Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ray Parker Jr. - Ghostbusters



Got to love the '80s big hair.

Civil War approaches - in Britain

The English have a well deserved reputation for politeness.  "Keep Calm and Carry On", "Stiff Upper Lip" and all that.  But the shenanigans around Brexit - where the people voted to leave the EU three years ago, only to see Parliament repeatedly stall and rope-a-dope the result - seems to have the population seeing red:
Violence against MPs is a 'price worth paying' to get the Brexit result they want, say a majority of both Leavers and Remainers in a 'genuinely shocking' survey.
The study, based on polling by YouGov, found 71% of Leavers in England, 60% in Scotland and 70% in Wales believed violence towards MPs was a 'price worth paying' for Brexit.
Among Remainers, 58% in England, 53% in Scotland and 56% in Wales considered violence towards MPs was a 'price worth paying' for Britain to stay in the EU. 
Perhaps this is the reason that Parliament agreed to an election in December, two months before the newly extended Brexit deadline?
Professor Wyn Jones said: 'It's not often that one finds oneself shaken by research findings, but in this case it's hard to not be genuinely shocked - not only by the fact that so many think that violence is a likely consequence of Brexit, but that so many on either side of the Brexit divide seem to think that such events might be "worth it" in order to secure their preferred outcome.
'Given that we appear to be on the brink of another general election in which further polarisation could be a deliberate campaign strategy for some parties, these findings should give all of us pause for thought and underline the importance of responsible and measured debate.'
Alas, Prof. Jones, that ship has fair sailed.  Is it even possible to have "responsible and measured debate" when the democratic institutions have repeatedly scorned the people's stated (and voted) preference?  If Parliament can continue to reject the election result, then why should the people not assemble with pitchforks, torches, and generous quantities of tar and feathers?

Of course, I speak as a filthy Colonial, whose forebears long ago decided what the proper response to taxation without representation was.  Oh, and saying "But you do have representation, only not in Brexit" is weak (and since it's England, likely warm, too) beer.

Oliver Cromwell's statue stands outside the Halls of Parliament.  He ran roughshod over that body, during a divided time in England's past.  Many died, before sanity returned to the land.  We shall see if the British people - and their elected representatives - have an appetite for a repeat.


Cool Halloween costume, bro


LOL

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

But, but, but - he was an Islamic Scholar

Err, one that burns captives alive.  But don't ask the Washington Post, because they want this news to die in the Darkness ...


Good Dog.  Do you have a bone to chew?

Nina Simone - I put a spell on you

Get ready for an enchanting Halloween with Nina Simone.

Samsung Galaxy 10 fingerprint unlock is hopelessly broken

It's not just Google's Pixel 4 biometric system that's a security nightmare:
Samsung is reportedly rolling out fixes for a glitch that allowed anyone to dupe its Galaxy S10 fingerprint authentication sensor.

Samsung has reportedly started rolling out a software patch for the Galaxy S10 and Note10, addressing glitches in both phone models that allow the bypass of their built-in fingerprint authentication sensors.
The problem for Android users is that you don't get the security updates from the phone manufacturer, you get them from your telephone carrier.  This means that even though a fix is available from Samsung, it likely will get delayed as the carrier reviews and authorizes the fix.

Note: Apple iPhone users do NOT have this problem - security fixes come directly from Apple.

So just how bad is this fingerprint problem?  Banks are removing the Samsung mobile banking app from Google Play:
A security vulnerability that allows anyone to unlock a Samsung Galaxy S10 protected with a fingerprint has convinced banks that it’s time to enforce new protection rules, at least for this particular model. 
As a result, some banks removed their mobile banking apps for Samsung Galaxy S10, while others released updates to disable fingerprint support when apps are installed on this Samsung smartphone.
Banks do not mess round with security.  This is pretty embarrassing to Samsung, and exposes a pretty big weakness in the Android ecosystem (delayed security patch availability).

If you have a Samsung Galaxy 10 you should disable the fingerprint reader right now.  Oh, and don't use the facial recognition to unlock the phone either.

Top UK Gov't Scientist: NASA may have faked climate data

The guy is retired, which you'd pretty much have to be in order to blow the whistle on this sort of thing:
Retired Principal Scientific Officer (PSO) for the British Government exposes “discrepancies” in NASA’s Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN) which serve to make recent temperatures seem warmer.
The “mistakes” point to possible fraud intended to give scientific credence to tax-raising UK and US climate policies.
Nothing new to long time readers, of course.  But this is a very high level disclosure from inside what is frequently referred to as the "scientific consensus".
Our insider source reveals that global land temperature anomalies estimated as high as 1.23°C today were actually occurring routinely as far back as 1934. These temperatures were only surpassed again in 2015.
Persuaded by the raw data he examined, the former top UK government expert is adamant there is nothing abnormal about recent global temperatures.
Remember all those temperature records set in the 1930s heat waves that still haven't been surpassed:
You want to see a real heat wave?  Look at July 1936.  ElevenStates set high temperature records that stand to this day.  That Wikipedia page is a little shifty on this, trying to hide the decline in record temperatures.  You'll see an asterisk next to South Dakota, which the Wiki page says means Also on earlier date or dates in that state.  So what was that earlier date for South Dakota?  July 1936.

Oh, and three more States set high temperature records the next month, August 1936.  That makes 14 out of the 50 States suffered record high temperatures in the summer of 1936.  That's almost 30% of the States.
A suspicious sort of person might wonder whether the scientific evidence for global warming was so strong if all this manipulation, misdirection, and hiding the decline is such standard operating procedure.  And I've been posting for a decade on how the sausage is made:
You read in the press about how much the temperature has risen in the last 100 years. There's an interesting story in the data, but the press doesn't know it.

The data has two components: the raw measurements themselves, and a set of adjustments.

