Saturday, February 12, 2011

Occasionally they tell the truth, part 10: John Gage, fed up taxpayers are "mentally retarded"

John Gage, AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) President:
"When people say, well, we just have to pay less in wages, whether it’s private sector or public sector, I think they’re mentally retarded to say something like that."

So where is the money going to come from, John? Should private sector employees accept pay cuts but not government workers? Should governments continue to run deficits? Should we put our heads in the sand and just pretend that we can do this forever???

Watch the video here, courtesy of Americans for Prosperity:
"Union Boss John Gage Says Those Who Want to Cut Spending are 'Mentally Retarded'"

Computer Warfare

This is a great story. Have you heard of the Stuxnet Worm? Ever wonder what it did?

Here's the short version. The Stuxnet worm was a computer virus that spread widely across the Internet but didn't appear to do much of anything. But it turns out that Stuxnet was actually a very highly focused online attack against Iran's nuclear program.

Who created Stuxnet? How was it designed to only damage certain PLCs in certain configurations? Check out this article, from the New York Times:
"Stuxnet Worm Used Against Iran Was Tested in Israel" by William J. Broad, John Markoff, and David E. Sanger

What a story! Creating such an attack involved not only a lot of computer programming, but it required physically modeling the devices and specific configurations of those devices to be attacked. And that made all the difference.

"The biggest single factor in putting time on the nuclear clock appears to be Stuxnet, the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever deployed."

"...the worm only kicked into gear when it detected the presence of a specific configuration of controllers, running a set of processes that appear to exist only in a centrifuge plant. 'The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit,' he [Langer] said. 'It was a marksman’s job.'"

"This was not the work of hackers, he [Langer] quickly concluded. It had to be the work of someone who knew his way around the specific quirks of the Siemens controllers and had an intimate understanding of exactly how the Iranians had designed their enrichment operations."

Here is another great paragraph in the article:
"The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart."

Note that creating such a weapon involved causing the centrifuges operate in a way that they would damage themselves. But the worm also had to trick the system into sending "normal" readings back to operators so they couldn't react to various safety warnings. Really amazing work.

So, who created Stuxnet? You be the judge:
"Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it. But Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects."

"By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Turn off the heat!

See, THIS is why I keep the temperature in my house set at 60 degrees! It's not just because I'm a cheapskate! From EmaxHealth:

"Indoor temperatures could be contributing to obesity" by Kathleen Blanchard RN

"Researchers at University of College London say there is a potential link between reduced exposure to the cold that may be contributing to rising rates of obesity from two separate effects."

Okay, so now I have a couple months to come up with a reason why I refuse to turn on the air conditioner in the summer!

Wanna be in a band?

Here is a GREAT Craigslist ad, from Minneapolis. Try to read it without laughing out loud.

From Craigslist:
"Bass player starts hipster band"

Since this ad won't stay up forever, I've posted it below:

Bass player starts hipster band (uptown)
Date: 2011-01-28, 7:09PM CST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

So I've decided I need to start a hipster band. Here is what I've got, and what I need.

I am a bass player. I have the look, and that's the primary job of the bass player. I am such a hipster, than to me, even dressing like a hipster is too mainstream for me. My hipster look is so indie, ironic and underground that on most days, I look like a normal person. Skinny Jeans? no, sorry...way too mainstream. I wear Eddie Bauer relaxed fit, and they are not too tight or too loose. This is who I am. Typically, my shirts match my pants in some way too. Ironic. That's what I bring to the game. Image is nothing, and yet image is everything. Kinda like those sprite commercials from the 90s. I also have a bass and ironically, an amp. I also have a casiotone and an octave pedal so i will be playing some "bass-esque" lines on that.

Singer: I need this position to be filled by a female. Everyone knows that hipster band's coolness factor always increases tenfold when it's a girl singer, and if you are of average talent, you probably won't make it here. I want one (or two) of the following: Terrible singing ability, artsy singing ability (like bjork, or Paris Hilton), or you are ironically a great singer. (if you can do all three, I have ideas for a great concept album). Average talent won't cut it. Can you play an instrument? it's not mandatory, but if you can, it's a bonus. Acoustic guitar preferred, but I hope that you can back it up with an almost masterful grasp of the Oud. Also, if you can play, please also have an ironic instrument--ukulele, mandolin, acoustic guitar (double ironic), accordion, or rock band controller. Looks are important, namely your clothing. You have three choices--Hipster, ironic hipster, or business casual. Please, no relaxed fitting jeans and a matching shirt--that's my thing.

