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Heartbleed bug not a technical problem – it’s an awareness and support problem

by David Solomonoff

While free/open source software (FOSS) may be a better development model and Richard Stallman argues, an ethical one, it doesn’t guarantee good software by itself. Software development, like any other human endeavor, depends on the skills, resources and motivations of the people doing it.

FOSS advocates argue that the inner workings of technology should be open to inspection and modification by their users.

While the Heartbleed bug was a technical problem that is being fixed, the real problem is the lack of awareness or interest in of back-end technologies that we rely on.

Encryption used on the Internet is now critical infrastructure and unfortunately with OpenSSL, has not been allocated the needed resources. That two thirds of websites relied on security tools developed and maintained by four people, only one of them a paid full time employee, is clearly a formula for disaster.

However the prospect of having a government maintain this type of infrastructure in the wake of the NSA spying scandals (as well as allegations that they were aware of the bug and exploited it) is not likely to gain a lot of traction.

FOSS uses a variety of business models but the reliance on volunteers for critical infrastructure may have hit its limit.

In the end the solution to security problems like Heartbleed may be one of funding and awareness rather fixing a specific programming error.

All too often there has been confusion as to whether the “free” in FOSS refers to “free” speech or to “free beer”.

It looks like the bar tab has come due.

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Five More for the Road

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Five more postcards hit the road– a moving part of the 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? project.


Midwest Modern, Waterloo, Iowa, 1933:  “Our YMCA is the newest and most modern in the 5 state area in Midwest.”


Florida Pelican Boy


The Ghost of Radio City, New York


Million Dollar Aqua-Babe, St. Petersburg, Florida


Silver Springs Demi-God w. Maiden

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

I love the Post Office. Aka, the Church of Snail Mail. An institution reflecting the fading vision of democratic public services. Churls say the church should cease to exist. Their mantra? Privatize privatize privatize. Buttressed by claims that long distance communication by paper is doomed. So low tech don’cha know. To which I reply–

Got Mail Art?

A project to celebrate the Church of Snail Mail and its most devoted member, Mail Art. My mission: send 200 altered postcards to 200 artists, culling their names and addresses from a list of participants in a large-scale international Mail Art show held last year. I was among the participants and like everyone, received the list as documentation. To keep the postcards a surprise, I’m not identifying the show.

Each postcard bears the question “Got Mail Art?”

We’ll see what the answer will be…

The postcards range in age from vintage (such as linen-era) to more recent. Rest assured– no rare or unique postcards are being altered for this project. Only generic ones that can stand additions. Thrift stores and yard sales are the source. Pretty much 50 cents a dance. Cheaper by the handful.

Oh yeah– I also love postcards. Little worlds that travel the big one. No digital transmission has the romance. Here are my first 10 travelers:


1. Vicksburg National Military Park w. cupcake wrapper

2. The Hi Heel Hat Lady of Silver Springs, Florida

2. The Hi Heel Hat Lady of Silver Springs, Florida

3. Rainbow Bridge & Couch, Arizona/Utah border3. Rainbow Bridge & Couch, Arizona/Utah border

4. The Monster from Clarendon Gorge-- Clarendon, Vermont

4. The Monster from Clarendon Gorge– Clarendon, Vermont

5. Florida from the bottom of the sea5. Florida from the bottom of the sea

6. Viva Las Vegas Baby Red Hat

6. Viva Las Vegas Baby Red Hat

7. Reaper Room, Mark Twain Hotel, Elmira New York

7. Reaper Room, Mark Twain Hotel, Elmira New York

8. Hawaii International Market w. Blonde Bombshell

8. Hawaii International Market w. Blonde Bombshell
9. Mission San Juan Capistrano, California with cupcake wrapper & cross

9. Mission San Juan Capistrano, California with cupcake wrapper & cross

10. Angel at Holiday Inn, New Stanton, PA.

10. Angel at Holiday Inn, New Stanton, PA.

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The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Think totalitarians are dull boys (and girls) who wear matchey matchey duds, never quaff cocktails or croon torch tunes in the wee small hours? If so, you’re wrong. No need for shame though. I thought the same. Until I found a copy of The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings! in a box of old records at a junk store.

At first I figured it was some sort of spoof production. Lenin sings? Yeah, right. Maybe in his shower after rolling out a little Red Terror. But no. Lenin did cut a record (actually, a wax cylinder) in 1922, around the time he became premiere of the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Union). After Lenin’s death in ’24, the album disappeared into a memory hole dug by his successor, Joseph Stalin.

Luckily for lovers of pop culture esoterica, the master somehow survived…

After Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev eventually emerged as head of the single party USSR. In ’56, he delivered his famous Secret Speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, ripping Stalin and the personality cult that let Stalin be Stalin. Among other things, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for expanding the use of the term “enemy of the people” to include Party officials who disagreed with Stalin. Thereby putting them in the same non-human, expendable category as, say, kulaks— those Greedy Gus peasants who resisted having their farms collectivized.

Khrushchev also distributed copies of Lenin’s Testament at the Congress. Lenin wrote it in late 1922, after being been laid low by a stroke. Death was on the way. In the Testament, Lenin assessed various Party biggies with an eye to future leadership. No thumbs up for Stalin. Lenin dished “Comrade” Stalin’s “rudeness” and “capricious temper” and suggested he be booted from his position as Secretary-General of the Party’s Central Committee.

