Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener...
Idle ramblings of an intermittently philosophical nature... Apologies to Martin Gardner, whose The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener is one of the best books you've (probably) never read.

An Idle Thought...
What a misfortune, and injustice, for the University of Tennessee College of Law that [Glenn "InstaPundit"] Reynolds should now be their best-known faculty member.
--Brian Leiter, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

About Me (the condensed version)
A member of the tail end of the boomers; a middle aged recovering lawyer turned professional computer geek. Native of St. Louis, Missouri, transplanted to Memphis, Tennessee. Avid reader, amateur philosopher, St. Louis Cardinals fan, one of the last Renaissance men.

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A bit about me (The uncondensed version) Memorial to a dear friend
Frederick W. Benteen
The Web of Leonards
The St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds
BlogMemphis (The Commercial Appeal's listing of Memphis blogs)
The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything
« ? Verbosity # »

Listed on Blogwise

And in case you're interested, here's how many other 'net denizens need a life, or at least more compelling reading:

A blog worth reading:

Bloggus Caesari (Julius Caesar's Warblog)

Two blogs worth reading that I'll plug because the blogger is another Linux geek and a fellow Cardinals fan besides:

Frankly, I'd Rather Not

Other links of interest (to me, at least), in no particular order:

The Daily Howler
Bill Maher Blog
The Progressive
The O'Franken Factor
Majority Report Radio
The Gadflyer
Daily Kos
Steve Gilliard's Blog
Whiskey Bar
Just a Bump in the Beltway
The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians)
Juan Cole *Informed Comment*
Christopher Orlet
The Online Gadfly
The Crisis Papers
Ted Rall Online
The Smirking Chimp
Talking Points Memo
Molly Ivins
This Modern World, By Tom Tomorrow
Tom the Dancing Bug, by Reuben Bolling
Bob the Angry Flower
Conservatively Incorrect, by Rack Jite
Media Whores Online
Butterflies and Wheels
The Leiter Reports
Nathan Newman
Brief Intelligence
Half the Sins of Mankind
The Swing State Project
Glorfindel of Gondolin
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Missouri Liberal
different strings
Shock and Awe
Gotham City 13
Pen-Elayne on the Web
Empty Days
Censored Story of the Day
Roger's Profanisaurus
Rhonda & Jane present: 525 Reasons to Dump Bush
The Bush Scorecard of Evil
Sherman P. Wright's Moderate Weblog
Quaker in a Basement
World Phamous
NLSO Subic Bay (Navy unit alumni blog.)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
Bracing against the wind
Rants Vitriol and Spleen – JRI
Apostate's Weekly
Redbird Nation
Go Cardinals
The Cardinals' Birdhouse
The Birdhouse Minor League Report
The Cardinals Fan Site
St. Louis Cardinals Ultimate Fan Site
RedBird Central
Get Up, Baby!
Royalties and Cardinalate (an all-MO baseball blog)
Pro Sports Daily: St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals news
Rob Neyer's column
The Hardball Times
The Baseball Widow
Management by Baseball
The Nashville Files (RTB member in waiting?)
Madeleine Begun Kane's Notables Weblog
The Select Group of Toys
Pesky the Rat
I, Cringely
The Gripe Line Weblog, by Ed Foster
The Register
Evil Empire
Watching Microsoft Like a Hawk
Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil
Public Defender Dude
Punishment Theory
Savage Cruel Bigots
Treason Online
Hell for Halliburton
Hollywood Lost and Found
Popdex Citations

Rocky Top Brigade:

RTB Lounge
NationStates Region

A Little More to the Right
A Moveable Beast
A Smoky Mountain Journal
Beyond the Whispers
Big Stupid Tommy
Bjorn, Again
Bully Pulpit
Busy Mom
Celtic Grove
Classless Warfare Jane
Conservative Zone
Dagley Dagley Daily
Damn Art Diary
Damn Foreigner
Democratic Veteran
Doc B
Doug McDaniel
Drawing Dead
Elephant Rants
Filthy Hippy Speak
Frank Cagle
Free Speech News
Granny Rant
Growth Spurt
Guy Montag
Hypotheses Non Fingo
In a Mays
Inn of the Last Home
Jaded Journal
Johnson City Stories
Lay Lines
Lean Left
Les Jones
Loco Parentis
Long Pauses
Mike Hollihan
Mike Reed
Mind Warp
Missives Anonymous
Mr. Lawson
My Quiet Life
Newton's Kumquat
No Quarters
One Hand Clapping
Pathetic Earthlings
Philosophical Scrivener
Queen Medb's Castle
Rebel Yell
Rex Hammock
Rich Hailey
Road Warrior
Sick of Bush
South Knox Bubba
Southern Reporter
Straight White Guy
Team Rock
The Golden Calf
Up For Anything
Voluntarily in China
Wandering Hillbilly
William Burton
InstaPundit (link removed, because I think Reynolds is an idiot, and he doesn't need the linkage. If you really want to waste your time reading his drivel, you know where to find him.)
Adam Groves (MIA)
Fat Ass Politics (MIA)
Oz's Lion (MIA)
Rapmaster (MIA)
Rush Limbaughtomy (MIA)
Secret City Scene (MIA)
Twelfth Parsec (MIA)
Uncommon Sense (KIA)
Underground Man (MIA)
Xyon's Rambles (MIA)

Memphis Blogs not in the Rocky Top Brigade

Signifying Nothing
m e m p h i s . c o o l (Jon W. Sparks's personal blog)
Sparks on Memphis (Jon W. Sparks's CA blog)
Peggy Phillip
Tread lightly on the things of earth
Rachel and the City
Well, I think I'm funny
Voice of Golden Eagle
when you're 21, you're no fun

The League of Liberals:

Democratic Veteran
The Spy Game
Cosmic Iguana
People's Republic of Seabrook
Philosophical Scrivener
The Mahablog
WTF is it NOW?
blunted on reality
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time
All Facts and Opinions
Dubya's Daily Diary
ARMACT Action Alerts
Cup O' Joe
Grateful Dread on the Web
The Poison Kitchen
Indigo Ocean
The Felonious Elephant
Sick of Bush
Arms and the Man
Rick's Cafe Americain
A-Changin' Times(ACT)
Estimated Prophet
Gotham City 13
Officially Unofficial
The Gunther Concept
The Mudshark
Screaming Points
Ink from the Squid
Left Is Right
Byte Back
The Huck Upchuck
The Sesquipedalian
DeanLand - Dean Landsman's Weblog
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Wilson's Blogmanac
Ayn Clouter
Anarchy Xero

The Liberal Coalition

01/01/2003 - 01/31/2003
02/01/2003 - 02/28/2003
03/01/2003 - 03/31/2003
04/01/2003 - 04/30/2003
05/01/2003 - 05/31/2003
06/01/2003 - 06/30/2003
07/01/2003 - 07/31/2003
08/01/2003 - 08/31/2003
09/01/2003 - 09/30/2003
10/01/2003 - 10/31/2003
11/01/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/01/2003 - 12/31/2003
01/01/2004 - 01/31/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/29/2004
03/01/2004 - 03/31/2004
04/01/2004 - 04/30/2004

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Friday, February 28, 2003

Of course, those developers don't date much...
First, of course, it was Lara Croft and Tomb Raider. Lately it was (I think this is the title) Grand Theft Auto: Extreme Beach Volleyball (if I'm mistaken on the title you know the one from the TV commercials: the pixellated bikini babes playing volleyball while the teenage video gamers cover their crotches).... Now, for the XBox: N.U.D.E.@.... Natural Ultimate Digital Experiment, though it appears, looking at the page for this game at GameSpot, the titillating thing about this game is the title. The anime featured robot that you interact with is cute, yes, and has a decent rack, but she's hardly as erogenous as the babes from GTA:EBV.

Not exactly the epitome of cool, but...
The Memphis Redbirds Website had a link to a place called iSchedules, which features sports team and other event schedules that you can download in a form that you can import to your Palm or Pocket PC. So now I have the schedules for the Redbirds and the Cardinals ready to go on my Palm. Pretty neat, I think.

I don't know if this is exactly good news...
From The Reg: No. 10 Downing Webmasters plot Dutchess of Hacksaw's Return.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Why couldn't it have been Barney, instead?
"Mister Rogers" dies of cancer at age 74

Top Words Causing Giggles Among Pre-Teens:

2% Parts
1% Slot
15% Ball-peen hammer
8% Mastication
7% Receptacle
16% Titular archbishopric
13% Pu-pu platter
5% Abreast
11% Lake Titicaca
12% Penal system
6% Opening
4% Moist

[From The Onion's Dispatches from the Tenth Circle, 2003 Desktop Calendar]

High Level what iffing...
Apparently prior to the shuttle Columbia's loss there was some exchange of email regarding damage to the wing being sufficient to cause the loss of the shuttle, with at least one engineer pretty well predicting what they think happened. Supposedly, there was talk of having the crew bail out.

Bail out? From 207,000 feet at 12,000+ miles per hour?

Makes you wonder why Worst Case Scenario hasn't done a show on this yet.

Letters to La Reg:
Randy Fischer writes:-


RE: Motorola gambles big on Linux, Sinocapitalism

Regarding your statement:

Sweatshops for the likes of Dell, who employ Asian contract manufacturers simply because there aren't enough prisoners in the USA to provide cheap labor.

Are you nuts?

We have plenty (546 per 100,000) and the current administration is looking for ways to imprison more. Please don't provide additional reasons. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Putting things into perspective:
Rob Rosenberger of Virus Myths has an absolutely wonderful rant on his website: "Which is worse -- the Slammer worm, or a deadly blizzard?" It links to another page featuring what he calls a little "armchair risk assessment". I hope Rob doesn't mind me reprinting that; he makes some points that desperately need to be made:

Two things are certain: death and cyber-terrorism

Number of known cyber-terror attacks: zero
(source: White House cyber-terror advisor Richard Clarke 2/13/02)
Number of deaths linked to cyber-terrorism: zero
(source: White House cyber-terror advisor Richard Clarke 2/13/02)

Number of cyber-terror experts killed by physical terrorism:at least 2

Congressional cyber-terror authority Ray Downey 9/11/01; killed in the World Trade Center attack
FBI NIPC cyber-terror analyst Linda Franklin 10/14/02; killed by a terrorist sniper in Washington, D.C.

First I could see, then I was blind

Number of blackouts in Georgetown (a toney 'burb of Washington, DC) during June 2001: 2 days in a 40-square block area near the Potomac River
(source: Los Angeles Times 6/16/01)
Number of rolling blackouts in the state of California in late spring of 2001: 2 days affected
(source: Los Angeles Times 6/16/01)

Number of blackouts in U.S. caused by hackers or cyber-terrorists since 1996: zero
(source: no media reports, no urban legends)

Number of times officials from National Security Council or Pentagon have alleged cyber-terrorists will cause blackouts since 1998: more than 50
(source: Crypt Newsletter 1998-2001)

A pox on both your houses

Number of times a "plague of crickets" in Utah caused governor to appeal to federal government for assistance: one
(source: New York Times 6/18/01)
Estimated cost of Utah's "plague of crickets" in June 2001: $25 million
(source: New York Times 6/18/01)

Estimated cost of the LoveBug (aka ILoveYou) virus: $2.6 - $15 billion
(source: Computer Economics Inc. and Lloyds of London)

Number of times LoveBug virus caused U.S. state governors to appeal to federal government for assistance: zero
(source: no media reports, no urban legends)

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Personal ad
Not mine, but I'm happy to help a celebrity out:

I'm a single atheist white man, 49, reputedly intelligent, with unusual interests in politics, science, music and dance. I'd like to meet a woman with varied interests, curious about the world, comfortable expressing her likes and dislikes (I hate struggling to guess), delighting in her ability to fascinate a man and in being loved tenderly, who values joy, truth, beauty and justice more than "success"--so we can share bouts of intense, passionately kind awareness of each other, alternating with tolerant warmth while we're absorbed in other aspects of life.

