I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Archive for 2013:

Millions Living In Staggering Poverty

According to the National Poverty Center, millions of Americans are living in Third-World conditions:

Using the 1996-2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we estimate that in mid-2011, 1.65 million households with 3.55 million children were living in extreme poverty in a given month, based on cash income.

How do they choose to define "extreme poverty?" The term describes a person living on $2 or less per day.

In America.

Ladies Love Multitaskers

Phys.org reports on a study which suggests that female grey frogs are more attracted to male frogs who exhibit an ability to multitask within their mating calls:

The study […] suggests that females prefer males who can do two or more hard-to-do things at the same time because these are especially good quality males, Ward says. The hypothesis, which explores how multiple signals produced by males influence female behavior, is a new area of interest in animal behavior research.

I suppose this means that when I am writing code while watching TV, I am being Quite Sexy. This conclusion is irrefutable.

Ladar Levison May Be Arrested For Shutting Lavabit Down

NBC News:

The owner of an encrypted email service used by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he has been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to comply with a secret surveillance order to turn over information about his customers.

"I could be arrested for this action," Ladar Levison told NBC News about his decision to shut down his company, Lavabit LLC, in protest over a secret court order he had received from a federal court that is overseeing the investigation into Snowden.

Let’s take a minute to applaud the size of this guy’s balls. He’s willing to go to jail in order to protect his customers’ data. Henry David Thoreau would be proud.

Email Is Inherently Insecure

The recent shutdowns of Lavabit and Silent Circle—two supposedly "secure" email providers—demonstrate perfectly the limitations of the medium. MIT Technology Review notes:

When e-mail was created 40 years ago, security or anonymity wasn’t part of the design. The routing and labeling protocols plainly state what computer sent it or forwarded it, what computer received it, and what time all this happened. “There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the e-mail protocols themselves,” says Mike Janke, CEO of Silent Circle, whose customers include people in companies and government agencies with secrets to protect. “It doesn’t matter what you try to do with e-mail, there are these inherent weaknesses. So we got rid of Silent Mail [the company’s e-mail service]. We deleted all of it, burned it, and threw it in the ocean with locks and chains on it. People lost all their e-mail, but the response went from ‘Why would you do this?’ to ‘Thanks for doing this.’ “

Even if your email is encrypted by your provider, that provider will have to give the key(s) to any law-enforcement agency who cares enough to ask for it. Furthermore, the email protocol itself is exceedingly transparent about who sent the mail and who sent it. A lot of information about you is revealed even if you go to great lengths to encrypt your communications with the greatest crypto-nerd care.

This Gmail privacy kerfuffle is ridiculous. As soon as you hand your message to a third party, you lose any reasonable expectation of privacy. It’s not only the law, it’s just common sense. Remember trying to pass a "secret" note in elementary school, only to have it unfortunately intercepted by some dickhead middleman? It’s like that.

Not My Favorite Variety of Swedish Fish

In The Telegraph today is this harrowing report of a (formerly) South American testicle-munching fish found in Sweden recently:

In areas where pacus proliferate, fishermen have reportedly bled to death after losing their testicles to the fish’s crushing jaws.

The article goes on to ask men to keep their swim trunks on. I predict a run on metal shorts throughout all of Scandinavia.

Submitted For Your Approval

I’d like to look longingly sideways to an alternate existence in which some intelligence—artificial, or otherwise—parses information before it is directed toward our eyes, and throws away all of the garbage. It scans our data feeds and then hides snarky, pointless whining from us, favoring considered thoughtfulness instead. It values informed opinion over idiotic knee-jerk logorrhea. It privileges hard-won expertise over bullshit armchair prophecy.

On this alternate plane, there is no Internet.

Turn Your Damned Gadgets Off and Watch the Movie

Hunter Walk has a really dumb / dicky idea he’d like to share with us:

In my 20s I went to a lot of movies. Now, not so much. Over the past two years becoming a parent has been the main cause but really my lack of interest in the theater experience started way before that. Some people dislike going to the movies because of price or crowds, but for me it was more of a lifestyle decision. Increasingly I wanted my media experiences plugged in and with the ability to multitask. Look up the cast list online, tweet out a comment, talk to others while watching or just work on something else while Superman played in the background. Of course these activities are discouraged and/or impossible in a movie theater.

Those activities are "discouraged and/or impossible" because: only giant, solipsistic, rude sacks of douche would wish to engage in them. If you can’t focus on a movie for 90 minutes, don’t ruin it for everyone else. Stay at home. Please.

TOR Browser Bundle Hacked to Send Your Identity to the Feds

One paragraph stands out in this piece at Wired:

“It just sends identifying information to some IP in Reston, Virginia,” says reverse-engineer Vlad Tsrklevich. “It’s pretty clear that it’s FBI or it’s some other law enforcement agency that’s U.S.-based.”

No matter what you do, the secret police are going to watch you do it.

Pigs and Trolls

Bruce Sterling has a brief laugh at the absurd ineffectualness displayed by the government in all of this Snowden business:

The pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm” have more suavity than the US government is demonstrating now. Their credibility is below zero.

[…] Even US Senators are decorative objects for the NSA. An American Senator knows as much about PRISM and XKeyScore as a troll-doll on the dashboard knows about internal combustion.

Nobody elected the NSA.

Digital Dead Drop is a Secure Web Notepad

Inspired by the Ender’s Game books, Tyler Spilker has written a dead-simple Python-based Web app called Digital Dead Drop; it’s designed to run on a local or remote server, and provides a quick and secure method with which to jot down a few thoughts and save them on the server side. Nothing is stored locally, so there’s no problem if your phone is lost. It’s a pretty cool idea.