Category Archives: Security

Silicon grafitti

Here is a fun collection of messages found on parts of a computer, invisible to the naked eye:

Our search has led to a new collection of photomicrographs (photographs taken through a microscope) featuring many of the interesting silicon creatures and other doodling scribbled onto integrated circuits by engineers when they were designing computer chip masks. […] Engineers designing modern computer chips have a very rich sense of humor as you will discover when you visit our Silicon Creatures Gallery that we keep corralled in the Silicon Zoo. We hope you enjoy your adventure!

There seem to be a lot of Texas flags, and I thought the disclaimer and the warning were amusing.

This reminds me of the Amiga 1000, which had signatures of the designers on the inside of the case, “including the pawprint of Jay Miner’s dog Mitchy”.

Are there any puzzles or ciphers? Will these become the cave paintings of our generation?

US military brings forth the FSM

This photo is unbelievable. The US Air Force released flares over the Atlantic Ocean and Tech. Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV, United States Air Force captured the resulting manifestation of the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

A C-17 Globemaster III from the 14th Airlift Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. flies off after releasing flares over the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, S.C., during a training mission on Tuesday, May 16, 2006. The “smoke angel” is caused the vortex from the engines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

Is that a meatball I see…?

The art of managing fruit and health

Nothing like a bottle of wine and fresh organic grapes to get one thinking about how we process our food to make it safe for consumption. The surface of a natural grape is covered with a fine white layer of indigenous yeast. And yet it seems we are told to wash the grapes we get from the store to clean off pesticides and other unfortunate residues. Does that make the organic or garden grape a completely different experience? It certainly means it is better for wine, as I found on several winemaking sites:

The process of making wine is simple. Single cell plants of the genus Saccharomyces consume sugar in grape or other fruit juice and transform it into approximately equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide. It is the single celled plants that we commonly call yeasts that are the real winemakers. The humans who usurp the name winemaker are largely technicians.

Roger Boulton, University of California (at Davis) Department of Viticulture and Enology, stated the facts succinctly. “Ninety percent of winemaking has nothing to do with the winemaker. All a winemaker is doing is preventing spoilage, introducing some style characteristics and bottling it.â€? In other words, the yeast is making the wine.


If there is an art to winemaking, and there certainly is, then it is the art of controlling yeast. It is the art of selecting the appropriate yeast, introducing it at the correct moment, feeding and nurturing it so as to coax it into living, reproducing and dying in a prescribed manner, and then cleaning up after it so as to preserve the fruit of its labor. It is the art of controlling its temperature, the amount and kind of air it is allowed to breathe, and feeding it the sugar and other nutrients it needs to serve man. For it is not in the nature of yeast to serve man, but rather yeast exists to serve yeast. Controlling yeast is the real art of making wine.

I find it interesting that controls must be put in place to maximize the output of the yeast.

But more important, I suppose, is that I often find store-bought grapes are processed in such a way that by the time they make it to the table, they are devoid of yeast. If you read the Welch’s FAQ, they not only say you should rinse grapes with cold water but that they suggest you follow the advice of the USDA:

Do you need to rinse fresh grapes before eating?
Yes. The USDA suggests that people always wash all types of fresh fruit before consuming.


What is the white residue sometimes found on grapes?
The residue is the waxy coating produced naturally by the grapes, called bloom.

Really? Who calls it bloom? I have not found any similar reference, except for “bloom sprays� that seem to be a form of insecticide and fungicide. Moreover, the USDA is hardly to be trusted when their “national food safety database� has a recipe for mixed fruit cocktail that requires maraschino cherries, which may be artificially colored with carcinogens (Red No. 3 — erythrosine).

Ok, so here’s a good example of food safety irony in America. The Food and Drug administration actually faced a debate over how to keep carcinogenic ingredients on the table:

The decision to ban the provisional uses of FD&C Red No. 3 is based on the Delaney Clause of the 1960 Color Additive Amendments. Under that clause, FDA cannot approve color additives shown to induce cancer in humans or animals in any amount.

