Category Archives: Poetry

Cloud Appreciation

Kansas Evening
I really like the Cloud Appreciation Society manifesto.

WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned
and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

We think that they are Nature’s poetry,
and the most egalitarian of her displays, since
everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it.
Life would be dull if we had to look up at
cloudless monotony day after day.

We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the
atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of
a person’s countenance.

Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked.
They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul.
Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.

And so we say to all who’ll listen:
Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live life with your head in the clouds!

“I love the clouds… the clouds that pass… up there… up there… the wonderful clouds!â€?
[The Stranger, Charles Baudelaire]

Inspiring. I especially appreciate the “blue-sky” reference as that’s something very true in information security and risk management. When you defocus on actual data and see only on the spots of blue, you end up missing the big picture and getting rained on “without warning”.

I’ll have to see about posting more of my cloud photos

Voltaire Day

There should be one if there isn’t already. And unless someone objects, today seems like as good a day as any to celebrate the brilliance of his words, most of which I find useful in meetings about risk:

    “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

    “Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous.”

    “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”

    “The more I read, the more I meditate; and the more I acquire, the more I am enabled to affirm that I know nothing”

    “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets” (a softer variation is that some think it’s ok to write buggy code if you write so much of it that your pride and profit keep it going in spite of inefficiency and harm)

    and finally, with regard to today’s news that the FTC has fined ChoicePoint $15 million…

    “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”

Here’s to Voltaire and to his role in the age of Enlightenment!

He was a poet’s poet:

Understand idleness better. It is either folly or wisdom; it is virtue in wealth and vice in poverty. In the winter of our life, we can enjoy in peace the fruits which in its spring our industry planted. Courtiers of glory, writers or warriors, slumber is permitted you, but only upon laurels.

Perhaps Rousseau Day will be next?

Spam Poets

Obviously spam is annoying and costly, but today I received a clever spam message that had somehow morphed itself into a simple poem:

awake need teach
from swim have
He reply change
on live want
As tell know
Or fit explain
That turnoff allow
night need think
school sit understand
Which fall finish
The give know

Deep, no? I’m almost glad it made it to my inbox. Should the spammers decide that they need to resort to including poetry in their email in order to get through the filters, the sting of their messages and hostility towards them might all but subside and people could welcome spam as literary marketing. Or that might be like saying used car salesmen would be more popular if they could sing when they lied.


Himawari LightI think this is brilliant (pun intended). It reminds me of the concept of armored spaces that protect the inhabitants while retaining visual/light capabilities, but this adds in a component of also powering itself. Plain glass windows have been ok, but they clearly have drawbacks (ok, sometimes the puns just jump out). In this case the UV is blocked by walls, while a solar panel collects energy and glass fibers distribute the light. So, fiberlight (plus video) should provide a radical reduction in risks while maintaining many benefits from windows.

Wonder what Milton would have said about this fine use of talent to produce technology that might protect those who speak out in favor of a republic and against the supreme executive (e.g. he feared he “lost his light” because of writings like “the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates” and his support of Cromwell)…

When I Consider How My Light Is Spent
by John Milton (1608-1674)

    When I consider how my light is spent
         Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
         And that one talent which is death to hide
         Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
         My true account, lest he returning chide,
         "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
         I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
         Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
         Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
    Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
         And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
         They also serve who only stand and wait."

Ika wa ikaga

Comments on Bruce’s blog got me thinking about the word for squid, which turns out to be “ika”. It’s possible it could sound like a cuckoo if the seller is yelling. And if they have a dry sense of humor they might throw in a phrase like “Ika wa ikaga?” Roughly translated I think it means “how’s the squid” or “how about some squid”. Puns in a native tongue are funny, but foreign puns are absolutely fascinating — they are like keys to unlock the treasure of another culture.

I also found a visual connection with squid and birds in Japan mentioned on the site:

Ika is generally written with phonetic kana characters, most likely because of the unusual kanji characters it has been assigned. It is written “thieving crow,” because the bird has been known to swoop down and grab squid as they float lazily on the ocean’s surface or hang on the massive drying racks used to make the jerky-like surume-ika.

