Monthly Archives: August 2004

When acronyms go bad (yet again)

RITPO (Resources Information Technology Program Office) is an IT automation agency that is a branch of Tricare, the medical services branch of the Defense Department.  We are working on a project for them and they have configured a server for us to unleash our software upon.  Thusly, they have combined the terms/acronyms OPS and RITPO to produce the following server name:


I might as well be 12 years old again.

I had high hopes for this blog.  Maybe I would produce some nuggets of wisdom.  Or, some thoughtful reflections on significant life experiences.  Poop always wins in the end.

Spam of Oz

Sometimes interesting quotes turn up in odd places.  A spam email that somehow escaped my email client’s junk filter had this text in the body of the email after the pitch about Vigra:

“But a boy takes everything as a matter of course. As the tree of knowledge sprouts and expands within him, shooting out leaf after leaf of practical experience, the succession of surprises dulls his faculty of wonderment.”

Turns out it is an excerpt from “The Master Key, an Electrical Fairy Tale Founded Upon the Mysteries of Electricity” by L. Frank Baum (of “Wizard of Oz” fame).  The quote has a slightly different implication in the context of Viagra spam.

The writing style of the Viagra pitch is comical in comparison with Baum’s writing style:

"See that, Dar~von for sale. See this, Val,ium on special. Aha Viagra at
discounted price.  We are looking farward to having a good ties with you our customers,so
please believe we will service you to the best with our long experience in
this business for about 8 years."

Doubting Thomas

In our web application for DESC, we had to build in a “rules of behavior” page that users are forced to look at before they can log in to the system.  On this page are declared the rules under which the users should conduct themselves when using DOD systems such as our product.

At the bottom of the page are two buttons: “Accept” and “Deny”.  Clicking “Accept” brings the user to the login page; clicking “Deny” redirects to the home page.

So, our PM tells me that DESC has a new requirement.  The requirement is that if the user clicks “Deny” three times, they get an “access denied” message.  This is in order to satisfy a security requirement that will please the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  So, of course, the first thing I think of is the doubting Thomas story.  Before the rooster crows, you will have denied me three times!  In this case, Jesus is Donald Rumsfeld.

Maybe I just need to get out more.

The sweet relief of Hatteras in only two weekends away…

Puzzle hell

When the company was asked by Josh for potential interview questions for the Junior Systems Admin position, Sean replied with these evil puzzles:

Question 1:

There are two candles that can light for exactly 60 minutes. You can
light the candles from either end, but each candle is not evenly made so
you can't mark or cut the candle into half. How do you measure 45
minutes by using these candles?

Question 2:

A room with three bulbs and each is controlled by a switch, where all
switches are outside the room. The room has no windows but one door. You
are told that only one bulb is working. How do you find out which switch
is connect to the working bulb? You are allowed to go inside the room
only once, and you can't touch the switches after the door is opened.

Thankfully they didn’t end up as interview question for the poor bastard who was hired, but I thought they were good puzzles regardless.

good quote

"The mind commands the body, and it obeys instantly; the mind commands
 itself, and is resisted."

 - St. Augustine (354-430)

Get your thesis here

A link of the day for computer geeks:

Phrase of the day

“Salmonella Salsa”

(n) The name of a concoction comprising mostly of salmonella typhimurium.  Term coined by the Rajneeshee Cult in 1984 in their attempts to sway a local election by poisoning the voters as they ate in restaurants.

Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain a.k.a. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Text ripped from

    “As the summer of 1984 waned, a cult led by the Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh near the town of The Dalles, Oregon, used a biological agent to sicken hundreds in an apparent dress rehearsal to sway the outcome of a local election. The Bhagwan brought followers with him from India when he immigrated in 1981.

    The hardworking Rajneeshees were isolationist, with some 150 armed people to keep outsiders away from their ranch. When the Bhagwan decided to enlarge his ranch and his flock, he took over the small town of Antelope, christening the new town Rajneesheepuram.

    Oregon’s attorney general, however, stated that the municipality was unconstitutional because it did not separate church and state. To outmaneuver the attorney general, the cult’s hierarchy hatched a plan to make the Wasco county residents too sick to vote in November, enabling the Rajneeshees to seat their favored candidate on the county court. The cult’s nurse was the scientific brains behind attempts to put this plan into action.

    Although the cultists considered other organisms (AIDS and Salmonella typhi, which causes hepatitis and typhoid fever, among other illnesses), the Rajneeshees decided upon Salmonella typhimurium, which results in food poisoning.

    The cult bought bactrol disks from a Seattle medical supply company under false pretenses. A trio of cult members worked in a laboratory equipped with an incubator and freeze dryer to brew what they called a “salsa”. Several more Rajneeshees were involved in distributing the agent on various occasions.

