Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Never Forget - A Brigid Guest Post

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good man do nothing.
- Edmund Burke

My friends and comrades here had some excellent posts this week on the recognition of the Holocaust.  So I decided to wait a couple of days to post this.  But these words needed to be said. - Brigid

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I'm constantly amazed at the ignorance of man, not just in those situations which can get one killed, through acts of mental complacency generally fueled by alcohol or gasoline, but the seemingly willful ignorance of events that are occurring around them. I know people who have never left their hometown, but what is more incomprehensible to me, is people who have never thought outside their hometown.  I've heard as I keep tabs on the world on my days off, "Why do you CARE what's going on in the China Sea, in Iran?  The new Twilight movie is out!

I've come to the conclusion that there are simply some people who won't grasp the truth of the world until they see the truth of themselves.  Knowing yourself is a lifelong and sometimes acutely painful process, with your biggest lessons often emerging from your biggest mistakes. The truth about the nature of man and the world isn't always pleasant, some things we don't want to know  - what's really in a hot dog, how many calories there are in a piece of pie, and anything at all about anyone named Kardashian. Some things we cannot bear to know. But that knowledge of some things, no matter how hurtful to ones' spirit, is absolutely essential to our well-being, for only with truth do we have the resilience, the capacity to continue on, alive in the moment, unbound by regret and willing to fight.

In a disaster, in threat, to us as individuals, to us as a nation, the nature of truth, and how we face it, asserts itself.


Those who take charge do, those who choose to hide from things do, be it a disaster, heartbreak, the economy, crime or a terrorist attack. After 9-11, I had one acquaintance who refused to watch the news, heading out on a planned vacation and pretending it never happened. Another watched sitcom TV nonstop, staying home from work with a bowl of popcorn. Both of these individuals were in denial, afraid to accept the truth.

Some friends of mine who are first responders at the federal level were, within the last year, in my city, staying at my house while they attended some training.  They could have stayed at a hotel but they choose to stay with their blog "little sis". I looked at the house as my friends packed up to leave. It looked as if a testosterone bomb had gone off in here, guns, ammo, knives squirrel gear and more than one badge.  It was loud and it's messy, and sometimes it's bloody, but I wouldn't have traded my life, my duty, and my bond with these people for anything. We shared the fidelity with people we were bound to protect, even if we didn't particularly like them. We've slept on the bare ground and we know the sound of a bullet as it comes at us, not next to us at some sunny gun range, that sound that breaks the barrier that most people live behind. We've discovered things that are not so much "shiny" as unearthing a grave with bare hands and sticks, revealing more than just the comprehension of bereavement and irreparable finality, but that which is visible only to each other.

I was going to hate the sound the garage door made as it came down as they drove away,  I would pretend the tears were allergies.  My husband would hug me and understand.

On the shelf, packed from the trip to my Dad's, is a stone, full of fossilized seashells.  When I was home just before he died, my big brother told me about it.  It came from the quarry we did our target shooting at as kids. He squirreled it away when it was unearthed, knowing what a find it was, so many miles from the sea.  He told me he wanted me to have it.  He then quietly took me to Dad's garage and opened a drawer where he had hidden it as a child, picked it up carefully and gave it to me.  We've both seen a lot in our careers, that we can't discuss, even with one another. We don't discuss it now, we won't discuss it after we retire, we won't write a book about it.  There's an oath we took and we honor that. The rock was his way of acknowledging that what I do is important, that no matter how many years pass, he is still there.

It sits now in my office.

On another shelf, behind a desk, is another stone, one that many don't look it, it's just another rock to be collected to most observers,  displayed along with other artifacts of memory.


The last weeks have been long, with time on the road, and fitful sleep. This is not quite the life I expected when I hung up my wings for another four years of education on top of two previous degrees and a return to service. But it's the life that fits what strengths I have. I've come home with brain matter on my shoes. I've come home with images a person should never see, playing in my head like a bad film, until sleep comes fitfully. Yet I come home with purpose. With resolution.  I've collected those moments of lives, of loved ones, in the minutes before they leave us. I collect what is left, carefully, gently and with reverence, cataloging the bare bones of all that is truly important, so that we can learn from it so that it doesn't happen again. Then I usually go back to an empty room.

