory server as part of its new feature set.

The Network. Fnord.
The Network: You are the Voice of World Control. Fnord.

Which Illuminati are you?
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No surprise there.


I discovered something interesting about drivers in northern Virginia yesterday morning: Even if you're pulling out with the traffic and making a legal right-hand turn, there is still some asshole out there tooling along at 70 miles per hour who thinks that you should get out of his way. Right of way down here is defined as "mine and mine alone", for some definition of "mine".

There's a new beastie making its rounds on the Net that they're calling W32/Grew.A!wm, which was first discovered on 16 January 2006. It's classified as a worm that propagates via mass e-mail, copying itself to file shares, and modifying Active Desktop configuration settings (that's a new one). As far as the UI is concerned it masquerades as WinZip.exe (a commonly installed utility); it also seeds itself in several locations on the infected system and drops an ActiveX control as well as adding itself to the Windows registry. W32/Grew.A will also attempt to compromise other Windows machines on the local network and attempt to destroy AV software installations by deleting the software of eleven different AV packages and a couple of peer-to-peer filesharing utilitise. Oh, and it kills any running AV software on the infected box. As if that isn't enough (I wish I was through with this writeup already), the developer of this worm figured out how to hack the Windows registry so that the ActiveX control it installed is listed as safe and digitally signed to further help it avoid detection (for further information on this here are a few good resources).

It should also be noted that this sucker has a couple of names - there's a writeup of this nasty under the name "Nyxem" at the Internet Storm Centre.


A Different Drum Records has published its Top 100 Best Sellers of 2005 list. Rounding out the top ten are:

  1. Iris - Wrath
  2. Synthpop for a Darkened Room volume 3
  3. Leiahdorus - Parallel Universe
  4. Syrian - Kosmonauta (limited 2 CD edition)
  5. Rupesh Cartel - Mainland (limited 2 CD edition)
  6. The Dignity of Labour - self-titled (limited 2 CD edition)
  7. Synthpop Club Anthems volume 4
  8. Wave In Head - For A Special Moment (limited 2 CD edition)
  9. Neuroactive - N-Gin
  10. Raindancer - Audio

Last Saturday night was game night at the apartment, and once again I've been astounded by my players. I spent hours coming up with various scenarios to handle how they were going to perform the task at hand (sneaking into a secure facility to surreptitiously install some VA hardware), and rather than pull a black op, they did something entirely unexpected: They set up a Maryland shell company, rented rack space at the facility, and set up a couple of machines, the VA hardware among them.

Well, damn.

No sneaky breaking-in, no pretending to be staff of another customer, not even a fight of any kind. They simply did what any sane person would do.

In lieu of bonus experience points, I handed out a couple of extra backgrounds to reflect what a creative, bang-up job they did.

Now I really need to plan some mayhem for the characters...

In news that is probably making the White House put on an extra pot of coffee for the public relations team, photographs have surfaced that show George W. Bush hanging out with one Jack Abramoff, who is famous for selling use of his connections and name to whomever can pay for it (and for ripping not a few of his clients off in the process). Time Magazine has seen the photographs but says that their source is refusing their publication at this time (which sounds shady to me). Bush says that he doesn't remember meeting Abramoff (bullshit - Abramoff was and still is extremely well known in Washington, DC) but that doesn't mean anything. However, the photographs, if legit, show Bush spending time with Abramoff and Abramoff's children as well as Raul Garza of the Kickapoo Indians, whom Abramoff screwed over a few years ago.

Did Bush have dealings with Abramoff? Somehow, I doubt it. Abramoff knew that he was playing a dangerous game, and while he was very powerful in Washington I don't think that he had enough power to bend the ear of Bush for very long. Could those photographs hurt the Bush administration? Again, that's doubtful. If they've gone on the record time and again saying that the Iraq affair was based on bad data and rumours and not gotten in any trouble from the other parts of the government, they can weather this without batting an eyelash.

I should have posted about this a couple of days ago but didn't have the time or energy to do so. The Pakistani Brain virus, which put computer viruses on the map in January of 1986 turns 20 this month. I remember when Time Magazine ran articles on computer viruses back then, I had them stuck to my wall next to my C=64 when I was a youngster... wonder if I still have them... anyway, it wasn't the first (there was a self-replicating programme called PERVADE for the UNIVAC mainframes in the 70's) but it was the first PC virus that started infecting users because its original transmission vector was warez (pirated software).

If you've ever worked in IT, you know full well that things have been going downhill ever since then...

Anyone familiar with OpenBSD, one of the world's most secure operating systems, is no doubt familiar with the project's primary developer, one Theo de Raadt. A couple of days ago RedTeam Pentesting discovered a vulnerability in the security level mechanism of the BSD kernels, and like any reasonably nice folks e-mailed the various projects to alert them to this fact. You can read the response from de Raadt here, as part of this article. It's short and sweet (the response, not the article) and I urge everyone to read it at least once. Please, for the sake of all that is holy, don't do this. If someone tells you that they found a bug, fix the damn bug and release a patch for it. Don't say that you're going to ignore it.

For this reason, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend OpenBSD to anyone. Not until they fix this, and certainly not until they understand that it's better to fix something now and wait to remove/replace the mechanism in the next major release, then it is to leave gods know how many servers vulnerable in one fashion or another for an indeterminant period of time.

OpenBSD is famous for being secure, and yes, the vulnerability requires that the attacker already have root access to the system. Most of the time, it's not easy to gain this level of access - it's easier to attack a single running application than it is the OS kernel, and once someone's got root, the system is lost to you. However, OpenBSD isn't perfect, and while it may not be easy it can still be compromised. Passwords can be guessed and applications running on an OpenBSD machine may still be attacked, so it's still possible to get a foothold. What gets me about this is the attitude of the development team, and not only does it get under my skin but it makes me not trust them or their code. Not until they get their collective act together.

I really hope these go into widespread use - die-cut metal business cards that contain punch-out lockpicks.

Cryonics is the science of cryopreservation (freezing oneself in liquid nitrogen) after death in the hope that, at some future date, they'll know how to fix whatever it was that killed your body and bring you back to life so you can pick up where you left off. There's just one problem - you'll be legally dead if you do freeze yourself, so the money you've got stashed away is then covered by probate laws wherever you happened to have lived. In short, while you're frozen head-down in a tank of liquid nitrogen (or your head is immersed in a dewar flask) your next-of-kin get your holdings. One David Pizer, who owns and operates a couple of resorts in the state of Arizona is setting up a dynastry trust to leave himself his holdings so that he'll have something to work with when and if he's resurrected. Whether or not his attempts will hold up in court or execution remain to be seen, but it's definitely an issue for folks with a final destination of a dewar flask instead of the family plot in mind.

Think it's hard to rig an election? Check this out.


33% aliveness, 44% benevolence, 57% intellectualism
You are hacking! You grasp the austere, beautiful mathematical relationships behind things. Whatever you need to achieve in life, you translate it into the realm of the computer and perform the operations to achieve your ends. They don't call it code for nothing.

On the other hand, your significant other is probably wondering where you are. May I suggest you give him or her a call during your next coffee break?

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 14% on aliveness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 14% on benevolence
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 42% on intellectualism
Link: The badass apotheosis Test written by inhumandecency on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Aah... a nice and slow Saturday to rest and recuperate. After working from home yesterday until 2100 EST or therabouts (I clocked in at 0800...) it was a wonderful change of pace. I slept in until 1030 EST or so, made a leisurely breakfast for Lyssa and I, and took things at our own pace. I had to go to the store today to pick up some stuff that we'd run out of (namely, cleaning supplies of all kinds) and stretched my legs a bit as Lyssa did a few loads of laundry. It's an amazingly nice day today in the DC area, about 60 degrees Farenheit - shirtsleeve weather, in other words. It's not humid but comfortable and we've got all the windows open in the apartment to enjoy the fresh air. It's game night at the apartment, and we're waiting for everyone to arrive. I've got a subprocess working on the plot tonight in the back of my mind as I write this - parts have to be rewritten because we'll be short a player tonight, and the new player who's supposed to join us is unavoidably detained in the same way that I was last night.

I had an interesting discussion with Lyssa this afternoon which I've been meaning to write about lately, but haven't had the impetus to do so. While cleaning this afternoon, I jumped over to the Coast to Coast AM website because they're having one of their free Streamlink weekends, where you can download some shows in .mp3 format, listen to their 90 day archive, and listen to some classic shows (streamable only). I gave up on C2CAM last year because I frankly got tired of George Noory hosting the show. His choice of guests is far from what I'd come to expect of the show, he's not a very engaging host, and while Art Bell asked intelligent questions and was willing to call his guests on their shit if they were going overboard, George Noory just lets them talk.. and talk.. and talk.. and the show winds up like a batch of bad oatmeal.

One or two shows caught my eye, though, so I took advantage of the free weekend to download them, and I happened to be listening to them as I worked in the bathroom. Lyssa poked her head in and said, "You know, that show's full of crackpots," to which I responded, "Yes, I know, it very well may be that way, but it entertains me."

Yes, I enjoy listening to (the old) Coast to Coast AM because it entertains me. I think that 95 to 97% of everything on that show is pretty far removed from what's actually going on (I leave a few percentage points open because some pretty strange stuff really does happen from time to time that folks can't explain). However, I enjoy listening to it - the conspiracy theories, the UFO sightings, the assorted other stuff that callers and guests talk about.. I enjoy it in the same way that most people enjoy reading fantasy novels or watching shows like Charmed or Angel. It entertains me in that same way. It also gives me a chance to exercise my cognitive faculties by picking through everything and actually considering some crackpot stuff for fun. For those of you who are going to tell me to stop wasting my time with this stuff, think on this for a moment: Have you ever been sitting in traffic and daydreamed about racing in the Indy 500, or put yourself into a scene from The Matrix? Or perhaps you've wondered what it would like to be part of the Fellowship of the Ring?

Don't kid yourself - everybody has at one time or another. You don't have to admit it out loud.

Anyway, it entertains me in that way.

I also half-expect to come across someone I know on the show one of these days, but it hasn't happened yet.

Yahoo has come forward and admitted that they let the US government examine their databases this summer to see what people have been searching the Net for, and I'm willing to bet they let them go through their membership databases to see what sorts of Yahoo Groups they're subscribing to. The court documents reiterate that they approached every major search engine as part of this effort, not just Yahoo and Google. So far, only Google's told them to sod off. These subpoenas have been called a "fishing trip" to provide excuses for the government to crack down a little bit more on things that they really don't have any business nosing around in.

Unless, of course, they want to chuck up and show everyone in the US what they themselves search for at home or during business hours... their proxy server logs would be interesting reading, I think.

So, how about it, guys? Willing to engage in a little touka koukan (equivelent exchange)?

The Nemeton is back as a forum for all things Shamen-related.

Man, it's been a while since I've moved a mountain...


I've heard of a professor having it in for you but this is ridiculous: An alumni group of the University of California at Los Angeles called the Bruin Alumni Association is so worried about left-wingers (whatever that means these days) teaching at UCLA that they're offering rewards of $100us for recordings of classroom lectures of professors they consider suspect. If you hunt down their website you will find a link to uclaprofs.com, which reads like a hitlist of staff at UCLA that they don't like, featuring such pages as "Radical of the Week" (currently one Douglas Kellner, who teaches a course in the philosophy of education and is accused of having a "witches's brew" for political opinions, including communism (because he wanted to buy candy for all the kids in the neighborhood when he was a child) and conspiracy theories ala The Illuminatus Trilogy becuase he worked on a television show called Alternative Views, which reads like some of the past topics of discussion on Coast to Coast AM) and of course their offer to pay students for recordings of classes.

To jump back to the topic of anonymity on the Net, there's another Firefox extension that I've discovered called Distrust, which acts like a toggle switch for your browser's search and browsing histories. It's also supposed to delete the files cached during browsing, meaning the page themselves as well as any cookies kept. I'll do some testing of it and post my opinion soon.

One's a rat snake. The other's a hamster. They fight crime.

You are an enzyme. You are powerful, dark,
variable, and can change many things at your
whim...even when they're not supposed to be
changed. Bad you. You can be dangerous or
wonderful; it's your choice.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
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Parking meter pops in Washington, DC.

Well, it's happened again. It's 0-dark-40 EST and I'm writing to you from Somewhere Out There, where the walls are reinforced ferroconcrete and the armed guards walking by are wondering why I'm typing in a text window and why I don't have a "Start" menu on the screen of my laptop. Yep, I'm in the field again for maintenance.

If it's one thing about driving late at night in the DC area, it's that there is next to no traffic on the roads shortly after midnight, so as long as you know where you're going, you stand an excellent chance of making it there in good time. The toll booths, however, go to "Exact change only" after midnight, so you'd best have change in your pocket (about $0.50us) if you expect to get anywhere. Get change before you set out (I got lucky tonight).

An all-nighter followed by insomnia. I hate my lives.

The execution of Clarence Ray Allen, age 76, at San Quentin Prison in California is making me consider my stand on the death penalty in the United States.

Allen was given life in prison for murder; he was sentenced to death for hiring an inmate being released to kill a number of people in Fresno, California who were involved in getting him put in prison. What strikes me as interesting are the circumstances around his execution: Allen was 76 years old, which made him the oldest person executed in California since they reinstituted the death penalty. He spent 23 years on death row. He was so old that he was legally blind, all but deaf, and so weak from a heart attack that he had to be wheeled into the death chamber. He was all but carried the last few feet by guards.

They executed someone who was so weak from a heart attack that he had an DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order attached to his name.

Common sense says that if someone on death row is dying of a heart attack or what have you, you don't resuscitate them because, well, they're going to die anyway at some point at the hands of the prison system. The state of California wanted its pound of flesh and got it a week later.

