Friday, 7 February 2014

plying ones trade

I still don't know what to make of the situation and protest in (the country asked that the article the be dropped, as in the Netherlands, the Philippines and the Gambia in English as they are not in thrall to the Soviet Union) Ukraine, which seems equally divided between the status quo and the revolutionaries led by a professional boxer (who's also a twin and a PhD-holder) from Germany, but the stakes are certainly high.
US foreign relations, domestically at least, usually fails to grab much attention lately, unless in the form of secret-sharing and a frank discussion leaked has the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in a conservation with the US ambassador to Ukraine, disdaining the champion for the opposition and westward leaning candidate in the running, favouring someone more experienced to safeguard American interests, neatly summarised by “Fuck the E.U.” This statement has had some coverage, but the difference is notable, whereas the release has enraged Europe, in the States, reporting focuses rather on the fact that the sound-bite, undisputed, originated from a Russian posting before circulating world wide, and in a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black, America is accusing Russia of spying, despite all the recursive news of US snooping, within and without. Perhaps America will say that the fugitive, Edward Snowden, holed up in Russia, was behind this leak, or she, the diplomat, earnestly meant that the European Union should not interfere with Ukraine's best interests... The other noteworthy nuance in the reporting is how American journalism must censor the expletive, while the rest of the world is mature enough to do without the bleeps and peep-tones.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

personae, pandora

Conceived as sort of an electronic annual, a year book ten years ago for an elite university in a dorm room, the reigning social network has matured and seems to have come of age, established and hard-wired.

Of course, it's only a platform that could be easily unseated, as were its predecessors and it is the behavior of its users—like the adage a leader is not leader without the support of his or her first follower, that craft how we communicate. It is not, I think, the other way around—beneath the surface lexical and semantic shifts, such changes in the way we communicate are expressions, important ones—nonetheless, of statements that would have been voiced already in one fashion or another.
I cannot say whether the lure of the instantaneous and easy and convenient is taking away from native creativity (rather than enhancing it) or more artistic, meaningful or fulfilling pursuit—but if that is the case, I think people are still quick (mostly, at least as quick as they would be otherwise) to realise that that chance is not easily retaken, but there is more than just a change in our vocabularies or ways of coddling our own sense of indolence or procrastination in the simple fact that the Internet does not forget and reminders are lightly stirred. I believe, if used correctly, that could be a supplement rather than a liability too, but considering the current climate, telecommunication providers being prosecuted for complicity and governments being held liable for their abidance, it seems that we are not very good at self-censorship and temperance.

Monday, 9 December 2013

pelagic waters or octopi, occupy

As an addendum to an earlier post, there is a tumble-blog (incidentally, the inter-webs though having an initial affection for the letter e, with e-commerce and e-mail and so on, seem to be launching an offensive against the vowel, easily elided for trade-marking sake) dedicated to propaganda featuring sinister octopodes called Vulgar Army, which includes, among many others, the advisement to know one's Communists enemies, which is baldly the inspiration for some latter day programmes.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Considering the on-going disclosures that monitoring of commun- ications is not a bailiwick reserved for the world-police and is a common commodity, I wonder if the story might not be watered down to the extent where all outrage is put on the level of a mopey adolescent who feels devastatingly violated after discovering his parents thoroughly rifled through his belongings and contacts out of concern and for his own good. Of course, that's a very parental thing to do and usually advisable despite whatever angst or wrath is incurred—but I think it's not the job of the government to put its wards who've reached majority in such an uncomfortable situation—regardless whether their own up-bringing saw such awkward moments of tension or not, no matter how this tactic might defuse cries of fascism and unfairness.  Being made to relive teenage traumas shouldn't deflect from the gravity of being talked-down to.

