Archive for April, 2009

The Dead Art of Instrumental Music

I don’t want to, um, incriminate myself, or anything like that, or mention any specific, you know, file-sharing applications or whatever, but but I recently… became aware… of a collection of one-hundred of the “greatest” instrumental “rock” songs of all time. (According to whoever compiled the collection, anyway.) There was a lot of stuff on that list that I didn’t consider rock – R&B, yes, but not rock. Bah, semantics; after all, is it not said that one man’s rock ‘n’ roll is another man’s tortured wailing of injured animals? What I found more interesting, though, is that there were only, I think, two songs on the whole thing released after 1980.

Whatever happened to instrumental rock music – at least in America – anyway?
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Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on April 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment »

Iranians In Your Backyard

For a while now, there have been concerns that Venezuela, one of this hemisphere’s more outspoken critics (or, depending on whom you listen to, avowed enemies) of the United States, is cozying up to Iran, and it’s (understandably) troubling. Why? Well, three days out of five, Iran is the greatest threat to global peace and prosperity since that Saddam guy was oh-so-flawlessly ousted from power, and the thought that they’re getting a significant political and economic foothold in the Americas is enough to keep, I imagine, the United States’ counterintelligence nerds awake at night. That’s one half of the threat, of course; the other is that Iran is proving all too happy to provide a wide variety of fairly advanced military hardware to Venezuela, with all the inherent implications for regional stability that suggests.

Turns out, though, that while everyone’s been watching Venezuela, Iran’s been cozying up to an even closer neighbor of ours.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on April 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments »

Perception Trumps Reality

About a year ago, I praised James. S. Major’s book Communicating with Intelligence, which I still believe is probably the best guide to preparing formal communications in the “real world”. (A blog, obviously, is pretty informal… and there are doubts as whether the blogosphere is very connected to reality. But I digress, as usual.) Anyway, I recently acquired a copy of a newer book by Major – Writing Classified and Unclassified Papers For National Security, whose title is pretty daunting, I admit, and probably a little off-putting to many.

My feelings on the book are actually a little mixed. It’s about half the length of Communicating With Intelligence, but still $40 MSRP. Worse yet, the first quarter of the book is basically a quick (too quick) but not very useful synopsis of the first half of the earlier volume. Great for marketing and cross-promotion, kind of crap for the reader. Nearly half the book, actually – over a hundred pages – is comprised of a usage and style guide, and while it’s more comprehensive (and contains fewer typos) than Mercyhurst’s Analyst’s Style Manual, it would almost undoubtedly have been better off as a stand-alone publication.

Nonetheless Writing does have some considerable bits of value scattered amid its exhaustive guidelines on writing citations, and so on – one of which, at least in my mind, is well worth the cover price.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on April 22nd, 2009 | Comments Off on Perception Trumps Reality

Some Bastards are Bastards…

Now, for something completely different, the story of how, back in February, my roommates and I accidentally adopted a cat, and it really pissed me off.

Not at the cat, mind you – he’s the most ridiculously friendly, adorable, and likable cat I’ve ever seen, as I’ll get to in a moment – but at his previous owners.

It was a typical day in Minnesota in mid February – a lot of snow on the ground, temperatures in the upper teens (Fahrenheit, natch) during the way, down around zero at night. Coming back from the garage, my roommate found a cat in the backyard. It was skinny as all hell, looked kind of miserable, and meowing a lot, in a really pitiful way. There are a lot of stray cats in this area, and a lot of people in the neighborhood have “outdoor cats” who roam around, so a cat in the backyard isn’t terribly uncommon, and we don’t really mind. (There’s one “outdoor cat” in the area that we refer to as Bob, for no particular reason, who does an excellent job at keeping the local squirrel population in check. Yay, Bob!) This one, though, was a bit different…
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Published in: General | on April 21st, 2009 | 2 Comments »

The Good and Bad of OSINT

I’ve written about some of the benefits of open-source intelligence, a/k/a OSINT, in the past, though it’s been a while. In recent weeks, though, I’ve been reminded of two important things about this particular intelligence discipline that are worth thinking about.

One increasing value of OSINT products is that they can generally be (more) freely shared and distributed with partners and interested parties who don’t – necessarily – have the appropriate security clearance to see “the good stuff”. (That last bit is sarcasm, by the way.) It’s not so much that OSINT is necessarily any less valuable, complete, or accurate, but that with open sources, you don’t have to protect sources and methods as is the case with other types of intelligence.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on April 20th, 2009 | Comments Off on The Good and Bad of OSINT