Sunday, June 30, 2019

Discussing politics with the Kids These Days




George Antheil - Ballet Mécanique

The early years of the 20th century was a very strange time in the art world.  Strangest of them all were the dadaists - surrealists and absurdists of an almost Monty Pythonesque stature.   Ballet Mécanique was a film and a musical score from 1923 that was perhaps the height of the Dada movement.



The name comes from the replacement of human dancers with industrial machines and propellers, and replacement of the orchestra with a brigade of player pianos.  Like I said, surreal and absurd.

But what is stranger is the unlikely friendship that the composer struck up with an actress.   George Antheil ended up collaborating with Hedy Lamar on an idea that would receive a US Patent.  I wrote about this story on this day ten years ago.

U.S. Patent #2,292,387

At State U, I studied Electrical Engineering (among other things). One thing that we studied was frequency hopping radio, which is a cool way to make your conversation hard for someone to eavesdrop on. It works kind of like this:

You and I both tune our radios to a particular frequency, say WRDK-Redneck FM. I speak the first word of the sentence, "Lever".

You and I both tune our radios to a different drequency, say WLTE-Lite FM. I say the next word, "guns".

We tune to a third frequency, for a third word "are", then a fourth "sweet."

If the adversary doesn't know the order of frequencies and the timing of the changes, he'll never know our secret: Lever guns are sweet (unless he reads this blog, of course).

What I didn't learn at State U was who invented this technique, and got a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office: Hedy Lamarr:
The idea was ahead of its time, and not feasible owing to the state of mechanical technology in 1942. It was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Neither Lamarr nor Antheil, who died in 1959, made any money from the patent. Perhaps owing to this lag in development, the patent was little-known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution.
From the EFF's award:
Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil are being honored by the EFF this year with a special award for their trail-blazing development of a technology that has become a key component of wireless data systems. In 1942 Lamarr, once named the "most beautiful woman in the world" and Antheil, dubbed "the bad boy of music" patented the concept of "frequency-hopping" that is now the basis for the spread spectrum radio systems used in the products of over 40 companies manufacturing items ranging from cell phones to wireless networking systems.



Pretty darn impressive, especially given how open the 1940s scientific community was to contributions from women.

And so, I hereby pledge my allegiance to Hedy Lamarr:

Sorry, I meant "Hedley" ...

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Ten years ago on this blog

Google was already noticing the scribblings here.  Weird, but it led to a post category.

Borepatch: The Internet Leader in "So What?"


#1 out of a quarter Billion sites. That's a powerful lot of so what, right there.

Lee Brice - Woman Like You

Next week is the Queen Of The World's birthday.  Typically, the whole country takes the day off to celebrate the day with fireworks.  Feel free to join in if the spirit moves you.

But her birthdays are an occasion for me to give her presents, I'm the lucky one.  In a sense, every day is a birthday.


I really like today's song.  Country music at its best is sentimental and focused on family, but captures something that speaks to the truth of the subject.  Three chords and the truth, and all that.  The truth is that I don't know what I'd do without her.  And it's a true fact that she makes the best fried chicken.



Woman Like You (Songwriters: Jon Stone, Phil Barton, Johnny Bulford)
Last night, outta the blue
Driftin’ off to the evening news
She said, "Honey, what would you do
If you’d have never met me"
I just laughed, said "I don’t know,
But I could take a couple guesses though"
And then tried to dig real deep,
Said, "Darling honestly...

I’d do a lot more offshore fishin’
I’d probably eat more drive-thru chicken
Take a few strokes off my golf game
If I’d have never known your name
I’d still be driving that old green ‘Nova
I probably never would have heard of yoga
I'd be a better football fan
But if I was a single man
Alone and out there on the loose
Well I’d be looking for a woman like you."

I could tell that got her attention
So I said, "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention,
I wouldn’t trade a single day
For 100 years the other way."
She just smiled and rolled her eyes,
Cause she’s heard all of my lines
I said, "C’mon on girl, seriously
If I hadn’t been so lucky, I’d be..

Shootin’ pool in my bachelor pad
Playing bass in my cover band
Restocking up cold Bud Light
For poker every Tuesday night, yeah
I’d have a dirt bike in the shed
And not one throw pillow on the bed
I’d keep my cash in a coffee can
But if I was a single man
Alone and out there on the loose
Well I’d be looking for a woman like you."

She knows what a mess I’d be if I didn’t have her here
But to be sure, I whispered in her ear
"You know I get sick deep-sea fishin’
And you make the best fried chicken
I got a hopeless golf game
I love the sound of your name
I might miss that old green ‘Nova
But I love watchin’ you do yoga
I’d take a gold band on my hand
Over being a single man
Cause honestly I don’t know what I’d do
If I’d never met a woman like you."

Friday, June 28, 2019

5G cell service kills

No, it's not radiating your brain.  The 5G frequency band is used by Tornado and Hurricane monitoring devices all over the country and 5G will mess them up:
The weather forecasters responsible for letting millions knowing about weather patterns, including hurricanes and tornadoes, have warned yet again that plans to auction off radio spectrum for 5G mobile networks could have a dangerous impact on their efforts.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Meteorological Society (AMS), National Weather Association (NWA), American Weather and Climate Industry Association (AWCIA), National Hydrologic Warning Council (NHWC), and a dozen other weather groups, have sent letters to US comms watchdog the FCC asking it [PDF] to scale back or stop plans to auction off 5G spectrum to cellular operators because it will likely interfere with their systems – systems that relay vital weather sensor data back to base for analysis quickly enough to predict catastrophic events.
The FCC is basically saying "U mad, bro?" which strikes me as a fairly reckless response.  This is a pretty impressive group of organizations saying "Hold on, wait a minute".  This seems like it needs a serious hearing.
According to the weather folk, there is no good alternative to them using those particular radio bands. They need to send the data over the air because other means – like the internet – are not sufficiently robust in extreme weather conditions. Their equipment is set up to work at specific frequencies, linking countless sensors and gadgets out in the field to satellites and ground stations, and it's not just the case that they can shift bands.

