Ten Teen Albums

Ten albums that had an impact on me as a teenager…
1. Led Zeppelin IV: First album I bought for myself, age 13 in 1981. There’s always a sentimental feeling with that.
2. Machine Head by Deep Purple: Wow. It showed me the power of the cuts that didn’t get airplay, especially the organ intro on “Lazy”.
3. Made in Japan by Deep Purple: First album I ever bought at Half-Price Books, but more than that, one of the most electrifying records, a live recording with few parallels. It set the bar high, and those tracks still thrill me to this day.
4. Photo-Finish by Rory Gallagher: I had no idea what this album would sound like, just that I wanted to listen to it because of the cover photo of Rory and his ancient, battered guitar. Such a delivery on this album, too! Made a fan out of me and made me realize that not everything that glitters on the media is necessarily that much better than what escapes notice.
5. Rising by Rainbow: another one off the beaten track, one of the greatest hard rock albums, ever.
6. Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull: 45 minutes or so, all one song. I never turned it in as a poetry analysis project, but I did have great fun analyzing it, nonetheless. It got me into Tull and that led me to some music that I’ve used as lullabies for my children.
7. Headhunters by Herbie Hancock: I had to borrow this from my brother’s collection until I bought my own copy, much later on. This got me into both jazz and funk at the same time, letting me know I had an itch to scratch in both of those rich fields.
8. Old No. 1 by Guy Clark: I used to say that I hated country. Then I discovered Texas Outlaw Country with Guy Clark. Clark is a national treasure, one of the greatest singer/songwriters we’ve seen. If I want to introduce someone to country, I start with Guy Clark.
9. In the Dark by The Grateful Dead: the year is now 1987, and I’m 19 and going through a hard time, a very hard time emotionally. This was the album that reached out to me and said that things would be all right. Things would work out. I’m not a Deadhead, but I do appreciate this and many other of their offerings.
10. Fastway: This was my wife’s favorite album, so it wound up being our soundtrack not only for my first year of college, but for years beyond that, 30 years of marriage this year. We still have fun with this one, probably because we’re still having fun in our lives. 🙂

Pileup 2.0

Ray Alcalde, the mayor of the great megalopolis Los Ancholess, moved his hands slowly across his face, then up over his head. “OK, so tell me how the hell we got almost 200 cars all crashed into each other, dozens of fatalities, hundreds of injuries, and thousands of people snarled in traffic on a completely shut down interstate. Is this a terrorist act?”

Mercedes Ford-Lincoln, the traffic supervisor of the great megalopolis of Los Ancholess, replied, “No sir, we don’t think so. Computer error. Errors, really.”

Ray slumped into his executive overstuffed chair, one of the best things to slump into. “Well, Mercedes, explain it all to me, but keep it as simple as possible.”

Mercedes sat a few seats away from Ray, where she could plug her PC into the overhead video cable. A moment later, a highly colorful, detailed display of Interstate 1110 promised anything but ‘simple as possible.’ Chip Copper, the police chief, dimmed the lights and everyone braced themselves for technical details.

Mercedes began her presentation with the most depressing words possible. “It’s complicated, what happened.” Her laser pointer circled a car-shaped object in the upper left corner. “From what we can tell, this is the car that started it all. High wind blew a piece of debris into the highway area, and traffic camera footage shows that this debris moved close to street level. Like all the other cars on the 1110, this car, a Fnord Festivus, was doing 75 miles per hour and its programming to handle a situation like this was to swerve into the lane with the least traffic.

“Lanes on both the left and right were pretty congested, it being rush hour, but the lane to the right had the least traffic, so it went there, sideswiping a Hando Mimic and a Toygoata Quandry. The Mimic, in front, was programmed to shift to the nearest shoulder in the event of a minor collision – as was the Festivus – so both began to slow down and shift to the right.”

Ray interrupted. “But the nearest shoulder was two lanes over, to the left.”

Mercedes nodded. “Yes, but it was closed for maintenance. The nearest available shoulder was four lanes over, to the right. This would have already caused major issues had it not been for the other, contributing factors that compounded the issue.”

“OK, Continue please.”

“All right…” Mercedes scanned the display to find her place again. “Now, the Quandry was programmed for a right shift for a minor accident, but the drivetime recorder shows that it recorded a major accident, so it rapidly decelerated. The Brewick Regalia behind it noted the slowdown and also began to decelerate rapidly, as did the Evolvo Landtrain behind it. Unfortunately, the Evolvo’s brakes experienced a failure.”

Chip had a word to say about that. “Hold on, those trucks are supposed to have a governor that won’t let them on a road or even take on cargo if there’s a system issue like that.”

Mercedes dipped her head. “We contacted Evolvo about the governor code and they’ve informed us that there’s a flaw in it that didn’t catch this particular kind of stress that would lead to failure. They’re shipping a patch, but that doesn’t help us right now.”

Chip’s eyes widened. “How many trailers were in the landtrain?”

Ray groaned, “Three.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment, then Mercedes continued. “So, this was where our first fatalities came from.”

Chip reddened. “Those landtrain things should not be allowed, I’m telling you. The ICC gave in to the trucking companies and now we’ve got this! Safer with no driver, my ass!”

Mercedes struggled to keep her composure. “I’m with you there. It’s not the first time a landtrain’s been in a big wreck, but this is the biggest one, by far… and it got bigger when the school bus – here – hit it square in the back trailer, causing the three trailers to swing to the left, blocking all the lanes to the cement barricades.”

Ray looked at the Los Ancholess school superintendent, Summer Halladay, and said, “You got an explanation for this?”

