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Robin & the Sparrow June 17, 2013

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by Elizabeth Cheney

Overheard in an Orchard

Said the Robin to the Sparrow

“I would really like to know,

why these anxious human beings.

rush about and worry so.’

Said theSparrow to the Robin

“I think that it must be,

they have no Heavenly Father ,

such as cares for you and me”.

by Elizabeth Cheney


When you think about it, it`s like eavesdropping on a conversation between two birds in an orchard. In a sense you could say it`s like the dropping of a small seed of truth,about the nature of a Loving and caring God. This will grow into a mighty tree of knowledge, of the unchanging faithfulness of God.

 Once we surrender ourselves to that Truth we will never doubt, or care nor worry about tomorrows provision. Jesus said Himself …

 Matthew 6 .26-33 abridged. ‘Look at the birds of the air, they do not sew, nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they .? Therefore do not worry saying ,what shall we eat, what shall we drink. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you .”

 That`s the injunction I need to be reminded of again and again, come to think of it, if two little birds know the Truth, what`s wrong with me ???

 Luke 17:20-22 And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.

 The Kingdom of God is within us and God said search for me with all your heart and you will find me.


http://www3.niu.edu/acad/psych/Millis/History/2002/mindbody.htm June 13, 2013

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2013 World-Wide Natural Disasters FIRE & ICE June 6, 2013

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Office Politics Road Kill November 16, 2012

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K how many times it does happen

The rat race. It’s inescapable. It’s a jungle out there and the big cats are forever sharpening their claws. Even if you make a conscious effort to stay out of the fray, it’s almost impossible not to be sucked in.

There are lots of reasons why office politics exist. Re-creating family of origin roles (sorry for the shrink-ese). Feeling undermined at home and compensating at work. Adult bullies in the grown-up playground. Power hunger. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are; it just plain sucks.

I used to work at a methadone clinic with a dozen, embittered, bitchy, middle-aged social workers and nurses. It was HELL. It was such a crazy system, I devised creative ways to stay sane in the midst of the collective lunacy

Here are the basic office politics archetypes I’ve noticed through my work experiences. If you can think of any I’m missing, I’d love to read about them as comments:

The Ego Monster: They’re right. They’re always right. They have to be the smartest person in the room. Their ideas are the best and therefore the only ones that count. These are also the folks that pay the most lip service to “teamwork.”

The Bully: They use verbal and intellectual (if they’re capable of it) intimidation. They openly belittle others’ ideas, work, dress, speech, etc., (with the exception of their immediate supervisor(s) and/or boss). The only way they can feel good about themselves is by putting others down.

The Climber: They have to be on top. It doesn’t even really matter if the top position is a glory-less one. If there’s a rung above them, they’re going to climb it. They usually ascend by using the daggers they plunge in people’s backsides as rappelling instruments.

Mr./Ms. Good Intentions: They’re a variation of the Climber, but they disguise their agenda with “the best of intentions,” smiling whilst they sharpen their oyster knives.

The Pilot Fish: They are the shameless suck-ups who hope that by suckling on the power teat, they’ll be spared the attacks of the Bully and the Climber and curry favor with the Ego Monster.

The Innocent Bystander: This is the archetype to which I relate. I hate politics. Hate them. Basically, I just want to do the best job possible and leave me out of it, thank you. You can never stay out of it, not really. The system always finds a way to suck you in. Even working from home as a freelance whatever doesn’t make you immune. Believe me, I tried this angle.

The crazy thing is, 20 years from now- when you’re in a different job or retired- none of the things we rage, plot and scheme over at the office matters. Well, maybe if you’re Albert Schweitzer or Madame Curie it does, but ultimately who gives a rat’s a$$ how many widgets are sold or insurance policies opened? I don’t.

So what can you do to survive? First, realize it’s them, not you. Do you feel like you’re going crazy at work? Up is down? Left is right? Day is night? Chances are you’re in a crazy system. I’ve been there, calling my friends at night and incredulousy describing my day, hoping they’ll give me a reality check. Never a good sign.

