Going Clear

Last week I watched Going Clear, HBO’s new documentary on the origins and inner workings of Scientology. Here’s a quick trailer:

If your feelings about Scientologists are that they’re all just a bunch of gullible idiots, I’d highly suggest watching if you can. You can’t help but get the sense that, had you come across Scientology under a different set of circumstances, you might be one today.

My Favorite Podcasts

Podcasts have been undergoing a bit of a comeback lately, mostly due to the overwhelming popularity of Serial in the fall of last year.

I subscribe to almost 30 myself, but I don’t listen to every last episode of every show. Here are some of my favorites; you should listen to them!

Effectively Wild

The only baseball podcast you’ll ever need. Sure, they discuss statistics, prospects, and other standard baseball news, but what’s more fun are the listener email sessions. They’ll go back and forth for 20 minutes on how the game would change if, for example, ejected players couldn’t be replaced for the rest of the game. Good stuff all around!

Omega Tau

A great show for your inner science or engineering nerd. The episodes are really long (2 hours is roughly the norm), but it allows the host and the guest to get into every last detail of the subject at hand. From SR-71 pilots to shipwreck divers, this show is both insanely technical and insanely interesting at the same time.

RadioLab

Hands down the best radio show and podcast out there right now. Not as touchy feely as This American Life, but not super technical like Omega Tau. I only wished they published new stuff more often, but ya know, “too much of a good thing” and all that.

Soundboard

Reply All

A reincarnation of their former show, TLDR, hosted by the same guys: PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. Reply All is about the Internet and how it affects us as individuals and as a society. I particularly enjoy the “Yes Yes No” segments, in which the hosts explain the intricacies of the Internet to their clueless producer, Alex Blumberg.

Still Untitled

Adam Savage (yes, that Adam Savage) and two other guys who I don’t really know discuss films, design, maker culture, and a bunch of other topics. They have interesting and insightful takes on nearly every topic imaginable, and Adam’s stories are always knee-slappingly funny.

Very Bad Wizards

A philosopher and a psychologist walk into a bar… and start a podcast. What sounds like the beginning of a joke actually turns out to be one the most enjoyable shows I listen to. They’re sometimes a bit heavy on the philosophy jargon, but for the most part it’s surprisingly good despite a topic that most people would consider “boring.”

[Thanks to Matthew Keefe for the featured image.]

Spending vs. Speech

I’ve been listening to a lot of new podcasts lately, and one that I’ve been particularly enjoying is the Intelligence Squared U.S. podcast.

Driving up to Ohio a while ago, I listened to the episode on the Citizens United v. FEC case. The motion was “Individuals and organizations have a constitutional right to unlimited spending on political speech.”

I’m still unsure whether I agree with that or not, but I was surprised that neither of the panelists who spoke against the motion mentioned what I would consider to be one of the strongest arguments against it.

There are two steps to the argument:

First, no one should be able to speak less than another person because of factors they cannot control. Anyone with a hint of sense would agree, for example, that the color of your skin or your gender should not stop you from voicing your opinions just as much as anyone else.

Second, the amount of money you earn is, as much as you might like to think otherwise, largely outside of your control. Women, for example, have historically earned less than men. Are we not therefore limiting their speech, using unequal pay as a proxy? I would think so.

No doubt there are holes in this argument, and I’m sure that even if we could devise a solution to it, there’d be holes in the solution as well. It’s just something to think about.

[Thanks to Thomas Hawk for the featured image.]

Using RSA Keys on SiteGround

If you host your website over at SiteGround like I do and are at least somewhat technically savvy, you may want to consider securing your account with a stronger key than SiteGround suggests.

If you follow their instructions to the letter, you’ll end up with a 1024-bit DSA key. Their cPanel key management interface confirms this:

SiteGround Add SSH Key

This seemed strange to me though, since every key I’d ever generated before had been RSA. And while I’m no security expert, I always try to use stronger keys when I can, so the 1024-bit limit was disconcerting.

What SiteGround doesn’t tell you is that cPanel’s SSH key management interface is just that: an interface on top of the real way to add keys to your account, which is via the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys2 file. After some testing, it turns out you can add RSA keys by hand and use those.

You can generate a 4096-bit RSA key with this command:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "SiteGround.com"

As always, use a strong passphrase and be sure to create a brand new key file; do not overwrite one that you use for something else!

Now just add the new public key to your ~/.ssh/authorized_keys2 file on SiteGround. You can do this while SSH’ed in (using your old DSA key and nano) or over FTP (using a regular text editor).

Once that’s done, you’ll need to switch over your config files and/or apps to the new key. For example, if you have an FTP client using the old DSA key, set it to use the new RSA key instead.

There you have it: strong RSA keys on SiteGround!

[Thanks to Moyan Brenn for the featured image.]

Civil War Mad Lib

I’m currently reading Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson.

If you only read one book about the American Civil War during your life, make it this one. It’s surprisingly readable and comprehensive, but still thick enough that you can brag about it when you’ve finished.

Anyway, I finished reading the ninth chapter a few days ago, about how the eight upper South states handled their “divided allegiance” shortly after the war started. Near the end of the chapter was this sentence:

Guerrilla warfare and the problems of administering sizable regions with populations of doubtful loyalty tied down large numbers of Union troops in the border states.

Remind you of anything?

Simply replacing “Union” with “U.S.” and “the border states” with “the Middle East” and you’ll see that, indeed, history does repeat itself. It’s also interesting to see how the weapons that we use to fight wars have changed over time, but the basic techniques have not.

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