Monthly Archives: November 2008

Thankfully on this day

For many this image of Thanksgiving is the quintessential picture of the holiday.


That the painting, titled Freedom from Want, was painted by Norman Rockwell shouldn’t surprise anyone. But there is an interesting story behind this image. It is one of the Four Freedoms, originally put forth by FDR and later illustrated by Normal Rockwell.  The other three freedoms are:


Freedom of Speech



Freedom of Worship



Freedom from Fear

And these freedoms are what I am thankful for today. Obviously I am thankfully for my wonderful family. But at times that comes with a sense of near overwhelming feeling of responsibility for them. Because of that I am thankful that even in this trying economy, we have the freedom from want. I am thankful we live in a time and place where we have freedom from fear. I am thankful that we can exercise our faith as we are guided to and enjoy our freedom of worship. I am thankful that we have the freedom of speech without which you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

May you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving and find these freedoms in your life as well.

The milk of human kindness gone sour

A Canadian university students association has voted to drop a Cystic Fibrosis charity because the disease is not “diverse enough”:

The Carleton University Students’ Association has voted to drop a cystic fibrosis charity as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, supporting a motion that argued the disease is not “inclusive” enough.

Cystic fibrosis “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men” said the motion read Monday night to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it.

I’m sure these students feel that they are not hard-hearted people. And there are plenty of deserving charities to give to.  I have no doubt they will do good work on behalf of another charity that better fits their world-view.

But this is one of those canary-in-a-coal-mine kind of moments. The fact that a near unanimous group of students voted to drop a charity based on the race and gender of the afflicted shines a harsh light on a particular moral rot. That rot is a set of values that elevates political correctness above all else. These students should (voluntarily) go to a hospital and visit some CF afflicted children.

On a happier note, I would like to recommend BJ’s Restaurant. They recently opened one in my area and the food is great. I don’t drink beer, but others have told me their beers are quite good.

And they are a strong supporter of CF charities.

Other People’s Money

There have been some interesting discussions about the economy of security. The expert’s often say that security needs to be the focus of everyone in an organization, from IT to data entry. After all, some of the serious public breaches occurred when proper security procedures were in place, but just not followed.

Which to me brings up the interesting question of exactly why should the rank and file employees go out of their way to do anything about security? For many, there it just doesn’t seem important; because in the end its Other People’s Money to them.

Barring losing their job, does the average Joe really care if their CEO gets called on the carpet because of a high profile breach? Do they really care if down-time causes a loss of productivity in someone else’s department? I was thinking about those questions when I read about employees who are having to sue to get paid for the time they spend booting their computers up in the morning.

I won’t comment on the lawsuit itself, since I don’t know enough about it. But think about this, if you are a company that won’t even pay for the time your employees spend booting your PCs, do you really think they are going to care about security policies?

Sweet chewy nuggets of identity wisdom

Ashraf Motiwala offers up these nuggets of identity wisdom:

  • Good technology can’t compensate for bad processes (although it might make it less painful)
  • Fixing your data without fixing your processes is like painting your house on a rainy day
  • Throwing more software at an identity problem usually exacerbates it
  • A dollar in an identity project doesn’t take you as far as you’d expect (even though its well worth it)
  • What business users think is happening is quite often vastly different than what is happening under the hood

Ashraf also asks for more one liners. Here are my favorites:

  • The dirty little secret about provisioning is that it’s really all about deprovisioning.
  • You shouldn’t start out trying to do account management by adding another account to manage.

The former was drilled into me at Access360 when I repeatedly saw customers that were really ok with it taking an employee weeks to get access to all the required resources, but wanted them turned off the moment the decision had been made to end the employment relationship. The later is a reference to the large number of identity products that still can’t leverage an existing identity store for users, and instead synchronize an internal proprietary user repository.

Ignored at own peril

Even if you dislike Rupert Murdoch, you have to admit he knows how to make media companies successful. He also knows successful media companies when he sees them. He has some advice that most media companies should listen to, but probably wont:

With newspapers cutting back and predictions of even worse times ahead, Rupert Murdoch said the profession may still have a bright future if it can shake free of reporters and editors who he said have forfeited the trust and loyalty of their readers.

