Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Night Out

So, come the 25th, it will make seven years since we stood up in front of our friends to celebrate our marriage. Things haven't always been great - particularly lately - but, it's still a milestone that should probably be celebrated.

This week, got an email from a local restaurant we like. Apparently, they're having an evening where they're doing a tie-in to the local, Virginia winery scene (or whatever). Basically, it's a prix fixe meal with a fixed, multi-course offering of food and local wines. Donna likes wines and food from this restaurant, so, even though the event happens a few days after our anniversary, we're going to go and use that event as our celebration.

Yesterday, I called the restaurant to reserve seats for it. Sometimes, events like this you have to specifically request ahead, not just seating, but intention to participate. I'm hoping that this isn't one of those ones that you needed to reserve your intent. The reservations woman, on the phone, seemed rather unclued. It's a tad unsettling when calling to make reservations at a restaurant and the person on the phone doesn't seem on the ball. I don't know whether we just have reservations or whether we have reservations for this event. Hopefully, if it's just the former, then we'll still be able to order for the event once we get there.


The car chase scene in Surrogates is the only good part of the movie... It's like something out of Grand Theft Auto.

I Can Do But Not Watch.

First-person shooters (FPS) are about my favorite class of games. I can play them for hours, enjoying the shear mindlessness of the activity. I can play them alone or in some kind of split-screen mode.

Oddly, if I have to watch someone else play, I get motion-sickness almost immediately. Don't know whether it's because a lot of the people I see play don't play particularly smoothly or if it's the lack of control of the action I'm focusing on that causes it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Unfortunate Similarity

I've mentioned this many times, online, but don't recall whether I have on this particular blog: I have epilepsy. Seizures are both a frightening and interesting experience. I mean, they're an experience that, if you knew that you could limit them to when you wanted them, might make an interesting alternative to getting high. Unfortunately, their occurrence is random and rarely happen at times that are anything close to when you'd actually appreciate one (e.g., you'd not want one while driving or operating heavy machinery, at work or other public activities).

At any rate, sometimes, when I play Halo online, I get stuck with a really laggy server. The herky-jerkiness of it creates a distortion of the normal reality/experience of the game. Sometimes, it's almost reminiscent of the fractured reality one experiences while having a seizure.

Are The Constants Really Constant

I use StumbleUpon ...a lot. It's a great way to kill time and to find random, sometimes nifty stuff out on the internet. Included in my StumbleUpon interests profile is "science". So, I frequently get pages about various physics, astronomy and other scientific postings (NASA's photo of the day rocks, by the way). At any rate, this morning, a page about astronomers viewing light from 13 billion years ago showing them the early times in the universe.

Now, this is kind of interesting. I mean, being able to see what the universe looked like 13 billion years ago and how it differed from today. Unfortunately, it always makes me wonder, "how is this even possible." Don't get me wrong: I get the basics of radio telescopes, visible light telescopes and the like. So, I get that they're able to see this shit with these really complex, expensive and sensitive tools. No what it is I don't get is that physicists tell us that the speed of light is the Universe's speed limit. Physical objects simply cannot exceed the speed of light. That as one approaches the speed of light, mass, essentially, becomes infinite (and a whole bunch of other stuff that only makes a very tenuous amount of sense). So, it confuses me how we could see light transmitted 13 billion years ago.

I mean, that light was transmitted from a distance of 13 billion light-years.That light has been speeding along for 13 billion years at the speed of light. If the Universe truly started as a infinitesimally small pinpoint of something and expanded from there, how did I, as a physical being sitting on a physical chunk of rock beat that light here? Having mass, I would assume that, according to what the scientists all say, in the space of 13 billion years, my chunk of matter can't possibly have traveled 13 billion light years from the Universe's origin point.

