Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Presidents Day

When I was a boy, we celebrated President's Day in school. Washington and Lincoln were always highlighted. We would do tracings and cut out relief drawings from black construction paper.
 We learned facts about Presidents, dates, major decisions. It was certainly cleaned up, scandal free, and always with an eye to the Destiny Of The United States as the leader of the Free World. If there were alternative facts, we didn't learn them.

The concept that perhaps the southern States had the right to secede would not have been discussed. The Trail of Tears? The idea that the Louisiana Purchase had no validity because it wasn't French territory to sell? The Banana Wars? Lincoln as The Great Emancipator a tyrant that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people?

There's lots of decisions in the last 240 years that don't stand up to a lot of scrutiny.

This is still the last best hope on the planet. Where else would you want to go?

Happy President's Day.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holding on to the Past to Move Forward - A Memory of a Dog

It was three years ago, in the last part of February. I had just gotten off duty and was headed on up to Chicago to join my husband of four months for the weekend. It was a 400-mile round trip I made almost every weekend when there was not severe weather over several years before we got married, and then again as I waited for a transfer without sacrificing pay grade so we could finally both work and live in the same city.

How this trip was different was that my dog of 11 years, Barkley, was not making the journey with me, only his collar and leash and a few toys in a box that I could not bear to part with. His remains were in the polished box on my crash pad dresser. I laid my hand on it as I left, imagining warmth that was not there and softly said goodbye, telling him I'd be back soon.

It was a solemn drive and a lonely one. You'd think an animal that slept a lot wouldn't be much company on a long drive but he was. He was the reason I'd stop at the rest stops so he could get a little walk; he was the reason we'd sometimes go through a drive-thru where he would get a kid sized burger, no mustard or pickles, and a soft serve cone. I'd take a point and shoot camera and hold it up without taking my eyes off the road. Many of the pictures continue to make me smile to this day.
One more inch and the Cheez-It's are MINE!

That day, I was fixed in the annealed spot that was his fate and mine as outside the miles of cornfields and the steady thump of late night tires flew past me as if I were frozen to the ground. The drive could have been five minutes, it would have been five hours but I remember thinking that if I would stop, he would somehow appear in the back of the extended cab pickup truck as if there was some quality of the eternal in the hushed journey forward. I did make one stop at a long deserted rest area, and of course, he was not there, There was only that box of dog memories and tears that stained the steering wheel. I sat in the truck motionless as outside of me the farmland stretched away from me, merging into the limitless silence of every loss I'd known.

We've all been there, going on about our lives, happy, with a plan, then suddenly, what was mapped out is literally shredded before us, leaving us to pick up the scraps laid down on the floor and move on, that rewind button nowhere in reach. It can be the biggest moments of our lives, it can be the smallest ones. It can be a relationship ended, or a friendship snubbed. It can be simply a day where nothing went as planned, unforecast weather aloft, a cantankerous crew chief, and you really can't complain, as everyone's looking at you for direction as you're the commander; you simply hunker down to the new challenge, sobered as you look out the cockpit window as you realize your deep dependence upon the invisible.
The key thing is we gather up we have left and look forward. Even more importantly, we do so with a communion of not just saints but of sinners. I remember so many days there after we lost both Barkley and my brother to cancer at the same time when my friends would stop by. They'd talk with cheerfulness of the good things they remembered, we would plan things in the future to look forward to. When they left, with a cheerful wave, it seemed as if they left a bit of themselves with me, some of their stores of strength and hope, renewed affirmation in the promise of life. I realized then just how much I needed them.

I'd always prided myself on being the kind of person that could handle things most people couldn't, so aware of how in those moments when man's bones and flesh are laid upon fate's altar to be torn, there is a moment when that will of bone and flesh to remain alive is almost enough to sustain it. I approached each day with that will, only to find that it took just one act of fate, that neither marked my flesh or my form, to make me as fearful as a child, suddenly left alone.

