Friday, November 24, 2017

Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

An ode to  Black Friday.  Angels we have heard on high tell us to go out and buy ...

Glurk

The Queen Of The World made a spectacular Thanksgiving feast.  She gets into Field Marshall mode when she does this sort of thing, and so I wasn't allowed into the kitchen, other for the odd fetch and carry.  She even decorated the top of the mincemeat pie with pieces of dough representing a grape vine.



The roast bird, stuffing, sweet potatoes and all the fixings were delicious, but coma-inducing.  Blogging will resume when the tryptophan wears off.

Nope, Nope, Nope

There is nothing for sale, at any markdown, that would make it worth entering a crowd like this. I think it was Lawdog that said that the I.Q. of a crowd is the I.Q. of the dumbest person in the crowd divided by the number of people. This is one loud noise away from people being crushed against the walls.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A real life WKRP In Cincinnati turkey drop

Rick emails to point out the annual Yellville, Arkansas Turkey Trot festival.  During the festival, they drop live turkeys out of an airplane.  Really.



[blink] [blink] [blink]

As you'd imagine, this is pretty controversial.  Now I can understand a bunch of flyover country folks flipping the bird to granola-eating PETA city folk who like to look down on them.  I really do.  But part of me thinks "Arkansas, man".

But it seems that turkeys actually can fly, but badly.

Thank you, Comcast

I'm glad that I have enough troubleshooting skills that when the Comcast tech support idiot runs through 20 minutes of nonsense I can figure out how to fix it by myself.  And no, I don't want a maybe we'll charge you and maybe we won't appointment, thanks very much.  And thanks for refusing to bump me up to Tier 2 when I asked.

Morons.

But The Queen Of The World has the parade on, so go team me!

But Comcast "support" can die in a crotch fire.


Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Your holiday cybersecurity guide for family

Good article by Robert Graham: what to tell your family who use you as tech support about the key things they should to to keep secure.

Simple, to the point, and probably doable for most people.

On Thanks - A Brigid Guest Post

I'm getting things ready for tomorrow.  Just a fairly simple meal with my husband as after both of us being gone a good part of the month we didn't wish to travel.  My husband will likely get the SUV serviced for a trip to southern Illinois to visit his parents next weekend but this weekend we're staying home and safe. I just saw my Dad a couple of weeks ago, so I won't be flying out there for Thanksgiving with him and he has an invite to join a family nearby.

It wouldn't be the same with both Mom and my brother gone.  But thinking of that got me to smile with a memory from a Thanksgiving long ago. Mom had read somewhere that cooking the turkey in a bag would render the turkey very juicy. Except she missed the part about low temperature and the type of bag. So Mr. Turkey went into the oven in a Safeway paper shopping bag,  pop-out timer side down.

 As he roasted, the juice and grease pooled in the bottom of the bag. When the timer popped, "turkey's done" it popped THROUGH the bag, releasing all the hot grease onto the burner.

WHOOSH!

Big Bro calmly said "Mom, the turkey blew up!"
It was the first and only time I heard my Mom say a four-letter cuss word. Dad admonished her to leave the door closed as she turned the heat off.  He simply stood in the corner of the kitchen, muttering "Oh, the Humanity", tears rolling down his face as he was laughing so hard. We had KFC that year as the remains were removed in a bucket.

After Mom took ill, there were other events. A time at the vacation cabin where Dad cooked pancakes. I'm not sure how he did it, but you could hardly cut through them. He gave one to our wiener dog Pepper, who took it outside and buried it in the sand along the shore. Big Bro threw another one in the fire. It didn't burn.

I can picture that as if it were happening now, the splash of sunlight on cedar, the memory, of the smell of wet dog and the taste of laughter, of where people have lived and will always.
Hygge.  The word comes to mind, especially at Thanksgiving.  It's a Danish word that roughly means eating and drinking and being together with friends, a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary. We don't have any such word in the English language, and life today seems to rarely accommodate such a ritual.

I can be insular, and driven. At work I take no quarter and am not intimidated by blood, death or bad hair days.. Yet at home, I am a caregiver, as my Mom was with us. Even when she was tired, she would make us homemade cookies and pastries to have after school or with our lunch. Shortening scrapped from its can, dough formed and rounded, rolled flat, and rolled up, carefully studded with fragrant spices and baked golden.
When at school, I'd open up my lunch box, and find every given day, a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, coins for milk and an ice cream and a small tinfoil packet I'd unfold with great care. Inside, the scraps of her making, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, soft and whole. I do not share. I scrape the foil clean.

Dinner at the big table wasn't just on Thanksgiving. It was every night but TV Tray in the Family Room Night. But on those dinners around the big table, I can't recall so much of what we talked about or who said what, but I do remember the gathering, the smells of beef and fresh vegetables, of laughter, of stories from school, from work, a discarding of weighty thought and the simple gathering of those you love, for nourishment of the soul. I can't recreate the exact moments through what I cook, or who I serve it to, but I still can remember how those simple meals made me feel, the redemptive power of the communion of those who love one another.

Dad is clearing stuff out of the house, as his days grow shorter.  Having just downsized and gotten rid of so much, the only things I wished from it were small; things of worth, but perhaps not value. A couple are tattered cookbooks in which are written Mom's notes of when she made something new and if we liked it. One was a folder in which Mom placed handwritten menu plans for family gatherings and holidays. Some were planned dishes, some were instructions for the meal itself. Piece after piece of small lined paper, on which her handwriting lay.
So many scraps of paper, so many meals, some dated 1962 when she and Dad were still new in the house.  It was the house she lived in the remainder of her life and to which they brought me and Big Bro home as small, scared children, to heal with them, then to belong, as family.

I hold those pieces of paper and feel the warmth, a woman preparing food for her family, for her friends, small hieroglyphs that tell me nothing but that someone loved us, scribbled messages that would not make sense to everyone but will never fail to be understood.

At that family table we learned many things.  We learned patience (I tell you young lady, you are going to sit here until you eat that squash!) We learned aerodynamics (spoon at 45 degrees, wind from the SE at two mph, PEAS, initiate launch sequence!)  We learned thanks, and not just at Thanksgiving. We learned comfort and safety.

