Archive for January, 2008

Friday FOIA Stuff

To provide a little bit of insight into the federal Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, process, and to encourage others to make use of it by showing just how relatively simple it is to make requests with it, I’m going to be following a number of FOIA requests from their inception all the way through to the bitter end, and posting about it once a week.

As you might recall, last week I filed four FOIA requests – two to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one to the Department of Homeland Security, and one to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense. By last Friday, I’d received a phone call about the DHS request, and was expecting form letters acknowledging the requests to the FBI. While waiting for those to arrive, I decided to file another request, this time showing the entire process involved, so people can see just how simple it really is.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on January 25th, 2008 | Comments Off on Friday FOIA Stuff

A Man’s Sewer is His Fortress

As a follow-up on the two people who died recently in a storm drain in Australia – nicknamed “The Fortress” – a couple of interesting comments have been left, in all places, on the Wikipedia urban exploration talk page. Coming from an Australian fellow named Jachin, they raise the always thorny subject of what is in this country referred to as “attractive nuisances”, and the legal liabilities that come from badly or ineptly sealing the same. Local folks might remember the three teenagers who died in a smoke-filled cave in Saint Paul a few years back, and the very, very similar discussions that raised.
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Published in: Geekiness, Urban Exploration | on January 24th, 2008 | Comments Off on A Man’s Sewer is His Fortress

Internet Tubes… and Pipes

Last April first, Google “announced” their TISP program, an initiative to bring internet connectivity to houses by running fiber through the sewers. While it was an April Fools’ joke, they’ve got to be kicking themselves today, now that a Welsh company called H20 Networks is planning to do just that on a large scale. Apparently, they’ve already done so on a small scale – likely where Google got the inspiration – but now want to take things to the next level.

Insert “toilet bandwidth” and quality-of-service jokes here, please…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on January 24th, 2008 | Comments Off on Internet Tubes… and Pipes

Apparently, Elk Have Sweet Tooths

An interesting news story from Sweden today notes an environmentally-friendly approach to road de-icing developed in that country. For decades, of course, salt has been applied to icy roadways to make them, well, less icy. It’s fairly effective, obviously, but has some unpleasant side effects – such as the tendency for the salt to corrode your car. Here in Minnesota, it seems like the Department of Transportation tries some new chemical de-icing formula every year; they all seem to work, but always have unpleasant side-effects. (Let’s not forget a few years ago, when a warm spring caused much melting and evaporation of the chemicals used that winter, which turned out to be extraordinarily electrically conductive, and led to dozens of utility-pole fires caused by arcing power lines…) Well, over in Sweden, they’ve got a new formula that is half as corrosive as regular salt, and apparently even more effective from a road-safety perspective – a mix of regular salt and sugar. Alas, even this environmentally-friendly formula has a downside – the elk, evidently, have sweet tooths (sweet teeth?), and like to eat the sweet, salty mix off the roads. So, Sweden is adding pine extract in a bid to deter elk from eating the deicing mix. I’m not too confident it’ll work… but it’ll probably smell nice. 🙂

Published in: Geekiness, General | on January 23rd, 2008 | Comments Off on Apparently, Elk Have Sweet Tooths

The HSOMB, 2003-2007

All good things, apparently, come to an end – including the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Operations Morning Brief, the daily reports first publicized in 2004, but (I believe) first produced the previous year. According to the response to a FOIA request I made recently, I learned the sad news that the last HSOMB was produced on July 2nd, 2007. What, if anything, supplanted it isn’t clear; if you know what has or have taken its place, leave a comment, below; inquiring minds want to know!

The Daily Open-Source Infrastructure Report, obviously, continues to be produced; there’s even a nifty version right here.

Published in: General, History, Security | on January 22nd, 2008 | Comments Off on The HSOMB, 2003-2007