With my family and friend's help, with their shared stories, memories and laughter, my heart healed. There isn't a day I don't miss my brother, but I feel him close. There are days I still pick up Barkley's collar and tear up but there are as many days as I laugh as I relate a story I never put to paper about Barkley, sharing with the friends that knew and loved him.
For life does indeed go on. As I went for a walk earlier at one of the city parks, I watched Abby Lab jaunt joyfully ahead on the leash with my husband. When she was dumped at a high kill shelter, getting older and very sick, she likely had no happy thoughts of the future, only fear. When she was well again and her foster mom from the Lab rescue organization brought her over to meet me at the Indiana crash pad I wondered if it was too soon, that perhaps I should have waited to get another dog. The foster mom said before she drove over that I was under no obligation, there would be other dogs and she would have a good home with someone soon. But then that gentle dog moved towards me, drifting across the parking lot like shadow, to a stranger. She then leaned lightly against my leg so my hand could caress her head, looking at something only dogs can see off in the distance, vibrating like a released string. I knew then she was at home. Her trust in me indicated that like dogs will often do, she joyfully mistook the world as a place with a doubtless future. Here she would stay, my not wishing to shatter that illusion.
She's been with us almost three years now, and she acts as if her former home, the shelter, that great drive for emergency vet care, was all the memory of someone else.  When she bounds up the step from the yard, she pauses at the back door, as if sensing she had gone to sleep in one place and awoken to another. What is painful to her is only a dream.  When I come home at night, she is laying by the back door of our little 100-year-old Mission bungalow, rising only on the sound of my voice, as if she had laid guardian to all I held dear in my absence, only relinquishing it, these walls, and windows, and memories of dogs gone before, only when I was safely  home.

I will open the door and she will be there dancing around as if I'd been gone for years, and we'll enter the house together, those three years crowded into one moment, one room, one instant of time so full there is no room for tears, but only breath.
Today, I knew that even if cancer had not come into our lives, Barkley would still be gone due to old age. There are some journeys that are inevitable for us all.  Yet as I looked outside, I realized that whatever has happened to me, the world outside was just how we both would remember it. There was motion, there were laughter and tears, there would be new memories and love that ebbed and flowed like the waves upon the lake. As I looked out on the water's surface, the gentle waves swept away vast and drowsy, like a vision of life with a shadowed surface and somber depths. I gave it a defiant smile and ran after the dog, toward a future that sparkled off in the distance like diamonds. - Brigid

Hospital blogging

My posting has been off lately. The Queen of the World had surgery on Friday and is still recovering. I've been at the hospital each day with her, which has really cut into my blogging time. I expect she will be here another day or two.

Thanks to Brigid for showing that blogging isn't dead. You'd never know that waiting for a post from me.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Blogging Is Not Dead

This morning on Facebook - the proclamation on one of my friends posts "Blogging is Dead".

And I look back on a year of blog posts. Hundreds of blog posts. Posts about an old black lab, of firearms, and fun, and more saturated fat than should be allowed by law.

One year.  Such much can happen in a year

For me it was the year 2014. One new grave, surrounded by flags.  One wooden box, bearing in cold air a warmth that can't be replaced.

On each are short simple words that do not begin to carry the weight or the sharpness of their past. Which is why I wrote something longer than a blog post and  placed in the grieving hands of my family.

But as a new author, everyone said "you need to do all of the social media"
I did my first twitter.  It had all the literary grace of Rodan. #Ineedmoreroomforwords

I started Facebook.  It's like the school yard with free ice cream and magic. I am having some fun with it.

But it also leaves me wanting for something---for it does not feel like writing. It's fun, but simply that---fun. To me, it's not flight or mode of combat, words that take on shape and form, Even as I shared in the laughter and offered short comforting thoughts, I missed those long tales that are born from a soul that's an irrepressible retailer of words, a shopkeeper of phrase, an enabler of intent. Facebook is like hanging out with your best friends with beer.  Blogging to me is sipping single malt scotch in front of a typewriter, which is where many of my stories started.

Still, where else can you post a cat with a gun, riding a fire snorting unicorn.
So I'll have my fun on Facebook even as I quietly say into the silent night - Blogging is not dead.

Book #2 was born, out of a blog post that became a chapter, than another, and another. Because I am a writer and my world has too many words.

The year after that, Book #3 rolled out, my first fiction (dialogue.  Ack!!!)

But for now, no book, just blogging.

I sit here now, no music playing, no noise---just the soft breathing of a dog and my thoughts, words almost imperceptible to the senses, hanging on the air to be plucked by my fingers and laid upon this white table.  This computer is my accomplice, guarding me with its quiet accord, bearing with me the seclusion, the mystery. I should probably get up and do some housework, but while the words are still within reach, I am imprisoned by the very freedom of my hands.

I think of the classic writers - would Jane Austin been a hit on Pinterest? Would Hemingway have been popular on Instagram? How many Twitters to win a Pulitzer prize?

Creativity can be short bursts of color and forms and words.

