6.28.2014

Windows 8 is Awful

Counter-intuitive, difficult to find applications, strange ways that the information is organized and presented.  On the whole it is cumbersome and difficult to work with.

I've never been one to play with different operating systems for fun.  Until now.

6.27.2014

Columbia Heights Ham Radio Field Day, June 28, 2014


A Communications Extravaganza!  No internet, no electricity - no problem!


Washington D.C.'s ham radio club, HacDC, in coordination with ham radio clubs across the country, is hosting a Field Day.  Field Day is a communications extravaganza where our members demonstrate emergency communications, emailing without an Internet, and bouncing radio signals off of the moon.

Katrina, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy - Ham radio operators are on the front lines in a disaster.  Their personal radios can relay safety messages about survivors to family, or medical needs from a hospital. 

HacDC practices with the D.C. Department of Health in their emergency preparations.  HacDC provides willing volunteers to teach staff about radio communications and to man hospital emergency communication teams.

See how it's done!
  • Bouncing radio signals off of the ionosphere to talk long distance
  • Practicing emergency communications in the event of a total infrastructure break down, like email and text communications - and -
  • Setting up our own internet, totally independent of the big one
  • Learn about ham radio
  • Practice contacting satellites via handheld radios
  • Look! A spectrum analyzer!

Visit us from noon on Saturday June 28 through Sunday 2:30 p.m. straight.  That's right, we hit those radios for 24 straight hours.

June 28, 2014

HacDC
1525 Newton Street, NW, THIRD FLOOR, Washington, DC 20010
www.hacdc.org

6.23.2014

Happiness - by the Dalai Lama

This op-ed, written by the Dalai Lama, is basically a primer on happiness. It was published in the Hindustan Times, India on January 3, 2011.

My morning meditation today reflected on this essay, and frankly, I feel much happier.

Happiness

by the Dalai Lama

At a fundamental level, as human beings, we are all the same; each one of us aspires
to happiness and each one of us does not wish to suffer. This is why, whenever I have
the opportunity, I try to draw people's attention to what as members of the human family
we have in common and the deeply interconnected nature of our existence and welfare.
Today, there is increasing recognition, as well as a growing body of scientific evidence,
that confirms the close connection between our own states of mind and our happiness.
On the one hand, many of us live in societies that are very developed materially, yet
among us are many people who are not very happy. Just underneath the beautiful
surface of affluence there is a kind of mental unrest, leading to frustration, unnecessary
quarrels, reliance on drugs or alcohol, and in the worst case, suicide. There is no
guarantee that wealth alone can give you the joy or fulfillment that you seek. The same
can be said of your friends too. When you are in an intense state of anger or hatred,
even a very close friend appears to you as somehow frosty, or cold, distant, and
annoying.

However, as human beings we are gifted with this wonderful human intelligence.
Besides that, all human beings have the capacity to be very determined and to direct
that strong sense of determination in whatever direction they like. So long as we
remember that we have this marvellous gift of human intelligence and a capacity to
develop determination and use it in positive ways, we will preserve our underlying
mental health. Realizing we have this great human potential gives us a fundamental
strength. This recognition can act as a mechanism that enables us to deal with any
difficulty, no matter what situation we are facing, without losing hope or sinking into
feelings of low self-esteem.

I write this as someone who lost his freedom at the age of 16, then lost his country at
the age of 24. Consequently, I have lived in exile for more than 50 years during which
we Tibetans have dedicated ourselves to keeping the Tibetan identity alive and
preserving our culture and values. On most days the news from Tibet is heartbreaking,
and yet none of these challenges gives grounds for giving up. One of the approaches
that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the situation or problem is such
that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. In other words, if there
is a solution or a way out of the difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The
appropriate action is to seek its solution. Then it is clearly more sensible to spend
your energy focussing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem.

Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also
no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it
anyway. In that case, the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you. This
formula, of course, implies directly confronting the problem and taking a realistic view.
Otherwise you will be unable to find out whether or not there is a resolution to the
problem.

Taking a realistic view and cultivating a proper motivation can also shield you
against feelings of fear and anxiety. If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if
you are motivated by a wish to help on the basis of kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work, in any field, and function more
effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you
ultimately will be successful in reaching your goal. Even if you fail to achieve your goal,
you can feel good about having made the effort. But with a bad motivation, people
can praise you or you can achieve goals, but you still will not be happy.

