Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thoughts on voting

This is my first election cycle back in Georgia, and so some things stood out.

1. I had to show ID.  I approve - if elections are so important that disenfranchising people is a horrible, no good, very bad election policy, then it seems that letting people vote who are not entitled to (i.e. fraud) is by definition disenfranchising people who have a legitimate right to vote.  In other words, by its own logic, allowing voter fraud is a horrible, no good, very bad election policy.

2. Georgia uses electronic voting machines.  This is bad juju.

3. The electronic voting machine does not print out a paper copy of my ballot for me to verify and deposit in the ballot box.  This is double plus ungood - how can I know that my ballot was correctly tabulated?  What, I'm supposed to trust that the elected officials are security savvy enough to keep someone from fiddling with the code?

Like I said, allowing voter fraud is a horrible, no good, very bad election policy.

My Little Pwnie

I've been slacking on on security blogging.  As an apology to my readers, all blog posts today will be offered entirely free of charge.

Black Hat and DEFCON are the twin premiere security conferences.  Each year, there is an awards ceremony for the best pwnage of the prior year - these are called (appropriately enough) the Pwnie Awards.

Unlike the Oscars, it's not a particularly happy day for a vendor when they're featured prominently there.  My favorite from this year is for Best Privilege Escalation:
MS11-098: Windows Kernel Exception Handler Vulnerability (CVE-2011-2018)
Credit: Mateusz "j00ru" Jurczyk
j00ru owned Windows. All of them. Ok, well just all of the 32-bit versions of Windows from NT through the Windows 8 Developer Preview. What have you done lately? And to top it off, he wrote a clear paper on it with some of the nicest boxy diagrams we have ever seen in a LaTeX paper.
Anything that goes all the way from the 1990s through the new, unreleased, "Most Secure Windows Ever" is pretty epic.  Awesome, unless you're a System Administrator picking up the pieces.

But while I've been slacking off, Stainless hasn't been.  He was in Las Vegas for DEFCON, and reported regularly from the show:
How bad is the keying problem? Bad enough that agencies frequently transmit in cleartext, due to key management issues. (“NSA Rule Number 1: Look for cleartext.”) How frequently? Blaze and his group, for the past several years, have been running a monitoring network in several (unnamed) cites, recording cleartext P25 traffic and measuring how often this happens. About 20-30 minutes per day, by their estimate, of radio traffic is transmitted in unintended cleartext. And that traffic can contain sensitive information, like the names of informants.
There's a long history of tactical radios having clear switches, because if the keys got fubar'ed, you were lugging around a 25 lb door stop.  It's rather dismaying to see that in 25 years there has been, well, zero progress.  Stalin would have had all of us shot.

Oh, and check out Router Rootkits.  Want to pwn the entire Internetz?  Epic bad juju.  As your Captain would say, enjoy the decline!

Microsoft gets snared by "embrace and extend"

The irony, she is rich.  The Internet Explorer 6 web browser was introduced with great fanfare in 2001, and when Microsoft Windows XP shipped two years later it was the default browser - in fact, the only browser shipping on Microsoft desktops.  By then, it had almost 90% market share.

Ignoring the almost decade long record of terrible security problems, companies soon found that their business applications had mostly been written to only work with IE, instead of other browsers.  Netscape stumbled and died the death, and Firefox struggled for years against this.  Sure, you could use Firefox, but there were certain critical corporate business apps that just didn't work with it.  This "embrace and extend" standards strategy had served Microsoft well in the past, and this was no different.  It was simply too expensive for most companies to rewrite their critical business apps to work with other browsers.

Well, fast forward ten years, to where Microsoft wants its customers to upgrade to Windows 7 (and soon, Windows 8).  The problem?  IE5 doesn't run on Windows 8, and the business apps don't work without IE6.  And so companies are staying on Windows XP:
“We continually hear that legacy web applications are the number one blocker to migration. When it costs millions of dollars to rewrite or replace a critical business application, migration projects invariably stall until a cost-effective solution can be found," the blog coninued.

Browsium offers a web browser plugin called Ion, which runs IE6 and IE7-only apps in IE8 and IE9 on Windows 7. It does this by recreating the IE6 environment, including configuration files and security settings, within newer browsers.

Microsoft’s own advice on moving apps off of IE6 and IE7 isn’t particularly helpful – in fact it’s probably compounding the problem: developers are told to rewrite old apps, which will cost time and money.
Now you need to take some tech stories with a grain of salt - the Press Release doesn't make for good technology any more than it makes for good science.  But the cost of Microsoft lock in is real, and the irony that Microsoft is getting hit by that (intentional) installed base inertia is rich indeed.

Scientific takedown

Five years ago, it took the skeptic community years and years to demolish bad science from the Climate Science Establishment.  Three years ago with Climategate it took the skeptic community months and months to demolish bad science from the Climate Science Establishment.  As short a time ago as last year, it took the skeptic community days and days to demolish bad science from the Climate Science Establishment.

This week it's taken the skeptic community hours to demolish Dr. Richard Muller's BEST [sic] climate database.  Even the New York Times' Andy Revkin isn't buying it, but the big guns in the skeptic camp are simply brutal, and eviscerate the  (non peer-reviewed) new "climate bombshell":
Last October, I advanced a number of (sophisticated!) criticisms of BEST’s “sophisticated” methods (here and here). At least some of the study authors know of these criticisms: I emailed Muller, Charlotte Wickham, and Judy Curry, but only received a reply from Curry (on her blog).

As far as I can tell, none of the criticisms I made, nor any of the criticisms advanced by D.J. Keenan, have been answered satisfactorily; indeed, they have not been answered at all. I must admit that in politics, it is sometimes best not to acknowledge your critics. In this sense, Muller may be wise.

Muller has two op eds out today, a double whammy meant to influence politics. Well, this blog is meant to influence politics, so there’s noting in the world wrong with that. But just you count how many people, in support of Muller’s position, will call his pieces “science” and not polemic; whereas the opposite labels will be applied to Muller’s critics.
Oh, and the snarky comment on "sophisticated" statistical methods?  That's from William Briggs, a statistician.  A statistician who seemingly offered criticisms to improve the paper during the review process, and whose criticisms went unanswered.  Science!

But the most brutal take down comes from Christopher Monckton in a piece hosted many places, including at Briggs':  Dr. Muller is ignorant of history:
Yes, the world has warmed since 1750. However, even if one accepts Dr. Müller’s estimate of 1.5 Co warming since then, that rate is indeed well within the natural variability of the climate. Indeed, in the 40 years from 1695 to 1735, Central England (not a bad proxy for global temperature change) warmed naturally at 0.4 Co per decade, seven times faster than the 0.057 Co per decade he finds in the 262 years during which we are supposed to have influenced the weather.

Natural variability, therefore, is sufficient to explain all of the warming since 1750. No other explanation is necessary. Accordingly, it is not legitimate to claim, as the Berkeley team claim, that in the absence of any other explanation the warming must be attributed to CO2. That claim is an instance of the argumentum ad ignorantiam, the fundamental logical fallacy of argument from ignorance. It is not sound science.
There's a lot more there, but this pretty much leaves the whole theory gutshot.  We have undenied evidence that past climate variability considerably exceeded current variability.  This argument is quite simply never addressed by the Climate Science Establishment.  In fact, this historical approach to the question is one that I myself laid out in some detail.  Oddly, the Climate Science Establishment seems never to address the questions.  I recommend that you RTWT here.

