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|The Medicine Of Sand And Heart||[Tue, 11 Mar 2014 11:49:00 -0800]|
Now that they have Roto-Rootered my heart, I must be on medications to reduce my cholesterol. (Ideally, you’d do that via diet alone, but my cholesterol levels were record-high despite my diet not being all that bad – my body loves to manufacture tiny globules of artery-clogging stickiness.)
They have switched my medication from Crestor (a pill) to a packet called Welchor, which supposedly is heavy-duty stuff that helps to reduce the risk of diabetes. And Welchor is fascinating, because it’s a suspension.
Essentially, you open a packet and dump some white powder into eight ounces of fluid – they suggest water, or diet soda. And mix it well. And drink it.
And it is entertainingly disgusting.
Thing is, Welchor is almost tasteless – a hint of lemon flavoring, but that’s it. The problem is, it lurks in the drink, hovering in it like a flavored octopus, never dissolving but hanging menacingly in the liquid. And you drink the fluid, and you think, “Oh, that’s not bad,” and then a pile of silt forms at the back of your throat and chokes you.
No shit. Silt. This fine sand that clings to the back of your tongue. A pile of it.
Now me, I take this as evidence that it’s working – I imagine Welchor as like an cleanup chemical dumped on an oil-stricken beach, and when it gets into my veins it’ll stick to fat globules in the same way it stuck to my mouth, and destroy them. But as far as making this palatable, it’s hard, because unlike other medicines taste is not the problem. It’s pure, plaster-dust mouthfeel, and I don’t think there’s a liquid that will solve that problem because it’s a suspension.
I’m going to experiment further, but the packet doesn’t suggest hot drinks, so I suspect that dropping this in tea will make it worse. Maybe the smoothies. But that adds smoothie preparation time, because Gini sure doesn’t want this shit.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/386155.h
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|Two Stories With The Same Ending||[Tue, 11 Mar 2014 10:18:00 -0800]|
“The problem is, there’s one of two stories here,” I said. “And I don’t know which one I’m in.”
Gini kept a respectful distance, close enough to hug if I needed it, far enough that I could speak.
“In the one story,” I continued, “All of this pain and frustration and heartache I’m going through is the low point in the third act. And if that’s the case, it’s like Clarion, where I had a complete breakdown in Week Five, yet in Week Six I wrote the first story that I ever sold to Asimov’s. So maybe this wretched failure is just me breaking through to something greater.
“But the other story – which is equally possible – is far sadder. That’s the story where the old mediocre guy keeps trying over and over again, and never realizes when he should quit. And that’s the one where he spends the next twenty years flailing, chasing a dream that he’s totally ill-equipped for, wasting all of this time and effort on something that he’s not very good at and yet is too obsessive to let go of. And then all those evenings devoted to the craft become sad, wasted, a mountain of lost time.
“I don’t know what story I’m in,” I concluded, spreading my hands. “And it’s killing me.”
Gini looked at me seriously, weighing the options, debating how to present the truth.
“I don’t know which story you’re in, either,” she finally admitted. “But I know your story always ends with the wife who loves you more than anything.”
And I melt.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/386028.h
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|The Security of the Fortuna PRNG||[Tue, 11 Mar 2014 11:28:00 -0800]|
Providing random numbers on computers can be very difficult. Back in 2003, Neils Ferguson and I designed Fortuna as a secure PRNG. Particularly important is how it collects entropy from various processes on the computer and mixes them all together.
While Fortuna is widely used, there hadn't been any real analysis of the system. This has now changed. A new paper by Yevgeniy Dodis, Adi Shamir, Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, and Daniel Wichs provides some theoretical modeling for entropy collection and PRNG. They analyze Fortuna and find it good but not optimal, and then provide their own optimal system.
Excellent, and long-needed, research.
|Gamma Rays from Galactic Center Dark Matter||[Tue, 11 Mar 2014 05:14:00 -0800]|
|On a different note||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 17:24:00 -0800]|
One nerve was (intentionally) severed which connects up to my earlobe, so I will not be able to feel my right earlobe for the rest of my life. The rest of my facial nerve function should return gradually over the next several months.
For the next two years I am to be especially careful to avoid sunburns on the right side of my face as it was, er, more or less peeled off my skull during surgery, so the blood supply to that area is a bit impaired, won't repair damage as well as usual.
However! The main good-news part is I do not have cancer, nor did I, and can go back to worrying about things killing me in my 70s, not my 30s! Yay!! More exclamation points!!!