Guitar player: This can be male or female, I don't care. I need you to play an old guitar (please, no vintage) preferably from a company that nobody has heard of. Russian imports from the 70s and 80s are an absolute bonus. Also, if you play the guitar, you play the synth/piano. What synth do you play? your choice. I am bringing a casiotone to the game, so if you have a yamaha PSR-110, that's a great match, otherwise, you can be ironic and bring a roland fantom and rock our socks off. Piano is great, but keep in mind weight--if you bring a baby grand, I probably won't help you carry it to the gig, or ironically, I will.
Band drama is a plus. Obviously the more you bring to the table, the better. If you could have some romantic interest in the singer, that'll earn you extra points. I need there to be some tension between the two most creative members of the band, because that's where hipster magic starts. When she hangs out with some random bass player from an ironic band, you write songs about tearing your heart out, and when she even glances in your direction, you need to be so inspired that you write songs about hipster love, like running through fields and eating blueberries and holding hands and all that stuff. Desperation is a plus. Looks? you need to be the most straightahead hipster off all time. Skinny jeans, a tshirt with a reference from the 80s, a tight leather jacket, keds, snuggies, scarves, capes, or keds...just ideas here...I am just laying a bassline here, you can riff on the clothing all you want. The irony here is that you are full on hipster. This will be so ironic, the hipsters in the front row will get nosebleeds and go home.

Drummer: whatever. I don't care what you look like, but you need to be able to play. Listen: I am a bass player and you are the drummer. There are famous rhythm sections in every genre of music, and even most subgenres. We will dominate the hipster music scene, partly in the way I dress and look uninterested while I play, and you in your ability to drum. I also want to have a section in our concerts where we break out from the mainstream hipsters and break into a crazy Jungle D 'n B techno trance electro dream scape ironic hipster freakout.
Also, Please have one PBR shirt. Unwashed if you can stand it.

Rehearsals will be decided by the seasons. In the summer, we will go to the lakes and play acoustic with a guitar case in front of us, and then when people throw money in, we will act like it's not all about the money. In the Fall, we will go downtown and feel smug about how cool we are, and how uncool the suits are. In the Winter, we will practice inside because it's really cold. In the spring we will play to celebrate the end of the winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere. The days steadily growing longer, the trees and flowers coming into bloom as all of nature awakens, and the cattle being led out to pasture again. We will celebrate plants, fire, and fertility.

Ironically, we will not play more than 1-2 gigs a year. Mainstreamers gig. That's lamestream.

Ironically, we will record like crazy. Putting out 1-2 cds per month for years at a time. We will also record practices adding in audience noises, so that it sounds like we are playing gigs in places people haven't heard of, and they aren't cool enough to be told about them. IYDKYDG is what it's all about.

Recordings won't be sold anywhere, but they will be leaked online. Mainstreamers go about the normal record distribution channels. We are hipsters.

We will make music videos, largely consisting of us play on a pontoon in lake calhoun, and we have a inside joke about nutella and the drummer, and we commonly talk about it, but nobody will know what we are talking about.

Drugs are mainstream, so no drugs, and alcohol is ok, but only ironic alcohols, like aquavit and Coors. I was recently informed that Zima is now considered ironic, so please bring an appreciation for the ironically refreshing taste of Zima.

Occasionally we will all dress as select founding fathers (and mothers, like betsy ross for the singer) in period correct clothing, and we won't tell anyone why.

* Location: uptown
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 2185820140

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is stealing imaginary money theft?

This is a fascinating story. If you steal imaginary money from an online gaming system, is it theft? Did this guy steal something from Zynga? How much, really? After all, they can simply make more, right, so how is Zynga damaged? Since Zynga can just make more money, did this guy essentially create money from thin air?

Here's the story, from Business Insider:
"ZYNGA HACKED, $12 Million Stolen" by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

"Interestingly, there was a debate in the British court where he was tried as to whether the hacking actually constituted theft, since virtual poker chips are, well, virtual, and Zynga can just create as many as it wants. The court answered by saying that, yes, virtual goods can be treated like property and adding chips to your account amounts to theft."

Let's go one step further. I think most of us would agree that it is crazy for people to pay real money for imaginary money. Or is it? Think about it for a moment. How is that any different than what we do in the so-called real world? Tell me how Zynga's imaginary money is any different than the pieces of paper we carry in our pockets? After all, dollars nowadays are just paper, backed by ... nothing. There is no claim to gold or property or anything. When we sell something we are giving real property/goods/services in return for a piece of paper.

