Why I Am Voting For Hillary Clinton For President

27 July 2016

I decided this quite a while back, towards the end of the Republican primary process.  The rationale has several facets to it.

Overriding all else, I can’t really see myself voting for a Republican at the national level for a long, long time.  The disgraceful tactic of non-governance, few (but odious) policies, complete disrespect for facts, and worst of all, a deliberate policy of trying to gain power by scaring people, make the Republican party that I belonged to a part of history.  This process started before the 1992 campaign, and has not improved.

That being said, I’ve examined the policies being proposed by Clinton, and overall find them in the same lines as my personal philosophies.  Clinton expresses support for all levels of education. She is a strong proponent of equality for all (to include women, people of color, and LGBTQ people). She has good ideas for the economy.  One idea I like in particular is to encourage companies to profit share with the employees that do the actual work, treating those workers with respect.  Perhaps the most important part of the appeal of her economic plans is that she actually recognizes there is a problem than should be and can be fixed, as opposed to Republicans who myopically actively hinder the economy as part of their non-governance heel-dragging, trying to maintain the status quo of corporations that take all profits to upper management and shareholders.

Hillary Clinton has had the most serious vetting of any candidate, and perhaps any person, in history.  Countless investigations, most of which have been trumped up, have found no evidence of wrongdoing.  One thing I think I can appreciate is that in many cases where she was investigated, it was for taking action, and that action annoyed Republicans, who investigated out of petty spite.

It goes without saying that Republicans have rarely tried to match Clinton with policy and legislation.

Reading though policy papers, you see a lot of reference to science and technology.  In particular, Clinton is no climate change denier.  She, like Obama (and for that matter, Republicans when Bush was President), believes that comprehensive immigration reform is the way to do.  She does not demonize immigrants, and does not use immigrants as weapons to scare the easily scared.  She supports expanded voter rights, instead of the Republican policies of trying to keep grasping at power by trying to disenfranchise people of color.  She does not believe that Islam is an enemy of the United States, and that our Muslim citizens and visitors are overwhelmingly not terrorists.

As I was thinking about this post over the past couple days, I was watching an ever greater level of invective on numerous platforms, including social media and radio programs.  All manner of accusations, made-up charges, old and untrue tripe, but repeated endlessly by the easily duped.  Clinton has shown an impressive level of grace in not responding to the crap sent her way.

Clinton will help get SCOTUS back on track, and away from the conservative corporations-are-people justices.

So Hillary Clinton has my vote for President of the United States.  It is my fervent hope that the other side doesn’t wise up electorally-speaking, and that helps deliver at least the Senate as well, and help send Republican conservatism to the trash heap.

Another Example of Bad News Coverage

22 July 2016

A while back, I posted about news coverage of a suspected Ebola case in Stillwater.  The media in question trumpeted about a case being Ebola when it was already known not to be.

There were several examples today in the same vein.  I’m going to pick on the NBC Nightly News for this one.

The setup is that a mentally disturbed man had wandered away from a home.  Another man, a therapist, was there to help calm the mentally disturbed man.

Somehow the police had been told the disturbed man had a gun.

The therapist was sitting near the disturbed man, and the therapist had his hands raised, knowing the cops were nearby with guns out.  A cop took aim at the mentally disturbed guy, but was a lousy shot, and hit the therapist in the leg.

It’s been reported the cops then rushed over and handcuffed the therapist.  If true, those cops are stupid.

Regardless, this happened Monday.  Today, the NBC News reported it like this:

  1. A man laying on the ground with his hands raised was shot by police.
  2. The man was unarmed, and trying to help a mentally disturbed man.
  3. The man shouted to the police that the mentally disturbed man did not have a gun, but a toy truck in his hands.

The story went on for a couple minutes in that vein, and most of the way through, the correspondent finally says that the cop in question thought the therapist was in danger, shot, and missed the target, hitting the therapist.

It seems to me that the tone of the story was to continue a narrative of black men shot by cops.  Whether done for political reason (unlikely, I think) or to drive ratings (more likely), the tone should have been different.

Something like this:  “In Miami today, a cop shot at a man and missed, wounding another man nearby who was trying to help.  Neither the target or the helping man had guns.  Maybe Miami cops need to be issued binoculars, and need additional training on the range.”  Because those are really the two problems.

If the therapist says there is no gun, and he is two feet away, why did the cop shoot so fast?  If the cops had binocs, one could have observed the situation a little more clearly.

Regardless, this was an example of lousy reporting.

Homeslice Pizza, Durango, CO

20 July 2016

Homeslice Pizza North Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After getting off the trail from three days of backpacking, our Scouts were hungry! We were at the nearby Community Center for showers, and called in our pizza order (for 20!) to give Homeslice some warning.

They treated us very well, we got there and were seated on the small patio around a cool serving area. The pizzas started coming in about 10 minutes. Our crew went through five large pizzas (pepperoni, supreme, greek, cheese, and something else) pretty quickly. Drinks were provided with glasses and pitchers of several beverages, including a welcome pitcher of Dr. Pepper!

The pizzas were thin crust, and were very good.

Our server was seemingly always there and smiling, which was especially hard when the first round of drinks were dispensed, which meant a lot of back and forth with pitchers.

I don’t know what the check was, but the pizza was excellent, and I would gladly go back again.

Optimus Cook System

20 July 2016

optimus

Raegan and the kids got me a new backpacking stove and pot for my birthday, an Optimus unit that is lighter than the Primus stove I have been carrying the past couple years.  This one came from Cabela’s, and was on sale for $60.

The pot has fins for heat distribution like a JetBoil, and the stove fits the usual isopro fuel canisters.  This weekend, I am going to do a fuel consumption test, but in the first checkout at home, the rig boiled 3.5 cups of water in 2 minutes 40 seconds, darned impressive.  I used it several times on the trail last week, and had similar performance numbers.

The 3.5 cups figure is important in that a typical backpacking meal takes around 2 cups of boiled water.  So that means one boil cycle gets you and your hiking partner dinner, and a nice cup of soup or tea, and then some.  If the meal is one of those that require 1.5 cups, then both of you get a cup of soup.

The burner folds sideways, and then the legs that hold the pot fold in half, and the burner gets very small.  Very cool.

The fuel canister fits inside the pot.  The folded up burner fits on top of it, then the pan/cup makes a lid.  One thing the rig needs is a rubber band to get it to all stay together in your pack (carry a couple, I found one on the trail, but it broke, probably due to the fins on the bottom of the pot).  A small strip of paperboard would probably solve that problem.

The stove and pot all weigh less than half of my Primus and pot combination.  Part of that is the very small size of the stove, and part due to the fact that the capacity is smaller (5 cups vs. 3.5) and the metal they are made of.  I like that the Optimus, fuel, and stove are one unit; my Primus was too big to fit into the pot with the fuel canister in there.

So far, I like this stove a lot.  Better performance and lighter, what’s not to like?  I might look at replacing the lid with a flat one to reduce the volume a bit more, but so far, I like it!

24 July 2016 Update:

I did a test of fuel use for this stove over the weekend.  The test conditions:  fill the pot (800ml) with tap water (about 60F) and heat to boiling.  I did five runs, and each took between 2.5-3 minutes to boil the water.

The total fuel used was 43 grams, which works out to 8.6 grams per pot, impressive.  But it is not apples-to-apples with the Primus, where I boiled 5 cups with 10 grams.  Doing some stoichiometry (thanks, Mrs. Guthrie!)  resulted in the Primus probably using around 6.7 grams of fuel for 800 ml, which was a little surprising.

I thought about it yesterday, and my theory has to do with time to boil.  I seem to remember the Primus boiling the water in around 5-6 minutes.  So I wonder if the extra fuel use is due to the higher BTUs produced by the Optimus and my running it at max, and some of the heat being wasted, while the water still boiled in half the time.  If I get a chance I will break a Primus out and time it with 800ml in it.

Still, the Optimus is a lot lighter and a  lot faster.  Given what I know about how much water I need on the trail, I think I will be able to stretch out one of the big canisters for a couple weeks, or even better, go with smaller canisters for a trip of up to a week.  My thinking here is a pot of water in the morning (a couple cups of tea and oatmeal), and another in the evening.  If I derate for colder water, that’s about 25 gms of fuel per day, or 12 days of use from a large canister.

Not bad at all.

Even A Black Conservative Can’t Get It Right

20 July 2016

I was listening to the NPR program “On Point”, hosted by Tom Ashbrook, over lunch. Ashbrook had a lady who self-identified as a black conservative on who was talking about the Republican convention, and the discussion was about people (mostly conservative) who reflexively  spout “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” in response to Black Lives Matter.

The lady then made the following statement (it may be a few words off, but I guarantee it captures the point):  “Well, Black Lives Matter is funded by an ultraliberal group, and by the way, their objective is the destruction of America”.

Ashbrook, it should be noted, did not even question that bold, and stupid statement.  I’ve noted while listening to his program that he is a terrible interviewer, this is just another example.

One more point, if BLM is funded by an ultraliberal group, I need to find out who and donate to them, because good on them for helping people towards equality.

So I don’t know if the lady is ignorant (like many or most Trump supporters) or just so partisan that she has to lob nukes instead of spears.

I’ve been to the BLM website, and I can’t find anything on it that could even be remotely described as advocating for the destruction of America.

I find it horrifying that every time there is another police killing of a black, white (almost all conservative) people immediately throw memes about how cops lives matter.  The implication is a knee-jerk that any acknowledgement of how black lives OUGHT to matter somehow takes away from cops, or whites, or whatever.  It’s an example of an inherently racist attitude that is stating “you people can’t acknowledge that your lives matter without acknowledging that cop lives matter” (really, this is code for white lives, let’s be realistic).  This is the same sort of bogus argument that stated that allowing gay marriage would undercut straight marriage.

Look, folks, the recent killing of several police officers notwithstanding (and that is wrong as well), black lives have NOT mattered to many whites over the history of the country, even continuing today.

Why don’t those of you who question why there is even a BLM movement, instead question why one is needed.  If black lives mattered, then all in the country would have equal opportunity.  We don’t.  Whether for economic equality, voting equality, educational equality, it’s not there.  We can’t be “one nation” until we get there.

Note:  I’m going to find the transcript of the “On Point” program in question when it is posted and update this article.

Backpacking (most of) Segment 28 of the Colorado Trail

20 July 2016

Hike Summary: 19.3 miles of the last (or first?) segment of the Colorado Trail.

Photos from the trek are located on my Google+ site here.

Last week, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GS-West) High Adventure Team (HAT) backpacked most of Segment 28 of the Colorado Trail. This segment runs from Kennebec Pass down to Durango, CO.

My first plan had been to start at the Pass and walk the rest of the trail in.  However, the last couple miles of road to the Pass are pretty rough, and four-wheel drive with high clearance is recommended.  Since we were driving a couple 15-passenger vans, that didn’t sound very promising.  So instead I saw that FS Road 204 got to within about a mile of a trailhead, and Champion Road, AKA 171, would get us there.  I talked to a very nice young lady in the Durango Forest Service office, who told me that getting vans in there would not likely be a problem.

Getting There

FS 204 is about 15 miles from Junction Creek camp, where we stayed two nights prior to backpacking.  While half of the road is pretty decent, the other half is darned rough, and you can only drive about 10-15 miles an hour on it.  FS 204 connects to Champion/171 for about a mile.  You can park in several wide spots in the road where the Colorado Trail crosses 171, and there is plenty of room to turn around.

We had driven up to Durango in two vans and a truck.  We left the truck in Junction Creek camp with the permission of the camp hosts, which was very nice of them to let us do that.

The drive up there has some spectacular views of the Weminuche Wilderness and the Molas area.  It’s worth a drive up there if you are in the Durango area.

There are no facilities of any sort at the trailhead, and no water.

Day 1

The drive to the trailhead took a lot longer than I had thought it would, and we got there about 1115, and hit the trail around 1140.

There was a lot of green stuff on the trail starting right at the trailhead.  And flies.  Lots of flies.  They were annoying, and some bit.

We had lunch at a nice spot just above Fassbinder Gulch.  We hiked along and down, and didn’t see more than a trickle of water in the several creekbeds we passed.

At some point, we were somewhat above Flagler Creek.  We turned up Leavenworth Gulch, and there is a decent waterfall there that is about 75 ft tall.  The creek from the falls runs into Flagler, and that water looks solid.

We got to camp about 1630.

We camped at a small area near a bridge built over Junction Creek.  The camp has no tree cover, and was quite hot in the direct sun, but around 1800 Sun dropped behind the hill to the west and it started cooling off.

One interesting thing here, we found the remains of a small (calf?) elk at the north end of the camp area.

The obnoxious flies went away as soon as Sun went behind the wall, and started again as soon as Sun came back over the wall to the east the next morning.

There are not many places to hang a bear bag here.

The days hike was 5.62 miles, with 416 ft of altitude gain, and 2180 ft loss.

Day 2

This was a different day.  We anticipated a big climb and little water.  We broke camp and headed out about 1000.  The trail did not disappoint, we headed steadily upward all morning.  The trail was not steep, but it was steadily up.

We found a very nice spot for lunch at a high point near Sliderock Canyon, that had amazing views all around.

Right after leaving the lunch spot, we found a small stream where it crossed the trail in Sliderock.  There was a bit of a larger stream in the next turn, First Trail Canyon.  We pumped a couple liters of water from the First Trail stream, but I don’t know that it is reliable water; the pool we pumped from was about 10 inches across and a couple inches deep.

At the point between First Trail and Road End Canyons, you can look down the Junction Creek drainage and see Durango in the distance.  We had solid 4G service there.

As we came around into Road End Canyon, it looked to me like there was a former camp on the north side, but it was terribly overgrown. You have to keep going and make the turn at the end of the canyon, and the camp is about another hundred yards, between the two arms of the trail.  We hit camp around 1600.

This camp is in the trees and is very cool.  A low volume stream flows on the north side of the camp; the stream may be reliable through summer.  It was a stretch to get all of our tents and hammocks in there, but we got it done.  There is a nice fire ring with logs to sit on.

Our second day on the trail was 5.94 miles and 1650 ft of altitude gain.

Day 3

We got up and managed to hit the trail around 0930.  We didn’t see any water again until we hit Junction Creek at the bottom of big wall below Guda’s rest.  Before we left camp, we filled a couple of Platypus bladders and all of the water bottles.

We found a very nice spot for lunch above Deep Creek, right before the trail headed back to the east.  There were amazing views off to the south, and cell service was 4G along here.

At one point, we hiked into an area that was largely open, with a lot of scrub oaks.  We saw a number of bear scat, and Elaine and I smelt strong bear smell at one point.  I’m certain we were within tens of yards of a bear, possibly sleeping.

We hiked along until we were able to enjoy the view from Guda’s Rest, then headed down the big switchbacks there to Junction Creek (the first water since we left camp), and along to Junction Creek campsite.

Our last day was 9.9 miles, with 2760 ft of altitude loss.  We had some tired girls coming off the trail.

When we got off the trail, we sent the girls to the campsite at Junction Creek with two of our adults, and took the truck back up to the trailhead, then all of us drove back again.

It was a lot hotter there than we expected.  Forecasts before we left were in the mid 60s and mid 40s, which was consistent with the historical data at a SNOTEL at 10,000 ft a couple miles farther west.  We had temps in the mid to high 80s for highs, but at least the humidity was low.  We had zero clouds for the first two days, and a couple sparse clouds on Day 3.

I’m thinking it would be a dry distance for our Day 2 and 3 segments in August.  I drank every bit of my 2 bottles hiking to our second camp, so it would take another couple for staying overnight up there, not to mention not seeing any more water until getting all the way to Junction Creek.

Maps

Terrain

Altitude

 

Summary

This was a good beginners backpacking trip.  The Scouts did great, and handled the climbs and loads with ease.  We were kind of slow, but it doesn’t matter as we got into camp in plenty of time each day.

I’m very proud of the Scouts for keeping good spirits up in spite of the heat and the flies.

Bergan’s of Norway Helium 55

19 July 2016

I switched from my external frame Kelty to an internal frame pack back in 2011, and ended up with a Cabela’s pack that was about 90L. That pack has served me well on a couple dozen backpacking trips, and many other camping trips.

