I’m going to be a bit…

The upgrade I am performing, is turning out to be very labor intensive. I am looking at 80 hours worth of effort to perform this conversion. Between work, the lodge, the family and the house, I will be lucky to get 4 hours of work on the conversion a week. Which means it will be 4-5 months before I can flip the switch. It is the volume of my work on this blog over the past 11+ years that is the major barrier.

I have been screwed by “conversion utilities” in the past. They get everything almost right, with the end result of having to spend at least the original amount of time to go through all of the content to make sure nothing was missed.

Scylla and Charybdis are a matched pair of bitches.

UPDATE: I did a timed run, and I have a rough average of 99 Seconds a post. This works out to 64 hours of conversion work. While still daunting, it is better than 80 hours. And I’m going to try and knock 8+ of it off between today and tomorrow.

Change is Coming

I am moving forward with an upgrade project for The Conservative Zone. This will likely take a couple of months because of what I have to do, how I have to do it and how much time there is in a day. I am moderately sure you will be pleasantly surprised when I “flip the switch.”

An Important Life Lesson

Whenever I see a picture or graphic I like, I save it on my iPad, then download it to my home system on Sunday mornings. One really hit me and I wanted to share the lesson.

The picture was about a little girl complaining about things not being fair to her father.

Her fathers response:

You’re never going to get the same things as other people. It will never be equal. The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough.

Think about that for a moment. Don’t compare what you have against what someone else has, because some will have more, or less, or not the same as you. Make sure they have enough. The truest test of your character is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm.

I think if each us did this, imagine how much better the would would be.

Another Statistical Sampling

Speaking of statistics,

I found an article that comes from data from Neighborhood Scout, listing the “25 most dangerous neighborhoods” in the US. I washed it through a spreadsheet and came up with the following information.

First of all, some neighborhoods were spread out over more than one zip code. I stuck with the first one in those cases for simplicity. Second, there were three zip codes that appeared twice on the list, so now there is really only 22 entries. I then went to a link off the Census Bureau’s website to Proximity One and got the White and Black populations for those zip codes and did a search engine on the political affiliation for the mayors. I wanted to see how long the mayors have been from one party had been in control of the city, but most cities websites were not forthcoming with that information.

So, 22 zip codes, comprising 15 different cities. 74% of those zip codes are primarily Black residents. 9 of the cities have Democrat Mayors, 3 Republican, 2 unknown affiliation and 1 Independent.

Chicago and Detroit came in “first,” with three zip codes each on the list. Houston, Indianapolis and St. Louis each had two zip codes and the rest had one zip code.

I plan to look into this more, perhaps with slightly different criteria.

Lying with the truth

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain

I found this article by the Atlanta Blackstar and discovered it to be full of all three of the above: 9 Facts That Show White-on-White Crime Far Exceeds Black-on-Black Crime and How Media Outlets Conceal It.

I want to make this clear and up front, not buried in the bottom where you probably won’t read it. I believe the vast majority of people are good people. I don’t care what their skin color happens to be. There is a small subset of people who commit crimes. A small percent of the criminal population is actually responsible for the majority of crimes.

This article is about statistics, which looks at groups of people and makes generalizations based upon the group. It does not say or intend that any specific person is good or bad.

This is the author if this piece of trash:

Edward Wycoff Williams, an author, columnist and political analyst for MSNBC, conveyed a reality that many do not seem to know is real. Williams wrote for The Root

Williams wrote that article for the Root linked to above in 2012 and it is heavily quoted in this article.

Statistics are cut-and-dry, and they do not lie. According to the FBI’s most recent homicide numbers available, from 2011, a staggering 83 percent of white murder victims were killed by fellow Caucasians.

The darkest kind of lie is the one that has enough truth in it so you take the false as true as well. Yes, 83 percent of Whites were killed by Whites.

Here’s where the lying comes in:

And because whites are the majority in the country — there are six times as many whites as there are Blacks — that means they commit the most murders.

Do you see it? You can’t because it’s actually a lie of omission, you aren’t given all of the numbers so you have a context of what those numbers mean. I got these numbers from the FBI’s 2011 Murder statistics Table 6 page.

Here’s the important part of the table:

Race of Offender
Race of Victim Total White Black Other Unknown
White 3,172 2,630 448 33 61
Black 2,695 193 2,447 9 46
Other Race 180 45 36 99 0
Unknown Race 84 36 27 3 18

So, according to the article, there are six White people for every Black person in the US. According to my calculator, that means the ratio between the races is 86% White, 14% Black. If we are to infer that Blacks are no more violent than Whites, we should see a similar ratio in the number of murders.