As I went out on my own, even when I didn't have a family of my own, there was a gathering, even if I just invited over my bachelor colleagues, put together a ham and some homemade mashed potatoes and the trimmings while we listened to music and actually talked about something other than our jobs. For it was the sharing and the care that was important, not necessarily what we ate.
Hygge, it's something I learned from my Mom as I watched her growing up. Even as Dad bought her the latest appliances to ease her burden as she grew sicker, she continued to make things as her Mom and generations past had done, stirring by hand, shaping and crafting, only forming a brief and sullen armistice with the food processor when chemo was winning.
She made meals in health and she made meals in sickness, those last days where there was a look on her face as if having seen something which she knows existed even as she refused to believe in it. She'd pause, blink as if the sun was in her eyes, then go back to peeling the carrots for one of perhaps thousands of relish trays she made in her life. Then she'd set it upon that old dining room table with the captains chairs that looked like something taken off an old schooner, a table that looked out of place among all the 70's orange and yellow shag carpeting, but was as timeless as that moment.

She carried more than meals to the table, she carried us, with broken dreams and broken hearts, holding us together, even as she left us.

 "You did good Mom" I say to an empty kitchen, the curtains in the window moving with the opening of a door as if breath. Then the curtains fall still, the room quiet as if this hushed little space is isolated in space, without time or dimension, hollowed whisperings of love and safety amidst the turmoil and fury of time. There is no light in the room now, but for one small kitchen candle, the flame standing sentient over the wick as I wait for the sound of steps on the porch.

My Dad's table will not ever be graced by all of us again, but it will be the inheritance of those who remain, few of them family by blood, but all of them family by acceptance. I hope that one day, long after I am gone, a small child will sit at it and say "tell us the story about when Great Grandma Grace's turkey blew up". . . .

. . and laughter will ring out again.
-Brigid

Hunting and killing a raw vegan turkey

This is pretty damn funny.

Only a Shadow Now

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. 
--Nathaniel Hawthorne

Monday, November 20, 2017

How Bitcoin really works


It's funny because it's true.

20 Years Late

The New York Times, 20 years later, considers the possibility that Ken Starr was right. Bill Clinton was a serial sexual abuser, possibly a rapist, who lied about it under oath.

And in the aftermath, the Democratic Party became his enabler, protecting him and voting to keep him in office. But they can't say they didn't know.






Newspapers don't care about printing the truth

They care about printing a story:
Every November, the FBI releases its hate-crime statistics for the previous year. They've been doing this every year for a long time. When they do so, various news organizations grab the data and write a quick story around it.

By "story" I mean a story. Raw numbers don't interest people, so the writer instead has to wrap it in a narrative that does interest people. That's what the writer has done in the above story, leading with the fact that hate crimes have increased.

But is this increase meaningful? What do the numbers actually say?

To answer this, I went to the FBI's website, the source of this data, and grabbed the numbers for the last 20 years, and graphed them in Excel, producing the following graph:


As you can see, there is no significant rise in hate-crimes. Indeed, the latest numbers are about 20% below the average for the last two decades, despite a tiny increase in the last couple years. Statistically/scientifically, there is no change, but you'll never read that in a news article, because it's boring and readers won't pay attention. You'll only get a "news story" that weaves a narrative that interests the reader.
In this case, the narrative was "Hate crimes increase".

Really, the only thing to add to this analysis is that certain narratives are more pleasing to the progressives that populate the News Room than others.  Those pleasing narratives will get pushed to the front page, while less pleasing narratives will get "fact checked" to death.

As Mark Twain said, if you don't read the newspaper you're uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper you're misinformed.

Layers and layers of fact checkers

Polifact awards "Four Pinocchios" to Duffle Blog.



Layers on layers on layers.  You know, onions have layers.  I wonder if Polifact thinks that The Onion has layers, too.  And "Bowe Bergdahl wanders off during Court Martial" is hilarious.

Hat tip: Don Surber.

Fun fact: autocorrect wants to substitute "polecat" for "Polifact".  Heh.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving cooking pro tip

It seems that you don't even need to know how to cook.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

In Dog Beers I've Had One - A Brigid Holiday Shopping Guest Post

Grocery shopping in a snowstorm the weekend before Thanksgiving is never fun.  But with my husband being in charge of spiders, dead possums in the yard, and home repairs the grocery shopping is my weekly chore.  I HAVE learned some things, however.

500 carts in the store and I will get the one with the front wheel that pirouettes like a ballerina on crack.

I always make a list.  Sometimes I remember to bring it with me.

Always eat something before shopping.  I once went on an empty stomach and came home as the proud owner of Aisle 5.

You can go to the store for "just" milk, and spend $125.
Pork chop in homemade fig molasses with grist mill cornbread.  Forget the Kraft Dinner.

You know you need "me" time when a stroll down the detergent aisle feels like a spa day.

My husband once asked me to pick up some oil  There were like 87 different kinds.  I now know what men feel like in the tampon aisle.

If someone is standing directly in front of the item I need I will pretend to look for something else until they move.

I once lost my Mom in the store.  I was 51.  They gave me a balloon and paged her.

I do not object to telling the millennial who has 37 items in the Express Aisle "that I know all the lyrics to FROZEN and I am NOT afraid to use them".

I have, on more than one occasion of many years, turned the Betty Crocker Upside Down Cake box in the aisle - upside down.

I realize that I get excited that I can now buy the unhealthy cereal my Mom usually didn't let us have.

Someday they will say about me "she died doing what she loved, carrying 87 plastic bags of groceries from the car to the house, rather than make 2 trips.".

That being said - happy to have survived and made it home for a cold one.

And a frozen pizza - as I was tired out from all the shopping.

Breaking the Four Rules

At a Thanksgiving supper at a church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, some elders were discussing the recent shooting in Texas. One elder unholstered his concealed carry piece, unloaded it, and passed it around. When he got it back, he loaded it, rechambered a round, and then...wait for it.

That's right! He went for it, broke all Four Rules, with the predictable results.

He took a loaded gun, pointed it at other people at a church supper, put his finger on the trigger, and shot two people.

All Guns are always loaded. He couldn't even say he thought it was unloaded. He knew it was loaded. He had just loaded it.

Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. He pointed it at a couple from his congregation.

Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you have made the decision to shoot).His finger was definitely on the trigger.

Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. He not only shot one person in the hand, he hit the next person in the abdomen.

If he had just pointed the gun away from the people into a corner as he loaded it, most of this stupid would have been reduced to embarrassment and sheet rock repairs. If he had left it in the holster, all of it would have been eliminated.

As Tam would say, "Just stop touching it."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thoughts on Sen. Franken

The dog that hasn't barked in this situation is Donald Trump - he hasn't taken to Twitter to stir the pot.  That's interesting.  Why not?

