May 9, 2015 archive

ek’s Helpful Household Hints

Because, of course, we like to keep it light and frothy on the weekends.

How To Keep NSA Computers From Turning Your Phone Conversations Into Searchable Text

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept


As soon as my article about how NSA computers can now turn phone conversations into searchable text came out on Tuesday, people started asking me: What should I do if I don’t want them doing that to mine?

The solution, as it is to so many other outrageously invasive U.S. government tactics exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, is, of course, Congressional legislation.

I kid, I kid.

No, the real solution is end-to-end encryption, preferably of the unbreakable kind.

And as luck would have it, you can have exactly that on your mobile phone, for the price of zero dollars and zero cents.

The Intercept’s Micah Lee wrote about this in March, in an article titled: “You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone.”

(Signal is for iPhone and iPads, and encrypts both voice and texts; RedPhone is the Android version of the voice product; TextSecure is the Android version of the text product.)

As Lee explains, the open source software group known as Open Whisper Systems, which makes all three, is gaining a reputation for combining trustworthy encryption with ease of use and mobile convenience.

Nobody – not your mobile provider, your ISP or the phone manufacturer – can promise you that your phone conversations won’t be intercepted in transit. That leaves end-to-end encryption – using a trustworthy app whose makers themselves literally cannot break the encryption – your best play.

A Special Keith Olbermann Sports Rant

ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, formerly of MSNBC, went off on a rant about the Super Bowl scandal generated  by the winning team’s under inflated footballs that may have given them a game advantage.


The Breakfast Club (So You Want To Play Carnegie Hall)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgI actually have a cousin (of some sort, it’s not a close relationship and it’s a branch of the family we don’t have much communication with) who played in Carnegie Hall and as the dedicated East Coasters (practically everyone else lives in the mid or farther West) we received invitations to be part of the rooting section.

Well, this was interesting.  I don’t recall much about my first visit (there must have been, we didn’t skimp on the cultural stuff), so when we went to the city (there is only one) and met with the immediate relatives at their hotel room that was not just tiny but very, very expensive, it was a novelty.

Soon enough it was time to unpack the sardines and head to the big show where we spent a very informative interlude at the museum which was already quite high enough for me.  Oh, have I mentioned I suffer from severe acrophobia?  It’s not that I can’t, it’s that it is very disturbing and difficult.  Anyway, as the designated ‘country cousins’ we got the extra tickets which happened to be in the uttermost nosebleed section next to the rail.  And the chairs were canted forward so you could get a good view of the stage.

So I can fairly describe the overall sensation for me as being dangled off the precipice of a bottomless pit, except of course for that well lit stop at the end.

After courageously assessing the situation I informed my family I would be watching from the aisle and I went to the nosebleed lobby and told the usher of my decision to which she repiled, in a very sympathetic way mind you, “Yeah, we get a lot of that.  Do you need to sit down?  A paper bag?”  So I, at various points, got as close as I dared and stared at the ants of whom I would hardly have recognized my cousin with binoculars because, as I said, our families weren’t that close and I barely knew him.

After that we went out with my Aunt (again not a blood relative) for my first experience of Thai where I was not really able to tell what dishes contained Bell Peppers (I’m EpiPen allergic).  Thank goodness peanuts are ok.  Ah, I could go on and on, this Aunt told my Dad not to mention his brother’s death days before at her Marathon party because it would ruin the vibe.  Her daughter (not at all the same cousin) has been on The New York Times Best Seller list twice and I’m terribly jealous…

I have issues, but everyone is damaged in some way and what you strive for is high functioning.  So you want to play in Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice.

Which brings us to Études.

Études are an artifact of the late Romantic period which are deliberately designed to be difficult to perform to showcase the virtuosity of the performers so musicians use them to practice.  Since many of the great composers were also outstanding performers, they would write Études for warm up pieces before their concerts.  They were frequently written for piano which is the most complete instrument and the easiest to orchestrate and transpose for other instruments.

Among the more obscure composers whos works are still regularly used are Carl Czerny and Muzio Clementi while some of the better known ones are Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt and Claude Debussy,

The Debussy ones are particularly interesting and often performed together as a part of a concert program.  Liner notes

Book One

  • I. Pour les cinq doigts (after Czerny)
  • II. Pour les tierces (2:52)
  • III. Pour les quartes (6:28)
  • IV. Pour les sixtes (12:06)
  • V. Pour les octaves (16:23)
  • VI. Pour les huit doigts (19:35)

Book Two

  • VII. Pour les degrés chromatiques (21:08)
  • VIII. Pour les agréments (23:15)
  • IX. Pour les notes répétées (28:13)
  • X. Pour les sonorites opposées (31:35)
  • XI. Pour les arpèges composés 2 (36:57)
  • XII. Pour les accords (41:48)

Early in 1915, disheartened by the menace of World War I and gravely ill with cancer, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) nevertheless managed to compose. The fruits of his labors, 12 Etudes (study pieces or exercises), would be his last important works for solo piano, and would represent a distillation of the composer’s musical legacy. It was appropriate for Debussy — the most original composer for the piano since Franz Liszt — to join the ranks of etude composers. Equally fitting was his dedication of his two volumes to Frederick Chopin, noting that the serious nature of the exercises was offset by a charm reminiscent of the earlier master.

