Florida Snow

Here is something you don't see in Florida too often . . .snow.

Woke up this morning and saw this in my backyard at around 5:45.  It didn't last and never stuck anywhere.  But it was snow.  Only the second time I have seen snow in my 20+ years of living in Florida.

"Hacks" Are Not Russians, But Journalists

The latest evidence on the Russian "hacking" of our election and country shows that the "hacks" are the journalists, not the Russians.

The State of Journalism Now

Journalism in this country is simply bad. New technology and economic pressures are forcing more sensational stories out ever faster and faster from some of our most trusted media institutions, and I am afraid we will all pay the price. The last time this type of "yellow journalism" happened was in the 1890s, and the U.S. got into a war partly because of it.

In particular, I am talking about the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos' new plaything. But most of the media outlets are guilty. The pressure to publish in a rapidly changing industry has become too great. And, unfortunately the Post's and others' incompetence spreads down to your local paper - so you can't even trust your local paper now. You can no longer trust anything you read.  Be extremely skeptical and verify what you can before believing it. Let me explain.

Russian Hacking and Punishment 

Earlier in the fall, the U.S. government officially accused the Russians of hacking the DNC to interfere with the U.S. elections. Later, the U.S. announced that it was taking sanctions against Russia for the hacking, including expelling diplomats and financial sanctions. The Obama administration wanted to "punish" Russia for its actions. When two of the world's nuclear powers start "hacking" and "punishing" each other, the world should pay attention. 

As expected, the media reported on these claims. The Russians denied them, and demanded proof. The President ordered an investigation and released and unclassified report purporting to show proof of hacking. The problem is that the report shows nothing about Russian hacking. 

Proof of Hacking is Lacking

The U.S government's report on the Russian hacking has been largely debunked. In the last several days security companies have dug into the technical geeky material and said it proves nothing.

Ars Techinca's security correspondent stated that the "White House fails to make the case" that the Russian hackers interfered with the election. Similarly, Wordpress security site, WordFence, showed that the code used by the hackers, according to the U.S. government's own report, was Ukrainian in origin and freely available to anyone on the internet. Additionally, the IP addresses in the government report do not show Russian involvement. 

Now to be clear, theses reports don't say the Russians were not involved, only that the purported proof the U.S. government provided is not really proof at all and doesn't show what it purports to show. The government could be holding back additional information, but the report they published is not convincing anyone that can understand it.  But that has not stopped the media from going into hyperdrive. 

"The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!"

Unlike the hilarious 1966 movie with Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin (Emergency! Everybody to get from street!), this hyperbole has real world consequences. Sanctions, diplomatic expulsions, and the result of the election had every journalist looking for Russians everywhere. And you shall find what you seek. The Washington Post, in particular, seems to be finding Russians under every rock, nook, and website. First, the Post claimed that Russian "fake news" was all over the internet, citing a previously unknown group, Prop or Not. Prop or not listed websites that it claimed were arms of the Russian propaganda services - basically any website that said anything good about Russia. These claims turned out to be false, and it appeared that the Post did not do any basic vetting of this group's claims prior to publishing its story. Of course, that was only after the story spread like wildfire all over the internet, Twitter, and Facebook. 

Then, just this past week, the Post again published a story about Russian "hacking" of our electric grid.  This would be very concerning - if it were true - but it is not. Again, the Post did not appear to do any basic vetting of this claim. They did not contact the Vermont utility in question before publishing the story. And it turns out that the computer which had the malware code on it was an independent workstation not connected to the electric grid. The headline and story were highly misleading. The Post later retracted it, stating that:

"An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid."

Too late. The story had already been published and republished by national, regional, and local outlets.  After all, it was from the Washington Post, one of the country's most prestigious newspapers. A similar headline ran on the front page, Sunday edition, of my local newspaper, the Panama City News Herald. I actually contacted one of the News Herald's staffers on twitter after the Post published its retraction. They said they were aware and would publish a correction. They did the next day - in a tiny little box at the bottom of page 2. I doubt anyone even noticed it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how incorrect stories and ideas spread: one false story and correction at a a time.

