Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
Sledgehammer's Performance and Custom Cycles

Monday, May 25, 2015

Heroes Part II

When someone says, "Yea, I was in the service. I was a clerk typist.", and tells you funny stories of boot camp and maybe the stuff he and his buddies did in Japan in 1975, you can believe that.

We've all heard of Stolen Valor and there are groups of veterans that dedicate a lot of time exposing guys who claim to have been super combat vets, SpecOps operators, Navy SEALs, wearing uniforms with rows of ribbons they bought on-line.

What isn't as obvious is the guy who was in the service and just embellishes what he did. Now he can talk the talk, knows the units, lingo and details. Maybe he was on the base in a non-combat role but in a support unit that fixed the boats. It might start out no more than saying, "Yea, I served with the SEALS. No, I don't want to talk about it.", to his friends at the bar. That's true in a way, if you squint. It makes his boring job a little better story.

I ran into this with a WWII vet recently. I am now about 99.5% sure the story he's sharing is bovine excrement. The internet changes how easy it is to check. I heard his stories and it was both believable and a great story, so I went looking. Where he said he was and what he said he did seemed like it would lend itself to a story for the blog, if not a book. I wanted details. I found the unit, found mission histories, found a real live historian in England that I spoke on the phone with last week.

And what I found is that a man with the right age and right name was there, but he wasn't what he claimed to be and couldn't have been. I suspect he made this fiction up right at the end of the war. He started telling it real early and kept telling it until he had it down pat. I don't know what he gained from it and it doesn't matter any more. He's 93. I left out all the details because I am not trying to out him. That 0.5% of uncertainty is enough for me to leave this alone.

What is verifiable, is that he served in WWII in England, came home, worked for 45 years, married and had a family, served in local government, volunteered in the community and in all the small normal parts of his life, seems to have been part of the generation that built the post-war world I grew up in. A likeable, mostly honorable, man.

The English  historian I spoke with told me they find a certain amount of this. He told me about a (deceased) WWII fighter pilot whose family had contacted him with stories of air to air combat, a crash landing in France, details of the ride across the Channel, being returned to the base to fly again, and so on. Great stuff. The family wanted to get it in the historical record.

Well, the man was a fighter pilot. But the mission histories are complete, they all exist, and by the time this man was flying there were no German fighters rising to meet them, no desperate dogfights in the sky over Germany. By the last months of the war, the Luftwaffe was pretty much defunct. He had flown his missions, escorted bombers to targets, and flown back. No record he ever fired his guns in combat. He had wanted to be a hero bad enough to tell pieces of other people's stories.

I suspect it has always been this way. That after the battles between Rome and Hannibal's army, guys who had been cooks and farriers went out and collected swords and armor and took them home to tell great stories of their bravery and how they had singlehandedly turned the tide of the battle.

Heroes Part I

Since 9-11, the default position on people in uniform is that they are all heroes. It's wrong. They aren't all heroes. People in the military may be hard working, honorable, and dependable and still not be heroes, except maybe to their kids. But even that isn't what I mean. People in the military are just people.

Smucks, some of them, slackers that do just enough to skate by. Some are guys you couldn't trust not to empty out your wallet while you're in the shower. Others are guys that will hit on your wife the weekend after you leave on deployment. Some are drunk as often as possible, rowdy troublemakers that make the towns outside the bases what they are.

Even the ones that are recognized heroes, like a guy that got up off the ground and attacked a group of pillboxes, shot and blasted an opening in the enemy's position, managed to both be seen doing this by people that survived, and survive himself, and have the paperwork go through so that some politician could hang a light blue ribbon around his neck might not be someone you'd want to leave alone with your daughter.

The one thing they have in common, from the best to the worst, is how young they are. Most of them are just kids, a year out of high school, that's who goes to war.

It's also who just goes to boot camp, puts on the uniform, and ends up issuing gear out of a supply depot in Alabama. Or serving as an MP on some big base full of the rowdy drunks I mentioned. Or fixing radar, radios, computer systems, trucks, tanks, jet engines, and so on. Even if you have one of the cool jobs like being a fighter pilot, what percentage of fighter pilots ever even see an enemy plane in the air?