But not in the world that I like to live in.
I am a writer and I have too many words.

I am the run on sentence. I am the "too many commas".  I can't take a morning standing out among broken trees, red and blue lights flashing as words pass over the forest floor like the sound of big guns and make it a quip.  I can't look out upon the hills, the top of one wreathed in billowing smoke, as around me there are shouts and hollers, ringing out like war cries, yet spoken in hushed tones so as not to disturb the dead, and express it with a hashtag.

For words are my truth immense and they are my voice.

Blogging is dead.

It is not dead, it's strings of thoughts that you would have to travel far ahead not to hear, before you outrun the reach of a voice.  You can turn off your modem, but the words still exist.  For they are my words, and though confined to a virtual reality, they are words that exist, in my head and my heart, their tone from the stillness and gloom of a life with a past where my words were my one truth in each passing day.
You can chose to turn away, or turn off and not read.  It does not mean that the words are dead.  For I am a writer, and that is what we do, sharing the nature of that internal silence that follows us down into the depths of our soul and brings up a bucket from a well---one brimming with words that spill over, to quench the thirsty hearts of whispering men.

I will still enjoy my Facebook, it's like waving at a neighbor you like as you pass each other coming out of your drive.

I'll still fail at Twitter and most other forms of social media. I'm just not interested in being connected to the whole world 24 and 7 and I'm perfectly happy being friends with only a few dozen people who realize that friendship is not a button, it is a gift.

I've realized that those that truly care for us don't require constant validation, and if I don't send someone a Facebook "Like" on some un-posted socially acceptable schedule, my true friends will just chuckle and move on. For I am a writer---that solitary person that stood in the corner of the school yard and just looked on at the popular kids. But I always had the words, even when I was too solitary to say them.

I can go weeks and weeks and not talk to people I love. I will continue to be bad at responding to emails. I will love a few of my friends more than I can ever say. There are a dozen of you I would take a bullet for. So, I say it on here, this is the place where I go to tell you the words that I meant to say, to offer a kind touch, or wake you up from some slumbering place where shadows may soon pounce.

It is what it is, a way to capture in words on a screen instead of a page, pages that can be held close in, or telegraphed to the world. It can be whimsy, it can be fun, it can be as disturbed as the mind behind it, or as calm someone one can stare at in wonder, words that reach out like a consoling whisper. It can be as intimate as a kiss or as impersonal as the wind.

It can simply be a piece of bacon and a smile.

Blogging is not dead.

It is alive when the muse fails and the hands stay still in the air with an honest idiocy of objective which made their fruitlessness both profound and poignant. It is alive, when the fingers dance over the keyboard in a frenzy, grappling with ghosts in one final act of common courage.

It is alive when the keyboard is silent and the house stills and the one you treasure more than anything on earth looks up from the smart phone that you will never own and says "I love what you just wrote".
It is alive because it is here my voice has no word count, it can be black and white or filled with color.  It will be stories of battles fought and won, of great mysteries, and simple pleasures. It will be warnings that the younger self will not grasp until the older self  breathes its last. It will be joys and sad caresses, tender words laid out upon the tongue like a wafer, a benediction, a blessing, a self-communion of one, formed of two hands. If you do not read, I will still write as I do not write so you can claim some part of me. But if you come out from beneath that place---that conception of existence we hide under like a tortoise in his shell and listen---the words will draw breath, even after I am gone.

Blogging is not dead.

It breathes as long as I do.  Because I'm a writer and there are so many words.
 - Brigid

Whither NATO?

It seems a reasonable question to ask that if the Europeans don't want to defend themselves then why should we?
If you needed yet another reason to reject the EU as an utterly toxic organisation, here is an absolute corker:
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to U.S demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.
No doubt Jean-Claude Juncker feels that NATO should deploy Oxfam, Save the Children & Charlotte Church to Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn in order to deter any Russian incursions into the Baltic states.
Admittedly, a couple percent of GDP turns out to be a lot of money.  It may be that Europeans might want to spend that on something else.  OK, fine.  Maybe us, too.

Quote of the Day - Television edition

A sitcom about a relationship between All-State's Mayhem mascot guy and Progressive's crazy girlfriend Flo would actually be pretty fun to watch.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How sweet - a Valentine's Day gift



The Queen Of The World found this. Got to love her sense of humor.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Start 'em young


Security Smorgasbord, vol 7 no 1

Boy, it's been long time since I've done one of these.

