Apparently I am an Extremist


Linux Journal Reader - Extremest Stamp

Apparently, not only me, but my fellow Linux Journal Readers (and one assumes, article writers, editors, artists, code monkeys, and celery flingers) are viewed by the United States National Security Agency as extremists. The first of many articles (from the Linux Journal's Kyle Rankin) says:

"While that is troubling in itself, even more troubling to readers on this site is that has been flagged as a selector! has published the relevant XKEYSCORE source code, and if you look closely at the rule definitions, you will see* listed alongside Tails and Tor." You can read the full article at the Linux Journal site (if you dare).

What bothers me is a number of things. First, what business does the NSA have monitoring traffic to and from a US based web site for a formerly US published magazine (LJ is now a digital only magazine)? The NSA is not supposed to have the authority to monitor the site under US law. But of course, since when do these agencies pay any attention to US law?

Secondly, numerous visitors to this (and other FOSS sites) are administrators and security cleared employees and contractors of the United States Government, including the very NSA that has flagged us. This is Orwellian on a number of levels (and my head explodes just trying to follow the mobius strip of that logic).

Finally, this announcement come a month after the US Secret Service put a Request for Proposal on the street for software to help them detect sarcasm in social media.  Why buy software, there are hundreds of 14 year-olds out there that can help you detect sarcasm and it will cost a lot less that automated software. Perhaps the NSA has been sucked in by the heavy focus the denizens in the LJ chatroom (#linuxjournal on put on celery and lube and do not have enough 14 year-olds to help them differentiate between sarcasm and serious discourse.

Let's face it. This is a crock. Not that the NSA is watching us, but that there is anything extreme about the readers, contributors, and staff of the Linux Journal.  Are we passionate? Sure. Are we a bit goofy? What gathering of nerds is not?  Are we extreme? Sure, if we are talking vi vs EMACs, or what SHA value should be used. But we are no more hard core extreme than any other member of the NRA, the local Harley-Davidson motorcycle club, or your local PTA.  In fact, I would argue there are social groups out there that make LJ readers look like a knitting circle.

Pass the celery.

When a coup is not a coup?

In Thailand this morning:

(CNN) -- It was 3 a.m. in Thailand. Presumably barely anyone was watching. But the country's military chief chose that hour to appear on army-run Channel 5 television Tuesday to declare martial law across the country.

If there was ever a case of Orwellian doublespeak and Microsoft level spin, this is it. There have been several non-coups coups in the last couple of years, but this one is the most bizarre of all of them. When you listen to the spin, you hear phrases like "The caretaker government..." and "safety and security..." which really makes the small hairs stand up on the back of my neck. But it is not a coup?

From Wikipedia:

A coup d'état also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden and illegal seizure of a government, usually instigated by a small group of the existing state establishment to depose the established government and replace it with a new ruling body, civil or military.

OK, so maybe it is not a coup in the purest sense of the term, but based on some of the groups that the military is securing (read rounding up) sure smells like it is acting as a small group preparing to dispose the existing government. The social structure of Asian countries baffles me, so maybe it is all for the good.  But I am pretty sure it is a coup.




Is it time to rethink the US holiday calendar?

First, let me wish my Canadian friends a Happy Thanksgiving.  For my US friends, those at least that do not work for the Federal government, financial institutions or the odd school district, it is just another Monday morning.  Today is Columbus Day and like most of what I call the "Little Four," - today, Veteran's Day (November), MLK Day (January), and President's Day (February) - is a normal work day.  More and more, these four days are less a holiday and more of a work day.  Even school districts can no longer say they are vacations.  In fact, most school districts now only take off two of them - MLK and Columbus, although some no longer take off Columbus.

And honestly, unless you work for the Federal government, you could argue that there really are no mandatory holidays in the United States anymore.  Even Easter, a non-Federal holiday, is finally seeing a break in the "everything is closed" mentality.  And as I have commented, it is very odd that you can buy a car on Independence Day, but you cannot buy a gallon of milk on Easter Sunday.  Even the sacred cows of Thanksgiving and Christmas are no longer days of rest.  Movie theatres, grocery stores, and other stores are opening.  Which begs the question - Why does the United States still have Federal holidays, if no one really gets a holiday?  This will continue to evolve as the United States struggles, and I mean struggles, to merge into the global economy.

As I mentioned, today is a holiday in Canada - a mandatory holiday.  I do not know anyone who is working today (if you are, drop me a note and tell me what industry you are in - First Responders, yeah, I know - sorry, but thanks!).  Not so if you work in the United States.  Especially if you work for an international corporation.   I have received phone calls on Thanksgiving, asking for technical support; Christmas for getting things printing in time for a release; and a number of phone calls when I am on holiday.  So, do holidays matter?  Of course.  And in the United States, holidays are almost as scares as hen's teeth.  Real time off is hard to come by, and productivity continues to decline as people burn out.

So I propose a major change to the US holiday calendar.  Scrap it.  Yes, scrap it.  Throw it out.  There are no more Federal Holidays.  In place, mandate a minimum of four weeks vacation for those employers that have more than 10 employees.  If you want to take August off and go to the beach, and your employer can cover you, have fun and take your sunscreen.  If you would rather take it one day at a time, that works too.

Of course, this is all dreaming.  The United States government does not believe in dictating to businesses how to manage their employees, at least, unless it has something to do with workplace harassment or a number of now outdated labour laws.  One has to wonder what the roll of the Department of Labour is anymore.

So, enjoy your day off, or your work day, or whatever today is for you.  I will put another pot of coffee on.

NaNo Winner!

NaNo Winner There are still three days left in November, and many of my fellow NaNoWriMo participants are in the home stretch. Over the weekend, Saturday to be specific, I passed the 50K mark and qualified for the win, without even having finished the story, which is a first for me. Not the not finishing part - actually a number of my stories are never finished, but getting past the mark and still having a story to tell. That is a a first. Of course, now that the pressure of making the mark is done, I might never finish the story, even though there is lots to write - like several battle scenes.

The fact that the story is not finished is not a bad thing.  The key here is to have made the effort.  So my hat is off to my fellow writers that cross the line and have finished their stories.  And for those of you that started down the road, keep plugging away, you still have a few days before the deadline.