Friday, March 31, 2017

Dating advice

Posted as a public service to my young Gentlemen Readers.  I'm told that the chicks dig this sort of thing.

Well, it's what I was told ...

Happy World Backup Day!

Except every day is World Backup Day.  But that's as good an excuse to party as any. (you should read the article at the link, which offers great advice on how to keep from losing your data)

It's been a while since I've beat this drum, but you do know that backing up your data is perhaps the most important security act you can do?  I thought you did.

Older posts on the topic:

The Most Important Part Of Computer Security (2010)

Back Up Your Data (2012)

Important Security Rule: Back Up Your Data (2013)

Where's Your Backup (2014, posted by co-blogger ASM826 who does this for a living)

Wind and Bone - A Brigid Guest Post

Before this fire of sense decay,
This smoke of thought blow clean away,
And leave with ancient night alone
The stedfast and enduring bone.
-A.E. Houseman The Immortal Part

I woke at about 3:30 and entered the bathroom, only to be confronted by what was either a giant gnat, or a drone.  In either event, I dispatched it with a size seven moose slipper and crawled back into bed, trying to go back to sleep.  Working split duty schedules always wears me out, knowing I might go to work at 2 am, so catching a nap after doing 10 hours earlier then NOT going to work, getting little sleep, only to go out late afternoon, working into the night.

It's not good for the waistline or any sort of regular social plans, but it's a rhythm that's as familiar to me as the sound of wheels hitting a runway.

There's a band of severe weather up north right now, creeping on down as if it's slow enough we won't notice.  I hope the phone doesn't ring tonight.  If I'm lucky, it would just be heavy rain, and I'm not outside standing somewhere looking like a 5 foot 8 lightning pole. I have a mental picture of what that might turn out like and think to a sign on a restaurant wall in St. Petersburg that said "Parachute for sale,  never opened, used once, small stain."

It looks like thunderstorms are building, but I will hope for only rain.
Rain, I'm familiar with, the family having left Montana but for a summer vacation rental to move out near the Washington coast.  I like the rain. The rain washes clean, but it as well leaves its mark. Gouges from rivulets in the calloused summer soil, as if scraped by hard nails. Bullet strikes in the hard earth. Marks that will not fade until further rain falls, warm spring rain that nourishes and renews.

Just as my first Spring here in the Midwest was a revelation, my first Winter was an eye opener, despite from being from a Montana family. Dense fogs of ice crystals that coated everything, thundersnow, and winds that would blow off the prairie from the West, rampaging clippers that came down from Alberta, bearing with them not a friendly greeting but rather, a sudden, sharp slap in the face.

It's a cold blowing truth that there's something within all of us that can be gathered up, strengthened. Something commanding that can change the form of a life. The weather brings components of force, some deep innate working in ourselves. Lightning cleaving the sky as a machete, the smell of cordite in the air lingering like gunpowder. Thunder echoing as a  brace of artillery booming under a gunmetal sky, the power of the sky a transcendent weapon that can form or scar, however we view it, the landscape of our world.

Sometimes one has to work outside in it, bundled up in farm wear or Arctic military wear. You do what you need to, wind lamenting, whispers of darkness, the earth, your own voice, the sound in your ear of another voice, evocative of evenings of past warmth, keeping you moving, for to stop moving out here is to freeze to death.
I delivered my first calf here, the calf not budging from his mothers womb, the mother not helping in any fashion, for reasons known only to her. There's no easy way to do this but to go in, and help position the calf, hoping I don't get a broken arm from contractions for my efforts. There, the head, my fingers finding the mouth, the feel of the unborn tongue, there tasting, life and breath and air in my fingers. There is nothing in the world more lonely than being there for the birth of a solitary creature or the death of one.  A little reposition, a good push from mama, the spreading of bone and he is out, protesting heartily as outside thunder flashed, illuminating sweat and blood and for this night at least, new life.

It is a wonder to me how that bone spreads, yet when I see those telltale marks upon the bones, in human remains, those marks on the dorsal side on the pubic symphysis near the margins of the articular surfaces and in the preauricular grooves or sulci of the ilia, they aren't to my eyes, notches of childbirth, they are the scars of sacrifice to save just one solitary life.
I stayed in that place, in the shadow of that barn, until the house was empty and the land grew blood, looking in the mirror one day, motionless, eyes downcast, looking as if I was waiting for that blow I'd already received.

It was time to move on, but not away.

Someone close to me asked why I was fascinated with the science of bones. I didn't answer him at the time, but I will now. I have studied bones untouched by anything but time. I have studied bones in fragments, co-mingled with hundreds of others, burned and broken and laid bare to the elements. Still, I am always fascinated by the strength of that which is unfleshed. They are what lies at the center of us, not the heart, but that part of us that is the last thing to ever be dissolved, even if cut or disassembled or burned. It is the hardest, strongest most unwavering part of us, that which supports us, the last piece of us that remains of this earth when everything else is lost. It's the surviving remnant of all that was dear to us.
But even the strongest of bone can be broken under the fragility of human flesh, as fate resolves us of all integrity, leaving us as wrenched asunder of all that was, smells of cooling flesh and salty tears, illusions of ice and rain and fire, detached and secret, yet oh so familiar. How easy when we are so very young, to think we are invincible, that our choices are the right ones.

Certainly, some of my adventures would indicate that I too subscribed to such moments. But with adulthood, not only comes responsibility but awareness. Suddenly, for myriads of reasons, aging, fear, illness, the evil intent of man, the people around you, as reliable as the sunrise, can, without warning, leave you. In their absence, the sound of their goodbyes resonates in the emptying heart of your soul. You hear it always, but you do not respond to that fading sound, for to do so would be to admit to your own mortality.
But I hear the echo. I see it in the shape and form of things broken past integrity. I see it in a stormy sky, as lightning stains the dark, cold air shaping cold earth in cold darkness. I see it walking the landscape as the earth warms anew, the sky, blind and warm upon me, touching my skin, my form a wet seed growing wild in the cold dark earth.

