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June 30, 2004

And on we go...

From Ogden we travelled to our next waypoint - Pendleton, Oregon. We had some interesting stops planned along the way.

First, we hit Three Island Crossing State Park in Idaho:

Approaching Three Island Crossing (of the Snake River) meant the emigrants had a difficult choice. They could make a dangerous river crossing here for a direct route to Ft. Boise or stay on the south side of the Snake and follow the river around the bend. About half made the decision to cross using the three islands in the Snake as stepping stones. It would not be easy.

This is one of the famous points along the long, harrowing, Oregon Trail. The stories surrounding it alone are abundant - as we found plenty of books to choose from on the topic in the Interpretive Center Gift Shop.

Three Island Crossing is a general term for the place where travelers on the Oregon Trail crossed the Snake River. Two Island Crossing was the second crossing located one mile upstream from Three Island Ford. At this point, crossing was more difficult because the wagons had to be floated across the river. Men would swim to the opposite bank of the river. Then by the use of ropes, they would pull the wagons across.

Gus Glenn was the business man who finally installed and operated a ferry service. Glenn's Ferry, OR eventually incorporated and is still there today.

A lot of history to be found in this part of the country, and in some cases not much else (this state park was fairly remote, and really the only thing around).

Following our lunch and stay here, we made our way into Pendleton, Oregon for a nights stay.

The next day our travels took us toward the Oregon coast, and for a few solid hours we drove the Oregon/Washington state border, on Interstate 84, along the Columbia River.

I wish I had my photos ready for blogging, but I don't. The Columbia is an extremely impressive river, I'll let the photos speak for themselves once I have them posted.

We lunched and lounged this time at The Dalles, Oregon. The Dalles is another important Oregon Trail point. Here, the Columbia narrowed distinctly:

At The Dalles, the Columbia River rumbled through a narrow chasm. It was here that Jason Lee set up a Methodist mission in 1838. History does not tell us how many were converted at Lee's tiny outpost, but The Dalles did become a critical stop for the emigrants. That's because it was here that the trail ruts came to a complete stop--blocked by the Cascade Mountains. Unfortunately, the Willamette Valley--the emigrant's destination--was still 100 miles further on. In the Trails first years, there was only one solution--float the wagons down the Columbia River.

Ultimately, in more recent times, hydro-electric power was harnessed by damming the Columbia here. We toured the information center - which demonstrated in various ways what a feat of human engineering this was (much like any other dam in the US or around the world I suppose).

Then, back on the road and on to the coast. We've been here now for two or three days, but that'll be the next blog. I'm enjoying the beach!

Posted by gcrgcr at 7:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 25, 2004

Im in Ogden, Utah

Well, I'm on vacation... and I'm blogging. Geek.

We are on our way to Pacific City, Oregon, where we'll spend a few days, then on to Northern Idaho.

Traveling with, well three kids under 6 and 4 adults - making it from Longmont, Colorado to Ogden, Utah was about as good an objective as one could conceivably set - and meet.

Well, it's not that bad, but when your driving, you just want to power through and get somewhere.

Ogden seems like a nice town. Green and nestled right up on the rugged mountains on one side - wide spread contact and access with the Great Salt Lake on the other.

I don't think we'll get a chance to go to the lake. I'd like to see if my kids float in it, or myself for that matter, but that I suppose is for another time. For now we are just passing through.

As for me, now we are winding down and I've discovered that this Holiday Inn Express has wireless LAN access. Sweet.

Not gonna check email though. Just a quick blog. Hopefully I'll get some pictures posted after several days of downtime and fishing in Idaho.

Till then...

Posted by gcrgcr at 7:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2004

A thing about privacy...

It's amazing. No matter how many locks you put on the door, you are ultimately only as safe as the people inside, or those with the keys to the locks.

I just finished reading the official complaint, AOL and the United States of America vs. one Jason Smathers and one Sean Dunaway.

In a nutshell, Smathers - an AOL employee since 1999, obtained and sold upwards of 92 million AOL customer email addresses. AOL only has maybe 20-30 million customers, but most customers have more than one "screen name" or email address tied to their account.

92 million! There are what, 230 some odd million people in the USA?

This Smathers, he obtained the data and then sold it to a Las Vegas Internet Casino operator Proprietor - Dunaway. Sold in various rounds of updates, some of the files fetched as little as $32,500 - others as much as $100,000.

