Monday, December 01, 2008

One of my Investments, in the News

Although not in the way my investments usually are. This is the restaurant several of us invested in during our last round.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lucky!

I leave Seattle and come to Palm Springs to get away from the rain.

On average 354 days in Palm Springs each year are sunny, and the percentage of available sunshine is about 85; ... and humidity is low, reflecting the small annual rainfall total of only 5.8 inches, and around 20 days each year on which rain actually falls.

Guess which days I picked? 2 days, 2 days of rainso far. Also, an inch or so of rain.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Adventures in Parking

This is a repost of something I wrote 3 or 4 years ago. Today my son was driving around Philadelpia looking for a spot and I was reminded of it and told him I'd put it up again now that he's old enought to appreciate it.

I am torn. While I like the fact that Boston has freshly cleaned streets every week so that muggings and drug deals can take place in a clean environment supportive of the habits shitting dogs and barfing drunks, I'm liking the towing of my car thing not so much.
The other day , I went to get my car, and I couldn't find it. For those of you unfamiliar with Boston's Parking Calculus, with it's myriad streets, even/odd parking schema, let me explain what you have to do to simply find a parking spot.


Let's say you live in the South End at the corner of Union Park and Shawmut. Let's call this spot home. Intuitively you know there is a spot at some radius, R, away that qualifies as parking. This what you do to park:
  • Drive by your apartment in the hopes there is a spot. This is called the Christmas Spot since it happens once or twice a year.
  • Drive around the block looking for a spot.
  • Neighborhood parking requires a sticker. Drive to BackBay or Bay Village, see a spot, curse the lazy bastards who live there and their ample parking. Think about moving to Back Bay. You now now approximately how large R is. Exceed it again only at the risk of also exceeding the pressure tolerances of the delicate network of veins in your brain.
  • Drive past your apartment. Notice an unstickered car parking in front of it. Throw a gypsy curse at the tourist bastard. Think about calling the city to have them towed. Remember that the city won't do that. Curse the lazy bastards at the tow lot.
  • Drive around the block in circles of increasing radius.
  • Watch a valet from the restaurant around the corner steal a free spot at R/10 away from your home. Stop your car, scream at him for parking there. Threaten him with dubious threats like, "I'm calling the tow lot, that car won't be there when you come back in an hour", or "I'm often responsible for unexplained car fires when I'm off my meds!". If the valet is new, this has a chance to work, otherwise they know what lazy bastards they are at the tow lot and will flip you off.
  • Drive around some more.
  • Watch a tourist pull out, grab his space and park!
  • Realize tomorrow is the 3rd Tuesday of the month and this, the south side of the street, gets swept at 6am, so your car will be towed at 5:59am.
  • Tell yourself you will get up at 5:30am to move the car.
  • Remember that a) there will be even fewer spots at 6am when everyone else is moving and b) it still sounds too stupid to get up at 5:30am just to move the car.
  • Tell yourself you could drive over to the gym
  • Realize the gym has an even worse parking situation at 5:30am.
  • Drive around some more.
  • Get desperate. Park next to a hydrant.
  • Realize that the hydrant is on the south side of the street and tomorrow is the 3rd Tuesday of the month.
  • Drive around some more.
  • Drive out to the sketchy section of town at 2R from your house. There are no neighborhood stickers here. There is no street cleaning. There are a surprising number of syringes of the street. Broken car window glass grinds under your tires as you pull into one of the many spaces. Eyes light up as it pulls in and you reflexively touch your wallet.
  • Tell yourself the syringes are because there are a lot of diabetics here.
  • Tell yourself the glass is really from taillights where people touch park.
  • Tell yourself you had a successful parking experience here "that one time last year".
  • Tell yourself that, after 45 minutes looking for fucking parking, you really need to move out of the city.
  • Weigh the possibility of having your car stolen vs. having it towed vs. actually finding it at 8am tomorrow.
  • Drive around some more.
    After an hour, find a spot at exactly R, on the north side of the street.
  • The spot is the size of Miata
  • You drive an Eclipse.
  • Jam the car into the spot through a combination of superlative parking skills and crushing the bumpers of the other cars like egg cartons under an Acela.
  • Double check the north/south orientation of the street. Think again about which Tuesday this is.
  • Realize it's the second Wednesday not the third Tuesday.
  • See a red wall of rage descend over your vision.
  • 5 or minutes will pass, you will have no memory of them. This is normal.
  • Note the impressive dents in the hood of that guy's car. The gym is doing you good!
  • Realize you must have missed a spectacular accident since the parking sign is now on the ground tied into the shape of a Bavarian Pretzel.
  • You note that you see that a lot around here.
  • Walk the 15 minutes it takes to cross R and go home.
  • Go to bed.
  • Wake up at 5:30 and think about moving the car.
  • Go back to sleep.
  • Leave the apartment at 8:00am and try to remember where you parked the car last night.
  • Thinking about it, you can only remember a big red wall and your fists aching a little.
  • Walk the perimeter of R, looking for your car or a big red wall.
  • R is not a circumference of a circle, but a highly fractal path due to gerrymandering and neighborhood geometry.
  • The fractal dimension of R is .99287. That is absurdly high for 3 dimensional space.
  • Find a car that looks like yours but, in fact, has pimp wheels.
  • Keep walking the perimeter of R, looking for your car...


This is pretty much what goes on every night. You can count on getting towed about once a year.
Why is it you live in the city again?
I had parked on a first Wednesday side on a first wednesday. After walking 2R, I called the lazy bastards at the BTD. Sure enough, they towed me at 8:01. $105 later, I got a new lesson in parking calculus. :(

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Facebook

Facebook is the current craze amoung my friends, so I have been spending a lot of time over there. The result is less time in this blog since my overall amount of free time tends to be conserved. If you have a chance, ping me over there as well!

Dentistry

Another root canal this week, this one a particularly unpleasent one. I spent 5 hours in the chair. 5 hours. The anesthetic wore off after 2 and half, I got renumbed but it only last another other hour. After that, it didn't really work at all. As was explained to me afterwards, when one's gums are infected, they are highly resistant to pain killers. The more inflamed the get, the more resistant they become. Needless to say, mine were pretty inflamed. So I spent the last hour and a half with little or no numbing. It took so long because the roots of the tooth were not straight like normal, but curved around in shapes which made it difficult to clean out the root completely and, you absolutely positively do NOT want to leave nerves in there.

I admit freely I screamed loudly at several points. Enough to scare the other patients and some of the staff.

That said, the dentist did a good job and despite the conditions, a very professional one. He called the next and we talked, I think he wanted to a) see how I was doing and b) make sure there were no hard feelings. There are not, I understand why he needed to do what he did and respect him for it. He did confide to me that, "it's patients with teeth like that one which cause some dentists not to do root canals at all".

I thought that was funny. My mouth is a dire warning to others.

