Prisoner of War

Some time ago I discovered, much to my dismay, that an invading force has been encroaching on my home.  They are surprisingly evasive, nimble, and difficult to capture or kill. They elude my traps, evade my defenses, and mock my frustrations. I am of course referring to mice, the terrorists of the rodent world. These insurgents have been giving me trouble for about two months now.

I started out thinking there were only a few mice. So I put out a few snap traps with peanut butter on them. I caught nothing. I checked the traps several times each day, and they were untouched. So I changed the locations of the traps. I changed the bait. I threw them all away, bought new ones, and completely baited and set the new ones wearing gloves so my scent would not be on them. Still I caught nothing.

So I bought a rolling log mouse trap as seen on YouTube. They guy claims to have caught 11 mice in one night. Granted, that was in a barn with a huge mouse population. It’s a target rich environment. I set up that trap, and got nothing for a couple of weeks, even after moving it around and changing bait. I finally did catch one mouse with this trap. That is the only mouse I have managed to catch to date.

After the failure of the rolling log trap, I in frustration went and bought twenty snap traps and set them throughout the house. I called it my Shock and Awe campaign, and is when I formally declared war on the furry little minions.

They only member of this household to have any success is the cat.  He has caught three that I am aware of.  Personally, I will never take a mouse away from a cat.  I figure, he worked for it, he gets to keep his toy.  If I want a mouse I should go catch my own.  It’s only fair, right?  Well, the roommate’s girlfriend doesn’t share my opinion.  She took one away from him, put it in a glass jar, and presented it to me when I got home.  He is so tiny, about the size of my thumb, not counting his tail.  I call him Stuart.  So there I was, with a wounded mouse in a glass jar.  HE wasn’t moving at all.  He was breathing quite fast, but mice have a high metabolism, so it might have been fine.  But he was definitely not alert.  I thought about finishing Stuart off.  I mean, he was injured, wasn’t moving around much, and looked to be in pain.  I almost went and flushed him down the toilet.  There are worse ways to die than drowning, right?

Then I realized, much to my dismay, that the situation was more complicated than I had considered.  Articles 13 to 16 of the Geneva Convention state, “…prisoners of war must be treated humanely without any adverse discrimination and that their medical needs must be met.”  So, I waited, and little Stuart lived.  Why?  So I put some shredded up paper towel in the bottom of the five gallon bucket I had been using for the rolling log trap.  Then I put a little cup of water and some peanut butter on a paper towel in the bottom, and waited until morning the next day to see if Stuart was still alive.  He was.  Damn it!

That brings us up to today.  Stuart is much more lively today.  He was difficult to catch when I took him out of the bucket to change out the shredded paper towel for some proper bedding I got from the pet store.  The pet store provided me with a few nuggets of rodent food for Stuart to see if he makes it through the week.  I say a few nuggets of food, but bear in mind, these nuggets are bigger than Stuart’s head.

Stuart is still favoring one of his rear legs.  He isn’t using it at all.  I don’t know if it’s broken bones, soft tissue damage, nerve damage, or a combination of those.  I may never know.  I do know that without the use of that leg, he will never survive long in the wild.  So in a week, provided Stuart is still alive, I will try to gauge his health, and chances of survival if released (many miles away from my house) in the wild.  If he never starts using that leg, I may have a Prisoner of Way for the rest of his natural life.  Grrr

Right to Boycott

Part of my Google news feed today included a disturbing story.  Just Google, “congress to make boycott of Israel illegal.”  This is a direct attack on the first amendment and freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech is the most important of our fundamental rights.  It has to be exercised, or it has no value.  And here is the thing, freedom of speech is the two edged sword.  You have the right to express your opinion no matter who disagrees.  But that also means that everybody else gets to express their opinions, no matter how offensive you find what they say.  Here is the text of the first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Emphasis mine)

I believe it is reprehensible to boycott Israel.  I believe that Israel has every right to all of the land currently occupied by the Palestinians.  And I have the right to say as much.  This also means that people with anti-Israel sentiments have every right to boycott Israel.  They have every right to speak whatever antisemitic ideas that occur to them.  The KKK has every right to speak whatever racist ideas they wish.  Pedophiles have the right to advocate adult child sexual relations.  Everybody has the right to argue pro-life, or pro choice, whichever they believe.  No matter what the topic, you have the right to voice your opinion.  No person, no matter what their political position, has the right to dictate what you can or cannot say, discuss, advocate, or condemn, no matter how offensive they believe your words are.

No matter how much I disagree with their ideology, opponents of Israel have the right to boycott, to organize boycotts, to discuss their reasons for the boycott, to come together in their mission.  I, nor any other person, has the right to obstruct them.  The second amendment clearly states above that, Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.  So let them pass their law.  I wager it will be contested to the supreme court where it will be struck down as unconstitutional.

Motorcycle Rear Ended

In a previous post I mentioned trying to find a motorcycle.  Here is why.

Yesterday I got rear ended, as the title says.  Thankfully I was not injured at all.  But the bike did not come out so lucky.  I was sitting at the light on Broad Street and Maney Avenue.  There were a few cars in front of me.  The light had just turned green and I was preparing to go.  Then the car behind me struck the bike.  He says he was trying to get something off the floor under his feet.  He was afraid it would go under the brake peddle, and he did not realize he was rolling forward.  It crushed the lights and the license plate holder and mangled the rear fender.  All of that damage is cosmetic and should not cost a whole lot to repair.

