log (2009/07/17 to 2009/07/23)

In "being proud of where I work" news, this (this, this), which is all about this, is really cool.

It means that you can do all sorts of things (anything, really!) to encrypted data, without having to decrypt it, or even being able to decrypt it. So I can give you my data to process, and you can return me the results of your processing, all without you actually knowing what's in it!

Well, actually I can't, because this result doesn't actually tell us how to do it (at least without a computer the size of Jupiter), but it does tell us that it's possible, and that's something people have been wondering for awhile now.

Miscellany follows!

Amusing phrase o' the day, from the account-validation email for some random thing: "In order to login, you need to confirm your email by clicking this link within 86400 hours". (Can't just leave all those ten-year-old links hanging about!)

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbge (fun an' clued).

IPv6 over Social Networks (finally, a good use for social networking sites).

And speaking of social networking, this is worth reading:

What the cybersecurity review should have said is, "We are raising a nation of timid technophobes who mistake using MyTwitFace for being a geek. Meanwhile, we have comprehensively, at every educational level, stripped away useful teaching tools and criminalized modes of research and inquiry in the name of copyright and liability laws, and sooner rather than later we are going to reap the whirlwind."

Or, putting it simply: We made ourselves stupid and now we must pay.

(And not just for the gem that is "MyTwitFace".)

Fascinating story about a Blackberry update that installed software to allow snooping on the activities of the users.

Celebrating Cronkite while ignoring what he did (not just your Friendly News Uncle).

Goldman Sachs is back, and we should be worried (more on the "privatizing profit, nationalizing loss" thing).

Oh, and what do you think of assassination as a tool of statecraft? I think I'm Out Of Step here somehow; I heard someone on NPR say very confidently the other day that The American People Do Not Approve Of Assassination, and so any Presidents or whatever wanting the CIA to go off and assassinate people have to keep it very deniable.

I don't approve of assassination. On the other hand I approve even less of war. If someone's going to die over some International Issue, I'd rather it was some cabinet minister or head of state knifed in the back outside the opera than a thousand strapping teenage boys (and random nearby civilians) shot full of bullets and dying in the mud somewhere.

Am I overlooking something important here? I mean, clearly heads of state and cabinet ministers would probably prefer war to assassination, but do the rest of us have any reason to? I suppose to the extent that we think of war as something that happens 'way over there, and assassination as something that that might happen close by and accidentally catch us in the crossfire, we can prefer war for sort of cowardly reasons, but that wouldn't be anything to be proud of.

So is this whole "assassination is really terribly bad" thing just a meme circulated by probable assassination targets and their lackeys, or is there really something to it?

Or to put it another way...

Reason: One of the planks in your presidential campaign is the Department of Two Guys Named Victor.

Barry: This is one of those times I wasn't kidding. At the time, we were mad at Moammar Gadhafi, which resulted in us bombing all over Libya and killing a bunch of people, but not him. Then Ronald Reagan gets up and says we're not trying to kill him, we're just dropping bombs. You can kill all the Libyans you want, but legally you can't try to kill the leader.

The other one was Manuel Noriega. Here we have a problem with just one person, and we send all these troops down to deal with it. All these people get killed and hurt, but not Noriega.

So instead of messing around with armies, get a couple of guys named Victor. The president meets with them and has breakfast, or he goes to dinner with them at the restaurant of their choice, and suggests that he's having a problem. Then the next thing you know, you read in the paper that Saddam Hussein has suffered an unfortunate shaving accident resulting in the loss of his head. We don't involve a lot of 22-year-old kids in this dispute between George Bush and Saddam Hussein.

D-rn right...

Houston, Tranquility Base here,
The Eagle has landed.

-- Some guy, 40 years ago, the freaking Moon

Woot Happy Moonday!

Aldrin looks back at Tranquility Base

On to Mars!

Frazetta's Mars


My arm veins, prominent medial cubitals, have always been well regarded by the local phlebotomists, or at least the ones at the Blood Center. But the Emergency Room nurse used a dorsal vein on my right hand instead.

"You didn't like the arm vein?", I asked.

"I don't know," she replied, "it just feels like a big lump to me. Or else it's just the biggest vein I've ever seen."

And now there's still a hematoma on the back of my hand (a "bruise", to use the technical term), a fading darkish circle with a lighter circle in the center around the actual venipuncture site, even though it's been a week and the fever is long gone and I've finished the course of beta-lactam antibiotics (ol' amoxicillin; memories of tiny boys and girls with earaches), and my throat isn't at all sore anymore.

I'm not sure that an IV was strictly-speaking called for: I was a little dehydrated and in some pain, but they could presumably have given me a big glass of Gatorade and some prescription-strength Tylenol. On the other hand it made me feel more justified in coming to the ER in the first place, rather than asking M to keep working the phones to see if the multi-doctor consortium that recently swallowed my GP had a weekend backup physician hidden somewhere in their call-director tree.

Given the mysteries of call-director trees, it's probably best that M was too worried about me to do that for long, and I was too incoherent to insist. So at the local ER I got an IV with a litre of fluids and some analgesic (tramadol? can't remember), a strep test (negative, the doctor said, but sometimes these tests are wrong), advice on over the counter antipyretics (if you alternate Tylenol and Motrin, you can take up to the maximum daily dose of each, and sometimes it works better than either one alone), and an amoxicillin prescription (might be a virus, might be bacterial, might as well give it a try).

