Pirate radio, long the province of the folks in basements and back rooms is getting some time in the press at last to discuss what the FCC's been up to.. like delaying the granting of broadcast licenses and fining the broadcasters who are trying to go legit.

Speaking of legitimacy, the peer-to-peer file sharing service Limewire is suing the RIAA on grounds of antitrust law violations due to the fact that they're hounding consumers who aren't even up to no good (go back through the archives to find some of the stuff they've done, like suing people who don't even own computers). Whether or not this is going to go anywhere remains to be seen. Lime Wire has also requested a jury trial, should this case actually make it to court.

Remember when AOL leaked all of those search terms their users were plugging in back in August? They're being used by their customers for violating not only their privacy agreement but information privacy laws in the US. It's about time that they get smacked around for violating their users' privacy in such an egregious fashion, a lot of people may have been hurt in some way because that data got out (check out Something Awful's breakdown of those results to see what I mean).

Words from the shepards of the flock?


Happy birthday, Lyssa Heartsong!

Picking up where I left off last night, everyone was up, around, and gaming once more on Sunday morning. There were just two slices of pizza left and Lara had been kind enough to put a pot of coffee on for everyone. I was trying to shake the cobwebs out while Lyssa was in the shower when I heard a loud explosion of the sort that one does not particularly want to hear inside their domicile. As it turns out, the huge jar of salsa that Lyssa and I had picked up from Whole Paycheque the day before that had been hastily placed on the top of the fridge and forgotten about had vibrated its way toward the edge of the top of the fridge and fallen to the floor when Lara opened the icebox. Net result: Shards of broken glass and a litre of salsa all over the floor, fridge, and walls.

I used some of the empty pizza boxes to scrape up as much of the salsa and glass as I could and then mopped everything else down with a Swiffer to get rid of the mess. I had to re-do the job later in the day to get the stickiness off of the floor but for the time being it sufficed.

Once I got my head together Alexius and I headed out to the local Best Buy to pick up a new charger for his Treo 650 cellphone/PDA and spent more time talking and figuring stuff out. He filled me in on his study and practise of the martial art pencak silat. More and more it intreigues me, though looking at some of the injuries he's sustained in recent weeks makes me wonder if it wouldn't injure me faster than I could regenerate the damaged structures.. still, I've been discreetly looking around for a martial art that would suit me, and it's pretty high on the list right now. We also stopped off at the bookstore to pick up Lyssa's birthday gifts, in the form of a novel that I (correctly) thought she'd like and a gift card for the bookstore.

All too soon, 'lex dropped me off back home. He was on his way back to Pittsburgh to pack some more so that he can live the city and strike out westward to see where his fortunes lie.

Once I returned, we headed back outside so that we could find Famous Dave's BBQ in Virginia for a late lunch. As it turns out it was Kyrin who was able to lead us there with little trouble, though none of us are quite certain how he managed it. We've decided that he's the missing component of my TARDIS.. the navigation system. I'm trying to talk him into leaving a lock of hair somewhere in the car in the hope that his sense of direction will rub off on my car for future use.

Lunch was tasty and fast in coming.. we had a good time hanging out, munching on barbecue, and generally relaxing after a weekend of very little sleep. After we left Famous Dave's we headed to the local Micro Center to nose around their stacks at my request, because one of my co-workers had asked me to pick up a USB flash drive for him (they have 1GB usb keys for sale for $15us each; you have to ask for them up front at the cash register, though). As it turns out, Kyrin was looking for a couple of things as well (he also bought Lyssa a set of ice blue thumbscrews for Alphonse's chassis), and Kash and Chris looked around to kill some time. Much to my surprise, everyone wound up buying one of those USB keys because the prices were so good. I feel that I should warn everyone that the Micro Center in Vienna, Virginia is probably going to get rid of its book section. When we were there they'd dismantled and removed approximately half of their bookshelves and consolidated the remaining texts in the space that remains. There isn't much that's good left on the shelves, either, so if you need anything you'd best hurry. I added a book and a stack of blank CDs to my shopping cart while I was there because I've been planning on replenishing my stocks anyway.

By the time we finally got back to the apartment we were all pretty worn out. Lyssa, with a splitting headache, went to lay down while the rest of us broke the network down and stowed everything away as needed. Kyrin headed for home, leaving Hummingwolf, Chris, Kash, and I to our devices. Everyone finally started to pack up around 2000 EST/EDT on Sunday because Lyssa and I had to go to work this morning, and so wanted some time to ourselves.

I didn't get nearly as much sleep as I wish I had, though that's mostly my fault due to the Mythbusters specials on TV last night. Lyssa, I think, had a worse time of it because she'd taken a large amount of Excedrin (which is known for its concentration of caffeine) and couldn't sleep for some part of the night, exactly how mcuh I know not.

The US government will be lifting a ban on liquids, gels, and aerosols on commercial airliners in a few weeks.


It's 2100 EST/EDT on Sunday night, and Lyssa and I are recovering from her birthday parth this weekend. Lyssa's birthday is on Monday and she wanted to celebrate with good friends by throwing a LAN party in our apartment for some of her closest friends. The game of choice this weekend was Diablo II by Blizzard Games, which we have Kash to thank for turning us on to this game, first Lyssa and then myself.

We spent Friday night cleaning up the apartment so that it would be presentable for our guests, many of whom would be spending the night with us. This didn't realy take all that long but seeing as how we've been dog tired lately, it took more out of us than it really should have. Lyssa baked a ham for everyone that night, which proved to be a problem because it seems that our slow cooker is no longer functional. The larger part of the ham had to be transferred into the oven around 0100 EST/EDT on Saturday morning to have a hope of getting done in time for everyone.

Saturday rolled around and we took care of some last minute stuff, including some last minute shopping for munchies and food for Kash. En route home we also heard from Alexius, who said that he'd be arriving late because his timetable got a little snarled. He was headed down here for a wedding in addition to the party, and the drive down here isn't an easy one if you're not familiar with the DC area.

Kyrin the Toxic Elf arrived with his computer in tow, along with a brand-new LCD flatpanel monitor which weighs considerably less than his current display. Kash, Jarin, and Chris from New Jersey also arrived. Lyssa's brother Serrin came later in the day, which meant that the party could finally start. We'd set up a full scale network in the living room with some of my spare equipment, and carefully arranged everyone so that the electrical circuits in the room wouldn't blow out once everyone's decks were booted up. I'd decided to build a scratch Windows 2000 machine to game on instead of using Leandra; in hindsight I could easily have used her, but then again I didn't know that we'd be using the local network and not battle.net. While waiting for people to arrive, we decided to kill some time by watching Army of Darkness, which Kash hadn't seen before.

For a dungeon crawling bash-'em-up game, I can't think of a better movie to watch to warm up.

All told, we managed to clear the first act of the game (about five distinct quests) and part of the second in six hours' time or so. Around 1800 or 1900 EST/EDT on Saturday we broke for dinner, having ordered pizza from Papa John's. As it turns out, their larges aren't as large as they once were, and a full house of folks (we had a number of people in attendence who weren't playing but wanted to hang out jus the same) killed those pizzas in short order. Hasufin and Mika came over, as did Butterfly and Mark, Hummingwolf, and Rialian later in the evening. Lara from Pittsburgh caught a ride down to see us and spend the night. We were even graced with a visit from Ranger Morgiah, who is still recovering from a dance practise injury about two weeks ago. We had spectators, people curled up talking, and I think a few other movies were shown while the rest of us were gaming.

Unfortunately, Laurelinde, N-, and company couldn't make it, as they're still on the shelf after Crossing the Thresholds. Duo similiarly couldn't make it, as he hurt his back at work on Friday and wasn't in shape to travel this weekend.

Somehow, Papa John's managed to mess up our order in more subtle ways: Mika, who recently had her gallbladded removed, cannot eat footd with a lot of fat in them any longer, and that includes pizza. She and Hasufin had ordered a chicken and artichoke pizza without cheese, and which had not arrived with the rest of our order. Lyssa went back to the phone and after a short time two more pizzas arrived, one of them a custom job for Hasufin and Mika.. who left at some point in the evening.

I had to bow out of the competition around 2300 EST/EDT because my wrists were bothering me too much and hung out with everyone last night.

Kyrin was in rare form this weekend, as evidenced by the updates to my .plan file. Ordinarily, I try to mix up entries so that there aren't any entries from the same source in a row, but in this case, I'll make a very not safe for work exception.

Alexius arrived around 0200 EST/EDT this morning after getting so horribly lost a couple of times that everyone at the party with access to a computer couldn't locate his position through Google Maps, Mapquest, or any other real world mapping site on the Net. More's the point, he was apparently on the beltway in a location known to all of us (even me) but quoting street signs that don't exist anywhere in Washington, DC that I'm aware of.

'lex and I wound up staying up until 0500 EST/EDT or so, well after everyone either went home or went to sleep. We had almost a year of catching up to do, and talked until just before sunrise. A lot's happened and we had a lot to talk about, and a lot to figure out.

Lyssa and I got up around 1100 EST/EDT this morning to find that the LAN party was once again in full swing. Everyone else was up and playing, and we tried to boot our brains back up.

Speaking of booting.. I'm going to bed.

Jerry Fallwell's in the news again after public remarks that Hillary Cinton running for the presidency would motivate a bigger response than the Morningstar itself running.

And people wonder why I don't trust organised religion any farther than I can throw a tractor-trailer.

Congress is going to vote on a bill that would make it legal to strip search students at any time, JUST IN CASE they're carrying drugs.

Yeah. Just in case.

2008 presidential candidate somehow made it into the newswires by saying that Al Quaida has warned all Muslims to get out of the US to get them out of the way of an attack. Whether or not this is going to hit the media at large is a different question. If anyone needs it, I've captured a copy of this article offline.


Everyone thank Sun Microsystems for opening the source code to Solaris as well as making it affordable to home users who want to play around with it ($20us so you can download the CD or DVD disk images and burn your own)... but forcing you to buy a support contract if you want to download security patches. They've even pulled the recommended patch clusters ([0-9{2}]_Recommended.zip) from their FTP site.

Even when you're dying, you're a source of revenue. This marks a scary trend in health care, I think - people are choosing to die (usually not painlessly) rather than pay exorbitant sums of money for treatments that might prolong their lives a little. This is a shame because quite a few impressive treatments for cancer (that were announced as being the cutting edge in the journals back in the late 1980's and early 1990's) are so bloody expensive.

Read the article and think about it for a while. Then think about how healthy you are.

Somebody call Richard C. Hoagland - the best images of the Cydonia region of Mars to date are in, and the 'deliberately constructed face on Mars' hypothesis just got broadsided by a can of soda moving at a noticable fraction of C. Not that this will stop a man whose grasp of mathematics is even worse than mine...

It's come out that a number of tech manufacturers are fighting network neutrality bills passing through the US government at this time. Companies like Motorola and Tyco are pressuring the Senate to pass the communications bill that would make it legal for the owners of the backbone lines that comprise the bulk of the Internet to restrict traffic passing through their equipment based upon how much you're willing to pay them. The bill's been stuck in the Senate for months now because the bill would do away with network neutrality as we know it, and many other large companies, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google among them, have been pressuring the Senate to let this bill die.

From the release notes of Windows Media Player 11 from Microsoft: You can't back up your DRM licenses anymore, and neither can you copy music you bought off the Net to another of your computers. If you have to rebuild your system for whatever reason and you backed up your audio files, you will either have to fight with the company you bought that music from to give you a new license key, or you're SOL because you can't back up your license key files.

Professor Stephen Hawking was once told at a symposium held by the Vatican that he should not investigate the origins of our universe because it tresspassed upon the knowledge of God by the late Pope John Paul II.

Coming in 2007: Spaceballs: The Animated Series!

Googling for the repair manuals of ATMs in Virginia helped someone reprogram one to dispense a $20us bill for every $5us bill that would be necessary to fulfill a withdrawl.

Here's an interesting way to keep your stuff from getting stolen during handling at the airport, courtesy of Bruce Schneier.


It seems that international incidents aren't just the domain of the United States. Case in point: Hugo Chavez, president of the country of Venezuela went on the record calling George W. Bush the Adversary. Yep, in so many words.

The Commonwealth Fund Commission released a report today that gives the United States a D for health care when compared to other countries. The reasons for such poor marks included the fact that 115 out of every 100k Americans dies of easily preventable diseases, there is an infant mortality rate of 0.007%, and that roughly half of all adults in the US get regular preventive checkups.

On one hand, the heathcare system in the US is a racket. There's no two ways about it, from getting charged for medications that you might need while in the hospital but never actually get to new mothers being discharged less than a day after giving birth (as just happened to an old friend of mine). Don't get me started on the cost of insurance in this country.. but on the other hand this article, at least from how it was written, comes across as trying to slag the US without giving any hard facts. I can't really say that you can trust the information in this article, in good conscience, without seeing the data they used to draw those conclusions.

Here's a nifty idea: Batteries that you can plug into a USB port to recharge.

Make your own demotivational poster.


Data transmission could get just a little bit faster thanks to advances in laser technology, namely, lasers that fit on silicon chips even smaller than the big laser tubes people usually think of, or the laser LEDs that have been in use in long-distance data transmission equipment for years now. Intel has come up with a process to make coherent light emitters small enough that they could, at some time in the future when the technology becomes affordable, be used for communication with computer peripherals, and perhaps even replace conductive wires that make up circuitry today. Light moves faster than electrical impulses because light isn't covered by Ohm's Law, which governs the flow of current through a conductive substance (which implies resistance, unless you are talking about supercooled superconductors).

The US Republican party is arguing over the latest anti-terror bill while the Democrats watch from the sidelines. Midterm elections in Congress are coming up and nobody involved wants to look like an enemy combatant they're not helping in the war on terror. Representative Heather Wilson wrote a bill that makes it permissible to wiretap without a warrant if an attack is believed imminant, which seems to be just about every three calendar weeks or so. The debate over exactly how to get information out of the detainees is still going because of those pesky Geneva Conventions. At least the details of the wiretaps they put into place would have to be shared with the House and Senate if this bill passed.

Interesting factoid for you: Pennsylvania state law requires healthcare workers to draw blood from a patient if the police demand it for testing.

Alberto Gonzalez, Attorney General for the United States is playing the child porn card again for a bill that would require all ISPs to keep logs of their customers' net.activity. Of course, no one who's a good, upstanding citizen would oppose child pornography.. which is exactly why he said it. I've already ranted about this, so I'll get right to the bits about monitoring several hundred thousand to a few million people just in case something shady is going on. He's also calling the government's lack of access to information a hinderance to prosecuting child pornographers.

Okay. Great. Why is he suddenly harping on this when people are writing to the US government in droves telling them that they're turning into Big Brother? I don't believe in coincidences, and he's taking a hell of a lot of flak right now over his policies which are bordering on building the Panopticon.

No matter where you go, no matter what you do on the Net, even if you're just checking your Hotmail account to see if your grandchildren have sent you pictures from their birthday party someone would be watching you.

1984 was a warning to the civilised people of the world, not a how-to guide.


Little kids drowning worms might be the next terrorist combatants.. actually, I'm kidding. It is said that in many large cities the water supplies are being monitored by panfish. No, seriously. Common panfish such as bluegills and pumpkinseeds are very sensitive to chemicals in their environment, so they are kept in running water from the water supplies under close watch. If anything happens to the fish, then the water is contaminated and Something Bad(tm) has happened. Unfortunately, they can only detect chemical contaminants and not biological contaminants, but any information is better than no information in a monitoring situation, assuming that you can correctly interpret what you're looking at.

In news across the pond, all hell's breaking loose in Hungary right now as the prime minister has admitted to manipulating the public through the media to win the election in April of 2006. The article contains excerpts from the translated speech, where the PM freely admits to going to considerable lengths to conceal the deception from the public.

I know that I've got a couple of readers in Hungary right now - what's the situation like? I'd like to post it here if I could.

In medical news, research shows that the death rate of people infected with HIV has gone down. This isn't exactly good news, because the people in question who died actually died of other causes, i.e., diseases not related to AIDS, such as cancer or substance abuse. This fluctuation in the statistics is credited to advances in antiviral and anti-HIV drugs in the past twelve years.

From the it's-about-flipping-time department of Reuters comes this piece from India: The Minister of Health is banning underweight models from the runways of India because they're influencing young girls to become anorexic or bulemic in an attempt to fit into the catagories the media considers attractive. More and more girls are being diagnosed as malnourished or ostoporotic because they think that you have to be a size 2 (whatever the hell that means where you live because the standards vary so much) to be pretty.

Let me go on the record commending Anbumani Ramadoss for this decision. Get this through their heads, and then do some social engineering to make it stick.

Let me be blunt here, folks - pretty is sure as the day is long not limited to girls so thin that you could floss your teeth with them. It's healthy to have body fat. It exists to regulate your body temperature, act as a reserve of nutrients so that your body will function normally, and pad your internal organs so that you won't rupture something if you walk into a doorknob. For men, body fat also accentuates your musculature. For women, body fat (and I'm deliberately using the word 'fat' to try to jar some sense into some people Out There) gives you something called 'curves', which men traditionally find sexy.

I'm going to cut myself off here because I'm about to launch into a rant that probably won't be productive. Instead, I'm going to post hyperlinks to a pair of Google searches, one for anorexia and one for bulemia, in which you can learn about all of the health problems the quest for being dangerously thin will set you up for.

The troubles never seem to end for Diebold.. someone figured out that you can unlock the chassis of their e-voting machines with a key freely available on the Net.

Vampyra Daisy gave birth yesterday to a nine-pound little one named Kestin.

A few days ago I got a letter in the mail from my folks in Pittsburgh. As it turns out, my ten-year high school reunion is coming up in about two months' time, and I have yet to decide if I actually want to pay the $60us for a ticket to go.

Suffice it to say that there is little love lost between myself and my old high school. It was said during my four-year tenure at that facility that there were no social problems that couldn't be solved with a five-megatonne nuclear device. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when you have it drummed into your head day in and day out since seventh grade that you are a part of the worst graduating class in the history of the district.

I'm toying with going to the reunion just to mess with people. Of the ten people (more or less) who actually spoke to me, let alone counted me as a friend (and I them), nine remain. In the fall of 1996 while I was at IUP, I recieved an e-mail from Steve S- who informed me that Bipin, another high school pal, was found dead in a hotel room just up the highway from my folks' house. I never found out anything else, though it's well within my power to do so.

Those few buds aside, whom I spent many a happy hour bringing about a New World Order with, I barely remember any of them, let alone spoke to them. It's been nearly a decade since I even opened up the yearbook of my senior year to read the "Have a nice life" messages that a few people left. Maybe a few were sincere. I don't know.

Permaculture techniques make a desert aerable. Fascinating! Fans of the works of Frank Herbert will no doubt take notice.

Hacktivismo, a division of the Cult ov thee Dead C0w, has just released Torpark, a version of the Mozilla Firefox web browser that can be installed on a USB key. It does not have to be installed on a PC, and it leaves absolutely no traces of its presence or any browser logs on the system you're browsing from. It uses TOR to make your browsing completely anonymous. It can be downloaded from here.

Whomever came up with this commercial knows exactly what moving is like!


It's finally over and done with - my paperwork is handed in at last. Now's a waiting game...

This weekend recently past was taken as slowly as we could manage it.. Lyssa and I wound up going back to Lush in Georgetown on Saturday to nose around a bit at all the nifty bath stuff they sell.. while their products are excellent, the store as a whole has a way of overloading your sense of smell, so spending too much time in there makes your visit an academic one after about an hour. Still, if you're into small-batch bath-seltzer bombs, soaps, shampoos, and massage bars, Lush is the place to go.

Because Lyssa's birthday is coming up soon I got her a gift certificate for Lush, which she happily used on a large number of bath bombs and soaps. I have not yet tried any of them (because I'd prefer to enjoy them properly and not waste them at 0-dark-30 when my brain is still booting up), but she's quite taken with them.

Think you can just buy a region-free DVD player from Amazon or bring one back with you? Wait until RFID-enabled DVDs show up on the market. The MPAA is pushing for DVD players that will read RFID chips in DVD disks and if the region doesn't match the one it expects, it'll refuse to play.

Next up: DVD-ROM drives that come with DVD playback software... in damn near every home electronics store on the planet.

In Great Britain, not only can Big Brother watch you but now he can shout at you, too. Seven of the new securicams deployed in Middlesbrough now include loudspeakers so that the faceless watchers on the other end of the co-ax cable can send warnings or add colour commentary to whatever it is that they're watching.

