If you tell enough stories, perhaps the moral will show up.


The end of the World

I think there are currently two ways for mad scientists to destroy the world.

  1. The new accelerator at CERN has a sort of chance of creating quantum black holes, depending apparently on how tightly the insensible dimensions are rolled up. Good looking theory says that they should evaporate in a tiny gamma burst, but no-one can be sure how relativity works at that scale. If they don't evaporate, they will fall to the earth's core and then consume the whole planet. The first few atoms might take a while, but after that, they'll be unstoppable.
  2. Craig Venter's team expect to be loading their carefully written DNA into a cell this year. If they cock up and build a replicator, there's no easy telling what it'll manage.
In the past, the best bet was fusion bomb tests: could they ignite light elements in the planet's crust? Well, no as it happened, and I'll guess we'll be alright with these two, too.


Be Careful What You Wish For

Five years ago, I was effectively unemployed, failing to keep on top of the household jobs, and wishing I was riding on the commuter trains going past.

This evening, long after I should have been back, I was sitting on a commuter train wishing I was at home.



I was cutting down the hedge in front of the house today. Quite heavy work, a little sawing through the beech trunks, but mostly figuring out how to use the loppers to undo the tangle and pull out the heavy brushings.

Every Sunday walker that came along the lane had the same piece of advice: "That's a heavy job -- you need a chainsaw."

Now I'm a power tool enthusiast -- in the right place -- and I know a professional hedger would automatically use a power saw. But why on earth would anyone imagine that a middle-aged, middle-grade bank operative with almost no training or experience would do better with a chainsaw than with the bowsaws I've been using since I was a child?


It's not easy running a website

I think I have this right: There are currently two large-scale ways in which you can have lost control of your website.

Either way, you won't know about it until the customers are complaining.


Secrecy Preserving Protocol

From the Metro 2008-1-15:

.... he claimed a mystery royal had warned that Princess Diana's intimate conversations might be bugged. In a bid to protect the person's identity, Mr Burrell insisted on writing the name on a piece of paper and passing it to the coroner. Lord Scott-Baker then revealed three members of the family not named -- the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of York....

Nice balance.


Pain Allergy

I didn't do any hedging today. Last Sunday I was tidying up a monster hawthorn stool and a branch whacked me in the head, leaving me with a dirty great big thorn stuck in my scalp.

It didn't infect, but my inability to remove it -- I couldn't see it -- resulted in a sequence of increasingly desperate requests for help as the lump went down and the splinter made itself increasingly uncomfortable. It ended in the Barts Minor Injuries unit with a nurse on each side of the couch each pressing hard on her side of the lump while one of them used a free hand to wield the forceps.

Some people would pay for that, but for me, before I go back, I'm getting one of these. In the mean time, I had a happy day trying out my new compressor.

Pollen Allergy (The Attack of the Online Florists)

I was talking to the helpdesk team meeting about safe browsing yesterday. I went round the table asking for guesses about the site category that caused the most virus blocks this week. All the usual categories came up: social networking, webmail, blogs and one wag offered the BBC. All good tries except the last, and all wrong.

The real answer was online florists.

Well, that was my route into saying that no site is really safe, (in fact it's a really good security story) and that's why I was going to have another review of their privilege, but I didn't really give it the thought it deserved.

Happily, Mary Landesman has. But I wish she had been able to figure out what was going on.

UPDATED 16/1/2008

It's being reported that all these sites were on Fasthosts when they had that mass site admin password reset in October (and then waited till December to enforce it). Looks as if the malware dropped at that time was left quiescent until last week which makes this a really good security story: Hackers are willing to wait, and there really is no logical end to the consequences of a root compromise.