It's about time someone did something like this.
I've found the setlist from the Sisters show back in March (transcribed from a photograph):
Let me see.. I've not been writing a great deal these past couple of days due to work-related stuff. I'm still working from home, pending the last couple of pieces of paperwork that have to be filled out, and working on a couple of things that, to be frank, I've never done before. As they say, this is a learning experience.. I don't know what it's going to take, but where there's a will there is most definitely a way.
Lyssa's been under the weather for the past couple of days. Apparently she's caught the Office Crud, which has laid her up since Sunday evening. She's been working from home as well this week, though under considerably poorer circumstances than I. I've run to the local CVS a couple of times this week to get stuff for her (and ran into a few snags with her prescription on Sunday, but that's a story for another time) to get medicine for her (because we were down to the last couple of boxes of, well, everything). Given that most of the medicines that have been helping have ephidrine in them, and Virginia's anti-methamphetamine law requires that purchasers of over-the-counter drugs not only be carded, but have to sign for whatever it is that they buy (and are limited to no more than 3.6 grams of ephedrine per day, which is about three 10-capsule boxes of Claritin-D), sometimes there can be a wait at the checkout counter.. a very long wait.
But I'm rambling, now.
I discovered the hard way that the CD player in my car doesn't work anymore, though the FM reciever still functions so I've been making do with an FM transmitter and my iPod (both of which I'll be taking to HOPE with me - listen to Free Radio Virtual Adepts on 101.7 FM, broadcasting with barely enough wattage to be heard 30 feet away). I wonder if the stereo in the TARDIS is covered by warranty....
Unfortunately, taking a can of compressed air to the CD insertion slot worked for all of sixty seconds, so I'll have to take it back to the shop. Damn.
I'm taking a break from reading like a fiend for the past couple of days to relax and do some writing for various projects and in various places. I'm also taking a break from (my very infrequent playing) of video games to do some writing and not just moving sprites around on the TV to level up this, that, or the other thing.
I'm surprise that Squaresoft doesn't make you level armour and weapons as well as the characters and materia.
Let's see.. what else has been afoot...
The HOPE conference, which I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, starts on Friday and runs until Sunday night. A group of us are making the bi-yearly pilgrimage to New York to attend. I need to make my list of events that I'd like to hit. Also planning to hit the dealer's room at least twice, per usual. There are a couple of folks I'd like to buttonhole for various reasons (among them Phiber Optik, who's set up a private blue boxable telephony switch for people to play around with at the con).
Aside from plans to hit The Batcave on Saturday night to get my grove on, I don't really have much in the way of set plans for HOPE, and that's exactly how I like it. Not a pathological lack of planning, mind you, but there's so much to do and so many things happen at the spur of the moment, I like to keep my options open.
Note to self: Get around to listening to those recordings of seminars from HOPEs past. Some year.
Want to see what the air quality of downtown DC is like? Look at this webcam. (note: safe for work).
One Joseph Colon must have Someone watching out for him - while working as a consultant for the FBI he snaffled the password of Director Robert Muller but won't have to do any time. He's been sentenced to a fine of $20kus.
Yay, shoulder surfing.
Hmm.. Fern just got over the Office Crud, the Lost Boys are on the shelf.. I'm glad I've been taking that tincture of echinacea that Hasufin gave me.
This is a good sign.. Jim Butcher, author of the series of novels called the Dresden Files is actually happy with what they've done to the stories and characters in the translation to a television series.
Uh-oh.. what's the cDc up to this time?
I've been asked to send a message to everyone: Snow White sends her love, everyone, and remembers that time in Pittsburgh fondly.
So, a couple of days ago, I bought a bathroom scale.
Since I moved down to DC, my body's been altering itself in subtle ways, and driving me crazy all the while. I've pontificated about this in the recent past, so I won't bore you with it again. Anyway, I bought said scale as part of a bid to lose some weight so that I could fit into more of my older clothes, including work clothes, and also to become more comfortable in my own body again.
As it stands, oddly enough, my body weight is right where it's supposed to be. After almost ten years of, to put not too fine a point on it, being twenty pounds underweight, my body's finally back where it's supposed to be, genetically speaking. I'm around 168 pounds now, which is well within the statistical norms for someone with my particular frame. I have a lot more energy and endurance now, to be sure.
Now it's mostly a matter of retraining myself in using this body.
Okay, my text is now fragmenting, so it's time for bed.
The setlist from the Iris show on 4 July is now available:
Another HOPE announcement: The FCC has granted a temporary callsign for the special event radio station at the con, designated N6H. There will be a ham radio station up on the 18th floor transmitting for the duration of the event. Reliable sources (read: the folks who are organising the radio shack at the con) have stated that they will be working 30 KHz up from the bottom of the General Class parts of the 10, 20, 40, and 80m bands. H2k6 commemorative QSL cards will be sent to anyone in the world who manages to establish radio contact with the con.
And yes, pesuant to part 97 of the FCC regs, if you're not a licensed ham operator but there is one present at the rig, you can get on the air as long as they're there.
Hee hee hee... (note: work safe - I love the title)
| You scored as Traveler. You are a Traveler Empath, you come from a time & place far removed from here. You are an innocent, in search of your own kin and have a difficult time understanding this world. You are lost & only want to find your way back home. You bring unique gifts to this world and share them with a loving heart. Although very misunderstood, you are also very forgiving. (from the "Book of Storms" by Jad Alexander at MySilentEcho.com)|
What Kind of Empath Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
Yeah, yeah.. I've been working all day. Indulge me.
Short. Sweet. To the point.
This explains one hell of a lot.
A good friend of mine is looking to sell two pre-reg tickets to the HOPE 2006 conference in New York City this weekend coming up. He's looking to sell them for the price he paid for pre-registration, $60us each. If you're interested, please e-mail me at drwho (dash) h2k6 (at) virtadpt (dot) net and we'll work something out.
Some pretty odd stuff is on the list of at-risk sites around the country that the DHS has allocated security funds to, like the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tennessee, Nix's Cheque Cashing (location unknown), and the Apple and Pork Festival of Clinton, Illinois. In fact, the state of Montana, which has the smallest population in the country has the most tactial assets (I don't know what else to call them - 'possible targets'?), with requisite security funding. On the other hand, the various bank headquarters in New York and California and some nuclear power plants aren't anywhere on the list.
A number of things could account for this: A test data set left in the database, giving people access to the database who aren't actually responsible for putting data into it ("Here, rate yourself on terrorist risks"), someone or someones scamming the money out of the DHS... maybe something I haven't thought of, maybe a combination of things.
"Arrests in the aspirational phase."
Wow.. all it would take is one joke in poor taste to make one a thought criminal.
Somebody tell me not to bid on this....
The deaths of J. Clifford Baxter and Ken Lay, who were behind the Enron debacle, appear to not be isolated incidents. Neil Coulbeck former employee of the Royal Bank of Scotland was found dead in London after being questioned by the US FBI as a possible witness, so there's our three-for-three.
A couple of folks are organising a PGP key signing party at HOPE 2006 in New York City. To get in on this shindig, send your name and key ID code (an eight character hexadecimal number, like 807B17C1) to the e-mail address hope6keysigning (at) gmail (dot) com. Please keep in mind that to verify that your key belongs to you, you're going to have to produce identification to show to everyone, so if you want to stay on the QT, it won't be a good idea to participate.
You can also send a hyperlink to your public key on a keyserver to that address, which will allow the organisers to download the key. You'll also have to verify the unique fingerprint of your public key to authenticate it to everyone there.
The deadline by which you have to send the organisers your public key information is 1700 EST/EDT on 20 July 2006.
In case you've ever wondered just how far behind schedule the game Duke Nukem Forever is, here's everything that's happened since it was announced.
Passenger aircraft infested by mice.
So I got my hair cut tonight.
Nothing major, I assure you. I still have quite a bit of hair, more than enough to pull back into a ponytail if need be, but at the salon tonight I had about eight inches taken off of the ends all over. My hair was almost to my waist, but unfortunately it was very badly damaged below shoulder level. So badly damaged, in fact, that I had a difficult time getting anything through my hair (fingers, comb, or brush) without application of a fifty-five gallon drum of conditioner most every morning in the shower.
Hair that badly damaged snags on everything, from the buttons on my shirts to the large-toothed comb every morning, and comes out far more readily than I am comfortable with.
After lopping off the straggly bits, my hair doesn't look so thin anymore, and it's much more managable. For the hell of it, I went around tonight with my hair still mostly wet to get a sense for how it feels nowadays.
I like it. It's a good change.
I should take some photographs of it but I'd really like to shave first.
So, now that season 2/28 of Doctor Who is over, I feel that I can now write about it.
I was very disappointed in season 2/28.
Season 1/27 (I'm using split designations because some people consider this a brand-new series and should be counted from season one, but I'm a fan of the whole show, all the way back to 1963 and consider them contiguous, hiatus and all) brought with it a new incarnation of the Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, who did a fantastic job. He had some very good scripts to work with, and an enthusiastic Robert T. Davies backing the whole thing. The plots were tight, well written, and mysterious by turns.
Then the end of the season brought the regeneration of the Doctor into his tenth incarnation, played by David Tenant, who looks much younger and isn't nearly as good of a physical actor as Eccleston is.
I dealt with Tenant pretty well in The Christmas Invasion, which was the teaser episode shown during the Yule season of 2005. The way the Doctor's always been written, the next couple of days to weeks following a regeneration are hairy because the process never seems to go smoothly. Tenant was manic and even lipped off a couple of times, which I found amusing, to be honest. Unfortunately, the rest of the season was goofy, uncomfortably so to suit my tastes. Eccleston had the "only survivor of The Time War" schtick down pat, from the moodiness to the forced humour, which some armchair psychiatrists in the fandom have identified as post-traumatic stress disorder, what they used to call shell shock in World War II. That's not easy for an actor to pull off.
Tenant shot all the way to the other end of the emotional spectrum and more or less stayed there. I started getting really annoyed with his manic, almost Kramer-esque portrayal of the Doctor at times.
I'll admit that yes, I did like a bit of that silliness here and there, but by and large it felt very tacked on. The storylines from season 2/28 were not nearly as interesting or well assembled as those before it. There was a bit too much handwaving to really be gripping - in other words, too much "I'll say it and brush over it rapidly without explaining so no one will have time to wonder what I just said" for comfort.
Upon reflection, it was too much like a comic book for my liking. I prefer something more dense, more 'crunchy'.
The references to Torchwood were all over the place and seemingly shoehorned in wherever they would fit. I felt like I was getting poked in the cheek by them, in fact, and knowing that the series Torchwood will be starting in the fall, it rang like an advertisement.
The only episode in season 2/28 I really liked was the finale, because it had actual emotional content in it, and not just Doctor/Rose relationship fan fodder. Before anyone says anything about season 1/27, yes, I'm well aware of the Doctor/Rose/Jack subtext, but it wasn't painted all over everything like tar on a roof, very unlike the previous subtext mentioned. The finale had a little bit of the silliness that kept popping up, but it also had fear, pressure, and a healthy dose of "what IS that??"
The finale was indeed a tear jerker, and that is all that I will say on the matter to keep from spoiling it for everyone.
Okay, I'm done raving like a fanboy. Spleen internal pressure restore to normal.
Today's over and done with, and thankfully everything seems to be resolving itself as I'd hoped it would. I've just about finished studying everything that I need to study, and I'm waiting on the paperwork and the authorisation papers. I recieved my exit interview stuff from Sunrocket today, which outlines what I can and can't do, talk about, or take out patents on. It also covers my last paycheque and stuff about insurance and stock options, so that's pretty much said, done, and recorded for posterity in the news morgues. I'm still working from home though I've been getting things set up as I need them and working on a few assignments that aren't too sensitive, but are the sort of thing that gets lost in the shuffle when a high priority situation develops. It's good to be coding again.
It's also good, let me tell you, to be driving again. I spent part of this morning on the phone with my bank, coaxing them to temporarily raise my daily limit on my account so that I could get the TARDIS back from the garage. After waiting on hold for a while, I was told that this had been done until 1600 EST/EDT today, at which time the limit would revert to normal and, chance were, I wouldn't be able to make any new purchases until the limit re-set itself.
Fine. I can deal with that.
Midafternoon rolled around and I paged out to catch the courtest shuttle back to the car dealership. Minutes ticked away slowly as the lifespan of that limit increase dwindled back to normal. I saw the shuttle a block away turning around... the same driver as last time, I (correctly) guessed, who didn't know his way around my neighborhood and was going to give up. I tucked my book into my back pocket and took off at a dead run toward the van, and met up with it just as he'd gotten headed in the other direction.
I need to take up running again.
We eventually got back to the car dealership's lot, by way of many back roads along the highways to dodge traffic during the busiest time of day, the lunchtime rush. A subroutine in the left hemisphere of my brain patiently marked off each moment toward the time at which I wouldn't be able to pay for my car once again, but eventually we picked our way back to the highway, parking lot, and cashier's desk.
The cashier remembered me from yesterday. I was afraid of that.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I held my breath as my cashcard was run through the reader in the other room. One bitten, twice shy.
The cashier came back with a stack of paperwork, my car keys, and a receipt to sign. I gave my John Hancock on the little slip of thermal print paper and walked out of the place with my head held high and my pulse returning to normal. I had to wait for a flatbed truck to move out of the way so that I could hit the road once more, but I decided to take a little time to roll the windows down and get situated.
And knocked on my ass by the blast of hot air that escaped from the passenger compartment as I opened the door.
As near as I can tell, the TARDIS has been baking in the front lot of the car dealership with all of the windows closed for about five days, which heated up everything that possibly could conduct heat. Even after rolling all of the windows down and blasting the air conditioning to get an air exchange going, I still baked the entire trip home because of the heat radiating from the seats, steering wheel, floor (which is covered with dark carpet), and dashboard.
I should have tried to roast a marshmallow in there.
My car looks great.. you can't even tell where the damage was done on the left rear quarter. The body panel appears to have been entirely replaced, and I'm betting that the body panel for that door has been switched out, also.
I'll probably take a few pictures tomorrow. Don't mind the front fender, that's next on the list.
The FBI is going to have its watched and monitored Net if it's the last thing it ever does. A bill has been drafted that would require every ISP to set up central surveillance hubs to record all of their users' traffic, just as some long distance companies have. All switching and routing hardware would have remote traffic monitoring functionality built into them, all IM traffic could be recorded if deemed necessary (implementations of Jabber all use SSL, incidentally), and the Department of Justice would no longer have to public a public statement of the number of wiretaps they carried out in a given year (1773 wiretaps were approved by the court in 2005; the number of 'secret' wiretaps last year is, well, secret).
While we're on the subject of things that make you go hmm, how about this little number from Holland. It's probably not safe for work but it's not exactly explicit. Explicitly funny, yes.
This woman is taking an article at the Onion seriously.
If you've never seen it before, the Onion is pure satire. Nothing more.
Apparently, it's legal in the state of Virginia to not prescribe or provide emergency controception if you disagree with it.
I've often been tempted to set up a website of pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills and suchlike so that people can figure out where they CAN go to ge their scrips filled if they need them. I might have to expand that database to include doctors, too.
Note to self: Pick up PHP again.
So.. here's how my day went....
Astute readers should know by now that things didn't go as planned when I start an entry off thusly.
Because my new job is in paperwork hell at the moment, I'm officially working from home until Thursday or therabouts, when I'll actually be cleared to enter the building and meet my co-workers face to face, as well as actually get to talk to the HR department. Because I now work for a contracting agency in downtown DC (I'm deliberately being vague because, in the absence of official word from my boss, I don't want to give out too much information) I need to be cleared to enter secured facilities like the one that I'll be working at. This clearance hasn't gone through yet, though. That's all right, it gives me a chance to study more to get up to speed. So I spent the vast majority of the day reading and studying and finishing off the hilighter markers that I habitually carry around in my backpack.
Today went swimmingly until I discovered that my car was at the dealership, repaired, and ready to pick up. "Great!" said I, as I cleared out the rental car and set about finding the drop-off point.
It wasn't the Enterprise Rent-A-Car down the street from my apartment. It was somewhere out on the highway, where it took me a half hour just to find the bloody driveway, what with all the car dealerships on that particular stretch of pavement. Eventually, though, I did find the place, drop of the rental car, and get my bill. My $850us bill. Eighteen days... eighteen days of insurance... I really should have done the math before I set out on this particular adventure. I'll get it all back from my insurance company once I fax the receipt and some other paperwork in, but that was a bigger financial blow than I was prepared for today.
At this point, a little voice began speaking, quite reasonably, in the right hemisphere of my brain: "Hey, Bryce? You really should go home and check your bank account balance, just in case."
I ignored that little voice.
"You can always call the dealership and ask them to send a courtesy shuttle to pick you up. They're good like that."
Still, I ignored that little voice.
The Enterprise courtesy shuttle dropped me off farther down the highway at the car dealership my TARDIS is sitting patiently in the front lot of.
With a vague sense of disquiet, I strolled into the cashier's office of the car dealership, wrote out a cheque for the full amount (the price of one (1) kidney on the international black market), and handed it to the casher along with my photo ID to start the ten minute wait for approval.
There was a ten minute wait, but no approval. That's right, my cheque was turned down by my bank.
The lobes of one half of my brain shouted "WTF?!" while the others slapped their metaphorical foreheads. I began to suspect that ignoring the advice of that little part of my brain had been a very bad, to say nothing of embarassing idea.
Still, determined to salvage my dignity, I bravely handed the cheque, paperwork, and my photo ID back to the cashier. "Hang on to these, I'll see you in an hour," I said as I turned to head back home. I caught the courtesy shuttle and made it back home in about twenty minutes, sending messages from my cellphone the entire time. I left a few for Lyssa, briefing her on the entire situation.. and then realised with a more deeply sinking feeling that she'd left her cellphone on the kitchen table this morning on her way to the Metrorail station.
Next up was a couple of e-mails to Hasufin, asking him for a ride back to the car dealership, along with a capsule synopsis of the situation. Thankfully, he'd recovered from the anesthetic at the dentist's office earlier today and was able to respond and converse normally (so far as I could determine).
I transferred money between accounts to ensure that I had enough in my bank account (on the off chance that the cost of settling the bill at Enterprise Rent-A-Car had been to blame for my cheque being turned down) and then called up my bank to get the answer to one question: "If I transfer money into my checking account, how soon can I access the new full balance?"
The reassuring answer to that question was, "Immediately."
Things are never that simple.
I headed outside and caught a ride with Hausfin back to the car dealership. The cashier recognised me as I walked up and ran my cheque through the reader again. Denied. I handed over my cashcard, flush with enough money to pay for the work done on my TARDIS.
This time, the little voices that issued from every major structure in my brain shouted in unison, "What the hell?!"
I asked, far more politely than I thought myself capable of at the time, if she could run my cheque through one last time, while I idly pondered if I'd somehow slipped through a disturbance in spacetime and wound up in a parallel universe in which I was dead broke, homeless, and writing crappy MySpace pages for food, leaving me dead broke.
Still no dice. The little printout showed that everything I'd thrown at the cash register that didn't involve a black goat, a car battery, sidewalk chalk, and a little tub of Play-Doh was turned away with a bored glare by my bank's computer network.
Hasufin and I headed back to his car, and our respective apartments before I tempted fate any further.
No sooner had we pulled into a parking space in front of my apartment building than my cellphone rang. It turned out to be someone who worked in the fraud department of my bank calling to ask about a couple of anomalous charges that had been levied against my accounts, and could I account for any of them?
At this time, I felt the cold, sticky sensation of something beyond the boundries of space and time doubling over and having a right good belly laugh, capped off with a giggle/snort.
The woman on the other end of the connection read off everything I'd bought in the past fourteen days, from the gas I'd stopped to get before turning my rental car in all the way back to my Freaks United 2006 ticket at Nation last week. Yes, I assured her, all of them were indeed things that I had dropped money on, even the buck-and-a-quarter cup of coffee on Friday afternoon. I also asked her if she could put a note on my account to the effect of "Hi. I'll be dropping a couple of grand to get my car out of hock tomorrow. Please don't freeze my account again."
Here I sit in the living room, typing this update on a laptop that says that it has a much better name that it'd like to be called by, listening to the Thai dinner that Lyssa bought for us digest, wondering if I should go out on the balcony with a goblet of Goldschlager and a clove cigarette and say, "Tomorrow will be better. Just you wait and see."
Kind of melodramatic, yes. I'm not given to such things. However, everyone has what the Lost Boys refer to as 'a moment' now and then, and I think I've had one of such this afternoon.
Interesting Firefox plugin: Gmail Space, which lets you use a configured Gmail account as a filestore. You can upload and download files from your Gmail account just like you can with a real FTP server.
This is why I love going to conventions!
Before anyone asks, no, I'm not posting this for any sneaky reason, it just struck me that a lot of the advice on this page is good advice for monogamous relationships as well as polyamorous relationships.
| Chief Surgeon |
You scored 83 Skills and 83 Knowledge!
|Wow, you did it, all your hard work has paid off, once and for all you'll finally understand what it's like to get your feet wet, and get in there and put your top notch skills to work with that top notch brain power you have, that mommy and daddy paid for. I bet you don't even remember the days of being a freshman in college, I bet you hardly remember anything about your life before this point, for you there was no stopping you, you studied your ass off, and didn't kiss ass, or brown nose, or hell even boot lick. You are the cream of the crop, you now have the MD behind your name, wear it loud and proud! Because once you make one mistake, you'll never feel like this again. I wish the very best in your endovers.|
| My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender: |
|Link: The Should you be a Doctor Test written by sluttysmurf on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test|
Holy shit. That was without looking anything up.
..I thought I'd have time to write but something came up. I'll write as I can.
This is the first weekend that Lyssa and I have had to ourselve in a long while, so we've been out enjoying it. The universe has decreed that we hunt down and explore as many used and rare book shops as we could find down here.
You already know where this is going.
We've been through two of them so far, Hole In the Wall Books (no website that I know of, 905 West Broad Street, Falls Church, Virginia, 22046; phone number 703-536-2511) and Second Story Books of Rockville, Maryland. The former we visited last night on a whim, and after a certain amount of guessing found on the side of Route-7 in Falls Church. The store is a little house that has been converted into a storehouse of books of all kinds and ages. Think of your grandmother's house so packed full of old books from many eras and genres that you can't even see the walls. Hole In the Wall is close quarters no matter how you cut it, and you're going to have to hunt very carefully to find what you're looking for.
In fact, you're probably not going to find what you're looking for if you have a certain book in mind. You're going to stumble across it and a couple of others that look interesting while you prowl through the shelves. Edie, the proprietrix, is very knowledgable of many topics and she also knows where quite a bit of her stock is, once you know what you're after. She's also a flaming geek and loves comics, and has a reputation for getting women (who traditionally aren't into comic books) into comics using Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.
While it's a bit claustrophobic and lacking of technical books for my taste, an entire half of the store is dedicated out of necessitity to science fiction novels dating as far back as the 1950's, which has won it a place in my hearts. If you're in northern Virginia, by all means stop in here. Spend some time talking to Edie, she's really nice and knows her stuff.
This morning, I had to get up early because I was supposed to pick up the TARDIS at the dealership after its trip to the bodyshop. Technically, my car is fixed and waiting patiently for me, but because there's no paperwork in the cashier's office I couldn't actually pick up my car.. I can't pick it up tomorrow because the car rental place will be closed so I can't drop off my rental car or pay the bill for it, so that hamstrings things quite nicely.
Damn. I got up early for nothing. I did get to have breakfast at home for the first time in months, though.
Lyssa and I set out for Rockville, Maryland next to go through Second Story Books by way of the bakery in Vienna, Virginia. She picked up a couple of scones and we set out for the beltway, and made it in excellent time. Again, and I'm not entirely sure of how I managed this, we got turned around, thought we went in the wrong direction again, and wound up in the parking lot of the warehouse.
That's right, Second Story Books of Rockville is housed in a converted warehouse. Think of a library the size of a single floor of a good college research library, with the same calibre of books as a collegiate research library where you can purchase books.
Oh, and through the month of July, they're having a 50% off summer clearance sale.
Yeah. My spare time's taken up for the next few months.
Second Story Books has an amazing collection of books for sale on most any topic you can conceive of. Swedish art history textbooks written in German? Walk in, hang a right, straight towards the back on your right. Vintage Colin Wilson weird stuff books? Next aisle over. Science fiction or fantasy? The entire back wall, from floor to as high as a basketball player can reach. First editions? Up front, dating back to the 1800's.
They also buy and trade tomes, if you've a need to swap things out.
If you can spend an entire day browsing a store, this is the place to go.
After getting lost in the warehouse, Lyssa and I retired to a local restaurant for Thai food and then returned home for an hour. Seeing as how this was our first weekend to ourselves in too long, we didn't know what to do with ourselves and wound up hanging out with Rialian and Helen for dinner tonight at Mosaic in Rockville, Maryland.
I'm glad I'm not paying for my rental car by the mile. I'm also glad that I didn't have to fill up the tank because the price of gas down here has reached scary heights. In Maryland, at least, the cheapest gas available, 87 octane, is going for $3.23us per gallon.
That sound you just heard was my wallet screaming in pain.
In NOVA, however, gas is noticably cheaper, starting around $3.03us per gallon for the cheap stuff.
I'm really starting to get worried about this.. when I started driving, premium gas (93 octane) was $1.50us per gallon, with the cheap stuff between $1.00us and $1.15us per gallon. The price of gas has almost doubled in six years.
I'm at home right now, writing because I've had stuff on my mind. Lyssa's in the office playing Diablo II, waiting patiently for me to come in so that we can watch the end of season 2/28 of Doctor Who. I don't know about Lyssa but I've been on a self-enforced media fast about the end of this season because I didn't want any spoilers, and wanted to enjoy it. The BBC, in its infinite wisdom, spoiled a major plot point a couple of weeks ago by putting the information into the title of the news article, which meant that you couldn't avoid it. This angered not only myself, but quite a bit of the Doctor Who fandom.
One more thought for the night before I head off to watch TV with Lyssa and see what happened. One of the books I picked up last night at Hole in the Wall was Hackers, collected and edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, which is a collection of short stories about hackers (and to a lesser extent, phone phreaks). The first story of the collection is Burning Chrome, by William Gibson (the link goes right to the short story).
This story resonates with me in a curious way now. The protagonist of the story, Bobby Quine (though the story is told from the point of view of his partner and hardware jockey, Automatic Jack, I feel that Bobby really is the main character because he's the one who's laying everything he has on the line) is a cracker (a cowboy, in Gibson's parlance) of computer networks for profit. At the time of the story, Quine's 28 years old... my age, in fact.
Automatic Jack goes on to talk about how cowboys slow down in the matrix as they get older, which makes it more likely that they'll slip up at a crucial point during a run and wind up dead, a convulsing body attached to a computer that's killing them by pumping electrical feedback into their brain. Gibson, with the prescience he often showed through his earlier work, really hit a nerve with those words.
I started noticing this a couple of years ago.
As I've written in the distant past, I suffer from repeditive stress trauma, better known as carpal tunnel syndrome (the early stages, actually), brought on by spending twenty years or so sitting at a keyboard (first a manual typewriter, replaced by the keyboard of a Commodore 64 around the age of five). Twenty years of programming, writing e-mails, and logging into BBSes. Five years of building and maintaining a virtual reality. Ten years of willworking, a path called technomancy. That's a lot of wear and tear on the hands. A lot of tendons that swell from overuse, rendering the hands and fingers immobile. A lot of nerves that were pinched for so long from that swelling that the feeling never really came back, even after I stopped spending every waking moment I had on the Net. A lot of fine motor control sacrificed to learn what I know about computers, networks, software, and coding.
The circulation of blood in my hands is still compromised. I can only keep the air conditioning on in the apartment for short periods of time (much to Lyssa's chagrin, because she prefers cryogenic temperatures over my love of summer in Las Vegas, Nevada). I wake up with cold, stiff, immobile hands now and then. Sometimes the feeling in my fingertips vanishes completely, and I cut myself on sharp edges without even realising it.
