science

The Trouble With Spam

(And no, I’m not talking about that bouncy, pink, pseudo-meat stuff..)

I’m talking about unsolicited, junk, probably virus & malware-laden, email. You get them, I get them, and to paraphrase Oprah, “everybody gets them!!”.

Combating SPAM, and it’s more evil cousin PHISH, emails is a major part of my job. I’ve talked about Phish emails before, so this time I want to concentrate on Spam.  I’ve given you a basic definition of just what Spam is in the opening of this post. So let’s talk a bit more about what the differences are between Spam and a Phish.

Spam may be benign. It doesn’t always have a malicious intent. It usually does, but not always. Phish emails, on the other hand, will always be malicious. The main job of a Phish email is to get you to click on a link or open an attachment with the express intent of infecting your PC (doesn’t matter if you have Windows, Mac, ChromeOS, or even Linux – you can be infected).

Most Spam you see are nothing more than advertisements trying to get you buy something. Consider an email from the retail giant Amazon. Now I do buy a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of stuff from Amazon. But, unless you specifically set your preferences not to send you marketing emails, you will get email after email from them with something similar to whatever you just bought or even just browsed. While this is not considered “Spam” outright, it very well could be. Did you ask Amazon to send you recommendations? Probably not. But if you didn’t opt-out of their marketing emails when you created an account, they are legitimate emails. However, any commercial emails that you didn’t ask for are completely Spam. Unfortunately, you cannot claim emails from your Grandmother with her award-winning Tuna Casserole recipe, that you didn’t ask for as Spam.  Or in my case, emails from family members asking computer questions. I’m usually the one sending them recipes. But not for Tuna Casserole. That stuff is vile, and if it’s not already outlawed by the Geneva Convention, it should be!

Now here’s a sticking point. Emails that you have not signed up for (Spam), but come from a “reputable” source, a store you frequent, or a website you visit regularly. Do you use the “unsubscribe” link or button in the email?  NO!  If you’ve never given this entity your email address NEVER click the unsubscribe link or button.  This only tells the scammer behind the Spam that this is a valid email address. Plus, since this is a directed email (it has now become a Phish, or even a SpearPhish, email), the link to unsubscribe most likely will take you to a malicious website or even go so far as to download something to your PC without your knowledge or permission!

Here’s an example for you. Last summer my family spent a week at Disney World. Since we did all the reservations and set up stuff via their website, I was added to many, many of Disney’s email lists. I expected it (although not quite as many as I ended up with – the sheer volume of unsolicited emails was staggering!). For those emails, it was safe to unsubscribe.

Now here’s a more troubling example. For this, I will use my work email. As I mentioned before, one of my main duties is PC Security. For this task, I have several tools at my disposal. I can Phish my end users with templates that are very realistic. But for the purpose of this post, let’s talk about the Spam I receive.

Every day I receive, on average, about 5 Spam emails. These are not any mailing lists that I’ve signed up for, nor are they any company I’ve ever had any dealings with (I think my email address was sold to some advertising/marketing company, sadly). It appears that the rest of the world seems to think that I am the compliance manager for the city I work for. Or at the very least, they hope I will forward on the constant emails about software and/or websites that can make my compliance work so much easier. Add to that, the emails from “LinkedIn” that somebody wants me to join their network (Hint: my work email, nor my personal email is not on LinkedIn!) and I could spend much of my day just adding folks to my junk sender list. Thankfully Outlook takes care of most of it for me. The ones that are not already added to my list just take a simple right click and blocked!

So, how can you avoid Spam emails? The easy answer is, you can’t. But you can cut out a lot of it. Think about all the emails you get every day. How many are from stores you visit? Do you really need to know what is on sale every damn day? They all have websites you can visit when you need or want a specific item. All these emails are trying to do is entice you to buy something you probably don’t need or really want, but they have too many in stock.  Mainly because nobody needs or wants it in the first place! Save your money and go buy a good book or go to the movies!

