The great teacher

http://yudkowsky.net/rational/virtues/

How can you improve your conception of rationality? Not by saying to yourself, “It is my duty to be rational.” By this you only enshrine your mistaken conception. Perhaps your conception of rationality is that it is rational to believe the words of the Great Teacher, and the Great Teacher says, “The sky is green,” and you look up at the sky and see blue. If you think: “It may look like the sky is blue, but rationality is to believe the words of the Great Teacher,” you lose a chance to discover your mistake. Do not ask whether it is “the Way” to do this or that. Ask whether the sky is blue or green. If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it.

If you don’t think intentionally… If your ideas and beliefs don’t produce a working model of reality… well…

When an honest person discovers they are wrong, they stop being wrong or they stop being honest. It’s your choice.

Data ethics

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/opinion/democracy-survive-data.html

This is like lashing a rope around the cracking foundation of a building. What we need is for an ethics of data to be engineered right into the information skyscrapers being built today. We need data ethics by design. Any good building must comply with a complex array of codes, standards and detailed studies of patterns of use by its eventual inhabitants. But technical systems are today being built with a minimal concern for compliance and a total disregard for the downstream consequences of decades of identifiable data being collected on the babies being born into the most complicated information ecology that has ever existed.

~ Colin Koopman

Presented without commentary.

So obscure it confused _ME_

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/obscure_e-mail_.html

I think the problem is more subtle. It’s an example of two systems without a security vulnerability coming together to create a security vulnerability. As we connect more systems directly to each other, we’re going to see a lot more of these. And like this Google/Netflix interaction, it’s going to be hard to figure out who to blame and who — if anyone — has the responsibility of fixing it.

~ Bruce Schneier

I had to read the entire thing twice.

I’m on a “security” tirade here for a few days, so here’s my strategy for security: Get off the peak of the bell curve.

If someone wants your stuff, they will take it. Actors can always, if sufficiently motivated, apply more resources than you have available for defense. Therefore, one should not bother defending (worry, spending crazy amounts of resources,) against a “motivated” attacker. Instead, deploy defense in depth and then make incremental improvements everywhere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_in_depth

Don’t give away details about yourself

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/04/dont-give-away-historic-details-about-yourself/

I hope readers don’t interpret this story as KrebsOnSecurity endorsing secret questions as a valid form of authentication. In fact, I have railed against this practice for years, precisely because the answers often are so easily found using online services and social media profiles. But if you must patronize a company or service that forces you to select secret questions, I think it’s a really good idea not to answer them truthfully. Just make sure you have a method for remembering your phony answer, in case you forget the lie somewhere down the road.

~ Brian Krebs

“Two Factor” authentication (2FA) is best. “Two Factor” means two DIFFERENT methods of interacting with you — so a web site login, which requires also sending you a code via a message to your phone is “Two Factor”.

…and 2FA via your phone is a TERRIBLE idea, because you can easily lose it or have it stolen. There are better methods of 2FA, but I won’t bore you here.

So asking you “security questions” does not in fact increase security. But you’re stuck with it because you have no power of the entities you have to interact with. So what to do?

Treat those questions just like passwords — MAKE THEM UP!

However you are storing your passwords — that’s an entire other discussion — just ALSO record the questions they asked, and the REAL-SOUNDING BUT TOTALLY FAKE ANSWERS.

I repeat…

MAKE UP FAKE ANSWERS AND STORE THEM WITH YOUR PASSWORDS.

You might be AMAZED to discover my mother happens to have 42 different maiden names.

You might be AMAZED to discover how many different cars I learned to drive stick on.

…or the 42 different names for my first dog.

…you see where this is going?

Normally, I try to keep these ramblings succinct, but here’s a fun story…

Many moon ago, Tracy and I had a Blockbuster account. We were in the store, in the check out line, and the cashier says to me, “Oh, can I have your phone number?” We had been customers so long, it was before Blockbuster figured out people just keep the DVDs, and so they wanted to be able to start calling people. Someone expanded their customer database fields, added a new data field to the checkout screen and then trained or prompted the poor cashiers to gather this data. (This is called “compliance” in the industry — getting the people at the point of sale terminals to comply with the database marketing strategies of the home office.)

Anyway. Here’s this nice high school girl just doing her summer job, and of course, I can simply say “No.” But then they’re probably going to ding her “compliance” score with corporate. (In some cases, your pay, bonus and even employment are tied to compliance scores.)

So without missing a beat, I help both her (compliance) and I (privacy) and I give her my phone number with two digits flipped. I just immediately smiled and said 6 – 1 – 0 – 8 – 6 – 7 – 5 – 0 – 3 – 9 (shoulda been 5309 — you know I’m making numbers up right :)

…and Tracy says, “wait, that’s not our number,” thinking she’s being helpful.

“Exactly,” I say with a smile.

The cashier realizes I had just plainly lied to her. (Technically, I was trying to lie to her corporate overlords.)

…and I said, “oh sorry, 6 – 1 – 0 – 8 – 6 – 7 – 0 – 5 – 3 – 9”. (Same crap, just with two other numbers flipped. I always loved those ‘remember this string of numbers games’.)

“Is that really your number?”

“oh! Sorry, 6108675123… wait, no, 610876432178 … hmmm, you don’t seem to like these digits I’m saying… how about 6105551212?”

Now she’s like, “You’re weird.” (Unrelated ad hominem attack, but alas, true. But probably explains why girls IN high school never asked for my number.)

“…and Blockbuster still doesn’t have my phone number.”

