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Random meanderings

Some dudes in Toronto took the term “man-cave” a bit too literally and, uhm, dug a man-cave. As in, a cave. In dirt. Which caused no amount of havoc because the location they chose was close to a major tennis venue scheduled to hold the Pan-Am Games, and the initial thought was terrorists were going to fill it up with explosives.

Nope. It was a couple of dudes. Digging a man cave. That was an actual cave. Dude.

Next up: Middle school students are a pain in the ass to teach. I know. Been there, done that. They have elementary school minds in teenager-size hormone-filled bodies and are placed in an environment way too unstructured for their mentality. I did it one year, told my principal “I’ll drive a taxi before I come back to your school”, and walked out at the end of the year when my contract was out. (That was the crazy principal who later got put out to pasture for multiple violations of state law, but that’s another issue). At the end of the year I didn’t give a damn, I was just there to fulfill my contract and not one bit more. But I never engaged in profanity-filled tirades. And while there’s a lot of principals who are just waiting for retirement and don’t want to do anything that might involve work or controversy, I can’t think of any principal I served under who was so out of it that he (or she) would not have taken immediate action upon receiving a report (with audio!) of a teacher talking about his penis in a classroom.

In case you’re wondering about the real state of Iran’s nuclear missile program, rather than Bibi’s expansive fantasies, here’s a link. Basically, their most modern and longest-range missile will hit Egypt, and there’s no hope of them having an ICBM before 2020. And even if they have one, it’ll take a few years after that to actually get the thing working right and build enough of them to make any difference, meaning plenty of time to take any action. There’s no rush here. There’s time to get it right. Unless you’re Bibi and behind in the polls and want to scare up some more Israeli votes, that is.

Finally: I had students in two different states who had social workers. What I found was that in general they were well meaning, but were undertrained and overwhelmed and out of their depth. Often they gave advice that was contradictory or wrong, and often they had no idea themselves what to do with the children they were supposed to be supervising. The foster care system in those states, as in California, was in a constant state of collapse caused by too many children thrown away by their parents, too few social workers, too many regulations, too few foster homes, and too many lies told to potential foster parents that ended up with those foster parents leaving the system in disgust within a year, leaving children who were no longer cute and cuddly to be sent to bleak group homes every bit as disgusting as the orphanages of yore.

“To serve children” is a cookbook.

– Badtux the Downer Penguin

The Brian Jonestown Massacre, “The Devil May Care (Mom & Dad don’t)”, off their 1997 album Give It Back. BJM have a reputation for “stoner rock”, but this really isn’t. It’s more psychedelic than anything else…

– Badtux the Music Penguin

Bibi and the House

So there’s a lot of people losing their mind over the fact that Israeli prime minister Benjamin NuttyYahoo appeared before Congress and served up his usual heap of steaming lies, like:

“Iran’s march of conquest” — the last time Iran invaded another nation was 1735, which, in case you can’t count, was 280 years ago. Even there, they were invading Russia to recapture lands lost to Russia in an earlier war, they were not invading just to invade, and stopped the war as soon as Russia agreed to return the lands. The last time Iran invaded just to conquer was when they invaded Afghanistan in 1545, but that was a *long* time ago…

“The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States” — Israel has never — ever — been an ally of the United States. Not a single U.S. soldier has ever been based in Israel. Israel shares intelligence with the United States only rarely (most famously resulting in several American fighter jets being shot down over Lebanon in the early 80’s by Syrian weapons that Israel knew were there and knew how to neutralize), and has never contributed a single soldier to any U.S.-led military coalition. Furthermore, Israel has conducted an extensive campaign of commercial and military espionage against the United States for literally decades, with multiple Israelis jailed after being convicted of espionage against the United States and multiple American companies having had their commercial secrets stolen for the benefit of Israeli companies. The U.S. has been an ally of Israel, providing critical support in cases such as the 1973 war when an American airlift of fuel and munitions was all that kept Israel from being overrun and providing crucial financial support, but that has not been reciprocated in any way.

“I represent all Jews” — Bibi doesn’t even represent the majority of Israeli Jews. His party won only 37% of the vote in the last election. The only reason he managed to put together a coalition is because his coalition partners hated the other possible prime ministers even worse.

“Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs” — in Bibi’s dreams. Even Mossad disagrees with him. Bibi has been saying for over twenty years now that Iran is only five years away from having a nuclear bomb. Err, yeah. And so is Japan. And so is South Korea. And so is Brazil. And so is any other major nation with native sources of uranium (or access to uranium) and an industrial base equivalent to that of 1940 United States, which, remember, took only, err, five years to build an atomic bomb — and they didn’t even know it was possible back then! The reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is not set up to create nuclear weapons. If they were intent on building nuclear weapons, they would have built a graphite-moderated reactor like North Korea’s, or a heavy water reactor like Israel’s or Pakistan’s. A light water reactor like Iran’s is inherently ill-suited for creating plutonium bombs because the enriched uranium rods swiftly build up levels of plutonium isotopes that dampen nuclear reactions rather than enhance nuclear reactions, thanks to light water not slowing down neutrons as much as heavy water and graphite do. Furthermore, Iran’s nuclear reactor and nuclear program are under active inspection by the IAEA (United Nations) to verify that they are not diverting materials for warhead use. The chances of Iran having a nuclear bomb anytime soon, given that their own Supreme Leader (the real power in Iran) has issued a fatwah against nuclear weapons, is slim to none.