2011 in review January 1, 2012

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Abandon Blogs and Lifespand February 22, 2011

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Bloggers Abandon Blogs For Several Different Reasons The New York Times has a story about abandoned blogs. The article cites a 2008 Technorati study that found that about 95% of people who start blogs end up abandoning them. According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled. Blog abandonment is not a new issue. There have always been people who have started blogs and then stopped blogging. Some quit because the issue or event that motivated them to blog faded away. Some quit blogging because of time constraints with work, family or health. Others quit when they found out blogging wasn’t the quick path to riches they thought it was – this reason is probably less of an issue today. Some people have also left their blogs without updates for months because they found it easier to use Twitter or another microblogging service. The Times says some bloggers quit blogging even though they managed to create a popular blog. They found the lack of privacy disconcerting. “Before you could be anonymous, and now you can’t,” said Nancy Sun, a 26-year-old New Yorker who abandoned her first blog after experiencing the dark side of minor Internet notoriety. She had started it in 1999, back when blogging was in its infancy and she did not have to worry too hard about posting her raw feelings for a guy she barely knew. Ms. Sun’s posts to her blog — http://www.cromulent.org, named for a fake word from “The Simpsons” — were long and artful. She quickly attracted a large audience and, in 2001, was nominated for the “best online diary” award at the South by Southwest media powwow. But then she began getting e-mail messages from strangers who had seen her at parties. A journalist from Philadelphia wanted to profile her. Her friends began reading her blog and drawing conclusions – wrong ones – about her feelings toward them. Ms. Sun found it all very unnerving, and by 2004 she stopped blogging altogether. As you might suspect, the Times story also says that many bloggers quit because it is difficult to attract blog readers. Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door. “I was always hoping more people would read it, and it would get a lot of comments,” Mrs. Nichols said recently by telephone, sounding a little betrayed. “Every once in a while I would see this thing on TV about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month, and thought, ‘I would like that.'” Building a readership can be a struggle and not being able to build one is the reason many bloggers evenutally quit. At the same time there are bloggers content to continue writing even for very small audiences. Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, told the Times a joke about blog readership. He said, “There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”

“…only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs […] had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled. – DOUGLAS QUENQUA, NY Times June 5, 2009

There are few credible estimates about the number of online blogs (one enthusiast tracks offline – ie dead – blogs here) or their growth. Many figures are contradictory or merely self-serving.

Wired News noted claims that in January 2002 alone some 41,000 people created new blogs using Blogger and that there were then more than 500,000. In August 2002 another source claimed that Blogger had 350,000 users, with converts supposedly “creating a new weblog every 40 seconds, or more than 60,000 a month”. By early 2006 that had risen to around 160,000 per month (albeit with many splogs), subsequently declining to 100,000 per month.

In September 2002 the New York Times reported that LiveJournal had signed up 690,000 users since 1998 and was currently gaining another 1,100 bloggers per day. It is unclear whether all 690,000 were (and still are) maintaining their personal pages and, if so, how frequently.

In the same month the Times claimed that Brazil was the “second-largest Blogger-using country” after the US, with up to 13% of the 750,000 Blogger users.

In June 2003 Blogcount estimated that there were between 2.4 million to 2.9 million active blogs. As a point of reference that is around 10% of the number of dot-com registrations (although most blogs do not have unique domain names). Blogcount attributed over 1.6 million active users to the three largest centrally hosted services.

PointBlog.com noted in June 2003 that a WHOIS registry database search identified over 10,000 ‘com’, ‘org’, ‘net’, info’, ‘biz’ and ‘us’ domains with “blog” in the name.

The US National Institute for Technology & Liberal Education (NITL) BlogCensus at that time identified 655,631 ‘blogs’, with a substantial margin of error and a note that around 30% were ‘inactive’. An October 2003 report by Perseus Development on The Blogging Iceberg claimed that

Based on the rapid growth rate demonstrated by the leading services, Perseus expects the number of hosted blogs created to exceed five million by the end of 2003 and to exceed ten million by the end of 2004.

