Friday, July 28, 2017

Doofus of the Day

(Meme shamelessly stolen from Peter)

Don't honk at old ladies crossing the street ...



And Mercedes doesn't come off well, either - that little old lady set off his air bag.

Rest In Peace, Charlie Gard

Via Lawrence, we learn this sad news:
The parents of a terminally-ill British infant that has captured global attention on Friday said he has died. 
Connie Yates and Chris Gard said that Charlie Gard’s life had ended at eleven months old after battling a rare genetic disease.
This poor child's life became a political football, and while I have my own strong opinions it's unseemly to use him as a ventriloquist's dummy for scoring political points.

Instead, let us hope that the fullness of time will dull his parent's pain and all but their happy memories fade.  Rest in peace, little Charlie.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

- Psalm 139: 13-16

A woman has chemo in the morning, then goes to a Garth Brooks concert

And something amazing happens:
Theresa Shaw, who was battling stage 3 breast cancer, attended the concert that night, but earlier that day she had chemotherapy. If that’s not dedication, then I don’t know what is.
What makes this even more astonishing is that at the concert, Garth himself noticed a sign she was holding which read “Chemo this morning, Garth tonight enjoying the dance“. He then quickly stepped off the stage to meet Theresa, and continue his performance directly to her; to top it off he even gave her his guitar.
You will have to click through to watch the video of the moment, but if you don't get at least a little misty then we can't be friends.  The video shows how Brooks saw her sign and had security bring her to the very front by the stage.  His words after the song was done is inspirational.

Hat tip to Chris Lynch, who finds the coolest stuff.

My own thoughts about this song from a few years back are here.

So who will get a map of the inside of your house?

And what will they do with the info?
The Roomba is generally regarded as a cute little robot friend that no one but dogs would consider to be a potential menace. But for the last couple of years, the robovacs have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers, turning the friendly robot into a creeping, creepy little spy. 
By now a lot of y'all have heard about this.  Let's break down the top issues.

iRobot (the Roomba's manufacturer) says that they won't willy-nilly sell your floorpan to just anyone - they claim that disclosure will only happen with your "informed consent".  Ignore for a moment the question of whether High Tech Marketing Departments and their Legal beagle running dogs are or are not all a bunch of rat bastards.  The iRobot privacy agreement itself says this:
[We may share your personal information with] other parties in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares, reorganization, financing, change of control or acquisition of all or a portion of our business by another company or third party or in the event of bankruptcy or related or similar proceeding.
So if they go bankrupt, and the most valuable asset they have is their customer's floorplans, what do you think will happen?

Moving on.  One discussion that I've seen is what happens if you don't have a Roomba but you buy a house from someone who does.  Can you prevent the information from getting sold?  It seems like this would be like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube.

There are interesting questions about who might want your house data.  Here are a few ideas:

Local governments who want to know if additions were made to a house without licensing.

Companies who want to know how old your kids are (a crib was replaced with a bed - the kid is no longer a baby).

Burglars looking for homes with valuable things to steal (the high end Roombas have cameras, and while we don't know what information they collect, we do know that it will be stored at iRobot and will pretty quickly become a hacker magnet).

There are probably lots of other people who would want this information, and you wouldn't want them to have it.  Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Postscript:  The Sorcerer's Apprentice thought it would be cool to automate a broom, too.

The Color of your Memory - A Brigid Guest Post

What color brings to mind your past?

When I was really little, I shared a bedroom with my grandmother who lived with us until her death. The room was painted what I think they called rose, but was really more of a vivid salmon pink. She loved that color, that of the roses her Norwegian logger husband gave to her before an accident in the woods, the weight of the world falling down. Doctors could do nothing for such internal injuries so they brought him home to quietly bleed out, there beneath her tears. She was just 36 years old and had three children. She never remarried.

As a kid I hated that color.  It certainly didn't match my G.I. Joe action fort I'd built in the corner of the room. I swore if I ever had my own place it would NEVER have a pink room.
A couple short years after Grandma passed away Dad stated stated that my room needed repainting, (Yay!)  I asked if I could paint it and maybe paint a rainbow on it (hey, I was in 6th grade). He said yes, but he was only going to buy the base color. Anything else I did to it, I'd have to use what was in the garage of the leftover paint.

I chose yellow. Let's just say there wasn't much to pick from for the rainbow which is why there remains to this day (though the yellow has been painted over), two rainbows, a half one behind the bed, and a full one on the other side made out of 70's yellow, gold and aqua and yes, the remainder of the horrid salmon pink. Dad refuses to paint over them and surprisingly, when he had his kitchen fire, my room was the only one closed off to the point it had no smoke damage.
There is no accounting for taste in color. When Brigid Jr. and her husband bought their first home, the price was a steal given the area, which was quite upscale, but for a good reason. Some of the walls were painted black (the rest seemed to be covered in those press on mirrors). Bits of the back yard looked like it had been torched, and the carpet inside was damp enough with spilled beer that you could probably grow wild rice in the living room. It had been some young hipster's bachelor pad (or Darth Vader's, we're still not sure). Now it is painted white and varying shades of blue, with three stories of glass that look out onto the Rockies, the walls seemingly joining the sky.

