Thursday, August 31, 2017

Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington - Honeysuckle Rose

Django on the electric guitar.  Wow.

From 1946.  He survived occupied France despite being a Gypsy because of Luftwaffe officer "Doktor Jazz".

Hurricane Harvey relief scams

It seems that each disaster attracts its share of scammers and grifters, and hurricane Harvey is no exception:
U.S. federal agencies are warning citizens anxious to donate money for those victimized by Hurricane Harvey to be especially wary of scam artists. In years past we’ve seen shameless fraudsters stand up fake charities and other bogus relief efforts in a bid to capitalize on public concern over an ongoing disaster. Here are some tips to help ensure sure your aid dollars go directly to those most in need.
There's great information at the link, so RTWT.  I should especially call out the warning that email phishers will troll you with links to "Hurricane Harvey disaster pix" and such things.  Don't fall for the link bait, since a bunch of it contains malware.

FDA recalls pacemaker due to security bug

A year ago it was disclosed that pacemakers made by St. Jude had a glaring security vulnerability that allowed someone to remotely reconfigure the device.  Death or injury could result.

Now there's a recall:
In what may be a first, patients with heart conditions that are using particular pacemaker brands will have to visit their doctors for firmware updates to keep their embedded devices safe from tampering.
Likely the entire profit generated by that product line has evaporated.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How strong is your password?

Peter emails to point out a broken link in an old post of mine that talked about how to make a strong password.  His company has a very good page that covers this better than I did.

The also have a password strength checker.  I didn't use any real passwords but did use made up ones that would be similar form to my real ones.  The check seems to give reasonable results.  They say that they don't record passwords entered.

There's also the required XKCD comic.

There are two changes I'd offer to their excellent advice about passwords:

1. I actually write down my wifi password (and login information for the wifi router) and take it to the wifi router.  I figure that anyone who gets physical access to my wifi device can do a factor reset on it and get in anyway, so the risk is basically nil.

2. I actually do not like to change passwords, and think that this is an area where security people have  given bad advice.  By making people change passwords all the time, we've made security more difficult and so people try to get around the security protections.  Overall, this seems to make things worse.  Instead, I choose very strong passwords, which means easy to remember but long (more than 12 characters, and I'll probably move to 15 soon). passwords.  These are extremely difficult for bad guys to crack and so it really doesn't matter that the password is more than 90 days old.

But other than that, the page has excellent password advice.

If you use the Accuweather App, uninstall it

It is spying on you and selling the information to advertisers.  And lying to you about it:
AccuWeather is still sending precise geolocation data to a third-party advertiser, ZDNet can confirm, despite updating its app earlier this week to remove a feature that collected user's location data without their permission.
In case you missed it, AccuWeather was until this week sending the near-precise location of its iPhone app users to Reveal Mobile, a data monetization firm -- even when location sharing was switched off. Security researcher Will Strafach, who first reported the issue, also accused the company of sharing a user's precise GPS coordinates under the guise of providing local weather alerts.
The news sparked outrage and anger. AccuWeather responded with a forced apology, whichone leading Apple critic John Gruber called a "bulls**t response."
However, tests conducted by Strafach show that the updated app, released Thursday, still shares precise geolocation data with a data monetization and advertising firm.
It's not like there aren't a lot of weather apps, and these clowns have shown you how much you can trust them.

Wind power: now with no security

Guess how much security is in your typical wind farm?  Guess how hard it is to hack?
ON A SUNNY day last summer, in a vast cornfield somewhere in the large, windy middle of America, two researchers from the University of Tulsa stepped into an oven-hot, elevator-sized chamber within the base of a 300-foot-tall wind turbine. They’d picked the simple pin-and-tumbler lock on the turbine’s metal door in less than a minute and opened the unsecured server closet inside.
Jason Staggs, a tall 28-year-old Oklahoman, quickly unplugged a network cable and inserted it into a Raspberry Pi minicomputer, the size of a deck of cards, that had been fitted with a Wi-Fi antenna. He switched on the Pi and attached another Ethernet cable from the minicomputer into an open port on a programmable automation controller, a microwave-sized computer that controlled the turbine. The two men then closed the door behind them and walked back to the white van they’d driven down a gravel path that ran through the field.
Staggs sat in the front seat and opened a MacBook Pro while the researchers looked up at the towering machine. Like the dozens of other turbines in the field, its white blades—each longer than a wing of a Boeing 747—turned hypnotically. Staggs typed into his laptop's command line and soon saw a list of IP addresses representing every networked turbine in the field. A few minutes later he typed another command, and the hackers watched as the single turbine above them emitted a muted screech like the brakes of an aging 18-wheel truck, slowed, and came to a stop.
All the security you get in moonbeams and cotton candy, right there.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Not all heroes wear capes.

The caption reads: A Houston Policeman collapses after working rescue for 48 hours straight. 

There have been more and more times lately when I think that the Republic is going to Hell in a hand basket.  But this is not one of them.  Boy, howdy.

It got a little misty when the reporter stopped what he was doing and (properly) folded Old Glory.

God bless the first responders and all the volunteers.

Seems legit

Hurricane Harvey sets US record for rainfall

Harvey set an all-time US record for rainfall in a 3 day period in the lower 48 states:
Harris County Flood Control District gauge #110 just broke the all-time record for greatest 3-day total at a regular reporting station in the United States (outside of Hawaii).
The August 26-28 total is 36.80”, with 4.5 hours and about 2” still to come.
The previous record is from 1997 at Dauphin Island, Alabama, 36.14”. 

