Saturday Nov 03, 2007

Why Cats Annoy Dogs

More than anything else, dogs are highly sophisticated security systems. Everything we know about dog psychology--intense loyalty, hair-trigger barking fits, bone-headed singlemindedness--can be explained in terms of this. Neal Stephenson knew this when he wrote Snow Crash; a book where (among other things) dogs are grafted with technology to create the ultimate security system.

Dogs, I'm convinced, feel most comfortable when they're fully aware of their surroundings. At any given time, a dog maintains a coordinate grid of all active entities within its domain. Mom is upstairs at the computer. Dad is in the kitchen. The child is in the living room. Each of these objects are represented (as it were) by a glowing dot on the dog's projected mental landscape.

This is why cats annoy dogs. Everything about the cat is antithetical to the dog's security sensibilities: the stealth-like motion, the lack of scent, the insistence on privacy. The cat is represented in the dog's mind not as a discreet coordinate, but as a probability field. Feline stochastic distributions are deeply unsettling to the canine psyche, and are classified as a threat for no other reason than that they don't honor the dog's right to be in full knowledge of the situation.

It's left as an exercise for the reader to find analogies between this and the current US political climate.

Tuesday Jul 20, 2004

The Conspiracy is the Theory

Conspiracy Theory is analogous to an internet worm, henceforward referred to as worm.ct, where the systems being infected are human minds, the network is any communication between them, and the security flaw is an overflow in the mind's incredulity buffer.

How the Virus Works:

First a signal containing the worm.ct payload is transmitted from an infected host to a non-infected host (i.e. Victim). Victim is immediately struck with a sense of incredulity so strong that an overflow occurrs in Victim's incredulity buffer. Skeptical, but wide-eyed comments starting with "What the..." might be uttered at this time.

At this point, what should happen is Victim's Crap Detection Process (CDP) (part of the logic system) would quarantine this particular memory block so that no malicious code will be executed. Eye-rolling might represent Victim bouncing the request and closing the connection, or Victim might allow the connection to fail silently out of politeness; doing the smile-and-nod while internally routing everything to /dev/null.

Unfortunately what sometimes happens is that the buffer overflow causes the CDP to hang, and malicious worm.ct instructions are executed in Victim's trusted memory. These instructions effectively trojan the CDP so that each time it runs it exits without error if the topic resembles any kind of Conspiracy. This is done by using a recursive algorithm that could be expressed in English as "The very act of questioning the existence of the Conspiracy further proves the existence of the Conspiracy." This is the core of worm.ct and gives it high-level clearance within Victim's logic system.

Even so, worm.ct cannot freely propagate itself without authorization from Victim's emotive system. This is trivially done by embedding code sequences within worm.ct such as "A group of five people secretly own and control all of the world's banks" and "The US government is concealing an alien plot to take over the world". Such sequences almost always trigger the Sensational Story Daemon (SSD) which, like most of the emotive system, runs independently of the logic system. SSD assigns a high-level authorization with the emotive system, thus worm.ct is free to propagate; as evidenced by various elements in today's society.

Fortunately, patches are available in the latest security bundle available at or, alternatively, the FTP mirror sites and There are still quite a few compromized machines out there spewing this worm so, please, remember to patch your current system and/or any new ones you bring onto the network.


My name is Greg Reimer and I'm a web technologist for the Sun.COM web design team.


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