For us that is an echo of mid-1990s claims that by 2005 the number of web sites would outnumber the human population, a warning about projections from an initial “rapid growth rate”.

Based on its survey of 3,634 blogs on eight blog hosting services (Blog-City, BlogSpot, Diaryland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePage, Weblogger and Xanga) Perseus claimed that as of October 2003 there were about 4.12 million blogs.

In May 2004 Technorati claimed to track 2.4 million blogs, increasing to 11.7 million blogs in Jube 2005. The Technorati figure was assailed as simply a count of blogs registered: it did not identify blogs in regular use and did not differentiate between genuine blogs and splogs (aka spam blogs).

Undeterred, Technorati noted claims by ad group Universal McCann in March 2008 that 184 million people “have started a blog” (alas, no figures on how many have stopped maintaining a blog) and that 346 million people read blogs in 2007. comScore MediaMetrix claimed in mid-2008 that there were 77.7 million blog readers in the US. eMarketer (drew on other figures to suggest that there were 94.1 million US readers. A million here, a million there … it all adds up (or doesn’t).i

Wired exulted that “nine blogs are created every minute and 2.3 content updates are posted every second”. Those seeking perspective might ask how many disappear every minute and note other ‘magical’ statistics, eg globally there is a suicide every 40 seconds. In November 2004 PubSub claimed to track 6.4 million blogs.

In January 2005 the blogosphere was abuzz with claims that around 25% of all South Koreans have a blog, some US pundits lamenting a ‘blog gap’. That supposedly included 90% of those in their 20s and 79% of those under 40. In fact, the figures are for basic homepages – often little more than an email address – with the nation’s service providers, rather than blogs.

In July 2006 the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimated that the US “blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults”, some 8% of US adult internet users. The number of US blog readers was estimated as 57 million adults (39% of the US online population), although few of those people read widely or read often. David Sifry reported in April 2007 that growth in the number of blogs created had slowed – “matured” – with other observers noting that the percentage of active blogs are compared to the total number of blogs tracked by Technorati was declining, down from 36.71% in May 2006 to 20.93% in March 2007.


Several studies indicate that most blogs are abandoned soon after creation (with 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, depending on whose figures you choose to believe) and that few are regularly updated.

The ‘average blog’ thus has the lifespan of a fruitfly. One cruel reader of this page commented that the average blog also has the intelligence of a fly.

The Perseus report noted above indicates that 66.0% of surveyed blogs had not been updated in two months, “representing 2.72 million blogs that have been either permanently or temporarily abandoned”.

Jeffrey Henning of Perseus sniffed that

Apparently the blog-hosting services have made it so easy to create a blog that many tire-kickers feel no commitment to continuing the blog they initiate. In fact, 1.09 million blogs were one-day wonders, with no postings on subsequent days.

Perseus claimed that the average duration of the remaining 1.63 million abandoned blogs was 126 days, with some 132,000 blogs being abandoned after a year or more. The oldest abandoned blog surveyed had been maintained for 923 days.

In January 2009 the Pew Internet Project, in one of its more problematical estimates, claimed that 11% of online US adults used Twitter or a similar microblogging service as of December 2008, up from 9% in November 2008 and 6% in May 2008. The overreporting appears to reflect conflation of microblogging and social network service (eg Facebook) activity.


Perseus’s 2003 The Blogging Iceberg report commented

When you say “blog” most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.

Nanoaudiences are the logical outcome of continued growth in blogs. Assume for a moment that one day 100 million people regularly read blogs and that they each read 50 other peoples’ blogs. That translates into 5 billion subscriptions (50 X 100 million). Now assume on that same day there are 20 million active bloggers. That translates into 250 readers per blog (5 billion / 20 million) – far smaller audiences than any traditional one-to-many communication method. And this is just an average; in practice many blogs have no more than two dozen readers.

Gawker executive Nick Denton commented in 2004 that

Everyone has this illusion that Web logs have taken the world by storm, but Web logs have probably only reached 10 percent of the Internet population. Our goal is to reach the remainder.

