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From User: Decius

I am a hacker and you are afraid and that makes you more dangerous than I ever could be.

Mastering the Art of the Swipe
Topic: Technology 1:40 pm EDT, Jul 26, 2004

Like the heads in a VCR, the ones in card readers can wear out. After all, they are reading cards at an extraordinary rate. The busiest turnstile in the subway system, turnstile No. 10 in the middle array by the escalators in the main entrance to the subway below Grand Central Terminal, reads a whopping 236,000 cards a month.

I thought that was a neat factoid. I can imagine New Yorkers saying to themselves, "I know that turnstile!"

The article is rich in trivia about heavy-duty magnetic card readers and the millions of people who (ab)use them.

Mastering the Art of the Swipe

Georgia Voter's Guide
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:25 pm EDT, Jul 19, 2004

The League of Women Voters put out this brief candidate guide. This is best example of non-partisan candidate information I've found so far, and while I'm glad this exists, I think its pretty sad that more information is not available.

I was thinking this morning that I don't really like the changes that have taken place in order to reform campaign finance. I think we're curtailed the freedom of speech. If I support a candidate then I ought to be able to say it, and I ought to be able to say it with a great big billboard if I so desire. This is America. I also think we've seriously violated people's personal privacy. I can find out what campaigns my employees and business partners have donated money to!! This is extremely dangerous and widespread abuse is only a matter of time.

What have we gained from this? Is the present election less corrupt then previous ones? I hardly think so. I haven't heard any explanation of that. I'm still walking into local elections knowing nothing about many of the races. Knowing none of the candidates.

There is a lot of bad speech in our democracy. A lot of signs on street corners that do not reveal anything about a candidate's competence, their voting record, their goals, even their party affiliation. A lot of our democracy goes directly to those who can generate the best name recognition by having the biggest marketing budget and simplest message.

But in my experience the answer to bad speech has always been more speech.

In California a booklet similar to the one the League of Women Voters put together here is put together by the government. Each candidate gets a least a page to state his or her case. Every office and referenda item is covered. You spend an hour looking it over and you walk into the ballot office knowing something about who you are voting for. Sure, people ignore them, chuck them in the trash, but at least its available. At least everyone gets a chance to tell you who they are, regardless of their budget. In Georgia its very hard to find out what all the races are and whose in them even if you really want the information. An uninformed Democracy is not a democracy at all.

Georgia Voter's Guide

One Hand Clapping: Criticism of Annie Jacobson's story
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:27 pm EDT, Jul 18, 2004

] One of the things I learned in the years I have spent in
] law enforcement at both the federal and local level is
] that witnesses of traumatic events relate few details.
] When people are frightened or otherwise psychologically
] shocked, their minds don't record movies, but snapshots,
] and not many of them, either.
] Annie's story has a wealth of detail, so much that I find
] myself disbelieving that she could have been as afraid as
] she says she was.

One Hand Clapping: Criticism of Annie Jacobson's story

Terror in the Skies, Again? - WomensWallStreet ***1/2 Gold Star***
Topic: Current Events 7:47 pm EDT, Jul 16, 2004

] On June 29, 2004, at 12:28 p.m., I flew on Northwest
] Airlines flight #327 from Detroit to Los Angeles with my
] husband and our young son. Also on our flight were 14
] Middle Eastern men between the ages of approximately 20
] and 50 years old. What I experienced during that flight
] has caused me to question whether the United States of
] America can realistically uphold the civil liberties of
] every individual, even non-citizens, and protect its
] citizens from terrorist threats.

I'm always extra observant these days when I get on a plane. I size people up. I assess them. I've never seen anything that ended up bothering me. This person did. This is your worst nightmare airplane story.

By Jeremy's Gold Star system I'm giving this story a 1/2 gold star. This is simply the scariest thing I've read in 3 years. Don't read this if you're not prepared. Its fucked up.

Its also important. You're reading about this because of the blogosphere. I imagine that this will get wide coverage online and the mainstream press will pick it up, like the Trent Lott thing. If this is what it claims to be its as important as a successful attack. People need and want to know that things like this are going down. DHS and the airline industry would rather they didn't, for various reasons, not all of which are bad ones.

Is it what it claims to be? Thats primarily the reason why it will be important. Its impossible to know how accurate this account is until someone from the Government actually makes a statement on it. That won't happen until a large number of people are talking about it.

This story is also seriously flawed, hence the 1/2 star. Once the facts are presented, the not so facts are presented. Ann Coultier is quoted. The lack of racial profiling is questioned. Unfortunately the fact that those ideas are tagged onto this information will cloud the value of it. People on the left will think twice about blogging it or considering it. People on the right will be drawn into its conclusions by its information.

