Dueling Debt: Stock up while you can

Unless you live under a rock (or are comatose) you probably have heard the back-and-forth between John Boehner and President Obama about the debt ceiling and what the government should do to address the problem.  Some of the stooges want to just raise the debt ceiling and call it a day; this is about as smart as taking out a new credit card to pay against the handful you already have maxed out.  Others want to slap a tax on the richest X% of Americans to try to come up with the cash to cover the bills, these rocket surgeons have never heard about how the burden gets passed down obviously or they wouldn’t scream about how we need to tax the rich more. The one thing I see most of the talking heads have largely ignored or refused to address is cutting costs.

Nobody wants higher taxes and raising the debt ceiling fails to address the out of control spending which has gotten us into this spot time and time again.  Honestly the only lasting solution is serious cuts to programs across the board from entitlements such as food stamps to the absurd amounts we spend to keep a military presence in almost every country in the whole fucking world.  Imagine how much money we could save if not only we pulled back all the troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya but also closed every military base we maintained on foreign soil?  I would be willing to bet that would be on the order of a trillion dollars a year saved right there given the number of bases we have around the globe.  Toss in means testing for assistance programs like food stamps and wellfare, an end to most of the subsidies which have driven up the costs related to food across the country and we might just be on the road to sorting things out.

Unfortunately I don’t see that happening as it makes far too much sense to do and would negatively impact the re-election chances of most of Congress.  Instead those out there with a shred of sense should be making sure they have at least 30 days of shelf-stable food on hand, water or at least a way to acquire and clean it, and a well stocked first aid bag.  Does that sound like the kind of thing you hear from survivalists?  Maybe, however if/when we go into default look to see people freak the hell out and probably start clearing shelves at your local grocery stores.  Expect the unexpected, like traffic jams near gas stations because those who never think more than a day ahead unless they are planning a vacation suddenly realized the world of shit we are all in with a defaulted nation.

Of course there are those who will say “but what if you and all the doom and gloomers are wrong and Congress saves the day?” well then you would have a month’s worth of food in case you happen to lose your job or otherwise have increased costs you didn’t budget for.  That water or purification equipment you stashed away? its a great thing for when you are under a water boil order such as during the winter.  If you can’t see the wisdom in having a good collection of first aid supplies around the house (or even in the car) then I hate to say it but you are the hopeless variety that will probably be starving on the side of the road once the economy goes tits up and we are left holding the short end of the stick.

Easy Pickin’s

A while back I decided it would be kind of neat to learn how to pick locks, I mean think of how sexy it looks in the movies and on TV when some hero takes a paperclip and a hair pin and gets into some restricted area in less than a minute with no light and hands covered in blood and sweat?  Sure it looks pretty awesome, but I can safely say that it will piss you right the hell off to get all but one pin to line up right then readjust your hand and reset the whole damn process, or drop your tension bar, or just spend tons of time trying to open a lock and have no damn progress at all.

So lets get down to the business of the reality of consumer grade locks and how well they resist compromise by a serious amateur at lock picking.  The first candidate was a Fortress brand padlock that I picked up at the local hardware store. My roommate initially had far more success with this lock than I did, however once I got over the urge to throw it across the room I was able to open it fairly fast with a gentle touch and a little effort.  Most disturbing about being able to open this lock was that it’s an off brand made by Master whom would love everyone to believe their locks are invincible.

Having one lock successfully defeated I decided it was time to give my Brinks lock box a try since I had actually lost the key for it a while back and wished to retrieve the contents of it without the aid of a crow bar or other brute instrument.  I was all prepared for a long fight with this device however after one pick change I managed to open it; repeated attempts with the pick yielded even faster results.

By this point I was quite pleased with myself and the efforts so far, so I decided to up the stakes and try my fireproof safe made by Sentry.  After removing all the contents of the safe I went to work on it trying to get it open, but about three to five minutes in I was getting a little frustrated with having to stand in a weird position to assault the lock so I turned the tools over to the roommate so I could rest.  No sooner had I sat down to let my back un-kink he turns around with a shit-eating grin and an open safe; the trick we figured out was that you didn’t have to get the lock to rotate completely to disengage but rather just enough so that it would clear the catch so in all likely hood not all the pins were protecting the contents.