At which point, she [I presume] took the compliance ding and didn’t enter any numbers.

To this day, (we have the same phone number,) Blockbuster — and whomever eventually bought their customer data because that’s the only thing they had in the end worth money — does not have my home phone number.

So there’s a little glimpse into Craig’s head.

Maybe you just realized why 2FA with your phone is really REALLY bad? You’re also giving away your phone number.

Wait, you read this far? Great, here’s how you REALLY do 2FA properly:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Authenticator

The Second World War

http://www.leesandlin.com/articles/LosingTheWar.htm

~ Lee Sandlin

“Where’s the pull-quote?” I don’t know how to choose one.

“What’s the take-away?” I don’t know how this could be made more succinct.

“Why should I read it?” I have no idea how to place the thing which is “The Second World War” into context. (…nor into the context of my life, and certainly not into the context of your life.)

Obviously, I don’t remember the second world war.

Obviously, I don’t understand the second world war.

But I do know that this shook me to my core. This brought a tear to my eye. I read it twice — the first time in one sitting; straight through. Somehow, it seems to grab at all the frayed, loose ends of all the things I know about the War and– well, just grabbed them all into one place.

Waking up

https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/01/are-you-a-bear-or-an-eagle/

Sometimes when my wife and I have conversations in public, it looks like the scene from the movie Dogma where Loki and Bartleby walk through the airport talking about their previous exploits as angels. We often look around at all the sleeping people in the world, noting that they barely register as conscious beings. They go through their lives working meaningless jobs, enduring unfulfilling relationships, and drugging themselves to avoid facing their unfaceable fears. Their conversations are nothing but trivialities in the grand scheme of things.

~ Steve Pavlina

There is a fine line between condescendent and enlightened. The first requisite for enlightenment is awareness of the line, and another is having the courage to get precariously close to it.

An action appearing in words

https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/03/12/hannah-arendt-thinking-without-a-banister-action-happiness/

The grandeur of the Declaration of Independence… consists… in its being the perfect way of an action to appear in words. And since we deal here with the written and not with the spoken word, we are confronted by one of the rare moments when the power of action is great enough to erect its own monument.

~ Hannah Arendt

The foundations of the American democracy are unique, regardless wether you think it is a “good” or “bad” construction. If you would like to take your knowledge of it to the next level, I highly recommend:

https://www.librarything.com/work/51037/book/100024958

Calm

https://zenhabits.net/becalm/

You have a million things to do an not enough time to do it all? Not a big deal: pick the things you can do, and get to work. That’s all you can do anyway, so it’s not worth adding some stress to the already difficult situation. Have a huge task to do that is going to be very difficult? No big deal. Just take the first step. Just get moving. You’ll deal with the difficulty.

~ Leo Babauta

Frenetic activity. Fits of rage. Tidal waves of guilt. Mountains of frustration. Spasms of activity. Rivers of self-doubt. Occasional moments of calm. Thank you Leo!

My high horse

The point of this preparation is not to write off everyone in advance. It’s that, maybe, because you’ve prepared for it, you’ll be able to act with patience, forgiveness, and understanding.

~ Ryan Holiday

Recently, someone told me — literally wrote the words, “Why don’t you get down off your high horse and get a sense of humor?”

A bit of context: They had posted a large comment, and an image which I judged to be inappropriate and which I judged added nothing to the conversation at hand. I deleted the image. Below their comment, I added, “Commentary such as this are most welcome; inappropriate, rape-y GIFs are not.” They followed with the high-horse snark, and then a longish stream of discussion by them and others broke out wherein I added nothing further to the episode. Let’s set aside the question of wether my decision to delete the image was warranted or approved by the community after-the-fact.

I found myself thinking about the difference in our behavior…

…and the next morning, I read this quote. (Wow! What an instance of confirmation bias!)

…and that led me to this conclusion:

I have intentionally climbed up onto this high horse. I am intentionally doing my best to demonstrate through my behavior that I hold myself to a high standard.

A fight for survival! An RSS revival!

https://www.macstories.net/linked/the-rss-revival/

While millions of people may be happy getting their news from Facebook or an aggregator like Apple News (which I also use, occasionally, for more mainstream headlines), the resiliency of RSS makes me happy. There was a time when I thought all my news could come from social feeds and timelines; today, I’m more comfortable knowing that I – not a questionable and morally corrupt algorithm – fully control hundreds of sources I read each day.

~ Federico Viticci

Hear! Hear!

Ok, but how do you use this? The SUPER easy way is to go to http://feedbin.com . There you can tell it what sites you want to follow, and FeedBin will “consume” the RSS feeds. It dove-tails them together into a linear stream of short snippettes and excerpts. You skim along only seeing things from sites you wanted to follow. Some site annoys you? …just remove that feed.

See something you like? …click through and you’re taking to the original item on the actual site. THIS is why all sites provide RSS feeds — if a site doesn’t, it’s not a real web site. Huge sites (like BBC) provide various feeds you can choose from… just international news for example.

…and yes, this blog has an RSS feed. In fact, all WordPress sites have an RSS feed AUTOMATICALLY. So that’s like a third of the internet right there.

Take a few hours to figure this out — you can thank me later.

¿ What happens if FeedBin goes away ? Same thing as when the RSS aggregator before it went away, a replacement appeared. Also, you can install a dedicated program on your own computer than can follow and present the feeds — us real geeks, we use an RSS aggregator combined with dedicated reader apps, but now I’m just showing off.