Monday, February 28, 2005

Dickie's Securities

Bruce Schneier once again has an astute observation about security. This time it involves a Swiss Army knife confiscated from a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice:

The TSA likes to measure its success by looking at the forbidden items they have prevented from being carried onto aircraft, but that's wrong. Every time the TSA takes a pocketknife from an innocent person, that's a security failure. It's a false alarm. The system has prevented access where no prevention was required. This, coupled with the widespread belief that the bad guys will find a way around the system, demonstrates what a colossal waste of money it is.

Speaking of security failures, the Seattle Times published yesterday a story on Identity thieves targeting babies and young adults.

Becca Bartelheimer was 3 when her mom tried to open a savings account for her and learned someone had beaten her to it.

The credit union told her someone else was using Becca's Social Security number. The Snohomish mother spent more than 1,000 hours trying to straighten things out and having a hold placed on Becca's credit record.

Andrew Brooke of Bothell was just 3 weeks old when someone using his name walked out of an Edmonds clinic with a prescription painkiller, leaving behind $94 in unpaid medical bills.

Stacy Hayes and her 2-year-old son, Cooper, got a letter from the Snohomish County prosecutor's office last month informing them they were both victims of identity theft. The thief was caught, but no one can tell the Bothell mother how their personal information was stolen.

Dickie's Quickies

As expected, the music industry thinks it's not making enough money from downloaded songs (never mind that they save money on the costs associated with pressing and packaging the product), so they are pressing to raise the prices, particularly on the most popular artists.

Sunday - yard work

A nice, boring Sunday. After catching up on my blog reading and then making my own post, I chatted with John and then albatross, read the newspaper, made a frittata for breakfast and then settled into yard work.

According to the weather forecast, our typical spring rains are supposed to return this week. Los Angeles has been stealing our weather for most of the month of February, which while it has been lovely, has made for low water conditions. Shawn and I expect that the lack of snow pack in the mountains this year will result in water rationing on a small scale this summer. It's made us decide to hold off on landscape planting in our yard and concentrate more on structures, like building borders and beds for the landscape plants.

Seeing the rain return this week, if it does, will be very welcome. One of the reasons I like in the Pacific Northwest of he U.S. is that I like rain. Cloudy days for several days or even weeks in a row do not affect me negatively like it does so many other people. I can do without the extreme temperatures like I had when I lived in the Detroit area, but the Seattle area suits me just fine. As I used to say in Detroit and now say here to the people who cannot take the grey days: piss off and move yourself to some place more in lines with your emotional well being. Since I moved to Seattle and away from Detroit, I feel ultra empowered to say that. Follow my example this time, you dolts. *smirk*

But, I digress - severely. Anticipating the rain, I took care of several tasks that are really meant to be taken care of in February or early March. First, I raked the yard, which needed to be done since I mowed it last week (mowing the yard in February was a bit surreal - I usually don't get to the first mowing until the end of March or early April). Next, I did some yard clean up work that was left over from the fall. This added up to pulling in the remaining 2 tomato cages that once held our tomatillos and cleaning up the herb bed - trimming back the dead bits and pruning the remaining plants to add shape and style to them. Heh, I'm a plant stylist! Take a little off the top, trim up the sides and voila! We have a new fabulous look for the Russian Blue sage.


Next, I pruned the rose bush. This is a job that I have traditionally left to Shawn. She was busy studying for school (thanks to the fact that I had "fixed" her PC connection to our home network...said "fix" meant changing one setting on her notebook). We sometimes leave this task unattended, but I wanted to make certain to get to it this year. We've only had this donated rose bush for 2 years and I want to see it get healthier. I also pruned our clematis plants. We have them trained to grow up the columns on our front porch. One of them grew so large last year that t covered about half of the over hang on the entrance (it was beautiful, too, when it bloomed tiny, white flowers in the fall - a couple of neighbors commented on how pretty it was). According to our books, clematis should be trimmed back to 1.5 to 2.5 feet tall. That's pretty dramatic for the largest of our plants, but I got out the ladder, removed them from the columns and entry way and trimmed them down to the prescribed height. Hopefully, they'll grow back just as aggressively.

Finally, I applied my spring lawn fertilizer to the yard. I use a slow release organic fertilizer that only gets applied once in spring and once in the fall. My next door neighbors fertilize their yard with some standard chemical stuff and apply it often. The grass grows fast, but it doesn't look particularly thick or healthy. Our yard stayed pretty darn green through much of the winter - greener than most in our neighborhood. This year I'm trying out the pre-emergence weed control version of the fertilizer for the yard. According to the hype, if I use it for 2 years running, I'll end up with 80% less weeds in the yard. We'll see how it goes. I've had good experiences with the fertilizers from Garden's Alive, so I'm willing to take a chance on it. One thing that was nice was that the new fertilizer was an orangish yellow color, so I could actually see where it was applied on the yard instead of guessing and could also see how much was applied. Hopefully it will rain today and tomorrow and allow that fertilizer to start getting into the ground and begin working.

I was outside for about 3 hours yesterday doing the yard work. According to the weather channel, we got up to at least 63 degrees. I was guessing that it was the low to mid 60s. I went out with a sweatshirt on, but pulled it off quickly in favor of the t shirt I had on underneath. It was warm!

The yard work behind me, I came in, grabbed a shower, then began thawing some apples. I made an apple crisp for dessert. We don't often have desserts in the house, but an apple crisp sounded right to me as I was doing the yard work. As it turns out, I used the last of the apples we had frozen from last summer. Good deal. Shawn asked how many blueberries we had left and I don't think that we have many of those in the freezer either. We've actually done a pretty good job of emptying the freezer of our frozen sauces, fruits, and veggies this year which means I'm going to be doing a lot of that work this summer in order to re-stock it.

For dinner, I made a small salad, toasted some bread with cheese, and steamed some artichokes in our pressure cooker. To serve with the artichokes, I made a crab dressing using the canned crab I got at Trader Joe's on Friday. The remaining crab will be used for crab Louis salads tonight.

Shawn and I chatted and listened to jazz music on XM radio. When our reception on XM suddenly died for no apparent reason, we switched to listen to the latest album from Paris Combo. Then we listened to an instrumental record featuring some Mexican musicians and Steven Brown of Tuxedomoon that I had bought as a download from a Mexican website. Shawn used the attachment for our KitchenAid food processor to make whipped cream for the first time. It worked really well. We served that over top of the apple crisp.

All in all, another lovely day. A perfect way to relax before this work week. No orders in the shop at the moment, but I'm anticipating one soon from Adam and Eve. I'll just make back stock today, then head off to the gym this afternoon before doing dinner tonight. Should be a piece of cake.

Coming events this week: I've got a ticket to go see The Futureheads at the Crocodile Cafe on Sunday. On Thursday, I'm seriously thinking of going to Town Hall to hear a speech by bell hooks. Here's another resource on the work of bell hooks.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Nice Saturday

It was a beautiful day, yesterday, and I don't just mean the weather. Shawn and I had a lovely time together. We began with a rather mundane trip to Costco for some grocery items. We made it in early (10:00 AM) and got out quickly for under $100. In fact, we would have been way under that if I hadn't grabbed a copy of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Shawn hadn't have snagged a copy of America: The Book (which is hysterical). We'd have been closer to $50 without those items.

Pleased with ourselves, we took the time to seek out a Trader Joe's location a friend had told us about in Kirkland, not far from the Costco. I usually stop at the T-Joe's on Capitol Hill, but this offers another alternative for on the way home. We grabbed a few items from there, mostly frozen lunches for Shawn, and then came back home. As we pulled into the driveway, Shawn mentioned washing her car and offered to do mine as well. We had planned earlier to see a film, so I discouraged the car wash notion as we wouldn't have the time. Instead, Shawn set about doing some dishes and I putzed with other minor chores in the house.

