Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Memories - A Brigid Guest Post

Trick or Treating was big in my house, even as it came with its own set of rules. It was on Halloween, not a Friday or Saturday or what was convenient or politically correct. School night or not, we were out and we were going to get our loot.

My earliest memory of it was early grade school and that Cat outfit mom bought.  She was recently out of the hospital following cancer surgery and didn't have a lot of energy to sew one (she made most of my clothes with her little Singer machine), so she splurged on a store-bought costume.  I still have a photo of me in it, the black pants and top with a big glittery cat on the front, my cheeks flushed with the cold, one front tooth missing and a smile that said: "Look at all the candy Mom!"  As we got older, she encouraged us to make our own costumes, to spark our creativity (note to self - wearing Superman Cape does not enable user to fly).

As an adult, I do the same, though it's a rare party I'll go to, preferring a home cooked meal with the company of just one or two people, or even myself, to a crowd.  But sometimes I will venture out if the people are those I really enjoy spending time with, showing up with a smile and something hot from the oven to add to the table.

One party at a doctors house, I wasn't sure I'd be off duty so didn't get a costume. A friend from work, also invited, was going and he was in the same predicament.  He was a pretty tall guy and ex military, so I had an idea. I had him bring over a pair of fatigues. I wore the top half, which fit just down to mid-thigh, with flesh colored tights beneath. He wore the bottom half with combat boots and a flesh-colored T-shirt that I'd picked up with the tights at Wal-Mart.

We showed up and the guests, most of them as well, in the medical field said - "What ARE you two?"

Upper and Lower GI !

As adults, we can still laugh, even if it's sometimes just at ourselves.

Childhood Halloween traditions never varied. There was always Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin to watch.  For dinner we'd have hot dogs with sides of orange jello and some carrot sticks and a glass of milk.  Then we'd suit up as quickly as firemen, eager to be out the door, out into the night where the cool Fall breeze shivered and stirred the grass where the leaves had long since fallen.

I paired off with a brother who was older. We were limited to where we could go but we had pillow cases  that would hold a LOT of goodies.

There would be an occasional homemade caramel apple, popcorn ball or another such treat from a couple of older ladies up the street, but they put little commercial address labels on the wrapped treat with a note so our mom's knew immediately who sent it and that it would be good to eat.  But the occasional popcorn ball aside, what we were after was the commercial loot. Hershey's and Tootsie Rolls, Fruit Stripe gum, Sugar Daddies, Smartees, Milk Duds (still a favorite), Crows, Skybar, Nestle Crunch, Dots, Pixy Sticks, Big Hunk, Boston Baked Beans (those were given away, I still don't like them), Gobstoppers, SweetTarts (more, please), Charms, those little candy necklaces, Necco Wafers, Slo Pokes, Jolly Ranchers, Chic-o-Sticks, Bazooka gum.

The only thing Mom wouldn't let us keep was the Sugar Daddies. For some reason she thought those would just ruin our teeth and would hide them away with a plan for them to be rationed out one by one over time. Usually however, after a month, she'd forget about them. We'd run stealthy espionage missions into the kitchen until we found her hiding spot and would capture them and hide them in our secret fort to ruin our teeth at our own darn pace.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, imaginations running free, flashlights shining into a future as exciting as we could imagine.

To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand. Trick or Treat, though with my front tooth missing, more like Twik or Tweat. Still that missing tooth got me extra candy (oh aren't you cute).

One house, always anticipated, had its owner dress like a witch, press on warts and all, and she'd have a steaming cauldron of dry ice and spooky music playing. That was the best part of that whole street. We'd approach the door, it would open with a haunting creak, the interior of the room blooming with light, a flutter of slender muscles in our arms as we held out our bags, trying to show we weren't really scared. That's just some kids Mom. . right? She really doesn't turn into a witch every Halloween? Then she would laugh, more of a honeyed laugh than a cackle, blue eyes, sparkling, holding us silent with her lifted hand from which would pour down sweet goodness, not toads or bats or other scary things.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, after dark, by ourselves, just kids, with scores of other kids, flashlights in hand. Out in front of us, two whole blocks, dozens of houses, the darkness slung low with lights, the night blowing cool and full of promise.
One year I was a ghost. That year a lot of kids were ghosts, the lumber mill having laid off a bunch of men, and money for costumes was sorely lacking. An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost. Pity the poor kid who was the pink ghost, he was going to get flattened like a pancake next time the boys played dodge ball. Other years, the costumes were as wide as our imagination and bigger than all our fears.

In our garb, we hovered over places of play, breathing sugar-fueled dreams like air, ashen figures gliding through the night on silent feet. To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand.  The houses weren't decorated up the way they are now, but on the porch would often be a lone jack o lantern, eyes shining from a candle or some fake cobwebs along the porch (those aren't fake! ack ack ack, get it out of my hair!) We'd pass each other wondering just who was that superhero, who was that under the Casper mask? We scurried along, hands waving, quick steps in time to the chatter of chilled breath, the blocks of a post-war suburb stretching out, the dim lights of small-town America.

As ghosts, cowboys, baseball players and Superman, we covered ground, drawing in deep breaths of it all, unutterably aware of how brief this night would be. I think even as kids we know that too soon we'd have to put this other life, this other identify away, as we melted anonymously back into our regular life, with wistful longing and the taste of sweetness on our lips.
Even though we were told to just do two blocks, we always went ahead and did that third one, or as much of it as we could fit in before our little watches told us it was time to back. We advanced, trudging up the steps to that first house, looking over our shoulders as if we could already see our Mom scolding us. We hit about six more houses, with other kids from our street, before as a group we agreed to go back. We swear each other to secret, the words not spoken but carved into stone upon which lies a nameless and forgotten effigy, those secrets of childhood we bear with us always.