Hacking Artificial Intelligence

It appears that it's easier than people thought:
The problem of a “maliciously trained network” (which they dub a “BadNet”) is more than a theoretical issue, the researchers say in this paper: for example, they write, a facial recognition system could be trained to ignore some faces, to let a burglar into a building the owner thinks is protected.
Now you might be wondering why someone would do that.  The problem is that the neural net software is much less complex than the training sets - neural nets have for years been the most promising (meaning results oriented) form of AI.  The software is not particularly complex, and is actually designed to be general.  Your AI program could be trained to analyze medical diagnosis or seismic oil exploration data, based on the training you give it.

So why would someone give bad training?
The assumptions they make in the paper are straightforward enough: first, that not everybody has the computing firepower to run big neural network training models themselves, which is what creates an “as-a-service” market for machine learning (Google, Microsoft and Amazon all have such offerings in their clouds); and second, that from the outside, there's no way to know a service isn't a “BadNet”. 
“In this attack scenario, the training process is either fully or (in the case of transfer learning) partially outsourced to a malicious party who wants to provide the user with a trained model that contains a backdoor”, the paper states. 
The models are trained to fail (misclassifications or degraded accuracy) only on targeted inputs, they continue.
And now for the punchline: probably the biggest area of development for AI is self-driving car technology.  Guess what you can do to the AI with some training?
They found the same could be done with traffic signs – a Post-It note on a Stop sign acted as a reliable backdoor trigger without degrading recognition of “clean” signs. 
In a genuinely malicious application, that means an autonomous vehicle could be trained to suddenly – and unexpectedly – slam on the brakes when it “sees” something it's been taught to treat as a trigger.
The question is not whether amazing software can get created.  The question is how easy is it for someone to make it fail in a creative and unexpected manner.  The answer, sadly, is "pretty damned easy".

Monday, August 28, 2017

New book out

Aretae (who sadly doesn't blog very often anymore) has a new book out:
As a deep evolutionist — Dawkins/Dennett style extended phenotype, it’s pretty clear that the human monkey (remember monkeybrains) is built to function in a ceremonial fashion.   However, the modern rationalist/managerialist tradition has left that pattern behind, and asks us to do solo work and go to worthless meetings instead.
Our book addresses the question of how to bring Ceremony BACK into the workplace, and our lives in general, where it belongs.
He's one of the smartest guys around.  This sounds like some useful reading for making organizations work better.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Something Wonderful: Christopher Lee singing

A wander through Inforgalactic found this unexpected gem: Sir Christopher Lee and Gary Curtis singing O Sole Mio and It's Now Or Never.

The Internet is a strange and wonderful place.

The classical influence on rock and roll: Elvis Presley - It's Now Or Never/Eduardo di Capua – O Sole Mio

There are a surprising number of rock songs that were directly influenced by classical music.  Eduardo di Capua was born in Naples in 1865, and composed "O Sole Mio" (with words by Giovanni Capurro).  It's incredibly famous, and very likely you will hum along to the music.

And now to the King of Rock 'n Roll, Elvis Presley.  The similarities with Elvis' 1960 #1 hit "It's Now Or Never" are obvious.  Actually, the song was explicitly based on O Sole Mio, and nobody every said otherwise.

In the coming weeks we will explore other rock songs that were based on classical music.

UPDATE 27 August 2017 16:55: Sir Christopher Lee sings these songs.

Love and Hope - A Brigid Guest Post

This is a work of fiction but will resonate with anyone who has had a family member with Alzheimer's.  The main character is a young LEO in rural America, a place she never planned on moving, but did after losing her parents.

From "Small Town Roads" by L.B. Johnson Xulon Press 2016

Chapter 21

Dear Journal: I’ve never written about it before, I’m just now learning about how to talk about such things. Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her fifties. Since my dad didn’t have the best heart in the world, the two of them had long-term care insurance. It covered assisting living and nursing home care, but Dad steadfastly refused to put her in a home, caring for her at home, even in his declining years with my helping as I could.
Initially, she had her little moments of forgetfulness, like any person her age, but she was such a bundle of energy, still active in church and volunteering, taking dance classes, working in the garden. Then one morning, out of the blue, she came into the kitchen and sat down, looked at me and I realized she did not have a clue as to who I was.

What struck me was not that but the look on her face as she realized this, realized she should know. I obviously wasn’t a bugler or a neighbor over for coffee, I was a girl with red hair like everyone else in the family, wearing a fuzzy robe that she had washed and put in my closet the night before. I will never forget the look of her at that moment. It was the most starkly exposed face I’d ever seen, a face in which unknown terrors haunted the edges; the face of a fledgling dove about to tumble from the nest.

It came into our lives quickly, one moment she was laughing, engaging in board games and puns with us, her face bright, and her wit, razor sharp. Then came those moments where everything just went sort of dim. The doctor only confirmed what Dad had suspected and kept from us for some months until he knew for sure. Alzheimer’s.

It’s a terrible disease for all involved. We read what we could about it, we planned as a family, and we prayed. There wasn’t more we could do.

As the next two years passed, there were a few moments she was quite lucid and happy. Those moments were the hardest for all of us. In those brief minutes, she was fully aware that her mind was going, what was happening to her and how helpless she was to do anything about it.

The disease’s progression was as predictable as its course was certain. Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my dad, though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.

Dad cared for her patiently, no matter how bad it got. Friends couldn’t visit, for they were strangers to her, and she’d go into a furious rage if anyone but us tried to enter the home. Dad was her calm and her constant. I was able to help with the housework and the cooking, but he refused to let anyone else care for “his girl” or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, it was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.

We laid her to rest on a tree-covered hilltop in a little cemetery. My brother and my dad are on either side of her. I visit; I bring flowers. Sometimes Evelyn goes with me, and we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our hearts broken. Then we smile through the tears, sharing our stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a small stuffed bear that Mom had sewn.