We did go out to see a movie. After discussing it on Friday, we had settled on finally seeing Finding Neverland. The other choices we had on our lists were Bad Education (Almovodar's latest film - we love his work), Million Dollar Baby (we're both Eastwood fans, though I probably enjoy his later work more than Shawn does...this one got nixed because of the downer ending story line), and A Very Long Engagement (which was my preference and which won several Cesar awards yesterday). We decided on Finding Neverland because it was a film we both wanted to see, Johnny Depp is easy on the eyes (as is Kate Winslet, but she hadn't crossed either of our minds, so she apparently ranks lower than Depp on our lust meters), and it probably wouldn't be on the big screen much longer. Plus, it seemed like an enchanting tale that would provide a more upbeat mood for the day than Eastwood's film.

Having not seen Eastwood's film yet, I'm not sure that Neverland has a more upbeat ending, but it certainly is enchanting. Depp gives a terrific, understated performance. I mean, outstanding. Winslet is his equal in the film. The children are spot on as well. The story revolves around the creation of the play, "Peter Pan". We follow writer J.M. Barrie (played by Depp) as he becomes involved with a widow (Winslet) and her family and finds the inspiration for his tale. There are a lot of moments in this film where a writer or a director could have gone over the top dipping into overly sentimental scenes, but none of that happens. All such scenes are treated sensitively, but delicately. There is no heavy hand felt throughout. Editing was crucial in this film, particularly as we see moments where Barrie is playing with the children and the scene flashes back and forth between a make believe world where, for instance, a pirate ship exits, and the "real world" where the kids are really playing tied to a tree in their backyard. This, too, could have distracted terribly if done in the current MTV styles, but instead the editing enhances the production, allowing the viewer to peer into the imaginations of the characters while realizing that it is the imagination.

Without giving away the ending, it is magical and well done, but it is bittersweet. The director and writer did a fine job with it. By the time the film was over, Shawn and I were both weeping. We didn't feel drained however, or down. We felt...full; satisfied. This, too, is because rather than go over the top with the dramatic, the filmmakers decided to go for a more subtle approach that allows the viewer to feel the sadness, but it doesn't overwhelm the completely lovely and enchanting tale one viewed in the previous hour and a half. The ending made sense and the way it was done made for a well-rounded picture.

We left the theater and were immediately blinded by the bright sun. I suggested that we dash next door to a games shop. Wow! The place was packed with people of all ages, mostly male, but quite a few females, playing games, designing game pieces and sets. It was amazing. I had no idea that so many people would gather on a sunny Saturday afternoon to share their enthusiasm for all things gaming. This shop catered to that. There were board games, role playing games, adult games, fantasy games, casino style games, ancient games, traditional games, puzzles galore, and more. After Neverland, it was good to dive in and experience games. This was not really my intention. Rather, I was after a specific pair of games to purchase and I thought that I'd take advantage of being nearby an independent dealer in order to buy them.

I had heard about the 2 games I was after back in December. KUOW broadcast an interview with a Seattle board game enthusiast, Matthew Baldwin, about his recommendations for the best board games of 2004. Two of the games had caught my attention and I vaguely remembered details of them. Since we have disconnected from television in our house, I thought it would be a good time to add to our games collection. We both love backgammon, Yahtzee, and Scrabble, but adding to this group seemed like a good idea.

As I stood in the store, I struggled to remember the names of the games I was interested in. This was a good thing as it allowed Shawn and I to wander the store, soak in the atmosphere - fun, strategy, fantasy, enthusiasm were in the air - and marvel at all of the items that this place carried. Eventually, the name of the game on my list that I always found easier to remember came to my mind: Ticket to Ride. How could I forget The Beatles' tune, huh? LOL. We started combing the store for it and, of course, it was right up front and we had walked past it a couple of times at least. Shortly after that, the other game's name came to mind and I found it as well: BuyWord.

Ticket to Ride is a strategy board game where the idea is to score points by connecting train routes on the board. The game is part luck, as you don't know what routes your opponents have that could earn them bonus points, part strategy, and a whole lot of fun. It's for 2 to 5 players. It's easy to learn and there is no animosity between players as you're not really out to stop anyone else, but rather just trying to gain points for yourself.

BuyWord is a different sort of game altogether. It combines elements of Scrabble with elements of Monopoly. Each player starts with $200. Each round, players are offered the opportunity to buy letters (not of their choosing and the player has to buy all of the letters in front of her or none of them). After they buy their letters (or not) each player then attempts to form a word and sell the word for more money. All words are sold to the bank and no money exchanges hands between players (although, in a variation, this is possible). The one with the most money in the end wins. BuyWord can be played with 1 - 4 players. This game is a little more complicated to learn than Ticket to Ride and it can require a bit of addition and multiplication skills (thought they do provide a cheat sheet) for the scoring, but it isn't that hard to learn at all. Both are quite fun!

After leaving the games store, we came home, discussed the movie, chatted about other things, giggled at America: The Book, listened to Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds, Habib Koite Foly: Live Around the World, and 2 Many DJs. It was a lovely way to end a lovely day.

Today, Shawn's got to study for school. I'm hoping to trim our rose and clematis plants for the year, then fertilize our yard for spring. It should be another lovely, relaxing day. Hopefully, we'll see some more sunshine as it's supposed to rain next week.

Dickie's Quickies

Jerry Brown now has a blog.

American Atheist has a good post on the controversy of posting the Ten Commandments in court houses and public schools. Which version of the commandments should we post? Better question: why not post the prescribed penalties for breaking the commandments?

It's been a while since I went to the Feministe website. I read the posts daily on Bloglines. Love the new look! Can I say that without contradicting my complaints about the WaPo article on Kinda Sleazy Rice's outfits (FWIW - I think it's a ridiculous double standard for anyone to write an "article" on this topic since no one ever wrote about Powell's loafers)? Anyhow, Feministe discusses the Terri Shiavo case and points us to this article in The Guardian. The Shiavo case is tough for many, but for me it's quite easy: let her husband make the decision. This is a family fight and to my mind it has nothing to do with property issues regarding spouses. There are simply some things that I'll tell my partner that I won't tell my other family members, particularly if it would upset them, and I trust her to make death decisions for me. However, we've spelled all of this out in wills and medical power of attorney papers just in case we both end up in such a state and the Shiavo case points exactly to the need for such things.

Missed the opening episode of the new season of Battlestar Galactica? Watch it and deleted scenes on the Sci Fi Channel's website. Commercial free and uncut. Cool.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a profile of John Gilmore, one of the first employees of Sun, writer of UNIX, multi-millionaire, and grounded because he won't show his ID at an airport without at least seeing the law that requires such identification (which people have shown is easily thwarted anyhow). A quote from the article:

"Are they just basically saying we just can't travel without identity papers? If that's true, then I'd rather see us go through a real debate that says we want to introduce required identity papers in our society rather than trying to legislate it through the back door through regulations that say there's not any other way to get around," Gilmore said. "Basically what they want is a show of obedience."

The Unfortunate Animal of the Month Club will deliver mutated dolls to your home of office. Amusing in a sick sort of way.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Feeling Insecure yet?

Another site, Paymaxx revealed SSNs and other data in their W-2 database. Why, one wonders, are these records available online in the first place and, if there is a good reason, why isn't some information, like SSNs, redacted? Although the CNET article indicates that a mere 25,000 names and their attached data were revealed, this article indicates, as in the ChoicePoint debacle, that the number may actually be much higher than that.

Update: According to this ZDNet article, Paymaxx is saying that "only" 6 attempts were made to access their site during the exposure and that it affected "only" 12 companies. Small comfort to those companies' employees, I'm sure. However, the person whose company discovered the security hole claims that his employees made far more than 6 attempts at hacking into the site.

Yet Another DQ

A hamster controlled MIDI machine. Use your habitrail to create beautiful music! Sound samples available on the site.