When you create an account on a website, hopefully for something important, look at each step of the creation.  There will be (or at least there will be IF the site is legitimate) boxes to check to either opt-in or opt-out of various offers, email lists, etc. This also is important if you ever download and install a program from the web. One great example of this is the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. This is a very good legitimate program, considered the “standard” for reading PDF (Portable Document Format) files. But, on the install page, there is always a bonus free program. Sometimes it’s Google Chrome (my favorite web browser), and sometimes it’s an anti-virus program (McAfee seems to be the favorite). While both of those examples are basically fine to download, there are somewhat more nefarious downloads that hide malicious programs, masquerading as something else, hoping to infect your system.  So, “Think Before You Click”!  That’s good advice for anything internet related.

And just so you know, Spam is not a new thing. This image shows a capture of a letter-to-the-editor from the May 30th, 1864 edition of The Times of London.

Victorian_Spam

Sir,—On my arrival home late yesterday evening a “telegram,” by “London District Telegraph,” addressed in full to me, was put into my hands. It was as follows:—”Messrs. Gabriel, dentists, 27, Harley-street, Cavendish-square. Until October Messrs. Gabriel’s professional attendance at 27, Harley-street, will be 10 till 5.” I have never had any dealings with Messrs. Gabriel, and beg to ask by what right do they disturb me by a telegram which is evidently simply the medium of advertisement? A word from you would, I feel sure, put a stop to this intolerable nuisance. I enclose the telegram, and am,  Your faithful servant, M.P.  Upper Grosvenor-street, May 30.
~ The Times Of London, 30 May 1864
Source: Stu Sjouwerman (@StuAllard) CEO KnowBe4 (@Knowbe4)

I think I’ve taken enough of your time with this post.  Please ask any questions or leave a comment below (not on the various social media sites this will be linked to). I will be happy to give any resources I have to help you be safe.

Thanks, and happy (and safe) interneting!!

 

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

Conference Time

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the KnowBe4 conference in Orlando. (Official hashtag: #KB4Con18). This was without a doubt the best tech conference I have ever attended. Not only were there absolutely dynamic speakers, all attendees were treated to the best food!  I’m talking some of the healthiest stuff I have ever seen at any conference.

I’ve mentioned KnowBe4 before. This is the vendor we use at the city to train, test and generally harass our end-users (OK, maybe not harass). (KnowBe4 website) With just a small part of their product, I can train my co-workers on the latest ways the “bad guys” try to use social engineering to do well, bad stuff. I will admit that I enjoy sending out simulated phish emails. Why? Because it shows me where are weak links are. And this gives me the means to do targeted training to make our city network, and by association everyone’s home PC/Network, that much more secure. I don’t do it to shame someone or hold it over anyone’s head. Since I have been an instructor of some sort for very many years, I use this primarily as a training tool. But on to the conference itself.

Other than the hour plus, each way, drive on I4 (A.K.A. the devil’s highway), and being in Orlando (way too big and crazy for me), everything else went beautifully. The folks at KnowBe4 went above and beyond in this, their first ever conference.

The opening keynote speaker was Kevin Mitnick, or as he likes to call himself “The World’s Most Famous Hacker”, a title he lives up to. If you don’t know who he is, take a moment to read his Wikipedia page, even if it a bit light on his history. Kevin gave us many demonstrations of current hacks, all of which arrive via an inconspicuous email. And all of which are very nasty. But the one hack that scared me the most was when he showed how Google’s two-factor authentication (2FA) could be hacked. Google has always been one of the toughest to crack since they stay on the cutting edge of all technologies. As a big user of many Google services, this is troublesome.

MVIMG_20180517_182225.jpg

Me and Kevin Mitnick

The keynote speaker for the next day was Frank Abangale. I have to admit that I did not recognize his name. But once I heard his story I knew how he was. Here is his Wikipedia page for you to educate yourself. Frank is considered one of the foremost experts on imposters and forgery. Steven Spielberg made a movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Tom Hanks as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. I have not seen this movie, but I see it available on Amazon Prime so I will correct that error very soon. And if I caught his reference, he was also the inspiration for the TV show “White Collar”.  His family story and subsequent talk on how to keep safe with online financial sources was very eye-opening.

