Archive for July, 2010

Brain, brain, what is brain?

Friday, July 30th, 2010

After the jump, and especially for Lawrence, some photos I took last night while running around with Mike the Musicologist.

(more…)

0 Day DEFCON 18 notes.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

This year, I got in on Wednesday, which reduced the stress level considerably. Mike the Musicologist met me here; Andrew “Swordfish Trombone” Wimsatt is flying in tonight.

Mike and I had a pretty good (and cheap!) dinner Wednesday night at Four Kegs, which some of you may recognize from “Diners,  Drive-Ins, and Dives“.

DEFCON 18 panels that I may, or may not, attend, but will point out for Lawrence‘s benefit:

Weaponizing Lady Gaga, Psychosonic Attacks

I’ve already missed the “Hardware Black Magic: Designing Printed Circuit Boards” and “Go Go Gadget Python: Introduction to Hardware Hacking” panels, but I figure most of the information from those is on the DEFCON 18 CD.

Panels I want to attend:

I’m torn between the annual “Making of the Badge” panel, and the “How To Get Your FBI File (and Other Information You Want From the Federal Government)” panel. If I do get moving that early, I suspect I’ll end up at the latter one.

Build a Lie Detector/Beat a Lie Detector“. My desire to attend this is mostly based on nostalgia. When I was a young boy, my dad gave me several of the Radio Shack 50-in-1/100-in-1/250-in-1 electronic kits for Christmas. One of the projects in those was always a lie detector, and I always built that project.

Build your own UAV 2.0 – Wireless Mayhem from the Heavens!” How could anyone not go to that panel?

Exploiting Digital Cameras“. Another panel that seems designed to push multiple buttons on my user interface at once.

DCFluX in: Moon-bouncer“. Looks like it could be a fun panel on alternative methods of communication in a critical situation, like moon-bounce (something I’ve heard of from the amateur radio community).

Black Ops Of Fundamental Defense: Web Edition“. Dan Kaminsky. Again, enough said.

Extreme Range RFID Tracking“. I haven’t gotten that deep into RFID hacking yet (though I might change that this year), but I’m interested in this long-range low-power radio device stuff. Also, this is one of two Padget talks I want to see.

Jackpotting Automated Teller Machines Redux” The Black Hat version of this talk is already getting a lot of attention.

I’m having trouble deciding between “This Needs to be Fixed, and Other Jokes in Commit Statements“, which sounds like it could be very funny, and “Insecurity Engineering of Physical Security Systems: Locks, Lies, and Videotape“; I have a lot of respect for Tobias’ work.

Practical Cellphone Spying” is the other Padget talk I want to see.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges: Hacking Electronic Door Access Controllers“: besides the title reference, this might make good background for that novel. I’m also considering “Wardriving the Smart Grid: Practical Approaches to Attacking Utility Packet Radios” as another possibility; I’d really like to see both.

Physical Security : You’re Doing It Wrong!” Well, if he’s going to talk about how to get vendors to take you to lunch, sure!

Physical Computing, Virtual Security: Adding the Arduino Microcontroller Development Environment to Your Security Toolbox“. I’ve been thinking about getting into microcontroller hacking, and this seems like it might be a good introduction to the Arduino (which is one of the environments I’ve considered).

Hacking with Hardware: Introducing the Universal RF Usb Keboard Emulation Device – URFUKED” and “Programmable HID USB Keystroke Dongle: Using the Teensy as a Pen Testing Device“: it sounds like there could be a lot of overlap between these two panels.

The Search for Perfect Handcuffs… and the Perfect Handcuff Key“. You never know when you might need to get out of a pair of handcuffs…

I haven’t decided between “Attack the Key, Own the Lock“, which sounds like it may be a rehash of some panels at previous DEFCONs, and “Constricting the Web: Offensive Python for Web Hackers“, which pushes the Python button.

Electronic Weaponry or How to Rule the World While Shopping at Radio Shack“. Not a lot of information on the DEFCON site; I’ll probably go and leave if I get bored.

