Saturday, January 21, 2006

Taking a Wide View

I've been trying to take a wide view on things this week.

I don't know how successful I've been. I usually don't think too much about our little national adventuring out in Iraq. But the fate of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll has really troubled me deeply more than I expected. Maybe it is because she is just a young woman. Maybe it is because she worked so hard to show respect and integration as she wrote stories about the every-day life of the Iraqi people. Maybe it is because, despite hearing the hundredth analysis of why this terrorist group really kidnapped her, I arrived at the conclusion it isn't really because they expect to free any Iraqi prisoners or get any blackmail money, I suspect it is so they can brag about how they got world attention focused on their little gang of thugs and how they stood off against the great American empire--so they can get some bragging rights and props. Then there is this whole "The president says he's got the executive right to wiretap everybody the way he wants to and the congress doesn't think so while most of the American people just yawn" thing. And don't even get me started about the DOJ Google subpoena.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for protecting our borders, fighting terrorism without quarter, and keeping the pervs away from my daughter. I've been a strong pro-defense, pro-strong law enforcement, pro-family and community voter since I could cast my first ballot. But somewhere lately, I think we have stopped being kind and nice as a country, and that concerns me. Instead of arming up, I think we should take a hard look at why much of the world despises us and looks at us with envy and hatred. Yeah, I know we can't please everyone and we need to bust-some -heads every now and then with a flair that only we can do, but our national credibility is burnt toast now. And as a citizen of a nation that I deeply love, it embarrasses me that the true heart and soul of our towns and people--large and small, richly diverse is lost on the world scene. For a country that has the best marketing knowledge in the world, we sure are looking pretty shabby in the world marketplace of culture and compassion.

I suspect Lavie and I will be much more involved in our local, state and national election process these next couple of years than we have been. We will be doing our part as parents and citizens looking more closely at the candidates and the issues they support. We will be digging into their public service records and making voting choices on a wider range of issues.

Ok, now on to tech.

The blog photo above is but a small portion of illustrator Drew Weing's on-line strip called "Pup Ponders the Heat Death of the Universe." Go check it out. Give your browser a LONG time to load the page--even if you are on broadband. Then scroll to the very bottom of the page and begin. If possible, load your browser up to full-screen view by hitting the F11 key. Take your time. It is an incredible journey. What exactly is "heat death of the universe" about? Check out this link in the Wikipedia. Life is short. Go play nice with someone.

What I am reading right now: Geshia, by Liza Crihfield Dalby. No I haven't seen the movie and this isn't about the movie. It is written account of an anthropology graduate (my minor) studying geisha culture. If your not an sociology/anthropology student, it will seem dry and boring. If you are it will become a fascinating study into a sub-world of Japanese culture. Lavie got it for me at Christmas. Two freeware "flash-card" applications that can help you learn your Hiragana and Katakana are DreamKana and LearnKana. Neat little tools to help you improve your Japanese language skills.

Niles Ferry's blog "Alive in Kyoto" always has some of the best photography of "real Japan" that I have ever seen. He has recently posted a series of photos of the streets of Gion, Kyoto. These are my mental images of what makes the city streets in Japan so fascinating. This one is my favorite.

SeachEngineWatch has a really useful review of just what the Google/DOJ spat is about. I don't care what you have heard on the news, drop in here and review this refreshingly readable analysis of the history and specifics of what the disagreement is all about. I now support and am grateful that the Google founders are taking a stand against releasing this information. I think they can really define the character of their company in a positive way, but they are walking a razor's edge here. I'm willing to concede a certain amount of government regulation on the Internet should be allowed. But controlling and moderating and enforcing (US) standards on the Internet is kinda like keeping water in a strainer. The content will still get through. Unless that is you live in China where the State locks down content and throws you out with the key if they don't like something. I don't want the Internet in America to come down to that.

Got a tinfoil hat? All these Google/DOJ stories freaking your boat? Worried "the man" is tracking your every move on the Internet? Doubtful you're really that important, but if you are the paranoid type, just remember--just about anything you do on the Internet leaves a record that can be traced back to your computer. Yep. Total and true anonymity is a fleeting lover. She seduces you and then betrays you. If you want to live on the Internet a little more incognito, you may want to switch to the Torpark browser build of Firefox--that runs in a standalone mode. Tor (began by the US Naval Research Laboratory!) utilizes a network of anonymous routers to mask your true workstation identity as you browse the web, so sites can't really record a true trace on who you are. Regardless, it is a pretty cool lesson on networking and workstation identity.

Want to know how to play super-investigator and track down the sender of an email? Hint: It is all in the headers. Link over at Onimoto.

Mark Rusinovick over at Sysinternals decompiles Microsoft's flawed WMF code. He comes to an opposite conclusion of Steve Gibson who felt the code was an intentional backdoor left by Microsoft. Mark feels there was a genuine reason for the coding. That is was to address printing issues and cancels of long print jobs. It is just that the code can be exploited to do much more than originally intended, but not maliciously designed--at least--by Microsoft's programmers. I like his explanation. Go read it.

A few weeks ago I got a lateral promotion (with no pay increase). I still get to do my hands-on security response and network system administrator duties that I love so much (I really do!), but now I also get to handle IT project management in our group. I eventually dug around in our software archive store and found a good copy of Microsoft Project 2002 to use. It is pretty easy to get started using, but has tons of advanced features. For those of you on a budget--I'd recommend trying OpenWorkbench. It is very similar--feature wise--to Project, but its free. FREE! If this is your thing--try it out. It is very polished.

Fast and furious Finale

* GigaBank 8GB USB flash drive by I/O Magic. At a street price of $200, awesome!
* 23 Things to Do With a USB Drive at PCWorld. Maybe not earth-shattering, but useful.
* Gmail gets a Delete Button--As a Gmail user, I like this!
* More tidbits on Firefox 2.0--coming soon. Summer 2006? via AMCP Tech Blog.
* MS to release XP SP3 in 2007? Likely. via AMCP Tech Blog
* MS Vista build already outdated? Yep. Microsoft is working on the next, next version of Windows Vienna (formerly code-named Blackcomb). Is it because they think it is going to be a real wienner? No, wait, I meant to say "winner"?
* More on MS OS codenames. via Wikipedia.

Enough for tonight. I've got a scary anime short-film to watch with Lavie and Alvis. Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek. Beautiful and creepy. Cool! (Japanese site: YamatoWorks.)

I may post tomorrow. We are baby-sitting the toddler son of a co-worker of Lavie's tomorrow. Expect Godzilla like destruction around the home. I may have to jet into the study here to find some solitude. Got one or two more blog items to get off my chest and share.

See you in the skies,

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