I think of that as my firearm pushes against bone, as the truck hits a bump, driving under a night as deep and black as the river Styx.  The pistol's on my hip as I drive miles through county after county, past fields waiting to be planted and later, fields of hay, huddled like Iroquois lodges, totems of silos standing solitary and watching.  Somewhere out here tonight will be the truth, when nature and fate poured forth its fury, spilling liquid, scotching earth.
As I drive, I watch the sky for the massing of clouds, the vertebrates of a  highway passing underneath, the soft thump of tires as it passes over those small ridges of calcified earth and asphalt bone. It's a comfort to me, like this landscape, hard and practical yet capable of great strength and the flexibility to withstand what the heavens can throw at it. So strong and delicate, the bones of man and earth.

I stand in a field, placing small flags to mark what my eye has captured, the wind picking up, swirling around the dust of spent lusts and ancient lies, ghosts of sad reflection, a hundred thoughts never formed and a thousand words never uttered. Wind sweeping my head of any emotion other than the task at hand, until the very roar of it  is a warning to look up. When I do, when I truly look at the sky, I know in a moment when I can safely cast my eyes back down, or run for shelter.  It's like listening in an ancient church to a priest chanting in a tongue which I do not even need to know to comprehend. They are words that belong in the defensive perception of light and order which is our safety.

I put my tools back into the soil, leaving my own parturition scar, trying to save a life by it's closure, even if it's mine. I keep one eye on the horizon, even as I return to work.  Whatever you do, don't blink.
You watch, your prepare, and sometimes, like other things in life, it sneaks up on you, one moment calm and upright the next, flashes of light against the sky, wheels running hard and fast either toward or away, previously dying leaves blown into fence rows, coming back to life with movement. The sky comes hungering after the land like a hungry wolf, something struggling for life between them, pulled and tossed with need, something flaring up as old as time, as necessary as water.

You never know when the wind will come up, how it will touch you. You can arrive in this land as cold and hard and flat as the armor the land is laid with and eventually the wind will arise, a murmuring voice that calls you in the night, warm rain released like coins from above, falling like a gift, seeping in under your surface, leaving only a small telltale drops on your skin as the sky clears. You look at the table, there laying side by side, a small stamped envelope with your name on it and some change, pennies from heaven indeed.

From outside comes the crack of thunder, the rain tattooing itself onto the roof as a truck door slams.  From inside, the soft bark of a gentle dog, nipping at the wind like the rain itself.

 - Brigid 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Roy Buchanan - Down By The River

The Queen Of The World found this, which is entirely made of win.  Crosby, Stills, and Nash did this originally, but Roy's version is so much better.

Deal alert: "Victory At Sea" DVD set to $9.99

A couple weeks ago I posted my regular Sunday classical music, using Richard Rodger's theme from Victory At Sea.  Many readers left wistful comments about how they grew up with that.  Well, now you can get the 3 DVD set of the complete set of shows for a song:
Now, all 26 groundbreaking episodes of Victory at Sea have been lovingly restored, complete with new introductions for each episode. EVERY collector should add this to their collection. 

Originally sold on TV for $199.99, you can get all 26 Original Episodes that have been Digitally Restored for the unbelievable price of JUST$9.99.
I have no connection to the seller, just think that this is a crazy good deal.

The orbiting (Libertarian) Mind Control Ray

Anarcho-capitalist revolutionary and former blogger extraordinaire TJIC emails with interesting news:
Since we last spoke I moved out of the socialist hell hole of
Massachusetts, and am now living on a farm in New Hampshire.

I hope all is even half as well with you!

I've got a favor to ask:

I recently finished a science fiction novel and I've launched it via

It's very red-tribe, so I think your readers would like it (if someone
is a Larry Correia / Robert Heinlein / Neal Stephenson fan, this is
right up their alley).

If you could mention it to your readers, I'd really appreciate it!

The link takes you to a delicious description of Hard Science Fiction which he has endeavored to capture.  Here's a flavor of what will be one of your best reads today:
I've flipped past thousands of books featuring tattooed Strong Woman vampire hunters, Hollywood love stories that have nothing to do with science fiction except that they're set on a spaceship, tales of beautiful intuitive women who must choose between suitors while arranging a revolution against the Bad People, adolescent wizards, and more, while looking for the novels I want to read.

Where are the Heinleins, the Nivens, the Pournelles, of today? Sure, there are a few - but not enough.

Out of frustration, I finally wrote the novels that I wanted to read - and with this kickstarter, you can read them too.

If you, like me, drifted away from science fiction because it gravitated from hard to squishy-soft, then you should check this out.  There's even a video at the ink.  Alas, it's about his novel, rather than the greatest anarchy-capitalist TV script ever written.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Your Internet Provider might sell your browser history

Your ISP will be able to sell your Internet history:
The US House of Representatives has just approved a "congressional disapproval" vote of privacy rules, which gives your ISP the right to sell your internet history to the highest bidder. 
The measure passed by 215 votes to 205
This follows the same vote in the Senate last week. Just prior to the vote, a White House spokesman said the president supported the bill, meaning that the decision will soon become law.
This is all about "Net Neutrality", and whether ISPs are treated like telephone companies.  The article does a good job of explaining the background.  TL;DR: things are a mess and you need to take responsibility for protecting your own privacy.

Which you had to anyway.

The good news is that anything that is encrypted can't be read by your ISP, so they can't sell it.  More and more traffic is encrypted.  Make sure that your email is (most people use a web browser to get email, so you can check for the lock button in the URL bar).

DuckDuckGo is my search engine of choice, because they don't track your search history.  All traffic to them is encrypted, so that protects you from your ISP.

Probably you don't need to worry about your ISP collecting data on your social media use (Facebook, Twitter, etc) because the social media companies already do this.  You don't have any privacy here, so you're not likely to be worse off if your ISP starts recording this.  The social media sites may encrypt everything anyway, because they don't want to share your data with other sharks.

This blog is encrypted (check the URL bar and you will see the padlock icon).  That doesn't help because Google owns Blogger, and so Google is recording everything.  Sorry.

