Five at 8 – 4/9/09

Pirates, plastic surgery, portly pupils, pencil sketches, and paper clippy. All in one, ummmm, post.

  • Los Angeles media covers plastic surgery the way Minnesota covers hockey. But this is a different yarn to give you a Thursday lift. It’s the story of Ana Rodarte, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, which made her retreat from the world. It’s a story of how a plastic surgeon is changing her life, and a reminder, too, that we often are surrounded by Neanderthals, like the community college administrator who tried to put her in a class for learning disabled, because her face was disfigured. One interesting aspect of the story: it shifts to first-person storytelling partway into it. Very odd. (Los Angeles Times)
  • In Massachusetts, the schools are going to start sending notes home with students if they’re getting obese. This is an effort that started a few years ago in Arkansas and, yes, I know you can see it coming: How does this impact the kid’s self-esteem? Self-esteem, schmelf esteem! A Star Tribune article today says we’ve gone too far on that scene anyway.
  • So the spies have put trojan horses on the nation’s electric grid? Some say it’s overhyped speculation, but utility companies have been absolutely silent on the story; that’s not a good sign. As for the counterstrike, I say let’s go with the nuclear option : Let’s put Clippy on their systems.
  • Announcing the Stick Figure Science Contest. Florida Citizens for Science is holding a contest, soliciting cartoons that explain scientific flaws in the discussion of evolution. The organizer asks, “what can you make fun of while trying to educate the public?” I ask: What can’t you?
  • There’s not much the U.S. can do to prevent the kind of piracy we’re seeing off the coast of Somalia this week, the Associated Press reports. Still, there’s quite a show of force being assembled. The Web site for the USS Bainbridge, a destroyer that’s leading the pack, isn’t working today; at least for me.


    Midmorning – In the first hour, Kerri Miller asks, “Has America moved to the left?” A wild guess based on the November election results: Yes. In the second hour, mystery author Walter Mosley.

    Midday — The second crest of the Red River in Fargo. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will be the guest and there’ll be an appearance by one of the most intriguing people in the upper Midwest — Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker. One of the best quips I heard when I was in Moorhead a few weeks ago was, “When Walaker says ‘no,’ it doesn’t mean, ‘let’s talks about it.'”

    Here’s the flood forecast as of 7AM.


    As near as I can tell, the forecast is running about a half-foot higher than it was yesterday. But the actual river level today is still going down.

    Talk of the Nation — Neal Conan decodes Robert Gates’ defense budget, which gives me an excuse to slap some Daily Show stuff here.

    The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
    Full Metal Budget
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Economic Crisis Political Humor

    In the second hour, they’ll talk about gay marriage.

    All Things Considered – Say, what happens to Worldperks after all evidence that Northwest Airlines ever existed is extinguished? Marty Moylan has the answer.

    The folks in Washington will also look at Frank Zappa’s legacy, tightly controlled — it says here — by his widow and child. And David Was has recommendations for what music to play while you’re doing your taxes. See, that’s why they call it All Things Considered.


    Professor Tim Nelson’s explanation of why it’s hard to forecast flooding in the Red River. If I pass this course, I’m hoping to take Fargo Mayor Walaker’s class, “How to use gut feel and experience to correctly predict a flood crest.”

    • What else is on today?

      I like today’s Art Hounds, which will replay during All Things Considered; the local “fa so la” group that I’m part of got a visit (a. k. a. Sacred Harp)

    • The story about the present “attack” is lacking primary sources from what I’ve read on the security sites lately. This post on Wired’s blog ThreatLevel sums that up nicely, tongue firmly in-cheek.

      That said, many, many people in IT security have understood for awhile that the utilities level of security could be better. Many of these systems are old ,and I’m not talking “third generation ipod” old, I mean tape deck or even reel-to-reel old. That technology still works–that’s why it’s still in place–but the infrastructure has been changing in the last few years. These systems, which used to be totally isolated behind a fairly strong perimeter, now are being connected to LANs and WANs, routable over long distances and able to access the internet. That’s like a clean room connected to a hospital’s quarantine ventilation system.

      Thankfully news like this, paired with increased attention to the protection of critical national infrastructure, are increasing the visibility and awareness of this situation. In time, geeks like me will reduce some of that threat, leaving room for us to find another!