The Cabela’s pack weighs 5.75 lbs. When I was working on getting my pack weight down, that’s obviously a good chunk of weight. A couple months ago, the gear review issue of Backpacker magazine came out, and so I decided to read it to see what was available for less weighty packs. I also visited Backwoods, and a couple REI stores to see what they had.

One that caught my eye was the Bergan’s of Norway Helium 55 pack. It only weighs 2 lb 3 oz, so that’s darn near three pounds lighter than my Cabela’s pack. It also retailed for $180, which was about $100 less than comparable packs. After reading the Backpacker article a couple times, a couple online reviews of the Helium 55 (and the previous years version of it), and general reviews of Bergan’s products, I decided to give it a try.  I wanted to try it on, but they have limited places that carry Bergan’s  (one was north of Salt Lake City; I was reading the Backpacker magazine on the flight home to OKC from SLC, oh well…).  I ordered it online from Bergan’s, it shipped from Colorado, and was at the house a couple days later.  I had included two auxiliary pouches that are meant to be strapped to the outside of the pack, and add five liters of carrying space on the outside of the pack, each.

First thing, I transferred everything from the Cabela’s pack to the Bergan’s, and it all fit. Now, that doesn’t include food, or any shared gear I might be carrying, but there was still quite a bit of room in the Helium.  I looked at every seam and every surface, it seemed well put together.  The straps were a little thinner, the pads not as substantial as on the Cabela’s, but OTOH they padded where the thing touched me.  The fabric of the pack was a lot thinner than the Cabela’s, but it wasn’t strained either.

I took the pack on a shakedown hike with my Scouts a couple days later, it rode pretty well, but then I didn’t have it fully loaded up.

I had a three-day backpacking trip in Colorado coming up, and was largely living out of the pack for a total of eight days.  When I loaded it up for the trail, dry (i.e. everything but food and water), the total pack weight was 22 pounds.  When I loaded it with food and water and shared gear a couple days later, I was at 28.5 pounds, which is 60% of what I carried over the rim at Grand Canyon a couple years ago.  My back appreciates the weight reduction…  :)

Here’s the pack after three days on the trail:

PackZoomed

The walking part of the trip was over 21 miles.  The pack felt as if it was an integral part of me.  I adjusted the torso length to maximum.  The hip belt was right on top of my hips, and tight enough that there wasn’t any slack that let the pack slide around as I turned. The pack had good ventilation as well; my back was sweat-wet, but the pack didn’t get any of that.

The side pockets:  WHOA!  At one point, I had both 1-L bottles, and the area map, in one side pocket, and my water pump, pack cover, and some thing I was carrying for someone else in the other, with room to spare. I love those pockets!

The pack has stretchy strings cris-crossed on the sides.  I never figured out how those work, so I took them off and stashed them.  I will revisit them later.

The lid was never completely full.  One thing I liked is that the lid has four adjustable straps.  For the first two days, I had our tarp between the lid and the main compartment, but on the last day I realized it would it into the pack with the rest of the stuff.

The pack felt comfortable walking.  I did have a hard time reaching my water bottles and map in the deep side pockets.  I moved the map to a pocket on my pants.  When I wanted a drink, I asked one of my fellow hikers to grab the bottle, then put it back later.

The zipper down the front never got bound up or seemed to be too tight to close.  It was kind of cool to unzip from the bottom and grab my tent out of the middle of the pack.

I would pack stuff in this order:  sleeping bag into the very bottom, then the pad (rolled up), then the tent fly, stakes, and tent body (rolled up, again).  The food bad and pot/stove/fuel next to each other.  The rest of the stuff on top of those.  I never got the collar at the top extended, so there was another bunch of space.

I think I can use this pack for five-day trips with no issue.  If it is colder and I need more clothing, the trade in space is that the food we carried on this trip is bulkier then what I usually carry.  I also have the two external five-liter pockets to add space.

I inspected the pack closely inside and out after getting home from the trip.  There wasn’t any damage visible, or areas to be concerned with.

I’m happy with the Helium, if just due to the weight savings.  The cost was pretty reasonable as well.

One More Blow To Republicans

5 July 2016

Republicans have been waging a campaign of doing Not A Damn Thing since 2008 (well, except they have been promoting symbolic stuff a lot, but nothing substantial) as part of the Just Say No strategy to non-governing.

This has been extended to the wink-and-grin acceptance of the crazy wing of their party.

And it has also been manifested as a hope that Hilary Clinton would be taken out by some scandal. The so-called Benghazi investigations by Republicans (which were in addition to those undertaken by the DoD and DoS) dragged on with the specific intent of dragging down Clintons Presidential bid. That effort finally collapsed as the investigators could turn over no more stones in an attempt to find something to damage Clinton.

That left one thing: the so-called email server. Republicans predictably howled that Clinton should be in jail for supposedly mishandling classified material, and that this caused the Republic To Be At Grave RISK!!!!!!. A long investigation by the FBI has just been completed with a recommendation that the matter be dropped.

There will be frothing, wild-eyed discussion of conspiracy for a while, but since scandal that could damage Clinton is the best that Republicans have had (since they will not argue policy as that’s a loser for them), she will have an easy cruise to the election, and will likely be President.

Since the Republican Party as abrogated their responsibility to govern, and encouraged the base part of their followers with racist and xenophobic tripe, they have brought their own problems on themselves. I hope to see a center-left government next January, with all three branches in Democrat hands.

07 July 2016 update:

The predictable thundering howls from Republicans are ongoing. Most of the arguments revolve around two complaints: that Clinton lied to the FBI, and that she mishandled classified information.

Let’s take the claim of Clinton lying first. The argument is that Clinton told the FBI that she had not sent any emails that were marked as classified, but the data owners that reviewed the emails after the fact determined that certain emails were classified, so therefore supposedly Clinton lied. Somehow the after-the-fact classification shows that Clinton (and her professional staff) should have known the information was classified at the time. I have no idea what the information in question is, but “sensitive” is not necessarily classified. Regardless, since a lie is a deliberate falsehood, the claim that a statement by Clinton is a lie because of an after-the-fact decision by a data owner is specious at best.

Unless you accept that Clinton knew that the information she was handling was classified, but she sent it via the unclassified email system anyway, then the second major claim of mishandling classified is bogus.

One thing that is subtle, but has not been discussed that I have heard is the role of Original Classifying Authority, of which Secretary Clinton was one. OCAs, per law and Executive Order, have the authority to determine if information is classified or not. There can be help in the form of Security Classifications Guides (SCGs) in this, but in the end, high level people like Department Secretaries can make a classification or declassification decision on their own.

Pepperoni Grill, Edmond, OK

4 July 2016

Pepperoni Grill Kitchen & Winebar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and Erin and I had dinner here last evening. We have been to the location in Penn Square Mall several times, and had expectations for this location. They were met.

We started with a very good Caesar salad. I had chicken parmesan (with a side of fettuccine al fredo), Raegan chicken fettuccine al fredo, and Erin tortellini florentine. All of this was excellent. The chicken parm was plump and perfectly cooked, and the al fredo was excellent. The only real complaint I would have is that the chicken with Raegans al fredo was sliced and grilled, instead of being diced, sauteed, and tossed with the pasta. It was also a bit overgrilled.

The place wasn’t very crowded. The iced tea was pretty good, and service was quite attentive. Our check was $71.21; a bit on the expensive side for three, but OTOH, we all went home with a lunch for today (very unusual, if you know my appetite!:) ).

Something I Don’t Get About Online Ads

1 July 2016

I’ve noted many times that visits to some sites suddenly gets you targeted by ads for those sites at other sites.

An example: we needed a refrigerator to supplement our aging unit. I looked online at lowes.com and several similar places.

As is my habit, when I was done looking at refrigerators, I closed the tab and opened a Facebook tab. I was immediately shown a set of ads for refrigerators from Lowe’s that included the units I was looking at. So that’s interesting, of course, a close to real-time sharing of ad information that managed to be tied to me personally.

This went on a couple days. I would occasionally return to lowes.com (and to other sites) to look at refrigerators. Eventually, I settled on one, and it happened to be a Lowe’s unit. I went to lowes.com, found that unit, and then went through the order-and-pay sequence, which included setting up delivery to my house. I was pretty impressed by how easy it was.

That was last Thursday. Since then, I have been followed by the same Lowe’s (and a couple of other companies) ads as I have moved around the net.

And that’s what made me wonder. Lowe’s clearly could tie me as a visitor to their site (and interested in an item or type of item), and then could tie me to Facebook, and CNN, etc. to show me that ad on those sites. Why did Lowe’s not also recognize that I had bought the refrigerator, and then either stop showing me the ads for that unit (and others, since I am unlikely to buy two refrigerators), or maybe show me ads for ice makers or other refrigerator accessories, or maybe related items like a new oven?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really want ads, but OTOH, they help pay for my internet experience, and so they are a necessary thing. But if I were a marketer, I would try to use the info I have to try to get people to buy more crap as possible.

The DoD and Transgender Service Members

1 July 2016

I will be the first to say that I do not understand the mental and physical challenges that are experienced by transgender people. I’m sure I do not get the pronouns right (at least, yet).

But I think that the US Department of Defense decision today to allow openly transgender people to serve is simply outstanding.

The key word there is “people”. No matter a person’s sexual orientation or thoughts, they are people, and in the case of the United States, citizens who should be accorded the same rights (and attendant responsibilities) as everyone else.

I’ve been impressed with DoD for taking the lead on many LGBTQ issues in the past decade. This latest step is another in that series of moves that can only be good for the country as a whole.

Lake Draper Trails

26 June 2016

A month or so ago, I took a group of Troop 15 Scouts out to Lake Draper for a 10-mile hike for the Hiking Merit Badge. It had rained quite a bit the evening before, so it was quite muddy. We were on the west and northwest side of the lake.

Today, I took another group out. We got there this morning at 0830, and were on the the trail close to 0900. It was quite warm.

Draper is an OKC lake. The Point 9 area had a water faucet, but it was marked as being not potable. I saw the same thing at Crystal Lake, also an OKC lake. I do not understand why the city does not provide potable water at those two lakes.

Regardless, we managed to find the trail on the west side of the area. We almost immediately ran into tall plant fronds that completely covered the trail. We found this at many places on the trail, vegetation growing all over the trail. There were also numerous places where trees had fallen across the trail. There was a huge amount of poison ivy and an equally large amount of brambles.

To top all of this off, we experienced the largest number of ticks that I have seen since my friend Darla and I hiked around Greenleaf Lake back in 1977, picking literally dozens of the little SOBs off of ourselves. This was worse.

The ticks were so bad that when we came to a road, I decided to keep the group on the road for the rest of the hike. We had to trade the shade of being under the trees for unrelenting sun, because of the hordes of ticks.

We found a trail at Draper named after someone; it had a sign.

I think the Draper trails could be very cool to hike, but they need a lot of maintenance. I saw a huge number of tracks of deer of all sizes, raccoon, possum, coyote, and bobcat. That explains the tick population.

I am going to do some asking around city offices as to what could be done to get the trails in better shape. If the vegetation could be cut back a couple feet across the trail, the trail we saw was in good shape for hiking. A trim would help keep ticks off hikers as well.

An Amusing Email Loop

21 June 2016

Last week we were in Dallas. I was on a business trip, and I took the family with me so they could have a bit of recreation while I was working during the day.

Per company policy, I rented a car to drive down. I was given a Nissan Rogue, which is the first time I’ve driven one of those.

At some point, as is my usual practice, I connected my phone to the car using the cars Bluetooth. I get a lot of calls, and tend to take them in hands free mode.

Here’s where the amusing part comes in. My work email is set up to send me a text message when I receive a message. The text has enough of the message for me to determine how to prioritize answering the message. So I’m driving along, and I get an email in at work, which generates a text message. I check it out, not a priority.

Then I get another text message about 15 seconds later. Then another, then another… this went on for a couple minutes, and each of the messages were the same: “Sent from my car”. The rate sped up as I received about four messages in a five-minute span, so I was getting a LOT of texts. I turned off Bluetooth and it stopped the cycles.

So what happened: My work email would receive a message, and send me a text that I had a new email. The car radio would auto-reply back to my work email with a text-to-email gateway using my phone number with the “Sent from my car” message, which would arrive at work, and generate a text back to my phone. Naturally, my work email had a lot of these messages piled in my inbox.

I just left my phone disconnected from the Rogue Bluetooth (hah, sending “rogue messages!) for the remainder of the trip. I haven’t looked to see if there was a setting in the car to turn off the auto-generated reply.

One comment on that: the user interface into the Rogue display was very poor.

Perils of technology…

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, TX

20 June 2016

This past Friday, after my work finished, Raegan, Ian, and Erin and I headed to downtown Dallas to visit the Perot Museum. We got there about 1330.

One of the reasons I wanted to hit the museum is that they were playing an IMax film about our National Parks. We scored our entry tickets to include tickets for the show at 1415. Raegan got in free as she is an educator, and Erin got a discount for being a student.

We looked through the gift shop prior to show time. The movie was essentially a long commercial for our national parks (I have no problem with that). It was beautifully filmed. It was in 3D format, which was occasionally interesting but didn’t add much to the scenery.

They have a flow through the place. They want you to take a couple long escalators up to the 3rd floor, where you see a small exhibit on earth and space science, including an earthquake simulator. They also have a decent set of fossils there. On top of this level is a mezzanine devoted to birds. This was my favorite level in the museum.

From there, you drift down to level two. I love mineral collections, and while the mineral collection here was on the small side, they had some spectacular large crystals.

The life sciences hall was kind of sparse, but one thing that was pretty neat was some MRIs of the human body showing the midsections. Seeing the relationships between bones and organs was cool.

The hydrocarbons exhibit was basically a long commercial for fracking.

The Innovations hall has some cool hands-on stuff. The best thing was a robot programming station that used a form of Logo on a drag-and-drop GUI to program the robot to roam around the table.

We left right before 1800. It was an enjoyable visit, but was less extensive than other science museums we have been to. We won’t have a return visit for some time, unless they add some spectacular new exhibit. It’s worth a visit.

Johnnie’s, Edmond, OK

12 June 2016

Johnnie's Charcoal Broiler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and Erin and I had late lunch here today.

Very straightforward: each of us had a cheeseburger. Mine was a double with chili. The burger was very, very good. It was cooked with a nice crust for texture, and had great beef flavor. I usually ask Johnnie’s to go light on the shredded cheddar they pile on.

Erin got fries (and this was the only down, the fries were a touch undercooked), and we also had onion rings, perfect!

The meal was topped off with a big slide of chocolate pie. The iced tea was excellent. Our check was $44.60. Not bad at all for the quality of the burgers. Great stuff.

Ranch House, Stroud, OK

12 June 2016

Ranch House Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday evening, we were driving to Tulsa so Raegan could attend a science teachers convention, and we were hungry, so we stopped here. It was very good.

We started off with salads from the small salad bar. The potato salad, peaches, and cottage cheese were very good. We also got a mix appetizer plate with wings, mushrooms, and onion straws. All were very good.

Raegan and I got fried chicken, it was pretty much perfect, crunchy, juicy, and not dried out. It was a lot of chicken, being a four-piece. Ian got a chicken fried steak. I got a couple bites, it was very good as well. I rated it a 9 out of 10. Erin got fish and chips and liked them.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was fast and friendly. Our check was $56.84. I would gladly eat here again.

Smokehouse Bob, Muskogee, OK

12 June 2016

Smokehouse Bob's Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and Erin and I were taking a lunch break from working in Muskogee and headed to Smokehouse Bob.

They were out of chicken, ribs, and pulled pork, so we all got brisket. It was excellent. Cut a bit wet, it was tender and smoky and so flavorful. The kids both got fries. They were rough cut, deep fried, and had a bit of salt on them, and they were perfect. All three of us thought those were some of the best fries we had had. I had potato salad and slaw. I finished the salad but not the slaw, I just ran out of room.

Service was very friendly. The iced tea was excellent. Our check was $32.00. This place was great! I look forward to eating there again and trying the stuff they were out of.