UPDATE: Here are some suggestions about what you can do.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On Leadership - A Brigid Post

Back when I was in my late 20's, I had an evaluation for a entry-level leadership position for an outfit I worked for.  It was something in which no woman had ever held the position and certainly not anyone my age.  I'd like to say I was cool and collected but I was nervous as hell.  At any point in the interview, I expected the next thing out of my mouth to be a Homer Simpson utterance of "Beer" or "Donut".   The senior folks read through my resume (oh please, please tell me I used the word "Statistical" and not "Sadistical") and commented on the recent MBA (not my first choice in studies, but I knew that just being a science geek or a pilot isn't guarantee of leadership positions later).  They also mentioned my age (back in those days you didn't have HR breathing down your next going "Good Heavens, Man, you can't ask THAT question?")

After the technical type questions I did OK at - came the deal breaker - "Describe your organizational skills".

I thought of all those classes, I thought of Peter Drucker books and multi-attribute, utility diagrams; I thought of getting a big box of an airplane across a big desert with steam gauges and sweat. One never forget those flights, suspended in space, hanging from a point between mobility and absolutely motion, thinking there is no better job as you chase the wind, knowing it's too good to last. I thought of budgets and acquisitions and purchase orders and how none of them do you any good when you're looking down at miles of open water late one night and the EICAS panel is lit up like a Christmas tree and everyone is looking at you to make a decision before the other one flames out.
All those things I thought, but what came out of my mouth without pausing for breath, was "I once cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 23 pilots including real mashed potatoes and pie without a microwave and everything was hot on the table at the same time."

"Oh, Crap, did I just SAY that?"  I thought as I felt a breeze on my cheek, the ax falling, most likely. What's next, a conversation about dishware and shoes?

But I got hired.  A couple days later I was riding herd on a couple hundred people.  I hoped they didn't all expect pie.
I've been in command positions a good part of my life, on the ground, in the air. I'm not usually just the only woman leader, I'm often the only woman-- period.  I spent the last 7 years as the leader of a group for several years, in a unit, that with one brief exception, had been all male, I was their first female team leader.  I was replacing a former General. .But I tried to show them, through my own work ethic that I was engaged (and I think my email that I was probably personally responsible for the media hyped bacon shortage won them over). I miss that team dearly, all but one Veterans, all strong men, strong personalities. We had some losses, and we've had some laughs (specifically someone in defense that once called a planned Post 9/11 tabletop exercise among various agencies as a  "Practical Exercise Not Involving Soldiers".  Yes, Operation PENIS had us in stitches before someone caught that and changed the name.  But I needed to take a position that didn't have me away from my husband half the month.

I wouldn't trade those years for anything and it's the reason I spent at least two weeks a month away from my husband for several years, not willing to give it up for a desk at headquarters quite yet. My husband too is a leader.  He knows that if he asked-- I'd quit my career in a heartbeat as he is more important, just as he knows he won't ask that of me, for he totally gets it.

These thoughts here tonight, are based on the core principals of military leadership that many have passed on to me by my Dad and my superiors, as well as things I just learned by watching bad leaders as well as making my own mistakes, finding my way.  I revisit them regularly, and with humbleness.
Seek out your strengths and weaknesses, even the ones you can't see yet, and look to improve on those daily.  Do it openly, do it quietly, but each day try to improve on something in which you are lacking and perform just a bit better on those things of which you are skilled.  Teach those with you to do the same.

You can get away with not knowing how to play Dungeons and Dragons but if you are managing people, you must know the latest of technical developments in your field and how to use them to deploy your resources. Never stop learning.

Seek responsibility and take it.  A key leadership principle is that we ALL make mistakes, but it's how we respond to them that separates the "men from the boys", as they say. If you make a mistake and blame someone else, no one is ever going to trust you again  (though some people might be stupid enough to vote for you again).

Your Mom doesn't work here.  If you screw something up, own it, don't wait for someone to make an excuse for you or correct it for you.  If you break it, fix it, if you open it, close it. You are accountable for your actions, you are accountable for your outcomes.
Act with your head, not other parts of the body.  You're angry, desperate or just want to fling a colleague into the next county with a trebuchet? Don't.  Take a deep breath, go drink some cold water and deal with it rationally. Once you've acted rashly or solely on emotion or hormones, you will lose ground you don't get back. If you're already perceived as weak, it can be fatal, as a leader.

The rules that apply to your team, apply to you.  If they have to sort it, document it, retain it, verify it, or fill out 8 forms for it,  SO DO YOU.

Lead from the front. You are setting the example. If you are thinking "just this one time",  or "let's take a shortcut",  "let's just this once, sacrifice a (little) standard", whatever it is, then your team will be OK with it too when you're not looking.  Hold yourself to a higher standard, and they will try to as well.

Waffles are great for breakfast but they make lousy leaders.  Think out your decisions and take into account, every bit of information you can get when you make them, asking those who are more informed and, if they aren't available, then questioning yourself.  But make them decisively. Do NOT wait for popular opinion or the news cameras to come out to make them.

Questions are less bloody than not asking them.

Know yourself, but know your team as well, and look out for their welfare like your own.  Loyalty may be bought, but only very briefly. Be compassionate, but be firm, and be clear that what they offer is important. If they know that they can count on you, you can count on them.

We all have wounds that drive us and the scar tissue usually isn't visible.  Understand what drives your people, what gets their hackles up, what motivates them not to be in some particular place.  Never be so busy that you fail to listen to them about something that may sound like it has nothing to do with the team.  It will have everything to do with the team.

Successful missions come in threes - the mission you plan, the mission you do, and the mission you wish you had done.

Some things are classified, but don't be a mushroom farmer.  Keep people informed.  Share those things that may not necessarily be their specialty, or even within their current technical grasp. They will learn, and they will feel included and valuable, for they are.

Go into battle with them.  Don't sit at your comfy desk with your giant mocha latte every single time they hit the field when conditions are beyond crappy or risky.  Get out, be in front, and get seriously dirty and a bit dinged up with them.  Never forget those places that got you to that desk and revisit them when you can.

Successful completion of a task depends on how well you know your unit’s capabilities. Don't give out a task you have not prepared them to do.  Experiments are for a science lab, not the field.

You set the standards by what behaviors you ignore, reward and punish.

There is no "I" in "Team" but there's "Me" if you rearrange the letters.  Yes, and No.  Respect the individual, know the individual.  But train and cross train as a team, individuals have weaknesses, teams learn to compensate and overcome them.  Reward is not the only thing shared, responsibility is.

