Sep 26

Comments and Moderation

Greetings! Long time no rap at ya! This is not about being more moderate in comments. Rather, I changed a setting on the blog to help keep spam down. If you have already commented, you should be fine. If you are submitting your *first* comment, that will have to wait for me to approve it. And then you’ll be fine from there on out.

I have another setting checked to deny any comment with more than one link, but that may not be working as designed.

Shoring up the defenses. I want you to comment freely, without having to wade through an ocean of spam.

Thanks!

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Oct 28

Phishing for Apples

I received a scam e-mail which centered on the following text:

“Your Apple lD has been blocked due to too many failed login attempts from other lP location. To unblock your account, Please contact Apple Help Desk at (800) 275-2273 or Click the button below and confirm that you are the valid account owner.”

  • The return address was a nonsense string with no relation to Apple.
  • The grammar issues in the paragraph above were another red flag.
  • Finally, the preview of the mail (what you see before you open it up) displayed an announcement about some “Grand Opening”, but this was not visible in the mail itself (and not at all related to the subject or body of the mail).

Happy Hunting

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Sep 26

Just Passing Through with Gratitude

I am passing through Virginia once again, on my way to Texas maybe, or perhaps Guam, and eventually back to Japan. Gotta hit Texas in the near fiture no matter what, and then to select a place to live for the next couple of years. Maybe Texas, maybe Virginia. Maybe the moon, as long as it comes with a US zip code.
Things are good. Hectic, frustrating, but exciting and full of good people. I have worked with bad people, years ago. My recent job of the last two years grew increasingly frustrating, but it was populated by good people, which made the thing bearable and even a pleasure in several ways. But job satisfaction, and a feeling of effectiveness were not much among those things by the end.
Well, lucky me, I am a man of many options. Exercising another option, and excited about the possibilities open to me.
I have a good feeling about this.

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Aug 18

A Love Story

A Love Story

It was a beautiful day in Japan. The remnants of a typhoon had cleared out the day before, leaving a fresh clear air to roast dry in the blazing sun. Yet the temperature was not so bad, as the typhoon had departed to the northeast, leaving in its wake a gout of cool air from the north, a result of the storm’s counterclockwise circulation.

Ants scurried along a metal rail, painted by sailors long departed, just outside the temporary headquarters of the United States Navy’s Seventh Fleet. There was a concrete ledge perched along the round of an ancient rock cliff, a location previously developed by the Imperial Japanese Navy with the trademark spongy concrete and incorporation of rocks and trees into the structure. A metal staircase led to a parking lot below, constructed of steel piping and diamond-plate. A wooden picnic table and a few deteriorating benches were the more classy part, with some rejected old chairs left out to die in the elements, contributing their weathered innards to the general funk around what was now a smoking area with a bucket and a trash can.

A cicada buzzed noticeably closer than the others, and was spotted clinging to a skinny twig arising vertically from the joint between two robust branches of a magnificently spreading pine. His song began with a rasping rising call which was repeated, with increasing urgency, until it broke into a syncopated climax, a twee-gaw-ee-awww-weet chorus with ripples of accent.

A cicada is hatched and burrows underground where it lives for seventeen years, or thirteen or eleven, at which point it climbs above ground, climbs a tree, grabs on the the underside of a branch and molts to unfurl its wings. The bug’s heart, such as it is, pumps furiously to inflate its wings which then harden in the fresh air. I do not believe that the bug eats after this, although I could be mistaken. The rest of its life will be dedicated to finding a mate, and its primary mission in life is accomplished, if at all, on the strength of the rasping, buzzing song.

Our cicada continued its set list of rising calls and jazz-fusion codas, taking short breaks between efforts. An animal whose procreation depends upon a single tactic has evolved to perform that task rather well, and the clatter of these bugs can be deafening. This one was no slacker, and the song rebounded from the table, the concrete, the steel rails, so that no two places on the platform seemed to sound the same. But always it was the rising sets, and the disco-strobe aria. Of birds and bees, and flowers and trees, the bug presumably knew nothing. His mission in progress, he gave it everything.

She landed near him on the underside of the larger of the two main branches of the joint. She made no sound — she did not call, nor did she move in any appreciable way. We will forgive ourselves for peering into her motives, and assuming that her silent presence was driven by the same need to find a mate as the boisterous hollering of the male. Her presence had an immediate effect, despite being out of sight below the branch. Our bug of the skinny upright twig changed his tune at once, from the long-practiced pattern of groups within groups to a constant low buzz alternating between two tones, like a heartbeat with no rest.

While continuing the tense low buzz, he gingerly retreated backward down his twig. To an outside observer, the search was over and the hunt was on. He had called to her and she had come. His descent was slow, measured. Foot under foot under foot, he awkwardly backed down the twig until at its base, his stiff wings, extending far behind his blunt body, bumped the stout branch from which the twig issued. He made a few more tentative grabs below his current grasp, but was unable to descend further with his wings stopping his rearward progress.

