In USSR, The NSA Listens To You. In USA, You Listen To The NSA

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Just completed my mandatory annual data security training.  From the module on passwords:

 A password will not include anything that is meaningful to the user, such as a name (either real or fictional), a date (such as family birthdays and anniversaries), telephone numbers, postal codes, car registration numbers and so on.  But DO NOT write down your password or use the “remember password” feature in any Web browser.

 So . . . a password can’t anything to me, but I must remember for 30 days until I change it to a new meaningless phrase that I also can remember, but which does not repeat any password I’ve used in the past.

 Holy crypto, Batman.  Did I get transferred to the NSA without realizing it?

 Joe Doakes

Who knows a government operation better than a government IT department?

It’s a rhetorical question.

For The DSM7

There are two types of people in the world:

Type 1: People who don’t sort people into elaborate taxonomies.

Type 2: People who DO sort people into elaborate taxonomies.

  • Type 2a: People who create taxonomies for a living
    • Type 2a1: People who do it for academic purposes
    • Type 2a2: People who do it as market research
    • Type 2a3: People who do it for illicit purposes (arguments exist over whether this is a separate subclass)
  • Type 2b: Those who create taxonomies for recreational purposes
    • Type 2b1: Those for whom the exercise is a study in human nature
    • Type 2b2: Those for whom it’s a study in order and structure that could apply to any group or set.
  • Type 2c: Those who create taxonomies due to mental illness
    • Type 2c1: Obsessive-compulsives
    • Type 2c2: Obsessive “Sorters”
    • Type 2c3: Classic overanalyzers

That is all.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

There are 10,000 sworn officers employed in Minnesota.  They shoot an average of 10 people per year for the past 15 years  No police officer was charged in any of those deaths.   There are 200,000 Minnesotans with valid permits to carry a firearm.  The Violence Policy Center (a gun-control advocacy group) tracks their offenses going back to 2008.  Permit holders shoot an average of 2 people per year.   Four permit holders have been charged with crimes (two are pending).

Police shoot 1 person per 1,000 cops.  Permit holders shoot 1 person per 100,000 permit holders.  Permit holders shoot fewer people in total, and fewer people per capita, than police. Minnesota police are 100 times more likely to shoot somebody than Minnesota pistol permit holders.

 Minnesota police shooters are never charged, just like FBI shooters are never charged.  That could be because no Minnesota law enforcement officer has ever made a mistake;  it could be because of institutional bias shielding members of the law enforcement community from the consequences of their mistakes; or it could be because the law gives police officers special privileges that are denied to permit holders.

 What is the correct procedure when an officer is approaching a vehicle during a traffic stop?  Hand on pistol, just in case the driver is a threat to the officer.

 What is the correct procedure when the driver identities himself as a cop?  Most likely, the officer can take his hand off his pistol because even though the driver has a gun, that particular driver is not a threat to the officer.  If the officer wants the driver out of the car, what’s the procedure to secure a fellow officer’s gun — take it away or let him keep it?

 What is the correct procedure when the driver identifies himself as a permit holder?  Statistically, that driver is even less likely to be a threat to the officer than when the driver is a cop.  Shouldn’t the “not-a-threat-to-the-officer” procedure be similar – hand off the pistol?  If the officer wants the driver out of the car, what’s the procedure to secure a permitted carrier’s gun – take it away or let him keep it?

 If the procedures are not identical, why not?  If the statistics show permitted carriers are less likely to shoot than fellow cops, why is the procedure different?  Tribalism, loyalty to the Blue Line Clan?  Stereotyping?  That’s not a rational basis for treating safer people worse.

 If there were a rational basis for a difference in procedures, how should they differ?

 And most importantly of all, how do we inform officers and permitted carriers of the procedure, to make sure that nobody dies from mis-communication?

 Joe Doakes

It’s the second-scariest thing about carrying.

This Calls For Clippy

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I got sick of Microsoft pelting me with emails so I downloaded the free upgrade to Windows 10.  Naturally, the software developers couldn’t resist “helping” and “improving” by moving things around.

 Control Panel still exists, but it’s not called that.  It’s in “Settings” and you get there by left-clicking the “Windows” icon in the lower left (formerly the “Start Button”) to bring up the “Life at a Glance” panel of icons that includes the “Cog” which looks like a gear wheel to me.  Left-click that to get to another page of groupings and click around those icons until you find the Control Panel feature that you wanted in the first place. 