The fact is that its properly called Islamic Extremeism, not Arab Extremeism, and there is a very good reason for that, only part of which is the fact that not all Arabs are Muslim. The critical issue from a security standpoint is that if you focus all your investigative efforts on Arabs you will find an airplane full of guys from the Sudan rammed right up your ass, and you cannot tell the difference between guys from the Sudan and guys from Atlanta based on what they look like.

Those that argue for a crackdown on Arabs are not just racist, they're stupid. And not only because they're missing part of the puzzle, but also because whats good for the goose is good for the gander, and they never seem to consider that, even in the context of bombings by radical fundamentalist Christians.

This does not imply that 15 Arabs on a plane acting sketchy as all hell is not a something you ought to investigate. Clearly, in this case, if the story is true, it was investigated. To what end, who knows. I seriously doubt that if there was something substantive going on here that the agents would have just let these guys go and forgotten about it. I also seriously doubt that they would have let this woman know what they did when she called. But its irrelevant.

Assuming this information is accurate, I'll say I no longer find jokes about DHS's alert system so funny.

(Of course, its worth reading this from the other direction. Maybe it was just a group of guys from Detroit rolling down to do a show. Lots of Middle Eastern people in Detroit. Maybe they had a lot to drink and all needed to hit the bathroom. Maybe they wanted to chat in the hallways because they weren't sitting near eachother. But there was enough going on here to spook the security forces. Her fears were not totally unreasonable.)

Terror in the Skies, Again? - WomensWallStreet ***1/2 Gold Star***

Do salesmen/Upper management need to better understand their products?
Topic: Arts 12:40 pm EDT, May 28, 2004

This is a very interesting question my Dad and I have debated a lot.

My Dad has always told me, that salesmen, and more importantly, upper management, doesn't need to have any deep or extensive understanding of their products. He has told me you can abstract the specifics of the product out of the equations, and there are standard ways you run the business (ie ways to promotion, ways to make deals, methods streamlining production, ratios of research dollars vs spending dollar, etc), that work regardless of the product, or at least should serve as a very important guideline.

Personally, this is something I completely disagree with, but I've been searched in vain to explain to Dad why. Best I could do is point out that Bill Gates has extensive knowledge of not only the market he was in, but also its advances. Bill Gates has made more money than any other CEO. Thus, I concluded to Dad, this was an example of my idea being correct.

However this example doesn't really help me put into words *why* I felt my theory was correct. Instead, all Dad see's is a 23 year old guy in a T-shirt telling him things counter to 30+ years of experience has taught him.

I feel this interview of David Crosby, which my Dad can relate to, does an excellent job showing how upper management not have better knowledge of their product can run a business into the ground.

] =It actually happened that way?
] Yes. The people who run record companies now wouldn't
] know a song if it flew up their nose and died. They
] haven't a clue, and they don't care. You tell them that,
] and they go, "Yeah? So, your point is?" Because they
] don't give a s---. They don't care. They're actually sort
] of proud that they don't care.
] Look at it this way. A couple of years ago, somewhere
] between a fourth and a third of the record business was
] owned by a whiskey company, who shall remain nameless,
] but were notably inept at running a record company. And
] they sold it to a French water company, who shall also
] remain nameless, but knew even less. Now, those guys
] haven't a clue! [laughter] They haven't a clue. And they
] don't care about having a clue. They are trying to run it
] as if they're selling widgets, plastic-wrapped widgets
] that they can sell more of. And they want easily
] definable, easily accessible, easily creatable,
] controllable product that has a built-in die-out, so that
] they can create some more.
] By that, I mean, "Get me a lead singer. He's got sort of
] an androgynous blonde hair, very pretty. We need a guitar
] player, sort of hatchet-faced, wears a hat, plays very
] fast, very dramatic. He must be very dramatic. Get me a
] pound of bass player, pound of drummer. I don't think he
] needs keyboards; I think we look good. And we'll call
] them the Bosco Bombers! No. The Bad Dogs... [ Read More (0.3k in body) ]

Do salesmen/Upper management need to better understand their products? - German Couple Finds Out Stork Isn't Real
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:01 am EDT, May 20, 2004

] "We are not talking retarded people here," the clinic
] spokesman said. The two "were simply unaware, after eight
] years of marriage, of the physical requirements necessary
] to procreate."

[ Ok, how sheltered do you need to be to miss out on this knowledge. I mean, on top of that, wouldn't biology... you know, instinct, take over at some point. I guess they sleep in separate beds and don't talk about things like desire or certain physical alterations that may accompany it? Some kinda marriage.

