Sunday, March 18, 2018

Internet Trivia

At the end of 1993, there were 623 websites.

At the end of 1994, it was over 10,000 websites.

In 2016, it was 4.5 billion websites.

Here's the very first one. . It was recovered and put back on line as a history project. Here's the About page, . From there, there's a blog and a lot of tech details about their objectives.

All of that so I could share a quote from this post from their blog. It speaks to the heart of computing as I have known it as a technician since the 1980s.
There's plenty more stuff on that NeXT, only I've forgotten the password..."
--Paul Jones, University of North Carolina

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Turlough O'Carolan - Si Bheag Si Mhor

The Dropkick Murphys are Irish(ish), but not traditional.  You want traditional for St. Paddy's Day?  You don't get more traditional Irish than Turlough O'Carolan.  This is one of his most famous compositions, done (as it would have been in his day) on the harp.

Dropkick Murphys - The Wild Rover

Corned beef and cabbage, while delicious (at least, the Queen Of The World's is beyond compare) is not Irish in the slightest.  It was a pure, 100% adaptation by Irish immigrants to the locally available foodstuffs on the shores of the New World.

As are the Dropkick Murphys.  An Irish-punk band from Quincy, Mass, they are Irish in the same way that corned beef and cabbage is.  A tasty, local adaptation to St. Paddy on the shores of the New World.

Country Music is alive and well in Ireland

I don't post much recent Country Music because is American Country Music isn't dead, it's coughing up blood.  It sounds the same: banjo accompanied pop music with lead singers who look like models. It's bland and packaged and boring, and so I don't post much of it.

But Country Music is alive and well in Ireland.  This is a TV show that aired just 3 years ago, one with music that would have been familiar here in the '80s or '90s, sung by people who look, well, like normal people.  It's the opposite of packaged country-pop, and is refreshing as a mint julep on a hot May afternoon.

Today is the feast of St. Patrick.  Here's one more thing to be grateful for the Emerald Isle.  They saved civilization once; it shouldn't be too hard for them to save Country Music.

Friday, March 16, 2018

"But there ought to be a law ..."

Don't forget the light bulbs.

Study: Violent video games do not cause violent behavior

I've posted before about scientific studies that show no link between violent video games and actual violent behavior.  But this seems to be an ever green idea for idiots and gun banners, so here we go again.  Now it's a new study from the Max Plank Institute in Berlin:
A new, longer-term study of video game play from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Germany's University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf recently published in Molecular Psychiatry found that adults showed "no significant changes" on a wide variety of behavioral measures after two straight months of daily violent game play.
In other news of the obvious, Quentin Tarantino films don't lead to increased murder and Rock n' Roll lyrics don't lead to satanic worship.  Tipper Gore hardest hit ...

You'd think that people would finally catch on to this.  You'd think wrong, I guess.

Boot note:  I've posted rather a lot in the past about the Max Plank Institute.  Most surprisingly when their scientists told politicians to cool their jets on Global Warming, but most humorously here where they really screwed up the cover page of their magazine.  Whoo, boy.

Interesting prepping videos

$5 buys you tools to make a camp, making Roman concrete, casting a bronze skillet.

Not exactly my thing, but pretty cool

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Massachusetts colluding with Russia?

Look!  Collusion!
‘Puter was perusing the Wall Street Journal this morning, as all rich oligarchs do, when he stumbled upon this piece. Why is Russian gas in Boston Harbor? ‘Puter expected to get an article on cabbage and bean eating Russian sailors.
Much to his surprise, ‘Puter learned Massholes were importing Russian natural gas despite being only a few hundred miles from the natural gas rich Marcellus shale in Pennsyltucky. ‘Puter assumed something catastrophic must’ve happened to the pipeline between the shale gas producing region and Mass-backwards-ass-achusetts.
Well, yes and no.
Turns out nothing physically happened to the pipeline. Also turns out there is no pipeline because elite genius enviroweenie do-gooders decided all fossil fuels are evil so they put the kibosh on the Access Northeast Pipeline which would’ve provided Massholes all the clean-burning natural gas they could ever want.
Now, ‘Puter’s a simple man, but there were a few questions he had about Massholes killing a project which would’ve provided domestic energy in favor of importing Russian natural gas and lining kleptocrat Vladimir V. Putin’s blood-stained pockets.*
Questions like, “Why are Massholes happily funding Putin’s war on the West instead of creating jobs in economically depressed areas of their own country?”
Or, “Do Massholes really hate the poor so much that they’re willing to make them choose between high-cost Russian natural gas and feeding their children?”
Dang.  I thought this whole Russia! Russia! Russia! thing was a bit lame, but it looks like maybe there is a Russian under every bed.  At least in Boston.

Toys я Gone

Before Amazon and Wal-Mart, and after Sears Christmas Catalog, there was Toys  я Us.