franking privilege or going postal

It's not as if anything is sacred any longer and such snooping it certainly nothing new or nuanced but I would have thought that the snoops would be less inclined to go after data that's not digitised or clearly verifiable, but—and despite that knowing for years the US Postal Service “scanned” envelops to print a machine-readable zip code, long before optical character recognition was very advanced and long since the ability to print one's own barcodes and postage stamps developed, the so-called Mail-Cover Programme—there being no reasonable expectation of privacy between the from and to lines, has not relented and is going stronger than ever, with the ability to image and archive route of every piece of mail in the country, and perhaps beyond.
In order to steam open the envelop, a request need only be forwarded to the Post itself for approval and such a closed system of judge and juror has set precedence for prying into electronic correspondence as well. Being subject to tracing and inspection of course helps uncover networks after the fact and hopefully going forward, like any good detective work—scams, illicit trade and sympathies but such insatiate methods really only help build dossiers, accurate or otherwise, rather than keeping anyone safe and secure.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

painting the roses red or mezzoamerica

Though not necessarily enjoying the moral high-ground due to their own speculative surveillance practices, China and Russia have little reason to dignify threats from the US over harbouring a fugitive from Justice.
Ecuador's bold and unflinching withdrawal, however, from a export regime, instituted to curb cocaine production, with America in response to sabre-rattling over its willingness to grant Snowden asylum is an act of standing up to bullies and the system deserving of one of those slow claps that gallop to a round of applause. The US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee has moved to deny the South American country preferential treatment in trade—something like a Most-Favoured status which is accorded to some 130 nations. The defiance is more than symbolic, since though they will find other willing buyers for their oil and other natural resources, the vegetable and cut-flower industies will take a hit. Ecuador even does its tormentors one better—not only rejecting this framework to end the blackmail but offering to repatriate or render the equivalent millions of dollars it has realised in benefits to the US to fund institutions and programmes in support of transparency, civil liberties and protecting the right to privacy.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

neutralitat or bread and butter

Meanwhile back in Switzerland, as Reuters reports (bad link), the president of the federal council says that he would lend his support into an investigation into the claims of a CIA-leaker that his tour time spent in Geneva was formative. This is one man airing his opinion who happens to be the leader of an executive body of seven individuals representing the closest thing that the free world has to direct-democracy, stemming from checks and balances established in medieval times. Of course, he's entitled to it and the story, unverifiable, of the leaker given in recent interviews did seem a little imaginative and incredulous, but it did seem like something a bit weaselly to say, at first hearing: a concession to justice American-style brokered at a sensitive time when the US is intent on barn-storming Swiss banking regulations and hosting such a circus might make the States back off from their demands a bit.
With privacy sacred and enshrined, however, it does not seem like a thoughtless comment meant to sacrifice or discredit anyone. Credibility is impossible to speak to, especially considering how America's trumped up reasons for engaging Iraq was shot full of holes like Swiss cheese by a fax transmission intercepted by the Confederation (the Swiss read all of your faxes). Maybe it was a deliberate invitation for entrapment to reveal the real scope of America's surveillance programme or a way to help ensure that a nuisance is not simply disappeared or sacrificed to maintain the status quo. I honestly feel more than a bit dissuaded from looking into this case, for fear it's already on my permanent record, and maybe a summons is what we all need to stand up to bullies, since after all, the actions—though only confirmed after a long career—of the CIA and NSA are not treaties to surpass local law but have yet negated Switzerland's (and those of everyone else) attitudes and protections for privacy touching all matters.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

through the looking-glass

Though there is no other side of the coin, no deflecting of blame that makes trawling the internet in the name of security any more dolphin-friendly or excusable behaviour, but perhaps early-adopters of new technologies might exercise more caution and general-users might want to give less weight to convenience, banking on-line or ordering from shops on the internet or over-sharing.
 After all, it seems that a Handy is a tracking-device, a transponder (and not a black-box) that happens to include something called a “Calling - App,” and so forth. Smart phones can summarily out fox us. Although corporations have tried to quash freedom and utility on the world wide web, no monopoly or cartel—or legal codex, has been able to keep in stride with innovation and re-invention. Should the newest gadget or platform, however, be regarded with the healthy suspicion that they are merely casings for bugs and spy cameras, maybe America will realise that its policies and diplomacy have consequences, inward and outward.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


