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.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


My father snapped this very good close-up photograph of a brilliant metallic red dragonfly (Odonata Trithemis kirbyi) resting on the antenna of their (hopefully) parked car. He told me it flew away as he was reaching for his camera but then returned seconds later to patiently pose. My mother suggested that it was one of those experimental spy drones from DARPA (DE), miniaturized and disguised as birds and bugs. Though the engineering seems far too advanced, I wonder where the fearful sandbox of field-testing might be.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

johnny appleseed or be you and I behind an arras then

It’s painful to contemplate—and is by no means exclusive or necessarily defining but as far as trends go, so goes America, so goes the world—how American influence and leadership is being hijacked and replaced by the pretenders of corporate hegemony.
Industry lobbyists have courted (bullied) the government to such an extent, that legislators and officials have little choice when it comes to drafting rules and regulations in support of business of gaffers and the artisans that produce all the props of security theatre and the clawing theatrics greed. In blocking most any scene, the portrayal of need is unconvincing and rather an unashamed taut for the wardrobe or lighting-and-sound department. How many new uniforms, calliopes, magic lanterns, gels and flats do we need, in the name of safety, security, integrity or unmotivated invention?
The framework that’s been crafted is not just to the benefit to the darlings of contracting world, but a legislative landscape has been staged that’s overly favourable to the establishment, both in government and in business, and is very much against competition and growth and has sanctions in store for anyone not willing to play by the rules. This type of performance has a lot of different venues and circuits but is probably most stellar in the politicking of ways basic and unalienable—food and footprints. So many stage-hands are helping to ensure that no one or nothing is ever forgot, exposed and articulated except when the truths are embarrassing or uncomfortable for the directors and producers, and nothing’s committed with an ounce of anonymity. As for food, it is acquiring similar markers but to a different end—invasive and not readily refused.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

blacklisted or clutter-free: a cautionary tale

I did not notice that the four year anniversary for PfRC came and went without ceremony on my part but it did not pass without acknowledgement and observation. I received a message from the advertising platform notifying me that my account had been suspended over suspect or fraudulent click-activity. This was an unfortunate condemnation and I was more than a bit taken aback. I agree with the characterisation of wanting to maintain integrity all around for the advertising environment, and understand their inability to provide more details, since disclosure about how clicks are policed would give real fraudsters a work-around.

A few errant but curious clicks on my part to billboards on my own site (generally for products and services that I found interesting or ironic, and I would naturally be presented with ads tailored to my taste) or family and friends throwing some support and a known case of one irresistibly mocking political campaign that choose to establish residence on my site that was tagged daily—out of righteous vengeance, begrudging the party a few pennies—or even legitimate case of illegitimate redirecting of traffic—studying statistics and the internet chains of causality (which is another interesting aspect our blogging, aside from the fun of sharing and learning something in the process—knowing what drives traffic and who visits, as well as what ads are posted and how well they can match up to ones content)—since quite a few shady detour-services do stop by, I see, could be the source of this non-compliance with stated policy but of course I can’t know for sure. Maybe I had racked up just one too many penalties or tabs were kept from the beginning, however, I don’t think it was all ballot-stuffing. Like I said, I understand the importance of integrity and legitimacy, and I think that it is a losing proposition all around, should a publisher’s account go dark—not over the revenue, but over the opportunities lost to marketers and perhaps lost chances to enrich the place called the internet. It’s not like a struggling and bankrupt postal service loving junk-mail since it gives them something to deliver. The search engine achieved and maintains dominance and real utility for its complex search algorithms and I’m sure works the publicity programme with the same expertise. The service does offer an appeals process, which I completed—trying to be contrite and honest, but ultimately they notified me that my request for reinstatement was disapproved. It’s not so nice to be permanently punished, but as I said, the important factor for me is the sharing and discovery (while surely that’s cold comfort for those who earn a significant income from it) and of course will continue to blog, though it does feel at the moment a little diminished without that little extra element. I’ve been more preachy than usual and no one asked for an essay on why I am being punished but if I am to be made an example of, I wanted to stress to others the importance of keeping things wholly above-board and in as far as possibly policing one’s blog for violations.