Protecting yourself from phishing attacks in email.  "Phishing" is a technique where a Bad Guy tries to trick someone into giving up information or installing malicious code.  It is usually done via email or social media.  Microsoft has a really good article on how to detect that someone is trying to do this to you.

Google: Android security is pretty darn good, despite what you've heard.They claim to have data and everything.  The claim is that most people who get malware on their Android device did it by downloading something dodgy on purpose:
It also fitted a pattern he had noticed, that there isn't really any complex malware out there in the wild infecting Android devices. Software nasties tend to be sleazy apps, installed by punters, that do unpleasant things in the background, rather than malicious code that silently infects devices via webpages, text messages, and so on. 
“Most of the abuse we get isn’t interesting from a security perspective,” he said. “We see spamming ads for fake antivirus stuff but it’s really basic social engineering. Even if malware is installed it seldom involved privilege escalation, it primarily just downloads other apps.” 
The same thing seems to be happening in Apple's iOS world, too, he said. 
Remember Borepatch's First Law Of Security: "Free Download" is internet-speak for "Open your mouth and close your eyes".

The secret chat app used by Donald Trump's people.  I'm not sure how much I'd trust it, but then again I'm not sure how much I'd trust anything.  Actually, I am pretty sure how much I trust anything (answer: not much).  Still, this does seem to minimize a number of opportunities for Opsec failures.

Life, the Universe, and Everything about security.  The answer means that you don't really understand the question, but there are some of security's Hall Of Famers here talking about it all.

Complicating a cornflake

This is one of the Queen Of The World's favorite expressions: a lot of times the simple way of doing things is best, and "improving" things leads to bad outcomes.

There used to be a perfectly fine coffee machine at work.  It was drip-brew, but made good coffee, made a lot of it, and made it quickly.  Then one day a New And Improved machine showed up.  It was a marvel.

It ground your coffee beans before brewing your cup o' joe.  You could get small, medium, or large, and it would choose the right amount of coffee to bring and water to brew.  You could get espresso, late, french vanilla, or tea.

Sweet, huh?

Except it was slow.  It took a minute to get your cup of sweet, dark caffeine.  That doesn't sound like very long until you think about the line at 0830 as everyone looks for their first hit of the day.  Suddenly it took 5 minutes to get coffee.

And the machine has started breaking all the time - every couple of weeks.  Likely it was spec'ed too light for the amount of people, but it's downer than a Hillary supporter since the election.  This cornflake is too complicated, at least if you have a bunch of people who want coffee.

And so we're back to the perfectly fine drip brew.  Which actually is fine with me, except that it's on the other side of the building.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Don Drysdale - One Love

Here's the hall of fame pitcher with a Valentine's Day song.  He had some hall of fame pipes.  Who knew?



Dedicated to my One true Love, The Queen Of The World (who found this).

Valentine's Day - A Brigid Guest Post


Incoming!

It's that time of year folks, flying cupids (best handled with a Kentucky longrifle), Hallmark cards, and often expected expensive presents.

I appear to have received what appears to be an antique box.

My gift to my husband, otherwise known as Partner in Grime, was wrapped. The bottle of single malt was not for I inherited the wrapping skills of my Dad and Submariner brother.

You could give my Mom a 15-inch scrap of decorative paper and she could gift wrap a Sikorsky in less than 10 minutes. I will carefully lay out the present, cut a swath of paper the size of North Dakota, and when I'm done, there will be a gap in the back held together by a big piece of scotch tape.

I'm not too keen on wasting a lot of money on paper and ribbon either.  I had joked that all we had at the house was Christmas paper, and he suggested I could just draw some cupids on there to avoid spending money on new paper.  I did one better and made my own paper online and printed it out on our copier.
Partner said, "add in a couple Leprechauns and a birthday cake and we'll never have to buy wrapping paper again!" (yes, we have expensive taste in single malt, but we are both notorious cheapskates around the house, DIY'ing most everything.)

It started with a card of course, with a somewhat cryptic message.

Hmmm, it's a copy of the Blaster's Handbook (copyright 1949)

 Apparently, I'm going to need some directions with my "gift"
Time to carefully open the box.

It seems Partner in Grime has Put the BOMB in Bath Bombs!

If you haven't seen one, ladies buy them at the drugstore or from DIY Etsy shops for their bathtime. Made out of baking soda, citric acid, Epsom salts, water, oil and fragrance oil they are usually formed into round balls and make a wonderful fizzy and moisturizing bath. They are also super expensive for what you get. The DIY ones tend to be a bit more crumbly than the store bought but the ingredients are more natural and cost WAY less.

