Someone needs to do this during the PotashCorp Fireworks Festival in Saskatoon.
It could be we are in a remote part of space that no one cares about. We are the Moose Jaw of planets.
The Americas may have been colonized by Europeans long before anyone in a small Inuit tribe in far northern Canada realized it had happened. There could be an urbanization component to the interstellar dwellings of higher species, in which all the neighboring solar systems in a certain area are colonized and in communication, and it would be impractical and purposeless for anyone to deal with coming all the way out to the random part of the spiral where we live.
There are a lot of interesting hypothesis of why we haven’t had our first contact. The following is the scariest.
There are scary predator civilizations out there, and most intelligent life knows better than to broadcast any outgoing signals and advertise their location.
This is an unpleasant concept and would help explain the lack of any signals being received by the SETI satellites. It also means that we might be the super naive newbies who are being unbelievably stupid and risky by ever broadcasting outward signals. There’s a debate going on currently about whether we should engage in METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence—the reverse of SETI) or not, and most people say we should not. Stephen Hawking warns, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” Even Carl Sagan (a general believer that any civilization advanced enough for interstellar travel would be altruistic, not hostile) called the practice of METI “deeply unwise and immature,” and recommended that “the newest children in a strange and uncertain cosmos should listen quietly for a long time, patiently learning about the universe and comparing notes, before shouting into an unknown jungle that we do not understand.” Scary.
At the height of the Cold War, the Air Force feared that the Soviet Union could launch a surprise attack on the United States and destroy all of our air bases, and we’d have no way to retaliate against the Soviets. So the Air Force came up with this idea of having about a dozen B-52 bombers airborne 24 hours a day, with nuclear weapons on board. That way, if we were attacked, those dozen planes might escape the destruction on the ground, head to the Soviet Union, and blast the Soviets with hydrogen bombs.
The planes were sort of an insurance policy. They were meant to deter the Soviets from trying a surprise attack. But this Air Force program, called the “airborne alert,” also posed some serious risks for the United States. The B-52 was designed in the late 1940s–and it wasn’t designed to be flying 24 hours a day. So the airborne alerts put enormous stress on these aircraft. It really wore out the planes and made them more likely to crash.
Nobody realized, at the time, that some design flaws in our nuclear weapons made them vulnerable to detonating in an accident. There was an illusion of safety. In the book, I explore the safety problems with our nuclear arsenal. We were putting planes that were at risk of crashing into the air over the United States with nuclear weapons that were at risk of accidentally detonating. The airborne alert was finally ended in 1968, after a B-52 crashed in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs and contaminated a stretch of the Arctic Ice with plutonium.
How close was this to detonating?
Well, for most of the Cold War, there was no code or anything that you needed to enter. All you needed to do was turn a switch or two in the cockpit to arm the bomb, and then release it. There were mechanisms on the weapon to prevent it from detonating prematurely and destroying our own planes. There were barometric switches that would operate when they sensed a change in altitude. There were timers that delayed the explosion until our planes had enough time to get away. The Goldsboro bomb that almost detonated was known as Weapon No. 1. As the plane was spinning and breaking apart, the centrifugal forces pulled a lanyard in the cockpit–and that lanyard was what a crew member would manually pull during wartime to release the bomb. This hydrogen bomb was a machine, a dumb object. It had no idea whether the lanyard was being pulled by a person or by a centrifugal force. Once the lanyard was pulled, the weapon just behaved like it was designed to.
The bomb went through all of its arming steps except for one, and a single switch prevented a full-scale nuclear detonation. That type of switch was later found to be defective. It had failed in dozens of other cases, allowing weapons to be inadvertently armed. And that safety switch could have very easily been circumvented by stray electricity in the B-52 as it was breaking apart. As Secretary of Defense McNamara said, “By the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.” That’s literally correct, a short circuit could’ve fully armed the bomb.
I interviewed McNamara before he passed away. The Goldsboro accident occurred just a few days after he took office. He wasn’t an expert in nuclear weapons; he’d been head of the Ford Motor Company. And this accident scared the hell out of him. It would have spread lethal radioactive fallout up the Eastern Seaboard–and put a real damper on all the optimism of the Kennedy administration’s New Frontier. And this wasn’t the only really serious nuclear weapons accident that the United States had. There were others that were dangerous and yet kept from view.