I can't shake the feeling that the death penalty isn't a punishment as such. It isn't a deterrent from crime because no one can see it. Back when execution involved methods like decapitation, drawing and quartering, and hanging, they were done in the public eye - everyone got to see the condemned take their final steps and be executed by whatever means. Now executions are performed in the bowels of prisons, where only the prison staff, executioner, and a dozen witnesses can see. Rarely are photographs taken; even more rarely are they ever published. The only public effects are the words spoken by the witnesses and the prison system. They are hollow, and don't scare people into staying on the straight and narrow path anymore.

A dying prisoner was revived, only to be executed a week later. That's not punishment. That's not a deterrent. That's not a lesson taught to anyone. That's revenge. That says, "You're not going to die until we kill you."

Am I against the death penalty? No, I'm not. I think that it serves a purpose in the American penal system by removing the most malevolent people in society permanantly, just as a surgeon removes a tumor to save a patient. Is it a perfect system and process? Hell, no. The risk of innocent men and women being executed is a very real one, and unfortunately there is no perfect way of determining which is which. Having a lot of money and connections definitely skews things in your direction, too, no two ways about it. But does it perform the function of keeping people from committing murder, kidnapping, treason, and the like? No. Not anymore. If you can't see the consequences of committing those crimes with your own two eyes, the impact upon the people is greatly lessened. It's one thing to read about an execution, but quite another to see what happens (note: These pictures are probably not work-safe, and are definitely stomach turning; nevertheless, they are what happens when someone is executed by electrocution).

One of Google's mottoes is "Don't be evil", which is a reaction to the fact that they've probably got a couple of terabytes of information about everyone who's used their service (and who hasn't used Google to look something up these days, for Kibo's sake, they're almost in the dictionary as a verb), and you can learn a lot about someone from what they search the Net for, from what they're interested in to what they do at work. Heck, they even index the e-mail you recieve and send if you use Gmail (and again, who doesn't have a Gmail account or two these days?). The US government has figured this out, too, and they're trying to strong-arm Google into forking over those very same records because they want to know who's surfing for porn and what kind of porn they're after. Google is fighting tooth and nail to keep from handing this information over, and the ACLU is throwing its weight behind them. One Alberto Gonzalez, US Attorney General who has a serious mad-on for porn filed a motion in the US District Court of the Northern District of the state of California to get them to fork over the data. The documentation behind the motion shows that the US Attorney General's office has approached a number of search engines (probably Lycos, Hotbot, and Yahoo (which has a history of knuckling under, anyway)) with subpoenas for their search records - it doesn't say which ones complied (only that some did), but Google is making a big deal out of refusing.

The subpoena is specific - they want all of the search requests entered by users for an arbitrary week so that they can do a statistical analysis for porn. They are also asking for a random set of one million URLs indexed by the Google search engine. The White House is saying that this information is vital in their effort to resurrect an anti-net.porn law that was declared unconstitutional a while ago. Here's a hint, guys - if it was unconstitutional then, it still is now.

I've been writing up a little missive about net.privacy, and I think it's time to post it. Most every server on the Net keeps access records - if you go to a URL in a webserver, the IP address you came from is almost certainly logged with each access, along with the time and date, what you accessed, sometimes what URL referred you to the resource you just accessed, what browser you used, and sometimes what OS your system's running. There are some sites out there that make a point to not record this information, but by and large they do. Even The Network keeps these logs (which I talk about in my privacy policy); I won't kid you about that.

If you really don't want people to know what you're looking at, there are some measures that you can take.

First and foremost, I'm not advocating doing anything illegal at all. Yes, some of these methods are illegal, and I'll tell you which ones patently are. I'm discussing them to give you an idea of what other folks do who aren't as law abiding folks are you are (right?). Also, knowing these techniques will let you devise countermeasures so that those same not-law abiding folks can't implicate you in anything shady.

Okay. First and foremost is not using your home network connection, which is illegal in the United States. Wireless access points are all over the place these days, and most of them are not secured at all. A common joke is that the world's largest wireless hotspot has the ESSID "linksys" because so few people configure their access points. A quick wardrive through any neighborhood reasonably close to an urban area will prove this. Not all wireless network intruders have multiple wireless cards, and increasingly wireless units are hardwired into laptops, so someone hijacking some bandwidth on someone else's access point is probably leaving records of their wireless interface's MAC address somewhere. In some operating systems you can temporarily change the MAC address of most wireless cards - I've got instructions in the collection of random knowledge on this site.

Secondly, you can tunnel your web browsing traffic, as well as some other kinds of net.traffic through a proxy server, which makes requests on behalf of your system. Proxy servers are often used internally to reduce network traffic by caching popular web pages, though some are available on the Net for a nominal fee, or for no fee at all - you can check out a list of them here, at publicproxyservers.com if you've a mind to. The idea is that you configure your web browser (or other network client) to use a proxy server (or sometimes a chain of proxy servers) and the IP addresses of the proxies show up in the system logs. Depending on whether or not you have permission to use a particular proxy server and whether or not the terms of service for a server say that you're allowed to do this, this could be illegal where you are.

A way around that is to use an anonymising proxy system, which doesn't keep any logs of traffic and often chain traffic through some number of other anonymising proxy servers Out There. This will slow you down somewhat, depending on how fast your link is, how heavily loaded the proxies and their network links are, and how busy the web sites or other services on the far side of the proxy chain are. Your connection may also time out from time to time, which results in broken websites now and then or a dropped link. My personal favourite, which I recommend to everyone is TOR, which stands for The Onion Router. Essentially, there are anonymising proxies all over the Net running this particular service which can bounce your traffic around the globe a number of times before finally connecting you. If you examine the server logs, you'll see the IP address of some random TOR proxy somewhere Out There, with no way to trace back who made what request. Probably.

TOR runs on Windows, MacOS, Linux, and BSD. You can download a precompiled version if you want, or you can download the source (examine it for back doors if you've a mind to) and compile it yourself. I won't go into the whole story about TOR, go hit the link above and read about it for yourself. Personally, I recommend it to everyone as well as use it myself on both my laptop as well as the Network.

I've personally run IM traffic, FTP connections, POP, IMAP, HTTP, and HTTPS traffic through the TOR network. Yes, I've noticed slowdowns and the odd dropped connection. I've also, after doing a lot of research and hacking around, decided that it's my preferred way to protect my privacy on the Net.

Another thing about the TOR network - it allows you to set up services, such as websites, that are only reachable by TOR users. If you browse the Net without the benefit of a TOR proxy client (and don't know the TOR network URL), you can't find it, can't access it, can't even see it. Lots of folks are using it to set up information repositories and weblogs where they can't otherwise be found. A site I recommend checking out for stuff hidden on the TOR network is The Tor hiddenWiki.

In case you're wondering why I'm exposing a Deep, Dark Secret (pat. pend.) to the Net at large.. I'm not. You can find notice of the TOR hiddenWiki on the TOR website here.

I highly encourage people to make full use of this hidden service functionality, also. There are also other darknets (as I call them) hidden on the Net; you can learn a little more about them in the TOR FAQ (which is something I highly recommend that everyone read).

A lot of websites leave cookies on your hard drive as part of normal browsing for any number of reasons. Some of these cookies (like Google's so-called immortal cookie) uniquely identify a particular computer for a long period of time, which can be used to track you around that particular site. If you don't need to set any preferences or want to avoid having to log in repeatedly, then either turn off cookies in your browser or configure your browser to ask you every time a site wants to set one, in which case you can either allow or deny it. Bear in mind that some sites require cookies for normal operation; it's up to you to decide if you want to gift them with your patronage or not.

If you use Mozilla Firefox there are a few extensions that you can install that will be of use to you. I personally use them and find them useful, so I'll pass them along to you.

First are extensions that let you manage the proxy servers that you use. If you're running a version of Firefox earlier than v1.5, there is Switchproxy, which lets you turn proxies on and off and switch which proxy you're using at the drop of a hat. If you're using v1.5 of Firefox you can use xyzproxy to do the same thing, though it's a little less polished than Switchproxy was. I've never used Proxytex before, and it was designed for v1.0 of Firefox only, so I can't recommend it to you. If you use a TOR client to anonymise your web traffic, these extensions will be of immense use to you. If you want to download a web site anonymously for review offline, check out the extension called Scrapbook, which lets you build an archive of copies of websites to read at your leisure. I'd also suggest installing Adblock, which lets you deny graphics and iframes from whatever sites you choose. It was designed for eliminating advertisements from your web browsing experience.

Adblock also has the useful side effect of increasing your anonymity; let me explain. Because web ads are often hotlinked from other sites, by letting them appear you're leaving entires in logfiles not necessarily related to the site that you're checking out. The websites of web advertisers also often leave cookies in your browser. By blocking them you're not only leaving a smaller footprint on the Net but you're also speeding up web browsing by not downloading as much stuff as you otherwise would be.

There is also an extension called CustomiseGoogle, which lets you configure what you will and will not see in Google results and on Google services like Gmail and Google Groups. It will let you remove advertisements in Google results, add links to other search engines for your search criteria, remove click tracking, restore right-click context menus in certain services, turn on HTTPS (HTTP-over-SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)) for Gmail, anonymise your Google cookie user ID, and other functions that are of immense use (and are directly related to the original topic at hand).

If you further want to fuzz your footprint by hiding what OS and web browser you're using (and now we're getting paranoid) you can install User Agent Switcher, which changes what Firefox identifies itself as. This is also good for navigating sites that claim that they require Internet Explorer...

Standing outside of abortion clinics and protesting the day away.. but then sneaking back to get an abortion. Can we say 'hypocracy', boys and girls?

Sure. I knew you could.

Was the NSA monitoring US citizens before 9/11? A recently declassified document shows that their clandestine monitoring operation began early in the year 2000; they briefed George W. Bush on this early in 2001, well after he'd taken office.


The ACLU is weighing in on the NSA breaking its charter by monitoring US citizens without a warrant or accountability, and some interesting words were said, to say the least. One Nazih Hassan said it flat out: It's okay to wiretap him if you've got a warrant (I don't think that last part needs any particular highlighting). He's had friends thrown out of the country without any explanation, one of whom hounded by the FBI. Hassan, who left the country of Lebanon in 1988, said something that the US government would do well to take notice of: "I lived in a police state. I know what it looks like. I worry we are getting close to that now."

Silent, unaccountable monitoring of communications of American citizens. Investigation if they don't like your opinion of the government. Your book reading habits coming under scrutiny. Warrantless clandestine breaking-ins and search-and-seizure of private premises. Is that really American? Is that what the people who founded this country had in mind?

To those of you who are already flaming me as a George W. Bush hater, ask yourself this: If we were in the same time and place, with the same history and consequences and stuff going on as right now, but there was a different president entirely in office (let's say, for the sake of argument, Peter Cushing)... would you be all right with this? Would you accept it as part and parcel of terrorism? Would you not feel a chill down your spine or rage in your heart if you discovered that someone broke into your house, compromised your computer, and bugged your telephone because someone heard you make a comment that they didn't like, and reported you to the police or the FBI?

Think on that.

What with the Jack Abramoff scandal going on, the Republican party is on the run in the House of Representatives, and is proposing lobbying reforms left and right because names were named and numbers were put in spreadsheets (on both sides of the political fence, let's be honest - the Democratic party left its monetary ethics at the door when Abramoff came knocking, too). Specifically, they're trying to make it much harder for lobbyists to get access to lawmakers. They are also asking that Congressfolk be prevented from using corporate jets, taking privately financed junkets, and accepting gifts worth more than $20us. They're also considering cracking down on pork-barrel spending.

The reputations of both parties were dragged through the mud by this, and they're scrambling to at least look like they're on the up-and-up. I think that part of this is because 2008 is an election year, and neither party has a guaranteed shot at the White House right now, so they need to make nice-nice with the voters to regain trust and look like they really tried to clean up their respective acts.

I've just found a website that rocks all known sheep - WikiBooks, collaborative books on all sorts of topics written, maintained, and fact-checked by volunteers. Browse the site a bit and see what you find... there's some nifty stuff here.

The band Basic Pleasure Model, consisting of Paul Sebastian (formerly of Psykosonik) and Caesar Filori (of Wideband Network) have realeased a new track for download called Evil Thing.


On Friday, 17 March 2006, the new Doctor Who series will start on the Sci-Fi Channel at 2100 EST. The DVD boxed set will be released on 4 July 2006 in the United States.

This article has an interesting look into a botnet channel on IRC. It is common thse days for a compromised host containing a bot (used to carry out commands on behalf of a cracker remotely, such as flooding an arbitrary IP address) to access an IRC server of some kind, register itself as a client, and sit in an IRC channel awaiting instructions. From time to time, a sysadmin will have the time to find out what IRC server and channel a zombie is connected to and will jump in to see what's what. In this case, the botmaster left a message for any sysadmins that might come after them, and left a URL to a redirector site that generates referral fees for the owner (presumably, the botmaster)... it's interesting to note that a botmaster is trying to make a little money on the side off of admins that come looking, even though it might be only a few cents each.


It's Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and for some reason I've got the day off from work. I've been relaxing for the most part and enjoying every last moment of it. True to form, I'm relaxing in the office in my jammies with a cup of coffee, an old Art Bell recording playing and a couple of websites that I don't ordinarily have time to peruse loading in the background. Kash crashed at our place last night in an attempt to get a good night's rest. I hope he got it; he needs it right now.

I've been messing around with some opensource monitoring software called MRTG, which stands for Multi-Router Traffic Grapher. Basically, you configure it to grab data from a router, switch, firewall, or what have you, and it'll not only keep track of stats but generate nifty graphs to give you an idea of what's going on. It's also very extensible, though I'm not quite sure of how to extend it just yet. It's pretty nifty - I've been watching Leandra's network and memory usage in 60 second intervals in my web browser all morning, and it's pretty neat.

It's gotten pretty deep inside my head. All last night I was dreaming about configuring it. I've never dreamed in UNIX commands before. It's kind of disturbing. I wonder what I'll dream about tonight - maybe SNMP.

