The unusually warm weather in the DC area (it was 40 degrees Farenheit at 0635 EST/EDT today, with a projected high of 70 degrees Farenheit; this is not far off the mark for the past couple of days) brought with it our yearly Cookie Exchange Party in the DC area. Lyssa and I spent a few nights last week picking up around the apartment and generally straightening up to get ready for company to come over that weekend. I stayed up late on Friday night baking chocolate cherry drop cookies for the party on Saturday evening, finally crashing around 0200 EST/EDT on Saturday morning. On the whole I think I did a pretty good job on them, but I do think that I beat the butter/sugar mixture a little too long, which is why the dough was quite a bit softer than I remember it being.

I'll post the recipe for them tonight when I get home from work.

Much of saturday was spent doing last minute cleaning up and a bit of shopping to get cleaning supplies that we'd run out of earlier that week. Lyssa and I got to see an unexpected show while walking back to the TARDIS from the supermarket: An older man (note that I do not describe him as a 'gentleman') driving an SUV took it upon himself to stop in the middle of the parking lot (further screwing up traffic) and lean out of the driver's side window to curse at a teenage kid walking toward the supermarket for some perceived traffic infraction or other (he appeared to be warming up to a full rant, and so his meaning was a bit garbled, to say the least).

Such is typical of the holiday season in Washington, DC. The streets run with the milk of human kindness.

After we got home and finished policing the area I wound up crashing in the bedroom because I'd run myself into the ground the night before. This was around 1500 EST/EDT, and Lyssa let me sleep until 1730 EST/EDT or so.

Kash and Chris were the first to arrive, somewhen around 1830 EST/EDT or so. I have to be honest, I wasn't keeping track of the order that everyone arrived in - I was more concerned with keeping everyone happy and making sure that there was enough space on the table for everyone's fare. Chris brought three different varities of snowball cookie, including a gluten-free variant and a type that included food-grade powdered caffeine as one of its ingredients. I drove out to the Metro station to pick up Hummingwolf rather early in the evening. Kyrin showed up at some point, followed by Orthaevelve and Jason (a friend in tow, whom I wound up talking quite a bit with that night), Rialian, Helen, and Emma, Duo and Jarin, Mika and Hasufin, Lauren, and later in the evening Raven stopped by.

A couple of gifts were exchanged earlier that night.. Alexius sent us two sets of Mirrormask figures. Lyssa got a hanging planter from Duo; I got a wall-mounted fishbowl, which I'm eventually going to put another betta in. In the mail earlier, I'd gotten a copy of Frater Albertus' alchemist's handbook from John on the west coast; Chris gave me a book on Wilhelm Reich's work with orgone theory. Hasufin, in between juggling plates of cookies, gave me a keyring-sized multitool, complete with miniture white LED flashlight. In the culmination of a six-month long conspiracy, Lyssa recieved her gift from Hasufin.. a pair of frosted glass candlesticks that he'd had me hide in the front closet; she recieved only a card with directions to the box.. the look on her face was priceless when she found the proper cardboard box amidst all the stuff piled in the back corner.

Nobody kept inventory of the cookies, because everybody brought something tasty, from Chris' caffeinated cookies to Cull's Black Metal Cookies (which were soft, pliant, and tasty, unlike many black metal bands) and Hasufin's chocolate banana bars, which barely lasted the night. I wish that I'd had a terminal handy because there were so many good quotes of the night, I scarcely remember all of them. Then again, maybe it's just as well, because Kyrin was in rare form last night... Orthaevelve and Lyssa discussed some practical alchemy for a friend of ours, I wound up on the balcony talking gaming with Jason for a while, and geeked out with Raven for a good bit of the evening. Unfortunately, I was not able to avoid talking about work during the party, but then again I had to blow off some steam after the kind of week I'd had. Around 2200 EST/EDT, Lauren was kind enough to dance for us, her first private performance since she officially went pro as a belly dancer.

Lauren somehow managed to balance a sword on parts of her body that I didn't think would be useful for holding objects for any length of time.

Later in the night, Kash took sick, in part due to all the sugar from the cookies, and went down for the count. Orthaevelve and Lyssa wound up taking care of him until he was felling well enough to sleep; in the meantime, it was going on 0300 EST/EDT, and everyone started trickling home because it was fast approaching too late to drive safely. After everyone that was going to leave headed for home and everyone else found crash space, I collapsed into bed to catch a few hours of sleep.

Lyssa and I woke up around 1100 EST/EDT on Sunday morning feeling much worse for wear because we'd sugar crashed while unconscious. It seems that abusing one's body is also part and parcel of the holiday season... Jarin and Duo left early on Sunday morning, and the rest of us pulled ourselves together and then hit the local Indian buffet for a meal that actually included some protein. Our next stop of the day was the Tyson's Corner Mall in northern Virginia to do a little last minute Yule shopping.

What a nightmare.

Shopping at Tyson's Corner the week before Yule makes the day after Thanksgiving look like a day at the park. There was no parking to be had; we dropped Lyssa off and hunted for a single parking space anywhere near the mall. After about an hour of roaming around like sharks, we jumped into an open space on the north side of the mall and carefully made note of where we'd left the TARDIS.

That was, as they say, only the beginning. The mall itself was packed to capacity with people who had money to spend and were going to spent it come hell, high water, or Windows. Imagine having a six inch radius of personal space for a few hours. Consider lines that stretch all the way around the store because all of the clerks locked the registers and ran for the nearest Starbucks franchise like a horde of lemmings, leaving the customers high and dry for a half hour because the lines at Starbucks aren't any shorter or moving any faster. Picture shelves stripped bare by consumer-locusts.

The mall yesterday was not fun. The mall yesterday was a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.

Once the group had reconvened (Kash and Hummingwolf had bolted for the Lego store, Lyssa had been in Macy's, and Chris and I were roaming around trying to find stocking stuffers, and finding the selection of everything everywhere we went lacking) we bolted for the exit and fresh air. Afterward we wound up at the Tower Records down the highway that is going out of business (to the tune of %75 off of everything) to hunt for interesting things to listen to because all of the popular stuff was already gone, leaving the oddball things that only weirdos like us are into.

That wasn't really the case.

Tower Records was thoroughly picked over. The CDs were mostly things that didn't interest any of us, the magazines were all but gone, the movies were mostly gone... the only really interesting things to be found could be neatly summarised as 'latex lesbian porn', and even then it seemed a little dodgy.

Sometime in the middle of that, Lyssa got a call from Hasufin, who wanted to go to the Italian Oven for dinner with us because we weren't able to meet up for breakfast earlier that day. Lyssa didn't much feel like cooking dinner that night and the rest of us were about to drop over from exhaustion, so this sounded like a perfectly workable idea. We made a short detour to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to pick up something and then picked our way back across route 7 to get to the restaurant.

Italian Oven: Comfort food.

After dinner, the evening sort of collapsed in on itself as everyone found someplace to curl up and rest. Lyssa and I went offline around midnight last night because we had to get up early for work today.

That about brings us up to the present... including the USB-powered Yule tree that Lyssa just gave to me as an early gift for my cube at work.

Note to self: When writing a Perl script that uses the threads module, write a governor to control how many threads are spawned at once. Perl will happily spawn as many threads as it thinks it needs, which can not only use up all of the CPU time available to it but all of the memory it can get hold of.


eGold isn't safe anymore, the owner voluntarily started turning records over to the US government for analysis. Granted, most of this was due to the Shadowscene bust a while ago, but if you're trying to be discrete because you don't have anything more shady than wanting some privacy in the twenty-first century, you're SOL.

Remember, everyone: Just wanting some privacy doesn't mean that you're breaking any laws, it means that you want your private life to stay private. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

For quite a few years now, the most secure operating system (as far as the market is concerned - sorry, OpenBSD) has been considered to be the trusted variant of Sun Solaris 8. The reasons for this are many: First off, the codebase was extensively reworked to add global and local security policies (the kernel basically says, "I don't care if you're sitting at the console logged in as root, I still won't let you do that because it's not your responsibility"), all accounts, even those with administrative privileges are monitored so that everything done can be accounted for, the file system is segregated so that different users can't even see things they aren't supposed to have any access to at all (you can't even go looking), and roles are set up that cover certain responsibilities in addition to normal access privileges (for example, user accounts assigned to the role 'backup' can only access data and utilities used for backing up data, and nothing else). Important data structures carry labels that denote their security classification to limit access to the contents, also. A file on a drive can be labelled 'SECRET', and only accounts with a 'SECRET' security clearance can access them. A certain shared memory field can be labelled 'TOP SECRET/SMF' (for the sake of argument, I don't know if that's a real TS compartment or not) and only processes running as accounts that carry that security label can access them.

Trusted Solaris hasn't been widely available for quite a while.. now you can download the Trusted Solaris extensions for v10 freely. If you sign up on Sun's website you can download copies of Solaris 10 for free and use them for personal use; you don't have to pay licensing fees unless you're buying hardware for them to use in a business setting. I've done this a few times in the past and the strings attached are few and far between. But now you can download extensions for Sol10 that add Trusted Solaris capabilities, also for free. It implements all of the old set of security labels, plus classification of new stuff, like individual network connections and even desktops to enforce segregation of data.

For more information on the Common Criteria Security Certification, here's a good breakdown from IBM's website.

Remember the movie WarGames, which inspirated a whole generation of crackers and hackers? Now there is a game reminiscent of the movie called Defcon: Everybody Dies from Introversion Games, who also developed Uplink. The game is conceptually simple: You play a general of a nuclear-capable country; you position your forces strategically to take out your enemies however you can, ideally by weakening their strategies by eliminating assets and facilities (did I mention that this is a multiplayer game?); you try to lose the least.

This looks like fun...


Last night was a coma night. Both Lyssa and I were completely wiped out but we somehow marshalled the strength to find and go to our local library last night, something that we've been neglecting to do for well over a year. Seeing as how we've got more than enough books to occupy us for the forseeable future, it never seemed like a priority... however, we're going to be doing quite a bit of travelling in the weeks to come and we're going to need stuff to listen to in the car, so we picked up a couple of unabridged books on CD (and by a couple I mean six or seven) to keep us occupied in the car. We also took a little time to browse the stacks and see what they had to offer.

The technical section is a little lacking but has a couple of gems. They don't have much but what they do have are fairly recent texts on C, C++, Perl, and Python and study guides for a couple of respected certifications (namely the CISSP and CCNA). The metaphysical book section was so fluffy it would have blown away with a good sneeze, leaving behind a lone copy of Magick Without Tears. The books on politics and physics, however, were extremely recent and were written from quite a few viewpoints extant in the United States at this point in history.

Afterward we stumbled to Whole Paycheque to pick up a couple of things for dinner, headed home, and all but collapsed.

Now let's catch up on a few recent developments: NIST deadlocked last week on whether or not a paper trail is required for electronic voting systems on a vote of six to six. A bill that would have killed network neutrality in the US didn't pass in Congress, either. The RIAA is lobbying a group of Federal judges called the Copyright Royalty Judges to let them cut the royalties they have to pay their signed artists even further.

Senator John McCain is at it again, this time with abill that would fine anyone with a website $300kus for not immediately deleting pictures or videos that are possibly illegal in this country. I'm starting to wonder if Senator McCain is the paid spokescritter of the Four Hoursemen of the Infocalypse (Child Pornography, Crackers, Spam, and Terrorism) because he keeps bringing up child pornography.. the reason I'm so skeptical is because child porn isn't easy to find on the Net unless you're already a part of that community and producing yourself, which is why it's so hard to break up rings of child pornographers. They don't just post snapshots on a page at Blogger or MySpace (though from time to time on social networking sites someone will be a jackass and post a photograph to someone's weblog that definitely has a limited audience for the disgust factor), it gets traded on hidden IRC channels and IM conference rooms, all run by people who really don't care if someone sees the site because it can't be traced back to them. The bill also reqires all sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses, IM accounts, and websites with the authorities. This isn't going to work at all because of how easy it is to set up accounts with false names that again cannot easily be traced back to the owner. As for fan fiction... I have to be honest, there's a lot of fan fiction out there that turns my stomach, not because it's poorly written but because it deals with topics that bother me personally. Again, anonymity and a lack of a patrol force will make this a lame-duck law.

It could also be turned against web forums and blogs maintained by people who run legitimate support groups by people who genuinely want to see them taken down. The Church of Scientology is known to use such tactics against groups it doesn't like (usually groups for ex-members), and there are a few others that do the exact same thing and don't much cre how they go about it.

There is also a subtle form of censorship that could be levelled against people who are wrongly convicted because the proposed law demands the deletion of posts from sites that aren't registered - given the number of sites that you have to set up accounts to use, including many news tickers, Amazon, Google, and the business sites of many utilities and banks, it would be prohibitive to list all of them, and would penalize people who are genuinely trying to change (I know, I know.. leopards and spots, and even though I'm definitely not the most trusting individual on the Net the only way to find out is to wait and see) and make a single mistake.

One of the comments to this article also makes a good point: What happens if a website is defaced with porn? Who is liable? What if the webmaster is on vacation? Posting a comment on a site that has an <img src="blah.."> tag in it would be a great way of bringing Johnny Law and Friends down on the site of someone you want to get revenge on... not that this ever happens. No. Not ever.


If you've been keeping an eye on the BBC website, they've had a Doctor Who Advent calendar up for a while. Each day they unveil another goodie, such as print-and-send Yule cards, concept art, games, and clips of audio and video to listen to. One of the first things they put up was a copy of a song from last year's Yule special, The Christmas Invasion by Murray Gold, which was entitled A Song for Ten (which is very well written and gives a few hints about season 28, love it or leave it). One thing I should warn you of is that most everything on the calendar will appear in pop-up windows, so keep an eye on your popup blocker - that's what kept me from finding everything the first time I looked at it.

There aren't nearly as many computer desktop images, or at least there aren't yet. If you keep returning to the site you'll eventually get to see everything.

Incidentally, there are only twelve days left before they air The Runaway Bride on BBC 1.

Someone's set up a bulletin board to archive people's experiences from the Flanvention that almost wasn't.

To break up the white noise in the lab for the past couple of days, I've been listening to a couple of audio books that were recorded by the author, J.C.Hutchins collectively called 7th Son. If you're not a fan of fanfiction (which is understandable because so much of it out there is pretty bad), it's not a fanfic, it's an original work of science fiction. The premise of the story (without spoiling too much) is this: On the campaign trail, the fictional President of the United States (caveated for the Secret Service - I'm talking about someone else's work of fiction) is brutally murdered by a four year old child, who drops over dead while incarcerated a few days later. Shortly afterward, seven men around the United States with no connection to the murder or each other are ambused by MiBs who haul them away to a hidden facility in Virginia and reveal a startling secret: They are clones of a single individual and are part of a nature-or-nurture experiment designed to span their entire lives. Their memories until the age of 16 were downloaded from the brain of the original dubbed John Alpha, and uploaded into the blank brains of clones, who were then separated and carefully inserted into lives as close to that of the original as possible. Then they were allowed to diverge as they would while being monitored to see what kinds of people they would become.

While the premise of the story may not be completely new, the execution of the theme is. The main characters are not perfect copies of each other, they have unique likes, dislikes, lifestyles, and personalities, which goes to show what kind of person anyone might become if just one or two things during their early years had been different. There are also some twists to the story that give it a global feel - don't expect the story to keep going in the same direction because it'll take a twist when you least expect it. I high recommend it if you've got a portable .mp3 player, it's a good listen and a good way to kill time on your commute.

Who says that hardcopy is dead? Medical researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University have figured out a way to use inkjet printing technology to cause stem cells to differentiate in patterns. Colonies of stem cells derived from mouse muscle tissue were seeded across a scaffolding and then a modified inkjet print head was used to spray them with hormone solutions that cause them to develop into muscle and bone tissue within the patterns sprayed by the machine. The eventual goal of this project is to facilitate construction of replacement organs for surgery.

The webcomic XKCD has posted as one of its strips a map of the IPv4 address space, broken down by organisation of ownership. It's pretty interesting; I suggest that you read the weblog entry and comments because they explain how the map was generated.

If you've ever built a Windows XP machine without the benefit of a network connection to download all of the patches that have to be applied to lock it down, you know that it can be a nightmare, especially when all you have to work with is dialup, which still happens these days. Not to worry, though, the guys over at Heise Security have linked to a utility written by Torsten Whitrock of the University of Kiel called Offline Update which lets you construct your own service pack on another machine out of the patches already extant. It even includes its own batch installer, so you do not have to run each and every hotfix by hand, just like a real service pack. The utility supports Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003.

Neat: The Online Graffiti Generator.

At this particular aquarium, the sharks were definitely not at the top of the food chain.


Hotmail, the webmail service that put webmail on the map (now owned by Microsoft) has increased the storage afforded to each user to one (1) gigabyte each. In other news, NetApp reports record earnings this quarter.

Scratch another pastor.

Earlier this week, one Paul Barnes, who founded the Grace Chapel church in Denver, Colorado has also resigned after admitting that he's been on the down-low.


It's been a busy weekend for all of us, and yet it went by so fast we lost track of it almost as soon as it came. Jarin graduated this week from school with honours, so we invited a few folks over this weekend to celebrate. It wasn't anything big, just Jarin, the Lost Boys, Kash, and Hummingwolf with Lyssa and myself. On Saturday Lyssa and I took most of the day for ourselves and did a little running around in downtown Fairfax, Virginia. We had to pick up the ceramic work we'd done two weeks ago but had been waiting for us for about a week now, things being what they are.

As it turns out, the owner of the shoppe, an older Italian woman, recognised us immediately when we came in because we had the most unique pieces on the shelf. Lyssa's goblet turned out supurbly - the shading was smooth all the way down to the bottom of the cup, and her roses turned out beautifully. As for my own ritual coffee mug, the landscape turned out fine after firing but the inscription on the inside didn't fare quite as well. Still, the owner recognised the quote, and thanked us for coming in and treating everyone to a fun change of pace.

We wandered around downtown Fairfax for a while to see what we could find. It was very cold that day, so we didn't stay out very long, but we did find a couple of restaurants and a store or two. We wound up having lunch at a local Greek deli (the name of which escapes me at the moment, though I have one of their takeout menus at home) and then heading for home for the afternoon. I spent a good bit of it picking and cleaning up around the apartment for the people who would be coming later that night.

Lyssa started making a double-batch of Caribbean jerk chicken while I finished cleaning up around the apartment and made a last minute run to the store for ingredients. Kash was the first to arrive, followed by the Lost Boys and Jarin, with Hummingwolf rounding out the party a little bit later. We didn't actually do much on Saturday night, we just hung out watching anime (Hellsing, followed later by Trinity Blood and Bleach). I left around 2330 EST/EDT on Saturday to drive Hummingwolf back to Maryland because she wasn't feeling well and wanted to recuperate at home, and returned around 0130 EST/EDT, only to crash hard because I was exhausted.

The next morning, we got out of bed around 1000 EST/EDT and then headed for Anita's for a Tex-Mex breakfast, roughly half of which was spent shooting the bull because the place was so busy that the kitchen was running late. I don't know exactly when we finished and left, but Duo headed back to our apartment because he wasn't feeling very well. Lyssa, Kash, and I hit up Uniquity so that Lyssa could take a look at their yarn to knit gifts, but unfortunately they are closed on Sundays, and we had to decamp to Michael's instead. Once home, we basically sat around and didn't do too much.

Well, that's not exactly true. This weekend Lucien was getting slammed with SMTP traffic from most of the networks corresponding to China decided to hammer the Network late on Friday night, which drove his system load up to an average of 22.75 on the ten minute breakdown. As a stopgap I dropped more /8 networks into the tcp.smtp file and then started building a new firewall using some more recent hardware to replace Lain using OpenBSD v4.0. Jarin's not really done much with BSD, so he rode shotgun while I built a quick box on a 9.5 gig drive and plugged it into my lab network. Next up: Write packet filtering and traffic shaping rules.

Note to self: Keep an eye on this list and convert it into a set of rejection tables for BSD's packet filter.

On Sunday night, Mika and Hasufin came over and helped us put up the Yule tree in the living room. It took some doing to get into my parts bin in the closet and extract a couple of power strips, but once that was done Lyssa put in Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas and we set about assembling the artificial tree and decorating it. It really didn't take very long to get everything set up in the corner where the papasan chair used to be. All in all, I'd say that things look pretty good around the apartment; now we just have to get ready for the cookie exchange party this weekend...

In slightly dated news from last week, the US Department of Energy has announced a breakthrough in solar cell technology, vis a vis solar cells that are 40.7% efficient, standing head and shoulders over the most energy-efficient solar cells in use today, benchmarking at an average of 15%. A new generation of solar cells, called multi-junction, capture more of the sun's radient energy and convert it into a flow of usable electricity; coupled with embedded lenses that focus more light onto a smaller point, the cells can generate an even larger current.

Millimetre-wave microwave energy weapons, considered technically nonlethal, were approved for use by the US military for urban pacification.

Attention Browncoats! Firefly will return as an MMORPG, courtesy of Multiverse, who licensed the rights to the 'verse from Fox.


This is the sort of thing that brings a smile to my face. In the UK, one of the BBC channels is running a reality television show to find a new model. One of the models, Jennifer Hunter, has been catching hell for being a size twelve instead of a size zero. Look, if you will, at the photograph of Ms. Hunter in a gold one-piece swimsuit. Then look at the photograph of finalist Marianne Berglund in the same swimsuit.

Go ahead, click over and take a look. I'll wait.

Now, for those of you of the appropriate persuasion, ask yourselves this: Which of the two looks more attractive? Who would you go for?

I'm not going to drop any snarky comments, nor am I going to try to change your opinions through insinuation or subtlty. What I will say is this: Women, and to a much less visible extent, men, are starving themselves to death because society tells them that they look fat when in fact, medically speaking, they are not obese; in fact, they are statistically average. Having no body fat whatsoever is not healthy, it's dangerous. Body fat protects your internal organs from damage by acting as padding. It helps regulate body temperature, also, keeping the body warm when it's cold and helping to cool it when it's hot. Adipose tissue also helps the body regulate the production of some hormones, as well as protein metabolism. Fat cells actualy produce trace amounts of estrogens, which both men and women have. Yes, I mean female hormones. Yes, I am series when I say that men have them, also - even football players, weight lifters, and wrestlers.

Anorexia is not healthy; in fact, it can be life-threatening. It can cause females to stop menstruating, skin to turn brittle, hair to call out, and joint damage because cartilage is cannibalised to keep the rest of the body fueled. Bones turn brittle, and in general the body gets run down and perpetually tired. It can even cause bodies to stop growing, developing, and healing because there just isn't enough fuel to promote growth.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with Ms. Hunter. She looks healthy, she looks happy, and she looks like a real person, and not a stick insect that's been worked over with Photoshop. She doesn't look like she's going to blow over in a stiff breeze, and she definitely doesn't look like a good hug is going to break her like a piece of kindling.

I won't pretend to speak for anyone else, but I will say that I know who I'd go for.

It really bothers me that society today has convinced people that being inherently unhealthy is a beautiful and desirable thing. There is no need to put onself at risk for long-term health problems, or even dying at a very young age simply because something who doesn't know you and has probably never met you thinks that starving yourself to the point where your body starts to cannibalise its own tissues is attractive.

It's downright dumb, people.

I know that I'm trying to talk a cyclone into putting Dorothy's house down and going away, but if there is even one person out there listen to me, please think about this: Your culture does not own your body; your culture does not dictate who you are; your culture dictates what you should look like but you do not have to follow it. It is possible to be comfortable in your own skin, no matter what you look like, and that is the most beautiful thing of all. At some point you have to stop listening to what They tell you and decide for yourself what you're comfortable with, and how you want to look. Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, don't hurt yourselves over this. Don't starve yourselves. Don't listen to the myriad of communities on Tribe, Livejournal, Blogger, MySpace, or what have you that tell you that being anorexic or bulemic is a wonderful thing and help you go about it. That makes about as much sense as putting arsenic in your coffee every day for flavour or powdering your face with lead compounds for beauty: It'll only wreck your health and, if you push it too far, kill you.


So, they cancelled the Flanvention in California and half the cast of Firefly showed up anyway!

Uh-oh. Busted.

Note to self: Rematerialise next to the Reflecting Pool, not over it.

I tell ya', those traffic-cams are all over the bloody place down here.


The past week or so has been very hectic for me because I've had yet another project in the works which took quite a bit of preparation and research. A colleague of mine at work teaches a class at George Mason University on cryptography and security methodologies, and he asked my boss and I if we'd do a guest class for him (which was last night after being rescheduled last week) on our respective fields of practice. My boss did a presentation on PKI, public key infrastructure, which you've probably used in some way without realising it. PKI is the technology that underlies the cryptographic systems that protect much of the e-commerce traffic from the Web these days. In essence, some large corporation out there decides to set itself up as a CA (Certification Authority) and sign cryptographic certificates that other (usually smaller) companies purchase to use to encrypt traffic. The idea is that your web browser looks as the cert offered by, for example, Amazon and verifies the digital signature on it. The browser can then follow the chain of signatures all the way up to the top-level CA, which is explicitly trusted.

In a nutshell, if live.com's cert says that it is trusted and signed by Microsoft, and Microsoft's signing certificate is trusted by the Digital Signature Trust Company (I don't know who actually signed it, I don't have any records on that cert), and the DSTC is considered a top-level ultimately trusted CA, then you know that Someone Important trusts live.com enough to sign their cert, so you can trust that anything you do with them is encrypted with a cert that you can trust. It's sort of like getting your boss to sign a document that attests that the consultant you just hired won't post the results of the security audit on Slashdot.

Okay, so maybe that's a tortured example. I could go on and on about crypto, digital signatures, and suchlike but that would require a book, and there are a few books on the market that do a much better job than I could. For our purposes, it has to do with mathematically assigning and verifying trust.

My presentation was the second half of the class, and involved wireless network security, namely, why WEP can't be trusted, what other kinds of attacks can be used to not only interfere with wireless networks but assist in compromising the security of a wireless network, and what kind of mitigating strategies can be implemented in case replacing the wireless infrastructure of $ORGANISATION isn't a viable alternative.