There up ahead, the lights of our house. Home! We cross the empty lot where a new house was going in, following a faint path were dozens of small feet had worn the rotting leaves down to the soil. We clicked off the flashlight, whispering there in the dark about Great Pumpkins and Ghosts, where overhead, Chestnut trees thinned against the skies.
The wind had blown the clouds away, leaving a bright starry night, imaginary bat wings beating in the trees, a black cat crossing the road under the silver echo of the stars. Smoke hangs on the air suspended, the ash of burnt leaves that once rattled on the ground like tin.  I stretch out my hand into the vast expanse of darkness as if to clutch a star, to save a sweet fragment of the night to tuck into the book of that day.

Too soon it would be time to go in, the night rushing past all too quickly, stolen moments of sweetness there in the dark. As children we live in the moment, we live in a sugary world where not all is a warning, where people are inherently good, and the goblins and witches and demons take off their costume and reveal a harmless smile. We know that in recollection, we see how quickly it all went past, and holding a sweet piece of time with blurred eyes, I realize we all have lost part of that, the innocence and the wonder, forever, even if memory remains.
When we got back to the house, Mom sorted through our candy, tossing anything not completely wrapped, being careful. But we appreciated that she let the two of us go without parental oversight those last few years; Big Bro being big enough to keep me safe in the street. There were so many other kids out, the streets full, an adult not in sight but for the ones with little tiny kids. She had to worry, it was dark after all, we were hardly isolated, but we were alone.

We probably didn't even look back as we ran out to start our night of fun. But if we had, we would have seen her standing there, evanescent and forlorn, even as she put a smile on her face and waved, so we'd venture forth with hope, not fear.
There weren't many more Halloweens with her there. Too soon we lost her. Too soon we were adults living on our own and learning that too much sugar can make you fat, and that roses often draw blood. Too soon we'd understand the night's promise of unease, the dangers that lurk in the shadows, finalities that go beyond a grave. But she let us live with our innocence as long as she could, while preparing us to be fighters and risk takers, teaching us to be not fixed, but flexible in the light, no darkness to flee through and from that we could not handle armed with faith and occasionally a firearm.
Tonight, the wind is silent and the house stirs, shadows gathering in the basement, a dark pine forever trying an ancient latch on the window of the room in which I sleep. I smile at a taste of sweetness on my lips, a stolen moment of childhood nibbled before bed. Around me are homes, some dark and cold, no pumpkins yet in the yard, the doors shuttered against laughter. There are always those that look at childhood dreams like viewing something through the glass, behind which is only vacuum, from which no sound emits and which, too soon, fades to where they simply live anchored, until they simply cease to exist.

Happy Halloween

I hope that you have a costume that doesn't confuse people.

The Queen Of The World and I plan on being Thing 1 and Thing 2 (with Wolfgang as Thing 3).  I would suggest that she is dressing up as a Blue Haired Lady but think I know where that discussion would lead.  And if I behave, I might get her to wear this again:

Her costume doesn't confuse me, nosiree.  Yowser.  No offense to you dudes out there, but I won, suckas.

Your Halloween humor is over at Chicken Mom's place.  Heh.

And it isn't Halloween without the greatest Halloween song ever recorded.  Bring us on home, Vincent Price ...

The greatest OPSEC failure of the Pacific Theater

Interesting post at ChicagoBoyz about how improperly classified material seized by the Japanese from the grounded submarine U.S.S. Darter led to at least four Carriers being hit by Kamikazes.  I'd never heard of this event, and there's quite an interesting discussion about how Navy Department internal politics buried this story.

OPSEC is hard, because you have lots of people involved (training is always imperfect) and the operate under stress (fatigue, battlefield conditions, etc).  It was an OPSEC failure that led to the identification and arrest of the Dread Pirate Roberts (creator of the Silk Road).

The Mechanics of the Big Lie

Interesting (but long) discussion of how the Media uses intentional fake stories as cover to debunk actual real news:
The Left implemented a novel technique of the Big Lie that I will call a Flooding Fake here.  This technique was especially widely used by climate alarmism.  This is what it looks like:
  1. An important figure or organization on the Left is caught doing something wrong, saying something outrageous, or blatantly lying.
  2. The Left injects into public discourse an absolutely fake, but believable, account of this action and immediately “debunks” this account.
  3. The fake narrative is accepted by the public as truth because the public knows that something similar has happened.  The immediate debunking is rejected as a cover-up attempt.
  4. Later, when people accuse the original wrongdoer they use elements of the fake narrative.  This is when “fact checkers” jump on them.  Fake news networks accuse honest statesmen and commentators of spreading fake news.  The liberals’ conviction that the conservatives are stupid and uninformed gets deeper.  Google buries honest pieces far from public sight.  Facebook tries to prevent their sharing.  Leftist politicians cry that they lost elections because of fake news.
An example is a global cooling scare of the 70s.
Orwell's MiniTru could not be reached for comment.  Highly recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2017

That's OK. Probably nobody will notice

Wait, what?
The German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) has defended its decision to name a high-speed train after the world-famous Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
Anne Frank's name is among those of 25 famous Germans chosen by a jury after a public consultation.
A German conservative MP, Iris Eberl, tweeted that it was a "tasteless" choice, as Anne Frank and other Jews had been sent by train to their deaths.
[blink] [blink]

I don't think that Marketing fail gets bigger than this.

New life for your old Windows Vista computer

El Reg talks up a new Linux distribution that seems a great fit for old Vista boxes:
The Linux distribution Q4OS sounds like textspeak from a teenager from 1997, but it has potential, and it's not a bad option for Linux newbies. 
Screenshot of Q4OS
Click to enlarge
The Linux OS is flexible. If one Linux distro is an unfriendly fit, you can replace it with another one that has a more appealing options list on the desktop environment or user interface front. 
Debian-based Q4OS, developed by a team of software designers in Germany, has a lightweight design that allows it to run on nearly any hardware config. I have run it on ageing computers from the early days of Windows Vista.
Fast, secure, and runs on old hardware (including 32 bit CPUs).  Oh, and it's free.  If you have a wheezing old Vista box, you might want to try this out.