Adjustments are made for a bunch of reasons: time of observation adjustments (you didn't take a reading at exactly the same time each day), environmental changes, weather station site relocations, urbanization, etc.

An interesting question is how much of the 20th century's temperature change is due to adjustments? As it turns out, the answer is all of it.
They keep moving the shells around, but keep your eye on the one covering the marble.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Ten years of annoyance with the NRA

Well, I've been posting about it for ten years.  Sadly, it doesn't look like much has changed.

Posted on October 28, 2009.

Dear NRA ...

I signed back up when your folks called last night. Yes, I know that I let my subscription expire - I'll give you another try. I even signed #2 Son up, because he might even read your kids magazine. But now that we're BFF again, let me give you some advice.

When someone lets their membership lapse, you really should ask them why.

I even tried to tell your folks, but they weren't interested in much more than my credit card number. I guess that's what you pay them for, so I don't have a beef with them. But your membership department lost an opportunity for figure out why one of your members thinks he may drop you like alfredo.

But as I said, we're like totally BFF again, so I'll tell you anyway:

When I look at the legal battle around the Second Amendment, you're not a leader - you're a follower. Leaders lead.

So lead.

Love, Borepatch

P.S. Maybe if you can work to get the Second Amendment incorporated, we could celebrate! I mean, Mom and Dad might even let you come to a sleepover!!!1!

P.P.S. Lead.

Pirate Cove at Castle Borepatch


Click to embiggen.  The Queen Of The World had a vision of Halloween and it came out pretty well.  We went a little overboard but it's fun to see families come around with their kids to look at it.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Ghost of World Series Past

The teams in this year's World Series are pretty evenly matched, and it looks like the series can go all the way to game seven.  It's not always like this.  Fifteen years ago today the Boston Red Sox completed their four game sweep of the St. Lewis Cardinals, capping the most spectacular comeback in Baseball playoff history.  Down 3 games to none to the New York Yankees, they rallied to sweep the Yanks in the next four games to win the American League pennant, and then stomped the Cardinals in the Series.

The "Curse of the Bambino" was over.  All New England celebrated, including your humble host who carved the box score in Jack-o-lanterns.


André Caplet - Masque Of The Red Death

Edgar Alan Poe achieved fame in France before he did in America.  He influenced Jules Verne and several composers wrote music on his stories.  Claude Debussy started an opera on The Fall Of The House Of Usher but died before completing it.  Debussy's assistant André Caplet wrote this about one of Poe's creepiest stories.  The 1964 film with Vincent Price scared the bejeebus out of me when I was a kid.



But today is about Caplet, not Price.  Caplet was a musical prodigy and beat Maurice Ravel for the 1901 Prix de Rome.  Debussy hired him and they collaborated successfully for a decade - even four years when Caplet was conductor for the Boston Opera.  He returned to France in 1914 when the War broke out and enlisted in the Army.  He was gassed in the trenches and while he survived it wrecked his health.  He was only 46 when died in 1925.

He was a prolific composer and you can only imagine what he might have produced had the War not devoured him.  You can say that about lots from his generation.  Today's work is fittingly creepy for the story and the Halloween season.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Not that kind of pirate ...

I have a ship.  It's the annual Halloween party at the local watering hole, and so the Queen Of The World and I are getting on our pirate best.  Pictures anon, if folks care.  Here's one from days of yore.  The costumes are considerably more elaborate now.


Dang, she sure is pretty.

Alan Jackson - Midnight in Montgomery

Alan Jackson owned the airwaves in the early 1990s, so much so that this single was a bit of a disappointment - it only made it to #3 on the charts.  But Halloween is coming and what better country music for Halloween than a song with the ghost of Hank Williams?



Midnight in Montgomery (Songwriters: Alan Jackson, Don Sampson)
I was on my way to Mobile, for a big New Year's Eve show
I stopped for just a minute, to see a friend outside of town
Put my collar up, I found his name, and felt the wind die down

And a drunk man in a cowboy hat took me by surprise
Wearing shiny boots, a Nudie suit, and haunting haunted eyes
He said friend it's good to see you, it's nice to know you care
Then the wind picked up and he was gone, was he ever really there?

'Cause it's midnight in Montgomery
Just hear that whip-poor-will
See the stars light up the purple sky
Feel that lonesome chill
'Cause when the wind is right you'll hear his songs
Smell whiskey in the air
Midnight in Montgomery
He's always singing there

Well I climbed back on that Eagle, took one last look around
Through red tail lights, a shadow moved, slow across the ground
And off somewhere a midnight train is slowly passing by
I can hear that whistle moan, I'm so lonesome I could cry

'Cause it's midnight in Montgomery
Just hear that whip-poor-will
See the stars light up the purple sky
Feel that lonesome chill
'Cause when the wind is right you'll hear his songs
Smell whiskey in the air
Midnight in Montgomery
He's always singing there

Yeah, he's always singing there
Oh, Hank's always singing there

Women's Sports Is Dying

There is no longer any reason for women's categories in sports. In some ways they've been saying it anyway. If we are that equal and gender is just preference and a pronoun, why have these arbitrary categories in sports?

Since the boys are competing as girls anyway, who's kidding whom?

Biologically Male NCAA Runner Named Conference Female Athlete Of The Week

 "The House of Representatives voted in May to pass the Equality Act, which would require schools to allow male athletes who identify as transgender girls to compete on female sports teams. The bill had unanimous support among House Democrats and is supported by every Democratic presidential frontrunner."

Friday, October 25, 2019

Jackie Gleason - Music For Lovers Only

If all you remember of Jackie Gleason is "The Honeymooners" and "smokey And The Bandit" then this may be a surprise: This album still holds the Billboard record for the longest stay on the Top Ten chart - 153 weeks, which is basically three years).

