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What’s the Definition of Terrorism?

April 16th, 2013 by The Fashionable Philosopher

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A question that was raised last year with the Benghazi attack was what is terrorism? Was it a terrorist attack? The bombs in Boston hit close to home for me (literally) since I live and work in the Boston area. Reading the news stories following attack in Boston raised the question again. Some stories labeled it terrorism, some just say bombings. The white house called it a terrorist attack quickly after the attack took place.

This got me thinking, what is terrorism? When is it a terrorist attack and when is it not? People today seem to like to use the word as political ammo to push a particular agenda. This has clouded the public’s perspective of what is terrorism and what isn’t.

To find the answer to the question we don’t even need to open a dictionary. The word itself tells us what it means. It’s an act with the purpose of instilling terror. Some times there can be a political or religious motives, but the motives can also be personal.

So what makes an action terrorism? By looking at the definition I stated above we can see that it’s the intention of the act that makes it terrorism and not the act itself. So to know if it was terrorism we need to know the intention of the perpetrators. The intention of a terrorist is usually obvious because of where and how they attacked. So it usually doesn’t take long to figure out whether it was a terrorist attack or not.

Using this definition we can see that even governments can perform terrorist attacks. For instance many of the bombing runs done by both the allies and the axis powers in WWII were terrorist attacks. The goal was often to terrorize and demoralize the enemy. School shootings today, may or may not be terrorist attacks. If it’s kids lashing out at society who want to go down in infamy than it’s not terrorism. We can see that Benghazi was terrorism.

This bombing in Boston was almost certainly terrorism, although it’s not confirmed yet. It has the hallmarks: done on Patriot’s Day, in Boston the city of patriots, attacking the Boston marathon (arguably the biggest well known marathon in the world) and at the exact moment when the largest number of people usually finish the race. Based on this I would say that the attacker is trying to make a point against the United States and is some how related to its military presence abroad.



The Future of Television

June 24th, 2011 by The Fashionable Philosopher

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The TV is pretty ubiquitous today. Growing up, my family always had a TV. It seems like almost every household in most of the western world has one. However I think TV’s days are numbered.

I’m noticing with the younger generation, and even up into the middle aged generation, that the TV is losing favor for on demand services like You Tube, Net Flix, and Hulu. I’m pretty much the only person in the office at work who watches TV regularly. Most of my coworkers go to places like Net Flix to watch movies and TV shows. Almost all of them only have the most basic cable you can get, or no cable at all. They use their TVs as giant screens to stream movies from their computers.

Compared to the internet, TV is too rigid to compete. As bandwidth increases the TV will become more and more useless. More and more TV channels are streaming online, and some TV shows, and TV stations are online only, like OnlyOne TV, and GBTV. TV won’t be able to keep up. Even if TVs are able to connect to all these services they still won’t be able to compete with the flexibility of computers.

I’m not saying you won’t see media centers, but TV as we no it will cease to exist. They will basically lose the functions that separate TVs from computer screens. At that point the “TV” will essentially be nothing more than a screen where the family can sit to watch downloaded, on demand streaming programs, or use other family center media applications. How long will this take to happen? I don’t know exactly, but I think the TV as we know it will be almost completely gone by the time our grand kids are growing up. So another 20 to 30 years.



It Turns out Stealing from the Hacking Community may be a Bad Idea

June 21st, 2011 by The Fashionable Philosopher

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So I’ve mentioned bitcoins a few times on this blog. On Sunday a hacker attempted to steal about 250,000 bitcoins (worth around 5 million dollars) on the largest bitcoin exchange known as Mtgox. He managed to hack into a computer owned by one of the exchange’s employees. From there he was able to obtain the user database for all the users on the exchange. The passwords were hashed so he wasn’t able log into other accounts right away. However the obtaining the hashes made it easier for him to “bruteforce” (repeatedly guess) the password. Using this method he was able to break into the person who had the largest holding of bitcoins, about 500,000 worth over ten million dollars.