After 9/11 while flags waved on cars, and taps played,  I thought, now people have to see, finally see that truth is fierce and unrelenting. But soon, most forgot. Truth  We cannot ignore it or change it, but we can change the way we live with it. The truth of 9-11 is that the world IS a dangerous place and being politically correct to the point of ignoring the facts of who hates us and who is quietly amassing nuclear readiness while we make nice and look good for the cameras, isn't going to end well.

I finished at the Academy in 2001 and September 11 occurred when I was still wet behind the ears, assigned some mundane tasks until "something happened".  It did. Looking at the images on TV of Ground Zero, we sat, stunned, waiting for travel orders while I tried to not let it out that I had a brother who worked at the Pentagon, his office there smoking on TV. There was no talk, just a breathing that bordered on keening, looking at one another, our team leader, with an alert, profound justice as though we had already seen through the flames to where we would be, the shape of the disaster of which we could not speak. That day was trial by fire.

When I look at that stone behind the desk, I can't help but connected to the event from which it came, vowing never to forget.  There is something about a physical remnant of such places, those hallowed spots in which the innocent died, that bears with it the same quality of perspective as those who stood in its shadow, as though the object itself is speaking to us. It speaks to us in silent and profound significance, whispering its own truths.

When I'm out in the field I remember as well.  Around me, there is only musing sound, as shadows hang aloft as if from invisible wire, hovering above what remains for eyes to see. A place severed from the living, spectral shadow among that place of circumscribed desolation, filled with the voice of wasted lives and murmuring regret. There, only those left here, who remember history, who will gather what remains, cataloging it for infinity.

As I turn off the lights, the last to leave tonight, I take one last look at a chunk of stone.


It sits in a mundane office, on a flat surface in bitten shadow. It sits near a place where work is done to keep many safe. Most don't see it. It simply sits, in dense stillness, filling the room, the dawn, the dusk, with silent voices. I don't hear the voices but I know they exist. Each morning to start the day in its shadow, warm and safe, we remember that no matter what heartache comes our way, it is nothing compared to what this piece of stone bears witness to.

Those that see it don't look at it closely. But it speaks of so much that our generation, and most of our leaders, will never, ever fathom - the quiet of a shadowed facility where honor stands watch and oaths are kept, a small stone weeps.

Never, ever forget.

- Brigid

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Adventures in Rental Cars - A Brigid Guest Post

 Economy Car - a small pellet shaped object that can carry you to the scene of the accident.

I've had some small "sub compact" cars in my day but this one was about the smallest I've had yet.  I fortunately asked for the bright red one, so at least I'd be visible even if I was no bigger than the red dot on a 7-Up can.  I couldn't help but utter "it's so small" and the young man processing my rental got that look that is often reserved for that phrase and countered with a cheery "it has NINE air bags".  I looked at him and said "honey, you could put the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in this vehicle with me and I still wouldn't feel safe".  But I did thank him for getting the red one.

It looked brand new and was sparkling clean.  Legroom was more than required for a hamster; the cockpit ergonomics weren't bad and the a.c. had the car cooled before I even left the parking garage.  But then I went to accelerate. The only way I can describe the sound is this:  picture the Cast of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" suddenly miniaturized by some magic shrink ray until they were all six inches tall.  Now picture Leatherface firing up his little chainsaw.  That's the sound the engine made.
It's a Toyota. something. Yanni? Yetti?  Something like that and it was my wheels on my last trip for Squirrel Headquarters..  I had arrived at my hotel. I'm amazed, not only that a human being can cover hundreds of miles in a couple of hours but that I did some of that in a car that was about the size of a 9 mm cartridge.  Then I got a start the next morning. I went out to the hotel parking lot and my car was GONE!  I was in a panic as auto thefts in the area were high, then I noticed that the Mini Cooper parked next to it was blocking my view.