Gleason composed music.  He got the idea for this album when he was watching a Clark Gabel movie and had the thought that the film was terrible but the music made it tolerable.  He left the theater thinking that if Gabel needed a good music score then what hope does a guy from Brooklyn have?  And so he wrote this.

It's pretty good.  It's background music for you and your Lady, but that's what he wrote it for.  He can set the mood, but you need to do the rest.

Fake climate data

There is a lot of complaining about the climate databases (I do this all the time), but most of it is about how existing data is changed.  It's not quite right to call this "fake" - it's "changed".  But there is fake data out there, and quite frankly nobody quite knows how much there is.  This post from ten years ago explains how that's done.

Ripogenus Dam

The science is settled.

OK, so what's with the Ripogenus Dam?

You don't get much more rural than that. Way, way up the west branch of the Penobscot river in Maine, it's the sort of place that Boy Scouts go for week long canoe voyages through the wilderness. In 1972, a dozen fellow teenagers and I from Troop 47 spent a week a hundred miles from any other living soul.


In 1972, there was a Weather station at the Ripogenus Dam. It collected temperature readings every day. Those readings were included in NASA's GISS temperature reading data set. Its readings were included in GISS until 2006, along with data from thousands of other weather stations. There's really only one little problem.

The Ripogenus Dam weather station was decommissioned in 1995.

So for ten years, GISS reported temperature readings from a station that didn't exist. How? Filnet.
Part of the USHCN data is created by a computer program called “filnet” which estimates missing values. According to the NOAA, filnet works by using a weighted average of values from neighboring stations. In this example, data was created for a no longer existing station from surrounding stations, which in this case as the same evaluation noted were all subject to microclimate and urban bias, no longer adjusted for. Note the rise in temperatures after this before the best sited truly rural station in Maine was closed.
"Urban bias" is the technical term for when a weather station reads artificially high temperatures because the station is situated in an urban location where there are lots of buildings and parking lots to absorb the heat from the sun. Filnet took temperature readings from other weather stations - stations in urban locations where reading are higher because of the surrounding asphalt heat collectors - and used it for the most rural station in the state.

Remember how 1998 was the "warmest year in a millenium"? Well, it was warmer than it would have been if the Ripogenus Dam's readings hadn't come from Millinocket.

The question is: just how unreliable is the data? Lots.
How can we trust NOAA/NASA/Hadley assessment of global changes given these and the other data integrity issues? Given that Hadley has destroyed old original data because they were running out of room in their data cabinet, can we ever hope to reconstruct the real truth?
Given that there are only 30 or 40 stations that have been providing temperature readings from the Civil War up to today, given that "adjustments" are made to the temperature data via an arcane and opaque process and may represent most or all of the warming in the 20th Century, given that scientists refuse to release their data (or the raw - unadjusted - data has been destroyed), given how some of the data sets rely on tree rings from a single tree, how can we trust the data?

The Ripogenus Dam weather station was giving ghost readings for a decade. How many other non-existent weather stations are still generating new data? The World wonders.

The rules for The Blues

While it might seem a little fussy to have a set of rules for The Blues, it's OK if they're hilarious blues.  For example:
Good places for the Blues:
a. highway
b. jailhouse
c. empty bed
d. bottom of a whiskey glass
Bad places for the Blues:
a. Nordstrom’s
b. gallery openings
c. Ivy League colleges
d. golf courses
LOL.  There's much Truth in this list.  I have proof.  Go read the list and then listen to this.  It's kind of uncanny.

The Overmountain Men

The Overmountain Men were settlers west of the Appalachians in the decades before the American Revolution. They lived beyond the reach of the British Crown, forming their own confederations, and living a rough independent life.

Living at the ends of any supply and news chain from the coasts, the Overmountain Men had little concern for the British or the Colonials. That is, until September of 1780. One of Gen. Cornwallis' officers, Maj. Patrick Ferguson, was tasked with controlling the western flank of the British Army in the South. The British had taken Charleston and controlled the eastern Carolinas. Now it was time to bring the rebels in the mountains to heel.
Following Cornwallis’ practice, Ferguson had been pressuring Carolina Rebels to sign loyalty oaths and receive pardons, as about 1,400 men had done in Augusta, Ga. But so many overmountain men had refused to sign the oaths that an angry Ferguson sent a paroled Whig prisoner into the mountains carrying a warning: If the Rebels “did not desist from their opposition to the British arms,” he would “march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders and lay their country waste with fire and sword.”
The prisoner brought the warning to a Rebel militia colonel in a part of North Carolina that is now Tennessee. Enraged by the threat, the officer immediately met with a neighboring Rebel leader. They agreed there was only one way to respond to the British threat: muster as many men as possible and strike first at Ferguson. A third militia leader from the Virginia backwoods soon appeared, bringing his men.
It ended at the Battle of King's Mountain with the complete defeat and surrender of the British force under Ferguson. RTWT 

It was unusual for a number of reasons. It was mostly individuals, it lacked a support or command structure for the most part, the men were armed with rifles, and it was the turning point in the American Revolution. Everything after this leads toward Yorktown.



The PATRIOT Act

There's an excellent article on the USA PATRIOT Act at Ammo.com.  There's lots of background there (I hadn't known or had forgotten that Obama extended the act; thanks for nothing, Democrats).  This bit seems dead on:
Do we still need the PATRIOT Act? Did we ever? All laws are certainly a product of their times. But this seems much more acutely true of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed in a rush and under duress without due consideration.
Particularly in light of the revelations from Edward Snowden – that the government is spying on everything they possibly can – it’s worth asking if there’s any walking back. He points out that the police state apparatus was originally for drug dealers, then for terrorists, but ultimately ended up being applied to anyone and everyone.
It's a strange world where I have to post about how to hide your data transmissions from the NSA - if in fact you even can.  The Dread Pirate Roberts saga suggests that you can't.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Requiescat in Pace

Kevin, from The Smallest Minority, and his family, have suffered a great loss. 