When I was a Marine, I worked on radar on F-4s. I got a lot of electronics school. I went to Japan, Korea, and Philippines on 3 West-Pac tours. I wasn't a great Marine. I drove my boss nuts because I would be the guy to ask "WTF" when the truly stupid was being served to us. I was just there a lot of the time. And sometimes I skated. I was not a hero. The other Marines I served with, many of them far better Marines than me, were not heroes.

I did 6 years active and got an honorable discharge. I have my paperwork, lots of pictures, certificates, etc. I did exactly what I say I did and have plenty of proof. It was all during the Cold War. The riskiest thing I did was work on a flightline, not a zero risk location by any means, but nowhere near dangerous as going on liberty in Olongapo.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Motorcycle ride: success!

More to follow, but scooting around the block led to going around town.  It's much heavier but is very stable.  The weight makes me ride differently but that's likely a good thing.

I need to keep upping the miles I ride, but this works nicely.

Johannes Ockeghem - Requiem

Memorial Day honors the fallen soldiers, and nothing quite brings a tone of reflection like the Missa Pro Defunctis, the Requiem Mass for the Dead.  This version by Ockeghem is the oldest surviving Requiem that we know.  It is an a capella performance in the newfangled (at his time in the 1400s) polyphonic style with multiple singers singing different notes at the same time (as opposed to the old Gregorian style where all singers sang the same note).

This Memorial Day weekend remember the fallen.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat aeis.  Amen.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

If the ACLU has any cojones at all ...

... it will file suit on June 1 for force an immediate end of the bulk collection of metadata from Americans.  We'll see.  IANAL, but this would seem an open and shut case, as it looks like the PATRIOT Act will expire then.

And we'd see if a Court would have the cojones to stop a program with no legal authorization.

Hat tip: In the MIDDLE of the RIGHT

The Statler Brothers - More Than a Name on a Wall

Image via Wikipedia
A lot of people seem to think that Memorial Day is "thank a veteran" Day.  I guess that could work, but only if you were at a cemetery.  The roots of Memorial Day go deep, all the way back to the American War of Southern Independence, where "Decoration Day" was reserved to take flowers to the graves of the Fallen.  Late May was chosen because flowers would be in bloom in every corner of the Republic.

Nowadays it's the long weekend that starts the summer season.Trips to the lake, grilling out, and cold beer push the original meaning aside.  Few take flowers to the graves anymore, which is a damn shame.  The Fallen deserve a day of remembrance.

As you'd expect, there's a country music song for that.

The Statler Brothers are old school country from the 1960 to the 1980s, before the new pop-crossover sound got popular and pushed everything off the airwaves.  Johnny Cash gave them their big break* and they ended winning a bunch of CMA awards as well as three Grammys. Now you hardly ever hear them except if the radio station plays Gospel on Sunday.   They sang a lot of that.

This song came at the very end of their career, but shot up to the top of the charts.  Timing no doubt had something to do with that - the song was released the month before Memorial Day in 1989.

More Than a Name on a Wall (Songwriters: Jimmy Fortune, John Rimel)
I saw her from a distance as she walked up to the wall
In her hand she held some flowers as her tears began to fall
And she took out pen and paper as to trace her memories
And she looked up to heaven and the words she said were these

She said Lord my boy was special and he meant so much to me
And oh I'd love to see him just one more time you see
All I have are the memories and the moments to recall
So Lord could you tell him that he's more than a name on a wall

She said he really missed the family and being home on Christmas day
And he died for God and country in a place so far away
I remember just a little boy playing war since he was three
But Lord this time I know he's not comin' home to me

She said Lord my boy was special and he meant so much to me
And oh I'd love to see him but I know it just can't be
So I thank you for my memories and the moments to recall
So Lord could you tell him that he's more than a name on a wall
* They wrote a funny tribute to Cash, We Got Paid By Cash.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why do people hack?

Because that's where the money is:
Hackers have struck one of the world's largest internet dating websites, leaking the highly sensitive sexual information of almost four million users onto the web.

The stolen data reveals the sexual preferences of users, whether they're gay or straight, and even indicates which ones might be seeking extramarital affairs. In addition, the hackers have revealed email addresses, usernames, dates of birth, postal codes and unique internet addresses of users' computers.