Friday, 10 August 2012

dbase or paying peter to rob paul

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is again bringing scrutiny on itself by putting on airs of vigilantism and proceeding with the purchase of more data CDs from Swiss banking institutions with information on German account holders.

While I can understand and do sympathize with the slowness of reform and the byzantine channels of bureaucracy, NRW is really airing its frustrations—continuing to pursue this tactic in order to reclaim hypothetical tax revenue loss from citizens who might be seeking to hide wealth in the Confederation and then previously threatening to withhold financial assistance meant to help the former East Germany develop economically—by taking matters into its own hands and exercising a prerogative that is criminal, at least by proxy, is exacerbating and threatens to unseat the whole process. Such volleys of deals that are not above board, however indirect, and trafficking in stolen goods would make the Swiss, I think, unwilling to entertain more transparency and reform in a legal framework, and turn German depositors into anathema, unwelcomed like their American counterparts already shunned by the US’s world-policing. Further, Switzerland, in order to dampen the effects of investors seeing the franc as a safe-haven and the follow-on inflation of its value (being bad to trade and export), is buying up quite a significant amount of German bonds. In other words, servicing German debt, and while I don’t think that act against its own interests like the government of NRW (or what the American authorities are doing) by doing something rash and outside of jurisdiction, decisions are suspended on a delicate equilibrium that is not beyond being passive-aggressive.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


Lest we forget, our friendly anti-terrorism office sent out a message recently that August is Anti-Terrorism Awareness month and we are admonished to be ever-vigilant and that it was also a perfect occasion to review and renew annual mandatory training requirements.

August, additionally, is Cataract, Psoriasis, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness and Audio, Goat Cheese and Panini Appreciation (according to one’s communion, I guess) Month. What inspired collusion results in such a horrendous and random patronage? The terror bit is especially disconcerting, I think, because I guess the message is not such a subtle reminder that had we always remained ever on guard, suspect and omnipresent, the events following in September may never have happened. Such a sentiment seems rather sorry and insulting, considering all the theatre and duplicity that’s imposed unchecked but very easily and beyond reproach justified and indoctrinated in all our everyday activities. Is it a resilient or circumspect thing to accept and cower to a thousand small tactics affecting freedoms of movement and one’s privacy that certainly are far-removed from peace and reconciliation—or even from triangulation and appreciation of the broader connections? Reminders of the patent and obvious are only cues, become ornamental as the rest of the theatre syndicate, even if the time of the year has been appropriated too to recall or foreshadow things to come.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

adi, adieu, arrivederci, adios acta

After months of protests over intransparency and secret diplomacy, back room dealings and public outcry, the outcome of 4 July’s parliamentary vote in Strasbourg was somewhat of a foregone conclusion. The vote, however, was a decisive stance and declaration of independence from American dictates, coming in the form of rejection of the ACTA treaty and choosing freedom over copyfight. A clear majority of parliamentarians from all political persuasions did come together to deflect this proposal, ostensibly to combat international counterfeiting of real and virtual commodities and enshrine intellectual rights, but there was a minority of proponents and many abstainers.
I am sure that the watchdog group, European Corporate Observatory, could let you know how your representative voted and if there might be industry connections influencing that decision. In the last minutes before the ballot, there were some desperate, sophistical arguments that tried to defend the opaqueness of the negotiations, saying that the deal was about keeping fabulous-fakes out of the market and not about codifying the ability of government censorship, though China and Indian were not signatories. (That argument is a bit taxing, I think, because those countries are not dens of piracy and inequity and do export some counterfeit goods because they also generate the majority of the world’s non-counterfeit goods as well.) One supporter of ACTA compared an agreement without China and Indian to the good done with the imperfect and not universal Kyoto Protocols, which is without Chinese, Indian and American support, and that we still ought to try something. The comment was weak, but it did make me think that before even entertaining furthering American hegemony and legal frameworks, the EU and others ought to be able to demand that the US abide by the environmental treaty, recognize the permanent tribunal in the Hague, pay its membership dues to the United Nations, etc. Such a quid pro quo seems fair and might convince the US to introduce compacts not overly swayed by the telecommunications and entertainment industries—especially as the move by Europe is inviting the spectre of retribution in trade and tariffs on the part of American businesses. Those threats, however, must have rung empty for the rejection to be so resolute.