Sunday, October 17, 2021

It might help you, or someone you know

I know at least one other person on my friends list has suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, and at least one other from glossopharyngeal neuralgia... 

I have intermittently suffered from both since not long after my cancer began, over a decade ago; and much more frequently since my spinal and peripheral nervous system injuries 5 years ago...  As my cancers get worse, my neuralgias get worse, as they cancers cause inflammation, swelling, and impingement on the nerves in my neck and face.

If you are unfamiliar with these two issues, look them up. They're among the most painful things a human being can experience. Thankfully my experiences with both have generally been relatively mild, with the worst episodes lasting less than 12 hours, of a few seconds to a few minutes, a few time an hour.... and most being much less severe than that.

The best I can describe it... Its like being stabbed by a red hot needle made of lightning and coated in liquid nitrogen ice, repeatedly, and deeply, inside your jaw, ocular orbit, cheek, and tongue... and sometimes down into your neck.... and the lightning makes your muscles seize and lock, or spasm repeatedly, including sometimes making your jaw snap shut then open frequently.

However, this time around the glossopharyngeal neuralgia has been particularly bad... Enough so my care team was suggesting surgery to literally burn out the nerve junction to my tongue to prevent me from biting through my tongue again (I've bitten cleanly through a portion of my tongue twice during the facial seizures caused by these neuralgia).

We are currently trying a last ditch combination of drugs that sometimes work for some people, to prevent these seizures, and generally reduce the frequency and severity of these neuralgias... They only work about 20% of the time, but its better than risking permanent partial facial and tongue paralysis or reduced mobility...

...And in my case, it seems to be working... 

The drug combo is a maximum tolerated therapeutic dosage of a combination of gabapentin, amitryptilene, and nifedipine. Two of them in combination helped a little bit, but all three of them combined is DRAMATICALLY reducing the frequency, duration, and severity of neuralgia attacks.

The trigeminal neuralgia is almost completely gone... maybe a few seconds to a few minutes a couple times a week right now... and the glossopharyngeal is DRAMATICALLY reduced. 

It had got to the point where it was happening almost every day at least a few minutes a day, and some days it was going on for hours and hours, every few minutes, to the point where I couldn't sleep, but was so exhausted I couldn't wake up. .... And so long as I remember to take all three in the proper dosages at the proper times, it's barely happening at all. Whereas if I miss a dosage of one of the drugs. I WILL be quite painfully reminded of it a few hours later.

But hey... it helps... a LOT... and its not neurosurgery on my face... so win win, and hopefully this can help someone else too.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Been putting this off as long as I could...

Well... I've been putting it off as long as I could, both because I'm really needed at work, but also because it means a 40% pay cut, even if it's only temporary.... but last night, I finally had to file the paperwork for short term disability, due to my cancer, cancer treatment, and side effects.

At this point I just can't work. I can't maintain any kind of consistent times of being awake and functional, nor can I do so consistently for even 8 hours a day, never mind a "normal" 16 hours a day of wakefulness, and of course any kind of work schedule just isn't possible.

I've been working from my sick bed most of this year, and there's no way I'd have been able to work a "normal" office job or schedule, but working entirely from home with a flexible schedule, I've been able to manage it. 

Up until this second infusion I was generally able to do 3 consistent days per week, and fill in the other hours as I could... But now, I just can't do it.... and likely won't be able to do so for the next 2-3 months... 

...And that's presuming the treatments actually work... not a foregone conclusion at this point...

So, after I burn off my remaining sick days and vacation days, I'll start up to 26 weeks of short term disability leave, which as I said will mean a 40% pay cut, which is going to be more than a little bit tight. But at least I'll be able to stop worrying about work and focus on trying to stay alive, and maybe get better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

You have to pay attention

Remember, even the best doctors make mistakes, as do pharmacies.

On Friday I had my second followup with my Oncologist, before my second immunotherapy infusion. 

During that followup, we added a new medication to my stack, nifedipine, which is sold under several different trade names, including nifiprim. 

I have intermittent moderate to  severe esophageal stenosis and esophageal spasms, moderate to severe vasospasms including reynauds syndrome, moderate to severe peripheral neuralgia, and moderate to intermittently severe craniofacial neuralgias including trigeminal and glossopharyngeal neuralgia; all of which can be ncredibly painful, and at times potentially life threatening (because they can cause choking, vomiting, and restriction of the airway); and all of which are due to nerve damage and nerve impingement by my tumors on the nerves going through my neck.

Nifedipine is a calcium channel blocker, whose primary purpose is to reduce blood pressure and tachycardia. Generally, the preferred calcium channel blocker drug for that purpose is Amlodipine, which is also sold under several trade names but most commonly in America its Norvasc. Secondarily however, nifedipine can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of vasospasms, esophageal spasms, trigeminal and glossopharyngeal neuralgia, and reynauds syndrome.  

Norvasc is great at reducing certain expressions of high blood pressure and tachycardia. And I DO have tachycardia caused by a combination of pain, nerve damage, and side effects of my medications. However Norvasc also causes or dramatically worsens peripheral edema, and can worsen edema generally, and it can actually worsen the spasms I need the nifedipine to make better. 

I already have SEVERE edema, both peripheral and central trunk edema, as well as some intermittent pulmonary edema often very significant lymphedema... Which combined can be severe enough to the point where Norvasc could actually seriously harm me, including potentially life threatening harm. Notably, it would also almost certainly make the spasms caused by nerve impingement MUCH WORSE. 

At some point, between the docs notes, and the pharmacy, instead of Nifedipine, the more commonly prescribed Norvasc got filled for me. 

...I noticed this was wrong review8ng the insurance claim in my insurer's web portal, before I even went to the pharmacy to pick it up, and immediately called the docs office. They're resubmitting the correct medication this afternoon, and it should be available at the pharmacy tomorrow. 

No harm, no foul... mistakes happen...

However, If I had been a typical patient who just takes whatever the pharmacist gives them and maybe follows the instructions on the bottle... If I hadn't paid attention and double checked, and been my own informed and aware advocate for my own health, I could have literally induced congestive heart failure, from the wrong medication. At best, I would have made my pain much worse, without knowing why. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Papers and Letters and Keywords, Oh My!

"Hey your resume is really impressive, my client would love to have your experience on board, but you really need to have this one specific certification you don't mention, do you have XXXX?"

"Hey Chris, I noticed you don't have this particular certification that we sell. I'm sure it would be really valuable for your career"

As of this past April, minus a few digressions and diversions, I've been doing this for 30 years... Literally since high school. I have a masters and 95% of a PhD in this field (everything but the thesis defense, which I'm probably not going to bother with because my program got canceled and I don't feel like starting over somewhere else). I've been TEACHING professional certification classes in this field for more than 20 of those years, and intermittently teaching various topics in this field at the undergrad and graduate level for more than 15 of those 30 years. I have been a keynote speaker at events for other people with similar experience who do the same thing, and my list of talks and publications is in my resume... Or rather a short abbreviated list is, because the full list runs to multiple pages. 

I NEVER stop training... I'm training myself both formally and informally, constantly. I've taken dozens of hours of training across a half dozen different vendors or subtopics in my field, in the last year alone. I haven't bothered taking the certification exam for any of them, because I haven't felt like paying the fee to do so. 

The last time I actually NEEDED a cert, was well over 15 years ago. Anything I got since was either because I wanted it, or because an employer or client contractual requirement specified I have it... and I REALLY hate that. It's just silly frankly. Again... I literally TEACH these certifications, and probably have been teaching them since before most of you or your clients people have been in IT. 

Hell... 95% of my job isn't technical at all... I just need to know the tech side, to even know what conversation to have with who. 

Most of what I do, is act as a relationship counselor between multiple groups of people, most of whom are trying to do the right thing, and either can't figure out what that is, or have conflicting ideas about what that is, or just can't see how to get there from where they are.... Most of the rest of what I do, is making sure that my employers and clients can't be successfully sued, or screwed over by auditors or regulators. 

The other 5% that actually IS purely technical, is what I was doing part of last week and the week before...

Which was working 6 days a week 20 hours a day, unbuggering a complex firewall and IDS infrastructure, including enterprise management and monitoring thereof, built across 19 international sites, and four different endpoint security platforms, that hadn't been built right in the first place, and hadn't been properly maintained since 2017... All without taking any production impacting outage. I had to get that infrastructure to a stable, current, and supportable state, so that I could ensure if anything went catastrophically wrong I could get vendor supoort; then decommission the existing on premises mangement and monitoring systems; building and deploying new management and monitoring cleanly, into a hybrid public private cloud infrastructure; all in time for the emergency shutdown of the primary management site for that infrastructure. And THAT had to be done in just over a week (instead of the two month I had been planning on taking to do the job) because they hadn't planned on shutting that site down down 'til September, but suddenly had to shut down by the end of June instead, because it was that or pay a year's worth of additional lease and contract penalties. 