Top 7 baseball films

It's World Series time, and so here are the top 7 baseball films.  These may tide you over until spring training:

(Not in the running) Field Of Dreams.  I just can't get over the implausible premise ("Build it and they will come"), and this is my list.  Other than that, it's a fine film.  I think you can watch this with your kids and grandkids, assuming you want to watch it.  But I think I fell asleep watching it so I can't really remember.

7. Angels In The Outfield.  Sure, it's as predictable as a sunny summer day.  Sure, it's made by Disney.  Sure, it has complete games getting pitched long after they stopped pitching complete games.  It's a fun romp that is 100% kid friendly.  Quotable quotes: "It could happen!".

6. A League Of Their Own.  Remember nostalgia?  Quotable quote: "There's no crying in baseball!  You know why?  Because there's no crying in baseball!"  You can watch this with your kids or grandkids.

5. Major League.  This is slapstick and entirely predictable but funny as hell.  Do not watch this with your kids or grandkids.  Quotable quote: "Just a reminder, fans, comin' up is our 'Die-hard Night' here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant."

4. Sandlot.  This is a coming of age story reminiscent of the old saying: In spring, a young man's thoughts lightly turn to thoughts of love baseball. Quotable quote: "You're killing me, Smalls!" (Sandlot).

3. Fever Pitch.  It's about the 2004 Red Sox.  Sure, it's a romantic comedy.  Did I mention that it was about the 2004 Red Sox?  You probably should not watch this with your kids or grandkids, since there are some bedroom scenes.  Quotable quote: "Careful, kid. They'll break your heart."  Did I mention that it was about the Red Sox?

2. Moneyball.  This is a great story about how "Big Data" changed the game of baseball.  Except for some language, this is safe to watch with your (older) kids or grandkids (younger kids are likely to lose interest).  Quotable quote: "It's hard not to be romantic about baseball. This kind of thing, it's fun for the fans. It sells tickets and hot dogs. Doesn't mean anything."

1. Bull Durham.  It tells the story of the people who don't make it to The Show, both the players and the people who root for them.  It is very bitter sweet, and tells a story of striving and losing. Important note: You can not watch this with your kids or grand kids.  Quotable Quote: "Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic."

(The idea for this list was shamelessly stolen from Chris Lynch.  You do read him every day, don't you?)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The difference between Baseball and Football

The World Series opens with the (televised) national anthem.  All the players are standing, with their hands over their hearts.

The NFL doesn't allow the broadcasting of the national anthem.  To ask why not is to answer the question.

Just another one to add to Tom Boswell's list.

An Excerpt From Calexit the Anthology -A Brigid Guest Post

An excerpt from my novella -- "Freedom's Ride" --  which is in 

  • which has gone live on Kindle or

       "She gently pats the small firearm in her pocket.  It’s illegal, one of the many things, it seems, that’s called illegal here in Cali anymore.  Breaking the law is not in her blood, but without it, her blood could be spilled.

      From the beginning of time, there have been laws; there have been tools that can be used as weapons, including firearms. There has been good and evil. There have been two distinct and competing impulses that exist among humans, one, the instinct to live by the law, to act peacefully except in matters of self-defense, to follow moral commands for the good of the group; and the other, the instinct to gratify one's immediate desires without adherence to any such law or moral code, using violence, not as a means of protection, but to simply to obtain supremacy over others or force one’s will on someone without defense.

      How did that all change, she thinks, to where we are in a world where everyone expects something for free, laws and the Constitution are whims, and those in power do anything they can to stay there, even if it means blood continues to flow in the street? How did we get to a point where greed and self-entitlement broke this once proud land away from our country, which she STILL believes is HER country, with a savage force that would put any earthquake to shame?

      She steps outside to lock the gate.  It’s only one additional thing between the forest and her door, but she sleeps better knowing it is locked, not fear of the four-legged creatures but of the two-legged ones. When she first moved here she replaced the pin tumblers on her gate, grooming station and supply shed with magnetic and combination to make them less easy to “lock-bump” and break in.

      A hundred yards away, there is a moonlit lane between pine trees and stone. There in the shadows, only steps away, a long shadow shifts. She stops, sensing movement, sensing darkness within the dark, in the woods past her clothesline. Her hand moves to her firearm, poised to use it if needed. It is only a fox, easing back through the trees; a shadow, a form that slides like light through a picket fence, slanting sideways, and then disappears under cover. Her hand eases away from her weapon, but she backs away, towards the candlelight, towards home and sleep.

      She walks quietly back towards the house. She goes a different time each day, knowing that predators rely on patterns. There in the distance, a couple of coyotes, trotting along the edge of the meadow, through snow that clutched at their empty bellies, heads cocked, eyes forward, using instinct, tooth and sinew to find that one small morsel there breathing under the snow, trying to hide for its life, a small shivering rabbit, wishing as desperately not to be eaten alive as the coyote desperately wishes to consume. The coyote stops to look at her in the stark moonlight, with what looks to be a smile on his face, not one of welcome but of mockery; the smile of a predator. He watches as she moves on down the road towards her door, round in the chamber, ready if needed.

      She walks back towards the house when from the edge of the woods comes motion and sound, a blurred commotion, a high pitched, soft pleading scream that breaks the lie of safety. She looks towards the trees and sees something darting quickly, a dark shape, too small to be human, too quick for her to catch a good glimpse. There, in the ditch, a small white form, a jagged tear in its furry throat, rabbity legs twitching in the remembrance of life.