So yeah, try not to think about this thought by Schlosser before you go to bed.
Any country that wants nuclear weapons has to keep in mind that these weapons may pose a greater threat to yourself than to your enemies. These weapons are complicated things to possess and maintain, especially if you keep them fully assembled and ready to use. If you’re only going to put them together when you’re about to go to war, then there’s a higher level of safety. But if you keep them fully assembled, and mated to a weapons system, and ready to go, then there are limitless ways that something could go wrong.
On Friday evening we headed to the cabin for what we expected was going to be a wet and miserable weekend. It was but we had a good time.
Oliver was quite sick on Friday morning which meant that Wendy took the day off. His daycare has a thing about vomitting kids… They picked me up at work and we were off to the lake and got in there in decent time.
I am nursing an incredibly sore hip so I hobbled in and went to bed. The boys took Maggi for a long walk and swim in the lake and I was awoken by a wet dog looking to warm up with someone. Saturday I picked up Oliver’s flu and felt horrible. Wendy delegated the job of packing Oliver’s stuff to Mark and he didn’t pack any socks and underwear for Oliver so off to Regina we went. 18km of really soft and sloppy roads were not a lot of fun to drive but we made it to the highway.
The rain kept falling the entire time we were in Regina and the road was a slippery and muddy mess by the time we got back to Cymric. It was a long slow drive back to the cabin where I managed to lose control once. Not only that but we realized it was going to rain all night and into Sunday.
Here is Speck speaking to TED.
So yeah the drive home was brutal. The car was covered in mud and it was hard to keep it on the road. For those who feel that Saskatchewan should be converting more highways into gravel, I respectfully disagree. The sand base of that road makes more slippery then ice when wet. So yeah, let’s pave the entire province.
With Father’s Day almost here, I have a cool giveaway for readers of the blog for Father’s Day compliments of Ford Canada.
Here are the rules. Leave a comment with your real name and email address. Tell a story about driving with your dad (or step-dad or uncle or father figure), tell us a little about the car, the place, and why it was memorable. It can be meaningful or funny, you pick.
I’ll do a draw from the contestants and you will win….
- Ford Genuine Parts Bar Stool with Backrest Constructed from heavy gauge 1” tubular steel frames with lustrous chrome plated finish. Commercial grade vinyl covering screened on the underside so designs will not scratch off with use. Thick foam padded seats rotate on a 360 degree swivel. Easy assembly required. Recommended for indoor use only. Dimensions: Seat – height 30” Seat Diameter- 14” Backrest Height: 42”
- Ford Genuine Parts retro metal and wood sign.
- Ford ball cap
Winners will be notified by email on Monday and Ford will ship the prize anywhere in Canada. I am looking forward to reading your stories!
The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.
According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.
SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.
All told, the NSA is using MYSTIC to gather personal data on mobile calls placed in countries with a combined population of more than 250 million people. And according to classified documents, the agency is seeking funding to export the sweeping surveillance capability elsewhere.
The program raises profound questions about the nature and extent of American surveillance abroad. The U.S. intelligence community routinely justifies its massive spying efforts by citing the threats to national security posed by global terrorism and unpredictable rival nations like Russia and Iran. But the NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers” – traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.
“The Bahamas is a stable democracy that shares democratic principles, personal freedoms, and rule of law with the United States,” the State Department concluded in a crime and safety report published last year. “There is little to no threat facing Americans from domestic (Bahamian) terrorism, war, or civil unrest.”
By targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network, the NSA is intentionally collecting and retaining intelligence on millions of people who have not been accused of any crime or terrorist activity. Nearly five million Americans visit the country each year, and many prominent U.S. citizens keep homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.
In addition, the program is a serious – and perhaps illegal – abuse of the access to international phone networks that other countries willingly grant the United States for legitimate law-enforcement surveillance. If the NSA is using the Drug Enforcement Administration’s relationship to the Bahamas as a cover for secretly recording the entire country’s mobile phone calls, it could imperil the longstanding tradition of international law enforcement cooperation that the United States enjoys with its allies.
“It’s surprising, the short-sightedness of the government,” says Michael German, a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice who spent 16 years as an FBI agent conducting undercover investigations. “That they couldn’t see how exploiting a lawful mechanism to such a degree that you might lose that justifiable access – that’s where the intelligence community is acting in a way that harms its long-term interests, and clearly the long-term national security interests of the United States.”