This entry was originally posted at http://graydon2.dreamwidth.org/3493.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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|depression comix #175||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 21:47:00 -0800]|
This is a sequel to depression comix #10 except in that strip it’s internal dialogue and in this it is external dialogue. I still suffer from this quite a bit and it makes it difficult to do this comic sometimes, especially after a popular strip. It also makes it difficult to promote myself or try to earn an income from doing comics.
See original post: http://wp.me/p3KYMB-fv (ClayComix.Com)
|FIREWALK: NSA Exploit of the Day||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 19:33:00 -0800]|
Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:
In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.
|Awkward Conversations With George Zimmerman||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 13:44:00 -0800]|
Okay, so George Zimmerman is now being asked for grip-n-grins, where well-wishers at a gun show line up for his autograph.
Thing is, I get tongue-tied talking to celebrities in general. I have a fundamental dislike of saying something cliched, and usually all I have to say to a musician or a writer or a comedian is “Hi, I’m a fan of yours, just like the other seventy people behind me.” I may venture, “I really love this song of yours,” but usually, I just clam up and tell them my name if they ask.
Then I wish I had something really interesting to tell them. Like the Farscape convention. That time, I got to say “My wife and I came to see you guys for our honeymoon!” to the entire cast of Farscape, and oh, how the laughs did flow. Virginia Hey recognized us two years later, waving to us from a staircase, going, “It’s the newlyweds!” And I felt all beamy because hey, that was something new.
But most of the time, I schlump along.
…what the fuck would I say to George Zimmerman?
What kind of fandom does George Zimmerman have?
I suppose “I loved the way you shot that kid” might be a common sentiment, but that sounds so harsh when you say it out loud. “You looked so debonaire on the stand” might be a valid approach. Perhaps an enthusiastic “You got away with it!”
I mean, seriously, even assuming you wanted an autograph of Zimmerman (and, bizarrely enough, his dog), I’m finding it hard-pressed to know what to say as you get to the head of the line. “You shot a kid who probably would have turned out to be a criminal, and I’m a big fan of proactive murder” seems the best bet. Or maybe “It was him or you, except he didn’t have a gun and you did, and even then he was pounding the crap out of you, so hooray for demonstrating how a gun provides a dangerous sense of invulnerability!”
Yet even if you believe it was in legitimate self-defense, rejoicing in the death of another human being by wanting proof you met the man seems bizarre. Then again, maybe not. I know a lot of people who’d want an autograph from the man who shot Bin Laden, and they’d stand in a much longer line. And the conversations in that line would be just as crazy.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/385651.h
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|it has e-begun||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 08:44:00 -0800]|
They are also, as Charlie noted, big fat books. I mostly didn't notice this, because ereaders are a thing of lightweight beauty.
Over the weekend I got a desire to reread Umberto Eco's big thick secret-history Foucault's Pendulum. My copy is a giant hardback, because it looks nice on my shelf and because when I was carrying a large backpack around campus one more big book didn't really make a difference.
Now? I am genuinely *irritated* that I can't just open it on the iPad. Instead I have to deal with a physical volume that causes me physical strain to hold in one hand, and that doesn't fit in my coat pocket. I am almost (almost) considering plopping down more money for an ebook edition.
I suppose this is how 'and then i replaced my library with ebooks' starts.
Two quotes about Foucault's Pendulum:
1) "Dan Brown is a character in my book." --Umberto Eco, on being repeatedly asked if he'd read The Da Vinci Code
2) "Nobody gets Foucault's Pendulum except for literary critics and role-players." --James Palmer
Original post at Dreamwidth | comments | Comment there or here
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|Computer Network Exploitation vs. Computer Network Attack||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 11:46:00 -0800]|
Back when we first started getting reports of the Chinese breaking into U.S. computer networks for espionage purposes, we described it in some very strong language. We called the Chinese actions cyber-attacks. We sometimes even invoked the word cyberwar, and declared that a cyber-attack was an act of war.
When Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been doing exactly the same thing as the Chinese to computer networks around the world, we used much more moderate language to describe U.S. actions: words like espionage, or intelligence gathering, or spying. We stressed that it's a peacetime activity, and that everyone does it.
The reality is somewhere in the middle, and the problem is that our intuitions are based on history.
Electronic espionage is different today than it was in the pre-Internet days of the Cold War. Eavesdropping isn't passive anymore. It's not the electronic equivalent of sitting close to someone and overhearing a conversation. It's not passively monitoring a communications circuit. It's more likely to involve actively breaking into an adversary's computer network -- be it Chinese, Brazilian, or Belgian -- and installing malicious software designed to take over that network.
