March 2005 Archives

Gotta run

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Need to stop and shop for food, then off to work early because some colleagues are stopping at noon instead of two, and their shifts have to be covered. Ferrets need fresh food and water, I still need to get dressed, and I have no clue how bad or do-able traffic is today. Need a shave too.

Tata!

Old crap

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I was just cleaning out a cupboard, looking for a bunch of books that now should be moved to my brand new bookshelves, when I noticed two maps full of paper that didn't rind any bells. One of the maps was full of old installation reports from back in the days when I used to work in IT and install banking software all over Belgium.

Most reports were from the year 1997, and while browsing through them I realized one thing : that job thaught me how to cover my ass. Write things down, no matter how insignificant they might seem at the time, for they can come in very handy later on. Back when I started that job, I ran into problems with the coordinators and helpdesk quite frequently, but as I cleaned up my act, became one of their "specialists" and documented each and every intervention in detail, I gained their respect and trust. I recall one time when they called me on my mobile as I was with a client, to request "immediate" action to produce missing service orders of interventions I had done over the past week. If I wasn't able to do so before 4PM, they'd not pay me until every last piece of paper was in.

I was quite infuriated and told them to stop fucking up themselves, as I did file everything as requested. Luckily, I also had my personal copies of those service orders with me in the car, as I hadn't had time yet to file them away at home. I asked for the customers permission to use his fax and bombarded the office fax with the service orders they lost. A simple note on top said something along the way of "Here are my service orders AGAIN. Stop annoying me with errors you make and then blame on me. I've got copies of every single service order since "date" and if you fail to pay me as stipulated, I'll come right over to the office and clear your mess up for once and for all. I've had it with the way this organization runs."

I was paid every cent I was owed, and from that day on, never again questioned on whether or not I "forgot" to file my service orders. I did still get some calls when they "couldn't find" some, but they never again said I was to blame. Why would they, they knew I kept a close eye on everything myself. That's how I learned how good and up to date administration - even if it's not really required to do so yourself - can save your ass.

The second map contained bills, also dating back to 1997, with handwriting and notes from my ex, Sandra, attached and written all over them. I did a quick check through it all and removed some warranty papers as well as some official stuff, and threw the rest in the paper bin.

My kind of spring clean.

Now... has anyone seen my Kevin Mitnik book, titled "The Art of Deception?" I recall reading it at the office, yet can't find it anywhere now. It simply has to be somewhere... Search, Think, Think!
Found it... on my bedstand under a pile of magazines.

Books

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I just finished Nickel and Dimed - On (not) getting by in America (author : Barbara Ehrenreich) and it was certainly an interesting read. The one problem I had was accepting it as real - not that I doubt the reality depicted in it - but it's so far from the world I know and live in, that it almost seems impossible. But apparently it's not and millions of people live that life day after day. A couple of things struck me though :

- a job is not always a guarantee for a better life. In fact, often jobs are sometimes even used against the mass, to keep them poor. That's because the money earned does not compare to the investements needed to work the job (housing, food, travel expenses) and while not setting people back each day, they stay at a standstill or very slowly improve their situation until something trivial knocks that improvement right back again. They are truely slaves to the system and giving up the job(s) they have is not an option, yet not a way out either. The future doesn't look bright.

- employees do evertyhing in their power to prevent social powers to gather and work together. Unions are not forbidden but presented by the employers in such a way that they seem to work against the employees instead of for them. This is only possible because the employees become totally dependent on the corporation they work for, and are indoctrinated by those same corporate powers. As long as they can't step out of the corporate grasp and reach, they are unable to see the bigger picture and rise up against it. Allow me to quote from Nickel and Dimed :

"I was baffled, initially, by what seemed like a certain lack of get-up-and-go on the part of my fellow workers. Why didn't they just leave for a better-paying job, as I did when I moved from Heartside's to Jerry's? Part of the answer is that actual humans do experience a little more friction than marbles do, and the poorer they are, the more contrained their mobility usually is. Low-wage people who don't have cars are often dependent on a relative who is willing to drop them off and pick them up again each day, sometimes on a route that includes the babysitter's house or the child care center. Change your place of work and you may be confronted with an impossible topographical problem to solve, or at least a reluctant drive to persuade."

"But there are no Palm Pilots, cable channels or Web sites to advise the low-wage worker. They have only the Help Wanted signs and the want ads to go on, and most of these coyly refrain from mentioning numbers. So information about who earns what and where has to travel by worth of mouth, and for inexplicable cultural reasons, this is a very slow and unreliable route."

