April 29, 2005


Over at Blackfive, Matt is using up tons of bandwidth to bring you pictures of a sandstorm as it comes rolling into Al Asad. It's frighteningly incredible to look at them. I can't quite work my mind around being there and watching it come at me!

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Carnival of the Recipes

I've been negligent for the past couple of weeks and haven't posted a Carnival link... too much going on. I'm finally getting my act together this week, just in time for Caltechgirl's scholarly presentation. Head on over and improve your mind - along with finding a good meal. What more could you ask for!

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April 28, 2005

A Story of Black Thursday

Sgt Mom has done a series of posts about the crew of one of the planes involved in the Black Thursday Air Raids - October 14, 1943. She put this together because one of the men involved was her mother's brother, she tracked down the story of the crew and what happened to all of them. It's fascinating reading.

For those who have loved ones fighting the war on terror today - it shows us how very lucky we are to have nearly instant news about loved ones in harms way. Compared to today's war, WW2 gathered nearly every able bodied man and many women into the effort. The families had to endure months or even years without any news at all.

Please take some time to read about these men and their families. They are the reason our country is the great nation it is today - they should not be forgotten.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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Be the First On Your Block To Own One!

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Why are you still here? Click the link and go buy a shirt!

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April 27, 2005

How Much is Too Much?

Air America seems to have gotten itself into some hot water over a "skit" that was played on one of its shows yesterday.

The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."

The audio production at the center of the controversy aired during opening minutes of The Randi Rhodes Show.

"What is with all the killing?" Rhodes said, laughing, after the clip aired.

First there was Chimp Shrub, then there was Bushitler, now the liberals are running sound bytes that imply shooting the President because they don't like his policies... are videos next? Do we get to see an actor who looks like Bush, gunned down or blown up because of his policy proposals?

It makes me wonder what they think they are going to accomplish. Instead of coming up with a substantive argument, they are saying - we don't like these policies, so shoot the person proposing them. How does this help anything? It's not even funny - sorry but it's not. (in general I have a very good sense of humor and I can find even the most ridiculous things amusing - but they lost me on this one)

I know it says the Secret Service is investigating - I wonder how illegal this is... I will admit that I find it very unsettling to hear that this is being broadcast, even if very very few people are listening to it. Mainly because I have too many memories of the 60's where people committed crimes like assault (on returning troops) and instead of them being arrested, the victims were told to suck it up and put up with it... It worries me that this could escalate into actual acts against people - either the President himself, or his supporters.

I will be watching to see what happens... Let's just hope this doesn't fall under the "suck it up and put up with it" category. It would be an extremely bad precedent.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh weighs in with his take on the First Amendment issue and it's application in this case. A small excerpt...

A brief First Amendment analysis: Joking about shooting the President certainly isn't a crime as such; threatening to shoot the President is. Threats (whether against the President or not) are indeed constitutionally unprotected, but to be a punishable threats, a statement must at least be understood by a reasonable listener as a true threat, rather than just hyperbole (or humor).

It seems this puts the "skit" into the - joking rather than the threatening category, which means that although it's in very poor taste, it's not illegal. I wonder if Air America will fire her... Still, the tape is out there, it's readily accessible for all those on the net. The next time it will be a bit worse and less attention will be paid... you can almost see the cycle of it. But, if it's not illegal, then we have to wait until we get to the point where the actions do become illegal. Thus we maintain our freedom of speech. Works for me.

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Congratulations To Eugene Volokh

He is doing his part to tilt the general IQ in California into the upper ranges of the stratosphere. Young Samuel made his appearance over the weekend while I was otherwise occupied - and I'm only now getting caught up in my reading when I ran across the post. Congratualtions to Eugene and his wife... two boys (Benjamin is the older brother) that close together in age with all those intelligent genes - oh he's gonna be having some fun. *grin*

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April 26, 2005

Judging the Judges

I've been following - just vaguely - the judge nomination game that has been poking it's head out of it's Senate hole periodically. Now that the news out of Iraq seems to favor the new Iraq... now that Afghanistan has completely fallen off the map - we're hearing more about the vote for judges that the Democrats have been hindering over the last few years.

Eugene Volokh - who has a professional interest - has been following things more closely and is not persuaded that there is any religious bigotry going on.