Allowing mobile companies to send data over these frequencies would add a lot of noise to the system, they warn.
While I've only been vaguely near two tornados, I'm pretty happy to have weather reports that have improved substantially during my lifetime,  This seems more valuable than faster download of cute cat videos.



(OK, that video is hilarious, but it's still not worth risking getting caught in a tornado to be able to watch it faster on my cell phone)

10 Years Ago on RAOP

If you want to know who I am, who I strive to be, there's a lot of it here.

One Breath

It wasn’t a Scout camp, but it was a camp for boys. I had a job as the senior counselor for the the Pioneers, the younger boys group. Four junior counselors and twenty-five campers, six to eight years old. As Senior counselor, I was responsible for program activities, ensuring that they ate, took an occasional shower, and had fun. I was the person they talked to when they were homesick or hurt, and I was responsible for keeping them safe. I was sixteen.

Camps don’t run with young staff anymore, you’d have be eighteen, and I bet a lot of camps would want you to be twenty-one. But times were different, and I had the job. My junior counselors were all from the city, none of them had any camping experience, and none of them could swim.

What comes next is one of the core stories of my narrative. It is one of the defining events of my life. I have rescued a fair number of kids at swimming pools and lakes. It usually consists of using a reach pole, a couple of times having to jump in. There’s always someone else a step away and the safety plans and equipment minimize the risk to next to nothing. There’s only been one rescue like this.

One of the highlight events for the Pioneers every session was the long hike. The hike began on a trail that meandered through the woods. From there, it was onto an old farm road that we followed for a couple of miles. When we turned off that road, it was onto another road that followed a creek up past a paper mill dam and into a small, mostly unused park. The camp director would drive the truck down later in the day and bring lunch. Looking back, it also gave him a chance to check on us. We would let the kids play in the shallow water along a sandy bend, run around in the open area, and late in the afternoon, retrace our steps back to camp. For most of the kids coming out to this camp, it was like a day on another planet.

The woods we started the hike went through a part of camp that was undeveloped, and for a group of young boys, walking under the canopy of huge beech and oak trees along an old trail was an adventure in itself. It was shady and quiet, birds calling and flitting away as we passed.

It had rained most of that week, but on the day I remember, it was hot and clear. The hike through the woods was pleasant, but when we left the woods, the sun was bright and on the road the July heat was oppressive. Usually deserted, the road went up and down some hills, past fields and faded barns. Corn fields dominated the area and off in the distance sometimes you would hear a tractor running. Mostly it was the chatter of the boys, the smell of the fields and heat. By the time we trudged down the last hill and turned to follow the creek into the park, the campers were hot and cranky.

As we crossed the bridge I could see that the rain had swollen the stream. Instead of the usual trickle making a mossy green descent over the face of the dam, there was roaring wall of water. I knew wading was going to be out of the question and had started to wonder what we could do until lunch arrived.

When we got to where I usually sat and watched the campers, the water was deep and running fast enough to knock them down. It was a couple of hundred yards upstream from the old dam and normally would have been knee deep and still. I got the staff together and told them playing in the water was definitely out of the question. There were some campers who had been on the hike before and as I was turned away from the water, one of them jumped in.

There is no getting away from this. I let myself be distracted. Maybe I could have stopped him if I had been paying better attention. Maybe I should have had more staff. Maybe the camp should not have hired a sixteen year old to do this job. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It was 35 years ago and I still have strong feelings about it.

The other campers started shouting. Hearing the alarm in their voices, I turn around to see a boy in the water. He was being swept downstream, moving at an alarming rate toward the dam.
Everything that happens in the next two minutes is Scouting based. I owe it to Baden-Powell, to my Scoutmaster, to the Scout Camp staffer that had taught me Lifesaving merit badge the year before, and to the thousands of other individuals that have given of their time to see Scouting prosper since 1910.

Without thinking, I sprinted across the grass, judging my entry into the water to intercept him. An open entry, keeping him in sight, it took only a few strokes to get to him. He had rolled face down and was underwater when I reached him and pulled him back to the surface. He was not struggling, he was limp. I rolled him onto my hip in across chest carry and began to swim.

It was the water I had to fight, and a rising feeling of panic. The current was strong, the water muddy and cold. My first strokes seemed to make no headway and I was starting to think we were both going to go over that dam. I took a different angle and pulled harder, losing some distance, but making headway to the bank. I made the bank, out of the main current, and then had to pull back upstream along the bank using roots to get to a point where my counselors could grab him and lift him back up on the grass.

I half scrambled and was half pulled up the muddy bank. The boy lay on the ground. The grayish color of his face was startling. His lips were a deep blue and he was not breathing. I rolled him onto his back, tilted his head and checked his airway, then gave him one strong breath and lifted up to check for his pulse. One breath was all it took.

He vomited, mostly muddy water, and took a shuddering breath on his own. The color returned to his face and his eyes opened. He gagged up a little more water, and then he was awake. I sent one counselor to call an ambulance. As he ran off, I shouted after him to call camp, too. The boy was cold, probably in shock, and I stayed with him, having the others keep the kids under some sort of control. I had him somewhat calmed, covered lightly with a couple of towels when I heard the ambulance in the distance.

The camp truck showed up first. The ambulance crew took the camper to be checked. The truck, a big slat sided farm truck, took us all back to camp. I don’t remember much else that happened that day, I do remember expecting to be fired at the very least.

The next morning I got called down to the camp office. The camp director, the camper and his parents were there when I walked in. The boy’s father spoke first. “You saved his life.”
The mom was crying a little, she said “He told us he just jumped in. He’s been to that place before and it was always shallow, so he jumped in.”