Have a sense of humor. It can disarm, it can engage. Don't overuse it, and in the workplace, avoid with strangers, but never forget it.  And someday, when I'm retired and all witnesses are dead, I'll tell you a story about getting someone to collect evidence by milking a goat.

Just because it's not your fault, doesn't mean it's not your problem.

Trust but Verify. You have to trust your team to do their job without micromanaging every step.  But verify it's done to the standards you have set, standards that are clearly communicated and adequately supervised. For their mistakes aren't just theirs, they are yours, for you are accountable to your superiors.

People like rewards, be it monetary or even a plate of home-baked cookies - but that's not why they sign up to work with you when there are other choices.

Recognize not just physical courage but moral courage.  Standing firm on values, principles, and convictions is just as important as putting life and limb on the line.

Know your limitations. Not just your own, but the limitations of your team and the individuals that comprise it, as well as those of your organization as a whole, at the highest level.  If you know that, you know when to call in back up and how and who to call for back up.  And don't be afraid to, no matter whose toes or egos get stepped on.  There are jobs where failing that might mean a bad meal, a bad haircut, loss of income, or a loss of face for someone.  In some positions, failing that means people will die.  NEVER forget that.

Never get so self-important that you can't take advice from the probie and thank them for that.

Dishwasher has a 20 year old security bug

The Internet of Lousy Things shows once again that security wasn't an afterthought, it wasn't thought of at all:
Don't say you weren't warned: Miele went full Internet-of-Things with a network-connected dishwasher, gave it a web server, and now finds itself on the wrong end of a security bug report – and it's accused of ignoring the warning. 
The utterly predictable vulnerability advisory on the Full Disclosure mailing list details CVE-2017-7240 – aka "Miele Professional PG 8528 - Web Server Directory Traversal.” This is the builtin web server that's used to remotely control the glassware-cleaning machine from a browser. 
“The corresponding embedded Web server 'PST10 WebServer' typically listens to port 80 and is prone to a directory traversal attack, therefore an unauthenticated attacker may be able to exploit this issue to access sensitive information to aide in subsequent attacks,” reads the notice, dated Friday. 
Proving it for yourself is simple: Using a basic HTTP GET, fetch...
...from whichever IP address the dishwasher has on your network to reveal the shadow password file on its file system. That's pretty sad.
This attack was the 'sploit hotness in 1997.  Congratulations, Miele: you have a 20 year old security bug in your shiny brand new dishwasher.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Warning about phone calls from the "IRS"

I've been getting a couple calls where a recorded voice says that the IRS has a warrant for my arrest and I need to talk to them to settle up my back taxes.  If you get one of these, HANG UP.  The IRS does not work this way - if they want to communicate with you, they send you a letter via snail mail.

These are like the Nigerian Prince, only via telephone (almost certainly Voice over IP, or VOIP, which lets them call from pretty much anywhere in the world toll free).  Just hang up if you get one of these nuisance calls.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Maurice Ravel - Une Barque sur L'Ocean

Today is the birthday of Nathaniel Bowditch, born this day in1773.  Bowditch is considered the founder of modern maritime navigation.  A mathematical prodigy, he began work correcting the calculation tables in other navigation books, finally deciding to write his own.  What made his different was his determination to "put down nothing in the book that I cannot teach the crew."  The resulting American Practical Navigator is still in common use today, and is carried aboard every U.S. Navy ship.

In honor of Mr. Bowditch and his gift to the seafaring world, here is a musical sketch of a ship sailing the ocean currents by Maurice Ravel.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Out riding

Up to Lancaster PA with the local HOG chapter. So far I'm keeping to my resolution to ride in each month this year. Photo taken by the Queen Of The World.

A Sea of Open Sky - A Brigid Post

An aircraft engine has as many variances of sound as a human.  There are satisfied hums, deep throated snarls, and the incessant whine of someone who is never satisfied no matter what you do for them.  Then, there is that sound, in and of itself, the sound of an aircraft engine over the ocean at night, when there is not enough fuel to turn back, only to go forward to a far away shore

The sea is a broad expanse that neither eye nor voice can span, and when it's calm it lulls you into a false sense of comfort as the engines hum and you gaze out the window with clear, unconscious eye. You are not pondering thoughts that come to you poignant and silent, the order of your conscious, the conduct of life if there really is a proper way to die.  You are not thinking of the operational capacities of a Vickers Pump or your own limitations.  No, you are thinking about the really cold beer you will have at the end of a day, and the laughter of companionship.  That is when you hear it, or think you hear it. That sound.
"Oh, that's not right" you think and then you hear it again, that asthmatic thump.  As you check EPR's and pressures and temperatures, somewhere in your head are the words:  "An engine driven, two element (centrifugal and gear) fuel pump supplies high pressure fuel to the engine. Loss of the gear element of the fuel pump will result in flameout."  You feel no fear, only annoyance, at the callous outcry of machinery and cold water that have caught you unawares, making you give up your daydream of cold beer and a warm bed  and confirming unreasonably, your fondness for narrow escapes.

Then it is gone, if it ever occurred at all except in your mind, the engine only emitting a steady, slow hum, like somnolent bees.  But your senses are back on red alert, that seeming malfunction that the mind hears on such over water trips, ministering to a boldness as forged as its own pretense of  fear. What is it to fly such a vast distance, one youngster asked me once? I replied, " it seems like 999 minutes of boredom and 1 minute of stark terror."
You either loved or hated your ship.  Aircraft, in general, are easy to fall in love with, with their ever present potency and  mysterious uncertainty.  Even as a child I dreamed of them, watching  them fly overhead, the contrails a heroic thread, the sun glinting on their promise. But they varied among even the same make and model, twins of different mothers.

