Southern again

March 27th, 2015

The family and I were spending a few hours trekking around Raven Rock State Park yesterday when we encountered three senior citizens who were obviously NC natives. They had made their way down the steep stairway to the base of Raven Rock and were looking for someone to take their picture.

“I’ll be happy to take y’alls picture,” I said as they handed me their iPhone. “Y’all just stand together right there.” I snapped two photos of them and grinned as I handed their phone back to them.

When we had climbed the stairs and were out of earshot, Hallie gave me a quizzical look and said, “you were totally Southern back there!”

“Well, that’s how I was raised!” I said as I shrugged and laughed. It doesn’t occur to me that that’s not how I act all the time. I see good country folks and can’t help but slip back into my Southern accent.

I guess the South our kids are growing up in is different than the one I grew up in. I suppose that’s a good thing, them being around people from different backgrounds. Even so, I sure hope I never forget where I am from, and how to speak properly with the good folks who’ve called North Carolina home far longer than I have.

NSA and spyware

March 21st, 2015
NSA planting spyware on a Cisco router

NSA planting spyware on a Cisco router

The photo that disturbed Cisco so much, the one showing the NSA tampering with a Cisco router, actually does not concern me as much as previous reports of NSA spying. The photo shows NSA doing what it should be doing, going after the bad guys. They have a specific router going to a specific customer and they’re using good old-fashioned hard work to gain their access. I can only assume that the target of this investigation is worthy of such attention and its targeting has been duly legally authorized.

The other thing this photo shows me is that NSA opted to plant its spyware using physical means rather than network means. If NSA has some sort of super-secret backdoor into Cisco firmware it certainly isn’t apparent from this photograph.

Cisco can of course decide it wants to make it difficult for these NSA operations to succeed and that’s the company’s prerogative. Certainly this photograph can cause the company’s customers to question Cisco’s security and can hurt its business. Even so, if NSA wants to load its firmware on boxes one by one and hands-on in a legally-authorized pursuit of a true intelligence target, I suppose I’m ok with that.

Cisco Shipping Hardware To Bogus Addresses To Throw Off NSA Intercept-And-Implant Efforts | Techdirt

March 21st, 2015

Cisco became an inadvertent (and very unwilling) co-star in the NSA Antics: Snowden Edition when its logo was splashed across the web by a leaked document detailing the agency’s interception of outbound US networking hardware in order to insert surveillance backdoors.

It moved quickly to mitigate the damage, sending a letter to the President asking him and his administration to institute some safeguards and limitations to protect US tech companies from the NSA’s backdoor plans. To date, there has been no direct response. So, Cisco has decided to handle the problem itself.

via Cisco Shipping Hardware To Bogus Addresses To Throw Off NSA Intercept-And-Implant Efforts | Techdirt.

New Hampshire legislatures kill fourth graders’ bill and dreams.

March 19th, 2015

What assholes.

Last Thursday, fourth graders from Hampton Falls, New Hampshire visited their state legislature to observe a bit of democracy in action. The children had previously proposed House Bill 373, establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor, as part of a civics lesson in how bills become laws. Their measure had already sailed out of the Environmental and Agriculture Committee. Now the young students gathered in the House galley to watch their bill pass its next hurdle.

via New Hampshire legislatures kill fourth graders' bill and dreams..

A handsome exhibit

March 18th, 2015

It would make a cool art project to cast the hands of people who work in various vocations and display them together.

Hand modeling

March 18th, 2015

Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten a taste of what life must be like for a hand model. Well, except for the fame and money part, of course.

I bought a lifecasting starter kit for my birthday. The problem of having a January birthday is that one’s skin is rarely in good shape from the bone-dry winter air. I’d been waiting a while for the cracks in my knuckles to heal. When they finally did, I managed to slice my right index finger when I was repairing the dishwasher last weekend. Fingertip injuries take a surprisingly long time to heal!

Ever since the dishwasher injury I’ve been overly careful with my hands, paranoid that I’ll cut myself again and have to delay casting my hand another week or more. On the other … hand (sorry, couldn’t resist), it’s been a good realization that the perfect body is a myth. We all have flaws that we conveniently overlook.
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Google View

March 18th, 2015

Sitting in the dentist’s chair, enduring the agony of another teeth cleaning yesterday, I thought of the perfect use for the Google Fiber system coming to Raleigh.

I was being forced to watch Time Warner Cable’s News14 channel in front of me and thinking about how TWC’s local news model works. It didn’t take many minutes of watching the video (thankfully without audio, as the suction hose was often going) to realize how boilerplate it is. The TWC guys have an establishing shot, then zoom in on something dumb like police lights reflecting off the stolen car, then move on to another thing. It was obvious that the video doesn’t really tell the story – in fact, it is repetitive and dull. I could choose not to look up between rinses and feel like I didn’t really miss anything.
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Google Fiber: Kansas City offers Charlotte ‘Digital Divide’ lessons | The Charlotte Observer The Charlotte Observer

March 16th, 2015

CharO talks about Google Fiber and the Digital Divide

In a past job in Kansas City, Julie Porter was part of an intense, door-to-door campaign to get residents in economically challenged, mostly minority neighborhoods to sign up for Google’s high-speed Internet service.

Community organizers didn’t want residents in these areas to face an even wider Digital Divide.

Now the head of a Charlotte housing agency, Porter has urged local leaders here to get an early start encouraging residents to embrace broadband service, long before Google Fiber makes its planned Charlotte debut.

“It was just very, very challenging,” said Porter, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, of the Kansas City situation. “I wanted to make sure that Charlotte didn’t have the same experience.”

via Google Fiber: Kansas City offers Charlotte ‘Digital Divide’ lessons | The Charlotte Observer The Charlotte Observer.

The magically-filling fuel tank

March 14th, 2015

Earlier this week I got to experience a phenomenon very unique to electric vehicles.

I was driving out of the parking deck at work on a warm day that had started much cooler. Batteries are sensitive to temperature and don’t provide less power when it’s cooler. My electric car had dialed back its expected range on my cooler morning commute and kept it there as my car waited in the cool parking deck for me to get off of work.

As I drove out at the end of the day, the car’s thermometer rose briskly as it went from the cool parking deck to the warm afternoon air. I watched in amusement as my car’s range began increasing as I drove! It was like someone was adding fuel to my tank! I gained 20 miles of range on a six-mile drive.

Only in an electric car can one drive somewhere and actually get an increase in range!

Book idea: Malcom McLean

March 13th, 2015

I became fascinated yesterday of a relatively-unsung North Carolina hero, Malcom McLean. It’s not much of a stretch to say McLean more or less revolutionized world trade with his invention of the standardized shipping container. Not bad for a truck driver from Maxton, NC who only had a high school education.

Someone ought to tell his story.