Link: Deny you ever read about Crypto Strikes Back in this blog post

In theory, I'm hobbyishly working on a little programming project. In practice, I make almost no progress on it. I'm almost never home and awake and alert enough to code. The bad news is: not much progress. The good news is: I can make a mental note like "I should find an API for a cryptographically-secure random function in Python" and I don't really need to research it. (Note to self: random.SystemRandom) I just need to keep that in mind and a couple of weeks later, I'll watch a video of a tech talk which mentions the info I want. Normally, you might think that two weeks for "research" of one factlet would be too slow. But it didn't slow me down. It's not like I would have made progress. It was like, no-cost research, anemone-style.

Here's the talk: Crypto Strikes Back, by Nate Lawson.

Oh yeah, and you should totally ignore what I said about crytographically-whatever Python functions and watching that video because in that same video he also says that if someone says they researched crypto by reading a blog post, that's a warning sign of bad crypto. You totally didn't want to read this far. Look, you still have plausible deniability. Go drink gin until you've totally forgot that you read this right now or else your crypto will suffer.

Yeah, if anyone asks, you never read this blog post, and you would never study crypto by reading blog posts. (I, for one, am much too 'leet for that because I study crypto on YouTube.) YOU WERE NEVER HERE! WE NEVER HAD THIS CONVERSATION!

I will now go straight to bed and forget I ever wrote this.

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BANG 19 (aka SNAP 4 simulcast): Photos, Scoring Data, Puzzles

On game day, I mostly watched over the Zombie Chess Clue. Most of the time there was nobody there. Some of the time, there were plenty of people there and they kept me pretty busy. But a couple of times, there were people there but I still made time to SNAP photos. After I was done at my post, I wandered down to Addison Street to take photos of poetry lovers so dedicated to their love of the arts that they stood out in the rain to... uhm, yeah, sorry they weather wasn't better for that one. Anyhow, you can see the photos.

If you approach BANG like baseball and want to construct statistics for your team, I transcribed data from the station checklists, team answer sheets, and the results sheet. I'm not sure how much sense my notation makes, but I'm too sleepy to try to explain it now. Maybe you can figure it out and come up with brilliant reports like: typical range of puzzle-solving duration for each puzzle (and number of teams solving), excluding hint-taking teams:

37 -  58 (22)
20 -  31 (24)
20 -  39 (23)
13 -  21 (21)
10 -  20 (25)
39 -  61  (7)
 8 -  15 (23)
78 - 150  (6)

Not excluding the hint-taking teams:

40 -  66 (26)
20 -  33 (26)
21 -  39 (26)
14 -  25 (26)
10 -  20 (25)
58 -  78 (24)
 8 -  16 (24)
88 - 140 (13)

Transcription errors are possible and/or likely.

Joe sent in a zip archive full of puzzles from the game. They are at The Zombie Chess clue isn't in there because we can't figure out how to upload plastic zombies. And/or because I'm too sleepy to snap photos of a zombie chessboard. Maybe some other day. After I catch up on sleep. (My friends Ray and Nhi got married, yay! The reception on Sunday night went way past my bedtime! I am barely keeping my eyes open as I type tihszzzzzzzz....)

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Book Report: The Next Catastrophe

I'm going to Jury Duty today. Oh, gee. What if I get picked for a trial that goes on for three years? What if I'm sequestered? Does that mean no internet? What a catastrophe that would be. Oh hey, segue for The Next Catastrophe.

Why are we, as a nation, so unprepared for catastrophes? Why is FEMA riddled with incompetent political cronies? Why is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission slow to shut down poorly-managed nuclear reactors? The book The Next Catastrophe explains why we are doomed. It's difficult to tax people for a disaster-readiness organization. It's not "sexy". On the other hand, it's easy to pass yet another emergency aid bill for whichever region got hit by a major storm this year. Also, our recent government insists on spending money invading Iraq instead of on, say, setting up better fences around our local chemical plants.

This was a discouraging book. It probably won't do much good--the people who need to act aren't paying attention.

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Book Report: Malcolm X

Here I sit in a dark train somewhere in the vicinity of Menlo Park. The train is dark and stopped. An alarm bell rings constantly. We have stopped because we hit a car. At first, this was a sad scary thing to have done--until we heard that there wasn't anyone in the car. Now we sit and wait for a tow truck to tug away the car, wait for track inspectors to give us the all-clear to move forward again. I suppose I'll get home tonight, but not as early as I'd hoped. I'm learning to ignore the bell. I could try to convince you that this was a major ordeal, but I don't think you'd believe me, nor should you. I've had an easy life. Not like Malcolm X. I read a comic book about him.

It's a comic book biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy deBurke. It's pretty good. I'd read a couple of not-so-interesting short biographies of Malcolm X. So I decided that his life was not-so-interesting. I picked up this comic because it had pretty art. And I read it. And it was interesting. So maybe I should read a longer biography.

The short biographies I'd read glossed over X's criminal years. But even then, there were signs of charisma, of creativity. The comic book is a good way to show the people who appear only at scattered times across a life--though I might not remember the name, I remember the face.

[10:15pm update: the train is moving again, limping along towards civilization. I'll get home eventually. Maybe it's a good thing I won't get much sleep tonight. Tomorrow is BANG 17, and if my team were to win that, we'd have to host a BANG ourselves. Maybe I can arrange to doze off halfway through, forcing my team to drag me through the streets of Berkeley...]

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Book Report: Future Noir

Yes, I read a book about the making of the movie Blade Runner. I make fun of people who read the entertainment news, but I spent more than an hour reading this book. It's mostly the fluff that you expect from a making-of-the-movie book, but there are some good bits, too. There are the usual stories of screenplay re-writes; financiers with cold feet. To film a cityscape that's mired in haze, you can create a model and film it through a mist of mineral oil. There are hints of strife on the set amongst the actors, but nothing definite.

A couple of nights later, I was hanging out with my high school chums at Peter's place. We were looking over his digital video recorder gizmo to see what movies were on it. We agreed on Blade Runner. That movie is still pretty good.

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Book Report: Sacrifice (Age of Bronze collection vol 2)

It's another volume of Eric Shanower's great comic adaptation of the Iliad. Learn the strange story of Telephus. Feel even queasier about the fate of Iphigenia as you put a face to the name. See wonderfully-rendered drawings of people wearing historically accurate funny hats.

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