THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 352 March 7 - 13, 2005
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March 7, 2005
It is column deadline time. I have an essay on education as a response to Gates in this issue. As well as a bunch of other stuff. I'm also experimenting with OneNote which I find is rather wonderful.
Yet another scam. Where is the kinder, gentler Cold War world I grew up in?
Dear Friends, I had not heard of this scam until I was almost a victim of it. I don't want it to happen to any of you. I placed an ad in the Recycler to sell an item for $700.00. I was shortly contacted by a fellow that wanted to purchase the item for his "client". I was told that he was going to send me a cashier's check from a US bank but that his client lived overseas. He wanted to know if I would be so kind as to cash the check, take out my portion for the item and them wire the remaining money to the "shipping agent" who would then make arrangements to come to my home and pick up the item for shipping. To make a long story short, I received the cashier's check as promised. The amount of the check was $4,200.00. I immediately became suspicious because the item could be purchased brand new and shipped from the manufacturer for much less. I went online to do some research and this is what I found. Apparently there is an old scam going on that started with people who were selling cars but has obviously progressed. The end result is that the bank will release the funds for the cashier's check because, after all, they are as good as cash, right!? WRONG! After about three weeks the check turns out to be bogus and then you are out the money since it was cashed against your account! Be careful!
By the way, I was contacted by 4 different people trying this scam! Please forward this to all your friends and get the word out!
Paranoia time... If it's too good to be true, it probably is still holds; but the old con man adage that you can't cheat an honest man no longer holds. I have little sympathy for people who bit on a scam to steal vast sums from the African poor, but the scammers now try to steal from those who want to be helpful.
|This week:||Tuesday, March
The column is on the wire and so are a number of trivial but still needed corrections, and it's 1 PM and I still haven't walked the dog or got the bills paid. The Treadmill is after me.
The following from Security Guy Hellewell is worth your attention. I'll be back with my commentaries on the state of the world when I get some other stuff done.
I am seeing a new variation of phishing emails. Rather than asking you to confirm your information due to a possible security problem, this one tries to hook you by offering a free gift or special discounts. The message purports to come from your bank (even though you may not have an account at that bank).
As in most phishing emails, the best defense is to use the area between your ears. For instance, ask yourself why your bank needs you to tell them your credit card or checking account number. Why would they want your PIN or your social security number?
Readers are advised to be very cautious about these email pitches from "your bank". In fact, you can reduce most of them by filtering for emails with the HTML "on-mouseover" (no hyphens) command. That's how I catch most phishing attempts.
More info, including screen shots of the message and the "identity theft" form are on my "Daynotes" site accessible via http://tinyurl.com/49tna (the "TinyUrl" site takes long URLs/addresses and shortens them. That site does not appear to capture any information about the user, it just immediately redirects them to the actual site.)
Regards, Rick Hellewell
I often wonder about altruistic outfits that shorten URL's and other such kindnesses. I fear my paranoia is aroused...
On the subject of paranoia, I fear the Temple University Incident sharpens mine. In graduate school I did several papers on freedom and sanity and "the right to be punished for crimes, not helped by physicians". Stories like the Temple story give me nightmares because I can easily see how someone might panic and try to defend himself, and then the real troubles would begin.
Wasn't this kidnapping? Involuntary servitude?
March 9, 2005
Still cleaning up after the column and paying bills and generally getting things back in order here.
The LA Elections are over, and we have a choice between career politicians as Mayor of LA. How wonderful that we have a political class eager to "serve" us. On toast?
When I was in City Hall we had 81 Civil Service Exempt employees (I was one of them). They now have over 600, each of whom makes a much as a policeman or a teacher. I know how we could pay for 500 new cops without raising the budget a nickel. Neither of our brilliant candidates for Mayor seems to have a clue about this method.
We have more reports of people bitten by the Pluto Data Scam. Be wary.