IMG_20180518_104922.jpg

Myself and Frank Abangale

Another fantastic speaker was Roger A. Grimes (he wants you to know he is not related to the Canadian political figure with the same name), the best-selling author of several tech books. KnowBe4 even included a copy of his “A Data-Driven Computer Security Defense” in the big ol’ backpack they gave every attendee. The big takeaway from his two talks was the point that you have to determine what your biggest exploitable problem is, and fix that first. Common sense, which as we all know, is always in short supply.

One thing that I really was happy to see was the inclusion of women speakers. KnowBe4 has several women in executive roles throughout the company, and that makes me very happy. Since I have two granddaughters, one of which is very interested in the sciences, I fully support women (and really anybody) in STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics). One of the first questions Wifey® asked me was if there were women presenters. I was so very happy to say yes!

There was one thing missing though. No vendor room. Every other conference I’ve been to there is always a room for vendors. Not only can one make some great contacts with products and services that one doesn’t know about, vendors always have cool swag (freebie gifts). I’ll have to check with my manager, but I think a conference is how we found out about KnowBe4. It may not have been in the vendor area, it may have been word of mouth from another attendee (word of mouth is ALWAYS the best advertisement).

Sorry, this is such a broad overview, but I could write about ten pages if I covered the entire 3 days. All I can say is “I’m ready for KB4Con19!”

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

DNA Testing – What Can You Learn?

So just what does a DNA test tell you about your heritage?  You may have seen the Ancestry DNA commercial that’s been all over (at least my) TV lately. I tried to find it on YouTube, but couldn’t. It shows a young woman who has discovered a long-lost relative using their DNA testing service. It even goes so far as to imply that she not only found this ancestors name but that he had blue eyes as she does.  All from a DNA test? Not likely. What it doesn’t tell you is that you need a lot of hard genealogy work to find these kinds of things out.

I have had my DNA tested by both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. Surprisingly, the results were very similar. Both give my heritage as very “Scottish”.  As a member of the Campbell group on Family Tree DNA, I have found that my DNA just might POSSIBLY point to a Pictish lineage.  For those that don’t know who the Picts were, they are considered one the earliest inhabitants of Scotland. They are basically made up of the Celts that came across from what we would call Germany today, Vikings that come from the northern Scandinavian countries, and the people who came across from what we call Ireland and then north up to Scotland. This shows just how impossible it is to be of “pure stock”.

Bruce's ethnicity

As you can see, my results from Ancestry DNA show a varied makeup.

The image above somewhat supports the findings from Family Tree DNA. My main groups do point to the historical makeup of the ancient Picts. But, since the Picts did not leave any written records of us to study, we can’t be completely sure.

But what does it prove? In all honesty, it doesn’t “prove” a damn thing. Without some genealogy work, it will never tell you much.  I have done a bit of work at Ancestry chasing down my family tree. I have managed to solidly confirm the Campbell line back to the 1860’s or so. I just may have a lead going back to the 1780’s or so, but have not been able to confirm it. Ancestry does have very fine resources such as US and UK census records. How much access you get depends on how much you’re willing to pay.

Unfortunately, all the matches I’ve found through DNA testing have not been on the Campbell side. I did have one gentleman who matched my DNA (up to 37 markers) exactly. But he will not answer my emails to see how we are related.

I would like to call your attention to this page; “Two Lies And The Truth About DNA Testing”. The big take-away for me from this blog post was;

I want to stress that DNA Testing is of little value to anyone except yourself if you don’t do the genealogy research to back it up and share it.  A common complaint among testers is that the test result is wrong.  That’s probably a misunderstanding. Genetic testing is pretty reliable.  What isn’t so well-known is that people traveled, sometimes quite a lot, even back to ancient times. Our genes have been mixing through migrations, marriages, immigrations, wars, and conquests for as long as we have been here.  If you believe it to be wrong, prove it. But don’t forget to study up on world history first.