For the past week or so I've been inhaling everything I could get my hands on to get back up to speed on wireless networking (because I haven't done anything serious with it since 2004). I've also been doing a lot of experimenting at home with my wireless network, some war-walking, monitoring RF traffic around my apartment, testing various tools on packet captures, and suchlike. True to form, on Wednesday night I turned my notes into a Powerpoint presentation (well, actually an Impress presentation using OpenOffice.org) and ran through my presentation before going to bed. On Thursday I got an e-mail from P-, who asked me to convert it into a true Powerpoint presentation (easy enough using OO.o) and put it into an approved presentation format (which involved re-doing the entire thing with a different graphic template).

After dropping Lyssa off at the doctor's office yesterday I had a few hours to kill so I hit the local non-Starbucks coffeeshop to get a hot one and do a little packet monitoring while I re-typed the whole shebang. I still had plenty of time to get other writing in once that was finished, proofread, and spell checked.

Actually getting to GMU was complicated by rush-hour traffic in DC. Just getting off of the ramp and onto the highway proper took thirty minutes; total travel time was about ninety minutes to go twenty miles in more or less a straight shot.

Frankly, I'm quite surprised that Luel worked so well with the VGA projectors set up in the classroom, especially because he's got an unusual screen resolution (1280x800, technically a widescreen mode) but neither am I arguing. P- and I walked in, set up, and got everything powered on in very little time indeed. I fired up a couple of demo apps, tested the presentation one last time (one never knows, especially when the Powerpoint file format is in use), and sat back to wait for class to start.

I got off to a rough start: I'm not very good at talking in front of people. Once I forced myself to slow down and use the points in the presentation as anchors to elaborate upon, though, things went much more smoothly. Thankfully the students had already been through a course on cryptography, so I didn't have to stop and explain things in mid-stride. I managed to hit almost everything I had intended and demo'd a couple of applications, but unfortunately my hour was up before I could get to risk mitigation strategies. Amazingly, there were a few people who took notes the entire time; I'm very pleased by this.

Sadly, my copy of Driftnet didn't catch anyone surfing during class. On second thought, I'm kind of relieved. I know the kind of things I do to mess with the heads of people who watch for users who aren't paying attention with Driftnet, and my laptop was hooked up to a classroom projector, after all...

I didn't expect us to get applause when we were done. P- and I were a hit with the students.

I wound up staying after class talking with some of the students who had questions about the implementation of the RC-4 algorithm in WEP and how the known-plaintext attack works as well as what sort of research I do and how I originally got into infosec. I was very pleased to see interest from students above and beyond the presentation, and I think I left a good impression on them.

I'll put the presentation up later tonight.

I love fans, in particular FF7 fans. Someone did an impressive analysis of Cloud Strife's sword to show how it works. Nevermind the fact that such a weapon is practically impossible to construct in a feasible way, let alone balanced to use as an effective weapon.

I just woke up from a post-work nap.

While asleep, I had an interesting discussion with a dream-avatar of Jim Butcher about copyright law.

That is all.

This gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside - A grove of druids adopted the highway the runs past Jerry Fallwell's church.

I feel like I just ate a puppy.

Handpuppet Theatres does Serenity. (warning: spoilers, truncated as they may be!)


For the first time in a while, I'm working from home today. Lyssa had a doctor's appointment this afternoon and I offered to drive her in a couple of days ago. It's no big deal, really, because I can do most of what I need from my laptop without any trouble. Give me a text editor and I will change the world...

In the past few years, the conservative regeime in control of the United States government has been keeping Mary Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney under wraps because she is openly a lesbian. Moreover, she's Dick Cheney's chief political advisor - this no doubt gives quite a few folks downtown the heebie jeebies. That said, I'm very surprised that this news article hit the NY Daily News this morning: Mary Cheney's expecting; her partner of 15 years is overjoyed with this development. Ironically, Heather Poe and Cheney live in the state of Virginia, which passed a constitutional amendment in November that bans same-sex marriages, which means that the child will have none of usual privileges and protections of other children, such as having her other mother sign forms in school and visit in the hospital.

On a personal note, I raise my middle finger in the direction of on Carrie Earll of Focus on the Family, who was quoted as saying that "Love can't replace a mom or a dad."

Those of us who come from single-parent households beg to differ.

Today marks what could be the final Pearl Harbor veteran reunion in history. Sixty-five years ago, the base at Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, which spurred the United States into entering World War II. However, time and entropy have taken their toll upon the survivors, as it does to us all, and there are few veterans left, and fewer who can make the journey to Hawaii. Those that made it to the roll call will probably be remembered as the last of their kind.

Arlen Specter, amazingly, is trying to do something good for a change: He's initiated a bill (S.4081) that will restore habeas corpus to 'enemy combatants' detained by the US.


For those of you who have a little mystery in them, there is now a company called Hidden Passageway, who will design and construct hidden rooms and passageways for your domicile. They will build sliding bookcases, rotating fireplaces, descending easy chairs, and other secret structures, complete with custom-designed access mechanisms (such as the traditional "pull the false book on the shelf to open the hidden door"). They claim that their hidden structures are designed with security in mind, and will work with you to implement suitable security and access control measures, including iris scanners and fingerprint readers (neither of which are particularly cheap). They have a full catalogue online, but their prices are definitely nontrivial: Their work starts at $1900us (for a false staircase) and ranges all the way up to $24kus for a chamber or hallway hidden behind an 80"x30" painting or mirror.

One thing that you have to bear in mind is the fact that your house must already have room to spare - they're not going to put an addition onto your house, because then everyone will know that something is up. What they will do is partition off some space from an already existing room (like a study or living room), build a wall that matches the rest of the room in front of it, and work the hidden door into the new wall. If you know what you're looking for and are careful you can figure out that some space is missing, but most people won't think to do so (because, after all, who builds hidden chambers in their homes ala Bruce Wayne?).

Printing system: lpr-ng. Time to configure: Four hours.

Printing system: CUPS. Time to configure: Sixty seconds.

Suck it, BSD!

I've been doing a bit of experimentation on my laptop lately and I'm coming closer to a decision insofar as setting up a weblogging system is concerned. I'm thinking about setting up Nanoblogger to serve as the engine behind my memory logs. It's a nifty system that's written as a series of Bash shellscripts. The idea is that you write entries using a regular text editor (as I do now) and when you save them it converts everything into HTML, sets up permalinks and categories (which I'm going to start using), and plugs everything into an archive system. It uses flat text files to store entries, which I think is ideal (call me old-fashioned, but I don't know enough about database systems to use them safely, let alone usefully) and it minimises the number of moving parts. It also has documentation for writing scripts that'll convert entries from one format (flat HTML, for the sake of argument) into Nanoblogger's internal format. It does RSS and ATOM feeds natively, which is a feature that I was looking for. It doesn't do comments by itself, though, but I've got a couple of add-ons for Nanoblogger that implement this lined up that I'll be testing.

Now I just need to figure out how the hell CSS works and make it fit into the rest of my site...

As if that wasn't enough to get my attention, there is a facility for writing entries offline (make a copy of the entry template and write your entry), uploading them, and inserting them into the entry archive. When I'm on the road I do this, anyway. There is, however, a feature that will let you configure an arbitrary command (like SCP) that will upload the converted weblog entry to the server in question and insert it. I will definitely make use of this if I can while I'm out and about...

I've also got an idea for a Perl script that periodically logs into a POP3 mail server, checks for new messages to a certain account, and if it finds any runs them through the Nanoblogger utility which converts and inserts them. Even if I can't SSH out, I'll still be able to post updates.

After a bit of digging around in the docs, I discovered that there is even a way to embed it in another website, which I'll definitely be making use of. I spent some time hacking around with the templates this afternoon but I wasn't able to make it do what I wanted. The embed-in-site page (scroll down a bit) will more than suffice.

Ye gods, look at me... I'm getting geek wood over a weblogging system. Next thing you know I'll have a MySpace account and be sipping chianti with the staff of Wired.

I might be a computer geek, but I tend to like things simple. When I was younger and had more time on my hands (as well as less professional experience) I had no problem with having a very baroque setup for, well, just about anything. I liked complexity; still do, under certain circumstances. But I also have a life and other things to do. I also know my limitations: I'm not a web guy, I'm an OS guy. There are scads of remote exploits inherent to poor web software design out there, and at this point in time I'm not good enough to keep up with them. I'm also not a strong web coder: I know a handful of HTML commands (if you read my memory logs you've seen them all) and one or two PHP functions. Certainly not enough to design a web application that anyone could safely use unless it was on a web server that wasn't exposed to the Net.

I'm looking for a system that I can set up and use without much of a learning curve in a reasonably secure manner. Generating the HTML code offline and uploading it in a static manner suits me just fine. I don't need web apps for everything else, at least not yet, because I've already got a photo album, a library, et cetera, et cetera. If I need something else I'll set it up, but for now I have what I need.

I just need something simple that I can mess around with when I have a moment to spare (like right now).

Second Reality has its own Wikipedia entry?!?


The Russian Confederation is closing ranks in response to the deathbed words of assassinated ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko - assuming that they find the assassin or assassins, the parties in question would not be extradited to the UK for murder.

The California state government was about to pass a bill that would make it illegal to obtain information by pretexting, pretending to be someone else in order to conceal one's identity. Just before the bill was passed into law the state government came under fire from the Motion Picture Association of America to spike the bill because they said that it would cut into their business practices.

They killed bill SB1666 and replaced it with one that only makes it illegal to misrepresent oneself to get hold of telephone records.

echo "# joe jobbers can blow me" > ~alias/.qmail-default - when you absolutely, positively don't understand why a bounce message gets you on a realtime antispam blacklist.

Last night after work Lyssa and I drove over to Borders to hang out, rather than go straight home or to the grocery store (which we probably should have done). She's been looking for a number of books lately, the nature of which I did not know of. As it turns out, while I was drinking coffee and reading manga in the cafe' next to gentleman who held a very animated conversation with no one in particular (he wasn't wearing a headset of any kind, I surreptitiously checked) she was tracking down some books on the Russian language and picked out a basic text and a kit that included a number of audio CDs, a textbook, a traveller's quick reference, and a bidirectional lexicon. Afterward we stopped off at home for a bit and then set out for the Silver Diner for dinner because neither of us particularly relished what we had in the fridge (which seems to be a problem lately).

The Silver Diner's service has gotten noticably better in the months since we gave up in disgust on them. The food's not too bad, either - it's diner fare, so you get what you pay for. I thought my grilled chicken sandwich a bit on the greasy side (note to self: next time skip the cheese as well as the sautee'd mushrooms) but otherwise everything, including the chocolate-strawberry milkshake we split between us was very tasty.

I'm seriously considering setting up a real weblogging system for my website after last night. I've been doing a lot of writing in various media for a while now and my notes probably aren't worth adding to a general journal like this because there's no way to really organise things or put them behind cuts. I pondered setting up another flat memory log for that research but that means more files that I have to juggle. So.. I'm looking to replace my memory logs with something more dynamic. I'd also like to add an RSS feed so that I can get more exposure among weblogs, and maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment but I'd like to set up comments of a sort so I can communicate more directly with people.

What I'm looking for is something that I can plug right into my existing web site so I won't have to scrap everything and start over. If I can disable the usual leftmost and rightmost bars of options I would like to do so; or if I can add links to those pages I can then ditch the menu in the leftmost frame. Either way, there's a lot of work that I'd really like to not see go to waste.

If I go to a system that uses a database to hold the entries, I'll have to write a Perl script that translates all of the older entries and plugs them into the necessary tables. It'll be a bit of a pain but it can be done.

Neat! Carved crayons!


To whomever it was that left the message for me in my webserver's error logs: Nice going.

The professionally paranoid should sit up and take notice because it's been confirmed that cellular telephones may be remotely activated to monitor their surroundings, much like infinity bugs attached to hardwired telephones are capable of. The infosec community first discovered this back in 1999, but this is the first time that it's ever gotten out. The FBI calls this the 'roving bug' technique, and essentially it means that someone at a cell company connects to a phone and activates the microphone. The DOJ first signed off on this when they were investigating the Genevese family because the bigwigs in the Family were too paranoid for surveillance to really be effective. The press release interestingly states that many models of cellphone can't be powered down completely unless the batteries are removed. It is said that Nextel, Samsung, and one particular model of Motorola phone (the Razr) may have their firmware updated remotely to implement such functionality. Lauren Weinstein has posted to his weblog (yes, the pronoun is correct) about how to tell if your phone is being used as an infinity bug - basically, if it's transmitting when you aren't talking on the phone, something's fishy.

In the United States, cellular telephone towers broadcast to phones between the frequencies of 869.040 to 893.970 MHz, and cellphones transmit back to the repeaters between the frequencies of 824.040 to 848.970 MHz. If you know one in use, you can either add 45 MHz (to get the tower frequency) or subtract 45 MHz (to get the frequency in use by the phone) for the purposes of monitoring. At least, those are the rules for certain kinds of phones - there are a few different kinds of cellphone out there that use different sets of frequencies - do your homework.

Now, it's illegal to listen in on cellphone traffic in the US, but you don't need to listen in to know that a phone is doing something, all you need is a frequency counter that can pick up activity on those frequencies and tell you if a phone is transmitting or not when you haven't actually placed a call.

The body account associated with now-deceased ex-Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko continues to climb as associates of his are now known to be poisoned in exactly the same way. Mario Scaramella, an academic who is a national of Italy was diagnosed as having been poisoned with a radioisotope of Polonium as well. As if that weren't enough, governments around the world are discovering signs of radio-Polonium contamination in a dozen other buildings in the UK and on no fewer than five transoceanic jetliners. Nobody knows if Scaramella is going to survive yet. The final results of the autopsy on Litvinenko have not yet been released.

As it turns out, Scaramella was one of Litvinenko's contacts from his days in the cold war. After tests were run, it was determined that Scaramella recieved a much smaller dose of the radioactive compound than his associate had, but he's not out of the woods just yet. They met at a sushi bar in London, England to discuss a list of political critics inside the Russian Confederation who either had been killed or were thought to be a threat. Supposedly, Scaramella had hard information pertaining to a shipment of weapons that will be used as part of an assassination attempt in Italy in the near future, police found out, and then all hell broke loose.

When did we return to the 1980's, and why aren't the television shows any better?

This weekend was a strange one. Lyssa and I had pretty much run ourselves into the ground and wanted time to recuperate. Lyssa went to bed early on Friday night to catch up on her sleep while I played around a bit with the Children. On Saturday morning we got an emergency load of laundry done, amidst a bit of miscommunication, and then set out for lunch at Over the Border and then spent a couple of hours at Borders nosing the stacks. Somehow, and I'm not entirely sure how, we managed to lose about three hours of time, much more than normal because we didn't actually buy anything. Originally, I'd gone to do a little Yule shopping but I didn't find anything that seemed to fit as a gift. Both of us were surprised when we found out how much time had passed - it felt like very little.

We wound up sitting around that evening watching the first DVD of the first season of Forver Knight, which I'd gotten as a gift a couple of years ago but never had the opportunity to sit down and watch (like most media in my library), even though it was one of my favourite shows when it was airing (at 0400 EST/EDT on CBS in Pittsburgh).

If you've never seen Forever Knight before (even though it's on the Sci-Fi channel in syndication), it practically created the genre of "angsty vampire trying to become human again, and do some good along the way". As cliche' as it sounds today (especially to jaded gamers) back then it was pretty rare, outside of Anne Rice's novels. It pretty much put Geraint Wyn-Davies on the map in television, along with Nigel Bennet. I won't rant about it because I wouldn't want to bore anyone, but if you're interested you can find more information with a couple of Google searches.

Later in the evening, Lyssa recieved an emergency communique' from Raven, a friend of ours who lives not too far away. She'd been having problems with her computer lately, which has kept her offline, and she was wondering if I'd take a look at it. That wasn't a problem, because Lyssa and I were going out to run a late-night errand to CVS anyway, so we swung past her place and picked her up along with her incredibly AMD 64-bit machine in a shoebox-sized chassis.

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to get the chassis open, but thankfully it involved neither lots of rusty chains tipped with hooks nor having any skin traumatically removed from my person. As it turns out, the after market nVidia graphics card had gone bad, probably due to a bad fan (which came apart in my hands), but there was another built into the mainboard that she can use until she gets her hands on a replacement. All in all, we stayed up until 0400 or so talking once I resurrected her machine.

Lyssa and I slept until noon on Sunday, and spent most of the day recovering from such a late night. I did some running around to get groceries, pick up her prescription, and get a couple of things for work, and then came home to spend the rest of the night with Lyssa. We sat around watching the Food Network last night and relaxing.

Okay, I'm an unrepentant Iron Chef fan. I like both the original and the American variants, though I much prefer the original. I will say, however, that seeing the challenger bring a three-gallon dewar flask of liquid nitrogen with him to make ice cream gave me a geekgasm.


An information security company based out of Israel called ARX has published a paper on cracking the security of ATM (automated teller machine) networks (mirrored here, just in case) in which the PINs of credit and debit cards can be captured in plaintext form. Copying the magnetic strips of credit cards is a known technology - carders have been doing it since the 1980's, but without the PIN you can't put a duplicate card into an ATM and withdraw cash from the associated account, you can only use the credit card number, name, and expiration date to order things. ATMs connect through a packet switched network to communicate with their home banks; a lot, if not most ATMs these days have built-in modems that dial out (when last I checked, they connected at 2400 bps) to a system somewhere on the POTS network, and then do their thing. Before any data is transmitted the ATMs encrypt the PIN with the 3DES algorithm and three different 56-bit (7 bytes) keys for safety.

The problem is that each communique' has to pass through a number of other systems (referred to as switches in the whitepaper), where the PIN block is decrypted, verified, and re-encrypted with a different set of keys. A hardware security module is used to perform these operations, instead of software running inside a general-purpose computer. HSMs, to be worthy of the term, tend to have some pretty hefty requirements that have to be met, but they are not invulnerable. An attacker has to be at the console of one of the switches that make up the communications network (hardware consoles can be hooked up to concentrators that are themselves plugged into a mangement network and their security isn't always up to snuff, it should be noted) or inside the bank's data verification itself, but insider attacks are not unknown. The protocols underlying the Financial PIN Processing API itself are used in the attack.

One of the operations implemented by the FPINPA translates PIN blocks into different formats so that they may be retransmitted to other processing systems. This inherently involves decrypting and re-encrypting the PIN blocks.. A PIN block is converted into a format called ISO-1 (if it isn't already) and then into the ISO-0 format with an account number of the attacker's choosing. All the preprocessing before the attack can take place is done to build a table of encrypted PINs coupled with a certain account number (there are 10,000 possible four-digit PINs) and we've got a cyphertext rainbow table attack against the PIN primed and ready to go.

It'll take me a couple of pages to describe the math behind it but it's all in the whitepaper. Suffice it to say that manipulating individual bits can be an excellent way to speed up many mathematical operations, including cryptography and cryptanalysis. I'll cut to the chase and state that Russian organised crime is supposedly making active use of this vulnerability in the banking system, and lookup tables of the encrypted PINs are being sold on the black market at this time. I will also say that bank networks have been cracked in the past (Citibank's business net was compromised back in the late 1980's by way of an X.25 network) so it's entirely possible.

And next, meet a women who claims she's taught her duck to tap-dance.

No, not really. US.gov is warning banks to watch their backs because Al Quaida is going to attack their websites.

Where's the Tylenol?

A while ago I started keeping an eye on the plight of Chris Soghoian, who was paid a visit by the MiBs for documenting a vulnerabilty in the US airline boarding pass system which the authorities have been ignoring ever since a US senator first pointed it out. On Tuesday they dropped the case against him because they determined that he had no malicious intent. There is more information here, on Chris' weblog about the situation. Unusually, they gave all of his hardware back, which doesn't happen often. He also wrote that the FBI agents he'd been talking to had some.. interesting.. opinions of information security, privacy, and encryption research, and that at least some aspects of US.gov don't like Tor (even though it was a project originally started by the Navy).

Moreover, they still haven't addressed the original vulnerability!


If you've read my memory logs for a while, you probably remember when the Lyons Partnership came after me for a picture of a Barney pinata. I'm not unique in this: These guys have a reputation for rattling their legal sabres in the direction of anyone who uses the Annoying Purple Dinosaur for any reason, even the ones permitted by US Copyright Law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took up the case of Dr. Stuart Frankel, who came under fire for a Barney parody website and won in court against the Lyons Partnership.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has appeared in the news after a major faux pas at the yearly Nackey S. Loeb Awards Dinner when he spoke out against the First Amendment and brought in the First Horseman of the Infocalypse. He said that the people of the United States would have to re-evaluate ther freedom of speech in light of the fact that terrorists use the Internet. He neglected to say that they would also have to re-evaluate the use of printing presses, because terrorists also print things on dead trees, the use of spoken language because terrorists use their voices to speak to other people, and the right to get together for dinner because terrorists gather in small groups.

The Week of Oracle Bugs, announced by Argeniss Security has been cancelled for unannounced reasons.

The US government is trying to make it harder for Kim Jong-Il, president of North Korea to get his hands on such luxury items as iPods, Segways, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Sure. That'll teach him not to fund a nuclear weapons programme... that's like sending a kid to his or her room these days as punishment.

Here's a pleasant afternoon's diversion for you:

Look at the robots.txt files for various websites. According to spec, search engines and webspiders aren't supposed to index any pages that are listed in the robots.txt file on any websites. Of course, there are quite a few fly by night search engines out there who don't follow this spec, but many do.

They're a good way to find content that you're not expecting on a website. All you have to do is key the base URL into your browser (say, www.google.com) and then append of the directories from the robots.txt file (for example, here's Google's). There are other sites out there that have just as interesting things.. I'll leave it to you to think of them.

Here's one that I don't think the author will mind me linking to: Someone hid their weblog in the site's robots.txt file.

First levitation(!), then a screwdriver...


Last night after work, Lyssa and I decided to head back to Tyson's Corner Mall for dinner and a little wandering around for no good reason. We wound up killing time at Barnes and Noble for a while until the rush hour/dinnertime crowd thinned out a little, and then walked over to the Gordon Biersch Brewery (7861-L Chain Bridge Road; McLean, Virginia; 22102; phone 703-388-5454; Tyson's Corner Mall, bottom floor, all the way to the back near Barnes and Noble), which we've been checking out for a while but hadn't yet tried. En route, we discovered that Pauli Moto's Asian Bistro had closed its doors, and the floor space out front was slowly being converted into a lounge for weary power shoppers by mall management.

Gordon Biersch is one of those trendy grill restaurants with its own micro brewery upstairs that seem to be popping up all over the place in recent years. Lyssa and I didn't take them up on their beer sampler (five shotglasses of their in-house brews for free) because both of us were working on empty stomachs, and really wanted real food. That said, their calamari is tasty, cut into bite sized chunks, and not rubbery at all, which are all good things for squid. I ordered the hummus salad for an appetizer, Lyssa the wedge salad. The hummus salad was very good - it had a delicate flavour, a lot of shredded cheese (which I didn't expect), and some very good pita bread. It was well worth the money spent on it. I don't know offhand what Lyssa thought of the wedge salad, so I'll probably update that point later. I ordered the barbecued chicken sandwich for my entree, and Lyssa got the sauteed mushroom hamburger for her order. I was very pleased with the chicken sandwich: It had been grilled until just done and the barbecue sauce was sparingly used and not overwhelming in flavour. The garlic fries were a nice touch, I thought. Lyssa wasn't too impressed with her hamburger, in fact it left her feeling ill when everything was said and done.

I was pleased with the attentiveness and helpfulness of the waitstaff, even during a busy time of night on a weekday. Expect to pay about $50us for two people while you're there.

I'd give Gordon Biersch.. let me see... two flareguns. I was pleased with my meal (even thought I couldn't finish it - my stomach was full well before the end of our meeal) and the service was good. Lyssa was neither impressed nor feeling well afterward, so I have to take that into account. Everything added up, you might want to check it out if you're in the area, but there are probably other places at the mall that you'd like better, especially if high fat foods aren't your bag.

Don't they have anything better to do than arrest zombies at a party? Now granted, I'm not too big on this whole zombie fad in US pop culture these days, but this is just absurd, even by my standards.

As if that weren't fucked up enough, the Bloomington, Minnesota police force mistook a temperature sensor accidentally left in the trunk of a rental car for a bomb of some kind and blew it up, which detaining Dr. Anne Jefferson and her husband at the airport. The article mentions later on (near the end, in fact) that the rental car in question was one-half mile away from the perimeter of the airport when they freaked out.

I can sort of understand their concern, because not everyone is a science geek and knows what a Stowaway Temperature Tidbit Logger is, but it was nowhere near close enough to the airport to do any damage even if it had been a bomb.

Duct tape, for the win.


Today marks the third or fourth straight day of unusual temperatures in the DC metropolitan area in particular, and in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in general. So the news report say, the low temperatures have been around 33 degrees Farenheit or so in the mornings, but in practice it's been reasonably warm for late November and very comfortable. Over Thanksgiving weekend, there were folks in shorts and t-shirts putting up Yule decorations outside in West Virginia...

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I much prefer sort-of-but-not-quite-warm to holy-shit-it's-cold in any event.

What the...? Somebody stripped Sky-Runner!

I've got something of a dilemma going on, and I'd like to open the floor for suggestions from my readers.

As you've no doubt determined, I'm a flaming geek. I derive great pleasure from hacking around with software, hardware, and information in general. I'm also very fond of writing, and have a number of projects going on at this time, as well as not a few modifications to this website planned (the least of which is implementing a comment system for individual posts). I also have a significant other, one Lyssa Heartsong, whom I love very much. I also have a job that requires me to make certain educational advancements to keep up with the projects I'm working on. I work as a system admin, so this is par for the course. I'm also trying to start a programme of self-improvement, including physical as well as mental exercise to keep myself sharp.

Here's my question: How do I juggle all of this?

How can I 0) spend quality time with my SO, thus making her happy, 1) spend quality time with my tech, thus making me happy, 2) work on the books I'm researching and writing (with the intent to publish, mind you), 3) maintain the servers in my lab that provide publically accessible services (and a couple of private services on the lab network), 4) work on my certifications (CISSP at the moment), and 5) get into better shape and feel better?

