Archive for July, 2010

Kwik Hits

Random interesting observations from around the interweb:

Negotiations are reportedly underway to have Brian Blessed lend his voice to TomTom GPSes. There’s a very awesome YouTube video here. If you don’t know who Brian Blessed is – for shame! – TVTropes can help.

War is hell. With bunnies. Bunnies make everything better.

I was recently searching Google for something computer-related, and wound up reading a thread on the subject on what is – apparently – an extremely busy porn forum popular with users from the Indian subcontinent and the Mideast. Three brief observations made in the spirit of scientific inquiry:

1. Indians seems to have some refreshingly odd tastes in porn… and some very bizarre-sounding (to this westerner, anyway) euphemisms for certain body parts.
2. There is Iranian porn.
3. Somewhat disappointingly, it’s not really any different than any other cheesy porn made with low production values.

(E-mail me if you’re really that amazingly desperate to see, um, yeah…)

The Saint Paul (MN) Police have recently installed a bike rack at their downtown headquarters. Considering there’s no public car parking anywhere nearby, one can only assume this is a sign of Progress.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is sounding the alarm bells about American cybersecurity, saying “we are suffering what is probably the biggest transfer of wealth through theft and piracy in the history of mankind”. Will the public notice? Probably not. Will the public care? Probably not. Will the U.S. government do anything? Maybe. Will they call out China? Never in a million years.

Last weekend, I was walking to the post office Saturday morning to mail a package, when an adorable little reddish-brown ball of fur came tumbling out of a bush a few feet in front of me. “Awww,” I said, “aren’t you just the most adorable little kitten ever?” It made a sort of half-grunt, half-growl sound, nothing at all like a purr or meow. I squatted down and held out my hand a few feet from it, and it looked like it was about to come over and sniff my fingers, but then it’s mommy stepped out of the alley and made a sound and the little ball of fur trotted awkwardly off to join her, and the two foxes – yes, foxes – took off down the alley. (Yes, I fail biology forever, I know. I wasn’t really awake, and you don’t really expect to see baby foxes in the city… right?)

Published in: General | on July 29th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Statistics, Probability, and Inference

Long ago I wrote very briefly about ‘Words of Estimative Probability’, an useful tool of the intelligence field (and others!) to codify otherwise potentially ambiguous and weaselly expressions of chance, like “probably” and “most likely” and “highly improbable”. It’s worth noting that codifying WEPs doesn’t tie them down to specific percentages; there’s still usually a good degree of “weasel room” inherent in the system. (“Probable” == “more than a fifty percent chance.” Um, yeah, helpful, huh?)

I got to talking about this stuff with some people I know, and the question came up as to why, if you’re going to bother to codify what WEPs mean in terms of percentages, you don’t just skip the WEPs and use percentages?

I’m not sure there are any good answers to that. But I think there are some interesting aspects of the issue that deserve discussion. So…
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on July 28th, 2010 | Comments Off on Statistics, Probability, and Inference

The Nuclear Weapons Effects National Enterprise… Sucks

Last month, an immensely forgettable group of boffins released a hopefully-doomed-to-obscurity 92-page report (7.9MB PDF). The Report of the Joint Defense Science Board / Threat Reduction Advisory Committee Task Force on The Nuclear Weapons Effects National Enterprise – and how’s that for a ponderously long name? – argues not-very-convincingly that America’s ability to engage in military operations in a nuclear environment has atrophied – that’s a word they seem really infatuated with, by the way – since the glory years of the Cold War. This may or may not actually be true; keep in mind that the U.S. military has never actually operated in a nuclear environment, so all the nostalgic bluster about Cold War-era readiness and capabilities is at least partially wishful thinking.

The Task Force further alleges that this is a ginormous problem that poses an imminent danger to capitalism, democracy, and the American Way of Life(TM) in part because our conventional military forces are just so gosh-darned awesome that the only way a deranged third-world tyrant could ever hope to defeat us is through the use of nuclear weapons.

This is the point, dear reader, where I sincerely hope you just did the whole facepalm thing.

But wait. It gets worse.
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General, Security | on July 26th, 2010 | Comments Off on The Nuclear Weapons Effects National Enterprise… Sucks

Thanks, The Planet. I Love You Too.

Last week, an alert reader notified me that an ad-laden spamblog had reproduced several posts from this site in full. This wasn’t the first time this has happened, and I don’t always bother to do anything about it, but this was a particularly egregious example. So, I contacted my webhost, and asked if they’d be willing to file a DMCA complaint on my behalf, since I haven’t the foggiest clue how to go about doing so, and had better things to do than figure it out.

Sure, they said. Bring it on.

So I gave them the info, and written authorization to act on my behalf in the matter. On the 17th, they sent off a nice legal-looking DMCA notice to The Planet, the datacenter where the spamblog is hosted. They sent me a copy of the notice as well, as a courtesy.

Just now I check my email, and learn that today – six days later – The Planet have responded:

To Whom It May Concern:

Please note that below-referenced copyright infringement notice does not
substantially comply with the required notification elements of the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (“DMCA”).

Please note that we have not passed on the substantive merits of your claim.

Gee, guys. Thanks for filling me with awe and respect at the incredibly speedy way you respond to these sorts of things. It’s almostas if you actually give a rat’s ass, or something. Almost.

Things like this are why I rarely bother with DMCA takedown notices in the first place; getting to wait a week just to be told to go pound sand is not a productive use of my time.

Time for plan B, I think. The spamblog hotlinked to some images of mine as well, so I think I’ll rename the legitimate versions and leave the spammer linking to something reasonably horrific. Hmmn, I wonder what awful horrors the internet can provide me with…

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on July 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments »

FOIA Shenanigans at DHS

The Associated Press (AP) late yesterday “broke” the story that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had been investigating FOIA requestors and their backgrounds for over a year.

This is not news. Anyone who makes a lot of FOIA requests is very much aware of this going on, and not just at DHS – most branches of the military perform similar inquries, too… and have since well before July 2009. (I can document it in mid-2008 via server logs, and know it was going on well before that.)

Now, it is sort of newsworthy that DHS ‘fessed up about this, and was stupid enough to claim that they were doing it for “awareness purposes”. But these are not exactly earth-shattering revealations, when all is said and done. (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it here on Entropic Memes at least once in the past, though I can’t immediately find mention of it… having to dig through 1300 posts will do that to you.)

Oh, and the absurd claims that DHS never blocked release of documents, and is being all responsive and stuff? Bullshit. They’ve been stonewalling at least one of my requests for well over a year now, and in October 2009 I was informed of another request that DHS process requests on a first-in, first-out basis, and “there are currently three (3) open requests ahead of yours”. Nine months have since passed… you figure out what’s going on.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on July 22nd, 2010 | Comments Off on FOIA Shenanigans at DHS