Daily Archives: February 21, 2011

14 posts

The Day in Demonstrations: Libyan War Machines

The dawning of a new week sees Muammar el-Gaddafi double down on his commitment to murdering his own citizens.

Government buildings continued to burn Monday in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, following “major” riots overnight. Libya’s response has been to unleash their war machines as helicopters and warplanes besieged parts of the city and fired on protesters. Other witness reports are claiming bands of Miltiamen, many of whom sound like our African mercenariness we heard about yesterday, are tooling around the city in pickups shooting at groups of protesters. Tripoli seems to be in complete chaos right now; security forces have retreated to defensive positions inside government buildings, there are many fires burning in the street and there are shortages of bread and gas.  Rebels ( I guess you graduate from protester to rebel after you seize control of a city)  in Benghazi, the second-largest city, maintained their control over the area and have issued a list of demands calling for a secular interim government led by the army in cooperation with a council of Libyan tribes [NYT].

Photo apparently taken today in Benghazi

The rioting and clashing with security forces going on in Tripoli sprung up rather suddenly and seems to have been inspired by Gaddafi’s son’s television address last night. Here’s some video of the speech via Al-Jazeera:

He seems to take after his father when it comes to speeches; most people are agreeing that the speech was rambling, incoherent and offered little admission of guilt or compromise.

And where is Gaddafi Sr. amongst all this? Apparently he might be in Venezuela [Guardian].

The death toll may be as high as 400 now, according to statements made by Libyan rights groups. This is being decribed as the bloodiest crack-down in the history Gaddafi’s rule and his regime seems to be genuinely on the brink of collapse now; the demonstrators seem very determined now. However, with Libyan authorities framing the state violence as routing out “terrorist nests” it would seem that Gaddafi is prepared for a long and protracted armed conflict. Many people within the government are resigning with at least seven international ambassadors leaving their posts, including the ambassador to the US [Guardian].

Elsewhere, five people perished in a building that was set alight during riots in Morocco [VOA]; demonstrators continue to occupy Pearl Square, their numbers being bolstered by the thousands since Saturday. Some other Arab kingdoms convened talks with Bahraini rulers to pressure them to get a lid on this thing before it spreads to their own kingdoms [Canadian Press]; tens of thousands of anti-government protesters continue to march in Yemen, demanding the resignation of their president, whom has vowed to resist an ousting:


Why the Feds Don’t Need a New Social Media Wiretap Law

Are web 2.0 services like GMail, Facebook, and bit-torrent really making it harder for the FBI to wiretap people doing illegal things? Do they need congress to pass a set of laws to aid them in capturing someone who uses Facebook? As someone who works computer forensics with law enforcement agencies, I’d say no. Its not enough for them to get your data after a wiretap, they want it now!

Sure, if data lies on Facebook’s servers and not your local hard drive, the feds will have to get a separate warrant/subpoena for those locations. The government already can wiretap your e-mail using the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

CALEA requires telcos and ISPs to turn over real-time monitoring to the feds if they are presented with a wiretap order. If the FBI had it their way, when those providers get the wiretap order authorities would not only have access to your real-time data, but also everything stored remotely.

So you might not be updating your pics on Facebook, but since you logged in anyway, they’d have access. Its a scary thought that everything online would be this accessible. Compound that with the risk of warrantless wiretaps and it’s enough for normal people to be concerned about their privacy online.

The feds know how much they can push, though. They’ve decided that the best way for them to address real-time wiretaps is through a shady program known as “Going Dark.” It’s shady enough that the Electronic Frontier Foundation had to file a freedom of information act request to find out any info on it.

This program aims to offer “incentives” to software developers to join their program. What incentives they’re offering, they don’t say. This week a software security company was hacked and it was revealed that the government was paying them to write backdoors into software for them. Microsoft has long been accused of having a backdoor in all of their products for the NSA.

I’m guessing that the FBI is asking, politely, for similar things. I don’t know what incentives the feds could offer a company, but since the “Going Dark” program is multi-agency and spans defense, law enforcement, and the Department of Justice, they could offer all kinds of under-the-table deals that we’d never hear about.