Within hours of the data being leaked, hackers on the forum said they intended to hit victims with spam emails, and Mr Harper has been targeted with virused emails since his information was made public.

Online crime experts believe the after the initial spam email campaign, hackers will now begin trawling through the data for potential blackmail targets.
Blackmail seems to be the big win here, although there's obviously more risk than your usual hacking situation.  But organized crime has been a big player in the black hat community for ten years or more, so this is just a new source of data that they'll use the same way.

And I love this part:
Shaun Harper is one of those whose details have been published. "The site seemed OK, but when I got into it I realised it wasn't really for me, I was looking for something longer term. But by that time I'd already given my information. You couldn't get into the site without handing over information.

"I deleted my account, so I thought the information had gone. These sites are meant to be secure."

You keep using that word.  I do not believe that it means what you think it means ...

At the Going Down of the Sun

Perhaps Memorial Day seems like a time to put flags on old headstones and remember our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Perhaps it seems to be just a day off form work to mark the start of summer. It’s not. It’s about remembering the sacrifice made by very young men to preserve our country. Day by day, year after year, we send young men into harm’s way and not all of them come back.

We cannot repay their service, we cannot do or say anything to ease the loss to their families, all we can do is remember.

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.
–Laurence Binyon

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who is up for a ride this weekend?

The bike awaits.  Time to cowboy up.

Send me an email at borepatch at gmail if you are in the Atlanta area and want to meet up for a short ride.  I'm just getting back in the saddle, so it will be short but could end at a pub.

The NSA is the reason that we can't have nice things on the Internet

It seems that encryption was deliberately broken by the NSA, and now everyone is getting hip to how to read all your data.
Tens of thousands of HTTPS-protected websites, mail servers, and other widely used Internet services are vulnerable to a new attack that lets eavesdroppers read and modify data passing through encrypted connections, a team of computer scientists has found.

The vulnerability affects an estimated 8.4 percent of the top one million websites and a slightly bigger percentage of mail servers populating the IPv4 address space, the researchers said. The threat stems from a flaw in the transport layer security protocol that websites and mail servers use to establish encrypted connections with end users. The new attack, which its creators have dubbed Logjam, can be exploited against a subset of servers that support the widely used Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which allows two parties that have never met before to negotiate a secret key even though they're communicating over an unsecured, public channel.

The weakness is the result of export restrictions the US government mandated in the 1990s on US developers who wanted their software to be used abroad. The regime was established by the Clinton administration so the FBI and other agencies could break the encryption used by foreign entities. Attackers with the ability to monitor the connection between an end user and a Diffie-Hellman-enabled server that supports the export cipher can inject a special payload into the traffic that downgrades encrypted connections to use extremely weak 512-bit key material. Using precomputed data prepared ahead of time, the attackers can then deduce the encryption key negotiated between the two parties.
NSA was involved in all the discussions on export grade encryption in the 1990s.  Their fingerprints are all over this.

This is still developing but looks like it is very bad indeed.  This would let a Bad Guy get your online banking password, among other things.  The idea that NSA could get a back door in important code and that the back door would remain secret was always pretty dumb.

Keep your eye out for a pop up from your browser saying there's an important security fix.  You absolutely will want this one.  As far as I can tell, Internet Explorer is the only one patched so far.

The secret life of a blogger


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I wrote a series of posts on Scouting on my old blog. Some are personal. Others were more general. I'm going to use some of them here. I want people to remember how it was in America in the mid-20th Century.


Back in the United States of America, Boy Scouting was an honorable activity. Scouting was held up as something to be proud of. Scouts were called upon by the government at that time to do what were called “National Good Turns”.

In 1944, one of those Good Turns was to collect milkweed fluff.

Before the use of synthetic materials, life preservers were filled with a material called kapok. During the war it was impossible to get kapok in sufficient quantities for the demand, and milkweed fluff had been chose as an alternative filler material for the life jackets.

The Scouts collected enough fluff to make 2 million life jackets. They were young, but their country was at war and they wanted to do their duty. They were members of the Boy Scouts of America and they had taken an Oath.

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country…
–The opening phrase of the Scout Oath

Tuesday, May 19, 2015