On Games and Rules

We were talking with our daughter today at lunch about what rules are: that there are different kinds of rules, or structures, with different levels of importance. “Don’t play with fire” is a different kind of rule than “your coat must be navy or gray” (one of the rules at her school). The conversation got around to rules in games, which is where it got interesting.

Now, the first thing to keep in mind is that the term *games* in her and her friends’ parlance covers a wide range of activities, something she herself made clear:

> I understand that when you are playing *Chutes and Ladders*, for example [yes, she said “for example”], that you can’t really change the rules, but when you are playing a mind game, a game you’re making up, then you should be able to change them.

“Mind games” here means what my wife calls “pretend play.” It can cover a lot of territory: building things with Legos (and then playing with them), playing with various kinds of figures (stuffed animals, fairies, Lego people), as well as dressing up and role playing.

We have been trying to encourage our daughter to be more “open” when playing with others. She’s not terrible. I’ve heard almost all her playmates be adamant that they want to play one thing, or play one way, and not another, but we are trying to build a foundation for her that will serve her well in the future. We have framed it in the past in terms of improvisational theater’s concept of always saying yes, but today Lily proffered her own metaphor:

> It’s like you’re in a room, and there’s a door, or a thousand doors, really, and you want to see what’s behind those doors but the other person has the key, and they need to give it to you.

Some of the examples she drew upon were based on her relationship with her best friend, who is a bit more procedurally-oriented — whether that’s a function of a stage or just how he’s built is not yet clear — and who tells her no, or that her way is the wrong way, or that there is only way to play a particular game. And so we are trying to equip with her not only with ways for her herself to be more open but to make it possible for others to be open as well. It’s fascinating to watch her play. On the one hand, she is an extremely creative person, quick to imagine and re-imagine whatever world within which she is operating. On the other hand, she can too quickly get fixed on her vision of things and thus negate the creativity of others. How to navigate the span of multiple visions is a difficult task. I don’t know of any easy solution, but beginning that conversation with her is one way for us to think about it. (I would argue that becoming a parent was one of the best things ever for my teaching.)

Power Pwn

The DARPA funded Power Pwn hit the [blogosphere][zd] [last][eg] [week][fo]. This thing should scare the bejeezus out of just about anyone whose life intersects with large organizations — and that includes almost anyone in the developed world. Getting one of these things into place would be very easy, all you need is just a little bit of wherewithal.

Pwnie express power pwn

The Power Pwn is described as “a fully-integrated enterprise-class penetration testing platform” that has an “ingenious form-factor.”

The Power Pwn is marketed as a penetration testing tool and is fully-loaded with hardware and software to allow it to hack into a number of different networks. The device features:

* Onboard high-gain 802.11b/g/n wireless
* Onboard high-gain Bluetooth (up to 1000′)
* Onboard dual-Ethernet
* Fully functional 120/240v AC outlets!
* Includes 16GB internal disk storage
* Includes external 3G/GSM adapter
* Includes all release 1.1 features
* Fully-automated NAC/802.1x/RADIUS bypass!
* Out-of-band SSH access over 3G/GSM cell networks!
* Text-to-Bash: text in bash commands via SMS!
* Simple web-based administration with “Plug UI”
* One-click Evil AP, stealth mode, & passive recon
* Maintains persistent, covert, encrypted SSH access to your target network
* Tunnels through application-aware firewalls & IPS
* Supports HTTP proxies, SSH-VPN, & OpenVPN
* Sends email/SMS alerts when SSH tunnels are activated
* Preloaded with Debian 6, Metasploit, SET, Fast-Track, w3af, Kismet, Aircrack, SSLstrip, nmap, Hydra, dsniff, Scapy, Ettercap, Bluetooth/VoIP/IPv6 tools, & more!
Unpingable and no listening ports in stealth mode
* The Power Pwn also features an unlocked 3G/GSM adapter that’s compatible with GSM carriers in over 160 countries.

[zd]: http://www.zdnet.com/power-pwn-this-darpa-funded-power-strip-will-hack-your-network-7000001331/
[eg]: http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/22/darpa-backed-power-pwn-is-superhero-hack-machine/
[fo]: http://www.forbes.com/sites/adriankingsleyhughes/2012/07/22/the-power-strip-that-lets-you-snoop-on-an-entire-network/

Google Earth Time Machine

[Google Earth Time Machine found an oxbow lake being formed in Texas][getm] using imagery from 1944, 1995, 2004, 2006, and 2010. It’s a fantastic series of images and a terrific reminder that real science, and history, work can be done using seemingly consumer tools like [Google Earth][ge]. That reminder is important to all of us: parents, teachers, citizens of the planet (and of each other).

Google Earth image of oxbow lake being formed near Angleton, Texas

[getm]: http://googleearthtimemachine.blogspot.fr/2012/07/angleton-texas.html
[ge]: http://www.google.com/earth/index.html

I Said a Prayer For You Today

I think I’m going to make these pieces of netlore, folklore I receive through the Internet, usually by e-mail, their own category on this blog so I can design a format that makes it clear what they are, and so I don’t have to write little headers like this.

> I said a prayer for you today,
And know God must have heard.
I felt the answer in my heart
Although He spoke no word.
I didn’t ask for wealth or fame,
I knew you wouldn’t mind.
I asked Him to send treasures
Of a far more lasting kind.
I asked that He’d be near you
At the start of each new day,
To grant you health and blessings
And friends to share your way.
I asked for happiness for you
In all things great and small,
But it was for His loving care
I prayed the most of all.

[Card reader](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcwxW2ne-UU) made with Legos, Arduino, a hacked Canon camera, and Python. It images the old 80-column cards, turns the images into ASCII, and then you can take it from there. Link to Youtube video of the whole thing in action.

[Termites in French Guiana grow toxic backpacks for colony defense](http://www.nature.com/news/termites-explode-to-defend-their-colonies-1.11074). The _Nature_ article explains that the toxic “backpacks” build up as termite workers get older, such that they become suicide defenders of the colony.

[Google premières 3D imagery on iOS devices](http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2012/07/3d-imagery-now-available-on-ipad-and.html). It’s not through the Maps application but through Google Earth for iOS, and it appears only to work on the iPhone 4S, iPad2, and the new retina iPad. (Was I the only person who didn’t know Google Earth was available on iOS?)

[NASA has new spacesuits](http://www.gizmag.com/z-1-prototype-spacesuit/23408/). Apparently this is the first change in design since 1992. These have their own airlocks, allowing an astronaut to dock with a space station or ship by, it seems, backing up to it, and then climbing out the back of the suit. Now, if only we had a way to get those astronauts into space …