But disagreement with a judicial candidate's strong moral views on legally significant topics is not religious bigotry, and can't be faulted on "disparate impact" grounds.

I don't dispute that statement, but maybe I can give some perspective from a non-lawyerly point of view. We've gotten to the point where every single candidate for every single job in government is rated by their stance on Roe v. Wade. It's gone past the point of the ridiculous and become almost ludicrous.

The simple fact is that Roe v Wade is out there. I suppose that could change at some point in the future, but in all honesty, those of us just taking a passing interest only hear about these judges in connection with Roe... We only hear the Senators talking about them in connection with Roe... I am quite sure that all of these judges have quite an extensive background in the law or they wouldn't be nominees in this process. Unfortunately for us, it appears that the only way the Democratic Senators can make these nominees look unacceptable - even somewhat like the country bumpkin who has wandered into Maxims in Paris and can't figure out which fork to use - is to keep dragging their religion into the discussion and apply it to Roe v Wade - to the point of hysteria. And sadly, the Republican Senators (even with a majority) seem totally unable to assert themselves.

Every person who becomes a judicial nominee - either liberal or conservative - has a moral compass that, as a human being, will be called into the equation when they are rendering a decision. What I take from all of this is that unless the moral compass of the judge falls into the Democrat's ideology, they will try to block the vote - even though they are not in the majority. Thus we have the filibuster that is not a filibuster at all... In short, the majority is not ruling, the minority is... seems a bit contrary to the spirit of our Constitution, but what do I know?

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April 25, 2005

3 Percent of Americans Can Now Be Nominated for Sainthood

Yet another study has been released to grace the various media in America. This one coming on the heals of the obesity study, goes off in an interesting direction.

While many of the people did well in one or more category, only three percent met the basic requirements of all four. The details:

* 76 percent didn't smoke
* 40 percent maintained a healthy weight (these tended to be younger and better educated)
* 23 percent ate five or more fruits and vegetables a day
* 22 percent got at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week

Little did you know that there is a LIST. I suppose we must tack this to the refrigerator to remind us what we must do everyday. And here I thought I could do what I wanted in my life once I got out of school... Silly me!

A few of my pet annoyances have turned up in this list.
1) what is a "healthy" weight??? Can someone please define this for me? Are we going by charts? BMI? Muscle to fat ratio?
2) what is the sacredness of the FIVE fruits and vegetables a day? Why not 3 or 10? How do we determine that 5 is the best for every single person in America - no matter their height, weight, inherited background... Apparently someone somewhere has determined that this is a number written in stone - it can not be varied or you don't have a healthy lifestyle... (to which I kindly call - BS)
3) what do they mean by "moderate" exercise? Walking? Running? Aerobics? Martial arts? What if you do an hour 3 days a week? If walking is the exercise - how fast do you have to go in order for it to count?

And what is the ultimate point of this study?

"These data, along with those that illustrate the benefit of following a healthy lifestyle, support the need for comprehensive primary prevention activities to increase healthy lifestyles and to reduce the prevalence of chronic risk factors," the scientists write in the April 25 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Ah yes, we knew it was coming didn't we... there is a "need"! We "need" to support the list. We "need" to push the list at people. We "need" FUNDING for this!!! Oh yes we do.

Personally, I want them to define their terms and defend their quantities. I want them to definitively show me that by missing one or two things on this list - it will kill me. Otherwise, they are simply blowing smoke and looking for a cash handout - and I'm not in the mood to donate right now. But by all means, put that 3% who do everything right on the list for sainthood... after all if you do everything right all the time, you should get some sort of reward!

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April 23, 2005

Tammi Finds A Place to Live...

Big news... you heard it here first! Tammi has found a place to live! We were cut off (gotta love cell phones) before I got many of the details (I'd leave them to her anyhow). But - things are looking good. Not only that but at less than half the price she was expecting to have to pay for it! So all you Northern IL - Bad Example Family people... be prepared for a move in party! Woo Hoo!!!

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April 22, 2005

The Thief Shakes in His Shoes... From Laughter

Yesterday Michelle Malkin had a link to a story about a Berkley professor who ended his class lecture with a pretty funny, over the top, scare tactic. Apparently, the good prof's laptop was stolen from him and he was trying to scare the culprit into returning it - the return to the professor being the thief's only means of salvation. It's quite amusing. There are audio versions, but Blast Radius went to the trouble to transcribe the diatribe. For which we should thank him, since I can now easily comment on it, without having to transcribe it myself.

