Sunday, December 28, 2014

1Password Review

If you're anything like me, passwords are a real pain in the  you know what.  I had so many poorly-secured logins, I knew it was only a matter of time before one of my accounts was hacked.  Over Christmas vacation, I took advantage of the extra time to explore  the problem.   There are lots of options, but I finally selected to use 1Password.

As Dave Teare, 1Password's founder, describes it in an automated welcome message, 1Password utilizes "256-bit AES Authenticated Encryption."  How does one make this work?  It's a little time consuming on an iPhone, but not a particularly difficult process.  Your first step is to create a master password to use with your account.  You will want to select a strong password and retain it in a safe place.  If you lose it, you will not be able to reset your account.  Next, you will need to create a login for each online account you wish to include.  1Password will let you choose the length of each password, and, when necessary, you can customize to a password of your own choice.  This is needed for passwords which aren't yours to modify, and this allows you to include all of your important passwords within this secure online vault.  For a small fee, you can add multiple vaults in order to keep different categories of logins separate--e.g. business and personal.

Once your online accounts are updated to the 1Password-created password, it's necessary to add the login URL for each entry.  This allows you to access each account with a single click.  At times, it may prove difficult to find a workable login URL to use, and I've had to write at least one company for the best link.  Even if you ultimately don't find one for a particular account, however, you still have a great and secure way in which to save and retain your passwords within the encrypted vault.

I've been worrying about the security of my logins for years, and this is the best solution I  have found for improving security and organization with one simple and intuitive utility.  In fact, if I can do certainly can do it, too! 

For this review, an iPhone App was used, but I will also be setting it up on  my home iMac when I return to Oregon.  The software is also available for Windows.  1Password can also be used to fill out name/address/credit card account information online, but I haven't utilized this feature yet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Not Stealing...if You Need it?

There is no rationalization of "petty theft."  If there is any theft, it's on the part of the employer by not paying their employee enough where they can't afford basic necessities. There's a world of  difference between taking one roll of toilet paper in order to make it until the next paycheck comes in and taking a box of pens/paper just for the sake of taking them.  (Catholic social media user)

Sometimes, you get into a conversation with so-called Christians that really catches you off guard.  Yesterday was one of those days.  The writer of the above paragraph on social media apparently believes that the seventh commandment offers an exception--if you really want or need something.  It’s particularly interesting to me, because of the echoes of Catholic social justice thinking within her response.  The discussion began with a woman’s admission that she regularly stole toilet paper from her employer.  She believed it was perfectly appropriate because, after all, she needed the item due to insufficient income; the employer didn't pay her enough, so she'd take something a little extra.  I assumed I wouldn’t be the only Catholic to take her to task, but I was.  

In the guise of social justice, then, people like this are rationalizing petty theft from their employers.  This attitude needs to be confronted head-on because it’s a perversion of social justice, as explained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1928-1948.  We all need to root out and expose this deceptive line of thinking for what it truly is: rationalization for theft.   (Some might unconvincingly argue that Section 2408 of the CCC gives an out for this behavior, but my argument is that this clearly fails to apply to a country such as the United States.  Too many redundant safety nets exist for those in need.)

In fact, I suggest that the attitude of those who rationalize along these lines betrays the sin of pride in addition to the sin of stealing.  That is, they are ashamed to ask others for help, so they take it upon themselves to steal to satisfy their own needs/desires.  It’s a lie clothed in shreds of truth, and this is why it's an attitude that must be confronted.  It's also worth noting that moral law is not based upon dollar and cent values--as civil and criminal laws are.  I would argue that the moral sin of taking a small item is tantamount to taking a much larger item; God doesn't care whether your toilet paper was on sale, or not.

Before coming to work for the State of Oregon in 1997, I worked for retailers like Nordstrom and Sears in the field of loss prevention.  This primarily involved arresting shoplifters as well as investigating internal thefts revealed through overs/shorts register analysis and other means—hidden cameras, for example.  After I would chase down the suspects and place them in custody, I routinely heard every excuse one can imagine.  There was always a reason why I should let them go, but, of course, I never released them before the police (and once or twice US Border Patrol) arrived to finish the reports in my cramped office.  