I am often derided for my "obsession" with Republic vs. Empire and our transformation from the one to the other. Perhaps the following is relevant:
The number one lesson of 9/11 is that the "relevant players" include the public, front and center. As the staff director of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11 found, "The record suggests that, prior to September 11th, the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities were fighting a war against terrorism largely without the benefit of what some would call their most potent weapon in that effort: an alert and informed American public. One need look no further for proof of the latter point than the heroics of the passengers on Flight 93 or the quick action of the flight attendant who identified shoe bomber Richard Reid." After all, the only part of our national security apparatus that actually prevented casualties on 9/11 was the citizenry - those brave passengers on Flight 93 who figured out what was going on before the Pentagon or the CIA did, and brought their plane down before it could take out the White House or the Capitol.
Look at the case of the Unabomber, the Harvard-educated terrorist who blew up random scientists with letter bombs. Years of secret investigation turned up nothing but rambling screeds against modernity and the machine, and only after the madman threatened more violence unless his words were published, did the FBI relent and give the crank letter file to the newspapers. The Washington Post and the New York Times went in together on a special section to carry the 35,000 words in 1995, but the key paper was the Chicago Tribune, read at the breakfast table in a Chicago suburb by the bomber's brother, who said, sounds like crazy Ted, guess I'd better call the cops.
How did we catch the Washington sniper? The police had been chasing a white van for weeks with no luck, and finally changed the description to a blue sedan based on an eyewitness report. They refused to give out the license plate number (because the sniper would then change the plates, of course); but finally an unnamed police official took it upon herself to leak the license number at midnight, local radio and TV picked it up, and a trucker was listening who saw a blue sedan in a rest area in western Maryland. He checked the plate number, and bingo, within three hours of the leak they arrested the sniper. Openness empowers citizens.
The entire 9/11 Commission report includes only one finding that the attacks might have been prevented. This occurs on page 247 and is repeated on page 276 with the footnote on page 541, quoting the interrogation of the hijackers' paymaster, Ramzi Binalshibh. Binalshibh commented that if the organizers, particularly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had known that the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, had been arrested at his Minnesota flight school (he only wanted to fly, not to take off or land) on immigration charges, then Bin Ladin and KSM would have called off the 9/11 attacks. And wisely so, because news of that arrest would have alerted the FBI agent in Phoenix who warned of Islamic militants in flight schools in a July 2001 memo that vanished into the FBI's vaults in Washington. The Commission's wording is important here: only "publicity" could have derailed the attacks.
A republic trusts its citizenry even though some will prove to be traitors and others will prove to be deceived. An empire trusts its paid experts to do the right thing, and is reluctant to involve the citizens in matters of importance. The empire must also believe that more good than harm will come from trusting paid experts: that the experts will not form turf-warring fiefdoms and cover up their mistakes.
March 10, 2005
Cleaning up, catching up. My hand is pretty well healed anyway.
March 11 2005
I no longer call it the execrable Adelphia because the cable modem usually works very well and without problems, but it's been erratic this morning, so we are on through the satellite. The satellite works, but the lag is long. Ah well.
Fair amount to catch up with. Inferno outline is creeping along.
Whatever the cable problem was, it lasted just long enough for me to see just how unsatisfactory the satellite connection is; although I remember when we first got it how we liked it better than the dialup. Ah well. Adelphia works again.
Jerry, could you do me a favor and post this for your readers? The subject of what's not likely to get us all into space having just come up (NASA business-as-usual with established Big Aerospace) it occurs to me to mention that there is a budding alternative (new startups going to space for profit outside the established government-aerospace complex - mammals scurrying about under the dinosaurs' feet, if you will) and that we're once again running our annual conference on this alternative seven weeks from now.
The basic info:
Space Access '05, April 28th-30th, the technology politics and business of radically cheaper access to space, at the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel at Metrocenter, Phoenix Arizona, $79 "space access" room rate, 602 997-5900 for room reservations, conference membership $100 in advance, $120 at the door, http://www.space-access.org for details.