I suggest you pick up this book if you've got the chance and the time to read it. Why? Because there is only one solution to improve living standards for everyone, both low-wage and (the quickly vanishing) middle-class workers : information and education. One cannot benefit and make rational choices if one doesn't know about them.

Mind you, this is not a rant against America - even though this book specifically deals with the situation in the USA - but many of the situations depicted in this work are occuring internationally as well. Maybe a little less extreme, but unless we open up and allow ourselves to see what is happening, we will not be able to prevent them and end up in a similar world where our economies are basically running on slave labor.

I'm giving away 2 copies of "Nickel and Dimed" to people that would otherwise not have the chance to buy and read the book. Since I'm fully aware that low-wage workers usually have no internet access, hence they don't read this themselves, my regular audience is not the target group for this giving away of books. However, I'll be using you to do the work for me. Apply for one of the 2 copies I'm giving away, by sending me your full name, address and country. Let me know when you've received the book and when you're done reading it. Then pass it on to someone else - preferably someone who otherwise wouldn't have access to this book. Ask them to pass it on when they're done reading it, etc. Sounds difficult? It's not, believe me.

Strange dreams - analyse this!

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I've been dreaming things that are quite disturbing if you ask me. I'll try to give you a peek into the dream I just had, just be glad I have no way (yet?) to transfer the images during the dreams to another form, so I can post them on this blog. If you're easily grossed out, I suggest you stop reading now. Remember that these were dreams, and characters fade in and out, sometimes remain quite vague.

I'm together with my dad and we're checking out why a dog is limping his front paw. Rover obviously has some sort of pain, so we pick him up and check the paw. Nothing is visible, so I squeeze the paw, which suddenly becomes my left hand. When I push, a very small layer of loosens up and there is a white head in the center. As I think it's just some infection that I didn't notice before, I squeeze harder but nothing happens. My dad gets a needle somewhere and we prick the layer of skin. Junk comes flowing out and the more I squeeze - to get everything out - the more seems to appear.

The initial tiny spot has by now become an area of about 1x1 centimeter at the top of palm of my hand, just below where my fingers are attached to my hand. This doesn't hurt at all - probably because of my leather like skin, I think - and I realign my fingers to squeeze from another angle. This goes on and on for a couple of minutes, each time squirting new yellow pus onto a paper towel that my dad is holding. Neither of us are grossed out, but instead just dealing with the situation. The more comes out, the larger the infection seems to get and soon enough I'm pushing puss out from the edge of my palm towards the middle. This thing is getting large.

After a while we get less puss, so we think we're almost done. One last squeeze to get the final bits out and then we see a whole new consistency of puss appear. Shiny even, as it were wrapped in cling film, and it has gone from yellowish to darker red. We look at each other, wondering what is going on. A nod and we both figure out there's more vile stuff in the palm of my hand, underneath the now very loose skin.

When I push again, the skin ruptures in the middle and a tear appears and with the next squeeze we get a mixture of maggots and puss. Weird, I think as I push the maggot onto the paper towel. Maybe this is a bit worse as it seemed at first, but we continue our work. The rupture grows larger and soon enough the top 50% of my palm is one large open - raw - wound, covered here and there with patches of skin under which I can look. Only to see more larvae in there, some even crawling around. Some have the regular black head, white michelin guy type body, others have a reddish skin. We start pushing each one of them out from under the skin, while saying things like "Look at that one at the left, and over there, near the top". Seven, ten, I don't know how many we remove but then I realize that I'm getting close to getting the last ones out. I look up to my dad, as he's handling some paper towel, and when we both look back down, the next thing that falls out is a dried - cocooned - maggot. Soon followed by a spotted lady beetle with a maggot in it's front paws, obviously eating it.

The last one is out and there I am, a completely messed up hand, but there is little to no blood to be seen. Quite the contrary as one would expect when things like this happens. I ask for my dad to get some some disinfectant while I try to open my hand completely, to test mobility and to see how much the raw flesh is pulling back after all this exposition to air. It doesn't hurt, but I feel a clear tension when trying to stretch completely, but I know inside that it won't pose a problem in the long run. Dad comes bak with disinfectant and I ask for something to clip off the patches of skin that hang around, with red and bloody flesh beneath them, covered with black spot here and there. Dad tells me to leave the skin alone and disinfect it as it is, whereas I think it would be better to cut it all off to nice and clean edges, to facilitate healing.

