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What Some Hearts Need

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Today is like all the others, gray like a barren winter sea, the sun a pale and heartless orb. And it’s on days like this, that I feel certain my journey is ...

Dispatch From the Hereaft ...

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Despite a lifetime of religious cynicism and disbelief, it was still something of a disappointment, upon my death, to discover that there really is nothing ...

Hacking the CCS7 Network

The Threat The CCS7 network was developed in the mid seventies to control the routing of phone calls using out-of-band signaling. The data packets transmitted on the network control not only the initiation and completion of calls, but also numerous billing functions and the activation of advanced features that are today taken for granted (call forwarding, call waiting, etc.). Because the data packets transmitted via CCS7 are unencrypted, it has become relatively easy to gain access to this network and to use it to perform numerous nefarious activities, most notable of which are locating a cell phone with an accuracy of a few meters and intercepting and eavesdropping on calls. The weaknesses of the CCS7 network came to the fore in mid 2014 ...

Baseband Attack

The Threat The baseband processor in a mobile phone is the system that communicates via radio waves with the cell tower in order to complete cellular calls. Because your mobile phone communicates via cell towers, in order to intercept the radio signal from a cell phone, the hacker must first set up a fake cell tower and convince a nearby phone (the target) to connect to it. The hacker can then download malicious code that will attack vulnerabilities in the GSM/3GPP stacks of the phone’s baseband processor, typically Qualcomm or Infineon chip sets. While this attack type is limited to those individuals or entities with the resources and technical know-how to set up their own bogus cell towers, the cost of setting one up has fallen ...

Captain Ordinary

(a somewhat less than epic poem)   Captain Ordinary arrives, as if from out of nowhere, in those moments when something unusual seems about to happen.   He is not summoned by the glow of a signal in the sky, for that would be extraordinary, not his thing at all. Just a simple phone call or text message.   Nor does he swoop down from on high or fly in, defying the laws of physics. He arrives in a beige Prius with a small dent on the front right bumper and fast food wrappers crumpled in the backseat.   He does not crash through windows or knock down front doors. Captain Ordinary courteously rings the doorbell and waits there, humming the last tune from the radio, shifting his weight from one foot to the ...

The Deal of a Lifetime

Rick was supposed to be writing, damn it. He had a contract and a deadline and he’d already long-since spent the meager advance. He had done the math and it was driving him mad. The publisher expected a four hundred pager, due in seven months time, which was, of course, insane, seeing as how the first book had taken nearly five years to research and write. Four hundred pages, about a hundred and fifty thousand words, of which he currently had maybe ten thousand. To make the deadline meant cranking out about ten thousand more words every week for the remainder of the time until the deadline. Who the hell could do that? Nobody, that’s who. Maybe Stephen King, but that was about it. The book would presumably be based on the topic already ...

The House on Old Bath Road

This is the first in a series of descriptive essays I mean to undertake, not for the purpose of storytelling per se, or even necessarily being of interest to anyone other than myself and the siblings and close friends with whom I shared my upbringing. Rather, I am doing this as a way to remind myself of some formative aspects of my childhood, against the day when I become doddering and need an occasional reminder of things past. This first piece is about the house in which I grew up in Brunswick, Maine. *          *          * The house on Old Bath Road was quite ordinary by the standards of Maine in the 1960’s, at least in terms of layout. It was, though, in far less than ideal condition, seeing as how no significant ...

The Challenge

“So you believe there is no point to life if you don’t die at the end of it,” MacDonald says, punctuating the statement with a sip from his bourbon. Ice cubes tinkle in the highball glass as he sets it down on the end table. Henderson, his companion in the chair opposite, sits for a long, silent moment, letting the statement hang, a legally concise distillation of his own more nuanced philosophical assertions of the past few moments. The only other sounds in the library are periodic crackles from the fireplace and the quickening breaths of a cold front just now arriving outside the big front window. MacDonald’s statement is neither rhetorical nor a mere exercise in eschatological musing, though the pair, fast friends since their ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 1 – ...

June 20, 1955   1955 was barely half over and already it had been a year of auspicious beginnings and hopeful changes. President Eisenhower had, in February, sent the first handful of advisors to an obscure country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam, assuring Americans that it was strictly a training assignment and that the men would be home before year’s end. In March a dashing young guy with jet-black hair and a pretty good singing voice had made his first television appearance—guy named Elvis something or other. And up in Illinois an ambitious and entrepreneurial businessman named Ray Kroc had opened a little hamburger stand known as McDonald’s, bragging that he was offering something new he called “fast food,” like anybody ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 5 – ...

March 18, 1963   “Reverend, you picked quite a day to be out here trying to do that all by yourself.” Cyrus was so engrossed in what he was doing that the sound of the car coming up the long driveway, the press of tires on gravel muted by the first leavings of the snowstorm, had barely registered on his senses. He was standing atop an extension ladder in front of the chapel door, doing his best to maintain balance while holding above his head the eight-foot-long board that was about to become the chapel’s nameplate. The weather to which the approaching visitor had alluded was most decidedly not helping Cyrus in his efforts. A mid-March snowstorm had been forecast to begin today and was expected to dump as much as ten inches by ...

The Blackening

In the final two minutes of descent to the comet, a number of things needed to take place in rapid succession and perfectly. The failure of even a single one risked jeopardizing the entire mission, which was now well into its fifth year and which had cost American taxpayers a bit over four hundred million dollars. The fact that what taxpayers would be getting for their nearly half a billion dollars was a container of comet dust about the size of a shoebox made the demands of perfection for the landing all the more critical. With one hundred twenty seconds remaining, the lander detached itself from the main vehicle. It then fired a series of quick brief blasts from its maneuvering engines to reorient itself so that the main descent booster ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 4 – ...

February 11, 1963   “Mister Chamberlain, it’s a real pleasure to finally meet you in person,” “Mister Brentwood, the pleasure is all mine, and please let’s stick with Cyrus, shall we? No need to stand on formalities if we’re going to be working together.” “Fair enough,” Brentwood replied. “You be Cyrus, and I’ll be Frank. But I wouldn’t describe what’s happening here so much as working together, except perhaps in the most distant possible sense. After all, as I hope I made clear in our calls, it is not my desire or intent to interfere in any way with how you choose to build and operate this church. I’m simply pleased that you’ve agreed to help me out of a sticky situation, even if only ...