Healthcare.gov Enrollment, Zorkified

Jimmie Bise, CPAC pal and world famous blogger at The Sundries Shack, has imagineered our future healthcare enrollment interaction with the Imperial Government as the beloved vintage computer game, Zork.

Enjoy. It IS hilarious.

Football, Taters, and Bad Teeth

The new job, which is really the old job from almost 10 years ago but at a different place (with better equipment), continues to suck up most of my time. But there are peeks of daylight here and there. So in honor of the 26 idiot turncoat Senators, here’s a burst of random randomness.

First off, there’s this little football game over in Holy DawgLand. While my usual Pick ‘Em site has LSU by 3, I have to stand by my Dawgs. Phil Steele believes, as well, but ESPN will make you sign up for their mailbox spew before they’ll let you read it. You’ll just have to take my word on it.

A hilarious thing happened yesterday. A coworker tried to convince me that BK had taken out the carbs from their new “Status Fries”. Now I work at a place where most everyone is really smart. Almost Leonard/Shelton smart. I tried to gently remind this person that potatoes are starch. Starch is a pure, 100% unadulterated carbohydrate. Even the folks over in the Food Science building understand this. Short of manufacturing a Klington food replicator, you can’t really take the starch out of potatoes without coming up with some new compound similar to some caulk-like quivering substance that is best just scraped off the transporter pad. He.Just.Didn’t.Get.It. Sigh.

Besides seeing Dale Russell with dark hair, this video is hilarious.

The Hubs pulled something like this one time in a Longhorn’s in Douglasville. The waitress would never make eye contact with him again. Ever. Ever. EverEverEverEver.

It’s As Official As The Geeks Will Allow…Voyager 1 Has Exited Our Solar System

voyager1Forget the stupid politicians, the fake fights and the weather p0rn.

This is exciting news!

Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth on a tour of the outer planets, the plutonium-powered probe is more than 11 ½ billion miles from the sun, cruising through the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, the space agency said.

Voyager 1 actually arrived there more than a year ago, according to NASA. But it’s not as if there’s a dotted boundary line out there or a signpost, and it was not until recently that the space agency had the evidence to convince it of what an outside research team had claimed last month: that the spacecraft had finally plowed through the hot plasma bubble surrounding the planets and escaped the sun’s influence.

CNN has some interesting graphics, if you can stand the talking heads.

Tell Spock hello for me, will ya?

Did Bones REALLY Spill the Beans?

Word***.

A few months ago, did Karl Urban (who plays the rebooted Dr. McCoy* in the rebooted Abrams’ Star Trek) REALLY spill the rebooted beans on the next movie’s villain in an interview with SFX?

Karl Urban, who now carries on the character of Dr. Leonard McCoy, may have accidently spilled the beans on Cumberbatch’s character. During a recent interview when he was promoting Dredd with SFX, explained how Cumberbatch was “awesome, he’s a great addition, and I think his Gary Mitchell is going to be exemplary!” Oops!

After the interview, the slip was pooh-poohed by “people in the know” as a purposeful misdirection. But now that the first peek of the first trailer is out, evidence suggests the the new villain IS Gary Mitchell from the very beginnings of The Original Series. Take a look.

Now, for a take on the plot synopsis:

In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller that takes ‘Star Trek Into Darkness.’ When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell assuming his Godlike powers / TOS

Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell assuming his Godlike powers / TOS

Hmmmmm….. Sounds like Gary Mitchell to me. Appearing in the first season episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” he was Kirk’s best friend from the Academy who came to an unfortunate and untimely end. Exactly how the former Lt. Commander fits into the new mythology seems a little thorny** to me, especially considering his position in the original canon, but I’m sure all will be explained logically, if not explosively.

Given the dismal news of late, we finally have something fun to think about and debate.

——-

*This rebooted thing is going to get complicated. Since he is the rebooted Bones, is he the first Bones or the last? Or just the new? Or is there more than one Bones, like Spock?

**So… in the reboot, Kirk becomes Captain on his first mission and even though the Academy was hurriedly turned out for defense against Nero, to my knowledge Mitchell was not assigned to the Enterprise. In TOS, Kirk and Mitchell are on a mission that occurs somewhere on the outer rim of the universe. So… in the reboot, has the mission already occurred that resulted in Mitchell’s alteration? Or did the force that transformed Mitchell find him on Earth, or on another ship? The synopsis did say, “…from within their own organization…” That means he is still a member of Starfleet. Puzzling this, am I.

***Long-time readers know this blog is rife with Star Wars imagery and double-entendre. Long-time readers also know that I can mix my galactic metaphors with the ease of a double-beamed light saber. Galaxies do not require monogamy. Just ask Tasha Yar.