The last week has been wall to wall media coverage about Roy Moore in Alabama.  Whether you believe Moore or his accusers, the coverage has been relentless.  It's been quite a bi-partisan display, as politicians from both parties have condemned Moore.  And now along comes the Franken accusations, which seem much more credible.  Again, ignoring whether you believe More or his accusers, Franken has admitted it - he really didn't have much choice, as there's photographic evidence.

But silence from @RealDonaldTrump.  Again: why?

Assumption #1: both parties would like to impeach Trump.  The Republicans are increasingly willing to openly oppose him, and it's clear that the GOP establishment would like to see Trump and his supporters just go away.  Some Democrats actually introduced a bill of impeachment, which seems to be "Trump is a boor".  The pile on of Roy Moore is this same desire in a minor key.

Assumption #2: I believe that the Democratic party would throw Franken under the bus in a New York minute if they thought it set the stage for an impeachment of Trump.  After all, the (Democrat) Governor of Minnesota would appoint another Democrat, so there's no change there.  And yet, there have been precisely zero calls for Franken to resign.

Again, the interesting question is why.

I believe that there's another show waiting to drop, and that shoe is the secret payments made to victims of Congressional sexual abuse - payments that it is said run to the millions of dollars.  This is bubbling just under public consciousness, with brief mentions in the media but no real attention being  given to it.  If the Democrats were to try to force Franken to resign, this might break the dam on the broader Congressional corruption issue.  Nobody on Capitol Hill wants to go here.

I believe that if Congress decides to get serious about impeaching Trump for moral turpitude, you'll see Trump's tweets push  this issue front and center - his argument will be that if he is so bad that he has to go, why don't they go?  Since Congress is about as popular as herpes, this argument might have some legs.


The whole situation is breathlessly cynical all around, so much so that Trump looks like the guy who's clean.  Pretty wild - every time I think that my assessment of Congress can't be any lower than it is, they up and say "hold my beer".

Poor security in "Connected" toys

I've been posting about this for some time, so it's good to see other folks chiming in:
A consumer group is urging major retailers to withdraw a number of “connected” or “intelligent” toys likely to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that it warns could put children’s safety at risk.  
Tests carried out by Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest, and other security research experts, found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child.  
The investigation found that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Security failures were discovered in the Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-Fi Teddy and CloudPets.
A lot of this is basic no-security-on-bluetooth, limiting the range that someone could exploit this to 100 feet or so.  But some is a lot more worrying:
With the i-Que Intelligent Robot, available from Argos and Hamleys, the investigation discovered that anyone could download the app, find an i-Que within their Bluetooth range and start using the robot’s voice by typing into a text field. The toy is made by Genesis, which also manufactures the My Friend Cayla doll, recently banned in Germany owing to security and hacking concerns. Both toys are distributed in the UK by Vivid.

The link at the top of this post is from a year ago, and talks about most of these toys.  A year later, the manufacturer has done nothing to improve the security holes - that tells you everything you need to know about whether you can trust them with your little bundle of joy.

Let me just say that the Northeast Gunbloggers know how to deal with Furbys.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hack the friendly skys

Well, this isn't good news:
At least some commercial aircraft are vulnerable to wireless hacking, a US Department of Homeland Security official has admitted. 
A plane was compromised as it sat on the tarmac at a New Jersey airport by a team of boffins from the worlds of government, industry and academia, we're told. During the hack – the details of which are classified – experts accessed systems on the Boeing 757 via radio-frequency communications. 
“We got the airplane on September 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative, penetration,” said Robert Hickey, aviation program manager within the cyber-security division of the DHS's science and technology directorate, while speaking at the CyberSat Summit in Virginia earlier this month.
It seems that security guys have known about this problem for a while but this info hasn't gotten out to pilots until now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

With A Chainsaw

The USAToday has been roundly mocked for suggesting that chainsaw bayonets were a problem.

I don't know how common they are, or how practical, but apparently, if you can think of it, Bubba will build it.

Climate change: which is cheaper, adapting or preventing?

If you're wondering, you haven't been reading here very long.  It appears that the proposed spending to "prevent climate change" will cost the USA $7 Trillion more than the "damage" caused by the climate change.

Numbers are from GAO and IEA.  Warning: there's math here, although it's basic Net Present Value analysis.

Bottom line: under typical planning assumptions, it's far more costly to implement climate change programs than it is to let things run their course.

Implication: Environmentalism makes poor people poorer.  $7 Trillion could fun a lot of programs for poor people.  "Being Green" is just more Rich People's Leftism.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Condolences to Paul, Dammit

His mother passed away.

Et lux perpetua luceat eis, amen.

Apple FaceID cracked

That didn't take long:
When Apple released the iPhone X on November 3, it touched off an immediate race among hackers around the world to be the first to fool the company's futuristic new form of authentication. A week later, hackers on the actual other side of the world claim to have successfully duplicated someone's face to unlock his iPhone X—with what looks like a simpler technique than some security researchers believed possible. 
On Friday, Vietnamese security firm Bkav released a blog post and video showing that—by all appearances—they'd cracked Face ID with a composite mask of 3-D-printed plastic, silicone, makeup, and simple paper cutouts, which in combination tricked an iPhone X into unlocking. That demonstration, which has yet to be confirmed publicly by other security researchers, could poke a hole in the expensive security of the iPhone X, particularly given that the researchers say their mask cost just $150 to make.
From a security perspective, FaceID (and fingerprint recognition) is a terrible idea.  The problem is that it's used for the wrong purpose.  Both would be fine as a username replacement - after all, you are you.  But they're really, really, really bad ideas as passwords, which is how they're used.  They can't be changed if they get compromised (and believe me, that is what hackers world wide are working on because it's the Holy Grail of pwnage).  They can be used against your will, by Bad Guys or by Governments.

If you use either of these two things, you should turn them off.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Carl Nielsen - Symphony No 4, "The Inextinguishable"

Carl Nielsen is widely regarded as Denmark's greatest composer, and this is perhaps his greatest composition.  Written in 1916 at the height of the War, it is deeply influenced by that conflict.  It was unusual for a symphony in that the four movements are played without breaks - in essence, it's one long non-stop battle (in fact, it is scored attacca subito: attack suddenly).  In the final movement a pair of tympanis duel from opposite sides of the stage in a mock artillery exchange.