More DQ's

This brings new meaning to the idea of boning your lover.

Microsoft will give you up to $5 if their anti-spyware product screws up files on your hard drive. How magnanimous is that?

Michelle Malkin - idiot

If you weren't certain of that after reading or hearing her speak on the efficacy of internment of citizens during World War II (her book takes great liberties with facts and omissions), then perhaps you will be certain about this. Choice quote associating music with mutilation:

There is even a new genre of music -- "emo" -- associated with promoting the cutting culture.

Malkin conveniently leaves out the quotes from Christine Ricci in which she declares that cutting was a stupid thing to do.

Does anyone else hear the Pixies song, "Wave of Mutilation" in their head right now? You know, kind of like what Malkin does to news and reporting: mutilate it. Ah, the tie in comes full circle.

Dickie's Quickes

Amsterdam has begun selling sex toys in vending machines. To make them childproof, the machines only accept bank and credit cards. A cry of frustration is heard from Alabama, Georgia, and Texas.

A deal is to be announced on March 1st detailing Yahoo's purchase of Flickr. Flickr, I hardly knew ye.

Some cool things were posted to Boing Boing this week. I'll just offer up my favorites:

The world's coolest knife holder.

A Tiki USB connected portable drive.

A set of odd, but cool Tiki glasses and other items.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dickie's Quickies part deux doo

Microsoft has announced the versions of their new SQL Server 2005 as well as the features each version will have. Looks good.

Attach a vibrator to an XBox for a new twist on the seXtoy. It's a how-to article complete with pictures.


Congress has decided to investigate the ChoicePoint security breach. It's a start...

Firefox version 1.0.1 has been released. It features mainly security fixes. Here are the download links for all platforms in the languages offered, release notes, unofficial changelog, and finally, BitTorrent links.

Dickie's bitchy part 2

Well, this morning I forgot my keys on the way into work. Actually, I hadn't forgotten them. They were in my coat, which I decided not to wear into work today. The coat was in the back seat of my car, but I thought that it was at home, so I headed back there.

Between that and the Microsoft extortion mail this morning (see: Dickie's bitchy below), I was a little grouchy. One of the reasons I head to work so early in the morning is to avoid traffuck. I hate traffuck and the later I go in, the worse it becomes.

After realizing my error, I dashed upstairs to let Shawn know that I was the one who opened the garage door. She was still groggy because I had just woken her up. I kissed her goodbye again and began to leave. She began to get up and looked slightly coherent, so I asked her if she loaded a new program on the PC last night. I had gotten some messages from Microsoft's Anti-spyware tool as well as Ad-Watch by Lavasoft and was wondering why I received them.

She then started to complain that she had gotten a bunch of those messages when she logged into the PC and that she dislikes them. I explained, patiently, that they are there for security reasons and that she should be aware of what the issues are and learn to deal with them as any secure computer user should. She bristled at the thought. Like most users, she sometimes just wants to sit down and use the damn thing and not have to worry about security measures and whether or not to approve them. To make matters worse, she deals with this information "all the time at work" and doesn't want to learn or deal with them at home. *sigh*

Well, this set off my grouchy nature again. I bit my tongue, tried to explain that this wasn't a big deal, that she could download programs and I wouldn't have a problem with it, but that I was just curious about the messages. At this point, I went awry and began to complain about the email from Microsoft mentioned in the earlier bitchy post. Shawn was exasperated. She started feeding on my emotions and reacting to them and she was still fairly asleep. She suggested that I write MSN an email rather than use her as a sounding board because I had one and one, no less, that worked for the company.

Actually, the fact that she works for Microsoft had nothing to do with it, but she was right about the sounding board, about me being grouchy, and about the email. So, this morning I logged into the MSN Hotmail account. I clicked their "Feedback" button and typed up my letter, attempting to use a calm approach and diplomatic language. When I clicked the send button, nothing happened. Soon, an unintelligible error message popped up indicating that some service was not available. I tried it again...and again. By this point, I was amused that this was happening at a time when I wanted to complain. The thought occurred to me that perhaps thousands of MSN email customers were feeling the same way and that our "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" posts had crashed MSN's Hotmail feedback system. That's probably not the case, but it brought a smile to my face and lowered the grouchy factor just a tad.

Having been thwarted from doing the right thing, I decided to open the original mail and hit "Reply". This almost never works. I expect that I'll get a returned email from MSN Hotmail as address unknown. Still it offered me some sort of accomplishment, even if it is ethereal.

Shawn, if you read this, then let me assure you that you were correct. I'm sorry. As proof, here's the email that I tried to send. If I get that email returned, then perhaps I'll try to offer to them again. I'm being a good customer, have been a good customer, would like to continue being a good customer, so I'm letting MSN Hotmail know how I feel about their ploy:


Today in my MSN account inbox, I received a letter with an offer for Outlook Live at a 25% discount. The letter contained in it the following line:

"As an Outlook Live subscriber, not only can you get uninterrupted access to your MSN e-mail accounts from Outlook, but you will also enjoy many other benefits."

This disturbs me. I've owned a hotmail account since 1996 and an MSN account since 2000. My Hotmail addy is even a paid account - the upgrade, for storage purposes. I own the Office Suite of products (the latest versions, for reference) for my PCs, including Outlook and I use Outlook, not Outlook Express, as my email client. I've been quite happy with the service. One of the reasons that I use Outlook is because it offers me the opportunity to receive Hotmail and MSN Hotmail emails in an interface that also receives emails from my ISP account.

What disturbs me about the above quote is the implication that at some point my service may be interrupted if I don't subscribe to Outlook Live. Why should I buy a product that I already own and, as a loyal customer, have kept up to date? What is Microsoft's reasoning behind issuing such a potential threat? If you do cancel my ability to access my account with the current version of Outlook, as opposed to Outlook Live and Outlook Express (I can actually understand your reasoning with the Express product, since it is a free product distributed with your OS), what is the incentive for me to not look at competing office productivity products such as Star Office and Open Office as serious alternatives for the first time in my life? What incentive will I have not to drop my paid Hotmail account and switch everything over to Gmail, which, by the way, does allow Outlook and Outlook Express to access their mail services?

My point is that I've been a loyal and paying customer of Microsoft's for a number of years. I've mostly enjoyed the service I've received from your company. In fact, other than an incident with your customer service for MSN as an ISP, I've never had a problem. Therefore, there has been no incentive for me to consider competing services or products - until now. The email I received, complete with the line quoted above, does not bode well for my continuing support.

Like most people, I'm rather complacent once I receive a product or service with which I'm happy. It takes quite a nudge to motivate me to look to other options. The quote above certainly has motivated me to consider my options for products and services such as Office, Hotmail, and MSN Hotmail. Should you decide to discontinue my access to the email accounts with Outlook, forcing me to buy Outlook Live (as opposed to just continuing Outlook access and offering Outlook Live as the version in the next Office Suite), then not only will I consider other products, but I'll actively seek them out. As far as I can tell right now, Outlook Live does not add any great value to me and yet, you want to charge me extra money for that lack of value. It's ridiculous.

I hope that Microsoft realizes the error here and corrects it. I would like to continue offering you business beyond buying operating systems. However, if it continues down this path, I will not be able to do this because there will be competitors who offer the same products at a much lower price. I suspect that many other customers feel the same way that I do. It is not a good business model to promote a new product by insulting the customer base that currently uses your older products.

Thank you,

Dickie's Quickies

On the seriously less bitchy side (see post below), there's a new theme for Firefox and it's the shizzle. Meet PimpZilla.

Dickie's bitchy

It's not like I didn't see this coming, but it's one of those things that is highly annoying.