"Thanks Gary. I have a message for one person in this audience - I'm sorry the rest of you have to sit through this. As you know, my computer was stolen in my last lecture. The thief apparently wanted to betray everybody's trust, and was after the exam.

First of all - if he doesn't know who the thief is, how in the world does he know WHY the thief stole his laptop? Was there a note left behind... "hey dude, sorry I took your laptop, but I really wanted to get hold of the exam you have on here!" Right off the bat, the professor has stepped into it - showing he'll jump to any and all conclusions, with absolutely no proof.

The thief was smart not to plug the computer into the campus network, but the thief was not smart enough to do three things: he was not smart enough to immediately remove Windows. I installed the same version of Windows on another computer - within fifteen minutes the people in Redmond Washington were very interested to know why it was that the same version of Windows was being signalled to them from two different computers.

Please - professor, before you start talking about what Microsoft is doing... please find out how the process works so you don't sound like a complete moron. (I'm just sayin'). Now if he did try to install the same version of Windows (one assumes in this case it was XP which is the ONLY version that will do this presently) on a different computer... the result would be an inability on his part to activate his newly installed version of the operating system on the second computer. In other words - it just wouldn't work. Microsoft doesn't give a hoot in hell whether or not you can get the computer to boot. They'll just make sure that your OS won't work until YOU get in touch with THEM. Got it? They don't go to you... You have to go to them! So, there we have the second problem with the big scary lecture.

The thief also did not inactivate either the wireless card or the transponder that's in that computer. Within about an hour, there was a signal from various places on campus that's allowed us to track exactly where that computer went every time that it was turned on.

Next load of crap - man it's getting deep in here... unless the wireless card had a hard coded IP address in it - highly unlikely - there is no way (without digging into the MAC address - the actual hard coded number given out to each Network Card) to figure out which wireless card is accessing a wireless access point. You see - in large networks, it's logistically impossible to give out IP addresses individually, so network cards are set up to go to a server which then gives them an IP address to use, when they boot up or when they turn on their wireless card to access the internet. This means that everytime you hook up to the internet, you are given a new IP address - thus making it nearly impossible to distinguish which IP goes with which computer. There are ways - but they are involved and take time.

Plus - if the laptop had some sort of "transponder" that could let it be tracked - this would be separate from the wireless card... then it should be a matter of mere minutes until you find the laptop and likely the person who stole it. I'm not sure about tacking devices (think lojack) and how they would effect the workings of the computer - I'm sure there must be some sort of device like it out there - but the chances of a college prof using something of that sort are about nil.

I'm not particularly concerned about the computer. But the thief, who thought he was only stealing an exam, is presently - we think - is probably still in possession of three kinds of data, any one of which can send this man, this young boy, actually, to federal prison. Not a good place for a young boy to be.

First of all - anyone who is in college, is old enough to be considered a "young man" or "young woman" not a "young boy" or "young girl" - sorry, but they are adults now, not babies. And once again, we have another assumption.... the gender of the thief. Unless he knows who stole his computer - why is he assuming it's a man? Sounds like he's a male chauvanist to me... I think NOW should be denouncing this professor as insensitive!

You are in possession of data from a hundred million dollar trial, sponsored by the NIH, for which I'm a consultant. This involves some of the largest companies on the planet, the NIH investigates these things through the FBI, they have been notified about this problem.

You are in possession of trade secrets from a Fortune 1000 biotech company, the largest one in the country, which I consult for. The Federal Trade Communication is very interested in this. Federal Marshals are the people who handle that.

You are in possession of proprietary data from a pre-public company planning an IPO. The Securities and Exchange Commission is very interested in this and I don't even know what branch of law enforcement they use.

And after the opening idiocies - he continues to compound it by continuing to talk...

If the above 3 paragraphs are true - in other words, if this professor had all of this information on his computer AND did not have it encrypted to keep it private, then he is guilty of gross negligence. And each company he has been dealing with, should immediately terminate any business relationship with him! Just the fact that laptops can be so very easily stolen means that any sensitive data should be encrypted for protection. There are a number of progams out there that allow people to do this - so if he didn't have any sort of protection for this "highly sensitive and very expensive" data - he should NOT have kept it on his laptop.