One of those photos is one of her and Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people. Not many people could have cared for her by themselves as my dad did, for so long, but I understand. Love is a story that tells itself.

On my couch is the form of a little black dog. I do not know why Clyde was a stray. He responds with great plaintive urgency to the sound of small children laughing, looking around for them as to say “my kids, my kids,” only to get this look of pure sadness when he sees they are strangers. The first time I witnessed it, I cried.

I was so happy to get him, a saving grace in a house that had a gaping hole in it. What we hold close to us and what we let go is as telling as the words we say. It took me years to understand it, but the words of Henry David Thoreau make perfect sense to me now.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

I realized that there were certain things and in the past even certain people, that simply violated my sense of thrift, exacting things out of me well beyond their worth. That concept was lost to me when I was a teen, but as I got older, with truth stripped of its cloak of immortality, it was clear.

As I take out some things to be picked up by a charitable group, I look around me. Shadows move like ghosts over the sun, deepening the grass to the color of jewels. The snow is long gone, the dark earth trembling to release spring’s flowers. At the side of the house is an old trellis that needs repair work before new life grabs onto it yet again. I gather it close to my chest to take it inside to be mended, rather than tossed away. This is my home, I think as I bend my face down to it, breathing in the scent of old wood, holding the weight securely as I move inside. I could bury my face in it, this small thing to be salvaged from this place that I had always been seeking.

As I type these final words tonight, all I can think is that home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward. Hope and love, love and desire, can also be merely sound that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed and will not until they forget the words. - Brigid

Saturday, August 26, 2017

3,700 year old Babylonian tablet shows that Mathematics is older than we thought

And that trigonometry was very, very old when the Greeks "invented" it.  And that Base 60 is good for something other than telling time.


And since we're talking Babylonia, it demands the song with the most famous reference to Babylonia ...

George Straight and Alan Jackson - Murder on Music Row

What's the "Real Country Music"?

That debate is evergreen, and everyone has an opinion.  Mine is that it sure isn't the current Country Pop that dominates the Country music radio.  Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law.

But the question has been asked for decades.  It was an old question back in 2001 when George Straight and Alan Jackson won CMA Song Of The Year.  Now you might like rock and roll with a little spice from a banjo or a fiddle (I mean, who doesn't?).  But the question remains: granted it's pretty, but is it art?

Murder On Music Row (Songwriters: Larry Cordle, Larry Shell)
Nobody saw him running from sixteenth avenue.
They never found the fingerprint or the weapon that was used.
But someone killed country music, cut out its heart and soul.
They got away with murder down on music row. 
The almighty dollar and the lust for worldwide fame
Slowly killed tradition and for that someone should hang
(oh, you tell them Alan).
They all say not guilty, but the evidence will show
That murder was committed down on music row. 
For the steel guitars no longer cry and fiddles barely play,
But drums and rock 'n roll guitars are mixed up in your face.
Old Hank wouldn't have a chance on today's radio
Since they committed murder down on music row. 
They thought no one would miss it, once it was dead and gone
They said no one would buy them old drinking and cheating songs (I'll still buy'em)
Well there ain't no justice in it and the hard facts are cold
Murder's been committed down on music row.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Fanfare For The Common Man

It's really quite striking how many successful rock musicians had classical training.

Advice to senior citizens when buying a home defense gun

Things can get pretty complicated.

Another reason not to buy a Samsung "Smart" TV

Software update turns brand new TVs into $1800 bricks:
Thousands of owners of high-end Samsung TVs have complained after a software update left their recently acquired £1,400 sets with blank, unusable screens.
The Guardian has been contacted by a number of owners complaining that the TVs they bought – in some cases just two weeks ago – have been rendered useless by an upgrade sent out by Samsung a week ago. 
Others have been posting furious messages on the company’s community boards complaining that their new TVs are no longer working. 
The company has told customers it is working to fix the problem but so far, seven days on, nothing has been forthcoming. The problem appears to affect the latest models as owners of older Samsung TVs are not reporting the issue.
On the plus side, at least the bricked TVs aren't remotely hackable for a change.

The future is stupid.

The world's most efficient battery

It's a train:
A California-based company called Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) is using the power of gravity to help renewable energy utilities compete with coal and gas. The idea is to help solve the perennial problem of energy storage. Because wind and solar installations can’t always generate energy on demand — sometimes it’s cloudy and the air is still — green utilities need a reliable method of storing surplus energy.
There are several ways to do this using high-tech industrial batteries, flywheels, or hydroelectric facilities, but these approaches tend to be expensive and complicated.
ARES’s solution? Run some old trains up and down a hill.
It's 80% efficient, which is much better than most alternatives.  Neat solution if you have to do wind or solar.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lynyrd Skynyrd - I Know A Little

Righteous blues, right there.

It's Nazis everywhere

So why not Grammar Nazi, too?

The Pepper Ball shot heard 'round the world

One of the Phoenix rioters got more than he bargained for.  Everlasting Internet fame:

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

"Chronic shortage" of cyber security workers

It's bad, it's been bad for a while, and it's not getting better anytime soon:
The number one issue facing cybersecurity firms is a "chronic shortage" of qualified staff.

That's according to the founder of market analyst Cybersecurity Ventures, Steve Morgan. "The single biggest trend, globally, is that there are chronic work shortages of qualified cyber security staff. It's an absolute epidemic," Morgan told supply-chain blog Channelnomics.

Morgan's company in 2016 gathered feedback from executives listed highest on the company's list of 500 top cybersecurity firms, many of whom pointed to the same problem.
They predict a shortage of over 3 million practitioners by 2021.  And this doesn't count military postings, where the problem is even worse.

You my younger readers (or older readers looking to change jobs), you don't need a degree in cyber security to get into the field.  I've posted before about how to do this, and there's more on it here.  You can study in your spare time using online resources.  Industry certification tests are not particularly expensive, and that's what employers look for.

