Archive for April, 2010

Insecurity Questions

Bruce Schneier this morning posts about custom “secret” questions to be used as part of identity-verification with a bank.

His suggestions are extremely amusing, but they’re also… a little too logical, for my tastes.

I have for a while been advocating to friends and family the use of complete non-sequiturs for these sorts of things, even with the typical unimaginative sorts of questions.

Remember, the point of this sort of thing is that it’s the answer that’s important; the question, not so much so, because – especially with online banking – it’s something a potential identity thief can probably easily see, and then go hunting for the answers to – or just guess. “Where did you grow up?”, “What’s your favorite food?”, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” and “What’s your favorite color?” are the kinds of things you can often figure out from someone’s MySpace page or Facebook pages…

…if they’ve answered honestly.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on April 30th, 2010 | No Comments »

Serial Cookery and Vigilante Justice

The anarchist interwebs have been abuzz with the news that some people in New York, apparently, took justice into their own hands when dealing with a serial offender within their community.

The subject was accused of… engaging in multiple nonconsensual acts of personal intimacy, which is something the anarchist communities have been absolutely powerless to do anything about for years now.

Part of the problem, of course, is that one isn’t allowed to use “the R-word”, because that might be emotionally traumatizing to individuals who have been victimized by this sort of thing, and so you kind of have to beat around the bush a bit and speak in euphemisms, lest you offend someone without their consent, or something.

You’re also – or so I’m told – expected to provide fair advance warning when you mention these things, so here goes:

The remainder of this post discusses the alleged nonconsensual serial cooking allegedly committed by someone, as well as the vigilante way in which the community repaid his kindness by giving him a back massage with baseball bats. If cooking, baseball, or deep-tissue massage are sensitive issues with you, please don’t read on. You have been warned.
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on April 29th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

The Dale St Reservoir, 1918-2010

The Pioneer Press today runs an article about a beautiful piece of Twin Cities critical infrastructure – the Dale Street Reservoir in Roseville, which supplied drinking water to a large part of Ramsey County from 1918 to earlier this year.

It held thirty million gallons of water within its depths, and according to folks at the water department, plans were originally made to build an expansion to the south, which would have doubled its capacity. That expansion was never built, and never will be; the reservoir was demolished earlier this month.

Why? It had some cracks, to be sure, but mainly it was just too large. Water usage in the inner metro area has declined over the decades, partially a result of water-conservation efforts, but also because, regrettably, a lot of the water-hungry businesses of yesteryear are no more. (Since the Dale Street Reservoir was completed in 1918, Saint Paul has lost three breweries and virtually all of its heavy industry, not to mention a lot of other heavy water users like the commercial laundries and the stockyards.)

I don’t pretend to be a civil engineer, but apparently running a water reservoir at reduced capacity can cause issues – something about stagnation and contamination, I guess.

Anyway, I’m always sad to see underground structures, particularly critical infrastructure, go away, but it’s especially saddening when it’s something as beautiful as the reservoir – a structure whose beauty is, I think, apparent to a lot of people, and not just urban explorers or architecture nerds.

Ah, well; not for nothing is is said, “they just don’t build ‘em like they used to”.

(You can see a friend’s picture of the reservoir at the bottom of this page.)

Published in: General, History, Urban Exploration | on April 28th, 2010 | No Comments »

The Wheels on the Bike Go…

Ever wonder what a really bent rear axle on a bicycle looks like? Shortly before it disappeared en route to a junkyard somewhere, I shot some vide of the freewheel on one of the rusty bikes that came with our garage, showing the decidedly, erm, eccentric rotation of the freewheel, and everything else attached to the axle.




Not an enormously fun ride, when the wheels on the bike go up and down and back and forth…

Yes, it’s rotated 90 degrees. Yes, if I were a competent human being, I’d have fixed that. I’m not, though, so…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on April 27th, 2010 | No Comments »

Kwik Hits

Random observations from a long and annoying weekend:

I wish I had a picture, but an overachieving roommate recycled the Saturday newspaper before I could do so; as such, you’ll have to take my word for the fact that the sports section of Saturday’s paper was topped by the prominent headline “Two Holes Filled”. Yeah, who needs editors, right?

It referred to the fact that the Vikings football team drafted players to fill two vacant positions – i.e. “holes” in the lineup.

God bless the suburbs and construction detours. There’s nothing quite like getting lost… in suburbia… on a bicycle.

Public Intelligence has an interesting Newspeak-filled 2005 handbook on Intelligence-Led Policing available for download. It’s far from being the best thing ever written about ILP, but it serves as an okay – if extremely idealized, rosy-glasses, ideal-world – overview of what “the next last big thing” is all about… or was going to be all about, five years ago.

Secrecy News today has an interesting look at Chinese airships, a subject I’m always interested in.

That is all…

Published in: General | on April 26th, 2010 | No Comments »