British adopt stupid threat level model similar to US

(via Scheier’s security blog)

Do you know the current American terrorist threat level? Probably not. And why is that? Because almost since inception, the threat level has been at yellow. Occasionally, it climbs up to orange. threat-level-chart.jpgIn certain parts of the country, it has been at red at times. But never has it been at blue or green – the two lowest levels. And what does that mean? It means since the inception of this idiotic political ploy the current administration has saddled us with, we have been told to be aware of anything out of the ordinary, for there is a significant risk of terrorist attack.

Let me let you in on a little secret – we are no more at risk of terrorist attack now than we were 10 years ago – OK, maybe a little more at risk given our attack on a country on questionable evidence of potential threat, thereby alienating many people who previously didn’t care enough about the US to even think about us, and making the ones who already hated us even more hateful and driven by vengeance – but really, that’s a tiny change, probably not even enough to measure on that little chart on the right. The only difference is the 9/11 attacks showed us that we were at risk, when we thought we were safe and secure in our little bubble of North America. And I don’t call the threat level security model stupid because of who is in the White House – honestly, I believe that had a Democrat been in the White House, we’d still have some stupid model of similar design. It might be something different, but it would still be there. And why do we have it? So politicians can point out the elevated risk in an easy to understand format and use that as justification for taking more of our money to spend it on more stupid “security” measures that won’t actually increase America’s security, and likely will reduce it.

The problem with constantly telling everyone to “be alert” is that we aren’t given any guidance on what we are to watch, how to tell if something is out of the ordinary, what we might expect as a higher risk attack, or anything else that would make an elevated alertness warning have meaning. And we’re Americans. Do you know what that means? We have short attention spans, an unwillingness to change our ways, and a tendency to ignore security and safety procedures when they inconvenience us. Even if the threat level model were any good, it’s been at yellow too long to matter. To make an impact on Americans’ behaviors at this point, it would probably take a red alert – I doubt even an orange alert on a nationwide basis would phase 99+% of the people in this country.

So, why the rant over all this? Well, the British are going to be implementing a similar poorly-conceived alert model. The one difference is, they suffer attacks sufficiently more often than we do that it might make a difference. It won’t, mind you, but potentially it could. If their government is smart enough to maintian a blue or green alert stage equivalent the vast majority of the time, going to yellow or orange equivalent might make a difference in peoples’ behaviors. I just hate to see more money wasted on more “security precautions” that are just well publicized ways for governments to spend money on actions that typically reduce security instead of improving it.
Continue reading British adopt stupid threat level model similar to US

DIY LEGO mosaic

(via MAKEzine blog)

Hey, it’s LEGOs, I’m a geek, and this is a DIY guide.  I believe I’m legally obligated to point this one out.  I may try this out with my kids, in fact.

When my oldest son was born in 2001 LEGO offered a cool online “Brick-o-lizer” that would take an lego_mosaic_complete.jpguploaded photo and turn it into a five-tone grayscale grid of 1×1 bricks from which you could create a wall-hanging mosaic. LEGO would send you the exact right amount of bricks in bulk. Putting it together was as easy as paint-by-numbers. I did this for him and for his little brother in 2003.

My daughter was born a few weeks ago and so naturally I went back to the Brick-o-lizer to create her mosaic. Imagine my horror to find out that it isn’t available anymore. How could I deprive my baby girl of her LEGO mosaic? Well. Obviously. I couldn’t.

So, here follows instructions for doing it manually in Photoshop. (But before we begin, let’s be sure to acknowledge the unbelievably talented people who create LEGO mosaics in full color without a grid at all. I bow to your supremacy.)

The one thing I have to point out here is that the author uses Photoshop.  Not all of us have access to that application, however.  Anyone willing to write up brief instructions on how to do the photo-conversion process in The Gimp instead of Photoshop?  That would be hella helpful for those of us using open-source/legally free software when possible.

[tags]LEGO, LEGO mosaic, DIY guide[/tags]

The Sharp Lumiwall

(via TechEBlog)

Some things just don’t need explanation for why a geek would want them. This, I believe is one of those things. Shipping next year is the Sharp Lumiwall. During the day, it appears to be smoked glass. In reality, it is two pieces of glass with a transparent solar panel in between. This panel absorbs the sunlight, storing energy from the process. At night, the Lumiwall works as an illumination device, glowing softly using the energy stored during the day.

lumiwall2.jpg

[tags]Sharp, Lumiwall, Transparent solar panels[/tags]

A new look

I’m trying out new themes.  I like the theme I’ve had for the past few months, but there are features I want that I can’t get from the old theme.  Most importantly, I want a variable width content column, while the old theme was decidedly fixed width.  I am trying out the Tiga theme now, and may change through a few others over the coming days and weeks until I settle on a theme and look that I like.  If you see a theme you particularly like or dislike, please let me know in a comment to this article.

Today in history – 1876: “Wild Bill” Hickok draws Aces and Eights

The now-named dead man’s hand, called so after the legend that Hickok was holding a winning hand of black aces and eights when approached from behind and shot in the back of the head by a cowardly gunman.  From The History Channel:

“Wild Bill” Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, is murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him. A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok’s rise to national fame. Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

After accidentally killing his deputy during an 1871 shootout in Abilene, Texas, Hickok never fought another gun battle. For the next several years he lived off his famous reputation, appearing as himself in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Occasionally, he worked as guide for wealthy hunters. His renowned eyesight began to fail, and for a time he was reduced to wandering the West trying to make a living as a gambler. Several times he was arrested for vagrancy.

In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, eking out a meager existence as a card player. On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

Hickok was only 39 years old when he died. The most famous gunfighter in the history of the West died with his Smith & Wesson revolver in his holster, never having seen his murderer. According to legend, Hickok held a pair of black aces and black eights when he died, a combination that has since been known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

[tags]Today in History, Aces and Eights, Dead Man’s Hand, Wild Bill Hickok[/tags]

Weird signs

(via Neatorama)

Have you ever been on the phone with your wife, discussing something serious, like the kids painting everything in the living room, and started reading a web site with scads of weird signs that had you struggling to not laugh while your wife told you how rough her day has been? Well, I don’t recommend it, but if you can visit this gallery of weird signs sometime when it won’t interrupt a serious moment, I do recommend it. The signs are oddities on their own, but reading the commentary/imagined sign description really makes for some good laughs. Here are a couple, with the hosts comments.

Radioactive Animals.

radioactive-animals.jpgFrom a major university hospital which shall remain nameless. I wonder where the radioactive animals actually go?

Truth in Advertising

truth-in-advertising.jpgApparently the folks at Newcastle Tramway Authority know something about the next world that the rest of us don’t. Thanks to Mark

[tags]Weird signs, Humor[/tags]