...And I was the one who had to do it, because I'm the only guy in the entire company who knows any two of the four platforms in question (all four actually but nobody else in the company knows more than one of them) well enough to actually unbugger it (and yes, it was well and thoroughly buggered)... and because having anyone else mucking about with it while I was unbuggering it, would have just buggered it up worse.

I don't HAVE the certs in those four platforms... I TEACH those four platforms... at WELL beyond the level required for any of those vendors certifications. I haven't bothered renewing any of those vendor certs in years, unless I had to to teach the certification class. 

So yeah... Its always amusing when a recruiter says "Oh do you have this cert" to me... or even funnier, when someone is trying to sell me on a new cert.

Yeah... Did you ACTUALLY read my resume, or did you just do a keyword search and see I matched more than three of your keywords?

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Independence Day

Today is not veterans day, or memorial day, or remembrance day... 

It is not a day of mourning, or of thanks, but a day of recognition, celebration, and exultation...

Today  is the day we recognize, and celebrate our independence, as the only nation in all of history founded on the notion, that the only form of legitimate government, is that which is based on recognizing, securing, protecting, and defending; the fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing, unalienable individual rights of man... 

... and deriving it's just powers from the same... 

... a government of the people, by the people, for the people...

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people, AS INDIVIDUALS...

...all created equal, and with equal and unalienable rights...

...Not to secure, protect, and defend, society, or collective, or even nation... 

...but the individual rights of man...

To my knowledge we remain the only nation so dedicated. 

Our revolution began April 19th 1775, at Concord and Lexington... 
...a day we in New England celebrate as Patriots Day...
Our independence was officially declared July 4th 1776... 
...the day we celebrate today, as independence day...
Our revolution was won, with the surrender at Yorktown, October 19th 1781...
...six years and six months, of mud, blood, and toil, from the day it commenced...
Our new nation was made whole, and strode forth under our Constitution, March 4th, 1789...

In the last 242 years,  millions of service men and women have fought, and over a million of them have died; fighting to secure, protect, and defend, those fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing individual rights of man.

...Every single day in this country...and around the world... 
...millions still fight for those rights... whatever way they can, according to their own gifts and abilities, and their own circumstances, whatever they may be...
...whether by bullet and blade, by badge or by ballot... 
...whether by words on a page, or spoken on stage... 

For all of my brothers and sisters who have fought, and all who have died... 

For all who are still fighting today, at home and abroad...

Whether you're here today celebrating with family and friends...

Whether you're lost and alone out there...

... and if you are, rest assured we are coming for you brothers and sisters, to bring you home...

Whether we'll meet again the other side of the veil, and share this toast with those who live forever, on fiddlers green... 

Today, I lift my glass, in honor of those who fought...

Today I lift my glass in honor of those still fighting, at home and abroad...

Today I lift my glass in  honor of absent companions, and fallen comrades... 

Today, I lift my glass, to celebrate  our independence day.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Invaluable Phone Rescue Tool

Did you know that you can discharge a smartphone so deeply, that it won't take a charge again, from any charger?

Or actually, almost any lightning or usb-c powered/charged device... Because they don't support completely dumb charging at all. 

In order for a usb-c or lightning port to actually allow power to flow, there has to either be two way communication between the charger and the device, or the port controller has to at least detect that the cable is good, and doesn't have too much or too little resistance or impedance (meaning no dead loads or dead shorts). The port literally won't accept power, and the charger won't send it. 

This is a safety measure, because USB-C and lightning, are both omnidirectional and water resistant ports. So the port and charger both try to make sure they arent going to short out, or cause a fire etc... before they let all but the tiniest test current flow. 

Anyway... its possible to drain a battery enough, that when you plug in the usb-c or lightning cable, either the port controller just won't work period; or the battery or safety circuit can attempt to draw too much power from the port at startup, such that the communication is disrupted, or the port goes into safety shutdown.

Now, it's certainly possible for the designers to design around that... They just don't bother usually. 

This means that if your phone dies completely, to the point where it won't light up at all, or register a button press at all etc... Then you leave it in that state for days or weeks... When you next plug it in, it may not take a charge at all, even on a theoretically completely dumb charger. 

Now... Sometimes you can bring a device back from that state, by just plugging it in to a higher powered dumb charger (or a more intelligent smart charger) that supports your phones supported charging voltages and amperage (some phones can now draw as much as 28w in superlatives charge mode, but most top out at between 7w and 15w) making sure it doesn't get too hot when you do, and then let it sit for a while (as in hours and hours... overnight etc...).... But sometimes, it just won't work, period.

As it happens, my girlfriend, and one of my other housemates, have done this to multiple devices... They tend to run devices down to almost shutting odd before charging, and they also tend to lose devices for days at a time... Which in combination, tends to induce that "won't charge no matter what" state.

There is however, a workaround... 

This little thing, is a USB testing device. It can measure electrical characteristics of a USB port, cable, or charger, in real-time. 

I have several of this type of device, and I usually use them to test USB ports, chargers, cables, and devices, for their charging ability, power delivery ability etc... No new USB device gets plugged into anything I care about, without my checking it out on one of these testers first. Because USB kill devices exist, and because bad USB devices can kill a computer or a charger, right quick. 

This one... an AVHzY CT-3 ($66 plus shipping from the company store, or about $70 prime at amazon) also has some neat additional functions, like 10,000 point data logging, external load testing, output of all measured parameters to your PC, an oscilloscope on the USB power lines; and critically, full protocol control and triggering for every common charging mode from every common vendor. 

Which means you can plug it in to a high powered charger (I've got it plugged into a 100w MacBook charger right now), plug the output into a dead phone, go into triggering mode, and force a charge down the line without doing a safety shutoff or allowing communications to be disrupted and stop the charge etc...

Using this trick I have been able to resurrect two phones that were otherwise dead, in just the last few hours. And now, I can use them as spare phones, or do things like, convert them into media streaming devices, or remote monitored cameras and microphones... or trade them in on a new device and get as much as $200 credit... just off the top of my head.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The most important technological development in... wow

The most significant science and engineering advance in... Certainly my lifetime, and I would say... Probably the last 90ish years, if not the last 250 years... has just been announced. 

Yes, really. 

Here it is...

In a shockingly understated manner, almost deliberately minimizing the importance of the discovery, presenting it as important but limited to just the aerospace field (which it is absolutely not)... a team at the University of Central Florida, has announced that they have developed a way of shaping a lightweight, passive, reaction chamber, such that they can maintain stable control of hypersonic turbulent detonation of high energy explosive fuels. 

This is potentially as significant a development as ANYTHING humanity has discovered or developed since the steam engine.... and may in fact be comparable to, and as significant as that.

Imagine that instead of powering your 4000 pound car with a 4 liter, 400 pound gasoline engine the size of a dishwasher, making 400 horsepower, with 400 miles of range, out of 14 gallons of petrochemical gasoline; that previously 4000 pound car is now a 3000lb car, with an 60lb engine the size of say... a toaster oven.... delivering that same 400 horsepower and 400 miles of range, out of 200cc displacement, and a single gallon of a self oxidizing synthetic liquid explosive.... Rocket fuel basically. 

Yes, really.

I literally cannot describe to you, how amazing, important, fundamentally altering to human life and civilization, this development could be.

If it works as claimed... Even if the first few implementations don't work... or it takes the first few DECADES of implementations to get it right (as almost every other huge fundamentally transformative technology has) if the PRINCIPLE works... It COMPLETELY revolutionizes hundreds of fields, and categories, of engineering and science; and creates dozens of new offshoots of those fields. 

This is not hyperbole... this discovery hhas the potential to radically transform almost every aspect of human life; as the steam engine, the electrical generator and motor, the internal combustion engine, the rocket motor,, and the steam and gas turbines have (including jet engines)... and in fact even more, because it can also be used for manufacturing and creation of new products and materials not previously practical or even possible to manufacture.

...The chemical processes alone... The mind boggles.

But the most important possibility?

This opens the way to controlling, and much more efficiently capturing, the energies released by fusion reactions.... More directly converting the heat energies of fusion plasmas (and other high energy heat fluids) into kinetic energy, recovering much more of that energy, than using it as waste heat to boil water for steam turbines... Because the heat bearing the working fluid itself, without intermediate working fluids. 

That is... So incredibly fundamentally transformative of our ability to create and exploit energy.... When I said it was the most important technological development since the steam engine, I may have been understanding it.

Yes... Really.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Potentially better news

I had my first meeting and first sample collection for the first series of genetic testing, with my new oncologist. 