Then there were the mornings where you went out to the flight line and there, on the tarmac, perched four large birds, three of them bright, shining and gleaming, perfect in form.  And the fourth, older than the dirt upon it,  with a stain of fluid on the ground underneath, the Scarlet Letter of hydraulic fluid.  The smiling crew chief  is happy to introduce you to them like an old Puritan father to a prospective bridegroom "here are my four daughters, Faith, Hope Charity and Pestilence", and you know which one you are going to end up with. Even if you got a good aircraft,  there would be days they could be as unruly as a mule, refusing to start, to move, and occasionally willing to give you a swift kick.  It is sometimes the smallest of things that can be your undoing.
But it's not just your own craft turning on you that you have to be concerned about on such trips.  Weather over the ocean is its own continent.  Perhaps not so much now, but 20 years ago, when I was a pup with four strips on my delicate shoulders that were not yet tarnished, weather planning for ocean crossing was less meteorology and more alchemy. I think about many long flights, our course drawn out with paper, not electronic blips of a satellite fix, a small x marking a fuel stop, a small cross marking our destination, a line marking the path. where we as Pilgrims, sought out that holy place, that grail of a full night's sleep.

I remember one flight that would have a stop on an island, a piece of land in the middle of an ocean, just big enough for a tourist's fat wallet and the occasional aircraft.  There was great oceanic storm brewing off in a distance, but it was to have no impact on our flight path, according to all of the aviation weather experts.  Still, as the craft pitched ponderously in air that was to have been still, even if the sky was clear, there was this nagging tickle at the back of my neck, that said "should have stayed in bed".  As we passed the calculated point of go on or retreat back to base,  the controllers telling us it looked good ahead, the clouds began to build and form, not so huddled we couldn't easily pick our way through them with the right tilt of an antenna, but building nonetheless, and rapidly.
As we got within a hundred miles of our destination, they built into full blown thunderstorms, releasing their energy in broken bursts that boomed like the barrage of heavy artillery firing at a very small enemy. The air was full of flying water, heavy sheets of rain that extended well past the individual cells, landmines with up and downdrafts I was trying to avoid.  It was supposed to be clear and sunny, no alternate landing site required, our biggest concern being what food we could get to eat before taking off again.

My copilot was very young and fairly inexperienced, not with the craft, as he was fully trained, but to this whole environment.  I could sense him getting pretty nervous.  I just smiled and said "we're almost there". There is no quitting in this sort of thing, and often there is no going back. You endure because you have a conviction in the truth of what you are doing, duty being not a thing, but a name, that establishes the order, the mortality of conduct and the outcome.

"Skipper?", a gentle voice from my right.

We checked the weather for our landing destination. The wind was very heavy but not beyond the limits of my skill or the aircraft's proven handling, but it was going to be Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  What concerned me more was the torrential rain, barely enough ceiling and visibility to land, "barely" being optimistic but enough to make the  Precision Instrument approach and hopefully see the required lighting.  Otherwise, we'll declare an emergency, get a good signal on the approach, keep the needles centered and the donut amber and fly it to the ground. There were no other options when the nearest bit of land is hours past the fuel you have.
My copilot, on hearing the terminal weather, gently stammered a "what are we going to do?"

We were either going to succeed or we were going to be scorched by a flame that fate will flick at us without pity, with no time to utter any last words of faith or regret.  But I wasn't going to tell him that.

I gave him  my sweetest  smile and said simply -

 "We're going to land this mother*(#*er".

And we did, dropping our nose and descending down into that somber wall of rain and grey that seemed the very stronghold of that small place we were trying to breach, picking up the runway there through the rain at the right moment, the wind pounding us like surf. When we landed,  my copilot wanted to kiss the ground. I simply gave my aircraft a grateful pat on the nose, like the trusty stead it was, as it stood there, trembling in the wind as if it had just run a great race.

I'd not ever quite seen weather change so violently and rapidly outside of the forecast. Apparently Mr. "Giant Rotation of Water and Air" took a sharp bend in the hours we were aloft, pushing some weather up our way.  Not yet  hurricane strength by any means, just the nasty stuff you generally try and avoid.

After that, I think I was owed my 999 minutes of boredom and just wanted to go perch on a bar stool somewhere dry.
There have been many other storms, ones with premeditated gales of wind that seemed to have a fierce purpose all of their own, a furious attentiveness in the howl and rush of air that  it seemed to personally seek us out. But that did not summon in me a feeling of fear but rather, a deep sense of  awe in the power of our planet, though I might have said a quick prayer to the Patron Saint of landing gear (that's good to minus 2 g's extended),  prior to touchdown.

There were days we left the ramp, to launch into that deep sea that is the sky, no one to see us off,  as in days of old, where the ships left port while some quiet mothers and anxious maidens cried waved lace handkerchiefs and dreamed undrowned dreams. We were on the move so much, most of us had no time for such ties, our connections were brief sparks from cold stone, unexpected and as short lived. For now, at least, we just had our crew and crew chief that, who, while immensely competent, normally ate tacks for breakfast and was typically as excited to see us arrive or leave a house cat.

There were days of fierce delights, of sun that bounced off the nose, like some  weaponized ray of an alien craft, its power deflected by mere sheet metal, and more relays that anyone knew (seriously, when they built this craft, SOMEONE was having a sale on relays). There were nights we hung motionless in the air, with no sense of motion, ourselves a futuristic craft that flew beyond a brace of suns into the darkness, awaiting the kiss of imminent adventures.
It was also long work and hard work.  It was machinery that would break in a place of isolation and natives that had long pointy guns, requiring kitchen sink repairs with a manual you wished you had brought with you, which was like trying to explain the order of the universe with one brief, hazy glimpse of truth.  It was learning to trust equally, providence and the immutable laws of physics.  But its reward was great.

I understood the conjured  diplomacy of relationship between earth and sky, alive to its looming dangers and measured mercies.  I bore the power of the atmosphere and the criticism of men, the levy of duty and common severity of the tasks that build a backbone and enables you to break bread.  It's a life that will check the edge of your temper and the point of your command; that will affirm the character of your fight  and the hidden  truth of your fears. It's a life that beguiles as it disenchants, a life that  frees you even as you willingly let it enslave you.

