THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 330 October 4 - 10, 2004
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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October 4, 2004
OK it's all over. All the speeches have been made, the lunches have been eaten, and I'm on the way home. I have photographs.
I'll be home in a couple of hours.
Home. Pictures tonight.
I will try to put up pictures others wouldn't have.
Sunday afternoon there was a press conference and reception at the laboratory and headquarters of XCOR. Jeff Greason, XCOR President, shows the Honorable Marion Blakey, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency, and FAA Associate Administrator Patricia Grace Smith around the shop. There was a press conference afterwards at which I rather surprised the Administrator by saying I wanted to ask a philosophical question. "John Adams said the United States differed from other countries in that we hold that each man is the best judge of his own interest. Given that, how do you view the job of the FAA in regulating commercial space flight?"
I have to say she gave a good answer. The FAA's main job is to protect the uninvolved public from undue risks. We can agree on that. The second issue is informed consent: those who want to take the risks of going to space should understand the risks they take. There is considerable room for disagreement here, but my impression is that the FAA at present at least understands that if people want to take risks in going to space they should be able to do so. After which I pointed out that perhaps the model ought to be, not buying a ticket on an airliner today, but Will Rogers and Wily Post...
Xcor shows off its "tea tray" rocket, with a series of firings. It always starts...
Dawn. All is ready. White Knight and Space Ship One head up to begin the takeoff; and the scene in the VIP area just before takeoff.
Waiting for takeoff. Here she comes! White Knight and Space Ship One roll past to takeoff.
Now it's a long wait until they climb, and get separation, and ignite... While we wait I'll wander about and get some pictures.
Eric Lindbergh. And it's late and I'll have more tomorrow.
|This week:||Tuesday, October
Gordo Cooper, RIP
I met him in connection with full pressure suit research, both during Mercury and later in Downey on Apollo planning. He was friendlier than Glenn and less jocular than Grissom. When the astronauts became national treasures and weren't sent on missions lest we lose one it was a turning point in NASA's history as NASA went from being a place of adventure to one of caution. That also broke his heart.
Jerry, I was so saddened to learn about Gordo Cooper's passing. Gordo was the first astronaut I met, when I was working on the Gemini program. He had the "look of eagles" in his eyes, and as a very shy 18-year-old budding engineer and would-be spacewoman, I was enchanted to meet him, and enthralled by his eyes. He had seen space, and it showed. He will always have a special place in my heart, and I will never forget that he encouraged me. I'm sorry he's gone; I would have liked to have offered him a ride. Aleta
And XCOR would be just the outfit to do it...
More photos from XCOR where there was a small party and reception after the X Prize:
The kinds of things you will see at a rocket company. Dick Rutan who flew Voyager around the world. The notice board of required things you have to post or get fined; ain't government wonderful? A test stand. Dan DeLong shows off the rocket engines. And the anti-rodent system off duty; then pleading that no one ever feeds her, and there are no rodents left to eat...
The press conference.
Before the press conference:
Sarah Evans, of CarryOn Public Relations, feeling the pressure... I've been to a lot of these things, and she has done at least as well at press management as any, and better than a very great number I have seen. Congratulations.
Dr. Peter H. Peter Diamandis, X Prize Founder; The honorable Marion Blakey, FAA Administrator; Burt Rutan, all caught a bit off guard. The Los Angeles Times this morning spoke of Marion Blakely "an administrator of the FAA" which tells you something about the Los Angeles Times.
The press conference begins:
Taking their seats. I was a bit too close with the wrong camera: this one doesn't have a wide enough lens to get everyone at once. Sarah Evans opens the conference. The mood, as you can imagine, is euphoric. (91)A good shot of Peter Diamandis and Miss Anousheh Ansari whose family sponsored the last phase of the contest. The Ansari family remains associated with the prize and interested in space travel. Note the sponsors: M&M's and Seven Up. (92) The conference begins. that's Mike Mellvill in the back row to your right. My conference handout says the man seated at the far left is TBD; of course it's Brian Binnie, who flew the ship to a new altitude record and to win the X prize. (94) Pilot Brian Binnie, Chief Judge Colonel Rick Searfoss, and behind them Doug Shane, Flight Director. (97) Colonel Searfoss announces officially that they have done it! And (98) Burt and Paul Allen at that moment.