No word yet on when cameras will be fitted into televisions across the pond.

In response to Pope Benedict the XVI's statement on Islam and the jyhad, a militant Islamic group has pulled out the stops and declared jihad on the pontiff. One Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin has declared that the Pope is to be hunted down.

People just don't get it. Violence only begets violence. It doesn't solve anything, it just stops it for a while. Then, once everyone who 'needs' to be stomped has been, the search for someone new to thrash begins...

I know it's asking too much as well as being too idealistic for this world, but both parties are in the wrong. The collective hands of the Catholic Church are just as stained with blood as the collective hands of many Islamic sects. Cases in point: The Inquisition and the Crusades. None of these groups want to see eye to eye, let alone come to some sort of compromise, or - horror of horrors - apologise to one another.

So, this weekend was kind of slow up until Saturday night, when Jarin and Hummingwolf came over for dinner. After Lyssa and I got home from Georgetown we picked up a little around the apartment and made sure that dinner, made in the slow cooker, was done. Chicken thighs in a light cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, and mixed vegetables were on the menu, and we wound up running to Whole Paycheque for dessert, which took the form of multiple bricks of gingerbread and freshly whipped cream on ice. Jarin picked up a sixpack of pumpkin spice ale, which wasn't too bad once chilled, though I'm not sure it's a favourite yet. Lyssa and Hummingwolf weren't very impressed with said ale, and it left me with a slight headache the next morning which I feared would turn into a full-blown hangover (it didn't).

We sat up until late that night talking and watching Adult Swim on Cartoon Network to relax. I think everyone left for home around 0100 EST/EDT on Sunday by way of the Metro.


In a turn of events not seen since the late 1980's, an indie goth band called the Cruxshadows has taken the Billboard Dance Singles chart by storm with the single Sophia from their new album due out in October of 2006. Sophia also claimed the number seven slot on the Billboard Single Sales chart this week. You can check out the chart for this week here.

Lyssa bought the single from iTunes last night - even if goth music isn't your cup of tea, buy a copy of the .mp3 (it'll run you $1us) and give it a listen. It isn't often that you hear intelligent lyrics anymore.. or lyrics that happen to be clued-in.

There is now an official petition to give planet Eris an astrological symbol, and they're gunning for the Five-Fingered Hand of Eris. Sign on and help us out.

Last Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a bill that gives more legal rights to detainees in the War On Terror(tm). If nothing else, hopefully it'll mitigate retalitory attacks in the future.

In other words, Asahara Shoko, leader of the Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo, which was behind a chemical attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, was denied his appeal on Friday. Asahara has been in a detention facility since his conviction for planning the attack in 1995, as well as directing the capture, execution, and disposal of the sect's various enemies over the years with industrial microwave ovens. For more information on capital punishment in Japan, check this out.

Yet another example of science fiction predicting the future rears its ugly head. A new software package in China is being used to sentence prisoners in the province of Shangdong. The crimes the programme is used to handle include robbery, rape, and breaches of state security.

As if the utter lack of security of the Diebold electronic voting machines hasn't yet been beaten past death into thin-pasty-substancehood, someone's figured out how to write a virus that can make arbitrary changes to voting records. Remember, even if theseunits has antivirus software installed, they still can't detect entirely novel viruses on their own..

Not only is an Evangelion theatrical movie in the works, but Gainax is planning on remaking the series as a sequence of four feature films.

More on the war on science.


License plate of the week: TEH VTEC


At last, it's done. I hope.

It's been raining in DC since late last night, though it hasn't been cold or windy. If it hasn't been raining it's been misty outside. On the whole, not too bad, or so it feels to me. It's not too bright so it's rather comfortable outside.

This should be of interest to some people - the Chinese government isn't just restricting information flowing out of Chinese data nets, they're restricting what can come in, now, too. The Xinhua News Agency has the responsibility of regulating the flow of news-related data now. They now state that they will block any news that violates the basic principles in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (if the government is in sole control, how is it the People's republic?), undermines the unity of the Chinese people, endangers the national security of China, and a host of other things. If anyone wants to subscribe to news from other countries, they have to sign up with Xinhua, which will pull news by proxy for them ("All the news we think you should know").

Information is indeed a valuable commodity, though... just ask the US Senate, which approved the warrantless wiretapping program in return for accountability.. in the form of a secret court, the proceedings of which mere mortals like you and I will probably never have access to.

Remember those articles about microwave-based antipersonnel weapons last summer? The US Air Force wants to start testing them on American citizens for the purposes of crowd control. First we've got "free speech zones" which are anything but, because they take everyone with something to say and fence them off a few miles away from the site, and now this...

In Germany a number of TOR exit nodes were taken offline and confiscated. TOR, a proxy system for anonymous net.access, is a massively decentralised system that can make your connection attempts appear to be coming out of somewhere else, be it in the next state or from the other side of the world. The German police state that child porn was seen crossing into or out of those nodes and they've seized them to analyse the logs to determine who was behind it and where they were from. There are just two problems with this: One, by default TOR doesn't keep usable logs (that's the point of anonymity), and two, the only thing they could do was figure out the next hop back from the TOR exit node, so the 'where' can't be determined, either. It's been reported that the German police are well aware of this. So far, no charges have been filed.

Now, here's the thing.. child porn is bad. Let me reiterate that: Bad. Not only does it steal the innocence from the world's most precious natural resource (i.e., children), but it's exploitative and emotionally damaging. In fact, you have to wonder who in the hell thought this up and why, but that's beside my point. My point is this: Child pornography as a topic is also being used as justification for cutting away the rights of many people around the world. Some of the more lucid denizens of the Net are calling it one of the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (along with Crackers, Spam, and Terrorism).

You have to admit, it's the perfect buzzword for an opportunist to get his or her way with nary anyone blinking.

TOR can also be used for many other purposes (and often is), such as research into topics that one doesn't want getting around (the US Navy uses it to gather intelligence, seeing as how it was originally their project, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least that other intelligence agencies around the world were making use of it as well), blowing the whistle on illegal activities of many kinds, and for just protecting one's privacy on the Net. It isn't right to demonise a tool that can be used to protect as well as harm; a wrench is a tool that can be used to harm someone (when used as a weapon or in the sabotage of a machine of some kind, like a car) as well as help someone (they're great for repairing things, I'm told). Same with a gun. The argument that "if you're not up to no good, you have nothing to hide" doesn't wash, because desiring privacy doesn't mean you're up to no good. That argument assumes that everything that everyone does must be available for scrutiny at all times to anyone; people using such an argument often silently exempt themselves. There are many other refutations to the argument, some good, some bad, some ugly, but what it boils down to is this: If you're really not up to anything shady, then why is everyone so damned interested in what everyone else does behind closed doors? Why do governments keep so many thousands (globally speaking, millions) of files that are labelled Classified, Secret, and Top Secret, that only a few hundred people on the face of this planet are even aware of the existence of? I'd call those pretty private. Why doesn't everyone record themselves having sex and post them on their websites (a few hundred folks on Pornotube do not constitute a majority - and for the gods' sake, don't click on that link from work!)? Why am I (or you, for that matter) not allowed to grab some schmuck off the street and copy down their name, address, phone numbers, driver's license number, Selective Service Registration number, Social Security number, and take a few photographs while we're at it? More's the point, why could we not then do the exact same things to the folks in power? If they're US citizens, and US citizens can be monitored without a warrant or probable cause, what makes them so special that they're exempt? That's a double standard.

Ever wondered if an airport you'll be flying to has decent wireless access? Now you can check first on this list.

In other news, Google does banned books.

Remember when Pluto was demoted from the status of planet? They've named the heavenly body that bumped it.

Wait for it...


Yeah, that Eris.

A nifty tarot deck.


Busy busy busy.

Long afternoon yesterday. More on that later.


Bringing a sword to a gunfight is never, ever a smart idea.

One of these days, I'm going to have time to actually sit down and write about everything that's been going on.. the world's been busy lately, as busy as I've been, and there's so much to say.

Some days it's downright frustrating.

So here's what's been going on lately: Work itself hasn't been too taxing lately, save for the fact that I think I've killed a single redwood tree's worth of forms, everything from health insurance to work history to... you get the picture. In a world in which moving gigabytes of information in a few minutes's time (no, not by putting a couple of DVDs in your pocket and getting in the car) is commonplace, one would think that getting the necessary information would be trivial, given access to the right databases and a couple of elementary queries. Things aren't that simple. First off, under certain circumstances the answers a given person gives have to be double-checked, confirmed, and cross-referenced. That means getting the answers in the first place, and that means paperwork. Second, it's a way of confirming that the work was in fact done and that someone signed off on it, even if only to say, "Yeah, it crossed my desk."

Sometimes, tracking down those answers just so you can fill them out can take hours and hours of poring over old documents (so much for the paperless office) or poking through web archives of bank transactions and payments. Amazingly, not everyone makes your entire history available, so you can't go back to, say, 2005 and see how you finished up, you have to go through your own records to accomplish such a feat.

As fate would have it for many people, the day you organise everything is the same day that you start losing everything. It was easier to dig through a pile of envelopes than it was to go through a filing cabinet. My files make too much sense, that's the problem. My mental search heuristics and my logical filing system aren't compatible, so flipping through the filing cabinet is an exercise in futility.

Some days, though, life throws you a curve ball to make up for it.

I chanced to leave work early yesterday (due to my habit of not taking a lunch break) and got on the Metro to head for home. I made it to the subway platform some period of time after the train had already gotten there, so I rushed to get into the car and head for home. I didn't stop to check which train I was getting on.

As luck would have it, I didn't realise that anything was amiss until the train stopped at a stop, and then started going backward. I'd hit the end of the line. The wrong Metrorail line.

Total elapsed time: Forty-five minutes.

It was somewhen around that moment that a little switch deep inside my wetware flipped, and suddenly things didn't matter quite so much. I didn't care that I'd gone an unknown number of miles in the wrong bloody direction, well out past the Pentagon. I had one of those moments of being in the moment and enjoying it as fully as I was capable of regardless of where I was and where I happened to be going.

No worry. No stress. No "Where in the hell am I?" Just, "Okay, I've got nine stops to go before I get to the switchoff, then I get off, go downstairs, and get on the right train, headed for home. I'm going to read my book some more."

And this I did for the rest of the trip home, all... however long it took. Even my normally relaxed attitude toward Time evaporated. I knew where I had to be. I'd get there when I got there, and not a moment sooner.

That was the first time that I'd gotten mixed up and found myself someplace strange and enjoyed it.

It was one of those moments where a part of me recorded each and every second in exacting detail, in the hopes that I'll be able to replicate that exact mental configuration in the future entirely at will.

Note to self: Start taking more time to work on that.

After I got home, Lyssa and I found ourselves stricken by wanderlust, and made a few phone calls. We eventually lined up dinner with Laurelinde, N-, and company in Maryland for no other reason than it seemed like fun. So, to that end, we jumped into the TARDIS and set off for Maryland, with Lyssa knitting in the passenger's seat and myself with the windows down singing Iris songs because it seemed like a fun thing to do.

It's a shame that the beltway drowns out so much sound. I wish I'd been able to get a few more folks hooked on Iris yesterday.

We wound up at Tiffin's in College Park for a late dinner of Indian food, and eventually parted ways around 2200 EST/EDT because both of us have to get up pretty early in the morning to make it to work.

Note to self: Find ways of doing a little more in the evening so that I don't have to rush around in the mornings to make it to the Metro station on time.

Note to self: Figure out exactly how much of a window I have to work with.

I feel so much better, now.. I've been wanting to sit and write for a while but various circumstances have been preventing me from doing so. At least it's kept me from getting too worked up over stuff like dumbasses killing stingrays in the name of Steve Irwin, who would be chagrined to hear of this. He'd be even more puzzled to find that PETA has been posthumously attacking him in the news.

Leave it to PETA to kick people when they're down dead. The dead can't defend themselves, after all.

This is the sort of thing that blows me away: A $20kus MP3 player. Yep, that's right.. it's plated with gold and studded with one karat diamonds. And it's only 1 GB in size. I suppose when you have far too much money to know what to do with it all (like buy an iPod that has several dozen times the storage capacity) and you really have nothing to worry about on a month-to-month basis (like those pesky bills) there's only one direction you can go: Absurdly expensive.


Did anyone else see the K-9 units patrolling the subway platforms in DC, Virginia, and probably Maryland? Two police with dogs (I'd guess they were bomb-sniffing dogs, judging by today's date) were on patrol in the Dunn-Loring Metro station this afternoon.

Just when you think that medical science has everything figured out, something comes along to shake up the snow-globe again. Patients who are in a persistent vegetative state, who for all intents and purposes are cases of "the lights are on but no one's home" actually might be capable of coherent thought even though they are all but unresponsive to the outside world. Experiments carried out in Cambridge are showing brain activity consistent with that of a person who isn't in a PVS... the experiment consisted of asking patients in a PVS to imagine themselves doing something, such as playing tennis while their brain activity was being monitored through application of functional magnetic resonance imaging hardware. This showed the patterns of chemoelectrical activity in the brain that were involved during this time. Then they repeated the process with test subjects who were defined for the purposes of the experiment as neurologically sound.

There wasn't much of a difference between the results from the two test groups, save for natural variation.

Is it possible that people in a PVS are conscious (they usually have some of the usual reflexes, such as breathing and swallowing and they definitly show a more or less normal sleep cycle), just not able to communicate with the outside world? Good question.

Is it possible that the brain activity comes from automatic processing of heard natural langauge, completely decoupled from higher levels of consciousness? Yes, it actually it possible. Medical science is still trying to figure out how people can survive (just barely) under conditions of little to no sleep for extended periods of time (though death results after a certain point, usually about two weeks) by taking micro-naps of a second or so, let alone states of coma or PVS. The reason I mention this is because the EEG of a person who's been awake for a couple of days shows cycles of electrical activity consistent with sleep and wakefulness, as with anyone.. even though the person never really went to sleep. Sure, there are differences (such as periodic bursts of delta waves) but the overall cycle doesn't do what you'd think it would.

The brain's an amazingly complex and weird thing.

Speaking of.. some research I did for that last entry I wrote showed me an intersting fact: Sleep deprivation interferes with the operation of the human forebrain, and can cause one's writing skills to go right ou the proverbial window. I've not really been able to write for a few days now, up until this weekend past. No, I haven't been getting much sleep lately, why do you ask?

Ordinarily, I'm not much of a fan of fanfic, but I've heard good things from the podcast The Signal about this series called Firefly: Virtual Season Two. I remember the fourth virtual season of Forever Knight and that wasn't too bad...

Time will tell, as it does with all things. Especially today.

So it's 9/11... five years ago, two airliners crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, a third hit the Pentagon, and a fourth went down over the sticks of Pennsylvania - the famous flight 93.

I don't think I'll ever be able to forget what happened on that day. I was still in Pennsylvania working at Medebiz in Pittsburgh as the system admin. The network at work was at a crawl from the time I got into the office around 0805 EST/EDT that morning, and I started trying to figure out why.

It was because everyone and their back up at the office was listening to one of a half-dozen RealAudio or RealVideo feeds of live news from New York City. It was about a half-hour later that I finally heard someone in another part of the cube gulag whisper, "A plane hit one of the towers!"

Holy shit. Those were the exact words that went through my mind at that second.

Right back to my workstation, right to CNN and the BBC, and brain-first into the Crystal Chantry (requisat en pace).

Everyone accounted for? Mostly. A few avatars were missing in action, I found out later because the college campuses had gone into lockdown, along with most of the city. All of us were surfing the newsfeeds and commnets for news coming out of New York City, because all of us had either family or friends who lived there.

It was on the CNN newsfeed, which had been lagged to hell and back again, that I saw the second plane hit. Throughout the office, I heard cellphones ring as members of the US National Guard were contacted, followed by profanities that I had never heard those individuals utter before (and not since) and the pounding of feet as they raced for the doors, their cars, and active duty. I packed up my gear, shut down my workstation, and raced for home to make sure that my grandfather was all right.

The highway that ran past the industrial park the building was a part of was empty, as were the streets of my hometown.

My grandfather was all right, thank the gods. I raced back to my lab and jacked back in after turning the television on to CNN. The television tuner card in Leandra was set to another news network, along with several RealVideo streams to other news sites, IRC, and the Crystal Chantry, where a council had been hastily convened. I also turned on my police scanner and my two-meter shortwave receiver. We worked feverishly throughout the day tracing as many people that we knew but couldn't reach as we could, relaying news from network to network, and sending out confirmations and denials of rumours from every last corner of the Net that we could reach.

The news rattled on minute after minute, hour after hour... I wondered each moment in the back of my mind if the folks that I couldn't find were all right. Not a few of them were in New York City, if not living there than working there. The sad thing is, I didn't know any real names, just handles... I ran into a few of them at HOPE the next summer, but some are still missing in action. The telephone network in many sectors was collapsing under the weight of the calls people were frantically placing.

In the year 1975 CE, the PSTN was designed to handle calls from something like 10% of the population of the United States simultaneously. Nobody's really sure of the capacity of the PSTN these days, especially when you factor in the prevalence of VoIP and cellular telephones (a customer of a given cell service calling another customer of the same cell service never touches the PSTN, the call goes over said company's private telephone networks). What I do know is that I wasn't able to reach anyone over my landline or via my cellphone. The Net as a whole slowed to a crawl as untold thousands of people hit news sites, newsfeeds, websites, sent e-mails, and slammed search engines with up-to-the-second queries. Ultimately, face-to-face was the best way to communicate that fateful day.

A few of the folks we'd been looking for had been pressed into duty at the college they attended - as senior students as well as RA's (resident assistants) they were tasked with rounding up everyone on their floor and moving them into areas deemed safe by the college administration, taking head counts, and doing the best that they could to keep everyone calm.

Later that day, well after flight 93 went down and the impact at the Pentagon, I set out across the city of Pittsburgh to check on everyone at the college on the southwestern side of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh was a ghost town. Utterly empty. Even the police had cleared out. Nobody walked the streets - even the homeless had gone to ground.

The echoes that day were heard around the globe. They weren't the sounds of dozens screaming in fear as they died. They weren't the reverberations of explosions or buildings collapsing.

Those echoes were the sound of everything changing.


Dick Chaney says that Iraq would have been invaded even if there was no risk of Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction. How reassurring.


Today started off okay and got rocky fast. Lyssa and I finally got up around 1030 EST/EDT this morning and had a leisurely breakfast of biscuits and turkey bacon. In hindsight, smaller frying pans work better than the large ones for bacon, but that's not that big a deal.. I had to go to the bank to finish getting my accounts straightened out after a screwup some years ago that never really caused problems, save when trying to do important things (like set up direct deposit of paycheques). The last time I was in Pittsburgh I spoke to my folks about getting this fixed from their end, because they live near the branch of the bank that I originally did all of the paperwork through, and the wheels started turning.

I was told that there was one last piece of paperwork that I had to take care of from DC, so I set out to finalise everything this morning.

Seems simple in principle, doesn't it?

Yeah. Right.

First off, the guy I was dealing with did his best.. he really did. Unfortunately, his English wasn't very good and I'm not all that good with accents, so it took quite a bit longer than it really should have. I have to give the guy respect as well as thanks.. unfortunately it took quite a while for each of us to figure out what the other was saying, and longer for him to call back to the core office on the eastern seaboard and get.. you know, I don't know what he was trying to do or what information he was trying to get hold of. He did more listening than talking.


Dick Chaney says that Iraq would have been invaded even if there was no risk of Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction. How reassurring.


Today started off okay and got rocky fast. Lyssa and I finally got up around 1030 EST/EDT this morning and had a leisurely breakfast of biscuits and turkey bacon. In hindsight, smaller frying pans work better than the large ones for bacon, but that's not that big a deal.. I had to go to the bank to finish getting my accounts straightened out after a screwup some years ago that never really caused problems, save when trying to do important things (like set up direct deposit of paycheques). The last time I was in Pittsburgh I spoke to my folks about getting this fixed from their end, because they live near the branch of the bank that I originally did all of the paperwork through, and the wheels started turning.

I was told that there was one last piece of paperwork that I had to take care of from DC, so I set out to finalise everything this morning.

Seems simple in principle, doesn't it?

Yeah. Right.