One last point: cyber security is likely to be the last IT job outsourced to Bangalore.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Seen during the eclipse

A Neo-Nazi and a Social Justice Warrior meet on a bus

Hilarity ensues.

My favorite line:
It’s the libertarian types who are the worst, with their self-serving so-called freedoms.

Hat tip: Samizdata.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Go home Moon. You're drunk.

Seen today.

ISO eclipse glasses in front of the iPhone. I dont expect the camera algorithm planned on that use case.

The eclipse cast crazy crescent shaped shaddows. Before maximum the creacents pointed one way, after they pointed the other way.

But this was very cool. Another thing checked off of my bucket list.

ABC News covers the eclipse, 38 years ago

Coverage from the 1979 eclipse.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The story of Chinese immigrants in the Mississippi delta

This is pretty interesting, particularly all the southern drawls.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Showering and Anarchy - A Brigid Guest Post

I had a little time at lunch today to do some shopping before more thunderstorms come in, picking up a few gifts on sale for upcoming birthdays and holidays.

I bought this bottle of shower gel on sale, as sort of a fun gift for my Dad, just because the name sort of cracked me up and I figured it would be good for a smile.   Anarchy.  Unleash Chaos.

Then I opened it and unleashed something.  But it wasn't chaos.

Once, when my brother was going deer hunting and  I opened up the bottle of Tinks, deer in estros scent and took a big whiff, to see what it smelled like.

I do believe most of my nose hair incinerated, my retinas briefly detached and there was a compression somewhere between C-11 and C-12 as I attempted not to throw up.

This was worse.

Thinking it was just me, I ran it past a gal friend for a test sniff  as I stopped to drop off some books I'd borrowed.  " Wow, that's horrible" she said (and some special words she learned from Scandinavian relatives)  Her retired husband then offered his nose for a test and then promptly offered me a bottle of fine scotch  to get it out of the room and bury it.

Maybe, when one of the red hazmat bins is empty. . .no, safer to bury it.

To the Anarchy-showered male in the advertising above  - trust me, unless you're one of those effeminate vampires from Twilight and tube top dress girl has a wooden stake and a big mallet handy, she's not going to be smiling on her drive home.

Scent is a deeply personal thing, and certain scents bring do bring back memories. 

Brut was beyond popular when I was growing up, one of the first to use a celebrity endorsement to persuade men that grooming wasn't for wimps. Famed heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper was the original "face" of Brut, urging men to "splash it all over" long before David Beckham had his first shave.  I think there were little machines in the bathrooms in bars you could go into with a fake ID and have something with Kahlua and the guys would go douse themselves with it or so I heard as I don't know I was at choir practice. . .

I wasn't a big fan of Brut.  But I worked at the airport after school, pumping gas, driving this humongous truck with lousy brakes that was full of flammable liquid between large pointy moving objects and Samoans racing baggage carts.  And Dad freaked out if I drove the VW Bug on the freeway.

So I smelled like kerosene, which sort of canceled out the Brut smell.  Besides, I was holding out for my grade school girl crush, Illya Kuyakin, so teenager boys in Brut didn't stand much of a chance.

Remember Hai Karate! ? My Dad had some of that and was supremely disappointed and used to tease my Mom that his bottle must have been a dud as he didn't  have to fend off any super models with karate chops like on the commercials.   I don't remember what it smelled like but I don't think he ever had to fend off Mom wearing it, though, come to think of it, once, when he put on too much, she drove a golf ball from the back yard through the back kitchen window with a Five Iron.

Dad gave that up for Old Spice which he has worn ever since. When I go home, he gives me a big hug and I can still smell it on his sweater, that "Dad" smell that's both reassurance and comfort.

Now, there's not just aftershave, there is cologne, shampoo, body washes, shampoo/body washes (and the difference is?)

Most advertise themselves to smell like "fresh glacier extinguishing a giant fores  fire full of deer in heat" or such things.

I think the perfect man natural scent would be some sort of mysterious combination of, coffee, bacon, woodsmoke, and dark beer (with a slight undertone of 20-year-old British Motor Car Wheel Bearing Grease.)
But if one has to wear an actual store bought scent, I vote for the most subtle of sandalwood (And Demeter makes this unisex fragrance called gin and tonic that's smells really good on clean skin).

But boy, are there some bad ones out there.

Russia makes some particularly vile ones though they'd be good with a twist of lime and some ice,

And there's one I can't remember the exact name of,  from a small central European country that smelled like the bottom of the sea. The place where fish poop a lot, not the Aerial the little redhead Mermaid happy place.
Pinaud Lilac Vegetal- can be used as a substitution for Tinks.  Seriously. You'll have a 12 point buck trying to climb your head as quick as you can say C'est vraiment de ta faute!

Masters Island Breeze - be careful you don't get any on your skin.

Secretions Malefiques -  the Kardashians Kat in heat.

Aqua Velva Musk - if you want to be hit on by a hairy fur trapper,  go right ahead.

Clubman - Very 80's name.  Dries down to Cat box and Mrs. Butterworth syrup.

Black Magic (various grooming products) - If  you see it?   Kill it!  Kill it with Fire!

And I'd avoid Anarchy, for now.
- Brigid

A cooking tip to help you save time

You're welcome.

Most discussion about the Civil War is retarded*

Boy, there's a lot of idiocy being spewed about the Civil War.  I'm seeing the word to "traitor" being applied to pretty much everyone who wore gray or butternut uniforms.  The history that I learned growing up (and which was the common view as recently as Ken Burns' documentary) has seemingly been dropped into the dustbin of history.

