Thursday, November 30, 2006

VoIP is vulnerable to attack

In case you didn't already know, VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is vulnerable to attack. VoIP calls to call centers are "vulnerable to attack because call centres are failing to secure their networks robustly enough" (via The Register).

The audit, that pinpoints these vulnerabilities, conducted by Scanit, was able to pick up data such as PIN numbers entered on a touch tone phone. Call centers, according to research, believe that VoIP vendors put proper security measure in place, so they do not take measure to protect VoIP calls.

It's quite easy to eavesdrop on VoIP calls, programs like WireShark or Cain & Abel, which are widely available on the Internet, can give unexperienced users with all the tools they need to detect and record VoIP calls.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gingrich: 1st Amendment helps the terrorists

Via BoingBoing and Slashdot.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, at a dinner honoring proponents of free speech, said that "the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism" (link).

Because, you know, the 1st Amendment is making terrorism a problem, not the country's foreign policies. Even if changing or getting rid of the 1st Amendment happened, you cannot enforce the change on people in other countries. I am aghast that someone would even consider chaning or eliminating the 1st Amendment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Pie for You!

TSA is at it again. This time they are confiscating pies from passengers.

But, just how dangerous are these pies?

Not at all, apparently, since the confiscated pies are "taken to the airport's United Service Organizations [USO] lounge, where soldiers passing through can relax and eat".

If the pies are truly a security threat, then they should be disposed of properly (read: not taken to the USO lounge for military personnel to eat). What if the pies were really a threat? Then the military travellers would be at risk. Doesn't anyone at TSA have common sense?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Abstinence only sex-ed doesn't work!

Yet another example of abstinence only sex education not working in Carroll County, Maryland.

"There are days when seven or so teens come for emergency contraception and all come from the same high school or middle school," Marucci-Bosley said. "There's a huge number of 16- and 17-year-olds who say they've had 30 or 40 partners."

Yeah, abstinence only education is doing wonders for those students. EC is not for regular use as birth control. I don't even want to think about the STDs that are probably going around those schools. Maryland should go the way of New Jersey and stand up for full sex education.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blind Soccer World Cup

Cnn reports on the blind soccer World Cup. While I know that many visually impaired people participate in active sports, I have never heard about soccer specifically for the legally blind. According to the CNN report, referees calm down the crowd when they get too loud and halt play when planes fly overhead. The players have guides who tell them when to kick for a goal. I think this is a great example of adapting traditional activities for the disabled.

Now can someone tell me how to lift weights (upper body workout) without using my hands?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on Keroac appointment to HHS

Via Feministing:
Members of the House and Senate have sent letters to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, criticizing the appointment of Keroac. They're not too long, and summarize the objections well.

Among other interesting tidbits in Feministing's post:
Keroac isn't a certified OB/GYN. Though, HHS personnel have referred to him as a "skilled doctor and a nationally recognized expert on preventing teenage pregnancy". I wonder where that "nationally recognized" part comes from.

Anyway, go read the post and the Washington Post article associated with it.

Top Ten "Girl Geeks" on CNET

As reported on Slashdot, CNET has listed their top ten list of girl geeks. While there are some women on the list who truly deserve the geek title (In case you think being a geek is bad, in this case it is not. Women have been struggling to be taken seriously as geeks for a long time), there are several that should by no means be on the list.

The list from CNET:

  1. Ada Byron - credited with creating the first computer program. The language "Ada" is named after her.

  2. Val Tereshkova - first woman in space

  3. Grace Hopper - Wrote the first compile (COBOL).

  4. Daryl Hannah - "She's starred in some of the most important geek movies of all time including Blade Runner and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman." I would put an "eco" geek on a different list. Being in geek movies doesn't make you a geek.

  5. Rosalind Franklin - Chemist who was an expert in the structure of DNA and viruses.

  6. Mary Shelley - Wrote Frankenstein. While I enjoy Shelley's work, I fail to see how writing Frankenstein qualifies her as a geek.

  7. Lisa Simpson - WHAT? Cartoon characters don't count. Period. Even if they did, Lisa is more nerd than geek.

  8. Marie Curie - Discovered the elements radium and polonium.

  9. Aleks Krotoski - Writer for the Guardian. "an expert" on social psychology of virtual worlds.

  10. Paris Hilton - WHAT??? They list her for carrying her PSP, using a Sidekick, and attending E3. Having a sex tape on the Internet does not make you a geek.

While some of these, I'm sure, were included jokingly, putting someone such as Paris Hilton on the same pedestal as Grace Murray Hopper or Ada Byron or Marie Curie is insane. Some commenters on Slashdot have gone so far as to say that the list is offensive to women. I say it's offensive to geeks. Paris Hilton a geek? Puhleeze!