She's one of the leading oncologists in biologic and genetic immunotherapies. The good news is she thinks that yeah, the large defined mass circled in green is almost certainly cancer, but there's a good chance the orange stuff is either not cancer, or is not sufficiently advanced that it I wouldn't be a good candidate for immunotherapy, and that I have a good chance of responding well to it. Maybe double or triple the chance of surviving a year or more than my surgeon was thinking... 

...If... and it's a BIG IF... 

...the genetic testing comes back showing that I am a good candidate and the cancer is the right kind of cancer with the right genetic and molecular makeup.

Oh and yeah, there's apparently new kinds of pathology and new kinds of molecular testing of the cancer tissues that helps them tailor the treatment exactly to your cancer, with biologic or genetic immunotherapy. 

I'm having a biopsy in the next few days or week and they'll send that tissue out for both genetic and molecular analysis, as well as conventional pathology. Those various series of tests are going to take 3 to 6 week.

So... yeah... I'll know more in 3-6 weeks

Monday, May 03, 2021

Time to go BACK to War

 I had a consult with my oncological surgeon... and it was pretty bad news. 

What it comes down to, is about an 85% chance that I'll be gone within a year, and about a 15% chance of survival. 

I'm attaching two pictures here. These are frames from my PET scan with contrast. The hotspots circled in red are definitely cancer, that we already knew about. 

Those are in my neck. The rest, are in my lungs, and that's the problem.

The hotspots in green, are almost certainly cancer... That we didn't know about until the PET scan. It's not confirmed, but it isn't just a hot spot on the contrast, there's also some visible structure in the CT... it's about 85% certain that its cancer. 

... And this cancer would be inoperable. 

The orange hot spots are potentially cancer, because of the hot spotting, but they don't have much or any structure visible in the CT without contrast. They're only about 15% likely to be cancer. However, if they are... then they're likely not treatable, and I likely only have a few fairly unpleasant and painful months left to live. Less than a year certainly. 

If the only new cancer is the green, then theres a good chance that I am a good candidate for immunotherapy. My care team is consulting with several different oncology specialists now, and will get back to me soon with potential treatment options. 

My next year is... likely going to be very difficult, and very painful. If the treatment works, great... but it's gonna REALLY hurt the entire damn time.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to work... My plan is to work as long as I can, and then try to use my short and long term disability insurance... See how that goes.

But what it comes down to... is that I'm probably dying. 

If that happens... I'm OK with it. I came to terms with that back in 2012 when I had just a 4% chance of surviving. 

But my plan, is to survive, at least long enough to see my son graduate college... and he's got another at least 14 years to go... so... time to go back to war. 


I had my first meeting and first sample collection for the first series of genetic testing, with my new oncologist. 

She's one of the leading oncologists in biologic and genetic immunotherapies. The good news is she thinks that yeah, the large defined mass circled in green is almost certainly cancer, but there's a good chance the orange stuff is either not cancer, or is not sufficiently advanced that it I wouldn't be a good candidate for immunotherapy, and that I have a good chance of responding well to it. Maybe double or triple the chance of surviving a year or more than my surgeon was thinking... 

...If... and it's a BIG IF... 

...the genetic testing comes back showing that I am a good candidate and the cancer is the right kind of cancer with the right genetic and molecular makeup.

Oh and yeah, there's apparently new kinds of pathology and new kinds of molecular testing of the cancer tissues that helps them tailor the treatment exactly to your cancer, with biologic or genetic immunotherapy. 

I'm having a biopsy in the next few days or week and they'll send that tissue out for both genetic and molecular analysis, as well as conventional pathology. Those various series of tests are going to take 3 to 6 week.

So... yeah... I'll know more in 3-6 weeks.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Value for Money

On social media, every day, we are bombarded with requests to pay for subscriptions to various content providers... dozens, maybe hundreds even... Most of which I completely ignor, as I'm sure do most of you all. 

For one thing, most sources aren't worth even the short money they usually ask for... certainly the idiots asking for $20 a month aren't worth a damn... and they're so annoying and there are so many of them, they just become background noise that you just condition yourself to tune out... Or they get annoying enough, you just stop fmvisiting those sites.

I have four exceptions... Or at least I used to... Sort of...

...And if you can afford it, and you're reading me, I think you should maybe have a couple as well...

The "sort of" is a subscription I get free with other subscriptions and products I already have and pay for anyway... the New York Times... because God knows I wouldn't pay them a dime of my own money. 

That said, I do read and share a fair bit of their content (along with the Washington Post) being as they are the chief source of content for my social and political opponents.... And frankly shape the thoughts of the left generally to such a significant degree that NOT reading the NYT puts you at a significant disadvantage in trying to understand what the left is thinking and doing, and will be trying to do, and why. 

...Oh and the other website I still read and share a lot of content from, but mostly disagree with on an editorial and philosophical basis (they used to be much less left than they have become over the past couple years)and also would never pay for (because in addition to having become lefty shills,  they're criminal scammers. They use their "news" pages to try to manipulate markets and make money off them, as ZeroHedge does)  Business Insider. 

I strongly recommend no-one actually trust BI on anything regarding business, economics, or politics, and never give them any money, ever. 

That said, I strongly recommend no-one trust ANY source, without independent confirmation... Preferably multiple independent credible and reliable confirming sources, and a lack of credible and reliable contradictory sources... and analyzing those sources against your own knowledge and experience, and your own independent research on the subject, so that you can better understand what is more likely to be true or not be true.

...Be hard to be lied to... 

However, on the positive side, Business Insider still has a lot of great contributing writers, their "not deliberate leftist propaganda" stuff can still be great, and they'll often be the first, or only, non-niche specialist website, writing and publishing new content, or analysis, on a lot of odd subjects. Oj, and also make a lot of good video content (it's available on youtube).

The second, is the "used to" be an exception, and that was the Wall Street Journal. I USED to both read and share their content enough that I felt the $8 a month it was costing me was justified. 

Recently however, they raised their price, and eliminated the bundles and the discounts and bundles they used to have, that kept my price at $8 a month through my last annual renewal. Unfortunately, it's now $174 a year, or almost $15 a month. 

At the same time, both the quantity and the quality of the WSJs online content have diminished, and resultingly, I'm both reading and sharing their content far less. Still a fair bit, but maybe 1/3 of what it was just 2 years ago... certainly less than half.

...So I no longer feel it's a good value.... Which is too bad, as they WERE the single best newspaper in the country, and possibly the world. Frankly... they may still be... Its just the overall state of newspapers has degenerated that much. 

That leaves the two website subscriptions I still actually make an exception for, and actually maintain my paid subscriptions... and have for years... And the two that I think many of my readers should also consider pay for, if they can afford it.

Not coincidentally, they're also the two sources I share the most content from, by a significant margin: National Review, and Reason.

 I'm a libertarian not a conservative. As such, I probably disagree with about 50% of what National Review publishes... 

...And hell, the divisions on the right mean that most people.who identify as conservative probably disagree with about 50% of what they publish, in four different tranches, who all disagree with a DIFFERENT 50%...  

...but there is no better source of generally well reasoned, and generally well written, anti-leftist and pro western culture; content on the web. Full stop... And a subscription is less than $4 a month.  Not even the price of a cup of coffee these days. 

And as I said, I'm a libertarian... Which of course means I also disagree with a lot of what the... by far number one... libertarian website and magazine, Reason, publishes. 

...But... and I'm mostly repeating myself here... 

...There is no better source of generally well reasoned, and generally well written anti-collectivist, anti-statist, and pro individual liberty content on the web, period full stop. Not only that, but a Reason subscription is even CHEAPER... Its got to be the best value for content of any online magazine I know of... at just $1.35 a month. 

Copy pasting from above...  I want to support that, and it costs me almost nothing to do so. In fact, given how much benefit I get from reading their content, and how much I share their content, I absolutely feel some genuine sense of obligation to do so. 

Combined, those two subscriptions cost me about $5 a month... And deliver dozens of hours of entertainment and intellectual stimulation, and dozens of pieces... maybe hundreds of pieces... that I share every month... and help me spread the arguments for individualism and individual liberties and individual rights, and against collectivism and anti capitalism, and authoritarianism. 

...Thats real value to me... I hope it is to you...


Friday, March 19, 2021

Narrative Exploitation and Manipulation

A seriously mentally ill man, spent every dime he had or could steal, habitually frequenting several houses of prostitution.

He snapped, and murdered 8 people... most of them prostitutes... at those houses of prostitution.

Those houses of prostitution were Asian massage parlors.

Were those murders "anti-asian hate crimes and violence"?

Any sane person knows, of course not... 

These murders absolutely WERE violence against women, and violence against sex workers. There is no question of that... and that was clearly WHY this piece of human excrement targeted those women for violence. . 

