Tales from the Technoverse

Commentary on social networking, technology, movies, society, and random musings

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What If Everything Is Wrong

June 21st, 2015 · books, General

Well, actually, I am just referring to up and down. Um, that probably does not explain my question well either.

This will take a few steps to explain.

Have you ever had two separate thoughts bang together and cause an unexpected question/result? For me this happens a lot, with pretty useless results I will admit in most cases especially when the two thoughts are not so related.

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Interesting Takeaway From The Future of Cybersecurity Panel

May 22nd, 2015 · atarc, cyber-security, security, technology

A few days ago I moderated a panel at the ATARC sponsored Federal Cybersecurity Integration Summit.  I discussed the panel here.

The topic for the panel was a look at The Future of Cybersecurity, what kinds of threats that we might encounter and what to do about it.

We had panelists with very different perspectives. One came from a career at NSA and two were professors, one focused on criminology and the other on cybersecurity.

One of the discussions that went on generated by a question from the audience was how much emphasis should be placed on improving the behavior of the people using technology since everyone now had access to so much. Some favored investing resources to make people more aware of security issues, in the same way we require driver’s education and taking some kind of test. Others emphasized the need to improve the capability of the systems themselves to be self-protective and possibly self-repairing (and probably a bunch of other self’s).

While the obvious response would be to say all of the above are important, that avoids the need to prioritize. As I have often pointed out trying to do everything everywhere generally means being successful at nothing anywhere.

Showing my at least notional thought on the issue, I posed a final question for the audience to ponder.

“Perhaps we need to change our focus when dealing with cyberhackers and cybercriminals. Right now we try to protect, to detect and to eradicate. It is possible we need to try and make such attacks irrelevant even when they are successful.”

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UMUC’s 2015 Commencement

May 18th, 2015 · education, University of Maryland University College

While I attended my two daughter’s college commencements as well as a niece’s college commencement I had never been to one directly related to me until this last weekend.

I was at Fort Dix when my University of Maryland College Park class graduated, to explain this would require telling a long story about breaking up with my then college girlfriend and having to submit final papers two months after the end of the semester, which I will not bore anyone with the retelling.

I did not attend my commencement when I received my Masters in International Management (MIM) from the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) for reasons I am not sure I can articulate, chalk it up to my anti-social attitude which sometimes (most times?) comes to the surface.

However, after attending the UMUC 2015 Commencement this last weekend, I regret having missed those earlier events, something I will have to keep in mind going forward.

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The Future of Cybersecurity Panel – ATARC Federal Cybersecurity Integration Summit – May 20

May 15th, 2015 · atarc, cyber-security

ATARC is sponsoring a Federal Cybersecurity Integration Summit this coming Wednesday, May 20, at the Renaissance Washington, in downtown Washington DC.

The agenda is here. There are also links there for those who are interested in registering for the Summit.

From 11:00am – 11:45am I will be moderating a panel that will take a look at The Future of Cybersecurity, what kinds of threats that we can expect to see in the future looking at the growing pervasiveness of technology. Our two scheduled panelists are:

  • Richard George, who is a Senior Advisor for Cyber Security at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. Previously George had been Technical Director, Information Assurance Directorate, at NSA, and will bring a big picture perspective based on his extensive career in the field.
  • David Maimon, an Assistant Professor, Criminology and Criminal Justice, within the Maryland Cybersecurity Center at the University of Maryland College Park. David’s focus is on the behavior of hackers and the implications for protection and/or minimizing the resulting damage. It is a different focus than we typically see on panels dealing with cybersecurity and should lead to some interesting discussions.

After the morning Summit there is a MITRE-ATARC Cybersecurity Collaboration Symposium looking at four challenge areas. Both the morning Summit and the afternoon Symposium should be of interest to professionals in the Cybersecurity field.

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Cleopatra: A Life

March 10th, 2015 · books, history

Thanks to Ellen, I renewed, well, I got a new, library card. Now that I have an actual commute since my un-semi-retirement over to Largo MD where my offices at UMUC are, I download audio books from the Library onto my cell phone and play them over the bluetooth speakers in the car.

This morning I finished listening to a both interesting and entertaining biography of Cleopatra, Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff.