She waited.

He began to maneuver his body first this way, then that, without the faculty of reason to work out his problem, but possessing at least enough good sense to try different combinations. He twisted to the right, and lowered himself an additional tiny foot’s worth of progress down the twig, and was thwarted by his wings. He straightened himself up, driving himself back up the twig, and twisted to the left, once more regaining his furthest position, until his wings bumped again. He did this several time, all while he continued to thrum to her, and she continued to wait.

After straightening up again, and after a bit of a pause, he took the time to maneuver his bulky body on its many spindly legs so that he faced downward, in his desperately desired direction of travel. His wings now pointing skyward, he pressed his face against the branch below, and worked himself off the twig and onto the main branch which split at this joint. He was now facing the trunk of the tree, his wings extended behind him in the direction of the patient lady. Perhaps the low rasp was intended for her to home in on. Perhaps it had transfixed her, enthralled, powerless to turn either toward or away.

She waited.

He cleared the twig and turned around, heading out toward the business end of this story. As he proceeded outbound, he was confronted with a choice. Or more likely he was confronted with no choice at all — he simply continued in what seemed the proper direction. He navigated past the twig whence he had come, and set out along the lesser of the two branches available to him. It may be that he perceived no joint, that there was never any choice to be made, that a cicada’s mental map does not extend so far beyond his feelers to even allow the notion of choosing a branch. He simply walked along the top of the branch, and it was not the branch under which she waited.

She wanted him. She waited for him. She could hear his song, and it pleased her. She never stirred, and he never arrived. He knew she was there, and she still heard his song. He continued along the top of another branch, an entire arboreal world of possibility open to him, but she was no longer in it.

Perhaps he had become disoriented in working himself off the twig. Perhaps it is always this way, and that these bugs are lucky to continue the species despite their best efforts, as they lack the ability to recognize their situation and adapt to it. He had tried valiantly, and was in fact still trying, marching down the wrong branch, singing his song to the lady who still waited.

And perhaps in deeper desperation, he will change his tune back to what once had seemed to work so well. After all, a creature such as this — who no longer craves food, nor shade, nor comfort, but wills only to find a mate or die trying — is well-motivated to try again. Eleven years, or seventeen, or even seventy may seem adequate to all purposes. But time is not kind to these small unsensing animals. Their long lifespan is but a pedestal for a moment, a brief time of flight and song, sunlight and companionship, and the moment had gone.

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Aug 13

I Have To Say That Things Are Going Rather Well

Things are good.  Not great, but good.  Certainly good enough to take a moment and reflect without regret.

The job goes well, although it eats up all of my energy.  I’m in a challenging but rewarding spot, with the promise of a position I have wanted for a long time.  I currently work long shifts in a command center so cold that my fingers go numb.  Well, it beats the heat and humidity outside.  It’s a grueling job, between the rapid-fire pace of many things and the need to keep an eye on the slow-moving items that go dormant if you let them.  High expectations and too many bosses, but it’s a stable situation answered to the best of our organizational capacity.  And that is what we are building as quickly as possible — organizational capacity.

you don’t get in from out — you get in from in

The position I aspire to is full-time Knowledge Manager, which is just about what I have always sought — I just never knew what it was called.  I’ve been fortunate in finding my way into things, with the key being that you don’t get in from out — you get in from in.  That’s a handy bit of knowledge to manage right there.  Organizations know things, and while there are different taxonomies for the layers and scopes of knowledge, I find Rumsfeld’s pithy statement about knowns and unknowns very helpful.  We are all painfully aware of our known unknowns, and must avoid pride in our known knowns.

A Knowledge Manager seeks to map out the unknown knowns, hunting down the hidden knowledge trapped in pockets throughout the organization, and making it accessible.  Grand structure comes later, while individual structures are important at first.  You can’t organize a million unknown knowns with a top-down structure — that’s how they got unknown in the first place.  They escaped the structure.  So you have to help the people who know things to capture that knowledge in a way that is useful to them, or they won’t do it.  I’m too busy to do this job right, right now, despite how much everybody wants the products of my challenge, but I should get a change of pace in a month or so.  So while this “side job” is not one I can succeed at presently, there’s a lot of groundwork in place.  I just have to be careful not to count this vaporware (a “mind deal” in sales parlance) as an actual success for the time being.

an iron core, skeptical and resolute

The family is good.  My son is doing well in school, is growing up true and strong, and I guess I can’t ask for much more than that.  He has a good home and a powerful sense of self.  He’s arrogant at times, which is a survival skill for the jungle of the teen-age years, and if he solves problems in a different fashion than I did when I was his age — well, that’s probably to his credit.  He has an iron core, skeptical and resolute.  Like mine was, but I think he uses it to better advantage.  I learn much about myself and, remarkably, about my father, by watching him.