Outside of Denmark, Nielsen is known for compositions like this: orchestral music.  In Denmark he is much more of a national symbol, and his songs (influenced by traditional Danish folk songs) are more widely known.  During the Nazi occupation in World War II his songs were often performed as an act of resistance.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

For Dad this Veteran's Day - A Brigid Guest Post

In the Battle of Maldon, a few Englishmen have been attacked by a fierce army of Viking invaders. Although the Vikings are between two branches of the river and thus separated from launching their full strength at the Anglo-Saxon army, Beortnoth nobly allows them free passage to do battle on equal terms. Vastly outnumbered, Beortnoth and his brave men are slain until only a small, unflinching band of warriors remain:

“Byorthwold spoke; he grasped his shield; he was an old companion; he shook his ash spear; full boldly he exhorted the warriors: 'Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener, courage the greater, as our might lessens. Here lies our leader all hewn down, the valiant man in the dust; may he lament for ever who thinks now to turn from this war-play. I am old in age; I will not hence, but I purpose to lie by the side of my lord. . ."

In these few words, a better description of heroism, of unwavering dedication and loyalty I've not read in a while. The lines “Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener, courage the greater, as our might lessens" are a thousand years old, a pre Christian heroic spirit which author J.R. Tolkien, a crafter of worlds where chivalry roared, himself called "Northernness".
I look at photos from a great war, a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline that was stormed early one summer morning by more than 160,000 Allied troops, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy.  Over 9,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded.  Europe was full of brave American men that day, many who died, some who lived, both on that beach and in the skies over England or Germany. One of those men was my Father.

My Dad is a peaceable men, and I would imagine that the majority of men who lived and died on that piece of ground on this day seventy years ago would have said the same thing about themselves.  They looked at battle as I do, more than the desire to pursue and kill but endurance,  the conviction and longing to endure beyond all imaginable limits of the flesh to protect and preserve.

There was a difference between aggression and self defense, a difference between being devoted to justice and being a school yard bully. It is a self-awareness and self-restraint and differs as night and day from apathy, the concept of which Christians might refer to as meekness, a trait often associated with Christ, and clearly as misunderstood.
Dad and Mom were separated for the entire War.  High school sweethearts, they weren't formally engaged but they had an understanding that on his return they would marry.  He considered marrying her before he left but he didn't wish to leave her alone, possibly with a baby.  Mom had just completed college, and was going to work to help put her two young brothers through school as well as support her mother, widowed very young.

Four years apart. In the big scheme of their lives, those years were only a blink, yet it colored everything about how they lived after that, like the war was a lens that they would forever look through. I look at all the pictures they sent to one another during that time and there are pictures of fun, and the laughter of just being 20-something years old; photos of Mom hamming it up with her friends, and photos of my Dad in his 44th Bomb Group uniform, on a rare afternoon free.

But if you can look real close, you can see the worry about their eyes, anxious nights and sleepless waiting, not for days. . or months. . . but for years. . . . . wondering if they would ever again see the bright clear eyes of the one they loved. There is no worse feeling, I can tell you that. But things were different then. There were no flights home, no leave back stateside to visit friends and family. Once Dad left on the Queen Mary to sail over, he did not return until the War had ended.
When he did come home, outwardly unharmed, unlike much of his squadron, he had changed. Changed with what he had seen and witnessed, and like most soldiers had developed his own survival ritual, his system of integrity and his concepts of what it meant to be worthy of the uniform he wore. With this, he and Mom married immediately and settled into a comfortable, steady, uneventful life that the youth of today would indeed consider dull. They didn't have a huge mortgage for a house that was too big, multiple cars, or exotic travel or trips.  They lived simply, creating a steadiness in their life, mowing the lawn, washing the Buick every Saturday, dancing in the living room to Big Band, a quiet sanctuary of quiet routine and sameness that embraced us as children when they adopted us so many years later.

As a kid, and especially as my teen years loomed, our small town life seemed rather uneventful and I wished that something big would happen. Something exciting. But it didn't. Something big had already happened to them, and only a few years back. Still vivid in their memory were B-24's limping home in pieces only to crash before their eyes; flag draped coffins of family and friends being sent home, losses beyond redemption. And then there was the waiting. There was no instant communication then, no emails or cell phones to keep in touch. Their memories were days of silence and snippets of news, of hunger and rations; survival in a nation at war, the fear greeting them each day at their meager breakfast plate as they prayed that maybe just once this month they would get a letter, some hope.
Maybe after all of that, Dad's goal was simply that nothing big happened again, nothing except safety, and the warm embrace of your family around you each night. In a world at peace because of the one big thing that you did.

One day, entering adulthood, I found their wartime letters to one another, packed in a trunk with his uniform.  It was a holiday. I read through one or two, then carefully put them back in the blue ribbon that held them, feeling as if I was spying on something so intimate, so precious, it was best left to the dark. But the emotion held within plain words that would pass any wartime censor was clear; the tenderly passionate tones, the sudden breathless pauses, and those spaces between words that opened up like white arms, reaching across an oceans water to hold the one they loved.

That night as the fireworks began, and we sat, a family absent my Mom who had passed on a few years prior, in the old wooden chairs they'd bought as newlyweds. As the rockets rained down, ones that exploded like living thunder, and the small lit ones that draped across the sky like a lei, flowerings of light floating slowly down to our safe little spot I glanced over at my Dad. As the last one, the showstopper, exploded in a blinding red and white of a thousand suns and a burst of sound that hurt the ears, I saw the tear on his rapt upturned face, his hand over his heart, as he remembered his comrades, as he remembered the beautiful girl who he had proudly fought for, there in the safe world they all made for us.
My Dad was one of the fortunate who was able to come home.  So many did not, givng their all for their country.  On this weekend, as always,  remember them -  all of them, that went before, that did not come home. They were warriors in battle; not as men of violence -  but men prepared to do battle for what they held dear.  

Those warriors taught us more than how to win a battle.  They taught us how to live not just in might and size and power, but often in the smallest places and quietest moments.  Look at the people who serve in hard times, hard areas, death a shadow on the wall, so the masses can be safe. But you don't have to be a member of the military, a protector of the weak, or a fighter of the worst nature can throw at you to embrace these concepts. Courage gives us something to strive for, something to hold up as an ideal and an understanding that throughout history there are those who have risen above the standards of the day to truly be called brave.
I look at my Dad; sleeping more now, under an attic where lay a bundle of letters that give off a whisper of old longing and forever hope, carried across the ocean to lie above the woman who wrote them. Dad grieves and give thanks, for the love that he fought for still exists, even as the bones of it have crumbled to dust, becoming one with the soil, the love remains intact, impervious, where they had lain, there in the rich earth of a brave man's heart.

