Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bon Jovi - Run Run Rudolph

The future is stupid

Because in the future, everything will have a Bluetooth interface, including gun safes.  What could possibly go wrong?
  • “The manufacturer’s Android application allows for unlimited pairing attempts with the safe. The pairing pin code is the same as the unlocking pin code. This allows for an attacker to identify the shared pincode by repeated brute force pairing attempts to the safe.”
  • “There is no encryption between the Android phone app and the safe. The application transmits the safe’s pin code in clear text after successfully pairing.”
  • “An attacker can remotely unlock any safe in this product line through specially formatted Bluetooth messages, even with no knowledge of the pin code…the safe does not verify the pin code, so an attacker can obtain authorization and unlock the safe using any arbitrary value as the pin code.”
You see, this is why we can't have nice things.

Dwight points out that the manufacturer is stepping up:
Somewhat to their credit, Vaultek says they are offering a patch, though it looks like you’ll have to send your safe back to get it. (Vaultek says they’ll cover shipping both ways, which can’t be cheap.)
I'll bet it's not.  Funny that there's never time or budget to do security right, but there is to fix it after you've cratered your company's reputation.

Election Meddling

No, not by the Russians. By the FBI.

It would tinfoil hat speculation except that it's being reported in the Wall Street Journal.

The soft peddling of the investigation into Hillary's criminal use of a private server, the late edits in the FBI report changing the characterization of her behavior from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless", and now comments referring to a meeting that talks about "an insurance policy" to ensure that if Trump won, they would have a course of action. 

 Is the current investigation into Russian meddling that insurance policy? If so, which is worse, foreign governments influencing our elections or agencies inside our own government ?

 “FBI owes answers abt ‘insurance policy’ against Trump victory…& if nothing to hide, why would senior FBI leaders use secret phones that ‘cant be traced’ to talk Hillary? DOJ needs to give JudicComm full transparency/cooperation 2 restore public trust. FBI CANT BE POLITICAL.”
--Tweet from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Critical Thinking

 I am posting this speech in it's entirety. It pushes back against the tide.
--ASM826

________________________________________________________

Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials


I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.
They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year in my Foundations of Law course for first-year law students, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules. I gave them these rules just before beginning our annual unit on legal reasoning.
Here is the speech I gave them:
Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.
Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various “isms” which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.
Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as “diversity” and “equality.”
Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.
We will have to pull out all of the weeds in your mind as we come across them. Unfortunately, your mind is full of weeds, and this will be a very painful experience. But it is strictly necessary if anything useful, good, and fruitful is to be planted in your head.
There is no formula for this. Each of you has different weeds, and so we will need to take this on the case-by-case basis. But there are a few weeds that infect nearly all of your brains. So I am going to pull them out now.
First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism.” Communism, socialism, Nazism, and capitalism are established concepts in history and the social sciences, and those terms can often be used fruitfully to gain knowledge and promote understanding. “Classism,” “sexism,” “materialism,” “cisgenderism,” and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them. Most of the time, they do not promote understanding.
In fact, “isms” prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an “ism” on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating. Worse, it prevents you from discovering the treasures hidden inside the box. For example, when we discussed the Code of Hammurabi, some of you wanted to slap labels on what you read which enabled you to convince yourself that you had nothing to learn from ancient Babylonians. But when we peeled off the labels and looked carefully inside the box, we discovered several surprising truths. In fact, we discovered that Hammurabi still has a lot to teach us today.
One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations, and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, “ageism.”
Second, you have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning. For you have been taught that we must have as much diversity as possible and that equality means that everyone must be made equal. But equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.
Furthermore, diversity and equality are not the most important values. In fact, neither diversity nor equality is valuable at all in its own right. Some diversity is bad. For example, if slavery is inherently wrong, as I suspect we all think it is, then a diversity of views about the morality of slavery is worse than complete agreement that slavery is wrong.
Similarly, equality is not to be desired for its own sake. Nobody is equal in all respects. We are all different, which is to say that we are all not the same, which is to say that we are unequal in many ways. And that is generally a good thing. But it is not always a good thing (see the previous remarks about diversity).
Related to this:  You do you not know what the word “fair” means. It does not just mean equality. Nor does it mean something you do not like. For now, you will have to take my word for this. But we will examine fairness from time to time throughout this semester.
Third, you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K.. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks, or H.L.A. Hart thinks. Borrow opinions from those whose opinions are worth considering. As Aristotle teaches us in the reading for today, men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.
One of my goals for you this semester is that each of you will encounter at least one idea that you find disagreeable and that you will achieve genuine disagreement with that idea. I need to explain what I mean by that because many of you have never been taught how to disagree.
Disagreement is not expressing one’s disapproval of something or expressing that something makes you feel bad or icky. To really disagree with someone’s idea or opinion, you must first understand that idea or opinion. When Socrates tells you that a good life is better than a life in exile you can neither agree nor disagree with that claim without first understanding what he means by “good life” and why he thinks running away from Athens would be unjust. Similarly, if someone expresses a view about abortion, and you do not first take the time to understand what the view is and why the person thinks the view is true, then you cannot disagree with the view, much less reason with that person. You might take offense. You might feel bad that someone holds that view. But you are not reasoning unless you are engaging the merits of the argument, just as Socrates engaged with Crito’s argument that he should flee from Athens.
So, here are three ground rules for the rest of the semester.
1.  The only “ism” I ever want to come out your mouth is a syllogism. If I catch you using an “ism” or its analogous “ist” — racist, classist, etc. — then you will not be permitted to continue speaking until you have first identified which “ism” you are guilty of at that very moment. You are not allowed to fault others for being biased or privileged until you have first identified and examined your own biases and privileges.
2.  If I catch you this semester using the words “fair,” “diversity,” or “equality,” or a variation on those terms, and you do not stop immediately to explain what you mean, you will lose your privilege to express any further opinions in class until you first demonstrate that you understand three things about the view that you are criticizing.
3.  If you ever begin a statement with the words “I feel,” before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound.

