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I went to the dollar store the other day, and totally wasted a dollar on a book.  The Day After Oblivion looked appealing, but then I opened the cover.  Fifty pages in and I stopped reading.  I don’t mind less-than-perfect writing, but I ran into something that bothered me in almost every chapter.

Chapter 3 ends with a windmill repairman taking pictures and “Little does he know the photographs will be the last he takes of ordinary life”.  At the end of Chapter 6, about the same guy: “Gage enjoys the view, having no idea how quickly it will all change”.  Got it the first time – things are changing.

In Chapter 1, the President’s assistant is introduced.  “Chief of Staff Isabella Alvarez consults her iPad”.  In Chapter 4, a long list of meeting attendees includes “the president’s chief of staff, Isabella Alvarez”.  Got it – she’s the chief of staff (or the Chief of Staff, depending on the editor du jour).

In Chapter 2, after the NSA has been cyber-infiltrated, the director of the NSA says “Colonel, I want the best computer operators we have in my office, forthwith”.  No, he doesn’t.  Computer operators make things work.  Cybersecurity personnel investigate breakins (and help them not happen).

Editing bothered me.  In Chapter 3: “Gage pulls up to the closest turbine and kills the engine”.  Of the windmill – really?  By remote control?  No, it’s the car/truck that he turns off.

Technology – well, even basic math – was treated with disdain.  Chapter 3, talking about the big windmills.  “The tower stands 260 feet tall and the blades extend another 126 feet beyond the hub, making the overall height 389 feet”.  No, it doesn’t.  The fact doesn’t matter – it feels like filler, or attempting a minor bit of technology showoff – but it’s wrong.  I blame both the author and the editor.  This is not some self-published bunch of electrons, it’s a real dead-tree book.

In Chapter 4, one of the cybersecurity experts talking to the president is calling out submarines.  “When the submarines surface, there’s a Windows XP chip on the engine that broadcasts the maintenance schedule back to base”.  That hurts my head, between the OS-specific chip, being attached to the “engine” instead of the nuclear reactor, and the idea that they would broadcast private info.  Just no.

In Chapter 5, the cybersleuth decides she’s going to “Look for clues.  Maybe a partial IP address”.  And guess what?  She finds “Maybe a partial IP address.  Three numbers”.  So she “copies the partial address and pastes it into a browser on the NSA’s network. She taps her foot, waiting for a response.  The odds are long, with only three numbers and over six billion number combinations.  She groans when the screen fills with nearly a million hits”.  Umm.  IPv4 addresses consist of four dotted numbers, from to  Some of those are reserved, dropping over a half-billion from the approximately 4.3 billion that 256 to the 4th power produces.  But that doesn’t matter – if she has three of the four, there are only 256 numbers possible.

And don’t get me started on a million results on a page.  Reminds me of the million pixel page – I’d groan, too, if Google didn’t filter down the number of responses.  Oh – am I assuming too much when I think Google?  Well, tell us.  Tell us what site she was visiting.  Tell us if the browser returns results (assuming yes, given “hits”) or tries to go to an invalid IP address.  Luckily, we are told in Chapter 8: “I did find a partial IP address.  Ran it through our database and received about ten thousand hits.  I narrowed the search to include likely bad actors and ended up with about a hundred hits”.  OK, so she was doing a database query, and ignored the 99 percent who were good guys, neutrals, or unlikely bad guys.  It’s OK, though, because “They’re almost certainly spoofing the attack”.  And they would only spoof it from other bad guys – got it.

In Chapter 10, a captain in NORAD makes a decision after North Korea detonates a nuclear device over Kansas (don’t worry – I’m not giving away all the secrets).  “Communications, work the phones.  Send an urgent message up the chain of command to alert them of a possible EMP event”.  As opposed to a non-urgent message, or —

Chapter 13.  The sub with the Windows XP chip gets new orders.  “Captain, we are in receipt of a valid emergency action measure that directs the launch of target package one.  Request permission to authenticate?”. And a bit later: “The message is encoded with a cypher to insure –” Nope – it’s ensure.  “to insure that the order originated from the President.  Quigley calls out the code while Garcia authenticates.  Once the message is decoded, Garcia exhales a breath and says “Captain, the message is authentic” “.  So they read the message before it is decoded.  And they can do cryptography in their heads.  Plus, it’s easy enough that a human can verify it, and assumes the reader and listener do not make errors.  And, ya know, there’s a difference between authentication and encryption.  Authentication could be as simple as a code word – rutabaga – to let you know that it isn’t some random stranger asking you for something.  Encryption jumbles the letters to make it non-readable.  Not the same.

My head really hurts.  I stopped reading after that chapter.  My time is worth more than that.

So I started reading a free book – St. Dale, from Sharyn McCrumb (thanks, Mom and Dad!).  In five pages she had me hooked with her writing style, good characters, believable situations, and an all-round better vibe.  She had me at “It was not the end of the world, but you could see it from there”.  Looking forward to it.  And if somebody wants a partially-read copy of The Day After Oblivion, let me know before I donate it to the library’s free book sale.