First off, the guy I was dealing with did his best.. he really did. Unfortunately, his English wasn't very good and I'm not all that good with accents, so it took quite a bit longer than it really should have. I have to give the guy respect as well as thanks.. unfortunately it took quite a while for each of us to figure out what the other was saying, and longer for him to call back to the core office on the eastern seaboard and get.. you know, I don't know what he was trying to do or what information he was trying to get hold of. He did more listening than talking.

As it turns out, I had to write a letter, addressed to the branch down here, stating what I needed and why. If I'd known before I left Pittsburgh, things would have been done ahead of time, but as it was I had to head home, write a quick letter, and then make another trip to drop it off.

The rest of the day was spent up to my neck in paperwork: Finding answers, calling people, sending e-mails, searching websites, and rechecking the data I've already found. Not fun.

Deadline: Monday. Even less fun.

Interesting, indeed.

I knocked off around 1800 EST/EDT today and did some last minute shopping for dinner. For the second time this week, Lyssa and I attempted to make meatloaf; this time we bought meatloaf mix (beef, pork, and veal) and made sure to spice the meat normally. Unfortunately, meatloaf mix is hellishly greasy. It took twice as long to bake as meatloaf normally does, and we had to drain it a couple of times before it was really edible. The slices of bread that the baking pan was lined with all but vanished in the grease, as they were reduced to a thin paste.

In the end it wasn't too bad, though it was a learning experience.

My writing's been pretty scatterbrained lately, I have to admit. I've got a lot on my mind that has a higher processing priority than other things right now. I don't have much time to haunt the newswires right now, and I might not for the forseeable future.

Yeah, it's one of those "new job in a secure facility" gigs.

There's also not wanting to really look at a computer in the evenings after I get home, partially because I'm wiped out from work, and partially because I've been feeling twinges in my wrists again, and I'm trying to take care of them.

The whole 'tired' thing is a big part of it.

Lately, I've been playing Diablo II in the evenings to unwind. It plays very well under Wine for Linux, and I've been having a good time just messing around with the game. It seems that my favourite strategy of "take everything that isn't nailed down" doesn't seem to work very well because your character has a limited amount of space in the inventory, but that doesn't stop me from selling off everything that I possibly can...

Yeah, it's one of those games. It isn't a first-person shooter, a genre which I am not terribly fond of to begin with. It's an adventure game, three-quarters view, with a very easy user interface.

It's even got a good mapping system, so folks lke me who don't have a sense of direction can enjoy it.

So I'm watching Eureka Seven on Adult Swim on a weekend. So much of this is taken from Evangelion it isn't even funny....

Maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age.


I've made it through my first week at the office. The actual, real office in downtown DC, with cubicles and everything.

I'm beat.

I've been getting up earlier than I have been lately and that half-hour makes quite a bit of difference. On the other hand, my commute is via Metrorail now, so I've got time to read in the morning and afternoon, and I can't argue with that at all.

Lyssa's china cabinet really does look great.. it's solid cherry wood, and we think that it's pushing forty years of age. It's in fine shape, modulo a few nicks and scuffs that probably came from the trip to the apartment, but I don't think that they'll be difficult to take care of.

I'm still up to my neck in paperwork at work.

One Greg Palast, who filmed a documentary on Hurricane Katrina for cable TV is facing federal charges because he filmed some property belonging to Exxon. That's all he did - shoot some footage.


Long, long day. Delayed on the Metro this morning because several trains were having problems with doors not closing. My body isn't used to all the walking around - my ankles are killing me after two days of it. They'll get stronger, though, of this I have no doubt.

Lyssa and I, with the help of Kyrin, picked up the china cabinet and moved it into the apartment. It looks great, especially after Lyssa cleaned it up. I've been up to my neck in paperwork this evening... I wish I'd kept in touch with a few folks back in Pittsburgh. I'm going to have a hell of a time finding them.

I should probably go to bed. I'm not thinking as clearly as I'd like right now.


After two months, I finally got to go into the office today.

It's been long enough that I actually had to hunt to figure out where exactly I was supposed to go and plan a route there. It's readily accessible from the Metro line, but once you get downtown all bets are off. Thankfully buying a cup of coffee and a smile from a nearby Starbucks (I know.. I know.. but at least I can reliably find a Starbucks because they're bloody everywhere) got me walking directions to the building.

After nearly two months of working from home and studying, actually going into an office building gave me a case of culture shock. It's quiet.. very quiet. We're talking college library in the middle of finals quiet, where even the air conditioning barely makes any sound. Unfortunately, I actually could complain, and probably will in the near future: My chair isn't big enough to be comfortable. Specifically, my legs are too long for the chair, so not much of the part I sit on is supported. Combined with the powerful spring that supports the back of the chair, and I always feel like I'm about to slide off and hit the floor.

I was going to write something about personal space and subway cars, but after further consideration I don't think that I had much of anything. One hasty hand motion does not constitute a flinch in close quarters, and the car really did have quite a few people packed into it for the crush home. Maybe it had something to do with low blood sugar, maybe it was just my not thinking things through all the way...

At any rate, it's going to take a while to adapt to my new environment. The mountain of paperwork to fill out will probably help with that.

Half a league, half a league/Half a league onward/All in the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred/"Forward, the Light Brigade!"/"Charge for the guns!" he said:/Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.


George W. Bush went on the record about the secret US prisons in foreign countries.

In other news, the Cult of the Dead Cow has made Paris Hilton an honorary member of the Ninja Strike Force. ...oommmmMM


Join My Cult is now available for download as a .pdf file.


2125 EST/EDT: Lyssa and I are back in DC.

This morning we got up around 0800 EST/EDT to get dressed and hit the road to head back to the Lynch homestead. After getting dressed we discovered that Lyssa's parents had some stuff to take back with us, vis a vis the complete set of Lyssa's grandmother's china in a pair of shipping crates. Thankfully we packed light this time, so we had plenty of room to spare in the TARDIS' trunk and back seat. Everything was carefully wrapped in newspaper and layered in the crates for the trip home.

I don't understand china, or flatware as some people call it to avoid confusion with the country. Well, I do get it, at least in the functional sense. China is the collective name for the various kinds of plates, cups, and saucers that food is served on at home. It usually has a design of some kind around the edge of each piece, and more often than not there's another design right in the middle of each piece for decoration. I also understand the significance it holds for Lyssa: It belonged to her grandmother for a good sixty years or so, and the two of them were very close all of their lives.

But.. I don't get the attraction of china. I'm not a collector. I don't find it intrinsically interesting, and the patterns (with one or two exceptions of pieces in the Smithsonian Museum of History) don't really captivate me. In my book, china is what you eat off of on holidays because it can spoil the mood to eat off the same old same old when company comes over and you've spent all day in the kitchen cooking. The patterns aren't displayed for very long because they're covered up by food, and then a few hours later after they're washed the china goes back in the cabinet for another couple of months.

Maybe I'm being too practical about this.

We finally got moving around 0930 EST/EDT today.

Okay, this is really getting under my skin. Every time I sit down to write something of substance, my mind goes completely blank, no matter what's been going on.

The drive from Mather to Pittsburgh never really gets shorter.. it's at least an hour and a half away, rain or shine, roadway construction or not in Pennsylvania. Because it was Labor Day today the roads were almost devoid of vehicles of any sort, which meant that we made pretty good time back home by way of the core of the city of Pittsburgh proper. In addition to getting ready for a parade of some sort downtown, they're also demolishing some of the older buildings in the heart of the city to make room for... who knows what. Whatever the folks who can afford to buy the property will put up, which will probably be another office block or two.

By the way, for folks travelling northbound - the state police are using the down-driveway of the PennDOT Lone Pine Depot as a speed trap. Cut your speed to (speed limit + 5mph) there.

They've ripped up more of the highway that leads to my parents' place, too. The cliffside has been chopped back another ten feet or so, exposing fresh, new walls of slate and shale that have yet to be weathered into slivers and dust by the automobile exhaust, rain, and wind. The highway was reduced to two lanes, one heading in either direction, and transportable concrete barriers. It was just a year ago that They (whoever They are) bought up all of the abandoned houses and started tearing them down so they could remake the land.

On the whole, I'm not sorry to see those houses go. I don't know what used to go on in them, but I've got my suspicions, and I'm certainly not sorry to see them end.

My mother is doing much better these days. Her diabetes is under control and regular doses of Synthroid are keeping her up and around. My grandfather is enjoying the twilight years of his retirement, watching television and petting Ziggy the cat. Ziggy, true to form, is still pissed off at my leaving the homestead some years ago, and refuses to let me get closer than a yard to her. My mother's been steadily cleaning up the spare room in the house and my old lab, and she's thrown out an amazing amount of cruft since last I've been over to visit. After arriving around 1100 EST/EDT, we sat around drinking coffee and catching up on the past few months. We discussed our finances and our plans for the short and medium term, what's been going on at work, things that have been changing, and all manner of stuff that one would expect of family getting back together.

Lunch consisted of the chili that my mother made yesterday and set aside for us. She also went to the farm of Anna-Marie and Albert and stocked up on fresh produce for us, which we have a difficult time finding consistently in the DC area.

A few months ago, my mother bought one of those nifty VCR/DVD recorder combo units so that she could start converting old family videos into DVDs for archival, as well as to replace the DVD player which was barely operational. However, she waited for my next visit so I could install it for everyone. That isn't that big a deal, I think. So I set about removing the old gear from the entertainment center and figuring out exactly how to go about wiring it into the cable box/VCR/DVD player/surround sound system/widescreen television while my mother went in search of the instruction manual, which had somehow gone missing in weeks previous. It really wasn't too hard, once you knew where each cable was headed and what it was doing, but it was a tight fit behind the entertainment center and I'm neither as skinny nor as flexible as I once was, so it required a goodly amount of stretching and pulling shelves away from the wall with brute force.

It's a slick little unit, I have to admit. It can record television like a VCR can, it can play back DVDs, it can play back videocassettes, and it can record to either DVD or videocassette assuming that you've got it hooked up properly. It can also play back a tape and record the output directly to a DVD by pressing a single button... I've got to get one of those suckers so I can archive all the weird old sci-fi movies I used to tape off of HBO at 0300 when I was a kid.

My mother, however, has other plans, which involve family videos...

Those of you who've been in this position before are already shivering. I can tell.

The videos were of stuff I did when I was about thirteen years of age.

Can we say 'carpet bombing of dignity', boys and girls?

Sure. I knew you could.

To be honest, though, it wasn't that bad. Looking back on those years I was a goofy little kid. Just starting puberty and just beginning to go mad from hormones, and probably at that age where I started wanting to come into my own and do my own thing. Maybe a bit of a smartass. I'm fairly certain that everyone is like that around that age, which continues for a couple of years. Until the sullen or manically overachieving mid-teens kick in, anyway. It was a little embarassing, but then again home movies tend to be. We were still sharing little snippets of special times, like carving the Thanksgiving turkey, putting up the Yule tree, and watching the snow come down early in December of 1993.

It was a nice walk down memory lane.

All too soon, though, it came time to leave so that Lyssa and I would make it back to DC at a reasonable time. We loaded up the vegetables and a few small things that I was taking back with me (nothing special, just drive bay covers for Leandra's chassis (I hope)), got into the TARDIS, and set off for the PA turnpike for a few hours.

Gas in Pennsylvania is extremely inexpensive when compared to DC. The cheap stuff was $2.71 at the lowest, $2.98 for 93 octane petrol.

The highway really wasn't too bad up until we started getting close to the Maryland border, at which time traffic slowed to a crawl. We watched one minivan pull over to the side of the road and park, ostensible to rest and kill time until traffic freed up. About two miles down the road, once we started moving again, we saw a red sports car that has seen better incarnations: The front end, hood, roof (holy shit), and windscreen (oh, boy) had been smashed so thoroughly that it looked as if the car had tried and failed to do a somersault on I-76 east. I didn't see any ambulances around, just a lone police car and a wrecker, so if there was anyone in there, they're long gone, for some definition of long gone.

I hope that whoever was in that car is okay, or if not, that the crash and end were mercifully quick.

Around 1800 EST/EDT (I think) we stopped off for dinner in Maryland at the nearest Cracker Barrel franchise that we could find. At first we hit the Waffle House across the parking lot from it (that's really the name of it, folks) but the inside looks like... how can I put this? The inside of the Waffle House looks like an old, old diner from a bad 60's movie. It was dirty, there was no service visible, and the jukebox was an ancient machine the size of an industrial washing machine that had over two hundred separate country/western music tracks. Hot and cold running Tammy Wynette, and I don't mean multiple KLF remixes. Oh, did I mention that it was dirty inside?

We ran, not walked, to Cracker Barrel, for all that entails.

Very, very tasty and filling. Thankfully I've got my cardiologist on speed dial. While my second heart takes over the strain, I should be able to put out an emergency page.

We're now at home and resting. The china has been unpacked and stored in the library until we can find a china closet (does anyone know where we could buy one in the DC metropolitan area??) and we're catching up on everything that happened while we were gone. The fish, including Baku (the new betta) were overjoyed to see us as we walked in, and demanded their daily tribute of food because they've been fasting for the past two days.

Steve "the Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, RIP.

Speaking of the past two days, on Saturday afternoon while we were waiting for dinner to finish Lyssa and I happened across the movie Alien: Resurrection on one of the digital cable channels that her parents get via Comcast. I'd only seen it once before, and was utterly unimpressed by it. In fact, the novelisation of the movie is one that I got rid of willingly (along with the novelisation of the second Crow movie, which sucked just as much), and I don't get rid of books unless you hold a gun to my head. The movie hasn't aged very well at all. Sure, it has a pretty good cast, like Winona Ryder, Sigourney Weaver (who has been aging very well), Ron Pearlman (it can't be bad if Pearlman's in it, right? Right?), and beltsander-voiced Michael Wincott (who played Top Dollar in The Crow, because no one ever remembers his name, just the characters he plays), but it's needlessly bloody and gory. Sure, it's got subtext galore that slashers go nuts over (and in this flick, you need something to keep your attention to make it to the end credits), but that's just not enough for me. The action is a lot of running and shooting... definitely not the creepy-as-hell game of cat-and-mouse that the xenomorphs played with the human(-ish) characters in the three earlier movies.

Frankly, I wish the franchise had stayed dead with Alien 3. Hollywood has this habit of taking dead and buried stories and turning them into mindless zombies. I honestly can't recommend this movie to anyone, unless you happen to be a really hardcore, acid-flowing-in-your-veins fan of the movies.

But on a high point, the Wikipedia entry on H.R. Giger. Fascinating.


Lyssa and I made it back to Pennsylvania around 2130 EST/EDT yesterday. I left the conference around 1400 and headed for home, and surprise of surprises found my way back without any trouble. That's twice in the same year. Someone call Guinness, someone get me a Guiness, and will someone please help me chase away that reporter from the Weekly World News??

But seriously, I made it home without any trouble, we packed up our stuff for a weekend, and set off for her parents' place. They're having a Labor Day cookout this weekend, and Lyssa's sister just got engaged, so they want to celebrate that as well.

The drive up was uneventful.. we stopped at a sports bar for dinner before hitting the highway. I've never wished that I had a TV-B-Gone before.. still, our hamburgers and french fries were tasty and the experience was overall quite enjoyable. The trip was thankfully unventful - nothing bad happened, aside from fog and rain slowing us down a little bit.

Update the first:

The short time that Lyssa and I had to run around the area to get breakfast this morning was very welcome.. the weather in Pennsylvania has been unusually nice lately, a fine change from the ninety-plus degrees Farenheit that it's been lately. In fact, it's unusually cool right now, so much so that I've been wearing jeans and long sleeves as much as possible.

To be fair,the rain, mist, and fog that we drove through to get up here had a lot to do with it.

Lyssa's father set up the professional-grade propane grille in the back yard, along with an electric split to rotisserie-grille a half-dozen whole chickens(!) for dinner today. Lyssa's parents like to make a lot of food when they have guests over for a feast; in this case, Lyssa's sister has officially announced her engagement, which is always a reason to celebrate.

After dinner today we sat around for a while and let our food digest. Knitting came out and beers were passed around the table in the back yard. Time wa spent trying to figure out what, exactly, to do for the rest of the night. As i turns out, we decided to find a bowling alley that was open to bowl a few frames for fun.

Because it was a Sunday ngiht in Pennsylvania, this wound up being far more difficult than it really had to be. The first alley was closed, but the second, out on route 19, didn't close until 2300 EST/EDT and even had a few lanes open.

I seem to say this a lot when bowling comes up: Just because I was in a bowling league when I was in high school does not mean that I am a particularly good bowler. I think the best I bowled tonight was 86 in my first game. We managed to get two games in before they started shutting lanes down for the night. Mike, Jill's fiencee', is an excellent bowler, and beat most of us soundly..


It's 0853 EST/EDT on a Saturday, and I'm sitting in the conference room at Georgetown University, waiting for the conference to start again. For some reason it was pretty easy to get up at 0700 EST/EDT on a Saturday.. maybe I'm getting old.

Lyssa and I are going to be driving back to Pennsylvania this evening.. I'm not looking forward to this. It's been raining lately (though it seems to have lightened up somewhat as of this morning) and driving has been hazardous in the DC area. In recent years, this has made me shaky about driving at times like this... I worry a lot about going out of control or getting hurt (or one of my passengers getting hurt, horror of horrors.

If it's one thing that aging teaches you, it's that you have a lot to lose.


It's been a long day.. I've been at a conference for work on a rainy, dreary, yucky day. The tropical storm that's been battering the southern United States (why, no, I haven't been trolling the newswires lately...) is starting to manifest effects farther north in the country, so the rain's been cold and at times blowing sideways. The area in which Lyssa and I live has been under a flood watch for most of today. The drive to the college the conference is being held at isn't too bad, surprisingly enough. Even with rush hour traffic, it doesn't take very long to get there.

I don't actually have much to write about right now.. the conference will continue tomorrow, and then Lyssa and I will be heading home for the Labor Day weekend.

I finally get to go into work next Wednesday. The paperwork's finally been worked out.


Busy yesterday. Cate's computer underwent an emergency rebuild in my lab and had to be tweaked and configured in a hurry so that it could be returned to her at Rialian's last night.

On Tuesday night, Hasufin hosted the weekly stitch-and-bitch that we've been getting together for in the DC metro area. It's just a few of us getting together to eat dinner, hang out, and work on whatever projects we have going at the moment. Most everyone knits or is learning to do so; I've been writing or (more often lately) working on a computer or two. On Tuesday night Hasufin was nice enough to grill hot dogs and sausages on the grill out back and made a few batches of brownies for dessert.. the ones from scratch blow away the Gevalia fudge brownies he made, no two ways about it.

Cate's computer is running a little short on RAM for my tastes but it runs well enough for what she needs it for.. thankfully the reconstruction didn't take very long. As with most things these days, installing the patches takes longer than actually installing the OS and all of the applications anymore.

Last night we trucked out to Rialian's place to hang out with everyone, and were joined by Kyrin the Toxic Elf, who seems to be doing much better lately, and came back form Pennsic with quite a few stories to tell, both good and bad.

We called it an early night because we haven't been getting nearly as much sleep as we actually need these days, and neither of us particularly want to get sick this weekend. We have to go back to Pennsylvania this weekend, which is going to be a rough enough journey because I also have a conference to attend this weekend.

Interesting times, indeed.

If nothing else, it'll be nice to take a break this weekend after everything is said and done.

Printing's working!

So if you haven't heard by now they're making a live action/CG movie based upon The Transformers. An early trailer has been posted to the site which doesn't give away much of anything at all... until someone on the set snuck a few pictures of props and put them on the Net. There is also some concept art of Megatron floating around... and for the first time ever he looks like a badass (though his voice is probably not going to be done by Gary Chalk, sad to say). There are more photographs taken by someone else on the set over here (click on the thumbnails to see the full-sized images).

Even if it does wind up sucking, I'd still like to see it for the special effects.


I'm baaaAAAAAAAAcccckkkkk....

So I've been busy as hell these past few days.

Leandra was in such a bad way that Mozilla Firefox could not render pages in under two and one half minutes and the CPU load incurred from one of her users downloading files to back them up made it impossible to even get a realtime list of the processes running in her memory field. I bought the last component necessary (a 64-bit AMD Athlon X2 4800+, which is.. hell, I don't feel like doing the math right now, at least two orders of magnetude faster than her old CPU) and started backing up all of the data in her drive arrays to DVD-ROM.

The extra CPU load from burning all those DVDs made it slow, slow going.