The reasons I've thrown this open is because I honestly don't know, and I'm trying to get more input on the matter. I've tried everything I can to come up with a life-pattern that will let me do everything I enjoy and look forward to as well as keep everyone else happy and nothing is really workingi the way I'd hoped. The way things are arranged now, there is an inverse relationship between my stuff and everyone else's stuff (I'm grossly overgeneralising here), and my natural proclivities just don't work when you add an SO to the mix (which is to say, concentrating on self-improvement and minimising outside contact until I've made a decent amount of progress).

I've also thrown this open to the Net at large because I'm planning to write an essay on this phenomenon and it's part of my research. Proper credit will be given, anonymity will of course be respected.

So.. geeks, hackers, programmers, and what-have-you, I ask you this: How the hell do you manage it? Please e-mail me with your suggestions and comments.

The Chicago Sun-Times has had a week to play with Microsoft's new portable media player, the Zune, and they're calling it the pants. The support software installer doesn't work the way it's supposed to, it isn't compatible with any of the files handled by Windows Media Player (which includes music that you've used it to rip from your own CDs), the Zune software is the only software that can be used to get any media onto the unit (see problem #1), and it doesn't support podcasts. Also, any media that you install on the Zune (including freely downloaded podcasts) are infected with DRM such that the track will no longer be playable after three playbacks or three calendar days, whichever comes first.

There are so many other .mp3 players out there that aren't crippled, can store more data than the Zune, and cost less, I don't think that I even have to list any of them.

But.. if you've been shackled with one of these white elephants there's a way to break the DRM inherent in the Zune so that you can regain control of your media.

Ohhh... a head-mounted display built into a pair of mirrorshades.. only $400us.. and they're a style I like wearing..


Washington, DC: The only city in the known universe in which a man with an iPod cranked up so loud that I could hear it ten feet away in the heart of the city can walk against the red across a busy street, almost get hit by a car because a) he was jaywalking, and b) wasn't paying attention, and have the gall to turn around and curse at the driver who nearly ran him down.

I love this city.

Speaking of cities.. first it was security cameras all over the UK. Then they added loudspeakers. Now they're adding microphones to them, so that they can monitor sound as well as video. The mikes are reportedly good out to 100 meters and are hooked to some sort of pattern recognition system which can detect signs of aggressive behaviour, including shouting, excessive volume, and a couple of different accoustic signs of shouting.

What's next?

How about someone saving life and limb by cancelling the remake of Revenge of the Nerds? After two weeks of shooting at Emory University, the college backed out of the deal, which puts the movie in limbo.

Corpse graffiti in MMORPGs.


The madness seems to be over. Lyssa and I got up around 0700 EST/EDT yesterday morning to brave the crowds that would surely be out on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year (though certainly not the worst; that dubious honour is held to this day by the day immediately before Christmas). People were already lining up outside of the malls for the special sales, I am told by reliable sources (namely, the Ferrett and Gini, who arrived at their mall at 0220 EST/EDT, drove around the block to kill time for a while, and found over one hundred people camped out at 0240 EST/EDT, thus squeezing them out) at insane times. We left shortly before 0800 EST/EDT to pick up Hasufin, who would be riding shotgun with us, and then drove to the Tyson's Corner Mall, which is like a tiny slice of Manhattan in northern Virginia. It didn't take us very long to find parking through a stroke of luck - a spot opened near the building as we picked our way through the parking lot.

Tyson's Corner was packed shoulder to shoulder with people looking to drop a lot of money wherever they could to get a jumpstart on their Yule shopping this year. The aisles were three and four deep with people hunting down gifts and suchlike... I did manage to get a few things for folks during the couple of hours that we were there, though it proved to be a serious navigational challenge because I haven't yet figured out how to walk through people. At one point I thought it migh be a good idea to walk down to Starbuck's to get a few copies of the Washington Post to cut up for coupons. As it turned out, the coupons for Macy's were good for really only one thing: Unbranded clothing for either sex. Not accoutrements like cufflinks or watches. Not name-brand clothing. Not housewares. Not even makeup.

I'll leave it to you to deduce what I was there shopping for. Suffice it to say, I wasted a good bit of time getting those coupons.

I had better luck elsewhere in the mall, all things considered. Even though the mall was packed with people, the individual stores kept the shelves stocked to handle all of the customers. One notable exception was EB Games, which was full of fans (and parents thereof) fighting over Xbox 360 games. Neither Lyssa, Hasufin, or myself could get anywhere near there.

We returned home shortly before 1200 EST/EDT to pick up Hummingwolf, who had crashed out to get more rest rather than attempt to brave the crowds with us, and then set forth for Anita's for a lunch that didn't involve turkey or stuffing.

After lunch, Hasufin and I dropped the others off and went over to Micro Center to get a bit more shopping in. Micro Center was a bit less packed with people, but was just as well resupplied when it counted most.

The evening was spent lounging around after Rialian came over and watching 80's movies, vis a vis Ghostbusters, which Hummingwolf had not yet seen. Rialian's been fighting with a PCMCIA wireless network card on his laptop, which I took a crack at because I've been working on a driver for it in my spare time. All I can say is this: Whomever made it impossible, for all intents and purposes, to get one's hands on the documentation for that particular chipset needs to arm wrestle a bandsaw. I'm getting really tired of picking apart entirely different firmware images with a hex editor for each incremental revision of this bloody chipset.

I advised Rialian to buy a USB or another PCMCIA wireless adapter.

Today, Lyssa and I dropped Hummingwolf off at the Metro station and then set out to find a place in downtown Fairfax, Virginia at which you can paint your own ceramic pieces and have them fired. It's something that Lyssa's been interested in for a while, and I haven't done anything with ceramics for years, so... finding the place was pretty easy, it's in northern Virginia a hop, a skip, and a jump away from the beltway. Leave it to us to be the oddballs who choose chalices to paint.. well, Lyssa chose a chalice to decorate. I picked the largest coffee mug that I could find. While Lyssa went with a hand-painted pattern of roses, I painted a freehand landscape over the sides of the bug, ending with a starscape at the very top, and inside the mug itself, along with a quote from a poem that I loved when I was younger.

When we pick them up after they're fired, I'll put up some photographs.

I think more than the patient in question needs their head examined: One Daniel Beloungea of Oakland, California was taking his daily constitutional as part of his physical therapy reigmen following brain surgery, and suffered a complex partial seizure, which drew the attention of authorities, who arrested him for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The seizure was interpreted as resisting arrest, so Beloungea was handcuffed, hit with a baton, and hit with a stungun while seizing.

The hell of it is, it's National Epilepsy Month. Thanks and headslaps to Hummingwolf, who pointed this legal idiocy out to me over coffee this morning. I thought the legal ramifications of seizure activity had been worked out in the 1960's...

More information on the different types of seizures and how to handle them can be read here. I recommend that everyone read it at least once, just in case.

I've been following the case of ex-KGB spook Alexander Litvinenko in the UK since it came out that someone poisoned him with what they thought was thallium. Litvinenko died on Friday shortly after spilling his guts to British intelligence about the political situation in the Russian Confederation. An autopsy showed that Litvinenko had toxic levels of a radioisotope of the element polonium in his system, and apparently died from radiation poisoning before the polonium could disrupt his cytochemistry to a lethal extent.

It should be noted that the Russian stasi once used radioisotopes of scandium to assassinate political dissidents, so this isn't as odd a tactic as it might sound.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Lots of stuff to do over here, so not much writing is getting done.

Well, the madness thus far is over, and I think I've awakened from the tryptophan coma that comes bundled with every turkey at this time of year.

This week has been rough, let me be honest. Lyssa and I have been getting ready for Thanksgiving, including lots of cleaning, a good bit of cooking, and a lot of running around DC to buy stuff. Last night was a nightmare when it came to driving around to buy stuff, let me be clear. It was dark; it was raining hard enough to make it difficult to not only see but maneuver as well; it was also as cold outside as a sperm bank's vault, and certainly not as fun. Everyone and their backup was out and about last night, fighting over the last of everything at the supermarket. Turkey genocide is over - the bipedal ape and reptile descendents won another year in a row.

Lyssa started cooking last night after we got home. Thanksgiving is always a major holiday, and when you're having company over (vis a vis Grant and Hummingwolf), that means one thing: A lot of food. Stuffing. Cranberry salad. Prepping a might-be-partially-frozen-but-we're-not-really-sure turkey to go into the oven at 0-dark-00 on Thanksgiving Day. This also meant more cleaning. The division of labour was obvious: I cleaned, Lyssa cooked. It really bothers me to cook as little as I do, but if things are going to get done, the labor has to be divvied up somehow.

I finally went to bed around 0200 EST/EDT today, after doing three loads of laundry, watching the one and only episode of Global Frequency that I'd gotten my hands on over a year ago, and periodically rotating the turkey she'd left thawing in the sink end over end so that everything had a chance to gently warm to the point where water would melt back into ice, so that it could be cooked properly later today.

When you realise that you've got a narration running in your head similiar to that of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, it's time to go to sleep.

This morning I was awakened at 0830 EST/EDT by Lyssa, who was busily trying to maneuver the turkey into a position where it could be cleaned out and stuffed. It took two of us to manhandle it into a baking bag and into the baking pan (with rack) for deposition into the oven. The day started off from there, as one would imagine.. everything was cleaned up and ready to go, it was a matter of getting the food ready and on the table. That's actually not all that interesting to tell; if you've helped with Thanksgiving at home, you have an idea of how it went.

The four of us wound up eating Thanksgiving dinner around 1430 EST/EDT this afternoon. We had a fantastic assortment of foods to choose from, apart from the eighteen pound turkey. There was stuffing, two variants of sweet potatoes (sweet and savory), cranberry salad, green bean salad with french-fried onions (which really are tasty, much to my surprise), rolls, mashed potatoes... and let's not forget a freshly baked pumpkin pie from Whole Paycheque, purchased during last night's insane shopping expedition.

I think that Dr. Atkins just broke mach one while spinning in his grave.

We've finished dinner. We've cleaned up the dining room, thrown the (very expensive) placemats, napkins, and tablecloth into the wash (thanks, Sylvie!), and are recovering from dinner some hours before by watching the Food Network.

Lyssa has decided to brave the madness tomorrow that is called Black Friday this year: The first official shopping day of the Holiday Season is traditionally the first day after the Thanksgiving holiday. It's the biggest buying day of the year, which is why it's celebrated as National Buy Nothing Day by many.

I thought that shopping on this day was nuts in Pittsburgh.. it's downright insane in DC. Stores will be opening at 0600 EST/EDT tomorrow, and their sales will run until 1200 EST/EDT at the very latest. I don't think I need to mention all of the limited availability gifts that come along with a six-hour sale that begins at 0-dark-hundred on a Friday...

I honestly don't know if we're going to get up that early. Both of us are a little run down from all the stress this week, and frankly, I've celebrated Buy Nothing Day every year since I returned to Pittsburgh in 2000. I'd really like to sleep in tomorrow, and after browsing the Black Friday advertisements, there isn't much that I think would make good gifts for anyone on my list.

On the other hand, I always go out on Buy Nothing Day to watch and enjoy the madness, as well as to mess with the folks fighting over swag. I think I'm going to go Mad Max this year. I wouldn't mind going out, but I don't want to run myself into the ground for it.

I might bring my camera to document what happens - the absurd has a way of tracking me down and buying me a cup of coffee when I least expect it.

We'll see what happens. I hear the cranberry salad calling to me.


I've put a new page up: Running Linux on a Dell Inspiron 700m.

Argeniss Information Security has thrown down the gauntlet by declaring a week of December of 2006 the Week of Oracle Bugs. Apparently, they've been hard at work reverse engineering Oracle 10g and writing exploits for it, and they'll release one every day for a week. They claim that they've found many more than this but it's anyone's guess if they're telling the truth or not. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on them to see what happens.

One of the witnesses to the UCLA student getting worked over with a stungun last week has stepped forward, and he's got an interesting story to tell. Apparently, he knows the guy who got worked over, and he gave volunteer campus police a hard time before real law enforcement was called in. He also makes a point in that if you've been hit with a stungun, you should not be able to get up, let alone yell about the Patriot Act due to the effect of electricity on the human musculature.

A wise man once said, "The truth is a three-edged sword. There's your side, my side, and the truth."

Tom Baker has a weblog.


From the inbox, courtesy of Nexxus Six.. one John Cramer of the University of Washington is shooting for the moon, insofar as quantum physics and mysticim are concerned: He's going to try to send data to himself in the lab before he sends the data, otherwise known as retrocausality. Granted, he's going to try to do it on a scale of 50 microseconds or so, but that still violates common sense as people usually think of it, even though the laws of physics as we know them today don't rule it out. The phenomenon of quantum entanglement, in which two particles can be mere angstroms apart or on opposite edges of the known universe but still act in concert with no delay measurable by any instruments we've been able to devise so far, is well known, and messes with the heads of physicists as well as Joe and Jane Sixpack because it seems to violate a vital law of physics (namely, nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum). Quantum entanglement does not dictate how Time should work on a quantum scale, though, so hypothetically speaking, particles in entanglement can interact in meaningful ways at different times. The experiment will involve an ultraviolet laser fired through a beam splitter of some kind, which will produce entangled photons. The experiment will primarily attempt to figure out the mechanism behind entanglement - photons don't exchange quanta to communicate, as far as anyone knows.

I sometimes wonder, in my uninformed, lay-entity's way, if they aren't the same particle, which makes me wonder about the structure of space-time.

I wonder if anyone has experimented with quantum entanglement between more than two particles...

There's hacking, and then there's hacking.. a 17 year old high school student named Thiago Olsen is the eighteenth amateur scientist on the planet to construct a functional nuclear fusion apparatus. That's right.. he built a tiny fusion reactor in the basement of his parents' house, a project that took him two years to finish. As reactors go, it's not usable for power because it requires more energy to sustain the fusion reaction than it generates, which is par for the course for nuclear fusion these days. Still, it converts deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen into helium. The Slashdot crowd aside, this kid's pretty bright, and he definitely has a well-rounded life: His GPA is 3.75, and he runs both track and cross country for his high school's teams.

Kudos, Thiago. Catch me when you turn 21 and I'll buy you a drink.

In other news from the bleeding edge, physicists at the University of Utah have figured out how to represent data and read it back using the spins of individual phosphorus atoms. The substrate used in the experiments is based upon silicon and phosphorus, instead of a liquid, which makes it unique in quantum computing experiments. A minute electrical charge was used to read the pattern of electron spins of ten thousand individual phosphorus atoms on the silicon substrate, which doesn't sound like much until you realise that the quantum computing experiments performed to date involved ten billion phosphorus atoms - two orders of magnetude more.

Proof of concept? Complete.

The House of Representatives passed it - animal rights activists, violent or peaceful, are now considered terrorists.


This weekend was another weekend of running around, but at least it was an enjoyable one. Our basic plans were to run to the Crystal Fox in Maryland to nose around and do a little shopping, and then head for home to meet up with Tenshi and Jarin to beat the stuffing out of each other with shinai, wiffle bats, or whatever else we could find behind our apartment complex.

Sounds like a fun, day, no?

Lyssa and I got a leisurely start to Saturday morning and met up with Hasufin and Mika at our place before hitting the beltway to head into Maryland. With good directions, it wasn't too difficult to find our way to where we needed to go for a change.

As witchy shops go, the Crystal Fox is one of the largest I've ever seen, which is to say that it's the size of a decently-sized storefront of any other kind. It's also one of the best stocked stores in the tri-state area, with a selection of books dating back to the 1950's in places (first editions, mind you) and very little fluff. It's a rare store that openly stocks books pertaining to the left-hand path, for example, which is one of the reasons that I enjoy going there. We spent over an hour poring over the shelves to see what they'd added to their stocks since the last time we were there.

After leaving the Fox we went in search of a massage therapist who was supposed to be in the area. Lyssa's been having problems lately with her shoulder and nothing anyone has thrown at it has done any good, so it's time to call in the pros. We eventually found the office but they're appointment only, which put the kibosh on getting her fixed up. Hasufin and Mika wanted to stop by an herbalist's shop in College Park called Smile to stock up for Thanksgiving, which gave Lyssa a chance to nose around the organic soaps upstairs.

We wound up getting lunch at the Jungle Grille near the University of Maryland campus after Hasufin's repeated mention of fresh, hot sweet potato fries, which go very well with freshly grilled hamburgers.

The trip home was uneventful, thankfully. Hasufin and I worked on Lyssa's shoulder for a while, and managed to make some progress at untangling the muscles. It took two of us to do it but I think we did some good.

Lyssa went to take a hot shower while the rest of us headed out back to get a little exercise, blunt weapons at hand. I've found that my leather motorcycle jacket and gauntlets work well for protection during such matches. I've also found that I prefer a weapon with a bit more heft than your average wiffle bat; my muscles can control the action more precisely.

Mika sat out on Saturday evening. I didn't get a chance to fight Kash. Hasufin has been a fencer for years, so his style definitely reflects all of that training. Tenshi isn't very tall but he is fast, and he aims high on his targets. He got me a couple of times solidly on the side of the head, which ended the matches immediately, as they would be obviously lethal blows. Jarin is a very patient fighter... we spent many minutes sizing each other up before even making a move. I accidentally hit him in the forehead, drawing blood, but it was thankfully only a superficial knock.

After that, we trooped upstairs to get ready to go out for the night. A trip to the club Midnight in downtown DC was planned for Saturday night. While we waited for Lauren to arrive the rest of us took the time to get ready. We stopped at the local 7-11 so that everyone could get cash on our way to the Metro and then trooped into the station.. only to be delayed for various and sundry reasons, such as my Metrorail card malfunctioning and Tenshi somehow not having a farecard on him.

Midnight, as always, was dimly lit, crowded with folks who all seem to know each other, and in full swing by the time we'd arrived. The cover charge is $5us for everyone, per usual.

The music on Saturday night was a good mix, even for Midnight. They played some classics that kept the floor packed and everyone happy but also had enough recent material that the younger crowd recognised. Midnight tends to have an older crowd, what appears to be a lot of folks in their mid to late 30's and 40's, and a couple of folks who are even older. Most everyone seems polite, though, and accomodating as long as you're polite to everyone else. I was grateful for the 80's set, which included classics from Joy Division and Siouxie and the Banshees.. forget feeling old, I was having a good time. Two girls there were on the dancefloor going through the motions of a raver with lightsticks, or they were until I reached into my bracers and produced a pair of light sticks that Tenshi had given me earlier... I wish I'd had a camera with me to capture the looks on their faces when I offered them. They were good sports about it, though, and had fun with them when the initial shock wore off.

Coincidence is a wonderful thing.

I think all of us headed for the Metro station around 0200 EST/EDT to head for home and thus sleep. I don't remember the trip home at all; Lyssa woke me up as we approached our destination and I stumbled back to the TARDIS, the cold air bracing me awake sufficiently to get us the rest of the way home safely. Lauren headed for home after we arrived, as did Hasufin and Mika. Everyone else sprawled out wherever they could find room and crashed.

From the Internet Storm Center, we have undocumented funny business with the latest round of patches from Microsoft.

Students at UCLA are demanding that the taser incident of last week be looked into.

You scored as Character Player. The Character Player enjoys creating in-depth characters with distinct and rich personalities. He identifies closely with his characters, feeling detached from the game if he doesnât. He takes creative pride in exploring different characters, often making each new one radically different than others heâs played. The Character Player bases his decisions on his character's psychology first and foremost. He may view rules as a necessary evil at best, preferring sessions in which the dice never come out of their bags. For the Character Player, the greatest reward comes from experiencing the game from the emotional perspective of an interesting character.

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What kind of people would vandalise a Universalist Unitarian church?!


Yep - something broke. During routine system maintenance on Leandra on Friday, I broke external DNS. It's fixed and and now running. Sorry, folks.


Today is the Transgender Day of Rememberance.

This week has been, for no known reason, exhausting as hell. I've been coming home in the evenings and all but collapsing. For unknown reasons last night, though, I felt quite ambivalent about.. well.. just about everything. Wandering around Whole Paycheque with Lyssa doing grocery shopping, I came to the conclusion that I didn't feel like cooking.. I didn't want to go home.. I didn't feel like writing..

In other words, it was an "Oh, fuck it" night.

Lyssa had mentioned earlier that Cate had mentioned going out to dinner after work, and originally I'd vetoed the idea because I'd gone to a buffet for lunch at work earlier that day, but... after taking a lap around Whole Paycheque and seeing absolutely nothing that looked palatable, I called Cate back and left a message. Lyssa and I wound up organising a trip to Maryland (via the rush hour beltway) for dinner, a trip which took better than an hour due to the rain and DC traffic. The groceries we'd picked up weren't going to spoil in the TARDIS while we were out and about, so we weren't actually in any hurry.

We picked up Cate and picked our way down the rest of the highway in Maryland to the Indian restaurant Tiffin's, which has arguably the best Indian cuisine in the tri-state area. The drive to Tiffin's, no matter how long it may be, is always worth it. We had to take a minor detour because route 193 was closed off before our very eyes by a state police officer for an unknown reason (just as the rightmost two lanes of the beltway heading north were around 1845 EST/EDT last night, come to think of it), so we had to find an alternate route. Somehow I figured out where we were going and coasted into the parking lot of the restaurant on petrol fumes. All of the stop and go driving on 495 had used up the last of the TARDIS' fuel on the way there.

Dinner at Tiffin's, as it turned out, was exactly what all of us had needed. It was tasty, filling, and most of all, warming on a chilly, wet night. A night that sapped wakefulness and strength, even sitting in the brightly lit restaurant.

I'm not sure when we left or when we got home because I wasn't really paying attention. When we got home Lyssa started making a batch of cornbread and sausage stuffing for the potluck lunch while I caught up on my e-mail and wondered exactly how I'd managed to run myself into the ground this week.

My body's pretty much healed; I haven't been doing a lot lately that was physical, mostly due to the aforementioned workout that kicked my ass.

The elections nationwide about two weeks are showing signs of controversy, even though it's mostly quiet around the country. In Sarasota, Florida, over 18,000 votes are either missing or unaccounted for. That breaks down to roughly one seventh of all of the votes tallied, incidentally. The final totals aren't adding up and people are asking what, exactly, is going on.

Chances are, if you haven't heard about the UCLA student being worked over with a stungun (note: footage shows the guy getting nailed four times with the stunner and has a full audio track) you haven't been paying attention. On Tuesday night one Mostafa Tabatabainejad, an American citizen of Iranian descent was working late in a library at UCLA. He was questioned by UCLA police officers and asked to produce his ID. For whatever reason, he didn't have it on him, and got up to leave. That's when it happened. This apparently isn't an isolated incident of taser abuse; in fact, it seems to be quite the form of coercion these days.


Happy birthday, Terrence. See you after Zero hour.

It seems that virtual reality, as a practical technology, isn't entirely dead. A group of researchers at the University of Manchester are using VR to treat phantom limb syndrome in a clinical manner. Phantom limb syndrome is a condition often experienced by amputees in which the brain fakes nerve impulses from limbs that no longer exist in an effort to keep those nerural networks active. Often, this manifests as pain that cannot be stopped because there is no external trigger. The system is relatively simple, as they go - a head mounted display and a number of UI devices that manipulate an avatar in a virtual space. The avatar has a full complement of limbs; the virtual limb corresponding to the amputation is controlled by the other three actuators. The idea is that the visual input tricks the user's brain into thinking that the limb is really here, which stops the spurious activity. It seems to be successful in a clinical setting.

Testimony from one General John Abizaid, US military commander presiding over the situation in Iraq, has made it out of the Congressional record and into the media: All hell's broken loose in Iraq, and the US has at most six months to clean up and get out before the academic comparisons to Vietnam are no longer academic. The violence from various sects in Iraq is getting out of control and the troops in Iraq are going to be caught in a crossfire.

Modern physics has just decided that wireless power is possible, and done the math behind it. I seem to remember a certain Serbian gentleman doing something like this around the turn of the century...

DC Comics has made the first issues of many of their Vertigo imprint series freely available on their website for people to read and download. Check 'em out - these aren't your parents' comics...

The BBC is selling props from season 28 of Doctor Who: The Genesis Ark, the Sycorax leader's helmet, and Rose Tyler's shirt from the episode New Earth, all to benefit Children in Need.

Iraq doesn't supply most of the US' oil, Canada does.

MAGfest - the Music And Gaming Festival, will be held in Vienna, Virginia in January of 2007.

The Minibosses will be playing. So will the Jenova Project. There will be a LAN room (anyone up for Diablo II?). Zircon, DJ Pretzel, Pixietricks, and Liontamer of Overclocked Remixes will also be there. And yes, there will be a costume party... I'm thinking either the Bionic Commando or Billy Lee.

Pre-registration, hoooooooooo!!!


It's been an interesting couple of days, to say the least. I've started working out again, and unlike before my body is not appreciative of the extra workload. I'm still sore from a workout on Monday, something that simply does not happen to me. I'm still walking like a stickman, and my upper arms aren't in the best of shape at the moment, either. Still, that's not going to dissuade me from getting back into shape.

Cate came over after work last night; she got the job at the Library of Congress and we wanted to go out and celebrate. We wound up at Konami for sushi after work last night and split one of the best dinners we've had yet there, and then set forth for Maryland to drop her off. We got home.. I'm not entirely sure when, last night, and then collapsed into bed to sleep.

Fall in DC isn't really stable, as it is in other cities. The weather can be, by turns, bone-chilling cold, chilly, warm, sunny, grey, grey and rainy, and wet and windy all in the same week. The sun is usually set by 1800 EST around here and it gets cold pretty fast. That said, Lyssa and I have been trying to enjoy the nice weather as much as we can whenever it sees fit to grace the city with its presence.

I recall reading not too long ago that malware was going to keep using IRC as a control mechanism because the protocols are well known to the underground.. I also recall thinking at the time that the underground isn't stupid, and knows that firewalls are becoming less permissive of random outgoing TCP traffic, and that some kinds of malware as a result are ineffective. It didn't take long for exhibit A to appear. A new downloader has started making its rounds that not only pulls multiple copies of the downloader itself down, each a little different from the others in an attempt to dodge binary scans from detection and elimination utilities, but it installs a small battalian of beasties. It also registers the infected IP address with a database somewhere on the Net, using Google Maps coordinates. It also uses standard HTTP traffic to return the data in question to the point of control. The writeup doesn't state if the malware is proxy-aware or not, but it would not surprise me in the least if it was, the better to sneak past Microsoft Internet Accelerator servers on corporate nets.