Our world was long drawn out days, a future that disappeared moment by moment into history, days that fell  forever into the arms of the sea or drifted down upon deserts or  mountains where they caught and hung on the landscape like clouds. Our world was one aircraft, that fired up with a belch of smoke, then hung there, lonely under that smoke, til we were released with a quick salute.
It was an orderly world that revolved around a specific precise and measured way of doing something, while working in an environment that cared little about either prevision or order.  You were trained in every possible outcome, only to find that circumstance that wasn't like you were trained for.  Then you discover the most unyielding of haunts of mans own nature, wrapped up in a question like rolled steel, more chilling than your brief mortality.  And that is the distrust of the absolute power consecrated in an established standard of conduct. You can go off the path, right?, boldly go where no man has gone before.  It works out in the movies, doesn't it? Then, in that instant between heroism and insanity,  you realize what you are made of, for the only thing that will save you,  is that trust, and you take off your cowboy hat,  get out that checklist and do what is expected of you.

I don't miss it, and I do, there on those nights, when the golden blaze of sunset bites into the rim of the earth and the night casts its shadow upon me.  On such nights  I see the form of an aircraft overhead, not the modern airliner,  but a craft that's seen some battles, one with ancient radios, and tired rigging, visible there in the last remnant of light.  I don't see them often, but when I do, I simply stand, there in that slant of light, the form moving away to the heart of a sky that is its own vast enigma. Only the moon now watches me, hanging in the sky like a slender shaving of pale wood. I watch that aircraft until it's only a flash of a strobe, one that captures all that last bit of light in the sky, disappearing  into the darkness, gone, even as it's forever contained in the center of it.

The sky is an incomplete story and for that I am grateful.
 - Brigid

Friday, March 24, 2017

World War II B-17 pilot goes up in one again

"I remember now why I'm hard of hearing," he said. "A thousand hours of those engine grinding in my ears probably didn't help."

20 years old and in command of 12 bombers and 120 crew.  I expect he was harder to "trigger" than today's 20 year olds.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Carbon Dioxide levels hit "Point of no return"

Rick emails to point out the latest climate change news:
Levels rose 3 ppm to 405.1 ppm in 2016, putting CO2 at its highest levels in over 10,000 years. This increase matched the record rise recorded in 2015, when CO2 levels officially passed 400 ppm, which climate scientists call the “point of no return.” After this mark, they claim, climate change is irreversible.
His question is whether since this is irreversible, the Usual Suspects will now shut up about it.  Confidence is not high on that.  The other question is whether they read Borepatch.  Sadly, confidence is not high on that, either.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Single Malt Scotch Paring - A Surprise from Brigid

Wine and food tastings have been around for a long time. One thing though, wine,a typical ladies favorite, is not my drink of choice. I really like a good beer and I'll have a sip of wine with a meal, a red, Merlot perhaps, but honestly I'd just rather just skip the flirtation and cut right to the chase.

The after dinner Scotch whisky. 

Wine is someone showing up with flowers at the door.  A good scotch is tumbling under a blanket in front of the fire and "the dog just stole my socks!"

Wine is  often paired with cheese.  Scotch and cheese? Uh. . . no thanks.

But chocolate?

Scotch and chocolate pairings are not an invention of the Range but it's not something I'd tried, until my best gal friend came back from the West Coast with some of the most incredible artisan chocolate,  TCHO - New American Chocolate and rumors of such late night hook ups.
 "bartender -the Titanic saw less ice, make it neat please"

I have admitted I am new to Scotch, only trying it well into adulthood.  At first I was a typical "I don't have a clue what I'm sipping or what I'm tasting" but with another novice pilot friend, we branched out in learning the various nuances of a dram.
Wilbur  - I detect an undertone of saddle leather
Ed - Perhaps, and a hint of straw.

Soon, I was hooked on the wonderful world of good Scotch. Pair that with the finest chocolate?  I'm game.
When you really don't need that second gun safe.

Not all pairings will work and single malts are definitely the way to go as they have very particular flavor profiles, as do single origin chocolates (chocolate that’s grown in a particular place for specific flavor qualities.) They can be herbal, grassy, fruity or smoky.

Adding to the confusion, whisky has not only  many different personalities, a single dram can have many distinct notes.  You start with the nose, then progress to the palate, and finally, the finish.  Chocolate too, is similar.  There's the snap as you break it, the subtle aroma under the nose and then the rich complexities of taste, fully released from the cacao butter as it melts, at perfect mouth temperature.
As a general rule, whisky opens up the taste of the chocolate well, and chocolate mitigates a bit of the alcohol burn.  But some chocolate is so intense it could clobber the subtleties of some whisky, some is so bland, the whisky will not let it get a word in edgewise. To truly work well, the aroma and flavor of both the Scotch and the chocolate need to complement one another, with the regional characteristics of both playing a key roll in the effectiveness of the pairing.

To truly get a combination you love, you need to learn your own palate, what you like and then experiment.  If you're just used to wine tastings, be prepared for a wonderful surprise.  Scotch has so much more of a greater mouth feel than wine, so get ready to grab your bits of fine chocolate and exploit the taste to its fullest potential.

Until then - I'll leave you with a few of my own findings  - a quick Brigid primer on Whisky and Chocolate Pairings.

Cu Dhub (bastard offspring of Loch Du and WD40) and Hersheys (like eating a cocoa Yankee candle)

Edradour 10yo (burn a gummi bear with an acetylene torch) and Coconut M and M's (choco/sunblock)

Tullibardine 10yo (endorsed by soccer hooligans everywhere) and Nestle's Crunch (asphalt and gravel)

Tamnavulin 10yo (rated "OK" by drunken Australian Infantrymen) and Venchi Cuor di Cacao 85% (ever stick your tongue on a frozen metal girder?)

Cragganmore 12yo (gentlemen prefer blands) and Pralus Venezuela 75% (the dark roast deflowers any delicate flavorings this chocolate once had)

Must Try -

Bowmore 15 and Lindt A Touch of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate

Laphroaig 18
and Lindt Madagascar 65% Chocolate 

Ardbeg Uigeadail
and Picaro Salt and Nibs

Glengoyne 23 year
and L’Artisan du Chocolat: Madong 70%

Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve
and TCHO Dark Chocolate with Subtle Nutty Notes. (Outstanding, coffee, a hint of nut, becoming sweeter as it melts)

You all enjoy.  I'll be in my bunk.

A layman's guide to the science of global warming

I haven't posted much on global warming for the last few years, feeling like I'd said most of that I had to say.  I mean, after a hundred or more posts, what's left to say?  What I haven't done is put together a high level overview for the non-scientist who wants to understand what's going on.  Sort of a nutshell guide, if you will.  And so, if you don't care about the current global warming brouhaha, you can skip this post.  If you want to understand what's behind the science, then read on.