The dad spoke again, “He wanted to come back to camp, and we decided he couldn’t be any safer than here with you. I want to thank you for what you did yesterday.”

I turned to the camp director, but before I said anything he held up his hand, “I talked to your counselors and they told me what happened and what you did.” He shook his head, “You could have died, I saw what that water looked like. You both could have died.”

The summer went on. Camp sessions continued to follow their two week cycle, in a decades old rhythm. The Pioneers came and went. I was different. Changed by two minutes on one hot July afternoon. I had passed the test. I had been prepared.
“Be prepared for what?” someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, “Why, for any old thing.” said Baden-Powell.
–From the Boy Scout Handbook

Summing up the Democratic Debates



And this is pretty funny, too:



Thursday, June 27, 2019

Why I let my NRA membership lapse

Yeah, Insty and Uncle both linked to his post on the NRA's troubles, but it's a really good one.  His invoking of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is spot on, and you should read the whole thing.

What I would add is that it's rare that you see the Iron Law expressed in, well, graft as blatantly as Wayne LaPierre and Company have done.  Millions and millions of our dollars have gone to enrich the inner circle, not to advance the Second Amendment.

It was 2014 when I let my membership lapse, because the only thing I heard from the NRA was Wayne asking for money.  Where were they on rolling back restrictive gun control laws?  A lot of the time they were out front on new restrictions - remember Wayne LaPierre muttering about "Mental Health restrictions" a long time before the new hotness that is "Red Flag" laws started getting passed?  I do, and believe that the post I just linked was the first time I invited him to die screaming in a crotch fire.

So the only thing that I'd add to Lawrence's excellent post is that we really won't miss the NRA when its gone.  Yes, it's sad that Wayne drove it into the ground, yes, it's a crying shame what they did to a once great organization.  But here we are.  Sic transit Gloria Mundi.

The Democrats need a more interesting debate

This is a more interesting debate.



I'm not what you'd describe as a Theresa May (or Tory Party) fan, but they were pretty funny here.  And I love how the Speaker made the Scottish Party dude stop blathering and sum it all up in one sentence.

(via)

10 Years Ago on RAOP

Borepatch and I started blogging within a few weeks of each other and met online within a few days. I was blogging at Random Acts of Patriotism. Like him, I found my voice very quickly and my blog, for better or worse, took on a direction.

There was an entire series on Marine Corps boot camp. Then a long set of posts on the Boy Scouts. 10 years ago on RAOP, there were two posts back to back that tell a story that was integral part of my growing up and the person I became. Here's the first one, I will post the next one tomorrow.



Lifesaving


One of the core merit badges. Along with First Aid, Lifesaving tied into the Scout Motto, “Be Prepared.” I wanted Lifesaving, wanted to work as a lifeguard. The summer after I got Swimming, I took Lifesaving. It was an all afternoon, every afternoon class.
More distance, more strokes, more first aid, safe water entry, planning a safe swim, and the rescues. Rowboat and canoe rescues, throwing rings, swimming out with a buoy, and then just swimming out there. Going out alone without any equipment was the last resort, and discouraged as a good way to get two people drowned, but we learned it. The final testing on the last day of camp were all the rescues. Part of what they were looking for was the stamina, and the courage, necessary to attempt an open water rescue. The staff served as our “victims”.
Since you don’t ever holler “Help!” unless it’s a real emergency, we used a code word. Pineapple. There you stood on the dock, tired from a series of assisted rescues, and out beyond the ropes, a 20 year old staffer that outweighed you by 50 pounds splashed the water and hollered, “Pineapple! Pineapple!” It’s your turn. The rest of the class watches as you go.
In the real world, you would take a towel at least, throw him one end, never let him lay hands on you. Or wait for him to tire, even if he drowned. Grab something that floated and push it out to him. Anything but let him grab you.
Making a lifesaving entry, keeping my eyes on the victim, I swim out and when I get close enough he launches himself like an alligator and wraps his arms around my head. I sink, drive my thumbs into his armpits, force him off. I go deep, beneath his feet, the water dark and cold as I swim toward the bottom. Air is becoming an issue so I take an extra stroke and surface, turning toward the direction I think he’s in. As I break the surface I get a big gulp of air and realize I am behind him. I throw my right arm over his shoulder and press him up into a cross chest carry. He struggles, but I have a grip on his armpit and chest. Swimming a modified sidestroke I manage to make the beach. I will pass, and receive my Lifesaving merit badge at the fall Court of Honor.
Two years later I would take Red Cross Lifesaving and CPR, and decades later I would requalify so I could lead water activities as an adult Scouter. It is the basics, learned young, and ingrained, that stay with me. Because once, just once, I needed these skills, and a life hung in the balance. And at that moment, all I had was what I had learned as a Scout.
Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.
–Robert Baden-Powell

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Don't turn off the computer, Dad!

He turned off the computer.

Nazi sub base gets repurposed as a data center

It is near the termination of submarine cables from the Middle East, and so there's low latency (combined with political stability).  And it's pretty near bomb proof:
That has made Marseille a magnet for data-center operations—where data and application providers can "put platforms in a safe environment in terms of legal and financial environments like Europe and particularly the European Union and at the same time be connected to 46 countries directly with a very low latency," Coquio explained. "Basically, in the last 15 years, we have [cut] the cost of a submarine cable to a [10th of what it was] and multiplied the capacity by 50."

As a result of this transformation of the Internet world and the corresponding rise of Marseille as a digital content center for the world, demand for co-location space has driven Interxion to undertake an interesting construction project: the conversion of a former Nazi submarine base into a seaside data center.