The Cox Cable tech came out again to figure out what's been going on with our cable television feed at the apartment. Amazingly, the front desk was open so they dispatched someone to open the maintenance door; he also brought over a replacement chimney for one of the lights in the chandelier, so now it hangs properly. After a few hours of poking, prodding, and examining readouts, it was eventually determined that the TV in the living room is going bad. Specifically, the tuner circuitry in the television, which picks out one channel from the several score coming down the co-ax cable from outside, is failing, which explains why the picture freezes, breaks up, and turns into video snow periodically. Switching in another television shows perfect signal. It might be time to start pricing televisions. To dodge around that for a while, I examined the back of the cable box and noted a trio of outputs, two for stereo audio and one for video. I dug into the closet in the office and found a suitable set of cables to plug into the cable box and the switchbox that governs the inputs from the DVD player and game systems, punched the right button, and off it went. Perfect picture and sound. I disconnected the co-ax cable, which left the modular input, and we're good to go.

I've also been messing around with NetBSD v3.0 on one of my test machines. I ran the upgrade procedure from v2.1 to v3.0 because the network card I have isn't supported under the v2.1 release, and it messed up the system considerably (I've yet to see a *NIX upgrade of any kind go smoothly, be it Linux, Solaris, or NetBSD). Reinstalling with the v3.0 disk, however, was the work of about twenty minutes. I've been going through the NetBSD Handbook, following the procedure for setting everything, up and I'm very impressed with it. Everything's been going smoothly, and the few mistakes that I have made I was able to fix using standard Linux-screwup-fixing techniques. I'm installing a few essentials from the Ports collection (which is how extra packages are installed), like bash and CVS. Doing this amounts to changing to a directory under /usr/pkgsrc/<category>/<package name> and running the command make install. The port collection's Makefiles do the rest, including handling dependencies.

A comfortable office chair makes it much easier to spent the day hacking. I really need to get one of my own.

Last night after a day of hanging out at the World Tree to see what was up in the big wide world outside (Lyssa and I were stricken by the wanderlust early in the afternoon), we stopped in at a small shoppe not too far away with the dorky name Crepes-A-Go-Go, and had what possibly could be the tastiest crepes in existence, packed full of bananas and Nutella (a hazelnut and chocolate paste that makes damn near everything taste better) and covered with whipped cream. Let me tell you, it was worth every penny to stop in there for an early meal. We headed home for the night to relax a bit more and were contacted by Rialian as we sat down to watch a DVD - Bladeless was en route, Kash was en route, and they'd be coming over to hang out for a while.

We gave Bladeless the grand tour of the apartment and shot the bull for a while, until we realised that not everyone had eaten yet today, so we jumped back into the TARDIS and headed for Amphora.. we got the same late-night and weekend waitress as before, who swiftly showed us to a table large enough for five. Dinner and drinks were ordered (Cancer Omega is indeed correct - there's always time for a good cup of coffee) and we spent a few hours enjoying each other's company. Bladeless showed around some of the new photographs she's taken, and also showed us a few hacks for her camera that let her get a lot more mileage than one would think out of the limited number of lenses she has at her disposal.

We finally headed home around 2330 EST, because Lyssa had to work today, Bladeless was completely fried (while she may have the stamina of a machine, she still needed to get some rest), and Kash was fading fast. Kash sacked out on the living room floor while Lyssa checked her e-mail one last time, and then went to bed as well. I joined her around 0100 EST.

A couple of days ago I finally finished reading the latest output from White Wolf's development team, Mage: The Awakening. I'm sorry to say that I'm not terribly impressed with it. Yes, I'm glad to see that Mage is still around in some form, but I really miss the style of the older books, around second edition or so. They were much better written, I thought. Much more dense with details yet comprehensible if you didn't want to bog yourself down in metaplot and nifty quotes from bands at the top of each heading. This new version is simple.. too simple. It reads like a "Mage for Dummies", in fact. The overuse of border and binding art got to me after a while, and I'm not too fond of the style of art they decided to go with. They stuck to the same pattern as the other books in the new World of Darkness: Five groups, plus back history of some kind ("legacies", they call them) to factor in, plus orders to join.. in some ways, it feels like they wrote up a single corebook template and used the search-and-replace function of their word processor/desktop publishing package to fill in the blanks. This even extends into the "and now here are three or four shadowy enemies for you to think about" list at the back of the book, just like in the other core books.

At least there weren't any egregious errors in this particular book (for example, no instances of "see pp.XX" without a corresponding reference to be found).

There isn't much of a distribution between Traditions in the new Mage. They all blur together. It's easy to see where they picked and chose from the old Mage and stuck things together, but it doesn't sit well with me. They don't have idiosyncracies or distinct points of view. The whole schpiel about paradigms and suchlike just isn't there. There isn't really a defined direction for them in game, either - there sort of was in the old version, if you wanted to play things that way, but now it's so much blank canvas that you can't see the tacks holding it to the frame.

Okay, so maybe that's just my not liking a point of reference for anything talking.

On the whole, I'm not really crazy about it. Sorry, folks.

Tonight while warming up soup for Mika and Hasufin, who stopped over to drop a few things off (they'd been visiting Lara in Pittsburgh) and stayed for dinner Lyssa cut herself on the edge of a can. After exhausting the supplies of gauze and Neosporin in the first aid kit (this is the second time she's cut herself in the past few days) I ran out to CVS to pick up stuff to restock the kits and bandage her hand up. On a whim, because she was having trouble getting the bleeding stopped, I picked up a phial of Skin Shield, which is a liquid bandage that is supposed to hold cuts together better than tape can.

No wonder it can - it's an adhesive so strong that it requires acetone to keep it liquid, and thus appliable.

Getting a solvent such as acetone in a deep cut isn't a good thing. I thought Lyssa's bones were going to rip free of her flesh and beat her to the bathroom and running hot water.

Suffice it to say that this stuff is going to be kept for serious emergencies only, of the sort that would require a visit to the emergency room, anyway.


This is pretty cool - scientists using all manner of chemicals and photomicrographic techniques to make landscapes. I'm quite fond of the Ceti Alpha 5 landscape, which was constructed out of liquid crystalling DNA, polybenzyl-L-glutamate, and a blue filter to make the sky blue as well as the Delray Beach, Florida image (which was made out of vitamin C crystals).

Friday was the start of an unusually long weekend for me, for which I am quite grateful. Four days is long enough to recover from everything that's been going on lately, from the stuff at work that I've mentioned here and there (okay, so it's more like every day for the past few days) to crashing a party or two at Shmoocon, held in downtown Washington, DC this weekend.

Friday evening, Lyssa and I went to see Brokeback Mountain at the local movie megaplex. I must confess, I was less than enthused about going to the movie. It takes a lot to get me excited about a movie these days. Maybe I'm getting old and jaded, or mayby I'm just tired of the lack of creativity and general brainlessness of movies. Also, I'm not terribly wild on cowboy movies.

Brokeback Mountain surprised me utterly. Yes, it's a cowboy movie, but not the kind that the name suggests. It's about a pair of guys who live in Wyoming in the early 1960's and find work herding sheep for a rancher who's not averse to breaking a couple of laws to keep his sheep alive on the range. The cowboys start a friendship which then turns into something more.. they fall in love, with a relationship spanning almost thirty years, several hundred miles, two marriages, and a divorce.

It's a very touching and moving movie.. yes, they were in love. Were they straight? Out of necessity? Were they gay? Does it really matter?

They were in love. Nothing more and nothing less. And love always finds a way, even though it can be the most bassackward way of going about it.

It's definitely a movie that I recommend to everyone, especially in the political climate of today.

Love always finds a way.

After Lyssa and I got home from the movies Friday night, I got a call from Bladeless, who's in town for Shmoocon. She managed to get me an invitation to a room party featuring some folks who are well-known in the field of information security. After some pondering, I set out on the Metro for the hotel, and got there around 0100 EST Saturday morning. Most everyone had already gone back to their hotel rooms to sleep off their share of all of the alcohol that had been in the room. I wandered around the hotel for a while to find the right tower at first and the right room later, and eventually came across Bladeless and Meee sitting in the hall, where it was much more quiet.

I wound up hanging out at the party with Bill, the head of No Starch Press at first, and later on Renderman and his girlfriend and talking for a while. Around 0300 EST I realised that the Metro line had all but shut down for the night, so there was no way that I could get back on my own. Julia had rented a car when she's flown into DC, though, and was nice enough to drive me home. Somehow, the gods alone only know how, we fond our way back to Virginia in record time. We got on Connecticut Avenue and made tracks for the beltway. From there, it was trivial to get home to NOVA, upon which we made our way to Amphora to get her something to eat for the first time in about a day.

I got home around 0600 EST and collapsed into bed, utterly exhausted. I'd spent all day Friday recuperating from everything, and I'd managed to blow it in just a few hours. Lyssa woke me up around 1300 EST to go shopping for groceries, but not long after we got home I went back to bed and slept until 1700 or so... I got up just in time for dinner.

Interesting factlet: Adult Swim is now showing Neon Genesis Evangelion on the weekends and every Thursday morning at 0030 EST. It's about time that someone's picked up a true classic of anime.

Here's an interesting page for you: The differences between Germany and the United States. However, it does have some incorrect statements about the state of electronic banking in the United States, as well as kitchen stoves.


It's my day off, and modulo a bit of driving around I've been blissfully doing nothing but reading, recuperating, and relaxing (the Three R's that are in such short supply in the western world these days that are necessary to make life worth living). Lyssa had a dentist's appointment this morning at 0900, which took about two hours to finish up. She's due for some dental work, but there isn't much that anyone can do about that. I'm highly skeptical that anyone anymore has anything approaching what dentists call "perfect teeth".

The first of the drill-and-fills is scheduled for next week.

I need to schedule my own dental appointments, in fact...

I went to bed early last night and woke up shortly before 0800 EST today. For the first time in a while, I feel really rested. I even dreamed a little last night, which is very unusual because my pager goes off before my brain ever reaches stage four (REM) sleep these days. I dreamed that I was getting ready to work on something or other and I was tying my hair back so that it wouldn't get in the way. As I did so, I realised that the hair tye was sliding out of my hair.. in fact, it had broken off most of my hair around shoulder length in a ragged ponytail, which had already thinned out considerably. I still had a full ponytail, albeit much shorter than it had once been.

For fun I analyse my dreams to see what symbols are kicking around in my subconscious (which tends to be a lot more together than I am, most days). I think it had to do with letting go of something that I've been carrying with me for a very long time, but keeping just enough with me so that I could go on. Given the geek angst that I've been feeling for a while, I can't help but think that it has to do with all of the stuff that I've been doing for work but almost none for myself, for pure enjoyment.

Hey, I'm a geek. I love hacking on computers and technology, but there's a world of difference between doing it for a job and doing it for the sake of doing it. While I like my job (I just hate crisis in general, even though it's part and parcel of my vocation) I love hacking for fun even more, and that's what I haven't been doing since I moved down here. Hacking for fun.

Now, friends and family who are reading this, please don't panic. This does not mean that I'm going to start ignoring you, nor that I don't want to hang out or go anywhere anymore. It just means that I want some time to myself once or twice a week to play around with tech. I'm not going to forget anyone.

That said, I've been sweeping out my home directory on Leandra. I've burned a couple of DVDs of stuff to free up space, mostly stuff that I've downloaded and forgotten about that really wasn't important to anything I've got going on right now.

I've also been speccing out upgrades to Leandra, Lucien, and Lain for the indeterminant future. I need to rebuild Lucien very soon, but I need RAM to do so. If anyone has a pair of 256MB PC133 DIMMs laying around that they'd like to sell or trade for (I've got a 512MB PC133 DIMM that I can't use in Lucien that I'd like to trade, specifically) please contact me privately. I've got everything I need to upgrade Lain, I just need to take the time to build a version of Linux that'll fit on a 256MB Compact Flash card (which I just happen to have laying around), fit it into the Compact Flash-to-IDE converter, and reboot her. Leandra, on the other hand, is going to need complete reconstruction, from the motherboard on up.

That's a lot of money. Like I said earlier, I'm planning it for the indeterminent future.


Another day, another dollar, another handful of crises.

Another night, another all-nighter.

That's what I did last night, work from home because early this morning was a maintenance window, and I had to take care of some stuff. Yesterday utterly wiped me out, and after a tasty tex-mex dinner that Lyssa hacked together out of a rotisserie chicken and some salsa I went to bed early to try to get some sleep so that I could get stuff done. Unfortunately, tired as I was, I couldn't power my brain down, and tossed and turned for about an hour until I found my earplugs to block out all of the sound in the apartment.

Lyssa woke me up at 0045 EST so I could get ready to get to work. A quick shower helped me get my brain running again, and then I had to duck out to pick a few things up because we forgot some stuff at the store earlier that evening, like conditioner for our hair. I spent some time wading through my e-mail to make sure that nothing had redlighted the maintenance window, and then set to work. I finished somewhen around 0430 EST this morning and collapsed into bed for little more than a nap before I had to get up and start the cycle all over again.

Cisco has released an official report of a back door in their CS-MARS (Cisco Security Monitoring, Analysis, and Response System) product running v4.1.2 of the firmware. v4.1.3 is also vulnerable but there is a workaround for the backdoor. In a nutshell, in every CS-MARS system thereis an undocumented root account, which provides unlimited access to the system (just like on a Unix box). If a user SSHes into the system with the account pnadmin and then runs the command expert, that user will get a root shell. In v4.1.3 and later of the firmware you can set a password on the expert account just as you would on a regular Unix system ('passwd expert').

It wouldn't surprise me if it's a copy of the system shell hidden somewhere in the default path that has the SETUID bit set.

Diebold, manufacturer of electronic voting equipment that barely meets any laws for usability in a real, live election, is fighting like hell in North Carolina to get the laws that don't allow its hardware to be used to be weakened or repealed. Last week, Diebold admitted that it couldn't comply with any of the requirements of voting hardware in North Carolina, but now they've called in their lobbyists and are trying to get a special session of the General Assembly to alter the laws in the state that made them run with their collective tail between their legs. The link above goes to an EFF petition to beg the North Carolina state government to not knuckle under to Diebold.

