2021 Lights

There’s a story I like to share, because it’s a fantastic example of an old couple argument.  It went something like this:

Once upon a time, LED lightbulbs weren’t a major player yet, and it was in that brief period where the world was adjusting to CFLs, and old conspiracy theorists everywhere were collapsing from ruptured aneurysms after the government started mandating energy consumption limits on illumination.  Of all the things to worry over, and it took an NSA defector to get the general public to even acknowledge the government’s wholesale data mining of citizens’ digital lives–which, I might add, ended with the general public retaining their complete indifference.  But those lightbulbs!  The government’s up to something and we should be angry!

Don’t step on rattlesnakes. They bite.

A more rational complaint with early CFLs was their color spectrum.  Bright white lighting is but one source of the eternal migraine hell office workers must endure (a close second to bad bosses), and people were understandably reluctant to replicate those conditions at home.  And so began the lightbulb stockpiling (and, you know, because of whatever the government was up to).

Now, as an aquarium keeper, I wondered why no one would make a more yellowish bulb, for the variety of different colored fluorescent T8s I’d kept in my tanks over the years had clearly demonstrated that the problem was already figured out.

I didn’t have to wait long.  Manufacturers started making CFLs in more pleasant shades, and even printed the Kelvin rating.  But the damage was done.  It seemed no one trusted them, nefarious government plans notwithstanding.

Liz was one such slow adopter–not that she ever suspected crazy government plans.  Rational suspicion of plausible evil government plans, sure, like what most normal people have.  Nay, it came down to bad experiences with the early bulbs and the fact that the choice to use incandescents still existed, so why change?  The only reason I cared myself was because the old bulbs burnt out so damn quick and were expensive to replace.  There was a lightbulb cartel you know, which mandated an artificial lifespan of a maximum of 1000 hours.  Not a government conspiracy maybe, but certainly mafia-corporate shenanigans.

You want me to extend lightbulb life on this–the day of my daughter’s wedding?

To further place me into illumination cost woes, apartment wiring was generally limited to one switch-enabled outlet for a living room.  One lamp on one switch.  Turning the home from perpetual twilight into something by which one could actually read required a 250 watt bulb.  These bulbs were not cheap, and as mentioned before, burnt out quickly.  So I explored those new-fangled CFLs–a higher upfront cost, but a much longer operational  life.

Being sure to buy a low-K bulb, I installed a CFL of the same lumen rating the next time the incandescent burnt out.  Liz complained–when I suggested a CFL, when I was buying the CFL, and after I had installed the CFL.  I couldn’t tell if the difference was significant or there was bias.  So I hatched a plan: use the complainer as a test subject in a very brief blind study.

I ran back to the store and bought another incandescent, and swapped it when Liz wasn’t looking.  I then waited, and when she again complained about the bulb I triumphantly removed the lamp shade to reveal the same type of incandescent which had been installed previously!  Huzzah!  Turns out no one could tell the difference.  And all it took was a little bit of reverse-gaslighting my most trusted loved one.  A small price for the sake of finances.  She’d forgive me eventually.

In the meantime, I was cleared to finally start buying CFLs as old bulbs died.  And when CFLs lost their popularity to LEDs (which applied the CFL spectrum lesson immediately), there was no argument.

But…LEDs didn’t take this lesson to heart in all products.  Christmas lights were not given such discerning treatment.  And while I argued for their merits, such as longevity and more robust construction (they didn’t burn out or fail catastrophically after being put up…usually), I had to concede that they just didn’t look as good as classic incandescents.

But then Liz found a style of LEDs that resembled them.  So we switched over.  But every year she fears a return to the olden days, and buys more of that type, on the chance that the manufacturer will discontinue them.  And with more lights on hand, I put them up.  And the following year she buys more.  And I put those up too.

My point?  Well, I just find it an amusing story in marital disagreements regarding changing illumination technologies.  But she got her revenge.  Each year I spend more time crawling around on the cold roof.

Look at those classic-style LEDs. LOOK AT THEM!

