About Me & The Gory Details of My Social Media Presence

Recently, I’ve picked up a lot of new readers/links/friends/stalkers/tails/parasites&symbionts/alien monitors.   I hope it is because people find some of what I am posting to be of interest, as well as the usual infestation of spambots and imaginary beings (about 80% of my followers, I reckon). It is probably time to once again lay out a little about my online presence to help make things clearer to all of you bots (and to help me keep it straight). As it is, you may see multiple versions of me online and question your sanity, instead of spending your time wisely questioning my sanity.  So think of this as a service, to you.

First, About Me

Yes, I am that Spaf, assuming you have heard something about me before.  By day, I am a moderately well-known scientist, professor, and commentator, with a focus on issues of cySpafford_Eugene1_colorber security, privacy, ethics, and national policy, often with a somewhat off-kilter point of view.  You can visit my about.me page for links, or see my (incomplete) Wikipedia page.

The rest of the time (well, all of the time) I alternate between philosophy and humor, with an emphasis on the humor.  Oh, and a certain amount of snark and political commentary.  During election years I tend to be particularly active politically as I am usually appalled with at least one party that is promoting stupidity and bigotry.  Still, I try to point that out with humor, when I can.

And yes, I wear bow ties.  That has been one of my signature items for over 25 years.  And the beard has been there for over 40 years.

A quick summary of many of my social media sites and background is available at about.me/spaf.

About My Postings

First, I try to maintain three distinct, segregated streams of material in my social media. (You can skip to the links if you don’t want to read the details.)




One stream is more or less related to my “day job” as a professor at Purdue University.  There, I post in a blog on an irregular basis.   I also maintain a Tumblr blog where I repost links from various on-line media about security, privacy, espionage, cybercrime, and related topics.  That blog is gated into a Twitter feed to which I sometimes add related tweets.  Along with all of that, I also sometimes put things into a Facebook group page and a LinkedIn group, both of which are for people interested in CERIAS at Purdue University.

I have a LinkedIn account that I use to maintain professional contact with others. I have profiles at ResearchGate and Academia.edu that I don’t do a good job of maintaining, but may be of value. All of this tends to be serious and professional.   Oh, and what have I done in security?  You can see a partial list of my more noteworthy accomplishments here.


A second stream is more fun oriented, but sometimes serious.  In my WordPress blog I post items of a personal nature — sometimes intended to be funny (such as my New Year’s resolutions) or quirky (such as my history of my branch of the Spafford family) or serious (my 2009 reflections on 9/11).

I maintain an active Twitter account as myself, and a Facebook account.  In both there will be a range of the bizarre and the unusual that make me laugh or shake my head: basically, things that I think are worth seeing.  Readers will also pick out some of my thoughts on politics, posers, organized religion, equal rights, and annoying celebrities (among others); I’m not too reserved about some of my views. The Twitter and Facebook feeds have some cross-connect, but the feed-across is sporadic — if you are constructing a psych profile on me, you should probably follow both.  I also post answers to Quora from time to time, and images to Pinterest.  I maintain a legacy mailing list named web-heads that gates into a Tumblr blog, that then dumps into my Twitter feed with the tag #webheads; anything with that hashtag in my Twitter or Facebook feeds thus may have been posted by someone else on the list who is similarly demented.

None of my posts in any of these outlets should be construed as having any official endorsement or connection with official positions or activities of my employer or organizations with which  I work!  Stated differently, these are my own peculiar views only and I am the only person to blame (well, maybe my family and “The Voices” influenced me). NB: some of these posts may well include items of an adult nature, so beware if you are easily offended.

ACM, etc.

My third collection is not quite out in the open as an independent stream.  I am a long-time member and immediate past chair of the US Public Policy Council of ACM, and a member of the ACM Council. I am involved in activities related to ACM, IEEE, ISSA, AAAS and other professional organizations. You may see posts in some places from me related to those.  In particular, there is a shared USACM Twitter feed to which I sometimes contribute.  Those outlets shouldn’t be viewed as related to either of the first two streams.

More Generally

I do not use Google+ regularly for any of these!  I don’t like their original policies of tying everything to that account, and I don’t like the interface and difficulty of connection to other social media.  In particular, I use some scripts and services to post items across services and at metered “doses” and those don’t work well with Google+. (And yes, I am not overly fond of Facebook’s privacy policies, either, but it is the only mechanism for keeping my semi-sporadic contact with some of my friends.)