In addition to being really well read by Robin Miles, and for those who have not listened to audio books the reader can have a big impact on one’s enjoyment, the book, at least to me, brought to life not just Cleopatra but her historical surroundings.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant people of her time, Cleopatra was a Queen when generally Queens were secondary players, in a country with little military power at a time of the rise of Rome, and yet played a significant role for the 22 years she ruled. In the center of the transition between the Roman Republican and the resulting Empire, she had political and/or personal relationships with Pompey, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Octavian (the future Augustus), and Herod.

The last relationship was of particular interest to me, both because I really unfamiliar with it and because I read a lot about Herod in the Biblical Archaeology magazines I glance at.

Herod was appointed King by Antony. Cleopatra asked Antony for control of all of Judea when they were involved with each other. While Antony turned Cleopatra down, she was given control of Jericho and received the rights for fees from the bitumen obtained from the Dead Sea. Cleopatra visited Herod to come to an agreement on how the tribute associated with her assets were to be transferred to her. During her visit, Herod evidently wanted to assassinate Cleopatra.

Later Herod volunteered to fight for Antony (and Cleopatra) against Octavian but was sent home to fight the Numedians instead. That probably saved his life by making it easier for Herod to change sides to support the victorious Octavian.

For those interested in learning more about Cleopatra, a truly fascinating figure, who as the author noted could be considered a bridge from the ancient world to the more modern one, this is a very good source.


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Departures – Worth Viewing

February 28th, 2015 · movies

The story concerns a young couple, the film begins with the husband, Daigo, a cellist whose orchestra goes out of business, needing a job. He answers an ad which says that applicants do not have to have a lot of experience, the position is high paying, and the work is with “departures”. Thinking it might have something to do with travel, Daigo goes to apply for the position. The boss asks him one question “Will he work hard”, when he answers yes, he is hired. He then finds out that the word departures is a typo, it should read “departed”. The job is to prepare dead bodies for funerals.

From this premise the film, albeit slowly, explores issues of life and death, the meaning and responsibilities of living a full existence, and the respect we show, or do not, show to those around us.

I was reminded while watching the film about the Jewish tradition of Chevra Kadisha, translated as holy society. Their role is to make sure that the bodies of Jews who died are prepared correctly for burial according to tradition, including the ritual cleaning and dressing. Like the film shows according to Japanese tradition the body is to be purified and cleaned and then covered by appropriate clothes (what is appropriate differs). Chevra Kadisha is perceived as a ‘good deed of truth’ since it is a favor that the recipient cannot return.

While I suppose the basic plot line was fairly predictable and for those who desire action films it will be a slow slog, I enjoyed the film a great deal, enjoyed the acting and emotional moments, and was happy to listen to the great cello playing that was interspersed. Learning more about the Japanese traditions associated with burial and seeing the overlap with other comparable traditions was also pretty interesting.


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Abortion and An Eye for an Eye

February 14th, 2015 · bible, judaism

This week in synagogue we read Parsha Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 – 24:18.

God dit not just provide the Ten Commandments, but also a large number of more detailed laws. A number of these laws are covered in this weeks portion of the Torah. One part deals with laws covering penalties for crimes and laws relating to what should happen in return for damages. In particular, there is a section in Exodus 21: 18-19 and 22-25 which contains one of the two references, the other being in Leviticus, to the very famous eye for an eye phrases:

“And should men quarrel and hit a pregnant woman, and she miscarries but there is not a fatality. he shall surely be punished, when the woman’s husband makes demands of him, and he shall give according to the judges. But if there is a fatality, you shall give a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.”

The clauses relating to eye for an eye and so on are among the most understood in the Torah for at least two reasons.

First, based on the context and a variety of other verses, these refer to monetary restitution, not literally taking a body part for another body part. But even if one were to prefer the literally meaning, in fact these clauses are meant to limit what was done. In ancient times, people were put to death for many crimes including many which would seem to be relatively minor. The point of this wording was to indicate that monetary compensation (or punishment in general) should be comparable to what the crime or action was.

One aspect of the above mentioned versus which I had not noticed before was brought up by our Rabbi, Rabbi Fishman, who talked about the first part which discusses the example of a pregnant woman being hit during a quarrel between two other people – this was being used to illustrate what happened when third parties, non-participants in the immediate quarrel, were impacted.

