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?

Monday, April 17, 2017

United Airlines toys

Now for ages 6-12.


Last of the Doolittle Raiders toasts his comrades

Today:
At age 101, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole says his memories are vivid of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders mission that helped change the course of World War II. Now the sole survivor of the original 80-member group, he plans to take part in events Monday and Tuesday at the National Museum of the US Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that rallied America and jarred Japan. It will be "a somber affair" when he fulfills the long Raider tradition of toasting those who've died in the past year, using goblets engraved with their names, Cole tells the AP.
Last year when The Queen Of The World and I were in Ohio seeing her Dad, we took a couple hours to visit the Air Force Museum in Dayton.  They had the bottle of Cognac on display there.  It felt eerie, knowing that the final toast was nigh.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Remembering my Big Brother - A Brigid Post

Three years ago on Good Friday, he said goodbye.

I had just been out to visit him.  My big brother had moved in with Dad some months ago.  The doctors told him he was in remission last fall, he said, for how long, we did not know. But he had no job to return to with Defense cuts and couldn't afford to keep his home.  It was a good move though, for Dad, relieving us of the expense of a full-time home health provider, as Dad couldn't live on his own, even as he still refuses to live with the family that would welcome him.  Even today, as he's outlived two children and two wives, he said he would only leave his home when he ceases to breathe, and I arrange for the full-time nurse in-home so he can do so.

Back when my brother was with us, I visited as often as I could, using both vacation and sick time, there to provide for their care. There was always lots to do, meals to prepare and freeze, cleaning, flower beds and gutters and the stocking of supplies. We made no trips but for short drives, his planning such overnight outings with the whole family for when I was away, but it was OK, those dinners with just he and my brother and I. My brother and I could do things that needed to be done around the house, and he seemed to like just having the time with just the two of us, sharing the memories of that home when Mom was still there. Between us we got Dad's bills paid, the budget drawn up, taxes completed, even if we ended up doing it over the phone.

But had I been able to talk to him one last time, I wouldn't have asked where the insurance info is or what Dad did with the phone and cable bills or where the spare keys are.  I would have simply told him I loved him, and how much he meant to me, one more time.  But we never knew our last words would be just that. Our last words are often not said, our lives always coming up short for those measured statements which through all of our brief utterances were our lone and enduring hope. There is never enough time for those last words, of love, of faith, of  fear, or regret.
The words not said hung in the air the days after he left us, without warning. They were days that seemed like a lifetime, and yet seemed like only moments, perhaps because I don't know if I every really slept in that time, or if, for a moment, time itself shifted, holding me down in the moment, as G-forces did long ago in a steep banked turn.  Time held still for me, but for my brother, it had overtaken him and moved ahead. All of his things, placed into Dad's house, now to be moved again, to charity, to our homes, to our hearts, medals and coins, and books and I probably don't want to know why he had a loaded flare gun hidden alongside his concealed carry piece. There were laughter and tears, there in so many pictures, of early days, and the freckled face of fatigue, memories of a strong, reliable man, the simple kind of man that was the cornerstone of great reputation, even if the world at large would not observe his passing with tears or trumpets.

There was such much to do, to organize, to communicate. So many people stopping at the house or church, to pay their respects.  There were church friends, My brother's best friend, who came to the service even though he lost his own mother the day prior, high school friends and Don and several of the guys from Electric Boat. Then, before I knew it, a service, a eulogy I remember writing, but could not utter, the minister reading it instead with his own message, there as the Easter Lilies on the alter drooped towards him, as if listening.  There were words, of Easter, of remembrance, works that will give us a sense of what meaning can be gained from pain and suffering, death and eternal life. Things some of us ignored for years, then, in moments self-awareness, truly hit home.
It hit home for me when I looked out the window of the little memorial structure where he would receive his military honors before internment and saw the uniforms outside, just prior to raising their guns to the skies.  I heard the guns before they were ever fired, not as sound, but as a tremor that passed over my body the way you will see a flag unfurl, before even the wind that moves it is felt.

We often go through life with our eyes half shut, brain functioning well at idle, senses dormant, getting through our days on autopilot.  For many, this sort of life is comforting, welcoming.  Then for some, not the incalculable majority, but many of us, there is a moment, a flash, when in a moment we truly know all that we've had, held there in the moment of its loss.

