Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

FLL Brick Breakers Recognized

It has been my privilege to coach my first FLL team this year. Over the last 10 weeks, we as mentors and coaches have tried to support a group of six kids, ages 5 to 12, to learn about FIRST, science and technology, and to begin developing the soft and hard skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

On Saturday December 12th 2009, the Brick Breakers team #394 competed against 16 other teams, in their first Maryland FLL Qualifier tournament at the South County Showdown, sponsored by the Power Hawks. Being a young team (with some members even younger than the suggested guidelines) and the majority of the members new to FLL, we set realistic goals for our team. We wanted to complete at least two of the robot missions, focus on a reasonable topic as part of the Smart Move theme, and work together as a team.

I am happy to announce that the Brick Breakers were recognized by the judges with the Rookie All-Star Award. This award “Celebrates the rookie team exemplifying a young but strong partnership effort, as well as implementing the mission of FIRST to inspire students to learn more about science and technology.”

I am proud of the team’s efforts this season. They were able to show their potential to the judges, score the fourth highest in the robotic competition, and act as a team throughout a very long day. Congratulations to the Brick Breakers, and all the teams at the competition.

Please visit for more pictures and details about the team.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

As some may know, we are doing FLL again this year. I have let the team use the site to post their information and pictures for this year. When you get a change please go and visit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Parrothead Security Theater

This summer I took a few days off and went to a Jimmy Buffett with some Parrotheads. My first tailgating experience was fun, and Jimmy Buffett puts on a great concert. You have to respect a talented entertainer.
The venue was not something I was impressed with. The concert was at Nissan Pavilion in VA. It was overpriced for parking, they stuck the tailgaters as far away as humanly possible, but those are not my main complaints. My complaint is the illusion of security, or Security Theater. (I would normally link the term “illusion of security” to Wikipedia for a reference, however on Wikipedia the term redirects to the “United States Department of Homeland Security”.)
Security Theater is just that: when something is done which people claim provides more security, yet it has little to no impact on any actual security. Airport security is like that in a lot of ways. I don’t need to go into great detail about airport security, read the reports and articles.
Security should be about ease of use, work factor, frequency and value. If it is too hard to use, people will not use it, no matter the security it provides. Make something harder to break into, and the less likely it is that someone will bother, they will probably move on to an easier one. Why protect against flooding when it floods once every 100 years and it hasn’t rained? Don’t protect a 100K with a five dollar lock box, and don’t buy a 100K safe to protect 5 dollars. This is an overly simplified view of security, but I am sick of everyone being told to be scared, and people not thinking, so I started ranting again…
So back at Nissan Pavilion, four of us are heading to the gates, to find a crowd of people being funneled into 6 to 10 gates, I do not have an actual count of gates, however there is no crowd control. There were no barriers, no fences to direct traffic, no signs to tell everyone that they want women on the left and men on the right to get frisked. There were also no signs to say “No Cameras” (note that on the website it stated no professional camera, but they were turning all cameras away.) It was a mass of at least 300 people trying to get into a Jimmy Buffett concert, and things then started to get ugly. People started yelling at each other, pushing, and getting mad. Why? Because every person had to be frisked, and show what’s in their pockets to the yellow shirt people at each gate. At one point we saw two separate arguments on either side of our group about people cutting in front of others when the entire front of the crowd was shoved forward by the back. The situation was beginning to escalate. Finally someone in a white staff shirt jogged down the line and stopped by each yellow shirted person doing the frisking and told them to “let’em through.” I was thankful some noticed the situation for what it was, before something serious happened and someone got hurt, but it made me mad that this was all done in the name of security.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FLL 2009 robot test 2

We are coaching a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team this year. The team has named themselves the 'Brick Breakers'. They are testing some robot bases and decided to video it. This was test two.

FLL 2009 robot test 1

We are coaching a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team this year. The team has named themselves the 'Brick Breakers'. They are testing some robot bases and decided to video it. This was test one.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A New Hobby

As a little kid I always loved finding things. I would pride myself at looking until I found what I was looking for, checking places off in my mind and thinking of new places to look for the lost items. So when I was shown a metal detector as a young kid I was more than excited about the new items it could help me find. I never had one of my own, they were always too expensive when I had money or I had no time for it when I did have some extra money.
This recently changed, thanks to a bonus program at work. I collected enough points this year and decided to give to myself. I received a Bounty Hunter IV Metal detector and I really enjoy it. It is almost as relaxing as hitting golf balls at the driving range. I will write a more indepth review later, but in short, it is everything you need to learn the basics of Metal Detecting. I have sweeped most of my yard, next stop is the beach!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

FIRST and Google’s Project 10 to the 100th

Please Vote! Follow the link below.

Google’s Project 10 to the 100th – Vote for FIRST! We have 48 hours to get 100,000 votes in favor of Education and FIRST to be a winner of the Google $2M grant contest. Please go here to place your vote:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two Dragons

Another video from our daughter. First of a series.

A funny thing happened under the sea

This is a video that our youngest daughter filmed with her new ipod nano she got this month for her 10th birthday.