While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.
He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months. When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera. Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.
After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).
Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses. Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with. I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it. Until then he can borrow it.
To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera. I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.
Mark blogs about his birthday here.
This is cool and nerdy at the same time.
The University of Toronto’s Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF) is welcoming cities from around the world to the inaugural Global Cities Summit in Toronto, where the World Council on City Data (WCCD)will be launched on May 15th at 12:30 pm.
This new global entity will build an international platform for open, globally comparable and ISO standardized data for participating cities from around the world.
The creation of the WCCD is an evolution of the last seven years of successful work for the GCIF in developing globally standardized data for cities. The Council’s development has been spurred by the approval of the very first ISO Standard on city metrics, to be published as ISO 37120 on May 15, 2014 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Geneva.
The Council will coordinate all efforts on city data to ensure a consistent and comprehensive platform for standardized urban metrics. It will act as a global hub for creative learning partnerships across cities, international organizations, corporate partners, and academia to further innovation, envision alternative futures, and build better and more livable cities.
“ISO37120 is a milestone for cities. The Creation of the World Council on City Data is a pivotal next step in building a reliable foundation of globally standardized data that will assist cities in building core knowledge for city decision-making, and enable comparative insight and global benchmarking” said Professor Patricia McCarney, Director of the GCIF at the University of Toronto. “In a world where city data is exploding and big data is escalating, we are now moving forward in building the WCCD as an open data platform on global city metrics.”
The Global Cities Summit is convening global leaders from the world’s cities, businesses, UN and other international agencies, universities, planning and design professionals, on May 15th and 16th in Toronto. The Summit is the inaugural meeting of the more than 255 GCIF member cities from 81 countries. The event will be an opportunity for cities and their partners to learn, share, and exchange experiences across a wide spectrum of big ideas and innovative solutions for cities under the theme: Getting on Track: Sustainable & Inclusive Prosperity for Cities.
The WCCD will be launched in Toronto at 12:30 pm on May 15th, 2014 at the Global Cities Summit at the Sheraton Centre Downtown Hotel. The Council has invited a select group of cities – including Shanghai, London, Toronto, Dubai, Haiphong, Amman, Makkah, Chicago, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Helsinki, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Makati, Minna and Bogota – to come to Toronto to help launch the WCCD and become Foundation Cities of the Council.
These cities, represented by senior delegations including the Mayor of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, are now arriving in Toronto to be part of this launch tomorrow.
Foundation Cities of the WCCD will help develop the vision and drive the new Council agenda forward together with other partners: private, public and academic. Foundation Cities will help define the mandate for the WCCD and develop the first five years of programming on city data, analytics, visualization, publications, city awards and recognitions. The headquarters of the WCCD will be located in Toronto and the Council will host a platform for cities and will build a knowledge network for cities globally.
“Here in London, we really welcome joining the WCCD,” said Andrew Collinge, Assistant Director of Intelligence, Greater London Authority. “There has never been a time where it’s more important to understand how we as a global city compare with other cities so we can learn from them and actually use data to address challenges that are facing all of our cities.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson said London’s biggest challenge is the boom in the number of people living in London, with the city’s population projected to hit 10 million by 2030. Access to data from other cities will be critical to dealing with this growth.
“That’s a lot of people who will need jobs and homes and a quick and convenient way of getting from one to the other,” he said.
Other cities voiced their excitement at joining the WCCD.
The City of Barcelona is “very interested in this initiative, having been nominated European Capital of Innovation by the European Commission” says Manel Sanromà, CIO, Barcelona, “Barcelona believes deeply in the value of collaboration and standardization.”
“It will be my pleasure to join you and participate in the launch of such an outstanding initiative,” says Mohammad Jaljouli, Advisor at the Executive Council, Dubai. “At The Executive Council, we believe in the importance of this major milestone towards building city standards, and we look forward to adding value to the ongoing efforts in this regard.”
Along with the launch of the Council, the Summit will announce a new international standard on city indicators using the GCIF framework that has been developed through the International Organization for Standardization.
ISO 37120 Sustainable Development in Communities: Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life is the first ISO standard on city metrics. Foundation Cities will be the first to pilot this new ISO standard.
This new ISO Standard marks a critical turning point in the world of city data. ISO 37120 provides cities and stakeholders with an opportunity for a standardized approach to city metrics, and a global framework for third party verification of city data.