But back to the science.  Judith Curry - who believes that CO2 emissions are indeed causing the planet to warm - is scathing:
Muller bases his ‘conversion’ on the results of their recent paper. So, how convincing is the analysis in Rohde et al.’s  new paper A new estimate of the average surface land temperature spanning 1753-2011?   Their analysis is based upon curve fits to volcanic forcing and the logarithm of the CO2 forcing (addition of solar forcing did not improve the curve fit.)

I have made public statements that I am unconvinced by their analysis.  I do not see any justification in their argument for making a stronger attribution statement than has been made by the IPCC AR4.    I have written MANY posts that critique the IPCC’s attribution analysis.  Here I try to give a sense of the challenges in attributing climate change to causal factors.
Muller seemingly invited Curry to be an author of the paper; she seemingly refused.  He seemingly ignored her comments during peer-review.  Her post seemingly is her reply.

Add in that Muller's paper has not been published - i.e. it fails what we've been told for the last several years is the sine qua non test of Authorized™ Science®, this is very weak beer.  Add in the splash of an introduction not via Science or Nature or Geophysical Research Letters, and the whole "scientific" stage appears to be nothing but a story told by an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

And all in the space of a day.  That's some righteous Science® right there.

Oops, got to go - it's those darn Deniers, back on my lawn ...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rockin' Lullaby

Jim Morrison* is IN THE (little) HOUSE** (on the prairie):

* Well, his ghost, anyway.

** Would you, could you with a Mouse?


The sound in Camp Borepatch

Well, it's not quite so simple.  #1 Son is taking a class where he has to record sounds that will be used in a short film.  He can pick any topic, and he chose James Bond.  And so he's been busy recording the sounds of magazines being loaded, slides racked, and bolts worked.  We went to the range, where he recorded various guns being shot, one shot at a time and multiple times in a row.  We may go back and rent a silenced pistol that they have because that sound would be very James Bond indeed.

Now he's turned to the less, well, gunnie sounds you'd hear in a James Bond flick.  The sound of a Martini being shaken, for example, or a car engine rev'ing.  He's still looking for some more sounds to record, so if you have any ideas, leave a comment.

We'll see if his project comes off as well as this.

Robert Patten sez: It's a good thing to anticipate the consequences of your actions

Kristen Stewart could not  be reached for comment, but she may be the green one with bad facial expression shown here.  Hard for me to tell.  I think I might need a "skank" blog post tag.

Holy cow, the nightly news is totally biased

I know, I know, pictures at 11 ...

It's likely been ten years since I've watched the Nightly News.  I wasn't feeling well yesterday, and so just hung out watching the Olympics.  It's a truism that it's more interesting watching the Olympics during the day, rather than in Prime Time, because you see things like rowing and the awards ceremony for shotgunning, which is a lot more interesting.

But then the news comes on.  Holy cow, the bias isn't dialed up to 11, it's dialed up to 12.  The first three stories on NBC, via Brian Williams:

1. Mitt Romney's "gaffe" in the UK.  The nature of the "gaffe" is not really explained.  It seems to me that he said something entirely sensible  - the UK has made a mess of the Olympics planning (as basically everyone in the UK admits). But the tone of tut tut tut was palpable.

2.  Mitt Romney's "gaffe" in Israel.  The nature of the "gaffe" is not really explained.  It seems to me that he said something entirely sensible - that Iran needs to know that America stands with Israel.  But the tone of tut tut tut was palpable. But the tone of tut tut tut was palpable, including the "he's trying to peel voters away from Obama."  Err, pictures at 11?

3. An obligatory Newsweek cover shout-out reference: Is Mitt Romney a wimp?  The juxtaposition with the story about America supporting Israel would be called antisemetic if it had been done by a Republican against a Democrat.

4. Oh, yeah - Dick Cheney says that Sarah Palin never should have been Vice Presidential candidate in 2008.

That was the first four minutes of the news.  Wow.  I knew it was bad, but had no idea that it was this bad.  I take this as a sign that the Obama campaign is in deep, deep trouble, and that the media is in as big a panic as they are.

Huh. Did Jimmie Johnson convert to Islam?

Not sure if that's facing Mecca or not.  Not that there'd be anything wrong with that.  Man, NASCAR sure is confusing ...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Breaking: Climate Database quality is appallingly bad

The Climate bloggers strike back:
The new improved assessment, for the years 1979 to 2008, yields a trend of +0.155C per decade from the high quality sites, a +0.248 C per decade trend for poorly sited locations, and a trend of +0.309 C per decade after NOAA adjusts the data. This issue of station siting quality is expected to be an issue with respect to the monitoring of land surface temperature throughout the Global Historical Climate Network and in the BEST network.
This is huge, from a scientific perspective - I've been complaining about the quality of the climate data for years.  It's even more important from the perspective of the political debate: this is a direct challenge to the climate establishment - the one that the Climategate emails showed worked so hard to control the peer review process.  The authors include Anthony Watts, Stephen McIntyre, and John Cristie - big names in the debate.  The argument is that the challenge to climate science has to come from outside the climate science establishment, because climate science is so politicized.  That's a further rebuke.

It seems that they have math and everything - their indictment is that once data from poorly cited weather stations (those located in the middle of hot asphalt parking lots or sitting next to the exhaust from air conditioners - or at airports breathing hot jet exhaust all day) are included in the data sets and then when the data is fudged "adjusted" by NOAA, the warming trend is doubled.

The timing is not a coincidence.  Dr. Muller had an Op-Ed in the New York Times this weekend about how the Berkeley BEST network conclusively demonstrates a massive warming.  Well, maybe not conclusively, unless you trust all the fudging "adjusting" that's being done to the data.  How's the adjusting done?  Well, nobody really will say, but hey - trust them, they're scientists!

And pony up a Trillion Dollars a year, h8ter.

Oh, and the fact that this hasn't been published yet?  They tweak Dr. Muller using his own words:
The pre-release of this paper follows the practice embraced by Dr. Richard Muller, of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project in a June 2011 interview with Scientific American’s Michael Lemonick in “Science Talk”, said:
I know that is prior to acceptance, but in the tradition that I grew up in (under Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez) we always widely distributed “preprints” of papers prior to their publication or even submission. That guaranteed a much wider peer review than we obtained from mere referees.

Gauntlet, thrown.  This is getting interesting.

Sitemeter seems to be increasingly unrealible

I'm sorry, I simply don't believe the traffic stats for today.  Sitemeter tells me that I had 2 visitors between 1600 and 1700; Blogger Stats tells me that I had something like 100 page views in that same time period.  Normal traffic looks like a ratio of hits:page views like 1:1.4.

Peter wrote about this a while back.  It's likely that Sitemeter doesn't pick up on RSS feeds, and so their service sadly is less and less valuable, at least to me.  As someone who's getting within striking distance of a million hits, it makes me wonder whether I've already reached it.  Probably not, but as with the climate science temperature databases, once you start questioning the soundness of the data there's not much left.

Why do I blog?

Via Chris Byrne, we see that Og asks the question di tutti blog questions: why do you blog?  Og makes sense (as he always does):
I blog for my own enjoyment, but having the commenters I do, is like going to a get together every day with a bunch of damned nice people, and a few total assholes. Even the assholes, most of the time, are welcome. They make the party interesting.
But this is a bit general.  Me, I blog because otherwise none of y'all would know about Klingon antivirus.  Srlsy.  And for the comments.  (Tragically, there are no comments on Klingon antivirus.)  And while it won't change the World, it is by definition revolutionary.

I think I'm sort of saying the same thing as Og and Chris. 