One of the problems we’re going to face in the future is that the government has no real standards in terms of computing. One agency will run one piece of software, another will run a completely different piece, on a different platform. The government also gets bilked by IT companies. I’ve seen broke school districts paying $2,000 for a Dell workstation because that’s what their contract says they’ll do.

I’m sure the different federal agencies work in a similar fashion. I’ve given presentations at law enforcement seminars where the previous speakers were standing up and teaching computer crime units on how to use Google. (As in, “put what you want to search for in the text box, click “search!”) And while I’ve given presentations where people actually know what they’re doing, the majority however have no clue. The people who are dreaming up these projects are trying to win support from people who have absolutely no clue when it comes to technology.

Privacy might not be a major concern for you now, but if programs like “Going Dark” get slipped under the radar its going to be too late for any of us to have privacy online ever again.

Predicting the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

It’s Oscars Week! (Yes, it deserves a week.)  It’s Missing Peace, Ms. Anthropy and Dancing Queen here with our amateur’s guide to the Oscars.  We’re not film industry insiders – we’re avid movie and fashion fans with opinions. Hey! Just like you!  Join us on Sunday, February 27th, for a liveblog of Oscar night, starting with the red carpet arrivals on E! (6 ET/3 PT) and switching over to ABC when the Academy Awards ceremony begins (8 ET/5 PT). We will be talking fashion, surprise wins, loser reactions and speeches that went on too long. E! has nothing on us!

Each day this week, we’ll make our picks for the winners in the “big” categories – the ones that make the careers of relative unknowns and reward those who have patiently waited, year after year, for recognition: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture.  To make our picks, we’re taking a realistic approach, considering performances worthy of winning and factors that may help or hurt a nominee.

Also, you may have noticed that we listed only five categories and there are six days between today and the Oscars. That’s because on Saturday, we will be previewing red carpet fashion: the trends, do’s, don’ts and who will be on the receiving end of the coveted Ryan Seacrest “Cop a Feel” Award. Sharpen your claws, kittens!

Today’s category: Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Last year’s winner was Christoph Waltz for his wickedly terrifying and brilliant performance in Inglourious Basterds. Who will take it home this year?

Nominee: Christian Bale for The Fighter

Christian Bale in The Fighter

Advantage: Seriously dedicated himself to the role – do you see the weight loss and physical transformation?  Although Bale’s currently not working (hence the hot Golden Globes beard and the not so hot Farrah Fawcett do), he has an extremely successful acting career going back to 1987’s Empire of the Sun.  He can carry a money-making franchise like Batman but he also translates well in smaller projects. Bale is a compelling on-screen presence with a serious dedication to his craft.  Sometimes that dedication results in…

Disadvantage:  His Terminator meltdown.  Sure, everyone’s heard the tape and most people still think he’s an asshole, but Hollywood is the capital of assholery.  It would be a bit hypocritical to hold that against him.  It hasn’t stopped Julia Roberts or Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson or…

Nominee: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech

Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

Advantage: Rush won an Oscar for 1997’s Shine, so clearly he has some fans in the Academy.  Who doesn’t love a guy who can go from an undead, morally bankrupt pirate to a gentleman spoofing the craft of acting as a royal speech coach?  Rush’s crazy-but-lovable uncle thing makes him an endearing favorite.

Disadvantage: Rush is so solid that he is easy to overlook. In some ways, being a consistently great actor can be a disadvantage at the Oscars. The Academy likes to reward “surprisingly strong” performances. Right, Julia Roberts? This year, is Rush too good to win? Will our imaginary uncle be overlooked for a scruffy ruffian? Will the Academy voters be too focused on Colin Firth’s performance to have checked the box for Rush?

Nominee: Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right

Mark Ruffalo in The Kids are All Right

Advantage: Dreamboat Ruffalo is a dreamboat (DQ begs to differ but that’s a different story for another day). Also, he comes from a film that was in limited release, which the Academy loves, and has a working actor’s humility and grace.