A Little Bit Of History Was Made Yesterday…

8 June 2016

… and it is far past time.

Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States.  While the couple instances of having female Vice Presidential candidates was a good thing, having a woman at the top of the ticket for a major party is long overdue.

Regardless of the years-long attempts to cover her with mud, her career of public service has been good training for her to reach this milestone.  I think there is an almost certainty that she will be elected our first female President, and will continue the work that her husband started and Obama built on.

I have been impressed with her path to the nomination.  Starting with her work in the health insurance reform plan in the [Bill] Clinton administration, then on as a Senator and Secretary of State, she has formed alliances to work with people to get stuff done.  That is an essential skill that is required of a true leader, and is critical to being the leader of the entire country.

Congratulations to Ms. Clinton for sticking to the plan and winning the nomination.  I hope she continues her work, for all Americans, as part of the [Hillary] Clinton administration.

Carl’s Jr, Midwest City, OK (Well, Really About Cheeseburgers in General)

7 June 2016

Carl's Jr. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This isn’t really about the Carl’s location. It is a commentary on the sad state of fast food cheeseburgers.

I was looking for a cheeseburger today, and thought to hit up The Garage in MWC.  The place was crowded, and I was wanting to get back to work, so I headed across Crutcho Creek to the Carl’s there.  They used to have good burgers.

I got a Super Cheeseburger.  It was…  OK at best.  It had an actual crust on it from flame grilling, so there was some texture.  But the patties were small, and they had no flavor whatsoever.  I could taste the cheese (a little), the lettuce, and the mayo, but no beef flavor.

Fast food places that do cheeseburgers (I’m looking at you, Sonic, Braum’s, Burger King, McD, Whataburger, Jack In the Box, and the like), please stop serving us up meat with no flavor.  I don’t mind paying six or seven bucks for a fast food burger combo, but I want it to have some flavor and some texture.  LIKE YOU USED TO HAVE.

Burgers that were good were common.  I remember my friend Harold kidding me in 1985 that I had eaten cheeseburgers for dinner something like five days in a row, with no issue (day 1, Braum’s, day 2, BK, etc.).  One thing I remember with some fondness is the bacon cheeseburger at BK, and the Ultimate Cheeseburger at JITB.  Sometime in the past 5-10 years all that has just gone away.  The last JITB burger I had was about five years ago, when a location opened in MWC.  I went in there after it opened with high hopes, and didn’t even finish the burger, it was that nasty.

There are still good burgers.  Chili’s, The Garage, Irma’s and a host of other places come to mind.  Five Guys and Smashburger are two relatively new entrants that are very good.  But most of these places are sit-downs, and a lot of times I want to get and take back to the office quickly.

But Sonic and Braum’s should be ashamed.  Sonic did something different recently, but since I’ve been to five or six locations, it’s not consistently better.  Some are still just as crappy as before (59th and Sooner, MLK and I-44, 122nd and I-35 all come to mind).

If you are in charge or have influence at some of these places, please break your mold of thinking and get some better beef.  Please?

To finish, my check at the Carl’s was $7.32.  Service was very friendly and fast.  I like the breakfast items they serve.  Burgers, not so much.

Is it too much to ask for an El Pollo Loco in the area?

Fuze, Oklahoma City, OK

7 June 2016

Fuze Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Don’t bother.

Raegan and I had dinner at Fuze last evening with our Girl Scout Service Unit. The good news, we didn’t get sick.

I had some pot roast, a mongolian bbq (with chicken for my meat and fried rice for the starch), some wings, some curried chicken, a couple other things I can’t remember, some veg, and finally some tapioca. Raegan has some salad, sushi, turkey, and a couple other things.

None of this was bad. It also was not good. I don’t think a single thing that I had, to include the tapioca, had any real flavor. It was bland. Even the curried chicken didn’t have curry flavor. Some of the stuff was quite tough. I’m pretty sure the “brisket” was the same meat as the pot roast, but shredded with some red sauce on it (it wasn’t BBQ sauce). My comment to Raegan is that maybe all the stuff was made from the same protein stuff just extruded through different equipment.

The iced tea was not good, I switched to Dr. Pepper, which was not particularly good (it was watered down).

Service was pretty good. The music playing in the room we were in was way too loud, and after one request to the server, a manager came in within a minute and turned it down. Drinks were kept refilled.

I suppose this place would be an option if you have multiple “tastes” that need to be satisfied in a group of people. But don’t go here expecting decent flavor. I make a final comment, about the mongolian bbq: I added a number of sauces to mine, including one that was quite hot. It made not one difference.

Trump and Republicans and Politics

7 June 2016

There were quite a few reports of various Republicans condemning remarks by Donald Trump pertaining to a judge overseeing one of the lawsuits Trump is involved in.

Trump claims that the judge should be disqualified due to a conflict of interest.  The judges parents are Mexican, Trump wants to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, and so somehow that makes the judge unqualified to sit on the case.  Uh-huh.

It’s a stupid, knee-jerk reaction typical of Trump, who has no apparent ability to see long-term consequences from running his mouth in reactive mode.

But what I find interesting is the reaction of major political leaders like Paul Ryan.  He will vote for (endorse, apparently) Trump, as having a Republican, even a vile, racist, misogynist Republican, in office is more important than the possibility of having a Democrat in the White House.  Note that I say nothing about policy here, since there really hasn’t been any policy from Trump yet.

I saw that Conan The Destroyer was on TV this past weekend.  As I surfed past it, I wondered if the guardians of the crypt of the god Dagoth are like Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans, in that they believe that once the angry Trump is enthroned in the Presidency, then “they can control him” as opposed to his unleashing death to the world, and that is their endgame instead of trying to replace him at the Republican convention.

As I’ve said in the past, the Republican establishment are quite responsible for creating the interest in Trump.  Bringing in Sarah Palin was the start of the creation of the monster that is Donald Trump, and in focusing on imagery, stoking fear of Obama, practicing serial obstruction, and not putting forth any policy of substance, the Republicans managed to enrage part of their base to inflate inherent racism and inherent fear and enable those low-bandwidth voters a far greater influence than was probably intended.

It is incumbent on the Democrats to get their voters out in 2016, to both ensure that Trump and his “ideas” do not get inflicted on this country, and to balance policy going forward.  If the Republicans get fatally damaged in the meantime, that would be unfortunate.  But after the couple of decades turn of the Republican Party first to the extremism of the supposedly religious right, then to the policy-lite Bush 41, on to the war-mongering Bush 43, and finally to the rage of the Tea Party, Republicans will finally reap what they have sown.

Brock Turner Is A Symptom of A Larger Problem

7 June 2016

Turner was convicted of several counts relating to his rape of an unconscious woman in California.  For multiple felonies, he was sentenced to a very light six months.  The “judge” was concerned for the poor boys well-being, it seems.  His father was also concerned that his son getting so much bad vibe for his “20 minutes of action”.

I have no idea what the political leanings of that pair of twisted idiots, or the judge, are. But it is clear that all three of them value the well-being and mental health of the victim far less than the perpetrator. (Late note, I read over lunch that the judge is a former Stanford athlete, like Turner. I don’t know if that’s true.)

I don’t know what kind of sexual urge or drive or need or want drives a guy to rape an unconscious woman.  It is wrong on any number of levels.  The attacker rapist should have a greater punishment.  I understand a father wanting to support his son, but the father dismisses the victim (“20 minutes of action”) and bemoans the effect on the son. Too effing bad, your son is a rapist.

The fact that the victim was drinking is not relevant, once she was unconscious (and for all we know, she could have had “help” in that respect from the rapist) she can’t consent, and at that point, the only honorable thing to do was to help her back to a place of safety.

But these three clueless people, the rapist, his father, and the judge, are symptoms of larger issues that demean and degrade women who are victims of various forms of assault by men.  Whether catcalls, or groping, being drugged, or being raped, there are a significant number of abusers of women around.  Just as bad, there are people who protect those abusers, even if they don’t participate in the abuse.

In the past couple political cycles, a number of people, all men as far as I know, and all conservative as far as I know, have talked about rape in terms of blaming the victim.

If you don’t condemn rape without condition, then STFU, crawl back under a rock, and remove yourself from society.  We don’t need you, and we don’t want you in a position of trust if you can’t support half of our population.

Hickory House BBQ, Marietta, OK

6 June 2016

Hickory House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Of the hundreds of times I have been down I-35, I don’t think I have ever stopped in Marietta. When I was coming back from a trip to Richardson back on 30 April, it was early afternoon and I needed some lunch. I saw a sign referencing Hickory House, and since I’m always up for BBQ…

First mistake, they seated me in a room full of OU stuff. When I hit the restroom, I passed a room full of OSU stuff. Oh well ).

I had my usual, a two-meat dinner with chopped brisket and ribs. The ribs first. Decent smoke flavor but a little on the tough side, with a lot of meat. About an 8 on a scale of 1 to JTs. The brisket was excellent, more coarse chopped than fine chopped, and very juicy but not swimming in grease. Really good. I think I had slaw and fries for my sides.

Regardless, the iced tea was great and service was very good. My check was $17.87. Hopefully, I won’t wait another 30+ years to visit Marietta.

Judge’s Char Grill, Midwest City, OK

4 June 2016

Judge's Char-Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had lunch here back on 02 October 2015.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak platter, with a slice of chocolate pie for dessert.

I should have just had the pie. The CFS was not very good at all, tough and tasteless. I didn’t even finish it, it was so bad.

My check was $19.50. The pie and the iced tea were the best part of the meal. Not recommended.

San Marcos Mexican Restaurant, Oklahoma City, OK (Meridian)

4 June 2016

San Marcos Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We’ve been to several of the San Marcos locations in OKC, and like them. Back on 23 February, Raegan and I were headed to a Girl Scout shooting club event, and we needed dinner. San Marcos was close.

We both had our usual meals. Raegan had seafood mixed with veg, and I had pork guisado chili verde. Both were great as expected.

We had iced tea that was strong and good. Service was friendly and fast. Our check was $26.30. I like the chainlet, they make great Mexican food.

Marco’s Pizza, Oklahoma City, OK (SE)

4 June 2016

Marco's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I like Marco’s. When this location opened last Fall, I was happy as it is only about a mile from my office. I had lunch here back on 10 May. Except for one small glitch, it was a great experience.

I ordered at the counter. I asked for a small pepperoni pizza and some chicken wings. The pizza was just as ordered, but I got chicken dippers instead of wings. As I was afraid the dippers would be tossed, I took them anyway. The pizza was great! The dippers were so-so. I thought they were tough and had little flavor. I will certainly get the wings next time, I know they are good.

My drink was a 2L DP to go. My check was $23.29 (yes, a little expensive, but it’s essentially two entrees). Great pizza.

Pizzaria Gusto, Oklahoma City, OK

4 June 2016

This is the first in a series of (again) delayed posts. Life gets in the way of having fun on occasion…:)

Pizzeria Gusto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and the kids and I had dinner at Pizzaria Gusto last night. We were in midtown, we drove by, and it didn’t look crowded, so in we went.

We ate outside in the courtyard area as the temps were pretty nice. We walked through the main dining area, and it struck me as being very loud.

This is traditional pizza from Italy, not Hideaway, so if you were expecting a Big Country you might be disappointed.

Raegan and Erin split a Margherita, adding prosciutto (ham) and extra cheese.  Ian had a Margherita, adding soppressata (salami) and some roast garlic.  I had a meatball pizza. The crusts were hand tossed and pretty doughy but had good flavor.  Toppings were sorta on the thin side (not atypical of art pizza).  No one had any negative comments, but not all that many positive either.  I though my meatballs were bland.

We had sorbet, affogato (think a hot fudge sundae except the ice cream is gelato and the hot fudge is expresso), and a chocolate tart.  All OK.

We all had water to drink as our advance party didn’t find iced tea on the menu.  Service was pretty good.  Our check was $74.24.

We usually spend about $50 at Hideaway for Americanized pizza, so you pay a premium for the art pizza at Gusto.  It was not bad pizza, but it’s probably not something we would do often.

Delta Cafe, Shawnee, OK

3 June 2016

Delta Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I generally like the Delta Cafes. Ian and I were driving back to Muskogee one evening back on 10 April, and we were hungry after working most of the day in Muskogee, and Delta Cafe was open.

He had a chicken fried steak, and I had pot roast. It wasn’t very good. His CFS was tough. The pot roast was also.

Service was OK, and the iced tea was good. Our check was $30.77. It just wasn’t very good.

Butcher BBQ Stand, Wellston, OK

3 June 2016

Butcher BBQ Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I were headed to Muskogee back on 09 April, it was a nice day, and it was near noon. We decided to hit Butcher BBQ as we were only about five miles from Wellston.

First of all, it’s only outside dining. It was kind of windy, so eating outside was a bit dicey.

Ian and I both got two-meat dinners, both with brisket and ribs. I had mac and cheese as a side, I don’t remember what Ian had (probably fries). The brisket was pretty good, but the ribs had little flavor and were tough.

They don’t have iced tea, just bottles of drink. The dining area had some games. Our check was $37.21. If I was headed into the OKC area, I would wait for Earl’s. If I was headed for Tulsa, I would wait for Five Star in Stroud.

People Acting Stupid About Obama, Again

28 May 2016

President Obama was in Japan the past couple days, and he visited the city of Hiroshima and made a speech.  I’ve read it, it’s here on the White House website.

I find it troublesome that in the past two days I’ve seen no less than four separate posts on Facebook that make the claim that President Obama somehow apologized for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.  “Likes” and comments from people I respect show that they apparently believe the claim of an apology.

It find it very sad that otherwise intelligent people just blindly pass along this tripe.  The speech was televised, and a transcript is available to read.  There isn’t anything in the speech that even resembles an apology.  Yet what I can only assume is blind hatred and unthinking loyalty to conservatism or republicanism or something equally stupid makes these people believe the claim.

The so-called “apology tour” that Obama supposedly embarked on at the start of his Presidency has been debunked over and over, and still unthinking “conservatives” cling to it as an article of faith.  I asked a couple of them to show me video or audio that supports the apology tour claim, and they couldn’t.  Debunk sites are “biased”, I’m told.

It’s pathetic that people give such blind credence to stuff like this.  A couple months ago, I posted on Facebook that people really should fact check stuff before posting it.  A guy who I respect for his service and his intelligence, but is conservative, shot back “Who are you to tell people what to post?”.  This kind of response is sad in that I would assume that people would want to be truthful, but I guess that the ability to repost stuff without caring if it is true or not, just so long as it hurts the President or someone else politically, it more important than integrity.

For myself, I would rather not be led by the nose by any media or “leader”, and keep my integrity.

Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SAT-PHX-SLC-DFW

28 May 2016

Note:  I found this draft post from April 2015 on my blog, and decided I ought to finish it.  I seem to remember I was trying to pin down the exact location of one of the photos.  Oh well.

———————————————————-

I was on travel the past week [note, actually 13-17 April 2015], and saw some interesting things from the window seat.

The photos are on my Google+ site here.

I saw the very pretty Lake Belton in central Texas, followed shortly by downtown Austin.

I was astounded at the amount of mining going on between Austin and San Antonio.  I went hiking at a park west of San Antonio a couple years ago, and passed several mining operations, and saw more from the air flying in and out.

One facility right outside one of these mines caught my eye.  The Bexar Concrete facility had a lot of what looked like tubes outside it, but on closer Google Maps examination, I think the “tubes” are highway overpass beams.

On Wednesday I flew from SAT to PHX.  I was astounded by the number of oil facilities along the way.  I’ve seen some of those when flying from DFW to SAN, but the sheer number are amazing.

I also saw the very dense King Mountain Wind Farm.  King Mountain looks to me more like a mesa.

We continued north of PHX towards SLC.  Over Williams, I saw a sun reflection off a track track, it was very cool.

I had high expectations of seeing Grand Canyon shortly thereafter.  It was clear, and the network of canyons to the south of Grand Canyon  (Havasu Creek) was clearly visible.

[This, BTW, is what led me to not completing this post.  I was trying to identify this odd structure that I thought was right on the Canyon rim.]