The American political landscape is really being whipped up into a frothy mess and through the spray and roil, it’s becoming impossible to distinguish among what’s generally and authentically chilling, what’s motivated but isolated, and what’s coloured by two-speed spin. Not that the volume and authorship of past transgressions excuse or assign non-cultural blame to any of current and lingering scandals, but the tempo of the demands are absolutely wilting: the US tax authority targeting conservative groups—be they called patriots or traitors, aggressive wire-tapping of journalists in apparent retribution—be they called patriots or traitors, the laming or disburdening of the functionaries of government—be they worker-bees or drones. This tug-of-war is being waged over the delicate and deliberative field of social reforms, statecraft and choices confounded by economic straits and must surely have a shrill and dulling effect. I think it shows how polarised America is becoming and reaching across the aisle is a quickly receding possibility.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

pyrrhic victory or the hundred years’ war

Though characterized and distilled mostly as the proprietary authority for businesses to demand applicants, supplicants and current employees surrender their social-network profile upon request, which while good for garnering glancing concern and attentions, is sadly short-lived and is not engaging public dialogue in CISPA is again positioned for passage in the US Congress, despite conflating opposition. 
Just as there are champions for keeping us over-safe, we have our tireless advocates, but the issue and the real, long-term stakes remain something that is easily placated or dismissed.
eroding privacy. Victorious skirmishes, sometimes ceded over inflated (at least, in the here-and-now) fears, overshadow—by design, I think, the larger struggle, since these assaults are becoming perennial continuing-resolutions politically.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Der Spiegel’s International Desk reports that back in late 2012, an anonymous researcher set out to take a roll-call, a secret census of the public internet worldwide.

No one had been able to accurately gauge the volume of world-wide-web activity beforehand, and the demographics of this convert door-to-door poll probably can never be studied in a meaningful way, since the results were obtained illegally. Unlike WiFi snooping scandals, the hacker pinged routers to illicit a response, in much the same way as one would launch a denial of service attack but without the ill-intent and for counting only.
After establishing dialogues with some 450, 000 server farms, the hacker’s creation, named Carna Botnet (after the Roman goddess of health, internal organs, hinges and stoops) was able to propagate itself further and shake hands with some 2.3 billion active internet protocol addresses. This ease of access was quite surprising and the census project turned unexpectedly into an industry warning about the robustness of security and systemic vulnerabilities. There probably will not be another such screen-capture, snapshot of the internet’s denizens but it was nonetheless exhilarating to be included in something benign that showed how fast the on-line world is growing.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

fantastic voyage or doctor inchworm, i presume?

The ever excellent BLDGBLOG reports on an RD project from the laboratories of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, experimenting with probes called mesh-worms whose motors are driven by a simple yet effective principle of expansion and contraction.

A microscopic lattice housing detectors and potentially a payload of metal alloyed just by a tiny pulse to raise the temperature a bit and let it relax back into its unexcited state to dutifully and tirelessly burrow and creep forward through very tight environments. Not only could this worm go spelunking and sound out more human-sized routes, explore the palimpsest of old architecture, pick locks and crack safe, such a probe could also patrol one’s insides for potential trouble spots and delivering a consignment of medicine—or poison, I suppose, as creepy-crawly assassins. Over-zealous nanotechnology or designer viruses have not yet taken over, but good-judgment does not always prevail. What do you think? Is this the realization of an unflagging panacea or more fodder for invasion and misuse?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

heart on your sleeve or windowpane

While I want to believe that the public, early-adopter, the technocrati, and developers have considered how convenience and novelty are drives easily deputized as the stuff of spies and snitches, but although I was not overly fond of the idea of the normalization of wearing certain blinders that kept one focused on something other than the here and now from a stand point of accelerating psychological concerns, I certainly did not extrapolate any higher-order concerns. All forms of surveillance and reconnaissance are already possible, of course, via a variety of measures which do not always talk to one another (this inability to communicate, I think, keeps a lot of us employed as interpreters, incidentally), but what implications are there to actually dispatching willing legions of monitors, eager (or at least persuadably so) to archive the whole of their experience without an editor or intermediary?