Both options have their pro's and con's we agree, so it's really up to me, and it doesn't matter as long as we can get my left hand cleaned and fully disinfected. I never know whether or not I cut away the layer of skin, because I woke up at this point. Disturbing enough for you?

My brain

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is 66.67% Female and 33.33% Male (according to this "What gender is your brain?" quizz)

My brain leans female - I think with my heart, not my head. I'm sweet and considerate, a giver. But I'm tough enough not to let anyone take advantage of you!

So there you go. The one thing my brain is right now, is tired, so I'm heading off to bed because I'm working an early shift tomorrow.

Unraveling Niki's Secret

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I just finished the final episode of Niki's Secret (or Niki's Geheim as the show is called in Dutch) and I've got mixed feelings about the outcome. Not as much as to whom Niki picked as her future partner, but I can't put away the feeling that there's more to it.

Right from the beginning, Sabriena was very present and it was totally clear they developed feelings for each other, pretty much from day one. Kjelle on the other hand, "grew" into liking Niki very much and vice versa. I don't know how real and true his feelings are though, and there is no way to find out, but Kjelle seems like the production team candidate to me. Orchestrated and manouvered as the plot thickens and unravels.

The one question that remains for me is this : would the creators of this show dare to alter or direct the outcome to match the moral majority of their audience? I think there is little doubt they must at least have considered the possible feedback and outcry of the viewers for each possible candidate. Is Kjelle really Niki's choice? Going by the episodes and magic I've seen on screen, I'd say it wasn't, and that she would be much better off being a couple with Sabriena.

Ah, well... I'll leave it at that and let everyone think whatever they want about it. I just hope two people end up happier as they were before, because I have to admit it : what do I know about love?

920

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As I woke up and headed for the mailbox - don't worry, I got dressed first - I knew in advance the new Humo would be waiting for me. When I opened the box, it also had a letter from the Federale Overheidsdienst Financien - Belasting en Invordering - Administratie van de Ondernemings en Inkomensfiscaliteit. What's in a name, wouldn't you say?

Since the envelope wasn't the all too familiar brown color, nor the regular envelope they used over the past years, I was really wondering what was up and why they mailed me a letter. While going back upstairs, I ripped it open and peeked inside. Phew... good news! i'm not being asked to come in for a verification, nor do I have a ton of extra money to pay. In fact, they're giving back money, which is always welcome. And much to my suprise, that amount was about 30% higher as previous years - no doubt due to being out of a job most of last year, as well as optimizing a number of things that offer tax benefits.

The "extra" money is quite welcome, and I'm thinking about either just saving it (boring but wise), spending it all on myself (fun but a waste), looking further into investing it in property (not likely, as the investment and possible return are too high/too low) or do some home improvement around the apartment. The latter would - if considered carefully - also lead to taxcuts coming year.

Or I could just buy a digital videocamera and use that to tape hot chicks having crazy kinky insane sex with me and each other. What? Hot sexy chicks are not included when you buy a digital videocamera? Then what's the point?!

Way to go

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They've only just started closing down highway exits in preparation for commencing the maintenance on the ringway around Antwerp, and already they managed to close down the wrong ramp for a couple of hours. I can't stress how much I'm looking forward to 6 months of traffic insanity. Joy joy.

Off to work I go - If I still have a way to get there that is...

These ones remain funny

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Mind you, the video file is NSFW nor is it intended for minors. Porn blooper (WMV format) And here's the slightly less scientific reason why penguins are becoming extinct : Why Penguins go extinct - Non-scientific research

Because lists can be fun

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How Many...
1. ...computer-related gadgets do you own? Too many
2. ...pictures on your living room walls? 4
3. ...magnets on your refrigerator? none
4. ...reference books in your bookshelves? I'll tell you when I got my bookcase installed
5. ...boxes of cereal in your cupboards? none, because the boxes are too large to fit
6. ...lamps in your house? 25
7. ...times a week do you shop for groceries? Sometimes daily, it depends
8. ...magazines do you subscribe to? 2 : Humo and CT Magazine
9. ...tv programs do you watch on a regular basis? None, thanks to my ever changing work schedule
10. ...items on your bathroom counter that don't really need to be there? none

Thanks

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Thanks everyone for being there. Thanks everyone for the wonderful company, enjoyable conversation and laughs. Thanks everyone for the kind words and lovely gifts. I had a superb evening out and loved every second of it!

Wagamama was a hit I believe - no one really suspected that I'd take them there, but after sitting down and getting used to their way of serving food, I heard nothing but good comments. The menu had more than enough choice to please everyone, a thing that can be difficult with a large party of people.