I'd say that if I had a favorite color, it would still be yellow, the color of butter, of daisies, and the sun that makes you weep as you look into it. Yet, there are other colors that bring back memories. The Range living room is this antique looking sage green.  It could stand with a redo, but the color will remain the same, I think, as I go to the paint store to look at samples.
It's the color of my parents living room, not the green of the apples in the tree in the backyard, that hung low over the limbs we'd hang from like monkeys.  It's not the deep grey green  swirl of a river full of steelhead.  It was more of the aromatic sage of something wonderful coming from the oven; the laughter of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen; the recipe born of white paper and cursive script.  It's those smells that make you weep for the lost colors of childhood.

In looking through all the little squares of paint at the store, I think to myself that we always seem to associate scent with certain periods of our lives, but how about color?

There, in one display, are the rich vivid hues of sunrise. That takes me back to my last  time camping out in the woods, watching the sunrise from my spot underneath a tree.  At first there is only darkness, the colors of the starless night, of a deep ocean crossing, the sky then gathering a bit of light in the depths, like the eyes of Jesus that look down on us from a cross on the wall, eyes that show no age as they show no forgetting.
The first hint of day is red, the royal blue-red, that in centuries past would have been forbidden to be worn by the masses, on threat of death, then oranges and yellows, dripping like forgotten fruit into the horizon, their taste and texture, fragrant and lush against the plate of the earth. Pink and white, the color of salt water snails found in the submerged sands of paradise, washed clean of their prison. Then finally blue, just a hint of blue, paler even than the bluest sky I remember from my last time aloft, just a hint of blue, fading, for into the sky comes the weather, thick clouds pulled up by the still slumbering earth to cover it and keep it warm.

Before the the sun could even warm the earth, warm me, blue grey gave way to grey, like the whole of Lee's army taking on the battle between dusk and dawn.  The blood red of the sunrise leaches into the earth until the world goes suddenly and softly grey again.  The clouds mourn and the birds sound an echo of taps up in the trees, as I sit and remember a battle of my own, tracing invisible scars of it upon soft skin.

Then, there in another section of the paint store are the blues and greys.
In the Spring of my childhood, after the winter cold and snow retreated, Mom and I would head outdoors, just the two of us, along the shores of local bodies of water looking for stones, stones that may have not been unearthed for years, abundant embedded in earth and sand. They're quiet treasures on the shores of the the West, wind swept lands riddled with unclaimed treasures that people simply pass and forget, not knowing what they have underneath their feet. Beneath this great land lies jeweled richness of stone, and prehistoric bones, telling tales as they surface, dotting the future with pieces of the past.

Some stones are so tiny as to be little bearings of smoothness, the size of a small birds egg. Others take both hands to hold. My Mom as well, was fascinated by stones, and we'd search through the grey and dark and cold surfaces looking for the one that will break open into glorious color of gemstone. Rich colors forged in heat and fire and fate. We'd hunt down an agate, and knowing what we will find inside of it, we'd smile.

In native Indian culture agates were believed to cure the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes, soothe the mind, prevent contagion, still thunder and lightning, promote eloquence, secure the favor of the powerful, and bring victory over enemies. In this agate, Mom might not find a cure for the stinging bite of what she has within her that was too soon to take her life, but in it she found strength and beauty, swirling colors of joy in that moment, something to sooth the thunder that rolled through her in dark frightened moments.

She hand picked them, and cataloged them by color and origin. I happily worked with her, capturing the deep energy of the earth, that grounded her to us.

Then, there are the reds, the color that is the crowning head of birth, the liquid grace in a gold chalice. It is color, that like blood, has as many variances as does the way it can be spilled, there in a flash of light, a burning, a blow, one instant of sublimation, then darkness again. It is the color of the senses, the depth of rose, the scent of meat, the taste of a lovers whisper, a torrent of red wine, of desire and loss.

For red is also the color of warning, the flash of a light at the approach end of the runway that tells you if you are too high or too low. Such lights glare with luminous boding of the nearness of earth, the red and white lights that slide across the night itself, speaking aloud with silent sound to eyes that sometimes see what the soul cannot.
You took in those colors and process them with a quick movement of hands, as your aircraft bears down upon the earth, holding in check, the vast mass of weight and gravity as long as you can, until the engines pant as if breathless, the power brought back in the last second as the wheels kiss the pavement.  Sometimes at that point you are breathless yourself, as the white centerline lights lead you gently in.

I think of that bright white as I look through the second of white paint. The section of samples of white is bigger than one expects, ranging from Casper the Friendly Ghost pale to rich cream, from the crystal purity of light that sparks off of a diamond ring to the wood scented smoke that is Fall. White brings to mind snow; not the snow of the ground, but the snow aloft, where thick water droplets the size of guppies give way to a thick white spray that parts as we fly through it in waves of frigid courtesy.
On such a flight we fly in silence, but for the occasional chirp of a radio, our movements in sync. Today, they'd call that CRM.  Back then we sort of worked in some sort of unspoken telepathy that was both trust and history aloft,  like two birds that leave a guy wire at exactly the same time. Our hands move in a silent prayer of ritual without words, a communion of motion and metal.