All that week long it had rained, never really ceasing, only diminishing to a gentle mist now and again.  Yet as we arrived at that place, where guns would be raised, and taps would be played, the clouds moved aside as if paying their own respects.  The rain stopped as we pulled into the gates, and when we gathered, the sun came out.  As the officers stood at salute, all was silent, no rain, no wind, only stillness, the sunlight on the pooled water, now sleeping,

The guns fired their salute, taps were played, and the Lord's Prayer was uttered.  Then one by one, hands were placed on a stone urn, one final goodbye that we could not bear to end, a moment of immobility that accentuated the utter isolation of this hilltop in which valor is laid to rest.
The moment I drew away, warm hand from cold stone, walking outside, the skies opened up again with heavy rain.  It was as if the heavens themselves wept, the rain enfolding us all the way home, mingling with our own tears. My hands clutched the three empty rounds that had been placed there, holding them so tight my nails dug into my flesh, not wanting to ever let them go.

Since that day, I have returned many times to that hill, to the comfort of his ground where the final stone is placed, to remember, the memorial being but the echo to his sound.

All around, I see the dead; in the small memorial at the spot where two trains once collided,  in a sign erected in the memory of a local killed in a long ago war. There's the little cross by the side of the road where another young soul left us. How important these undistinguished little memorials. Every death is a memory that ends here, yet continues on, life flowing on, sustained by love and faith. Such is the lesson

How thankful we are for these memorials, for the spirits smoke that stays with us after the candle has been blown out.  As I heard the taps I realized that they signified distance, heard there in that first echo. The dead were not sleeping, they were gone. When the final taps were played, I no longer heard the echo, but I will always remember it, for the memory helps us hold on. After a while, an echo is enough.

His was a death that arrived on Good Friday, and it was a life celebrated there and remembered here now, on Easter Sunday.  For that is what Easter was, and is,  to our family.  It's  remembrance. It's the remembrance of a death that brings us life. Of sacrifice, of knowing that we will not be forgotten. Of the hope that after darkness there is light, inky comfort in the unknown.
 - Brigid

Grace

I am Jacob Marley.

We all are. We forge our own psychological chains. Each time we let down those who love us, each act of Foolish Pride, another link gets forged. The longer we live, the longer the chain becomes. Our nature is perfectly imperfect: Out of the crooked timber that is man, no straight thing straight was ever made.

When I was a younger man, this wasn't tangible. I took Scrooge's attitude: nothing for serious reflection - probably indigestion. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!

As Mom could tell you, I was a slow child. 

Even children know that these chains are only broken by grace. You can't earn it, it's given freely, a gift:
When I was in the third grade, my teacher planned activities for our class to celebrate spring: For weeks I looked forward to making treats and dying eggs. I remember telling my mom how much fun it was going to be and I imagined what colors and designs I would choose. Before the big day, my teacher told us to come to class on Friday with a hollowed out egg. We were also told to bring our spelling test signed by a parent, and if we didn't, we would have to sit out from the activities.

At nine-years old, I was the perfect student. I was studious, I was obedient and I was responsible. So when I forgot to bring my spelling test that Friday, I was devastated. I knew what the consequence would be. When my class jumped from their chairs to collect art supplies, I sat still in my desk examining my perfect, hollowed out egg, overcome with disappointment as I fought the inevitable tears.

It wasn't long before my teacher pulled me aside. She knelt down, descending below my sad self and said I should join the rest of the class. With tears in her eyes she told me I could bring my spelling test on Monday. And then she gave me a hug. I couldn't believe it. My disappointment disappeared with this unexpected gift.

Twenty years later, I remember this moment.
That teacher turned a link of chain into a lesson on grace, one that's been carried down through decades.

You can never break your own chains. You need grace. We're surrounded by it, but there's a trick that many people seem not to learn.  Frederick Buechner describes the maddening simplicity of the situation:
A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.
...

There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. 
This Easter Sunday, I hope you see the grace that surrounds us. Unexpected, unlooked for, that takes your breath away, that shatters chains.  

Take it.  Give it:
If you were going to die soon
and had only one phone call you could make,
who would you call and what would you say? 

And why are you waiting?
Originally posted on Easter 2009.

Georg Frideric Handel - "Hallelujah" from The Messiah

He is risen indeed, hallelujah! Hallelujah!



Handel wrote The Messiah to put the Easter liturgy to music, and the first performance was at Easter. If the highest Christian Holy Day calls for the highest musical celebration, then the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society in the Royal Albert Hall fits the bill.

I hope that this Easter Holy day is as inspiring for you as this music is for me.  We are surrounded by marvels, marvels that you can even sing along to. So go ahead - the Lord doesn't care if you're on key or not. After all, this Holy Day is for all of us, even the tonally-challenged. Theologically speaking, I mean. It's glorious.  Join in the Glory.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
- Revelation 11:15  
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
- Revelation 19:6