“…technically correct, but completely useless.”

And now for something completely different (h/t American Digest) –

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it up in the window. The sign said ‘WHERE AM I?’ in large letters. People in the tall building drew a sign of their own and held it in one of their own windows. Their sign read: ‘YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.’

The pilot smiled, waved, set a course for SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how he determined their position. The pilot responded: ‘I knew that had to be the Microsoft tech support building in Redmond. The response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless.’

Six is a Magic Number

One is the loneliest number. But today of all days, six is THE magic number.

Today is Pi Day, that illustrious day in geekdom which devotees of Big Bang Theory know only rivals Saturnalia Miracles and Spock’s birthday in its hallowed reverence and extended festivities.

It is also the day this little blog was hatched. Previous year’s posts have gone into all the hows and whys and wheres and whos that contributed to my general sense of blogmentia. If you’re a newbie, check them out here – The First, Year One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.)

Parsecs and parsecs of prime red-meat snarkage.

Where do I even begin to summarize? How do you distill years of verbiage into one perfect little nugget of wisdom?

This works: “Sometimes the stupidity of people just stupefies me.”

Now we have another election before us. Heaven help America. After four years of The Won, if this doesn’t make you want to run out and vote for whatever goat ends up on the GOP ticket, well, you’re just reading the wrong blog. Run along now.

Completely unrelated, other than mentioning Pi again, since it’s Pi Day and all, did you know that you can even use Pi as basis of the stripe pattern in hand-knit socks? Behold:

While there are those who mock me at my new found passion for knitting, saying it cuts into my housework (hahahaahaaa good one), socializing and blogging time, I beg to differ. At least, in the coming nuclear winter of holocaust and starvation, my family’s feet will be warm. And hands. And heads. And necks. And…

So now you want to be my friend…. I see how this works.

Birthdays, Solar Storms, Busted Gizmos and Grief

Over the weekend, my baby boy turned 20. I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming.

Today, just as we managed to run all the carpetbaggin’ politicians out of town, more trouble rolls in.

Beginning this evening, a strong solar storm will start bombarding the Earth with all sorts of magnetic happiness, sure to cause all the gizmos and gadgets we are addicted to … to misbehave. So tomorrow may be a very long day, especially for those so afflicted.

Don’t mistake it for an EMP (a type of tech attack America is woefully unprepared for), because according to our Dear Leader, no one wants to attack America. Riiiiight…

An EMP attack is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles. These particles, if strong enough, cause a destruction of electrical circuits. This affects cell phones, computers, vehicles, airplanes, and even the power grid. In the case of a successful EMP attack, transportation systems would be halted, communications devices would be rendered useless, and grocery stores would be unable to preserve or restore food supplies. “The result would be starvation, disease, and lawlessness on a scale not experienced in modern times,” [Eric] Hannis says.

Wow. That sounds a lot like a plot from The Walking Dead. But without Dale. Poor Dale. Poor dead Dale. Or the current whiny GOP narrative.

And the grief? Well, I’m still awash in it, as each new day brings a different revelation. I covet your prayers.

Nerd Alert

Today is the last binary day for 3,006 days. Today’s date (111111) converted to decimal (base-10 for all you Big Bang Theory fans out there) is 63.

In other so-called news, today is also Corduroy Celebration Day. Get it? The ridges in corduroy fabric resemble the date. 111111. Ridges. Rows. Whatever. Yeah, I know, it’s a stretch. Not stretch corduroy, just a stretch. Tim Gunn was not available for comment.

Party like a rocket scientist! Or at least like Leonard. He’s the fun one.

General Geekery

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

NASA announced yesterday they have confirmed the discovery of a planet in a stable orbit around two suns.

The existence of a world with a double sunset, as portrayed in the film Star Wars more than 30 years ago, is now scientific fact. NASA’s Kepler mission has made the first unambiguous detection of a circumbinary planet — a planet orbiting two stars — 200 light-years from Earth.

Unlike Star Wars’ Tatooine, the planet is cold, gaseous and not thought to harbor life, but its discovery demonstrates the diversity of planets in our galaxy. Previous research has hinted at the existence of circumbinary planets, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Kepler detected such a planet, known as Kepler-16b, by observing transits, where the brightness of a parent star dims from the planet crossing in front of it. “This discovery confirms a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life,” Kepler principal investigator William Borucki said. “Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars. This milestone discovery confirms a theory that scientists have had for decades but could not prove until now.”

Both of the suns are smaller and cooler than our system’s sun. Kepler-16b is a gassy giant, approximately the size of Saturn and equally as uninhabitable. Think Hoth on a bad day.

