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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Stranger than Fiction: $10k Hot Dog

The term "fan" is derived from "fanatic." Here in Huskerland, we've seen quite a few sports fanatics. Nothing, however, prepared us for this auction on eBay for a hot dog from last week's NFL playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers (H/T Dan S). Currently there have been 140 bids, and the high bidder is at $10,169. There are numerous pictures on the auction listing page.

There's nothing out of the ordinary about the hot dog. No one sees the face of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or Vince Lombardi in it. Unless you're a die hard Seattle fan, it wasn't even a good game: Seattle 27 Carolina 7. We have a hard time understanding a bid of $10 for such a prize, let alone $10k. Oh well, if he can sell it for that, more power to him.

The link to eBay will break in 5 days when the auction ends, but you'll be able to search for it for awhile in the "completed items" listings.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Roger "Jonathan Swift" Snowden

Our friend Roger Snowden from Non-Box Thinking has a new blog. Apparently one isn't enough to keep him busy. With the news of the conservative resurgence in the Canadian elections, Roger plants his tongue firmly in his cheek and gazes northward. Here's a small sample:
One thing we Americans do think about is our own security. Clearly, with Canada's open-door policy for terrorist immigration, our northern border is anything but "secure". I propose not that we close that border, but eliminate it altogether.

We annex Canada, immediately. Think of all the problems this would solve.

Canada, while still not a real country, would become a territory of the greatest country of all time. Being the property of a great and powerful nation like America is reason for genuine pride. I'm sure lots of Canadians have been secretly hoping for annexation for a long time. Some of them have even acquired American accents. Well, sort of.
It's quite hilarious, so check it out.

We've had a very warm spot in our heart for Canada for many years and still remember very fondly the help they gave to Americans trapped in Iran as the Carter Administration bumbled and bungled its way through the fall of the Shah and the hostage crisis.

Consequently, we'll try to say something nice about outgoing Prime Minister, Paul Martin. He was significantly better than his predecessor, Jean Chretien. (OK, faint praise.) Congratulations to Steven Harper, the new Prime Minister.

Definitely no trend in the election results in: Australia; Great Britain; Germany; and Canada. Move along. No trend to see here.

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Has Battlestar Galactica Jumped the Shark?

We first encountered the new Battlestar Galactica (as opposed to the ancient, Lorne Greene version) in the second season, and have been following it since. We caught the re-broadcast of the original mini-series, enjoyed last summer's new episodes (mostly), and eagerly awaited the continuation of the story. Now, we're starting to think that the best of this show is behind us, or as the saying goes, the show has "jumped the shark."

***Series Spoilers Follow***
For us the downtrend began with the arrival of the Pegasus in (or about) the last episode of the summer season. It was never really explained how the thoroughly modern battlestar, Pegasus, avoided destruction in her first encounter in battle with the Cylons' computer virus. This virus totally shut down the defenses of every other modern battlestar, leaving only the "outmoded" Galactica to carry on. Why wasn't the Pegasus destroyed then? How has she continued to operate since then? These questioned weren't even posed, let alone answered.

How is it that the President (or Adama) didn't think about promoting Adama to a higher rank than the Admiral when things turned sour? Not that the Admiral would have accepted that as valid, but the civilian fleet and the Galactica certainly would have. Considering that Adama's main problem seemed to be that the Admiral outranked him, this would have allowed him more freedom of operation.

The arrival of the Pegasus seems little more than a deus ex machina to solve the plot problem of the Galactica all but running out of pilots, fighters, ammunition, etc. Then there's the oh-so-convenient assassination of the Admiral by the corporeal #6. She just knew exactly how to get to the the Admiral's quarters, and no one noticed the Cylon prisoner wandering around the ship with a gun? Are we to presume that Baldar sent her to kill the Admiral, then spirited her off the ship, a military vessel where he knows no one, right after the Admiral has been killed? Then she immediately becomes a (the?) leader of the "peace movement?" That only makes sense if most or all of the "peace movement" members are Cylons, and there are other Cylons in the Pegasus crew. Why would a Cylon need glasses, and if she does, why don't the other copies of #6 need them?