Flying on a clear night, one gets the sense that movement stops as if your ship is hung suspended from the stars with no forward progress. But when the snow hits, if the moon is bright enough, you have a sense of speed that is the wild leap of a toboggan off a hill.  As the miles trail behind us like wake, we look out into the snow much as we did as children, mentally sticking our tongues out to catch a flake and let it melt, looking through the windshield with a sort of hushed searching for something so far beyond us, we can't as yet grasp it. It's a look that's both the wonder of the unknown and knowledge that is profoundly intent, time slowing down even at .82 Mach.

We had command of millions of dollars worth of steel, and a mission. But in that moment, we were simply children, our craft not burdened with time's dragging weight which the old garb themselves with each day, but with the unfettered fast movement that are those lost moments of play out in a snow covered field.
Color is memory, and memory vivid color.  One may bring back the other yet neither will ever be exactly what they were. It's like an ancient recipe scribbled on frail paper, the letters faded, even if the intent is clear, familiar in form and sense, the name and presence of elusive and sentient forces of grain and yeast, water and love, a taste and smell that you can recreate, yet it will never be exactly the same. Yet, even if it is not the same, the shape, the faint taste, brings you back.

It comes back to you at odd times, sometimes when going full tilt into your day; sometimes as you sit in quiet reflection, a resonant distant hum of the dog sleeping beside you.  The colors around you have a spent quality, like the rise of dissipating smoke, of the steam of an ancient engine, even as they softly gleam with light, pushing from their solitude into yours, nudging that memory of the past.  It's a past that can be cold and vacant or warm with color.  It's all how your soul sees what your eyes sometimes cannot.
I think of my Dad now, moving across his bedroom floor in bare, cold feet, the room nearly empty, but thunderous with the presence of my Mom.  I remember the day he first opened her closet after she was gone, to see the remnants of her existence in colorful pieces of cloth, in those favorite colors of agates, blues, and black obsidian and ivory, blues and golds, discovered like gemstone when that door was broken open. How vivid the look on his face as he found them. Not a look of grief, or incomprehension, but a look of fierce affirmation that she had been here, that she had loved him. A look of recognition, of the subtle, complex beauty that she left us - her spouse, her children.

As the sun comes up early this morning, I sit with my bread and coffee. Down the hall is a salmon pink bathroom that was the favorite color of a young Swedish woman who was the love of someone's life before she was my Grandma.  It could be redone right now, but it won't be.

It sits as proudly in morning light as my Grandmother did, in the bright glare of grief where shadows not only defined and became personal, but formed and shaped her unexpected destiny. I'd like to paint it yellow, and someday I will.  But for now it remains.  She loved that color and so, for that moment in the past, that memory, I let it lay upon the walls in peace.

- Brigid

Thursday, July 27, 2017

That's some smart diplomacy right there

You'd expect a more, well, diplomatic approach to diplomacy:
The UK has started bypassing Donald Trump over climate change, talking directly to city mayors and other officials committed to trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the new Climate Change Minister has revealed.

Claire Perry, who was appointed to the post after the general election last month, said that British ministers had not “missed an opportunity” to tell the US President that they were disappointed he had decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, the news service Bloomberg reported.
Perhaps the Trump Administration should just declare Ms. Perry persona non grata.  If she wants to meet with mayors, they mayors can fly to the UK.

Children of Civil War veterans are still alive today

Woah.  I had never run across this before, but in 2014 there were still 34 sons and daughters of veterans from that late unpleasantness:
Fred's in exclusive company—the dwindling group of children of soldiers who fought, North against South, 150 years ago.
All are very old "children" (Fred, 93, is not the oldest among them), born mostly in the 1910s and 1920s to Civil War veterans and young brides. The fathers, typically on second marriages, were in their 70s or 80s when these children were born.
Fewer than 35 of these remarkable offspring are now on the rolls of heritage groups that keep track of them. They're referred to as "real" sons and daughters and are given a place of honor at the ongoing events commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
I had never known this.  These articles are from a few years back, but Mrs. Jordan was alive 18 months ago.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Brush up on your 31337 H4x0rz skillz

Dwight breaks down the talks that will be going on at Black Hat and DEFCON 25 (how the heck did there get to be 25 DEFCONs?  I remember DEFCON 3 ...).

Most interesting talks (to me):

Exploiting Network Printers (a target-rich environment)

Hacking Tesla from WiFi to CAN Bus

Breaking Electronic Door Locks like CSI: Cyber

Real-time RFID Cloning (remember my old post on RFID and Chiappa Revolvers?  That talked about Black Hat in 2007)

Open Source safe cracking robots (I hope they name the robot "Feynman")

But we're almost to August, which means cool security stuff.  Dwight breaks it down well.