To their credit, the students received the speech well. And so far this semester, only two students have been required to cluck like chickens. 

 --Adam J. MacLeod
Jones School of Law at Faulkner University 
Montgomery, Alabama

Sunday, December 10, 2017

For The Press

So often it seems that reporters try to talk about firearms without adequate knowledge. I offer this free of charge, just glad I can help.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Guest Recipe for the Holidays From Brigid

I got through the work week and too many meetings with the help of my favorite laser pointer (you have had to have seen the Austin Powers movies to appreciate) but I was SO glad it was Saturday.

Even better, we had our first real snow.  Abby the Labrador went out on the yard to roll in it twice, the bird feeder was filled and the water dish I put out for the critters (we live on the edge a very big city park system) was filled as I imagine the creek was icing over.

Since it is the Christmas season, it's eggnog pancakes, a recipe I make every December. They are almost pastry-like in texture and SO yummy.
click on photo to enlarge
Eggnog Pancakes

1 and 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Small pinch of nutmeg

Mix together and make a "well" in the center of it in the bowl.

Mix in separate small bowl:
1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons eggnog
1 large egg beaten
2 Tablespoons clarified butter

THIS is the secret, clarified butter is butter that's been heated in a skillet until the butterfat and liquid separate a bit, it makes the pancakes extra light and fluffy, just heat the butter until it just starts to bubble and brown and add it to the rest of the liquids and immediately pour the liquid ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients. Mix lightly and cook on an oiled skillet til golden. The batter is fairly thick. If it's too thick to work with, then add a couple tablespoons of milk. Do NOT overmix.

Cook on medium heat. They are thick and take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes so don't let the heat get too high or they will burn before they are done and aim for lots of smaller ones, rather than big ones. Serve with real maple syrup.

With a little practice, you can prepare the batter in less than 10 minutes. This makes about eight 3-4 inch pancakes, enough for 2 or 3 people.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Day That Will Live In Infamy

It's memorials, headstones, and a dwindling few elderly veterans now.


76 years ago, it was ships, planes, and young men as the United States entered WWII.

Here's the story of one, Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth Holm, from the USS Oklahoma, finally identified by DNA testing and laid to rest earlier this year.

Remember.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Couldn't Resist- Since I still have a Flip Phone This Probably Applies - Brigid

Santa' Alter Ego -- Krampus

Have you heard of Krampus?
Meet Krampus: a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who literally beats children into being nice and not naughty. Krampus isn't exactly the stuff of dreams: Bearing horns, dark hair, and fangs, the anti-St. Nicholas comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children. He then hauls the bad kids down to the underworld.


December 5th is Krampusnacht, the night before the feast of St. Nicholas. The modern traditions include parades of costumed Krampuses and parties.


The older stories of Krampus taking the bad children and the Krampus Cards from a century ago, make for some interesting, thought provoking, reading.



Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas In A Minor Key

I loved Christmas growing up. Enjoyed learning to bake all the holiday recipes. The surprises and presents. The hope that the season represents.

Then I got married and we had four children. Even when there wasn't a lot of money, we got a big tree. Decorated the house. Made cookies by the double batch for weeks. Bought presents. Made it special. The house was loud, the kids jazzed up. My parents would come with a trunkload of stuff. We usually went to Midnight Mass and followed that with the chaos of Christmas morning. I have lots of pictures, this was taken on Kodachrome on some unknown Christmas in the '90s.


Even as they became adults, some or all of them would come home. I still put a tree, did some part of the traditions, let the holiday find it's balance. Remembered Christmases past.

November 2015 ended all that. As regular readers know, one of my sons took his own life. The others are scattered across the country and there is no desire to get together anymore. The decorations sit in boxes in the attic. The cookie cutters are on a top shelf in a Tupperware container with dust on the lid.

I bring this up to all of you to offer these thoughts.

The first is to tell you that if you are still engaged in full-on Christmas celebrations, love it, appreciate it, revel in it.

Second, remember you know, work with, and interact with people like me. People with losses that have forever altered their Christmases. You may know, you may not, but they have lost a child or a loved one, have someone who is in prison or struggling with addiction, are dealing with chronic illness, and so on. The season brings up memories that they carry like a weight on their best days.

And to finish this. On the shortest days of the year, in the darkness at the beginning of winter, we light the lights, gather together, share a festive meal, and for those who believe, we celebrate a new birth of hope in the world.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Why you don't ask the Forensic Anthropologist to make the Christmas Cookies - a Brigid Guest Post

Borepatch has advised that he wouldn't have much time for posting this week and asked that AMS826 and myself keep you amused until he returns. Since so much of what I write is fairly philosophical in nature, I thought I'd add something a little lighter tonight. You all should relate - Brigid
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Office building occupants, whether they are law enforcement or CPA firms, run drills throughout the year, to test evacuation and security. I've been in a building where the fire alarm was going off and people were saying "OK, just let me finish downloading this. . . ". That's not the way to get people to move quickly from their desks.