I'll be enjoying all your gifts as well and really spoil my eyes and ears with several Pink CD's ("Missundastood", "Try This" and "Can't take me home"), "Da real world" by Missy Elliott, and my eyes will enjoy reading "Nickel and Dimed", "Limitless Mind - a guide to remote viewing and transformation of conciousness", "The Corporation - The pathological pursuit of profit and power", and when they arrive Larry Flint's "Sex, Lies and Politics : The Naked Truth" as well as "The Mystery of Capital". When I'm done reading them, I will be able to file them away in a superb bookcase so nothing happens to them and I can pick them back up every time I feel like it.

Each and every gift will remind me of this lovely evening and the great company. Thanks again but you do make it hard for me : how can I top this next year?

Dinner, stats and animation

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In just a few hours I'll be off to Antwerp to meet up with Joco, Eef, Jess, Mark, Bob, Hilda, Dimi, Marianne, Nadia and "?" for birthday food. I'm looking forward to it, even though I've never been to the restaurant I picked out yet myself. Could be interesting, especially as it is not a traditional place.

Lol, I don't know if any of the invitees read this before they head off, but if they do they'll probably wonder even more about where I'm taking them.

Something entirely different now... Shannon (of BMEzine) was coding a new program that parses server log files and then automagically plots them to a map of the world, where the density of the dots represent the number of visitors over time. It all sounds a bit difficult to explain, so allow me to show you the nice (static) image I got in return for submitting the FK server log for the month January. Click the image for a larger (800x400) image.

FK Visitor Stats Visual - Thanks Shannon

An animated version based on the same data, can be found on Shannon's blog : zentastic.com

Mental Power

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Yesterday night as I came home from work, I was watching some TV while munching on a pizza when I stumbled across the grand finale of the Pacific Life Open Tennis Championship (Indian Wells). As it was a game between Kim Clijsters (ranked #133) and Lindsay Davenport (current #1), I didn't zap any further and watched the game develop. When I tuned in, they were about 20 minutes into the first set and Lindsay was leading 4-0 and 40-0 in the fifth game. It looked pretty much like Kim would lose the first set 6-0, but even after a year of injury (left wrist) and not playing professionally, her mental strength remains her best weapon.

Kim won 6 games in a row and took the set with a 6-4 score. Mighty impressive, I tell you! The second set was equally close as both Lindsay and Kim battled hard over every point and very nice points were scored either way. Lindsay came out on top with a 6-4 score in the end of a long set. The final set ended with a 6-2 win for Kim, making her the winner of the Pacific Life Open. Take a look what the pro's say about this achievement over at WTA Tour.

Movie review : Assault on Precinct 13

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I just finished watching Assault on Precinct 13, starring Laurence Fishburne as Marion Bishop. The other actors and actresses didn't ring a bell, but when I saw the character Alex Sabian, I just had to look up who played that stunning woman. The answer is Maria Bello and if that doesn't ring a bell, think Coyote Ugly. She's hot : long hair, dark eyes, wonderful smile, ...

The plot itself was flimsy but it was an entertaining hour and fourty minutes. I would rate it enjoyable but not phantastic.

Just got a call from work, to see if I could work an extra shift this weekend. I accepted but only if it would be on saturday, as I'll be out having fun on sunday. This of course cancels my plans to go to the Mons tattoo convention tomorrow, but so be it.

Venting time

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Once again, it's time to react to some recent developments and events that made the (local) news. First I'll give a quick outline of what happened, followed by my view on it.

17 year old boy is released (for lack of space in specialized youth institutions) after raping a 12 year old girl, while having a prior "conviction" for armed robbery.

That armed robbery conviction was about a week old when he commited rape on a 12 year old girl. The judge was forced to release him after the armed robbery and this week again - after the rape - because there is not enough place in special institutions that deal with juvenile delinquents. I'm sure that's the solution... release them back on the street. If you're "man enough" to pull off armed robbery and rape, you shouldn't mind being tried and locked up as the adult you think you are. Case closed.

Pope calls for ban on Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

Ain't it wonderful how the first words he publicly speaks after his recent operation, are the same crap as before? Can someone please explain to me - or rather to him - how banning a book (or video or content of whatever kind) actually accomplishes anything? It's not because someone asks not to look or read certain things, that the work itself disappears, or the problem is solved. Neglecting things never worked as far as I know, even though it might seem so at first. You're only fooling yourself. It would be much better if the Pope would tell people to read the book and then form their own opinion about it. But I guess that leaves the odd chance that people might actually disagree with him.