My 19-year-old child, the Free Software Movement, occupies most of my life, leaving no room for more children, but I still have room to love a sweetheart. I spend a lot of my time traveling to give speeches, often to Europe, Asia and Latin America; it would be nice if you were free to travel with me some of the time.

If you are interested, write to me and we'll see where it leads.

For the record, I'm 45 (46 in July), and most assuredly am not the father of the Free Software Movement, am not spending a lot of time giving speeches (since nobody really gives a shit about what I think except for Kay and maybe the folks at work (and they only care what I think about computers)), and while I probably have room in my life for more children I don't particularly want to have any (having already magnificently fucked up the life of one child, it'd be cruel to do it yet again to another one).

Day to remember (?)
Today is the 15th anniversary of the Chicago City Council vote which allowed lights to be installed at Wrigley Field. Of course, as you remember, God showed her displeasure on August 8, 1988 by raining out the first scheduled night game at Wrigley.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Historical tidbits department:
Today is the 421st anniversary of the papal bull of Pope Gregory XIII which proclaimed the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar (though the actual changeover wasn't mandated until October 4 of that year). It's also the 61st anniversary of the first broadcast of the Voice of America and the birthday of both Honus Wagner and Chester W. Nimitz.

Kay got me a "history of baseball in headlines" book (reproductions of the newspaper front pages and sports pages for some of the great moments in baseball history; I think it's a holdover from her journalistic career), and I found it interesting how the events of baseball history juxtaposed with the events of history that were happening at the same time. I'll have to come back and do a number on that topic sometime.

Mentioning Honus Wagner, I'll just point out that under Bill James's "Win Shares" system Honus Wagner is the "best" shortstop of all time until you subtract those win shares that he earned playing other positions; once you do that the best pure shortstop is my favorite, Ozzie Smith.

And my gawd! Sponsorship of Ozzie's page at Baseball Reference is up for grabs! Decisions, decisions... do I sponsor Ozzie, or the Gashouse Gang? The Gashouse Gang is cheaper, though Ozzie's page would generate more page hits here most likely..... Hmmmmm...

Rewriting history as it happens...
The Register catches the U.S. Customs Service backdating the "war on terrorism" a bit... all the way back to 1999. Of course, it's all part of selling the Department of Fatherland Security to us....

Friday, February 21, 2003

Hmmmmm...Is this as sinister as it sounds?
Future fuzzier for Mac, Linux as MS buys Connectix tech. Of course, the odds that Connectix virtual machine technology will stay Linux friendly are now slim to none, with Slim, I fear, walking out the door.....

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Good to know our information security is in such capable hands....
DoD mailing list left wide open.

Actually, probably as good a time as any for a musing on "cyber-terrorism". Things like the SQL Slammer worm bringing down the 911 system notwithstanding (and I'm wondering what 911 systems are doing connected to the 'net like that anyway), the fact of the matter is that for most of us, "attacks" on the 'net have amounted to inconveniences, not matters of life and death. And the likelihood is that they'll continue to be inconveniences. I expect the first fatality would most likely be someone blowing a blood vessel in his brain because he's having trouble accessing or somesuch....

Hey, I'd be happy to buy it....
If my credit weren't so lousy that I'd never get the mortgage.... Steve Wozniak moves to another of his houses because he can't get wireless phone reception at his "mansion".

Why I like being a student....
Had our first math exam yesterday (don't ask how well I did, or I'm likely to go medieval on you... sorry), and we had one of those little moments that only happen on a college/university campus. As the class was starting to assemble in the room, one of us comes in dressed in a tuxedo (whereupon the instructor says "I'm sorry; I really don't think I can give you extra credit for that. I'd like to, but I really can't." Priceless). It turns out that the U. of Memphis orchestra (of which my classmate is apparently a member) was giving a concert yesterday evening (as I was leaving the classroom building I saw a number of other tux clad guys and black full lenght formal clad women walking (some with instrument cases) towards the Music building...

As good as the time I was walking across campus, to be met by a guy carrying (or wearing? Is that the more appropriate word) a sousaphone walking in the other direction. Again, just not something you see every day....

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The reason why the US should not be a Christian nation:
Union schools hit with religion-related lawsuit: Action claims student was beaten, harassed for being different

How was the student "different"? She wasn't Christian; of course that justifies harassing her.

I've got news for you ignorant fundagelical types: freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom to practice your religion and say "fuck you" to everyone else. I'll bet any amount of money that the yahoos persecuting this girl and her family would sit down to breakfast and weep, wail, and gnash their teeth in righteous outrage about some Islamic country where Christian missionaries face death sentences for proslytizing Muslims. Hey, bozo.... if it's wrong for others to persecute you for your religion, it's wrong for you to persecute others for theirs.

Somehow, though, I think that simple logic is going to go right over their heads.....

Needs no comments
Received in my inbox (from a mailing list I'm on):

Steve Notley is the author of "Bob the Angry Flower", one of the best comics on the web. Lately he's been getting a little flack in his mailing list for his recent political toons, and he had some insightful comments:

Folks, I wish I didn't have to do so many political cartoons. I wish things were ticking along rationally enough that I could confine my rants to why we're not building a lunar observatory. But things are not thusly ticking. What I'm seeing right now is scaring the crap out of me, and since Bob is all about what I'm all about, he's gonna
scream about it. But fear not... the next three cartoons have barely a whiff of current events in them, if you don't count the real-life recounting of events in "Customs Fun".

But I make no apology. The decisions that determine whether or not hundreds of millions of people will have died in war by 2050 are being made right now. I hope I'm wrong, but everything I'm seeing is pointing to a monstrous evil being blatantly built before our eyes. This war is only the tip of the iceberg, the current phase of an enormous reinvention of America into something ugly and wrong. Right now, the government has declared the right to lock up anybody, never charge him, and hold him as long as they like. Why are Americans not screaming their heads off about this? The Constitution, the foundation of American justice, is on the run. The White House preaches democracy at the UN, but in the day-to-day business of running a country, they can't stand it. Dick Cheney firmly believes, as a matter of principle, that the government's need to get confidential advice overrides the American people's right to know
anything at all about how the government (on taxpayer time!) creates its energy policy. George Bush once joked (ha ha) that "Dictatorship would be great --if I was the dictator." This is scary stuff, people. I'm scared for America.

