31 January 2007

Birth of a Blog

Despite being around on the Internet since the mid-1980's, I have resisted the temptation (until now) to wax prolix in the new medium, thinking that my views offer little that is original, thoughtful or even entertaining.

That changes now. I'm ready to inflict my writing on a hypothetical audience, and open up some streams of opinion, neurosis, occasional insight and more frequent venting. As I approach later middle age, I consider that I have earned the privilege to cast a curmudgeonly eye over the events, follies and long term trends that occur within my limited area of competence.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and no doubt will reveal more about the preoccupations and insecurities of the author than is desirable, or even tasteful. However, I am happy to hold forth on some of the subjects that I like to study (and occasionally teach), including:
  • Information Security
  • Web Design
  • Risk Management
  • Atheism vs. Religion
  • Mathematics
  • Buddhism
  • Golf
  • Life in Austria
  • New Zealand
  • Contemporary Music
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Astronomy/Astrophysics

I don't claim to be qualified in any of the above, but somehow have found my way into teaching courses at Webster University in Vienna, Austria. My students kindly pretend a keen interest for hours at a time once a week (classes are usually from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m.), and suffer from my occasional digressions while I should be teaching Mathematics for Computer Science.

I've just returned from a month of travel around New Zealand (my Ur-Heimat), where my lovely wife and myself have been catching up on relatives, friends and making new friends (and perhaps occasional enemies.) The EnZed weather in January 2007 was generally good, but Southland found a few days of cold and rain, as usual. Tourism has been NZ's number one source of revenue in recent years, and I believe it will continue to grow. As a Gedankenexperiment we began planning a hypothetical future tourism-related business, wherein we might conduct guided tours around NZ for wealthy foreigners who want to learn more about connecting to the land in a spiritual way.

In our view, most NZ natives who haven't lived outside of the country for a significant period of time don't realize just how special the land is, and that it's possible to share this special quality with visitors who might be very experienced travelers. Kiwiland is geographically a very young and active country, and is one that is most recently settled by human beings, and their co-colonizers, the mammals (especially the large numbers of sheep, cattle and other farm animals -- all major contributors to carbon emissions.)

What does it mean, to connect to the Land? (I use the term partly shamanistically, recognizing a non-specific animism.) First, birth in a country doesn't in my view automatically lead to a deep connection with the land that sustains it. My own birth took place far from New Zealand, but I believe I made the connection anyway, after growing up and living there for many years. Part of connecting to the land means developing an appreciation for it, and a respect for the natural order of things. Perhaps this may be but a Thoreau-inspired reverie, but my feeling is that the natural world is part of the human condition, regardless of the reckless confinement of cities. A great privilege for those living in New Zealand is the great ease with which its denizens may "go bush", disappearing into forests or mountains, swimming in the sea, walking the beaches and bush trails, even climbing the mountains or sailing on its waters. This is an experience which is denied to almost none, due to its great accessibility. For some, the connection is made quickly, requiring only occasional refreshment, for others they may require frequent and extended stays outside of the cities -- while sadly some never seem to make the connection at all.

What is this connection of which I write? Perhaps a growing awareness of interconnectedness -- that we are in some way an eternal part of the land that sustains us, in every important sense we arise from the land, are sustained by it, and will return to it in due time. Most human beings think that conception leading to our birth is all that we are -- but the raw materials required come from the food we eat, which in turn arises from the land in its own way. The most commonly occurring metal in our body is calcium, which in turn is found in the earth that grows our plants, and feeds the cattle that we (some of us) eat. No human being can grow without that mineral, therefore we are ultimately dependent upon the good regulation of the land.

Reviewing the above paragraphs shows me how easy it is to go off-topic. Fortunately, having your own Blog means there isn't any topic which is really off-topic. This experiment may falter, and result in just a few forlorn entries, bereft of substance. Or, hopefully, it might act as a trigger to help me with some other writing projects.

My original intent for this Blog was to provide a series of views on Information Security and Risk Management. I chose the term "security-risk" as a reminder that the heart of information security is the art of Risk Management. Recent years have seen best practices in security codified as standards, including BS7799 Parts 1 and 2, then ISO17799, finally becoming the new ISO27001 et seq. standards. Risk Management as a discipline in Information Security Management is becoming increasingly important. For more on these themes, check out this white paper on deploying an ISMS.

A secondary goal is to raise awareness of Risk Management (RM) and Risk Assessment (RA) techniques and tools within the IT industry. Most European Banks are already being driven by voluntary compliance with Basel II recommendations for Operational Risk Management, while Sarbanes Oxley has established a baseline for corporate governance in North America. Unfortunately, a casual inspection of news reports shows that many SMEs and large corporations still don't get it. It's simply not enough to buy the latest generation of firewall appliances, or readily accept the glib assurances of software and operating system vendors. Security has to be managed as a business process, which requires commitment, energy and intelligence, and a willingness to learn from the mistakes of others.

In summary -- this should be an interesting ride. There will be a few digressions along the way, but I can promise you a few relevant on-topics posts, and even an occasional shared insight, if one should surface.


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