This is retarded.  To help you understand this, here is a parable:
Let me try to make the decline of history more concrete by way of an analogy. Imagine that you had fallen asleep in 2005 and stayed asleep until 2150. Further assume that when you woke up in 2150, everyone loved the Iraq War. Not just Rumsfeld-style liked it, but fucking loved it. They loved it so much, that if you dared to question the righteousness of liberating the Iraqis from bondage, you’d be considered unfit for civil conversation. Intellectuals in 2150 prove their intellectual-ness by signaling to each other they support the Iraq War more than other people. In other words, by 2150, mainstream opinion on the Iraq War would be such that Donald Rumsfeld in 2005 would – by 2150 standards – be considered only moderately pro-war. 
Regardless of what you think about the Iraq War in the present day, you’d have a pretty low opinion of history as practiced in 2150.
We have all sorts of historians today rewriting the history of that period, because Reasons.**  Color me unimpressed.

As it turns out, there are a ton of primary sources from the day that are available to us, that we can use to check today's historical narrative.  That war was a defining event for the people of the day, and like the Greatest Generation's memoirs of World War II there were many, many who wrote of their experiences in the American War of Southern Independence.***  We can use these memoirs to see just how retarded today's narrative is, if we are careful.

We want to choose quality sources, of course.  There are quite a lot that can immediately be discarded as hopelessly biased - pretty much everything from Jubal Early and the "Lost Cause" school, for example.  But how can we tell reliable sources from propaganda?

We want to look for a number of things: We'd like someone who understood history and how it is documented; a professional historian would be ideal, as he would be writing at least in part for future historians.  We'd like someone who participated directly, of course, ideally fighting against the side that he defends in his writing.  As lawyers like to say, this "admission against interest" gives a lot of credibility.  And since the claim here is that modern historians lack credibility, we want credibility uber allies in the memoirs we choose from the time.

Is there such a source?  There is.

Charles Francis Adams, Jr. was a Harvard history professor, and first President of the American Historical Association.  Grandson and Great-Grandson of Presidents, he was from that Massachusetts Adams family,  He is more properly referred to as General Charles Francis Adams, having served in the Union Army during the war.

And so to today's charge of Treason leveled against Robert E. Lee, what can we learn from General Adams?  After all, Adams ticks all the boxes in what we are looking for in a credible source from the day.

Adams wrote a book (actually the transcript of a speech he gave to the Phi Beta Kappa Society - another box for us to tick!) that is available for free download today: Shall Cromwell Have a Statue?  You can download it yourself (it's a pretty easy read), but Fosetti covered this years ago:
The essay begins by questioning whether or not England should build a statue to Oliver Cromwell.  The purpose of the essay is really to discuss whether or not the US should build a statue to Robert E. Lee.  (Please keep in mind that Mr Adams fought on the Union side against Lee). 
Adams' answer is unequivocally "yes." 
He goes through a long argument about how Lee was not a traitor.  For if we wish to call Lee a traitor, we would have to call Washington, Cromwell, William of Orange and Hampden traitors as well.  Lee was loyal to his state, which was where he believed his primary loyalty lay. 
Then Adams tries to make a distinction between Virginia's decision to secede and other Cotton States' decisions to secede.  The latter states seceded when Lincoln won the election.  Virginia did not.  Virginia believed in secession (as did everyone who ratified the Constitution, according to Mr Adams).  Virginia was willing to let the other states peacefully secede, but did not wish to secede with them.  Only after the US government tried to re-supply Sumter, an act of war against a sovereign state (i.e. South Carolina), according to the logic of Virginia and the original understanding of the Constitution, did Virginia rebel.  According to Virginia, the North had effectively changed the Constitution at that point and Virginia seceded to defend the original Constitution.  Mr Adams understands this argument but sees it as hopeless outdated and out-of-touch.  Nevertheless, he sees it as consistent.  Lee then went with his state.
You can read Fosetti's review (or better yet, Adams' book) and learn what one of the best sources of the day believed.  Or you can keep calling Lee a traitor and keep sounding like a retard.  Alas, my view of the world is so jaded lately that I suspect that I know how many people will choose.  That's why I have a tag for "Decline of the Progressive West".

* I use the term deliberately, to smoke out people more focused on use of unapproved language than on actual thoughts and meanings.

** I think there's something to the idea floated yesterday on Instapundit that as long as the South voted Democrat, historians were happy to present a different history.  Now that the South reliably votes against the Democrats, it's book burning time:
But there’s also this: “Don’t overthink this, because it’s quite simple, really. When Democrats’ national position depended on unwavering support from ‘the Solid South,’ we got lots of pro-Southern propaganda: the Lost Cause, Gone With The Wind, Disneyfied Uncle Remus, etc. As a vital Democrat constituency group, southerners, even practical neo-Confederates, were absolved of all sins as long as they stayed in line.” If the south were still a vital constituency today, Democrats would sound like Bill Clinton did in the 1990s.
*** It wasn't a Civil War because the Confederate States did not want to take over the north.  "War Between the States" is ambiguous, losing the underlying motivations.

A meditation on Charlottesville

Miguel brings it.  Awesome.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Admittedly I'm not a fan of Mr. Lincoln, but this is going too far

Lincoln Memorial vandalized by anarchists:
Authorities in the nation's capital are searching for a vandal after the Lincoln Memorial was spray painted with explicit graffiti early Tuesday. 
The National Park Service said it was working to remove the graffiti after it was discovered at about 4:30 a.m., FOX 5 DC reported.

The graffiti, which was done in red spray paint on a column, appears to say “F*** law."
Actually my take on Mr. Lincoln is that he pretty much lived the advice from the graffiti, but this is getting out of hand.

Hat tip: Chicago Boyz.