Pretty cool in a Bond-villian-evil-lair sort of way.  But it has a way to go for top spot in that category:
In an underground bunker 100 feet beneath Stockholm lies a unique facility operated by the Swedish ISP Bahnhof. It’s become known as the “James Bond Villain Data Center” after it was featured on the Pingdom web site last year. Dean Nelson of Data Center Pulse recently got a tour of the data center from Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung, who provided a look at the many unusual features of the facility, a former military bunker designed to withstand a hydrogen bomb blast. Karlung has said he drew his inspiration for many of the center’s flourishes from James Bond villains (especially Ernst Blofeld), hence the waterfalls, greenhouse-style NOC, glass-enclosed conference room “floating” above the colocation floor, and blue-lit diesel engines (supposedly used in German submarines).
But the Marseille one has "low latency", doesn't it?


How to be a better shot

At basketball free throws.  The centerline technique seems like a good trick.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Ten years ago on this blog

This is still funny.

Is everyone in the future retarded?

Well, yes.

Eleven years of blogging

That seems like a long time, and also seems like it's not really very long at all.  That's probably because there's a difference between Internet time and actual real world time.  Here's what I put up ten years ago, which actually seems to have aged well.  Err, except for expressions like shizzle Flippity Floppity Floop.

What I learned in my first year of blogging

A year ago, I put up my first post, about Internet Security. Not my best effort, looking back on it.

Anniversaries are a time to reflect on where you've been, and how you've gotten here, and this one is no different. So here's what I've learned about how to be a better blogger.

1. Explain yourself.Don't assume that people know what you're talking about. Of course youknow, and of course you care about the subject - that's why you're posting about it. Other people won't, but if you're clear (and interesting) you can make other people care, too. This was the mistake I made in that first post - it's terse to the point of irrelevance.  A much better post about browser security came soon later - better because I explained things so that Mom would understand (and care).

2. Post a lot. As both of my long-time readers know, the problem isn't getting me to talk; it's getting me to shut up. Almost 1400 posts in 365 days counts as "a lot", but it does a couple of things:
a. Google notices, and starts to put you in their page rankings. Sometimes it puts you strangely high in their rankings, like I am for german country music. If you like traffic (and who doesn't?) this will ramp your traffic perhaps faster than anything.

b. People will start to find things they like, and link to you. Links are very nice indeed: not only do they drive traffic, but it's a great ego boost.

c. As people start to read you regularly, they will come back more often the more frequently you post. This is one of those duh statements when you think about it for a second: if someone likes what you post, then posting more will get them back for more of what they like.
3. A regular topic will help you hone your writing style. JayG offers up a weekly Friday Funthread on cars. It's always interesting, and always fun. Me, I have Saturday Redneck, where I take a country music song and offer some background musing, a music video, and the lyrics. Now country music may not be your bag, baby, but regular writing in the same format is called "practice". I've clearly gotten better with time: compare and contrast an early post with the Johnny and June Carter post, which has attracted more traffic than anything I've written. It's clear that this practice pays off.

Climate change and the junk science you find there is another regular topic here, as is Internet Security. Who says you have to have just one?

4. Comments are the shizzle Flippity Floppity Floop. JayG does comments at his place better than any just about anyone I've seen - he answers commenters in the comments, and sometimes gets quite a discussion going. I try to do the same, and while he gets a lot more comments than I do, there have been some great discussions that never would have happened otherwise.

5. Write what you like. This worked for me, but maybe it's stupid for you. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law. The smartest words ever said about blogging are I do this for me, not for you. If it's not fun, why would you bother doing it?

Reading back through the archives has been kind of fun, and it's interesting how rapidly I seem to have developed my style here. By the end of the first three months, the style of my posts was established, and it reads much like it does today. It will be interesting to see how things change over the next year.

The Unauthorized history of America's Centennial

We are coming up on America's Independence Day celebration, which has me thinking about the difference between the red, white, and blue cardboard history that is pushed on the public, and the real history of the period.  The real history is, of course, a lot more interesting.  And it is never taught in school, and history professors rarely write books about it.

The most plausible explanation for this is that the American Narrative as taught is a morality play, one that leads to ever more progress.  Indeed, to look at the motto of New York State is to see this emblazoned on the very flag: excelsior, ever onward and upward.

History, of course - even American history - does not work that way.  I've written before that the history of what is vulgarly known as the "Civil War"* is nothing that would be recognized by those who lived through it.  The interesting actual history has been twisted, pulled into an excelsior upward arc of morality play.  Twisted beyond recognition, actually.

Because you can't know where you are without knowing where you came from, and so the 1865-1890 gap in American History as taught today is an interesting puzzle.  There's actually a lot that's important that happened then, a lot that historians of today don't really want to dwell on.  And the midpoint of this "there be dragons" region on our historical map was the first centennial, 1876.

There was a lot that was going wrong in the American Republic.  Reconstruction was a failure, and seen as such by both its supporters and opponents.  Corruption in government was the norm - you hear vague echoes of this in the standard history (typically a brief passage about scandals in the Grant Administration), but the whole age (and basically each administration) was mired in this.  Boom times rapidly alternated with recessions or depressions as the great transcontinental railroads repeatedly went out of business.

I highly recommend the following podcast which goes into a lot of detail - detail that you very likely never were taught - about all these topics.  The only dispute that I have is the brief mention of the lack of a Grover Cleveland fan club.  He's the only post-war President who actually took a run at governmental corruption.  This is an extended interview, so you might want to find it on your podcast app and listen in the car or some such.  Podcast aficionados will recognize Patrick Wyman from the excellent Fall Of Rome Podcast, now hosting the very interesting Tides of History.