Short update for March 16th

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With getting a year older comes responsability, not. Adding a year to your age doesn't change anything, apart from your age of course. I got a call from one of the Grannies and I'll be going over tonight. I called the other Granny as well, as she lives quite a few miles away and I can't just "pop in" as easily due to the distance and stuff like that.

Apart from that, whenever I'm there we have topics for about an hour and then run out of things to say. Sad but true, ain't it? That seems an honest enough reason for not driving 2 hours to spend just one hour talking, doesn't it? I agree that it may not be fair, but it's the truth.

Work was fine today, the weather was wonderful and that really changes the atmosphere when working outside most of the day. In a couple of hours I expect I'll watch "Assault on Precinct 13", to waste some time. The big birthday party is planned for the weekend, although I exchanged "party" with "food with friends and family". Maybe I'm getting old anyway?

Loooool

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Someone was a day early to wish me a happy birthday, grin. Thanks though mate, it's the idea that counts. As usual, he wished me tons of good things, and (a) lovely girl(s) in my life. As usual I accepted his wishes and we joked about the girl(s).

One day, I tell you, one day...

Procrastinating

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Yes yes, I've been spending my one full day off of work with the following : sleeping, eating, playing games on the 'puter, reviewing experiences for BME, installing a new protection tool against comment spam on the blog (should you find yourself unable to leave comments, get in touch - I did test it myself though) and I watched a workshop on lockpicking. I've got two more workshop video's to watch, but I might do that another time. Why lockpicking one may ask? Well, it's just something I came across and wanted to know a bit more about, that's all.

I think I'll now go shopping for some food. I need to cover tonight, tomorrow (day and evening) and wednesday as well. I may go to the Mons Tattoo Convention on Saturday, if anyone feels like joining, gimme a call or send me a mail.

Language is fun

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I just took the "Commonly Confused English Words" test, and here are my scores :

Advanced
You scored 93% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 87% Advanced, and 55% Expert!

You have an extremely good understanding of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level commonly confused English words, getting at least 75% of each of these three levels' questions correct. This is an exceptional score. Remember, these are commonly confused English words, which means most people don't use them properly. You got an extremely respectable score.

40 questions, I answered them in under 10 minutes, no cheating. How well do you score?

Engineer wanted - preferably dead

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Dear mister Engineer,

I certainly hope to never ever run into you anytime soon, for you will be severly punished, beaten, tortured and mutilated. Why you might wonder? Because in your infinite wisdom you decided for it to be a great idea to reduce the Antwerp ringway from 5 lanes to are miserable two, which consequently lead to me wasting two hours and fortyfive minutes to get home. A drive of about 25 miles that usually takes me 30 to 35 minutes, max.

Would you like me to bill you for two hours and ten minutes? I guess you just enjoy seeing cars get stuck in massive traffic jams, don't you? Well, one thing could plead for you though : you sheduled the maintenance outside peak hours when it comes to traffic. I'm glad to be home at 00:45 (yes that's AM for you non-24h folks) instead of 22h35 PM, and finally being able to eat something. My deepfrosted pizza is in the oven right now, and as soon as I muched it down, I'll head off to bed. After all, I have to work again tomorrow - wait, today I mean - at 14h00 and no one knows what you'll have up your sleeve for us today, right?!

Please rename BAM to a more appropriate name. May I suggest AMM?

Blue Tits

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As I was up quite early today, I was working on the computer a bit when suddenly I heard some noise outside. I looked up and through the window, and sure enough, there was a Blue Tit (pimpelmees) hopping against my window, trying to get in. It didn't just smack into it, as if it didn't know there was a glass wall, but rather carefully flew up to it and then gently tried to push through it, just to see what was on the other side.

Nosey little birdies if you ask me. When I checked the nest box last night, it had much more nesting material in it, and seeing two (it's probably a couple) Blue Tits flying up and down my terrace today makes it clear they're nesting indeed. I tried snapping some pictures, but they didn't want to cooperate and sit still long enough to get a good focus and zoom, so I'll have to redirect you to this page about Blue Tits for a good image and sound : Pimpelmees (Parus Caeruleus)

Crap on Web

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I've been filing my taxes online for the past 2 years, without a hitch. This year it seems that the 250.000 people that used the "state-of-the-art" application (Tax-on-Web) to file their taxes for 2004 are screwed. The first of the taxforms filed on paper was finished on January 21st of 2005, so that already took them long enough. Today, March 9th, none of the electronically filed taxforms are treated yet, and this will result in people having to wait longer before (hopefully) getting money back.