Ok, so, maybe the distance is additive. Perhaps, since the universe's beginning, where I am, now, is 3 billion light years from the Universal origin point. And, perhaps that light was, somehow, emitted something 10 billion light years from the universe's origin point, but 180° in the opposite direction of me (whatever that means in an N-dimensional Universe) - for a total travel distance of 13 billion light years. Now, I'm not going to ask how the light emitters got to be 10 billion light years away, since light is usually emitted by thing that have mass, but any way. Why ask for that to make sense any more than any of the other things do.

In my head, it seems to tell me that the numbers just don't add up. Either the speed of light isn't constant, that the speed of light isn't a hard-limit, or that the 13 billion year old light didn't take a direct path to get here (indeed, it'd have to have been pretty circuitous).

Meh... Makes my head spin. Probably makes their spin, too, but, they're all stoned out of their gourds, any way, so they can just go with it.

Waking up because your dreams have left you too angry to stay asleep isn't the best way to start the day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Were We Thinking?

This list reminds me of many 21st birthday parties during my time at PSU. For some reason, birthdays (particularly 21st birthdays), bachelor parties and other such transition-celebrating events seem to take a punishment aspect to them. Oh well: it's not a good drinking binge if someone isn't showing their lunch by the end of the evening and well on their way to a painful wakeup the next day.


How best to keep someone in the game? Make it so they can't afford to drop out (or, just think they can't).

Can't Set the Bar Low Enough

I have very low standards for my fellow man. Unfortunately, humans never fail to disappoint. Readjusting the bar doesn't seem to help. No matter how low you set the bar, someone's going to go sliding under it.

It's like that whole "if you try to make something idiot-proof, they'll just come up with a better idiot" thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you're a woman looking to not be pestered, I'm not sure why you'd use your mike on open XBox Live play. Female voices are fairly identifiable. The moment you speak in an open channel, someone knows you're female. If that person is the type who's going to pester a woman, you've just told them who to pester.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear Mike Wallace (& CBS):

No, actually, you *can't* beat depression. You can manage it, but it never goes away.

Policy Madness

There's a lot of policies, requirements, etc., out there, that come from "Best Practices" and Good Ideas™. In my line of work, where I run into this, a lot, is with security policies.

Best practices indicate that longer passwords are better. After all, guessing a password of N length requires X number of guesses, but guessing a password of N+1 length requires exponentially greater. So, from a mathematical basis,there's merit to this best practice.

Best practices also indicate that passwords should be changed frequently. After all, given sufficient time, any password of any arbitrary length can be guessed. If you know how fast guesses can be made and the total guessable set size, you have a strong, mathematical basis for setting a password change interval.

Unfortunately, day by day, computers get to be much, much faster. This means that, day by day, an automated attack can be conducted much, much faster. To combat this, you can up the password length and/or complexity requirements or shorten your password lifetimes.

And, that's all great from a "Best Practices" standpoint. Unfortunately, "Best Practices" generally only consider things like machines, not humans. Humans are in no way uniform. So, it's hard to set the kind of mathematical constant that makes it easy to formulate a "Best Practice". Thus, the human component is generally left out of the equation.

Sadly, this means you end up with security "Best Practices" that fail to figure in the fact that humans' memories for long, complex strings tend to be lacking. It fails to factor in that humans like to cheat or otherwise use crutches or mechanisms to assist them with a task. So, yeah, you can say, "Best Practices require that you set a fifteen-character, multi-character-class string as your password and that it be changed every thirty days." But, when you do so, you ignore the human component. You ignore that most people either can't remember such strings unaided or that, if they can, it will take them time to do so. That leaves cheating. And, if your attacker knows the types of cheats used by the humans your policies govern, they can exploit those cheats.

For myself, I find that I can usually come up with a mnemonic or other "cheat" that helps me remember things. Unfortunately, it frequently takes me several days to come up with that cheat. Often times, by the time I've really started to remember my password, it's time to generate a new one.

Unfortunately for the security types, most people have to resort to more exploitable cheats. And then... You're as bad off or worse by enforcing "Best Practices". Sometimes, you have to find a better "Best Practice" - one that factors in more of the limitations (particularly the human limitations).

