Groundhog Day for Missouri Football Fans

Groundhog Day for Missouri Football Fans

It’s Groundhog Day in the state of Missouri. Much like the Bill Murray film of the same name, events have repeated themselves for the state’s football franchises. It is remarkable then, that the key to a Lombardi trophy for two teams on opposite sides of the state across two generations arose not from a midwest wheat field, but the streets of Philadelphia. Continue reading

Preventing Spear Phishing Attacks in 2020

With the world preoccupied by retrospectives on the calendar year gone by, a particularly problematic news story slipped out in the waning days of December. This Microsoft announcement smacks down domains associated with yet another state-backed cyberthreat. It’s one more warning to users of the continued threat posed by so-called spear-“phishing” attacks. Could 2019 be the last year we have to worry about this?

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Music Assisted Language Learning

If you have been through the American educational system, you have undoubtedly encountered the foreign language requirement in most college-preparatory programs.  Young people, most often during their high school years, are introduced to two years of basic language instruction.  How can we best learn a foreign language, particularly if we have been raised in a monolingual setting?

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Earth Science and Continuous Inspection

Earth showing one quadrant breaking-up into disassembled bits.

Earth as the product of the continuous integration of its bits.

On this Earth Day I’m preparing to start a new job, one full of IT management buzzwords like continuous inspection (CI), continuous integration (my other brother, CI) and continuous delivery (CD). When making policy towards our homeworld though, it strikes me that these proven management practices fall by the wayside of many “pro-business” policymakers. What does CI for earth science really mean? Continue reading

Shellvarnia: Shell Variables Down Unix

Political map showing Shellvarnia on the left side of the continent, Flapjackia, separated from Userland (on the east coast of Flapjackia) by Environmentopia in the middle. No direct connection between Shellvarnia and Userland is shown.

Political map of continent, Flapjackia, showing countries of Shellvarnia, Environmentopia, and Userland.

This is a fun short story about the fictional land of Shellvarnia, located Down Unix, that occurred to me one night while I was reading Brian Ward‘s excellent book, How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know. Mixing one dash of political satire with a heaping serving of Unix lore, it will entertain and inform novices approaching a Linux VM for the first time.  If you’ve ever wondered about distinctions between local shell variables and environment variables, /bin/sh from /bin/csh, and who built that wall between Shellvarnia and Environmentopia, then this story was written just for you.  Continue reading

Birthday Paradox

M.C Escher inspired birthday balloons overlapping each other paradoxically. Watercolor illustration by Allen West.

M.C. Escher inspired birthday balloon paradox watercolor by Allen West.

A math magician appears before you on the street in a puff of smoke, and he will make you his apprentice if you can but answer one question. You fantasize how you could make your investment portfolio grow if only you knew magic, or how you could star in your own series of blockbuster films–move aside Harry Potter! But before you get carried away, the magician posits his question to you: how many people off of the street do I need to invite to my magic show to have a 50% chance that any two of them celebrate their birthday on the same day? You sweat a little, think a little, then sweat a little more before answering: 183.

You won’t be attending Hogwarts anytime soon, my friend. You’ve been hit by, you’ve been struck by, a Birthday Paradox! Continue reading

When Averages Attack: For the Love of Means

What is not to love about Averages? (Candy heart image with the word Averages generated by:

What is not to love about Averages?

Americans love the average. Ask the average american on the street what he knows of statistics, and they will probably answer in so many words about something relating to an average (arithmetic mean). An average describes for us the central tendency of some data; the whole distribution of whose values we find it easier not to remember. Yet averages have a darkside to them, beyond sunny days on a baseball diamond figuring your favorite batter’s batting average. Let us look at statistics… when averages attack! Continue reading

What was Good for General Motors?

Charlie E. Wilson, Secretary of Defense (1953-1957) as shown on cover illustration of Time Magazine.

Charlie E. Wilson, Secretary of Defense (1953-1957) as shown on cover illustration of Time Magazine.

This Groundhog’s Day I revisit the Senate Armed Forces Committee 1953 confirmation hearing of highly-paid General Motors CEO, “Engine” Charles E. Wilson.  How different are today’s governmental ethics concerns from those of our grandparents?  Continue reading

Subresource Integrity – The Cyber Defense of 2016 You Haven’t Heard Of

Padlock over circuit board layoutAs we make plans this New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to 2016, we’re continually beleaguered by headlines concerning cyber attacks. The stories range from the latest allegations of Russian malware found on a Vermont utility’s computer, to leaked e-mails ahead of the U.S. Presidential Election, and you could even include Apple’s refusal earlier this year to furnish U.S. Government law enforcement agencies with a backdoor they insisted upon to enable encrypted data access. Cybersecurity must go down as one of the leading themes of 2016, and likely will go on to concern us for years to come.

That’s why we should take a moment to recognize a most important development within the information security community during 2016: the publication of the Subresource Integrity (SRI) recommendation by the W3C. Continue reading

Poor User Experience of Self-Checkout Kiosks

I was paying a return visit to a local Safeway supermarket to buy a refreshing refreshe Apple Cider sparkling water to take sanctuary from the oppressive heat outside this afternoon. I was hopeful of scoring a powerful discount on two bottles because I had received a 50 cent off coupon (if you buy 2) earlier that day. My story turned to sour apples at the self-checkout kiosk.  Continue reading