The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

British nuclear security

Via Bruce Schneier, apparently the physical security of British nuclear weapons until around 1998 consisted of, essentially, a bicycle key:

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Oh. Well. Of course. Why use a hard-to-forge sequence of letters and numbers like the U.S. or U.S.S.R. when a little key will do?

So what prevented an accidental (or deliberate) British detonation until Tony Blair fixed the problem? Why, tradition, of course, what what!

The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders."

(Insert nervous laughter here.)

Alma mater to host debate

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday that my undergraduate alma mater, Hofstra University, will host the final debate in the 2008 general election cycle:

"We are extremely pleased and proud that the Commission has chosen Hofstra University for one of America's most important political events," said Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz. "The presidential debates are pivotal events that can shape the course of the election, and our students and community will be able to witness, first-hand, the democratic process."

President Rabinowitz will soon announce plans for a series of academic programs to be held in the months leading up to the debate that will provide students and the community with insights into the process and workings of the national election. "With Hofstra's unique academic strengths, particularly with our Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and our vibrant academic programs in political science, journalism and mass media, and law, we are uniquely poised to take advantage of the special opportunities a presidential debate offers. We plan to maximize every opportunity to involve students, faculty and the community in this historic event."

The debate will air Wednesday 15 October 2008 at 9 pm EDT.

No word yet on who will attend, but several qualified people have applied for the job.

Parker on the move

I didn't know it until last week, but most Motels 6 (is that the plural? Has to be) allow dogs. I'm travelling for the holiday, so this made a huge difference. Parker, however, has no idea that absent the liberal pro-dog policy of the chain he'd be in perpetual day-care this week. I even brought his bed for him:

He also didn't know that his crate is portable, which he didn't like to learn:

It must be somewhat bewildering for him. I picked him up right from the gooming salon, having packed the car while he was getting a bath. So one moment he's hopping into the back seat thinking he'll be home in five minutes, next moment he's heading out of town. I'm proud of him, too: 1,440 km and almost 14 hours in a car, and not one incident of mess destruction.

Today while the weather is good we'll explore the environs. Stay tuned.

Cooler weather, just not on camera

Useless fact: Today was the first time since April 6th that my walk to work was below freezing.

Not useless fact: the Inner Drive Webcam was temporarily off-line overnight, as I'm making some infrastructure changes and the computer it's attached to is being decommissioned. (It's back up now.) Apparently people noticed:

I don't do business with you because I don't need to, however, I do look at your live camera every day to see the weather and get a look at Evanston, the town in which I was born and raised. My grandfather lived in the North Shore Hotel in the '50s and I visited there often. Your bottom line may not get any bigger if you continue with the camera but there may be people like myself that will miss getting a glimpse of a portion of the city. I hope that you will not let your new infrastructure cancel out the continuation of the camera.

—John in Craddockville, Va.



I look out at Chicago Ave almost every morning that I am not home in Evanston—just to 'check in'. I think it is the only Webcam in the town. Please keep it up! I love it!

—Bernard, writing from Los Angeles

I had no idea.

The technical issue is simple. Right now the camera runs on an ancient (6-year-old) server running Windows 2000. It's essentially Inner Drive's backup server, sort of the Prince Charles of the office. All it does with its 200 watts is run the Webcam and wait for another server to die.

Here's a photo. The Webcam is hooked into the server on the bottom. (One wag called it "Paul McServer" and called the other one "Server Wonder," but in the office we call them McHenry and Bulle. Bulle is so old it reflects the obsolete naming scheme we haven't used in years.)

Well, server prices having fallen, and efficiencies having risen, and rack-mounting being generally preferable to floor-mounting, we're replacing it with a Dell 860. But the new server will have a Xeon processor, which means we'll be running the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003, which means (finally) our Webcam software won't run on the new server.

When we get the new server running (probably the first week of December), I may take an old, decrepit laptop and hook that into the Webcam. In any event, given the outpouring of support for it, I'll do what I can to keep it running.

Not sure what to do with this information

Via Talking Points Memo, Donny and Marie have endorsed Romney. They also endorse the idea that the Angel Moroni spoke to Joseph Smith and told him that the word of God was written on a collection of golden plates buried (conveniently) near his home; that native Americans spoke European languages and were white; and that white men quite literally rule all others.

Lest you think I'm inflating the religious issue, perhaps drawing too close an inference that having a world-view based on the demonstrably irrational and fantastic writings of a deeply disturbed individual is somehow incompatible with having nuclear launch codes handy, here is Donny Osmond's rationale for his endorsement:

Donny Osmond said Romney's candidacy has been "absolutely wonderful for the Mormon Church" because it has made many more Americans curious about their faith.

Marie added punctuation:

And Marie Osmond had this to say when asked whether Romney should give a speech on his religion similar to the one that John F. Kennedy gave during the 1960 campaign before becoming the nation's first Catholic president: "I hope we've grown up since then. I hope people look at the person and what they've done."

You're right, Marie, Mitt Romney is not John F. Kennedy. Romney supports theocracy, Constitution be damned, while Kennedy quite famously told the country "I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me." So the Osmonds' endorsement, couched as it is in religious terms, and Romney's refusal to distance himself from it, may not be the triviality it seems to be. And I'm not sure that sauntering toward religious rule, no matter what the religion, means we've "grown up."

Don't even start me on Romney's record.

Aussie puppy photo

First, a clarification: the Daily Parker may be two years old, but the Actual Parker is 17 months old (Friday). The blog is not the dog, as it were.

Second, Dad dug up this 12-year old photo of his dog, Reggie:

All together now: Awwwwww.

People may not gather from the photo of the adorable-looking fluff-ball that Australian Shepherds are "tricky." As in, darling Reggie here tried to kill me on more than one occasion before he was a year old. I wasn't even on a bike or horse, which would have truly brought out his protective instincts. Now that he's 12, though, he's a very sweet old dog.

Wing-nut primary ad

From Talking Points Memo (emphasis in original):

Tom Tancredo's new ad, set to run in Iowa—if any stations will accept it, that is—is a true original. The ad depicts the dire consequences of our open borders through a dramatization of a fictitious terrorist attack in the middle of a shopping mall. ...

One has to wonder if the plot is taken from the hypothetical terror scenario described by Brit Hume at the first Fox News debate earlier this year, which involved terrorist attacks taking place at malls.

Today's Daily Parker

The amazing thing about this isn't that he's a handsome, happy dog, enjoying a beautiful autumn afternoon; it's that he's ignoring the squirrel directly behind him:

All that training paid off, I guess.