Source: http://blog.ancestorcloud.com/2017/05/19/two-lies-and-the-truth-about-dna-testing/ 

And from this blog;

Alva Noë explains at NPR:

Shakespeare’s kid probably had 50 percent of his DNA; his kid in turn, on average, a quarter, and so on. Within 10 generations, Shakespeare’s DNA has spread out and recombined so many times that it doesn’t even really make sense to speak of a match. Putting the same point the other way, each of us has so many ancestors that we have no choice but to share them with each other… The truth is, you have your history and your genes have theirs.

So basically, trying to say some famous person is related to you without doing the genealogy work, and only relying on a simple DNA test, is impossible.

I’m not telling you NOT to do DNA testing. I just want you to know that the test alone will not answer most of your questions. Wifey’s® results from Ancestry gave her what she wanted. She wasn’t looking for a long-lost relative. She only wanted to see the “mix” of her heritage. But no, I will not post her results. That would be TMI. Hell, I don’t even use her name on this blog, why would I give you her DNA makeup???

One more consideration. What happens to your DNA test results? Family Tree DNA does not share your results without your consent. Can’t say the same for most of the others.

In the end, ask yourself why you want to do the test. Is it for health reasons? Trying to fill out, or start, your family tree? Just curious (as was Wifey®)? For whatever reason, read the fine print before you do the test.

And remember, your results may very well vary between companies. Take your results with a grain (or maybe a shaker) of salt.

Peace,
B

Twitter  Facebook

Scary Email Phish

(In case you are not aware of what a “phish” is, in broad terms, it is an email designed to make you click on a link, or open an infected attachment. Once the link is clicked or that infected attachment opened, your machine (and this works on Windows, Apple, and Linux) will become a “host” for a variety of nefarious activities.)

This information came from one of the vendors we use at the city, KnowBe4. We use the tools they provide to send simulated phishing attacks to all our employees. It’s one of the fun aspects of my job. Here is a very specific phish threat they sent a notice about. I felt it important enough to pass along.

I was alerted by a customer about a really difficult scenario that’s becoming all the more frequent. While there’s probably little that can be done in terms of tuning your spam filters and endpoint security tools, new-school security awareness training can make a difference. Here is the story:

“Over the past few months, we have been hit with increasing frequency with an attack that follows this 5-step pattern;

  • A known vendor or customer falls victim to a phishing attack. Their email credentials are compromised, and the “bad guy” gets access to their email account.
  • They start by changing the password, so that the victim no longer has control.
  • They then comb through past email correspondence, and using the victim’s account, signature, and logo, send out targeted emails crafted to closely resemble legit correspondence they have had with our company in the past.
  • Depending on the “bad guy’s” dedication to his craft, these could be fairly generic, or extremely specific. We’ve received one with an inquiry that referenced a specific real invoice # for that individual.
  • The email always includes a spreadsheet or PDF. The name can be generic, or can be really specific. We’ve received one titled with a specific real invoice # for that individual.

Because these emails are coming from a real email account for a real business partner, they are very hard to identify, and in some cases they are literally impossible to detect, as they are carefully crafted copies of past legitimate emails. Naturally, there are a few that cast a wide net, so they are more generic and often contain corrupted grammar or spelling, but others are indistinguishable from real emails.”

What To Do About This Threat

Granted, this is a frustrating and dangerous situation, as the majority of the red flags users have been trained to watch for simply aren’t present if the scammer uses a highly targeted approach like this.

However, there is one cardinal rule that you need to stress with your users to protect against a scenario like this: DID THEY ASK FOR THE ATTACHMENT?

If they did not, before the attachment is opened, it’s a very good idea to double check using an out-of-band channel like the phone to call and ask if they sent this and why it was sent . There is little else that can be done.

Yes, that is a little more work. But also, better safe than sorry. You have to constantly work on and reinforce your security culture, anywhere in the world.

As you can see, this is very scary. Especially in a corporate environment. The biggest thing to take away from this is if you get an email with an attachment THAT YOU DIDN’T REQUEST, DO NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENT! This holds true even if you recognize the sender. The sender field on an email can be spoofed very easily.

