more British TV

  • No Heroics – A UK sitcom about a bunch of second-tier superheroes hanging out in a bar.
posted at 3:16 pm on Thursday, January 29, 2009 in Links, TV | Comments Off on more British TV

zombies?

Hackers broke into an electronic sign near Austin, TX to warn travellers about the zombie apocalypse! woo hoo!

http://techblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/01/hackers-break-into-electronic.html

posted at 8:32 pm on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 in Humour, Links | Comments Off on zombies?

nut allergy hysteria

Who would have thought that a threat to children would be exaggerated by parents, teachers, and the media? “Not I,” he said sarcastically…

BBC News – Warning of nut allergy ‘hysteria’

Measures to protect children with nut allergies are becoming increasingly absurd and hysterical, say experts.

A peanut on the floor of a US school bus recently led to evacuation and decontamination for fear it might have affected the 10-year-old passengers.

Professor Nicolas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School, told the BMJ there was “a gross over-reaction to the magnitude of the threat” posed by food allergies, and particularly nut allergies.

In the US, serious allergic reactions to foods cause just 2,000 of more than 30 million hospitalisations a year and comparatively few deaths – 150 a year from all food allergies combined.

Professor Christakis said the issue was not whether nut allergies existed or whether they could occasionally be serious. Nor was the issue whether reasonable preventative steps should be made for the few children who had documented serious allergies, he argued.

“The issue is what accounts for the extreme responses to nut allergies.”

He said these responses were extreme and had many of the hallmarks of mass psychogenic illness (MPI), previously known as epidemic hysteria.

Often seen occurring in small towns, schools and other institutions, outbreaks of MPI involve healthy people in a flow of anxiety, most often triggered by a fear of contamination.

Being around individuals who are anxious heightens others’ anxiety, leading to a self-perpetuating cycle which can spiral out of control.

(via Bruce Scheier), who links to Virginia Tech and Thai Chili Sauce as other examples of MPI).

posted at 11:00 am on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 in Current Events, Links | Comments (2)
  1. Jeff K says:

    Not to slight the BBC, but there are a raft of things going on in British newspapers right now that seem very harmful and alarmist, mostly dealing with financial matters. Look around for “Britain bankruptcy”, “punish shareholders”, “end immigration”, “end public health-care”, “Nationalise all banks” (that 2nd last one is out of context, please be sure to read the source, er, “material”).

  2. chk says:

    British newspapers are more alarmist than most, ‘tis true. But I’ve been seeing this level of irrational fear of nuts (and other things) around me and my kids for years, so I’ve started adding it to my blog. :)

internet threat overblown

Who would have thought that a threat to children would be exaggerated by parents, teachers, and the media? “Not I,” he said sarcastically…

I’m not sure how long this link will last, so check it out:

Internet threat to minors overblown: study

The report, released on Wednesday, suggests that the biggest threats to children’s safety online may come from other children, and that their own behaviour could contribute to the trouble they encounter.

“The risks minors face online are complex and multifaceted and are in most cases not significantly different than those they face offline,

They said bullying and harassment, especially by peers, are the most frequent problem minors face both online and elsewhere.

As an aside, I’m particularly amused by the “fairness in reporting” content later in the article. The CEO of a company that sells software to protect minors says that “more needs to be done”. I’m sure everyone agrees that he’s hopelessly biased, but modern journalistic standards require that both sides of a dispute be covered equally, regardless of the distribution of supporters to nay-sayers or the inherent bias of either parties.

Granted, my excerpts are probably biased too, so go read the article yourself. :)

posted at 11:00 am on Friday, January 16, 2009 in Current Events, Links, Security | Comments Off on internet threat overblown

payroll websites

My employer uses payroll company A. My wife’s uses payroll company B.

Payroll company A sends me my pay stubs via epost.ca, Canada’s electronic bill presentation system. This is the same system that I use for all of my electronic billing, and the one that is linked to my online banking. In short, my pay stubs are in my normal document processing flow, just like they used to be in the paper mail world.

Payroll company B has their own separate website where I can view and download pay stubs. While the website generates PDFs, they look nothing like the paper versions (a strange choice, since now they have two output formats to maintain). The website has all the usual usability issues, that I won’t go into here.

Guess which company I’d prefer to do business with? :-)

posted at 10:11 am on Thursday, January 15, 2009 in Personal | Comments Off on payroll websites

Denis McGrath – Skins

Denis McGrath is a Canadian television writer and producer. A couple of years back my friend Debbie interviewed him about his career and about Blood Ties, the television version of Tanya Huff Blood books. I recently rediscovered him while catching up on Season 2 of The Border, and subscribed to his weblog (Dead Things ON Sticks) after finding info about the show there.

Anyway, long story short, Denis recommended a British show called Skins, which he described as

the teen show that nobody in North America would have the guts to do. It makes Degrassi or 90210 look like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

It’s definitely not for everyone; it has the North American demons of nudity/sex, drugs, foul language, all involving (gasp!) teenagers. But it also has the magic trio of good writing, acting, and characters; I’ve found it quite compelling. I worked my way through the nine episode series 1 over the Christmas break, and I’m just starting series 2. You can find Skins in Canada on The SuperChannel (and yes, I hear you all saying “wow, it still exists?” :-).

Oh, and Denis’ blog is an excellent read if you’re at all interested in television in general, and Canadian television in particular.

posted at 1:33 pm on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 in Links, TV | Comments Off on Denis McGrath – Skins

timing is everything

Take a new computer and install Windows XP. Connect it to the Internet to download service packs and other patches. Before you have finished downloading and installing, your computer will have been hacked. There are so many automated probes running that you’re almost 100% sure to be infected by one of them. Researchers do this all the time with honeypots, to find out what payloads are currently in the wild.

I had installed a new Windows 2003 Server, had finished downloading and installing SP2, and was in the middle of downloading and installing the 51 patches released since, when IT Security hacked into the server and shut it down (disabling TCP/IP and the boot, of course)…

*sigh.

posted at 9:37 pm on Wednesday, January 07, 2009 in Personal, Security | Comments (1)
  1. Ron says:

    One of my reasons I refuse to use Windows in “real life” ;-)

back to work

And what a way to come back to work it was!

Over the holidays, IT security used the Windows RPC flaw to “break in” to all of my Windows servers. The payload disabled TCP/IP in the registry, and modified the boot.ini to disable system startup. I spent today manually booting servers one by one and re-enabling TCP/IP, so that I could download and install the required patches. I am extremely glad that I have remote consoles on all of my servers, or I would have had to make the long trek out to Mississauga to fix everything!

The important servers are back up, but I probably have another day of this before everything’s back to normal. Ugh…

posted at 6:33 pm on Monday, January 05, 2009 in Personal, Security | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    So you and your own IT security bods are in some kind of ongoing war?