Looks good!

The new Star Trek trailer, set to reboot the franchise, looks pretty good.

Investitude

I've been a member of a small investors club for a few years now, and to say the last 12 months have been rough is a huge understatement. We've lost significantly in the market, although some of our private investments have done okay (as well as some investment in gold). Occasionally we make limited, non-controlling buy-ins for various private businesses, either as direct investments or structured loans. Yesterday we agreed to buy a restaurant in Seattle that I have been going to for a few years now. Despite the climate, it looks like a pretty good buy given food, the neighborhood and the management. While not, by any means, a controlling interest, it's enough that we should do pretty well in a market where 2% bonds look like genius. If we have this right, we should be getting around 9% if you don't count the fringe benefits (i.e. I eat there a few times a month or free, they are now stocking my favorite drink etc.).

If you have a chance and are in Seattle, check out Amore on the corner of 5th and Bell.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How 7 of 9 Changed History and Elected Barak Obama

I was thinking about the chain of events that got us to where we are today, I remembered an obscure link between 7 of 9 and the US Presidency.

In 2004, Republican Peter Fitzgerald left the US Senate and Jack Ryan, former Goldman trader, wanted his seat. He ran on a platform of "staunch family values and rock-rib conservative principles". He won the republican primary and his only opponent was a little known, poorly funded black guy named Barak Obama. He was, in other words, a shoe-in.

However, Ryan's wife was famed actress Jeri Ryan, at the time coming off her famous role as 7 of 9 in Star Trek: Voyager. You'd think that was a plus but, alas, not so much. Jeri divorced Jack for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was his taste for group sex and her complete version to joining him. All of this was under seal until the Chicago Tribune sued to unseal the records, was successful, and brought to light a host of highly graphic and, well, hypocritical details.

Ryan dropped out and the GOP ran comedian Alan Keyes as his replacement, resulting in a 70%-30% loss.

And now you know, the rest of the story.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bill Mahr on America

Just past the "new rules" and totally worth it:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cassandra

I have to admit, I didn't grok what was going on as well as Peter Schiff:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mormons

Let me get this straight: The LDS Church has spent $25 Million to break up the marriages of people who don't share their faith ... just becuase they can.

Right.

And somehow I am supposed to beleive they should have to pay taxes?

Monsignor, that dog won't hunt!

If you want to beleive in invisible sky father, go right ahead. Just don't start passing laws based on your nonsense, that's where I draw the line.

The Count, Censored

I have watched this a half-dozen times and I always laugh.



(From Geoff)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vetern's Day




Go Hug a Vet today.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Awesomeness from RedSate

Now that they have been taken down a peg or two, I can once again stand to read them. Which is good, otherwise I would have missed this wonderful piece of awesomeness:

Suicide at the Council of Elrond

Of course, it's better in the orginal elvish.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My thoughts exactly

The Cunning Realist:

Conservatism's chastened, soul-searching morning after: bombs, cancer jokes, and some typically incisive commentary on foreign affairs.The wilderness is thickly forested, and the trail maps suck...

All you who believed in WMDs, that compassionate conservatism was something other than ages old religious arguments about who's invisible friend is bigger, and called folks "socialists" who didn't want to give $700,000,000,000 in welfare to banks, I say, enjoy your time in the wilderness! Don't feel a need to hurry back, we'll take care of things while you're gone. When you decide to run someone for public office who knows that Africa isn't a country, let us know, we'll be waiting.

Grace Notes

I watched Sen. McCain's consession speech last night and was highly impressed. He gave a respectful, well-intentioned and completely graceful speech marred only slightly by the booing of his crowd. And, given that Democrats have excelled at these kinds of speechs in the last 20 years, it's nice to see the republicans can summon up the needed class for this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Crushed!

As Ohio falls, so goes McCain. When he didn't flip Pennsylvania (thanks Becky!), he had to run the table. When Ohio fell, so did McCain. MSNBC is refusing to call Florida and North Carolina, but that's just to keep people from tuning out.

For the first time in my adult life, I got the election results I wanted. (Well... we'll see about ballot initiatives in CA in WA, but largely I got what I wanted.)

Theme's to look for in the GOP Post Mortem:

Center-Right Nation
Blame Bush
McCain wasn't mean enough.
Palin should have been allowed to be Palin
etc.

Anything except their intellectually bankrupt ideas. If your conservative friends say it's not a repudiation of their ideas, ask why they lost so many ballot initiatives, e.g. SD abortion and Colorado's attempt to outlaw contraception.

The world tomorrow will be measurably better than the world yesterday.

and I am going to go drinking!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Call

In poker, after the last check-raise, the opponent can call, bringing an end to the games and winning or losing based on the cards. We've reached that point in the election. My final Intrade bets are in, the final attack ads are out as McCain throws the very last of his dignity at the wall hoping against hope that folks take pity and elevate him to national office.

As a long time independent, I have watched the democrats throw victory away time after time with candidates one would, at the best of times, still have to hold one's nose to vote for, Gore, Kerry, Mondale, Dukakis and Slick Willie. I voted for them (sometimes) largely because the alternative was even worse.

Obama has been different. When I saw his speech in Boston in 2004 (and btw started one of the first posting on this blog), I thought to myself, "wow, the nominated the wrong guy". Smart, articulate and, above all, reasonable. Open to non-ideological thoughts, new ideas and the idea that maybe a hip-shot isn't always the best way to go. In 2004 I assumed there was no chance at all anyone in any party would let him within a mile of the presidency.

So here we are on Election Eve 2008, and I got everything I wanted from the Dems. The campaign ran the way I would have wanted (even though I was ready to put a Clinton on the ticket for unity), with the candidates showing the maturity and leadership I would want to see (well.... Biden.... but he's funny, so it's okay), and Obama, for the most part, taking the high road.

McCain ran a good campaign as well, although he always seemed torn between his desire to do the right thing, his ambition to be president, and the needs of his base (having subsisted on an Atkins-like diet of pure red meat for the past 18 years). If McCain2000 had shown up, and not picked the odious Palin as a running mate, he could easily have taken my vote despite our disagreement on the war. He didn't, but I think he wishes he had returned to that framework instead of the one his campaign built for him. If there was a moment when I thought he lost my vote (apart from Palin) it was when the McCain campaign said, "John McCain does not speak for the McCain campaign". Really? Then who does?

As I have said many times here, if I have learned one thing in my life, it's that regrets occur when you don't try your hardest. I doubt the Obama campaign will have regrets, even if they lose tomorrow.

The bets are in, the candidates are about finished, it's time to show the cards.

Monday, October 27, 2008

there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress

although, also, it is not a requirement.

The Senate's longest-serving Republican, Stevens said he had no idea he was getting freebies. He said he paid $160,000 for the project and said he believed that covered everything.
Stevens asked for an unusually speedy trial, hoping he'd be exonerated in time to return to Alaska and win re-election. He kept his campaign going and gave no indication that he had a contingency plan in case of conviction.