So, as I’ve said before, keep your antivirus/antimalware up-to-date, and scan your machine on a regular basis. One of the catchphrases of KnowBe4 is “Think Before You Click”. Wise words to live by.

Happy and safe interneting my friends.

Peace,
B

Twitter  Facebook

Empty Post

No need to like this post, it’s simply a test post. Seems that every time I post something, I will get at least one “like” within seconds with no views recorded. No way someone could have read my entire post that quick. So I’m checking for who has a script running. I figure it’s a ploy to get views on their (probably virus-laden) site.

So here goes nothing… And I’ll throw in a video to make it interesting.

Peace,
B

Falcon 9 Heavy

As a little boy, I wanted to be an astronaut, not uncommon for young boys. As since I grew up in Florida, we visited Cape Kennedy (it has now reverted back to its original name of Cape Canaveral, and the Kennedy Space Center has been built for tourists) several times. Looking at the rockets that came back, everything from the original Mercury capsules and the giant Saturn 5 rockets that took us to the moon (or did they? – think I’ve been watching too many X-Files), and especially the Shuttles kept the wonder alive for me. But I have to admit, over the last years, as NASA has constantly had their budget cut and less and less space programs are originating here in the USA, my interest has waned.

But today we have another “big boy” launch. The Falcon 9 Heavy. This excites me. I worked at Cape Canaveral for a short time (it was cut short by 9/11 when my sub-contract was terminated as many others were).  And if I’m not mistaken, this was the launch pad I worked on.

But one thing I find almost humorous is that Elon Musk (@ElonMusk) has put one of his Telsa Roadsters, with a “spaceman” in the driver seat (no one is in the suit, in case you were concerned). The mission, as I understand it, is not only a real test of the Falcon 9 Heavy engines but to travel to Mars.

falcon_roadster

Tesla Roadster with its Spaceman driver

Not only is this cool as hell, it reminds me of one my all-time favorite movies, “Heavy Metal“.  This animated movie, released in 1981 (not good for little children – see the link), starts off with a spaceman leaving orbit in a 1959 Corvette and reentering earth.

hmvette

Heavy Metal

This intro always intrigued me. It was obvious that no one could survive such a reentry, but what the hell, it’s a cartoon, and we well know that physics do not apply in the world of cartoons.  I was down with it. Now, this Telsa Roadster will sadly, not be landing on Mars just left orbiting for eternity. Still a cool accomplishment.

So now we have a roadster blasting off into space, or as Elon said: “it blows up in a million little pieces”.  It could go either way, this is the first launch of this rocket model. And no matter how much testing they put it through, it’s still a bit of a crapshoot.

If you want to watch the launch from the comfort of where ever you’re reading this, the launch window is 1:30 – 4:00 PM EST. You can watch the live webcast at the SpaceX website (along with a host of other sites). The feed usually goes live about an hour prior to the launch window opening.

I’ll be watching, hope you can too!

Peace,
B

 

PC Security… Again

<rant>

So once again here I am at the hands of Stupid End Users.  I have to keep reminding myself that these fools pay the bills.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. INSTALL ALL THE SECURITY UPDATES FOR WHICHEVER OS YOU HAVE (Windows, Apple or Linux). Nothing and I mean NOTHING is more critical to the smooth operation of your computer (and even your smartphone – this applies to Android and Apple phones as well) than keeping these up-to-date.

Case in point. I am working on a laptop for one of my co-worker’s son. He claims the screen went blank “while doing school work”. Neither dad nor I buy it. Right now, his screen doesn’t work, the mouse and keyboard are not functioning properly (even with USB versions). I could not do anything (since the screen was black) without plugging in an external monitor and resetting the BIOS (the Basic In and Out System – what controls almost everything on the motherboard) to recognize the second monitor.