Summer got real defensive, real fast. “That truck was going at full speed, there was no indication that it was slowing down. The motion sensors on the bus were doing their job. There was nothing more that could have been done. School buses are programmed more for elaborate pedestrian situations, not freeway traffic.”

Chip asked, “So why don’t buses have a Trafficnet (TM) transponder for when they do go on the freeways?”

Summer’s defensiveness grew more entrenched. “Trafficnet (TM) is a bit high-end for us in Los Ancholess Consolidated Unified Independent School District. Especially after the last round of budget cuts. Besides, not everyone else on the road has it. And it’s not perfect, either.”

Mercedes added, “As it was, Trafficnet (TM) had a glitch in it that compounded matters on the day of the collision.”

Chip asked, “How so?”

Mercedes advanced her slides to show the moment of the Evolvo’s collision. “When the Evolvo hit the Regalia, the Quandry, and the Festivus, all four of their Trafficnet (TM) transponders went offline. All four were in the same lane, so all the Trafficnet (TM)-equipped vehicles on the 1110 immediately behind the collision detected that absence as the lane being less congested and so started on a redistribution algorithm.”

Ray: “A what?”

“Redistribution algorithm. They, ah, moved to adjust to what they thought were more open conditions. Lots and lots of lane changes. Uncoordinated lane changes. Trafficnet (TM) didn’t really have a good method of handling sudden disappearance of fellow transponders, so it acted as though each car, alone, was making a lane change choice, even though all of them were making that change. So, every vehicle with Trafficnet (TM) in the area started to make a move to get into or one lane closer to lane 3, here. That shifted things to converge to where the school bus hit the landtrain.”

Ray asked, “So why didn’t the cars slow down, instead? If the trailers had swung out to block lanes 1 and 2, with the collision in lane 3, shouldn’t everything have initiated a slowdown, at least in those lanes?”

“They did, in cars without Trafficnet (TM). The Trafficnet (TM) cars were running that program with a higher priority than the manufacturer-installed safety suite. Within that program, the lane change glitch took a higher priority than the slowdown routines – another flaw in the program – so they were all changing lanes when everyone else was slowing down. This led to additional collisions in lanes 1, 2, and 3, including fatalities.”

Chip asked, “So how can a lane change be more important than avoiding a crash with the car in front of you? That’s a pretty stupid way to prioritize things.”

Mercedes, again, agreed. “True. Thing was, Trafficnet (TM) wasn’t set up to deal with multiple vehicles suddenly going offline. They all just vanished, or so the program thought, and, instantly, they all thought they had a clear shot, going forward in lane 3. The vanishing of cars looks to have triggered a boundary overflow error – ah, um – a situation that it didn’t have a solid way of handling, like when a baby or a cat pounds on the keyboard.”

Everyone in the room had either children, cats, or both. Everyone in the room nodded solidly in agreement.

“So, with that error, it didn’t react properly. All of them didn’t react properly. Most cars were slowing correctly, Trafficnet (TM) cars were slamming into those at 75 miles per hour.” Mercedes advanced to the next slide that showed the massive number of collisions that began to happen within a few seconds of the Evolvo crash and subsequent blocking of lanes 1-3.

“Traffic in this part of 1110 usually has 1600 vehicles per hour per lane because we expect autonomous vehicles to drive more efficiently than human-piloted vehicles, and this part of 1110 is all-autonomous. So, every 2 and a quarter seconds, another vehicle advanced into the crash zone, slowing or changing lane – and causing another wreck – depending on whether or not it had Trafficnet (TM).”

Ray didn’t want to ask, but his office demanded that he did. “This explains most of the collisions in the first three lanes, I take it. What happened to jam up lanes 4 through 7?”

Mercedes advanced the slide.

Everyone winced when they saw the slide title: “LALOCA”, the acronym for Los Ancholess Locally-Operated Cab Authority. Everyone knew that LALOCA taxis had been involved, but this was the first they’d heard that they were the reason for closing down the other lanes. The LALOCA taxis were cheap cars with plastic interiors that were easily – and automatically – hosed down whenever a patron did something highly biological in one. No other cab company, traditional or app-driven, was allowed to operate in Los Ancholess because the city claimed that taxis were a utility that it had the right to regulate and own, 100%.

The fact that every LALOCA cab also provided location data on all its passengers and any face that its cameras picked up contributed to making the Los Ancholess police department one of the most effective in the nation. Sales tax subsidies kept the cabs affordable for one and all, making them quite popular all over town. But they were also supposed to have ironclad safety programming, no gimmicks. How was it that they had contributed to the pileup?

Mercedes revealed, “When LALOCA cabs are in maintenance mode and are heading back to their operations center, they don’t operate the same way as when they’re in dispatch mode.” Mercedes continued over the several low groans that had started. “They form a chain, as we know, and about 8 seconds after the initial collision, the Mimic had crossed over to the right-hand shoulder and a LALOCA chain of 17 cabs in lane 4 had slowed down to allow the Mimic to get over. This was normal behavior.

“However, one of the follow-on collisions from a Trafficnet (TM) vehicle in lane 3 spun out to the right and smashed into the lead LALOCA cab. This triggered the cabs’ self-preservation programming.”

Ray and Chip looked at each other while Summer asked, “Self-preservation? What, they have a survival instinct?”