Never say never, people. Spite is an excellent motivation for proving one wrong.

It seems that at least some of the rumours are true: There are a number of Babylon-5 movies in the works, featuring at least some of the original cast, and picking up where the initial five-year story arc left off. The character of Galen, played by Peter Woodward, will also return in at least one of the movies, so that suggests that at least one of the movies will pick up after Crusades. The movies will be released directly to DVD (a shame; I would have thought that the Sci-Fi Channel would have gone for it) in 2007.

"You take care of me, Simon. You've always taken care of me. My turn."

This is the height of stupidity: Being arrested for a rubber-band ball.


Dear Gentoo Linux project:

Spank you very much for insisting that all updates to your distributed version of Portable OpenSSH attempt to rewrite my copy of /etc/ssh/sshd_config so that it holds a less secure configuration, such as allowing the root user to log in directly and give everyone six (6) tries to guess the password on an account. I'm also miffed that I have to explicitly turn on the "AuthorizedKeysFile" directive to allow the use of SSH certificate authentication to log into my box. You guys are pretty on the ball in many respects, including security alerts and updates; you should damn well know better than this. It would not be hard at all to write a script run during the emerge process to edit this file so that sshd is more secure.

I guess I have to do this for you.

Love and noogies,

The Doctor.

Happy 0x10'th birthday, World Wide Web!

There just might be a problem with the voting procedure if you vote for yourself and it doesn't register.

Once again, Hollywood predicts reality: Samsung and the University of Korea have invented a robotic machine gun nest that uses a pair of video cameras (one visible spectrum, one infrared) slaved to a pattern and outline recognition system to track targets, warn them, and open fire on them if they don't stop advancing. From the images in the article, there seems to be no countermeasures against paintball guns, eggs, mudpies, or someone crawling lower than the machine gun can pan.


You might remember the Steve Rambam fiasco at H2k6, where he was placed under arrest before he could present at the conference. Well, apparently, he's out of jail and will be presenting at last on Thursday, 16 November 2006. He'll be at the Stevens Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey. The presentation will be given in room 122 of the Babbio Center.

This last weekend, in short, wound up getting torn right out from under us, through no fault of our own.

Lyssa and I had made plans to have some folks over for boffer-battles and movies to take advantage of what was probably the last weekend of nice weather in the DC area for the year. We discovered that her family would be in town and wanted to spend time with us, which meant that we had to drop everything and start cleaning up the apartment in preparation for the white glove test. You know the drill: Run the sweeper, dust everything, rearrange the furniture, deactivate the nuclear reactor, hide the occult paraphenalia, give the servants an expense account and hide them out at the Airport Hilton.. imagine the Jehova's Witnesses coming to spend a weekend with Doctor Stephen Strange, and you won't be far off the mark.

Well, actually, you would be off the mark, but I'm trying to be silly, here.

I wound up taking Friday off to clean up around the apartment, as well as to work on a couple of projects that've been piling up for weeks and worrying the hell out of me. Thankfully, though, the apartment was all fixed up, the laundry done, the code committed, and the bodies rendered unidentifiable through the use of quicklime. By the end of the day, my back was sore but most everything that had to get done was wrapped up. Saturday was spent running around shopping to get stuff for dinner and finishing up some last-minute chores.

Then we sat around while dinner cooked, waiting for them to arrive.

Dinner actually didn't take very long. All told, they were there for only about three hours, including dessert. I had to run back to Whole Paycheque to return a pie that, unfortunately, was bad when I'd purchased it, but that aside, things went remarkably well.

I stll regret getting another pie while I was there. We had one already for everyone else, and I really don't need it. It's still in the fridge with the other pie (cherry, which I'll pass on due to the possibility of pits). I was hoping that Jarin and Duo, who came over later in the evening, would have some that night, but that wound up not happening.

I hate wasting food.

Oh, well, the beat goes on.

Jarin and Duo didn't stay very long that night. Duo was tired and all but falling asle, and really needed a good night's rest in a proper crash space. Lyssa wasn't feeling well, either, given the stress of everyone coming over, and just wanted to rest.

Sunday was a day of sitting around in limbo while the family decided what they were going to do. Plans kept changing and Lyssa and I were pretty much stuck at home waiting for one of our phones to ring. We played a good game of Go that morning that wound up in a tie. Eventually, we drove up to the Metro station in the cold, wind, and drizzling rain (oh, did I mention that the 'last weekend of nice weather for the year in DC' ended sometime late on Saturday night?) and got on the train for Grant's place, and lunch with Lyssa's mother. Her grandmother wasn't feeling strong enough to brave the nasty weather that cancelled the driving tour of downtown DC we'd originally planned.

We wound up hiking a couple of blocks to the mall not too far away from the Ballston Metrorail stop (not realising that there was a human Habitrail connecting the station to the mall) to meet up with Lyssa's mother and brother for lunch. We wound up going to a pub, the name of which escapes me at the moment, for lunch and a quick one. Lyssa's mother and I wound up trying the ratatouille, which was quite good though a bit oily for my tastes. The pumpkin spice beer was also quite tasty, I must admit.

The four of us wound up roaming around the mall (or what we could of it) after lunch to see what we could see. I only managed to cover two floors of the mall (including the food court) before my cellphone rang. Everyone was meeting up to head home, and I sauntered over to join them, because I was coincidentally just a few tens of feet away from everyone. It was at this time that Grant showed us the covered tunnel leading back to the Metro station, and then to home.

On the train home, I was tired enough to elfnap for the twenty minutes or so it took to get home.

Following the sea change of the US government during the elections last week, George W. Bush has opened himself to suggestions about Iraq, given how far south things have gone there. Senior officers of the US military are openly voicing concerns about the situation, and his advisors are advising that he call for a decisive end, and quick, citing the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as a bad sign.

Sun's really going to do it - they're opening the source of Java under the GPL.

Worth1000.com's latest Photoshop contest: Movie poster remixes.


I know, I know... the SSL cert for the IMAP server expired a couple of days ago. I need to generate a new one. Sit tight.

It seems that news from the 2006 elections has made it overseas faster than expected - Iraqis are cheering the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld because they blame him for destabilising their society, citing his tactics and policies for pissing people off so much that they because the insurgents that we hear about every night on the news.

Some drinking games don't make sense, even when you're drunk. Presenting Tom Baker or Normal.

I predict a lot of 'laying on of hands' for Mr. Ted Haggard in the future.


Last night Lyssa and I managed to drag ourselves off to bed around 0100 EST, after following the 2006 elections in the state of Virginia for most of the night. The results, when tallied up, are quite telling this time around: In the US Senate, the independents were pushed out as both the Democrats and Republicans each took 49 seats. In the state of Virginia, Democratic candidate Webb pushed out Allen by a hair under 8,000 votes. In the state of Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum has finally been voted out of the US Senate, so hopefully things will become sane in what used to be my home state soon. In the House of Representatives, the balance of power has shifted back toward the Democratic side, with a count of 227 to 194. Again, the lone independent representative was ejected unceremoniously. Much to my chagrin, the amendment to the Constitution of the state of Virginia that not only banned same-sex marriage but now makes it more difficult for heterosexual couples to get benefits and protections under some circumstances passed by a wide margin as of 0737 EST today. Looking at the map that breaks down the votes by presinct is most interesting... some of the comments on this are also interesting, in an 'ancient Chinese curse' sort of way.

Also as predicted, dirty tricks and technical difficulties popped up here and there. Armed goons preventing people from going to the polls? What kind of a country is this?

The human rights group Reporters Without Borders has released it's top 13 enemies of the Internet list for 2006. Rounding out the top five in ascending order are Egypt, Cuba, China, Burma, and Belarus. Nowhere in the list is the United States, despite the best efforts of Senator Ted Stevens, the NSA, and the House of Representatives.

Sun Microsystems has been threatening to open the source code to the programming language Java for years now. I don't know how much I trust this news article, as a result, but they're making noises that they're going to use the GPL, which would not only lock the code open in perpetuity, but any modifications made would have to be returned to the public unless they were used for internal purposes only (such as to make a single home-grown app work). It would also discourage developers from forking Java into new, closed-source versions.

A poll taken on the Java Developer's Forum shows that most coders who responded would prefer the Apache License over the GPL, though.

Donald Rumsfeld has stepped down.

Remember the talk of voter suppression tactics in Virginia? It was much more widespread than originally thought. From harrassing phone calls telling people that they'll be arrested if they try to vote (original recording; my mirror of it) to people being told that their polling site had changed and given a false address to rigged ballots(!), it was all there.

Somebody tell me again what year this is? And what country did I happen to wind up in?


AIDS research is showing a couple of very interesting advances these days. Because I accidentally closed my instance of Firefox like a dumbass, I only have one to show you (but if you crawl.. Google News it made the headlines this morning) Dr. Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine genetically modified a version of the AIDS virus that suppressed all other strains of HIV in the patients it was tested on, which gave their immune systems a chance to catch up. The strain of HIV in question had been modified so that about half of its genome had been deleted, which vastly crippled its capabilities. The test subjects were HIV positive and just beginning the downward slide as anti-HIV drugs began to stop working. Samples of CD4 T-cells were removed from the patients and exposed to the hacked viruses, and then reinfused them. Three years after the reinfusion, four of the five patients showed improvement as their immune systems rebounded.

I've just come back from voting after work with Lyssa. The state of Virginia has helpfully placed the voting location a little over a mile away from the apartment complex, though it took a good half-hour or so to travel to it from metro station because traffic was backed up. Not traffic from people trying to get there to vote, traffic because people kept stopping at green lights, as if to decide where they were going. Once we got there, some helpful voting officers checked our voter's registration cards (not our photo IDs), and gave us passes to vote, which were taken from us when we actually did the deed.

Our hearts fell as we noticed the bank of electronic voting machines along the far wall of the school's gymnasium. I didn't see any Diebold logos anywhere but that doesn't mean that I particularly trust them.. because she was before me in line, she asked the voting officers for a paper ballot.

Lyssa's request was denied. They didn't have any, they said, but someone produced an unsigned, unnotarised write that stated that the electronic voting machines had been validated according to Virginia state law.

I had thought that it was law to provide at the very least paper ballots for voters but it seems that I was wrong.

EDIT: Lyssa tells me that they had paper ballots in the event that the voting machines went down for some reason.

My trust levels, in that instant, began to rapidly approach epsilon.

I wish I'd been able to take a couple of photographs of the e-voting machines in the gym but I didn't think that I'd be able to without getting caught and probably making a major scene. I'm sort of regretting not doing so.

The e-voting machines are about the size of an electric typewriter, and featured a large touch-sensitive screen, three attached but fold-down privacy shields (front and sides), and two large, shiny panels on the console beneath the screen.. the smaller one, on the right featured a small silver console lock (I'm guessing three to four cylinders because I have very similiar ones on my computers - more of a time waster to get open than any real deterrent) and a slot for a smart card (which each election officer wore on a lanyard). The larger panel on the left had nothing apparent on it. I messed around with it for a while but couldn't really get it to move even though it was designed to. My hypothesis is that the lock holds both panels closed.

To their credit, the touch screens were remarkably well calibrated; I only had to double-tap twice at one point to get a vote to register.

I encountered no funny business with selections visibly changing, nothing moving around, and there were no inconsistencies that I could see.

I also noticed that there was no way to prevent anyone from walking up and registering a few votes on their own. The election officer didn't have to use her smart card to prime the unit for me to vote, I just walked up and did my thing. Theoretically, I could have stood there for a while pretending to be dumb or overly thoughtful while I stuffed the ballot box, but that would most certainly have been dishonest of me. The obviousness of someone getting on the local staff to stuff the ballot box is plain.

Time will tell.

I'm suddenly reminded of something - at the polls, there were representatives of the candidates handing out flyers for the Democratic and Republican parties, each of which described the candidates, what they were up for (the Senate or the House of Representatives), and the issues up for vote. The Democrats' flyer was blue in colour, and talked about the proposed amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman only, whether or not churches could incorporate, partial tax exemption for people who have just spent lots of money who've been fixing up their homes, and two bills that would call for money to be spent on public infrastructure. The Republican's was green in colour. Both clearly described where each party as a whole stood on those issues. The Democrats, predictably, were against the Marriage bill and for everything else.

The local branch of the Republican party had an official stand on one issue and one only: They wanted the voters to pass the marriage bill, and gave no official stance at all on any of the other issues on the ballot.

I should scan them and put them up on my website.

A blog called The Resurgance blames Ted Haggard's homosexuality on his wife for, get this - 'letting herself go'.

Letting herself go.

The article goes on to completely avoid the issue of a prominant anti-gay pastor being outed by outlining multiple 'precautions' meant to keep all contact between pastors and females to a minimum (no, I'm not kidding), such as asking 'flirtatious' women not to return to worship or bible study, using heterosexual male assistants in the church (ask the Catholic Church how well that's worked over the years...), and protecting their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

This post is nothing but jetwash. One of their golden boys not only got caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but jumped when startled and broke the damned thing on the floor. Face it: He was a hypocrite, pure and simple. He was not only in denial (which I really can't rail on him about; a lot of queer folks spend at least some time in denial), but he was cheating on his wife with a man, the whole time decrying the evils of homosexuality.

A prisoner of a CIA prison for the past several years will not be allowed to see a lawyer because they say that they don't want him to talk about their 'classified' interrogation techniques. As if the scandals of the past few years haven't made them look like nightmares incarnat already...

This also implies that they can never let any of their prisoners go, for the same reasons.

Violet Fire - an opera about the life of Nikola Tesla!

Conan the Raverian.


My dark secret's out: Synthpop Karoke.

Last night was sort of an odd one for Lyssa and I. We've been feeling very disconnected from each other lately because we've been too wrapped up in our own lives and projects, and I'm sorry to say that we've maybe been a little too busy lately to communicate with one another. It started out after I picked Lyssa up from her knitting class that had been mis-scheduled - we wound up at Carvel Ice Cream down the street from our apartment complex (by the way, try the pumpkin spice ice cream - it's wonderful), then next door for a pizza, and then we spent the afternoon eating dinner and trying to come down from a strange, rough time.

Later in the evening we trucked out to the movie theatre to see The Prestige starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as two rival stage magicians (The Great Danton and the Professor, respectively) in a war of ego, sabotage, and one-upmanship that spanned years. I must be honest, we were utterly blown away by The Prestige - it was better than the novel it was based upon, and I don't say that very often. The movie was much easier to follow than the book was, even though they both jumped around in time and voice of the narrator. A good bit of the backstory was removed to make the story flow more smoothly (the novel dragged quite a bit in places, I'm sorry to say). It captured the essence and insanity of the novel perfectly, though, and the stakes were much higher.

Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale can really act, and it comes out in this movie. I loved catching the references hidden in the movie that afficionados of both stage magic and modern fiction would pick up on (for example, Ricky Jay played the stage illusionist at the beginning of the movie, and the name of a certain wizard appeared on a playbill during a pivotal scene in the movie). Davie Bowie played Nikola Tesla perfectly, so well that neither of us realised that it was him.

Go see this movie. Seriously. It's an amazing movie, and the ending will leave you scratching your head until the very last credit rolls.

Have you ever had one of those days where a fact seems to fall from the sky and conk you on the head, and it shocks you because of its obviousness?

Through a completely unrelated web search on a particular topic, I discovered that most of the people on this planet do not, in fact, perceive sounds (like tones, environmental noises, and even music) as networks of nongeometric lines. I don't mean seeing them, like you'd look at a frequency analysis coming out of a graphical equaliser on a high-end stereo system, but.. that's how they register to me. White noise (like I'm listening to right now, courtesy of the bank of servers next to me) registers to my sensorium like an inverted waterfall. One of my favourite songs (Pump Up the Volume by M|A|R|R|S) always struck me as watching a meteor storm, where most of the meteors burned up in the atmosphere but left pretty red and yellow trails for a few seconds after they were gone. I think this occurs in a module past the visual processing cortex, because I don't 'see' shapes or anything like that but those are the ideas that go through my mind, just like looking at an abstract graph of something registers as 'curve', 'sine wave', 'that does not look good'.

Yes, there are cosplayers.. There's even a net.shrine to Nevada-tan. It's really getting scary, how fandoms will spring up around the most unlikely things.. but an eleven year-old slasher makes the Hagaren and Naruto fandoms look tame in comparison.

It appears that part of a story told during the death throes of cyberpunk has come to pass, at least in the United Kingdom: The UK is officially a surveillance society, with one securicam for every fourteen people. Between the cameras, data mining systems crunching credit histories, purchase patterns, and customer loyalty (which is anything but - at most, you'll get a few $FRACTIONS_OF_CURRENCY_UNIT off of each item purchased) records, it's now incredibly difficult to live life in the UK without someone keeping an eye on you. Even radio transmitters hooked to GPS units are used to keep track of who's driving what car where and how fast.

One Laura Mallory of Atlanta, Georgia has been fighting since late 2005 to ban the Harry Potter books in schools on grounds that they promote witchcraft, Satanism, and occultism. She freely admits that she's never read any of the books before, but insists nonetheless that they are evil.

I've half a mind to find her and mail her couple of choice books to give her a crash course before she makes any more of an ass of herself.

Congratulations to Zoethe, who is now officially a lawyer in the state of Ohio!

I'm honestly not certain of how much of this is jetwash or not, but I keep seeing it pop up in places that normally have pretty good (if sometimes duplicated) information: The Department of Homeland Security is considering making it a requirement for all airlines and cruise ships to clear passengers through them before boarding passes are issued. If they respond anything but a 'go ahead' (that includes not responding at all), you're out of luck. They're trying to push other things through as well, like making passports a requirement to travel outside of the US, even to Mexico or Canada. The projected date for this is 14 January 2007. Even though complaints are being lodged from all corners, I don't think that it's going to make any difference. The US can already decide if they want to let an established US citizen back into the country or not, the controversy notwithstanding.


"Remember remember the fifth of November / Gunpowder, Treason and Plot / I see no reason why gunpowder and treason / should ever be forgot."

Murray Gold's soundtrack to season 27/1 of Doctor Who will officially be released on 4 December 2006.

Saddam Hussein was found guilty (really, now - did you expect any other verdict?) and sentenced to death by hanging.

This morning Ted Haggard confessed before his congregation of his 'sexual immorality'.


Last night wound up being something of an odd night. Jarin and I were going to try to make it to this month's 2600 meeting at the Pentagon City Mall, just off the red line of the DC Metro. He went to the one in October and to his chagrin discovered that no one was there, which sometimes happens. I was hopeful that it would happen this month because I've been hoping to network with folks in DC more (something that never really happened in Pittsburgh). Even though a week's worth of research on the Net to find the group's website (every 2600 meeting has its own website these days, even if it's just a plain page that says where it's being held) turned up a dead link to someone's website and nothing else, I figured that we'd run into at least one other person to hang out with.

I jumped onto a couple of IRC networks to see if I could track down the organizers of the meeting, but that was a bust also. After a couple of tries I found a channel that a few of the locals hung out in, but no one was active and no one had any information at all.. another bad sign.

To make a long story short, the meeting didn't happen. I wandered around for a good two hours to see if I could find any evidence of geek-like activity, from the presence of a laptop in use (my own laptop was the only one in the entire mall, it seems) to various and sundry electronic devices scattered atop a table. Nada. Zero. Nil.

Jarin and I called it a wash and hit the Metro to go home. Lyssa had suggested earlier that the three of us go out for dinner after the meeting, so after we got back we figured out where to go to dinner (Uno's) and set out.

During our discussion of diabetes (of all things) over dinner, I've come to a realisation. Diabetes runs in my bloodline, or at least the half that I know anything about. My grandmother was diabetic. My mother was diagnosed diabetic earlier this year. My own body definitely shows a predilection toward unstable blood sugar and glycogen levels - try to talk to me after not eating for five hours or so and see how functional I am. This isn't a good thing. In fact, over time it can lead to full-blown diabetes because the body can't cope anymore with that instability.

It's said that you've got twenty good years after you're diagnosed.

Today's been a busy day, which I was actually hoping to avoid. I got a couple of bills and other forms of correspondence out late last night, so that I wouldn't have to rush around getting them postmarked in a hurry. As it turns out, the mail carrier didn't even show up until 1600, so there was really no point to worrying about it.

Lyssa wanted to hit a yarn store she'd just heard about on 50 East today, so I brought a couple of books with me to read while she hung out in the store. I wound up walking down the street to a local deli and hung out there for a few hours studying Oracle. Not one to waste space, I ordered a couple of cups of coffee and a very tasty chocolate chunk cookie (that was still warm in the middle!) while I was there. While altering a couple of settings on my cellphone for the fun of it, Lyssa called, so I headed back to the store to pick her up. As it turns out, the owner is an escapee from Pittsburgh, and we wound up talking about Polish food and restaurants we missed or should go to the next time we're up there. Afterward, we went back to the deli to get lunch... the waitress remembered me from before and knew to keep the coffee hot and coming. Lyssa and I had a good lunch together this afternoon.. earlier today we hit Macy's to pick up a baking pan in preparation for the Thanksgiving turkey coming up in a couple of weeks. After considerable deliberation, Lyssa settled on a Calphalon pan, which is at the moment in the oven holding a couple of chickens.

Frankly, I don't get it. My family uses a disposable baking pan and a baking bag for the bird every year, and we've yet to get any complaints from anyone.

We stopped off briefly so that I could pick up a USB keyboard to use with my laptop, because the built-in keyboard is acting progressively flaky. It started off with the odd key getting stuck (when it was the delete key, my primary e-mail inbox suffered, let me tell you), but now it doesn't take long after bootup for most of the keys to either refuse to react to the first or second keypress, the capslock function to get stuck on and not turn off (even under strange combinations, like shift+control or enter+enter), or for a key to get jammed and fill the terminal with the same character over and over again. I don't think it's CPU overheating because that doesn't happen with an external keyboard. It also doesn't cause emergency shutdowns or crashes, the keyboard just gets wonky. I'm planning on buying a replacement keyboard module to install soon.. I'm also pondering getting more RAM while I'm at it.

After Lyssa and I got home today, we curled up for a late afternoon nap that lasted until almost 1900. I guess both of us were worn out from this week at work...

Near the end of it, I kept popping awake. I was stuck in a sequence of dreams that I wasn't too keen on having at the moment and managed to escape. Because time in dreams doesn't work the same way as it does when you're awake, I'd leave one dream, blink a few times, and fall right back asleep and into another dream, which I promptly decided that I wasn't in the mood for. This happened three or four times until I forced myself to stay awake and get up to move around.

My original plans today were to go to the SIGbeer meetup held by DC SAGE, which is something of a support group for system administrators in the DC metropolitan area. I've yet to make it to anything professional down here that wasn't part of work, and I'm hoping to make more contacts in the area. I RSVP'd earlier this week and planned on taking the Metro down to Duport Circle to join up with everyone and hopefully meet new people.

I got an e-mail from the organizer today stating that there probably wouldn't be anyone there today. Another wash.


Wow - we have more thing to worry about in this crazy world of ours. While US forces are in Iraq, Iran has just test-fired a new model of missile that can reach US bases and a good part of israel. They called it "Project Great Prophet" (no all your base jokes, please). This was just 48 hours after US forces in the Persian Gulf were drilling on procedures for intercepting ships carrying missile components and weapons of mass destruction. It is believed that a Shahab-3 missile is not only capable of carrying a nuclear device, but has a range of something like 1200 miles.

I feel ever so much safer at night...

I love the Internet these days. Only here can you type in full sentences with proper grammar and spell-checking and be called pretentious.

It becomes crystal clear why Ted Haggard resigned from his position with the National Association of Evangelicals - the recordings of the voicemails he left hit the broadcast news and holy shit does he have his interests.

Now, those of you who know me know that I'm a pretty open-minded kind of sapient lifeform. For those of you who don't, let me give you the Reader's Digest version: As long as it involves consenting adult humanoids who negotiated what they wanted and no coercion was involved, I really don't care what you do, who you do it to or with, or what they do to you (that includes you, Ms. Lieder). That said, Williams was the head of a nationwide organisation that fought tooth and nail to not only keep same sex marriage from being legally recognised and generally give queer folks a hard time, but he was a hypocrite the entire time. That's what gets my goat.

You don't say...

This guy's a dumbass.


After the weekly staff meeting at work today we went out to an Italian restaurant not too far away from the office called Il Radicchio (1801 Clarendon Boulevard; Arlington, VA, 22001; phone 703-276-2627; fax 703-276-0723). It's about a block off the main drag and a bit of a hike from the Metro station (about half an hour if you're coming from the 'station, maybe fifteen minutes if you're closer). The bread there is so-so - it's Italian bread, or at least it was at lunch today. I wasn't that big on it. Pizza there varies between $9u and $20us, depending on how exotic your tastes run on that particular day, and have two sizes (small and large). A large pizza is easily enough for three people; plan accordingly. A large is about the size one would expect of a large in any other pizza restaurant. You can also add ingredients as desired to an existing pizza combo, or you can start with a basic pie and put together your own (individual ingredients are $2us-$3us each). The pizza there is very, very filling - three slices (two of meat lover's, one of chicken and basil with extra cheese) were more than enough for me. The coffee there is hot, bottomless, and from Lavazza, so you know I was happy with lunch today.

I give Il Radicchio one flaregun out of a possible four: Go here if you're in Arlington.

For a couple of decades, data tapes from the Apollo 11 moon landing were missing. While the data wasn't important enough to be life or death, there was still significant data recorded on those tapes. The tapes were discovered in Australia recently. A sensor package constructed by Australian researchers was on that particular jaunt to the moon, and the tapes contained data recorded by that sensor package, so it stands to reason that the tapes were shipped down there for analysis, stuffed in a box, and forgotten until a cleaning team was getting ready to pitch a bunch of boxes stashed beneath a lecture hall at the Curtin University of Technology. The tapes were shipped back to NASA for analysis, and indeed just to see if any of the data could be extracted from the tapes.

This guy goes all out on his Halloween costumes - this year he built a power loader from the movie Aliens.