In other words, it's hacking. Cyber-espionage is a form of cyber-attack. It's an offensive action. It violates the sovereignty of another country, and we're doing it with far too little consideration of its diplomatic and geopolitical costs.
The abbreviation-happy U.S. military has two related terms for what it does in cyberspace. CNE stands for "computer network exploitation." That's spying. CNA stands for "computer network attack." That includes actions designed to destroy or otherwise incapacitate enemy networks. That's -- among other things -- sabotage.
CNE and CNA are not solely in the purview of the U.S.; everyone does it. We know that other countries are building their offensive cyberwar capabilities. We have discovered sophisticated surveillance networks from other countries with names like GhostNet, Red October, The Mask. We don't know who was behind them -- these networks are very difficult to trace back to their source -- but we suspect China, Russia, and Spain, respectively. We recently learned of a hacking tool called RCS that's used by 21 governments: Azerbaijan, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, and Uzbekistan.
When the Chinese company Huawei tried to sell networking equipment to the U.S., the government considered that equipment a "national security threat," rightly fearing that those switches were backdoored to allow the Chinese government both to eavesdrop and attack US networks. Now we know that the NSA is doing the exact same thing to American-made equipment sold in China, as well as to those very same Huawei switches.
The problem is that, from the point of view of the object of an attack, CNE and CNA look the same as each other, except for the end result. Today's surveillance systems involve breaking into the computers and installing malware, just as cybercriminals do when they want your money. And just like Stuxnet: the U.S./Israeli cyberweapon that disabled the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran in 2010.
This is what Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith meant when he said: "Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an 'advanced persistent threat,' alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks."
When the Chinese penetrate U.S. computer networks, which they do with alarming regularity, we don't really know what they're doing. Are they modifying our hardware and software to just eavesdrop, or are they leaving :logic bombs" that could be triggered to do real damage at some future time? It can be impossible to tell. As a 2011 EU cybersecurity policy document stated (page 7):
...technically speaking, CNA requires CNE to be effective. In other words, what may be preparations for cyberwarfare can well be cyberespionage initially or simply be disguised as such.
We can't tell the intentions of the Chinese, and they can't tell ours, either.
Much of the current debate in the U.S. is over what the NSA should be allowed to do, and whether limiting the NSA somehow empowers other governments. That's the wrong debate. We don't get to choose between a world where the NSA spies and one where the Chinese spy. Our choice is between a world where our information infrastructure is vulnerable to all attackers or secure for all users.
As long as cyber-espionage equals cyber-attack, we would be much safer if we focused the NSA's efforts on securing the Internet from these attacks. True, we wouldn't get the same level of access to information flows around the world. But we would be protecting the world's information flows -- including our own -- from both eavesdropping and more damaging attacks. We would be protecting our information flows from governments, nonstate actors, and criminals. We would be making the world safer.
Offensive military operations in cyberspace, be they CNE or CNA, should be the purview of the military. In the U.S., that's CyberCommand. Such operations should be recognized as offensive military actions, and should be approved at the highest levels of the executive branch, and be subject to the same international law standards that govern acts of war in the offline world.
If we're going to attack another country's electronic infrastructure, we should treat it like any other attack on a foreign country. It's no longer just espionage, it's a cyber-attack.
This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.
|technicalities: interactive scientific computing #1 of 2, pythonic parts||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 17:39:00 -0800]|
I've been trying to write something coherent and useful and not infinitely-long about these systems for over a month, and failing every time I get started writing because there's just too much history and too many angles to approach them from. So taking a cue from @flipzagging I will attempt to start "in the midst of things" and work my way out. More than the past few posts, this one is super long and full of dull backstory, so I will again cut for brevity.
( the midst of thingsCollapse )
This entry was originally posted at http://graydon2.dreamwidth.org/3186.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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|Always Repeating, Never Repeating||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 23:31:00 -0800]|
I’m experiencing things that so many humans have experienced before yet I feel alone. I think that’s the fulcrum for the seesaw of humanity. I know Audrey is unique. I know Sonja is unique. I know I am unique. But I know that our struggles and delights with each other as a family would be familiar to any other family on the planet and to families before Christ. Will be familiar to families centuries from now, maybe. My joy at seeing my daughter laugh is mine and mine alone yet is it also a father’s joy, every father’s joy. I feel common and included all at the same time. I feel lonely and special all at the same time. This is the duality, I think, of existence.
