Friday, December 24, 2004

snow encrusted holiday season

The holiday season is in full swing and I'm spending Christmas with RAM's family, dog, and sn*w. It's very festive here, but it's frigid outside and I'm glad I have nowhere to go.

Sheez, that kind of sounds like that song... "Let it Sn*w."

Anyhow, I will be going somewhere very warm soon, and I'll be blogging while I'm there ... but I'll be blogging on paper until I get back, so prepare for a big day of posts when I return.

Friday, December 17, 2004

finally done

I hate finals.

Not only do I hate finals, but I had an exceptionally stupid memorization-based final for a stupid class. We had this "book" of notes that had to be more than 200 pages long, and it was chock full of formulas. Anyhow, we were expected to recite some of the formulas on the exam. This is grad school! I have the book, can't I just use it to reference the rarely-used formulas?

Anyhow. It's over.

Now I'm finally getting some time to relax (read: do last minute xmas shopping). It's nice to have a little free time...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

poor grad students

My thoughts go out to the poor CS grad students who won't have a job next semester.

Currently there are more than 60 people in our department who need teaching assistantship funding for next semester... and there are 45 or so slots. Because of the low enrollment, some people may get the shaft.

Of course it's not entirely the fault of the school (and their budget calculation "mistakes"): 80 of the grad students in our department haven't registered for next semester's classes yet. The deadline was two weeks ago. If the classes don't fill, the TA jobs don't get allocated. Makes sense, huh?


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Stone the Crows

Seriously, stone them.

Apparently the sudden cold has shocked the crows into a fighting frenzy to keep warm. Tonight they're gathering in the trees around my apartment and cawing ... and flying around at each other to keep warm.

It's snowing a very light flurry of crow feathers.

It's kind of eerie to hear the sound of wind and then realize it's just crows ... that many of them ... flying around outside my apartment.

I'd take a picture, but it's dark, and they're dark, and it's cold.

Not much sounds creepier at night than a huge flock of crying crows.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Spaf's grand challenges

Sitting in on a talk given today by Gene Spafford, I got a chance to hear a very good talk for a second time. Here are some of the things that stuck out at me:

80% of email is spam

Only about 50 PhDs in infosec are graduated each year, but more than 4000 lawyers are.

Spaf sez, "Security is not about circling the wagons, it's about getting over the mountain safely" Like brakes in a car (the analogy he uses frequently) computer security features shouldn't be considered a circle-up defense mechanism, rather it should be a feature that lets you "drive faster."

What about epidemics? Most of the security threats are epidemic in nature. Getting rid of them may be impossible, but minimizing the outbreaks would be a huge accomplishment.

At many times during the talk, there were network interference problems, and in fact the video system crashed and burned halfway through. Here's Sid's Grand challenge: interference free video conferencing.

Spaf sez about our armed services using Microsoft Windows, "We've gone from the world's greatest blue-water navy to the worlds greatest blue-screen navy"

Did you know there are over 110,000 different viruses for MS products? There are at most dozens for other platforms. This is so bad that on an unprotected connection, automated scans will usurp and zombify a computer running XP in an average of 4 minutes (shortest in a recent test was four seconds).

We need trustworthy record systems. Hospital workers often don't trust their systems, so they don't use them to their full potential.

We don't measure computers in terms of dependability, reliability. We need to in order to do risk management in IT! But how do you measure the security or privacy risk on computers? This is a severe business problem.

(Link to relevant slides) (Link to similar stream) (Link to related paper)

Friday, December 03, 2004

Selling My Number

Yesterday I got a number of phone calls from numbers I didn't recognize. The annoying part was that the first one came at 8:30 in the morning. Like the good graduate student I am, I was still snoozing away--it was kind of a rude awakening.

Nonetheless, the calls kept coming throughout the morning until I finally got a chance to answer one.

Me: Hello?
Voice: Wow... I'm surprised to get you!
Me: Really?
Voice: yeah. (long pause) I'm with Verizon -- we're trying to set this number up for a new customer.
Me: (amazed) Really.
Voice: Yeah, this number hasn't been assigned!
Me: Well, I've been using it with AT&T. I took it with me when I switched from you guys.
Voice: (amazed) Really.
Anyhow, they got it all worked out, but three of the strange calls that originated from an industrial plant in TH.