Mercedes nodded. “Survival instinct is a good way to describe it. Anti-terrorism measure. They’re programmed to scatter if one of them is hit. Dispersion to minimize loss of life and property. The dispersion algorithms, however, are optimized for an urban setting, not an interstate. The LALOCA cabs interpreted the area to be one large plaza, and moved in random directions across it, mostly to the open lanes on the right. This meant that many drove directly into traffic, rear-ending vehicles that were slowing down or being struck by Trafficnet (TM) vehicles that were still moving at posted speeds.

“With collisions now having happened in all lanes, we entered the next phase of the accident, about 12 seconds after the initial collision.” The next slide’s title ominously read, “Collision Computation Overload”.

Mercedes held up her hands as she said, “For this one, I have to apologize in advance for getting technical, but there’s no other way to explain this. Basically, all vehicles keep a count of how many collisions are going on around them. While they can count an unlimited number of collisions, their programming gets overloaded if they have to deal with more than 15. There are the 15 that they keep in their calculations, but the rest are effectively ignored. And so, cars trying to maneuver around the 15 that they track wind up hitting one of the ones that they’re not tracking.

“This got worse, the more collisions that happened as a result of this programming limitation. 15 is the federally-mandated number that they need for compliance and because the navigation code is very difficult to write, it’s the standard that pretty much all manufacturers hold to. It’s sufficient for nearly every case, but in an exotic one such as this, it’s wholly inadequate.”

Ray was rubbing his temples. This was giving him a stress headache. “God, Mercedes, does this get any worse?”

Mercedes tilted her head in such a way as to indicate hope. “No. Well, there are additional collisions, eventually involving 197 vehicles over a total of 64 seconds from the initial collision. But, by that time, the city’s traffic thresholds had been exceeded for collisions in that area, and our central system began to override all vehicle programming in the area, diverting all traffic from entering the 1110, getting traffic to exit the 1110 if possible, and slowing down all cars uniformly to a full stop if they could not exit. The area of the first collision being at the far end of a major bridge, exit opportunities were severely limited, which explains the mile-and-a-half backup of traffic. Roughly 3400 cars, total, in the backup.”

Chip said, “So the ultimate culprit was the Evolvo. If it had been able to detect its brake failure, we would have had only a minor incident, if that.”

Mercedes shook her head. “I blame the Festivus. That debris was a large sheet of paper that it could have driven through or over, no problem. To the sensors on the Festivus, it looked like a huge brown wall that suddenly appeared in its lane. The AI didn’t know what to make of it, so it treated it as a major threat.”

Ray said, “Thank God neither one of you are blaming the LALOCAs. That’s a headache I don’t need.”

Summer said, “Or the school bus.”

Mercedes tilted her head in another way such as to indicate a lack of hope. “I wouldn’t draw either of those conclusions. The LALOCA programming made them such that they were entirely a hazard when encountering an issue while in maintenance mode on a freeway. They’re simply not safe, there. And the school bus is one reason our fatality and injury count is so high – it was moving at highway speeds with no safety restraints for the passengers – no seat belts, no airbags.”

Summer’s defensiveness was in full strength again. “Well, we tried to make seat belts mandatory before the bus would move, and there was always a kid that wouldn’t put one one or who’d take it off in the middle of a bus run. They brought the buses to a standstill!”

Chip demanded, “So why didn’t you punish those kids to get it to stop?”

Summer’s eyes flashed with cornered rage. “Like having a jail makes crime stop! You know the kind! They don’t care! They just want to watch the world burn!” Now her tone became supplicative. “And if we can’t require the kids to use them, they won’t. There’s no driver on board and encouragement programs had maybe 2% more usage than without those programs. And the buses are so much cheaper and easier to maintain without seatbelts!”

Ray held out his arms to quiet a potential shouting match between Chip and Summer. “All right! And I know I’m going to catch hell for allowing so many cars per hour but, realistically, Mercedes, what’s the number for driver cars at that speed?”

“1300 per lane per hour.”

“So that’s what percent of what we allow?”

Mercedes thought briefly, “13 times 6, about 80 percent.”

“So if we had all human drivers, we’d have 80 percent of the mess that we have, right?”

Mercedes’ face screwed up as she did some off-the-cuff statistical projections. “Wellllll… probably a lot less in this case, a sideswipe at speed that could make it off to the side. But a lot more, over time, in other driver error cases. With autonomous cars, we’re looking at far fewer of the one-off accidents and much lower total fatality and injury numbers, annually speaking, but we’ll see monsters like this every now and then because of the way different manufacturers emphasize safety or traffic considerations… how they all interlock and interoperate.”

Ray leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. If only this wreck hadn’t happened a month before the election! But two flagship ideas of his, LALOCA and autonomous-only roads, had crashed and burned on the 1110. He was thinking fast…

“All right.” Ray sat back up in his chair. “Here’s our action items. The city of Los Ancholess needs to sue Trafficnet (TM), Evolvo, and the makers of the LALOCA cabs. We blame it all on them.”

Mercedes did a double-take. “Why not Fnord, as well? They’re ultimately the prime mover in this case.”

Ray held up a fist. “Three reasons. One.” Finger one went up. “We didn’t buy anything from them, so they can’t make a big settlement in our favor. Two.” Finger two went up. “They’re domestic, not like Evolvo from Sweden or wherever. Three.” Finger three went up. “They have a massive legal team and can drag a lawsuit out for decades. I need three big settlements before the people here vote. I gotta make lemonade out of these here lemons. Pick my battles carefully and all that. We play up the city traffic threshold system and talk about adjusting the numbers in favor of safety and how about also getting the cars per hour on the autonomous-only roads down to driven car rates?”

Mercedes didn’t follow. “That’s really not much benefit, going from 1600 to 1300 per lane per hour.”

