Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Library Science

My title is partly owing to where I'm posting this from: the Multnomah County Library.  Multnomahns are proud of their library system, much as Muscovites are proud of their subway (not that New Yorkers are not also, and Londoners of their tube).

These centrally located, downtown library facilities border on being grand without going over the line to grandiose.

Portland is a Pacific Rim capital at least (taking "capital" to mean "important terminus" or "destination"), so having carvings and sculptures going on is not "over the top".

Just checking the shelves under Computers (in the same room as Military, Social Issues, Crime, Law and Economics) I notice only a few Python titles, many more on PHP.  However that's not a good test of the extent of the collection.  For that information, one would consult the card catalog.

Finding only a few Python books on the shelves could be a sign that most are checked out, by people learning to code.  That's a good sign, not a cause for concern.

I was here yesterday as well, as the company I'm working for knows booking rooms in a public library facility, for meetings, is accepted use.

I checked out three books then:  two on statistics and probability, and one a history of Russians spying in America, given that's a hot topic in the headlines these days. However it focuses on a different, non-21st Century time frame.

The allegations in the news after the 2016 US presidential election are not so much that Russian spies had to come to the homeland to try tipping the election, meeting surreptitiously in parking lots or anything so surreal.  That kind of operation would have been more characteristic of the Reagan Era, per the popular TV show with that premise.  Rather, given Cyberia, the Russians might have given a green light to some mole within the DNC to release secrets to Wikileaks.

However disaffected party insiders might not need any prompting from a foreign power to serve as whistle blowers, so the accusations impress many as circumstantial to say the least.  Then we had those incidents of phishing, which spread well beyond the DNC.

The book I checked out was about spies a long time ago, though published in 2009. I don't have the title in front of me because I was concerned the library detection equipment might not distinguish between checked in and checked out, but of course it does, as I confirmed with the info desk.

One of the co-authors wrote The Haunted Wood, that much I know.  OK, that's enough info to figure it outSpies, the Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (ISBN-13: 978-0300123906).

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time browsing tomes in this Dewey Decimal section, reading books by or about spies.  I wouldn't say it's an obsession, as it maybe gets to be for some people.  One learns a lot from others' experience, understanding in advance these authors often have an agenda and spin their stories to the advantage of this or that team.  Same with movies.

Speaking of Python, a literal python bit me this morning, though it was entirely my fault.  I was handling the python's food and my finger got between me and it.  When there's no confusion, the python lets me handle it without a fight.  I'm way out of its league as potential prey, it's smart enough to know the difference.  My finger however, appears mouse-like.

Given the DNC is not officially part of the US government, extending any government protections to its servers, extreme vetting its personnel etc., would not be a job for the USG.  The USG needs to stay focused on what's properly its purview.  CBS News says the Pentagon needed to upgrade its secondary communications systems recently, and we learned earlier the CIA director might have been using AOL for something. These deficiencies are of the kind most appropriately addressed.

I don't see off hand why the the FBI needs to protect the DNC and/or GOP in some particular way, any more than it protects the Rotary Club or Boy Scouts of America.  In other words, the FBI should focus on protecting the vital organs of government, and then extend advice and training to the general public as a whole.