My wife is working her butt off, which is her comfort zone (certainly not mine), and she solves problem in her own way just as our son does.  She runs him around to a variety of things, from karate practice and meeting with his friends to a post-graduate seminar in Tokyo which he is auditing — at age fourteen.  This is all her doing.  She pushes this sort of thing, and makes it happen, while I stick to work and sleep.  Her job is challenging in a different way from mine, but it is a difficulty I have faced before.  So I admire her ability to just press on.  Japanese are famous for their perseverance, and her dedication makes the redoubtable Kamikaze look like a bunch of pansies.

lost forty pounds on a ketogenic diet

My health is pretty good.  I have lost forty pounds on a ketogenic diet, which I think should become a feature of this blog.  I failed the last physical fitness test because I prioritized weight loss over all else, and I am happy — I accept the results.  I was fat, and now I am not.  I went from 227 pounds on May fifth, wearing an extra-large, to 188 today, wearing a medium.  I don’t have a weight goal — I have a gut goal, which is easily two-thirds accomplished.

In general, I am taking weight-loss “dives” of about ten pounds at a time, although the first one I pressed for twenty and made it in twenty days, and I alternate these dives with plateau periods.  So the plateaux are where I schedule my days out with the boys for beer and a somewhat looser menu than when on a dive.  There is an essential truth — you cannot lose weight while drinking alcohol, but you can maintain it.  More on that sort of thing later.

checked e-mail for the first time in months

So things are going rather well.  I’m tired and my eyesight is is getting worse, my future remains up in the air (which I must confess is just the way I like it) and I am not getting many things done which I want to.  But I checked e-mail for the first time in months today.  I’m not feeling brave enough to actually open any of those mails, knowing what some of them contain, but I whacked my inbox from over 800 just exactly 29, so I know a little more about the problems I must face than I did earlier today.  I know that some things have gone stale, as one of my more damnable habits is letting things go until it’s too late, which then removes from me any burden of decisions or action — then I just have to accept the consequences, which has been a “strong” point of mine.  People want me to fight back and change things, and get ahead of other things, and not let this sort of thing happen again, and I’m just tired.

But it’s getting better.  It’s not so bad.  In fact, it’s pretty good.

Well, that’s about it for now.  I shall vacate this seat at the Starbucks, as my son has returned from karate practice, and we will go home and play World of Tanks.  I used to tell him where to go and how to fight in that game.  Now he chides me for my silliness in getting blown up all the time.  He’s a regular Mack the Knife.

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Jun 16

A Farewell to Zings

Doctor Charles Krauthammer, a paralyzed psychiatrist and irascibly syndicated columnist, writes that he has only weeks to live.  The letter is matter-of-fact, and the fact is that it’s over.

This unwelcome sentence is occasioned by a fast-moving cancer which had looked to be beaten, but which gained the upper hand.  A rapidly invasive, mid-abdominal cancer “everywhere” sounds perhaps like the miserable interconnected pancreas/gall bladder.  I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer about a year ago, and if you know how to do the “pancreas salute”, then you know that this one is meaner than many.

Krauthammer has been a fixture on the TV screens of reasonable and unreasonable people alike, depending upon whether or not you agree with me about politics.  I parted with him in many of his views.  he (if I recall correctly) was never more than lukewarm about Trump, and was famously not going to drink the Kool-Aid that me and the boys been brewing in the fever swamp.  Doc Chuck (to those who pretend to know him) was over there on the far bank of the river, swollen by a raging flood and newly dividing the conservative crowd.  Reasonable and frustrated people on my side, and the squinting likes of Bill Kristol o’er dere.  George Will.  I rest my case.

Except that they got Krauthammer on that bank, and I always made a welcoming exception for him.  Some of it was an awe-filled respect for the demonstrated mental abilities of the man.  Some of it was no doubt a forbearance granted to a man with a physical struggle on top of the struggle that is life itself.  cf. Dean “Chowdah!” Barnett, whose death while I was in Afghanistan rattled me deeply.   Some of it may or may not have been a dopey smile and the way he clearly enjoyed himself in the back and forth with cohort and commies alike.

I can’t recall any specifics, and I haven’t looked anything up.  You can listen to an airhead sibilate her fricative way through his letter on the post that Pencilvania put up.  For some reason, I want to write this based just on my memory to date.  Memory is important to me now, as I grow older, as the new patriarch-at-a-distance of my wing of the family.  What will they say of me?  Who will look me up to see what I thought?