Different length legs ups probability of developing arthritis

A recent study reported by the NY Times indicates that a difference in leg length (2 cm or more), seems to indicate a higher incidence of arthritis, particularly in the hips and knees.

The article does not specify what type of arthritis (the research abstract does), but this is only for osteoarthritis, not inflammatory arthritis like Rheumatoid or Psoriatic. This could be very useful to doctors in the future, however, since they may be able to identify patients that may develop osteoarthritis and start preventative measures such as using lifts shoes to alleviate the difference in leg length.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Germs be gone!

For those of us with compromised immune systems for whatever reasons, in my case a lovely combination of the immunosuppressant drugs methotrexate and Enbrel, keeping those nasty office germs away is pretty important. I've been a big fan of waterless hand sanitizers, except for the dryness they tend to cause. This weekend, I discovered Purell with Aloe.

So far, it's great. I can be almost as obsessive compulsive about washing my hands as I want without worrying about how dry my hands will end up at the end of the day. Of course, it still has a high alcohol content, so it will dry out the hands, but the aloe seems to counteract this nicely. Added bonus: it smells much better than original Purell. Surfing the Purell website, I also found that they make a hand sanitizing moisturizer. Next time I'm at the store, I'm going to have to track it down.

And for anyone who hasn't done so yet: GO GET YOUR FLU SHOT!

Rangel pushes for return of the Draft --maybe...

The Draft
News outlets are reporting that Rep. Rangel (D-NY), a longtime proponent of reinstating the draft, plans to push it again, since he will now chair the Ways and Means Committee.

Some politicians, including Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Reid (D-Nev.), are admitting that the current strength of the armed forces in Iraq are not sufficient enough to win the war. Others like Sen. Graham (R-S.C.) think that we should send more troops to Iraq, but that the current volunteer military is sufficient.

I am not a fan of reinstating the draft, but if President Bush and Congress continue to fight the war, more troops are going to be needed. With President Bush seeming to put his eyes on Iran and N. Korea, the possibility of reinstating the draft is higher. Troops are already stretched thin in Iraq. Another engagement would push the military beyond its limits.

Draft to the Federal Government--Not Just Military
According to CNN's account of Rangel's possible proposal, "young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals". With that quote, I begin to wonder if Rangel is seeing the shortage of workers that the federal government will face.

Generations X and Y (and those to follow) don't seem to consider federal employment like previous generations. As a Gen Y'er who worked for the federal government, I found the archaic nature of it all depressing. Lack of advancement opportunities, rampant incompetence and poor pay drove me away. Federal wages, especially in the D.C. area are barely livable (except for special pay scale excepted service positions, but even those are below average for the area). With an estimated 50 percent of the federal workforce expected to retire in the next five years, the government has to do something to attract younger workers. Unfortunately, Rangel's move to push a draft with other federal non-military service options, may very well succeed.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A sad day for women in the USA

The Washington Post reports that President Bush has appointed Eric Keroack as the new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Keroack, for those who aren't aware, is the director of A Woman's Concern (sounds innocent, huh?). According to the article, "A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts."

Keroac wll oversee funds "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons." However, his organization, A Woman's Concern, believes that "the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness".

My biggest problem with the current administration and the GOP is that they try to legislate morality. If you don't think that contraception is acceptable, that's fine. Just don't force your viewpoint on everyone else. Tolerance of other people's views and beliefs is the key here.

I worry that if this trend continues, medical authority over our bodies will be given to the government. I can envision a future when this scenario is not that far-fetched: Have endometriosis or PCOS? Sorry, you can't have the medication that relieves the symptoms because it could be used as a contraceptive.

Hopefully, in 2008 we'll get a non-GOP president, or at least one who's not so swayed by the evangelical right, and this won't be as much of an issue. Luckily, 2 years isn't that much time, in government terms, to effect a lot of change.

Another model dies due to eating disorder

According to news reports, another model has died as a result of an eating disorder. Ana Carolina Reston, a 21 year-old model from Brazil, died "from a generalized infection caused by anorexia". At the time of her death, Reston weighed just 88 pounds; extremely underweight for the 5'8" woman. This is the second death of a model due to eating disorders in recent months.

This news has barely raised a blip in mainstream news. Dying models, apparently, are not worth much to the news world. We are continually turning a blind eye toward these incidents. The fashion industry, where rail thin models are panacea, needs to make changes. By setting the standard of beauty to some unhealthy, unattainable thin stature, the industry is harming women and girls everywhere. Beauty comes in more sizes than Extra Small.