Here’s another attempt at a haiku for Bruce…

Trawler nets glide by
Mother squid caresses eggs
in obscurity

Squid Security

A repeat of my comment on Bruce’s blog…

Interesting that he started bringing poetry into his blog about security. :)


Bruce, you’re too modest. I suspect you could wax poetic about the squid and security…perhaps something like:

The squid grabs its eggs
caressing and washing them
as the trawlers trawl

Speaking of interpretation, Marylin Chin’s poem “The Floral Apron” has an interesting take on squid and Chinese culture, the family, etc.

The poem ends with:

And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
-on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
the floral apron.

Security Slogans: Ctrl-Alt-Del when you leave your seat

Few of us are probably lucky enough to invent something as contagious as a Security-Tubby or a Barney character. Instead, we are stuck with the task of creating “fun” posters with slogans.

One of my more successful ones so far has been based on the saying “Ctrl-Alt-Del when you leave your seat”.

People tell me that no matter how rediculous they might find security slogans at first, eventually this one grows on them and they can’t help but sing it aloud when they leave the office. You know you have won over your users when they start to beg for more effective ways to comply with the “Ctrl-Alt-Del song”.

I usually give them a tip like the following:

Although a screen lock button is already provided in most X distros, including Linux, Windows folks are usually in need of a shortcut. They’re simple to create with the following command:

%windir%\system32\rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation

Then change the icon to something that looks like a “lock”. The orange key seems most popular among XP users (consistency helps the helpdesk) and can be found in the following library:


Lock Workstation Icon

Just put the button wherever convenient (desktop, taskbar, start, etc.) Although the setup is easily scripted and deployed over the network, sometimes it is best to hand it out to all your users like a present during the holiday season — “Security wishes you a safe and secure holiday. We hope you enjoy this new button.”

And believe it or not, people who start using this button will still say “hey, I did the Ctrl-Alt-Del thing, go check my screen”, even though they no longer are touching the keyboard when they step away. Ah, the power of security slogans.

loose lipsUnfortunately not all slogans are as catchy. Messages from security easily get lost in the sea of information users have to process every day and most of the other material they hear is so polished that phrases like “don’t get hooked by phishers” tend to blend right into the wallpaper. Thus, I believe the world of security would be far better off if more wordsmiths and poets were employed to craft our message, perhaps even at the state or federal level. Nothing too fancy would be necessary as the slogans that always seem to do best are the simple ones — “loose lips might sink ships”.

Rumsfeld Presents

On Knowing

As we know
there are known knowns.

There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns.
That is to say, we know there are some things
we do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns
the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

On Thinking

Well, um, you know
something’s neither good nor bad
but thinking makes it so,
I suppose,
as Shakespeare said.

On Certainty

We do know
of certain knowledge
that he is either
in Afghanistan,
or in some other country,
or dead.

On Accuracy

If I said yes, that would then suggest that
that might
be the only place where it might be done
which would not be accurate,
necessarily accurate.
It might also not be inaccurate,
but I’m disinclined
to mislead anyone.

On Agreement

Secretary Powell and I agree
on every single issue that has ever been before this administration
except for those instances where
Colin’s still learning.

Thanks Donald, I feel much safer now.

This was inspired by All Things Considered, June 29, 2003; interview with Hart Seely about his book, Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

WMF patch details

Get ready to reboot all your XP, 2003 and 2000 systems.

Surprised? Ah, remember the lavish Windows 2000 launch parties when we were all told “rebooting will be a thing of the past” and “only six (kinds) of reboots will be necessary, down from six-hundred in NT4”.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but my point is that this is a major inconvenience in order to fix a minor convenience that most people aren’t even aware of in a large enterprise. It just gets uglier since we are looking at a reboot of critical services when they are supposed to be up all the time and generating revenue — who wants to tell management “we had to have a maintenance window this weekend because of some picture rendering code on the console”. Well, it has to be done.

So far we believe the update changes the following registry keys:

    HKLM,”SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Hotfix\KB912919″
    HKLM,”SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Updates\Windows XP\SP3\KB912919″

And the following files get touched:

    Windows Server 2003 will replace Gdi32.dll
    Windows XP will replace Gdi32.dll and Wgdi32.dll
    Windows 2000 will replace Gdi32.dll and Mf3216.dll

Which makes me say…

Patch released early
safer code rolls out to disk-
  why must I reboot?

Note: Never rely on the registry keys alone for proof of a patch since someone could obviously stuff the registry…