This morning, I opened up my email, as per my usual routine, and my MSN mail account had an email from Microsoft. Normally, I browse those emails for a quick delete. Usually, they are trying to sell me an upgrade. This morning, however, I decided to open the email because a couple of week's ago their service stopped working for me with no explanation. I sent them an email. The service began working again 2 days later, but I never received a reply to my email. Thanks for the customer service, MSN! *shrugs*

Instead of finding some sort of explanation or an upgrade offer, this email contained an extortion letter. Basically, MSN and Hotmail are discontinuing POP3 service for any new accounts opened with them. This means that users who open any new accounts - it doesn't matter if you already have an account and open a new one - will not be able to use either Outlook or Outlook Express to read their mail. Instead, they will be forced to use the web interface OR, and here is where the extortion comes in, subscribe to Outlook online (for the low, low price of only $59.95, but wait! There's more! If you're an existing MSN or Hotmail customer, then you'll be able to subscribe, for a limited time only, to Outlook online for only $44.95. That's a savings of 25%. Can you believe that?!! What a deal!).

Why is this extortion? Well, this line should explain it:

As an Outlook Live subscriber, not only can you get uninterrupted access to your MSN e-mail accounts from Outlook, but you will also enjoy many other benefits.

The implication being that if I subscribe, I'll get uninterrupted service, but should I choose not to subscribe, then my service may be interrupted. So, let me get this straight, Microsoft: One of the reasons that I bought and use your mail software, Outlook (not Outlook Express, mind you, but the big mutha), was because it allows me to connect to my Hotmail and MSN accounts in an interface that also allows me to connect to my other mail accounts. Now you're suggesting that I purchase another version of Outlook in order to continue receiving this service? Oh, and for the record, I bought this as part of your Office Suite of products. The price for "upgrading" my Office Suite is no small matter. If you block my access to my MSN and/or Hotmail accounts because I need to buy yet another version of Outlook, then what is my incentive during the next upgrade NOT to switch to StarOffice or OpenOffice?!!?

Hey, and while I'm at it, one of the accounts I currently look at with my copy of Outlook is a Google mail account (gmail). They don't offer as much storage or throughput, but let me tell ya, it's more than I had a year ago. Plus, their banner ads are not intrusive in the least. In fact, I like their service a lot. What's the incentive to prevent me from switching to an open source client, say, um, Thunderbird (which is very nice, thank you) and taking my paid (yes, PAID) Hotmail business and my MSN account over to GMail and Thunderbird? I've owned the same Hotmail addy since 1996 - before Microsoft owned Hotmail, but I'm more than willing to toss it aside and switch my subscriptions over if you threaten, yes - threaten, my user habits with denying my Outlook access.

To make matters worse for you, Microsoft, I've been in the process of building a new PC for my home. Despite the fact that my partner works for your company, I've been wondering if I actually want to invest in a copy of the Office Suite, including Outlook. I mean, even though she gets a BIG discount at the company store, I've been wondering whether or not the other office products mentioned above might be worth a look. Of course, until today, I've had no great motivating factor to seriously consider switching. It was, until I received your email, just idle speculation. Now, you've provided me with a serious reason to consider switching. I suppose Sun and OpenOffice should send you a box of chocolates as a thank you.

Yea, I'm ticked.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dickie's Securities

The Economist has a fine new article on how biometrics may fail as a border crossing tool. Instead of making the passage across state borders quicker, they might actually slow things down.

There's a new virus in town that spreads itself via an attachment. The new part is that the email purports to come from the FBI and it warns the reader that she may have been monitored looking at illegal sites.

Update on ChoicePoint's security breach: Bruce Schneier has some fine words on the topic.

Dickie's Quickies

The Supreme Court will not take up the serious issues in the Alabama Sex Toy case. Note to CNN: this is a serious legal discussion, should it be filed under "Fun Money"? This is not just about commerce, but rather also about individual rights, especially the right to privacy. Do you want to give government control or discretion about what goes on in your bedroom (or bathroom, living room, garage, utility room, etc)?

Security Focus has a good article on what needs to be done to address more troubling issues within Windows in specific and computer management in general.

The Russian music site is now under investigation by Russian authorities for possible copyright infringements. Decision to press charges will be March 7th. The RIAA has been pushing for this for a long time, now. One thing about the site that has always impressed me was their model for business in a digital world. They charge per megabyte of downloaded material (essentially charging for bandwidth) as opposed to per song. After all, an album may contain 1 tune or it may contain 20 tunes. Since the user is providing the materials for burning and any possible cover art, it makes sense to me to disassociate the price charged from the number of tracks (or even from the album, since they will be relics in the digital age). Perhaps these folks weren't charging enough for their downloads and perhaps they thwarted copyright laws, but I still think that their model was/is one to contend with.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Windows XP Pro 64x

Some readers may know that I've been considering building my next PC. I've decided to go with a 64 bit processor, probably AMD as Intel will be too much money when it (finally) comes out. I've been toying with putting Windows XP Pro 64-bit edition on the PC as my operating system. As this report by Paul Thurrott points out, I may want to hold off on that considering the software and hardware concerns he raises. I'm in no rush.

Nina Hagen live in Seattle

Nina Hagen is playing Seattle on Thursday, March 10th at Neumo's. It is being billed as her "50th Universal Bearthday Concert Bash" . It ain't cheap. She's charging $20 for pre-day of show tix. Still, I saw Nina perform during the 80s and it was a VERY entertaining night. FWIW, she's also playing Portland at Dante's the following Saturday as part of the same concept.

Dickie's Quickies

Just a couple of notes thus far: Bruce Schneier has a link up to a quote attributed to the late Hunter S. Thompson. It's a nice quote on security and the state of man and, in part, it reads:

Let us visualize the secure man; and by this term, I mean a man who has settled for financial arid personal security for his goal in life. In general, he is a man who has pushed ambition and initiative aside and settled down, so to speak, in a boring, but safe and comfortable rut for the rest of his life. His future is but an extension of his present, and he accepts it as such with a complacent shrug of his shoulders. His ideas and ideals are those of society in general and he is accepted as a respectable, but average and prosaic man. But is he a man? has he any self-respect or pride in himself? How could he, when he has risked nothing and gained nothing? What does he think when he sees his youthful dreams of adventure, accomplishment, travel and romance buried under the cloak of conformity? How does he feel when he realizes that be has barely tasted the meal of life; when he sees the prison he has made for himself in pursuit of the almighty dollar? If he thinks this is all well and good, fine, but think of the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time. A man is to be pitied who lacked the courage to accept the challenge of freedom and depart from the cushion of security and see life as it is instead of living it second-band. Life his by-passed this man and he has watched from a secure place, afraid to seek anything better What has he done except to sit and wait for the tomorrow which never comes?

Speaking of security, one can never be too safe from those drug dealers...especially when the dealer is 6 years old...and it's fake drugs made from clover, dirt, and rocks. See the news report here and a commentary here.

Monday, February 21, 2005

And the moral of this tale is..?

Maybe it's, "Don't engage in an affair with a woman sharing the house with you and your wife"? about, "Don't attempt to break up with someone and then have make-up sex immediately afterwards"? Couldn't be that...perhaps it's "Don't engage in light bondage with your ex immediately following said break-up attempt"?

In any case, the Anchorage Daily News reports today of a man who did all of the above. While his arm was tied securely to his window handle, his former lover cut off his penis and flushed it down the toilet where it lodged in the S curve of the plumbing. Police later recovered the penis and surgeons re-attached it.

At least the woman had the manners to drive her victim to the hospital. Read the rest here.

Dickie's Quickies

The big news today: Hunter S. Thompson is dead. Registration is required for the NY Times obit, so here's one from CTV in Canada and one from The Seattle Times.

Update: Susie Bright has a lovely tribute to Hunter today. She has voiced some of the same thoughts that I've been wondering: that perhaps he just chose to check out of this world. To do so is a valid option and one I hope to be able to do when I get older (with my loved ones near by). I've watched many loved ones die of a variety of debilitating illnesses. If Hunter did check out as Susie suggests (in order to avoid illness), then I admire him for his actions.