For a spammer, I imagine nothing could be worth more than a full list of current, active, accurate AOL email addresses. Smathers biggest mistake may have been only selling to this one spammer. Seems like a pretty small take given the risk.

In reality, he had several big mistakes, mostly pertaining to the easily revealed path through AOL's system he took in obtaining the information.

The Complaint is mostly a deposition by Peter Cavicchia of the US Secret Service. In it, he details the almost too easy to trace path that Smathers used to obtain the information. Email threads using his longtime and primary AOL employee account: JasonS2e@@aol.com. AOL Instant Messenger threads, between Smathes and Dunaway detailing the conspiracy - and intentionally send via email from JasonS2e@aol.com to JasonS2e@aol.com to specifically "archive" the information. As mentioned in the deposition, because of a 30 day cliff in old message storage in some AOL versions, many have adopted a "mail it to your self" practice to keep information saved. Duh.

Finally, tracking down the queries to the AOL Data Warehouse to a particular space in time and set of users was seemingly easy.

What I find remarkable about the case are a few things.

First, it was an inside job. I guess with many types of crime, this is the case - from theft, burglary, kidnapping, and even homicide. Those with the most knowledge, information, access, and know-how are the most dangerous. This is where things like employemnt contracts, non-disclosures and other legal documents are needed to cover the corporat bases, but ultimately it comes down to trust.

The trust level you have with employees is a direct result of good hiring processes, a good employee culture and many other factors, but that is for another blog entry some other day I suppose.

Second, any trust that was earned over time by Smathers - he was an employee since 1999 - he likely violated in various ways on his way to carrying out this theft.

It is probably that he used "social engineering" as a tactic. Social Engineering is hacker-speak for tricking a person into revealing their password. Kevin Mitnick wrote the book on it.

A large organization, such as AOL, seems likely to be more vulnerable to this tactic. In general it appears that Smathers mostly acted on his own - but atleast some of the database queries were made via an account that was not his - and either was obtained through theft, coercion, collusion, or trickery (social engineering).

I suppose small companies are suscept to the same issues, but as a company grows, I'd be concerned with the increased opportunity for internal trusted persons to share or distribute private company or customer information.

While technology abounds for leaking information easily - web, email, ftp, IM, etc... there are also more "forensics" left for folks to get caught.

As for Smathers and the United States of American and AOL - it will be interesting to see how this plays out. It appears to me that the Can Spam Act may be applicable - and I presume other US Codes. I'd expect hefty fines and likely jail time. It will be interesting to see who does time.

Posted by gcrgcr at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 21, 2004

Just a good day...

This past Sunday was Father's Day. Not that you probably weren't aware of that. I guess I've had about six of these so far. AJ turned 6 in March.

I've not yet experienced the stereotypical Father's Day of yesteryear - atleast in terms of gifts. I'm not quite sure what I would do with a new tie. I like ties, and I have more than anyone I know would probably guess - and though I think many of them are cool, they are in fact pretty old - and thus they may not be as cool as I think. In any case, a new tie for Father's Day may be in my future, and that would be fine.

Instead, this year, I just got to be Dad. There could be nothing better. We all slept in, which was nice. In a family of five, with three kids under six, it is rare for everyone to sleep in past eight o'clock, let alone seven, or geez, even six. So, off to a pleasant start.

Next, Scooter and I (Scooter is my only daughter - Jesse Dale - dubbed Scooter long ago by Grandpa Neil. She's 2 now.) foraged into town for breakfast, finally settling on call in to "The Egg an I" as we were driving in.

After eating, we all cleaned up and headed out to Grandma and Grandpa's to plant pumpkins for the coming fall. A yearly ritual now for the kids, they expect to grow their own pumpkins. Now as they get older, I venture to guess this will turn into competition. I look forward to the pumpkin contests to come...

Towards the afternoon I found time to head out for a run, about 6 miles. Sunny for most of the morning, some foreboding clouds had moved in and I intended to beat them. I had made it about 2 miles before the first drops hit me. Still, as I ran, I took note that while the pattern of drops on the ground were more and more prevalent, my "running" seemed to alleviate me from being hit as often. Now, I'm not sure how scientifically true that is, and we could probably calculate it and argue, but it wouldn't matter. In two short minutes the rain escalated to an all out torrent.