Simply have someone get on the intercom and say "there are Christmas cookies in the lunchroom".
Stampede!!

The average cubicle worker and free food go together like vultures and carcasses. Hmm, I had better rephrase that. Not implying that vultures have higher standards but in some offices, you could put throw some Purina dog chow in with some Chex cereal and put out a sign "free party mix" and people would start noshing. I know, I used to party with med students who thought Oreos and Jagermeister were "impress the ladies" party food.

But those of you stuck in an office or cubicle all day know the feeling. You're hungry, you're bored, you hear the word free and . . . (besides calories during the holidays don't count).

But how do the various office holiday foods add up? Our office get-together usually involves all of the wives providing hot dishes and the boss providing lots of roast pig so it's grand ( I bring my famous appetizer crack and some pies) but I've been to some in past jobs that left a little to be desired.

Holiday Office Food explained.

To start, there are five types of office party eaters.

The Forklift: They rumble around the background, looking, slowly assessing the terrain, then add full power, reach in and scoop up half of the cheese dip If you see someone with a very large scooped Frito in their hand, watch out.

The shoplifter: They appear totally uninterested, then quietly reach down and grab a Slim Jim, stick it in their pocket and retreat to their cubicle to store it with the goodies from the last office birthday celebration before anyone notices what is missing.

The holding pattern: These folks just sort of make circular patterns around the room, never really stopping to eat. If you ask, they say "I'm trying to decide". While they count the sprinkles on a cookie to see if they'll get the best one, most of the food disappears.

The Homer: Male or female, they'll stare googly-eyed at the food with a "mmmm. . . . pimento loaf. . ." and then grab a portion and head for the liquid refreshments. They WILL be back.

The Hoover: A subspecies of the Homer, the Hoover will eat anything, and everything, sucking up even the last half of a peanut from the empty Chex Mix bowl.

I'm a Homer.

So let's review a sampling from a prior office I worked for, rating the food from most to least popular, with scientific comments. Seriously, add in the types of eaters and it was like watching an anthropological experiment before my eyes.

Chocolate espresso truffles - Have you ever seen one of those once a year bridal sales? Picture that and replace the brides with piranha. Yeah.

Chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes - Even those that hate the Ohio football team scarfed these up.

Bugles - What is it about bugles? They were brought in by one of the office bachelors. They're shaped like little dunce caps for a reason. A mixture of cornmeal, partially hydrogenated yard gnomes and salt, they are really bad for you. Yet once you eat one you can't quit. I leave some out for Santa.

Teriyaki beef sticks - A favorite despite being another store-bought treat.

Gingerbread men: Being homemade, they went quietly into the void rather quickly.

Cheese ball with crackers - Covered in parsley, it looked like a Magic 8 Ball Chia Pet. But with three kinds of cheese, red pepper, Worcestershire sauce and secret herbs and spices, it was a hit. Made by one of the few females in the office, there wasn't even enough left for a tox box.

Brownies - A disappointing performance from a usual birthday crowd favorite.

Mystery meat logs - I'm not sure what they were made of, but they were some sort of spiced meat mixture shaped into little sticks and baked. I could only refer to them as Spampons. They were as popular as the name infers.

Baby Carrots (no Ranch Dip) - You have a room full of hungry guys. This is not food, this is what food EATS. The crowd was less than pleased.

Clementines (golf ball sized oranges) - See above comment

Fruitcake - It and its twin disappeared, but only because I needed a set of wheel chocks for the Piper Cub.

Oh, the humanity

Pimento Loaf- I've not seen this product since grade school. Maybe someone brought it because it resembles bologna with a Christmas tree ornament ground up in it. The first few pieces were gone quickly, predators being tricked by the meat aroma. The remains lay pale and sweating, two hours later, til one of the shoplifters pounced on them.

Office punch - Some sort of juice served with sherbet and 7 up, served at weddings that don't allow dancing since 1954. The Exxon Valdez spill was more popular. Colleagues were observed swilling warm diet coke directly from the 2-liter bottles to get rid of the taste of the pimento loaf, rather than drink the punch.

Gluten Free Rice Cakes - coasters!

Candy canes - They are called "candy canes" because "mint infused glass shards" doesn't sound as appealing. Most of them were still remaining the morning after, even Hoover didn't polish them off. My faith in my fellow coworkers was restored!

You all enjoy whatever festivities come your way!
- Brigid

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Anticipation - A Brigid Guest Post

Sometimes the waiting for something is the best part.

Christmas was like that as a child, the build-up to the big day, shaking the presents under the tree, many which had been rigged with marbles or rocks inside to throw us off. Mom would make a couple of different types of cookies every few days, something new to taste and try with a plate set aside with a sample of everything to eat after the Christmas meal.

It's not just Christmas - there are many events in our lives we anxiously await. The birth of a baby, a holiday, a wedding, awaited with great longing, then suddenly over, vanished as if an illusion.
But Christmas Eve, as children was the best.  We weren't allowed to open any gifts until Christmas morning.  We'd be up before the marked light of dawn, seeing the unwrapped gifts that Santa had left for us on the mantle around the fireplace, Mom and Dad trailing down the hall stifling yawns.