"Unhappy is the land that is in need of heroes" - Bertolt Brecht

ASM826 says that the book burnings are coming.  I can't disagree, and the sight of Nazis and communists* fighting each other in the streets has a very Weimar vibe.

That vibe isn't because of the clashes of baseball bat armed groups of opposing socialists, it's because of the paralysis of the major political parties.  The Republicans seem terrified about this and are hastening to tar everyone up to and including the Tea Party as Nazis; the Democrats - at an historically low point in their power across the Republic - are gleefully throwing gasoline on the fire.  Both parties are terribly weak, and everyone sees it.

But Nature abhors a vacuum, and the vacuum of political will is no exception.

It's not true that Voltaire said "If you want to know who rules over you, ask yourself whom you may not criticize."  But it's a true statement nonetheless.
He who controls the past controls the future.  He who controls the present controls the past.
- George Orwell, 1984
Lenin once said that everything in politics is Who, Whom?  Who rules, and whom do they rule?  A conquered people are always deprived of their history, and especially their heroes.  The statues are being removed, and so we can tell who is the victor and who is the vanquished.  But only some heroes are being removed.  Others are quite safe.

Meanwhile, the half of the country that voted for a change in last year's election is beginning to wonder if change will be allowed.  I wonder what will happen when they learn the answer.

* The idea that Nazis are "right wing" is absurd.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli - J'attendrai

I just ran across a Jazz musician who I'd never encountered before: "Django" Reinhardt, perhaps the first significant European Jazz artist.  There's a lot about him at Infogalactic, but in addition to his musical creds, he was a Gipsy jazz musician in occupied France during the war.  The Nazis hated both gipsys (and killed boxcar loads of them) but hated jazz as well.  He survived because there were a number of Nazi officers who actually liked the music, including Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn who was known as "Doctor Jazz" (!):
However, it's Kubrick's interest in jazz-loving Nazis that represents his most fascinating unrealized war film. The book that Kubrick was handed, and one he considered adapting soon after wrapping Full Metal Jacket, was Swing Under the Nazis, published in 1985 and written by Mike Zwerin, a trombonist from Queens who had performed with Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy before turning to journalism. The officer in that Strangelovian snapshot was Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a fanatic for "hot swing" and other variations of jazz outlawed as "jungle music" by his superiors. Schulz-Koehn published an illegal underground newsletter, euphemistically referred to as "travel letters," which flaunted his unique ability to jaunt across Western Europe and report back on the jazz scenes in cities conquered by the Fatherland. Kubrick's title for the project was derived from the pen name Schulz-Koehn published under: Dr. Jazz.

The Intarwebz are a wonderful place.

UPDATE 16 August 2017 17:28: Here's a short documentary on how Reinhardt survived the War.

Palate cleansing news

It seems like the Republic is going to Hell in a hand basket, torn asunder by totalitarian pricks on both sides.  As a ever so brief respite from that, here is the big news from Ellsworth, Maine (courtesy of childhood friend 2cents).  Warden guides wandering moose back into the woods:
ELLSWORTH — A sickly looking moose that slowed Bayside Road traffic Monday morning was found to be healthy and sent back into the woods by a game warden.
Detective Dotty Small said the moose, which looked thin and sickly, was first reported to police at 7:37 a.m. Monday. It was seen in the area of 505 Bayside Road, just south of Spindle Road.
Sure, it's not exotic and dangerous like Bison chasing tourists at Old Faithful.  It's Maine - the way Life should be*.

* Well, that's what the sign on I-95 says.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amazon recalls unsafe solar eclipse glasses

You'll, err, shoot your eye out with those:
Amazon has "proactively" recalled solar eclipse glasses that "may not comply with industry standards" before darkness descends on the US next week, August 21. 
To directly observe its awesome power without destroying their eyes, stargazers can use special filtered glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. 
But the American Astronomical Society based in Washington DC has warned that some companies have been printing the ISO logo and certification label on faulty glasses and handheld viewers "made with materials that do not block enough of the Sun's ultraviolet, visible, and infrared radiation to make them truly safe". Some manufacturers were also allegedly displaying bogus test results on their websites.
The American Astronomical Society has a list of tested and certified eclipse glasses.  If you (like The Queen Of The World and I) plan on going to see the eclipse, you should double check the glasses you have.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Driving Miss Brigid - A Guest Post

We live in a 100+ year old Village in Chicagoland.  The streets are small, and most houses have tiny garages that exit to the alley. With a lot that has side yards with lots of space between we and neighbors plus a long driveway exiting to the street, we are a bit unusual (we think the original owner bought two entire lots for the space, then added the two car garage in the 50's or 60's). A stand of 100 year old Spruces between us and the southern neighbors is nice, and the retired Veteran neighbor to our north also bought two lots and added a driveway, so we have some space., unusual for this area.

The problem is, people don't consider that we have to get OUT of that driveway to a very narrow street. After the giant four door 4 x 4 truck and I moved in after getting transferred to our office here, there were a couple of mornings I had to wait until the neighbors that park on the street left to get out. The house across and one down had been a  multi unit rental (basement, first floor, and second floor) after the previous single owner retired and moved, putting it up for sale.  There were several parties living there with multiple vehicles. There's plenty of open space further down, but that entails driving further, even if it's not any further away from their door. I made sure everyone got homemade baked goods, an introduction to the bat truck and an explanation as to how much space I need to get out without whacking their vehicles.  Other than having to sometimes put out cones when someone had a family member or sleepover date visiting on a weekend, everyone had been awesome.
But that house across and one door down has new owners - according to neighbors that had met them, a family who is going to live in it with the exception of the tiny upstairs dormer rental that a couple of their college age kids will occupy, with multiple cars, including a new Ford truck that likely will NOT fit in their little garage.  With several cars there as their extended family helps get the house ready for final move in, some spending the night, it's been a bit crowded getting out.