Temperature scales, explained

There's actually a whole discussion of English (pounds, horsepower, °F) vs. Metric (SI) and practical vs. theoretical hiding in that graph.

Epic smackdown

The Forbes article about Microsoft is as brutal as anything I've ever read in tech.  For example:
Cool is what tech consumers want. Exhibit A: today the iPhone brings in more revenue than the entirety of Microsoft.

No, really.

One Apple product, something that didn’t exist five years ago, has higher sales than everything Microsoft has to offer. More than Windows, Office, Xbox, Bing, Windows Phone, and every other product that Microsoft has created since 1975. In the quarter ended March 31, 2012, iPhone had sales of $22.7 billion; Microsoft Corporation, $17.4 billion.
The author chalks it all up to bad management of epic proportions:
At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system—also referred to as “the performance model,” “the bell curve,” or just “the employee review”—has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.

“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
I interviewed there in 2001, and quite frankly was turned off by the arrogance on display.  I wasn't interested, and it seems that the feeling was mutual.  Instead, I went to a startup that actually solved some of Windows' horrible security problems.  This article is an interesting insight as to why Microsoft wasn't able to do that.

Interestingly, when Cisco was negotiating to acquire us, Microsoft was, too.  That same arrogance was still on display, and while it didn't queer the deal it almost certainly led to a low ball offer.  Funniest of all, the Microsofties stayed at the hotel near our office where we would regularly go for a beer after work.  We knew a number of the bartenders who would give us the low down of the discussion the Microsofties had the previous evening.  Not smart enough to realize that treating everyone like you're God's Gift to the world doesn't pay.

The entire article rings true, from my own experience.  It's a train wreck, but a cautionary tale.

Chinese classical music - Seagulls

The oldest musical instruments that we know about are flutes, dating back possibly to the Divja Babe flute from Neandertal times, fashioned from a bear's leg bone.  String instruments appeared all over - the Bull Lyre of Ur being perhaps the oldest known.  China's music dates back 3,000 years, and like many cultural tropes from the Middle Kingdom had achieved a stable form by Han times (200 B.C.).  So with the Guqin, perhaps best described as the Chinese guitar.

That poor description does it no service, as it is revered in China as "the instrument of sages" - remember, this is a Confucian society that afforded great honor to scholars and sages. Music has been composed for this from Han times right up until today; the Voyager spacecraft's record disk containing the sounds of earth included a Guqin song.

The seven strings are plucked, but the tuning is quite different from western stringed instruments, giving the music a haunting, almost eerie effect (to my ears at least).  The fact that this sort of music encourages reflection and contemplation is no accident.

The sound quality of this video is unfortunately marred by doors opening and closing and the like, but this is a virtuoso performance by Stephen Walker, who has a quite interesting web site about the Guqin, including this quote which captures the contemplative nature, or goes past it:
I have said before that playing the qin for others to hear is hardly worth speaking about. Playing it at small gatherings of the like-minded only provides for discussion and conferral, and is likewise not worth speaking about. Playing while I alone listen is almost worth speaking about, but it is not equal to playing without listening. My hands and thoughts move effortlessly together; in purity I rely on the spontaneous, following the circling flows of the cosmic breath; I know not that I am so but am simply so—such is to reach the realm of transformation, and this alone can be called the qin. It can be spoken about only with those who truly understand.
- Zhang Ziqian 張子謙 (1899-1991)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Small gun safes considered unsafe

Design defects in small gun safes from Stack-On, GunVault, and Bulldog mean that they can be opened by toddlers:

Full story.  This seems a lot like what goes on in computer security - designers not being as smart as they think they are - other than the 3 year old getting accidentally shot.

UPDATE 28 July 2012 16:47: Oops, it looks like this was presented at DEFCON.  Which makes the tie in to hacking obvious.  Damn, I need to get out there next year.

Sherrié Austin - Son Of A Preacher Man

Country music is alive and well on distant shores, and no shores are more receptive to the genre than the shores of Australia.  The Country Music scene there is so active that there is a Country Music Awards of Australia awards ceremony.  With Australia's Scotch-Irish heritage* it's not a surprise that the music is similar to that which came out of America's Appalachia.

And so we see a stream of outstanding country music talents from Down Under.  Keith Urban is perhaps the most recent of these, but he's by no means alone.  Sherrié Austin is a singer/actress who brings an authentic Scots-Irish sound that is right at home on the airwaves on these shores.  She does a simply outstanding rendition of the song made famous by the late, great Dusty Springfield.  That Sheila can sing some down home country, fair dinkum.

Son Of A Preacher Man (songwriters: John Hurley, Ronnie Wilkins)
Billy-Ray was a preacher's son
And when his daddy would visit he'd come along
When they gathered round and started talkin'
That's when Billy would take me walkin'
A-through the backyard we'd go walkin'
Then he'd look into my eyes
Lord knows to my surprise

The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was
Ooh, yes he was

Being good isn't always easy
No matter how hard I try
When he started sweet-talkin' to me
He'd come and tell me everything is all right
He'd kiss and tell me everything is all right
Can I get away again tonight?

The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was
(Ooh...) Lord knows he was
Yes he was

How well I remember
The look that was in his eyes
Stealin' kisses from me on the sly
Takin' time to make time
Tellin' me that he's all mine
Learnin' from each other's knowing
Lookin' to see how much we've grown

And the only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was
Ooh, yes he was

The only one who could ever reach me
He was the sweet-talking son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
I kissed the son of a preacher man
The only one who could ever move me
The sweet-lovin' son of a preacher man
The only one who could ever groove me
Ahh, ooh, ahh.... 

* Australians will proudly explain why their race is superior to the POMMs - Prisoners Of Mother England.  You see, their ancestors were selected by the finest magistrates in the British Kingdom.

We are so out of touch with the American people!

Epic rant.  Astonishingly, this was given on the floor of Congress, to a standing ovation.

I've discussed at (as usual) considerable length.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jimmy Reed

Because he's Jimmy Reed.

Rate of fire restrictions

Over at The Gormogons, Gettoputer rightly takes a bunch of lefties to task for their poorly conceived "common sense" gun control proposals:
In closing, here's a freebie for any gun banners that may happen to read this post.  If 'Puter's hearing you correctly, your real problem with guns (aside from the fact that they are big and scary and mean looking) is that certain combinations of rate of fire and magazine capacity enable the criminal and insane to do massive damage in a short period of time.  Rather than advocating an outright ban of all firearms, or banning certain cosmetic characteristics that have absolutely nothing to do with anything, why wouldn't you simply amend the National Firearms Act to include the concept of "Covered Firearm?"  Covered Firearm would be defined as "a firearm with both a rate of fire at or over x rounds per minute and a magazine capacity equal to or greater than x rounds." Then you can haggle over the difference without debating the red herrings of bayonet lugs, pistol grips, caliber, color, microstamping, etc.
Note that 'Puter isn't advocating any of this, but he does seem to cut to what is the heart of liberal's concern.  Indeed, Gail Collins and "conservative" David Brooks in the New York Times seem to be advocating precisely that.

The problem is that this seemingly can't work.  Consider: if a proposal like this were to be seriously mooted, it's hard to see the limits set at higher than, say, 20 rounds a minute.  The problem is that just about anything will shoot with that rate of fire.  The venerable 1911 is so common as to be entirely unremarkable, even to gun banners - indeed, Heller v. D.C. specifically called out as unconstitutional bans of firearms that are in common use.  It's hard to find a more common pistol than a 1911 pattern.