I still cannot get any of the usual tools I would use to scan the system for viruses (virui?), check the hard drive for errors, or even check the display properties. All of those options are missing from the system.  Normally I would do a “System restore”. This is a very nice feature that Microsoft added some time ago (in Windows ME – probably the only good thing to come out of that version of Windows). Since this machine belongs to a college student, there is a real good chance he was doing something “he shouldn’t have been doing”.

No matter how good your anti-virus/malware is if you visit “questionable” sites (and I’m not talking strictly porn – many download, or ‘warez’ sites are riddled with viruses) you run an elevated risk of getting an infection. There is an increasing problem of sponsored ads on respectable websites that are pushing viruses without you doing anything. We refer to these as “drive-byes”.

Normally you can access System Restore through the Control Panel and “Advanced Features”. Naturally, that’s missing on this machine as well. The other way to get to System Restore is by booting into “Safe Mode” and running it from a command prompt (the old DOS black & white screen where you have to type everything. Oh how I miss those days.) But for whatever goddamn reason Micro$oft took the “F8” feature out of the boot cycle in Windows 10. In previous versions, you could hit “F8” while the system was booting to be presented with a menu of boot options or just use “F5” to go straight into Safe Mode. Micro$oft, you made a stupid, stupid, stupid decision to remove that.

So now, 3 hours of working on this machine and I tell it to reboot, hoping (beyond hope) that at least the mouse and keyboard will work. What happens? My options are “Apply Updates and Restart or Shutdown”. So now I’ll have to wait for it to apply who knows how many updates before I can go back to troubleshooting. (edit: so far 90 minutes on the “Getting Windows Ready” screen).

There is a very good chance that if these updates had been applied when first available (the last update from Micro$oft was 2 weeks ago), what has crept into this machine may have been prevented. Even though this machine has a reliable Anti-virus installed (I cannot tell if it’s up-to-date though), without these security patches something can get through.

Wifey’s® office will not install any updates for fear it will “break” a program or something. Now, yes, it’s true. M$ updates have been known to cause havoc. But when that happens it’s (usually) easily reversible. A simple “roll back” (sometimes you need to go to safe mode) is all it takes. And M$ is pretty good about fixing those bad patches, either by sending a remote uninstall or an updated patch within 72 hours.

Second example.

Working on another laptop (this one city owned). The user claims the screen “scrolls on its own”. Looking at the machine when he brings it in (interrupting lunch as usual), I see it is doing just that.

Looking a bit deeper I see that there have been no updates applied to this machine since it was issued to the user almost one year ago. Now this machine could be considered “mission critical”. But instead of being out in the field, where it’s needed, and up-to-date, it’s sitting here on my desk slowing applying a years worth of updates. One update at a time. Because that’s how fucked up this machine is.

It not only needs updating to the latest version of Windows 10, it needs every security update since the beginning of time.

Also, keep any Anti-Virus and/or Anti-Malware product you use up-to-date (you do have an Anti-Virus/Malware program installed, Right?? RIGHT???), and scan your machine on a regular basis. There are many excellent free choices out there, pick one, any one. My favorite is Malwarebytes (I do not get any money from them, but I’ve been using their product for over 10 years without a single infection). They have both a free and a paid version, I HIGHLY recommend the paid version. Last I looked, if you download the free version you get a 2 week trial of the paid version, so it’s worth a look. The extra benefits of the paid version make it a good investment for your PC.

Malwarebytes has blocked very many of the “drive-by” ads I mentioned above. I will get either a little notice that says “access to <website name> blocked”, or just a blank spot on the webpage where the ad would have been.  You can also look into an “ad-blocker” for your web browser that can plug into either Chrome or Firefox (I’m not sure about Safari as I don’t have a Mac). IE and Edge users are out luck. Drop those and go with either Chrome or Firefox (I like and use both of those).

</rant>

I apologize for the rant, but it has been Monday all month here at work. My frustration level is quite high for many reasons, just not here at work. (Don’t ask me about yesterday’s useless dentist appointment)….

Peace,
B

I’ve Been Tagged!

My friend Kiersten over at Once Upon A Spine tagged me as part of the “Unique Blogger Award”. I have no idea what makes my blog unique, as it tends to meander its way around various subjects without ever really coming to any conclusions.