Yesterday, rather than consider the thought of going through THAT learning curve again and having to use leave because I am late to work - when I came home and the new owner and what looked like (from the resemblance) either adult sons or little brothers were standing outside waiting for a contractor (since it's been a rental, I'm sure there's a bit of work before it's move in ready) - I HAD A PLAN!
They spot cute redhead in big, shiny black truck and all hold their stomachs in, smile and give a friendly "hello new neighbor" wave.  I waved back.

I normally back in - in one fluid movement, as it makes it easier to get out in the a.m. Having been a jet pilot for many years, I can usually back that truck in very quickly and very efficiently, in one try (unlike the Reno airport in the snowy/icy winter where you just use differential power to SLIDE into the gate and hope you get it right).

Yesterday, while they all looked on, I deliberately took about 4 wide tries at it, less than gently stomping on the brakes, and on the last one deliberately taking the truck THROUGH the lawn (that will buff out) and intentionally almost hitting one of the spruce trees, before finally, getting the truck backed in with a screech of brakes.

Today, all the new neighbor's vehicles and those of their family were parked WELL down the street, away from my driveway.

My work here is done.

So who thinks that the climate data is bad?

Besides me, of course?  The National Academy of Sciences does, too:
In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences, the research arm of the National Research Council, released a study expressing concern about the accuracy of the data used in the debate over climate change. They said there are,
“Deficiencies in the accuracy, quality and continuity of the records,” that “place serious limitations on the confidence that can be placed in the research results.” 
This is huge - if you can't trust the data, you can't trust the results.  The science is settled?  Orlly?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Commas: not just a good idea, a requirement

Poor dog.

Johann Pachelbel - Chaconne in F minor

Have you ever wondered what the "B Side" is of a composer known for a single great work?  Johann Pachelbel is renowned for his Canon in D (so renowned, in fact, that it has been parodied).  As it turns out, Pachelbel wasn't a one hit wonder, he was quite prolific.  His Chaconne in F minor is perhaps his next best known work.  He composed it for organ, as with most of his works.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Nina Simone - Feeling Good

Doctor said things look good and I don't need to go back for another "oil change" for 3 years.  It's a new day, baby.

The importance of maintenance

Once you reach a certain age, things begin to go off inside you, and so a regular program of maintenance is called for.  Part of this is them going in to clean out any odd growths from your digestive tract.  And so it's off to the doctor for a rather uncomfortable morning.

Actually, the morning should be fine; the prep work last evening was the uncomfortable bit.

The last one was 6 months ago, and they found (and removed) something sort of big and sort of strange.  Today is to check that they got it.  Hopefully it will be in and out, and good news from the doc.  I expect that if it's not good news it would be pretty bad news, so we've all learned the importance of a proper maintenance schedule, haven't we.

Blogging has been off for a bit and will continue to be off for a bit.

UPDATE 11 August 2017 12:50: Back home with a clean bill of health.  A little woozy still, but don't need another "oil change" for three years.  Go team me!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Emptiness and Form, an Aircraft Boneyard - A Brigid Guest Post

What is it about old places filled with the past that fascinate so?

The landscape of the desert. The feel of machinery against our shoulder. The smell of oil and might on the breeze. I had a chance to re-visit a resting place of old aircraft.

In the desert just outside of the city of Tucson is a a place where old airplanes go to die. Davis Monthan Air Base and it's resting grounds. A business trip had me down that way so I made the effort to go visit.  The"Boneyard" in the desert has been a fascination, a place where titans of the air rest before going on their way to the aviation afterlife.

The Air Force calls the desert facility "Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center" (AMARC), many visitors refer to it as "the boneyard". We are probably both right. Here the U.S. Air Force mothballs planes until they either need them again or it's time to salvage them for parts. Whenever the U.S. sells surplus planes to foreign governments part of the sales pitch is that there will always have a ready supply of spare parts. Some are turned into pilotless drones and used for missile target practice. Many, too many have all the earmarks of being skeletal.
There are only three ways to view the aircraft at the heart of the Davis-Monthan facility: fly over the place (tough unless you're riding in on an F-15); from a satellite; or by Bus from the PASM. Since I can't afford either an F-15 nor a KH-12 Spy Satellite, I rode with a couple dozen other tourists and took the bus tour.

There's enough information on the place on the web and numerous aviation blog posts, so I won't get too wordy here, but suffice to say there's about every military plane ever made here, including the leviathans of the site; 100 plus B-52s, all that remain of nearly 400, slowly being destroyed as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, and the force reduction treaties. These bombers are chopped up using a 130 ton blade, then left for a week or more to allow the Russians to photograph and confirm their destruction. I have watched several airmen view a documentary of those aircraft being dismembered and I know, that had they been alone, they would have been crying, tears for the incredible creativity as well as the terrible destruction that man is capable of.

I could picture these craft in their prime, in the flight line each morning as each bird began its wandering life.  As men bustled about, shafts of light struck polished metal in thin lines of gold, bending and then twisting over the cowlings as if rendered molten by the touch.  The engines still slept, hushed by an absent hand and watched over by a gentle breeze.  As always, there would be one aircraft off on its own, having a heavy (maintenance) check, bearing the ground with the excitement of a disenchanted philosopher.

Today, all is still, their only remaining the shells of what was once thunderous with life.

Just beyond the remaining Buffs, where the bus turned to make its way back to the museum, are two parks of odd looking equipment. The equipment is the tooling and jigs for the B-1 and B-2 bomber production lines. One day those bombers will take up residence under the clear blue Arizona sky, and there might still be B-52s to keep them company.
It's an amazing, still place. The first time I went there, security was much freer and we were able to get up closer and look. Wander among the husks of aircraft. The aircraft, sharp and large against the backdrop of a desert sky, holding so many stories in the empty spaces they form and contain.