And the rate of fire (assuming enough magazines are at hand) is going to be well over 20 rounds per minute.  While I don't think that I could do it, it's very possible that a skilled shooter could send 100 rounds per minute down range.

Heck, even revolvers with speed loaders will almost certainly give a higher rate of fire than any liberal would be willing to accept.

And so once again we see that there simply is no common ground.  'Puter is likely getting very near what liberal's actual position might be, and there's simply no There there.  Liberals would have to accept a rate of fire that is wildly higher than they'd like - and which would put the lie to any nominal goal of preventing Aurora type shootings - or essentially every firearm design after 1890 or so would have to be outlawed.

Of course, no new gun control laws are even going to be discussed, because while Democratsmay be dumb, they want to keep their Congressional seats.  Therefore we'll only hear huffing and puffing from those few who are in safe seats.  This will continue to give E.J. Dionne and company the Vapors, so grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Hacking FAIL

I've got like eleventy million emails from all y'all about the malware that played AC/DC from the speakers of the Iranian nuclear research computers.  While that's all fun and games, I have to step in and bring everyone back to earth.  This was a huge missed opportunity, speaking as a network security professional.

They should have played this:

And they should have displayed this while they did it:

I mean, Bitch Please.  This is our Cyber Intelligence Services.  Standards, people.

Boy, the GOP is in big trouble

There was a gathering of the field engineers at the office yesterday.  I love working with The Lads (and occasionally, Lasses), because they're where the rubber meets the road - they're the ones who have to make things work, and who take the heat from the customer when it doesn't.  There's no better way for someone like me back in the Factory to get real faster than hanging with The Lads.

We had dinner and beers, talking business and wouldn't it be neat for a gratifying time.  It was a good grounding for me, one I try to do as often as I can.  Then it turned to politics.

None of them liked Obama and the Democrats.  None.  They're in their 30s (the oldest were early 40s), and I'm not sure if this is the typical get more conservative as you settle down and have a family or not.  I don't think so.

You see, none of them liked the Republicans, or Mitt Romney.  None.

There was a certain amount of sympathy to my idea that since the economy will continue lousy, let Obama keep the Presidency (and the blame) while the Republicans take Congress.  There was the obligatory what about the Executive Orders along with the obligatory what Executive Orders, but none of them had any feeling that the Coke Party would be an improvement over the Pepsi Party, except around the edges.

This is GOP Marketing FAIL, to my mind.  You have smart, rational (engineering school, hello), well paid (mostly) white males, and none of them like your Party.  In Georgia, none of them like your Party.  You know, I can see their point: I don't much like your party, either.

Oh yeah, there was the obligatory yeah we suck but we suck less than the other guy discussion, too.  Good damn luck to the GOP.  They'll need it.  Especially in 2014 when the Democrats retake the Senate.  Just in time to block President Romney's SCOTUS nominees.  So will Romney double down with conservative nominees who support the Second Amendment, or will he - beaten down by two years of relentless media assaults and a lost mid-term election - "compromise" on the SCOTUS?  I lived in Massachusetts while he was Governor, and I think I know how that one will play out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Exciting Spam is exciting

Found in the comment spam bin, this is more creative than the typical cialis spam comment:
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Spam links and company names removed (because it's spam, duh) - but offered up for your viewing pleasure.

Sometimes, the Null Hypothesis wins

In science, the Null Hypothesis is the classic way you test a new theory.  As an example, I could theorize that increasing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are causing the climate to warm.  The Null Hypothesis is that any climate changes are caused by something other than CO2 emissions, e.g. natural variation.  A truly scientific test would design ways that an experiment could gather data to help us choose whether theory beats Null Hypothesis.

As you'd imagine, most theories - while interesting - are not shown to be superior to the Null Hypothesis, and are therefore discarded.  As you'd imagine, this makes scientists unhappy.

The Null Hypothesis has all sorts of practical uses outside of the scientific research lab.  Security guru Marcus Ranum likes to say that the most important Law of computer security is that sometimes it's easier not to do something stupid than it is to do something smart.  In other words, sometimes the computer security Null Hypothesis wins.  It's the least bad alternative.

The Null Hypothesis applies to us all the time in our private lives.  Every choice that we make has positive and negative consequences: if we get an ice cream cone, we need to exercise the calories off (or get fatter).  Part of what we try to teach our children is that actions have consequences: some good, some bad.  Grown ups are supposed to try to anticipate both the good and the bad outcomes before they choose.

In other words, grown ups should try to recognize when the Null Hypothesis is likely to win.  Sometimes it's easier not to do something stupid than it is to do something smart.  Maybe 90% of the time, as it turns out.

And so with government.  Tam writes of Clayton Cramer's book about his mentally ill brother, and wonders what - if anything - could be done to change mental health care that would prevent something like the Aurora theater shooting.  It's thoughtful and well worth your time.  Her treatment of the subject is much more thoughtful than most of the ZOMG we have to do something that you hear, because she essentially lays out the Null Hypothesis - or at least two testable cases.  Reason Hit & Run also takes on the same issue, at considerable length (and is also worth your while).

I'm not at all optimistic that any legislation could be crafted that will improve the situation - and this is in theory, with a Legislature populated by disinterested Philosopher Kings.  Any law that is passed will have both positive and negative consequences, and Tam does a pretty good job laying them out.  The problem is that the "Mentally Ill" is a vastly broad group ranging from the Walking Wounded to the disfunctional to the flat our non functioning.  Any statute that can crisply and justly distinguish between these is only to be found in the Platonic Ideal of statute books.  Instead, any law will be a very blunt instrument that will almost certainly do as much (or more) harm than help.

Consider the seemingly reasonable law that would seek to restrict firearms ownership by the (non-institutionalized) mentally ill.  Who could object, right?  Well, think about the down sides: clearly those people will not be able to defend themselves in their own houses.  Some will be victimized, and remember that this is a particularly vulnerable segment of the community.  When you consider that the vast majority of this group is the "Walking Wounded" - people on anti-depressants, for example - then any victimization suffered because of this legal restriction could very well worsen their affliction.

Further, consider someone who is depressed, but who has not seen a doctor and is therefore not known to the Law as being in this group.  There's considerable evidence that treatment could help their lives, perhaps considerably.  However, some might very rationally choose not to seek treatment if it meant that they could lose their rights.  In fact, this exact argument was used by the Gay community to oppose mandatory HIV reporting requirements when they were discussed.  After all, one way to avoid reporting is simply not to test, right?  But that has clearly had consequences for society.

And so to mental illness.  Any reporting requirement that leads to restrictions on individual freedom will lead to some people simply not seeking treatment.  That means that some of the mentally ill will remain, invisibly, in the population, perhaps getting worse.  It may be that we end up with a higher population of more severely ill people than we would have.  It may be that we end up with a larger pool of dangerous people than we would have.

Consequences can be good or bad.  Any choice will have both good and bad consequences.  That's simply life.  That's what we teach our children.

To me, the Null Hypothesis is that any law that gets passed is almost certain to make things worse off than they were before.  The law may be larded with benefits to special interests, it may over promise benefits, it may ignore negative consequences.  It may do all three.  In fact, it probably will do all three.

The Null Hypothesis says that it's easier not to do something stupid than it is to do something smart.

What would you say to President Obama if you met him?

Make sure you're not drinking coffee when you read this.  I LOL'ed.

It's National Mock A Leftie Day

Just because.  Me, I'm targeting those insufferable snobs who look down on your plastic supermarket bags.