Again, we may sometimes feel that our whole lives are unsatisfactory, we feel on the
point of being overwhelmed by the difficulties that confront us. This happens to us all
in varying degrees from time to time. When this occurs, it is vital that we make every
effort to find a way of lifting our spirits. We can do this by recollecting our good
fortune. We may, for example, be loved by someone; we may have certain talents; we
may have received a good education; we may have our basic needs provided for - food
to eat, clothes to wear, somewhere to live - we may have performed certain altruistic
deeds in the past. We must take into consideration even the slightest positive aspect of
our lives. For if we fail to find some way of uplifting ourselves, there is every danger of
sinking further into our sense of powerlessness. This can lead us to believe that we
have no capacity for doing good whatsoever. Thus we create the conditions of despair
itself.

As a Buddhist monk I have learned that what principally upsets our inner peace is
what we call disturbing emotions. All those thoughts, emotions, and mental events
which reflect a negative or uncompassionate state of mind inevitably undermine our
experience of inner peace. All our negative thoughts and emotions - such as hatred,
anger, pride, lust, greed, envy, and so on - are considered to be sources of difficulty, to
be disturbing. Negative thoughts and emotions are what obstruct our most basic
aspiration - to be happy and to avoid suffering. When we act under their influence, we
become oblivious to the impact our actions have on others: they are thus the cause of
our destructive behaviour both toward others and to ourselves. Murder, scandal, and
deceit all have their origin in disturbing emotions.

This inevitably gives rise to the question - can we train the mind? There are many
methods by which to do this. Among these, in the Buddhist tradition, is a special
instruction called mind training, which focuses on cultivating concern for others
and turning adversity to advantage. It is this pattern of thought, transforming
problems into happiness that has enabled the Tibetan people to maintain their dignity
and spirit in the face of great difficulties. Indeed I have found this advice of great
practical benefit in my own life.

A great Tibetan teacher of mind training once remarked that one of the mind’s most
marvellous qualities is that it can be transformed. I have no doubt that those who
attempt to transform their minds, overcome their disturbing emotions and achieve a
sense of inner peace, will, over a period of time, notice a change in their mental
attitudes and responses to people and events. Their minds will become more
disciplined and positive. And I am sure they will find their own sense of happiness
grow as they contribute to the greater happiness of others. I offer my prayers that
everyone who makes this their goal will be blessed with success.

5.30.2014

My iPhone is Possessed

The other night I was trying to get to sleep, and my iPhone kept making alert sounds. But not any alert sounds that I used. It was scrolling through the many alert variations it had in storage.

I wonder what it is up to when my back is turned.

Frequently my iPhone is brought back from sleep and I catch it playing a game I have never seen, or calculating my net worth.

Now I am naturally of a suspicious turn of mind. My husband is always telling me night vision goggles are not necessary to take out the trash. Still, I am vigilant.

But this iPhone thing has me worried. What if a bunch of them got together? Do they have texting parties at night? Do they pass pictures of us around to each other and laugh at our round heads? I wonder.

Still, even if all this were true, it wouldn't change anything. I would be just a little more depressed.

Sent by iPhone (heh heh heh)

5.23.2014

Meteor Outburst Possible Tonight

Space Weather News for May 23, 2014
> http://spaceweather.com
>
> METEOR ALERT: This weekend, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR. If forecasters are correct, the encounter could produce an outburst of bright meteors numbering more than 200 per hour. Most models agree that peak rates should occur between the hours of 0600 UT and 0800 UT (2 a.m. and 4 a.m. EDT) on Saturday morning, May 24th, a time frame that favors observers in North America. It is worth noting, however, that Earth has never encountered this stream of debris before, so forecasters cannot be certain of their predictions. The display could be a complete dud, a fantastic "meteor storm," or anything in between. Visit http://spaceweather.com for full coverage.
>
> SOLAR FLARE ALERTS: Solar Max has arrived. Would you like a call when the sun erupts? Solar flare alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).

5.21.2014

Superhero and American Myth

Just got out of Spiderman II movie with my husband.  Superhero movies are really not my thing.  Nothing bores me faster than things blowing up and people jumping around.  Modern movies have made an industry of getting action scenes to last far too long.