      As she bolts the door behind her for the night, the abandon and innocent glee that was childhood remain forever lodged in her mind, just as do those lessons, even the painful ones. She puts her hands up to her nose and smells the faint, clean scent of soap, something so plain and simple, much like what once stood for truth.  Today, she is no longer trusted with either a weapon or a voice but the Calis can’t take her honorable heart. What guides her to maintain that honor is not a law, it is not the dictate of a ruling body, and it is bound to her by the honor of the past and the examples of her upbringing.

      She moves into the house, ears listening to anything unusual, eyes looking for anything out of order, a habit that is not fear but caution, locking the door behind her, prepared and aware. Outside, the snow blankets the ground with a soft innocence, hiding more than the ground but the very risks of the wild that play out in the night, beyond her sight.

      She looks outside one last time to make sure she is alone, the evening air cooling her blood, the field empty and quiet, except for the steady sound of a small wounded animal, a ceaseless and unemphatic cry into the wind."


Also included in the anthology are stories by many well-known authors you will recognize along with a couple of new authors who many of you have read on their blogs. It was a great group of men and women to work on this with and I think we are all very proud of the effort and the organization by Gray Man Series author Jim Curtis in making it happen. Thank you, everyone, for supporting it.

When California declares independence, their dreams of socialist diversity become nightmares for many from the high Sierras to the Central Valley. Follow the lives of those who must decide whether to stand their ground or flee!

In San Diego, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group One finds his hands tied by red tape, even as protesters storm the base and attack dependents. In Los Angeles, an airline mechanic must beg, borrow, or bribe to get his family on the plane out before the last flight out.

Elsewhere, a couple seeks out the new underground railroad after being forced to confess to crimes they didn't commit. In the new state of Jefferson, farmers must defend themselves against carpetbaggers and border raiders.

And in the high Sierras, a woman must make the decision to walk out alone...

Giuseppe Tartini - Devil's Trill Sonata

Halloween is upon us, and so appropriately fiendish music is the order of the day.  Giuseppe Tartini is the first person that we know owned a Stradivarius violin, and was renowned for his skill on that instrument.  This is his most famous composition, and is notoriously difficult to play.  One legend is that he had six fingers, which allowed him to perform like no other in his day.

It is said that this music came to him in a dream, a dream where he sold his soul to the Devil:
One night, in the year 1713 I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and I awoke. I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the "Devil's Trill", but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me.
Whether there is any truth to this (or to the claim of six fingeredness) is lost in the mists of time.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mr. Autry had a horse named Champion. He didn't have no horse named "Runner Up"

The Queen Of The World and I watched Angels In The Outfield last night.  I had never seen it, and it was great fun (if entirely predictable).  One thing that rang true in the film (maybe the only thing that rang true) was the cowboy owner who was clearly patterned off of the original singing cowboy movie star, Gene Autry.

Autry was the owner of the California Angels.  The post title is a quote from Angels manager, Gene Mauch.  The team was playing for the Pennant against the Red Sox in 1986, and Mauch gave a pep talk to the team before the final game.  The Sox won in extra innings.

Basement Finds - A Brigid Guest Post

Partner in Grime is a Mechanical Engineer.  Or at least he TELLS me he is.  :-)  For you see I've never actually seen his workplace or a paycheck, but large amounts of money just show up in our savings account.  I tease him a little about it.

I just returned from a week visiting my 97-year-old Dad and on the clothesline downstairs where my husband had done some laundry while I was away, were all these gloves.  Dozens of gloves, all stained with dark rust like colors that wouldn't come out.

I hear the back door open, then footsteps in the kitchen followed by a creak at the top of the stairs .. . I peer up and ask him as I hold up one of the creepy stained gloves.

"So babe - tell me again - mechanical engineer . . . or serial killer?"

I think I made him snort his beer.

You all have a safe, and sane weekend. I'll have some writing up this week when I get the household chores caught up.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Duke Ellington - Autumn Leaves

The leaves are turning color near Castle Borepatch.  This has for years been one of my favorite songs about the autumn.

It has perhaps the greatest jazz violin of all time, by (sometimes trumpeter) Ray Nance.  Ozzie Bailey does a spectacular job on vocals in both French (written by poet Jacques PrĂ©vert) and English (by Johnny Mercer).  The music was composed by Joseph Kosma.

Fun fact: this was Yves Montand's signature song.  Just about everyone recorded this (Sinatra, Doris Day, Andy Williams, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, and Nat King Cole who recorded it in Japanese), but I love this version.

And just to show how the absurd can rise to the sublime, here is Nat singing this in Japanese.  I'm not sure that anyone other than him could have pulled it off, but he did pull it off.

I *so* want to do this


1. Soak one roll of toilet paper in kerosene.

2. Put roll in jack o'lantern.

3. Light roll (using a LONG match).

Holy cow, I want to do that.  Sadly, there are a ton of small children in the village at the foot of Castle Borepatch, so I think I will have to pass.  *sigh*

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

With so many experts, you have so many recommendations to choose from

That's not a vote of confidence, actually.  Why is security so hard?  Even security experts can't agree:
A Google-conducted survey of 231 infosec pros worldwide has reaffirmed the industry's faith in strong passwords, and achieved consensus about nothing else. 
It's almost unfair to make fun of the study's title, “152 Simple Steps to Stay Safe Online: Security Advice for Non-Tech-Savvy Users”, because that's clearly an editorial slip-up (the document [PDF] also includes the note, “ED: Please provide section title”). 
What's clear is that infosec types can't agree, on an industry-wide basis, on the content of anything like the Australian Signals Directorate's (ASD's) enterprise-focussed “Essential Eight” safety strategies.
Sigh.  Not only is there no agreement, things are really all over the map:
Here, we pick out everything with more than 30 mentions: 
Patch systems and software90
Use unique passwords68
Use strong passwords58
Use multifactor authentication36
Use antivirus software35
Use a password manager33 
However, to Vulture South's eagle eye (sorry), it's depressing how many things we'd consider obvious lacked traction even among experts. 
Don't open unexpected attachments19
Limit privileges (don't run as admin)12
Backup your data10
Don't trust open networks4
Lock all devices4
Don't use Java4
Only 10 experts said back up your data?  Yikes.