BTW, I have a bunch of other accounts that you aren’t likely to see active any time soon — Flickr, YouTube, BuzzFeed, Instagram, and even MySpace, among others.  I set those up simply so there wouldn’t be anyone else sending stuff out as spaf.  Unfortunately, I got to a few too late, plus a few require that usernames be more than 6 characters long.  Thus, Twitter and others have names such as TheRealSpaf as identities.

You may be wondering where I find the time to post all of this stuff.   The answer is “in parts.”  First, I actually am physically limited much of the time: I have some medical issues that sometimes limit my ability to work online.  I thus have less productivity than many of my peers, especially because it becomes more difficult to hit deadlines. Short posts and mouse clicks are much easier for me, so I use Twitter as an outlet.  Second, I have chronic insomnia, so a lot gets shared with a few mouse clicks when I should be asleep (or sedated).  And third, I use several bots and scheduled jobs to meter out material over time rather than the bursty schedule at which I actually use the services.   This is basically a trick from Mother Nature — I use fluff and timing to make myself appear bigger to potential predators, er, the orderlies.  Note that there are likely to be quiet periods where you don’t see much from me: I’m either busy, I’m traveling, or I’ve been abducted by a UFO.  Again.

If you have questions or comments on anything I post, please let me know.   If you want to repost any of the items be sure to use the appropriate mechanism.  In particular, if you want to use material from my blogs then either quote excerpts with appropriate credit, or provide a link back to the original.  That is polite, professional, and legal.

Linking to Others

If I don’t know you and have not interacted with you in some significant way, don’t bother to ask that I “friend” you on Facebook.  As it is, I perhaps need to trim the ones that I have, especially the imaginary ones.  However, you can “follow” my posts if you want to see them — almost all are public.

If you can prove who you are and that there is a reason I should connect with you on LinkedIn, I may.  The threshold is lower there than Facebook, but still non-trivial.  You can ask someone I have as a trusted contact to vouch for you, and that is usually enough if you have a good reason for connecting. Because of my professional work, I get trolled a lot, so I am cautious.


If you try to send me spam, I will report it and block you.   Same general response with things that are intended to insult me, or are full of bigotry or vitriol towards any group not itself devoted to bigotry and/or vitriol.  That doesn’t mean you have to agree with me on everything.   I have many friends and corresponding links where we cannot have a conversation about politics or religion without getting a little spirited.  I value reasoned differences, but don’t expect me to keep quiet with my opinions — and don’t expect me to continue to link to you if you are rude, stupid and/or obnoxious.



Professional Stuff

Personal Stuff



If you are interested in miscellany about me, you can check out:


Be it resolved (2018 edition)

In prior years (e.g., 2017), I wrote New Year’s resolutions.   As I look through last year’s set I realize that I yet again managed to keep them all (although I haven’t yet started to learn Russian) and should set some of them as goals for this year, too — in particular, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 14.

It has been a scary and glorious year.  Glorious, as the first year of marriage has been wonderful, including all sorts of travel, surprises, and good times.  Scary, because the kakistocracy in office in the US make me worried for not only my own future, but that of generations to come.

Be that as it may, I will set some modest resolutions for this year.   #7 and #8 are for Pattie, based on some of my misadventures this year.

1-6 as above.

    1. Do not get on a Segway again….when she’s watching.
    2. Do not attempt to make popcorn in the microwave without adult supervision.

Beyond that I’m coming up blank.  That is depressing, but maybe it means I am finally coming to terms with what fate has done to me?

Whatever the reasons and the resolutions, I wish each and everyone of you a Happy New Year!  I continue to encourage you to treat every person — especially those who are poor, sick, or downtrodden — with kindness and respect no less than what you, yourself, would expect.  If you make that YOUR resolution, it will help make 2018 a better year than it would have been otherwise.

Be It Resolved (2017 edition)

Damn, another year down the tubes. 2016 has been full of dubious accomplishments and tragic losses. I think Dave Barry captured the year in his usual inimitable way so I won’t recap all of that. My own year was filled with both, but it is ending on an upbeat note, thankfully.

