The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2001

“Congress should fire the CIA and hire CNN.”

It's amusing to listen to the US counter-intelligence officials now scorning Hanssen for lack of “tradecraft” in using the same drop week after week. These are the same counter-intelligence officials who remained incurious across the decades about the tinny clang of empty drawers in their TOP SECRET filing cabinets, all contents removed on a daily basis by Ames and Hanssen who deemed the use of copying machines too laborious. In just one assignment, the CIA later calculated, Ames gave the KGB a stack of documents estimated to be 15 to 20 feet high. Hanssen was slack about “tradecraft” because he knew just how remote the possibility of discovery was. The only risk he couldn't accurately assess was the one that brought him down, betrayal by a Russian official privy to the material he was sending to Moscow.

Via Robot Wisdom, What are spies for?

Mr. Speaker, the Senate is about to confirm another director of the CIA, even though America found out about the collapse of the Soviet Union on CNN. America learned of the fall of the Berlin Wall on CNN. America found out about Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait on CNN. After all this, Congress keeps pouring billions of dollars into that big sinkhole called the Central Intelligence Agency. I say, with a track record like that, Congress does not need a Committee on the Budget; Congress needs a proctologist. I think the record is real clear. Congress should fire the CIA and hire CNN. Maybe we will learn what is happening in the world.

Rep. James Traficant (Ohio) 1997

I've seen Three Days of the Condor and some of Spies Like Us and in reading this article, it seems that the CIA is more inept than Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd and that of Harrison Ford or Willem Dafoe (from Clear and Present Danger).

I find it both hard to believe and amusing that the CIA is claiming that such theft of material is responsible for their failing to notice that the Soviet Union was crumbling. Um … didn't they notice their filing cabinets were failing to hold documents? Seems to me that the folks living within the Beltway are in their own little world not subject to reality as we know it.

Um … yea

The Short Answer for Why Micropayments Fail

Users hate them.

The Long Answer for Why Micropayments Fail

Why does it matter that users hate micropayments? Because users are the ones with the money, and micropayments do not take user preferences into account.

In particular, users want predictable and simple pricing. Micropayments, meanwhile, waste the users' mental effort in order to conserve cheap resources, by creating many tiny, unpredictable transactions. Micropayments thus create in the mind of the user both anxiety and confusion, characteristics that users have not heretofore been known to actively seek out.

The Case Against Micropayments

I personally have been waiting for micropayments to come along. I'm thinking Hey, great! Charge a small bit, help defray costs or even make a buck or two. But this article has me rethinking the entire scope of micropayments or how websites should make money.

For Military Tech, it's pretty clueless

But InTether's most intriguing features are those intended to rebuff hackers. To begin with, Friedman says, the system incorporates 11 layers of security defenses. “All have to be successfully navigated” in order to hack the system. “But one piece does nothing but check continually the integrity of the other pieces,” he says. “If you could disable a certain piece, within milliseconds our system would know.”

Via my dog wants to be on the radio, Copy This! Can `Military' Technology Beat Digital Piracy?'

Nice and all, but what if the operating system in question (and in this case it's Microsoft Windows obviously) is running on a virtual machine? Like under, say, VMWare?

Chinese Fishing story

Just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chinese equivalent of the Coast Guard (possibly the Navy?) received a single distress call. They were able to track down the location of the call and sent a ship.

Sure enough, sitting in the water are a bunch of Chinese fishermen and no sigh of a boat anywhere. They're pulled to safety, but their story of what happened isn't believed and even when they're threatened with jail time, they still stick to thier story. So they're thrown into jail.

Six months later an official of the fast disentrigrating Soviet Union hears the story of the unfortunately fishermen and sends a letter to the Chinese government collaborating their story.

It appears that an overloaded Soviet cargo plane was flying over the ocean when it became apparent that they would not make it to their destination so the obvious solution to their problem was to dump their cargo. Unfortunately, the cargo ended up going through the Chinese fishing boat.

It was even more unfortunate for the cows.


I've had a few days to mull over this and I've decided. I'm not taking the job.

Like that wasn't obvious.

Stupid Human Tricks #13

I'm up a bit late (remember, working third shift here) since I'm updating the journal. I'm getting a bit hungry so I change clothes, and walk out the door.

I don't have my car keys.

Which is bad, because they're attached to my house key.

Which is in the house.

Along with my wallet, which contains a spare set of keys.


I try the door. Yup. Door is locked. I walk around the condo. Yup. Windows are locked. Go back to the door. Still locked. That's when I yank on the door and it latches.

I hadn't shut the door fully closed the first time! And now I just did!


“Press one to be promptly ignored … ”



“Welcome to The Company!” said the computerized phone system at work. I'm at my neighbor's house (since I'm locked out of my condo) trying to call my roommate, as we both work for the same company. “If you happen to know your party's extention …” which I don't … “you may dial it at any time. If you need to check the corporate directory, please hit star.”


“Please enter the first few letters of the first name of the person you are trying to reach.”

Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop. Boop.


XXXXXXXXXXXX. Extention 5555.” Nope. Nowhere close to Rob.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Extension 5556.” 2nd shift guy, and again, nowhere close to Rob.

XXXXXXXXXXXX. Extention 5557.” Someone else I don't know. “To hear more names, press the pound key.”


XXXXXXXXXXXX. Extention 5558.” Pause. “Thank you for calling The Company. If you happen to know—” What was my cow-orker's number? He should be there by now …

Beep. Boop. Bop. Beep.

Long pause.



“Thank you for calling The Company. Have a nice day.”





“Welcome to The Company! If you happen to know your party's extention …” which I don't … “you may dial it at any time. If you need to check the corporate directory, please hit star.”


“Please enter the first few letters of the first name of the person you are trying to reach.”

Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop. Boop. This time another cow-orker.

“There is no one by that name in our directory. Please hit star to input another name.


“Please enter the first few letters of the first name of the person you are trying to reach.”

Beep. Boop. Beep. Bop. Boop. Yet another cow-orker.

“There is no one by that name in our directory. Please hit star to input another name.” I try my boss. “There is no one—” I try yet another cow-orker. “There is no—” I try Rob again. “XXXXXXXXXXXX. Extention 5555.” I hang up.

Let me try something else.



“Welcome to The Company's Automated Phone System! To talk to a sales represenative, press one. To talk to billing, press two. For technical assistance, press three—”


“Welcome to Technical Support. For dial-up, call 1-800-XXX-XXXX. For DSL support, call 1-888-XXX-XXXX. For DNS support, call 1-800-XXX-XXXX.” So far, three different 800 numbers. “For web hosting support, call 1-800-XXX-XXXX.”




“Welcome to The Company's Web Hosting Support. For sales assistance, press one.” Sigh. “For billing assistance, press two. For DNS issues, press three.” Yea, yea. Where's the most common option you morons? “For technical support, press four–”



Musak. Tony Bennet singing NIN's “Head Like a Hole.”

“Technical support! May I please have your domain name?”

Finally! “Um, I'm trying to reach Rob Summers. This is his roommate and I urgently need to talk to him.”

“Do you know his extention?”

“If I knew that, I'd call him directly.”

“Ah. Okay, hold on … ”

Musak. Pat Boone covering AC/DC's “Hiway to Hell.”

“I can't find his extention, but I have his cell phone. Is that okay?”

No. I want his extention. “Yes.” I write it down, hang up and finally call Rob.

Good lord.

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