It took most of last Thursday to pull Leandra out of her shell and put her into safekeeping for a while while I basically gutted her chassis. I had to replace everything, from her motherboard all the way up to her graphics card. It isn't a particularly difficult thing to do once you know your way around inside a computer, I was taking a lot of care while I did it because the only place that has enough room to take apart an entire server-sized case is the living room, complete with carpet and static electricity hazards. Even with antistatic grounding there's no sense in being too careful.

Is it just me, or do CPUs get harder and harder to install with each new advance in technology? The Athlon/64's now come with excellent heatsinks, but there is now a lever on them to clamp the heatsink down; the trick is not breaking the bloody thing or damaging the CPU.

Leandra's motherboard is theoretically capable of RAID. In a practical sense, however, it's not really hardware-based RAID. What happens is that the chipset sets up whatever RAID level you tell it to (I've got a pair of 250GB drives in Leandra that are mirrored), but unless the OS has the requisite drivers it treats the hard drives as... a couple of hard drives and not a RAID array.

"Hell with this," I thought. Because I was installing Gentoo Linux (because it has a well-tested 64-bit port).

Gentoo is definitely not for newbies. You really need to know about Linux to get it up and running because a lot of the installation process is performed manually. I used the LiveCD to get Leandra bootstrapped.. to be honest I wasn't very impressed by the graphical installer because it didn't give me the opportunity to set up software RAID as well as logical volume management, but thankfully the procedure to do this is documented.

In a nutshell, it's far easier than it looks. For the record, build the software RAID array (this can take a while, so it might be worth your time to go get something to eat or go to work while this runs), then set up logical volume management and build virtual partitions. Then go through the Gentoo install as documented, but remember the stuff you have to change (also documented).

That probably doesn't make very much sense. I'll write a better version later.

To make a long story short I pulled a couple of all-nighters in short succession to get Gentoo Linux installed on Leandra and get everything fixed up. Unlike many times before, I had a hell of a time getting Xorg running from user accounts that didn't have root privileges.. as it turns out, I was mounting the partition that Xorg was kept on (/usr) with the nosuid option, which strips executables of their elevated privileges for security's sake.. but this also breaks X. I spent some time on the #gentoo-amd64 with some folks trying to figure it out and once I got it fixed, that was that. It was time to start installing software.

I also had a hell of a scare yesterday with the packaging system of Gentoo, called Portage. I'm going to try not to overcomplicate this to keep eyes from bleeding so soon after coming back online... Portage is a system by which software packages are downloaded, compiled, and installed with a minimum of work on the part of the sysadmin. Dependencies between packages are also maintained by the Portage system. Portage has two branches, one for packages considered stable and one for packages that are under testing before inclusion in the stable branch. The testing branch is also for new versions of applications.

You can upgrade a machine with a simple command that will probably run all day. You can also upgrade each and every package on a machine to the version in the testing branch if you're feeling brave.

This can break stuff.

I'd accidentally turned on the 'testing' switch in Portage late the night before, and to be frank I was afraid that I was about to hose Leandra but good and have to reinstall everything.

That didn't happen. I caught it before any of her systemware was migrated to the testing branch and she's healthy and happy.

Next up: Printing, OpenOffice, a decent graphical e-mail client, and most of all, restoring everyone's websites.

Of all the topics that are on the list of collegiate studies that you can get federal aid for, evolutionary biology is no longer one of them. No one knows why it was stricken from the list, only that it was.

Some people have way too much fun with Photoshop.


A cluster of 13 conservative groups are urging the FBI and Justice Department to determine if porn flicks shown in hotels violate any obscenity laws. Not that they know first hand what they're like, or anything...

Hey, folks? Why don't you pay more attention to your own families and leave people who just want to relax after a long plane flight with a porn flick alone? They're not hurting anyone.

Lyssa and I got a lot done from home yesterday; she'd missed her shuttle and had to work out of the office while I'm stll working from home. We got a good bit of the house picked up because we had another stitch-and-bitch last night, and I did some running around during the day. Specifically, I had to get my car inspected for the purposes of registration, which took about an hour out of my day. I packed up my laptop and drove down to the car dealership, where I killed about an hour and a half writing code on my laptop and generally waiting to see what the damage would be.

There wasn't any damage, actually. $15us later, the TARDIS was checked out and good for another year.

Attention TOR users: The sysadmin of the site called The Jungle is running out of bandwidth, and can't keep it online. He or she is looking for someone to take over. If anyone out there is interested, post in the forums.

This should make anyone who works his or her ass off sit up and take notice: The eighth circuit court of appeals has ruled that police can legally confiscate sums of money from drivers in the absence of probable cause. The court ruling is hyperlinked off of the article.

Geez... this is enough to keep people up at night worrying: Gigantic yellowjacket nests, one completely filling an abandoned '55 Chevy. Other nests have been found in abandoned barns of mammoth size in southern Alabama. What's more, the nests are splintering into satellite nests some distance away. Entomologists think that the nests contain multiple queens, each with its own distinct swarm, and that the nests are actually partitioned inside to keep them separate.

Thousands of Marines who were discharged in the past have been called back to active duty because recruitment figures are at an all-time low. So far, about ten thousand former Marines have been placed back on active duty.

Leandra's new CPU, an AMD Athlon/64 X2 4800+ arrived in the mail this afternoon, shortly before I left to pick up Lyssa at work. I'll be heading out early tomorrow morning to take Mika to work and haunt the NASA surplus sale for a laptop for Lyssa.

I'll be taking her offline sometime tomorrow so that I can install the new hardware, as well as reinstall all of her systemware from scratch.


Sargeant Thomas Kelt, who was reported to his superiors on several occasions for lying to potential recruits to meet his monthly quota hasn't been disciplined, he's been promoted to a supervisory position of another recruiting office. Sgt. Kelt was reported for telling a few high school kids that they might be arrested if they didn't sign up for the Army after graduation.. the Army says that he is in an ideal position to supervise other recruiters since he violated most of their recruitment ethics guidelines.

This could mean one of three things: Either Kelt narrowly got pitched out on his ear as a result of what he did (unlikely) and they're giving him one more chance, they're giving him a 'window seat' to keep an eye on him and minimise the damage he could do (if you want to prevent someone from actually doing anything, a famous saying says, make them management), or someone actually thinks that putting someone who freely lied to potential recruits in charge of recruiters is a good and helpful thing (which makes about as much sense as putting a pyromaniac in charge of building a campfire).

The next Stephen Hawking, to be sure.


Following the release of almost three-quarters of a million web search criteria to the Net Maureen Govern, Chief Technical Officer of America On-Line resigned her position. When asked, AOL declined to comment. In other news, a Slashdot reader posted what he or she thinks are her last few Web searches.

The RIAA is now trying to get tablature to songs figured out by fans taken off the Net. It seems that not only is it illegal to rip your own CDs, but apparently it's illegal to figure out how to play songs on your own, too.

George Bush admits on national television that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Ann Coulter to blame Hitler on Charles Darwin. That's right, the theory of evolution is to blame for World War II.. just as much as it is to blame for digital computers winning out over analogue, unleaded gas being used more in consumer cars and trucks more than diesel fuel, and the results of American Idol and Survivor.

And.. even if Darwin hadn't hit on the idea of social evolution (it would be redundant to use 'Darwinism' so soon after a proper name), that doesn't mean that the principle didn't already exist.


The first Baptist church of Watertown, New York canned Mrs. Mary Lambert after working for 54 years as a Sunday school teacher because they've decided to interpret the first Epistle to Timothy literally.

Folks, you're going to have to read this article all the way through. I can do no justice to this story save the following words: Holy shit - genetic chimaerism in court.

No, really.


Today's been an odd day as they go, especially on a weekend. Kash was coming over to spend the day.. specifically, Lyssa had to go to the mall to pick up some stuff for her skin, the Kash wanted to go to a Sony Style store (basically a brand outlet) and then we would be heading into DC to visit a specialty bath store called Lush..

First off, we got up early to order tickets for a concert coming up as the website opened, because projections had it that they'd sell out fast. This wasn't terribly difficult, and took just a couple of minutes. The hardest part was trying to find my login for the ticket reselling agency in question, which I have yet to locate in the office.. this always happens after I clean.

Ghost wasn't looking good at all this morning, which I'll elaborate upon later to get it all out of my head. He wasn't strong enough to even make it to the surface to gulp down air, let alone get at the food that we've been trying to give him.

Lyssa and I got cleaned up and dressed and awaited Kash's arrival, which was around 1100 EST/EDT on Saturday. I wound up making breakfast for everyone, eggs in one form or another, biscuits, and turkey bacon, and then went to take a shower. We'd be doing quite a bit of running around today, and needed to be comfortable. I went with my standard t-shirt and shorts, while Lyssa wore her new pants and t-shirt.

Ghost died this morning somewhen around noon. I'd been popping into the office to check up on him when I found him laying on his side on the bottom of the bowl. Over the past day or so I've been watching his colour fade as the blood left his fins and later on his tail, giving him a sickly colour. The blood was pooling in his body, giving him an unusually ruddy colour, and causing his gill membranes to swell and protrude, probably a reflexive attempt to get more oxygen into his blood. By this time, he was barely even trying to get water past his gills. At last he tried to swim but sank to the bottom convulsing, or as much as fish are capable of doing. I didn't know that the very tips of a betta's fins and tail could move on their own, but somehow they were twitching independently of the rest of Ghost's body. His gill covers extended so far that I thought his head would come off, and the membranes of his gills were bright red tufts of fuzz swaying in the water as his body shook out of control.

After a minute or so, the twitching stopped and his gills collapsed. That was that.

I've only seen something die once, and that was a bird that had been hit by a car (I presume) and left laying on the side of the road many, many years ago. Even then, it left me shaken and feeling like I'd seen something forbidden, which mortals were not meant to look upon. I still feel a little out of sorts by this.. intellectually, I know that Ghost was just a fish of questionable age, breeding, and origin (Pet Smart isn't renowned for the health of their fish), but on the other hand he was a living creature, loved and cared for by Lyssa, his owner, and appreciated by everyone who looked at him. He swam around in his little bowl, ate what we fed him, and generally brightened our days.

There was a minor amount of hilarity as we tried to fish Ghost's corpse out of the bowl without accidentally picking up too many of the plastic 'stones' (I'm being charitable there) for disposal. This took a bit of finangling and digging but we managed to get him out of the bowl and given a burial at sea.

After doing the deed, the three of us headed to the Tyson's Corner mall so that Lyssa could get new makeup (her old makeup was contaminated enough with skin oil and suchlike that it was causing her to break out). Kash and I hit the Sony Style store so he could check out the new Sony VAIO sub-notebook computers, which I must admit are very tasty looking, and weigh about as much as your average book... we had to drag ourselves out of there to meet up with Lyssa again to go to Lush, which is a rather ritzy and expensive bath-stuff store in Georgetown.

Lush actually wasn't to hard to find from the directions we got off the Net. The hardest part was finding parking down there because the public lots were closed, and if you couldn't find a space along the main drag you had to find someplace to park on a side street someplace and hope that you didn't get ticketed or towed. We fould a little space off of 29th Street that had one hour parking, and took full advantage of it. Lush's fares are very nifty, I must admit. They make all of their stuff in small batches from raw ingredients of known quality and origin. If at all possible, they go organic for their raw materials, and you can try just about anything they have in the store as long as you don't make a mess. There are bath bombs, which are balls that fizz in the bathtub and release essential oils, scents, and whatnot; there are shampoos and soaps and bath bars that smell like just about anything you can imagine (coal tar? sour apple? chocolate? seaweed?). There are even butter-bars, which are like bars of soap but are made out of oils that quite literally melt in your fingers that are supposed to moisturise your skin. They've got lots of neat stuff there; I was very impressed by both the quality and the scents of their products; if I hadn't bought a new motherboard for Leandra yesterday morning, I would have bought a shower gel called "Sonic Death Monkey", which includes such essentials as coffee, chocolate, and lime juice..

Just what this world needs at 0700 on a Monday: A Time Lord with three shots of espresso in its blood stream, courtesy of some soap.

We got back to the car just a few minutes before the parking deadline and picked our way back home to get ready for Hasufin's housewarming picnic.. of course, it took us a lot longer to get back home because we didn't have explicit directions for the return trip. Somehow we blundered our way back to the Beltway and made it home around 1400 EST/EDT, just in time to be fashionably late.

As it turns out, we were a bit more than fashionably late, but then again by the time we actually got on the road to Hasufin's new house, only two guests were there, namely Mika and Butterfly. Because his new digs are out by our local Trader Joe's and Whole Paycheque, we stopped by the latter to pick up some stuff to bring (mostly because Whole Paycheque's apple pies are amazingly good, and because they have a better selection of gluten free stuff for Kash than TJ's does). Trying to find a good cheese took the better part of a half hour because the cheese selection there is, to be blunt, on the dodgy side. I'd much prefer going to the other one out on Maple Avenue East in northern Virginia. Anyway, we arrived at our destination around 1700 EST/EDT, just as the charcoal got going. After the application of judicious amounts of lighter fluid.

As Hasufin put it, some days you've got it, and some days you really, really don't.

Butterfly and I spent some time talking and catching up while Lyssa and Hasufin got the grille going outside. Hasufin's done an amazing job with the house in a comparatively short period of time: Between the hardwood floors and the shelves he built, the place looks really sharp, I have to admit.

We wound up sitting around outside nibbling cheese and crackers and passing around the insect repellent until the coals were hot enough to do actuall grilling over.. Mika made turkey burgers for us and Hausfin grilled corn on the cob as an appetiser. Mika and I split part of a DuClaws growler of beer, just a glass each because a growler is far more beer than any of us really wanted to drink. Hasufin shortly thereafter brought out the half-melon of doom, which consisted of half a hollowed out melon filled with sundry liquors, of which rum and vodka were represented for certain. Said half-melon had a number of straws in it, so we passed it around a couple of times and had our fill. As far as I know, we never did get to the second half of the melon on Saturday night. Perhaps that's for the best.

Last night was basically a night of sitting around and talking, as one might expect of close friends... somehow we started discussing porn when Rhianna and Rab arrived around 2100 EST/EDT last night. They've been extremely busy lately, what with work and Rab's immigration status, so they've been off the radar for a while.

Lyssa, Kash, Butterfly, and I wound up leaving around 2300 EST/EDT last night because we'd been up early and were starting to run down. We dropped Butterfly off at the Metro station because it was on our way home, and then headed in to get a good night's sleep.

This morning, we met up with Hasufin and Mika and went out to the Indian buffet for lunch.. I don't know what it is about that place, but my stomach's been giving me hell every time we go there. Maybe it's because we get the buffet; maybe it's eating Indian early on a Sunday; maybe it's something else. I'm not sure. At any rate, Mika and Hasufin went off to go thrifting while Lyssa, Kash, and I stopped off to pick up out subscriptions from Big Planet Comics (which amounted to three dozen issues because we haven't been there in two months), then the local petstore so that Lyssa could get another betta (a dark blue male that she calls Baku). We dropped them off afterward and then Kash and I headed back to Tyson's Corner mall so that he could pick up his new laptop computer. The paperwork took over an hour to run, so I hit up Barnes and Noble to get coffee (and wonder why the place was so packed today).

So many toys... so little time.

Interesting news from China: The first human trials of a vaccine for HIV were successful. Forty-nine participants, ages 18 to 50 recieved the vaccine and later varying doses of samples of DNA from strains of HIV and showed a positive immune response, indicating at least partial immunity. Kong Wei, leader of the research team, stated that increased dosages of HIV DNA showed a correspondingly greater immune response. The test subjects were periodically sampled during the 180 day trial. It is still too early to determine if the experiment was an unqualified success, however.


This from a former close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr., huh?

That whirring sound you now hear is MLKjr breaking mach one in his grave.

Evanescence tickets ordered. This will be interesting.

A new CPU for Leandra has been ordered - an AMD Athlon 64 X2. It's high time she's gone multi-core.

Ghost is on his last legs, I think. He can't even swim, anymore.

Been playing more with Sun Solaris and OpenBSD in my lab. I have to hand it to the OpenBSD project, I really like how they handle packages.. if you compile something out of the ports tree, it gets turned into a regular package for transparent installation. If you use the pkg_add utility, it can download the packages (and dependencies, as I found out too late) for you transparently.


The Microsoft beta experience: The pleasure of testing.

Whoever put this page up has never done software testing before, of that I am certain.

Is it a film? Is it a Mondo 2000 cover? Who knows?

Old, old, old school gamers who remember the days of 8-bit computers and video games, especially those by Epyx, whose games were famous for being challenging as well as catchy. An outfit called System 3 bought the rights to their games and is porting them to a number of modern hand-held game systems, such as the PSP and the Nintendo Wii. The first two games they'll be releasing will be old favourites, namely Impossible Mission and California Games, and will be released in January of 2007.

Instructions for properly installing JASS, the Sun Solaris Security Toolkit.

First off, you'll ned a Sunsolve account to download the package (currently v4.2.0). This is free, and you can opt out of the spam. Transfer the package (SUNWjass-4.2.0.pkg.tar.Z) to the Solaris box in question.

  • uncompress SUNWjass-4.2.0.pkg.tar.Z
  • su - (give password when prompted)
  • cd /tmp
  • tar xf /path/to/SUNWjass
  • pkgadd -d .
  • (when prompted, hit <enter> to install default package, JASS)
  • That's it. Sun didn't actually document this process properly, and neither have any of my Solaris books. JASS will be installed into the directory /opt/SUNWjass.

    This makes me twitch visibly (and yet is still safe for work).

    I don't know if this is legit, or even feasible, but someone apparently rigged up a jet engine to a Volkswagon bug.

    Zoethe weighs in on the increased security measures of airports, and she's got a few things to say on the matter...

    Way, way, way back when, I wrote about Judge Donald Thompson of Oklahoma, who got in trouble for using a penis pump while court was in session. That's right.. in front of everyone. He's been sentenced to four years in prison and a $40kus fine for exposing himself in public to do so, using said penis pump while on the bench, and indecent exposure.

    The UK news magazine called the Register has put its two cents in on the attempt to synthesise a liquid explosive in mid-air that's caused airports to go into lockdown mode, and the chemists they've spoken to are saying more or less the same thing: Not bloody likely. The article is interesting and informative while remaining nontechnical, so it's not going to make your eyes bleed.


    Interesting times, indeed... one Lou Beres, formerly of the Oregon Christian Coalition confessed guilt to the charges of sexual molestation he was hit with in December of 2005, levelled by his daughters and sister in law. You can read a copy of the police report here, but sensitive readers should take caution - there's some stuff in that police report that'll make your blood boil. As it turns out, Beres thought that the statute of limitations was up so he thought he had nothing to fear...

    It appears that Chuck Norris is on vacation and Bruce Schneier is holding down the fort.

    NASA has announced that they've observed the separation of 'normal' matter and dark matter using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. There will be a teleconference today at 1300 EST/EDT, linked off of this article.

    Talk about getting railroaded.. the American Atheists have filed suit in federal court on behalf of Nicole Smalkowsi of the state of Oklahoma. Nicole is an atheist who refused to participate in a mandatory recitation of the twenty-third psalm, and was thrown off of the girls' basketball team as a result. After that, it appears that open season was declared on the girl and her family. The principle is said to have gotten into a fight with her father during a meeting. Somehow, he was then arrested, and told that if he and his family moved out of the town, charges against him would be dropped. In court before a jury of their peers, they were amazingly told that the word of an atheist could not stand up before that of a 'God fearing man' (the jurors said this, it should be noted). So much for impartiality.. still, Chester Smalkowski was acquitted of the charges of assault.

    On this topic, I'll say no more, other than do your own research on what happened there.

    Damn, it's good to be a gangsta. (safe for work)

    Things are in something of an inconsistent state around the apartment at this time. Leandra's straining under the weight of everything she's doing at this moment, which to be truthful isn't much. I've been cutting back her responsibilities because she's getting up in years (she's only running at 800MHz and I can't get much more performance out of her without altering the circuitry on her mainboard). Even now, using Firefox to browse a simple web page has her CPU pegged, and the browser window hasn't updated in four minutes and counting. Yesterday afternoon I picked up RAM for the new motherboard I bought a while ago, and next on the hit list is a CPU. Once I've got a CPU, I'll be taking Leandra offline to back everything up and upgrade her hardware. An OS upgrade will take place soon after.