You really do start slowing down around the age of twenty-five. When I was younger I could read a book and my screen, type into another window, and sing along to music all at the same time. Now it's a struggle to read a website and code at the same time. My brain can't process such large amounts of data anymore. I can't stay up as long as I used to, either. In undergrad at IUP, going three or four days without sleep was easy. I could go clubbing and go to work the next day and stay up all the next night without any problems. I taught myself C and 'traditional' UNIX (as opposed to Linux variants) that way, simply because my brain so hungered for data that I simply couldn't sleep at night.
I certainly can't type as fast as I used to anymore, either. It feels like a superhuman effort to break 100 words per minute anymore, when I used to clock in around 130 words per minute.
And, horror of horrors, when I come home at night anymore, I like to spend a couple of hours not using a computer.
I need downtime now. I need to jack out periodically and walk around, something that I so disdained when I was younger that I kept my love of exercise and weight lifting a closely guarded secret from my friends and peers (though they never seemed to care that I had a weight bench and freeweights in my lab).
Gibson's right. You slow down. You don't think as nimbly or as speedily when you hit your mid-twenties. You can't interface as tightly with computers at my age. What I love became both something more and something less than it was once. Now it's something that I can put on and take off at will, which still feels odd.
I am acutely aware of both Bobby Quine's frantic need to pull off one last heist, which would either set him up for life or kill him outright, leaving him to die in a loft strapped to a swivel chair, patched into the Net as long as his link held put. I also feel down in my bones the worry and paranoia that Automatic Jack felt, both in trying to keep his partner from going off the deep end and in his own needs and desires to just get by somehow. Not knowing what would happen.. watching technology evolve faster than you can keep up with it (forcing one to specialise in one or two fields, rather than generalise by learning about everything one can possibly get hold of).. wondering what's going to happen in the next week... I feel all of that just as surely as I feel the warmth of the sun on my face every morning.
I'm twenty-eight years old. I'm no spring chicken. My body and mind are changing, in some ways for the better, in some for the worse. I need to get a hell of a lot more exercise; my metabolism's slowing down. I certainly need to eat better. I'm getting set in my ways, in some respects. I can't stay up for days on end anymore. I have to schedule time to eat, lest my blood sugar crash and I get dizzy and faint. I'm at risk for a whole host of health problems, some of which are genetic, some of which would be results of the sort of life I live. Even now, I feel the first twinges in my wrists that mean that I should stop for a couple of minutes and rest because the delicate tissues that make up my wrists and other joints in my hands are getting overworked, and I should have used an ergonomic keyboard instead of the one on my laptop. Horror of horrors, my body doesn't regenerate the way it used to. What used to take days now can take weeks to shake off, like cuts and scrapes. Thankfully, my immune system can still take on whatever gives it shit and knock it into the middle of next week, a quality for which I am profoundly glad.
I have responsibilities in life, many more now than I did before I moved in with Lyssa down here in DC. I have a car and student loans to pay off, traffic the likes of which I've never seen before to navigate every day, and an apartment complex bigger than most buildings I've worked in housing my home and lab. I have to worry about a much higher cost of living and the fact that so much down here falls into the category of "rich folks' stuff" that I felt was so far above my station in life that I never even thought about it. It's the only game in town down here - even the familiar big chain department stores are a considerable drive down the highway from me, but the Tyson's Corner Mall is a hop, skip, and a jump away.
It's not sticker shock, it's lifestyle shock.
I don't live a life with my books and computers and fish anymore, I have a wonderful woman in my life who's as well-read and smart and eccentric as I am. That, I can assure you, I never, ever thought would happen.
Not a few of my friends are married, or are getting married soon these days. Zard and Liz back in 2002; Forge and Gypsy; Turk and Judy; Binder and his wife (whose name escapes me at the moment); all buddies whose words I knew and whose voices my subconscious conconcted long before I even cared about what they looked like or what they liked to do (to be honest; it's easy to forget that there's more to the people you type to than they write about). A few even have children now.
It's the way of things, yes. It also makes me feel, well, left out. In some ways, adrift on the seas of uncertainty, tossed about by things that they take for granted which I puzzle over, like the process of finding a house and planning a wedding.
I'm no data cowboy, though information security is one of my fascinations. Nevertheless, I do feel the need for 'that one big score' that'll put me on metaphorical easy street. I feel the need to make myself known, to do or write something that makes people sit up and take notice.
I want to join the ranks of those people I idolise, those folks whose research and posts to mailing lists have amazed and inspired me time and again over the years.
This, I suppose, is life's way of saying "Hey! It's time for you to do your thing, make your mark, leave your legacy. You don't know how long you have left so you'd better do something with what you've got!"
I'm probably going to go back and edit this some, so that it'll be more coherent and less a stream of consciousness narrative, but the gist that I'm trying to convey is this: I want to do something that advances the state of the art, something that someone will find useful and remember. Something that I can teach to people.
Hell, I'd even settle for something that someone'll read one day and come up to me at a con to say, "Hey, you wrote that one paper about $FOO? That was awesome. I really learned a lot from you about that."
Okay, so maybe it doesn't sound like much to you. It means a lot to me. I want to do something useful.
Okay, time for Doctor Who and bed. I've more to think and write about later.
What goes around really does come around.. J. Clifford Baxter, former vice-chairman of Enron, was found dead of a gunshot wound early today. Of course, the conspiracy theorists are having a field day with this, saying that someone aced him, yadda yadda, yadda.. Baxter also made millions dumping Enron stock before the company crumpled like an SUV between two tanker trucks and stayed on as a consultant while the mess was sorted out and cleaned up. No word yet if it's going to be a three-for-three.
The list of speakers at the HOPE 2006 conference is up.
Well, yesterday was my last day at Sunrocket. Thankfully, there were no major problems or crises. I've been spending the past couple of days making sure that everything was stable and running as expected. While a time consuming task, it wasn't terribly difficult, though I did have to do a bit of percussive maintenance on a couple of things to make it behave.
I learned a lot of things there.
NDAs are funny things.. there are lots of things that I'd like to say about what I did there but I'm not sure of how much would be too much. I've finally gotten to work in telecom, which I've been interested in for a while. I'm used to working in the PSTN, the public switched telephone network, which is what the vast majority of phones are connected to. Whenever you plug into the wall, that's the network that you're accessing. VoIP nets are strange things - they ride over top of the Internet that has become practically the underpinnings of the world in which we live. Broadband in the US is still primitive when compared to the net.access of other countries (in fact, the US is near the bottom of the list for speed and price) but unfortunately this is the only game in town for us, so we do the best with what we have to work with. Most people use someone's hardware, like Sunrocket's ATAs (advanced telephony adapters - microcomputers that you plug a regular phone into that act as a gateway between your phone and the Net) to place and recieve calls, though softphones are used from time to time.
Anyway, I've bored you enough with the basics of VoIP... there's lots of good data out there, which you can look up for yourself.
So I wrapped everything up yesterday. Everything that wasn't junk was backed up, notes were put in order, documents stacked not-so-neatly on my desk, and goodbyes were said. I made a lot of good friends at SR, and not a few good business contacts, and I plan on keeping in touch with them. These are some of the best telecom folks in DC, no two ways about it.
So I'm enjoying my day off. I faxed some paperwork in for Monday and if all goes well I'll be getting my car back sometime this afternoon. I'm not sure what all's going to happen this weekend, but I'm going to enjoy it as best I can. I'm thinking of going clubbing again this weekend. No reason, I just want to get out a little bit.
Somebody did the entirity of the movie Ghostbusters as an animated .gif.
And now, for your web browsing pleasure, South Park characters done as manga!
Alec Muffet, the coder responsible for the security tool Crack, was reportedly in a motorcycle accident in France. He's conscious but badly hurt.
The world of industrial espionage has been turned on its ear by honestly of all things: Three employees of Coca-Cola tried to sell the formula for and samples of a new drink to PepsiCo, who then turned around and warned Coca-Cola. The suspects tried to sell the data and samples for $1.5mus. Coke thanked PepsiCo for its assistance.
It remains to be seen how well this will work, or even if anyone will ever find out about it, but it's interesting nonetheless: Microsoft has started an open source plugin for Office 2007 and earlier that lets you save and load documents in the Open Document Format, instead of the supposedly open XML+plus stuff format that they natively implement. Governmental bodies around the world have been complaining that Microsoft changes its document formats with every revision of Office (and sometimes after it releases patches for same) and they have problems exchanging documents within the organisation itself, let alone with other people. Demands that they support the ODF are finally being listened to. The goal of the project is to have a working open source plugin by 2007. Of course, some features of word documents (like embedding .pdfs in .doc files) won't be supported.. mention of that seems like a smokescreen to me. "Oh, sure, you can use another document format.. but some things will break. Why would you want to switch if you knew that?"
Here's an honest question: Who actually uses all of those document options? Who really makes use of the ability to embed a playing .avi file in a word document? Who actually still uses WordPerfect clipart?
Just because you can doesn't mean that you should, or that anyone is actually going to make use of it.
Hee hee hee.. haute courture tinfoil hats. Too bad that tinfoil hats actually concentrate hypnorays into the brain fnord.
Ow. Not funny at all.
If I'd had one of these when I was younger, your world would be a very different place...
So.. let me see.. a couple of adventures were had on an otherwise lazy Fourth of July yesterday by Lyssa, Jean, and myself.
First off, I discovered the hard way that you can't use Brummel and Brown (a butter substitute primarily composed of yogurt) to make eggs over easy, especially if the pan in question is very large. They make decent scrambled eggs, though. That really isn't much of an adventure, though.
During an earlier trip Lyssa and I discovered a store tucked off of the main drag while on a wrong turn, the storefront for Anime Pavilion, which I thought until then was a net.business only. They do indeed have a little hole-in-the-wall store on the outskirts of Vienna, Virginia in the basement of a professional building.
Now, don't get me wrong. I've bought stuff from these folks at conventions in the past and been very satisfied with my purchases. Their storefront, however, is very cluttered and disorganised. Maybe it was just the shipping modules that were stacked six or seven deep in the store, maybe it was the fact that merchandise was stacked every which way on every horizontal surface, maybe it was the claustrophobic feel (and maybe it was the kid behind the cash register who answered "No," to the question from his boss "Would you like to ring these people up?" that really rubbed me the wrong way). Their storefront is in dire need of a cleanout, from floor to ceiling.
Guys, I know that you're going to read this sooner or later, but please, it's very difficult to find anything specific in your store. Please rearrange it a little.
They've got some Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children statuettes for a good price, and most every Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost In the Shell patch in release, which Lyssa and I bought one each of. Hers have already been attached to her combat fatigues, and I've yet to decide what to do with my own. Jean was nonplussed, or at least seemed to be. The oppressive heat and humidity had us down for most of yesterday, to the point where Jean and Lyssa napped for part of the afternoon. I tried but wasn't able to sleep, so I wound up studying for a while to kill time. Later in the afternoon, a sudden summer rainstorm kicked up, which soaked the area once again and sent the trees swaying dangerously.. the grounds crew still hasn't taken care of the branches that were torn down by the storms this weekend past, incidentally.
Hasufin and Mika came over later in the afternoon, while Lyssa was making dinner (turkey burgers) and I was cleaning up the dining room and living room. This weekend past, Hasufin made a cheesecake to share with everyone, which wound up being dessert for everyone. We made a meal out of turkey burgers and chips and spent the evening talking and generally having a good time. Hasufin isn't much of a concert goer, and Mika is taking classes again and was more concerned with school than a concert, which is only understandable.
We parted ways around 2030 EST/EDT last night after getting ready and getting Chandler the puppy secured in his crate. On the Fourth of July, it's not fun trying to navigate in the DC area because everyone and their backup is parked at the side of the road watching their local fireworks.. traffic was nearly at a standstill down here because there were cars parked two lanes deep on either side of the highway watching local fireworks or the display at the capital. Most of the side-ramps from I-395 were blocked off, and the ramp that leads to the parking lot of the Pentagon (which is where everyone seems to wind up by accident at least once a year down here) was sealed off by police, so that limited the number of mistakes that we could have made. Still, we missed our turn off once again (for the last time because all of the nightclubs down by the naval shipyards are being closed down for demolition - Freaks United 2006 was the very last event at Nation) and wound up stuck in one of the parts of town that everyone hears about but not many people actually see.
It's one thing to drive through a bad neighborhood. It's quite another to do so when visibility has been reduced dangerously by the smoke of fireworks set off in the streets and the haze of the earlier rainstorm evaporating. Oh, and throw in streets that are one-way only at random intervals...
Amazingly, we found our way there after picking our way through the traffic and fireworks, and asking for directions from a helpful police officer, who put us within spitting distance of Nation. Once we were pointed in the right direction, we only had to follow the obvious clubgoers to find parking.
We got there around 2130 EST/EDT last night, in plenty of time to catch the band we were there to see, Iris, at 2215 EST/EDT. We ran into Pegritz there, who showed us around and introduced us to a couple of artists (including a very talented photographer) and a few of his friends. We ran into Arcane Matt on the dancefloor just after Iris took the stage, and wound up spending the entire concert with Pegritz, Matt, and their friends.
Iris put on an amazing show - their first in the US in at least a year, give or take. Reagan's voice is stronger than it had been in previous shows (so Pegritz tells me) and it was very, very clear. There were just three folks on stage last night, Reagan, Andrew, and one other guy whose name I don't recall off the top of my head (I want to say his name was Matt). They played a lot of stuff off of their new album, entitled Wrath, along with a few songs from Awakening and one or two off of Disconnect. While Awakening and Wrath aren't my absolute favourite Iris albums (I miss their older, more synthesiser-oriented sound) there are still a couple of tracks that I really enjoy on those two albums. I think we drove some of the audience nuts because the pack of us at the back of the dance floor were singing along most of the time... we're Iris fans. The only thing we didn't do was hold up lit cigarette lighters for Sorrow Expert.
They did do a version of Annie, Would I Lie To You that nearly brought the house down, and came out to do an encore for us.
They left the stage around 2330 EST/EDT or therabouts - I don't know because I wasn't keeping track.
I chanced to run into Andrew and Matt-from-Iris later in the night and congratulated them on an awesome show. Lyssa and I bought Iris t-shirts, of course. No one save Pegritz recognised my Summer Synthpop 2000 shirt, sadly. I spotted Reagan briefly but didn't have an opportunity to speak to him or get an autograph. Mental note: Next time bring the CD case into the club with me.
The DJs between shows were quite good, and their sets kept all of us (even Jean) on the dance floor until the next bad started playing. I caught most of the set done by the next band, the name of which I don't recall but have some swag for that I'll look at when I get home.
We wound up leaving the club around 0100 EST/EDT today because I had to work today.. somehow we made it home in decent time and after inflating the mattress for Jean again, I crashed for work this morning.. somehow I got up feeling what passes for normal for me - not tired at all.
Okay. That catches me up for today.
I just found out - my car is almost ready at the shop. I should be able to pick it up on.. drumroll please...
One more day to go at Sunrocket. It feels strange.. I've been here just a shade over a year now and I'm taking off for another company. It's been great working here, I have to admit. SR's a good shop, and all things considered I've learned a lot and met a lot of good folks. I also solved some very interesting problems, which is always a treat. But all things must come to an end, and this is no exception.
We'll see what tomorrow brings.
What goes around comes around... Kenneth Lay, founder of Enron, the company that screwed most of its employees as it collapsed under its own weight, dropped over dead at the age of 64 while awaiting sentencing for his role in the Enron scandal.
I just found out that Jean somehow managed to get hurt last night.. one of the teens wearing platform shoes more tall than their bodies were stepped on her while she was on the dance foor somehow. The bruising is pronounced and looks pretty nasty, even though it's superficial.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone in the United States.
It's been an interesting weekend, to be sure.. but a fun one, mostly.
Friday night, Lyssa and Jean wanted to go to the movies to catch the premiere of Superman Returns. I'm not a fan of Superman, so I had planned on hanging out in the bookstore with a cup of coffee working on a project or two of mine (burn_dvd is now at v2.0 - check out my projects page for more information), but as things are wont to do, plans changed subtly in mid-flight. After we finally decided on where to get dinner (Anita's, in Vienna, Virginia) and hauled out there, we still had some time to kill, so we got dessert at the Tuscan Grille, their three-for-three combination of desserts to share, and sundry coffees with noticable amounts of alcohol (Italian coffee and fine brandy are an amazing combination, and good for inducing a state that Spider Robinson calls 'isometric consciousness'). Unfortunately, we discovered too late that tickets for Superman Returns had been sold out for some time, so the best we could manage was hanging out at Barnes and Noble for a time and then heading home. Jean and Lyssa roamed around the store while I took up a position in the cafe' and worked on my projects. I even made considerable progress on one of them by the time the store began to close at 2245 EST/EDT and they threw us out.
All dressed up with nowhere to go, we returned home to hang out and play with Chandler (Jean's.. well.. technically a 'puppy' though he's almost fully grown, from a structural point of view) the border collie (or at least he has more than a passing resemblance to one).
Saturday was our day to roam around downtown DC with Jean and do the tourist thing. Once we got ourselves up and dressed we tracked down a small bakery in Vienna that we've heard so much about.. unfortunately, I didn't grab a business card while I was there because they didn't have any left, so I'll have to dig up the name of it when I get home tonight. Their bread, however, gives Zingerman's a real run for its money. I highly suggest getting the fruit and sourdough - it's simply amazing. We could not think of a better way to start off a Saturday morning.
The Metrorail system was packed with tourists visiting DC, many for the first time, so a ride downtown took better than an hour instead of the usual half-hour jaunt. Also, they were working on the blue line, so they had to redirect trains onto the same railset, which further complicated things. Once we made it downtown to the Capital Mall, though, we found ourselves in the middle of the National Heritage Festival, I think it was. Tents and displays and the whole nine yards all over the place, and people packed three deep. The three of us wandered around a little bit to get oriented but eventually we found our way to the Museum of Natural History in downtown DC.
The building's bloody huge, with three publically accessible floors and one top floor that's for staff only. Because it's so large and there were so many people in the museum we could only see a couple of the exhibits, namely the rocks and minerals and some of the mammalian life exhibit. The rocks and minerals were nothing short of amazing. They've got samples of huge size - like a block of topaz that easily weighs ten pounds, yellow, blue and red diamonds (coloured diamonds are rare), and veins of opal from Australia.
They even have the Hope Diamond on display, which I wasn't terribly impressed with, I have to say. It's a pretty diamond necklace, yes, but the history of the gem aside it was actually dwarfed next to some of the other exhibits (like the six-pound uncut emerald crystal in the same room). There was an antique necklace on display also, which shows what can be done with diamonds: The diamond itself is only a fraction of an inch thick, but the cut and setting are such that you'd swear that it was one or more inches in thickness - the refracted light has the same effect of such a gemstone yet is much thinner.
I remain surprised that there were no protestors around the evolutionary science exhibit.
We finally left the museum around 1800 EST/EDT on Saturday, worn out from the crowd of people we'd been stuck in for so many hours, the heat, and the humidity.
Oh, did I mention that it hit 100 degrees Farenheit outside on Saturday?
The three of us got back onto the Metro and headed for home, by way of the bakery that we'd had lunch at earlier, Giant, and Whole Paycheque to get stuff for dinner, which took the form of fresh bread, cheese, fresh strawberries, and cold cuts with a cold bottle of wine. Lyssa and I haven't done that in a long, long while, so we enjoyed the downtime thoroughly. Later in the evening, Kash and Duo arrived, announcing that Kash had closed the deal on his new car, followed by Hasufin and Mika.
We didn't actually do anything on Saturday night. I wrote. Kash and Lyssa played video games. Duo and Jean played with Chandler. Duo and Chandler bonded curiously well, much to the amusement of everyone.
Laying on the floor Saturday night, Chandler gifted me with a sloppy kiss that somehow managed to get behind my eyeglasses and hit tissue. My eye immediately turned red and puffy as my body's immune system detected dog saliva and went bonkers fighting it off. A few litres of water and saline solution later and I could see decently well out of my left eye but it still felt like someone had packed the socket with dry cotton, a sensation that would persist until late Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning, Kash and Duo headed out to find breakfast before most of us were awake. Lyssa made eggs and biscuits with pork roll, and we spent a quiet morning sitting around. After breakfast, Kash, Duo, and I headed out to pick up Kash's new car, by way of the house of Rialian and Helen to drop off the old car, Smurf. We hit the beltway for a quick jaunt to drop off the old car and then found our way to the car dealership. I killed a few minutes while Kash got the keys and situated and then we trucked for home to pick up their stuff. After returning, Kash and Lyssa went shopping while Jean read (she's almost done with all of the Dresden Files novels, when last I checked), and I wrote.
The rainstorm that hit really put a damper on things, to the tune of a large branch that was torn off of a tree behind my apartment building and dashed to the ground (photographs forthcoming) and rain that blew sideways, disrupting power (probably because the dodgy power lines around the back were jostled around a good bit), but eventually they arrived safe and sound, with food and a new slow cooker in tow.
Safeway late on Sundays, it should be noted, is not a good time to get groceries. The pork tenderloin they bought was spoiled when the package was opened.
As a result, we wound up going out for burritos after everyone else left.
To finish off the night, we started watching an older anime series called Slayers, which I've been hearing a lot about but have only seen the movie (which is usually nothing like the series) of. The fairest thing I can say about it is that it's comedic fantasy, with plenty of references to being in a cartoon ("That's more stock dialogue!") and not taking itself seriously at all. I've decided to give it a try because it's been so highly recommended to me. Ordinarily, it's the sort of thing I'd put on for noise while I did other stuff around the house.
In response to the outcry over WGA last week, Microsoft has officially denied that systems not running WGA will be crippled, but that installations of Windows Vista will have to be activated in a different manner because, surprise surprise, registration codes are still being pirated all across the world. They're also being sued in the District Court of Seattle, Washington because the WGA functionality violated antispyware laws, or at least that's how it's being spun by industry pundits.
Antispyware laws that have done precisely jack to curb the thousands of applications out there that surreptitiously install themselves, change where hyperlinks go to, record surfing data, and fill screens with popups, but I digress.
If you'd like to remove the WGA hotfix permanantly, use RemoveWGA.
A court filing states that the NSA had AT&T set up those monitoring stations well before 11 September 2001. A lawsuit filed by customers of BellSouth and Verizon alleges that this surreptitious monitoring of telephone traffic violates the Telecommunications Act of 1934 as well as the US Constitution, and they seek monetary damages for same. This shoots the official edict that such measures were necessary after 9/11 because they were in use well before 9/11 even happened. The DoJ is claiming that none of the companies named in the lawsuit are allowed to say anything because it would be a threat to national security.
This is beautiful.
Late last night, Jean, an old friend of Lyssa's, and her puppy Chandler arrived in DC. They'd been on the road since 1130 EST/EDT yesterday morning and got caught in the bridge-and-tunnel rush hour traffic on I-95, which effectively brought them to a halt for most of the afternoon. On top of that, they had to take the Beltway to get down here, and that tends to be a parking lot until 1900 EST/EDT or so during the week. Thankfully, though, everyone made it safely. Chandler seems to have taken a liking to me. It's a strange picture, to be sure: A dog and a a cat playing together.
It's well-known these days that the NSA is watching everything it possibly can inside the United States, from telephone traffic to e-mail. They're also watching social networking sites like MySpace and LiveJournal to figure out who's into what and who's talking to whom. It's been a fact since the get-go that whatever you publish on the net is available to everyone, so this should come as no surprise. You've probably heard my rants about common sense and publishing information about yourself in the past. What I will say is that in this day and age, when a cursory background check can be done by anyone with net.access and Google, anything is fair game. When this becomes the hot new technology, expect user information to either be deleted by people or changed such that the profiles are no longer accurate. The following quote from the series Cowboy Bebop comes immediately to mind: The profile on the perpetrator is that he is a seven foot tall ex-basketball player, hindu guru, drag queen alien.
It's also very possible that people will begin creating spurious personalities on the Net to foil this sort of analysis for fun (and profit, because anything can be sold these days, for good or for ill).
The open source movement should sit up and take notice of what's been going on in the courts lately: Open source developers are now being sued over questionable patents. Redhat, which just purchased the the company jBoss, which manufactures a Java development component called Hibernate, which makes it easier to write database-aware Java applications by encapsulating rows in database within Java objects instead of returning them as text strings that then have to be picked apart and finangled with in sundry other ways to get them into a usable state. A company called FireStar is suing them for violating patent 6,101,502. The thing is, there are loads of prior art for this patent - as long as object-oriented design and databases have existed at the same place in history, people have developed objects which do just that. jBoss just did it for Java and made it available. The other case isn't aimed at a big company but a guy named Bob Jacobson, who wrote some software that controls model railroad sets. He's being billed for $200kus by the company KAM, which filed a patent for controlling model railroads via transmitted messages between multiple devices (I'm actually paraphrasing - if you read the patent linked off of that article, it's even more vague than that). There's prior art for that, too, namely, the system developed by hackers at MIT for the Tech Model Railroad Club back in the early 1960's.
Remember the hullabaloo over the Windows Genuine Advantage patch released by Microsoft that phones home? I can't verify this, because someone posted a snippet of a conversation that was ostensibly from Microsoft Tech Support, but installs of Windows that don't have WGA installed might be killed sometime this fall. An e-mail was sent to Microsoft for confirmation of this, and it came back that "customers may be required to participate," end of story. Whatever that means.
Okay.. I'm not sure about this. To shut down a box remotely (however you decide to define it) one of two things has to happen: Either the box has to phone home and during the course of that, a shutdown directive has to be recieved, or the box has to be listening on the global Net, contacted by MS, and commanded to shut down. The WGA hotfix is known to phone home to Microsoft at least once per month, so this is actually feasible if it were true. However, it is installed copies of Windows that do not have this hotfix installed that are at risk, so the first possibility is ruled out. That leaves MS contacting that subset of boxen and telling them to shoot themselves in the CPU. That is much less likely because a good many systems are behind firewalls of some kind, be it a NATting Linksys/Cisco router or a corporate firewall or what have you. The number of exposed Windows boxen is growing steadily smaller as people either buy or are given NATting routers by their ISPs.
Another possibility that I can see is a future hotfix, automagically installed, checking for the presence of the WGA functionality and shutting the machine down. That would explain why it's getting harder to deactivate the Automatic Update function of later versions of Windows (and was actually why the poster I linked to was calling Microsoft, to learn how to do this). As strange as it might sound, automatically patching systems isn't always a good idea, especially when you take into account the fact that many of these patches require a reboot to take effect.
Picture this: A large corporate data centre filled with Windows Server 2000 and 2003 installs, most to all of which have Automatic Update turned on. More or less at the same time, they all phone home to MS, download patches (which puts a hurt on the network connection to the data centre), install them (which might break applications running - that's why you set up a lab to test patches before you install them in production - check out the WGA complaints in that article for examples), and reboot.
A big chunk of your production network suddenly reboots simultaneously. Isn't that a wonderful thought?
How to uninstall WGA.
GovTrack.us, a really cool website that breaks down votes in the senate and what happens in the public records, has published a blow-by-blow of S.2686, famous for not including network neutrality. Something fishy's going on, here, which I'll write about later. Suffice it to say for the moment that the news I've been getting from a couple of related mailing lists isn't jiving with the Senatorial records and what my local Senate representative's office told me when I called them this afternoon.
Generic government monitoring news article template.
There is now a certification for Snort, the open-source network intrusion detection system. To be certified as a Snort Certified professional, you have to be knowledgable in everything from IDS/IPS theory to configuring and fine-tuning Snort to how to write Snort signatures.
If you've been on the Net for a while you've probably heard about Nigerian 419 scams, where someone will e-mail you and ask you to launder a couple of hundred thousand dollars through your bank accounts for some reason if you front them a few thousand dollars, and in return you'll get to keep a percentage of the profits. Some people have fallen for these scams to the tune of their life savings, but others enjoy torturing these spammers in new and inventive ways. Take, for example this howlingly funny exchange between a 419 scammer and scambaiter Shiver Metimbers, who managed to get a wood carving of a Commodore-64 out of the scammer!