So mock away.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Marine Corps buying 4,000 new 1911 pistols

From Colt:
The U.S. Marine Corps has contracted Colt Defense LLC for as many as 12,000 M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistols.

The M45 CQBP is the descendant of the Colt M1911, used by U.S. forces in every major conflict of the 20th century. The U.S. Army and other services replaced it with 9mm pistols from an Italian company.
"An Italian company".   Heh.  Love the MSM's reporting on all things firearms.  That company is the oldest firearms company in the world.  I'm not a big fan of the 92, but you have to give them their due.

"Colt Defense looks forward to another great partnership with the Marine Corps as we renew industry production of the military 1911." The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity award is for five years and carries a value of as much as $22.5 million.

Colt said the initial delivery order is for 4,036 pistols plus spares and logistical support and deliveries will begin this year.
Semper fi.

An actual recommendation fot Mitt Romney

Sort of.  Whiskey says that Romney is a lot tougher than his cuddly exterior suggests:
Mitt Romney is not John McCain. That is something that Obama and company discovered in the “War of the Dogs.” Obama has used the fact that Romney, loading five kids, himself, and his wife in a station wagon, put the family dog in a dog carrier on the top of the car during a family vacation. It polled horribly in focus groups, and made the participants immediately have negative feelings about Romney. So, Romney’s aides went on Twitter and posted Obama’s own words in “Dreams from My Father: A Story of RACE AND INHERITANCE” about eating dog. Also, snake and grasshopper. While growing up in Indonesia. While that revelation makes Obama seem even cooler to SWPL-hipsters, for everyone else it is repulsive and more evidence of how alien and out of touch Obama is. Game, set, and match to Romney. Even the MSNBC morning crew were laughing at Obama. Eating dog beats putting the family dog on top of a crowded station wagon, in a carrier. What kind of American eats Dog? No kind, and that was the message of the laughter.
Can't argue with his post.  My problem with Mitt is that he's a statist prick, big government type.  Sorry, got all I can use.  Whisky actually touches on this nerve in a different post (and one that made me pretty uncomfortable, although I think he's right in the broad brush strokes) - the middle and working classes have come to deeply distrust government as it has degenerated into Anarcho-tyranny:
No one among the White middle class trusts the state. The late Sam Francis argued that the State among modern Western nations is basically Anarcho-Tyranny, a point echoed (though he likely never heard of the man) extensively in “Life at the Bottom” by Theodore Dalrymple, the pen name of British conservative author and former NHS and Prison doctor Anthony Daniels (no relation to the Star Wars actor who voiced 3CP0).

The State refuses to take any action that impacts key voting blocs: Blacks and Hispanics in the US, Muslims in Europe, when they violate the law. You can see this in action with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck urging driving licenses for illegal aliens and no longer impounding their cars after drunk driving arrests. Don’t worry, White drunk drivers will CERTAINLY have their cars taken. And meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles bans plastic grocery bags, fines people for putting the wrong things in their recycle bins, or even arrests them, and conducts fairly intrusive pat-downs of elderly White grandmas and White toddlers at LAX (note: that never happens to those who have Jessie Jackson, the NAACP, Urban League, La Raza, and Tony Villaraigosa on speed dial).
Quite frankly, this is why talk of "shared sacrifice" go nowhere.  Sacrifice is not shared, because favored groups are exempted.  Look at the ObamaCare waivers, granted at the discretion of the Secretary of HHS.  Anyone who thinks there is no quid pro quo for the waivers is hopelessly naive.

What's interesting is that Obama's 2008 campaign, where he ran as a Good Government, above-the-fray centrist has only deepened this cynicism.  It may be that Progressives will take a generation to recover from the Obama narcissistic dream, if they ever do. 

Security: it wasn't an afterthought

It wasn't thought of at all:

Bad news: With less than $50 of off-the-shelf hardware and a little bit of programming, it’s possible for a hacker to gain instant, untraceable access to millions of key card-protected hotel rooms.

This hack was demonstrated by Cody Brocious, a Mozilla software developer, at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. At risk are four million hotel rooms secured by Onity programmable key card locks. According to Brocious, who should be scolded for not disclosing the hack to Onity before going public, there is no easy fix: There isn’t a firmware upgrade — if hotels want to secure their guests, every single lock will have to be changed.
Seems that it's trivial to read the Hotel master key code out of the lock and then play it back to open sesame.  The idiots who designed this have cost their customers perhaps a billion dollars, because each of the four million hotel room locks installed today will have to be upgraded or replaced.

But I must say that this sort of attention whoring on Brocious' part is bad juju in the security industry.  Hopefully people will remember his name, and refuse to work with him in the future.  It's one thing to go public when the vendor blows you off after you report the vulnerability, it's another to not even give them the courtesy of a heads up.

In the meantime, use the slide latch when you're sleeping in a hotel, and don't leave any valuables there when you're not in the room.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Well, you have to admit that this explains Pachelbel's Canon in G

Epic musical rant is Epic.

You think this isn't ranty enough?  Ten Million Youtube views would disagree with you.  And this explains essentially all music since The Beatles.
Punk music really is a joke,
it's really is just baroque  ...
Awesome.  The 90's are prominently displayed here.  VH-1's I Love The 1790s.  Heh.  From the Youtube comments:
Let's see if I can do this: 1. Pachabel Rhythm (Duh). 2. Vitamin C - Graduation Song 3. Aerosmith - Crying 4. One Tin Soldier - The Legend of Billy Jack 5. Blues Traveler - Hook 6. Green Day - Basket Case 7. Matchbox 20 - Push 8. Better than Ezra - Good 9. Machine Head - Bush 10. U2 - With or Without You 11. Natalie Imbruglia - Torn 12. Avril Lavigne - Sk8er Boy 13. Twisted sisters - We're not gonna take it 14. Laverne and Shirley Theme 15. Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry 16. Beatles - Let it be
It's scary to think that there are essentially three different songs, and they were all written hundreds of years ago.  Think I'm joking?

Glad to see the Lonestar reference there.  Even redneck Country music tips it's hat to dead European guys.

Quote of the Day

Sonic Charmer brings the snark:
ZapperZ is absolutely right that the ebb and flow of weather shouldn’t influence views on global warming: “Scientists need to tell the public that this is NOT how we decide if there is global warming or not. We do not come up with such conclusion simply by looking at ONE data point!” Indeed. Because as everyone knows, we come up with a conclusion about whether there’s global warming by performing unstable, incomplete computer simulations integrated with sparse, inaccurate datasets, pretending those simulations are accurate representations of the entire earth’s climate, declaring sans cost-benefit analysis that the resulting cartoons demonstrate that the world economic system needs to be revised, and snidely ridiculing anyone who might balk at any part of that conclusion.
Actually, he's overstating the case for Global Warming, but it's funny anyway.

OK, I vote for "kicked in the dick"

I try to keep this blog PG-13, but sometimes one must have standards.

Fired, sued, and kicked in the dick.  Yup.  Make sure you watch the video.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled and non-ranty bloging.

But the Berenstain Bears need to be kicked in the dick, just for  good measure.  Man, I'm glad that my kids are older and I don't have to read that anymore.

Leftie Intellectuals lack imagination

Oh yeah, they're also idiots.  I'm afraid that I'm going to get a bit ranty, so if that's not your thing, then stop back later.  Otherwise, hang on while I fisk the Chronicle of Higher Education.