Ray shook his head. “There’s a benefit, all right. A political benefit. We make this look good and we keep our jobs. All of us.” He looked right at Mercedes, who seemed to have the least political sophistication in the room.

At that moment, Mercedes was enlightened. “Our local system certainly put the damper on the havoc being raised by the Trafficnet (TM) problems and the collision count overload.”

Ray winked, knowingly. “End that sentence after ‘Trafficnet (TM) problems’, and you’ve got a keeper, there, kid.”

The Night Before Christmas, Vermin Version

Twas the night before Christmas, and under the couch
The roaches did scurry; before crumbs did they crouch

They made do with the things that rolled under there
searching for food amidst the dust bunnies and dog hair

As the roaches set about eating their usual fare
They saw emerging from the chimney a sight that made reason stare!

A jolly old elf, red-clad, bearded and stout
Began to ho ho ho and toss presents about

His cheer was curtailed when he saw milk and a plate
He shook his head and said “More cookies. Just great.”

“If I ate all the cookies the good folks left out
I’d be wasting away from diabetes and gout!”

Santa could lose the milk down the sink
But what with the cookies? Well, what do you think?

He crumbled them well and he crumbled them good
And then he trod carefully on the floorboard wood

Under the crouch he shoved all the crumbs
And the thankful roaches smacked all of their gums!

Santa was pleased that he’d avoid a sugar blast
And the roaches had their Christmas feast at last!

Santa fed the roaches, and before you say “Ew!”
Remember that roaches is God’s creatures, too!

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Sources-
http://www.sideeffectsofxarelto.org/current-xarelto-lawsuits/

God and Public-Private Key Cryptography

Let me begin my essay by saying that I am a Christian, and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at that. My religious views are obviously shaped by my religion, but perhaps what I have to say will be of value to other Christians and possibly even to people of other faiths. My core message is that there is a God, He does speak to us, and there are ways in which we can grow in our understanding.

God does not lay all his secrets out, for all to behold at whim and at will. But He does make available methods by which his secrets can be revealed and, more importantly, understood. These methods are available to all, but employing them requires no small amount of effort.

What I am proposing is not Gnosticism, that these secrets are necessary knowledge in order to gain a happier state after death. Rather, salvation is something that can happen independently of deeper understanding and that the deeper understanding is there for those who seek and desire it. Prefer a simpler life? Not a problem with God. But I do propose that even those who think they are living simply may, by virtue of the way in which they live, still receive revelation, understanding, and wisdom because the way in which they live allows them to decrypt messages from God.

The word “decrypt” leads me to my analogy. I hold the view that God speaks to man constantly, but that man does not always receive those messages. What is not received cannot be understood. Therefore, we must be in a state in which we are able to receive a message from God. That means, we take it in and process it, not just toss it out with the junk impressions we ignore constantly throughout the day. How do we attain such a state? It is different for each person, but generally requires a mind ready to be taught any lesson. Whatever else we do to help sensitize ourselves to promptings from the Divine – abstinence, study, repentance – can add to that preparation.

Perhaps the first few messages from God are simple ones – He is there, He loves us, He has something for us to learn that requires we be away from His presence. These can arrive to us in many ways, but when we are ready to hear these messages, we accept them and we seek verification. I believe that God can send that verification, and it is much in the same sort of way that, when we go to a secure website, we validate the certificate presented by that website. The browser receives the certificate and then checks with the certificate authority that issued it and verifies that the certificate is both valid and unexpired. Once those checks have been done, the browser shows the green lock, etc., and allows us in to the secure website. For the sake of the analogy, the cert is truly valid and the browser is not compromised and other “happy path” conditions are satisfied.

Should there be a problem with the cert, the browser displays a warning and either forbids us to go further or only allows us if we are truly determined and know where to click. So it is in our minds. We can hear messages that seem to have a divine origin, but they simply don’t ring true. There is no edification, no clarity, no resonance in them. The same can happen for actual divine messages when we are not prepared to receive them, but that has more to do with our inability to receive the full message. Without a full message, a partial certificate will fail in its validation check.

But, here, we have a message from God and it leads us to feel at peace. We see things, and they make sense. We feel as though something good is coming of this. I believe that the Holy Spirit will also provide a warm feeling, a sensation within the body that arouses it to an emotional response not unlike love. Your faith may have other words or ways to explain this, but nearly all faiths speak of enlightenments, ecstasies, and epiphanies. This is that such thing.

But this is also only the introductory message, one that can be given freely to all who are ready to receive it. What, then, of deeper understandings?

For more secure transactions, for more engaged communications, we need public-private key cryptography. In this, there is a private key that everyone, even God, has. This private key is used for our own encryption. If we say something that we want someone else to understand and perhaps no one else, we use our private key to encrypt the message.

The problem is that no one will be able to decrypt that message without our private key. This is where the public keys enter into the picture. If you give me your public key and I give you mine, we can use the other person’s public keys as we encrypt our messages in such a way that our own private keys are able to decrypt the messages we receive from the trusted person we have exchanged public keys with.

In computing, those public keys must be validated and communications have to be set up in order to have a trust established that allows the exchange of those keys. This is done with packets and such, and I will pass over the technical details. Readers are invited to read more about how public-private key encryption works, if they are curious about the matter.

In life, our exchange of public keys with God is made through covenants. A covenant is a two-way promise in which each party provides something and receives something. We enter into covenants solemnly and, in that solemn moment, God provides us with what we need to begin to understand Him. In my belief, the first covenant is baptism. In other beliefs, it may be a profession of faith or an act of worshipful devotion, but the promise to serve God is made and, in return, God promises to serve us. This is our key exchange.

