January 2005

From SecurityFocus.com comes the best news I’ve heard all day

Federal prosecutors formally dropped charges
this month against an amateur astronomer who exposed a buried
surveillance network surrounding the Air Force’s mysterious “Area 51”
air base in Nevada.

In a deal with the government last January, Clark agreed to enter a
one-year term of “pretrial diversion” — a kind of probation — and to
either locate and return the lost device, or make financial restitution
to the Air Force. “He paid for the missing sensor, and complied with
the conditions of his pretrial diversion and the case was dismissed,”
says Natalie Collins, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in
Las Vegas.

That’s cool and all, that they would let him simply repay them for the
sensor and do pre-trial diversion, since that saves everyone involved
some serious time and money.  And I’m all for people finding
government activity where it’s not supposed to be – namely, Clark’s
discovery that there were sensors on public land frequented by hikers,
tourists, etc., and that any one of them might have stepped in the
wrong place and ended up in just as much trouble.  That said, the
part that makes me so happy is this:

Clark’s emancipation from government scrutiny comes well in time for
Area 51’s unofficial 50th anniversary campout, planned for Memorial Day
weekend, and likely to draw tourists, UFOlogists, and exotic aircraft
buffs from all over. They’ll celebrate with “a campfire with live
music” outside the base’s main gate, according to the event website. “Be sure to respect the Area 51 boundaries,” the site suggests. “If you see the warning signs you have gone too far.”

A camping trip to Area 51?  That is rad!

So, I’m addicted to The Poor Man
But his site is down, and I don’t just mean unreachable, I mean his
domain name is unresolvable.  By random chance, does anyone
reading this know what’s up with him?  I’m jonesing. (more…)

Man.  We went for sushi last night.  And sushi ruled.

I hate a Dynamite roll and a Volcano roll.  The Boyf partook of a
California roll and a Samurai roll.  I had a Manhattan (up – I
figured between the weather and the drink, everything would balance out
to it being roughly akin to on the rocks), he a beer with a name I
can’t pronounce.  Good friends, good food, good conversation, etc.

Mr. Pink Eyes and I talked comic books briefly.  He and I ended up
making almost identical purchases from Chapel Hill Comics when we were
at NEVERMORE.  I highly recommend The Walking Dead series of
TPB’s, whereas Mr. Pink Eyes’ opinion of Invincible was that it’s got
its moments but it’s probably much better later in the series.

I don’t really have any politics to discuss today because I can’t
handle real news at the moment.  Funny, it turns out neither can
the Bush Administration, so they have to make their own
by hiring conservative columnists to shill for Bush programs in return
for taxpayer money.  My favorite so far, to be honest, is the most
recent – a wingnut named McManus whose syndicated column (in which he
pushed Bush’s “marriage initiative” in return for a heap of
cash).  His column’s title?  “Ethics & Religion.”

Ethics & religion, indeed – as in, abandon each all ye who enter here.

Ugh.  I just can’t discuss it.  I can’t I can’t I
can’t.  Deep in my soul, in my darkest moments, my inner
schizophrenic whimpers about how it’s the rest of the world that’s gone
crazy, it must be.  If everyone else were sane then the whole
BushCo team would be in shackles in federal, fuck-me-in-the-ass prison.

(Update:  many thanks to apostropher, from whom I stole the links above.) (more…)

…or some such similar horse-shit.

A woman in Denver was nearly arrested on Monday for having a “Fuck Bush” bumpersticker:

A Denver police sergeant is under investigation
for allegedly threatening to arrest a woman Monday for displaying on
her truck a derogatory bumper sticker about President Bush.

“He told her that this was a warning and that the next time he saw
her truck, she was going to be arrested if she didn’t remove the
sticker,” said Alinna Figueroa, 25, assistant manager of The UPS Store
where the confrontation took place. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Denver police have initiated an investigation into the alleged
incident, said Police Chief Gerry Whitman. He declined to comment

Not only is this covered under the First Amendment, but there’s case
law on this woman’s side and the Colorado ACLU are aware and, one would
assume, involved in the issue.  At the very least, they’re already
on record as stating that this woman has every right to express
herself.  The bottom line on the whole deal, though, for me
anyway, is this beaut’ of a quote from the story:

“He said, ‘You need to take off those
stickers because it’s profanity and it’s against the law to have
profanity on your truck,’ ” Bates said. “Then he said, ‘If you ever
show up here again, I’m going to make you take those stickers off and
arrest you. Never come back into that area.’ ”

McCrimmon, who had followed the officer into the store, said
Karasek wrote down the woman’s license-plate number and then told her:
“You take those bumper stickers off or I will come and find you and I
will arrest you.”

