Friday, July 24, 2015

Public Safety Bulletin...

Top of the afternoon to all...

When I do my two weeks a year with the Navy, I go to Marine Corps Base Quantico.  Most of you do not know Marines.  Marines run.  They can be seen at all times of the day on the running tracks and paths throughout every USMC base.

MCB Quantico has safety rules that govern this.  If out running, walking, or cycling, it is required to wear reflective gear.  As well, the use of earbuds is forbidden.  These are smart rules.

I have tried an experiment a few times.  I get consistent results.  When I am coming up on someone, as always, I ring my bell.  Without fail, the people with earbuds have not heard me.  This is dangerous to them.  It is dangerous to me as a cyclist.

It is dangerous to them because there are other people they may not hear.  Such people may just be clumsy, or they may have nefarious intent.  In either event, the shortened time for a reaction can have consequences.

As well, there is a danger to me.  Humans naturally have a startle reflex.  If that reflex occurs when a cyclist has passed, the cyclist and the walker (or the other cyclist) could get hurt.

Folks, I have heretofore written only about potential negative results between a cyclist and a walker.  If we add in cars to this equation, we have gone from possible injury to possible fatality.

My friends, take the earbuds out.  Listen to the birds sing.  Their music is as lovely as anything you will hear on the ipod.  Listen to the cars drive by.  Listen to the people around you.  And if you miss a phone call, the world will continue.

Be safe.


It Is Difficult to Be Sympathetic, But.......

Top of the afternoon to all....

Many of you are aware of the major security breach that took place at Ashley Madison this week.  If you do not know, Ashley Madison is the company that helps people sleep around.  Their motto is "life is short.  Have an affair."

You know my feelings about adultery.  I wrote an entry about this exactly four years ago.  It is marital abuse, and has no place in civilized society.  Whatever sympathies I have for the people who tried to have their information deleted is quite limited.

The company has a service in which it promises that for the mere fee of $19, a file can be erased completely.  Hackers stole the 'deleted' files in an effort to prove that there is no such thing as permanent deletion.

I have issues with all hackers.  To steal from a company via computer is no different from stealing from the cash register.  On top of that, for the hackers to hold the personal files hostage because of the company's mistakes and misdeeds is unreasonable.

That being said, my mother always told me that it takes two people to keep a secret.  The warning here was clear.  It is an echo of the rabbis from Pirkei Avot (2:5): do not say something that is not meant to be heard, for it will be heard.  In this world of computer history, that admonition has never been more true.

The folks who thus went to Ashley Madison were therefore sinning egregiously and naive for thinking it could be kept secret forever.  This is why my sympathies are limited.

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to have some sympathy.  I am still waiting for the US government's response to the fact that my information may have been hacked.  My information was given to the government in good faith.  That being said, even naive, egregious sinners are entitled to privacy.

At the end of the day my friends, stay home.  Have an affair with your spouse.  Your spouse will not mind.

Shabbat Shalom.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cutting the Mustard...

Top of the evening all...

Some years back, Jennifer and I purchased mustard seed.  I think that the reason might have had something to do with finding kosher for Pesach mustard.  It has been so long though that I do not remember the reason.  I do remember though that the intent was to make mustard.

A few weeks ago, I finally made the mustard.  I found several recipes on line, and gambled.

It was b-i-t-t-e-r.  The instructions said though to let it sit for a few days.  It did in fact lose most of the bitterness.  Jennifer decided that she did not like the consistency.  The recipe said to add water until achieving the desired consistency.  I missed that part.  Jennifer added some water.

Folks, that is really good mustard.  I do not know that I will ever make the jump to making my own mustard at home.  But I can tell you it was worth the (minimal) effort.  I will certainly do it again.

It was easy and worth it.

Have a good evening.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Getting It Right 100% of the Time...

Top of the evening ladies and gentlemen...

Over the last several months, the US Government has twice failed to protect its citizens on its own soil.  You are aware that US Government computers were hacked a few months ago, with personal information on approximately 21 million people compromised.  I received an e-mail today stating that anyone who has undergone a security clearance check is likely amongst those whose information is in the hands of those who clearly think that there is some profit to be gained by having that information.  To answer your question: yes, I have undergone a security investigation over the last several years.

And now today...four US Marines and one US Sailor were murdered in Chattanooga.  The story is still developing.  I very much want to know how it happened.  Given that the attacker had taken aim at a recruiting centre seven miles away, I am at a loss to explain why NOSC (Navy Operational Support Center) Chattanooga was not immediately upgraded to Force Protection Condition Delta.  That is the level of force protection, with commensurate increased security, that all installations in the vicinity of an attack are supposed to set.  The Marines who were killed today either should have been in a safe spot or, if they were part of the security detail, should have been wearing body armor.

I am not going to point my finger at the US Government and say "j'accuse."  I believe not only in the government's desire to protect its citizens, but also its will.  The problem is this: the good guys cannot make a mistake - ever.  The bad guys only have to succeed once.

The bad guys have now succeeded, not once, but twice.  Four Marines and one Sailor are dead.  The lives of 21 million people may or may not need some revision.  We do well.  We need to do better.

I normally would sign off telling you all to have a good evening.  Instead...

Semper Fidelis.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

That's Four...

Top of the evening to all...

Some years ago, I had received mobilization orders to go to Afghanistan.  People asked my beloved bride if she was worried about me in a combat zone.  Jennifer's response was tongue-in-cheek, to a point.  She said: "he rides a bicycle downtown.  That scares me more than anything he might do in Afghanistan."

On May 19th, a cyclist was hit in the Mt. Pleasant area.  He died May 29th.    Since then, two more cyclists have been killed in Toronto.  Today, a fourth cyclist was killed while riding his bicycle out in Milton.

Does anybody care?

When I was but a wee lad growing up in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there was a stretch of US 58  near Emporia, VA, about an hour to the west, that was known as "Suicide Strip."  It was a two-lane highway that was a legal passing zone.  There were deaths along that stretch of road for years.  Finally, the government widened it, and in 1991, dedicated the new US 58, a four-lane highway that is now a lovely drive.  Historically, it had been a death every 2.5 months.

Apparently, when motorists die, it is important.  No one asks if the driver was being reckless.  No one complains that someone was speeding.  People point out the unsafe conditions, and finally elicit a response.  Dangerous drivers do stupid things.  Infrastructure can and should be built to prevent such stupidity as much as possible.  In Virginia, it happened.

The recent mess has been more than one death in 2.5 months.  This is now four deaths in five weeks.  In these cases, the cyclists were all being safe.  Not that it matters...there is clearly a need for safety measures.

When I first really started traveling the city by bicycle, I was usually content to ride in the painted cycle lanes.  There are some really nice lanes.  Russell Hill is just a dandy ride.  I was run off the road there once though.  A driver did not see me, and elected to go around a turning car via the bicycle lane as I was passing.

Lately, I have been more and more uncomfortable traveling on the streets.  The carnage of the last five weeks is unnerving, to say the least.

I no longer support painted lanes.  There should be a physical separation on all of the major streets.  The bloodshed must end.  Cyclists have the absolute right to safety on streets for which they pay taxes to pave and to maintain.  Not only do they have the right to safety, they have the right to the feeling of safety.

To its credit, the City of Toronto is embarked on a major study to figure out the next steps in developing infrastructure.  It will take time to see if the city is serious in taking the set of steps necessary after the current set of steps.  I will believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to go to to do the cycling survey and to make your own cycling map.  This is not just an issue for cyclists.  This is also an issue for drivers.  We do not have to be adversaries.  We should not be adversaries.  We all want to get where we are going safely.

Thank you all for listening.

Have a good night.