One of the craziest things about the Holocaust was that it came from Germany, one of the most civilized, culturally advanced nations in history. We'd assume such horror would come from the barbarous nations of Earth, and certainly there's plenty of horror there, but the big one, it came from Germany. The one place it should not have come from, it came from. Offensive as it sounds, that could be America. It seems impossible to imagine, but the fact is, it happened. It fucking happened. A great nation went mad and had to be put down like a dog. There are a million reasons why that could never happen in America -- but there were a million reasons why it could never happen in Germany, too. Right now, aggression and arrogance are ascendant in America --despite the fact, I firmly believe, that most Americans are reasonable, decent, moral people. But whether you support it or not, the Empire train is on its way and we're all on board.

I hope I'm wrong. In fact, I almost certainly will be, since all I know for sure is that we've got some big surprises coming. But whenever possible, we've got to be pushing in the right direction whatever happens, and right now, we're pushing so the wrong way, I can barely believe it.

Anyway, this is what I do instead of work on the next book...


Back when they did the right thing....Red Letter Days in History Department:
Today is the 60th anniversary of the enlistment of Joe DiMaggio into the United States Army. Somehow, I can't imagine any of the overpaid stars (or even overpaid mediocrities) in any sport today giving up their princely salaries willingly to do their part.....

Monday, February 17, 2003

How do you know you have a lousy hoops team?
When the billboards advertising the game feature the superstars of the other teams that are visiting? Actually, while I saw the billboard again on my way home from class tonight (hey, they had to take down the announcement of the Valentine's day halftime mass wedding, that having already happened last Friday night), this seems to have been a constant in Grizzlies advertising this season. I don't see much in the way of TV ads for the Grizzlies, but I remember the "Tourists Roundtown" billboards featuring Shaquille O'Neal and three (I think) other NBA stars whose faces I don't recognize (so sue me; I hate basketball and I only recognize Shaq because of his acting "career", if one can in fact dignify it by that name) and a pretty obvious message: Come to the Grizzlies games to see the great players who'll be playing for the visiting teams.

Oh well; If I was old enough to actually remember the St. Louis Browns I'd sympathize; even the Brownies tried to drum up ticket sales by prominently advertising an appearance by DiMaggio with the Yankees in 1941 (when DiMag was, of course, in the middle of The Batting Streak).

And Congrats to La Reg...
For being named number one IT news site in the UK

Stupid Census Tricks
The Register reports that over 390,000 Brits gave their religion as "Jedi" in the 2001 UK census, apparently in the mistaken belief that a sufficient number of "Jedi" responses would give the "religion" some sort of official recognition. Unfortunately, in the manner of bureaucracy everywhere, individual reports of religious preference on a census form have no official significance. In any event, the UK censustakers beat everyone to the punch by actually creating a religious preference code for "Jedi Knight", in preparation for a number of folks actually wanting to list that as their religion. Hmmmmm. Says something for the power of positive thinking, I'll warrant.

With spring training rapidly approaching....
I'll just take a minute to note that today is the birthday of baseball broadcasting legend Red Barber.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Security by obscurity becomes a life and death matter
In one of those interesting coincicences, Bruce Schneier's musings on locksmithing and computer worms (see earlier post today) becomes even more relevant. An AP science article notes that "Editors of the world's leading scientific journals announced Saturday they would delete details from published studies that might help terrorists make biological weapons."

The editors state that their motivation is to not make it any easier for terrorists to make their own bioweapons. However, to what extent is this meant to lull the public into a false sense of security? Any terrorists who really want such information are sure to find it; however the poor dumb public is left unaware of what's going on. Here's the relevant portion of Schneier's discussion:

The bug secrecy position is a lot easier to explain to a layman. If there's a vulnerability in a system, it's better not to make that vulnerability public. The bad guys will learn about it and use it, the argument goes. Last month's SQL Slammer is a case in point. If the hacker who wrote the worm hadn't had access to the public information about the SQL vulnerability, maybe he wouldn't have written the worm. The problem, according to this position, is more the information about the vulnerability and less the vulnerability itself.

This position ignores the fact that public scrutiny is the only reliable way to improve security. There are several master key designs that are immune to the 100-year-old attack that Blaze rediscovered. They're not common in the marketplace primarily because customers don't understand the risks, and because locksmiths continue to knowingly sell a flawed security system rather than admit and then fix the problem. This is no different from the computer world. Before software vulnerabilities were routinely published, vendors would not bother spending the time and money to fix vulnerabilities, believing in the security of secrecy. And since customers didn't know any better, they bought these systems believing them to be secure. If we return to a world of bug secrecy in computers, we'll have the equivalent of 100-year-old vulnerabilities known by a few in the security community and by the hacker underground.

That's the other fallacy with the locksmiths' argument. Techniques like this are passed down as folklore in the criminal community as well as in the locksmithing community. In 1994, a thief made his own master key to a series of safe-deposit boxes and stole $1.5 million in jewels. The same thing happens in the computer world. By the time a software vulnerability is announced in the press and patched, it's already folklore in the hacker underground. Attackers don't abide by secrecy agreements.

What we're seeing is a culture clash; it's happening in many areas of security. Attorney General Ashcroft is working to keep details of many antiterrorism countermeasures secret so as not to educate the terrorists. But at the same time, the people -- to whom he is ultimately accountable -- would not be allowed to evaluate the countermeasures, or comment on their efficacy. Security couldn't improve because there'd be no public debate or public education. Whatever attacks and defenses people learn would become folklore, never spoken about in the open but whispered from security engineer to security engineer and from terrorist to terrorist. And maybe in 100 years someone will publish an attack that some security engineers knew about, that terrorists and criminals had been exploiting for much of that time, but that the general public had been blissfully unaware of.