But anyway, first thanks for the tag Kiersten (and you folks should go read her blog. Some excellent books reviews that my Wifey® has found helpful.)

Here are the “rules”;

  • Share the link of the blogger that has shown you love by nominating you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • In the spirit of sharing, nominate 8 – 13 people for the same award (not sure I know that many bloggers).
  • Ask them 3 questions.

Onto the questions I was asked!

First – If you were to choose a different topic/theme for your blog, what would it be?

Since this blog has no theme or topic (hence the name Random Ramblins’), this is a bit tough for me to answer. When I first thought of coming back into blogging I knew I was not going to go back to the old technology blog I had years ago. Things have changed so much, I couldn’t keep up with it. My next thought was something about faith and my struggles with mainstream Christianity and why I’ve left it. But that was boring. And lots of people can explain it better than I. Then I thought food, who doesn’t love food? I love to cook and eat, but then health issues got in the way and I’ve had to change everything there, so that went out the window. How about mental health? I do have Bipolar Disorder type 2, some anxiety and social issues, but compared to what I’m reading on other blogs, mine is rather mild, or maybe my meds are just working better I don’t know. But again, better things are being said already.

But what I’d really like to do is humor. Back in the day (as in pre bipolar meds) I had a knack for telling the right joke at the right time. I could cheer someone up (even when I was struggling) with just a little humor. I had a flair for what my Soon-To-Be-Wifey® called “Gonzo Journalism” (a term stolen from the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, one of my favorite authors of all time). But since I’ve been on the meds, it seems my creativity level, my Gonzo if you will, has left me.  Maybe the meds are doing too much, or not enough, I don’t know.  But humor is what I’m shooting for.

Second – If you could befriend any author in real life, who would you choose? Why?

Another difficult question mainly because I feel I could do better with a really good copy editor than with an author. Come on, you’ve tried to read some of my stuff and just had to shake your head because it made no sense what so ever. Between the typos and the left out words…

But to answer the question, finally, I would choose Dr. Bart D. Erhman. From his Facebook page (easier to copy and paste – still looking for an editor you know) – Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Jesus, Interrupted and Forged. I have read many of his books and I think his reasoning for leaving the Christian faith very closely echoes my reasons. Find him here. A close runner-up would be Dr. Pete Enns. I don’t have all his details, but he is an Old Testament professor. Find him here. One more to add to list is Dr. Amy-Jill Levine. A Jew who teaches New Testament. Such an oxymoron that I love it, plus she has a great sense of humor. Alas, she has absolutely no web presence.

Third – What’s the weirdest blog post you’ve ever written?

A long time ago (thinking about 2002) I wrote a post on my original website about my somewhat dysfunctional family. Nothing out the ordinary, just questions like “How did you get mashed potatoes on the back of your head son?”.  That site is long gone now, couldn’t find it on the “Wayback Machine” either. So for this blog, I’ll have to go with News You Can Use…No Not Really.

Questions for my nominees:

  • What is the one subject you wish you knew more about? A course you wish you had taken even just a seminar or such? And why.
  • Anybody alive or dead you’d love to have dinner with, and what would you talk about?
  • And since I ask this every time I get to sit on an employment interview committee; Star Fleet Academy or The Vulcan Science Academy and why? You’d be surprised how many supposed IT Geeks don’t understand the question.

Now I have to nominate folks… I don’t have many followers so I’ll only add these;

Sorry I don’t have more to add, but feel free to join in even if you’re not listed.

And free feel to send along any cheap copy editors, Wifey® says she won’t do it anymore. Well not really, she just can’t do it while she’s at work, and then I’d probably forget to post anything by the time I got home and she could edit it for me.

Peace,
B

P.S. Thanks again Kiersten!

Before and After

One of the “joys” of working in IT is how fast the technology changes.  Due to this phenomenon, most IT office seem to get cluttered quickly.  Mine is no exception. Add to that fact that I work for a city it only makes matters worse. We have to submit requests for bids from salvage companies and then have our city council approve a contract which whichever firm they decide on. The process can take months, if not longer.