So before you laugh too hard at people who would pay "real" money for imaginary money in a gaming system realize that you are doing your laughing inside a flimsy glass house paid for by fiat money.

Monday, February 7, 2011


YES! The Packers won the Super Bowl, for the second time in my lifetime. It was the Packers' fourth Super Bowl title (trailing the Steelers with 6, and the Cowboys and 49ers with 5 each). But it was their league-leading 13th NFL title, if you add in the the championships won before the Super Bowl era. It is also fitting that the Vince Lombardi trophy, given to the Super Bowl winner, returns to the place where Lombardi had his most success as a coach.

Why did I select that particular picture? If you've watched the Packers at all this year, you've seen Rodgers pose with an imaginary championship belt after making a big play. Like in this shot:

Apparently Rodgers was a huge professional wrestling fan growing up. So I loved it when Clay Matthews brought up a real belt during the victory celebration after the win. I'm sure Kevin Greene, Packers linebacker coach, former NFL linebacker, and former professional wrestler, also had something to do with it!

And let's not forget that this is 2011. Would it surprise you to know that there is a Facebook page called "Aaron Rodgers Championship Belt"? Of course not.

Back to the game. Here are some video clips, from ESPN:

And an ESPN write-up:

Aaron Rodgers was brilliant, and fully deserved the MVP trophy. Don't forget, his statistics would have looked much better AND the game wouldn't have been so close if the Packers receivers had not had so many dropped passes. Jordy Nelson and James Jones dropped multiple passes, including possible touchdown passes. I mean, sometimes the passes are difficult to catch. But Rodgers was on fire and he placed the ball perfectly on many of those drops. Just embarrassing drops, and don't forget that Jones has a history of such drops (including recently in the Packers' first playoff game this year, against Philadelphia). Donald Driver's injury hurt the Packers here, because if you watched the game closely, very closely, you could pick out the key to being a receiver in the NFL--or at any level, really. You would have noticed that when Aaron Rodgers hit Driver or Greg Jennings in the hands with perfect passes, they ... [wait for it] ... CAUGHT THE DAMN BALL!

An even bigger story was the injuries to Packer defensive backs Sam Shields and Charles Woodson. Again, a story from ESPN:
"XLV: Packers move Woodson to tears" by Kevin Seifert

There is a graphic in the article that shows how much more success the Steelers had on offense once Woodson (Shields was also out for most of the time Woodson was) was out of the game. The Packers were not able to stop the Steelers once Woodson and Shields were injured. If they had not been injured the Packers might have dominated the game (as I see it from my green and yellow tinted glasses, anyway).

Congratulations, Packers!!!

What about the Super Bowl ads? I thought it was a pretty weak bunch. The VW Darth Vader ad was probably the one I liked the most.

The Government Motors ads were the weakest. Old people muttering about a Chevy Cruze? What the hell are they thinking? In fact, all the car ads were weak.

And the Doritos ad where the dude went around licking people and pulling their pants off was just plain creepy. No Doritos for me, thank you. Also scary was the GoDaddy ad with Joan Rivers.

Bridgestone had some nice ads, with the beaver repaying a favor and with the dude driving all over like crazy to minimize the damage from a "reply all" e-mail message.

The Skechers ad with Kim Kardashian was also good, for obvious reasons! For some reason I can't remember what they were advertising, though!

The Best Buy ad with Ozzy Osbourne was mildly funny. I think he captured the thoughts of many people when he asked (I'm paraphrasing here), "How many bloody G's are there?" Not to mention this gem: "What the hell is a Bieber?"

By the looks of the ads, we are in for some really, really bad movies this summer.

Finally, was that Eminem in a Chrysler ad? Really? I don't know quite what to make of that! Doesn't make much sense to me but it wasn't a bad ad.

The Black Eyed Peas (with Slash and Usher) put on a nice halftime show. Not great, but much better than average by Super Bowl standards. For my money, I think Prince's 2007 performance was the best I've seen. And he did it in the rain--not sure if the rain was purple or not, I couldn't tell on TV. :)

Here is one list of the best halftime shows. From Nerve:
"Ranked: The Super Bowl Halftime Show from Worst to Best"

This list was done before the Peas played. They rank Prince as second-best, which I can live with. Hard to top Michael Jackson, I guess. I still like Prince's show better. I also happen to like U2.