I spent Christmas Eve and day some years back with neighbors who let the kids open the gifts on Christmas Eve.  They didn't go to church so Christmas Day was simply watching sports while the kids played non stop video games.  I appreciated the invite but it felt no more like Christmas than the 4th of July.
No, waiting for the morning was anticipated glory.  I'd sleep in a little trundle bed next to my brothers, trying to stay awake to hear Santa. Mom would come in and lay the sunset colored afghan she had crocheted on top of me for warmth.  Outside, the big, fat 1960's Christmas lights would shine through a window, curtains swept aside so we could see.   Overhead, an aircraft went on its way, solitary and swift like a shooting star.  We'd  speak in low tones, as if in church, as outside the door, our wiener dog Pepper's toenails click-clacked on the hardwood floor as she patrolled her domain.

We would always fall asleep too soon, and wake before the sun rose with that flaming stare of quiet curiosity.
But Christmas isn't the only thing we look forward to.  It may be graduating from college.  It may be retirement.  I think of those people that have a countdown calendar to the day they can walk out the door.  Some come back to the workplace by to say hello, as if tethered to that place they spent so many, many years. Some we never see again, that place nothing more than a coat they have now flung off in warmer lands.
You think what you wait for will take forever to get here.  Then, when it is behind you, those days seemed as they raced past, brilliant and quick, nothing more than a flash of light in the distance, the nights as short as fragmented dreams. Too soon, what you waited for is memory, never to be reclaimed but in thought.

Dad does not wish to celebrate Christmas as anything more than the quiet communion in his home with the minister in celebration of Christ's birth. By his choice, there has not been a tree for a traditional Christmas celebration since my Mom died over 30 years ago. The aluminum tree and color wheel were packed away, never to be seen again. In the years before he remarried, there was neither light nor breath in that house for my Dad and he just wanted Christmas to be over with, once my brother and I were out of the house.
When Dad did remarry, to a widow who had herself lost a beloved spouse- they usually spent Christmas at his sister in law's condo in San Diego - enjoying the warmth.  Dad did not wish to spend Christmas day in a house in which my Mom's laughter had gone silent.   I understood, spending Christmas with friends, later volunteering for extra flight duty so those with children could have the day off.  I understand it even more after losing my brother.
Today, I look up at the flash of a light, here in the fading light.  It is is an airplane, the tiny blink of its passing no different than the ones we viewed as children. I know too well, the feeling of that crew, anxious to get to their destination, hoping they won't have weather or a mechanical issue that precludes their making it home in time for Christmas.  I know the sense of relief of the last flight of the night, launching into a sky, that like man, in one embrace can assume and appease, even as it cannot forgive.

Many a night I flew on Christmas Eve, eliciting a chuckle from the crew chief when he glanced up at the Cockpit and saw my Santa hat as we prepared to depart.  We were only anxious as to the day and time until we were aloft, then like seaman have probably felt since time began, we settled down, finding the true Peace of God and Earth somewhere over 35,000 feet, finding the storms and turbulence, not as some heavenly punishment for our selfishness in wanting to be home but rather a gentle rebuke to curb an impatient heart.
At altitude we'd talk of Christmas past and the hope for Christmas future, perhaps one with a family, our voices quiet, no louder than expelled breath, as the miles ticked under us.  Those in the back of the airplane were subdued, anxious to get home, looking down on cities that twinkled like Christmas lights, clouds bunched over some of them, like warm flannel blankets. Some nights the wind would be so strong aloft we felt like we'd stopped, going forward not with will or strategy but simply that groved habit to endure,

The recorded weather data that we'd confirm receipt of, instead of Delta and Echo and other letters of the phonetic alphabet were Dancer and Prancer and such.  On more than one Christmas Eve, my copilot would confirm Information "Santa" received and we'd made our final descent, not to a city where loved ones awaited, but simply a hotel room with all the ambiance of a dental lab, it's emptiness bringing that quick sharp sting that I could taste in my mouth as I opened the door.

There, I would sleep like a soldier in the field without shelter but for stiff, cotton sheets, waiting to wake up to the fight and the firing.
Tonight I look up and outside. There will be no Christmas light at home, too many commitments of work and family to get them up this year. But there will be a 1960's aluminum tree with an antique color wheel, found at a garage sale, repaired and set up by my husband.  There will be the click-clack of Abby's toenails on the hardwood floors as she patrols her domain. In the kitchen, there will be cookies and a pot of tea set to boil  And on the shelf, there will be found a framed picture of a little auburn haired boy and girl sitting in their Dad's lap, Christmas decorations in the background, as he reads them a story.

It was a story of a baby, one not born of passion or pleasure but one born so that more than a Mother's suffering in his birth would be eased til the end of days.  It was a story of forgiveness we often can't receive from man, but that is His promise in eternity.
This Christmas season, I'm grateful for the anticipation of days.  Christmas will too soon be here and gone. Those that I spent the Christmas of my youth with are gone, but for Dad, his own days drawing to a close. What is left now may just be a fleeting illusion, but illusions, like memory, are as true as flesh, bone, and blood.