However, when I was loading the bike into the trailer I noticed a vibration in the rear end.  I fear that the impact tweaked something in the back.  Maybe it just knocked the rear wheel out of alignment.  Maybe that put the drive shaft in a bind causing the vibration.  Maybe it bent the frame.  Maybe it bent the driveshaft.  There are any number of things the impact could have done that could easily cost more than the bike is worth to repair.  If that is the case, then I’ll get a check to replace it.  With any luck the guy’s insurance won’t try to low ball me.  I imagine they will try, but information is power, and I intend to be well informed before the negotiations begin.

So, if they do total out the bike, depending on what I get from the insurance company, I can put some money with it and get the bike I really want.  For a while now I have been looking at the 2008 Honda VTX 1800 Tourer.  And that picture is even my favorite color scheme that they had.  For reference, my bike has an 1100 cc engine.  Jumping up 700 cc in engine displacement is no small thing.  My 1100 is rated at 50.3 hp, 65.5 ft lbs of torque, and weighs roughly 650 lbs.  The 1800 is rated at 106 hp, 120 ft lbs of torque, and weighs 800 lbs.

Again, if they give me enough, and I put some money with it, I might be able to get that bike.  So this whole incident could end up being a blessing in disguise.  I will definitely post here if I get one.  Those VTX 1800’s are really nice bikes.  [crosses fingers]

Facebook Rant

I honestly do not understand how Facebook has grown to be what it is.  I’m good with tech stuff in general, but I cannot figure out how Facebook works to save my life.  I mean, what the hell is my Facebook Wall anyway?  It’s not really a blog, because all kinds of stuff keeps showing up on it I did not post.  And where does all that stuff come from anyway?  I thought it was supposed to be MY wall.  How do other people post to it?  It’s not really a message board, I don’t think.  I think you’re supposed to be able to reply to stuff, but for the life of me I don’t know how.  I never can tell where something I write is going to end up.  Will it post to my wall, to my friend’s wall, or to the ether?  It feels very random.  Is what I am writing a post, a comment, a reply, etc?  I never know how Facebook will treat what I am writing.

Then, a friend of mine texted me a screen capture from his phone of a Jeep for sale on the Facebook Marketplace.  I spent hours trying to find that Jeep.  The Facebook Marketplace is the most retarded and unsearchable site I’ve ever tried to use.  I can’t find anything on it.  I can’t even find the marketplace at all on my computer.  Tonight I decided to search for a motorcycle.  I got nothing for my hour of just trying to find the marketplace, never mind anything on the marketplace.  I never found the Marketplace itself.  Google sent me to http://www.facebook.com/fbmarketplace.  From there I entered the model of bike I want and the results were not Marketplace ads.  All of the results were basic Facebook pages, or posts, or blogs, or comments, or whatever the hell they are, but not For Sale ads.  It is not a marketplace if no commerce is being conducted.

Go to hell Facebook.  You’re retarded.

Another Bone to Pick with Microsoft

Back in August Microsoft deployed their Anniversary Update for Windows 10.  I learned my lesson on early adopting anything coming out of Redmund, so I have my Professional copies set to defer feature updates.  I do not intend to take on those updates unless I absolutely have to.  Well, yesterday Microsoft forced my hand and jammed the Anniversary Update down my throat, like it or not.  I did everything I could to stop it, even editing the registry to make my ethernet connection register as a metered service.  It still downloaded it.  I unplugged the cable from the back of the machine which stopped the download midstream and frantically Googled for a way to stop it.  Not finding one, I phoned Microsoft for a solution.  The tech I finally spoke to told me there were two solutions they could offer.  1) Let the update finish and then use the recovery option to go back to an earlier build.  2) Stop all updates completely.  So, I had to choose between a bad option and a bad option.

I understand that security updates are important, so I went with bad option number one.  Now I get to the bone I am picking.  I have my computer encrypted with Bitlocker, and other stuff.  In process of installing this rather large update, Windows required a few reboots.  During the first reboot, I unlocked my encrypted thumb drive that contains the key file required for my computer to boot, and I prepared to enter the password also required to boot, and watched in amazement as it simply continued on with the install without any input from me.

Let’s put this into perspective.  I have configured Bitlocker to require a key stored on a TPM chip installed on the motherboard, a key file stored on the above-mentioned hardware encrypted thumb drive, and a twenty character alpha-numeric pin (the maximum length Bitlocker supports).  My computer, while installing the update, rebooted.  The screen showed the video card post screen, the raid post screen, and the motherboard post screen that handed the process over to the Windows boot loader.  At that point, with only the TPM portion of the process fulfilled, the Windows Update process continued to write to an encrypted file system.  How?

I presume that the RAM was cleared, so the encryption key shouldn’t have been stored there.  The file system is encrypted, so it could not have been stored there as the update process would not have the key to read the key.  So the only place left is the unencrypted boot sectors of the system drive.  That is a massive security hole that completely destroys the point of encryption.  If the key was written to an unencrypted portion of the system drive, that key is now recoverable by a hacker or other threat to my digital security.

The other possible explanation, Windows temporarily disabled Bitlocker for the duration of the update process.  This is an equally bad situation.  It took hours to fully encrypt the 930GB of usable space on my system drive, despite that fact that it’s four striped SSD’s.  How then, can the update process, in a matter of minutes, circumvent that encryption?

This whole post boils down to one thing.  What little faith I had in Bitlocker is gone.  At great expense and with much effort, I have switched to other solutions.  Thank you, Microsoft for costing my hundreds of dollars and many hours to fix your gaping security holes.