Microsoft is pondering pulling everything out of China because of China's repressive and generally not-so-nice political system and climate. They are at this time deciding whether or not it's good business to keep a presence there because of many things, among them net.censorship by the Great Firewall of China (which the Chinese government claims that they don't do fnord).

Maybe a disgruntled customer of Paypal had something to do with the bomb that went off outside of their home office on Halloween night.

Terrence Chalk, CEO of Compulinx in New York state was arrested for stealing the identities of his employees to open credit lines and get loans for his personal use. Reportedly, he made roughly $1mus this way, and charged over $100kus worth of stuff with the credit cards he took out. If he is convicted, he's looking at fines in excess of $5.5 mus and about 165 years in jail.

Reviews of the Sisters of Mercy re-releases are hitting the Dominion mailing list, and reviews of them are mixed. Some of the new tracks on the albums aren't up to scratch when compared with the more established songs (probably due to poorly-repaired masters - they are rare traks, after all). The full versions of a couple of songs are said to be pretty good, though. Make of these what you will.

In other news, electronic voting terminals used in the state of Florida are placing votes for the wrong candidates, much to the chagrin of voters and volunteers. No word on who manufactured the voting terminals has come out but I give anyone three guesses.

The Reverend Ted Haggard, father of five, leader of the National Association of Evangelicals (30 million strong, if their numbers are accurate), and head of the New Life Church has stepped down today after allegations that he's been buying the services of male prostitutes hit the national news.


Happy day-after-Halloween-oh-gods-I-ate-too-much-candy day, everyone.

Samhain was low-key for Lysa and I last night, as it tends to be. We have our yearly party early every year, which leaves us time near the actual holiday to ourselves, with a minimum of running around and worrying about things.

That sort of worked this year.

Right after work we got into the TARDIS and headed off for Whole Paycheque to get stuff for dinner. Lyssa was making a squash-and-sausage soup for dinner and we needed to get ingredients for it. After dropping her off I nipped off to CVS to pick up more candy for the kids that would surely be making their rounds last night.. right?

In two years, we've had two kids stop by for candy. Ever.

But I digress.

The shelves at CVS were almost completely cleaned out - candy, party supplies, and costume gear were down to wire racks and bare metal. Picked clean. After some hunting I found a couple of bags of wrapped candy (your usual assortment of peanut butter cups and miniature candy bars) that refilled the plastic pumpkin on the table, checked out, and headed back to Whole Paycheque to get Lyssa.

While Lyssa made dinner (at home, mind you) I nipped off to the copy shop to fax out another handful of documents to make a request from one of the governments (I think it was a the county level - they're blurring together now) for some stuff for work. It seems that the copyshop down the block from my apartment is the only one on the eastern seaboard where you still have to dial a '1' before the area code when making a long distance call.. as I discovered after three attempts to make a fax.

Dinner passed, and I went outside to leave some offerings at the ancestor altar that Lyssa had assembled. A ring of votive candles enclosed a stick of smoldering incense, a small black cauldron, and a burning ankh candle. Some ghost-money was also left there. I added to it a small shot of Jameson's whiskey, a cigarette, and a small unwrapped candy bar.. I wasn't able to get a good cigar, as my bloodline's ancestors were known to enjoy but the clove is almost as fragrant (and definitely as strong) as the smell of a cigar.

Note to self: Take a couple of photographs of my King Mob costume.

Note to selff: Get off of ass and put the couple of dozen photographs in the processing queue in the photo album.

Columnist Scott Granneman of Securityfocus has taken a good look at the EULA for Windows Vista, and both he and I wonder what Microsoft is smoking. Unlike SQLserver, you can benchmark .NET so long as you comply with a fantastic tangle of rules that basically state that you have to enumerate everything on your test machine, all the way down to the exact revisions of each and every hotfix installed, probably so that they can claim that you have v1.2 of patch X installed, which would explain why your benchmark was so poor. This is coming from a company that sued a lab to prevent them from releasing the results of a benchmarking run that compared NT and 2000... you also aren't allowed to run Vista in a virtualised manner (i.e., inside Virtual PC or VMware). Seeing as how this is almost a must for any security research (which Microsoft is attempting to quell) and not a few web hosting companies (no small number of them crappy) rely upon this, this is doing only one thing, really, and that's forcing them to buy the $300us version of Vista, not that this is really going to stop anyone because there are no technical restrictions in place to prevent this. At least, not yet. You're also only allowed to move your license of Vista to one other box, and one other only.. so if you build a new machine and want to run Vista on it, you can only do this one time and one time only. You can't get more than one new install out of a copy, in other words.

People, for the love of the gods, don't run Vista. If you do buy a new box, don't get Vista.. if you absolutely have to, get 2k or XP Pro, but don't get Vista. Or run something sane, like Fedora Core, GNU/Debian, or FreeBSD. Don't sign your rights away, and don't let them tell you what you can and can't do with your own hardware and your own data. When last I checked, it was the money of the customer that kept businesses like Microsoft going, and you do not have to blindly hand it over to them.. in fact, you don't necessarily have to hand it over at all. Do your homework. Do some research. Decide if you want the business to serve you, or if you want to be a slave to the business you get your stuff from.

You are in control here, reader. You're the one with the money to spend on products. Use it wisely.

You can use an iPod as a ouija board, but their technique was lacking. It's easier to let it pick music that you'll interpret than it is to use it to pick letters.

Wow. Someone made a cake shaped like an entire human thorax for a Halloween party. It's disgusting - check it out.

OpenBSD v4.0 is out!

...the hell?? This can't be right, can it?

And now, here are some helpful and informative links regarding the Congressional elections coming up in the next few weeks in the United States:

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert


Happy Halloween, everyone.

Last night was a rather slow night for Lyssa and I. After work we went to dinner at Crossing the Border in Virginia because both of us had a craving for protein and salt (which translates into hamburgers) and were willing to ambush a cow if push came to shove. Our waitress was very polite and extremely helpful once she moved us to a booth which had sufficient light for us to read the menus... who keeps a restaurant dark? The waitress was very apologetic about messing up the appetizer order so we got one of them for free, and she kept us in coffee and otherwise taken care of, which she really didn't have to do. After dinner we headed for Border's so that I could pick up a couple of books on Oracle (because Oracle writes crappy documentation) for work because we don't have any in the library at the moment.

After getting home Lyssa sat down to knit more while I finally watched the pilot episode of Torchwood, which is showing at this time on BBC 3 in the UK. If you haven't been following the saga since the reboot of Doctor Who, Torchwood is a spinoff of the new series (the second in the history of the show, the first being the hideous K-9 and Company, which the BBC spiked after one episode) featuring Captain Jack Harkness, <spoiler> who disappeared after being killed and resurrected in episode s1/27e13 and somehow found his way back to Cardiff in what is presumably the year 2006 </spoiler>. It started off looking like your average police drama if you didn't know what you were watching, with some of the characters complaining about the impact of CSI on real police work these days, but that notion goes west in a hell of a big hurry. Torchwood has been described as following in the tradition of The X-Files, and with good reason: There's some pretty weird stuff going on and the series follows it, but it also isn't afraid, at least from what I've seen thus far (so take this with a hefty dose of sodium chloride) to not take itself all that seriously. Thus far.

The ending of the pilot episode shocked the hell out of me.. things went in a direction that I simply hadn't expected, and then switched back again. It's too soon to tell if the series is going to suck or not, so I don't want to get the hopes of anyone up just yet, but I will say that I'm willing to give it a chance.

Maybe the writers that made season 27/1 of Doctor Who so good jumped over to Torchwood, in which case I hope that the BBC pays them enough to split their time. Hint, hint, BBC.

Early last year, Senator Charles Schumer discovered a serios problem with print-at-home boarding passes in which they're trivially easy to alter with an image editing program (like MS Paint, which comes with Windows) to get someone shady through airport security. The US Transportation Safety Agency ignored him. Then a graduate student and security researcher figured it out and put up a website that automated much of the procedure to try to get the TSA to listen. He's up on charges for trying to get through to them,which his weblog is chronocling, at least until the US government decides to shut it down. This is far from anythigng new - the newsmagazine called the Slate covered it early in 2005 as well, and I noticed a couple of things at PIT last year as well.

I think the TSA is shooting the first guy through the front door after the messenger on this one. They ignored a Senator who was trying to get a serious problem fixed, which there is no excuse for. Rather than cause a kerfluffle by fighting with a Senator they're going after a grad student, which just isn't right. If they take down Christopher Soghoian, which isn't going to be too hard because his college supported his research but hung him out to dry when it counted, they're probably going to immediately forget that there's a problem at all.. and anyone with a credit card, a web browser, and a copy of MS Paint will not be deterred from editing their boarding pass.

Hey, TSA - wake up and smell the coffee. Stop ignoring the problem and fix your procedures.

Information security company Authentium has figured out how to crack Microsoft PatchGuard, which is a security mechanism in Windows Vista that prevent unsigned code from being loaded into the kernel, which is supposed to prevent unapproved drivers, rootkits, and unauthorised code hexing from happening on the user side. They really didn't have to do this because there's an entry in the MS knowledge base that tells you how to get around it, anyway by self-signing code.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And now in news that you probably won't hear inside the US because crimethink is doubleplusungood, the United States has turned loose a new military unit whose sole duty is to put goodfacts on the Net with respect to the second War in Iraq. The media war unit is charged with making use of all possible media outlets to obscure or counteract news stories and posts that make the US and its forces overseas look bad (such as photographs of the caskets of dead US soldiers shipped back home that you can see at the Memory Hole). Dick Chaney stated that Iraqi insurgents are stepping up attacks against US forces in an attempt to manipulate the upcoming elections in the US, which sounds to me like a plan that is too complex and far-reaching for a bunch of guerrilla fighters. When last I checked, guerilla warfare didn't play a very long game, but jumped from immediate goal to immediate goal to evade detection and minimise infiltration. The media war unit is supposed to be monitoring weblogs (hi, guys!) and employ "top politicians and lobbyists" (read: sock puppets) who can go on television or various websites and sway opinion in the other direction.

The European Union is reportedly doing something similiar.


Thankfully, Lyssa and I spent Sunday lounging around, and not doing or worrying about much of anything. Everything we had to take care of was either done or easy to finish with little effort (like sharking around the washing machines in the basement to do the laundry), which left lost of time to recuperate. I think we even got a decent amount of sleep last night. The History channel shows some pretty interesting stuff around Samhain, like historical specials about Vlad Tepes and zombies (which included interviews with George Romero, of Night of the Living Dead fame and Wade Davis, who studied the phenomenon of the zombie as it pertains to Voodoo and wrote the book The Serpent and the Rainbow). Pretty interesting stuff. I'm not quite so down on having cable television at the moment as a result..

I really don't get the whole zombie fad in pop culture these days. Sure, there have been some good zombie movies made in the past few years.. but it does not seem to me that this would be enough to inspire zombie lurches around the country (invasions of zombie cosplayers) and an amazing number of books, some of which are pretty entertaining in concept.

The Browncoats are understandably unhappy about what Universal is doing and they're expressing their disapproval by invoicing Universal for all of the grassroots advertising they did to get Firefly released on DVD and get Serenity made and in the theatres.

I love Washington, DC!


It's definitely been an interesting weekend, to be sure. On Friday night, Lyssa and I met up with Rialian to truck out to the 9:30 Club to catch a show. A few weeks ago, Laurelinde had gotten us tickets for the Dresden Dolls, with a couple of acts that had been unannounced at the time, and the Red Paintings from Australia. Little did we realise what kind of a night we were in for.. or I was in for, at any rate.

My train home after work was delayed by about a half-hour because another Metro train had broken down on the tracks and gummed the works up during rush hour. That wasn't really so bad, though, because I tend to carry a couple of books with me in case of just such an emergency cropping up. Still, it was cold and wet, and of course crowded on the train. Once I got home Lyssa and I relaxed for a while while we waited for Rialian to arrive at the Metro station I get off at; we figured that he'd be caught in the same jam-up I was.

Once he called we picked him up a the station in the TARDIS and headed to the local Chili's restaurant to catch dinner and warm up before setting out for the 9:30 club.

The show didn't start until 2100 EST/EDT that night, so we weren't in any particular hurry to get there. Also, the past few times we've been there the opening bands haven't been very good, so it wasn't a big deal if we were late, so long as we could find parking in the area. We managed to get there without any trouble (the sort-of-but-not-quite roundabout directions that Lyssa put together work like the proverbial charm) and find somewhere to park the TARDIS with the parking lot attendant that we've come to call Sir (said parking lot attendant is built like a linebacker).

On the way up to the club, we're pretty sure that the Dresden Dolls darted across the sidewalk to get to the car in front of us to get something out of the back seat. But that's parenthetical.

There's something that I should state up front: I don't like loud noises. I don't particularly like shrill or high-pitched noises, either. Anything louder than a badly-tuned car engine at ten paces leaves me looking for the most direct path in the opposite direction. If you crank the pitch up around 34,500 Hz, I'm down for the count. Loud sounds trigger migraines in very short order. Migraines of the sort where I'd be perfectly happy trying to force my way through a cinderblock wall with my forehead, or perhaps opening my femoral arteries with a circular saw.

Normally, I carry a pair of military-grade shooter's earplugs with me when going to a club or a show. I used up my last two pairs on Monday at the Optimus Rhyme show, having given one pair to Butterfly and used a pair myself. I forgot to pick up a new supply after I got home because we were waiting for Rialian and we didn't know when he'd arrive. Normally they sell earplugs at the swag booth at the club for $1us along with whatever stuff the bands playing have on sale. Unfortunately, we got to the club late, and they were sold out.

I figured that I'd be able to tough things out at the 9:30. It's a big place with an interesting interior architecture, and there should be someplace to hide where the sound wouldn't be quite as loud, right?

It doesn't much matter when the first act, the Red Paintings, has their frontman's amp cranked up so loud that your glasses resonate on your face. My stomach immediately began practicing its floor exercise routine for the next summer olympics. I came to a sudden conclusoin that it might not have been such a hot idea to have tex-mex for dinner not two hours before.

The Red Paintings played an excellent set. I don't know exactly how to describe them - they remind me of old, old school InSoc in their stage presence and costuming. I've got to give extra points to a crew that has an amped violin, two women dressed as traditional geishas, a drummer in kabuki-garb, and a frontman who can play power guitar while dressed as the Mad Hatter. Their lyrics were intelligent and to the point and they put on a good show for everyone.

This was around the time that I could feel something very much like an icepick start rhythmically wriggling in my skull just behind my left ear.

From here on out, I'll keep references to my discomfort to a minimum. I don't want to give the impression that I blame anyone but myself for not having hearing protection with me. It certainly wasn't the fault of any of the performers.

Unlike a lot of shows these days, the performers did a lot more interacting with the audience than a lot of bands these days. There was an MC who came out on stage between each performance who kept the attention of the audience and hyped everyone for the next act. It was almost like going to a variety show in a nightclub, in that respect. The next act was a very nontraditional juggler who juggled boxes and used that nifty spinning cylinder, sticks, and long cord rig... I don't know the actual terminology for any of this stuff, I regret to say. What I do know is that the guy, who was dressed in a manner very similiar to what you'd picture a newspaper reporter from the 1920's or maybe 1930's wearing, somehow managed to manipulate no fewer than nine separate boxes at one time without dropping any, and then for a finale balanced all of them on his chin.

The act after that was a guy with hair befitting a certain shepherd who called himself Industrial Flute. He miked an ordinary lower-end flute, ran it inline with a few distortion units and probably a pedal or two (I couldn't tell because by that time I was on the other side of the dancefloor trying to get as many people as I could between myself and the speaker stacks). His sound reminded me of a performance piece that Stelarc did back in the 1990's, where he used microphones that amplified the sundry sounds his body produced (such as heartbeat, breathing, and blood in his veins); between the breathy notes of the flute, the sound of the keys of the flute slamming against the stops, and a few other things that I suspect were artefacts of the distortion modules, he turned a bunch of dissimiliar sounds into a tune that could be discerned without too much difficulty. It also reminded me a little of the band Throbbing Gristle near the beginning of their run.

The Dresden Dolls are just two people who don't have much of a stage show, no props, and none of what folks usually think of when they think of a modern rock band. If you could even call them rock.. the best description I've heard of them is that they'd be the soundtrack of the steampunk genre. Their gear is simple, just a drum kit, a keyboard, and from time to time an accoustic guitar. Amanda Palmer does all of the singing and plays the keyboard; Brian Viglione plays the drums and guitar from time to time. If there's one thing that they prove with their music, it's that you don't need a lot of exotic hardware to make music, you just need to know how to use what you have. All of that said, they have an incredible presence on stage because they put everything they've got into their music, and it shows on stage, when you can see the sweat pouring off of them and hear their voices cracking just as breath runs out. Palmer makes full use of her voice as an instrument in its own right, something that a lot of bands these days don't seem to realise. They played what I think was a two-hour set, including a lengthy encore set that lasted four or five songs.

I spent most of the night ghosting around the back hallways of the 9:30 Club trying to find someplace where I could still sort of hear the concert without getting violently ill or otherwise causing a scene (something I dearly did not wish to do). I spent a little time in the balcony (somehow I managed to locate a staircase leading upward) where I watched Palmer's piano work. She's got a knack for syncopated rhythm, and she alternates hands fast enough that if you were just listening to her, you probably wouldn't be able to tell what she was doing.

At some point during the night, a few folks wearing costumes started wandering around the back hallways where I was hanging out. One of them had an excellent Hunter S. Thompson costume that I wish I'd gotten a picture of.

When the concert was over, somewhen around 0130 EST/EDT on Saturday morning, I think I was in the bar downstairs listening to my hearts pound along with the drums that could still clearly be heard from upstairs. I ghosted around for a while in the hallways of the 9:30 half-wondering where Rialian and Lyssa were, and wondering if I'd run into one of the bands through the serendipity overload that usually walks by my side.

No such luck. Head pounding and eyes trying to move independently of one another, I ran into Lyssa, who was searching for me herself. Attendees have thirty minutes to clear out after a show at the 9:30 is over, and we were perilously close to that time limit. Dazed and shaken, Lyssa and I found our way back to the TARDIS and set out for home. Through what I'm about to consider divine intervention, we made it back home without getting lost, without any unscheduled side trips (hitting 7-11 for water doesn't count), and without any mistakes. I popped a handful of Excedrin when I got home, chased it with the last of the water and some chocolate, and turned in for the night.

Amazingly, I woke up the next morning to get stuff done, a little tired, a little worn, but not feeling as if I'd been run through a wood chipper the night before.


While waiting for a build to finish I found these two news articles: Famous band the Sisters of Mercy are rumoured to be negotiating with record label W14 Music. W14 Music is a subdivision of Universal, and is known for re-releasing albums from old favourites, such as Siouxie and the Banshees. Characteristically, Captain Von refused to comment when contacted. In other Sisters news, the big Sisters albums (First and Last and Always, Floodland, and Vision Thing) are supposed to be re-released next week (3 November 2006 in Europe, 30 October 2006 in the US) in re-mastered form. Moreover, each will include a few more tracks that are either rare (which means you'll have to get lucky on eBay or try to find them on the peer-to-peer filesharing network of your choice) or just hard to find. No word on the prices yet.

Dropping an iPod earphone into your coffee cup is a good way to kill said earphone. Dammit.

I know this is kind of late, but I just stumbled across it (and it answers a question I hadn't asked yet) - Bandai Entertainmenthas demanded that fansubbing groups not touch the Ghost In the Shell series, especially the third (dubbed Solid State Society) because this constitutes an illegal derivative work. One would think that they'd have figured out what the other companies have, and that is that the series that fansubbers love tend to make it big because more people find out about them and demand an official release. Iyadomi Ken, president of Bandai, was quoted as saying the "Fansubs, even those not sold for profit, are harmful to our properties and industry overall."

Ghost In the Shell: Solid State Society will be officially released in 2007.


About a year ago I posted an article about synthetic diamonds that you'd have a hard time telling apart from the ones you see at Tiffany's. True to form, diamond monopoly DeBeers is going after Adia Diamonds with both barrels because they feel threatened by artificially constructed diamonds that are closet to flawless, and tend to rate higher on the Tiffany scale than most of theirs do. Not only are Adia diamonds manufactured in a lab, but each one is unique, cut using traditional techniques in Belgium, and even registered with EGL USA.

In preparation for the release of the 20th anniversary DVD of Transformers: The Movie, the official movie website has put up a soundboard for everyone to play with. Time to make a few prank phone calls...

The Family Circus does Nietzsche.

You scored as Buddhism. Your beliefs most closely resemble those of Buddhism. Do more research on Buddhism and possibly consider becoming Buddhist, if you are not already. In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that base the Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration. In Buddhism, there is no hierarchy, nor caste system; the Buddha taught that one's spiritual worth is not based on birth.



















Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

Yeah, that's about right for me at this point in time.


Last night, I got home from work around 1730 EST/EDT. Lyssa worked from home on Tuesday, so she had dinner, one of her Indian cuisine experiments, waiting as I arrived. By 1745 we were done with dinner and in bed to nap because both of us were utterly worn out (Lyssa from working on a project Monday night, myself from going on an adventure with Butterfly on Monday night, as mentioned earlier). We finally woke up again around 2030 EST/EDT, much more rested and feeling better. Lyssa, unfortunately, is coming down with the first cold of the fall, and is still feeling under the weather.

Just when you thought travelling by air couldn't get any more harrowing, along comes confiscation of laptop computers when re-entering the United States. Some are never seen again; from anecdotal evidence, the hard drives are imaged for analysis. US Customs has the authority to detain people carrying portable computers and confiscate the hardware without giving a good reason, or any reason at all, for that matter. The matter of what, exactly, happens to proprietary information contained therein (encrypted or not) is still up in the air. The standard advice here is to encrypt any sensitive data, but if the folks looking over your laptop are reasonably intelligent, they'll put two and two together and demand that you turn over your keys and passphrases so they can examine the data. This is already law in the UK, and at some point the US is going to do the same thing if they can.

I don't have any good advice to give here, I'm afraid. As I said, if the people looking over the contents of your laptop discover that you do have some encrypted information on the hard drive, they're going to demand the keys and passphrases to the encrypted data, and the way US law is going, they could put you in jail (or worse, declare you an enemy combatant) until you decide to cough up the data they need. My first thought was to use public key crypto (ala PGP) to encrypt sensitive files on a laptop, but only keep the public key (not the private key, which is used to decrypt the data) on the laptop. That way, if they did decide to ask you about the encrypted files you had, you honesty would not be able to give them anything useable for decryption. On the other hand, I doubt that the folks working at points of entry into the US understand how public key crypto works, and would continue demanding that you decrypt the data until doomsday; unable to do so, you'd be effectively screwed nine ways from Sunday. Seeding decoy files on the hard drive would go over about as well as claiming that you had smuggled a gun onto an airplane. If the files were large enough you could probably hide encrypted data inside collections of .mp3's or other graphics files ('corrupted files', to be deleted later), but that begs a serious question..

I'm a hardcore proponent of privacy and cryptography - regular readers know this. But is it really worth such an amazing amount of effort for privacy? It would actually be easier to just not put anything even personally sensitive on your laptop when you go travelling. It would be a better use of your time and energy to back up and erase the personal data on your laptop, overwrite the empty space on the drive (there are excellent documents on the Net - look up secure deletion), and be done with it.

Counterfit Cisco hardware??

British Telecom has purchased Counterpane Internet Security for an undisclosed amount.

I was wrong, things can get more weird. Malware researcher Joe Stewart has been working on a new infective agent called SpamThru, and discovered some very unusual things about it: It goes to incredible lengths to ensure that it is the only infection on the machine in question, namely, it downloads and installs a pirated copy of Kaspersky Antivirus, hacks it so that it doesn't check for a valid license key, and scans the infected machine to get rid of every other piece of malware that isn't SpamThru. Control of zombied machines is done with a peer-to-peer protocol that can replace the central server in case it is ever discovered and shut down.

Jeffrey Skilling, former president of Enron, was sentenced to 24 years in Club Fed for his role in the Enron scandal.

Famous sci-fi authors tell stories in six words or less.

The Supreme Court of the state of New Jersey has voted to recognise same-sex marriages.

This is entirely too awesome: Robotic Dalek pumpkins, complete with propulsion motors and a remote control so you can chase the trick-or-treaters down the sidewalk.

They have no problems with forgetting about a certain movie, but when the fans start producing the swag that the production company didn't want, they sic the lawyers on the fans. Hey, Universal: This isn't how you make several tens of thousands of Browncoats continue spending their money (which lines your coffers). One poster (Marty) says that if you search Cafe Press for stuff like 'Reaver' or 'browncoat' you'll find stuff, but you won't if you search on 'Serenity' or 'Firefly'.

Blue Sun Shirts went down, too.

Presenting the Art Bell Jack-o-lantern!


Last night was another adventure had by folks in search of a good time. Earlier this month word made its way to me about a nerdcore hiphop show that would be held in the northeast sector of DC at a club called The Red and the Black Bar featuring Optimus Rhyme and MC Frontalot, with an opening act by a local comedian named Doug.

There. First setup, next comes the good stuff.

Rather than brave the singular hell that is downtown DC in the TARDIS, Butterfly and I decided that we'd take the Metro downtown and meet up at the Union Station (which some of you might remember from my coverage of HOPE 2006) and then walk the couple of blocks to the Red and Black. Getting to Union Station was pretty easy: Get on the Metro, take a transfer, and in about an hour, you'll be there. Nevermind the fact that I was supposed to meet her at 1930 EST/EDT last night, and we didn't find each other until 2015 EST/EDT. As it turns out, we were supposed to meet up at the First Street entrance of the Station. I was waiting for her at the entrance with the big arch that says "First Street". She was waiting at the other end of the train station at the smaller entrance without a sign.

I spent a good part of the evening running around trying to find her in the bowels of Union Station before she gave up and left for home. I'm still surprised that security didn't stop me and either throw me out or take me into custody for running at full tilt through the station, but I'm not about to argue the point, either. On the other hand, I guess I'm still in pretty good shape because I wasn't noticably winded after the running was said and done. Someone pointed me at the one Metro station entrance that I had not yet checked (and which I didn't actually know about) and caught up with Butterfly in the nick of time.