Nerd humor

Hawking actually had a pretty good sense of humor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking

Yes, I had his book.  Everyone remembers him from his life in a wheelchair after being struck with ALS, and how long he lasted (not years but decades).  His many cameo appearances on "Big Bank Theory" didn't hurt his fame, either.

What I remember is the first time I heard of him.  Jerry Pournelle (no doubt in his "A Step Farther Out" column in Galaxy Magazine) described a 1970s lecture at Cal Tech as "An evening of Lovecraftian horror" as Hawking described Black Holes that evaporate due to quantum leakage, leaving behind naked singularities.  His description of Hawking's wit in the days before he was struck by that disease was vivid, and has stuck with me all these years.

In case you were wondering, here he is in 1970, in the peak of health.

Rest In Peace, Dr. Hawking.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

So General Clapper will not be tried for perjury

The statute of limitations has run out, and so he will remain a free man:
Former intelligence chief James Clapper is poised to avoid charges for allegedly lying to Congress after five years of apparent inaction by the Justice Department. 
Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, admitted giving “clearly erroneous” testimony about mass surveillance in March 2013, and offered differing explanations for why. 
Two criminal statutes that cover lying to Congress have five-year statutes of limitations, establishing a Monday deadline to charge Clapper, who in retirement has emerged as a leading critic of President Trump. 
The under-oath untruth was exposed by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who sparked national debate on surveillance policy with leaks to the press.
So Clapper is still free and Snowden is still on the run.  America, you see the rules - one set for them, a different one for you.

Rest in peace, LTC Floyd Carter Sr.

Another of the Greatest Generation musters out:
Floyd Carter Sr., one of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen, dedicated his remarkable life to serving his country and his city. 
The decorated veteran of three wars and 27 years with the NYPD died Thursday at age 95, leaving a long legacy as a groundbreaking hero pilot and a city police detective.
He flew in 3 wars, led the first squadron of transports in the Berlin Airlift, and was married 70 years.  Quite a man.

God speed, Colonel.

Lessons from the Road - A Brigid Guest Post

I try not and post too many book excerpts but a friend with a blog had a blog post about learning to drive, asking others to share their stories.  This ended up in my second book and re-reading it brought tears to my eyes.  My brother, a Navy Submariner who was part of Operation Ivy Bells as a teenager, died on Good Friday 4 years ago.  He had a very aggressive cancer.  He couldn't get into the VA, and didn't' qualify for Tricare, he said.  He lost his Navy Contractor job due to sequestration, and the Washington State Obamacare exchange was having technical glitches which didn't allow him to sign up. He died badly.  The end was not good, but his life was one of honor and service and he was my best friend for most of my life.

Chapter 2  - Lessons from the Road

I thought of my late brother tonight as I drove to a work assignment, someplace out where it was cold and barren but for some emergency vehicles waiting for me. I no longer live out West, but with my husband in a tidy little bungalow closer to the Windy City, a place where weather can be just as treacherous. We’re newlyweds, my getting the courage to remarry after twenty years on my own, with an introduction by friends and a bit of help from a big black dog. But that is its own story.

When the visibility is down around a quarter of a mile, that truck in front of me seems no larger than a spool of thread until its brake lights come on, and then it looks enormous. With almost a foot of snow, it looks so peaceful out there, everything blanketed in white, as innocent and smooth as the surface of so much cream. But it’s not a good day for travel; hundreds of flights canceled, probably thousands when all is said and done. Don’t drive if you don’t have to, the radio warns, as under the hood the engine rumbles with threat and promise both.

Allen, being my only sibling, had taught me how to drive; but what I remember most was his teaching me how to drive in the snow out in the West where we grew up, the two of us and our parents. We’d take the little VW Bug I had over to the empty high school parking lot where there were no people or light poles. There I learned all about braking, sliding, skidding, and the physics of stopping with a stalemate of snow and rubber. He’d teach me to recognize a skid, how to immediately pick out a distant visual target and keep your eyes focused on that target, while I steered out of it as he issued commands to keep me pointed in the right direction like a border collie directs cattlehis tone fast and quick and light, words darting in and out of my field of vision.

As I relaxed into well-practiced maneuvers, I simply listened to him talk; about things that angered him, things he wished he could change as he got older, what was right with the world, and what he could to do preserve those things. And I quietly listened, there amidst snow flying as if from a blower and donuts formed of chewed rubber, circles as identical and monotonous as milestones.
I put his teachings to test on hill and valley, letting that little car run like it was a horse, leaning forward with a yell as we got into fourth gear as if by doing so I could somehow outpace it as we both fled the sheer inertia of Earth. That car and my spirit ran free of the fence lines, free of themselves, racing with a quality of movement in our motion totally separate from the imaginary pounding of hooves or the whoop of joy as I discovered flight in four-wheeled form. I put mile after mile on that car, the land stretching out until only darkness stopped her, the heavy scent of pines lying across the road for my trusty steed to disperse as if the scent were tangled skeins of smoke.