Doyle* said Kepler-16b almost certainly will not be the last double-sunset planet discovered by the $600 million Kepler mission. When the numbers all added up, “I didn’t feel like it’s the end of 20 years of searching … it felt like the beginning of something” he said. “I predict that in the next couple of months, we’re going to have some more.”

But time’s running out for Kepler. Boss** noted that the current mission plan calls for the telescope to be “out of business one year from now.” That would be a shame, Boss said, because it looks as if it will take longer than expected for Kepler to get the data to identify Earthlike planets in Earthlike orbits around sunlike stars – which is the mission’s prime objective. The reason for that is that the readings from alien suns are unusually noisy. “It turns out that most stars are not as quiet as the sun,” Boss said. (Signs of the Times/Science & Technology)

* Laurance Doyle of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, who served as discovery team leader and paper lead author
** Carnegie Institution astronomer Alan Boss, a member of the team for NASA’s Kepler mission and paper co-author

Kepler concentrates on searching for Earth-like, inhabitable planets in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. To date, 21 planets matching the mission criteria have been found. Years of hard work and research have culminated in a fascinating discovery. Alas, these dark days everything falls prey to budget cuts Imperial entanglements.

The full research paper paper was published Thursday in Science (subscription required).

More on the Kepler Mission here.

Graphic via NYT.

Double-Shot Burn-Out

The day job continues to be a simmering lava pit filled with alligators, sharks and jumping spiders. Who would have thought that a relatively straightforward application could bumfuzzle so many supposedly smart people at such a globally-acclaimed and supposedly super-smart institute of higher learning? Surely I’m surrounded by cylons.

Some random things that managed to spark through the sulfuric fog the past week:

- I have a new second favorite MLB team. The Texas Rangers drafted UGA Diamond Dawg, Johnathan Taylor. Back in March, Taylor was injured in a head-to-head collision with teammate Zach Cone. JT had been scouted for years by the Rangers, and they recognized his efforts with a draft pick. The Dawgs had a great run this season, going all the way to the final game of the NCAA Regionals. What a classy move by the Rangers organization.
Kyle Wingfield/AJC is looking past the usual campaign fuss and bother and seeing some interesting things about Tim Pawlenty.
– General Geekiness: Yesterday was IPv6 Day.
Pinin’ for the fjords.
– The RedState Gathering is open for registration. Be there, be square.
– 9+ minutes of Teh Awesome. Grand Rapids isn’t dead yet, they are feeling better. Thank you very much.
NCAA punk/crook/liar/cheat meets the same at The White House.

Many have asked why I haven’t chimed in on #Weinergate, since I’m such a manners maven. Honestly, if I wanted a dose middle-school boy humor, all I have to do is go home. Go read The Anchoress’ take on this whole debacle. She echos my sentiments. And now we find out his wife is pregnant. What a wonderful black cloud to hang over the announcement of new life. Mortifying, isn’t it?

Various and Sundry

Since the Anniversary Parade, I’ve kicked back a bit due to family stuff and work-bandwidth-suckage. Yes, that is an IT term. At least some people noticed. You know who you are, and your devotion has been duly noted.

Of course, there was the pilgrimage (parts I, II, III), plus a big party, being glued to the tube over the tragedy of Japan, then the pre-Easter musical* and mom’s birthday, the annual spring ritual of taxes and FAFSA, tons of bad weather, (literally) tons of pollen that drags you down like the chains of Davy Jones, a scary medical test that turned out okay and the never-ending project from H-E-doublehockeysticks that is supposed to go live in two weeks.

Not to mention distractions like this. Be quiet while I feed my addiction.

While I was gone, Trog got his million hits, a reporter got locked in a closet on purpose, Gerard wrote another required reading piece, the Big Brother crap became even more ridiculous, we got to see Smitty’s room at the Bagram Hilton, my 2011 brackets were an epic FAIL, Oregon State University proved that it is run by idiots, and Herman Cain showed why he’s Da Man.

And I got a new phone, which is vexing me greatly. So don’t call me or text me. Or email me or IM me. The thing beeps and chirps and carries on, and I just stare at it, mesmerized by the pretty screen and blinky lights. Yesterday, my friend poked fun saying, “But you’re in IT!’ I said, “Yeah, but I don’t do hardware.”

It may take several hours for a return anything, and that includes factoring in two Advil and another try in the morning.

——————-
*This year, Hubster scheduled his Easter musical early, since he had planned to be on a Far East musical tour in April that would have traveled through parts of China and Korea. We all watched as the hand of God protected these men earlier this year, causing the trip to the rescheduled in 2012.

Hothlanta

What’s a snowed-in Jedi do when there is no way out the driveway and the interstates are closed? Pull out the Legos, of course! Luke Thornton has the right idea.