At this point, we are able to not just get messages from God, but unscramble them. We are able to take what we receive and find deeper meaning in it. We are able to take the deeper meanings and derive wisdom from them. That wisdom, in turn, helps us to live lives of peace and love, even if there is pain and strife around us.

In proper cryptography, keys are renewed from time to time. So it is with God. We must be about the business of renewing our covenants if we wish to continue to receive wisdom from Him. Failing to renew our faith means the messages we do get are not able to uplift us any more because we cannot decrypt them. If we continue in not renewing our faith, we eventually no longer receive those messages as we once did and we may even think that all that communication was imaginary.

But if we do renew our faith, if we do renew our covenants with God, if we strive to keep ourselves clean, if we treat others with respect and care, if we give help to those in need of it, we renew those keys to understanding and we find treasures of yet deeper wisdom.

I would say that a similar thing happens with close friends and people that we love. Our covenants with them lead us to deeper, more meaningful bonds that can serve as an example of the relationship we should have with God. The same love that I have for my wife and the whole of my family teaches me the way in which I must also love my God, for God is love. It is through love that we prepare ourselves to receive Him and His messages and it is through love that we renew our covenants, that we might continue to receive Him and His messages.

Without love, there is no understanding. Without love, we may as well study random letters instead of scriptures. Without love, we may as well listen to static instead of a message of peace. With love, things become much more clear. Though the lives we live may be trimmed in sadness and hardship, love is able to allow us to see that mortality is only a part of our eternal existence, and that with love we are capable of so much more with that eternal existence. Love, renewed love, is the true key to understanding God. Share the keys of love with others, that they might also come to understand God.

Deep Black Purple Sabbath

I wrote this back around 1998 or 1999 on a rock discussion mailing list… found it again and decided to post it here for posterity… Obviously, some things have changed, but it was true to the spirit of the times. And I like it, so there.

******

Tony owns the name for Black Sabbath, right? Well, what would happen if he needed some cash and sold it off to the highest bidder, who then tried to put together a band made up of guys that had played with Sabbath before, even if he couldn’t get the original members.

So he can’t get any originals, but he finds Dio, Bobby Rondinelli, and Don Airey have somehow become available. Bob Daisley crops up as well. For a guitarist, he has some tough shoes to fill. It would have to be a top-notch guy (or at least someone with a reputation for being top-notch), who can play really loud… someone like… RITCHIE BLACKMORE!

YES! Ritchie Blackmore is the new guitarist for Black Sabbath. He’s got a very appropriate name for it, after all. The good news is that he’s used to being the boss of everyone else in this lineup, as they’ve all been in Rainbow with him. The new album title is, of course, “Ritchie Blackmore’s Black Sabbath Featuring the Rainbow All-Stars.” Dio quits after the release of the album and Joe Lynn Turner steps in to do vocals for the tour.

The tour set list includes:

– Death Alley Driver
– Smoke on the Water
– Mistreated
– Eyes of Fire
– Man on the Silver Mountain
– Blackmore Throws Down His Guitar and Storms Off the Stage as He Shreds His Japanese Tour Visa
– Really Awkward Silence…

Seeing as how #6 wasn’t planned, our enterprising owner of the Black Sabbath name has to get a guitarist to fill in for Blackmore. Satriani says he’d love to, but contractual arrangements prevent him from joining up. Joe Turner recommends Yngvie “Dare to Spell That First Name” Malmsteen, who steps in to critical praise, although the fans say it just isn’t the same.

Daisley and Rondinelli quit after the tour. For a bassist, Neil Murray gets recruited, who then recommends David “Duck” Doyle as a drummer. Don Airey leaves in confusion and Joe Lynn Turner decides to see if Blackmore needs a replacement singer in his new band. To make things worse, Malmsteen can’t get out of Sweden because nobody knows how to spell his name on his passport renewal form, so he’s out. Murray and Doyle hook up with Bernie Marsden and Mick Moody to cover guitar duties and approach David Coverdale about doing vocal duties. He accepts and Black Sabbath Featuring Whitesnake is born. (Geoff Nichols plays keyboards, but is not credited as a full band member.)

The tour set list includes:

– Come On
– Might Just Take Your Life
– Mistreated (including “Rock Me Babe”)
– Fool For Your Loving
– Rusty Angels
– Closer to You
– Rock’n’Roll Doctor
– Hard Road
– Space Trucking
– Encore: Take Me With You

The tour and album are moderately successful, but Coverdale leaves for a chance to work with Jimmy Page again. That doesn’t quite work out, so Jimmy Page comes to work with Black Sabbath. The band is recorded playing on a club stage in a movie, revealing some killer triple lead guitar work, but Marsden and Moody soon leave the band, citing irreconciliable musical differences. Coverdale loses interest and Murray and Doyle wander off. Page is left with the name of the band and before you can say, “deja vu,” has recruited some band mates for the upcoming tour of Denmark. The group is called “The New Black Sabbath” and includes longtime session man John Paul Jones on Bass, singer Robert Plant and Jason Bonham on Drums. They don’t have any set list, but just sorta wander around on the stage doing their own thing.

When Page discovers that Geoff Nichols is somehow still with the band (he hid in the tour baggage and played keyboards via a remote control device hidden inside his steamer trunk), he becomes disoriented and gets Puff Daddy to rearrange all the old Sabbath tunes and sell the re-arranged lyrics to Michael Jackson. Page then buys them back for half of what he sold them for and carries on with the band.

