The Sony Incident

    Oh what a world we live in.  If you haven’t been following the most embarrassing story of the year, you probably are now with the recent announcement to pull “The Interview” from being shown on Christmas day.  I’m not sure anyone saw that coming.  Or maybe you did?

    With the incredible damages that have been done to Sony, one would wonder whether or not, the “Interview” was worth everything terrible that had happened to Sony.  Leaked emails burning bridges with major stars, medical records of every employee stolen along with a class action law suit to follow, racist conversations leaked from corporate leaders regarding the president, and 5 major films leaked prematurely including Brad Pitt’s “Fury’ which hadn’t made it to the theater yet before being downloaded over a million times.  This was truly a mega-disaster.  100 Terabytes is a breach unheard of.  To cap it off, today Sony announced that they won’t be releasing “The Interview” thus caving in to ‘Terrorist” threats.   
    With some time to think about this response, I decided that I wasn’t really surprised by it.  Sure, everything about the situation is unethical, but the contents revealed from this company is alarming.  Are we just supposed to pretend that we didn’t see it?  Howard Stern stated on his morning show, that this was a terrorist attack and that it was no different then 9/11.  He said that the media should be ashamed of themselves for reporting on the hacked information, an that we should all unite together as a country and strike back at these terrorists.  He said we were “attacked.” As a listener of his show for my entire life, for the first time, I thought he sounded like an idiot.  Sure, innocent people had their personal information stolen.  But where were these comments when Home Depot and Target were hacked.  There we none.  Now that its happened to Hollywood, we are supposed to get all up in arms?  There is a reason why Sony went after news outlets and threatened them with lawsuits if they did any further reporting on the breached info.  Sure, they didn’t want everyone to know that the company leaders exchanged black jokes about our President, or they didn’t want the salaries of their workers posted for the world to see.  They didn’t want comments made about major actors being made public.  All of this is obvious and not that surprising.  Oh I forgot to mention their plan to destroy the Internet.  I forgot that little detail.
    Leaked emails revealed the MPAA plans to pay elected officials to attack Google.  The MPAA has been after the internet for years stemming back to 2011 with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a dangerous and deceiving bill to combat piracy.  Fortunately it was shut down thanks to the great internet blackout when over 7000 websites protested by shutting their services down.  Wikipedia stated that they had successfully reached 162 million people with their banner to fight this issue.  It was a legendary day for the internet that paid off immensely.  The MPAA has not given up and their lawyers are turning their focus to attacking the DNS (Domain Name System) that directs traffic across the internet.  This was one of the practices included in the SOPA bill, and now looking for a way to practice this in existing law, working with ISP’s like Comcast to see how the system could work technically.  If it does work, this could be the key to the MPAA’s long standing goal blocking sites from delivering content to the U.S.  At the same time it also threatens the basic engineering of the internet.
   A memo commissioned by the MPAA in August proposes a legal case for blocking infringing sites from the DNS entirely.  It would be the equivalent to wiping out addresses and phone numbers from a phone book.  This powerful new tool they are working on would essentially threaten ISP’s with potential secondary liability if they do not cease connecting users to infringing sites.  This wouldn’t fully block users from reaching “infringing” websites as they could still use a DNS friendly server, but it would make it much more difficult for the casual user to find the sites.  Sounds reasonable?  Think again.  A system like this would make it extremely easy for anyone to knock a site offline with a fake copyright claim.  The MPAA’s legal argument is that the DNS records are acting like a directory or index rather than simply routing the data.  If this holds true, the DNS links could be subject to the same take-down rules used to wipe torrent searches from Google links.  It would make it as easy to remove an entire website as it is to remove a video from Youtube.  Sure, there are easy ways around any of these tactics for someone that wants to use a little effort.  VPN, Tor, and typing the address directly into the address bar are a few, but the goal of the MPAA is to stop the majority of the people, people with “101” knowledge of the Internet.
    The DNS system is already a security issue as it stands, exploited by hackers to hijack websites and any authentication measures like DNSSEC would quickly run into issues under this new MPAA system.  If users leave standard DNS servers in search of pirate sites, it would essentially create an underground DNS market, exposing people to unknown security risks.
     Above all this represents another massive attack on the open Internet by an individual corporate interest group.  The hack on Sony may be looked at by some as a “Terrorist” attack, but if you look closer, it’s just a greedy corporation being outed for doing (and planning on doing) a bunch of terrible things.  I”m not sure I feel all that bad…
     Protect the Internet at all costs!

C25K Time!