His great-grandson died of SIDS.

There are no words.



Wow, this really is an environmental emergency

I had no idea.  Fortunately, there's a plan to address it.

For all you James Burke fans out there

I am a huge James Burke fan, and Google tells me that maybe ten posts here talk about him.  His TV series The Day The Universe Changed and its companion book would make a pretty decent curriculum for early teen kids who would learn more (and have more fun doing so) than 99% of their age peers.

I know that I'm not the only fan, as any post about him gets a bunch of comments with fanboi squees - and interestingly the Amazon link above has people selling their hardcover edition of the book for $100(!!!).

The problem for us Burke fans is that the gentleman is getting on in years and hasn't done anything new in a while.  Well fear not, Gentle Reader, help is on the way.

Dan Carlin produces a very entertaining history podcast called Hard Core History.  He approaches history as a Who Done It mystery, or a crime scene investigation.  He also points out that many (maybe even most) historians aren't really historians, they're screen writers.  They - especially the ancient ones - were writing to entertain an audience.  I find it a very interesting analogy.

Well, it turns out that Carlin is also a Burke fan, and had the man himself on one of the podcast episodes.  You can download the MP3 for free here.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Beat Daddys - Beverly Hillbillies (Blues cover)

You know this song, but probably haven't heard it done this way.  Back In The Day, The Queen Of The World saw them in a hole in the wall in Evanston, IN.  The dance floor was packed.

The lesson of Pope Formosus

Pictura per Wicipaedia
A very strange trial commenced in Rome in 897 AD, a trial of a dead man.  Pope Formosus had died the previous year, but his body was exhumed and he was put on trial in the Cadaever Synod.

His late Holiness was accused of improperly assigning Bishoprics, of perjury, and of serving as a Bishop before he had been ordained.  His corpse was dressed in his vestments and propped up on a throne during the proceedings.  Eventually Formosus was (posthumously) convicted of the charges.  The vestments were stripped from the corpse, his memory was damned, the three fingers he used in blessings were hacked off, and his body was thrown into the river Tiber.

And Donald Trump complains about Nancy Pelosi ...

It seems that some of this spirit remains in Rome and the Church to this day.

But all of them are 100% constitutional

No doubt.


Looks like the Red States are the worst abusers of Red Flag laws.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Google's Pixel 4 face unlock system: Broken as designed

There's a "bug" in the new Pixel 4 phone, one that lets someone unlock your phone even if you're asleep.  Or, say, the Cops want to see what's on it and you're not cooperating.  The fix will take rewriting the code, and so it will take a while:
When the Pixel 4 ships this week, it will be releasing to consumers with a face-unlock security issue that will apparently stick around for some time. Unlike the iPhone's FaceID (and Google's earlier face-unlock system on Android 4.1), the Pixel 4's face unlock doesn't look for the user's eyes, so the phone could be pointed at a sleeping or unconscious owner and unlocked without their consent. This weekend, Google said in a statement that a fix "will be delivered in a software update in the coming months."
What this means is that the design of the system never considered that someone might not want their phone unlocked when they're sleeping.  That speaks volumes to how much Google values your privacy.

Here's a security ProTip: Don't ever ever ever use face recognition or fingerprint reading to unlock your phone.  Unless you want this sort of thing to happen to you.

Here's a second security ProTip: Don't ever buy a phone from Google.

The mockery started really early in Obama's first administration

From ten years ago, only nine months into Obama's first term.  Funny that nobody makes up stuff like this about Donald Trump.

Originally posted October 22, 2019.

Obandoke, omae

Hey dude, feel your soul heal:
A contributor to a mailing list for Japanese-English translation that I read reports that the verb obamu is gaining currency on the Kyoto University campus. He writes, “It means something along the lines of, ‘to ignore anything which appears to make you likely to fail or (be) wrong, and blindly surge ahead (preferably chanting, “yes we can, yes we can”)’.” He adds that he heard a friend jokingly try to cheer someone up by saying, “obandoke, omae.” (オバんどけ、お前.) 
If I had to translate that on the fly, it would come out something like, “Lighten up and think positive, guy!”
There do seem to be different interpretations - as you'd expect for a neologism:
I found it as an entry dated 22 September in a collection of slang and modern usage put together by the Japanese Teachers’ Network in Kitakyushu. Here’s what they write: 
obamu: (v.) To ignore inexpedient and inconvenient facts or realities, think “Yes we can, Yes we can,” and proceed with optimism using those facts as an inspiration (literally, as fuel). It is used to elicit success in a personal endeavor. One explanation holds that it is the opposite of kobamu. (拒む, which means to refuse, reject, or oppose).
They give the following example: 
ほら、何落ち込んでいるんだよ。オバめよ、オバめ。 
Or, “Hey, why are you so down in the dumps? Cheer up, cheer up!”
So to those who find themselves newly added to the unemployment rolls, or to one-time allies in Eastern Europe facing alone a newly resurgent Russian Bear, let me just say "Hey, why are you so down in the dumps?  Obandoke, omae!"

Ampontan is a very interesting blog that gives you inside baseubaru from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Hat tip: Don Surbur.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Alexa and Google Home - a Trojan Horse?

After many years have slipped by, the leaders of the Greeks,
opposed by the Fates, and damaged by the war,
build a horse of mountainous size, through Pallas's divine art,
and weave planks of fir over its ribs:
they pretend it's a votive offering: this rumour spreads.
They secretly hide a picked body of men, chosen by lot,
there, in the dark body, filling the belly and the huge
cavernous insides with armed warriors.