Now we are just tickled pink with the fact that we can get into all these locks; its almost as sexy as in the movies except for the soundtrack was a little lacking and there was no attractive females present to be amazed at such lock-decimating prowess. Naturally we want to find another one to open so I find one of my unused trigger locks that came with one of my guns.  Immediately I had my apprehension since the word Master was stamped on the lock-side of the mechanism; I mean if their locks can be shot and not unlock then surely it must be a beast to pick requiring a lot of time right?  Fast-forward about 10 minutes of quality time sweating my ass off on the back deck and suddenly the cylinder rotates 90 degrees and the two halves of the trigger lock slide apart. I wasn’t quite sure I had just managed to open a Master brand lock being an extreme beginner to the world of lock picking, but sure enough I was able to replicate the process repeatedly with improvements to speed and reductions to wiggling necessary in order to align the pins and defeat the mechanism.

The whole afternoon of picking made me realize a few things, first of which is this is a fun and almost addictive hobby; each new lock defeated gives you the urge to run over to the nearest hardware store or big-box like Walmart and look for another lock to buy and work on picking.  More importantly than the fun of it was the fact that many of the commonly available devices that people rely on to keep things safe (like the Sentry brand fire safe that I mentioned earlier) were total jokes as far as the lock integrity is concerned.  If an unskilled hack such as myself can pick the lock in under 10 minutes (or in this case my equally unskilled roommate) then a serious criminal with years of experience is going to make even shorter work of it.

If you are in the market to buy a safe to protect something I suggest asking yourself this question: Which is more likely to happen, someone attacking the safe or the building its stored in burning to the ground around it?  In the case of fire I suspect any UL rated box will do the job of keeping your belongings safe provided you get one suited to the type of building that (hopefully wont) would be burning down with the safe nestled away inside.  However in case you happen to be siting on piles of drugs, conflict diamonds, the real Shroud of Turin or anything else you value put some time into researching suitable safes and their ratings. If you don’t feel like taking the short time to do that just look for a TL-15 rated safe or better if you are truly concerned about someone assailing it to gain access to its contents; a TL 15 is certified to stand up to 15 minutes of net working time on the lock with various tools and techniques before giving up the goodies inside.

Humanity or Atonement?

So I’m sitting at the office browsing Reddit when what do I see but a post titled “This is called humanity” which links to an image of what appears to be an elderly Japanese man with the following block of text.

Old People Line Up To Clean Radiation in Japan
Mr. Yamada
“I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live.
Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 to 30
years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance
of getting cancer.”

Basically a group of 200+ retirees are volunteering to expose
themselves to high levels of radiation so the young men and women
don’t have to. Making the ultimate sacrifice to protect the lives
of their children, and their children’s children.

Now at first glance I figured OK, I knew they were doing this and kudos to them for stepping up to the plate and getting shit done.  I should have stopped reading after that instead of clicking on the comments.  What followed was a multi-page suck fest of people gushing about how Japan is so awesome because the old folks there are down with suicide based on piss-poor knowledge of radiation and what it does to you.  They seem to think that because they might only have a decade and a half left based on their age that they are somehow immune to radiation just because they make a mental correlation with it and cancer, which is slow to manifest symptoms.  Unfortunately for them a deceased Canadian physicist by the name of Louis Slotin would beg to differ on the more immediate effects of radiation; he died 9 days after recieving a fatal dose of radiation ( 2100 rems, or 21 Sv ) while doing something incredibly stupid.

So now that we have it out of the way that radiation doesn’t just give you cancer, lets move on to a few reasons why Japan is not the pure snow flake that some folks suggest it is (often times merely in contrast to the US and its actions against Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki).  For starters they systematically raped and killed an entire city at Nanking with estimates of the number of rapes alone going as high as 20,000.  Since the US normally is berated and slagged for its use of nuclear weapons against Japan its only fitting to mention here that Japan also maintained a rather impressive Biological and Chemical Weapons program, commonly referred to as Unit 731.  The unit has to their credit a potential death toll of 200,000 through such creative methods as vivisection, forced amputation, and even intentional infection with sexually transmitted diseases.