Odd_structure

Right after the picture of Havasu Creek, we ran over clouds that blanketed Grand Canyon.  Very annoying.  I thought the structure above was right on the north rim, but today, I did a little dead reckoning using time instead of airspeed, and that analysis placed that structure near Jacob Lake.

Next I started looking for some structures that I thought to be near Bryce Canyon, but again I had no luck finding the exact location.

For the return from SLC to OKC (via DFW), I was lucky enough to get a great shot of Philmonts Baldy Mountain, and a canyon between there and DFW.

I’ll keep looking for the stuff near Grand Canyon, I really want to find it.

Running A Laptop As A Virtual Machine

27 May 2016

This is a post I started back in March, I’m just now finishing it:).

I’ve been carrying a series of work-issued laptops for more than 15 years.  About six years ago, the Air Force issued me an HP 6930p.  It is a workhorse and worked well for me.  My company issued me an HP 6570b back in December, and after I changed contracts in March, I turned the 6930p back in with some regret.

I had previously backed up all the work files from the 6930p to the 6570b, that was easy. But I had some apps I wanted to have access to on the 6930p that I could not transfer. Since I didn’t want to buy an aftermarket 6930p, and I sure didn’t want to carry two laptops, I decided the best way to keep those apps around was to virtualize the 6930p.  I did some research and decided I would install a second disk in the 6570b.  I bought a laptop 2TB disk and a drive carrier, and started experimenting.

The first thing I did was install disk2vhd on the 6930p.  I told it to capture the disk, and off it went, this was about 2100.  From the progress bar, it looked like it would take about three hours to capture the disk.  I let it run overnight.  At 0200, W10 installed updates and rebooted, so that killed the capture.  I started it again the next afternoon, and at 1700 it was still running.  I carried the running computer out to my car while it kept capturing, and it was still capturing at home at 2300 when I went to bed, and at 0700 the next morning.  Hmmm…

I killed the process, and went looking for info.  Turns out that is common behavior by disk2vhd.  OK.  I noted the vhdx file was about the right size, and so I though WTH and tried to mount it.  Windows told me it was already mounted.  It would not un-mount.  That meant I could not copy it.  I restarted the computer with System Rescue CD, mounted the W10 drive, and copied the vhdx file off to a thumb drive.  So far, so good.  It was interesting that Windows found the vhdx file and auto-mounted it.

A note, I tried the disk2vhd program several times to try to get it to terminate.  I tried changing the output to vhd, and several other things (it’s easy to let the machine run overnight for tests like that).  Disk2vhd never properly terminated, but it still produced good files.

In the meantime, I was getting the 2TB drive ready.  I decided I would like to have my old friend Fedora running again, so I downloaded Fedora 22 and installed it.  But, it would not get the laptop wireless working.  Yum didn’t work at all (weird, that one).  A couple of other devices were not working.  I played with it a couple days on and off, and eventually got annoyed, and downloaded Ubuntu 14.04 workstation (I run 14.04 server on the school server, so that was a good match).

I had to use diskpart to hammer the existing Fedora installation install, for some reason Ubuntu wouldn’t overwrite the disk.  I built Ubuntu, and at the very end, it noted that it was installing GRUB.  I booted Ubuntu and it worked great, all devices worked, looking good.  Except, Ubuntu or GRUB had reached out to the other physical disk and wiped it out, very annoying.  I got that disk fixed, then came back and re-installed Ubuntu on the 2TB disk with the W7 disk completely removed from the computer and locked into a lead-lined vault (just kidding about that last).

I downloaded VMWare VirtualBox and installed it.  Then I copied the vhdx file over to the Linux disk.  I tried starting it, and VirtualBox helpfully told me to change the BIOS setting of the computer to support virtualization.  I rebooted, made the BIOS change, got back into VirtualBox, and started the VM, and… it started.  Just like that.  Just like that.  Whoa.

I was presented with my W10 login screen, and logged in.  There was my W10 desktop, surrounded by Linux.  Weird, and cool.

When it started, VirtualBox had showed several messages about keyboard and mouse capture, but they both worked equally with Linux and the VM.  The VM was connected to the wired network connection that Linux had, no problem (and I found later that it worked great when Linux was on a wireless connection as well).

There are a couple oddities.  The video driver that the VM uses isn’t the 6930p video card, so instead of a 1280×800 display (wide) I get a 1024×768 (I looked very briefly about installing a virtual driver but didn’t follow up).  One app (my Garmin Basecamp GPS mapping tool) complains that it can only run in 2D mode instead of 3D mode due to the video, but I don’t notice any difference.

W10 boots a little slower, but once booted it runs pretty darn fast.  I haven’t been able to get the VM to recognize USB drives.  Linux and VirtualBox recognize them, but the configuration setting doesn’t pass the drive through to the VM.  I’ve made up for that by using Google sites and Google drive to pass data into and out of the VM.

In the VM, I used a license crawler tool to get the MS Office license, then I removed Office (I use Office on my W7 laptop, and LibreOffice in Linux, no issues transferring between the two).  That Office license will go to upgrade Raegan’s office on her desktop.

I don’t know how long I will use the W10 VM.  I made an effort to ensure that my Ubuntu would do the same stuff that the W10 would do.  There have been two things I’ve had issues with, one is a replacement (or rehosting) of the Garmin Basecamp tool, and the other is a tool to convert a series of JPEG images captured from a wireless camera into an MPEG format for viewing.  I have access to an XP machine to do that right now, and it works OK.

So the virtualization effort was pretty painless.  The VM, when it is running, doesn’t impact my Ubuntu performance.

I might virtualize my W7 installation and see how it works next…

Past and Inherent Racism

27 May 2016

So Louisiana has passed a law that designates crimes against police as hate crimes.  This follows a lot of blather, mostly on the right, about how “all lives matter” and “police lives matter”, and most of that is in direct reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement that developed in the wake of numerous incidents of black people being killed by police, including some egregious examples of unarmed blacks being killed by heavily armed white police.

These counter-movements are examples of the inherent racism still practiced by many Americans.  White-dominated law enforcement has far more weapons (to include physical weapons, and the weapons of law, which include the ability to arrest on little pretext) than the citizenry in general.  The rate of police officers shot or injured or killed is far, far less than the rate of citizens shot, injured, or killed.

Further, the use of the hate crime is limited to a specific set of crimes.  Per the FBI,

A hate crime is “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin”.

On the one hand conservatives want to exclude transgender people from protection, although they are clearly part of the sexual orientation clause, and on the other hand, they want to add police to this list.  Each category has a history of official oppression.  There is no history of oppression of police, and in fact, there are many examples where the police have been the oppressors, or protectors of oppressors.

So the Louisiana action is essentially shooting the finger at blacks.  It is inherently racist.

If black lives mattered to all, the Black Lives Matter movement would not be necessary.  As I have said before, the long history of oppression of our black citizens (and that also get’s ignored, they are our fellow citizens and should have equal rights) has not been corrected from a societal or economic basis.  Oppression is more subtle now, but it’s still there, and opportunity still is not available to all equally, starting with education, and leading to jobs.

That’s the real issue here, not some knee-jerk racist response to supposedly protect the civil rights of police.

Trump and [Not] Thinking Ahead

27 May 2016

I have been listening to coverage of various news events, and of course Mr. Trump has some commentary on them.

Listening to that commentary, I have come to the conclusion that a big problem with Trump being President is that he has no long term view on pretty much anything.

His commentary about it’s good for foreign leaders to be “rattled” about him is that it’s a good thing, as it’s better for foreign leaders to be off balance.  I think that his whole persona of “deal maker” is that he makes deals in a vacuum and then moves on, and once the paperwork is signed, that is a done deal, and he moves on to the next.

That’s not really a good model for running the United States.  There are customs and policies that have been in place for many decades, and that includes treaties and alliances with other countries.  I’m sure that his first consideration is to foreign leaders he has a beef with (think Iran, Mexico, all of Islam), but a lack of forethought leaves him to lump all foreign entities together.

This might be the reason that he hasn’t articulated much it the way of foreign or domestic policy, but instead a couple generalities.

It’s also related to his bully persona, shouting people down, calling people names (“Pocahantas”), and the like.  Not much in the way of thinking ahead.

He would make a lousy President.  He’s already a very, very bad example of an American.

Backpacking Robber’s Cave State Park, OK

20 May 2016

Summary:  Six miles and 500 ft of backpacking a beautiful park with a group of great Girl Scouts.

Photos are on my Google+ site here.

Last weekend, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GS-West) High Adventure Team (HAT) had a Beginners Backpacking trip to Robber’s Cave State Park in eastern Oklahoma.

One cool thing, this was Edition 2 of this trip.  The first trip, about a month ago, maxed out and had a waiting list, so we did a second one.

We got to camp Friday evening around 1900.  We had reservations at the Equestrian Camp.  This was pretty cool.  We were at the south end of the camp in a large grassy area under big trees, with a couple picnic tables to sit at.  Very nice, real bathrooms (with showers), and lots of horses to look at.  The Ranger came and checked on us, and he let us know about the need for a backcountry permit that we were not aware of.

Here’s the skinny:  we wanted to leave our cars at the trailhead at the Cave.  That area gets locked up each night, but you can park there.  We scored a permit form from the park office, put all three of our cars on one form, and left it on the dash of one of the cars.

The next morning, we got up, had a trail breakfast, packed, and headed over to the Cave area.  There were a LOT of people there at 0930, including a Cub Scout Pack and at least three Boy Scout Troops.

We let the Scouts head up on the wonderful rocks to warm up a bit, then we shouldered our packs and headed out from the trailhead, which is on the south side of the parking area.

It’s a nice trail to walk on.  The last time I hiked it, I missed a turn that headed up hill, and the same thing happened to our girls.  We had lunch at the bottom of Rough Canyon, and took a shortcut up a road to get to Cattail Pond, and eventually found our way around the loop to Lost Lake.

What a beautiful campsite!  I hiked past Lost Lake a couple years ago.  It’s a great campsite, with tall, beautiful trees, pine needles all over the ground that are great to sleep on, a couple big fire rings, and that pretty lake in front of you.  I walked all the way around the lake, it was very peaceful.

The next morning we got up and hiked back to Robber’s Cave, played on the rocks for a while, and headed back to OKC.

There was a LOT of water around on this trip, numerous small streams, Lost Lake and Cattail Pond, and Rough Canyon.  We had little in the way of bug problems, but a couple of the girls ran across ticks.  There was quite a bit of poison ivy around as well.

This was a really nice backpacking trip.  A little altitude gain, a nice trail that was easy to follow.  It might be possible to get a 10-miler out of this trail, if you figure-8 around Rough Canyon.

TSA and Long Lines

17 May 2016

In all the news stories about super long lines at some airports, there is little in the way of discussion as to why the lines are long in the first place.

There has been some talk about the need to hire more TSA “screeners” (they are really searchers, but use the term screeners to dodge the Constitutional issue), but I think that is just a dodge.

If you travel much, you can observe that most TSA checkpoints are way overstaffed.  I’ve been through numerous checkpoints, and there are maybe three people actually in contact with travelers:  the ID checker, the x-ray machine runner, and the strip-search machine viewer.  In almost every case, there are other TSA people standing and watching those three people.

In OKC, the last time I flew, there were three ID checkers, and two other TSA people standing  behind them and watching them.  There were two people who told everyone over and over to remove their shoes and such.  The strip-search machine operator had a second person watching the first person (and the damn machine identified the back of my head as a threat, which got me a full-body pat-down).  There were two x-rays operating, and each had a second person watching then operator.

There were others hanging about the screening area generally watching, I think about four.

So why does TSA apparently not trust the people who don’t trust the travelers?  There is so much TSA could do, for example get rid of the strip-search machines, which are slow and alert on stupid stuff like wrinkles in socks, every one of which get’s you a patdown, which further slows the line.

It’s not really about security to them.  Remember the lady in OKC who went through “security” wearing a bikini?  She was denied boarding.  She clearly had no weapons, so it clearly was retaliation for her making a statement.  The million-dollar strip search machines alert on a piece of paper in your pocket.  Where’s the threat?  The magnetometers are good enough for Pre-Check people, why are they not good enough for everyone?  They are known technology, far less expensive, and faster.

TSA is a disaster.  The strip-search machines probably got some people promoted and made a hell of a lot of money for some contractor, and still are making money for the contractor to maintain them, but they didn’t increase security one bit.  If they did, they would be used for Pre-Check as well.  TSA also ought to have more lanes open, and stop using TSA people to watch TSA people.

Their lack of accountability is astounding.  Congress, where are you?

Troop 15 Backpacking Horsethief Springs Loop, 15-17 April 2016

1 May 2016

Summary:  17.4 miles over two days of hiking, along with 2,400 ft of altitude gain (and loss).

The Extreme 15 patrol of BSA Troop 15 had a great 18 mile backpacking trip from Cedar Lake to Horsethief Springs to the Billy Creek trail system a couple weeks ago.

My photos are on Google+ here.

We met at First Presbyterian Church at 1600 and left at 1630 on Friday.  After a dinner stop in Sallisaw, we got into Cedar Lake at 2030, and stumbled around a bit to find a campsite.  We ended up on the north loop near a boat ramp and got camp set up quickly.  Everyone was crashed by 2200.  There is no cell service for AT&T down there.

We were up the next morning at 0800, packed up, and had trail breakfast to include tea, hot chocolate, and coffee.  We left at 0930 and stumbled around a bit to find the trailhead.  The maps and directions are not the best.  For reference, the trailhead is here:

Horsethief Springs Trailhead

The trail generally bounces around up and down until you cross Holson Valley Road, and then it’s a nice slope up.  We took the east side of the Horsethief Springs loop trail, which goes down into a valley through which flows Cedar Creek.  The Creek had plenty of water and would have been a good water source.

There is an extensive network of horse trails that look like they would be good for day hikers as well, in the valley and at some points closer to the springs.

The trail contours around, generally heading south.  We passed one or two small creeks that had good water, but several other creeks that were dry.

There is a decent climb of several hundred feet up to Horsethief Springs.  Trail maps provided by the USFS are not terribly clear, and even Google Maps representation of the Ouachita Trail is not correct.  Once you are up near the springs, you cross the Ouachita trail, and keep going up another couple hundred yards to get to the springs.  Just a note, we came back this way the next day, and then took the Ouachita west to the west loop, and maybe a half mile along the trail is another spur that leads up to the springs in a west approach.

Anyway, we had lunch up there and pumped water from the springs to refill water bottles.  The springs are surrounded by a big wall, but there wasn’t much flow so it wasn’t full.  Another area about 100 ft downhill was full and would be much easier to pump from.  There is decent AT&T cell service there.  We had coverage until we went back north over the ridge the next day.

We saw a Venture crew from OKC there, doing the whole loop with backpacks as a shakedown for a Philmont trip this summer.

After lunch, and seemingly innumerable visits to the potties, we headed out on the next let.  The trail down into the Billy Creek system is not marked.  You have to walk to the west end of the parking area, cross OK 1, and then walk farther west just a bit to find the trail down.

It’s fairly steep heading down the south side of the ridge.  We came to a nice camp area next to a small stream at a trail junction.  There was excellent water about 200 ft farther along the trail.  In retrospect, I think we would have been better to set up camp at that good water area.  Our camp was very near the trail where we were.  We had some nice steepish areas to our south, and we were completely out of the wind, which we could hear up in the trees.

We built a fire right before Sun went down, had dinner, and then hung a bear bag.  We hung around the fire for a while, and everyone hit the sack about 2100.  This day was a hike of 8.5 miles.

We had been watching the weather very closely for more than a week.  We had tried to do this same trip in May 2015, but 10+ inches of rain in the week before, then several more inches during the week, had cut off the trail at Cedar Creek, and perhaps some of the crossing creeks, so we didn’t even try.  There had been heavy rain forecast for Saturday evening and all day Sunday a week out,  but as we got closer, the storm system slowed down, and the rain was forecast to start Sunday anywhere from 1000 on.  So we decided to shake everyone out at 0630 Sunday, and we broke camp first, before breakfast.  That way we had a good chance of not packing in a rainstorm, even if we might be hiking in one.