Rather than wish that Christmas was here, I'm going to wish it would wait, that I can savor this time of quiet peace, the smell of ,warmth, the laughter of my husband, and the hearkening of a family of angels who calm this impatient heart with a touch as soft as a caress.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Going Home - A Brigid Guest Post

One thing I made sure was working properly on my last visit out West was Dad's chair that lifts him up to the standing position, then, he can lean into it and gently have it sit him back down (and I have to say the DeBeers Diamond  "three months salary" marketing staff have nothing on the folks that sell furniture for older folks).

He loves it, one more thing to help him stay in his home. He recovered from his stroke a few years back better than anyone thought, but he now has a hard time standing and sitting without a little help.  Every morning, he gets up and gets settled in it and reads the daily message from "Our Daily Bread" and then the Bible.  That's something he's done every day since retirement after his morning work out (Dad was a Golden Glove Boxer and still has a very strict exercise regiment that included swimming and Nautilus at the YMCA with my Step-Mom well into their late 80's.  Then it's time to get dressed and get about enjoying the day. I provide a full-time home health nurse (do not ask what that costs) so he can stay in the home he's outlived two kids and two wives in.  They make sure laundry and housework are done, prepare a hot meal every day, and play board and card games with him or take him for a drive.  Myself, his oldest grandaughter and my cousin have invited him to live with us but he wants to die in this house he's had for 60 years.

Actually, I checked the chair out when he was sleeping in one day, it's quite comfortable and seems to be built better than some of my expensive yuppie furniture.

But dang, I was hoping for an auto-launch feature that would get me airborne. 

Initiate Launch Sequence!  (that's it??)
The family room, where the chair is housed, has barely changed since I was in sixth grade.  My parents built it onto the house over what was most of our huge cement patio.  We took a vote as a family one year when I was in grade school. Vacation to Hawaii with the kids (the parents had already gone on their 25th anniversary alone) or add on a family room?  The kids decided it.  Family room!  We can play!  We can make noise.  We can spill stuff!  We can take the TV set completely apart with tools while they're at the grocery store (oh, dang, busted)

It has the previous living room carpeting down over the original harvest gold linoleum now and the drapes have been updated.  But much is unchanged. The 1970's fixtures for the fluorescent lights that Dad crafted by hand. Still there. That Mexican hat on the Wall?  A VERY embarrassing River dance gone South episode from some tap recital of mine.  The barre built into the wall where I did my ballet warm-ups was removed and replaced with paneling.  It was there under the kitchen window that Mom once took out with a golf ball from the backyard when that was the back window to the house. Fore! (hey, I didn't know Mom knew that other word!)

On the walls are funny tin signs and Montana art.  On another wall are numerous awards and mementos from the community and  Uncle Sam, every single member of our family - Mom, Dad, brothers, sister, serving in Defense, Local or Federal Law Enforcement or the Armed Forces, with the Air Force and Navy battling it out for the best space. And the picture of Jesus, which has witnessed slumber parties, ping pong games (we'd set the table up inside in the winter) Loony Tunes, and probably cursing during that 1983 Minnesota-Nebraska college game.

The couch is new, but the quilt is one my Mom crocheted in the 70's.  There is another one, but it sits in my linen closet at the Range, where I can occasionally hold it, smell the scent of Chanel No. 5 that only exists in my memory.  It's where I can remember her hands working away on it while we kids watched westerns on TV and tried to outshoot Marshall Dillon with our little cap guns under the watchful eye of our Lord.
We've made just a few changes in the house.  The main bathroom, tub, and shower were outfitted with handles and bars and a shower chair for ease of bathing. The waterbed was replaced with a quality regular mattress that makes it easier for him to get out of bed, but with a heated mattress pad so it's warm through the night.

The small bath by the family room, though, was in dire need of help.  It was always the "utility" bathroom, old faded paint, bare window, no storage at all, and small and hard to get around in as there was nothing for him to hold onto if his balance or strength waned.  But it's the one he uses the most.

Before he died, Big Bro took care of the construction and I took care of the paint and the decorating.
Still, with the full-time home nursing aide and lawn service that comes weekly I am happy he can stay in his home. He originally said he wanted to move in with me when my Step-Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I bought an old money pit of a big house on some property with a view of a small lake, a single story, no steps, "mother in law set up" outside of town, the original "Range." I hoped he'd be happy there. But she went into remission, with great thanksgiving, but was then diagnosed with Alzhemers.

He cared for her in his home through that, until her death, years more than we expected, but not easy years for him.  But as she was his cross, she was also his salvation and he refused to put her in a nursing home, even when she acted out in anger against her children, not recognizing her own life, but somehow, always recognizing him.

But after she was gone, he changed his mind. His Mom was from Indy, and he enjoyed it there, but he didn't want to leave where he's lived all these years.  He wanted to stay where his memories are, good or bad, in his own church, in that old house.  I  understood and sold the place I had bought, at a loss, but one I gladly bore.

This is the home in which his memories reside, in every furnishing that's 30, 40, 60 years old.  There have been other houses, for summer vacations and the old family home in Montana, but this modest little place was always the center of the family.  Outside, is the bed of my Mom's rose garden, replanted with other flowers now, yet still containing for him, those pink and red and coral buds and blossoms, long after they've fallen to dust, no more dead to him than the hands that tended them, the drops of blood they sometimes drew.
In that family room, he sits in his recliner and watches his favorite sports, while around him are the artifacts of loves never lost, triumphs and defeats, as well as the living laughter of what little family remains and the friends he holds dear. Few of them are related to him by blood, but rather by the strongest bond - love.