And another picture of Paul Allen and Burt Rutan a moment after the official announcement.
The pilots; and Paul Allen takes a question (from me) about use of PC's to build the flight simulators. Burt Rutan has more to say on the subject. Rutan wanted to make it clear that his team did a lot of good work, and the computer revolution helped but it wasn't the main reason they could do it. That wasn't part of the question....
Sponsors: Kelli Freeman, Director of Marketing, 7 UP; and a very enthusiastic Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group of Companies, with his Virgin Galactic shirt. Sir Richard has ordered 5 passenger model space ships for a total of $100 million. He and Burt Rutan will ride on the first commercial flight to space.
The Administrator presents Brian Binnie with Astronaut wings. Take that, NASA!
And then presents a plaque to Rutan and Allen. Take another, NASA!
After the presentation the photographers on the other side of the room asked them to pose again: and Paul Allen finally shows his emotions.
So: that was my day. I should have got some more pictures at XCOR and at the parties, but I was getting tired. There were parties, and we talked to a lot of people.
Space Ship One doesn't lead directly to orbital flight: there is no way to trace a route using improvements in any of Space Ship One's developments -- airframe, propulsion, reentry -- to orbital flight; what it does show is simplicity, safety, and the ability to move fast. Six powered flights, and each one an incremental improvement over the last; leading to the design of a ship that can carry commercial passengers to space. Not to orbit; but to space.
XCOR has some designs for sub-orbital ships that can lead to orbit; and once you are in orbit you are half-way to anywhere. What Rutan has shown is that for relatively modest amounts a small private company can do something significant in space; it doesn't take an enormous government program. And now the race is on.
Another account: http://www.chronogram.com/issue/2004/10/feature/
NASA claims SS 1 never went to space. We're NASA. We own space. Don't you forget it. Typical. Typical. Typical.
October 6, 2004
In that promising land the spirit of I’m as good as you has already begun something more than a generally social influence. It begins to work itself into their educational system. How far its operations there have gone at the present moment, I should not like to say with certainty. Nor does it matter. Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let, them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem.” An even more drastic scheme is not possible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma -- Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT.
From C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Proposes A Toast
It's column time, and I have to get out to Fry's, then get my Linux Xandros box tuned up. I'll have more later.
I am not entirely sure who is the author of this; it was forwarded to me as a forward and after a while origins get lost.
"On the one hand, the Americans remain under extraordinary international pressure to retreat; on the other, the appeal of the Islamist ideology is still growing, and finding its voice through such mass media as Arab satellite television.
"If, for instance, a President Kerry were to take the Americans out of Iraq, mission unaccomplished as in Vietnam, we would see a storm-tide of Islamist triumphalism, and the belief would quickly spread through the Muslim world that an aggressive, Jihadist, politico-religious Islamism is the wave of the future.
"The same, of course, would happen if a President Bush did that. But everything we know about the man suggests he wouldn't.
"One of my reasons to pray for his victory in the coming U.S. election is because he wouldn't. I don't think he fully grasps the dimensions of the conflict -- nobody does. But he knows they are large, he knows the difference between advancing and retreating, and that's really all he needs to know, for now. The rest we learn as we go along."
I am not entirely certain that we are winning, although the events in Samara indicate that we are getting on top of the situation; I am fairly certain that bugging out now would cause a wave of Islamic triumphalism with very long term and very dire consequences for the west. The US Armed Forces are pretty good at winning a peace, once they understand the mission. I see no reason to believe that will change.
