Monday, December 28, 2009

Dead Kennedies

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bring Great Glory To Odin

So in celebration of the mighty warlord Odin's holiday the Dan meme is now in the Legendary Tier.

Alternate Ending To Terminator 2

So I had a dream about Terminator 2 the other day.  Actually it involved both movies to some degree, but mostly seemed to be about T2.  Unfortunately I can't remember much, but I do remember the ending.  Which I think you'll agree is a vast improvement.  More or less everything is going the same until they get to Cyberdyne.  When they get there that black guy reveals himself to be an advanced terminator.  His body opens up and expands and physically captures the main characters.  Similar to Cartman in the Trapper Keeper episode (which I didn't realize until now had a Terminator theme itself).  Anyway, I can remember that Kyle Reese from the first movie was there and still free, but the dream pretty much ended there when one of you inconsiderately IMd me in the middle of the night (3pm) and woke me up.

However, one could say that my waking up at the end of the movie could actually be a good ending itself.  And in fact that you by reading this now are taking part in the still on going ending to the movie.  Congratulations, you've finally made it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beyond Security Theater

"Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear. The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: they are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats."

Why you shouldn't be afraid of terrorists.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ask me about being a Traffic Engineer!

"Have you ever wondered how roads are designed? Ever questioned why the traffic signal down the road needs two sets of signal heads? Have you ever stared in disgust at a road and wondered, what kind of idiot designed this, and how does he remember to breathe?

That idiot is me! I'm a traffic engineer, and I design roads for a living. Well, that’s not entirely true… I mostly fix other engineers' 50-year-old mistakes. I've gone through years of schooling in the field, and worked in both the public and private sectors in 2 countries: the USA and France. I'm quite willing to share my insights and industry insider knowledge with those of you bold enough to ask. I'm rather knowledgeable in the fields of traffic (including signs, stripes, and signals), highway design, and urban design."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UK Government Seeks New Web Censorship Powers

"Given the recent coverage and controversy over Australia's forthcoming web censorship system, it is somewhat surprising (and worrying) that Clause 11 of the UK's proposed Digital Economy Bill seems to have gone by largely unnoticed. It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H that could give the Secretary of State powers to order ISPs to block pretty much any website for pretty much any reason. Such orders would not require the scrutiny of parliament, or anyone else for that matter, because the Secretary of State would not be required to publish them."

"Secret government censorship lists = freedom."
- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Former Congressman Learns About Streisand Effect

"Ted Alvin Klaudt, a former South Dakota lawmaker convicted of raping his two foster daughters, has sent news organizations what he claims is a copyright notice that seeks to prevent the use of his name without his consent." The story says Klaudt maintains "no one can use his name without his consent, and anyone who does would owe him $500,000."

 This is a wonderful example of the Streisand Effect.  When you get some bad publicity the best thing to do is ignore it, or flood good news about yourself.  If you attempt to cover it up, especially with legal threats, it'll backfire.  Then people will not only make sure to spread the original news, but also the news that you are trying to hide it.  For example, 10 minutes ago we didn't know about this dude raping his adopted daughters, but since he tried to bully that news away now we do.

Also for the sake of principle, this is the orginal picture of her house that Streisand tried to sue to get censored.

230 Protesters Arrested Trying to Breach Climate Summit’s Perimeter Fence

"Several hundred others were detained before even reaching the centre using a new law of pre-emptive arrest, brought in before the conference, which enables police to hold for up to 12 hours those they suspect may break the law. Patrick Gillett, 25, from London, spoke to The Times from Copenhagen’s temporary Climate Jail, a requisitioned warehouse on the city outskirts designed to process hundreds of arrests a day."

I can't imagine any way in which this law could be abused.

The problem with these international conferences is that cities want to host them, and don't want any possible embarrassment ruining any future chances.  So they are willing to ignore basic rights to ensure there aren't any problems.  I'd argue there isn't even any point to international conferences.  This isn't 1900, people don't need to meet face to face to come to agreements.  What's wrong with a digital teleconference?  I guess it wouldn't bring any city revenue and politicians couldn't show off like they are doing something without actually doing anything.

This is how I feel about any of these international conferences.  However, in this case it is particularly ironic with it being a pollution conference.  I'd like to see a comparison of the reduction in pollution that won't be agreed upon or followed through on vs the amount of pollution the actual conference is producing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

South Pole Foucault Pendulum

It is stinkin’ cold at the South Pole and the air is very thin. After hiking up 5 flights of stairs at 11,000 feet we had to stop and rest. While we were resting we got cold soaked from the extreme temperature so we had to go back down and warm up. While the "beer can" is enclosed it is not heated and its ambient temperature is the same as the outside temperature. For our second attempt we walked up the stairs a bit more slowly and rested for a shorter period of time and were able to begin construction on the pendulum. After several trips up and down five flights of stairs the pendulum wire was finally suspended and the rest of the construction could be performed at floor level. Even then we had to go in and warm up approximately every 10 minutes. On average, it takes 6 times longer to do things at the South Pole than it does anywhere else in the world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

CRIA Faces $60 Billion Lawsuit

"The Canadian Recording Industry Association faces a lawsuit for 60 billion dollars over willful infringement. These numbers may sound outrageous, yet they are based on the same rules that led the recording industry to claim a single file sharer is liable for millions in damages. Since these exact same companies are currently in the middle of trying to force the Canadian government to bring in a DMCA for Canada, it will be interesting to see how they try to spin this."