The etudes are divided into two books, each different in conception. Book I is devoted to exploring the technical problems and musical possibilities inherent in different intervals (thirds, sixths, etc.), while Book II engages in the exploration of musical syntax and style. In all, the etudes are witty, challenging, and inspired. Though academic in nature — and perhaps less easily digested than other of Debussy’s works — they fall closely on the heels of his popular Préludes and Images, and reflect the same aesthetic concerns: complex harmonies, fragmented melodic lines, and colorful textures.

The first etude of Book I, “Pour les ‘cinq doigts’-d’apres Monsieur Czerny” (For Five Fingers-after Mr. Czerny), is inspired by the five-finger exercises of Carl Czerny. Debussy pantomimes the pedantic works by placing figurations in grotesque juxtaposition and introducing bizarre modulations. “Pour les Tierces” (For Thirds) presents an extraordinary variety of patterns in parallel thirds, excepting those already encountered in “Tièrces alternées” from the second book of Préludes. “Pour les Quartes” (For Fourths) exercises the pianists ability in parallel fourths. Almost needless to say, quartal harmony abounds, making this etude more tonally adventurous than many of the others. “Pour les Sixtes” (For Sixths) is a slow and meditative work with two fast interludes, and one forte interruption. “Pour les Octaves” (For Octaves) combines chromaticism, whole-tone harmonies and complex syncopation. Probably the most brilliant etude of both books, it is equally difficult to play. “Pour les huit doigts” (For Eight Fingers) is meant to be performed (the composer’s suggestion) without the use of the thumbs, due to the division of the figuration into four-note scale patterns. It finds humor in its rigid insistence on four-note groupings and sudden ending.

Book II begins with “Pour les degrés chromatiques” (For Chromatic Intervals), an essay in the use of the chromatic scale, both compositionally and technically. “Pour les agréments” (For Ornaments) is one of the most fiendishly difficult works in the repertoire. The entire fabric of the music is created by juxtaposing musical embellishments, arpeggiations, and miniature cadenza-like passages. “Pour les notes répétées” (For Repeated Notes) requires a performer able to execute repeated tones with great rapidity while still maintaining the piece’s humorous, scherzando atmosphere. One wry melodic fragment balances the otherwise relentlessly staccato texture. “Pour les sonorités opposées” (For Opposing Sonorities) emphasizes the kind of multiple-layered textures found earlier in the second set of Images and many of the préludes. “Pour les arpéges composés” (For Composed, or Written-out, Arpeggios), easily the best-known of all the etudes, redefines the arpeggio to include a variety of non-harmonic tones (such as the added second or the added ninth). “Pour les accords” (For Chords), is probably the nearest thing to a Romantic virtuoso piece that Debussy ever produced. Mammoth in conception and brutally difficult, this etude juxtaposes relentless perpetual motion with an almost uncomfortably still middle section. A truncated reprise precedes a driving conclusion that puts even the most skilled performer to a grueling test, both technically and interpretively.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History May 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 9 is the 129th day of the year (130th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 236 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1860, James Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, is born in Scotland.

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (9 May 1860 – 19 June 1937) was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him in writing about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The ), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about this ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This play quickly overshadowed his previous work and although he continued to write successfully, it became his best-known work, credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents. Before his death, he gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which continues to benefit from them.

Peter Pan

The classic Peter Pan starring Mary Martin. This is the 1960 version for NBC. Has been very limited in its showing. The DVD is long out of print and expensive to own.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Enchiladas, Tostadas and Tacos

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Lightness is not an attribute usually associated with enchiladas, the most comforting of Mexican tortilla foods, writes Martha Rose Shulman. But these enchiladas, filled with a mix of blanched seasoned chard and succulent diced chayote squash and covered with a classic cooked tomatillo salsa, are both light and incredibly satisfying.

Greens and Chayote Enchiladas With Salsa Verde

Lightness is not an attribute usually associated with enchiladas, but it is here.

Huevos Rancheros

Fried eggs on warm corn tortillas, topped with cooked tomato salsa – it’s a classic dish.

Chard and Sweet Corn Tacos

These sweet and spicy tacos can be filled with chard of any color, or other greens like beet greens or amaranth.

Bean Tostadas

This is by far my most popular tostada, appealing to both vegetarians and meat-eaters.

Congressional Research Service on being transgender in the military

The Congressional Research Service issued a report on April 28 which stated that the Department of Defense should seriously consider following the lead of the Justice Department, which at the end of 2014 announced that transgender federal employees would be added to the list of people protected against discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The report was unearthed by the Federation of American Scientists and made available at the blog, Secrecy News

The document is entitled CRS Insights, and subtitled What are the Department of Defense (DOD) Policies on Transgender Service?.  It was written by Kristy N. Kamarck, who is described as an analyst in military manpower.

On December 18, 2014, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would take the position in litigation that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status. While Title VII does not apply to military personnel, for some, this change in the Administration’s position has raised questions about U.S. law and DOD policies as they relate to transgender individuals.