Saturday, October 31, 2009

NutriSystem: Week 12 Coming Up

It's been eleven weeks since I first started eating NutriSystem MREs (meals rejected by Ethiopians) and I've finally broken the 15-pound weight loss barrier. I have to admit, I have much better eating habits now than I've had in years, but I'm so tired of the NS food that I don't know how much more of it I can take. The breakfasts are fine and the desserts are ok. It's the lunches and dinners that I'm sick of.

In fact, I'm on my second round of a 35-day supply of NS food, and I've finished all the breakfastes and desserts (for which you get one per day each). Funny how I ended up with a cabinet still stocked with lunches and dinners - at least six or eight each! That means I did some substitutions along the way. :)

My favorite substitution meal is the Whole Foods salad bar. It's a treat for me, and it's what I had last night when my friend Rebecca came over to study with me.

Rebecca and I have been in the same classes every semester since I joined the forensics program. We always sit together in class and work together when there is a group paper or other project. When she comes to class, she brings a 1-pound Tupperware bowl full of fresh vegetables for us to munch on.

It was her idea to make flash cards for classes this semester. So she created flash cards for our Protection class, and I created them for our Law class. It's a great deal 0f information to remember—we're talking the entire CISSP (information security) book, which covers every computer protocol known to man, and several statutes, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), Copyright Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), all the fraud statutes, and more . . . plus court cases. It's a lot to remember for the final exam and for comprehensive testing required to graduate!

But the flash card thing is working for us, so we're going to keep up these sessions at my apartment (where Rebecca gets a brief reprieve from toddler duty). As a matter of fact, it's Halloween morning and I have a party to go to tonight, I so I need to get cracking on my Law paper, which will answer the question, "Does digital evidence fall under the plain view category as an exception to the warrant requirement?" Hmmm. A great topic for me, as it's Fourth Amendment-bound. I do love the Fourth Amendment!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Cat Sat on my Homework, Professor

It's official - Jelly Belly is now a member of our family. No sooner did I complete the adoption than she started sporadically romping with Baby. I've seen her do it twice this week now! That's great. Jelly is starting to come around. I feel like the proud Mom.

It's really hard to get anything done around here, what with having two profoundly spoiled kitties. I have a small, windowless, room at home that I call my office. It is where I do my job (what's left of it) and my homework. I have a stand-up workstation, which is simply a tall desk that I can stand at to work, or sit at in a tall chair. It's better for the lower back.

Baby has always gotten up on the desk with me when I settle in to do my work. I don't know what it is about paper and books, but cats love to use them as beds and pillows. So I'm constantly removing Baby from my homework or my laptop. Poor Jelly is too chubby to jump up on the desk. So she usually meows for attention from her spot on the floor next to my chair. If I don't pet her, she gets up on her hind legs and reaches up to me on the chair seat. She wants to be scratched.

For a while, that drove me crazy. She whined and whined. Recently I found the solution: I pick her up and put her on the desk too. With two cats, a laptop, and the keyboard/mouse for my desktop computer, there is little room for work. So I squeeze my reading materials in, between cats, and try to get some work done. God forbid I get up and walk away for a minute, because I'll come back to find a cat sprawled out on my homework.

Yesterday I was trying to finish reading my Computer Law assignment from the electronic evidence Search and Seizure Manual. I was forced to come to a stop when Jelly settled in on Chapter 2, as so:

I got up and went around the corner to grab my digital camera. Within moments, Baby had joined her:

What was I to do? I didn't have to do much because, before I knew it, they were fighting over my law binder, which I found to be quite hysterical. (Baby: "Don't you raise your paw at me, Sista!")

Eventually, Baby gave up and left. The only way I knew to get rid of Jelly was to leave the room because eventually she follows me to wherever I may be in our small apartment. Only then could I finish my homework assignment!

A couple days earlier I was reading the big fat CISSP book by Shon Harris for my Protection of Info Systems class when Jelly fell asleep on my notebook, proving that the highly technical topic of cryptography is equally stimulating to her.

At the same time, I think the CISSP Exam Cram book killed Baby:

It's amazing I get anything done at all, what with the constant activity on my desk!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fun with Guns

The following is an email from my sister-in-law Jacqui, the Navy doctor who is currently attending combat training at Fort Stewart in preparation for her Afghanistan deployment:

This has been an especially long week and every day involves body armor (IBA) and guns. I have had about as much fun as I can stand! However, the Navy/Army always has a new twist to add and tomorrow it is off for more computer simulator training (on identifying who to shoot and not to shoot) and then land nav. I just hope someone brings a GPS to the course on Saturday.

Today was actually pretty cool except for the 3am wakeup and the 4am range time to shoot the m9 in the dark. We then went to another range to shoot 'big guns.' The biggest is a 50 cal, and the others were a 500 and 700 something. Please see [my son] or [my husband] or other military type to give you better pecifics. I just can't retain stuff like that. We had tanks and dummies to aim at and I hit most everything so that was good. We then did a "tactical" course with the M16 which involves being pulled out of a humvee and shooting at multiple targets from standing, kneeling and prone. I learned that 'double tap' means to shoot it twice quickly, not run faster. This was followed by an exercise in walking and identifying targets with people to our left and right with live rounds in our rifles. The goal being to bring the rifles to bear on the target without shooting the person next to you. Mission accomplished. Of course, after wearing the IBA for about two hours in the sun at that point, actually hitting the target was the least of my concerns.

