Script Kiddies, meet the Pro

Ubergeek Steve Gibson — of Gibson Research, publishers of one of the coolest pieces of software ever, the original SpinRight — was the victim of a distributed denial of service attack recently (in the vernacular, he “got DDOS’d”). This annoyed him, so he started digging.

While his actions in no way protect him from what the true hardcore hacking community could do (a fact he acknowledges completely), his account makes for pretty compelling reading even if you’ve only got a vague notion of how the Internet works (actually, his site includes some basic information on that, too). From a technical standpoint, it’s also pretty damned impressive.

Objectivism Redux

The good people over at Saint Aardvark the Carpeted have provided this handy timeline discussing the disembodied, floating head of Ayn Rand and her (its?) exploits through the last fifty years or so, at least up to that ugly episode at the Montreal Olympics. Enjoy.

It’s also worth noting that these guys have the best 404 error page I’ve seen yet.

No More Boom Boom

Reuters reports that Mississippi blues legend John Lee Hooker died today (21 June) in San Francisco. He was 83 (according to the Reuters story, which lists no birthdate) or 80 (according to the bio at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which claims 20 August 1920). We’re running out of blues legends. If you get the chance to see B. B. King, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, or Gatemouth Brown, by all means go.

Yeah, but Danny Sugarman says he’s still alive…

I found this pleasantly odd. We’re all very used to seeing publicity or concert photos of Jim Morrison, but candid snapshots aren’t typically part of the mix. These photos were taken in June of 1971, about two weeks before he died (or, if you’re one of the faithful, “about two weeks before he went underground to await Elvis.”).

The Best Writer You Never Heard Of

Richard Yates was a fine writer, an exemplar of the postwar ennui just under the surface of the booming 50’s economy. His work is sort of a precursor to the minimalism and tiny heartbreaks of Raymond Carver and others, but few have read his amazing books or short stories.

I got to know Yates when he was a visiting writer at the University of Alabama; I was still an undergraduate. He liked it there, and stayed until his death in 1992. By then, most of his work was out of print — the worst of all possible literary fates.

Just now — May, in fact — Holt has published his collected stories, which you should buy and read. Additionally, perhaps his finest novel is actually still in print: Revolutionary Road may break your heart, but it’s one of the finest novels I’ve read. William Styron called it a “deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic,” and Vonnegut referred to it as “The Great Gatsby of my time . . . one of the best books by a member of my generation.”

In any case: James Crumley has a fine rememberance in the Boston Review; a few months ago, Stewart O’Nan had a piece there as well. Don’t miss either. If that’s not enough, I’ve reposted an essay I wrote about him about six years ago.

Flood Report

I’m amazed — and pleased — at the attention I’ve received from far-flung friends and family about the Houston flooding. The answer is: I’m fine, and everything I own is precisely as dry as it should be. Thank God. For a while my street was more of a small river, but my it appears my townhouse is both far enough back and high enough (maybe 12-18″ up from the street) that water never seriously threatened my home. The Intrepid Dr. Science Girl wasn’t quite so lucky, and had water enough in her bedroom to soak her carpet, but no real property damage (or, rather, no damage to property that belonged to HER).

Perhaps the most amusing bit is this: many folks got marooned in bars Friday night, and were unable to leave until six-ish on Saturday morning. Oh, Damn!

A few links with flood photos. Some are quite dramatic, particularly the ones of US 59 and Interstate 10 (best at the Chronicle and the personal site).

Pants and Physics

Well, first it looks a lot like scientists may have managed to exceed the speed of light, but only sort of. Senior NoGators physics correspondent Dr. Carla Finch points out that:

“This sounds kind of fishy to me. It seems to use a similar phenomena to that was used to ‘stop’ a light pulse. This whole methodology requires using pulses of light, not beams of light. A pulse or a wave packet of light or of matter is a whole different creature from a basic beam or ray. A pulse actually consists of several different light waves superimposed to create a discrete package.

“The apparent time travel described has all the markings of aquantum mechanical effect. As much as we would like to describe the worldof matter and light as ball and stick figures, we know that in realityposition and momentum are quite fuzzy. (Heisenberg Uncertainty and allthat.) The ability for a particle, especially a particle having no mass, tobe in two places simultaneously does not break any major laws of physics.According to quantum mechanics there is some probability that the particleis in an infinite number of positions simultaneously. As for travelling 300times c, I imagine that the quantum mechanics involved in dealing with aphoton wave packet could allow the information needed to reconstruct thatwave to be broadcast well in front of the actual packet. There is all sortsof weirdness allowed when it comes to space-time and information travel. Essentially, when an electron tunnels through a barrier there is no evidence of it ever being within the barrier, and yet it somehow appears onthe other side. My imagination would allow me to believe that if matter waves can transmit over a measurable distance then light waves shouldlikely transmit over much longer distances.”

So did they do it? I thinks she means “Sort of.”

In other (dramatically funnier) news, The Onion is reporting that Haggar physicists have developed ‘Quantum Slacks’. No word yet from Dr. Finch on the implications of these developments. Watch out for the anti-pants.

Does This Really Surprise Anyone?

David Manning, a film reviewer for the Ridgefield Press, seemed completely normal — if curiously vapid. His blurbs appeared in marketing material for several Columbia films last year. Manning raved over “Hollow Man,” “Vertical Limit,” “A Knight’s Tale” and “The Animal,” which strikes me as almost comically bad at best and an example of movie-review payola at worst.

Actually, that wasn’t the worst. Manning does not in fact exist. He was invented by [Columbia parent] Sony’s marketing department. It’s not as if they don’t essentially buy reviews already with gravy-train perqs like free trips, posh meals, and the like for much of the movie press — maybe these films were so bad even bribery couldn’t generate good ink. The scandal here, as MSNBC points out, isn’t so much that Manning didn’t exist — that’s clearly unacceptable. The troublesome bit is what IS acceptable.