My calculator must be broken. It’s saying that blacks committed more murders than Whites in raw numbers, 2,958 to 2,904. If Blacks were equally as murderous as Whites, the Black Offender numbers should only total about 472. I can only deduce then the Black population is 6.25 times more violent as the White population.

So, here is reinforcement of the lie:

Williams wrote: “The term ‘black-on-black’ crime is a destructive, racialized colloquialism that perpetuates an idea that blacks are somehow more prone to violence. This is untrue and fully verifiable by FBI, DOJ and census data. Yet the fallacy is so fixed that even African Americans have come to believe it.”

Yet, a simple calculator will tell you the black-on-black murders alone are 40 percent of the total murders, showing that Blacks are killing Blacks 2.5 times more often than Whites are killing Whites.

Then, we start the cherry picking:

The truth, taking FBI data from 2010: Whites killed whites 3,252 times, which was 4.6 times more than the number of whites killed by Blacks.

Why change years? The author went from 2011 to 2010. Also, I haven’t found his numbers. Table 6 is single offender/single victim, he must be including when there were multiple offenders or victims involved. I do not see a table for that.

More obfuscation without context:

Whites are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes, according to the FBI. With respect to aggravated assault, whites led Blacks 2-1 in arrests; in forcible-rape cases, whites led all racial and ethnic groups by more than 2-1. And in larceny theft, whites led Blacks, again, more than 2-1.

What is the ratio of Whites to Blacks as given on the first page of this article? 6-1. So, if Blacks were equally prone to be criminals, the numbers in that quote above should be 6-1, not 2-1. Which means a Black person is three times more likely to commit one of the aforementioned crimes than a White person.

The last three pages are invoking the specters of racism and how poor Blacks are.

Here’s more lying:

When gang-related killings are referred to on the news, they treat it as an almost exclusively Black problem. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for the period of 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang homicides were committed by white offenders, and the majority of gang homicide victims (56.5 percent) were white.

Obfuscation, let me count the ways: First of all, he has to invoke a 28 year span (1980-2008). Can’t he stick with his original 2011 numbers, or would that show a bad light on what he is saying? Remember that 6-1 ratio? If Whites and Blacks were proportionally as violent, shouldn’t those numbers (53.3% and 56.5%) be up around 86%? So, a raw majority of gang homicides were perpetrated by Whites, but barely over half. This means that again, Black gang activity was most likely 40% of the total, while comprising only 14% of the population.

So, there you go. How to lie while giving facts. Cherry pick the facts, don’t give enough facts so the reader has a context of what the facts mean and don’t be afraid to quote other statistics outside of your original data set to bolster your position.

Finally Back On-Line!

Okay, this weekend has been a very...frustrating maddening infuriating affair.

After moving everything over to the new hosting, an automatic scan done by them found massive infections in several of my domains. In response, my account was locked and I could access it only from a single IP address so I could access the files and clean out the infections. I had to wipe and reload every domain. I am currently still rebuilding all of the little stuff in my domains from that.

Lessons learned:

1) Make sure all software is up-to-date. That is your CMS (Content Management System, such as WordPress or Joomla!) software, all of the extensions/add-ons you may use, AND the servers software. If any of these are not current you most likely have serious security holes.

2) If you can afford it, use a Virtual Private Server or full Private Server. My domains don’t generate any income, so I can’t afford the $20+/month to pay for a VPS. With a shared server, if one domain on that server isn’t up to date, an attack on that domain can spread to every other domain on that server, even if you’re secure.

3) Backup, backup, backup. Make sure you do regular backups of your configuration, content AND database. If you have all three, restoring will be a whole lot easier. When tape backups was current technology, I would tell my clients rotate three tapes, one on-site, two off-site in different locations, and read from the tapes once a month to make sure the tapes were still good.

4) Know how to recover. Having a backup is useless if you don’t know how to use the files to restore back to your last KGC (Known Good Configuration).

By the way, the Joomla! test site that wasn’t working, is now properly working now that I am using PHP 4.5. I managed to do more with it today than I did with it all last week.

I Hope This Solves The Problem.

I just finished (hopefully) getting this straightened out. I had to download all six of my domains, then upload them to the new hosting, create and rebuild the MySQL databases, then repoint all of the domains. I am posting on all of the domains, then viewing them through the root domain to make sure these posts are hitting the right blogs. I will check the domain URLs in the morning.