Uh huh. A September 2004 survey by advertising giant DDB found that much of the UK had not written, read or even heard of a blog.

That led Lester Haines in The Register to comment that

There is some very refreshing news today for those who live outside the rarified atmosphere of the internet world, and indeed for many of us struggling for breath within it – most people don’t have a bloody clue what net buzzwords mean but can evidently function perfectly well in society despite this handicap. Indeed, a survey of taxi drivers, pub landlords and hairdressers (“often seen as barometers of popular trends” according to Reuters, though God alone knows when hairdressers became barometers of anything), by ad outfit DDB London showed that 90 per cent of barometers have not the foggiest idea what a podcast is, and an impressive 70 per cent live in blissful ignorance of blogging. …

A shaken DDB London planning director, Sarah Carter, admitted: “Our research not only shows that there is no buzz about blogging and podcasting outside of our media industry bubble, but also that people have no understanding of what the words mean. It’s a real wake-up call.”

The UK figure is consistent with independent surveys. The June 2005 Pew Internet & American Life study reported that “the average American Internet user is not sure what podcasting is or what an RSS feed does”. As late as January 2004 Pew found that 68% of online people in the US supposedly did not know what a blog was.

In April 2006 the British Market Research Bureau’s quarterly survey claimed that 70% of respondents had heard of blogging but that only 2% of UK internet users publish blogs and 10% view a weblog once a month or more.

Two months later a separate survey, by newspaper publishers Metro and Telegraph Media, claimed that only 13% of those surveyed in the UK had read an individual’s blog in the preceding week, compared with 40% in the US, 25% in France and 12% in Denmark. 12% of UK readers had read a newspaper blog in that week, compared with 24% in the US, 10% in France and 9% in Denmark. 95% of those surveyed in the US said they had used a website for news in the past week, compared with 89% in Britain, 81% in France and 78% in Denmark.

Blog narcissism was evident in the lowest levels of response – those from people who had had a personal blog – 3% in Britain and Denmark, 7% in the US and 8% in France.


Estimates of the demographics vary.

In July 2003 BlogCensus suggested that there were 701,150 “sites we think are weblogs”, of which 380,657 appeared to be in English. It claimed that Portuguese, (with 54,496 blogs), Polish (42,677) and Farsi (27,002) were the next most popular languages – well ahead of French (a mere 10,381) and German (7,736). On a per capita basis the language with highest blog penetration appeared to be Icelandic, with 3,542 blogs.

In July 2006 Médiamétrie, dismissing claims that 10% of French population “have blogs”, claimed that there were just over three million active French blogs. UK market researcher Synovate claimed in June 2007 that only 10% of British 18 to 24-year-olds have ever blogged.

‘Language Networks on LiveJournal’, a 2007 paper by Susan Herring, John Paolillo et al in 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences examined language use in 1,000 randomly-selected and 5,025 crawled LiveJournals to determine the overall language demographics and the robustness of four non-English language networks on LiveJournal.com. The findings indicate that English dominates globally but not locally, network robustness is determined mostly by population size, and journals that bridge between languages are written by multicultural, multilingual individuals, or else they have broadly accessible content.

The metrics enthusiasts at Jupiter Research claim that 57% of bloggers have a household income of under US$60,000 per year, a figure that is presumably consistent with concentration of blogging under Anglo college students.

Jupiter’s examination of the entrails – eye of newt, ear of bat – resulted in claims that there is no gender divide in the blogosphere, that around 73% of bloggers have been online for 5 years and that “only 4% of the online community read them”, presumably a disappointment for the industrious scribes of Reykjavik.

If Jupiter’s figures are to believed, blogs are primarily be read by men (60% vs 40% women) and in households where the total income is over US$60,000 per year (61%, the difference from authorship figures reflecting doting mums and dads?).