The year could be 1944, it could 2017. A hand on a rough shovel, flinging the dirt with an effortless fury, the mound of soil rising of its own volition, not crafted by man but as if flung forth by the earth itself, until the grave is readied. A warrior has fallen, medals scribed on ore or heart, small things insignificant to the view, but mute with profound meaning. The earth waits but a moment. Shadows fall with the moon's curve, no sound but the labored breath of form of one who engaged without arms, this single combat. Laying a warrior to rest.  There is now but a shield to be picked up and carried on. So, man or woman, we never forget what was sacrificed for us all.
 - Brigid

The Last Platoon

This is a simply outstanding two-part program from the BBC back in 2004.  They interviewed the last surviving British veterans of the War To End War.  I cannot recommend this too highly.





The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is a sacred moment.  Hearing the stories from the men themselves will help you reach across the age that separates us from the trenches.  I wonder what Grandpa would have thought of this.  He served in that war, but as an American, he was late to the party.

Rylee Preston - Soldier's Light

When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.
- Earnest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms
There is a reason that we honor veterans, and why we describe what they do for us as "sacrifice".  They and their families give up the things that we take for granted - family dinners together, a baby's first steps or words, soccer games, school recitals.  Reading to your kids at night.  Hugs.  Wiping tears away.

Today is the day that we think on these sacrifices, and on the men and women who made them.  And on their families, who sacrifice with them.  As the saying goes, all gave some and some gave all and the families share fully in this giving.

Today is the day that we remember this.  Some remember it in a more spectacular fashion than most -  Rylee Preston is one of those.  She was 15 when she wrote this song, a song that captures that sacrifice.  Her Dad is in the Army and so she knew the sacrifices all too well.  But she didn't write this for her, or her Dad.  She was inspired by how effected her Dad was at the combat death of a friend's son.  She put pen to paper and the song suddenly took on a life of its own.

It touched people in a very intimate way.  She was invited to sing it at the "Ride For The Fallen" motorcycle rally:
I was back stage,  and Skip told me she had the entire audience (Bikers, a lot of them Vet’s) in tears, and holding up cell phones recording – it was a moment I cant describe for me, because what started out as words on paper became a song, video and tribute. And to watch Rylee sing it live (very nervous her first time in front of a real audience) bring them to tears.
A bunch of black leather clad, shaved head biker dudes wearing chains and skulls - in tears.  Not so surprising, since most bikers have big hearts and love their country, and a lot served themselves and know full well the sacrifices.



And so this song seems entirely appropriate for today, Veteran's Day.  As you go about your day and think about the service and sacrifice that our Veterans have made to this Republic, remember SPC. Justin Rollins and all who served.
Heroism is latent in every human soul - However humble or unknown, they (the veterans) have renounced what are accounted pleasures and cheerfully undertaken all the self-denials - privations, toils, dangers, sufferings, sicknesses, mutilations, life-long hurts and losses, death itself - for some great good, dimly seen but dearly held.
- Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Friday, November 10, 2017

Remember

Not everyone got a parade.  This weekend is still for them.


This weekend is especially for them.

November 10, 1775

It's the Marine Corps Birthday. I could type up something, pick out the stories that resonate with me, and perhaps that can be the subject of some upcoming posts. But today I will just offer the 2017 message from the Commandant.

A MESSAGE FROM THE COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
Seventy-Five years ago today, after months of fighting at Henderson Field and along Edson’s Ridge, Marines on Guadalcanal spent the night of 10 November 1942 planning and preparing. Although the Battle of Guadalcanal would continue for three more months, the plans laid on our Corps’ most sacred day became integral to the amphibious campaigns that followed. Success at Guadalcanal proved to be the turning point that ultimately paved the way for Allied victory in the Pacific. Those warriors defended their positions in brutal conditions against a formidable enemy – and triumphed. Through every major conflict our Nation has seen since the Revolution, Marines performed their duty with utmost courage, devotion, and raw determination. Their valiant deeds in the face of overwhelming challenges give us confidence and inspire us to meet the trials of today. As we pause to celebrate the birth of our Corps this year, we honor the legacy that was passed down to us and we recommit ourselves to carrying those traditions into the future.
This November 10th marks 242 years of warfighting excellence. At places like Trenton, Tripoli, Chapultepec, Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Chosin, Khe Sanh, Fallujah, Sangin, and so many others, Marines have fought with an inner spirit – a spirit that bonds us, binds us together as a cohesive team. It’s that intangible spirit that has formed the foundation of our warfighting reputation for the past 242 years. Now it’s our responsibility to ensure we honor and carry on that legacy. The American people expect a Corps of men and women who are committed, selfless, willing to sacrifice, who epitomize honor, courage, commitment, virtue, and character. We owe our Nation and our predecessors no less.
Today, as we celebrate our 242nd birthday, we must remember who we are, where we came from, and why we’re here. We must remember the past, honor those who are no longer with us, focus on today’s battles, and get ready for tomorrow. We can and will prevail as we always have, in any clime and place. But we must prevail together, united by the unyielding spirit in each of us that makes our Corps unique – that willingness to put our Corps and fellow Marines ahead of ourselves. Victory in battle comes through the integrated efforts of many – teamwork. We value the sacrifices and contributions of every Marine and Sailor, as well as our family members without whose support we would not be able to accomplish our mission. And we remain committed to being our Nation’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness that sets the standard for honor, discipline, and courage. I am proud of each and every one of you. Happy Birthday, Marines!
Semper Fidelis,

Robert B. Neller
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps

The end of CNC?

Well, this is interesting:
Desktop Metal, based in Boston, USA, has opened up pre-orders for its Studio System which uses inkjet-like technology, rather than laser-based techniques, to produce precision metal parts. 
The system isn't cheap – it's $120,000 to buy outright or $4,000 a month for 36 months – but compared to other ways of producing metal parts, especially in small numbers, it could be a game-changer. Sure, there are traditional CNC machines but they still cost from thousands up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This fat gizmo is supposed to be a challenge to that. 
The printer will be made available in mid-2018, at which point the company hopes to expand even further with a production version of the machine that offers 3D printing at 100 times the speed and a twentieth of the cost of current systems.
It may be that this doesn't replace CNC, but rather traditional heavy manufacturing tooling:
One of the investors in the company, managing partner of BMW iVentures Uwe Higgen told The Register that the car manufacturer has warehouses full of tooling equipment for its different cars, each of which typically costs millions of dollars to create. It also takes months for those tools to be developed.
Interesting that BMW is investing in this.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Piano Guys - Great Musicians - A Great Honor


I don't know how many of you have listened to "The Piano Guys" but their music is just awesome. This video is special as I was one of the several folks that got to be part of the production process. (My author name is in the credits).  The wife of Jon Schmidt, the piano player, read my third book "Small Town Roads" and sent me the most heart warming handwritten letter as to how those words, as the book had an underlying grief theme, helped them as they had just lost their 21-year-old daughter in a tragic hiking accident. That meant so much to me. Great family, great music, and a connection was formed. I was so honored to be part of this video.