Despite all that happened, I managed to keep all my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016, except for perhaps #4. I now have a string of about 6 years of resolutions I’ve kept, so I guess I should go for another round. Thus, without further ado…

In 2017 I resolve to:

  1. Stop dressing as a clown and visiting schools to try to cheer up the sad children of the world.
  2. Not allow myself — via adoption, marriage, or assimilation — to become a Kardashian.
  3. To give up bidding on Ebay for a tailored, one-piece purple bodysuit — unless I find one available in cat leather.
  4. To continue to be an example of etiquette by saying “please” and “thank you” even after Donald Trump and his minions destroy society and we are living in caves and lean-tos.
  5. No longer demand, while sitting in thesis defenses, that my students cut off their pinkie fingers as a sign of fealty. Usually.
  6. Finally find out what that whole “Game of Thrones” gameshow is all about.
  7. Try to adapt to the changes a President Trump will bring to the USA. First up: learning Russian.
  8. Not strongly urge young children to watch the movie “Alien” to really understand what a Hatchimal is.
  9. Stop saying “How could it be worse?” when talking about TV, politics, movies, hacking, or pretty much anything else. Too many people see it as a challenge rather than a rhetorical question.
  10. Not vote to leave the European Union for 3 magic beans.
  11. Not to insist that I am a “superdelegate” during faculty meetings and demand we adjourn.
  12. I will not build a huge wall around my yard and make my neighbors pay for it — although if I go skinny-dipping much they may do it on their own.
  13. Reduce my training regimen because it appears certain that competitive eating of lasagna and doughnuts will not become Olympic sports.
  14. Not be sick with worry in anticipation of what the new President and First Lady have planned for Moose & Squirrel.
  15. Not to make another deal with the Devil for a win in the World Series that results in deaths of dozens of beloved celebrities.

And finally, #16 — after several years of giving Jennifer, Adriana, Alessandra, Candice and the rest their chance, I resolve to be firm and dismissive if they finally call because I’ve been found by someone better. Eat your hearts out, ladies — you had your chance!

I hope your New Year’s is wonderful and you find a good cave before the rush. May 2017 be another year of wonder, but not “I wonder where I am and whose goat that is?”

New beginnings

TL;DR summary: 2016 largely sucked for Spaf, with 2015 providing a downramp into the suck. 2017 is going to start with a sparkle (despite the awful prospects given by the US elections) because Dr. Pattie has entered stage left. Takeaways: be positive because unexpected things can happen, and don’t hesitate to make friends because they can change your life.

Some of my friends may have noticed a slowdown in my social activities over the last year+. I’ve never been a great correspondent, but this has been unusual. Of course, being in the wilds of Indiana also impedes connecting with people!

The last 18 months have not been especially pleasant for me, personally or professionally. For example, I was ousted from my position at CERIAS by a (now-former) dean for questionable reasons. Rather than do the right thing and overturn the decision, the provost was more concerned about stopping complaints and news reports of the decision; He did make me some promises to help lessen the impact — none of which he has followed through on. I’m now officially “Executive Director Emeritus” although it isn’t clear what that means.

As another example, I didn’t get my long-hoped-for sabbatical because of a bureaucratic snafu. As a result of that, I was assigned (with only a few weeks notice!) co-teaching a 400 student freshman intro course, with no text and some new, untested technology. It went about as poorly as could be expected from all that.

There was more, but I won’t belabor it because I’ve consistently tried to stay positive. Nonetheless, my life has built up a lot of stress and disappointment. It has contributed to a feeling of not really being valued or wanted at my university … or anywhere else… but I continue to try to find some positive outcomes. And they exist. I graduated two wonderful PhD students, Mohammed Almeshekah and Kelley Misata, and I have two more nearing completion. I handed off leadership of USACM to a great colleague, Stu Shapiro. And I was renewed as editor-in-chief of the oldest journal in cyber security, Computers & Security.

I also was very pleasantly surprised at the end of the year by being named as recipient of two major awards — the 2017 IFIP Kristian Beckman Award, and as a Sagamore of the Wabash. (Neither was publicly acknowledged by my department at Purdue, of course.)

Although not professional, the awful election results haven’t helped my mood any. I fear for where the world is heading, especially for my daughter, my nieces and nephews, and my current and former students. A world where ignorance and mendacity are rewarded, and where bigotry and hatred are encouraged, is not the world they (or anyone else) deserve.