This is Unacceptable

Okay, I am irate enough over this situation that I have created a new category: Chief Information Officer. I have been involved with computer security in one way or another since I was stationed in Guam back in the 1989-1992 time frame. Ever since, professionally I have looked at a system or a network and always thought about how it could be attacked and compromised.

I have been building a new website for my new wonderful job, using the open-source Joomla! software. Except none of the internal page links work. Every time I click on a link to go to an article, I keep getting a “404- Page Not Found” error. I have even had outside people look at it and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I have been beating my head against the proverbial wall until today, when one of the modules threw an error on me, telling me the PHP my server was running was unsupported. Further research revealed that the server that all of my personal domains are on (including this one) and the test site are running PHP 5.3. The current version is 5.6.8.

A version of PHP has three phases to its lifecycle. There is the fully supported phase, where there are regular and constant updates which address bugs and security issues. This lasts for two years from its release as a “stable” (as opposed to beta) release.

Then there is a year where it is in “limited support.” This means only significant security issues are addressed, only when it is critically necessary.

Three years after release, it enters the third phase, known as the “You’re dead to me” phase where all support stops on that version. You’re on your own. All support for PHP 5.3 ended around June of 2014, ten months ago as of this writing.

Let me put it this way: Imagine having a computer on your network with company critical information, connected to the Internet…running Windows XP Service Pack 1. XP SP1 is literally six versions (XP SP2, XP SP3, Vista, Win 7, Win 8.0 and Win 8.1) out of date and twelve years old. To say that machine is not prepared for hacking attacks in today’s environment is like putting Pee Wee Herman in a boxing ring with Evander Holyfield. The absolute best result Pee Wee could hope to attain is a bloody corpse.

Back on March 10th, I wrote about getting hit by a script insertion attack. I am 99% certain that having an old version of PHP was the source of vulnerability that let those who did it into my domain. Running a current version of Joomla! could also cause issues like I am experiencing. Think of trying to run a version of Command & Conquer written for Windows 95 on a Windows 8.1 machine. It won’t work.

Which brings me back to today. I called my hosting provider, iPage and asked why the only PHP I had access to was out of date. I had to call and demand to speak with a supervisor to find out what is going on. The short answer: I’m not paying enough. I was essentially told, “If you want access to the current version of PHP, I need to upgrade to a VPS (Virtual Private Server) plan.” Of course, the bottom VPS plan costs three times what I am currently paying. Never mind running my four personal domains on a VPS is like using a semi-tractor trailer to haul a single sheet of paper around the corner (e.g., overkill by a factor of 10,000). The supervisor told me he didn’t even know if they were planning on upgrading the PHP on their non-commercial servers to something approaching 5.5 (which goes into the “limited support” phase in 2-3 of months), let alone upgrading PHP to the current release.

Why this is important: Without getting too technical, the security of a website and the integrity of its data depends on the software that built the files and the programs used by the server to make that information available to you when you visit. If they are not current, they will likely have security holes which leave you and your data at risk.

If you run a website, I suggest you go immediately into your control panel and find out if the software the servers are running are current. If it is not, demand it be updated or move to another hosting provider.

iPage, screw you.

I’m moving to another hosting provider in the morning. There may be interruptions as I move my files and repoint the domain nameservers.

What We Are Supposed To Do

You can be anything you want to be on the Internet. Why so many people choose to be hurtful is beyond me.

Everyone should try to build up others around them as we travel through life, not tear them down. If I was in a fitness club and could encourage one person, it would be the overweight person struggling to walk on a treadmill. Because starting a change like that is incredibly hard.

The DNA that makes up each of us is the “program” that we are built from. If the information from a single person was expressed as a computer application, the program would take up gigabytes, if not terabytes. Everything that we physically are, from our sex, build and hair color all the way down to if we are more likely to be susceptible to certain kinds of cancer. There are so many combinations that it is very likely that genetically, you are unique from everyone who has or who will ever live.
Despite all that “programming,” we still have the ability to change some things  about us. We might be prone to be overweight, or depression or anything else. We can compensate (not fix) some things about us. Lifestyle or behavioral changes that are within our ability to change us physically to some extent.

YOU ARE YOU and nobody else. We need to learn that we should always try to be better than who we were yesterday. You should be what you want to be, not what another person thinks you should be. Because you will never satisfy other people. You can only satisfy your own expectations of who you want to be.

This video is an example of the “you can’t please everybody” point.