We hit the trail for the return at 0730, and started the 600ft climb back up to the Skyline Drive.  It was pretty sweaty climbing up.  The air felt quite humid, and there wasn’t a lot of wind until we got up on the ridge.  The guys ate some snacks and rested a bit after the climb, and then we hoisted our packs again and headed down the trail.

When we left the springs area, we walked several hundred yards down to the junction with the Ouachita Trail, and headed west for a bit over a mile.  This part of the trail contours along the ridge, with some up, some down, some flattish.

Once we got to the junction with the west loop of the Horsethief Springs trail, we turned right and headed downhill.  90% of this was downhill.  We passed a number of equestrian trail junctions.  At one point, there was a “scenic loop” off to the left, that rejoined the west loop right before the loop junction.  We hiked past some tall Ozark rock formations that I would guess the Scenic Loop goes up and over.  I would have tried to have us take the loop, but the sky to the west was steadily darkening, and the wind was getting stronger.

One thing I’ve not seen before:  The Scouts were hiking along, and the adults were bringing up the rear.  We were hiking through a burned area, and came upon one of our Scouts, lying on his back, wearing his backpack.  We started talking smack to him, but shortly realized that he was… asleep.  It took some cajoling to wake him and get him on his feet.  He completed the hike just fine, but passed out cold in the car for the ride back.

We rolled back into the trailhead parking lot after having walked in drizzle for about a half hour.  We quickly changed into dry clothes, loaded our gear, and headed out.  We got lunch at Braum’s in Heavener and ran into the incoming deluge close to Warner.  The hike back in was 8.8 miles, since the west part of the loop is a bit longer than the east part.

So the backpacking worked out well from the weather standpoint.  Highs were in the 70s and lows in the low 60s, no significant rain, and mostly cloudy so no sunburn.  Little problem with bugs.  Good water when we needed it.

Several of the Scouts earned the Backpacking Merit Badge on this trip.  We had a couple new backpackers on this trip, who did well in spite of getting a bit on the tired side (one of the new backpackers was the guy we found asleep on the trail).

This was a very nice trip.  I think that next time we might go down into the rest of the Billy Creek system, as our campsite down there was quite pretty.

Adventures In Ubuntu, VMs, and GPS

21 April 2016

NERD ALERT:  Nerdy talk follows!

Since I switched my HP laptop to Ubuntu Linux, I have made a fairly smooth transition in terms of software. I can get company email via webmail (using a security token for the connection), even though the webmail is Microsoft Outlook Web Access and the browser is Chrome. In the past couple days, I’ve used LibreOffice to build briefings, create documents, and read stuff for work, used various Google apps to transfer files around, and generally had a problem-free transition. There are a couple nits. One thing that sounds silly, I edit pictures quite a bit. In Windows, I could use Paint to add text and draw lines that are pointers. In Linux, GIMP does the text just fine, but it doesn’t draw lines. I’ll figure that out.

The one thing that’s weird is working with GPS files. I do a lot of GPS work for planning hiking and backpacking, and then downloading the saved tracks from the trips. Those require a bit of editing to clean them up, join tracks from each day, and the like.

We just got back from a nice trip to Eastern Oklahoma, and it was a bit of an effort to get the tracks out of the two GPS units. I carried a Garmin GPSMap60, and Ian carried a Garmin GPS62s.

I’ve tried a couple Linux tools to extract the tracks (via a USB connection), and had trouble getting them to recognize the devices. I also tried to install the Garmin Basecamp tool I’ve used forever using Wine, and had no luck. One tool (QmapShack) I tried to install from source, and between requiring a specific version of cmake and other oddities I couldn’t get it to work. I tried installing the Windows version, but it requires the Visual C redistributable, and that wouldn’t install. So that was just Too Hard.

BTW, the command I used was:

gpsbabel -t -i garmin -f usb: -o gpx -F [trackname.gpx]

In the end, I decided to use the Basecamp tool that was in the Virtual Machine of my previous HP 6930p, which I had brought into Virtual Box under Ubuntu. The problem was trying to get the GPS tracks to the VM. I tried some stuff to make the GPS units visible to Basecamp under VirtualBoxm, no way. With the 60, it took an obscure command line using GPSBabel (which was installed on the computer when Ubuntu was installed to get the track data our and into Linux. The same didn’t work for the 62s. Turns out the 62s mounts as a USB stick as far as Ubuntu is concerned, and the track data is in a folder a couple levels deep.

So now I had the files, but still needed to get them to Basecamp. USB sticks were tried with no luck. I’m pretty sure the stick(s) were visible to the VM, but they didn’t show up.

In the end, it took a roundabout way. My laptop had Apache installed on it. I made a connection to WiFi (that got an IP address for the laptop). Then I copied the two GPX files to the root of the web server and started Apache. I went to the VM, fired up a Windows command prompt, and could ping the IP address the laptop had from the WiFi. I fired up Chrome, typed the IP address, added the filename of each GPX. That got them downloaded.  They came in from Chrome with an additional xml extension (so they look liker gpsmap60.gpx.xml), but a rename fixed that.

Then I fired up BaseCamp and imported the tracks, and editing worked well.  Once the tracks were in and edited, I displayed them on a topo map, and as an altitude plot.  In both cases, I did a screen capture of the display that included the Windows VM, and the capture was saved in the pictures folder of the Linux box.  From there, I brought the captures up in GIMP for annotation, and from there they went to Google+ with the photos I took on the hike.

This was all pretty cool and easy for me, but I think for a non-geek it would have been sorta hard.

Sonic Got A Little Better

8 April 2016

Yesterday I was in a meeting that went a little long, and I needed to get lunch before another meeting at 1300.  I decided to head to a Sonic just a little way from here and grab a frito chili pie.

When I got there, I saw their ads for the new, improved cheeseburger.  Words like “Destined to become your new favorite”, and “All new cheeseburger perfection”.

I’ve written before (well, several times) about the state of Sonic cheeseburgers.  They used to be sooooo good, and in the past couple years, they are so very bad.  I typically only hit Sonic for breakfast (an excellent breakfast burrito), drinks, or a hot dog.  But sitting there waiting to order, I saw the ad material referenced above, and decided that a chance needed to be given.

So I ordered a Super Sonic Cheeseburger with mayo and lettuce only (they use shredded lettuce, which is what I like).  I have to say that the burger was much better than in the recent past.  This burger still lacked any real crust or texture, but it had better (not a great deal better) flavor.  So there was apparently more meat than sawdust (or whatever filler they’ve been using) on this burger.

So, Sonic.  If your people read this, please up the game a couple times.  First, have the cooks turn the darn grill up a few degrees, and get some crustification (is that a real word?) going on that beef.  While you are at it, have the green eyeshade people pry a few more pennies per burger out and get some better flavor.

The bun, by the way, is OK.  DO NOT go to the gummy disaster that is a Braum’s bun.

I will try another couple Sonic burgers to see if the the one I had was a fluke.  But… the advertising is false.  This was *not* cheeseburger perfection, and it will not become my favorite; there’s a long ways to go there.

Hijacked!

8 April 2016

Well, crap. A couple days ago, I noted that the St. John’s server was acting very slow. I waited until the evening to check on what was happening, and around that time saw a huge number of email bounce messages from various email providers like AT&T and Cox. Something was wrong.

I quickly found out that St. John’s was being the source of thousands of spam messages, headed all over the globe.  I killed the mail server program Postfix, and the spam stopped, and the system sped up significantly.

I spent a couple days on and off trying to find where the spam was coming from.  I did network sniffing at both the external and internal network cards, but all I found was the normal traffic I would expect (i.e. nothing was feeding the server from either the big bad Internet, or from inside the building).

It quickly got to the point where no effective email service was available due to our being put on a couple blocklists.  And the CPU on the server, which is also a router to get people in the building out on to the Internet, was being eaten by the bot which was clearly running inside the server.

Now, there are many thousands of Windows malware, including virii, bots, and the like.  There are only a couple that affect Linux boxes.

I had been working with our ISP (Cox) on this.  I had one hint from them, that we had the Alureon (AKA TDSS) virus.  They also gave me an IP address for the virus command server (a computer in Russia).  I blocked that IP address for both sides of our connection using IPTables.  But Alureon is a Windows virus, not Linux.  I download a tool to check and literally hit every machine in the building, nothing.  So that left a couple laptops.  But I don’t think that this was a valid hint, as the spam kept coming even when I pulled the RJ-45 out of the building network connector.

One of the blocklists told me that I had a Grum botnet client.  Again, it’s a Windows based bot, so who knows.

Finally, I gave up.  I had read over and over that rootkits on Linux were nearly impossible to find and eradicate.  I shut down every service on the computer, pulled the config files and logs off, and then wiped the machine and reinstalled Ubuntu.

I went back and got the basic machine running, created users, changed every password.  I ensured that I had a good firewall running, but setting up IPTables to let only a certain number of ports through, and zorching everything else.

Next I got the email back going.  When I installed, I had specified a mail server (Postfix) and a LAMP setup.  While those were helpfully running after install, I shut them down (except the web server).

I had installed several packages from the Ubuntu software center in the week or so leading up to this, so naturally I wondered if that was the attack vector.  I have not reinstalled those packages.

I spent time last evening and today working to get us off the various blocklists, and that seems to be going OK.  When I get some time, I am going to try to look through the logs and determine where the attack came from.

I’ve always had a great deal of faith in Linux (in fact, I recently switched my laptop to Linux only and have been very happy with it), but this incident has me a little paranoid.  One thing I will do in the next day or so, when the system is quiet, is to clone the drive so that I can restore it quickly if this happens again.  I will also do some research to see if I can find out what I might have missed while setting things up and running them.  I also need to get the extra stuff going I had before.

Judy’s Cafe, Garland, TX

27 March 2016

Judy's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m only two weeks behind with this one!

I was in the Dallas area last week, and had dinner at Judy’s. I think I ate here once several years ago.

I had the hamburger steak. I asked that the onions be well cooked, but when the mail came, there were large pieces of onion that were not cooked at all, and a few smaller pieces that were. The hamburger steak and gravy were very good. I had asked for the steak to be medium well, and it came medium rare to medium.

I sent Raegan a text and told her to sue to place if I died of food poisoning:).

The mashed potatoes and gravy were very good, and the side veg (corn) was also. I had a cup of very good vegetable beef soup to start.

Service was a little slow and on the curt side. My check was $9.73. Not a bad place, I would like to try breakfast.

Five Star BBQ, Stroud, OK

27 March 2016

Five Star BBQ & Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I are headed to Muskogee, it was near lunch, and we were passing through Stroud, so Five Star seemed like a good choice.

He got the small (3 ribs) dinner, and I got a two meat with ribs and choppoed brisket. The ribs first. I think they were smoked fast or finished on a grill. That being said, they had decent flavor and were tender. They had little bark and little smoke flavor. I rated them as an 7.5 on a scale of 1 to JTs.

The brisket was chopped a little finer than I usually like (which is 1/2″ or so chunks), but it was tender and had great flavor, without a single piece of gristle.

Ian had fries as one side, and I had green beans. Both were OK. We both had “baked beans” as our second side, but they were really pintos cooked with brisket, and a distinct flavor of chili. REALLY good!

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $31.16. Pretty good BBQ if you are in Stroud.

The Voting Mess In Arizona

24 March 2016

A longtime friend of mine and his husband are Arizonans. They were caught up in the Presidential Primary voting debacle from this past Tuesday. Keith posted this:

Having been caught up in the madness of the voting quagmire that was Maricopa County yesterday, it would be easy to say that I never want to do that again. Stand in line for four hours, that is, versus never voting again. Voting is a right that too many people take lightly. The sheer numbers of people voting yesterday where I voted says, that yes, one vote can make a huge difference. I almost gave up at one point but then I thought, NO, that is handing a victory to those that created the mess. Whatever that victory was, budget cuts, consolidation, or plain and simple voter suppression.

Why would anyone think that you could eliminate over two-thirds of the polling places and it would be okay?

Let’s look at a very unscientific and very conservative analysis of the numbers:
The Maricopa County Recorders website says they serve over 1.9 million voters. That is almost one half the population of Maricopa County. Now, we know that all 1.9 million will not show up to vote, let’s take half just for sake of argument. That is still probably too many but stay with me here on this analysis. I must digress a bit to say that for some reason it was decided to have only 60 polling places instead of 200 for yesterday. OK. So, that means that there are 15,833 voters per polling place. And let’s further assume that thirty percent of those used early voting, that brings the number down to around 11,000 per polling place (the 60 number). The pooling places are only open 12 hours, 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, so if you divide 11,000 by 12 you get 924 voters per hour for EACH polling place. That translates to 15 voters per minute…. That is with only six voting booths at the polling place I used. How does that possibly make sense? If we cut that number in half it is still impossible to achieve the goal of giving everyone the opportunity to vote.

Let’s not even consider the issues encountered such as slow check-in process (not the fault of the poll workers), running out of Democratic ballots (at my polling place, while there were piles and piles and piles and piles of Republican ballots), and still only six voting booths.

Clearly, something other than saving money was at the root of all of this madness. I saw a number of people give up and leave. That is not acceptable. If even one person is denied the right to vote, there is a problem and it is only getting worse.

Something must be done. Stand up for your right to vote. Contact the Maricopa County Recorder (http://recorder.maricopa.gov) and voice your displeasure (politely).

As for me, I will be signing up for early voting.on is denied the right to vote, there is a problem and it is only getting worse.

Something must be done. Stand up for your right to vote. Contact the Maricopa County Recorder (http://recorder.maricopa.gov) and voice your displeasure (politely).

As for me, I will be signing up for early voting.

The above was posted with permission.

Clearly, Keith, Ben, and hundreds of thousands of other Arizonans were screwed when it came to exercising their right to vote.  His post above has some cogent analysis of the issues.

Other facts:  the Maricopa Country County Recorder is a Republican.  The Arizona House and Senate are (and have been) controlled by Republicans.  Like other Republican statehouses, voter ID requirements have been passed, that disproportionately disenfranchise people of color, and people in lower economic classes.

This problem in Arizona is a direct result of Republican efforts to suppress voting.  Only Republicans see “voter fraud” in need of prevention, and only Republicans see the need to reduce early voting, reduce polling places, and similar voter suppression activities.

This has been an across-the-board effort, ranging from state (Republican) legislatures, to the (Republican-controlled) US House and Senate, to the (until recently Republican-controlled) SCOTUS, with various (Republican) groups bring suit in every way to gut the Voting Rights Act, change voting processes, and screw up primary voting.

I blame the Justice Department for not stepping in on these outrageous acts of voter suppression, but I blame Republicans more for their contempt for the Constitution and voters in this country.

Black Bear Diner, Salt Lake City, UT

24 March 2016

Black Bear Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had dinner here with work friends Monday evening. It was close to my hotel.

I had the roast beef dinner, with the standard sides. It was decent, mostly fork tender, and had decent flavor. It wasn’t the best roast beast I’ve had, but it was good for dinner that night. I had chicken soup instead of a salad.

The iced tea was OK. Service was really spotty. We didn’t get flatware until the meal was tabled, and getting drink refills was on the slow side.

My check was $17.88. I am on the fence here. I have been to a number of the Black Bear Diners in various parts of the West. I think that quality has been dropping, and I wonder if the BBD is falling to prepackaged food as a result of expansion. I hope not.

Moni’s, Edmond, OK

24 March 2016

Moni's Pasta & Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I know this was our second visit, but I also know it had been more than a year since out first. My friend Mark recommended Moni’s, and it was a good rec.

We got four copies of chicken parm this time. Three of them substituted fettuccine al fredo for the standard spaghetti with marinara. These were uniformly very good, and were all completely eaten except for part of Raegan’s, which went home and then to school for her lunch the next day.

The iced tea was great, and service was spot on (which is to say, not fast service like fast food, but relaxed). Our check was $74.40. A bit on the high side, but the food was good, so I would go back if I were in the north OKC/west Edmond area.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In the last post (I think) from Colorado Springs, I had lunch the last day there at Garbanzos. This is not necessarily a bad review, but it’s not the kind of food I generally go for. You might really like it. I didn’t think it was bad, but it didn’t appeal to me.

I had the chicken plate (bowl) with rice, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, pickles, and chips. The tea was not very good, so I switched that drink to Coke (IIRC).