You know that "31337" d00d?  Don't be that 31337 d00d ...

Good post about WWII Jeep design flaw

They would pull hard to the left when you braked.  This explains why.  They fixed it after the war but it seems they didn't want to disrupt manufacturing during the war by retooling the line.

There's video from 1946 Berlin that shows it in action, too.

From Russia With Love - A Brigid Guest Post

Little Prince lived alone on a tiny planet no larger than a house.  

The suitcase is empty, but it is not. There in the bottom, a small piece of paper with some writing on it.  I read it and I smile.

The bag's opened up, some toiletries spread around the hotel bathroom.  Another day on the road.  I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land, across rivers and towns in whatever way I can, be it dromedary-like transport plane, raggedly land rover or sway back mule.

I have an anchor, over time it's been a large house, a small house, it's been simply a suitcase and someone I love.  But when I'm there, I am thoroughly happy, for that anchor, instead of being a confinement, is simply the base from which I move, a fulcrum that amplifies the effects of my motion, the beat of my heart.

St. Expurey said, "He who would travel happily must travel light". And so I did, the earliest memories little more than the remembered feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the dense oily smell of jet fuel lingering on the tongue like smoke. It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug splayed glass that tinted the world bright.
The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some thing things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of an ordinary man.

I have spent a half of my life it seems, on the way to somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, the mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.
In each day comes another opportunity for adventure. The ride to the hotel was something to remember, in and of itself. A shuttle service, stopping at several hotels on the way. The driver, sullen and demonstrating why driving was his second language. You know how when most people drive, certainly professional drivers, they brake using an increase in pressure on the brake pedal so as to come to a smooth stop. Not Mr. Shuttle. The only brake technique he used was to stomp on the brake, let up, let the car roll, stomp again. It would take four or five of these stomps to equal one normal braking action. No traffic, heavy traffic, it made no difference.

I started to feel like a bobble head doll and the 25 dollars I saved over a taxi was starting to look like one of those small decisions that had great, oversized repercussions. But perhaps I should have been more patient. I guess it was hard to concentrate on braking when one is texting while driving in heavy traffic.

I simply made sure my seatbelt was fastened and then bent down as if into a stiff wind, horns of the impatient exploding into the rain-split asphalt that opened and closed with opportunity. Like all traffic in big cities, we carried on, sharp with speed, and then trickling to a standstill, the road dipping into the fog, like a hand cleaving water, the headlights showing the gray bulk of streams of cars coming down the hill like rain.
When the last guest got off and it was just me, he quit texting and had a series of increasingly heated exchanges in his mother tongue with his dispatcher about how he only got  the equivalent of 47 US dollars in fares for this trip and he wanted to get a number one spot when he got back to the airport. (Actually, sir, you got 68 dollars in fares, one that you did not log and pocketed. I notice things like that.)

The arguing got more heated. I am not fluent in languages. I can simply listen and relate small things in a number of languages that come in handy, Russian, Chinese, Farsi, just enough to know when it's a good time to get out of Dodge or when happy hour is almost over. It comes in handy, the knowing, the looking, I think, as I catch quick glimpses of other drivers in the failing sunlight, faces fixed and grim as they fought to get upstream.
The van driver, still yelling into the phone while almost whacking several people on bicycles,  finally stopped in front of my hotel. I paid him the fare plus a 15 percent tip. He did NOT look happy, expecting much more from the American Redhead in nice clothes.

He muttered something under his breath about what he had to do to get a big tip, and I replied -

"Вам надо научиться использовать торможения."

He was still standing there, mouth agape when I went up to my suite.

But I had arrived. The hotel bulked long and dark against the city sky, but inside was golden warmth, a bite of a fresh apple, a much-needed bottle of water. Sitting still for a minute taking care of the aching neck and soon it was time to meet my partner for this assignment while we went over notes for tomorrow's business over a light meal.

After a short walk back to the hotel, my partner making sure I got to my room safely, I made a couple phone calls to loved ones, wanting to let them know I was in and safe. My Dad always worries when I travel, even when I can't tell him where I'm going.  So do friends, and I try and keep in touch. Then I took a long bath in a tub so deep you could hide a Mastodon in it and slept until it was 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, it was 6:30 in the morning where I wanted to be, not where I was at.

So I got up and made coffee and watched a stain of light snare itself between steel and rain, spreading until the stain grew light and the light became morning.
By choice or not, travel is part of my life.  But travel brings something to you that people who live in the insular world of their home town their whole lives may miss. It pushes your boundaries. When you travel, you can become invisible, if that is what you choose. I like that. I like to be the quiet observer. Walking alone along the edge of another ocean, as it stretches away into space with its illusion of freedom. Strolling through the celestial hush of a square that has seen generation after generation, the sun glinting off marble where the monotonous rain has washed it bright. What stories would that old building tell, what makes these people who they are?