No one anticipated that the levies would fail....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Microexpressions



I've long been facinated by microexpressions, little subconcious facial and body movements which convey our actual thoughts about things, sometimes at odds with what we want to show.




With that, and no other comment, allow me to present two images from SNL where Gov. Palin takes over the stage from Tina Fey as Tina exits.





Friday, October 17, 2008

Scare Fail

Old Person Snark

From an 82-year-old blogger:

Who can turn the world on with her smile?Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

Well it’s NOT you girl…

Look. I am going to say what everyone at CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC is thinking but is afraid to say. Governor Palin is a stupid, conniving bitch. And it’s not because she is a strong woman - I like strong women… worship them… It’s actually the opposite. She is a weak, pathetic woman who thinks big hair, winking, baby talk and self deprecation is somehow becoming of a woman who wants to lead the free world. My god, where is Margaret Thatcher when you need her!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lest You Get too Cocky

Remember, they called it for Carter in 1980 until the final few weeks, then it bacame too close to call.

At the heart of the controversy is the fact that no published survey detected the Reagan landslide before it actually happened. Three weeks before the election, for example, TIME'S polling firm, Yankelovich, Skelly and White, produced a survey of 1,632 registered voters showing the race almost dead even, as did a private survey by Caddell. Two weeks later, a survey by CBS News and the New York Times showed about the same situation.
Some pollsters at that time, however, were getting results that showed a slight Reagan lead. ABC News-Harris surveys, for example, consistently gave Reagan a lead of a few points until the climactic last week of October.

Debate Summary

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crisis Poetry

From work today:

Stevan’s latest haiku:

Bond is debt,
And debt is not money,
Jump you fuckers.

No Good News for McCain

William Kristol, a week after advising the McCain campaign to go negative on Bill Ayers/Jeremiah Wright, is now telling him to fire his staff and "reboot" his campaign.

This seems to be the McCain Theme of the Week (tm), probably propelled by the video of McCin being disgusted with the woman calling Obama an arab. To his credit, I did think better of McCain for doing that and also, to his credit, I think he genuinely doesn't like what we wrought there and tried to do some damage control. It as an honest moment from him that gave him a shred of dignity in my book. It won't make me vote for him, but it does improve his damaged reputation a bit.

What's been interesting is reading the comments on the Kristol column. All the ones I read, the first 4 or 5 pages, reflect the same sentiment from Democrats and Republicans alike; it's too little, too late.

The modern presidential campaign uses columns like this to test trial balloons, i.e. a staff hack writes them (in this case New York Times Opinion columnist William Kristol who is famous for being ... well I don't know), then the campaign tries to sift out whether or not the idea has merit. Will the idea resonate with swing voters, will it piss off the base, will it make the opponents react badly etc. What surprised me in these comments was the over all consistency of the reaction, that it would be yet another gimmick and a campaign that should have been talking substance weeks ago. That, and the universal acknowledgement that any reboot starts with dumping Palin (which they absolutely cannot d0).

With 3 weeks to go, anythign can still happen. 538 points out today that Reagan was behind Carter by more than this at this point in the election cycle, and his October Surprise with the Iranian hostages spun it around at the last moment. Could Bush pull OBL out of his cave at the last moment? Maybe. I'm not certain it would help, since it might just have the reaction of removing any remain support for the war (whew! We got him! Okay, that's over), but it could conceiveably boost the Republicans. And who knows what else the next three weeks could bring. No one should be counting chickens or making nominations for Secretary of State yet.

I'm not sure how the McCain folks will react to Kristol's advice, but it should be interesting to watch.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some New Art

I put together a couple of Art Deco lamps this weekend, one of the better ones is on display here. I'm trying to work on a couple of Stll Life pieces, and although I am very, very happy with the Fairy Lamp, the rest of the piece isn't coming together.

The other piece, Lightbringer, should be available later this week or this next weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm in Love!!!!

with 538. I've been curious about how they are managing to agree with Intrade on their Electoral College map, and spent some time readthing through their methodology. It's very impressive and about as good as you can get with objective math. There are a lot of factors in figuring out things like the average error rate of pollsters (by state) and it seemed liek that would be a pretty subjective number. Nope.

My process is to look at the average miss for each pollster across each contest they polled, and compare it to the average miss of other pollsters in those same contest, after going through a more-complicated-than-it-needs-to-be iterative process.The results are below, split into groups for 'regional' and 'national' pollsters. (This distinction is arbitrary -- some pollsters like Insider Advantage and Quinnipiac straddle the line between being regional and national -- but helpful for presentation). 'Error' represents the average error for the particular pollster, as compared to the 'IAE', which is the iterated average error for other pollsters in those same contests.

It's pretty good. I'd like to say that it's what I'd do if I had the time and motivation, but that would be a lie. It's much better than what I could have done. While sites like Intrade and 538 aren't actually predictive (they give you a very clear picture of what the chances are at a particular moment, but that's very different than telling you what's actually going to happen), I really like the way 538 has tried to use objective math everywhere.

Well done!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Something Is Wrong with the Universe

I find myself agreeing with George Will. George Will for Christ's sake!

I have voted for too many losing candidates over the years to think this is over (Dukakis anyone?), but when George Will is agreeable, something is not right.

Cats and dogs living together!

George is my runner up for Most Wrong Pundit (WMDs will justify the Iraq War), with the clear winner being William Kristol. Kristol is always, deeply wrong about almost everything, not because he isn't smart (he is), but he's a complete partisan and uses his intellect in the cheap and tawdry exercise of rationalizing whatever the talking points of the day. The irony is, he knows that's what he's doing, is a little ashamed of it, but the checks cash.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Third

The amount of my retirement fund that has been lost in the last 2 weeks.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Just Wanting it More

I was in London during the post-election/recount period in 2000, having flown over the day after the election to do some fundraising for CertCo. I got to watch the entire disaster unfold from overseas, which made for some interesting coverage and gave me a view I might not otherwise have had. One difference between the Gore and Bush camps became very clear to me, seeing them from such a distance: The Bush camp simply wanted it more. It had never occur ed to the Bushies that they had lost, they immediately (and irritatingly) started getting their post-election appointments in line and were bugging the White House for the keys within a day or two, long before the Supreme Court gave it to him. Go back and look at the news then, or read some of the biographies of the Clintonistas an you'll get the impression the Bushies where there. Gore, in contrast, fretted and worried, didn't move for fear of looking too bold and was, in a word, too damn polite about the whole thing.

When I read this article today from 538, I got exactly the same impression, i.e. the Obama camp simply wants it more. The McCain camp seems to think they "deserve" it, or have "earned" it or, in some cases are "entitled" to it, but the Obama camp is working it. Hard.