    Starting on 29 August, the Rajneeshees began sprinkling their Salmonella typhimurium in personal drinking glasses, on doorknobs and urinal handles, on produce at the local supermarket, and on salad bars in eleven restaurants.

    Soon, a steady stream of patients were reporting to local physicians and hospitals with symptoms ranging from nausea and diarrhea to headache and fever. In total, 751 fell ill. Wasco county commissioners and ordinary citizens were among the victims. Within four days, local health care providers were able to identify the Salmonella typhimurium as the source , but over a year passed before there was confirmation that a single strain caused all of the illnesses and the Centers for Disease Control filed its report. No one died in this test to see if a ballot box could be fixed, but the Bhagwan reportedly observed that one should not worry if a few perished. Law enforcement authorities thought that the Rajneeshees were practicing to poison the water system of The Dalles. Cult members had already put dead rodents and perhaps raw sewage and salmonella salsa into The Dalles’ water supply.

    Several cult members were involved in the planning and execution of the salmonella attacks, but only two of the Baghwan’s chief lieutenants were prosecuted. This pair received multiple concurrent twenty-year sentences, among other penalties. According to one analyst who studied the Rajneeshees carefully, the cult did not work its way up the ladder of violence to bioterrorism. Rather, the Rajneeshees appear to have abruptly embarked on their salmonella spree as a means to a specific end.”

I first heard of this cult when reading Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War
by Judith Miller, William Broad, and Stephen Engelberg. It has a fascinating account in the first chapter of what lengths the cult went to in order to further their dominance over local politics.

Makes me wonder what the next cult-related attack event is going to be like. Perhaps the focus on international terrorism these days is obscuring the threat from our own citizens. Or perhaps our home-brewed cults are mere amateurs in comparison to well-organized groups like Al Queda. At any rate, I’m sure the cults will catch up and shift our focus again.

The defense of acronyms

Back in 1999 when I started at BKA, I began to experience how people in the federal government speak.  It is pretty well known how acronym-heavy the Department of Defense is.

If there is such a thing as an acronym email filter that works like a spam filter, it would have choked on an email I received in November 1999.  Further, the email was even more disturbing because it was describing a **3-day** block of meetings!!  The horror!

Here is a sampling of some of the more disturbing sentences:

“ACIIPS PM in coordination with ASAFM&C must determine how and when the Logistical Management Transfer (AWCF to DWCF) of inventory will be handled and inform SSF PM.  S: prior to 15 Nov 99 for Fort Leonard Wood. ACIIPS PM must monitor program milestone (and inform SSF PM) to
ensure they are out of the SSF demonstration site (Fort Sill) prior to 1 March 00 and all Army CIIP inventory is owned by DLA by 1 October 00.”

Had enough?  No???

“DLA in coordination with ACIIPS PM and DFAS must determine how to pass on the obligation transaction with the APC coming out of ACIIPS through QLM to STANFINS.”

And people wonder why important information isn’t shared between departments!!

Schmeetime stories

Part of our nightly rituals, no different from all other parents, is to read to Iris before she goes to bed. During these readings, Iris seems to concentrate on the books, swimming in the images and words. She even helps to turn the pages (with some effort on our part to keep her from eating or otherwise destroying the book, however).

When we read Good Night Moon to her, Iris consistently points to the kittens while raising the pitch of her voice as if to mimic their sound. And we play the usual games of trying to get her to point to specific things (“where’s the red ball? where’s the kittens? where’s the house?” etc.)

When we read the Dr. Seuss Book “There’s A Wocket In My Pocket”, Iris always points at the Nooth Grush. For some reason she really digs that Nooth Grush. Maybe it is because of that big bullseye on its belly:

Other things Iris has done recently:

– Today, she started to say “uh oh” a lot.
– For a few days, she would give Kathryn and I “zerberts” (putting her mouth on our arm and blowing, making a raspberry noise)
– Walking a *lot* — she has kind of a stiff-legged walk that is very cute.
– Climbing up a flight of stairs on her hands and knees (with Kathryn behind her to protect her from falling)
– Fussing a lot if we take certain things from her (for example, she’ll play with Kathryn’s car keys; then we’ll take them away from Iris and she starts wailing).
– Improved her dancing ability by adding head-bobbing and squats
– Called 911 (!!!). On Friday, Iris got a hold of our home phone and called 911 (more accurately, she dialed “91100999911111” or similar). Thankfully, Kathryn was able to tell the Roanoke County rescue services that we did not in fact need a emergency team dispatched to us (yet) despite Iris’ plans.

She’s come a long way from those days of being a milk-addicted lump!

Link of the week

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