    Ghost, one of Lyssa's bettas, isn't doing so well, either. He's been listless for over a month now, and spends most of his time at the bottom of his bowl. We've determined that he's suffering from swim bladder disease, probably due to a lack of variety in his diet. This morning, he even stopped trying to swim and refuses to eat. His scales are drab-looking and getting damaged from laying on the bottom all the time. I don't think that he'll last much longer. A water change this morning to clean out his bowl and get freshly oxygenated water into his environment didn't do anything helpful. I don't think he'll last much longer.

    The USB chassis for laptop-sized hard drives I picked up yesterday will be returned this afternoon. The hard drive I'd intended to put in it is ever so slightly too large to fit, rendering it useless. I've had to purchase a second KVM (keyboard/virtual monitor; basically it allows you to use one keyboard, mouse, and monitor with more than one computer) to make it easier to get around in my lab (again, partially due to Leandra's age). I hope to do some work on my test machine this afternoon, as well as the replacement for Lain.

    For the halibut this afternoon I dug out my briefcase (which has been in the office closet ever since I bought a new laptop backpack) and found all of the serial adapters that I've been searching for. Dammit. Next stop: That Sun Sparcstation 10.

    Last night, Lyssa and I drove out to Maryland and Rialian's place to spend the evening, and wound up hanging out until 2300 EST/EDT, much later than usual for us during the week. Cate and N- were there last night, which left Ri and Helen with a full house, and all of us quite busy for the entire evening. I found myself keeping track of no fewer than three conversations at one time last night, and enjoyed every last one of them.

    Perhaps it's for the best that Lyssa and I will be staying close to home tonight. We had a stitch-and-bitch on Tuesday night and went to Rialian and Helen's last night, and we could probably use a rest.

    When you become a parent, your musical tastes are going to change greatly, because you'll be playing a lot of music for the little ones and not so much for yourself anymore (unless someone's watching them and you've got headphones on).

    Until now.

    Presenting Baby Rock Records, an outfit which does lullaby-style covers of the music of such bands as Metallica, Pink Floyd, the Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Beatles.

    Kitty got bling-bling!

    A Persian cat named Sebastian was born with an unusual birth defect, namely, lower canine teeth that protrude like a bulldog's. David Steele, the owner of Sebastian as well as a dentist bonded gold crowns to the teeth to protect them.

    US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Detroit, Michigan has declared the US government's warrantless surveillance programme unconstitutional because it violates the people's rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of the powers of government written into the Constitution. Judge Taylor called for an immediate end to the programme but an appeal has already been filed.


    Here's an interesting news article to start the day, a lively discussion of surveillance in the workplace, courtesy of Securityfocus. These days, it's practically SOP to record everything that employees do on their networks these days, or as close to all of it as possible. Web browsing can be watched, especially if you have to go through a proxy server. E-mail and instant messenger traffic can be and are recorded as a matter of course. As long as you sign off on giving permission to do so, they can monitor what you do and say, right?

    Not necessarily.

    The laws in all 50 states are different with respect to recording telephone conversations. In some state, only one party has to give consent. In others, all parties on the call have to give consent. When the parties on the call are in states with different laws, though, things get hinky as far as the courts are concerned. The laws which cover telephone conversations are often applied to e-mail as well, where things get even more shaky. Recording e-mail isn't the same as tapping a phone call: Messages are in transit as long as they're in the wire; once they get to a mail server they sit in a queue with other messages, at which time the e-mails can either be opened and silently read or copied to another storage medium for later analysis. There are other ways of monitoring e-mail, such as using a packet sniffer to watch the message as it comes down the wire, but that tends to be a less reliable tactic because you have to make sure that you're actually paying attention at the right time to grab a copy of the right message. Also, which laws apply here? Those for telecommunication monitoring, those for mail sent through the US postal service, or some other set of laws which may or may not exist at the present time? The US Supreme Court says that the interests of personal privacy take priority over corporate regulations, contracts, or workplace stipulations.

    There's an interesting loophole in the law these days which makes one party consent apply to e-mail monitoring, and that is the fact that an e-mail is considered to have been recieved as soon as it hits the local mail server; it does not matter if the message has actually been opened and read by the primary recipient or not, only that it's been stored in the location it's expected to be stored.

    An international commission of astronomers may have shaken up the Sol system with a single pronouncement: The Solar system has twelve planets, not nine. The standards of what is and is not considered a planet are a little fuzzy because size is relative. In other words, one astronomer's planet is another's asteroid with a regular orbit. The kicker is that multiple heavenly bodies out beyond the orbit of Pluto have been discovered in the past few years, and they fit the new criteria for planethood (which is a heavenly body that has enough mass that it possesses a gravity well strong enough to smooth out the surface). After this debate, Pluto is still considered a planet and is joined by the objects Ceres (formerly an asteroid), Charon (formerly one of the moons of Pluto, leaving Nix and Hydra, which were discovered in 2005), and 2003 UB313 ("Xena").

    The universe just got a little bit bigger.

    If you've purchased a Dell laptop computer in the past two or three years, you should be aware that they're announced a recall on the power cellsfrom certain lots designed for certain models. I suggest that you check out this website and make sure that you're not putting your laptop at risk.

    I've updated the setlist from the PLAY! concert a few weeks ago with corrections provided by Elwing.


    Wow. Heroin delivered right to your door.

    Please check this out, everyone.

    What a development. As if there wasn't enough to worry about. And this isn't very reassurring.

    This could be the ultimate in "do what I mean" technology: The multi-touch touchscreen. Give this a watch, folks... this is like fingerpainting with a computer, a fully intuitive user interface that needs no manual, because it is literally just like moving stuff around on top of your kitchen table with your fingers. You don't need any funky position tracker gear, either - no gloves, no rings, nothing like that.

    Leave it to SomethingAwful.com to go through the leaked AOL search logs for the scary stuff.

    Note: This is Something Awful, folks... if you're at work, don't go here. If you're easily offended, for pity's sake don't read this.


    Another restless night. My sleep schedule is nicely messed up, partially due to exhaustion, which brings me right along to the "partially due to the naps I took" bit. I kept waking up every half hour or so, usually for no good reason but sometimes I kept feeling large amounts of code rushing around in my head.

    It was one of THOSE nights, where I kept dreaming that I was programming and I wanted to get the code I was dream-writing into a file.

    My stomach's also been bothering me lately: While breakfast yesterday morning was very tasty, I think the Indian food I had tore my digestive tract up some. On the whole, I could have done without the intense discomfort, to try to be vague about it, but it seems to have past.

    On Saturday morning, Lyssa and I set about perfecting the lost art of sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. That afternoon we drove up to Maryland to hit the Montgomery Mall to get some clothes, because it's been a while, and discovered that the fashion statement for the fall of 2006 seems to be "Stuff that even Bryce won't wear." Green, sea green, and white plaid button-down shirts. Pink and orange plaid and striped ties. Too-tight polo shirts with faux t-shirts stitched underneath, designed to be worn with the collar turned up.

    Ye gods.. did we skip over the New Wave era and go right to discarded costume designs from Revenge of the Nerds II?

    At any rate, we found some gear at Torrid along with a couple of t-shirts that both of us have been after for a while: A Fullmetal Alchemist shirt showing Alphonse's blood seal, and a Boondock Saints t-shirt.

    We wound up getting lunch at the California Pizza Grille at the mall, which serves amazing pizza (the pomodoro was tasty, though I think I made a mistake ordering a Hawaiian on honey-wheat crust with pepperoni.. so much for a variation on a theme) and then headed home to relax. We wound up snoozing that afternoon after we got home and generally killed time until company came over.

    Laurelinde, Cate, Pariah, Lyssa, and I were going to Midnight on Saturday night to cut a rug, and needed some time to get ready. Pariah was the first to arrive after work, and we let her get changed in the bedroom while Lyssa and I caught up on the weekend's e-mail (which tends to be more spam than anything else these days). Pariah decided to go with a lycra t-shirt and broomstick skirt, countepointing Lyssa's bunched up fatigues, shell, and camoflauge shirt. I decided to be my sloppy old self, becuase I didn't much have the energy to dress up Saturday night. Once they arrived, though, Lyssa loaned Laurelinde her tuxedo's tails and we set out for the Metro station to head into downtown DC. I didn't realise how compromised Cate's vision really was after her eye surgery some time ago: She and Lyssa have a lot in common in that respect, but Cate hasn't fully adapted to this new state.

    Thankfully, the hot weather's broken in DC so it wasn't a bad trip at all. I forgot the flyer for Midnight on the kitchen table, which brought with it the minor problem of not knowing exactly where we were going. Pariah has been there before, though, so she sort of knew which direction to go in. Things would have been much easier, in hindsight, if we'd used the proper exit from the Farragut North Metro station, but a quick phone call to Branwyn, who sat out Saturday night, got us pointed in the right direction.

    The cover for Midnight is nominal, $5us whether or not you're over 21, so it was trivial to get in. Midnight was already packed with people of all ages and walks of life, so our motley crew fit right in. We hit the bar for our drinks of choice (sadly, they were out of Goldschlager, so I had to settle for a shot of Wild Turkey) and stood around for a while taking the measure of the clientele. The music tended to swing back and forth between songs we knew and liked, songs we knew, and songs that we weren't crazy about, which is pretty standard for any club but for some reason we actually realised it this time. Raven from Eclipse was vending at the back of the club, and Lyssa and I spent some time talking to her and looking over her new necklaces. At some point, Pariah managed to accidentally hijack some of my drink by getting her hair into the glass (none of us are sure how she managed this), which left her smelling unfairly of alcohol for most of the night. Thankfully she wasn't the one driving.

    All of us took our turns on the dancefloor for one reason or another.. I've been wanting to get out for a while to dance but ran myself ragged without realising it.. nearly passing out has a way of putting the kibosh on your grove. Pariah fared much better than Lyssa or myself. Cate, unable to see very well in the dim light, spent much of the night on the sidelines. Laurelinde is more of a fan of older music, and didn't dance very much on Saturday night.

    Once again, the folks there were very nice, and very friendly. Not a few times did someone come up to introduce themselves to us and hang out for a while. I would very much like to go back again soon, as before.

    We left for the Metro station down the block around 0100 EST/EDT, after the Sisters set was over, and somehow managed to stay awake until we got back and stumbled back to the TARDIS. We stopped off at the local minimart to get a few bottles of cold water (because the Brita in our fridge didn't hold enough water for everyone). Cate and Laurelinde left for home not long after we got back, and Pariah crashed out on the floor not long after we got settled in. Lyssa checked her e-mail while I read a book for a while and then curled up in bed to sleep it off.

    Lyssa and I woke up the next morning feeling like we'd been trying to cross the beltway on foot during Monday morning rush hour. I really need to get more exercise, judging by how much pain my legs were in for most of the day. Pariah had left in the dead of night and locked the door behind her to get to work on time, which left Lyssa and myself alone to recover. We shared breakfast in bed and then went back to relaxing and trying to recuperate. Shortly after noon we left for Maryland to meet Kash for lunch at Tiffin's, an excellent restaurant that we haven't been to since Jean was in town. After lunch we poked our heads into Pandora's Cube in College Park, only to find that it was still recovering from Otacon last weekend in Baltimore, and was pretty picked over. The three of us walked down the street to the Jungle Grille for ice cream, and then went our separate ways.

    Lyssa and I decided to skip dinner because neither of our stomachs really felt up to much after Indian for lunch.. I went out for a bit to get some essentials for the week but by and large we're as stocked up as we need to be.

    Whoa.. this takes background checking to a whole new level. Now, instead of just checking up on someone's employment history, you can now see if someone is an informant! Of course, it would be wise to take the stuff on this site with a noticable fraction of the output of the salt mines of Poland, because the way the site is set up, it would be easy for someone to set up an account and then create a profile on someone that they don't like. There is a way to get a record removed from the site, but it requires paying them $500us for them to delete it.

    Singer Meat Loaf, who will be releasing a new album on 31 October 2006, is such a Whovian that he's trying to get a guest spot in an episode of season 3/29.

    Wow. The RIAA is so hard up for cash that they're trying to sue a dead guy, and failing that are going after his surviving kids.


    Recovering from Midnight last night.

    Audio from the keynote speakers of HOPE 2006 is now available.

    Powerpoint presentations are now used to issue orders?

    Presenting... the iBrator. (note: possibly not safe for work)

    The really interesting thing is that people are already writing songs specifically for use with this device.

    Three men were arrested for purchasing 80 pre-paid cellphones on charges of aiding terrorism as well as charges of obtaining information on a vulnerable target. As it turns out, Wal-Mart has a silent rule that customers are only allowed to buy three phones at a time, which is why a clerk became suspicious and called the police. The suspects were arrested by local police, who discovered that they had a cache of 1,000 pre-paid TracPhones in their van... information pertaining to airline flights and airports in general was also found in the vehicle. Since the FBI became involved, the police refuses to comment on any connections to terrorism.

    So much for reaching out and touching someone...

    The article has an interesting statement, which I'm not sure is true or not: Can the contents of nickel metal-hydride power cells really be used in the manufacture of meth?


    Which Nigerian spammer are You?


    A columnist for Time Magazine has some comments to make on the War on Terror, and he hits the nail squarely on the head a couple of times. He, like a few other people who have been putting two and two and two together and getting six with a fair amount of repeatability, has noticed a correlation beween terror alerts in the US and politically advantageous times, like major holidays. Give it a read and make up your own mind.

    In other news, the commercial fishing season this summer has been declared a disaster, especially in California and Oregon. The harvest of fish, in particular salmon this year is the lowest recorded ever.

    The US Senate ratified the international cybercrime treaty yesterday, which requires all of the signing countries to assist one another in the investigation of net.crime of all kinds. The treaty also encourages the signatories to share information, evidence, and energy. Unfortunately, it also requires that countries also help enforce the laws of the other signing countries. For example, it is legal in certain countries in the Middle East to hunt down and imprison dissenters, including webloggers. The treaty would allow those countries to force the US to help hunt down critics of said counries... a very un-democratic thing to do. There is, however, a way around such situations, by requiring that the topics of investigation be illegal in all countries whose resources and police forces are involved. All ISPs much comply with searches and seizures without complaint or reimbursement, and the usual song and dance...

    I hope I'm not the only one getting a really bad feeling about this.

    Seele, a good friend of mine, is running a survey as part of a research project on computer user interfaces. You don't need to be a power user or even a particularly advanced user, Seele is just looking for opinions and your experiences with computers these days. You also don't have to give out any identifying information on yourself, if you're concerned about that.

    So, this afternoon while I was losing the good fight with that Solaris 10 box I've been setting up, I made a nasty discovery: By the end of this month you won't be able to get any Solaris patches unless you a) create a Sunsolve account and b) have a maintenance contract with Sun Microsystems. The former is trivial to accomplish by filling out a web form. The latter, on the other hand, is the kicker. I'm not going to buy a support contract for a machine that they haven't manufactured for over ten years now which isn't even mine.

    Screw it. I'll find another way.

    So, while I was trying to coax a patch bundle out of Sun this afternoon I finally got around to watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is an adaptation of a graphic novel of the same name. The original graphic novel is a pastiche of a number of literary characters from the Victorian era, such as Alan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and of course Mr. Edward Hyde wasn't far behind. As a concept it's an interesting one; if you've read the original graphic novels, though, you're in for a surprise, and I haven't decided yet if it was good or bad. A few new characters were added to the lineup, and the execution is a little bit silly. The storyline differs in a few important respects, and frankly the action is a little bit over the top for my tastes. I don't think I like what they did with Mina Harker, though it makes perfect sense if you're familiar with the original story of Dracula. I'm also not wild about the use of Tom Sawyer in the movie; once again, American cinema has falled prey to the 'plucky sidekick' syndrome.

    If you're up for an action movie, it works well as one. If you're a fan of the stories that the characters were originally taken from, read the comic instead of seeing the movie.

    I'm giving LXE three stars out of five, and that's because I like steampunk (of which there's a lot of steam but not much punk in this movie).

    Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has struck again. Two weeks ago, he met with representatives of GenderPAC, a political action committee dedicated to the persuit of civil rights for LGBT Americans; a few days after the meeting he signed a public statement that he would not let gender identity or sexual orientation have any bearing upon the hiring practises of his office. Then, a few days later he officially rescinded that statement.

    Thanks, Rick.

    Can we please vote this guy out of office? We've been trying for six years now and he keeps coming back.

    The current regeime in the US is working on legislation that will retroactively protect policy makers from prosecution for war crimes because of what the US is doing overseas, such as torturing captives for information. Way to cover your asses, guys.

    Out of 34 countries polled for public acceptance of evolution, the United States ranks thirty-third, just barely beating out Turkey.

    This is beautiful: MacGyver for President in 2008!

    It's illegal to boycott certain countries?

    Dana Elcar died??


    Gary Numan rocked all known sheep at the 9:30 Club last night.

    Pegritz drove down from Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon to spend the night with Lyssa and I by way of the Gary Numan concert that we'd gotten tickets for months ago.. Pegritz is a hardcore Numan fan, I'm somewhat less strongly a fan, and the extent of Lyssa's exposure to his work consisted of Cars and Are Friends Electric (played at the Batcave during HOPE 2006), so we had a good mix of experiences for the show.

    First off was dinner at Leto's Pizzaria, which Pegritz very much enjoyed.. Ledo's is generally the first exposure to restaurant food that we give new folks who come down here because they've got excellent pizza, tasty Italian fare, and good service.. mostly good. Our waitress last night was very new on the job and accidentally put in an order for the buffalo chicken calzone for me instead of the pizza, but I didn't much care because I like that particular calzone just as much as I like the pizza version, and besides, the girl is new there.

    The trip down to the 9:30 Club was a first for us because we headed down there while there was still sunlight. Even though we got turned around looking for V Street, we still made it at 1930 EST/EDT on the dot, just when the doors opened. There were only a few folks in the Club at that time, so we picked up tour t-shirts ('Jagged') and our libations of choice (mental note: The bar in the basement has Goldschlager) and hung out as close to the stage as we could to pass the time talking. We had a wait ahead of us - the opening act, a British group called New Skin that actually put on a pretty good show, unlike the last few times we've been to the 9:30 Club. The woman fronting the group had the New Wave thing going on, and kept the crowd interested in the music because her singing voice was as good as their music. Their lyrics were interesting (though the sound techs could have lowered the volume on the primary guitar a bit) and she definitely had stage presence. I considered picking up their CD, actually.

    Once New Skin left the stage, we had another hour's wait until Numan came on. In hindsight, wearing my twenty-hole Doc Martens was probably a bad idea because my back started killing me about fifteen minutes into the wait.

    Gary Numan's gone industrial, that's the best way to put it. His last two albums, I'm told, were much harder than the rest of his music, and he's stopped using drum machines entirely in favour of the expertise of one Jerome Dillon, formerly of Nine Inch Nails. Rather than pancake makeup as he was wont to wear on stage, he came out in what seems to be standard issue fashion for industrial music in the twenty-first century, which was short black hair, a beaten to hell black t-shirt, beaten to hell combat fatigues, and combat boots. Not what I'd expected at all.. I was waiting to see the famous little electric car and neon tubes on stage, but that never came to pass.

    Instead, what we experienced was an incredible mixture of older music and new tracks from Jagged. I'll be frank with all of you, I'm not too familiar with his newer stuff, other things in life have taken up the time otherwise required to track it down and listen to it, but I think I like it. It's much harder music than I'm used to hear coming from Numan, but it's layers are well arranged and fit together nicely. He also did some older songs, like Down In the Park, The Machmen, and Are 'Friends' Electric, which left me jumping up and down in helpless glee.

    One of these days I'm going to get around to keeping a setlist at a show, but for the time being I'm enjoying just going to shows for the music and the experience. No pictures because neither Lyssa nor I had working cameraphones last night.

    Not surprisingly, we got turned around on the way home and had to take the long way on I-395, which cuts through Maryland on its way to the Beltway. On the way, we spent a lot of time talking about parts of southwestern Pennsylvania that tend to wind up in H.P. Lovecraft stories and Coast to Coast AM to pass the time and stay awake.

    Lyssa went to bed as soon as we got home early this morning. Pegritz and I stayed up until 0200 EST/EDT or therabouts, partially because we wanted to decompress after the show, and partially because I've been getting much more sleep than I'm used to during the week, and I was pretty well caught up by Wednesday morning, as evidenced by my waking up every half hour or so and I found myself both seeing and muttering code.