This is why we can't have nice things on the Internet, folks.

Ooh, snap!

Seen on Gab.ai.

Data, data - who's got the data?

Co-blogger and brother-from-another-mother ASM826 and I keep harping on how you should back up your data.  Like the saying goes about personal defense firearms, two is one and one is none.  More copies of your important data is better, because things go wrong sometimes.

So who do we know doesn't read this blog?  The New York Police Department:
A non-profit organization in NYC called Bronx Defenders wants to study the NYPD’s asset forfeiture records. They filed a request for this information (under New York’s Freedom of Information law) in 2014, and litigation is ongoing. 
The latest revelation? Not only is the NYPD saying they don’t have the technical capability to pull the data Bronx Defenders wants…
New York City is one power surge away from losing all of the data police have on millions of dollars in unclaimed forfeitures, a city attorney admitted to a flabbergasted judge on Tuesday.

Of course, it might be convenient for them to "lose" this data if a Court were to make them give it all back.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Nicely done.

So what is Bitcoin, anyway?

Glen Filthie asked if I could do a post about crypto currencies - what's the big deal, and why does anyone care?  I'm not an expert, but here's a quick overview.

Why would anyone want a Cryptocurrency?

Most financial transactions are controlled by central banks like the Federal Reserve or Bank of England, etc.  Electronic transactions are done bank-to-bank through networks like the SWIFT network.  This is globally scalablable and very convenient, but is explicitly not anonymous - the central bank (i.e. the Government) knows where your money is going.

If you want anonymous financial transactions, you really need to use cash.  Credit cards (or ATM/Debit cards) transactions are all done through a centralized organization (your bank or MasterCard/VISA/AmEx/etc), and so are, again, explicitly not anonymous.

The problem with cash is that you have to be physically present to buy something.  You can't just go online to order something from Joe's Pretty Good Cake Shoppe.  You need to get in the car and schlep on down to Joe's.  That's inconvenient if you are in Oklahoma City and Joe is in London.

This is where Cryptocurrency in general and Bitcoin in particular come in.  It is a distributed, peer-to-peer currency based on encryption technology.  Since it is distributed, there is no central authority involved, i.e. the Government can't get all up in your business when you buy something.

How does Bitcoin Work?

Bitcoin, like all cryptocurrencies (well, the ones I've looked at) use a built-in ledger system.  When you spend a bitcoin, both you and the other party cryptographically sign the ledger transferring the coin.  The ledger is called the Blockchain and is maintained in a distributed manner by a number of Internet servers that essentially maintain a distributed database of bitcoins.  When you sign the blockchain, that transaction is broadcast to the network which validates the transaction and adds it to its transaction database (the blockchain ledger).

You will notice that the government is not involved in any of this, so you have the possibility of anonymous payment without having to physically hand over cash.  There's a pretty good introduction to how Blockchain works at Zerohedge.

So who "mints" Bitcoins?

Each cryptocurrency has its own way to cryptographically creating new coins.  This is called "mining" and is very CPU intensive.  The encryption algorithms used are designed to be highly resistant to forgery (as you can imagine this is an absolute requirement for a currency) but the downside is that you need to do a lot of calculations.

Interestingly, we're starting to see coin mining being used behind the scenes, as a replacement for web ads.  We are also beginning to see malware that does coin mining on your computer, rather than doing click fraud.  As always, it's the advertisers and Black Hats who figure out how to monitize the 'net.

Each cryptocurrency has designed a limit for how many coins can be mined.  Bitcoin will only allow 21 Million coins.  They expect this to be reached in 20 years or so.

How do I use it?

You need software (typically called a "wallet").  There are web-based wallets that maintain everything on the 'net, you can install software on your computer (remember to back up your data!), and there are hardware smart cards that will keep your bitcoins on an easily transported (and possibly harder for malware to steal) device.

You can spend Bitcoins wherever they are accepted.  Paypal does (or did) accept bitcoins, as do kind of a lot of other places.

C'mon Borepatch - you know this is just for buying weed, right?

Whenever you talk about Bitcoin, there's a lot of talk about the "Dark Internet", underground economy, and black market.  There's a problem with this.

Your Bitcoin identity is not anonymous like with cash.  You need a pseudonym to use it.  Depending on your operational security this may be easy or hard to link to your physical identity.  This gets into cloak and dagger tradecraft, which I won't go into here, but caveat emptor.  If you're looking to buy weed off the Dark Net then you'd want very good tradecraft indeed I would imagine.

Ransomware (like WannaCry) have demanded payment in Bitcoin, so there's attention in the Bad Guy community.

Other than Anarcho-capitalist techno-cred (which probably has peaked anyway), it looks like most of the action in Bitcoin is financial speculation.  This is really high risk because there are nearly a thousand different cryptocurrencies and most are very likely going to end up worthless.

Do Governments hate Bitcoin?

Probably.  Remember, it was designed to be distributed, not requiring a central bank.  Governments like central banks because it gives them a control point.  There's some speculation that governments will crack down, and China (at least) has outlawed purchase of physical goods using bitcoin.  Where this will go remains to be seen.

So there you have it, the world's shortest overview of Bitcoin.

UPDATE 20 December 2017 10:16: Robert Graham has some interesting thoughts on Bitcoin here.

