Winning and Losing

Winning:

Randomly whipping up a venison and swiss chard ragout with a mustard/turmeric wine base and serving it over a chicken and pumpkin seed faux risotto bodged out of minute rice and vinegar.

Losing:

Trying to convince your two year old to eat it!

Posted in Family, For Facebook, Geeky, General, Uncategorized, Whimsical | Leave a comment

One Law For Them, One Law For Us

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you saw a post like this yesterday, but I just needed to expand on the insane level of government misconduct as regards the Clinton email scandal. Understand that I’ve always thought the whole thing was a Republican snipe hunt, given that their people have done so much worse in the past, directly outing CIA agents and such, but facts are facts, and equality under the law is supposed to be the gold standard of our legal system.

Strangler TogetherYesterday, the Director of the FBI, James Comey, announced that after a full investigation, the FBI would not recommend prosecution of the former Secretary of state for mishandled classified information she shared and stored via her private email server. If you want to see what’s wrong with our government, just consider this sequence of statements all from the same announcement. Forget the motivations and the players. Just read them out of context, and seriously consider what #4 says to you…

  1. “There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in X’s position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation,”
  2. “It is possible that hostile actors gained access to X’s personal email account.”
  3. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”
  4. “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”

Never mind for a moment that the purpose of this email server was likely to circumvent transparency laws. Never mind for a moment that the presence of classified information on her private server literally means either that a Secretary of State a) knew this material was classified, so purposely broke the law, or b) is completely incompetent, and should never have been trusted with classified information in the first place. Never mind that we probably can’t prove her intent to break the law either way. Just consider the actual law.

US Code, Section 793.f: “Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

Notice how intent is not a part of this section of the law? Notice that incompetence is specifically called out as no excuse?

Clearly the FBI is aware of this law, considering the case of Bryan Nishimura just last year, who while on deployment, copied several classified documents to personal devices, and kept the devices when he went home. “An FBI search of Nishimura’s home turned up classified materials, but did not reveal evidence he intended to distribute them. He was sentenced to two years of probation and a $7,500 fine, and was ordered to surrender his security clearance. He is barred from seeking a future security clearance.”

So let’s look at Director Comey’s statement again: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”

I’m sure it’s small comfort to Bryan that the FBI and his prosecutor were being “unreasonable” when they destroyed his career and robbed him, but have now learned to be more reasonable!

Or maybe, considering how many times this has happened with politicians from both major parties, it’s just that our ruling class gets to live by a different interpretation of the law than the rest of us!

Classified

[ADDENDUM] When I originally posted, an old friend from school who’s served in our military made a wonderful comment that makes an important secondary point about this, and I think it needs to be shared here:

“I know Privates who can recognize classified materials if they come in without a header. Clinton’s defense was she didn’t know the material was supposed to be classified. The Democrat candidate for President is dumber than a Private… and Privates need to be reminded not to shit on the carpet or eat paint.”

 

Posted in For Facebook, General, Personal, Philosophical, Political, Rational | Leave a comment

Keep Clear Of “WhatsApp”!

NoWhatsAppToday, in a work-related panic to troubleshoot a technical problem with a colleague stuck overseas with only data-service, I broke my own rule to never install a phone app without researching it exhaustively. He needed help, and only had WhatsApp with which to send/receive text messages, so I just installed the app to get the job done, and put out the fire.

Two hours later, I checked in on Facebook, and something caught my eye. It was a suggested friend. That’s pretty common, but what got my attention was that a) we had no friends in common, and b) he was someone I only know professionally. I confirmed from the profile that it was in fact that customer, and not someone who just happened to have the same name. It spooked me a little, like maybe he was stalking me, or something.

After lunch, I checked in again, and saw two more suggested friends with whom I have no social connections, but who I know professionally. Now I was starting to worry about hackers, so I paid attention. The only risky thing I’ve done recently was install an un-vetted app, so I started with WhatsApp. I found this article, and confirmed that, in fact, after Facebook bought WhatsApp, they changed terms, giving themselves the right to upload your entire contact list to their servers!