"This is the most dangerous thing that happened to a Lego city diver. (Ignore the cat.)" she says.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Enigma of a Code Breaker

Ever since watching documentaries as a kid about World War 2, I have always been fascinated about that war. It was a time of great strength, fear, waste, and invention. War is never a good thing, but as a kid I watched in fascination and awe of what people did for God, Family and Country.

As the childhood fascination of war disappeared, the inventions are what kept my interest. This was a time of great technical advances. As my career moved to computers again, I found a new fascination with WWII.

The Enigma machines captured my interest, both their use and effect in the war as well as the efforts made to break the codes by the Allies. It was an interesting machine, but my true fascination with the subject grew when I learned about Bletchley Park and Alan Turing.

From the CNN article - "Turing was best known for inventing the Bombe, a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by German Enigma machines during World War II.
The messages provided the Allies with crucial information from the British government's code-breaking headquarters in Bletchley Park where Turing worked full-time during the war.
He was considered a mathematical genius and went on to develop the Turing machine, a theory that automatic computation cannot solve all mathematical problems, which is considered the basis of modern computing."

When I first of Turing I wondered why I had not heard of him before. Then I learned he had committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 41. I thought that was the reason I had not heard of him, he had cut himself short. Then I saw a new documentary (and I wish I could remember the name of it) that made it all very clear.

At the end of the war, the code breakers of Bletchley Park destroyed everything: the documents about broken codes, one of the first computers that had been made to break the Enigma codes faster. The group disbanded to their civilian lives. Alan Turing, the mathematical genius that served his country so well, and built one of the first computers, was then prosecuted by his own government.

"Turing was subjected to chemical castration in 1952 after being found guilty of the charge of gross indecency for having a homosexual relationship, an illegal act at the time. He committed suicide two years later."

So what is the point to this rant? Well, first I hope Alan Turing gets the recognition and apology that he deserves. Second, I hope we can learn from history, and not persecute others for different lifestyles and beliefs. Third, well that is my own selfish reason and that is simply to vent.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

All I need is this news, and this Rant, and that Dog....

As the fighting for the control of rights of who owns what information continues we continue to all lose. Microsoft, Yahoo and possibly have joined a group of opponents in a class action lawsuit against Google. In brief summary Google is digitizing book for access over the Internet, but critics say that if the service becomes a necessity they would, Google would have a monopoly.

It comes down to rights, everyone wants the rights and the ability to control the access to everything. To be able to charge for it, decide who can use it, sue over who had what idea, sang what song, and shot what movie. Welcome to the information age. I have mentioned these things before. (1) (2)

But I want to move on. I was born what can arguably be called the computer age, or the Information age. To me these two “ages” or eras are separate. IMHO, the computer age started at the end of the industrial age after WWII, and the computer age ended around the time of the Internet, in the early 1990’s. I know some people will disagree but that is how I see it. The industrial age created the power and technical knowledge to launch the Computer age. The computer made possible the collection and processing of information quick and easily. That changed when a way to universal way to connect all of these computer systems came to be. This allowed the sharing and, later the search, of data. To me these are clear differences. Wikipedia disagrees, but doing more research on the subject no one agrees on the dates or the terminology. This brings me to my next point having too much information and what is next.

In the last few weeks announcements have been made how humans are 10 years from creating a virtual brain. Is this the next age of Humans? What about energy? The main problem with having machines like electric cars and robots is the power-to-weight ratio. The catch-22 is that when you need more power, you add more batteries, that adds weight, so you need more power. No current battery can supply the amount of power we need to drive the technology we have to make it independent of external energy. Is the battery the next age of Humans? What if nanotechnology solves both these problems? The Nanotech age certainly has a good ring to it.

So what do you think? Go ahead and post you thought on Facebook or Tweet it, sometimes giving your rights away on ownership of your comment. We will read it and laugh for your 15 minutes of fan. Next we will move on to the latest and greatest of freely generated comments, videos, and pictures on the Internet, by the only people who still create original content…you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From Manga

Being a bit of a news junkie I follow several news sites and blogs. One blog I follow is TaoSecurity. He posted an interesting comparison of two books; Manga Guide to Statistics vs Statistics in a Nutshell

The part I found amusing is he came to the same conclusions I did when I purchased the series for our kids. I especially like the Database book, this book explains then well enough for a 12 year old to understand. The added bonus is the kids will actually read them.

Here is my Reading List on Amazon. It's new but I will add more latter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Who Watches the Tweets

It seems to be a love hate relationship between the Armed Forces and social networks. The Marine Corps' recently blocked network users from accessing social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, saying that it provides information to adversaries and provides an easy path for information leakage.
The Air Force on the other hand has been embracing cyberspace. The Air Force has a long established Cyber Command, and have started to understand that in the information age people give you the information you want faster than ever before.
"The Air Force tracked the instant messaging service Twitter, video carrier YouTube and various blogs to assess the huge public backlash to the Air Force One flyover of the Statue of Liberty this spring, according to the documents.
And while the attempts at damage control failed - "No positive spin is possible," one PowerPoint chart reads - the episode opens a window into the tactics for operating in a boundless digital news cycle."
So don't worry everyone, they will figure out the positive spin.