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada have developed a device that can be used to regenerate teeth and bones in the mouth. The device uses pulses of ultrasound to stimulate the jawbones and teeth of patients into regrowing much faster and more thoroughly than they would without encouragement. Dozens of test subjects experienced tissue regeneration within four (4) months of daily treatment. While I feel that their speculations on other applications of this technology are premature (using such a device to get taller?), this represents a solid advance in medical technology.
The network neutrality vote happened yesterday and the US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted against it. This makes it more legally permissible for the big backbone companies, like Qwest, Global Crossing, and Wiltel to charge people extra to give their traffic higher priority in the routers. Companies that could afford the extra charges will definitely get their traffic through in both directions, while everyone else might not.. or might not even be allowed to provide services to the Net, and would be usable only as browsing clients.
Think of it like this: I own Main Street, Anytown, USA. I let cars drive on Main Street, which is what streets are for. If you pay me $100us per month, I will let you drive at 60 miles per hour down the street whenever you want, take any of the side streets you want, and not have to wait in line. If you don't pay me that $100us per month, you can only drive at 10 miles per hour down the street and you'll have to drive through heavily armoured and guarded gates at either end of Main Street, whether you're an ambulance with a code blue in the back or a hippie driving a Volkswagon Rabbit covered with Phish stickers. If the volume of traffic is too high (arbitrarily decided by me) you might not be allowed to go anywhere, and would have to pull over to the side of Main Street until I told you otherwise.
Carbon dioxide grenades are a terrorist weapon?
Bell Sympatico of Canada began monitoring the net.traffic of all of its customers on 15 June 2006.
Remember those numbers station-like phone numbers that were popping up on Craig's List a few weeks ago? Two developments on that front. One, a few more popped up not long after those articles came out. Two, they were set up by the organizers of the Hackers On Planet Earth conference as a promotion. If you managed to break the code and e-mail the address hidden in the cyphertext, you could get free registration to HOPE 2006.
I had a hell of a dream early this morning.. I dreamed that I was in the hospital with a bladder infection and that they were trying to drain the blood out of my bladder to relieve the pressure.
Yeah, it's pretty nasty. I gets worse:
The dream ended with the surgeons doing the deed (I'm trying not to be overly graphic, here), and watching a little of the discharge come out of the end of the (now extracted) catheter and run onto a clean white gauze pad.
Next stop: Image dictionaries when I get home. This one's a doozy.
Since my TARDIS went into the shop for bodywork I've been driving around in a rental car, which necessitated pulling all of the CDs out of the car for safe keeping. For the hell of it I've been flipping through my CD collection and pulling out old favourites to listen to for a change of pace. Tuesday evening for fun I decided to listen to the soundtrack to the movie Hackers, which had some great techno on it for its time (though a lot of the tracks first appeared in the US on an import album called Technoheadz that's kind of hard to find these days). Songs like those that I used to crank in the car with my buds as we'd hit the road for whatever adventures seventeen year old computer geeks used to have.
They don't move me, anymore.
Underworld, Kruder and Dorfmeister.. on a lark I dug out some MP3s of other bands that I used to really enjoy, like 187 (where did she go?) the Shamen, the Utah Saints... same thing.
The songs feel dated, disconnected. I feel like I love the memories of them and how they used to make me feel, but the songs themselves don't click with me anymore.
Maybe it's the homogenisation and commercialisation of techno that happened around '97 or therabouts. That's usually what takes the magick out of a style of music. Maybe it's the fact that I haven't been a raver or a DJ for many years. Maybe it's because I just burned out on the whole thing and looked elsewhere for music that stirred my biomechanical soul.
It's for certain, now: I'm getting old.
Maybe 'maturation' is a better word for it. I'm more aware of my limits now, and what I do and don't want out of this life. I'm definitely a great deal more picky about things.
I finally admitted to myself that I've reached that phase in my life where I'm looking backward to the music that I grew up listening to.. the music that was on the radio when I was very, very small, about four years of age or so. Back when WBZZ/B-94 FM in Pittsburgh was a fledgling radio station with a tiny transmitter, as commercial radio stations go, and still advertising on KDKA-TV. New wave and synthpop and the earliest versions of hair metal, what some folks nowadays call 'cock rock' (don't ask).
Okay, so hair metal is a guilty pleasure of mine. But I can't deny that I love the sounds of analogue synthesisers, early drum machines with the processing power of my pager, tape loops, and keyboard guitars.
One might carefully call that conditioning. I call it what I grew up listening to, music from a happier time, when all I was worried about was when I'd get to go to kindergarten to see my friends, when I'd get to drive to the grocery store with my grandmother, and when my next fix of markers and Lego blocks would come.
Simple days. Simple times.
A time when I wasn't being bombarded by people with haunted eyes, twitching fingers, shirt pockets full of cigarettes, and the unmistakable feeling that the world was indeed a scary, fucked-up place where people can't seem to get along and the slightest slip during a conference might easily cause a war. When war was a three-letter word that my mind was too small to wrap around. I knew that it was 'bad' but not what it meant. A time when I innocently picked up every last detail in the world but not the nuances. Sort of like reading 2001 or Neuromancer for the first time. There's so much there, you can't apprehend all of it the first time.
I've decided to be happy.
Work and stress and worry and all that sort of thing are part and parcel of being an adult, and always have been. You grow up, you get responsibilities and obligations, and you have to take care of them. The story of life since the first hominids stood erect, probably earlier. But that doesn't mean that these things have to become everything in your life.
I do the work thing. That's a given. I decided, though, that I'd do work that not only supported my lifestyle but also made me happy. That's why I'm a professional computer geek: I love being a geek, so why not get paid for it?
I have friends that love me, and I them. That makes me happy.
I have a wonderful girlfriend who lives me, and I her. That makes me happy.
I'm getting back into not only writing but coding to see what I can make my computers do. That makes me happy.
I've realised that (the indefinite) you can't be happy unless you decide to let yourself be happy. There are innumerable deadlines, panicky phone calls, ringing phones, buzzing pagers, and dozens of e-mails per second piling up in your life every second of every day, but it's important to remember that isn't your life! You can step away from it whenever you want to take a break. Sometimes you have to postpone it until the current crisis is over (it just doesn't work if most of your employers' production network blows up in your face and you decide to take a vacation, that's part of having responsibilities) but when it's done you can damn sure go home and kick back with a cup of tea and a comic book no matter how old you are. It doesn't make you any less professional or dedicated to go dancing once in a while, or go fishing with your kids, or even run down the street after the ice cream truck.
The world can burn itself out as much as it wants. That doesn't mean that I have to let the world burn me to a crisp along with it.
It's finally stopped raining in DC, at least for a while. This morning I was awakened by a bright lance of sunlight that found a way through the blinds in the bedroom, most uncharacteristic of the week thus far. I think the rains are finally over for a time, and the land down here will have a chance to dry itself out and shake itself off. The air is cool but the humidity is definitely noticable and not quite comfortable.
I've been thinking lately about diaries.
I use these memory logs as much as a diary as a soapbox about whatever topics strike my fancy, not only to share parts of my life with the Net at large but to make information available that someone, some time in the future might have a need for. I try to make them as interesting as I can as often as time permits. Sometimes genuinely funny or strange things happen to me, sometimes I'm just in the right place at the right time with my eyes open.
Lately, though, life's been quiet. Not much has been going on of note, and so I haven't felt the need to describe that lack of events in mind-numbing detail. If I felt the need, it would probably read something like this:
Woke up. Took a shower, woke Lyssa up, got dressed. Made lunch, packed my things for work, fed the fish. Got the rental car, picked Lyssa up at the front of the building, dropped her off at work. Drove to work. Walked from the garage to the office building. Dropped my stuff off, got a cup of coffee, sat down to read my e-mail, opened the latest revision of my memory logs and began to type as I found a minute here and there. Opened a couple of newswires in my web browser and started to get my daily fix of world events. Started working after about an hour or so, once I'd gotten settled in and my finished my first cup of coffee. Started handling problems and sundry emergencies as they arose. Had lunch. Went to a meeting or two. Left work to go home when I could. Changed clothes, worked out, left to pick up Lyssa from work. Came home, made dinner. Relaxed. Wrote. Caught up with friends' weblogs. Went to bed.
As I said, there isn't much to it. I won't bore you any more with it.
Something that I've been considering lately is migrating these memory logs over to a real weblogging system of some kind. I've been looking around at some of the more popular packages, like Wordpress, and some of the lesser-known ones, like Blosxom and BashBlogger. My initial experiments with Blosxom were failures because I'm having trouble getting CGI support working under Apache v2.2, namely, I couldn't get Apache to execute the scripts as necessary. At this point in time I'm more inclined to not go the CGI route and use a PHP-based app of some kind, but first I need to get PHP compiled. Another problem that I will need to solve is migrating the memory log archives (all four-plus years of them) into the new weblogging system. From the thirty-thousand foot view, that will be pretty simply given a sufficiently featureful Perl script. If the new app is based on a database, it will still be easy to do, so long as the schema makes sense. Again, Perl would be the perfect utility for the job.
One of the reasons that I'm looking at migrating to a real weblogging system is because the hassle of archiving everything when the files get too large to load is getting to me. Another is that I'd like to set up an RSS or ATOM feed of some kind so that the weblog search engines like Technorati will actually pay attention to my site, to bring more people in. Also, not a few people have contacted me privately to say that they wanted to leave comments to certain posts but couldn't because, well, I didn't have any way of doing so. It's become a prevalent enough question that I think that I should make that available. I toyed with writing a comment CGI script on my own but again, problems with getting Apache's CGI support working have more or less nixed that idea. On the other hand, I don't want the weblogging system to completely replace my site. My homepage might not be much but I did put a lot of time and effort into writing it, and I don't want to have to install a bunch of other applications to re-implement my photo album, random notes, and suchlike. If it's going to come to that, I may as well design my own from scratch.
A few people have suggested that I drop everything and just set up an account on a public service, like Blogger or MySpace. There are two reasons for that: One, I don't much trust code that I can't look at myself - case in point cross-site scripting vulnerability in Livejournal and other sites using its code earlier this year. The other reason comes from what happened to mp3.com years ago, which is that it was bought out and all of the .mp3's on the site became the sole property of the new owner. That doesn't fly with me. That can't happen if I run my own site, independent of an owning or governing body.
The aftermath of flooding in DC is extensive. Both the National Archives and the headquarters of the IRS are closed, for example.
Here's an update on the Freaks United 2006 festival on 4 July 2006: Andrew of the band Iris says that they'll be going on later in the evening, around 2200 EST/EDT.
Yeah, you can tell who I really want to see, can't you?
Someone's been doing som research on how the great firewall of China does what it does, and how to keep it from working in many cases. The actual content analysis is not performed by the routers themselves but by small clusters of computers linked directly to them. If there is a match in the database of naughty net.content, the routers are instructed to fire RST packets (in TCP/IP, this means that the connection is aborted and should be reset, thus RST) to both ends of the connection, thus severing the link. Configuring a firewall to ignore RST packets in general is pretty easy, and with a little deep analysis only the forged RST packets could similiarly be ignored.
Well, this rates on my weirdness meter, and that's pretty hard to do these days: What appears to be a four foot long leopard shark was found in Hesperia, California. No one knows how the hell it got there, but when it was found it was dead for about an hour.
One George Pantazopoulos is re-implementing the SID chip as an FPGA. Yay!
It's finally stopped raining. Traffic is flowing more or less normally in the DC area these days.
The surrealist musical art group called the Residents is releasing a new album called River of Crime, which is patterned after the 'true crimes' radio shows of the 20's and 30's with a twist: The CDs you buy will be blank. You're supposed to go to the website for the band to download the individual tracks as they come out, as well as high-resolution images of disk labels.
In stark contrast to the lists of most influential folks in the industry that often appear in glossy industry magazines, CNN has compiled a list of 10 ten least influential people in business. Rounding out the top three are Bill Ballmer of Microsoft, Jeffrey Citron of Vonage, and Reed Hastings of Netflix.
Gary Numan will be playing the 9:30 club on Wednesday, 9 August 2006!
It's still bloody raining in DC. Parts of downtown DC, like the Capital City Mall (where the reflecting pool is) are flooded and inaccessible. The yard behind my apartment complex is so waterlogged that it's beginning to resemble the neighborhood swimming pool. At least one frog has moved in and taken up residence in what now passes for a swamp and is treating us to an impressively loud courtship call every couple of seconds, loud enough that Lyssa and I can hear it over the rain inside of our doss while the air conditioning is running.
I knew I should have bought an inflatable raft. We'll need it to get to the car pretty soon.
Work thus far today has been interesting, to say the least. It rained for most of last night in the DC metropolitan area, and the power was shaky, to say the least, for a good portion of the evening. I hear that we got about eleven inches (27.94 cm) of rain in total last night. This rain caused a mudslide that knocked out a good portion of the Metrorail system, the vast subway complex that links DC proper, Virginia, and Maryland. The Beltway is also crippled in places due to mudslides and flooding. This morning after we got up, Lyssa checked the local news and discovered, to her chagrin, that delays up to two hours in length on the Metro had snarled the Monday morning commute horribly. She's decided to work from home today because there's an excellent change that she wouldn't make it in to work on time today.
The Washington Post Has an article on it here.
I had my own bit of fun early this morning. The power is out to over 75% of the building I work in, so only one elevator was running, and a good portion of the office's IT infrastructure was knocked offline to boot. I left the office to find an extension cord that was a) long enough to reach some equipment in the server room, and b) could carry enough power to do so safely. By the time I got back the power was, of course, back on but the environment control system in the complex is still offline. I'm sitting in my office dripping with sweat and feeling like I'd like to curl up under a desk to take a nap.
Valence Media, the organisation that runs the famous BitTorrent tracker search engine TorrentSpy has filed documents in the court that name one Robert Anderson as the cracker who compromised their network, as well as a statement written by Mr. Anderson that says that the Motion Picture Association of America contacted him and asked him to gather information on their behest, one way or another.
The very same folks who cheerfully leaked Valerie Plame's name and status as a CIA opertive to the US news media, blowing her cover permanantly, are calling for the New York Times to be brought up on charges for 'compromising America's anti-terrorist policies' because they're writing and publishing critical articles. Representative Peter King of the state of New York accused the Times because they published an article about the Treasury Department monitoring cash transfers into and out of the country in an attempt to suss out transfer of funds to terrorist cells.
Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, meet Pot. Fight nice, you two!
Environment control has finally been restored to my building.
A user of the graphical virtual environment Second Life named Seifert has figured out how to build a house out of a tesseract, a four-dimensional cube. You can walk through the house in a straight line and find yourself right back where you started, as if you were walking on a Mobius strip that twists back upon itself in every direction you can walk in. Virtual gravity also does not work the same way in that sector, because all six sides of each room are furnished to some extent. The way that Seifert implemented the Crooked House is quite novel: The rooms themselves disconnect themselves, move, and reconnect themselves to implement the warped space inside the construct.
It's risky to have fun at airports these days, but this is just beautiful. There are even .mp3 recordings of the announcements on this page.
WinFS won't be a part of Windows Vista. Film at eleven. They're going to roll most of its functionality into the next release of SQLserver and ADO.NET.
It's still raining. The backyard of my apartment building is all but flooded. A couple of nightclubs have cancelled their nights tonight. There are not good signs.
A bandana covered with smiley faces and peace signs worn by a 10 year old deemed likely to provoke a public disturbance.
Busy day.. long day.. slept like a log last night.
Quick heads-up about the game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which is based upon the series of novels of the same name: It's packed full of spyware manufactured by the company Double Fusion (the names of software companies are finally starting to sound like the names of companies in Walter Jon Williams novels.. I'm scared) that keeps track of what you do and how you play and uploads the data to the manufacturing company for analysis and target marketing.
Yay. I'd love to see what they do with the data from everyone who plays as the Antichrist.
Okay. I've got to go to bed. I'll write when I get up.
I'm very much awake and about now (it's 1408 EST/EDT) so I can finally take the time to write about what's been going on.
About a month ago an information technologies company inside the beltway began courting me for a position as a systems architect. I've been keeping it under wraps the whole time, partially to keep from jinxing the entire thing (as discussing potential jobs seems to do to me time and again), and partially because nothing's set in stone until the paperwork has been recieved and signed. There is no sense, a cliche' has it, in counting one's chickens before they have hatched. Just because someone is being courted as a possible employee does not mean that it's a sure thing; you might not get the job after all.
Last Thursday evening I found the paperwork waiting in my e-mail queue, printed it out, and signed it. I then wrote my resignation from Sunrocket and went to bed, having been awake for the better part of a calendar day. I was half-afraid that I'd wake up in the morning and the whole thing would be a dream, an illusion.
The next morning it wasn't a dream.
I've already covered what happened on Friday morning so I won't belabor the point. My boss, upon reading the short letter I'd typed up the night before, asked me if there was anything that he could offer to make me stay on. Unfortunately, they can't offer me a benefits package that would make me change my mind at this point in Time, and the change in salary would be enough to let Lyssa and I live quite comfortably where we are, rather than in such a way that we have to plan purchases of over $150us in advance. The DC area is a wonderful place, but it's very expensive to live in. The price differential between the suburbs and downtown DC isn't that great, to be honest.
Word is slowly getting around at work. A few folks have already found out, and I'm sure that more will know by Monday. The ironic thing is, and I doubt that it could have been timed better, I resigned precisely one year to the day after signing on at SR.
Friday night was an interesting time: Kash, Duo, Hummingwolf, Lyssa, and I trucked out to the Arlington Brewhouse to catch a showing of Serenity, the movie that continues the now-defunct television series Firefly on the big screen. The proceeds of the showing were donated to a charity called Equality Now, which campaigns for equality of the sexes around the world.
Lyssa, Hummingwolf, and I piled into my rental car after work and headed out to Uno's just down the street to get dinner, in the form of fondue and pizza, and then returned to meet up with Kash and Duo. I grabbed my duster and we set out to find the movie theatre. As it turns out it wasn't all that far away, about a half-hour away on Route-50. It was trickier to find the right exit but made it there without any real trouble. Finding a parking space proved to be a more difficult task becuase the parking lots in a one-block radius were all taken up.
The Arlington Drafthouse is a movie theatre very much like the old Beehive in Pittsburgh - it's big and cozy inside, with tables and easy chairs at the back where you can sit, eat, drink, and generally have a good time. The theatre was packed with browncoats, though only a few cosplayer were about: A Kaylee or two, a couple interpretations of Mal (including one female), a Wash or two, but that was about itSerenity, the movie that continues the now-defunct television series Firefly on the big screen. The proceeds of the showing were donated to a charity called Equality Now, which campaigns for equality of the sexes around the world.
Lyssa, Hummingwolf, and I piled into my rental car after work and headed out to Uno's just down the street to get dinner, in the form of fondue and pizza, and then returned to meet up with Kash and Duo. I grabbed my duster and we set out to find the movie theatre. As it turns out it wasn't all that far away, about a half-hour away on Route-50. It was trickier to find the right exit but made it there without any real trouble. Finding a parking space proved to be a more difficult task becuase the parking lots in a one-block radius were all taken up.
The Arlington Drafthouse is a movie theatre very much like the old Beehive in Pittsburgh - it's big and cozy inside, with tables and easy chairs at the back where you can sit, eat, drink, and generally have a good time. The theatre was packed with browncoats, though only a few cosplayer were about: A Kaylee or two, a couple interpretations of Mal (including one female), a Wash or two, but that was about it. I'm not sure if it was the humidity and heat or what, but most everyone was there to eat, drink, and make merry while watching a favourite movie.
We ordered and sat back to watch the movie and relax after a long, long week. Duo was kind enough to buy me a beer to celebrate, a microbrew served with a slice of orange that was surprisingly sweet and tasty.
You've got to love browncoats - they don't drown out the movie by reciting well-known lines, but they know when to bust a gut.
We left the theatre a little after midnight on Saturday morning and after discovering that we'd somehow gone the way we needed to go and yet wound up going in the opposite direction and had to turn around in the very same parking lot that we'd turned around in earlier that night, found our way back to the apartment to crash for the night. Our guests set up shop on the floor wherever they could, and we retired for the night. I stayed up late to throw a couple of loads of laundry in, vis a vis towels and suchlike so that everyone could get a decent shower on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning brought with it a late start (around 1200 EST/EDT or so), pancakes (when Lyssa gets going in the kitchen, stay out of her way unless you're there to get a cup of coffee), and taking turns in the shower to get cleaned up. We all had a couple of errands to run that day, so Lyssa stayed behind and the rest of us piled into my rental car to roam around the stores and see what we could find. Kash bought a wireless network card to carry with him. All of us piled around Borders, as one would expect. I picked up a couple of textbooks to get up to speed for my new job, the first Ghost in the Shell novel (I haven't started to read it so I don't know if it sucks or not), and a couple of those blank sketchbooks that I love so much that Borders has on clearance. If they're not going to carry them anymore I'd like to have a few to last me for a couple of years.
Duo surprised me with a gift from himself and Lyssa: A $30us gift card to celebrate my new job. This caught me completely by surprise - no one's ever done that for me before.
Our next stop was Petsmart to get betta supplies. I couldn't help but wander around next to the fish tanks while I was there.. Petsmart is not known for taking good care of its livestock. The fish are usually sickly and the cats and dogs often require a vet's care after adoption because they're usually injured. The body count in the small fish tanks was obvious - they don't even remove the dead fish, and it's not unusual to see the other fish nibbling at them to supplement their diet. In one tank, shared by miniature crabs and fish, the bottom looked like an undersea battlefield: Fish and crabs tore at one another with abandon, and the casualties littered the gravel at the bottom. Crabs dismembered one another and attacked the more mobile fish as they could. The fish nibbled daintily at the dead crabs at the bottom of the tank when they could steal a couple of seconds to do so.
I really hate going there. Most folks I know tend to get animals from Petsmart to rescue the healthiest ones.
We then headed out to get lunch (by this time it was fast aproaching 1700) at a Chipotle franchise not too far away and returned home. Last night was also game night for the first night in one and a half months (things being things, none of us could get together in the same place at the same time, save for WtT, where we had other things on our minds), so Hasufin and Mika came over with their dicebags and collections of books.. they also game me a couple of CDs of Henry Rollins' spoken word pieces as celebratory gifts.
Nobody's ever done that for me before. Surprise me with celebrating a new job or anything like that, I mean.
I really do love my friends.
We had to do a bit of running around first, to pick up the pizza and get soda for everyone.. oh, and to throw in a load of laundry, something that badly needed to get done this week. Once that was done and over with, though, we sat down to wrap up part of a scenario that we'd started over a month ago, with a scared little girl who didn't realise what she was doing. Or what she was really capable of.
We wrapped up around 0200 EST/EDT again, as we usually do, and crawled off to bed to sleep for a couple of hours.
Everyone headed out around 1200 EST/EDT today, after a breakfast of coffee and leftover pizza from last night. Lyssa and I haven't done much since then, just recuperated and laid around reading. I've been trying to teach myself to burn video DVDs lately (mostly at the request of Heron, who missed it when the Sci-Fi channel showed the last episode of Doctor Who, season 27/1, called The Parting of the Ways.
Anyway, his Tivo didn't record it and he's trying to find a copy of it. I have one that I've been trying to convert into a video DVD, and while the video looks great, though the aspect ratio's been a little off because I've been trying various resolutions and screen sizes (hint: letterboxing does not, in fact, always look good), the real problem is that I can't get the audio track to work. I've burned quite a few coasters lately because of this.
Oh, well. The beat goes on.
It's now 2116 EST/EDT on Sunday. Lyssa and I just finished watching the latest episode of season 28/2 of Doctor Who, called Fear Her.
I won't write too much about it here, but I will say this: This is one of the few episodes that I genuinely enjoyed this season. It was well written and the plot was both moving and creepy as all hell.
The BBC really spoiled the season finale with the trailer, though. Thanks a lot, guys.
A former officer for the US Central Intelligence Agency claims that data from informants marked as suprious or inaccurate was used anyway as justification for military operations in Iraq.
Word's gotten out that Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of The Illuminatus Trilogy and too many books to list, is on his deathbed in a hospice.
Whatever happens will happen, Mr. Wilson. We will all miss you terribly.
So, I've had a very interesting morning, as they go.
Regular readers are no doubt aware of the minor wreck I was in a week or two ago en route to Reagan International Airport to pick up Bladeless Axe. I've been setting up things with my insurance company and the local car dealership to get my car fixed this week. I got the go-ahead and cheque from the insurance company, set up an appointment with the dealership's body shop, and reserved a car with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for transportation in the week-to-ten days the TARDIS will be in the shop. I figured that everything was a 'go'.
Well, things are never that simple. First, I must mention the thunderstorm that hit the DC metropolitan area late last night, which also incidentally knocked out the alarm clock around 0100 EST/EDT today. This is important, as will soon be made clear.
I dropped the TARDIS off and waited for the Enterprise rep to pick me up and drive me back to the lot to get my rental car. I realised something was up when the rep mentioned that the storm last night had knocked everything out at the office, so there would probably be a wait..
The wait turned into an hour because everything had been knocked out. My credit card couldn't be verified, nor could my reservation be pulled up because their computer network was offline. Their phones were ringing off the hook, even when picked up, because the PABX had crashed. During the small talk that ensued as the rep I was dealing with hunted down the necessary forms to set things in motion, it came up that I'm a system admin.
"Hey, maybe you could help us out," he joked.
So I rolled my sleeves up, set my backpack down, and jumped into the fray. Their terminals are pretty standard Pentium-II based thin clients that make a connection to a server somewhere else - they kept displaying error messages to the effect of "Cannot connect to server".
They lead me back to the wiring closet, where I took a quick look at their setup. They've got a relatively modern PABX system, a network router and link (probably a T-1, for the number of phone lines they've got on the PSTN), a few punchdowns for internal phones and networks, and a modem. The modem, upon examination, had no indicator lights active, was still turned on, and was almost uncomfortably hot to the touch.
Not a good sign.
I picked up the modem and sniffed at it, and was greeted with the mingled odors of burned resin, semiconductors, and solder. The magick smoke got out, probably due to a power surge late last night. As the modem died, it probably kicked the PABX in a tender place and it fell over, which would explain the phones ringing constantly and lack of connectivity in either direction. I disconnected the dead modem and informed the staff that they'd have to get a new one, and that they could do so by taking it down to Circuit City, Officemax, or the like (all of which are about a block away) and buy a new one. For grins, I popped the modem open with my multitool to examine it, and lo and behold found scorched circuitry just behind the RJ-11 jack that plugs into the PSTN via the wall jack.
It was a little like closing the eyes of someone who's died when I turned off the PABX. They're going to have to call their maintenance team to fix that sucker. I don't know if the PABX is okay because I didn't have the right cables to jack my laptop into it, but their modem's done for, and the router might have to undergo diagnostics just to be safe.
So, all told, I got a bigger car out of the deal and made it to work around 0930 EST/EDT. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
A Different Drum is having another overstock firesale, with a lot of good stuff going for next to nothing, like classic 80's singles remastered (A-Ha and Bananarama come immediately to mind), Count To Infinity's albums, some of the Pure Sessions limited release albums from Cosmicity, and some awesome singles from bands that you probably haven't heard of before for a song ($2us or so). Check it out and see if anything looks interesting.
Todd Durant is an awesome guy. Show him some love.. it's the only way that synthpop will continue to be available.
An interesting development in electro-medicine, of all things, was announced by the American Headache Society. Researchers studying migraine headaches have discovered that a strong magnetic pulse to the back of the head can stop or lessen migraines while they are in the early stages. The theory behind it is this: The brain works on chemo-electrical principles; electricity and magnetism are inextricably intertwined.. whenever you have one, you have the other, without fail. Migraine headaches are characterised by noticably odd flurries of electrical activity in the brain, so by that reasoning, a strong magnetic field can interrupt the electrical storm, as they call it, that heralds an oncoming migraine. Lo and behold, the electrical activity is disrupted and the migraine takes a hit. At the least, the severity of the headache (which can easily lay sufferers up for a week at a time) is greatly lessened.