 Not an improvement, in my opinion.  They’ve made it harder to find, probably intentionally, so that mere users don’t change the default settings approved by the god-like geniuses who set up the new user interface.  After all, I don’t own the software, I merely have a license to use it, when it feels like working, which is not all the time.

 “Task Manager” doesn’t show up at all and I can’t figure out why not.  What – the developers think the apps will never hang up?  I’ll never need to crash a program to get out of it?  Nonsense, it’s Windows, of course they’ll hang and of course I’ll need to crash them.  Already have.  But to get that power, you must to right-click the black stripe at the bottom of the screen (the “Task Bar”) to bring up an alternate context menu in which Task Manager is one choice.  Nobody tells you that, it’s not in the help menu, I had to find it on YouTube.  Windows REALLY doesn’t want the mere operator messing around with useful stuff like how to get the computer working again.

 I know, I could spend the money on Apple which would work first time, every time, but I hate how fascist they are (Ve haf made ze settings unt you vill use zem unt you vill like zem and you vill not change zem, verstehen sie?).  Or I could learn to use Ubuntu or Red Hat or Linux and spend the rest of my life fighting with incompatible software workarounds.  Or buy a Chromebook and give my every thought to the Democrats (technically the federal government bureaucracy, but that’s pretty much the same thing nowadays). 

 I just want it to work.  It doesn’t seem like so much to ask.

 Joe Doakes

I work in “User Experience Design” for my day job – it’s a fancy term for “making software suck less for real people”.  I read stories like this, and hear “permanent job security”.

Journalism We Can Use

Journalist tries – and miserably fails – to keep up with Winston Churchill’s daily drinking pace

…and, in the process, indulges in some journalism, popping a few myths about Churchill’s drinking.  His celebrated whiskey-and-sodas before noon included just enough whiskey to wet the bottom of the tumbler; his two bottles of champagne a day were pint-sized, not the liter or larger sized bottles common today.

But still, the guy drank a lot.

Oh, just read it.

Random Curiosity

I was bored the other night, so I started watching random old films on Youtube.

One of them was a documentary of sorts about an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam, from fifty (!) years ago.

And I thought I’d borrow a page from Lileks; I grabbed the first name I could actually read, and decided to see what the internet could find me.

The first name I registered on was the pilot of the last plane in this clip (an A4 Skyhawk) – Lt. Junior Grade Dave Griggs:

Sure enough, he’s out there.   He went on to become an astronaut – and in April of 1985, conducted the first unscheduled  spacewalk in history – accompanied by Utah Senator Jake Garn, the first sitting Congressman in space.

He was killed in a private plane accident in 1989.

I need more hobbies.


SCENE:  Mitch BERG is walking out of the downtown Saint Paul Dunn Brothers coffee. He runs into Chuck DUUUUHHHH,  third-shift Twitter operator for “Minnesotans for Rand Paul”.

DUUUUHHHH:  Hey, Merg!  Did you seen the NEWS of the hotel FIRE in DOOBBAI?

BERG:   Well, yeah – but before we get to that, I gotta say I’m amazed that you actually talk like you type on Facebook and Twitter, with occasional interjections in all caps.

DUUUUHHHH:   Ha HAH.  So there was a building fire, but it wasn’t hot ENOUGH to melt STEEL.  Why DIDN’T the hotel fall TO the ground?

BERG:  Because the fire was apparently in the cladding, on the facade, and never had a chance to weaken the structural steel.

DUUUUHHHH:  Because steel melts at 2000 DEGREES FARRENHEIGHT, and so it didn’t LIQUIFY the GIRDLES.

BERG:  Girders.

DUUUUHHHH:  THAT is your opinion!

BERG:  Sure, whatever.

DUUUUHHHH:  So by your logic, since it wasn’t not enough TO liquify steel, the HOTEL should HAVE fallen to the ground! Like Building SEVEN!

BERG:  That’s kinda a non-sequitur.

DUUUUHHHH:  That’s JUST your opinion!  You’re not an engineer!

BERG:  No, that’s true.  But I have some command of basic logic.   Look – you see to be of the opinion that if every skyscraper fire doesn’t end in a complete implosion, then 9/11 was an inside job.

DUUUUHHHH:  Don’t be a sheeple!   The GOVERNMENT lies to people all THE time!  Why would a building fall when jet fuel doesn’t burn hot enough to melt steel?

BERG:  Sure, government lies. No argument

But steel doesn’t have to melt to be a problem. Steel loses its strength and becomes basically pliable hundreds of degrees below its melting point:

DUUUUHHHH: He’s no engineer!~ And that doesn’t explain why all three BUILDINGS fell inside their FOOTPRINCE.