That these women were Asian was entirely irrelevant to why they were murdered, or why they were targeted for violence; except in that that majority of organized prostitution in most parts of this country is run by Asian criminal networks, and thus the majority of prostitutes in massage parlors and the like, are Asian (many of them having been the victims of human trafficking).

But that is not supportive of the narrative the media and the left want to push right now. So you're not hearing about violence against sex workers... Which is ABSOLUTELY a MAJOR problem in this country... 

...(Somewhere between 30% and 80% of sex workers... depending on what category of sex work they are involved in, where they are, and whether they are a citizen or legal.immigrant, or not... will experience violence against them in some significant way, because they are sex workers. That's not even counting the fact that the majority, or a significant minority, of sex workers involved in prostitution in many areas of the country, are themselves victims of human trafficking)...

... Instead, there is a hysterical hyping of this as an anti-asian hate crime, to push the narrative that there is a wild and out of control surge of anti-asian hate and violence... Supposedly because ignorant stupid unenlightened right wing white Americans, are all white supremacists, and hate all Asians because of Trump and China and COVID etc... etc... 

Which is the most blatant and total BS the media and the left are currently pushing... which is really saying something.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Streamlight gets back in the game

Streamlight finally decided to properly compete against the Surefire Stiletto/Stiletto Pro (which I have, and love by the by):

I'd say it's positioned in between the Stiletto and Stiletto pro, and closer to the Pro in features, but closer to the base model in price.

It's not quite as feature rich as the pro, but in theory has the same light output on max and high... At least for short bursts at max anyway, which is really a HEAT limitation issue. There's just not as much mass of aluminum in the wedge to act as a heat sink, and the Stiletto Pro gets quite hot, surprisingly quickly. 

The Wedge has considerably longer battery life than the Stiletto Pro on 300 lumens (double the run time in theory, probably a fair bit less than that in practice), it's 15% lighter (3.3oz vs 4oz or just 0.5oz heavier than the 2.8oz base model stiletto), and it's a lot narrower (less than half the width in fact), at very nearly the same thickness.

Also, it uses a waterproof USB-C port, which means you get a full IPX7 submersion rating (at least 1 meter for at least 30 minutes), without having to stick a rubber plug or cover over the port (the same mechanism for water resistance your phone probably uses now). It also means MUCH faster charging than the Stiletto or Pro... or at least potentially so... They'd be silly not to take advantage of that, but manufacturers are sometimes that silly. 

That said, it's also about an inch longer, which may be a little too long for some folks pocket carry. It doesn't SOUND like much... just an inch at just under 5.5" total... But that inch is almost 25% longer; perhaps longer than a womans jeans pocket for example, where the 4.5" stiletto pro may fit perfectly. 

I'd definitely like to get my hands on one, and compare it to my Stiletto Pro... Which happens to be the best pocket light I've ever had, and that's saying rather a lot, since I've had a HELL of a lot of very high end pocket lights (including many from both SureFire and Streamlight). 

If the Wedge is even CLOSE to as good as the Stiletto Pro (or for that matter even the base Stiletto, since it's got much more light output at a longer runtime), then it's a home run; especially given Streamlight tends to price out rather a lot cheaper than surefire at a given feature level. 

The announced MSRP is $150, so the street may be anywhere from $110 to $130 (which is only $20 msrp over the $129/$100 msrp/street base stiletto) and WELL below both the MSRP and the street price of the Stiletto pro ($229 and $200 respectively).

... And that's a GREAT value by any measure, presuming it lives up to the spec sheet, or even close to it. 

UPDATE: There are a number of online retailers advertising it at between $85 and $99... which puts it BELOW the street price of the base model stiletto, and HALF or less than the street price of the pro. Which is INSANELY cheap for that capability. 

Accordingly, I've got my pre-order in... $100 flat, after tax and shipping, expected ship date has been listed by several sites as April 15th, but a couple have it as March 21st. We'll see what the actual date ends up as.

That word? I do not think it means, what you think it means...

 "Oh those RINOs and NEO-CONS won't do anything... we have to purge the party of these spineless unprincipled traitors"

It's kinda funny... I generally find most who use the terms neo-con or RINO, except ironically or as a joke, to be unable to define either in a meaningful way.

Much as George Orwell wrote about the term "fascism" in "Politics and the English Language",   for almost everyone using the terms, "RINO" and "NEO-CON", are just signifiers for "things and people I don't like".

Thing is... The only current Republican members of congress (both house and senate) who can fairly be called "RINO", are Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Brian Fitzpatrick, Chris Smith, John Katko, and Jeff VanDrew (who actually was a democrat until last year).

Everyone else, is absolutely within the "normal spread" of positions for Republicans... That includes Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey, Fred Upton, Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, and most of the other congresscritters (not on the RINO list above) that voted to impeach Trump.

In fact, several of those that voted for impeachment, are notably far MORE conservative than Trump... The first couple I mentioned above have lifetime ratings over 90%  from the American conservative union, and almost always vote with the party (they're available online from )

The first major mistake many make, is in thinking that loyalty to, or agreement with, Donald Trump; is any kind of criteria for being a Republican, or a conservative... Since Trump was and is, neither of those things. Trump is an ACTUAL Republican in name only, and always has been... He was officially a democrat, until he needed to be a Republican, at which point he officially signed up to be a republican... but he never actually changed anything other than the initial beside his name. 

The second, and fundamental mistake however, is in thinking the republican party is actually conservative, or in fact has EVER been conservative, by any meaningful definition of the term (except perhaps, relative to the actual left). 

The Republican party is, and since reconstruction mostly has been, a moderate centrist party about MOST things... Generally averse to change and risk, and generally collegial in reality, regardless of the rhetoric fed to the base for fundraising purposes. 

Even Reagan wasn't ACTUALLY conservative... He talked a good game, but in reality, he was as much a "neo-con" as Bill Kristol.

Barry Goldwater was the closest thing to an actual conservative in the post war Republican party... and he was really more libertarian than conservative by modern sensibilities (though he of course considered himself to be conservative, and was mostly thought of as such in his time). Before Goldwater, you need to go back to Coolidge to get an actual conservative.... and before that... Ummm... 

.... Yeah... Look at the history... The Republican party is NOT conservative, and never really has been. 

Historically speaking, post reconstruction, the majority of the republican party, has been in the mold of Bush the elder, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, and Herbert Hoover... RELATIVELY conservative compared to "progressive" leftists in the democratic party, they're still for Big Government, just not AS big as Democrats. They're still just as paternalist as Dems, only about different things in different ways. They're in favor of plenty of control, intervention, and regulation, on both social and economic issues... because everyone has their "special" cases, and those "special pleadings" add up. 

Reagan was a near literal revolution in the party, and he wasn't even actually that conservative... He was RHETORICALLY conservative, but in fact he governed as what most who identify as "conservative" today (who, mostly, are very definitely NOT conservative in any meaningful way), would call a RINO... Or if they actually knew what the term means, pretty close to a neo-con. He was a free spending, massive debt accumulating, heavily interventionist in domestic affairs, heavily interventionist in foreign affairs, massively intrusive, NON-conservative; by anything like a reasonable definition of the term. He just TALKED about being otherwise... and how that was better.

... Which it IS... but he didn't even try to actually govern that way...

In fact, the Reagan administration and Republican congressional leadership, essentially made what some might consider a "corrupt bargain" with the Democratic senate majority leader Robert Byrd (for the first and last years of his term... the Republicans had a narrow senate majority for 6 of Reagans 8 years) and Democratic speaker of the house during his presidency Tip O'neil (all but the last few months anyway); wherein the Republicans got most of THEIR spending priorities passed through congress and signed by the president, and in exchange, so did the Democrats... and both knew that was happening, so they were able to freely posture, to raise money off "fighting for their constituency", while in reality, there was always a deal to be made.

Which ACTUALLY meant that the government was doing FAR MORE than it had ever done since WW2... And not coincidentally SPENDING far more than it had since WW2, and accumulating FAR MORE DEBT than it had since WW2. 

The fact is, Goldwater and Coolidge were major outliers, and exceptions to the general run of Republican candidates and presidents... and were largely unpopular within the party because of it. 

For that matter, Reagan was also unpopular within the party, until he placated the southern religious social conservatives after his brokered convention loss in '76 (which happened in the first place, because he offended said southern religious social conservatives, in an attempt to gain broad centrist appeal, by selecting a more liberal Republican running mate, and saying a few things the leaders of that block didn't care for...   Had he not pissed off the southern faction of the leadership, Reagan would have won the nomination in '76... but probably lost the presidency).

The social conservatives have never actually been a majority in the party... Only a plurality... A little less than 40% at peak... but they're a very LOUD plurality minority... and those opposed to them are very LOUD too, about how big and bad the social conservatives are; making them seem like they were and are much more powerful and consequential than they actually are... or for that matter, much more conservative, and much more principled and consistent than they actually are. 