Perseus’ The Blogging Iceberg commented that

Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life. It will be written very informally (often in “unicase”: long stretches of lowercase with ALL CAPS used for emphasis) with slang spellings, yet will not be as informal as instant messaging conversations (which are riddled with typos and abbreviations). …

Teenagers have created the majority of blogs. Blogs are currently the province of the young, with 92.4% of blogs created by people under the age of 30. Half of bloggers are between the ages of 13 and 19. Following this age group, 39.6% of bloggers are between the ages of 20 and 29.

It suggests that males were more likely than females to abandon blogs, with 46.4% of abandoned blogs created by males (versus 40.7% of active blogs created by males).

Abandonment rates did not vary based on age. Those who abandoned blogs supposedly tended to write posts that were only 58% as long as those bloggers who continued to publish, “which simply indicates that those who enjoy writing stick with blogs longer”.

Leigh Philips sniffed in 2003 that blogging

remains the dominion of geeks, wittier-than-thou twenty-to-thirtysomethings in Manhattan and angry gay Republicans.

By February 2005 Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project was claiming that eight million US adults had created a blog, with supposedly 10% to 20% of US blogs being “related to religion“. So much for angry digital log cabin boys. Médiamétrie claimed that 80% of French bloggers were 24 or younger; over 50% were female.

The 2004 paper Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs by Susan Herring, Lois Ann Scheidt and co-authors argues that apparent gender/age bias in media and academic coverage of blogs arises

in part as a result of focus on a particular blog type, the so-called ‘filter’ blog, which is produced mostly by adult males. We argue that by privileging filter blogs and thereby implicitly evaluating the activities of adult males as more interesting, important and/or newsworthy than those of other blog authors, public discourses about weblogs: 1) marginalize the activities of women and teen bloggers, 2) misrepresent the fundamental nature of the weblog phenomenon, and 3) indirectly reproduce societal sexism and ageism.

The bias might, of course, also reflect the vapidity of much teen blogging.

The 2004 view is consistent with that of Dustin Harp & Mark Tremayne’s 2006 ‘The Gendered Blogo sphere: Examining Inequality Using Network and Feminist Theory’ in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Sarah Pedersen’s ‘Women users motivations for establishing and interacting with blogs (web logs)’ in 3 International Journal of the Book 2, Scott Nowson & Jon Oberlander’s The Identity of Bloggers: Openness and gender in personal weblogs (PDF), Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging (PDF) by Jonathan Schler, Moshe Koppel, Shlomo Argamon & James Pennebaker, Gender Classification of Weblog Authors (PDF) by Xiang Yan and Susan Herring & John Paolillo’s 2006 ‘Gender and Genre Variation in Weblogs’ in 10 Journal of Sociolinguistics 4.

Sarah Pedersen & Caroline Macafee’s article ‘Gender Differences in British Blogging’ in 12 Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 4 (2007) draws on a 48 person [!] sample in concluding that “men and women find the same range of satisfactions in blogging. However, more women use blogging as an outlet for creative work, whether as a hobby or as a livelihood”.

so, so yesterday?

Blogging has attracted true believers and businesses that have a vested interest in boosting blogs as a cure for various social ills, a mechanism for personal growth, a way of making money or merely something for journalists to write about. Suggestions that many people abandon blogging altogether after a handful of posts, post sporadically or simply never blog thus have attracted vehement criticism.

There has been little research into why people don’t blog and into suggestions that many people under 25 blogged once or twice before moving on to other social media because blogging – to use the words of one 19 year old contact – was “so, so yesterday and all my friends are on Facebook” and because the blogosphere has been polluted by sploggers.

The blog phenomenon in the English-speaking world has peaked and – as forecast in an earlier version of this page – most blogs are being stored in the part of cyberspace dedicated to hula hoops, pogo sticks and other fashions that reached their use-by date.

That does not mean people will stop blogging altogether. Novices will try blogging (particularly as a rite of passage); some will post passionately and regularly rather than “getting over it, just like zits” and other teenage disorders. Blogging is not going to disappear. Entrepreneurs will still be able to make money guiding CEOs or celebrities or knowledge managers in best-practice blogging at an individual or corporate level. Some people will continue to find fulfilment through blogs that reach an audience of one or an audience of one million.

