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Showing posts from July, 2005

Prelude to a Journey

Packing after a full week of minimal sleep is almost guaranteed to produce problems down the road. I’ve had to put in at least 12 to 14 hours daily at work, rather than the typical 10 or 11. Ending at 8 p.m. and then starting all over again just six hours later is not good for the soul, let alone the body. And it doesn’t help when you stumble in your pre-tea state across an unflattering Slate story by an economist on why airlines are always running late. It sure makes sense though. I’ve long figured out that airlines improve or maintain their stellar take-off tardiness record by making sure they pull the plane out of the gate on time. Then, once their tally’s technically credited, they linger a long time on the tarmac while passengers are distracted by the safety video, book or a chatty passenger. According to this article, that’s intentional due to runway-hogging at hub airports. At least it’s summer and I’m not packing bulky sweaters and big shoes. I’m still weighing how many tops

A black cloud over Black Hat?

'Bout time a huge controversy erupted at the Black Hat and DEFCON hacker conferences in Las Vegas. I've covered several but declined to attend this one, which yesterday had the IT security community abuzz over a security researcher that quit his job and risked his freedom to disclose without details how he could break into Cisco routing software. To non-techies, this equipment routes traffic moving along the Internet and is embedded in the backbone of a vast majority of U.S. networks. Those networks operate almost all of the nation's critical infrastructure (transportation, water supplies, electric power grids, etc.), so you can imagine the impact of this announcement. Mike Lynn essentially showed how hackers could take down the Internet and sabotage the systems that we all rely on for basic needs. He says after four months of working with Cisco through his former employer ISS, it was time to warn the public. There was plenty of high drama too. Cisco dispatched its troops

Rock the vote

Yesterday San Diegans like me walked or drove to a neighbor's garage to elect a new mayor and decide the fate of a contentious war memorial in La Jolla. This is how the majority of us vote here, filling out forms behind flimsy cardboard barriers surrounded by garage pharaphernalia -- old paint cans, car gadgets, discarded furniture, boxes of crap and baskets of laundry. It's odd, but would a busier and better kept community center or school be any more secure? Apparently so. I've written in the past about electronic voting hacks and this morning found an e-mail from Black Box Voting, a non-profit organization devoted to more secure elections, saying the San Diego results may not be accurate. This is based on a Finnish hacker's ability to tamper with the memory cards used to tabulate votes. Here's a portion of the message: "Hursti used an insider's approach – an approach that apparently was available to more than 700 people in San Diego County who brought

Race(?) Review: Red Dress Run

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I could have done without the lap dance from the guy with the exposed testicle, but otherwise there was much to appreciate about the 18th annual Red Dress Run this weekend in downtown San Diego. And I’m happy to say I remember everything, unlike many at the event. The day started out chaotic. I woke at 4 a.m. to a rare sound this time of year here: thunder. A big storm swept through the inland areas that morning, and I almost ditched the 11-mile long run I’d planned at 5 a.m. Instead, I held out for the storm’s conclusion, knowing cooler temps would follow. But soon the heat was on. The rest of the day it was rush, rush, rush -- including to the start of the Red Dress Run at San Diego City College near Balboa Park. Registration by 4:30 p.m. was a total mess, with more than 2,000 registered and little organization to the massive lines of saucy runners waiting for their commemorate mug (shaped like a female figure) and wristbands. I’m not sure when we started since this is by no means

ID Theft Update: The Cost of Inconvenience

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I thought I’d occasionally write about life after discovering thieves have stolen your identity. Let’s start with a bit of background: Three times now I’ve been notified hackers broke into a server holding my personal information, including social security number and/or banking information. The first two involved personnel/financial servers maintained by state agencies while I was employed by the Cal State University system. The third was via news media involving a debit card purchase I made at a San Francisco DSW store. To date, I haven’t unearthed evidence that my information is being used by someone else -- although there was a suspicious mortgage, but it turned out to be something entirely different. After the first two notifications, I asked for credit reports to check for unlawful activity. These I am entitled to under California’s breach notification act. I discovered that I had a lot of credit available due to old store cards, and my job-hopping due to the military life had