When last I checked, if you couldn't meet a mandatory law then you were out of luck for doing so. What makes Diebold so special, other than the fact that they're a company worth a couple of million US dollars and aren't afraid to use the privileges being so rich affords them.

If you bought a copy of the archives of the magazine The New Yorker on CD-ROM you probably found out that you can't install it to your hard drive, and must look at it from the CDs.. if you want to read it out of order (i.e., if you want to skip around and look stuff up) you'll have to flip CDs every couple of pages, which is a real pain in the ass. I'd also suggest that you take a look at the EULA for the archive, because whenever you look through the disks they transmit how long you were looking at something, when you were looking at something, the pages and the order you looked at them in.. there's a complete writeup here, along with instructions for getting around this egregious violation of your personal privacy. This is like having a librarian looking over your shoulder the whole time you're at the library, writing down everything that you do.

This puts a lot of operating systems to shame - the WVNET OpenVMS cluster, which provides telecom and computation to customers in West Virginia, has been online for ten years continuously. WVNET consists of four DEC 3000 workstations and a DEC Alpha 4100 quad-CPU server, both running VMS v7.3-2, and a DEC VAX 6000-630 running VMS v3.2. Ten years of uptime.. that's a hell of a long time for a computer of any kind.

This morning the Sci-Fi Channel announced that it's going to show the new Doctor Who series as part of its Sci-Fi Friday lineup at 2100 EST. More's the point, they say that they're going to show all thirteen episodes of the new series.

This explains why they've pushed back the release of the DVD boxed set from 14 February.

What a day. Too many all-nighters and fighting too many fires at work have worn me to a small nub. I'm collecting on all the downtime I've been accumulating by working double shifts by taking tomorrow off for some R&R. I plan on getting myself put back together tomorrow by taking some time to enjoy myself, and work some stress out in my favourite ways, which I've been able to partake of not at all since moving down here. There's a gym in my apartment complex, and failing that I could drive back to work to use the one in the basement. I also plan on cleaning my head out and getting everything running normally again.

In short, I'm going to geek out, not because I have to, but for the sheer fun of it.

I need to reach back inside of myself and find me, hidden inside all that metal and wiring and bone. I know I'm in there somewhere. I can find me. I'm going to spend a long time feeding it chocolate and comic books, too. I need to remember how to hack for fun, even though there is a directed goal, and not hack because I've got a project to work on. I need to wake up the part of me that loves to mess around with stuff for its own sake.

Okay. Time to get ready for bed. The idea of getting my hack on appeals to me, but I need REM sleep to make it happen.


Yesterday, the unthinkable to many happened Steve Jobs of Apple confirmed that all new Macs will be using Intel processor cores on stage with Paul Otellini, the CEO of Intel. The new generation of iMac computers will be equipped with the Intel Core Duo chips running at 1.8 and 2.0GHz, respectively. As its name suggests, the Intel Core Duo processors contain a pair of processor cores on a single silicon wafer, effectively acting like multiple CPUs (which are becoming more and more common in the consumer market; they've been standard in servers for years now).

If you have an MP3 player of any kind, you've no doubt heard of iTunes, the application which acts as the front end to the iPod, is one of the nicer MP3 players out three, and also makes it easy to purchase new music. So easy, in fact, that the MiniStore functionality keeps track of what you've been listening to on your system and suggests other songs and artists to check out. This is done by sending the information back to Apple by way of 2o7.net. However, if you turn off the MiniStore it won't phone home, as verified with a packet sniffer.

If you have any knowledge of lock hacking or lockpicking in general you've probably heard of something called a cobra pick, also called a vibrating pick or an autopick. The principle behind them is simple: They make an attached pick vibrate rapidly, which causes the pins inside the lock cylinder to bounce up anddown rapidly while you twist the cylinder with a tension wrench. At some point all of the pins will be in the right position to allow the cylinder to turn, which allows the lock to be opened. They take a lot of the fun out of lock picking, I'm told, but if you're in a hurry and have to get something open fast they're a good tool to have around. They're also very, very expensive, and ordinarily difficult to get unless you're a licensed locksmith. Or you can make your own, like this guy did.

A very special 100th birthday to Albert Hoffman, discoverer of LSD. I wish you health, happiness, and enjoyment of your days, sir.


These days, it's not easy to get parents to sit down and teach their kids to read, or even get them interested in reading, what with jobs, soccer, and the like to occupy their time in the twenty-first century. In Great Britain, new software designed to teach kids to read is undergoing practical testing. The thing is it's doing more harm than good, with short term retention of data and comprehension going right out the window. The interactive software reads stories to kids as it displays the text on the screenwith all sorts of neat sound effects and animations. The neat sound effects and animations are distracting the kids from the spoken and written text, so the data barely sticks in the kids' short term memory. In experimental groups, only 30% of the kids had any retention of the story or the characters, as compared to another experimental group, which had software that only displayed the text and read the story to them (those kids had 90% retention).

Flashturbation has come to elementary school, and it has the same effect as it does on the web - it's only a distraction, and conceals the content under a lot of glitz and cruft.

If only we could get parents to sit down and do things with their kids, like building models and reading with them (not necessarily to them)... I guess I'm showing my age.

Yesterday American troops in persuit of Iraqi insurgents raided the home of respected Iraqi journalist Dr. Ali Fadhil, who works for the Guardian and Channel 4 and seized recordings of interviews and footage he'd shot for Dispatches, a show done by Channel 4. Coincidentally, this happened just a couple of days after he asked the US military authorities for interviews about the subject matter of the programme, which has to do with the misappropriation of what amounts to millions of US dollars worth of seized Iraqi currency. The tapes are missing and have not yet been returned.

It's hard to say that this is cute, but it is in a way - shortly before New Year's, a kitten with an unusual birth defect was born in Oregon. As the kitten's name suggests, it was born a cyclops, with no eyelids or nose and only one very large eye in the centre of its forehead. The kitten died shortly thereafter birth. Snopes.com, clearinghouse for urban legends already has a writeup on the photograph.


I finally got around to installing those two new ethernet mini-switches that I'd gotten for Christmas last night. On the up-side, they're sort of small and fit nicely behind my desk-as-workbench, and are 100baseT, so they're ten times as fast as the old 24-port 10baseT switch we'd been using (if anyone would like to have the old switch, e-mail mail me privately, please). On the down side, however, each switch only has six ports, of which five are usable at a time (the sixth, the uplink port to connect to another switch, is exclusive of port #5 on each unit). I've got them ganged together so that they can all be used, but all of the ports are already taken up, which poses a minor problem.

I'm going to have to get that 8-port switch, too, after all. I should probably plan this properly.

This short story was getting Slashdotted as I was reading it but if you can get to it, it's well worth a read. Years ago, it was de rigeur to write reviews of various Linux distributions, in which the overabundance of applications, text mode installation, and suchlike were slammed for whatever reason the reviewer decided to espouse or whatever the folks flaming the review were inclined to cite. Someone turned the tables and lampooned Windows XP with some amusingly accurate observations of the process, from not being able to use all of a 200GB hard drive right off the bat to not being able to optimise it to your hardware at the time you install it to the famously uninformative error messages for essential operations and problems finding drivers for graphics cards, NICs, and suchlike.

In Ontario, Canada, one Louisette Lanteigne of Waterloo, Ontario has been watching her housing plan expand as developers build new houses to put on the market, and they're doing a pretty sloppy job. She's been noting problems of all kinds, from corner-cutting that violates construction regulations to the intentional dumping or lack of regard for chemical spills on the construction sites. She put up a website and began gathering information on the violations, even going so far as to collect evidence herself. The Ontario government congratulated her work and participation in her community; Activa Holdings, Incorporated, one of the larger developers in the area, is suing her for $2mcn for libel because of her website.

I'm wondering how this snuck past me today - last week, George W. Bush signed into a law a prohibition against sending 'annoying' e-mail messages or making 'annoying' web posts without disclosing your identity. The specific law is hidden inside the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorisation Act, and it supposedly is supposed to prevent net.stalking. The thing is, 'annoying' is a relative term.. very relative. An e-mail consisting of "Hi, how are you?" can be considered annoying by someone on say-so. So can posting a photograph of someone. Or mentioning a name. It doesn't really surprise me that Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Senator was behind this.

Well, it looks like all we can do is write about our imaginary friends and bitch about our imaginary enemies these days.. as long as someone doesn't decide to think we're talking about them.

Hee hee hee hee..


Sad news hit various websites and weblogs on Thursday - Ramona Bell, wife of radio talk show host Art Bell went beyond the evening of the fourth of January 2006. Art, on behalf of all of your listeners out there past and present, we are sorry, and extend our most sincere condolences to you and yours.

The Transportation Security Agency, always on the lookout, has decided that mental defectives could pose a threat and must be carefully monitored. New databases containing the names and other identifying pieces of information of will be compiled from the records of the Veteran's Administration for people suffering from what is euphemistically referred to as "combat fatigue", better known as shell shock or post-traumatic stress disorder.

On the Pittsburgh front, one Frederick Banks, better known as 'Frederick von Hamilton' of the band Vampire Nation and Hexagon Records is in jail again, this time for mail fraud.

Witness tampering... interesting.

Representative Tom DeLay gave up trying to regain his post as House of Representatives majority leader yesterday after being brought up on charges of campaign finance fraud and money laundering. He announced his intention to seek re-election in November of 2006.

So Friday night wasn't the best night I could have had, but I made it through, and that's what matters.

Two production servers at work blew hard drives at some point in the recent past, and required replacement. Thankfully the drives were part of a hot-swappable RAID array, so it wasn't a critical failure. A RAID array is designed to handle the failure of hard drives, but it's never a good idea to run one in a degraded state (i.e., down a few drives) for extended periods of time, because if you lose more drives, you might lose all of the data in the array. RAID's good for protecting data but it's not perfect by any means. Most RAID systems implemented in hardware (through a specialised card) rather than in software (like Windows disk mirroring) are hot-swappable, so if the array throws a drive all you have to do is unplug it and replace it, and the controller will do the rest. The rub with that is that you actually have to go there to switch the drive.

Worse, because production machines were affected, maintenance had to take place late at night, which is never fun when you've already put in a whole day at the office. Still, it's my job, and the other folks on my team already took their turns, so it came to me to drive out to the data centre and replace the hard drives.

It's not a particularly complex procedure, little more than popping a drive out and putting a new on in its place, but when you put a virgin disk into a RAID array its contents have to be synched up with the rest of the array, and that can take time. Lots of time if the array's always busy becauser the server is in use at the time. Most of the night was actually spent watching the drives in the array synch back up and go through their POST (power-on self test).

By the time I got home it was 0500 EST Saturday morning, and I sent an e-mail to file a situation report at work, checked out the servers one last time, and then crashed. By the time I finally got to sleep it was a few minutes shy of 0600 EST, and I was dead tired.

Solo and Kash were going to spend the weekend with us; I don't know exactly when they arrived Friday night because I was sacked out to catch up for the all-nighter, but they hung out with us Saturday morning when Lupa and Teriel got here (they were staying with us also, because they would be giving a number of seminars at the World Tree in Maryland). They left somewhen around noon, and Kash and Solo left to attend around 1400 EST, which left Lyssa and I to sit around and relax, something we dearly craved. I did some writing for the Mage game I'd be running that night while Lyssa slept.

The game started later than I'd hoped because the players were slowly trickling in after the seminars (neither Lyssa nor I felt like going to attend them, partially due to the cost and partially because we were wiped out and wanted nothing more than to take time out) and due to a sidetrack thrown by a particular stinkburger called AMV Hell part 3.. check Google Video for more details.

I've got some great players, and I'm very pleased both with how things went in the game but how they're taking the storyline and riffing on it, rewriting it, turning it into our story instead of my story. Guys, you rock. Next game's on 20 January 2005.

I never thought I'ds ee this anytime in my lifetime - The Sisters of Mercy are going on tour again this year, with a gig in Las Vegas, Nevada on 16 February 2006 kicking it off. Captain Von and company will also be stopping in Atlanta, Georgia on 4 March, New York City on 6 March, Washington, DC on 7 March...

I've already reserved my tickets for that show. If anyone would like to join Lyssa and I to make a night of it, please contact me privately.


Late, late, late night last night.. emergency maintenance window at work at 0-dark-30. I'll write about that later.

A new website is making the rounds, one for a movie called The Beast. For a change I sat down and clicked around it for a while. First off, the site says that the movie dives "into factual territory well-explored by scholars but largely hidden from the view of the public," which doesn't sit well with me. Biblical research, exegisis, and the like aren't "hidden from thew view of the public," it's all out there, all you have to do is go to your local library, bookstore, or Amazon and get some books to read. If no one's gone out of their way to hide or destroy documents, suppress publication, and do all manner of other kinds of black-ops stuff to keep people from finding out, then it isn't hidden. Marketing fluff.

Second.. calling a movie The Beast, releasing it on 6 June 2006 (6-6-06, as the website so prominently displays), the imagery of the desktop images that you can download... it sounds a lot like an invocation to me.

Just sayin'.


Last night Lyssa and I, after a quick dinner of emulated chicken parmesan (Boca Chicken Patties are pretty tasty if you bake them) we headed out to get a few things critical for the next few days. Leandra's monitor blew out and I've been destroying my wrists slamming the stupid thing around in an attempt to get more than one-third of a picture to get anything done (including finding a new monitor). After a few false starts and wanderings around we finally wound up at Best Buy, where I used the small collection of gift cards I'd been accumulating to cut the price down to a more managable $230us. In the interest of lowered power consumption (as well as easier future transport) I bought a 17 inch LCD flat panel monitor with built-in speakers manufactured by Westinghouse. Hooking it up at home was the work of less than five minutes, most of that spent trying to disconnect the failed monitor and pull all the cables out of the way. The display is crisp and bright and the sound's not too shabby, either. If nothing else it frees up a lot of space on my desk.