Next came the trick of actually getting to the Red and Black. I'll cut to the chase and say that we walked around more or less aimlessly in search of H Street NE for the better part of an hour in what I discovered was a pretty bad part of town. Northeastern DC, at least the parts of it that we got lost on foot in, is a place best travelled with a group of folks watching your six. I don't know how we made it back to the Metro/train station safely, but again I'm not going to argue the point or our good fortune and safety. Once we made it back to the station we hailed a cab and took a ten minute ride to get to the club.. which is in a scarier place than we had been lost in before.

As I said, don't drive there, because you probably won't find anywhere to park. Take the Metro, and spend the $11us on a cab from the station to your destination. Travel in groups.

Kyrin was indeed correct when he added me to the rolls of the hallowed Team Tom Baker some weeks ago. Not only did I manage to get us lost for over an hour, but we got there early. The sound check had just begun when Butterfly and I arrived, so we had some time to kill.

As we came back downstairs I was hailed by some folks in a booth across from the bar, who, as it turns out, I knew from my days in the Camarilla chapter at Carnegie-Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. They were sometime players in the game I was in (I played Mage; they were more interested in Vampire/Sabbat) but we knew one another from running into each other a couple of times. We spent some time talking and catching up (they live in a house in northern Maryland; what is it with Pittsburgh refugees huddling together for warmth?) and waiting for the show to start.

The opening act (which I was actually hoping to miss) was a comedian named Dave, who apparently has a CD coming out today. If his act last night was any indication, it's probably not all that good, and would be a waste of money.

Let me spell it out for you. A comedian who has to resort to dead baby and cripple jokes to prop up his act isn't a comedian.

Avoid this guy like Windows NT v3.51.

Next up was Optimus Rhyme. He's got a tight act, I have to admit. He knows how to rap, and he can fire off rhymes like a tripammer, faster than the ear can follow. The other three guys in his act, all live musicians (even a drummer) seemed to have a good time on stage, and it showed in how they performed. They were definitely worth the adventure. Sadly, Butterfly and I had to leave before MC Frontalot took the stage because we had to get back to the Metro station before the last trains left. During the work-week, the Metro closes around midnight from the innermost regions of the city outward, which squeezes everyone out station by station.

The first difficulty we ran into was hailing a cab at 2315 EST/EDT in the bad part of town. We finally spotted a hack and chased him a block or so on foot to get his attention. Once there, we split the cab with another pair of folks who were headed to the same station and made it to Union Station in the nick of time. We didn't have long to wait for our trains to arrive, though once I got to the Metro Center, which is one of the largest stations on the Metro line (and serves as a jumping-off point for most of the other trains) I was stuck waiting for better than a half-hour for the last train headed in the direction of home to arrive.

I finally got home around 0100 EST/EDT today with an Optimus Rhyme CD in my pocket and a deeply-felt wish to go to bed and get some sleep.

If you get a chance to see either of the nerdcore acts (nevermind the comedian, using the word in the loosest possible manner), jump on it.

In the state of California, the Republican party is calling for candidate Tan Nguyen to withdraw from the congressional race because he had letters sent to 14,000 newly registered Hispanic voters telling them that it was illegal for them to vote, and doing so would get them deported. Even though his signature is on the orders that expedited the mailing of the letters, he claims that he had nothing to do with it.

EDIT: I screwed up the kilometers-to-miles conversion. Thanks to Nexxus6 for the heads-up.

Just when you thought life couldn't survive anywhere else on this planet, someone goes and proves everyone wrong. Researchers from Indiana University at Bloomington have discovered self-sustaining populations of extremophile bacteria 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) below the surface of the earth. If that wasn't weird, check this out: They live on hydrogen produced by the natural decay of uranium cracking water into its constituent elements.

One of the reporters who was under surveillance by contractors hired by computer company Hewlett-Packard has stepped forward to describe what they were up to, at least as far as she was concerned. The private investigators went through her garbage (standard procedure), worked on gaining access to call records for her land line, work phone, and cellphone, photographed and videotaped her, shadowed her in public to see who she was talking to (presumably, to see if she met with any H-P execs on the sly), and probably other tactics that the P.I. company didn't tell H-P about.

Remember when stuff like this was limited to detective novels and the odd Shadowrun campaign?

You know those new credit cards that have RFID chips in them, so that you don't have to swipe your card to make a purchase? As predicted, researchers have figured out how to steal the data off the card without having to actually get their hands on it. I hate to say it, but film at eleven.

Cheryl Kagan, former delagate from the state of Maryland recieved in the mail disks containing source code to the Diebold voting machines, the controversy over which continues to rage. Diebold is having kittens over this and has called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is particularly worrisome for Diebold because their electronic voting machines were deployed in Maryland for the last round of elections, which are widely regarded as a fiasco due to the screwups and procedural errors that plagued the election. It was so bad that Governor Robet Ehrlich, Jr. of Maryland is urging voters to request paper absentee ballots. Diebold has confirmed that the code on the disks is really authentic Diebold code. A letter packaged with the disks read, in part, "You have the software because you are a credible person who can save the state from itself. You must alert the media and save democracy."

As it turns out, the disks contained code sent out for auditing back in 2003. The voting software in question was used during the elections of 2004.


It's amazing what eight hours of sleep can do for one's clarity of thought.

Okay, so maybe it only totalled eight hours, seeing as how I kept waking up every ninety minutes or so, but close enough for government work.

So, as I was saying, Saturday was a whirlwind day of trying to get too many things done in a hurry. Around 1730 EST/EDT, while dinner was on the stove and Lyssa was getting ready, I finally had a chance to put the finishing touches on my costume for the Halloween party, the theme of which this year was "Marvel vs. DC".

I'm not big on spandex costumes or anything like that, so I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to put together a costume that wouldn't be too expensive and as composed of things that were relatively easy to get my hands on. After a few minutes of deliberation I decided to dress up as King Mob from the DC/Vertigo series from the 1990's called The Invisibles.

The costume was pretty simple, as King Mob tended to dress in simple, functional ways, though he was also written to have a dramatic Hollywood action star bent. Jeans and motorcycle boots are my daily dress, so that wasn't much of a stretch. The white t-shirt with the Mod-style bullseye on the front (which a few people tell me is actually a t-shirt for the band The Who) I was able to create with a t-shirt transfer and Leandra's inkjet printer in a few minutes on Saturday afternoon. I bought a pair of leather gauntlets resembling King Mob's at the Maryland Rennfaire a couple of weeks ago. Because I wasn't enthused about shaving my head or getting a dozen or so facial piercings, I drew the line and decided to build King Mob's battle headdress, which is utterly impractical for real combat but fits his role as the muscle of the comic (to quote the character, "I'll handle the Enter the Dragon shit.") and all-around badass.

The headdress is really quite simple: I was able to find an old scuba diving mask on eBay for a couple of dollars. The hoses I made out of split-loom tubing, which is usually used to make bundles of cables look neat. The hair was made out of a couple of skeins of beige yarn and an old baseball cap (which became non-adjustable and much tighter than practical at the time of assembly, much to my chagrin). I made the mouthpiece/grille out of Sculpey, some hot glue, and some craft wire in a few minutes on Saturday afternoon. The final touch came in the form of a faint orange-on-white promo pin for the original release of The Invisibles, a nod to the blank pins that some of the members of the Invisble College wore in the series. I found a small cache of them on sale on eBay by a comic dealer in New Jersey, who sold them to me for a song (and threw in an extra, to boot!) last week.

Photographs are forthcoming.

Folks trickled in a few at a time, as they are wont to do. Kyrin was one of the first to arrive; it didn't take long for him to finish assembling his Ghost Rider costume (I won that bet). Lyssa and I only had to spot him a length of chain as a prop before he was ready. Lyssa went as Death from Gaiman's series The Sandman. Hasufin had put together a Rorschach costume from the comic series The Watchmen, and Mika had done Papa Midnight from Constantine. Lauren showed off her latest belly dancing gear. Everyone else pretty much came as they were. Costumes became optional early in the night because everyone's choices of gear were, to be blunt, too warm to wear for long indoors. I wound up taking off my headdress after a short period of time as well because the inside of the mask kept fogging up, which turned me into a potential walking shambles once the party was fully populated.

Kyrin and I headed out to pick up a few last minute supplies around the time that Lyssa's brother arrived at the party. He had his own errand to run, so we grabbed him in the parking lot and took off for the local supermarket and local liquor store, respectively, and stocked up on sundry and assorted libations for everyone concerned. Nifty bit of timing, that.

The party ran strong until 0330 EST/EDT on Sunday or so. Everyone that one could possibly expect of one of our parties (save the creation of an event horizon in the living room, which is strictly forbidden by our lease and Lauren dancing for us) took place, to put not too fine a point on it. Not to cover things up, but it was a party at Bryce and Lyssa's: There were folks munching, folks drinking, folks browsing our library, folks listening to music, folks sitting around talking, folks clustered in the kitchen talking.. I was involved in my own conversations that night, so I wasn't roaming around keeping an eye on everything. I didn't have to. The one surprise of the night was a knock at the door around 2300 EST/EDT on Saturday night. It seems that between the talking in the kitchen (a confined space that amplified peoples' voices) and the music (which was shut off immediately afterward) disturbed at least one set of neighbors. Rather than knocking on our door and politely asking us to keep it down (which we would have done without reservation) they called the local police, who politely asked me to keep it down as they wrote down my driver's license number. We did this without reservation. We had no more unannounced visitors that night, and no more complaints were registered.

Most everyone who wasn't spending the night was kind enough to help Lyssa and I police the area and clean things up, so that there would be less of a mess to fight with the next morning. A few folks left around 0200 EST/EDT on Sunday morning after the cleanup; the rest staked out crash space on our floor. Butterfly, Jarin, and I wound up staying up until 0330 talking; I finally crashed when I couldn't stay awake any longer.


It's now 1707 EST/EDT on Sunday and Lyssa and I are recovering from our yearly Halloween party, held last night at our apartment. We spent pretty much the entire week cleaning and getting the apartment ready for everyone to come over, culminating in spending yesterday driving all over creation getting last minute supplies, fighting soccer moms for costume components, and finishing up around the apartment. This is, I should note, not a stress-free group of activities and tempers flared on more than one occasion.

The apartment really does look good, even after the party was over and everyone went home.

It's difficult to pin down exactly how yesterday went because I spent so much time in the car trying to get stuff and Lyssa did quite a bit of cooking at home. Both of us were busy as hell... I didn't get a chance to finish my costume until 1730 EST/EDT or so last night..

I'm too fried to keep writing. Rather than hammer out crap, I'm going to take a nap.

Still tired. Hopefully I'll be able to write more tomorrow. Here's a quick one, though, about the no-fly list and how unreliable it's been from the start.


It's been a rough week so far, what with getting ready for the Samhain party this weekend. Lyssa and I have been running around, cleaning stuff up, and throwing stuff out.

If nothing else it gave me a chance to clean out the office closet on Tuesday night. I threw out enough stuff to free up one whole side of the closet, and I have the option to pitch another three file boxes of stuff (mostly outdated paperwork from the late 90's that's destined for the shredder anyway).

However, the change in weather has been wreaking havoc with my circadian rhythms lately, and the mood swings have not been fun to deal with. I think it's your garden variety case of SAD, seasonal affective disorder, which basically means that I haven't adapted to an inconsistent pattern of sunlight and darkness yet, and my body's neurochemistry is out of whack as a result. Mornings in DC have been dark and dreary, with greyish purple clouds that all but completely conceal the sun as it rises. Even though I head out around 0700 EST/EDT the sun still isn't up yet (or maybeit's all the trees and buildings..) and I don't really get any natural sunlight until I head for home, and that does not seem to be enough to maintain a stable circadian rhythm. Between that, the stress of trying to get everything done, and filling out another mountain of paperwork for work, life has been less than cute and cuddly lately.

Still, I get by. I can't do any less.

Luel's reinstallation is complete and I've got his software stable now. One of these days I'll get around to writing that Linux-on-a-700m page that I keep threatening to do.

I need more exercise, if only to tweak my biochemistry a little more. Mental note: Start looking into martial arts classes in DC. T'ai ch'i class through the local community college is out because the classes would cut into going to work. Not good.

In Japan, McDonald's ran a promotion with Coca-Cola that offered MP3 players as prizes in a contest. Those MP3 players were infected with a password stealing trojan horse called QQpass that would have been executed the first time the MP3 players were plugged into a Windows machine (thank you, autorun.inf files).

It's official - the law that changes rules of torture for detainees by allowing the government to redefine the terms of torture and 'cruel treatment' under the Geneva Convention (shades of Clinton, there..) was signed by George W. Bush yesterday. The law also makes it impossible for anyone who's been through their interrogation measures to sue anyone for recompense, regardless of whether or not they're actually enemy combatants. The US court system will also be prevented from hearing any motions of validity filed by detainees in the camps run outside of the US.. convenient, seeing as how it's estimated that the majority of detainees have no ties at all to terrorism. The canonical interpretation of the Geneva Convention (canonical until they decide to change it again) is supposed to be published in a couple of weeks.

Are you happy, Citizen?

Ordinarily, I don't mention much about laws and suchlike outside of the US, but for reasons I'll get to in a moment I think this one is pretty important: The European Commission is proposing that online video sources, such as YouTube and private pod-videocasts must be licensed in the manner of television stations. That puts a pretty tight leash on anyone with video capture equipment, from film students to bloggers. The reason this caught my attention was because of this article, about the increasing use of clandestine videographers tailing political candidates to gather dirt on their clients' opponents. They're called 'trackers', and they're basically paid to follow around a political rival and record everything that they say and do. Any slip-up of character, from an off-colour joke to someone losing their temper for some reason is edited to alter its context (or maybe not) and uploaded all over the Net to smear the target. Let's face it, no one's perfect (and if you are, I challenge you to remove every eraser, backspace key, Bee Gees record, and dirty joke from the face of this planet). This practice, however, can potentially make anything that someone does appear to be as bad as the handiwork of a serial killer.

I guess this is legal to do in the US.. I haven't found any references to lawsuits or arrests in conjunction with tracking politicians. I suspect that this would change if grassroots groups or individuals started doing this in an attempt to clean things up, though.

On top of this, the powers that be in downtown DC are urging the passage of data retention laws similiar to those of the European Union so that they can keep an eye on what everyone says and does on the Net. Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security, went before a conference of police chiefs around the world to summon up one of the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse, Terrorists recruiting on the Net. Because his attempt to banish personal liberty and privacy failed, these Terrorists didn't materialize (probably because they were too busy plotting in the back room of a restaurant in the Middle East, per US intelligence), so he tagged in FBI Director Robert Mueller, who attempted to summon another of the Four Horsemen, vis a vis Child Molesters on MySpace.

First of all, they already have this: ECHELON around the world, and DCS1000 (nee Carnivore) more locally. This seems like scare tactics because a lot of the cover stories told these days are being blown by reporters posting evidence on the Net. Second of all, I don't think they realise exactly how much storage space is necessary to keep all of the network traffic generated by a single average Net user in a usable form. I would estimate that it would be on the order of a few hundred gigabytes per month. While hard drives storing in excess of 750GB are available on the open market today, you'd need a couple (for redundancy's sake, in case a drive blew) for each user of every ISP in the United States. Some ISPs are small, with only a few dozen customers. Others have thousands of customers. No ISP is going to be able to afford that, and if they push the cost onto their customers, in the form of one-time fees or increased rates, not only are they going to lose customers in droves (probably the small number of people they really are looking for, on top of that) but they might not be able to stay in business as a result. It would be futile to do so. This would also cause a major backlash from the public and the industry in general.

Then again, the FCC is slowly letting the companies that used to be Ma Bell coalesce back into a single monopolistic entity without even a nod to the original ruling that split 'em up in the first place..

The FBI has been monitoring peaceful groups, including a couple of churches. The groups include Native American culture groups, animal rights groups, environmental advocates, and civil liberties groups. The article contains multiple .pdf files pertaining to the monitoring of each group. There's another article here, but it's an older one.

Hee hee hee! Warning signs from the future!


Heads-up for users of the Tor network: Andrew Christensen of FortConsult has released a whitepaper which describes practical attacks against Tor users which allow the administrators of a rogue exit node to determine the true IP address of someone accessin the Tor darknet. Christensen used a specially modified Tor exit node that used IPtables and some Perl code to rewrite HTML heading back through the node to the no-longer anonymous client such that the client's web browser would silently request a cookie, a web bug, and a malicious Flash applet that contacted a webserver controlled by Christensen. The client recieved the content it was after, but then it contacted he malicious webserver via the Tor net, and then the Flash applet contacted the malicious webserver normally (Flash isn't proxy-aware, for Tor or anything else). The value of the cookie was used to correlate the two, which then blew anonymity out of the water. Another tactic was attempted, namely, injecting some JavaScript that would cause the client to give itself away, but newer revisions of Mozilla Firefox prevented it from being a useful attack.

The Perl code, IPtables schema, and Tor configuration are fairly simple and are included in the whitepaper.

There are ways to obviate attacks like this, such as configuring your web browser to only use the SOCKS/4a protocol for accessing Tor (because this causes DNS lookups to be done by the proxy, and thus Tor, and not the OS as usual), disabling JavaScript, disabling Java, disabling Flash, and rejecting cookies (or at the very least configuring your browser to ask you to confirm or deny cookies (for Firefox, Edit -> Preferences -> Privacy -> Cookies tab -> Allow site to set cookies.. for the originating site only, which will cause a small window to pop up and ask you if the cookie should be accepted or rejected)).

There is also a rogue exit node on the Tor net that redirects all web traffic passing through it to one of those stupid linkfarms - it's called whistlersmother, and has been a pain in the ass for about two weeks now, I've found. Drop the line ExcludeNodes whistlersmother into your torrc file and restart Tor to prevent your Tor client from ever sending traffic to it. Right now, it's just annoyingbut later on it might prove to be dangerous in the long run. In case anyone's curious, it has the public IP address (no DNS reverse record, but it belongs to the domain txlink.net, based out of Red Oak, Texas) and claims to be a Linux box.

Forwarning means a darth of orange jumpsuits in your future.

There's an interesting Tor-trick that you can use to force your traffic to exit via a certain node, presupposing that you know the 'name' of the node (for example, 'whistlersmother', which you can get out of the cached-routers file (you'll have to find it on your particular OS). If you plug a URL into your browser and then tack '.name_of_tor_exit_node.exit' onto the end, your traffic will leave via that exit node.

A very interesting study was published a couple of days ago that correlates children who watch television early and autism (which has become more than 10 times more prevalent in the past thirty years (1/166 children, as opposed to 1/2500 children in 1970)). In the past decade alone, the frequency of autism has actually doubled, suggesting an accelerating trend. The study mentions the general increase of environmental toxins in the present day as well as the preservatives used in vaccinations, but cites a study or two that refutes this. The study observed that the rate of incidence of autism spectrum disorders began to increase around the time that cable television and VCRs became widespread in the US in the areas of study, and cited a study that correlates the increase of ADHD in children with the same increase in television viewing. They also did an analysis of incidence of autism in US cultures that do not watch televison, and rarely use electricity (vis a vis, the Amish). Result: Autism was extremely difficult to find in their culture, though it is entirely possible that their relatively isolated genepools have something to do with this.

The methodologies used to analyze the data sets are extensively documented in this whitepaper, as are the conclusions. I highly recommend that parents take a look at them and consider the conclusions thus drawn.

It seems that the us government is tired of a reported 84% of its citizens not buying the party line about Iraq, so US Central Command has set employees on the trail of bloggers posting what they eem to be inaccurate or false information, or so says a leaked e-mail. This doesn't seem so surprising during a time when they're calling the World Wide Web a terrorist training camp (I wonder if they've ever read the comments at Slashdot..), nevermind the fact that a professor can go on the O'Reilly Factor and state that naysayers that they are calling conspiracy theorists are no different from terrorist recruiters.

Yeah, yeah, I know.. it's Prison Planet, which tends to be on the paranoid side. They threw some recordings from the show in question on YouTube, so if you really don't trust 'em, watch the footage they ganked from Fox News, skip their article, and make up your own mind.


It seems that George W. Bush has purchsed over 97,000 acres in northern Paraguay.

Kevin Poulson, former systems cracker and reporter for Securityfocus has done something that web community site MySpace has claimed was impossible::He wrote a Perl script that analyzed networks of people and cross-referenced them against lists of known sex offenders. Of the results, he hand-analyzed the data and discovered 700 known sex offenders who'd made connections with teenagers, one of whom who registered with his real name and other identifying information. The article makes an interesting admission, that the sock puppet accounts seeded all over the Net on social networking sites by law enforcement haven't been effective. Poulson describes what went into digesting the data to isolate possible hits and some of the hoops he had to jump through to get his analysis utility to work with MySpace's web application (which are renowned as the best example of angry fruit salad today).


Lyssa and I were in a bit of a rush to get everything pulled together on Friday night because we were having company over, namely, Duo, Hummingwolf, and Jarin, because we were going to pile into our respective vehicles on Saturday morning and hit the Maryland Rennaisance Faire on Saturday morning. We were actually supposed to get a bit more done on Friday night before folks started arriving but I think we were a little more tired than we'd expected; I don't normally fall asleep on the couch taking my shoes off after we get home. Lyssa let me sleep until 1930 EST/EDT or so, when she came in to wake me up (somhow I wound up in the bedroom) so that I could pick Hummingwolf up at the Metro station. Not long after we got in, Jarin and Duo arrived, having walked down from the Metro station. Once everyone was present and accounted for we set about our task of not doing much of anything. We ordered pizza and sat around all night. Lyssa and I went to bed around midnight because Hasufin and Mika were going to meet up with us at 1000 EST/EDT to caravan out to the faire.

We got up around 0800 EST/EDT on Saturday morning and Lyssa got the day goingthe best way she knows: By making breakfast for everyone. She threw a couple of sheets of biscuits into the oven, which woke up our friends who had crashed out in the living room while I took a shower and booted my brain back up. We had a good breakfast and polished off most if not all of the preserves left over from cream tea the week before and got ourselves ready to go to the renfaire in due course. I opted to go with my leather pants and boots (which still need to be dusted off), a linen shirt, and the coat that I'd picked up at SalonCon a few weeks before. Lyssa took up her cloak of office and Thee Pimp Hat ov thee Bards; the rest of the crew opted to go as they were. Because I didn't really have any pockets (the large flap-pockets of my garb-coat are, alas, decorative only) I couldn't carry very much, and that included my cellphone/timepiece. Hasufin and Mika arrived, dressed to the nines and ready to roll.

I am told that I belong in a Shadowrun game. Because none of us had cameras, I might have to organize a photo shoot in the neat future. Maybe it was the fact that I was wearing my fedora and mirrored aviator sunglasses so that I could comfortaby drive with my contact lenses in.

Unfortunately, we had a few errands to run before we could actually go to the faire, namely, picking up stamps so that I could send out a couple of bills, get gas, and get oriented on the beltway. Lyssa was the DJ for the trip up, and once she got the RF transmitter going (for some reason, it's nearly impossible to get a clear signal anywhere in the DC area, even when the antenna for the car's stereo is less than two feet away) we were able to make excellent time for Maryland and the ren faire. I think we made it in about an hour with Jarin and Duo in the back of the TARDIS. Due to the popularity of the Maryland Ren Faire, most of that time was actually spent sitting in the traffic jam that snarled roadways less than a mile from the fairgrounds. At the very least, though, we found parking relatively close to the gate as soon as we arrived.

This is actually a bad thing, as I'll get to later.

As soon as we walked in, we started to lose track of one another. Like a herd of cats (itself a contradiction in terms) the seven of us went off in seven different directions. I got sidetracked immediately by the early show put on by the Aerial Angels, agroup of travelling acrobats who specialise in in free-rigged aerial silk work.

Picture four gymnasts, suitably garbed, performing various stunts twenty-four feet off the ground, suspended only by a three-foot hoop or two lengths of silk, and nothing else. Throw in gymnastic feats supported by only those lengths of silk of the sort that one would ordinarily see on Cirque du Soleil that would cause the jaw of a physicist to fall off.


Next time 'round, I'm throwing in to come back as a female to have the option of flexibility.

I should admit, I'm impressed by physical feats performed by either sex. I'm not a terribly athletic individual, though at one time I did have aspirations in a number of fields. I know just enough about such feats to appreciate the time, effort, and dedication that goes into the training to be able to execute them off without permanant injury, but I never came anywhere near that calibre.

At the end, I thanked them for the show, bought a DVD, and somehow (I'm not sure exactly how) got their autographs. That done, I met up with Lyssa once again, who was in hot persuit of her favourite faire food: Scotch eggs.

I still think that Scotch eggs are potentially the most dangerous thing on this planet. If you've never been to a real pub or a renn faire, a Scotch egg is a hardboiled egg coated with a layer of minced sausage and bread crumbs that was then deep fried in hot oil. Any one of the ingredients potentially has enough cholesterol to remove a decade from your timeline. Assembling them in such a manner should legally be required to provide the consumer with a DNR tag. Still, they're damnably tasty, especially with a strong mustard. Lyssa, Mika, and I split a basket of three of them as part of lunch (I'd picked up a cup of coffee and a small basket of stuffed peppers shortly before), and later on tried one of the spinach pies (which were extremely tasty, and very hot).

The rest of the day was spent running into each other and losing each other in the crowds. I didn't really watch any of the other shows, I mostly wandered around the faire sticking my nose into the stalls and shops (and wondering yet again if it's true that some folks have apartments on the second floors of their shops, if only for weekends they'll be working the faire) and admiring the garb of the folks who take renn faires far more seriously than I do. I didn't buy much aside from the DVD, just a handful of bulk quartz for a project I'm working on, some incense that I can't ordinarily get, and a pair of gauntlets for my costume for the Samhain party coming up. One thing that I made sure to do was stock up on honey at the booth run by the Bee Folks because Lyssa and I will finally get around to brewing a couple of batches of mead, as we've been threatening for years. All in all we bought about twenty-five pounds of honey, which should be enough for three batches (three six-pound/half gallon jars) and a number of smaller bottles of honey to use as food. This necessitated a trip back to the TARDIS to drop everything off.