Spiderman II was a copy of every Spiderman movie I've seen before.  In fact, it is the same plot as almost every American superhero movie.

Hero - bullied, put-upon, not appreciated, very valuable skill no one knows about, and no one can ever know about.  Except the Pretty Girl.  She knows.  But don't worry, they'll get rid of her by the next movie.  Sometimes the Hero is very wealthy, like Batman and Thor.  In Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America and Superman, he is not. 

Captain America didn't have superpowers, per se.  He just was a perfect specimen of a man: bench pressing 1200 pounds, for instance.  His powers came from a serum to make him a great soldier.  Given that the comic Captain America started in 1942, it's not too hard to see the propaganda purpose there. 

The Avengers is a collection of superheroes, including Thor, which I always found really funny.  Seriously?  A German god?  Who teams up with Captain America, who exists only because we were at war with Germany?  A lot of my "everyman as hero" theme goes out the window with Thor.  But we Americans have always had a thing for royalty, and as Thor is the son of Odin, we include him in our myths.  Love the hammer thing, though.

The Incredible Hulk is the ultimate "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" hero.  I think at some point they put him on antidepressants.  Although he could make a pretty penny doing bachelorette parties with his getting big, turning green and ripping-off-his-clothes thing.

Villain - corporate America, evil scientists, human experimenters.  Something to note, however.  The villain and the hero have almost identical formative experiences, to include the "accident" that led them to have special powers to begin with.  "Captain America Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo is a member of both "The Avengers" and Occupy Wall Street, and as he told the Wall Street Journal, he sees major parallels between his upcoming Marvel film and the economic protests that have swept the world."  See Huffington Post.

So is "hero" is a choice.  You could just as easily be a villain.  You have the tragic experience.  You have the "accident" that gives you special powers.  Evil is simply a choice.  You could have easily chosen to do something constructive and heroic.  Anger and vengeance outweigh other feelings, and evil is chosen.  That makes it a character issue.  Anybody can be a hero, then.  You have only to decide.

Pretty Girl - the obligatory Pretty Girl is also smart and talented.  She is scientific, but more importantly, she is an emotional anchor for the Hero, who often has to choose between his fight against evil and her.  She is strong and brave, and never lasts more than one movie.  I guess women come and go, but the fight for truth, justice and the American way continues.  Comic books are a little kinder to Pretty Girls, and don't write them out of the story line as often.

The American myth, in the form of Superheroes, is glorification of the American everyman.  Not everyperson.  Everyman.  The exploited, overworked, lonely, and critically important guy.  He is angry, justifiably so.  Others take his glory, often while wearing expensive suits.  His is a grinding life of little pleasure, except to serve others. There is very little separating him from Villain status. 

But what does this all mean?  What does it say about the United States now, in light of the popularity of these movies? 

Spiderman II spoke of hope.  Spiderman himself said his role was to give people hope.

That may be it.  Our country needs hope and the only way to get it is to imagine the existence of people with super powers, to hold our own against evil men in well-tailored suits.






5.08.2014

I think Blue Cross Blue Shield Was Hacked

I paid by phone last month and was completely up to date.

Then Blue Cross Blue Shield took out the monthly premium from the old account I used to pay for health insurance.

Then Blue Cross Blue Shield took out almost triple the amount of the monthly premium from the account it is currently being paid from.

So I phone Blue Cross Blue Shield to get answers as to how this happened.  I was on hold for 21 minutes.  Then the customer service representative, who was very nice, couldn't understand how this happened.  I am getting at least a partial refund.  But it is via check and will take 14 - 21 days.  The withdrawal was via electronic transfer and happened instantly.  And I am not convinced that I am getting the whole refund back.

Fortunately, there is a cushion in my account.  But this is an inconvenience, and at another time, could have been a real problem for us.

4.29.2014

Flash Boys or How To Crash The Stock Market

FCC license number 1215095...

The mystery that concludes Michael Lewis' book Flash Boys is a tempting and intriguing invitation into a whole new level of corruption.  I'll leave that to others.

Flash Boys provides the information needed to crash the stock market on demand.  And if I can figure it out, so can others.  Hopefully, sunlight will be a disinfectant.

There would have to be several simultaneous points of attack, physically and virtually.

There are three main aspects of the High Frequency Trading system that can be impacted easily from the outside:

  • The fiber optic cables,
  • The microwave communication towers,
  • The data entered to buy stocks.