I have rented a LOT Of vehicles over the years. Over the last ten years, I had to rent when I went to see Dad as his driving skills weren't good enough where I felt he was safe on the the freeway which is occupied by "Crazy Oregon Drivers" until you cross the Oregon state line wherein it's occupied by "Crazy Washington Drivers".  Plus he's a far distance from the international airport. Up until a couple of years ago when the keys were taken away as his skills degraded quickly,  he did really good around town and always offered to come get me.
But I did not want him trying to merge with giant semis and teenagers. There wasn't any other option. All of his friends were gone and none of the other family lived close enough to fetch me. The rental is an expense, but a necessary one, no matter how often I go there. But I went for a big vehicle, as there is nothing more unsettling then looking up at the undercarriage of a log truck, some of the logs secured by what looks like dental floss, on a rain-slicked highway.

The rental place I go to out West always has some chipper person who asks "what brings you here?"  I know they're just trying to be friendly, most people getting to them worn out after flying long distances. That would render anyone cranky, especially a particular redhead, whose suitcase went MIA, who now envisions buying something to wear at the only store by Dad's, a Big Box Mart with a ladies department full of outfits the size of tank parachutes.
So on that particular trip, I wasn't in a particularly good mood, and besides, they just saw me two weeks ago, and weeks before that, one of dozens of trips. They know me by name, they know where my Dad lives and that he is quite old which is why I visit so often.  They know I don't need a map to the house or the cemetery.  And still, they ask what brings me here.

The next time they asked, even though I was just there a couple weeks ago,  I gave them a little smile which can be either friendly or scary depending on if you're the good guy or the bad guy and responded with-

"Contract hitI'll be needing something with a large trunk."

The agent, as usual, didn't miss a beat, saying "that's nice, you want to upgrade to a full size then?"
I've had some interesting car experiences over the years, from the time I got a free upgrade to a full-size pickup truck to an assortment of cars the size of gym lockers that accelerated at the speed of rust. There was one "loaner" car that had likely traveled with Lewis and Clark and was given to my copilot and me to drive to our lodging. The next morning, there was a hard frost. There was also no ice scraper. Fortunately, that side trim that was flapping in the breeze was easy to remove and made a dandy scraper (honestly, it just fell off!). And we won't mention certain third world places where you want to check the car's interior for things that sting, spit or bite (Ack! Windshield Viper!)

There's no telling what city will give you what car.  I've rented a car from airports that you that were so new and shiny you could practically eat off the tarmac and got an asthmatic clunker that smelled like an ashtray and I've been into some fairly outdated  terminals where I have expected to get run over by goats as I went to baggage claim and get a bright shiny full-size sedan, actually made in America.
This last squirrel trip, I fared a little better, the car at least being brand new and spotlessly clean. But I'd hoped for an upgrade. Sometimes the compact is actually a normal sized car, depending on what the rental car company has on hand by the time I roll in.

But not on my return to this city where I am convinced the car rental agencies there have a special little ""Brigid" wing of the garage where they keep the gutless wonders. I am also certain they keep them parked nose down on a ramp so that my special Brigid edition rental car can simply roll down tcheckoutck out area and appear to have an engine in it, until it is past those spikes in the pavement that prevent me from bringing it back.
I remember the first time I rented on other than my own dime, and as directed, got the "economy" car. It was clean, bright, all four doors open as if the clowns had to get out in a hurry. I gulped and asked the rental agent "what kind of car IS that?". I swear the agent said it was a "Hyundai Accident". Perhaps that was "Accent". On second thought, I think the first was correct. But Dad's second car (his first being a 1984 Chevy Truck) was a larger Hyundai and he loved it for zipping around town on errands. So with a blue sky, a tailwind and a gathering where all I had to do all week is stand up in front of people and sound intelligent, I was determined to enjoy the drive.

As I accelerated onto the ramp for the freeway, trying to edge in front of this semi that looked JUST like the one in Dual. I remembered all the talk about how the human body can actually FEEL acceleration. I've pulled some G's in a swept wing jet.  I know what it's like. And this car, well this car could do that. Right? As I floored it, watching the semi truck come up rapidly on my car, the entire body of which would fit UNDER his bumper, I realized that I could actually feel a physical force, that of my body aging as the car slooooowly went from 35 to 60.

After watching everyone blow past me with the look, I wanted to get a sign for the back window that said I own a 4 wheel drive TRUCK, THIS is a rental. I got it up to 72 on a long stretch though. But at that point, the transmission started moaning like a disinterested hooker and the whole frame started shaking like one of those paint mixers at Home Depot.
But I made it, only checking once to see if the floorboards rolled up so I could put my feet down, yell Yabba Dabba Doo! and pass someone.  Just like today, another trip, another spot of safety and rest along this life's journey.