After that, we didn't stay much longer at the faire. I finally got to wander around the booths that sell steel, of the ornamental sort, and the less pretty but far more massive and usable sort.

Here's the thing about buying swords: Most of the ones you'll find are, in a practical sense, crap. They weren't designed to be sturdy, they were meant to be decorative. The steel isn't of a very good quality and if you actually try to fight with them, you'll be down a sword in short order. The swords that were designed to be fully usable as weapons aren't very ornamented because adornment would be knocked off or damaged in short order. They're not much to look at, they aren't all that shiny, and in fact they're quite heavy. But if it came down to it you could lay a serious hurt on someone with one.

At some point on my way around I was photographed by a young girl who thought I looked really neat. I felt sort of silly posing with a bottle of water, but it would have been rude not to.

Of course, we had to stop off to get faire coins from the minter before we could leave. They're something of a tradition at renn faires, and consist of using a drop-hammer to pound designs into small metal blanks (about the size of an American quarter) as souveniers. Generally, you can get one with the year you bought it on one side, as well as a long list of possible symbols. This time around I had a medallion made with a phoenix on the front and an image of Sophia on the reverse.

We regrouped around 1830 EST/EDT by the gate and headed for the TARDIS so that we could go for dinner and head for home to get rest because we'd been on the go all day.

Remember when I said that parking close to the gate was a bad idea?

The folks who park last are, logically, closest to the road, and vice-versa. Therefore, we had a considerable wait ahead of us before we could go home. We were stuck in traffic for a good hour or so before the tires finally saw asphalt. Then we had to find our way back to the beltway, which required a stop off at a gas station to ask directions because we couldn't find the on-ramp for the heart and soul (well, the only way to get anywhere by car, anyway) of the DC metropolitan area. One would think that it would be easy to find, but one would be wrong under certain circumstances.

I don't remember when we got back, but after changing out of garb for more comfortable clothes we headed off to Anita's for Mexican food before the closed the kitchen. We relaxed around the table and had a late dinner to unwind from a long day of walking around the fairgorunds and start to recuperate. After getting home, most everyone crashed around midnight; I stayed up to catch up on two days' worth of e-mail before turning in.

On Sunday morning Lyssa sent me out to get bagels and cheese for breakfast and after dropping everyone off at the Metro station we headed to Alexandria to visit a new yarn store. This required a Sunday afternoon trip on the beltway, which was relatively open and easy to travel on. While Lyssa went through the stocks of yarn at the store I claimed some space in a cafe' and worked on a project or two until she was done. We headed for home just as the cafe' closed for the afternoon... getting home was more difficult because frankly, we weren't sure which direction to go. Like most of the DC area, some roads are one-way only, some aren't, and some don't have any street signs, which makes any trip an adventure. As for the beltway, the numbering scheme of the exits isn't consistent past a certain point. Case in point: Exit 56.. exit 57.. exit 170.. exit 171..

Total travel time: Two hours, most of which comes from trying to find the proper exit that would get us back home.

The newswire Reuters is opening a virtual office inside the online game Second Life to keep players appraised of events taking place outside of virtuality.

My old high school still does not have the majority of its students not performing where they should be in math and reading, thus sayeth the Pennsylvania state assessment tests administered every year. It's a pretty safe bet that they make vague handwaving motions toward assembling remedial programmes for the underachieving students - they've been talking about doing that for years but haven't delivered yet. I doubt they ever will.

Too true.

Condoleeza Rice swore an openly gay man in to the position of global AIDS coordinator and respected both Mark Dybul as well as his partner, Jason Claire. The Family Research Council (which does everything but research) is having kittens, and is saying that putting a gay man in charge of AIDS (what a turn of phrase) is like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.


Happy Triskadekaphobia Day.

Fall has finally come to the DC area. It's steadily been getting colder all week, and this morning, just after I got out of bed, I checked the local weather report and noted that the temperature was 34 degrees Farenheit, with a projected high of 60 degrees. Off I went to the closet to dig out more long-sleeved shirts and long coats to prepare for the seasons to come. At long last, the chilly winds and skies coloured a poisonous grey/yellow after the now-early sunsets will give way to fall, and later to the cold yet dry winters indicitive of the states just below the Mason-Dixon line.

In recent news from the field of applied biocybernetics, a 14-year old epilepsy patient who underwent an experimental procedure in which electrodes were directly attached to his brain was able to successfully play Space Invaders using only the electrode net. The teen underwent a procedure called electrocorticography as part of an experiment to determine which part or parts of his brain were responsible for the electrical disruptions that cause grand and petit mal seizures. For reasons not explained in the article, they decided to hook him up to an Atari 2600 game console (look at the photograph in the article) to see what kind of control he could exert over a game. As it turns out, he was able to clear the first board of Space Invaders without too much trouble. Moreover, it took him very little time to adapt to using the directly-connected interface to the game console.

I am given to understand that South Park spoofed the MMORPG World of Warcraft. The fans have already deconstructed the episode and found all the inaccuracies.


Before I write the really interesting stuff, I have to put out an all-call to folks in the DC area. I've just discovered that the kings of nerdcore, Optimus Rhyme and MC Frontalot will be playing at The Red and the Black in Washington, DC on 23 October 2006. I'm going to this come hell or high water but I'd really love some company. If you're interested please e-mail me.


Last night, Lyssa, Kash, and I picked our way downtown to go to the Evanescence concert at the 9:30 Club that we'd bought tickets for weeks ago. Getting down there wasn't all that bad because we finally found good directions to get to that part of town. Getting back was the rub, which I'll come to later.

Lyssa had two extra tickets because her brother wasn't able to make it and Duo is still in the shop due to Lyme disease, but she'd found a buyer for them who was supposed to meet us. Kash heard that parking would be problematic because it was supposedly reserved for people who paid for parking ahead of time. To that end, I dropped Lyssa off close to the club and drove around a bit to try to find parking. This proved trivially easy because they'd just opened up the parking cage, so a $20us bill bought me guarded parking for the TARDIS. Much easier, much faster than anticipated.

The line stretched around half the block. The concert was probably sold out, or very close to it. It was also very unnerving to be one of the oldest folks in the line. By oldest, I mean that 90% of the folks who had tickets were in their early teens. There was a noticable minority of parents (some of whom who really got into the show, I noted later), older folks, and folks around my age. All in all, we were stuck outside for about a half hour as the line lurched forward every few minutes as the crowd control folks let groups of concert-goers in.

Once inside we were stuck waiting for the better part of an hour for the show to start. They were probably waiting for as many people to pack into the club as possible before everything started. I keep a copy of Tetris on my cellphone for situations just like that.

The first band was called Revelation Theory; the best way I can describe them is as a power metal band. Three guys with guitars? Check. Live drummer? Check. Frontman with a mohawk and more tattoos than skin? Check. Intelligent lyrics? Hold the phone - that's a new one. Also, and this is what I found striking, their frontman is far more intelligent than most metal musicians tend to let on. He was very well spoken (when he wasn't screaming into the mike), with excellent diction and pronunciation when he actually addressed the audience. That's something else that you don't see very often at concerts. Revelation Theory put on a good show, to be honest. They didn't suck like the opening acts have the past few times at the 9:30, and their lyrics had quite a bit behind them. They played for the crowd as a whole and didn't rant or talk down to anyone, which I greatly enjoyed. After their set was over, the band came down from the stage to talk to everyone in the audience and, of course, sell CDs. Lyssa bought one while we were there. I've yet to listen to it, though.

There was another half-hour wait or so while Revelation Theory tore down and the stage setup for Evanescence was unveiled, having been set up well before the club opened to save time and effort. The drum kit (yes, I have a thing for them, given how prevalent drum machines and sequencers are in music these days) was much larger than the opening act's, and so the only practical thing to do would be to set it up ahead of time and cover it. Eventually, though Evanescence took the stage and the kids went wild.

I'll be honest with you. I'm not an Evanescence fan. I liked their first single way back when, and swiftly grew tired of it after hearing it too much (and playing it too much when I was a DJ at B'Witche's). The rest of their first album didn't really interest me. I haven't heard their second album yet, but the tracks that I didn't recognise didn't do much for me, either. Still, Amy Lee has an excellent singing voice with a good range. The sound board was set so that she could be heard over the guitars, which I definitely enjoyed.

By the end of the night they'd come back out on stage for an encore (a set with three torch songs (yes, just a piano)) and thus began the logistical problem of getting everyone out of the club so that they could close up. Also, by the end of the night, my not sleeping, getting up early, and standing for a good twelve hours yesterday had taken its toll on my spine. I was about ready to climb into the trunk of the TARDIS to sleep all the way home. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that, so Lyssa and I piled into the car, hooked up with Kash, and started working our way towards Northern Virginia.

You can see where this is going already so I won't belabor the point. What I will say is that we got back around 0100 EST/EDT this morning. Kash decided to go home instead of crashing with us because we got lost (much more lost than usual, I suppose that I should admit). I woke up this morning feeling dead tired and desirous of an intravenous dose of caffeine.

Hey.. the Torchwood site is active now.

Here's hoping that the show doesn't suck.


Last night Lyssa and I went on a road trip to visit a sick friend. Duo of the Lost Boys was recently diagnosed with a relapse of Lyme Disease and for the past week or so and has been in the shop recovering and weathering the side effects of the antibiotics, so he's been laying low lately. Last night, though, the two of us hit the beltway after work and headed for their place, with a container of chicken soup in the back seat. If it's one thing we've learned independently over the years, it's that one never ignores the wisdom of one's grandmother. We also had to pick up a ticket to the Evanescence show, because Duo isn't feeling strong enough to go tonight. Still, he was up to hanging out for a while and going out to dinner with us in Arundel Mills.

We didn't spend as much time as I'd expected at their place, and headed out not long after we arrived. We got to meet Duo's rat, Mina, who is remarkably tame for a rodent, and very friendly on top of that. Duo gave Lyssa her belated birthday gift from September, a collection of imps from Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs and a magatama that he acquired from.. I don't know where, exactly. Lyssa was thrilled with all of the new scents, some of which are out of production and consequently are very rare.

The three of us wound up at DuClaw's in Arundel Mill's last night, which is a pretty good restaurant - for residing in a mall, it certainly doesn't suck. I haven't been there in I don't know how long (at least 2005) so it was good to go back and try something that may as well have been entirely new. I had the turkey melt on a pretzel roll, Lyssa had the angus burger, and Duo had only an appetizer, the cheese and crab dip. We also tried the misfit chips, which are basically fried potato chips that are made in-house. While tasty because they are fresh, they're really not much to write home about. We spent a couple of good hours there catching up and spending some quality time together.. all too soon we had to leave because Lyssa and I had work today and I have to get up early, so we headed back to Duo's place and from there headed for home. Because the beltway is much more empty after 2200 EST/EDT it didn't take us very long to get home. I went to bed soon after getting home, and thus did my day pick up.

In a time where sex can be a death sentence, this advice seems, well, just wrong: Many doctors in the United States won't advise people to get tested for HIV. The reason is the strange patchwork of laws that govern medicine these days. The American Academy of Family Physicians is sitting on the fence due to the cost of AIDS testing; after all, the effort the CDC started in motion advises that everyone between the ages of 13 and 65 get tested whenever they go to the doctor's office. State laws in roughly half the states in the US require at the very least counselling before the test, which isn't always possible for one reason or another. There is also always the matter of what to do if the test comes back positive...

In other news, Microsoft has terminated support for Windows XP SP1 and SP1a as of Patch Tuesday (yesterday). If you want to keep getting patches (including WGA) you're going to have to upgrade.

In Switzerland, the Swiss Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy, and Communications (talk about working double shifts) has commissioned the development of spyware that is capable of monitoring VoIP communications. Antivirus and antimalware companies will be expected to summarily ignore the software if it's detected.

In a maneuver that seems like it approaches a bad idea, the US and Japan publically stated that they doubt the test results announced by North Korea and are calling it a scare tactic. On the other side of the story, North Korea, by way of Lee Chong-Sok (South Korean Unification Minister) says that something blew up in a controlled manner but it'll take about two weeks to confirm whether or not it was nuclear. Given that the blast was underground, this is understandable. Word on the street has it that the device was about as powerful as the one detonated over Hiroshima in World War 2.

All I'm saying is that it would behoove one to be tactful when calling bullshit on a country that's threatened to lob a couple of long range missiles at one's country in the past five years.

Bolthouse, the company that manufactured the carrot juice contaminated with botulinum that have made six people sick in North America blames the consumers for their predicament, stating that they should have refrigerated the juice after purchase. Implication: The carrot juice became toxic en route to home.


Note to self: Get new keyboard for Luel. I just accidentally deleted the contents of my primary inbox.


It seems that the pastime of America these days is shooting up schools for kicks. That said, it's heartening to note that things don't always go as expected. In Joplin, Missouri not too long ago a gun jamming took the wind out of the sails of a prospective teenage shooter. The 13 year old (yeah, he was that young... scary, isn't it?) got fired a single shot into the ceiling before the Mac-90 rifle he used (basically a knock-off of the AK-47) jammed. The well-armed and well-read child surrendered and was lead out of the school, having no further harm to do.

In the best of all possible worlds, that was the best outcome, I think.


I've been offline for a couple of days, and for this I apologise. It's been a busy weekend, as most of mine tend to be lately. For the past few weeks, Luel has been asking for two things, namely a systemware upgrade and a new name. On Friday evening I backed up his old systemware one last time to cold storage and booted the latest Gentoo Linux liveCD. It didn't take very long to erase the old software and get a minimal software tree installed - at most fifteen minutes. Since the newer releases of Gentoo don't require you to compile everything under the sun (just stuff that isn't part of the core set of packages, though you can install precompiled binaries of most, if not all of the applications, should you so choose) the bootstrapping process was over less than a half hour after booting from the CD-ROM I was then able to move on to the good stuff - choosing toys.

I do like to compile a lot of third-party applications because I like to optimize the software I run. Mind you, I don't try to rice out my builds with a list of flags to GCC (the GNU Compiler Collection) because, past a certain point, they don't actually do anything helpful. It's very possible to make a compiler optimize the code so much that it isn't actually capable of running anymore. It's also possible to bloat the executable code so much that it runs far too slowly to be useful anymore. I find that the basic -O2 -march=pentium3 is more than sufficient for my needs.

I installed the usual flotilla of command-line applications that I require on a daily basis and then set X.org to compile overnight. This was around 0330 EST/EDT on Saturday morning.

Lyssa and I woke up around 1100 EST/EDT on Saturday morning, strangely refreshed and ready to face the day.. Pagan Pride Day in DC, that is. Festivities had been going on since the last Saturday of September, but day to day life (and SalonCon) kept us too busy to go to anything, so we made the extra effort to hit up the last day of everything for 2006. We were supposed to meet up with Cate in Maryland because she would be riding shotgun with us, but she was running late so Lyssa and I wound up at Tiffin's for a quick lunch, until she got to the Prince George's Metro station. It was around 1300 EST/EDT that we we met up with her as a result.

Prince George's in Maryland is being torn down and reconstructed, one block at a time. Most of the buildings along the secondary drag that runs parallel to route 1 are either being renovated or torn down entirely to make way for what appears to be an office building. This means that some of the roads heading to the Metro station along there are closed, so there was no easy way to pick Cate up unless we went through the parking garage.

Finding the location of Pagan Pride Day wasn't very difficult because it was at the College Perk Coffee House on route 1, on the outskirts of the University of Maryland campus. I used to pass it a lot driving to Lyssa's place when we were still in LDR mode, so I knew right off where it was (for a change). The difficult part proved to be finding parking because the College Perk isn't a very large place. The three of us had to tour the parking lot for a while but eventually we gave up on the on-site parking.

In a way, it was reassurring. I wasn't sure what the turnout for Pagan Pride Day was going to be, and this was a sign that it was well attended.

One of the volunteers directing traffic recognised my license plates and was nice enough to direct us to offsite parking on the other side of the block, by what used to be a green house that is now abandoned, having relocated closer to the highway. We had a bit of a walk ahead of us to get back to the coffee shop; completely unbeknownst to us, the two signs with apparently paradoxical arrows were in fact pointing to a gap in the hedges that served as a useful shortcut up the hill to the back of the College Perk. Oops.

The day was cold and damp, and it tried to rain a couple of times while we were there. Earlier in the day there was a mad rush for people to get stuff weighted down and covered up to prevent damage but the rain and wind caused no further problems for the rest of the day. No sooner had we gotten there than we ran into Butterfly, who was taking a break from her post at the OTO tent on the hillside. We exchanged news for a few minutes but I soon had to run because Lyssa needed cash so she could hit up the dealer's booths, and truth be told, I was in the market for a cup of coffee or three. Off I went on a hike down the highway to find an ATM that wasn't out of order or cleaned out from earlier in the day.

If nothing else, I got my roadwork in that day.

Once I got back I stopped off for my cup of coffee (Hell hath no fury like a Time Lord in search of caffeine) and resumed my rounds of the shindig. I spoke to Mark, Butterfly's husband, for a while about some stuff that I've been working on lately and then picked up the crawl.

In truth, there wasn't much that I needed or was really interested in. I found a new printing of a book that I've been in search of for a while but that was really about it. I did get in an interesting conversation with the folks from Silver Wolf Productions because one of them recognised the Pikachu that hangs off of my backpack. Things sort of took off from there...

Lyssa, Cate, and I left for home around 1630 EST/EDT on Saturday because we had stayed our welcome and wanted to head for other parts. Besides, we had company coming over that night, and an industrial sized pot of Lyssa's chicken soup in the fridge. On the way back we stopped off at Whole Paycheque to get bread and cheese for later in the evening, which wound up being part of dinner.

I meant to write about this earlier: On Friday night, in between triggering compiles on Luel, Lyssa showed me how to make her grandmother's chicken soup recipe. We made a double batch for folks just in case, given what's been going on lately (like Duo taking sick last week). After work we picked up the necessary ingredients, which included six pounds of split chicken breasts.

Did you know that it's possible to cut yourself on a chicken breast? It is; I did so Friday night. While rinsing off the chicken I managed to lay my thumb open on the edge of the former bird's sternum. What is it with Lyssa's soup recipes and bloodletting?

I'm not sure when Jarin arrived on Saturday evening. We'd gotten the bread ready and were setting the table. It was a small gathering on Saturday night, just the four of us sitting around hanging out. Lyssa and Cate were knitting, I worked on Luel, and Jarin read some of the stuff I've got in my library about the American education system. We broke around midnight for Adult Swim, and then things sort of petered out from there. I drove Cate back to her place in Maryland, and made it there and back again in what might be record time. I actually found where I had to be without much difficulty.

Sunday was a day of recovery, more or less. Lyssa and I got up again around 1100 EST/EDT or therabouts and got a slow start to the day, which is to say that we didn't actually have breakfast (such as it was) until 1700 or so, when Hasufin and Mika came over.

North Korea test-fired their first nuclear device. This doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, not after following this for a while.

You know.. I think this is the first time 'Major' Ed Dames has ever had a hit.

Gwar covered Alice Cooper!


Google Maps - Mobile. They even have the software for my busted-ass phone.

There is a new bill headed for the Senate at this time designated H.R.2679, or "The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005" (it's been in the works for a while, you see) that makes for some interesting reading. The bill will prevent litigants from recovering their legal fees in the event they have to sue to assert their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. So.. if you have to sue on religious grounds for some reason (let's say discrimination) you can't ask for legal fees as part of your settlement, even if you win in court.

For those of you in the US who think you won't be affected by this, this bill would also cover freedom from religion, because not only is it Constitutionally protected to express your religion so long as you don't break any other laws, but people are also Constitutionally protected in their rights to profess no religion or spirituality at all.

It's not nanotech yet, but it's pretty tiny nonetheless: the tobacco mosaic virus has been coated with nanoparticles of platinum and used to form circuitry. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles did this by exposing samples of the virus to platinum nanoparticles and embedding them in strips of polymer and placed the stack between a set of electrodes. The end result was that they created a nanoscale transistor, the basis of all computing circuitry. Next up: Figuring out how to use it in a practical manner.

And some more news from the quantum level.. before, single photons were teleported in fourspace. That was a breakthrough, to be sure. Single atoms have also been teleported in fourspace. Physicists at the Neils Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen have transported both positioning information in fourspace and a microscale object consisting of billions of atoms simultaneously. Billions of atoms sounds like a lot but on the scale that quantum mechanics as we know them operate on, that's a significant accomplishment.

A state appeals court in California ruled that gays and lesbians have no right to marry, and that either the legislature or voters will have to change that. Whether or not the legislature will actually listen to the voters isn't discussed by the article.

I'm not sure of what to make of this news report about China using laser weapons against US surveillance satellites to blind them. Supposedly, someone leaked word about the top brass of the United States trying to figure out what to do about it without showing any critical hands. On one hand, this seems a bit more advanced than the Chinese military is reputed to be, but on the other hand lasers are a well-known field, and it really doesn't take much work these days to construct an optical pump and focussing system because many of the parts are available on the open market. There are three things that you would need to make a scheme like this work, and that's a sufficient supply of power for the weapon, knowledge of when a particular spysat would be directly overhead, and a targetting system for aiming the beam.

Something tells me that the Chinese military doesn't have any of those things, but then again I don't know the score because I'm not a military intelligence officer.

Hey! There's my punk ass on stage at Saloncon!


Just in time to draw heat from Mark Foley, it's been announced in the US media that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of al-Quaida, is probably still alive. Watch closely, boys and girls, my fingers will never leave my hands...

Just in time for all of us to start enjoying the lower price of gasoline on the eastern seaboard (the average price of 87 octane is about $2.20us in DC, in my estimation) the president of OPEC decided to crank up the price of oil.

Windows Vista is supposed to integrate the next generation of everyone's favourite pain in the ass, Windows Genuine Advantage to get around the fact that software pirates often use corporate site license keys when installing Windows. We all know how reliable WGA is... so what the Software Protection Platform will do if it thinks your software isn't legit should scare you. If SPP thinks that your copy of Windows is pirated or any of your MS-ware has been tampered with in any way, it'll disable some crucial functions of Windows, and I don't just mean being able to run Windows Update (which is basically a death sentence for a Windows box given the number of remote code execution vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer these days). It will disable the Start Menu (so you can't execute anything), it will disable the Microsoft Anti-Spyware subsystem, and the desktop icons will be removed (so you REALLY can't execute anything). In fact, the only thing you'll be able to do is run IE.

It may as well reformat the hard drive and throw up a bitmap of a big middle finger for the gratification of the users at home.

It's also supposed to prevent the reverse engineering of any code installed on the system (which just isn't possible - as long as you can get a file into a debugger, you can figure out how it works by disassembling it; it should be noted that a binary does NOT have to be on the system it came from to take it apart). Oh, and if SPP thinks that the systemware's been tampered with, it'll give you three days to reformat and reinstall your box before it turns into crippleware. Does anyone want to start taking bets on how long it'll be before an authorised patch from Microsoft will trigger this?

Click on a couple of the links to stories about WGA problems in this article to get an idea of exactly how bad an idea this is.. also see one of my earlier posts for more information.

Last night, Lyssa and I decided to go out to dinner after work for the hell of it. The seasons are changing, the air is getting colder, and after all, why the hell not? After a couple of Google searches we decided to give a restaurant in Tyson's Corner, Virginia a try, namely, Pauli Moto's Asian Bistro, which was opened by Iron Chef Morimoto Masaharu.

One of the old-school Iron Chefs opening an Asian restaurant.. why not, indeed?

The restaurant we went to is at the Tyson's Corner Mall in Virginia, on the bottom floor all the way to the back (right next to Barnes and Noble). The service was quick, charming, and very competant. Lyssa and I were seated right away and our waiter was very attentive and polite. You can order sushi there as an appatizer (which will run you between $6us and $8us). I tried the Tyson's Corner Roll, which is a sushi roll consisting of strips of avocado and tempura chicken. The contrast between cold avocado and warm chicken was interesting, and the roll as a whole was tasty. Lyssa opted for the crab and cream cheese spring rolls, which were also quite good. The cream cheese and crab meat mixture was still warm but the roll wasn't greasy. For our entrees I ordered General Moto's Spicy Chicken (which turned out to be a variant of General T'sao's Chicken that I much prefer that doesn't batter-coat the chicken before frying) and Lyssa ordered the Shrimp in Butter and Garlic Sauce. Both dishes were excellent - I recommend trying these first, and later moving on to other dishes if you still happen to be in the area.

In total, our bill was about $45us. Our meals were excellent and the service was of equivelent calibre. I highly recommend Checking out Pauli Moto's - I give it one flare gun. Go here if you're in the area.

The judge in Dover, Pennsylvania who was involved in the intelligent design hullabaloo has been having interesting times lately. In fact, due to death threats, he had a contingent of federal marshalls watching his back.

One of George W. Bush's famous signing statements was attached to the 2007 US government spending bill, and this one's the most entertaining of all (if you have the sense of humour of Spider Jerusalem): He's given himself the power to edit the annual reports that the DHS has to turn over to Congress. That includes the reports that cover whether or not privacy laws have been followed and the endless lists that they've been compiling for a multitude of purposes. So... what is it going to take to make the people of this country stand up and ask what the hell is going on?

So last night while Lyssa and I were out I picked up X-Men 3 on DVD against my better judgement, it seems. I'd heard from the Lost Boys and Kash that it wasn't very good...

They're right. It's not very good.

The first two movies were excellent. They had good plots, character development, and a coherent storyline. There was an interesting message in the first two movies and not a bit of social commentary on metaphor, especially given who the director was. The characters that were developed in the first two movies were derived into dwo-dimensional charicatures.

X-Men 3 has none of this. It's a war movie. A most loved and a most annoying character both get killed for - let me be honest, here - no good reason other than to shove the fact that this is a war movie up the viewer's nose. There's a lot of shooting, a lot of throwing around massive objects at high speeds, and the dialogue has degenerated into what one would expect of a Hollywood action movie these days. From what I can tell, they gave the movie a huge FX budget but didn't bother paying the scriptwriters, who then store the original script back and left a rip-off of Full Metal Jacket.. With Mutants, in its place. The studio didn't notice the switch and made a crappy movie using it, and apparently had to steal stuff from professional wrestling to fill it in after they discovered that they got screwed.