If you run your own e-mail server or you've had the same address for a while you're probably getting tired of the spam that comes in each and every day it's active. This will probably add a ray of sunshine to your day: CIS Inetnet Services, an ISP in the state of Iowa won an $11.2bus settlement from spammer James McCalla, who transmitted millions of pieces of spam through their network. The firms that McCalla was spamming for were also hit by the judgement, and were ordered to pay damages as well. Iowa state law in effect at the time entitles the wronged parties to $10us per e-mail.. that works out to.. let me see.. carry the one.. 1,120,000,000 individual pieces of e-mail spam.

There's no way in hell that any of these folks will be able to cough up more than a small fraction of the judgement against them, but hopefully it'll drive them all out of business for good.

Song that best describes life today: MC Plus+ - Alice and Bob

Congratulations to Makke of the C=64 remix scene for releasing his first full-length CD, entitled It's Binary, Baby. The album has remixes of some favourite chiptunes, such as Sacred Armour of Antiriad by Richard Joseph, Last Ninja III by Reyn Ouwehand, and The Corporation by Adam Gilmore. There are also two more modern covers on the album (Personal Jesus by Depeche mode and Bitch by Apoptygma Berzerk), but Makke also has some original tracks on the album that are pretty nifty. You can download all but two of the tracks in .mp3 format from the order page, but if you like them, please by the CD.

Yeah, it's covers of C=64 chiptunes with a couple of covers and a few new tracks, but his covers are excellent and Makke's got personality. Besides, if you weren't looking for a new spin on an old track, you probably wouldn't know who Makke is, anyway. Take it for what it is.


It was unusually foggy on the way in to work this morning, probably the worst I've seen since that one trip back to Pittsburgh through the mountains. Visibility was cut to less than a half-block and navigation by the tail lights of the car ahead of you was the way to go. You couldnn't even see the sky or the telephone lines, just the stoplights because of their glow. I wonder if the sun's burned most of it off by now.

Lyssa and I decided that we needed some time to relax last night so we headed out for sushi at Konami again for dinner. Their team of chefs were definitely on top of their game last night. Everything from the grilled scallops to the sushi platter was top-notch. Everything had a distinct flavour of its own, from the slight sweetness of the California rolls to the dry and slightly tart taste of mackerel nigiri. Overall, it was money well spent, and a good way to relax halfway through the week. We worked out some of the stuff that's supposed to be going on this weekend (Lupa and Teriel will be running seminars at the World Tree this weekend and will be staying with us) and wrote up some backstory for the Mage game I've been running on the side every couple of weeks.

It must be nice to be rich and have political clout akin to a tac nuke: Jack Abramoff showed up in a Miami, Florida courtroom yesterday to plead guilty to federal fraud charges (I wish I knew how he was dressed; somehow he got away with showing up in a baseball cap, which is all but a hanging offense back home), then slipped out the side door to avoid the media (which average people aren't allowed to do) to catch a flight back to DC. This was after an earlier flight from Washington, DC where he had appeared in court as a witness for the prosecution in the what could be the worst public-corruption case in years (assuming that it goes anywhere). Ordinarily, if you plead guilty you aren't allowed to leave the city so that you can't ditch your bond (in his case, $2.25mus).

Clinical trials of a chemotheraputic technique not used often will begin shortly around the country for treating ovarian cancer. Rather than administer the drugs intravenously, which is usual for chemotherapy, the compounds will be injected directly into the abdominal cavity, which is not only much closer to the site of treatment but is rich in blood vessels, which will lead to more rapid absorption. The upshot of this is that it often extends the lifespans of women with advanced ovarian cancer up to 16 months, which is a hell of a long time when you've been diagnosed with cancer. Because the compounds aren't coursing through the bloodstream, this also limits exposure of other tissues to the drugs, which is debilitating.

This morning or therabouts the US Computer Emergency Response Team posted its yearly end-of-year index of reported vulnerabilities, split across Windows, *NIX, and "everything else". I've got some major reservations about this because the number of reports are skewed so that it looks like there were more vulnerabilities than there really were. The Windows bugs are distributed across applications and versions of the OSes, as one would expect. The *nix bugs are also distributed across different operating systems (MacOSX is distinct from Linux, which is distinct from FreeBSD, et cetera). One thing that should make anyone with knowledge of statistics take note is that each time a vulnerability report was updated for some reason it was entered into the list again with the legend (updated). They shouldn't be - there should be one entry for a distinct bug, and one alone, because it was only one bug, just a bad report on it. The "Multiple Operating Systems" category further muddies the water because they repeate vulnerability reports in there (for example, the Adobe Acrobat bugs are already in the Windows and *NIX sections, there's no need to put them down here as well; yet, even though a few Apache bugs were reported on both Windows and *NIX, they put them in both the *NIX and "MOS" categories but not in the Windows category to be consistent).

To give you an idea of how easy data mining can really be (and just what people can learn about you from publically accessible information), here's an interesting article: Tom Owad downloaded a few thousand Amazon wishlists and ran an analysis on books those people would like to read, just like the DHS and FBI can do and are actually allowed to do if they decide to seize and examine records from libraries and bookstores. The choice of books his analysis considered shady is just as fast and loose as that evidenced by the US government's choice of groups to keep a close eye on.

About the fairest thing you can say is that the US government would have to wait weeks or months for an application like this due to all the rules, regulations, and procedures that would have to be followed.

Perhaps this guy wrote a book or two that Someone didn't like.

I know I shouldn't carp about this but I can't help it - one Lonnie Latham, senior pastor of the South Tulsa Baptist Church, member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and outspoken critic of homosexuality who regularly speaks out against same-sex marriage and begs other Baptist churches to allow homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals into their congregations to "help them overcome their homosexual lifestyles" was arrested after propositioning a MALE undercover cop posing as a prostitute for a blow job at the Habana Inn, which is well-known in the area as a hook-up spot.

Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.


Yesterday wasn't particularly tiring or bothersome, it was just long. A lot of stuff had been piling up at work, and all of a sudden it all needed to get done. One thing let to another, and before I knew it I had to leave to pick Lyssa up at the metro station after work. After dinner I came to a realisation: A deadline for a project was fast approaching and that I'd best get cracking (so to speak) if I was going to beat it. It's not anything related to work but a project started by chaosmagic.com, a technomagickal anthology that Teriel was posting about last year. Thinking quickly, I e-mailed the editor (Dead Jellyfish of Konton Magazine) about article requirements and set to work transcribing some of my (voluminous) notes and rewriting things to be a bit less verbose in some places and more clear in others.

Time works a little differently for me: Because I don't so much keep track of it as take what I need out of it and leave the rest for someone else, sometimes I forget exactly where I am. I thought yesterday was the fourth of January and not the third, which lit an extra-hot fire under my heels. I got my notes transcribed and edited in a little under two hours, with an extra half-hour or so for spelling correction (mostly to eliminate the idiosyncrasies that I don't remove from unpublished works (British spellings, which strike me as aesthetically pleasing)) and revision, and then encrypted and e-mailed off to Dead Jellyfish.

In hindsight, I could easily have taken an extra day to edit, revise, and have someone else edit for me. Whoops. Maybe I can get a few edits in and send a new copy out (with apologies for forgetting what day it was).

I hope it's accepted.

It's definitely not a happy new year for former professional lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who plead guilty yesterday to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion. The Abramoff case is one you're not likely to hear about in the news these days because he was selling his influence and contacts to whomever could afford to pay him. Abramoff was also in charge of acquiring relief supplies for FEMA, and we all know what a bang-up job they did in northern Louisiana in 2005. More to the point, the deal he cut (a professional lobbyist cutting a deal? never!) was in exchange for his helping the prosecution figure out exactly whom he sold his influence to and what they did with it. Judging by how well connected he is in the city of Washington, DC, this could take a while. Mostly they want to know if anyone in the White House or Congress did anything to 'compensate' anyone on his list of customers, which opens up an entirely new can of worms, legally speaking. So far at least 20 members of Congress and aides therof are suspected of having bought the services of Abramoff.

If nothing else, read the list to see whom he screwed and what he did for everyone else who bought him.

Shiny - a recursive warning sign?

Microsoft might not be the favourite software company of a lot of people, but this should give everyone pause: The weblog of an outspoken Chinese citizen, one Zhao Jing, a.k.a. Michael Anti, was shut down by Microsoft (which runs the MSN Spaces service) at the request of the Chinese government. Zhao Jing became a thorn in the side of the Chinese government because he covered such topics as the walkout of journalists and writers for the Beijing Daily News becausee their higher-ups were doing more actual investigation into some pretty hairy things, such as the shootings by state police in southern China.

A conservative Christian group called the Concerned Women for America not only called Mattel on a mistake, they completely blew their buffers when they actually read the mistake on the Barbie website where one of the answers to the "What's your gender?" question was "I don't know" instead of "I won't say." They're saying that by slipping this answer into the survey they're subtly urging kids into bisexual gender confusion.

I'm serious, folks, here's the blurb on their website.

What I find ironic is that they don't seem to realise that the inhuman proportions of Barbie dolls insinuate that being skinny to the point of anorexia is a beautiful thing.

I also find it strange that a group called the Concerned Women for America has one Bob (presumably 'Robert') Knight acting as their mouthpiece. I'd have thought that the CWA would have a woman speaking for them.

I've got quite a few things to say on this matter, none of them very kind, and a few of them not repeatable in mixed company. What I will say is that there isn't a 'transgender movement', which connotes a deliberate attempt to make people gender dysphoric for whatever insane reason they might come up with to justify themselves. THere is, however, a transgender community of like-minded folks just trying to get through life in the best way they know how. Also, being TG does not necessarily make one bisexual; nor does being bisexual mean that one is also TG.

To the CWA: You seem to have a collective case of acute craniorectal inversion, which requires immediate medical attention. Seek it now.


It never fails - come back from vacation and two of the night rings of Hell have broken loose. I'll eventually write something..

To the individual who drove home while drunk on New Year's Eve after sneaking out because we were going to take your keys: You're damned lucky that you didn't wrap your car around a tree (like the brain donor in the minivan almost did earlier that night), wreck into another car, or get nailed by the police for driving while intoxicated (which would fuck your career right up).


I'm going to work this site (undergroundmedia.org) into an essay later, but for now you might want to take a look at it.


Happy day-after-New Year, in which I took the day off to screw around and do nothing at all. And enjoy every last second of it.

Lyssa, Lara, and I got up at 0800 because Lara was headed back to Pittsburgh by Greyhound bus today, and had to be at the Metro station down the street to get to the bus terminal. We got up and got a simple breakfast together in a matter of minutes, then got everything packed. By 1000 EST Lara and I were on our way to the station and Lyssa was hanging around the apartment waiting for the Cox Communications technician (their third visit!) to arrive and fix whatever the problem happened to be that kept the television for being usable for anything other than video games, DVDs, and the odd videocassette.

Cut to the chase: The connector inside the apartment was bad. He nipped outside to fix the amplifier in the demarc, replaced the physical connector in our apartment, and everything's working properly. Three attempts: This must be a new record for Cox.

Following that, Lyssa went to bed while I sprawled out on the floor with Luel, Kabuki, and Kosh to spend the day hacking on NetBSD v2.1 I discovered only too late that v3.0 was released a couple of days ago but I already had a CD-ROM burned so I figured "What the hell" and set to work.

First try: Boot Kabuki from the CD-ROM. That didn't work, though she gave it the ol' college try each and every time. As it turns out, her CD-ROM drive is shot and won't boot from a CD. As I'd all but forgotten, it will barely read data CDs, tool

Second try: Kosh. After hauling a spare monitor into the living room and plugging it in, I remembered that he's only packing 64 megs of RAM and a 4.1GB hard drive. An idea came to me: Take the 20GB hard drive and memory modules out of Kabuki (which I know still work) and transplant them into Kosh. That was the work of but a few minutes.

In hindsight, I don't think Kosh is recognising that second memory module, as suggested by the contents of the kernel message buffer. Damn.

In preparation for a paper I'm writing I did a basic install of NetBSD on Kosh so that I could take notes as I did so. I messed around with it for the better part of the afternoon, getting used to how the system was set up and how the configuration files are laid out. While I was playing around I had the second DVD of Firefly on in the background, so part of my mind was playing catch-up on the series I'd missed the first few times around.

Thanks to Lyssa and Grant (who gave us the entire series and movie on DVD) I'm now a browncoat. See what you've done?

If nothing else, I've learned some interesting new ways to swear, which seems to be a prerequisite in my particular field.

Around 1630 EST Lyssa and I suddenly realised that we were hungry and set out to hit the grocery store for supplies for the next couple of days. We eventually decided on getting the fixings for turkey-based sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese for tonight, with plans for leftovers for the next two days or therabouts.

An article that everyone in the US should read - former senator Gary Hart on the effort to combine the religious and the secular in the United States. He's a very well-spoken and well written individual. His religious background might surprise you, also..


Happy New Year, everyone!

Oi.. what a night. The party kicked off around 1900 EST last night, as Lyssa and I finished cleaning up the apartment and started cooking (thankfully, not a lot of stuff, just a large baked pasta dish that everyone went crazy over). A few folks arrived early and helped us finish cleaning. Lily, beloved of Solo of the Lost Boys, helped me move furniture around to run the carpet sweeper, and was even nice enough to fix the sweeper after it broke down from all the hair it had picked up..

During this time, folks ran out for dinner to leave us to finish getting ready. Looking back, I think they came out for the better doing so because they actually had substantial food in their stomachs to get them through the night.

There's an inherent danger in potluck parties, everyone bringing the same thing (or something similiar). In this case, it was beer. Lots and lots and lots of beer of many kinds and potencies. Kyrin the Toxic Elf brought a DuClaws microbrew with the appearance and consistency of hot, used motor oil, but a sweet, syrupy flavour and the kick of a sawed-off shotgun. Many other forms of beer were brought, including a case of Guinness. Hasufin was once again our bartender last night, making margaritas that didn't taste like they had tequila in them at all.