Many government officials, however, believe that the inflexibility of the Delaney Clause should be replaced by a standard that allows for what may be an insignificant cancer risk. Advances in technology and the ability to detect minute quantities of cancer-causing chemicals in foods may make the risk standard of the Delaney Clause unnecessarily stringent in some cases.

If I’m reading the FDA report correctly, the US government actually tried to move the risk standard to a lesser control in the 1980s, from zero deaths to “negligible� deaths:

The bills define “negligible risk� as causing at most one additional case of cancer in 1 million people over a 70-year lifetime of exposure to the compound.President Bush endorsed the negligible risk standard for pesticides in his October 1989 Food Safety Plan.

Surprise. In other words, scientists were undoubtedly brought forth to substantiate a risk assessment where the risk from consumption of Red No. 3 was negligible. However, this probably hinges on consumption (threat) — if you only eat one artificially red item a week, like you are supposed to, you will be fine. And yet that same scientist is unlikely to start an awareness program to tell everyone to monitor their Red No. 3 consumption (reduce the threat of cancer); quite the opposite, they are making the claim that the risk is small so consumers do not need to be educated about the threat to their health. Ironic, no?

The ban of the provisionally listed uses of FD&C Red No. 3 applies to new manufacture and production of affected products. Because any health risks posed by Red No. 3 are extremely small, FDA concluded that consumers may continue to use existing supplies of products that already contain that color.

Thus, I find “waxy coating…called bloom� a very suspicious way to describe the “indigenous and natural yeast, essential for fementation like making wine� so the waxy coating is almost certainly an artificial and perhaps even toxic coating of some kind that has been judged as “negligible� risk.

Oh, and just in case you thought the 1 in a million number was high, here is a different FDA article that claims:

Though FDA viewed Red No. 3 cancer risks as small–about 1 in 100,000 over a 70-year lifetime–the agency banned provisional listings because of Delaney directives. At the same time, Red No. 3 has “permanent� listings for food and drug uses that are still allowed although the agency has announced plans to propose revoking these uses as well. For now, Red No. 3 can be used in foods and oral medications. Products such as maraschino cherries, bubble gum, baked goods, and all sorts of snack foods and candy may contain Red No. 3.

All because “According to the International Association of Color Manufacturers, Red No. 3 is widely used in industry and hard to replace.�

Is the 1 in 100,000 at a relaxed rate of consumption? What if everyone is eating the latest red-colored gum and drinking the new red soda many times a week, if not per day?

“Widely usedâ€? in “all sorts of snack foods and candyâ€?, and yet the “negligibleâ€? part of the risk assessment was based on infrequent or low exposure. Some manufacturers even highlight the fact that “the FDA never placed a ban on Red #3” and they only use “FDA-approved food coloring”. Right, the FDA just said the chance of your death is negligible if you follow safe eating practices, which they do not require anyone to specify. Go figure. Consumers should be wary of the FDA and consider who it serves and how it is held accountable — can you tell if your life is negligible to them? It’s like being told mines are only dangerous if you step on them, so you should feel safe to take a stroll in a minefield.

Until I get this clarified, I’ll stick to the organic yeast-covered grapes, thank you.

OpenBSD Lyrics: Blob!

I am pretty sure no one uses OpenBSD just because of the music…here’s their latest offering:

Now everybody had it
they was drivin’ around
They was givin’ up their freedoms
for convenience now
Blobbin’ up the freeway, water black as pitch
And somehow little Blobby was a growin’ rich!

He was a blah blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah

It’s linkin’ time!

Now it was out of control
n’ fishy’s came to depend
on Blobby’s Blob Blah, seemed to be no end
Then his empire spread and to their surprise
Blobby been a growin’ to incredible size!

Ahem. Seems to be about petroleum companies as much as their usual rant against the (in)security of closed-source technology. I think I still like 3.0 the best:

During these hostile and trying times and what-not
OpenBSD may be your family’s only line of defense

I’m secure by default

They that can give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety


Stay off, stay off, stay off…
I’m secure by default
stay off, stay off, stay off