DefCon 25

Having worked in IT for (gasp!) twenty-five years, I have long enjoyed the side of my job that deals with securing the networks I am responsible for. Network security is a game to me; trying to find and stop hackers before they find and stop me. As my blogging has revealed over the years, I enjoy solving a good mystery. How far back can a track an attacker? Or an adversary? How much knowledge can I dig up? This is all very fun.

My current job doesn’t deal with this directly as I am lucky to have a great team who watches the network. Still, I have to pay some attention to what’s what. So, when the department budget allowed for sending me to my first DefCon, I was delighted to go. Two weeks ago, I was on a plane to Las Vegas to join 25,000 other “hackers” in an intense, three-day powwow of matching wits, sharing forbidden knowledge, and proving points.

This year is the 25th anniversary of DefCon (i.e. “DefCon 25”). DefCon gets its name partly from the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Defense Condition” levels, as popularized by the movie “War Games.” Partly, it’s a made-up word with the “Con” meaning “convention.” DefCon was started (if I am correct) by Canadian bulletin-board owners who decided that on-line meetings were not enough. It has continued to be one of the premier conferences/training sessions that draws attendees from around the world.
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What if the president ordering a nuclear attack isn’t sane? An Air Force major lost his job for asking. – The Washington Post

Like any good student with a sensitive question, Harold Hering approached his teacher after class, out of earshot from his classmates.

“How can I know,” he asked, “that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?”

It was 1973. President Richard M. Nixon was seriously depressed about Watergate. Hering, an Air Force major who rescued downed pilots in Vietnam, was training to be a missileer — the guy who turns the keys to commence nuclear Armageddon.

“I assumed there had to be some sort of checks and balances so that one man couldn’t just on a whim order the launch of nuclear weapons,” Hering, now 81, told Radiolab in a remarkable interview earlier this year.

Hering was wrong. And decades later, so is anyone who thinks President Trump, having recently threatened “fire and fury” for North Korea, can’t order a nuclear attack anytime he darn well pleases, even from a fairway bunker on the golf course.

Source: What if the president ordering a nuclear attack isn’t sane? An Air Force major lost his job for asking. – The Washington Post

As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People – Bloomberg

A woman in tech suggests there’s a kernel of truth in the “Google Memo.”

No, the reason I left is that I came into work one Monday morning and joined the guys at our work table, and one of them said “What did you do this weekend?”

I was in the throes of a brief, doomed romance. I had attended a concert that Saturday night. I answered the question with an account of both. The guys stared blankly. Then silence. Then one of them said: “I built a fiber-channel network in my basement,” and our co-workers fell all over themselves asking him to describe every step in loving detail.

At that moment I realized that fundamentally, these are not my people. I liked the work. But I was never going to like it enough to blow a weekend doing more of it for free. Which meant that I was never going to be as good at that job as the guys around me.

Source: As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People – Bloomberg

The N&O called him an ink-stained traditionalist. Watch what happened next!

Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

I spent my lunch hour tromping through the woods, showing the N&O’s Craig Jarvis the ruins of Isaac Hunter’s tavern. Craig had discovered my posts on the tavern and wanted to see it for himself. When my vague, emailed descriptions of the spot didn’t get him there I offered to take him there myself. After five or more minutes of us ducking under fallen trees and getting all turned around, I practically cheered when I found the foundation stones again! Craig was just as excited as I was, snapping photos on his phone and pondering how it all once looked.

I was happy to share it with him and didn’t think twice about meeting him there. I don’t know anything about the story he’s writing nor do I know (or particularly care) if I’ll be mentioned in it. What matters to me is that he’s telling the story of a place that was very important in making Raleigh what it is today.

OK, so maybe I was a little hard on the News and Observer. I know the paper has to adapt to changing conditions but I do not want to see the coverage dumbed down just to generate more clicks. I also don’t want to see journalists forced to pimp their articles just to remain in good graces with their boss. But I absolutely do want journalism to succeed. I want the News and Observer to succeed.