Friday, August 7, 2009

RIP John Hughes

I loved his movies before I ever knew his name. John Hughes dies at 59 of a heart attack. I always will love Ferris Buellers day off.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I love Quotes. This the newest from an Article Lemony showed me.
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?"
So Lemony is 21 and I am around 27. Forever.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Netbook Wallpaper

Been busy, and sick so slow with posts. Thought I would share some wallpaper I have found for netbook. These are all 1024 x 600. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RIP; Walter Cronkite and Frank McCourt

To people who shared their life and made a difference.
"And that's the way it is."

Passport RFID

This is an old topic, but a good one. On June 1, 2009 it became mandatory for Americans entering the US to present identity documents that are embedded with radio frequency identification tags, or RFID chips. This means Passports. So why is this a problem?

"Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.
It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold.
Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet."

The AP written article on Fox News is not talking about anything new. Security researchers were talking about this problem when it was first announced that the US government was going to start embedding RFID chips in passports. In fact RFID security has become enough of a hot topic that one FLL (First Lego League) Referee I talked to last year was planning on specializing in the subject after school.

So I don't have a passport, no problem, right? Wrong. Wal-Mart loves RFID chips to the point that they where talking about fining suppliers not using them on pallets in Sams club distribution centers. But this is at the supplier level, still no worries right? Wrong again. Several companies are looking at ways to use RFID tags on the consumer level.

Think about this scenario. You walk into a grocery or department store. You walk around picking up the things that you need and want, depositing them into your cart. When you are done, you simply head to the door and walk through a small doorway on your way out. Much like the sensors you see now to detect shoplifters. As you push your cart through, all the RFID tags are scanned and totaled, so as you pass through the doorway sensors a printer hands you a receipt to give to the cashier or even automatically charges a predetermined credit card that is linked to a pin you punched in, or better yet tied to the RFID chip you carry on your person or on your cell phone. That way the store no longer has to pay a cashier, and check out is quick and easy. The funny part is that these types of scenarios have been tested. Beside finding a way to disable the RFID tags once you have left the store so people can't scan your house to find out what you have the other major push back from consumers was that they had to bag there own stuff.

So what is the best way to protect your self from RFID chips besides a tinfoil wallet? Wired has a suggestion, but use at your own risk and watch your fingers.

To end this rant I give you a cheesy, but informative video off YouTube. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another Hershey Video

This one is the Falcon ride. Enjoy.

Hershey Video

So had a busy weekend planned and then got sick. Typical. I did make it long enough so we all could go to Hershey Park. I recorded some rides on my camera and thought I would share. The first is the log ride. (Note: my Camera is waterproof, don’t try recording this without a protected camera.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Web Sites Targeted in Cyber Attack

US, S. Korean Government Web Sites Targeted in Cyber Attack By Kurt Achin is an interesting article about a recent and ongoing cyber attack from North Korea.
"South Korean authorities began to notice the Internet disruption Tuesday evening. By Wednesday, Korea Communication Commission official Lee Myung-su said the attack program had spread far and wide.
He says 18,000 personal computers have been infected by a malicious code.
At least 11 South Korean government sites have been either greatly slowed or made unavailable, including the sites for the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, and the lawmaking National Assembly. Several major South Korean banks and the leading Internet portal, Naver, were also affected.
U.S. sites have also been affected, including the Treasury Department, Secret Service, and Federal Trade Commission. The Web site of Voice of America news has been unavailable in South Korea for two days."
And if you are asking why attack South Korea;
"South Korea is one of the most wired nations in the world. Major governmental agencies like the Ministry of Defense find themselves under attack by hackers thousands of times on any given day. Parliamentary hearings on this particular round of attacks are scheduled for Thursday."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I wonder how many people think about cyber warfare. I know even children think about conventional warfare, but how many people contemplate the effects of information, and cyber warfare. China seems to be thinking about it;

"Nations develop defense capabilities and weapon systems based on threat perception. While it is extremely difficult to predict future war, it is something each country must take seriously. You don’t spend all of your military budget on coastal defense if estimates show it is more likely you will engage in land warfare. If military decision-makers predict that future combat will center around non-contact war, using drones, cyber attacks and space-based weaponry, you focus your energy and resources on those areas.
China has openly announced that they are moving toward an “informationized” force and it is one of their top priorities. While we do not have to agree with their rational, it is imperative that we understand it."

The Dark Visitor goes on to talk about the original post on (in Chinese). It is a good article if you like this kind of thing.

SO who is thinking about this stuff? The FAA is, Congress is, and a lot of businesses are too. Google it and you will see more. So what is the government doing about it? They are creating USCYBERCOM. "...Secretary Gates ordered the creation of U.S. Cyber Command, a subordinate unified command under U.S. Strategic Command."

So this shows Government is thinking about it, what about Commercial? Some companies think about this stuff. I know TJ MAXX does, now. I also know lots that are still catching up.

So what about you? How do you protect your data? Do you have your passwords saved in a document anyone can open on your computer? Do you have an updated anti-virus? Do you patch your system on a regular basis? Do you backup your files to a separate drive?