    Anyway, both of us are fascinated by Orion's Arm, which is a collaborative far, far, far future universe written by a bunch of transhumanists, including an associate of mine. Anyway, we've been kicking around ideas for short stories, and Pegritz has a couple of novels (!) in the works.

    Lyssa woke me up around 0730 EST/EDT this morning to drive her to work, and I discovered that I am, in fact, not getting any younger. In fact, I could easily have gone back to bed for another six or seven hours and thought nothing of it. But, I got up, dropped her off, did basic maintenance, and waited for Pegritz to wake up. Once he'd shaken the cobwebs out, we headed out to Amphora to get breakfast and wound up drinking gallons of coffee to wake up and talk more about what we've been working on. Pegritz left for home around 1130 EST/EDT and I went back home to work.

    To keep my skills sharp, I've been setting up a couple of Sun Solaris systems in my lab. Aside from having to run out and purchase a DVD-ROM drive from Micro Center because my Solaris distro disks are DVD-ROMs and not the customary CD-ROMs. The x86 machine went pretty smoothly, including fighting with the package dependencies because I customised the package set. However, that's also the best way to get to know what software is available and how it fits together.

    Then I started working on the Sun Sparcstation 10 that I borrowed from Elwing a couple of days ago.

    First off, the damn thing's a puzzle box, which is to say that there are no obvious ways to get the chassis of anything open. One of the hard drives is in an external chassis, in an indeterminant state, and permanantly set to SCSI device #1.

    After grunting, swearing, prodding, prying, and turning the external drive end for end a couple of times, I did a couple of Google searches and discovered that you get the case open by sticking a small screwdriver into a certain hole in either back corner of the unit, at which time the chassis will pop open.

    As it turned out, the drive in the chassis is a much larger after-market Seagate SCSI hard drive that's just long enough so that the connector cable for the device number switch on the back won't reach, so it was hardwired to device #1. Also, it was already set up to terminate the SCSI device chain, though that wasn't apparent until I removed the drive from the chassis and dug up the configuration docs for the drive.

    Now comes the tricky bit - getting the system to boot up so that I could get into the OpenBoot PROM and configure the computer. This requires the use of either a Sun monitor that weighs as much as my body does and costs as much as my TARDIS, or a serial cable, null modem adapter, and a copy of minicom on one's laptop. Or it would if the serial port on the Sparcstation wasn't already in null modem/serial terminal ready mode. So, the procedure to get into the OpenBoot PROM is still straightforward: Substitute a real serial cable for the null modem cable and do the deed.

    If one has a true serial cable.

    To make a long story short (too late) I spent the next three hours driving around northern Virginia looking for a simple serial cable. Micro Center's collection of adapters for sale is so disorganised that I was finding connectors for equipment taken from the Roswell crash in 1947, but I couldn't find a single solitary female-to-female DB9 gender matcher.

    By 1630 EST/EDT, I gave up and went home.

    Holy shit: Airport security officers with automatic weapons.

    The secret government Jell-O shot project.

    The Sci-Fi channel has picked up season 27/2 of Doctor Who.

    In response to the takedown of a terrorist plot in Great Britain, US airports have gone into high security mode. All liquids carried by passengers had to be dumped out and left behind. The National Guard has been pressed into service as security guards in New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Travellers are checking their carry-on gear rather than have all of it confiscated all across the board. In case you're going to be flying soon, here's a description of the security measures that were implemented in the US today.

    Wow! Finally an article on what happened in Great Britain!


    Hacka hacka hacka...

    Sun Microsystems: Selling puzzle boxes since at least 1990.


    Happy One World Orgasm Day!

    What a day.. I completely lost my train of thought yesterday while writing, and before I knew it, I'd completely forgotten what I had been writing.

    Lyssa and I made a dinner out of Russian black bread and goat cheese on Saturday evening before we decamped for Jarin's place. Dogemperor and her husband are visiting this week from down south, and the Lost Boys were hanging out there as well. We trucked out there and wound up spending the night playing Uno (or, after a few bad rounds, Fuck You) and talking about what had been going on over the past couple of weeks. Jarin's been listening to recordings from HOPE conferences past...

    I think we left around 0200 EST/EDT on Sunday morning or therabouts.

    Breakfast on Sunday morning was actually lunch at Tequila Grande up on Maple Avenue.. something that I'm still paying for, actually. We did some grocery shopping afterward and then retired back home to spend the day with each other.

    No, it wasn't a particularly busy or long weekend. I could probably write a few paragraphs about wandering around Borders, looking at a couple of books that I wanted to buy but decided not to because I've got a stack of stuff to read as tall as I am and a couple of projects in the works at the moment. I could write about getting a cup of coffee at Borders and regretting it because I already had a full stomach. I could write about sitting around on Saturday night for a while writing while Lyssa played Fatal Frame but I won't bore you or waste the bytes.. suffice it to say that our weekend was slow, with a minimum of running around (compared to the kinds of weeks we've been having lately).

    America On-Line made available on the Net all of the websearch queries made for the past three months by 658,000 of their users, though there was no way to link the queries to the real identities of those user IDs, given what was available through that site. Supposedly, they made this data available to people who are doing studies of net.traffic or search engine theory.. given some of the stuff they post on Slashdot these days, I can understand their reasoning. AOL took the search data page down after the bruhaha hit the news media, but there are still mirrors of the data all over the Net.

    In case you're feeling voyeuristic, you can take a peek at some of the searches users ran in the past quarter. The thing about this particular news article is whether or not it's any better than AOL making all of this data available in the first place. Declan McCullagh listed the search terms a handful of users keyed in.. fine.. but he also gave AOL user ID numbers (or parts therof - some of them are very low, and might be from early subscribers, but also might have been truncated) and probable locations, which makes me wonder what he was thinking. Some of the stuff in there is worrisome, and some is downright scary, but there are also entries in there from people in trouble, who were trusting AOL (and everyone else) to not make light of what they were searching for.

    No shit, people. As long as you've got hormones running through your bloodstream, you're going to have a libido, and if you don't work with parts of it, those urges are going to need SOME kind out outlet.


    Lyssa and I had a blissfully slow weekend that we took as easily as we could. All too often, these are the days that fly from the calendar as soon as the sun rises.. so we made sure that we got out of bed well after the sun had risen. Lyssa hadn't been able to sleep in for the past few weeks, so we took full advantage of the opportunity. Our day started off with breakfast at the local Indian restaurant and then a stop at Borders to roam around and picked up birthday gifts for the Lost Boys, whom we'd be spending time with that night. I'd picked up a book of full-colour reproductions of alchemical woodcuts for them the day before, but that didn't necessarily mean that I couldn't roam around for a while.. I discovered, much to my suprise, that the band Bananarama had gotten back together and released a new album.. amazing, how things come full circle. I also found a copy of Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, freshly translated and released in the US, which I've started reading.

    It's not bad.. it's very different from the movie based on the book, but it's pretty good.

    Strange things are afoot at Reuters, the international newswire. A number of professional photographers discovered that images of warefare in Lebanon were doctored such that the damage done looks far worse than it really is. In particular, someone used an image manipulation suite like Photoshop or The Gimp to add more smoke to the image using one of the pattern duplication tools. The photographer has been suspended and the image was pulled, though you can still see a copy of the doctored image in the article. In addition, it turns out that someone cloned the buildings in the image to make it look like a much larger city had been hit than it originally appeared.

    As if that's not enough, a few more Reuters articles are now suspect. As it turns out, one of their freelance photographers in the field, one Adnan Haji, has been Photoshopping lots of images before sending them in to the home office. They are now purging all of Haji's images from their online content database and he's been canned.. Something to keep in mind, though, is that you don't have to alter images to shift the story, you just have to use images from the same shoot strategically.

    And who the hell is this guy?

    Aahhhh.. a Discordian sermon.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation put out a call for help fighting net.crime at Black Hat this week. It's not the kids or the weekend crackers they're having the most trouble with, it's the crackers who are making money compromising networks, and these folks are sufficiently motivated to make themselves scarce, or as scarce as one can be in the Net.


    Went to the symphony to see PLAY! last night. I'll write about that later.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    There is now a Choose Your Own Adventure DVD series?

    Finally, video from H2k6! The cDc's official release of Scatterchat!

    When cloning goes wrong. (It's not Worth 1000 but it's still pretty nifty.)

    Last night, Lyssa, Elwing, Brian, Steve, and I headed out to Wolf Trap to see PLAY!, which is the National Symphony and Choir performing songs from video games new and old, of all things. Wolf Trap is a gigantic open-air auditorium in northern Virginia, all wood and ramps and stairs and... it's a huge amphitheatre run by the National Park Service. The view of the land is simply amazing. Elwing got us tickets that were technically up in the nosebleeds, but afforded us an impressive view of the stage and the big screens that hung over the orchestra. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photographs or make recordings of any kind there, so the best thing I can tell you to do is go to the Wolf Trap website and look at their pictures of the amphitheatre.

    Finding the place wasn't hard at all, it's about twenty minutes away from where we live, so once we got on the highway it was a straight shot out.

    PLAY! had the most kids that I've ever seen at the symphony, going way back to high school, in fact. It was good to see kids there, even if only because they were more video game fans and less fans of orchestral music. I only saw one cosplayer all night (Sephiroth), but he told me that there were at least three others running around. That, however, was incidental to the rest of the concert.

    The screens that hung over the stage showed by turns stock footage of video game play and closeups of the conductor and members of the orchestra and choir. Arnie Roth, who conducted last night, really got into the music. You could tell that he really enjoyed a couple of pieces, and it came through in how he moved.

    The opening fanfare and not a bit of the music they played last night was written by Uematsu Nobuo, who is renowned as a composer of video game music for Square/ENIX.

    At first, I felt a little trepidation as I wondered how exactly they were going to perform One Winged Angel without anyone singing the lyrics, but once I found out that the National Choir had been called in, all was well with the night...

    The songs they played last night differed in order from that which was printed in the programme they passed out, so I'll do my best to remember them. If possible, I'll link to freely available recordings of covers and remixes of the songs to give you an idea of what they played, because a) I don't necessarily have the soundtracks in question, and b) I don't want to get in trouble for posting someone else's work. I'll probably shuffle them around a bit in days to come as people send me corrections.

    Note: Updated on 2006081. Thanks, Elwing!

    1. PLAY! Opening Fanfare - Uematsu Nobuo
    2. Libri Fatali from Final Fantasy VIII - Uematsu Nobuo
    3. Super Mario Brothers medley - Kondo Koji
    4. Aeris' Theme from Final Fantasy VII - Uematsu Nobuo
    5. Shenmue - Iuchi Ryuji
    6. Battlefield 1942 - Joel Erikkson
    7. Sonic the Hedgehog - Nakamura Nasato
    8. Metal Gear Solid - Iwase Tappy
    9. Kingdom Hearts - Utada Hikaru
    10. Intermission.
    11. Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind - Jeremy Soule
    12. Final Fantasy VII: Swing de Chocobo - Uematsu Nobuo (a big-bands cover of the Chocobo racing theme)
    13. Chrono Cross - Yasunori Mitsuda
    14. World of Warcraft: All Nations Rise - Jason Hayes (at which time all the addicts in the audience heaved a sigh of relief)
    15. The Legend of Zelda - Kondo Koji
    16. Silent Hill - Yamaoka Akira
    17. HALO - Marty O'Donnell and Mike Salvatori
    18. Final Fantasy VII: One Winged Angel - Uematsu Nobuo (simply bloody amazing, with the choir singing the original lyrics!)
    19. Encore: Blue Dragon - The opening theme from a new Square/ENIX game that hasn't been released yet. Fanboys, start your engines.

    This list is going to need corrections, so please e-mail me and tell me what I have to fix.

    This isn't hell, but you can see it from here. (note: These writings and photographs are of what's going on in Lebanon right now. You might want to pass.)


    It's just a little cooler outside now - at 0750 EST/EDT it was about 84 degrees Farenheit, which is probably the lowest it's been this week. Last night it was about as humid as it was hot, which was perfect weather for the mosquitos that ate Lyssa and I for dinner as we sat on the balcony last night. We both wound up sticky from sweat and humidity as we did.. nothing. Just sat there and talked.

    Here's hoping the weather breaks soon.

    One Joshua Wolf, freelance journalist and weblogged attended an anti-capitalism rally in San Francisco, California in the summer of 2005, at which a couple of jokers thought it would be fun to set off smokebombs beneath some police cars, which caused all hell to break loose. Wolf was on hand with a video camera, and recorded the entire thing, of which he sold snippets to local news outlets and posted a couple of clips to his website. When federal prosecutors subpoena'd the complete and unedited footage he took at this particular G8 protest, he refused and stated that he would not reveal his sources (because the recordings probably have names and faces in them). On Tuesday Wolf was put into the federal prison at Dublin, California for refusing to testify or release the entire recording. He's started serving a one year sentence for contempt of court.

    The FCC is hell-bent on rolling out broadband-over-power lines - this is their third attempt. They're also ignoring the requests of the American Radio Relay League, a group of television broadcasters, and the aeronautic industry that they not go through with this bone-headed plan because of all the problems it causes, like jamming the radio frequencies used by emergency response teams, police, certain bands the government uses, and CB radio, to say nothing of amateur radio. There is an FAQ on this matter here that outlines the side effects and drawbacks of BPL, the ARRL has its own coverage of the attempt here, and you can read multiple reports of problems with BPL here. Time to start calling the FCC again.



    It's still hideously hot in the DC area, with temperatures that peaked at 103 degrees Farenheit yesterday. I don't know about the humidity but the air's wet enough that you get sticky just walking around outside, and you can actually taste the air if you stop to think about it. Hummingwolf and I were talking about how hazy the skies have been this week, and last night we marvelled at the fuzzy orange half-moon over the beltway. The air quality has consistently caused a code red thus far this week (on this scale), with particulates making up the bulk of the air pollutants extant.

    Gibson called another one: Air quality so bad that respirators would be useful to stay healthy.

    Last night it was Hummingwolf, Kash, and myself at Ri and Helen's for open study. As soon as we stepped out of the car, our respective glasses fogged over as the humidity condensed upon the lenses. This effect was repeated later last night on our way back home, incidentally. Thankfully, Helen has been running the air conditioning so we were mostly comfortable (save for one of the cats, who has been in a bad mood and consequently urinating on various objects).

    Rialian shaved. I think it's safe to say that he now looks almost half his age.

    It's disquieting.

    Somehow, we got on the topic of orgone accumulators and practical application therof near the end of the night. I'm still not sure how.

    Mental note: Stop by petstore soon.

    On our way home, even the air underneath the mercury floodlamps on the beltway was hazy, almost smoky, and not from the car wreck we saw just after exit 49 (whereupon a car had jumped the guardrail on the right and landed on its right-hand side amidst the trees and scrub grass). The stars, normally difficult to see this close to the city, were all but invisible behind the mist and air pollution.

    By the time we got back home to the apartment and Lyssa (who stayed behind last night to read and finish shaking off her summer cold) the air temperature had fallen to a balmy 87 degrees Farenheit and stayed ther for what I think was most of the night. When I dropped Lyssa off at work around 0800 EST/EDT today, the temperature had not changed and the relative humidity appears unchanged.

    Hummingwolf and Lyssa discovered that we don't actually have any cold water running through our pipes right now. It's all warm water.. blood warm, like you'd take a bath in, even after letting the taps run for a minute or so. The ground must be retaining heat to at least a depth of two feet or so, which is why the pipes (and hence, water) are heating up.

    A bill that would raise the minimum wage in the United States is stuck in the Senate because the two political parties won't compromise. Specifically, the Republicans are reportedly trying to sneak an amendment through on this bill that would cut inheritance taxes for people who are worth more than a certain amount, and the Democrats are fighting it as a result, which has the unfortunate side effect of deadlocking everything.

    0915 EST/EDT: The power's flickering every couple of seconds. I think most of the people in my apartment complex are turning on their air conditioners.

    Internationalisation, the state of a computer system being able to represent text in multiple languages with the proper character sets, is becoming scarily complete. There are plans, it seems, to add the languages Cuneiform, Egyptian heiroglyphs, Tengwar, and Cirth.

    "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

    --Constitution of the United States of Ameica, Article VI

    "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

    --Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11, signed in 1796


    Rumours have been going around about the unveiling of a new kind of security flaw in wireless security drivers at Blackhat this week. The flaw has to do with the device drivers for the wireless network cards of Macbooks. "Johnny Cache" (hee) and David Maynor announced that they've found similiar vulnerabilities in the drivers of at least two wireless cards of Wintel boxen at the presentation today as well. As long as the wireless card of the laptop is active the rest of the system is vulnerable.. even if the card isn't associated with a particular wireless net. Johnny Cache is also working on a utility that can figure out what make and model of wireless NIC systems in a given area are running, what revision of the drivers is in use, and from that what operating system the computers are running. Now, you could do this with a little creative shell scripting, the ARP utilities supplied with the OS, and Nmap, but it sounds like he's wrapping it up into a single utility. Cache and Maynor have already contacted Microsoft, Apple, and the vendors of third party wireless network cards to get this vulnerability fixed.


    The band Information Society has started touring again and they're posting concert dates to their MySpace account. As far as the InSoc fandom can tell, this is legit because they've been to some of the shows on the west coast of the United States.

    Still hot. Still humid. At 0800 EST/EDT today it was probably pushing 80 degrees Farenheit in the shade, and the humidity is enough to make your clothes stick to you within seconds. It's only supposed to get hotter from here on out.

    Last night, I did what could easily be the craziest thing of my life. Crazier than leaving copies of the Principia Discordia in hotel rooms, ala the Gideons. Crazier than leaving college in 1999 to work for a startup company. Crazier than trying to match John Titor drink for drink at B'Witches. Even crazier than that time in Latvia.

    Last night after dinner I opened a line of credit on Lyssa's ring. I start paying on it in September.

    This is the big one, folks.

    I don't even know what to say about this. For the past couple of weeks I've been worried and nervous about money and getting everything done and taken care of, but I've been crunching numbers and running simulations and I think I've got a workable model for living life and getting married. I've got a few things to set up this week but that shouldn't be overly difficult.

    Half a league, half a league, half a league onward...

    A quick review of the soundtrack to Doctor Who: Season 27/1: Buy it used. The full versions of the opening and closing themes are excellent. The tracks that were background music for Aliens of London, World War III, and Boomtown are very overrated. I wasn't terribly impressed by them, and didn't really hear them when I was originally watching the episodes. The background music for Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways more than make up for the rest of it.

    Overall rating: Three and one-half TARDISes.

    Federal Air Marshalls have a quota of suspicious activity reports to meet every month, it's been discovered. To meet their quota they sometimes have to file fake reports.

    This makes me feel ever so more secure..

    Speaking of secure, a new image analysis and interpretation system deployed in Indianapolis, Indiana can read the text of license plates, search the DMV databases, and determine if the attached car is reported stolen.

    RPG company Guardians of Order, best known for Big Eyes, Small Mouth has tanked.


    It's hot as a DEC Alpha's CPU down here, with temperatures this week expected to stay in the upper 90's Farenheit, and will probably break 100 degrees Farenheit by Wednesday. If you can stay indoors with the AC on, for the love of Mike do so.

    As if this weekend past wasn't enough to make you sit up and take notice, check this out: 60% of the US is technically in drought at this time. Broad horizontal swaths of the US, from Georgia to Arizona and the far northern parts of the US, including Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, and Montana are all feeling the burn.. crops are failing and cattle are being sold off to keep farms afloat. Irrigation ponds are drying up and filling with dust. Commodity crops, like wheat, barley, lentils, peas, and sunflowers are all hurting right now. Many are calling this the worst summer in years.

    As if that's not enough to worry about right now, the oceans are not doing well right now, either. Between higher temperatures and higher levels of nutrients that have been flooding the seas since the 1980's, bacteria and seaweed are breeding out of control in many places, choking off indiginous aquatic life. Some of these forms of life are actually toxic, like the seaweed they call 'fireweed', cause violent reactions in people that come into contact with it. Bacteria that reproduce so rapidly that they form mats on the seafloor as thick as carpet use up all the oxygen in the water, killing off fish and shellfish. They also block the sunlight from plants, which worsens the situation of hypoxia and further disrupts the life cycles of the oceans. Even jellyfish are breeding so fast that they're clogging the nets of fishing trawlers, which have decimated the populations of fish around the world.

    They're going to be showing the movie Full Metal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballah in theatres at the end of August. The schedule for the showings is here. If anyone would be up for seeing the movie on 25 or 26 August 2006, e-mail me.