[waits for the thunder of departing feet to die down]

As an Intellectual, I must say that it's very annoying how degraded the state of modern "intellectuals" has become.  Quite frankly, it wasn't always that way.  At one time, there were actually intellectuals worthy of the name (before it became an epithet).

Now, not so much.  Real leftie intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith would kick intellectual sand in their faces down on the intellectual beach.  Therein lies the rant.

It seems that a certain Russell Jacoby - a professor of history at UCLA - believes that conservatives all want to outlaw the teaching of evolution, or something:
Are conservative intellectuals anti-intellectual?
No.  Are liberals idiots?  Nice way to start, Scooter.  I mean, we want everyone being open minded from the get go.
The short answer must be no.
Sorry, I'm sticking with my question unaltered, although we'll get to that presently.
A new book, America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats) (Encounter), by David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, affords an occasion to revisit the issue: Do contemporary American conservatives scapegoat intellectuals and teachers? If so, they can claim an all-American pedigree.
Do liberal Professors all display a toddler's lack of ability to understand the motivations of their fellows?  If so, they can claim a long standing pedigree.
"A superficial explanation through economic changes is to be avoided," wrote Richard M. Weaver in one of the ur-texts of American conservatism. "The economic cause is a cause that has a cause," he declared in his 1948 book, Ideas Have Consequences.
And actually, this is where we come to the first non-mocking criticism of Prof. Jacoby.  A pseudo witty, if impenetrable quote doesn't establish your intellectual bona fides outside the faculty lounge.  You see, most people are convinced by ideas, not by glib (if impenetrable) bon mots.  Outside the restricted circle of your students - who have to laugh at your jokes to get the grade - or your faculty lounge peers - who think more or less like you - normal Americans look at this with that quizzical whiskey tango foxtrot expression that Jon Stewart so loves to mug.

You know what?  They're right.  Make your point, and make it plainly.
To their suspicion of economic analyses of social issues, American conservatives add a suspicion of intellectuals as elitists. The aristocratic Buckley famously remarked that he would prefer to be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. To Buckley, a random collection of Bostonians would prove wiser than liberal, overeducated professors. This position drew upon several features of an American ethos that prizes equality, no-nonsense religion, business, practicality, and self-help, all of which Richard Hofstadter analyzed in his classic work, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963).
Not to put too fine a point on it, but 1963 was a half century ago.  One of the most serious indictments of leftist intellectuals is that they love to fight yesterday's battles.  To put this in context, in 1963, my father - an actual Intellectual, thank you very much, if a leftie - was twenty years younger than I am today.  Pick up the pace, Professor - the World is passing you by.
Buckley was hardly alone in deriding intellectuals as out-of-touch elitists, an attitude that can easily slide into a wholesale denunciation of knowledge and education itself. What does schooling bring aside from an undermining of Christian truths?
Err, a certain leftist indoctrination that a student dare not fail to parrot, at the risk of his grade point average and hopes for tenure?  That is precisely the charge laid at the feet of today's Academy.
That mind-set came to a head in the 1925 Scopes trial, in which a Tennessee high-school teacher was charged with teaching evolution. William Jennings Bryan, the special prosecutor, saw the issue as religion versus the intellectuals, whom he dubbed a "scientific soviet."
Professor, 1925 was four years before my father was born.  He's been dead for over a year now.  You wonder why you lack relevance?  Talk about fighting yesterday's battles - this one is 87 years old.  Boy, howdy.
For Hofstadter, the Scopes trial "greatly quickened the pulse of anti-intellectualism. For the first time in the 20th century, intellectuals and experts were denounced as enemies." Hofstadter also noted—remember, he was writing in the early 1960s—that for many today, the evolution controversy is "as remote as the Homeric era."
Hofstadter was right, a product of an age when Intellectuals still walked the earth, and when lefties knew how to think.  Today's "intellectuals" seem shrunken, like the old Bourbons, restored to the French throne after Napoleon's overthrow: they have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.  But their time has passed, and while they suspect, they will do their best to cling to the tatters of their power, living in the shadows of a past Roi Solleil.
No longer. Tennessee just passed a law protecting teachers who want to challenge evolution—and global warming.
The irony of the good Professor's argument now exceeds his poor understanding.  You can sum put the unthinking support of people ignorant of the Scientific Method for Creationism by the following: the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.  The good Professor's juxtaposition of this with his unthinking, ignorant of science support for Global Warming can best be summed up with the words the IPCC says it, I believe it, that settles it.  Prof. Jacoby almost certainly knows nothing of the science of climate change, but not only is willing to sneer at those who actually know better than he.  A sneering that assumes that they are a bunch of ignorant rubes, when it's his ignorance that is in question.

It's said that the problem with irony is that so many people don't get it.  Seemingly even at UCLA.

[Lots of idiocy deleted, because this is becoming a tl;dr, even for me.  And that's saying a lot.]
How did liberals take command of higher education and derail America? The standard conservative interpretation is straightforward: America progressed smoothly from Presidents George Washington through Dwight D. Eisenhower, but went to hell in the 1960s and has yet to recover. Radicals have taken over the universities and spread their poison. That is the gist of David Gelernter's book.
Well, yeah - more or less.  PhD candidates that were not sufficiently leftist were blackballed during the tenure discussions by a hard core of leftist faculty, meaning that each decade the faculty became more reliably leftist.  Any young, brilliant academic had to toe the party line, or try to make ends meet on a lecturer's salary - in other words, be frozen out of the tenured 1% and have to make ends meet teaching 5 classes a semester (without benefits) as the 99%.  That's precisely the charge.  And so Prof. Jacoby brings his heavy weight, tenured firepower to bear, to dazzle us with his intellectual firepower.  Dazzle us, I say.
Gelernter is Jewish, and it is not likely that a non-Jew would airily argue that obnoxious leftist Jews have taken over elite higher education.
Wait, what?  That's the intellectual fireworks?  The Jooos did it?
But Gelernter does so with enthusiasm untempered by facts. Aside from quoting Jewish neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz as sources, Gelernter does not offer a single example of what he is writing about. Who are these belligerent leftist Jewish professors? Anthony Grafton? Steven Pinker? Richard Posner? Martha Nussbaum? Perhaps Alan Dershowitz?
Sadly, this is what constitutes an argument in the Faculty Lounge.  Everyone grins knowingly - can't expect that sort to understand, what? - and moves on to the afternoon sherry.  Once again, we see that Irony 101 is not a pre-requisite to teach at UCLA.

Because quite frankly, that's exactly what the majority of the country believes.  That some political arguments are created more equal than others, and are ruthlessly excluded from the "polite" society of the liberal arts faculty.  The result of this?  An intellectual desert, as the good Professor unwittingly shows us.
Take a snapshot of second-generation New York intellectuals—the actual offspring of the first—to gauge the soundness of conservative and liberal intellectuals. Compare William Kristol and John Podhoretz on the right to David Bell, Michael Kazin, and Sean Wilentz on the left. Kristol played a key role in making Sarah Palin the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008. He sang the praises of "Joe the Plumber" and opined that most "recent mistakes" of American policy derived from "highly educated and sophisticated elites." Podhoretz wrote a book subtitled "How George W. Bush Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century," in which he enthused that Bush's "innovative" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "will serve as the blueprint for martial conflict for the foreseeable future." (New copies of Podhoretz's book are available through Amazon for one cent.) Bell, Kazin, and Wilentz, on the other hand, are all productive historians who have written significant books on French and American politics.