Speaking of the NY Times, they had a great editorial yesterday tearing apart the concept of "intelligent design" (the creationist's theory that the universe is so completely in sync that someone must have been behind it's creation). Here's a good quote from it:

The gravest imperfections in nature, though, are moral ones. Consider how humans and other animals are intermittently tortured by pain throughout their lives, especially near the end. Our pain mechanism may have been designed to serve as a warning signal to protect our bodies from damage, but in the majority of diseases -- cancer, for instance, or coronary thrombosis -- the signal comes too late to do much good, and the horrible suffering that ensues is completely useless.

And why should the human reproductive system be so shoddily designed? Fewer than one-third of conceptions culminate in live births. The rest end prematurely, either in early gestation or by miscarriage. Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception. Souls bearing the stain of original sin, we are told, do not merit salvation. That is why, according to traditional theology, unbaptized babies have to languish in limbo for all eternity. Owing to faulty reproductive design, it would seem that the population of limbo must be at least twice that of heaven and hell combined.

I love this last bit because, as I've often said, if one believes in God and hates abortion, then one should hate God for (s)he is the greatest abortion practitioner in history. We use a different euphemism for it, "miscarriage", but in the end, the act is the same.

Good news, IMO, on the security front when it comes to your digital dossier. The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Home Despot (my name for them) has lost an appeal in a $1 million lawsuit filed by a man whose credit was marred by an identity thief and Home Despot wouldn't help out in capturing the person, preventing further damage, or any other measure even though they were an active participant (a pawn, but definitely participating in it). In fact, according to the article, Home Despot ignored the whole thing until sheriffs showed up at their bank trying to collect the judgment. Good deal. Maybe this will open the eyes of other companies and our legislators. One can hope that it's a start.

Finally, Slashdot reports that pop-up ads are on the rise again. Apparently the ad makers have finally developed a way around the pop-up blocking capabilities of most browsers. Fun, fun....

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Who is archiving bloggers?

Shawn pointed me to this short article on blogging during the Iraq War. One of her colleagues in the UW Library School is the co-author. Towards the end of the article, it raises a really interesting question:

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is no organized archiving of this information. A task for librarians and archivists and historians and news source devotees awaits.

This really is a task that needs to be addressed. After all, many bloggers consider themselves part of a group of new media outlets. Other media outlets are archived, indexed, and infinitely searchable. Who is doing this in the blogosphere? Who is preserving this for future historical reference? Whether or not one believes the hype about bloggers being part of the new independent press, this is a cultural phenomenom that is worth preserving. Fifty years hence, when a student wants to report on societal views and trends, she'll be able to pull up video, newspapers and magazines, audio recordings, and other items. But will she be able to access blogs?

Dickie's Quickies

Microsoft has published "A Parent's Primer to Computer Slang". It's a classic text somewhat reminiscent of the public service ads from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s that purport to spread the knowledge of current slang to find out if your kid is using drugs, listening to hedonist music (either jazz or rock 'n' roll), your white kid was hanging out with black kids, etc. The subtitle of this article is "Understand how your kids communicate online to help protect them". I'm sure that learning the words "dOOd" and "m4d sk1llz" is going to go a long way towards that.

Speaking of communications, my friend at The Aerie has a good commentary on Peggy Noonan and the right wing control of the media. In the piece, he notes that the Jeff Gannon story " conspicuously missing from most mainstream media." True enough! I cannot find a comparison I saw online right now, but someone has done a tabulation of the times the story has been mentioned since it broke through Thursday and Fox News has only mentioned it twice while CNN hasn't done much better. I avoid those snooze programs and watch The Countdown on MSNBC where Keith Olbermann has mentioned the story almost nightly. In fact, Olbermann blogged about it Thursday. The Countdown is one thing I'll miss when I dump my television viewing.

Speaking of The Countdown, if you'll scroll down Olbermann's blog, you'll note the February 12th entry in which Keith complains about the recent Christos art installation in Central Park called The Gates. In Olbermann's opinion, "They look like crap." Olbermann, in my opinion, has made entirely too much out of this on his show and it's becoming tiresome. Though I'll miss it on Monday (see the above link regarding dumping broadcast television), I'd like to suggest to Keith that he try a more humorous approach like this parody or this one.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

This morning, Fleshbot had a headline which read: "Linus Sex Positions" Imagine my surprise and chagrin when, instead of pictures of the Peanut's character with Sally, I got pictures of penguins (apparently, not gay) in Kama Sutra positions! Mildly amusing joke (referring to Torvalds) in a geeky way.

Reason offers up a commentary on covenant marriages. I know why liberals are so upset about these things, however I cannot get myself worked up about them. As someone who believes that the state shouldn't even be involved in marriage, but rather enforcing contract laws, I don't have a problem with these relationships. There's no reason, however, to spread the distorted notion (as this article does) that marriage contracts are easier to get out of than ones involving cars. That simply isn't true and spreading such lies does nothing to further your worthy cause. Yes, I think it's a worthy cause for people to be free to design their own marriage contracts (even if I think the terms of the covenant marriages are too burdensome for myself). I just want the state to get out of the way and let people be even more creative in developing such contracts.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dickie's Spyware Update

Microsoft has released Beta Two of it's Anti-spyware program with improved real time protection engines and greater stability. Download it here. It does require IE to download with ActiveX turned on and a licensed copy of Windows.

Dickie's Securities Update

Update: On Tuesday, I reported on ChoicePoint - a firm that gathers data on consumers and provides it to insurance companies, financial firms, etc. Basically, ChoicePoint builds a digital dossier on consumers including names, addresses, social security and other numbers as well as job histories. Businesses subscribing to ChoicePoint can then obtain that information to, for instance, decide whether or not to extend credit, etc. However, some thiefs decided to register as legitimate businesses and for seven months had access to records on tens of thousands of people. At least one identity theft has been reported and more are expected to follow.

Yesterday, ChoicePoint, who had announced that they would inform 35,000 California residents of the possible theft (as required by California state law) was dithering about whether or not they'd inform anyone else. Today they announced that 145,000 people will receive a letter notifying them of the possible theft of their data.

The short form of punishment for this crime is to go after the criminals. The next form of punishment to be handed out will likely come from a class action lawsuit against ChoicePoint. What should the next proposed actions be after punishment is meeted out?

For one thing, those consumers who receive these letters should be provided clear and extensive information on how to manage their digital dossiers. They should be informed what to look for in credit reports, how to change PINS, passwords, and accounts. These consumers need to find ways to mitigate the potential problems as much and as quickly as possible.

After that, laws need to be written that provide individuals with greater control over their digital dossiers and that restrict, in a meaningful way, how companies may share data as well as what data they may share and consumers should have meaningful tools to be involved in companies' abilities to share that data. Companies involved would not just be those in the financial world, but all aspects of data gathering including your grocery store and online retailers like Now, most consumers will agree to sharing and compiling data on them if it enriches their shopping experience or their pocketbooks, but there should be ways that allow consumers to limit how this data is used. Consumers should also be better informed as to what's being gathered and how it all pieces together. The government should be in charge of this, perhaps with the assistance of some of the companies that gather this data (that would include virtually all retailers on the internet, since the internet's primary purpose has become information gathering and marketing with some retailers actually making more money selling their customer databases than selling goods online).