You don't have to understand the language that is spoken, only the language of the streets, the scents, the stone. Without understanding a word around you the language becomes simply a musical background for watching the water flow onto the shore or a leaf blowing in the wind, calling nothing from you.
You may have work that takes much of your time, yet still, in this strange place, there are hours open to you.  You don't have a lawn to mow or bills to pay.  There is only life, simple and inescapable as an empty hallway, where you can leave behind for a moment, the burdens that you freely assume and carry as bright and ambitiously as brass. For this moment you are simply a creature of choice, free to visit stately buildings, savor a cup or coffee or simply go watch the trains.  You're open, if only for this moment, as a child to receive all of the world, not just your own.

It is all there for the taking, multicolored flowers in bright density, the smell of fresh bread baking, laid out like fabric on the ground which you pick up and wrap around you, drawing in a breath through the scented cloth. This fabric, this essence of a place, that contains both the dead and the living, the blooms of lush flower, the decay of a building, the smells that are both the death and the birth of a city. You are a historian, you are a hunter free to explore and seek and find and then return home bringing memories to lay on your doorstep.
From the memories come words.  They may be only in your head, they may be on paper.  But they tell a story, one composed of past journeys on ancient rails washed clean by wind and rain and tempered by time, written to the mournful sound of a train whistle echoing through ancient memories and newfound dreams.  The words strung out like cars, beyond which wait the world and life, hope unrestrained and incontrovertible.  They recall the memory of it all, moving fast now, wind rushing past like flood, leaving you breathless.

The suitcase is open on a simple wooden stand. It is empty, but in it there is so much, the smell of crushed sage as I bounced across the desert in a jeep, the wood smoked burnt woods of autumn, the smell that is untouched ground after a rain, the rich earthy scent of something being lit that had for so long been cold.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Security researcher arrested after reporting security vulnerability

Of course, it was a government agency that did this, and the public reaction has been what you'd expect:
Over 45,000 users have left one-star reviews on a company's Facebook page after the business reported a security researcher to police and had him arrested in the middle of the night instead of fixing a reported bug.
The arrest took place this week in Hungary after an 18-year-old found a flaw in the online ticket-selling system of Budapesti Közlekedési Központ (BKK), Budapest's public transportation authority.
... 
The young man discovered that he could access BKK's website, press F12 to enter the browser's developer tools mode, and modify the page's source code to alter a ticket's price.
Let's looks at all the layers of fail compressed into this public transit agency:

1. Their coders were stupid enough to code in a 15 year old security vulnerability.

2. Their security team didn't thank him for reporting the vulnerability, but rather went to the local po-po.

3. The PR team didn't send everybody involved to their rooms without desert.  Think I'm being too hard on them?  Consider:
BKK management made a fatal mistake when they brazenly boasted in a press conference about catching the hacker and declaring their systems "secure." Since then, other security flaws in BKK's system have surfaced on Twitter.
"Secure".  You keep using that word.

It's likely that hackers world wide are even now scouring the BKK's computer systems for vulnerabilities.  There's quite a good chance that it's a target rich environment.  This is quite likely to end in tears for BKK.

July 25th, 1977

The recruiter picked me and took me to the AAFES center in downtown Baltimore. I was given plane tickets to Charleston, S.C. that put me in Charleston around 8 PM.

Marines met us at the airport and after some milling around all of us got on a Greyhound bus and rode into the night. It was still very rural and there were very few houses and no towns once we rode south on Hwy. 17. The road was dark. It was pine forests that gave way to swampland as we traveled.

We passed through the main gate and rode over the causeway.


Receiving at that time was still in wooden WWII barracks in the center of the main part of the base. The bus looped around past the Navy Federal Credit Union. It was 98 degrees and 2330 hours.

We were invited to unass the bus and find a set of footprints.


July 25th, 1977. Forty years ago today.

Ah, "Experts"

Headline: "Psychiatry group tells members they can defy 'Goldwater Rule' and comment on Trump's mental health."  Ann Althouse comments:
Let them speak, and then the rest of us will speak about whether they are professionals deserving of deference or human beings like the rest of us who can't keep our political preferences from skewing whatever it is we might think about some pressing issue of the day.

Go ahead, expose yourselves. Let us see all narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that impair your ability to lead.
Without experts, whatever should we do?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pine tar, 34 years ago today



If you've been living in a cave, here's the story.

Airbrushing Climate History

This day in 1935 say the peak of the "Dust Bowl" years, at least as far as temperature was concerned. Chicago and Milwaukee set temperature records that have not been surpassed in the intervening 82 years.

Of course, all you read in the daily fish wrap is that each year is the HOTTEST EVER!  How does this happen?  Adjustments are made to the historical temperature databases:
There are two parts to the GHCN data: the raw temperature readings, and adjustments to the readings. The raw numbers are easy - they're just the instrument reported temperature for the weather station. Look outside your house at your thermometer - that's the raw data. Here Chez Borepatch, my thermometer says that it's 39°.

