Dubai: The Vegas of the Middle East, with a catch

Johnny Walker Red

A recent story about a Brit who inadvertently ran afoul of the law in Dubai reminded me of the first (and last) time I visited Dubai.

When I was in the US Navy in the early 1990s my ship made a stop in Dubai. A group of my fellow sailors and I booked rooms at (what was at the time) a fairly high-end hotel to relax. I was astonished when entering my room to find a thank you card and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, a gift for our protecting the Gulf. Being gifted a bottle of fine scotch in a Muslim country was a taste of the odd juxtaposition and tension in Dubai, where east meets west and tries to offer something for everyone.

In the days I wandered around Dubai seemed clear to me what the cultural expectations were. Back then it was a few hotels and mostly sand but now Dubai advertises itself as an exotic playground, the Las Vegas of the Middle East. It seems to me it’s easier now to cross a line one didn’t mean to cross, though I have not been back since. I was planning a trip to Dubai with my wife around Sept 11, 2001 but .. .uh, soon scuttled it :-(.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Mohylek)

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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A Massive Lake Of Molten Carbon The Size Of Mexico Was Just Discovered Under The US


The Yellowstone volcano has a massive chamber the size of Mexico.

A recent scientific discovery has drastically changed our view of the global carbon cycle and identified a new significant risk. Researchers have discovered a giant lake or reservoir made up of molten carbon sitting below the western US.

The molten carbon (primarily in the form of carbonate) reservoir could drastically and immediately change the global climate for over a decade if it were to be released. Thankfully there is little risk in the near future of this happening. The carbon sits 217 miles beneath the surface of the Earth in the upper mantle and has no immediate pathway to the surface. In total the lake covers approximately 700,000 square miles, approximately the size of Mexico. This has redefined how much carbon scientists believe sits locked away in the Earth’s mantle and its interaction with surface and atmospheric carbon.

Source: A Massive Lake Of Molten Carbon The Size Of Mexico Was Just Discovered Under The US

Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street – The New York Times

When an unlucky passenger was violently dragged off a full United Airlines flight in Chicago in April, setting off a public-relations nightmare for the company, the blame naturally fell on the cabin crew, the police and eventually airline executives.But ultimately, the episode was set in motion elsewhere — on Wall Street.Relentless pressure on corporate America is creating an increasingly Dickensian experience for many consumers as companies focus on maximizing profit. And nowhere is the trend as stark as in the airline industry, whose service is delivered in an aluminum tube packed with up to four different classes, cheek by jowl, 35,000 feet in the air.

Source: Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street – The New York Times

Overbooking should be fraud

Admit one (well, if we feel like it) [courtesy torbakhopper@flickr]


Yesterday’s shitstorm caused by United Airlines’s beating up a passenger has brought the practice of overbooking into sharp focus. Why do we let airlines get away with overbooking? How is this even legal? A ticket is essentially a contract: In exchange for my money, you will take me from point A to point B. Seems pretty simple, right? So why are airlines allowed to renege on that contract?

Let’s say you planned to take your sweetie out for a big date at a concert. You bought your tickets months in advance and made arrangements for transportation, hotel, etc. You and your sweetie get all dressed up, show up at the arena, and get settled in your seats only to be tossed from the arena because they are “oversold.” You’d feel like burning something down, wouldn’t you? And yet airlines do this every day.

Now, let’s imagine that you made reservations for dinner on your date night but the restaurant canceled them. Sure, you’d probably be pissed but a reservation is free. You haven’t put up any money and so you are getting what you paid for. You expect the restaurant to honor the reservation but you know that since you don’t have any skin in the game you have to go along. See the difference?
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Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

In case you were under a rock, yesterday United Airlines dragged a paying passenger off one of its planes to make room for another United crew to fly standby. The resulting outcry caused United’s stock to lose $800 million in value at one point Tuesday. CEO Oscar Munoz then released the biggest bullshit non-apology ever, apologizing for having to “re-accommodate” this passenger. I predict that “re-accommodate” has already earned its place on the “word of the year” lists.

A video posted on Facebook late Sunday evening shows a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville being forcibly removed from the plane before takeoff at O’Hare International Airport.

The video, posted by Audra D. Bridges at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, is taken from an aisle seat on a commercial airplane that appears to be preparing to take flight. The 31-second clip shows three men wearing radio equipment and security jackets speaking with a man identified as Elizabethtown doctor David Dao seated on the plane. After a few seconds, one of the men grabs the passenger, who screams, and drags him by his arms toward the front of the plane. The video ends before anything else is shown.

Source: Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville

Getting my head back into the game

Returning to Earth. Or Atlanta. Close enough.

I spent New Year’s day worshiping the Porcelain God but not because I’d celebrated on New Year’s Eve. No, my body has a way of freaking out all on its own and opted to do so a day after we returned from our trip to Spain. For the next two days, I felt disinclined to lift my head from the couch or bed save for the inevitable Call To Prayer. what a way to be welcomed home! If there’s a positive note in this episode, at least I waited until our vacation was over to get sick.
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