I also knew when to rein it in, slowing it down on slippery turns, downshifting through those sharp corners that are judgment and sentence and execution. I knew to stay behind the clusters of bright shiny cars, artificial flowers to which the restless bees of the law would be drawn. I also knew when to drive away, coasting out of a driveway when I arrived at a high school crush’s to find him with someone elsethat long slow tearing that leaves no scar of tire, only an internal lament that is the rending of raw silk.
Those lessons saved me more than once, like when the car slid toward an embankment late one night, that dark space where one’s shadow waits for your death, only to recover and continue on. You’ve likely been there as well. It happens so fast: one minute you’re staring bored at the speedometer, and the next you’re snatched out of your lane in a torrent of rubber and refinanced steel, other vehicles scattering like rabbits suddenly looking for their warren. 

When that happens you may not even know the cause--speed, black ice, or the force of Mother Nature that's as distant to indictment as God. All you know is that for a moment your useless hands are clasped tight to a useless steering wheel, and by only muscle memory you try and keep the pointy end forward, the headlights revealing not your safety but the now-empty road’s abiding denial. When you finally stop all you can hear is your heart and the tick of a watch, that curved turmoil of faltering light and shadow in mathematical miniature reminding you how close you came to running out of time.

Such moments are the reason my last little car was traded in on a truck, though in city traffic a truck would be about as maneuverable as a dirigible. But I don’t mind. I know about weather and idiot drivers, and I also know about fate. Because fate waits, needing neither patience nor appetitefor yesterday, today, and tomorrow are its own. For fate I’ll arm myself, as I look down on a little Smart car scooting along the slick road between semis like a lone circus peanut among a herd of stampeding elephants.

I come to a halt at a rest stop. I get out, stomach in knots, regretting downing the salmon oil supplement with my vitamins and a glass of milk on an otherwise empty stomach. As I walk through the trees an unladylike belch sneaks out, fragrant with salmonand I can only think to myself: I’ve survived the drive, now I’m going to get eaten by a bear in a rest stop in the middle of nowhere.
But I make it back to the vehicle with some animal crackers from a vending machine, none the worse for wear, hoping I can make it through the night without running off the road, wishing I had Allen with me for company.

I hear his voice in my head on that drive, echoes of the phone calls we made over the years. Sometimes he just wanted to vent a bitnot about the particulars of his military work, which he would never discussbut simply other things he’d gone through. Our Mom’s death to cancer when we were barely out of school; a fire that took his home; a bitter divorce. But I’d let him talk without interruption. For one thing he taught me other than slips and skids: that there are things we should never stop refusing to accept. Be it injustice and dishonor and outrage, not for cash for a better car, not for accolades, not for anything. There are things one must continue to be outraged over, to fight for, hands firmly on the wheel of where you want your life to go. His words are in my ears to this day: “You will have regrets, but never let yourself be shamed.
So many words of his as I drive along, words of not just wheels, but a commitment to something bigger than both of us. They are words that got me to change course when I lost direction, words that helped me as well to take on a mantle of duty I never regretted even as I was forced to put it down; words to live that last life that I left behind. Now, years later, I have taken up that duty again, with his wordswords that like a long climb up a rocky road were stepping stones of atonement. All of them words I’ll remember long after he is gone, words that I’ve handled so long the edges are worn smooth; words that will keep me alive.

 “Focus on the target, you can do this. . .”

Monday, March 12, 2018

What's the biggest threat to your privacy?

It's your cell phone.

This is a fascinating talk about how the Italian police identified a CIA operation in 2003.  It points out just how much information your phone gives out, and how the government can use it to piece together way more than you think.  It also points out just how hard it is for even intelligence professionals not to get busted (hint: really hard).

Note: this talk was given at the 2013 Black Hat Briefings (perhaps the world's most interesting security conference).  I was there, but didn't attend this talk.  I did live blog General Alexander's keynote address, though.  My skepticism at the time was perhaps more percent that I'd like:
He talks a lot about internal NSA training and individual auditing. The big concern isn't rogue NSA employees, but a directed program from NSA management. He isn't addressing this at all.
*cough*Russian dossier/FISA*cough*

Your cell phone is the Police State's best friend.

The idiotic war on (some) drugs

It's being waged by idiots:
Georgia police raided a retired Atlanta man's garden last Wednesday after a helicopter crew with the Governor's Task Force for Drug Suppressionspotted suspicious-looking plants on the man's property. A heavily-armed K9 unit arrived and discovered that the plants were, in fact, okra bushes.
Now, I know that a lot of folks like to hate on okra, but this is going too far.  Try it deep fried, fellows - it's not slimy that way.  You could have some on April 20th ...