Monday, April 24, 2017

Yom Hashoah

Holocaust Remembrance Day falls on the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. This year that corresponds to April 24th. The day is selected to follow the anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.  

As to the lessons to be learned from this remembering, it is the genocide chart from Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership that speaks loudest today.

“Without the right to defend yourself, and the right to possess the means to do it, all other supposed rights are so much hot air.”
― James Carlos Blake


Damn Google


The Wild Goose Chase

You know that Shakespeare coined the phrase, don't you?  And a bunch of others?  If you read Chris Lynch, of course, you'd already know that.  He has a bunch of Shakespeare trivia for The Bard's birthday, including the best Shakespearean dirty jokes.

How many people really need to go to college?

Maybe only 15%.

This is really interesting.  I've written at length that you don't even need to graduate from High School to get a job in tech (yeah, yeah - it's better if you do).  Instead of expensive college, (free) self-study towards a Cisco CCNA certification will open the doors to a $40k + entry level networking job.  Add in a CCIE certification and ASA Firewall/IPS specialization and you're looking at six figures.

All without a degree.

But most other jobs don't really require a sheepskin, either.  The implication, then, is that the higher education lobby/interest group will continue to push "free college" and laws that mandate degrees (I hadn't known until I read the link above that Washington DC just passed a law saying you can't be a child care worker if you haven't graduated from college; this simply boggles the mind, and is right up there with the 100 hours of training and licensing to braid hair).

But as more people realize that a college degree has been devalued over the last 30 years, we can expect to see more of these laws as campus bureaucrats try increasingly desperately to use the law to extract money from lower income people.

The discussion of the hypocrisy of people who proudly claim to be lefties using the law to screw over the poor is best summed up here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Out riding

The local Harley Owners Group has a bunch of rides. This one has gone back roads through northern Maryland, past Camp David, to a fried chicken joint in Thurmont (Kountry Kitchen).

I like back roads for the twisties, and this one has it in spades.

Vincent Lo - Fugue on the Nokia Ringtone

The fugue is a musical form where two or more instruments each play the same melody, alternating or at the same time.  The word "fugue" comes from the latin word "to chase", and that actually describes the form of the composition perfectly - the various instruments chasing each other around the entire score.

We've seen this musical form here before, Bach's "Little" Fugue and his more famous Toccata and Fugue.  Bach was by no means the only composer who wrote these - we've also seen Adam Falkenhagen's Fugue in A Major here.

But all you really need is a tune to make a fugue.  Vincent Lo took the (once famous, now forgotten) ring tone from Nokia cell phones to create his take on the form.  For some reason, this made me grin.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

You Can't Make This Stuff Up - A Brigid Post

Chicago police posted on their twitter account a photo of "drugs and weapons seized" after a positive search warrant. 

Did they find this in a DeLorean?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Smart" TVs remotely hackable via over-the-air or over-the-cable broadcasts

Well, that's about it for "Smart" TVs.  If you have one of these, unplug it from the Internet.  Run, don't walk.  There's code that hacks them and installs itself, and even a factory reset doesn't clear it out:
A new attack that uses terrestrial radio signals to hack a wide range of Smart TVs raises an unsettling prospect—the ability of hackers to take complete control of a large number of sets at once without having physical access to any of them.
The proof-of-concept exploit uses a low-cost transmitter to embed malicious commands into a rogue TV signal. That signal is then broadcast to nearby devices. It worked against two fully updated TV models made by Samsung. By exploiting two known security flaws in the Web browsers running in the background, the attack was able to gain highly privileged root access to the TVs. By revising the attack to target similar browser bugs found in other sets, the technique would likely work on a much wider range of TVs.
So basically, anyone with one of these low cost transmitters could pwn your TV.  Put it on a drone and fly over, or in your car and drive by and you now have someone who can turn on the built-in microphone and listen in.  Smart, huh?  Oh, and it gets even better:
"Once a hacker has control over the TV of an end user, he can harm the user in a variety of ways," Rafael Scheel, the security consultant who publicly demonstrated the attack, told Ars. "Among many others, the TV could be used to attack further devices in the home network or to spy on the user with the TV's camera and microphone."
But wait, we're not done!
The approach could also be modified in ways that give it greater reach. For instance, in the event a TV station or network was compromised—for example, a more extreme version of the 2015 hack that blacked out 11 channels belonging to French broadcaster TVMonde5—the attackers could surreptitiously embed malicious code into the signal being broadcast to millions of TVs. Embedding malicious commands into broadcasts from cable or satellite providers is also theoretically possible. A 2014 research paper written by Yossef Oren and Angelos D. Keromytis discussed embedding the exploits into various types of broadcasts.
Mass pwnage via the cable.  The question is not whether exploits are being developed as you read this, but who besides State Actors are working on the 'sploits.  Holy cow - this may be the single most horrifying security problem I've ever seen, and I've seen some pretty horrifying security bugs.