My room at home is virtually unchanged and that was not by my request, but his will. Photos of family and family and extended family all around.  The rainbow I painted on my walls in junior high. Dad said I could, but I had to use leftover paint which is why my rainbow is every shade of totally tacky 1970's paint we had.  (yes, we had rooms painted those colors!)
There is no view. There used to be a view of beautiful mountains, but they are hidden from where we sit by tall, big box marts. He refused to sell when they literally bought up several blocks, RE-zoned residential and commercial, so we look out the windows to the vast walls of a commercial business, their parking lot lights illuminating the place like Attica Prison during a break. Curtains keep the light out at night, sort of.  Dad realizes the value of the home just went to zip, but he doesn't care. It's his home,  it's our home.  It's where we lived, and it's where he will pass, hopefully, and quietly in his favorite chair, his Bible open and a can of cold beer waiting for when the game is called.

He knows his days are short, we all do. But he's very happy, lousy view and all. The pastor comes and gives him communion regularly.  His neighbors have him over for meals and their children come and play board and card games with him.   I fly out as often as I can, becoming an expert on the cheap air-fares (how many stops?)  My step brother and his wife drive three hours to take him to lunch. My cousin Liz drives up from California several times a year (her partner's Moms live an hour from Dad).  He has friends, good ones, but new ones, as all of his original group has passed on. He still works out each day, including an exercise bike and he eats very well with a hot meal daily from the sweet ladies that are his home health aides and the snacks and small meals I leave for him in little freezer containers between visits.
Around the house are small sayings, quotes that mean things to him, verses from the Bible.  "This is the Day the Lord hath Made, Let us Rejoice and Be Glad in It" is one that always makes me think of him. Each day is a gift from the Lord, he says, and I can't disagree.

I can't say what the future will bring, but one thing my brother and I both agreed on before he left us. Dad has outlived two beloved wives and two children (he and Mom lost a baby when they were first married) and I'm going to fight to make sure he does not experience any more loss of what he holds dear.
 - Brigid

The Billy Graham Rule

As the comments on my last post pointed out, VP Mike Pence refuses to be alone with women, even to the point that he will not attend a party unless he is accompanied by his wife. He was sharply criticized for this by the press during the campaign and in the early months of his Vice-Presidency. A Google search returns article after article accusing him of a kind of Puritanical sexism.

Now that it is more than just the issue of impropriety for powerful men, but rather if there was ever a moment where someone could accuse them of impropriety, the Vice-President looks more and more like someone who has chosen a wise course of action.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Under The Tinfoil Hat

First it was Harvey Weinstein. Then Kevin Spacey. Then a cascade of high profile media celebrities and a few politicians. The latest being Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor.

The question is why now? A lot of these men are Democrats, fellow travelers as it were, so why sacrifice them?

I have a tinfoil hat idea I want to get out because if it comes out this way it will at least allow me to smugly point back at this post.

I think someone has some compelling evidence of Donald Trump behaving badly. They couldn't just use it because everyone would have just pointed at Bill Clinton and shrugged. So they had to establish a new standard. Once there is a big enough pile of heads...surprise! Will you look at that? Why, Pr. Trump is one of them and it just came out.

Then they will use it to get him to resign or face impeachment. That goal is worth however many men they have to sacrifice to set the stage to make it happen.

I think it will be happen in the coming weeks.

Draining the swamp

Scientists are submitting 40% fewer grant requests for "Climate Change".

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bon Jovi - Run Run Rudolph

The problem facing AI is the same as the problem facing security

There are people who actively try to fool the system.  Consider facial recognition.  Even babies are very good at this, so it's been a highly visible research area for AI for decades.  The facial recognition systems have gotten pretty good, and so AI researchers get a well-deserved pat on the back.

Or do they?
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics have defeated facial recognition on big social media platforms – by removing faces from photos and replacing them with automatically-painted replicas. 
As the team of six researchers explained in their arXiv paper this month, people who want to stay private often blur their photos, not knowing that this is “surprisingly ineffective against state-of-the-art person recognisers.”

AI can beat blurring, but not the inpainting adversarial model. 
The researchers went a step further by constructing a realistic “fake face” that replaced the original image, but was perturbed enough to beat the AI while still looking “right” to a friend perusing the image.
The problem facing (so to speak) the AI researchers is that it's not just good enough to be accurate in regular use, you have to be accurate even when someone is trying to subvert your algorithms.  It's the same problem that Internet Security faces - the QA teams test for "correct" feature/functionality, but then the Bad Guys look for bugs that don't effect feature operation but which do effect security.

I'm not at all optimistic that AI will win this one.

Alert readers will notice that to really fool big Social Media, there are some very significant OPSEC issues that you would have to take.  As with most things, OPSEC is security's Achilles' Heel.  However, as more and more people get fed up with Social Media spying, expect more ways to automate things like this - for example, a photo archive tool that modifies all faces to defeat facial recognition.

Smells like an arms race to me.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Georg Frederick Handel - Hallelujah Chorus in D Major (from The Messiah)

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
- Revelation 11:15  
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
- Revelation 19:6

The biggest mistake that Classical Music (as commonly understood) can make is to divorce itself from its audience.  This divorce explains almost all of why modern Classical Music is such a wasteland of ugliness.  In earlier days, Classical composers were Rock Stars, and the audience treated them as such.  That flame, while flickering, is still burning and even showing signs of roaring back.  Handel's "Messiah" shows that.