Secrecy prevents people from assessing their own risk. For example, in the master key case, even if there weren't more secure designs available, many customers might have decided not to use master keying if they knew how easy it was for an attacker to make his own master key.

Somehow, I don't feel more secure.

But I've always been a pessimist....

In the middle of all the hysteria...
It's nice to be reminded of the versatility of duct tape, though I can't imagine for a minute that the various duct tape fashions pictured on this and the following 7 pages (8 if you want to jump to the "Duct Tape Superheroes" page) are in the least bit comfortable. What does surprise me is how hot (and I don't mean temperature ;-) ) some of the ladies look in their duct tape fashions.

I'm curious if there's anyone else reading this... therefore I'm making a special offer (good at least for the week that this entry sits on the main blog page). On this page appears the "Priceless" pic of the poor Mississippi State coed who was caught duct taping her boobs together as sort of a do-it-yourself WonderBra. Anyone who wants to know what she looks like can email me and I'll send you a copy of the original picture (warning, it's a Windows .bmp file, so it is fairly large; I'll consider converting it to .jpg on request).

SQL Slammer, redux...
From Bruce Schneier's CRYPTO-GRAM newsletter for February. You may recall I said some similar things a few days ago....

The Internet had its first big worm epidemic since Nimda: the Sapphire Worm, aka SQL Slammer. Normally, I wouldn't bother mentioning this worm. It's news, but there are no real lessons to learn from the event. But there's an interesting Microsoft twist. During the days of the attack, Microsoft tried to deflect any blame by claiming that they issued a patch for the vulnerability six months previously, and that the only affected companies were the ones who didn't keep their patches up to date. A couple of days later, news leaked that Microsoft's own network was hit pretty badly by the worm because they didn't patch their own network.

For a couple of years now I've been saying that the idea that we can achieve network security by finding and patching vulnerabilities in the field is fatally flawed. I don't blame Microsoft sysadmins for not having their patches up to date -- no one does -- but I don't like the hypocrisy out of the company.

Friday, February 14, 2003

On the war front:
You just have to be impressed by Americans doing their patriotic duty.

Bringing new meaning to the term "hand cannon"
Stumbled across the blog of a highly opinionated woman with an attitude and a huge fan club (claims to get a couple thousand hits per day on her blog, and came in second in some sort of popularity contest; what the hell). She's, among other things, a Texan and a gun enthusiast (I probably repeat myself there), and had a mention of this on the front page. I tracked down a news report to provide a link in case any passing strangers want more:

Springfield, Ma. (AP) - Dirty Harry is now outgunned: Smith & Wesson has introduced its biggest handgun ever, a .50-caliber Magnum.

The five-shot revolver with an 8˝-inch barrel weighs about 4˝ pounds - roughly a pound more than the big black .44 Magnum wielded by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies. It fires a new .50-caliber cartridge that the company said produces nearly three times the muzzle energy of the .44 - or enough stopping power to bring down a charging bear.

You can find a complete story here.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Tending towards the middle way:
From The Register: Open and closed security are roughly equivalent


Open and closed approaches to security are basically equivalent, with opening a system up to inspection helping attackers and defenders alike.

That's the surprising conclusion drawn by Cambridge don Ross Anderson during a well-received talk to a Linux User Group at London's City University last night.

Those who follow these matters may remember Ross Anderson; he's the analyst who did the detailed analysis of the Palladium system shortly after Microsoft announced it. If you haven't, go read that FAQ; it's brilliant.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Was the fix in?
Noticed that James Moses, who was handling Dallas (the German Shepherd who was subject of my last post) had misgivings about the judging he'd get from Irene Bivin, the woman judging Best in Show last night. In fact, he said that the prospect of her judging the Best of Show award was "a nightmare" (according to MSNBC and ESPN).

Irrefutable proof....
that there is no God: Dallas (a.k.a. Ch. Kismets Sight For Sore Eyes) did not take Best of Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last night (it was the Kerry Blue Terrier, call name "Mick", a.k.a. Ch Torums Scarf Michael).

Nope, I'm not going to put a smiley here, or tag the sarcasm. Frankly, an irate email would at least let me know I have an occasional reader. *grin*

Red letter days department....
Happy Birthday Charles Darwin (or Uncle Charles, or "the distinguished Victorian Gentleman" as the folks on the Darwin Mailing List would fondly refer to him)!!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Sooooooooo realistic.... NOT!!!
Tonight is the last night of the 2003 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, so I figured I'd keep up a several years running tradition and tune in; thankfully, the Herding Group (and of course the German Shepherd) is on the second night, so I didn't miss the important part of the show *grin*. Anyway, unfortunately, in the 7EST/6CST timeslot USA Network is showing JAG, and Comedy Central's early evening repeat of Late Night With Conan O'Brien ends about 5 minutes or so to the hour. Enough time, alas, that I actually caught the last 5 minutes or so of JAG. I caught up with them right before the verdict scene, which is always so much fun. Talk about realistic... the defendant was a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, and he was being defended by a Rear Admiral, Upper Half. Yep. This light colonel had The JAG himself for a defense counsel.


Neat trick!
From Randy Cassingham's This is True mailing (bare minimum quoted because of copyright concerns):

The unidentified man is convinced he is a hermaphrodite, even though examinations show he is a normal male who has fathered children.

What I want to know is, how can you examine a man and tell that he's fathered children?

Red letter days department....
According to a usually reliable source, today is Jeb Bush's birthday. Unfortunately, that caught me unawares, so I hadn't planned anything special for the day. I guess I'll just have to rummage through the Big Bag o'Quotes for All Occasions, and pull out the only quote I can find that refers to Jeb:

Hey, let's face it. He got into college by the skin of his teeth and into the Air National Guard the same way. He won the presidential election by a margin narrower than John Ashcroft's mind. Really, Bush's greatest achievement in his life up to this point has been to lower our expectations of him so that practically anything he accomplishes in the Oval Office is bound to impress us. So much so that, if he can just finish out his term without stickin' a Roman candle up his ass on a dare from brother Jeb, he's probably gonna end up on Mount Rushmore.
--Dennis Miller

Happy birthday Jeb. Now you and your brother both do the people of this great country a favor, and FOAD, OK?