Sometimes, stories just seem to write themselves.  This one was a juxtaposition (probably from Computerworld) from a few years ago.


I don’t believe that the two stories are connected – but the suggestion is there, as well as the humor.

I was surprised tonight to see something in a similar vein from the New York Times.  I subscribe, and I read with a grain of salt.  But this seemed blatant.


Three links to the same anti-Christian article?  And another one higher on the page.  C’mon, NYT.  I understand there’s a liberal bias.  But put away the sledgehammer.

. . . fruit flies like a banana.  Thanks – I’ll be here all week.

Almost two years since my last update, and now there are seven prior entries. My collection, not my creations.

Oct 17: Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

Nov 17: Youth is a quality, and if you have it, you never lose it

Dec 17: If you start with “Counting in binary 101”, you missed the first four classes

Jan 18: People are like teabags – you find out what they have inside when they are in hot water

Feb 18: Don’t mistake stability for stagnation, activity for progress, or change for innovation.

Mar 18: Knowledge is adding things. Wisdom is taking things away.

Apr 18: I hate eloquence. In fact, I hate all grey animals with large ears.

May 18: The “S” in IoT stands for security.

Jun 18: Acopia – Disease of the day – the inability to cope

Jul 18: Give me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I cannot, and a great big bag of money

Aug 18: Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little bit fewer

Sep 18: An expert is someone who has made all the mistakes

Oct 18: If Henry Ford had listened to his customers, he would have made faster horses

Nov 18: Every decision we make increases our momentum in the direction of that decision

Dec 18: The best you can do is tie the record for lowest flyby

Jan 19: It’s never wrong to do what’s right

Feb 19: Be humble or you’ll stumble

Mar 19: Just because you made a promise doesn’t mean I have to keep it for you.

Apr 19: Worrying is not thinking

May 19: Work is a scarce resource that should be used sparingly

I was reading about a criminal in England who was thought to be “on the autism spectrum”.

I’m no rocket surgeon, but doesn’t the idea of “spectrum” run from roughly zero to 100%?  Measure it in colors, measure it in furlongs per fortnight, I don’t really care – there has to be some min and max for the population, even if those get changed occasionally (like the hottest and coldest places on earth).

I found this comic book which explains that it isn’t a single dimension, but rather a color wheel of different parameters. Fine.  My argument remains the same – the center is zero and the outside is 100%, no matter where you are measuring.

If the argument arises that even if someone measures 0% on all areas, that they are merely high-functioning autistic, my counter-argument is that the scope isn’t big enough.  Make it go up to 11, or 200%, or down into negative numbers, or whatever.

Just doesn’t make sense to say that some people simply aren’t on the autism spectrum.  There has to be some justification for including people on the list.  I say put everybody on the list, and then draw a line (somewhere, somehow) to say “this is autism”.  Otherwise, if everybody on the autism spectrum, say “they are autistic, and here is how”.

This picture, from the DSM, shows my thought.  There are different areas of concern – intense focus, repetition, etc. – and the impairment increases from the center of the circle.  There are examples of different individuals. Person A has impairments in all areas.  Person B has no impairments in the area of “intense focus”.  Person C has no impairments in the area of “sensitivities”.

I would like to propose Person D, who has no impairments in any of the five areas – they would be a black circle with the letter D in it – and they would still be on the spectrum!  The DSM has shown that individuals with measurements of zero are still in the spectrum.  That would seem to indicate that someone with zero in all measurements is still on the spectrum.

Another perspective: I don’t have diabetes – I’m on the diabetes spectrum. I’m not overweight – I’m on the fat spectrum.  I’m not employed – I’m on the job spectrum.  I wasn’t speeding – I’m on the velocity spectrum.

I dunno – maybe I’m obsessing.

Seen as I was clearing out my Hotmail spam.

doctor doctor

The “don’t do this” side…

This was in my spam folder today.

The mix of “mean” and “dear” struck me funny.

I often find myself waking in the small hours of the morning, unable to get back to sleep. I suppose if I really worked at it, even for a few minutes, I would be able to return to slumber, but I have no real desire – there is a room full of books just beyond the door.

From ISBN 978-0-399-53398-3

The Prayer of Cyrus Brown
By Sam Walter Foss (1858–1911)

“THE PROPER way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude,
Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight, with outstretched arms,
And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud:
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front,
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well
Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,
“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,
My head a-p’inting down;

“An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there—
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head.”

I’m thinking of opening a new restaurant – the Nike Craft Beer and Down-home Cafe.

I’m having problems with my motto.

It’ll be “Just Do It”, or “Just Brew It”, or “Just Stew It”.

Instant rimshot

In the State of the Union speech, the most-used word will be “I”.

Also making an appearance will be “sad”, “great”, “America”, and “we”.

Validation later from the official transcript.

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