Since the microwave communication towers are essential to warn the High Frequency Trading software to stop trading when there is a sudden drop in stock prices, that is the most important system to target.  Fortunately, that is easy.  Just disrupt one of the communication towers.  The entire system is a series circuit, like cheap Christmas tree lights.  If the connection at any point in the line is disrupted, all of the lights will go out. 

It doesn't have to be anything big or showy.  The only item to destroy would be the repeater of the signal.  Voila.  The entire system is disrupted.  The purpose of this is disallow High Frequency Traders from insulating themselves from risk.  As Flash Boys explains, a sudden dip in stock prices is signaled through the microwave communication system, and it warns High Frequency Traders so they can get their stocks sold before the rest of the market knows of the crash.

The fiber optic cables are another point of vulnerability in the High Frequency Trading model.  The High Frequency Trading is conducted using these cables, which are buried next to rural highways and other public right-of-way spaces.  Yes, it would be easy to break or cut one of the cables.  But it would be discovered quickly and repaired within a day.  Not to say it wouldn't cause grief to High Frequency Traders, but not real pain.  And breaking a cable would only highlight an intent to attack the system overall. 

The remaining part of system described in Flash Boys is gathering trading data.  When buying stocks, acceptable prices are entered into the computer.  Before a purchase is made, before even finishing the offer to buy, before clicking the onscreen button to start an offer to buy, the prices you find acceptable are given to High Frequency Traders.  They use that knowledge to buy what you want ahead of you and sell it to you at the high end of your acceptable price range.  The entire High Frequency Trading business model is based on speed, and knowing their systems can move data more quickly than yours.

This last part of the High Frequency Trading business model holds its greatest weakness.  They gather data based on what has been typed in to a stock trading system before the offer to buy or sell is even posted. 

A group of about fifteen people will be able to log on to stock trading systems and enter information leading the High Frequency Trading algorithms to sell off.  Each person should be able to log on to at least three computers under different names and appearing to be from other locations.

The trades need to be coordinated to happen withing a two minute time frame.  At the same time, the microwave communication system needs to be disrupted, for reasons described above.

My background, among other things, is as a systems tester.  All kinds of testing: black box, glass box, end-to-end, load and stress, user acceptance, automated.

Hopefully, someone will read this post and decide that our financial markets are too vulnerable to outside attack.  At least do a test on it.  All right?



4.01.2014

DO NOT RELEASE POLLARD

Pollard was a traitor.  He gave our book of spying methodology to another country who then used it against us.

Israel is an ally of the United States.  It is not a friend of the United States.  If a person is a friend, they do not say or do things that will hurt you.  The same is not true for an ally.

Witness the United States' wiretapping of the phone of the Brazilian politicians.  Brazil is an ally.  They are not a friend.

The United States lied to Polish leaders about the type of activities taking place on their soil in the black sites.  Because the United States and Poland are not friends.  They are allies.

There are those who will draw comparisons to Pollard and myself.  You are wrong.

My statement "Waterboarding is Torture, and Torture is Wrong" was written on an internal Intelligence Community blog.  It was classified, and only people with high security clearances could see it.  When I went public, it was only to announce that I was fired for criticizing torture.  Getting fired is not classified.  If I had not been fired, there would have been no story.

Pollard was the means by which Israel could take specific pieces of very valuable information - information that protects people's lives - and trade it to our non-allies in exchange for Israel's advantage.  It is unknown how many lives have been lost because of Pollard's actions.  Because you can never know that information.

Pollard hurt the United States more than any spy ever has.  People may feel they are helping Israel by advocating for his release from prison.  Really, except for PR reasons, Israel doesn't really care about Pollard.  Israel got what they wanted out of Pollard, and he is no longer of use to them.  Because they are a country - not a person, and an ally - not a friend. 

3.30.2014

X-Flare Produces 'Magnetic Crochet'

> Space Weather News for March 30, 2014
> http://spaceweather.com
>
> X-FLARE: The magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2017 erupted yesterday, March 29th, producing an impulsive X1-class solar flare. Ionizing radiation from the flare produced electrical currents in Earth's upper atmosphere and a ripple in Earth's magnetic field detected by magnetometers across the dayside of our planet. Read more about this rare "magnetic crochet" and the possibility of more X-flares this weekend on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com.
>