The Starting Point: Climate over the last 1000 years

Probably the most famous image from this whole debate is the "Hockey Stick" graph, showing what was said to be the climate over the last 1000 years:

This was from a 1999 paper by Michael Mann (and co authors Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes; this paper is often referred to as MBH99 after the author's initials and publication date).  When I first saw this, I was pretty skeptical.  It showed a stable climate (notice how flat the blue line is over most of the time?) until very recently followed by a sudden spike in temperature - a long flat line with a sudden right-hand hook looks like a hockey stick (hence the name of the graph).

We didn't hear much about an impending heat death of the globe until fairly recently.  Before the late 1990s, the current scientific consensus was that climate fluctuated, sometimes hotter and sometimes cooler.  The current climate was not seen as being particularly warm - certainly less warm that the Medieval period (called the "Medieval Warm Period", or MWP) or the Roman era (called the "Roman Climate Optimum").  This was all written up in the first Assessment Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which periodically published the latest and best scientific understanding on the issue.  Page 202 of that report showed the scientific consensus of climate history over the last thousand years.

You can see the MWP of the left, the "Little Ice Age" where famine ruled Europe in the middle, and then a temperature recovery to the current era on the right.  No hockey stick to be seen anywhere.  Remember, this was the scientific establishment view in 1990.

As it turns out, there's plenty of history to support this establishment view, and which disputes the MBH99 hockey stick.  The Domesday Book was a tax survey compiled by William the Conquerer after he invaded England in 1066.  It detailed everything in his kingdom that was worth taxing, and so it was assembled with care.  It documented wine vineyards in the north of England, far to the north of where wine is produced today, implying that the climate was warmer in 1066 than it is in 2017.  There is excellent documentary history that the MWP was followed by a catastrophic cooling - the Little Ice Age: as todays's glaciers retreat, archaeologists have discovered the remains of alpine villages that were overrun by glaciers.  And recently, the Vatican announced changes to centuries-old prayers to stop the advance of the glaciers.

The important point here is that there is quite a lot of recorded history from the period that does not square with the climate reconstruction from the Hockey Stick paper.  As it turns out, the MBH99 paper has been conclusively debunked: the data sets used were inappropriate and the statistical algorithms were "novel" (the produced hockey stick shaped output even on completely random data; for example, if you ran the numbers from the telephone directory through the algorithm it would give you a hockey stick).

How do we know what the temperature was 1000 years ago?

The thermometer was invented in the early 1600s.  The oldest regularly maintained series of readings are from the Central England Temperature (CET) series that dates to 1659.  So how do we know what the temperature was before that?  Proxies.

A proxy is a measurement that isn't directly a temperature measurement but which maps to what we think the temperature was.  The most famous of these are tree ring widths: rings will be wider in warmer years when growth is faster, and narrower in cold years when growth is slower.  There are a lot of other types of proxies: rings showing growth in coral reefs, layers of sediment from ponds, and most interestingly, layers of ice deposited on glaciers.  Drilling into the glacier results in ice cores which have annual accretions - colder years will have thicker layers and warmer years will have thinner ones.

Proxies reflect temperature and some of these records go back a very, very long time.  The Greenland Ice Core Project (GRIP) ice cores date back thousands of years:

Current climate is on the far right.  Moving leftwards we see first the MWP, then a cool period, then the Roman Climate Optimum, and then a generally warmer climate for thousands of years.  There is corroborating archaeologic evidence to support this data: retreating glacier uncovers pre-viking tunic,  retreating glacier uncovers 4000 year old forest (german newspaper translations).

The Vostok ice cores from Antarctica go much further back, hundreds of thousands of years:

You can see the alteration between ice ages (populated by Woolley Mammoths and other cold weather fauna) and warm inter-glacial periods.  We are currently in one of those interglacials.  It's unclear what caused the ice ages, and what caused the warmer inter-glacials.  However, man-made carbon dioxide is not one of the plausible theories for the interglacials.

The Greenhouse Effect

OK, so we know that climate has been up and down for pretty much as long as we can piece together records.  Rather than history, what's going on right now?

We now need to shift from history to Chemistry. We've heard of the "Greenhouse Effect", where sunlight passes through the atmosphere to the ground, the energy is absorbed and re-emitted as heat, and the heat is trapped by the atmosphere. In more precise scientific terms, certain gases are transparent to visible light, but obaque (blocking) to heat (infrared) radiation.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2 is one of a set of greenhouse gases, including methane and water vapor. One justification for the Hockey Stick that proponents of AGW theory used was that the Industrial Revolution began to produce large amounts of CO2 around 1850, which is when we saw the spike in temperature. There are a couple problems with this:

1. Correlation does not imply causation. Just because something happens at the same time as something else, doesn't mean that it's caused by it. If we see a big increase in, say, the number of lemons imported from Mexico, and simultaneously see a big reduction in the number of traffic fatalities, we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that Mexican lemons reduce traffic deaths. This seems obvious, but is really at the heart of the proposed policy mitigations like Kyoto, Cap and Trade, and Copenhagen.

2. More importantly, CO2 is a very - even surprisingly - weak greenhouse gas. (chart from ICPP AR 1)
What this means is that as you put more CO2 into the atmosphere, it has less and less of a greenhouse effect. This isn't really surprising, because this sort of "exponential decay curve" is the norm in nature - things tend to rapidly achieve equilibrium because this "negative feedback" keeps things from running away out of control. Chemistry (actually spectroscopy) tells us that CO2 is not really opaque to infrared except at a very narrow frequency band, and therefore "leaks" heat back into outer space at the edges of the bands.

The scientific consensus is that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in warming of around 1°C.  We've gone from around 280 parts per million (ppm) atmospheric  CO2 to around 400 ppm an increase of about 50% over the last 100 years or so, so there should have been an increase of around half a degree.  So why do we hear all of this about how we are destroying the planet?  I mean, half a degree doesn't sound like much.