I hope her copy of the Bill of Rights is big and made of Kevlar.  No matter how much the law as a concept
is on her side, wingnut freakjobs with trembling boners for their own
sense of authority generally don’t take the time to consider the finer
points of civil liberty or the responsibilities of their job.  Not
all cops are bad, of course, but one bad person in a cop uniform is
something nobody needs in their life – and all it takes is one call on
the radio for him to know everything he wants to know about how and
where to find her.  Makes me sleep better at night, that’s for sure.


Oh, man.  This is a meaty one.  This is one you can really sink your teeth into and chew.

U.S. patent application 20040202382,
filed in April 2003 and published in October 2004, describes a system
in which an image captured by a camera could be automatically modified
based on commands sent by a remote device.

In short, anyone who doesn’t want their photo taken at a
particular time could hit a clicker to ensure that any cameras or
camera-equipped gadgets in range got only a fuzzy outline of their

Maurizio Pilu, an engineer in HP’s Bristol, England, labs, says
in the application that such a system would balance the proliferation
of digital imaging capabilities with growing concerns about privacy.

That’s awesome.  When I was a freshman at UNC, I was on the
staff of LAMBDA, the gay & lesbian magazine on campus.  We had
a staff photo that appeared in the front of each issue, and for us that
was an important statement of solidarity – we were willing to write
these words, and publish them, and be known for doing so.  But, it being 1992 and a Bush in office, there were people on staff who would not appear in the picture, for
very good reasons.  No one dissed them for it, because it was a
personal choice.  No one was looked down on for not having their
mug shot in the magazine.

Privacy is, after all, a very legitimate concern for many reasons –
including for the sake of privacy itself.  We keep our blinds
closed at home not because we hate our neighbors but because, you know,
it’s our living room and we can do what we want in it and nobody gets
to watch us unless we feel like letting them.  It’s that
simple.  There is nothing wrong with that attitude.  It is
100% American.

But…such an important word! …BUT, what about public
officials?  What about police who are about to go Rodney King on
someone?  What about politicians appearing at public events? 
What about scabs crossing a picket line?  What about bankers
attending a WTO summit?  What about elites showing up at, I dunno,
Order of the Bohemian Grove events (see below)?  In other words,
what about the public record of public events?

This is that classic struggle:  the tug-of-war between privacy
and security, the fight between privacy and accountability – any of the
classic struggles that eat up so many cycles among those who think long
and hard about privacy issues.  Do I think I should have the
ability to turn off anyone’s ability to take my picture when I’m
marching in the Pride parade?  Yes – there are people for whom
that sort of activity is absolutely unthinkable because of the risks it
poses to all aspects of their lives, including to life itself. 
This is still a dangerous country in which to be outspoken or
different.  Add the two together and you start getting into some
unsure footing for a lot of people in a lot of places.  On the
other hand, isn’t a part of the risk of doing something unpopular –
whether it’s appearing at Pride or whether it’s meeting with an
industrialist who has robbed nation after nation of cash and resources
in order to sign another deal – that we might be held accountable for
those unpopular acts?

I have no idea how I feel about this technology.  By that I
mean that I feel about eighty different ways about it.  I love the
geek factor, I love the cloak-and-dagger angle, I like the privacy
aspect but – that word again! – BUT I hate the idea that I wouldn’t
have been able to take pictures at the anti-Ashcroft protest a couple
years ago. 

So where do we draw that line?  Fuck if I know – and neither
does anyone else, given the state we’re in as a country.  All
anyone will have to do to kill this technology’s acceptability will be
to point out that if it existed four years ago we might still never
know who the hijackers were on 9/11.  I nearly threw up just
typing that after all the things we’ve heard terrorism or “the
children” used to shoot down or prop up so many many times, simply out
of hand with no debate, discussion closed. 

I think, ultimately, that I would be willing to give up the option to
fuzz my face over in anyone else’s pictures in return for being able to
use my camera myself.  But then, in videogames, I’m never a
defensive player.  I always just attack-attack-attack and hope I
beat the other guy first.  I think the same thing applies to a lot
of aspects of my life, or at least to a lot of opinions I
espouse.  In this case, my knee-jerk reaction is no
different:  who cares if someone takes my picture as long as I can take a picture of them doing it?