One interesting aspect of the example used treats a miscarriage much differently than one would treat a murder, explicitly pointing out that the result would be compensation not capital punishment. This phrasing serves as one of the basis for the general rules regarding abortion within Jewish law. From conception until around thirty days, the fetus is treated as if it were water. From around thirty days until the fetuses head crowns, the fetus is treated as if it were a part of a woman’s body. In the same way that one would not needlessly sever a woman’s arm or leg, one is not to commit  an abortion unless there is a medical reason regarding a woman’s health.

One of the differences between the more observant/orthodox and more liberal/reform Jews regarding abortion is the different approaches to defining what protecting a woman’s health means. Whether this includes mental health and how flexible to define mental health varies greatly.

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Everything As A Service

January 28th, 2015 · CIO, cloud computing, technology

Recently I was on the DorobekINSIDER LIVE show along with Sean Herron, Product Lead and Developer at 18F; and Richard Beutel, Senior Advisor and Counsel for Acquisition Policy House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The link to the show is here.

The attitude to Cloud has changed dramatically since I was the CIO at the US Department of Transportation. Then, there was great reluctance from all stakeholders to even try moving applications to the Cloud. Now, there is general agreement that many applications are candidates for such a move, though there clearly are security and acquisition hurdles that need to be overcome.

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Firefly Is Everywhere

January 25th, 2015 · Firefly, Serenity, tv

Some blog posts I write are actually written hoping someone will read them, in particular when I discuss technology or sometimes political topics. Some blog posts are random musings on some aspect of entertainment and while I am unsure as to whether I add serious value to the public square they are least are comprehensible. Some blog posts are just self-indulgent, this one is self-indulgent.

As those of you who know me are aware, I really like(d) the TV show Firefly and its spin-off movie Serenity. Every year I go to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse and, along with many other Browncoats (do not ask) or Browncoats-to-be, watch Serenity (again) as well as Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and often live entertainment such as Marian Call singing Firefly inspired songs.

In addition to Firefly, one of the other long-canceled TV shows that I very much liked, was Dead Like Me. Dead Like Me, a Showtime carried show, followed the life, well death, of Georgia “George” Lass who died in the first show when she was hit by a toilet seat from the Space Station. She finds herself a part of a group of reapers led by Mandy Patinkin. The reapers job is to remove the souls of people before they die and then get them so they can move on to their destination.

That off-putting premise led to a creative dark-comedy with some pretty nice moments (at least in my opinion). Enough so that I added it to my Netflix queue to watch during my morning elliptical-walking sessions.

So, the reason I am mentioning all this is that I just finished Season 1, Episode 14, which focused on George’s family having a headstone made for the unveiling at her gravesite. During the course of the show however one of the fellow reapers meets a goth girl at a retail store. The girl was played by Jewell Stait who ALSO played the beloved Kaylee Frye in Firefly and Serenity. It made my day.

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It Turns Out You CAN Go Home Again – A New Job

January 1st, 2015 · education, technology, University of Maryland University College

Slightly over forty years ago, I received a B.S. in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland College Park (the major had just been created). It started me off on a random walk through the continually changing Information Technology field.

When I first wrote a computer program to bid bridge in high school and later shortly after graduation used punched paper tape output from digitizers to merge census and election data, the modern-day impact of ubiquitous mobility on organizations and personal behavior was not even a glimmer as a possibility. Now my daughters Facetime with their grandparents while they travel in Europe and no one considers it particularly out-of-the-ordinary.

Starting January 12, I will start a full-time position at the University of Maryland University College as the Program Chair of The Undergraduate Schools’ (TUS) Major, in of all things, Information Systems Management.

I do not know whether to be more amazed at the circular nature of this career arc or at how much Information Systems Management as a major has changed. I do know that I am lucky to have been asked to serve in the role and thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to give back lessons from having made pretty much every possible mistake that any one individual can make (lately I have had the feeling that I have been reduced to repeating old mistakes in new ways).

In the mean-time, later today, New Year’s Day, I and the rest of the family will go to our second Winter Classic. The first was in Pittsburgh, this one will be at Nationals Park in Washington DC. I continue to live a lucky life, I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope 2015 will bring the largest amount of joy and surmountable challenges as possible.

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