Physical attacks will remain the primary way to fight a war for a long time and will be the only way to win the battle. But the Cyber attack may win the next war.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fun With DIY Dash Cam

One of the many reasons I started a blog rather than hosting my own webserver as I have done in the past is because I wanted to post videos. The problem with that is they take a lot of room and more speed than I was willing to pay for. The videos that I had in mind were not family videos but dash cam videos.
When I was consulting and driving to DC, VA and the far reaches of MD every day it is amazing what I saw on the road. I wanted to record this stuff. I needed a relatively cheap way of recording to a digital chip, by battery or 12V, a small screen to position my camera and be able to use a small pin hole camera that would not be in my way. I looked at my options. I found a small PDVR (Personal Digital Video Recorder) that fit the budget, gave me the best resolution for the price and would meet my requirements. The SVAT CV1002DVR Handheld DVR With 2.5" LCD Screen and Color Pinhole Camera fit the needs, and I got it when it was on sale off (See link to Amazon below for specs on the DVR.)
So then I set it up in my car. The reason I wanted a pin hole camera is because I had seen more expensive mount kits that you can buy and they slide over the rear view mirror. It was a good place for the camera, out of the way and hard to see, as seen below from the outside view;

The way I attached the pinhole camera was self-sticking Velcro to the back of the rear view mirror and a small piece of Velcro on the back of the camera. I found that the heat in the car tends to release the Velcro from the back of the camera so I secured it with a small rubber band. The cable supplies power to the camera and video back to the PDVR.

I was able to wedge the cables along the top and side of the windshield so they are out of the way and down the door jamb to under the passenger side console. The best place to get power was inside my main console where I have a 12V power plug. I had an old power converter to go from the 12V to a standard 110V to power the camera. Below is what my center console looks like now.

Now we align the camera by attaching the PDVR. Once I tell it to start to record the LCD turns off after a few minutes to save battery. The battery lasts about 2 1/2 hours so I also purchased a 4GB CF (compact flash) card to record the same amount of time. The PDVR then sits nicely in a cup holder once it is on and running. It requires no attention as I drive.
Of course as Murphy's Law goes I have not been able to capture that many dramatic things. You can search the Blog for car and vid for the few past posts. When I don't have it, or forget to charge the battery things happen, like ice storms and car wreaks, but most days when I have it running it only records the usual nightmare of Baltimore-Washington DC traffic. Here is a Sample at 4X speed.

I guess it is a good thing I haven't got a lot of 'interesting' car videos to post, but my daily commute does not make riveting video.
See you on the road.

Asteroids; The Movie

One can only hope this goes no where.
"Universal Studios is preparing to bring Atari video game Asteroids to the big screen, despite the fact that the classic offers "no story line or fancy world-building mythology", as the Hollywood Reporter puts it."
I know that there hasn't been any original ideas in the past 50 years, but can't we do better than this? Maybe they should call this Armageddon 2.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th, More Wallpaper

Happy 4th of July, have some wallpaper.

Palin Stepping Down This Month

Palin is stepping down. I have mentioned Palin on my blog before. I think this is over due.
"Gov. Sarah Palin announced Friday that she will step down as Alaska's chief executive by the end of the month. She will not seek election to a second gubernatorial term in 2010.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announces she's stepping down this month.
As the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Palin had been considered one of the front-runners for the GOP nomination in 2012.
"People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing's more important to me than our beloved Alaska," Palin said in an announcement from her home in Wasilla. "Serving her people is the greatest honor I could imagine."
Palin was elected governor in 2006. She was chosen as Arizona Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate last year."
UPDATE 07062009: Another take on this.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fight for Iranian Democracy by Proxy

This is from a company blog called Renesys. They are "the leading provider of objective, critical intelligence on the worldwide state of the Internet." The only reason I cut and paste that statement from their site is because I have always been impressed with there posts. This post is about how the Iranian people continue to get access to the Internet. It is a little technical but hang in there.
"If you put 65 million people in a locked room, they're going to find all the exits pretty quickly, and maybe make a few of their own. In the case of Iran's crippled-but-still-connected Internet, that means finding a continuous supply of proxy servers that allow continued access to unfiltered international web content like Twitter, Gmail, and the BBC.
A proxy server is a simple bit of software that you run on your computer. It effectively lets you share your computer with anonymous strangers as a "repeater" for content that they aren't allowed to fetch themselves. For example, an Iranian web browser might be manually configured to use your computer (identified by an IP address and a port number) as a Web proxy. When your anonymous friend reads, or posts a tweet, the request goes via your computer, instead of to Twitter's web server directly. Except for a little delay, and the fact that your friend gets to see what the uncensored Internet looks like from New York or London or São Paolo instead of Tabriz or Qom, surfing through a proxy is pretty much like surfing without one.
As you might imagine, open web proxies are valuable commodities in places where it's forbidden, possibly dangerous, to surf the Internet. Iran's opposition movement has been vigorously trading lists of open proxies over the past week. And as you might further imagine, the Iranian government censors have worked overtime to identify these proxies and add them to the daily blacklists.As an experiment, we geolocated a list of about 2,000 web proxies (unique IP addresses and port numbers) that were shared on Twitter and other web sites over the course of the last week, to see if we could discern patterns in the places that are hosting them. Most of these are no longer reachable from inside Iran, of course, precisely because they were made public. The following map shows the distribution of those proxies worldwide."