Just how stupid is the GOP?

EPA Administrator Pruitt is receiving so many death threats that his security costs have ballooned:
Due to the enormous amount of death threats thrown at EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the government has amped up his security. Congress has asked if this is a waste of money, but it seems a legit concern.
That's not why the GOP is stupid, it's an example of how much of the Left has turned into fascists.  Here's what's stupid:
Last month, former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman implied that Pruitt is to blame for the these threats:
Whitman criticized Pruitt’s request for an expensive security detail while he also proposes deep cuts to the agency’s budget. 
“If he has had enough serious death threats, then he shouldn’t have proposed the deep cuts to the EPA budget,” she said in an interview. “What worries me is if these people are being used for protecting him, they are not cracking down on environmental crimes being committed by companies.”
Whitman is a Republican, serving as EPA Administrator under George W. Bush.  The GOP is so anti-Trump that even scaling back the EPA's Obama era massive overreach must be opposed, because Never Trump.  They are so anti-Trump that they don't care that left wing Brown Shirts are out for Pruitt's blood.  They'd rather see the security money go to implementing Obama's EPA overreach, because Never Trump.

The Re-Elect Trump 2020 Campaign thanks them, as another 50,000 GOP voters prepare to vote against the GOP Establishment next year.

I am really quite flabbergasted how so many people learned nothing from last year's elections.  They tried this sort of nonsense over an over then, certain that "this time it will work for sure".  And here they are doing it again.  But sure - this time it's bound to work ...

They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.  This is in great contrast with GOP voters, who have learned a lot but have forgotten nothing.  This strikes me as extremely unwise of the GOP Establishment.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The classical music influence on Rock and Roll: Sergei Rachmaninoff and Muse - Butterflies and Hurricanes

Rachmaninoff is perhaps the greatest composer for Piano, excepting only Chopin himself.  He was perhaps the apex of the romantic movement, which made him a natural influence for Rock Opera.  Listen to the piano interlude at around 3:30 into their song, Butterflies And Hurricanes:

Compare with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1, around 2:45 into the performance:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Stevie Ray Vaughan And The Fabulous Thunderbirds--What I Say

Because it's Friday.

Party on, Garth.

And I would have got away with it, except for that meddling Zuhl

Something is very strange in the neighborhood ...

"An Empty Barrel makes the most noise"

If you haven't watched or listened to this statement from Gen. Kelly, it's well worth your time.

His comments on the loss of the sense of the sacred is very powerful.  His choice to only call on members of the Press who know a Gold Star family was a pointed comment.  It was nice to see that several members did know one (or claimed to, at least), and asked good questions.

The post title is how he described the current controversy, but he expanded his remarks to talk about other experiences he had where clueless politicians inserted their ego into what should have been a solemn memorial occasion.  It's probably too much to hope for that this Republic will take a step back from the Abyss of Madness which is staring into us, but this might be a start.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Children's "Smart" watches are unsafe for children

New security analysis about "Smart" watches being marketed to children.  It seems that they're totally secure, other than:

  • Critical security vulnerabilities
  • "A false sense of security"
  • "Lack of respect for consumer rights"
Other than that, the security is awesome.

Since the holidays are coming up, you might want to rethink getting these for your kids or grandkids.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

People to See, Deliveries to Make - A Brigid Guest Post

I'm taking Dad's holiday gifts out to him in person and will hang out with him for a while during which time Partner in Grime finishes up some construction on our house.  I'll be back in a week or so as Dad has no internet and I have a flip phone (stubbornly clinging to my luddite status).

Until then, I leave you with Abby Normal the Lab anxiously awaiting trick or treating. Cheers! - Brigid

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

There's a reason that so much science is crap

Peter calls out attention to tens of thousands of scientific papers that are possibly (likely? who knows?) invalid.  This is not a surprise to anyone who is paying attention.  It comes from two very simple principles:

1. Success in a scientific career is determined by how frequently the scientist publishes papers in scientific journals.

2. Scientific journals are interested in novelty - new results that have not been published before.  It's pretty rare to see a paper published confirming the results of a prior paper.

In short, there's absolutely no need for results confirming other papers - these will never get published anyway.  Since there's no need for confirmation, a scientist can focus all his efforts on novelty.  Because novel results sometimes must skirt the edge of what is seemly, we can expect spillover into the unseemly.

So how much spillover do we get?  We don't know.  And quite frankly, neither does anyone who is engaged in "Science".  We've known for a long time that something is very wrong in the state of Science™, with the rate of major advances slowing noticeably.  It could very well be that the reason is that there is so much bogus science being done, that distracts young scientists from other more significant areas of study.  It may be that with no need to get reproducibility, it's just easier to put out novel garbage than it is to do more significant work.  And when you think about which of those two patch will be better for a young scientist's career, it's no surprise that we swim is a sea of scientific crap.

None of this has to be deliberate, or fraudulent.  It's just the way that the scientific game is played.

Science that is repeatable is called "Engineering" anyway.  Strange how you don't seem to hear about lots of retractions from engineering journals.  Science is like the stereotypical aging starlet still trying to get drinks in bars off of her old good looks and fame.

Veteran's Day weekend NFL protest

I'm all in on this:
MARK YOUR CALENDARS – National boycott of the NFL forSunday November 12th, Veterans Day Weekend. Boycott all football telecast, all fans, all ticket holders, stay away from attending any games, let them play to empty stadiums. Pass this post along to all your friends and family. Honor our military, some of whom come home with the American Flag draped over their coffin.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stand firm, ye boys of Maine

Not once in a century are men permitted to bear such responsibilities for freedom and justice ...

Three roofers in Waterville, Maine stand at attention when the National Anthem is played at a neighboring football field.