Readying to paint the town red

I keep forgetting to spraypaint my running shoes red to match my Salvation Army-purchased dress for Saturday's 18th Annual Red Dress Run. This is a major event among San Diegan runners, with close to 2,000 expected this weekend. The novelty of the run, in which everyone must wear a red dress to run an indeterminate distance with beer mugs in hand, is well-known nationally. This was the site of the first Red Dress Run, concocted by the local Hash Harriers after a drunken women jumped into a hot tub wearing nothin' but a red dress. It's since morphed into an international phenomenon. The buzz on the message boards among the men this week has been all about accessorizing and just how much flesh to flash. Festivities begin and end with beer. After all, this is produced by the group that describes itself as "a drinking club with a running problem." The run is staged at different places each year, and the list of items to bring hints that we'll be on trails for at

It's getting hot in here...

Normally I don't blog about blogging. But an item in Editor & Publisher , among other sites, caught my attention because I'm familiar with some of the principles. I don't, however, know the former Boston Herald journalist in this tale of a part-time professor at Boston University that blogged about having the hots for a student. But, as many of you know, I once had this guy's gig at BU. (And a great part-time job it was, by the way.) Speaking of hot, you may have noticed I added a weather module last week to essentially make everyone outside Southern Calfornia envious. However, we've hit our first inevitable heatwave and the stats are deceptive. The mercury's hit the low 90s the past couple of days in the full sun, and this morning on my 5k run I noticed a distinct elevation in moistness. Real humidity...a rare feeling for here. But then again, variety is the spice of life.

Councilmen 'stripped' of their jobs

Thought it might be time for an update on all the political action in America's Finest City. Yesterday, two 35-year-old city councilmen were convicted of taking bribes from a strip club owner in exchange for loosening a local law to allow guys to grope lap dancers. A third councilmen died before the trial, apparently drinking himself to death (though his family denies the cirrhosis was alcohol-related). One of the new cons had been acting mayor since the "elected" one stepped down on Friday. Dick Murphy actually didn't win the majority of votes; write-in candidate Donna Frye did. However, thousands of dimwitted voters failed to fill in the bubble next to her name, rendering their votes invalid. Next week, we get to pick a new mayor and essentially must decide between those advocating bankruptcy to get the city out of a huge financial mess or self-induced tough love, which has failed up until now. In fact, when you think about it, just what is working correctly in thi

Oooh, baby baby

I just finished listening to medical correspondent Richard Knox's intriguing report on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Research now suggests that environmental factors as far-reaching as whether dad lives in the home during conception influences a baby's sex. Part of the link may be evolutionary -- it takes more calories to bear and then raise a male child (through mom's pregnancy and later through the son's child-rearing); therefore, more single women give birth to girls in part to improve the child's chance of survival. Listen in to this NPR Report: Examining Environmental Factors in Sex Ratio

20 years, 7 months and 6 days

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I didn't even make it past the front gate when I saw the electronic sign and noticed the guards extending a farewell to Gilbert, and I started crying. This did not bode well for the rest of the morning, and so I put on my sunglasses for the duration of the day. Seemed a little ridiculous, given it was cloudy, but for his final hour of military service, I deferred to the chief. It still hasn't hit us that this is it. And maybe it's just as well. I could tell by the people who gathered and the kindly things they had to say that my husband had been well liked here. And that, of course, made me proud...and made me cry again. The ceremony was blessedly short. There were plaques and commendations and one even for me to thank me for my years of putting up with the Coast Guard life (it was more eloquently worded on the plaque, of course). The chiefs association gave him one of the most beautiful shadowboxes I've ever seen, filled with medals, a folded flag and mini plaques ma
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Just before the ceremony started, Gilbert and the girls indulge me by posing for a photo. It was harder than you might think. 
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Members of the air station look on as Gilbert is honored. The guy in the light-colored shirt is Gilbert's immediate boss and a good friend. 
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The Commanding Officer of the San Diego Coast Guard base issued numerous plaques, pins and other commendations during the ceremony at "the bell" on the base. 