Then we have the President's miraculous recovery, going from Death's door to roaming around in a wheelchair in (evidently) just a few minutes (hours?). At least give her a couple of days to recover. And why did Baltar get so bent out of shape reading the President's letter to him. It sounded to us like respectful, sensible advice, so it doesn't make much sense to see him going nuts over it like he did. By the way, how long can it be before the men in white coats come to get Baltar, since he's constantly wandering around talking to, and fighting with, a non-existent companion or two in front of numerous passers by? The rest of the characters act as if he's just a little "eccentric," when a normal person would call for restraints.

Excuse me, the lunatic representative from the "peace movement" stops off at the VP's office and Baltar gives him a nuke... in a suitcase... which he easily transports back to the hideout... when the fleet is under a terrorist threat already from this group. If that wasn't deliberately allowed by Adama and the President, it's incredibly stupid on their part. It's hard to believe that the nuke in the hands of Baltar hasn't been constantly on the mind of Adama ever since he gave it to Baltar. How can that possibly have been unguarded? The supposed nuke itself is much too small to hold a critical mass of fissile material, even without the heavy shielding that would be essential to preserving the life of anyone nearby. Don't get us started on Baltar's "chemistry" sketches (or perhaps "biology," would make equal sense, i.e. none).

But other than that, we really like the show. We'll ride this shark a little longer.

Monday, January 23, 2006

An Argument Against Term Limits?

Term-limited senators propose more bills than colleagues:
From banning bullhook use on elephants to creating a memorial to Nebraska poets, term-limited senators introduced an average of 50 percent more bills than their colleagues this year.

Not everyone is pleased with their proposals.
Perhaps they'd do less damage if we let them stay. Like Ben Franklin, I always sleep a little sounder when the legislature is not in session. Good news: The elephant bill is going nowhere. It could have wiped out the state's elephant-training industry.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Windows Meta File (WMF) Vulnerability

As we mentioned recently, Steve Gibson started quite a kerfufle when he suggested the serious security vulnerability in the Windows Meta File (WMF) graphics format was an intentional "backdoor." In the current Security Now! podcast (#23) he backs off that a little. First of all, he notes that "backdoor" has a lot of very negative baggage, and says he never intended to imply that Microsoft had Evil Purposes in mind. Secondly, one of his preliminary conclusions as to the exact nature of the code needed to trigger the vulnerability (i.e. record length set to 1 byte in the header) were not correct in general, but due to the way his test program was constructed.

The fundamental problem is that under certain circumstances some versions of Windows will execute a program embedded in the WMF data file format. This is something that sound programming practice strongly forbids, and it led to a very dangerous vulnerability in Windows when evil hackers discovered how to exploit it.

Gibson now has a free test program to determine if a machine is vulnerable. He has confirmed that Windows 98 and Windows 95 systems are not vulnerable to this exploit. They simply will not execute the WMF code period. Certain versions of NT are vulnerable and will not be patched by Microsoft. Patches have been issued by Microsoft for the newer versions of Windows and even for Vista, the not-yet released version, all of which are subject to this,

There's really no question that the setabortproc() procedure that allows WMFs to offer up code to Windows for processing was deliberately introduced. It was, and it was there before Win 95.. This is not a "buffer overrun" issue or a bug. It's a "feature." There's really no convincing explanation for why this vulnerability was introduced, intentionally or not, with the later versions of Windows. It's unlikely we'll ever know why it happened. It could be that even Microsoft does not know why it was done, since it was an undocumented "feature."

Top Five Reasons for Not Blogging Much This Weekend

  1. My PowerBook harddrive is all but dead. Friday and part of Saturday was spent dealing with that.Good news: I have a fairly recent backup on an external drive.
  2. Normal blog mode is sitting in the living room on the wireless network and writing on the PowerBook, so routine is disrupted.
  3. Having to switch to another computer means finding all the passwords and re-entering them in the other computer(s).
  4. "Tycho" was home this weekend. Well, OK, "home" is an exaggeration, but he was in town. :^)
  5. Viper and I started playing in an online "league" for the card game Magic: The Gathering. This will continue to take up some time going forward; it's 4 weeks long.
How are those excuses? That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

In the unlikely event that any readers are at all interested in MTG online or paper, you can see my "cardpool" here. My game name is LordOfTheFrogs.