- Virgil Aeneid, Book II
The Turkish city of Çanakkale rests directly on the Dardanelles - the straight that separates Europe from Asia. It is the nearest city to the ancient city of Troy, made famous by Homer's Illiad and Virgil's much later Aeneid. These stories tell the tale of the Trojan Horse, where a gift is actually a ruse to smuggle unpleasant things into a place, generally to the ruin of said place.

Everyone knows the story of the Trojan Horse.  Çanakkale has a giant Trojan Horse on its waterfront.  You may even recognize it - it was built for the 2004 film, Troy.  The story is so well known that it's a tourist destination.

In computer security the term applies to malicious software that pretends to be useful.  Long time readers may recall Borepatch's First Law of Security: Free download is Internet-speak for "Open your mouth and close your eyes".  Sadly, this problem has been around for a long time and seems to be getting worse.

Alexa and Google Home appliances both allow third party apps, like the ones you get on your phone.  Well it turns out that these apps can listen in on the speakers in these devices:
By now, the privacy threats posed by Amazon Alexa and Google Home are common knowledge. Workers for both companies routinely listen to audio of users—recordings of which can be kept forever—and the sounds the devices capture can be used in criminal trials.
Now, there's a new concern: malicious apps developed by third parties and hosted by Amazon or Google. The threat isn't just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany's Security Research Labs developed eight apps—four Alexa "skills" and four Google Home "actions"—that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these "smart spies," as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.
"It was always clear that those voice assistants have privacy implications—with Google and Amazon receiving your speech, and this possibly being triggered on accident sometimes," Fabian Bräunlein, senior security consultant at SRLabs, told me. "We now show that, not only the manufacturers, but... also hackers can abuse those voice assistants to intrude on someone's privacy."
Fail.  Security wasn't an after thought, it wasn't thought of at all.  My recommendation is that you - like me - simply don't buy any of these damned things for your house.

The inability of government security programs to work

A reporter once asked security guru Bruce Schneier what he would do to make the TSA more effective. Schneier replied that if he had the agency's budget, he'd give it back.  He added that only two things have improved airline safety after 9/11: strong cockpit doors and the passenger's realization that they have to fight to live.  And yet airport security is worse now than it was then.

This post from ten years ago still rings true.

The world's cutest terror suspect

Todd Brown is the proud dad of an adorable little girl. A little girl that he found out, is on the TSA's list of potential terrorists.

It seems that if you're willing to do a fair amount of leg work, this sort of silliness actually gets cleared up. So well done to Mr. Brown, and I guess to the TSA for making the skies safe for cuteness.

Mr. Brown makes a good point, that there's nothing to tell you that you're on the list, and need to grovel your way through the TSA's unhelpful web site to find the required form. You could plausibly claim that this is a security feature - if the special someone on the list actually were a terrorist, you wouldn't want to let them know.

Which ignores the issue that it's idiotic to have someone so dangerous that they shouldn't be allowed to fly, but not dangerous enough to arrest. That's a discussion for another day. Today, the issue is false positives, the erroneous report that someone or something matches a particular categorization, when they actually don't.

This is why you get a second opinion when your doctor tells you that you have a serious disease. Any diagnosis will be less than 100% accurate, and you don't want to go on an expensive and invasive regime if you're one of the 2% that don't actually have the disease.

An anonymous commenter left this, over in Brown's comments:
They efficiently shifted the cost of false positives to you.
Bingo.

A long time ago, I posted about false positives and why the TSA doesn't go after everyone on one of its lists:
If we really thought these folks were actually terrorists, we'd investigate them. A reasonable investigation involves a lot of effort - wire taps (first, get a warrant), stakeouts, careful collection of a case by Law Enforcement, prosecution. Probably a million dollars between police, lawyers, courts, etc - probably a lot more, if there's a trial. For each of the 700 [people in our thought experiment]. We're looking at a billion dollars, and this assumes a ridiculously low false positive rate.

There are on the order of a hundred thousand people in TSA's no-fly or watch databases. Not 700. If you investigated them all, you're talking a hundred billionbucks. So they turn the system off.

And that's actually the right answer. The data's lousy, joining lousy data with more lousy data makes the results lousier, and it's too expensive to make it work. How lousy is the data? Sky Marshals are on the No-Fly list. No, really.  5 year olds, too.
Actually, they haven't turned the system off. Rather, they've shifted the cost of the investigation to Mr. Brown and people like him.

From the TSA's perspective, this makes sense. From our perspective, it's annoying. It's double-plus annoying when there's nothing that tells you that you're likely a false positive in their system. There is, of course, a sure-fire way to reduce your chance of triggering a false positive in the TSA's system to zero. Guaranteed to work every time.

Drive.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Johannes Caioni - Codex Caioni

Dracula's Castle
We don't have music from the era of Vlad Dracul, at least not from Transylvania where he spent his life fighting the Turks.  We really don't have music from the Turks from that era, although interestingly we do have a fair amount of music from Roman Constantinople before its fall.  All of that was going on at the same time in the Balkans, in a big mix of cultural clashing and mixing.

However, we do have music from Transylvania only a couple of centuries later, written by a Transylvania.  Well, a Wallachian, from the area on the north bank of the Danube where it flows into the Black Sea.  We think of Dracula has inhabiting a castle in the Carpathian mountains; those were the northern border of Walachia.  Vlad was the Prince of Walachia before he became the Prince of Darkness.

Johannes Caioni grew up in this area in the 17th century, 200 years after Vlad impaled his enemies.  A monk, he was educated by the Jesuits and became a composer.  His work survives because he set up a printing press to publish educational and religious books for the nearby villages and towns.  He also published his music, and some works went through multiple editions.

What is interesting about his music is that he used many themes from the folk music of the time.  And so while this isn't the music of Vlad Dracul, it might have the flavor of the music he would have recognized.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Climate Models are junk

We've known this for a very long time.  I posted this ten years ago on this day, so I've been complaining about it for a very long time.

