Security is About Outcomes, FISMA edition

Over at the US Government IT Dashboard blog, Vivek Kundra (Federal CIO), Robert Carey (Navy CIO) and Vance Hitch (DOJ CIO) write:

the evolving challenges we now face, Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) metrics need to be rationalized to focus on outcomes over compliance. Doing so will enable new and actionable insight into agencies’ information and network security postures, possible vulnerabilities and the ability to better protect our federal systems.
(“Moving Beyond Compliance: The Status Quo Is No Longer Acceptable”)

I’m tremendously excited to see this because back in April I wrote “Security is about outcomes, not about process.” I don’t know that I can claim credit for this, but it’s nice to see how far the meme has gone.

Gates Was Hardly An Exception

There was a lot of news when Henry Lewis Gates was arrested back in July, essentially for mouthing off to a cop. What happened was a shame, but what is more of a shame is that this sort of thing isn’t that rate. Time magazine had a recent article about this, Do You Have the Right to Flip Off a Cop? which you should read. One of my best friends from High School, Jeff Miller, linked to this article from his own blog and summed up the issue as only he can:

You can be rude to Taylor Swift, you can be rude to a tennis line judge, you can even be rude to the President … none of these things will get you arrested. But if you’re rude to a cop, get ready for some handcuffs.
This is a problem, no?

You said it Jeff!

Happy Banned Books Week!

banned-books.jpgQuoting Michael Zimmer:

[Yesterday was] the start of Banned Books Week 2009, the 28th annual celebration of the freedom to choose what we read, as well as the freedom to select from a full array of possibilities.

Hundreds of books are challenged in schools and libraries in the United States each year. Here’s a great map of challenges from 2007-2009, although I’m sure it under-represents the nature of the problem, as most challenges are never reported. (Note the West Bend library controversy is marked on the map.)

According to the American Library Association, there were 513 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2008.

I’m somewhat surprised by how many bluenoses dots there are in the northeast. Does anyone know of a good tutorial that would help me to re-map the data against population?

A Little Temporary Safety

allstate-new-jersey-ad.jpg
So I saw this ad on the back of the Economist. (Click for a larger PDF). In reading it, I noticed this exhortation to “support the STANDUP act of 2009:”

The STANDUP Act* (H.R. 1895) creates a National
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law that [limits nighttime driving, reduces in-car distractions, puts a cap on the number of friends in the car and increases the required hours of training and supervision. ] congressional representatives When states have implemented comprehensive GDL programs, the number of fatal crashes among 16 year old drivers has fallen by almost 40%.”

Now I was curious as to how many lives that was, and so I went looking. I found a lot of interesting stuff. For example, “Beginning with Florida in 1996, graduated licensing systems also have been adopted in most U.S. states.” That’s from the “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute.” But they also tell us: “A national evaluation reported that states with 3-stage graduated systems had 11 percent fewer fatal crashes per population of 16 year-olds during 1994-2004 than states without such systems.” Last I checked, 11 is not almost 40.

It also turns out that the number of teens killed in New Jersey last year was 60. Now, I don’t want to minimize the pain for the families who lost their children, or those injured by teens driving like, well, teens. But based on Allstate’s high number, these laws about graduated driving privileges may save as many as 25 lives a year. Based on the IIHS assessment, it may be 6 or 7.

Now there’s an old saw “Where are you from? New Jersey. Oh, what exit?” The truth is that life in New Jersey is car-centric, and saving those lives involves restricting the behavior of about 110,000 teens. (Or so I estimate, based on New Jersey Quickfacts from the US Census, who say that there are 8.6MM people, and roughly 24% are under 18, and so I figure that roughly 1.3% of the population is 16.) Those teens are in the process of exploring who they are, and asserting their independence from their parents and geography. They’re in the process of growing up. Part of that growing up is taking risks, and I suspect that some of the risk taking is simply delayed, not removed.

The other thing I don’t get about Allstate’s ad is that the insurance industry says “most states” already have such laws. Setting a national law is hard, and Congress is busy investigating baseball players. So clearly, they have important tasks to be working on. What’s more, phrases like “A national evaluation reported that states with 3-stage graduated systems had 11 percent fewer fatal crashes … than states without such systems.” A stronger argument for continued experimentation by laboratories of democracy is hard to imagine.