"...Here's a geographic visualization of the proxies, drawn in Google Earth. In the first one, we've drawn Iran in green..."

I love this stuff. The level of technical knowledge along with the understanding of the world politics is great. Read the rest of the article.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


To continue on with my privacy and FaceBook ranting, today FaceBook announced changes to their privacy policies.
"To get an idea of just how badly this might mess things up, one need only look at the wording for "Transition Tool ... which was shown to the press during the conference call ... The tool's heading invites users to update their privacy settings, which is fair enough given that they're getting totally reworked. But it also says "While updating your new settings, make it easier for friends to connect with you by making a few fields visible to Everyone. Please note that Everyone means everyone on the Internet." That may be intended as a suggestion, but it sure sounds like more of a command. And you can be sure that the millions of Facebook users who have no idea what the implications are of sharing their personal data with Google and the world will be happy to tick off those "Everyone" radio buttons. "
Just goes back to what I ranted about before, never assume privacy on the Internet.

Eat Manga, Tentacles Included!

As I have posted before about Manga so I thought I would share about 'The Manga Cookbook' by Chihiro Hattori. Our three love to read Manga and like Japanese food so I thought this would be a good book for them. They where all very excited about dinner and had fun eating what they and Lemony had created.
"Food appears frequently in Japanese comics, but what exactly is it that the characters are eating? Introducing The Manga Cookbook, an illustrated step-by-step guide to preparing simple Japanese dishes using ingredients found in every Western kitchen. Learn to identify and make the same things you see in all your favorite manga: authentic onigiri (rice balls), yakitori (skewered chicken), oshinko (pickled vegetables), udon (Japanese noodles), okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pizza) and many others! Includes sections on how to assemble bento boxed lunches and properly use chopsticks."
Now if I could learn to enjoy Japanese food we would be all set.

Dual Widescreen Wallpapers, part 3

Some more wallpaper.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Now that I have embraced my facebook account I have to start telling everyone the same things that I talk about at work. Don't click on strangers. If someone sends an email to you and you don't know them, delete it.

"Cybercrime is rapidly spreading on Facebook as fraudsters prey on users who think the world's top social networking site is a safe haven on the Internet."

One of the ways they do this is guess simple passwords.

"Scammers break into accounts posing as friends of users, sending spam that directs them to websites that steal personal information and spread viruses. Hackers tend to take control of infected PCs for identity theft, spamming and other mischief."

I have dealt with spam, spyware, and viruses on more computers than I care to think about, so dont think this can't happen to you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Public Privacy?

I don’t like to share a lot about myself. I have always been that way, I prefer to internalize and hide behind aliases. When the web was young I did searches for myself and demanded removal from sites listing my name, phone, address, etc… and it was largely effective back in the day. Yes, I had websites to show the family out of state pics of the kids, and I saved domain names because it was cool, but I never thought about posting much more.
Forward to 2009, with social networking sites, blog sites, tweets and search engines nothing is private. Nothing. As I have gotten older I can’t stop complaining about news and happenings, this turns every website I have ever had into not just a online repository of my links and notes, but my own little soapbox. Nothing I post is Private. I am aware of this, I accept it.

I understand how much information about everyone is out there, waiting for the right search to show itself in a search. (This is why some search engines were supposedly started with government seed money. Look it up yourself, and believe what you want. ) I know more than most about this because I have had positions where finding that private information on the internet was part of my job. And this is where Facebook comes in.

Years ago, I was asked to look for company info on social networks. As a requirement to search, I had to have an account on most social network webpages, and I took the opportunity to save one of my common aliases on all the sites. Now I will periodically get request emails asking “Is this you?” from former classmates, co-workers, and sometimes family members asking about some account somewhere. Well, I give. I have now embraced my Facebook account. (Go ahead and search for me.)

This brings me to my true point: Privacy. I don’t kid myself, if anyone wants to know my name, address, phone, birthday, and other private info it is not hard. Heck, get my address and you can look up my property value or drive by our house and see the cars in the driveway on Google Earth. Most people only require a few clicks to get the information together about anyone. I do remain guarded about my life but let's get real, we are all an open book these days. So the most important thing to do is think about what you share, how you share it, and when you share it. NOTHING YOU POST ON THE INTERNET IS PRIVATE. (Then again, sometimes that is the point.) Here is a short checklist of things I think about while posting.

  • You are not anonymous. They can find you.
  • Don’t post pictures that you don’t want used by others. You may have copyright, a watermark, but people will still use it, and in ways that may offend/exploit.
  • Don’t post something that you would not want others to read 5 years down the road.
  • Don’t do this stuff at work. Losing your job it not worth the post. In most cases.
Below are 4 links of people who did not think about these things. Enjoy, and remember, we are all watching.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dual Widescreen Wallpaper Part 2

Some more wallpaper in 3360 x 1050 format.