Saturday, 2 March 2013

elective affinities or the boys from brazil

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis has recently brought experimentation to the scientific community and the public with much enthusiasm and a certain flair that demonstrates the possibility of a future forms of communication, suggestion, via pure thoughts with a brain-to-brain interface. The trial consisted of two laboratory rats, geographically separated: one, the transmitting rat in a facility in Nicolelis’ native Brazil was conditioned to associate certain cues with the chance to get a reward, sweetened water as opposed to plain water. The other rat in the States, the receiver, was in a similar environment and opportunities for the treat were precisely synchronized.
The rat in America, however, was not privy to any of the sending rat’s cues, except that the rats’ brains were wired with electrodes and the former could telegraph via cables in the facility and over the Internet a micro-stimulus to the latter when he anticipated getting the reward. Their coordinated responses resulted in the American rat going for the reward at the exact moment the Brazilian right got the cue nearly seventy percent of the time; the Brazilian rate was transmitting the same conditioned response, impulse practically every time. The success rate shows that some significant mental exchange was going on but also suggests the limitations of scientists to pin-point the exact same neurons in two different subjects and that while there may be over-arching similarities, no two brains—or though-processes for that matter, are exactly identical. This sort of tethering is not telepathy or even Bluetooth. Communication was not reciprocal and who knows what the strangers would have thought if they knew their roles? What do you think? Will such stuff of science-fiction be the twitterpation of the near future and should we pursue this route?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, purchase

I suppose all targeted advertising, by its nature, is somewhat recursive, and there are limitations to what product or service can be matched to content, but for those of you who dare dither towards the bottom of the page, perhaps you’ve discovered more about “decorating the walls,” my sponsors and just perhaps, a little bit about yourselves (or rather at least how demographic sub-routines and marketing algorithms might describe you, though we don’t care what they think or give them any credence).
Meditating on these strange and spammy haikus, however, I grew more and more intrigued about the workings behind these simple text ads. I imagine it’s quite primitive and probably would not yield anything useful—the mechanism, but I wonder if there are some sort of organic, spontaneous commercials that build themselves according to the latest visitor and content of the web site, rather than being apportioned from a pool of existing advertisements. It’s primitive, I guess, in so far as no one is really paying for that service and the effectiveness would be too big of a gamble (right now, at least), but it would be pretty keen if computers could generate a well-executed ad and find a product for it afterwards.

valkyrie or learning-curve

Here is another interesting find from the vintage science fiction archives of Project Gutenberg, which presents an eerily modern commentary on drones and action-at- a-distance, the short story from 1953 called “Watchbird” by Robert Sheckley. All these ebooks are available at no cost in a variety of formats, including epub for viewing on iPads. The images are taken from BLDGBLOG’s latest discovery of expansive bird’s eye view eye-charts, laid out in remote areas of US testing grounds (rediscovered via satellite maps) used to calibrate spy cameras dispatched on weather balloons from that same era.
Such test-pattern topology probably is not necessary for autonomous UAVs whose sharp sensors and acuity have become sort of a moral unto themselves, and that’s exactly the quandary that Sheckley’s prescient tale addresses, in a future-present where we’ve released judge, jury and executioner as stand-alone extensions of law-enforcement.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

googleganger or shift + print scrn | sysrq

Since the federal moratorium on purchasing pilfered or questionable data—far from quality intelligence and doing far greater damage to German/Swiss relations, some constituent states are still engaging the bounty of opportunists and scorned employees for compact-disks whose authenticity and reconnaissance is never guaranteed. One of the latest dossiers is apparently little more than a screen-capture from a bank’s terminal, but it still fetched a high price.