Jason Bonham, however, decides he’s had enough of this and so Robert Plant gets Phil Collins to play drums. When Plant subsequently leaves as the vocalist, Collins moves in as front man and Ian Paice from Deep Purple guests on drums. Collins and the rest of the band (except Geoff Nichols, who has taken to wearing an odd mask and hanging out in Paris sewers), decide they don’t really want to be in a band called “The New Black Sabbath Featuring Bits and Pieces of Bands That Never Were with Sabbath in the First Place”, leaving Paice in a very awkward position.

Legally required to tour under the Black Sabbath name, Paice gets the rest of Deep Purple to play in the band, and the clever lads decide to make a festival arrangement of the whole thing: Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in a co-headlining tour. The set list draws heavily from the “Born Again” album, with the bass and guitars mixed unusually low. Ian Gillan, when questioned about this, merely grins and mumbles something about “revenge” and “bass players mixing albums.” The tour is hugely successful in Europe, and plays to mid-size crowds in America. Things fall apart before the Japanese leg, though.

The breakup starts quite unexpectedly when Jon Lord decides to check why his keyboards keep making extra sounds during the concert. He nearly has a coronary when he realizes Geoff Nichols has hollowed out Lord’s Hammond Organ and has been living in it for the last 7 months, performing uncredited keyboard duties all the while. Unable to tour, Lord checks into a Florida beach for much needed rest and relaxation. When the other band members of Deep Black Purple Sabbath see Nichols’ wretched conditions, they, too, freak out and head for Daytona to join Jon Lord. Only Ian Gillan remains, being quite used to the sight of a tour-disheveled Geoff Nichols.

Still required to finish off the tour, Gillan gets former Sabbath bandmates Terry “Geezer” Butler and Bill Ward to fill in on bass and drums, respectively, and even convinces Tony Iommi to come out of semi-retirement and help finish off the tour. After the Japanese tour, Gillan leaves the band graciously, expressing a desire to join his bandmates in Daytona. Ozzy Osbourne fills in on vocals.

Before the next tour can begin, however, ownership issues raise their ugly head. Michael Jackson, it seems, still owns the performance rights to much of the Ozzy-era material and is unwilling to relinquish the rights for a resonable price. Having to tour to fulfill contractual requirements of their own, the newly re-united Black Sabbath Mark Id (Nichols is still with the band, in spite of being forced to ride on the outside of the airplane and tour bus), tour with the following set list:

– Neon Knights
– Lost Forever
– Mistreated (by now a Sabbath standard, thanks to Dio, Blackmore, and Coverdale)
– Bark at the Moon
– Waiting For Darkness
– Die Young
– Heaven and Hell
– Demon Alcohol
– Blow on the Jug (Bill Ward singing)
– Close My Eyes Forever (Ward and Ozzy duet)
– Smoke on the Water
– Encores: Flying High Again
– Crazy Train
– Dirty Women (Michael let this one go, claiming he didn’t like Technical Ecstasy all that much)

And they all live happily ever after until Ozzy decides to go solo again…

A Quick Note…

A quick note to all the Republican partisans complaining about possible voter fraud: where were you in 2000 and 2004? Chickens come home to roost in politics. Remember how the GOP leaders said that Diebold voting machines being made by a strong GOP backer wasn’t an issue? Remember how the GOP leaders said that the claims of black voters being incorrectly identified as felons was overstated? Remember when a few Florida ballot boxes turned up with plenty of Republican votes, sometimes more than were registered in the precinct? Chickens coming home to roost.

Sure, this election is on track to be pretty much handed to Clinton, maybe even in a big way – Texas might go purple, if not blue. A lot of that is Trump’s fault, plain and simple. He’s highly offensive to a majority of Americans, more so than Clinton. But if the Democrats do anything shady or even illegal to slant the results in their favor, don’t come crying to me about it. The way 2000 and 2004 played out basically condoned mild to moderate voter fraud from the top on down.

I’m an independent voter that has been hugely disappointed with both major parties since the 1990s, and it sickens me how they have allowed the political process to be increasingly criminalized and the politicians to be telemarketers selling their votes to the biggest donors. I’ll agree that Clinton’s campaign has been doing some awfully sleazy things, but to any Republican – you have met the enemy, and she is y’all.

America’s Awful Nightmare

Watching the debate last night, I was chilled when I heard Trump say that if he was president, Clinton would be in jail. Trump has set off a number of fascist alarms, and this was his newest one. But to make such threats openly and then to have them resonate with a significant population of Americans is what bothers me the most.

While I do believe that Clinton escaped prosecution because of her position and influence, as have a large number of other rich and powerful Americans, I do not believe that making naked threats about jailing political opponents is the right way of dealing with that issue. I’ve spoken out against the quiet jailing of political prisoners in the USA, but this is a new one. For a major political party’s candidate to call for the pitchforks and torches to go after his opponent is an appeal to mob rule. That is most certainly not the American way.

I don’t care how big a threat one may think Clinton is, America will survive. It always has. We made it through the constitutional end-runs of Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton I, Bush II, and Obama, we can survive a Clinton II. At least all those people gave lip service to the ideals of the Constitution. Trump does not. He makes open appeals to white supremacists and fascists and he does not apologize for them. I truly hope that he loses, but that does not solve the problem of his supporters.

There are people who support Trump precisely because of his sexism, racism, and fascism. There are people who support Trump precisely because of his strong-man views and the hope that he may very well sweep aside the constitutional framework of our government and change the USA into something more on the lines of what Mussolini wanted in Italy or Vargas in Brazil or Peron in Argentina. If Trump fades from view, these people will seek out another flashy personality with no love of any truth that stands in his path to power. They will seek out that man and put him forward, and they will recruit.