Image via Wikipedia
It's a myth that everyone stands for the Hallelujah Chorus because the King was so overwhelmed when he heard it that he lept to his feet.  The rest of the audience of course would have scrambled to theirs as well - nobody sat while the King stood, Back In The Day.  It seems that the story isn't true but I must say that the hair on the back of my neck stood up when the audience rose en masse the first time I performed this.  They also sang along to us, claiming this small portion of Handel's master work as theirs.

That continues to this day with the wonderful new tradition of Classical Music "Flash Mobs".  Essentially, this is music swooping down on people who, unsuspecting, are simply living out an ordinary day of their lives.  The People always rise to this occasion, joining with delight the sudden and seemingly random outbreak of culture.  Here's one example, from a shopping mall in Philadelphia, accompanied by the world's largest pipe organ:



Sure, the camera work is bad (it's mostly caught from within the audience), and the sound quality is amateurish (same problem).  Watch the people - caught without practice, or even a script, they join in the singing.  They take a stuffy Symphony Hall performance and make it their own.  They understand - everyone involved understands - that this is our culture.  The result is a performance done for the joy of the doing by both professionals and audience.  I cannot put into words how beautiful I see these social acts of culture.

And although I have not sung this for twenty years, to this day I could do a creditable job on the baritone part from memory - and could do it justice if I had not gotten rid of the script in the move from Camp Borepatch.

This is Classical Music, as it was understood back in the days when composers were Rock Stars.  And quite frankly, some composers - notably Handel - are still rock stars.  Just watch the people there when the organ kicks off and the chorus unloads the first line.  The audience entirely gets what's going on and joins in, with delight.

This is a meditation on the upcoming holiday.  The Lord Messiah was not sent for a small elite, he was sent for everyone, even shopping mall patrons.  I post a lot of Christmas music during the season, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.  The music of this coming holiday is one that everyone is invited to join in.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Suzy Bogguss - Two Step 'Round The Christmas Tree

It's past Thanksgiving, which means it's the Christmas season.  This is a song from the days when Country music was actually - you know - Country music.  Suzy Bogguss had a string of hits in the 1990s, back when Nashville wasn't ground zero of pop music.  This would actually be a pretty good song to two step to.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

An ode to  Black Friday.  Angels we have heard on high tell us to go out and buy ...

Glurk

The Queen Of The World made a spectacular Thanksgiving feast.  She gets into Field Marshall mode when she does this sort of thing, and so I wasn't allowed into the kitchen, other for the odd fetch and carry.  She even decorated the top of the mincemeat pie with pieces of dough representing a grape vine.



The roast bird, stuffing, sweet potatoes and all the fixings were delicious, but coma-inducing.  Blogging will resume when the tryptophan wears off.

Nope, Nope, Nope

There is nothing for sale, at any markdown, that would make it worth entering a crowd like this. I think it was Lawdog that said that the I.Q. of a crowd is the I.Q. of the dumbest person in the crowd divided by the number of people. This is one loud noise away from people being crushed against the walls.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A real life WKRP In Cincinnati turkey drop

Rick emails to point out the annual Yellville, Arkansas Turkey Trot festival.  During the festival, they drop live turkeys out of an airplane.  Really.



[blink] [blink] [blink]

As you'd imagine, this is pretty controversial.  Now I can understand a bunch of flyover country folks flipping the bird to granola-eating PETA city folk who like to look down on them.  I really do.  But part of me thinks "Arkansas, man".

But it seems that turkeys actually can fly, but badly.

Thank you, Comcast

I'm glad that I have enough troubleshooting skills that when the Comcast tech support idiot runs through 20 minutes of nonsense I can figure out how to fix it by myself.  And no, I don't want a maybe we'll charge you and maybe we won't appointment, thanks very much.  And thanks for refusing to bump me up to Tier 2 when I asked.

Morons.

But The Queen Of The World has the parade on, so go team me!

But Comcast "support" can die in a crotch fire.


Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Your holiday cybersecurity guide for family

Good article by Robert Graham: what to tell your family who use you as tech support about the key things they should to to keep secure.

Simple, to the point, and probably doable for most people.

On Thanks - A Brigid Guest Post

I'm getting things ready for tomorrow.  Just a fairly simple meal with my husband as after both of us being gone a good part of the month we didn't wish to travel.  My husband will likely get the SUV serviced for a trip to southern Illinois to visit his parents next weekend but this weekend we're staying home and safe. I just saw my Dad a couple of weeks ago, so I won't be flying out there for Thanksgiving with him and he has an invite to join a family nearby.

It wouldn't be the same with both Mom and my brother gone.  But thinking of that got me to smile with a memory from a Thanksgiving long ago. Mom had read somewhere that cooking the turkey in a bag would render the turkey very juicy. Except she missed the part about low temperature and the type of bag. So Mr. Turkey went into the oven in a Safeway paper shopping bag,  pop-out timer side down.

 As he roasted, the juice and grease pooled in the bottom of the bag. When the timer popped, "turkey's done" it popped THROUGH the bag, releasing all the hot grease onto the burner.

WHOOSH!

Big Bro calmly said "Mom, the turkey blew up!"
It was the first and only time I heard my Mom say a four-letter cuss word. Dad admonished her to leave the door closed as she turned the heat off.  He simply stood in the corner of the kitchen, muttering "Oh, the Humanity", tears rolling down his face as he was laughing so hard. We had KFC that year as the remains were removed in a bucket.