Joe Cocker - Ain't No Sunshine

The Queen Of The World is off to a family gathering, leaving Wolfgang and me as Wild And Crazy Bachelors here at Castle Borepatch.

Oh, foo.

She's not just a delightful resting place for the eyes, but she's a lot of fun.  She's one of the best conversationalists I've ever known, and so there's always great company about here in the castle.

Dang, it's quiet.  Too quiet.



I've posted this song before, but Joe Cocker is one of the few artists (along with Michael Jackson, of all people) to do the song differently from Bill Withers.  This is a good rendition - interestingly different - but I'd rather not have the chance to post it at all.

Oh, foo, indeed.

Nothing To See Here, I'm An Only One!

What happens when you go out drinking while wearing a concealed firearm in North Carolina? If you're a citizen, it's a crime. You have to put away your heater and go out unarmed before you start poisoning yourself with the Devil's brew.

If you're an Only One, you can get so hammered that at 6:30 the next morning, you're "incapacitated by alcohol", you can take a woman you can't identify later to your hotel room, and wake up to find that she stole your government issued Glock 27, and all that happens is an "internal investigation."

The Only One is question is (was?) a unit chief in the F.B.I.'s international terrorism section.

 Let's go with gun control for the proles. That will fix everything.

Heh

I've ordered this shirt.


There are security bugs there, too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Halloween Revisited



A picture of the Jack O' Lantern I carved for last week's holiday. It marks our 40th wedding anniversary. We spent the time away together. A cabin in the woods with a woodstove, some time to reflect and remember the journey so far, and to celebrate.

Brigid's post on Halloween, the mystery and the excitement of being allowed out in a costume to ring the doorbells and collect candy, resonates with us. It has been our holiday through the years.


100 years of Communism

How strange that teachers and professors do not teach this: 1991 comparison of per-capita GDP of communist and non-communist countries:


(source)

Communism robs a nation of 80% or more of its wealth.  You don't even have to talk about the body count, just the impact on the economy.  Add in the destruction of the environment: Chernobyl, the Aral Sea, the Three Gorges Dam, etc and it is a damning indictment of the modern leftist's world view.

The most expensive programming error ever?

Bitcoin users, beware:
There's a lot of hair-pulling among Ethereum alt-coin hoarders today – after a programming blunder in Parity's wallet software let one person bin $280m of the digital currency belonging to scores of strangers, probably permanently. 
Parity, which was set up by Ethereum core developer Gavin Woods, admitted today that a user calling themselves devops199 had "accidentally" triggered a bug in its multi-signature wallets that hold Ethereum coins. As a result, wallets created after July 20 are now locked down and inaccessible, quite possibly permanently, thus nuking $90m of Woods' own savings. 
Multi-signature wallets mean more than one person has to sign off on a transaction before funds are moved, and are popular with companies and investment groups looking to protect their assets. Unfortunately, Parity's technology is seriously flawed: in July a hacker managed to exploit errors in the multi-signature code to steal about $30m in Ethereum.
Quite frankly, it sounds like their code is a mess.  Given the high visibility of the cryptocurrency market, there is undoubtably huge pressure to ship software on time.  This will not improve code quality.

My prediction: this isn't the last time we'll see something like this.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Well that's your problem, right there

Awesomest service description in history.


Robot surgeons - outcomes are worse with them than without

It seems that some "Insanely Great" ideas aren't so hot when you measure actual outcomes:
Robot-assisted surgery costs more time and money than traditional methods, but isn't more effective, for certain types of operations. 
... 
The researchers, led by Stanford visiting scholar Gab Jeong, weighed outcomes for both robot-assisted and traditional laparoscopic kidney removal and rectal resection. With kidney surgery, they found that where surgeons used a robot, the procedure time dragged on more than four hours in 46.3 per cent of cases, compared to just 28.5 per cent of cases where the surgeon worked without a mechanical assistant.
There are likely many issues in play here: immature technology, a long and bureaucratic FDA approval process, and high levels of training needed for surgeons and nurses.  The technology at least will evolve, but this points out the difficulty in introducing "game changing" technologies in mission-critical fields.

More importantly, it shows the difficulty in targeting the types of problems where robots can improve outcomes.  This is probably a lot harder than it seems, and with the expense of the FDA approval a lot riskier, too.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Memes gone wild

Pretty funny, but still wild.


Artificial Intelligence: still waiting

AI does poorly at something that every small child excels at: identifying images.  Even newborn babies can recognize that a face is a face and a book is not a face.  AI algorithms take long long training sessions to get to basic competence, and even then it seems that it's practical to fool them:
Students at MIT in the US claim they have developed an algorithm for creating 3D objects and pictures that trick image-recognition systems into severely misidentifying them. Think toy turtles labeled rifles, and baseballs as cups of coffee.
This has been a problem in my field (computer security) for about as long as I can remember - certainly back into the 1980s, and almost certainly longer.  Programmers work to get functionality correct - the program performs as intended when fed normal (i.e. expected) input.  Programmers have done poorly anticipating what a Bad Guy might feed the program as input.  Instead of a name in a text field, how about a thousand letter A characters?  Oops, now the Bad Guy can run code of his choice because the program didn't anticipate this input and then fails in an uncontrolled way.

And now AI looks like it's doing precisely the same old pattern:
The problem is that although neural networks can be taught to be experts at identifying images, having to spoon-feed them millions of examples during training means they don’t generalize particularly well. They tend to be really good at identifying whatever you've shown them previously, and fail at anything in between. 
Switch a few pixels here or there, or add a little noise to what is actually an image of, say, a gray tabby cat, and Google's Tensorflow-powered open-source Inception model will think it’s a bowl of guacamole. This is not a hypothetical example: it's something the MIT students, working together as an independent team dubbed LabSix, claim they have achieved.
Oops.
“Our work gives an algorithm for reliably constructing targeted 3D physical-world adversarial examples, and our evaluation shows that these 3D adversarial examples work. [It] shows that adversarial examples are a real concern in practical systems,” the team said. 
“A fairly direct application of 3D adversarial objects could be designing a T-shirt which lets people rob a store without raising any alarms because they’re classified as a car by the security camera,” they added.
Double oops.