   Last year I got my blood work done for my yearly check up.  I’m healthy, never sick, blood pressure is good, however my cholesterol was not.  It was high at 260 with my LDL at 194.  At that time, I was able to locate problem areas for food that I eat.  I love fries, pizza, the normal delicious foods in life.  So for a year, I watched what I ate, still having those things but not nearly as much as I would have normally consumed.  I went in for this years check-up and it stayed the same.  The Dr. said that I have 5 months to lower my cholesterol, or i’d have to start taking “Statins”.  I’ve never been on a medication in the 35 years I’ve been alive, I’m not about to start now.
   So I spoke with my Dr. and told her what I eat regularly and what I don’t do regularly…or even at all… exercise.  I’m not a fat guy, but I’m out of shape and maybe 10-15 pounds overweight.  So now I have a goal.  I have 5 Months to get into better shape, and to move that LDL down.  The first thing I am going to do is a program my wife had heard a lot about, “C25K” (Couch to 5 K) an app for your phone that trains you over weeks to be able to run 5k without killing you.  A slow progression.  There are a bunch of apps for this, all offering free versions with limitations.  I decided to get the pay version.  It’s 1.99, its not going to kill you to cough up $1.99 to use an app for your $600.00 phone.  The pay version integrates GPS tracking so that it tracks how far you have gone and your speeds.
   I have finished two days of C25K so far and its going along nicely.  It’s kind of like having a trainer in your ear.  Instead of going for a run and killing myself randomly deciding how far to run, the app tells you what to do, so I don’t even have to think!  The cool part is, I can listen to whatever I want and the C25K app will just chime in when its time to change it up.  Definitely a cool app, I’m looking forward to seeing the progress.


Some trip highlights: Hanger One Vodka Tasting

    For my sister’s birthday my parents took us all to the Hanger One Distillery to taste booze.  Located in an old military base building, in the middle of nowhere, and with an incredible view of the city from the parking lot, this place was truly awesome.  When we entered the building there was this old safe on display that had to have been more than 50 years old.  Inside the door of the safe, in big, old style letters: “Buffalo, NY”.  It was really cool to see and made me miss home.  Now let’s talk about some booze.

The tasting involved the sampling of 9 products:

Aqua Perfecta Pear Eau De Vie:  “Deep buttery pear, hints of spice, 15lbs of Bartlett pears in every bottle.”
Hanger One Straight:  “A blend of wheat and viognier vodka.  Smooth with a touch of sweetness.”
Hanger One Buddha’s Hand:  “Infused with exotic Asian citrus for a vibrant lemon flavor.”
Hanger One Mandarin Blossom:  “Intense floral aromas & delicate flavors make this a lovely mixer.”
Hanger One Kaffir Lime:  “Solid herbal flavors from Kaffir lime leaves pair nicely with tonic.”
St. George Single Malt Whiskey:  “It’s not Scotch!  An ethereal whiskey with hints of cocoa and hazelnut.”
Aqua Perfecta Framboise Liqueur:  “100% Raspberry.  Not too sweet, perfect on pancakes.”
Aqua Perfecta Pear Liqueur:  “Big pear flavor, subtle honeyed richness.  Wonderfully fresh with a lingering deep finish.
St. George Absinthe Verte:  “Deep, rich anise and botanicals make this the perfect way to finish the day.”
    I was never a real Vodka drinker and never knew how to place one Vodka over another in terms of their quality, but after this tasting I have a pretty good sense of what is decent.  Apparently the less alcohol you taste, the better the vodka is.  With that being noted, this was some really good Vodka.  The Pear Vodka was refreshing and smooth with really great flavor.  The others on the list were all decent in terms of quality, most would be better as a main component of other mixed drinks.  In addition to this list was a hot pepper vodka that I was not crazy about, although in a Bloody Mary it would be tasty I’m sure.  My favorite samplings were the Whiskey and the Absinthe.  I am a regular drinker of both and I considered these two hanger one products to be really impressive.  Nicole on the other hand was not a fan of either, particularly the whiskey.
    One thing I learned about Absinthe while on this tour was the correct procedure for drinking it straight.  I’ve often seen the classic procedure of the sugar cube in the fancy spoon while the water drips down on it from above, mixing it into the Absinthe.  Apparently its all complete nonsense and if you find yourself mixing Absinthe with sugar, its not good absinthe.  The proper way to drink it is to simply put ice in it until the Absinthe gets completely cloudy and there is no oil at the very top.  It usually takes a few minutes but when it is done, it is fantastic.  
The ice was just placed into this glass and you can see the whole process working its way up.
    The male host we had on the tasting was a bit hard to handle sometimes and a bit pretentious.  He had made the statement, “We are tasting the products, not doing shots.  We are very serious about this and if I catch you shooting it, your next round will be skipped.”.   The problem was that some of the pours were so skimpy that often you were trying to get the last drop which ended up appearing like you were shooting it!  So after a friendly confrontation with the host and my stepfather, the pours were jokingly more generous in fact we received extra pours of products that weren’t even on the list.  The male host gradually became pretty cool and very informative in terms of teaching us about certain samples.  Eventually we all got mildly sauced and I lost count.  The girl host was fantastic and a lot of fun.
    Overall, the trip to Hanger One was a blast and I highly recommend stopping down for a tasting.  Reservations are required so call ahead.
2601 Monarch St
(between Midway Ave & Tower Ave)
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 769-1601 

(Right to Left) Nicole, Jody (my mom), me, Henry (my stepfather), Elena (my sister), Sid

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