I have no idea whether that’s right or wrong.  But it is my very first thought. (more…)

One of my co-workers, I found out today, owns a very special coffee-maker
Go follow that link.  Take a good, long look at it.  It’s
built into the wall of his kitchen.  It cost $1,800. 

One thousand eight hundred dollars.

Someone asked him if it was able to froth milk.  I interjected that for $1,800 it had better be able to drive him to fucking work

As it turns out, his coffee maker has an SLA – a Service Level
Agreement, a term thrown around a lot in support contracts.  If
his coffee maker breaks, the manufacturer has an agreement with the
purchaser to get technicians on-site within four hours.  They have
a coffee maker in their service van, too, so when they appear at your
door – within four hours – to fix your coffee maker they also have a
cup of hot coffee for you.

I am both amazed and distraught over the discovery this thing even
exists.  The socialist in me crossed his arms upon hearing this
and was like, “And you wonder why the rest of the world hates us? 

The capitalist in me, on the other hand, slapped the socialist on the
back of the head and yelled, “Shut up and ask for a raise!” (more…)

So, Bill Frist (you know, the cat-torturing doctor from Tennessee) is
being rolled out to push for the “private account” thing with Social
Security (you know, the gutting of a government program that’s
sheltered generations of elderly people from complete ruin – not
perfect, but a damn sight better than selling apples on the sidewalk to
pay the rent). 

It’s funny, actually – he has a lot of money tied up in the stock markets himself.  Well, he had a lot of money tied up in it.  He used to have a whole lot more

Frist, some of his political opponents say, might not be the ideal
person to sell this part of Bush’s plan. As it turns out, according to
documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, a Frist political
campaign fund established in 2000 has actually lost nearly $500,000 in
stock market investments since that time. (An FEC spokesman says there
are no restrictions against investing campaign money into the stock
market, although the practice isn’t that common.)

Hrm.  So.  Tell me again how all this will be good for future
generations of retirees?  And why we should spend a couple
trillion dollars on it?  Oh right – security.  And,
in fact, it provides a measure of security.  I feel very secure
that I know exactly jack shit about stocks and will probably squander
whatever money I put into it.  I mean, for fuck’s sake, if a Republican doctor can’t get a better return than negative half a million dollars, I am pretty much fucked in the ear on this one. (more…)

Many thanks to Doc, who sent out the following link to a mailing list I run:  The Bohemian Grove.  As someone with a deep love of conspiracy theories, I find stuff like this fascinating. 

Hoax?  Truth?  Overblown Rotary Club?  Who knows?  It’s fun to consider, though. (more…)

So, off we went to NEVERMORE
this weekend.  The weather kept threatening to turn ugly, and at
one point The Boyf and I nearly busted ass on the steps outside. 
Inside, Fletcher Hall was crazy cold.  I advised KJ at one point
to make use of the two hours she had before her next movie by going and
buying a space heater.  Lordy, what a cold room.

House of Flying Daggers was good, though there was tremendous disagreement as to how it compared with Hero.  I thought it better than Hero, as did Katastrophes, but others disagreed.  For me, the thing is that Hero‘s
visuals are much stronger but also much simpler.  Their strength
is more a slap in the face or a bonk on the noggin’.  Two or three
colors would hold everything together.  In HoFD, I think
the visuals were just as strong, but much more subtle – less
slap-to-the-forehead and more massage therapy.  There were a lot
of little things I noticed that were much more quietly included than Hero‘s
big, screen-consuming sequences of red or blue or green, like the
patterns on the bark of the trees signifying (to me, anyway) that one
character in a given scene had only one possible path to take whereas
another had to make a choice as to what their fate would be. 
Ultimately, I like HoFD better because I think I would get more
out of a second viewing, find more things that just slipped right by me
the first time, than with Hero.  I think there was a lot
going on, visually, that I just didn’t notice and wouldn’t notice
without repeat viewings.  That’s meaty.

My fave-rave of the festival was Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior,
though.  Damn.  Damn, damn, damn.  I can’t describe this
movie.  You just have to rent it.  This guy does things I
didn’t think it would be possible for him to do.  He could
sleepwalk through any given Olympic event and take the gold.  I’m
not kidding.  It was absolutely insane.  Tony Jaa is amazing.