Breaking Bluetooth By Being Bored“. I’m fascinated by Bluetooth attacks, so this is a must-see for me.

Panels I won’t be attending:

Getting Root: Remote Viewing, Non-local Consciousness, Big Picture Hacking, and Knowing Who You Are“. The usual hippie horse-pucky.

Any suggestions from anyone else who may be attending? Or presenting? Or wanted to go, but couldn’t?

Don’t worry, Gene Weingarten will write an appreciation for him.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

I had intended to note the passing of John Callahan, but could not find a good obit while I was compiling last night’s death watch.

Fortunately, Gene Weingarten has a very good appreciation of Callahan and his work in today’s WP.

There’s also a good obit by the reliable Bruce Weber in today’s NYT.

Death watch.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Maury Chaykin, actor. He was Nero Wolfe in the A&E series, I believe, and was in a lot of other stuff. Including “War Games”, “Dances With Wolves”…and, well, “Meatballs III” and “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank” (if anyone remembers that MST3K).

(Hattip to FARK.)

Jack Tatum, safety for the Oakland Raiders, remembered for the hit that paralyzed Darryl Stingley. According to the linked article, Stingley passed away in 2007. (Edited to add: NYT obit.)

(Hattip to Patrick at Popehat.)

I baked you a cake, but I eated it.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

I’ll be on the road tomorrow, but I did want to note that it is the one year anniversary of Whipped Cream Difficulties.

I’d like to thank Lawrence, Earl, Mike the Musicologist, the crew at Popehat (especially Ken and Patrick), Jay G., Cranky Prof (who I will pour out a 40 for; seriously, Cranky Prof deserves a much longer thank you from me, and I hope to write that someday. In the meantime, I hope she’s out there somewhere terrorizing the stupid and being the shepherd of lost souls.), the rest of the Friday Night Dinner and Saturday Dining Conspiracy gang, and the members of the Academy. I’m probably forgetting some other folks who also deserve thanks; sorry about that, chief. Drop me a line, and I’ll update.

Edited to add: Joe D., too.

I would tell the Google Ads people what they could do, but my mother has been known to read this blog. Suffice it to say, it involves a rusty fence post, a mile of barbed wire, an uncomfortable place, and no lubricant.

There’s a man who wants to get ahead in the military…

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

By way of Say Uncle, we learn that a Gurkha private with the 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, is in a spot of trouble.

It seems that his unit was dispatched to take out a Taliban commander, and intelligence wanted proof that they had killed the right man. They accomplished the mission, but came under heavy fire. Rather than lugging back the entire body, our man used his kukri to remove the head. You know, a convenient travel package.

For some reason, this upset his superiors, and various other folks.

This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved.

I have this to say on the subject:

Tiny violin. Let me play it for you.

Another guilty pleasure.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

This FARK thread and this post by Glen reminded me of another guilty pleasure of mine: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

More specifically, this version:

and this version:

I feel guilty, oh so guilty…

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

All the cool kids are doing it, so I thought I’d throw my chapeau into the washing machine. Hence, a list of my guilty pleasures:

  • “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted”. I actually find AMW to be a kind of a amazing show in the sheer perfection of the idea; put a show on the air that’s impossible to cancel. If Fox ever did try to cancel it (and they did, once. Once.) the howls of outrage from law enforcement would be heard from coast to coast. John Walsh is right at the border of getting on my last nerve, though (especially given his ignorance about guns) so I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the show.

    “Cops”, on the other hand…well, I can’t explain the strange attraction of that show to me. I’d like to think it isn’t a “there but for the grace of God go I” sort of thing; no matter how low my social circumstances go, I don’t think you’ll ever catch me wearing a wife-beater and drinking a Bud Light after thumping some on my woman. It may be that there’s just a dark part of my soul that enjoys seeing stupid people in trouble.

  • The music of the not-so-late C.W. McCall. Especially “Convoy” and “Wolf Creek Pass”. I have fond memories of riding around in our old Chevy Suburban with the 8-track tape player, listening to a Radio Shack tape of trucking songs that included “Wolf Creek Pass”, “Phantom 309″, and “The White Knight”. (Anyone else remember those last two? I’m probably dating myself. But then, no one else will.)