I'm glad to see that Verizon has the number switching system working perfectly. </sarcasm>

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Travel Bubble

Why is it that when people travel they tend to ignore others? I went home for Thanksgiving, and noticed people in the airports have this two foot bubble around them, and nothing exists outside of it. Clots of people stand in the center of narrow hallways, couples step of escalators and stop inches from the edge, mothers park strollers in front of doorways, and people abruptly stop -- right in front of you.

I make a conscious effort to avoid such behaviors, but I know I'm too a bubble-person at times. I urge everyone to be aware of others and at least realize that other people may be sharing the same space as you! Although, this has kind of a poetic mirror to the "me! me!" attitude we have in this country...

On a lighter note, I learned that stuffing, salad, turkey, and cranberry relish makes a great burrito, and that sometimes you get lucky: my long-term parking receipt from the airport says 3:23:59. One minute more, and I would have been charged for the fifth day!

Monday, November 08, 2004

social leeches

It's funny -- we humans aren't the only ones who do social leeching. Take a look at these rats... talk about pulling the whole team's weight (or fighting against the others).

I went to the pet store over the weekend, and saw a frantic chinchilla, some really lazy ferrets, and rats that clustered inside the running wheel. Little animals can be funny. I think I should get a cat. Maybe I'll just play with my parents' if they're milling around the house over thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I fear for our country

If you're hoping for me to rant about the election outcomes, you'll be sorely disappointed. I'll leave it up to the one-sided liberals to complain about Kerry's loss. Since the vote was so close (in popular and electoral counts) it really doesn't matter who wins. Sure, you could say we have a divided America, but I think it really means that there isn't a substantive difference between candidates. They're both career politicians. 'Nuff said.

On the other side, I worry about religious legislation. Recently states such as Missouri and Kentucky passed laws that ban same-sex marriage. On what legal grounds? Personally, I'm not too empathetic to people who don't care for the opposite sex, but who are we to say they can't have what they want? I say leave 'em alone. Sure the majority should have the rule, but it doesn't mean the minority should be oppressed or filtered out. Our country was founded by outcasts who were undesirables back home and needed a place to go where people would let them be. If a gay couple were to marry in our country, what harm would it do me? None! Leave them alone. Of all people, I would like a ban on pairs of psychopathic serial-killers who want to get married with intent to raise a herd of baby psychopaths. This is currently legal! There's no law against convicted felons getting married. We might as well pass a law about that too. While we're at it, since the "terrorists" of the 9/11 incident were Muslim, why don't we just ban Islam in the US too? Because it would be unconstitutional! So who says that gay marriage is unconstitutional!? By inflicting our religious beliefs on our set of laws in this country, we are becoming what we detested at the beginning: a country that shuns the minority with different values.

Granted, religion isn't always an excuse to oppress minority. Sometimes it can help. But in the case of Christian motivations behind civil rights, the religious influence was motivation for equality, not to pass laws against non-Christians.

The thing I find funny is that the so-called "Conservatives" are all about banning same-sex unions. What ever happened to non-interfering small government? Don't destroy our beautiful, free country. Supposedly we fought in Iraq to free the country---what would it say to the international community if we invade others to set them free but act like control freaks with our own citizens? Hands off, lawmakers. Hands off.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Yesterday RAM and I carved some pumpkins (Link Link). It was kinda fun... we were looking on the internet for some clever ideas of what to carve, and the best thing we came across (but didn't do) was the Puking pumpkin. Hilarious. Anyhow, it's been a pretty uneventful Halloween so far... maybe we'll get some trick-or-treaters later.

UPDATE (11/1):
We lit them up last night and, boy, did they look neat. :) (Link)

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I'm excited about my new wheels (Link). The only problem -- they were just slightly too big and when I cornered fast, the tires rubbed the very edges of my fender wells.

Today I fixed that. I woke up early and went outside with a hammer... An hour later, I had folded in a flap in my fenders that sticks in towards the tires. After a short test drive I was pretty satisfied.

Hopefully the paint chips won't rust fast, I need to sand down those edges now (hammering cracked them) and repaint. Luckily the damaged parts are out of view.

New Blog

Hi all.

I've decided to move blogs so I can have one that is published on my own site... this way I have greater control over content and stuff.

Anyhow, maybe this will encourage me to update it more frequently.