Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Gamble and Stones Into Schools

My two most recent reads have been The Gamble, by Thomas Ricks (the atuhor of Fiasco, which I read several years ago), and Stones into Schools, Greg Mortenson's follow-up to Three Cups of Tea. They were both impulse purchases from Porter Square Books; I should know better than to wander in there with my wallet.

The Gamble continues Ricks' description and analysis of the war in Iraq. It's a good follow-up to The Fourth Star, as it deals with many of the same people and issues. Ricks does a great job explaining how "the surge" became U.S. policy, why it succeeded - and why the war so far has been only a prelude to what promises to be a long saga. The successful revolution in U.S. military thinking brought about by General David Petraeus and his like-minded colleagues is extraordinary, but it can't make up for the preceding years of mismanagement and woefully misguided civilian leadership. Ultimately, the surge succeeded in its goal of providing "breathing space" for Iraqi politicians, but the politicians failed to use it. General Ray Odierno, who succeeded Petraeus as the top military commander in Iraq, said, "As Iraq has become more secure, they've [Iraqi politicians] moved backwards, in some cases, to their hardline positions..." Ricks believes that,like it or not, the U.S. is going to be in Iraq for a long time, and closes the book with the words, "...the events for which the Iraq war will be remembered probably have not yet happened."

Stones into Schools is similarly a good foil to Sarah Chayes'The Punishment of Virtue. Chayes' experience in in southwestern Afghanistan, while Mortenson has focused on the northeastern areas (as well as Pakistan), so their perspectives are very different. Where they agree is on the increasing competence of the U.S. military in Afghanistan over the past decade of war. They disagree somewhat on their outlook for the future. Mortenson is relentlessly optimistic; Chayes is much more guarded. For the sake of the people of Afghanistan, I hope Mortenson is right.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


One of my coworkers just said this, and I just had to pass it on:

In my entire career, I've never written a line of code that I didn't live to regret.
Sigh. Welcome to the world of programming.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I use Skype as an intant messaging and VOIP service. Periodically I receive spam and phishing attempts - a more-or-less inevitable consequence of allowing anyone to contact me. Today's was cute; talk about high speed!

This scary-looking message from Update Registry popped up just as I got back from lunch:


For the link to become active, please click on 'Add to contacts' skype button or type it in manually into your web browser !



ATTENTION ! Security Center has detected
malware on your computer !

Affected Software:

Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows XP
Microsoft Windows 2000
Microsoft Windows Server 2003

Impact of Vulnerability: Remote Code Execution / Virus Infection /
Unexpected shutdowns

Recommendation: Users running vulnerable version should install a repair utility immediately

Your system IS affected, download the patch from the address below !
Failure to do so may result in severe computer malfunction.

For the link to become active, please click on 'Add to contacts' skype button or type it in manually into your web browser!
I immediately clicked "block this user" button. Then, curious, I looked up the domain registration for at

Domain ID:D158521179-LROR
Created On:05-Mar-2010 13:05:57 UTC
Last Updated On:05-Mar-2010 13:05:59 UTC
Expiration Date:05-Mar-2011 13:05:57 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:eNom, Inc. (R39-LROR)
Registrant ID:2d91db7f97e279f8
Registrant Name:Andrej  Marsol
Registrant Organization:-
Registrant Street1:Najikal 21
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Prague
Registrant State/Province:CZ
Registrant Postal Code:21800
Registrant Country:CZ
Registrant Phone:+420.2319981
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:+420.2319981
Registrant FAX Ext.:

So the registration was all of about 5 hours old when I received this phishing attempt. Pretty zippy!

Update, in response to the comment from my buddy, Philip:

I browsed to with Chrome and was rewarded with this:

Thanks for the heads-up! I've emailed a warning to Ms. Chayes and (for now) removed the link.