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September 16th, 2008

12:45 pm - dev 101 question
I've got a little fantasy football web app that I put together for a friend, and I had a simple question about data retrieval.  This is a somewhat simplified example for the purpose of asking a clear question.

In the database is a table for owners(name, team_name, league, phone, email, etc) and one for waiver_transactions(owner_id, drop_player, add_player, week, etc)

On the web site, I want to show a list of transactions grouped into leagues and sorted by week of transaction.

What's the best way to pull this information in a way that  makes it easy to build that list.  I can do it several different ways, but they are all pretty brute force ways, and I'm sure there's something more eloquent, that I just don't know about.  Since, I'm not a developer, my experience in this is pretty limited, so I figured I might as well as some folks who know.

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July 7th, 2008

02:14 pm - Brianca on Schneier

Bruce Schneier is a lot like Janeane Garofalo.  Bear with me here for a second.  I LOVE Janeane Garofalo.  In fact until very recently, she was number one on my list of what I call 50/50 women.  That is women who I know only through their celebrity and therefore my mental image of them is made up of 50% real information and 50% my imagination filling in the gaps between their public persona and who they really are.  No doubt, 50% real information is a very high estimate, but I, like everyone else, like to think I'm a good judge of people, so I'm giving myself credit for being right about a lot of things that are really just guesses.


Anyway, Janeane is smart, funny, and beautiful not to mention self deprecating.  She is good with a turn of phrase, and she seems to be a very light hearted person.  That was of course until the last presidential election cycle.  At some point she changed from a comedian/actress into a full time political activist.  And this change was definitely for the worse in her case.  Not because there is anything wrong with political activism itself.  I think everyone should take action on the things that they feel strongly about.  It's a bad thing because in making this change, she left behind all of the things that I loved about her.  In her activist role, there seems to be no room for humor as she feels the need to treat even minor issues with deadly seriousness and there appear to be little need for intelligence as her arguments have become largely emotion driven leaving reason in the dust.  She's even not as cute when she's so glum.


That brings me back to Bruce for a second.  For a long time, Bruce was the male Garofalo.   Very smart and funny with a razor like wit that really got to the core of security issues.    He's probably even handsome for a geek in a no so dirty hippy kind of way.  But he somehow veered off the rails recently, I'd guess since 9-11 and the response to it in this country.  Where he was at one time driven primarily by logic and allowed reason to guide him to the points he would eventually make, he appears to have also been taken over by emotion.  His articles these days start with a premise that entities, especially governments, taking away what are viewed as civil liberties is bad, and he will then proceed to filter the evidence in the case at hand to support that conclusion.


Much like Garofalo, I don't disagree with most of his points overall, but the way that he delivers them and the evidence he uses to support them have grown weaker and weaker until they mostly seem like an obligatory inclusion rather than an actual logical argument.


The other comparison that comes to mind is Ayn Rand.  You start with the premise that everyone should thing for themselves and view the world rationally, and then you decide that if everyone did that they would come to the same conclusions you do, so you decide to save them all a bunch of time by just skipping to telling them the conclusions.  If anyone disagrees, they aren't being rational enough and they need to rethink their position.  Or even better, just accept your.


Bruce hasn't made that full transition yet obviously, because he still feels the need to provide evidence to support his positions no matter how weak that evidence is.  Luckily, most of the people reading his blog don't need any evidence to agree with him, and they just skim over those parts of the articles which re-enforces the idea that evidence really isn't needed.


I've been thinking about this for a while, but the other day I was reading this blog entry (http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/06/cctv_cameras.html) and it all sort of jumped out at me again.  Maybe I was just in a bad mood for some reason or feeling extra critical that day, but the article and the evidence didn't line up the way I would expect them to.  The premise is clearly that CCTV monitoring is bad because it's a violation of rights of privacy, and the support is that it's also not very effective.  A reasonable argument to make, but a pretty weak one when you read the details.  There are two major classes of issues that he talks about making the CCTVs ineffective, one is poor implementation and the other is circumventability ( yes I made up a word).


The problem is that if you took these same two classes of problems and presented them to him in the description of a network security control, they wouldn't carry nearly as much weight.  Poorly implemented firewalls or encryption systems provide very little security.  In fact, according to Bruce's recent work, they may be worse than nothing because they give you a false sense of security.  Still, I wouldn't think that he would expect people to abandon these solutions en-mass because if they are executed poorly they won't work.  The better answer is to make sure you execute them well.


The circumventablity of a control by a resourceful attacker is also a well known problem in the network security field.  An attacker with enough resources, or resourcefulness, and enough time will bypass most controls.  Again, this isn't a good reason to trash those controls.  It's a good reason to execute them well, execute them in depth, and monitor them.  Arguments that Bruce himself has made over the years.