No, no need to look it up with CK.  I recall a general sense, a clutch of favorite moments now abstracted into my sense of the notorious Chuck K-Hammer.  He engaged in a respectful banter with his opponents.  Krauthammer, the wrecked man who towered over the bad guys even while sitting, propped up in his wheel chair, would let his interlocutor get what he had to say off of his chest.  And when the guest got stupid, he bade us all witness the power of this fully operational battle station.  Sometimes cross, sometimes gasping for breath more than usual, always effective, he would scorch his trespasser with a withering professional fire.

I said good bye to a good number of Never-Trump people based on their nastiness, or their fickleness, or their just plain wrong-headedness.  But for some, whose wrongness was leavened by a history of personal respect and epistemological gratitude, I held no grudge.  Thomas Sowell comes to mind in a way that, oh say, Rich Lowry does not. And I have written about Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin and John Podhoretz in a way that, oh, say, Charles Krauthammer would not.  Not just because he may agree with those sorts more frequently than I, but because he is a fine and upstanding gentleman, whereas I am a jerk.

Perhaps it is a failing on my part to carry water for some folks on the opposite bank, but I confess my sins and keep right on doing it.  Charles is a better man that I am, even when he is wrong, and it costs me nothing to admit it.  His fight has been fiercer, and his victories more sweet.  Oh, and he has victories.  I do not know if we shall ever again hear him parry and thrust while chronically short of breath, breathing itself looking to be an exhausting task for him.

He has written a sawed-off little good-bye letter, which is more eloquent in its brevity, and tender in its bluntness than any rambling eulogial blog post could be.  I haven’t the words to get this right, and I haven’t the skill anyway.  Let’s not blame the words, then, as they served Krauthammer just fine.

Soon, he will know how it feels to be on his own, finishing the journey that we each must make, and which we each must make alone.  He will walk where he once had sat, a relax where he had always fought.  There will be a moment where a phrase popular on the right, the empty chair, will take on a special meaning in honor of the memory of Doctor Krauthammer.  Fox News will have the privilege of saving him a spot for an episode or two.

Like a rolling throne.


Originally published at Ratburger.org by yours truly.

https://www.ratburger.org/index.php/2018/06/08/a-farewell-to-zings/#comment-13179

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Jun 10

Recommended Music

An amazing remix of a song I already like very much. Very subdued, a very pleasant but relentless tension. Pen Perry (whomever that is) has found a way to rely on the crashing energy of the original and include yet omit it at the same time. Waiting for the blast that never comes — feeling it nonetheless. There is a presence, like something large and invisible standing just behind you. Off to one side. It’s probably friendly. Probably.

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Jun 03

What is this nonsense? OpenH264.org Download

Had a brush with some badness named “openh264.org”.

I am sitting in a Starbucks with its own internet access, my very own local shady access point.  When I connect to the access point, there is a popup which requires me to click I ACCEPT THE TERMS etc, and then hit the CONNECT button. This usually goes smoothly, as I have the password stored, and that’s all I have to do. But today I got hit with a pop-up that said such-and-such a site is trying to download(?) a file.  The file was named something like this:

http(s?)://ciscobinary.openh264.org/{LONG-ugly-UID-here}.zip

What do you want to do with this file, open with IE, do something else, [ ] remember this choice, OK/CANCEL.

This popul was the obscured by another that said something like, The following file could not be found:

C:\{long user path}\ciscobinary.openh264.org/{LONG-ugly-UID-here}.zip.part

Clicking OK closed both popups.

I looked around for the openh264 and Cisco wisdom (using my cellphone browser over the TELCO signal), and was not satisfied that this particular download attempt was legit. After all, I am at a public access point.

So I whacked the URL provided by the shady access point from this:

http://local.shady.accespoint?lotasparameters&something=https://msftconnecttest.com%2fredirect%2fmsn.something.something...

which always redirects me to MSN which i despise anway…  to this:

http://local.shady.accespoint?lotasparameters&something=https://drudgereport.com

Why did I do this? Because drudgereport always flushes cache. That site updates every minute or so, and does not want anybody stuck on yesterday’s content. Every access to DR is like the first of the day.  And because I would rather claw my own eyes out than look at MSN.

Well, it worked perfectly. Now I cannot replicate the condition, hence some of the uncertain language here. I could probably let my session time-out on the local shady access point and try again.

But why is this file being pushed to me — by Microsoft? The way I assess the failure is this: MS wanted me to accept that file without even asking, but I have my shields up, so the browser stopped the download and asked me whether to accept the file (thank you, Firefox).  I think that this caused the file-not-found-ness, and that failure caused my validation by “msftconnecttest.com” to bottom out. And that is why I could not connect.

Interestingly, it seems the local shady access point asks for but DOES NOT REQUIRE validation from the Microsoft connection test. This is probably the site which returns the fleeting “Success!” one-word HTML page which precedes the appearance of the execrable MSN page.

Whatever this file is, I don’t want it. And I now have an interesting work-around for non-enforced validation at shady local access points.

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