Tides of History: The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age: An Interview with Stanford's Professor Richard White

1876 was interesting because of the Indian Wars.  Most famous is the disaster of Custer's 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn - which started on this day in 1876.  The news of the disaster arrived just as the Centennial celebrations were starting.  The American public was shocked that hundreds of US Cavalry troopers were killed by "naked savages".  More bad news followed in 1877, when the Nez Perce stood toe to toe with the Army at the Big Hole and bloodied the Army's nose.  These setbacks would not have been a surprise to anyone paying attention: way back in 1866, Crazy Horse and nine other braves completely wiped out a force of 81 soldiers at the Fetterman Fight.

While Phil Sheridan may or may not have said "The only good indian is a dead indian", it's a True Fact that William T. Sherman ended the Indian Wars in the good old fashioned Roman way, making a desert and calling it "peace".  His December 18, 1890 letter to the New York Times makes it clear that Congressional interference was the only reason he didn't kill every indian, down to women and children.  Par for the course for American's first War Criminal.

None of this is taught in history class.  It is violently anti-excelsior.

So why bring this up, especially at this time of the year?  It's not to harsh your Independence Day celebration**, it's because all of this is still relevant to events of our day.  Crony capitalism has still corrupted government beyond recognition (just look at the Trillion dollar "stimulus" that built nothing, or the F-35 program).  Congressmen are still handsomely compensated for sponsoring the right legislation.  The Progressive era (approvingly referenced in the podcast above in one of the few mistakes in their discussion) co-opted the segregationist Democrats for seven decades - today's Democrats simply don't seem to know that it was their party (and not the Republicans) who kept the Coloreds in their place.  Gun control continues to be pushed to get firearms away from minorities.

Excelsior isn't how things happened, but that sure is how teachers want you to think.  If you don't understand the past, there's a very good chance that you'll keep making the same mistakes.  Dad (who was a history professor) liked to say that history keeps repeating itself because nobody listened the first time.  I mean, how can we excelsior if we keep making the same dumb mistakes?

Like I said, I highly recommend the podcast.  Listen to that, and read the links and you'll know more about how America became how it is than just about anyone.

 * 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. "The War of Yankee Aggression" misses the point that a lot of folks on both sides were spoiling for a fight in 1860. I like the term "American War of Southern Independence" because it describes the rationale for the conflict precisely.

** Indeed, the Queen Of The World and I are quite looking forward to the celebration.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Harley will build motorcycles in China

This seems like brand damage:
Harley-Davidson has found a new partner in China as it ramps up efforts to sell more motorcycles abroad.

The company said Wednesday that it’s teaming up with Qianjiang Motorcycle Company to make a small motorcycle that will go on sale in the country next year. Qianjiang is a subsidiary of Geely, which owns Volvo and has a joint venture to assemble cars in China with Mercedes Benz parent company Daimler.
The tariff war with the EU is hurting them, so I can see how they might look for a non-US manufacturing facility.  I can also see how they would want a lower cost, smaller bike than the typical hog (which generally starts at nearly 1000 cc's and goes up to almost double that.  This makes their bikes expensive, and so they are crowded out of the emerging markets.

But so much of their brand is caught up in the idea of Milwaukee Iron that I hope they introduce a different brand for these motorcycles.  East is East, and West is West, and all that.

Ten years ago on this blog

Ya know, some things never change.  And other things do change, by getting a lot worse.  This is an example from a decade back.

Kids vs. Adults















Power grid compromised

I've been writing about the risk to the power grid for a long, long time.  Here's one example from 2010:
1. The Grid is a high-value target to foreign Intelligence Agencies. It's been said - correctly, IMHO - that while there are friendly foreign governments, there are no friendly foreign Intelligence Agencies.

2. The computer systems that run the Grid (called SCADA systems) are based on old technology, and are difficult to patch. This means that it's quite likely that the computers running the grid are riddled with security holes.

3. While these systems are not supposed to be connected to the Internet, the incentive to do so is very, very high. For example, it's a lot easier to reset something by remotely connecting to it from home than getting up, getting dressed, and driving 20 miles in a storm at 3:00 AM.

4. Nobody has accurate maps of precisely what their network looks like. Network aren't so much designed as grow, almost organically. The Power Company networks are no exception.

Taken together, this paints the picture of high-value, low-risk for an adversary.
Well, reality has caught up to Borepatch 2010:
In a new troubling escalation, hackers behind at least two potentially fatal intrusions on industrial facilities have expanded their activities to probing dozens of power grids in the US and elsewhere, researchers with security firm Dragos reported Friday.

The group, now dubbed Xenotime by Dragos, quickly gained international attention in 2017 when researchers from Dragos and the Mandiant division of security firm FireEye independently reported Xenotime had recently triggered a dangerous operational outage at a critical-infrastructure site in the Middle East. Researchers from Dragos have labeled the group the world's most dangerous cyber threat ever since.

The most alarming thing about this attack was its use of never-before-seen malware that targeted the facility’s safety processes. Such safety instrumented systems are a combination of hardware and software that many critical infrastructure sites use to prevent unsafe conditions from arising. When gas fuel pressures or reactor temperatures rise to potentially unsafe thresholds, for instance, an SIS will automatically close valves or initiate cooling processes to prevent health- or life-threatening accidents.

In April, FireEye reported that the SIS-tampering malware, known alternately as Triton and Trisis, was used in an attack on another industrial facility.
It looks like the only plausible explanation is that someone doesn't want to be able to shut down the US power grid, they want to be able to wreck it.