Here's some lovely news for a Friday morning: Someone cracked the US Department of Agriculture network and downloaded over 26000 personnel files, including Social Security Numbers.. and file photographs. Everything you'd need to not only steal someone's identity, but make some fake government IDs.
Guess what? The US government has been secretly monitoring financial transactions as well as communications of private citizens without warrants. (registration required - Bugmenot can hook you up). Is anyone surprised anymore?
Library Director Michele Reutty is in trouble for refusing to release library records until a subpoena was served. The story goes like this: A local man threatened a child at the library, who subsequently reported it to the police. The police wanted to use the library loan records to figure out who it was because the man showed her the book he'd checked out. She wouldn't show the records until they went to the court and got a subpoena. She will probably face disciplinary action for following the laws as they are written and is facing anything from a reprimand to unpaid suspension.
Skype, in addition to being a nifty VoIP utility, also includes a text-based IM cilent, similiar to Google Chat or AIM. The version made available in China, however, censors conversations depending on a keyword dictionary. A third party makes available a Skype client in China, presumably localised for one of the major dialects of Chinese. When it's installed, though, it installs a hidden application and an encrypted dictionary file and sets to work intercepting and editing conversations. Check out the test results in the article...
Fyodor has released his survey of the top 100 network security tools for 2006. The top ten tools are, in order, Nessus (which is now closed-source), Wireshark (formerly Ethereal), Snort, the various forms of Netcat, Metasploit, Hping2, Kismet, TCPdump, Cain and Abel, and John the Ripper.
Tired of the traditional coffee stain-rings on all of your papers because they happened to be good places to put your mugs? Check out coffee mugs that stamp designs instead.
Geez.. record clubs were easier to get out of back in the 1980's.
There is now an extension for Mozilla Firefox that implements Voice-Over-IP functionality, to better integrate voice communication and the web. It doesn't depend on anything, the whole VoIP implementation is built into the extension itself. If there is a valid SIP number in a webpage (say, in an e-mail), you can click on it and it will automatically dial that person's number... this is nifty stuff.
A laptop at a conference self-destructed in a spectacular manner, and the whole thing was caught on camera.
It's come out that police are going to data brokers to get information on people rather than getting warrants and suchlike because they can get more information than usual as well as being easier to pull off. Why do legwork when you can buy a go-to on someone for $60us and expense it? Yes, it violates privacy laws in the US, and yes some of the companies make no bones about using illegal methods to get their hands on this information in the first place, but they're not going to stop doing it...
I hate to break it to folks, but skiptracers and private investigators have been doing stuff like this since time immemorial. PIs have bribed, cajoled, and threatened folks in offices into coughing up information and going to the bathroom while filing cabinets were conveniently left unlocked for years. Tiger teams have bought blueprints to facilities to assist them since they started organising and taking corporate and military customers, which was verifiably in the mid 1990's, though probably closer to the early 1980's. If someone wants to get their hands on something, they're going to go to any lengths to do it. They are talking about passing laws that will restrict what the info-brokers can and cannot acquire (like cellphone call records) and what they can and cannot sell. That's not going to do a lick of good. Just like gambling and some forms of porn, they moved offshore, to countries that have no such laws. Just because your databases are housed in, say, Israel, that doesn't mean that you can't get information on people in the United States. VoIP technology is such that calling between countries is trivial and cheap. There is also nothing that says that those companies couldn't contract PIs inside the country to gather data, or that agreements can't be cut with offshore arms of US companies, where the laws are a bit fuzzier.
Since the Jack Abramoff scandal earlier this year, the lands inside the beltway have undergone a housecleaning that is still going on to this day. Lobbyists are quaking in fear as former Bush official David Safavian was indicted on charges of corruption in connection with Abramoff. Safavian joins a list that includes Tony Rudy (former aide to Tom DeLay), Michael Scanlon (former business partner and aide to DeLay who pled guilty in November of 2005 to charges of conspiring to bribe public officials), and Neil Volz (who pled guilty to charges of conspiracy). The list of officials who are being put through the wringer is much longer at this point in history, and the names are being checked twice, you can be sure. It's not a good time to be crooked in Washinton, DC, these days...
The field of high-performance computing has gotten another shot in the arm from research done by IBM and the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the form of processor cores based upon silicon-germanium (that's actually not so special, both elements are commonly used in the manufacture of semiconductors), but are capable of running at speeds in excess of 500GHz when supercooled. The article goes on to compare them to the processors inside cellphones.. apples and oranges. They really should be compared to the CPUs inside of high-performance servers and workstations, which are at present swiftly approaching 4GHz, and that's still nothing to sneeze at. The experimental CPUs they've been working with appear to use superconducting principles in their operation - the design requirements came from NASA, which is looking at new computing technologies for use in deep space, where it's damnably cold most the time (and when it's not it's damnably hot). Again, that's nothing to sneeze at.
Whoever wrote this article probably wasn't a techie, and it shows. There are just enough inaccuracies to make the clueful sit up and scratch their heads. The thought of a CPU that runs at half a terahertz, however, will give any full blooded techie a geekbone.
An internal document leaked from the Pentagon has blood pressure and hackles rising around the contry - they still consider homosexuality a mental disorder. The document in question outlines reasons that service members could be discharged, and homosexuality still ranks up there with certain personality disorders and physical disabilities. Homosexuality was taken out of the DSM.. when? 1973?
More whistleblowers are coming out of the woodwork from AT&T about another NSA monitoring station built into a switching station in St. Louis, Missouri back in 2002 and presumably in operation ever since then. The people who came forward explained the security measures that they'd seen while working there, which included biometric authentication, mantraps to apprehend intruders, and solid steel doors without visible locks or handles to move equipment in or out. Pretty standard stuff for a facility rated Top Secret in the US.
So... who HAVE you been talking to on the phone lately, gentle reader? And about what?
Ordinarily, I don't much read Wired Magazine. I don't really have anything against it per se, I just don't have a lot of interest in popular culture, electronic or otherwise. I'm usually after more hard technical information, but every once in a while an article on the cover catches my eye and I go in search of it.. like this one:
Bob Lazar and his wife Joy White, who live in Nevada got raided back in 2003 because their company sells chemicals and sundry scientific gear on the open market because the US government is afraid that folks could cook up crystal meth or explosives with his products.
That's understandable, when you think about it - companies have been requiring purchase orders on school or corporate letterheads for chemicals since the 1980's, though probably more for keeping motivated kids from teaching themselves how to make explosives than anything else. United Nuclear, however, also sells samples of radioisotopes for various purposes, and knowing Lazar, the bit about his having a particle accelerator in his back yard is probably true - he knows enough about how to build one, and it would be the only way to synthesise some of the stuff that he sells.
What I find interesting, though, is some of their reasoning. It takes a lot of stuff to cook the kinds of explosives that they've keeping an eye out for, like plastique or nitroglycerin. Historically, bombings have been done with what are technically termed improvised explosives, involving such things as readily available fertilisers, which aren't, as far as I know, regulated. They also give as their justification the desire to prevent kids from making their own fireworks and injuring themselves. This doesn't wash when you think a little and realise that it's trivial to go to the interstate highway and drive for an hour to one of the little stores and, for a couple of US dollars, buy fireworks that could take your hand off up the forearm if you're not careful. Kids are more interested in blowing stuff up than they are in actually making the stuff to blow stuff up. To date, nothing's been able to curb the sale of strings of Blackcat firecrackers dozens of feet in length (you know the ones I'm talking about.. the ones they sell in Ohio with labels that say "These will still be going off by the time they take you to jail!") or other fireworks that are labelled as M-[0-9]* with no sense of accuracy at all.
The article goes on to talk about geeks, amateur chemistry, and the fact that more and more schools aren't actually teaching chemistry anymore, let alone hard science. It's cheaper to show videos of college professors doing things in the lab than it is to set up a chemistry lab and buy the insurance these days, though thinking back to my high school chemistry classes and some of the jag-offs I went to school with, maybe that's not such a bad thing in some places. Nevertheless, this does have a serious impact upon public education these days: More and more kids these days treat knowledge as disposable and don't really try to learn anything (in the sense of having knowledge to carry with you through life). People in years gone by were much more well-rounded than people are today. Specialisation is seen as desirable in the workforce, and being knowledgable in topics outside of your career is seen as eccentric, at the very least. Something that I find heartening is that the folks who are serious about learning chemistry on their own (no mean feat) are going to great lengths to be able to do their thing, like refining their own reagents and using whatever they can get their hands on.
Those of you who are quick to state that meth labs will start doing the same thing should know this: They've been doing that for years, if not decades, now. Usually only enough to cook what they're trying to cook, and not much more than that.
Science finds a way.
Oh, quick heads-up for folks: If you go to the Microcenter outlet in northern Virginia, they've got copies of 802.11 Wireless Networks from O'Reilly for sale for $8us each.
Curious about the English words that Google China censors? Check out the list.
Opthamologists discovered that a cancer drug called Avastin can be used to treat macular degeneration, which leads to irreversible blindness. Genentech, the company that developed Avastin is releasing it formally for macular degeneration under the name Lucentis, with a pricetag of $1842us per dose as a result. If they don't sign off on the licensing for Avastin, it'll be next to impossible for opthamologists to get hold of.
A fourteen year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a man she met on MySpace not too long ago. Now she and her mother are suing MySpace for $30mus for not protecting her from this assault.
This is lamentable, yes. I won't go into what should happen to the guy who raped her, because that's for the courts to decide (and when last I checked in this country, people were legally considered innocent until proven guilty, and deciding this man's guilt or innocence is not my job because I'm not on the jury). But for pity's sake, people, you don't sue MySpace for failing to protect you. The 14 year-old should have had enough common sense to not hook up with this guy without having a plan in place, having someone with her watching her back.. hell, without using a little common sense. Yes, she was raped. She also needs to take responsibility for what lead up to it and not blame a social networking site for the rape. MySpace didn't cause her to be raped, no more than going to a nightclub is to blame for getting slipped roofies.
Round one.. fight!
Let me see... Friday night was a night on the town with Lyssa and Fuscia, who happened to be in the DC area at a conference in Maryland. Not only was she presenting but she'd also volunteered for the con staff, which didn't leave a whole lot of free time, but she made time in her busy schedule to go to the Macaroni Grille in Rockville with us and hang out for a couple of hours. After work on Friday afternoon I headed home to switch out some stuff in my backpack, get on the Metro, and truck down to Maryland to meet Lyssa at the station. On the way I got some reading done and did quite a bit of writing on a project that I've been working on, but wrapped up when Lyssa met me at the station. The hotel was, unfortunately, quite a haul through rush hour traffic (on a Friday night, no less) on foot to get there.
The trip, however, was well worth it.
I wasn't keeping track of how long were were out or anything like that, I was only enjoying the company of two beautiful women, decent Italian food, and good coffee (which is as rare as hen's teeth down here). Lyssa and I got home around 2130 EST/EDT on Friday night, after spending a good couple of hours shooting the bull and catching up. The rest of the night at home was spent relaxing, Lyssa playing video games and I writing as fast as I could get the words out.
Saturday was sort of a slow day. I got up early because I got it into my head to clean (the apartment had taken on a decidedly shabby appearance since Walking the Thresholds last weekend) and spent an hour or two running around, picking stuff up, throwing stuff away, shredding junk mail, and basically doing the whole housekeeping thing. It didn't take very long to get everything taken care of around the apartment, it was actually less work than it appeared to be given the bulk of stuff laying around. Sleeping bags from last weekend take up a good bit of room but aren't actually a big deal when it comes to moving them around and putting them away. On Saturday afternoon Lyssa took a break from writing and we roamed around a while to relax. We wound up at the Game Parlor again, where Lyssa picked up some of the Blue Rose RPG books (after being given the blessing of the game's designer to bastardise the world it's set in, she's been merrily reworking the premise of the storyline) and I wandered around for a while, just browsing. I've decided that the Lawnmower Man figurines aren't really all that, so I'm not going to buy them. I did, however, pick up the Etherscope core book, which is a game based in a steampunk world (think cyberpunk in Victorian London and you're on the right track). Seeing as how steampunk was the look I was shooting for when I go to Saloncon in a couple of months, I figured that I'd best get with the programme before I forgot again.
We stopped off for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Indian place at the mall called Sully Kabob (helpfully labelled with a sign that reads "Kabobs, Etc.") (13912 Metrotech Drive; Chantilly, VA 20150; telephone number 703-817-0733), which has amazingly tasty food. The kabobs are excellent, the curry is just hot enough to be interesting and the naan is pulled right out of the tandoori and served to you steaming hot. Yeah, it's in a strip mall, but it's good. If you're in Chantilly, go here before heading back in the direction of home. We were going to Jarin's on Saturday night for his housewarming party, and we wanted to stop off to pick up something, which wound up being one of Whole Paycheque's cherry pies (and a gluten-free cherry pie for Kash, who was already there). We also stopped off at our respective toystores of choice (Micro Center for me, Michael's for Lyssa) to nose around a little bit.
Ye flipping gods, CPUs are expensive. I think I'm going to wait for the AMD 64-bit X2 CPUs to come down a bit more in price before I finish working on Leandra.
After heading home, Lyssa and I sat down to work on our respective projects for a while and eventually get together the things we'd be taking with us. Kash asked us to bring his PS2 games and datacard; Hiro requested the DDR pads; Lyssa thought it would be a good idea to bring some DVDs, which amounted to her copies of the Utena boxed set and Mirrormask, which not many of us had seen.
It took us two tries to find Jarin's new apartment. While he's not actually all that far away from us, we didn't go quite far enough the first time and had to make a second (successful) attempt. By the time we got there Kash and Hiro had been hanging out for a while with Jarin. The four of us decided to head out for a quick Thai dinner, which involved piling into the TARDIS, driving to the mall, and then hiking to the Tara Thai just down the street from Lyssa's brother's condo for takeout. This took us about an hour, all things considered, including a quick stop off in the mall so Hiro could pick something up at EB Games.
Rialian and Helen stopped by not long after we got back to Jarin's apartment. We sat around for an hour or so talking and catching up on things, and then popped in Mirrormask for entertainment. The only way to watch that movie is with the lights off, it's the only way to see all the detail in everything. The movie is like one of Dave McKean's paintings come to life, and you really have to keep a close eye on what's going on to really appreciate it.
I think we wrapped everything up around 0130 EST/EDT on Sunday morning, and headed back home through the now-empty streets in the TARDIS.
On Sunday morning our roles were reversed - I slept in while Lyssa got up early to work on the piece she's been writing. She did that for most of the day while I wandered in and out for various reasons. I was on close watch for work on Sunday, so I had to stay relatively close to a networked computer, but I did foray out from time to time to do grocery shopping and meet with Duo and Kash, who returned the stuff that Lyssa and I had left behind by accident last night. Thankfully, it was a reasonably quiet day, and nothing blew up on any particular front.
Worth1000.com strikes again - Boy Scout merit badges.
The US government has had folks working on new and creative ways of erasing hard drives, on the off chance that aircraft equipped with computers that use them ever go down in unfriendly territory again. The traditional methods of making sure that data can't be pulled off of the disks, like taking a sledgehammer to the drives, putting a bullet through them, or heating them to temperatures at which the platters, if nothing else, would be reduced to puddles of molten metal don't really work safely in aircraft, especially those still on the wing. The gist of the new system is that it requires super-powerful rare earth magnets that turn every last bit of data on the drives into some other bit, hopefully at random, and probably cause the platters to bend in their housing so that they won't spin anymore. The device, at the moment, weighs about 125 pounds, but they'll be working feverishly to get the weight down for practical use, no doubt.
Been working today because it's Father's ay. Lots went on, though not much of it was bad. Been a busy weekend, too.
I'll write about it tomorrow, because I've actually gotten some sleep.
V3 of the Timewar fanvid is up.
I'm of two minds over this incident in Detroit, Michigan as the court saw it. Yesterday, the US Supreme Court decided that police really don't have to announce who they are before they kick your door in on a raid. It went down something like this: Detroit police were executing a search warrant on the apartment of one Booker T. Hudson where they found both enough drugs for distribution and guns at the ready. Warrant served, Hudson was picked up, tried, and convicted. The case wound up in the Supreme Court on the grounds that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the process because the police didn't shout "Police! Open up!" before they forced their way in.
On one hand, common law as it's understood in this country (which the Supreme Court did, in fact, recognise) states that uninvited visitors, such as law enforcement serving a warrant, must identify themselves. This has stood up time and again in court. On the other hand, executing a search and seizure via dynamic entry under a warrant isn't exactly the safest thing that a cop could do on the job. In fact, cutting off the supply of beer to a college campus during midterms and defending your actions with only a one-cup piece of Tupperware is probably more dangerous, but how often does that happen?
Okay, so it's a lame joke. I'm trying out this whole "sense of humour" thing. Work with me.
Anyway, police breaking down a door and executing a raid is probably just as likely to get you killed as it is likely to result in the goods being seized and the suspect being taken into custody. Cops have been killed doing this, and it's natural that they'd want to protect themselves on the job, hence, not announcing who they are.
The legal ramifications of this are considerable: Insofar as safety is concerned, the criminal element is, of course, going to react to this development and it's going to get even more dangerous. On the other hand, search and seizure warrants get served on the innocent as well as the guilty, and the US legal system is already up to its ass in alligators with lawsuits, frivolous and not. This precedent, if it's used too often, is just going to make things worse.
This is one to keep an eye on, folks.
The Pirate Bay is back.. and if you ping that hostname, you'll see their opinion of the temporary takedown in black and white.
Helix: A quarterly web magazine of speculative fiction. There aren't any subscription fees, they only ask that you donate a little to help pay the authors.
After being embarassed by the fiasco surrounding the presentation of one Michael Lynn last year, Cisco Systems is now a platinum-level sponsor of the Blackhat Briefings, held in Las Vegas, Nevada this year days before Defcon. This means that their moniker is all over the conference handouts like cheese on pizza.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is suing the DoD over a project called TALON to find out who, exactly, they've been keeping an eye on. TALON is a project meant to keep track of people who might have links to terrorists.. but word got out that they're keeping a close eye on such groups as the ACLU itself, Greenepace, and the Veterans for Peace.
Not long after the beating of Rodney King by the Las Angeles Police Department way back when, the people of South Central LA took over 14 acres of land that had been abandoned and turned it into a farm, the produce of which was used to feed many of the people of South Central for over a decade. Early Tuesday morning, sheriff's deputies and bulldozers threw the farmers out and destroyed the farm by the order of one Ralph Horowitz. For years, the farmers tried to go through legal channels to purchase the land from the city, which took over the farm when Horowitz originally lost ownership of it through emminent domain, but paperwork moves more slowly than most annelids in winter at the municipal level, and Horowitz bought it back from Las Angeles. Horowitz refused all attempts to buy the land from him, even going so far as to turn down the $10mus that he was offered for the farm. All attempts to go through legal channels to prevent the destruction of the farm were stonewalled.
Hee hee hee... neat.
Customers of Home Depot in Massachusetts have been getting more for their money: People have been finding drugs hidden in merchandise. One contractor found a total of 100 pounds of marijuana hidden in a bathroom vanity purchased as part of a contract job.
An interesting article on Wal-Mart's data centre in Arkansas. They compare it to a certain famous military facility in terms of secrecy and security, and it's said that the local county assessor of properties can't get in to look around without signing a non-disclosure agreement. No one's been able to determine exactly how much storage or processing power they've got in there, sort of like the NSA's research facilities. Word on the street has it that they've got space for at least 460 terabytes of data, probably more in 2006. The structure is designed so that it sits directly on bedrock and has taken into account virtually every natural disaster that could happen in Arkansas. This is like something right out of the CISSP study guides.
OpenMortal is back in development. Now where did I put that video camera..?
500 things Mr. Welsh is no longer allowed to do in-game.
Screenings of Serenity will be held around the country on 23 June 2006.
Whoa. Sleep good. Actually got some REM sleep, I think.
The insurance adjuster took a look at my car yesterday afternoon after I got home from work. Because he didn't come on Monday morning, as we'd agreed, he was nice enough to make up for it by braving the Beltway at rush hour to check out my car. If you've never seen this happen before, the adjuster photograps the odometer of the car as well as the little metal plate inside the door frame on the driver's side that has the VIN (vehicle identification number) engraved upon it. They also take careful notes on the options installed in the car, the better to figure out the actual monetary value of the vehicle. The main show involves photographing the reported damage in as much detail as possible for the purpose of documentation and probably debate with the other driver's insurance company. I'm told that I'll get the damage estimate some time today, at which time I'll be dropping the TARDIS off at the local dealership for a re-work. I also need to get in touch with my old insurance company about the damage recieved last year as I was moving down to Virginia, but that's a different story.
Between Lyssa and myself last night, we barely had the motivation of a hamster with a hookah, so we ordered a pizza and sat around watching Doctor Who and caught up on our e-mail and RSS feeds. Later in the evening I had it together enough to throw a load of laundry in for today but that was about it. It was wonderful to get some real sleep last night - looking back on things, my writing over the past couple of days has been dodgy, at best, bordering on incoherent in places. I'll probably go back and clean things up. To answer some of the questions that I've been getting via e-mail, the report I gave to the insurance company was much more coherent than what I've been writing lately.
Okay. Enough about sleep deprivation and my car.
It's come down from on high - Karl Rove will not be prosecuted for leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the US news media. The investigation is closed, they declared, and George W. Bush was quoted as saying that "It's a chapter that has ended," though without any resolution. Special counsel has decided to not file charges.
A new genre of science fiction?
I've been wondering how long it would take for this to wind up in the papers: Students are using illicitly acquired pharmaceuticals, so-called smart drugs, to enhance performance in class. In other words, drug induced overachiever's syndrome... drugs like Adderall and Provigil, which are used to treat ADHD in kids. As with anything in the US, there's always a way to get hold of something if you want it that badly. When I was in high school in the late 1990's, I knew of kids who got themselves diagnosed with ADHD so that they could be prescribed Ritalin. Most of the time they took it themselves to eke out a few more points on the AP exams, but some of the folks who did that turned an impressive profit selling it to the other students. I also know of a few folks who were using it to study for certifications. I'm pretty sure that one or two aced the NT4 MCSEs after cramming for a day or two, though I don't know how well they retained the data after the tests were over.
Worth1000.com does it again - this time it's UFO sightings.
I'm not big on watching television, but I'd love to see this commercial on the air (safe for work).
Mentos and Coke: Together at last!
Last night, Lyssa, Bladeless, and I trucked out to Rialian's place, by way of a local Thai restaurant, to spend some time with the folks that haven't flown back home yet after Walking the Thresholds. At first there was some confusion because Bladeless and I drove around trying to find a car rental dealership that promised that it was right across the street from the local movie theatre...
"Right across the street" in a "two blocks east, in the shopping plaza, next to the dollar store" kind of way.
Once we found the bloody place it wasn't too difficult to get her a car, get back home, and then get everything going to set out for dinner and time with folks. In hindsight, none of us really should have ordered the appetizers, but what can you do when you haven't gone shopping for food since you've gotten home?
It didn't take us very long to get to Rialian's place, much to my surprise. Once we hit the beltway it took less than a half hour to arrive, counting traffic. Unfortunately, everyone had gone out to dinner while we were en route, probably because we'd get stuck in rush hour traffic and be late by an hour or so, anyway. It never fails. Rather than kill time and get eaten alive by the tiger mosquitos that breed so prolifically in the creek across the road from Rialian's house, we headed out once more for Mosaic in Rockville, Maryland to meet up with everyone for dessert while they had dinner. Much to my surprise, there was a full house, as just about everyone showed up for last night. The Portland contingent was there, as was Laurelinde and the rest of the house. I can't wait for some of the pictures that Bladeless took of everyone goofing off and having a good time (and frightening the other folks in the restaurant - we made sure to tip very well to make up for the ruckus caused).
Back at Rialian's place, I discovered that one of the guys from Portland that Lyssa and I were talking to is an RPG developer: He was the original developer of Blue Rose, along with a couple of other famous game supplements, such as Convention Book: Iteration-X and some other material for Mage.
I spent a good portion of the evening working on Helen's Linux box - she's been trying to install a v2.6 kernel on a Debian v3.1 system, and most of the kernels she's tried just won't boot. I did some looking around and found that there are some bugs in the specific revisions of the kernel that she's been trying to run insofar as AMD kernels are concerned which deal with the APIC subsystem. I downloaded and uncompressed the latest v2.6 kernel tree I could get from kernel.org and set about configuring it for Helen's computer. Unfortunately I've not done a Debian kpkg build in a long while so I ran a plain-jane compile and left the rest for Rialian to handle when it was finished because we had to head back home for work today.
We didn't actually leave for home until 0030 EST/EDT or therabouts. Lyssa and I are running on about five hours of sleep apiece today.
Google Earth is now available for Linux! It's a self-extracting shell script that contains a BZip2 compressed archive of some kind. I haven't taken too close a look at it yet, but I see signs of both a CRC check and an MD5 message digest, so it might try to verify the integrity of the archive before installing it, which has certain implications for analysis and installation. I'll write more about it later.
Let's see.. where did I leave off last night before my body powered itself down? Oh, yeah... right...
Friday night was a night of wandering around seeing folks, greeting folks, and meeting folks. I wandered back and forth for a while with Chris and Robin, between the fire and drumming circle, Camp Lesbodia (the crew that budded off of the original Camp Cambodia because running two camps simultaneously was too resource intensive, and yes, it is comprised almost entirely of women), the pavillion down by the kitchen (which most people did not spend as much time at this weekend), and back to the fire circle. After the drummers were done and the fires began to flag, the few of us left round the fire gathered together to.. well.. goof off.
Benny wore his half-cloak, which was easily large enough to keep most of us warm even though the fire in the circle was much smaller than it was an hour before, and my duster was more than enough to cover the remainder of the people standing around. Somehow Jade wound up in the middle of everyone again, along with Lyssa, N-, Kash, and myself. We screwed around like this, standing at the edge of the drum circle like a leather-clad LARP shoggoth for some period of time, until everyone grew tired of standing and went their separate ways for their own reasons.
I headed back to the Tent Majal to set up our sleeping bags, viz, the two borrowed from Kash and the third from Hasufin, which had a dodgy zipper and was slated for use as a mattress pad. Rather than spend too much time picking at it with a pair of pliers, I did the logical thing, which was pull as hard as I possibly could and broke the zipper. The sleeping bag unfolded nicely to cover the bottom of the tent, which served our purposes nicely.
I don't know what time we all wound up going to bed. I only know that we curled up under the sleeping bags and slept until the sun was high enough in the sky to make everyone run back into their tents for sunglasses or hats to provide shade. Lauren, as it turned out, had been at Lesbodia until daybreak - none of us so much as moved when she stumbled into the tent and collapsed into bed fully clothed. Bottled water, we discovered, can in fact be used for brushing one's teeth if one is sufficiently motivated to figure out how to do it. After doing so, we unpacked towels and suchlike and hiked down the hill to the showers, where we discovered to our pleasant surprise that wooden walls for privacy had been erected around the shower structure. No longer is getting clean at the Four Quarters Farm akin to dancing nude in a redneck bar... as soon as we heard the generators fire up, down we headed before others could use up the limited supply of hot water. We also discovered a real, working flush toilet in close proximity to the showers.
Unfortunately, the privacy wall did little to cut the chilly breeze that absconded with our breath and left skin an oddly mottled mix of white and red. Showers were fast with as much motion to generate body heat as we could manage. At the very least, I'm happy that we're allowed to use whatever camp soap we decide to bring as long as it's biodegradable, so we didn't have the problem of running out like we did last year.
