Monthly Archives: November 2002


My driver's license expires tomorrow, so I have to go to Belleville today and get it straightened out. When I moved out here I changed my address with them, and I was issued a temporary… The permanent never came. I suspect now I'm going to have to pay a “fee” to one government agency because another didn't do its job. It's snowing now but just a little — I don't really like this transitional period where it's cold enough to demand winter clothes, but without thick layers of snow… Just blah dirty grey.

Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard :
"How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here"
In the seaside town
...that they forgot to bomb
Come, Come, Come - nuclear bomb
Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Ha ha no, just kidding. It's not that bad. My plan for today is pretty light; head in to town to deal with my license in a few hours, do an experience update, do some programming, a little target practise, and so on. Rachel is checking in on a few government surplus land sales coming up… There's a property that's asking something like $7k US for 100 acres of rough land with a river flowing through the middle among other things. Might make for a good homestead.

I guess I should catch up on the news, see how Republican logic is going. Something I should mention — last year the Republicans introduced the “The Universal Military Training and Service Act of 2001” which is now set to be passed. Basically it forces everyone between 18 and 25 to serve at least six months of military service — a permanent draft. Don't believe it could pass? The insane Homeland Security bill just passed, and this permadraft bill is sitting at 90% general support.

Here's a link to the full text of the latest “bin Laden” letter — although it's far from authenticated — personally I think it's a fabrication. While the Q1 section reads fairly legitimately, I believe it leaves out a lot of key issues, and the Q2 section reads like an over simplified cartoon characterisation of bin Laden. Not that it's probably much worse that current intelligence.

The moon landing was a hoax? So I saw a link on I think /. this morning saying “Telescope to challenge moon doubters“. The new VLT that European scientist are operating can see a single human hair from 16 km away, and should be able to see the lunar landers… But you'll notice the article no where says they did see them! Not only have they not found them yet, but as Marcus Allen points out, Russia first got to the moon in 1959 (unmanned), and were later able to retrieve samples as well… So we'll definitely see stuff on the moon, and seeing it won't prove people were there.

I don't know if we got there or not. I sure hope so, but at the same time, doing it on 1960s technology is pretty mindblowing. I'm incredibly impressed that we even managed to get unmanned probes there… One thing I respect about the Soviet program is its willingness to admit its failures. We do know that either NASA fudges its results or are simply better than everyone else. I'm not saying that's not the case, but it's the long shot of the available options.

Anyway, if they did it, it was through the willpower of American cowboy engineers and test pilots standing on the shoulders of German scientists that supplied the ideas and the underlying information. One of the dirty secrets of the US space program is that it was made possible by experiments that Nazi scientists did on Jews during WWII — although that's not going to happen again apparently. Now, I'm not talking about German moon bases or kooky UFO stuff — I'm talking about both the dirty research from camps like pressurisation testing, and both academic and aviation engineering work from people like Werner von Braun (note: I'm not saying von Braun was an evil man — just a German scientist — when his V-2 rocket hit London he is said to have remarked, “The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet.”).

Anyway, the German V-series of rockets eventually progressed into the Staturn V series that put astronauts on the moon (did you know that's where the V came from? That the US moon rocket is actually named after the Nazi rockets that pummelled Britain?*). By the time the end of the war rolled around, Germany understood that victory would come not from the Luftwaffe, but from their space program (both manned vehicles and unmanned weaponry), but it came just a little too late… I have a couple decent books on the history of experimental planes that cover the subject but I haven't actually unpacked them yet (sorry) or I'd scan a few weird pictures.

Anyway, I've rambled off on that subject a bit farther than is interesting to most people. There's a little bit of debate on the Third Reich Forums (no, it's not a white power board, it's a historical fiction debate site) for those that want more…

* It is important to note that this is entirely conjecture on my part. Click here for a complete history of the V 1 rocket booster including name changes. Most people would disagree with the conclusion I've reached.


So I was trying to find some reference to the product in the diary below, and the best I could find was lots of references to the file format it used (just a group-3 fax file without headers basically; just b/w modified huffman encoding).

I've been releasing commercial software since the 1980s, but in the early 90s I moved over to producing larger custom software, so most of my bigger products are pre-Internet. It's weird how some of them have just dropped off the face of the planet; short of old magazine articles there's literally no references. Not only that, but the source code is gone, as are all the design notes (as far as I know).

It's actually pretty scary how much gets lost all the time… You know the old smarts-admiration expression “he's forgotten more than I know”? I wonder if it matters that we've forgotten these things. As far as the above, what good is a obsolete encryption technology, obsolete fax control engines, a pre-TTF vector font rendering engine, and some odd OCR tools? The hardware required to run it probably doesn't even exist much in functioning form any more…


I'm going to go fiddle with the forum search tools now, and hope that I'm not repeating work I've already done a few times… But first I have to go figure out what's stalling the experience engine. I don't know if reviewers are having problems, but my moderation step isn't working like it should and I figured there'd be an experience update today or tomorrow depending on how many we have waiting for us.

Klingon OCR systems???