The restrictions on runway models in Madrid, in my opinion, are a good start. The fashion industry is not going to change its ways, it is up to governments and private organizations to force this change. While Madrid's ban is not perfect (models with a BMI under 18, which is still considered underweight, are banned), it is a step in the right direction.

Beauty is more than being a size 2!

Edit: The Telegraph has an article up on their site with more specifics on the model's death. She had apparently subsisted on a diet of apples and tomatoes. Kidney failure finally ended her life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Users are the weakest link

A PC World article today points out what many IT security professionals already know:

Your network is only as secure as your dumbest user.

The article does bring up a good way to educate users on phishing and "spear phishing" (and hopefully prevent them). The suggested method is to conduct spear phishing attacks against your users. If they succumb to the attack, inform them that it was a test, and it embarrasses them. The hope is that the next time they get a phishing email, they'll think twice about taking action.

Unfortunately, there's not an easy way to stop social engineering and phishing attacks. Spear phishing attacks are even more difficult because they contain detailed information and look very legitimate.

Every James Bond Trailer...

Two more days until Casino Royale opens. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a huge James Bond fan. So, when I ran across this, it made my day:
Cinematical has every single James Bond movie trailer up here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Doctors Should Google More

According to two Australian doctors, Google helps doctors with difficult diagnoses (via Boing Boing). The headline is a bit misleading though, since only 58% of the diagnoses given by Google were correct.

Though, from my Googling of my symptoms over the years, and the lack of a firm diagnosis until recently, I think the doctors could have benefited from Googling some themselves.

Still the geek in me says: Google rocks!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gets boost from CDC

The CDC is pushing efforts to make the public aware that CFS is a real disease. For many years CFS has been considered a "fake" illness by many in the medical community, largely due to the fact that no cause or effective treatment has been found to date. Much like depression and asthma, which were previously believed to be psychosomatic illnesses, CFS for a long time has been though to be in patients' heads.

So, kudos to CDC for bringing this to the forefront. Hopefully this will help to push more funding and research to finding causes and treatments.

*Full disclosure -- My mother has suffered from CFS for at least 10 years now. CFS at the most extreme is debilitating fatigue compounded with other immune system problems (susceptibility to illness, for one). I hope and pray that one day she will be able to enjoy her life again, and not live life stuck in bed.

Study says women exposed to images of thin models overeat

An Australian Study published in the November issue of the journal "Eating Behaviors" shows that young women who are "obsessed" with their own body image eat more food after seeing images of super-thin models. The researchers who conducted the study seemed surprised with the findings. They had expected that "people who value the way they look would be reminded by viewing the image and not eat".

The relatively small study took 68 university students and had them answer a questionnaire to determine if they are obsessed with body image (high-objectifiers). Then the participants were shown "six magazine ads for body-related products like diet pills, some containing images of idealized female models, some not". The participants who identified as "body-obsessed" ate more after viewing the ads with models in them. The researchers concluded that "in [the] future eating disorders might be reduced by identifying high-objectifiers in schools, enabling education to change emphasis on appearance and promote a broader acceptance of body shapes."

While education and identifying girls and women who may end up suffering from eating disorders is a good thing, the fashion and beauty industries will still be there pushing the ultra thin model and a perfect face, body, skin, hair, etc. The recent ordeals involving banning models with low BMIs from fashion shows in Spain are a prime example of how hard thoes industries will fight to keep their "ideal" image. We have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One more for today: Abstinence Only Education for 20-somethings???

Apparently the Bush administration thinks that pushing abstinence only sex-ed to 20-somethings will make a difference in us young 'uns getting it on.

I really don't see how or where these programs would get implemented, let alone who would sign up for them (read: willingly subject themselves to sketchy claims about sex, contraception and disease).

Honestly, once you're an adult, the government should stay out of your private life--especially your sex life.


That is all.

New jobs, stress and fatigue

I finally started a new job a few weeks ago (16 Oct, to be exact). It really sounds like my dream job-- IT Security Consulting for a large company with several subsidiary companies. All the benefits (and things I liked) of consulting without the road warrior aspect that I hated so much at Accenture.

Things are off to a slow start, but they're definitely getting better. I now have 5 projects that I'm working on. Most require a lot of working with different organizations to make sure they know what's going on and coordinating everyone's efforts together. The rest is research into security vulnerabilities in new systems and changes to old systems. So, my job now is meetings and Googling. My Google-fu should get stronger.

My first 2 weeks were pretty stressful. It has taken its toll on me. This week alone, I've fallen asleep around 8:30-9:00 p.m. several nights. I really need to find a way to relax and keep my body from revolting.