April 2007 Archives

Give me a break. Seriously. This just in! The most successful suicide bombers from Palestine also have been among the better educated. Shocking. Actually, it's tragic. Why? Because these people are so backed into a corner that they're now sacrificing their best and brightest to fight against the oppression of Israel, a country that stands in defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, and yet remains close ally to the United States.

If anybody doesn't think that all Islamic radical terrorism stems from this single conflict, then you need to get better educated. Quit relying on the load of tripe being fed to you by the mass media. Ignore the Bush administration completely -- who's own lawlessness has been used as a rationale for similar lawlessness abroad. Read former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid for a full run-down of Israel's violations. And read counter-position sources to get a better understanding of the situation.

A Couple New PRs, No Flag Football

So, the bad news is that I won't be playing flag football this Spring. A bunch of guys backed out at the last minute, preventing us from fielding a team. Kind of annoying, since a bunch of the guys bailed just a day or two before the season was to start (yesterday). I think I'm both disappointed at something I was greatly anticipating, as well as upset that I rearranged my workout schedule in order to fit this in, and now that change wasn't necessary (not that it's been a bad change).

The good news is that my weightlifting is going well, with steady progress every week. Of course, I'm now down to one week of sessions left before I take a break over the Summer (transferring the funds to our Europe trip - $700/month for training adds up quickly!). But, nonetheless, I'm pleased with the progress that I've made and the marks that I've achieved.

Reflection on Facilitative Leadership

I recently (and, by recently, I mean 8 days ago) had the opportunity to attend the course Facilitative Leadership by Interaction Associates. I found the course quite interesting, and in retrospect learned more from it than I gave credit for initially. A lot of the focus in the course seemed to be on running meetings where work needed to be progressed or completed. However, thinking about it now, it really spoke to larger leadership issues that I think are very important.

Perhaps the best lesson I learned was the hierarchical relationship between Values, Mission, and Vision. Oftentimes companies get hung up on mission and mission statements, while others will go on and on espousing their values. This is, however, the first time I've really heard anyone talk about putting a vision out front around which to organize a project. As I'm beginning to do light work into cognitive psychology, this point resonated with me because it speaks to establishing a visual (mental) image toward which people can work.

If you've ever worked in a corporate environment in the modern digital age, you've come to accept the central role of email in everything you do. Now, imagine for a moment if you were told today that your organization was going to be switching email systems AND email addresses. All your mailing lists would need updating, you'll have to setup the new account, possibly new software, notify people of the change, and so on. This is precisely what I'm going through this week.

Our organization is moving away from our internal email system, which we share with our customers, to a standardized corporate mail system (major brand product). As a Linux user, this has been a bit of a challenge because there are lots of little discrepancies between my mail client and the preferred brand name client. To say it's been a learning experience would be an understatement.

Google AdSense: Da Bomb

So, you might have noticed that I've added advertisements to my site in the last couple weeks. I wanted to take a moment to promote Google AdSense and encourage everyone to check out the contextual ads when reading my posts. If you're interested in learning more, click the button below.


The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), part of the Library of Congress, recently decided to unfairly and disproportionately raise royalty rates on Internet radio broadcasts. This move flies in the face of the long tail approach to economics, demonstrates a bias to support the old-school, closed-minded morons in the RIAA, and will serve to destroy streaming music on the Internet, which will have a direct and meaningful impact on RIAA members and the artists they allegedly support.

To that end, I urge everyone to participate in the letter-writing campaign underway by The SaveNetRadio Coalition. Following is a copy of the letter that I sent to my US Senators and Representative via the site, followed by the form response that I received from US Representative Tom Davis (R-VA).

VT Killer: Blatant Narcissist

Regarding the VT massacre last week (noted here, here, and here), the killer is the primary person to blame. Time magazine had an interesting essay this weekend titled "It's All About Him" stressing that this act is purely about narcissism and his strong desire to put himself ahead of all others, to promote himself, and to make others know and revere him. I have another word for his actions, too: cowardice.