When I left work last Friday, this is what the front “working” area of my office looked like;

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This is about a 6-month accumulation of “junk” anything from dead monitors, printers, PC, cameras, mice, keyboards, battery backups, you name it.

Today we finally had a salvage company pick up most of the junk. There are still two more rooms in another building to pick up. Unfortunately, the guy ran out of room in his truck!

So here’s what the office looks like now;

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Still some work to do, but much better.  My main concern is how quick will we fill it up again?

Peace,
B

The Problem With Doctors

Well, the problem is not with doctors themselves but when you have multiple doctors and the “failure to communicate” to quote Cool Hand Luke.

This is a relatively new issue for me. Most of my early adult life was spent in the military. So most doctors were in one building, the base hospital. For soldiers that were assigned to units other than the hospital itself, they had a “Battalion Aid Station” (BAS), basically an Urgent Care center. They could go there for “sick call” (early morning time for folks with colds, injuries etc..) and usually, they saw a P.A. (Physician’s Assistant). If they needed specialized care they would have an appointment made for them or were sent to the ER if needed (i.e. a broken bone that needed to bet set immediately).

Once they were under the care of a specialist, a surgeon, urologist,  internal med, orthopedist or OB/Gyn for the ladies, they would stop by the BAS, get their medical records and go to the appointment. This way the specialist had all tests, x-rays, lab work etc.. right there for each and every visit. It was a fairly good system. And if one doc had a question for a doc in another department, it was a simple walk down the hallway or just a phone call away.

What do we have now? Multiple specialists spread all over creation who only talk to each other when the patient asks. And then only if “the situation needs it”.

Case in point. I had blood work done last week. I asked the lab tech if the results of the labs ordered by my primary care doc be sent to my bi-polar doc, and the labs ordered by my bi-polar doc sent to my primary care. “Nope”. It’s not on the order.

Now I understand HIPPA laws. Back in the day, when I was doing websites (thankfully I don’t so that anymore), the Christian group I was playing webmaster for (and yes I was a “Christian” at that time and belonged to the group) wanted a “prayer request” page.  When I pointed out that a page listing names and illness and such violated HIPPA laws, they didn’t seem to care. They wanted it anyway. When I refused to do it on the grounds that as the “webmaster” it would expose me to a federal lawsuit, they still didn’t seem to care. The “We’re should be allowed because it’s for a good cause” was the mindset. No need to say I am no longer a member of said group.

But back to the blood work.  So I had to call my primary care doc had her office fax over the lab work to both my cardiologist and my bi-polar doc. No worries there. Her office is quite up to standards electronically, as is my cardiologist. My bi-polar doc? Not so much. The young lady I spoke to was very confused as to what I need to be sent and to where. How difficult is it to understand that I need the lab results the doctor you work for ordered sent to my primary care doc? Apparently quite difficult, as she called me back several hours later asking why did she need to send the lab results that my primary care doc had over back to them? So again I had to explain I only needed the results that YOUR doc has sent to my primary doc.

One thing that would fix that is a general repository of medical records. A giant database that everything goes to and any doctor you see, whether it be a new primary care if you’ve moved, or a new specialist you need to see, can pull your data out of the “cloud”.  But that is not likely happen. Too many hackers and that would be a prime target. If that data was breached and held captive people would die.  And that’s not good.

But what about a scheduled day once a month for doctors to get together and discuss patients that they have in common. I imagine a “Skype” or a conference call, doesn’t have to be video, where doc “A” can talk about patient “X”‘s recent lab work, and doc “B” may express concern that it may be cancer, while doc “C” says, it may just be a drug reaction. I figure if every doc took one day a month to handle their patients with multiple specialists, they could discuss every one of those patients at least once a year, and maybe every 6 months, with as many of the other docs as could attend. Maybe I’m just dreaming, but there hs to be a better way for doctors to communicate.

Got any better ideas?

Peace,
B