Personally, well, that has had setbacks, too. I partially separated my shoulder 18 months back, and it then developed “frozen shoulder syndrome.” As Wikipedia notes (see the link) “Pain is usually constant, worse at night, and with cold weather. Certain movements or bumps can provoke episodes of tremendous pain and cramping.” Uh, yeah. Exactly that. By the way, typing is difficult, too. 6 months of physical therapy brought me back to 90% of normal. And I’ve continued to deal with some of the regular wear and tear associated with many years and miles. I’m not as old as my students think I am, but there are mornings getting out of bed (and climbing flights of stairs) where my body agrees with them more than with the calendar.

That might be enough for most people, but of course, not for me! In June, my divorce with Kathy, my wife of 30 years, was final. It was not hugely surprising in the long view — we have grown in different directions over many years. It was surprising in the timing though, and right while I was trying to cope with many of the things above. However, we don’t get to choose when everything happens in our lives and Kathy decided early in the year that it was time for her, so there we were.

The divorce was largely amicable. After all, working together against life’s various challenges over 30 years does bring a lot of connection, as does being co-parents to a wonderful daughter. Kathy is a complex, remarkable person, and we had a good run together. She has now embarked on a new chapter in life, and I wish her nothing but happiness. But, it was still more stress for me….

However, out of change and chaos, sometimes new possibilities arise.

While all the above was crashing down on me, I had several long-time friends corresponding with me, to encourage me. These are people who I’ve met over the years where we’ve had some connection that has developed into friendship online. We don’t see each other often, but we share experiences, stories, jokes, encouragement, and occasionally provide a virtual “hug.” Their support was really helpful. One in particular had wise words and great humor about how to cope with setbacks, the divorce, and more. She was someone I met nearly a dozen years ago when she and her then-husband were grad students at Purdue. I hadn’t seen her in person in a decade, but we kept in touch online. In the intervening years she had gotten divorced, gone back to school for her PhD, moved halfway across the continent, and gotten a faculty job teaching. She had positive advice that resonated with me, and her love of puns and bad jokes was delightful. (I realize not everyone would say that about puns. Your loss.) We corresponded more and more until we decided it was time to meet again in person and see exactly what might be developing. We did, and we liked each other even more in person than online.


After several more meetings, Pattie spent most of the summer with me in Lafayette, helping me do a top-to-bottom clean-up of the house (I kept it after the divorce). Probably more than a literal ton of items that neither Kathy, Elizabeth nor I wanted was donated to charity, recycled, or simply dumped. I ran across things saved from my parents, my childhood, and family souvenirs from the last few decades. It was an emotionally trying time for me, but Pattie provided advice, humor, and affection. When my shoulder or back complained about the endless boxes, she was there to provide a helping hand and sometimes a wisecrack — a perfect mix of empathy and motivation.

After “Dr. Pattie” went back to teach in Louisiana, we had time apart, and we staged several visits and trips together when we could schedule them. The combination only confirmed for us that our paths should be joined rather than separate. So, Pattie resigned her position at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, and will be moving to West Lafayette, Indiana in late December. (Yes, Lafayette to Lafayette — one of many interesting coincidences.)

Oh, and just to tie up loose ends, we’re going to get married in 2017. We’re both old enough and experienced enough to know that what we have is special, and time is precious.

So, 2017 is going to get off to a really great start for me, and I’m hoping the overall trend stays positive. I hope it will for you, too. Best wishes to you for the holidays, and beyond



Update: Pattie and I got married January 3rd. We picked the date because it is equidistant between our birthdays. Perhaps a nerdy reason, but there it is, and a great way to start off the new year.

Faculty Qualifications

Tonight, I was reminded of an episode in my past that provided quite a bit of bemusement and amusement early in my career.  I thought I’d recount it to share.

When I was a grad student at Georgia Tech in the early 1980s, the field was growing significantly.  The faculty at Georgia Tech was no exception, and they were casting a wide net for new faculty.  Part of the process was to have a grad student serve as a non-voting member of the hiring committee, to provide a student voice in the process.

I was that voice one year.