The Washington Post was unethical and negligent in publishing this story. I am sorry to say that It simply cannot be trusted anymore. This is the second time in less than 3 months that it was radically and catastrophically wrong in its reporting - rushing to publish instead of vetting the story. Ironically, the Post itself published a story about fake news, clickbait, and the rush to profit just last month.  Maybe it should reread its own story. What it is doing doesn't look much different.

Moving my blog, yet again . .

I have had this blog since 2012 and maintained it (loosely defined) since then.  I started out on Blogger, then moved to Wordpress. Got tired of that and wanted to learn a new CMS, so I switched to Joomla. I like Joomla, but found myself posting less and less.  So I am switching again to the lowest friction blog system I can find, Posthaven. 

The plan is to post more and make it as easy as possible. One of the pains in the you know what will be transferring my previous posts to this new blog.  But I think it will be worth it.  

So stay tuned. Check back often.  Sit back and enjoy. There will be no rhyme, reason or theme to this.  I will just be posting what I think is interesting or my thoughts.

2016 has been a very difficult year for me and my family.  But we are still here, holding on, and together.  That is all that that you can ask for in this tough world.

Here I am after a 15 mile training run - super slow - but happy, still running, and still holding on

Switching to Joomla . . .

After several years, I am switching the site to a new CMS.  Going to try Joomla. I was getting tired of Wordpress and looking for something easier.  Looked at the new blogging platform, Ghost.  I started to switch over but found myself messing with javascript, node.js, and cloud server stuff.  It was simply too technical for me.

I have been working on and off with Joomla for a few years now. I like it.  It is just complex enough that it is challenging, but string enough to develop a legitimate website. So, I figured I would rather learn Joomla a little better and concentrate my knowledge in one flexible and effective CMS.

I am using Easyblog and a third party template.  Let's see how it goes. 

You will see some slow changes here, adding a analytic section, updating the styling, adding more information, making autopost to twitter.  Its all rather exciting.

50 State Half Marathon Quest

Recently, I decided to go on a quest. Not a find the Ark of the Covenant kind of quest. I would rather not have my head explode. But the kind of quest that is difficult and challenging, but not impossible.

I am going to try to run a marathon or half marathon in every state in the United States.

This very well take me the rest of my life. Probably the best case scenario is to run 2 marathons every Spring and 2 every Fall. That is four races a year. At that pace, it will only take me twelve and a half years to cover all the states. At my current age, that puts me in my 60's. So I would still be running 4 marathons a year into my 60s. And that is the best case scenario. If I cut back to 2 races, I will be still be running in my 70s. Well, a true quest is not supposed to be easy.

Chris Guillebeau writes a lot about quests on his blog and in his book, The Happiness of Pursuit. According to Chris, a quest is defined as:

- “A quest has a clear goals and a specific end point.”

- “A quest presents a clear challenge.”

- “A quest requires sacrifice of some kind.”

- “A quest is often driven by a calling or sense of mission.”

- “A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.”

I think running 50 half or full marathons all over the country should qualify. It does for me at least. And I am the only person that counts.

I must admit. I am not the first person to think of this. There is actually a website and club devoted to the 50 state half marathon challenge. I am not that motivated to join the club, going to try this on my own. But it seems motivational if you need some extra motivation to do something like this. I am doing this because I enjoy long slow running and after my Marine Corp Marathon quest completion last year, I could use something else to keep me running, motivated and in shape. Plus, it will have some travel benefits too.

So, here is to my quest. Announced here for the world to see. Best case scenario, 12-13 years. More than likely, much longer. But then that is the fun of it now, isn't it?

Race of the Month - 2015

For 2015, I am running in a race a month. I didn't decide to do this until last week, so we will just skip January. Maybe I can make it up with a double month sometime during the year.

The reason is simple. I need a little focus to keep me on the road. And a race is just what the doctored ordered for some focus. I don't plan on always running hard in these races, but once you are in a race, its hard to back off. It is still race after all.

Springtime won't be a problem here in North Florida; the weather is beautiful and the races are plentiful. The issue will be during the summer months. It is really hot here in the summer, and the races are few and far between. From my initial look, there is not one single race scheduled within 50 miles of my home in June, July, or August. I will find something, even if I have travel a little.

Tentative Race Schedule so far

    • Feb: Bay Education Foundation 5K

    • Mar: Anglers 5K

    • Apr: JL Rabbit Race 5K or Runway Race 10K

    • May: Race Judicata 5K

More to follow . . .