The quote, of course, is from Joshua Lawrence Chamberson to the boys of the 20th Maine on Little Round Top at the battle of Gettysburg.  He knew that the battle was to be fought - and won or lost - there on that day.  The stubbornness of those boys has been preserved, at least in Waterville.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

The most important security action you can take today

WiFi security is in the news (including here), but remember that an attacker has to be physically close to you to attack you with this new technique.  So keep calm and focus on a real security risk where someone can attack you from afar.

Flash is the first major internet video technology.  It is also a sewer of security vulnerabilities, and the single biggest attach vector used by the Bad Guys.  These days, Flash has been replaced by other more secure technologies, so you really don't want it on your computer.

Here are instructions on how to uninstall Flash.  This is without doubt the single most important security step you can take.

Monday, October 16, 2017

It's not just the roots of Gun Control are racist

Well, they are, but that's not my point.

The real problem is not the roots, but the vine:
A.J. Burgess, a 2-year-old boy born without functional kidneys, is in desperate need of a transplant. His father, Anthony Dickerson, a perfect match, was prepared to undergo transplant surgery until he was arrested for violating his parole.
Dickerson was "in possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies," according to WGCL-TV. He's been released from prison, but the hospital won't perform surgery until his parole officer gives the okay.
That could take three to four months—the hospital wants to revisit the issue in January. Of course, there's no guarantee Burgess will live that long. He has to undergo dialysis every day. His body is failing. He has to have bladder surgery. He needs a kidney now, and a highly motivated donor—his father—is willing to give him one.
But a little black kid needs to maybe die, sacrificed on the altar of gun control laws:
Not to put too fine a point on this, because there's plenty else going on—it sounds like Dickerson was involved in criminal activity, independent of his illegal gun possession—but I suspect liberals like to imagine stricter gun control means a peaceful and voluntary gradual disarmament of a gun-weary citizenry.
Maybe that's gun control in theory. In practice, stricter gun control means giving the government more reasons to interfere in the lives of black and brown people who are already wary of the police.
This is actually a great situation for a Black Lives Matter movement.  I won't hold my breath.

Different mindsets

Spotted by The Queen Of The World.

Oh great. WiFi security is pretty broken

This seems pretty bad:
This is my interpretation of the KRACK attacks paper that describes a way of decrypting encrypted WiFi traffic with an active attack.

tl;dr: Wow. Everyone needs to be afraid. It means in practice, attackers can decrypt a lot of wifi traffic, with varying levels of difficulty depending on your precise network setup. My post last July about the DEF CON network being safe was in error.


This is not a crypto bug but a protocol bug (a pretty obvious and trivial protocol bug).

When a client connects to the network, the access-point will at some point send a random key to use for encryption. Because this packet may be lost in transmission, it can be repeated many times.

What the hacker does is just repeatedly sends this packet, potentially hours later. Each time it does so, it resets the "keystream" back to the starting conditions. The obvious patch that device vendors will make is to only accept the first such packet it receives, ignore all the duplicates.
This effects everything that has WiFi, which these days means just about everything.  There is a tool in circulation to exploit this.

The punchline is that I haven't heard of any patches being available for this.  I will let y'all know when they start coming out.

UPDATE 16 October 2017: 09:58: There's a great deal of practical information here:
  • www.krackattacks.com is now up!
  • Attacks against Android Phones are very easy! Oh dear đŸ™ Best to turn off wifi on these devices until fixes are applied.
  • Windows and Mac OS users are much safer. Updates for other OSes will come quite quickly, the big problem is embedded devices for whom updates are slow / never coming
  • For the very technical, the CVE list is at the bottom of this post.
  • The main attack is against clients, not access points. So, updating your router may or may not be necessary: updating your client devices absolutely is! Keep your laptops patched, and particularly get your Android phone updated
Android phones get patched more slowly than iPhones do.  You should probably turn off WiFi on your Android phone until you get a patch.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Priced by what the market will bear?

I'll take the Dutch pillow, thanks.

The classical influence on rock and roll: The Beatles - Penny Lane

I expect that all our readers will be familiar with the trumpet solo in "Penny Lane":

It turns out that it was inspired by Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2:

This is a particularly interesting version of the concerto performed by the Freiburg Barockorchester using period (early 18th century) instruments.  You don't often see a recorder used in chamber music these days, although it was quite common in earlier days (English King Henry VIII composed a number of pieces for Recorder).  More to the point of the subject of the post, the trumpet isn't really a trumpet.  Rather, it looks like an antique variant of a coronet (I confess to being a little hazy on the type here despite being an old trumpet player back in school).  It has a higher pitch than today's trumpet, and in fact sounds very like the pitch of the Piccolo Trumpet used in Penny Lane.

The story is that Paul McCartney was watching a BBC show where the Brandenburg Concerto #2 was performed.  McCartney was transfixed by the trumpet performance by David Mason.  The music inspired McCartney to add a pseudo-baroque trumpet solo, and the rest is history.  McCartney asked Mason to record the solo on Penny Lane, which he did on January 17, 1967.

And thus we see that even The Beatles knew the truth of the old saying: if it's not Baroque, don't fix it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

On Timing - A Brigid Guest Post

Doc Holliday:  What did you ever want?
Wyatt Earp:   Just to live a normal life.
Doc Holliday: There's no normal life, Wyatt, it's just life. Get on with it.
Wyatt Earp: Don't know how.
Doc Holliday: Sure you do. Say goodbye to me. Go grab that spirited actress and make her your own. Take that beauty from it, don't look back.  Live every second. Live right on to the end. Live Wyatt. Live for me.   Wyatt, if you were ever my friend -  if ya ever had even the slightest of feelin' for me,
leave now. Leave now... Please.

Timing is everything they say.