Fuck it, I think the clinician is wrong... these people *are* retarded... in the strictest sense of the word. Their stupid families retarded them by not telling them things. So much so that some seriously fundamental human bahaviors were totally blocked. If I were them, i'd be on the phone with mom and dad right now like "HEY, WHAT THE FUCK!?"

I'm holding back the rant I want to make, but suffice it to say that i don't approve of fundamentalist bullshit or 'protecting' kids by telling them nothing, ever. This would be funny if it wasn't so sad. -k] - German Couple Finds Out Stork Isn't Real A Wretched New Picture Of America
Topic: Current Events 3:26 am EDT, May  6, 2004

] These photos show us what we may become, as occupation
] continues, anger and resentment grows and costs spiral.
] There's nothing surprising in this. These pictures are
] pictures of colonial behavior, the demeaning of occupied
] people, the insult to local tradition, the humiliation of
] the vanquished. They are unexceptional. In different
] forms, they could be pictures of the Dutch brutalizing
] the Indonesians; the French brutalizing the Algerians;
] the Belgians brutalizing the people of the Congo.

An exceptional article A Wretched New Picture Of America

Semacode: BarCode to URL translation for the people
Topic: Technology 1:22 pm EDT, May  5, 2004

Well, I've been agitating for some friends of mine to help me work on this for the better part of a year. Now, its here. But the glory goes to someone else.

I wish I had a compatible cellphone...

This is word for word what Decius, Timball and I were talking about this winter. Damn. Well, looks like we can prt his copde to other platforms, adopt it to do what we wanted with it.

Semacode: BarCode to URL translation for the people

Topic: Miscellaneous 11:14 am EDT, Apr 12, 2004

The United States is good at two things. Being rich, and being rebellious.

The first is the product of two geographic accidents and one extremely intelligent decision.

We were close enough to Europe to provide an exciting, temperate, and vast destination for the bored and downtrodden of the 19th century, and yet far enough away to keep us from taking much more then a few bruises when the place collapsed on itself in the 20th.

The extremely intelligent decision was to keep the church out of government affairs. Thomas Jefferson accurately predicted that our southern, "priest ridden," neighbors would succumb to corrupt ineptitude for centuries.

We peaked about 1955. The space program, adjusted for inflation, made our present fiscally unilateral adventures in the middle east look like a minor expense.

We're still quite accustomed to being the richest people on the planet and few seem to be aware that we're in decline. If our military expenditures don't suck us dry the coming implosion of Social Security and Medicare certainly will.

In 40 years we're not going to be the richest anymore.

Neither cost should be underestimated. The domestic concern is now quite well documented. On the other hand, Islamic fundamentalism is an ancient, intractable hate that flourishes because it gives meaning to lives that have none.

Can we really replace that meaning with economic purpose? We can't even create economic purpose here at home.

The other thing, besides being rich, that Americans are good at is rebellion. Our culture is the space that exists between the dress codes of protestant piety and the cloud of pot smoke emanating from the local motorcycle bar. You are taught how to be, and they you are taught not to be it.

Our heros aren't the ones who worked together to solve the problem. They're the ones who stepped outside and succeeded. We don't care about the team. Only the star quarterback matters to us.

Americans are good at going off in a garage somewhere and doing something innovative on one's own. Rebellion is at the heart of that. Thats why the hacker scene was so edgy.

Thats the one hope we have that we can really build a future on once our geographic blessings are spent and everyone else gets an education.

And we're killing it. Between the outsourcing, and the attack on options, and the skittish contraction of meaningful technology investment, we're eliminating the dream that you can go out and work on the edges and be successful.

Sure, Steven Levy found people doing innovative things in Silicon Valley after the crash. There are those among us who don't care about taking risks because they could loose almost all of their net worth without having to change their lifestyles. They are bored and have nothing better to do then tinker. Are we really hanging the future of our economy on a few guys who are rich enough to create their own space programs for fun?

One in one hundred are successful and the more we scale this back the more good opportunities will slip through our fingers.

Today technology innovation consists of screwing up the DNS system. And its not just there. We've even forgotten how to make good music. Our endless co-option of the rebels has been too efficient. The rebels don't have anything more to say.

Taxes and Terrorism. Thats all I can see for years to come. And I'm sick of it already. We heading into a Japanese style socio-economic malaise.


My day as an election judge - Avi Rubin
Topic: Technology 11:44 pm EST, Mar  3, 2004

] It is now 10:30 pm, and I have been up since 5 a.m. this
] morning. Today, I served as an election judge in the
] primary election, and I am writing down my experience
] now, despite being extremely tired, as everything is
] fresh in my mind, and this was one of the most incredible
] days in my life.

My day as an election judge - Avi Rubin

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