Saturday, September 28, 2002

My Dinner With Ted

Recent performances by Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, and Al Gore about the question of invading Iraq raise further questions (though I have not raised them, to paraphrase Al Gore)(but give me a moment, because I'm about to raise them). I'm going to give them some benefit of the doubt and assume that they know perfectly damn well that Iraq has to be dealt with. So why the hissy fits and dog-and-pony shows? Jane Galt thinks that Gore is playing to a hard Left audience, knowing that the moderates have given up on him. Are these boys so accustomed to playing to the gallery that they can't help doing it, no matter what the issue?

MRS. KENNEDY: Ted, we're having Sloppy Joes for dinner.

TED KENNEDY: I have come here today to express my view that this family should not eat sloppy joes unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.

MRS. KENNEDY: Ted, have you been drinking? More than usual, I mean?

TED KENNEDY: It is possible to love dinner while concluding that it is not now wise to eat sloppy joes.

MRS. KENNEDY: Shall I ask the cook to make something else?

TED KENNEDY: The standard that should guide our menu choices is especially clear when nutrition is on the line. We must ask what is right for our family, and not for the cook.

MRS. KENNEDY: Do you want to order out for Chinese?

TED KENNEDY: Resorting to sloppy joes is not our family's only or best course at this juncture. There are realistic alternatives between ordering out for Chinese and declaring unilaterally that we will eat sloppy joes. Chili on buns should be a last resort, not the first response.

MRS. KENNEDY: Ted, what are you talking about? You love sloppy joes.

TED KENNEDY: I know, but the kids don't, and I need their support in our Christmas vacation planning to support my "Drinking Heavily And Racing Volkswagen Beetles" proposal against your "Skiing in Aspen" plan.

Ten Grand the Hard Way, or "Take that, ya lousy spooks!"

Team Cracks RSA Encryption Challenge

Distributed.net, a worldwide group of computing enthusiasts, have decrypted a message encrypted with RSA Security's RC5 cipher (with a 64 bit key) after a mere four years of having the computers of 331,000 volunteers worldwide work on the problems in their spare time. The prize for winning the challenge (put forth by computer security firm RSA Inc) was $10,000.

The message to all of us should be clear: if you have something to hide, don't get more than a quarter-million nerds mad at you at once, or, if you do, apologize to them within 4 years. Or find them some really cool computer games so their computers are constantly in use. Or introduce them to girls.

The inventor of the cipher, Ron Rivest, was gracious in defeat, saying essentially, "Yep, you busted me.", rather than "Haven't you got anything better to do?" In the same position, Happy Fun Pundit would likely respond with something like "Oh yeah? I wasn't ready. Try it now, ya weenurz!" or "Oh yeah? Double or nothing you can't crack a 66 bit key!", just to watch the geeks fall all over themselves to spend (statistically speaking) sixteen years to earn twenty grand.

In 1996 (before the distributed.net effort began), Rivest and other cryptographers recommended using at least a 90-bit key, and RSA current recommends key lengths of at least 128 bits. Each bit added to the key length approximately doubles the difficulty of finding the key by "brute force", ie guessing.

Rumour has it that distributed.net's next project will be trying the combination 09-09-99 on every combination lock in the world. The date Sept. 9, 1999 is significant as the day the Earth's moon broke out of orbit after an accidental detonation of a nuclear waste dump on the moon, forcing actor Barry Morse to pretend to be Spock until he could get out of his contract after the first season of the relatively unacclaimed TV series, "Space: 1999".

Addendum 1: Dan adds, "Britney Spears better re-encrypt her diary."

Addendum 2: Which is not to say that the whole distributed thing isn't cool, it's just that it accomplished so very little. That the key would be found sooner or later was a pre-ordained conclusion; it was just a question of when. All that computing horsepower could've been used to look at protein folding problems, or coming up with a composition-dependent blackjack methodology, or any one of a number of challenging things.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Daschle Blows a Gasket

"That is outrageous! Outrageous!"

"We ought not to politicize this war! We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death"

These were the words of a very concerned Tom Daschle, responding to Bush's comment in Trenton N.J. Bush said, "The House responded, but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the United States."

It would be hard to blame Daschle for getting upset at the war on Iraq being framed in those terms. Unfortunately, Bush wasn't talking about the war on Iraq. He was talking about the Homeland Security Bill, which is, in fact, tied up in a morass of special interests.

Later, a concerned Daschle explained that he had not actually heard the speech himself. Nor had he actually read a transcript of a speech. Instead, he decided to throw a hissy fit in the Senate over an extremely important national security issue based on what someone told him that they read in an article that someone else wrote about what Bush said.

Good thing no one's politicizing the debate. Oh, and Mr. Daschle, I just heard that someone said that they heard that somebody wrote an article saying you may have already won the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes. So it must be true.