BERG: All three buildings transferred their weight via a web of girders to their central cores, which transferred the weight to the ground. Since the weight is all going down the middle of the building, where would you expect them to fall?

DUUUUHHHH:  That’s just your opinion!  You’re JUST closing your mind to all the engineers AND physicists who QUESTION the OFFFICIAL 9/11 story!

BERG:  And you’re closing yours to the many engineers who point out that steel bends at a lower temp than jet fuel burns, and that buildings fall in the direction their weight transfers, absent some other force.

DUUUUHHHH:  But you’re ignoring the fact THAT steel melts at 2000 degrees!

BERG: I answered that above.

DUUUUHHHH:  And why did all three buildings FALL INSIDE their own footprint?

BERG:  We just talked about that.

DUUUUHHHH:  And why DID THE buildings collapse when the TEMPERATURE wasn’t enough TO LIQUIFY steel?

BERG:  Um…?

DUUUUHHHH:  And without getting STEEL UP to 2000 degrees, it had to be a controlled demolition, OTHERWISE how do you explain the building FALLING IN its footprint?

BERG slowly tiptoes away. 


Caliber Of Argument

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When President Obama and Candidate Hillary succeed in imposing their Australian plans to confiscate pistols and ban ammunition, dealers in banned substances will have an easier time supplying their customers: everyone will use the same caliber ammunition.  “Hey man, I’ll take some weed, a couple hits of coke and throw in a box of nines.”   One stop shopping, like having a Wal-Mart in the trunk of a tricked-out Buick.  Handy.

Let’s not kid ourselves, we know what’s at work here and it has nothing to do with ballistic science.

John Browning gave the world true pistol stopping power when he invented the .45 ACP and nothing invented since is as effective at delivering raw knock-down power in a controllable low maintenance hand-held package.

But it takes a big hand to wrap around the .45, a strong grip to control it, and strong will to calmly place 7 shots in vital spots rather than spray-and-pray in a panic.  The .45 is fine for well-trained soldiers which is why special forces love it; not so good for small FBI chicks which is why the feds first adopted the watered-down .40 S&W and now are going to the even softer 9mm.

I don’t dispute that modern 9mm home defense hollow points work better than 9mm military ball ammo.  They should: they’re designed for a different purpose.  The military round wounds a guy so his buddies must carry him to the field medics, taking three soldiers out of a battle that my soldiers then win by attrition.  The home-defense round puts a guy on the floor now, because I have no soldiers and can’t afford to suffer any attrition.  So sure, the modern 9mm self-defense round works better than the old 9mm military round.  But is it better enough to switch down from the .40 S&W, must less the venerable .45 ACP?

Let the argument begin.

Joe Doakes

The amount of training it takes to overcome the natural human response to an adrenaline dump is amazing – and they’re finding out that people who get through selection for units like the SEALs, Delta, the SAS and the like are born with a biochemical trait that allows them to drive, rather than be driven by, adrenaline.

All by way of saying – being a regular schlub who is most definitely driven by adrenaline, I’ll take a big magazine over big caliber.

If I have to choose.

Which, currently I do not.

And let’s us good guys and gals all bear down and keep it that way.

Hot Gear Friday: The Tool, And The Craftsman

Today’s “hot gear” is, along with the Bowie knife and the K-Bar, perhaps the most legendary piece of cutlery in the business – the Khukri.

The Khukri is a strange knife, to western hands; oddly-balanced, weirdly-shaped, more of a machete than a knife.  It looks, and to western sensibilities, feels odd.

So clearly, the legend is less in the hardware than in the software.

The Khukri is the traditional blade of the “Gurkhas” – members of tribe from rural Nepal that, in 1815, not only stymied a British/Indian invasion, thus securing Nepalese independence, but so impressed the would-be conquerors that it led to an agreement to allow the Brits to recruit tribe members into the British Army.  Being selected into a Gurkha regiment is not only one of the greater honors in the tribe – it’s also the only career path that doesn’t involve farming and raising yaks.

Given a choice between living more or less the same way they did a thousand years ago, or jetting into the 21st century (or 19th, for that matter), getting into the Army is an incredibly competitive process.  And it shows; the Gurkhas have been an elite force in the British Army for the 200 years since.   Sometimes they step beyond “elite” to just plain legendary.

But here – learn some more:

Autonomy And Its Victims

Back in the storied history of this blog, there was a liberal blogger who fancied himself a transit advocate – indeed, was alleged to have taken money from light rail interests to attack, using his various sock-puppet blogs, not only opponents of light rail, but proponents of any competing type of transit.