... But every national candidate in the Republican party has to make the southern religious social conservatives at least tolerate them, because said southern social conservatives have enough power and mass to BLOCK someone. They can't actually MAKE the king... as I said, they're less than 40%... but they can keep someone from being crowned, and no other single block is able to do so, because no other single block is more than about 25% of the party... Nor is any other single block motivated and organized enough to do so. 

But that doesn't make the party actually conservative, or actually socially conservative, at the national level (local is an entirely different story... State and local level politics are a totally different beast). 

One other thing the party has very firmly NOT been, along with "actually conservative" is POPULIST... In fact, they've GENERALLY been rather the opposite, at least when it comes to national and international issues and policies (local is a different matter entirely). 

Until Trump that is... 

Or at least the Republican party hasn't been populist since the FIRST Roosevelt... who was VERY firmly a populist progressive (Hoover wasn't a populist by nature, but he took some seemingly populist... and quite harmful... actions based on some truly epically bad advice from his cabinet and congressional caucus)... 

Actually, TR would have been a quite "progressive" democrat in the post WW2 period up through the late 60s or so, and he had a disturbing tendency towards fascism (seems to have run in the family).

Hell... TR could easily have been LBJ, or his cousin Franklin...

...He wanted strong social safety nets set up and paid for by government, with socialized pensions and healthcare. He was for strong protectionist tariffs and strongly against free trade. He was pro-union and anti-corporation to a shocking degree, and he was pro-government regulation of almost everything. Read "The New Nationalism", and it's like postwar democrats fantasy platform...

...except that TR was personally moral and ethical, unlike the thoroughly unethical, amoral, and frankly evil, racist rapist that LBJ was.

So... if you're an actual conservative or libertarian or "conservatarian", guess what... YOU are the one who is a Republican in name only.

If you're one of those who is using RINO as an insult to describe Republican party members who aren't at all conservative, you've got the perspective reversed, because THEY ARE THE PARTY; not the conservatives and libertarians, who generally VOTE republican, because they are less awful than the realistic alternatives.

... If you think about what the party actually is, as opposed to what you think it SHOULD BE... Well... RINO... isn't an insult, or at least it shouldn't be. It's kinda like that line "Your boos mean nothing, I've seen what makes you cheer". 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

When is a "Hack" not a hack? How about fraud and negligence?

So... Was the "parler hack" a crime?

Was it even a HACK?

Well...There was almost certainly a crime comitted.... several in fact... but probably not what you might think... or by who you might think.

Because of the comprehensive incompetence and fundamental errors in architecture, design, development, and implementation of the Parler site, services, applications and infrastructure; technically, a very strong argument can be made, that none of the actions the people who accessed (or possibly compromised) the Parler data took in doing so, were actually illegal under U.S. federal law, and the laws of most states.

Effectively, there was no private or confidential data access, because none of the data was actually private or confidential, regardless of whether it was intended to be or legally required to be... the site admins allowed elevated privileged access to be created by unprivileged users, and allowed privileged users to query and retrieve all data within the control of the organization, without properly validated authorization or authentication  

Everything else those accessing the data did, was just scripting those authorized queries to run over and over until they had all the data.

That's not technically illegal, so long as they didnt eliberately circumvent or compromise a policy, wiith a deliberate technical control mechanism enforcing that policy, using an unlawful method. 

...And by any reasonable interpretation of federal law and definitions, and at least most state laws and definitions, the individuals accessing that data didn't so so... Because they didn't have to, because the site devs and admins didn't program or implement any ACTUAL privacy or security controls into the site or the database.... Anyone who knew how to do it, could have done it for themselves, at any time, without bypassing or circumventing anything, or using any outside tools etc... 

The researcher who discovered the data exposure, made her own privileged account, because the site devs and admins didn't implement account controls that would prevent any authenticated user from doing so if they knew how... and privileged accounts were never verified or properly authenticated, and had permissions to do everything else.

...At that point, I don't believe any actual access restriction ornother relevant policy enforcement control, or privacy control, was actually compromised or circumvented by unlawful means... Or for that matter, at all. 

Now... that wasn't the developers or administrators or owners INTENT... but you don't commit a crime for circumventing INTENT.

Its not even a crime to violate policies and terms of service... usually... maybe... depending on many details and variables.

It actually IS a crime to create a new account to circumvent policy, after you have been banned... at that point you are using a technical means to circumvent enforcement of your authorization removal and ban... Even though any user could do so, for any reason, and there isn't anything special about doing so, because you know that you have been banned and are no authorized, an are using technical means... making a new account... to circumvent a technical control... the blocking of your old account... and are accessing such systems without authorization through such circumvention. 

That is explicitly a federal crime "Knowingly unlawfully or improperly accessing a computer system or communications network, without proper authorization".

 If you use such circumvention to do more than a trivial amount of damage, or to intimidate or harass people or commit other crimes, its a fedral felony, under the telecommunications act (originally passed all the way back in 1934 but revised MANY times since) as modified by the computer fraud and abuse act, the USA patriot act, and other related acts and sections etc... etc...

But if a site admin/dev writes a policy that says "users won't use their accounts to gain more access and privileges than they are explicitly granted by admins' that policy won't actually have any force, and violating it won't be a crime... 

at least until you get caught the first time, and kicked, and then log in or make a new account, and try it again, at which case you are knowingly circumventing policy and controls via technical means. 

Even if it was clearly not intended for users to give themselves admin privileges, and gain access to other users daya... even if there's policies that say so explicitly... its not a crime, if the user can do it, without using technical means to circumvent technical controls enforcing those policies.

In this case, they never actually properly implemented such controls. Users were able to make privileged accounts and access other users data, without any technical circumvention... they just had to know job to do so. Nothing else would have stopped them. 

...That means it was almost certainly not a crime... But like I said, there is maybe a little wiggle room for charging something here... 

Oh... But here's the really fun twist...

The Parler site owners, admins, devs etc... ?

They had legal and regulatory requirements under various state, national, and international laws and regulations, to properly and effectively control, secure, and protect, the personally identifiable, private, secure, or confidential or higher data, of its users, employees, partners, and other corresponding entities.

They also had a lawful duty of care, to implement security and privacy controls, at least to the minimum prevailing industry standards of compliance, and generally accepted minimum proper practices, and minimum best practices, for operational protection of personally identifiable, private, or confidential or higher information. 

...In fact, they had state, federal, and international legal and regulatory requirements; as persons of responsibility for the care and protection of the security and privacy of such data; to legally certify, under penalty of perjury, and civil and criminal liability...

... on at least an annual basis (and possibly as often as every 30 days)...

... that they were in fact meeting such minimum standards and practices with policies,, processes, and technical controls, that were in fact effective in doing so.

...When, in fact, they did not have such policies processes and technical controls, that were in place and effective... Or at all...

Which means everyone who signed those certifications, was committing state, federal, and international fraud, breech of trust, and failure of duty of care (and by the by, violation of their own published and stated policies, and the public statements of their persons of responsibility, which extends the fraud, and may also be interpreted as breech of contract or breech of promise, depending on the exact data, the type or individual or organization, their relationship to the organization and the exact laws of the jurisdiction in question)

That...essentially automatically... makes what they did both tortuous civil negligence, and gross criminal negligence.

I say this as someone who does this for a living, advises clients on it professionally, has co-authored many briefs and provided support for many motions, and testified in both depositions and trials; both as an investigator, and as an expert witness on this subject.

All that said... I mean... you always have to take two major factors into account:

1. MOST jurisdictions that I know of, would probably agree with what I wrote above, most of the time, presuming what we now believe we know, holds true... But not necessarily all.

 Some states and other jurisdictions have different legal standards and definitions, under their own  laws and regulations, that could see these various individuals actions in accessing Parlers data,  interpreted by prosecutors and judges, as rising to criminal behavior... Or conversely could interpret the site owners, admins etc... as neither criminally or civilly liable, or that insufficient actual harms had resulted from those otherwise negligent actions such that they would meet thresholds for criminal or civil liability.


2. On any given day, given any particular set of facts, circumstances, and laws, any judge can decide almost any possible way, accounted for under the law... 

...and maybe some not contemplated by the law... 

Or may even simply act flatly outside the law; either because they believe the law is itself in error or improperly interpreted or applied, and that the courts should or must address this defect or defects...

...Or that regardless of any potential legal defect existing or not, that their actions outside the boundaries of the law are in the interest of justice... 

...Or sometimes they just think its the morally or ethically correct thing to do, regardless of the law... That they SHOULD or MUST take such action, regardless of the law, even if they are later reversed, because to do otherwise would be absurd,, obscene, or would tend to shock the conscience (and yes, all of those unusual words and usages are quotes from famous rulings where judges did exactly those things, for those reasons).