The problem is how programs are designed and implemented.  And quite frankly, designing a program that can anticipate all possible attacks is probably a fool's errand - the program would be so complicated that it would probably run poorly, if at all.

The moral is to use software as a tool, but always understand that the output can be wonky.  This is especially so when someone wants the output to go wonky.  A.I. can be a useful tool, but anyone who thinks this will change the world is in for a quite nasty surprise.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A seasonal warning

Let's be careful out there.


It's funny because it's true.

Johann Strauss - Tik Tak Polka op.365

You set your clocks back last night, and so clocks are top of mind today.  The Waltz King, Johann Strauss, wrote something for that.  It wasn't a waltz, but instead came from his operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat).  It is intentionally upbeat, verging on manic.  To maximize sales, many 19th century composers would publish short pieces from their longer works as sheet music.  Strauss had six such pieces from Die Fledermaus published this way.  It was challenging for an amateur to play simply because of its speed, but this has remained one of Strauss' most popular (non-Waltz) pieces.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Seen on the way to the Willie Nelson concert


It's funny because it's true.

Elvis Otieno - The Kenyan Country Music scene

Kenya is largely rural and the majority of the people are farmers, so perhaps it's not surprising to find that the themes of Country Music resonate there.  They resonate so much that there is a huge Country Music scene there.  Interestingly, it's not the new "Country Pop", but rather the music from the '70s and '80s - Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers.  Much of this is due to Elvis Otieno, known as "Sir Elvis":
The celebrated musician, who is determined to bring country music to Africa and in particular Kenya says it has not been easy. "Every time we hit the stage, it was always a shock to most locals who couldn't imagine that a Kenyan could do country. That is the reason they love to listen to old-school country from the 1960s, 70s and 80s recorded in Nashville by the likes of Charley Pride and Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Don Williams and Skeeter Davis," he told Metropolitan.
It seems that Kenyan society is fertile ground for the themes of old school Country Music - God, hard work, family, striving, loss, but never giving up.
Despite being a Kenyan and an African, the story of his early life is straight out of an American country song. He was born in a whistle-stop town on Western Kenya's railroad line. He's the son of a pentecostal preacher who played gospel music on the guitar. 
"When I look back at my life, I'm like, okay, I think that's really country," he jokes. 
His family left Kenya for Norway when Elvis was seven, which explains the Scandinavian lilt as he croons Presley's songs. Norway is where he got serious about country music. He played in a country band. He started listening to new country, and as a student, he visited the US and attended in his first country concert: Shania Twain. 
Soon Elvis was consuming every country record he could find, finding a strong connection with the classic Opri-style country music made famous by Jim Reeves, Charley Pride and Dolly Parton, as well as new country sound of Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. 
Inevitably, he picked up a guitar and started making music of his own. And much like the classic wayfaring loner from a country song, he hasn't looked back since.
Here's Sir Elvis, doing a cover of a great Randy Travis song.

What Cost Love - A Brigid Guest Post

A good friend of mine got a terminal cancer diagnosis for her rescue dog yesterday.  Being a senior with cardiac issues, surgery was not an option.  This was a chapter from The Book of Barkley I shared with her and I hope it resonates with those of you who have dealt with the loss of a beloved pet.


What price love?
 
Today all told  - $811.46.  That's in addition to the $329.04 twelve days ago.

All to a tiny and pretty blond woman in a white lab coat named Alice who talks to Barkley down on her knees, at his level, looking into his eyes, like he is a human.  I swear he talks back to her.

It was another trip to the vet.  The soreness and slight limping that was thought to be muscle strain or early arthritis, (pending x-ray confirmation) did not respond to the drugs for that, even after a couple of weeks of very limited activity. Over only a couple of days, the slight limp went to full limp. Last night he refused food and wouldn't put his foot down, hopping on three legs.  This morning while squatting to poop in my neighbor the cop's yard (pooping in your own yard is for wimps!) he fell over, like cow tipping, without the moo. He was able to get up and slowly hop into the house with a "I meant to do that!" but with too much effort. The vet was called, then my team, who were expecting me for a load of fun today, that I had to trust the probies to handle themselves.

We were there by 10 for the x rays we'd discussed earlier.   Don't ask me how I got him into the bat truck since he can't jump, but being part Valkyrie really comes in handy.

The images on the x rays were such, a radiology specialist was consulted to look at a possibility we both are aware of, given his history, but weren't going to say yet.  Appendicula osteosarcoma.  A very aggressive bone cancer that manifests itself at the onset in lameness, the owner often trying other treatments until it's already spread to the lungs.  He's my 4th retriever so I know that lameness in a large-breed dog that does not promptly resolve with symptomatic therapy is a red flag we must check out.  So here we were, waiting, the silent ticking of his life in my ear.
While the images went to the radiologist, I went back to work, if only to the office, hiding in the Goat Closet (someone had to have fun with the placard) once to cry so no one would see.  When you're Gibbs, you can't get caught crying.

She called me with a sound in her voice that is some hope.  There was no visible tumor, and the specialist said the bone didn't have that (as best I can describe it to you) Swiss cheesy look you don't want to see.  It doesn't mean that cancer couldn't lurk, just not having manifested itself yet on x-ray but it gives us time to look at other things, minor infection, simple inflammation, he's faking it to get more treats.

I could have brought him home to the crash pad, but with a storm approaching, it was agreed they would keep him (he sometimes happily boards there when I'm working overnight) to monitor and run some more tests.  This will also help in keeping him quiet for a few days, while I go home for a night or two, a trip in the truck he would not want to make in pain, time to build a ramp so he can go out in the backyard without even those few stairs.  I brought his bed to which I added layers of foam underneath between the bedding and cover to keep him off the floor that could be cold, his toy, his treats.

I imagine I'll be writing a couple more checks later.

I don't mind.  We do a lot for love, we learn, we grow, we take chances, we hurt.  For one feisty blond woman I knew, finding out the guy who was calling her the "love of his life" was dating another woman at the same time, we show up at his stockholders meeting and light that brand new red Victoria's Secret number we bought for our anniversary, on fire and throw it on the table before storming out, head held high.

Most of us have lost someone close to us in our lives. A parent, a spouse, a friend, a beloved pet. It does not matter what form love takes, it becomes part of us, and losing it is like peeling away that outer layer of skin, leaving nerve endings exposed to the cold that bites with weasel teeth.   We all know that every life must end, but when it ends much too young or abruptly, it is just so hard to accept. For the true majestic, incandescent blindness of love is its willful refusal to fully acknowledge that at some time death or even circumstance will take someone from our lives here.