And this is what concerns me about a Clinton presidency: that it will do little to still the currents that are drawing Americans towards fascism. FDR was able to offer an alternative to extremism with his New Deal. LBJ and Reagan also offered up big ideas in big packages and gave presidential turns that appealed to a wide range of Americans. Clinton I was the last of the big-tent presidents. Starting with Bush II, we have had presidents that have ruled without reaching out to the opposition, and that is a bad precedent for a president.

The resulting legislative gridlock and rule by executive order plays into the hands of fascists. If they like an executive order, it shows to them the promise of a more powerful leader. If they do not like an executive order, they howl murderously about how they have no more rights – but they will gleefully toss all those rights aside to get someone in office that will put their opponents in their places, no matter what. A Clinton II presidency will only make the fascists look for a more presentable proponent of their ideas. What we need is another FDR, LBJ, or even a Reagan to bring all of America back together to the negotiating table. Failing to do that will only strengthen the ranks of the fascists.

Open for Business

Vernon Washington punched the call button for a fleet car. Per regulations, he set his watch for atmospheric sampling. Planes were on fire, fuel dumps had been hit, who knows what else was fouling up the air? External drives in the pockets, camera in the contact lens, radio in the earpiece, everything else was ready for gathering information.

Vernon stepped out of Terminal D and into the waiting fleet car. “Datacenter, evasive.” Debris everywhere, smoke hovering over the eastern terminals, psyops staff walking around with man-portable loudspeakers, alarms sounding, fire and emergency crews everywhere… the only thing missing from the scene were the screams of the mourners. Vernon wasn’t in that response crew, though. Those sights were for someone else’s nightmares.

The car made its way deliberately to the datacenter building. It was almost totally new, shining in its energy-efficient, up-do-date architecture. Vernon made a silent bet with himself about how many old problems were simply moved from the old DC into the new that were involved in this breach. He was pretty sure there were thousands of problems, but how many were involved in today’s disaster? Vernon counted on his fingers… five.

The car pulled up to the curb. Vernon got out and the car went to go park itself. A guy with a DFW staff badge was there to greet Vernon. “You the guy with [REDACTED]?”

Vernon tapped the badge above his left shirt pocket. “I’m a federal agent. Are you my escort?”

The guy went from cocky to sheepish in a flash. His name badge read “Edwin Lu”. He badged in and held the door for Vernon. Vernon rolled his shoulders and walked up to the reception desk. “Do you need me to sign in?”

“No, we’re just coming up to my office.”

Wrong answer, Edwin. Vernon stayed by the desk. “I wasn’t really asking. Where’s the visitor ledger?”

Edwin smirked in puzzlement as he produced a ledger. “You’re not auditing us, are you?”

“No, I’m not. But you probably should expect one very soon in light of today’s events. Security is all the rules, all the time, documenting when they’re bent or broken.”

Edwin’s expression indicated that the business culture here hadn’t been stressing security for at least some time…

As they approached Edwin’s cube, Edwin grabbed a chair out of a conference room. “This is more comfortable.” Vernon was thankful for the comfy chair, but felt a little uneasy about how the “Do not remove chairs from conference rooms” sign was ignored. Still, he only expected five problems for this breach.

“OK, Edwin, do you use a RADIUS server for authenticating your wireless devices?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s take a look at the configurations. See if there are any new entries on the MAC bypass list.”

“OK…” Edwin started up a console to look at the RADIUS server. “Uhm… how will I be able to tell if the entries are new? They’re all sorted alphabetically.”

“How about a change log?”

“Um, OK…” Edwin clicked on Tools > Security > Admin Log.

The screen filled up with times, dates, usernames, and changes. Edwin and Vernon leaned forward and squinted. As they read, another log entry popped up at the top of the screen. Vernon asked, “Do you have circular logging enabled?”

“Ah… well, I dunno.”

Vernon assumed that meant yes. “Copy all the admin log files to a backup directory. Now.”

“Well, we do backups every night at 3 AM.”

“This is different. Copy them now. As in now.” Vernon didn’t want to say NOW: it was better for the working relationship if he didn’t go all caps on the guy. “It’s for forensics.” Vernon felt better when he added the why.

“OK then, just a sec.” Edwin went to the directory on the RADIUS server where the logfiles were kept and did a CTRL+A CTRL+C move and then did a CTRL+V to copy them to his local PC. “Yeesh. This is gonna be a while.”

“True. But now we have a copy of them from this time.” Vernon looked at the three newest entries in the logfile. They were identical, each 90 seconds apart. Unable to reach device at 10.9.177.12. Most likely a switch or wireless controller that had been deactivated long, long ago and nobody bothered to tell the RADIUS server. “Edwin, any way we can filter those out?”

“Well… I only know how to find stuff in this interface, not unfind them.”

“All right then, page down. We gotta read this over until we know what we’re looking for.”

“Why not check the SOC for unauthorized access events?”

“Because I’m betting dollars to donuts this is authorized access.”

“What, one of us did it?”

“Keep it down, Edwin. I’m not accusing anyone. I have no data, for starters.”

Page down. Page down. Page down. Page down. Those 90-second intervals really pile up, don’t they?

Hang on… “OK, highlight that.” Vernon pointed at a line on the screen that had nothing to do with 10.9.177.12. Edwin clicked on it, putting a nice blue tint on the text. The text noted that WANNA.SAMUE added a few addresses to the MAC bypass list.

