Sunday, April 30, 2006


This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Bush and his inner thoughts. The real guy and a comedian saying what he's thinking.

Comedian: Here it comes. Nu-cle-ar Pro-lif-er-ation. Nu-cle-ar Pro-lif-er-ation
Bush: Nuc-eer Prolif-iation.
Comedian: Aright, aright, maintain. Stay cool. Let's give this a try: We must enhance non-compliance protocols sanctioned not only at IAEA formal sessions, but through intersessional contact.
Bush: We must enhance non-compliance protocols -- sanctioned not only at E-I-E-I-O formal sessions, but through intersexual conduct.
Comedian: Looks around and shrugs ... Nailed it!

But I think the best thing Bush said during the discourse was:

My friends, our purple mountains with ramparts' red glare, white with foam and justice for all fruity plains gallantly streaming, from sea to shining sea with a shining city on a shining hill above a shining prairie, and maybe some shiny trees and a few shrubs -- I see a shiny America!

(Link to coverage by
(Link to the whole thing on YouTube)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

annoying people

I don't know why, but people have been annoying me a lot recently. First, a guy I go to the gym with keeps pressuring me to spar with him (I don't enjoy fighting). Second, I go to bed early after telling many many people how tired I am, and someone comes by an hour later and wakes me up. He even said "Did I wake you? because J said you might be sleeping..." Later, probably midnight, one of my roommates comes running down the hall and says at the top of his lungs "What's up Dude!?" Another roommate then proceeds to knock on my door and call out "Seed?" (His accent makes my name sound like a baby plant). These roommates of mine are normally quiet and subdued...

This morning, my exceptionally cheerful office-mate comes walking in humming and whistling "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." (For those of you who don't know, whistling is probably the public behavior that annoys me the most.) He then proceeds to close the blinds on our window -- my only escape to the outside world.

I need to calm down. Where's my coffee?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

deep in the castle

deep in the castle
Originally uploaded by sidstamm.
I've been meaning to post this for a while, but I just got the pictures. Two weekends ago (8-April) a bunch of us went to the beach to make sandcastles again. Pics are posted on Flickr, but not organized due to my lack of a pro account. If anyone would like to buy me a pro account, I can organize (and upload bigger pics). :)

Update: Thanks Palila for upgrading me to Flickr Pro!!! I'm going to try to upload more photos now.


view from tower
On Friday, I played hooky and went to Canberra with a group tour from the University. In an effort to get picked up at 6:30am from where I live and not from the university (which would be a forty minute walk), I organized six people. It was a fun group. We hopped the bus and then proceeded to the university where the other 100 participants were waiting.

The ride to Canberra was about 3 hours, and a very lazy ride since we were all sleepy. I fell asleep and missed a few kangaroo sightings, but woke in time for tea. We stopped about two hours into the journey, and the group leaders pulled out hot water, cups, cookies, tea and instant coffee. It was a nice treat, especially since it was pretty cold (about 9°C / 48°F) where we stopped. We had all been spoiled by the nice weather in Wollongong, which has not yet dipped below 15°C / 60°F. When we left, it was a balmy 20°C / 68°F.

cockington green gardens
We first stopped at Cockington Green Gardens. This was a place with little miniature buildings surrounded with gardens. It was quite nice, except for the chilly wind, clouds and occasional rain. Check out the rest of the photos in the set (click the image) to see more photos of the gardens.

Our next stop was the ever-important Parliament House. This exquisite building had floors and walls and pillars of black, white and pink marble. It was absolutely beautiful and modern. Connected by glass hallways, the many buildings (House, Senate, Reception, etc) were very modern -- being completed in 1988. Our tour guide gave us a few interesting facts:

  • There are 4700 rooms

  • It cost $1.1 Billion ($70/resident of Australia)

  • There are 2700 clocks

  • The black marble contains marine fossils

The building was awesome, and I would like to go back and see the House in session. I hear it's a lot of fun to watch. All I know is that the seats in the meeting rooms are very very comfortable. It's also a museum -- there were many neat artifacts and paintings there. There was a 1297 hand-written copy of the Magna Carta just sitting in a glass case. It was amazing -- there are only four copies like it in the world.