You could take every McCain volunteer we’ve seen doing actual work in the entire trip, over six states, and it would add up to the same as Obama’s single Thornton, CO office. Or his single Durango, CO office. These ground campaigns bear no relationship to each other.

Regrets come when you fail and realize, "I could have done a lot more". If the Obama camp loses, I doubt that's what they'll be saying.

Flipping this over, I'm actually quite frightened by the idea that Camp McCain is doing as well as they are doing simply by flogging McCain's service record and by not being Barak Obama.

Friday, October 03, 2008

China's Men in Space


China Launches First Willing Manned Mission Into Space

Consistancy

It's interesting that 538 and Intrade show, to within a fairly small variance, similar numbers for the presidential race, at least in terms of electoral college. I used to be told that Intrade was a "predictor" of elections and was "never wrong", but that's easily dismissable. I think it is, however, a pretty good measure of the market at any particular moment, like an instant poll.


BTW, the light blogging has been a result of a big, big push at work this week.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Part of History!

When I fail, I fail big!

Washington Mutual, the giant lender that came to symbolize the excesses of the mortgage boom, was seized by federal regulators on Thursday night, in what is by far the largest bank failure in American history.

I suspect my grandchildren will tell cautionary tales to their kids about "Grandpa Mark and the Crazy Bank" as a dire warning not to invest in financial services.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The AP gets a bit fiesty

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Less than a week after balking at the Alaska Legislature's investigation into her alleged abuse of power, Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday indicated she will cooperate with a separate probe run by people she can fire.


here

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunspot Cycle 24

After a bit of a drought, it looks like the Sun is coming alive again.

A new sunspot is emerging in the sun's northern hemisphere. After several months of almost-relentlessly blank suns, "this is like a breath of fresh plasma," says photographer Pete Lawrence who sends this picture from Selsey, UK. The magnetic polarity of the emerging spot identifies it as a member of new Sunspot Cycle 24.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Rain In Spain Is Falling Mainly on McCain

McCain insults the Prime Minister of a key NATO ally by not knowing who he is. Not Luxumborg or Estonia or some pacifist hanger-oner. He doesn't know who'se running Spain.

Spain.


I listened to the interview. The characterization is correct. I originally gave McCain the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he was just snubbing Zapatero (something that would be welcomed by the Spanish right). When I was there, there was a lot of agitation among Spanish conservatives because Zapatero was ignoring the country's relations with the U.S. and making overtures to more leftist countries in the Latin America--Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia (all the countries mentioned in this interview before Spain). There was even a controversy because Zapatero sat down when the U.S. flag was passing by in a parade. I believe his excuse was "his legs were tired." So I figured McCain was giving the Zapatero the cold shoulder in the same manner as the Bush administration has done.

After listening to the interview, however, I agree with the characterization that McCain was unaware of our relations with Spain, or even the country's geographical and political position. When asked about meeting with Zapatero and the country's relationship with the U.S., McCain ignored the question and went into some boilerplate about America's friends and enemies and analyzing relations (think Palin and the Bush Doctrine). Then, he tried to transition his answer into more friendly territory, discussing President Calderon's government in Mexico. He never really addressed Spain, but pushed right into commenting about Mexico. The interviewer actually tried to redirect him several times (again, think Charlie Gibson and Palin), until she actually stated that she wasn't talking about Latin America anymore, but rather Europe. For whatever reason, McCain responded to this question by repeating what he said before about analyzing America's relationships with our friends and enemies.
Seriously, this was pretty bad.


I stand by my "we need adults" comment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wipeout

The Cunning Realist, as usual, makes a lot of sense.

We need some adults in charge and, I'm sorry but believing the Earth is 6000 years old doesn't qualify you to play in that league. Neither does allowing someone who thinks like that to be a 72-year-old heartbeat away from being in charge. Like it or not, the Dems are the only chance we have of salvaging the economy before it *really* goes downhill.

Intuition

This is kind of a fun test of mathematical intuition.

85% over 35 trials.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Foamy

There are a lot of these, and they are all pretty amusing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Speechlessly Offensive.

From TJIC:

nation of victims
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articl…
NEW YORK - New data from a public health registry that tracks health effects of 9/11 suggest that up to 70,000 people developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the terror attacks.


All I want for Christmas is Patton, dressed in red and white, to slide down the chimney and start slapping the !@#% out of these babies.


(Bolds are TJIC).

I don't even know where to begin with how incredibly offensive this is, it's outrageous on so many levels. The idea that victims of terrorism should be slapped for allowing themselves to be exposed in that way. The idea that people should walk off 9/11 like a bump on the noggin or a bad bee sting. The idea that out of a city of 10 million, the fact that less than 1% are still affected a few years later is somehow offensive to someone. The childish power fantasy of a macho war hero slapping people into... what? something? The sheer disregard and even ignorance of what happened that day and how it affected folks. The huge distance between that statement and any semblence to human compassion, genunine sympathy or even simple christian charity is mind blowing.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of 9/11. We've all seen what has happened over the last 7 years and it's probably not an exaggeration to say it's been the biggest event in 21st century America so far. I've recounted my story of what happened to me that week numerous times, so I am not going to repeat it here, because I am not looking for sympathy or one upsmanship. I'll spend part of tomorrow in remembrance of some of the people I lost, the company I worked for which went out of business, the lives shattered, the damage to the families the city and the nation. It's a solemn day for me and a fairly private one. If I prayed, I would, but since I don't I'll reflect and ponder. At no point though am I going get angry at the victims, or call them names, or engage in cheap little revenge fantasies, or name calling. I genuinely can't understand why someone would.

Travis is far, far less than the person I thought he was. This is where I step off and leave him to his followers and echo chamber. I simply can't have a rational discourse with a person who thinks this is a valid thing to say about the people left to deal with the aftermath of 9/11.

What, no Worms?

Or do you get that from eating some of these?

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters2
9. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

80, give or take. I am uncertain about a few, i.e. I may have eaten them when eating something else. There are also a few I think Ihave had, but am not certain, so I counted them as "No". The tasting menu one I ended up counting as "yes" in the end assuming they mean 3+ stars.

*via, **via

Saturday, September 06, 2008

“Often my haste is a mistake,”

“but I live with the consequences without complaint.”

but, can the rest of us?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Venture Bros. Humor

Happy Birthday King Gorilla!

If you don't get it, don't worry.

Motivating the Base

I watched some of the Republican convention coverage last night, and even saw some of Palin's speech. It was really, truly inspirational and motivated me to do something I have never, ever done before. In this case, Palin motivated me to make my first ever 4-figure contribution to a political candidate! Unfortunately for her, it was Obama.

Enough is enough. The country can't take 4 more years of these jokers. Government by incompetence isn't working. I have problems with Obama, sure, but at least he seems to deliberate solutions instead of just off the cuff, cowboy asshatery.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

God Grants the GOP's Wish.