In brief, the former are ideologues; the latter serious writers and thinkers.
Ignoring his paean to Obama's nuanced use of Guantanamo that I excised, he finds himself back full circle at his original starting point without even realizing it.  Why was Sarah Palin the sensation that she so clearly was?  Why does the left say that she is stupid, and therefore unqualified to be Vice President?  Why do they never engage in the liberal arts' favorite pastime of compare and contrast with the sitting Vice President, Joe Biden?

And why does Professor Jacoby not see the irony in his own position?

The answer, of course, is that the left no longer knows how to think.  I've pointed out that John Kenneth Galbraith was likely the last true leftist Intellectual worthy of the term, and how he held those like Professor Jacoby in contempt.  As JKG wrote, Jacoby is at the end of the day, adequately predictable.

But the truly damning condemnation of Jacoby comes from his own writing.  It's clear that he has no understanding whatsoever of the positions held by his intellectual opponents.  His opponents know precisely what his thoughts on these matters are.  They hold the interior lines of communication, and continually defeat his arguments in detail.  It's possible that he doesn't have any idea what these terms mean.  No wonder that he clutches at arguments from ninety years ago.

Because his opponents say that all this is entirely predictable: that Professor Jacoby has/had to prove himself as reliably leftist to get tenure, that therefore he would only interact with other leftists, and therefore he won't have the foggiest notion of his opponent's actual arguments.  As Galbraith said, reliably predictable.

It's so utterly, depressingly tedious, which is why I have subjected you, dear reader, to such a pernicious rant.  It's drivel, and quite frankly drivel of a shockingly low caliber.  I'd like to see out Finest Intellectual Minds give us a higher caliber drivel, thank you very much.  For extra credit, perhaps Professor Jacoby can explain why the American people (in large numbers) oppose more gun control laws.  Professor, please show your work, even if it will require a strong stomach on that par of my readers ...

We now return our programming to a less ranty schedule.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The security Silly Season is upon us

Lots of crazy security news, since the Black Hat security conference is this week.

Open Source "Smart" Power Meter hacking framework is released
Security outfit SecureState’s smart meter hacking framework, Termineter, has gone live over at Google Code.

The software is described as having a structure like Metasploit, with a similar interface and ability to be extended with external modules.

Termineter isn’t up to the full doomsday-scenario “remote attack” that troubles owners of critical infrastructure who stupidly opened up their control interfaces to the Internet (so as to save themselves the cost of private networks): it gathers smart meter data over the devices’ local serial optical interfaces.
"Extensible Framework" has been the security hotness for five or six years now.  I've been warning about these stupid "Smart" meters for basically as long as I've been blogging.  Companies rushed to get them deployed before the security framework was thought through.  Welcome to Hell, Department of Energy types!

For everyone else, I think that the first use for this will be to audit your power company.  This tool likely will let you get access to all sorts of meter data, so you'll be able to tell if the power company is trying to rip you off.  Or if someone has pwned the power company and is messing with you.

It's the End Of The World As We Know It

A couple of folks have emailed links to this (thanks), although the security community is pretty well going bonkers over it:

Looks harmless, right.  Of course it does - that's the point.  But inside this friendly looking power strip is a linux computer loaded with H4X0r 'sploits, WiFi and enhanced Bluetooth radios, WiFi key cracking goodness, and a 3G cell phone for high speed pwnage even if there's no WiFi.  If the Bad Guy drops one of these in your office, he can get presto-changeo reverse SSH shell access through your firewall, tunneling back through an outbound https connection.

And oh yeah, the power outlets all work, so nobody's the wiser.

This 100 proof pure distilled evil is brought to you courtesy of the good folks at DARPA, which is very, very interesting indeed.  As ZDNet truthfully says, if you see one of these around the office, make sure it's supposed to be there.

Ready, fire, aim, apologize
Black Hat conference Organisers of the annual Black Hat conference have apologised after an estimated 7,500 conference delegates received a suspicious email yesterday resembling a phishing attack.

The dodgy email, informing entrants of a supposed password reset, was sent out after a volunteer with ITN International, the third-party firm handling on-site registrations for this week's Las Vegas conference, "pressed the wrong button" on a mail-out webform, the organisers explained.
Oops.  Remember, if I come across as paranoid, I was trained to be that way by the finest minds in the Free World.

More over the next few days.

Jealousy, I do confess it

I had hoped to go to the Black Hat/DEFCON security conferences in Las Vegas this week.  For those of you not in the Security Biz, this is the premiere Internet Security conference anywhere.  Black Hat is more corporate and buttoned down, while DEFCON is where everyone lets their hair down - the hacking "capture the flag" competition there is legendary.  I know a guy who won, back in the '90s.

But alas, work schedule didn't fit, and so I'm not going.  But Stainles of Whipped Cream Difficulties is.  I hope he gives us some posts about what the view is on the conference floor there.  Probably best not to post from the conference floor, though - never know who might be sniffing around, in an IP Packet sense.

Getting above their station

For a while, it was a mystery to me how Progressives - seemingly such bright people - could continuously fall for socialist Jedi mind tricks.  The hostility of the Academy towards the free market is famous, and long standing, and not showing signs of changing.  And yet these same people are unarguably intelligent.  So what gives?

I've posted a couple times that it's resentment that the market doesn't reward them to the level of their expectations.  The salary of a tenured Full Professor may be comfortable, but won't get you the vacation villa in Tuscany.  And yet they see drop outs like Bill Gates and Michael Dell make billions.  I've put their antagonism down to cheap envy.

Now I wonder.  The dislike runs deep, and seems felt viscerally.  This animus is emotional, not intellectual.  What gives with this?

I wonder if it's their inability to leave their comfortable, hierarchical education environment mindset behind and understand that the market cannot be understood.  They prefer the comfortable certainty of their intellectual environment to the discomfort of the trial-and-error (and mostly error) market.  This is a fundamental disconnect, one that likely is impossible to bridge.

Consider the education system: it is rigidly structured, with grade following grade in an increasing sequence.  A student enters the system at the lowest levels and advances step by understandable step, year by year.  You can plan how long this will take - it's intelligible.  Advancement is gained by rote learning of a parent figure; deviation from the expected answer is punished, but compliance with the expected answer allows the gifted student to gain status among his peers.

This hierarchy continuesfor students who go to University.  The Batchelor's-Masters-PhD scale is strictly hierarchical, with higher status for the higher programs, and lower for the lower.  Everyone safely knows where he is in the scale.

Status is also hierarchically distributed among institutions: The Ivy League at the top (and Harvard at the top of that), over the more prestigious State institutions, over the unknown State U systems, over the community colleges.  Again, everyone knows where you are in the pecking order.

Compare to the utter chaos of the marketplace.  Well run companies go out of business all the time, as technologically driven Creative Destruction churns the economy.  40 years ago, nobody would have predicted that General Motors would be a basket case; if anyone had to pick who the dominant computer company would be they would have picked IBM, and 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted there would be space stations and moon colonies serviced by Pan Am.

Hierarchy is irrelevant.  Compliance with expected answers to pass the exam is irrelevant. Next year won't necessarily be more advanced than this year, your company may suddenly find itself fighting for its life.

This isn't a different world, it's a different universe.

And yet the market offers rewards far exceeding any available to anyone in Academe.  Vastly greater riches.  You have guys who made a million dollars driving a UPS truck, because they had stock options.  Maybe they didn't even finish High School.

That is a rebuke to the entirety of the careful hierarchical set of tests and rewards that is the modern education system.  Even worse, companies don't really care whether you give them the answer they were looking for - what they care about is whether you're right, and if you make money for the company.  You can be the smartest, nicest, team player-ish guy ever, with a Harvard PhD, and if you lose a lot of cash for the company you'll find yourself out on your tail end.