Adjustments are modifications to the readings, to "remove inhomogeneities" in the raw data. You (like me) may look at that and say Whiskey Tango Foxtrot are inhomogeneities? CRU helpfully provides an answer:
Most long-term climate stations have undergone changes that make a time series of their observations inhomogeneous. There are many causes for the discontinuities, including changes in instruments, shelters, the environment around the shelter, the location of the station, the time of observation, and the method used to calculate mean temperature. Often several of these occur at the same time, as is often the case with the introduction of automatic weather stations that is occurring in many parts of the world. Before one can reliably use such climate data for analysis of longterm climate change, adjustments are needed to compensate for the nonclimatic discontinuities.
OK, we don't want a jump in the historical record if you move a station or replace a thermometer with a better one.

But. All the Climatologists in the world will look at this data. How much do the adjustments change the results?

We don't know, but people are starting to look. They're starting to find that adjustments change the data a lot. They change the data so much that they show that the earth is warming when the raw data may show that it's cooling.

Let me say that again: Thermometers may be showing that the Earth is cooling, but adjustments to this data show a rapid temperature rise.
What don't get changed are the records.  Consider these:
Chicago - 1934
Milwaukee - 1934
New York State - 1926
Boston - 1911
St. Louis - 1954
USA lower 48 states - 1913
In fact, with all of this year after year of the HOTTEST YEAR EVER, no state has set a highest temperature record is more than 20 years.  In fact, most (39 out of 50) state highest temperature records were set quite long ago - over 50 years ago, sometimes as long ago as 1888 (!).

Stop and think about that - if the science were as settled as people say, wouldn't there be at least one state that set an all time high record recently?  What a strange warming that raises average temperatures but not record high temperatures.

In any case, if you look at unadjusted temperatures, the 1930s were considerably hotter than today.

Good overview of Net Neutrality

"Net Neutrality" is an orwellian term coined by Netflix and Youtube (the top two users of Internet bandwidth) for a proposed government regulation that prevents Internet Service Providers from providing different classes of service for both high-bandwidth and low-bandwidth services.

Basically, Net Neutrality subsidizes video companies at the expense of everyone else:
Comcast's throttling of BitTorrent is likewise clearly in the customer interest. Until the FCC stopped them, BitTorrent users were allowed unlimited downloads. Afterwards, Comcast imposed a 300-gigabyte/month bandwidth cap.

Internet access is a series of tradeoffs. BitTorrent causes congestion during prime time (6pm to 10pm). Comcast has to solve it somehow -- not solving it wasn't an option. Their options were:
  • Charge all customers more, so that the 99% not using BitTorrent subsidizes the 1% who do.
  • Impose a bandwidth cap, preventing heavy BitTorrent usage.
  • Throttle BitTorrent packets during prime-time hours when the network is congested.
Option 3 is clearly the best. BitTorrent downloads take hours, days, and sometimes weeks. BitTorrent users don't mind throttling during prime-time congested hours. That's preferable to the other option, bandwidth caps.
Throttling high-bandwidth services preserves all the other low-bandwidth ones (like email, Facebook, etc).  Here's an example:
Take GoGoInflight's internet service for airplanes. They block access to video sites like NetFlix. That's because they often have as little as 1-mbps for the entire plane, which is enough to support many people checking email and browsing Facebook, but a single person trying to watch video will overload the internet connection for everyone. Therefore, their Internet service won't work unless they filter video sites.

GoGoInflight breaks a lot of other NetNeutrality rules, such as providing free access to Amazon.com or promotion deals where users of a particular phone get free Internet access that everyone else pays for. And all this is allowed by FCC, allowing GoGoInflight to break NetNeutrality rules because it's clearly in the customer interest.
If you've never thought much about Net Neutrality, this is a great introduction.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Evening Musings - A Brigid Guest Post

Thank you, everyone, that helped me put yesterday's troll into perspective and gave me the encouragement to ignore him/her. I write for me and those I consider family/friends, not for the masses, so even words to an empty room are still my words.

For tonight - a little memory that wasn't in any of the books.

-----

When I was out at Dad's on the last visit we went through some paperwork in his safety deposit box, as he's readying his affairs, realizing he probably won't be with us much longer.  Most of everything is in a trust for my late brother's children, as he just left them a lot of debt when he died.  With Dad's expenses, there's not much remaining, though, just a small house and some memories, those remembrances for which we are so grateful.  One of the items he gave me was the original of my birth certificate, sent to them a year after I was actually born, the names on it, his and Mom's, as they had just adopted me. Their only child deceased, they adopted my brother and me and gave us their name, the four of us joined together in a bond that obliterated a painful past in which we had only been a small, unwilling participant.

There is much history in that piece of paper. For I was born to an unwed mother prior to such generation in which raising a child as single woman, was not something to be ashamed of.  
So, through timing, fate, or circumstance - however you look at it, I am the product of adoption, as is my child.  This is our story, this may be yours.
You're almost Sixteen,  soon to have a license to freedom in your pocket, the chrome polished chariot to your future sitting in the driveway in the form of an ancient Volkswagen Beetle. Sixteen, a mile marker for some, for you anyway, old enough to drive, time stolen through pale fences that line the roads as you rush towards your future. 

