Shuttersparks

Welcome to my musings on whatever topic catches my eye, plus stories, recipes, handyman tips, welding, photography, and what have you. Oh, and analog/digital hardware design, and software. Please comment on the blog post so everyone who visits can see your comments.

Year: 2019 (page 1 of 5)

Chai Flavored Iced Tea

My friend and I drink a lot of iced tea, so I make about a gallon a day. I keep two one gallon jugs in the refrigerator and one is always full.

I joke that I make iced tea on a semi-industrial scale so it has to be quick and cheap. While I like plain black tea, I prefer a chai-like flavor and slightly sweet. I use 1/3 to 1/6 the amount of sugar in Southern sweet tea. There are chai tea bags but I can’t always find them and they are more expensive than generic black tea you can get at grocery stores and Walmart for next to nothing. So, I decided to try to get close enough to the flavor of chai by using my own spices. I found a way that’s stupid simple.

You need a 2 quart saucepan. I prefer heavy stainless. You need a 1 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, allspice, and black pepper. I use tagless bags or rip the tags off of regular bags.

Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, I turn off the fire and toss in six or eight bags of black tea, or the equivalent. On an electric stove, you should move the pot to a cold burner. I let it steep for 3 minutes or slightly more.

While the tea is steeping, I measure one cup of sugar. On top of the sugar I place 1/4 tsp of allspice and 1/8 tsp of black pepper. Use more as you wish. You can use black or white pepper.

When the steeping time is over, I remove the bags and squeeze them out. (I know you’re not supposed to do that.) Then dump in the contents of the measuring cup and stir. I put a lid on it to prevent contamination and set it aside for several hours to cool.

Lastly, I take a gallon jug, stir the pot one more time and pour it into the jug. Add plain water to fill the jug and place in the refrigerator. Done. I’ve done this so many times, I can do it in my sleep.

Try it and please let me know what you think.

Protonmail IP Logging

Around the end of May 2019, a scandal erupted around Protonmail, the encrypted email service, associated with the CERN laboratory, and based in Switzerland. I keep running into this sensational item on social media and am weary of debunking it over and over. So, here’s a blog post about it.

This tempest in a teapot stems from a misleading tweet made by a Swiss lawyer, Martin Steiger, where he states that Protonmail “voluntarily offers assistance for real-time surveillance.” This came from a statement he heard in a meeting. The tweet made it sound like Protonmail offers surveillance to anyone who asks, or even offers it unasked for, so everyone freaked out.

What’s the truth? It’s actually pretty boring. All Swiss-based providers of Internet services are required by law to assist law enforcement when ordered to do so by a court of law. This is the same in virtually every country.

What was said and meant in the meeting that Mr. Steiger attended was that Protonmail cooperates with law enforcement when ordered to do so by a court without fighting the court order. The word “voluntarily” meant that Protonmail complies with Swiss law without objecting.

In the case of Protonmail, cooperating means IP logging, which is all Protonmail can do. The system is designed so they cannot decrypt the contents of emails.

Everything clear now?

Patents

Announcing a new page. In recent weeks, my patent “legacy” has come into the conversation. Looking them up is clumsy and time consuming, so I gathered the most interesting ones and published them on a WordPress page here, along with PDFs of the full patents. Now, I can send just one link.

https://shuttersparks.net/patents/

Sorted List of Favorite Albums

As time passes, this list gradually evolves and moves around a bit. This is my list as of April 24, 2019.

Pulse (Pink Floyd)
Aqualung (Jethro Tull)
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer (ELP)
Aja (Steely Dan)
Tarkus (ELP)
The Division Bell (Pink Floyd)
Led Zeppelin II (Led Zeppelin)
Led Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin)
Fragile (Yes)
Trilogy (ELP)
Chicago 9 (Chicago)
Minstrel in the Gallery (Jethro Tull)
Romantic Warrior (Return to Forever)
Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin)
Madman Across the Water (Elton John)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix)
Elegant Gypsy (Al DiMeola)
Abbey Road (The Beatles)
Friday Night in San Franciso (Paco de Lucia, Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin)
Close to the Edge (Yes)
Blood Sweat & Tears (Blood Sweat & Tears)
Heavy Weather (Weather Report)
Brain Salad Surgery (ELP)
Thick as a Brick (Jethro Tull)
Houses of the Holy (Led Zeppelin)
Blind Faith (Blind Faith)
The Doors (The Doors)
Led Zeppelin III (Led Zeppelin)
John Barleycorn Must Die (Traffic)
The White Album (The Beatles)
Led Zeppelin I (Led Zeppelin)
Machine Head (Deep Purple)
Works Volume 1 (ELP)
Selling England by the Pound (Genesis)
The Six Wives of Henry VIII (Rick Wakeman)

Please post your list or other comments below.