Arrogance

Ever wonder how someone makes a computer model of a really complicated natural system? Say, the World's Climate? You make a lot of simplifying assumptions. Micro effects are chaotic and can't be mapped to macro effect? Replace it with a seat of the pants estimate. You're an atmospheric physicist but you need to model oceanic thermal transfer? Well, air is a fluid, sort of.

But if some snotty-nosed blogger asks to see your source code or data, you get offended. After all, you were always the Smartest Kid In Class. You're published.  In peer-reviewed Journals!

The problem for the in-group is when the out-group is as smart as they are:
I was trained as a physicist and was granted a PhD for my postgraduate work in upper atmosphere physics. In the early 1980s I joined the CSIRO’s Division of Oceanography and worked in surface gravity waves (ocean waves) for a time. Much of the theoretical side of oceanography entails fluid dynamics which, because of its heavy mathematical load, is regarded as a sub-discipline of applied mathematics rather than of physics. Because of this, in my view, many practitioners of oceanography and climatology have a cavalier disregard for experimental testing and an unjustified faith in the validity of large-scale computer models. Later in my career I was involved in running and refining numerical fluid dynamical models, so I gained some insight into how this modelling is done and how rigorously such models need to be tested. Naval architects and aerodynamical engineers do such testing in wave tanks and wind tunnels. 
Meteorologists regularly test model “skill”. Climatologists don’t seem to have a concept of testing, and prefer to use the term “verification” instead—that is, they do not seek to invalidate their models; they only seek supporting evidence.
Sheesh. What would an Atmospheric Physicist who worked on Oceanography know about how the atmosphere and oceans effect the climate? Must be some sort of denier, or something. Reid continues:
Back in the early 1990s when I was still working for the CSIRO and the early versions of the AGW theory started to gain currency, I was rather bemused by the passions which were aroused in my colleagues and the gullibility with which predictions of future climate disaster were accepted. Surely the jury is still out, I thought. I remained agnostic about the theory. More recently, after reading the literature and looking in detail at the output of one well-known climate model (HadCM3) I have changed my stand. I now believe it is nonsense for the following reasons.
[snip]
Second there are the climate models themselves. In discussions with colleagues, arguments always seem to come down to “But the models show …” Those who use this argument seldom have modelling experience themselves and share the lay public’s naive faith in the value of large computer models.
I have been a fluid dynamical modeller and I know how flaky numerical models can be for even a relatively small chunk of fluid like the Derwent Estuary. The models are highly unstable and need to be carefully cosseted in order to perform at all realistically. One reason for their inherent instability is that the mesh size of the model grid (typically hundreds of metres to hundreds of kilometres) is always much larger than the scale at which friction and molecular diffusion operate (millimetres or less). These are the forces which act to damp down oscillations by converting free energy to heat. In order to get around this difficulty, in order to keep a model stable, it is common practice to set certain parameters such as eddy viscosity unrealistically high to compensate for the absence of molecular friction. This is reasonable if we are using the model to gain insight into underlying processes, but it means that fluid dynamic models are not much good at predicting the future. There is no exact correspondence between model and reality, and the two soon part company.
It's too hard to model the fluid dynamics of one river mouth, but the climate of the entire world? Don't worry, they have it covered.

I must admit here that I'm certainly no climatologist. However, my entire industry (Internet Security) exists because - I'm afraid that there's no good way to say this - all programmers are lousy. If it weren't for bugs (and most of the time, it's bugs that we've seen again and again and again), you wouldn't need our products. There are two types of bugs:

1. Programming mistakes. In security, these aren't bad enough to make the program crash (or someone would find in during Quality Assurance testing, duh). These are the easy bugs. Something's broken, and needs to get patched.

2. Architectural flaws. It's not a bug, it was designed that way. These are bad security juju, because the security "bug" might not be fixable at all, or it requires heroic efforts to fix. Programmers hate these bugs: not only are they a pain in the tail end to deal with, but the other programmers laugh at them because their program is broken as designed.

So, are there any bugs in the models? Speaking professionally, we should expect roughly one security bug per 1000 lines of source code. How many lines of source code are there in something that models the climate of the earth? We don't know, because the scientists won't publish their source code. But don't worry, I'm sure it's all wicked smart and accurate and everything. And well tested.  Oh, wait:
A scientific theory is not tested merely by looking for confirmations but by conscientiously trying to “break” the theory, by trying to disprove it. The AGW theory is encapsulated in the IPCC assessment reports. The models discussed in these reports have not been tested in this way. These reports include sections on “Verification and Validation” but none on testing. “Verification” means that only data which support the theory are examined and data which do not support it are ignored. Indeed the authors of this section in the IPCC Third Assessment Report specifically dismiss the need for rigorous testing when they state: “our evaluation process is not as clear cut as a simple search for ‘falsification’” (Section 8.2.2 on page 474). Effectively what they are saying is: proper scientific testing is too hard and we are not going to bother doing it.
Testing is hard, and often thankless. And really, really important. A company that doesn't test its products goes out of business, because customers won't put up with lousy output.

Go read the whole thing. This is one of the most interesting articles on the science behind AGW that I've seen in a while, and I look for this sort of thing. The quality control of much - if not most - of the AGW research looks terribly shoddy.

WWII Medal of Honor recipient reports to the Final Muster

Technical Sgt Francis Currey, dead at 94.  Dwight has an excerpt from his Medal Of Honor citation, which is simply astounding.  RTWT at his place; I'll give you two excerpts from his NYT obit to illustrate just how bad ass he was:
By the time the European war ended, he had been awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for exploits after the events at Malmedy and three Purple Hearts, in addition to his Medal of Honor.
Dayum.  Here's Wikipedia's depiction of his ribbons:


You don't see that every day.  And this is cool (again, from the NYT):
In the late 1990s, Mr. Currey became the first Medal of Honor recipient to be portrayed as a G.I. Joe action figure. In his later years, he was honored at an annual parade in Hurleyville.
Ave atque vale.