Geez o' pizza, The Lawnmower Man 2: Job's War was a better movie.

The movie has its moments. A few moments. I can't say that they make up a good plotline when you put them together because you simply cannot assemble them into a meaningful sequence.

Kash, Duo, you guys were right.

The best thing that you can say is that Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) has nice legs for a couple of seconds, they finally showed us the Iceman that comic geeks all know and love, Kelsey Grammer didn't suck as Dr. Henry McCoy (Beast) (if you ignore the rest of the movie), and Rebecca Romjin looks good naked. Crude, but true.

Just like this movie.

I want the last two hours of my life back.

In the third deleted scenes menu, which begins with "Original Version: X-Men Aboard the Jet", hit the up arrow on your remote control, which will highlight a hidden icon in the background. Hit the enter button and you'll see an easter egg. This easter egg doesn't make up for the movie. This is actually the only special feature I've gotten to work on my copy of the DVD, because none of the others are operable... check that. I had to explicitly select the non-voiceover icon for the "play all deleted scenes" menu option to work.

The deleted scenes suck, too. I had high hopes that this would be similiar to the Dungeons and Dragons movie, in that the deleted scenes would have the real plot to the movie, but this isn't the case.

Kash told Lyssa to tell me that there's another hidden scene after the credits are over...

As for the three alternate endings? Bleh.

...the hell?



Time required to transform an empty storefront in downtown Washington, DC into a fully operational Starbuck's franchise: Four weeks, one day (approximately).

Value of Delocator, which is a website of lists of coffee shops that aren't Starbuck's in the same area: Utterly priceless.

I've got a geekbone you wouldn't believe - Commodore-64 system mods!

You can get Microsoft Windows security patches as ISO images from their website. There is one disk image per month linked off of this knowledge base article. The disk images cover everything from Windows 2000 Server all the way up to Server 2003 Data Center Edition (R2). However, the disk images only cover patches as far back as January of 2006, so you probably won't get everything applicable for a particular release of Windows.

Here's an interesting bill: H.R. 4239, otherwise known as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which would make it illegal to cause any 'animal enterprise' to lose money. That includes by lodging protests, organising boycotts, or demonstrating.

It's been said that eating meat is murder. Someone wants to make protesting the eating of meat terrorism.

This bill has already made it through the Senate and will be voted on by the House of Representatives soon.

Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps has gone so far 'round the bend that all he can do is fire a flaregun from time to time to signal what everyone else on the planet calls 'reality'. He's picketing the funerals of the Amish girls who were shot earlier this week in school. Strangely enough, he blames the whole thing on Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania...

Oh, gods... this broke my brain. And yet, it fits David Tenant so well...

Well, that's a political opinion for you..


"Don't forget - Oct. 3, '10"

Microsoft finally admitted that the Windows Genuine Advantage functionality is causing problems after hundreds of people have been complaining since it became mandatory that it was breaking things. More's the point, WGA can wreak havoc in large, managed networks (even with MOMS). The most commonly encountered problem (which I'll vouch for personally, having encountered it before Lyssa's birthday LAN party) is that it erroneously marks legitimate installs of Windows as pirated, which makes it difficult to install drivers, very difficult to install patches, and results in an inability to activate Windows (which then causes it to stop functioning after thirty days). It's such a (quiet) problem that they've had instructions for removing WGA in their knowledge base since shortly after it was released.

If you've been too busy lately to keep an eye on the news (like me), then you will no doubt be surprised to hear that representative Mark Foley was recorded having net.sex via instant messenger with underage boys. That's right... if you read the transcripts (which are all over the Net by now) he was skeezing on teenage interns in his office and picking them up. There's some pretty explicit stuff in them (and like a lot of folks these days, he can't type off the cuff worth a tinker's dam) so you might want to consider whether or not you really want to look at this stuff at work. Rather than throw the child protection laws on the books at him (as they do with everyone else) the FBI is considering whether or not they actually can bring him up on charges. Once the transcripts were leaked Foley tendered his resignation. As if that weren't enough to make your blood pressure go up, Foley was the head of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children Caucus... as it turns out, a couple of representatives knew that this was going on and a few of them tried to get the attention of someone who could do something about it, but they were ignored.

If you hit up Bugmenot you can read this article at the Chicago Tribune in which Dennis Hastert (House Speaker) went on the record by stating that Foley's higher-ups should have stepped in when they first found out about what he was doing but didn't because the teen's parents didn't want any publicity (which implies that they knew what was going on). Because the teen is, well, a teen, which means that his identity would have been kept secret in the media due to the nature of what was going on, this doesn't wash.

In case you have to see for yourself, here are nine pages of transcripts of their IM chats.

As if there wasn't enough bad stuff going on right now in the world...

This is one of the more ham-handed articles about Foley I've found yet. The premise of the article is this: Foley didn't actually anything wrong, relativistic morality is to blame for Foley sending sexually explicit instant messages to children.

I had the same reaction that most of you probably had: "What the hell?!"

Way to defend someone caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

The band Information Society is calling upon their fans to help them make a music video for the song I Like the Way You Werk It, which will be the first single from their next album, due out in 2007.

Anybody got a video camera I could borrow for an hour?

Fans will go to great lengths if there is sufficient coolness to a series.

Your world is 72% Sophisticated, 53% Unconventional, and 54% Intense!
You, my friend, have one hell of a ride ahead of you. You've landed yourself in the futuristic earth of Transmetropolitan. The City is an... interesting place to live, full of opportunity and brutality, bliss and suffering, intelligence and depths of ignorance unimaginable. You'll only believe what you see, and you'll see things so weird, so incomprehensible, so fucked up that you'd probably go mad if you didn't so crave such things. But they'll all make their own sort of sense and fit in with the big, crazy picture. Want to try on a new body for a day, or a week? Want to drink and smoke and do drugs beyond your wildest dreams without any real negative effects (think "anti-cancer prescriptions")? Want to fight the establishment and find the Truth with only a weekly opinion column? Then you're in luck. Personally I recommend becoming a Foglet.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Sophisticated
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Link: The Which Imaginary World Fits You Test written by Azurain on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Back online. Sort of.

Last Thursday night after work, Sami, a friend of Lyssa and myself who hails from the state of Florida, arrived in Washington, DC to ride shotgun with us on our weekend trip to New Jersey to attend SalonCon, which was a convention to draw people together to celebrate refinement and respect, and to step out of our busy, hectic, holy-shit-where-did-my-week-go lives to indulge in our personal interests for a change. To wit, we headed out to Anita's for dinner that night and then hung around the house to relax after a week where more time was spent standing than sitting. Whole Paycheque provided us with a couple of bars of excellent and tasty chocolate that were enjoyed with gusto by everyone concerned.

The three of us packed our stuff on Friday morning, which wound up being a lot of clothes and suchlike, clothes that are much nicer than what we usually wear (even to work) and accoutrements were picked up from the dry cleaners and carefully stowed in the TARDIS in preparation for the long journey northward. We finally got underway around 1130 EST/EDT on Friday and set forth for the highway, the DC beltway, and then the interstate. Around 1500 local time we got stuck in traffic as the folks who could afford to go home early on a Friday did so. Most of those folks don't actually work in the DC area but run an interstate commute every week... it's rough and expensive, but one does what one has to do to get by. Anyway, traffic slowed to a crawl and it took about an hour for us to travel just two miles.

We discovered something the hard way about four hours into the trip: The directions we'd gotten from Mapquest were worthless past a certain point. On route 95 north we were supposed to take exit 9 to get to the hotel. We found exit 7, exit 8, exit 68, exit 10... there isn't an exit 9. We turned around and tried again from the southbound side. Same thing. We swung around again and took exit 68 for the hell of it, and wound up going in more or less the right direction, but then the rest of the directions didn't match up anymore.

Eventually we pulled into the parking lot of a CVS and started asking for help. Strangely enough, no one who worked there had any idea of how to get to where we were going. An older woman (now dubbed "The Angel of New Jersey") took pity on me and let us follow her as far as the cross-road we needed, which was within spitting distance of the hotel that hosted SalonCon. Somehow, and none of us are quite certain how, we took a number of back roads and strange turns (more strange than normal in New Jersey, which does not permit left turns but requires travellers to make a right onto a side road from which you then turn left and cross over the road you were just on, or turn right and continue on your way) that lead us to our destination after we'd lost sight of our guide. After everything was said and done insofar as the trip up was concerned, we'd arrived earlier than my initial projections (ToA: 1806 EST/EDT; projected ToA: 1830 EST/EDT).

This was far from the most interesting or exciting event of the entire weekend.

We got settled into our room sans Rialian (who wasn't able to take last Friday off and had to drive up late) and headed over to the sports bar/restaurant off of the hotel lobby, which was the closest practical place for us to eat given that Lyssa wanted to attend the Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs gather at SalonCon at 1900 local time.

The sports bar at the Somerset, NJ Holiday Inn is a bit of a dive. The food wasn't all that good, they messed up our order (Lyssa had to have her food sent back because it wasn't done), and the service was, quite frankly, pants. If you can at all help it, don't eat in-house. Either order in, or get someone who lives in the area to drive you to a restaurant that doesn't suck.

If you're not familiar with BPAL, they're a group of alchemists on the west coast who manufacture and sell small-batch cosmetic perfumes and essential oils. Their wares are expensive and you often have to wait a month or so for them to produce your batch of perfume, but I speak from experience when I say that their work is top-notch. You won't find scents like rose, patchoulli, or daisies. Instead, you can purchase such scents as The Bloody Sword (a combination of the essential oil blend called dragon's blood, myrrh, black pepper, labdanem extract, benzoin, and an extract of tanned and cured leather), Pumpkin Patch (pumpkin, cocoa, hazelnut, and walnut), and Aeval (sage, sweet pea, musk, and tonika). Once you've tried one or two of BPAL's scents, you'll quite simply never look anywhere else for perfume. Patrons of the Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs tend to become fans for life due to the quality and eccentricity of their products. Their scents change slightly after a while because they react not only with the air but with the oils in your skin, so I advise you to purchase the tiny little sample bottles called 'imps' to try a few out, and then make your decision from there.

Sami and I retired to the room to get ready for the masquerade ball later that night, as well as prowl around the dealers' rooms a little. I opted for my leather suit with a black silk shirt and necktie, which I haven't worn in quite a while because I don't have time to go clubbing much anymore. To complete the image, I wore my whiteout contact and half-mask, the very image of a loophole in Time. In the dealer's room I picked up a couple of things, namely a beautiful waycoat that everyone present urged me to purchase (how can I argue with twenty people telling me that I had to buy it?) and a handful of beads shaped like dice that Sami braided into my hair while we got ready for the masquerade ball.

Sami and I wound up hanging out in the con suite drinking coffee and talking with the other folks who were also killing time or were otherwise on break from their duties around the con until Lyssa tracked us down. She was going to head up to the room and change and then all of us were going down to the masquerade ball to meet and greet the con staff and other con-goers. She opted for her light grey and purple skirt and blouse and wore her leather woodland tiara in lieu of a mask due to her spectacles.

The burlesque show that opened the festivities of the evening was organised by the local Rocky Horror Picture Show cast, a troupe that calls themselves the Home of Happiness. Much to my surprise, the show was much more interesting and titillating than I had originally expected. If you have a chance to see a real burlesque show, I suggest that you give it a try. If nothing else, they're good for a laugh.

The ball started around 2300 EST/EDT Friday night. Unfortunately, people began to trickle out shortly therafter because the music, frankly, wasn't up to scratch.

As it turned out, the DJ blew off SalonCon and the organisers of the con did the best they could to pick up the pieces. Lyssa spoke to the organisers while I ran up to our room to get Luel and our iPods. We were asked to take over for the DJ who left them high and dry to try to salvage what we could of the masquerade ball.

We ran into a major snag right off the bat, after I got back downstairs and examined the PA system: We had no cabling kit. Sure, there was just enough to hook a CD player into the mixer and the mixer into the amp, but we needed a cable with an 1/8" plug so that we could jack any of our gear into the PA. I could have cannibalised the microphone I habitually carry with me but I would also have had to dismantle a rented audio cable to make everything fit, and that was deemed unacceptible. Pulling stuff out of the sound system's transport chassis and dumping the contents of my backpack out were similiarly unfruitful. What we wound up doing was pulling music off of our respective iPods with GTKpod and spooling it through XMMS to uncompress it into .wav files that could then be burned as audio tracks to blank CDs to play back through the CD player attached to the PA system.

Once we got the music going again, people started trickling back into the ballroom and the masquerade ball really got underway. Things were a little rough around the edges because we were holding everything together with duct tape, magic markers, and blank discs but on the whole we managed to bring the ball back from the brink.

There's something that I should explain about Luel: His taste in music is a little different from mine, so some of the disks that I'd burned did not have the tracks we selected on them, but entirely different songs instead. I wasn't using a randomiser to pick tracks from my collection - I was using lists of songs that were hand picked, as was Lyssa. Luel appears to have overrode our selections on his own, which resulted in some pretty strange mixes (such as This Corrosion by the Sisters of Mercy followed by the theme song to the British cartoon Dangermouse). My laptop was completely airwalled in the ballroom so I don't think that anyone was messing around inside his software. He's been asking for a systemware upgrade for about two weeks now, but somehow Idon't think this had anything to do with our playlists getting changed.

I'm not sure when Rialian finally arrived; somewhen between burning the first and second audio CDs, Rialian called in and tried to get directions to the hotel because he was completely lost, just as Lyssa, Sami, and I had been earlier in the day, and he was trying to locate any street or highway that actually made any sense. None of us could figure out where in the hell he was or how he'd gotten there. I only knew that around midnight I was spun around on stage and boodled furiously by Rialian.

Don't ask. If you know Ri, you know of what I speak. If you don't know Ri, chances are you'll find out first hand when you first meet him.

We got up around 1100 EST/EDT on Saturday after crashing around 0300 EST/EDT that morning, utterly stressed out and tired. Showers were gotten and clothes were found (Lyssa dressed in her pinstriped trousers and lacy white Chinese blouse, I wore my own pinstriped trousers, a green shirt, black and red patterned necktie, vest, and tan waistcoat, Sami her gypsy skirt and silks, and Rialian camoflauge pants and an absurd purple bathrobe) and we trooped downstairs to catch the first panels of interest of the day. I made it to the panel on obsolete technologies and obsolescence about halfway through, just in time to discuss telephones and telephony. After it was over I rejoined everyone for the cream tea that was held at the ritzy restaurant that was right next to the sports bar in the lobby which was catered by Teaberry's. This is another experience that I strongly suggest that everyone have at least once: Perfectly brewed tea, fresh scones (not the dried out lumps of flour that they sell as scones at the grocery store), tiny lumps of sugar decorated with icing, and jam, clotted cream (not as nasty as it sounds), and lemon curd for the scones.

There is little in the world more relaxing or enjoyable than sitting back with a cup of hot tea and milk, nibbling on a scone, and talking with close friends. James, one of the organisers of the convention, joined us for a while and we chatted for a while. We watched people enter the restaurant once or two at a time dressed in their finest: Ballgowns that required a spotter to get through the door, tailored suits of all kinds, a gothic lolita and her minder, even a couple in velvet and leather with their sissy in tow.

If nothing else, the rest of the United States could learn a thing or two from the propriety and politeness shown by the attendees while a young woman played the harp from her position in the center of the room.

Unfortunately, the homemade cordials tasting was cancelled because the organiser of that salon flaked out as well. Rialian was pressed into service to do a presentation on meadmaking to fill in. After the cream tea was over I headed back upstairs to change and wander around the hotel to see what was going on, trading my walking stick for my Tom Baker scarf and hat (which went over quite well with the convention-goers in attendance that afternoon). I spent much of the afternoon speaking more with James on various topics as well as the couple that would be performing the seance later in the evening. I discovered a few things about them that got me on the phone with Lyssa to talk her into going, which in hindsight was probably not the best thing that I could have done.

Dinner was in the form of pizza ordered from a local outfit that had been doing brisk business since the convention started on Friday. We ordered two pizzas, one of which I had to pass on after almost biting down on an olive pit (after chipping a few teeth in my day, I'm still phobic about eating things with seeds or pits in them) and changed yet again for the rest of the night. I opted for an electric blue blouse and black business suit for the rest of the night.

The seance was scheduled to start around 2000 EST/EDT on Saturday night. I helped some of the con staff move tables and chairs around and tried to figure out how to turn off all of the lights in the room, but without getting into the fusebox I wasn't able to disable the emergency lights in the corners of the ceiling. We moved all of the chairs and tables out of the way save for a ring of chairs surrounding a small orange table that held a small copper horn, about two feet in length and four inches in diameter at the broad end. The couple who lead the seance were trained in Lily Dale, which has some very strict requirements and restrictions on who can and cannot settle there; the circumstances under which one may train I do not know and so cannot relate. We weren't allowed to touch one another, and there was a formal protocol for communicating what our senses gathered and keeping in touch. It is said that spirits cannot materialise if there is light, and our inability to darken the room completely would be problematic. Still, we forged on.

I am very aware of the quirks of the human sensorium and the processing capabilities of the brain, as well as some of the glitches that occasinally crop up in one's consciousness. It is quite another thing to have something odd be corroborated by someone elsewhere in the room. One or two things that I lack the necessary information to hypothesize about were apparent, and as such I cannot, in good conscience, draw a conclusion about them. When it was all said and done, a good twenty minutes later, we had a freshly dented metal horn and a group of people assimilating their respective experiences. I used some reiki on Oshii, the gothic lolita that I saw earlier, as she regained her orientation after the seance was over.

Much of the evening was spent hanging out with the con staff as the bands set and tuned up. Lyssa retired to our room to rest for a while while Sami and I wandered around talking to people. At one point later in the evening we picked up the shisha from our room and headed down to the VIP lounge to hang out with the convention staff. Most of the bands that'd been playing were there while everyone else curled up in the room they had. Rialian passed around the two bottles of mead that he'd brought with him to introduce people to his work (vis a vis, the catnip damiana and mixed berry meads). James took me out back to give me hookah setup and use 101, and soon he had clouds of vanilla and molasses tobacco smoke filling the air. The rest of the night (until 0330 EST/EDT on Sunday) was spent sitting around the patio of the VIP lounge smoking a shisha and discussing metaphysics, psychology, Tibetan buddhism, technomagick, chaos techniques, physics, mathematics, and quantum mechanics. I made the aquaintence of someone who picked up a few of the references I dropped about my clove cigarettes and we chatted for a while about the price of flax in the Texas panhandle.

After we packed up and cleaned out the hookah, everyone headed back inside, ostensibly to get ready for bed, only to find the party still in full swing, with quite a bit less greyfacedness apparent. I finally dragged myself to bed just before dawn and collapsed, insensate.

Thankfully we'd packed up a bit the night before, because checkout time at the Holiday Inn is 1100. We got cleaned up after the night before and loaded our stuff onto the cargo cart I'd brought up from the lobby earlier that morning. Unfortunately, we had to skip the catered brunch because we had a pre-existing engagement with Lyssa's sister and fiance. While the front desk divvied up the bill four ways we had a good discussion with the new managing editor of New Witch magazine before heading out.

As it turned out, it wasn't too difficult finding J-'s apartment complex. Finding the exact building turned out to be a bit more difficult but once she picked up the phone we were able to find it without any problem. We got the fifty-cent tour of her apartment and played with the kitten for a while (who's growing like a weed) and then set off for Princeton, New Jersey in search of lunch.


Back from Saloncon. Dead tired. Still alive.


The bill that authorizes military tribunals for enemy combatants passed. It also permits arbitrary selection of interrogation and torture technqiues without review. Also, the nationwide wiretapping programme was approved with just a few restrictions. The restrictions are that the House and Senate intelligence committess must be notified, an attack 'must be imminent' (how many times have they clamed that this year alone?), and that they must be reviewed every 90 days. Interestingly, the bill forbids some of the more unusual mistreatments, such as using enemy combatants for biological experiments (but that's never happened before, has it?)

Well, let's see.. at any time, for any reason, your Internet and telephone conversations can be monitored without a warrant, you can be spirited away to a facility overseas for imprisonment and interrogation without legal representation, you can now be tortured for information that you probably don't have, your home can be broken into and searched without a warrant...

I know I'm proud of the country I live in. How about you?


Lee Gomes at the Wall Street Journal has been the first in the media to say that the king is walking around stark, raving naked by declaring that most of the so-called technological breakthroughs announced these days really aren't, and the word is being overused to the extent that it doesn't mean much of anything anymore. So many new technologies don't come into use until years after their invention, and many more never see the light of day because no one can think of a practical use for them. Marketing is to blame for this, mostly. It's their job to get people excited and ready to spend money, after all. Yes, these new developments are important but they aren't going to revolutionise the industry overnight.. at some point in the future, though, they might help do so.

Definitely food for thought these days, when it seems like every company on the planet has its own bastardised dialect of vernacular American English that takes a simple concept like 'consulting' and turns it into jargon fit for an episode of Star Trek (where most of the jargon was adlibbed because the scripts only contained the tag technobabble here and there).

Clinical test results are in on the transplantation of pancreatic cells (the Islets of Langerhans) into diabetics - 86% of the test subjects relapsed into type-1 diabetes and had to start taking intravenous insulin once again. It appears that the transplanted cells were destroyed by the immune systems of the test subjects, which left them back where they started, if nothing else.

This news article about the death of a five-year old child due to complications from general anesthesia doesn't bother me as much as the circumstances behind it: Why in the hell would a five-year old girl with a full complement of baby teeth which are going to be lost anyway need caps and fillings? Would someone please explain this to me?


It's amazing what a few hours of sleep can do for your outlook on life. Last night, after running for a couple of days on very little sleep, we went to bed at 2100 EST/EDT and slept clear through until morning, thus catching up on all the sleep that we didn't get last weekend due to her bithday party. I got up and for the first time in a while my head is clear and it didn't take much to get me moving. Taking a shower in the morning actually worked as advertised, something that I certainly can't argue with. Last night we sat in the living room and relaxed together, something that we don't do very often anymore. Lyssa worked on her knitting (a new scarf) and I read more of the book that I've been working on for over a week now. The television provided noise of various sorts in the form of an episode of Law and Order that was genuinely creepy.

Brent Spiner's getting old. This took me by surprise.

What kept gnawing at me, however, was the characters of the week behind the crime in the story. A family of psychologists and their grown-up daughter. Spiner's character actually had affect, as panicky and worried as it was. Given that his character was the one that was considered the prime suspect, it's understandable. The other (his wife), on the other hand... I've seen more animation in a Hanna-Barbara cartoon. Flat voice, distant as the other shore, keeping everyone else at arm's length with ad-hoc diagnoses of mania or delusional disorder without even blinking, she came across more like an automaton than a (fictional) character. I couldn't relate to her at all because she portrayed none of the usual cues that people associate with being a person, such as empathy for others. Everything was strictly controlled and used as a tool, no more, no less.

It is said that things that unsettle us the most are those things which we have within ourselves, and when we are confronted with representations of those things, we feel fear. Primal fear, which comes out of nowhere and sweeps you away.

Make of that what you will. I've drawn my own conclusions, which I will keep private.

On a tangent to that topic is something I've been rolling around in my head for a while which crystallised this morning while thinking about this video done by the folks at SORP in the western United States.

It's kind of long, so you'll probably want to watch it when you're not at work. To summarise, it's about a pair of pseudo-cops running down a kid who appear to be involved in a subculture called emo and curb stomping the poor bastard in a segment parodyin the television show COPS. The obvious irony in the segment aside, it touches on something that galls me about people in general these days, which is dismissiveness, often because someone is so wrapped up in their own life that they won't stop to look at things from someone else's point of view.

The stereotype of emo kids is very much like the stereotype of the gothic subculture in the 1990's and I would guess probably one or two other subcultures in the 1980's and later 1970's, working backward in history.

Once the human body kicks into physical maturation mode, one's hormones go positively berserk and disrupt not only how you feel but how you relate to the world. Everyone handles these effects a little differently. Some throw themselves into school and extracurricular activities. Some turn to books and computers to cope. Some drink or start taking drugs; others are taken to psychiatrists and are given a spectrum of drugs in an attempt to stabilise their thoughts and emotions. The debate over which of the groups gets the more entertaining drugs is not one that I will address. Some go punk, some go prep, some wind up at least nominally attached to whatever subculture that you care to mention, and we all remember the sundry sorts of bullshit associated with them.

My point is simply this: We all get by as best we can however we can, and as long as we're not actively getting in anyone else's way by disrupting life, who cares what you identify as or what group you hang out with? Yeah, someone might be funny looking, but when was the last time you really looked in a mirror and thought about why you look the way you do?

Another thing that gets to me is how the word 'emo' has come to refer to anyone who's having a bad time of things, as noticed in an entry in the blog of a friend of mine. Let's face it: Depression is part of the human condition, as are happiness, boredom, and apparently looking down one's nose at people who might be reflecting something in yourself that you'd rather not think about. Rather than helping them get through what ails them, it's easier to slap a derogatory label on them and walk away. Way to help a friend, guys..

Holy crow. After reading the Orion's Arm primer it makes so much more sense.

It's not quite true microgravity but it's close enough for government work: Today a group of French doctors boarded a microgravity simulator airplane (simpliar to NASA's vomit comet) to perform minor surgery on a human as a precursory attempt at surgery in space. The procedure involves the removal of a fatty tumour from the arm of the patient using magnetised instruments to hold them in place when they are not in use.

The election is coming up and the issue of just how secure the United States is has become the hot button matter of the day, much to no one's surprise. The government has not yet been able to stamp out all of the information leaks, and declassifying certain documents has become the preferred method of minimising the damage done.

The fifth volume of the journal Uninformed has been released.

Bruce Schneier has reported in his weblog that the US National Security Agency has declassified the indices of two of its internal publications, the NSA Technical Journal and the Cryptographic Quarterly. Unfortunately, the contents of the archives of these publications have not yet been released to the public but now you can use the titles of the articles to lodge Freedom of Information Act requests to try to get them. The downside is that it can take them three or more years to get to your request, make the decision, declassify and redact the text if appropriate, and get it to you. They've got a long queue to process, you see...

Still, it's a start.

This is why I love cosplay.