May your days be merry and bright–with 2700K spectrum LEDs.


Doppler Radar, Revisited

Many moons ago (like 52), I expressed discontent with available Doppler radar weather services, citing a lack of user-friendliness and clunky UIs.  I had concluded that I should instead design my own by “borrowing” NOAA’s static map image and embedding it with some CSS into my own page with a timed refresh.  It may have been a shameless hack, but it did what I wanted it to do.

But recently, I noticed that the image no longer appeared.  I suspected that NOAA’s admins finally restricted embedding, as doing so is a standard security practice.  I sighed sadly at the prospect of being forced to use a commercial product once again.

Originally, to get the radar image, I had to dig through their source code.  I considered that maybe the file name just changed, so I went back to NOAA.  And to my surprise, I found that they had completely overhauled their weather site, replacing their own radar page with a dynamic, higher-rez version that auto-refreshes: essentially what I was trying to create originally.

So my point is that this renders my own page moot.  I’ve updated the link accordingly to redirect to their site.  I’m just glad to have back what I wanted originally.


S/MIME: You Can’t Stop Me

I’ll use it even if I have to become my own CA and sign my own certificates…which is what I did.

But back up.

3 years ago, I wrote about how and why to use S/MIME, and its numerous shortcomings:

S/MIME Email Encryption

The biggest inconvenience, aside from getting people to use it, is that it relies on a public key infrastructure.  Those familiar with web TLS no doubt already understand this.  In short, it’s a real pain to get a trusted certificate authority to issue a certificate.  And they cost money.  But the system worked nonetheless, until the day most major browser vendors decided to remove keygen support.  This meant that certificates could no longer be manufactured and signed in the user’s browser session.  But all was not lost, because some browsers hadn’t decided to fully deprecate the feature.  Notably, Safari:

S/MIME Revisited

Then that changed too.  I wondered then, why can’t I generate my own certificate and send it off on a certificate signing request the way one does with a TLS certificate?  I wish I knew, but no one offers that.  Probably because no one uses S/MIME anyway.  So I was left to reevaluate my needs:

  1. While it makes me feel all super official, I doubt any recipients of my general correspondence even notice that my emails are signed.
  2. There’s nothing stopping me from minting my own certificates.  They just won’t be trusted inherently.
  3. The main purpose of me using S/MIME is for encrypted information exchange with Liz.
  4. I can simply have Liz’s phone explicitly trust my certificate.

And so, using Apple’s keychain, I minted a general purpose master root certificate, trusted it explicitly, installed it on our phones, trusted it on the phones, then used it to sign an email certificate.  The certificate, now installed on my own devices, was then inherently trusted due to the explicitly trusted root certificate that signed it.  Problem solved.

Alas, I can’t feel all super official when I email other people, but oh well.  Such is the fate of a mostly unknown encryption system.



I have a strong disdain for anything marketed as “tactical”.  Here’s why:  tactical = meant for harming people = not meant for anything reasonably practical that you might actually use the item for.  Are you really prepping for the inevitable murder, or just making too much money that drugs and hookers aren’t doing it for you anymore?  Here’s some tactical examples:

Tactical firearm = AR-15.  Not practical because you can’t hunt with it (and you sure as hell shouldn’t).  A .223 is good for shooting people and some varmints, and if you hunt the latter, be a little more sporting and get a bolt action rifle.

Tactical knife = anything with serrations or an aptly-named tactical point.  Good for stabbing people and opening field rations.  Not effective at skinning animals or carving wood.

Tactical flashlight = overpowered and strobe function.  Too bright to maintain night vision and extraneous modes not useful for anything beyond blinding people.  And my favorite–the hard nub on the butt meant for bashing skulls.  I can’t even stretch my imagination on that one.