Breakfast was scrounged up from stores in the trunk of the car and whatever happened to be laying around in the kitchen. All manner of dried goods, from peanuts to raisins by the pound were left in the kitchen by people contributing to the gather - share and share alike is the watchphrase of WtT. I left a good amount of the dried fruit I'd brought with me in trade on the table as Lyssa set about heating up some of the tinned spaghetti we brought with us. Neither of us particularly felt like using Duo's camp stove. I certainly can't use a camp stove safely, given the misadventures of last year.
Thankfully the kitchen is well stocked, so it didn't take long at all to get our bellies full and the coffee urn empty. Between Pod, N-, and myself we had our hands full with this task.
Rialian's presentation on sustainable living was well organised and researched. I don't know how long he was up there, but he hit pretty much every major point of the topic in succession. Building techniques.. smart purchasing.. growing what you can.. basically minimising your impact on the environment. Once he'd finished, I was next in the hotseat with my presentation on technomagick.
I probably started driving people nuts with nervous tics about ten minutes after I got up there: I'm not terribly wild on public speaking, but I'm willing to give it the old college try. Outlining the basic theory was pretty simple, because it's easy to relate to other, more known paradigms because the principles underlying the symbols are much the same. The difficult part was not going off into technological minutia: I can geek about computers for hours on end, and in fact did so. I also was able to bring some recent research into prosthetics and the slow yet steady reverse engineering of the human nervous system into the discussion. In the end, I'm very surprised at how well it was recieved and the discussions that took place after it was over. Everyone was interested in the topic and added a lot to it once the floor was opened up to discussion, which is to say that I caught myself in recursion and broke out of it.
Afterward was hanging out with the folks from House Eclipse, browsing through some of the jewelry on sale (I bought a pair of pendants for Lyssa, who in turn bought for me a necklace that featured, among other things, spheres of polished silicon and germanium - yay, semiconductors!). While Lyssa attended a workshop put on by Amberite I made my rounds of the campsite again and ran into everyone I couldn't find on Friday night, and then hung out with Hasufin, talking Babylon-5 and eating rabbit stew.
Friday evening was spent sitting around the pavillion with Lyssa, Laurelinde, N-, and Silveraena passing around a bottle of mead and talking about gaming.. interestingly, one of the folks who attended this year (whom I will not name for the sake of his privacy) has designed a number of tabletop RPGs in the past, including one that Lyssa is quite fond of. Fascinating. This continued until well after the mead was gone and Rialian set about collecting people for twilight ritual in the stone circle.
Time gets a little funny, now, because of what we were doing. Time, as most people think of it, is a collection of moments strung together, using experience as a framework. You walk from place to place and it takes some amount of time but that isn't actually what's being measured. It's the connections between the moments that the senses register that are the interesting parts.. I work a lot with connections and making them between things, so my perception of time fell by the wayside at some point.
Once I came back down to Earth it was time to get ready for the bardic circle, which Lyssa was hosting this year because Gelfling wasn't allowed into the country last week. The first thing we had to do was start a fire.. enter an aspiring mad scientist, a kitsune with a pyromaniacal streak, and a computer geek with a fetish for thermite (of which there was none). We made a happy discovery in that there were still hot coals beneath the thick layer of ash from the night before, so we didn't actually have to go through the hassle of getting things hot. N- was kind enough to split more wood for us earlier in the day, so we had kindling and broad blocks of wood to use as fuel waiting for us.
The problem we did have, however, was getting enough oxygen to the kindling before the fire itself would catch. It was difficult to tell at times if there were actually any flames due to all the smoke, but Chris had an excellent idea: Get a lid from a Tupperware shipping crate and use it as a fan.
Everyone got to keep their eyebrows this time.
The fire caught in short order and we built it up into a hissing, crackling, bonfire, the better for people to tell stories around. At some point after that someone started howling down in the campsite (I'm pretty sure that it was Solo), which got all of us to join in, followed by the dogs that were brought by a couple of folks who came that year.
The bardic circle started off with a poem read by Lyssa, which was part of a series written about comic-book superheroes, and then followed by a couple of stories from folks around the campfire. I told a few about some funny situations I've been in, such as my discovery that wine is, in fact, not immortal, even though alcohol is traditionally used for sterilisation before surgery, and winning a competition to not buy the booze at a convention I was at a couple of years ago. Hasufin told a short story. We heard a couple of war stories from work.. as a bouncer at a busy Washington, DC nightclub. Rab, paramour of Rhianna, astounded us by singing Scottish songs in a pleasant, full-bodied tenor, some of which were even not bawdy drinking songs.
We wound up crashing after that because all of us were exhausted. Camps Cambodia and Lesbodia, predictably, partied until the sun rose the next day. Everyone else broke up and did their thing.. I'm not sure what all happened. All I'm certain of is that I slept until I heard the first birds of morning begin to sing, and realised that it was so cold in the tent that I could see my breath mist in the light of a lone glowstick hanging from the roof of the tent. Lyssa and I swiftly rearranged the tent so that we had another couple of blankets and a sleeping bag between ourselves and the air and huddled together, keeping warm.
Lauren stumbled in at some point after that.
We woke up around what I later discovered was around 1130 EST/EDT on Sunday, shortly before we'd planned to leave for home.
I also discovered that the wood that we'd been burning for the bonfire the night before was pine, because my hair was glued to my face in a stiff, sticky mask that had to be painstakingly peeled out of three days worth of beard growth and the sundry orifices of my head. It was still cold enough that the bottled water was practically refrigerated, and decided to pass on taking a shower before heading back. Lyssa and Lauren showered while I foraged for breakfast and ran into a couple of folks that I hadn't seen since the night before.
Butterfly made a new friend, in the form of Bladeless.
It didn't take us long at all to get our stuff packed up and loaded into the TARDIS because we didn't actually bring a whole lot. Between hauling duffel bags to the car and stuffing things into duffel bags, it took us a grand total of one-half hour to pack and get ready to go. Saying our goodbyes, of course, took much longer because everyone was heading back at more or less the same time, and everyone wanted to talk one more time.
Take a look at what the Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage software agent phones home with whenever you install it. Nope. Nothing uniquely identifiable there. Just data culled from the mainboard's BIOS, the serial numbers of the hard drives in your computers, and the PID/SID of your box. Whenever your system boots up, it transmits more data back to Microsoft, though no one yet has watched it with a packet sniffer (mental note: Reboot Alphonse tonight.)
A cracker got into the National Nuclear Safety Administration's personnel records and downloaded identifying information on 1500 employees, most of them contractors.
An overview of the homebrew game console development scene.
I love how kids these days think that posting compromising pictures and descriptions of what you do on the Net constitutes privacy.
Hunting deer with a Civil War cannon?
Back in DC. Dead tired. Lots went on this weekend. Froze our asses off, too. Will write after I boil myself for a half hour and wash the pine sap out of my hair.
Cracking security via "Oooh! Shiny!"
Flying without ID.
The real reason that Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who.
For the record, this is humour. Don't start flaming me, please.
Let me see... early, early, early on Friday morning I was heading out to Reagan International Airport to pick up Bladeless Axe, who would be accompanying Lyssa and myself to Walking the Thresholds at the Four Quarters Farm this year. I did a couple of Google searches to get directions to the airport and set out around 2300 EST/EDT that night for the airport, and set out, pretty much expecting to get lost and arrive an hour or two late, even though at that time of night DC traffic is much, much less than normal. I made it to the end of the directions I'd printed out, and discovered much to my chagrin that I was nowhere near Reagan International. In fact, I was at a gas station somewhere in Alexandria. So I called home to get Lyssa to double check for me while I ran into the gas station to ask for directions, only to find out that I was about a mile away from the airport, I just had to keep going for a while and I'd start seeing signs for the airport.
"Great. I might actually get somewhere on time for a change," I thought.
Pulling out of the parking lot of the gas station, someone hit my car.
The damage is functionally noticable but not extensive. The rear driver's side door is dented at the lower right corner, which buckled the superstructure and broke the weather seal. I got out of my car, did the song and dance with the other driver (license, registration, proof of insurance), photocopied the whole works, and drove to the airport, ninety minutes late and cursing up a storm.
I'm really starting to hate driving in the DC area. If it was feasible to live where I do without a car in my situation, I'd be buying a bike and a new pair of trainers in a heartbeat. This I promise you.
I picked up Bladeless at the airport and we got back on the road, headed for home. Somehow, somewhere, some obscure deity took pity upon my dumb ass and I somehow made it straight home without directions, assistance, or even so much as a wrong turn in less than thirty minutes because I found the right exit on the neigh-deserted beltway almost immediately. We unloaded everything and I called my insurance company to register a claim, followed by a late dinner at a local restaurant.
Friday morning brought with it a fun-filled day of running around to get supplies, get the car packed, survey the damage to said car, and generally try to get on the road before Friday afternoon rush hour traffic turned the beltway heading north toward Pennsylvania into a parking lot. I'll cut to the chase and say only this: I failed miserably yet again. We didn't get on the road until 1700 EST/EDT or so on Friday due to circumstances rather beyond the control of Lyssa or myself. Suffice it to say that I've sworn more in the past three days than I have in the past year, and that includes various crises at work.
My hypothesis about Gelfling's inability to enter the United States proved correct. The border patrol wouldn't let him cross for the reasons I outlined on Thursday. Go figure.
This was supposed to be a restful, relaxing weekend spent with sundry strange people at a place so far off the grid that even GPS units didn't work. It was certainly not restful or relaxing, and we found out that Bladeless' GPS unit did indeed function normally at the Four Quarters Farm. The directions we'd gotten to the farm didn't get us there; in fact, they pointed us to the middle of a field nowhere near the border of the farm. After better than an hour of driving around the back roads of southwestern Pennsylvania, spitting distance from the Appalacian Mountains, we finally found a house with the lights on, at which I stopped, straightened my mussed-up hair and t-shirt, and asked directions.
The matron of the family whose Friday night I'd interrupted appeared to be used to strange looking people asking directions to the farm because she knew exactly of what I spoke and gave us directions that took us directly to the farm, do not pass 'Go', do not collect two hundred dollars. We pulled up around 2130 EST/EDT Friday night and were greeted by Lauren and Jesus of Camp Cambodia, who helped us offload what little gear we needed (we'd packed far less than last year, mostly due to the fact that we were bunking with Lauren in the Tent Majal, set up on the Four Quarters performance stage next to the Lost Boys and Kash).
Sleeping bags unrolled and clothing safely stowed in the tent, I lit up the first clove of the weekend and was greeted by the first of many people in turn of this weekend in the proper WtT fashion, which is to say with sips of alcohol.
I found myself shivering in the chill night air soon after unpacking and donned the warmest clothing I had at the time, which happened to be my Australian drover's coat and leather fedora (purchased at the Maryland Faerie Festival last month). I doubt that I'll ever live down the Harry Dresden jokes, especially due to events of later in the weekend... I ran into Chris and Robin by the fire at the drum circle, around which many of the women attending Thresholds this year were dancing, along with N-, partner of Laurelinde. The drummers, unfortunately, weren't very good on Friday night. They didn't have a boss drum, didn't have a rhythm, and didn't have a dancable pattern, which drove a lot of people nuts. I'm not sure how the dancers managed with what they had to work with, but they certainly gave it their all, which was very enjoyable to watch.
I'm off to bed. I've got to be up for work tomorrow, and there's lots to do when the insurance adjuster comes to pay me a visit.
When it rains, it friggin' pours... believe you me, I live in interesting times right now.
No time to write because I have to get ready to leave. Major update when I get home, probably.
Thresholds is coming up, and things are already getting interesting... my cellphone provider is after me in the worst way to get a new phone (they also keep calling at the absolute worst times, i.e., whenever I'm working on something important), Gelfling can't make it for reasons as yet unknown (initial examination of the timeline shows a setback of some sort, which I suspect is due to Canada going on red alert since they busted a cabal that was plotting to take out the heads of the Canadian government), Lyssa is now leading the Bardic Circle at Thresholds.... all in the space of a couple of hours.
Oh, and I'm doing a seminar on technomagick on Saturday morning. I've been writing notes and finding references for the past couple of days. Wish me luck.
It was a close, close vote, but another attempt to write the definition of marriage into the US Constitution was defeated yesterday with a vote of 49-48 against. Fifty votes would be necessary to get such a bill to a final Senate vote, and a majority vote of 67 or better are necessary to get an amendment passed. Senator Wayne Allard has tried getting this through twice now, and it's anyone's guess as to whether or not he's going to give up.
The private sector is finally getting fed up with misguided policies that impede the progress of scientific research: Geneticists at Harvard University want to forge ahead with stem cell research inside the United States with private funding, because the US government won't back them. As background, the 22 existing germlines of human stem cells approved for research by the US government are considered worthless because they were contaminated with animal proteins, which means that they cannot be used for transplantation. Donations from private foundations, hospitals, and individuals will be used in the cloning of new germlines of stem cells for practical research. The stem cells will be taken from embryos created through the process of in vitro fertilisation that are surplus and scheduled for destruction.
John Stewart has struck again, this time going off on Bill Bennett on the subject of same sex marriage.
Someone's figured out how to make a tiny, working methanol fuel cell using a Band-Aid for the chassis.
Ro-Sham-Bo: It's not just for LARPers anymore!
Microsoft recently admitted that a recent update to Windows XP, called the Windows Genuine Advantage hotfix, causes every box it's installed on to phone home to Microsoft periodically to determine if the registration code for that particular copy has been flagged as pirated, and causes the machine to stop downloading updates that aren't security fixes (which only come out on Patch Tuesday, for the most part).
Two people, Edwin Pena of Florida and Robert Moore of Washington state were charged for a unique criminal enterprise they had going, namely cracking voice-over-IP providers and using their bandwidth and hardware to set up their own VoIP companies. Rather than set up the infrastructure necessary to place, complete, and route calls using VoIP technology, they were using the networks of 15 other VoIP companies to implement their service which they then sold to whomever wanted to pay for it. They started doing this back in 2004, when VoIP was a less mature technology and VoIP security wasn't really considered save in an academic sense. Charges for the stolen service are up in the millions.
Free content by masquerading as Google?
TORbutton: A Firefox extension designed for use with TOR. Someone beat me to it.
Some people will ask for anything, even as a joke. (note: not safe for work - no video to speak of, but the recorded telephone conversation should be listened to through headphones.)
Stealing a net.capable smartphone isn't a good idea. It's open season on these jackasses.
Henry Rollins opens fire on Ann Coulter in an open love letter!
The Council of Europe has reported that Germany was also helping the CIA clandestinely shuttle prisoners to incarceration camps, along with Romania and Poland. Most of the European Union turned a blind eye and deaf ear to what was going on, even though they were not directly involved (probably to keep from getting directly involved).
Increasingly, the boundries between science, medicine, and politics are being removed, and science and medicine are steadily losing in the face of politics as funding is being pulled from projects that the powers that be find objectionable. The healthcare field is being impacted most of all by this. Human health information documents and websites, once considered the gold standard of information for the people, are now considered factually inaccurate and unsuitable for use by anyone because figures are misleading and facts are not supported by scientific research. People from various special interest groups around the country lobbied Congressional representatives to prevent the approval of certain drugs and the release of certain data to the public.. in an election year, when you've got a few thousand people from a single city pressuring you to toe their party line and are willing to contribute lots of money to your reelection campaign, there aren't many people out there who wouldn't cave to such demands. There is also evidence that some people who are directly affiliated with government organisations have their own agendas, and are pulling lots of strings to get their way.. and the results are devestating. This is scary, people.. take the ten minutes to sit down and read about what's going on. Hospitals, as well as the public school system and private clinics are being affected by this, and the repercussions are felt most strongly by the people at street level, whose lives are being affected for the worse.
Holy cats - I made it into the Wikipedia!
The body modification scene does some pretty odd things; most of the time, the fruits of their blood, sweat, and tears (literally) are cosmetic only. However, someone got the idea to implant a small rare-earth magnet into a finger to see what would happen. What happened was that the tiny magnet acted as a sixth form of sensory input, sensitive to ferrous materials and magnetic fields. The way it's said to work is that the tiny encapsulated magnet, after being inserted under the skin, moves very slightly whenever it's in the presence of another magnetic field, or whenever an object containing iron is brought near the implanatation site. Because the hands contain very high numbers of sensory nerve endings, even a tiny shift in position will register. It doesn't take much to get a reaction, either - the weak magnetic field surrounding a power cable, for example, registers to the sensorium, as does a hard drive spinning up, the activities of stereo speakers, the anti-theft devices in stores...
It might be too soon to see how the magnets affect the electrical activity in the sensory nerves of the body and not just trigger the tactile nerve endings in the fingertips - rare-earth magnets are powerful, and can affect electrical activity in devices, so why not the currents inside the nerves themselves?
It is also said that these magnets are small enough to not damage data stored on disks or tapes. I'm inclined to be wary of this on general principles.
Readers of Gibson's short stories will take note of this development in military technology: Replacing parachutes with monowing gliders for covert insertion. The monowings are mostly nonmetallic, with very small visual and radar footprints and an effective range of about 120 miles.
How to recover from a bad Linksys router firmware upgrade.
Let's start of the day right, shall we? How about the latest disorder that people are afflicted with, tentatively called rage disorder, or intermittant explosive disorder. No, this doesn't mean that people get so angry that they spontaneously combust (though that would make for a particularly interesting day for your local medical examiner), it means that some people periodically get pissed off and pitch a fit, be it road rage or throwing your Slushie at the kid on the skateboard who nearly knocked you down outside of the Quickie Mart. Typically, they say, the disorder first manifests around the age of 14.
Wow. An adolescent getting angry for no good reason. Whodathunk it?
This is treatable with... wait for it.. antidepressants.
What bullshit. Let me spell it out for you: People get angry. It's part of being alive. The questions are how you handle your anger and what you do with it when you do get angry. People don't learn how to handle their anger anymore.. when I was a kid, it was called 'showing your temper', which often happened just before 'losing your temper'.
Get a grip, people. You get cut off on the highly and the next thing you know it's a candidate for the DSM-IV.
Tomorrow, another anti-fair use bill will be debated before the House, which would alter copyright law such that licensing would be changed. All incidental copies of electronic music files, from the copy your web browser caches temporarily to copies that wind up in web proxy servers would have to be licensed separately, as would broken copies left behind when a download fails. Could you afford to pay for two copies of the same song, even though you're only going to keep one? How about seven copies, if your cable modem goes flaky on you? The copy loaded into your computer's RAM would also have to be paid for and licensed. Unsurprisingly, these changes are well hidden inside other changes to the Copyright Act. If you go to this page and punch in your ZIP code, you'll be able to find out if your representatives in the House are part of this working committee, in which case it would be a good idea to give them a call and let them know how you feel. After all, they are supposed to represent your wishes in the government. This writeup at IPaction.org explains things more simply and has a list of the representative who ARE associated with this committee.
Eric Drexler has put the full text of his book, Engines of Creation, on his website for anyone to read and download. This book, published in the mid-1980's, is considered the seminal work on nanotechnology, which is a burgeoning science right now, but wouldn't even be a buzzword in movies without it.
The LA Alternative covered the Church of Satan's festivities in California today. Safe for work, and definitely not what urban folklore and rumour would have people believe. Can't say much about the comments, though.
Today was also the National Day of Slayer.
Lyssa and I started off this weekend by going out to dinner at Tyson's Corner because we'd both had hellacious weeks and neither of us had the patience to make anything resembling food in our own kitchen. Before this, we headed down the street to the local office supply store to purchase another bookcase (becuase we were out of room in the library yet again and have been double and triple-stacking books on top of the existing stacks) and an office chair for my desk. It took us a while to haul it home and into the apartment but eventually we got back into the car and headed out for dinner. After some deliberation and killing of time at the local bookstore we settled on the BRIO Tuscan Grille at Tyson's Center Mall (7854L Tyson's Corner Center; McLean, Virgnia; 22102; 703-288-8882), which is one of the swankier restaurants in the new wing of a mall which, frankly, could become an arcology with the addition of another wing and the removal of one of the three parking garages attached to the structure.
The breads they serve as an appetizer (home-baked bread and crisp rosemary flatbread) were almost but not quite fresh out of the oven, and far tastier than any bread that you'd get in a store. Unlike some restaurants, though, they don't quite give you enough to make a meal out of. Our entrees, mushroom ravioli, were hand-made, baked to perfection, and served piping hot in a sauce that probably took a good ten years off of our lifespans. The salads were still cold and crispy when they arrived, and the dressings were sparely used and subtle in flavour, very unlike what we're used to getting around here. The BRIO is the sort of place where you really need to take your time eating so that you can enjoy your food. As for the desserts, be sure to leave room. The creme brulee is excellent and the tiramisu is nothing short of fantastic.
The food here is on the pricy side but is well worth it. The service was good even though we were there for the busiest hours of the week, the time just before the triff of NOVA go home to do whatever it is they do on a Friday night. I give the BRIO Tuscan Grille one flaregun - stop in for dinner if you're in the northern Virginia area, and expense it if you can.
The remainder of the evening was spent relaxing and resting. I did some research for a project I've been working on for Thresholds (it's amazing what you can do when you don't really know what people have done before you) and eventually turned in to get some sleep.
On Saturday, we went a little mad.
For the past several weeks the apartment's been in dire need of a good cleaning, from the stuff that's been piling up in the library to the stuff in the living room from our last trip back to Pittsburgh to the office and beyond. I drove out to get bagels (mental note: Keep more stuff for breakfast in the fridge) for breakfast Lyssa set about cleaning in the bathroom and getting laundry organised. After I got home and had breakfast I started pulling stuff out of the kitchen so that I could sweep and mop the floors, as well as clean off the countertops, the sink, and the stove.
Oh, did I mention that I also started going through my books to pick up stuff that I didn't need or want anymore? I'll put up a list once I'm done. It'll be first-come-first serve, pick what you want and I'll ship it to you, PayPal preferred.
As if that weren't enough, Kash and Duo were coming over that afternoon because they needed to stock up on supplies for Walking the Thresholds this weekend and the area I live in has a large number of stores with good prices, so we had something of a time limit to make headway on our project. Oh, and Hasufin was coming over because we were supposed to go to REI to pick up a few things for Thresholds, so I had to get my butt in gear.
By 1500 EST/EDT on Saturday we had put serious dents in the bedroom and kitchen, and had started on the first of six full loads of laundry, which we were halfway through by the time we were ready to head out. Lyssa opted to stay at home and finish the laundry while Hasufin and I headed out to find REI and Duo and Kash went out for dinner and a supply run.
We found REI without too much trouble on Route 50-W; it's not too far off of the main highway and is relatively easy to locate from the street. We spent some time wandering around in there and discovered that they've got much better prices on.. well.. everything than Hudson's Trail has. Even the closed-cell foam sleeping pads, which still don't much impress me, are available for a much better price. I picked up some essentials for the campsite, including mosquito incense coils (basically blanket-coverage insect repellent) and wandered around looking at all the nifty stuff that I don't have a use for. Hasufin found the extensible poles to set up a rainfly that he's been looking for. As we left we decided that it would be a good idea to find the Target that I've been hearing about because I needed to get another pair of shorts and some of those nifty long BBQ forks, the better to roast stuff over an open fire with.
This turned into a misadventure, as one would suspect when I'm involved. In my defense, I'd like to say that I wasn't the driver on this trip, but in Hasufin's defense I would also like to say that in the Washington, DC area one cannot simply make three rights and have gone around the block to turn around. Sometimes three rights around the block will put you onto a one-way street that leads to a different major highway than the one you arrived on.
We eventually got back to the apartment and met up with everyone. We sat around for a while and eventually decided that sushi would be a good idea, so back into the TARDIS we went and headed to Konami, our local sushi restaurant. Dinner wasn't bad Saturday night, though Hasufin got screwed out of dinner because the waitress missed some essential details.. like a customer's order. Our next stop was Borders to nose around because Lyssa was looking for a particular book and I wanted to get another of the hardbound journals to add to my stash because they're almost out of manufacture these days. While I was there I chanced across a copy of a DVD that I've been looking for in stores for a while, the Disinfo TV DVD. If you're not familiar with Disinformation, it's a website that keeps track of some pretty strange stuff in the world, and the tagline of the show is, "If you don't know if we're making this up or not, then we're not doing our job."
Very, very strange stuff, which I'll probably write about later.
We got home around 2230 EST/EDT and hung around, not doing much of anything. Long days and all that.
On Sunday we went our separate ways until this weekend coming up. Duo and Kash went out to find breakfast while Lyssa and I got a few things finished up at home. Around 1200 EST/EDT we headed out to find our local IHOP for a late breakfast, probably lunch... and I couldn't find our usual one, much to both of our annoyance, but I was able to find the one in the opposite direction that Hasufin and I noted on our trip to REI. Given how close it was to our last misadventure we had misgivings about this particular franchise but if it's one thing you can get out of restaurant chains it's consistency: If you find yourself at an IHOP anytime soon, try the cinnamon apple stuffed French toast. It's worth the wait.
The rest of the day was spent finishing up the cleaning of the apartment. I finally cleaned up the living room and went through the stuff that hadn't even been unpacked after we moved in, only stuffed in the bedroom closet. There were clothes in there that I haven't worn since my senior year of high school. All told, I dumped five bags of clothing at the Goodwill dropoff last night, and another two full crates with varying degrees of structural integrity were left in the dumpster. For an encore, Lyssa and I cleaned out the rest of the bedroom closet, so now we can actually walk into our walk-in closet. The linen closet is also in fine shape now, with a visible floor and yes, the ability to stand fully inside the closet to find stuff.
As if that weren't all, the fish bowls that house two of our three bettas also underwent 0.75 water changes.
This article at The Star talks about something that most people don't think about when they partake of the news: The fact that the news is itself a spectacle that manipulates people's interpretations of events, and that social engineering is a very important part of making this possible.
Cosplayers tend to be a little on the crazy side. You have to be to have it in you to spend a couple of hundred dollars and dozens of hours on a costume that makes you look like a cartoon character or superhero. This guy, however, is high up on the scale: He made a costume of the Thing from the Fantastic Four with real rock. We who are about to get up on stage and emabrass ourselves because we're anime fans salute you.
The Pirate Bay is back online! Interestingly, word's gotten out from the organisers of the BitTorrent tracker that the US Department of Justice has been pressuring the Swedish government to shut them down.
Build your own DDR pads that don't suck.
Well, isn't this cute... NBC suits for kids. Gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, doesn't it?
When puzzles just aren't enough to occupy your time, check out the four-dimensional Rubik's Cube and if that's not wild enough for you why not a five-dimensional Rubik's Cube? The former is written in Java, the latter in Microsoft .Net.
Some of the Choose Your Own Adventure books will be re-entering print this summer, and they'll be updated for the new millennium.
Yeah, hearing that makes me wonder how good they'll be, too.
Whatever they're putting in the water, I want a case of it.
What a week it's been... the past couple of days I've been working all-nighters at work the past couple of days, and my body's circadian rhythms were blown to hell, to put it mildly. Yesterday, after a marathon night, I went to bed around 1000 EST/EDT, and promptly found myself unable to sleep. In fact, I was wide awake and ready to get stuff done around the apartment. I sat around reading for a while and then moved around a little to get my head clear, and then set about straightening out the library, which in the past few months had attracted an amazing amount of clutter and stuff that didn't otherwise have anywhere to go. Between that and the steamer trunk that I pulled out of the office, I put together a couple of boxes of stuff that I'm going to throw out tonight to make room. All in all, I'm pleased with how well things turned out yesterday - there's actually room to move around, now.
My body finally started running down around 2130 EST/EDT last night, and I crashed out a little after 2300 local time.
Let me tell you, 0600 comes around mighty fast these days...
The Free times lays out the Rachel Bevilacqua X-Day case by the numbers.
The 'private security forces' entrenched in Iraq to augment US military forces are getting creative when it comes to transportation, going so far as to modify consumer vehicles for high-risk use. Check out what they've been using and what they've been doing to them.
LARPers who've ever done MET (Mind's Eye Theatre), known for its use of rock-paper-scissors (and occasionally the bomb, fuzzy bunny, and Spock) will find this of interest: A chart of a full twenty-five hand signs in addition to the traditional Big Three.