That was the problem with them.

One good thing about having so many rooms in our apartment is that there's lots of space for folks to spread out and have a good time. The library was once again a hit with people perusing the book collection and taking advantage of the relative quiet. The living room was a hotbed of conversation, jokes, and wrongness. The office was used for time to time as a place of private discussion, with the unspoken rule being to wait politely if you had to enter. The kitchen was the font of all alcohol, and was visited by most everyone at least once last night. Often more than once.

Most everyone weathered the evening well, though a few are now feeling the aftereffects of overindulging without a couple of glasses of water and analgesics. Seven or eight bodies wound up sleeping on the floor in various places and poses to sleep the night off.

At some point during the evening in the library, Jarin began experimenting with charging drinks in various ways and passing them around to people to watch their reactions. The first batch was smooth and tasty; the second went off like a cherrybomb in my stomach and left me coughing helplessly. After that I got my hand into the game and we took turns turning various forms of wine into the magickal equivelent of car batteries to pass around.

I'm definitely going to have to mess around with that some more. Apologies for the hangovers, folks (you know who you are).

We remembered to turn on the TV long enough to watch the ball drop in New York city at midnight local time, around the same time that Seele and her SO arrived. Much, much fun was had by all last night.

I'm going to have to start keeping the camera handy for parties. Too much stuff happens to write down.

I don't know what exactly happened with the poker game last night - it started to break up shortly after the ball dropped in New York City.

Most everyone crashed around 0230 EST in the apartment. Those who could go home went home, everyone else found a patch of floor or a piece of furniture to curl up on. Around that time, Lyssa was making emergency repairs to the Air Mattress of Unusual Comfort, which had developed a hole in a seam at some point in the recent past. A small disc of PVC and some cement later and it was ready for another houseguest, Lara from Pittsburgh, to sack out for the night.

I slept a dreamless, quiet sleep until 0830 EST or so, when my pager went off...

Sometime shortly after midnight today, one of the production servers at work went offline, which set into motion a complicated series of events that wound up with my pager going off at 0828 EST, not only jolting me awake but leaving me feeling like someone had installed Windows v3.1 in my cerebrum.

I won't bore you with the details, I'll only say that it's not fun at all to troubleshoot when you're still three-quarters asleep, dehydrated, and with a measurable blood-alcohol content after five hours of sleep. I wound up on a teleconference debugging everything around 1100 EST this morning after escalating the problem, and got things fixed. It's amazing what a few more hours of sleep can do to clear your head.

The folks who crashed at our apartment after the party awoke around 1000 EST and got to talking after they got their brains booted back up and bottles of Excedrin Migraine were distributed amongst the people. I'd say that they got the party going again but that has incorrect connotations that they started drinking all over again, which we did not do. What I can say is that I stumbled into the living room in my dressing gown to hear a lively discussion of The Transformers crossed with hentai tentacle rape and slash.

I turned right back around and headed for the bedroom before my linguistic centres came back online to parse the conversation I'd just bumped into.

At some point I finished up what I'd been working on and got into the shower to clean off and finish waking up. We went to Amphora for breakfast in shifts of three because I was madly hacking away while everyone else was headed out the door. Eventually, Lyssa, Lara, and I found our way there and ordered real, solid food in the form of breakfast (even though it was going on 1300 EST) which we polished off most of. One thing about drinking and party food, it makes your body crave real, solid food, stuff that actually provides nutrition.

I'm not sure what time we got home but everyone who was left helped us clean up the apartment, gather up trash, and haul it out to the dumpsters. Thankfully it didn't take very long to get the area policed, and we parted ways as we decided to collapse and rest for a number of hours. We wound up lazing around the apartment reading and not doing too much of anything, thankfully.

Indie Kid.

Which Subculture Are You?
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Spuds take note - Devo will be releasing their first new album in almost two decades under the name Devo v2.0. They're re-recording a greatest hits album with, get this, children singing the vocals. They will be releasing some brand-new tracks as part of this project, though.

This is cool - one Cornel Winiata will be getting a new prosthetic arm done up with custom airbrushed detailing this year. The detailing, which looks very much like the tribal tattoo style so popular these days will be on the layer of structural fibreglass on the arm.

Very, very important: flexyourrights.org


Today was my first day off for the new year.. I hadn't expected to sleep in as late as I did (1100 EST), but then again when you go to bed at 0200 local time, I suppose it's only to be expected. Lyssa and I jumped out briefly today to get stuff for lunch and then I set to work picking up stuff around the apartment for the weekend while she worked from home this afternoon. The living room looks a hell of a lot better, I have to say. It doesn't take much to make things look neater, just shelving the gift books and gathering stuff up to throw away. I did some work in the office, too, straightening things up and pitching more stuff that I've not used in.. well.. ever.

I finally made the time to sort out my finances this afternoon. It's been at least three months since I've balanced my chequebook, and I've finally figured out where everything is and where everything went.

Living in the DC area isn't cheap, boys and girls. It's downright expensive. The sales tax in DC proper is 10%; in northern Virginia, about 5%. I don't recall what it was in Maryland, but it's somewhere around 7%. Rent is very expensive, even in the not-quite-as-nice places. With a roommate of some kind, you're looking at a minimum living wage of $50kus, ideally more to be safe. A lot of apartment buildings aren't insulated down here, so expect your gas bills to be high in the winter because your furnace will be running a lot.


It's 0813 EST and the office is dark and quiet. I suspect that most everyone will either be coming in late or has taken the day off for the New Year's Holiday. I only hope that today is quiet, with a minimum of stuff crashing or blowing up.

Someone discovered that whitehouse.gov is using Webtrends to track visitors.

It's official - the stem cell research by Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea was a fake. All eleven stem cell lines he reported weren't cloned, they were a hoax. Analysis of the DNA of the stem cell samples shows that they weren't the same as the DNA of the recorded donors. The overwatch panel is still looking into the situation, but it's basically a write-off. Dr. Hwang has dropped out of sight; even his cellular telephone has been disconnected.

Richard Causey, age 45, who was the top accountant of the poster child for corporate crime, otherwise known as Enron, plead guilty to a single charge of securities fraud, netting him a prison sentence of five to seven years in exchange for testifying against former Enron chief executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. In case you're not familiar with the Enron case, the company went bankrupt back in 2001 due to one of the most extensive cases of corporate fraud in history, which resulted in the upper echelons of the company looting several tens of millions of US dollars (reports vary on just how much they siphoned off), insider trading, stock dumping, and a list of other stuff that I really don't have time at work to hunt down to talk about.

Diebold Election Systems have pulled their e-voting machinery out of North Carolina after the EFF filed a series of lawsuits against them because their voting machinery doesn't meet the minimum spec for security in that state. In November of 2005 Diebold filed suit against the state of North Carolina to avoid having the source code to their voting application (which is all over the Net, incidentally) from being escrowed so that it could be audited for compliance with NC voting laws.

This, I don't mind saying, wigs me out a little bit.. do-it-yourself RFID chipping. Which is to say, getting your hands on the medical injector and popping one under your skin in your spare time...

I discovered something working from home on Tuesday: Leandra's getting up in years. Specifically, my usual workload slowed Leandra down dangerously; my workstation at work barely even notices. I guess that 800MHz isn't enough for software these days. Hell of a run for her current processor core, though - five years and counting. You know that something's wrong when Firefox is bogging down to the point where I'm typing a URL into the URL bar and the first couple of characters don't make it into the buffer.

Time to start saving up for some new hardware. A new processor core, mainboard, and RAM, definitely. I'm toying with the idea of getting a new video card, but I'm not a hardcore graphics maven so I think her existing Matrox Millennium G450 will stay. It's a dual-headed card, anyway, so eventually I'll get around to setting up a pair of them. The two hard drives can also stay but I'm seriously considering getting a mainboard with hardware RAID, maybe SATA, and setting up a RAID-5 (lots of disk space with a parity disk to rebuild in case a drive goes south) or RAID-01 (a pair of concatenated disks that are mirrored) for capacity and redundancy.

Time to start figuring out what Leandra wants for Yule...

An informative thread on Firefox v1.5 and memory usage.


Working from home is supposed to be a relaxing thing.. most of the time it is, unless you're on call and fielding support requests from the home office in addition to working on the backlog of stuff that's been piling up since Thanksgiving or therabouts. The Cox Communications folks who were supposed to come out and fix the cable never did - they called and hung up on me when I answered. This pleases neither Lyssa nor myself.

There's a reason that the Google search "cox communications sucks returns over 100k hits.

...aahh... no one else in the office so I can listen to SLAY Radio once again.

I should probably pick up the Yule holiday once more, from my folks' place.. the problem with the model train was that one of the contacts that supplies power to the rails was bent, so it wasn't making contact. I bent it back into place with a pair of hemostats, but the metal snapped off from metal fatigue. Another trip downstairs was made to dig out my junkbox and I set about finding a few things that might be of use in fixing the train. I also tossed a few random phone housings and the like, which surprised everyone watching because I seldom pitch any random junk like that.

As it turned out, I just had to use a piece of wire to move the broken end of the contact upward a little so that it would touch the track. The train started working immediately.

Much of the afternoon was spent relaxing, sitting around and watching On Demand movies and enjoying the company of each other. We watched the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp that afternoon. On the whole, I'm very pleased with the movie: Gene Wilder gave the character of Willy Wonka a somewhat parental air, reminiscent of the daffy uncle that everyone seems to have. Johnny Depp gave the character a sinister air, in how he would react to everything happening to the kids. It creeped me out a little, in how casual he was to the events unfolding around them. He also gave the character a Michael Jackson-like spin, in how he was a shut-in surrounded by his own people, and became very eccentric as a result. The makeup he wore also gave him a resemblence to Michael Jackson in some ways. Christopher Lee also filled out the story by providing context for Willy Wonka's obsession with chocolate.. I have to hand it to him, he can make candy sound sinister like no one else.

It's definitely a movie that I'd watch again.

I spent some time digging through the stuff in the basement, mentally cataloging the stuff that can be thrown away and the stuff that I hope to eventually take back with me. I also gathered together some equipment that I'll need to set up my lab in the near future, whenever that happens to be, along with another bag of winter clothes (that I should throw in the wash tonight). We headed out around 2100 EST Sunday night to rest up for the drive home.

Lyssa and I headed back to DC early Monday afternoon from her parents' place. We were hoping to beat the snowstorm predicted the night before. Sad to say, we didn't beat it, we ran right into it. Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia were less than fun to drive through; visibility wasn't as good as it could have been but it was still drivable. Road conditions were worse. By the time we made it to Maryland we wound up stopping off for a very late breakfast at Bob Evans because neither of us had eaten yet that day. We also met up with Lyssa's brother to take care of Mabel the beagle while he ran off to do some basic maintenance.

Lord Ronin, known in the C=64 scene for his BBS, is in a bit of a bind: The SCSI hard drive that held all of the files crashed, and it isn't known yet if the data is recoverable or how easy it would be to do so. I don't want to post his e-mail address for the spambots to harvest (besides, he doesn't know me and getting a bunch of e-mails to the effect of "The Doctor said you needed help.." would probably throw him) but if you jump onto the Commodore Homestead mailing list and ask about it, you'll get the skinny on what's going on. I'm not in a position to help right now but if any of my readers are, you might consider making an offer.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a Freedom of Information request on the monitoring of mosques and the homes and businesses of Muslims for the presence of higher-than-normal amounts of radiation. Last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Energy announced that they've been searching for regions of high radiation because they're afraid that terrorists are constructing 'dirty bombs' (bombs laced with radioactive material) or nuclear devices. They also announced that radiation detectors have been installed at shipping ports, in subways, and in other places; that they're announcing the monitoring of private residences is unusual. In case you're curious, no, they don't have warrants to do this.

A few people have asked me why I post about stuff like this even though it doesn't apply to me. I've also considered whether or not I come across as if I'm against the US government all across the board, which I'm actually not. The reason that I post about stuff like this is simple: I want people to know that it's going on. They can read the news articles, do a couple of Google searches, and make up their own mind. I think it's important that the people know that stuff like this is going on. Goings-on like this, for the betterment or the detriment of the people don't usually make it onto the morning or evening news, or into the newspapers. People need to know that stuff like this happens so that they can make an informed opinion.. you can't say "This is good" or "This is bad" unless you know about it. Also, I fully realise that each news story isn't the whole story. It's never the whole story, but you need to know that there's a story at all to know that it's not the whole story.

In short, make up your own minds. Do your own reading. Decide for yourselves.

For those of you who absolutely have to upgrade.. or if you're just building a server big enough to require its own generator, you'll want to check this out: A one kilowatt computer power supply. Yep - 1kw at 85% efficiency (or so they say).

The Original Hot Dog Shop - RIP

This is wrong on so many levels...

Congratulations to John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack on the new Doctor Who television series. He will be getting married to his partner of ten years, Scott Gill, in a private setting shortly. They are hoping to have a child by surrogate mother.

Best of luck and long, happy lives to Mr. Barrowmand and Mr. Gill.

Huhhh.. remember the kid who was supposedly visited by the Feds for trying to take out a copy of the Little Red Book. It turns out he was full of it.


InformIT.com is running a contest where you can enter to win a free copy of the book Wi-Foo.


Vincent Schiavelli, requisat en pace. I'm going to miss seeing him pop up in movies of all kinds...

Lyssa and I are back in DC, safe and sound, no thanks to the weather on the way down. It was snowing lightly when we left her parents' place, but that light dusting of snow soon turned into a steady snow that made the roads treacherous to navigate, obscured the sky, and blew the TARDIS around uncomfortably, along with all the other cars on the highway. We finally outran the snowstorm somewhere on the other side of the mountains and caught a very late breakfast at a Bob Evans somewhen around 1400 EST. Her brother met up with us to do some basic maintenance as Lyssa watched over Mable, his mischevous beagle for a while as I sat in the restaurant and tried to clear my head. My blood sugar had crashed and I was feeling run down and disoriented, which happens nowadays after a number of long road trips in close succession, as happened this weekend.