Red Sovine - Phantom 309

Halloween isn't generally thought of as the time for irony, but Red Slovine's life was sure filled with it.  Born Woodrow Wilson Slovine, he was nicknamed "Red" not after his namesake's politics but rather his red hair.  His early career was filled with struggle for success, taking him to Shreveport where he found himself on a radio station performing with Hank Williams.  Hank used some connections to jump start Red's career.  He had a series of hits in the 1950s and joined the Grand Ole Opry.

But we don't remember him for his Opry days, but instead for his truck driving songs.  He pretty much created the genre, and this example is a good one for the Halloween season - a hitchhiker is picked up by a ghostly truck driver, one who died years ago avoiding a crash with a school bus.

But the final irony for Slovine was that he died in a traffic accident.  He had a heart attack while driving and ran into a tree.



Phantom 309 (Songwriter: Tommy Falle)
I was out on the West Coast, trying to make a buck and things didn't work out; I was down on my luckGot tired a-roaming and bumming around so I started thumbing back East, toward my hometown.Made a lot of miles, the first two days and I figured I'd be home in week, if my luck held out this wayBut, the third night I got stranded, way out of town at a cold, lonely crossroads, rain was pouring down.

I was hungry and freezing, done caught a chill when the lights of a big semi topped the hillLord, I sure was glad to hear them air brakes come on and I climbed in that cab, where I knew it'd be warm.At the wheel sit a big man, he weighed about two-ten he stuck out his hand and said with a grin"Big Joe's the name,” I told him mine and he said: "The name of my rig is Phantom 309."

I asked him why he called his rig such a name he said: "Son, this old Mack can put them all to shameThere ain't a driver, or a rig, a-running any line ain't seen nothing but taillights from Phantom 309."Well, we rode and talked the better part of the night when the lights of a truck stop came in sightHe said: "I'm sorry son, this is as far as you go cause, I gotta make a turn, just on up the road."

Well, he tossed me a dime as he pulled her in low and said: "Have yourself a cup on old Big Joe."When Joe and his rig roared out in the night in nothing flat, he was clean out of sight.Well, I went inside and ordered me a cup told the waiter Big Joe was setting me upAw you could-a heard a pin drop, it got deathly quiet and the waiter's face turned kind-a white.

Well, did I say something wrong? I said with a halfway grin he said: "Naw, this happens every now and thenEvery driver in here knows Big Joe but son, let me tell you what happened about ten years ago.At the crossroads tonight, where you flagged him down there was a busload of kids, a-coming from townAnd they were right in the middle, when Big Joe topped the hill it could have been slaughter, but he turned his wheel.

Well, Joe lost control, went into a skid and gave his life to save that bunch-a kidsAnd there at that crossroads, was the end of the line for Big Joe and Phantom 309But, every now and then, some hiker'll come by and like you, Big Joe'll give them a rideHere, have another cup and forget about the dime keep it as a souvenir, from Big Joe and Phantom 309!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Hide the data

I've been posting about the deplorable state of climate science for a long, long time.  Ten years ago this really picked up.  Here's a post that is exactly ten years old but is sadly evergreen.

The 95 Theses of Steve McIntyre

Something very strange is happening in the Scientific community right now - something healthy. We see a rejection of Received Wisdom, and in particular of Received Wisdom imparted by a closed circle of the anointed few. We see demands to see the data behind the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (the assertion that mankind's burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, triggering a runaway temperature increase).

The reaction from the anointed few is to close ranks, and to denounce the outsiders. You see, Wisdom has been revealed solely to them. The unwashed masses are unfit to comment; it's all quite decided now, thank you very much. The unwashed masses need the anointed few to lead them to salvation. And if the anointed few receive public honors and financial support (extracted from the unwashed masses), that's purely coincidental.

We've seen this sort of thing before. Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of All Saint's Church in Wittenburg on All Saint's Eve (Halloween), 1517. Driven by outrage at financial corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, Luther launched the Reformation, perhaps the greatest devolution of centralized intellectual power ever seen. Faith was henceforth a private, not a public matter, to be accepted or rejected by each individual. More importantly, the sources (especially the Bible) were published in the vernacular, rather than Latin. In a pre-literate world, this was the first opportunity most people had to hear the text that was the ostensible foundation of their religion.

Luther's revolution boiled down to see for yourself and make up your own mind. A closed priesthood could no longer keep you out of Heaven.

Steve McIntyre is, in many ways, the Scientific Community's Martin Luther. By insisting on examining the data and computer source code - and by refusing to accept "no" for an answer - he single-handedly blew Michael Mann's "Hockey Stick" out of the water. He is the reason that you don't hear about the Hockey Stick any more.

McIntyre asks of the Scientific establishment what Luther asked of the Church hierarchy: let everyone see for themselves, and make up their own minds. For a Reformation, as it were, from today's over credentialed academic establishment to an earlier and more vigorous day when participation was encouraged from a very broad section of educated society (think Committees of Correspondence, now enabled via the Internet).

The reaction, not surprisingly, is exactly what Luther saw. The "discussion" about AGW degenerates almost immediately into pronouncements of anathema. The whole "scientific" discussion is now as diseased as the Diet of Worms, as the establishment does what establishments do: try to suppress external voices that threaten the establishment.

McIntyre has a long presentation on the history of the Hockey Stick that should be the starting point for anyone interested in the failings of the Scientific Priesthood. The central issue is the refusal of Mann et al to correct mistakes in their analyses, and rather double down (to the point that Mann refused a demand from Congress for the algorithm that he developed as a public employee).