Disadvantage: To this day, we see Mark Ruffalo as the love interest in 13 Going on 30. And if we see it that way, everyone does, right? Ruffalo’s biggest disadvantage is that The Kids Are All Right is just all right: it isn’t a particularly important film and his performance as a sperm donor with a (misguided) heart doesn’t show the emotional depth worthy of an Oscar.

Nominee: Jeremy Renner for The Town

Jeremy Renner in The Town

Advantage: Renner was a front-runner last year for his performance in 2010’s Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker, but lost to Hollywood favorite Jeff Bridges for his amazing performance in Crazy Heart. In a mere eight years, Renner has ascended quickly, from playing Jeffrey Dahmer to being a two-time Oscar nominee. The Academy likes to reward young talent in the Supporting Actor category, so Renner may be due for a reach-around after last year’s snub.

Disadvantage: AnotherBostonStreetTough. This character is quickly becoming the new ManicPixieDreamGirl and is equally as tiresome. Renner’s performance in The Hurt Locker was far superior to this turn in Ben Affleck’s second homecoming vanity project.

Nominee: John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone

John Hawkes in Winter's Bone

Advantage: Hawkes plays an incredibly convincing scary dude here, with a buzz-worthy performance. The Academy loves drug addicts and dirt bags: Hawkes covers both.  Winter’s Bone may be the best least-seen movie of the year.  And Hawkes is a natural character actor who blends so seamlessly into roles that he can get LOST in them.

Disadvantage: Winter’s Bone made $6.4 million at the box office and, compared to Black Swan, with a box office draw of over $101 million, it’s pretty small potatoes. Have enough hoity-toity Academy members gotten around to seeing this movie yet?

Our pick for Best Supporting Actor:  Christian Bale. Talented assholes finish first. Plus, he sure is pretty. Bale’s strongest competition is Geoffrey Rush – the two have been neck-and-neck through this awards season, making Oscar night a nail-biter in this category.

Your turn.  Who’s your pick for Best Actor in a Supporting Role?

Monday Afternoon Open Thread

Good afternoon. Hope the day is coming along nicely. Here’s a few good reads from the internets today.

A great ProPublica investigation into the mortgage industry practices for home loan modifications. The investigation looks at a number of different players in the housing and mortgage crisis. If you haven’t ever checked out ProPublica you should.

The Washington Post looks at the effectiveness of drone attacks in Pakistan against al-Qaeda. The article evaluates the success of the program in the context of the monetary costs and the diplomatic problems created by civilian deaths.

The Seattle Times looks at how media spending by the Gates foundation affects the coverage given to certain news stories. The Foundation has become a big player in advocacy journalism and the report examines some of the implications of the organization’s ability to influence the coverage of development and world health issues.

Have a great afternoon.

Cherry Blossom Nail Art Tutorial

My workspace


American Apparel Echo Park

China Glaze White Cap


American Apparel Cocoa


American Apparel Coney Island

Color Club She’s Soooo Glam

Sinful Colors Snow Me White


Base Coat = Orly Bonder

Top Coat = Seche “Chemica Slut” Vite

Dotting Tool/Toothpick/Bobby Pin/Nail Art Brush/Whatever

Index card

Step 1:

You need a clean canvas to work on, so make sure that your nails are clean, free of previous polish and oils. You are a greasy, oily person. It’s life. So swipe your nails with some rubbing alcohol or acetone before you apply your base coat.

The key to having a manicure last is a good base coat/top coat combination. The polish itself is not as important as what you put on top and beneath it (and remembering to use tools instead of your nails for things.) I prefer CND Stickey but as I’m out of it at the moment, I’m using Orly Bonder, another good, sticky base coat for polish to cling to. Everyone’s body chemistry is different so it may take some trial and error for you to find the combination that’s right for you.

Base Coat
Orly Bonder Base Coat

Step 2:

Apply your base. With nail art, I find it best to use a base color that is opaque or damn close in one coat, so there are less coats on your nail. It dries faster that way and there’s less chance of messing up. I really like American Apparels for one coat-opaque-cremes but several of the Wet N Wild Wild Shine polishes are good as well and only cost a dollar at your local Walgreens/Rite-Aid/CVS and don’t have that “eau de 70’s porn” vibe.