Service is at the counter, and was very nice. My check was $11.17. Next time it’s suggested, I will probably go get some brisket at the nearby Bird Dog BBQ, but that’s just more to my taste.

Hacienda Villareal, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Hacienda Villareal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As part of my December trip to Colorado Springs, several people who had been stationed at Peterson AFB recommended this place for lunch. It was great! We had about 12 people.

I had Pork Chili Verde, and it was perfect. Not too spicy, with tender, flavorful pork chunks in a very tasty verde sauce. I had double beans, and they were pretty darn good as well.

Service was fast and friendly (it helped that we got in there at 1300, so the lunch rush was past). My check was $12.38. Great chow, I’d be happy to go back.

Rocco’s Italian, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Rocco's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tonight, I go back to 01 December 2015. I was in Colorado Springs on a business trip. I hit Rocco’s for dinner.

At the servers recommendation, I had beef stroganoff. It was… OK. I expect stro to have a rich, full flavor that is imparted by the sauce to slow-simmered beef. The beef was on the tough side, and the beef and the sauce were neither rich in flavor, nor was the flavor entirely pleasant. In fact, I didn’t finish the meal (if you know me, that’s really rare).

The iced tea was OK, and service was very friendly. My check was $21.42, which was too high given the quality of the meal.

I think I would be willing to give Rocco’s another try, this time for one of the Italian dishes. But the stroganoff was very disappointing.

Robert’s Restaurant, Salt Lake City, UT

23 March 2016

Roberts Restaurant & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had dinner here this evening. It was very near my hotel, and pretty good.

I started off with a Caesar Salad. Good dressing, needed a bit less of the hard parts of the lettuce stalks.

I had a steak on my servers recommendation. I got the 10oz New York Strip, medium. It wasn’t fork tender, but on the other hand it was cooked a perfect medium, and had great flavor. The steak had a pile of very good mushrooms on it, and the sides were mixed steam veg and rice pilaf.

The iced tea was excellent, I am pretty sure it was Earl Grey. Service was just fast enough, and friendly. My check was $22.63. I would be glad to go back.

Another Example of Amazing Google Integration

23 March 2016

I was running errands in Salt Lake City yesterday, and saw two examples of pretty interesting integration that Android performed.

To set this up, I booked the trip up here Saturday afternoon.  As I always do, I emailed the reservation information from our company travel booking system to my personal email, which shows up on my phone.

The first example of integration was noticing that my Android-powered Galaxy S6 had apparently raided my email and extracted a pair of .ics (calendar) files, and put the calendar entries in my phone calendar.

Now, I have twice sent suggestions to American Airlines related to this.  When you ask American on their website to send you .ics files for a reservations, it sends one .ics file for each flight on the itinerary.  Say the flights are on 12 and 15 April, and are at 0830-0930 and 1015-1245 for the outbound flights on the 12th.  American sends four ics files that have the entire itinerary in them, and the dates are at midnight in every case.  Not very useful.

Android parsed out the exact flight times and put those in the calendar as separate entries, which is much more useful.

The second example of integration:

Screenshot_2016-03-21-16-21-51

I had fired up Google Maps to find a Target store in the SLC area.  Note the two markers for the Hilton Garden Inn and the Salt Lake City airport.  The dates of my stay at the Hilton, and my flight departure date and time at the airport, are correct.

So Google noticed the email with .ics entries, and was able to parse out the information, stash it in my calendar, and then associate it with Google Maps, without any input from me.

I find that pretty darn amazing.  I have felt for some time that location-based data is one of the best applications of technology, and this is a fine example of how location-based services can be useful.

JG’s Burgers, Dallas, TX

15 March 2016

J.G.'s Old Fashioned Hamburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had been to a nearby store, so I hit JG’s. It wasn’t the worst burger around, but it wasn’t nearly the best, either. I had the single cheeseburger, with a side of onion rings. The rings first. I don’t know they were cut and breaded there, they were very uniform, and had little flavor. The burger was OK. It was a small patty on a big bun. One thing that was nice, a big bar to dress your burger. I used mayo; that was all I needed. Oh, and some pickles. Regardless, the burger had little texture and not much beef flavor. I sorta think I should have had a double.

My check was $10.88. Service was very friendly. I would go back if someone else wanted to, but I wouldn’t go on my own.

Bob’s BBQ, Paul’s Valley, OK

15 March 2016

Bob's Pig Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I was headed from OKC to Dallas, I looked for a place to eat. I really wanted BBQ, and the couple places I looked at first were closed Monday. Bob’s wasn’t, though.

I had the three-meat combo, which was a couple pork ribs, some chopped brisket, and some roast pork loin. So, the brisket was the best. Largest chunks, very moist, good flavor, and tender. The loin next. Very good flavor, the largest part of the meal. Unfortunately, sort of dry and not very tender. Last, the ribs, since those are hardest to do. They were not the most meaty ribs I’ve had. They were tender in part of the meat, but there was also some very tough parts I could not chew through. There wasn’t much bark, and not a lot of flavor.

The meal came with some decent slaw, and my sides were pinto beans (very good) and potato salad (OK).

The iced tea was great, and service was right on the money and very friendly. My check was $16.46. I don’t know that I would rush back for the BBQ. But… the guys at the table next to me got some Mexican food that smelled great, and there were a number of other menu items such as burgers that have promise.

Trump and Inciting Violence

11 March 2016

I have watched the “progress” of the Republican primary with a combination of disgust, amusement, and dismay. It has been so light on addressing real issues faced by the country (not the least of which were caused by Republican policy, or lack of policy, or active impediment of the economy). The candidates constantly refer to each other by childish names. It’s pathetic.

Trump rallies are distinguished in that there have been numerous instances of protesters being physically abused. I’ve seen a number of these, and in no case did the protester physically threaten anyone.

In one particularly disgraceful instance, a media photographer was trying to get a photo of protesters being removed, and a man identified as a Secret Service agent grabbed the media person by the throat and threw him down. The SS guy was there to protect Trump, who was nowhere near.

The real problem here is Trump and how he manipulates people. He can stand on stage and talk about how physical violence was OK in the past, and protesters deserve what happens to him or her.

Then, when questioned about any incident, he falls back on stating he didn’t see anything, and no one has reported it to him. He has even followed up by stating the protester essentially had it coming.

I have also see and written about his treatment of a reporter who was asking him questions he found uncomfortable. He had the guy tossed, and then went on and on when questioned that the guy was “screaming”. I saw the whole episode, the guy was not in any way screaming, or even raising his voice. That seems indicative of the way that Trump will dodge questions he finds uncomfortable, by exaggerating or out and out lying.

The tack he is taking is the same cowardly tack taken by Republican “leaders” since Obama took office. When Republicans spouted something that was perceived to be damaging to Obama, they would say something to the effect of well, people have a bad impression of Obama, or they had strong feelings to express. This was always done without regard to the veracity of the claim. Birther bullcrap was a perfect example; both Boehner and McConnell fell back on claims that they hadn’t looked at the birth certificate, so they really couldn’t say.

This was used in many other ways to avoid taking a stand, or encourage the fringe element of the Republicans. Instead of discussing climate change, they would in unison say they weren’t scientists and so could not discuss the subject (I note that they still voted on the issues).

Trump is clearly playing on the fears of the easily led and easily scared. Avoiding talking about specific issues, and constantly harping on scare topics, gets a certain percentage of the low intelligence or easily scared voters flocking to him.

I hope that Hilary Clinton, when the general election campaign starts, goes after Trump (or whoever the Republican nominee is) with every one of these prevarications.

Zaxby’s, Oklahoma City, OK (NWX)

10 March 2016

Zaxby's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I read on Facebook Tuesday that a Zaxby’s had opened in NW OKC. I like fried chicken, so Raegan and I drove out there Tuesday evening after working at St. John’s a couple hours.

Zaxby’s sells chicken, and their own Zax sauce. I got a large plate (7 pieces), that came with slaw (undistinguished) and fried (not so good). The chicken was the star of the show. The breading was thin and flexible, like you would get on sweet and sour chicken at a Chinese place. The chicken had great flavor. The larger pieces were moist on the inside. Raegan had a Nibbler meal, which is essentially chicken sliders. She said they were OK. We also got (fried) cheese bites, OK.

All of the staff was super friendly. Our check was $25.97. If I was running errands and hungry, I wouldn’t mind hitting another Zaxby’s if I drove past one. I don’t know that I would go far out of my way, though.

A note about the staff. They were friendly. One of my bugaboos is saying “thank you” and getting a response of “no problem”. I didn’t hear that once at this restaurant, it was always “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure”. I like either of those much better.

Umi, Oklahoma City, OK

10 March 2016

Umi Sushi and Hibachi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place just opened up about a mile from work. I decided to have lunch here today.

I had Pork Kutsu, which is a pork cutlet breaded and deep fried. It was very good. The breading mostly stuck to the cutlet even after being cut into strips. It was served on a bed of a mixture of cabbage and salad leaves (which I really liked), and with tonkatsu sauce, which is like a thick Worcester sauce. The meal came with miso soup (as usual, a little more thin that a soup ought to be (:) ).

The iced tea was OK (on the weak side), and service was very friendly and fast. My check was $13.60. The tonkatsu comes in a lunch size for a couple dollars less. Good stuff.

Pepino’s, Okemah, OK

10 March 2016

Pepino's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place was great! I was headed from OKC to Muskogee yesterday, and I stopped in Okemah since it was right at lunch.

I had #58 Puerco con Chili Verde. Pretty much perfect. The pork chunks were very large, and they were also quite tender. Not a tough spot on the plate. The beans and rice were OK. The chili verde was outstanding. Raegan would have thought it too spicy, as we all have different levels of spice tolerance, but to me it was perfect. The flavor of the chili verde was cooked into the pork, and after the bite, the spice level dropped off quickly, leaving flavor. Great stuff.

The iced tea was good, service very quick. I was in and out in 25 minutes (mainly because I had a meeting to get to). I would happily stop by Pepino’s again.

Selling A House

10 March 2016

Not just any house, but the house my Mom and Dad lived in. They bought the house new back in the early 1990s and had it moved to the location in south Muskogee. They added a garage and a couple outbuildings shortly thereafter.

My Dad wasn’t there very long, he passed in 1996. My Mom lived there until she passed in 2012, and I became her executor and administrator. The nursing home near there had told me in 2013 that they wanted to buy the house and all the land around it to make more assisted living apartments, but that it wouldn’t for some time.

In the meantime, my Mom had specified in her will that a certain person would be allowed to live in the house until it was sold. He didn’t take care of it, and didn’t tell me about house problems.

Last summer, a friend of mine made a Facebook post that her niece needed a place to board a horse. I figured I wasn’t using the land around the house for anything, and my Mom had a guy who leased the land for horses for a while. I decided to offer my friend’s niece the land for the horse, for nothing. I like horses!

As I got to know the niece and her husband (and they were very nice), they started to think that the house and the land would make a nice home. After a couple months, we settled on a price.

So… I asked the guy living in the house to leave, as there were a lot of repairs to do. We (as in me and my family) and a high school friend who does home repair work took out old carpet, repaired stuff, got the power checked out, the gas checked out, leaks repaired, roof panels replaced, broken windows replaced. We found other problems, like a rotted subfloor that required a complete replacement.

In the meantime, I learned that land abstracts in Oklahoma are important. They cost a lot of money to generate. I found an attorney in Muskogee who knew how to get a house that was under probate sold. He also know how to do deeds and such.

It took months longer than I had thought to do all of this. I had budgeted money for fees and stuff, but way underbudgeted for abstracts and probate costs. I underestimated the budget for house repairs also, but not too badly. I’m not losing money on the sale, but I sure didn’t make much either!

Today we closed on the sale. It took about 20 minutes. Our attorney (Ron Wright) I can tell you can be highly recommended. He knows this stuff inside and out.

The probate process isn’t done yet, but the end is in sight. I need to do an “inventory”, but quite a bit of that is the house sale.

The house still has work I am responsible for. But I need to get the homeowners permission now! :) The main work that needs to be done is finish cleaning up trash that the guy who used to live in the house left behind. Ian and I have already filled up a total of 60 cubic yards (yes, sixty!), and we have a 15 yard container coming Friday, and hopefully we will get that this weekend. Part of the budget is new finished flooring. The couple who bought the house will put the flooring down, while I am buying the flooring, and they are painting.

As I drove home after the closing, naturally my thoughts turned towards what my parents would have thought of this. It’s natural to feel a little guilty about selling my parents house. I think I spent one night in that house, ever, when I was helping Mom with a garage sale she was having (my other visits to the area, I usually stayed in a hotel in Muskogee).

My overwhelming thought is that I’m glad that the house is in the hands of people who will take care of it. They are good people, a veteran and an animal lover, I like them.

I will be taking care of the rest of the probate, hopefully by the end of April.

Then I can move on to working on my own house, which has kind of been neglected for a year or so.

Luigi’s, Gainesville, TX

9 March 2016

Al's Luigi's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Note: this restaurant is one of the stealthy chain of Italian restaurants that is so very good.

Back on 02 January, we were headed back to OKC after a two-day retail run to Dallas. We had stopped in Sanger to eat at Babes, but they were packed. We tried a Mexican and Italian place there, but both were closed. We drove up I-35 to Gainsville to hit Fera’s, but it was closed. We ended up at Al’s or Luigi’s, and we were happy.

We did as we always do at these places, we ordered bread and marinara and al fredo and feasted. Along with Caesar salad. Ian and Erin had chicken parm, Raegan had manicotti, and I had Spaghetti the Works. All excellent.

The iced tea was great, service was great, the food was great. Our check was $40.21, great value. Recommended.

Sicily’s Pizza, McKinney, TX

9 March 2016

Sicily's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For our second stop in the north Dallas area, we hit Sicily’s on the way back home. It was GREAT! We were headed back home and picked Sicily’s as it was on the way home.

We started off with some bread we ordered, along with both marinara and al fredo to dip it in. And salads. All great.

Raegan got chicken parm, and I got fettuccine al fredo. Both oh, so, very good. We even liked the smells of the food being served around us. This place was good!

If I am in McKinney around a meal, this place will be very high on my list.  Yum.  Our check was $40.21.  Service was excellent and friendly.  The iced tea was excellent.  Recommended.

Sidewalk Bistro, Denton, TX

9 March 2016

Sidewalk Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This evening, we are going to two metro areas with long-delayed reviews. I start in the north Dallas area.

On 03 April 2015, which was Good Friday, Raegan and I headed down to the Dallas area for no reason that I can remember. We hit the Target in Denton as it carries some stuff Raegan likes to collect, then we hit lunch at the Sidewalk Bistro.

I got the CFS while Raegan got a BLT. Her BLT was OK, but the CFS was OK at best, pre-fabbed in some nameless factory.

The iced tea was OK but service was spotty at best. For this, we had a check for $29.18. I don’t get to Denton often during meal times, and this place will not be on my list of preferred spots.

Boom A Rang Grill, Bethany, OK

8 March 2016

In a third and final diner entry this evening…

Boomarang Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 16 January 2015, Troop 15 was having an aviation-themed camp at Wiley Post Airport. I was headed out that way and looking for dinner, when I saw the always-reliable Boom a Rang.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak, mashers, and the veg of the day. It was not the best CFS I’ve had, but it was pretty good (7.5 out of 10), had decent beef flavor, and was fork tender. I don’t know that it was hand breaded. The mashers and gravy were pretty good.

So was the iced tea, and service as well. My check was $11.15. Not bad.

Blue Plate Diner, SLC, UT

8 March 2016

Blue Plate Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Since I’m on a theme of diners…

Back on 30 September, I was on a business trip to SLC, and had been hiking in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I remembered that I had tried to have dinner at Blue Plate Diner back over the summer, but they had just closed when I got there. I was earlier this time.

I had a chicken fried steak, mashers, and green beans. Classic blue plate special. These guys claim country cooking. None of it was very good. That’s not to say it was bad, as in bad tasting. The problem was that none of the food had much of any flavor. The CFS was pretty tough. It had little flavor. The gravy was the right consistency, but again, little flavor. The iced tea was OK.

