Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

News is far overdue

First off, there has been a huge backlash against Facebook in the two days since they unveiled their new creepy stalker newsfeed. The group I linked to yesterday already has the membership of about 5% of all of Facebook (and that includes all the Chipotle Burritos, Case Dorms, and residents of Guttlesohn Falls that are signed up, too). This has even prompted many newspapers to take notice. It’s pretty cool to watch so many people actually stand up and protest for what they want.

Having said that, the big news today is that President Bush finally admitted to having a network of secret CIA prisons scattered around the world. I have posted about rumors of these before. It’s pretty discouraging to find that they were true, but slightly hopeful that enough people within the CIA and elsewhere in the government are beginning to stand up and say that this really should stop. edit: Bush went so far as to say that prisoners would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay and given rights from the Geneva Conventions.

Speaking of people getting fed up with unpopular polities, the Democrats tried to have a vote of no confidence on Donald Rumsfeld. It was blocked by Republicans, but at least they’re starting to fight back. For too long have the Democrats just rolled over and let the Republicans do whatever they want. I hope this is a sign of things to come. This comes in the wake of a very controversial speech by Rumsfeld, in which he drew parallels between terrorism today and fascism in the 1930’s, and then attacked Amnesty International (the first group to condemn the secret CIA prisons) for questioning the US. The government tried to censor news agencies that reported on this speech, but they have held strong on their articles.

It’s pretty cool to see everyone starting to wake up and fight back against all of this stuff!

On a less uplifting note, the truce in Darfur is being threatened. I apparently missed when this truce began; does anyone else remember hearing about thata few months ago? The problem here, like in Lebanon until recently (I’ll get to that soon) is that the UN has no actual power, and the countries that make up the UN are reluctant to contribute troops voluntarily (and China, Russia, and India are already arming the fighters).

Going back to less recent news, Europe has committed troops to keeping the peace in Lebanon and attempting to disarm Hezbollah. Both Israel and Hezbollah (and their benefactor, Iran) seem to be claiming victory here: Israel for getting the UN to pledge to try to disarm Hezbollah, and Hezbollah for firing so many rockets and killing so many civilians and not being completely destroyed (yet) in response. I am ever hopeful that the Middle East can settle down, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen until the UN gets a concrete plan to disarm Hezbollah (and then solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they’ve at least made a little headway here already).

Security guru and all-around awesome dude Bruce Schneier has a pretty rational look at the liquid explosives plot to blow up British airplanes bound for the US (which led to a US ban on liquids; special thanks to Natalie for the link). He mentions some very good points about the futility of our current strategy and how using more investigation and intelligence will work much better than our current strategy of banning everything and making everyone scared. Among other methods, he suggests that watching body language to find nervous, suspicious-acting characters is much more effective than banning liquids or shoes. This reminds me of a 2002 debacle in which airport security forced a woman to drink her own breast milk to “prove” that it was not a terrorist weapon. Although the current rules make exceptions for breast milk, medicine, and a couple other things, the entire situation is ridiculous.

Due to the UN’s hesitation on sanctioning Iran, the US is considering unilateral sanctions instead. Because, you know, unilateral sanctions have worked so well with Cuba. I suspect this is just empty talk, but it’s the sort of thing the Bush Administration is just crazy enough to try anyway.

Right. I think that’s about all the news I’ve been meaning to post. I can now close about 20 Firefox tabs.

Facebook Members Only

(special thanks to rubixsqube for alerting me to this) If you’re on Facebook and don’t like their creepy new “news feed” (which basically gives you a list of all changes in all your friends’ profiles, group memberships, relationships, &c), consider joining this group in protest. When I found it (about 15 minutes ago), it had just over 76,000 members. It has already broken 80,000 members. I hope this sends a pretty strong message to the Facebook Powers That Be.

After a great afternoon/evening with Mike, Michael, Kenny, and John (during which we had sushi, went minigolfing, and watched a really fucked up movie), I have spent the past 2.5 hours trying to help my erstwhile frosh, Steven, install Gaim-LaTeX on his new Ubuntu system. The worst part? It still doesn’t work after all this effort. We have been hacking the files together, which involved manually copying files into /usr/include and /usr/lib/pkgconfig, as well as editing config.h, just to get the damn thing to compile. Now, it’s compiled and gaim recognizes it as a valid plugin, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. How frustrating! Unfortunately, apt-get doesn’t seem to have a package for Gaim-LaTeX, which is why we’re trying to do this by hand. Any idea what might be wrong? Does anyone know how to get Gaim to print out debugging information about this sort of thing?