Leaving Parliament, I noticed a strange looking colorful building across the lake. I thought perhaps it was a theater or art gallery. When we pulled up at the building ten minutes later, I realized it was the National Museum where we would be having lunch. The building is very cool.

braille on the wall
The only thing that confuses me about the building is the braille on the outside of the building. It is HUGE and high-up. I don't think blind people could read it. It's not like normal letters -- when you make it bigger, braille is not readable from a great distance! I am imagining a bunch of blind people crawling on the building's walls reading them. It did look very cool though.

We ate lunch there, throwing food to the seagulls, watching them squawk and fight over leftover bread crusts and chips, then had 15 minutes to explore the exhibits. Pathetic. We piled into a rotating theater called Cirque, which gave us a very post-modernist view of the museum. There were three screens, each with submersive video (ambient lights flashing and colored according to the video) and one of the screens had three smaller screens that moved around on it. It was fun. Then we had to leave. I want to go back.

Finally, we stopped at Telstra Tower. This tower is on a mountain in Canberra, and overlooks the entire city. From there we were able to see the whole city, and climb to a lookout platform 870m above sea-level. It was windy up there! The views were fantastic, and many people enjoyed overpriced iced cream and souvenirs from the shop at the top. The whole time we were there, I was disappointed that we didn't spend more time at the Museum instead. I find that stuff more fascinating, though the view was pretty cool.

On our way back, we drove past the War Memorial, which is an awesome sight even as driving past. There are beautiful memorial sculptures for each war, and then a big hall visible from the road, or even from the Parliament House. Yet another thing I want to go back and see. Somehow I have to rationalize going back.

The bus ride on the way back was fun. We saw a lot of kangaroos in the fields along side of the road. They behave a lot like deer, except they bounce a lot higher. When it got dark, the French people in the back of the bus started belting out their national anthem (La Marseillaise), then a German guy, then they got me to sing ours. I can't sing well on demand like that, especially a song with a big range, but I did my best. Next we tried to get a Chinese guy to sing his anthem, but he was too quiet. After much discussion, the German guy convinced the bus driver to allow use of the intercom. The next 30 minutes involved singing of many anthems (France, Germany, USA, China, Japan, Colombia, Australia, Indonesia) and attempts at convincing others.

We made one stop on the way back for toilets and foreign food (McDonalds). The 100-some people completely filled the restaurant, which to my surprise was able to serve everyone in about 10 minutes. Good job guys. The McDonalds menus here are much better than those in the US -- there are healthy sandwiches on the menu! And a large is only about 20oz, versus the huge tub 'o coke you get in the US. Finally, and the best part, is the McCafé. They serve espresso in McDonalds here. Yum.

The trip was good, but I want to go back. Canberra houses the history of the nation and many very interesting sights. Anyone up for a trip?

Monday, April 17, 2006

evil network

Today, silently while I worked, the system administrators turned off all the external network ports and broke the web proxy server. Instantly I was cut off from all the marvelous things I was doing, including a literature search.

I have two complaints:

  1. Notify your users before you change the network. No matter what you're doing. It may affect them.

  2. Notify your users who they can call for support in case of an outage. Everyone I talked to said "yeah it sucks, but it's not my problem."

Bite me admins. At least I still have HTTP access. Anyone willing to put up an http tunnel for me?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

nethash nastiness

Reading through one of the usual crypto news sources, I came across something that seems to be a joke: a web service that provides a cryptographic hash of the entire internet. There's also a funny web-site validator that tells you whether or not a site is on the web. I'm guessing it's a joke since it was registered on 28-March -- just in time for April Fool's day.