What's really interesting about the ChoicePoint case is how primitive the breach of security was. ChoicePoint never did a check to find out if these thiefs represented legitimate businesses. And that exposes another part of the real crime here: that there is no law or standard methodology requiring companies to follow basic security protocols when managing your data. It's a common joke these days to discuss how everything about you is now public thanks to the internet (it's not true, by the's a bit like walking into a person's home and looking at the books on their shelves as well as their music collection and assuming that you know everything about her, but that's another topic). Most people blow it off without really considering the consequences. We assume that through some protective measures of our own that we'll be safe. After all, the law and companies' "good will" will work to safe guard our interests as well. Sadly, this is not the case and it is a greater burden to the victim than you might imagine. Just ask anyone whose been the victim of identity theft. They are the victims of both the thieves and are further victimized by a bureacratic system that is burdensome to deal with and change. Once that bogus data exists on your reports somewhere, it is extremely difficult to remove. In fact, it can take years.

Dickie's Quickies

Not much to report on thus far, but have you heard of the Monkey Rocker? It's a sex device for people who have some sort of injury that prevents them from using the missionary position...or people who like fucking machines...or the just downright curious.

My favorite factoid about the Harmony System: The purchase price, which ranges from $695 to $1,600, may be tax deductible with a doctor's note stating it's a necessary "adaptive aid for daily living."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dropped Cable Television

I gave Shawn a chocolate bar, a bouquet of flowers, made bouillabaisse and chenna in a cardamom sauce for her Valentine's Day presents. She made me a Tuscan bean soup on Saturday as an early present (excellent, by the way) and gave me tulips on the actual day. It made sense because I get off work earlier than Shawn and have the time to make dinner. Actually, since I went out to see Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (excellent show!) perform on Sunday night, I took Monday off work, so I had plenty of time to pull everything together.

There was one other gift that I gave both of us for Valentine's Day: I dropped cable television service. In our area, we cannot view a television station without cable (or the use of an antenna, which I'm not putting on our roof), so in essence, I canceled television altogether. Now, I realize that this is causing some anxiety in some readers, but let me assure you that we will survive without the idiot box.

We had several reasons for going through with this. For one thing, we really didn't come close to watching most of the channels. We were paying a lot of digital cable from Comcast and, at most, we watched maybe 10 stations on a semi-regular basis. That's a lot of cash for very little in return.

Secondly, most shows come out on DVD pretty quickly, so anything that we might be interested in, we could probably rent soon after it aired. Think of the time saved by not having to schedule regular weekly viewings or setting up the VCR!

Third, Shawn won't be using the service much anyhow while she is in school. Now that I'm working again, I find that I'm using the service less and less. More often, I'm turning on the stereo and getting to reading one of the books that has piled up on my "To Read" shelves.

Making this decision has seemed to provoke interesting reactions from several people close to us. For instance, some people are worried about our finances. Let me assure you, we can afford television; we just don't want to afford it. We'll spend some of the money on other services (such as VoIP phone service at some point) and save some of the rest to eventually go towards landscaping or a vacation or retirement.

Other people seem to be worried about us having the appropriate cultural references - as if only watching the idiot box will provide those for us. Hey, folks, I got along for years without watching Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Sex in the City, and other programs. In fact, when I have watched them, I find most of what I see to be a huge disappointment - sort of like wasting my time and money seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Bottom line is that this, along with some other changes, is just a personal choice for us. I don't look down on people who choose to watch television often. I expect the same respect in return and want to assure folks that there's nothing to fear by a black screen. The cable will be turned off this coming week - on the 22nd.

Calling Comcast to cancel my subscription was an amusing exercise. Clearly, the young man who answered the phone was not prepared to be dealing with someone who was willing, in fact - looked forward, to live without television. The conversation went something like this:

"We could offer you the ability to get the local channels for only
$5/month for 6 months if that would help keep you?"

"No, thank you. I'm not interested."

"But, how will you get your news? What will you do if there's an
emergency?" Andy said, both in wonderment and surprise, along with a
hint of fear in his voice.

"I'll use ancient devices known as a newspaper and a radio."

"Wow, that's hard core."

"I usually prefer hard core over soft core."


"What will you do with yourself without a little television?"

"Read. Take Hikes. Work in the garden. Write. Screw."

"Excuse me?!?"

"Yea, hard to believe that screwing is more important to me than
television, isn't it?"

Lest you think we're completely mad, keep in mind that we're not throwing out the set. We'll still rent and watch DVDs on occasion and there's always the internet to turn to for what I call "interactive television". Andy, the Comcast kid, also asked me what, during an emergency, would I do if the internet went down and I pointed out to him that television probably wouldn't be of use during such an event either. He had never considered that. We have and we can live with, or rather "without", it.

"Unelected Judges"

Anyone who pays attention to politics will have heard the phrase "unelected judges" being used more often lately. My most recent encounter was someone who was complaining about gay rights. This person apparently disagreed with the decisions by the courts in Vermont, Massachusetts, and, perhaps, New York and Washington state.

I wonder if people who use this phrase really understand what they are saying and/or implying, particularly when it comes to gay rights. For instance, the judges who made these rulings are state judges, not federal ones. The difference is important. Federal judges do tend to be appointed by our legal representatives in Congress - that's how our Republic works. Federal judges do not undergo further review once they are appointed, but they can be impeached or Congress can pass laws that overturn a judge's decision if they disagree with that decision. Again, that's how our form of democracy is meant to operate.

However, state judges play a different role in our republic. States themselves set the rules for how their judges attain their positions. Those rules are laid out in the state constitutions. In most states in this country, state judges are elected. In most of the states where they are not elected, the judges undergo a periodic review system that incorporates some semblance of democratic process. In other words, the people who reside in states where gay discrimination in marriage has been ruled illegal can decide not to re-elect the judges who participated in those rulings. Thus far, no such outcry exists in those states; at least, not one that is large enough to overturn those decisions and therefore, democracy is working.

Of course, this cuts both ways, democracy is also working in the states that pass constitutional amendments that codify marriage laws that discriminate against gay couples. And the so-called Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress allows those states to practice their discriminatory laws regardless of what is ruled legal in states that disagree. This is also democracy in action. Democracy is not a process that rubber stamps the perceived righteous positions of each individual, but rather it is a long, drawn out process that demands compromise and frequently incurs setbacks before moving slowly forward towards generally positive change. Much as I abhor the amendments in Michigan, Montana, and elsewhere, these are only part of the process for which I try to keep my spirits up by taking a longer view of the world.

And that's where I differ from the people who use the phrase "unelected judges" or even "activist judges" (the latter being so devoid of any real meaning one wonders what point the people who utter it are trying to make...being a judge means making decisions between 2 or more parties who matter what decision is made, the judge is being an is the nature of the job). I'm not looking for a quick fix of rhetoric to fire up my backers or satiate my whims or to promote my righteous views. Rather, I'm looking for the long view, the one that takes time, is full of highs and lows, and the one that is often very ugly at times - even some times violent.

In other words, I respect and honor our democratic republic and the Constitution on which it is founded. I doubt very much that those who expose their disdain for this process by using phrases such as "unelected judges" either understand this process nor do they respect it. Perhaps anyone who utters such phrases should be required to take or re-take a course on government. And if that person is a member of government, perhaps that person should be removed by her constituents for she clearly does not understand the job to which she has been elected.

Dickie's Quickies

The Angry Homo has a good rant. I love the term, "freedumentalist".

Check out the tracks for Ska for the Skeptical. Some good stuff for free downloads here. I hope someone puts it on BitTorrent.

Microsoft has announced that they will make their anti-spyware software free to licensed Windows users. Good for them for doing the right thing. I mean, if their product wasn't broken in the first place, we wouldn't need this software and then they could charge for it without qualms, right?

Finally, in other Microsoft news, Bruce Schneier reports on a technical report that sketches out a possible prototype of a tool for combating trojans, keyloggers and such. If Microsoft doesn't build it, then someone else should.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dickie's Securities

Yet another report of identity theft from a company that maintains data on you. Once again, you may not know the company has the data and you have no control over it's use. But it's you that suffers the consequences. Hopefully, people will start to sue the companies who provide this data when their identities are stolen. I imagine that this is what it will take for legislation and security issues to be taken seriously - not that our legislators understand these issues, but at least it will get their attention.