I also want the spinach. Lots of spinach. I want local coverage, even if it means fewer clicks. Tell me about the city’s budget, and about the controversy surrounding the latest audacious development project. Let me know about disagreements between city and county officials. Convey the complex jargon of transportation plans (rail realignments, commuter rail plans, etc) in terms I can understand. Be firm but be fair.

So while I was very, very close to canceling my N&O subscription again, I will give the paper’s new plan a chance to prove itself.

But don’t expect me to like the clickbait headlines, ok?

Running for my life


Update 11 Aug: I fixed a few of these stats, thanks to actually checking Strava this time. 🙂

Fifty-two times this year, I’ve hauled myself out of bed in the morning and shoved one foot in front of the other in an effort to get healthier. That’s a total of 158 miles so far this year. It wasn’t a new year’s resolution thing but simply a challenge to myself to see if I could do it. Somehow I’m still sticking with it, showing some real improvement in my stamina and my speed. I just ran a mile this week in 8:03 (averaging 9:40) and when I began on March 8th I averaged 11:01.

How’s my health doing? I definitely have more stamina for exercise now and enjoy those endorphins post-run. Running’s become a habit, so that’s good. I’ve dropped most of my flab, too. Last weekend I was pleasantly surprised to find my swim trunks are now too big for me. That said, I still run out of energy late in the day and have been hitting the sack well before 10 PM many recent nights. I’m hopeful that’s just jet lag residue from my trip to Las Vegas last week so hopefully it’s just temporary.

You can follow my progress on Strava if you like. I’ll follow you back (and cheer you on, too).

What’s your preference, clickbait or spinach?

847″ /> Serious journalism, like spinach, is good for you.

Update 10 Aug: Perhaps I was a little hard on the N&O. I’m giving it a chance.

What’s everyone talking about today? Spinach, that’s what. N&O Executive Editor John Drescher compared “obligatory” stories about government process to spinach and apparently our spinach days are over. Instead, the paper is apparently now all about chasing clicks.

And local voices don’t matter anymore, apparently, so away with the metro columnists, Barry Saunders and the like. Quirky cat stories will now rule the day. I’m left with the impression that local matters – the stuff where a local newspaper shines like none other – will no longer be a priority for the N&O. If it doesn’t have national appeal it’s gone.

Can I be honest here? I hate, hate, hate the N&O’s new clickbait headlines (and yes, John, no matter how hard you go lipstickin’ this pig these headlines are absolutely clickbait). This is one step away from putting emojis and text shortcuts in headlines (“Y U NO PASS BUDGET, COUNCIL? LOL”). My intelligence is insulted every time I see one. In fact, I make it a point not to click on any story with an asinine headlines. Nothing good is ever behind a clickbait headline.

The N&O website is also bogged down by the worst pop-up advertising you’ll find on the web, here or anywhere else. While some of my media pals might look down on my use of ad blocking software, I would not need it if sites like the N&O weren’t full of exploding ads and self-playing videos. There are rules of decorum on the web and assaulting your web visitors has always been frowned upon, no matter how lucrative it might seem.
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A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really Really Weird | WIRED

A great account of what to expect during this month’s solar eclipse.

Have you ever witnessed a total solar eclipse? Usually when I give a lecture, only a couple of people in an audience of several hundred people raise their hands when I ask that question. A few others respond tentatively, saying, “I think I saw one.” That’s like a woman saying, “I think I once gave birth.”

What these people are remembering is some long-ago partial solar eclipse. These are quite common. They occur every few years in various places across the globe. But believe me, if you’ve seen a total solar eclipse—when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth—you’ll never forget it.

Part of what makes a total eclipse so breathtaking has to do with invisible light. During the “moment of totality”—the minutes when sun is completely blocked—observers experience the exquisitely odd and wondrous sensation of solar emissions, both visible and invisible, vanishing right in the middle of the day.

Source: A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really Really Weird | WIRED