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(I refuse to see beauty where there is none)

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So, in addition to the boilerplate I've previously listed, a certain financial institution also has fairly draconian policies. You can't use USB sticks or access the internet. They require training in preventing money laundering. This training advises employees to flag suspicious behaviors such as paying off loans, withdrawing money or depositing checks 'routinely'. They might be funding terrorists.
But of particular note was that the money laundering policies also apply to 'anti-boycotting'. Here's what they have to say about that:
Anti-boycott

A boycott is an organized refusal to purchase goods or services from or otherwise patronize a particular country. U.S. anti-boycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specific cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the U.S does not support. U.S. anti-boycott provisions are generally directed at boycotts against Israel by the Arab League. These laws have the effect of preventing U.S firms, their subsidiaries and affiliates from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policies.

This is more of a US thing than a company thing, but it's very strange. Training stated that warning signs of an illegal boycott might include requiring compliance with [some country]s laws or mention of Israel. What is happening is the company is refusing to give accounts to companies in Arab League nations which themselves will refuse to work with Israel. If you boycott Israel, you can't have a bank account, says the U.S.

Why is Israel special?

As a sidenote, these days companies such as this one actively google for references to themselves, their employees, or their policies. It is for these sorts of reasons that I haven't migrated to a blog strongly identified with my real-world identity yet. I fear self-censorship.
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last year the TSA dropped the secret 'ID or extra screening' choice; now you MUST prove your identity to enter the boarding area, despite it being totally legal to sell airline tickets without any identity screening whatsoever (common carrier laws). This loophole, however, only applies to those willfully refusing to show ID -- saying you forgot your ID still works. What a horrible change, the only people excluded by the change in policy are those who believe in their own constitutional rights, or don't believe in the authority of the TSA. No terrrist is going to refuse to show ID, he'll have a fake or say he forgot it. Ugh.

The TSA also now requires gender and birthdate to be provided for all travelers at the time of ticket purchase.

What's more at issue, is what is the individual supposed to do about this? Not flying is hardly an option for most, I don't have the time to drive across the country instead of flying. The only option seems to be to lie about your birthdate on the form and then claim you've forgotten your ID. And now that I've written that publicly, I could be put automatically onto a selectee or no-fly list. It wouldn't be the first time it happened (see: the FBI raid on Christopher Soghoian's home)

If you choose to resist unjust laws instead of just complaining about them, you have two civil options that I can see: have enough money to fight it and maybe make a change in the law, or be willing to go to jail for quite possibly a long time. I suppose there's a third option in this case, lose your airfare every time you try it but be otherwise simply ejected from the building. I can't afford any of these options, so I can either not fly or give in.
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Quick followup on security and mobile sites:

Mike found that if you have javascript enabled, but have a slow internet connection, google will send you to a javascript-free simpler version of google maps. Of course, if you have javascript disabled, you don't get the no-javascript link. Smart!
Here it is: http://maps.google.com/m?q=search-terms
Directions don't have pictures, and local business results don't either, but addresses do. Better than nothing!

I forgot to mention that gmail fails without cookies. Google voice won't work even WITH cookies (it requires javascript), but gmail has an html-only site if javascript is your only concern. Still...
Really, google? No options or advice?

So I have my local mail user agent (mutt, in this case) configured for gmail. It does threading, searching by tag and viewing labels like folders. It emulates the web experience pretty closely. I'm sure outlook or eudora or thunderbird can be configured to handle it too. And honestly, web interfaces are supposed to be the backup for email.

Post from mobile portal m.livejournal.com
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As a (probably far too) security conscious web user, I have some habits that set me somewhat apart from the mainstream these days. Primarily, I don't allow javascript OR cookies as a rule. More and more sites simply fail without one or both of these enabled, rather than gracefully degrading as specified in the design documents the web is based on. So, how to get around this? Sometimes, if I trust a site, I'll give it javascript. But even aside from trust I tend to hate flashy web interfaces so I'll either 1) not use the site or 2) use the mobile version of the site. Here are some examples.

Facebook: without cookies, you cannot login to the normal facebook site. With cookies, but without javascript, it attempts to automatically redirect you to a javascript-free version of facebook (I say attempts because I have automatic redirects and refreshes also disabled). However, the js-free site is read only. You can't post any content whatsoever, which makes interaction somewhat stale. Solution? Mobile site!
The mobile site for facebook (m.facebook.com) is a testament to the whole concept of mobile sites. I get all the status updates, images, profile information and comments, with none of the ads (though I'm sure if more people did this, that would change) and none of the javascript or cookies dependencies. Win-win for those of us who feel facebook is an unfortunate must when keeping up with friends&family.