Rationalization is a way for life for these people.    As one is removing bundles of stolen jeans or electronic devices from concealed compartments within the shoplifter's baby stroller, though, there is little inclination to feel sorry for them; they made their choices.  We live in the richest and most generous society on the planet, I will never excuse those who steal—by force or deception.  I will always gladly assist in holding these individuals accountable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The Most Idiotic Anti-Gun PSA Ever

“Can you take this away? I don’t feel safe with a gun in my house,” a child tells his teacher as he puts a gun down on her desk. So opens one of the most stupid PSA videos ever from the anti-gun crowd. The Sleeper 13 Production video would seem to encourage children to steal improperly secured weapons from their own homes and deliver to their teachers, because, after all, aren't teachers experts at all things pertaining to firearm education? Not!

So, lets briefly explore the depth jaw-dropping stupidity of this video. First, it has a child picking-up a gun which may, or may not, have a chambered round or loaded clip inserted. Children should instead learn never to touch a gun for which they are neither responsible nor trained. After all, the kind of parent who would put an unsecured gun in a clothes drawer is precisely same kind of parent who would leave the weapon loaded and ready for use. 

Second, the video would have the dimwitted child bring the (possibly loaded) firearm into a Gun Free Zone. This not only encourages a serious and life-changing crime for the child, but it also fails to consider what happens if the weapon falls into the hands of another child--perhaps on with darker motives. Sheer idiocy.  It also recommends an illegal transfer of the firearm to the teacher.  If an adult were to commit this laundry list of felonies, I'm told the sentence could approach a century of incarceration.

Even more serious, I'd suggest, is the larger message--reminiscent of Nazi Germany--in which children are encouraged to tell authorities about the private affairs of their parents, if they differ from the state's values. Is this the kind of Utopian society for which liberals hope? This is truly disgusting.

So, the takeaway from this PSA is crystal clear.  Let's teach our kids to steal a gun, which may be loaded, and bring into a no "Gun Free Zone," then deliver the firearm to a stunned teacher who has no firearm experience or knowledge--other than television, of course. Way to stress responsibility.  Idiots.

Tell them what you think.  E-mail the producers HERE.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Enter to Win "The Blood Cries Out" on Goodreads!

"The Blood Cries Out tells the story of Seattle Homicide Detective David Lightholler, who becomes involved in a murder investigation that would shake even a seasoned investigator. Erickson wastes little time in presenting the reader with a ghastly murder mystery that, as it was, cries out for resolution.

This novel is firmly set in the habitations of Seattle and its surroundings. Erickson clearly knows and loves the city, for he spares little in the way of description. Being so detailed about a location can be difficult for a writer, but Erickson pulls it off.

Set against the backdrop of Seattle, Lightholler must face his personal demons as well as the rigors of modern homicide investigation. Again, Erickson shows that he has done his homework when he describes the procedural actions of the hero.

Interestingly, the personal component of the novel often outshines the criminal. In this respect, Erickson's writing packs a certain punch. For example, when the mother of a slain child arrives on scene, her reaction feels tragic and painful. Even reading the book in a reviewer's frame of mind, I was instantly dragged back into the story and made to feel the emotion.

Erickson shows this again when Detective Lightholler must inform a mentally-challenged teen that her friends are dead. "Why can't I see her?" the teen asks. After the detective informs her that her friends have been murdered, she sweetly asks, "But I can see them later, right?" Any parent who has had to deliver bad news to a child understands how big a punch that is.

The Blood Cries Out is a mystery novel dripping in Pacific Northwest details. Readers with fond feelings for Seattle and other Northwestern locales will appreciate every touch of scenery lovingly added in Erickson's debut mystery novel. Readers looking for a detective novel with a human touch will also enjoy The Blood Cries Out."

Alec Merta's 5-Star Amazon Review

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Blood Cries Out by Karl Erickson

The Blood Cries Out

by Karl Erickson

Giveaway ends January 12, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dinesh D'Souza's "America" is a Remarkable Achievement

I finally watched Dinesh D'Souza's America, and I was really blown away.  Now, I should probably mention here that I'm not new to the work of Mr. D'Souza, but nothing before of his has really come close to What's So Great About Christianity for me.  It's not that I didn't like his other works, but they were hard for me to get into the same way that I entered into that earlier work of his, but  "America" changed all that.