How to Own Public Domain

I have complained about intellectual property rights and abuse before. This is a new angle of how companies constantly avoid their property going into public domain while using free knowledge and art to make money.
"The public domain is the greatest resource in human history: eventually all knowledge will become part of it. Its riches serve all mankind, but it faces a new threat. Vast libraries of public domain works are being plundered by claims of "copyright". It's called copyfraud - and we'll discover how large corporations like Google, Yahoo, and Amazon have structured their businesses to assist it and profit from it."
Read the three page article. It is informative. The last paragraph says it all;
"Publishing should not be permitted to become a Google-Amazon oligarchy. Let us not forget what happened when a single portal to the entirety of the world's books was assembled: the ancient Library of Alexandria burned to the ground, taking everything with it. Nobody should be allowed to become a single portal to the world's knowledge. ®"

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Loud Silence of the Iranian People

In case you have been under a rock for the last few weeks, Iran has been having some internal problems. Google 'Iran elections' to educate yourself if you have any questions.

What I can glean from all of the news articles is even the small governments have a strong control of their people's voices.

This post was fueled by the following links;
From the Slate article "The Revolution Will Not Be Digitized How the Internet helps Iran silence activists." By Farhad Manjoo "The big story in Iran is confusion—on a daily basis, there are more questions than answers about what's really happening, about who's winning and losing, about what comes next. The surprise isn't that technology has given protesters a new voice. It's that, despite all the tech, they've been effectively silenced."

From the Salon article "Unveiling the revolution" By Tracy Clark-Flory "The world has been shocked by young Iranian women fighting on the front lines -- but their rebellion is nothing new"

From the CNN article "Iran says Neda's death may be tied to 'terrorist' group" ""It's heartbreaking," President Obama said Tuesday, referring to the video of Neda, which means "divine calling" in Farsi. "And I think anyone who sees it knows there's something fundamentally unjust about it.""

Also from Salon "Tehran dispatch: The regime shows us movies
They want to keep us indoors, and quiet. But which subversive programmer picked "The Lord of the Rings"? Editor's note: For reasons of personal safety, the author chooses to remain anonymous. By Anonymous

Friday, June 19, 2009

How to get into modeling for the whole family

Imagine you live in St Louis suburbs with your wonderful family and decide to post your family Christmas card in your family blog. Something like this:

So after a while you forget about your picture posted on your blog. Then one day a friend of yours call from eastern Europe while visiting and tells you that he saw your picture at a grocery store advertising the delivery service. Something like this:

Not that this would ever happen. Right?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dual Widescreen Wallpapers

When I bought my most recent computer one important thing was having dual monitors (having on computer with 2 monitors attached and the desktop seamless between the 2). No dual monitors is not for a cool effect, it is for efficiency. If you have not used a dual monitor setup try it for a month, you will never want to go back to a single screen. When I got my monitors I got them from Dell and on sale. The reason they were cheaper than most was they were not a common resolution or size screen (3360 x 1050 to be exact). So when I went to find some desktop wallpapers I found I was a little limited. That was when I found with a nice collection a wallpaper that I would not have to explain to my wife or kids. But alas, like most blogs it has not been updated for a long time now. So I have copied the pictures and will be posting them to my website periodically. Here is the first few wallpapers at 3360 x 1050 resolution for dual widescreen monitors.

A Super Thanks

Thank you to all that responded on and off the blog to "Super Joes" Sunday sundaes video. He is very happy. Other videos will be made available as soon as his people talk to my people and reasonable terms are agreed on. New up and coming stars are also planning to appear but that will be in the new season lineup.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grass-Eating Men

I have been fascinated by Japanese culture for years now. They have an unique culture that has so many fascinating things about it. Manga and Anime are interesting view of the culture. Another recent phenomenon of the culture is soushoku danshi, translated to , "grass-eating boys." "Named for their lack of interest in sex and their preference for quieter, less competitive lives, Japan's "herbivores" are provoking a national debate about how the country's economic stagnation since the early 1990s has altered men's behavior."

For a country that had its population decline every year since 2005 this is not a good thing.

Another part of the article shows how life and art influence each other. "Yoto Hosho, a 22-year-old college dropout who considers himself and most of his friends herbivores, believes the term describes a diverse group of men who have no desire to live up to traditional social expectations in their relationships with women, their jobs, or anything else...Hosho believes that the lines between men and women in his generation have blurred. He points to the popularity of "boys love," a genre of manga and novels written for women about romantic relationships between men that has spawned its own line of videos, computer games, magazines, and cafes where women dress as men."

The above Slate article is not a surprise with the understanding of the Hikikomori phenomenon, reclusive individuals who have chosen to withdraw from social life. This phenomenon was highlighted in the Anime series "Welcome to the NHK" ( I highly recommend the series if you enjoy Anime/Manga. It is for mature audience. Amazon Welcome to the NHK)

In my opinion they are both examples of people not wanting to run the "rat race", or "keep up with the Joneses". In the high stress of Japanese culture it is no surprise that these "alternative" life styles would appear. Then again maybe I'm just jealous.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cooking with Super Joe

Our children have all wanted to make videos of things they enjoy. This is a video that our son wanted to make about him "cooking". Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Catching up the Lazy, I mean the Easy Way