We got stuck in the going-home-after-the-holiday traffic on 270, as expected. Traffic, of course, didn't start to actually move until I reached into the back seat and pulled out a book that I've been reading on and off all weekend, at which time whatever happened to cause the cars to grind to a halt cleared and people started to drive more or less normally again. We made it to the pharmacy around 1800 EST today, picked up Lyssa's prescription, and then did a little grocery shopping to make dinner, in the form of one of Lyssa's homemade pizzas.

We exchanged gifts officially tonight. I think we spoiled one another this year, because the tree is propped up on sweaters, books, DVDs, and two stockings full of silly toys. Images forthcoming.

I'll take inventory tomorrow when I get the wireless access point set back up. Suffice it to say that there's a lot of stuff under the tree tonight.

And now some stuff written much earlier today...

Well, it's neary 0300 on the day after Christmas. Lyssa and I spent the day with my biological family back in Pittsburgh. We'd gotten a late start to things yesterday because we slept in until 1000 EST or so; both of us were dead tired, and our bodies and minds needed downtime to recuperate.

We loaded the last of the gifts into the TARDIS along with a few things (just in case - I am on call, after all, and we'd be venturing into an area where there actually would be cellular connectivity) and took off around 1100 EST. Our first stop was the Sheetz the next town over for breakfast, free coffee, and a quick stretch before settling in for the long haul. Sheetz was packed with people wanting to partake of the free coffee they have every Christmas Day (and New Year's Eve, incidentally), so there was a wait until we got our breakfast from the folks behind the counter, but then we hit the road with Pittsburgh in mind.

Between the rain and fog, it was tricky going. I missed the exit headed northward, and we had to turn around to catch it on the way back. Nasty stuff, that fog: So thick that it distorted what you heard and saw, and obscured all but the most darkly coloured signs, so you really had to know where you were going to get around.

I discovered something through my own stupidity (though thankfully nothing bad came of it) - there are, in fact, regular two-way roads in Pennsylvania separated by a dotted line down the middle. This does not mean that they are two-lane highway, they are regular roads that happen to look exactly like them. I think it was the oncoming headlights in the distance that tipped me off a scant second after Lyssa noticed my gaffe. Thank the gods that nothing happened - this is a lesson that you can count will be burned into my memory for future reference. We're okay.

We arrived around noon yesterday and were greeted at the front door by my mother and grandfather, who were overjoyed to see us. We haven't spent any time with them since Thanksgiving, and truth be told I was looking forward to seeing them again this year, before work and the last of the holiday season cause whatever free time I might have set aside to travel to evaporate. It's not the gifts that are part and parcel (to coin a phrase) of this time of year, though I do treasure the fact that people think of me, and consider what I might like. Gods know, I spent hours agonising over what to get for or give to people and I'll second-guess myself all the way home.

The stuff I ordered for my mother hasn't arrived yet. I was worried that she'd take it the wrong way, but she understood. As always. I got for my grandfather a couple of DVDs of the old cowboy shows that he loves, like The Lone Ranger and Bonanza. Lyssa got him a gift card for Sears, and one of the American Express universal gift cards (an idea whose time has truly come), and a Swarovski pendant/pin for my mother.

My mother was kind enough to get me a couple of sweaters, which I've come to love in the past few years when fall turns to winter and I can't seem to get warm during the day. She also found for me a copy of the Mage: The Ascension tarot deck, which I fell in love with at first sight. I also recieved a second 5-port workgroup switch, which will be installed shortly after we get back to DC. Lyssa recieved a few books from her Amazon wishlist as well as a sweater and a jelly candle that smells like the seashore.

Picking up where I left off earlier, we spent the afternoon with my folks enjoying each other's company, talking, catching up.. the talking that I seem to love to do but can't summarise for the lives of me. Suffice it to say that this is what I love the most about being around people, the interaction. We munched pierogies off and on all afternoon, drank coffee, and were a family. I can't think of a finer gift from anyone involved.

Thank you, everyone.

My grandfather was saddened to discover that his beloved model train set was nonfunctional after it was assembled this year. My mother had asked me to take a look at it after lunch and see if I could somehow get it going again. A few cups of coffee later, I set about poking around the tracks, the train, the remote control, and the power supply. After a couple of minutes I ran downstairs to my old lab and dug out the big plastic toolbox stashed in the closet for just such an emergency, chock full of spare parts and miscellaneous junk that might be leveraged for fixing something somehow. The first step was getting my multitester, held together with duct tape and old hair elastics going once more, which involved a tiny screwdriver and the battery from my pager.


Well, Lyssa and I are back in Pennsylvania for the Yule holiday.. I managed to leave work after getting my schedule straightened out with my boss and sorting a thing or two out, which happened around 1715 EST yesterday. Lyssa and I packed after I got home and picked up a bit, then we loaded up the TARDIS and set course for the general direction of north. We stopped off just before getting on route I-70 north for dinner at Sheetz, then made it back to Pennsylvania in record time for us, a couple of minutes before 2300 EST.

We arrived, safe and sound.. I'm just now getting tired, so I'll probably jack out soon to get some sleep. We've been hacking around a good bit since we got here in an attempt to get our networks to associate with the acccess point upstairs.

This might have something to do with it: When using the wireless tools for Linux, it should be noted that you might have to set the drivers to 'restricted' mode, which means to use encryption along with associating with the access point, instead of trying to encrypt traffic after associating with it if requested. You would do so thusly: iwconfig eth1 key restricted s:password, if I'm doing it properly.

Okay. Off to bed. Joyous Yule, everyone.

1016 EST: Awake again. Have wireless access. Still waking up, and waiting to take a shower.

No Such Agency admits that the wiretapping they did on US citizens was done by accessing the trunk lines that make up the telecommunications backbone of this country, and not so much by compromising the security of the offshore international telecommunications links. This means that, yes, they were listening to calls that weren't made to other countries but within this country. Pattern analysis systems were used to sift through the traffic to figure out which communications had to be escalated to human analysts. They pretty much had to to be able to sift through so many gigabytes, maybe terabytes of data in a timely manner. It says something for AI and pattern recognition systems, at any rate...

The Christmas Invasion begins in one day, eight hours, and thirty-six minutes.


(hi, ECHELON!)

Today in southwestern Pennsylvania has been a slow day.. Lyssa, Lyssa's sister, and I headed out to pick up a couple of things at the store for today and then stopped at Sheetz for breakfast. It's not the most healthy food on the planet but a bagel at the right time does hit the spot. We roamed around the area for a while but then headed home to hang out with Lyssa's family. We wound up watching another DVD of Firefly, the television series that I missed the first time around.

No, I don't watch much TV. I missed a lot.

I've found myself growing quite fond of the series, truth be told. I'd like to see how the movie turned out.

Lyssa's folks served Christmas dinner around 1500 EST - turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings. Lyssa's mother can definitely cook - it must run in the family. We visited Lyssa's grandmother and aunt earlier this evening after dinner to spend some time. She's very weak, but still kicking and doing pretty well.

We exchanged gifts tonight at Lyssa's with her family. I gave Lyssa's father a pair of Napster gift cards and Grant Serenity on DVD.

Yes, Firefly has been a recurring theme this year.

Lyssa recieved an iPod for Christmas this year, and has spent much of the evening figuring out how to use it and transferring .mp3 files from her laptop into it. I recieved a new 100baseT workgroup switch from Grant and a new shirt and pants from Lyssa's folks. Jill, Lyssa's sister, recieved a new digital camera for Christmas. I sort of missed what everyone else got because I was trying to keep track of everything going on.

I've been considering some of my actions lately - in particular, I've noticed that I've been wishing people a Merry Christmas lately, something that I don't often do, preferring 'Joyous Yule' or something along those lines. As far as I'm concerned, I celebrated my end-of-year holiday of choice three days ago, so I don't see a reason to say it after the fact. I've no problem with Christmas, Hanukkah, or any of the others, and I've no problem wishing anyone a happy holiday of their choice. I'm really getting tired of all of the "I'm afraid to insult someone by wishing them a Merry Christmas" PC crap. Grow up and enjoy your time. Realise that there are other folks out there who may not agree with you or follow your particular path. Treat people the way you want to be treated, which I would hope would be with kindness, decency, and respect.

To quote a certain movie, "Be excellent to each other."

My pagan ass is going to party with the Catholics and have a good time. Maybe I can derail the argument of the legal technicalities of international government in the kitchen and get up a game of poker.


Hwang Woo-Suk, the South Korean geneticist who was working on cloning human stem cells turned in his resignation today after he wasn't able to prove his test results. The university he was working for denounced his research as a fraud after an investigative panel examined his results and research and wasn't able to reconcile what they found with what he had announced. Hwang still says that stem cells can be cloned from living people and that he had developed the technology to do this - they were able to prove that two new stem cell lines had been created with Hwang Woo-Suk's methods but because he lied and said that he'd created eleven, this not only shoots his credibility in the head, but calls into question the efficacy of his methods.

This is a damned shame. Stem cell technology has the potential to help a lot of people around the world, and while I do applaud his efforts as well as being able to produce two lines of cloned stem cells, I also must condemn the nine attempts at fakery in his research, which blew up his reputation and work to unnecessary fame and greatness. Everyone has to start somewhere, and making it look like you've worked a miracle right out of the starting gate is inexcusable. This also hurts the credibility of stem cell research around the world even more than the small number of nutcases in the US who inexplicably link stem cell research to abortion (RTFAQ, guys).

Oh, well. The beat goes on.

While we're on the subject of stem cell research, some interesting things are coming out of the University of Texas Medical School, specifically, possible uses for treating brain injuries in children, the time when the plasticity of the brain is sufficient to allow recovery (to some extent) from head trauma. Clinical trials of a procedure which would involve extraction of stem cells from the bone marrow of head trauma patients and injection into sites of injury will begin soon. The idea behind it is that the relocated stem cells would differentiate into neurons and integrate themselves into the existing neural network to return connectivity and functionality over time in conjunction with physical and occupational therapy protocols. The researchers will begin the search for ten head injury patients between the ages of 5 and 14 for the initial clinical trials.

For the Yule holiday, ThreeFreeGames.com is running a special deal: For every four (4) RPG books you buy, you will only pay for the most expensive one (yep, 'three free games). They've got some good stuff for sale on that page, too.. check 'em out if you're a gamer.

Check this out - George W. Bush is changing his story again on the whole wiretapping thing. He's claiming in this transcript now that court orders were gotten ("..a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed..") when in fact they weren't. Search for the term 'wiretap' on the page.

If you haven't been keeping up with my page, and think that I'm full of it, check out the articles linked from here, and then make up your own mind.

Check this out: The database server shootout, featuring MySQL, Oracle 10g, IBM DB2 Express, and Microsoft SQL Server Express.


One thing about this time of year, it's never boring, and rarely quiet. On Tuesday night Dave came over to join Lyssa and I for a little Yule shopping, so we headed out to Amphora to unwind after a long day in the salt mines. We finally worked up enough courage to go back to Tyson's Corner Mall to pick up a few last minute gifts. The mall there is still amazingly crowder and busy, so much so that finding a simple bathrobe proved to be a neigh-insurmountable challenge. I eventually did track down what I was looking for, though, and rejoined Dave and Lyssa for a romp through the mall.

There isn't much that I can say about a mall-crawl at this time of year: The malls are packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder buying stuff like there's no tomorrow. Prices are all over the board depending on what you're after. Thankfully, the people are a bit nicer down here than in other malls while shopping - the asshole-to-decent folk ratio is mercifully low at this time of year. By the time we left I was thoroughly worn out and ready to crawl into bed and sleep as long as my alarm would let me.

Last night Kash drove down from Maryland to join Lyssa and I for Yule. We went out for a bit to get a few groceries while Lyssa wrapped gifts and wound up talking a lot about Disney World and the attractions there.. they go to great lengths, he's said, to give the illusion that you really are there, that the fantasy is reality. The example Kash gave was the Lilo and Stitch ride, where the shoulder restraints would bounce as if Stitch were hopping across them. Hearing about that blew my mind that Disney's technicians would go so far.

Because it was Yule, Lyssa and I exchanged a couple of gifts a little early, because we'll be going home for the holiday, so I took some time after I got home to wrap the gifts that I've bought so far (and finding a few that had been misplaced during cleaning) for everyone. Lyssa opened up the bathrobe I'd gotten her (one of the teddy bear-soft microfibre ones) and a copy of I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, which she somehow manage to pick out of the entire pile of presents. I opened up a copy of The Bachman Books, by Stephen King, which I've had my eye on for a while. I'd read the original story of The Running Man years ago but hadn't been able to find those other stories. Lyssa also got for me something out of the blue, a rubber-band machine gun with a ten round clip.

Needless to say, this is going to be heavily used, once I figure out how to load it properly. The first rubber band fired from it accidentally struck her square in the forehead.

The second is stuck to the wall of our apartment. Don't ask.

Lyssa and I crashed shortly therafter, and I plan on going to bed early tonight because I haven't been sleeping well (again), and need to be able to make it back to Pennsylvania tomorrow night safely.

Clarence Olberding of Lincoln, Nebraska caught a rainbow trout with two mouths while fishing earlier this week.

The USA PATRIOT Act still hasn't expired and still hasn't been amended, in fact it's been given another six montshs until it'll next come up for alteration to make it permanant. A voice vote was taken in the Senate because it was said that the expiry of the Act would compromise ongoing investigations. Along those lines, the FISA court, which is in charge of handling surveillance of inward- or outward-bound international communications will be given a classified briefing soon on George W. Bush's covert monitoring activities soon. FISA is very curious about why wiretapping and reading the e-mail of private citizens without a court order, warrant, or even a good reason is being done without anyone saying anything about the illegality of it.