The process of building an empire is long and will always generate blunders. We were forty years in the Philippines with mixed results. The process of rule without building an empire is not notably easier.
My own view is that it is cheaper to fight Arabs over here than over there: it's hard for them to get at us. But it's also politically disastrous to have another 911; better 1,000 troopers lost than 3,000 citizens, and I doubt any of the troops would disagree. I would like to come home and do energy research and build solar power satellites. I do not think we can do that precipitously.
Greg Cochran asked me if there was anything as disastrous as the invasion of Iraq that Kerry could do. I have thought about that at length, and the answer is, yes: Albright nearly got us into a war (hot or cold) with Russia over our treatment of the Serbs, and that would have been a real disaster. And Albright was proud of the fact that we had no national interests as we converted NATO from a defensive alliance into an imperial coalition we don't even lead. I see no signs that Kerry has rejected any of the views of the last four Democratic Secretaries of State, or the Democrat philosophy on war and government. Indeed, he seems to have embraced them. Albright was PROUD of the fact that we had no national interests in the Balkans where we bombed the Chinese and seriously annoyed the Russians. All that for altruism. God knows what they would do in Africa and the Sudan.
I note that the question about AIDS among black women got from Cheney an admission that he didn't know that was a particular problem; but from Edwards more language about world wide crusades, and more commitment of American resources to fight battles where we have no stake and remedy wrongs we had no hand in committing.
So: Yes, there are things more disastrous than the invasion of Iraq that Kerry could do. Bugging out precipitously from a war we ought not have been in, thereby triggering a triumphalist reaction is one; getting us involved in wars in which we have no interest, vital or otherwise, dozens of little tar babies, is another. I have no great enthusiasm for Bush. I could make that statement stronger. But almost all the things I dislike about Bush -- overseas involvements, entangling alliances, meddling in territorial disputes halfway across the world, no Child Left Behind, enormous increases in discretionary spending -- are things the Republicans say they aren't really for, but the Democrats support with gusto.
I would prefer a party that would win the war in Iraq by applying the Samara strategy to Fallujah and Sadr City and all the other points of resistance, leave a small high tech force behind in a safe base, and come home; and thereafter understand that we are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own; and that we hold each American to be the best judge of his own interest. I prefer a party that would leave many matters to the states, particularly matters of abortion and gay marriage and the like. I prefer a party that would take off economic restrictions like Americans with Disabilities, minimum wages, OSHA, and leave all that to the states while enforcing immigration laws and protecting the borders. I prefer a 10% tariff as a means of minor protection of American jobs without building huge walls to protect gross inefficiencies; while removing the federal regulations that make it nearly impossible to compete in many areas (leave those protections to the states). I do not believe that party exists.
Because my party doesn't exist, I would be glad to sit this one out: were it not for my fear of Islamic triumphalism. As a student of history I have seen what can happen in the past. For those who don't know some of that history, a good start would be Iron Men and Saints and The Flame of Islam, by Harold Lamb; I believe the two volumes are now available as The Crusades. It's readable and you may learn something of the volatility of that region.
I do fear the consequences of a hasty retreat from Iraq; if the price of staying there is 1,000 troopers a year, that is a heavy price, but it is one that has to be paid; and it is not paid in vain. The West is worth protecting.
Creating an orderly democracy in the Middle East is an arduous task, perhaps beyond our strength and capabilities, and certainly one I would not have undertaken. Now that we have undertaken it, we have an obligation to ourselves, and to the heroes who fell in Mesopotamia, not to leave the region a ghastly mess. The price of that is to stay until we have built, probably not democracy, but something stable and not as notably cruel as the rule of Uday and his family; a place where it is not routine to feed people into a wood chipper feet first. And that we can do, and must.
October 7, 2004
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As we all surmised, everyone including Saddam's generals believed he had chemical and biological weapons; and close reading of the report indicates that he thought his threat to use them DETERRED BUSH I from taking Baghdad. Thus he wanted to maintain the illusion of having those weapons, both in laboratory and in deployable stockpiles. Each general thought some other general had them.