“Hothlanta” is a more appropriate nickname for Atlanta than the tired, old has-been “Hotlanta.” Hotlanta conjures up visions of the BeeGee’s in tight polyester shirts, even tighter pants and platform shoes. Muddled memories of dancing on the speakers at The Limelight and other such activities that shouldn’t be repeated around little ears are all tangled up in the Hotlanta name. It’s best to close that door and embrace our new reality.

Al Gore has bought a condo in Midtown and cursed us all. He collected the discarded silverware at the Wild Hog Supper and plans to use the harvested DNA for his nefarious purposes. He’s building a secret clone army in the basement of the Cheetah.

And, he’s the one who put the english peas in the brunswick stew at the Wild Hog Supper. Oh, the horror!

As you can tell, I have a touch of cabin fevah.

For more geeky Star Wars fun, check out the rest of Luke’s pictures on Facebook.

Impressive. Most impressive.

Teh Awesome

Check out the A Lego a Day blog.

Nothin’ but awesome.

Lance will like this one.

Here’s College Boy and Sweet Girlfriend, sans the mangled ride.

Something Congress needs.

The weekend beckons. And thanks to numerous incidents of unplanned familial excitement, I am so far behind, I will never die.

A Computer Worm, a Biblical Code, the Unseen Hand?

This first blipped up on my radar a few days ago. With my background in security, I thought it was interesting and a little spooky. Not a DOS attack, but something different… targeting specific machinery and computers related to the Iranian nuclear development projects.

A computer virus that attacks an industrial system widely used by Iran could be the first real instance of “cyberwar”, western experts have revealed.

Kevin Hogan, senior director of security response at computer security giant Symantec, said 60 per cent of computers worldwide infected by the Stuxnet worm were in Iran, suggesting its industry was the target.”

Details began to trickle out on Stuxnet. No call-backs (its creator didn’t want to see the results? See UPDATE below. There was returned information for a time.) … hmmm. Seems the code itself has some interesting naming conventions, with allusions to Queen Esther and Persia. Now remember Iran now was Persia then. And they hated Jews just as much then as now.

Yid with Lid gives us our Sunday School lesson refresher:

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament narrative in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment. [NYT]

In the Biblical Story of Esther, the vizier to the Persian king tries to destroy the Jewish people, in the end he is defeated by a Jewess named Esther who becomes queen of Persia and her uncle Mordecai. Since Iran is the modern day Persia, and the computer virus is meant to stop the destruction of the Jewish People, could this be a message from God, from Israel, something put in just to confuse or maybe something put in the virus just to make the paranoid Iranians even more nervous.

Excellent.

God’s hand is everywhere, even when we can’t see what is unfolding around us. He can use the tiniest computer bug just as mightily as a brave young woman to defeat the darkest evil on Earth.

Here, do your homework. Look for more clues and be vigilante.

UPDATE: There’s more

A reference (uncovered by Symantec) to May 9, 1979, the date of the execution of a prominant Iranian Jew by the new Iranian regime.

Jonathan Last’s excellent outline of the worm at Weekly Standard. RTWT to be prepared as more information becomes available in the weeks to come.

Zero-day parameters? Wait, four zero-day parms? Trojanized rootkit? Stolen digital signatures?

Correction to above – there was call-back reporting for a time.

Stuxnet was not designed to spread over the Internet at large. (We think.) It was, however, able to spread over local networks—primarily by using the print spooler that runs printers shared by a group of computers. And once it reached a computer with access to the Internet it began communicating with a command-and-control server—the Stuxnet mothership. The C&C servers were located in Denmark and Malaysia and were taken off-line after they were discovered. But while they were operational, Stuxnet would contact them to deliver information it had gathered about the system it had invaded and to request updated versions of itself. You see, the worm’s programmers had also devised a peer-to-peer sharing system by which a Stuxnet machine in contact with C&C would download newer versions of itself and then use it to update the older worms on the network.

And during it’s travels, instead of causing general mayhem, the worm is looking for something specific.

“It’s looking for specific things in specific places in these PLC devices,” Digital Bond CEO Dale Peterson told PC World. “And that would really mean that it’s designed to look for a specific plant.” Tofino Security Chief Technology Officer Eric Byres was even more ominous, saying, “The only thing I can say is that it is something designed to go bang.” Even the worm’s code suggests calamity. Ralph Langner is the most prominent Stuxnet sleuth and he notes that one of the last bits of code in the worm is the line “DEADF007.” (Presumably a dark joke about “deadf*ckers” and the James Bond call-sign “007.”) “After the original code is no longer executed, we can expect that something will blow up soon,” Langner says somewhat dramatically. “Something big.”

Things go boom?

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