April 1 is D-Day For Virulent Worm

. Sunday, March 29

Microsoft is offering a $250,000 bounty for the author of the Conficker C worm that is hard-coded to hit on April 1. The first version of the worm debuted in 2008 and managed to infect 9 million computers. This year, the tally is expected to be exponentially more severe.

"What's known so far is that on April 1, all infected computers will come under the control of a master machine located somewhere across the web, at which point anything's possible. Will the zombie machines become denial of service attack pawns, steal personal information, wipe hard drives, or simply manifest more traditional malware pop-ups and extortion-like come-ons designed to sell you phony security software? No one knows." Christopher Noll: The Working Guy.

Though little is known about the worm so far, the advice is simple: Make sure Windows is updated as well as all your antivirus and antimalware signature files. Double check that your protective software is actually running because Conficker C may have disabled it.

Entrecard Users: Check out the post on Bad-Gals Radio, then check your Advertising Settings on your Entrecard dashboard!

A Simple Switch That Counts

. Saturday, March 28

Earth Hour 2009. Today, Saturday, March 28, turn off your lights at 8:30 p.m. for one hour to participate in Earth Hour. The stated call to action of the movement is to reach 1 billion participants who switch off their lights as a vote for Earth, to take control of the future of our planet. 74 countries and territories have pledged to participate.

Keeping things positive, the movement is pushing street parties instead of protests. The data collected by the World Wildlife Fund will be taken to the global warning treaty negotiations in December, set to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.

Obama's Ploy to Bypass the Media

. Thursday, March 26

The Natural State Hawg is now a prophet! He left a comment on my last post that said, "Just imagine this -- let's say the only sources for "news" were official ones. Yes, the government would tells us what was what and corporations would issue press release to keep us all informed." Well, Hawg, that sounds absolutely communistic to me, and not at all the way the US has operated since its inception.

Yet, that is exactly the way Obama is taking the White House now. He has decided that the power of the Internet is there for the taking, especially since it worked so well for him to win the nomination and the presidency. Taking it further, and to bypass the checks and balances of the news media, he has decided to use the White House web site to "deliver his message."

"The president just thinks it's another opportunity to talk directly with the American people about the challenges that we have, the choices and the decisions that we're making, and the path that we're taking to get us back to prosperous days," press secretary Robert Gibbs said.


The White House web site provides a list of questions Obama is comfortable in answering, and asks that site visitors choose from that list the questions they want answered. The point is to bypass the negative and critical questions posed by reporters! Cashing in on yet another Hollywood contrivance, the whole sherade is likened to American Idol.

So far, 70,000 people have voted on the darling little questions they want answers to. Thankfully, that's not much in the grand scheme of things, but it is still a major threat to our way of life.

In fact, it's a much larger threat than anything or anyone else on Earth is to America, the land of the free and home of the brave.

This is going too far!

Loss of Newspapers Detrimental to Democracy

. Monday, March 23

The closing of the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer quickly shows the major gap in local news coverage residents in the area now suffer.

First point to note is that people now without a newspaper are less likely to participate in voting or even run for local office. Incumbents were most likely to be reelected. Civic participation all but stops. Local coverage is what newspapers provide, and without it, participation sinks.

No problem, watch TV news? Not quite. TV newsrooms typically have a much smaller news-gathering staff and rely on local newspapers and their web sites to determine what to cover. Still, TV news covers a much broader area than local newspapers, so what might have been noted in a paper gets shoved aside when TV news editors pick and choose to fill a limited amount of air time.

And though this is 2009, not everyone owns a computer and has Internet access. It is much more difficult to read material on a computer monitor, and writers are forced to pare down stories when written for online delivery.

The ramifications of the loss of newspapers in this ragged economy is detrimental to each individual. Newspapers keep the people informed and the government honest. Think about it, then go buy a newspaper. It is your choice and voice at stake.

Great Depression Revival: Tent Cities

. Sunday, March 22

It quickly flew past the question of "if" and became "when" right now. This particular tent city of "squatters" is not far from where homelessness was documented 70 years ago during the Great Depression. Located along the banks of the American River near Sacramento, California, this tent city consists of around 120 residents all living with no running water, sanitation or electricity.

Most of the residents are the expected drug addicts, alcoholics or mentally ill - the chronically homeless - but there is a rapid increase in numbers of those that fell victim to foreclosure, unemployment and the high cost of housing among the tent city occupants. Band-aid programs that provide food, propane and clothing do little to improve the living conditions there.

Sacramento Assistant City Manager Cassandra Jennings said that "it's not safe out there, it's an unhealthy environment" and the city plans to do something about it. Their solution is to erect another tent city somewhere else, provide running water and move the American River tent city residents there.

Print More When the Chips are Down

. Friday, March 20

Somehow, this does nothing to bolster confidence. An article announcing a toxic asset plan is near completion is presented with the above photo (strike #1) and this little summarizing tidbit about how it's all supposed to work:
The administration has put forward new programs to deal with mortgage foreclosures, expanded efforts to bolster lending to small businesses, launched with the Fed the TALF to unfreeze markets that support credit card, auto and student loans and also begun a so-called stress test of the country's 19 largest banks to make sure they have sufficient resources to withstand an even more severe recession.
The banks are bogged down by more than $1 trillion in bad debts (strike #2). A person could not count that much money, printed money, in one lifetime. Right there in black and white is the thing closest to the truth of the matter: We're facing an even more severe recession.