Sort of.



Not really where and when they wanted. If I were intellectually dishonest, I would say that god is punishing them for their hubris. Thats total bunk of course, but it's something to remember the next time some sky-father drone tells me he or she knows god's will.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes?

Specificially, for my type 1 diabetes?

wow

First, a little caveat: this is a recent result published in Nature, and it is basic science, not clinical work. Before you start thinking it's a new treatment for diabetes, I have to dash a little cold water on you and warn you that this has a long, long way to go before it can be applied to humans…but it does open the door to some future strategies that might be applied.

ohhhh :(

Friday, August 29, 2008

APOD

Lori Allen, one of my classmates from grad school, is on Astronomy Picture of the Day today.

Way to go Lori! Death to Art!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Beta Launches Today

The critics say, "We’re agog". If they had stopped there, that would have been fine, but you know those critics, they can'tquit while they're ahead:

We’re agog to promulgation IE8 Chenopodiaceae 2 today for unstoppered download. You crapper encounter it at http://www.microsoft.com/ie8. Please essay it out!

The rest here

Friday, August 22, 2008

Periodic Table of the Videos

Best chemistry vidoes, ever!

Cesium is my favorite. I wish they would have put it in water though.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cutting It Close

I got a call yesterday from Field Correspondent Brian, in the middle of the afternoon. Since he had recently take a great deal of my monies at a recent poker game, I thought he might be in town and I’d have a chance to get them back. Sadly, that’s not what happened.

This just happened and I figure you’re the only person I know that would think this is as funny as I do:

So I am in line at the deli counter in the supermarket trying to buy some salmon for a BBQ I’m having. Instead of grilling them over a metal grill, I am going to use actual wooden boards to give them that perfect, smoky taste. The deli didn’t have the size I wanted so I asked the guy if he could go in the back and cut some for me.
“What size do you want?: he asked.
“Make them Planck Length”, I said and broke up laughing!

Trust me, it was hilarious!



Sadly, I think he’s right, I am the only other person who thinks this is as funny as he does.

Why Are the Children Screaming?

"I don't get it - we just brought out the cakes, and poof! Mass hysteria!"

Cake Wrecks

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dear Jesus: your agonizing death is our cute toy!

Honestly, I truly dont understand where Catholics draw the line on what's acceptable and what's not. It seems to be one of those, "don't do this, but it's okay if I do" kinds of things.

Balloon Jesus!

(via)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

A view from the corporate trenches. Comports well with my experience of former soviet republics.

Quite a different view from the Dannon Yogurt Commericals.

InTrade and Quantum Superposition

An intersting view of an election as a quantum mechnical system using the linear superposition of two states.

Actually, the fact that the two expected states, McCain and Obama, don't add to 100% is more interesting since it suggests a sum over histories approach would work better.

Friday, August 08, 2008

My Hardscrabble Childhood

This was all too common.

OTOH, this, and this are things my son is very familiar with, so overall it's a net win for me! Also, this is why I dont have any grandchildren.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Yo Yo Yo! Listen Up!

I'm doing a Bag Lunch Astronomy when I get back to work in two weeks, and I was looking up some useful examples of the CPT Theorem, when I stumbled across this:

The C.P.T. Theorem is the sophomore album from rapper Greydon Square.

[edit] Track listing
The C.P.T. Theorem
Cubed
Judge Me
2008 Atheist Dreadnaught
Mission Statement
Game Genie
Fun & Games (Group Home Muisc Vol. 1)
Group Home Kid (Group Home Music Vol. 2)
A Soldier's Poem
Broken Home
Tuesday
N Word
Ascension
Galactica Actual


It's like someone took one of my conversations with Geoff and made a rap album out of it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Ronald McDonald

A biography in pictures.

Chemicals from the fries bring Ronald back to life as a zombie. He now survives by feasting on the flesh of the living.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Airplane Eightball Yin-Yang Glasses

Mailbox! Open Mailbox!

Truthy


Domino's Scientists Test Limits Of What Humans Will Eat

THEMIS Mission results

Aurora and magnetohydrodynamics, two of my all time favorite subjects! What's not to love about THEMIS??

Nothing must be held sacred.

PZ does a surprisingly good job with the communion cracker dealie. I was impressed, in part I suppose because I thought it was silly and irrelevant, but PZ turned this into a "teaching moment". Not for the folks who are complaining, anyone who believes a piece of bread is the literal and absolute incarnation of the Creator of the Universe and can be harmed by *not* eating it, is too far gone to find their way out. It was something for the rest of us to remind us how silly yet powerful the opposition can be.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The 400

I bought a new car today, a limited edition 2008 RX-8, 40th Anniversary edition. The negotitation was very, very tough and the dealership had a floor which I could not get past. It was higher than I wanted to pay, but not by a lot, and the guy absolutely would not go lower. In the end, we were arguing over increments of $10, so I accepted and wrote a check. I knew that it was a "limited edition" but I had already talked him out of the "premium" for it and a discount for buy a 2008 model car in a 2009 model season (which started last week). What I didn't know was how many cars were in the "special edition".

Celebrating 40 years of rotary engine production, Mazda has revised the suspension and trim levels on just 400 RX-8 coupes.
Bilstein sports suspension replaces the RX-8’s standard set up, while at the front, Mazda has filled the front suspension with foam in a bid to reduce road noise and vibration.
The 40th Anniversary Limited Edition RX-8 will get two exclusive exterior colours – Metropolitan Grey Mica and Crystal White Pearlescent.
Inside, the seats are trimmed in black leather with centre sections swathed in Alcantara, matching the steering wheel, handbrake and gear levers’ trim.
And for the ultimate RX-8 exclusivity, each 40th Anniversary model comes with a stainless-steel scuff plate etched with the car’s individual number – starting from 001/400.


I pick it up on Saturday, so I can find out which one I have then. Looking back on it, I am shocked I got it as cheap as I did. Technically though, it's 400 in the US, 200 in Japan, 100 in Canada and the UK.

Online pictures of my exact model here (its the grey one).

Good review (with pictures of the exact model) here.

I found where a YouTube with Top Gear's opinion.

Annals of Questionable Messaging

LOL!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Little Pwnie

The 2nd Annual Pwnie Award Nominaitons are up.

Some interesting bits:

Pwnie for Best Client-Side Bug Nominees

Safari carpet bomb (CVE-2008-2540)
Discovered by: Laurent GaffiƩ, Nitesh Dhanjani and Aviv Raff
Nitesh Dhanjani discovered a design error in Safari that allows an attacker to automatically download files to the user's configured download directory (~/Downloads on Leopard, the desktop on previous versions of OS X and Windows). This can be used for a variety of attacks. First, you can litter the user's desktop with files or drop malware onto their desktop, hoping that the user will click run it. Or you can just let Internet Explorer load a planted DLL
automatically. This vulnerability also has the dubious distinction of bringing the term "blended threat" into the security vernacular.