I can almost hear the echoes of the words shouted over the sound of the ramp. "Clear Two" is shouted out just before that first engine rumbles to life in that that strong confident tone that is used when heavens fall and justice is served, unheard words that now hang on the air as gentle as dew, as hard as molten lead.

It's mysterious, exciting, the kind of place where as a kid your dreams went. It's even more mysterious as night falls on the Sonora Desert. There, the aircraft stand like ghostly sentinels upon the hard earth, under unfathomed sky. They loom, over tiny scrabbles of cactus and the small desert creatures. They wait, on hard earth splayed with the tracks of tiny feet, and larger feet, making their own shadows of violent shade until the unrestrained stars come out at night. Their forms, so silent, yet with so much to tell.
When I was a student of the Martial Arts, my Sensei once said, that "emptiness is form and form is emptiness", a phrase I never really understood until that moment, staring at those cavernous behemoths of the sky. One moment they are simply an empty form, in another memory brings back to life the souls they contained, the might they rendered, the absolute force in which they sliced the sky as they dealt with life or death that oblidge no delay

Some of the airmen that flew many of these aircraft have died already, so many aircraft, so many souls on board. As I think about that, their empty bodies float in my mind, light, unfettered by gravity, I became aware of my own heartbeat in the setting sun, the labor of my lungs against my chest. Form is emptiness. Emptiness form, I say as with warm and eager breath I take in the landscape, as my mind grasps just how real, how tangible these husks of aircraft still are, even as some of their crews are but dust.
Overhead, desert thunderstorms loom and erupts, heavy drops of water hitting us as we scurry for the tour bus, threads of moisture hitting the packed earth like gunfire. The remains of the aircraft fall behind us, the forms of inevitable truth here in a world so often less than truthful.

The sound of thunder echoes across the boneyard, nature's taps playing as the sky weeps for the dead with crystal purity.

These thoughts were broken by the chatter of some of the other tour members. For a moment I wanted to hush them, as this was a solemn place. To tell them to be quiet. . . . . or something. Something about interfering with the shuttered windows of these forms, the dark alleys of an airplane's final resting place and the sky's remembrance of such places, filled with the elemental silence of those who have flown away.

- Brigid

Electric cars and child slavery

It's all about Cobalt.

This is a key element in the manufacture of the batteries needed for electric cars and solar/wind farms.  It's mined in the Congo, and like "blood diamonds" the locals use child slaves to get it:
When Sky News investigated the Katanga mines it found Dorsen, working near a little girl called Monica, who was four, on a day of relentless rainfall. 
Dorsen was hauling heavy sacks of rocks from the mine surface to a growing stack 60ft away. A full sack was lifted on to Dorsen’s head and he staggered across to the stack. A brutish overseer stood over him, shouting and raising his hand to threaten a beating if he spilt any.

The article is pretty sickening, but includes this tidbit:
The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb).
The wages of "green" energy: exploitation of 4 year olds.

And subsidies.  Elon Musk has pulled down $5B in government subsidies.  That's our money, going to fuel what's happening in Congo.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What were ancient battles like?

Absolutely terrifying.  At least if you were there.

This is some excellent ancient history geekery.

Cheating on climate data?

Most countries enthusiastically signed up to the Paris climate accords.  It looks like the enthusiasm was due to the countries planning on cheating:
Potent, climate warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found.
Air monitors in Switzerland have detected large quantities of one gas coming from a location in Italy.
However, the Italian submission to the UN records just a tiny amount of the substance being emitted.
Levels of some emissions from India and China are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%.

At this point I'm starting to wonder if there are any reliable climate data at all.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Medical CAT scanners hackable from the Internet

It seems that these have web servers (strike one) that are Internet-accessible (strike two) that have an unmatched vulnerability that lets the Bad Guy run any code they want on it (strike three):
Hackers can exploit trivial flaws in network-connected Siemens' medical scanners to run arbitrary malicious code on the equipment. 
These remotely accessible vulnerabilities lurk in all of Siemens' positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET-CT) scanners running Microsoft Windows 7. These are the molecular imaging gizmos used to detect tumors, look for signs of brain disease, and so on, in people. They pick up gamma rays from radioactive tracers injected into patients, and perform X-ray scans of bodies. 
US Homeland Security warned on Thursday that exploits for bugs in the equipment's software are in the wild, and "an attacker with a low skill would be able to exploit these vulnerabilities." That's because the flaws lie within Microsoft and Persistent Systems' code, which runs on the Siemens hardware, and were patched years ago. 
The patches just didn't make their way to the scanners.
Of course not.  Patches?  We don' need no stencil' patches!

After all, making an Internet playground for shady Black Hats, all inside a huge X-Ray control system - what could possibly go wrong?

Lawsuit says Disney apps track kids without parent's permission

This seems pretty important:
Disney has been sued in America for allegedly collecting children's personal information without getting parents' approvals. 
class-action lawsuit [PDF] filed Thursday in northern California accuses the unstoppable children's entertainment brand and three of its developer partners of violating privacy laws by tracking the locations and activities of kids who use their mobile games – without first asking parents to approve the activity. 
Named plaintiff Amanda Rushing is suing on behalf of herself and a class of all parents whose kids played "Disney Princess Palace Pets" and 42 other Disney-branded smartphone and tablet games that allegedly run afoul of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). 
According to the suit, the Disney apps for both iOS and Android do not ask for parental permission before they use software development kits that assign unique identifiers to users and then use those identifiers to track the location of the users, as well as activities in-game and across multiple devices. The data is then fed to advertisers to serve up targeted ads.