Online, speedy, easy to use, customer friendly... none of those words mean a thing if it all just sits there, waiting to be checked. And one wonders why only a percentage of the people here use these new ways of filing taxes?

To make things even "better", a press release was made that for the year 2005, the number of tax stations where inhabitants of Belgium can have their forms being filed by the tax departement itself through Tax on Web will be increased from 12 to 59 in the country.

Does make sense, doesn't it? If you can't even adequately treat the electronic filings of 250.000 people, the correct way to counter that problem is to increase the option for people to use the application by 500%, so that even more electronic filings will be done. I bet we'll all be waiting in a gigantic electronix tax-related traffic jam in 2006. Go, Belgium, Go e-government!

Nice

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All the bad news that came my way so far today has been countered in a wonderful way. Remember the little bird nest box that I build last year? Today I noticed a little bird sitting on the edge of my terrace but I thought nothing much of it. I just checked the nest box and sure enough, there is some nesting material in it!

Yay, that's good news, ain't it. I'll try to get some pictures of the soon to be new occupant, without disturbing them too much. If I find an easy way to set up a webcam on the nest, I might consider doing that as a sideproject as well. It's been way too long since I played with cams anyway.

Farstucker

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which of course is an anagram of Starfucker, or alternatively if you want, Fartsucker. It's the 2001 album of Lords of Acid, and has beauties like "I like it", "Rover Take Over" and "Stripper". The Lords keep up the kinky lyrics and the fab sounds. I think LOA lyrics proof there is nothing wrong with a little humor and kink in songs :)

Rover Take Over (Partial lyrics)

Hey baby, you wanna turn me on?
I'm gonna tell you exactly how it's done
I need to be surprised when I'm on my knees
Come take your hairy paws spread my silky cheeks
I'm a nasty girl, I need it long and rough
But most of you men can't get deep enough
Now baby don't you worry there are other guys
That wanna do the wicked thing called doggy style

I feel so alive
Come and take me from behind
I feel wet and wild
Wanna do it doggy style

I Like It (Partial lyrics)

I came home the other night
And imagine my surprise
I found my boyfriend in my clothes
In my brand new panty hose
It struck me crazy, so to say
But he kinda looked good in a way
So then I said: that's how it goes
and showed him how to strike a pose

I Like It! Hey, hey, hey
I Like It! He's kinda kinky in a way
I Like It! Hey, hey, hey
I Like It! He's kinda kinky in a way

No sun today

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What a superb way to start the day : my ISP's mailserver appears to be out completely, I can't reach their website and the support groups (well their name has "support" in it, but they're not "official") state nothing. It could of course also be my firewall that's randomly dropping packets, but I can reach pretty much every other site or contact other mailservers through POP3. I think I'll try a reconnect - the equivalent of the good old techy answer to all questions : reboot.

And the fun continues... I just received a mail stating that my Google Adsense Account was disabled for generating "invalid clicks". From the mail : "A publisher's site may not have invalid clicks on any ad(s), including but not limited to clicks generated by a publisher on his own web pages, clicks generated through the use of robots, automated clicking tools, or any other deceptive software". I don't have any deceptive software, robots or automated clicking tools, although I admit I may have clicked the ads myself a couple of times. If the ads show something that interests me, why shouldn't I be allowed to click?!

Even after a reboot, the mailserver continued replying with some data not following the POP3 protocol, resulting in one of my mailclients shitting itself. I fired up ethereal to see that the problem was indeed with the server and not locally and sure enough, it was server related. I did get a hand on my messages through webmail though, but as that wonderful application flaked out as well, 10 messages were mysteriously deleted without me being able to take a look at them. So, if you mailed me on my main account in the past 6 hours or so, consider sending your message again for I might not have seen it.

I've got some (older) mails to reply to, sorry that I haven't done so earlier, and then have to get some food in my stomach. I think I'll go for some Fruit and Fibre this morning, with low fat milk.

I'm trembling in fear already for what the mailman might have in store for men, if the current trend keeps up.

What was my point?

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I decided to take a short nap today instead of a full cycle of sleeping and I'm paying for it in hard cash. I went off to bed around 8AM and got up just past 1PM and think I got about 4 hours or so of sleep. My head hurts, I'm still very tired and I feel like crap. I just hope that the little nap will allow me to stay awake till this evening so I can sleep tonight. Working shifts - and changing shedule all the time - sometimes really sucks, believe me.