Slirpie
Discovered by: Dan Kaminsky, RSnake, Dan Boneh
Presented at Toorcon 2007, this attack used DNS Rebinding to bypass the Same Origin Policy and build a tunnel into a remote network using only a lured web browser (and its associated grab bag of Web 2.0 technologies like Flash, Java, and JavaScript). This vulnerability can best be described as a design bug in the Web 2.0 and we're all waiting for it to be fixed in Web 2.0 Service Pack 1.


Pwnie for Most Epic FAIL Nominee:

Todd Davis, Lifelock CEO for posting his SSN on the web

Todd Davis, CEO of a fraud-prevention company called Lifelock, had publicly posted his Social Security number (
457-55-5462) to show his confidence in the services offered by his company. Of course, a clever marketing stunt does not mean that the protection is actually worth anything. As expected, it did not take long for Davis' identity to get stolen: somebody in Texas got $500 from an online payday loan company using Davis' SSN.

Windows Vista for proving that security does not sell

$100,000,000 invested in security and what does Microsoft have to show for it? Customers are revolting against Windows Vista and nobody who has a choice is choosing to upgrade. It doesn't matter that Vista really is the most secure Microsoft operating system ever made, all customers care about is the annoyance of the UAC prompts, the confusing user interface and the insane hardware requirements.
The good thing about the Vista debacle is that no other vendor will care to do such a security push, which means that we'll be able to easily own any piece of software for the foreseeable future.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Linus Torvolds: "I Don't Get Security"

This is a pretty stunning insight into the software development process for Linux:

The row erupted in the Gmane mailing list after a developer for the PaX Team, which patches the Linux kernel, accused Torvalds and other top Linux kernel developers of "covering up (the) security impact of bugs" by not clearly labeling them as security flaws.

Torvalds wrote that disclosing the bug itself was enough, without having to label each individual security flaw. He added that taking the bugs to the "security circus" level only glorified the wrong kind of behavior. "It makes heroes out of security people, as if the people who...fix normal bugs aren't as important," wrote Torvalds.

What was left behind for the developers were all the "boring" bugs, which Torvalds considered more important due to their volume.

All bugs do not have equal weight, which is why major software houses all tag bugs for things like "security effect" and try to do a fairly honest job of prioritizing fixes. What Torvalds has said, basically, is that they don't really have any kind of bug triage and its on an as-we-get-to-it basis. Now his comments need to be put in context, no major enterprise (and the vast majority of consumers who use Linux) dont actually use his version, they use a supported version from a vendor with more matrure software practices, so this doesn't mean much in real life.

OTOH if Bill Gates said something like this, he'd have been fired by the Board.

Also, this bit was good:
"I think the OpenBSD crowd is a bunch of masturbating monkeys, in that they make such a big deal about concentrating on security to the point where they pretty much admit that nothing else matters to them. To me, security is important. But it's no less important than everything else that is also important!" Torvalds concluded.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama Approved

Obama Releases List of Approved Jokes About Himself
Bid to Help Late Night Comics

A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn't going to work because there's no Muslim in this boat."

the rest here

He Has My Vote

if I could. I am going to send him some of my monies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Foe

In prepping for my lecture tomorrow, I learned a new term, the foe.

A foe is a unit of energy equal to 10^44 joules or 10^51 ergs, used to measure the large amount of energy produced by a supernova.[1]

The word is an acronym derived from the phrase [ten to the power] fifty-one ergs.[2] It was coined by Gerald Brown of Stony Brook University in his work with Hans Bethe, because "it came up often enough in our work".[3]

This unit of measure is convenient because a supernova typically releases about one foe of observable energy in a very short period (which can be measured in seconds). In comparison, if the Sun had its current luminosity throughout its entire lifetime, it would produce 3.827×10^26 W × 10^10 years ≈ 1.2 foe.


Jesus' shitballs!

LSD for the Taste Buds

This is neat enough I'd liek to try it:

Back in May, The New York Times ran a story about an entrepreneur who was organizing "flavor-tripping parties" around a little red berry widely known as "miracle fruit," in part because of one of its components, a protein called miraculin, and in part because of its effects on the human palate. According to a university researcher who studied the berry, miraculin "binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids."
In other words, it makes sour things taste sweet.

...

But like all magic, there is a heavy price to pay for dabbling with god's ordered universe:

Much less fun: the after-effects. The Times article neglected to mention that while miraculin makes vinegar and Tabasco sweet, it doesn't make either of them any easier on the lining of the throat or the stomach. By the end of the day, miracle or no, all of us certainly felt like we'd been drinking pickle-Tabasco-sauerkraut-radish-mustard-vodka cocktails.

Some Much Wrong Packed in One Sentence...

... it threatens to form a black-hole and suck the reader into a parallel reality of over parenting, paranoia and mind-numbing dumbness. Really.

From review of WALL-E (which I quite liked):

“I didn’t think for a second that a movie about a little robot could have anything to do with weight. My son keeps making comments about ‘all of those fat, lazy people just sitting around doing nothing.’ We’ve seen a significant increase in [his] anorexic behaviors since we saw the movie yesterday.”

It never occurred to me that the "fat people" of WALL-E were the villains. I still have a hard time making that connection, possibly because it isn't true or I am not a moron. Not sure which.

Astronomy Lecture on Thursday

I'm doing an informal astronomy lecture on Thursday, "The Deaths of Stars", talking about supernova, black holes, neutron stars etc.. I't sbeen awhile, and I find I have to do a bit of homework beforehand to remember some of the details after 20 years, e.g. is the Chandrasekar Limit 1.38M or 1.44M? (It turns out, it depends on the chemical structure of the star, but the metalicity effects the number of electrons available for supporting the star by electron degeneracy pressure).

It's a lot of fun, but I am starting to think I might need to go teach at the community collegefor a bit and work the rust out of my lectures.

PZ Death Threat Update

It turns out the guy who sent PZ Meyers an email death threat was using his wife's work account. She has been terminated from the company, sad but not unexpected.

Who does the guy blame? Himself? Not Really.

It is my hope that since the mystery is now removed, and now that the Identity of the horrible person who dared write such crude things to the mr. myers is known, that the same people who put so much effort into harming Melanie Kroll, will use as much effort to right the wrong that has been done to her.

When you worship victimhood, your highest calling is to be a victim yourself.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Darwins!

[It says 2008, but I know at least one of these is recycled]

2008 Darwin Awards
You've been waiting for them with baited breath, so without further ado here are the 2008 Darwin awards.

Eighth Place In Detroit, a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch-wide sewer grate to retrieve his car keys.

Seventh Place A 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker, who 'totally zoned when he ran,' accidentally, jogged off a 100-foot high cliff on his daily run.