Mine smell like something with lavender/sandalwood and perhaps orange, a restful scent, just toss in the bath water. By the time it was light enough to get a good photo, I'd already tried one out as I telework today, and didn't have to just do a quick shower.   I almost hate to use the other ones up, they just make me smile to look at them.

I would imagine that would be some spouses that would say "that's all you got me, something homemade?  Where's the jewelry, the flowers, the bling?"

Love is much more than what you buy for someone, it's the effort you put into making sure they are happy and cared for.  I look at my Dad who has outlived two wives and two children and think of that every day.

I read somewhere that heartache is to a noble what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it. So true and words my Dad lived by. From Dad I have learned that whatever terrible things may happen to us, there is only one thing that allows them to permanently damage our core self, and that is continued belief in them. Dad's lived these beliefs.
A WWII Vet, that bravely adopted two redheads with my Mom when he was 40, he survived cancer and a small stroke, buried every member of his family but me. He held my hand during 34 hours in natural childbirth, when my daughter's father abandoned me, and swept me away to our rental cabin after I handed her over to her adoptive parents, listening to me cry myself to sleep for weeks. I was a teen, barely out of high school and he never judged, never said he was disappointed in me, never said I told you so, for a choice in first loves that he had warned was going to be a bad one.

He taught me forgiveness and compassion as being more important than possessions.

I was in class in school when Mom suddenly died, but 30 years later I watched him sit a vigil at his second wife's bedside that lasted days, sleeping only in naps in a chair, never letting go of her hand. He was simply there, a constant presence next to her slender, silent form, from which weariness and exertion had yet to depart, holding her, never doubting the actuality of his faith, guarding with sharp and unremitting alertness those minutes that he knows are fleeting.

I watched him as she left us. He touched the streak of white in her hair as lightning cleaved clear air and a gentle rain fell from cloudless skies, as if their moments together, as brief as they may have been, lingered there in a flash of light and tears, though breath itself had ceased.

That is what love is, not things.  I think of all the evenings this week when Partner was down in the basement experimenting with various formulas, trying to make a plan a reality, one he knew would make me laugh out loud, even if it meant no time to relax after a long day in a factory or laboratory, and having to get an extra shower to get the "girly" smell off of his skin so I wouldn't get wise as to what he was doing with essential oil in the wood shop.

I think of that as I pick up the phone to give my Dad another call. For he too will be waking up from his afternoon nap. I can picture him sitting in his recliner in the family room, Bible and coffee mug close at hand, his small frame illuminated by the early afternoon light, framed by ancient glass that bore light and witness to many a happy memory.

I will send photos of my husband's gift to the Walgreens near his house which his nurse will pick up. And tonight when I call him yet again, he will look at them laugh as if he was young again, knowing as I do, it's the care and the time we give one another that mean the most.

Still that Borepatch recommended manicure set would have been cool :-)

But I Thought Independence and Secession?

California, land of the many Trump haters, wealthy and perfectly capable of forming an independent country without any help from the Nazis currently controlling levers of government in Washington D.C. had a weather related crisis this week. They are getting too much rain. It put the second largest dam in the state at risk of a failure at the earthen spillway resulting in a large evacuation.

And what was their fiercely independent response to this crisis? Did they man up? Go full Dunkirk on the situation and get volunteers from the protest groups filling the streets to show their mettle and help move their fellow Californians out of harm's way?

You know not. Gov. Brown sent a letter asking President Trump for emergency assistance with costs of the evacuation.

No word on what the Calexit protesters have been doing during the crisis.


The perfect gift for Valentine's Day

The ladies love manicures.


The death spiral of Washington D.C.'s Metro system

It's ugly, and possibly unrecoverable:
In 2015, fares accounted for $783 million in operating funds, while state and local governments provided $785 million for operations and $430 million for capital improvements (meaning capital replacement; the Silver line was funded out of another budget). In addition, Metro needs to spend about $700 million more a year than it is spending today on maintenance and capital replacement. With 1.8 million households in the region, if all of these state and local funds were instead funded by a dedicated tax, the annual tax would have to average well over $1,000 per household–even more if a Heritage Foundation proposal that the Trump administration zero out federal support to Metro is taken seriously (see p. 130). Will local taxpayers accept that cost when only about 10 percent of commuters take the Metro to work?
Emphasis added by me.

Will local taxpayers step up to this cost when almost nobody takes Metro?  To ask the question is to answer it.