The thing is, the exchange limits the daily withdrawal limit to one thousand dollars. So he couldn’t just steal all the money. So he hatched a plan. He summed up all the buy orders on the market and determined that there was about 250,000 bitcoins worth of orders on the market. At that point he logged into his regular account and placed an order for about 250,000 bitcoins at one penny a piece in his regular account. He then drove down the market rate for bitcoins to a penny by filling all the orders on the market by selling the 500,000 bitcoins in the account he hacked. Right at the bottom was his order for 250,000 bitcoins, which filled the rest of the order. Now that the market value for bitcoins were temporarily mere pennies, he could withdraw a large number of bitcoins without reaching the one thousand dollar limit.

However it all went sour as soon as his hacked sell order finished, because the price shot back up too quickly and he was only able to get about six hundred, of the 250,000 bitcoins he stole, out under the one thousand dollar limit. At that point the exchange froze all trades. They were quickly able to figure out what had happened after looking at their logs. To the dismay of the hacker they decided to reverse all the trades that occurred from the big sell off and after. So all the hacker got was the 600 bitcoins, worth about ten grand. The exchange reported it’s findings to the community. Which, as it turns out, is also made up of many hackers. Even though the people who ran the exchange didn’t know who this hacker was, less than twenty four hours later everything including the guy’s name (Kevin Day) was known. He claims (User Toasty) to just be a lucky guy who happened to log in at just the right time to take advantage of the sell off. Although considering the timeline this story seems like a long shot. On top of that he hasn’t returned the 600 bitcoins he managed to withdraw from the exchange, and tried to act all innocent and scold the exchange for rolling back the trades.

I’m thinking he, like his forum nick name implies, is toast. Don’t mess with the mess makers I guess.



Driving vs. Flying

June 10th, 2011 by The Fashionable Philosopher

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As someone who travels a lot I have to fly and drive all the time. The question is, which is better? Should you drive or should you fly? Well that depends on a lot of factors. Mostly, how far are you going and what are you doing?

Most of the time I fly. I’m usually traveling long distances and only staying for short periods of time. Usually less than a week. These are the perfect conditions to fly. Just one or two bags, which you can carry on. However if the trip is under fives hours to drive, it would probably be cheaper and faster to drive rather than fly. Considering you should leave for your flight three hours before, the hour or so you fly for and then having to get a rental car. Usually at about five hour drive flying and driving are equal resource-wise, but driving adds flexibility.

Generally the longer you’re traveling for and the more you’re bringing the more driving is worth it. Obviously traveling over seas requires flying. But if you are a snow bird or something like that, it may be cheaper to drive a thousand miles plus. Because of the cost of maintaining two cars and moving large amounts of goods back and forth by air. If you own at least one of the cars outright and you have everything you need at both locations, flying wins out however.

There are in between ways to go. The train and by bus are also options. For traveling long distances usually bus is better than train. Usually you can’t go a great distance on a train without switching trains a few times. Also trains are usually less direct. Although if you are traveling directly from one city center to another (like DC to New York) the train usually wins out over all the other methods. This is because you don’t usually need a car. That means you don’t have to worry about the traffic. You can’t carry as much as driving but it’s usually much faster. Especially if you can get a train like Acela.

So to sum it all up. The further away the location, the better flying is. The longer you travel for, the better driving is. Also the more you bring with you, the better driving is.



Weiner’s weiner

June 8th, 2011 by The Fashionable Philosopher

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So it’s been all over the news lately. I find it amazing people find this so interesting. Weiner’s mistakes do show potential problems with his ability to make good judgement calls, but I have a feeling there is a lot more of this in the government than anyone would like to think about. So I don’t think Weiner is way off from normal in this regard. Most of you have or know someone who has done things like this.

This does show a clear lack of judgement on his part, but does it mean he should lose his job? If he did anything illegal, yes of course, but if not I think we should just let nature take it’s course in this case. He’s a lame duck from here on in. He is as good as gone in the next election.

Beyond all that I don’t think people should keep talking about this. We know what he did, that’s it no need to gossip anymore about it.