American Apparel Echo Park under China Glaze White Cap

My base is American Apparel Echo Park topped with China Glaze White Cap.

Step 3:

Quick dry top coat that bitch.

I use Seche “Chemical Slut” Vite for my quick drying needs. It is not Big 3 Free, so if you’re concerned about that, I’d recommend you try Sally Hansen Insta-Dry No Chip Top Coat in the red bottle. But Seche Vite is the best top coat in my opinion in terms of drying quickly and shiny. The only issues I have are that sometimes it will give “shrinkage” (feel free to laugh) to your manicure and that about halfway through the bottle it will get thick and difficult to work with.

The important thing to remember about nail polish is this stuff basically lasts forever. Probably longer than you. Bacteria can’t get in it. It won’t expire. When it gets too thick and goopy, or dries out, there’s a solution. If someone has ever told you to put acetone/nail polish remover into old polish to fix it, don’t trust them. They were an underminery bitch trying to get you to ruin your awesome old bottle of polish. Doing that will destroy your polish.

What you need is “thinner” and you can buy it at any beauty supply shop. I use “Beauty Secrets Thinner” from Sally Beauty Supply but Seche makes a version as well.

Beauty Secrets Thinner

Step 4:

Wait for your base to dry. Contemplate the meaning of life.

Step 5:


Draw your branches! You can just place squiggles wherever your heart tells you they should go. I used American Apparel Cocoa. Put a bit of polish on an index card like a palette and use your nail art brush/dotting tool/toothpick/bobby pin to draw the branches LIGHTLY on your nail. I used an actual paint brush (Winsor and Newton University Series 233 Size 00, glad you asked) but with a reasonably deft hand, you can pretty much use any of the tools I just mentioned.

Wait for this to dry a bit–really only about five minutes.

Branches using American Apparel Cocoa

Step 6:


Use the dotting tool/bobby pin/tooth pick and start doing dots of your pink, again using the “bit of polish on an index card” method. What I did was make slightly larger light pink dots (AA Coney Island) and white dots (Sinful Colors Snow Me White) and then used the smaller end of the dotting tool to add darker pink (Color Club She’s Soooo Glam) and the Coney Island into the center of the larger dots.

Flowers with American Apparel Coney Island
White blossoms with Sinful Colors Snow Me White
Pink Blossoms with Color Club She's Sooo Glam

Step 7:

Wait a bit for this to dry before applying your final coat of top coat because otherwise that shit will smear and all of your hard work will have been for naught. Just because I felt like being ostentatious, I put a coat of a clear glitter on top before applying my top coat. I used Wet N Wild Hallucinate.

Cherry Blossom Manicure with Glitter

Step 8:

Be so sexy.

If you try this, please post the pictures in the comments. And if you have any questions/requests, post them here and I’ll try to work them into the next post. Thanks!

Odd Facial Hair Configurations And Other Stuff

Give a man a day off, and chances are that he and Mr. Gillette are going to be having a time out.  I have not shaved since Friday, except for my neck, which itches if I don’t.  I now am sporting a 3 day pre-beard, neatly trimmed above my cheekbones, around my mouth, and below my jawline.  This has caused a local sensation.

In the boudior: “C’mere, ya scruffy little cub!”  Note: facial hair can be employed to good effect during intimate moments.  Or in other words: “Good Christ, if you shave that off I’ll kill ya!”.  My blue eyes got some compliments too, as though he hadn’t really noticed them before.

With a kitty: Edmund and Lucy are fascinated.  Not only do I get the curious face paw, Edmund has been marking me as his by rubbing his face on mine. 

In the lobby: Straighties Ellen and Debra are flight attendants for JetBlue.  They see handsome men every single day.  I went to get my mail and there was a decided tone to their “Helloooooo!”, and I caught the words “working out”.  I have been doing nothing of the sort.

At the barber, where I got my usual very short buzzcut, Russian Mike said “I’m not touching this.  Looks good. Real good!  I clean up for you, but really you should keep.”