Dickie's Quickies

Bruce Schneier makes the case for needing to control your own data and that the problem is, in part, a legal one. That's the same argument I've made here and it is the same one made in The Digital Person - a book I read based on Schneier's recommendation.

Reason online has a story on gun control as it was implemented by white, conservative racists in the Southeast US following the Civil War. It's an interesting article that argues for less gun control. It follows the line of reasoning that a well-armed populace is the greatest protection against an oppressive government. I understand that argument and appreciate it, but in the days of missiles, I think it is a tad dated. I'd love to say I favor a ban on guns altogether, but that is a Utopian dream. Now that Pandora is out of the box, some reasonable buying limits are the best that I think we can hope for. What is really needed is a major societal change in the attitudes regarding reasonable gun use and that is a long term project.

Annanova reports that a baker in Belgium is being sued for selling erotic cakes which feature different sexual positions, but no genitals. From the article:

But the woman, a neigbour of the shop, says putting them in the window is like exposing children to pornography.

Finally, a Swedish woman found a penis in a new ketchup bottle. The short article contains such gems as the following quotes:

"It looked like a penis, of an adult if it's human, and medium sized," the mother told news agency AFP."


"The object is currently being examined by police."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Security and sex

First, the security news. Readers may have noticed my concern for the law and privacy issues lately. My concerns revolve around the fact that the law hasn't kept up properly with privacy concerns. What happens, for instance, when a third party has data on you and you have no control over what that data is or how it is managed? What happens if you don't even know that party has the data in the first place? Are they liable for mishandling your data?

Think that these questions are just ones of paranoid delusions? Well, you might want to ask what some former Defense Secretaries and top level security analysts in the US thinks about these "paranoid" scenarios. From the Washington Post (subscription required):

Some of the nation's most influential former military and intelligence officials have been informed in recent days that they are at risk of identity theft after a break-in at a major government contractor netted computers containing the Social Security numbers and other personal information about tens of thousands of past and present company employees.

The contractor, employee-owned Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, handles sensitive government contracts, including many in information security. It has a reputation for hiring Washington's most powerful figures when they leave the government, and its payroll has been studded with former secretaries of defense, CIA directors and White House counterterrorism advisers.

Those former officials -- along with the rest of a 45,000-person workforce in which a significant percentage of employees hold government security clearances -- were informed last week that their private information may have been breached and they need to take steps to protect themselves from fraud.

David Kay, who was chief weapons inspector in Iraq after nearly a decade as an executive at SAIC, said he has devoted more than a dozen hours to shutting down accounts and safeguarding his finances. He said the successful theft of personal data, by thieves who smashed windows to gain access, does not speak well of a company that is devoted to keeping the government's secrets secure.

"I just find it unexplainable how anyone could be so casual with such vital information. It's not like we're just now learning that identity theft is a problem," said Kay, who lives in Northern Virginia...

The stolen information included names, Social Security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and records of financial transactions. It was stored in a database of past and present SAIC stockholders. SAIC is one of the nation's largest employee-owned companies, with workers each receiving the option to buy SAIC stock through an internal brokerage division known as Bull Inc.

Haddad said the company has been trying through letters and e-mails to get in touch with everyone who has held company stock within the past decade, though he acknowledged that hasn't been easy since many have since left the company.

He said the company would take steps to ensure stockholder information is better protected in the future, but he declined to be specific.

The theft comes at a time when the company, which depends on the federal government for more than 80 percent of its $7 billion annual revenue, is already under scrutiny for its handling of several contracts.

No worries, though, folks. Based on how I read this story, it's only of dire concern to important people. The other 45,000 employees plus ex-employees and other stock holders, need not be concerned.

Now, onto sex: Do you have what it takes to be a sex champion? It's a virtual game. Why do I get the feeling, not having looked at the game, that this is a male oriented concept of what a "sex champion" is?

This just in from Zimbabwe: A female athlete has grown back her penis! Well, at least it's a creative tale. Beats the old, "They stole my identity" tale.

Dickie's Quickies

This is getting reported widely on the mass media and the web: There are penguins who participate in homosexual relationships. Big deal, you say? Well, I agree, but the fuss over this suggests exactly how willfully ignorant many people are when it comes to sexuality. The reason there is a fuss is approached from a couple of different angles: First, the queer community uses it as an affirmation that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather is part of the genetic make up of the individual (this example may purport to show that, but how much choice does a penguin have?). Secondly, and conversely, the fundamentalists are worried that this is an example that homosexuality may have genetic origins, hinting that, in fact, it is part of "God's plan", and are trying to debunk this story as the penguins have been nurtured into this. What it comes down to is the old nature versus nurture debate which is a debate far removed from reality (seeing things in black and white when it is all a muddled grey).

It also highlights ignorance in another fashion (the willful ignorance mentioned above). People who live with animals or people who know such people commonly refer to the "gay" actions of their pets be they dogs, cats, pigs, etc. Sometimes this is meant in a humorous manner, like when I was at a friend's place last weekend and she referred to one of her cats as queer because he especially likes to gain the attention of her male house guests. However, if you hang around animals long enough and spend enough time with them, people do see times when homosexual behaviour is practiced and, depending upon the species, this can be a lifetime behaviour.

Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel prize winning scientist, noted in his book, On Aggression, published in 1966 that some geese that mate for life mate with members of the same sex. He does not attempt to explain this behaviour, but he does note it and details a couple of experiences. Did you see that published date? "1966"! Why is the "news" about the penguins news at all? My conclusions? People are willfully ignorant of their environment, people do not spend enough time with animals, people like to impose their politics on other humans and like to deny that we're animals, too. These observations apply to the queer community as well as the fundamentalists.

I didn't spend much time with animals until my teens onward, but I read this book in the mid 80s. Sure, I was amazed at the observations and probably had the same reactions as many queers do to the penguin story. My question today is why, 20 years (for me and now nearly 40 years for others) after Lorenz published those observations and decades of anecdotal observations by pet owners, did I consider it revelatory? Why do we feel it's revelatory today? Why isn't this taught in biology in public schools? It's ridiculous that it's not taught.

Changing the subject, Flickr is making some news today on the blogs. It's a photo sharing site that is free and easy to use. You can upload photos from your PC or your cell phone and share them publicly or privately amongst friends. You can add metadata to the photos and your friends/family can add notes and tags that reveal themselves when you highlight areas of the photos. You can use it to post photos to blogs. It supports RSS and Atom feeds, so people using aggregators can be updated automatically when your albums have been added to or updated. It's a pretty cool idea.

Speaking of aggregators, my friend, Superpuppy, has invited me to join Rojo. I'll let their description stand below. I'm going to sign up and see what it's like. It sounds pretty cool.

Rojo is a new FREE service for discovering, reading, and sharing Internet news and information. Rojo lets you view information from a wide variety of major news sources, special interest publications and the emerging world of weblogs and RSS in an easy to use digest. You can easily customize Rojo to view only the information that is of interest to you. Sign up for your FREE Rojo account!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Dickie's Securities

No, not the monetary kind. More along the lines of security, privacy, the internet, and legal ramifications in a world gone mad and driven by ignorance.

Bruce Schneier reports on poorly designed authentification methods, ie - why don't they expire? You know, those names and passwords you're forced to create to belong to a message board or to buy something from somewhere. People are generally pretty lazy with those things and once someone knows one set of data from one site, then they can probably get into other sites. Bruce is more concerned with the personal liability incurred for "owning" that username and password. Good points. I recently resigned from a message board and the only way I could resign completely was to contact the administrator and ask him to remove my data or, I logged in and changed my data to something useless. If the administrator was any good, his database will still contain my old data. I happen to somewhat trust this individual, but I'd be SOL if I didn't. (SOL is not an acronym for some programming, well, maybe it is). Anyhow, good article, as usual, from Bruce.