Advantages to Emptiness

The advantage of never having known faith is not having the capability of losing it or having it destroyed. Granted, there's a certain emptiness to such that existence. Granted, I sometimes envy those who have the comfort of their faith.

I can even recognize some of the journey that people like Julia Sweeny went through. It's pretty much the journey of my life, just I started a little further down the path. Somehow, at the end of the day, though, Sweeny seems to have ended up at a different place than I did - possibly a better place than I did.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Exercise for Adults

Sometimes, I think if Golds were more like a McD's play-land, I might actually be interested in exercise. I mean, any time I pass by one of those jungle gyms, ball pits or even Moon Bounces, I regret that I grew up. I mean, they were fun. And now, due to age and size, I can't use them. Not fair.

In fact, I sometimes wonder how much money I could make if I rented out adult-sized "moon bounce" things. I know I'd rent one for my parties. I gotta think there's a market for providing entertainment for "big kids". All you have to do is look at paintball, lasertag and other places to know that's true..

XBox Live

Ok, so, I deactivated my FaceBook account (sorta wonder how long they leave it re-activatable). As a result, I'm sorta out of contact with a number of people, again. Then again, I don't have to worry about how my various random musings are being interpreted - well, other than when some people forget that not everything is about them or that not every statement has any real value beyond comic-relief. But, I digress...

At any rate, buddy of mine (former roommate and best man at my wedding) recently got Halo: Reach. We've kinda drifted apart does that. I'd previously tried helping him wire his house for Ethernet so he could get online and we could start playing games again (figured, gametime was easier that sorting out busy family, work and social schedules). Alas, his XBox wasn't in the part of the house we wired. It was in his man-cave, not in the living room with the big TV and the network drop.


So, when he told me he got Reach, I asked if he was planning to get his XBox hooked up. He hemmed and hawed, so, I informed him "you're getting your Christmas present early" and got him a WiFi adapter and XBox Live Gold membership for his system.

Finally he's online and we were able to game. Now he just needs to get a headset!

An Incongruity

I was, somehow, utterly un-shocked to hear Matt Cooke's name mentioned in the same sentence as the words "cheap shot"

You Might Be a Douche, If... have VTEC or Honda as any part of your online userid, screenname, gamertag, etc. Frankly, if you have any "prized possession" as how you identify yourself. Frankly, if the best you've got to define yourself is some material item that you bought to fill some hole in your being, you lack real identity and you're never going to fill that hole.

I think that, were I in a position to do so, I would redesign the marriage laws.

DC Music Scene is Lame

I moved to the DC Metro area in 1993. It's a smidge over 17 years ago, now. In that time, I've seen DC go from being a mediocre music city to being a horrible one. Many clubs have died and the ones that remain aren't what they once were. Worse, the crowds that were never the liveliest ones, to begin with, have become completely lame.

Tonight, we went to see the Halloween Hootenany at the Post Pavillion. It's never been one of my favorite spaces - as you have to drive up to Columbia to get to it and it's not terribly well run (seriously: the power is out to one of your box offices when there's all these people doing WillCall or buy at the door??) or laid out (stuffing a second stage onto the slant of the lawn seats was pure brilliance, by the way).

Alice Cooper was awesome, if barely contained by his control-garments (kinda reminiscent of the OLD Elmer Fudd cartoons). But, for doing the schtick for fifty years, he's still rockin' out. Still well worth seeing if you like theatre-rock.

Rob Zombie put on his usual excellent show. It's been years since I've seen him, but he's still a balls-out performer.

Unfortunately, the crowd was completely and utterly lame - even by the low expectations I have for DC crowds. My buddy, John, had gotten us tickets in the pit. Now, it used to be, if you were in the pit at a Zombie show, you were coming home sweaty and bruised. Tonight, I came home neither. People were more concerned about being able to take digital pictures, stealing the (dozens of) balls fired out into the crowd and just not being bumped to even consider getting into the music enough to raise a sweat or any welts.