Furthermore, Iran’s missiles are decidedly *not* ICBM’s and best estimates of Iran’s missile program is that the earliest they could produce a missile with intercontinental range would be in the 2020’s. Iran’s natural enemies are Pakistan, Israel, and the Arab states surrounding the Persian Gulf, and their missile inventory reflects that. Their longest-ranged missile is a solid-fuel rocket called the Sajiil II, which has a range of 1,375 miles (enough to hit Israel and Saudi Arabia, but not much more) carrying a 750kg warhead. Which, I might point out, is rather small for a 1st generation nuclear weapon, both of the first generation U.S. weapons weighed around 10,000 pounds (or roughly 4500kg), far too heavy for any missile in Iran’s inventory. Given this, it is clear that the purpose of Iran’s missiles is not to carry any nuclear weapon that Iran could develop within five years, given that developing thermonuclear weapons of this size took both the United States and Russia over 15 years to accomplish. Combined with their poor accuracy, their likely use is probably to cause terror if one of their neighbors attacks Iran, and they’re more likely to be loaded with poison gas than with nuclear weapons (remember, mustard gas is ethane and chlorine, both of which Iran produces in quantity). Mustard gas is a WW1 weapon primarily effective against men in trenches. It would cause widespread panic and disruption if you attacked a city with it, but hardly the kind of carnage that a nuclear weapon would produce — you’d maybe injure a few dozen people who were near the explosion, and if anybody died it’d be an accident.

Basically, there’s no “there” there.

Finally, Bibi mentioned the Holocaust several times. I am curious what he thought he was doing there. For most Americans, that’s some vague event that happened a long time ago that nobody really cares about anymore. If he was attempting to teach history to Americans, his efforts were doomed. But I guess he was reminding Congress that if Israel falls, there will be a lot of Jewish refugees needing a place to flee — and that the United States is the most obvious place for those refugees to flee. In a sense US support of Israel has been all about keeping the world’s unwanted Jews over there rather than over here, and he was reminding Congress of that truth.

Finally, on to critics of Bibi. The strangest that I ran across was some Arab saying “Bibi isn’t even Hebrew, he’s Lithuanian!” Uh, wha? Bibi was born in Tel Aviv. In fact, he was the first native-born prime minister of Israel. To us Americans, the thought that he’s anything other than Israeli is odd, because we’re all from somewhere else if you go far enough back in our heritage. If you’re born in America and raised in America, you’re American. If you’re born in Israel and raised in Israel, you’re Israeli. But this does point out the difference between Americans and people elsewhere. In the US, being born and raised here makes you American. In most of the world, your ancestors make you a member of that nation. Thus you cannot become a French citizen unless you have that all-important French blood. (Hold it, I just remembered that my great-grandmother was French!). And thus the Palestinians keep whining about “European illegal immigrants took our land”, even though the majority of the citizens of Israel were born in Israel and raised in Israel, because it’s where the ancestors came from that matters to them. Which is hilarious, in a way, because half the Palestinians are Hebrews who converted to Islam during the thousand years of Islamic rule, and the other half are Arab settlers from elsewhere in the Middle East who migrated there themselves. Just goes to show how messed up that place is, that everybody’s concerned about whose great-great-great-great-great-grannie was born where, a concern that us Americans see as ridiculous.

– Badtux the Geopolitics Penguin

On the down elevator

The 13th Floor Elevators, “You’re Going to Miss Me”, from 1966. Roky Erickson is still alive and playing music, though he’s now battier than a belfry and you never know what’s going to happen when he gets on stage and starts lurching about. Sad to say the meds they had in the 60’s were crap, and the electroshock therapy pretty much jolted his brain into paths it wasn’t meant to go down. Sigh.

– Badtux the Reminiscing Music Penguin

Traveling construction

Shakey Graves, “Built to Roam” off his 2011 album Roll the Bones. A one man band does his thing.

– Badtux the Music Penguin

So, Hollywood hacking: The hackers are crowded around a monitor, fingers flying across a keyboard. Arcane symbols flash across the screen as they babble jargon to each other.

Real life hacking: I send you an email asking you to log in to the system. You click on the link in my email that asks you for your user ID and password with a realistic looking login page. I ask you for your password and you enter it. This is a time honored hacking technique that dates at *least* back to the early 80’s, when I first tried it for the first time (though that was on a mainframe, and I never actually let anybody except myself enter a user ID and password into the fake login screen).

Most hacking occurs via “social engineering”. I cannot count how many passwords I’ve found stuck to the bottoms of keyboards, or how many times people have just told me their passwords on the phone when I asked them for their password. I told them I was from the consulting company that managed their computer, and indeed, I *was*, but at that point they just handed over the keys to the castle without any further validation that I was who I said I was.

Compare/Contrast with Hollywood hacking:

real-hacking

So beware of geeks asking for login credentials. ‘Cause that’s how they do it. Just sayin’.

— Badtux the Geek Penguin

Black Mountain, “Old Fangs”, off their 2010 album Wilderness Heart.

– Badtux the Music Penguin

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