It's certain that the Powers That Be are not treating this with the urgency it demands.  While the Department of Energy has been at least awake for the last 4 or 5 years about this, this country needs a crash course on making the grid more robust.  Not hardening it - that's likely a fool's errand in these days.  Rather, the grid needs to become more survivable in the face of attack:


  1. Safety systems need to be isolated from network compromise.  This means direct servo connection rather than commands sent via the network (what happens when the network router gets disabled by a Bad Guy?).
  2. The grid needs to better handle portions of it going off-line, and then coming back online.  This seems to be where the first experimental hacking was concentrated, and it's key that surviving parts of the grid do not get damaged by high voltage surges during these events.
  3. There needs to be a lot more stocking of spare components than there is.  A large scale grid shutdown will mean there is no chance of "just in time" component resupply.
  4. Manufacturing of things like high voltage transformers needs to come back to the United States from China.  If the grid is down there's no time to wait the 6 weeks to get the darn things shipped from Shanghai.
All of this costs money, and so nobody wants to do it.  But we pay people at DoE (and Homeland Security) to think about this, and to convince the policy makers that this is an existential threat.  If the grid is damaged, a lot of people will die as gas stations run out of gasoline, hospital generators fail, etc.

Sadly, confidence is not high in the Powers That Be.  I recommend a generator, with two weeks' fuel. A diesel generator will be more expensive, but it will last longer.  More importantly, the fuel won't go bad.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ten years ago on this blog

Because they're idiots, that's why

Why would a bank put WiFi in their ATM machines?
BT Openzone is set to expand further with a deal to put hotspots in cashpoints, forgetting for a moment that it's not a mobile phone network, and making maximum use of the unlicensed spectrum available to Wi-Fi.
The latest deal is with cashpoint specialist Cashbox - suppliers of those stand-alone machines found lurking in the back of late-night shops and increasingly in the corners of pubs. These cashpoints, which are connected via the Link network, already have a broadband connection; so slipping a Wi-Fi access point into the box is not a great technical challenge.
You might think they did it because it was easy, but you'd be forgetting the title of this post.

Sure, technology exists to separate the banking network from the guest WiFi traffic. The problem is that this is software configurable. So how do ATMs get reconfigured to mix this traffic? The same way they get malware:
Both Svajcer and Zacheroff stressed the trojan could only be installed by someone who had physical access to an ATM, since the devices, obviously, don't have floppy drives and typically run only on private isolated networks. That means the malware could most likely be installed only with help of an insider or in the event passwords weren't managed properly.
OK, so maybe Cashbox makes so much money with these things that they can afford the inevitable breach. What does it mean to you?

1. If the ATM gets compromised, you can't tell if its safe to use your card there. If you can't tell if it's been compromised, you shouldn't use your card there. Hint: you can't tell.

2. If the ATM gets compromised, you can't trust the WiFi. Something could easily read all the traffic you send, or receive. It could redirect you to sites of its choice. Unless you are using a VPN to encrypt everything, it's not safe.

Other than that, it's perfectly safe.

Filed under "pwned" because while it hasn't happened yet, it's a lock. About the only lock on this sad, sad story.

Ancient Roman snark

The Romans had a custom that seems strange to modern eyes - after the death of an Emperor, the Senate would (usually) pass a decree that the late Imperator was a god.  The Roman state religion was a tool of public order, and so while this seems strange to our eyes, it was considered perfectly normal to them.  After all, there was an ancient tradition of God Kings in the middle east, so it isn't really surprising that they imported an idea they thought useful to the State.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the Senate thought that the Emperor had actually turned into a god.  Or most other educated people, either.  And so on this day in 79 A.D., the Emperor Vespasian was on his death bed and felt the end approaching.  The historian Suetonius tells us that he said, "I feel myself becoming a god" (Vae, puto deus fio.)  That's some quality snark right there, particularly from someone speaking their last words.

Haec est imago ab Wikipedia

He was succeeded to the Imperial throne by his son Titus, who had the Senate deify his father.  Titus, by the way, has left a  big architectural imprint on the city of Rome: not only is the arch in his name one of the must-see sights, but he completed and dedicated the Coliseum.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

This is why you have backup pitchers

On this day in 1917, Red Sox pitcher Ernie Shore retired 26 Washington Senators batters in a row to win the game.  He replaced the starting pitcher, who had retired one batter.  The starting pitcher?  Babe Ruth.

Image via Wikipedia
The reason that the Bambino only retired one batter?  He was thrown out of the game for punching an Umpire.  Different time, different game.

Ten Years ago on this blog

It was census time, and since a fellow with a (D) after his name occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue it was the GOP freaking out.  Now that's all swapped but the song remains the same.

On advise of Counsel, I respectfully decline to answer ...

Seems that the Census folks will be asking a lot of questions this time around. Some folks are planning on telling them how many people live in the house, and then telling them to clear off:
Outspoken Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann says she's so worried that information from next year's national census will be abused that she will refuse to fill out anything more than the number of people in her household. 
In an interview Wednesday morning with The Washington Times "America's Morning News," Mrs. Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said the questions have become "very intricate, very personal" and she also fears ACORN, the community organizing group that came under fire for its voter registration efforts last year, will be part of the Census Bureau's door-to-door information collection efforts. 
"I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," she said. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that." 
Seems that the good folks at Census don't much like this:
Shelly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said Mrs. Bachmann is "misreading" the law.

She sent a portion of the U.S. legal code that says anyone over 18 years of age who refuses to answer "any of the questions" on the census can be fined up to $5,000.
Well now. I wonder if you have to sign the Census form, under penalty of perjury?

One of the unanticipated consequences of the left's statist agenda is that people end up trusting the government less over time. The government needs that trust, or a lot of things simply break down.

Me? I wonder if the expression Come back with a warrant would make them unhappy?

Bobby Cash - What Would You Do

Via The Tamworth Rage Page
They call him "the Indian Cowboy", and therein lies the story.  "Indian" as in "dot, not feather".

Bal Kishore Das Loiwal was born in Dehradun, India in 1961.  His aunt liven in Nashville, and would send him the latest Country records as they came out, so he grew up listening to the Country classics.  There were no music teachers who knew guitar, and so he taught himself.