As I'm standing there in this total buzzkill of a crowd, all I could think was, "do you think Rob Zombie likes that, instead of  dancing or moshing, people at this show just stood around like statues with digicams in their hands?"

And, to be honest, I don't get the whole digital cameras thing. I mean, yeah, take a few snaps so you have something to remind yourself of the show. Just remember, though, that: A) you're not a photojournalist; B) the pix you're taking with your crappy cell phone camera or consumer-grade digicam are going to be horrible; and, most importantly, C) while you're busy dicking around taking pictures, you can't really get the full feel and enjoyment of the show. So, all those dark, blurry, color-smudged "photos" you're taking are going to, at best, evoke memories of half of the experience you could have had. Congrats.

I guess this all just really shows my age. I'm old enough to remember that, if a guy was holding something over his head at a concert, it was a woman, not a digital camera. I'm old enough to remember that, if you were down in the pit, you were there to be part of the experience: not to take pictures; not to not be jostled; not to be a human statue.

Perhaps, what's saddest of all about this is that, at 40 years old, people in my age group (and older!) are more into the shows than the idiot twenty-somethings. All I can think is, (big-time) "WTF".

Good Sports Day

Eagles win; Phillies win; Deadskins, Cowpats and Ravens all lose.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fuck You, Falcons

Nice, dirty-hit, Falcons: shot to the head with your helmet on a defenseless player. Classy. Hopefully, the league will fine the hell out of you. Then again, the league really only plays lip-service to the whole head-injury thing.

Has It Just Been Veiled Outsourcing?

So, apparently, Germans are getting cranky about their un-assimilated aliens (much as other European countries and the US is).

Now, German chemical and other countries have long been accused of helping "rogue-states" with their WMD programs - be the chemical or nuclear programs. Hell, even the recent Stuxnet work was targeted at German-manufactured PLCs in Iranian nuclear reactors. Perhaps this has been a way for Germany to develop nuclear expertise and weaponry to provide a measure of plausible-deniability about their own nuclear ambitions. Perhaps the Reich will rise again (this time, ready to leave their opponents as radioactive parking-lots)?

Nah. While conventional war-making can be profitable, if you destroy your markets, you've no place left to sell. And, at the end of the day, Germans are big into commerce.

Food for the (Mentally) Feeble

I've been to McDonalds. When you're broke or just in a hurry, it's not a bad option. The food's utter shit and you feel awful, the rest of the day, after eating their food, but it's still an option.

Unfortunately, you have a non-trivial percentage of people who eat there regularly. I think that, not only is it killing their bodies but their brains as well.

Then again, I consider how stupid the average person I run into is, and then have to remember that "average" is a mid-point on a statistical spectrum. Clearly, the woman in this article falls somewhere on the dumber-side of that midpoint.

As I said, I've been to McDonalds. And, not just one of them, but pretty much all over the US, parts of canada and even Europe. They're all pretty much the same - construction-wise. While I don't generally like using public restrooms, sometimes, nature's call is a bit urgent, and I've had to relent. Any of the McDonalds' restrooms I've had the misfortune to use (most public restrooms, actually) have been pretty much the same: flimsy, lightly-constructed aluminum doors and walls, lightly anchored to the floors and walls, with ill-fitting locking/latching mechanisms and just barely clean enough to pass local healthcodes.

That said, the injuries reported in that article just don't seem reasonable. The stalls, themselves, even if they completely collapsed on her, don't contain enough weight/materials to cause those kinds of injuries. And, she's not claiming a total collapse, only that the door came off and fell on her. So, unless she was at some medieval-themed McDonalds where the stall doors were constructed similar to the drawbridge on an old castle or keep and a 500lb gorilla was jumping up and down on that door as it laid atop her, I have my doubts on the veracity of her claims.