Until recently few knew Lenin’s Testament wasn’t the only thing Khrushchev distributed; he also passed out remastered vinyl copies of The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings!

What motivated Khrushchev to include the record? Did he hope hearing Lenin sound so presciently Rat Pack would make rude boy Stalin seem totally yesterday?

Whatever. The album stands on its own as a pop music classic. Lenin delivers the goods from first cut to last, opening with a subversively scat-shattered version of Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band and closing with a high octane, finger-snapping delivery of Cole Porter’s little known Ha, Ha, They Must Sail for Siberia. Twixt Berlin & Porter, Vlad turns sad. Waxing middle-of-the-night moody with lush ballads– including one written by himself titled What is to Be Done (When your Lover Leaves).

Though copyright laws make it impossible to include cuts from Swingin’ Totalitarian, I’ve reproduced the album’s cover, a gatefold hinged at Lenin’s waist with identical images front and back. The doubled Lenin is shown lounging at the type of bar typically found in suburban basement rec rooms. (Swingin’ was recorded at Lenin’s dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.) Those octopus-like suckers sprouting from his head? Symbolic. As said, the record was cut ’round the time the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.

Album Cover

Interestingly, the graphic from Lenin’s album surfaced in altered form during the late 1960’s as an advertisement for Romanov Vodka. Not to be confused with the Romanov Vodka currently being marketed by the India-based UB Group, the Romanov Vodka that featured Lenin in its ads was produced in Romania under the aegis of Nicolae Ceaușescu. A swingin’ totalitarian in his own right…

Romanov Vodka Ad


Next in the Swingin’ Totalitarian series: Mao Wow! The Lost Nudie Pics of Mao Zedong



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Email scammers turn to witchcraft as would-be rubes become more canny

by David Solomonoff

… Traditional West African Juju priests adapted their services to the needs of the information age and started leading down-on-their-luck internet scammers through strange and costly rituals designed to increase their powers of persuasion and make their emails irresistible to greedy Americans. And so “Sakawa” was born.

Now not only is Sakawa Ghana’s most popular youth activity and one of its biggest underground economies, it’s a full-blown national phenomenon. Sakawa has its own tunes, clothing brands, Sakawasploitation flicks …

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Universal transistor serves as a basis to perform any logic function

by David Solomonoff

… Researchers have designed a transistor that can reconfigure itself …. these “universal transistors” can, in principle, perform any Boolean logic operation, meaning circuits could perform the same number of logic functions with fewer transistors. This advantage could lead to more compact hardware and novel circuit designs.…

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RIP: Hans Reichel, avant-garde guitarist and inventor

by David Solomonoff

> Reichel was a self-taught guitarist who may be best remembered for his > radical homemade guitars and his invented instrument, the Daxophone.…
He started as a blues-rock guitarist and retained a bluesy melodic quality in his more radical explorations – even as many of his peers attempted to abandon all elements of melody and rhythm.

Here performing on both his guitars and Daxophone:

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Paul Motian, Drummer, Composer and Bandleader, Dies at 80 –

by David Solomonoff

… it was in the second half of his life that Mr. Motian found himself as a composer and bandleader, with work that could be counterintuitive or straightforward, runic or crowd-pleasing.

Tribute was a life-changing experience for me as a musician.

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Republican D’oh Dept.

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

A Power Play piece at Fox News re the implosion of Herman Cain is subtitled GOP Can’t Win Without Blue Collar Independents. Alas, the latter aren’t climbing aboard the elephant. Fox seems to think blue collar indies would have preferred Cain to Mitt Romney– maybe ’cause everyone knows pizza is blue collar manna. But I think Cain would have caught the Perot/Paladino/Trump train out of town long before election time, even without a sex scandal.

We’ll never know now, will we?

With Cain melting like hot mutz, Republicans are fretting about why specific suits (rather than generic “Republican”) aren’t racking up blue collar support. Quoting Power Play:

Here’s the challenge for Republicans: Blue-collar voters will be key to their efforts not only to defeat President Obama but to hold the House and take over the Senate…..So the question among Republicans is why they are not better situated against an incumbent with low approval, a dispirited Democratic base and three-quarters of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track?

Gee– could all that union bashing have anything to do with it?

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Russia 2045 project seeks to create an artificial human being

by David Solomonoff

Reportedly they have hired an Orthodox priest as a consultant after criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church that “according to Christian teaching, soul is a substance that separates from the body after death but does not cease to exist, and it’s not for us to separate soul from body and put this soul wherever we want.”

From their manifesto:

Modern civilization … cannot save mankind from the limitations in the physical abilities of our bodies, nor from diseases and death.

Science working for the satisfaction of consumer needs will not be able to ensure a technological breakthrough.

We believe that the world needs a different ideological paradigm … [with]as one of its priorities, the necessity of using breakthrough technology for an improvement of man himself and not only of his environment.

… it is possible and necessary to eliminate aging and even death, and to overcome the fundamental limits of the physical and mental capabilities currently set by the restrictions of the physical body.

The country that is first to declare its intention to combine these technologies to create working cybernetic organisms will become the leader of the most important world technological project of modern times. Russia must become this leader.

Implementation of this technological project will inevitably result in an explosive development of innovations and global changes in civilization, and will improve human life.

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