The WCCD is being established in this critical new space, where ISO 37120 creates the impetus for a reliable, transparent and open data platform.
Saskatoon was thinking of taking part but because of our Mayor’s strong grasp on the economy, we will do it our own way. Another “tremendous opportunity” lost.
Against the decaying skyline here, a one-of-a-kind engineering project is rising near the remains of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster.
An army of workers, shielded from radiation by thick concrete slabs, is constructing a huge arch, sheathed in acres of gleaming stainless steel and vast enough to cover the Statue of Liberty. The structure is so otherworldly it looks like it could have been dropped by aliens onto this Soviet-era industrial landscape.
I have been emailing and texting this post to everyone that I know is buying a new mattress or bed so I thought I should post it here.
Is there a more maddening industry? They confuse us with silly product names (the Sealy Posturepedic Crown Jewel Fletcher Ultra Plush Pillowtop or the Sealy Posturepedic Crown Jewel Brookmere Plush?). They flummox us with bogus science (“pocketed coils”? “Microtek foundations”? “Fiberlux”?). And they weigh us down with useless features (silk damask ticking?). It’s like buying a used car, and almost as expensive — I’ve seen mattresses going for $7,000. What’s a consumer to do?
The secret to mattress shopping is that the product is basically a commodity. The mattress biz is 99-percent marketing. So just buy the cheapest thing you can stand and be done with it, because they’re pretty much all the same. And that’s all you need to know. But do read on — the world of sleep products is quite fascinating, and I’d like to share it with you.
A couple of years ago Wendy and I bought a 2 inch think memory foam mattress topper. Our mattress was starting to wear out and instead of getting a new one, we got one of these. For $100, we get the best sleep we have ever gotten. The only bad thing is that the dog likes to sleep on it now and won’t get down.
A couple of years ago my Gmail acct was accessed by someone in Hungary. I am not sure how they got in but I changed my password immediately. I lost several thousand email messages. I implemented a difficult to type and guess password, used two step authentication and started to change up my passwords frequently.
Over time I got careless. I hated two step authentication and instead of a hard to type password, I used a much easier one. A sports team.
A couple of weeks ago I realized that I had become careless and “calgaryflames” was not a good password for my email. I saw this post by Khoi Vinh and realized that I needed to up my game but never got around to it.
Yesterday on the 5:15 p.m. Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable, I mentioned that I was a Calgary Flames fan and realized that I needed to change my password again.
As I got home last night, people asked me if I was deleting tweets. I wasn’t and decided to see what was going on and I could see tweets disappearing in front of my eyes. My first thought was that Twitter was having a server error but then I realized that no, they were being deleted rapidly. I tried to log into Twitter and could not. That wasn’t good.
I checked my email and that was locked as well. After getting that unlocked and my old access back, I was able to have my Twitter password sent to me.
By that time, all of my tweets except for two retweets were gone (those two retweets disappeared last night). At the same time I realized that my blog was hacked as was two other social networks.
I have backups of my blog and I restored that database. By that time I kind of noticed emails were missing. Basically some of the messages that I had that were filtered a certain way were deleted. It also looks like some searches were done and then the messages were deleted. I have asked Google to see if I can get those back but from what I have read, they are gone.
Gmail does log IP addresses that log into the service but those are dead ends. When I searched them, they lead to an anonymous offshore IP service that hides IP addresses. You know if case you have to hack someone’s account. If you searched for “password” in my email account, that would have given you all of my passwords or the ability reset passwords. That is what screwed things up for me and gave them the keys to other services.
Everyone wants to know if it was just random or if someone was looking for something. I don’t really know but my feeling is that they hacked the password, looked around, saw a lot of boring stuff, deleted some crap, and left once I started to freeze and re-access somethings.
Did they find anything interesting? No. Things I hold in confidence are actually stripped of identifying information and forwarded to a secure account. Traces of which are deleted from my email system. So what they found are social media passwords (doh!), XS Cargo flyers (yawn) and recommendations from Amazon on what I need to read next.
So to avoid this from happening to you, here are the steps you need to do to keep your data safe.