I repeat: if you have a "Smart" TV that is connected to the Internet, unplug it from the 'net RIGHT NOW.  It is unsafe,  and quite frankly it's not clear when (or if) it will ever be safe to plug it in.  The manufacturers have a long track record of not caring at all about your security.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On Anniversaries - A Brigid Guest Post

Twenty-two years ago today, the Oklahoma City bombing.  If you've not taken the time to visit the memorial there, you should.

In my travels, I try and take the time to visit local places of history.  Wherever I am, be it for work or play, if I have time I will explore. In my travels,  I've stayed in places as exhilarating as the Rockies, as surreal as the desert, and as desolate as a corn swept landscape. Yet even in the most innocuous of places, there are discoveries.

I had a couple days in Hutchinson, Kansas a few years ago and went to the Cosmosphere. Yes, that's right. A premiere Space Museum in Kansas. With a U.S. space artifact collection second only to the National Air and Space Museum and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts found outside of Moscow, the Cosmosphere's Hall of Space Museum is uniquely positioned to tell the story of the Space Race. In the middle of the plains. you can actually touch capsules that went into space. Many of them look more like Frank Gehry designs on crack. Or something my brother and I would have attempted to build with our erector set, giant tinker toy constructions, resembling bulky 1960's foil Christmas trees more than modern spacecraft, topped with antennas that could have been placed on top by someone,s drunken Uncle after a holiday evening of cookies and grog.

Yet I walked away in wonder, seeing it all and thinking that all of the things I built as a child and a teen, the weather radio, the rockets, could have become something like that, with no more imagination, simply more education. Museums are like that for me, a humanness of history that brushes you as you pass each display, clinging to you even after you leave. Guns, Germs, and Steel as Jared Diamond coined the title of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book; the genius, fixation, and rage of humanity.

Some of it is sobering. Visit the Holocaust Museum in our nation's capital and you know, too well, the bromide of evil. The piles of shoes, obsessive compulsive logic of sick record keeping. Sit among the silent chairs, one for each life lost, at the Oklahoma City Memorial. You can't help but think that a good portion of our misfortunes arise, not from fate or ill health or the vagrancy of the winds, but from human rancor, fueled by innate stupidity, and those ever present justifications of the same, hell bent idealism and proselytizing mania for the sake of religious or political effigies.

Some are places in which you leave feeling as if the presence of those it immortalizes stand silently beside you as you solemnly take it all in. Such was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum up in Whitefish Point. I was in the area on business and had a day off before heading home and got a rental car at my own expense to go explore. It was well worth the drive, with a detailed display of sights and sound that chronicled the many wrecks due to the furies of that vast lake. But with respect to all the lives lost on the Great Lakes over the years, I especially wanted to see the display on the Edmund Fitzgerald, the most mysterious and haunting of all shipwreck tales heard around my beloved Great lakes.

It was this bell I wanted to see. In looking at it, at the inscription of the names of the crew lost, it was personal. These weren't just numbers on a wall, or dates on a memorial, these were people living, these were people who like myself, loved the wind on their face, the draw of wild nature.

In looking at the artifacts of loss, the fascination comes from the step we take into connection. Strolling past the exhibits, pieces of wood and glass and rope, what we are looking for are familiar things, the small quarters where the crew gathered, the hall where the hungry and thirsty ate meat and beans and drank strong coffee. We know that when the ship went down, there were people thinking and scheming, composing a letter to their families in their minds, the seas too rough to write; worrying, handling a task, dreaming of calm seas and the blue eyes of the one they loved. That knowledge, that thought, brought with it a chill, and a touch of familiarity. Like a hand from the vast waters touching my shoulder, what I left with was not a concern for the dead, for they are at peace now, but for the living, those people with me, now.
There's a reason we visit these places, those that honor the dead, remembering the cruelties that brought them to that place, so that we don't forget, that man does not forget. That is why I stroll the halls and displays of vast buildings that encompass all of man's wanderings, earthbound, sea bound and airborne, paths both light and dark. For every journey I've made in this life there are some that had outcomes both joyous and bright, and others that during their course I saw things in my nature that were less than good. Times when I found darkness not only in the sky, but in myself.

Such it is with history, and the viewing of its pages, finding darkness not only in one's world but within oneself. It is at such time, when we are truly solo, truly adult, that we accept responsibility for a soul that survives in a world of such anomaly. You make good decisions based on the bad ones others have taken before you, or you, yourself will spiral down into the blackness.
Most of us get the little things around us, from simple to sublime, some posting them cursively on paper, others capturing them in photos, some just cataloging them away in the brain for quiet afternoons of reflective thought. Some walk through life with a remote in their hand and blinders on, not realizing what they missed until all they hear is the final shut of a door.