Soon I had gone from merely speckled with drops, to completely drenched. It was like running in ankle weights, as I sloshed through 6 inch deep puddles at intersections, my socks and shoes were heavy with water.

Initially I was a bit perturbed at the deterioration of the conditions, but quickly I realized - this was FUN. Nevermind that most who witnessed my sprint home through the rain probably thought I had lost my marbles.

No matter, it was easily one of my most memorable recreational runs.

After returning home, and drying off, we all took "quiet time" - mine spent watching "Animal Faceoff" with AJ, and the remains of the US OPen.

Finally, the sun returns just in time for us to throw steaks on the grill. A thick T-bone and a Corona. Nice.

Oh, and no tie. None needed. Just being Dad is more than its own reward. Thanks guys.

Posted by gcrgcr at 11:08 PM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2004

What will we be doing at 101?

What will we be doing if we're that old?

I read the following on Yahoo! News today. Normally a story like this
wouldn't elicit much from me. Read the story next and see what I'm
talking about.

101 year-old Frank Moody, right, is congratulated by an
unidentified parachutist, after a tandem skydive in Cairns Australia,
Wednesday, June 16, 2004. Moody, after accepting a drunken dare from
friends, jumped from more than 9,900 feet and is expected to enter the
record books as the oldest skydiver ever, beating the previous record
held by a 94-year-old Norwegian man set in 1999.

Now, one of the first thoughts I have is that the guy is just a drunken idiot. The risk of life and limb for someone that age to skydive, well it must be somewhat higher than younger folk. Of course I may be mostly sterotyping here.

To his credit, he did tandem dive, which is I'm certain required for any first time jumper. There is at least some confidence in the fact that if you are going to be killed in a recreational activity, that there is a seemingly knowledgeable and experienced expert willing to do it with you.

I've never sky dived, though would like too - I have bungie jumped from a hot air balloon, though that was years ago.

Anyway, the part of this story I like is just that a 101 year-old man would even consider, let alone succeed in such a task. God bless anyone who can live that long, we all have a limited set of years here, and if any one of us gets 100 of them, that alone is special.

More than the bragging rights generated by this man, for telling his friends to put that in their pipe, it has got to be an intrinsic pleasure to still be extracting every ounce of what life has to offer. Just being around at 100 is a great thing, but living
while you are here is even better.

Posted by gcrgcr at 9:20 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2004

Follow up on "LESS"

First, I'll follow up on the previous post. The "Less - This is what
customers really want". Not terribly impressed.

I'm not sure if in this high-media opportunity lifestyle I live in - that is getting email, news via internet, magazine subscriptions, multiple daily newspapers - that when I devote some time to read something I almost expect to harvest some great knowledge nugget from it.

So, maybe my bar is too high - but I did not get much from this. In general, paying attention to what your customer wants make sense - and the author does present a particular angle on it - give the customer "less" to worry about in using your product and service. Still, I was not bowled over. You?

On my mind today, this book recommendation by Brad Feld - Purple Runner. Brad is a fairly accomplished runner, having run now, several I think, marathons (something I'd like to do, but have not yet effectively put on the go-do list).

I'm a recreational runner and participate in fun 10k runs. This book seems interesting - but I got sticker shock when clicking through... used copies in good condition at Amazon, range from $69 to $89. Wow. For a paperback to be this high, it must be pretty rare - maybe limited production, and with the popularity of running as a sport, very popular. Aside from college textbooks, if I buy a copy of
Purple Runner it will probably be the most I've spent on a book. I'm not postulating that it is not worth it, just stating a fact.

What is the most money you've spent on a book - for personal gratification, not counding educational efforts?

Posted by gcrgcr at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

June 8, 2004

LESS? This is what customers want?

LESS? This is what customers really want?

Okay, so I haven't read this yet - but I will, and I'll follow up here. If you read it, post your comments here, I'd be interested. From time to time I have reports like this forwarded along to me from friends and colleagues. I think it is very useful to examine the critical thinking others have put into an issue and made available via documentation. Even if it is ultimately a sales pitch of
some type - there may be free information in the discourse that is beneficial to you whether you purchase their wares and services or not. See if this gives you and nuggets after you read and mine it out. I will too...

Posted by gcrgcr at 8:49 AM | Comments (0)