The worst pest infestation I've found

The most fascinating talk today at Day 2 of the Catalyst Conference was a case study on the economic impact of spyware at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children , the organization "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh started in 1984 after the disappearance of his son, Adam. The director of IT for the non-profit, which serves as the national clearinghouse for all tips on child porn, told us that their computers became so loaded daily with hundreds and hundreds of new spyware programs that machines crashed constantly and it took a full day to clean each, only to have them reinfected the very next time they signed on to the Internet. Why, you may be wondering, was this place hit so hard? Well, a specific unit of the Center includes a team of 35 analysts who essentially check out child porn sites and chat rooms all day, hoping to find exploited children and to send their predators to prison. The pornography industry has long used invasive, ultra-aggressi

New look at the .com bust

I'm at the Burton Catalyst Conference this week, once again conveniently held along downtown San Diego's waterfront. Burton is an analyst and consultancy group that usually puts on a good show, and this year's seems to be living up to that reputation. Among the numerous sessions I covered was one on identity management and privacy led by an executive from Sun Microsystems. During it he asked: "What if the .com era was not a bust but a proof of concept?" For those unfamiliar with IT terms, in the security world, a proof of concept is usually associated with malicious code that isn't expected to go anywhere but serves as proof that it can be done. For instance, computer viruses and network worms frequently pop up on antivirus labs' radar, noteworthy not because of their destruction potential but because they represent a new form of exploitation. In this instance, the exec was suggesting that the 1990s dot-com boom and subsequent bust in 2000 was just a prec

Tuesdays at the 'track'

I love summer track sessions. Instead of tediously, and laborously, running around in circles at Balboa Stadium's outdoor track, the San Diego Track Club meets at 5:30 come rain (yeah, right) or shine on a grassy knoll in Balboa Park. If you're familiar with the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, it's where we all wait to line up along Sixth Avenue. There's a core group of up to 100 of us that meet weekly to run up and down long, grassy stretches to try and better ourselves. For me, it's the only opportunity during the week to meet up with fellow runners. And my husband knows how much I enjoy it, which is why he let me go despite this being our 19th wedding anniversary. We'll celebrate it later in the week. Usually, regardless of the workout, the group naturally divides after the first one or two loops into the A Group and the B Group (or, as my friend Christina prefers, the A- Group). The A's are fast. Some super fast. The B's...well, the B's aren'

The spies among us

About a year ago, I was interviewed by a political reporter for the Sacramento Bee about then pending legislation to outlaw spyware. I told the reporter the law, as written, was a lousy idea and listed numerous reasons why. From that conversation came others with legislative analysts, who wanted to know why I thought anti-spyware laws were a bad idea. Of course, I don't think they're bad, just badly written. By the way, that law that seemed a shoo-in at the time...it didn't pass for some of the same reasons I initially outlined. Fast forward to today, when a new industry group will announce how we can all separate adware from spyware. Few have hopes that this will clear up any confusion about who deserves to invade your computer and who doesn't. It also doesn't help that there's something funny going on with coalition founding member Microsoft, which is planning to buy spyware once considered so notorious that it had to change its name from Gator to Claria. (It

Making up for lost time today

I finally devoted time this weekend to updating the photos from the last few weeks. Unfortunately, my camera died on me during the girls' final dance performance. It was a tear-jerker, so maybe it's just as well I have few images from that day. One interesting note: We wanted to surprise the girls with an unusual bouquet after the second show. But in between, when we packed into the car for a quick bite, the smell of dead flowers was unescapable. Sure enough, the beautiful arrangements in the trunk stunk. And died from two hours of smothering heat. Forgot how warm it got that far inland. Dead flowers aren't what made it interesting, though. In showing how things can come full circle, the lack of flowers after the performance harkened back to Elise's very first show, at age 3. In all the hoopla over pre-show prepping, I completely forget to get her flowers. I felt awful, just as I did when these failed to show. The photo above is the first all-inclusion Saita family pho

Photographic memories

Friend and fellow BU alum Suzanne C. drove down from her newly adopted home in Orange County, and among the attractions we visited yesterday afternoon was the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Great exhibits by a British physicist/photographer named Graham Flint and American Steve McCurry, best known to many for his 1985 National Geographic portrait "Afghan Girl." The exhibit included some of the photos featured in his online gallery . Fascinating work, and I'm hoping to hear McCurry lecture in September because he's certainly an inspiration to all of us amatuers who have no clue what we're doing. Museum of Photographic Arts Web site

Worm writer gets off easy

Wrote what I hope is my final story on Sven Jaschan today. A German judge ended up giving him a suspended sentence. Thanks for all the backchannel feedback on what everyone thought was a just punishment. Judging from the responses e-mailed to me, a lot of you are disappointed with the final outcome.