But stepping back, the real issue I have here is the desire to drive one particular danger to zero without consideration of the costs or alternatives. These folks are dedicated to stopping deaths in cars (which is appropriate for the IIHS, less so for Allstate). But what fraction of teen deaths are in cars that a teen is driving? What are the costs of a little temporary safety for teens?

[updates: corrected quote, added link to text]
[update2: Don’t miss Kenneth Finnegan’s comment about having 5 teens all drive separately from point A to point B, with attendant environmental and parking impact.]

Happy Emancipation Proclamation Day!

That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States [including the military and naval authority thereof] will, during the continuance in office of the present incumbents, recognize [and maintain the freedom of] such persons, as being free, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia has a good article on the Emancipation Proclamation.

[Quick update: Bryan Carter has a great photo he mentioned in the comments.]

Private Thoughts on Race

So I’m sitting on the plane home from* Seattle, and I had a really interesting conversation on race with the woman next to me. We were talking, and she asked me, why is it so hard to have conversations like this. I thought that the answer we came to was interesting, and insofar as it has a lot to do with privacy, I thought I’d share.

We talked a bit about how conversations about race are often tricky in part because there are things that sensitive people worry about. We don’t want to offend the people we’re speaking with, especially if we have to work with them in the future.

On an airplane, however badly I might put my foot in my mouth, and we’ll have a really uncomfortable few hours, we’ll walk away, and probably never see each other again. So the anonymity of the conversation (properly, ano-sur-nymity, lack of a last name) made it possible to be more frank and open then if we were neighbors.

Alcoholics anonymous works on very similar ideas, and uses anonymity as a way to create a safe space.

*Yes, from. I wrote this a few years back and just noticed I hadn’t hit post.

Secret Photo Apps for the iPhone

simple-dof.jpg
If you try searching the App store for photo apps, you find all sorts of things to make your photos sepia. Or blurry. Or to draw on them. Which is great, but if you want apps to help you take photographs, they’re sorta hard to find. So here are some links:

First up, a reference guide for your camera. I didn’t bother with this–I have my manual in my main photo bag, and spend time exploring features, but it might be worthwhile: Rebel XS reference. (The vendor has lots more cameras available.)

Next, if you’re doing anything with landscape photography, you end up reading about hyperfocal distances, which is where you want to put your focal point to maximize the depth of field that’s in focus. There’s a couple of these, including Simple DOF Calculator, FoCalc, and Photo Guide which also includes an exposure calulator. I personally prefer the UI in DoFCalc.

If you have a studio, or typically have a computer handy when you’re taking pictures, this DSLR Remote looks very cook. You hook up your camera to your computer via USB, and your phone talks to the computer via wifi. Someone should hack up USB/wifi bridge so you can use one of those socket size linux boxes to do this, and just clamp the thing and a battery to your tripod. Alternately, an iphone to camera cable would be great, if only Apple would let developers use the USB port. (Maybe they do. But a search on iphone sdk usb turned up people looking and not finding. Which also puts the lie to this piece at CATO. You’d have to be smoking something pretty strong to not be able to search for “apple appstore reject,” or to not realize that there’s plenty of apps you can’t get because of Apple’s prudishness.)

Finally, there’s a great idea in GreyCard, to provide a uniform color that you can photograph and use to set the white balance. Unfortunately, the iphone is backlit. I wonder what shade of grey the back is?

Are there other interesting ones?

Atoms, Photographed

atoms-photographed.jpg

The pictures, soon to be published in the journal Physical Review B, show the detailed images of a single carbon atom’s electron cloud, taken by Ukrainian researchers at the Kharkov Institute for Physics and Technology in Kharkov, Ukraine….To create these images, the researchers used a field-emission electron microscope, or FEEM. They placed a rigid chain of carbon atoms, just tens of atoms long, in a vacuum chamber and streamed 425 volts through the sample. The atom at the tip of the chain emitted electrons onto a surrounding phosphor screen, rendering an image of the electron cloud around the nucleus.

InsideScience, “First Detailed Photos of Atoms.”