Bavaria, among the other states, is a hold-out and so far has refrained from seeking out or taking up any offers that purpose to tattle on tax-avoiders—directly, least, but has allowed other authorities in some cases to extend their jurisdiction and have cooperated in investigations. While in America one’s identity is tethered to a social security number (though it was never intended to be a universal identifier and certainly not a better or more secure system) or the like, in Germany one is triangulated through name, residence and date of birth. In a case of mistaken and insisted identity from earlier in the year that was only very recently resolved (not identity-theft but rather identity-burden), a woman from a community in Bavaria with the very ubiquitous name of Kristin Muller was approached by out-of-state tax-agents (Bavaria had agreed to allow these agents to fight crime by proxy) who rifled through this housewife’s modest home and accused her of hoarding a half-million euro in Swiss institutions. The woman was aghast, naturally, but at quite a loss when it came to distinguishing herself from her sister-in-name, who remains unknown and at-large. When Muller tried to clear her record with the reporting bank, no one was able to confirm or deny whether Muller and Muller-Prime were the same individual or not, since this data list only contained names and account numbers, due to Swiss banking secrecy laws and even if the bank knew more, it was legally bound not to disclose it. What an awful mess to untangle for Frau Muller and other potential victims of circumstance, and I wonder if should could have claimed the balance of the deposit along with the liability the tax-agents insisted she owed. Perhaps Bavaria has been right in not pursuing what’s lauded as maverick justice and a way to level the playing field but in reality does not always deliver.

Monday, 29 October 2012

we won't be pwn'd again

Via the ever splendiferous watchers at Boing Boing, Electronic Frontier Foundation reports on what struck me as a new tact on the part of the entertainment industry and intellectual property chieftains but is just I suppose the latest assault in the bullying-desperate attempts to alienate ownership, entrepreneurship and fair-use. Essentially, an international textbook publishing house has placed an injunction against a student from selling his used learning materials, because, they argue, the content was manufactured, compiled overseas and therefore not subject to the legal principle of first sale, a doctrine that makes venues like eBay and flea-markets and charitable giving possible because one is selling one’s ownership of the thing and not the copyrighted content of it. The US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments, for what seems like a sophisticated and possibly pervasive loophole, since there’s little that is created without non-domestic contributions, and is expected to strike the publisher’s case down as clawing.

For companies to be able to dictate what can be resold or given away after they’ve made their initial profit seems absurd and specious, if not blatant overstepping.  Industry, however, has been codifying and campaigning against the idea of right to property or some time, through various avenues and with unbalanced successes, attempting to extend the lifetime of copyrights and franchises and introducing a little estranging thing called an end-users’ licensing agreement (EULA), which is not a bill-of-sale but rather a permit to use and enjoy their goods and services within strictly defined parameters. While I do not think that the American high-court would open up a legal framework to criminalize garage sales and that there’s no way to argue stealing and counterfeiting out of piracy, there is a creeping and seemingly relentless offensive in favour of large-holders that is in the interest of everyone watching carefully.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

stranger danger

Not that a day passes in the office without some sort of productivity disruption, which are mostly generated from within, conflicts and incom- patibilities among systems and safeguards, like some great, counter-adaptive lupus, but I’ve never prodded around enough to see this message and illustration before. The empty park bench symbol conveys something shady and sinister, like the perch for an electronic eavesdropper or a meeting point for something off-the-record. I wouldn’t necessarily think that the platform felt that way about public internet, but I do think that it fits to the attitude in the IT department that would go into conniptions over the idea of anything unregulated or anonymous—otherwise unsecure but not optimal for functionality either.