- Set up two-step authentication on all accounts that provide it
- Use Diceware to create secure passwords for all your email accounts
- Create a unique email address for your most valuable log-ins
- Use a good password utility to create unique, strong passwords for every site you visit
- Create fake security-question answers
- Freeze your accounts with all three credit agencies
- Don’t let Web sites store your credit card info
- Hide your Who-is listings if you own your own domains
- Set up WPA-2 encryption on your wifi router
- Never click links in email
- Prepare ahead of time for identity theft or hacking
That process now takes, on average, at least 61 days. That’s the same amount of time it took in 1977, according to a federal audit from that time. Many state retirement systems, which also handle large loads of employees, do it much faster. Florida takes 47 days. The California teachers’ retirement system takes 23. Texas takes two.
Those three process their files digitally, not on paper. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has been trying — and failing — to do the same thing here.
The first time, work began in 1987. Years passed. About $25 million was spent, according to the Government Accountability Office. But within the government, officials started to worry that it wasn’t working.
“The reports [from the contractor] just asserted that they had written X lines of code. . . . For an executive, that’s just invisible; you don’t know what it means,” said Curtis Smith, who oversaw retirement processing from 1989 to 1994. He was a longtime federal employee with a PhD in English literature, supervising a massive technology project.
“I had no idea [if] they were making progress from month to month. And I just sort of took it on faith that they could make it work,” Smith said. “And they never did.”
In 1996, two years after Smith left the government, officials finally pulled the plug on that project. Then, in 1997, the government tried again.
First it tried revamping the system in-house. Then it scrapped that plan and hired contractors. After years of work, the system the contractors built was supposed to be ready by early 2008.
But by 2007, there were concrete warnings that it again wasn’t going to work.
“Every time we would do what I would call a stress test, we would come up with abysmal numbers — like an 18 percent success rate,” said Robert Danbeck, who was overseeing the project. The root of the problem, he said, was that the system had trouble synthesizing information from so many sources and calculations based on so many laws. “We would go back and look at what caused it, and it was always just so many pieces, trying to tie things together.”
Danbeck quit. In early 2008, the system went live.
Then it broke and was eventually scrapped, after more than $106 million had been spent. In the mine, the files continued to move on paper.
Contained in all those failures, experts say, is a very brief history of the federal government’s recent troubles with information technology.
A recent study by the Standish Group, a firm in Boston that researches failures, found that only 5 percent of large federal IT projects in the last decade fully succeeded.
Of the rest, 41 percent were failures, canceled before they were turned on. The reasons often echoed the problems in the mine: Federal officials either tried to buy a technology they didn’t fully understand because they lacked the technical skill, or they didn’t test what they were getting until it was too late.
I love reading the reports on how long it will take to synchronize U.S. military accounting systems. Some estimates say 100 years which is another way of saying that we have given up and aren’t even trying any more.
Here’s the lowdown: Mattress makers rename identical products for each different retail store. Different labels, exact same guts. Why? Obfuscation. It’s hard to shop for the lowest price when you can’t compare apples to apples. Lucky for you, they’re all subtle variations on the same apple—not only within each brand, but even among different brands.
The heart of an innerspring mattress is the coils. Otherwise it’s just foam, cotton, quilting, and stitches. But the big-name mattress makers (with some exceptions) all get their coils from a single company, Leggett and Platt, for their highest-end mattresses down to their lowest. This is akin to every single car on the market, Lamborghinis to Kias, using an engine made by Ford. Except that mattresses are far less complicated than cars. In fact, they’re so simple that there’s no real difference among them at all.
“As people become more health conscious, and more interested in cooking ‘fresh,’ that’s not helping microwaves,” Owen said. “It’s leading to lower sales.” The interest in cooking is more than a movement; it’s a national phenomenon. Even major grocery chains have noted upticks in sales as a result.
Growth in sales of microwavable popcorn are also slowing, while sales of ready-to-eat popcorn are growing at an over 11% clip. Why microwave junk food when you can get it pre-popped? Americans are at once too patient and too lazy to use their microwaves these days.
Go into your neighbourhood Safeway or Sobey’s one of these days and look around. When I was a kid, most of the aisles were full of things for my mom to make and cook. Now the aisles are increasingly full of things that are already cooked. Wendy will tell you that at even 33rd Street Safeway can’t keep up with the demand of pre-cooked chicken, soups, and fries at supper time. Even a small store has a deli which will make you sandwiches and a variety of food like samosas and salads. We may want to cook but many families don’t have the energy or time to do it anymore.