Given his success in deceiving his own people, is it any wonder that he was able to deceive Bush II, Blair, the French, the Germans, and probably even Mossad although some say the Israelis knew he didn't have any -- but if that is the case they didn't tell us that. Just about everyone thought he had chemical and biological weapons. It was pretty clear he didn't have a real nuclear program. Those are much harder to hide, particularly since we had inspectors on the ground. But having said that, do note that we didn't know a lot about the big underground facilities in his palaces. Note also that Clinton never suspected one of North Korea's TWO nuclear enrichment programs, and until well after Clinton left office the official US view was that North Korea was complying with the disarmament agreements. This is NOT intended as a slam on Clinton and his people; my point is that even nuclear programs can be hidden, even when there are cameras in some of the facilities and lots of surveillance. It was unlikely that Iraq had a nuclear program, but not entirely impossible.
Chemical and Biological weapons, on the other hand, are much more easily hidden; even stockpiles. Saddam was playing a dangerous bluffing game, and he managed to convince the President of the United States that he had chemical and biological weapons -- and at the time, darned few people thought differently. My own view was that he had them and I didn't care: he was a threat to his neighbors, particularly Iran, but hardly a threat to the United States. Nuclear weapons would have been a different matter, but I was not willing to invade over chemical and biological weapons.
The President was bluffed. I am hardly surprised, given the effort expended to bluff him. And as President he had to decide whether Saddam's possession of those weapons was a threat to US interests. Do not forget: it was plausibly believed that the small quantities of weaponized anthrax which was used against the United States might have been supplied by Saddam to al Qaeda. I know many in the Pentagon believed it; some believe it still, since the age of the anthrax isn't determinable. We know something of the origin of the original strains, but those weren't all that hard to get; the difficulty was in growing more, harvesting the spores, and micronizing the resulting powder. Iraq might have done that at one time. Note I said might: this is one of those theories that even today is hard to disprove, and just after 911 and then the anthrax attacks was impossible to disprove. It might have been; anbd one can say that even today. Might. Once again, the President has a decision to make.
I did not think the Iraq invasion was a very good idea at the time, and I thought it would go about as it did; but I am not omniscient, and I hadn't been elected to make those decisions.
And now we are there, and I think we have no choice but to see it all through. In the early days of the war we could have gone in, driven Saddam from power, and got out: a demonstration that it is dangerous to bluff the United States, and we will remove from power any regime we think a threat to our vital interests or which we believe harbors our enemies. It is, I think, too late to do that now. But that's another story.
And see the report from the front lines in mail.
But Novak thinks we will run in any event:
Subject: No substitute for victory?
--- Roland Dobbins
And now something else to worry about:
---- Roland Dobbins
The Plame Affair reaches out...
Subject: Perhaps a new e-mail scam that looks beautiful
Just received an e-mail from "Microsoft" (the e-mail address is email@example.com) purporting to give me an easy way to get Windows XP Service Pack 2. I was immediately suspicious, so I checked the message source.
In the message a link looks like it goes to www.microsoft.com/protect. But in the source for the message the link goes to http://communications3.msn.com/Key=10333.cdvZ.C.Cm.K4D5xj . Looks fishy to me.
I saw that and deleted it; I probably should have looked closer. Thanks. Looks like phishing to me. Anyone know more?
That's legit. The URL points to msn.com without any hanky-panky. I clicked it, knowing I'm safe because I'm on a Mac (that's only half-true, but it's still half-funny :-), and it was just a simply click-through to the claimed destination. It's just meant to report that Steve Erbach followed the link. Because I did, Microsoft will think he has. :-)
Today's (Thursday)View had a question from Mr. Steve Erbach about a mail message from Microsoft. The message was from "firstname.lastname@example.org", and purported to be a quick way to get the XP SP2 patch.