After my little post about "remote physical device fingerprinting" I seem to have lost most of my readers, so I think I won't even go near a recent case of DNS cache poisoning that's affected quite a few high profile websites and was used as a delivery system to install mal/spyware onto systems. Instead I'll just point to these links for those interested : DNS Cache Poisoning on SANS, Symantec Gateway Security Products DNS Cache Poisoning Vulnerability. Especially the last link once again shows the need to stay up to date on hotfixes and patches, as the vulnerability was made public and patched in June 2004!

OK, enough (boring) technical entries for now. I'm off to play some BlogShares and get virtually rich.

Photocaption fun

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Photocaption!

Leave your best comment or photocaption. The funniest or most creative one wins...

Westvloams anyone?

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Not many readers of this blog will understand this joke in dialect, but it certainly is quite funny!

Zegt den Camiel tegen z'n wuf: "Zeg keppe, ist goet dak em e keer in jen oore steekn?"

Zegt zien wuf doarip: "Joamo Camiel, gok ik ton nie doof worden?"

Den Camiel: "mo be neije, ik steekn em al 15 jaar in je muule en je zwiegt nog nie!!!"

For those of you that are technologically challenged, I suggest you only read the conclusion of this post. Those of you that know and understand a bit more, or are willing to wrap their heads around new tricks, read on.

Based on output from one machine to another - whether connected through the internet or locally - it's been quite easy to identify one machine from the next. Apart from just telling what was broadcasted by sniffing TCP/IP traffic, it was also possible to tell how many machines were hiding behind a NAT device such as a router. Various tools have existed both in Open Source as well as commercial packages to help accomplish these tasks, often with quite suprisingly good results. Of course usage of these tools requires quite some technical knowledge, not only to properly set them up and capture what is needed, but also to analyze the output.

A paper was just published that pushes everything even further : it seems to be possible to identify a machine with quite a certainty, without the owner or user knowing about it. It's not based on a MAC address - because that would be too easy to spoof or replace - and it works no matter where the machine is. The trick seems to be to measure clock cycles and more specifically the skews in it. Every computer has an internal clock (and I don't mean the one you see on your screen) and they all have their own cycle. Now Ph.D. student Tadayoshi Kohno found several ways to track this, and thus identify what machine is responsable for a certain cycle pattern.

Sure enough, it is the same as with fingerprints on humans : if anyone has your fingerprints, they may be able to match other prints to yours, putting you in certain places, but they still may not have your identity. The same goes for clock cycles. Monitoring TCP/IP streams, they actually do remote fingerprinting, which leads to certain patterns becoming visible. Now, if a clock cycle pattern is recorded, it is possible to check that against other streams, resulting in a match if the same machine broadcasts again.

Let's take it a step further. You've got a laptop you use and travel around with. The data stream that leaves your laptop is analyzed and a clock cycle pattern recorded. You travel around the world, and in various locations you connect to the internet and check mail, browse sites. If the datastreams were analyzed again, they would match the pattern recorded earlier on, thus putting you in different locations at the times of the broadcasts. Without you knowing it, that is.

At least one possible use for it would to be to track corporate laptops. In addition to GPS transmitters that are often embedded in high-end machines that contain very valuable corporate info, clock cycle patterns can be analyzed and recorded before the laptop is handed over to the designated user. Should the laptop disappear one day, it is theorethically possible to find it back by analyzing datastreams on the internet. Sure enough that would mean all streams are analyzed all the time, which at this point seems quite unprobable as well as impossible, but it may not stay that way.

Conclusion : new and ever changing and improving techniques are now able to track any machine as it connects and broadcasts information, no matter where or when this happens. This reduces anonimity to practially none, unless we find a way to deal with this. This means that we should either drop or enforce a new version of the TCP/IP protocol that doesn't reflects clock cycles in it's timestamp, or securely connect to an uncomprimised machine which handles all broadcasts to the external network, relaying the TCP/IP requests with it's own timestamp. This would still lead to 1 pattern being recorded, but making tracking specific machines more difficult. An interesting development in fingerprinting and tracking for sure.

Links : Machine fingerprinting using Nmap - TCP Fingerprinting - Remote Physical Device Fingerprinting Paper (PDF, 10MB)

Felines, Booze and Berry

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I just poured myself a nice Cointreau Ice-Tea, added a few icecubes and now I'm gonna watch Catwoman. Gimme a movie with skintight latex/leather suits, sexy women and feline behaviour, and I don't care about the lack of a plot, bad acting or anything else. I've shut down my brain and am only looking for mindless entertainment now. Bring it on, Halle!

