Adding up to paranoia

For the last few days, I’ve been reflecting on the connection between a couple of disturbing recent news items.
Neither one has gotten the media attention that I think they deserve, outside of the typical geek channels.
First is the Pentagon’s new Total Information Awareness project, which is a massive database containing extremely detailed information on all US citizens, including e-mail messages, credit-card activity, travel arrangements and medical records. William Safire wrote a good editorial which you can read online if you register at the NY Times site (it doesn’t cost anything).

This is frightening by itself. But I’d been contemplating how it related to news about what has been described as the largest identity theft case in US history. Hackers (and not even very sophisticated ones) stole information from the big 3 credit bureaus. So far, the casualty count is 30,000 victims and $2.7 million in fraud, and it ain’t over yet.

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Weather sucks

As I get older and crankier, the timespan each year when I’m happy gets shorter. Now it’s down to about September and April.
With a local forecast predicting low temperature in the low twenties Wednesday night, and a high in the 30s on Thanksgiving,
I had just about convinced myself that getting up at 6 AM Thursday for a 9 AM hunt would be a little chilly, but bearable.
And I really needed the attitude adjustment a holiday hunt would provide.
Then the phone call came Wednesday night saying the hunt had been cancelled, presumably because of weather.
Now I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fair weather hunter, and have wimped out of many hunts. But the ones I’ve wimped out of
have all been in much worse weather, and they went on anyway. And now the weekend forecast doesn’t look much more promising. Saturday could be OK if it was an afternoon hunt, but it’s morning when it will still be cold. And Sunday is going to suck worse than today. Friday actually looks decent, but of course it’s not a hunting day; maybe I’ll just have to get my butt in gear and take my own “hounds” out for a hack around the farm.

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Internet Growing Pains

I subscribe to an email discussion list for foxhunters. Like almost any other open discussion forum on the Internet, it occasionally suffers from a low signal/noise ratio. And at other times, it’s just plain information overload; it’s all relevant, but just too much. A subscriber recently questioned whether it has become too big to be useful. I need to write a longer and more specific response for that list, during breaks in Runaway Bride. (I know guys aren’t supposed to like Julia Roberts, but I think she’s .. umm . I mean, the ads had horses in them.) But the question really is one that pertains to the Internet in general, although it’s really not a new question. As it continues to grow chaotically and exponentially, it becomes more difficult to extract pearls from the vast quantities of rubbish. New approaches spring up to try to keep it manageable, but they’re soon overwhelmed. I remember a few years ago, one of my co-workers compared Usenet to CB radio. He said there are a whole lot of people out there who have nothing to say, but now they can say it to everybody. And CB radio died out.

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Horsing Around

This afternoon was another splendid opportunity to forget everything that’s wrong with the world. There’s a saying among foxhunters that some folks ride to hunt, and others hunt to ride. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of the hunt to ride gang, even if that draws scorn from serious hunters. And today was definitely a good day to ride, hunting or not. The weather wasn’t particularly good hunting weather, a little too warm for good scenting. But it was a damn fine day to be outdoors on a horse. And since I’m usually more concerned with how my horse performs than how the hounds perform, I can say he did fairly well. We got off to a bad start when he refused the first jump, but he did fine after that, including a couple of jumps that I was a little worried about. He reminded me again that it’s pointless for humans to try to figure out what’s going on in the equine mind. It’s about as hopeless as trying to figure out women, but since they tend to avoid me I don’t have to worry about that problem. A horse’s brain is allegedly about the size of a large walnut, and somebody once asked how that much stupidity could be packed into something that small. Small brain or not, you gotta love em.

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Candid Camera or Photoshop?

Thanks to technology, seeing isn’t always believing. Wired News has an article about the flood of digitally altered phony photos circulating around the ‘net.
They included some examples that I had seen before. I guessed this one was fake when I saw it, but I really believed this one was real.

Besides warning me that I’m not as skeptical as I need to be, it raises some interesting questions. I’m all in favor of parody, as long as it’s obvious like the first example.
But if it gets close enough to reality to be believable, is it crossing a line from satire to libel?

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Mad Magazine – Clone of the Attack

Ex-boss emailed me this gem from Mad Magazine. I went wandering around Mad‘s website to find that link so I could use it here instead of loading their copyrighted work on my server, and it was an interesting tour. Mad belongs to Warner Brothers now, and WB seems to a little bolder than many of our major media conglomerates about poking fun at sacred topics. W’s summer vacation is great. I remember reading Mad as a kid mumbledysome years ago, and it seems to have grown up a little (but only a little, maybe like its readers). I’ll have to keep an eye on it;
I think we’re going to need a lot more of this kind of relief in the next few years.

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Back in the Saddle Again!

Today was just what I needed. Sleep a little later, and then start all the hunt prep work: hitching up trailer, cleaning horse, filling flask, etc. My attitude has gotten so sour I almost didn’t remember why I go to all this trouble.
After getting mounted, it didn’t take long for me to remember. A beautiful day, on a horse, surrounded by friends, with a pack of hounds and full flasks, far removed from anything that beeps, buzzes, or blinks, it just doesn’t get much better.

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