Rock is strong.
A hobby of mine for a while now has been hunting down numbers stations in various media, namely, the shortwave bands (via a hand-held scanner when I've got some spare time wherever I happen to be). Not too long ago on Craig's List, though, someone posted to the personals section for New York City and gave a phone number. If you dialed the number you'd get a recording that acted as a numbers station, reading off a long string of digits in discrete blocks, made up of samples of someone speaking and assembling the output. Then another one appeared. Folks on the Net have been listening to the recordings (which are defunct now because they were set up using pre-paid VoIP provider accounts that are now depleted) and analyzing them in various ways. One astute person noticed that the opening part of the message, "Group xxx" is the area code of a city covered by Craig's List in which the next message will appear (NPA 617, number 617-973-3463), but I've just called that number and it's an IVR system that'll give you directions to the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, Massachusetts.
Various theories have been put forth, but nothing's checked out yet. A number of people say that the digits are actually in blocks of three and not five; the digit groupings then suggest ASCII encoding, but the characters don't spell out any message, even after various forms of manipulation.
I've been waiting for something like this to start happening. Way back when, sometimes you'd hear tales of people trying to pick up their voice mail from someplace and misdialing and getting an outgoing message from another VMB that had something like this. You'd also hear the same tales from phone phreaks once in a blue moon. It's not all that hard to crack a voicemail box to change the recorded greeting, phreaks and long-distance accesss code couriers used to do it all the time (until people started setting access codes longer than four digits). While it would be possible to rig up something on your own that would do the same thing inside a VoIP provider's network, the easiest thing to do is use a disposable card to set up a prepaid account and use the outgoing greet - I leave this as an exercise for the reader. You technically wouldn't even need to get a SIP device from the provider because you'd just have to log into the web management portal of said provider (access to which would go active well before said device ever left the company), forward all calls to voice mail, and upload a greeting message of some kind (which you could probably set from a non-SIP phone as long as you dialed your new number and gave the right access code; ease of use and setup these days, remember?)
The IRS is outsourcing record-handling?
A couple of months ago I linked to some information about ransomware, viruses that encrypt your data and force you to pay a fee of some sort to decrypt them. Another nasty is making its rounds, dubbed Archiveus, but again it's been cracked and the key to decrypt the data has been extracted. In case you get hit, the password that'll decrypt your data is mf2lro8sw03ufvnsq034jfowr18f3cszc20vmw.
Rolling Stone magazine has researched the anomalies in the 2004 election and they've done a decent job of pulling everything together in one place.
Holy cats.. I think I saw this headset in an episode of Babylon-5 once.
This should give anyone pause these days: Someone's been keeping track of how safe various sorts of food fish are to eat, based upon relative levels of pollution absorbed. At the top of the "unsafe to eat" list are bluefish, wild-caught striped bass, and American eel, which have been tested to carry levels of PCBs, pesticides, and mercury so high it's a wonder that the fish themselves are still alive.
Santorum is still running for Pennsylvania even though he doesn't live there anymore!
Wow. Talk about nothing better to do. Protestors taking photographs of people going into adult bookstores, the better to harass them with later.
Central Park Media, best-known for its US release of Utena, is in dire straits. They've laid off most of their staff, leaving only a skeleton caretaking crew.
Version 2.0 of the famous Timewar fanvid is up, and holy cats, does it rock.
| You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.|
What is Your World View? (updated)
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I completely missed this.. the ISS World Conference, which is basically a trade show for spooks involved in communications interception.
This is kind of scary: Someone made a video game out of the Left Behind novels, where you play a Dominionist paramilitary operative whose sole mission is to either convert or kill (in that order) such bad guys as gays, Jews, moderate Christians, and Buddhists.
So much for "Love thy brother as thyself".
The US Patent and Trade Office has pulled parts of Forgent Networks' patent on the JPEG image format due to the presence of prior art before they filed their patent application.
A popular BitTorrent tracker called The Pirate Bay was shut down by Swedish authorities, who went so far as to confiscate the physical hardware the service was using. It is said that the police were going to check over the machines for evidence of criminal wrongdoing. If the Swedish authorities are anything like the US', those boxen will probably never be seen again.
I hope nobody used their real e-mail address when they signed up for accounts...
The twenty-five year anniversary of the movie Bladerunner is coming up and a super-duper, addicts-only remastered two disc set will be released following a limited.. theatrical.. release... the new release will contain the original theatrical edit, the expanded theatrical edit, and the 1992 director's cut (sans voice-overs). No word yet on the other stuff that will be included in the re-release.
A new theatrical release. You know where I'll be.
The US Supreme Court says that government workers do not have their right to freedom of speech protected when it comes to their jobs, which makes it even more difficult for whistleblowers to make their voices heard.
What the hell.. fight clubs?!
The TechSearch blog has an excellent article on the tiered Intenet movement in Congress right now.
I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day in the states.. I've been offline to rest and relax, and get a couple of things taken care of that I've been letting go for too long (like separating junk mail from bills and pitching old catalogs).
Yeah, little stuff, but it's also the stuff that slips through the cracks.
On Friday afternoon after work I met up with Lyssa and Laurelinde at home (later than planned due to an unforseen crisis at work that required my attention) to hang out for a while talking (what better way to kick off a long weekend?). Later on, when the traffic on the highways died down a little, we headed out in the general direction of Night Dreams to introduce Laurelinde to all manner of strange and wonderful things that make airport security staff blush and cough politely to stock up on a couple of things. Unfortunately, Laurelinde had prior plans for the evening so going out to dinner and making a night of it was out, so we dropped her off at the Metro station and then headed back out to find dinner because the kitchen, after cleaning, was pretty empty. Lyssa and I drove around for a while searching for a restaurant that she'd seen out on Route 50, and after a couple of misses we finally found a place called the Harvest Moon Restaurant and Lounge (7260 Arlington Boulevard; Falls Church, VA 22042; phone number 703-573-6000).
Ladies and gentlefolk.. don't go to this place. Please.
The food was.. well, not bad per se, but definitely not very good. The tastiest thing was probably the steamed dumplings. Everything else offered for dinner was so-so at best. If you're hungry, you can eat it without too much trouble and probably not feel ill afterward, but if you've got a choice, go for something that's actually tasty. Lyssa was feeling a little queasy and didn't eat very much while I finished what I'd taken, as tasteless as it was.
You know, I don't think that I've ever regretted eating somewhere before. I honestly wish that I'd taken Lyssa's cue and stopped while I was ahead. I guess it's the deeply-ingrained habit of cleaning my plate to not waste food unless it's actually making me ill. But yes, I do regret eating there. I regret not stopping and getting something better and tastier.
I've learned, as a rule of thumb, not to trust Chinese restaurants that are nicely decorated with waitstaff all dressed in tuxedos.. invariably, they are buffet-only with mediocre fare at best.
Let's call it four flareguns. Stay away from this place.
Lyssa and I wound up going to Whole Paycheque to get her dinner and myself something that actually didn't suck, vis a vis, Russian black break, goat cheese, a chocolate parfait and a bottle of a local winery's finest, a red wine with a nice bite after the fact. We headed home to relax, try to forget about that restaurant, and watch a movie, namely Brotherhood of the Wolf. We wound up calling it a night after the movie and catching up on our sleep after a long week.
On Saturday we did a lot of goofing off. We didn't actually get going until Saturday afternoon, at which time we headed out to Elwing's for an early Memorial Day cookout because she was working on Monday. We brought a pack full of DVDs and suchlike and loaded the apple pie from Whole Paycheque into the TARDIS and set out for her townhouse in Maryland. We arrived to a full house and a table full of food from the grill. Most of the afternoon was spent sitting around talking and munching. Lyssa and I opted to pass on the beer and game of Hearts in the back yard for sitting inside in the air conditioning (summer in the DC area is slowly creeping up on us, with temperatures in the low 80's Farenheit and noticable humidity for most of the day). We pondered going to see X-Men III: Last Stand at the local theatre but heard from some reputable X-Men fans: Don't go see this movie.
It's telling when Kash says, "If they'd gotten whoever directed the trailer to direct the entire movie, it would actually have been watchable," or words to that effect.
I think I'm going to wait for it to hit DVD so I can rent it along with Aeon Flux (I'm a fan, so sue me) and go on a dodgy movie bender.
So, we headed home to relax a little.. later in the evening, Kash was looking for a break and came over to hang out. Not much more can be said because not much more really happened, aside from a lot of sitting around and doing nothing.
Sunday afternoon was similiarly a slow day: We went out for lunch a couple of hours after getting up and wound up at our local Indian restaurant to raid the lunch buffet. The three of us decided to get some fresh air and sun and roamed around a couple of stores to price out gear for Walking the Thresholds (at the Four Quarters Farm in a couple of weeks). We first stopped off at Hudson Trail Outfitters on Route 50 west to look around. They had lots of nifty stuff, to be sure: Ergonomically designed backpacks, hiking boots, sleeping pads that keep you from feeling anything at all (the one I tested was set up on a box of rocks; I was able to do sit-ups on it without feeling anything underneath the pad), a French press for Nalgene water bottles (nevermind the fact that Nalgene bottles transmit heat very well, and wouldn't be suited for drinking coffee at all), all manner of white LED flashlights and knives.. lots of stuff that we really don't need. Their sleeping bags were overkill for two days and the sleeping pads, while bulletproof, were also very expensive.
Our next stop was back home so that Lyssa could lay down and sleep because she'd been feeling under the weather lately. Kash and I headed back out to Ranger Surplus to see what we could find there, which also wasn't much. Their sleeping pads were on the thin side and not really wide enough to accomodate any of us. The really nice ones were also on the expensive side, and thus not much of an option. I took the opportunity, however, to restock some of the stuff in the emergency kit I keep in the trunk of my car and wound up getting into a conversation with someone else in telecom down here, who also knows an individual that I am familar with, Mr. Mike Jittlov. Sadly, Mr. Jittlov isn't in the best of times. I am told that he never really recovered from the working over he got in Hollywood years ago, an unfortunately common experience. Kash picked up a new pair of combat boots from Ranger Surplus for a song (less than $100us) while I discussed the finer points of packet switched networking (not TCP/IP... TeleNET, which apparently is so fragmented that it may as well no longer exist these days).
Next stop: Borders, to track down a couple of books that Lyssa has been asking about. Kash and I wandered around for a while drinking coffee and poking around the shelves until we finally located what we were looking for. All told, we killed a couple of hours roaming around Borders, as we are wont to do. Eventually, we paid for our purchases and headed home again, only to find Lyssa playing Diablo II at home.
Kash and Lyssa were busy for a good couple of hours while I caught up on a few weblogs, the Jim Butcher website, and my reading. Dinner Sunday night was gluten free spaghetti with marinara sauce from Leto's Pizzaria, which was just enough for the three of us. Kash left later in the evening while Lyssa and I commenced with more screwing around and doing little.
Monday brought with it another late start, by our own design. We had a lazy breakfast, at which we polished off the black bread and cheese, and took our time getting things going. Monday was not only Memorial Day in the United States, it was also the day to set up and clean out our tent for Walking the Thresholds, the gather held by Rialian at the Four Quarters Farm every summer. To that end, we packed up our tent and cleaning supplies and set course for the townhouse of our friend Lauren, who will also be attending WtT this year. Lyssa and I stopped off at the local supermarket to get supplies for the cookout as well as cleaning supplies and a cheap styrofoam cooler to hold the hotdogs and soda (very cheap - it fell apart as soon as we arrived, spilling ice and soda everywhere). Suitably geared up, we hit the beltway...
Once I managed to find parking around back of the rowhouses, it was short work to get everything unloaded that needed to be unloaded and everything set up that needed to be set up. My tent is basically a big umbrella: Once you unfold it and snap the supports into place, it's over and done with. There's a rainfly that goes over the top but that's pretty easy to get set up. It takes fives minutes, tops, to get it ready to go. Lyssa and I swept out the floor of the tent and shook the remainder of the cruft out of the rainfly and the carrybag in record time. A broom and a Swiffer do an amazing job of cleaning out a tent, no two ways about it.
Lauren's Tent Mahal takes a little longer to set up but the cleanout was also rapid and easy. Ten minutes.
If Lauren has the Tent Mahal, Kash has a human-sized Habitrail, complete with foldout enclosed patio for sitting around on a chair. It's easily big enough topark my car in (though technically I can park the TARDIS in Lauren's tent, also) though I'm not sure of how easy it is to assemble.
After we'd set our respective tents to air out, Steve fired up the grill (literally, with most of a can of lighter fluid) and we sat around munching and shooting the bull while waiting for our respective dinners to finish searing over hot coals. The requisite hamburgers and hot dogs hit the coals, along with a few veggie burgers for Lauren and Kash.
When all was said and done, we sat around Lauren and Steve's living room for a couple of hours, hanging out and talking and catching up on stuff that's been in the works all semester. Lauren's teaching now, so her time is largely spoken for, which also puts a hit on her social life (as I understand it), so we haven't seen her at Open Study for a while.
Worth1000.com strikes again - this time it's a Renaissance art/comic book superhero combo contest.
Interesting patent filed by Microsoft: Realtime censorship of audio streams. Very Invisibles.
Summer has definitely come to Washington, DC. While I was out at lunch today I noticed that the thermometer outside of a local bank read 99 degrees Farenheit. The external thermometer of my TARDIS read 101 degrees Farenheit.
Time to break out the shorts.
Whisky-tango-foxtrot?! Suspended for Jolt chewing gum?!
On 23 June 2006 40 cities around the world will be holding screenings of Joss Whedon's movie Serenity for charity. Proceeds will benefit Equality Now.
| You scored as Anything-Goes Goth. You are very open minded. You may or may not be devoted to your "Gothickry," but you aren't anal about it either way, and you are willing to explore the various niches of the gothic subculture.|
What subcategory of Goth best fits you?
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Yep, that's me.
|Your Personality Is Like Cocaine|
Hyper and full of energy, you're usually the last one to leave a party.
Sometimes your sharp mind gets the better of you... you're a bit paranoid!
Talk about poaching.. the Mormon church is posthemously baptizing Jews who died during World War II so that they could be listed in the geneological database of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So Mormon doctrine goes, if you're baptized after death you have a choice of accepting it or not, but that's not the point.. it was done without permission. Some consider it blasphemy, others an insult. In 1995, the leaders of the Mormon church signed an agreement with a group of Jews (the article doesn't say, and I honestly have no idea whom that could be) to stop the practise, but they still haven't.
After my long rant yesterday about large corporate networks that are largely undocumented and ponderings of virtual reality technologies, here is the solution I've been kicking around.
There are a couple of technologies already in widespread deployment that could be leveraged to implement a virtual reality system that not only maps a particular network and presents it to you in the form of a three-dimensional interactive simulation but also serves as a form of documentation of same. SNMP, the Simple Network Management Protocol, is a fire-and-forget protocol which can be used to interrogate an arbitrary network device for its status, sometimes notes, and configuration information. There is a popular opensource implementation of SNMP called Net-SNMP which is all over the Net. Operating system vendors package ports of it; big manufacturers use it in some of their equipment, and if you sit down and read the docs it really isn't too hard to figure out. SNMP is complex but it's also modular, and if you start with the most basic functionality and work your way up to the utilities that you really need to use, you can pick it up in short order. It's also very easy to write code of one kind or another to implement new functionality on the agent/server/daemon side of Net-SNMP. I'm fond of shell scripts, personally.
Now, writing MIBs (Management Information Bases, which describe the hierarchy of numerical strings that SNMP requests use to gather data), is an entirely different matter. There are visual builders available that supposedly make this easier, but in my experience... they suck, and writing MIBs suck. That's what interns are for.
I should state, before I go too much farther, than you really should mess around with SNMP for a while before going out and writing scripts to extend the agent because you can get some pretty detailed and obscure information out of the Net-SNMP daemon without hacking on it.
But, as with all tools, there are some things that SNMP isn't suited for. Those tasks are best suited for either Perl or for a carefully scripted execution of OpenSSH (using certificates to authenticate connections). With a suitably sophisticated parser to pick apart the information data could be gathered to fill out the VR simulation. A simple SNMP walk could populate the lists of network interfaces, disk partitions, and RAM usage in seconds. Some apps are SNMP aware, and respond to probing with configuration information, status reports, and near-realtime stats. A database system of some kind would be used to store all of the information collected and added. Periodically executed jobs would update the information from the network without operator intervention. Of course, a wiki-like function could be added for the users to keep notes about the network, attached to the virtual objects that represent everything in the network. Think of it as the next logical step beyond putting yellow stickynotes on the boxes in the server room.
I lean toward using VRML to implement the actual VR because it's a markup language which can be written on the fly with software, much as Nagios does. I realise that it has its shortcomings but I don't know of any other markup languages that could be used to construct virtual environments. Quake and DOOM .wad files, as I understand them, require a lot of effort on the part of a person to construct and configure. XML, the darling of the corporate world, could be extended to mark up a VR simulation but then you'd need to write a new parser for it, and a rendered, and an interaction engine.. VRML already has all of those things.
Such a VR wouldn't have to be flashy, at least not at first. You don't need Flashturbation to get the point across. You need lines representing logical connections between components: Webapp foo reads data from database server bar, database instance baz, tables Chris and David. The lines could pulse to represent data moving in one direction or another, or there could just be arrowheads added to the lines. The admins could choose icons that represent each network components - ideally, the icons would represent the actual component: Make a switch look like a switch, a Solaris box look like a Sun server, a filer like a rack full of hard drives. Of course, though, some joker will come along and make the firewall look like Pac-Man and the file server look like an aquarium, but that's what corporate policy is for.
The point of such a VR is to make the components of a network and how they interrelate perfectly clear in the absence of any support docs. It would also theoretically save time SSHing back and forth (or fighting for connection slots on Windows servers for Remote Desktop) to figure out what's using what. Also, provisions could be made for taking things out of service (an icon would turn red or something, with a tag that says "Leave this off!") to prevent a helpful yet uninformed admin from trying to turn something back on (which does happen from time to time).
Now, who's going to do this?
Well, I can't promise that it'll work, and I can't promise that it'll become the Next Big Thing(tm), but I'm going to mess around with it in my spare time and see what comes of it. There are tools out there that could be pulled together in just this way. There's only one way to see if it'll work.
Uh-oh.. someone's figured out how to crack PGPdisk and PGP self-decrypting archives with only a hex editor. This is wild.
In Libertyville, Illinois, the local high school will begin to hold students accountable for what they put on the net, and to that end they'll be monitoring weblogs and Myspace accounts. Students will be required to sign pledges stating that will not participate in illegal activities or post about them, and if they do they'll be held responsible for them. First of all, this assumes that the students will be honest when they say that they don't have Myspace accounts or weblogs... this also assumes that these kids are just dumb enough to not have more than one, which they don't tell about. Third.. are the schools really able to track all of them down? Fourth... you have to be a special kind of dumb to write about the illegal things one could do, such as taking drugs or stealing cars in such a way that it can be traced back to you. Kids who do just this are the low-hanging fruit that will be picked off by law enforcement in no time flat. The ones that don't get nicked will learn from the mistakes of the ones who do get caught and become less likely to get caught.
Did the MPAA hire a cracker to monitor e-mail to and from the maintainers of TorrentSpy to steal 'trade secrets'?
CNN has posted an article about network neutrality in layman's terms that puts the matter succinctly.
Happy Towel Day. We miss you, Douglas.
So.. the past week or so has provided me with much food for thought, and I think that I've got enough time to get something coherent written.
I'd like to talk for a moment about virtual reality, a technology which has all but vanished from the radar screens of society. Back in the early 1990's it was supposed to be the latest and greatest thing, the user interface so intuitive that everyone could use it to do damn near anything, and so flexible that even beginners could make nifty, usable things.
It never really went anywhere in public, save for a couple of movies of varying watchability and a television series or two. In academia, it lasted a while longer because you can pretty much get away with writing papers about anything in academia as long as you present it in such a way that people have to stop to think about it. From an industrial perspective (in my experience - feel free to correct me on this) VR technology, in a reduced form, is used primarily for designing things (AutoCAD is often mentioned as a VR application). On the Net VR usually means games, from text-based virtual realities like MOOs, MUSHes, and MUDs all the way up to FPSes like Quake and Halflife. Every once in a while you'll find an article on Slashdot or Newsforge about a new desktop paradigm, window manager, or proof of concept screen toy that swiftly vanishes.
We don't have the William Gibson/Cyberpunk 2020/Shadowrun virtual reality that pop culture and a couple of news magazines faddishly threw all over our collective consciousness for a couple of years, and we probably will never will. At least, not without a good reason.
First off, the user controls, the actual computer peripherals, like flying mice, datagloves, and head-mounted displays are expensive. Prohibitively so, though these days it isn't uncommon for people to drop $500us on a graphics card. Second, most of them aren't very comfortable. They were designed for a certain statistical size and shape of $BODY_PART, so they need a little tweaking to fit well, just like bicycle helmets. Third.. they're awkward. Let's cut to the chase. The head-mounted displays that I've worn were heavy and made it difficult to move my head around. I often felt like the damn things were going to fall off, and the balance was such that they'd sit level with your head most of the time but when it comes to moving around the momentum always jerked my head a little too hard. As for flying mice/six-degrees-of-freedom peripherals and datagloves, they've got a bigger problem: The fact that you have to hold your hands out in front of you for long periods of time and either wave them or use specific gestures to get stuff done. As one might imagine, this gets tiring fast and can lead to repeditive stress injuries all the way up the arm, much like orchestral conductors suffer after a couple of long years on the job.
Third is the matter of accuracy. The really good, accurate, and useful gear runs in the thousands of US dollars per unit. On the other end of the spectrum, something like the Nintendo Powerglove isn't all that accurate because the electronics (in particular, the sensors) are on the cheap side (they had to be to get the production costs down, and besides that it was designed for 8-bit games and not flying through a sophisticated cyberspace). After spending a couple of years hacking mine to do various things, I discovered a couple of things. First, the sensors weren't accurate enough for what I wanted to do. I'd have to rip out the conductive metal strips in the fingers and replace them with optical devices and some tubing to get better resolution out of the finger bend detection. The position tracking system, based on ultrasound transducers, was nifty but also very inaccurate unless you were facing a perfectly flat, smooth surface. Because the sensors had to be mounted on top of the TV/monitor, there was often just enough unevenness to throw off the usability of the Powerglove.
Off and on, I've toyed with designing my own datagloves but someone with much more skill with electronics than I has actually done it.
I've wished from time to time that I still have my U-Force controller to hack around with, but I get the feeling that it wouldn't have amounted to much.
That said, VR never really went away. Like many things, a few folks were inspired by it and turned it into something usable, which happens to not resemble anything like the VR you and I grew up with.
As I mentioned before, VR is still very much alive and well in the form of first-person shooters and to a lesser extent as M*s. Second, I argue that it is also present in some forms of network monitoring systems, as I'll get to in a moment. First I'd like to carp a bit about something that never fails to get my goat, professionally speaking: People who don't document anything.
The argument goes something like this:
Let's take, for example, a production network that contains
Each of the three web application servers run three webapps each, all of them different. I know that they really should all be split apart onto individual servers for performance, redundancy, and all those other happy buzzwords but extra servers cost money and more shops than let on these days stack apps on boxen until the CPUs start smoking to save on the budget. Each of those webapps uses between one and three databases on each server, and an unspecified number of tables in each database. Some tables they update, others they just read. The webservers act as front-ends to the web application servers and serve up the static content for them to spread the load out. The widget servers rely upon near-constant connecctions to between one and three of the webapp servers, one or two of the database servers, and both of the fileservers. All of the webservers require SMB mounts of the filers that are active at all times for their static content. The widget servers also publish their own sets of files and make available their databases in ways documented only by the vendor.
The Goatse server just sits there tucked away in the back of the server room trying to be unobtrusive, lest the CEO of the company go poking around and find it.
Now, then.. wouldn't it make sense to document all of this? Having a map and a text document that describes each box, what it does, what it makes available, and what relies upon it would be perfect for managing this setup. There isn't such a document. Each management and development team has private documentation on almost everything.. I say 'almost' because the coders hate writing docs and keep a lot of information on the inner workings in their heads all the time, along with all the gotchas that have cropped up since the code left testing and went into production. Each team also has a different means of keeping their docs and respective knowledge bases: One uses a wiki, another a bunch of Microsoft Word docs on a file server, another ASCII text files on a couple of file servers. No one's written any hardcore enterprise documentation yet because a) the data is scattered all over the place and no one person knows where it all is, b) some of the data isn't even written down anywhere, and is kept in the respective developers' and managers' heads, c) it's in so many different formats that no on system can reconcile them without a major effort, and d) everyone's just too busy to sit down and do it.
So.. from an operational perspective, not a damn thing is documented. You don't know what databases each app depends on, you don't know what tables in each database every app depends on. If there's a failure of some kind you'd have to dig around for some period of time while time and money tick away to figure out where to even start. If a database server dies, which one died? What would happen if it dropped off the network? There's no way of knowing unless you've been through the exact same failure time and again and know what's what. Also, sometimes names and labels are much shorter than they should be. A database that holds billing data for the year 2002 might wind up being named something like bng2002.. if you don't know what that means already, chances are you won't be able to figure it out and will have to ask someone. Similiarly, database tables often wind up with names like creds (for credentials) or mtables (meta-tables, tables about other tables).
In the best of all possible (undocumented) worlds, the system would be self documenting, i.e., everything would be named in such a way that you could figure out what everything did, even though the dependencies might not be immediately apparent. Still, you could examine configuration files and whatnot and figure out the dependencies from the names you alreayd knew, assuming that you had the access and time to spend on doing so. Sadly, this is rarely the case.
What would be useful in situations like this is a network management system that documents purposes and dependencies for you. There are already projects out there that are capable of this, like Nagios. Built into Nagios is a system that develops and maintains a map of your network, insofar as what hardware you've got and what it's named. Nagios also has a unique plug-in which generates a sorta-kinda VR of your network using VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language) that makes it easier to see what's connected to what on the basis of the topology of your ethernet network. You've got a switch and a couple of boxes attached to it, so it draws the 3D icons for an ethernet switch and your boxen. Seems straightforward enough.There is, however, something that would be of immense help to sysadmins working in environments this opaque: A VR display that not only shows what everything is but what it does, what it logically connects to and what logically connects to it, and hopefully allows attaching notes to each object. Let's say that you've got a VR object that represents one of the database servers in our example. That VR object is a container which holds the icons representing the systemware (to summarise things, one could make all of the baseline systemware, from the listed kernel threads all the way down to the copy of SSHd running), another icon for the database engine, and icons for the shells that the users logged in have running.
The icon for the database engine would contain icons for the databases it keeps running, and those icons would contain virtual objects for the tables in each database. Database connections from a web application would be represented as visible lines leading from a web application server into the database server that touch the tables referenced and the direction the data is flowing in. You wouldn't have to hunt down a developer to figure out that Fooapp talks to the billing database and reads data from the table of usernames because you would be able to see the relationship visually and follow it back and forth. It would also be nice if you could add what amounts to a sticky-note to an object to leave notes about something, in much the same manner as a wiki or the comments in a weblog. In short, a VR that documents your network environment, or at least renders it comprehensible to someone who's coming at it cold.
Now, here's where I take both non sequiturs and tie them together.
But tomorrow morning, after I get some sleep. Trust me - I'm going somewhere with this.
Here's something neat: A glossary of what all the sound effects in manga means.
Is Sony considering making it impossible to sell used PS3 games?
Make your own motivational posters!
No, you really don't want to know what mine was.
Practical RFID hacking. It's about time.
Well, it's a busy time in the DC area for everyone, most of all the Department of Veterans' affairs because the home of one of its employees was broken into and someone stole a copy of a database containing personnel information pertaining to some 26.5 million vets and their families, all the information you'd need to steal someone's identity and take out a couple of dozen credit cards. The unnamed employee, who should never have taken a copy of such a database home was placed on administrative leave, pending a full investigation. It's thought that the person who stole the data storage media (they're not saying what it was, probably a DVD-ROM) not knowing what it was or what was on it, though if they've been reading the local newspapers they've probably got a pretty good idea of how valuable it is now. Oh, and the data wasn't encrypted... you DO encrypt your backups, don't you?