Ohio And The Tenth Amendment

To claim sovereignty over certain powers pursuant to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, to notify Congress to limit and end certain mandates, and to insist that federal legislation contravening the Tenth Amendment be prohibited or repealed.

Copenhagen Climate Summit

Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges. Copenhagen is preparing for the climate change summit that will produce as much carbon dioxide as a town the size of Middlesbrough (pop 142,000).

Fear and Public Perception

This 1996 interview with psychiatrist Robert DuPont was part of a Frontline program called "Nuclear Reaction."
He's talking about the role fear plays in the perception of nuclear power. It's a lot of the sorts of things I say, but particularly interesting is this bit on familiarity and how it reduces fear:
You see, we sited these plants away from metropolitan areas to "protect the public" from the dangers of nuclear power. What we did when we did that was move the plants away from the people, so they became unfamiliar. The major health effect, adverse health effect of nuclear power is not radiation. It's fear. And by siting them away from the people, we insured that that would be maximized. If we're serious about health in relationship to nuclear power, we would put them in downtown, big cities, so people would see them all the time. That is really important, in terms of reducing the fear. Familiarity is the way fear is reduced. No question. It's not done intellectually. It's not done by reading a book. It's done by being there and seeing it and talking to the people who work there.
So, among other reasons, terrorism is scary because it's so rare. When it's more common -- England during the Troubles, Israel today -- people have a more rational reaction to it.
My recent essay on fear and overreaction.

This is interesting.  It goes along with why people are more afraid of swine flu (about 3,000 US deaths) than the regular flu (about 30,000 annual US deaths).

"Lawful Spying" Price Lists Leaked

"Wired has a story about how the site leaked the price lists for 'lawful spying' activities of Yahoo and other companies, and subsequently received a DMCA takedown notice from Yahoo. The documents, however, are still posted online, and in them you can learn, for instance, that IP logs last for one year, but the original IPs used to create accounts have been kept since 1999. The contents of your Yahoo account are bought for $30 to $40 by law enforcement agencies."

I'll be picking on Yahoo here as an example, but there are also guides for Yahoo, Cox, SBC-Ameritech, Cingular, Cricket, Nextel, Pacific Telesis, ATT, Sprint, and GTE. I'd like to point out that upon reading the guide it seems like they are more compiling with laws. I couldn't find anything in the guide that proved they offer information without a warrant.  That's certainly not proof that they don't though.  However, they did issue a DMCA takedown notice about the guide, which inherently makes them evil. This info was orginally attempted via a FOIA request. However Yahoo objected to it, and said, "Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies,".  In other words the public knowing the truth would hurt Yahoo.

Excerpts from the PDF guide:

What Information Can Yahoo! Provide?
  • Subscriber Information

    • Subscriber information supplied by the user at the time of registration, including name, location, date account created, and services used.
    • IP addresses associated with log-ins to a user account are available for up to one year.
    • Registration IP address data available for IDs registered since 1999.
  • Yahoo! Mail (including email associated with specific properties such as Personals, Small Business, Domains, and Flickr)

    • Any email available in the user’s mail account, including IP address of computer used to send email.
    • Yahoo! is not able to search for or produce deleted emails.
    • Note that Yahoo! now hosts two new email domains: and
  • Yahoo! Chat/Messenger

    • Friends List for Yahoo! Messenger.
    • Time, date, and IP address logs for Chat and Messenger use within the prior 45-60 days.
    • Archives of Messenger communications may be available on the user’s computer if the user has chosen to archive communications.
    • Archives of Web Messenger communications may be stored on Yahoo! servers if at least one party to the communication chose to archive communications. 

Basic subscriber records: approx. $20 for the first ID, $10 per ID thereafter
Basic Group Information (including information about moderators): approx. $20 for a group with a single moderator
Contents of subscriber accounts, including email: approx. $30-$40 per user
Contents of Groups: approx. $40 - $80 per group

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sprint Revealed Customer GPS Data 8 Million Times

An anonymous reader sends along Chris Soghoian's blog entry revealing that Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers' GPS location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. The data point comes from a closed industry conference that Soghoian attended, at which Paul Taylor, Electronic Surveillance Manager at Sprint Nextel, said: "[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that's just scratching the surface. One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement. They also love that it is extremely inexpensive to operate and easy, so, just the sheer volume of requests they anticipate us automating other features, and I just don't know how we'll handle the millions and millions of requests that are going to come in." Soghoian's post details the laws around disclosure of wiretap and other interception data — one of which the Department of Justice has been violating since 2004 — and calls for more disclosure of the levels of all forms of surveillance.

Somali Pirates Open Up a "Stock Exchange"

'Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 "maritime companies" and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking,' Mohammed [a wealthy former pirate who took a Reuters reporter to the facility] said. ... Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel. 'I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation,' she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony. 'I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the "company."

SETI@Home Install Leads To School Tech Supervisor's Resignation

"Apparently the most prolific of users in the SETI@Home community has resigned his job as a school technology supervisor after it was revealed he had the software installed on some 5000 school machines. The school claims to have lost $1 million in upkeep on the affected machines."