So, is there any reason to actually buy something tactical, if you’re not military/police?  I will tell you: probably not.  To do so is to believe that a weapon’s primary function should be to shoot people, presumably under the belief that doing so will become necessary under a societal collapse, and that roving bands of raiders will come to take your food.  I argue, however, that you’d be much better off buying a weapon whose primary function is to shoot animals (you know, to acquire food), with the understanding that it can still be effective for defense situations (are you really going to get off 12 shotgun rounds?), and can even be modified for that purpose were the need to arise (swap barrels/magazines).  See?  Survival first requires you to feed yourself, and a tactical weapon therefore will be of much less value.  If you don’t have any food to steal in the first place, no one’s going to come gunning for you.  And if they do and you shoot them, you still don’t have any fresh meat (cannibalism aside).  Sure, you might now point out that all your prepping supplies preclude the need to hunt, and you might be right, at least for the short-term.  But thinking long-term, you still need to hunt.  And thinking short-term, you’re not going to be able to defend yourself against a band of much younger men with more guns just because you bought the tactical variant.

Although, if you plan to be one of the roving raiders yourself, tactical weapons make more sense.  Then by all means, buy tactical, you sociopath.

I’m guessing we have video games to thank for the tactical obsession, because for a lot of people that’s their first encounter with a gun, albeit virtual, and so don’t know otherwise; and the fact that most shooting in games is of the people variety; and modding guns in games with tactical loadouts is just plain fun, too.

Google “tacticool” for more examples.  Yes, there’s an internet community of people laughing at you and your gun.

Okay, I had to get that out of the way.  Thanks for listening.  Now for the real post: I bought a gun.

Specifically, I bought a Remington 870 Express Ultramag.  12 gauge, wooden stock (no tacticool synthetic).

They grow up so fast

Why did I buy this?  Well, because I hunt.  The old single shot break action 20 ga. that dad bought me when I was 16 has certainly bagged its share of woodland creatures, but it did have some limitations.  Range was one of the bigger ones (I’ve been know to sprint across open clearings to make a shot).  Using anything smaller than #6 was pretty ineffective beyond 10 yards, and steel shot was nigh impossible.  #7 1/2 works for skeet, but squirrels don’t shatter if you accidentally drop them.  I also considered trying some waterfowl this year too.  So in order to be effective as well as humane, I wanted something more powerful.

I also wanted Remington over Mossberg.  Personal reasons there.  I won’t get into that flame war (I don’t care if the US military uses Mossbergs.  I’m not shooting people, remember?  Also, the military’s decision to use a particular weapon design doesn’t necessarily equate to reliability.  See the early deployments of M-16s in Vietnam, for instance.)

But I admit, I did mod it.  I didn’t tacticalize it, but I did make some additions.  Hunting-related additions, not tactical additions, to be clear.

Buttstock shell holder
Rifle glow sights
.715 vented choke

And tacticality aside, I keep it stored with 00 buck, so I can still shoot roving raiders if needed.


S/MIME Revisited

This is more of a PSA than anything, but (unsurprisingly), with the lack of interest in general email encryption, apparently no one’s going to step up and offer us free email certificates anymore (why, LetsEncrypt?!).

Previous writeup:

S/MIME Email Encryption

Also, I discovered that Firefox removed keygen support, so you can’t use it anymore for certificate generation.  I missed that memo, and spent some time acquiring my domain-validated certificatewith Sectigo’s support team (being told repeatedly to use Internet Explorer, amusingly), before this detail was mentioned, and I was able to complete the process in Safari (this imports the certificate directly into Keychain, which then requires an export to send to other devices).

The formerly free COMODO (now part of Sectigo) certificates that I used to use now cost $20 per year (although the site now says $16.99, so they must have dropped it since).  Still, not bad, though irritating.  On the other hand, unlike COMODO’s free certificates, I did get actual support when things went awry, so you do seem to get what you pay for.  And, I was happy with their assistance in acquiring my domain-validated certificate earlier this year, so I’ll stick with them for now so long as they offer decent support.

Other than the company merger and the pricing structure change, and the fact that no one else on the internet appears to use S/MIME encryption, the installation at least remains the same on the various devices I use.  So, you know, encrypt away!  Except you won’t, because again, I’m the only person on the internet who appears to use S/MIME encryption.