I gotta work tomorrow night. I suppose I'll be awake and sober by then :)

Take her to the music store

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I just grabbed the following mixes from DJ Testosterone's mix page at anal0g.org :

Happy Anniversary
Press the button for Monday
Spring Yearning

Yesterday I grabbed the Distorted Circuitry Show of February 28th, this time hosted by RaZorGrrL, so next show it'll be Morgana again. I love the way new and established DJ's and creative people can reach out and share their creations with the world. Ain't the internet a fabulous invention?

Politics and feedback

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Work was slow and nothing much happened. I admit waiting for the clock to hit 14h30 so I could go home. Picked up ferret food and litter and booked the hotel for them as well. This means that all carpetshark related things are taken care of for the time being.

I received yet another comment on my "Democracy? My Ass!" entry dated February 19th and I admit that the comment from Steve (a Random Guy in California) kinda made my day. Even if just one reader stops to think about what I wrote - no matter whether or not they agree in the end - it's all worth it for me. So, thanks Steve. Hope you stick around for more :)

White stuff

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I just got back inside after spending 10 minutes getting the snow off the car so I can leave right away around 05h45. I start working at seven today, but as it's been snowing throughout the night, I don't want to take too many chances and rather leave early. I know traffic is hell when it's raining, so one can only guess what it'll be like when there is white stuff covering the roads.

When I first looked outside, I immediately thought that it was worse as expected, but when I stepped onto the pavement in front of the building it wasn't that bad. It all depends on where you look and what direction the wind was blowing from.

Off to have a bite to eat, and then work calls. After I'm done working, I'll go and pick up ferret stuff (food, litter) and book their stay in the ferret hotel for the few days needed in April.

Dumb

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When Diane called yesterday to complain once again that her computer is acting up, I agreed to come over today and take a look at it. I should have thought ahead though and realize that today was the only day I could go to Batibouw if I wanted. Ah well, it's not like I've got the cash to start renovating the place anyway, but it would have been nice to see what's new and what the options would be.

Talked to Joco, who also wanted to go, but he had to work as well today, so that didn't happen either. It just started snowing (again) so driving over to Brussels might have been a bad idea anyway.

I'm waiting for the reply of three people about the planned event in March and then I can confirm the date, time etc in the coming days.

Virus + botnets + spam = cash

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I've only slept for a few hours, so this entry may not be all that coherent.

Send-Safe is a software tool used by spammers to control and spam through hundreds if not thousands of infected PC's, usually connected by broadband. These PC's are infected by various trojans, giving the "owners" of those devious tools full control over the machine of an often clueless and unsuspecting computer user. These botnets are then leased out for various purposes such as spam runs, DoS attacks or covering the tracks of other illegal activities.

The days that spamming was done by an individual that thought sending their message to hundreds of mailboxes was a good idea, is long gone. Well, those small-scale operations still occur every now and then, and they are as annoying as the professional spammer flooding our inbox, but the magnitude is quite different. Spamming has become - over the years - a trade of professionals, with huge resources, technical excellence and a total disregard for laws or common courtesy.

It is big bucks people... According to an article on F-Secure, the Send-Safe program actually works on a license verification system. This allows the creators of the tool to verify whether a user of their program has paid the expensive license each time he fires up the spam software. It also allows the maintainers of the botnets to limit access to it, thus keep it going longer and profit from it as much as possible.

Do you start to understand why keeping your personal machine clean and virus free is that important now? Let there be no mistake that the spam gangs (or the virus gangs, although they seem to be less affiliated, for now) are tied to groups of people that don't mind getting their hands dirty. They don't "just spam", but are quite likely also related to more traditional "white collar" crimes such as insurance fraud, phising, money laundering, identity theft...

It was a fun night

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As I was doing my rounds this night, it was quite cold outside. When I got in touch with one of the colleagues in the control room and asked him for the temperature, he replied that it was "minus 3.5 degrees celsius". When I asked my balls, they replied that it was "minus bloody fucking cold". I think I'll believe my balls...

Tonight was a whole lot more quiet as last night was, but when talking to a colleague that was ending his shift, last nights' bad influence continued into the morning shift with quite a spectacular head on collision between two vehicules. At least one person was injured and even though I didn't see it happen nor do I know all the details, I'm quite certain that a head on collision doesn't happen if one obeys the speed limit on site of 30km/h (18mph). What comes around, goes around I suppose.

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