On the blog I talk of perspective. Being thankful for all we have. And I am. I arrived here in one piece. I have gainful employment that challenges me and sends me out in the world to perhaps educate others, to meet with like minds. It's getting to meet friends in the cities I travel to, putting faces to the names of folks I've talked to for years, fellow bloggers and their families. It's coming home to a husband and a furry black Lab rescue who is forever grateful for a permanent home.

It's freedom, of the road, of the mind, of the spirit. It's 80 degrees inside my vehicle and I am looking up at the bumper of a Volkswagen Beetle. But there is also Keebler fudge striped cookies melting on the seat next to me and a rough-hewn landscape out my window, the blur of trees as old as God, where sometimes above, a bird sings a plaintive and tremulous song that rises above the sound of the traffic. And if the brakes give out, I can simply turn on the air conditioner and coast to a stop.

Life is good. Wherever your road leads you.
-LBJ

Monday, April 24, 2017

Yom Hashoah

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

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

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


Damn Google


The Wild Goose Chase

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

How many people really need to go to college?

Maybe only 15%.

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

All without a degree.

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

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

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Out riding

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

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

Vincent Lo - Fugue on the Nokia Ringtone

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

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

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

Did they find this in a DeLorean?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On Anniversaries - A Brigid Guest Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember those who have gone before us.

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

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

WeaponsMan Has Left The Range

The circle is a little smaller.

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

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


B-25 reunion

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just for fun: The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian

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

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



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

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

Run a 1984 Macintosh

Via an emulator.


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

Parent of the Year


Wonder how many likes they got on Facebook?

Monday, April 17, 2017

United Airlines toys

Now for ages 6-12.


Last of the Doolittle Raiders toasts his comrades

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

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Remembering my Big Brother - A Brigid Post

Three years ago on Good Friday, he said goodbye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace

I am Jacob Marley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georg Frideric Handel - "Hallelujah" from The Messiah

He is risen indeed, hallelujah! Hallelujah!



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

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Caturday

Let's be careful out there ...


The well equipped kitchen - now with artillery!

Whether few blogger Brigid has one of these is classified, but if you really need to cut up enough french fries, ordinance is called for.

Tennessee Ernie Ford - Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord

(image source)
Easter is a celebration of grace.  Infinite, and offered to all, it is the center piece of the holiest of Christian holy days.

The Bible is full of passages about grace.  Indeed, the New Testament is a prolonged tract on the subject.  But grace also appears in passages of the Old Testament.  In fact, its very first appearance is in Genesis 6:8:

And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
The message of Easter is that we can all of us receive that same gift of grace given to Noah.  Tennessee Ernie Ford song a recorded a great many hymns and spirituals, and ended his 1950s daytime TV show with a religious song.  The network executives objected, thinking that it might cause offense to some viewers, but it became the most popular part of his show.



Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord (Songwriter: Robert Watson Schmertz)
The Lord looked down from His window in the sky,
Said, "I created man but I don't remember why.
Nothing but fighting since creation day.
I'll send a little water and wash 'em all away."
The Lord came down to look around a spell,
And there was Mister Noah behaving mighty well,
And that is the reason, the Scriptures record,
That Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,
Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,
Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,
And he landed high and dry.

The Lord said, "Noah, there's gonna be a flood.
There's gonna be some water and there's gonna be some mud.
So take off your hat, Noah. Take off your coat.
Get Ham, Shem, and Japheth and build yourself a boat."
Noah said, "Lord, I don't believe I could."
The Lord said, "Noah, get some sturdy gopher wood.
Never know what you can do till you try.
Build it fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high."

Noah said, "There she is. There she is, Lord."
The Lord said, "Noah, it's time to get aboard.
Take of each creature a he and a she.
And, of course, Missus Noah and your whole family."
Noah said, "Lord, it's getting mighty dark."
The Lord said, "Noah, get these creatures on the ark."
Noah said, "Lord, it's beginning to pour."
The Lord said, "Noah, hurry up and shut the door."