Trump Reaction Meme

Quote from Mueller's report

Quote from Mueller’s report. Click to view larger.

The above is a popular meme today. It’s a quote from Mueller’s report quoting Trump’s reaction to learning he was under investigation.

Loath as I am to defend Trump, I must point out there are two ways to interpret Trump’s comment. One is that he’s guilty of something and fears being found out. The other is an astute reaction to learning he’s under investigation.

In the past, presidents who are under investigation are hobbled and unable to get much done while the investigation is going on. The mere existence of an investigation hamstrings them, regardless of what the findings turn out to be. His reaction would be appropriate for any president, even one who’s completely innocent.

So, his reaction could mean, “Oh, crap, they’re onto me. I’ll get caught,” or it can mean “Crap, they just tied my hands and I can’t carry out my job as president until this is over.”

Which one is correct is an exercise for the reader. My guess is that it’s the former, for two reasons. 1.) Trump has a long history of shady / criminal behavior. 2.) He’s likely ignorant of the history of presidents who were under investigation.

Time may tell which is correct.

Some Realities About Laws and Contraband

This could also be titled “Human Nature Strikes Again”.

Every time a physical thing is outlawed, two things happen.

The first thing that happens is a new class of criminals is created, many of whom were not criminals before. Those who were not criminals before will lose respect for government.

The second thing that happens is that government inadvertently creates a business opportunity for entrepreneurs to supply the thing that was outlawed. Often, the outlawed thing becomes more popular than before it was outlawed. The result is that criminals end up making a lot of money.

If people want something, they will find a way to get it. If people want something, someone will jump in and provide it.

This reality drove the Soviets nuts — especially those who truly believed in communism. On the streets of Moscow, you could buy all the stuff that was outlawed — rock and roll music albums, genuine Levi blue jeans, makeup from Europe, western books and magazines, you name it. How was this possible in the most tightly controlled police state in the world? And remember that Moscow is in the middle of a large country, not a seaport or border city where smuggling is easy. Yet, there it was on the streets of Moscow.

Some of these things are hard concepts for many United Statesians to accept. Most believe in the idea of “the rule of law” and that people behave because of the threat of legal consequences. Most Americans believe, and I used to believe, that if laws and police disappeared overnight, there would be total chaos and mayhem. That’s not true. I’ve witnessed this exact thing happen in a much “rougher” country than the USA: Guatemala. The entire national police force was disbanded and for several months there were no police at all. We’re all gonna die, right? Well, exactly nothing happened. In fact, the crime rate dropped slightly.

How is this possible? The reason is that people obey laws because they want to, not because of the threat of punishment. People do what they want, regardless of laws. The majority of people in a society are nice people, who want to peacefully get on with their lives. Civil order continues with or without police. Leading a society to believe the myth that their safety, from moment to moment, depends on police is advantageous to government and the police. But, it’s a myth.

Conversely, if people don’t want to obey a law, they won’t. This means that government should not make poorly designed laws or too many laws. The Chinese wrote about this a thousand years ago. Governments should not create laws that people will not obey. If you do, it gradually weakens the force of all laws, including good ones. Each time a person disobeys or circumvents a law, their overall respect for government and all law diminishes.

If government wishes to retain the support of the people, it must also adapt to changing behaviors. One example of this is marijuana laws. For the past 40 years, just about everyone I know smokes pot. (Unfortunately, I’m strongly allergic to it.) This means that every one of those people knows they’re breaking the law constantly. They’re constantly aware that the government makes stupid laws that nobody obeys. They’re constantly aware that, under the law, they’re criminals — unprosecuted felons, and the government would love to throw them in prison. This has strong negative effects. It has the subconscious effect of weakening respect for all laws and government in general. It also turns police into adversaries.

Advice from the ancient Chinese to all governments:

1. Don’t make stupid laws.
2. Don’t make lots of laws or complicated laws so that people are confused.
3. If times change or you discover a stupid law, fix it immediately, lest you lose the respect of the people.

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