Progression in the chairs

I saw a wonderful discussion on this on Facebook and wanted to expound on this to the point it wouldn’t fit in a comment. So here we go.

To my Brothers, I explain the stations and places first because more then Masons read this. I want all to have a context on how a harmonious Lodge is run.

I am currently Master of my Lodge, so I am writing from that perspective. There are eleven officers that run a lodge. They are the Master, Senior/Junior Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, Senior/Junior Deacons, Senior/Junior Stewards, Chaplain and Tyler.Only the Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary are elected by the Lodge. Deacons, Stewards, Chaplain and Tyler are appointed by the incoming Master. When I talk about “the line,” this is a progression from Junior to Senior for each of the Stewards, Deacons and Wardens before a man can become the Master of a Lodge. The Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain and Tyler I will discuss  after these places.

Each of these positions have different duties and responsibilities. Let me explain:

Starting from the bottom up, we have the Stewards. These Brothers work for the Junior Warden. For 1 to 2 years, their job is service. They assist the JW in the preparation, production, delivery and cleanup of meals in the Lodge. These places in the line teach humility, service and obedience. Because of the physical demands of these places, this is where 90% of those who drop “out of line” occur.

If a Brother makes it through his time in the kitchen, he is made a Deacon. The Deacons are responsible for the setup of the Lodge for meetings and making sure Brothers visiting from other Lodges are verified to be able to enter the Lodge. In my Lodge, we have a clear policy that a man may not progress past Senior Deacon if he has not obtained his proficiency card during his year as SD. The proficiency card testifies that a Brother can perform any part in the first section of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge.

If a man makes it to Junior Warden, he is elected by the members of the Lodge to a serious leadership position. This position teaches the man about being a leader of the Stewards and a good fiscal manager of the monies placed in his keeping. The JW is given a fund of money for him to purchase food for meals and the drinks available for consumption at the lodge. Brothers are expected to pay what they can for their meals. The JW must balance providing a menu of healthy and tasty meals without “breaking the budget.” It is made clear to the JW that if necessary he can ask the lodge for more money if the donations are down. If he runs a surplus at the end of his term, that is generally donated to the Lodge Charity fund.

The Senior Warden is kept very busy. He spends his year getting ready for his year as Master, interviewing petitioners who want to enter Masonry and assigns “the work,” or who performs what parts for the degrees held at the lodge. A good SW makes sure a Brother can perform the parts they are assigned proficiently. Some Lodges allow reading of the Work out of the ritual book, my lodge does not. Until you can perform it in school to the senior instructor, you don’t get to do it in an actual degree.

The Master is not in charge of anything, although he is responsible for everything in and about the Lodge. The SW is in charge of “the Craft” while they are at labor, the JW is in charge while the Craft is at refreshment. The Master’s job is to make sure everything is working as it should.

Once a Brother has served his time as Master, he then becomes a Past Master. Generally, the positions of Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain and Tyler are Past Masters. Once into one of these positions, the Brother usually stays for several to many years. The Treasurer and Secretary especially are the foundation of the Lodge. They provide the stability and continuity necessary for the Lodge to run smoothly. All of the Past Masters in my lodge are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience with me to make sure I make the best decision.

Now the discussion which started this was about “election or progression?” Progression meaning once a Brother starts as Junior Steward, he advances every year and (hopefully) after advancing every year, in his 7th year he becomes Master. Granted, the Wardens and Master are elected and any Brother could be nominated for any elected office without serving a day in the line. the chances of being elected are usually pretty close to zero, but it could happen. Each Lodge is different and the politics of the Brethren have an effect on the outcome. For example, a Brother stepped out of line in my Lodge (I was ready to appoint him as my Junior Deacon) to be elected Junior Warden in another Lodge where he is a plural member. The other lodge needed someone who held a proficiency card (he does) in the JW position.

We also use the positions of Stewards and Deacons to “shake out” those who might not be suitable for the position of Master. A Brother might look good and have the enthusiasm to get put in line, however he doesn’t advance or drops out because he doesn’t have the right mindset or temperament to possibly lead the Lodge.

No Brother “deserves” the next higher place or station. He must earn it by superior performance, a willingness to serve and a true sense of humility. Through my progression of the line, all the way up until now, I have sought to nurture and inspire all of my Brothers.

In my lodge, we do not teach rote memorization of the words of the ritual. We teach these Brothers to understand what the words mean to them and to impart that knowledge by how they deliver it to the candidates of the degrees. I learned so much about Masonry just by learning the EA Screen and the FC Stair lectures.