Waves. Fire. Branches. Always repeating and never repeating. So too with humans.
|A Hole in Mars||[Mon, 10 Mar 2014 05:05:00 -0800]|
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|[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 22:23:00 -0800]|
I suppose everyone has to pass through a hardware phase, and mine is now, for which I implemented a LED blinker with an AVRtiny2313. I don't think it even merits the usual blog laydown. Basically all it took was following tutorials to the letter.
For the initial project, I figured that learning gEDA would take too much, so I unleashed an inner hipster and used Fritzing. Hey, it allows to plan breadboards, so there. And well it was a learning experience and no mistake. Crashes, impossible to undo changes, UI elements outside of the screen, everything. Black magic everywhere: I could never figure out how to merge wires, dedicate a ground wire/plane, or edit labels (so all of them are incorrect in the schematic above). The biggest problem was the lack of library support together with an awful parts editor. Editing schematics in Inkscape was so painful, that I resigned to doing a piss-poor job, evident in all the crooked lines around the AVRtiny2313. I understand that Fritzing's main focus is iPad, but this is just at a level of typical outsourced Windows application.
Inkscape deserves a special mention due to the way Fritzing requires SVG files being in a particular format. If you load and edit some of those, the grouping defeats Inkscape features, so one cannot even select elements at times. And editing the raw XML cause weirdest effects, so it's not like LyX-on-TeX, edit and visualize. At least our flagship vector graphics package didn't crash.
The avr-gcc is awesome though. 100% turnkey: yum install and you're done. Same for avrdude. No huss, no fuss, everything works.
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|[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 13:53:00 -0800]|
|How To Be A Good Depressive Citizen||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 14:40:00 -0800]|
Author Libba Bray has a wonderful post on what it’s like to have depression - a post that, sadly, follows the Grand And Stilted Tradition Of Authors Admitting Their Depression.
They have to speak of depression a certain way, lest they be labelled a Bad Depressive Citizen.
Now, the gold standard for a writer suffering from depression is to Not Say Anything. Spend all that sadness with your mouth firmly shut. Then, after months of hard-pent silence, as you are emerging from the depression and find yourself in a place that you can properly control yourself, you write a Very Articulate Post detailing your pain…
…but do it from a distance. Write about it in a sad, somber tone. Do not evince an ounce of self-pity. Hold this odious disease at a distance. End it with a triumphant note that yes, you too can fight back!
Because God help you if you write your depressive post when you’re actually depressed, and uncertain if you’re going to make it. That worries people. You don’t want to write about yourself in a way that gets your audience concerned about you, because then you’ll just have told a bunch of people that maybe you’re not okay. And what will they do then? How will they rest until you’re in a stable place?
That’s rude. Button that shit up, depressive person.
And as a public figure, you can’t share your actual fears either. Maybe you’re melting down because you’re afraid you’re a lousy musician. But if, as a depressive, you slip up and post “I AM A SHITTY MUSICIAN AND I SUCK,” then everyone knows what you are: you’re an attention whore. You’re asking for people to suck up to you! All you want is positive feedback? What a drama queen (or king) you are!
(Even if you don’t want positive feedback, you know the positive feedback will bounce off your shields, you just wanted to stop swallowing this terror back all the time and give it a voice so it’s somewhere outside of your fucking skull for once.)
And shit, if you’re lucky enough to have had some success, that public outcry? It’s ungrateful. Hey, your band got signed – that’s farther than I ever got, what kind of asshole are you for dismissing my lack of accomplishments? Christ, what a whiny bitch you are.
And then someone who was a fan of yours feels completely dismissed because you’ve just told them that everything you did thus far was crappy and thus they, in turn, must be crappy for liking you, and how dare you tell them that? God, what a jerk you are for pissing on your fans.
And then someone says, “Wow, X is having a meltdown,” and people tune in to watch the trainwreck that is you, and you get a reputation as someone unstable. People start to edge away. You fucked up, man, you just let the mask slip, and now people see the quivering Jell-O underneath – and some people are repulsed by your slippery innards, and others see a feast of despair to chow the fuck down on.
A couple of outbursts like that can change your whole life.
And God forbid your despair involves other people. If you post about your worry that you’re a terrible parent, congratulations! You just hauled your kid into the shining spotlight of a talk show, and that show is entitled, “Is X Actually A Horrible Parent?” Your parenting styles are going to be discussed, debated, with people actually having real investment in this, and some people are going to come to the conclusion - whether this is fair or not - that you are an awful fucking parent. In some cases, all the evidence they’ll have is that you’ve raised the question. But that’ll be enough.