Among some of his many howlers over the years, the leftyblogger claimed – repeatedly – that I was a supporter of “Personal Rail Transit”, notwithstanding the fact that I repeatedly wrote I did not.   “His” “reasoning” was apparently that Michele Bachmann once parenthetically noted some interest in PRT, and Bachmann is a conservative, and I’m a conservative, so I must also support it.  To be fair, it wasn’t the least logical the little fella ever got.

But I always opposed PRT.

Part of it is, and has always been, that I think PRT’s supporters underestimate or underreport the technical challenges of having “just in time” personal rail service on a city-wide network of tracks.   Also the costs.

Part of it is that I don’t care; I’d rather have a steering wheel in my hand.

But the biggest reason I’ve never supported PRT was that I believed that the private market will provide a way to power cars from hydrogen and guide them with software decades before the government can put tracks of any kind, ultralight and personal or heavy and East-Germanlike, from anywhere people are to anywhere they actually want to go.

And, as usual, I’m right.

Not that I’ll ever buy one.  Trusting my safety and schedule to a bunch of programmers is only marginally better than trusting them to government transit employees.

Doakes Sunday: Retro

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Stole this from Brad Torgersen’s Facebook page (he’s a SF writer, one of the people who ran Sad Puppies).

Windows disc


It’s probably only funny to those of us old enough to remember, but I found it hilarious . . . .


Joe Doakes

I wonder if my kids would even remember what a floppy drive is?


Food For Thought

After a year or two ofdabbling I pretty much swore off Food Porn shows. They’re all pretty much the same, and the whole “foodie” culture has come to annoy the bejeebers out of me.

Since I stopped paying attention to the whole genre years ago, I wasn’t familiar with Food Network star Alton Brown.

Reading this profile in the NY Times, I wish I had encountered him earlier. He eschews “foodie” culture – at least partly on religious, as well as aesthetics, grounds – and is want to show businesses few “out” shooters.

It’s worth a quick read..

Much Ado About Who Gives A Crap?

The biggest story in the world today?   As ISIS saws off Christians’ heads, and Planned Parenthood does the same for babies, and the nation lurches toward a Presidential election that, if it were held at this moment according to the results of junk media polls taken six months before caucuses and 15 months before the election, would be a contest between the star of a real reality show and the co-star of a virtual reality show?

Ashley Madison’s data breach.

Ashley Madison is, of course, a website purportedly devoted to helping married people find extramarital amoreuses.  And the hint that some of the people ostensibly busted in the breach were famous “family values” crusaders (notwithstanding the high likelihood that they were fake accounts) had the usual social-lefty suspects aroused to a fever pitch; social conservatives straying from their message is the social-lefty’s hard-core pornography.

What this episode shows us is that lots of Americans – including many who design and build websites – are illiterate about data security.

Among other things:

Tech tabloid editors are foaming at the mouth, just thinking about finding something that’ll implicate someone they know. You’ll have hundreds, if not thousands, of people downloading the torrent file to see if their loved ones, or boss, local priest, sister, father, scout leader, or public figure’s names are in the cache. It’s hard to feel even a morsel of remorse for any cheating hack husband, wife, or partner who gets caught out.

But, even the worst people in this society should expect — and deserve — privacy.

It’s certainly hard to defend a cheating spouse.

But I’d nominate a few other people – drug-cartel hit men, late-term abortion providers, serial killers, Sidney Blumenthal, pedophiles, people who hack off other peoples’ heads – for “Worst People In Our Society”.



When I was in high school, I may have been the last generation to actually spend any time watching instructional films.  Not videos – productions shot on film.

Now, my beef is not with the medium on which the production was shot; video versus film is an aesthetic argument, and not one that I’m particularly involved in.

But along about time time video supplanted film, computer animation began to replace an older, more fascinating art – the building of explanatory models.

Explaining complex processes, equations, and mechanical concepts is difficult.  And in a way, I’ve found the plethora of computer-based animations used to do the explaining today are almost too accurate to do a job of explaining complex concepts.

Filling that gap, long before there were any computers, was the operating model.

An operating model took a complex concept, mechanism or process, simplified it, magnified the important stuff while omitting (or deferring) the minutia, and explained it.

And it’s kind of a lost art.

Which was why I loved this film – which explains the function of the auto differential, a bit of mechanical engineering that always amazes me…:

…and this one, which is as good an explanation of pretty much every firearm operating system in the business:

And I can watch them for hours.