The forum ranking system is loosely designed. Basically by looking at the way the forum gets used, the system attempts to guess how valuable it's going to be to potential readers. For reasons of speed it has to calculate this based on the index files, and may not (at present) consider the actual text in the forums. Anyway, the following characteristics are used:

  • Forum age – How many days old is the forum?
  • Forum size – How many total posts are in the forum?
  • Average post size – How long is the average post?
  • “Last24″ – How many posts have happened in the last 24 hours?
  • “Last168″ – How many posts have happened in the past week?
  • “Posters24″ – How many distinct posters have there been in the past 24 hours?
  • “Posters168″ – How many distinct posters have there been in the past week?
  • “Peak168″ – How many of the last week's posts have come from the top poster?
  • “Peaks168″ – How many of the last week's posts have come from the top five posters?
  • Inflation value – Is this forum being artificially inflated or deflated?

If anyone has suggestions for other things I can quickly generate that would be useful in determining forum rankings, please do point it out. I've written the code for most of the above and built the data structures to hold it, but I'm going to sleep on it before I do any more work on it.

Anyway, I've got an encryption project I want to put some more work into tonight… It's based around a few ideas I've explored in the past, including the Dilaudid Glide “harmonic quantizing engine” that I built while institutionalized. This engine was loosely based on the music system in one of the Dirk Gently novels; in essence it allows any numeric input data to be slightly “tweaked” (quantized) in order to make harmonic sense. This is coupled with a melodic engine that allows not just the creation of mathematically sensible harmonic structures, but also rhythmic structures and logical pattern systems.

One of the first companies I worked for wanted me to develop a method for sending secure faxes between computers. Please note that this was before the days where you could buy fax modems, so it was built around the small set of stand-alone fax machines that had been wired to computers. To overgeneralize, the system first utilized a “transmogrification engine” that converted the data from (presumed) English into Klingon (obviously inspired by the Navajo encryption method). Then traditional encryption was applied, and then the whole thing was output to an irregular Klingon font, which was then faxed. At the other end, a custom OCR application fine-tuned for Klingon (seriously) brought it into the destination computer.

Anyway, put those two things together and you've got a vague idea of what I'm working on.


Below are the current entries for the Kids Club Bunny shirt. Yeah, mine is the cruddiest. Anyway, you still have time to enter one — I'll be running the public poll with next week's image update. You can enter a rough version but you must be prepared to finish it.

Original Design

by me

by fyra

by razoreater

by shawn.spc

Oh, and multiple submissions are fine by me. To enter just post your drawing on your IAM page and let me/us know via the whatever forum.

This is a LONG entry.

A few days ago airlines CEOs were informed that al-Qaida had smuggled shoulder mounted missiles into the country. The full story is at Salon (premium), but here are some excerpts (although I do recommend reading the whole thing; this is just first-page stuff):

Just days ago, national security executives met secretly with airline CEOs to warn them that al-Qaida may be planning to fire shoulder-launched missiles [that are small, relatively easy to obtain and surgically accurate] at commercial jets in the U.S. There's virtually no defense...

Todd Curtis, the creator of and a former Air Force officer and Boeing safety analyst, adds this caution: If a "dedicated person wanted to shoot down a plane, there's nothing to stop them."

Shoulder-fired missiles have already been used to shoot down commercial aircraft outside the U.S., and the respected Jane's Intelligence Review reported last year that they are now in the hands of up to 27 terrorist groups. Reports from the CIA, State Department and other government agencies show that shoulder-fired missiles have already hit at least 42 civil aircraft [and] have killed well over 900 air travelers.

Dozens of countries have produced hundreds of thousands of these missiles, and many of them have found their way to the black market.

The US donated nearly a thousand Stinger missiles to al-Qaeda when they were “on our side” in the 80's when they were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan (although the Pentagon says that they captured nearly 6000 from Taliban armories, so who knows how many they have). Many of these were not fired and are still in circulation. They're not hard to get though, both on the Soviet market and even more locally — as many IAM members from the US know, it's not particularly hard to get such weaponry from militia sources in the US. In any case, only a tiny percent of cargo is inspected (or ever could be), and catching 35-pound missiles is a lot harder than catching large drug shipments… and we all know how many drugs get into the US yearly.

Let's assume for a moment that somehow we can stop every missile from entering the country. I've been reading a lot about potato and pumpkin guns lately — they're shooting twenty pound pumpkins a half mile or more at very high speeds. If instead of firing pumpkins they were firing properly shaped 20 pound metal bullets, you'd have a weapon that's powerful enough to knock small planes out of the sky, be truck mounted, and be building using hardware store tech.

The fact is, if people want to disrupt the world they can. There are so many easy targets, and it's simply impossible to protect them all. When you go about your daily tasks over the next few days, imagine yourself as a psycho with a missile*. What are all the targets you could take out? How many power stations, comm hubs, and so on could you destroy? Now ask yourself a scarier question: can you think of any way to protect against such attacks? The answer is no.

Things like instituting a “no fly list” for political dissidents such as known pacifists like John Dear (the 43 year old Jesuit priest and member of the Catholic peace group Pax Christi) and political opponents of Bush such as the Green Party's Nancy Oden and Doug Stuber isn't going to stop attacks. Attacking Iraq — one of the most moderate Islamic nations — isn't going to help anyone when you have other rogue nations armed with plutonium bombs.