Yesterday, Bill Gates' announcement of the second official beta release of Windows Vista, and all that entails was stormed by people wearing hazmat suits to protest the DRM technology that Microsoft is pushing. DRM (Digital Rights Management) makes it impossible for people to copy media that they've purchased, and also chagnes ownership of media from the purchaser to the company, so you're effectively renting what you watch on television or listen to on the radio. The technology is advancing to the point where even the cables used to connect a DVD player to a television are licensed, and make it impossible to record anything as well as play it back. Because all hardware and software that could be used to create open media (such as this web log, in fact) would silently impress DRM in one form or another upon all media created, there would be no public domain media anymore, because everything would require a license to view.
In South Africa, neurologists working with a drug called Zolpidem (used to treat chronic insomnia) made a startling discovery: It can temporarily rouse people in a persistent vegetative state. The patients were semiconscious for about four hours at a stretch after administration of a doze of Zolpidem, and were able to answer simple questions and move around a little. As it turns out, neuronal receptors for a compound called GABA change after a serious brain injury is suffered, which impairs chemoelectrical processing in the brain. It could be loosely inferred (without further information or statistics) that this plays a role in the development of a PVS. The drug Zolpidem changes the shape of the GABA receptors in the brain so that they can bind GABA more or less normally again, and consciousness returns until the drug is metabolised.
A Swiss telecom company called Vectrotel has seen a need and filled it: A GSM cellphone that detects when you're calling another Vectrotel phone and transparently encrypts the voice traffic. A 1024-bit session key is exchanged via Diffie-Helman, from which a 128-bit secret key is derived. Only a little transmission delay is introduced into the conversation it is said. What I want to know is what encryption algorithm they used (AES? DES? IDEA?) and whether or not anyone reputable has examined their implementation to make sure that they keys haven't been weakened somehow.
This is an amusing find - the console RPG cliche' commpendium.
SMRT-TV weighs in on season 27/season 1 of Doctor Who. Warning: Mild spoilers inside. Unless you've already downloaded everything, you might want to stop reading about half of the way down.
Hardcore sushi etiquette.
Attention, yinzers: Trader Joe's is coming to Pittsburgh!
You did something incredibly stupid, Hagbard, and you paid for it. But you were still good at what you did. See you at the end of Time, unless you are running around out there again, somewhere. A little thing like that would never keep you down.
Harry Blackstone, Jr. died in 1997?! That explains a few things...
Diebold claims that security vulnerabilities in their e-voting machines are features, not bugs
2006/05/22 Another busy weekend has come and gone, and it was definitely a good time for
everyone concerned. On Saturday morning Lyssa and I got up early to get dressed
and out the door to pick up Laurelinde and go to the Maryland Faerie Festival to spend the say and see what
we could see. Not having much in the way of what most people think of faerie
gear, I dug out a pair of leather pants and my black linen shirt and wore the
black quarter-mask that I bought at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival last weekend, while Lyssa opted for a gauzy shirt,
shell, neatly curled hair and her leather crown. We stopped off at the Metro
station to pick up Laurelinde and then after a pit stop to finish getting ready,
we stopped by the Dominion Deli for lunch on our way to the festival. Wisely,
we learned from our last stop at the Deli and had a pleasant lunch, amidst some
strange looks from the other patrons of the restaurant. All told, it took us a little over an hour to get there, mostly due to
getting lost in the roadway construction (when did we get to Pittsburgh?) and
detours of the highway that runs next to the 4-H farm that the festival was
being held at. We drove a couple of miles back from the highway under heavy
tree cover until we found an oasis of woods amidst a town chock full of hot
asphalt, sports cars weaving around and around one another, and heavy trucks.
After getting directions from someone stationed to guide traffic, we paid the
cover charge and headed into the festival. By the bye, this is going to be a slightly disconnected account until stuff
at work calms down and I get more than three hours of sleep, so please bear with
me. The workmanship of the faerie costumes at the festival on Saturday was
nothing short of amazing. The odd pair of wings aside (which didn't impress me
a whole lot - just the usual store bought stuff) the majority of the attendees
were wearing some pretty amazing costumes.. it's actually pretty easy, I
noticed, to use renfaire gear for faerie garb, given some of the more popularly
known folklore about the faerie. Miscellaneous Oddiments was there once again selling their hand-made leather
masks, and most of the pagan stores in Virginia and Maryland were set up and
hawking their wares. It never ceases to amaze me, how people design faire gear.
I find the styles and cuts of clothing wholly alien, so it strikes me as very
creative. It takes a skill to come up with something that a) is period and b)
actually looks good on you (the hardest thing to do, speaking as a cosplayer).
I wish I'd brought my camera with me.. there will be photographs put all over
the Net in a couple of days, given how community works around here. Of course,
I had to look around the booths and found a couple of books on hermetic alchemy
that I've been searching out for a while. Rialian, Helen, and Kash were there
also, and we spent some time hanging out with everyone and wandering around. I
think we made three or four laps of the entire faire, which took us the entire
afternoon. Some thoughtful souls had set up a booth that sold organic coffee
(which drew me from all the way across the field), thai food, and sushi (the
latter two I passed on). I wound up spending some time talking to two nice older women who recognised
my TARDIS key and pulled me into a conversation about season 27 (now showing on
the Sci-Fi Channel in the US). As it turns out, I think I've seen pictures of
one of the women in a photograph archive from Dragon*Con conventions gone by - she made a full Time Lady costume, which
amazed many conventiongoers in the 1980's. Running into other fans is the last thing I expected to do at the
festival. Lyssa, Laureninde, and I went roaming around in the woods for a while,
following some of the trails away from the festival toward the creek to stand
around away from everyone and talk for a while as the stream listened and the
sunlight played in the leaves. Unfortunately, we couldn't go much farther back
given the heavy ground cover, so after a while we returned to the festival and
got ready to head out. We said what goodbyes we could (seeing as how everyone
we knew had already left) and headed back to the car to return home. On the way out, at the urging of Lyssa and Laurelinde, as well as sundry
passers-by, I puchased a hand-made leather fedora.. I should start wearing it
around. As one might expect of a day out and about when I'm driving, this turned into
more of an adventure than such a day would otherwise seem. We got a little
turned around in traffic and had to search for a route back to the beltway to
get home, which involved a few stops at gas stations and a little bit of
guessing to get properly oriented. We wound up stopping off at Tiffin's in
College Park, Maryland because we were in the area and looking for food that was
more substantial than a bag of cinnamon roasted pecans purchased at the
festival. Somehow I attracted the attention of someone walking down the street,
probably tripping his balls off on something or other, who simply wouldn't leave
us alone. Somehow, Laurelinde managed to extricate me from this uncomfortable
situation (I tend to treat random people on drugs very carefully, on the off
chance that they freak out and do something I wouldn't appreciate under unarmed
circumstances (after one such altercation in undergrad, let me clarify)) and we
went into the restaurant. Over dinner we scandalised the tables around us with
conversation and funny stories from years gone by until just before closing
time, at which point we retired to the TARDIS to head home. We didn't see random strange guy attracted to shiny people again that night.
Our original plan was to head home, get dressed, and then Metro into downtown
DC to go clubbing, but we didn't get home until well after 2200 EST/EDT and
decided that by the time we got ready and down there, the Metro would be getting
ready to close, so we opted to stay home and rest. We curled up on the floor in
the living room and enjoyed one another's company for the rest of the night,
finally deciding to go to sleep around 0230 EST/EDT Sunday morning. On Sunday morning we eventually got around to heading out in search of
breakfast, because Lyssa and I have been lax on keeping the fridge stocked
lately. The three of us wound up at Amphora for breakfast for an hour or so,
and then headed to Maryland to take Laurelinde home, which was a much shorter
trip than the others on Saturday. Somehow a Sisters of Mercy beltway karaoke
party makes the time go faster, what can I say? Highly nifty: A software boobytrap for MacOS that makes it easier to recover stolen laptops. While we're on the subject of nifty stuff for Mac laptops, here's one that
takes advantage of the motion sensor inside each Mactop that turns it into a lightsaber. Aargh. Ow. Migraine. Went home early and slept all afternoon, feeling like
someone had moved a particularly sensitive portion of my anatomy to a region
just behind my ears and then began rabbit-punching me every couple of seconds in
the back of the head. I finally woke up around 1700 EST/EDT this afternoon, feeling somewhat worse
for wear but a bit clearer of head and not feeling like someone tried to gut me
with a garden trowel. A bit of fresh air, a cup of tea, and a couple of slices
of pizza did wonders for my outlook on life, as well as the processing capacity
of my brain. During some downtime today, Lyssa cleaned up the balcony garden, which really
did a lot for it: It looks great out there.. and did until a particularly
athletic squirrel somehow got onto the balcony and started digging in one of the
larger flower pots. That's right, I said digging. There was dirt and (dead) pieces of
chrysanthemum all over the place. Lyssa identified the plant parts as sections
of the original root ball which was already dead, so it only made a mess and
hopefully hasn't harmed the plant any. Time will tell. Because I'm comfortably snuggled in my favourite dressing gown with Lyssa and
Leandra, sipping peppermint tea, and pondering the ending of the latest episode
of Doctor Who (season 28, episode 6,
The Age of Steel), I think I've got it in me to do a bit more writing
about the weekend while the memories are still fresh. I'll probably go back and
edit a few things, also. After dropping Laurelinde off and taking the fifty cent tour of the house
that she shares with N- and Branwyn, we headed back for northern Virginia and
the gem show that awaited us. Much like computer shows, gem shows are.. well... basically temporary
shopping malls with a cover charge set up to buy stuff at a price that is often
lower than retail, only in this case the merchandise is jewelry, settings made
of precious metals, and loose gem stones of various kinds. Imagine an open
space the size of your average Wal-Mart full of booths of jewelry, costume and
otherwise, loose diamonds and emeralds and rubies and peridots and whatnot,
chains and tools and burning gas torches and people. And money. Lots and lots
of money. That's the best way to describe it, really. There isn't much that I can say to describe a gem show.. Lyssa and I walked
around together through aisles so jammed with people that you had to step
sideways sometimes looking for certain things, which neither of us happened to
find. To be fair, we found a great many things there but nothing that quite fit
the bill of what either of us were in search of. We left empty-handed, save for
a jewelry cleaning kit. Again with the returning home by way of the nearest petrol station, only to
prepare for the Depeche Mode concert
at the Nissan Auditorium on Sunday night. The opening band was a local group
that I've never heard of called She Wants Revenge. Unlike, well, all of the
opening bands I've heard this year, these guys didn't suck. Their music was
very similiar to some old school goth that I'm fond of, like Babylon Must Fall
with a little bit of Joy Division thrown in for flavour. After we bought our
concert swag (a couple of t-shirts, some tiny enamelled pins, a shoulder bag,
and a pre-ordered live CD recording of last night's concert) we found our way to
our seats through the crowd and made ourselves comfortable. During a trip to
get refreshments outside of the seating area, I ran into Seele, Silicon Dragon,
Brian, Loan, and a few new folks whose names I don't recall (nothing personal,
folks, I just suck at names). I wound up discussing old-school goth music with
one of the new folks and laughing over being caught wearing blue jeans for the
first time in this incarnation(!) in public... good times. Depeche Mode puts on one hell of a show. High-energy, in a sustained fusion
reaction kind of way. David Gahan was bouncing all over the stage and spinning in place like a dervish
in ecstasy while singing. The stage was done up in 1950's sci-fi, all silver
and chrome and floodlights with a large orb hanging over stage right displaying
messages and occasionally song lyrics to the crowd at appropriate times.
Christian Eigner somehow managed to keep up the pace as drummer through the
entire concert without breaking stride, a feat which never ceases to amaze me.
And Martin Gore, who plays the guitar and sometimes keyboards but doesn't
actually front for the band? He looks like Wash now. I'm serious. It still creeps me out. The man's got a hell of a set of pipes, though. He sang only a few songs,
one of them unaccompanied, with such a clear voice that it brought tears to my
eyes. The folks a few rows ahead of us in the box seats (complete with waitfolk
walking past every few minutes) were given the setlist before the concert
started, which they showed around before Depeche Mode took the stage.
Unfortunately, the folks sitting in front of us, who would later drive us mad
throughout the show, wouldn't hold it still so either Lyssa or I could get a
good look at the list... this was the same couple who were quite tall (much
taller than I, and from my vantage point I can say with certainty that they were
not wearing the requisite new-school goth eight-inch high stompy boots) and
would not sit down for much of the show, which further compromised our already
less-than-stellar view of the concert. A number of times I pondered exactly how
far I could throw them, given sufficient prep time to calculate a trajectory.
Thankfully, they left near the end of the first set, which left us a clear view
of the stage for the final two songs and encore, which were all older tracks.
The majority of the show was from their new album, Playing the Angel, which I highly recommend that you purchase. The concert finally ended a little after 2200 EST/EDT on Sunday, and the
stadium took its sweet old time emptying. Lyssa and I roamed around the parking
lot for over an hour searching for the TARDIS; we eventually found it parked
more or less where we'd left it, save that the appearance of the landscape had
changed markedly since we'd parked because everyone trying to leave just pulled
forward and obliterated our landmarks. We got home a little before midnight last night, upon which I headed straight
to bed to sleep, which catches the tale of today up to the present time. ...an electrified knife?!
Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State weighs in on George W. Bush's faith and how he's using it to piss off most of the rest of the planet. I think I'm still hallucinating from the migraine earlier today. Robot Chicken spoofed Final
Fantasy VII. (666 / 2 == 333) * 3) == 999 2006/05/19 When I had the time in undergrad I used to LARP (live-action roleplay, where you basically get a bunch of
folks dressing up to some extent, wandering around, and gaming, as opposed to
sitting around a table with notepads, pencils, and books). Sometimes the
costumes get pretty elaborate... like this stone golem constructed out of a couple of foam mattresses.
I have to give this guy crazy respect for this. I also wonder how the wearer of
the costume hasn't died of heatstroke while wearing it. An outfit called the Japan Accoustic Lab has worked some mathematical magick
and figured out what Leonardo da Vinci and Mona Lisa might have sounded like given classical depictions
of the two figures and some forensic analysis techniques of their facial
structures. Because the human voice depends upon the structure of the facial
bones and the underlying nasal sinuses, as well as the size and shape of the
larnyx and vocal chords, it is apparently possible to make educated guesses as
to what the internal structures look like, given knowledge of human anatomy and
mathematics. Definitely a nifty hack. Interesting news from the medical field: Biochemists at Merck have developed a drug that can be used to treat MRSA (methycillin-resistent staphylococcus aureus),
the strain of s. aureus that is unaffected by just about every antibiotic on
the market today. Due to how pharmaceutical laws in the United States are set
up, it could be a couple of years before the drug (platensimycin) hits the
market. Pat Robertson has finally lost his mind. Alex Jones wouldn't even touch this conspiracy theory! 2006/05/18 The anti-human papilloma virus vaccine controversy has raised its ugly head once more. "Controversy?", you ask? Yes. Controversy. The same group of people that thinks that it's a good
idea to throw purity balsls for their daughters (which, statistics have shown, have had little to no
impact on teen sex statistics) are saying that this vaccine should not be
administered along with other booster shots to kids in school because it might
give them the wrong impression about premarital sex. One Hal Wallace
(credentials unknown) of the Physician's Consortium was quoted as saying that
"You just take this shot and you can be as sexually promiscuous as you want,"
you know, sort of like tetanus or hepatitis vaccinations. A vaccination that can stop one of the sneakiest forms of cancer in women is
drawing enough heat that its release and distribution is being held back...
well, if these folks are going to protest one anti-cancer drug, why not try to
get all of them off the market, like cyclophosphamide, mytomycin, and all of the pyrimidine antagonists, because the
availability of those encourages unsafe and unhealthy lifestyles? For the sarcasm impaired, those are all compounds used in chemotherapy. Well, this is one way of going about it... Mary Wohlford, age 80, has had 'NO NOT RESUSCITATE' tattoed on her chest in the event that
the wishes outlined in her living will would not be followed. Legal experts and
medical ethicists doubt that it would stop a crash team from trying to kickstart
her heart, but she's willing to try. Mr. Mark Klein, the AT&T employee who blew the whistle on the hidden AT&T monitoring station has testified in court
and here's a transcript of his statement. He also released internal AT&T documents as
evidence of the clandestine monitoring system. Klein says that other major
AT&T switching centres have their own monitoring pits.. monitoring not only
telephony traffic, but net.traffic related to AT&T WorldNet, their nationwide
ISP. These monitoring pits are sealed with combination locks and only
technicians that have a certain security clearance (no idea what this would be,
probably Top Secret or TS/SCI) are permitted access. Moreover, these have been
around since 2003 at the earliest, but records show that they were designed,
vetted, and ready for construction in December of 2002. Interestingly enough,
this project superceeded an NSA project called ThinThread from the late 1990's, which wold have done much the same thing in
a much more legal manner. Project ThinThread was killed by internal politicking
and an outright power grab. Hwang Woo-suk, South Korean researcher who fell from grace for faking his stem cell research is in a hell of a lot
more trouble now.. he's been brought up on charges of embezzlement and fraud for using his
research funds in the course of faking his results. He has not been taken into
custody, at least not yet. Charges were also levied against the other five
members of his research team, including obstruction of duty, fraud, and
bio-ethics violations. 2006/05/17 George W. Bush wants to deploy 6,000 troops along the southern border of the United States to prevent the ingress of illegal immigrants.
As if the US military isn't stretched thinly enough right now... Flashcards designed to teach new immigrants the Bill of Rights don't include freedom of the press as a right. In another stunning show of "you can't play with my toys even though mommy
said so", the RIAA is suing XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Incorporated because they sell a portable XM radio that is capable of recording broadcasts to play back later
because they say that listeners will no longer have to purchase music from them
to listen to it. Fair use, US copyright law, yadda yadda yadda.. I don't really buy music from labels signed to the RIAA because of crap like
this. They don't seem to understand that if you broadcast it for someone to
listen to, they are well within their rights to record it and listen to it later
but not redistribute it (why would they? If anyone could listen to it, anyone
could make their own recording for next to nothing.) Someone developed a video game based on the Columbine High School massacre. You can download it from here. Evicted because they're not married?! Arrested for asking directions in Baltimore?! Jayne Cobb, resident bad-ass Wash, the Pilot Inara, the "Companion" Shepherd Book RiVER Simon, the Doctor Captain Malcolm Reynolds First Mate Zoe Kaylee, the Mechanic
You scored as Jayne Cobb, resident bad-ass. Jayne Cobb: HOLY SHIT BUT YOU ARE AWESOME!
How awesome? So awesome that they named a town after you, complete with a statue and eventually even a parade.
Sure, you could be smarter, or nicer, or shower more often, or kick the shit out of Simon for me, but nobody's perfect... 81% 75% 75% 69% 69% 56% 56% 44% 38%
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Another busy weekend has come and gone, and it was definitely a good time for everyone concerned. On Saturday morning Lyssa and I got up early to get dressed and out the door to pick up Laurelinde and go to the Maryland Faerie Festival to spend the say and see what we could see. Not having much in the way of what most people think of faerie gear, I dug out a pair of leather pants and my black linen shirt and wore the black quarter-mask that I bought at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival last weekend, while Lyssa opted for a gauzy shirt, shell, neatly curled hair and her leather crown. We stopped off at the Metro station to pick up Laurelinde and then after a pit stop to finish getting ready, we stopped by the Dominion Deli for lunch on our way to the festival. Wisely, we learned from our last stop at the Deli and had a pleasant lunch, amidst some strange looks from the other patrons of the restaurant.
All told, it took us a little over an hour to get there, mostly due to getting lost in the roadway construction (when did we get to Pittsburgh?) and detours of the highway that runs next to the 4-H farm that the festival was being held at. We drove a couple of miles back from the highway under heavy tree cover until we found an oasis of woods amidst a town chock full of hot asphalt, sports cars weaving around and around one another, and heavy trucks. After getting directions from someone stationed to guide traffic, we paid the cover charge and headed into the festival.
By the bye, this is going to be a slightly disconnected account until stuff at work calms down and I get more than three hours of sleep, so please bear with me.
The workmanship of the faerie costumes at the festival on Saturday was nothing short of amazing. The odd pair of wings aside (which didn't impress me a whole lot - just the usual store bought stuff) the majority of the attendees were wearing some pretty amazing costumes.. it's actually pretty easy, I noticed, to use renfaire gear for faerie garb, given some of the more popularly known folklore about the faerie. Miscellaneous Oddiments was there once again selling their hand-made leather masks, and most of the pagan stores in Virginia and Maryland were set up and hawking their wares. It never ceases to amaze me, how people design faire gear. I find the styles and cuts of clothing wholly alien, so it strikes me as very creative. It takes a skill to come up with something that a) is period and b) actually looks good on you (the hardest thing to do, speaking as a cosplayer). I wish I'd brought my camera with me.. there will be photographs put all over the Net in a couple of days, given how community works around here. Of course, I had to look around the booths and found a couple of books on hermetic alchemy that I've been searching out for a while. Rialian, Helen, and Kash were there also, and we spent some time hanging out with everyone and wandering around. I think we made three or four laps of the entire faire, which took us the entire afternoon. Some thoughtful souls had set up a booth that sold organic coffee (which drew me from all the way across the field), thai food, and sushi (the latter two I passed on).
I wound up spending some time talking to two nice older women who recognised my TARDIS key and pulled me into a conversation about season 27 (now showing on the Sci-Fi Channel in the US). As it turns out, I think I've seen pictures of one of the women in a photograph archive from Dragon*Con conventions gone by - she made a full Time Lady costume, which amazed many conventiongoers in the 1980's.
Running into other fans is the last thing I expected to do at the festival.
Lyssa, Laureninde, and I went roaming around in the woods for a while, following some of the trails away from the festival toward the creek to stand around away from everyone and talk for a while as the stream listened and the sunlight played in the leaves. Unfortunately, we couldn't go much farther back given the heavy ground cover, so after a while we returned to the festival and got ready to head out. We said what goodbyes we could (seeing as how everyone we knew had already left) and headed back to the car to return home.
On the way out, at the urging of Lyssa and Laurelinde, as well as sundry passers-by, I puchased a hand-made leather fedora.. I should start wearing it around.
As one might expect of a day out and about when I'm driving, this turned into more of an adventure than such a day would otherwise seem. We got a little turned around in traffic and had to search for a route back to the beltway to get home, which involved a few stops at gas stations and a little bit of guessing to get properly oriented. We wound up stopping off at Tiffin's in College Park, Maryland because we were in the area and looking for food that was more substantial than a bag of cinnamon roasted pecans purchased at the festival. Somehow I attracted the attention of someone walking down the street, probably tripping his balls off on something or other, who simply wouldn't leave us alone. Somehow, Laurelinde managed to extricate me from this uncomfortable situation (I tend to treat random people on drugs very carefully, on the off chance that they freak out and do something I wouldn't appreciate under unarmed circumstances (after one such altercation in undergrad, let me clarify)) and we went into the restaurant. Over dinner we scandalised the tables around us with conversation and funny stories from years gone by until just before closing time, at which point we retired to the TARDIS to head home.
We didn't see random strange guy attracted to shiny people again that night.
Our original plan was to head home, get dressed, and then Metro into downtown DC to go clubbing, but we didn't get home until well after 2200 EST/EDT and decided that by the time we got ready and down there, the Metro would be getting ready to close, so we opted to stay home and rest. We curled up on the floor in the living room and enjoyed one another's company for the rest of the night, finally deciding to go to sleep around 0230 EST/EDT Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning we eventually got around to heading out in search of breakfast, because Lyssa and I have been lax on keeping the fridge stocked lately. The three of us wound up at Amphora for breakfast for an hour or so, and then headed to Maryland to take Laurelinde home, which was a much shorter trip than the others on Saturday. Somehow a Sisters of Mercy beltway karaoke party makes the time go faster, what can I say?
Highly nifty: A software boobytrap for MacOS that makes it easier to recover stolen laptops.
While we're on the subject of nifty stuff for Mac laptops, here's one that takes advantage of the motion sensor inside each Mactop that turns it into a lightsaber.
Aargh. Ow. Migraine. Went home early and slept all afternoon, feeling like someone had moved a particularly sensitive portion of my anatomy to a region just behind my ears and then began rabbit-punching me every couple of seconds in the back of the head.
I finally woke up around 1700 EST/EDT this afternoon, feeling somewhat worse for wear but a bit clearer of head and not feeling like someone tried to gut me with a garden trowel. A bit of fresh air, a cup of tea, and a couple of slices of pizza did wonders for my outlook on life, as well as the processing capacity of my brain.
During some downtime today, Lyssa cleaned up the balcony garden, which really did a lot for it: It looks great out there.. and did until a particularly athletic squirrel somehow got onto the balcony and started digging in one of the larger flower pots.
That's right, I said digging. There was dirt and (dead) pieces of chrysanthemum all over the place. Lyssa identified the plant parts as sections of the original root ball which was already dead, so it only made a mess and hopefully hasn't harmed the plant any. Time will tell.
Because I'm comfortably snuggled in my favourite dressing gown with Lyssa and Leandra, sipping peppermint tea, and pondering the ending of the latest episode of Doctor Who (season 28, episode 6, The Age of Steel), I think I've got it in me to do a bit more writing about the weekend while the memories are still fresh. I'll probably go back and edit a few things, also.
After dropping Laurelinde off and taking the fifty cent tour of the house that she shares with N- and Branwyn, we headed back for northern Virginia and the gem show that awaited us.
Much like computer shows, gem shows are.. well... basically temporary shopping malls with a cover charge set up to buy stuff at a price that is often lower than retail, only in this case the merchandise is jewelry, settings made of precious metals, and loose gem stones of various kinds. Imagine an open space the size of your average Wal-Mart full of booths of jewelry, costume and otherwise, loose diamonds and emeralds and rubies and peridots and whatnot, chains and tools and burning gas torches and people. And money. Lots and lots of money.
That's the best way to describe it, really.
There isn't much that I can say to describe a gem show.. Lyssa and I walked around together through aisles so jammed with people that you had to step sideways sometimes looking for certain things, which neither of us happened to find. To be fair, we found a great many things there but nothing that quite fit the bill of what either of us were in search of. We left empty-handed, save for a jewelry cleaning kit.
Again with the returning home by way of the nearest petrol station, only to prepare for the Depeche Mode concert at the Nissan Auditorium on Sunday night. The opening band was a local group that I've never heard of called She Wants Revenge. Unlike, well, all of the opening bands I've heard this year, these guys didn't suck. Their music was very similiar to some old school goth that I'm fond of, like Babylon Must Fall with a little bit of Joy Division thrown in for flavour. After we bought our concert swag (a couple of t-shirts, some tiny enamelled pins, a shoulder bag, and a pre-ordered live CD recording of last night's concert) we found our way to our seats through the crowd and made ourselves comfortable. During a trip to get refreshments outside of the seating area, I ran into Seele, Silicon Dragon, Brian, Loan, and a few new folks whose names I don't recall (nothing personal, folks, I just suck at names). I wound up discussing old-school goth music with one of the new folks and laughing over being caught wearing blue jeans for the first time in this incarnation(!) in public... good times.
Depeche Mode puts on one hell of a show. High-energy, in a sustained fusion reaction kind of way. David Gahan was bouncing all over the stage and spinning in place like a dervish in ecstasy while singing. The stage was done up in 1950's sci-fi, all silver and chrome and floodlights with a large orb hanging over stage right displaying messages and occasionally song lyrics to the crowd at appropriate times. Christian Eigner somehow managed to keep up the pace as drummer through the entire concert without breaking stride, a feat which never ceases to amaze me. And Martin Gore, who plays the guitar and sometimes keyboards but doesn't actually front for the band?