A Little Ramble about Liquor

I suppose I'm "lucky" as far as that whole "manly vs. Girly drinks" thing goes...

...Well... Firstly in that I really couldn't give the slightest bit of a damn what other people think about what I drink, or whether its "girly" or not. 

Here's a hint... If you are so concerned about whether other people think you're "a real man" or not... you aren't. 

That aside though... My actual preferences, and what I really enjoy, are on what would generally be considered the "manly" side of things, and I generally don't care for things that would be stereotypically girly.

...Mostly because I like sharper, spicier, more sour, more bitter, more savory, more earthy etc.... flavors, and I generally dislike sweeter and milder or mellower flavors. Though I love "creamy" and "rich" stuff... which I suppose some consider more "girly". 

My favorite alcoholic beverages are weissbiers, and brown, red, or amber ales; dry and sharp or full and buttery hard ciders; unoaked or lightly oaked dry whites or unoaked to moderately oaked (moderate body fruity or spicy, and not too astringent or too sweet) reds; and quality sipping spirits.

Of those, my default choices are hard cider, brown ale, a solid red wine to go with red meat,  and a high proof sipping whiskey.... and MAYBE, on occasion, a dry or sour cocktail or other mixed alcoholic drink

...All of those are pretty much considered "manly" by default...

 My preferred spirits are cask strength or overproof... Meaning they're all over the standard 70-90 proof of most spirits (legally, in the U.S., 80 proof is considered the default standard proof), generally ranging from around 100 proof (50% alcohol) up to 150+ proof (75% alcohol)... Though I'd say the majority of my favorites fall between 110 and 140 proof.

...And by most peoples judgement, that level of alcohol in a spirit, kinda "wins" the "manly vs. girly" test automatically. 

Just generally I don't like drinks that are particularly sweet...Hell, I don't even like my DESSERTS to be particularly sweet. 

As such, most standard proof rums, whiskeys (particularly bourbons, sourmash whiskeys, corn whiskeys, etc...), and tequilas are far sweeter than I like... Even some "dry" gins, are far too sweet for my taste (and almost all Dutch or French style gin/genniver/genevre is). Makers Mark and Jack Daniel's taste like alcoholic brown sugar syrup to me (and in fact my preferred use for either is in making caramels, ice cream, whipped cream, and other sweet sauces and confections). 

Oh... and the caloric content of those spirits bears out my perceptions of sweetness by the by. Bar syrup/bartenders syrup/cocktail syrup (a simple syrup made of sugar boiled in water, with or without some minor additions or modifications, or infused flavors) has appx. 75 to appx. 100  calories per fluid ounce (depending on the exact sugars you used, in the exact proportions you used, and the exact process you used... mostly how long you boiled it for and what temperature, dissolved solids {brix} and specific gravity you boiled it to). Makers Mark has appx. 70  calories per fluid ounce (100% from sugars), which is fairly typical of bourbons (and whiskies in general tend to run between 60 calories and 80 calories per ounce, again all from sugars). In fact, most standard proof brown liquors, distilled from a relatively sugary mash (any kind of molasses or corn based spirit for example), will be very close to a sugar syrup in calories and total sugars. 

All that said, even the driest of neutral spirits, at 80 proof, is going to have something like 52-55 calories per ounce, simply because of the calories in ethanol. 52 is just about the minimum possible calories per ounce, in a spirit that is 40% ethanol.

Pure ethanol itself has about 200 calories per ounce... about 7 calories per gram. Which is actually more than pure glucose, at about 4 calories per gram. Meaning the higher the proof, the more calories a given amount of alcohol is likely to have... But not necessarily more sweetness. 

...But its still a big difference between a very dry neutral vodka or gin at 52-55 calories per ounce, and the as much as 80 calories per ounce you can get in some of the sweeter corn whiskies for example, or the absolutely ridiculous sweetness of many rums, at anywhere from 100 to 140 calories per ounce (more than most liqueurs that have added sugar), at 80 proof.  Ever calorie an 80 proof spirit has over 52, is a calorie from either sugar, or from sugar alcohols formed alongside the ethanol in the mashing and distilling process... and as it happens many sugar alcohols actually taste sweeter than pure glucose. 

Also one should note that a lot of overproof spirits are fortified with extra sugar in their mash, so they can use special varieties of fast eating fast metabolizing yeast that will produce more alcohol in the initial fermentation, and survive longer in a higher alcohol concentration (most yeast will only survive to between 8% and 12% alcohol in the brew, but some varieties can survive to over 20%).  Yes, the yeast eat more sugar to make more alcohol, but its not an even balance, and you need to add more sugar than the yeasts can convert, to ensure they fully expend themselves making as much alcohol as possible. This results in a final mash with more sugar, and more sugar in the final spirit... as well as more of the natural digestible sugar alcohols that  go along with all ethanol production and distillation. 

-----A long but hopefully interesting aside-----

...All of the above actually reminds me of the few very sweet, and particularly very few explicitly sweetened with added sugars... alcoholic spirits I like.

As it happens, I have been makjng my own cordials and liqueurs, since several years before it was legal for me to buy the main ingredient thereof; having been taught both to enjoy them, and to make them, by a friend in the SCA who made many different kinds himself, and who always brought large supplies of them to society events (he also taught me brewing, mead and winemaking, and a fair bit of what I know about distilling).

Most often I make my own apple pie (and sometimes other types as well...Lemon, coffee, coconut, cinnamon, and vanilla bean are favorites for example. All share in being, strongly flavored, strongly sweetened and STRONGLY alcoholic) from my own secret recipes of sweeteners, spices, and flavorings, and from... lets say, available high proof spirits...

...By that I mean the best quality highest proof spirits I can get, that have either a truly neutral flavor profile, or a complimentary basic flavor profile, to my desired end products flavor profile... If I can actually get some of the true, I'll happily use that and prefer it to other options... but it's kind of hard to come by. Meaning that mostly I use something like Gosling Black Seal Overproof Bermuda Black rum, at 151 proof, or similar, and with a quite nice basic flavor profile of its own (its not harsh at all, in fact its quite smooth and pleasant. It's actually my favorite relatively low cost rum, even for standard rum drinks).

By preference I generally WON'T use Everclear (or its sister product goldengrain) even though its supposed to be 190 proof or 95% ethanol. Though I CAN use it, I generally don't because it doesn't make sense to do so... Because it is entirely unaged and unfiltered (more on that later), everclear has more of the nasty volatile aromatics, congeners, and fusil oils (all natural byproducts of distilling, that aging and filtering tend to reduce or eliminate in more expensive spirits). Thus, everclear ends up having unpleasant harsh flavors and odors that I have to compensate for, by dilute it more, having to use more stronger flavors and sweeteners, and cooking off more of the volatile and more of the alcohol with them, so it ends up not being the 190-ish proof it starts off at anyway. 

In fact, because of those factors,, by the time I'm done compensating and correcting the flaws in the base spirit, it ends up weaker than starting with an actual good tasting overproof liquor at 150ish to 180ish proof.

The same is true to a lesser extent for "lab grade", "medical grade" or "food grade pure" ethanol, which varies from 95% pure, to 99.75% pure, and is sold for making tinctures, extracts, infusions, flavor concentrates etc... in theory it should all be very close to truly neutral.and very close to 100% pure ethanol... But in the real world theres always a small percentage of undesirable elements mix in... and those tend to very WILDLY, from brand to brand or even lot to lot, based on the exact recipe they use, the process they use, even the equipment they use to distil and process the spirit. 

Because Everclear, other ultra high proof liquors (theres a 196 proof liquor on sale that calls itself high proof vodka for example, and several 180 proof rums and vodkas), "neutral grain spirit", and "XXX grade pure ethanol" are all.... to my knowledge, completely "unaged", and in distilled spirit terms "unfiltered" and  "unblended"...

--- Another not quite as long but still long aside about some spirit terminology ---

"Unaged" doesn't necessarily mean exactly what it sounds like. One batch of "unaged" spirit from one brand, may have been distilled, bottled, and delivered to you within a few days or a few weeks. Another brand may have spent weeks or months in "blending" and "mellowing" tanks... even a year or two... And then may have spent years sitting in bottles in "resting" or even ridding racks, in an aging warehouse or laagering cave somewhere... and it may be anywhere from 2 to 12 years old by the time its actually sold to you.... But in the world of spiritous liquors, none of that counts as actual "aging". 

In industry terms, aging requires the spirit be exposed to a slightly porous and permeable environment where solvents in the spirit can interact with soluble elements (almost always wood, or woody plant matter, of some kind in some state, but also may include paper or other textiles, and various minerals), and to a lesser extent the atmosphere and environment around the aging vessel, where volatile vapors can expand and contract, with some escaping and some entering... and with sufficient gas/vapor exchange flow to have some oxygen exchange, and some oxidation, but NOT so much as to have significant undesirable modes of oxidation occurring. 