The 1990s saw him performing in New Delhi at the Rodeo nightclub.  A chance encounter with an Australian film producer led to an invitation to perform at Australia's Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2003.  He became a media celebrity there - a documentary "The Indian Cowboy ... One In A Billion" recorded his appearance and story and aired on the Discovery Channel in Australia.  A rich Aussie bankrolled his first album, which got him nominated for the 2005 CMA Global Artist Of TheYear.

That's a long, unusual journey, one of the many things I love about country music.  The Tamworth page about him struck me as both funny and down home in a West-meets-subcontinent way:
Bobby is descended from a princely Indian family, grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas – "You can be a cowboy anywhere" – and lives a comfortable middle-class existence in India, even if his leather outfits turn heads. His style is down-home – there are no airs or graces: when his guitar-picking thumb-nail breaks just before departure for Australia, he finds the missing piece and super-glues it on. "Sometimes I cut off my wife's nail . . . I tell her I need it more than she does."

I usually include the lyrics and who wrote the song in these posts, but Bobby Cash seems pretty obscure on these shores, and even Amazon doesn't have a track listing for his 2004 album Cowboy At Heart which has this track.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Awwwwww!


That pup's yawning because there's no coffee.  Just sayin'.

Happy Solstice!

I've been re-posting items from ten years back, and since the Solstice is almost always on June 21, this is a twofer.

Cycles of Time


The mystery of life - birth, growth, death, is almost certainly behind the ancient efforts to precisely know the seasons. They knew when to plant, and when to harvest - they didn't need any help there, and only a professor who never spent a day on a farm could think that.

And so the "ancient observatories" like Stonehenge aren't observatories at all. They're Cathedrals.

Happy Solstice. Grill something with your dad to celebrate. Photo from the always amazing NASA Astronomy Picture Of The Day.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

F-35 news roundup

There's a great selection of F-35 news over at Lawrence's place.  Not all is well with the F-35 program.

Ten years ago on this blog

When is an emergency not an emergency?

When the liberal press (redundancy alert) writes a story about something that they don't like.

Consider today's Washington Post.  The lede:
The D.C. government released emergency regulations yesterday that greatly expand the models of handguns that District residents can own, a shift designed to stave off another lawsuit over its compliance with the Second Amendment. 
Emergency, get it? Pretty serious, I'd think, especially when you read into the story to find this:
Several council members who voted to implement the District's gun policies declined to comment yesterday, saying they had not reviewed the changes. 
Wow. It was so much of an emergency, that the city council voted for it without even reading it.

So what was the emergency? Well, the story talks about (and even quotes - points for fairness there) Tracey Hanson, the DC resident who lawyered up with Alan Gura. But again, why the emergency nature? The usual suspects at the Brady Crowd are out talking about "Common Sense" gun controls, so where's the coverage of the non common sense controls that DC just ditched? All we get is a hint:
It's the second time in less than a year that city leaders have had to back away from some of the restrictions they put into place immediately after the Heller decision. Initially, the council permitted residents to register only revolvers, not semiautomatic pistols. But the ban on semiautomatics was lifted in September because of pressure from Congress and gun rights groups.
The only explanation that makes sense is that the reporter (Tim Craig) is so clueless about guns that he is simply incapable of writing a coherent story. Emergency legislation passed without the council even reading it - why did they think they were going to lose in court? What, in other words, constitutes non-common sense gun controls, per the Washington DC city council?

If you want to know, don't bother reading the Washington Post. They can't figure it out. I'm sure glad they have all those layers of editors and fact checkers, though.

DC gun control - falling to pieces. Fortunately, there's a country song for that.

Catholic Charities are housing illegal immigrants



Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Glock vs. 1911

I guess the debate is over.




Ten years ago on this blog

Yup


Actually, this explains a lot.

Postscript: It seems that on this day ten years ago, I posted six times.  Crazy kid ...

Rasputin sings Beyonce

DeepFake creates fake videos.  Now the 3.0 version makes videos out of a single photograph.  Here's Rasputin getting jiggy:



It's fun, but not convincing.  But that's not really the point:
When the researchers asked 66 people to watch 24 videos – 12 are real, and 12 deepfakes – people could only label them as real or fake correctly about 52 per cent of the time. “This model has shown promising results in generating lifelike videos, which produce facial expressions that reflect the speakers tone. The inability of users to distinguish the synthesized videos from the real ones in the Turing test verifies that the videos produced look natural,” the researchers concluded.
They are getting better.  Whether they will get better enough to be able to fool experts - Joe Off The Street is notoriously bad at detecting stuff like this - remains to be seen.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ten years ago on this blog

Ghost Towns

The difference between America and Europe is that Americans think that 100 years is a long time, and Europeans think that 100 miles is a long way.

In the unlikely event that a European stumbles across this blog and joins my two regular readers, my advice to him is to visit the "flyover" country if he really wants to understand America. The spaces are huge, and (mostly) empty.

But the emptiness contains the ghosts of lost dreams.

There is a restlessness to the American soul that is best captured by standing in the main street of a Ghost Town. Where once people built lives, nature is triumphant. It's pretty astonishing just how fast a house will fall apart and disappear into the landscape without someone to keep it up.

I remember in 1972, visiting my great-grandfather's farm in Kansas. The old farmhouse where my father lived during the summers when he was a boy was nothing but boards. In thirty years, reduced to a pile. Thirty-five years later, even that will be gone.

Here used to be life, and love, and dreams. All gone.

There's nothing to compare with this in Europe, except for civilizations long dead and peoples vanished. But ours is not dead, and out people are not vanished, just moved on to greener climes and newer dreams.

The American (and Canadian) west is filled with Ghost Towns. The GhostTownGallery has a list of them, if you want to pick one to visit.

Not on the list: Flint, Michigan:
The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.
Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.
Not dead, but dieing. The silver's run out, the mine is boarded up, and the prospectors have moved on.
Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.
Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000.
The exodus – particularly of young people – coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.
All that's left are those too old to pick up and move again, or those too sentimental.