Henry Vanderbilt Executive Director Space Access Society
March 12, 2005
Every now and then I get mail that belongs in view, or I think it does:
Dr. Pournelle, This link is from a list server I belong to, and I thought you might find it interesting and usefull. Not directly related to the Linux theme of the list, but there's a few engineers and science-buffs on that list.
George Laiacona III
Because it was not instantly apparent what this was, I elicited the following:
Dr. Pournelle, It's all free. According to the website: "MIT OCW is a large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and MIT.
MIT OCW's goals are to: Provide free, searchable, access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world. Extend the reach and impact of MIT OCW and the "opencourseware" concept. MIT OCW would not be possible without the support and generosity of the MIT faculty who choose to share their research, pedagogy, and knowledge to benefit others. We expect MIT OCW to reach a steady - though never static - state by 2008. Between now and then, we will publish the materials from virtually all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses.
We will be continually evaluating the Access, Use, and Impact of MIT OCW over the course of the next five years. With 900 courses published as of September 2004, we are still in a learning stage of this MIT initiative and we will benefit enormously from your feedback, as we strive to make MIT OCW as rich and useful as possible for our users."
This should be of great interest to home schoolers, but also to the general readership. The wealth of material available here is astonishing.
This is as good a place as any to remind you of the George Mosse Lectures if you want to understand something of the modern world.
And Peter Glaskowsky's comments on Richard Stallman and Bill Gates came while I was in Utah. I am mildly surprised that I have received no comment on these: PNG on RMS and BillG
I know you corresponded with Redmond Simonsen for some years. Redmond passed away on Wednesday of this week. He had been ill for some time with a heart condition.
I was a business partner of Redmond's for 9 years. I was his friend, and quite glad of it for many more.
People know of Redmond as a pioneer and founder of the games industry. Fewer know him as a pioneer in Computers (through MicroBotics/Amiga days). Very few know that he was on the yet-to-be-leading edge of Robotics and Autonomous entities.
Dunnigan and Hessle have posted comments, but even they were not aware of all the areas and people he touched.
It seems the way of things today that such selfless and amazing people are not known as they truly deserve. I visited him Monday night and right before he passed. If I could, he would have the Viking funeral he truly deserved.
Indeed we corresponded. I adopted a sonic blaster toothbrush at his suggestion, this years before they became popular. We were friends on BIX and Genie. I had not heard from him in some time, and wondered about that; I should have pursued that harder.
Rest in Peace.
March 13, 2005
Friday the 13th falls on Sunday this month
Here is an odd thing I just noticed:
"New look for classic experiment
2 March 2005
Physicists in Europe and the US have performed a novel version of the double-slit quantum-interference experiment with single electrons. In the classic version of the experiment, electrons pass through a mask containing two parallel slits and produce a pattern of bright and dark interference fringes on a screen. Now, Gerhard Paulus of Texas A&M University and co-workers in Berlin, Munich, Sarajevo and Vienna have observed an interference pattern with electrons that pass through a double slit in time, not space, as a result of being ejected from an atom at one of two possible times by a laser pulse. <snip>
Now that is queer indeed. Thanks to Frank Gasperik for calling this to my attention.
I am minded to write a short essay on Arthur Miller, who was able to overlook the various show trials in Russia while comparing anti-Communism to witch hunting (hint: there really were Communist agents in the US, and there's a difference between ham-handed investigations that lead to loss of jobs, and actually drowning and hanging people); and who took his wife for visits to the White House, using her as a means of entry, then wrote After the Fall making her an empty-headed harridan; but I am not sure I have the stomach for it. Miller's message is that it don't matter how hard you work or how good you are, life in America will grind you down. The interesting part is that he was all for social policies that would make that more and more true over time.
One commentator points out that After the Fall is "a classic Stalinist hatchet job, turned against a most unlikely target." All true. But our leading critics vied with each other in offering fulsome praise of a man who would take his wife to see John F. Kennedy...
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, 8,000 - 12,000 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. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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