Ideally this aging should occur in a vessel which allows for all of those basic factors, and which when exposed to air and ethanol and the other elements of the spirit, will absorb or modify or allow to evaporate on their own, harsh or unpleasant or unbalanced components of mouth feel,  aroma, and flavor; while also imparting the solvents and other elements of the spirit, with some of the essential aroma and flavor compounds from within the material of the vessel itself, or from other elements placed into the spirit... Again almost always wood, or pieces of woody plant matter, but it also may include those other elements listed above. 

"Unfiltered" spirits aren't... they ARE actually filtered, for particulates and contaminants that would make the base spirit not meet quality grading standards. But in distilling parlance, "unfiltered" actually means they ARE filtered (as noted above) but they're NOT "filtered" through the thick stacks of paper, charcoal, charred wood, various other textiles,, minerals, and relatively recently engineered polymers  (some componets of which may be soluble, some ion exchanging, some hydrophilic or hydrophobic, some oleophilic or oleophobic, some none of the above), and "botanicals" (distillers speak for any plant product used, in whole or minimally processed form, to infuse or filter a spirit in a manner which may notably alter the flavor and aroma of that spirit (and not always in ways you might expect). Usually its aromatic herbs and spices, fruits or bits of fruits including pith, pit, rind or skin, zest,  nuts, seeds, and dried leaves or bark; but it can be any plant matter really).

These "filter" elements are generally used in the distilling trade to "blend" (see below), "mellow" (reduce volatility, harshness, undesirable top notes of  pungency and astringency, and other potentially unpleasant, undesirable, poorly integrated, or poorly  balanced, and non-,complementary components; of aroma, mouth feel, and flavor overtones, undertones,, and highlights) and "sweeten" the spirit (which actually means removing or masking undesirable bitterness, undesirable basal astringency, excessive "earthy" or "grassy" or vegetal flavors, metallic flavors, "chemical" alkalai or basic flavors, and other unpleasant flavor components;, and improving the balance and integration of desirable and complementary flavor components.. It doesn't mean actually adding sweet flavors).

Similarly, "unblended" spirits ARE almost always actually blended as well, in terms of being combined from multiple batches, or even multiple different distilleries... But only for ease, convenience, and consistency in manufacturing, and to aid in improving quality control.  In distilling industry parlance "blended" means the distillers deliberately took several different batches of spirits from different distillation runs, different stills, different recipes, or even entirely different distilleries; that all taste and smell anywhere from slightly to entirely different from one another; and then blended fhem together in various and variable proportions to each other, and with water; in order to end up with a final bottled spirit that has a specific and consistent alcohol percentage, and a specific, consistent, and pleasant, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel; matching the specific desired characteristics nd properties of the spirit they want to bottle. 

---- end aside on terminology for liquor -----

... As I was saying... Very strong overproof "unaged"  "unblended", and "unfiltered" spirits, can end up being so harsh, with such a high percentage of the nastier volatile aromatics (still a very low percent, but high enough to make it unpleasant), that you don't see much of the benefit of the higher alcohol percentage, because you have to boil off a lot of those volatile and that ethanol from the spirit, and mask the off flavors with dilution, sweetening, etc... 

That said, such "xxx grade" ethanol can sometimes be had quite cheaply in some states (I recently saw 99.97% pure "medical and food grade" ethanol selling for $40 a gallon, shipped, before quantity discount. That's compared to the $20-$40 per LITER you may see other high proof spirits sell for)  because it doesn't have to go through the standard liquor distribution channels, and may not have the extra state and local alcohol taxes tacked on...

Some batches of such high proof or high purity spirits, from some manufacturers and bottlers, may have very few actual flaws requiring specific correction, and may only have the basic issues caused by lack of aging and filtering to deal with. At prices like $40 per gallon, it may actually be worth buying some for use in more strongly flavored more heavily sweetened liqueurs, and taking the time to cook the harsh volatiles out longer, while infusing your flavorings longer and hotter, masking the remaining flaws in the base spirit.

Also, if the base spirit is mostly free of major flaws and defects as above, at prices like $40 a gallon, it very well may be worth experimenting with filtering and aging the spirit for yourself at home, and with doing infused spirits (rather than flavored and sweetened liqueurs). I have actually done so myself, and the results can be quite good... Sometimes, some batches may even be good enough to drink neat (especially strong infusions, and particularly when served ice cold from the freezer, or in strong punches, or strong grogs or toddies) or with some water and ice. Most of the batches I made were quite suitable for use in cocktails, and certainly more than good enough for use in cordials and liqueurs.

...And now I want to make some apple pie again...

----- End of long and hopefully interesting extended aside -----

My preferred mixed drinks are mostly dry, sour, or both... with the exception of some sweeter drinks that are sweet because of fresh fruit juice or fresh fruit... when the sweetness isn't the point, it's just a side effect of the fruit goodness (I LOVE pineapple based drinks, if they're not made overly sweet... which unfortunately they often are). 

If I just want alcohol for the sake of drinking, not to specifically enjoy a fine spirit... That's what double tall vodka tonic, double lime, is for... IF its unsweetened tonic, or I know and like the brand of tonic they're using. If not, then I sub soda water, because again, most tonic is sickeningly sweet (particularly because they usually sweeten it with saccharine). 

Or, being a native New Englander, I love cranberry juice (if they have REAL cranberry juice, not "cranberry juice cocktail" thats usually 3/4 apple or white grape juice, and again way too sweet), and I love dry and sour cranberry juice based cocktails. 

...But I don't go for that "test of manhood" level of bitterness, sourness, peat, smoke, whatever... A Lagavullin is nice every once in a while, or a Stone or Dogfish head IPA... but I don't think it's necessary to drink something overpowering and unbalanced, just for the sake of it. 

Some think that overproof spirits are like that... But to me they actually taste BETTER than regular spirits. Spicier, sharper, crisper...with an almost mint like refreshing bite, and a shorter, cleaner finish. Less sweetness or oiliness laying on the pallet after you sip.

...And cocktails that would be FAR too sweet made with a standard proof bourbon or rum (which might as well be a full measure of sugar syrup each shot), are suddenly refreshingly dry with an ovenproof spirit instead. 

...So yeah... do what you like, drink what you like and enjoy, and who the hell giives a half a  damn what anyone else thinks about it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My personal best (and not so best) games of 2020(ish)

Might as well do a listicle... My best (or other than best) games of the year, by category...

AAA single player: "Cyberpunk 2077"... I really don't have any gamebreaking bugs or performance problems making it unplayable, and it's otherwise the best single player game I have played, at least since New Vegas, maybe even better than that.

Close runner up: "Final Fantasy 7 Remake"... Its honestly much better than the original, both game play and story and (it follows the same basic storyline but has 100 times the depth and detail...  and given the original is one of the greatest games of its genre, that's saying something. And its jaw droppingly gorgeous at certain moments.

And for additional... Flavor, as it were... "Game I wanted to love, and it was good enough that I still really liked it, but it has too many issues to actually make a "best of" list": that goes to "Control". Yeah it's not a 2020 release, but the "ultimate edition" went on super sale in 2020... and while its worth buying on sale, and worth playing... it was just a little more work, a little more polish on both crunch and fluff... away from actually being a great game. 

Indie single player: "Hades", no doubt. Love the aesthetics, love the game play, love the humor, absolutely brilliant game. No other indy game even came close this year... Though there were definitely a bunch of great indies this year ("Kentucky Route Zero" FINALLY finished releasing its last episodes this year, and it's a very interesting experience... not much like any other game you would think of off hand, but certainly worth experiencing... and I've heard very good things about "Cloudpunk" for example). 

AAA multi-player: Also easy, "Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War". Without question the best  Call of Duty... or for that matter CODlike game... Oh... at least a decade or so. Though it is absolutely KILLER on your system resources. Getting playable framers on a 1070 in 1080p was difficult, never mind anything better. That said, its a VERY good looking game when you turn the settings up. 

Indie(ish) multi-player: For the... third year in a row now I think? It's "Warframe". They've completely overhauled the game over the last three years, even to the point of writing a new engine and new textures and shades, and of course major new content, for free, 4 times a year, with minor new content every 40 to 60 days.

Best mobile game: Well... that's kinda complicated and difficult at the moment... Hmm... Do you count Hades, which is on mobile platforms too (just the Switch for now, but likely it will be ports to iDevices soon, an android eventually), but is better on PC or heavier weight console? Do you count three of the best PC or Console games from decades ago...KOTOR and KOTOR-2, and "Castlevania Symphony of the Night"... which also released native mobile versions recently? 