After Mom took ill, there were other events. A time at the vacation cabin where Dad cooked pancakes. I'm not sure how he did it, but you could hardly cut through them. He gave one to our wiener dog Pepper, who took it outside and buried it in the sand along the shore. Big Bro threw another one in the fire. It didn't burn.

I can picture that as if it were happening now, the splash of sunlight on cedar, the memory, of the smell of wet dog and the taste of laughter, of where people have lived and will always.
Hygge.  The word comes to mind, especially at Thanksgiving.  It's a Danish word that roughly means eating and drinking and being together with friends, a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary. We don't have any such word in the English language, and life today seems to rarely accommodate such a ritual.

I can be insular, and driven. At work I take no quarter and am not intimidated by blood, death or bad hair days.. Yet at home, I am a caregiver, as my Mom was with us. Even when she was tired, she would make us homemade cookies and pastries to have after school or with our lunch. Shortening scrapped from its can, dough formed and rounded, rolled flat, and rolled up, carefully studded with fragrant spices and baked golden.
When at school, I'd open up my lunch box, and find every given day, a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, coins for milk and an ice cream and a small tinfoil packet I'd unfold with great care. Inside, the scraps of her making, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, soft and whole. I do not share. I scrape the foil clean.

Dinner at the big table wasn't just on Thanksgiving. It was every night but TV Tray in the Family Room Night. But on those dinners around the big table, I can't recall so much of what we talked about or who said what, but I do remember the gathering, the smells of beef and fresh vegetables, of laughter, of stories from school, from work, a discarding of weighty thought and the simple gathering of those you love, for nourishment of the soul. I can't recreate the exact moments through what I cook, or who I serve it to, but I still can remember how those simple meals made me feel, the redemptive power of the communion of those who love one another.

Dad is clearing stuff out of the house, as his days grow shorter.  Having just downsized and gotten rid of so much, the only things I wished from it were small; things of worth, but perhaps not value. A couple are tattered cookbooks in which are written Mom's notes of when she made something new and if we liked it. One was a folder in which Mom placed handwritten menu plans for family gatherings and holidays. Some were planned dishes, some were instructions for the meal itself. Piece after piece of small lined paper, on which her handwriting lay.
So many scraps of paper, so many meals, some dated 1962 when she and Dad were still new in the house.  It was the house she lived in the remainder of her life and to which they brought me and Big Bro home as small, scared children, to heal with them, then to belong, as family.

I hold those pieces of paper and feel the warmth, a woman preparing food for her family, for her friends, small hieroglyphs that tell me nothing but that someone loved us, scribbled messages that would not make sense to everyone but will never fail to be understood.

At that family table we learned many things.  We learned patience (I tell you young lady, you are going to sit here until you eat that squash!) We learned aerodynamics (spoon at 45 degrees, wind from the SE at two mph, PEAS, initiate launch sequence!)  We learned thanks, and not just at Thanksgiving. We learned comfort and safety.

As I went out on my own, even when I didn't have a family of my own, there was a gathering, even if I just invited over my bachelor colleagues, put together a ham and some homemade mashed potatoes and the trimmings while we listened to music and actually talked about something other than our jobs. For it was the sharing and the care that was important, not necessarily what we ate.
Hygge, it's something I learned from my Mom as I watched her growing up. Even as Dad bought her the latest appliances to ease her burden as she grew sicker, she continued to make things as her Mom and generations past had done, stirring by hand, shaping and crafting, only forming a brief and sullen armistice with the food processor when chemo was winning.
She made meals in health and she made meals in sickness, those last days where there was a look on her face as if having seen something which she knows existed even as she refused to believe in it. She'd pause, blink as if the sun was in her eyes, then go back to peeling the carrots for one of perhaps thousands of relish trays she made in her life. Then she'd set it upon that old dining room table with the captains chairs that looked like something taken off an old schooner, a table that looked out of place among all the 70's orange and yellow shag carpeting, but was as timeless as that moment.

She carried more than meals to the table, she carried us, with broken dreams and broken hearts, holding us together, even as she left us.

 "You did good Mom" I say to an empty kitchen, the curtains in the window moving with the opening of a door as if breath. Then the curtains fall still, the room quiet as if this hushed little space is isolated in space, without time or dimension, hollowed whisperings of love and safety amidst the turmoil and fury of time. There is no light in the room now, but for one small kitchen candle, the flame standing sentient over the wick as I wait for the sound of steps on the porch.

My Dad's table will not ever be graced by all of us again, but it will be the inheritance of those who remain, few of them family by blood, but all of them family by acceptance. I hope that one day, long after I am gone, a small child will sit at it and say "tell us the story about when Great Grandma Grace's turkey blew up". . . .

. . and laughter will ring out again.
-Brigid

Hunting and killing a raw vegan turkey

This is pretty damn funny.

Only a Shadow Now

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. 
--Nathaniel Hawthorne

Monday, November 20, 2017

How Bitcoin really works


It's funny because it's true.

20 Years Late

The New York Times, 20 years later, considers the possibility that Ken Starr was right. Bill Clinton was a serial sexual abuser, possibly a rapist, who lied about it under oath.

And in the aftermath, the Democratic Party became his enabler, protecting him and voting to keep him in office. But they can't say they didn't know.