In the supermarket – ok, I dressed up a little, but a mom with a toddler ogled my ass and the cashier became a flibbertigibbet.  I had no choice but to wink at her when she handed me my receipt. She giggled and ran her hand down my arm.

This does not make me confident, since The Beard is coming off tonight.  It’s far too high maintenance and while it adds desired structure to my round and moonlike visage, I can’t babysit it twice a day.

But I have to say it’s fun.  Countering the slob factor of skipping a shave or three by cleaning up your neck and evening out the top line works wonders, as does a nice shirt and shiny shoes.  I wasn’t going for the look of a long haul trucker or Zach Galifianakis.  More like Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead, who is one of the sexiest men who ever took a breath. (And if Jon Bernthal cast a wayward eye my way, there would be big trouble in Casa Crocker.)  Jon Bernthal is all kinds of fine.

“Ya look good.  I’m a lucky fucker.” Thus spake Cap’n Crocker, and there was a rib-crunching hug to go with it.  You try making redskin potatoes and brisket when a beautiful, honest, brave, crazy, funny man says that to you.  Just try it.  Your potatoes will look like Legos and your brisket will be second-rate.

And he won’t care.


Ecstasy Not Really Bad for Your Brain After All

So apparently scientists finally got around to doing some of their sciencey experiments on the brains of a large group of people who’ve probably spent the past 15 years listening to nothing but Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” album (which is to say, heavy users of MDMA —  the drug commonly known as ecstasy).

They found that ecstasy isn’t nearly as bad for the brain as previously thought.

The study was led by a Harvard Medical School professor and funded by the Natiional Institute on Drug Abuse. Its findings were reported in last week’s issue of Addiction, because I know you’re probably a regular subscriber to that. According to the study’s lead researcher, past studies had been affected by studying subjects who liked ALL drugs not just ecstasy, which skewed the results:

The resulting experiment whittled down 1,500 potential participants to 52 selected users, whose cognitive abilities matched those of a group of 59 non-users. “We even took hair samples of participants to test whether they were telling the truth about their drug and alcohol habits,” said Halpern. “Essentially we compared one group of people who danced and raved and took ecstasy with a similar group of individuals who danced and raved but who did not take ecstasy. When we did that, we found that there was no difference in their cognitive abilities.”

So on one hand, we have a new wide-scale study showing that ecstasy doesn’t turn your brain into delicious Jell-O Pudding Pops.

On the other hand…..

The #Crasstalk Interview: Matthew Inman of TheOatmeal.com

If you’ve been on the Internet for more than five minutes, chances are you’ve received a link to or have been told about The Oatmeal from a friend or colleague. Created by Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal is a site that not only shows you how many Justin Biebers you could take on in a fight, but also serves as a place to see some of the funniest webcomics available on a variety of topics.

Inman and I chatted via non-Internet means (the phone) on February 22 about his popular webcomic, his creative process, his upcoming book tour, (bad) website redesigns, and what’s next for The Oatmeal.

When he started the site, Inman mentioned that he didn’t have a specific audience in mind, but “wanted to make comics I thought were funny…and things tech people would find funny.”

Inman noted that the stories he tells on his site are 100% true, but the names are changed and he may exaggerate the situations for comedic purposes. One of his recent blog articles gained attention in his hometown newspaper, the Spokesman-Review. Which story, you ask? Why, the one about riding the bus to school past a Neo-Nazi compound.

So, how do all of those hilarious comics and quizzes start? “I keep a notebook and will write down zany ideas whenever,” he said. He then reviews them from time to time. “All of my drawing is done on computer, never on paper,” he said. He uses Adobe Fireworks to create the vector artwork and from there, can slice up the graphics to post online in a matter of minutes.

Inman sees his webcomics in the same light as blogging in that it’s “informal and fast…there’s no editor, so things can go up quickly.”

On his site, Inman notes that he’s a “one-man business.” Well, sort of, he does have three employees who manage The Oatmeal’s merchandise and customer service needs, but beyond that, the rest of the site is maintained and managed by just one guy.