Monday, February 10, 2003

Another silly web selector
This one is the "Belief-o-matic" which I should have figured was actually run by the folks at, but what the hell. This time I tried taking a stab at honestly answering their "weighting" factors, rather than just weighting everything "medium". Interestingly enough, that finally seemed to make the difference at getting the Unitarian Universalists some competition at first place. The rankings this time:

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
3. Liberal Quakers (86%)
4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (84%)
5. Nontheist (74%)
6. Theravada Buddhism (71%)
7. Neo-Pagan (62%)
8. Bahá'í Faith (54%)
9. Taoism (49%)
10. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (48%)
11. New Age (47%)
12. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (42%)
13. Reform Judaism (42%)
14. Mahayana Buddhism (38%)
15. New Thought (37%)
16. Jehovah's Witness (31%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (31%)
18. Sikhism (31%)
19. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (30%)
20. Scientology (30%)
21. Jainism (25%)
22. Hinduism (20%)
23. Seventh Day Adventist (15%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (11%)
25. Islam (11%)
26. Orthodox Judaism (11%)
27. Roman Catholic (11%)

For about the fifth time the UUs rank in the top spot, but at least this time Secular Humanism comes in tied with them. I was wondering what I'd have to do (short of bribing the BeliefNet webmaster) to get a slightly more simpatico religion up there. Considering that I ranked choices that stated "there is no God" as being very highly weighted, I'm wondering about the appearance of "Liberal Quaker" and "Mainline to Liberal Protestant" as high on my list as they are (ahead of Nontheist for Gawd's sake?); I don't know if that says something about me or about the Liberal Quakers and Mainline/Liberal Protestants. My guess is says more about them, and maybe that's something that they don't want to know. :-)

Not a whole lot to say about the rest of the rankings; I get a sort of teenaged rebel's pleasure in noting that Catholicism comes in dead last on the list (tied for last, and notice that ties are sorted in alphabetical order). I'd be really puzzled if they rated Catholicism highly for me.

I really must pay more attention to the drive home...
No, I didn't have an accident or get lost. But I just noticed a billboard that has been there for a while. The billboard is for the Memphis Grizzlies, the Bluff City's substitute for an NBA team, and apparently the Grizzlies are playing at home on Valentine's Day. The halftime entertainment: A mass wedding. Yes, you read that correctly. Holy jumping Reverend Moon, 50 (count 'em) 50 couples are going to get hitched on the court during half-time at the Grizzlies game.

You just can't find entertainment like that anywhere else on earth, can you?

More of a silly web fad....
At least these don't have graphics to link into your blog. :-)

Took the "Nontheistic philosophies/religions selector" and came up with these results:

#1 Secular Humanism
#2 Agnostic Church
#3 Ethical Culture
#4 Atheism a la American Atheists
#5 Rationalism
#6 Scientific Pantheism
#7 Transhumanism
#8 Unitarian Universalism
#9 Freethought, Church of
#10 Pantheism
#11 Deism
#12 Atheistic Paganism
#13 Randaism (Objectivism)
#14 Zen Atheism
#15 Taoism
#16 Confucianism
#17 Theraveda Buddhism
#18 Relativism, moral/cultural

No surprises here, though a few of the entries (e.g., "Agnostic Church", "Church of Freethought", "Atheistic Paganism") are not exactly things I've heard of before.

Silly web fads, Part III, or, a web quiz I can get into:
Who is your ethical "mentor"?: Basically, you answer some questions and it comes back with what ethical philosopher you're most in sync with. Just took it for the second time (more about that in a min, and it spit back the following list (philosopher followed by percentage of agreement therewith):

1. Bentham (100%)
2. Mill (92%)
3. Sartre (89%)
4. Kant (76%)
5. Epicureans (75%)
6. Aquinas (66%)
7. Spinoza (66%)
8. Prescriptivism (64%)
9. Rand (64%)
10. Noddings (53%)
11. Aristotle (50%)
12. Augustine (50%)
13. Ockham (41%)
14. Stoics (35%)
15. Cynics (33%)
16. Plato (26%)
17. Nietzsche (23%)
18. Hobbes (18%)
19. Hume (13%)

Interestingly enough, as this isn't the ordering that they were in last time I took it (Mill was first and Kant second, Sartre, Aquinas and Spinoza were lower on the list, IIRC, and I think Hume beat out Hobbes (and Nietzsche, I recall)). Obviously either my answers changed the second time around, or they changed the scoring of the quiz. I may have to take some of the "BeliefNet" religion selectors again and post the results here as well.

To many, the old rules are still the best:
Two interesting articles from InfoWorld's "Ethics Matters" column. For background, read them in order:

Hedging in the job market


People like the old rules

The fact situation is, unfortunately, all to familiar to my colleagues in IT. The industry is in a bad hiring slump, and it can take months, maybe over a year, to land a job. What happens when one gets a job offer when there's a chance of a better offer being made shortly thereafter? Do you take your chances, accept the first job and tell the second employer you're taken? Do you accept the first job, keep mum and then jump ship if the second offer comes through? Or do you accept the first job telling them you'll jump ship if the second comes through?

What makes Carlton Vogt's analysis of this situation interesting is that he notes that there's a difference, probably an ethically relevant difference, between job negotiations handled between individuals and between an individual on one hand and a corporation on the other. As you've probably noticed, most employers nowadays aren't people, they are corporations. Back in the good old days when people were employers (partnerships or individual proprietors), there was a notion of loyalty to your employers. Now that corporations are the employers (especially big corporations), notice that this loyalty is pretty much absent; employees are basically assets to be acquired when necessary and to be jettisoned when they are economically unfeasible to retain.