Amazon: The mobile site for amazon (which I always have to bookmark: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/h.html) is functional, and minimal. Maybe too minimal. You don't get ratings or comments, which are both large portions of the amazon experience. There are no images on the search page, so if you're looking for something that you'll know by sight you'll have to click on each product. Images should be an option (they are on facebook's mobile site and several others) either on the site or in your browser. I think you lose access to one-click shopping (or at least it's not enabled by default on signin), but maybe that's a good thing. Amazon can get a bit impulse-purchase-friendly at times (: Otherwise, good interface, checkout is easy.
However, the normal amazon site works fine without cookies or javascript up until the checkout process, so I usually use it and then grant it temporary privileges which I immediately rescind post-purchase.

eBay: The normal eBay site works, with most advanced sorting and navigation features disabled. eBay has a graceful degrade option for users without javascript enabled, but it requires cookies! The mobile eBay site (m.ebay.com) uses a layout which assumes you have a tall but very narrow device. Most mobile sites optimize for this but use layouts which expand horizontally; eBay has a fixed-width. This makes it useless for searching and browsing, but it does have some redeeming value in the my eBay section, for watching items you're bidding on,while actually remote (on a cellphone browser, for instance). For any other purpose, I will treat it with the same caution as amazon and grant temporary privileges.

LJ: livejournal has a fantastic mobile site for posting, and an OK site for reading. Unfortunately LJ won't let you sign in without cookies, so I tend to not sign-in at all. When I do, I use the mobile site (predictably, m.livejournal.com). It's functional, with a few caveats: the posts are all cut short, presumably to reduce bandwidth on mobile devices; and images are run through some sort of rendering agent (perhaps to resize them automatically?). The rendering agent requires javascript, so all images are replaced with placeholders which say "Image is being processed".

Google voice/gmail/etc: Total failure. Google voice's normal interface requires javascript; attempting to browse to any of the mobile sites (m.google.com/voice for example) fails because it detects I'm not on a mobile device. But what counts as a mobile device? I'm posting now from a laptop. I have a UMPC with a hand-sized screen that runs XP with normal firefox, and I wouldn't be able to get to the mobile site there either. My phone can, but only when I'm running it in blackberry mode; I all-too-frequently have to make my phone appear to be a desktop device because sites redirect me to the mobile page when I actually want the full page (google does this for it's main page, for example). Google is trying to be smarter than me and does not allow for the possibility that I'd want the mobile page on a 'non mobile' device. It decides what counts as mobile or not (presumably based on browser identification strings). This is as bad as GeoIP.

Google: Just a few notes on google itself. Google tends to remember signins. After the various fiascos they've had with private userdata or even semiprivate search data being released, I'm not comfortable with that. I have no inherent trust of google as a company, nor should anyone. I originally circumvented the signin by switching all my search engines to use google.com/custom?search%20terms%20here instead of google.com/search?search%20ters%20here. I no longer need to do that since I have cookies and javascript disabled, but have come to like the more classic google look and lack of interspersed news/video/image results the main google search inserts. If I want to search those things, I'll say so. The downside is I can't search "showtimes for [zipcode]" or "businessname near [address]", because for some reason those features don't work on google's 'custom' search. Also, google maps previously had a mobile site AND a javascript-free site.. the mobile site no longer has maps (just local business listings) and the js-free site doesn't seem to exist. You have to manually go to the mobile site, because just going to maps.google.com will leave you with an attempted refresh and a permanent 'loading' message. Allowing it to refresh does not help.

Mobile sites began appearing as mobile browsers became more popular. Web designers were aware that they had been designing sites for large desktop monitors and they would not gracefully adapt to the small screens and limited capabilities of mobile browsers. Although I am against this in policy (sites can and should be designed that will work on any resolution) in practice it gives me old-style basic sites that are typically functional while not forcing me to make too many compromises with my privacy and security concerns. If you use a mobile site, make sure it's using https; livejournal for example has an option for a secure login but for some reason defaults to an insecure login. And if you're wondering "why disable javascript and cookies?", that's a topic deserving of it's own post. But the quickest answer for each is: javascript can steal your history, IP, and has had many vulnerabilities over the years; cookies can be used to track your web activity, and are used to remember logins. Many sites have begun using facebook as an unofficial universal login due to it's popularity, and so you can visit cracked.com and it is able to display things like what articles your friends have recently liked. I don't want cracked.com to know who I am or who my friends are; it is unnecessary to the reading experience, and I consider it a privacy intrusion (or at least the potential for one).

Rant concluded; happy browsing!


I posted this via LJs mobile site, of course.

Post from mobile portal m.livejournal.com
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DANGER
bottom drops off suddenly
no swimming
DEADLY CONDITIONS

There was a picture of a swimmer with a cross over it, followed by PELIGRO..and what I assumed was the same tale of caution for spanish speakers.

I glanced at this last as I waded into the water. The visibility in the water seemed safe enough, and it had been almost half an hour since I'd spotted the beach from the road; between Huguenot and Little Talbot state parks, the shallow breaks make for a popular watersports spot, but I'd never tried the beach. My excitement, not to mention the $5 park entry fee, left me determined to swim, sign or no sign. Besides, I'd seen some other folks wading about a quarter mile or so up the beach.