Others look only ahead, paying no attention to the past, the remembrances of brave men, the battles and freedoms we have fought for. My flag was at half staff today and I bet half the neighbors did not know why, seeing only what's going on in this moment, however useless, with no intention of availing themselves of the lessons of history that rattle around in our pockets like rare coins.

Not I. For me, I'll take the slow path, the closer look, the unseen poetry in a drop of melting snow, the land and soul that thirst, the blood and the tears that united a nation.
Like all things mechanical, all things living, what we look at is much more than a sum of its parts. Those early space ships, the eroded surfaces speaking of the intense heat of reentry, the thin outer skin belying the courage of the man that it cradled, just waiting to be blasted into the unknown. A Mercury wonder of heat and design and engineering unheard of in its day. Compare it with the Soviet ships, odd instruments with Cyrillic labels, foreign yet familiar. An animation can never give you that little surge of awe I got on seeing that warning stenciled on a Soyuz reentry module: “Man inside! Help!” -- words that are dense testimony to both the dangers of a landing and the human ignorance that may exacerbate it.

So today - give pause for those souls lost this day 22 years ago.  And next time that you travel-- instead of going out for wings and a beer, take time to look at those places of history that often go undetected.  Stop and look in a museum, stand in places where history stood still, the courtyard at Monte Alban in quiet sunlight you can almost feel the air shimmering with life, priests, victims, warriors, the ball court where to lose the game was to lose life. Those lives vibrate through you.

That which remains are all things, past, present, they make us what we are, everything the human mind has invented, everything the human heart has loved and grieved for, that bravery has sacrificed for. It may touch only a few, but it connects us all.
I've felt this way in the field, hours spent bending down, sorting out the smallest detail.  Glaring into the sightless night, which was broken only by the events that brought me here, I tune everything else out, but that sound that will never be annealed until I am done, even as I sleep, the events, the pieces, the history, the why, roaring down around me until they stiffen and set like cement and take form.  Small things, inconsequential things, that, when woven with human decision and the vagrancies of fate, form something that remains, for lessons, for closure, even if no more tangible than shattered echoes.

Remember those who have gone before us.

In the Cosmophere in Kansas I reached out and touched a spaceship that had gone to the heavens, and the cold metal felt no different to my hand than the cold forged metal of a lost diving bell. As my hands warmed it, I realized that there are not absolute answers to all of the great questions. I can simply persist to live through them, as I learn and remember.

On a small table at my home this morning, lies a simple crafted box in which contains the fired remembrance of pure love and loyalty. Each day as I leave, I gently lay my hand upon it.  Remember me, remember this, from God's intricate creations of blood and bone and sinew, to our own divined dust, the distance is small.
 - Brigid

WeaponsMan Has Left The Range

The circle is a little smaller.

Kevin O'Brien, aka WeaponsMan, passed due to a heart attack. The last two posts on his page are medical updates from family members. Here's his last actual post, a detailed post on gun thefts from FFLs.

If you have the time, his archives are a treasure trove. I will offer one thing he linked to last month. A WWII 16mm movie made by Union Switch and Signal on the manufacturing of 1911s.


B-25 reunion

Missing Man formation of B-25 bombers
Eleven of the remaining 17 flight worthy B-25 bombers gathered in Dayton to honor the last surviving crew member of the Doolittle raid.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just for fun: The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian

Maddmedic (you do read him every day, don't you?  I thought so) left a horrified comment to the last post about running a 1980s Macintosh in a web browser:
Stop that!!!
Mullets?!?!
Wang Chung???!!
For our younger readers, I must explain that the music of the '80s - and particularly the music videos of the '80s - was a mystical and magical place.  In fact, the music videos had serious production budgets: Michael Jackson's Thriller video may be the most expensive music video ever produced, and it was awesome.  This was from a day when it plausibly made sense to demand your MTV.

As to mullets, that is perhaps an acquired taste.  However, I must confess that I get a little nostalgic for Big Hair.  Life was good - Reagan was president, we had the Godless Commies on the run, and we had Girl Bands with Big Hair*.  America!  Heck Yeah!**



* While I did not have a mullet back in the day, and certainly did not have Big Hair, I did in fact have hair then.

** Long time readers know that we strive to keep this blog PG rated.

Run a 1984 Macintosh

Via an emulator.


There are games and office applications from the '80s.  All you need is some mood music and a mullet (or Big Hair) ...

Parent of the Year


Wonder how many likes they got on Facebook?