In ballistics certainly so. In the outcome of a day even more so.  I missed out on a flight  in a smallish plane some years ago, because I was suddenly sick to my stomach. All aboard died.  My stomach bug was not the flu but a not yet known and unplanned pregnancy.

How many of us, unknowingly, missed a vehicular accident, a violent crime or a whack from mother nature, simply because we forgot our phone and ran back into the house, decided to linger over that nice little .380 in the case, or simply had too much, or too little caffeine.

Timing can be good.  It can also be lousy. Missed trains, missed job opportunities.  Missed dreams.  I've heard from more than one guy friend that he was bummed the "girl of his dreams" had found someone. Yet, he never asked her out, couldn't express the feelings until it was too late, sometimes remaining silent for months or even years, growing only older of bone and pride.


When we were kids, we ran around with time simply carried in our pocket, as dense and round as a coin, many coins, that jingle as we ran. We are told by some grownups that we soon will have to grow up and leave childish dreams behind, but we don't listen, because we have nothing in our experience to gauge their caution by, to give the portent of a structured future any range and meaning.  Besides we are too busy, just doing things that kids do, even if that was just sitting and waiting for hours for a fish to bite a tiny hook.

Then, seemingly overnight, we fell into that grown up, carefully measured and timed world, picking up our watch in the process. The dreams of childhood passed behind as we jumped on board a fast moving train, losing our innocence before we even fully realized we possessed it.
As adults we are governed by time, watches, and cell phones and alarm clocks and schedules.  Mechanical clocks and biological ones. We rush headlong into actions without considerations, as if the sheer and simple arranged succession of days was not fast enough, constituted without capacity enough, so that weeks and months and years of living had to be condensed down into one moment, and it is today, now.  We as a society, and as individuals, do not seem to be able to closely watch and wait for that which is worth waiting for.  We feverishly work for things we do not need and we vote without thought for those that promise us prosperity without effort.

Everything is based on now. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. What do you mean you haven't got a date, got a spouse, a house, a baby, and we need to talk to you about those 25 pounds.  Everything is on a time schedule and it's not necessarily ours. Meals are microwaved, we speed date, express wash, Kwik-e-Mart, and you know what? We find that in rushing towards what we're supposed to want, we missed the things that can truly change our lives.

Reset your clock.

Just once, turn off your computer turn off your cell phone, turn off Twitter, and Facebook and clear your calender for a few hours.

Pick up that old firearm that may have been your Dad's, or your Grandfathers and head out into the country.  If you don't hunt, then pick up a camera, a drawing pad and a pencil.  But take some tool that will open up the wilderness to you and go.
Go out into that rapid and fading back country that is retreating as the tide is, walk out into that land that was ours, is ours, field and forest, bayou and orchard, grain and dust, harbor and thicket. Go on out and decide what is important and what is not, among all the flotsam and jetsam in your life, where it is going and how much control you're going to give to others over it.

Go out into that land that still carries the tracks of those that crossed this nation to build, to grow; men, and women and children, bringing with them their tools and trades, goods and gear, by steamer, by wagon wheel by train, by big slow rivers that sometimes revealed no current and sometimes ran backwards, running not to hide, but to dream, all the way to the ocean. It was a land on which a man ate only by the sweat of his brow, the ability to plow a straight furrow or chop down a limb without removing one of his own.  It was a land of milk and honey, steelhead and gold, which offered itself up on rare occasion from the earth as compensation for torn lives and broken bones, payment which neither man nor his government proffered for the weak or the foolish.

Find a spot out in this expanse of history and sit and take it in.

There is so much that might have been, could have been, wrong place, wrong time, so boundless in capacity is man's imagination to burn and scatter away the refuse of probability, leaving only yearning and dreams. No time or space or distance can keep you from that what matters, even if to the world, your dreams of your life is and what kind of world you wish to live in, are little more than transparent scratchings on depthless glass.
I do not regret the days I sat by my brothers bedside as the chemicals went into his body that might or might not kill the cancer that was consuming him with fire that bears no warmth. There was the steady whoosh from machinery in the room, the movement of unsleeping blood, the intake of air. There were so many places I needed to be, so many things I needed to do, but in those hours, those days, being with him was the only thing on my calander.  The room was simple, but its corners and edges held the quiet, complex lives of two very secret people, who long ago escaped from a place that held only pain, there in that season between thunder and any thought of rain, finding their own shelter as we bonded not just as children, but for life.  There in those last days, we had no season, the hospital room alternating day and night in a vacuum in which light was only a hope.

In retrospect, I would not remembere those other things I should have been doing during that time, but I can recall like it was yesterday the sound of his voice there in that room, the feel of his hand holding mine as we said a prayer for more time.

As you sit out there in that countryside, think of these words. Stop and look and breathe. Pick up a discarded piece of wood. Think of what you have, what means the world to you, and what and who you will fight for, as an individual, as part of a family and as a citizen.
Then carve your name on that little piece of wood, carve the name of the one you fight for, or simply carve "Freedom", the letters bearing one clear unfettered voice that sounds out, through the delicate attenuation of your actions, through the ringing bells of your worth, through the tone that is the weight of silent guns - I WAS here, I AM here, there IS still time.

Then go back home to your home and your memories.  A heart shaped locket with a young woman and a man in an airman's uniform, months before war separated them for years. A shirt that could fit a thousand others but which only one wore so long that you will forever know its wearer by the simple feel of the fabric underneath your fingertips, the echo of sandalwood that clings to blue cotton. Go back to your present; a photo on the wall of those who still live to tell you their stories, to hold firm your past, memories that are borne on the air that you still breathe, invisible, yet essential as air itself. Go back to your future. A flag on a wall, one for which your loved ones gave up much of their life for, or even, life itself.

Go back and claim what is there, while there is still time.
 - Brigid