The last thing we saw was Sky Blue, a Korean animated film about
class struggle and environmental concerns in the mid 22nd
century.  A very interesting film, and very pretty, though (to
quote The Boyf) it didn’t redefine the genre or anything.  A fun,
pretty flick.

We had tickets to Gory Gory Hallelujah and A Tale of Two Sisters, but the weather scared us off.  I really want to see Tale, though, so I’m probably going to try to find someplace to rent it.

All in all, a good weekend.  The Carolina needs to seriously
consider changing the weekend they hold NEVERMORE, though.  It’s
fucking freezing every year, sandwiched between mild beginnings and
endings to the month.  This is twice in three years now that I’ve
missed movies because of the weather.  Bah.

I am turning into a crotchety young man. (more…)

So, I’m still working on my NaNo from last year, Shell Access.  Whee!  Yay for continuing to work on things!  If you have a desire for self-abuse, I suggest to you SA – Book Two.

Notes to myself:  decide which way to spell St(r)onklin’s name and fucking stick with it. (more…)

I file this under “gaming” as a joke.

An email others & I received from long-time friend Rat reads: 

Heeeeeeey, kids!  Wouldn’t cleaning up after a tsunami be RAD???


Did FEMA go there*?  Oh yes, they did.

UPDATE:  Whoops!  FEMA pulled the game!  Rat rules!

*Metaphorically, of course. (more…)

Co-worker quote of the day:

“I eat with my eyes.”

Um, ouchies? (more…)

OK, just one, born in Brazil and weighing 16.7 pounds:

20, 2005  |  Sao Paulo, Brazil — A woman in northeastern
Brazil has given birth to what one doctor called a “giant baby,” a boy
weighing 16.7 pounds.

Ramos dos Santos, 38, gave birth to the healthy boy named Ademilton on
Tuesday at a hospital in Salvador, 900 miles northeast of Sao Paulo. He
was the largest baby born at the Albert Sabin Maternity Hospital in its
12-year history, the hospital said.

the baby was born by Caesarean section,” hospital director Rita Leal
said. “Both mother and baby are doing just fine.”

Have mercy!


I find the results of the Rice confirmation hearings absolutely,
unspeakably depressing.  Only a couple of senators really stuck it
to her, grilling her on past statements and future strategies. 
This is supposed to be when people vote yes or no depending on what
they think, and this is supposed to be when anyone with an objection
gets to raise it in the most formal forum possible.  Biden sits
there and talks a good talk and then adds, “I’m going to vote for you,
but I do so with reservation.”  Look, if you don’t like her, don’t vote for her
Then last night the news is out that the Democrats want to delay the
full-Senate vote & discussion – but not because they want to block
her!  No way!  Huh-uh!  No intentions of voting against
her here, folks!  We just want to talk about her some.  Goddamn, people
Don’t sit there and rubber stamp neocon wonks appointed by a retarded
cowboy and whine that you really hate the way it gets ink all over your
hands.  Just fucking don’t

I know, I know, the Senate may have to do some bigger confirmation
hearings and they want to save their guns for then and blah blah
fucking blah.  Is that how pathetic the leaders elected by
the Left have become?  That the best they can do is raise feeble
protests sandwiched between promises not to get in the way?

Thank the gods I’ve had Suikoden IV to keep me occupied.  I can’t watch real news anymore. (more…)

So, I had an invite from Bascha to go for sushi tonight, and the roads
are much, much better than I thought they would be, but They Say it
could snow again tonight.  The call of raw fish is strong, but a
part of me fears madness and going ass-over-tea-kettles in a ditch
somewhere on the side of NC 55 might lie along that path. 

Today work is very, very slow.  I need more ways to entertain
myself online.  KJ sent me a link to a friend’s photography site,
containing portraiture, but from the front page it appears it may not
be what we call “work-safe.”  I’ve read all my webcomics.  I’m not sure what I think of the new replacement for Wigu.  Amusing, but it doesn’t grip me in the way tales of Topato and Sheriff Pony do.

This weekend is NEVERMORE,
and I am desperate to see House of Flying Daggers.  I sincerely
hope the weather holds, as there are some good movies involved.  I
have a strong desire to see all the ones I got comped into for doing
their website.  Yarrrr, stupid snow.  Disappointingly little
on the ground from yesterday and yet disappointingly much.

Snow creates myriad conundrums. 


Whatever. (more…)

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