"Danger, Will Robinson!!"
Even though the link in the mail message might look like it goes to www.microsoft.com/protect , the underlying code in the message might point to somewhere else. A very common technique for 'phishers' is to use a "on-mouse-over" command. The parameter for that command will show text on the status line, but the actual link that is executed when you click on it might be somewhere else.
You might recall that I alerted you to this technique in a report at my place. There are samples of how that works here: http://digitalchoke.com/daynotes/reports/bank-phish01.php .
At work, we get several dozen bank 'phishing' attempts each day, and all of them use the mouseover technique to fake the actual address. Although my report shows the technique for web pages, it is just as easily done in HTML mail.
In the reader's question, the "communications.msn.com" site really belongs to Microsoft. (I checked via "Arin" at www.whois.net , where you can get registration info on any domain name or IP address.)
But it could have easily been a spammer that was verifying your email address with a script attached the the URL in the message, then a re-direct to Microsoft's site. The script could do more, like attempt to hack your computer.
Worse, it could be a hacker trying to "own" my computer. If I (as a hacker) send out a mail message to everyone telling them where to get SP2, most of the people who will respond probably don't have SP2. So my page will attempt an attack via a pre-SP2 problem, then redirect to Microsoft (or anywhere else). The result could be that I get to "own" your computer, and you won't know it.
So my recommendation is to be very careful with links in unsolicited messages. They might be legit or nefarious. In today's world, the chances are that it's nefarious. Mr. Erbach and others should be careful.
Regards, Rick Hellewell, Information Security Dude
AND READ the WARNING below as well!
October 8, 2004
BE SURE TO SEE the security stuff in yesterday's view.
In theory the column was due at midnight last night, but I have slipped that until Sunday night. So that's what I am doing. There's a lot to cover.
Thanks to all who have recently renewed subscriptions or have subscribed for the first time. I admit I was reminded to remind you by the USC pledge drive this week...
I am off to walk the dog. I can darned near get a column out of just today's Fry's ads and their implications.
And take a short break from ANYTHING serious...
Subject: If you liked the last one...
Check out "It's good to be in DC"
Hoo Hah. It takes a while for This Land to download. Wait for it...
When you make recordings on the iPAQ under pocket PC it makes a file I can certainly see and play on the iPAQ. When I do synchronization with the main system it says it has synchronized.
However, I can't find the blooking recordings on the PC! Search doesn't seem to find them either. CAN ANYONE HELP here? Where do they go and how can I find them?
It's worse. Synchronization tells me all kinds of things I can't find later. Is there an iPAQ synchronization expert in the house? HELP! I would like to be able to find notes I made on the iPAQ on the main computer...
ALL RIGHT> I found them. OUTLOOK has grabbed off the files. I guess I have to export them from Outlook before I can do anything with them. Foo.
October 8, 2004
I don't usually run press releases as mail, but this one was interesting.
And I don't know what to make of this:
and see also mail.
Did anyone ever make a DVD of the ceremony at the National Cathedral following 911? Particularly the Battle Hymn? I see a couple of places that hint at its existence, but the sites I am lead to are so badly organized I can't find out if it even exists.
I note this report: which tells of "unsubscribe, and get a worm" techniques used by spammers/hackers. See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6208701/ .
"In some cases, the link simply aims potential victims at an executable file -- a Trojan horse program sitting in a hidden location on the Internet. In others, slightly more elaborate techniques are used to inject code onto a machine after it is directed to a Web site."
As mentioned in my message to you (which you posted at the end of your Thursday mail section), clicking on links in emails can (will) cause problems.
Best practice: just delete and move on. And get those updates installed.
Regards, Rick Hellewell
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The KUSC Pledge Drive has ended, so I can stop nagging you now...
October 10, 2004
Column is done, or at least the semi-final draft; letting it age and letting some friends look it over before filing.
And I am a bit drained...
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