I remember seeing a  number of interesting C.V.s and applications.  I found the experience helpful for my own career trajectory, and years later applied a little of what I learned to my own job search.  I also found it amusing — we had quite a varied bunch of folks who fancied themselves as potential university faculty.  Given that there weren’t a huge number of new PhDs at the time of the quality they were looking for at GaTech, this wider group was given some consideration.  After all, electrical engineers, mathematicians, linguists, and even philosophers all had some elements of possible study that meant they could contribute to the academic life of the program.  (One of my favorite professors was James Gough, Jr., whose background was in human languages, semiotics, and logic.)

Some of the applicants lacked any connection with computer science (that I could see), but apparently thought that having experience as a TV repairman or accountant was sufficient for a faculty position in the department.  A few had work experience using computers, but the department was really looking for applicants who had the equivalent of a PhD in a scientific or otherwise related field.

One applicant, who inspires this post, was writing from New Zealand or Australia — I forget which.  He had an advanced degree in mathematical logic, and the equivalent of an MS in computer science.  What really made him stand out was his cover letter.  It appears that there wasn’t a ready market for someone like him “down under” so he wanted to make the move to the USA.  If only we’d pay for a ticket to come interview, we would be sure to find his skills acceptable.  Not only did he know about advanced math and computation, but he was good with people and reckoned he’d make a fine teacher.  He could play the guitar and sing.  He was used to hard work, having been a ranch hand for the last few years.   And, under “special skills” he listed the clincher — right after mentioning his ability to program in Fortran and COBOL, and his ability to read and write Latin, he averred that he could “geld sheep with his teeth.”

Never before or since have I seen a job application in computing brag about one’s castration skills, with teeth or any other implement.  I suspect one or two colleagues who have worked in forensics and law enforcement have considered it, but none have bragged about their experience in this department.  I also know some female colleagues subjected to condescending “mansplaining” who may darkly imagine such drastic action (but are too polite to carry through).

What made all this all the more remarkable to me was that his application was in the folder for “Further Consideration.”   I asked one of the faculty members why that was so.  He replied, in all seriousness (I think): “He knows how to program.  That, and we bet he could keep the students in class well behaved.”

In the end, he wasn’t hired by our faculty, although there was a strong faction that wanted to bring him in for an interview “just because.”  Since then, I have always had a slight concern when meeting colleagues from the Antipodes…but I do notice their undergraduate classes seem better behaved than mine.

Crappy Customer Service

I’ve posted here before about customer service, both good and bad.

Here’s an example of really bad.

On January 8, we purchased a new refrigerator at Best Buy.  It’s a high-end Kitchen Aid model that my wife and daughter had found and really wanted.  It was not the cheapest purchase out there, but had some nice features they wanted.  The unit has 2 doors above, and a freezer drawer below.

The refrigerator was delivered and installed on February 5.  We noticed over the weekend that the light switch on one side was not working correctly — the door would be opened and the light would not come on.  It was almost certainly not working from the moment it was delivered and plugged in, but we didn’t notice right away because of the way we put things in: we didn’t open that side much.  Even so, we opened that door no more than 1o times before we noticed the problem.

Because of travel and other appointments, Kathy was only able to call Best Buy today.  They referred her to Kitchen Aid’s service hotline and said it was Kitchen Aid’s problem.  So Kathy called them to arrange to have someone fix this.

Here’s the rotten punchline — the refrigerator we paid a premium for, that we have had for less than a week — is out of warranty!  They have a 30 day warranty against defects, but they claim it starts from the date of purchase!  Thus, we are going to be charged to fix a problem that was present in the refrigerator when it was delivered.

Needless to say, this is the last appliance we buy from either Best Buy or Kitchen Aid.   I recommend you seriously consider avoiding both for any of your purchases, too.  It is clear they only care about the sale and nothing at all about customer satisfaction.


Update 2/12

The service guy came out today and found a faulty circuit board.  He admitted it was faulty and told us that whoever we talked to on the phone from Kitchen Aid was wrong.  He replaced the board, reset the controller, and there was no charge.

I am a bit less upset now with Kitchen Aid, although their phone service center people need some training.  The Best Buy 30 day warranty, however, is still a pile.