“My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the internet is this: it’s not newspapers that might become obsolete. It’s some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper’s most precious asset: the bond with its readers,” said Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp. He made his remarks as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Australian Broadcast Corporation.

Murdoch, whose company’s holdings also include MySpace and the Wall Street Journal, criticized what he described as a culture of “complacency and condescension” in some newsrooms.

“The complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly–and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product. Newspapers are no exception.”

Instead of following this path, most legacy media companies are taking the exact opposite approach. They are becoming more about the opinion and politics than about the news and information. While no media has ever been unbiased, the trend now seems to be more openly one-sided than ever.

The news and information markets may have been commoditized, but the opinion market has been made essentially free. That is not the direction profitability lies.

Statistical Entrails Reading

Paul Madsen points out this Chris Messina post about a study of OpenID usage and awareness among Mechanical Turk users. Paul makes some interesting distinctions about SAML being envisioned to be invisible to the end-user while OpenID was invisioned to be a “branded”.

Personally I believe that OpenID adoption will happen en-mass not when it is branded by OpenID, but co-branded primarily by a small set of large identity providers. A lot more people are “aware” they have a Yahoo account or LiveID account than an OpenID ID.

But what I find absurd is all of the statistical entrails reading that is happening to determine what the OpenID adoption rates are when a couple of large identity providers could simply just tell us. Why don’t the big OpenID identity providers simply publish OpenID authentication stats on a monthly basis?

The providers must have those stats internally. The fact that they are not published says a lot more than any studies about brand awareness.

Contemporary Education

My middle son is currently in fourth grade. One of the subjects he is currently working on is dictionary skills. Each week he has a list of words that he has to look up in the dictionary. And by “the dictionary” I mean one of the book variety. To keep the students from using an electronic dictionary, the students are required to write down the words on the top of the left and right hand pages visible when reading the word in question (apparently called the “bracketing words”). We have had to borrow a paper dictionary from one of our neighbors to do these assignments.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that my son is being taught these invaluable skills.

I can’t wait for the unit on mechanical adding machine operation. But we may have to wait until the sundial reading elective is finished.

The coming recording arms race

The Speculist discusses the possibility of an arms in ubiquitous recording (hat tip to InstaPundit):

The Futurist Magazine has published its annual Top 10 Forecasts.

I found the first prediction the most interesting: “Everything you say and do will be recorded by 2030.”

I think it would be possible to do this much sooner. Data storage devices are getting smaller (in physical size) and bigger (in storage capacity) all the time. In five years we could see iPod sized devices with the storage capacity to record for days bluetoothed to a tiny camera and mic mounted to eyeglass frames.

Possible, of course, doesn’t mean wide adoption. It will only be widely adopted when it becomes an arms race.

These “Recorders” will be in possession of history. If, for example, there were a disagreement a Recorder could edit a version of the events to favor his point of view. Perhaps he could even add or delete data. Unless the other party were also recording, they’d have no defense against historical revisionism. This is becoming a problem already. Glenn Reynolds argued in the New York Post that political candidates should bring their own cameras to interviews.

Of course this reality is already here in small ways. We assume everything we email is retained by our employer. When we call a support line we are told that the conversation “May be recorded” for “Quality Control Purposes”. Actually this means the conversation will be recorded, and not for your benefit.

Speak into the eyeglasses please.

The permanently gloved overlords of Britannia

The magnificent bastards of NO2ID have struck again. From the Guido Fawkes blog (hat tip to

Jacqui Smith gave a speech today at midday on ID cards to an audience invited by the Social Market Foundation, at the end of the event the glass she was drinking from during the Q & A was whisked away* by a NO2ID sympathiser. This picture was taken this lunchtime – the glass is now undergoing a technical process at an undisclosed location. This will not only identify Big Jacqui’s fingerprints, it will allow them to create a plastic foil stamp that will enable anyone to leave her fingerprints behind. Last March German hackers cloned the German Interior Minister’s fingerprints.

The picture is priceless.

BTW, I mentioned the previous incident here.

As the UK rushes headlong into the Orwellian abyss, I see a future where everyone of importance wears special gloves with a built in flap that can be pulled aside for authentication purposes. These gloves would be worn at all times to prevent inadvertent biometric information leakage.


I suspect this has been done up in some dystopian sci-fi story. If not it should be.