No Easy Day - Mark Owen

I just finished reading No Easy Day - The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen.

Bottom line, I found it enjoyable and recommend it.  

Why did I read it? 

 Of course, like many Americans, I admire what the Navy Seals were able to do on that night. That kind of mission typifies everything that is admirable about the Seals.  Excruciatingly planned, mission-focused, and prepared for every contingency. I wanted to read a first hand account of the mission in all its horrifying detail; not some press or movie hyped up propaganda.  And from what I can tell, mission accomplished.

What did I like about it?  

Those that know me, know I still miss the Navy . . . occasionally.  I suppose that after spending 4 years in school, then another 10 years or so in a squadron afterward, my brainwashing was complete.  No doubt, I do miss the unit camaraderie, the sense of purpose, and the feeling of serving something bigger than yourself.  This book has a lot of that.  And it brought back many memories of hanging with the meatheads in my squadron.  It explains, or at least describes, the warrior culture fairly well.  It's about accomplishments and results, not excuses; adapting to circumstances, not complaining about them  This is a message that is largely missing from our culture today.  And I am glad that some still follow that creed.

What didn't I like about it?  

If you are looking for untold secrets of the operation or of special operations in general, this book will disappoint.  The author seemed to make a special effort to make everything a first hand account, and no secrets were revealed.  I knew most of the details of the operation before I read the book from other sources. This book didn't tell me anything new.  It just helped fill in the gaps.  It is also not a literary masterpiece.  It is well-written, but in a straightforward, no nonsense style.  There are not many big words and flowery language describing the author's feelings at any given time or what it is like to be in combat in Southwest Asia.  Instead, the story is very matter of fact, and the cadence measured and steady. I actually appreciate that style, but others may not.

This is the first book I have read in my "Going Dark" campaign.  I plan on taking a little time each day to shut off the computers, phones, and other electronic pacifiers in our lives and, instead, spend some time "in the dark," cut off from the electronic world, with only me and a book or a magazine.  I want to enjoy reading for readings sake again. So far, so good.  Next month, I plan on reading The Cloud Atlas, the book on which the new movie out now is based.  It is supposed to be excellent, and will be my first fiction read in a long time.  I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction.  Wish me luck . . and see you for a book review in another 30 days.

Running for the Bay 10K - Apalachicola

Competed in the Running for the Bay 10K in Apalachicola on Sunday.  It was a decent race, and I ran fairly well.  Didnt quite hit my goal time, but I did set a new personal record for a 10K and finished 3rd in my age group.  Not too bad, although I shouldn't be too excited about the new personal record.  This is only my second official 10K.

It was an early start - 0715 Eastern time - pitch black on the walk to the starting line.  Sun didn't break the horizon until about 30 minutes into the run.  But it was cool and crisp for October in Florida.  Pleasant running weather.

This race is my last tune up before my half marathon in 3 weeks.  Going to do a 12 miler this weekend, then start tapering off until half marathon race day in early November.  I used the Galloway run-walk-run method the whole way.  It worked well.  I felt like I still had energy in the tank at the finish.  Even my wife said I looked a whole lot better crossing the finish line this year than my 10K last year.  When I pressed, she said "Last year you like you were dying coming across the finish; this year not so much."  So . . . at least I have that going for me :)

Here is a picture of the medal I got for finishing.  Looks pretty good.  I like the green.

[caption id="attachment_159" align="alignright" width="216"] Running for the Bay 2012 - front

[caption id="attachment_160" align="alignleft" width="216"] Running For Bay 2012 - Back


10 miles - But not a great day

Ran 10 miles today for the first time. It wasn’t easy.

I should be proud, but it wasn’t a great day. I didm give up tough. And I know better days are ahead.

Running a 10K in Apalachicola next weekend. Looking forward to another test. Just a few weeks to go. . . .

9 miles . . and I feel fine.

I ran 9 miles this morning, and in the words of the immortal Michael Stipe, I feel fine.  Tried the Galloway method on the run and it was a big success.  A little over and 11:30 pace, which is what I hope to do for the upcoming half.  Basically, I ran a full mile longer than last week, but did it 15 minutes quicker.  Burned over 1200 calories.

For the first time since I started this quest, I think I am actually going to make it.  One month to go . . .