So, the meal was bland. I would not go back unless I somehow found out that they had upgraded their beef. The iced tea was OK, and service was friendly enough, although a touch on the slow side. My check was $15.54.

Shortcakes Diner, Stillwater, OK

8 March 2016

Shortcakes Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In this episode of Blog Catch-Up, we go to Stillwater. Last October, we had dinner at Shortcakes while visiting Stillwater.

All of us got breakfast of one kind or another except Ian, who had CFS. I had a bite of it, and it was pretty good. I had a Country Breakfast, which was eggs, bacon, hash browns, and pancakes. All excellent. Raegan had eggs and bacon.

All in all, a good breakfast. Our meal for four was $52.15. Service was fast. I would go back any time.

Another Small Step Forward for Equality

7 March 2016

In a case of small-minded bigots being defeated again, the SCOTUS unanimously (8-0) overturned a ruling by an Alabama court that a court in Georgia had no authority under Georgia law to recognize adoptions by a same-sex couple.

My understanding is that is sort of like a court in Texas overturning a traffic ticket in Oklahoma because the speed limit laws are different.

This is a new legal concept for me.  It’s referred to as “full faith and credit”,  and refers to recognition of actions performed under the law of another state.

Regardless, it’s yet another petty attempt by bigots to interfere with gay people in any way they can.

The fact is that there is nothing in being gay that makes a person any less of a parent.  Whether a gay person or couple has a child via technology or adoption, the gay person or couple should have the same rights as a straight person or couple.  No more, no less.

And no person in government should be trying to take away any of those rights just for the “sin” of being gay.

Bar D Chuckwagon, Durango, CO

4 March 2016

Bar D Chuckwagon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OK, just so you know, you don’t go here for the food. You go for the cowboy singing.

Bar D is a faux village from the American Old West. You show up in early evening and walk around and buy stuff. We were there 23 July 2015. Our Girl Scouts looked at all the shops and such, and then had more fun in the playground area running around.

I will say up front, again, the food is OK, but don’t go here expecting to get the best chow around. As they tell you, they can serve 700 people in 30 min, and in that situation, it isn’t fine dining.

You have three options for dinner: roast beef (which looked to me to be chuck roast braised in BBQ sauce), grilled chicken dipped in BBQ sauce, or (for an upcharge), a ribeye grilled to medium (although mine, Erin’s, and all I saw were medium well). The sides are a baked potato, applesauce, and baked beans. The objective is to get everyone through the line as fast as possible, so no customization.

One very impressive thing: the dining area is usually open-air on picnic tables. The entire area can be covered by a telescoping cover that rolls out from the back of the dining area, very impressive. We had a shower pass by while we were eating, and the cover deployed in about 30 seconds.

During the meal, you get seconds on beans and applesauce, and drinks are kept refilled by roving bands of servers.

After the meal and a dessert of cake, the entertainment begins. The show goes for about 45 minutes, and is five cowboys singing western songs and cracking jokes. They are pretty darn good singers.

So it was a fun experience. The best part was the entertainment, and the food was OK as a bonus. I would go back.

Brown Bear Cafe, Silverton, CO

4 March 2016

Brown Bear Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We stopped in here for lunch in Silverton on 22 July after touring the mine and walking through town. I only remember what three of the five of us had. Erin and I had cheeseburgers that were good if not spectacular. I also had some vegetable beef soup that was very good. One of our Scouts had a ribeye that she reported to be excellent.

The iced tea was good, and service was a bit on the slow side. Our check (for five) was $80.

Serious Texas BBQ, Durango, CO

4 March 2016

Serious Texas Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Can you tell I have some time on my hands this evening? Cranking out a bunch of catch-up posts. I’m going to end the evening with a trio of posts on meals we ate “out” while on the Girl Scout High Adventure Team (HAT) Durango Adventure last summer.

On Monday of the trip (20 July) the Scouts went whitewater rafting. Since I don’t find that appealing, Steve and I ran some errands for the crew, and since that was very tiring (:) ), we had to fill up on BBQ.

I had a half pound of brisket and an add-on rib. The rib was OK, surprisingly pretty good. The brisket was excellent, tender and smoky. I had cheesy potatoes (yes, that’s the name) for my side, and they were really good, especially after I mixed a little BBQ in.

Service is order at a counter and pick up from there. The iced tea was great! We picked a table next to an open window, we could see the Animas River and rafters cruising by. My check was $17.50. Great stuff.

This Iz It, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

This Iz It Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place is tucked in almost out of sight of 23rd. Ian and I had lunch here in June 2015.

We both had double cheeseburgers, and both were darn good. Ian had fries, I had tots. The burgers were nothing special, just a couple 1/8th lb patties fried up. But the beef was decent and well cooked.

Service was fast and friendly. We will go back. Our check for two was $15.00. Good stuff.

Favorites Cafe, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

Jimmy's Cafe & Fried Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Another site on my tour of southside OKC. I had lunch here in April 2015. I was pleasantly surprised to find fried chicken on the menu. It was a four-piece meal, and it was not good. Stringy, small pieces with little meat, and seriously overcooked. I don’t think I will be back.

Jimmy’s Cafe, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

Jimmy's Cafe & Fried Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oh, this post is late! Last Spring, I had been taking a food tour of OKC between I-240 and downtown. Jimmy’s was one of the places I tried. Curiously enough, I was directed to the place by a persistent Facebook ad.

I hit Jimmy’s at 25 February 2016. I had the Chicken Fried Steak (LARGE!), with mashers and mac and cheese. I have to say, I was underwhelmed with the entire meal. The CFS was huge, it was clearly made there, but it had very liitle flavor. Same with the mashers, gravy, and mac and cheese. I would rate the CFS as a 6 out of 10. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.

Service was very friendly. The place was crowded, and it smelled wonderful. I would like to go back and try some other stuff based on what I smelt and saw. I just can’t recommend the CFS. My check was $14.39.

J&W Grill, Chickasha, OK

4 March 2016

J & W Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I headed home from my last weekend of Wood Badge, I decided to drive through Anadarko. I called my friend and Anadarko native Tammy and asked for a restaurant recommendation for a hungry guy on a Saturday evening. Her advice: head into Chickasha. Hmmm.

So I saw J&W as I came into Chickasha from the west, and had dinner there. I had a large cheeseburger with tater tots. The tots were great, crispy, and hot. The burger was a throwback to my childhood. I had asked for mayo, I got mustard (nto really an issue, I like both). Not a lot of crust on the burger, but decent flavor, and a lot of grease.

The iced tea was OK, and service was friendly. The place is small, and not many tables. I sat at the counter and enjoyed it just fine. I can’t find the receipt, but my check was about $10.00. Good stuff.

Paw Paw’s, Chickasha, OK

4 March 2016

Paw Paw's Hamburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

When I was coming back from my first Woodbadge weekend (11 April 2015), I stopped by Paw Paw’s for a very good burger. In fact, I got way too much food. My meals was a large double cheeseburger with chili, and chili cheese fries. It was a helluva mess:) but very good. The chili was nothing special, no heat and not too much flavor. The fries were really good, great flavor. The burgers were great, with lots of beef flavor, and cooked with a nice crust on them. Great stuff.

Service was friendly and pretty fast. My check was something like $15.

Mama Carol’s, Chickasha, OK

4 March 2016

This is a series of three reviews from places I ate at in Chickasha last Spring while I was taking Scouting Wood Badge at Camp George Thomas.

Mama Carol's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On the Wednesday evening prior to my first weekend of Woodbadge, 08 April 2015. I was headed down to camp and stopped at Mama Carols at about 2030. In spite of them closing at 2100, I was fully welcomed. I had the chicken fried steak dinner with mashers and green beans. That CFS was a 9 out of 10. Decent flavor, and fork tender everywhere except one place. I thought the mashers were a little on the bland side, but the gravy was very good.

The iced tea was great and service was fast and friendly. My check was $14.15. Great stuff. I want to go back and try their burgers.

Sheesh Mahal, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

Sheesh Mahal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We had dinner at Sheesh Mahal back on 15 October 2015 with friends from St. John’s. It was great!

I do not recall everything that each person got. But I know that Raegan got Daal Chicken; she liked it but thought it was too spicy (I have a much higher tolerance, I thought it was mild and very good). I had Chicken Curry, a green curry and very tender chicken, great stuff. Erin had a chicken kabob and ate all of it. Others at the table had other stuff, and not much was left. The rice with the meals was all very good, as was the tea.

Service was very friendly, and we all had plenty of time to talk. This is not an eat fast and get out kind of place. The check for eight of us was just over $80, and I think it was great value. I want to go back.

Automated Software Installation

3 March 2016

I should not have been surprised by this, once I thought about it a bit.

At work, I was told that I needed to have Microsoft Project installed on my computer so I could build schedules. OK, I thought. I already had Office 2010 on my computer. I went to a “Software Store” on the company Intranet, and found a list of available software, including Project.

There was also a lot of Open Source stuff that was listed as approved for use on company computers and networks, which I thought was cool. There were development environments like Netbeans, and support tools like PuTTY.

Regardless, I selected Project, typed in a short justification (more than “I was told to”:) ), and submitted the request. I figured that after a couple days, a tech would come around, or remotely log into my machine, and do the install.

Instead, about five minutes later, an automated process popped up a window telling me that installation was about to happen. I quickly shut down the couple apps I was working on, and the automated process installed Project, some other patches, and support tools, then it rebooted the computer, and that was it. I was pretty amazed. It took about 10 minutes.

I should not have been surprised. When I think about the extensive updates that Microsoft has been pushing out for years (think patches for XP, or doing a complete unattended upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10), it occurred to me that doing the installation of a single new software would be pretty easy.

It was cool regardless.

Blue Moon, Edmond, OK

3 March 2016

Blue Moon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This is not the Blue Moon in Ada, rather the Asian restaurant in Edmond.

We had dinner at Blue Moon back on 28 July 2015. I started with Egg Flower soup, which was egg drop. It was very good.

For our meals, Raegan got Boneless Chicken, which was sorta the kind of breaded and deep fried chicken used in sweet and sour, but instead tossed with veg. She liked it. Erin had sweet and sour chicken and thought it pretty good, although she was not hungry enough to finish it. I had curried chicken and liked it a lot. The default is with bell peppers, I had that taken out.

The iced tea was good, but the glasses were kind of small and we ran out a couple times. We don’t eat a lot of asian food, but I think we would like to. This was pretty darn good. Our check was $49.40. We’ll be back.

Canella’s, Salt Lake City, UT

2 March 2016

This is another catch-up post from a trip I took to SLC back in mid-July 2015.

Cannella's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One evening, a group of us that were attending the same meeting had dinner at Cannella’s, near downtown. One thing I noted was that the menu seems fairly limited. I had Fettuccine al Fredo with chicken. I had asked to have the grilled chicken sauteed, and my server agreed, but the chicken came back not only grilled, but just a piece of grilled chicken on top of the noodles, and a miserly amount of al Fredo. The tea was a mint tea, and pretty weak.

Service was friendly enough. We had a group of 10. My check was $18.87. There wasn’t any extorted minimum tip, which I liked.

Apollo Burgers, Salt Lake City, UT

2 March 2016

This is another catch-up post from a trip I took to SLC back in mid-July 2015.

Apollo Burgers, 143 N. Redwood, SLC

I had lunch at this location one day, and it was super busy, but looking at both the Zomato and Apollo Burgers websites, the location does not show.

Regardless, I had a double cheeseburger with fries and a drink. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve had, with minimum flavor and a burger with little texture. The burger was, however, far better than Sonic or Braum’s. The fries were OK.

Like I said, the place was packed at lunch. The staff was friendly. My check was $10.43. I would probably eat at another Apollo Burger, to see if this one was just a little below par.

B&D Burgers, Salt Lake City, UT

2 March 2016

This is another catch-up post from a trip I took to SLC back in mid-July 2015.

B & D Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First, let’s look at B&D Burgers. On my first day in town, I was looking at a couple outdoors places for a new pair of boots. I found B&D and liked it as it was on the way to the general area I was headed to, and it was a burger place.

I was not impressed. I ordered a double cheeseburger, onion rings, a milkshake, and a soda. The milkshake and soda were the best part of the meal. The rings were burned, and the burger just didn’t have any flavor at all. None. I can’t recommend it. My check was $10.00 for everything except the shake, and a couple extra bucks for that.

Grand House, Oklahoma City, OK

2 March 2016

Grand House Asian Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We are trying some new places along the Classen corridor, and last night decided to give Grand House a try. My friend Spencer joined us, which was great!

Raegan started out with some shrimp egg rolls that she and Erin put completely away. I started with some excellent egg drop soup.

Ian had a sashimi dinner, which at $20 was twice as expensive as any other meal. He has eaten a lot of sashimi, and his opinion was that it was not nearly as good as it should have been. He ate most of it, and shared a part of each fish piece with Raegan.

Erin had sweet and sour chicken. It was a lot of food and she could not finish it. I tried the chicken, it was excellent, really tasty, and the sweet and sour sauce was very good.

The same chicken was used with the lemon chicken that Raegan and Spencer got. I tried some of Erin’s chicken in the lemon sauce, it was OK (I didn’t think it had much flavor).

I had the curry chicken which was thin-sliced sauteed chicken with long strips of onion in yellow curry. Excellent. The default meal comes with bell peppers as well, but I asked for none and they were not cooked in. The only thing I could count down on the meal is that the onion pieces could have been more finely chopped and cooked just a bit more.

So overall, a really good meal. Our check for five was $79.66. That seems a bit high, but if the sashimi and the appetizers are accounted for, it is closer to the mid-$60s, which is reasonable. Service was friendly and just the right level of attentiveness. I look forward to another visit.

Someone at Microsoft Was Not Thinking Clearly…

29 February 2016

I have Windows 10 installed, and when I want to look at a photo, say one that is saved on my phone, the Microsoft Photos app is the default viewer.  It has a neat little editor with a couple functions.  The one I use most often is to crop.

If you save the cropped photo, it overwrites the existing file.  Understandable.  But if you Save As…, instead of giving you a dialog box and letting you specify where you want it to go (say, on your desktop), it instead saves the file to this folder:

C:\Users\Bill\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Libraries\SavedPictures.library-ms

That’s not terribly user-friendly.  If you see if soon enough, there is an “Open Save Folder” dialog that occasionally shows up, otherwise you are left to root around in the filesystem to find where it put the file.

How about a folder dialog, Microsoft?

Mamaveca Mexican Restaurant, Norman, OK

29 February 2016

Mamaveca Mexican Restaurant‎ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Over the past year, I have occasionally left the area around Tinker AFB for lunch slightly farther afield. On 11 March 2015, I headed all the way to Norman for Mamaveca’s. It was great!

I got the pork chili verde. Wonderful. Perfect flavor, not too spicy, tender pork.

The iced tea was great, and service was fast and friendly. My check was $15.14.

I need to drive to Norman more often! And I need to try the guiso, and a couple of those Peruvian dishes.

Volcano, Del City, OK

29 February 2016

Volcano Sushi Bar & Hibachi Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I have had lunch here three times, the most recent day was 30 July 2015. The first two times, I had chicken fried rice (very good both times). The most recent time I had pork katsu (which I remember as tonkatsu), which I have not had since a Japanese restaurant in MWC went out of business in 1990. This was really good! Just the right amount of crunchy breading, and the pork was tender and moist. The check for Diane and I was $18.07. The iced tea was OK. Service the first two times was very good, and a little more spotty the last time.

Regardless, it was great.

Hornback’s Shawnee Restaurant, Muskogee, OK

28 February 2016

Hornback's Shawnee Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I were in Muskogee overnight, and this morning we didn’t like the look of the Hampton’s breakfast, so we hit up Hornback’s as it was very close.

Ian got sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and hash browns. He liked all of it, but his only complaint was that the biscuit was so crumbly it needed a structural integrity field to hold it together. I had two eggs over easy, ham (and it was a huge slice of ham!), grits, and biscuit and gravy. The eggs were fine, the ham excellent, I think smoked, and very tasty. I liked the gravy in particular. The biscuit was somewhat crumbly but went well with the gravy.

We both had iced tea that was good. Service was friendly and very fast (less than five minutes from order to delivery). Our check was $20.58. Very good.