Mixed signals ahead

Special thanks to Tim G. from Massachusetts for passing along this just-filed story from CNN on a Florida man charged with stealing his neighbor's wireless signal. Sound familiar? If nothing else, the publicity will make other neighbors nationwide consider legal action if they find someone using their Wi-Fi. If you turn on your home PC or laptop and miraculously get on the Internet using a wireless signal, look out. You're stealing from some paying customer, much like cable-splitting. Read on: Man charged with stealing Wi-Fi signal

Digital vigilantism and Dog Poop Girl

I know it may be construed as insensitive to bring up a blog mob issue when so many are suffering in London at the hands of yet another catastrophic terrorist attack. But should you find the time or need to divert your attention away from the subway attacks, may I suggest looking into the latest trend in 'citizen journalism' to demolish ordinary folks whose actions fall outside social norms. In this instance, a Korean woman refused to pick up her dog's mess and suffered severe consequences at the fingers of bloggers. Remember it next time you turn a defiant or insensitive eye in public.

'This is not your father's hacker'

My follow-up to an earlier story on Sven Jaschan compares the friendless German teen to the vast majority of virus writers out there today. The conclusion, confirmed by security experts, is that Jaschan is becoming an anachronism. He wrote Sasser and Netsky for publicity. Now, most kids do it for profit. What's worse: young minds without a moral compass or ones under the thumb of the mafia? This is not your father's hacker

Does this guy deserve the book or a break?

I just finished a story on Sven Jaschan, the 19-year-old German who admitted in court today that he unleashed the Sasser and Netsky worms, which created widespread damage across the world when they were released. In doing some research, I started to wonder what a just punishment should be for this kid who had few friends before he began writing malicious code to the cheers of his classmates. What's everyone think? Sasser author issues courtroom confession

Race Review: Scripps Ranch 10K

It’s hard to turn down this 10K, in which I literally can roll out of bed, dress and be at the start five minutes later. The Scripps Ranch 10K marks the opening of summer racing in San Diego. There’s a 15K in Coronado and 5K in University City, but it’s the 10K that seems to draw both the region’s elite and masses of mortals, like me. This was my fourth 4th of July 10K, which coincidentally is the same number of years I’ve been living here. In other words, I never miss it. But this time, I almost did. We had a minor emergency last night, and I was at the hospital with Elise (she’s fine now) until just a few hours before the start. The adrenaline from the visit didn’t wear off immediately upon return, so it was no wonder that I stood on the starting line feeling pretty crappy. In addition to sleep deprivation, I hadn’t had enough water and my new breakfast plan of eating a bowl of Malt O’ Meal Premium Blend 90 minutes before probably helped quell the quesies, but not eliminate them. S

Non-sequitor entry, in more ways than one

It's rare for a Saita to appear in a newspaper since my bylines dried up several years ago. While doing a roundabout search for something online, I stumbled upon this December 2003 article that features my uncle, Richard Saita. It's about trying to beat the system, in this case with a false workman's comp claim. Here it is , for anyone interested.

Gearing up for Lance and Le Tour

It's become a ritual in our house to suspend regular TV viewing for some three weeks in July to watch live coverage and evening highlights of The Tour de France. If you don't get the Outdoor Life Network (which seems to only show fishing or bull-riding any other time of the year), there are still plenty of ways to keep up with who's ahead, who's crashed and who's fallen off the course. Some online options: The official Tour de France Website (with English translations) Bicycling Magazine's daily coverage MSNBC's coverage (primarily aggregated from other news sources worldwide) A few daily blogs from experts and amateurs