The water was amazingly clear at 1 foot, and began to take on a greenish tint at 2 and 3 feet. I carefully watched my own feet for the advertised dropoff. Once I was comfortable it wasn't going to sneak up on me, I began to relax and enjoy swimming about. The cross-current was strong enough to make it impossible to sit in the surf, so I swam out carefully to chest-height and floated. The same sandbars that made the breaks so enjoyable for windsurfers also made for some rough surf at the shore, so I couldn't relax quite as much as where I normally went swimming in Fernandina. Still, it was enjoyable and the visibility was amazing by comparison to other beaches in this part of Florida.

I was still watching my feet and the bottom when I noticed shadows in the water; it turned out to be a large school of silver fish, 6 inches or so long, swimming so close to the surface as to occasionally break it with their fins. I turned to follow the path and saw that the school was actually split in two around me, rejoining on the other side. As a wave broke by my head, several fish actually skipped out of the water over me and landed back with a a splash. Definitely no regrets as to my beach choice today. I may have to make another trip out with snorkel and fins before the summer's over.
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Today's pet peeves:
* Open-relay blacklisting
* Facebook's new 'register this computer' "security feature". I browse with no cookies and no javascript, so this just means I have to get past an extra screen every time I log in.
* While I'm thinking about it, websites that require javascript and don't gracefully degrade. websites that insult me for not using javascript (I see messages like "leave the 90s and get a real browser". certainly encourages me to keep visiting that site.) maybe just websites that break design rules in general.
* Blogs that require you to have an account to leave a comment; this usually leads me to abandon the comment I've written. I have no real issue with bot prevention measures like captchas though, provided they are legible.
* the character limit on livejournal screennames; I went to change mine and found out I am too wordy for their tastes (a perennial issue with me)

That's all for pet peeves, I think.
So this year has been unpleasantly eventful. I've had some kind of medical issue since February, and it has been interfering with my plans. I recently went perm with the company I was contracting for, despite my numerous sick days. I'm still trying to plan a scuba trip for this summer with Anthony and Christina. Maybe see pennekemp park off key largo before it's destroyed by a floating oil slick which is totally fucking with a certain oil executive's golf tee times.
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Here's that book meme, got it from my Mom. Original instructions below:


The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Can you prove them wrong?
Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!


the listCollapse )

However, seems fishy. The proofreading is bad, and these are popular books. I decided to google for it, and couldn't find it. DID find a post from someone else who found it fishy, though:

http://kriswager.blogspot.com/2009/02/bbc-100-book-meme-or-is-it.html

Found several other people suspicious of it. Oh well, still, so many books to read!
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285 8 / 40 * 4 * p
5600
3 k
285 8 / 40 * 4 * p
5700.000

Precision is important in dc! lol


So livejournal, I have yet again neglected you. Most of my friends have moved on, but nobody reads notes on facebook, so I am still here!
I have a new job, again. More of the same, but less money, unfortunately. I feel like this is a failure but honestly all I do with my money is go on vacations, so I guess if I still meet that metric I don't care. I need to go on more vacations, actually, but it's harder with an office job than a telecommute one. No more free months in Germany, at least for now. I may look for more telecommute after this contract is up.

I am still absorbed in the idea of living on a boat. More than that, taking the boat for long, long trips. The above mentioned issues apply equally well to this. I am sometimes possessed by the feeling that I am not doing everything I should be, but oh well. Next week I think I will start piano lessons. I am also strongly considering a new gym membership..so many activities are out of reach due to being in terrible physical shape. I thought perhaps my wanderlust had abated, but actually I found myself recently feeling that it had been too long since I had traveled anywhere, and my last trip was in August! So not very long ago at all. I want to make a winter trip but who knows if this will be possible this year? Budgetary concerns are primary right now.

I looked at new apartments. I could have a somewhat nicer one for about the same money, or a house for less, but neither would have the view or the excellent location. I also can't bring myself to take on a 100k+ loan for a house when I don't even want to stay living in Florida, and my jobs come and go every few months. I actually spent almost four months unemployed this year! It's been a year of being broke as a joke, but I have enjoyed the living hell out of not having any responsibilities. I filled up my harddrive with pirated TV shows, and I think my sleep schedule finally 'stabilised' around 6am-1pm. Now it's 1am-8am, sigh.

Anyway, I think even if almost no-one is reading LJ anymore, I should still use it. I don't because I put all the one-liners on facebook, and I never feel interesting enough to write more than that. But for being so dull, I sure do have some strong opinions (:
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Haha, I had to add a user via INSERT INTO 'accounts' VALUES (id,username,pass) for pam_mysql.so, because they're virtual users (passwd no good)
ABSURD

I wonder if it would be worthwhile to have a separate blog just for my technical ramblings, etc. Hm.

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Favorite games of all time:

Link to the Past
Super Metroid
Half-Life/Half-Life 2
Symphony of the Night

Honorable mentions:
Ocarina of Time
Twilight Princess
Portal
Halo/2/3
L4D
Burnout

Favorite games also serves as a list of favorite soundtracks!

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