I remember a moment at Dad's not long ago, walking inside, carrying groceries and seeing my Dad so still on the couch, it appeared he wasn't breathing. For just an instant, everything went into high relief, like a scene in a 3-D movie - the Safeway bag dead weight in my arm, the sun glinting off my old piano against the wall, Dad's slippers on the floor.My whole life suspended, bathed in bright June sunlight. In the short terrible space between that moment and the next, when he opened his eyes and smiled, I got a glimpse of grief as it would look in this new incarnation. And perhaps, for those of us who have had that glimpse, it is partly the encroaching darkness that makes the light so vivid.
Artists understand this so well. Think of the paintings you have seen in a museum, that life force depicted in paintings of old, a succulent pear, a fox so finely wrought that a single drop of blood can be seen along a thin whisker. In studies of faces that bloom in layers of ancient varnish, the curve of a a child's innocence revealed gradually, the glint of light on a warriors steel or the promising, secret gleam in a woman's eye that belie the fact that the persons in these visages are now only framed by the earth, hundreds of years gone. For that moment, in those paintings, they are still with us.

I look at pictures of myself and of my own daughter, wondering if decades from now, the upcoming generations of our women will remember the strength and love from which they were born. I look at words I penned even five years ago, words that don't exist now in the same world, even though they were placed in space with these same hands on this old computer, as the same old clock ticked above, time discarded by moving hands.

I look at my Dad, sleeping more now, under an attic where lay a bundle of letters that give off a whisper of old longing and forever hope, carried across an ocean to lie above the woman who wrote them. Dad grieves and he gives thanks, for love still exists, even as the bones of it have crumbled to dust, becoming one with the soil, the love remains intact, impervious, where they had lain, there in the rich earth of a man's heart.
I look at a photo of my Mom taken in the woods she loved, long before she began that fight for her life. A heavy smoker, cancer was diagnosed when she was in her 40's. I remember watching as a youngster, when Dad would come home to that same house, with shadowed corners and open windows, in the town where I grew up, and he'd collapse on the sofa from worry and exhaustion. Losing my mother seemed impossible; she was never so alive as in those last years when she fought so hard to stay that way.  Still, death came too soon for her age, and for mine.

Yet she is still with me daily. Whenever you've been touched by love, be it of a parent, child or friend, even after they're been taken from you, a heart-print lingers,so that you're always reminded of the feeling of being cared for, knowing that, to someone, you mattered. You do not need a photo to remember that.
I remembered that when my Step Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers, a good and kind woman, lost in the shadows of her own mind, dancing to memories we couldn't see and crying out for those she didn't recognize.  I remembered it when both Dad and Big Bro were diagnosed with cancer, both still fighting even though they know who will eventually win.  I remember it every day I wake up and know, that even as my world dwindles, to someone, I am the form of love, one with bed-hair and waffle breath.

I so miss Barkley here this night and so I write. I hope you will join me in saying a little prayer for those that remain.  There are no guarantees, but we have today.  Every hour, every day is grace, even as I drive 7 hours round trip to make a ramp for a dog that will likely go out and buy a skateboard to play on it.

I am going to savor that, however.  For it's not what you've lost that counts, its what you do with what you have left, concentrating on the good things, so while we still are, we can still hope.
 - Brigid

Friday, November 3, 2017

Eric Clapton - Before You Accuse Me

Unplugged, baby.

Here's a great use for your leftover Halloween candy

Operation Gratitude sends it to the troops:
We are excited to work with you again this year to collect and donate sweet treats for our Deployed Troops and First Responders. Did you know that last year we received and distributed a record-setting 533,891 pounds of candy? Together, let’s break that record again this year!
This idea is so filled with win that it's in danger of collapsing into a black hole of win.  Here's where you can donate.

Do you understand enough about the Internet Of Things to use it?

This is interesting:
Every time a major Internet-connected-product is released, we keep coming back to the debate over security vs. convenience. The progression of arguments goes something like this:
  • One group expresses outrage/skepticism/ridicule of how this product doesn't need to be connected to the Internet;
  • Another group argues how the benefits outweigh the risks and/or how the risks are overblown;
  • There will be news stories on both sides of the issue, and the debate soon dies down as people move on to the next thing; and
  • Most users are left wondering what to believe.
If you've been reading here, you aren't wondering.
As a security researcher, I often wonder whether the conveniences offered by these Internet-connected-devices are worth the potential security risks. To meaningfully understand the nuances of this ecosystem, I consciously made these devices a part of my daily life over the past year. One thing immediately stood out to me: there seems to be no proper mechanism to help users understand the ramifications of the risk/reward tradeoffs around these commonly used “personal” Internet-connected-devices, which makes it difficult for users to have any sort of effective understanding of their risks. I pointed out the same in a recent CNN Tech article about Amazon Key, where I also said:
A simple rule of thumb here could be to visualize the best case, average case, and worst case scenarios, see how each of those affect you, and take a call on whether you are equipped to deal with the fall out, and whether the tradeoffs are worth the convenience.
This is  a really good idea.  The article is long but very thought provoking.  The one thing that I would add is that there isn't a snowball's chance in the Mojave Desert that this will happen.  The reason is that security is the last thing on the IoT designer's minds.  IoT engineering funding comes from one of a very few places:

  1. The existing appliance sales are flat, so quick add Internet connectivity to the refrigerator/stove/etc.  The goal is to raise the price point by adding cool and flash.
  2. Adding Internet connectivity to the device is "Insanely Great" and will let you sell to people who want to "Think Different".  Hey, it worked for Apple, didn't it?
  3. Someone wants to spy on you, and so makes your Barbie doll or whatever "Interactive".

In none of these cases do any of the marketing folks want you to actually be able to understand the risks you are introducing into your home.  Heck, I've been doing this for over 30 years and I can't understand the risks.

And so my approach is to say "not just 'no' but 'HELL no'" to any IoT devices.  Sorry, I don't want a cool refrigerator, I want one that keeps my food cold (at a low cost).  Sorry, I don't care if you think I should "think different".  And as to spying - yeah, that's typically my starting assumption for all of these devices.


That's probably unfair, to the devices and to the people who designed them.  But without the slightest possibility of figuring out just what is being done to me, that's actually my best option.  It very well may be your best option, too.  At least until Silicon Valley marketroids earn some of our trust back.