For me, this debate has become concrete since I find that people link to some of my AGW posts (thanks, Weer'd!). This last week I followed an incoming referral back to a site called OneUtah, and a thread that was debating the BBC's skeptical story "What Happened To Global Warming?" I ended up having a quite polite exchange with Richard Warnick, who seems a decent bloke (this is in stark contrast to the last time at a different site). But it very quickly became obvious that Richard and I were arguing past each other (politely, to be sure, but past each other nonetheless). He insisted on ignoring all but scientists with "peer-reviewed" articles. He was looking only for Priests.

Me, I don't care. If you have an argument, and are willing to put it out where I can see it, I'll read it. While I'm not a climate scientist, I'm confident enough that I can follow a spirited debate. Having been published in the technical literature in my own field of expertise (Internet Security), I'm not willing to cede all quality control to the 3 or 4 reviewers in "peer review". Indeed, McIntyre makes this point forcefully in his Ohio presentation:
I wondered about this in early 2003 in the most casual possible fashion. I thought that it would be interesting to look at the underlying data, rather as I might look at drill data from a mining promotion. Business was slow and I browsed the internet for a due diligence package. I could not locate such a due diligence package nor the underlying proxy data for MBH98. Out of the blue (I was then a Canadian businessman unknown to climate scientists), I emailed Michael Mann, the primary author, inquiring as to the location of the MBH98 proxy data.

To my astonishment, Mann replied that he had “forgotten” the exact location, but that an associate would locate it for me. The associate said that the data did not exist in any one location, but that he would get it together for me. I was dumbfounded. Here was a study that had been on the front page of the IPCC study, used in brochures sent to every household in Canada and there was no due diligence package.
You don't need to think that the whole AGW issue is being used as a political football by Big Environment to advance their policy preferences, or by lots - perhaps the majority - of scientists to get government research grants (although there's ample reason to be suspicious on both counts). The refusal of many scientists to disclose their data does violence to the entire scientific method. The insistence on listening to only a small subset of voices is not only unworthy of college underclassmen (My scientist is Red Hot; your scientist ain't diddly-squat), it's borderline religious in nature.

You may trust a priesthood. As for me, I'll continue to use the intelligence and good sense that the Lord gave to me.  Hier stehe ichich kann nicht anders.

UPDATE 19 October 2009 12:21: Ann Althouse makes the same point, in fewer words:
The global warming "consensus" is all about telling us to stop talking and bow to expertise. That pose is laughable in a world of new media where you can no longer turn off the comments.

Louis Armstrong - A Kiss to Build a Dream On

It's autumn, the leaves are turning and temperature is falling.  Curl up in front of a fireplace with your sweetheart this weekend.



They sure don't write them like this anymore.

Environmentalists are idiots

Way to go, Team Green - you now have everyone who used to like you wanting to punch you in the face:



These are the Extinction Rebellion morons who are protesting not the eeeevil automobiles but mass transit.  They shut down the London Underground subway system at rush hour.  One of the heroes shown here got dragged from off the roof of a train and beaten up by a working class crowd who just wanted to get to work and earn a living.  Those in the crowd who didn't do the beating cheered it on.

The XR morons complain that they're just trying to get attention to their cause.  Mission accomplished, Scooter.  And if you think that I'm being overly harsh on XR by calling them "morons", take a look at their very own web site that has this to say about the crowd doing the beat down in the London Tube:
It’s no less through love and fear, and due to the same conditions of oppression that we face ourselves, that we saw such a disturbing reaction from some of those on the platform at Canning Town. These were commuters trying to get to work so they can support their loved ones. We recognise that disruption at Canning Town affected those already suffering the hardships of a toxic system – those who are the most at risk from the effects of climate and ecological collapse and for that we are truly sorry — just as we always are whenever we disrupt the public.
[emphasis in the original]  What did they expect?  Morons.  Go protest movie stars and Prince Harry flying everywhere, and you might get some sympathy from Joe Bloggs on his way to work.  Make it impossible for Joe to get to work, and get ready for a beat down.  This isn't Rocket Surgery, amirite?

And now we shift to the Netherlands - a more polite and civil people you won't find anywhere.  But the EU introduced a bunch of rules limiting how much nitrogen (or whatever - really, who cares?) can be released by each EU nation, and so Dutch farmers are being told to cull their herds to save on nitrogen (or whatever - like I said, who really cares what the stupid bureaucratic rule says?).  And so even the Dutch took to the streets:

Thousands of farmers shut down highways in a go-slow protest converging on the Dutch capital Monday, as they protested being victimised by a government trying to meet European Union emissions laws by cracking down on agriculture.

Protesters driving thousands of tractors and other pieces of farm machinery in enormous convoys heading to the Hague carried banners and signs reminding Dutch lawmakers of the importance of agriculture, including ‘#NoFarmersNoFood’. Hundreds of miles of highways were blocked by an estimated 3,000 tractors Wednesday morning.
There are amazing pictures at the link, like this one:


Pictures are good, but a video shows you just how massive this was:



So the environmentalists got all we're going to save the world and so they told people that basically they can't have any meat to eat.  What's funny is (a) they didn't think that anyone would mind and (b) when the government called out the military to set up road blocks to stop the protesters the tractors drove into the fields and right around the road blocks.  It seems that nobody in the Dutch military understands that tractors are off-road vehicles.

Top. Men.

And so we see that Environmentalists are idiots.  Rather than protesting the grotesque pollution in, say, China; rather than protesting the extravagant travel-related pollution by loud mouthed environmentalists like Leonardo DiCaprio or Prince Harry; rather than focusing on a problem worth solving they tell people that they can't take mass transit to work or have any meat for dinner.

And these people wonder why the response is a good hard kick in the Nads?  Idiots.