A Divide Comes Into Focus

Events this week  (e.g., the occupation of the bird sanctuary in Oregon, the vote to repeal the ACA, the President’s speech on gun control, campaign speeches by candidates in Iowa, the contaminated water in Flint, and more) illustrated one of the largest emotional and philosophical divides in (at least) the USA. That divide can be summarized in one single observation:

There are those within our population who show concern and respect for others — especially the poorest and weakest among us, and then there are those who seek to overcome any who disagree with them for the gain of those who are already rich and powerful, with no real concern for those who are weak or sick or poor

  • The former show compassion to those afflicted with misfortune. The latter blame the unfortunate for all that may have befallen them, and pursue initiatives that would increase their misery.
  • The former demonstrate empathy for victims.  The latter insult the former for “being weak.”
  • The former seek to employ science to cure disease and protect the environment.  The latter seek to discredit science when it conflicts with their profit or beliefs.
  • The former seek to maintain public spaces and resources for future generations.  The latter are willing to sacrifice those holdings for personal, short-term gain.
  • The former seek to avoid warfare and to acknowledge that others may hold differing but valid opinions.  The latter seek to dominate, verbally or physically, all who stand in their way.

There seems to be no significant middle.  Or rather, if there is a middle, it is quiescent.

That so many people flock to someone running for President who flaunts his extreme material wealth, while making fun of those with disabilities and insulting the poor, is a sign.   That so many would deride and taunt a leader and father for shedding tears over the deaths of children, is a sign.  That we have people who will gladly support policy changes to reduce food and health benefits to the poor to enhance the wealthy, is a sign.

Sadly, those whose hearts have hardened are unlikely to see those signs of what they are or have become.  They need a “Christmas Carol” visit from the 3 spirits, but that doesn’t seem to happen in real life. Those people claim that they are the strong ones, and the ones with vision.  The true villains, they will claim, are those who worship differently, speak a different language, are different in appearance, or love differently than they do.  They will claim to have their god on their side — the same one referenced in Matthew 25:31-46, although they fail to see the dissonance between their actions and their scripture.

I hope that as a society (and as a species), compassion triumphs over greed.  I wonder what it will take to make that happen?  And how do those of us who care avoid becoming full-on cynics?

Be It Resolved (2016 edition)

Once again, a new year is about to present itself. 2015 sort of flew by, and also similar to a pigeon, it dumped on me as it passed. But 2016 is nearly upon us, and that is an opportunity to make some resolutions for the new year.

I have managed to keep all of my 2015 resolutions (and my 2014 and 2013 resolutions, too0.

So, without further ado, here is my list for 2016. I will:

  1. Continue to not give in to the Dark Side…of toast.
  2. I will not undergo gender reassignment treatments, largely because that would require testing to determine “from” and “to” for my species, and no one is ready for that.
  3. Cut waaaay back on describing myself as “on fleek” in my memos to the deans.
  4. Try to not taunt people with severe moral and mental impairments, i.e.. Donald Trump supporters. Well, not constantly.
  5. Consume more of the 4 basic food groups: Bacon, Scotch, Chocolate, and Coffee. But this year, discontinue attempts at an all-inclusive smoothie.
  6. Strive to be less of a curmudgeon — maybe just dial it back to “crotchety.”
  7. Attempt in get in shape this year. (NB. oblate spheroid is a shape, so I have a head start.)
  8. Overcome peer pressure to take a controversial public stand: Damnit, I’m for the Oxford comma!
  9. Experiment to see if my cat allergy has abated; meatloaf?
  10. Do at least one thing outrageous enough to require an update to my pending obituary.
  11. Not build and claim any islands in the South China Sea.
  12. Try to make some of my hobbies self-supporting. Any idea where I’d market earwax candles?
  13. Continue to avow that it is white and gold, not blue and black.
  14. Not reattempt an “eggnog & gingerbread” cleanse.
  15. Not donate $40 billion to charity instead of leaving it to my daughter (you’re welcome, Elizabeth).
  16. Continue to exercise understanding that Jennifer, Adriana, Alessandra, Kate, Kim, Amber, Miranda, Candice and the rest are still really, really busy and simply have not yet been able to whisk me away. (That must be the reason, right?)

I hope your New Year’s is enjoyable and safe (avoid the meatloaf and smoothies), and 2016 is a year of wonder, but not frequently as in “I wonder who I am and where my pants are?”

P.S. Jennifer, Candice, et al. — I’m free this New Year’s Eve, too. I’ll wait for your call.

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