Earth Day Header

It's the day before Earth Day and the weather is glorious, with forecasts for even better weather tomorrow. I say: get out and enjoy it! Some might add "...while you still can!" to that exclamation, but I'll leave it up to you to decide.

To me, Earth Day - which should be every day, btw - is about celebrating this wonderful planet upon which we reside and pondering ways to help keep it beautiful. Unlike the mass hysteria-media, Earth Day is not about global warming or global climate change, and so, even though the references I include at the end will talk about "saving the planet" in the context of global climate change, I highly encourage you to instead focus on better custodianship and making decisions that are based on sound logic, rather than the hype and FUD that we hear every day. Allow me to elaborate...

VT Day of Mourning

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Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has declared today (4/20/07) an official day of mourning over the tragic event at Virginia Tech earlier this week.

Ok, time to get back to an infosec focus here... :) KPMG UK has published a report that describes "fraudsters" (non-technical term describing a white collar criminal) based on analysis of 360 cases in Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.

Below are some selected stats from the Executive Summary (section 3). If you find this interesting, I encouraging reading the whole story. It's interesting to see reinforcement of the old school notion that the vast majority of incidents are from internals. Reinforces the need to protect the company against its own personnel, though without treat people as criminals. The old phrase "it's behind the firewall" is once again proved ridiculous.

It's a couple days after the VT tragedy, and now the second-guessing is amping up a level. It seems this psychotic fellow may have provided indications that he was anything but mentally sound. Multiple people filed reports, and yet the response was "there's no explicit threat, there's nothing we can do." The blame game is, of course, swirling quickly. Allow me to take a few minutes to discuss my take on placing blame against a few key targets...

Support Firefox, Open Standards

Saw this a couple weeks ago, thought I'd share... :)


 Don't Hurt The Web

Dear Media: Shut Up (please)

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It's been about 24 hours since the terrible shooting incidents began at Virginia Tech. Let the second-guessing begin! Frankly, the second-guessing game began within hours of the incident, with headlines like "why weren't students notified sooner?" and the sort (of which CNN.com still has on their site).

As we've come to expect, journalists believe erroneously these days that they are subject-matter experts in all topics. Case in point, we watch ABC News in the morning. Today the Good Morning America (GMA) staff is in Blacksburg, VA, to cover the VT shootings in person. All good and fine, I suppose, since it should give them easier access for human interest stories. But, my, how arrogant and disrespectful they're being to the local authorities! Consider, for example, the literal interrogation that Diana Sawyer gave to the university President.

I've just completed reading Marcus Ranum's The Myth of Homeland Security. Overall, I found this an interesting book, though it's now nearly 4 years old. Basically, Marcus (a well known security guru) did a bunch of research into the current Department of Homeland Security initiative and found that the initiative is doomed to bureaucratic failure. Completely unsurprising, since this is the federal government that we're talking about here. Anyway...

Waking a Vivid, Active Dreamer

Anybody who knows me knows that I'm generally an intense, high-energy person. This persona seems to translate into my sleep patterns, too. It is not unusual for me to awake from vivid, active dreams at a least a couple nights per week where it's very difficult at first to distinguish between dream and reality. This sensation can be disorienting as the logical brain fights to sort fact from fiction. Add in moving about the room/apartment and potentially waking up in some place other than one's bed, and, well, it's crazy. Now add the last factor: having a spouse who is affected by your sleep behaviors. It can lead to less than ideal situations. Suffice to say, there are right ways and wrong ways to wake someone from a vivid, active dream.

A grab bag of commentary on a few stupid things today... White House "loses" emails (*cough*bullshit*cough*)... a new, interesting series from BBC on anti-Americanism (damn French)... shameless self-promotion through use of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (go Big Blue)...

Trans Fats and Truth In Labeling

A mathematical puzzle for you: when does zero not equal zero? Today's answer: when reporting the amount of trans fats contained in the crappola food we oftentimes eat.