This is a remarkable movie, and its content is shockingly persuasive.  It's like a breath of fresh air from the current idiocy of the political scene in the United States.  He first examines a series of "indictments" against our nation--from the likes of Howard Zinn to Ward Churchill--then proceeds to systematically destroy their anti-American claims with logic, history, and a strong dose of common sense.  It's powerful, and it's unlike any documentary I've seen before.

The emphasis on exposing the attempted rewrite by the left of our nation's history is particularly eye-opening.  I knew the allegations were wrong, but Dinesh D'Souza has a gift for exposing just how ridiculous they are.  Into the mix, he shows the viewer the context of the situation in a new and powerful way.  For instance, he points out that prior to the Civil War, more than three thousand black plantation owners owned ten thousand slaves and were strong supporters of the Confederacy themselves.  Mr. D'Souza exposes the evil of slavery from a different perspective as well: "stealing labor and stealing lives."

As a guy who entered the state political scene briefly about a year ago, it's been incredibly disheartening watching the news of riots and racial tensions across the United State these past few weeks.  It's even more distressing that the protesting sheep are unable to discern who their shepherds are.  The mainline media is simply fanning the flames of division and stupidity once again.  Documentaries like this one are an excellent reminder that sanity remains strong with many still.  It's also an encouragement to re-enter the fray and do all that we can to fight for this country's future.  I urge you to buy or rent this movie today!  (Trailer link below.)

Speaking of these cultural distractions, here's some related food for thought.  We need more purveyors of common sense like this.  I hope you will add your voice to the demand for a return to santity in our nation.  After all, it all starts in the home.


Karl's Famous Pretzels (Encore Post)

I’ve been perfecting this recipe for several years now, and I think you will enjoy it. One word of advice is not to skip the quick immersion in the boiling water! This step makes all the difference in their final texture, creating pretzels that are moist yet crisp. I don't go into a lot of detail here about forming the pretzels, but just do your best. It takes a little practice. Even if they look odd, they should still taste great!

Ingredients and Preparation
1 1/4 cup water or beer (1/4 cup of warm water for the yeast)
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
about 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast
2 tbsp softened butter (optional)
1-4 tbsp of sourdough sponge
1 or two beaten eggs
course salt
sesame seeds
1/2 stick of butter
Activate the yeast separately by adding it to the water and sugar. If you have a bread machine, try using this to prepare and knead the dough. (It helps if you add the water first.) If it’s too large a batch for the machine, try cutting the recipe in half. Otherwise, prepare the dough as you would for an ordinary loaf of homemade bread.
Neither the butter nor the sourdough is a required ingredient, but I think both help make a better finished product. The sourdough enhances the depth and richness of flavor. The butter not only improves both the texture and flavor, but it also might help slightly when it comes time to form the pretzels. (You may also want to try adding one tablespoon corn meal and letting the bread "rest" before rising.  Also, cooking sprays work well on one's hands.)
Watch the dough’s progress in the bread machine (or food processor) carefully. It often requires a little fine-tuning with additional water and/or flour in order to achieve a proper ball of dough. You will want the dough to rise for several hours, and, depending on the size and habits of your bread machine, you may decide to transfer before long to a bread pan inside a barely heated oven and cover with a moist towel. (I pre-heat to a couple hundred degrees, put the bread in, then turn off the oven.) As an alternative, you may also want to form the pretzels now, then place in the oven under the towel to rise.  

HINTS: Another alternative, recommended by my daughter, is to roll the dough into eight-inch ropes and let those rise before later forming the pretzels.  You may also find it helpful to roll the pretzles on a floured cutting board.

When it looks like it’s done rising, it’s time to get everything else ready. Beat your eggs for the wash and set aside. Get a deep pan and fill it halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Begin forming the pretzels by making eight-inch ropes. Once they're formed into their classic shape, carefully pick each up and dip in the boiling water for ten seconds before returning to the greased baking sheet.
When this step is complete and they’ve all had their hot bath, then brush the egg wash over each and season with the course salt and sesame seeds. Bake until lightly browned for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Enjoy with melted butter.

Some Quick Pretzel History
Pretzels are said to have had their origin in Europe in the 600s, and were used by monks to reward children for memorizing their prayers and studies. The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, describe their invention by a monk " a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' ("little rewards")". Pretzels were also used as a teaching tool for the mysterious three-in-one nature of the Holy Trinity.