Sixth Place While at the beach, Daniel Jones, 21, dug an 8 foot hole for protection from the wind and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom! When it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand. People on the beach used their hands and shovels trying to get him out but could not reach him It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him. Jones was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Fifth Place Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed as he fell through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.

Fourth Place Sylvester Briddell, Jr., 26, was killed as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger.

Third Place After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter. Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up!, and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by Paramedics Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt.

HONORABLE MENTION Paul Stiller, 47, and his wife Bonnie were bored just driving around at 2 A.M. so they lit a quarter stick of dynamite to toss out the window to see what would happen. Apparently they failed to notice the window was closed.

RUNNER UP Kerry Bingham had been drinking with several friends when one of them said they knew a person who had bungee-jumped from a local bridge in the middle of traffic. The conversation grew more heated and at least 10 men trooped along the walkway of the bridge at 4:30 AM. Upon arrival at the midpoint of the bridge they discovered that no one had brought a bungee rope. Bingham, who had continued drinking, volunteered and pointed out that a coil of lineman's cable, lay near by They secured one end around Bingham's leg and then tied the other to the bridge. His fall lasted 40 feet before the cable tightened and tore his foot off at the ankle. He miraculously survived his fall into the icy water and was rescued by two nearby fishermen. Bingham's foot was never located.

AND THE WINNER IS...? Zookeeper Friedrich Riesfeldt (Paderborn,Germany) fed his constipated elephant 22 doses of animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes before the plugged-up pachyderm finally got relief. Investigators say ill-fated Friedrich, 46, was attempting to give the ailing elephant an olive oil enema when the relieved beast unloaded. The sheer force of the elephant's unexpected defecation knocked Mr. Riesfeldt to the ground where he struck his head on a rock as the elephant continued to evacuate 200 pounds of dung on top of him.
It seems to be just one of those freak accidents that proves.. 'Sh't happens'
IT ALWAYS SEEMS IMPORTANT TO THANK THESE PEOPLE FOR REMOVING THEMSELVES FROM THE GENE POOL.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Green Eyed Monster

I read through PZ's hate mail bag after his pointing out the a communion wafer is really just a cracker. There is quite a bit of it, and I can't say I read every bit of it (it gets boring after awhile).

2 Observations:
PZ might have a real problem here. Try as he might, his university is going to get hit with some of the fallout. He won't get fired or anything, but I think he might get a chewing out.

Many of the catholics who responded are both deeply afraid of, and very envious of Islam. You can tell from the tone (and the death threats) that they a) want to do a lot of violence in the name of their religion (but can't) and b) feel they are getting a poor deal compared to the Muslims. I've argued with a lot of catholics in my day, usually on a very civil level. Most kind of quietly assume that once I'm dead, I'll change over when I see the proof. To be fair, that might happen should I find myself in an actual afterlife. I'm betting the other way of course, that there isn't one, but I could be wrong.

A subset though seem to really be torn between what they want to do and their religion, and express this through a great deal of misplaced anger. I assume every group has maladjusted people and that's what comes out at times like this (there are plenty of maladjusted atheists, muslims, jews and Steeler's fans), it's just a little shocking to see it so openly.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Venture Brothers Quiz

I'm Phantom Limb!




You are an unsettling supervillain, with invisible but deadly limbs, who favors a purple spandex costume, and is still obsessed with Dr. Girlfriend. You haven't forgiven the Monarch for stealing her back. He should probably be worried.


Take the Which Venture Brothers character are you? Quiz at HeavyInk.com

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hate Crimes

The next time someone points out to me how only the "left" cries "hate crime" at the drop of a hat, I can point them to this:

Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn't eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.

...

"We don't know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was," said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. "However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it."
We just expect the University to take this seriously," she added "To send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated."


PZ summarizes my thoiughts well.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Secret Project, Revealed!

I posted this a bit earlier, but I had jumped the gun. One of my "secret projects" became public today. On purpose.

This security update resolves two privately reported vulnerabilities in the Windows Domain Name System (DNS) that could allow spoofing. These vulnerabilities exist in both the DNS client and DNS server and could allow a remote attacker to redirect network traffic intended for systems on the Internet to the attacker’s own systems.

One of my guys just finished his press conference. I'll link a you tube video when it gets posted.

Bottom line: the internet is once again safe for spam and porn.

Update:
Dan is one of the folks on my pentest team and this has been pretty much his whole project since early March. Hear his podcast.
Also, read about "the largest synchronized security update in the history of the Internet"

These are the days when I'm glad I got out of my old job, even though I occasionlly miss it. Despite being "worldwide" we never pulled off anything of this magnitude, or made this much of a difference to so many customers. It was great, but I'm doing stuff now with real impact and it's very rewarding.

At least it is today. Ask me again next week and I might say something different.

...but with Helium

I'd like my funeral to go something like this:

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Death of a Guilty Pleasure

The CAP Ministries is going to close.

The bottom line is that we are broke. Our donor base is now four regular donors giving $165 per month (we lost a $200 per month donor). And that equates to a new release analysis about once every two months ... and no help in providing for my family while I work the ministry, except for maybe butter-n-egg money for a month (for ten people: 6 adopted children, two foster babies, my wife and I) plus a tank of gas.

The CAP has been a guilty pleasure of mine for quite a long time. I'd occasionally go check out how perfectly innocent movies would set up this wonderful approach-avoidance conflict within the reviewer where he was clearly fascinated by what he was seeing, but at the same time punishing himself for this joy. All this under the guise of watching the movies to "protect children". Seemingly, even the least clued christian parent would understand that a movie called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (rated R) is not something you would take a 6 year-old to see. Yet bravely, and with total deference to Jesus, the CAP reviewer would throw himself on such a beast, braving the violence, sex and blasphemy, some would say risking his very soul, to detail in exacting precision the complete catalog of god offenses and explain why this is a Weapon of Satan aimed at the delicate sensibilities of the Bob the Builder crowd. Why said christian parents, while fully savvy of the Internet and it's godless dangers, would fail to understand that the subtle warning ensconced the title phrase "CHAINSAW MASSACRE" is left as an exercise for the student.

So, okay, he liked to go to the movies and loved to feel the righteous indignation only true believers can. And he like folks to pay for this. Props for that. My hobbies usually cost me money and don't generally come with moral superiority so he out strips me there.

But, he even hates kids movies.

A terrific example is Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Probably the blandest pablum the Hollywood vomit machine has ever snorted out it's nose. No god, no crime, no gangsta, no sex, no crippling existential angst. Nothing. What's the problem with Mr. Magoo?