And that reputation will follow your ass around, my friend. People will question your stability. They’ll have Heard Things. They’ll wonder how you’re doing now, with the understanding that you could break at any moment, that you’re crazy deep down, that you didn’t have the maturity to mash that ugly shit down like you fucking well should have.
Now, I’m not kidding, or being in the least sarcastic, when I say that Libba has written a wonderful post. That is part of what it’s like to be depressed, and she expresses it well, and eloquently. It helps, and I am glad she wrote it.
But notice how carefully she speaks. She doesn’t say what, if anything, she is depressed about – and she’s a good enough writer that that omission is clearly on purpose.
Because she knows how to be a good depressive citizen.
Depression is messy, and ugly, and sticky. You don’t take it out in public until it’s thoroughly sanitized, freeze-dried, and vacuum-packed – or you make yourself a reputation that you don’t want. It is okay to be depressed, even valorous, so long as you never actually demonstrate depression.
Right now, dressed in the blog-equivalent of a crisp business suit, some depressive is blogging as the Good Citizen, tears wiped off of blotched cheeks, a stiff upper lip, toeing the party line that we can all get through this if we just keep swimming. She is an inspiration.
You do not discuss your depression until you can be an inspiration, or you are just fucking crazy.
Nobody likes crazy.
And there are very good reasons why maybe going off on one of your social networks during a depressive breakdown is a bad idea. Living your life via the equivalent of emotional crowdfunding is almost guaranteed to be ruined. And hauling your friends and family into the spotlight against their will to be discussed among strangers is a toxic fucking thing. And depression lies, so a lot of the things you say will be so utterly foolish and untrue that one day you’ll regret writing it down, simply because some idiot took you at face value, and some other idiot now thinks you’re an idiot for believing that guff in the first place.
So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to only discuss depression when you can hold it at a distance and analyze it.
But this need to be a Good Depressive Citizen makes the journey that much more alone, sometimes. You can have thousands of people following you on the social network of your choice, and yet here you are alone in your apartment, trying desperately to keep this despair properly tamped down. You have to clutch your knees and choke back those cries of despair, because if you share this angst with the world, then you might get a label you can never take back.
And deep down, this need to be a Good Depressive Citizen fuels the fear that you’re really not lovable, or worthy, as you can’t share this shit-fountain of diarrhetic despair welling up inside of you with the world at large. You can only share it with the pre-screened handful of friends who understand you, who have demonstrated they know how to deal properly with this malfunctioning beast that is your brain, and maybe you’re not worthy of love maybe you’re just finding people who are stupid enough to take pity on you.
Then, after months of that, when medication and time and circumstance and habit have worn it down, you can write a dispassionate blog entry. On how hard it’s been. On abstract terrors. With a good, solid, “We’re all in this together.”
And you’re a Good Depressive. Someone people can point to as an example for others. Not one of those hair-tearing lunatics who can’t function, amiright?
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/385520.h
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|TODAY'S REQUIRED WATCHING: FEMINIST BURLESQUE||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 11:38:00 -0800]|
Nadia Kamil Does Burlesque
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|i dig my hole, you build a wall||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 00:03:00 -0800]|
As for what the game's about... survival, and fear, and understanding, and empathy, I guess. At the start of the game you think you may be the only survivor of some unexplained Calamity. As you go you meet a few more survivors, and you learn the truth about the Calamity, and why it happened, and maybe how to reverse it, or at least make sure it doesn't happen again. Maybe.
 "A proper story's supposed to start at the beginning. It ain't so simple with this one."
One of the survivors you meet is Zia, a girl from the next country over, the country that might have invaded, or threatened to invade, or something. She's singing a song to herself the first time you find her. It's a quiet, dreamy blues song, and the fragments of lyrics I could understand during the game were something about building a wall.
I realised this week that I'd gotten the soundtrack when I picked up the game, in one of the Humble Bundles. So I downloaded and listened to it. Most of it's frantic beat-stuff-up music, even for the more reflective bits of plot, so "Zia's Theme" stood out. I've been listening to it off and on the last couple of days.
I hadn't realised until today quite how... ominous... the lyrics are.
Gonna build that wall until it's done
Original post at Dreamwidth | comments | Comment there or here
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|Mount Sharp on the Horizon||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 05:53:00 -0800]|
|PostSecret Out Loud||[Sun, 9 Mar 2014 05:23:00 -0800]|
This animated short combines real secrets recorded live at PostSecret Events with artful visuals. Now you can lend your voice to PostSecret Out Loud. Record your secret anonymously here, or call 1+(240) 428-4710 and leave your secret as a voicemail.
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