So one of the many reasons I have a blog is to keep track of interesting news and facts in one spot. The problem becomes posting them in a way that I can make sense of it all later and posting it before I forget about it. We have been busy lately and I have several links I wanted to write about and when that happens blogging is the last thing I worry about. So here is a quick and dirty dump of News and links.
Death knell sounds for Europe's beekeepers I don't know why this is not bigger news, this is happening more every year. The kids and Lemony went to a bee farm last year in MD and they said most bee keepers were seeing at least a quarter to 1/2 of there bees disappear. I don't like bees but I love what they do for us. " "It is a complete crisis," said Francesco Panella, who tends about 1,000 hives in Piedmont, northern Italy. "Last year, I lost about half my production. I can't survive more than 2 or 3 more years like this. My son won't be able to continue my trade."
Mystery has surrounded the recent decline of bee numbers, but most keepers blame modern farming methods and the powerful new pesticides used on crops like sunflower, maize and rapeseed."
Why does Craigslist run kinky ads? This amuses and saddens me. This is a long explanation of why Craigslist runs Erotic services ads. Read the article.
This last one is a brief article from a snarky online tech site I love to read. Britain leads world in police state survey; Gold medals for snooping, spying and surveilling Remember these are our allies. Right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

GM Bankruptcy

I have mixed feelings about GM. My view point is a little closer than some being born in Michigan. Two other view points are from Ralph Nader and Michael Moore.
From Naders statement, I encourage you to read the entire statement;
"The proximate cause of the bankruptcy was supposed to be the inability of GM and the government's auto task force to reach an accommodation with GM's bondholders. But late last week, the bondholder problem was moving toward rapid resolution, and was clearly resolvable. Why then are GM and its multibillion government financier proceeding with bankruptcy?
The bankruptcy and the GM restructuring plan are the product of a secretive, unaccountable, Wall Street-minded government task force that assumed power because of a Congressional abdication of historic magnitude. By all rights, the restructuring plan should have been submitted to Congress for deliberative review and decision."

From Moores website, and again I encourage you to visit the site and read the entire article:
"I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.
As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?"

I find more hope in Moores statement, but I agree with Nader on several points. My question is if company's has the right of "corporate personhood", then what kind of person would GM be?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So What Do You Know About Memorial Day?

"Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 25 in 2009). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Make Up My Mind

Don't you hate it when facts change. I was always fascinated by Komodo dragons when I was growing up. A 200 pound 10 foot long lizard that could eat a deer sounded cool to me, like a dinosaur. When learning more about them with my kids all the documentaries said that the Komodo was not poisonous, but had toxic bacteria in its mouth that could kill you. Now they are saying it is poisonous. I just hope the world is still round.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Warfare: Part Deux

So now that they have robots blowing people up they are thinking about putting ethics in to the software.
"Smart missiles, rolling robots, and flying drones currently controlled by humans, are being used on the battlefield more every day. But what happens when humans are taken out of the loop, and robots are left to make decisions, like who to kill or what to bomb, on their own? Ronald Arkin, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, is in the first stages of developing an "ethical governor," a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire. His book on the subject, "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots," comes out this month. "
Robots are computers, very fancy computers. Computers are good at copying things, crunching numbers and playing card games. Thinking is not what Computers are best at, but I guess we will tell a robot the same as a soilder;
"We tell soldiers what is right and wrong," said Arkin. "We don't allow soldiers to develop ethics on their own."
Didn't any of these guys read Asimov when they where growing up? Or at least see the movie irobot? At least this guy did; Asimov's Laws of Robotics Are Total BS
Here are some of the Robots, a maars and a terminator;

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Little Black NXT

This is SOOOOOOOOOOO cool. It is cheaper on Amazon than at the Lego store. Black is the new beige.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Paper or Plastic

I had long hard painful learn period on credit card management over the years. Like most people it started in college and grew from there. Now, I manage it, pay to much in interest at times and think of credit cards as a necessary evil that you never trust. But are they necessary? A CNN post talks about how some people have sworn credit cards off all together. And a fact I found interesting is they say 80% of American Families have at least one. I thought that number would be higher. I will say that I fell for the whole "You need credit" pitch along time ago and never looked back. So are credit cards necessary, probably not, but I don't think I am ready to try cutting them all up at this point in my life. Maybe when all the kids are out of school.

Lego NXT Motor Calibration

This is one of those things that if you don't know what the title means, move on. The link takes you to Techbrick, a FLL team from MD, and the organizer keeps a very informative page.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Luck

Maryland weather flicked that switch this weekend with temps going from mid-60's during the week to mid-90's this weekend. So we wandered down to the park today and had a nice dinner by the Bay. Katgrrl decided to look for a 4-leaf clover, and (surprise!) she found one. The second 4- leaf clover I have ever seen.
Some other pics of the park flowers in bloom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