The items previously outlined are most certainly atrocities, but they are limited in scope due to the fact that they were carried out by specific units rather than being part of a broad campaign covering multiple fronts.  Unfortunately other despicable practices were carried out by the Japanese such as the taking of “comfort women” which in case you can’t figure out gentle reader is a very police way of saying sex slaves.  Now I can safely say had a western nation such as the US carried out a campaign of forced sexual slavery every single person previously commenting in the thread I mentioned would be demanding with much froth and anger a full scale nuclear strike upon the US to level every building and leave nothing behind but dust and faded memories, but for some reason those small shreds are more than people are willing to admit or acknowledge about Japan’s unsavory and disgusting past.

Whistle Blowin’: Now with 100% More Murder?

Unless you have been living under a rock (even prison inmates get TV now) you have probably heard about the reporter who blew the whistle on the phone hacking scandal that has caused NotW to close and possibly even forced Murdoch himself to step down as CEO of News Corp has magically turned up dead.  Naturally this is a proper nightmare of a shit-storm for the company with their stocks taking a beating in light of the scandal.

Normally this early in a death people try to avoid jumping to conclusions but in this case I would say it would be absolutely shocking if the reporter found dead died of anything even resembling natural causes; considering he was about 47 years old and lives in a nation with a socialized medicine program.  If Murdoch was only ‘considering’ stepping down I would think after the autopsy is complete and the investigation starts I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes good on his consideration and puts as much distance as possible between himself and News Corp, at least until the memory of all this passes and the public is on to their next big thing.

WordPress: A failure of possibly epic proportions

Since I updated the blog I’ve been keeping an eye on the WordPress support forums, and as far as I can tell 3.2 has managed to break so many things that its not even funny. The best part is that multiple people are having the issue I am encountering with file permissions and creating folders during the process of installing plugins and themes.  In fact some some folks were having essentially the same issue as far back as 3 weeks ago, so if it was an existing issue then 3.2 didn’t fix it, and if it was new one would think they would be rushing to get on fixing it.

Unfortunately it seems that nobody is addressing the issue besides the standard boilerplate of “disable all plugins and use the twenty-eleven theme”  I can’t speak for others but this sort of robotic response to every issue is pretty infuriating; its the same thing you hear when you call some place for tech support in one fashion or another.  Sure disabling the plugins and using the stock theme will rule out certain issues but besides that nobody is saying anything as far as possible solutions go other than manually assigning a 777 permission every single time you want to upload something.

Its shit like this which almost makes me miss Blogger as a platform because at least it worked without all the headache that I’ve had dealing with this crap.

The Woes of WordPress 3.2.1

So like a good IT person whos had the mantra of “STAY UP TO DATE” drilled into my head in every course I’ve ever taken I updated to 3.2 and subsequently 3.2.1 this morning.  Currently its been a hell of jumbled up support forum posts, blog entries and just general stupid in trying to make things work right again.  Currently I am unable to install plugins, but rather than getting a message about how the plugin hasn’t been tested with the current version of WordPress its instead saying its unable to create the necessary directories in /wp-content/update/whatever/whatever in order to install the plugins.  Naturally I poked around and found plenty of people saying to recursively assign a file permission of 755 to the wp-content folder to fix everything; of course that didn’t work.  I even took the nuclear option of blasting away all of my files and going back to a clean install of WordPress and even that didn’t fix things.

After at least two hours of this crap I’ve thrown in the towel, no more useful plugins for me like Google Analytics, WP SyntaxHighlighter or twitter, since it appears that there is no fix in the works for this issue and its not fixable by simply installing a clean copy of WordPress.  Its quite disappointing as I went to WordPress in hopes of having more flexibility as well as total control over my content (as opposed to things like Blogger) but it seems that the control ends where plugins begin with ole WP.

Dear WordPress

What the hell did you guys do in 3.2 to break every single goddamn thing? Suddenly I get errors when I try to install, update and even delete plugins, now I have to manually go in and delete the files by hand and hope like hell that I don’t accidentally break the site completely. Next time could you guys um I dunno maybe test shit before you throw it out live because it makes baby jesus cry!