Shaky scientific grounds: "Positive Forcings"

Proponents of catastrophic warming know this, and have proposed a theory of "Positive feedback", where CO2's greenhouse power is multiplied, or "forced", sort of like Popeye after he opens a can of spinach. This forcing is reached after a particular CO2 concentration, and causes a "runaway greenhouse effect". There is a fatal problem with this: we simply don't see this much in nature.  In fact, the universe is stable because of negative feedback, where an increase in one thing results in a decrease in others.

There is, of course, a theoretical justification for positive feedback from the AGW proponents - the details are complex, and I don't particularly want to get into them. Instead, is there a way that we can test the theory? There is indeed. We have measurements of both temperature levels as well as CO concentrations for at least the 20th Century. How do they match?

Rather than lots of science and math and stuff, he looks at what the proponents of AGW say and he finds a lot to be desired:
5. The claimed “proof” of positive feedback is a model prediction of a hot spot in the tropics at mid troposphere levels. However all the experimental evidence from many, many measurements has failed to find any evidence of such a hot spot. In science, a clear prediction that is falsified experimentally means the underlying hypothesis on which the prediction is based is wrong.
8. If I adopt this 10:1 ratio by looking at the last 100 years worth of data I find 1910-1940 temperatures rising while CO2 was not. 1940 to 1975 temperatures falling while CO2 rising, 1975 to 1998 temperatures rising while CO2 rising and 1998 to 2009 temperatures falling while CO2 rising. Three quarters of the period shows no correlation or negative correlation with CO2 and only one quarter shows positive correlation. I do not understand how one can claim a hypothesis proven when ¾ of the data set disagrees with it. To me it is the clearest proof that the hypothesis is wrong.
What I would add is that we don't just get temperature proxy data from ice cores, we also get COlevels from gas bubbles that were trapped in each layer.  CO2 maps very neatly to temperature, so the question is why we didn't see positive forcing during, say, the Roman Climate Optimum?

This is the biggest problem that climate scientists have today, and is actually the center of the whole debate: are there positive forcings, if so how big are they, and how are they measured?  There's actually no consensus at all here among climate scientists.  You can get a good overview of this issue here.

Climate Models seem hopelessly broken
Prediction is hard, especially about the future.
- Yogi Bera
The history is decently clear from proxy evidence, so where do scientists think that the climate is going?  There are a bunch of computer models (enormous, complicated computer programs) that predict what climate will be like in the future.  A lot of the most dire predictions that you hear - that temperatures will rise 4 or 5 degrees, devastating the planet - come from these models.

The problem is that models are not climate - they are programs that contain a bunch of algorithms that produce a set of numbers.  Whether these algorithms are valid predictors is the real question.  As we all know, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it.  So how accurate have the models been?

Not very:

The latest IPCC report (as of 2017) is Assessment Report 5 (AR5) which includes 102 climate model predictions from CMIP-5.  All but a couple of the models run "hot", meaning that the predicted temperatures are higher than what is observed.  The blue and green data points are from measured temperatures from weather balloons and satellites, but we could as easily add in the surface temperature data set used in AR5 (the CRUTEM series) which would show the same divergence between measured temperature and predicted temperature.  You can get more details on models vs. measured temperature at this post.

Something seems very fishy in Climate Science

This is where we stand regarding the historical record, the theory, the chemistry, and the predictive models.  There is really quite a lot of evidence that climate science as currently practiced doesn't have as solid a grasp on the climate as they say.  Indeed, at each stage we see quite a lot of hard evidence that contradicts what the so called "consensus view" of science is.  If the theory were as strong as claimed, you'd expect to see the opposite - data everywhere confirming the theory.

For example, the highest temperature ever recorded in the United States was in 1913.  After a century of positive forcing and year after year reported as "the hottest year ever", we find that the hottest day on record was over a century ago.  Does this prove that the climate isn't warming?  Of course not.  However, if the science were as incontrovertible as we are told, you would expect a more recent record.

But let's look at what's going on in the "consensus climate establishment", because there are some very odd things that you see when you turn over some rocks.  We will talk about some of these now.

ClimateGate and "Hide the Decline"

The University of East Anglia (UK) hosts the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, one of the three most influential climate research organizations in the UK. The Hadley Centre is part of the UK Met (Meteorological) Office, the UK's national weather office. Hadley develops computer climate models and provides one of the most influential temperature data sets (CRUTEM3). In 2009, the Hadley Centre controversially refused a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for the CRUTEM3 raw (uncorrected) data.

Phil Jones is the current director of the Hadley Centre.

In November 2009,  someone posted 61 MB of emails, computer program code, and climate data from Hadley servers to an FTP server on the Internet.  One of the most notorious of the emails in this release was from Dr. Jones, and contained the following:
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
 to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from
 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.
Let's unpack this so you understand each piece.  "Mike" refers to Dr. Michael Mann (of the Hockey Stick graph fame).  "Nature" refers to Nature Magazine, one of (perhaps the) most  prestigious scientific journals.  More specifically, it refers to an article that they published, written by Dr. Mann in which he had a temperature reconstruction.  There is a huge amount of dispute over what "trick" means - skeptics allege sleight of hand while Mann said it just referred to a mathematical technique.  So what was the trick?

Dr. Mann's data sets contained many different proxy series.  This is actually a good thing, because you want confirmation of results from different places and types of proxies (say, including ice cores, tree rings, and corals will probably be more reliable than just using tree rings).  Mann's "trick" (call it a mathematical technique if you want) was to remove all proxy data later than 1960 and replace it with measured temperature data.  The result was a hockey stick shaped temperature graph.  This is what Dr. Jones did in the paper referred to in his email.

The $100,000 question is: why go to the trouble to do this if you have proxy data from 1960 up to the present?  Why replace 50 years of perfectly good data?

Hide the decline.

This is a great, detailed video about ClimateGate and hide the decline by Dr. Richard Muller, head of climate science at the University of California at Berkeley.  He is a high profile climate scientist and he has quite pungent things to say about Dr. Jones and company.  The relevant part about Dr. Jones and the CRU starts around 29 minutes into the lecture.

There's more that I won't go into here (particularly the repeated modification of previously recorded temperature data with little or no justification) but this post is plenty long enough as it is and you have a solid grounding in the key points (with links to original sources so you can check my work).