The ark rose up on the bosom of the deep,
And after forty days, Mister Noah took a peek,
Said, "We're not moving, Lord. Where are we at?"
The Lord said, "You're sitting right on Mount Ararat."
Noah said, "Lord, it's getting mighty dry."
The Lord said, "Noah, see my rainbow in the sky.
Take all your creatures and people the earth.
But be sure you aren't more trouble than you're worth."

Friday, April 14, 2017

United Airlines' PR strategy bears fruit

They've really established a brand.


Half-baked security in expensive IoT oven

This is kind of funny, actually:
Miscreants can remotely turn off and on posh Aga ovens via unauthenticated text messages, security researchers have warned. 
All the hijackers need is the phone numbers of the appliances. 
The vulnerable iTotal Control models of the upmarket cookers contain a SIM card and radio tech that connects to mobile phone networks. This allows the Brit-built roasters to receive texted commands: these messages can be sent directly to appliances from phones, or via an app or Aga's website, from anywhere in the world. 
This means you can order your fancy baking oven to heat up before you leave from work, for instance. According to UK IT security consultants Pen Test Partners (PTP), this feature can be hijacked by villains to meddle with the slow cookers without the owners' permission.

These ovens are really pricy ($10,000 and up), and you'd think that at a premium price you'd get premium (or at least adequate) security.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

IoT Front Door Locks

If you have been here before you know Borepatch and I are screaming, "Nope! Nope! Nope!" at this latest offering from the Internet of Things. A front door lock assembly that can be locked or unlocked remotely through the web. It's the digital equivalent of putting the key under the mat.

There's no question of a hack, although it might not be necessary to hack the door lock, you might be able to unlock the house from a phone you pick up off the table in a coffee shop. The phone would not even need to be open.
"August locks provide keyless entry based on the Bluetooth. You can also configure your locks to lock the door after you leave the home. It senses when you approach the door and unlocks it automatically, no matter whether your phone is in your pocket, purse or a carry bag....Guests also need to install the application on mobile phones. Once guests have the application with the assigned rights from the owner, they can use it for opening the lock."

Rule 1: Guns are always loaded

Man demonstrates how a safety works, by blowing his brains out.

Borepatch, Bringing You The News Two Months Before Reuters

Back on the 24th of February, I observed that North Korea has the world's 3rd largest stockpile of chemical weapons and that bolting a tank of human insecticide on top of a missile would be a lot easier than getting a nuke ready to launch.

Reuters is reporting today, in the world news, that Japan is reporting the possibility that North Korea has missiles topped with chemical weapons.

Of course they do. But I don't think it will be Sarin, I think it will be VX.

"The median lethal exposure (for VX)—the exposure required to kill half of a tested population—as estimated for 70 kg human males has been reported: the median lethal dose (LD50) via exposure to the skin is reported to be 10 mg (0.00035 oz), and the lethal concentration time (LCt50), measuring the concentration of the vapor in milligrams per cubic meter (m3) per length of time exposed in minutes, is estimated for VX to be 30–50 mg·min/m3."
--Types of Chemical Weapons: Nerve Agents [Table. Toxicological Data]: Federation of American Scientists(2013)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When Your Cereal Selection is Based on the Prize in the Box - Growing up in the 60's - A Brigid Post

My brother and I were raised on the sugar-sweetened joy of the 60's.   My favorite Western RanchHands were Twinkie the Kid and the Hostess Cupcake. We drank Koolaid (Soda Pop was an expense that was only the rarest of treats in my house), or better yet, cold water from the garden hose. We watched TV when we could, but mostly we ran, we jumped, we covered miles of ground on our bikes. TV was a treat, not a weekend-long marathon and the backyard was our empire, one of constant motion. None of us had an ounce of spare flesh on us, we were lean and healthy from all the outdoor playtime.

And our cereal came with prizes in the box.

When did the cereal prizes disappear? I'm sure, as most children did, I drove my Mom crazy begging for one type of cereal over another, depending on what toy was inside. The toy would be buried deep down, and we'd have to eat about half the box to get to it. Of course, there were those times Mom left us alone briefly while Dad watched football, and with the help of a large mixing bowl, the toy was liberated soon after purchase, the bowl then cleaned (here boy!) and put back in the cupboard. But that didn't happen often so normally the prize would plop down into our bowl about half way through the box. What a treat that was!