Vogt's question in this is, does that make a difference in the employee's ethical situation? Most of us intuit that it's somehow unfair and/or dishonest to withhold information to another individual which is material to a decision that they're making (especially when that decision is to hire you or someone else). But the corporation isn't a person; do you owe it any duty of disclosure or fair dealing? Especially when you consider that the corporation isn't necessarily going to deal fairly with you? As you might guess from the second title listed--"People like the old rules"--people seem to think that they owe the corporation the same obligation of honesty and fair dealing that they'd owe another individual. Is that really the case? Fascinating question.....

Sunday, February 09, 2003

The beginning of the end? analysis: "Still ignoring the six front war" Personally, I've got a bad feeling about this. Once George Dumbya Bush sends in the troops, I think there's an awful lot of Americans that are going to die. And not all of them are going to be servicemen and women.....

Saturday, February 08, 2003

It's amazing sometimes....
how what you "know" really isn't true... From Sleeping With Extra-terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety:

In this climate of faith in the most ridiculous propositions--with belief in guardian angels commonplace--mocking religion is like burning a flag in an American Legion hall. But by admitting that they're fighting a winning battle, advocates of religiosity would lose the benefits of appearing besieged: like liberal rights organizations that attract more money when conserative authoritarians are in power, religious groups inspire more believers when secularism is said to hold sway.
--Wendy Kaminer

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Another argument against security through obscurity:
Slammer: Why security benefits from proof of concept code

Instant apotheosis?
At any rate, it's an alternative if I ever lose the vanity domain. www.cleavelin.god? Or www.cleavelin.satan? Makes a certain amount of sense, don't it?

The Official Domain Registrar of .god and .satan domains

Stories we like to read:
From a story in The Register yesterday:

We'd been resisting registering for the Nando Times since they put the barrier up, but we've given in, because there's frequently pretty good stuff in there. And it was worth it just for the headlines currently flagged as Weird News, which are of the class where one hesitates to actually read the story, in case it disappoints. "Couple sues McDonald's over tough bagel"; "Lard eagle watches over college cafeteria"; "Satellite used to pace lead foots" - you just don't want to go any further, do you? But the intro to the lard eagle one is even better:

"DAWSON CREEK, British Columbia (February 4, 2003 11:25 a.m. EST) - With wings stretched wide, an eagle made of lard watched over the food line in the Northern Lights College cafeteria."

This is the sort of stuff the internet should really be about.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Interesting Juxtaposition Department:
Every Wednesday evening while driving to class I've come across a group of death penalty protesters, with signs and everything. Of course, every time I drive by one is carrying the statutory "honk if you oppose the death penalty" sign (protesters on the street have to carry a "honk if you support/oppose " sign, of course; it's the law doncha know?), so I give them a honk as I pass (come to think of it,I can't recall that I've ever heard anyone but me honk in the intervals I'm driving by), since my days as a public defender taught me a little bit about being on the detested side of a controversy (we public pariahs always appreciate a little support).

Anyway, one of the other signs being carried this evening struck me as an interesting sort of non sequitur at first: "Raise police salaries--abolish the death penalty". At first I thought it was just a non sequitur, and then it occurred to me that maybe it was defensive signage; after all, you'd hope even Memphis cops would have more class than to hassle some folks who are coming out publicly and saying they deserve more money. On the other hand it might be a serious suggestion; after all, what matters most to effective deterrence is that punishment be certain, not that it be severe. Hopefully, higher police salaries might mean better police work. Well, one can dream, can't one?

This Day In History, Dept.
According to the Dr. Science mail list, today is the 81st anniversary of the publication of the first issue of The Reader's Digest. A red letter day in American literary history, no doubt.

[Do I really need to tag the sarcasm?]

Free? Or $99? Linux for the masses....
Very good article that La Reg pushed at us today. Even though the concept of having to pay for Linux may bug a few of the free software folks, there's something to be said for a low cost alternative to Winblows that provides the bells and whistles that mere users want. As was said...

You have probably heard the saying, "Linux is only free if your time has no value." There is truth in those 10 words. I have had periods in my life when I was broke and had time on my hands. In those circumstances I would have chosen a free distribution, no question. But right now I am employed, even overworked, and if I can save time by spending a little money, I will.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The eyes have it?
Just finished Denis Brian's Einstein: A Life. Of course, the last chapter had to be devoted to Einstein's brain, which most people know (well, which a lot of people know) was removed from his body and saved, purportedly for research after his death (not a lot of research was done, and it looks like what was done didn't really come to any useful conclusions). What I didn't know was that (according to Brian) Einstein's opthamologist, Henry Abrams (Abrams had been Einstein's primary care physician until Abrams decided to specialize in opthamology after World War II) removed and kept Einstein's eyes. Brian mentioned a documentary where it was alleged that Abrams was considering selling the eyes to insure his family's financial future.

Great, something else to keep watching eBay for.

[In fairness to Abrams, it should be pointed out that he did apparently deny the story that he was planning to sell the eyes, though it is not clear that he has decided (as of the publication of Brian's book) what exactly was to become of them after Abrams died.]

Quote of the Afternoon, Part II
Feynman, again. Same source; the very last sentence of his appendix:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Quote of the Afternoon, Part I
From Richard Feynman's appendix to the report of the investigation commission on the space shuttle Challenger incident, the very first paragraph:

It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

Duh, because in general managers can't find their anus with a good set of maps and a GPS receiver?

Silly Web Fads, Part II
Why does every other blog seem to have 9 of every 10 entries be the answer to a Quizilla "What kind of *FOO*are you?" quiz?

Cyberterrorism real?
Tim Mullen in SecurityFocus Online, does an interesting analysis of the SQL Slammer worm. Previous screaming about "the death of the 'net" or the possibility of cyberterror as a serious thret seemed to be Chicken Little. However, apparently SQL Slammer did disrupt network operations to an extent that lives may have been placed at risk...

Not to be a Luddite (technology is a fascinating thing), but perhaps it may be time to rethink how cutting edge we need to be. Remember the scene in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock when Scotty, having spent time as the Chief Engineer on the USS Excelsior, manages to remotely power down Excelsior (preventing it from pursuing the Enterprise) while chuckling to himself, "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drains". Something to keep in mind. Mature technologies do tend to be more robust, because there's less to go overtly wrong....