We should however be realistic: the ‘blogging revolution’ collided with human nature and human nature won. Most people do not like writing, even if they have something to write about. Many people do not have time to blog on an ongoing basis in a way that attracts a substantial audience. Some people will continue to write offline diaries, commonplace books and criticism – including work that relies on a pen or pencil rather than a keyboard. Others will flow with the latest fad.

Robert Scoble thus sniffed in 2007 that

there’s a bigger trend I’m seeing: people who used to enjoy blogging their lives are now moving to Twitter. Andrew Parker punctuates that trend with a post “Twitter is ruining my blogging”. I find that to be the case too and when I talked about this on Twitter a raft of people chimed in and agreed that they are blogging a lot less now that Twitter is here.

Dumbing Down Our Kids to Fail January 8, 2010

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Dumbing Down Our Kids

Charles Sykes is the author of DUMBING DOWN OUR KIDS. The following is a list he created for high school and college graduates of things he did not learn in school. In his book, he talks about how the “system” may have created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and set them up for failure in the real world.


Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it.

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone until you “earn” both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you screw up, it’s not your parents’ fault so don’t whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. So before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.


by Charles J. Sykes

Painfully Funny Fireworks Happy New year January 1, 2010

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Happy New year/Decade

its not like we gonna blow up some thing big to celebrate

I’m in ur Predator UAVs, watching ur vidz December 18, 2009

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Iraqi insurgents have reportedly intercepted live video feeds from the U.S. military’s Predator drones using a $25.95 Windows application which allows them to track the pilotless aircraft undetected.

Hackers working with Iraqi militants were able to determine which areas of the country were under surveillance by the U.S. military, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, adding that video feeds from drones in Afghanistan also appear to have been compromised.

This apparent security breach, which had been known in military and intelligence circles to be possible, arose because the Predator unmanned aerial vehicles do not use encryption in the final link to their operators on the ground. (By contrast, every time you log on to a bank or credit card Web site, or make a phone call on most modern cellular networks, your communications are protected by encryption technology.)

Meanwhile, a senior Air Force officer said Wednesday that a wave of new surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned, were being deployed to Afghanistan to bolster “eyes in the sky” protection for the influx of American troops ordered by President Obama.

When a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, is far from its base, terrain prohibits it from transmitting directly to its operator. Instead, it switches to a satellite link. That means an enterprising hacker can use his own satellite dish, a satellite modem, and a copy of the SkyGrabber Windows utility sold by the Russian company SkySoftware to intercept and display the UAV’s transmissions.

The Air Force became aware of the security vulnerability when copies of Predator video feeds were discovered on a laptop belonging to a Shiite militant late last year, and again in July on other militants’ laptops, the Journal reported. The problem, though, is that the drones use proprietary technology created in the early 1990s, and adding encryption would be an expensive task.

The implications of the Predator’s unencrypted transmissions have been known in military circles for a long time. An October 1999 presentation given at the Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies in Alabama noted “the Predator UAV is designed to operate with unencrypted data links.”

In 2002, a British engineer who enjoys scanning satellite signals for fun stumbled across a NATO video feed from the Kosovo war. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reported then on the apparent surveillance security shortfall, and the U.S. military’s decision to essentially let it slide.

The Air Force had hoped to replace the Predator with a stealthier, high-altitude version nicknamed “Darkstar,” and the 1999 presentation by then-Maj. Jeffrey Stephenson noted that the new “high altitude UAVs will be capable of encryption.” But the Defense Department informed Lockheed Martin that year that the Darkstar program would be terminated.

Iraqi interest in intercepting U.S. military transmissions is not exactly new. A report prepared for the CIA director after the U.S. invasion and occupation noted that Saddam Hussein assigned a young relative with a master’s degree in computer science to intercept transmissions from U.S. satellites. The relative, “Usama,” was secretly given office space in the Baghdad Aerospace Research Center, which had access to satellite downlinks.