A Working Stove

So, to relight the pilot lights on my stove, I believe all the Roberts Management Company needed to do is send someone out with a pipe cleaner to clean the internet^M^M series of tubes and then relight my pilot lights, and I’d guess that would take 10-15 minutees. Instead, they decided to replace my entire stove. I now have a brand new Frigidaire gas stove and oven, with electric starters (and therefore no need of pilot lights), and it seems to work. This solution certainly works, but it was more hassle for everyone and much more expensive for them. but I’m not going to complain any more. Companies can be so silly at times!

The definitive guide to ‘high tea’ etymology (note that in a few months, the correct link will be here).

A Preposterous Preponderance of Prominent PGP Ponderings

Let me start this out by killing any speculation this post might raise: no, this has nothing to do with work. I am not doing anything related to GMail right now, nor do I know anyone working on GMail. Anything I write here should in no way be affiliated with Google.

Having said that, here are my thoughts: after talking to sneaselcouth about it recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about PGP (a public key encryption system for email). It seems like the vast majority of email users would love to have PGP figure more prominently in their lives. If it were used moderately, we could eliminate phishing scams, and if it were used by almost everyone, we could eliminate spam.

Read on for more information, and my thoughts on how to start such a system →

Argh! All I need is a working stove…

I’ve lived in this apartment for 2.5 weeks. This entire time, my stove has not worked (I’ve been making a lot of soups and other microwavable stuff). The gas seems to be flowing to it, but the pilot lights are out. I’ve tried to relight them. The building manager also tried to relight them, and then called the apartment management company to get a repairperson out here. They said someone would fix this on Friday, August 18. That didn’t happen, but I then went up to Mountain View for a week so I couldn’t follow up more quickly. In the meantime, my building manager claims to have called the main office at least 5 times and personally visited the people in charge of repairs, trying to get my stove repaired (and apparently to get something like this fixed in another tenant’s apartment). This morning, I went to the main office to ask about this, and was told that it would be fixed by this evening. Well, it’s still not fixed. This evening, I read California Civil Code Section 1941.1 and a couple related sections, and it looks like I could take the Roberts Management Companies to small claims court if this goes on much longer. I don’t want to bother with that, but it’s something I’m beginning to look in to.

This apartment has a fantastic location, it’s huge, and except for the stove everything is very well kept up: when I moved in, it had new paint (required by law) and brand new carpet. The entire building is now in the process of being re-stuccoed and the main gate and intercom system are being upgraded. It is wonderful, except that for the life of me I can’t seem to get a working stove. How frustrating! I’d gladly trade the new stucco, intercom, and carpet for a working pilot light.

This evening I met up with sneaselcouth, and we walked around San Francisco. We saw the wharfs and Ghiradelli Square (sp?), and talked almost nonstop for 3 hours (and I’m fairly confident we could have gone for another 3 hours before running out of new topics). It was wonderful to see her again; she seems to be doing quite well. In the meantime, I need to go to bed so I can be up tomorrow morning. Ciao!

Your Feedback Wanted!

I’m thinking about splitting my blog into two distinct parts: one would have personal stuff in it (bridge results, movie reviews, the wacky hijinks of my friends and me), and one would be all the impersonal stuff (world news, civil liberties stuff, politics). What are your thoughts? Would people prefer that I split this content up? If so, would you subscribe to one, the other, or both? I’m also toying with the idea of finally getting a domain name for my webserver, and putting the newsy blog on it (and then offering things like an RSS feed). Would other people prefer that significantly more than the current setup? The split in blogs may occur soon, though the move to my server wouldn’t happen for months.


I’m now up in northern California for a week of orientation before I start my real job. The hotel I’m in is amazingly swanky—in my room I have a Rubik’s Cube, a deck of cards, a yoyo, and an etch-a-sketch, not to mention a bowl of cherries, a couch, and some other fancy stuff. The main office here really is as amazing as most of the stories make it seem. I unfortunately am not allowed say much of anything about what I’ll be doing or what it’s like to be in the company, what with their culture of secrecy and all. My first day wasn’t exactly like the way dhalps got his security clearance for his internship in Washington, but it was similar enough to conjure up a comparison. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of new and exciting stuff for me to learn, but unless something really unusual happens, I’m not going to comment about work much more here. Sorry!