Fried Chicken at Loaf N Jug

28 February 2016

So this might be more of a sad post than a review. Last summer, on our HAT Durango adventure, we passed through Alamosa, CO. My driving was shift was up when we stopped at the Loaf and Jug on US 160. It was right at lunch, and I went in there and found a small deli.

I got some of the best fried chicken there I have ever had. Large pieces, perfectly fried up, with the skin crispy yet flexible. Wonderful taste, and juicy all the way through. Just perfect. Erin had some chicken tenders and said they were really good as well.

On the way back from Durango a week+ later, we stopped there again. I got more of that chicken, and it was wonderful again.

I complemented the cook on the chicken, and she said that City Market, which owned the Loaf N Jug stores, had elected to close the deli and replace it with a Subway.

I found that very sad. I like Subway, but I love the fried chicken at LnJ, and also feel that we are quite homogenized enough already with a Subway on seemingly every corner. I think that the deli with good local food would be a loss if it were replaced.

I just looked on the LnJ site and it reports that the store has a Real Time Crispy Chicken. I hope it is still the case. I would get that chicken any time.

Roy’s Chicken, Coweta, OK

27 February 2016

Roy's Fried Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Last May, we were headed home one Sunday evening, and coming through Tulsa. Roy’s was open, and I’m always up for fried chicken, so we gave it a shot. Great stuff.

We all got fried chicken, except Erin, who got chicken fingers. The fried chicken was a mix of dark and light, and it was all good. Crunchy and juicy yet not greasy. We all demolished our meals. The sides were OK as well, mashers and gravy and stuff, I don’t remember it all, but it was good.

Our check was $34.81, good value. The staff was friendly enough. I was surprised at how uncrowded it was at 1900. Recommended if Dixie’s is closed.

Dixie’s Cafe, Coweta, OK

27 February 2016

Dixie's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I was headed into Haskell for the funeral of a family member back on 09 January 2015 (yes, more than a year ago), and hit Dixie’s for lunch. It was a classic diner/café experience that I realty enjoyed.

I had a Chicken Fried Steak with mashers and gravy, with green beans. A classic diner meal, and PERFECT. The sides were good, the gravy excellent. The CFS was perfect, hand breaded and deep fried, tender, great beef flavor. That CFS is what I expect a CFS to be.

Service was very friendly. The iced tea was great, and served in huge Mason jars (that is really the way that Iced Tea Should Be Served (:) ). My check was $8.98. Yes, less than $9, for a perfect café experience. I would have had some pie, but I was full from the meal.

I tried to take Raegan to Dixie’s for lunch a couple months ago, and it was Sunday so Dixie’s was closed. Too bad, I look forward to going back. I just don’t get through Coweta that often.

Brownie’s Hamburgers, Tulsa, OK (Southside)

27 February 2016

Brownie's Hamburger Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So, in the spirit of not playing catch-up, we ate lunch here about 30 minutes ago!

Pretty much a perfect cheeseburger meal. Ian and I both had double cheeseburgers, his plain, mine with mayo. Remembering how huge the fries side was at the Utica location, we split an order here. Ian had a chocolate milkshake, we both had iced tea. The burgers were perfect, in flavor and cooking. The fries, also. None left. Can’t say any more about the meal other than perfect.

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $21.47. I’d go back any time.

Tally’s, Tulsa, OK

27 February 2016

Tally's Good Food Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

At the moment, Ian is driving us to Muskogee via Tulsa, so I decided to play another round of blog catch-up, Tulsa-oriented. :)

Raegan and the kids and I had lunch at Tally’s back on 30 May 2015. We were headed towards NW Arkansas on a weekend family trip.

Tally’s had just a bit of a wait at 1300, there was an entire busload of tourists being fed in addition to the usual customers.

I had the CFS, it was OK. The sides were mashers and green beans. The gravy was OK. Ian had the CFS also, and rated it OK. Erin had CFC, it was pretty good. Raegan had a club sandwich that had more bacon on it than a sandwich deserves, and pretty darn good bacon.

The iced tea was pretty good. Service was very spotty, but it was very busy. Our check was $64.62, kind of expensive for café food. I don’t know that would go back.

Rock Cafe, Stroud, OK

27 February 2016

Rock Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and I were headed to Muskogee back on 30 October, it was dinner time, and we stopped in Stroud for dinner. I had wanted to try the Rock Café for a while, as it had been recommended by the Discover Oklahoma crew.

I had the CFS. It was HUGE. I am pretty sure I had pinto beans, but I can’t remember the other side. The beans were excellent. The CFS was clearly breaded there, it had voids in the breading. The beef was OK and there were some tough spots I had to use a knife on. The gravy was excellent. Raegan had catfish. She liked it, but it was so big she could not finish it. I can’t remember her sides, but no complaint.

The iced tea was great, and service was very friendly and fast. Our check was $25.42. I don’t know that I would make a special trip to eat at Rock Café, but if I was going by around a meal I would have no problem going back. I would like to try their breakfast.

Fat Guy’s Burger Bar, Tulsa, OK (Downtown)

26 February 2016

Fat Guy's Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 07 November, Ian and I had been working in Muskogee and were headed home. We decided to try Fat Guy’s since it was on several lists of Tulsa’s best burgers.

We got there and an OSU game was playing on the big TVs, so that was cool.

He and I both got Jumbo Double Meat Cheeseburgers, mine had bacon. We both also got fries. This was a mistake, we should have just had one fries as there were a freaking huge amount, seemingly a bushel of potatoes.

The burgers were excellent, with great beef flavor and a nice crust. Drippy as heck, too. The fries were very greasy but very tasty as well.

We had iced tea and DP. Service was order at the counter. It was kind of noisy in there, and crowded. The place is not very big. But they make great cheeseburgers. Our check was something like $25. Good, but on the expensive side.

Elmer’s BBQ, Tulsa, OK

26 February 2016

Elmer's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in October, I was on my way to the Ozark Mountains to backpack the Butterfield Trail with the Girl Scout High Adventure Team. I had lunch at Elmer’s as I passed through Tulsa. I’m glad I did.

I ordered a two-meat plate (hey, I was going backpacking, I needed protein:) ) of chopped brisket and ribs. The ribs first: they were about 9.5 on a scale of 1 to JTs. Nicely smoked, with a good texture of bark, and wonderful flavor. Nothing tough about them in the slightest. The brisket was pretty darn good as well. Not as much flavor, but very tender, and there was quite a lot of it. I had baked beans (outstanding) and green beans (very good) as my sides.

This place did not disappoint, in fact, it was very, very good. Service was friendly. My check was $23.45. I would be happy to go back.

Cowboy’s BBQ, Muskogee, OK

26 February 2016

Cowboy's Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had not been to Cowboy’s in a long time (10+ years) when I had lunch there back in October 2015. Ian and I had lunch there 19 February. It was pretty good both times.

Both times I had a two-meat with ribs and brisket. The first time, both the ribs and the brisket were excellent. The second time, the ribs were a little on the less-than-meaty side, and a little tough, but the brisket was great again. I had sides of baked beans (OK, but bland), and fries (great).

Ian had a chopped brisket sandwich, and said it was really good, not greasy but juicy. He had fries that were good.

The iced tea was good, and the service very friendly. My check the first time was $15.40, and the second time, Ian and I ran up a check of $33.25. The check the second time was a little high as we both scored cane sugar Coke and DP. My only complaint is that the bottled drinks needed to be a colder cooler. But the BBQ was really good.

“Hacking”, WiFi, and Journalism

25 February 2016

I’ve seen several variations of this story over the past couple days:

Steven Petrow, the journalist who had his computer hacked while on a flight, recounts his experience and what he learned.

Each version of the story I’ve seen has emphasized that the guy had his laptop hacked on a flight. He was using GoGo In Flight for in-flight WiFi.

For the record, the guy, or rather his computer, was not hacked.  He was sorta personally hacked in that he was given misinformation, but his machine was not compromised.  Some of his data was.

Let me explain the difference.  Mr. Petrow was on an airline flight, using his laptop, connected to the inflight WiFi.  The GoGo In Flight is an open WiFi access point.  This means there is no encryption.  Now, when you pay money (via a credit card transaction) to use GoGo, the transaction is encrypted using SSL between your computer and the GoGo server.  Once that’s done, the connection reverts to nonsecured, and you are connected to the Internet.

Mr. Petrow was using his computer to write an article, and submitted that article to his employer.  I’ve seen references to his sending it via email, but the mechanism is not clear.  Near him (and it doesn’t matter if near means the next seat over, or the back of the airplane), a guy was using a WiFi sniffer tool to watch the WiFi traffic.  Since the access point was open (no encryption), the “hacker” (although a better term might be “sniffer”) could see (and capture, if he wanted) every packet of traffic sent to and from the access point.

Now, a point that has to be made here is that anyone who was doing anything sensitive using a server that had even the least security on it would be using SSL encryption, which is between your device all the way to the server.  That traffic can be seen and captured, but it is encrypted, and would take a significant effort to decrypt (by significant, I’m talking years of computation).

So for the hacker/sniffer to see Mr. Petrow’s traffic, the traffic would have to have been unencrypted.  It could have been an unencrypted email (SMTP/POP3 protocol), or an unencrypted webmail.  Regardless, both email servers and clients, and web servers and web browsers, have had basic encryption built into them since the early 2000s.

So the hacker/sniffer saw the email with the article that was sent unencrypted.  The hacker/sniffer did not attack or tamper with the computer Mr. Petrow was using.  That is not being hacked, it is being eavesdropped on.

Whoever Mr. Petrow works for, their IT department should secure the server that the company uses to implement an encrypted link.  All major email servers and clients support encrypted connections.  All major webservers and browsers support encrypted connections.

So as to the sniffer/hacker, what he did is trivial from a technology standpoint.  I’ve used similar tools to look at WiFi traffic, on airplanes and elsewhere.  You might not be surprised, but while in hotels, I have seen examples of half of the connections being to porn sites.  Using sniffer tools, you get an idea as to why hotel WiFi is often so slow, when most of the connections are to streaming video sites (think porn, and Netflix, and Hulu).

The above might sound frightening, but I think most businesses that have an interest in keeping customer information safe (think banks) implement end-to-end encryption as a matter of course.  A news site like CNN might not care to encrypt the connection a site visitor is checking out, though.

The real issue here is that the story being reported is wrong.  It’s not a case of hacking, it’s really an example of not implementing best practice for securing data.  And that is something that is easily fixable, once you realize what the real problem is.

Calico County Restaurant, Amarillo, TX

25 February 2016

Calico County Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

You can probably tell that I’m in serious catch-up mode today, as I’m bouncing around all over the place.

Back over Thanksgiving, we were headed to Santa Fe on the way to Pagosa Springs for a ski trip. We managed to get out of OKC around 1600 and pulled into Amarillo at 1930 (hooray for the 75mps speed limits in Texas). Calicos was a great find!

I had the pot roast: perfect. The potatoes and gravy in particular were fine. Ian had a CFS: perfect. The cream gravy was excellent, the CFS hand breaded, thick meat, great flavor, and fork tender. Erin had CFC: perfect. Raegan had catfish: perfect.

You might get the impression we liked the place. I think it’s like Cracker Barrel used to be when they were sorta local. Every food item was clearly cooked right there with good ingredients.

Service was extraordinarily friendly. The iced tea was excellent. We would have had dessert but we were stuffed, and about to climb back in the car for another four hours. Our check was $56.12. I look forward to going back, this place could be our go-to restaurant in Amarillo.

They do breakfast. One gripe: when we came back through, we stayed in Amarillo due to an ice and snow storm in the eastern panhandle and western Oklahoma. We got out of the hotel mid-morning Sunday (we were in after midnight), and got to Calico’s at 1045 Sunday, the exact time they shut breakfast down. I would suggest that maybe Calico’s does breakfast a little earlier on the weekends at least. Maybe noon? Regardless, we will make it there for breakfast at some point.

The Garage, Del City, OK

25 February 2016

The Garage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’ve eaten here several times since they opened a couple years ago. The most recent time was a cold and rainy 07 January 2016.

I got a double meat chili cheeseburger and chili cheese fries. The burger was excellent. It was also a heckuva mess. I ate it with a fork and knife. I really liked the fries; they had so much chili that they were soaked in chili joice down below (this, BTW, should not be construed as a problem!).

Service is very loose. My check for lunch was $16.52. The iced tea (and later, DP) was great. A good place to get a darn fine cheeseburger.

Alfredo’s Mexican Cafe, Edmond, OK

25 February 2016

Alfredo's Mexican Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I went through my fistful of receipts, there were three from Alfredo’s, ranging from 11 December 2014 to 29 May 2015 to 07 February 2016. I know we’ve eaten there at least six or seven times. It’s pretty darn good.

I always get the Pork Guiso Verde. Just the right spice heat, tender pork, great flavor. The most recent time, Ian had it also and liked it a lot. The only issue we had is that on the big plate, it was about 3/5 beans, 1/5 rice, and 1/5 guiso. Maybe they were running short. Regardess, we got filled up. Raegan and the kids get enchiladas and chimis and fajitas, all excellent. I really like the salsa and the queso, and we’ve had nachos several times.

Our check this most recent visit was $60. The iced tea is excellent, and service is always fast and friendly.

This place is very good, and I think in many ways it is better than Ted’s. Recommended.

Upper Crust Pizza, Edmond, OK

25 February 2016

Upper Crust Wood Fired Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We had dinner at this Upper Crust location back on 21 June 2015.

I ordered some meatballs that were in some very good marinara. The meatballs were a little on the untextured (is that a word?) side. I think they needed a bit of crust on them from the baking process. Regardless, they were pretty good, and mostly meat with a little filler instead of the other way around. We also had a Caesar salad that was pretty good.

Ian and I split a pepperoni and sausage pizza that was excellent. We left nothing. Raegan and Erin both had small pizzas, one al Fredo and one Mediterranean, and ate all of each.

The pizza was followed by a large cookie, which was extremely chocolately and very good. Raegan also had a creme soda.

Service was a bit on the slow side, which is to say our server was gone for long periods, then would zoom in and bomb the table quickly then blazing off.

Our check was $73.97, sorta expensive, but we did get a lot of stuff we don’t usually get. The meatballs were $10, and the cookie $8.00. Good pizza, though.

Apple, Terrorist Investigation, and Security

23 February 2016

I have been following the dustup between the FBI and Apple with interest.

For the record, I am opposed to any police or government agency having access to the daily communications of people who are not under investigation. I also do not think that cracking this phone compromises the millions of other iPhones in existence.

On the other hand, in the case of the San Bernadino terrorists, there is a crime that has taken place, with a resulting legitimate investigation, and the police agencies have a legitimate requirement to access data about the criminals, including any information stored in their phone. I imagine that the records of who the criminals called has already been gathered from cell phone companies.

Apple and Apple’s supporters use the argument that any hack/engineering/software tool that Apple uses should not be in the hands of the police agencies. I agree with that.

I also suspect the tool to crack an iPhone PIN already exists.

I think that there can be a reasonable approach here. Chain of custody must be maintained. The FBI can swear select Apple employees in to an agreement that they will not disclose anything they happen to see in the phone. The FBI can send people with the phone to observe the crack process and ensure that the Apple people don’t zorch any information. Then, with the process complete, the FBI takes the phone back and harvests any information from it. The crack tool/process/person stays with Apple.

The key thing is that the tool/process remains with Apple, while the data goes to the police for investigation.

There is really no difference here in any other investigation or data request. I do think that Apple’s concern to protect all of the other iPhone users is admirable, and should be taken seriously.

Nicha’s, San Antonio, TX

22 February 2016

Nicha's Comida Mexicana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This completes my reviews of restaurants from a business trip to San Antonio. I had dinner with a number of work friends at Nicha’s 14 April 2015. The place was recommended by one of the guys on the trip.

I had Carne Guisada, and it was very, very good. I do not like my food to be super spicy, and the guisada had just the right amount of bite. I thought the portion size was a little on the small side, but it wasn’t so small I was hungry later. The iced tea was very good. Service was on the slow side, but we weren’t in any hurry, so that wasn’t an issue. My check was about $14.00.


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