Natalie Portman wearing a dress that exposed a large gap over her chest. Such a display of skin normally not seen is clearly sexual: clearly intended to tease, to incite lust in the male viewer. If she had worn a dress that covered the gap, the Sexual Immorality investigation area score would have been 100. Sure, some highfalutin, high society performers wear such clothing for such affairs, but does that make such a cultural-specific display acceptable? If you think "Yes" then the fact that some cultures eat other people makes it acceptable since it is a cultural-specific behavior. Don't argue with me about what is morally acceptable. Argue about it with God. He will give you a much better Answer than I ever could. [1Cor. 8:9, Matt. 5:28]

Wow! I could never have made something like that up. He had raised righteous indignation to a form of high art.

Unfortunately, he could not raise to the level where it paid all his bills. You need a cable show to do that.

Will I miss CAP Ministries? I will. I went there this morning to see what could possibly be offensive in the film Wall-E, which I quite enjoyed. I figured god has to hate robots (since it is man imitating god and robots can have souls since that is gods providence or some shit), and he has to hate robot sex even more! Alas, he is closing shop, at least for now.

Does this sadden me? A little. OTOH I am pretty stoked that the appetite for this kind of silliness, at least as non-parody, is too small to be self-supporting.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

An Especially Hot Pit in the 8th Circle is Waiting for

Billy Graham.

His lasting damage, I offer as an aside, was to persuade the young George W. Bush to abandon his wastrel ways, at which he excelled, and instead seek the path that has led him to where he is now, a calamity for the nation and the world. Graham's burden is heavy indeed.

I don't beleive in gods but I do believe we should explore the limits of what we're good at.

It is better to do your Dharma poorly than do another's well.
-The Bhagavad Gita

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Republican Strategy for Candidates

Brief and accurate, from TPM:

Continues to boggle my mind what a difference 4 years can make to the conservatives.

1996: Bob Dole is a war hero! Clinton is a draft dodger! WORSHIP THE WAR HERO!

2000: Forget the war! Ignore the potential Vietnam-era AWOL-ness of our candidate, and his complete lack of foreign policy knowledge! He's got integrity!

2004: So what your candidate actually fought and was injured in the same war during which our candidate was so very much NOT AWOL! We mock his service and question the legitimacy of his injuries! Have a purple band-aid to wear at our convention!

2008: Only a certified war hero can lead this country! WORSHIP THE WAR HERO!

You want to bet if I wore a purple band-aid to mock McCain's service I'd be roasted alive?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Laser Magic Tricks

Here. Starts slow but a big finish. I was, frankly, pretty impressed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Preferences

How badly has President Bush damaged the Republican brand? Damn badly! So badly Dino Rossi, republican candidate for the govenor of Washington State is refusing to have the word "Republican" next to his name on the November ballot!

On Monday on FOX News Dino Rossi was caught trying to trick Washington's voters. You may have heard that Rossi and 27 other Republican candidates in our state will not allow the word "Republican" to appear next to their name on the ballot. Thanks to the new Top Two primary, candidates can choose what party label they want on the ballot in November. As we reported on June 11th, Dino Rossi will have "Prefers G.O.P. party" next to his name, which is clearly a scheme to avoid having the word "Republican" next to his name.Or as one of their candidates admits in this newscast:"There's 30 percent of the people in this state that would not vote for a Republican no matter what, and we want to get around that..."

here. wow!

I know democrats prefer the term "Democratic Party" over the Presidents mangled "Democrat Party" and foolishly made an issue of it in 2006 (If you don't like being called "wedgie boy" don't go up to the school jerk and tell him that idiots!). Will the republicans make a similar fuss over the word... republican? This has high entertainment potential.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Free Computers

We had a flood 2 weeks ago in our building. A chiller pipe feeding the second floor lab burst and flooded the entire first floor to a depth of 2" or so. My office and the department I run are on this floor and it was, to put it bluntly, a disaster. We've been filing insurance claims for the better part of two weeks now and, after new dry wall, new carpet and some paint, things are largely back to normal.

I lost a pet goldfish and the strainer from my teapot in the accident.

While odd, that is not an important detail.

The week before the flood, one of the other departments was getting new computers, quad core, 8GB HPs. They were queued up in boxes in the halls when the water came, ruining some boxes and doubtless some of the machines. Because of all the construction, the team stored them in a large closet off the kitchen until things settled down. Today they decided to take them out and inspect them. This would not be interesting except that a) my building as a sense of humor and b) they used union labor.

So, rather than move all those computers back into the hall, which was 30 feet away, they decided instead to just move them into the kitchen, blocking the coffee, sink, fridge and water. The total volume of material was a large fraction of the total kitchen space, and this was highly annoying since, if they had moved them 10 more feet, they could have had their inventory and not stopped the flow of coffee (my company is, largely, a machine for turning coffee into programs, so blocking the coffee pot harms productivity greatly). Lazy but within union rules.

One enterprising programmer decided to have a little fun and sent out the following email to most of the building:

"Free computers in the kitchen! Get them while they're hot! :) "

There ensued a short spike of computer, cookie and cake jokes, as well as some lame puns around eating hot chips. Standard.

About 20 mins later I needed coffee, so I went to the kitchen and discovered three things:

1) They weren't kidding, there really were computers in the kitchen (good ones too!)

2) There was a very large crowd in the kitchen wondering how true the "free" part was.

3) The computers were filling about 25% of the available space in the kitchen, blocking the coffee.

I was there for a few minutes, mostly thinking about how to get at the coffee makers , when the union boys returned from their mandatory 30 minute break (which they had taken in the neighboring building because, as I might have mentioned, they blocked the coffee makers). They came in, saw the pile of computers in the kitchen and COMPLETELY FLIPPED OUT! Totally lost it, swearing in some language only Navy Seals and poets full grok. "Why?" you may ask. OSHA safety inspector? Union pit boss? Immigration? Sadly for them, no. They were having a total meltdown because when they had left 30 minutes earlier, the boxes had filled 50% of the available space, not the mere 25% I was looking at. So, counting on their fingers and toes they realized some computers were missing! Not So Good.

Emails flew fast and furious for the next few minutes as they sent out increasingly unrealistic threats starting first with firm demands for the return of the machines, escalating rapidly through threats of termination, briefly peaking with dark hints of beheadings and anal rape, then finally collapsing into pleas of mercy lest *they* be fired for losing $50,000 worth of high quality machines. Then their managers send emails. Then our managers send emails. Then the poor schmuck who sent out the original email sent out a series of messages pleading for the return of the machines, more than hinting that the beheading and anal rape options were not entirely off the table, at least for him, should the machines not be returned.

Finally, by then end of the day, all but three of the machines had been returned but the emails only slowed. Police were being summoned, terminations would be forthcoming and the poor joking schmo would have to pay back out of his own pocket. All looked dark until...

someone checked the trunk of the car of one of the union guys. Or so am I told. You see, the emails have stopped and all anyone will say is that the situation is "resolved".

What's the lesson?

"Don't send joke emails?", "Crime doesn't pay?", "Anal rape is an effective threat?"

No.

It's "Don't block my access to coffee and do remember to lock your car you fucking union jerk."