Death of the Net announced: Film at 11
From The Register's email update this morning: Network Solutions, Inc. the outfit that has control over the Internet's .com top level domain, has just told the California Supreme Court that if the California Supremes hold NSI liable for their screw up in transferring the domain to someone other than the true owner, that the Internet is doomed.....

Yep, and as His Billness keeps telling us, if we gut Microsoft the whole U.S. economy's going to tank. Right?

Monday, February 03, 2003

From MS-BS:
Best reason yet to buy an Xbox: Microsoft loses money on every one.

Silly Web Fads
Is online begging really the wave of the future?

I have often...
maintained that I want to slap silly the idiot at Microsoft that decided that filename extension hiding was A Good Thing. Now, more filename extension tricks. Whoever is responsible for this hole should be taken out and shot, too.

Blame the victim time?
The Register ran a piece by Andrew Orlowski Friday morning talking about a New York Times op-ed page ad in the form of an "essay" which can still be found (at least as of the time I'm writing this) at the featured link there. Anyway, as Orlowski points out, what is so amazing is that this essay, touting how Microsoft software is now "secure by design", managed to appear days after the infamous SQL Slammer worm managed to bring the Internet to its knees a week ago.

Anyone struck by an attack of cognitive dissonance here?

The punch line, however, appears in the last few sentences (from the Microsoft "essay"):

Because cyber-criminals will always seek ways around any safeguards, Microsoft will continue working to make its software more secure, and individual vigilance will remain essential. That means everyone should stay up to date on patches, use a personal firewall, run antivirus software and keep it up to date.

To help keep intruders at bay, we all must do our part.

To Orlowski, that translated as:

"We've done all we can and are bothered to do, so if these Internet viruses and worms keep showing up, it's all the fault of system administrators who are too drunk, stoned or simply bone-idle lazy to run all of our patches through their systems. Don't blame us. It's their fault. We only work here."

Orlowski is probably coming down a bit too heavily on MS, but he has a point. What Microsoft is not mentioning is that its patching system has gotten so cumbersome as to be unworkable. The problems in a nutshell:

  • The stream of patches coming from Microsoft is pretty much an administrative nightmare. For a while they were coming out weekly; now it seems that 2-6 weeks will go by and then Microsoft hits you with a buttload of patches all at once.

  • Then, to cover their butts, Microsoft has introduced probably one of the more baroque security rating schemes I've ever seen. And they diddle with their "critical" versus "important" ratings to try to downgrade the security issues so as to not scare off too many admins

  • Of course, what we sysadmins love about Microsoft patches (not just their security patches, though the security patches do this as well) is the Russian roulette nature of patch application. You never know if applying a Microsoft patch or service pack is going to break something on your machine. I've been pretty religious (well, as religious as I get) about applying patches to both my workstation and to my server at work, but I have to admit that each time I sweat bullets wondering if this next patch is going to be The Patch That Ate My Server

  • Did I mention that sometimes later patches break earlier patches, and that you really should be repatching with old patches after patching with new patches?

  • Lastly (well, lastly for now), the patch application process (especially for the server products) has gotten so baroque in and of itself that some experienced sysadmins discover (to their chagrin) that they aren't doing it correctly (even following what directions have been given), and their servers still aren't protected.

As proof of the last item. Notice that Microsoft itself was one of the sites that was worst hit by the SQL Slammer worm....

Is this any way to run an airline? *grin*

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Not Much Longer Til Spring Training Department:
For some reason, I'm remembering back to the early '90s, when Rex "The Wonder Dog" Hudler was playing for the Cardinals... For those of you who don't remember The Wonder Dog, suffice it to say that whenever Rex was on the field things had the potential of getting very interesting very quickly. Or as then manager Joe Torre put it:

The one thing you can say about Hudler is that he's a player that makes things happen. The trouble if you're his manager is that sometimes the things he makes happen aren't exactly what you want to happen.

And I forgot to mention....
A red letter day today: the return of Dave Armstrong The Award Winning Catholic Apologist to the GODEXIST list. At this point, I'll say that that's probably A Good Thing; GODEXIST had gotten rather quiet since I rejoined myself, and I suppose having someone around to kick up a little shit isn't a bad thing. We shall see....

It worked. Pardon me while I swoon
Ok, finally figured out what was keeping the archiving from working (it helps if you tell Blogger the correct FTP directory, dip!). Compared to that, figuring out how to get Blogger to post the links to the archives on the page was a no brainer.

Got the archive to work. At least there's the appropriate files in the appropriate directory on my server. Now to go see what it did.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Still working on the archiving
By Ghod, I'm going to get this to work, or die trying. And at the rate it's going, die trying seems highly likely.

Looked very weird; CNN showing a hearse at the site of an investigation of Columbia debris, and the report is that they've found a leg, believed to be that of one of the crew. Also shots of the folks in Nagadoces (sp?), TX, gawking at a piece of metal in a church parking lot.

Disasters bring out interesting behaviors in people.

Still working on the archiving
If I'm reading the instructions correctly, I need to post to the blog to get the archiving to work (what do they think I've been doing now? *sigh*). Anyway, mostly got CNN on for background noise given the tragedy today. Nothing much new that they've been talking about since the technical briefing at 1400 today. It'll be interesting to see if they come up with a cause for it, and how quickly. Pity that Richard Feynmann has died in the interim; he'd be a natural for this investigation as well.

I love fiddling with these kinda things...
Trying to get the archiving here to work. After all, it's a shame to not preserve any of these blatherings for posterity, eh?

I should be ashamed....
but when I heard this morning about the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, my first thought was "I wonder how quickly President Bush will take to blame Iraq for it?" It'll be interesting to see if they can pin down what the cause was. It is a reminder that spaceflght (aviation in general) is a high risk activity, and one has to expect accidents like this from time to time.

A historical gem
Stumbled across the blog I'm reading (listed to the left there) this morning. If you are interested in ancient history (particularly Roman history) give it a gander. A brilliant idea; I wish I'd thought of it myself!