Not to worry. When the chips are down, the solution is to print more money (strike #3). Yep, that'll solve all the problems. (You're out!)

Obama: It Was Like the Special Olympics


Well now, the politically incorrect President feels he bowls so badly that "it was like the Special Olympics, or something." It seems a score of 129 is equated to what is expected from someone with a less than stellar IQ.

Of course this little "bit" is in the news, with far more space devoted to the legion of spin doctors painting over the quip made by the president on a late night talk show: "He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world." And, it seems important to note that Harry Truman had the lanes built in the White House in 1947.

What about "I bowled so badly it was like I'd never seen three holes in a ball before" as a self-denigrating remark? The truth comes out when relaxed and discussing nothing of importance. Not only is the remark "holier than thou," it is also discriminatory.

Someone should introduce the president to the concepts of "self-fulfilling prophecy" and humility, neither of which has anything to do with political correctness.

Then again, there's sure to be a spot for him on the Special Olympics bowling team.

US Readying for Mexican Drug War

. Wednesday, March 18

BBC News this morning announced that the "US is poised to join the Mexico drug war." Suddenly, it has become a real national security threat.

"Gen Gene Renuart, head of the US Northern Command, told a Senate hearing that troops or anti-narcotics agents would be sent to the Mexican border. The plan could be finalized as early as this week."

The National Guard, along with additional law enforcement agencies, are at the base of the plan to join the military already deployed to the US-Mexico border. Techniques learned, used and perfected in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as unmanned planes and underground tunnel locators are already in use.

Already in a trade dispute over border crossings, the US has stopped a scheme for Mexican trucks to use US roads which Mexico states violates a free-trade agreement.

The last time anything hit the US news wires about the escalation of Mexican drug cartels was on March 1. This particularly important bit of news was nowhere to be found amongst the AIG, Madoff and Obama headlines in the US news today. Instead, the Associated Free Press article was released by the BBC.

The omission of a stateside war in the US news has several implications. Is it to minimize panic? Is it to keep the American people focused on the media-created messiah for a president? Just who is the Big Kahuna gatekeeper calling the shots on what will and won't be released in the US?

Sigh, AIG Again

. Monday, March 16

I find it funny that photographers are getting quite ingenious with their shots of the AIG headquarters building since it's in the news so much. Nice photo, eh?

This whole AIG business has be stumped. From my point of view as a measley little peon at the very bottom of the pecking order, you pay and pay and pay an insurance company for covering "potential" losses of whatever it is you are insuring. The point, as far as I can tell, is to be sure that you don't lose everything should you be involved in an auto accident or, God forbid, your house should burn down.  You can make those monthly payments religiously for years, but forget one and your rates go up or after taking all that money from you, your policy is cancelled.  Barring that side of the scam, if you should actually need them to pay out, they refuse as a matter of course the first time you request it! So, what's the point of sending an insurance company all your money?

Somehow, some way, AIG is sitting on top of the heap of mess that is the global economy today.  Yesterday, it was outrage over the bailout money, once again, going out as bonuses to the idiots that flubbed up in the first place. (Hey, I can screw up too. Can I have a gigantic bonus?) Today, it is revealed that it is not bailout money that is going toward idiot bonuses. That comes from the stockpile of money the company has. (So why do they need a bailout again?)  The AIG bailout money is paying off Goldman Sachs et al, who are also receiving huge bailout packages!

Let me get this straight. I send in my money like a nice little sheep to have it sitting there and waiting should I get into an accident and need a huge chunk of money in a hurry. I go years and years and years without ever requesting insurance money. Back when I was young, insurance companies actually paid back some of the money paid in if you chose to cancel the policy. That doesn't happen anymore. When I did manage to have enough bad luck to hit a deer on night, I called my insurance company and got a runaround. After that, I let the body shop deal with the insurance company. It took 6 weeks for the body shop to get paid so that I could have my truck back! What really pissed me off is that the amount the company paid out to fix my truck was minuscule compared to how much I paid in over the years.

So, they take everyone's money and invest it in risky endeavors, lose it, then go crying to the government for more of my money in the form of tax dollars. There's just something gravely wrong in this picture. Insurance has got to be the biggest scam ever, and it's legal.

Here's what we should do. Instead of sending in payments to insurance companies, send it in to a savings account instead. Let that savings pile up as insurance against the unthinkable and collect the interest yourself. Let's just stop giving away all our money right now.

Windshield Fluid Mistaken for Koolaid Given to Kids in AR Daycare

. Friday, March 13

Carolyn Bynum of Scott, Arkansas, bought the windshield wiper fluid on her shopping list on her last trip to the grocery store. Somehow, the large bottle of bright blue liquid was mistaken for Koolaid and put into the refrigerator. Bynum held a childcare license from the state, allowing her to care for up to 10 children at a time. The bright blue fluid was served to 10 children today, and each drank about an ounce of the stuff before they realized it didn't taste quite right. All were taken to Arkansas Children's Hospital, and only one remains hospitalized. Windshield wiper fluid contains methanol, which is a highly toxic alcohol that can induce coma and blindness at high levels, and at lower levels, it can cause nausea, vomiting, staggering and sleepiness.