As of 2003, food companies are required to list the amount of trans fat contained in their product. However, this measurement is reported in grams, which has caused the ever-so-brilliant government to create a lovely little loophole for the food industry. A product can have up to 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving and still report it as 0g. Bloody brilliant! So, the food industry has to report presence of trans fat, except when it doesn't want to do so, and can then play the old serving size game to reduce the serving size until the amount of trans fat can drop to 0 on the nutrition info label, and then life is swell (for them, not us).

For more information, check out the Ban Trans Fats campaign. Full information there on this labeling insanity as well as extensive information on why this kind of fatty acid is bad for you.

Back from Crested Butte

As mentioned a few days ago, Hanna and I went out to Crested Butte, CO, for Spring Break. This was the last weekend the resort was open - and boy was it a great time to visit! The trip was not without hassles, of course. Leave it to the airline industry to find some way to dampen the spirits!

We got on our plane in Dulles eaaaaarly in the morning. And then sat there for 2 hours. The plane had a mechanical problem, which eventually caused us to return to the gate and switch planes (hooray for UAL having another plane!). Somehow in the process my checked bag got transferred, but Hanna's did not. Where this gets very annoying is that Hanna's bag eventually made it to Gunnison by 5pm, which we know because the local airline rep called and said she had the bag. She promised delivery by 8pm. 8:30pm rolled around and no bag - so I called UAL customer service. This customer service automaton finds out that the bag has been doled out for delivery, there's no way to reach the driver, it should arrive by midnight. What!?!?!?! I was livid, to say the least. And worse, the customer service rep offered nothing but condolences on our situation. No offer of compensation. Nothing! I eventually hung up on him because he kept repeating a textbook "I'm sorry sir, that your bag is delayed, but I've done all that I can. I'd be upset if my bag were misplaced, too."

I've just finished reading The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson. It's an excellent book, relatively straight-forward read, and really hits on the benefits that the Digital Information Age brings with it. I've written about it previously (here and here). I don't really have too much more to say about it, really, other than that everybody working in the business world should immediately go read it. Frankly, if you combine what you learn in this book with the lessons of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't, then you should be able to go out and do good things with a company.

Up next in my reading queue:
    * Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
    * The Myth of Homeland Security

Heading to Colorado...

Hanna and I will be traveling to Crested Butte, CO, tomorrow for a little R&R. I don't expect to post anything for the next few days as a result. The weather has been mild out there (highs around 50), but there are reports of fresh snow in the past week, so that's a good sign. The ski cams show some degradation on the lower runs, but I think it will be ok. We're just looking forward to getting away!

Speaking of getting away, we're looking at a Summer trip to Europe with Contiki. Hanna found them through the AAA web site under a new link for "18-35 Year Olds". The company caters to young, active adults who want to get the most out of their vacations. Specifically, we're looking at the Rome, Sorrento, and Athens trip for late July into August. Any recommendations?

2007 Cherry Blossoms!

Hanna and I made an excursion into DC on Saturday morning to walk around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall to view the cherry blossoms. You can view my pictures here. We got up around 6am (ok... 6:15am) and were on the road by about 6:45am. There were still plenty of people around, but this was a far better experience than when we've gone later in the day. What I found truly remarkable was how quiet the W.W. II Memorial was! Best photo opps. I've ever had there. Hope you enjoy the pics!

(Pre-Note: While today is April 1st, this posting is not meant as humor or in jest.)

Human beings are an interesting bunch. We view ourselves are being unique both individually and as a species. We believe we're the only self-aware, rational organisms on the planet. This may or may not be true, or it may just be that we can't see all truths. At any rate, it's interesting to see how this plays out in the mainstream media, in politics, and in the general population. The best example I can point to in modern times is global climate change.

If you look at the CO2 and Temperature charts for the past 400,000 years (which, according to some science, may only be 1/10th or 1/100th of the age of the planet), we see an interesting cycle (see references below). That cycle reflects an ice occurring on a regular basis, with coinciding increases in CO2 and temperature. So, how do we, the rational humans, respond?

(Updated 4/2/07: Added 3 new links to references.)

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