    Lyssa's parents are gone. Aunt Sylvie left her cellphone plugged in by the dinner table. I'm going to have to mail it back to her tomorrow.

    Dinner's over, and was tasty.

    The game Fatal Frame is eating Lyssa's brain.

    Wiped out. Helped Hasufin move today.

    Really bloody tired. Slept for most of this afternoon.

    There was an Information Society show in Portland?!?

    It's illegal to take pictures of police officers now?

    It's been hideously hot this weekend, in the high nineties Farenheit since Thursday or therabouts. Save for a case of the sniffles which she might have caught from me, she's almost fully recovered from yesterday. I'm running on the last of my reserves, however - I was up at 0800 EST/EDT today to help Hasufin move into his new house, along with Butterfly, Elwing, and a couple of other folks.

    All told, it wasn't all that difficult. The hardest part was moving Hausfin's battleship of a desk out of the apartment and into the truck. This wound up being a feat of engineering comperable to the construction of a Dyson sphere. The desk had to be moved out of the apartment onto the patio (which was below ground level), lifted a grand total of seven feet straight up, and then moved into the truck bed for transportation. Accomplishing this took every single person there and about fifteen minutes of sweating and straining.

    Moving stuff to the new place was complicated by the fact that I didn't go quite as far as necessary to find the new neighborhood, but this wasn't too difficult to fix. Offloading stuff is always easier during a move, especially when you can back the vehicle right up to the building and start moving things. The desk wasn't nearly as hard to get into the house as it had been to get out of the apartment; the greatest hurdle we faced was flipping it over once the feet were back on.

    Rather than hang out afterward and eat lunch, I headed home to do the family thing, and wound up sleeping for a good bit of the afternoon.


    A bunch of quickies, seeing as how it's just two minutes after midnight local time, and I've been doing the family thing...

    People who have been relocated to trailer camps by FEMA following Hurricane Katrina are not allowed to talk to the media unless a FEMA representative is present. If there is any mention at all of life in the camp, security guards stop the interview immediately and escort the media team away. Media teams are also not allowed to speak to people who approach them unescorted (say, at a fence) or take photographs.

    The optic nerves at humans are calculated to transfer as much data as a 10baseT network connection.

    Some kids are so desperate to get high that they're huffing mothballs, of all things.

    Lyssa's folks, specifically her aunt and mother, are in town this weekend and we've been on the run the entire time. The majority of this week has been spent cleaning up the apartment in preparation for the visit. Thankfully, aunt Sylvie is much more laid back than her mother is, so she wasn't all that offput by the boxes in the library (from Hasufin, who is in the process of moving right now), the house guardian, or the fact that the office wasn't straightened out.

    Today we hit the Metro, by way of the local bakery for breakfast, to take a bus tour of Washington, DC, courtesy of Tourmobile. Tickets for adults are $20us for a day, and will take you around DC and every major attraction, from the Smithsonian to the farthest perimeter of the White House (only two snipers on the roof today, looking at the front of the structure). I recommend the bus tour because a) you won't have to drive around in downtown DC, and b) it limits the amount of walking you'll have to do.

    Frankly, I lost track of everything we saw. We made it to the World War II memorial, the Korean War memorial, the Washington and Lincoln monuments, and a fair amount of DC by bus. By the time we made it back to the Tourmobile stop, the heat and humidity had stepped on all of us. Aunt Sylvie came down with a migraine headache, and I was probably pushing the bounds of heatstroke by the time we finally found our way back to the Metro stop and headed for home. We left Sylvie to lay down and gulp coffee (caffeine is a vasoconstrictor) while Lyssa and I headed out to pick up a few things at Target (which I located earlier this week), do some grocery shopping, and pick up a pizza for dinner.

    We're all worn out, and I'm sincerely hoping that we won't have to go anywhere else until tomorrow.

    Thoughtcriminals beware: George W. Bush is drawing up a bill that would prevent US citizens suspected of terrorism-related activities from civilian courts and would force them to go before a Pentagon tribunal, an action which the Supreme Court turned its back on. The draft of the bill also requires that such detainees be held until 'hostilities cease'. The interesting thing about terrorism is that it never is really over...

    Next year, for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of On the Road by Jack Kerouac, the original unedited version of the novel will be published.

    Incoming footage from H2k6! Grandmaster Ratte bani cDc gives his impression of RMS' keynote speech while an oblivious RMS speaks to a vlogger. Safe for work!


    Happy System Administrator's Day.

    Rob T. Firefly, who I've missed at every single HOPE conference has posted his photographs from the con.

    Download everything that you can from Sysinternals.com, people - Microsoft bought Winternals Software, so there's no way of knowing if all of the impressive free software they've released over the years to make administering Windows easier is going to go away or not.

    Someone's arranged fictional starships in order of size, according to scale.


    Ugh. It's time for my bi-yearly cold, contracted on the last day of HOPE per usual. The convention plague, as I think of it, seems to come from spending large amounts of time in a confined space with people I don't know, the germs of whom seem to find my physiology more to their liking. I sometimes wonder if the stress of travel has something to do with it. My hypothesis that taking the train this year would be easier for my system to handle, seeing as how I could just sit back and relax and let the rails do the job of steering, but that idea is now laying in wrecking out back and smoldering a little.

    It doesn't seem to be one of the nastier variants of the common cold or the office crud, which Lyssa had last week. Colds aren't any fun, be they during summer or winter.

    Most of last night was spent cleaning, in preparation for the coming of Lyssa's parents, which has thrown us into panic mode. The entire apartment has to be clean because we're putting at least one person up. This weekend's going to be a rough one, I have a feeling. I think a lot of running around is in store.

    The agents of SORP appear to have had a fun July Fourth this year.

    It's official - Kevin Mitnick got flattened in Bogota by the demon flu.

    Does anyone else remember 3rd Bass?

    Bleu Copas was a sargeant in the United States Army, serving as an Arabic linguist. He was recently expelled from the Army when his CO recieved an anonymous e-mail outing him as homosexual. No one knows who contacted his superiors at Fort Bragg, and if they do they certainly aren't talking.

    This is the most evil thing I've seen anyone do to wi-fi freeloaders...

    Whoa. I've been quoted.


    There are users of the Net who are dedicated searchers of Google Earth that look for all manner of strange and unusual stuff. Sometimes they find something interesting, sometimes they find something newsworthy.. an unusual geological structure in the vicinity of the Chinese village of Huangyangtan. It appears to be a model of a region of the mountains, accurate down to the snowcaps and lakes, only large enough to be picked up by a keyhole satellite. 900 meters by 700 meters large enough. Someone's figured out that it's a massive model of part of the landscape on the border between India and China.

    Professor John Koza of Stanford University has proposed an obvious change to the US electoral process.. so obvious that probably very few people have considered it: Throw the electoral votes behind the popular vote.

    Wired Magazine's coverage of the Sixth HOPE.

    Remember that announcement by the cDc that was supposed to happen? It did. Meet Scatterchat, an instant messaging and file transfer system designed for use on the nets of restrictive regeimes by activists and people under surveillance. It's based upon Gaim and TOR, with strong encryption built in. Even if you don't plan on running it, at least check it out to see what it offers.


    Photographs from the Sixth HOPE are now up.


    0206 EST/EDT: Home at last. Uploaded updates to my memory logs and a bunch of files. Going to bed.

    Full disclosure: Edits made to the entries for H2k6, some of which corrected factual errors. I suck.

    1146 EST/EDT: Hard at work from home. Tired as hell, but that's what coffee is for.

    You scored as Neither. You think neither like a man or a woman. What you are you may decide for yourself. Most people will consider you strange, alien, weird or funny. You are probably quite interesting.









    Should you be MALE or FEMALE?*
    created with QuizFarm.com

    Yeah, that's about right.

    Fun factoid from H2k6: People really do pronounce the slang term 'pwnd' as 'poned'.

    In national news, a federal judge has declared that the lawsuit against AT&T cannot be thrown out of court on grounds of national security. As you are probably aware, the EFF is suing AT&T for actively participating in the wholescale monitoring of the telephone calls of its customers inside the United States of America. The US government has already announced that it's doing this, so it's not a state secret anymore.

    As I mentioned yesterday, one of the speakers at HOPE, one Steven Rambam (CEO and founder of Pallorium, Incorporated) really was arrested by the FBI. Pallorium is one of the largest private investigation services in the United States. As he was preparing for his panel in conference room A, four FBI agents walked in, confiscated his laptop, and quietly escorted him from the room. Once in the hallway of the Hotel Penn, Rambam was handcuffed and lead away around 1600 EST/EDT on Saturday. The article has been updated to reflect newly released information: Rambam is charged with obstructing justice and witness tampering in connection with a case against a Brooklyn, New York District Attorney. More information can be found here, but it boils down to Rambam (which may in fact be an alias depending on your point of view; legally speaking, alternate spellings of parts of one's name are considered valid AKA's) was paid by said DA to hunt down an informant and put pressure on him or her.

    Seele has put her H2k6 photographs up here.

    Slate has published an interactive chart of who hates whom in the Middle East. Scroll down to the end of the article text to find the article. You can click on the relationships between groups to get more information.

    Holy cats! AMD bought graphics chipset manufacturer for $5.4bus!


    1403 EST/EDT: Holy cats. What a night.

    2110 EST/EDT: Cats now canonised. Been on the go all day today.

    Disclaimer: Everything I talk about in here is for informational purposes only. I'm not suggesting that you do anything, I'm not asking or telling you to do anything, and it's certainly not my fault if you do try something after looking it up for yourself and it goes horribly wrong for you. You're smart folks - use your brains. If you do screw up, it's your responsibility.

    Let me see... we got something of a late start on Saturday due to how late we'd been up and messing around in the Lockpicking Village, so we didn't actually get going until noon or therabouts. A few of the panels were cancelled for reasons that quickly turned into rumours around the con. Kevin Mitnick, who was supposed to be on a couple of panels wound up in the hospital for reasons unknown - it's suspected that he contracted something nasty, like food poisoning and had to undergo emergency medical treatment. Another panel, which one I honestly don't recall but I'll do some research about, had to be cancelled because the presenters were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Later today, I discovered that it was at least one presentor of the Privacy Is Dead - Get Over It panel. Word's going to get around sooner or later, so I'll update as appropriate. The presentation on wireless security flaws by Raven Alder, 3ric Johansen, and Brandon Uttech was most informative. Whenever you hook a wireless access point up to your network, not only do you make it possible for anyone with a wireless NIC to access your network, but information, in the form of broadcasts from chatty management protocols, also go the opposite direction through the access point - right over the air. SNMP broadcasts.. routing table updates of all kinds.. some error traps... insane amounts of information that would be of use to an intruder. On top of that, you could set up an attacking laptop with routing software and insinuate it into the network infrastructure of the network in question.

    Or, in other words, your laptop could use the routing equivelent of the Jedi Mind Trick to convince your switches and routers that it's a new router added tothe network and that they should send it all (or just copies) of the network traffic to your laptop for recording and analysis. System and network admins should now be in a cold sweat.

    I've put my notes up here for anyone who'd like to read them.

    Lyssa and I strolled around the corner to a magic shop called Fantasma Magic, which had left a stack of business cards and coupons for free joke kits with any purhase in the Lockpicking Village. Fantasma Magic has some impressive close-up illusions for sale, from a wallet that bursts into flame when it's opened to your usual cards, coins, and silks... they also have a small Harry Houdini museum. They have the original trunk, chains, and mail sack that Harry and Bess Houdini used in the metamorphosis trick, chains, handcuffs, skeleton keys, lockpicks, and other restraints that Houdini used in his acts. Some of the books and letters that he wrote to other entertainers were also on display. Simply amazing stuff.. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures while I was there. I know full well that I could have asked permission to do so. It didn't feel right. I'm kicking myself for it.

    Lyssa wound up buying a reasonably rare book on picking pockets, and I bought a DVD about turning napkins into roses, along with a set of thinner-than-usual napkins for said trick.

    The coupon hacking presentation done by one of the guys (probably the only guy - I'm not yet familiar with it) behind YMMV Radio wasn't what I'd expected at all. I was something along the lines of using barcode generator software to print up phony coupons to rip off grocery stores or something, but instead Sam Pocker discussed using multiple coupons of several kinds (manufacturer, double, in-store) and buying unusually large ("stockpile") amounts of groceries to effectively get money back from the store. While it was interesting to hear someone talk about buying eight bottles of orange juice to get six movie tickets worth about $46us each back and buying dozens of boxes of tampons to make money back on rebates, it seems excessive to me. Just as excessive as the folks who sell coupons on eBay by the dozen. On one hand, I understand wanting to save money, but on the other... geez, I can think of better things to do with my money. Buy what you need and don't fill your car and house up with stuff you really have no use for.. to be fair, he did talk about giving stuff to food banks and homeless shelters, which is an admirable thing to do.

    Pocker was screamingly funny, though, which made his talk all the more interesting.

    We met up with Elwing and a couple of friends of hers and went back to Macy's to the other restaurant for dinner that night, which was emminently enjoyable. Unfortunately, getting business cards and takeout menus for most of the places we went to didn't happen, partially because we were in a rush and partially because there just weren't many to be had. Insofar as reviews go, I refer you to my coverage of the other HOPE conferences elsewhere in my memory logs. What I can tell you is that food in New York City is comperable in price to food in downtown Washington, DC, so save up before doing a Rachel Ray.

    I spent some time wandering around in the dealer's room after we got back.. I got to meet MC Frontalot, pioneer of geeksta rap, often called nerdcore.

    His schtick is simply this: He's a comp.sci G with a gift for the rhyme. When I met him at the table, he was dressed in a powder blue button down shirt, khakis, with a shaven head and classic horn-rimmed nerd glasses. Straight out of Compton? More like straight out of Revenge of the Nerds. If you're not a fan of rap, download some of his tracks from his website and give them a listen, anyway. They're hilarious, and he plays at taking himself as serious as most of the rap acts you've probably heard of. I told him a couple of tales of woe and the bizarre adventures that Lyssa and I have in exchange for getting his autograph on one of his CDs.

    It should be noted that his handle comes from the verb 'front' in the jargon of the hip-hop community, which means to put on a good act to cover up the fact that you're all talk and no shock.

    At 2100 EST/EDT was Gweeds' presentation in the B room, entitled Hacking the Palate. Gweeds is not only a computer geek but a highly inventive chef who runs a bed and breakfast for hackers in San Francisco called Unicorn Project XIII, and his area of specialty is called molecular gastronomy.

    Gweeds could hold his own on Iron Chef, I think.

    He and his cohorts make some amazingly strange stuff, like pistacio and bergamot foam with the consistency of whipped cream; strawberries marinated in vodka and rose water, done in a vacuum chamber, and coated with turbinado sugar; tarragon leaves encrusted with blueberry sugar. All of his stuff is edible and the methods of preparation are amazingly offbeat. If you check your local BitTorrent tracker in a couple of days you'll probably find a recording of his presentation.

    Gweeds also mentioned something about dirt-flavoured gelatin, which is served by a restaurant in northern California. The way they make it is like this: They put soil in water, bring it to a boil, and distill it. The steam which is recondensed into water carries with it molecules that give soil its particular scent and flavour. The distillate is sterile because microbes and what have you were killed during the boiling process and reduced to random bits of protein and sugar, which are kept in the water that didn't boil off. Someone mentioned that this was the method used by Jelly Belly to make their more unusual jellybeans, like grass-flavoured jellybeans.

    I discovered exactly why Jason Scott was searching so hard for liquid nitrogen at 0100 EST/EDT on Saturday morning: One of the recipes that Gweeds wanted to show off was a frozen whipped confection that flashed from solid into foam in your mouth. The trick is that the whipped concoction has to be flash frozen to work, the easiest means of which is to spray it into a bath of liquid nitrogen. This wasn't possible.

    I guessed wrong. I thought he was going to demonstrate liquid nitrogen sorbet, a Carnegie-Mellon delicacy.

    The presentations at HOPE are recorded and often uncopyrighted, and redistribution is encouraged. Even the full-length movie that 2600 made, Freedom Downtime, comes with a disclaimer that says that anyone who wants to can put it on the Net and freely copy the discs for people. While you could buy video DVDs of the presentations at the con (which Lyssa and I did), chances are that they don't mind people ripping and uploading them.

    At least, that's been the policy since H2k. 2600 Magazine carries a similiar admonition to readers who wish to scan and upload the text and code from the physical publication. I asked someone in con management about this and she said that there might be a catch thrown in by the DVD duplication house they employed to make the fast-turnaround time DVDs of the panels. She wasn't sure. Not that this will stop most of the attendees from doing it anyway.

    Following Hacking the Palate was a C-track panel at 2200 EST/EDT (rescheduled from 1400 EST/EDT on Saturday) done by Cabl3flam3 called, simply, Hacking Sex.

    Sexuality education for computer hackers. Cabl3flam3 gave a no-holds barred, frank (very frank - she told everyone in the room a great deal about her own sex life, after giving a TMI disclaimer), and open (to say nothing of whirlwind) presentation on many aspects of human sexuality... you name it, chances are she covered it. If Cabl3flam3 didn't cover it, someone in the audience probably mentioned it.

    There was a minor problem with one attendee who was acting like a twit, but Lyssa and I gave him both barrels. He made some derogatory remark about BDSM, to which Lyssa replied with an offer of a live demonstration of fireplay (setting people on fire for gratification), I mentioned some of the finer points of using restraints on people, then Lyssa chimed in with a brief discourse of ball punching (which yes, some men do in fact get off on), and I brought up the topic of play piercing (which is just what it sounds like).

    The look on the poor sod's face as we cut loose was priceless. I wish I'd taken a photograph or two of his expression.

    To be fair, he actually did have at least one clue as he mentioned with a fair amount of accuracy something about CBT - cock and ball torture.

    After that, he mysteriously left the panel.

    Lyssa, Elwing, and I left after the hour was up to get ready for our bi-yearly pilgrimage to the Batcave. We got cleaned up and dressed to head out, and passed around the traditional bottle of merlot with Seele, Justin, Vlad, Genetik, and Nuke Skyjumper before hitting the bricks to go to the club.

    The music at the Batcave was hit-or-miss this time around. They played some Gary Numan, Strawberry Switchblade, Depeche Mode, and the Cure (not your usual overplayed tracks, either) but everything else in the old-school and industrial rooms was a little... off. We heard a couple of good songs there but by and large there wasn't a whole lot of anything that kept our attention.

    The air conditioning wasn't doing a very good job of keeping the place dancable, either. Also, in a nod back to the Sisters of Mercy show back in March, way too much fog juice was used in the industrial room. In fact, visibility was cut to a little less than the length of Lyssa's arm. My sinuses and throat are still raw from the smoke (though, to play devil's advocate, the clove or two that Vlad and I split later that night also probably had something to do with it). Elwing, Genetik, and Nuke left around 0100 EST/EDT on Sunday, saying that the 'cave wasn't their venue of choice. Fair enough.

    Vlad, Lyssa, Seele, Justin, and I stayed until 0200 EST/EDT or so, until the music and the air temperature weren't to our liking, and we set out for the Hotel Pennsylvania once again. After changing, Vlad and I hit up the after party at a bar called Mustang Sally's, a few blocks away from the Hotel Penn. We didn't actually run into anyone there though we hoisted a couple to new and exciting times (the bartender had never heard of Goldschlager(!!!) so I had to settle for Maker's Mark whiskey, Vlad had a few beers) and caught up on the past two years, where we'd not had a chance to hang out as we once did. We left the bar when they threw us out at 0400 EST/EDT today and meandered back to the hotel by way of a local deli, where we bought yet more water and Gatorade (the sort that Lyssa calls 'mage juice') to stave off hangovers that would follow the dehydration from dancing at the Batcave.

    I finally went offine around 0415 Sunday morning.

    This morning was a whirlwind of showering, getting dressed, packing, and cleaning up the room because checkout was at 1200 EST/EDT today. Somehow, some of my stuff went missing but Lyssa had swept a large amount of stuff from the desk into her bag to sort out later, so we're pretty sure that all of it wound up in there.

    We dragged our stuff down to the baggage check in the basement of the hotel, only to discover that they'd raised the price to $4us per bag per person. Luckily, all of us had just enough cash knocking around in our pockets to make this happen, and then hiked down to the Bagel Cafe' for lunch.