That said, he admitted that he isn’t managing his life too well at the moment. I don’t want to get him in trouble in case the issue hasn’t been resolved, but I’ll just say he mentioned the need to check his snail mail more often to ensure some key bills are paid.

Inman said some of the challenges is that he has to do the mundane tasks such as pay bills and taxes when he just wants to “draw and be funny.” He mentioned possibly hiring someone to help him manage that area of his life down the road. This is when I not-so-subtly dropped that I have a project management background.

Managing his own affairs may get a bit trickier as he embarks on his first-ever book tour in support of 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin (And Other Useful Guides). “Having a book was part of my plan from the start,” he said. When he started the site, Inman had a self-published book available as a way to have some merch to sell.

“Then a real publisher approached me about creating a new book,” he said. Thanks to his webcomics on an editor’s favorite topics — grammar and punctuation — he made a lot of waves in the publishing community.

When his publisher proposed the book tour, Inman admitted he was worried that he would be awkwardly sitting at a table with a bunch of books while people walked by wondering who he was. That is definitely not the case. Through the RSVPs received from Facebook so far, there are at least 200 people per event planning to attend the stops along the tour, which begins March 2 in Seattle.

And, he’s looking forward to meeting his readers face to face. “It’s a different experience than just seeing a tweet that says, ‘LOL’” he said.

Although, fans take heed on what not to do…

Inman mentioned that he recently had lunch with Farside creator Gary Larson, who recalled his first — and only — book tour. While some of Larson’s fans dressed up as cows, pigs, or chickens, one woman took it a step too, er, far, and dressed up in a bunny suit and launched a cream pie at the artist.

While it would be nice to receive gifts that don’t involve a cleaning crew, Inman is definitely worried that he’ll receive a lot of oatmeal. For those who don’t know, he actually hates oatmeal. Perhaps he could team up with a food pantry in each city on the tour and donate the oatmeal to those in need?

So, what’s next for The Oatmeal after the book tour? He’s already making plans for another book that will feature more comics not posted on the Web.

He’s also planning to start creating animated shorts that would be posted online. “This will be a tricky process [changing the comics to animation]…I have to be very careful because if the voice, narration, or timing are off, it can change the overall tone,” he said.

As for advice on those who are hoping for their own Oatmeal-like success? Inman said to pick a passion/hobby that you love. He spends 12-16 hours a day on his comics and loves what he does. He said that now is a great time to get into the game thanks to the “power of social media.” “What I’m doing now couldn’t have been done without sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Facebook,” he said. Most importantly, he said to “have fun!”


For information on the upcoming book tour, be sure to visit “The Oatmeal” to see if and when he’s coming to your area and to RSVP.

Like yours truly, Inman has given a talk as part of the O’Reilly Ignite program. Check out his Ignite Seattle presentation on “How to get 5 million people to read your website.”

“I was brought up surrounded by the smell of oil and steel”

Meet Shinya Kimura. He builds custom motorcycles out of his shop in Los Angeles. Unlike most of the blinged-out choppers you see on cable TV, Kimura’s machines are gritty. They’re hand-built and gnarly and fast enough to take out to the desert for the famous El Mirage land speed races in Southern Calfiornia.

His style is really unique. There’s a lot of unpainted aluminum and stainless steel. And he works on a wide variety of types of engines and frames. He’s almost more like a hot rod car-builder than the typical motorcycle guy in his approach.

But above all, the man clearly just loves motorcycles and feels the passion that so many of us have for two wheeled machinery. Some of his creations appear to be influenced by the British cafe racer, which is a stripped-down style of motorcycle with low handlebars and built for riding fast. Other bikes of his are more inpspired by the American bobber, which is similar to a chopper, but with chopped-off (bobbed) fenders and lots of flat-black paint instead of fancy chrome. You can check out more of his work at his blog.

Here’s Kimura sitting on a vintage Italian MV Agusta.

And here he is on the custom Ducati twin he rode at El Mirage. (Yes, those are drum brakes on the front!)

Photos courtesy of http://shinyakimura.blogspot.com/