He looks like Wash now.
I'm serious. It still creeps me out.
The man's got a hell of a set of pipes, though. He sang only a few songs, one of them unaccompanied, with such a clear voice that it brought tears to my eyes.
The folks a few rows ahead of us in the box seats (complete with waitfolk walking past every few minutes) were given the setlist before the concert started, which they showed around before Depeche Mode took the stage. Unfortunately, the folks sitting in front of us, who would later drive us mad throughout the show, wouldn't hold it still so either Lyssa or I could get a good look at the list... this was the same couple who were quite tall (much taller than I, and from my vantage point I can say with certainty that they were not wearing the requisite new-school goth eight-inch high stompy boots) and would not sit down for much of the show, which further compromised our already less-than-stellar view of the concert. A number of times I pondered exactly how far I could throw them, given sufficient prep time to calculate a trajectory. Thankfully, they left near the end of the first set, which left us a clear view of the stage for the final two songs and encore, which were all older tracks. The majority of the show was from their new album, Playing the Angel, which I highly recommend that you purchase.
The concert finally ended a little after 2200 EST/EDT on Sunday, and the stadium took its sweet old time emptying. Lyssa and I roamed around the parking lot for over an hour searching for the TARDIS; we eventually found it parked more or less where we'd left it, save that the appearance of the landscape had changed markedly since we'd parked because everyone trying to leave just pulled forward and obliterated our landmarks.
We got home a little before midnight last night, upon which I headed straight to bed to sleep, which catches the tale of today up to the present time.
...an electrified knife?!
Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State weighs in on George W. Bush's faith and how he's using it to piss off most of the rest of the planet.
I think I'm still hallucinating from the migraine earlier today. Robot Chicken spoofed Final Fantasy VII.
(666 / 2 == 333) * 3) == 999
When I had the time in undergrad I used to LARP (live-action roleplay, where you basically get a bunch of folks dressing up to some extent, wandering around, and gaming, as opposed to sitting around a table with notepads, pencils, and books). Sometimes the costumes get pretty elaborate... like this stone golem constructed out of a couple of foam mattresses. I have to give this guy crazy respect for this. I also wonder how the wearer of the costume hasn't died of heatstroke while wearing it.
An outfit called the Japan Accoustic Lab has worked some mathematical magick and figured out what Leonardo da Vinci and Mona Lisa might have sounded like given classical depictions of the two figures and some forensic analysis techniques of their facial structures. Because the human voice depends upon the structure of the facial bones and the underlying nasal sinuses, as well as the size and shape of the larnyx and vocal chords, it is apparently possible to make educated guesses as to what the internal structures look like, given knowledge of human anatomy and mathematics. Definitely a nifty hack.
Interesting news from the medical field: Biochemists at Merck have developed a drug that can be used to treat MRSA (methycillin-resistent staphylococcus aureus), the strain of s. aureus that is unaffected by just about every antibiotic on the market today. Due to how pharmaceutical laws in the United States are set up, it could be a couple of years before the drug (platensimycin) hits the market.
Pat Robertson has finally lost his mind. Alex Jones wouldn't even touch this conspiracy theory!
The anti-human papilloma virus vaccine controversy has raised its ugly head once more. "Controversy?", you ask?
Yes. Controversy. The same group of people that thinks that it's a good idea to throw purity balsls for their daughters (which, statistics have shown, have had little to no impact on teen sex statistics) are saying that this vaccine should not be administered along with other booster shots to kids in school because it might give them the wrong impression about premarital sex. One Hal Wallace (credentials unknown) of the Physician's Consortium was quoted as saying that "You just take this shot and you can be as sexually promiscuous as you want," you know, sort of like tetanus or hepatitis vaccinations.
A vaccination that can stop one of the sneakiest forms of cancer in women is drawing enough heat that its release and distribution is being held back... well, if these folks are going to protest one anti-cancer drug, why not try to get all of them off the market, like cyclophosphamide, mytomycin, and all of the pyrimidine antagonists, because the availability of those encourages unsafe and unhealthy lifestyles?
For the sarcasm impaired, those are all compounds used in chemotherapy.
Well, this is one way of going about it... Mary Wohlford, age 80, has had 'NO NOT RESUSCITATE' tattoed on her chest in the event that the wishes outlined in her living will would not be followed. Legal experts and medical ethicists doubt that it would stop a crash team from trying to kickstart her heart, but she's willing to try.
Mr. Mark Klein, the AT&T employee who blew the whistle on the hidden AT&T monitoring station has testified in court and here's a transcript of his statement. He also released internal AT&T documents as evidence of the clandestine monitoring system. Klein says that other major AT&T switching centres have their own monitoring pits.. monitoring not only telephony traffic, but net.traffic related to AT&T WorldNet, their nationwide ISP. These monitoring pits are sealed with combination locks and only technicians that have a certain security clearance (no idea what this would be, probably Top Secret or TS/SCI) are permitted access. Moreover, these have been around since 2003 at the earliest, but records show that they were designed, vetted, and ready for construction in December of 2002. Interestingly enough, this project superceeded an NSA project called ThinThread from the late 1990's, which wold have done much the same thing in a much more legal manner. Project ThinThread was killed by internal politicking and an outright power grab.
Hwang Woo-suk, South Korean researcher who fell from grace for faking his stem cell research is in a hell of a lot more trouble now.. he's been brought up on charges of embezzlement and fraud for using his research funds in the course of faking his results. He has not been taken into custody, at least not yet. Charges were also levied against the other five members of his research team, including obstruction of duty, fraud, and bio-ethics violations.
George W. Bush wants to deploy 6,000 troops along the southern border of the United States to prevent the ingress of illegal immigrants. As if the US military isn't stretched thinly enough right now...
Flashcards designed to teach new immigrants the Bill of Rights don't include freedom of the press as a right.
In another stunning show of "you can't play with my toys even though mommy said so", the RIAA is suing XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Incorporated because they sell a portable XM radio that is capable of recording broadcasts to play back later because they say that listeners will no longer have to purchase music from them to listen to it. Fair use, US copyright law, yadda yadda yadda..
I don't really buy music from labels signed to the RIAA because of crap like this. They don't seem to understand that if you broadcast it for someone to listen to, they are well within their rights to record it and listen to it later but not redistribute it (why would they? If anyone could listen to it, anyone could make their own recording for next to nothing.)
Someone developed a video game based on the Columbine High School massacre. You can download it from here.
Evicted because they're not married?!
Arrested for asking directions in Baltimore?!
Jayne Cobb, resident bad-ass
Wash, the Pilot
Inara, the "Companion"
Simon, the Doctor
Captain Malcolm Reynolds
First Mate Zoe
Kaylee, the Mechanic
How in the Hell did I pull that one off?!
Last week, the Library of Congress' National Library Service pulled the plug on their web site for the vision-impaired who use braille terminals. There is a petition here to have it brought back online.
I really need to get a real content management system set up.. I went looking for something in here last night in response to a question, and I couldn't find what I was looking for. I'm almost certain that I wrote a few things up, but hell if I could find it after an hour or two of grepping the raw HTML files. Now I'm not so sure that I actually said anything about it, which really scares me. Just to be safe, I've got some stuff lined up for later today.
BellSouth went public by saying that they didn't turn over any call records to the NSA, recent news reports to the contrary. They also did the "we respect customer privacy" song and dance for the media.. I find it interesting, however, that they had to go through some sort of internal review process to determine this. Wouldn't it make more sense to just go higher up in the foodchain and ask, "Hey, did we give any customer call traffic data to Big Brother, and if so where is the silver platter?"
Skype users will be able to call anywhere within the United States and Canada POTS networks for free until the end of 2006. The SkypeOut service allows Skype users to call mobile and landlines anywhere in North America without the other end of the call being a user of Skype as well.
Mark Rasch, a columist for Securityfocus, weighs in on the NSA monitoring US citizens' calls, and he gives it both barrels, believe you me. First off, he gives the reminder that no one, aside from a couple of people with need-to-know access, really knows how big a programme this really is. Second, it has been said by officials that the programme only targets suspects.. the official in question has a history of not playing straight with the people of the United States, though, so break out your salt shakers to spice that one up a little; it also isn't known how, exactly, they determine who is and isn't suspected of being in cahoots with al Quaida. Third, telephone calls (and possibly associated data, depending on the mode of call transport; that's gonna be debated for a while, you can bet) are protected by the Fourth Amendment, as declared by the Supreme Court in 1967. However, call traffic information is not protected by the fourth amendment, as stated by the Supreme Court in Smith v. Maryland in the year 1979 CE. Fourth, the US wiretapping law (title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968) makes it illegal to intercept private communications without a warrant. Period. Interestingly, title 18, section 2702(a)(3) of the US code makes it illegal to disclose 'non-content subscriber information' (call traffic data) to anyone for any reason, including to government entities of any kind.
I would take this fairly scary news story with a saltshaker or two, but given how the current regeime is cracking down on whistleblowers, one never knows... I would think that sales of pre-paid calling cards (available pretty much anywhere you can buy a can of soda or a bottle of water these days) are going to start climbing.. especially the fly-by-night ones issued by companies that use VoIP networks to route calls to another country first, where bandwidth is cheaper, before sending them on to their SIP/RTP gateways to hit the POTS grid.
I would also put forth that one can stack pre-paid calling cards in sequence, and that one can even buy them with cash these days for very little.
Okay.. seeing as how I can't remember for the lives of me whether or not I mentioned this, I'm going to talk a little bit about network neutrality, which is basically this: For a given information network of some kind (like the Internet), it doesn't matter what kind of traffic is going across it because the infrastructure, the switches, routers, gateways, and what have you will treat it all the same, modulo security concerns, of course. The stream of packets that makes up an e-mail gets exactly the same treatment as the stream of packets that make up a DNS resolution request, a live audio stream, your Usenet feed, and web browsing. Conversely, ISPs, hosting facilities, and private servers accept all such traffic with equal priority. To put it another way, people have just as much right to access the Microsoft website as they do The Ferrett's LiveJournal.
At this point in history, a law called the COPE Act, also known as the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006", which you can read an overview of here (you can read the text of the bill here, mirrored here) will go before the House for a vote. The thing is, text that would legally require network neutrality was stricken from the bill, which would make it legal for the big boys on the Net, the backbone providers, connectivity provideres, big corporations, and ISPs to determine what you can access, how fast you can access it, and whether or not you can even see it (in ways I'll explain later). It would be legal for an ISP like American On-Line to decide that they don't want their users to be able to recieve e-mail from GMail. Or a big backbone provider like Qwest could decide that they didn't want anyone to be able access weblogs (via ports 80/TCP or 443/TCP) run by their customers who aren't paying a "web content surcharge" (for example). What makes it scary is that the big telecom companies in the US are pouring millions of dollars into lobbying to ensure that network neutrality remains ignored in this matter. Also, some of the biggest connectivity providers, like Comcast and Verizon have already announced that they'll be offering tiered service, in which you can pay for plain-jane service.. or you can pay more to be able to access Gmail more readily than they'll let you access Hotmail, and you might not be able to access Hushmail at all.
There are a couple of ways that they can do this, easily. First off, a given ISP can configure its routers to throttle traffic going to a particular site. Routers examine the destination IP address of each packet and figure out what to do with them; the newer, more powerful ones can also perform 'traffic shaping', which means that packets can be prioritised and sent on their way in a different order with different timing. This is usually done to make access to certain services smoother for customers, like giving traffic associated with VoIP or streaming audio priority over all other traffic, or limiting HTTP traffic to 30 kilobytes per second, or something like that. It would also be possible to configure traffic shaping to give traffic of a certain kind or associated with a certain destination much lower priority. Routers or firewalls could also be configured to simply drop all traffic associated with a certain destination.
This has big implications for net.commerce: Those same telecom companies are partnering with other big businesses for what they're calling priority access (until they come up with another term for it) to their service. They aren't saying if they'll let you access Yahoo Stores or small businesses, like Lulu. Already, the waters are being tested: Check out some of the situations reported in this FAQ, like the ISP Madison River in North Carolina blocking their customers from using any VoIP service other than their own.
Wired magazine is covering this matter in some detail.. their writeup explains things in a concise matter if you're not a techie. Vinton Cerf of Google had some pointed things to say on this matter. At least one company was caught astroturfing, which lends the matter more legitimacy (why would you go to the trouble of setting up an astroturf operation if it wasn't worth the time and money?).
I ask all of you out there to run a simple Google search: "network neutrality". See what comes back. Read the pages - they're not terribly technical, they're not full of legalese, just simple, down to earth stuff about what's happening. You will also find links to a number of coalitions that are fighting this. You will also probably come across some astroturfing, like I mentioned earlier.
If you've got any care about what the Net gives you, take a half hour to read up on this and write a few letters, like I've been doing every afternoon for the past few weeks. Sign a few petitions. Send some e-mails to your congressfolks. And keep an eye on how your elected representatives vote: Their vote very well might decide how you vote. That is, after all, what the electorial system is for.
An Xbox hacker named Commodore4Eva has cracked the Xbox 360, allowing it to play backed up games. He did this by hacking the firmware of the DVD drive itself, and writing a couple of tools that allow people to make use of this hack. There is a gotcha to this, and that is that your Xbox 360 has to have a DVD-ROM drive manufactured by Toshiba-Samsung for the hack to work.
Remember: There is no silver bullet. Not even TOR.
Watch your backs out there. And use your heads.
A quick (and late) review of Slade's American Grill and Bar (Tyson's Corner Shopping Center; 7943-B Tyson's Corner Center; McLean, Virginia, 22102):
Excellent salads; tasty appetizers that are a little on the pricy side ($6us on up for starters); the main courses are a little on the expensive side (starting at $12us and going up to fair market price for seafood). The killer is how greasy some of their food is: Lyssa and I ordered the fish and chips and were surprised at how much oil the batter and fries soaked up. It definitely took a decade or so off of our lives (mental note: teach Lyssa the regeneration trick). The service was attentive - the waitress was there when we needed her and working other customers when we didn't. The food, however, left us with a slightly queasy feeling afterward, probably due to all the grease. Overall, the main courses weren't all that we'd hoped they would be. I give them three flareguns, for the price and general oiliness of the food. If you're in McLean, you'd be better served going someplace else, in all honesty. I recommend The Capital Grille just down the street from Tyson's Center (I give it one flaregun - excellent everything, try the lobster burger, but save your pennies and wear nice clothes if you go, because it's a ritzy restaurant for the corporate up-and-comer about town).
Ordinarily I'm not much of a video gamer but this caught my eye: John Carmack of iD Software on cellphone games, where cellphones will be going in the next year or two, and what can be done with them in the way of entertainment.
Damn. Now I want to find a copy of The Bard's Tale.
I've been waiting for this particular shoe to fall: In my home state of Pennsylvania, they'll be rolling out the Diebold electronic voting systems for the elections that are less than a month away - the very same e-voting systems that were audited and found wanting, i.e., if you've got a few minutes alone with one (that's the whole idea behind using them, you see), you can write a simple Visual Basic macro using the on-screen voting keyboard that will do whatever you want it to.. because the voting records are held in an MS Access database on each voting machine, this includes editing the votes stored in each machine. You don't need user access on the machine higher than what you get when you walk into the voting booth and close the curtain to do this.
If you have any contact with the news media at all, you've probably heard about the NSA getting call traffic information from the big telecom companies (like AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon) to figure out who's been calling whom, when, and how often. The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against them a few weeks ago to get them to stop doing this. Early in the morning on Saturday, 13 May 2006 the US DoJ filed a motion to dismiss the suit against AT&T, stating that the nature of the US commnet-wide traffic analysis programme was a state secret, and thus exempt from 'normal' legal channels within the United States.
Dance Dance Revolution: Coming to Saturday morning television!
Why does this remind me of those Saturday morning gameshows from the early 1980's where kids were playing arcade games for money and prizes?
There is a bill before Congress right now that would require making it impossible to access social networking sites from school and libraries because they're afraid of kids being preyed upon by child molesters. This bill, if it passes, will do precisely jack.. laws have been passed that require content filtering at schools and libraries, and as web content filters are wont to do, they cause trouble for people doing actual research but somehow the cheesiest, nastiest porn sites always sneak through.. second, this is yet another case of parents not caring what their kids are doing and not telling them to use their heads when they set up a profile someplace. The parents won't do it so they push the responsibility of monitoring their kids off to the schools, which don't have the money or manpower to do so until laws get passed (and even then, they usually don't have the resources to do it, but they do the best they can with what they've got). The kids will continue to find their way around the blocks that are set up and Bad Things(tm) will continue to happen.
First off... teach your kids some common sense, people. Explain to them that if you put anything (I almost used a blink tag there... sheesh) on the Net, it is available to anyone. Search engines will pick it up and make it available to anyone who keys the right search terms in. If you set up an account with MySpace, LiveJournal, or Slashdot and fill out a profile (which you are required to do, under certain circumstances) that information can and will be used against you. If you go so far as to post a link to Google Maps that shows where your house is (I've seen people do this!), then expect that at least one person in the area that finds it will stop by! If you post a profile that says that you're single, expect to get "Wanna fuck?" messages now and again. If you put pictures of yourself online, then at some point someone will see your picture and recognise you in public someday. And for the sake of the gods, if you actually write anything, chances are someone's going to read it. If you write your plans for the weekend, then anyone who reads them knows what you're up to. If you muse about shooting someone someone could very well read it and take you seriously. The Net is a much, much bigger place than anyone realises now. Its gargantuan size has shrunk the distances between people - you can speak to people that don't know you because they're a friend of one of your friends, and vice versa. Mistyped search engine terms can lead someone to your words, your intentions, concretizations of your thoughts wholly by accident. And if you are up to something, whatever holiness there be protect you because if someone can Google it, someone can stop you because you made your intentions available.
Also, don't forget that people don't necessarily know that you're kidding, even if you put a smiley or 'LOL' or something after it. Text does not convey the same emotional cues that sitting down with someone to talk face to face does. Don't assume that no one can touch you because you're sitting behind the keyboard of your parents' computer.. if you post anywhere people can find you, and will if given sufficient reason to do so. Use your heads, kids. That goes for you, too, parents - take an interest in your kids. Do stuff with them that isn't playing video games or having sullen conversations over dinner like most folks do when they're in their teens - gods know, I used to. Get to know one another, because your adolescent is not the child that you raised, they are an entirely different person, with different likes, dislikes, tastes, opinions. Oh, and they're also being driven half-mad by their bodies as they slowly reconfigure themselves into adults in beta testing. Treat them like equals, like friends, not like subordinates or little kids, and the lines of communication will stay open.
Oh, and of course they're going to do some stupid things.. expect that. Also expect that you might not find out about it until years later.
Okay. Enough ranting about parenting and kids thinking that they've invicible because they post on MySpace.
Busting chanting by playing back the audio through the PA system at at delay. I can see this going over well during presidential elections.
A grizzly bear/polar bear hybrid shot by hunters in Canada. Way to study a unique specimin, guys..
Virginia vanity license plate of the millennium: MOVE ZIG
Yes, I actually saw that one this afternoon.
Mudder's Milk: When you absolutely, positively, have to annihilate every last neuron inside your cranium. Accept no substitutes.
Yesterday afternoon, after a morning of sitting around checking our e-mail and eating breakfast (leftover pseudo-quiche made with Egg Beaters and polenta) we cleaned some stuff out of the TARDIS and headed north, not back home because something else has gone wrong but to the Greenbelt Green Man Festival in Maryland. If you're not familiar with the green man, they are depictions of the faces of men (most often - there are female versions, as well) made up of foliage of various sorts worked into architecture from the Gothic period. There are also a great many myths surrounding the green man, as well as not a few stories from folklore, fanciful and not. The Green Belt Green Man Festival takes its name from this myth-line, and is a gathering in the town square of people and vendors interested in environmentalism, permaculture, neopaganism, good music, and generally just getting by without taking up too much space or resources.
Greenbelt, Maryland, as I found out yesterday, has a very interesting history: It is one of the three known 'green towns' built during the Roosevelt administration as part of the New Deal. It was designed from the ground up as a small city (and not so much of a town, though we didn't get to see much of it during our jaunt), with lots of open-air courtyards, interior walkways between buildings, closely packed homes called superblocks (though driving through the area showed us many conventional homes with downpayments matching what my grandparents paid in toto for the original homestead), and segregated motor and pedestrian traffic, of which there was much of the latter and not so much of the former. Originally meant as an experiment in low income housing, it is now the home of quite a few old-school hippes and a growing population of corporate up-and-comers.
From what I saw of the place, it'd be a good place to live and raise a family. It's small, quiet, nicely laid out, lots of places to walk, and some neat stuff to see and do while you're there.
The town square had quite a few vendors of the hippie-ish and renfaire sort present, where you could buy everything from hand-made soaps to custom-fitted leather sandals and boots (which, I have to be honest, I was considering). There was live music now and then, lots of folks of all ages running around, and many interesting things to see. Lyssa and I, after a little initial wandering to orient ourselves, made a beeline for the mask-maker's booth as soon as we knew where it was. An outfit called Miscellaneous Oddiments was selling hand-made leather masks of all kinds, each of them unique and beautiful to behold. They have your usual zorro mask.. animal masks in half- and three-quarter face versions of cats, wolves, foxes, dragons, suns, moons, and things far stranger. They even have one-quarter masks that only fit over one eye, rather like an eyepatch. I picked up one of these (which I'll get pictures of up sooner or later); Lyssa purchased a green leather tiara decorated with leaves that complements her hair perfectly.
At some point after that we ran into Rialian and Helen, some time after that Lauren, and spent the day bumming around the festival shooting the bull, talking, having lunch at the New Deal Cafe (which has yummy.. well.. everything! stop in for a bite to eat if you'll be in the area), wandering aimlessly... I wound up striking up a conversation with the folks from Miscellaneous Oddiments because I kept leafing through their back issues of Faerie Magazine.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm not too big on fantasy, save for a series or two here and there that actually keep my attention. Renfaires are more of interest to me because of the craftsmanship and the styles and less of what they were originally meant to be. That aside, I had an interesting conversation with Shane Odom about this and that and making a living from one's crafts and whatnot.. somehow we wound up on the topic of the green men who were wandering around the festival in full garb, including garlands of green branches and leaves, most if not all of whom were members of the Beloved Order of Greenmen, a fraternal order that makes it rounds of the various faires and festivals. I've got a pamphlet from them sitting next to me.
On one hand, I miss the feeling of community down here. I still feel very cut off, and long for the connections I had back home. The Bogmen would be a fun thing to do now and then, and they are interested in good works, something that I hold near and dear to my hearts. On the other.. to put not too fine a point on things, I'm very far removed from the natural world and all that entails. I relate better to my pager than I do to trees. If you cut me it's equally likely that I'll bleed silicone sealant as blood. I'm not sure how well I'd fit in among them. I'm not that big on going to faires a lot, either - the Maryland Faerie Festival next weekend, sure, but that's about it.
Time will tell.
One last thing, a rather unusual happening just before we parted ways. An older woman tripped and fell over the power cables headed to the stage where a band was getting ready to perform and skinned her knees pretty good on the concrete. In hindsight, I should have listened to that little voice in the back of my head that usually tells me to stay well enough away - I managed to get the woman standing up and headed for a park bench as I made tracks for my car and the first aid kit I keep in the trunk for occasions such as this. By the time I returned, however, the woman was up, around, and bitching up a blue streak at her companion, presumably because it was thought that the companion was responsible for her fall. Try as I might, I wasn't able to get the woman's attention, which I find further disturbing.
Lyssa gently took me aside and told me that something was indeed amiss there, and that I should quietly back away before something much more strange than usual took place. I followed her advice.
Neat! Somebody did a Harry Dresden quiz!
I am Harry Dresden.
In my corner of the country, I'm trying to nail things down. I don't want to live in a world where the strong rule and the weak cower. I'd rather make a place where things are a little quieter. Where trolls stay the hell under their bridges, and where elves don't come swooping out to snatch children from their cradles. Where vampires respect the limits, and where the faeries mind their p's and q's.
My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, give me a call. I'm in the book.
It's Friday, and both Lyssa and I are utterly wiped out. I've been keeping myself going with coffee (don't tell me that you didn't see that coming), old episodes of Art Bell (decade: 1990's), and ideas for things to write. Last night we decided to wait for Kash to arrive after his last day of school and go out for sushi to celebrate. All of us had stuff to get off of our chests, it seems like, and we spent a couple of hours doing that over miso soup, sushi, and sashimi. After dinner, Kash and I also decided to see if we could make it to the local Coldstone Creamery closed.. somehow we made it fifteen minutes early. I tried the Sinless fat-free ice cream last night, which I find ironic in a shop that offers such mix-ins as candy bars, hot fudge, marshmallows, and fruit toppings.. still, it is pretty tasty (they don't use aspertame to sweeten it! joy! rapture!) and worth trying at least once.
Today's edition of the SANS Internet Storm Centre has an interesting article on spyware installation by simply browsing a website that tricks the user into installing their junk by distracting the user with a nice, big "You must CLICK YES to view this page" window so they won't see the MS warning bar at the top of the browser. Moreover, the infectious pages detect Mozilla and Firefox and display another site because their spyware won't work on those browsers. The site also detects if someone is using a command-line downloader like wget to make it difficult to see what, exactly, is hidden in the HTML code itself.
Someone's figured out a way of hijacking the installation of a spyware package called Zango Adware in such a way that the components the loader downloads could be substituted for other executables via a DNS poisoning attack because the loader doesn't check the authenticity or integrity of those components. More's the point, if an attacker poisoned the DNSes of an entire organisation against the Zango domain, possibly every workstation could be compromised, either at the time of infection or whenever the infected machines try to automatically download updates. Infection on a massive scale.. kind of scary, don't you think?
This, of course, begs the question, "Is there anyone out there who was already doing this before the white hat scene figured it out?"
Open Source Radio did a show on the NSA's domestic wiretapping programme yesterday.
Famous dreams through history.
Whoa.. a couple of undergrads at MIT completely pimped out their dorm room with a homemade automation system that they call MIDAS, the Multifunction In-Dorm Automatin System.
Well, this is thirty-one flavours of strange.
The US government has refused to shut down the Guantanamo Bay base, stating that they do not want to run the risk of setting a bunch of suspected terrorists loose, just in case. Sure... kidnap folks in the dead of night, fly them to another country, and interrogate them with prejudice for months on end without any sort of human rights.. you know, they're right. If even a small fraction of the inmates of Guantanamo Bay weren't terrorists before, they might be pissed off enough to seek out and join a cell out of spite. Sean McCormack, spokesman for the United States State Department said that detainees had access to judicial review (doesn't that usually involve legal representation?) The British government vehemently disagrees, but no one's paid any attention to them thus far.
The British court okay'd the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US to stand trial for compromsing dozens of military hosts across the Net in the years 2001 and 2002. It is as yet unknown if he'll go before a military tribunal.
Worth 1000 is running another of its Photoshop competitions - this time turning weapons into everyday objects.
Mixing junk food and heavy-duty oxidisers can be dangerous, but it's also a good way to power model rockets.
Somebody wasted a hell of a lot of money training DVD sniffing dogs. That's right, the MPAA has had sniffer dogs trained to detect DVDs, pirated and otherwise.
What are they afraid of, people buying DVDs from other regions to play?
Well, what do you know... we know that the NSA has been monitoring telephone traffic of US citizens within the borders of the USA and that no one's really been doing anything about that, but I find it fascinating that the telecom companies have been giving them call records on a silver platter. Yep, AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth, and the other big boys in the telecom sandbox have been helping. While they haven't been doing the heavy lifting of setting up wiretaps (though CALEA requires it to be trivially simply to do so) knowing that Bob Dobbs at such-and-such number called Connie Dobbs at such-and-such number between the times of 0900.00 and 1100.00 PDT gives you an idea of what you're up to, and who you associate with. The phone companies always had this information, to be sure, but ordinarily that's where the information stops unless a warrant is involved.