    As for “Convoy”, let’s just say that I used to have a 45-RPM record of that song that I literally wore the grooves smooth on. Yes, it is on my iPod.

  • The “Dirty Harry” movies. At least “Dirty Harry”, “Magnum Force”, and “Sudden Impact”. I’ll actually defend “Dirty Harry” as being a lot more subtle and sophisticated than people like Roger Ebert think. I don’t see it as a fascist film; I see it as a movie about a good man, struggling to do a job, and dealing with a new set of obstacles society has put in his way. Indeed, I think it could be argued that “Dirty Harry” is a modern remake of “High Noon”, right down to the last scene. (I’m pretty sure Harry throwing his badge into the water is a direct homage by Don Siegel.)

    “Magnum Force” I’ll also defend as an answer to the critics who claimed Harry was a vigilante, and the people who said “So what? Maybe we need vigilantes these days.” I see “Magnum Force” as a movie that’s explicitly about the rule of law, and the need for same.

    “Sudden Impact”…well, I really can’t defend that as anything but fun. “Smith…and Wesson…and me.” “Go ahead, make my day.” The dogshit speech. (Another shameful confession: I also have Clint Eastwood and T.G. Sheppard’s duet, “Make My Day”, on the iPod.)

    I won’t defend “The Enforcer”, and I’ve heard so many bad things about “The Dead Pool” that I haven’t watched it yet.

Important safety tip.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

If you’re going to cheat, don’t be stupid about it. Try to show at least a little intelligence.

I draw my example today from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office, which has a bit of a problem. LACSO wants deputies in the jail to check on the inmates regularly, just to make sure none of them have decided to hang themselves, or are getting beaten to death by Bubba. So they have a system of bar code scanners around the jail; deputies are supposed to use those scanners to scan their assigned bar code as they make their rounds.

But the county Office of Independent Review reported that investigators found some deputies had copies of the codes on sheets of paper. Instead of doing the rounds, the deputies scanned the codes at their desks.

How did they discover this? Well, one of the inmates killed himself, and records showed that a deputy had been making his regular rounds. When the investigators dug a little deeper into the records…

…they discovered that computer records showed the deputy scanned several parts of the jail in 35 seconds — a physical impossibility.

As they investigated further, officials found that the deputy who was on duty during the suicide also went to the staff gym and made a “chow run” to a nearby restaurant on the day of the suicide when he should have been making his rounds, the report says.

Ask not for whom the Bell tolls…

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The three top administrators of the city of Bell, California, agreed to resign yesterday.

These are:

  • the city manager, Robert Rizzo, who was pulling down $787,637 a year (leaving at the end of August).
  • the chief of police, Randy Adams, who was making $457,000 a year. (Adams also apparently will stay through August, “after completing an evaluation of the Police Department”.)
  • assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, $376,288, leaving at the end of September. Spaccia was also serving as the acting city manager for the city of Maywood. Remember Maywood?

Yesterday’s LAT also had a survey of recent municipal corruption in the area around Bell. Some high points:

  • the Lynwood City Council, which was indicted in 2007 for using city money for personal ends, including hiring strippers.
  • South Gate, “a reign of governance so flamboyant in its nasty badness that ‘South Gate’ became shorthand for corruption and politicians gone wild.”
  • Vernon, where the city administrator was pulling in $600,000 a year, got hit with a corruption indictment, and retired “with a record-high state pension of $500,000″.

Edited to add: Oh, look! Robert Rizzo also faces drunk driving charges! (Hattip: Reason “Hit and Run”.)

Steak!

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

The LAT writes about the closing of Edward’s Steak House, a 64-year old steak house in El Monte. I’ve never eaten there, but it sounds like a place I would have enjoyed trying.

By way of Marginal Revolution, I found out about a fairly new book that’s relevant to my interests: Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef.

Remember the Titans.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Titan II Launch Control Center, level 2.