So why aren't these problems treated the same in network security as they are in CCTV deployments?  Because of the sensitive political and emotional impact of CCTV monitoring.  There's nothing wrong with that, but you have to be willing to call that out and admit that you are swayed by the emotional impact of the control and not rely on weak logical arguments to support and emotional finding.  Bruce hasn't crossed the line that Janeane and Ayn crossed where he is ready to openly toss aside logic and argue for emotion, so he tries to provide the obligatory supporting information, but his heart isn't in it, so he's no longer as critical as he should be.


I would love to read a good article directly addressing the weighing of effectiveness vs. privacy intrusion of well implemented CCTV monitors in public places, but it appears to not be the type of debate we can expect from Bruce these days.  After hearing his talk at RSA and speaking with him a little bit during the week, I don't expect anything different any time soon.


On the bright side, it looks like we'll have a democratic president in a few months, so maybe Garofalo will be back.  If so, call me. ;)

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June 29th, 2008

11:06 pm - GeoCache
Any of you folks scattered around the globe geocaching?  If so, let's swap a few bugs or coins.  I picked one up today in a cache on the way home and made me think of mailing it out to get it on it's way.  We get some pretty good ones here from vacationers, so I could probably pull a few without any trouble if anyone wants to swap some out.

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June 27th, 2008

11:56 am - question for D-netters
A couple of golomb questions that I didn't find an answer to in a quick search.  Figured you guys would know off the top of your head to save me some time doing a deeper search.

possibly (probably) related questions:

1) given a sum from a known golomb ruler, what's the process to discover the units used to create the sum?
2) what is the value of an optimized golomb ruler over a non-optimized one of the same order?

bonus question: factors is to product as what is to sum?  ;)

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June 26th, 2008

03:16 pm - Funny Shit.
the escapist has been adding a lot of video content since they picked up Zero Punctuation a while back.  Almost all of it had been bad (de-Rez and Drawn by Pain come to mind).  Unforgotten Realms however is freaking hilarious.   All table top RPGers should give it a watch.


I cast flare!!

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12:25 pm - SCOTUS
Some real meaty supreme court decisions this session.  Great times for someone like me who loves the court system.  I sat down and read the arguments and decision in the Kennedy vs Louisiana case yesterday that dealt with the death penalty for child rape cases.  Very interesting arguments and decision IMO.

For the record, I am personally against the death penalty in all cases, but I try not to let that shade my reading of the way the court acts or the way it should act.

This case dealt with several very fundamental issues about how the court is designed to work that go way beyond the decision in this particular case.  The most fundamental is the whole idea of the constitution as a living document.  Should it be read to carry the intent of the authors at the time of writing or to reflect the "evolving standards of decency" in society. 

It's a tough question and the one that most often splits the court into its liberal and conservative groups.  The conservatives say that you read it the way it was written and let the legislature change it if they want to.  The liberals say that you read it in light of the current feelings of society so that it evolves over time without the expensive (time mostly) process of legislation.

They both have good and bad points on their sides, IMO.  I think I more often than not come down on the side of the conservatives in what I think the decision should be and the liberals with what I wish the decision was.  There is a great quote from justice scalia that is something to the effect of, "people often make the mistake of assuming that I agree with all of my decisions.'

Very funny in a scalia way, but true as well.  In this case, I would love to see the death penalty further restricted in its application, but I also have concerns about if that's the right decision based on how I think the court should decide cases.

The question here comes to the idea of "excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishment" as mentioned in the 8th amendment.  A lot of people assume that it's the cruel and unusual punishment" clause that governs here, but it's really the 'excessive fines" clause.  A punishment is either cruel and unusual or its not.  Capital punishment clearly falls outside that definition from a constitutional standpoint.  Excessive fines has always been read to include any punishment that's not cruel and unusual, but is too severe for the crime.

The differences come when trying to define excessive.  The first thing to do is decide if it means excessive to the authors or excessive to the average person today.  Part of the reason I lean towards the former, is that the latter is so difficult to determine as was brought out by this case.

Supreme court precedents have clearly gone in the direction of reading the constitution as a living document and trying to gauge the opinion of the populace to decide cases.  More often than not, IMO, this is simply used as an excuse for a justice to impose his/her personal opinion as the will of the people.

When you allow the justices to use as broad a reading as is currently being used, you open the door wide for people to be completely unable to predict the direction the court will go from year to year.  This court says that you can't have the death penalty for rape, the next may say you can.   That fact alone makes me dislike the open reading. 

Of course, a justice can also read his own wishes into the intent of the founders, but I believe it is much more difficult to do so.