We had a Navy Ball here last Saturday which was a blast. It was held in the Marriott and really was well done. The alcohol ban was lifted for the night and that was a plus. One more week or this fun and then off to Kuwait for desert specific training. Love to everyone, Jacqui.

For me, I wouldn't have lasted 30 minutes in the South Carolina heat in all that gear. When it comes to humidity, I'm a wimp.

I am encouraging Jacqui to start her own blog so that we can follow her in her mission. She seems pretty adept at picking up computer skills, so there's hope that she'll get it going soon.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Are Sure You're Logged in to Your Bank Account?

Beware the rogue online banking statement—it looks like your bank statement but it's not. And it won't display that withdrawal that you didn't make.

It's getting scarier to conduct financial transactions online. A student in my Protection class pointed us to this new article on New Malware Re-Writes Online Bank Statements to Cover Fraud.

As the author, Kim Zetter, reveals, there is a new Trojan horse called URLZone that rewrites the basic HTML code that displays your online banking statement when you log on to your account. The account's been hijacked, and the funds are dwindling with successive withdrawals, but to you it looks like your balance is right where it should be. Yikes! If in doubt, try logging on to your bank account from another computer that is not likely to be infected.

Likewise, Facebook users should keep abreast of the latest in malware transmitted to your computer via your Facebook page, as described in the article WARNING: New Facebook Malware Attack Is Spreading. I'm not a Facebook user and don't plan to be one, (much to the dismay of many of my friends).

Just be careful, folks. If it looks suspicious, it probably is. Just say no to clicking.

The Cat Crashed Vista

As if Windows Vista didn't have enough stability issues, my cat Baby had to go and break it to the point of inoperability yesterday.

Side note: I swear I'm about to convert to a Mac. The only reason I haven't replaced Vista with XP on my laptop is because I don't want to spend a day and a half reinstalling apps and restoring data and reconfiguring Outlook, which will switch all of my 350+ imported contacts to "Last Name, First Name" format despite my pre-configuring it for "First Name, Last Name" order. That pisses me off every time I restore a PST file, and I'm just not gonna do it again because the manual process of converting all my contacts takes too long and I've already lost too many hours of my life doing it in the past. I'll be lying on my deathbead, cursing Microsoft to give me back those hours!

Anyway, yesterday I had my laptop up on my desk as usual, running side-by-side with my XP desktop that I use for work. The laptop is primarily for school and personal business. It's hard to keep my cat Baby off the laptop—she's drawn to its warmth. Unfortunately, I came back to my desk and found her lying down on the keyboard and touchpad.

On the screen was a bunch of calendar icons showing the date "5," completely covering up the gadget side bar. I realized that Baby had clicked a series of commands that opened up new gadget calendars—a lot of them! First, I removed the cat from the keyboard. Then I planned to click each calendar to close it. No biggie. That should take care of it. Problem was, after the first one closed, the whole operating system froze. Frozen mouse, frozen keyboard. We ain't got no stinkin' Windows!

My only option was to wait. Clearly a CTRL-ALT-DEL intercept was impossible. When the OS didn't un-freeze, I had to cold boot the machine. The desktop finally showed up several minutes later (as Vista is the slowest loading OS in the universe). Again, the "5" icons covered the gadget sidebar. Again, I clicked one to close it, and the OS froze.

Next time I cold-booted it, I reloaded Vista in Safe Mode so that the gadget bar wouldn't load, which it did not. However, in Safe Mode, the stupid gadget control in Control Panel is unavailable. I had to boot again (Normal mode) and try to load Control Panel as quickly as possible so I could go into it and reconfigure the gadgets before the gadget bar loaded.

The problem with that is that whenever I click Control Panel in Vista, I get the little spinning blue circle of death while Control Panel s-l-o-w-l-y loads. Finally I got Control Panel up and was able to disable the option to load the gadgets on Windows startup. That was the extent of what I could do. The gadget settings wouldn't let me remove any gadgets! I even tried resetting the gadget bar to the way it orginally loads in Windows. No go. It still loaded up infinite calendar gadgets.

This left me with no choice but to simply stop using gadgets altogether. This is what we call an "infinite loop" in software. I can't stop the gadget bar from loading infinite calendars unless I start up the gadget bar to attempt to remove the calendars, but starting up the gadget bar causes it to load an infinite number of calendars, freezing up the machine. Catch-22. No more gadgets for this user!

Sigh. I think I'll go shopping on

Friday, October 02, 2009

Foster-to-Adopt Jelly

Well, it's been nearly five months since Jelly moved in. It's time to decide whether to keep her or send her back.

It's not too difficult a decision. Despite how she snubs Baby (even when Baby is acting like an angel toward her), Jelly has her good points—including her pathetic squeaking for attention, her irresistible wabble and those practically pinchable chubby cheeks.

The goal was to get Baby a playmate. And although Jelly won't engage in any play despite Baby's daily attempts to get her to wrestle with her, Baby seems to take it all in stride. I am convinced that Jelly is still a good companion to Baby. They keep each other company when I'm not home. Plus, Jelly's the only other one in here whom Baby can see eye-to-eye with. They are on the same level, after all.

One day I think they'll be best friends. It'll probably take months, but it's bound to happen.

Maybe I can get another, younger kitty for Baby one day when I have my own place again (instead of an apartment where I have to abide by someone else's rules). For now, it's just us girls.