So it seems that Facebook got hold of my extremely large and professionally sensitive contact database, scanned it for email addresses, and started suggesting connections to those contacts who used the same email for Facebook as they had given me. Due to a momentary lapse in judgement, I have handed over over a database of over 1000 people, with massive amounts of detailed personal information on many of them, and rather sensitive professional data on not a few. The bastards have my father’s social security number and bank account numbers! (If he weren’t two years gone, I’d be having a panic attack right now…)

I apologize to all my friends and colleagues whose home addresses, personal phone numbers, and emails are now in the hands of Facebook’s marketers or worse. I was a fool, and I hope none of you will pay the price for that foolishness!

Please learn from my example. Keep far away from this app (and Facebook’s app, which I just learned has this same condition of use!), and ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I am furious right now…

Posted in For Facebook, Geeky, General, Industry, Personal, Rational, Uncategorized | 4 Responses

Home, Sweet Hopeless – Welcome to Troy

Vandals #3Let me tell you about the love/hate relationship I have with Troy, my adopted hometown.

I spend a lot of time here, and I really love it. I love the people here. I love the art and nerdiness that abounds. I love the actual Victorian architecture that is just everywhere (including in my own, endlessly decaying but beautiful home). I’ve put thousands of hours into making Troy a better place over the years, working to stop the demolition of its one-of-a-kind 1914 vaudeville theater, getting dog-park legislation passed and a dog park built, going to hundreds of neighborhood and city meetings, building a makerspace, you get the idea. The people of Troy have rewarded me with actually caring about this stuff, and supporting it.

I also hate Troy, because it seems that the city regularly goes out of its way to make me want to leave. Here’s a little story as an example:

Our little family has a tradition. Every year, we drive far away for the New Year’s holiday, to spend time with close friends we rarely get to see. This year, the plan was the same. We ran into a minor (I thought) problem, in that there was to be an inch of snow the night before we left. Since I have a 4×4 truck, I pretty much ignored this issue, as even five inches is trivial to simply drive over, if we are in a rush.

Then, the morning came. Everyone on the street had an inch of snow on their property. Everyone but us, that is. We had six inches of jumbled, icy carnage covering our sidewalks and the first ten feet of our driveway, courtesy of the city’s snowplow brigade. You see, we live on a right-turn lane, meaning no cars can park in front of us, so the plows swing in to the curb, and dump an entire block’s snow on our property. Not only would this have been a challenge to drive over, it was flat-out dangerous to anyone who might have walked on our sidewalk. So I shoveled, for an hour.

I just barely had things clear enough to get moving, when the plow came by again. Since folks down the street were now awake, and had driven away, the plow collected all the previously protected snow all down the block and once again dumped all of it on our property, while traveling at about 45 miles per hour (an estimate based upon my observation and the fact that the sprayed snow made it onto our porch, 20 plus feet from the curb). This pile was nearly a foot deep, and completely covered the just cleared driveway and sidewalks, as well as most of our front walk. I was annoyed, but I got back to work, and spent yet another hour re-clearing our property.

Just as I finished, Mr Plow came by again, pushing another massive pile of snow from god-knows-where, and headed straight for us. I stood just inside our front gate, waving my shovel and yelling at him to give me a break! As he passed, and did the little jink that the plows do as they pass us and prepare to corner, which dumps all the snow in their plow right there, I realized that the driver was literally pointing and laughing at me! I was in shock, and didn’t think to get the plow’s number, but I will remember the weaselly, light-brown bearded, bespectacled face behind that windshield forever. I truly hope I never see it again, because I fear I will break my principal to never initiate violence against another person! After several minutes of fuming and fantasizing about the tortures I would devise, I got back to it, and spent another hour clearing our property.

Needless to say, with re-showering, resting, now having to make change/nap/make lunch for our toddler, etc. we were so late leaving that we had to break our trip into two days and spend an unexpected night in a motel so our little one could survive the trip!