What we have now is a set of justices arguing about the relative severity of various crimes.  Death is clearly ok for murder, but is rape as bad as murder?  Child Rape?  Recidivist Child Rape?  Torture? Or the biggie that throws a cog in a lot of arguments: Treason?  It's hard to argue that only killing someone is bad enough to face death when treason even without any death is considered worse in the eyes of the government.    Once you clear the barrier that says that you can have the death penalty without murder, there have to be decisions made about the relative severity of crimes like the ones mentioned above.

The question then becomes who is best qualified to make those determinations.  The 9 justices of the supreme court, or the elected leadership of each state.  Obviously I side with the states here.  The justices should only decide if the states cross a line that is beyond what the framers had in mind when they crafted the amendment.  That's a pretty high bar considering what was acceptable at the time.    If a state stays within those bounds, but goes too far in the minds of the people ( death of adultery for example) then the national legislature has to step in to define excessive in a way that gives the courts the power to act.

It's a much slower process, but I think that's a good thing.  Being less like to chase the whims of society is a benefit and not a burden here IMO.

Had I been sitting on the court, I would have voted that the state has the right to carry out the death penalty in cases of child rape.  I just would have hated myself for doing it. ;)

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June 23rd, 2008

10:06 am - Resurrection?
Howzit, crackers?

I'm a bit surprised that they keep these things around in an inactive state for so long.  I hadn't though of this place in a long time until something happened that made me wonder what nugget was up to so I checked in.

A while after my last entry here, the wife and I took Presley to the park to swing for a while, and the swing, one of those black rubbery deals, was literally so hot it would have burned her to put her in it.  I had promised myself for the past several years that each summer in texas was my last, and that was finally the proverbial straw.  I quit my job and spent 6 months or so at home with dawn and presley doing some writing and being a dad.  When it was time to get back in the job market, we put the house on the market immediately and I jumped on a plane for hawaii for a couple of months of job hunting. The house sold and dawn and presley came out around a month later.  A few weeks after that, I was working and we had rented a townhouse. 

Than bam, a few years later and we're still living in hawaii.   Work is work, but the play is much better.  Temps in the low 70s in winter and mid to upper 80s in summer.   Beaches and swimming year round.  Whales and big waves in the winter.  I ride a boat to work every day and watch the dolphins swim along.  And, yes, we went to the park just yesterday for a marathon session of swinging with no risk of cooking my daughter.

Life is good.

Hey to everyone from back in texas.  Hope you guys are all doing well.  Congrats on the new business to those of you involved.

Talk to you in a couple of years. ;)
Current Mood: chipperchipper

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August 11th, 2005

10:37 am - Teve Torbes
I picked up the newest Steve Forbes Flat Tax book the other day. it's a good read well worth the time of anyone interested in the subject. The only negative side effect is that it tends to make you even more pissed about the current situation.

as a side note, it's clear how Steve stays so rich considering the these couple of hundred page book was almost $30.00. A true capitalist if I ever saw one. ;)
Current Music: Bury Your Dead - The Haunted

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August 1st, 2005

12:04 pm - free market
Can anyone suggest some reading on how to maintain a free market economy in the face of what can be considered unfair competition from foreign players? I'm a pretty political creature, and I've been putting together my platform as an exercise to formalize where I stand on many issues that we face in the world these days. It's a purely politics geek exercise to see what my ideal party would believe.

I've been working on the marketplace and I'm running into trouble with how you can support a free market, which I do in principle, but still compensate for players who do not. When you have places that subsidize markets or devalue currency or simply maintain a low cost workforce through real or artificial means, it ruins the rules for our marketplace.

Do we artificially restrict free trade in order to maintain what may be too high a lifestyle to be supported by a free marketplace, or do we allow our wages to drop as others raise to find some kind of equilibrium?

the more I play with the answers, the more confused I get and the more I see why game theory developed largely out of economics.

any suggestions for reading would be appreciated.
Current Music: Hello Again - Dave Matthews Band

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July 29th, 2005

11:55 am - Who's your daddy.
Almost three weeks now as a daddy.

Presley Hana Alexander was born on 7/12/2005 at 1:56PM

She was 7 lbs and 18.5 inches. 12 hours of labor followed by a C-Section that was damn cool from where I was standing, but not so much for Dawn.

Everyone is doing great now, and we're just starting the adventure. Lots of good times ahead I'm sure.

I've been meaning to pop something on here since then, but time seems awful short right now. In fact it took me until yesterday to finish the new Harry Potter. ;)

Plenty of pics here: http://www.brianca.com/gallery/album03
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: United States v. Recio Argument - Supreme Court of the United States

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