There's a boy in the Cello section of the orchestra that you like, but he's always hovering around the delicate, blond flowers of the flute section. You are part of the posse of math and science geeks that occupy the wind and brass section that plays with the orchestra one day a week. But there, you are with friends, armed only with overbites, wit and lung capacity, as you sit outside of the strings and the flutes, moving clumsily around like bespectacled bumblebees among the flowers.

There's a dance coming up, a Sadie Hawkins one, in which the girls ask the boys. Your Dad will have to drive you but it's almost like a real date.  With hopeful eyes, you bumble over and ask him to go with you. The blond next to him looks at you with a withering giggle. He says "uh. . I'll call you later" with an expression that is not so much a smile as a dismissal. But you are too young and naive to see anything but the smile.

You rush home, anticipation lingering around you, waiting to be breathed in and let loose in a sudden exhale as you rush to your room to wait. You will sit there in your room in silence for hours as the family eats without you, as dinner dishes are put away, and the room grows cold, your breath vaporizing in the growing dark.

Waiting for that phone to ring.
You're 18, in college, trying to be grown up, as you took your first summer class there at age 14, when you were still a child. But you are a child who is now carrying a child. The older guy who swept you off your feet and took what can't be replaced was gone with that call from the doctor. Everyone says it's your body, your choice. You may have been naive, but you are grown up enough to know that your choice was when you gave yourself to someone outside of marriage.  THAT was your choice, not the taking of this innocent life.

You remember the night she was born, ten pounds, six ounces, after 34 hours in labor, her head crowning, her body bursting forth onto the sweat and blood soaked sheet. You remember only getting to hold her once, for just a moment before she is handed over, in your pain, to her adoptive parents, incredulous of her soft hair, perfect fingers, smelling of the womb, of warmth, of love. She looked at you with a peripheral glance, while you uttered the name you would give her and the words you were not able to say again for years, for in fear of their utterance, the object of those words would be lost to you. I love you, don't forget me. 

You bring nothing home from the hospital, even as you left something there, not a baby, but something you could have lived your entire life with, without ever having known it was inside of you.
It's an open adoption, you know where she is, and with who, but your word is your honor and you promised not to get close. She has the option to contact you if she wishes when she turns of age, but if she doesn't? That, as they say, is that. You gave your word, you will respect. There is nothing to do now but back to your life and try not and notice that when you stop to think if she is safe from harm, your breath catches as if there is no air, and you are going to have to learn to either not worry about her every moment or live without breathing.

So it is as if she fixed in that moment, forever an infant, the walls of that hospital, the door to that room, fleeing away, leaving just her image, immobilized within a tear, inviolate in innocence, forever safe from harm and alteration.

It's the only way you can sleep at night, as for the next 18 years you wait for that phone to ring.
You get through, as best you can, with family, and a dog. A rescue, a runaway, soon to break your heart, that Husky. He was fiercely independent, living the life that philosophers and knights are known to do. You are pretty certain he was purebred, an incredibly beautiful dog, one that probably set someone back a few dollars. But all that mattered was he was lost, no tag, and you tried your best to give him a home.

But huskies are born to run, and with them, they will take your heart. But you are determined to ensure he wouldn't be lost again; getting him vaccinated and tagged, with good food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in. He spent the next month trying the escape the prison that he viewed his home and your ministrations. Even with long bike rides, and a big yard, he was determined to escape.  He'd dig under the fence, climb over it.  He was good with family, he behaved well inside the house but he was forever a compass between the far horizon and your affection, both implacable.

You try the big pet store dog training, you tried pleading and tears, which works neither on men or dogs, and for good reason.  You tried walking him morning, noon and night. Finally, one day, he got out past your legs at the front door and ran and ran, not looking back. All you could do was put up fliers and worry.

Waiting for that phone to ring

He was found and returned safely.  You would have asked him why if you could, were you not a good "Mom"?  Was as he searching for the home he was lost from? All you got back was an inarticulate gaze, behind which could be either sadness or yearning, though he never let either show.  You'd give him all the exercise you could so he wouldn't run away.  But it wasn't as if he was exhausted. He simply surrendered, as if he'd given over and released completely that grip upon the horizon that called, if only for now. It was a relinquishment that in some souls would mean death, but for this dog, was simply a deep, soft sigh and a longing gaze out of a window as he rests his head on your arm.

You do what you can to keep him happy and safe the rest of his life, but tell yourself you're not going to get another rescue dog after he's gone.  Or any dog, you can do all right all by yourself
You're in your late 30's, happily playing kerosene warrior, loading up a transport plane, simply getting ready for your responsibilities that night, the four bars on your shoulders a reminder of your duties. You don't know if it was pain or illusion that drove you to the skies, leaving broken hearth and home for that greed of adventures that flutters out there somewhere beyond. You don't look inward too closely, being more focused on what is outside, for what is there behind the darkness is more final than simply the loss of one's illusions.

You're all aware of it and one night, while waiting for the fuel guy when we get word a plane is down, Isn't that the one that John? . . .