The voice said in Vernon’s ear, “We’re getting it just fine. Maintain distance.” Good, the camera was working.

Edwin asked, “Sam did this?”

“Who’s Sam?”

“One of the security admins. Sam Wannamaker. That’s his account.”

“OK, noted. But let’s not jump to conclusions. That’s his account, probably wasn’t him. Look at the timestamps on those events.” Those addresses were added around 6:15 AM, last Saturday. “This guy Sam, when does he usually work?”

“9 to 6, like most of us. We didn’t have any changes scheduled for Saturday.”

“Is he in today?”

“Yeah, you want him?”

“Not yet, what’s the IP of where Sam logged in from?”

Edwin scrolled to the right on the logfile display. 10.1.1.15. “That’s our jump box for DC access.”

“OK, we need to check the event log on that box for where someone logged in with Sam’s account.”

“You want to do that now?”

“Yes, now. Can you hit that box from here?”

“Sure, just a sec.” Edwin fired up an RDP session to 10.1.1.15. A little while later, he had the event viewer up and filtered for logon events. 6:15 on Saturday showed that WANNA.SAMUE logged in from 84.246.99.90.

“Hold the screen there, sir.” Vernon awaited the voice in his receiver.

“That’s the University of Zagreb Computing Center.” Thank you, voice.

Chances were, Sam wasn’t in Croatia over the weekend. And whoever was in Zagreb or connected to a device in Zagreb, that was for the people next to the voice in the earpiece to resolve. Vernon was here to document what had gone on at DFW. For that, he asked Edwin, “Do you guys remote in to this jump box normally?”

“Yeah. Makes it easy for us.”

“Do you VPN in for it?”

“Well, no, not always. Our VPN’s been really unstable for the last, like, year… and we don’t always want to have to drive in to do work.”

“So…?”

“So it’s opened up on the firewall.”

That was one. Sam’s account was two, dollars to donuts. “Let’s go see Sam. He sit near here?”

“He’s two rows over.” Edwin led the way. When they arrived, “Hey, Sam, this is…”

“Vernon Washington.” Let Edwin give the rest of the info.

“Vernon Washington, a federal agent. He’s here investigating, the, uh, thing today.”

Vernon smiled. “Hi Sam. I want to get directly to the point. Can we take a look in your email?”

Sam was too confused to be scared about that question. “Umm, OK.” Sam brought up his email client. “What do you want to look for?”

“Can you search for emails with links in them?”

“Ummmmmm… yeeaaaaaah… yeah. Here we go.” Sam typed the filter into the search box. Tons of marketing emails popped up in the results.

“We need to look at all of these, from before this last Saturday morning. Say before 7am.

“OK.” Sam’s cooperation was pretty natural, not typical for a suspect. Which made sense, since Vernon didn’t suspect Sam the man. Just Sam the account.

The procedure was straightforward: look at the link in the email. Ask Sam if he clicked on it. Hover over the link and see if it goes to where the email claimed it would go. If nothing noteworthy came up, move on to the next email. As it turned out, Sam ignored almost all of the marketing stuff. Lots of looking, lots of scrolling…

Then there was the email from Rhonda, the group coordinator. Sam had clicked on the link and the hovering mouse said it was to an IP address that was nowhere inside the company.

The voice in the earpiece said, “Nothing there now, but it was in Argentina.”

Vernon counted the third problem. No spear phishing training. Or if there had been training, Sam here was in the 1% of computer users that training had no effect on. Sam had clicked on the link, provided a credential, someone used it to try the RDP box open to the Internet, got in and set up the MAC addresses of the grenade launchers to be permitted on the wireless network… and this jump box would also be a likely point of origin for the signals sent to the passenger vans and grenade launchers alike.

Two more openings to find.

First, Vernon collected pertinent files on his external drive. As he made the copies, he asked, “Who’s in charge of the passenger vans?”

Sam and Edwin looked at each other. Sam said, “Facilities?”

That wasn’t going to get anywhere. “How about the IP range for the vans?”

Sam clicked around and brought up the IP management interface. A few more clicks and he had the answer. “10.100.100.0/24.”

Vernon asked, “How about doing an SSH to an address in that range?”

Sam tried. He got a connection refused error message.

Vernon groaned inside. “Try telnet.”

When that made a connection, Vernon asked Sam, “Do you know the username and password to use?”

“No.”

“Try admin/admin.”

Sam typed and got in. Everyone felt ashamed that it had worked, and on the insecure telnet protocol, to boot. Vernon figured whoever was able to send commands to the vans didn’t even have to try – just being in the area would allow anyone to get an unsecured copy of everything sent to the vans. Not just the default, unchanged username and password, but also the commands used to maneuver the vehicles. Pretty darn handy.

And that default credential set was problem number four. One more to go, and that would be no limitation on what devices could send commands to the vans. Obviously, that was wide open.

There wasn’t much more Vernon could do. He made some small talk with Sam and Edwin, handed out cards, asked them to contact him if they had any more informa- say, the lights were flickering.

Then they went out. The air conditioning also cut out. But the computers and monitors didn’t. Vernon made a guess that the power wasn’t cut – something else was getting messed up.

Edwin asked, “What the hell’s going on?”

Vernon made a guess. Given the state of security there, it was a pretty good guess to make. “You guys got licensed hardware?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, check your licenses. Betcha someone’s zeroed them out. You really need to change those default admin passwords.” Vernon figured he’d gather some more data while he was here. It wasn’t his first license blasting case to investigate, that was for sure…