    Seele and I hit the Ghosts In the Machine presentation today, which was about the phenomenon of weblogs and web sites set up by people who are now deceased and the things that transpire around them. I have to be honest, it wasn't that interesting. The presenter wasn't very organised, and we had a hard time keeping paying attention. We left about ten minutes in to hit the social engineering panel but were sent down to the convention space on the mezzanine level because the A room was overfull. Honestly, the social engineering panel didn't sound that interesting to me this time around, and I opted to spend some more quality time in the Lockpicking Village, whereupon I finally cracked my first padlock with the TOOOL pickset I'd picked up.

    I've learned a couple of things this weekend about picking locks, if nothing else. First of all, you need a very light touch. When you put the tension wrench (that turns the cylinder of the lock) under pressure, you don't have to push on it so hard that the cylinder shifts. You should just put a little pressure on the wrench, ideally as far down the wrench away from the lock as you can so that you can not only exercise precise control over the amount of pressure, but you will also sometimes feel the clicks and taps of the tumblers and lockpicks through the wrench. Second, it helps if you put the pick in before the tension wrench, so that you'll get a maximum of room to work in. Third, keep the pick as close to horizontal as you can. Don't work at an angle, because that's a good way to jam the pins against the sides of the cylinder, which wastes your time and effort. When you do get a lock to release, you often won't realise it until the cylinder is actually rotating. Don't expect a sudden click or anything like that, which you sometimes 'hear' in the movies. That is little else than a cinematic effect.

    You can count the number of pins in a lock by using a feeler pick. Just slide it all the way in and pull it out. For each bump you feel, the end of the pick will have passed over a tumbler. Count these. Many locks have five or six pins, though the high security ones have more, sometimes on both sides of the cylinder, or are shaped in odd ways to make them harder to pick. You can count the number of pins you've positioned properly by putting your ear to the lock and counting the number of clicks as you release torsion on the cylinder; each click you hear is a pin falling back to baseline. I find it works best to work from the back of the lock to the front of the lock, closest to you. Don't push your picks too far back into the cylinder because you can waste a lot of time (as well as potentially damage your pick) by hitting the back of the cylinder, where the tip of the key is supposed to go. Going that far back won't help you any. Upon reflection, I realise that you could take the underwire from a bra and take small metal files to it such that you could fabricate your own picks and tension wrenches. You can also use the spring steel inserts from old windshield wiper blades.

    So I finally cracked my first real padlock, after working for hours on practise locks that had been rigged up to have only one pin, two pins.. up to a full five pins. I worked on them yesterday and today and opened them a couple of times each, to get a feel for how things were 'supposed' to work. It's very different, holding a cylinder lock in your hand to work on it and working on one that's clamped into a practise box...

    The practise and hands-on instruction table worked like this: There were tools and lots of locks available for people to practise with. You could use the modified locks to practise your technique as much as you wanted. The first time you cracked a real lock, like a padlock or a pair of handcuffs, you got to pick from a box of prizes. Lyssa won a boxed set of the entirity of the television show The West Wing. You could win a bonus prize if someone cuffed your hands behind your back and you managed to get them open.. I think that one person was able to pull it off in the time I was there.

    A technique for opening police-grade double-locked handcuffs was also discussed at the hands-on table, which was first demonstrated by someone calling himself Agent X at Defcon a few years ago. This technique involves slamming the lock edge of a handcuff as hard as you possibly can against something study, which will cause the second half of the double lock to release and make shimming the rachet possible. I should state here that this is for informational purposes only, don't use this to get away from police if you get arrested, it's not my fault, yadda yadda yadda... if you do use this technique, you'll stand an excellent chance of fracturing your wrist at the same time.

    Anyway I've achieved one of my lifetime goals this weekend, and for the education of anyone who might come across this entry, I don't misuse my skills. Not only is it irresponsible and unethical, but at this stage in my life I've got far too much to loose by doing something stupid. I've busted my ass to make it as far as I have, and I don't intend to screw up and lose it all.

    Lyssa and I wandered around New York City after the social engineering panel was over. We found our way to the local comics shop, where we browsed the stacks for a while and happened to run into Cabl3flam3 and her partner doing the same thing. We goofed off for a while but parted ways until later on. We did a lot of hiking in the city today, making it as far as Times Square for dinner at a small Italian restaurant with wonderful desserts. We had one of those reconnecting times, which we were in dire need of.

    The day finished off in the public cluster, going through the public FTP server that someone set up someplace. A public FTP server where people could dump whatever they wanted for everyone else to go through.

    Now, one would think that at a hacker con, such an FTP server would be full of awesomely rare and interesting data, like pirated corporate software, lists of passwords, and stolen documents, like some cracker's paradise from a William Gibson novel.

    Not a chance.

    Of what I would estimate at three hundred gigabytes of data on that system, eighty per cent of it was porn and music videos.

    So much porn that the public network, which had worked flawlessly all weekend, almost ground to a halt.

    We hung out with a reviewer for Rotten.com and Cabl3flam3, who used Luel and my home network to order bus tickets back home. We packed up and left the hotel around 2000 EST/EDT tonight and walked across the street to the train station.

    I discovered that I'd missed meeting Rob T. Firefly yet again - Cabl3flam3 and her partner were crashing with them this year.

    Something caught my attention at the train station: The New York City Police kiosk, which is manned around the clock to protect travellers at the station. Manned, I should say, by uniformed United States Army personnel and a single NYPD officer. I wish I'd had an opportunity to photograph these guys, but we were in a rush to get to our train and hoping that we'd avoid something like what happened on Thursday night. I wonder if somebody else got pictures...

    It's now 2239 EST/EDT: Lyssa and I are on the train headed back to DC. I should probably try to get some rest.

    I just realised that I didn't take very many photographs this year. I think it was because I was too busy having fun at the convention.

    I also noticed that very few people were using their handles this year.. everyone's badge had a number on it, keeping with the theme of national identification, Social Security numbers, and everyone being reduced to a number in the database of someone or another. I think I saw one person who actually made their own name badge; everyone else just used their first names while talking to people. I'm not sure what to make of that. It didn't feel right, and yet, it seemed to work very well and worked with the scheme that the organisers of the convention had going. I don't think that anyone referred to anyone else by the numbers on their badges. It seemed that the old British television show The Prisoner was an influence on HOPE this year. Members of the con staff all wore green badges with the number two on them. Emmanuel Goldstein's badge had the number six on it, probably in keeping with the theme (the protagonist of The Prisoner was called 'Number Six' in the show).

    Lyssa has explained to me that the blue posters on the walls this year were quotes from The Prisoner, which is why they fit together so well.

    Emmanuel was nice enough to scrawl on the cover of the copy of 2600 I bought at the con. He's a busy guy, and was up to his neck at HOPE, per usual, so I didn't want to take up too much of his time. I heard from other folks that he did this for a number of folks, but didn't take too long to do so. I had to reassure him that I wasn't going to sell it on eBay for a fast buck. As I said before, I don't operate that way. Not only is it rude, it's disrespectful.


    DISCLAIMER: Minor edits follow. I'm a dumbass.

    1044 EST/EDT: Finally awake.

    The proactively secure coding panel done by J. Salvatore Testa [cDc] was a good refresher course.. it's been so long since I've worked in C, I'd almost forgotten what a bitch it was to do any meaningful string manipulation.. my notes in ASCII format are here.

    It was a little thin, given that it was only forty-five minutes in length but was very enjoyable. Following this presentation (Elwing and I ducked out after the meat of the speech) we headed down to the lockpicking village to hang out for a while. Lyssa was hard at work on a couple of padlocks with the TOOOL special edition lockpicks for H2k6. To be honest with you, I think they were a little overpriced at $30us per set of five double-ended picks. The metal's thin and could really have been a little bit more rigid. They also have the tendency to bend a little too readily, both at the handle and at the ends of the picks themselves. I really recommend that you make or purchase your own lock picks if you bought these and really get into lock hacking.

    The world is safe from a set of lockpicks and I.. after two hours of practise, Lyssa got one of the locks to open, and I managed to get the cylinders of two deadbolts to turn one hundred and eighty degrees, which isn't enough to do anything useful, like actually open a door.

    Even with help from a more experienced woman at the Village helping us out, we still didn't have much luck. Lyssa's got a more delicate touch than I do, though I've read a good deal about locks and lock picking over the years. It balances out in the end.

    Hey.. they were showing The Prisoner on the projector screen in the Village last night. I get it now.

    We went in search of dinner, in the form of New York style pizza on the streets of downtown New York City around 2200 EST/EDT last night. Let me just say that two slices, which together are a little bit bigger than one third of a large pizza, are more than enough for one person for dinner.

    After dinner, we spent yet more time at the Lockpicking Village, and observed a unique situation: Someone who'd gotten stuck.

    As near as we could tell, someone had been goofing around with a pair of handcuffs and couldn't pick the lock on the second shackle. He went to get the key to said handcuff, and somehow managed to break it off in the lock. He then went around to quite a few people at the Village to see if anyone could help him get it off of his wrist. Digging the remains of the key out of the lock chamber wasn't possible due to a lack of suitable tools. Shimming the handcuff open with a number of different small, thin pieces of spring steel also met with failures all across the board.

    By the time we gave up, the poor guy probably had to go to sleep with a handcuff on his wrist.

    After hearing some familiar names from way back when (when I still was active in the InSoc fandom), I struck up a conversation with some guys from Chicago, who also knew some guys from 412 and 724... I wound up spending three hours or so shooting the bull with them and catching up since I moved to DC. I also spent a couple of hours trying to resurrect a dead Sun Sparc Ultra 5 box in the public cluster that someone had managed to zorch the root slice on. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my Solaris media kit with me (just x86 stuff), so I wasn't able to do a whole lot to help. After much cajoling and cussing I was able to boot it into single user mode but without the root password I couldn't do much but marvel at how old the serial terminal sitting on top of the box was.


    DISCLAIMER: Minor edits made to this article. I suck.

    0346 EST/EDT: We're in the Hotel Pennsylvania fighting vainly to get a stable network connection. The Hotel Penn, in addition to repainting our floor just this morning (leaving all of us a little lightheaded and trippy) is charging $10us per day for net.access. Thankfully, there are other methods of getting on the Net which are holding all of us well. Uncle Scrotor's killing time until we figure out what the hell we're going to do.

    Lots to write about this, you can be sure.

    1158 EST/EDT: The five of us finally awoke around 0900 EST/EDT after a long day of travelling. None of us realised that the alarm clock in the room was eleven hours and fifty-eight minutes behind, so Seele missed a meeting but all of us caught up on our sleep.

    Every time I stay here, the Hotel Pennsylvania gets a little bit crappier. The walls of the bathroom have a faint yellowish tinge, reminiscent of cigarette smoke stains. The air conditioning unit in here is for shit, let me be honest: We sweated in a humid room all bloody night while the white-painted metal box built into the wall hummed to no good effect. The mattresses are broken out and a bit smaller than the bed that Lyssa and I share at home and the pillows are hard so that most, if not all of us woke up with sore necks. I think Elwing, who slept in the walk-in closet of the room, had it the best of all of us.

    It's no longer hot in here and the humidity has gone down somewhat, thank the gods. Seele and Justin are showered and headed for the con. Lyssa's in the shower right now, and Elwing is waiting her turn.

    SSH and a good SOCKS 4a proxy are wonderful things when you're on the road.

    1414 EST/EDT: Lyssa, Elwing, Vlad, and I got lunch at the deli down the road from the hotel and hung out in the convention floor to see what was up and eat. Jason Scott of Textfiles.com is here, selling copies of the BBS documenary on DVD. There is now a second volume of hacker porn, HaXXXors II for sale.. run and hide. Segways are running every couple of minutes that people can try out. The radio shack up on the 18th floor is kind of small but very well stocked. Per usual, only a couple of power outlets in A room are active, so don't use up your battery power too fast, folks.

    This is the first HOPE conference where I've actually gotten on the wireless network successfully on the first try. Whoa.

    HOPE's steadily becoming more respectable and less wild and crazy. Security actually pays attention to stuff that congoers do these days. They're openly selling junk food and Jolt (comma, lots of) on the ground floor. The theme of HOPE, the past couple of times, has been downbeat. By downbeat, I mean that there is a sense of pressure, of oppression.. it reflects some of the things going on in the US political system these days. The clip art and graphics used remind one of cold war propaganda. Convention goers and speakers are referred to by number and not by name. The convention badges, which are three-inch buttons this time around, show drawings of mugshots on them. Folks are definitely more quiet around here, none of the yelling and calling out to one another like they used to. They don't have the DJs, bands, and dances that they did back in 2000 and 2002. It wouldn't surprise me if was because there were so many complaints from other folks in the hotel, but it does contribute to the overall feel of the convention.

    They have hammocks set up down on the convention floor in front of projection screens that folks are lounging in.

    TOOOL is holding classes on lock picking down on the convention floor.

    Emmanuel Goldstein has been spotted, and he already looks run ragged. Such is the life of a con chair.

    The creators of the TV-B-Gone are here.

    1541 EST/EDT: Still in the lock picking presentation from The Key and Marc Tobias. The Key did a fair amount of his usual presentation and added a few new techniques to the speech, such as the phenomenon known as 'bumping' or 'rapping' which was discovered in Europe. Five seconds and a filed down key can open just about any lock on the market just by hitting it with a hammer.. the thing is, Marc Tobias has been going on and on about bumping as a major security problem for forty-five minutes now. Hey, Marc - we get it already. The Key made that perfectly clear, in fact - anyone who knows anything about physical security gets it. It's getting very annoying.

    Oh, good... Tobias is talking legalities now. He's also a lawyer, incidentally, and has stated that as long as you have lockpicking tools and only hack locks at home for fun, he doesn't see a problem with it. I feel that I should suffix this with the fact that he's not giving anyone actual legal advice and we're not paying him.. yadda yadda.

    They're selling DVDs of each and every presentation for $10us after it's over.

    A thunderstorm's hit New York City, driving the humidity up once again. For a time, I was afraid that we were going to lose power at the Hotel Penn.. we already lost the goddamn air conditioning.

    1557 EST/EDT: Area B has air conditioning. All praise our Lady of Blessed Environment Control. Ironically, the public rest rooms have better air conditioning than the rest of the hotel.

    Lyssa's gone down to the Lockpicking Village for hands-on training. I'm up in the Secure Coding panel to do some research for a project I'm working on. I'm planning on hitting the Village after it's over to get a feel for things (heh) as well. TOOOL is selling special edition pick sets for H2k6 that look pretty nifty - they were, I would guess, designed with some of the motif of H2k6 in mind, but that's just my inexpert opinion.

    Note to self: Drinking beer after taking Excedrin is not a wise idea.


    New from the home front:

    The US government is tightening the border between Canada and the US - come 1 January 2007 you'll need a passport to cross the border. The amusing thing is that this only counts if you're travelling by land or air. If you take on of the water ferries, you can get across without being accosted (theoretically). Way to achieve 66% coverage, folks.

    Here's something that I didn't expect to find: Scotland Yard thinks they've found out who Jack the Ripper was. Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, who was assigned to the Whitechapel murders in the 1880's kept two sets of notes - one official set of notes, and a group of marginalia in a copy of his boss' memoirs that revealed some sensitive information. The man implicated was one Aaron Kosminski of East London, who was apparently identified by face, but the witness refused to provide evidence to back it up.

    2008 EST/EDT: Lyssa, Justin, Elwing, Seele, and I are stuck at the Union Station, Washington DC. Some brainiac, I know not whom, has decided that calling in a bomb threat would be the acme of entertainment. The local police force has been systematically searching the station for any sign of explosives. Thus far, roughly a quarter of the complex has been cleared of people. Local security teams are moving people out of the actual train station part of the complex into the outlying shopping mall. The restaurants up here are also being cleared of people. DC police are stringing yellow crime zone tape within the building to fence off the search area.

    The hell of it is, our train's waiting for us on the tracks, well within visual range. It's anyone's guess as to whether or not we'll..

    Fuck. They're emptying this part of the complex!

    2023 EST/EDT: Everyone in the complex has been thrown out and into the streets and parks adjacent to Union Station. The local fire department, hazmat team, and bomb squad are all over the place like flies on potato salad.

    They're probably not going to find anything, but I'd much rather a false alarm than the alternative...

    It's been bloody hot today, with temperatures in the high nineties Farenheit and humidity between 30 and 40%. Right now... hell, it's still hot. Sitting with my back against the base of a flagpole, I can feel the sweat trickling down my ribs and the marble is warm to the touch. If I don't move around too much everything's fine, but hauling a backpack and a duffel bag of stuff is enough to make Lyssa and myself break into a lather. Everyone's standing around fanning themselves and talking. I'm writing so I'll have something to upload later. Seele sneaked a couple of photographs that I'll upload when connectivity permits.

    Sirens. Police cars. SOP for law enforcement.

    Just like my senior year of high school.

    Lyssa asked if she could jump onto the Net to take a look around. I'm writing offline because the coverage from the 802.11B/G WAPs inside doesn't reach this far outside of the building.

    The folks who work inside the building in one capacity or another are enjoying the downtime. When there's nothing else to do, you may as well connect with your peers, if only to have someone to laugh with. You have to laugh, a wise man said, to keep from crying. Tears in your eyes keep you from seeing what's going on around you and knowing what to do.

    Boy, I'm glad that Lyssa didn't wear her favourite t-shirt today: "BOMB SQUAD - IF YOU SEE US RUNNING, TRY TO KEEP UP"

    2225 EST/EDT: Union Station is still sealed off. I got lucky with one of my radio scanners and picked up a fragment of conversation (no frequency, because I wasn't pay attention to it) from two members of the bomb squad who reported that they began checking the food court on the bottom floor of the building. A police officer that Seele and Justin spoke to said that it would take at least ninety minutes for them to re-open the facility.

    That was at 2100 EST/EDT.

    Amtrak claims that the trains will run tonight but don't know when. In the sweltering heat and humidity of downtown Washington, DC, the five of us hiked over to the Union Bar and Grille for a snack and a glass of beer, the libation of the tired and sweaty adventurer. Said Bar and Grille was packed standing room only - being the only place in a three block radius that was not only open but air conditioned, everyone and their backup felt like stopping off for a cold one.

    It's been reported that someone found a suspicious package on the train platform itself, which is why they pulled the trigger for an all out bomb scare. Elwing observed that a large portion of Union Station is, in fact, a mall, so it's likely that someone simply forgot a package and rather than risk an accident, called security, who then called the police.

    Note to self: Change cellphone plan so that I can use my phone for a data connection.

    2320 EST/EDT: We're finally underway. People began to trickle back into the train station after the DCPD gave the all-clear signal. Elwing headed to the ticket counter, where she was told that we'd catch the first train out of our platform for New York City. The queue wasn't very long at the gate, so after about twenty minutes or so we passed the security checkpoint and boarded the train.

    I was expecting much more of a hassle, truth be told. I'm carrying a fair amount of electronic equipment with me, which tends to raise eyebrows with the folks who aren't techies, but aside from my ticket and ID being checked by the security guard, nothing happened. From talking with some of the security guards and folks who have been doing the same thing, a package was discovered on a boarding platform, which raised a general alert. The police were called in, et cetera... the K-9 unit was also dispatched with the explosives-sniffing dogs. One of the dogs, I am told, registered a positive response for something nasty, which the bomb squad has presumably taken care of. Due to some unsubstantiated rumours (I must be honest here), DHS has been extremely busy lately running down threats, enough of them credible to warrant the expenditure of resources and allocation of manpower, with enough positive return to warrant continued active response.

    Or, shit's going down somewhere and they're taking care of business.

    I wonder how long it's going to be before the same security measures in place at the airports will start appearing at train stations. Bus terminal security's noticably heightened but definitely not all that and a bag of chips.

    Security at the train station wasn't very good. Just about anyone could walk or take the red line of the Metro in without anyone noticing. There is a security presence there (some of them riding Segways) but as yet there isn't anything like searching of bags or people or the use of metal detectors. There is a wireless network in the building (the specifics of which I wish I'd had time to write down) that can be used for communication, assuming that you pass the proxy server/checkpoint.

    Kismet doesn't seem to like the revision of wireless drivers I'm running. Damn.

    This particular train has standard home power outlets built into the wall for each pair of seats. Luel's power cells should hold out until we hit NYC.

    It's not hot anymore, thank the gods. Just humid. Very humid.

    I think the first thing I'm going to do when I get to the hotel is take a nice hot shower to steam the gunk out of my pores.