Bynum wouldn't talk to reporters, but immediately surrendered her childcare license. Others say that she is extremely upset about the incident, she takes full responsibility for the "horrible mistake," and she is very worried about  the children.

Is the Information Age Here?

. Monday, March 9

If the Information Age is to be one of free and open access to any and all information, information that is touted to be the ultimate power, then now is the time to take part, make yourself heard, and put your two cents in on what will be available via data.gov.

Wired has released a comprehensive outline in the form of a how-to wiki of what is, in the end, just scratching the surface on government transparency. The outline suggests open access to the Human Genome Project, Earth Science data and the Hubble Telescope's data, plus policy suggestions to encourage continued government transparency by rewriting the rules of what is and isn't public data, expanding curricula to include available information and of course, establishing funding streams.

It is well worth the read to identify the ways in which you can take part in shaping the future of knowledge accessibility.

Music Helps Identify Emotion, Helps With LDs

. Saturday, March 7

It turns out that you were right when you said "musicians are weird." OK, maybe you didn't say that, but I did, and I'm a musician - it takes one to know one. Science has finally caught up to me and has come to the same conclusion I have always had.

Musicians are far better at tuning into and hearing emotion. The study was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, and had 30 people watch a nature film while listening to a baby crying. Electrodes pasted to their scalp picked up on the fact that musicians reacted stronger and more accurately to the emotional aspects in the sounds of the baby's cries.

While the study itself is narrowed down to minimize outside influences and variables, the implications are quite broad. It was noted that the part of the musicians' brain that processes emotion in sound is the same area of the brain that people with dyslexia and autism show a marked deficit. This suggests that these disorders may benefit greatly from musical training.

On the flip side, the more musical training a person has, the more in tune with his own emotions and emotions in sound he has. The ability to quickly and accurately identify emotions in sound is inherent from the start. Babies can distinguish the differences between a happy and a sad song.

My own experience as a lifelong musician who has known countless musicians has led me to conclude that there are two types of musicians:

The technical side of music is mathematical and is easily approached from that aspect. Math is processed on the opposite side of the brain than emotions are. Musicians that are more technical seem to capture the emotion in the music by mimicry instead of tapping into their own emotions. These musicians are the ones that will play the loudest and act egomaniacal off stage. The reaction they get from their music is "wow."

The second type of musician is the one that taps into their own emotion and uses music as a form of expression of that emotion. Incorporating the technical side of music seems to somewhat limit the emotional expression for this type of musician. These musicians are the ones that play well with others, know that ego has little to do with music, and that react to music with goosebumps and shivers of delight. The reaction from listeners to their music is goosebumps and delight as well.

What is most interesting is that both technical and emotional musicians can switch from technical to emotional and visa versa from moment to moment! Nothing is ever set in stone with a musician.

Mexican Drug War on Both Sides of the Border

. Sunday, March 1

While a Mexican soldier watches, tons of seized narcotics burn in a huge pile that illustrates the mountainous threat that is playing out, not only on the Mexican side of the border, but the US side as well. While the 'hot topic' is illegal immigration, members of Mexican drug cartels seem quite able to cross the border at will, wreak their brand of havoc in Phoenix, El Paso and San Diego. Kidnappings, beheadings, families gunned down and grenades tossed into a bar frequented by police are just some of the violent crimes brought to the US by the warring Mexican drug lords. Horribly undermanned to deal with a threat so violent and monstrous, city police have quit, been paid off, or joined with the drug dealers, perhaps just to stay alive.

While Texas is working to pass legislation to crack down on cartel money laundering and trafficking in humans, drugs and weapons, Arizona is stepping up attempts to quell gun smuggling and seizure of assets. In the meantime, the US Senate is planning two meetings to determine the availability of US forces to deal with the rise in crime on the US side while the US sends helicopters, surveillance aircraft, inspection equipment and police training to the Mexican government.

Though it is rarely in the national headlines, what is going on with the rise of violent drug crimes is not limited to the border states of Texas, Arizona and California. It may be an effort to keep the innocent out of the crosshairs of these ruthless drug dealers, yet the backlash is that there is no public outcry of the very real war happening on our own soil.

Nevertheless, with illegal immigrants migrating further north to Arkansas to work on the Fayetteville Shale Play's natural gas boom, along with them come the drug dealers. One policeman said that though they may apprehend and charge a Mexican, because he is not a US citizen, he is deported and set free in Mexico, and likely to return at will, unpunished for the crimes committed here.

What is going on in Mexico is happening across the border and in the US. This is a war that is here, it is very real, and there is a clear enemy that is committing as much terror today as those overseas did on 9/11. It doesn't happen all at once, and it isn't on TV, but the tally of lives lost is rising quickly to equal those lost to Islamic terrorism on that fateful day in 2001.