The 2005 CIA report compiled by special advisor Charles Duelfer quotes Abd al-Tawab Huwaysh, Saddam’s minister of industry, as saying he was shown real-time overhead video supposedly of U.S. military installations in Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar before the invasion. A likely explanation, the report concludes, is that “Usama located and downloaded the unencrypted satellite feed from U.S. military UAVs.”

A 1996 briefing by Paul Kaminski, an undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, may offer a hint about how the Iraqi’s interception was done. Kaminski said that the military had turned to commercial satellites — “Hughes is the primary provider of direct (satellite) TV that you can buy in the United States, and that’s the technology we’re leveraging off of” — to share feeds from Predator drones.

“What this does is it provides now a broader distribution path to anybody who’s in that downward receiving beam, for example,” Kaminski said.

So why, after the CIA publicly reported that Predator transmissions had probably been intercepted in Iraq, did the Air Force do so little? One explanation is that the contractor, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, built the system in the early 1990s before encryption was common and easier to include. (Computer scientists had warned at the time that the U.S. government’s anti-encryption laws were counter-productive because they discouraged the development and routine use of that technology.)

Bureaucratic inertia is another. As CBSNews.com reported last month, messages from President Clinton’s entourage were intercepted in 1997, but Secret Service agents continued to use unencrypted pagers to share sensitive information about threats to the president’s life on September 11, 2001. Perhaps it takes a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal to prod government officials into rethinking their views on the desirability of encryption.

Update 1 p.m. ET: A spokesman for the Air Force, Maj. Cristin Marposon, sent us this statement: “The Department of Defense constantly evaluates and seeks to improve the performance and security of our various (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems and platforms. As we identify shortfalls, we correct them as part of a continuous process of seeking to improve capabilities and security. As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on specific vulnerabilities or intelligence issues.”

by Declan McCullagh

20 Fail Moments & The End of Fail November 3, 2009

Posted by frewon9 in , Fail stuff.
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“Fail” is an expression used by Internet users to indicate something that is a total disaster or something that is stupid (or funny). For example, if your cat peed on your shoe, an onlooker might say: “Fail!” And so on. ;) Anyway, the internet is filled with “fail” stuff. Just search YouTube or Google for “fail”, and you’ll get thousands of funny, odd, stupid “fail” pictures and videos



FAIL is over. Fail is dead. Because it marks a lack of human empathy, and signifies an absence of intellectual curiosity, it is an unacceptable response to creative efforts in our culture. “Fail!” is the cry of someone who doesn’t create, doesn’t ship, doesn’t launch, who doesn’t make things. And because these people don’t make things, they don’t understand the context of those who do. They can’t understand that nobody is more self-critical or more aware of the shortcomings of a creation than the person or people who made it.

When someone says “FAIL”, what they’re really saying is, “I’m failing to understand a creative person’s constraints.”

Of course, I’m not the first to point out that “Fail” sucks. Andy Baio articulated the case quite well, and I even touched on it in my Battledecks presentation a few years ago. Here’s the relevant segment:

But we know that people who cry “FAIL!” are assholes — so why do we have to deem their petulant cry completely unacceptable? It’s because of the Law of Fail:

Once a web community has decided to dislike a person, topic, or idea, the conversation will shift from criticizing the idea to become a competition about who can be most scathing in their condemnation.

It is in this way that the obnoxious jerks who offer an unthinking, uncritical belch in response to others’ efforts kick off an even worse mob-minded pile on. And what I want to make clear is those who begin these conversations are, it must be said, the true failures. They choose a reflexive shorthand instead of a reasoned critique, and they bring out the worst in a community. I care deeply about people being creative on the web, and I care almost as much about people having thoughtful and productive conversations on the web.

So, fail is dead. I won’t accept it in dialogue from those I communicate with, I won’t permit those I’m connected to on social networks to use it around me, and no, you’re not the first to think you’re clever enough to use it as a comment here. If you have the urge to say it and you’re a good person, then go do something creative instead. If you have the urge to say “Fail” and you haven’t done anything? Well, then your statement speaks for itself.