You pause for the rest of the words, there in that moment before the sun plunges into the edge of the earth, the shapes and forms of aircraft fixed by that already fading explosion. But you can't stop what we're doing, each of you has one ear tuned to the task, men moving and working, shadows on the wall, not of flesh and blood, which is so fragile, but shadows of enduring hope and will, quiet as the murmur of  your breath as you work, one ear still listening.

Waiting for that phone to ring.
You're all grown now, still logging those miles on the road, still checking in with your Dad when you arrive at your hotel when you travel, for though you're grown up, he's seen his 94th birthday and he worries, especially now that his days grow short. The phone lays silent on the seat of the car as you head out, the thump of the tires on the pavement tapping out a Morse code that is unheard, the wheels pulling you further away from everything you have counted on and closer towards the unknown.

The thump of the tires takes you back to those days on the back of a motorcycle, riding with your brother. You think of him, his arms strong in command of that bike, his hands calloused but delicate as he tended to your father all these years. You think back to your last night together, sitting out on the deck, birds twittering above as they built nests for their young, their sounds that of the chirp of a clock, counting off each and every second of Spring. You could not imagine him so sick, even as you can't imagine him not being here now, talking to you each night, the cell phone silent in your pocket.
The house is so empty now, with him gone, your furry best friend gone as well, the two of them quitting this earth just a few weeks of each other. No regrets for that dog, that time, for you realized how alone you really were and added a purebred lab puppy to your life. You ponder a puppy again, a clean slate start with a new friend, fresh starts, no scars, no history. But you also ponder adoption, a rescue animal, one that needs sheltering as much as your heart does, one that will take more work, more trust. You said you never would, but hitting five oh, you realized that life is a risk, never a possession. You fill out all of the paperwork and you wait, there with a picture of a fuzzy older black lab mix saved to your computer, wondering if she was already adopted, praying they would call.

But it was time for other thoughts as you're nearing your destination, the blue and read lights guiding you to where you are called. For now, you can't think of the future, you can only drive through avatars that mark the accumulation of tears

Waiting for that phone to ring.
You are there, that moment, now, laying in bed. You shut your eyes, laying your hands flat against the cool sheets, trying to will yourself to sleep so early, going on call at midnight. You remember what your martial arts instructor told you about breathing, how you enter the true home of your spirit with each intake of breath, each exhalation, actions as old as time, a rhythm that is both life and death.

On the nightstand are two phones, your personal one and the one that tethers you to duty. You never know when that one will ring, a call signaling the exorbitant burden that is nature, fate or someone's personal jihad.  Tonight, you somehow expect it to go off, thinking of swinging out of bed and grabbing the bag, jumping into the truck. Gear in the back, teetering as if to fall, you accelerate too fast, the high beams blinding more than illuminating as they cut through fog that coils in the lows in the road like a snake.

You do this, as the world sleeps, in that state of blessed forgetfulness in which the most fragile of senses can slumber, free from the godless dark intents of man and nature. You go because it is what you do, as much as who you are.
But that night, the thought of that drive already exhausts you, even as you can't get to sleep. You look to the clock, wondering what time it is where your Partner is at, a mission for him that's as much a part of the love of what one does, as duty, something you so understand. You wish he wasn't flying right now, burying the worry under the Kevlar exterior, but it's what he does, as much as who he is.

He'll call when he gets into his hotel, so you know he's safe. You will smile, and you will both laugh, happy to be connected again. Till then, you lay in the embrace of the sheets, all the thoughts of what is going on in the world tickling your senses like electricity, a flicker of current before darkness.
On a shelf are photos, a boy, and a little girl in the lap of the man that chose to be their Dad, having a snack of apples as he reads to them.  There's another picture of those children, in motorcycle leathers, years later, in front of a couple of Valkyries in his driveway. There's an old picture of a group of pilots, all friends, all intact, even after a scare or two.  There's a photo of someone holding a musical instrument, not the silly high school crush, but a person of substance and honor, who, through time and the tears that come from suspect choices, was always there for you, softly touching your scars while bearing your history.

Among the photos on the nightstand is one of a little girl, with eyes the color of a storm-tossed sea, shaped just like yours and just like her mothers.  There's photo after photo of a young redheaded girl, all of those many years that you missed, a dance outfit, a soccer game, a graduation, there in scraps of memory you can now safely hold and breathe in. All you have is the photo to show for those years you simply waited in silence, in stone.
Below that is a photo of a senior black rescue dog, taken by her Foster Mom. Abby is her name and you've completed the paperwork.  It is a Spring day in 2014  and you hope to adopt her. You glance at all of the pictures and smile, breathing deep as you drift off to sleep.

Somewhere out there trouble may stir, shadows may rouse themselves from sleep. But somewhere far above and far away, someone slumbers aloft, their breath, in and out, a rhythm which not the mind, but the heart, marks and calls the measure for. Somewhere far away, your child and her children sleep safely in their beds, as safe as a scared teenager, turned protector of those that have no voice, could make them.

The clock ticks off one more notch of breath as you lay in that big bed in a quiet room, a too-long empty dog bed lying in the corner.

Waiting for the phone to ring.