(IMPORTANT HEALTH NOTE: the original version of this page said "Tylenol and Midol", rather than "Tylenol and Motrin", above. That is wrong, since some kinds of Midol contain the same stuff that is in Tylenol, so if you alternate those you could overdose on it, and that could be bad. Thanks to Dr. Daniel Drucker for pointing out the typo. (And in general you shouldn't take health advice from this or any other random weblog; but you know that.)

I've had somewhat hallucinogenic fevers since a child: scary and awful during, but sort of interesting to think back on after, and sometimes involving oddly intriguing altered states of consciousness; waking in the middle of the night as the fever broke or at least rolled back temporarily, feeling suddenly free and light and cool, feeling a thrill of delight for no particular reason, as biological and irrational as the fear and shaking of the fever, elevated to some high and mythic place both opposite to and kin of the low and cramped (or terrifyingly huge and distant) places at the feverish apex / nadir.

The fever last weekend had some moments of that, although 102.5°F in the ancient person that I am now is rather different than the probably absurdly higher fevers of the young person that I was. Came home early from work on Friday not feeling very well, collapsed into bed, and don't remember a huge amount of detail until the ER on Saturday, except for troubled dreams and odd feelings and M telling me to drink things and taking my temperature.

So that's my excuse for not having posted here last week, despite my strong showing the week before. *8) A completely ordinary little sickness, but an interesting reminder of how mysteriously consciousness is tied to squishy matter.

Over on the Dale Innis side, I'm in a podcast! The details are in that weblog entry, and if you follow the links you can find an audio file (audiophile haha!) of me reading this (what I wrote, to the given theme "That wasn't thunder, that was...", and the required wordcount of 100):

That wasn't thunder.
That was a barrel rumbling rough down a concrete ramp.
That was the surf, two blocks over.
It was march music playing on an old stereo, the window half-open to the evening air.
It was an explosion, big and slow, off in the anonymous distance.

But it wasn't thunder.
Thunder would mean rain,
And rain would drive them separately inside, out of the big dim world, out of the lot beside the basketball court.
And that would mean another day gone, another week nearly gone, the whole summer, impossibly, nearly gone.
And he still hasn't kissed her.

Which is maybe a little sappy *8) but which I like quite a bit (and even like the too-quiet sound of my own voice reading it, which is a surprise), and which reminds me of the whole feeling of being Down At The Shore at various ages, with the concrete hot under our feet, the sun unremitting, the surf breaking on the other side of the dunes, sand in everything, wandering burned and tired back toward the cars in the evening, even if there was never a girl in particular that I hadn't kissed as the end of the summer neared, not that I remember, but still it's that sort of feeling, somehow, in my memory.

On another subject entirely (although not really entirely), did anyone and everyone else get the hardcopy mailing about the Google Book Settlement? That must have been a big mailing, given that it apparently went to everyone they could find with any sort of copyright interest in any book ("or insert") published on or before 5 January 2009 (anyone know what if anything happened on that day?), and probably some bunch of additional people as well.

My initial reaction is to just do nothing and let myself be included in the Class Action Settlement, because really that's what I always do. (I've been in, or possibly been in, three or five before; I remember once I got some coupons good for like reduced-rate air travel between the hours of 6 and 6:15 am on alternate Thursdays in May that some airline had to pay in punishment for some misbehavior or other; Justice Prevails!)

On the other hand if I do nothing and "remain in the class", then (it says here) I "will be bound by any judgment or determination of the Court in connection with the Settlement, whether favorable or unfavorable," and that sounds kind of undesirable. I know how extremely unlikely it is that I will pay enough attention to further actions by the Court to find out just what I was being bound by, and I don't really like being bound by unknown stuff.

On the third hand it also says here that if I remain in the class what will basically happen is that Google will just sort of get default permission to copy various copyrighted things, channelling some fraction of the proceeds therefrom back to the authors through some agency that they'll pay for, and if I want to change what I'm permitting them to do at any time I can write and do that. And that sounds pretty benign, so maybe I should just do that.

But on the fourth hand, in legal matters like this there's a significant chance that all those reassuring words are just a smoke-screen for something more nefarious and objectionable, and that while in theory there might be some way for me to change what I've permitted Google to do, in practice it will turn out that I've given them, and anyone who looks like them, effective permission to do whatever the heck they want, without limitation, to anything whatever of mine, now and in perpetuity. Because, you know, they have lawyers and I don't.

So I dunno. Is anyone else actually paying attention to this thing?

What else what else? It is M's birthday! (Happy birthday, M!) We went to the Nyack Street Fair and wandered among the booths and tents for quite awhile (I got some used books, yay!), enjoying the sun (which fell just short of being relentless and unremitting and Too Hot) and the milling throngs and all. M's big present (not from the Steet Fair) was one o' them Amazon Kindles (confusingly called by Amazon "Kindle (present generation)", and by everyone else "Kindle 2, you know, not the DX one"). It seems extremely neat, and I'm guessing I will want one eventually.

At the moment, though, I am still dreaming of one of these. *8)