Unfair, that.  After all, it wasn't on the exam ...

And so how can we expect a product of the hierarchical education system - always succeeding by understanding and complying with the system - to ever be comfortable starting a company that very well may fail?  How would we expect such a person to ever thrive in the brutal give and take of a chaotic marketplace?  And thus we see the antagonism to free enterprise, the desire to rein in the chaos, to impose an Academic's idea of order on a system that is not, and simply cannot ever be orderly.

In fact, thus we see Barack Obama.  Product not just of Harvard, but of Harvard Law School.  Much higher in the hierarchy than Harvard Business School, which produced George W. Bush.  Or wherever Mitt Romney came from.  Did either of them ever head up the Harvard Law Review?  And so what gives them the insufferable arrogance to think that they could be President?

And the same, quite frankly, goes for anyone who thinks that they should be able to willy nilly start up a business without getting the permission of their betters.  Those that do trigger the visceral dislike ingrained by the better part of two decades of hierarchical education.  It's those damn grubby mechanics, putting on airs and getting above their station.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Post Aurora gun control prediction

Like Francisco Franco, it's still dead.  Look at the swing states that Obama has to win to get re-elected: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri.  Add up the number of gun owners in those states and you have the largest army in the world.

And so, two things are certain:

1. Progressives will continue to experience aneurism inducing frustration over the entire "lack of progress" on gun control, and

2. Obama will continue to be forced to fall back to sneaky under the radar type actions like Fast and Furious and the UN Arms Treaty.

Not a lot of progress to be had there.  #1 is easy, and you can grab the popcorn while you enjoy the show.  #2 is where the action is.  Keep your powder dry.

Has anyone reloaded Privi Partizan brass?

Doing an inspection on the brass prior to reloading, it became clear that not all brass is created equal.

Not a very good picture, but you can see that the bottom cartridge (Remington) is shiny brass from stem to stern.  The Privi cartridge at the top is brassy up to around the neck, and is then some sort of dullish silvery metal.

Question for you reloaders out there: should I use the Privi?  It shot great new out of the box, but this looks somewhat odd to me.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - The Magic Flute, to gunfire

Culturally, Japan seems to be a huge mashup, combining the classicWestern cultural icon with a Japanese trope that is entirely sui generis.  And so with Mozart's Magic Flute opera and school girl anime.

But this isn't any sort of creepy Japanese school girl anime, this is Japanese school girl Special Forces anime.  To Mozart's opus.  Which is still entirely strange - sui generis, even - and proof that each generation remakes and re-purposes the art of prior generations, and makes it live again.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I polished my brass

That sounds dirty, but isn't - at least, if you're talking reloading.  I haven't invested in a tumbler to polish the spent brass, and so I did it by hand while watching the Boob Tube.

I'm told that dirty brass shoots the same as clean brass, but thought I'd give it a try.  It wasn't too bad, and while I'm not sure how much cleaner the brass is, although the cloth and my fingers got kind of discolored, so it must have done something.

I picked up a powder scale at the gun show and some .303 bullets, and so hopefully I'll get some loaded cartridges done tomorrow.  Hey, recycling is fun! Save the Earth, and all that.  I can't wait to share my Green experience with my Prius driving friends! 

And what else about sounds dirty, but isn't?

It looks like you're trying to destroy your file system. Would you like some help?

Reader Ed Skinner left a hilarious comment to my whiny post about Windows OS silliness, suggesting a simple command would fix my problems:
rm -rf C:\
Alas, this is a Unix/Linux command, and so foreign to the Windows command set.  Fortunately, Microsoft® Ease-Of-Use™ innovations provide the solution!

Meditation on a Gun Show

I'm headed off with the boys to the Gun show in Marietta.  Who knows, maybe I'll see another Martini-Henry (or more practically, some .303 bullets or a powder scale).

Strangely, I had thought the Gun show would have been bigger.  It's a nice enough show - about the same size as the one in Austin, but I'd sort of figured folks here to take the "size matters" approach when it came to guns. But hey, lunch at the Big Chicken with the boys, and guns - what's not to like?

It's really an exercise of freedom, one that's not welcome everywhere, even on these shores.  Brigid writes of that more poetically, as she always does.  Her post says the same thing, differently and better: that some men live under tyranny and yet are free, while others live surrounded by liberty and are too scared to reach out and take it.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
- Viktor Frankl
May your day be joyous and restful, or busy and satisfying, but in any event filled to overflowing with freedom.

John Prine - Grandpa was a Carpenter

Image via Wikipedia
How do you know that you're "the new Dylan"?  When Bob Dylan shows up at your nightclub gig and plays harmonica backup for you.

John Prine was an unlikely country singer.  He was a mailman who showed up at Open Mic night.  But Prine was not your typical walk up: he could write.  His dry sense of humor shows up in songs like Dear Abby, a hilarious lampooning of advice column letters.  But it was his ability to spin yarns about regular people that led to the attention of Dylan.

He's written with others, like David Allan Coe, and won a Grammy for The Missing Years, his collaboration with Howie Epstein.  Oh, and stared along side Billy Bob Thornton in Daddy & Them.

But it's really about the writing.  Dylan says that Prine is one of his favorite writers.  The Man In Black himself said he didn't listen to a lot of music, maybe just some John Prine.  Roger Waters compared Prine's writing to Neil Young and John Lennon.

And quite frankly, I think that's damning with faint praise.  I like Prine's songs a lot more than Young's.  Or even Lennon's.  Yeah, he's that good.

Grandpa was a Carpenter (Songwriter: John Prine)
Oh, grandpa wore his suit to dinner nearly every day
No particular reason, he just dressed that way
Brown necktie with a matching vest and both his wingtip shoes
He built a closet on our back porch 
and put a penny in a burned-out fuse

Grandpa was a carpenter, he built houses, stores and banks
Chain-smoked Camel cigarettes and hammered nails in planks
He would level on the level, he shaved even every door
And voted for Eisenhower, 'cause Lincoln won the war

Well, he used to sing me "Blood on the Saddle" and rock me on his knee
And let me listen to the radio before we got TV
Well, he'd drive to church on Sunday and he'd take me with him too
Stained glass in every window, hearing aids in every pew

Well, my Grandma was a teacher, she went to school in Bowling Green
Traded in a milking cow for a Singer sewing machine
Well, she called her husband "Mister," and she walked real tall in pride
She used to buy me comic books after grandpa died

Friday, July 20, 2012

Welcome aboard!

Bob S writes about his new grandson, Trevan.  The young 'un had a bit of a rough entry, but is now finally home from the hospital.  Best wishes to the lad.

Pardon me while I say ...

... is there a reason that Windows 7 hides all the APPDATA directories?  They're about to refresh my OS because Windows keeps losing its mind (it's rockin' when the explorer.exe process gets 2 GB of RAM).  I spent a half hour looking for my bookmarks and all that to make sure it was going to get backed up.

If Microsoft didn't treat me like I was a child - and if they didn't keep changing how Windows works every 18 months (go and look at what's in Control Panel, and compare it to XP) - this would have taken 45 seconds.

I must say that this is why old Unix neck beards roll their eyes at Windows: it's a trifecta of fail:

OS processes mysteriously lose their minds?  Check.

Files and menus moved around and changed every release for no reason?  Check.

Developers assume that I'm an idiot and hide my files from me?  Check.

What a sucking chest wound of fail, right there.