The Internet Hash Project

Curious how it worked, I looked at the source code of the page. Cleverly, the page uses AJAX to obtain the hash (and site-existence queries) from the server. An even closer look at the code revealed a particularly interesting source-code comment (warning: may disturb. Link.) (For more information on goatse silliness, see this page.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006


I get so few comments on my blog, I just assumed nobody reads it. To verify this, I installed a neat little web counter mapping thing.

Contrary to my belief, I've attracted some visits from interesting places. Leave me a note if you're from an interesting place!

On a side-note, I'm lazy, so I just grabbed this from a free service (ClustrMaps). It's neat, but I don't know details about my visitors. Maybe if I get bored I'll write my own. It would be nice to know the user-agents (i.e. to find out how many of these are just spiders).

sap, drm, and other tla's

Microsoft has been working on this Secure Audio Path thing that they plan to put in Vista (when it finally gets released). This is interesting since they are building Digital Rights Management (DRM) capabilities into the kernel. What does this mean?

  • Media providers may have to use the DRM system that Microsoft provides, since it has to be built into the kernel. If Microsoft lets people build their own DRM components, then there is the issue of misbehaving components and buggy kernel libraries.

  • If you look at the diagram, the sound card driver is given full access to unencrypted data. This means that one could write a misbehaving third-party driver to capture streams. The SAP designers get around this by forcing the driver to be authenticated (see diagram). The DRM component is not "authenticated" though.

  • The decryption now happens in the kernel. Let's hope that the decryption module is not buggy -- especially if Microsoft lets vendors write their own kernel modules for DRM. Not only could the player program crash, but this could cause the whole system to go down.

Will this protect DRM media from being copied? I doubt it. Academics (or benevolent hackers) will publish instructions on how to subvert all of this, then the script kiddies will pick up the proof-of-concept software to scrape the streams. I think the only way this can "solidify" enforcement of DRM is with ALL pieces in kernel mode being "authenticated" (proven safe by signature and cert. authority) or no DRM decryption should work. The problem with this is that the CA (probably a Microsoft database protected from subversion with Trusted Computing hardware) will have control over which modules are authorized -- essentially control over which flavors of DRM get to be used.

Is DRM really the right approach to protect artists' and publishers' copyright? Is this protected audio path a good idea? I don't know a whole lot about SAP (just reading the whitepapers for the first time), so I welcome others' opinions...

Monday, April 03, 2006

broken movielinks

I went to AOL's movie download thing (MovieFone) because I heard they had started selling movies for download! The prices are kinda high (US$3.95) since I think they are one-time view licenses. Nonetheless, I wasn't sure, so I clicked the "Learn how Movielink works" link in the middle of the page. Next, because I am in Australia, I was redirected to a "Screw You" page. I can't even read how it works?! Restricting geographical access to movies is a legitimate plan, but I just want to learn how it works. Lame. Could someone in the states send me the content on their "how it works" page?

(Link to screengrab of error)

Update (10-Apr): Thanks for the page grab, Jacob. (PDF 174k)


Last Friday, a reporter randomly walked up to me and asked if she could ask me a question. "What is the most fascinating thing about your studies?" Naturally, I answered and she took my photo then left. Now I'm in the newspaper. Woohoo. Now if she had just read my name properly off my student id.....

violet crumble

violet crumble
Originally uploaded by sidstamm.
It's tasty, but not as good as Aydrian says. Really. You can get "Angelfood Candy" in the US that tastes the same and costs much less. Here's how you make it.

enter the sand castle

entering the sand castle
Originally uploaded by sidstamm.

On Sunday, a couple of friends and I went to the beach. I played around in the surf, used a pal's boogie board, and got thorougly thrown around by the strong waves. At one point, I got hit by a breaking wave that took all my control -- I decided to go limp and let it carry me to the beach. The sensation made me feel like a jellyfish.

Anyhow, we built a sand castle -- the best one ever, I might add. It is called the castle "Caselu" (カセル) in light of our attempts at drawing Hiragana in the sand. (Only one of us could write Japanese, and she is an expert).

Link to more photos of the engineering feat.

Link to all my Australia photos.