U was schooled home style

I don't do this often but I enjoyed these types of little tid-bits so much I am posting the article here. The original article can be found here - By Stacy Conradt;
Agatha Christie was a painfully shy girl, so her mom homeschooled her even though her two older siblings attended private school.
Pearl S. Buck was born in West Virginia, but her family moved to China when she was just three months old. She was homeschooled by a Confucian scholar and learned English as a second language from her mom.
Alexander Graham Bell was homeschooled by his mother until he was about 10. It was at this point that she started to go deaf and didn't feel she could properly educate him any more. Her deafness inspired Bell to study acoustics and sound later in life.
If Thomas Edison were around today, he would probably be diagnosed with ADD -- he left public school after only three months because his mind wouldn't stop wandering. His mom homeschooled him after that, and he credited her with the success of his education: "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint."
Ansel Adams was homeschooled at the age of 12 after his "wild laughter and undisguised contempt for the inept ramblings of his teachers" disrupted the classroom. His father took on his education from that point forward.
Robert Frost hated school so much he would get physically ill at the thought of going. He was homeschooled until his high school years.
Woodrow Wilson studied under his dad, one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). He didn't learn to read until he was about 12. He took a few classes at a school in Augusta, Georgia, to supplement his father's teachings, and ended up spending a year at Davidson College before transferring to Princeton.
Mozart was educated by his dad as the Mozart family toured Europe from 1763-1766.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was homeschooled until her parents finally settled in De Smet in what was then Dakota Territory. She started teaching school herself when she was only 15 years old.
Louisa May Alcott studied mostly with her dad, but had a few lessons from family friends Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Give Fiber a chance

No I do not mean the fiber that Lemony tells me to eat more. I mean the fiber optic lines that are under every city and hang on most telephone poles. This is the way the world communicates today. These lines are the way 116 people a month come to our little blog. So why would anyone want to hurt our wonderful fiber?

" Just after midnight on Thursday, April 9, unidentified attackers climbed down four manholes serving the Northern California city of Morgan Hill and cut eight fiber
in what appears to have been an organized attack on the electronic
infrastructure of an American city."

The article goes on the say the it has mostly gone unreported. I would disagree and say that it has been reported, search Google news for it and you will see lots of articles. I personally think it was ignored, not by the news agencies, but by the people. If the top news agencies see the people are clicking on links about Britney Spears and other fluff, guess what they will move to the front page. I saw the headline on the major new sites the next morning, and fifteen minutes later is was pushed down because on some celebrity news piece. Anyway, I am getting off topic.
So why is this a big issue? Snips from different articles highlight it for me:

According to Santa Clara spokeswoman, Joy Alexiou, "Our concern is 911. If someone is having an emergency and can't make a phone call, they should go to the nearest firehouse, police station or hospital emergency room. We have people at those areas with radios."

"Commerce was disrupted in a 100-mile swath around the community, from San Jose to Gilroy and Monterey. Cash was king for the day as ATMs and credit card systems were down, and many found they didn't have sufficient cash on hand. Services employees dependent on communication were sent home. The many businesses providing just-in-time operations to agriculture could not communicate. "
So, should you worry about what happens if you should lose your means of communication? No, but you should have a plan in place, in case of any type of utility loss. Should you worry about terrorists and crazy people cutting your phone line? No, because they have access to the power grid, and that is much more fun to play with.

Sleep well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Warfare

Remember the good old days when the next foxhole over contained an actual human being?

"Numbers reflect the explosive growth of robotic systems. The U.S. forces that stormed into Iraq in 2003 had no robots on the ground. There were none in Afghanistan either. Now those two wars are fought with the help of an estimated 12,000 ground-based robots and 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the technical term for drone, or robotic aircraft."

The Reuters article goes on to talk about what robots are doing in the battlefield and how they can save human lives, as well as take them.

"Ground-based robots in Iraq have saved hundreds of lives in Iraq, defusing improvised explosive devices, which account for more than 40 percent of U.S. casualties. The first armed robot was deployed in Iraq in 2007 and it is as lethal as its acronym is long: Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System (SWORDS). Its mounted M249 machinegun can hit a target more than 3,000 feet away with pin-point precision."

So what could possibly go wrong?

"A recent study prepared for the Office of Naval Research by a team from the California Polytechnic State University said that robot ethics had not received the attention it deserved because of a "rush to market" mentality and the "common misconception" that robots will do only what they have been programmed to do.
"Unfortunately, such a belief is sorely outdated, harking back to the time when computers were simpler and their programs could be written and understood by a single person," the study says. "Now programs with millions of lines of code are written by teams of programmers, none of whom knows the entire program; hence, no individual can predict the effect of a given command with absolute certainty since portions of programs may interact in unexpected, untested ways."
That's what might have happened during an exercise in South Africa in 2007, when a robot anti-aircraft gun sprayed hundreds of rounds of cannon shell around its position, killing nine soldiers and injuring 14."

The article attempts to raise the question of ethics the way any modern one-page story does in our incomplete thoughts that scatter the Internet nowadays. (The irony is, I'm blogging this.)

"Beyond isolated accidents, there are deeper problems that have yet to be solved. How do you get a robot to tell an insurgent from an innocent? Can you program the Laws of War and the Rules of Engagement into a robot? Can you imbue a robot with his country's culture? If something goes wrong, resulting in the death of civilians, who will be held responsible?
The robot's manufacturer? The designers? Software programmers? The commanding officer in whose unit the robot operates? Or the U.S. president who in some cases authorises attacks? (Barack Obama has given the green light to a string of Predator strikes into Pakistan)."

No need to panic yet, it's not like they would deploy this technology at home. Right?
Just get nervous if anyone mentions Skynet.

As a closing, I leave you with the South Korean Guard Robot YouTube vid clip, and yes this is real.