But it gets better. When we returned tonight, we found that despite the fact that the entire block has since melted clear, our sidewalk still has massive chunks of snow sitting on it from yet another pass they must have made after we left. Even more astonishing was the snowpile that was still on the “downstream” half of our driveway, with plow lines still visible, where a plow had apparently come the wrong way down the street just to push the pile of snow that had accumulated past us at the corner up into our driveway!

But it still gets better. We also discovered that several panes of glass in our front entryway had been smashed out by the bottles of beer we found shattered across our front porch! That’s right, not only did our vacation start with hours of back-breaking labor, it ended with it too. At least an hour of cleanup, then talking to police, then papering over the broken panes, then filing an online police report because the officer they sent “couldn’t really do anything”, all while desperately trying to keep our cranky, tired-from-eight-hours-of-driving toddler awake until his bedtime!

Thanks, Troy! I hate you, but not in a metaphorical way, at the moment. Right now, I hate you with the burning rage of a thousand suns, and want you to be obliterated by an asteroid impact a week after we sell our home and get the hell out of here…

Vandals #1
Vandals #2
Vandals #3

Happy Holidays, Troy. UP YOURS!

Vandals #4

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal | 1 Response

Take A Real Step in Resisting Government Overreach

Government SpyingI think most Americans are finally starting to wake up to the fact that our government is an uncontrollable behemoth when it comes to our privacy. Time after time, we discover proof that yet another invasion has been going on, and rather than rectify the problem in response to public outcry, our government “makes it legal”, rather than eliminating it. Even when they say they’ve stopped doing something, we usually discover, in rather short order, that they have reconstituted a program almost identical to the rejected one rather than really addressing our concerns.

They can take our records from anyone we do business with, and the one they take them from can’t even tell us. They help themselves to the info about who we call/text/email and when. Experts in the matter say that regardless of public statements to the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that the NSA has everyone who uses electronic communications under constant surveillance.

NSA-Flowchart_Daily-DotHistory shows us that the people who “protect” us in this way will not stop, regardless of the law. The only thing that will stop them is if our citizens adopt technology that makes it impractical for them to continue. We don’t all need to become super-hacker-nerds, we just all have to make an honest attempt to be secure in our communications.

Signal

I’ve recently been experimenting with a tool from a company called Open Whisper Systems. It’s called ‘Signal’, and it’s actually pretty spectacular! It uses end-to-end encryption on all voice calls and text messages you initiate with it (assuming the other party is using it too), it’s secure enough that the government would have to be targeting you personally and break your communications with a dedicated supercomputer to get at your data, it’s free (but you should donate), it’s open source (so it’s been vetted for NSA backdoors by a stack of heavy-hitters), and it’s as easy to use as any standard voice or text app on your smartphone! It also comes in both iOS and Android flavors, so almost all of us can access it. The best part is that the servers that allow you to connect to others use your existing phone number, but store NO information about who or when you called/texted, so not only is all your data secure, but there’s not even a record of you sending or receiving it!

My wife and I have been running Signal for a month, and it really works. Other than the process to download and configure it, which took about ten minutes, using Signal is as easy or easier than using our phones’ default apps (in fact, on Android, you can set it up to simply become your default texting app!). Sending texts is identical to the default app, and calls are actually easier than usual, because you can make them right from inside a text conversation (or vice-versa). The texts are flawless, and the sound quality of the calls is almost always great. Communicating with someone who doesn’t use signal is seamless; The app switches back to the normal methods as needed, with no input from the user, and it even puts a little banner up telling you whether or not the person you are communicating with is using Signal, and giving you the option to send them a text with an invitation and instructions if you want to get them up and running.

I’ve decided to start recommending Signal to all my friends and family. It’s free, it’s easy, and it doesn’t just keep the government out of your business, it keeps crooks (is that redundant?) and marketers out of it, too. Expect your invites, everyone! This won’t make you immune to a hardcore criminal investigation, but it might just save our society!

Posted in For Facebook, Geeky, General, Personal, Political, Rational | Leave a comment
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