Most of the toys plastic figures were slightly larger than Monopoly counters – animals, trains, cars. Sometimes there were decoder rings, badges and other trinkets promoting TV adventure shows. Sometimes the prize was a cut out on the back of the box that could be made into a toy, there were even cut out photograph records on the back.

One of the cereal toys I've never forgotten was a plastic submarine. On its bottom was a tiny container into which you placed baking powder.  The sub would then dive underwater and resurface on its own, again and again. I loved that toy and spent a lot of time with it in the bathroom sink and in the bathtub.

Big Bro spent his years after school on a real submarine, so perhaps all that play with those things had some effect.
The unsweetened cereal usually didn't have a prize, but it would have a coupon where you could collect box tops and send away for a prize. The sugar laden cereals usually had the prize right there. The prize might sway our decision but our favorites remained unchanged. Were they healthy? Not particularly. You'd have to add an orange grove and an entire pig to be a "complete breakfast", but that's not why we ate them.

Sugar Pops - My personal favorite. The original cereal was just Sugar Pops. Then they added the word corn, then they dropped the word sugar, then they dropped the corn thinking kids didn't want to eat a bowl of corn, now they're just Pops. That was one thing I liked about that generation. They weren't afraid to use the word sugar. They were PROUD of the word. Now they fill everything full of corn syrup which is worse for you and simply change the names. Not only was the cereal great tasting (I still eat it before big presentations at Secret Squirrel headquarters) but the concept was cool. Blasting sugar onto the cereal with a gun? How cool was that? The earlier boxes that my older brother remembered even had special offers for a "Colt six shooter".

Sugar Crisp -The sugar bear started out as your average bear, then later got fashion sense (though no pants) and this laid back groovy persona. The Sugar Bear was the cool dude your retired military Dad NEVER wanted you to date (attitude and no pants, never a selling point with my Dad). He was so popular some kids went as Sugar Bear on Halloween.

In the 70's they came out with a Super Sugar Orange Crisp that had little sour orange bits in it. The sweet and sour was enough to keep you bouncing off of walls for days. It didn't last long, probably banned by the PTA.

Alpha-Bits - like Cocoa Puffs, as a kid I was on the fence about these. They were OK, but as an adult, I thought they tasted like hamster food. It was fun to try and spell words in your spoon though, except for that time I tried out a NEW word which I heard my Dad use when he dropped a tool on his foot, which my Mother did NOT find amusing.

Sugar Smacks - Start your day the Sugar Smacks way. Dig em the frog was OK, but not as cool as the bear. However, even Spock could have figured out they were the exact same cereal as Sugar Crisp.

Frosted Flakes - one of the few breakfast cereal that hasn't changed, been improved or altered (I cringe when I think what they've done to Trix over the years). I used to eat it dry, in a little bowl with my fingers, watching Scooby Doo (those meddling kids!) because it lasted about 10 seconds in milk before going limp.

Froot Loops - not sure where Toucan Sam got the English Accent in the 1970's but it was a house favorite. The only colors were a tropical fruit sort of red color, yellow and orange. What more do you need? I got sample box in the mail recently to which several new colors were added (is that blue?) PLUS fiber.

What's next? "Honeycomb. Improved, now with Ginkgo Biloba?"

There are a lot of things that aren't good for us. Letting your kids eat junk food in adult portions all day long is good for no one. But what about a little bowl of sweet, the occasional cookie with the hug and fun with our imaginations and the help of a "beam up badge"? Did it really do us any harm?
So I'm going to start my day some weekend soon with a big bowl of Quisp cereal.


You remember Quisp?

The voice of Quisp on the commercials was Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. It tastes like Captain Crunch but doesn't remove the roof of your mouth when you eat it. The slogan I remember as a kid in 1970. . . "it gives you Quazy energy".  It's hard to find but it's still out there.

Look, I try and eat healthy most of the time. But I refuse to grow up, and I'm going to enjoy my sugar laden dreams via a bowl of cereal from the 60's.

And then I'm going to give Abby Normal our Senior Rescue Lab mix an extra treat.

For growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.