Here's an interesting concept: you may incur lighter penalties if you actually steal that DVD title you covet rather than downloading it off of the internet. (This is where madness driven by ignorance comes in, but if you really needed to be told that, then it's too late for you). An excerpt:

For stealing the DVD you could face no more than up to 1 year imprisonment and up to a $100,000 fine; for downloading the same material you could face statutory damages of up to $3,300,000, costs and attorney's fees (ie: the other guy's attorneys), as well as up to 1 year imprisonment, and up to a $100,000 fine.

Geek Dick

NVU 0.81 web editing software is out.

Yahoo Toolbar for Firefox on Windows is out now in beta form. Yet another sign that Firefox has become a player in the browser world.

Political Dick: Reason Magazine's blog points to a Cato Institute study which suggests that the Medicare drug benefit, the cost of which the administration admitted today was 25% higher than their previous estimate which was kept secret while Congress was told it would cost much less during passage of the bill, may cost even more. Much more. Here's a link to the actual report from Cato (note that they are suggesting that the program is in an even more dire state than Social Security).

Extra Dick

Apparently, the FAA had quite a bit more information about possible terrorist attacks prior to 9/11 than was previously disclosed. The 9/11 commission had access to this information, but chose not to share it in their report. Do you think that the Bush administration is going to accept some responsibility or will they blame this as a failure of the FAA as if the organization exists with no employees?

Dickies Quickies

Or not, as there are a lot of things to report this morning. First, if you use Norton Antivirus, particularly one older than Norton AV 2005, run live update right away. Symantec has announced a patch for a serious flaw that allows virus to come onto your PC via email or the internet that it's product won't catch without the patch. The patch is like a second virtual condom for your system.

In other security news, Truste, the self-policing business communities guarantor of privacy rights, has yanked it's stamp of approval from the company operating Why? According to the article:

TRUSTe said Gratis violated promises involving the protection of children's information and changed how it managed the private information of its customers without adequately notifying them. But TRUSTe said that, due to a confidentiality agreement, it could not disclose exactly how Gratis had violated any agreements.

That Gratis would change the privacy agreement without notifying customers is unsurprising. Such agreements are common in the marketing world along with a clause warning consumers that it may be changed at any moment and that the consumer should check back often to re-read the agreement to see if it has changed. You don't know that, of course, because you never read the pages of mumbo jumbo that are printed there, but trust me, it happens. The bigger smelling pile of crap here is the fact that Truste has a confidentiality agreement in place and won't discuss this openly. What kind of policing is that?!!? Consumers who may find that this privacy invasion is eggregious need to know what is being done with their personal information. They may want to take legal recourse (hence, the need for the agreement from Gratis' view in the first place). This is but one example of why the law needs to be changed to reflect the public's interests as regards privacy in the internet age.

CNet has launched a competitor to RSS aggregators such as Bloglines. Seeing as the latter has been bought by Ask Jeeves and I don't know how they will change it yet, I might take a look at Newsburst. If Bloglines changes come and I don't like them, then I'll be looking to switch.

There's a drag and drop BitTorrent creator out! Yay!!!!

Was Popeye a marijuana user? I don't believe it, but I find it amusing.

Jeff Gannon, conservative political performance artist, as reported online here, here, and here. If anyone doubts that this administration's use of propaganda and lies has reached all time highs compared to other adminstrations, this story, along with the Armstrong Williams story and the earlier reports of departments issuing fake news stories, should put that to rest. Sure, I believe politicians lie to us and often, but they typically do it themselves or through their acknowledged staffers.

Congrats to the Scissor Sisters, Franz Ferdinand, and Joss Stone for their wins at the Brit Awards last night!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dickies Quickies

Dr. James Dobson is creepy. Especially when he suggests that parents who think that their daughters are weird should track their daughter's menstrual cycles.

I strongly recommend that parents of strong-willed and rebellious females, especially, quietly keep track of the particulars of their daughters’ menstrual cycles.

Anyone know where one can buy those menstrual cycle monitors that can be attached to their kids and not removed? *shivers*

Which childhood gay icon are you?

You Are the Very Gay Winnie the Pooh!

Come on, he doesn't wear pants!
And he's a little too obsessed with Christopher Robin

In the more serious category, reports that people who served in the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning up homeless and on the streets already.

And, finally, an Ohio resident is arguing that he cannot be charged with domestic violence for slapping his girlfriend because they aren't married. He's using the recent anti gay marriage act as his defense.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

This issue is dedicated to Feministing, which I read every day. All of these stories will pilfered from them. They have some righteous indignation going on and you should, too.

First, a Washington Post story (registration required) in which Senator Tom Colburn (recently elected idiot from Oklahoma) says the following during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting discussing restricting class action lawsuits:

"And I thought I would just share with you what science says today about silicone breast implants. If you have them, you're healthier than if you don't. That is what the ultimate science shows. . . . In fact, there's no science that shows that silicone breast implants are detrimental and, in fact, they make you healthier."

Seems, Colburn lacks class, hence his reasoning to restrict the suits. has an article on how to tame women. Disgusting.

Finally, 2 articles on women who were reported by welfare workers for not delivering babies by caesarean section. Apparently, some people believe that not only does the state own your body when it comes to choices of birth control and pregnancy, but it also owns your choice of birth, if you choose to have the baby and you're poor. Grrr...this one is from Australia and this one is from Utah.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

(Spelled correctly this time!)

Not much on the blogs today that interests me. Much of it is about the Superbowl, which I haven't watched in years. Susie Bright does have an amusing post on her blog about gossip/tabloids.

This weekend saw the purchase of 3 new CDs for myself. I actually went out to buy a friend a CD for her birthday, got a good deal on them, so I got her 2 and got myself three. Ah, the music whore that is B.D. Anyhow, my first impressions of these albums was very good, but I'm still digging into them to decide how I feel about them.

Antony and the Johnsons' record is fabulous. It's a torch singer type of record. Lou Reed, Loudon Wainwright III, and Boy George appear as guests on the album. Antony has a most lovely voice. Worth checking out. Shawn didn't care for this one from a style standpoint.

Marianne Faithful's new album, Before the Poison, has finally been released stateside. It's most co-written and performed with PJ Harvey and, separately, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This is Marianne at her rocking best, so I love it.

Blue Scholars are a Seattle hip hop band. I've heard a few tracks on KEXP and liked them enough to buy the album. It's a good solid record with intelligent rhymes that don't rely on the gangsta crap pushed at the masses by record company shills purporting to market edgy material. Check out their live performance in KEXP's studios. While there, check out KEXP's live feed - one of the better public stations on the web.

Finally, let me put a plug in for an upcoming release. Out this Tuesday is a new album by LCD Soundsystem. I've heard 3 tracks and am excited about it. Think Fear of Music era Talking Heads, Brian Eno, some early to mid 80s synth work - at least those are my first impressions. My copy is already on order.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Dickie's Quickes

I reported on Paint.NET in December. It's a windows based project by Washington State University students, mentored by a Microsoft expert, to create a photo editing product. It's free to everyone. They released a new version (2.1) about a month ago.

Juan Cole was attacked by Jonah Goldberg. Cole responds and makes Jonah look foolish. Go to the first link and scroll down to read the entire dust up.

If you haven't heard, Microsoft is going to release 13 bug fixes, primarily for Windows on Tuesday.

Speaking of Windows, here's a list of the Command Line References for Windows XP. Excellent.

Boing Boing reports: Geek comedian Heather Gold is selling aprons at her award winning, damn funny one woman shows in San Francisco, I look Like An Egg, But I Feel Like a Cookie. She's selling aprons at the show that read, "Hot Lesbian Baking Action". You can also get them from her website. Sample her CD bits and get both while you're there.