Europeans build with stone, or brick. Americans build with wood. Expectations inform actions.  Blut und Boden vs. Home is where the heart is. Here, the landscapes of the mind are what's durable.

Boaty McBoatface gets results!

Official name: Autosub Long Range.  Forever known as Boaty McBoatface.  The results of its first mission have now been published:
The first mission involving the autonomous submarine vehicle Autosub Long Range (better known as “Boaty McBoatface”) has for the first time shed light on a key process linking increasing Antarctic winds to rising sea temperatures. Data collected from the expedition, published today in the scientific journal PNAS, will help climate scientists build more accurate predictions of the effects of climate change on rising sea levels.

The research, which took place in April 2017, studied the changing temperatures at the bottom of the Southern Ocean.
I think that Science does well with a sense of humor.

Why liberals shouldn't listen to environmentalists

Via Chris Lynch (who you really should read every day), we get a glimpse into just how much that environmentalists "know" to be true is malarky:
We also need to consider the wider environmental impact of our bag choices. A 2018 study by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food looked not just at plastic waste, but also at climate-change damage, ozone depletion, human toxicity and other indicators. It found you must reuse an organic cotton shopping bag 20,000 times before it will have less climate damage than a plastic bag.
Damn Danes.  They're as bad as Ronald Reagan with his "trees pollute" view.  If only they'd become more enlightened and Democratic Socialist and such, like environmentalists or Scandinavians.

Oh, wait ...

Why do liberals use reusable shopping bags?  Because they want to help solve the problem.  Everyone has told them that they're helping.  But what they're doing is making the problem 20,000 times worse.

It's almost like the world is complex and chaotic and there are few simple solutions.

The linked article is filled with this sort of thing.

This is not to blame liberals for wanting to help solve the problem.  It's pointing out that the biggest problem that we face is not what we don't know, but rather what we are certain is true even though it isn't.  Especially when it's fed to us by people who get paid to feed it to us.  [**cough** professional environmentalists **cough**]

Monday, June 17, 2019

From the place where Great Britain used to be


Good lord.  HM Government is staffed with children.

Epic fail at UPS

Wilson Combat shipped a very nice firearm via UPS.  Said firearm went missing.

The droids that work at UPS seem not to understand just how many felonies are involved with that.  Holy cow.  Or just how much traffic Gun Free Zone gets.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

So this Navy Veteran dies with no known family ...

Hundreds show up for his funeral:
COLUMBIA [South Carolina] — He died with no family claiming him, but Petty Officer 3rd Class James Miske was surrounded by hundreds of people Friday at Fort Jackson National Cemetery where he would be buried.

...

Military personnel in full dress uniforms stood at attention. Another veteran saluted from his wheelchair as the silver, flag-draped casket passed by. When the guns fired the final salute, women gripped the shoulders of stoic children grasping flags.

...

More than 150 Patriot Guard motorcyclists, wearing vests emblazoned with insignia from Desert Storm, Iraq and other conflicts, and 100 vehicles, many with flags fluttering from their windows, participated in the miles-long funeral procession, joining the many more gathered at the cemetery.
Click the link to read the whole thing and watch the video, which is very moving.  Petty Officer Miske was "unclaimed" - he had no family to take care of his funeral.  But it turns out that he did have a family, one that saw him off with the respect due his service.


There are days that I weep for this Republic.  Today is not one of those days.  Fair winds and following seas, Petty Officer Miske.  Ave atque vale.

Billionaire French donors aren't paying for Notre Dame repairs

They pledged a billion dollars in the aftermath of the fire that gutted the cathedral, but aren't paying.  Guess who is?
PARIS (AP) — The billionaire French donors who publicly proclaimed they would give hundreds of millions to rebuild Notre Dame have not yet paid a penny toward the restoration of the French national monument, according to church and business officials.

Instead, it’s mainly American and French individuals, via Notre Dame charitable foundations, that are behind the first donations paying the bills and salaries for up to 150 workers employed by the cathedral since the April 15 fire that devastated its roof and caused its masterpiece spire to collapse. This month they are handing over the first private payment for the cathedral’s reconstruction of 3.6 million euros ($4 million).

“The big donors haven’t paid. Not a cent,” said Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame. “They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees’ salaries.”

Almost $1 billion was promised by some of France’s richest and most powerful families and companies, some of whom sought to outbid each other, in the hours and days after the inferno. It prompted criticism that the donations were as much about the vanity of the donors wishing to be immortalized in the edifice’s fabled stones than the preservation of France’s church heritage.

Francois Pinault of Artemis, the parent company of Kering that owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, promised 100 million euros ($112 million), while Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of French energy company Total, said his firm would match that figure. Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury giant LVMH that owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, pledged 200 million euros ($224 million), as did the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L’Oréal fortune.

None of that money has been seen, according to Finot, as the donors wait to see how the reconstruction plans progress and fight it out over contracts.

The reality on the ground at Notre Dame is that work has been continuing around the clock for weeks and the cathedral has had to rely partly on the charity foundations to fund the first phase of reconstruction.
So Americans are leading the way, while French billionaires show us once again that they only thing they know how to run are their mouths.  No doubt they'll get right on it - probably after they pay off the World War I debt.


The article is damning, and I recommend that you click through and read the whole thing.  The cleanup started immediately after the fire, and has been complicate (especially the lead contamination from the melted lead sheets on the roof).  Actual rebuilding cannot begin until cleanup is complete, but the French bigwigs aren't paying a penny.
The Friends of Notre Dame de Paris was founded in 2017, and its president, Michel Picaud, estimates that 90% of the donations it has received have come from American donors.
Le sigh.  Somehow this seems very, well, French.