...Maybe... "Sky" Children of the Light"? Its gorgeous, it's fun, its got a unique aesthetic and viewpoint... Well worth getting. I haven't played "AnimA" yet but I've heard its really great. Same for "Battle Chasers: Night War".... Both are installed and waiting to play. 

Worst mobile game AND worst game  that I actually paid money for: "Elder Scrolls Blades"... its a switch and mobile game... and its been in Beta and early access for like 3 years, and yet there's very little content, and whats there is shallow and repetitive. Also MICROTRANSACTIONS!!!!!... I bought enough of the in game resources to try to make the game more enjoyable... But there's just not enough content or game play no matter what. 

Biggest AAA (ish) disappointment: "Star Wars Squadrons"... It was... Just OK. Good even... But it had iffy controls, and just... not enough game. Both too short, and too shallow, with only OK game play. That said, you can often pick it up for $20 on sale, and it's worth the $20... Just not the original $40 release price. 

Biggest indie(ish) disappointment: that Vampire the masquerade Bloodlines 2 was delayed repeatedly... and now may not even come out in 2021 even. We'll see.

Monday, December 14, 2020

SolarWinds, FireEye, and Russian Intelligence Compromise the entire damn world...

Ok folks, this one is the real deal... I believe that the SolarWinds global supply chain compromise incident disclosed yesterday, is now the most severe, and most widespread information security comprise incident ever publicly disclosed. 

I can only think of one other that is even close... the RSA compromise... and from what was actually publicly disclosed (vs. what many of us in the field know to have been compromised but cannot officially confirm or disclose)... honestly... this may be worse. From all appearances, and the implications thereof, it may be MUCH worse in fact. 

SolarWinds is a major component of the infrastructure that runs... everything really. 300,000 organizations may have been compromised by this... note, compromised not necessarily exploited... SolarWinds is used by a lot of major service providers, ISPs, ASPs, SaaS providers, Managed Service Providers in the networking, security, and every other space... It's everywhere, and when you look at the details of the compromise... yeah, this could be EXTREMELY bad. 

For information and review... The various official notices and responses to the SolarWinds global supply chain compromise incident:

The emergency CERT alert issued appx. 2200est last night:

The DHS-CISA (Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) Emergency Directive for the compromise.

This is the solarwinds official advisory and recommendations:

Here's the FireEye advisory and recommendations:

Here's the Microsoft Advisory and recommendations:

Here's the recommended detection and mitigation countermeasures, rulesets, and criteria... as published by FireEye and recommended by the CISA:

And the recommendations to detect persistence in a compromise event from MITRE-ATTACK

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Yes, rights ARE more important than lives

"The numbers don't matter. Every death is horrible. If it saves just one life, we should do it".

Yes actually, the numbers DO matter, and no, we shouldn't do "it" just to save one life.

Whether its COVID-19, or "safety" regulations, or "protection" regulations, or gun control... It doesn't matter. You can ban or strictly control everything, and it will make little difference to disease, or to violence and deaths... or any other bad things happening... but will substantially infringe on the rights of hundreds of millions.

... And yes, the rights of hundreds of millions, are more important than one life, or for that matter thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds or thousands, or millions... Because without rights, your life is not your own. Without rights, you are owned and controlled by others, and your life is worthless. 

Rights, ARE more important, than any risk to any life. 

... And for those rights that you value, you probably agree... Unless you are without principle or courage. 

You probably admire those who lay down their lives for free speech, or to resist oppression, or to fight for civil rights? 

Guess what... RIGHTS ARE RIGHTS, none greater or lesser than the other.

So, when there are rights in question, ANY infringement or burden upon them, must meet very stringent criteria. It must be overwhelmingly justified, and to be so it must present a compelling interest, it must be effective in meeting that compelling interest, it must be narrowly tailored to only impact those things contingent upon that compelling interest, and it must present as little burden as possible, to as few as possible. Even with compelling interest, if it presents undue burden, then it cannot be justified at all. 

Even if whatever miracle solution you think is a good idea stopped every murder, every accident, every injury, every whatever it is you want to stop... which is laughable... It would still not be justified, because of the negative impact, and undue burden, on hundreds of millions.

Just because you don't value those things you want to ban or control, doesn't mean that others do not, and you have no right to violate their rights just because you don't care about them.

... If you did, then others would have the same right to violate YOUR rights, on the things YOU care about, that THEY don't value, or THEY hate.

... And if you think the answer is "That's different, because I'm right and good, and what I want is right, and they are wrong and bad, and what they want is bad"... How exactly do you think they feel about YOU, and what YOU care about?

THAT, is why these things are RIGHTS...

Thursday, November 19, 2020

You're welcome here

2020 has been one hell of a year... and I think that this year particularly, everyone should have friends and family... or chosen family... around them on the holidays if they can.

So... if you're a friend of mine (even if we've never managed to meet) and you don't have any family nearby to have thanksgiving with... or that you can STAND to have thanksgiving with... Or maybe you can't cook... or maybe you can't afford to put on a big special thanksgiving meal? You're welcome at our house.

Just you? Just you and your significant other? Just you and a housemate and neither of you can cook? Doesn't matter. If you want to be around cool people who you like, and have great food, and probably watch videos, listen to music, play games, and have great weird conversations, you're welcome here.

The only things I ask are:

1. If you can afford it bring beverages and/or desserts (because thanksgiving).

2. If possible, let me know you want to, or are planning to come over, so I can plan for how much food to cook (or rather, for how much TOO MUCH food to cook, because part of the joy of thanksgiving, is the leftovers for days afterwards).

... Trust me on this one, we lay out a damn good spread. I love to cook for friends and family, and thanksgiving is my favorite special meal to cook...

Plus, if we haven't managed to meet yet, it's a great opportunity to do so.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Pocket Preparedness

I have had a KelTec P3AT as a backup and pocket gun since a few months after they came out, back in 2003... In fact, it was the second handgun I bought for myself when I came back from Ireland, at the very end of '03.

I've had a pocket clip, a CT laser (because the sights are more... notional than actual let's say) and a 9 round extended mag with grip extension, since all of those products came out as well... Along with a DeSantis nemesis pocket holster with the "wallet flap". In that holster it really does look like a largish wallet in your pocket. 

After about 7 years of daily pocket carry, and range trips one to four times a month... between 1000 and 1500 rounds of +p carry ammo (two 9rd and one 6rd mag each range trip, for 7 years), and another 1500 or so rounds of practice ammo (I'd usually fire three full mags of practice ammo as well, plus the breakin and testing round count) it became my secondary pocket gun, as I had acquired and customized a Smith and Wesson 340pd (a titanium/scandium/aluminum ultralight .357 revolver, to which I added a full four finger grip sized CT laser grip, and an XS big dot front sight... both of which I strongly recommend). 

As it happens, I got the 340pd while the P3AT was out to KelTec for warranty repair. Unfortunately, KelTec chooses not to use stainless steel springs (to be fair, it is an under $300 gun, and stainless is 3 times the price of mild steel) and with 7 years of daily carry, and all the heat and humidity and salt that entails, the hammer spring broke, having corroded enough to weaken itself. 

From then on, I haven't shot the P3AT nearly as much... probably less than 500 additional rounds total (I shot 100 through it on return from repair just to make sure it was good to go, and only sporadically shot it after that).

Now... my remaining firearms spent two years in police storage in New Hampshire, and I only just got them back recently... And "somehow" in that two years, the two 9 round extended mags "disappeared", leaving just the 6rd standard mag... and "somehow", the hammer spring broke again. I got it back with the hammer spring broken clean through, and hanging out in space inside the grip frame. 

Oh, and my other holster, a hand made leather wallet style holster (not an aow, just really nicely made) was also missing "somehow".

...Well I no longer have the 340pd, and I still have need of a pocket gun and backup gun... 

..And I found out that someone makes a stainless hammer spring, stainless extra power recoil spring for +p ammo, and a stainless guide rod, to add some weight and rigidity at the front end.

...They're on order right now. Hopefully I'll get them next week. 

I also managed to find exactly ONE single grip extension mag in stock, anywhere in the entire country. That should be here next week as well... Because never mind the extra capacity, the grip extension nearly doubles the useful grip length, and makes the gun more pleasant and more accurate to shoot... making it worth the SUBSTANTIAL markup from MSRP.

I've added a couple pictures, so you can see just how small the P3AT is... its actually just about smaller than the palm of my hand... and how little grip I can get on it without the mag and grip extension. I also added a pic of the extended mag with grip extension, so you can see just how much it improves my grip on the gun... and what the heck, might as well include a shot of the new stainless parts I ordered (hammer spring, recoil spring, guide rod, and some wrap around sticker grips).

Anyway...all of this means that, hopefully, my pocket and backup gun will be up and running next week... Which is a good thing.