To be sure, other shadiness is afoot these days, and come to think of it, isn't a lot of it the same as what got Richard Nixon impeached back in 1974? "Making false and misleading statements to the government and the people" (lying about weapons of mass destruction and being caught by the media), "Withholding information" (intelligence that suggested that 9/11 was imminent), "Attempting to interfere with the FBI" (who also had information about 9/11 before it happened but were stopped from doing their job), "Allowing a secret investigative unit within his office" (isn't the NSA monitoring private US citizens now, and aren't certain activist groups being spied upon and infiltrated? Check out previous entries in the past two weeks in my memory logs about this...)

Peter Daou of Salon predicts how the NSA-spying-on-Americans scandal is going to go down. Unfortunately, I agree with him.. it's probably going to go down just like every other massive, publically visible outrage thus far.


A joyous Yule to everyone, one and all.

Wow. Grenada invasion propaganda.

The current regeime is so hot to start drilling in Alaska that they've appended the same bill as before to a defense funding bill that will be voted on soon. The bill in question will lay out funding for troops in Iraq, surprise surprise. Some members of the Republican party, which is sponsoring the alteration to the funding bill, are starting to evidence dissent over the crass way that this bill has been pimped in the Senate over and over through various dirty tricks.

Tacking the bill onto a military funding bill.. talk about wrapping yourself in the flag.

US distict court judge James Robertson, one of the members of the FISA court, which governs foreign intelligence gathering resigned in protest over George W. Bush's domestic monitoring activities. The fact that all of this clandestine monitoring is being done without even a nod to FISA nor a warrant, which was founded for this very reason is a slap in the face to the court which governs just such activities, and the regeime is fighting tooth and nail to avoid accountability in this matter. It may be that the New York Times knew about this a year ago but sat on the story because they didn't know if they'd be revealing too much. Interestingly, monitoring started around the same time that Congress spiked the TIA programme.. by hook or by crook, I believe the phrase is.


Is anyone else out there recieving e-mails from various places with the subject line "smtp_mail_failed"? If so, you might want to drop them into your spam filters - there is an attachment called mail_body.zip which, when uncompressed, contains a file called File-packed_dataInfo.exe. Needless to say, recieving unsolicited executables in your e-mail can't be good. Scanning the file with ClamAV v0.86.2 shows that it is the W32/Sober.U worm. Be careful out there.

The lengths that people will go to to overturn Roe v. Wade are incredible. A group called Americans United for Life based out of Chicago, Illinois has been working toward just this end for years, though much more patiently than most activist groups, because they're working on a scale of years. Interestingly enough, they published a book back in 1987 on just how they're going to go about it, and they seem to be sticking to their game plan. Ultimately, the Supreme Court has to rule on matters such as abortion, and it's not easy to get anything up that far in the judicial system. To that end, they're changing things one detail at a time in as many places as possible, and growing toward an eventual end. The article is very scary; take the time to sit down and read it. It's fiendishly subtle, how things change.

Regarding the possibility of inter-library loans being monitored: Quite a few people are noting inconsistencies in the news report... such as the same story coming out of several colleges at the same time, card catalogue entries, and professors who have nothing to do with the course in question being cited as references.

Photoshop: Making the real more real than you realise.

An update to the White Wolf website being compromised: They refused to pay so the crackers started e-mailing users, offering to sell them copies of the database for $10us. I've heard a few folks in the Cam mention that they've recieved these messages in the past few days. They say that the crackers didn't get hold of any of the credit card numbers, but if any of the passwords stolen are used in more than one place (and knowing a lot of folks, they are), they could be used in a dictionary attack to compromise accounts elsewhere, including online banking sites. At this time, the White Wolf website is back up and appears to be functional.

It is interesting to note that they are offering 20% off on everything from their webstore for the holiday season. I wonder how many people are actually going to buy anything directly from them after this happened, at least for a while.

The German government must really be squicked to force Google to ban access to the BME (Body Modification Ezine).

OpenSSH v4.3 has some nifty new features in it that a lot of people will find useful, such as the fact that real VPN-style tunnelling will be implemented so that you won't have to fake it with pppd anymore. I can't wait to mess around with it, at any rate..

Someone else more erudite than I weighs in on the so-called war against Christmas.

The ACLU has gotten its hands on documents stating that the FBI is using counterterrorism resources against nonviolent protest groups like Greenpeace. A series of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests unearthed the documentation that partnerships between the FBI and local law enforcement in a large number of areas has resulted in increased monitoring of religious and political groups across the United States. They were able to acquire through the Freedom of Information Act surveillance documents; the documents suggest the presence of infiltrators in these groups. You can check them out here.

A judge has ordered the city of San Jose, California to stop giving benefits to married same-sex couples.


Friday night was our last night to sit and do nothing, our plans to the contrary, though we did get the most enjoyment out of it that we could. On Saturday morning we got up earlier than usual (around 0900 EST or so) and got going slowly, as we were expecting the Cox Communications technicians to arrive to figure out why our cable television connection is so shaky. Eventually they arrived around 1145 EST, well after breakfast, bathing, checking e-mail, and packing stuff up in the office to bring in the office furniture. As it turns out, the problem wasn't inside our apartment, it's at the demarc outside (a big green plastic box with a funky internal lock on it - pictures to come) where the co-ax cable comes into the complex and goes into a big steel-encased amplifier. The amplifier got wet, which is bad for running electronic circuitry, which causes it to pump out far too much signal than it's supposed to.. the Cox guys called their dispatch and had them open a system ticket, which would be fixed by another truck coming out within eight hours to replace the amp in the demarc. Niether of us would have to be present for it, thankfully, so that freed Lyssa and I up to let Kyrin the Toxic Elf in when her arrived around 1200 EST on Saturday.

After Kyrin arrived we trucked down to Grant's place to start the office furniture, in the form of a corner desk with hutch, and a CPU cabinet with its own hutch, which amounts to about four hundred pounds of stuff in total. The cabinet and hutch were pretty easy to dismantle, we just broke them into two units and carried them away. The desk and its hutch, however, proved to be a challenge which was met by Kyrin who basically knocked it apart with a hammer, which caused the nails holding the back in place to shoot across the room. Once we'd gotten the desk broken in half it was a matter of dismantling everything to make it easier to carry. Most everything fit into the bed of Kyrin's truck and was lashed in place, safe for the few smaller bits that we stowed in the back of the TARDIS. I made the mistake of trying to carry the CPU cabinet's hutch down three flights of stairs myself, and while I didn't drop it or fall down the stairs I did manage to scuff it up a bit on the concrete steps. Thankfully Grant came to my rescue and helped me carry it down the remaining stairs.

The furniture loaded up, Kyrin and I headed out to get automobile supplies, namely, coolant and oil for his truck and power steering fluid for my Camry. Unfortunately, my car requires power steering fluid that I couldn't pick up off the cuff at Sears (like many foreign cars do) so I had to go without. It's not a big deal because my car's got more than enough fluid in the reservoir, I just happened to note that it was low (it probably wasn't due to the parking lot having a slope to it). Service there was abominably slow - I doubt that the guy behind the counter could speak much English, let alone read it, and the manager wound up coming out to take the heat off of him.

To quote Kyrin, "Do you smell, that, Doc? That's the ugly smell of incompetance in the air."

Maybe not incompetance, but customer service in the bottom two of the country, to be sure.

In exchange for Kyrin's help hauling stuff home, I promised him a case of beer, a pack of cigarettes, and a tank of gas. At the first gas station we came across I bought him a tank of gas (coasting in on fumes, as he was) and after a quick stretch and snack (because neither Lyssa nor I had eaten since 1000 EST that day - by then, it was about 1700 EST), we got back on the road, and arrived presently at the apartment. En route, Lyssa contacted Hasufin and Mika, who helped the three of us offload everything. The first thing we put up was the CPU cabinet and storage shelves, which wound up being the low-hanging fruit of the whole endeavour. Lyssa and I were famished by this time, and all of us had a mind to get some Yule shopping done, so we jumped into the TARDIS and trucked out to the Tyson's Corner Mall to get food and do a little shopping.

We wound up at an Indian restaurant at the Tyson's Corner Mall called InFusion, which purports to be an India/American fusion restaurant. The environs are cozy and dim, the service fast and very helpful, but the food is only about average and on the overpriced side. I give InFusion (1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA, 22102) 2.5 flare guns, for the relatively low price-to-quality of food ratio. You can safely skip this place if you're ever in the Vienna, VA area.

Tyson's Corner Mall was packed once more to the roof with holiday shoppers. We split up to cover more ground (and lesson the chance of someone finding out what they were getting for Yule) and promptly got lost in all the people. I discovered, about a third of the way across the mall, that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to get for anyone, and wandered back over to where I was pretty sure Lyssa was to consult.

I'm not terribly swift when it comes to picking up on what people would like for gifts.. I tend to miss little hints like "Hey, I'd really like this," so sometimes I have to go digging for ideas. Amazon has been a lifesaver for me in the past half-decade or so because I don't have to break out the deerstalker cap and magnifying glass and spend far too long figuring out what is obvious to most other people. Thankfully, Lyssa has a list of things she'd like in her Livejournal, which made things much easier. The only thing I needed was time to actually sit down and look it over (which I did tonight).

We cut things off around 2100 EST Saturday night because we were flat out exhausted, even going to bed before midnight on a Saturday to crash.

Sunday morning: Lazing around until we decided to try to put the desk and hutch together, so we'd have room to take all of the computer equipment out of the bedroom and get our net.access back up and running. As it turned out, reassembling the desk and hutch went smoothly because the components fit together logically for a change. What wound up being our downfall was the sheer weight of the hutch, which Lyssa and myself were unable to hoist into position without seriously damaging the cardboard back of the module. After lots of sweating, swearing, cursing, and crying, we rang up Hasufin for assistance, and a while later he arrived to help us get the bloody thing set up properly. It didn't take very long to get the hutch nailed back to the desk, and I set about running cables and re-doing the Network in the office. I had to break for a while because Lyssa had cut a deal for a television cart in Alexandria, which required a quick trip down the beltway.

While we were in Alexandria, we decided to roam around the mall there a bit (we seem to be doing that a lot these days) and check out the little stores for possible gifts. The selection there is much better because everything isn't so overpriced and uppity, but still we didn't find much for anyone. We wound up going to Ruby Tuesday's for dinner because we were famished, and then headed for home to finish setting everything up in the office and relax if we could.

By 2030 EST, I had the Network back online and recabled a lot more neatly than before. I plan on taking zip-ties to the rest of the cables onces I've got everything exactly where it needs to be. Sometime in January I'll be getting rid of the table in favour of a real computer desk of some kind, which will require another recabling job, so I don't want to make things too permanant until then.

The news reports of the US government monitoring communications of its citizens has spread far and wide, so far that Alberto Gonzales, US Attorney General is defending its legality now. The way he sees it, the President has the authority to implement such measures in times of crisis. Most everyone else is calling it illegal and a frightening seizure of power over private citizens.

I love The Ferrett's weblog sometimes. (note: might not be safe for work for various (hilarious) reasons)

Your word of the day: Flashturbation

Hear, bloody hear! There isn't much more that I can add to that (having already vented my spleen.)

Yay, military prosthetics.


After remodelling the office, the Network is back up. Suffice it to say that the only thing worse than assembling office furniture yourself is dismantling it without destroying it, moving it home, and reassembling it. More to come.

Inter-library loans are being monitored?

Ever get the feeling that you weren't hearing everything?


Another week over and done with.. we're moving offices at work this weekend, and the hell that was yesterday was fraught with boxing stuff up, wrapping stuff up, and throwing stuff around on top of fighting fires. My second-in-command and I managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat, though, and not only get our meager office ready to roll but also drive down the highway to the new office, which took far longer than necessary due to the weekend traffic on route 7. The office feels about the same size as the old place, just with more walls and fewer cubicles. My team got screwed on office space again: The room's a little bit bigger but not much, and we don't get any sunlight. There is already talk of putting up poster-sized photographs of landscapes and scattering grow-lamps here and there so that none of us revert to thirty-six hour vampire mode.

The drive back to the office to finish packing and get our gear, though, took about as long, which pushed schedules around needlessly... traffic down here is madness, no two ways about it. I finally got home in the early evening and Lyssa and I, after dropping our stuff off, sat down to relax for a while. She spent her time grilling Gametap tech support as to exactly why their client was taking up seventeen gigabytes of storage on Alphonse (which is excessive because she's only played five games; I maintain that it's all the Flash eye candy that gets cached) while I spent some time hacking around on Leandra. I've been getting frustrated with how poorly full screen video has been running so I decided to shuffle some modules around in her kernel, and migrate her sound drivers over to the ALSA Project drivers, which are now standard in the v2.6 Linux kernel. Everything's running nicely now, though I really need to start planning a hardware upgrade for her soon. Sometime after that, we headed out to get dinner. We put in an order at Ledo's Pizza and then did a bit of grocery shopping at Trader Joe's while we were out and about, to save time this weekend. We picked up our calzones and headed home to eat; Lyssa set the table while I put groceries away and cleaned up the kitchen a bit.

I wound up doing some writing last night to round up some of the ideas in my head to work with later. I feel a lot more clear-headed now that I can see through all of them. I'll probably do some more work on them today, after Lyssa and I get everything straightened out. We're waiting for the Cox Cable tech to show up because our cable reception has been poor, to say the least, and we should be getting much better service for how much we're paying for it.

I discovered this morning that we lost another betta - the crown royal I bought a few weeks ago. Oh, well. It's winter, so I opted for a burial at sea as opposd to finding someplace to bury him on land.

Lyssa's brother Grant is giving us some office furniture becuase he's moving soon. To that end, I've contacted the Toxic Elf, who's agreed to help us move everything to our place. He's supposed to get here around 1200 EST. It's now 1137 EST, and there's no sign of the Cox tech.

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.