The next problem with the above statements.... if true, you have now given a real data thief a good reason to get hold of this laptop. Now you've yelled from the rooftops that the value of the laptop is far in excess of the hardware one would acquire for personal use or the test data that might up one grade in this class. It would be like standing up in front of the class and announcing that the thief who stole your briefcase - also took a million dollars in diamonds with it and they better give it back before the police come knocking on the door. Yeah, pretty stupid.

And he's invoking all kinds of law enforcement agency bogey men. FBI, Federal Marshals, and whoever else might take an interest. It would be nice if we could actually get these law enforcement people to sweep in and go after the thief... just think what a deterent that would be to laptop theft. But, the sad fact is, these law enforcement offices are so completely overwhelmed by computer crime and lack of personel to handle it - what this professor would very likely get by way of response is... "call us if you figure out that the thief is actually selling the data or making it public" - then, if you can prove the dollar amounts that are at stake are large enough... we'll try to fit you in. The way most large companies handle data theft is - they employ a private company such as Pinkerton's who do the investigative work, put it all nicely together into a case and present the end result to the FBI for action. There is just too much crime - and not enough time.

Your academic career is about to come to an end. You are facing very serious charges, with a probability of very serious time. At this point, there's very little that anybody can do for you. One thing that you can do for yourself is to somehow prove that the integrity of the data which you possess has not been corrupted or copied.

Ironically, I am the only person on the planet that can come to your aid, because I am the only person that can tell whether the data that was on that computer are still on that computer. You will have to find a way of hoping that if you've copied anything that you can prove you only have one copy of whatever was made.

Yeah, he's the ONLY one who can help... gosh what a guy. It's amazing how he can just tell what data was on his computer. He just knows... all that data... all the millions of dollars worth - and he can tell whether or not it's corrupted. As I sincerely doubt (this belief stemming from the rest of his ravings) that he's ever heard of Tripwire - a data integrity checker... I wonder how he's going to verify that the files are complete and uncorrupted. Just having a list won't do it - how would he know that data in the file hadn't been changed? As for copies of data - well, sorry but there's no way to prove copies have or haven't been made - no way at all, so it's silly to even bring it up.

I am tied up all this afternoon; I am out of town all of next week. You have until 11:55 to return the computer, and whatever copies you've made, to my office, because I'm the only hope you've got of staying out of deeper trouble than you or any student I've ever known has ever been in.

I apologise to the rest of you for having to bring up this distasteful matter, but I will point out that we have a partial image of this person, we have two eyewitnesses, with the transponder data we're going to get this person."

Okay let's finish this up. I love the deadline thing. The "I'm the only hope" part is good too. Makes you feel all nicely scared for the poor thief to think that this guy is gonna help. But you have to love the very last paragraph... if they have eyewitnesses - TWO of them! And the supposed transponder and a "partial image". Then why aren't they detaining the thief right there and then in class. They must know who it is (after all the eyewitnesses aren't eyewitnesses unless they can actually identify the thief!). Since he's making this announcement and not detaining anyone - then one concludes he's just blowing smoke.

In conclusion I would say - if you know nothing about computers except how to turn them on - don't make threats involving them and their use. You just end up looking stupid. And just like they tell parents of small children - don't make threats you can't enforce - you will only lose the respect of the child. In this case, anyone with half a thimble full of computer knowledge is laughing hysterically and waiting for him to get his next laptop.

UPDATE: Since it appears that there are some who can't quite figure this out for themselves, I suppose I have to state the bleeding obvious... the thief was WRONG to take the laptop - have we got that? That has NEVER been in question. He or She if caught should most certainly be punished - expelled from the school at the very least. What I object to is the professor's grandstanding in the matter. It was a ridiculous speech all around. What the thief did and what the professor followed up with are mutually exclusive. Just because I think the professor was idiotic sounding in his diatribe - in no way mitigates what the thief did. I hope that is now clear to all those who seem to think that criticizing the professor is endorsing the laptop theft. How amazing that I even had to write this paragraph!

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 01:12 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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