Anatol Lieven, senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, has been quoted as saying the current US goal is “unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority.” While that may be true, what they continue to miss is that there is nothing that can stop attacks on the US from being successful. You can not fight a suicidal terrorist group through traditional military means. In fact, you can't fight them with any military means. Any attack on them simply makes them stronger. So the solution is either no solution or a diplomatic solution. We all know that.

* And missiles are just one possibility. I've seen semi-trailer mounted laser systems that could be built in the $50k price range using no-questions-asked parts that could take out a jetliner. I've seen van sized EMP devices that could take out NYSE. It's not hard to build massively disruptive weapons using easy to obtain parts on a budget.

Yahoo is running an AP story on a National Geographic poll asking people between 18 and 24 about their geographic knowledge. Only 13 percent of Americans could find Iraq, Iran, and Israel, and with only 17 percent being able to find Afghanistan. In all honesty that didn't surprise me much, but what did surprise me is that only 58% of Amercans between the age of 18 and 24 even knew that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were based in Afghanistan (the lowest result of all countries surveyed)!! What rock would you have to be living under to not know that?

Anyway, I downloaded the entire test, so I'll share a few results from it that I thought were worth mentioning. First, before people think this is American bashing, Canada and Mexico scored pretty damn low too (Canada had about 20% of people “failing” the test — far worse than European nations — with the US at 39% failing and Mexico with 43% failing). Also note that when I'm saying “Americans” or “French Citizens” or whatever that I'm generally referring to the 18 to 24 age group. If you want more info on the legitimacy and specifics of the survey, you can download a giant PDF from the National Geographic site (it's an interesting read):

  • 30% of Americans believe that the US population is between 1 and 2 billion. Only 25% correctly chose “between 150 and 350 million” (the options were 10-50 million, 150-350 million, 500-750 million, 1-2 billion, and don't know). All countries except America and Mexico were largely able to identify their population size accurately. In addition, young adults in other countries were on average twice as likely to correctly identify the US population.
  • While only 13% of Americans know where Iraq is, 34% know where the Island that “Survivor” is filmed on is located.
  • 30% of Americans and Brits do not know what “East” and “West” mean in terms of a map. In 1988 this number was a shocking 48%. Only Germans (37%) and Mexicans (71%) scored worse.
  • 63% of Americans can not find Britain on a map.
  • 7% of Swedes can't find America on a map (how is this even possible?), although they ranked the highest in general, along with Germany and Italy on country identificiation.
  • 17% of Canadians can't find the Pacific Ocean on a map (29% of Americans can't find it either).
  • 49% of Americans can't find New York State on a map, and only 30% could find New Jersey. Only California and Texas could be found by a large majority of Americans. The average American could identify less than half the states.
  • Internet users (across the board) scored about 65% better than those who are not web capable. 11% of Americans use the Internet for news, compared with a world average of 25%.
  • Males scored 13% better across the board, except in France.
  • 11% of Americans can not find America on a world map! (20% can't find Mexico, and 16% can't find Canada).
  • 66% of Americans didn't know what the European Union was (compared with an international average of about 12% not knowing).
  • 81% of Americans, 83% of Canadians, and 96% of Mexicans were unable to identify four countries with nuclear weapons. 95% of Americans were unaware that France is a nuclear nation. 17% of Americans believe that the US does not have nuclear weaponry, and 25% of Brits believe the same — and 62% of Brits don't even know that they have nuclear weaponry. 38% of Americans are unaware that Russia has nuclear weapons, 66% don't know that China is armed, and so on. Scary numbers.
  • 93% of Swedes use the internet, 81% of Canadians, 70% of Germans, 64% of Mexicans, 60% of Americans, and then France coming in last with 58%. (Yes, Mexico is more “wired” than the US — it surprised me too).
  • Pretty much nobody could find Bulgaria on a map except Swedes and Germans.
  • Italy is the easiest country to find in the world (even more so than America!).
  • 28% of Brits (the worst rank in the world) couldn't find Canada. Of course, 43% of Canadians can't find Great Britain either!

Whoa! Apparently we're all a bunch of dumbasses. That's a lot of numbers… I should probably stop now. Read the survey for yourself for more I guess.

Finally, I have three quick nerdnews links:

  • Hot laptop burns penis – I thought this was appropriate given that we've been debating McDonalds lawsuits in the Whatever forum.
  • New Transmeta Chip – Their new Astro chip is outperforming the P4 1.8GHz, which is pretty impressive given that it's half the cost, consumes a fraction of the power, and runs at something like 50 degress (that is, it won't burn your penis!).
  • Did quark matter strike Earth? – I shouldn't have to tell you why this is neato!

PS. $4 a gallon for gas in California!? Ack!

It's a cold day today; I just had to brush snow off the satellite link to be able to upload this entry. Dunno what my plans are yet… I'm going to write a quick bot to consolidate and download all the forum keytword ratings to start working on some search routines, and if my brain feels up to it I'll plug the spellcheck into forum postings (I probably won't put it into the IM engine).